Friday, August 11, 2017

My Pet Game of Thrones Theory

I’ve thought a lot about hanging threads this season of Game of Thrones . These last two shortened seasons are a time for finality and resolution. Whether we like those resolutions is another story. One specific thread has been barely touched on this season is Jon Snow’s parentage. Apart from the quick “I’m no Stark” line, we haven’t seen one story beat moving that issue toward a resolution. We know that Bran knows, but his new all-knowing personality doesn’t seem to deem that important information right now.

When thinking about how this thread could be resolved in some sort of poetic way, an interesting idea came to me. I believe that Sean Bean reprising his role as Ned Stark will appear in a vision to Jon Snow via the Three Eyed Raven’s powers and make good on his promise from season 1. Sure, this is wild speculation that is most likely false but I do have some history to back it up. As we know from Bran’s arc, the Three Eyed Raven can target visions to specific people to help them gain knowledge. In addition, Michelle Fairley reprised her role as Catelyn Stark in a previous vision. This would be a great, symbolic way to close the loop on this mystery and open the door for whatever fallout comes afterward. Plus it would show Bran actually doing something of meaning with his newfound abilities.

The post My Pet Game of Thrones Theory appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/08/11/my-pet-game-of-thrones-theory/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Review: ‘The Dark Tower’

 

The Dark Tower seems to me like a film that was beat into submission by too many forces competing for creative control. From the beginning, making a book series filled with brutal, vile imagery PG-13 meant you were going to cut out a lot of what gave the book series flavor. Then to make an unholy amalgamation of all the books, seemingly mashing together set-pieces from book 2, 6 and 7, makes matters ever worse. Almost none of this movie occurs in the books and what does occur is changed so much that it is almost unrecognizable. But they gave themselves a major out by making this a sort of sequel to the books, which is bizarrely never mentioned in the movie at all.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who didn’t know anything about this world, or the long twisted history of the characters within it. So many scenes throw around phrases, special objects, or abilities that I’ve spent almost 5,000 pages reading about. So when Walter pulls out Black 13 from his cabinet and uses it to glamour Roland I know the importance of that item and the long bloody road it took to get into his possession (or rather Father Callahan’s). To the average viewer, Matthew McConaughey pulls out a magical ball from a cabinet and can suddenly teleport.

Another great example of this is the scene where Roland and Jake take refuge in what I guess is supposed to me a Manni Village though they never explain that in the film. The main Manni reveals to the tribe that Roland is Roland Deschain, Son of Steven, last in the line of Eld. Everyone is at a loss for words and can’t believe the last of the Eld, a true Gunslinger and protector of the White is here at their dinner table. That was great for me to see, it echoed back to Roland and his Ka-Tet meeting the kind folk of River Crossing. Roland promising to take a cross from them and lay it at the foot of the Dark Tower if someday his quest is fulfilled. I suspect everyone else in the theater was confused as to why this was so important and forgot all about it a scene later.

What really irks me about this adaptation/sequel is how far is strays from the soul messages of the series. The Dark Tower novels are not about crazy gunplay. Sure, fantastic action happens, but at the end of the day the series is about analyzing the concepts of destiny, storytelling, person bonds and purpose. None of that is conveyed in this film. Looking back I can’t remember a single time Ka is mentioned. What are we even doing here? If they get a shot at making a sequel or the series, I’d love to see them pull more from the messaging of the books and remember the face of their fathers.

 

 

 

BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD:

tumblr_ockw6xwPZI1t7b5qro1_1280-300x153 Review: 'The Dark Tower' Movies

I would be remiss if I didn’t get super nerdy for a second and talk about the implications of this being a sequel to the books. The Horn of Eld is clearly seen multiple times in the film and bizarrely never mentioned or even touched upon. I found the addition of it to be a really cool way to get around the common gripe of the movie being different from the books. “Sure it’s different, it’s the next cycle in Roland’s Journey.” With Roland never getting to the Tower, I’m hoping a possible sequel will bring in Eddy, Oddetta/Detta, the Crimson King and even Oy. “Do animals still talk in your world.” King specifically said on Twitter that this is the last time around and Roland will reach the Tower and blow. I need to see that, no matter what. If I’m remembering correctly before the coda of the last book Roland hears a horn blow as he approaches the Tower. I never understood what that meant or symbolized. I’d love to see a re-done version of that scene.

Regardless how bad this movie was, seeing certain things on screen gave me shivers. When the “Tet-Corporation” production logo came up after the Sony logo I nearly lost my shit. So cool. Hearing Roland recite the Gunslinger’s Creed is inarguably amazing. I just wish the soul of the series was on screen along with the cool stuff.

 

The post Review: ‘The Dark Tower’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/08/06/review-the-dark-tower/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ 7.03 – ‘The Queen’s Justice’

The Queen’s Justice sort of felt to me like the scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker talks about being like a dog chasing a car. If he finally got one, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. That’s how I felt this week. Major moments we have been building up to have finally come to fruition and I don’t feel let down I just don’t have that anticipation to rely on anymore. Jon finally meets Dany, Casterly Rock is shown on screen and Olenna Tyrell is dead. All of this is major to the show but so much is happening so fast it is hard to reminisce for too long while looking forward to the next episode.

We are certainly getting a lot more action at a quicker pace this season but I feel like the overall quality of the action has certainly taken a dip. Casterly rock is constantly alluded to as one of the most beautiful places in Westeros. To me, it seemed like a fairly plain seaside castle and the action that followed amounted to about two hallway fights. I know that was kind of the point, they pulled out most the men in an attempt to trick the unsullied but still. The battle went by very quick. To me this points to the idea that while yes we are getting more higher produced episodes, we are still working towards a couple major scenes that are still a cash sink to produce. Maybe even more so than earlier major set-pieces.

It was still amazing to see these characters interact for the first time on screen. Dany and Jon’s push-pull mediated by Tyrion was fantastic. These characters have so much family history and they are all so smart. It’s just fun to see them interact. Though it do find it interesting that the theme of these first few episodes has been “it wasn’t as easy to take over Westeros as Dany thought.” I think that will change fairy soon. Maybe even next week as I believe reviewers were only sent the first three episodes.

The post Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ 7.03 – ‘The Queen’s Justice’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/31/review-game-of-thrones-7-03-the-queens-justice/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: ‘Atomic Blonde’

It’s easy to tag Atomic Blonde as this year’s John Wick. From the trailers it would seem that Charlize Theron is wronged and she goes on a Wick-esque rampage to bring street justice to those that deserve it. That certainly plays a part, but this movie is a full on Cold War Era spy thriller. It is filled to the brim with intricate plot twists, character motivations and shifting allegiances. It’s much more than a simple revenge tale, for better or worse.

Where the movie falters is when it gets too bogged down with code names and the he-said-she-said of Cold War espionage. So many names, real and otherwise, are thrown out that it can be hard to follow. Luckily Theron’s goal is always on our minds as she weaves her way through the Wild West that is the two broken Berlins.

Atomic Blonde is also unlike the movies that it is being compared with its restraint with violence. The trailers would make is seem like a blood-fest from beginning to end, but as with any good espionage tale, violence is a last resort. It’s something that only is done when your cover is blown and you need to get out at all costs. But rest assured, there are multiple incredibly well choreographed actions scenes that give you the visceral punch you are looking for. And when the blood starts to flow, oh boy, it doesn’t stop.

I hate to keep bringing up John Wick but they are both R-rated revenge flicks that are drenched in neon. What Keanue Reeves is able to do with a gun is unparalleled in modern cinema. The choreography is so well done and meticulously planned out that at times it feels like he’s dancing with a gun. Neon Blonde doesn’t even try to hit that mark. The violence it portrays, while over the top in parts, is portrayed as very grounded and brutal. Theron knows how to use a gun, but there are point in the film where it a bare knuckle blood bath akin to something closer to The Raid than John Wick. This doesn’t mean either way is better, in fact I think this style of combat it more authentic to the narrative of the film.

