Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

On_the_Basis_of_Sex

Ruth Bader Ginsberg  (Felicity Jones) was an extraordinary law school student at Harvard.  She met and married fellow law student Martin Ginsberg (Armie Hammer) before law school.  When Martin is diagnosed with testicular cancer during law school, Ruth takes on Martin’s coursework as well as her own and transcribes Martin’s work as well as her own.  When Martin gets a job as a tax attorney in New York, Ruth asks Dean Griswald (Sam Watterston) to transfer her Harvard degree to NY, but he refuses, and so she transfers to Columbia University to be closer to Martin and her daughter, Jane (Cailee Spaeny)

Ruth is frustrated by not being able to find a job in New York, so she becomes a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, teaching a course called “Sex Discrimination and The Law” and she is content, but she still wants to be a practicing lawyer.  At a party, Martin regales partygoers with stories of how important tax law is, and in 1970, Martin finds a tax case that changes his and Ruth’s life, Moritz vs. Commissioner.   In the case, Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) is denied a tax credit for taking care of his mother, because the law explicitly states that caregivers should be women.  Both Ruth and Martin are interested in the case.  Ruth tries to enlist ACLU lawyer Mel Wulff (Justin Theroux) but he is initially uninterested.  Eventually, the ACLU joins the case and it’s set to be argued to a 3 man appeals court.  Ruth convenes a moot court, but because of her lack of courtroom experience, Mel suggests that Martin argue the tax portion of the case, and Ruth argue the discrimination part of the case.  On the eve of the case, the Solicitor General of the Nixon administration, former Harvard dean Griswald offers to settle the case?  Does Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the ACLU settle the case?

I like this film, forget your politics, forget her politics, this is a compelling story about a woman’s struggle to pursue the occupation of her choosing.  Ruth Bader Ginsberg gets sidetracked, first by her husband’s  illness then by sexism, and she has to settle for being a college professor.  Even after she finds a case, the  irony  of the facts of the case and who argues the case, should not be  lost on the viewer, and that’s what makes the story so compelling.  Unfortunately, the rest of the characters lack any depth or dimension.   Martin only seems to give Ruth pep talks, Dean turned Solicitor General Griswald is portrayed as an enemy of progress, even Mel Wulff is portrayed as a sexist jerk, unable to change with the times.

The acting only features one good performance, which is by Felicity Jones, she embodies the tenacity, grit and intelligence of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a woman who had to fight to be heard above the din of male voices. Armie Hammer is relegated to a cheerleader role, which is partially the writing, and his limitations as an actor, he hasn’t given a performance that can be taken seriously, so he will continue to be a pretty boy.  Justin Theroux was annoying in this movie, the 70’s mustache, the tone of his voice, he sound like a caricature from the 1950’s.  Sam Watterson doesn’t fit the role of a bad guy, and Griswald is a bad guy in this film, and he doesn’t seem to relish the role. Veteran actress Kathy Bates is wasted in little more than a cameo.

Director Mimi Leder tells a straightforward story with very little embellishment, the pacing is good, and there’s at least one good performance from Felicity Jones.

On The Basis of Sex:  Judge for yourself.

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chernobyl

Episode 1: 1:23:45

In April 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded,  there were reports that the core was “gone”  and assistant engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, (Paul Ritter) deputy chief engineer at Chernobyl  seemed incredulous at hearing this news, despite reports from Night Shift supervisor Aleksandr Akimov (Sam Troughton) and Senior Engineer Leonid Toptunov.  Robert Emms) Of course people like Victor Bryukhanov  (Con O’Neill) the plant manager and politicians like Zharkov want to minimize the situation, but a fireman from Pripyat , Vasilly Ignatenko (Adam Naglitis) has seen examples of radiation poisoning up close, as a result of the explosion.  Do the plant owners and politicians face the ugly truth and evacuate nearby towns or continue to minimize the situation?

