Film Review: Trumbo

via Business Insider

Trumbo proved to be one of the more intriguing things I watched at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival because it explored the one industry I never thought to be affected by the Cold War: Hollywood. It’s not that I thought the industry was immune to the era’s politics, but I never considered how it may have been impacted. When you throw in Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), director Jay Roach (Austin Power, Meet the parents), an eclectic score and some era-appropriate cinematography to tell that story, its an inviting experience that sometimes to its fault, avoids weighing down too heavily in the period dramatics.

Dalton Trumbo was a famed Hollywood screenwriter and a communist who, along with nine other screenwriters were investigated and subpoenaed by a government committee investigating communist influence in Hollywood. Despite little to no admission from the group ( referred to as The Hollywood Ten), they were imprisoned and blacklisted by studio executives in Hollywood; upon release, no one would work with them.

Bryan Cranston  is entertaining, smart and subtly cheeky in his portrayal of Dalton Trumbo who, with a swirl of egotistical tendencies and righteousness, figured out how to play the game even when he became one of the most unemployable talents in Hollywood. As the story goes, Trumbo in post-penitentiary life started fix mediocre film scripts, whispers ran amuck of his work making its way to the big screen under pen names and as a ghostwriter; eventually, he wrote some of the biggest films, including Romans HolidaySpartacus and The Brave One, even winning Academy Awards for some of such works (but was unacknowledged until years later.).

The film zeroes in on Trumbo’s strained personal relationships and how his somewhat covert operation enraged many key players in Hollywood. Cranston tackles the eventual self-centredness of these endeavours with such a fantastic unapologetic tone, especially when sparring with his equally passionate and stubborn daughter Nikola (brilliantly portrayed by Elle Fanning, Maleficent). Together, they are the heart centre of this story.

In fact, the performances are fairly engaging across the board. Between the welcomed addition of Helen Mirren’s coy but sly reflection of Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, Louis C.K.’s groundedness as Arlen Hird and Diane Lane’s assertive showing as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, there is enough character to drive this film. Yet for all of its political background, well-paced story building and spotlighting on a unique chapter of Hollywood’s history, there is a missing layer of depth that would make this snappy and witty adaptation of a surprisingly poignant period and individual far more compelling. Though that missed opportunity glares at you, it doesn’t take much away from the actual enjoyableness of the story and Cranston’s strong character adoption of this curious figure.

Trumbo will be released across Canada on November 27th.

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First Spin: Adele, “25” {Review}

via NME.com

If you go into 25, Adele’s new album, hoping for another 21, you will be severely disappointed.

The third (and apparently final) entry into Adele’s age-centric discography is its own unique entity that reflects a critical turning point in the famed singer’s life: adulthood. Not the adulthood of legal ages or fresh college grads, but the adulthood that encroaches with responsibility, overcoming identity crises, maturing relationships and in Adele’s case, parenthood, global success and Grammy-winning, Oscar-winning, record-smashing achievements. On this album, her narrative is a bittersweet, nostalgia-heavy farewell to the recklessness, amusements, love and heartache of days past, a journey that purposely departs from the tumultuous and into newer, possibly greener pastures.

Between “When We Were Young” (co-written by Canadian Tobias Jesso Jr.), the uptempo gospel “River Lea” and the forlorn retrospective “Million Years Ago”, that story isn’t too hard to find; in fact, in many ways, it feels like a circular journey to the  yesteryears of 19, the debut that brought “Hometown Glory” and “Chasing Pavements“. This time, it’s more about coming to terms with the wishes of what could have been and the things that are.

Part of the wonder of 25 is that there are several moments in Adele’s confrontational journey disguised as radio hits and platforms for stadium sing-a-longs. The belting lead single “Hello”, a magnet for Lionel Richie memes and break up text messages, is one example; the snappy, Max Martin (pop studio king; he’s worked with everyone from NSYNC* to Backstreet Boys to Katy Perry)-produced “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, is another; and lest we forget the Bruno Mars-co-written ballad “All I Ask”, where Adele sings “It matters how this ends/Cause what if I never love again?”

The other part of this album’s wonder is that there are so many beautifully-constructed  moments that openly welcome Adele’s new emotional era. Sonically, “Water Under the Bridge” and “Remedy” rely on 90s-tinged production and structure, ultimately driven by Adele’s triumphant vocals to deliver the epic quality we’ve come to hope for from her.  The latter particularly swells with unconditional love, one that bursts and seeps via earworm “Sweetest Devotion”, produced by 21 headmaster Paul Epworth. Between that and “I Miss You” (also produced by Epworth), Adele carves new levels of depth that 21, in all its emotional complexities, did not quite get to in the same way.

