Friday, April 24, 2015

Ex Machina Film Review and Wine Pairing

The future is here and it does not look pretty.  Apocalyptic and eerily familiar to, both, the film classic, Blade Runner and The Island of Dr. MoreauEx Machina, is set in a remote area in a secret valley in the loneliness of Antarctica where nobody can help you.  Starring Alicia Vikander and Domnhall Gleason, Ex Machina is the greatest science fiction film nightmare for this millennium.

Written and directed by Alex Garland(28 Days Later and Sunshine), Ex Machina is a mind-blowing reality check on mankind's intentions and progress in science that delves into robotics, ego, love, technology and human selfishness that lays out a horrifying vision for the future of humanity.

In this sci-fi thriller, a young coder(Domnhall Gleason) is brought into the world of an AI genius and his corrupting power. The young hero is selected as the winner of a corporation-wide contest based on his coding skills to take part in a secret program with the top of the company's ranks.  What he encounters is amazing but the plot soon thickens like a deep, red and mysterious cabernet into a futuristic shocker that is both captivating and disturbing.  Here, one must wonder, "how much science is too much science?"  ....and how close are we?

Disregarding any concerns for ethics, we dive, headlong, into reality and what AI means, today.  We get that it can be very bad for humanity but does Garland have to rub it in the way he does?  Every prototype that our mad scientist created is hot....and alluring.....and gets very troublesome.  These women are beautiful....but, wait.....they are robots.  Check yourself.

At this juncture I'm not going to go too much more into the plot of this film.  I don't want to give any more away. If you are a sci-fi buff then put down your pop tarts and lock your dog in the car - this is very good science fiction.

As creeped-out as this wonderful film - Ex Machina left me, I can only point to a very special wine from a remote, secret valley much like that in the setting of the film.  Far down below the equator is the Valle Secreto and their 2011 Vintage Cabernet is one of the very good Cabs of the world that hovers around $20.  Deep with hints of mocha and blueberry on the front with a luxurious journey into concentrated blackberry and dark cherry fruit, a glass of this wine will help calm your nerves when you return home from this fantastic horror flick.

Friday, October 31, 2014

NIGHTCRAWLER Film Review and Wine Pairing

What is super creepy and flies around Los Angeles at night?  Lou Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, as a crazed wannabe who inspires to become the paparazzi of death in Dan Gilroy's, Nightcrawler.  Quickly learning the nuances of high-speed news reporting, Lou Bloom takes us on a hellish journey of contemporary America and the dreary realism of the media and our failing culture.

Just in time for Halloween, this fright-fest of human behavior at its' worst was released last evening. Gyllenhaal delivers in what just might be his best acting performance, yet.  Lou Bloom is a lonely character - unable to procure a position of employment not matter how hard he tries.  He is gaunt, ugly, introverted, and very jealous of what those in the world around him have that he does not.  This serves as a both a recipe and lesson for what we can produce, here in America.  Sure, it happens everywhere.  It just happens a lot more, here.  Happy Halloween.

Finding quick success in capturing burning fires, dying people, blood and gore, Lou Bloom quickly catches the attention of an aging newscaster of a local, LA station.  Played by the gorgeous at 60, Rene Russo, they form a very interesting relationship.  Lou Bloom quickly learns how to succeed in the game.  Soon enough, it is not only his purple flowers in his window that represent the only beautiful thing in his life.  This is where this film gets very eerie.

Nightcrawler took a while to get a hold of me but, 3/4 of the way through, it finally, did.  My thoughts are that I am just too exposed to violence and realism in our country -  stuff that we hear about and see, everyday - no big deal, right? As the film presented itself,  I was only carried along in a mind of melancholy until the plot, really, kicked into gear.  Gyllenhaal's acting is what, truly, propels this story and leaves the viewer no choice but to be absorbed into his big, brown, bulging eyes erected over the top of his unhealthy and, almost, sickly frame(I'm talking Mathew in Dallas Buyer's, skinny).  At best, he has abandonment issues exude and he represents those who have been lost in the American dream and the American economy.  At worst, he is one very chilling human being to watch act on the screen.  I'm calling it now....he would be a great villain in the next, Batman.

