Thursday, March 1, 2018

2017 in the Teens pt. 2

The Factory - Morgan O'Neill - A nastier than expected final reveal can't quite pull a recommendation from my tired of procedurals and serial killers hands. I still like the idea of John Cusack doing crime flicks and dramas, but the good ones seem fewer and further between than Nicolas Cage's.

Fargo season 3 - Noah Hawley - The biggest turnaround from my initial 'oh, fuck you' reaction when I first heard the series announced to my desire to work an extra job if it'll keep Noah Hawley churning out these wonderful, self-contained (and expansive) seasons of weirdly specific regional awfulness. Awfully good. Slower, weirder build to season 3 than 2 or even 1, but good gracious me, by the time Mary Elizabeth Winstead is on that bus and David Thewlis is rotting his last tooth and Russell Harvard returns from season 1 well shit I'm as invested and riveted as ever.

Fate of the Furious - F. Gary Gray - What the actual fuck? How is this franchise still something I enjoy? When did it become something I enjoy? What else compare to it? Brilliantly dumb, but shot and edited and just gone the fuck for on a level beyond reproach. Parody-proof, post-faux-macho-posturing-ouroboros for our times. Count me in for number nine.

Godless - Scott Frank - Man, this was a disappointment that kept me hanging on thinking it was about to become something and never did. Never commits to gritty realism nor mythic cool, to feminine badassery nor macho silliness, to movie or TV-show or even mini-series structure. Instead it's a little bit of everything and a formless blob of good intentions and mixed signals. What a waste of a cast and seven hours of my life. Now that it's out of their system I'd really like Frank and Netflix to get around to reviving Hoke.

Hap & Leonard season 1 - Jim Mickles, Nick Damici - Thank fuck somebody finally made the medium  match the authorial voice rather than distorted what makes the books so appealing to make it fit what you can and can't do on television. The pace ebbs and flows episode to episode, the codas get their very own unhurried episodes, space is made for seasonal ensembles to get fleshed out rather than sticking always with the heroes. To think we almost got that Hoke show too. Solid cast - James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams have an easy chemistry and ground some of Joe Lansdale's more outrageous lines in human characters, less broadly drawn than some readings could suggest - you hear the punchlines coming (and they're funny), but they don't sound like jokes coming from the performers. Christina Hendricks too lends varying degrees of her steeliness and vulnerability to what could have been a two-note femme-fatale and frequent Jim Mickle project participant Bill Sage manages to make his hippy, both dippy and menacing - no easy feat. Even the characters that veer hard into cartoonishness (particularly as portrayed by Jimmi Simpson and Pollyanna McIntosh) have offbeat cutaways that suggest different intentions, motivations or outcomes from the ones we're otherwise comfortable assuming. So, looking forward to a second season in Lansdale land (first cycle was Savage Season... second is going to be Mucho Mojo I think). Big credit goes to producer/director/writers Mickle and E. L. Katz too for setting tone and table for maximum pleasure as both have done in their film efforts.

Hounds of Love Ben Young - A couple kidnap young women and sexually torture them to death in suburban Perth. Classic setup for a revenge thriller or uh torture porn, but eww, if the preceding sounds like a drag, it, the fuck, is. Yeah, between this one and Justin Kurzel's Snowtown Murders I don't think Australian film makers want us to have any fun with murder. Nothing to poke holes in craft-wise here, all the performances are solid and the direction is steady and sure, but, man, if we're just looking at ugly and saying that there is ugly... Can't imagine sitting through this one again.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back - Edward Zwick - Hilarious.

Jason Bourne - Paul Greengrass - Not nearly as good as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

Killer Elite - Gary McKendry - Dear Killer Elite: I think I said some unkind things about you back in 2011 and I'd like to take them back now... I don't know if it's because you share a name with one of Peckinpah's final embarrassing outings or that you're an occasionally awkward mix of tough guy fllck tones, but I just didn't appreciate you for what you are. You are a competent unblushing tough guy flick without much style, but with an above average eye for details and more importantly a great cast of tough ugly mugs from which to spout your macho mumbo jumbo (I mean aside from the trio of up front names, you have Ben Mendelsohn, Matt Nable and Aden Young driving up the property values). And While it's true, you're no Heat or Ronin it's clear De Niro was attracted to you for similar reasons and you can be called an ugly cousin perhaps pining for some shared glory from your room in Grey Gardens. It may also be true that I just don't expect as much from a De Niro or an Owen or even a Statham flick as I once did and you, yesterday's clear-eyed pass, are tonight's drunk-goggled booty call and you performed admirably. So, don't lose my number and feel free to use the front door... I'll even call you a cab. Don't go changing for nobody. See you again soon.

