NOTE TO READERS: Due to travel, this week’s post will be delayed. Stay tuned for The Spin later in the week.
Boardwalk Empire – Devil You Know
Season Five: Episode Six
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: Howard Korder
The Spin: SUPER DUPER SPOILERS AHEAD – A skipping record plays over the closing credits of Korder’s masterfully penned slow-build to the two-fold finale, and Daughter Maitland’s (Margot Bingham) rendition of “Dream a Little Dream” haunts the hour as our dear Chalky (Michael K. Williams) makes a deal with the devil Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) in order to give Daughter and her/his daughter a chance (even if only in a dream). It’s been a roller coaster season of highs and lows and mostly frustration, but Korder, who has always been the most reliable of the Boardwalk scribes, operates on this one with the expert precision of a Shakespearian surgeon. Did anyone ever really doubt this was a tragedy?
I’m drinking a glass of wine as I write this review of Gone Girl, as I imagine this is how many fans of the book enjoyed reading Gillian Flynn’s twisted and twisty tale of the worst marriage ever. I didn’t read the book, so the twists came as genuine surprises to me, and I credit my fellow critics for not really spoiling much in their reviews when the book and film are so damn spoilable.
But the thing you have to know about David Fincher’s film adaptation (spun for the screen from Ms. Flynn’s own hands) is that EVERYTHING about it (okay, and maybe this is a spoiler, so sue me)…is a ruse. Continue reading
Did the faithful ever really doubt that we would see them again 25 years later ?
Twin Peaks is Happening Again…on Showtime…for a limited 9 episode run in 2016 to be directed in whole by David Lynch with scripts by Lynch and Mark Frost. It will pick up exactly 25 years later just as Laura had always promised us.
I really can’t think of any better news or anything else to say.
Get that coffee and pie ready. 2016 is gonna be a damn fine year for television. Damn fine!
And smell those trees!
(And as a side note, I’d like to think the Flying Spaghetti Monster and I had something to do with this, and by that, I mean we had nothing to do with this)
Now Let’s Rock.
Boardwalk Empire – King of Norway
Season Five: Episode Five
Directed by: Ed Bianchi
Written by: Steve Kornacki
The Spin: The title of tonight’s episode refers to the picture of the king the Norwegian Mrs. Muller hangs in the kitchen. Turns out she’s been having drunken afternoon tristes with Eli (Shea Whigham) who can only barely remember a thing. Too bad his memory gets jogged by the mustachioed regent, and Mrs. Muller chose to reveal the tawdry details at a disastrous dinner where Eli’s pregnant wife had come to visit from Atlantic City, a dinner that could only have gotten worse if say, I dunno, the Feds had shown up. Oh, they did. The Muller formerly known as Van Alden (Michael Shannon) and Eli have been paired as a some sort of tragic comedy team this year where they try to one up each other with their sad, ironic life events. Two former law men nabbed by the feds who now want their help getting the books on Capone so they can nail him on tax evasion – what a joke. And sadly it was about the only interesting turn of events tonight.
There’s a truly fantastic scene about half-way through Craig Johnson’s dramedy, The Skeleton Twins, where Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig lip-synch to Starship’s hilariously 80’s anthem, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” It’s been highlighted ad nauseam in the TV spots for the film, but it’s even more dynamic and infectious on the big screen. Its almost painfully prolonged unfolding is built upon the rising tension of Wiig’s character being supremely pissed off right now and refusing to play along with her brother’s antics until that moment comes where she just can’t take it anymore and has to join the insanity. The look on Wiig’s face as she reluctantly (yet deep down so happily) mouths the lyrics, “Let them say we’re crazy…” is a perfect moment for this gifted actress inside a wildly imperfect film. Hader, likewise, is borderline idiot genius with his mannerisms and body language. It’s a shame then that writer-director Craig Johnson saddles them with such obvious clichés.