There are two aspects of the Chernobyl story intriguing.  One is the disaster of the nuclear power plant with the core blown off, and the utter disbelief that something like this could happen, and then there is the beginnings of a cover-up, by the management in the plant and the Communist leadership.  If news of this disaster got out, even at the tail end of the Cold War, heads would roll, so the government does what it does best, hide the truth, and endanger the lives of thousands of its own citizens.

The acting is excellent, though it’s a bit disconcerting to hear Russians speak the King’s English with the Queen’s accent.

Episode 2: Please Remain Calm

Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) deputy director of Kurchatov Institute, and an expert on nuclear power, balks at a report prepared by a commission headed by Mikhail Gorbachev. (David Dencik) Gorbachev responds by sending Legasov  and Boris Shcherbina  (Stellan Skarsgard) to Chernobyl to investigate the scene.   Shcherbina  is skeptical of the reports of a disaster.  Ulana Khomyuk, (Emily Watson) a nuclear physicist from Minsk travels to the Chernobyl site to warn that there may be a second explosion, with much worse consequences.  What do Legasov and Shcherbina  do about this possible second disaster?

Chernobyl is an intense and gripping story, it is hard to watch, even as a dramatization, and even harder to binge.  The only flaw is that one of the characters is a fictional composite character and that undercuts the seriousness of the storytelling a bit.  Some of the information is also fictionalized, so don’t take the miniseries as gospel. The writers didn’t need to fictionalize characters or facts, the story is powerful enough on its own.  Tell it, with no embellishment.

The acting is excellent, especially by Jared Harris, who plays a man torn between keeping this horrible secret and telling everything he knows.  The viewer can see the conflict etched in his face. Stellan Skarsgard is also good as a party loyalist trying to work within the system to achieve Legasov’s goals.

Episode 3:  Open Wide O Earth

Lyudmilla Ignatenko defies a nurse’s orders to visit her firefighter husband, Vasilly.  Legasov has a plan to  stop the radiation from  getting into the groundwater involving coal miners, do the miners agree?  Legasov informs Khomyuk that she should interview plant workers in the hospital. Legasov and Shcerbina have good news and bad news for the Chernobyl commission.  How does Gorbachev take the bad news?

The firefighter and his wife’s storyline are reminiscent of 9/11. There were many firemen running into danger to try to help others, seeing it from that point of view made those scenes more personal and more heartbreaking.  The Soviet government wanted to take  advantage of their citizens loyalty to their country, while also taking extreme measures to keep the details of the disaster from leaking to the West. That made the government doubly duplicitous.

Episode 4:  The Happiness of All Mankind

Khomyuk tries to determine why the reactor exploded by interviewing Dyatlov, what does she find out, what does she ask from Legasov and Shcerbina?  Legasov and Shcerbins are trying to use lunar rovers to clean the radioactive graphite from the roof of the power plant, but one section of the roof, nicknamed Masha is especially difficult to clean up, what do they do?   Some soldiers have a difficult mission, especially for a new soldier. Luydmilla is about to give birth, what happens?

The Soviet government has a decision to make about how to clear the roof of the plant, and the decision they make is shocking, but not surprising.  The reactor explosion is the next issue, again the government has a decision to make, again they make a decision that should surprise no one.  The soldiers get hardened and more nationalistic as the disaster takes a bigger toll.   The final scene of this episode is perhaps the most poignant pf the series.

Episode5: Vichnaya Pamyat

Dyatlov, Fomin, and  Bryukhanov are charged with operator error at their trial following the Chernobyl disaster.  But Khomyuk and Legasov may have some testimony that may contradict the official party line of operator error. Will they testify honestly?  Especially since KGB Cherkov promises Legasov a promotion if he follows the official story.

This episodes illustrates a perfect example of a show trial, the government has  its fall guys, they have the charges, they know the results, and they don’t want anyone to get in the way of their story.  The key question is do Komyuk and Legasov testify?  This is gripping drama that the news media in the U.S. media didn’t really follow up on, so it was thoroughly compelling viewing to see how this played out.  The postscript to the story, which showed the actual people involved was somehow more deflating than the dramatization.

