Tag Archives: Homeland

The Leftovers 1.10 – “The Prodigal Son Returns”

Sometimes drama is hard. Part of the reason why people are throwing around phrases like The Golden Age of Television is because great drama often implies a certain longevity, a depth not only of feeling but of space and time as well. Rust Cohle’s True Detective arc spans more than a decade, and we’re allowed insight into that arc for eight hours rather than for the limited runtime of a film. Walter White’s (d)evolution is likewise more effective for the time it takes building itself. In the coldest sense television allows what comic book chronology allows, simply more, and thus more of a compounding effect in the later hours or later seasons. True Detective and Breaking Bad are intense in their final sequences mostly due to brilliant writing, brilliant directing, brilliant acting — nothing replaces storytelling (preach!) — but partially due to what came before.

And yes: sometimes drama is easy. Fabricated drama isn’t hard to find. Heck, take Best Picture winner Argo, which climaxes with a harrowing scene at the airport where the heroes are really just standing in a room sweating as to whether they’re about to be let out of the country or not. Quick cuts are made to the drama, vehicles holding the bad guys hurtling along the tarmac. It’s all spiced up, and usually when you have to spice up your scene with cuts to action that simply happen faster and faster as the music plays faster and faster — well, maybe there’s another way to extract drama, a less easy way, an infinitely more effective way. Argo is hardly the worst example. The cringeworthiest one that leaps to mind is all the extraneous shit going down at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, because Spidey battling his enemy isn’t enough. And Spidey battling two enemies isn’t enough. And Spidey battling two enemies while a hospital full of people is in danger and a plane full of people is about to crash isn’t even enough, so throw Gwen Stacey in there. There we go: amazing.

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Film & TV News: September 29

News

  • The Prometheus sequel is moving forward as Ridley Scott’s next film under the official title Alien: Paradise Lost. Hard to pass judgement on title alone, but for the moment we’re cautiously pessimistic.
  • Speaking of Alien, Sigourney Weaver has confirmed a cameo in the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot, which you probably know as “the all-female Ghostbusters reboot” to such a degree that the title could be The All-Female Ghostbusters Reboot.
  • Spectre‘s theme song “Writing’s on the Wall” has been released, featuring the crooning vocals of Sam Smith, and can be heard in full over on Spotify. I haven’t actually listened to it, and won’t until I’m firmly in my seat in the theater for Spectre, but apparently it’s divisive so far without any of the visual/story context. On another note, isn’t it weird that so few photos of Christoph Waltz’s villain have leaked?
  • Some beautiful new stills from The Revenant hit the interwebs yesterday, teasing the exclusive use of natural light throughout Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman follow-up. For those of you who have been pining for a shot of Leonardo DiCaprio standing before a mountain of buffalo skulls, today is your lucky day.

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The Affair 1.8

Another relatively slow episode of The Affair comes at the exact wrong time, in the eighth hour, with only two more to go before season one wraps. Episode seven was solid and did much to dispel fears that the show had been strong out of the gate only to lose steam along the way to the finish line. Hour eight, however, seemed to lose a bit of that footing.

One thing that the show kind of flirted with early on but never fully succumbed to was the way-too-common device of having every family member have a massive number of personal problems. The elder Son of Solloway Martin is angsty and inimical in the way most teenage boys are, Whitney is angsty and inimical in the way most teenage girls are, and poor little Trevor just wants someone to pay attention to him — this was the set-up, more or less, over the first chunk of episodes, and it was believable and relatable.

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The Affair 1.7

After last week’s episode of The Affair I had an acid flashback to the first season of Homeland. Appearances to the contrary as Noah and Alison lounge around Montauk for the summer, The Affair moves pretty quickly. They meet, they imagine themselves with each other, they make love, they make love a lot more, and then they fall in love. They also bring the affair to a screeching halt along the way, essentially calling it quits last week and then going one step further this week by telling their respective spouses about the whole thing. The Affair just deployed an entire series worth of plot in the first seven episodes.

Nevermind what season two or three or four could hold — what the hell could possibly even go down in the final three episodes of this rookie season? Aside from simply knowing that three more hours of story will be told, this seventh episode is concerned with that uncertain ending too. “Looks like you got away with it,” taunts Oscar as he proceeds to blackmail Noah. But no one, not Noah nor we viewers, actually believe that to be true.

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Starred Up (2014)

Starred Up played this week at the tail end of the Fall Focus presented by Independent Film Festival Boston. Though technically a 2013 release, the British prison drama has yet to really come out stateside and remains very much a movie of interest. Part of this is due to the recent emergence of Jack O’Connell on the international stage – he carried the little-seen ’71 and will carry the likely-to-be-widely-seen Unbroken, and he’s even in the Oscar conversation for the latter. O’Connell’s been in a bunch of stuff prior to the last few years, and his young role in the comparatively weak Michael Fassbender film Eden Lake probably foreshadows what’s to come most effectively. But if you want top-notch O’Connell in a nearly-top-notch film, Starred Up is the one to check out.

The prison genre is a storied one in film. Starred Up is a very different movie than Bronson – one of the most brilliant entries in the genre in recent memory – but it still recalls the 2008 Tom Hardy flick a little too heavily at times. This might be an inescapable element of the genre – it’s a prison movie, what did you expect? – but it might also be because O’Connell’s Eric Love simply seems to want the incredible amount of violence swirling around his little stone cell. Bronson and Love seem to share that from the outset – there is a scene in both films in which guards pile up outside the cell door in full riot gear as the gleeful prisoner, be it the hulking Bronson or the roguish Love, douses himself in oil and and prepares for the fight. The fight seems ritualistic, and for Bronson it certainly is. It’s sport. But this is where Starred Up and Eric Love diverge, and while it’s not necessarily a better film it’s certainly a more grounded, realistic genre entry.

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