The Spin: New alliances and showing one’s true colors were the themes of the night as writer Matthews focused on the old plot thickening and director Bianchi provided some clichéd thrills with panache – check out the lighting, sound design and camera angles on that guy getting tossed out of a Chicago window or watch Capone going tommy-gun bonkers on that poor fat bastard who finally met his damnable fate.
In AC, Nucky calls on Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) to see if he wants in on the Tampa deal. While waffling, Rothstein shows his true colors at an endless poker match, leaving Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) wide open to strike up his own deal with Nucky. Continue reading →
The Spin: Series creator Terence Winter takes the reign and finally puts up the first episode this season worth talking about. Wisely he chooses to ignore the Midwest shenanigans of Muller the dope and Capone the cliché, and somehow even manages to make the otherwise dull-as-dishwater plotline involving Eli’s son at Temple worth watching.
But what was really interesting was the display of ladies tonight: a pawn, a lost soul, a hero, and a Sally saucy as all get out.
After getting into the heroin business with Rothstein, the increasingly crafty Narcisse (the incomparable Jeffrey Wright) uses a beautiful jazz chanteuse as bait to make it seem like he’s smoothing things over with Chalky (Michael K. Williams). Little does Chalky know, Narcisse is about to turn his man Dunn against him.
Then we have our gal Gillian (the ever-fetching Gretchen Mol) gettin’ all domestic-like with the Office Space/Piggly Wiggly guy (Ron Livingston) only to have Jimmy’s murdered doppelgänger’s friend approach her at the soda shop leading her to shoot up just when things were starting to look rosy. Continue reading →
Written by: Terence Winter, Howard Korder, Dennis Lehane
The Spin: Jeffrey Wright makes a compelling appearance as new series regular Dr. Valentin Narcisse, the man behind the talent loaned out to Chalky’s Onyx Club, who exploits the mess Chalky’s man, Dunn, made last week to insinuate himself into Nucky’s world and get a piece of Chalky’s pie. Though Narcisse is certainly intriguing, the writers are starting to spin their wheels with Chalky who is caught in a continuous spiral to no development where he’s trying to be a “king” only to ruled a “servant” by those around him.
The Muller formerly known as Van Alden is sent by O’Banion to spy on Capone and make sure he’s staying in Cicero and not coming back to Chicago. Capone, though suspicious, is happy to use Muller in some voter intimidation, where Muller gets clubbed in the head, which makes one wonder is it the blows to the head that are making the Muller character dumb and dumber or is it lazy writing? Continue reading →
The Spin: The theme of the evening was deception: people pretending to be what they are not, or pretending to work the system better than the next person, when in fact they’re setting themselves up for their own comeuppance.
It’s the dead of winter, 1924, and Nucky is making peace with Masseria and Rothstein when Eddie Cantor introduces him to the next pretty gal, who turns out to be no Billie Kent, at Chalky’s hot new Onyx club. Meanwhile, Gillian is embroiled in a custody battle with the Sagorskys over Tommy and pretending to sell her now empty manor when in fact she’s selling herself all doped up. Back in Cicero, Al Capone is busy making a name for himself.
This curiously disjointed season premiere spent far too much time on a brutish subplot involving Chalky’s right-hand man getting into quite a mess with a sleazy talent agent and his slinky, kinky wife, though that wasn’t the worst of things tonight. There was also a painfully dull cliché of a plotline involving Eli’s eldest college-age son mawkishly wanting to learn “the family business.”
I was ready to give up on the sour hour if it weren’t for the as-yet-to-be-explained cross country-killing spree of last year’s best character – Harrow – as he made his way in the last scene (SPOILER ALERT)…home…and to his estranged sister. Continue reading →
“There are stories the man recites quietly into the room which slip from level to level like a hawk…She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
The desert of the mind is a seductive place.
At age sixteen he was just beginning to learn of the world. There were things beyond…art houses in the city where stories from foreign lands and birthed in independence flickered in the animated darkness before communities of the willing. Amongst the suburban sprawl of his homeland across the river, the purveyors of these urban establishments spawned a megaplex like no other where established fare mingled with independent films and cross continental tongues whispered hotly in the darkness of small air-conditioned screening rooms smartly furnished. It was here his parents took him one night to see The English Patient.
