Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Director Daniel Espinosa, Olga Dihovichnaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Ariyon Bakare  and Jake Gyllenhaal seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "Life" the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

LIFE is Already Scary, Now It’s A Scarier Reynolds & Gyllenhaal Movie, Thanks

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

What is it with ‘ripped from the alt-news headlines’ movie plots lately? KONG: SKULL ISLAND has a hollow earth slash reptilian b-story, even a CIA mind control “Monarch” reference on a briefcase. Now LIFE, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, has a waterborne microbe from Mars mass-extinction horror twist.

Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "Life" the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of “Life” the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. [Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images]

While scary stories about hostile life on Mars is a running theme since B-movies in the 50’s, this one has some actual science to back it up.

LIFE, directed by Daniel Espinosa, touts the fact that the producers and writers consulted with “astrobiologists and space medicine experts,” one of whom is Dr. Kevin Fong. “Space is an extreme environment, like any of the extreme environments we’ve attempted to conquer in the 20th century – deserts, polar ice caps, our highest mountains,” Fong explained. “What we know about extreme environments is that you can’t go there for long and it’s not without penalty. You come back literally less than the person you were.”

“It’s hard enough to stay alive up there on a routine mission when everything goes right.  When things start to go wrong, people start to die off pretty quickly.” These cheery words underscore his experience as an astrophysicist and MD who’s worked on NASA’s Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston, meaning he is a medical expert on keeping folks alive and kicking in space.

No offense to the astro-geniuses, but frankly movie stars can explain a movie better.

Cast and crew of "Life" seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "Life" the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony/AP Images)

Cast and crew of “Life” seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of “Life” the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony/AP Images)

In typical Jake Gyllenhaal extreme-character mode, he plays International Space Station denizen David Jordan, who’s already clocked 473 days afloat in outer space. “It was a beautifully paced, terrifying script.  It’s a fun idea. You think you know where it’s going, and then it evolves into something where you really, really don’t,” he added. “The life form is literal, but it’s also an incredible metaphor for what can happen. Curiosity is one of the most important human traits, but I think searching too far can be full of hubris. In that way, the life form is a repercussion for that kind of curiosity.”

“My grandfather was a doctor,” Gyllenhaal shared, “and Daniel and I talked about the similarities in my character to my grandfather. It’s a bit of an homage to him.”

Next some newcomers join the freaky plot, and things get terrifying as a look for proof of life on Mars backfires. Naturally the movie includes a requisite CDC, Centers for Disease Control, rep. This one comes in the form of Rebecca Ferguson, as Miranda North. “Miranda is a microbiologist sent up to protect everyone on Earth from whatever this is that we find,” Ferguson explained.

Her character puts up some “firewalls” against extra-terrestrial contamination. “The firewall is, first, the container that the specimen was in.  And then the room.  And then the station itself.  She has to do whatever she can do to protect Earth, because we don’t know what this life form is.” No, it’s not a gimmicky ‘life form,’ either.

Producer Julie Lynn nailed it best on that front. “We didn’t want the life form to be a person in a suit or a puppet. We wanted it to be something that could evolve from a cellular piece, a tiny cell. It’s not that it comes out with an intent to do harm; it is its own creature, and it is affected by what happens to it.”

Paris, France - Monday March 13, 2017: Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson at the Columbia Pictures "LIFE" Photo Call at The Planetarium of Le Grand Palais

Paris, France – Monday March 13, 2017: Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson at the Columbia Pictures “LIFE” Photo Call at The Planetarium of Le Grand Palais

Rebecca Ferguson spins it as a relationship game with the pathogen. “We all have our own relationship to this creature. Some of us love it, we nurture it.  Some of us want to kill it off in the beginning.  And that creates an incredible tension in the group,” she said.

Ryan Reynolds rounds it out with, “this script had such a degree of reality and a feeling of constant tension,” that he reteamed with his DEADPOOL writing pals Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, to ratchet up the stakes. Coincidentally, Reynolds also went back to the well with his SAFE HOUSE director Daniel Espinosa.

Having worked well with Reynolds, Espinosa is also super excited about LIFE. “I think the reason so many great directors have walked into science fiction is to work with the unknown — the fear or fascination with the unknown,” he said.  “We live in a world that is quite mundane, but in space, you enter an adventure – you don’t know how it looks, how it feels, what it can do to you, where it is. It doesn’t make a sound. That’s terrifying.”

Whatever the hell LIFE’s monster is in this case, the SAFE HOUSE director made it even scarier when he added that “this script felt more like a realistic science fiction. Maybe science reality.” Picture waking up ’50,000-year-old microbes’ inside crystalline hibernation on Mars, that is. Or, in movie critic shorthand, the DNA from amber plot device from Jurassic Park, but with super-freaky outer space Martian microbial goo meets Alien. Sorry for the gross oversimplification but this helps put your fears to rest, folks, because it’s only a movie. We hope. Alternative news purveyors might spin it as a doomsday scenario for planet Earth, lol. LIFE, go see it before it happens. It opens Mar. 24, brought to you by Skydance and SONY (Columbia).  Interestingly, Megan Ellison’s brother David Ellison is listed as a producer. The film has bowed in Berlin, Moscow, Paris, and at SXSW in Austin, Texas last week. [Most of the photos included are from SXSW premiere.] See their official website for showtimes and venues. Hahtag #LIFEMOVIE

Directed by:  

Daniel Espinosa

Written by:

Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

Produced by:

David Ellison

Dana Goldberg

Bonnie Curtis

Julie Lynn

Executive Producers: 

Don Granger

Vicki Dee Rock

Cast:

Jake Gyllenhaal

Rebecca Ferguson

Ryan Reynolds

Hiroyuki Sanada

Ariyon Bakare

Olga Dihovichnaya

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KSIKid17

The Kong Show: KONG SKULL ISLAND, Hiddleston, Larson, Jackson Deliver “Bigly”

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When the original KING KONG was released by RKO in March of 1933, some of the trade ads included a tie-in between Kong’s big bang box office receipts and the failed banks of the Great Depression roaring back to profitability. Kong33pstcrd17It was a nostalgia sell, a heart-tug for a pre-code Hollywood monster romp, the likes and scale of which had never been seen on the silver screen.

In a quick recap, Merian C. Cooper was turned down at Paramount, then skipped over to RKO. David O. Selznick bit, but bailed out during production. Titled “The Beast,” “Eighth Wonder of the World,” “Ape King,” and “Kong,” Selznick insisted the title be changed to KING KONG. The wow-title was a huge pivot for a scream queen screenplay written by Edgar Wallace. KongTradeBankAd17

Much like the old KONG, the new KONG: SKULL ISLAND also released in March 84 years later, by Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures, just shot past all expectations for the weekend opener, to the tune of $61 M USD. (*Now just shy of $150 M USD worldwide.)

And this is up against the formidable Hugh Jackman franchise starrer LOGAN.

Why is KONG SKULL ISLAND doing so well?

Nostalgia, folks, Viet Nam war era discontent, and throw-back technology right down to the brick-like cell phones and dot matrix, white and light lime green striped perforated IBM computer paper from the 70’s of this KONG. HidLarsKSI17Call it a Guardians of The Galaxy overhaul of the gorilla classic, KONG even features a key plot point role by GOTG’s John C. Reilly.

