The Red Road 2.5 – “The Hatching”

I’m really surprised there are no movies called The Penultimate Hour. It’s a decent title in a James Patterson sort of way, or in a Van Damme sort of way. The closest thing might be Philip K. Dick’s novel The Penultimate Truth, or the 2007 documentary on the author called The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick. Those are great titles. There are a few movies called The 11th Hour — and funnily enough, there is James Patterson book by that title — and I suppose that means the same thing. “Eleven” doesn’t carry the same force as “penultimate”, though, does it?

The only thing any of this has to do with The Red Road is that “The Hatching” is the penultimate episode of season two, the literal penultimate hour, and that’s generally the hour in which…well, what happens in the penultimate episode of a season? It used to be the case that season finales were tantamount to a bunch of awesome stuff, meaning the previous episode was usually spent getting everything set up for the fireworks. That’s changed recently. Game of Thrones made a casual tradition of having the ninth episode of each season (the penultimate of each in the case of Game‘s 10-episode seasons) be far more action-packed than the ensuing finales. Breaking Bad‘s “Ozymandias” delivered finale-level intensity with two episodes still to follow, and Better Call Saul‘s penultimate hour “Pimento” was likewise the season’s best.

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The Hours (2002)

The first question one might ask about a movie is “what happened in it?” After all, the average viewer usually watches a movie to see what happens. However, in a strange way, what happens in Stephen Daldry’s The Hours does not seem to be the most important aspect of the movie. And while The Hours certainly does have a lot going on — three different stories and time periods, a couple suicides, more contemplated suicides, homosexuality, bisexuality, and historical and literary relevance with Virginia Woolf as a prominent character — the actual plot does not draw the viewer in quite like the acting, the dialogue, and the beautiful music. It doesn’t take an advanced movie critic to notice these aspects either; after all, they caught my attention almost immediately.

The masterful dialogue in the movie makes sense to a degree, for the screenplay was heavily influenced by Michael Cunningham’s novel of the same title and, of course, by the incredibly gifted Woolf. Listening to the characters converse, the viewer feels no less enthralled than if they were voraciously reading a page from any of Woolf’s great body of work.

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Looker (1981)

It’s no coincidence that Michael Crichton’s name is a popular one on the earliest portions of the timeline of CGI in film and television. After his 1973 film Westworld pioneered 2D computer animation in a feature film, the television spinoff Futureworld continued the trend with the first use of 3D computer graphics to animate a hand and a face. Crichton’s 1981 venture Looker — which he wrote and directed — claims a similarly important milestone: the first CGI human character. Her name was Cindy, and she’s kind of the digital australopithecus that ironically enough seems only to have evolved into Andy Serkis playing bigger monkeys.

So why are Tron and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan lauded to this day for basically doing what Looker did a year earlier? Simple: because Looker is awful. END OF REVIEW.

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True Detective 1.3 – “The Locked Room”

This review appeared shortly after the initial premiere of True Detective in early 2014 — slight edits have been made since the original posting.

Horror creeps ever closer in the third hour of True Detective, and Rust Cohle and Martin Hart may not be doing all they can to slow the arrival. After last week’s episode “Seeing Things” revealed more about both characters, the most recent entry in the eight-part season dug still deeper into the good and the bad inside the detectives portrayed by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson — but mostly the bad. Spoilers follow for the third episode “The Locked Room”.

Not long ago, if you told me the hunky McConaughey and the thick-jawed slacker Harrelson would be in a show together and the latter would be the one involved in a love triangle, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. In a distinct continuation of the character arc presented in the first two episodes, Harrelson’s Hart is far from the family man he pretends to be, and his treatment of the women in his life seems increasingly self-centered. Though he is drunk, the scene where he barges in on his younger lover (Alexandra Daddario) and beats the hell out of the kid she’s with still shows Hart’s penchant for quick violence in much the way Cohle’s sudden flare of brutality with the mechanic in last week’s episode showed a similar capacity. These are men with morals but they are also bad men, inescapably, calling to mind Marlon Brando’s musings as Kurtz near the end of Apocalypse Now, seeking “men who are moral, and at the same time…without feeling…without passion…without judgment…without judgment.”