Closing in on his 34th year on this earth and looking back (somehow having circled back to this suburban sprawl now naming a spot his adjacent to that very megaplex which has passed through as many hands as he has homes), he longs for those innocent days…that wonder of experiencing something on-screen he had never experienced before – a painterly, carefully constructed, flawed and blistering work of art splashed across a silver screen. A romance with the cinema was born then as he watched the elliptical tale of human frailty and survival against the backdrop of the world’s greatest war.
Vera Farmiga plays Lorraine Warren with sincerity in THE CONJURING
When the close-knit Perron clan (headed by a laid back Ron Livingston and lovely earthy Lili Taylor) move into a bucolic New England home on a deceptively serene lake, it’s not long before this old house they bought at auction begins raising hell. Who you gonna call in the era before basic cable paranormal investigators? Ed and Lorraine Warren – played in their pre-Amityville Horror days by Patrick Wilson (partially raised eyebrows and all manly reactions) and Vera Farmiga (wily, caring and determined). The spectacular scenario is wisely set up by jumping back and forth between the two families who soon collide in a supernatural cataclysm.
The Conjuring, James Wan’s startling and enormously entertaining Destroy All Ghosts! story, plays like a montage of horror’s greatest hits from the past twenty years. Continue reading →
In the past Guillermo del Toro has used ghosts as metaphors for fractured relationships (The Devil’s Backbone) and task-master demons as the personifications of the ill effects of civil war and bad parenting (Pan’s Labyrinth), but in Pacific Rim he goes Hollywood and delivers a simple giant monsters vs. giant robots saga. Which….when you think about…in the hands of del Toro…should be totally badass, right? I mean, 180 million dollars to film non-stop monsters vs. robots mayhem? What could go wrong?
Pacific Rim is by no means a bad flick, in fact, most of it is quite fun. I just couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed considering the can’t miss concept and del Toro’s knack for adding deeper meaning to genre conventions while delivering some of the most wildly imaginative creature effects you’ll ever see. Everything about it is just…well…good…but not as good as it should be…or as good as I wished it could be.
The monster (kaiju) and robot (jaegar) designs are well done and handled with great care (it’s not your typical cut-and-paste CGI) but sadly, though saturated with rich colors and photographed much more cleanly than a Michael Bay film, the gee-whiz effects spend most of the film hazed in smoke, the dark of night or covered in water. I would’ve liked some more lingering shots…some more day time stuff…to really bring about that sense of awe. Continue reading →
To be the smartest man in the room. It’s a nice place to be. Christopher Nolan has reached a point in his career where he is the smartest man in the room. Warner Brothers begged him to reboot the Superman film mythos, but Nolan wisely decreed that he was the last person who should do that. He knew after his successful reboot of Batman that lightening doesn’t strike twice. Yet Hollywood lives off the delusion that lightning can strike twice. So, Nolan, not wanting to bite the hand that fed him, agreed to produce and bring along many of his cohorts (notably screenwriter David S. Goyer and epic score maestro Hans Zimmer) to help breathe life into a stale franchise. He gets paid no matter what, and if this things bombs, hey, he wasn’t the director (meanwhile he’s busy crafting his own original film, Interstellar). In comes Zack Snyder, a keen visual stylist who too often succumbs to his own fetishes involving shaky camera-work and overblown non-sensical FX spun into a blender, to direct. The result is the overstuffed but weirdly entertaining Man of Steel - which brings great comfort to the writer in me, for it’s Goyer’s script (thoughtful, though full of holes and far from perfect) that rises above Snyder’s bombastic attempt to derail the film at every turn.