 

 

 

 

My Impressions of Chernobyl

Chernobyl is the best miniseries I’ve seen since True Detective.  This miniseries came along at just the right time.  There was never much coverage of Chernobyl in the states, perhaps because it happened in the Ukraine, or perhaps because America was enamored with MTV and materialism.  And even if I had perfect recall of the events in Chernobyl, which I don’t, memories fade, so I had a very sketchy recollection of the events of the reactor explosion, and aftermath.  This miniseries filled the sketchiness with a complete picture which is a complex and dire picture.

The writing is just as complex, there are heroes and villains, but the heroes  are dying, and the villains are fighting to survive.  How many of us, if put in the same situation would do exactly what the Soviets in power did, mainly fight for their own survival and the survival of their political system.  What irks me about the Soviets was they created a  cottage industry out of lying and keeping secrets.  The KGB and the government seemed to take a particular joy from hiding things and punishing common folk who obliviously went through with their lives, serving the state, because they didn’t know anything different.  And the leaders in the government especially Gorbachev I portrayed as ruthless and demanding  This is surprising because Gorbachev is usually thought of as a hero in the U.S., for his handling of the collapse of Soviet communism, but he’s far from heroic here.

The writing exposes the secrecy and the perverse joy the government had in keeping these secrets.  The heroes, duty-bound and stoic, try to prevent the disaster from reaching epic proportions.  There are heroes within the government too who quietly try to expose as much truth as they can without losing their lives.  The result is heartbreaking , but also oddly enlightening and uplifting.  Would the American government try to keep an accident like this a secret?  Undoubtedly yes, but we have countervailing institutions that dig at secrets that governments try to keep, like the free press and judiciary which are supposed to serve as a check and balance over an overly secretive government.  The show trial in the last episode shows the inert nature of the Soviet judiciary, instead of being a bulwark against a corrupt government; it is part of the corrupt government.  There are small flaws, the writers create a composite character to move the story along, and this is a mistake, there is enough drama in the real story and characters to make for a really compelling miniseries.

The acting is superb.  Jared Harris plays Legasov, as a man absolutely torn between exposing the truth and destroying his career, and risking his life.  The viewer can see the consternation written all over Harris’ face. It is a masterful performance.  Another powerful performance is turned in by Stellan Skarsgaard as Boris Shcerbina.  At first the viewer thinks that Boris is just another Soviet apparatchik, but then the transformation begins.  By going to the plant, seeing the selfless nature of the people around him, seeing Legasov, all of his changes Shcerbina and the change is so subtle, that it’s totally in keeping with this character.  The combination of understated acting, and great writing resulted in this character being realized to his full potential.   Emily Watson is less effective as Ulyana  Khomyuk, the character is not well-written and Watson seems to overemphasize her character’s importance.  One flaw with the acting is that all the actors speak with thick British accents, which belies the reality that this tragedy happened in the Ukraine.

The direction was well-done.  Visually, there is a contrast between the dank, gray colors of the plant and the coal mines, and the brighter seemingly innocent look of the surrounding town.  There is a reliance on makeup to convey the horrors of radiation poisoning, but it’s not an overreliance.  The pacing is good, and the performances are good even by the secondary actors.

Despite some minor flaws, Chernobyl is riveting drama, which viewers need to see and watch slowly, and let the horror of this disaster seep into every pore of the viewer’s being.  This should easily win multiple Emmys, if there’s a better miniseries this year, I haven’t seen it.

