Tag Archives: Actor

Bosch (series finale)

[4 stars]

There is nothing more wonderful for a show than to go out on a high, and Bosch most definitely did. In many ways, this was their best season yet, though it stood and relied on all the underpinnings of the previous 6.

Titus Welliver (Escape Plan 2: Hades) embodied Connelly’s detective. He created a tough, thoughtful man, driven by justice more than rules, but very specific about when he’s willing to color outside the lines.

Supported by Jamie Hector as his slightly messed up partner and Amy Aquino (The Lazarus Effect) as his strong but besieged Captain, he’s navigated multiple crimes and corruption, joy and tragedy. Lance Reddick (Sylvie’s Love) as the Chief of Police certainly contributed to both sides of that equation over time. And, as comic relief (often with more than a little edge) Troy Evans and Gregory Scott Cummins as the OG detective partners in the room make the best old married couple on TV.

Madison Lintz grew with the show as Bosch’s daughter. We got to watch her find her feet as an actor and a character. By the end, she has found her footing, with the surprising help of Mimi Rogers, and has blended the best of Bosch and her mother.

There is little doubt where the series had to end, given some of the changes that were made when it was adapted. Both readers and watchers will feel a sense of completion with the arc, regardless of how they came to it. Despite a number of parallel threads running through the season, all are tied up nicely (and one perhaps a bit too conveniently, but was necessary for dramatic effect). And there is still room for it to go forward if they execute on the rumors that are circulating. Suffice to say, if you enjoy police procedural, this is one of the best done in a long time. It is, in some ways, the male counterpart to Prime Suspect, but with a very different perspective and a very different set of flaws.

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Hacks

[3.5 stars]

First, let me take a moment to praise the great Jean Smart (Superintelligence) who, after 5 decades in the business, is still enjoying success and delivering wonderful performances. And this latest dark and off-color comedy, with her partner-in-crime Hannah Einbinder, is a great escape as well as a fun musing on generational change and differences (and samnesses).

Broad City trio, Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky have found a great balance between the two main characters and their perspectives. They, obviously, find themselves learning more about each other as time goes on and, through that, about their own lives and choices. That’s the formula. But sharp edge of the dialogue and the bare honesty of the business they are in is entertaining as hell.

Hacks constantly evolves as it progresses, each episode peeling back layers of artifice and assumption. But through it all are funny moments and snappy dialogue. The main female duo dominate, but the help of Christopher McDonald, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins shouldn’t be overlooked.

It still has a couple episodes to go, so you can jump on the train and catch up before it finales. And, given the trip so far, I’m willing to get ahead of the finale to recommend it now. In case you’re worried, it’s already been renewed for a second season, so you’re not making an investment that will leave you hanging.

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Supernova

[3.5 stars]

Better known as an actor, Harry Macqueen wrote and directed this quietly intense story that should be recognizable to anyone who has ever been, or ever wanted to be, in a long-term relationship. Despite its framing, it isn’t a story about a gay couple, it’s a story about two lovers in crisis and holding on to one another as they navigate the issues. And he manages to do all this through quiet dialogue and without losing tension.

It’s worth every minute of this movie to follow Stanley Tucci (The Witches) and Colin Firth (Mary Poppins Returns) across the English countryside as they struggle to help one another accept the latest phase of their marriage. Both are wonderfully subtle actors, and the depth of their connection is undeniable.

It’s hard not to watch this and not compare it to The Leisure Seeker. Despite the radically different temperaments of the two movies, they tread the same ground in many ways; that of a deep and abiding love facing mortality. But unlike Leisure Seeker, little happens in this movie and few secrets are revealed. It really is a story about the two talking to each other and their friends. But, thanks to the clever direction and editing, it isn’t in the least boring.

This is definitely one to curl up on the couch with your nearest loved one and consider what it means to spend a lifetime together.

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Coda

[3 stars]

This is one of those small, quiet films that manages to grab you. It is also, possibly, the best depiction of the crippling pain of stage fright I’ve ever seen captured.

Patrick Stewart (Charlie’s Angels), as the aging pianist extraordinaire, is not only credible but he brings a quiet depth and gravitas to a story that is often only hinted at; something Stewart is truly great at. Katie Holmes (Logan Lucky) and Giancarlo Esposito (Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Unpregnant) form his support, and create the story structure around his return to the stage. While there are other characters in the story, this film is really just a three person play.

First-time director Claude Lalonde orchestrated Louis Godbout’s script deftly. The story never lags and never slips into histrionics or forced romantics. While certainly enhanced, it feels very real and human, which is how it manages to touch you right up till the end. Make time for it when you want something a bit more down-to-earth or if you just want to see Stewart flex his acting muscles outside of the characters that have dominated his career.

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The Human Voice

[3.5 stars]

Tilda Swinton (The Dead Don’t Die) is one of those singular individuals in look and style. She also happens to be incredibly talented. And thanks to Swinton’s intensity and brilliant timing, Pedro Almodovar’s (Julieta) take on this Jean Cocteau play is riveting.

