Monday, March 31, 2014

1976 - The Walking Dead: season four - part 2

It should go without saying, but read this at your own risk of SPOILERS.  Walking Dead is a funny show for me.  There are few I anticipate watching as much as this when it comes to new episodes - but it’s also the kind of show where once I’ve seen it, I don’t really feel the need to revisit.  It’s very much popcorn and guilty pleasure for me.  I like that it’s nuanced in areas, but again - I get everything out of it the first time.  This isn’t a terrible thing - and I imagine once it’s completely over I’ll go back and marathon the entire thing, but outside of a few touchstone episodes, I haven’t done that.
So this half-season was a different feel than what we’ve seen before but I think it worked well.  We’re dealing with the aftermath of their major battle, and we needed time with each of these characters to regroup.  If the first half of the season was about “Can we come back from what we’ve done.” the second half answers it by asking “Can we come to terms with who we are now given what we’ve had to do?”
I love how this show adapts the comics for their own, often richer, purposes.  Having the young girls and Carol get the murder storyline that belonged to the twins and Carl in the comics worked quite well here.  Having the group that attacks Rick and Carl on the road be the ones Daryl finds himself with was clever as well.  And I can only assume that the folks at Terminus are the series version of The Hunters.  I imagine that’ll be the entire focus of the first half of the next season - I’d be surprised if they milked it any longer.  

I think this is the kind of show that gets better the longer it goes - and what’s really fun is now that we’ve lived in this post-zombie world for a while we’re starting to come across other people and filling in their history and stories is equally interesting.  I can’t wait to see what Terminus is all about.  Fall can’t come some enough…

Sunday, March 30, 2014

1975 - Frances Ha

I’d wanted to see this film during it’s initial release but didn’t get around to it and was super excited when I saw that it was already on Netflix.  I’m a big fan of Greta Gerwig - she’s got a way about her that is infectious - she’s so utterly natural, it’s refreshing.  Also I never have a problem with Adam Driver making an appearance in anything.  
Here’s the story of a young woman trying to get over herself and move the hell on with her life, if only she can get out of her own way.  

Black and white was a smart choice here - in the days where films and television feel so disposable, the aesthetic here almost makes it feel like a revered classic - which would be a problem if it wasn’t so well done.  The fast pace and eclectic sound track keep this slice-of-life piece barrelling along.  I’m sure that this film isn’t for everyone, but anyone who enjoys a good character drama is going to find themselves with a treat on their hands.  This is defiantly a film that I want eco try and revisit sometime sometime sooner rather than later - and you should too!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

1974 - Muppets Most Wanted

I’m a big Muppets nerd, so I’m programmed to like this by default.  It scored a lot of points with it’s opening number about sequels that eased us in nicely.  I love how this builds upon the previous film, with the ever-present self deprecation the Muppets didn’t actually set the world on fire, and the only reason they’re selling out on their world tour is because it’s all an elaborate cover for a international jewel thief.  Perfect, classic, muppet. 
My son complained about the length of the film, and I guess I noticed it was long as well - but man, what kind of asshole complains about too much Muppet?  Not this guy!  I thought Ty, Tina, and Ricky were perfect as the human companions to our heroes.  I thought the wiring was clever, the jokes hit with a few solid laugh-out-louders.  

If you’ve ever loved the Muppets, it’s well worth your time.  Here’s to many more new adventures with them!

Friday, March 28, 2014

1973 - Drinking Buddies

This film is an absolute exercise in restraint.  It's like a modern date update on the question posed on "When Harry Met Sally".  Well, not exactly.  Drinking Buddies is the story of two work friends who you spend the whole time wondering when they're going to wonder if they should be more.  The chemistry between Wilde and Johnson is palpable.  Add Livingston and Kendrik into the mix and you've got a pretty goddamn good cast there - in fact, it makes an indie filmmaker jealous.
Swanberg makes his films from an outline, and that's not a surprise here with the aesthetic, but it never takes away from the film itself.  Everyone is so natural and honest, which I'm sure was the intent.  This film messes with you in a good way - you think it's going one way then it dekes left.  It's emotionally honest and awkward and universal.  We've all had that friend we met while we were with someone else that made us comfortable and question everything we thought we knew.
I wanted to see this film a lot earlier, and was bumped to discover it on Netflix.  If you like relationship films at all - this is a must see!

1972 - Girls: season three

I didn’t love the second season of this show - but I found this season to be back in fighting form, and probably at it’s strongest.  It’s lose, but we’re starting to see some serialization happening.  I guess my largest critique of this season would be the underuse of some of the supporting characters.  Don’t give me wrong, I love watching Hannah being a selfish twat as much as the next person - but I also really love checking in with the rest of the foresome.  And for a show about girls, the guys really do steal it for me, especially Adam Driver, who is enjoying being a break-out star, I imagine - and deservedly so.  I love how self aware this show is - and it really is the kind of thing that makes me jealous as a storyteller.  I think what Lena Dunham has done here is something a lot of us would love to be in the position to do - and I think she’s doing a bang-up job.  I’m very curious to see how the end of this season will resolve itself moving forward - but I’ll be there for sure.  If you haven’t started yet Season 1 is widely available - and while I don’t love Season 2 it’s worth blasting through to get back to the good stuff in this most recent season.