Chernobyl, an explosive drama.

the-last-mrs-parrish

Daphne Parrish has the life most women would envy.  She lives in Connecticut in a large mansion with her husband Jackson, a wealthy businessman and their two kids, Bella and Tallulah.  Daphne loves her life, but mourns her sister, Julie, who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis.  Daphne runs a foundation called Julie’s Smile aimed at combating Cystic Fibrosis.  One day, into this idyllic life walks Amber Patterson, a mousy Midwesterner, who suddenly enters Daphne’s life, and ingratiates herself to Daphne by telling her that she lost a sister named Charlene as well.  Daphne invites Amber to a foundation meeting. Daphne’s best friend, and foundation member, Meredith  is skeptical about Amber’s intention and warns Daphne about her in private, but Daphne plows ahead, and puts her on the foundation, gives her a makeover, and offers her a job working with Jackson, as his assistant.  What are Amber’s intentions?  Is she after Daphne’s husband or is she the innocent girl she portrays herself to be?  Is Daphne the last Mrs. Parrish?

It’s hard to get excited about a book when Ms. Constantine gives away one of the mysteries of the book almost immediately.  The reader is forced to feel sympathy for one of the characters, but the character is written so badly, it’s difficult to feel anything for this character.  Every book is supposed to have a protagonist, but who does the reader root for in this book?  The rich wife who has everything, the poor stranger who may or may not be a schemer?  The wildly successful businessman, who is also roguishly handsome, and could have any woman he wants?  The reader shouldn’t empathize with any of these characters, because the character are so one dimensional.  The author makes the mistake that most authors make, which is, the main characters are either all-good or all-bad. But in real life, people aren’t either all good or all bad, bad people are capable of doing good things, and good people sometimes slip and do bad things.  Current authors would be better served to write more complex characters with complex emotions, instead of bland black and white characters.  The Last Mrs. Parrish has a Gone Girl problem, none of the characters are likable, and that makes for a difficult read.

Liv Constantine does  keep part of the story hidden, and then there’s a reveal, but the reveal comes with a reclamation project with one of the characters, and by the time the reveal  happens it’s too late to redeem this character.  The reader gets an impression of this character for the majority of the book and the author suddenly changes the narrative in whipsaw fashion, and the reader is just supposed to accept what has been revealed.  It’s too much to swallow.

Should you read this book?  The plot is clichéd, the characters are not well-developed, so no, yu should not read this book.  It doesn’t even pass muster for summer reading.  Surely, there are better books than this tripe.

The Last Mrs. Parrish: Go to the parish and pray for better writing.

Dark-Phoenix

Jean Grey (Summer Fontana, Sophie Turner) has had a disastrous childhood.  Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) recognizes her as a troubled mutant with vast powers, and takes her in to his school for gifted children. Soon, Jean is grown up and part of the team, and her first mission is to save a Space Shuttle mission, which is in danger because of solar flares.  Jean saves the crew and keeps the shuttle from breaking apart, but the solar flares increase Jean’s power exponentially.  The problem is Jean can’t control her powers, and this has a dire effect on the X-Men, and causes Jean to feel alienated from the X-men.

She tries to befriend Erik (Michael Fassbender) but he is on a commune of sorts in his island of Genosha, and has no interest in joining up for Jean for any evil deeds.  Then, when Jean is close to doing something desperate, she meets Vuk (Jessica Chastain ) an extraterrestrial, who explains the origins of her new powers, and tells Jean that the X-Men, specifically Xavier, want to control her and use her for her power.  Is Vuk genuinely trying to support Jean, or is she driving a wedge between Jean and the X-men for their own nefarious reasons?

Dark Phoenix is not the Jean Grey origin story that the character deserved.  The writers change many things about her origin story and one big detail in the X-men lore that confuses everything.  The themes of mutant alienation and mutant internment have all been discussed before. The writers borrow a lot from other Marvel origin stories and even from DC, and all of this lends to the feeling that this movie is a rehash of older, better X-Men movies. In fact, X3:  The Last Stand , told the Jean Grey  origin story, and even touched on the Phoenix metamorphosis, and did a better job of telling the story.  The writers substitute violence and special effects for storytelling and that is never a good sign.