Theron is unstoppable, she is so perfect for this role and is so physical in the action scenes that she earns every bit of praise she is getting. If there’s a worthwhile story to be told beyond this, I hope we get to see it.

Rating: **** out of five

Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella and John Goodman

Runtime: 1h 55m

The post Review: ‘Atomic Blonde’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/27/review-atomic-blonde/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘Stormborn’

The second episode of the second to last season of Game of Thrones signals to me the shift in pacing that we were predicting with the new shortened season format. A lot happened in this episode that is worth discussing, but capping the second episode with a major naval battle scene isn’t something this show is known for. It almost felt like a Hardhome­ style move to have this battle come out of nowhere in a pretty politics heavy episode. But what it really is a signal of is the condensed season giving each individual episode an expanded budget.

In this episode we got a major, instant payoff for a promise that was given in the previous episode. That’s a far cry from the usual drawn out nature of previous seasons. So when Cersei and Jamie and discussing the wars to come, that could conceivably translate to major sequences mere episodes away. Mirroring my sentiment from last weeks review, now that we have this increased pace, every declaration or idea has so much more weight.

This extends beyond that naval combat seen in this episode. Jon learns of Dany’s existence, gets word of her call to court, and makes the decision to go within a 20 minute period. There is no mincing of words and no dilly dallying. Davos plainly states that Dragons can be a major asset in the war against the frozen dead and Jon agrees. Now some might say that this increased pace loses any poetic artistry or political intrigue you may have gotten in past seasons. Which I can see. I don’t think George R.R. Martin would have written a scene where the Hound makes fun of someone for having a man-bun. To me this is a necessary evil in order to deliver us the show in a somewhat manageable timeframe in an enjoyable way.

Here’s hoping the wars to come aren’t too rushed getting to us and things work out for our heroes. If last night was any indication, it may not be as easy as they thought.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Jon and Littlefinger’s scene in the tombs below Winterfell felt like a dark mirror to Rob and Ned’s scene in the same location from Season 1. Both Stark patriarchs discussing what their little sister means to them.
  • How gnarly was that Jorah/Samwell operation scene?!

The post Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘Stormborn’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/24/review-game-of-thrones-stormborn/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

It’s a remarkable thing, this trilogy. Set many years prior to the events depicted in the classic original Planet of the Apes (and produced 40+ years after its release), not many (myself included) had this rebooted franchise pegged as the next great sci-fi saga in recent cinematic history; however, following the release of its third and final chapter, War for the Planet of the Apes, it’s safe to say that’s exactly what we have here. A series of films this rich and deliberative, this impeccably characterized, this technologically innovative and beautifully photographed does not come around often, let alone when they’re about an army of super apes inching their way towards a takeover of the human race and the planet they inhabit. This series had no right being any of that, and yet that’s just what it defiantly wound up being. War is perhaps the most layered, mature, and striking of the three; in a summer full of immersive genre fare and jaw-dropping spectacle, it stands alone.

Picking up a short period of time following the chaotic events of Dawn, War is set in a time in which Caesar and his tribe have regrouped and reassembled – although the emotional and physical scarring of what previously occurred involving the betrayal of rogue ape Koba still weighs heavily – before a human squadron lead by “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson, as intense and savage as ever) strikes a devastating, irreversible blow to the community. It drives Caesar, aided by the steady hands of series stalwarts Maurice, Rocket, and Luca, to embark on a mystery-solving journey of blood-thirsty revenge, and what follows is quite extraordinary. It’s in this portion of the film where War elevates itself beyond anything in the series to date, eliciting a vibe and cinematic scale both wholly original and wonderfully familiar. The series had more or less played coy with its connective ties to the original Apes prior to this point, but War doesn’t mess around; evoking the classic iconography – from the gorgeous shot of the apes riding horseback on the beach to the all-too-familiar cages they’re eventually round up in like cattle – the film gives us what we know and love while providing just enough of an awesome spin on each throwback to make adoring fans of both eras beam with pride.

It’s what the series does with the character of Caesar, and by extension the ape friends who’ve been by his side since the beginning, that stands as its greatest triumph, however. He is a motion-capture-achieved chimpanzee played by Andy Serkis who possesses all the depth, tragedy and humanity of any single human being from any series of blockbusters that I can recall, and in War it’s the internal suffering and conflict at the center of every action he takes that imbues the film’s strongest emotional impact and propels the story forward above anything else. We care so much about him at this point, a testament to the remarkable character work and development carefully threaded through all three chapters of this epic story. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Maurice the orangutan, Caesar’s closest confidant and War’s secret MVP. He’s a big, bright orange physical presence, yes, but it’s his calm, steady demeanor and invaluable wisdom that he imparts on everyone around him that makes him especially endearing. I love that guy.

And I love this movie, no doubt the peak of a summer movie season as strong as any in recent years. It’s conclusion feels very finite and bleeds fairly seamlessly into what the eventual world of Planet of the Apes will one day look like, but it doesn’t feel like there still isn’t plenty more story to mine in this current timeline or with this current core of characters. Director Matt Reeves has proven himself so capable, I won’t lie that I’d love to see what he could do with a remake of sorts of the original film. But if this is indeed all that we get, consider me beyond satisfied; this series was that special.

Rating: ***** out of five

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary

Runtime: 140 minutes

The post Review: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/17/review-war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ 7.01 – ‘Dragonstone’

Dragonstone is a pretty typical “getting back into the groove of things” premier episode for Game of Thrones that is abnormally heightened because of the inherent stakes involved. With only two shortened seasons left, ever scene of the show felt so much more grandiose simply because setups simply don’t have the time for multiple seasons waiting for the payoff anymore. Things are coming to a head whether we are ready for them or not.

A great example of this is Samwell’s Harry Potter-esqu treck into the forbidden part of the great library. I’m betting he will pay for his misdeeds within the next two episodes, ultimately proving that importance of the information he gained outweighs his breaking of the rules. With such little time left, each storyline has so much weight to it. Nothing can be taken for granted and no scene has time to waste. Having this breakneck speed could screw with the successful slow burn quality of previous seasons but if Dragonstone is to be any indicator, they know how to pace themselves.

The actual story of the episode is about what we had expected, the notable exception of the amazing Arya/Frey massacre. Dany has her emotional return to Westeros (amazingly shot by the way) and Cersei recommits to keeping herself in the throne. Jon lays down the law while Bran is making his way south via The Night’s Watch. All pretty much according to the most popular fan theories. Right now, thats fine but I have faith that Thrones still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Some beautiful shots in this episode. I was almost in awe of Dany’s walk up to Dragonstone. That could have been a real castle for all I know.
  • I found it a little weird that all those years ago when The Hound killed that family we are expected to believe that he just happens to stumble upon the same house. Maybe it’s destiny?
  • Impressive performance by David Bradley in a surprise cameo from Walder Frey. It must be so hard to play a character pretending to be another character.

The post Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ 7.01 – ‘Dragonstone’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/17/review-game-of-thrones-7-01-dragonstone/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Season Review: ‘Flaked’ Season 2

I would best define Flaked as a passion project for Will Arnett. It is a small budget Netflix show with an extremely small focus, a group of people struggling with alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous in Venice, California. To me it feels like a bone Netflix gave to Arnett to keep him happy and willing to come back for more seasons of Bojack Horseman and Arrested Development. Although, in this new age of Netflix cancellations it makes sense that the second season was only 6 half-hour episodes.

The eight-episode first season was a dark comedy that allowed you to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Then, abruptly sealed that light away by having Chip cash in all the good will he’s gained with the good people of Venice in a scummy land deal. Season 2 leads us deeper into that darkness as we find out Chip got screwed out of his end of the deal as well. Meaning he double-crossed the people who have trusted him and taken him in for nothing.