The film script has so many great touches, for example Brie Larson’s photojournalist character says she was “an anti-war photographer” embedded in Vietnamese conflict.  Shea Whigham plays a hardened Viet Nam veteran who says “we didn’t lose the war… we abandoned it.” All creative plot embellishments work here.

Plus, Bradley Cooper’s brother from Silver Linings Playbook, that same actor Shea Whigham, has some other soulful moments in this, also his Playbook alum John Ortiz makes an impact. All the supporting characters are extremely well-thought out.

Including some kid who looks like he actually is in Apocalypse Now-then, even though this is KONG 2017, ironically shot in Vietnam, here. His name is Thomas Mann, from Portland, Oregon, a kid we will see much more of based on his palpable brand of youthful sincerity in this picture.

Richard Jenkins, the one and only, shows up as a US Senator, another nice touch. The guy who should have passed on the remake of BEN HUR, Toby Kebbell, shows us why this British-born actor is still very gifted as Chapman, whose letter-writing home to “Dear Billy” is a leit-motif and masterstroke of the emotionally rich storytelling throughout this movie.

Anyway, KONG SKULL ISLAND is making money because it’s worth the money. Main stars Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World”), Oscar-nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), John Goodman (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Argo”), Oscar-winner Brie Larson (“Room,” “Trainwreck”), Jing Tian (“Police Story: Lockdown”), Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), John Ortiz (“Steve Jobs”), Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”), Shea Whigham (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Thomas Mann (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), with Terry Notary (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and all rock the blockbuster with Oscar-nominee John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”), knock it out of the park.
In sum, everybody delivers “bigly” as the word goes these days. It’s the perfect storm of escapism for a time that parallels the economic uncertainty of the early 30’s. Our KONG, the 2017 inhabitant of this silver screen Skull Island, has his own agenda, and is rebranded as a 2.0 of monster movie heroes.

Not to give too much away, you won’t guess the plot twists, and may be slightly disappointed by a thin and pale John Goodman whose real purpose here seems to be to show the perils of weigh loss on humor quotient. That said, Goodman also pulls his weight in a line-up of truly excellent performances for the genre, and even for any genre.

Watch Tom Hiddleston and others in this official featurette on KONG SKULL ISLAND…

Here’s What Warner Bros Has to Say About Their Gorilla-Not-To-Be-Missed

Official Statement: The producers of Godzilla reimagine the origins of one the most powerful monster myths of all in “Kong: Skull Island,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures and Tencent Pictures.  This compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful.  Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature.  As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.
Vogt-Roberts directed the film from a screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, story by John Gatins. Kong: Skull Island is produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia, with Eric McLeod and Edward Cheng serving as executive producers.
The creative behind-the-scenes team included director of photography Larry Fong (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), production designer Stefan Dechant (supervising art director True Grit, Avatar), Oscar-nominated editor Richard Pearson (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy) costume designer Mary Vogt (the Men in Black films) and composer Henry Jackman (Captain America: Civil War). The team also included Oscar-winning makeup supervisor Bill Corso (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and supervising stunt coordinator George Cottle (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises). The legendary Kong was brought to life at a whole new scale by Industrial Light & Magic, with two-time Oscar winner Stephen Rosenbaum (Avatar, Forrest Gump) serving as visual effects supervisor.
To fully immerse audiences in the mysterious Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his cast and filmmaking team filmed across three continents over six months, capturing its primordial landscapes on Oahu, Hawaii—where filming commenced—on Australia’s Gold Coast, and finally in Vietnam, where filming took place across multiple locations, some of which have never before been seen on film.
Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures and Tencent Pictures present a Legendary Pictures Production, a Jordan Vogt-Roberts Film,Kong: Skull Island. The film will be released worldwide in 2D, 3D in select theatres, and IMAX beginning March 10. Kong1sht17CAST: Kong: Skull Island” stars Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World”), Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), John Goodman (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Argo”), Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room,” “Trainwreck”), Jing Tian (“Police Story: Lockdown”), Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), John Ortiz (“Steve Jobs”), Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”), Shea Whigham (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Thomas Mann (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), with Terry Notary (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and Oscar nominee John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”).

See their website for official images and screening details.

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When Life Imitates Tart: Shirley MacLaine & Amanda Seyfried Go At It In THE LAST WORD

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Never start a headline with a bad pun, and never write your own obit might be two unwritten rules of journalism, but in new movie THE LAST WORD, starring Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried, a lot of rules are broken so let’s skip the logline and go straight to the press conference at The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The timing is key here because this takes place Friday, Mar. 3, in the wake of MacLaine’s brother Warren Beatty’s epic wrong-picture Oscar controversy and the shock death of Bill Paxton, 61, who was Seyfried’s friend and co-star on the HBO series “Big Love.”

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Selfie from THE LAST WORD cast.

MacLaine, who plays Harriet Lauler a bitter ad exec who hires Amanda Seyfried’s character to pen a loving tribute before she dies, is seated beside Seyfried, with director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), newcomer Ann’Jewel Lee, 10, and co-star Thomas Sadoski known for the CBS TV series “Life in Pieces.” To further up the stakes, Seyfried and Sadoski met on the set of this film, and are set to become parents shortly. Plus, Amanda has brought her dog Finn to the show, which makes this event even more like a surreal Hollywood family gathering.

Every single journalist in the room has worked up a strategy for addressing the 800 pound story lead in the room. Without being so indelicate as to outright ask about either the Oscars or Paxton without ruffling the stars or overshadowing THE LAST WORD’s release, the questions veer toward the inevitable.

LastWord_BD_1070.CR2

MacLaine shoots down all comers. “That’s Warren and Jimmy Kimmel’s problem. It was horrific,” she says of the Oscar misidentified Best Picture fracas. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Her firm stance here quashed any other talk of current events in Hollywood. And right there, while she sorts out the room, you see the character she plays in THE LAST WORD in sharp relief. You don’t mess with a legend, and you’re not going to slip a fast one by Shirley MacLaine, who’s a master at shutting down nonsense. The best part is she also steamrolls the “who was your mentor,” and the “Ms. MacLaine you’re a legend” crap too.

“Joan Crawford. She was the first person to give me advice (in Hollywood). I didn’t listen to a word she said.” MacLaine smiles as she says it.

When you get up the courage to ask your not-political-political question, with a Marlon Brando lead-in from one of her memoirs about how Brando actually got her into politics over a death penalty case while she was frying an egg, as the story goes, MacLaine dodges that bullet too.

“You know I was named for Shirley Temple, a Republican? Well, I have to play both sides of the aisle.” The way she turns her gaze directly into your subtext after that moot zinger is a private moment, comical, deft.

