Boardwalk Empire: All In

Boardwalk Empire - Rothstein

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – All In

Season Four: Episode Four

Directed by: Ed Bianchi

Written by: David Matthews

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

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Boardwalk Empire: Acres of Diamonds

Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Promo1

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – Acres of Diamonds

Season Four: Episode Three

Directed by: Allen Coulter

Written by: Terence Winter

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

Holding the Audience Captive in Prisoners

Prisoners

Anyone who sat through Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve’s well-crafted but morally repugnant Oscar-nominated film, Incendies, knows he’s a man who loves to play with the audience and turn the screws to the point of torture.  While going more mainstream with the kidnap thriller, Prisoners, he still finds way to tighten the ropes and hold an audience captive.  Red herrings, recurring visual motifs, carefully placed clues and masterful editing have become the director’s calling cards, and he stacks his deck in Prisoners with an A-list cast and sets the brooding atmosphere with Roger Deakins’ flawless photography shaded in blues and greys meant to mirror the moral ambiguities of this sordid tale.

Though it runs over two and a half hours, Prisoners is relentlessly compelling in a cold, calculated procedural kind of way.  Much of the film plays like the pilot episode of the next great TV crime thriller as it sets up the case of two missing girls and toggles itself between the families affected and the lead detective bent on finding the children.  Unfortunately it’s that same sensibility that leads Aaron Guzikowski’s disappointingly rote and too-tidy script awry.  We never really get to know the characters deeply as they are all composed of stock genre elements and would be better fleshed out in a long serial television format. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Resignation

Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Promo3

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – Resignation

Season Four: Episode Two

Directed by: Alik Sakharov

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

Your Spin: The Most Memorable Cinematic Performance by an Actor

It’s time yet again to put The Spin in your hands!

This is the latest round of a recurring feature where you, the reader, get to vote.

The winner of the last round, where tasked with choosing The Most Memorable Cinematic Performance by an Actress, was Maria Falconetti for The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Your next decision point:  The Most Memorable Cinematic Performance by an Actor…EVER.  Yup, ever.

Actor - Greek Mask

And the nominees are:

  • All kidding aside, Charlie Chaplin in The Kid
  • For ripping off the mask, Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera
  • Because frankly he didn’t give a damn, Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind
  • Because we’d like to think he killed a man, it’s the romantic in us, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca
  • For bringing out the killer in all of us, Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt
  • For STELLLLLLLLLLLLA, Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire
  • For flying the coop, Jack Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • For being mad as hell and not taking it anymore, Peter Finch in Network
  • For being a contender, Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
  • Because, well, he rules, and we don’t get to tell him what to do ever again, Kevin Spacey in American Beauty
  • For drinking our collective milkshake, Daniel Day Lewis in There Will be Blood

Think we left someone out?  Start the debate in the comments form and then vote!

Boardwalk Empire: New York Sour (Season Four Premiere)

Thank god for Harrow.

Thank god for Harrow.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – New York Sour

Season Four: Episode One

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Terence Winter, Howard Korder

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

Short Term 12 Long Term Promise

Brie Larson takes a major leap forward with charm and Grace.

Brie Larson takes a major leap forward with determination and Grace in SHORT TERM 12.

The best independent films take their cue from the best literary short stories.  They cut through the fat so often found in more commercial fare and focus on the moment, on character.  Minimalist in style.  Maximum in feeling.  Writer/director Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 is one such film.

Grace (Brie Larson) is happily toiling away with her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) working together as counselors at a group home for troubled youth, but when an unexpected pregnancy pops up and a deeply disturbed new ward (Kaitlyn Dever) arrives, Grace finds herself at a crossroads still trying to cope with her own dark past.

Brie Larson plays Grace with a breezy charm.  She instantly relates to the kids (for reasons we later learn go beyond the standard love of job), and she’s both care-free and deadly serious.  There’s so much stuff bubbling up underneath her surface, and Larson is shockingly adept at traversing the slippery slope of her character’s arc.  As her boyfriend, Mason, who so desperately wants to dive beneath that surface with her, John Gallagher Jr. (so insufferable on the insufferable Newsroom) comes across as a likeable hipster duffus with a huge heart.  He loves telling stories and he connects with the kids because he’s a kid himself, and again we learn later on why he is the way he is.  Cretton, as he does with all of the characters circling in Grace’s orbit, reveals backstories bit by bit, not with a self-aware sense of revelation, but with the same casual charm as Grace.  He allows us to connect with them through small moments, character revealing details, just as Grace does when working with the kids at the home in her sincere attempts to get through to them. Continue reading