Yet, the assurance, vulnerability and growth that 21 displayed, especially in comparison to 19, continues to thrive on 25, just on another plane. This album exists because it maintains that same level of self-actualization that 21 showcased, but it does so in a period of Adele’s life that demands differently of her. It’s really an incredible representation of those who are negotiating this space between regret and acceptance,  who are experiencing tectonic shifts self-perception and who are welcoming the days to come with a clearer heart. This is identifiable for so many, particular to this age or not.

And so no, 25 is not 21. It doesn’t need to be, because we’ve learned how to mourn, cope and survive. Now we need to learn how to move on.

**

Overall Rating: 9/10 Favourite Songs: “I Miss You”, “Sweetest Devotion”, “River Lea” and “Hello”

The Overload: WTF – Missy Elliott’s Back, I Hated Spectre and Snowpiercer as a TV Show?!

Missy Elliott’s Triumphant Return With WTF (Where They From)

I grew up during the rise and peak of Missy Elliott’s career, which were years of genre-bending hip-hop, feminism, ADIDAS contracts and some of the best dancing in music videos for that time.  Yesterday, Missy Elliott returned with the Pharrell-featured “WTF (Where They From)” and a video for the new song, which have everything that make Missy’s music as iconic as it is: cheeky rhymes, infectious beat, funky outfits and well, Missy. Welcome back!!

Update: Master of None is fantastic!

I wrote in last week’s post about my excitement for Aziz Ansari’s new show, Master of None, and now after binging it, I can truly say that it is a fantastic show. It poses a lot of questions and conversations surrounding minority representation, feminism, modern romance (not Aziz’s book, though I’m sure there’s cross-over points) and the immigrant experience in a really poignant, hilarious and heartwarming way. There are a lot of interesting conversations coming out of the show, particularly from Ansari, who has remained quiet on many of the issues that the show tackles for so long. I am going to write a full review, but I can confirm that episode two, “Parents”, is not just scarily accurate, but it’s also the most insightful episode for me on a personal level.

Pop Stars Battle: One Direction vs. Justin Bieber(But Make Way For Alessia Cara)

Today is a big day for Beliebers and Directioners and the pacifist middle group, Belieboners (erm, Directbers?) because both are releasing new albums at a critical point in their respective careers. However, I would like to turn your attention to up-and-comer nineteen year-old Alessia Cara, a fellow Canuck and Ontario-dweller who just dropped her debut album, Know-It-All. It’s a solid debut that captures the exact awkward, innocent, dramatic and joyful moments of the years between adolescence and adulthood, and probably a record that will gain significant momentum in the months to come.

A Few Thoughts About Spectre (Slight Spoilers Ahead)

  • The first forty minutes are very well done, and then things become an odd patchwork of plots and ideas that attempts to tie all of the Daniel Craig-starring Bond films together, but fail.
  • The opening credits sequence is gorgeous and now all I do is listen to Sam Smith’s “The Writing’s On The Wall”.
  • When is the James Bond x H&M collection coming out?
  • In many movies, a villain that posts pictures of deceased characters might come off as creepy, but here it’s just so, so lame.
  • Monica Bellucci is a stunner.
  • I don’t feel wrong about my overall opinion of this movie (which is that I hate it) because my dad, a lifetime James Bond fan and viewer of mindless action films, also hated it.

Snowpiercer Is Becoming a TV Show

Snowpiercer is a Korean sci-fi dystopian film that came out in North America last year about a train that circles the Earth with the remaining survivors during an endless Ice Age. It’s a fantastic film with some great choreographed fight-scenes and intriguing plot. It was reported earlier this week that the film is being adapted for television and will be executive produced by the director, Bong Joon-Ho. The first of many questions: how many seasons can this show last on a train?

Julia Roberts, Meet Julia Roberts

Because who could fathom there being more than one Julia Roberts in the world.

Film Review: Spotlight

Spotlight is one of the best films of the year, and that’s because it does the exact same thing that its characters do: it tells the story right.

Helmed by director Tom McCarthy (The Cobbler, The Visitor), Spotlight is not a snappy, glorified recollection of The Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic child sex abuse scandal in Massachusetts. Its an honest, persistent, and tonally consistent film driven by the dual objective of accurately recounting the true procedural events that led to The Boston Globe’s revealing 2003 story and honouring investigative journalism.