Amanda Seyfried, Mark Pellington, and the cast turn their chins in her direction. You can’t help it. This is a woman who has survived Billy Wilder in THE APARTMENT, Hitchcock in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, and is an Oscar winner, six-time Academy Award nominee, as well as a Cecil B. DeMille Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement honoree. Plus she has privately endured the recent deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, after playing Reynolds’ fictional mother to Fisher’s fictional daughter in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE. Meryl Streep played Carrie Fisher’s fictional account of herself as Debbie Reynolds’ daughter. The four of them were very close during the filming, now 50 percent of them are gone.ShirlMerylDbCarrieHere’s where, even in this swank Beverly Hills suite years away from the Golden Age of Hollywood that she bridges, Shirley MacLaine melds with THE LAST WORD character Harriet Lauler. As in Madison Avenue and Show Biz, both of them had to break down doors while protecting their inner selves in a world where women were either glamorized, marginalized or downright obstructed from their goals.

Later, when it’s revealed that screenwriter Stuart Ross Fink wrote the script for THE LAST WORD specifically for Shirley MacLaine, about a hard-driving ad exec (Harriet Lauler) turned surrogate mother for Amanda Seyfried’s character (Anne Sherman), this new movie becomes almost poetic and reverential.

In the opening scenes, real-life images from MacLaine’s life slip across the screen and through time in an appreciation of a woman whose career has spanned more than 70 years as an actor, performer, dancer, show pony, and hoofer. “Shirley and I had a 20-minute discussion on the psychology of pajama versus a robe,” Fink explained. “It was at that point I realized Harriet was no longer mine. She had become Shirley’s.”

“There’s no other actress who can portray a combination of bitchiness, vulnerability, humor, and empathy like Shirley.”

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Fink, who brought the project to director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), is also an ad man, a creative director who worked for Fortune 100 companies. Clearly he built the story around his experience. Harriet Lauler is a once-Teflon advertising veteran in the movie. Now a broken woman, she was kicked out of a company she founded, that still bears her initials in the logo, only to become an aging control freak in a secluded life headed for the bitter end. Instead of accepting her fate as a dethroned pitch maven, MacLaine’s character decides to stage manage her exit, beginning with hiring an exceptional obituary writer to cement her refurbished reputation after she dies.

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Nobody wants to write obits, especially not for a living or the living.

Amanda Seyfried plays the beleaguered essayist with a day job writing obits who is flung into orbit around Lauler’s ego as she re-brands herself for the afterlife. “I adore Amanda,” MacLaine said. “And Harriet in her way adores Anne, but her biggest problem has always been with people who don’t live up to their potential.”

When you realize this is a first movie for Fink, you begin to understand the complexity of molding the material to MacLaine. And that’s what makes this movie the proverbial love letter to MacLaine, now 82, while also carving out a poignant narrative about the inevitable displacement of productive people as they age. “Older people are invisible,” MacLaine will say at the press conference, “that’s what I wanted to use this movie for, to make older people less invisible.”

What makes the movie raw and strange is the interplay between Seyfried, MacLaine and her on-screen daughter played by a disapproving neurologist Anne Heche in one tiny scene, coupled with long sequences where Seyfried and MacLaine go through their personal pitched battles in the presence of new comer Ann’Jewel Lee, a 10-year-old who takes no prisoners.

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Heche slays as a bad daughter.

At the press conference, after the glittering sheen of star power wanes and Ann’Jewel Lee waits to leave, she wants you to know about “the cursing,” the f-word her character uses. “I don’t say that in real life,” she notes. “But it was just a movie. My mother said it was okay because it’s just a movie.” Just a decade in years and she’s got the wisdom to know the difference between what’s on the screen to make a point, and who she is as a young actor. Mark Pellington adds that she ad libbed a crucial scene with MacLaine, where MacLaine asks “what do you want to be” open-ended. Lee says “ya gotta be something.”THE LAST WORD Poster_rgbIn a surreal LA moment, after leaving the press conference and meeting MacLaine, who is so frighteningly gracious and disarmingly elegant in real life, Ari Shapiro’s NPR interview with the screen star for THE LAST WORD comes on the car radio. She’s parrying back and forth, doing her Harriet Lauler impression, “I know you’re looking for a headline, Babe,” she quips. And of course, Shirley MacLaine gets the actual last word.

Make the time to see her go toe-to-toe with Amanda Seyfried in this movie, because it’s really a moment for women, young and old, and the families we build when husbands, partners, boyfriends, children, and even a high-power career aren’t enough.

THE LAST WORD from Bleeker Street and Myriad Pictures, is directed by Mark Pellington, and stars Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfriend, Anne Heche, Ann’Jewel Lee, Philip Baker Hall, Thomas Sadoski, and Tom Everett Scott. See their website for venues and showtimes for the release run, which opened Mar. 3, in a nationwide roll-out.

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[Also see more great releases from www.BleeckerStreetMedia.com.]

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LarryMeme17

NEWSFLASH: Top 10 Most Troubling Conspiracy Videos on YouTube

LOS ANGELES, CA: Remember this little prescription? “You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” That’s how The Matrix’s Laurence Fishburne gets Keanu Reeves character NEO to enter the alternate reality that’s the so-called true reality. Newflash: that is from 1999. Now substitute Blue State and Red State for pills, and think about political party affiliations.

Who saw into the future? GuyFawMeme17The Wachowski filmmaker siblings from Australia, the pair that brought us Matrix in 1999, followed by V for Vendetta (2005). Yes, that “V.” The now-iconic fictional character who has become a rallying cry for social justice via the Guy Fawkes face mask.

Where are we going with this? During this Era of Fake News, “Alternative Facts,” and Improbable Stats, brought to you courtesy of the 2016 US Presidential Election, nobody even offered a pill.

But we were still sent down a rabbit hole that saw Reality TV Entrepreneur Donald J. Trump engage in a claymation-style Celebrity Death Match with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, before he swept into the Highest Office in the Land. This  has been the equivalent of the Red Pill anyway.

Under President Trump we expect more crazy, above and below the scroll, even by the troll, who sometimes voice popular sentiment. That’s the irony of fake news: there may be a grain of truth in it. Just as there is a grain of salt for MSM (Mainstream Media) news nowadays. The bottom-line is nobody gets away without having a filter on their brain.

JonesMeme17That said, Screenmancer has jammed up a YouTube feed (and maybe got flagged by the NSA, kidding), just to bring you the Top 10 Most Troubling Conspiracy Videos on YouTube. The order is 10 being Troubling, in descending order to Most Troubling. Next time you’re hit with outlandish news, at least you’ll have a benchmark for crazy.

While the interwebs must remain uncensored, free, and fluid, expect to encounter digital dilemmas like this, where we’re being urged to shut down free speech on a free internet because of Crazy. This happens the more outlandish the interwebs becomes. Yet this controlled chaos is reflective of the actual offline world around us and what people are actually seeing behind the privacy of their own screens.
We’re not including links for these gems because that would be an endorsement of the content.  If you Google Up the titles, unfortunately you will stumble upon the incendiary footage. Yet, the real disclaimer here is that while much of this content is off-the-hook ridiculous, some of it will give you pause. GeneMeme17

If you feel we’ve left off anything important, remember that our criteria excludes all 9/11 theories, political hit videos, unsavory magical or psychic themed videos, and anything that refers to animals, children or feathers or nudity or faked moon landings. Enjoy the new era of Curated Crazy…

Top 10 Most Troubling Conspiracy Videos on YouTube
[Includes one line description for basis of ranking.]

