Archive for the ‘Ensemble’ Category

The Deuce: Season 1

February 28, 2018

David Simon‘s (The Wire, Treme) new HBO series, The Deuce released on disk this past week. Simon’s series offers a gritty, heady, intelligent look at NYC’s sex trade during the birth of the porn industry. The Deuce starts out quietly. The huge signature ensemble cast features street hookers, pimps, police, bar owners, college students, journalists, and young gay men all discovering their lives weaving in and around the sex industry of the early 1970’s. Simon takes his time showing us the changing landscape of business and pleasure in one of the world’s most outrageous neighborhoods. Costuming, props, set design, hair and make-up are all so spot-on, you’d swear you were thrust back in time to the post-hippie era when free love could come for anyone at a price and women and queers were beginning to feel their power. The city was still run by criminals, but other voices are beginning to be heard. Stellar acting from Maggie Gyllenhaal, luminous in the pivotal role of Candy. James Franco plays double duty as twins Vincent who’s smart and a hard worker and Frankie who’s proud of being a fuck-up. I hate to say this after all the posing Franco’s done over the years but damn that boy can act. The Deuce features Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey), Dominique Fishback (as my heart Darlene), Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (The Wire), Margarita Levieva, Emily Meade, Method Man, Kayla Foster, Don Harvey, Chris Bauer (The Wire, True Blood), Chris Coy (Treme), Natalie Paul, Michael Rispoli, Kim Director, Pernell Walker (Ruby!), Tariq Trotter, and Ralph Macchio (yes, him). Told you it was an ensemble. Chris Coy plays quiet, sexy, out and proud Paul with dignity and mischief. Everyone fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. The Deuce moves slow and steady through the subtle changes which affected the avalanche of what has become a 97 billion dollar industry. David Simon gives due respect to the industry’s beginnings and the characters who made it all happen. 4 out of 5 for The Deuce.


Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

February 27, 2018

Finally saw the Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Agatha Chrisite’s glorious novel, Murder on the Orient Express. I realize there’s a lot of telling in the book (and film) rather than showing, but the cast of characters is so much fun and having them marooned on a luxurious train makes for some great suspense and solidifies the book as a beloved classic.

The opening of the most recent adaptation got me so excited. The pace, the cast, the special effects, the food styling – all made me feel like I was entering a Harry Potter-esque adult world – a film that uses special effects for something other than blowing people up or showing us some cowboy western in space. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’ (Mamma Mia!, Eye in the Sky) beautiful shots adds to the excitement I felt entering Poirot’s world of mystery. Unfortunately once the actual murder is discovered, the film fell flat. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t shoulder-shiveringly good. I mean it’s Agatha Christie! Changes towards the end felt like Branagh was caving to the studio execs rather than being true to Christie’s original intention. Too bad. Still parts of it were splashy and fun. Just lacked consistency.

This latest incarnation ranks in the middle of the other two:
2 out of 5 for 1974.
4 out of 5 for 2010.
3 out of 5 for Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Check out Reel Charlie’s review’s of
Murder on the Orient Express (audiobook)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Murder on the Orient Express (2010)

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

January 13, 2018

Sat down the last two evenings with the 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I stayed with it for more than half of the film. Honestly I could not get into it. The pacing too slow, actor’s delivery dull, sets looked cheap. Lauren Bacall overacted. Ingrid Bergman atrocious. Anthony Perkins reusing his Psycho persona. I’ve heard fun things about this incarnation from Steve Hayes. It’s as if he watched a completely different movie. I simply could not finish it. I really enjoyed the 2010 version from the Brits. And am looking forward to seeing Branagh’s newest addition when it arrives on Blu-ray in the library. Meanwhile 2 out of 5 for Sidney Lumet’s lackluster film, Murder on the Orient Express. Better go back and re-read the book.

Travelers: Season 2

January 8, 2018

Netflix continues importing the Canadian Sci-Fi comfort food show, Travelers. And boy am I happy. Season 2 finds the five travelers from the future digging deeper into their host bodies’ lives. More than one mistake is made, but of course these are humans from a world ruled by AI, so it’s almost encouraged they screw up. I love the interplay between the team. Eric McCormack holds his own as star and producer. Just as strong are his team, MacKenzie Porter, Nesta Cooper, Jared Abrahamson, Reilly Dolman, and Patrick Gilmore who plays non-traveler David. Travelers proves to be the perfect winter comfort food show. Especially if you’re looking for low-key Sci-Fi with little CGI. Travelers is definitely more about the human experience. I’m up-ing my rating to a 4 out of 5. Would definitely watch this again.

Radio Days

January 4, 2018

How many times have I seen and loved Woody Allen’s Radio Days over the past 30 years? Is it wrong to watch his older films and enjoy them? Film Forum in New York City currently screens a remastered Annie Hall for the 40th Anniversary of that film. Can we separate art from the person? Should we? I’m going to leave those questions open for you to ponder.

Radio Days takes all of Allen’s mid-career film elements and melds them perfectly into a love letter to an earlier time – the 1940’s, to New York City, and to the medium of radio which ushered in our global media appetite. Allen’s pacing in the film seems just as old-fashioned as the time period. Places he could have cut for our current attention span honor the film’s glorious moments, taking their time. Rather than ego, the slightly longer scenes feel like a question, “are you seeing this? – because it’s important.” A stellar cast including Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker, Dianne Weist, Seth Green, and Wallace Shawn with small and cameo roles from Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Jeff Daniels, Robert Joy, Kitty Carlisle, Danny Aiello, Gina DeAngeles, and Tito Puente (holding the Chihuahua while conducting). But it is Mia Farrow who steals the film with her hysterical, “Hark, I hear the cannon’s roar” line that honestly is one of the funniest scenes ever. I love Radio Days with its nostalgia defining story among a cast of characters both rich and poor. Two sides of an ever-changing New York City. 5 out of 5.

