The Morning After: Sep. 30, 2013

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

High Noon

This taught western drama takes place in the hours leading up to the titular high noon when a pardoned murderer returns to the small town where the sheriff who put him away to put an end to him. The sheriff (Gary Cooper) is recently married and plans to honeymoon with his Quaker wife (Grace Kelly), but abandons those plans to protect the town from the man who wants him dead.

Fred Zinnemann’s direction of Carl Foreman’s script is tight and fascinating, focusing on the loneliness of the western sheriff who discovers that risk of life and limb is too much for the people of the town who only come out in support when they want something. As Cooper’s Marshal Kane searches town for a posse of deputies to stare down Frank Miller and hopefully avoid bloodshed, he finds himself alone with none but a brave young man who’s too young for the task and a family man unwilling to put his life on the line without a larger group behind him.

Lloyd Bridges plays the Deputy Marshal who wants to become sheriff but is too young and inexperienced for the job; Thomas Mitchell plays the jovial, but useless mayor; Lon Chaney and Harry Morgan play city councilors; and Katy Jurado plays a businesswoman and ex-romantic interest of the sheriff’s. All play their parts perfectly with Jurado delivering the finest. Kelly doesn’t have a lot to do, but does the best she can with her narrowly drawn belabored wife.

Having spent so many years seeing westerns as an extension of the mythos John Wayne created, it’s nice to see more fascinating takes on the material setting up a more diverse canvas for the genre. Many of the classic western tropes are present, but High Noon twists and deepens them, enabling the film to find itself grounded in reality rather than legend.

Metallica: Through the Never

The trailers for Metallica: Through the Never gave the impression that the film might have some strong similarities to the fascinating Pink Floyd – The Wall. Unfortunately, any similarities are dashed early in the film as the production ends up primarily as a concert documentary with narrative elements and not a narrative feature blended with concert footage.

I didn’t head into this film wanting to see a Metallica concert. I was lured in by the promise of a fascinating series of visceral symbolism that could have embellished the music. The story, a brief one about a young fan tasked with taking a canister of fuel to a stalled truck turns twisted as the young man is assaulted by post-apocalyptic visions and faces off against rioters from both police and protesters. These segments take up roughly 30 minutes of footage, the rest is set during a staged Metallica concert where occasional glitches timed with the events our young hero is going through eventually lead to a more catastrophic event.

I recognized two songs, which may have enabled my disinterest in the film, but there is an interesting background story that deserved fleshing out. Dane DeHaan, who plays the film’s fictional protagonist Trip, bares an uncanny resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio, and shares DiCaprio’s talent. DeHaan has a very interesting career behind him and in front and may follow a very similar trajectory as DiCaprio. He has the talent for it. The visual effects are quite interesting and I’m startled by some of the visuals employed, but overall if you aren’t a Metallica fan and simply want to witness the story in the background, you’ll probably want to wait until it hits home video. If you’re a Metallica fan, however, I can be fairly certain that you’ll enjoy most of what transpires.

Best Man Down

After a short career in television, filmmaker Ted Koland writes and directs this debut feature about a married couple whose best man dies the night of their wedding, creating myriad problems for the newlyweds.

Positioned as a comedy, Best Man Down is very light in that department. Killing off one of your key characters early in the film may set your events in motion, but it isn’t until a middle chapter reveals the real heart of Tyler Labine’s Lumpy that the film finds something of a heart. The film follows two sets of people. Scott (Justin Long) and Kristin (Jess Weixler) the newlyweds; and Ramsey (Addison Timlin), a depressed teenager trapped with her mother (Frances O’Connor) and her abusive, druggie boyfriend (Evan Jones). The audience is aware that both stories must come together at some point, but getting there is troubling.

Apart from Timlin’s story, which is somewhat poignant, the newlyweds are dull people in over their heads. Koland attempts to parallel Kristin’s addiction to prescription drugs with that of Ramsey’s mother, but the facile method of bringing them together loses any sense of perspective. Timlin helps Ramsey becoming a compelling figure, but with little support from the script. Best Man Down has an overarching generic nature that creates a thick layer separating the audience from the emotional potential of the story.

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