(Ranked 10 = Troubling; 1 = Most Troubling)

10.) Truth About New World Order This Video Blocked in 51 Countries
(Real News Studio, 175K Views)
Begins with George Carlin’s monologue about conspiracy theories, downhill from there, conflates world events.

9.) Dr. Steve Pieczenik – The American Republic Has Been Restored
‘No More False Flags, No More B^!!$#!%!’
(The River Mersey, 54K Views)
Former Govt. Operative Peczenik insists he was among many insiders who hijacked the election for Trump.

8.) You Are Being Distracted YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP
[Hillary Clinton – George Soros connected imagery]
(Anonymous Updates , 17K* Views)
A fake Anonymous group purports to know Greek Billionaire George Soros is pulling Hillary Clinton’s puppet strings.

7.) A Message To Fake Anonymous And The Deceived
(Anonymous, 338K Views)
Real Anonymous takes on Anon Updates, Anon DK, and others who pretend to be official Anonymous, which is non-violent.

6.) GOD is a Computer PROGRAMMER – Documentary*
(Hotcakes, 141K Views)
Bogus analogies invoke digital fear in this bogus “documentary” that attempts to co-opt the Digital Age.

5.) Simulacrum: The Superimposed Artificial Reality
(Doug Michael, 51 K Views)
Quotes Iris Murdoch, purports to be sci-fi-entific, is just weird, and everything might be a simulation, but who cares?

4.) 11 Cellular & WiFi DARK SECRETS You Must Hear Now & 3 BONUS features
(LogicBeforeBeauty, 82K Views)
“CERN is ‘the devil’s play toy.’ Beings from another dimension to come through cell towers;” Holy Toledo, Batman, this is wack!

3.) The Huge Secret That Princess Diana Knew
(Gary Lite, 2.5M Views)
Lady Diana knew Royal Family Reptile secrets, and Leaping’ Lizardry, enough said.

2.) ROSEANNE MK ULTRA – Hollywood Stars Kidnapped
(Robbo Da Yobbo, 140K Views)
An entire Roseanne Barr genre on topics like this and how “Illuminati Rules Hollywood with MK Ultra Mind Control.”

1.) JFK Jr. Told the world who killed his Father
(Veritas 13Fox, 388K Views)
Remember his magazine GEORGE? Now parse the phrase ‘JFK was ambushed,’ and you’re there on this one.

[DISCLAIMER: Certain topics have been excluded from the list, including all 9/11 theories, Political figure bashing, magical and psychic themed videos, chemtrails, and anything that refers to animals, children or feathers or nudity or faked moon landings.]

LarryMeme17

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and binge-watch conspiracy footage.

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A24 & 20TH CENTURY WOMEN Won’t Keep The Party Polite, So See Their Film

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Okay, so that headline lyric is actually from Frank Sinatra about Luck being a Lady, and frankly that’s just one misconception about women that the movie 20TH CENTURY WOMEN hopes to debunk. That and every notion of gender from conception to girl power to the male gaze to reproduction. AnnetteB17This movie is not a “chick flick,” shall we say, but it is a flick about chicks/women/girls, and every other representation of — stealing from the novelist Raymond Carver here – what we think about when we think about Women. Plus there’s skateboarding in it, a huge nostalgic bonus. Yeah, but what’s the movie about?

Here’s the official rundown: “With 20th Century Women, acclaimed filmmaker Mike Mills (the Academy Award® winner for Beginners) brings us a multilayered, funny, heart-stirring celebration of the complexities of women, family, time, and the connections we search for our whole lives. Set in Santa Barbara, the film follows Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a determined single mother in her mid-50s who is raising her adolescent son, Jamie (newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann, in a breakout performance) at a moment brimming with cultural change and rebellion. Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women in Jamie’s upbringing: Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields’ home; and Julie (Elle Fanning), a savvy and provocative teenage neighbor. 20th Century Women is a poignant love letter to the people who raise us—and the times that form us—as this makeshift family forges fragile connections that will mystify and inspire them through their lives. GretaG17As if this film itself is not enough of a power statement for the cause, A24 has just announced it will make a donation to Planned Parenthood to honor every single person who sees the film this weekend, men and women. Meanwhile, filmmaker Mike Mills has just unveiled a clip of Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, being interviewed about what matters. Besides kicking asses and taking names, to use the ‘parlance of our time,’ Planned Parenthood is still recovering from brand bashing during the election. So, watch the clip below, and remember – you can either plan your parenthood or all hell breaks loose.

Here’s A24’s official word on this featurette:

[Writer/director Mike Mills, and stars Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, reflect on those who raise us and the times that shape us in latest video ‘Modern Women’, featuring an exclusive interview with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. Planned Parenthood consulted on the film and Planned Parenthood California Central Coast shared information and resources about Planned Parenthood health centers in the ’70s. Planned Parenthood also plays a crucial part in the lives of two of the main characters in the film.]

Of his fierce support of the project, writer/director Mike Mills says, “The people at Planned Parenthood were so helpful to me with the writing and pre-production of 20th Century Women. They connected me with people who worked in PP offices in the ’70s to make sure every aspect of my scenes was correct, from the language counselors used to the very particular decor and dress of the people in those offices, to the overarching philosophy and attitude of the women who worked there. It was very important to me that we capture this moment in women’s reproductive rights accurately and they were so generous and helpful to me.”20C1sht17

Mike Mills’ Golden-Globe® nominated 20TH CENTURY WOMEN opened 12/25/2016, and is showing now in a run up to the Oscar® ceremony, to broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 26. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, and Billy Crudup. Mike Mills is the writer director. Find out how to see it here and A24 has some other awesome projects on their website.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and plan to reproduce.

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How to Factor the Oscars: Hidden Figures, Stats on Women Revealed

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Who knew NASA and IBM would be the corporate darlings of this year’s Oscar race? Or, translated into Award Season trivia for 2017, who knew HIDDEN FIGURES from 20th Century Fox, about three NASA human “Computers,” would run up unexpected numbers at the box office and put stars Kevin Costner, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe on the Oscar radar?

HF-228 - Octavia Spencer stars as Dorothy Vaughan in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Octavia Spencer stars as Dorothy Vaughan in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

The graph looks like this according to The Numbers, an insider box-office tracking service: Dec. 25, 2016 (release date) $515,499; Dec. 26, $831,571. Not impressed? By Dec. 27, the picture barely tops $1 M USD. However, in a five-day period between Jan. 5 and Jan. 10, 2017, in a run up to the Golden Globes, HIDDEN FIGURES goes from $2.5 M USD to $30 M USD. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 15, the picture tops $54 M USD and counting.

While the film took a backseat to singing-dancing LA LA LAND on Jan. 8 at the Golden Globes ceremony, nobody can deny that the film’s bump from being included in that awards show made a huge difference as far as audience awareness, and in turn box office totals.

You may not be a big fan of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or the checkered history of their Golden Globes presentation, but this year the GG’s hit it out of the park for a film that may have stayed hidden had not this show (among others) shined a spot on three remarkable African-American women who helped ushered in a win in the US-Russian Space Race back in the 60’s. The film picked up two nominations, for Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and Ben Wallfisch for Best Score, and for Octavia Spencer as Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture.

