sw

from Indy Week 

Remember the moment near the end of the original Star Wars when Luke Skywalker pilots his X-wing through a last-ditch run on the Death Star, turning off his targeting computer to rely on the Force instead?

That’s what director J.J. Abrams does with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the gargantuan commercial and artistic endeavor opening wide on Friday. He’s delivered a triumph in an unexpected fashion, flouting the usual reboot expectations and grooving with the Force to essentially make a disco remix of franchise mythology.

Dodging spoilers with this release is an especially tricky business, but I’ll be careful. Still, if you want to go in totally fresh, stop reading and go forth secure in the knowledge that you will have a blast.

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trumbo

from Indy Week 

“Movies are the most powerful tool ever created, and they are infested with traitors!”

So says one of the government’s red-blooded commie hunters inTrumbo, the new biographical drama starring Bryan Cranston as the great Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Beginning in the 1940s and wrapping up in the 1970s, the film tells the story of the infamous Hollywood blacklist through the biography of its most interesting victim.

Trumbo, a successful studio scribe and card-carrying member of the American Communist Party, was convicted for contempt of Congress after refusing to give information to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. A cabal of studio executives, under pressure from the federal government, blacklisted Trumbo and nine others, who later became known as the Hollywood Ten.

Trumbo served a year in prison on the conviction and was unable to get meaningful work in the industry for more than a decade. He continued to write, though, passing scripts to acquaintances and publishing under pseudonyms. He even won an Oscar for The Brave One while blacklisted, which is a pretty neat trick and makes for a great story.

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suffragette

from Indy Week 

Those expecting a proper period piece will be sorely disappointed by Suffragette, a restless and angry drama that sometimes plays out like a violent political thriller. The film is set in London, eight years before the 19th Amendment was ratified in the U.S., at the moment when the women’s suffrage movement was turning militant.

Carey Mulligan plays Maud Watts, a desperately poor washerwoman eking out a miserable existence in London circa 1912. Maud is a wage slave in an era when the term is, for all practical purposes, nearly literal. The industrial laundry she’s been laboring at since age 7 is filthy and dangerous. She and the other young women in the laundry must also cope with the sexual predation of their boss.

Delivering a laundry package one evening, Maud stumbles into a guerrilla action by London suffrage activists, throwing rocks through display windows in the city’s posh retail district. It’s the first indication that, for these women, in this time and place, the struggle for freedom is no longer about polite dissent or even peaceful civil disobedience. “We break windows, we burn things,” Maud later says. “Because war is the only language men understand.”
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spectre

from Yahoo Tech 

The 007 franchise has traditionally been among Hollywood’s most gadget-happy and fetishistic series when it comes to technology. The estimable Mr. Bond is forever dispatching bad guys with high-tech goodies from his mad-scientist quartermaster Q: Laser-beam watches, amphibious cars, the occasional jet pack.

So it’s fascinating to see how the series’ latest installment Spectre, opening Friday, goes another way entirely. This is a movie that’s afraid of technology – very afraid – and with good reason.

The gist (minor spoilers ahead): In Spectre, James Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself fighting enemies both at home and abroad. Chrisoph Waltz plays the main villain and exterior threat, and as usual he’s creepy on some kind of ambient cellular level. But back home, Bond has another problem. The incoming intelligence chief, code named C, wants to kill off the old-school 007 program and establish a new security strategy based on weaponized drones, armchair espionage and ubiquitous 24-7 surveillance.

In fact, if you tune into the film’s thematic sideband frequencies, Spectreis essentially a 148-minute cautionary tale about Britain’s metastatizing surveillance society.

This is a big issue across the pond. A recent study estimated that there are around six million closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the U.K. That works out to be about one camera for every 11 people in Her Majesty’s realm, depending on how you crunch the numbers. The situation is probably a lot worse, actually. That survey is a couple of years old, and with many CCTV systems now connected by vulnerable wireless networks, those “closed” circuits aren’t really closed at all.