The dysfunctional sister-brother relationship dramedy has long been the bastion of many an indie filmmaker. Most of these films star Laura Linney (think You Can Count on Me, or probably the ultimate example of this sub-genre, The Savages). Wiig is an interesting substitute for Linney, as the comedic actress has never been allowed to go dramatic before, but with such a great built-in chemistry with Hader (who is most beloved as SNL’s Stefon, the worst NYC tour guide EVER) the two click whether they’re lip-synching to bad music or revealing devastating secrets to each other. Continue reading
Boardwalk Empire – Cuanto
Season Five: Episode Four
Directed by: Jake Paltrow
Written by: Christine Chambers, Howard Korder and Terence Winter
The Spin: There’s been a melancholic pall hanging over Boardwalk Empire’s fifth season. Yes, it’s the last, which is sad enough alone, but it’s also strangely fitting that in the real world the actual current Atlantic City is on a generational decline with the closing of multiple casinos (most notably the lavish Revel) and nothing seeming to go the city’s way. Watching the flashbacks to “The Education of Nucky Thompson” where the city was but one resort and a modest boardwalk before the turn of the 20th century reminds those localized to its current perils just how far the city has come and how long the way down is (I fear in the real world we ain’t seen nothing yet about how down and out AC can get). You see this mirrored in the lethargy of 1930’s Nucky, a man who’s gonna have to wake up. And could Capone’s warning call to Nucky about Luciano’s insinuation that the Italians should cut out Nucky from their empire at the end of tonight’s episode be that wake up call? Nucky is a man who’s come so far (from Dickensian beginnings so painstakingly tailored in the flashbacks) and runs the risk of falling ever harder.
The episode oozed a calming dread in almost every scene.
Michael R. Roskam’s Brooklyn set crime thriller, The Drop, is a deceptively pleasant nasty piece of work.
While walking home from work at his cousin Marv’s bar, Bob hears the heart-tugging yelps of a pit bull puppy in the trashcan of the unsuspecting Nadia. Left with no choice but to rescue the poor dog, Bob is also drawn to Nadia, and thus blooms a romance. The Drop is one of those “feel-good two lost souls getting together while raising a pet” movies that just so happens to take place inside a gritty little crime flick. You see, Marv’s bar isn’t an ordinary dive, but a key drop bar for money flowing into a Chechen crime ring. And that dog was dumped by Nadia’s ex, Eric, a scumbag who may have been involved in the disappearance of a former friend of Marv and Bob ten years earlier. Adapted for the screen from his own short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane, Roskam’s film is oddly paced but still wholly satisfying, where everyone plays their parts effectively, and all of the carefully crafted pieces fall towards a tense and tidy, albeit unpredictable, conclusion. Continue reading
Ned Benson’s somber relationship drama, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, is not a mystery despite the title, though it’s plenty puzzling. The version reviewed here, Them, is an edited combination of what was originally two separate films, Him and Her. It flips back and forth between our two players Conor (James McAvoy, donning an unconvincing American accent) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain, all pale grief and feigned smiles) as their marriage disintegrates, but it never plays its gimmick out with the obvious one scene played twice from different points of view gag. That may have actually made the film a bit more interesting, though it would’ve also added to the film’s already burdensome two-hour-plus runtime.
After surviving a leap from a bridge, Eleanor moves back in with her parents (William Hurt as the stereotypical soft-spoken bearded professor and Isabelle Huppert as a drunk French former violinist) and single-mom sister (a likable Jess Weixler, who it would’ve been nice to learn more about), while taking a class on the theory of identity taught by a bitter but wise woman (Viola Davis). Meanwhile, Conor is moping around his failing restaurant, lashing out at customers and his best friend/chef (Bill Hader) and moves back in with his recently thrice divorced and overly philosophical father (Ciaran Hinds, always good). Slowly but surely we find out the real reason behind the break-up and their decent into the spiral of grief (hint: it’s not just about losing each other), and it is indeed tragic and hangs a pall over the whole family, not just our protagonists.
The film is filled with talking it out and philosophical ponderings espoused by really good performers. In lesser acting hands, the film would’ve been an outright mess. The characters speak dialogue sincerely as if read from discarded Felicity-era WB melodramas and self-help books.
Boardwalk Empire – What Jesus Said
Season Five: Episode Three
Directed by: Ed Bianchi
Written by: Christine Chambers and Howard Korder
The Spin: Plots thickened and women showed their cunning nature during crisis situations in this Chambers and Korder penned hour. Early in the episode, Nucky and Sally (Patricia Arquette) share over the phone “Happy Days are Here Again” playing on the radio after he tells her about the presumed Kennedy deal, but are they counting chickens before they hatch? On the run, our old friend Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) and his volatile chain gang compatriot pull off a sloppy home invasion of a mother and her teenage daughter. Chalky shows his true colors as he’s still clearly ravaged by the brutal death of his own teenage daughter, Maybelle, years ago, but these ladies prove to be more resilient than either foolish man could know. Out in Harlem, Luciano and Siegel begin to systematically threaten Narcisse’s operations in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is forced to pay a visit to the Rothstein widow (Shae D’lyn in a pitch perfect cameo) who has her own plot to hatch that involves the blackmail of…you guessed it…the Nuckster.