Bear in mind that I'm not a music critic by any means, so this is simply my personal favorite selection of the albums that came out this year. There's such a wide amount of music out there that I could probably list 100 of them here - but I won't. Here are 10 of what I thought were the best electronic albums of 2013, in no particular order:
Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
Ever since hearing "RoyGBiv" on an electronic music compilation album, I have been a big Boards of Canada fan. They had disappeared from view for a while, but surfaced again this past year with the sublime Tomorrow's Harvest. It's nothing truly groundbreaking, just really, really good music.
Maya Jane Coles - Comfort
I first heard Coles when she did a compilation for the DJ Kicks series of albums. When I saw that she had a debut album coming out this year, I had to get it and was not disappointed at all. From the slow rolling sound of the opening single to the many different types of songs throughout the album, I found it a disc that I could listen to in its entirety several times.
F*** Buttons - Slow Focus
I can't use any videos here since all of them have the actual, uncensored name of the band, but I highly suggest you search YouTube for "Slow Focus" and get an idea of what it's like. It's different from their previous album, with nary a song like "The Lisbon Maru." It's kind of jarring, unsettling but ultimately worth listening to multiple times.
Disclosure - Settle
It's hard to believe that the people behind this music can't legally drink in some countries. When I was their age, I was trying to get into as many parties as I could, not make really good tunes like this. Now college kids are going to parties and listening to music by their peers.
Bonobo - North Borders
Ever since I heard "Sugar Rhyme" on M is For Monkey, I've been a big fan. This album definitely doesn't disappoint. It's excellent music for doing things creatively, like writing or drawing. It's also one of those albums that's just meant to be listened to one after the other - there's not really a song to skip, which is rarer in this day and age where singles seem to rule the marketplace.
Toro Y Moi - Anything In Return
Yeah, I know. He looks like Donald Glover. He's able to set some really great beats here with some really interesting lyrics. Listen to the album. You'll be hooked in no time. It's quite the relaxing album.
Sally Shapiro - Somewhere Else
Sally Shapiro isn't just one person, it's actually a duo of her and John Agebjorn. They produce some really stirring music - the instrumental version of "If It Doesn't Rain" is truly beautiful. Someone described it as 'ear candy' and that seemed to be the perfect description for it. Listen to it and think of summer.
Lindsey Stirling - Lindsey Stirling
She was on America's Got Talent and got voted off. Boy, Piers Morgan, Sharon Osborne ("Your act couldn't fill a theater in Vegas") and Howie Mandel must be feeling a little silly now at how Stirling's career has blown up since her debut album came out. It's electronic beats with a violin. Trust me. It's awesome.
Holy Ghost! - Dynamics
I got hooked on their first album and this one didn't disappoint either. I had to be careful listening to it when doing work, because I had to stop every few seconds and start boogieing along with the beats. Yeah, it'll hook you that fast.
Pretty Lights - A Color Map of The Sun
Aside from having a really, really cool album title, Pretty Lights has put forth a masterpiece. It's actually all the work of one person, Derek Vincent Smith, which is pretty amazing for the levels of complexity, 'Yellow Bird' is also a great song besides the one I showed.
Washed Out - Parocosm
This is an album to listen to if you're in a really bad mood. It can't help but cheer you up. It's also one of those albums that demand a full listen. I didn't find myself impatiently switching out of any of the songs. Just a really, really good work.
Yes. I know. I left off a certain album by a group that rhymes with Raft Dunk. It's not that I didn't like the album, but given how it had been marketed as being a game changer when it came to music, I found myself unimpressed. It didn't last in long rotation on my iPod. It almost seemed humdrum after all the buildup. SoLet me also leave you with one of my favorite tracks from this past year - Royksopp's "Daddy's Groove", a song that I found myself wishing to be about 5 minutes longer:
DreamWorks via Everett Collection
Christmas is coming up and that means plenty of movies with a similar theme are coming out. Then there's always that 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story. All this holiday goodness begs the question: What are the worst and weirdest Christmas movies? There are quite a lot of them but I narrowed it down to 10.
Surviving Christmas (2004)
I feel bad for making this the worst one since it includes the late James Gandolfini, but it just is a crass film that leaves nothing to the Christmas spirit. It was a shame, since I have also always been a big Christina Applegate fan and I've never been a Ben Affleck hater. This is the movie to leave in people's stockings if they have been really rotten all year.
Santa Claus (1959)
Wait. What? A movie that has Santa Claus, Lucifer and Merlin the Wizard that wasn't made during the drug-fueled 1960s or '70s? Well, it was made in '59, which was right on the cusp of all the impending insanity.
Christmas With The Kranks (2004)
It's weird. Tim Allen appears in one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Santa Clause, and then he also appeared in this dreck. Jamie Lee Curtis was also in it and at one point I just found myself hoping that Michael Myers would appear and start stabbing everyone.
Santa's Slay (2005)
Bill Goldberg couldn't wrestle. He certainly can't act, as you can see. He didn't look that fearsome either - he looked like a deranged Duck Dynasty cast member. The title was also a horrible pun.
Deck The Halls (2006)
Again, I felt really bad putting this one up, since Danny DeVito is one of my favorite comedy actors of all time. That said, not even the diminutive actor could save this trainwreck of a movie that did nothing to embrace the spirit of the season.
