True Detective 2.2 – “Night Finds You”

As we ventured in our review of last week’s pilot episode “The Western Book of the Dead“, the structure of the second season does indeed come into slightly sharper focus in the second hour “Night Finds You”. This installment echoed some of the weaker points of the previous one, including a whole lot of exposition and a whole lot of angsty brooding. And what’s up with the melancholy bar singer? How about a hosting a karaoke night instead? Or bring in Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, liven the place up a bit. Velcoro and Semyon could be use some groove. Spoilers follow for the second episode “Night Finds You”.

Aside from all of that, there were a handful of exciting things that occurred in the second hour. Some of these things were pure True Detective. I suppose I never quite realized how much of the first season took place in a moving vehicle, but it felt fitting to see Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro and Rachel McAdams’s Ani Bezzerides exchange trailer-worthy capsule philosophies as they traversed the post-industrial Vinci (His: “My strong suspicion is we get the world we deserve”; Hers: “I don’t distinguish between good and bad habits”). The starting point of their relationship is characterized by mistrust and conscious deception, as both are informed about the other during individual briefings at the start of the episode. Ani learns that Ray is rumored to be a bent cop, while Ray is more or less tasked with seeing that the investigation goes nowhere. The pair use the car ride to “get to know each other”, which in True Detective means testing the other for weak spots, for betrayals, and eventually for a point on which an alliance might be formed.

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Film & TV News: June 28

News

  • Hannibal gets cancelled by NBC just as I was starting to watch it. Hopefully Netflix will come to the rescue for this show as it has The Killing and others before it.
  • Tom Holland was announced as the new Spider-Man earlier this week, and yes, we called it.
  • Michael Crichton‘s posthumous novel Micro has been co-opted for a feature film adaptation, likely so whoever’s making it can cash in on the success of a certain dinosaur franchise.
  • The great James Horner passed away earlier this week — few composers, not even Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman or (dare I say it) the immortal John Williams have a filmography as varied and impressive as Horner. He will surely be missed.

Continue reading Film & TV News: June 28

Manglehorn (2014)

Discovered an alternate universe the other day. Stumbled upon it by accident, stayed for a while to check it out. Pretty weird. Their eggs and ham are green and Transformers: Age of Extinction won Best Picture. Hoverboards are the primary mode of travel, everyone’s wearing Air McFlys. Don’t know why, but strong suspicion that George Bailey never existed. Can’t tell which universe is good and which is evil. Met their film director David Gordon Green and discovered him to be a talentless hack who sold out after making a few good movies and now just makes big budget stuff. He did the Oscar-winning Transformers. They’ve him to thank for those Batman/Terminator crossover movies and can look forward to his upcoming Star Wars anthology film R2-D2 Rises. In their universe David Gordon Green also directed Pineapple Express and Your Highness and The Sitter…ah, no, wait, that’s ours.

Thankfully, our David Gordon Green turned away from the big budget stuff in order to make movies like Manglehorn. While Bizarro DGG turned to the dark side and never came back, the chunk of studio comedies characterized by Pineapple ExpressYour Highness and The Sitter just seems like a temporary detour in our world. Even if you liked those flicks, the point stands that Green’s career has followed one of the more unpredictable paths you’re likely to find on any Hollywood résumé. His first several features were intimate character dramas, beginning with the phenomenal coming-of-age tale George Washington. Most were well-received and all were small-scale, independent features. Understandable, then, that when three green things converged — money, weed, and David Gordon — and resulted in Pineapple Express, more than a few eyebrows headed north.

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The Electric Horseman (1979)

As the Annals of Film History come to resemble the Annals of Film Remakes more and more every day, one might suppose it’s only a matter of time before someone digs up The Electric Horseman and updates it with a modern twist. If we’re going by plot alone, Horseman has in fact already been remade a thousand times; there’s nothing earth-shatteringly original about the concept, or the characters, or the message, or the way the whole thing comes together. It’s very nearly your everyday run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, sharing a great many characteristics with all of those other romantic comedies, except for the fact that the romance outplays the humor at every turn. Horseman‘s a lot more enjoyable if you can manage to ignore genre classifications, or ignore the fact that you loathe country music. I’m happy to be your guide on both.

Mainly The Electric Horseman has something a lot of romantic comedies don’t: Robert Redford. Over the course of seven collaborations, Redford and Sydney Pollack essentially only made two films that weren’t structured around the romance of Redford’s character with a woman smitten by his jawline and just-visible chest hair. Both Jeremiah Johnson and Three Days of the Condor overshadow the likes of Horseman, but the other four romantic films — This Property is Condemned, The Way We Were, Out of Africa and Havana — probably do too. That’s without considering the zillion other films that Redford made in the ’70s, the busiest time in his career.

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Blue Ruin (2013)

First of all, I would like to note that I constantly find myself referring to this movie as “Blue Ribbon.” Thanks, college.

Blue Ruin…HOLY F@#K!! I had heard about this movie maybe a year or so ago, and seeing that it garnered an impressive 96 percent Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I quickly hopped over to my IMDb app to put it on my Watchlist.  I must regrettably say that I wasted that year or so of my life not watching this movie.

I thought: Ok, so this is a smaller, independent film, I don’t see any actors I really know on the cast list, nor am I familiar with the director, Jeremy Saulnier (who to this day has only helmed three features); it has to be at least decent given the reviews, and the plot looks kinda cool.  I was expecting a slower movie, that built and built to an awesome, explosive climatic conclusion. That seems to be the way most well-received indie action flicks go, right?  Well, maybe. But not Blue Ruin. Not in the slightest.