The 30 minute short follows Swinton though, primarily, a one-side phone conversation that sounds like anything but. To watch her masterfully make that conversation come alive is worth the short investment of time alone. But the story and commentary itself, on life and love, is also impactful.

Almodovar freely, as he puts it on screen, adapted the story. While the presentation harkens to Cocteau’s theatrical roots, the story and color pallet reflect Almodovar’s opus. In fact, Laws of Desire, in particular, gets picked up more than once directly and indirectly.

The short film is more than a little self-conscious, but that is the Cocteau coming through more than anything else. The story and sentiment are wholly recognizable, and the resolution, in many ways, releasing. Definitely make time for this at some point… for the time cost of a cheap sit-com you can have something to really sink your teeth into, not to mention bearing witness to an amazing performance.

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Another Round (Druk)

[3 stars]

There are many ways to parse this odd Danish tale of mid-life crisis. It is one that is fraught with obvious disaster, but not one that has an obvious story to tell. It starts with an example of cultural excess and ends with a … well, that would be telling, so I’m going to have to demure on that part.

What director and co-writer Thomas Vinterberg (Far From the Madding Crowd) brings to the story is a sense of honesty and fragility in the main cast of men. In a culture that is often quite contained, each of the four leads opens up at some point to their friends, often at unexpected times. The main point of view is via Mads Mikkelsen (Arctic), who I’ve don’t ever think I’ve seen in such a weak character. Not poorly played, just not with the self-assured  air or strong presence he usually has. He managed to dial it back and allow us to watch his evolution through the story. It is sad, frustrating, and oddly intriguing to watch him return to life through some of the worst decisions you can imagine.

And therein lies some of the issue with this flick as well. The plot is an odd one. Not entirely unfair, but its message is mixed at best. And the pacing is definitely on the slower side. I can see how it was nominated for Best Foreign Language film, but not how it ended up in the Best Director group as well. All that said, it is an unexpectedly engrossing film.

Mikkelsen is also supported by a solid corps around him. Thomas Bo Larsen (The Hunt), Lars Ranthe (The Bridge), and Magnus Millang complete a quartet of similarly lost men struggling with their current places in the world.

Another Round is an honest view of a particular slice of humanity. It runs a gamut of emotions and actions that will elicit different responses from different viewers. It’s finale has a clear message and intent, but I have to say I found it blurred, at best. I want to believe it was specific and positive, but even a day later, I’m struggling with that interpretation.

As a side note, I wish I’d seen this before Equinox, as the depiction of school culture and graduation in Another Round, a more normal environment, would have been incredibly helpful for my initial understanding.

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WandaVision

[4 stars]

Yes, I avoided talking about this till it was complete. Why? Because it was so clearly going to be a complex arc that wouldn’t likely be fully realized till the end. I’m glad I waited…and enjoyed the ride.

Like many complex tales, there are two experiences: the initial watch and the rewatch/looking-back review. The one thing that is utterly clear is that this massively risky experiment wouldn’t have worked without the incredible acting chops of Elizabeth Olsen (Ingrid Goes West). Her ability to morph through the various styles required, and her depth of emotional landscape sold an otherwise near-experimental theatre presentation. And in support around her through it all were Kathryn Hahn (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) and Paul Bettany (Uncle Frank) who balance and feed the confusion. It’s no Watchmen, but it is a heck of an out-there show.

And, yes, there are others, but most are surprises so I won’t enumerate. But Josh Stamberg (Pacific Rim: Uprising) is notable for a truly flawed performance. He was clearly directed by Matt Shakman to chew the furniture and he did so with relish, to the detriment of the series. Mind you, so does Hahn before it’s all over, which is a shame, but she has a wider ranging presentation. However, at least Teyonah Parris (If Beale Street Could Talk) manages to pull off a rather unexpected arc without crossing those lines.

The shape of this series is everything. It begins with a 30 minute format and expands, as the story structure allows, till we get to an hour-long finale. But the first three episodes are slightly self-indulgent setups. Entertaining as heck, but stretched out a bit too long. There is a purpose and a reason for it all (thankfully) but it goes on too long. Shakman should have reined it in a little more. Similarly, the penultimate episode gets old quickly as, by that time, it’s simply revealing information we mostly know but the characters have yet to admit/understand. It could have been done better.

But the finale, which manages in true Marvel/MCU fashion to pull all the threads together, is a nice pay-off. And I say that even though it also, in true MCU fashion, has lots of open threads hinted at in the two codas.

Overall, this is a heck of an achievement. Flawed, and slightly misdirected at times, but not something most of us expected. And it resolves some of the original complaints about Wanda’s Age of Ultron introduction and story. Of course, if you don’t know about Wanda and Vision, you’ll frankly miss 80% of the story. So if you somehow missed the movies, go back to Age of Ultron and watch from there (or at least watch the Legends series to learn enough about the background).