Santa With Muscles (1996)
The other bad Christmas movie that featured a wrestler. As far as I know, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena have yet to make any holiday-themed movies, but there's still time.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Great. A slasher movie about Santa. I think even the trailers gave kids enough nightmare material, let alone the movie itself. The worst thing? It actually spawned a sequel, which could have made this list, but I deliberately ruled out any sequels.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)
Ah yes. Now we're in the '60s and in the thrall of those psychedelic-drug fueled films. Groovy baby. I'm sure the nation was too stoned at the time to realize that this movie was ridiculous for pairing together Santa and Martians.
The Santa Clause 3 (2006)
Remember when I said that I liked the first Santa Clause? Well, this was the sound of the wheels coming off. The franchise came to a screeching thud and even Allen seemed to have a "I'm getting a briefcase full of cash for my payment, right?" look in his eyes in all his scenes.
Jack Frost (1998)
I just couldn't get past the fact that the snowman that Michael Keaton's character's spirit imbued looked like an even grumpier Ed Asner. That in itself was one of the more mixed messages sent from the film. Also, if you do rent it - make sure that it's this one and not the one about a homicidal snowman.
There were entrepreneurs in the Shark Tank halls. Would they find excellent deals under their Christmas trees or would Mr. Wonderful leave them a lump of coal? It was the Christmas episode, in case you hadn't figured it out yet.
The first entrepreneur in the tank was Shawn Genenbacher, who was pitching Lite-netics. He wanted $125,000 for 15%. These were magnetic light strands that were supposed to whittle time spent putting up Christmas lights down to next to nothing. He was selling them for both residential and commercial use and he'd been at it for four years, averaging about $100,000 per year. The Sharks picked up immediately that there were scaling problems. The lights were too expensive to make, too, since the fact they were magnetized drove the production costs up. His lights were also way more expensive than his competitors. He also didn't do the best job presenting, stammering answers on multiple occasions. One thing that he did have in his favor was that it was patened. No one could copy it. Sensing an opportunity, Kevin O'Leary made an offer for $125,000 for 50% of the company. Robert Herjavec, Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner got out fast, ensuring no protracted bidding process. Greiner also pointed out that the bulbs were too big, since most people were buying icicle lights. Daymond John got in the act and offered $125,00 for 40%. Genenbacher declined both their offers, and the Sharks declared that he would never make any headway in the market.
Next in the tank was Morri Chowaiki, pitching the Hannukah Tree Topper, an ornament for interfaith families. He wanted $50,000 for 15%. He'd made $150,000 ... in three seasons, which caused the Sharks to groan. Several of the Sharks deemed it non-proprietary and the sales too dismal. O'Leary and Greiner were out in quick succession. It even seemed like hell froze over, since Greiner agreed with O'Leary's assessment. She's usually too busy insulting him. John didn't like Chowaiki's jugement but offered $50,000 for $35K. Chowaiki was hemming and hawing, which made me flash back to that idiot that was selling the individual wine glasses who screwed up not once but twice on the show. After a dramatic pause, he held mistletoe over his head and accepted the deal with John.
It was about the Ruckpack , which had been on a previous Shark Tank. It was doing really well, it had secured a $4 million deal with Walgreens, all with help from Herjavec and O'Leary.
The third entrants in the tank were Rachel Bernstein, a former model, and Melissa Barone, an expert on hair extensions, of Cashmere Hair Girls of Beverly Hills. They wanted $45,000 for 15%. They were selling hair extensions for $399. It was high quality Indian (the country India, not Native American) hair and it came in seven strips that had clips that were easy to take on or off..They'd made $38,000 in sales in six months. Cuban was out first. O'Leary was next. John followed suit, but not before first having to calm Barone down, who was nearly hyperventilating. Greiner liked the idea of hair parties. Herjavec agreed, but didn't see it worth investing in and he was out. Greiner was then out. No deals. Bernstein had to console Barone outside the Tank.
The last people in the tank were Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton for Tipsy Elves. They were selling really, really ugly holiday-themed sweaters (it was mostly Christmas, but they also had Hannukah-themed items), ranging from Santa riding his sleigh upside down to gingerbread men running from a giant Santa hand reaching for them. Cuban had this look of disgust as soon as he saw them and O'Leary said what Cuban was thinking: "These are hideous." Undeterred, the two men wanted $100,000 for 5%. Surprisingly, they had made over $1 million in two years, mostly online. They wanted to move to retail, which most of the Sharks shot down as a bad idea, since it would require tremendous overhead, like warehouses the size of a couple of blocks. Cuban was out. O'Leary made an offer, $100,000 for a royalty of $2 per sweater until the money was paid back and then $1 in perpetuity - but no equity. Herjavec offered $100,000 for 10%. John thought about making an offer, but couldn't pull the trigger. They accepted Herjavec's offer.
Another .500 night for people making deals. Of course, these handshake deals all have to pass through due diligence, so there's no guarantee that further down the road, the deals didn't fall through. Still, it was a better night than some, though there didn't seem to be as much jockeying amongst the Sharks as there has been in previous episodes. My perception may have been colored by my shock at Greiner agreeing with O'Leary, though. There won't be a new episode until Jan. 10.
The episode opened with Agents Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) and Clinton Jones (Sharif Atkins) trying to figure out what possible nefarious activity Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) was up to, what with the whole missing money, FBI pen and other oddities. Burke was zeroing in on a location revealed by Caffrey's tracking anklet and mulling over a business card found in the late Agent David Siegel's badge holder.
