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!