Instead of sending chip down a deeper emotional hole, he comes out alright and is just trying to do his best for the majority of the season. But we see that even when he tries his best, sometimes people still get hurt. Case in point, Dennis. Dennis is the tragedy of season 2, taking Chip in again, becoming his sponsor, then ultimately caving under the pressure and drinking himself into almost getting arrested. This is really the emotional arc of the season but Arnett’s laissez faire take on his character makes a lot of it ring hollow.

When the show is able to honestly portray the struggle of on again off again alcoholics trying to piece their life back together, it really shines. But too often is it mired in its own malaise to move the story forward and the writing as a whole isn’t witty enough to keep your attention.

The post Season Review: ‘Flaked’ Season 2 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/10/season-review-flaked-season-2/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

It’s been 13 long years since a worthwhile “Spider-Man” movie was made, a shockingly long time considering there’s been three released (not including Homecoming) between then and now. Spider-Man 3 was a disastrous follow-up to Spider-Man 2 (which I’d argue, short of The Incredibles, is the greatest superhero movie ever made), and the Amazing Spider-Man reboots offered very little of value to anyone besides the Sony executives hell-bent on exploiting the “Spider-Man” brand for fear of losing it to the evil Marvel empire. And lost it, they did – sort of – rendering the ASM movies even more worthless than previously thought. It’s with the gentle stroke of Marvel Magic that I’m happy to report the streak has ended at three: Spider-Man: Homecoming returns the character back to his rightful place within the world of The Avengers and along with him, the franchise’s turn at some long-overdue relevancy.

Shortly following his grand introduction in Captain America: Civil War, we pick back up with Peter Parker and his very average everyday life as a high school student in Queens. In the previous film iterations of the character, we see Peter predominantly as the web-slinging superhero first and the awkward, dorky high schooler second, whereas in Homecoming the dynamic has been more closely evened out. We are very much in this kid’s life as we see him struggle to navigate his social/familial obligations to his friends, math team, and awesome Aunt May with that of his desire to become a full-blown Avenger under the stewardship of Tony Stark. It all mostly works on the shoulders of the young Tom Holland – an excellent casting choice – who here embodies Peter Parker/Spider-Man at his most anxious, manic, eager, occasionally annoying and altogether relatable.

Speaking of casting choices, Michael Keaton as Vulture is an interesting one considering his history as both Batman and the fictitious version of himself in Birdman, a washed-up former franchise star beaten down by the very system his real-life self was once/is now presently a part of. And he’s fine in the role, even if his character is a bit of a mess. Such is the standard for Marvel movie villains since… ever? Other typical Marvel problems are still present, such as the movie very consciously feeling like a stop-gap between the next Avengers movie and the inevitable string of sequels we’ll likely be treated to over the next ten years. The actual story it tells isn’t particularly memorable or inventive, and many of the plot mechanics feel as though they were generated in a factory (look no further than the army of writers credited to its screenplay) as opposed to any one singular vision. The same can be said for how the film looks: it’s exceptionally, competently well made, but lacking in any sort of artistic point-of-view or creative sensibility akin to Sam Raimi’s work on his Spider-Man trilogy or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. But again, more of a Marvel problem, less of a Spider-Man: Homecoming problem.

As with the case with most mid-to-upper tier Marvel movies, the issues are often easy to gloss over because the lead character, hilarious, pithy dialogue, and fun action set pieces are inherently likable enough to overcome them, and I’d say Spider-Man: Homecoming fits that bill. “Spider-Man” as a profitable entity has been one at odds with the rest of the superhero world for some time mainly thanks to some messy behind-the-scenes dealings that have robbed the property and the character of respectability. But now that he’s been unshackled by the clutches of corporate greed and returned to the place he’s belonged to for some time, he’s as free as any other superhero film to suck, or be good or even really good. What matters most is that it’ll now be on his own terms. Welcome home. 

Rating: *** 1/2 out of five

Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, and Marisa Tomei,

Runtime: 133 minutes

 

The post Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/08/review-spider-man-homecoming/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: ‘Baby Driver’

Baby Driver is a fun heist flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, until it takes it self very seriously. The story is about as bare bones as you can get with a few Edgar Wright twists to keep things interesting. A guy who happens to be the best getaway driver in town is one job away from getting straight with the local crime boss. But he’s not really a criminal, not where it counts anyway. So does he skip town with his girl before the last job or ride one more time into glory?

The funny, fast and intelligent dialogue that you come to expect from Wright is here in flashed but gets lost amongst a lot of jokes that don’t land or parts that are overly. The cast as a whole is spot on, but I could have done with a little more charisma from Ansel Elgort as the titular “Baby”. Kevin Spacey is really chewing the scenery as the mob boss.

Along with the incredibly shot chase sequences, the story leaves a lot to the imagination. In a good way. We really don’t know much about Spacey’s criminal enterprise or how he got so good at planning out heists. For Baby’s story it really doesn’t matter and leaving the viewers in the dark a bit lets you fill in the blanks in a satisfying way.

The universal praise for this movie is on a whole, unearned. It’s a great entry is the heists genre but it doesn’t elevate beyond that. Go in with your expectations tempered and you’ll have a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Rating: ***1/2 Runtime: 1h 53m Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm

The post Review: ‘Baby Driver’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/03/review-baby-driver/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: ‘Oh, Hello: on Broadway’

How the two characters that John Mulaney and Nick Kroll inhabit in Oh, Hello came to be is a twisted history of guest spots. As far as I can remember, the first time I’d heard Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland was on an episode of the podcast Comedy, Bang! Bang! Mulaney and Kroll’s hilarious characters were too good to just be guest characters on a podcast maybe twice a year so they spun the characters out to a webseries entitled Too Much Tuna. Hilarious as it is, there is only so much you can do with a low budget semi-talk show webseries. It made sense they would branch out even further from there, with their now cult-followed characters, but I didn’t think Broadway would be their next stop.

Clearly these Mulaney and Kroll love New York and have a specific nostalgia for Broadway culture. But Oh, Hello on Broadway becomes to insular by having a lot jokes which are so specific about Broadway culture. What saves many of these jokes is how naturally funny these guys are simply speaking. Sometimes the joke isn’t even what they say but rather how they are saying it. I even get the feeling that making these extremely specific Broadway refrences and having the majority of the audience not understand them might actually be the joke. But maybe that’s just me trying to stay in the cool kids club.maxresdefault-300x169 Review: 'Oh, Hello: on Broadway' TV

 The show outlines Faizon and St. Geegland’s personal history, how they meet eachother and how they each are trying to make an impact in the New York cultural scene. Clearly they haven’t made a dent as they are in their old age and still living with eachother. It’s fun to see the backstory Mulaney and Kroll have crafted for these characters but where the show really shines is in their small moments of improve.

Oh, Hello on Broadway is a live performance, so inevitably things will go wrong. There were no major snafus but one actor will find the others delivery of a joke particularly funny and break character for a second or they will interact with an audience member here and there. These two guys are improve geniuses and it shows. Even more interesting is the short interview segment (I won’t spoil the guest star) but I wonder how much of that was rehearsed and how that segment works from night to night in the live show.

When you take a step back and look at where these characters spawned from, what they were meant to be and how they have morphed into something so much bigger, it’s really amazing that this live special even exists. As long as Netflix is willing to throw money at these weird odd-ball projects, I’ll keep watching.

The post Review: ‘Oh, Hello: on Broadway’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/26/review-oh-hello-on-broadway/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: ‘The Mummy’

I feel like the news that Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy reboot was actually the kickoff for an entire planned cinematic universe wasn’t known for a long time. It was certainly noteworthy when the news broke, but when I heard the news it seemed like they were projecting a success with The Mummy and decided a shared universe could work for them. After seeing the film, it is apparent that this film was always meant to introduce viewers to a “world of monsters.”