Duty called, with Burke and Caffrey heading to a crime scene. He did try to see what Caffrey thought about 'Cooper 3', which was written on the back of the card, but the criminal informant said he didn't know. They got to the scene - a delivery truck. There was a crate still left in there. Caffrey's first guess was a sculpture. Nope. It was a dinosaur egg. They took it to the Museum of Natural History, where they met Dr. Khatri, a female curator. She immediately dropped a bombshell - there was supposed to be another fossil: the mother. It was a big loss, literally, since it was a T-Rex.
Later that night, Rebecca (Bridget Regan) came to Caffrey's with a Mosconi book and some wine. Unfortunately, any spark from their previous kiss was extinguished by the presence of Mozzie (Willie Garson), who was there as Agent Gruetzner. They found a Masonic symbol. Mosconi was sending messages out to the other Masons with this chapter. Mozzie thanked her and sent her off, though Caffrey managed to schedule another date, this time to be sans the curmudgeonly Mozzie. After closing the door, Mozzie revealed that he had vetted her, an act that left Caffrey unsure whether he should thank him or punch him.
At the FBI office, Jones and Burke were looking at people who had made bids for the dinosaurs. One was Brett Forsythe, played by the always great Zeljko Ivanek, who had bid once and then stopped after that. That made him a likely suspect. Burke went to his office to rattle his cage. Of course, Forsythe denied it, but not before Burke saw a double-door with a keypad and also a suspiciously empty shelf under a display case that also contained a velociraptor skull.
Caffrey then went undercover into Forsythe's office as a janitor, and, not content to take a picture of an item that had been put back in the empty space under the skull, he got greedy and opened the doors. Of course, in true White Collar fashion, Forsythe came back to the office. He heard Caffrey shutting the door and investigated, but didn't see Caffrey hiding behind the door. (Look to the left as well as the right, dude...)
After IDing the item under the skull as a Pre-Colombian weapon, Jones and Burke then narrowed down suspects who might steal such things to one Michael Holt. Then Jones showed Burke surveillance cams of Caffrey with Rebecca.Yeah, Big Brother is going to get you, Caffrey. Burke roped Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) into a double date to catch Caffrey unawares.
Sure enough, Caffrey and Rebecca were eating dinner and Rebcecca asked Caffrey about his story about how he became an agent. Caffrey demurred at first. The two were gazing romantically at each other when Burke and Elizabeth joined them, to Caffrey's surprise and annoyance. Burke introduced himself as Caffrey's boss, and Rebecca, confused since she thought Mozzie was Caffrey's boss, blurted that Caffrey was an agent. Burke looked like he was about to have a coronary. Elizabeth managed to get Rebecca away from the table to go to the bathroom and look for another table, and Burke was about three seconds away from telling Rebecca the truth that Caffrey was impersonating a federal officer, which is, as you know, A BIG CRIME. Caffrey played on Burke's sympathy, saying that she didn't view him like a criminal. Burke relented and then just as he was going to leave them alone, he got a call, saying Dr. Khatri was in trouble. Since Burke and Caffrey were nearer than the NYPD, they went to her lab.
They found an angry Holt trying to get Khatri to give up the egg. She wouldn't. Holt had a gun. Caffrey, thinking quickly, grabbed a lab coat and pretended to be another curator, led Holt out of the room ostensibly to give him the egg. Waiting right outside the door, Burke arrested Holt.
With Holt out of the picture, they still needed to get Forsythe to bite on a sting. Mozzie and Caffrey made a fake egg, since Caffrey had told Burke earlier that his partner liked to make fake eggs and plant them at excavation sites. Afterwards, Mozzie trumpeted his message again that it would be a good idea to not get emotionally attached to Rebecca and possibly plan for an end, since if the FBI dug deeper, it could lead to Curtis Hagen (Mark Sheppard).
To conduct the sting, Caffrey played an accomplice of Holt's. He met with Forsythe and brought the fake egg, which contained a tracker inside. Forsythe wanted to run tests, which included a CAT scan. That would have been bad, since it would have shown the tracker. Thinking fast, Burke went in again, and stalled Forsythe by being clumsy with the velociraptor skull. When Forsythe wasn't looking, he tossed Caffrey a thumb drive with a CAT scan of the real egg, which Caffrey fed into Forsythe's machine. Satisfied with what he saw, he gave Caffrey a briefcase of money.
Later, Forsythe took the egg to a warehouse. Caffrey and Burke, were outside, having followed the tracker. Caffrey went in first and then Burke and the rest of the FBI came in, and arrested Forsythe. There was a large crate with the Mama Rex in there.
Burke and Caffrey went to the Museum of Natural History to see the Mama Rex and egg. As a show of thanks, Burke got VIP status, which pleased the paleontology geek to no end. He then did an about face and ordered Caffrey to go his place and have dinner with him and Elizabeth. They grilled Caffrey on Rebecca and his feelings for her (they had no idea about the whole Mosconi code book). Both of them suggested he come clean about his criminal informant status if he really wanted to pursue something with her. This was reinforced by his landlady, June, who also happened to be the wife of a former co-criminal friend of Caffrey's.
Caffrey had Rebecca come over. She looked ready for a romantic evening, but before they started, he showed her his anklet and explained the whole situation ... well, minus the whole Hagen-controlling-him thing. She was hurt at being lied but then she got over it. Fast. They wound up making quite a night of it.