Live By Night Ben Affleck - Split awfully hard on this one. Good story - the Dennis Lehane roots are recognizable maybe too much of it though. For the run-time the various plot lines feel too streamlined to have much emotional impact and instead each distracts from the others competing for our attention rather than complimenting a theme. The strong ensemble cast is upstaged by a woefully miscast Affleck in the fore who can't even manage to just stand there and be handsome in the terrific costumes thanks to his overly inflated Bat-frame and apparent plastic surgeries (and, are those hair plugs?) playing tricks with a face that ought to feel familiar to us by now. But shit, there is some amazing set design and cinematography in wonderful locales and some of the violent bits are astonishingly good. I predict I will come back to this one repeatedly for the stronger elements - whether repeated viewings make the whole better or worse remains to be seen.

Logan Lucky - Steven Soderbergh - The idea of Soderbergh coming out of feature film retirement to make another heist picture is even a joke in the script - the local news stations covering the caper dub it Ocean's 7-11 - but hey, I'll take it. To call the film slight would be accurate, but to make that a knock would be a mistake. The seeming effortless quality to the film making, and the entire on-screen enterprise itself, requires a seasoned team of professionals, but to make it breezy and enjoyable takes a lot of skill. Yeah, I wondered at points if I should be insulted by the accents and mannerisms of its cast, but ultimately though the takes on southern culture and mindsets are broad, they seem good-natured - we're supposed to get behind the heroes and enjoy the come-uppance of the bad guys - this coloring box does not come with a gray crayon. The best bits belong to Dwight Yoakam and David Denman (whose wardrobe is so spot-on it deserves Oscar consideration). And Katherine Waterston manages to make an intriguing question mark of her brief time on screen - perhaps the one character with more to reveal after the credits role.

Mindhunter season 1 - David Fincher - I tend to think of Fincher as a craftsman more than an auteur - that is a supremely talented professional with the chops to dress and cut his pictures with crisp and arresting visuals and rhythms, but whose choice of project makes all the difference in whether or not I'll be tuning in. That said, his fascination with killers and sociopaths has made up the bulk of his best products from the high pulp of Se7en to the procedural punch miracle that is Zodiac. Serial killers are not generally something I'm interested in, but I was on board for this angle on the subject matter and holy shit, Cameron Britton's turn as Ed Kemper is Emmy-worthy.

Missionary - Anthony DiBlasi - Fatal Attraction with a Mormon mssionary. Um, yeah, it works. Surprisingly effective and creepy.
Mortdecai - David Koepp - Fuck me, I liked it. Just... just quit paying me any attention.

Narcos season 2 - Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro - Holy crap the body count on this show has got to be some kind of record.

Narcos season 3 - Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro - As much as I dug Wagner Moura's anchoring turn as Pablo Escobar in the first couple of seasons, his exit in a hail of bullets opened up the narrative to be more than 'the Pablo show' and season 3's focus on the Cali Cartel is tight and intense. The best season yet.

Nocturnal Animals - Tom Ford - A writer wrote this. It's the story of a writer whose marriage failed because his wife didn't believe in his writing enough... and many years later she reads his new book and realizes what a terrible mistake it was not to believe in his talent more. A writer wrote this. Great looking, competently acted bundle of nothing. Opening credit sequence is the best of the year though.

Ozark season 1 - Bill Dubuque, Mark Williams - one season in and I'm excited for what it could become. The opening episode I found excruciatingly intense and I don't expect (or want) any show to keep that level of intensity up all the time, but I'd say my interest dipped a bit in the middle before picking back up at the end of the season. Jury's out on the show's legacy, but I'd say despite the lopsidedness of the casts Ozark easily bests Bloodline for quality crime stuffs. (Not sure I can get it up to finish Bloodline with a single season to go - lemme know if you think it's worth it).

Quarry season 1 - Michael D. Fuller, Graham Gordy - Dug that hard. Why? Fucking loved the setting, Memphis, music and seventies social vibrations. The treatment of the material was top notch too. I've enjoyed the Quarry books by Max Allan Collins that I've read, but they're pulpy and could be handled and delivered as such without complaint. The choices made by series creators (both former writers on probably the most thoughtful show ever on and about the conditions and the people of the modern American South, Rectify) to roll slowly enough through the plot to develop informed emotional responses to each reveal and action are commendable and make all the difference between loving a show based on books I like and being annoyed by a show based on books I love (like Jack Taylor based on the books by Ken Bruen). Standouts in the cast include solid turns by the always great Peter Mullan and Ann Dowd as well as a revelatory Damon Herriman dumping the Dewey Crowe schtick (which is always great and I was plenty happy to see him trot out again in Son of a Gun) for perhaps the most complex character in the whole show. Bummed as hell to hear that the series got the axe, but I'm grateful we got what we did and pleased to say it had an ending that won't leave you hanging.

Ray Donovan season 2 - Ann Biderman - Aaaaand I'm tapping out on Ray Donovan. Bummer, waste of a good premise and talent.

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