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Film & TV News: May 4

News

  • May the Fourth be with you! A bunch of Star Wars news dropped this week, including the arrival of the first season of Star Wars Rebels online and the departure of director Josh Trank from the upcoming “anthology” film. Both are good!
  • Collider has the first pictures from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, which the director tweeted last night. If you’re wondering what in the hell is going on with some of these costumes, you’re not alone. Killer Croc needs a touchup. Badly. But the solo portrait of Will Smith’s Deadshot is promising, even if he’s still a weird choice for the role.
  • CSI, one of the longest-running cable television shows in history, has been officially cancelled by CBS. The question is now whether a farewell season is in order, or whether that last season finale is actually the series finale, or whether anyone actually gives a shit about CSI anymore.

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Force Majeure (2014)

Whenever a perfect little family poses for a picture like the one taken in the opening scene of Force Majeure, you pretty much know they’re in for some trouble. It’s an oft-used trope showing how easily people can slip into a display of happiness, showing how perception can sometimes count for everything — we touched on a similar scene in our discussion of Robert Redford’s Ordinary People, a film which is on the whole a good touchstone for the themes of Force Majeure. Though the Swedish film suffers slightly from swaths of introspection that last just a bit too long, Force is still one of the most well-crafted family dramas of the past year.

That family is dad Tomas, mom Ebba, little daughter Vera and littler son Harry. They’re on a weeklong getaway at a beautiful mountainside resort in the French Alps for some skiing and relaxation. It’s family time, which Ebba subtly notes has been a much-needed side effect of Tomas’s busy work schedule. This is precious time, so the family does everything together. They ski together, they brush their teeth together, they sleep together on the big master bed. They eat lunch together. They get engulfed by an avalanche together. Family stuff.

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Gung Ho (1986)

So…is Gung Ho racist, or what? To be sure, far less sympathetic portraits of the Japanese have cropped up in American cinema over the years. This certainly isn’t the not-so-subtle Neimoidian race of The Phantom Menace or the not-even-attempting-to-be-subtle Mr. Yunioshi of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. At the very least Gung Ho is free of that kind of blatant disregard for cultural sensitivity that makes one wonder, with no shortage of slaps to one’s forehead, how the hell some things get greenlighted at all.

But there is a sneaking suspicion that there’s a cultural illiteracy afoot in Gung Ho, if not a straight-up cultural disregard, and that might be just as bad. Director Ron Howard cast Michael Keaton as the actor rose to fame following Johnny Dangerously and Howard’s own Night Shift, and there’s little blame to place on Keaton here. He’s the lovable doofus that he usually is. Gung Ho sees Keaton’s everyman Hunt Stevenson fighting to save his little Rust Belt town after a Japanese automobile company takes over the local factory. An army of managerial types swoops in from Tokyo and sets about “correcting” the carefree business practices of the American worker. Culture clash certainly ensues — we’re just not sure it’s the kind of clash that Howard and Co. intended.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I have a kind of casual self-imposed policy of watching movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe only once. Sometimes this works out beautifully, as in the case of, say, Thor: The Dark World, which I’m not sure I could sit through again without fast-forwarding to the parts with Tom Hiddleston. Other times I have a temptation to go back and watch a previous entry, usually on the eve of a new entry like Avengers: Age of Ultron. This policy is in effect partly because a good chunk of the MCU films are like The Dark World — sloppy, boring, noncommittal — and a second viewing only highlights these qualities. What do I do, then, if I need me my Thor fix now? I go read a Thor comic.

The real experiment afoot here is one that will fail, but one I hope for anyway: if the longevity of the MCU is the thing the MCU-makers are actually striving for, rather than that rusty and outdated model of making one good movie after another, then can I find a way to emphasize that? Can I enjoy the good and forget the bad and then return to the whole thing as one whole thing, years later, and really feel that longevity in the good and the bad?

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