Of course, it couldn't end on a good note. Caffrey was returning home the next morning, with two cups of coffee in hand, one for Rebecca. He saw June and Hagen talking. June was nice to Hagen, but before she left, she flashed Caffrey a weird look, obviously recognizing that Hagen wasn't any good. Once she was gone, Hagen was to the point: he knew about the window and what it meant to Mosconi. The next step: steal the window. Frustratingly, Caffrey still found himself under Hagen's thumb.
If you're reading this before watching the Season 6 finale, I'm going to warn you now to close this page. Don't be mad if you're spoiled on things otherwise. So ... many people were probably left sitting there muttering to themselves: "What just happened?" Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) is dead. Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) is dead. There's no more Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), what with him being shot in cold blood by Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam). What direction can this show go in with so much of the original cast gone? It's a big shift. It's going to probably start off with Jax in prison and the kids in state custody. Unless Jax's mother, Gemma Morrow (Katey Sagal) is able to get her hands (more like claws) on them. She wound up in the arms of Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie), the man who inadvertently set off the whole last chain of events.
While the show has always been fairly grim, this is probably the absolute darkest and most violent I have ever seen it. There was that stunning scene with Gemma skewering Tara with a fork-like instrument. (I admit that I had to turn away about two seconds into that, it was that bloody.) Then Juice Ortiz (Theo Rossi), who had been condemned by Jax, shooting Roosevelt and then covering for Gemma by dumping the evidence. Of course, Jax, who had been spending time with his kids before turning himself in, was found cradling Tara's body by the prosecutor, Patterson. The show ended with a literal wail by Jax before it went to black with the Sons of Anarchy Grim Reaper.
Of course, the show has never been afraid to kill off characters. Clay killed Piney, one of the original members of the biker gang. That was a big one, but before this recent turn of events, I think the biggest one was Opie's death in the fifth season. He was a major figure in the life of Jax Teller, his closest friend, and as Jax wrote in his diary in the season finale, it was his death that really pushed him off the edge into this ball of self-loathing that he had become.
What the show always seems to love to do is offer a glimmer of hope that things will resolve themselves and then have things go wrong. This, though, was not just things going wrong. It was a complete and utter derailment, a catastrophic chain of events that probably left a lot of people feeling numb.
Fans of the show will hope that Season 7 leads to some kind of redemption for Jax. He's going to be in an abyss so deep that only someone like Walter White could comprehend what he feels. They will likely hope that Gemma meets some kind of painful end herself. (The Gemma that garnered any sympathy for enduring that brutal assault in Season 2 is long gone.) Who might extract that vengeance? It might be Jax, finally breaking the emotional chains that his mother holds him in. It may be Nero (Jimmy Smits), her former beau, who saw how dealing with her was extracting a toll on his own life, including the murder of an innocent woman. But the people that the fans should be rooting to have some sort of happy ending are Jax's two sons. They have been through so much too.
There will also be the fate of the SAMCRO bike gang. Will Chibs Telford (Tommy Flanagan) and Bobby Munson (Mark Boone Jr.) be able to keep it going without Jax? What will become of Juice? There will be a lot of threads to sew up in the end.
As for next season, there's going to be two camps. The first is going to be comprised of those who want to rake creator Kurt Sutter over the coals for how it all played out, especially for his seeming desire to keep his wife (Sagal) on the show as long as possible. To be fair, Sagal is an excellent actress in her own right, to the extent that I couldn't see anyone else even close to playing Gemma. The naysayers may see this Season 6 finale as being completely too contrived. Others may opt to take a big-picture view and want to see how it all plays out, given that they have derived so much enjoyment from the past six seasons. Of course, no one will be 100% pleased.
Either way, Season 7 will be quite the thrill ride. Put on your biker helmets and get ready.
I'm always behind in popular trends, it seems, like starting to watch and really enjoy a show when its in danger of being cancelled. (Hi, Firefly!) The day that I actually get a verified check mark on Twitter is when its death knell will ring as a relevant social media portal. (Seriously though, it's @literateartist, if you're one of those people tasked with doing this.) I'm hoping to beat the odds with The Neighbors. It's a fantastically funny show, but I keep hearing that it may be on the chopping block.
What makes it so hilarious? The fact that the aliens all use the names of sports figures -- Larry Bird, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, etc. -- tickles my funny bone because I 'm a huge sports addict. But you knew that after reading my MLB Network piece, right? The second is that Toks Olagundoye is such a great comedic find and Simon Templeman is perfect as her husband. Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito are the perfect foils as the human neighbors.
The show seems to be hitting its stride comedically. The Shark Tank crossover episode was fantastic and the ones after it, including the cameos by Reginald VelJohnson and Meredith Baxter (I still keep mentally adding 'Birney' to the end of that - I think it's because I'm seeing a ton of Family Ties reruns) was great too. There seem to be at least five or more quotable lines each episode. In terms of wit, I'd compare it to the freshman sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
So what's causing the problem with the ratings? Well, the main bad thing was having ABC put it in the Friday night slot. Sure, it was a lead-in to its strongest Friday show, Shark Tank, but not even that can dissuade the people that are going to go out for weekend fun. There's also the DVR factor; apparently not enough people are programming it to record. If these poor numbers continue, the show may be axed, which would make me sad.