I’m not sure if Tom Cruise is meant to act as a through line for this new “Dark Universe”, but it certainly sets his character up for an important role going forward. Beyond good old TC, the film is dripping with potential connections to the other planned films. Nothing is too in your face, if you forget about Russel Crowe’s portrayal of Dr. Henry Jekyll that is.

This film tries to do some interesting things, like portraying TC as your run of the mill action star in every promo, but then having him be a total tool throughout the film. (don’t worry, he comes around) Where it stumbles is in its horrendous script. It takes a lot for Jake Johnson not to be charming and he was set up well as TC’s wise crackin’ buddy but it just doesn’t work. He certainly tried his best with what he was given, but the script is just so painfully plain. Nothing memorable happens and the action becomes a CG mess about half way through.

As a side note I’d like to bring up a personal pet peeve with movies that deal with Ancient Egypt. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what the Egyptian language sounded like when spoken aloud. That knowledge is lost to the sands of time. The only reason we even know how to translate hieroglyphics is because of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. So when films have to portray ancient Egyptians speaking it can get a little dicey. I believe whoever was responsible for the Egyptian language used by a few characters throughout this film, probably a contracted linguist, didn’t do that good of a job. I believe they tried to pull from a few know ancient languages to get that sort of feeling and pronunciation, but it just rings hollow and (at least to me) was a bit of a distraction.

I’d say The Mummy is best described as a movie that you might watch one night when nothing else is on TV and you catch it on HBO. It’s certainly not as bad as people are saying, but it’s close enough to not recommend that anyone go see it in theaters.

The post Review: ‘The Mummy’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/19/review-the-mummy/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Season Review: ‘Master of None’ Season 2

The first season of Master of None ends on a revelation that would drastically change the show if they chose to go in that direction. The idea that Dev, disillusioned with life in New York, is heading to Italy to change things up. The show doesn’t shy away from that news, in fact they go further than I would have ever thought they could. Three entire episodes take place in Italy, the fantastic premier shot in black and white and almost completely in Italian. But more importantly, the inevitable move back to New York doesn’t feel forced or hollow, and Dev takes knowledge and character development back with him. His romp in Italy actually means something to the character and the show. It doesn’t hurt that it was beautifully shot as well.

What I liked about this season is that while Dev is absolutely not a perfect person. He’s a great guy but he has flaws. He can be self-centered, as we see in how he eats around his family or how he deals with his cousin. More impactfully for me, and maybe where it crosses the line is in Dev openly pursuing an engaged woman. Sure, we see Dev and Francesca connect intimately, but it’s a pretty big leap for him to go beyond friendship. But the show never shies away from this or tries to show it in an artificially positive light. It looks like people really dealing with these complex emotions. Ansari and his astounding supporting cast all truthfully portray these emotion with the proper weight they deserve.

What is really impressive about Master of None is how it can flip flop between really upbeat, authentically joyous moments like eating world-class pasta and taking cute selfies to  displaying raw human emotions between two human beings that just want the same thing but don’t know how to express it. This is highlighted by the century-spanning bottle episode, Thanksgiving, in which Dev is relegated to a side character. In the episode we see the fantastic Lena Waithe as Denise reveal the evolution of her relationship with her family through the years. Culminating in her emotional coming out and the fallout afterwards. Master of None is able to straddle that line masterfully (pun intended) and creates a show as real and important and Louie or Maron.

The post Season Review: ‘Master of None’ Season 2 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/12/season-review-master-of-none-season-2/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Season Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season Five

Spoilers for all five seasons of House of Cards ahead.

Ugh, this damn show. Through so many of its up and down seasons, I’ve reluctantly held on probably past the point of justification often because by the end of a sagging hour or frustrating arc of episodes something would occur to remind me of why, when this show hits its mark, it can be so damn fun. Frank pushes Zoe Barnes in front of a moving train; Frank, Claire and Meechum share in a three-way; Lucas Goodwin makes an attempt on Frank’s life; Tom Hammerschmidt publishes a scathing expose detailing the Underwoods’ suspected crimes. That through all the unearned bloviating bullshit and evil puppet-mastery, moments such as those can still exist enough in this show to keep me from completely losing my mind over how far up its own ass it is. But then season five dropped, and any redeeming qualities the show once desperately clung onto were all but vanquished in the face of doubling down on the side of itself that I hate the most.

This show has always had a problem with effectively portraying the simultaneous rise and fall of the Underwood empire. Frank ascends to the Presidency by illegally maneuvering President Walker into committing a crime, so he resigns, no questions asked; Frank and Claire throw the country into literal chaos to sabotage the election in their favor, and everyone just kind of shrugs it off. Kathy Durand might share information unbeneficial to Frank at her sworn testimony, so he shoves her down a fucking flight of stairs, and no one thinks anything of it. How the show has been able to justify away many of these lazy narrative crutches throughout much of its run is because in the background of all the Underwood scheming has been a Kate Baldwin, a Lucas Goodwin, or now a Tom Hammerschmidt passing along the baton of holding these liars and murderers to account. The idea that one day the past will finally catch up to them by way of a person or institution out of their orbit of control.

I had all my hope in the world resting on the beefy shoulders of reporter extraordinaire Tom Hammerschmidt and his two-season long investigation into this crime family, and that by season’s end we’d have at the very least an inkling of an idea as to how and when he’d (pun very intended) drop the hammer on them. But no; as Frank casually informs us and Claire in the season finale, he’d been the one feeding Hammerschmidt misleading information regarding the nature of Zoe’s death as yet another exercise in his omnipresent reach, and he was successful, of course! Doug takes the fall; Franks walks away unscathed; rinse and repeat. To be fair, Hammerschmidt appeared vaguely doubtful as to how much of that he was buying, but that’s the best we get? After two seasons worth of time spent with this really solid character doing smart, investigative journalism into the show’s main character and his series-worth of crimes: yet another Frank con-job with shades of vague doubt? How demoralizing.

This kind of undermining of character agency outside the Holy Trinity of Frank, Claire, and Doug speaks so clearly to House of Cards’ greatest problem: that the people around this trio aren’t people at all, but little worker bees flying around in circles at the whims of whatever the fuck they want at any given time. I know the Underwoods callously steamrolling their way through every seeming obstacle in their path has been the show’s calling card from the beginning, and to many people likely its most entertaining facet. But at this point in its run, watching these people mow down all those opposed them through lying, blackmailing, bullying and murdering without a single lasting consequence not only feels like unacceptable writing, but a borderline offense on the intelligence of its audience. This show has always presented itself as a “rise and fall” narrative – we know this because there’s barely been a single episode through all five seasons in which a supporting character hasn’t been digging into the Underwoods and their associates’ past illegal actions – but to this point it’s essentially only been about their rise, with an occasional easily dispatched hiccup along the way. Every time we near their inevitable fall they overcome it only to become more powerful in the process. It’s finally left me asking: without the fall, or the hint of an eventual fall, what’s the damn point?

