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.
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.
It’s official, when it comes to the music on my iPhone, “L” is the best letter of the alphabet.
Not only do three of my favorite songs EVER (the Goodfella‘s inspiring Derek & the Dominos version of “Layla”, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” and The Eagles “Lyin’ Eyes”) begin with the letter “L”, but my “L’s” are also a completely stress-reducing mix of weirdly juxtaposed but oddly complimentary tracks that make any traffic jam, jam. It also makes me realize I am very, very tragically white.
The Spin: Director Coulter takes advantage of this being the last season by adding some compelling directorial flourishes, and was that a nod to Twin Peaks and Lynch in the opening “through an ear” dissonant audio-visual cross-cuts, which were bookended nicely in the end with an all-too noticeable missing ear? It’s nice to see the regular series directors give it their all, but it has me worried that Winter felt the need for such a ho-hum filler episode when the there’s only six left to go after this. This week we got (mis)treated to some bizarre sequences in a women’s sanatorium where Gillian (Gretchen) has been spending her days that played with our prurient-minded expectations, continued grim flashbacks to Nucky’s childhood, Nucky turning to Torrio to see who tried to nab him last week in Cuba, Lansky still plotting with Luciano and Siegel to up their game (at the Nuckster’s expense?), the Muller formerly known as Van Alden still making a mess of things at home and at work (with no help from a drunk-as-a-skunk Eli), Capone getting all Capone-y (seriously his character has become a clichéd bore after some shining moments in seasons’ past), young Will Thompson vying for an Assistant DA spot, and some distracting Look, Ma, who it is! guest-appearances by Joe Kennedy Sr. (Matt Letscher) and Eliot Ness.
The Spin: The final season opens with the haunting Gretchen Mol reading a voice-over from the children’s periodical “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” where she’s seemingly telling the young lads we see diving into ocean after coins, “Be honest and true boys! Whatever you do boys, let this be your motto through life.” A moving flashback to Nucky’s hardscrabble childhood in 1884 Atlantic City (which was merely a pier and one Corner Hotel on a tiny boardwalk) is expertly interwoven into a flash forward to 1931, where will the help of the effervescent and ever-saucy Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette, all bosoms and moxy), the Nuckster has become Our Man in Havana, using a screwy senator as his pawn to talk a Rum King into hatching a deal to get Bacardi into the States as soon as Prohibition is inevitably repealed. But trouble always seems to find our anti-hero, and Havana might be too hot to handle for the aging kingpin, who for the first time in his life is placing his biggest bet on a legal operation. Continue reading →