Michael Keaton at the TIFF premiere of Spotlight (photo by me)

Rachel McAdams at the TIFF premiere of Spotlight (photo by me)

“Spotlight” is the name of the investigative team at The Boston Globe that uncovered the story. That team, along with other key personalities, are reflected in a heavy all-star cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schrieber and Billy Crudup). There aren’t many “big” performance moments for anyone in this cast; instead, their work is subtle and complexly layered, and its that balance that helps drive the delivery in this film. The success of this is, of course, underscored by McCarthy and Josh Singer (Fringe, The Fifth Estate) script which operates in a very linear, sensical and ongoing way. Some movie-goers might find this gradual, honed-focus approach to be lacklustre, but McCarthy and co. didn’t set out to make that kind of film.

Spotlight pays a wonderful tribute to the real-life team, and other journalists around the world, who dedicate their every effort to finding the truth. It is a cinematic achievement wrought with integrity in every facet, and the kind of film I wish I could see more of when I go to the theatre.

I attended a screening of Spotlight at the this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Spotlight releases in Toronto and Vancouver on November 13th and will have a nation-wide release on November 20th from eOne Films. 

The Overload: Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, I Can’t Get Enough of Santigold and Vice Announces Viceland

Welcome to The Overload, my weekly post where I share pieces of by-now stale pop culture things and news, reheat and comment  on it for your reading pleasure every Friday! On this week’s edition…

Aziz Ansari’s Master of None Debuts on Netflix

Aziz Ansari (Parks and Rec, author of Modern Love) returns to television with his new show, Master of None. The little girl in me will always squeal any time I see South Asians make their way front-and-centre in North American film and television, especially when they’re exceptionally talented; it also helps that this show is getting some fantastic reviews. I will be binging this show starting tonight and writing about it after this weekend, so just check in on Twitter to see how deeply I’ve sunken into my couch this weekend.

Quentin Tarantino vs. Police

In a recent protest against police brutality, Quentin Tarantino suggested that police are “murderers”, and shortly followed-up to clarify that he does not believe all police are murderers. In response, police across America are boycotting Tarantino films (including his upcoming release The Hateful Eight out this December, and to follow-up on that, Executive Director of the Fraternal Order of the Police, Jim Pasco, promised that “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element.” This is ominous. Read about this story in-depth here.

Vibes, Vibes, Vibes: Santigold, Grimes, Alessia Cara, Coldplay, Banks

My favourite new tune of the week is Santigold’s swingin’ bubble pop “Can’t Get Enough of Myself”, but I haven’t given Grimes’ new album “Art Angels” a solid listen yet. Alessia Cara’s album is available for an early listen on NPR Music, but only if you’re a US resident. Coldplay debuted their new single “The Adventure of a Lifetime”, which really isn’t so much of an adventure as much as it is my once-all-time-favourite band just playing catch up to today’s kids (but hey, they’ve got a new album and tour on the way, so I’ll reserve 80% of my judgment until that happens.) Finally, I saw Banks open for The Weeknd and play a stadium for the first time! Despite her incredible talent, I just want to see her again in a dark moody club so we can dwell in beats and emotions (and see her perform her new song “Better” which is heavy on everything in the best of ways.) PS – I made a playlist for Live in Limbo this week, give it a listen!

H&M x Balmain Releases and the World Goes Mad

The sentiment of thousands across the world after the Balmain x H&M launch

I’ll just redirect you to the post I wrote earlier today on this matter.

Because it’s 2015.

Earlier this week Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn into office. The ceremony was followed by a press event, where one reporter asked Trudeau why it was important for him have a gender-balanced cabinet. Some call his response smug, anti-feminist and question the merits of those selected, others suggest that he should have further justified his decision to talk about those merits, and quite a few in between just enjoyed the blatant comical tone attached to the obviousness of the response. Take your pick.

Vice Announces “Viceland”  with Rogers

Vice Media is launching a new television network in Canada called Viceland and will be investing $100 million with Rogers Telecommunications to create production facilities. I’m excited that they’re starting their 24 hour television stream in Canada. it’s going to be interesting to watch the promotional ramp up and convince the digital age adolescents/mid twenty year olds to convert back to television, but Vice has always been about creating compelling content.  Excuse me while I go campaign for my next job on their digital team.

The Force Awakens Posters

Yeah, I’m on the Star Wars tip too – although I’m probably not nearly as passionate as others out there. The original trilogy was a crucial part of my childhood, in a time where VHS dominated and my dad obsessed over surround sound systems (wait, he still does that.) I have a lot of fond memories watching those films on the weekend with my family, and I’m really excited to take them to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this December. Until then, I’ll just stare at this poster of John Boyega (and all the cool kids, except Luke Skywalker, because no one knows where he is these days.)