Man of Steel’s greatest assets (apart from Zimmer’s score) are the cast members. The filmmakers wisely brought on two of this generation’s greatest character actors to take on key roles: Michael Shannon, enraged and menacing as General Zod and quadruple Oscar nominee Amy Adams as a feisty and smarter than usual Lois Lane. It’s a real treat to watch Shannon not so much chew scenery as he does annihilate it (literally, his super-alien romper-room shenanigans with our title character bring down buildings) and it’s refreshing to see Adams’ Lois get in on the action and discover Clark Kent’s true identity from the start. She coos and pants in his arms when he rescues her, but she’s no fool and unlocks the key to bringing down Zod. Meanwhile, enjoyable cameos abound with Russell Crowe overacting as Jor-El; Kevin Costner under-acting as the senior Kent; Diane Lane pretty, naturally aged and forlorn as Ma Kent; Laurence Fishburne sadly wasted as Lois’ boss; and Christopher Meloni as a noble military man. Continue reading →
Ahhh…shit…(SPOILER ALERT!) I gave away a major spoiler of Star Trek Into Darkness in the title of the post! Though, honestly, people, is it any surprise that Khan makes an appearance in part two of Abrams’ reboot series? Following the trend of comic book films, it seems as if Abrams’ Treks will only be as good as their villains…which means this sequel is a slight notch above its overrated predecessor but is still a mish-mash rehash with nary an original idea to be found and completely void of the political allegory and societal mirror-holding that made the original series so…original. I was a bit more invested in and entertained by this rehash as if you are going to rehash plots and villains, you might as well rehash the best. I mean I can’t even remember the villain in the first film.
Though the DUN DUN DUN previews made it clear things were going to get more serious this time around, the film is inexplicably sub-titled Into Darkness…as there’s nary a moment of literal or thematic darkness to be found in the shiny happy continuation of Abrams’ shiny happy series. Okay, okay, they do speak the words war and genocide, and alotta people die James Cameron-style when the ships get all blown up and stuff. But you gotta hand it to a guy who just doesn’t give a damn. If J.J. wants to do an opening nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark in a sci-fi film, well, by golly, he’s gonna jam that in there! And if he wants to have his set designers craft an entire starship to be made of interior reflective surfaces so that his signature lens flares can go whole hog and burn your retinas…then damn it, Jim, he’s gonna do it! And if he wants to stretch out certain emo-scenes Felicity style to the point of banality…then frick, he don’t need Keri Russell present to do that. You see, J.J. is like that smart dorky crafty kid who grew up to be geek chic. He’s completely hung up on the nostalgia Hollywood peddles, which has made him a golden boy in a town that loves to recycle all that is golden. This means that many will find what he does pretty cool, but if you want anything deeper than re-imagined childhood reveries, then you better look elsewhere.
And although all the lens flares and explosions render certain action scenes incomprehensible, there are still some wondrous set pieces and stupendous special effects to be found here. Continue reading →
Well, after every hot streak, there’s a cold spell when it comes to movie viewing. After the cinematic nirvana that was the fearsome foursome of To the Wonder, The Place Beyond the Pines, 42 and Mud…I got lost in the boredom of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Iron Man 3 and Wuthering Heights.
A mirror with no depth.
For a film that is purportedly about SO MUCH, Mira Nair’s mostly inept The Reluctant Fundamentalist fails to shed any depth of light on current geopolitics, the American Dream, East vs. West or terrorism in our post 9-11 world. There are the seeds of a good film here, but nothing is fleshed out sufficiently. There’s some good acting (Kiefer Sutherland is especially effective as a Bain Capital-style Wall Street exec) and some god-awful acting (Kate Hudson delivers possibly her worst performance, all quirky mannerisms and crocodile tears) – but it all amounts to a big shrug of the shoulders and sleepy eyes. Nair’s career has been in a downward spiral since Monsoon Wedding – her films now shed of all her signature cross-cultural color, class clashing and heart. It’s shocking to watch this film and think that this was made by the same director of Salaam Bombay.
It’s nice to see RDJ talk shit to a kid in IRON MAN 3.
Meanwhile, to call Iron Man 3 boring is a bit unfair. I was entertained for most of its runtime as this was probably (and thankfully) the funniest film of the series with some really great dialogue for Robert Downey Jr (and one particularly mean-spirited jab at a kid that had the audience howling) and (SPOILER ALERT!) a hilarious performance from Ben Kingsley. The acting here was all around swell, especially Guy Pearce who has become really good at playing dastardly fellows in his middle-age.