1971 - House of Cards: season two

If you haven’t caught up, stop reading now.  Spoilers abound.  I have to admit that it took me a while to get into the first season of this show, but the second one went down smooth as silk.  Kate Mara’s exit made my jaw drop - and that’s no small feat.  I respect a show that isn’t scared to fuck with the status quo.  It was a move that let you know that this season was going to take no prisoners.  This is character who has literally murdered his way into the most powerful position in the free world.  It’s Dexter with politics, although a stronger, fiercer show - and I just can’t imagine a show would have this title if it wasn’t going to start watching the house topple at some point.  The beauty of where the show is now, and having him on top of the world, is the joy it’s going to be watching him get his.  This is one of the things that make your Netflix subscription a no brainer.

1970 - The Privledged

Full disclosure - a producer I’m working with on various projects is one of the masterminds behind this bad boy.  It’s a thriller that tells the story of a young lawyer who chose to make an ethical choice in court and now it might cost him his job.  While visiting his boss at his up north cottage they are all attacked by a local family - and our hero is offered a chance to join the privileged 1% in return for siding with, arguably, the bad guy.  It’s a topical piece, and probably comes off a bit as a light thriller, but I dig it enough.  It’s not perfect, but if you like character thrillers where people dance with the darkness, and you’re a fan of True Blood’s Sam Trammel, then this might just be the ticket for you.

1969 - The Birder

I saw this film play at the Canadian Film Fest, and I was mostly interested in it because my dear friend Tommie Amber Pirie is in it, and also I dig Tom Cavanagh.  The Birder is a light comedy about a man who discovers that his life long dream has slipped out of his grasp.  There is an audience or this film, but sadly it’s not me.  It’s a very sweet film, and I think that the people that would respond to this film would like it a lot - for me it’s a bit too sugary sweet and tame.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that, just didn’t jive with my personal sensibilities.  I believe it’s getting a wider release shortly - so if you dig light comedies, this might just be up your alley.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

1968 - The Wolf of Wall Street

Every now and then we get to see Scorsese play with one of his favourite themes: abundance.  It’s amazing to think that this is the work of a man in his 70’s, and in his fifth outing with Leonard DiCaprio he pulls out all the stops.  Let’s be clear - DiCaprio is good here - but Jonah Hill comes to this film as a man possessed.  He’s playing a fully fleshed character that lesser actors would turn into a caraciture.  

This film is a case study in amazing scene construction.  Each scene and sequence dazzle and are a shitload of fun.  That said, the parts are stronger than the whole.  The running time bogs it down, and you wonder if the theme of excess hasn’t made Scorsese be a bit excessive with his scenes.  So it’s worth seeing absolutely - but at just under 3 hours it’s a bit of a beast.

1967 - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Came to this late.  I haven’t read the books, and I only just caught the first film in the series on Netflix - but I dig it.  The world feels a bit heavy handed at times, but it’s sci-fi with a message.  I like that it teased the idea of the first one while ripping open the concept here.  The set-up felt a little long winded - but this story is also the hallway that bridges the first chapter and whatever’s to come next.  I was sad to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman here and felt he was underused quite a bit - hopefully he gets to step it up a notch in the final films.  Jennifer Laurence continues to be a delight to watch on the screen, and I love that she’s using her popularity from this to pick some really awesome and interesting roles otherwise.  As always, Woody Harrelson is a much welcome addition.  I’m excited for the next chapter!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

1966 - Alan Partridge

I can’t say I was super up to date on the legacy of Alan Partridge outside of knowing that he’s a Steve Coogan character that’s lasted for several decades.  I love that idea of having a persona that can last for that long and something to build upon.  So with that I can safely say that this film works whether you’re a Partridge fan or not - so long as you appreciate British humour, you’re good to go.  It’s the kind of comedy where there’s literally several laughs a minute and a bunch you miss just because you’re still recovering from the last one.

And let’s call it what it is - this is just a fun film - it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to change your life or leave you having a long conversation about the human condition - it’s just meant to be a lot of fun, and that’s exactly what it is.  So if that’s what you’re in the market for check it out while it’s in theatres in Canada.  Highly recommend it to cure the everlasting winter blues.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

1965 - True Detective: season one

I have to be honest in that I struggled with this series.  I kept up with it more for reasons of pop culture than of any real interest.  It felt a bit like homework for the most part, like the vegetables on the side of the plate that you eat just to get it over with.  I was wow’d by the performances, and it’s visual panache, but I just never really got out of it what a lot of others did, or felt like it was special in any way.  So this will be short and sweet ‘cause you don’t need to read me going on and on about not digging something.  Bottom line - lots of people loved this - I thought it was merely okay.  I’d check out a second season based on what the new story was potentially.