I know that TV history is littered with smart, funny shows that just couldn't garner a wide enough audience base to keep going for more than one or two seasons. It's the nature of a medium that tries to appeal to a broad base of people and each network needs enough eyeballs on it. But if ABC does let it go, I hope that a cable channel like TBS or maybe even Netflix would grab it and keep the momentum going by producing more new episodes. Hey, if it could happen to Cougar Town, it could happen here.
In the meantime, I'm just going to keep waiting for that blue Twitter check mark.
Did you hear that? No, it wasn't the wind. That was the sound of hundreds of classics scholars screaming and ripping their hair out after seeing the trailer for the new Hercules movie starring Kellan Lutz. What it depicts seems to be anything except the son of Zeus. As someone who enjoyed reading the Greek and Roman myths throughout high school and college, I'm also a little perturbed at how this movie seems to be depicting him.
Let's start with the build. Lutz looks more like a Twilight character than someone who was the strongest man on the planet. Even Kevin Sorbo looked more the part in the Adventures of Hercules show in the '90s. Here, Lutz looks like a slightly less-built extra from 300. He doesn't look like a man who held the Earth on his shoulders in place of Atlas for a period of time. Lutz's Hercules would get squashed like a grape. Apparently director Renny Harlin told him to have really, really strong abs. Yeah, that's what really stood out in the telling of these myths over the years: Hercules had six-pack abdominals before people even knew what those were.
Secondly, the trailer shows Hercules as a gladiator. This is something that never occurred in either the Greek OR Roman version of Heracles/Hercules that I know of. Now, if this was about a gladiator who took Hercules' name in honor of the legend, then I could understand that, but this is something that goes well off-script.
Thirdly, it seems like the movie makers don't like doing things like including the Greek or Roman Gods. Brad Pitt's Troy was much weaker because of the absence of the deities, which I found confounding, since their actions played huge, huge parts in the Iliad. I looked at the cast list for the movie and there's not one person playing a god, Greek or Roman. Sure, there's Agamemnon, but no gods. Sigh.
Fourthly, I must say I have never been a fan of Harlin, with the exception of Die Hard 2 and maybe Cliffhanger. He also helmed several episodes of the action TV series Burn Notice, Covert Affairs and White Collar, which was surprising since those shows are often entertaining. This movie seems to be his first big-budget affair in a decade and if this movie tanks, he may be back on the small screen in no time flat.
Personally, I'm going to wait for the other version, the one with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Now he's someone I could see with the blood of a god coursing through him.
Eric Heisserer is making a big switch. He originally was a screenwriter, penning the scripts for the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, the prequel to The Thing and Final Destination 5. He then moved to the directorial side with Hours, a tale of a father trying to keep his premature-born child alive during Hurricane Katrina. (Note: This interview was conducted before Hours star Paul Walker's tragic death on Nov. 30.)
What made you decide to go from writing to directing? How did this all get put together?
This movie stuck with me more than anything I'd written in the previous five years. It was an original story of mine, and it came from an emotional place. I could see the scenes in my head as I wrote them. By the time I finished the script, I think I'd come to the realization that I had to direct this, or else I'd never forgive myself.
Of course the hard part was convincing others I could pull it off, as a first-time director. But I was fortunate enough to meet producer Peter Safran, whose faith in me was as strong as his passion for the material.
What was it like being behind the camera? Was it easier to fulfill your vision since you also wrote both the story and the screenplay?
I think there is a distinct advantage for the director who is also the writer, because you have a history with the story, and you know the reasons why a scene, or a line of dialogue, or a wardrobe choice is on the page. I learned very quickly that being a director requires the ability to answer ten thousand questions a day. I knew the answers to more of them because I could recall why a choice was made during writing. Of course, I often overruled my own writing in favor of a newer, smarter choice in the moment. I often told members of the crew, "Don't worry, I fired the writer." There is a point at which you have to let go of the way the movie was written and embrace what tools and settings you have to shoot it.
How was directing Paul Walker, who is a pretty well-known name in movies?
Paul was a real blessing. Hollywood forgot to tell him stars have egos. He's a hard worker, he's humble, he's earnest and polite -- it's just infuriating, really, because he's so damn handsome you kind of want him to be a jerk in real life.
But what I appreciated most from my time with Paul was his patience. This film was on a brutal schedule and required insanely long days where he had to exhaust himself again and again, and he never complained. He was his own harshest critic, too. Often I'd get a subtle but strong performance out of him in one take and yet he'd ask to go again because he felt he could do better. And we would, because now and then he'd blow us away with a different performance.
Did you have any directors that you modeled yourself after in terms of setting up shots?
I pulled from at least twenty directors' films as references when building the shots to HOURS. But really, when it came time to sit down with Jaron (my DP) and build the movie, shot by shot, we got in a groove where I'd talk about the way I wanted to feel in the moment, the things I wanted to emphasize or ignore or make dramatic, and Jaron would talk about how we could pull it off. He was a lifesaver by telling me, "Don't focus on the 'how' of the shot or the technical details -- that's why I'm here. Just tell me what you want this scene to do."
What was your biggest learning experience doing this?