My favorite selection of wine to pair with Nightcrawler?  I must go with something, American - dark and from California - heavy and deep and full enough to warm the soul on this creepy Hallow's Eve.  My choice is the full-bodied, deep and lush, red with hints of fall spice - the 2012 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Block 007 from the Dry Creek Valley.  This wine is perfect for the dark....take a sip, alone on your front porch while you hand-out candy..... a small candle in the corner that lights the way just enough for kids to approach....scare the shit out of them....then, have another sip.....Outstanding film....Press Democrat's wine of the week with, perhaps, this year's film of the year?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gone Girl Film Review and Wine Pairing

Amazing Amy....where do I begin with Amazing Amy?  She is a very complex, determined, and intelligent character.  She is the highlight of the star's (Rosamund Pike) successful children's novel in the story of the film, Gone Girl.  America loves Amazing Amy, Amazing Amy is, well, amazing, and America, quickly, boils into panic when something happens to her creators's life as a hope-filled icon for housewives and children, alike, across our great land, this America.
Gone Girl tears at the audience through the horrific sequences of a husband (Ben Affleck), losing his wife in what looks to play out as a horrible family tragedy.  Both, screenplay and novel - written by Jillian Flynn, are excellent works, to say the least - horrifying and wonderful.  However, I was genuinely hesitant in taking myself to see the film after reading the book.  For as it is, the film never captures the substance of the literature.  But, this film wraps this novel in a nice, tight net and it is well-worth feeling the squeeze at the theater.
It is fair to mention that Gone Girl ranks in the upper eschelons of psychological thrillers.  I have no problem filing it into the genre of Hitchcock, feeling it leaning towards Silence of the Lambs, creepy , and finding myself horrified in some similar way as I was as a child when i snuck into the Stepford Wives at far too young of an age.
What brings great dimension and a whirlwind of enthusiasm to this sordid tale is the hype and drama that come once the media and local townspeople - especially the neighbors get wind of what has transpired in their tiny, little world.  The drama that can exude from person to person, in word of mouth and speculation, provides us with a diagnosis of some of the very sickness that plagues our society.
Gone Girl is a complexity of thoughts and exchanges based within the framework of intriguing lies and deception.  Gone Girl makes you happy and hopeful, it makes you sick to your stomach, Gone Girl makes you frightened and sad.  Jillian Flynn makes a strong case for one of the darkest and most thoughtful writers of our day and, to her, a toast-
My choice of wine to pair with such a profound psychological "who done it" thriller is the Fleurie Beaujolais Moilliard Grivet 2013.  This is a dimensional wine made from a very old estate that dates back to 1850.  Complex, with rich, berry fruit, this wines' intricacies mirror the depth that Jillian Flynn procures in this zesty, horrifying, brainy thriller.  Earthy but juicy, dark but light enough to pair lighter meats and an array of dishes from pasta to Moroccan chicken, this wine, like the mind of the creator of Amazing Amy, knows how to handle any situation that she finds herself in......even one where her husband is trying to kill her (and, no, that is not a spoiler).....hint hint......this film goes deep......bring a warm sweater....

Sunday, July 27, 2014


What really goes down in the underworld of modern-day spying?  How are spies made, traitors turned, and how do powerful hands of dark and influential government agencies recruit, flip, and procure members to their team to fight in wars of espionage?  A Most Wanted Man, directed by Anton Corbijn and starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, and Willem Dafoe, delves deep into the nuance of spying and covert actions and all the immorality in the sordid efforts it takes to develop a mole.

As Seymour Hoffman just recently and tragically died so early in his career, I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to watch his incredibly convincing acting just one more time.  Hoffman's work was impeccable.  His ability to mimic all the movement and anxiety through gestures that anyone in this dark world would be experiencing is genuine and unique.  Adjusting his pants, wiping sweat from his forehead, and the way he walks hunched in melancholy, all, while so deadly serious, Hoffman delivers an uncanny nervousness that makes you feel just exactly how uncomfortable a worried, chain-smoking agent would feel.  Be uncomfortable - he makes you this way and he exudes anxiety.  It is his acting that really pulls the film along into something worth watching.