Quick Thoughts:

  • Of course Frank was pulling all the strings of his impeachment process from the very beginning! Why wouldn’t he have been? You see in this Universe, it’s the President who’s the smart one and everyone else around him that’s incredibly, deeply stupid.
  • Ever since Frank and Claire stole Kathy Durand’s VP nomination right out from under her, she’s been free-falling her way into becoming the show’s most pathetic sucker. Which is a shame, because when she’s not busy being Frank’s #1 patsy, she feels like a reasonably decent and intelligent person. And we just know when she regains the capacity to speak she’s gonna keep her lips sealed as to how she conveniently tumbled down that flight of stairs, right?  
  • It’s so typical of this show to first introduce Will Conway as an ultra-competent challenger to Frank in the season four episodes where he needed to be, and then do the complete inverse of that in the season five episodes where he needed to become unhinged in order to sell Frank’s victory over him. And as soon as Frank was done with him we never heard from him again. He only mattered so far as the show needed him to get Frank from point A to point B in as prolonged fashion as possible; once he served his plot purpose, away he went.
  • So Claire is now the President, an outcome I predicted would happen from the beginning of the season, although my money was on her more blatantly sabotaging Frank to get the job. Putting the preposterousness of this development aside (she goes from estranged First Lady, to backdoor VP nominee, to Acting President, to VP, to President in the span of a year or so?), I don’t hate it. If she holds her ground on not pardoning Frank, I’ll like it even more, but what are the chances of that happening?
  • The big theme of this season was elevating Claire to the level of Frank as a narrative and spiritual equal. In getting to that point, we first see her flirt with directly addressing the audience before outright doing so a few episodes later. That was cool. She also murders her lover Tom Yates to keep him from publishing a manuscript that apparently details less-than-flattering material about her and Frank? Not so cool. I always liked the idea of Claire as an analog of Frank who’s as ruthless and ambitious as he is but also doesn’t need to stoop to his petty violence simply because she’s better at than him. I guess not.
  • And the Gavin “Guinea Pig-loving Ruler of the Dark Internet” Orsay Award for Lamest, Never-Ending Character Spotlight of the Season nominees are: Aidan Macallan, Jane Davis, LeAnn Harvey, Tom Yates. The winner is… Jane Davis! I love Patricia Clarkson, but this character was so stupid.
  • Yeah, I’ll be back for Season Six. I hate myself that much.

The post Season Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season Five appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/06/season-review-house-of-cards-season-five/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.08 – ‘The Book of Nora’

It’s hard to review The Book of Nora and not reflect on the entire season or even the full series as a whole. Partly because it is natural to reflect back when a series ends but also because this episode does a great job encapsulating the issues the show initially wanted discuss and analyze. The first season was about how people deal with grief and the existential dread of massive problems you are powerless to fix. The second and third season shifted to discussing how people work towards moving past their grief and try to find some sort of solace or contentment in life.

People are flawed and what we feel will bring us comfort might not, and that’s why the story that Nora tells Kevin in her dusty Australian house works so well as a final note for the show. What you think you need might just be what you want. Many of us aren’t lucky enough to get what we think we need, whether it is financial stability, that new car or a new house. These things might be Band-Aids on top of the real problem and what you need is to fix something deeper. Nora thought she needed to see her family to get closure but upon realizing that she literally wasn’t a part of their world anymore she was able to move on. She was able to put them to rest knowing that somewhere and in some timeline; they are content with their life. She got what she wanted, but what she realized she needed was slightly different.

Kevin on the other hand, possibly reflecting on his constant messiah status, is the rare person who finally gets what he wants and is able to find comfort. He is able to die one last time and destroy that world he visits in his suicidal visions. To me this puts to rest any future chance of visions or hallucinations. Kevin replaces his need to get to that world and find answers with the search for Nora. Leaving the door open to supernatural elements, even with Nora gone, Kevin knows she isn’t really gone. He searches tirelessly, 2 weeks a year, for what he thinks he needs. With Kevin always being the exception that proves to rule, Nora is what he wants and needs. As Kevin and Nora say in that final scene, they are here and that’s ok. More than ok, being there together is enough.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Laurie is alive! With her being alive and Kevin not seeming to know who Nora was, I thought this might be the afterlife. Maybe in the afterlife you forget some parts of you and finding those that affected you in life helps you regain that knowledge. Wait, was this LOST all along?
  • Carrie Coon national treasure status confirmed? CONFIRMED
  • If you are not on Instagram, and love this show, go check out the cast a crew accounts. Some great behind the scenes shots and a lot of great reflection on the show.
  • This show will go down as one of the best in the history of the medium. It didn’t last long, but its star shone so bright in the darkness that is ocean of vacuous television.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.08 – ‘The Book of Nora’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/06/05/523/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.07 – ‘The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)’

In The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother) Kevin literally grapples with himself. It amazes me how little Kevin dealt with the tasks he was given when he went to the other side. Shortly after looking into the mirror shard and becoming The President, he asks the kids where their shoes went and delivers John’s message to Evie. The rest of the episode is about Kevin dealing with the destructive parts within himself that drive him away from his family and loved ones. The parts of himself that are never at rest and never feel satisfied. These parts of himself are physically manifested in the form of a key embedded below his heart. Kevin literally pulls that part out of himself and uses it to destroy the place where he has sought refuge from his self-destructive life.

In last week’s episode Kevin tells Laurie that he knows he was dead when he visited the hotel, but he had never felt more alive. That’s because when he is on the other side, he always finds a clear purpose and there is always someone there to tell him what he should be doing. Kill Patty, sing to get home, take the girl to the well. That purpose is what he doesn’t feel in real life and it is what drives him to these suicidal visions. What this episode did is move Kevin beyond that. He knows he screwed up with Nora, but he also knows that if somehow he gets back to Nora he can finally find comfort and serenity with her. Together.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Man, I was searching every scene for Laurie. Maybe she isn’t dead after all?
  • I loved the final scene with Kevin and his father, it felt like someone leaving a cult for the first time. After you put all that restrictive dogma behind you all you can really think is “what now?”
  • Where is ya boy Holy Wayne at? Let him reprise his role as Presidential Body Guard.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.07 – ‘The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/29/review-the-leftovers-3-07-the-most-powerful-man-in-the-world-and-his-identical-twin-brother/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.06 – ‘Certified’

Certified acts as a spotlight on the character of Laurie while at the same time moving our overall story forward. A lot of what has been shrouded in mystery, i.e. what is this new cult’s plan for Kevin, has been cleared up. Kevin Sr., allowing his son to take on the Jesus role, is planning on using Kevin’s ability to go to the afterlife to get the final rain from Christopher Sunday. Once Kevin Sr. is able to complete is final ritual, the world is saved from a second flood of biblical proportions.

But when you hear tell of someone speaking to the dead, everyone wants in the action. Grace wants answers from her kids and John wants to know why Evie left. Yet again finality and closure is being used as a driving force in the Leftovers. You could even say that what happens (or did it?) to Laurie in this episode is her finding closure within herself. As the storm that was foretold moves in, Laurie finds contentment in her life. So much so, she might have chose to end it right there. Laurie has had one of the most fascinating arcs on the show. From a character who was seemingly devoid of emotion and empathy to one of the emotional cores of this season. She’s taken up the mantle of the respectful skeptic, sort of a more reasonable version of John from last season. But in a world that has seemed to move beyond reason, it can be extremely hard to remain a skeptic.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • I think it’s a given that Kevin will make it to the afterlife, but I’m not sure it’ll be as easy as last time.
  • I also don’t think we’ll see everyone Kevin was asked to speak with while he’s there. We might not even see Laurie.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.06 – ‘Certified’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/22/review-leftovers-3-06-certified/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’

However many entries within the expansive saga of the Alien universe the 79-year-old Ridley Scott winds up making, Alien: Covenant will no doubt signal a most essential turning point in the series’ canon. Having been an enormous fan of the flawed but engrossing Prometheus, I was elated by the news of Scott’s plans to continue down his existential rabbit hole complete with the nefarious “engineers”, Weyland Industries, the all-consuming questions of life and creationism, and to chart the paths of our hero Elizabeth Shaw and her synthetic android sidekick David along their renewed journey to finding those answers. So I was a bit angry to learn early in the film’s development that Shaw (and her portrayer, Noomi Rapace) would not be returning to the follow-up, and that the new film would be all but detaching itself from the core events of Prometheus with a new set of characters and locations and mysterious connective ties to its predecessor. She was this franchise’s Ellen Ripley, and this series of films were to be her story; how could it possibly continue on without her? Or so I so wrongly bemoaned.