HF-207 - Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

And now a brief moment to shine a spot on the man of the hour, here, because his star-power helped get this funded by Peter Chernin and other execs at 20th who always need “a name.” From Dances with Wolves to McFarland USA (see it), and now Hidden Figures, Costner is one of the only past or present A-List leading men with an eye on the prize for under-represented groups, including women. McFarland director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) singled him out for this Disney film because he is such a likable barrier breaker and that story is about a Mexican-American community track team that defies all odds.

DF-06401_R - Kevin Costner stars as NASA official Al Harrison, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Kevin Costner stars as NASA official Al Harrison, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

But enough about Kevin Costner, he won’t get a nomination because Best Actor is a tough field this year, although there may be an honorary Oscar someday for his efforts. So let’s recognize him here and now for helping get some tough-to-fund projects made.

Now back to HIDDEN FIGURES, and why this movie may slip out from behind the pack and take Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards presentation on Sunday, Feb. 26. (Yes, Best Picture.) This movie is adapted from the novel by Margot Lee Shetterley from Harper Collins, and the real title is “The American Dream and Untold Story of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win The Space Race.” Written by an actual native of Hampton, Virginia, the book casts a kind light on John Glenn (Glen Powell) whose performance here is noteworthy as he seems both gender-blind and color-blind. Shetterley herself, as described in her bio is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, as well as “recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing.”IBMOct17

Along with gritty but elegant performances by actors Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), and Janelle Monáe (Mary Jackson), the film is a visual essay on the power of STEM in changing lives. STEM stands for Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology. It’s a plank in shoring up the American education system that is badly outdated. The notion that back in the 1960’s these real-life women of science (and of color) could have better chances than some women today is not lost on audiences. Hidden figures is a triple pun, their physical figures, math figures, and today’s still-grim stats for women in significant scientific jobs. Plus, the climate of learning in America right now is so consumer-oriented, most people barely know how to balance a checkbook anymore (much less figure payloads to the moon), as most of us live by the random swipe of plastic in a virtual ETF economy that circles the globe.

Melissa McCarthy hosted a Special Screening of this film earlier in the year, meaning it needed word-of-mouth among Hollywood’s creative community too. HIDDEN FIGURES has had music events. Pharrell Williams has a music credit and did a concert in Toronto for TIFF. It has inspired girl-empowerment events, screenings in Atlanta, all over North America, as a sleeper success story during this Award Season.

But back to the actual story. Vaughan just had a building named after her at NASA to commemorate her work, and Octavia Spencer pays off her legacy on her work getting us to the stars with a stellar performance. When was the last time you saw anyone hold up a Fortran programming book on screen and make it look like a way out of poverty. Spencer absolutely inhabits this real-life role as more than credible, but lovable. However, she is stuck in a very tough category for 2017, up against the formidable Viola Davis, who all but owns this supporting awards category for FENCES, the August Wilson screen adaptation of his literary playwriting masterpiece. Let’s just say there will be no Winner and Nominees in that category this year, it’s a win-win all the way around, no matter who takes home the statuette. TarajiHF17Taraji P. Henson, who slays in her role as Cookie Lyon as part of HBO’s urban epic Empire, did not even pick up a Golden Globe nom in the TV category on Jan. 8, but her performance in HIDDEN FIGURES is masterful in a different way. While she appears at times hysterical and high-strung as Katherine Johnson in HIDDEN, the reality her character touches is everything about all women in the workplace – from the bathroom to the Boardroom. And this is where the movie really spills out into the actual industry itself. It’s not just about women of color, it’s about all women, because no matter how you slice the stats, the stats are always lumped together as the percentages of females in key roles.

Take a look at the 2015 stats here, released in Feb. of 2016, known as the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment (CARD) from USC’s Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg (IDEA). This excerpt here includes only few major statistical breakdowns on women in general for feature films. USCGenDir17Did you know 96.6% of all directors are men, with 3.4% women? Now factor women of color and that 3.4 percent divides again. Out of a pool of 6,421 writers, more than 71% are men, 28.9% are women. And, according to the study, an apologia of sorts, as in “it may also be the case, however, that executives feel more comfortable hiring women directors and screenwriters when the story pulls female.”

How many “executives” are women, you may wonder, to pull off this double miracle of generating more female-driven stories helmed by female-driven hands? Under the heading Top Corporate Executives by Gender and Position, this study reveals fully 81% of Board positions are held by men, while 79% are C-Suite (meaning C-level titles such as CEO, COO, CIO), and even in the ranks of Executive Management, another 81% are men. So we’re looking at a 1-in-5 chance changes will be coming anytime soon, as approximately 20% of the behind-the-scenes decision makers are women. USCCover17

HIDDEN FIGURES is that 1-in-5 project that got through the system. Directed by Theordore Melfi (St. Vincent (Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy)), he shares a screenplay credit with Allison Schroeder. Schroeder is the writer of Mean Girls 2, and credited on Pineapple Express, but she also has a BA from Stanford, and a went to the Producing Program at USC. Her own story is one of education and advancement, another hidden stat rolled up in this remarkable movie.

The box office for HIDDEN FIGURES continues to climb on a sharp curve upward, and this film ranked #1 in the US in popularity this week for a reason. Not because it’s diverse, not because it’s about women, not because it’s about women of color, math, science, space, or technology… because it’s beyond awesome. These three life stories, based on actual scientists from NASA who excelled and were recognized despite segregation in America, have such poignant arcs that the connection to the audience is palpable in the theater. Now let’s see if Oscar voters feel the same pull, not toward the heavens, but toward the real issue facing people here on earth.

HIDDEN FIGURES official story, full cast credits, and featurette trailers can be found on this link. And now we even send women into space, see these NASA stats from Graphiq.

Stay tuned for more Oscar predictions… and peruse USC’s CARD study here. Mostly add up HIDDEN FIGURES Oscar chances for yourself, see it now.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and go out on a limb handicapping the Oscars.

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The Year Nobody Was a Pundit: Hollywood’s Shock, All Governments Lie, But Zero Days & Sparrow Shortlisted

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent [FilmFestivals.com]

Cui Bono? That’s the famous Latin line that means “who benefits,” and in the realm of conspiracy theories, this blunt tool ranks right up there with “Historian’s Fallacy” as a go-to. The term historian’s fallacy was minted by Brandeis Professor David Hackett Fischer in 1970, who pointed out the bright idea that even when someone is going through a historic event, or having experienced a historic event, said eyewitness may not have a historical perspective because they have no idea what might hit them next. So since 2016 is The Year Nobody Was a Pundit, as far as the US Presidential Election, and while most of Hollywood is still in shock at the shadow conservative vote in their midst, you’ll forgive a meandering but meaningful segue here into the Oscar Documentary Shortlist and why two films, Zero Days and Hooligan Sparrow, had special resonance. But first, Oliver Stone who executive produced a documentary on investigative journalist, I.F. Stone, directed by Fred Peabody. Unlike Zero Days and Sparrow, this is one that didn’t make the Oscar shortlist, but it’s extremely relevant this year.

unnamed-6Titled ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE, it’s based on the book that examines the influential life of investigative journalist, I.F. Stone “whose long one-man crusade against government deception lives on in the work of such contemporary filmmakers and journalists such as  Amy Goodman, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Cenk Uygur, Jeremy Scahill, David Corn, and Matt Taibbi.”