This movie is a waste of a very talented cast.  I’ve never seen Game of Thrones but I assume it’s a good show and she is good in it, she’s stuck playing a confused , scared character for the majority of the film.  And knowing she is British, I was searching for her British accent, and she slipped a few times.  James McAvoy has done a great job playing Xavier for three films, n this film he is stuck mouthing pious platitudes about always trying to do the right thing, or the X-Men being “family” whatever that means. Similarly, Michael Fassbender is playing a neutered Erik, who doesn’t have nearly the excitement  of prior iterations, Magneto has to be dangerous to be interesting.  Jennifer Lawrence is not a good actress, but she was given the role of Raven for no good reason, and she put nothing into the role for 4 movies now, Rebecca Romajn was the better Raven by far.  Jessica Chastain is one of the best actresses in the country, she deserves better than to play an underdeveloped, poorly written alien.

The direction is nothing more than the average special effects driven superhero film, there is no scene that is memorable, either visually or to tell a story.  This is just another forgettable film in what’s going to be an onslaught of reboots and prequels and variations on different comic book characters.  The genre is getting tired, and Dark Phoenix did nothing to energize it, the placing is lethargic, no acting stands out, and the story limps to a finish.

Dark Phoenix:  Does not rise to the occasion.

 

vice

Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) was a ne’er do-well young man with a drinking problem who hung telephone wire for a living in Wyoming.  His girlfriend Lynne, (Amy Adams) was the one with the smarts and ambition in the family.  She threatened to leave Dick, unless he promised to stop drinking and get his act together, and so he did.  He won his first Congressional race in Wyoming, thanks largely to Lynne, and went on to work as an intern in the Nixon administration under Don Rumsfeld. (Steve Carell) Just before Watergate, Rumsfeld was named Ambassador to NATO, and Cheney went into the private sector.  Unscathed by Watergate, they returned to government in the Ford Administration, Rumsfeld as Chief of Staff, and then Secretary of Defense, and Cheney as Chief of Staff.  Cheney was then Defuse Secretary for HW Bush in 1988, and just when he thought he was done with public service, he got a fateful call from newly elected President George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) in 2001, who wanted him to be his Vice President. Lynne Cheney thinks he should refuse, as the vice presidency is a do-nothing job, but Cheney is seriously mulling over his answer.  Does he take the job?

Vice is an alternately funny, and painful retelling of the life of Richard B. Cheney.  What a viewer thinks  is funny, and what a viewer thinks is painful depends wholly on his/her political point of view. Vice posits a lot of theories about Dick Cheney.  And whether a viewer believes the theories about Cheney’s power and his control over the policies of the Bush administration, and whether one believes all those theories or dismisses them is again viewed from a political prism.  There were things that were amateurish and overdone, like a ubiquitous all-knowing narrator, who seemed to be everyone and no one all at once, like a Greek chorus telling viewers what the writers thought was important.  There were also phony end credits half-way through the movie, for comedic effect, all of which manage to undermine the serious subject matter.  There is one moment that stands out, however and that is Cheney’s final soliloquy, it expresses Cheney’s world view perfectly, and justifies, at least in his own mind, what he did and how he did it.  But the script can’t decide if it’s a tongue-in-cheek satire or a documentary style fictional drama, and that hurts this movie a lot.  If it had decided on a tone, and stuck to it, Vice would have been a much better movie.

The one aspect for this movie that is clear is Christian Bale’s absolute mastery of the role of Dick Cheney.  It is more than an impression, he gets the mannerisms the facial gesticulations, the voice, everything  is perfect, he doesn’t become Dick Cheney, he IS Dick Cheney.  Even the way Bale walks after he amasses all this power, astride the world like a Colossus, he’s the most powerful man in the world and he knows it. The writers also portray Dick Cheney as ruthlessly Machiavellian, and Bale portrays the cold-bloodedness with a Cheshire cat grin.  Amy Adams gives a surprisingly strong performance, Lynne Cheney is not a shrinking violet standing by her man, she actually shapes Dick Cheney to be the man she wants him to be, and Amy Adams sinks her teeth into this meaty role and makes Lynne Cheney a fierce human being. Kudos to the writers, and also Adams for making Lynne Cheney much more interesting than I ever thought she could be.