As the opening scene of Covenant makes abundantly clear, a series this grand in scope that asks questions as profound as to what it means to create life could never be about one feeble mortal being. But a rogue synthetic android obsessed with the very nature of his own existence and that of his makers, one who simultaneously detests the lifeforms responsible for creating him while also unwaveringly devoted to the idea of creating life of his own, and one who’s cold, calculated and lacking in any semblance of humanity enough to see these exponential ideas to their next phase? That’s a character worth centering a franchise such as this around, and that’s what Covenant does to itself and future entries in the series, but also retroactively Prometheus. It turns out we were only secondarily following the story of Elizabeth Shaw and her team’s mission to discovering the origins of Earth; what really mattered were the underpinnings of one immortal being’s quest to understanding the worthlessness of humankind along his path to creating life worthy of his own unrelenting standards. It’s in that sense that Covenant picks up right where Prometheus left off.

And on the execution of those aforementioned ideas, some really ambitious narrative swings and particularly the character of David as played amazingly by Michael Fassbender, Covenant is a tour de force. It’s the rest of the film around those things that occasionally lacks. Similarly to its predecessor, outside of maybe three or four characters (everyone not played by Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride, essentially), the entire cast mainly exists to function as useful idiots there only to purge exposition and drive the plot forward through strings of awful decision-making. Oh and also to become gruesomely murdered by the various iterations of the iconic xenomorph creature. As has been justifiably championed by the critical community, Covenant returns the saga back to its original 1979 Alien horror roots, and to mostly terrifying effect the film is not shy about playing up the suspense and subsequent savagery of the abundance of xenomorph-related deaths. There are so, so many.

The action-horror elements are acceptable but more-or-less unremarkable and unimaginative. The occasionally flimsy CGI attributed to the xenomorphs doesn’t help those scenes feel any less plain. I’d argue from a visionary and technical level Covenant takes a noticeable step back from Prometheus, for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me yet. That being said, from a narrative perspective coupled with the sheer complexity of its own ideas, Covenant takes a definitive step forward above any film in the Alien saga to date. Watching as it fades to black on a cliffhanger more terrifying than anything else in the entire film preceding it with the series’ most irreversible act to date, my anticipation for Ridley Scott’s next chapter only surmounts. This time I’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

Rating: **** out of five

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Damien Bichir

Runtime: 122 minutes

 

The post Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/21/review-alien-covenant/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.05 – ‘It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World’

In what will most certainly be our last Matt-centric episode of The Leftovers, It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World lets us in on Matt’s world view one last time. This entire episode is a trial of faith for Matt. He’s is literally trapped in a lion’s den for almost the entire episode. Forced to face his inner demons, we learn that Matt views his life as a devotion to God. Even sacrificing his relationship with his wife to follow what he believes is God’s plan. Matt and his group of disciples endure the Lion’s den, but not without working out their differences with each other on the best way to deal with Kevin once they get to Australia.

Meanwhile, in true Leftovers fashion, we get a cold open and hints from the periphery of this episode about the tensions that are growing all over the world as people brace for the 7-year anniversary of The Great Departure. A nuke went off, but luckily no one was hurt. But a nuke going off anywhere in the world is enough to start a war between nations. Global war and great fireballs descending from the sky are prerequisites to the end times. But how much of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you are crazy and think the end of the world is coming, you might launch of nuke to kick things off. Then other delusional people may see that launch as a sign that their own end-times beliefs are coming true.

I think that all that macro-level stuff with most likely stay on the periphery for the rest of the season. What this season, and maybe even the entire series was about is whether or not Kevin is the second coming of Christ. Beyond that, whether he is or not might be secondary to his struggle to accept it either way and take on a role that is needed.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • Anyone know if that Frasier the Lion story is true?
  • I loved the scene between “God” and Matt. He doesn’t think that was God, but he was talking to God either way.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.05 – ‘It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/15/review-the-leftovers-3-05-its-a-matt-matt-matt-matt-world/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers Season’ 3.4 ‘G’Day Melbourne’

The first two seasons of The Leftovers are dramatically different, taking place in a completely different setting and focusing on many completely different characters. In my mind, it was safe to assume that the formula would hold true for this third and final season, but that hasn’t been the case. As we move deeper into season 3, we are finally getting the change in scenery but we are getting a diminished focus on new characters. Last season it seemed all roads led to Jarden, now it is seeming like all roads lead to Australia. Maybe it has always been about Australia in some way. Even going back to season 1.

In G’Day Melbourne we see Nora work her way deeper into, and get cut off by, this new research team. They certainly are more serious than your average con-job, which leads me to believe that they are legitimately trying to do research but have severely crossed the line in the ethics division. Speaking of ethics, it seems they even have their own sense of moral superiority after turning down Nora’s money when they hear the wrong answer to their question. It’s odd, they have most likely condemned over 100 people to death in the pursuit of knowledge but Nora’s answer went too far for them.

On the other side of this episode we see Kevin going down the hallucination rabbit hole again. It was interesting to hear Nora refer to his hallucinations (sarcastically) as visions. Everyone always thinks the prophet is crazy until he’s proven right. We’ve seen Kevin have a lot of visions on this show but if he is Jesus Chris Superstar, he might not have been crazy all along. I just wonder what the event will be that proves (even to himself) that Kevin is chosen.

 

Quick Thoughts:

  • I loved the airport scenes and specifically when Kevin made Nora. He is a cop after all.
  • I wonder if Justin Theroux was told whether these visions were real or not. You would think it would have an impact on the way he portrays Kevin’s grief and anguish.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers Season’ 3.4 ‘G’Day Melbourne’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/08/review-the-leftovers-season-3-4-gday-melbourne/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

All I can ask from a Marvel movie, especially a sequel, at this point in the studio’s dominant reign is that it aspires to deliver a film beyond expected plot convention with some degree of thoughtfulness and creativity (unlike, say, The Avengers: Age of Ultron), and as was the case with Civil War last summer, I’d say Guardians Vol. 2 definitely does that. This is a film that takes some pretty hefty swings – the film’s reintroduction of the Guardians to the tune of “Mr. Blue Sky” from the POV of Baby Groot immediately springs to mind – most of which all coalesce around a final product worthy of the time spent investing in this mostly unremarkable but emotionally impactful story.

What I appreciated most about this film is that underneath the generic adversarial banter and obligatory Vol. 1 callbacks and last-ditch third-act world saving is the story of one man’s journey to connect with the father figure he thought long abandoned him. That’s really all this film is about and it’s through that core simplicity and universal relatability that Vol. 2 earns its place among the better superhero sequels in recent memory. Kurt Russel, initially given the convincing Robert Downy, Jr. de-ageify treatment in the film’s opening flashback sequence, is great here in that father role playing opposite Chris Pratt.

I understand that they are “Guardians of the Galaxy” and that Galaxy guarding is what most people are likely paying their money to see, but I really could’ve done without the Third-Act Rush to Save the World Team-up that dominates the film’s back half. We’ve seen it dozens of times before, and while it isn’t as irredeemable as the identical scene type in Vol. 1, the sequence felt more tacked on than it needed to be. It doesn’t completely torpedo the film as it’s able to rebound shortly afterward, but I still would’ve liked seeing it go, similarly to the film’s first two-thirds, a more unconventional, introspective route.

But even with a sloppy final act there’s no taking away what Guardians Vol. 2 is able to accomplish before and quickly following its few missteps. Even if I could do without the space raccoon in mostly every scene he appears, the movie is still very funny. And the chemistry and comradery among the Guardians is as weird and delightful and gushy as ever. These people are a lot of fun to be around. That plus genuine, earned emotion and aspirations of interesting, original moviemaking typically go a long way for me, and there’s no shortage of any of that in this one.

