Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “The North Star”

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To say that Boardwalk Empire‘s fourth season has been spotty would be an understatement. While the former intrigue and weight of the old show glimmers through every once and a while, season four comes and goes in waves. A thematically rich and engaging episode followed by several disparate scenes lassoed together without any rhyme or reason. “The North Star” is the latter. Following one of this seasons most original and interesting episodes, “The North Star” brings its characters as far from home as possible, anchoring them to plot lines that neither intersect nor advance.  Continue reading

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Erlkönig”

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“Erlkönig” is the episode I’ve been waiting for, one that erupts in change for all of the cast. The cause and effect that made the first few seasons of Boardwalk Empire so engrossing returns with a bizarrely directed and universe changing installment. People die, people pay, and halfway through season four, Boardwalk finally reveals its characters.

Throughout Boardwalk‘s run, we have watched characters create their own systems of operation. Within those systems, they run things a certain way, some through violence, others through cunning, and some through sex. Season four aims to change this up and has done so in the past few episodes. For instance, the sharpshooting phantom of the opera who feels nothing for the lives of criminals, Richard Harrow, buried his gun after failing to kill his sick dog. He can no longer get the job done, a far cry from the dependable assassin of previous seasons.

Continue reading

Recap: Eastbound & Down, “Chapter 22”

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Ask any messiah and they’ll tell you, “resurrections are tricky business.” To rise from the ashes like a phoenix, one must first become the phoenix, ready to vanquish their enemies from God’s green earth and take back what is rightfully their’s. But how you justify your return lies in the details. In this case, “Chapter 22” of Eastbound & Down has a lot of ground to cover.

After completing the Kenny Powers saga last year, Jody Hill, Danny McBride, and HBO hope to justify the return of their star pitcher, but where can he go? Apparently, back to suburbia. “Chapter 22” brings Kenny back to “Chapter one,” in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC. There, he reigns king over his castle with a house and family, who think he’s pretty much the best. Domesticated, Kenny rinsed the bleach from his hair, clipped the testicles from his truck, and extinguished the fire in his heart. Kenny Powers might as well still be dead.

In many ways, this seems like the story that always should have followed season two, bringing the story full circle (and, apparently, this was the story McBride and Hill always wanted to tell). Things have come back around for Kenny, and rather than being a disruption in his suburban town, he’s now just a member of it. What a better place for the phoenix to rise?

The show makes perfect use of his surroundings. Kenny’s asides to April, her awards, Ken Marino’s Guy Young, and Kenny’s boss at the car rental depot work perfectly, mostly because McBride feels right at home as Kenny Powers. Him trying to fit in is almost as funny as Powers trying to reign.

Hill’s direction felt a bit off in this episode. HIs camera work was more fluid and faster, as was his use of music, almost bordering on parody. Maybe that was a reflection of Kenny’s supposed transformation, but it just wasn’t working for me.

Like Kenny, Eastbound & Down has a lot to prove this season, and as Kenny started interacting with his old friends and re-kindling that old fire, the episode started to come into its own. Considering most of this episode was setup, there were still plenty of great laughs and little bits about what the season will be about, namely Kenny’s relationship with his son.

Kenny fucking Powers is back and digging his own pool this time. Let’s just hope he can fill it with enough water to float through these next couple episodes.

 

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “All In”

There are specific beats a good season of television should hit. Just like any narrative, a seasonal story arc has moments of rising action, a climax, falling action, and resolution. With the initial over-arching relationships and themes of the show far behind us, Boardwalk Empire has made attempts to make these moments count the best it can.

Last season worked as a Deus-Ex machina, a reset button for the world. Gyp Rosetti presented an element of catastrophic violence to help the audience move on from the Darmody dilemma and Nucky’s relationship to Margaret. While these were some of the show’s strongest anchors, the show must continue to move forward without them, even if they put the show’s star, Nucky Thompson in a bind and Buscemi nothing to do.

Left with very few places to go, Boardwalk has made a strong point early in the season to turn the supporting players into the show’s central interest. While Nucky remains the sun in this universe, episodes like “Resignation” and last Sunday’s “All In” show how integral Nucky’s minions and minions in general are to these operations. Piggybacking off the themes of “Resignation,” episode four examines why picking your partners remains the most important part of the game. For Nucky, his inability to do so in the past, with Jimmy, Margaret, and Owen, has cost him, and it looks like this time should be no different.

Many characters reveal their inability to handle the responsibility of crime in “All In.” Willy learns that boyhood pranks can be deadly if you don’t have a partner that knows his science, Van Alden passively joyrides with Capone, and Arnold Rothstein proves that simply looking for action isn’t the best way to do business. “All In” shows characters for who they really are (a child, a thug, a habitual gambler) in a way that’s tense and weighty. Actions have consequences no matter how harmless they seem and napping on the job can lead you to some uncomfortable situations. 

Boardwalk works best when it links themes through different characters and pushes them on clear path. The editing of the episode makes a distinct path from one thread to the other. By cutting from the FBI meeting about Nucky’s weakest link to Eddie or the violent jokes of Daniel O’Bannon to Willy Thompson, the show constructs a clean episode of rising action, a slow build to the problems the rest of the season will deal with.