From the dizzying heights of Christian Bale and Amy Adams, the acting precipitously descends into ham handed mediocrity.  Steve Carell is most guilty of horrendously bad acting.  He plays Don Rumsfeld as as a completely unserious person, and I’ve watched enough press  conferences with Don Rumsfeld and he always struck me as a serious person, not someone who  is used for comedy relief.  Sam Rockwell  does perhaps the best impression of George W Bush I’ve seen so far,  but the writers give him nothing to work with the character is a  dim-witted, hallow party-boy, not interested in governing, and willing to hand over power to Cheney.  This is a total caricature of a man who was our president.  And Tyler Perry was just the first available black actor to play Colin Powell, he brought nothing to the role. Go back to putting on a dress Tyler Perry.

The direction is gimmicky visually, using Cheney’s heart problems as a metaphor, as in black hearted Cheney, the heart of all evil.  The omnipresent narrator is gimmicky too, and totally unnecessary.  Audiences can understand a narrative without it being spoon-fed to them.  The performances by Bale and Adams were outstanding, but Adam McKay, who also wrote the movie, turned this movie into much more of a comedy routine than it should have been.

Vice:  The story of Dick Cheney’s vice grip on power.

killing eve

Episode 1: Nice Face

MI5 Security Agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is doing her own private investigation of the murder of a shady Russian politician.  She is making side bets with her boss, Bill Pargrave, (David Haig) about how the politician was killed and who killed him.  Eve is tasked with protecting the only witness to the killing, the politician’s girlfriend, Kasia Molkovska  (Edyta Budnik)  Can Eve protect her?

This episode is a great introduction to what looks to be a very good show, the plot is interesting and unexpected in a lot of ways and the acting is very good.  The cast is mostly British, except for Oh, who I never really cared for as an actress.  I did not like Sideways at all, but Oh shows good timing here and the humor is very dry understated British humor.  Pretty impressive for the opening salvo.  There are even some good production values here and the show looks stylish.

Episode 2:  I’ll Deal With Him Later

After being relieved of her duties, Eve is offered an opportunity by Carolyn Martins (Fiona Shaw) of MI6 to track down the assassin whom Eve seems obsessed with.  The assassin , Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is having a little trouble controller her bloodlust, despite being warned by her handler, Konstantin(Kim Bodnia)  many times to tone her flashy behavior down. Has Eve met Villanelle before?

It’s interesting that this episode spends most of this episode is devoted to Villanelle, because she is the much more interesting character.  Eve and her gang of detectives seem to be comedy relief, and play second fiddle to Villanelle in a show named after Eve.  I don’t know if that was intended, but that the way it seems.  Great performance by Julie Comer who seems to enjoy killing way too much, her performance has hijacked the show from Sandra  Oh.

Episode 3:  Don’t I know You?

After Villanelle kills a Chinese cyber expert, Zhang Wu (Simon Chin) in a dubious location in Berlin, Eve and Bill try to track her down, even while Konstantin warns  Villanelle that they are in town, and that she should report their doings back to him.  The Chinese government representative, Jin Yeong  (Lobo Chan) seems more interested in Eve  then finding out what happened to his dead compatriot.  What is he after?

This is the first, and I hope, only, weak episode of Killing Eve, the plot breaks down in silly and correctable ways, the secondary characters are cartoonish in their simplicity, and most shocking of all the script has some really old and tired female objectification. I guess the #MeToo movement hasn’t reached the UK as of yet.  And this script was written by a woman.  The ending of this episode is very predictable, and Villanelle, who should be the most unpredictable character is predictably crazy.

