The Reviews: Trance Is A Kinetic Ride For The Senses

This review was originally published on TopicalTodd.com 4/14/2013

At their core, most heist movies focus on characters fighting for control whether it’s the criminal protagonist’s looking to hold control from the target or each other. Trance, the latest from director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) is as fascinated with how it’s characters respond to losing that control as how they behave when they have it. Built around this fascination is Boyle’s most kinetic and exciting ride since 2002’s 28 Days Later with all the colors, electronic rock and dutch angles expected from the director.

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The film opens on Simon (James McAvoy), an auctioneer and security officer at a high class auction house which specializes in selling high-priced art to the wealthy. In an excellent sequence with narration reminiscent of Trainspotting’s “Choose Life,” opening – the film was co-written by John Hodge who’s reunited with Boyle for the first time since Trainspotting – Simon explains the auction house’s security measures. Rather than plant these details in the audience’s mind for a heist sequence in the film’s final sequence but in a refreshing choice we see them play out immediately after. A group of robbers led by Franck (Vincent Cassel) steal the Francisco Goya painting, “Witches in the Air”, fully aware of every security precaution. Only when Franck meets up with his gang in an abandoned warehouse, the painting is gone.

Turns out Simon was in on the heist and after a scuffle for appearances leaves him unconscious, he can’t remember where he hid the painting. This reveals the true brilliance of the opening heist that should place it among the best scenes of the year, come December. On first viewing there is no sense of that information is left out for more information to be revealed later and when the film gives more information the audience doesn’t feel cheated for the sake of a plot device.

In order to find the painting’s location, the group enlists the help of Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) a hypnotherapist whose patients range from those looking to curb their eating habits or need the courage to end an abusive relationship. She suspects there’s more to Simon’s problems and soon gets caught up. She’s smarter than her character might be in lesser films and after a quick Google search, she works her way into the search for the painting.

This is only the first quarter of the film, though it’s enough to sustain two movies. Boyle’s more kinetic work is often described as a “ride,” and that’s an apt description here. Audience opinions will change from scene to scene. With each twist comes a change in who has control and some deal with it better than others. That goes for the performances as well. It’s a wonder that both Dawson and Cassel give the film’s best performances and their characters deal with the twists in very similar ways. McAvoy’s character, however requires the broadest range. He’s very good at playing overwhelmed and his performance forces you to reconsider him as an actor, though many are indifferent on him going into the film. Though like the rest of the movie, he never stops moving and if the audience follows that behavior, it’s a blast.

****/*****

FX Officially Confirms New Channels, Always Sunny and The League To Migrate

This news article was originally published on TopicalTodd.com 4/11/2013

FXX in an attempt to attract younger viewers. Some of the station’s hit shows including “The League,” and “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” will move to the new station.

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The station will focus on the 18-34 demographic as opposed to the 18-49 demographic its parent station typically attracts. In order to attract that demographic the station will focus on airing comedy movies as well as both original series and reruns the station has in it’s catalog. Both “The League” and “Sunny” shows will anchor the station along with “Legit,” and the late night show “Totally Biased with W. Kumau Bell,” which will expand to five night’s a week. The station will also air reruns of “Freaks and Geeks,” “Parks and Recreation,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Arrested Development,” and “Sports Night,” along with the drama “Rescue Me.” The next seasons of comedies “Louie,” “Wilfred,” and “Archer,” will remain on FX.

In keeping with the station’s widespread move to original series, the station plans to add more original shows to the FXX lineup. The Ang Lee directed pilot, “Tyrant,” and the new mini-series spin-off “Fargo,” will premiere on FX as planned.

The station will launch September 2 along with it’s new movie channel, FXM. Both will be available in 74 million homes out the gate. The station also announced a new streaming app FXNOW which will also launch in the fall.

What do you think about this expansion? Is it a natural move for the cable station or are they spreading themselves too thin? Let us know in the comments below.

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Film Critic Roger Ebert Dead At 70

This news article was originally published on TopicalTodd.com 4/13/2013

Beloved film critic, Roger Ebert passed away today after losing his battle with cancer at 70 years old. His national presence on television and his Pulitzer Prize-winning reviews and essays helped set the standard and importance of modern film criticism.

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Ebert was best known for his trademark “Thumbs-Up” review that he coined with his fellow critic Gene Siskel on their television review show “At The Movies,” which began on Chicago Public Television in 1975. The show eventually branched out to national syndication on ABC for more than two decades with Richard Roper coming on as a co-host after Gene Siskel’s passing. Ebert was eventually forced to leave the show – though remain as a producer – as he underwent surgery and the show would go through multiple host changes, eventually being canceled in 2010. The show was clearly a passion project for Ebert as he went on to produce a short-lived new version of the show on the Chicago PBS affiliate, WTTW.

While his television presence reached the country, his work for the Chicago Sun-Times, and later his website, is home to his most important contributions. On the page, Ebert brilliantly found the balance of commenting on a films quality while still addressing larger themes and trends that would often be found in an essay. His review of Django Unchained spends as much – if not more – time focusing on the film’s place in Quentin Tarantino’s filmography as he explains why he thought it worked so well as an entertaining, stand alone movies.

Regardless if you knew Ebert as a TV personality, a writer or both to say his presence will be missed is a gross understatement. I definitely urge you to check out some his reviews for your favorite movies on his website RogerEbert.com and check out some “At The Movies” clips online. In the meantime, enjoy his discussion with Siskel on film criticism.

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