Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Is this the conference room at the heart of British Intelligence or a middle rung in Dante's hell?

During the height of the Cold War, a botched extraction in Budapest forces the head of British Intelligence (John Hurt as Code Name: Control) to resign, and “The Circus” goes through a house cleaning.  Not content with a forced retirement, veteran spymaster George Smiley (Gary Oldman, in a devilishly subtle performance) becomes determined to weed out the alleged mole at the top of The Circus.  It slowly becomes clear that Smiley is involved in a master chess game against a Soviet counterpart named Karla (who remains mysteriously just off-screen) – a man he failed to turn years earlier and who knows Smiley’s one weakness.  The biggest mystery isn’t the identity of the mole but which of these master craftsmen in the world of espionage is going to pull a check mate on the other.

Ah, John le Carre – no one does wearisome white-knuckle ennui quite like the anti-Ian Fleming and successor of Graham Greene in the foggy world of thinking men’s spy novels.  Think of this new film adaptation of his 1970’s classic, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (representing the code names given to those under watch) as The Usual Suspects for senior citizens.  Continue reading

A Horse is a Horse Of Course Of Course

…that is of course unless that horse is a War Horse!

People have been crying for years that they don’t make films like they used to, but don’t tell that to Steven Spielberg. That silly Jewish lad from Haddon Township, NJ has been making films like they used to since the 1970’s.  His patented brand of cloying sentimentality perplexed me even as a child (I say BOO to you, Mr. E.T.!) but when he was able to combine that with a true sense of wonder (Close Encounters of a Third Kind, I have always loved yee) or found ways to mature it and place it in the context of history and war (cough cough Saving Private Ryan…sniff sniff Schindler’s List) he catapults himself into the ranks of the greatest of pop-culture entertainers. 

With his latest, War Horse, Spielberg pays homage to the grand Hollywood epics of the 1930’s and 1940’s in the same manner with which he paid homage to the low-budget matinée serials of the 1930’s and 1940’s in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  He also conjures up some of that old Spielberg magic by taking the subgenre of the “Horse Tear-jerker” (a female-targeted niche) and serving it up avec “Epic War Movie” to get guys in the seats.  Release it on Christmas Day following a lush marketing campaign targeted to discerning filmgoers of all ages, and gosh dang it, Stevey Old Boy, you’ve done it again!  It’s a bloody crowd pleaser, I say, old chap!

Essentially this is a simple tale of a boy and his horse and their adventures, trials and tribulation during World War I.  Continue reading

Unenlightened Young Adult

Charlize Theron comes home to rot in YOUNG ADULT.

Dark comedies are so hard to do, and when done right they will appeal only to a limited audience.  The latest Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody concoction, Young Adult, is one such film.  Those looking for a laugh-out-loud “Hot Chick Gone Bad” riot better look elsewhere.  Those looking for a painfully honest character study should sit down and have a drink.  Anchored by a scathingly deadpan turn from Charlize Theron, Young Adult is as sharp as a tack and will burn in your throat like a shot of home-distilled bourbon.

Charlize Theron is Mavis Gary, a recently divorced semi-successful ghost writer for a once popular series of YA novels (both the series and Mavis are past their prime) who is spurred to return to her “hick” hometown when she receives an email announcing the birth of her ex-boyfriend’s baby.  Mavis Gary joins a solid line of Jason Reitman anti-heros/anti-heroines (just like the lead characters in his Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air) – people who think they have life all figured out, hold steadfast to their sense of self and of the world around them, and then are thrown for a big loop.  Charlize Theron fully inhabits this character (according to interviews, she played Mavis as if this were a drama), and although she physically looks like a more frazzled version of her real-life smoking-hot self, she still puts her whole body into the role with the same gusto she used to become a serial killer in Monster.  Theron must have the worst agent in Hollywood with all the crap she has been in (Aeon Flux anyone?) but every so often she turns in performances in movies like this that make you think if she had a better agent she could be the female Daniel Day-Lewis.  Theron gets that lost in her best characters – and Mavis is one of them. Continue reading

Introducing The Premier Issue of The Stone Digital Literary Magazine

The Schleicher Spin is proud to present a unique new “experiment” with the premier issue of The Stone!

