Steven Spielberg is a director/producer clothed in immense power. He has carte blanche to do whatever his heart desires in Hollywood after years of pleasing audiences. Sometimes his whims and faults get the better of him – as lame attempts to resurrect past haunts (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) or return to childhood wonder (The Adventures of Tin Tin) often are rendered mute in artifice and strained sentiment. Yet, when left to his own devices in pursuit of his most sincere ambitions, once in a blue moon, Spielberg is able to pull a rabbit out of his magician’s hat. He did it with Schindler’s List. And he has done it again here with Lincoln – perhaps the crowning achievement of his career and the greatest American film since Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
Not surprisingly, like There Will Be Blood, Lincoln is anchored by an impossibly great performance by Daniel Day Lewis. If Lincoln’s political successes (among them the passing of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, a process brought to painstaking and lively light here in the film) teach us anything, it’s that no matter how much power one is clothed in…nobody can do it alone. There must be compromise, teamwork, and appeals to individual sentiments to achieve the greater good. Continue reading →
The Spin: All the soldiers moved into battle ready positions in this Margaret-less Korder penned hour. In the wake of the special delivery announcing the start of the war, after a violent shoot-out at the hotel that leaves loyal aid Eddie (Anthony Laciura) badly wounded, Nucky turns to his only “friend” left in Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) who uses his armed men to keep watch while his med-student-son-in-law-to-be mends Eddie. Of course, Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) is leaving no stone unturned, leading to a tense stand-off of words at Chalky’s beach-side gangland cottage where a hefty reward is offered to anyone who turns in Nucky. Meanwhile, Gyp’s uncouth cohorts invade Gillian’s (Gretchen Mol) house of ill repute, leading Harrow (Jack Huston) to plot an escape for himself and Tommy to Julia’s. Gillian catches wind and kicks him out, leading him to take stock of his supplies and plot an extraction – wait until next week! All the while, Eli (Shea Whigham) has been in Chicago, and just as Nucky decides to stand his ground and makes a deal with Chalky to ensure his army will help, little brother finally comes up big with an eager to join Al Capone (Stephen Graham) arriving on the scene happy to help decide who gets killed. All of which makes for a perfect build to what should prove to be a sizzling season finale next week. Continue reading →
The Spin: A man a plan a canal panamA…frontwards or backwards…the fate of those on the boardwalk is the same. Not a single plan went down as planned…from Means’ double-dipping hit-turned-suicide (with Stephen Root giving a delicious performance), to Nucky’s attempt on Masseria (Ivo Nandi) involving Owen (Charlie Cox), to Owen’s own plot to flee to St. Louis with Margaret (Kelly Macdonald). NOTHING went right. No matter who the man or what the plan, in this world, people’s fates are sealed by the beds they’ve made and now have to lie in with the evil beside them. In the shadows, Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) was Gyp (and continues to find creative ways to kill those who offend him), the Muller formerly known as Van Alden (Michael Shannon) saw his decent into private Norwegian bootlegging lead to a brush-up with Al Capone (Stephen Graham), and Chalky (Michael K. Williams) gets rebuffed for trying to open a new club. Women’s rights and minority rights mean nothing when bottles of (symbolic) poison wash up on the pristine shores turning everyone into smiling or hysteric drunks. Continue reading →
The third Daniel Craig headlining Bond flick, Skyfall, opens up like many Bond films of yore with a spectacular chase sequence that involves motorcycles atop Istanbul’s famous market and a fist-fight atop a moving train that ends with Bond getting accidentally shot by another agent trying to take out his combatant. And as he falls into the river below, the traditional Bond credit sequence begins with Adele’s superb theme song recalling Shirley Bassey’s iconic Goldfinger.
It seems we were in for more of the same, but did they just kill Bond…even if only symbolically? During the credits you are reminded of the masterstroke of hiring cinematographer Roger Deakins (arguably the best in the biz today) and his frequent cohort, Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes as their names come up in that comfortably familiar Bond credit sequence font. Never before has a Bond film been given such behind-the-scenes pedigree, and armed with a sharper than normal script – the dynamic duo pay homage, deconstruct, and resurrect from one amazing set piece to the next the entire Bond oeuvre. Continue reading →
What better way to cure a Hurricane Sandy hangover and escape a bitter Nor’easter than by flying down to the place that knows bad storms the best…New Orleans! By pure happenstance (my little sojourn was planned about a month or so ago), I was flying down to the Big Easy for some rest and relaxation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and just before a Nor’easter battered my home state of New Jersey. It was also Election Day – more on that later. I had chosen New Orleans as my destination on a whim. I had never been there (alas, an aborted attempt to go my junior year of college still haunted me) and I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere a little more exciting…somewhere completely unlike my normal R&R spots in Upstate New York. A morbid thought also burrowed its way into my mind, as New Orleans is one of the few places in the US that at some point in my lifetime might no longer exist. Little did I know that much of the Jersey Shore and parts of NYC would fall into this category as well just a week before my trip.
Sunny 70-degree weather, cool nights and leisurely bustling but not overcrowded streets greeted me as I touched down in Louisiana. Good food, good drinks, good people and a city like no other (this has to be the most laid-back city in the United States) – it was just what the doctor ordered.
The Spin: Reeling from a serious concussion, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) has a hard time dealing with the loss of Billie while trying to rally his allies to prepare for war against Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi) and Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) who have literally bought Tabor Heights. In the midst of the confusion and growing threat, Owen (Charlie Cox) makes a bold proposition asking Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) to go away with him…far away…from all of this. Meanwhile at the House of Darmody, living in a den of whores is starting to take its emotional toll on little Tommy, leaving Gillian (Gretchen Mol) to scold Harrow (Jack Huston) as he tries to have a life of his own and romance Miss Sagorsky instead of watching after the boy. Harrow knows, though, that what the boy needs is a proper home…but can he provide it? After a final pep talk from Margaret in her last-ditch effort to see if this “life” is worth the trouble, Nucky confronts his allies only to learn that Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) has convinced the group that being in business with Nucky certainly isn’t worth the trouble. And so the Nuckster is left standing alone. Continue reading →
The Spin: It was an hour of new alliances made, chapters coming to a close and pawns being put in their place as series creator Terence Winter colluded with the series’ best writer Korder to coauthor an explosive episode where an act of fiery terrorism brought destruction to the boardwalk (and poor Babette’s!) while in real life the modern day Atlantic City licks its wounds from Hurricane Sandy. And wouldya look at that, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) has become the greatest pawnbroker: her mock-Jimmy funeral brought her ownership of the whorehouse, she kicked Luciano to the curb as a partner, she came to verbal blows with Nucky (revealing that she’s not delusional and is fully aware of his part in the real Jimmy’s death), and then invited Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) into her lioness’ den to give him a tasty bit of information about where Nucky and Rothstein would be cavorting on a certain evening (hint: there’s only one supper club in town).