My biggest concern with the story is how well it will stand the test of time and rewatching. Once you know the secrets and rewatch it once, is there enough there? As a stand-alone series, I suspect not. It is built as a vehicle to launch several new paths in the MCU (at least two movies link up with the ending). It isn’t a stand-alone gem of a story, it is an episode in the charcters’ existence, a bridge to what comes next. Very comic book. But is that what we ultimately want to tune in for? Dark Tower had originally planned a movie and TV pathway, because of the scope of the story, all tying together as a whole. Then they panicked and gave us a single, awful movie. So, perhaps, WandaVision is a new type of show and I’m being a little unfair to its purpose. Time will tell when we see if Disney can pay it all off in the year or so to come. Certainly, I give them credit for the ballsy and expensive attempt. Let’s see what they can do with it…

UPDATED: So, remember that two ways to discuss the show? Well there may be even more now that Shakman is talking . Check out this Fatman Beyond episode (starting at about 35m) for huge amounts of insight and background. In addition, there is also a short interview with the creator of the show, Jac Schaeffer.

The Father

[4.5 stars]

Let’s talk about POV. Like the recent Bliss, Florian Zeller’s freshman outing relies heavily on character point of view and editing to provide the necessary information for navigating the story. By watching very carefully, you can tease apart most of the truth. Most of it. Unlike Bliss, Zeller’s adaptation of his play, with help from Christopher Hampton (Adore), the truth can still elude you; but that’s ok. Unlike previous stories, like Still Alice, the film tries to recreate what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s from the inside rather than primarily from outside. How they go about that is something you just need to experience, but to say you’ve got unreliable narrator is an understatement. But the threads are (mostly) there for the watcher to stay relatively grounded. Honestly, I’m still discussing it with people trying to pull it all apart.

Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes) delivers a wonderfully mercurial performance as his character is buffeted by his confusion and frustration. But while he is the primary POV, his daughter provides a second, which is another way Zeller helps you along. Olivia Colman (The Favourite) delivers a heart-wrenching performance as she navigates her father’s illness, giving us glimpses into the emotional and physical realities and a small touch of what must have been their past.

The rest of the supporting cast is equally capable and storied. Olivia Williams (Maps to the Stars), Mark Gatiss (Locked Down), Rufus Sewell (The Pale Horse), and Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment) perform a wonderfully seamless dance filling out the story.

This is also a movie where the production designer Peter Francis (Rocketman) and editor Yorgos Lamprinos have had huge impact on the story-telling and need to be called out. Pay attention to the details in the sets and how the sequences are put together. Truly amazing work all around.

My only issue with the film comes near the end where it felt a little forced and rushed. It isn’t necessarily an untrue depiction, but my gut is that the events could have remained while the dialogue could have been a little more finessed. That minor criticism aside, The Father has already garnered a lot of nominations and wins, with more sure to come. This is one movie who’s odd ride is worth every moment you spend with it, and it’s a wonderful class in perspective and humility.

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Nomadland

[3 stars]

Nomadland asks two fairly simple questions: What is home? What is family? The answers, as we all know, aren’t that simple. Director and writer Chloé Zhao tackles the concepts in a quiet, but compelling exhibition that is primarily populated by real Nomads. The result has garnered a mountain of praise and awards notice.

Holding the various talking head segments together is Frances McDormand (Isle of Dogs), whose journey into the nomad life is told with barely an initial explanation. With David Strathairn (Fast Color) as a catalyst, we watch McDormand struggle inwardly until near the end when details are expressed. Though, to be fair, most of those are already understood by the audience, just not by her character.

For all its lauds, and its craft at pulling you along, Nomadland isn’t as good a film as I was expecting. I think McDormand has had better and more challenging roles. Strathairn is a somewhat unfinished and empty character. The stories and ideas we hear are interesting, but they feel like a documentary invaded the story-telling. Somehow it does come together, but it is best to watch this with no expectations, despite the hype that has been building around it over the last year. You’ll find it satisfying, but for a two hour narrative I think Zhao could have been more focused in her script.

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The Way Back

[3 stars]

Everything you need to know about this story is in the title, though that meaning is certainly multi-layered. And while sports may drive this tale of redemption, it isn’t the point. But, to its credit, Brad Ingelsby’s (Out of the Furnace) script slowly gives up its secrets and resolutions in ways that feel satisfying and gripping. And Ben Affleck (The Town) delivers a performance that is quietly painful and raw without ever becoming so weighty as to be unwatchable.

While Affleck is the absolutely center of this story, director Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant) marshalled a number of nuanced performances around him to blunt the tight focus. Among them, Al Madrigal, Janina Gavankar (Blindspotting), and Michaela Watkins (How to be a Latin Lover) stand out for their complex impact, though there are many others as well.

I have to admit, I wasn’t overly enthused about sitting down for this one. Affleck is a hit and miss actor for me. Basketball is not something I spend any time caring about. The world feels depressing enough these days without having to journey through someone else’s darkness. But all of those concerns lifted very quickly as the story unspooled. The performances are all very good and the story isn’t a disaster, though it is certainly upsetting at times. But it also feels very honest and assailable, keeping it from ever being crushed under its own weight. It’s definitely one of Affleck’s better performances and a number of the younger actors have some good screen time as well.

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