Rating: ***1/2

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell

Runtime: 137 mins

The post Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/06/review-guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Weekly Round-up: April 30-May 4

Another amazing week, and with a new Netflix show ready to drop for what feels like the next 10 straight weeks, it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. I hope to check in with Sense8 and the new Starz series American Gods for next week’s write-up.

Sunday

The Leftovers – “Crazy Whitefella Thinking”

Kevin Garvey, Sr. has been this show’s secret hidden weapon since its inception – always uniquely memorable in his brief appearances and always pushing the story forward, either on his own or in how he rubs off on his son, Kevin, Jr. But this was the all-Kevin, Sr. power-hour we’ve desperately needed since he popped up last season to casually announce he was heading down to Australia to start the world back up again, and it did not disappoint. His journey throughout the episode is so wildly, endearingly The Leftovers, with one preposterous moment or interaction after another that only remotely makes sense in the context of this broken world and broken man. His mission leading through his rendezvous with Christopher Sunday (what a great name) and what quickly followed was so perfect, the takeaway from both parts obviously being the two separate conversations he shares with Sunday (moments before he accidently kills him, of course) and Grace, the not-Kevin murdering old woman we met last week. Those two scenes blew me away, but for different reasons: the former being the long, near-incoherent (hilarious, perfectly delivered) ramblings of a man in search of a communion with God from within, the latter a tragic, paralyzing confession of a remorseful woman in search of a connection with her deceased children through a God-like figure. With Kevin, Jr. now enroute to Australia, I think the two might just find what they’re looking for, just not in how they were expecting.

Episode grade: A

Veep – “Georgia”

The Meyer-Doyle power-struggle has always been one of my favorite tiny details of the entire run of Veep so I was especially pleased to see it front and center in this episode. He was her after-thought Veep, now she’s the after-thought representative of his State Department overseeing the first ever democratic election in Georgia. Their back and forth over who exactly puts whom on hold was delightful. This episode worked a bit better for me than the previous two just by virtue of so much of the cast finally appearing in the same geographical setting. Something about seeing Ben and Kent huddled around Selina advising her on which deeply unethical financial and political quid pro quo she should consider felt right to me. And any time Minna H√§kkinen is also around badgering the shit out of Selina (whether intentional or not) is always gonna elevate any given episode as well.

Episode grade: B+

American Crime – “Episode Eight”

I’ve always admired this show for its bold, form-breaking content matter and artistic sensibilities, even when the actual show itself falls short of its ambitions through various kinks in its writing or portrayal of characters. That said, I found those issues to be less glaring this season, as the show settled into a fairly gripping account of the crippling financial anxieties beholden to all areas of our culture and class system, and the tragedy of the systemic, trickling affects that has on the most powerless and vulnerable among us. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to sell this season as its best for me if not for the all-consuming performances of its two heavy-hitters, Regina King and Felicity Huffman. It’s not a coincidence that their finest performances on this show to date arrived when they were each given the chance to play the season’s most root-worthy and sympathetic characters. The eight-episode order (as opposed to the usual ten) worked to the show’s advantage in enabling it to focus more acutely on its themes and core characters, but there were a few underserved characters and story beats that likely fell victim to it as well. I’m thinking of the Shea character or the character played by Benito Martinez. I didn’t love the final episode as I found much of it to be resolved a tad too hastily, but I admired the hell out of this season probably enough to call it my favorite of the three we’ve seen. I really hope we get a fourth.

Episode grade: B

Season grade: A-

Monday

Better Call Saul – “Sabrosito”

The first half of this episode played like a Breaking Bad prequel in the truest sense of the word, as we finally delve deeper into the politics of the same drug cartel Walter White will one day inadvertently challenge to upend. It was so exciting to be back in the good graces of the likes of Don Eladio and Juan Bolsa during the early rise of Gus’s meth empire, and to witness even more of the corrosive blood-feud between Gus and Hector Salamanca that we know many years from now will end in a blaze of bell-ringing glory. And the Jimmy/Kim/Chuck stuff so was great, too! There’s so much going for this show right now it’s almost embarrassing. I’m so pumped to see how this showdown between brothers will play out in court and not if, but how Jimmy and Kim will take down Chuck once and for all. It can’t go any other way.

Episode grade: A

Tuesday

The Americans – “IHOP”

Another week, another really solid episode of The Americans. Even when there isn’t a whole lot going on (as has been the case for several straight episodes, it feels like), there’s still plenty of good stuff to appreciate at the very least. Two characters I wouldn’t have held my breath over ever seeing again – Martha and Gabriel – reunited at last, although I’m not sure what Gabriel was hoping to get out of it. The scene paints a bleak picture of what Martha’s post-American life has become: lonely, completely isolated from society, struggling to learn a challenging new language that would enable her to live a somewhat fruitful existence. And nothing from this chat with Gabriel brings her closer to any of this; just more pain and anger towards the man she thought she loved and could trust. That man isn’t doing too great either, but has he ever been, really? He and his wife have a lot on their plate; too much to realize just how thoughtful and successful their biological son has become almost in spite of them, or just how lonely and homesick their “adopted” son has been as a result of their absence. With Gabriel no longer by their side to sooth them through tough times like these, I can’t help but think trouble likely looms in the near future of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.

Episode grade: B

Wednesday

Fargo – “The Yanagita Effect”

This season’s been criticized (too heavily, I’d argue) for how closely it’s resembled its past seasons – I say too heavily because if the characters and story continue to be fun and engaging in the face of familiarity (ahem, The Force Awakens), isn’t that what ultimately matters? But damn if this episode wasn’t as radical a departure from anything this show has ever done before. And it was a lot of fun seeing the world of this show travel to LA in the spirit of murder-mystery noir from the point-of-you of a character as fish-out-of-water as Gloria Burgle. Fun, yes, but purposeful? I’m still not sure. The story was advanced if not zero percent, hardly at all, and the mystery she was investigating, while compelling in its own right, ties very little back to the core crux of the actual murder itself. I liked the episode a lot, but whether or not I grow to love it will depend on just how much relevance it has to the rest of the story; it may be some time before we find out.

Episode grade: B

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Birth Day”

The blank, apathetic, almost smirking stare on the face of Offred as she’s casually, routinely raped by her Commander is among the most unsettling things I’ve ever seen on a TV show. There were a lot of moments like that in this episode, as we see the handmaids chant and coo at a fellow handmaid into delivering a baby she will never get to call her own, a baby whose life she will only exist in to serve as a designated milk provider. Seeing that entire process play out coupled with the flashbacks to Offred’s past pre-dystopian birthing experience helped to illuminate the role mass infertility likely played in bringing the world to its current state. As the history and order of this horrifying new world slowly begins to rear itself, I become more and more invested in its main character’s plight and hopeful resurgence. Though I can’t help but feel it’s gonna get a lot worse for her before it gets better, unfortunately.

Episode grade: A

Thursday

Grey’s Anatomy – “Leave It Inside” 

Every episode of this show is magic from start to finish.

Episode grade: A++++

The post Weekly Round-up: April 30-May 4 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/05/weekly-round-up-april-30-may-4/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.3 ‘Crazy Whitefella Thinking’

If there is a one specialty that The Leftovers has carved out for itself it is taking a supporting character and letting them grow organically in their own episode. In the past we’ve gotten a few Nora episodes and a few Matt episodes but now we get to delve deeper into Kevin Garvey Senior. Kevin Sr. has been on of the most crucial supporting characters and clearly influential on Kevin Jr’s life both attitude wise as well as genetically. His character’s thought process and what is truly going on within him has been shrouded in mystery for the past two seasons.

