The Heart of the Matter in Beirut

There’s a great scene in Brad Anderson’s latest film, Beirut, where a former party-diplomat turned washed-up labor contract negotiator Mason Skiles (a frazzled-yet-still-dapper-perfect Jon Hamm) settles into his Beirut highrise hotel after returning to the city for the first time in a decade and after finding it a hostile, gunshots-outside-of-the-airport-and-checkpoint-riddled mess, pours himself a drink and walks to the window to take in the bitter, shattered view of a stooping, bombed-out skyline.  Anderson’s camera then shifts POV’s to that of the bombed out skyline as it pans out and we see Mason staring out his window, the hotel itself one of those battered buildings, a shell-hole and tentacled crack blighting its side just a few windows away from Mason’s own.

You can imagine a late-era Graham Greene having written the scene, but it’s Tony Gilroy who penned the screenplay instead.  Gilroy adroitly uses the civil war-torn era Beirut of the 70’s and early 80’s the same way Greene used WWII blitzkrieg era London (in The End of the Affair) and post-WWII era Vienna (in The Third Man).  It’s a cluster **** of diplomatic nightmares, crumbling buildings, intrigue and perils (of both the heart and the body).  Continue reading

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The Return of Game of Thrones and Even Stranger Bedfellows on Sunday Nights

Game of Thrones

April 1st marks the welcome return of the most visceral and entertaining show on TV, HBO’s violently epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones.  I was a reluctant watcher when the show premiered last spring, but it sucked me in with its carefully tailored bouts of sex, war, politics, beheadings, kids in jeopardy, dragons and plot twists. 

Emilia Clarke is the dragon woman.

From the opening episode that left me screaming, “Holy shit, they threw the kid outta the window!” to the season finale’s smoldering closing scene featuring a bare-breasted maiden and some newly hatched dragons that had me screaming, “Holy shit, look at that rack…oh, and damn, there be dragons up in there!” I was addicted.  The whole shebang is ferociously entertaining, and I learned my lesson well from last season – stay off the message boards where people who have read the books are far too eager to spoil huge plot points!  Continue reading

Becoming a Townie

Now, Ben, I'd really like to help you revive your career. What can I do for you?

The Town is one of those rare mainstream Hollywood movies where it seems the stars have aligned for all involved, including an audience desperate for some A-list entertainment.  Writer/director Ben Affleck is back in Boston with some street cred after his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, proved he had some talent behind the camera and his Oscar win for screenwriting was no fluke.  Here he takes his gamble one step further by casting himself as the star, and he does a decent enough job with the role, not surprisingly giving himself all the best angles and never demands too much of himself while he’s clearly playing on home turf in this Charlestown crime drama.   

As a director, he’s smart enough to line up a great supporting cast.  Continue reading