Amy Goodman, as you may know, is the figurehead of Democracy Now, a radio program and media beacon of the American Left that recently stood by the stand-down at the Dakota Access Pipeline. Goodman was even arrested there, but released with charges dropped. Laura Poitras is the filmmaker who brought us CitizenFour, the real-life encounter with Edward Snowden that brought government security to its knees, if only for a moment, while the American Public had their digital eyes peeled open. Glenn Greenwald is her cohort in this endeavor, formerly of the Guardian UK, now of his own media hotspot known as The Intercept. The other names are important, but Matt Taibbi is one journalist who stood firm in dissent as the Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” waves crashed onto voter beachheads. Taibbi is very respected because he stayed up to his ankles in the quick sand of changing poll numbers that made this American US Presidential Election the most highly rated quasi-fiasco in the history of US politics. Election 2016 is the ticket-seller that even Hollywood couldn’t come up with as a plot line: Hamburger Hillary vs The Donald. Initially this match-up looked, as one award-worthy internet troll put it, as “don’t bring a Cheeto to a knife fight” in favor of Hillary Clinton as far as the debates. But a strange thing happened on the way to the ballot box, a swirl of fake news, government reveals, and general discontent took over.

And this is why, although ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE didn’t make anybody’s shortlist, it’s an important film to watch. I.F. Stone’s legacy is the history of dissent in its modern form that we know it. He made his reputation as a journalist by flipping over the hallowed cobblestones of the American Democracy so we could get a view under the sheen of tradition. In fact, in 2015, I.F. Stone’s son Jeremy Stone was behind the release of a Knight Foundation documentary “The Legacy of I.F. Stone” produced out of Canada. According to Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, (Greenwald also has a role in this doc) I.F. Stone is known as “The Patron Saint of Bloggers,” and the first known journalist to tap “unofficial sources.”

And here’s where we went collectively, as a voter nation with the rest of the watching-world dragged with us, down a very, very, very long rabbit hole in the 2016 General Election. It was supposed to be a simple contest to determine who would become the next President of the United States, or POTUS in the shorthand. Yet the whole campaign turned into He Said, She Said, fueled by unnamed sources, hacked documents, and purported criminal activity on display.

I.F. Stone’s pioneering “unofficial sources” gambit in the Digital Age became a hellride into inter-party Spy vs Spy, a weltering clash of Anonymous vs Anonymous Global, and a final FBI Director James Comey showdown vs the CIA “counter coup.” Comey is the one whose October Surprise was a November game-changer for the Clinton campaign as it hinted at a 33,000 email-deletion related indictment imminent for her.  Oh wait, he recanted within days. Next, there was even a former US State Department operative, now a sci-fi writer, named Steve Pieczenik who began to leak YouTube videos about the “FBI soft coup” to stop Hillary Clinton, who apparently they’d been tracking for Clinton Foundation fraud, from becoming POTUS. Finally elusive global-hacktivist entity Anonymous really got into the act by flooding YouTube with “Wake Up America” type calls to action to halt the current questions over alleged “Russian” hacking into the US electoral process… exhausting, isn’t it? It’s like everyone on earth and in the media lost the plot in 2016. Even genius poll predictor Nate Silver, who called elections within percentage points in the past, had Donald Trump losing by a 67% chance even as the vote count began.

Again, 2016 is The Year Nobody Was A Pundit. But “unnamed sources” and unsubstantiated allegations, as well as hit videos ruled the day. Although it’s not what was intended by I. F. Stone (no relation to Oliver), this election year is in many ways the slap in the face that Hollywood needed too. When a real life election is more fascinating than any feature film releases on their slate, the Studios can no longer grind out the same rebooted content, folks. People still went to the movie theaters and downloaded filmed content in 2016, but the US Election was beyond gripping – and not in a good way. We’re supposed to be the nation that sets the stage for the much-touted “fair and free elections.” We’re the country that points out the polling stations cheaters in so-called “banana republics,” restores justice when rogue countries go awry and thumbs our nose at humans rights violators with harsh sanctions.

Those very attributes the United States prides itself on came into question in 2016, even the idea that we could shake a fist at corruption in other countries when we ourselves seemed pretty porous as far as scandals from within.

This political preamble is why, in my humble opinion as a critic, two documentaries – Hooligan Sparrow and Zero Days – really mattered on a world-events scale this year. Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin, the tech couple behind Lynda.com, an online tutorial empire they have since sold, hosted a very crucial screening of Hooligan Sparrow, a documentary about women’s rights in China that becomes a visual essay on the struggle for human rights and freedoms on a visceral level. Hooligan1sht16

Here’s the official description of the film:

“The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.

Filmmaker Wang risks her own life and becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, and in the process, she exposes a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets. Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.”

In covering it earlier this year, I’d asked Nanfu Wang “What is the history of protests in China? And do you think the West influenced this?” Nanfu takes a short breath, she is remarkably composed for someone who literally had to smuggle her footage out of China. “Protests are taboo in China,” she begins. Then she detailed the barriers for giving a proverbial “voice to the voiceless” in her home country. In a modest floral theme red dress, and Nanfu Wang safe in the West, it’s a disconnect to imagine the gritty street fights she’s had to face, even under the pressure of a second language here. Nanfu Wang is definitely someone to watch for more powerful visual essays on film, with Hooligan Sparrow just a first salvo, hopefully.

The connector to the next hugely impactful documentary, Zero Days, is that ripple effect, when an issue for someone like Sparrow’s activist Ye Haiyan ignites a global reaction. In Zero Days, a few watchers on the wall of technology saw something odd, shared it amongst themselves, and didn’t realize they’d discovered the tail of international espionage-made virus that could literally crash the world.

Zero Days is my personal pic for Best Documentary because it reveals the inner workings and internecine fighting going on within the highly insulated and highly secure secret world of CyberSec, including cybersecurity operatives and the divisions between “three letter agencies” which later becomes writ large in the so-called “soft coup” shoot-out between the FBI and the CIA firing back with hacking allegations even you read this. It’s a very dangerous game of Spy Agency vs Spy Agency that has shaken some truly home-grown crazy out of the American woodwork. YouTube is replete with claims and counter-claims of hacking, spying, even purporting to reveal a laundry list of conspiracy theories. Some of these “theories” – from Clinton unspeakable evil-doing to Trump’s Jesus-like magic – make David Aaronvitch’s book “Voodoo Histories, The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History” look tame. Aaronvitch makes compelling arguments that conspiracy theories actually serve a purpose in the pattern of history as it unfolds… but the 2016 Presidential Election crazy, especially where high-level official discussions and briefings included the possibility of “foreign actors” (read: Russia) hacking Democractic emails, the Election, and the polling machines, well it just went beyond rational human understanding.

Which makes Alex Gibney’s documentary on the events leading to the detection of a computer virus designed to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in order to sabotage their entire nuclear program, that much more important as an object lesson.