The Stone was founded as a way to bridge the gap between classic storytelling and new technology.  Our goal is to provide great stories to the masses in a modern user-friendly format, through the Kindle App, at an affordable price ($1.99 USD for four stories) – cheaper than downloading music. 

You don’t need a Kindle to read The Stone.  All you need is the free Kindle App!  Don’t have the Kindle App yet?  Click here to download it for free to your PC, Mac, iPad, tablet or smart-phone.

Have the Kindle App already?  Then click here to download The Stone Premier Issue now for only $1.99 (USD).

Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: To the Lost

Hey, kid - shove your guilt in a sack!

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – To the Lost

Season Two: Episode Twelve (Season Finale)

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Terence Winter

The Spin:  Admittedly the season finale’s “big bang” was exactly what I thought it was going to be, but I have to give credit to Winter and Van Patten for making me think during the better part of the hour that maybe it wasn’t going to conclude that way.  It seemed Nucky and Jimmy were going to make amends.  Jimmy came through in a big way and brought justice for Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) – thus ending the strike are we to assume?  Then he helps commit the most egregious bit of witness tampering I’ve ever seen – with Harrow (Jack Huston) at his side of course.  All of this benefits Nucky, right?  And ol’ Nuck seemed to be in a forgiving mood.  After giving one of the more unorthodox marriage proposals, he and Margaret get hitched, thus solving her moral dilemma of testifying against him (as his wife, she can’t – badda bing!)  Then he offers up his dope of a brother (Shea Whigham) a nice ultimatum – take the fall for that other stuff and go to jail for a few years – it’ll make up for trying to kill me.  Poor, poor Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) – she’s suddenly in court with no ducks in a row anymore – because they’ve all been shot down one way or another by Nucky.  Look who’s off scott-free and looking like the family man of the year!  Hooray for Nucky!  But oh wait, there’s that thing, you know… Continue reading

Twice Told Cuckold Tales

Julianne Moore makes a cuckold of Steve Carell.

In the sharply tuned rom-dram-com Crazy, Stupid, Love (currently on Blu-ray and DVD) our sad sap of a hero Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) remarks – while lamenting the disintegration of his marriage after his wife (Julianne Moore) reveals she’s been cheating – that no one ever seems to use the word “cuckold” any more.  But that’s what he is.  A cuckold.

In Alexander Payne’s shockingly bleak and depressing dram-dram-com The Descendants (currently in theaters) Matt King (George Clooney) is a cuckold, too, only his cheating wife is left in a coma after a freak accident.

Both films feature nice, good-hearted, middle-aged guys desperately trying to hold their families together and feature kids in uncomfortable situations…but Crazy, Stupid, Love mines for laughs while The Descendants mines for gold (Oscar gold).  Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Under God’s Power She Flourishes

Gretchen Mol refuses to let that Emmy go quietly into the night.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Under God’s Power She Flourishes

Season Two: Episode Eleven

Directed by:  Allen Coulter

Written by:  Howard Korder

The Spin:  Well, my friends, Angela (Aleksa Palladino) may have lived one episode longer through a flashback, but it was Gillian (Gretchen Mol) whose insidious ways haunted the hour.  Here we learn the back story of how/why Jimmy (Michael Pitt) left Princeton and joined the Army.  Korder and Coulter cinematically weaved the long flashback into the current proceedings where an air of melancholy hung over various characters in dire straits who made desperate plays to turn the tides.  What’s that, Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks)?  The Italians told you to go screw yourself?  So why not try to screw them by brokering a deal with Van Alden (Michael Shannon)?  Well, guess what, you moop, Van Alden is too busy getting ratted on concerning his 86-ing of his Number 2 — ahhh…remember that baptism by drowning last season?  Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) must’ve thought it was Christmas as just as she was tying the rope tighter around Nucky’s neck, in comes the surprise that Van Alden murdered a fella, too.  But that screwy Van Alden pulls a fast (and dumb) one before he can be brought in by shooting Esther’s Number 2 in the foot…and here we had just gotten some juicy back story to his childhood, too, that explained an awful lot.  And then there’s Margaret…coming to blows with Nucky after she receives a subpoena…but she stops short of telling him her most damning sin.  Still it was refreshing to see Nucky in the classiest of ways threaten his paramour.  “If you don’t know me by my Word, then you don’t know me at all,” he says to her.  Sounds an awful lot like her God. Continue reading