An extra pull is my one criticism I have of A Most Wanted Man as it comes out of the gate a little slow.  I found Hoffman's acting to be the saving grace to the softened pace of the start of the film as I kept waiting for something to really move draw me into its' depths.  To build the plot of this story, there had to be a lot of groundwork - information sharing....spying....logistics....ya know, boring real-world spy stuff that had me yawning an hour into the film.  However, I sat patiently and patience paid off.  Hoffman delivers and is the films hero.

No spoiler alerts, here.  The ending is a killer.  The summation of all the turning coats from the Chechens to the CIA and threats and blackmail ends in a most wicked fashion with the darkest and ugliest of resolutions with that wagging finger in your face that says, "you should have known what was coming."

With a strong finish, I really enjoyed this film.  I want to give it the credit of fine French Wine - a Bordeaux, nonetheless.  A wine to pair that would take time to prepare just as this film did....a wine that makes you wait for it to be ready by that age-old technique, breathing.....the 2010 Chateau Seguin Pessac-Leognan. This libation will fill your glass with depth and intrigue.  As a 2010, this wine will get better with age in the cellar but if you open it now- and let it breathe and give it a little while to evolve as it sits before you at the table during dinner, you will have a very pleasant experience when this under $45 Bordeaux has opened-up to you, the audience.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Film Review and Wine Pairing

By far, the most intelligent and well-produced Planet of the Apes - Matt Reeves', Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - was just released on Thursday night and what a well-thought piece of science fiction it was.  Fired-up from all the action and warring that coursed through the film, it was the film's message and implications that led me dreaming of theory and sitting in introspection by its' end.

They try - lord knows, they try to get along, those humans and apes.  But, no matter what their insights and efforts amount to, there is always one bad seed among us that can send a perfectly good-natured peace process spiraling down the sheer walls of a skyscraper.

I am compelled to mention, this newest version of the Apes is a much cleaner, more realistic one than the last.  I was bugged in the previews because there they are, again, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge but it, actually, transitioned quite well from the last segment.

Andy Serk stars as the brilliant, Caesar - the anti-hero who genuinely presents to the audience the most mindful and compassionate character in the film.  Not only do humans surviving an apocalypse find they aren't the only animals in power on the earth, they are also not the only ones who are intelligent and speak.

What follows are trials and tribulations - angry battlefront war speeches and threats with promises to exterminate each others' existence and, then, war.  Battling through the depths of Muir Woods, bullets are flying and necks are being snapped, the dark, oceanic, misty dew falling from the giant, ancient redwoods.

What does this say about human beings - hominids, if you will?  What message can we extract from nature and, more importantly, what does it say about our future as lawmakers on capitol hill are now suing each other like berserk children instead of taking care of our elderly and sick?  Are we no more than wild barbarians that have evolved from swinging in the trees to, only, erecting bigger high rises that we now climb? Fundamentally, do we really amount to so much more than the rest of the animal kingdom and nature(represented by the apes in this film)? No, we do not.  We kill.

My wine pairing for this film is a blend - a meritage - of mostly Cabernet with four other Bordeaux varietals mixed into its' creation.  I thought of The 2011 Mariner from the Dry Creek Vineyards as the entire setting for the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place in around one of the most famous seafaring ports in the world - the San Francisco Bay.  Further, a perfect blend of five varietals and deep, luscious fruits backed with cocoa notes makes for a lovely menagerie - much like that which the humans and apes were trying to create, together, living side by side in peace.  Unfortunately, this synthesis never found its' apex.  However, the wine, definitely does.  Enjoy a bottle out to dinner after you see the film - they are, both, outstanding!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformers Age of Extinction Film Review and Wine Pairing

After watching the last two Transformer's films, I didn't have great expectations going into this newest release of Transformers directed, in part by Steven Spielberg.  The last two I enjoyed but was easily annoyed by the teeny-bop love scenes and all the time their sappy antics took away from what I wanted to be watching - sci-fi, robots, and fighting.