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A Deadly Adoption (2015)

You have to put a lot of effort in if you want to get a perfect score in anything worthwhile, and the reverse is also true: if you want to score a pure 0%, you still have to work pretty damn hard. After forgetting to put your name at the top of the quiz, you basically need to know the right answers to all of the questions in order to then select the wrong answers, which, of course, begs the question as to why you didn’t just shoot for the A+ instead. This would be nearly paradoxical if it wasn’t just a plainly obvious certainty.

A Deadly Adoption is a bit like that, except that the people intentionally flunking the exam are getting paid handsomely to do it and their classmates are zipping around the playground after the period’s over spreading the word about how cool they are. Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig have been getting pretty good grades so far, but now that the popular table has…aw, f*ck it. Extended metaphors are for the more involved. Besides, we’re talking about passing/failing something worthwhile, which is a thing A Deadly Adoption is absolutely not.

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True Detective 2.1 – “The Western Book of the Dead”

Most everyone is comparing last night’s premiere of True Detective‘s second season with all of the highs of the first, which is both an inevitability (it’s True Detective, after all) and an exercise in futility. For the purposes of our Season 2 reviews we’ll be largely ignoring Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart (trying, anyway) although some comparisons do hold favorably with the current cast of characters. Our recent piece “A Man Without a Family” touched on the various family circles throughout the first season, and it’s clear in characters like Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro and Rachel McAdams’s Ani Bezzerides that some themes are inherent to the show regardless of which season we’re in.

“The Western Book of the Dead” was jam-packed with stuff, juggling a handful of protagonists and delving into flashbacks and allusions to mysterious pasts. Ray, a California cop in the Vinci Police Department, is introduced to us as the father of a young boy. The kid’s afraid of his classmates picking on him, but Ray seems tender and loving in his encouragements. “Be proud,” he says. When we discover that Velcoro’s kid is likely  product of the years-ago violent rape of his wife, our picture of Ray the Loving Father starts to disintegrate. By the end of the episode he’s ripped into his son, driven to the home of the kid that’s been bullying him, and beaten the father of that kid to hell while making the kid watch. The beauty in the fact of watching this scene on Father’s Day is not lost on me.

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Film & TV News: June 21

News

  • Matt Damon’s return to the Bourne franchise is enticing the rest of the band back, too, as Julia Stiles is now said to be onboard the 2016 release. Viggo Mortensen is apparently in negotiations to play the villain, which is an addition that would no doubt wash the taste of The Bourne Legacy away for good.
  • First he says he’s down to play Wolverine “until he dies”; then, word that Hugh Jackman’s time as Logan would come to an end after the next solo film. Now rumor has it that X-Men: Apocalypse will feature Jackman in a smallish role, maybe even just a cameo, showing that they haven’t quite learned that X-Men movies sans Jackman aren’t as interesting as the alternative.
  • Vin Diesel is making a Kojak movie, so. Yep.
  • Hall H regulars Marvel, Sony and Paramount are all skipping San Diego Comic Con this year, presumably because leaked documents are doing all of their marketing for them. Motion State Review will be skipping Hall H, too, which is yet another crippling loss for convention superfans. Next year.

Continue reading Film & TV News: June 21

Slow West (2015)

These days, Westerns seem to either be smaller art-house fare or destined box-office flops. Michael Agresta’s phenomenal article “How the Western Was Lost (and Why It Matters)” touches on a few reasons why — see The Lone Ranger, Cowboys & Aliens, Jonah Hex, or don’t see them — and a few reasons the erosion of the genre marks a sad day for American Cinema. Agresta is mainly writing about the public perception of the Western and not necessarily about whether Jonah Hex is any good or not (it’s not), and so the commentary on the smaller art-house stuff is limited. He’d agree, though, I think, that the more limited platform of independent and small-studio filmmaking is where the majority of “good” Westerns are being produced these days.

And Slow West is somewhat of an interesting film to consider in the larger context of The American Western, a long-standing genre with a hugely important but slightly malleable history as outlined by Agresta. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as the young dreamer Jay and Michael Fassbender as the mysterious drifter Silas, Slow West is an undeniably style-heavy piece that takes full advantage of the fact that it’s not a big-budget tentpole. In doing so, the film retains a self-awareness that manages to be less wink-wink than you might expect.

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True Detective (2014): A Man Without a Family

Our Take Two column offers second opinions and alternative angles on films and TV series reviewed elsewhere on Motion State. See below for our original reviews of True Detective.

“Past a certain age,” advises Marty Hart, “a man without a family can be a bad thing.” This is 2012 Hart, slightly overweight Hart, reelin’-in-the-years Hart. This is the Hart that’s about to recount the majority of the events of True Detective‘s first season, the 1995 Dora Lange case that the retired detective has long since considered closed. This is also the version of Martin Hart that no longer has a family — he’s cheated on his wife repeatedly, notably in 1995 and again in 2002, and so she and the kids have long since left. After seventeen years he’s still the same person, though, as it’s very Hart-like that he should describe himself with such accuracy without even meaning to do so.

Family is a major theme at the center of True Detective‘s rookie year, and Hart’s judgement begins to reveal why. He approaches his family with more or less the same mentality he applies to his job as State Police Detective: it’s duty. His is the American nuclear family, traditional in the way that would make social conservatives nod in approval, with working father, aproned mother, two daughters, a front lawn, a white picket fence. To Marty this is very much a patriarchal nuclear family, which casts him as father in the primary role of moral authority, social privilege, property control, etc. Though our perception of this slowly erodes over the course of the eight-episode season, Marty, years later in 2012, refuses to believe anything else to be the case.

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