Many Britons are understandably freaked out about this. What’s more, Britain’s intelligence agencies enjoy some rather frightening privilegesunder the law when it comes to collecting information on its own citizens. The United Nations’ recently appointed privacy chief has called the situation in Britain worse than anything George Orwell could have imagined. As you may be aware, things aren’t much better in the U.S.

Back to the movie, and stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers. The Big Threat in Spectre – the catastrophe our heroic spies are scrambling to prevent – isn’t a nuclear bomb or lunar death ray or weather-control machine. It’s a new all-powerful global surveillance system, poised to go online, complete with the requisite Red Digital Readout.

As it happens, Spectre is being released the same week that UK lawmakers proposed another alarming new policy. If the plan goes through, Britain’s communication service providers (CSPs) would be required to track and hold customers’ web browsing data for a year, and make it available to government officials. It would read like an itemized phone bill, officials say, with every web site you visited. Zoinks.

(And if you think that can’t happen here, think again. For the better part of the last decade, the FBI and other three-letter agencies have been trying to push ISPs to store all their subscriber data for at least one year and make it available to the Feds upon request.)

Of course, Spectre isn’t the first movie to address contemporary surveillance state concerns. It’s a genre onto itself, really. But the film elevates the issue into some new atmospheric stratum of pop culture concern. When a surveillance system is elevated to the level of doomsday device in a 007 movie, we should probably pay attention. We’re telling ourselves something.

And at any rate, I think we can all agree that we don’t want Christoph Waltz getting hold of our browser history.

jobs

As a specimen of pop culture entertainment, director Danny Boyle’s biopic Steve Jobs — opening nationally on Friday — is one of the finest films of the year. Michael Fassbender is incandescent in the title role, portraying the Apple co-founder as a high-voltage visionary whose spitting, sparking genius is matched only by his capacity for arrogant cruelty.

But be aware that the audacious script, densely packed with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue, plays fast and very loose with the facts. Sorkin himself has asserted that the film isn’t designed to be a traditional biopic. It’s more like an impressionist portrait painted with bold, lurid colors. And it’s not a flattering portrait, either.

As he demonstrated in The Social Network, Sorkin is a pitiless engineer when it comes to streamlining his scripts for narrative torque. The Steve Jobs story is an engine built for drama: No genuine effort is made to present Jobs as a fully formed character, and actual history is rewritten when required. Here are five key moments to watch for in the film, and the real stories behind them. (Warning: Spoilers dead ahead.)

read more at Yahoo Tech 

malalafrom Indy Week

Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban in 2012, is now an international media figure (you might know her as Jon Stewart’s favorite The Daily Show guest), Nobel laureate and bona fide world leader. Her story is so compelling and extreme that it’s easy to forget she’s just a kid.

More than anything, He Named Me Malala, the new documentary from Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), is a reminder of this. The film largely eschews broader issues of human rights and focuses on the story of Malala and her family. We learn that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, was an educator in Pakistan’s Swat Valley region. He was one of the few community leaders willing to speak out against the Taliban’s violent suppression of education for girls and women. “It was not a person who shot Malala,” her dad says. “It was an ideology.” The father-daughter relationship anchors the story, and the significance of the film’s title gradually becomes clear.

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amityville

Good ghost stories require two elements: the ghost and the story. While ghosts themselves may or may not be real — that’s a whole other question — the story part is a phenomenon we can study and track.

In the study of history and folklore, ghost stories have a haunted mansion all to themselves. Ghosts appear, as it were, in the written and oral traditions of virtually every culture on the planet. As they’re handed down through generations, ghost stories get retold in different forms and media, depending on the era.

America has its share of famous ghosts and hauntings, many of which go back hundreds of years. Our most famous stories tend to wind up on the TV or movie screen eventually. Such is the way of Hollywood. Everyone likes a good ghost story, right? We track five famous American ghosts and their journey from story to screen.

read more at Discovery News