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 an individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
I was first introduced to Nicolas Winding Refn in his Danish trilogy Pusher. There’s a continuous style from those films into this Ryan Gosling starrer, but there’s a maturity in Drive that’s absent from a lot of other films in this genre. Certainly the violence factor creates a bit of a distance between the film and audience sympathy, but it’s an unmistakably stylish piece. The acting is tight, the screenplay chugs along and the direction is tight, opting for slow, methodic exploration of theme and only speeding up at crucial moments to give the audience a bit of an adrenaline boost. Not that there isn’t plenty of tension in the quiet, lingering images in the film, most notably the lengthy, though electric, opening getaway. Refn is a director to watch. If he can keep Hollywood from weeding its populism into his psyche, he could be one of our finest genre filmmakers.
Alien is one of a cadre of films that I’ve never seen despite never really having a reason not to. I love science fiction and I love horror, so it should have been natural that this film and I found each other. It just should have happened 10-15 years ago. This compelling flick from recently-stagnating director Ridley Scott, is a frightening, thought-provoking journey into the future where hard-working, common folk are forced to deal with a deadly alien creature as it stalks them aboard their mining transport ship. Actors I either grew up watching or began to appreciate late in life pepper the film, each one giving a standout performance. The design work is so crisp and inventive that you can’t help but sit in awe comparing this vivid tableau to the more generic work in Star Wars a mere two years earlier. The Quadrilogy restoration is fantastic. And for the record, I watched the original 1979 version not the tweaked Director’s Cut.
The Last of the Mohicans
I guess this just isn’t my kind of film. Following the struggle of settlers in New York as the British and French wage war over their homeland, a story of betrayal and distrust of the Native Americans leads to a harsh conflict setting one vengeance-seeking native American against Gray Hair, a callous, British loyalist bent on not giving ground or giving succor to those in the militia surrounding his outpost. As much as I enjoyed the lush cinematography, the beautiful score and the performance of Madeline Stowe and Russell Means, I didn’t care much for Daniel Day-Lewis in it. This is perhaps the first time I’ve really not cared much for his character or what happens to him. Perhaps it was that the character seemed a bit too noble, self-sacrificing. In many stories and portrayed by many actors, that kind of personality can work really well, but I just didn’t believe it from Day-Lewis. And because he is the central protagonist, it damages the film a great deal that I can’t relate to him. The pacing is also off, dragging through the first forty minutes. It’s not a film for those who want lots of quick bursts of action. And while I had no problem with yesterday’s other slow-paced film Drive, this one just felt so laborious to get through and by twenty minutes I was hoping it would get better. It eventually did and the scene under the waterfall was quite compelling despite being quite lengthy (and feeling that way), but the unevenness of the film further kept me from appreciating some of the more interesting thematic elements, the most interesting of which was highlighted early in the film and almost as quickly dropped from the production: man revering nature and his heritage even while the world around him changes. The film has elements of this peppered throughout, but not enough for my tastes.
The Dresden Files (Season 1, Episodes 5 & 6)
The show continues to showcase why it never got renewed for a second season. The cases are still mildly interesting, but the acting work leaves a lot to be desired. These two episodes were better than the first four, but there isn’t a marked enough improvement to make this feel like anything more than a second-rate show on a second-rate network.
Community (Season 1, Episodes 14-25)
If I didn’t love this show in the first half of the season, I definitely love it by the end. This is a creative, humorous show that builds heavily on blunt stereotypes to deliver its comic gems. Stereotype doesn’t have to be shallow and the writers on this show have proven that. The performances all fit into the right comic niche and the constant references to pop culture, both new and old, make for an even more exciting show. Of all of these episodes, there’s one that stands out far above the rest.
The episode “Modern Warfare” has to be one of the single funniest episodes produced in the last decade. The students are participating in a campus-wide paintball game that becomes all too serious when the grand prize, early registration for the next semester. The campus becomes a colorful ghost town as alliances are made and paint-thirsty competitors are ready to shoot you down around every corner. Everything from the Mad Max-styled post-apocalyptic design work to the clever bon mots sings in this hysterically funny episode.