Directing is the most exhausting thing I've ever done. I'm still not sure how I survived it. I don't know how anyone does, really. I saw a photo of James Wan on the set of Fast 7 looking bone tired, and I realized the man has another fifty-plus more shooting days on the schedule. My theory is that it's one of those jobs that's both physically and mentally draining, so by the end of the day you feel like you ran a marathon and then had to take a MENSA exam in a cage over a pool of sharks. Your body and your brain are both wrecked, and then some sadistic voice reminds you, "Do it all again tomorrow."
Were there any setbacks during the filming? What was the biggest challenge?
Oh god. The setbacks. All the time. They're all a blur to me now. I'd say the biggest monster we had to deal with was the eighteen-day schedule. This was a movie that, in the strictest budget, was a twenty-four day shoot. We lost six shooting days due to a variety of obstacles, and so we had to get creative on the fly. I think the thing that saved my sanity the most was my ignorance of what couldn't be pulled off. I went into some of those days telling everyone, "This will work, we can make it work, I know it." And then halfway through the day I was thinking, "Holy crap, now I know why they were telling me this is a three-day scene!"
Do you want to keep directing/screenwriting or returning to screenwriting?
I will always be picky about the projects I direct versus ones I merely write, but I do feel like I've learned so much from the first time, I want to continue to hone my craft as a filmmaker and find my next project. But that won't stop me from working purely as a screenwriter on other features.
When it came to the film crew, did you use contacts from previous films you had written or did Peter Safran have input on who would be helping out, doing casting, etc?
For the key members of the film crew, I leaned on both my producer Peter as well as producer Dan Clifton and my director of photography Jaron Presant. I'm friends with Rian Johnson, who'd directed Looper in New Orleans, and I set out to gather as much of his crew as possible, since I'd heard stellar things about their teamwork and attitude. And I was fortunate enough to get quite a few of them.
What advice could you give to aspiring directors?
My advice to aspiring directors: Write something. Just as my advice to aspiring writers is: Direct something. Learning firsthand what both of those jobs feels like will help you get so much better at both.
After a week off, the Sharks were ready to have people back in the tank for a new episode. Would they build on the relative success of the previous episode or would all the entrepreneurs walk out with no deals in hand?
The first people in the Tank were Marley Marotta and Alexander Mendeluk from Spirit Hoods. They wanted $450,000 for a 15% stake . The hoods were faux fur hats that had flaps along the sides to protect people's hands in cold weather.There were also built-in speakers. This segment provided me with one of the major highlights of my life - seeing Kevin O'Leary wearing a multi-colored Spirit Hood. Seriously, it looked like a furry rainbow was perched on his head. They tried to get Mark Cuban to wear one that was in the colors of the Dallas Mavericks, but he wasn't feeling it. Spirit Hoods said they were more than hoods, they were looking for a lifestyle brand. What gave the Sharks pause was the fact that there were a large number of imitators out there and also they were a possibly rapidly depreciating company. The net result was no Sharks buying in - though Daymond John did make an offer for 50% of the company, but they tried to renegotiate, which offended his sensibilities and he withdrew.
There was an update about Cuban and John going to an entrepreneur conference and they also showed casting calls for Shark Tank. The point that was driven home was that the Sharks haven't met any of the entrepreneurs before. They only know their first name.
Next in the tank was Jan Goetgeluk from Virtuix Omni. He wanted $2 million for 10%, which raised all the Sharks' eyebrows. The Omni was a virtual reality game which also featured an omni-directional treadmill, which made for a really immersive experience. Robert Herjavec, being the big tech geek, tried it out and nearly fell. The company had raised a good amount of its money from Kickstarter. The main sticking point was the fact that it relied on the visual aid, the Oculus Rift, and all the Sharks were worried about it becoming obsolete very, very quickly. All the Sharks fell out in pretty fast order, since Goetgeluk was trying to get them to buy into a vision two years into the future. Barbara Corcoran also didn't like the size of the thing, saying that any husband who bought it for a home would be in deep trouble, possibly divorced.
The third people in the tank were two tough mothers named Jocelyn Fine and Kelly Dineen from New Jersey. They were selling FoHawxs - add-ons to any biking or skating helmet to make them 'cooler'. The add ons made the people wearing them look like Roman Centurions. I kept expecting one of the kid models to belt something out about Caesar. They wanted $150,000 for 30% of their company. It quickly became apparent that their sales were not as good as what the Sharks needed to invest, despite the items being in many stores. O'Leary even had to bark, "Wake up and smell the bankruptcy!" The two women were still defiant despite no Sharks biting, and O'Leary didn't even try to make one of his ridiculous offers that featured royalties. There was a lot of fiery debate on the entrepreneur's side, but the Sharks didn't see them as being rooted in reality. Fine even nearly broke into tears after all the Sharks bowed out. It looked like it might be another week of no Shark deals. .
Last in the tank was Al "Bubba" Baker, a former NFL player, along with his daughter. The Sharks didn't seem intimidated by the fact that he was big enough to flatten all of them if they made him mad. He had created the De-Boned Baby Back Rib, a boneless rib that only needed 2 minutes in the microwave to be ready to eat. He wanted $300,000 for 15%. He had two patents on it- a first in the Tank, according to O'Leary - patents for food and the process for making it. The main thing that separated it from others was that he cooked the ribs with the bones and then had them removed and stored to preserve the flavor. They asked why he had taken 20 years to perfect it and he admitted that he had quit before, but then his daughter, who was running track, wanted to quit traning and he forbade her to do that. She said he had quit with the ribs, so he promised to get back into it. The first person to make an offer was O'Leary - $300,000, but it had to be distributed from one of the largest meat companies out there and he wanted 49% of the company. John then submitted his own offer and wanted 20% less in equity. The time came for a decision and Baker was gracious. He thanked O'Leary for making and offer and went with John's deal, which met with general approval from the other Sharks...minus O'Leary, of course.