However, very different and trending away from the last production, Transformers Age of Extinction packs a deep punch and is, flat-out, action throughout the entire 2 hours and 40 minutes.  There was a few elements of cheesy loveliness and one sappy scene between two of the star teens but this movie roared to life and is nothing short of Optimus Primo!

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Transformers Age of Extinction propels itself into summer box office glory with good, hard fighting and battle scenes.  There are hot chicks, swearing, and even some gruesome death that render this, easily, the most exciting and violent(Americans love their violence) of all the Transformer films.

What really made this film work for me were the storyline and plot.  In this battle of good versus evil, there is a great deal written into its' depths about ancient aliens and the producers make a clear statement to the audience of just how foolish humans are that we believe we are the center of the universe.  This resonates throughout the film and should serve as a fine lesson for our youth.

With this, there is also several references and inferences mixed into the theme that point at the Inquisition, The Knights Templar, and the Holy Grail.  This gives the film such great depth and renders it even, profound, despite what we all may perceive to be nothing more than plastic toys.  I found this a wonderful injection into an already exhilarating experience.

What makes the movie so exhilarating?  Without giving away too much, let's just say that Mark Wahlberg takes on the role of single parent raising his super-hot teenage daughter and is thrown into the hell of a massive robot war and the potential extinction of humankind.  His character works fine for me as a tough guy in most of his films but, in this, the action is unprecedented as he delves into a Bourne Legacy-like roll and the near misses are so much fun throughout this works' entirety.

There is one wine that comes to my mind that is the very best pairing for this film and that is the Cline 2010 Big Break Zinfandel from Contra Costa County.  This deeply colored zinfandel is named after a big damn collapse that flooded the local farmland, some, 80 years ago.  Its' fruit is deep and robust with just enough cracked pepper to spice up your summer barbecue and pairs very well with the intensity and destruction on the ride that Transformers Age of Extinction takes us.  Have a great summer-

Sunday, June 15, 2014


What do you get when you cross The Blair Witch Project, District 9, Boxing Helena, and Area 51?  The Signal.  The Signal is a sci-fi horror sensation directed by William Eubank and starring Laurence Fishburne. It is nothing shy of a creepy freakshow that crawls and stretches into several different genres of horror.....and crawl and stretch it does, well.

Everything unfolds for a team of young MIT students as their personal computers get hacked and what seems to begin as technological trouble turns into scientific hell.  Without going into the plot too much, bold and adventurous youth wind up so much over their heads that there could not possibly be a happy ending to this film.

The Signal is a case study in the possibility of alien life, advances in technology, and some cold, hard truths about the government and the future of humanity.  At the beginning, I wasn't so sold on the plot and how the story was designed.  By the end, I felt quite differently.  Google this film and watch the trailer.  It is very dark.  Dark is good.

Fishburne stands out so magnificently in is acting as the lead doctor of the secret medical facility that he makes you crawl in your own skin.  He's not saving Keanu in this sci fi plot.  There is no love to lose, here. Rather, he is instrumental to the plot in making patrons in the theater feel very, very uncomfortable.

Hand in hand with all that creeped me out in this film, the imagination that designed and built the technology that is unveiled - once things, really, begin to go south, is absolutely wicked good.  Insightful, inventive, and diabolical, whereas in the beginning I felt this film was taking me into another silly sci fi horror, I was dropped into a nightmare that had me asking my two buddies who saw it with me, many questions about applications for the future, discussing possibilities, challenging reality, and sharing in the general uneasiness we were all feeling.

The Signal could only be paired with a very complex and deep, red wine.  I choose a varietal blend of great character and depth - something founded on several plots with the introduction of several different grapes that mixes a little of each of its' greatness into a wonder of winemaking science:- The 2010 Mariner is a perfect pairing for this super-geeky, existential, science horror experience.  It is composed of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and the rest Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Soft tannins as well as plenty of black currant, cedar and plum characteristics.  Enjoy....and hope you don't receive the signal.