Zero Days stars a range of officials and high-level tech players who unravel the Stuxnet story. Starring Colonel Gary D. Brown, Eric Chien, Richard A. Clarke, General Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen, Chris Inglis, Vitaly Kamluk, Eugene Kaspersky, Gibney’s “ZERO DAYS is a documentary thriller about the world of cyberwar.” ZeroDaysPoster16

Here’s the official description: “For the first time, the film tells the complete story of Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. ZERO DAYS is the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyber warfare. Beyond the technical aspects of the story, ZERO DAYS reveals a web of intrigue involving the CIA, the US Military’s new cyber command, Israel’s Mossad and Operations that include both espionage and covert assassinations but also a new generation of cyber weapons whose destructive power is matched only by Nuclear War.”

Some of this is a recap from my earlier coverage and interview with Eric Chien this year, but there’s a lot of implied geopolitics embedded here, and again, along with the hacking component, really cements it as my Best Doc pic for 2016. Before seeing ZERO DAYS, it’s critical to understand the US’s former relationship to the Shah of Iran. Before he was deposed, the Shah of Iran received a key first piece of their nuclear program from the US. It was supposed to be used for energy generation, power plants. The Christian Science Monitor did a round-up once that put dates on the whole mess. “In 1967, under the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program launched by President Eisenhower, the US sold the Shah of Iran’s government a 5-megawatt, light-water type reactor… the foundation of Iran’s nuclear power program.” The Shah reigned from Sept. 16, 1941 until Feb. 11, 1979, when he was toppled by the Iranian Revolution. However questionable the Shah’s regime was, it’s axiomatic that something would go wrong once the largely secular world of his rule fell into theological hands as the 1980’s began.

Next things go from theological to zealot by US estimations. And then there’s 9/11. Allegations are Iran is inching its way toward the “bomb,” because it’s not a huge stretch from power-reactor fuel to weapons grade material. You can see why the US government would consider cyber war in the wake of 9/11, especially since the hardware and software for their nuclear program comes mostly from the West (read: a way in via upgrades to the tech). Plus, would anyone ever find out? Someone high up likely gambled on the wrong side of “No.” So malware was secretly engineered, somewhere, to attack the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility.

Alex Gibney’s take on it is, “I started out making a small film investigating ‘Stuxnet…’ What I discovered was a massive clandestine operation involving the CIA, the NSA, the US military and Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad to build and launch secret cyber ‘bombs’ that could plunge the world into a devastating series of… attacks on critical infrastructure, shutting down electricity… this science fiction scenario…”

That’s Alex Gibney for you, outing the whole gamut of international players from “three-letter agencies” to nation states. But then you talk to someone like Eric Chien, Technical Director of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response division, who was among the first handful to discover and name the Stuxnet virus, and it becomes clear that the message of ZERO DAYS is not rehashing old news about the perils of technology. (As in the current alleged Russian election hacking fracas, and the role of governments in controlling infighting among agencies tasked with cyber security.)

Although it is public record that Belorussian engineer Sergey Ulasen was the first responder to the then-unnamed Stuxnet virus as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) reboot over there in the Iranian nuke-related nest of computers; the message of this film is really about the knowledge gap between policy makers and digital purveyors, who, at the speed of technology, will reshape the world for us if we don’t watch out.

In person, Eric Chien is incredibly personable, a youthful exemplar of next-generation digital professionals. “We make Norton Anti-Virus,” he begins, to kind of define Symantec. He also apologies that colleague Liam O’Murchu couldn’t make it. “He had his hands on it first,” Chien adds, meaning Stuxnet. “Normally what we do, day-to-day, is we look at the latest (cyber) attacks. About one million a day. A lot of it is handled through automation, which automatically create fixes for them.”

“When we come across some big attacks, we share (with stakeholders)” pieces of the code for others to monitor or give feedback on. “Recently someone tried to transfer $1 BN from the Bank of Bangladesh,” he said, and this discovery brought back some similarities to the adrenaline of the Stuxnet discovery.

Chien mentions the possible government or shadowy players that he’s encountered in untangling the virus. “When you have black motorcycles, wearing all black following you, behind you, you start to wonder.”

On why Stuxnet wasn’t part of the Snowden leak, he casually mentions, “Edward Snowden didn’t leak this because those files are stored on a different server.” Then, ironically, Chien says he is not under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), because “we don’t have a two-tiered system. We share this information with our clients… we would never work for hostile nations.” Chien reveals that ‘zero-day’ is a term that basically means the virus is discovered at the same time the vulnerability is revealed that makes the exploit even possible. (Think of it as a hole-in-one golf shot, but nobody knew there was a hole there until the ball hit. Now you’ve got two problems.)

“Stuxnet had not one, but four zero-days in it,” he emphasizes, “even one zero day is rare, but four?” This is how “we knew nation states must be involved.” But breaking the code, finding out what this virus was supposed to do “was the needle in the haystack. I mean it had a (kill) date in it, but it was not easy to figure out.” Tying into the election theme, Stuxnet’s “kill date” mysteriously coincided with the 2012 election.

With all the current election brouhaha, the focus on Russia, Chien made a shocking remark that puts Moscow’s capabilities in perspective. “There’s something to be said for obsolesce,” he revealed. “Because when Russia tried to shut down (the gird) in the Ukraine, their technology was so old, they could actually go to each site and crank it back on by hand.” That’s not in Zero Days, but insider terms like Nitro Zeus are, and maybe what’s most important about this film is that it details the bones of contention, the lines of power, and the factions opposed to one another behind the scenes in our government agencies.

And this comes full circle to the opening focus on the current contested election results… agencies are infighting and all we can do is find our own way back up the rabbit hole, back into the reasonable margin of error that Democracy lives by.

A complete list of the Academy’s Best Documentary shortlist for the 89th Academy Award Presentation to be held  February 26, 2017, can be found on www.oscars.org

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Oscar Whiplash Likely for Damien Chazelle’s LA LA Land & Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Oh, to ruin Award Season… but isn’t that what we’re on earth for? To have our dreams shattered but then our lives uplifted, if only in the movies? Enter LA LA LAND, a singing, dancing act of pure wish fulfillment starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Wait, a musical? Don’t be fooled. This is classic cinema updated with today’s angst. Stone says “the idea of this really modern story of two artists and dreamers” hooked her immediately. Ryan Gosling admits it was “a secret wish of mine” to make classic musicals.

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LA LA LAND is the latest gift from Harvard-alum Damien Chazelle who brought us that inimitable gem, WHIPLASH. He’s the one who played drums in high school, which inspired the driven core character played by Miles Teller. In 2014, the then newcomer-director made the award show rounds for WHIPLASH. He even found himself seated on stage for AFI Fest with Tilda Swinton, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Marion Cotillard, plus other famous names. Chazelle seemed already tipped as someone who would make a mark in the movies. This may be the Rhode Island native’s Oscar year as a Best Director contender. This new movie also makes you forget he wrote 10 Cloverfield Lane, the horror thriller, but it’s just gliding on the Oscar that he is a viable screenwriter-for-hire in Hollywood too. (The connective tissue is Chazelle’s interest in demons, one’s own creative demons that drive great performances or in supernatural ones in his love of horror movies.)