It was another tough night for the entrepreneurs, but 1 of 4 wasn't a total wash. It's going to be interesting to see what happens with the Christmas-themed episode.
The episode opened up with Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) meeting Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) outside a dry cleaner, with the FBI agent holding a freshly-pressed suit. He was having dinner later with his wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) to celebrate the anniversary of their first meeting. He mentioned that he remembered all anniversaries, including the day that he first arrested Caffrey. He then showed him the FBI pen that he'd found in the last episode. Caffrey played dumb. What, you thought he was going to blanch and say, "Oh man, you caught us"? Burke dismissed him so that he could get ready for his date with Elizabeth.
Later on, the Burkes were eating dinner at a restaurant. Suddenly, the waiter came up with three drinks. Puzzled, Burke said that he didn't order them. The waiter pointed to a woman sitting at the bar. It turned out to be Jill from Peter's days at Quantico. She was also his ex. Awkward. Jill came over and sat down, though she did immediately realize that Peter and Elizabeth were on a date. They insisted that she sit with them. Jill told them that she was in town on a case. They then drank the bourbons Jill had sent over, though Peter knew he was in trouble by Elizabeth's immediately sipping wine afterwards.
Rebecca, the unemployed museum curator, went to Caffrey's place. He gave her wine and showed her the sole chapter of the Mosconi book he had pilfered. They were puzzling it out and he thought to put the pages, which contained a lot of illustrations, like puzzle pieces. They were flirting with each other the whole time. Finally, it turned out to look like a stained glass window. Flushed with excitement, she kissed him. Of course, enter Mozzie (Willie Garson), in the role of the FBI agent to interrupt the kiss. She left and Mozzie expressed that he thought Caffrey was getting too emotionally involved.
At home, Burke was at explaining himself to his wife. When Jill was at Quantico, she pushed him hard, but he said overall, Elizabeth was the one one who really got him through the past year, which mollified her. She reminded him that it was still their anniversary. Bow-chicka-wow-wow.
The next day, Burke and Caffrey were talking at the office. It turned out an FBI badge had flashed somewhere and it could have been the late Agent Siegel's. Jill then walked into the FBI office and headed toward's Burke's office, which made him get nervous and try to usher Caffrey out before she came in, telling him that she was no one important. While Jill and Burke talked in his glass-paneled office, Agent Clinton Jones and Caffrey were trying to look like they were working, but were actually watching the conversation. They immediately sussed out that she was Burke’s ex. Inside the office, Jill explained that she was looking for a guy who had made a chip for a defense contractor and was then going to sell it on the black market. She had set up a sting and she needed Burke to come in, since he apparently was the only agent in NY she trusted. On the way out, she muttered, "This is going to be fun." Caffrey and Jones couldn't get enough of watching Burke practically flop sweat in his office.
Later on, Burke and Caffrey were talking on the street, with Burke still swearing that Jill meant nothing, though he was going to tell Elizabeth about the going undercover later at night. Still dubious, Caffrey changed the subject and said that he needed a new wardrobe to get the people who were using Siegel's badge. That meant the keys to the nice car. Later, Burke was at home and was about to tell Elizabeth the situation when, but of course, Jill just dropped by unannounced, saying that she had to do the recon right then and there. She dragged him off and hit Elizabeth with a "It's classified" when asked what was going on. This raised the hackles of Elizabeth, who usually talked about all aspects of cases with Burke. Burke had to back up his partner, though he looked clearly uncomfortable. Nice. Nothing that would set up any suspicions, right?
Burke and Jill were sitting in a car on stakeout and she told him that he didn't need to put on a strong front - she knew he was still hurting from losing Siegel. After a brief interlude of Jones and Caffrey driving in a car making Cagney and Lacey jokes, she told about her experience of losing an agent and then held his hand to comfort him. Mercifully the seller showed up and the two agents went to the hotel that the seller was staying in.
Jones and Caffrey were in their car, acting as bait in the area where the badge had last been used. Soon a guy rapped the door, flashing a badge and saying that he had to commandeer the car to pursue a criminal. Yeah, right. Caffrey and Jones got out and put him under arrest. They looked at the badge. Yep. It was Siegel's, which made Jones clench his jaw quite tightly to keep from capping the guy right then and there.
In the hotel, Jill and Burke went to the seller's room and managed to plant a gun under a sofa cushion and got out before he saw them. Outside they saw two guys go in ... people they had seen before. This meant there may also be a third interested party in getting to this fellow and his chip. Quickly, Jill took a picture of Burke and herself with her phone to sell that they were a couple and get the guys on film.
Burke and Jones were interrogating the guy with Siegel's badge. He swore he didn't kill the agent and said that he was in a liquor store, waiting to rob it and said that he would be seen on footage. Burke was mad and seemed to not be placated by Caffrey's kind words afterwards. He went to the office and looked out the window after putting Siegel's bag in evidence. Caffrey saw this and knew that he couldn't do anything to help.