 

 

Episode 4:  Sorry Baby

Eve is distressed about what happened to  Bill.  Chinese intelligence points to a mole in British intelligence.  At the same time, Villanelle is part of an assassination team that wants to kill the same mole?  Who I the British mole and do Eve and her time save him from Villanelle?

This was another weak episode,   because it makes Mi6 so inept, Eve and pals spend half the episode tailing the right person, and then half the episode wondering who’s after the mole.  There’s an assassin on the loose, and they can’t figure out why the mole is running for his life?  Don’t ask Eve Polastri to protect anyone, she is unable to o it.

Episode 5:  I Have A Thing About Bathrooms

Eve tries to protect the mole, while being chased by Villanelle.  Is she successful in either catching Villanelle or protecting the mole? Villanelle also finds out that Nadia, who was part of the hit squad on the mole, is alive, and sharing information with the British authorities,

I used to like this show, but it has left  the realm of reality, and entered some fantasy world, trying to make a point other than anything to do with spying.  There is no way an MI6 officer would act this brazenly stupid all the time.  And on top of it, Eve screams, proving the sexist point that spying is not women’s work.  Whatever point this show is trying to make, it’s making the opposite point.

Episode 6:  Take Me To The Hole

Villanelle travels to Russia to find Nadia, and Eve and Carolynn Martins follow suit.  Following Villanelle puts a strain on Eve’s marriage. At dinner, a surprise guest joins Eve and Carolyn, who is it?

This was an interesting episode, because instead of trying to psychoanalyze Eve, it got back to the central premise of the show which is spying.  The spying aspect is more interesting than any of the personalities involved.  The writers tend to overplay Villanelle’s character, like she’s a superhero that can’t be destroyed.  They should stop that.

Episode 7:  I Don’t Want To Be Free

Something has happened to Nadia, and Villanelle wants to get out of the jail cell she’s in desperately, but Russian officials are making it difficult.  Carolyn is considering shutting down the operation tracking Villanelle, what does that mean for Eve?  Villanelle has a new target, who is it?  Eve follows up on a promising new lead.

This is another interesting episode, because Eve is doing actual detective work, and there is more backstory about Villanelle. This is what the show should have been about all along, but it took a few episodes to find its footing.

 

 

Episode 8:  God I’m Tired

Villanelle has taken a hostage in order to get to her target safely.  Eve disregards orders from Carolyn to go back to London, and instead goes to Paris to continue tracking Villanelle.  Does Eve find Villanelle?  Is she prepared to kill Villanelle?

This was an ok episode, it was hardly a cliffhanger for me, because I knew something about the show that others may not know, but what I knew sort of ruined the ending for me.  The last three episodes almost redeemed the show for me, more on  why I said almost in my season 1 summary.   This was a good closing episode, not a great one.

Season 1 Summary:

After the first episode of Killing Eve, I was genuinely excited about this show and the seemingly limitless directions in which it could go.  By episode two, my enthusiasm for the show was dampened, because Eve was not even the main character in a show named after her.  The show made Villanelle a supervillain, incapable of being hurt, tormenting people and leaving them in awe of her supreme evil. Villanelle is written like Freddy Krueger or some other horror movie bad guy, an evil that will never die.  I’m reminded of Dr. Evil’s son Scott, who, “Don’t overcomplicate things, just take a gun, and bang.”  But Eve seemed incapable of doing anything to Villanelle, either frozen with fear, or moist with admiration.  The last 3 episodes get back on track, but the show was too far gone for redemption. The middle three episodes take the show way off track, and to the point of being silly and inconsequential.  When there are only 8 episodes in a season, 3 episodes off the rails are much too much.