AFI Fest 2014, and they already know Chazelle is a star talent.

AFI Fest 2014, and they already know Chazelle is a star talent. Far right, seated beside Marion Cotillard.

Fittingly Chazelle studied Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard, and LA LA LAND is truly a visual and environmental tableaux as far as eye candy. And of course the casting is stellar. (Does everybody know Ryan Gosling was a Disney Channel kid star with Justin Timberlake? He was.) Chazelle says he considers Gosling and Stone to be like “Bogie and Bacall” and other great screen couples. Consider it Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay – if in nominations only, if not an outright sweep of the major categories. (Except for Viola Davis, who will take the category, and absolutely dominate, as Best Supporting Actress for FENCES, hopefully.)

LA LA LAND, yes that’s three words not a compound noun as in the pejorative for Los Angeles. Think Everyone Says I Love You by Woody Allen meets Your Favorite Behind the Scenes Classic 30’s Musical. Wait. Think Hamilton-like reboot of a slick, often goofy, cloying even when iconic, genre that just found its authentic swing. That’s what LA LA LAND becomes. Chazelle has a huge advantage because his background is so deep in the nuances and heartbreaking ability of music (i.e.; WHIPLASH) that he tugs the audience along by the ear as well as the eye in this pastel colored “real-life” twinged singing, dancing triumph.

LALA1sht16Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are both “triple threats,” according to J.K. Simmons, who plays Ryan’s boss in this one and also starred with Teller in WHIPLASH (where Simmons picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Triple threat, for those of you under the age of 40, is Hollywood Golden Age lingo for the rare actors with the triple skills of singing, dancing, and acting. Remember the Dirty Dancing scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love? These two are giving new life to the idea of Silver Screen Super Couple Chemistry where Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper – who promised so much in Silver Linings Playbook – let us down hard lately, ouch in Serena, even in JOY.

Since Gosling and Stone killed it as a love pair in Crazy, Stupid, Love, they are matched like dancing shoes in LA LA LAND… now for the featurette courtesy of Lionsgate.

Here’s the insider story…

Find out more at http://www.lalaland.movie, but see WHIPLASH again in the meantime for the first jazz-musician themed Chazelle movie. LA LA LAND is his second excursion with a strong jazz focused storyline as Ryan Gosling plays a struggling jazz man who keeps running into Emma Stone’s struggling actor character. Coming off her career high in BIRDMAN (Michael Keaton), Emma Stone just keeps getting better and better. And this film makes you believe there is a place for dreaming, even in these cynical times.

LA LA LAND had a limited roll out on Dec. 9 and will no doubt go wider soon as it just received seven Golden Globe nominations, 8 Critics Choice Award nominations, after winning National Board of Review’s Top 10 Films of the Year, and Best Film from New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

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JLawPass

I Pod for Real: In PASSENGERS, JenLaw & Chris Pratt Snap Awake During Space Sleep

Let’s face it, everybody loves those What-If scenario space movies. It’s almost a cliché that periodically orbits through the Hollywood universe of high concept screenplay ideas. The most famous un-produced pitch goes something like this: Hey, what if somebody found a black box on an alien space ship?  PASSENGERS, distributed by SONY for Dec. 21 release and directed by the Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum, aims exactly for this rarified airspace. As in Hey, what if two passengers on an interplanetary mission wake up 90 years too early from a pod snooze? You can hear the story development cogs begin to whirr.ChrisJenPass
In PASSENGERS, written by Princeton alum Jon Spaihts, who penned Prometheus, star casting helps. And there will be Michael Sheen, who has almost become a requirement for out-there futurist movies since his wacky turn in the remake of TRON. Besides Sheen, the Matrix’s Laurence Fishburne is also on board, in case we missed a clue about how momentous the scope of this picture is… but wait, there’s more.
A-list leads Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star as the two passengers on this 120-year interplanetary hop when their hibernation pods wake them up at year 30, 90 years before their destination.  Oh snap, Jim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) are then “forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, with the lives of thousands of passengers in jeopardy.”

Again, PASSENGERS is directed by the Norwegian-born director of the Imitation Game Morten Tyldum, who seems to be an expert at mining the mental space in a movie scene. But nobody seems to overthink the human evolutionary politics of colonization in space because this picture’s plot destination is simply a love story. For conspiracy theorists who like escape earth fantasies, this should be just the ticket.

Opens wide Dec. 21 on the blue planet. #PassengersMovie, official site here.

JLawPass
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

Written by: Jon Spaihts

Produced by: Neal H. Moritz
Stephen Hamel
Michael Maher
Ori Marmur

Executive Producers: David Householter
Ben Browning
Jon Spaihts
Lynwood Spinks
Bruce Berman
Greg Basser
Ben Waisbren

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence
Chris Pratt
Michael Sheen
Laurence Fishburne

(This film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for the following reasons: sexuality, nudity and action/peril. Credits not final.)

BONUS: Here’s some space movie stats for grins. Do you think PASSENGERS will make the cut?

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and suspend their disbelief regularly.

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Silence1sht

Shusaku Endo’s Novel From 1966 Goes Wide in SILENCE Coming from Scorsese

Since Andrew Garfield has eschewed the red pajamas of blockbuster franchise fronting for Spiderman, he has become a kind of dangling participle of the acting world, meant to modify the mythical noun of Actor but finding nothing in Hollywood to satisfy the life sentence that is the craft. Sounds pretty literary, huh?  Well, enter Martin Scorsese with renown author Shusaku Endo, a Japanese literary titan who died in 1996 at the age of 73, and was practically the only acclaimed novelist from Japan to write from the POV of a Roman CatholicMartySAndyGThe story goes that at age 11, Endo’s Roman Catholic aunt somehow convinced him to be baptized. And what follows is a Japanese glimpse into a conversion world of a Western religion that changes his life as a writer, but moves his story lines through the character perspective of Westerner’s eyes, specifically in the book SILENCE that centers around the travails of Portuguese missionaries circa the 17th century.

Talk about competing spiritual influences, Endo’s 1966 book (now adapted to screen) SILENCE tells the story of two of these Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who weather the ultimate test of their faith when they voyage to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) – at a time when Christianity is outlawed in the 1600’s as mentioned and their presence forbidden.

Imagine it took Scorsese 28 years to develop, fund, and ultimately crank out this film, a spiritual journey into the mind of Shusaku Endo in itself.

Watch for Adam Driver to be very Adam Driver-y, as he imbues his performance with that peculiar talent he possesses, which one hopes won’t possess him someday. And of course Liam Neeson, off the TAKEN money-making treadmill, has a chance to buy back his soul here with what looks to be a phenomenally redemptive performance. Silence1sht

The hashtag is #SilenceMovie; SILENCE slips into theaters December 23, in time for that biggest of Western religious (but now commercial and cloying) holiday celebrations a/k/a Christmas.

Marty Scorses is quite the auteur, reaching into the weeds here for a rare blossom, storytellingwise. How it fits in with the rest of his work, you can figure out from this info graphic from our friends at Graphiq! Happy hunting for a theme, lol.

Find SILENCE on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/silencemovie or http://www.silencemovie.com/

 

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and have religious differences without arguments.

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