Trailer: Escape From Tomorrow

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Escape from Tomorrow is a film that seems too strange to be real. Shot guerilla-style while inside of Disney World, writer-director Randy Moore pulls some of the joy and magic out of the park and turns it a hallucinogenic nightmare.

The plot: On vacation with his family, Jim White learns that he has been fired. As to not ruin the vacation, Jim bottles up the stress, which leads to a surreal nervous breakdown at the happiest place on Earth.

The movie is currently getting the crap sewed out of it, as you could expect. Assuming it is released to the public, I’ll be first in line Maniacal Tinker Bell’s, children with black eyes, some dude wearing the Epicot Globe as a helmet—It looks horrifying and perfect.

Check out the trailer below:

 

Brilliantly Canceled: The 1/2 Hour News Hour

Here’s a friendly reminder to check out my latest piece over at Splitsider. In the article, I take a look at the Fox News “Daily Show” The 1/2 Hour News Hour.

Check out  a taste below:

The 1/2 Hour News Hour premiered on February 18, 2007 on Fox News. A response to the overwhelming success and ever-growing influence of fake news shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Fox News’s parody of the media’s liberal bias opened to 1.4 million people tired of left-leaning outlets and curious bystanders looking to see if conservative comedy actually had legs — a question finally answered in David Zucker’s atomic bomb, An American Carol.

Sketches usually avoid the headlines and instead put bastardized versions of liberal stances on display. One sketch entitled “Gun Free Zone” shows a world where signs that read “Gun Free Zone” stop a bad guy with a gun. Another where an anti-gun activist sets himself up as a victim of gun violence, only to reveal that he’s a career criminal tired of getting shot. The jokes celebrated the conservative view, but offered little commentary or insight as to why they think that way. While The Daily Show screamed for sanity in an insane world, The 1/2 Hour News Hour satiated audiences by assuring them that what they believe is right.

See the rest at Splitsider.

 

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Acres of Diamonds”

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Boardwalk Empire is a show that likes to take its time. So as the show ventures away from Jersey, it slowly constructs world’s elsewhere. Richard visits his sister in the midwest, where his mythology grows. Nucky heads south to Tampa and considers a new deal. Van Alden spends time in Chicago. Margaret is in Brooklyn—get out of Brooklyn already, Margaret! All of this world building, however, has not paid off in any significant seasonal arc just yet, and it hurts “Acres of Diamonds,” a slow, talky, and unengaging episode. Continue reading

Movie Review: The World’s End

ImageFinishing up their loose trilogy of films, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost freshen up their winning formula in The World’s End, a buddy movie with apocalyptic alien invaders. With Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, the cornetto boys created a language all their own and made the genre movies they always wanted to see, ones that reflected their own nostalgic nerdy selves.  The World’s End moves some of the furniture and puts a fine cap on what have been some of the funniest movies of the last decade.

20 years after high school, Jerry King (Pegg) aka “The King,” because his last name is King, doesn’t have a whole lot going on. Sure, he’s been in and out of rehab, has a place under at his mom’s and sick Sister’s of Mercy tattoo, but not much has improved since the last day of high school. To rekindle some of life’s fire, he invites his old high school buddies to complete “the golden mile,” a 12-pub crawl through their hometown and the one thing he regrets never finishing as a teenager. Continue reading

200 Words or Less: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

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The Man Who Knew Too Much is Hitchcock’s first crack at this story; he would later remake with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day in 1956. There’s still a lot to like in this one—though, most of that has to do with one creepy performance from Peter Lorre. Having recently escaped the Nazi Germany, Lorre couldn’t even speak English when Hitchcock cast him as this skunk haired deviant. Nevertheless, he turned in a supremely weird performance that both harkens to his child-hunter in M and the future-weirdo Joel Cairo.

The Man Who Knew Too Much follows a family of clay pigeon shooters and wealthy cynics who have their daughter kidnapped after stumbling on a clue in a dead secret agent’s hotel room. To get her back, the girl’s parents must keep their mouth shut long enough for a pack of gang of political activists to, well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

This is Hitchcock before he really got rolling. With an early use of his “Accidental Secret Agent” plot, Hitch does what he does best, though, in more primitive form. Still, the twists, laughs, and suspense are all there. And at 75 minutes, it’s definitely worth your time.

Recap: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Pilot”

brooklyn-nine-nine-foxWell, it’s officially the fall, as far as TV’s concerned, and with that new TV pilots wither from the dying branches of studios all throughout California and blanket the ground in rich, new foliage. And, hey, some of them aren’t just child cooking contests! 

One such show is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the latest offering from SNL-alum and Lonely Islander Andy Samberg, Office writer Michael Schur, and Daniel Goor. Riffing on detective procedurals, though without the droll whispers of Law & Order or CSIBrooklyn Nine-Nine uses the cliches, but doesn’t simply parody them. There’s a lot less self awareness on display here, and in that’s definitely a good thing. Continue reading