Elizabeth was waiting up for Burke when he got home. She wanted to talk to him about the case, but he stuck to it being classified, which ran counter to nearly every other conversation they had had over the past four seasons. She was mad, but said that she understood. Right. Burke tried to snuggle with her, but she was clearly peeved.
The next morning, Jill and Burke were at the FBI office, where they got information on the two guys that they had seen earlier. They figured that the two men wanted to steal the chip. Elizabeth strolled in to give Burke his lunch, which he had forgotten. She started to talk to Caffrey, who was waiting at his desk, having also been cut out of the loop by Jill and Burke. The topic turned to Jill, who Elizabeth saw as being lonely. Inside the conference room, Burke was bringing Jones into the case, something the lone wolf Jill didn't want, but Burke threw his weight around as ASAC, which made her back off. Elizabeth went upstairs and into Burke's own office and of course, this classified file was just sitting out there in the open for her to see, including the posed picture. It was like White Collar meets Three's Company. It's all a misunderstanding, Janet! She stormed out of the office before Burke could talk to her.
Later on, Burke and Caffrey were talking outside about the Elizabeth/Jill situation. Caffrey was trying to explain that Burke should know that marriage can trump classification sometimes, especially here. Burke said that he could talk to Jill about the stress of losing Siegel, she had been through something similar. He also said he didn't want to worry Elizabeth any more than she already had been, what with him being shot before and then arrested. Burke's cell phone rang and he had to run off to the meet.
Elizabeth first wanted Mozzie to follow Burke, but he said for her to follow Jill.
Outside, Burke and Jill were doing a stakeout. The two mercenaries were going into a restaurant, so they decided to go to the hotel. In the surveillance van, Jones wanted to do a walkthrough of the restaurant, since he realized there were no eyes in the back. Jill didn't want him to and told Burke to tell him to stand down. Jones sussed it from Burke's response and decided to go anyways.
After talking to Mozzie, Elizabeth wanted Caffrey to case Jill's hotel, which Caffrey did, if only to keep Elizabeth from charging over half-cocked. They saw Burke and Jill going inside the hotel and Caffrey tried to assure her that it wasn't what it looked like. She snapped that it better not be and they got out of the car to go into the hotel. Remember the TV show Cheaters? At this point, the cameras would have been hustling in behind Caffrey and Elizabeth as they walked towards the hotel, all shakey-cam to show the anger and urgency.
After Caffrey and Elizabeth went into the lobby, with Caffrey going to look for a room number for Burke and Jill. Outside, Jones did a walkthrough at the restaurant and realized that it was an ambush at the hotel and tried to call Burke. In true television plot fashion, just as the phone rang, Jill took it from Burke, saying that protocol called for radio silence. D'oh. The two agents made their way to the seller's room.
While waiting in the hotel bar for Caffrey to return, Elizabeth saw the seller sitting at a stool. She tried to stall him from going upstairs by flirting with him and got him to put his number in her phone. While the seller was doing that, he also slid something in the phone's case. When he finished and left, Caffrey walked by the seller only to to see him get led off to the elevators with a gun in his side. Elizabeth and Caffrey followed and determined the floor from the lobby elevator readings. She updated Caffrey what had happened in the bar, including getting his number. Caffrey took the phone and he found what the seller had put in the phone's case - the chip.
Upstairs, Jill and Burke went to the seller's room. While they were outside the door, the two mercenaries and the seller came into the hallway, saw Burke and Jill and pulled guns. After first trying to bluff the mercenaries that they were honeymooners, the bad guys forced her to open the bag to show the money. Soon they were tied up in the seller's room with the mercenaries interrogating them. The seller blurted that he gave the chip to "a woman downstairs." Trying to buy time, Burke interjected that he was a buyer too.
Caffrey and Ellizabeth made their way to the seller's room door. Elizabeth was desperate to get into the room. Caffrey got her in with a modified hotel room card - after making her swear that she never saw the item. Elizabeth burst into the room and was immediately facing a consternated husband and two guns trained on her. Yikes.
After the commercial break, Elizabeth said that she had the chip and showed the phone to the mercenaries, holding it for a few seconds, allowing Caffrey to sneak in through the back door. What then was not exactly the best coordinated or believable rescue that I have ever seen. In sequence, Elizabeth threw the phone towards the mercenaries, putting them off-balance. Caffrey slid behind a sofa to where Burke was and with one smooth motion, managed to slice the rope around the FBI agent's wrists without, you know, severing any arteries. Burke then reached under the sofa to get the gun they had so conveniently left before and shot one mercenary in the arm while Jill, still tied up, was able to stand up and while turning her upper body, smash the other mercenary with her chair. Jones and other FBI agents then flooded in. WWE matches have looked more realistic.
The aftermath saw Burke talking with the departing Jill, who told him to not be afraid to talk to Elizabeth about everything he was feeling. Which he did, that evening, finally opening up to her about the pain and guilt that he felt about Siegel's death. Elsewhere, Caffrey led Rebecca to the stained glass window from the Mosconi illustration and then laid a huge kiss on her, which she gladly reciprocated
Of course, the episode couldn't end on a good note. The next morning, Burke was in his office looking at Siegel's shield case. In the inside compartment, he found a business card that had 'Cooper's?' written in Siegel's handwriting on the back. He narrowed his eyes at that and then looked briefly at the camera. Dun-dun-dun! We'll have to find out what that meant next episode.