Balmain x H&M: I Lined Up (Too Late), I Bought Nothing and I Learned Something

I’ll be the first one to tell you that while I like and appreciate fashion, I’m usually one to hold out for deals and flash sales rather than spend money on pieces that I may wear religiously for a season and then drop them in the next; I struggle with justifying the expense (and yes, I know, quality over quantity, invest smartly, pick staples, etc) but I will occasionally indulge if I am really interested.

To be clear: I was fairly interested in the H&M x Balmain (a French designer house) collection. The world was also very interested in the H&M x Balmain collection, which launched today in-store at 8 a.m.

When I heard that some people lined up for the retail launch for more than forty-eight (48!) hours, I didn’t have high hopes, but I thought “Hey Mehek, lack of high hopes does not mean no hope!” and so I woke up at 4:30am, put on quasi-straight eyeliner and shimmied my way to Yorkdale Mall where I proceeded to stand in a line for four hours. That means compared to some of the more dedicated variety of fashion nerds, I was there for 1/12 of the time that they were.

H&M promised wristbands for advanced access to the H&M x Balmain collection to the first 420 people, who in groups of thirty people, would be let in for a total of ten minutes of shopping. I was in the 450s (and there must’ve been an additional 200 people behind me), so it should really come as no surprise to you that my hope dwindled, but was not completely blown away because the staff suggested that should there be enough product, they would provide additional wristbands to those beyond the initial 420.

Cool. I’ll hang out for another two hours as the exhaustion chills set in just to watch group by group exit Yorkdale with their chic Instagrammable-boasting shopping bags, look on as they casually stroll to their vehicles, champions in their own right, to open their car trunks and begin reselling their just-purchased items at triple the cost. This is an unfortunate part: we cannot really control what people do with their purchase after their transaction, and there will be buyers willing to dish out dollars for these pieces.

As you can imagine, many people who actually got in did not have any intention of buying anything in particular: they just bought whatever they could, because they could. They bought A LOT of it, so much so that menswear sold out within the 100-150, and the women’s stock began to run low by the mid 200s.

Least to say, the line up I was in dissolved pretty fast.

The sentiment of thousands across the world after the Balmain x H&M launch

The sentiment of thousands across the world after the Balmain x H&M launch

Balmain x H&M display at Yorkdale Mall

Balmain x H&M display at Yorkdale Mall

While I feel like all those arm stretches and lunges I did were completely unnecessary because I didn’t actually get to shop the collection (save for the one remaining bandeau I saw around noon, which I could not justify spending $30 on), I actually found this experience to be quite enlightening. For one, I can now confirm that those obsessed with fashion are just as passionate and dorky as the fans I’ve encountered at movie premieres, concerts and book launches. For another, I now know what the true price(s) of fashion is: your sanity. Sleep. For one individual, it was their jacket, which they left behind on their lawn chair.

Finally, I understand why every year people are so frustrated with the H&M collaboration shopping experiences. It’s not the polite staff or relatively seamless organization (at least, at my location.) It isn’t the price points. It’s the underlying unfairness in allowing unlimited purchases from anyone with a wristband.

I’m not speaking about myself because I was not in that initial pool of 420 people and thus my chances were inevitably slim. However, if a company promises wristbands and product access for those 420 people, then there should be something available for these people to actually purchase. A guy who lined up for seventeen hours should have a shot at purchasing something. Forecasting should be better. Items should be restocked. There should be a cap on items (and not this two pieces per clothing item rule that H&M implemented – a real, overall cap of how many items you can purchase in total.)

Jourdan Dunn, Olivier Rousteig and Kendall Jenner in Balmain x H&M via hm.com

It’s also important to note that this seems to be H&M’s most successful collaboration yet. With Kardashian Balmain endorsements overflowing from each sister’s Instagram accounts, lead designer Olivier Rousteig’s social media and social circle, superstar models and a heavy publicity cycle, the H&M x Balmain sale was poised for a higher turnout than previous years.  It is so well-recognized amongst younger markets with the disposable income and possibly the desire to be like their Kendall-Kylie counterparts.

If one of the strategic objectives of these collaborations is to make high fashion accessible, then it should also be available to those who are promised an opportunity to purchase it. I hope that at some point H&M will take this under review because if they continue to have smash collaborations like this with such a reach, they will need to reconsider their delivery strategy. It may also help to improve their online shopping as their servers were unable to handle all of the people.