Dark: Season 1

January 2, 2018

The Netflix German television series Dark dropped this season heralded to be an international take on the Stranger Things phenomenon. I’m not a fan of Stranger Things, so I came to this series assuming it would be better since it’s produced outside of the U.S. Yes, I have a bit of international snob in me. Even though Tom Tykwer is not associated with Dark, the series has a real Run Lola Run feel to it. Instead of three possible paths to an outcome, Dark imagines three time periods, 1953, 1986, and 2019 all happening in tandem with each other through time travel. Four families are affected by the disappearance of children. Dark slyly combines science with science fiction with suspense. The drama takes place in a small German town that has been home to the country’s first nuclear power plant. It’s unclear throughout the season if the disappearances are part of a possible serial killer, the power plant, or a disruption in time. I found part of the series to be fascinating, the pace and characters perfectly in tune with the horrific unfolding of events. The time travel seemed plausible. And the torrential rainstorms became their own character. I kept wondering how cold the actors must have been filming those scenes. What troubled me was the amount of characters I needed to keep track of and the difficulty in telling the teenage characters apart. They all looked too similar to me and I kept forgetting who belonged to whom. In the end, I enjoyed the series. I was able to drop in and drop out without feeling the tug of an outstanding series. I give Dark a 3.5 out of 5. Certainly the final moment made it clear they have a green light for Season 2. Perhaps not all is lost for those characters currently stuck in time periods not connected to their own world.

What Was the Best Downton Abbey Christmas episode? (Heroes and Heartbreakers)

December 25, 2017

Naz Keynejad over at Heroes and Heartbreakers reviews every Downton Abbey Christmas episode. Beginning with Season 1 which never officially had a Christmas episode and ending at the #1 spot with Season 2’s final episode which reveals Daisy’s connection with her father in-law, Thomas’ treachery over Isis, Bates’ guilty verdict, Rosamond’s indecent suitor, and finally, finally Mary and Matthew’s proposal – the one that actually got them to the finish line.

Hat tip to my dear friends Nina and Joe who spoiled me this year with a surprise of the complete series on Blu-ray. I watched this episode tonight, Christmas 2017 with great joy. The audio flaunted power as well as the stunning visual detail in the video – smoke in the fireplace, the black shadow of Bates in prison, the place settings after the hunt, and the depth of the snowflakes as Mary says yes to Matthew. Blu-ray continues to astound me making Downton Abbey sparkle.

See the full reviews over at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

The Crown: Season 2

December 21, 2017

Loved The Crown when it premiered last year on Netflix. The sophomore season waffled a bit for my taste. When it was good, it was outstanding. Overall, I thought it spent too much time focused on the Queen’s family with mixed results. The Princess Margaret episodes worked beautifully thanks to fascinating true stories and excellent acting from Vanessa Kirby and Matthew Goode. Where it faltered happened in the episodes featuring stories on Philip’s childhood, Charles’ childhood and the ghastly appearance of the Kennedys in Europe. Good lord, I didn’t think it possible for Michael C. Hall to hand in a bad performance, but his JFK along with Jodi Balfour as Jackie made me cringe through that entire episode. What happened? I gave Season 1 a 4. The Crown is good costume drama comfort food, but if this isn’t normally a go-to genre for you, feel free to skip it. 3 out of 5.

Fargo: Season 3, Episodes 1 & 2

December 17, 2017

I’m not sure what precisely wore me down about Season 3 of the television series, Fargo. In the end, I think I got tired of the gratuitous hipster violence. It managed to work for the first two seasons. But I just couldn’t stomach it nor could I get into the story for season 3. Not even with two freakish Ewan McGregors battling it out with Midwest American accents. Plus there’s all the TMZ drama of McGregor and his co-star Mary Elizabeth Winstead not just hooking up, but he left his wife of 22 years to be with her. Damn. Still not enough to get me to keep watching. Actually Winstead’s character worked my last nerve. So goodbye Fargo. It was great fun while it lasted. Season 3 gets a 2 out of 5. Next.

Bruce Gray: 1936 -2017

December 16, 2017

Bruce Gray and Peter Paige in Queer as Folk (2002)

One of the best things about the American Queer as Folk television series was Emmett Honeycutt played to perfection by Peter Paige. And one of Emmett’s best stories centered around a love affair with an older man, pickle king George Schickel played by Canadian actor Bruce Gray. Emmett’s embrace of an intergenerational relationship was not only a first for television, show producers handled the story with grace, joy, and sexiness. Out of all of Emmett’s relationships, I think warm thoughts when I remember Emmett and George together. Actor Bruce Gray died this week at the age of 81. That made him 66 when he played George on QAF. Peter Paige was 33 at the time. So yes, there was an actual age difference. But what a lesson for all of us in the power of love at any age. Queer as Folk continues to be one of my all-time favorite television shows full of ground-breaking stories for the LGBTQ community. When I reviewed Season 2 on Reel Charlie, “And my favorite plot line of the entire series… Emmett meets George.  Short but oh so sweet is their love story.” Emmett and George’s love will live on forever. Thanks Bruce Gray.

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