Boardwalk Empire: The Ivory Tower

The fetching Gretchen Mol joins the cast in Episode Two.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk EmpireThe Ivory Tower 

Season One: Episode Two 

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten 

Written by: Terence Winter (series creator, from the novel by Nelson Johnson) 

The Spin:  HBO’s go-to man behind the camera, Tim Van Patten (of The Sopranos and The Pacific fame) directs what will likely be the first of his many episodes.  Gone are Scorsese’s non-stop jazz numbers and snazzy editing, and here the series settles into its long Sopranos-esque silences, dialogue heavy scenes, and intimate little details used to develop characters over long, languid arcs designed to last years.  It’s a change of pace…we’ll see how it goes. Continue reading

Of Canals, Lambertville and Nomad Pizza

There’s really no better way to spend a day off from work midweek than taking a long drive.  It’s especially nice on a beautiful pre-Fall day, and if it’s the first day your car has been out of the shop after an overnight stay for repairs, it’s even better.  I’ve long extolled the wonders of Bucks County, Pennsylvania with all of its wineries and covered bridges, but the towns running parallel to Bucks along the Delaware River on the New Jersey side offer their own rustic charms and often get overlooked.  Quaint historic towns running along the Delaware Raritan Canal in Hunterdon County and stretching across gorgeous wooded back roads into Mercer County (home of Princeton University) are more an extension of the small-town meets gentrified rural setting of Bucks County than they are a connecting strip to the New York-influenced North Jersey and Philly-influenced South Jersey megalopilises.

Last week I ventured up that way, stopping off at Washington’s Crossing State Park on the Jersey side before spending a few hours strolling through Lambertville. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire Series Premiere

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk EmpireSeries Premier

Season One: Episode One

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Terence Winter (series creator, from the novel by Nelson Johnson)

The Spin:  Scorsese’s flashy pilot episode did not disappoint.  So much happened and so many characters were introduced (and a few already met their demise) it almost functioned as its own mini-film…not surprisingly given the man behind the camera.  Continue reading

Becoming a Townie

Now, Ben, I'd really like to help you revive your career. What can I do for you?

The Town is one of those rare mainstream Hollywood movies where it seems the stars have aligned for all involved, including an audience desperate for some A-list entertainment.  Writer/director Ben Affleck is back in Boston with some street cred after his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, proved he had some talent behind the camera and his Oscar win for screenwriting was no fluke.  Here he takes his gamble one step further by casting himself as the star, and he does a decent enough job with the role, not surprisingly giving himself all the best angles and never demands too much of himself while he’s clearly playing on home turf in this Charlestown crime drama.   

As a director, he’s smart enough to line up a great supporting cast.  Continue reading

The Red Riding Trilogy

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…all good children go to heaven.”

You wouldn’t believe it at the start of the grim trilogy of films that aired on British television in 2009 and were released in art-houses stateside in early 2010 (and new to DVD this month).  Spanning almost a decade (from 1974 to 1983) and following a labyrinthine plot involving missing children, serial killers, conspiracy theories and corrupt police officers in northern Britain’s Yorkshire area, The Red Riding Trilogy is hard-hitting, trippy, convoluted stuff…the stuff of communal M-like nightmares.

The first thing that is so striking about the films is their look – dripping in period detail and directorial chutzpah that’s like Godfather-era Francis Ford Coppola as channeled through Danish Dogme ’95.  From a critical standpoint, the consistent tone running through all of the films is even more astounding when you realize each part was directed, edited, scored and photographed by different teams.  The first two parts were directed by Julian Jarrold and James Marsh respectively, and it’s only in the superior third part (1983, directed by Anand Tucker) do we see any kind of deviation, and that’s only in a few powerfully placed auteuristic flourishes involving flashbacks and voice-overs. Continue reading

Upstate Royalty

The Proctor Boys are a strange lot – three grizzled old men who have spent their entire lives in stifling isolation on a dairy farm in Upstate New York.  When the eldest, Vernon, winds up dead one morning in the bed all three shared, the youngest, Creed, gets swept up into accusation while the emotionally crippled simpleton (and middle brother), Audie, barely grasps the gravity of the situation.

Jon Clinch’s second novel, Kings of the Earth, was inspired by actual events.  Clearly fashioning himself a 21st century William Faulkner, Clinch spans his book across generations and voices.  Each chapter is titled by a year and a character’s name – with POV’s shifting from 1st person to 2nd person to 3rd person, but never omniscient – eerily reminiscent of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury.  Those not familiar with the style may find it a challenge, while fans of Faulkner will probably favor it as a nice homage, but it pales in comparison to the master.  This isn’t to say Clinch hasn’t achieved something memorable nearing mythic stature here. Continue reading