Tag Archives: Oscar Isaac

Better Call Saul 2.2 – “Cobbler”

There’s nothing quite like a good ol’-fashioned Hoboken Squat Cobbler, amirite? You know what I’m talking about. A Full Moon Moon Pie. Seriously! Would I make this up?

If Bob Odenkirk isn’t TV’s Best Funnyman then he’s certainly #2, right behind the unstoppably hysterical Louis C.K. or the endlessly quippy Stephen Colbert. Odenkirk’s advantage is that few comedians are a part of something as brilliant as Better Call Saul, and “Cobbler” might be a microcosm of the entire series in terms of tone and humor/drama balance. The season opener “Switch” was great, pulling back for some breathing room after the comparatively cataclysmic events of “Pimento” and “Marco” and allowing Jimmy some Me Time to reflect on his epic sibling rivalry with Chuck. We didn’t see Chuck or Mike (aside from the in-episode recap of the ending of “Marco”) and it was a refreshing change of pace.

Happily, bringing those characters back in full didn’t shake up the feeling of changing pace, nor did it feel as if those characters are anything but vital to Better Call Saul. Saul is definitely a true blood brother to Breaking Bad in the sense that a minor-seeming character like Pryce or Gale Boetticher can become a crucial piece of the whole puzzle, but the heart and soul reside in the core cast. “Cobbler” felt more like a return to greatness than “Switch” because that core was out in full force.

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Steve Jobs (2015)

97% of Steve Jobs is nearly perfect. Much like the products borne of the man’s unparalleled creative vision, everything in his latest biographical film is optimized, streamlined, rounded when the edge should be rounded, sharp when the edge should be sharp, forward-thinking, life-changing, and pitched to be perfect. The performances are subtle and explosive, depending on which character you’re dealing with. The drama is heavy-duty; the comedy is excitingly witty. The pacing of the whole film is breathless. And the writing — whew, the writing — Aaron Sorkin has probably never been this good or done this much with a film script. This is ostensibly The Social Network 2.0, a story about a genius/jerk who defined the times for the rest of us, except Steve Jobs has a richer character in the driver’s seat.

And in comparing the two, that leftover 3% only becomes all the more glaring. The structure of the film is unique, built over three days in history: the launch of the Macintosh in 1984, the launch of the NeXT computer in 1988, and the launch of the iMac in 1998. The aforementioned breathlessness of the film is derived from setting each episode immediately before these launches, as that’s probably the most stressful and nerve-wracking collection of hours in any product launcher’s life. No different in Steve Jobs. Jobs needs everything to be perfect, every address to start exactly on time, every personal grievance from his staff and family (of which there are many, and between which the words staff and family mean less and less) to be voiced and dealt with. “It seems like five minutes before every launch, people go to a bar and get drunk and decide to air their grievances,” says Jobs.

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Film & TV News: August 26

News

  • Lots of production at the Rumor Mill this week, including the possibility of Mad Max‘s George Miller taking on directing duty for a future Superman film; there’s the possibility of Jon Hamm playing the villainous Negan in The Walking Dead; and there’s the strange possibility of Star Wars: Rogue One utilizing a CGI version of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. Likely? Unlikely? Awesome? Weird? Both?
  • The New York Film Festival slate is shaping up well this year, including as a bit of a surprise Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junjun, a short documentary about Radiohead guitarist and There Will Be Blood composer Jonny Greenwood.
  • Christian Bale will reportedly play Enzo Ferrari for Public Enemies director Michael Mann, continuing the ill-advised trend of Not Being Batman Anymore.
  • Motion State turns 1 this week! A special thanks to all of our contributors and readers.

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Ex Machina (2015)

There’s this dude Nathan. He’s one of the few dudes onscreen in Ex Machina, the directorial debut of 28 Days Later and Sunshine scribe Alex Garland. Nathan is a walking paradox, even in the most perfunctory surface-level characterization of him as a hard-drinking frat boy who also happens to be a veritable technological genius. Caleb, his temporary intern of sorts, at one point compares him to Mozart — likely the first time a Mozart figure has ever spent so much time on abs and forearms. This straightforward incongruity in Nathan would only work with the right actor in his shoes, and Oscar Isaac is the right actor. A force in Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year, Isaac is utterly convincing throughout Ex Machina. Nathan drains bottles of beer and vodka, yells at his maid, passes out drunk, wakes up to lift weights and beat his punching bag, and soon starts in on the beer and vodka again — and yet he’s always the smartest guy in the room by a longshot.

That somewhat superficial contradiction (or, for the purposes of a review of a film about artificial intelligence: that skin-deep, cosmetic, inorganic contradiction) is only the beginning of Nathan. Isaac is joined by Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, the timid young coder brought to Nathan’s underground tech lair as ostensible winner of a contest to take part in a secret experiment (Isaac and Gleeson are also both in The Force Awakens later this year, which is doubly exciting after seeing Ex Machina). Together they deliberate Ava, Nathan’s advanced A.I. that not only walks exactly like a human and talks exactly like a human but thinks exactly like a human, too. What that means, exactly, is exactly what Ex Machina probes. Maybe. Spoilers follow.

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A Most Violent Year (2014)

A Most Violent Year is set in New York City in 1981, the most violent and murderous time in the history of the city. Oscar Isaac plays ambitious immigrant Abel Morales, manager of a successful oil enterprise, and Jessica Chastain plays his beautiful wife/accountant. On the eve of a major business deal, Abel must simultaneously contend with a federal investigation into his practice and a band of hijackers attacking his drivers.

Things fall apart fast for Abel, A Serious Man style, with pretty much everyone turning against him, and it’s in this set-up that A Most Violent Year seems like it’s going to be a pretty great gangster film. Abel is beaten down but never defeated, constantly levelheaded and rarely unprideful. In one scene he speaks to three new employees about business procedure, and though we know he should probably be frantically dealing with everything that’s happened to him in the past week we find him here instead, describing sales tactics with such gusto that Jordan Belfort would buy oil from him. In scenes like this Isaac’s Abel recalls Pacino’s Michael Corleone more fully than any character you care to name, stonefaced as he looks people directly in the eye, staunch in his beliefs.

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