THE LEFTOVERS

August 31, 2014

I watched the pilot of this HBO series, and it was an hour in (1:15 runtime) before something happened that engaged me. A couple of days later, I watched the second episode.

Meh.

Justin Theroux is appealing as the Sheriff, but I need something else to make me watch another episode of The Leftovers. Anyone out there a fan who wants to make a case for me to keep watching?

The Leftovers


RAY DONOVAN: Viagra

August 29, 2014

Wow. Episode 6, Season 2 of Ray Donovan is explosive. The “Viagra” episode is beautifully directed by Liev Schreiber, who also plays the eponymous character with such skill (and such sometimes concealed and sometimes revealed seething rage).

You just know that this birthday party is a bad idea because of all of the damaged people already at wit’s end who are about to come together in one room just the time when all of them are at wit’s end. Beautiful build of tension then a series of combustions. Like I said, wow.

So glad I’m caught up now. So glad I don’t know any of these people in real life.

Ray Donovan 2


TV Time

August 23, 2014

Love the fact that there are new episodes of series popping up year around now. This is a good way to battle the summer doldrums. Remember back in the day when we had to wait for September to see new series premiere and new episodes of ANYTHING?

With the beginning of a new semester and lots of orientation activities, I haven’t had time to go to the movies (which is a shame since several things have opened locally that I want to see), but I have managed to keep up with Masters of Sex (still intriguing) and am starting to catch up with Ray Donovan (great performances all around but so dark that I can only take it in small doses).

Liev Schreiber plays the eponymous role in the latter and gives a performance that is so well-calibrated that it is probably the single thing that keeps me coming back for new episodes despite the fact that the show inevitably brings me down.

Who are these people? I know people like them exist but am so glad their world doesn’t interface with mine…except…on occasion…in my den.

ray donovan


MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

August 18, 2014

I love Colin Firth, and I’m pretty keen on Emma Stone, too, but not in this movie. After mulling it over for a day or so, I can’t think of anything in particular to recommend about Magic in the Moonlight.

If you are one of the diehards who thinks it is important to see every film Woody Allen writes and directs, I suppose you have a reason, though I’m not sure how many of those remain.

His best films date to the 1970s and 1980s, but if we’re honest with ourselves (and I do dearly love a handful of his films that continue to hold up over time as wonderful, funny, and full of insight), even back in Heywood’s heyday, the movies were hit and miss.

Magic in the Moonlight hits a nerve with me because it returns to one of Allen’s favored themes: the older, sophisticated, intellectual man who takes the lovely but untutored woman “under his wing.”

In Annie Hall (1977), the age difference was not important, and Annie made up in resilience and charm what Alvy had in great books. I winced a bit at Manhattan (1979) but gave Allen the benefit of the doubt for a time.

Mighty Aphrodite (1995) was the last straw for me, and subsequent pairings of grouchy old men with the young women who would be better off without them have irritated me endlessly.

In Magic in the Moonlight, Emma Stone plays a young, American psychic opposite Colin Firth as an English illusionist out to unmask her as a fraud. Their growing attraction to one another is as unbelievable as the frequently stilted dialogue.

I remember the Woody Allen films filled with wit and sprinkled with fresh ideas. This is not one of those.

Moonlight


Tennis Anyone?

August 17, 2014

Actually, you don’t have to be a tennis fan to enjoy Shiv Paul’s new documentary short Queens at Court.

The delightful film follows four tennis players – some likely some unlikely – who have found community (and more, but why would I include spoilers?) through participating in the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance.

Queens at Court will screen in Winston-Salem Wednesday night, and Paul will be present for a Q & A session following the film.

What’s somewhat remarkable about the screening, given the reluctance of many major sports organizations to acknowledge much less embrace sexual diversity, is that this particular screening is sponsored by the United States Tennis Association, one of three cities where the USTA is showing the film this summer (the other two are Washington, DC and Toronto).

I know. Surprising. And, your ticket to the film also gets you an evening of tennis at the Winston-Salem Open.

Here’s the deal:

Wednesday, August 20
5 p.m.
Deacon Tower, 475 Deacon Boulevard

$20 gets you the film screening, Q & A, cocktails, hors d-oeuvres, and a ticket to the evening session of the Winston-Salem Open. Sounds like a great deal to me.

For tickets call 336.758.6409 and provide code QAC14 or visit http://www.winstonsalemopen.com, click on Tickets, click on Buy Tickets, click on Presales/Promotions and enter code QAC14.

I don’t think wearing tennis whites is mandatory. (Couldn’t resist that.)

Queens at Court


BOYHOOD

August 16, 2014

It’s time to pull out the old b-word. B is for Boyhood, of course, but the b-word I am referring to is brilliant.

This longitudinal, narrative feature is unprecedented. In what must surely have been an experiment (how could have known this would work at all much less work so very well?), writer-director Richard Linklater peeks into the world of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he ages from 5-18 with significant insights about his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), his mom (Patricia Arquette), and his dad (Ethan Hawke).

The movie feels a lot like life, which is a stark reminder of how unusual it is to evoke this in the movies and also something to celebrate because of its importance and because of how difficult it is to achieve verisimilitude in motion pictures.

While Boyhood does not exact the same intensity of emotion I feel when I’m watching any one of the films in Linklater’s trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight), it inspires different types of resonances that are remarkable in their own way.

As the single mother of a 22-year-old former boy, I recognize the stages and transitions explored in the film with nostalgia and a bit of ongoing fear. After all, I know how my own son’s boyhood unfolds having been there but on first viewing do not know the particularities of what will happen to Mason.

And, this is part of the gift of the film. It is both expected and unexpected from moment to moment and filled with the mundane and the extraordinary, which are sometimes one and the same.

There’s another b-word that fits here: bravo.

Boyhood


A MOST WANTED MAN

August 16, 2014

For me, this movie is 90 minutes of moderate tedium followed by 30 minutes of satisfying pay-offs.

Based on a John le Carré spy novel, the film is set in Hamburg and unravels intrigue related to a Chechen Muslim who comes into Germany illegally to claim an inheritance but is detected and followed by a group of anti-terrorism spies almost from the moment he arrives in the port city.

The film is imbued with cool blues and grays, a somber palette, broken up with occasional and meaningful pops of hot yellows and reds in a way that recalls Hitchcock’s cold war thriller, Torn Curtain. The use of color in the film enhances the emotional tone of the movie.

While the major storylines have currency, I found myself frequently thinking about how much more satisfying the early episodes of Homeland were in tackling some of the same territory and also wishing for a bit more backstory for some of the major characters in A Most Wanted Man to explain some of the comments and connections made and to make me care more about events and outcomes.

It’s hard not to watch Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last filmed performance and wonder if the sadness and frustration that cloak the character he plays were clinging to the actor off-camera, too.

A Most Wanted Man