In Crazy Whitefella Thinking we see behind the curtain a bit and learn why Kevin Sr. left for Australia while at the same time tying in Matt’s Book of Kevin. We even learn that there is a little contention as to which Kevin the title references. To me this episode feels like connective tissue between the first third of the season and the coming middle third. We’re setting the scenery for Australia and seeing that the world is just as messed up down under as it is state-side.

What The Leftovers does well is analyze grief, struggle and how people try to move beyond trauma. This episode is a character study on finding purpose to move beyond suffering. The world went crazy after the sudden departure and when something so shockingly out of the realm of possibilities happens people lose a sense of direction in life. How are you supposed to work towards goals in your life when at any moment reality could come crashing in on you and render all your work for nothing. Finding purpose in making sure that doesn’t happen again can bring comfort.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.3 ‘Crazy Whitefella Thinking’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/05/01/review-the-leftovers-3-3-crazy-whitefella-thinking/ on ScreeningClub.com.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Weekly Round-up: April 23-27

There’s not enough time in the week to write feature reviews for all 70 of the airing shows that I force myself to watch, so I’m testing out this Weekly Round-up format, with hopefully new posts every Friday. However, for great weekly coverage of The Leftovers, be sure to check out reviews like this one every Monday from the stoic Chris Moore. It’s a show so nice we have to review it twice! Sorry, that was terrible.

Sunday

The Leftovers – “Don’t Be Ridiculous”

Last week’s season premiere provided a wondrous and fatal (that fucking domestic drone strike) return to this bleak, off-kilter, immersive world through the eyes of its profoundly fucked up male lead, Kevin Garvey, and this week, now through the eyes of its adjacently fucked up female lead, Nora Durst, the barrel keeps on rolling. Nora has long been the show’s most complex and sympathetic character (thanks to both Carrie Coon’s amazing acting abilities and the incredibly tragic past she’s been dealt by show creators Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof) and it’s no coincidence that every Nora showcase episode – “Guest” in season one, “Lens” in season two, and now “Don’t Be Ridiculous” in season three – always winds up as a season highmark. This episode was as much as ever about (as all Nora episodes are and really every episode of this show but rarely as much as this one) the extreme ways in which people cope with loss, grief and insurmountable pain, and in Nora’s case, in the face of both the unexplainable (the loss of her departed children) and now as we learn the explainable (the loss of Lilly at the hands of her aggrieved biological mother, Christine). With Nora and Kevin and whoever else that follows about to set sail for whatever the hell crazy shit that awaits them in Australia, it would appear things are about to get even more preposterous and exciting and sad. Definitely sad.

Episode grade: A

Veep – “Library”

What an emotional rollercoaster to turn from the tragedy and bleakness of The Leftovers to the relentless wit and hilarity of Veep; although it could be argued that in the tragedy department the two shows have never had as much in common. As the premiere made very clear, this season is going to be a rough ride for former (never elected) President Selina Meyer, and this episode continues hitting home that very point through her exhaustive efforts to construct a Presidential Library as prestigious and glorified as her predecessor’s. But of course that can’t be; she stumbled upwards into the job and then had it embarrassingly torn away by a younger, elected fellow woman a year later. As Selina tries desperately to reclaim some form of relevance in the public sphere, most of her former team continues scattered across the country. The Jon H. Ryan/Kent/Ben trio shows the most promise, but I’m not sure what to make yet of what’s going on with Dan and Amy’s respective storylines. Those two are at their best when together, as is much of the rest of the team. I hope we’re nearing a (permanent?) reunion of sorts in the next couple episodes.

Episode grade: B

Monday

Better Call Saul – “Sunk Costs”

It’s been five long years since Mike Ehrmantrout and Gustavo Fring occupied the screen together on Breaking Bad, and their long awaited reunion on season three, episode three of Better Call Saul did not disappoint. These two men are titans of their respective crafts and it was such a joy just sitting back and watching these grisled professionals size each other up and unite, however reluctantly, towards bringing down a common enemy. And the Jimmy/Chuck/Kim half of the episode was equally compelling, too, just in an entirely different way. The Jimmy/Chuck relationship is the axis on which the world of this show rotates and that conversation the two share in the episode’s first act, and the conversation Jimmy and Kim share in its final scene, cemented a significant turning point. Chuck wants Jimmy out of law practice, and Jimmy (with Kim’s help) isn’t going down without a fight.

Episode grade: A-

Bates Motel – “The Cord”

Bates Motel capped off its psychologically daring, often-frustratingly plotted five-season run this past week in I’d say appropriate, albeit similar fashion. As a deep-dive through the mind of a criminally disturbed and unstable “psycho”-path, this show and this season and episode in particular thrived. But arriving gracefully at those various points of emotional and psychological exploration was never easy for this show and this final stretch of episodes were no different. Romera had to clumsily bust Norman out of jail just like he had to stupidly turn his back to Norman for a prolonged period of time with his gun sticking out of his back pocket because… it’s what the plot required. And the White Pine Bay sheriff’s department had to be incompetent enough to leave the Bates residence and motel unmonitored for a half a day long enough for Norman to recreate the timeline of the show’s pilot in his mind and for Dylan to intervene in the final moments because… you get the point. But that final scene between the two brothers and especially that final image of the two deceased Bates side by side in their graves was perfect, as was so much of this final season when it opted to lean into that emotional well. It wasn’t always pretty, but when it was, it was pretty great.

Episode grade: B+

Tuesday

The Americans – “Immersion”

The lives of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are spiraling, however slowly and painstakingly. Their fatherly spy handler has abandoned them, their daughter is emotionally destroyed as a result of all they’ve shared with her, and their commitment to the Cause is… waning. At least in how far they’re willing to make secondary their family and marriage in service to their spycraft. They do not like participating in the wheat crop operation, and in this episode they, subconsciously even, appear willing to destroy their involvement in it because of the wedge they perceive it to drive in their relationship. There hasn’t been a whole lot of forward momentum flowing from episode to episode in the way that other, better seasons have had, but as long as Philip and Elizabeth and their familial struggles continue to remain the heavy focus (which of course it will, that is The Americans), my commitment to this show will remain firm.

Episode grade: B

Wednesday

Fargo – “The Principle of Restricted Choice”

The plot is kicking into high gear in this second episode and I’m just genuinely thrilled to be along for the ride. Yes, the characters and story (at least to this point) feel a tad on the thin side but those weaknesses are overwhelmed by the first-class performances from literally every actor involved and the unique, familiar aesthetic sensibilities of this world. The Stussy brother feud is obviously the driving force behind all we’ve seen to this point and it’s certainly been ratcheted up to ten with Ray and Nikki’s latest move – I love that pairing by the way, Ewen McGregor is great in both brother roles but so far Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the season MVP. I’m pumped to see where that goes along with Gloria’s investigation of the murder of her step-father. That both her step-father and the Stussy brothers share a last name cannot just be a coincidence.

Episode grade: B+

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Offred”

Wow. This premiere blew me away in 30 more ways than one. From Elizabeth Moss’s intimate, bare-bones performance, the masterful world building, the tense, artful pacing and direction – it’s all there and it’s all great. Even though you still walk away with far more questions than answers, the shadings of answers you do get are enough to paint the picture of this bleak, dystopian version of an imagined future in which women exist on this earth to serve men and bear their babies. Or most women at least; there are some in the premiere that remain in positions of power (chief among them, the goddess Ann Dowd who’s amazing here) that I’m really curious about the how of it all. But damn. So good, so haunting; I’m as excited for more as I am dreadful.

Episode grade: A

Thursday

Grey’s Anatomy – “Don’t Stop Me Now”

I still watch every episode of this damn show and I ain’t never stoppin’!

Episode grade: A++++

 

Fin

 

The post Weekly Round-up: April 23-27 appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.


by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/04/28/weekly-round-up-april-23-27/ on ScreeningClub.com.