Sandra Oh was absolutely the wrong person to play Eve, she plays Eve as a frightened, screaming  unsubstantial person.  This character undercuts women having serious jobs like an analyst in MI6 and this is clearly not what the writers intended, but this is how the show appears.  Eve is a bumbling goofball who can’t find her bottom with both hands, and the MI6 brain trust seem like the Keystone Kops.  It’s groundbreaking, even revolutionary to have two female leads, but the  Eve character undermines serious women everywhere by being a frightened immature woman child.  Even Villanelle is pure Hollywood psycho, the character is fun at first, but ears thin after 8 episodes.  Both Oh and Julie Comer could have done more to add dimensions to their characters.  Oh’s  heavy handed approach  to the comedic aspects to her character really  ruin the character.  She won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Eve Polastri. Go figure.

Julie Comer has a lot of fun with this role, and why not, she gets to play a seductress and cold blooded assassin, and she takes great joy in killing people.  Julie Comer does a great job playing the remorseless Villanelle, so much so, that she takes over the show, and leaves nothing for the rest of the cast to do.

The direction is not very visually stimulating, there are some moments interior and exterior shots that pop with color, but on the whole, it’s not a visual show.  The pacing is god and most of the acting is good from the ensemble cast. I don’t know how much of a role the directors play in the acting of the cast, so I really can’t comment on that.  The paving was good most of the time, and the episodes were short enough not to be burdensome.

 

Killing Eve:  Didn’t  slay me.

 

 

 

if Beale Street Could Talk

Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) and Fonny Hunt (Stephen James) are in love in Harlem in the 1970’s.  Their love story is complicated by several factors, however.  Fonny’s mother (Aunjanue Ellis) is a judgmental Christian, who expects Forry to marry a woman other than Tish.  Mrs. Hunt is further dismayed when she finds out that Tish is pregnant with Fonny’s child.  Further complicating matters is the fact that Fonny has been accused of rape by Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios) who later escapes to Puerto Rico, delaying the rape trial, all while Fonny continues to languish in jail.  Tish’s father Joseph Rivers (Colman Domingo) and mother, Sharon (Regina King) and Vonny’s father, Frank (Michael Beach) band together to  try to help Vonny.  Does Vonny’s trial ever take place?  Does Tish have her child?

This is a character study and a very good one.  Superimposed on the character study is social commentary as relevant today as when it was written in the 1970’s.  Every character plays a role in advancing the story or embellishing a theme.   There are no throwaway characters or lines here, every line in the movie is an impactful line, that’s what makes this movie compelling to watch. It is so closely drawn from reality that viewers will think this could easily be someone’s life, if not their own. The love story is similarly realistic, the young couple is in love, but it’s not pie in the sky, they still have to face many problems, but they do it together.  So many movies don’t capture love properly, this movie captures love and all its frustrations and joys perfectly.  Barry Jenkins did a marvelous job of adapting James Baldwin’s story.  If Beale Street Could Talk should have won Best Picture it wasn’t even nominated, and Barry Jenkins should have won Best Adapted Screenplay, not Spike Lee.  This is a powerhouse of a movie, with not a single false note.

The acting is superb. Kiki Layne is astonishing in the range of emotions she conveys.  She is happy, sad, angry, and she takes the viewers along for the ride.  Kiki Lane carries this movie.   She wasn’t even nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, she should have been.  Her performance is so complex, easily better than Lady Gaga, who was the trendy nominee.  Regina King won the Oscar for Best Supporting actress, and she was good, but she wasn’t in much of the movie, still it was a very good performance for the scenes she was in.  Stephen James was a little too laid back for my taste, I wish he had brought a little more intensity to the role.  A really good ensemble cast makes every character in the film come to life and that adds a lot to this film.

For such a low key film, it’s a visually gorgeous film, the first shot is a crane shot, and it’s just Fonny walking but the shot shows how much Barry Jenkins thought about each shot in the film.  There’s a shot of the sculpture that Fonny is working on, and it’s a glorious shot, the camera rotates around the sculpture, and makes Fonny’s work of art look wondrous.  The pacing is perfect, slow enough for exposition, but quick enough to move the story along.  Jenkins gets great performances from a largely unknown cast.  Jenkins does everything a good director does to make his film better.

If Beale Street Could Talk:  This movie spoke volumes.