Lawless

I was expecting something like the neighborhood where we might find films like Public Enemy, or Miller’s Crossing, or even something a few blocks from a few of the biggest homes in the area – like where Bonnie & Clyde and The Untouchables reside. But I didn’t find that. What I got was a bit closer to the outskirts of the neighborhood, where you might find the Last Man Standing.

As Lawless opens, it is 1931, and we find we are in Franklin County, Virgina. We are in the period of Prohibition. The tale is of moonshiners struggling to keep their hold on Franklin County’s thriving liquor business. Folks may not have much going for them, in that place, at that time, but a taste of ‘white lightning’ made their lives easier.

The Bondurant family (Forrest, Howard, and Jack) pretty much had things their way in supplying the county with liquor made from corn, until competition, and some corrupt cops tried to get the Bondurants to share some of the swag. I almost called it wealth – but this is the Depression era, as well as the era of Prohibition, so these backwoods folks, living in the foothills to the Blue Ridge Mountains; so even the Bondurants, despite the successful illegal liquor business, weren’t living all that well.

The three Bondurants were fair, honest in their way, and protective of their ‘business’. If not quite respected, at least they were feared. As Forrest Bondurant, played by Tom Hardy might say – We control the fear, and without the fear, we’d be as good as dead.

Hardy is making quite a name for himself these days – and this film can only add to his allure. Soon he’s going to be the kind of actor that gets billing above the title. In Lawless, he’s laconic throughout the whole film. He’s like a John Wayne kind of guy – speak low, speak slow, and don’t say a whole lot.

An example of that would be when he has to discuss terms with a coalition of local bootleggers and moonshine still operators who want his cooperation. Forrest simply said, I’m a Bondurant. We don’t lay down for nobody.

Yes, the two elder Bondurants were a tough group. The middle brother Howard, played by Jason Clarke, didn’t have a whole lot to say either. But he was tough as nails, and fearless.

You might see a resemblance (above) between the Australian Clark and the long time character actor, John Vernon, who 40 years ago played the San Francisco Mayor to a rather famous San Francisco detective known as Dirty Harry.

The third Bondurant brother was Jack Bondurant. He was called the runt of the litter, and as the youngest, it seemed he was forever in the shadow of his older siblings. Shia LaBoeuf has the role.  Jack is not only the youngest of the brothers, he is also the smallest. What he wants most is to prove himself as worthy to his older brothers. Jack also desires the daughter of a local preacher, Bertha Minnix, played by Mia Wasikowska.

Jack begins by looking like a young man, boyish, and sincere. But by the end of the film, he will have matured into a rough and tumble hombre, to say the least.

As you might imagine, there are women in the film. With speaking parts that matter. Mia Wasikowska resembles a youthful Mia Farrow. In Lawless, she is the preacher’s daughter, and the object of Jack’s affections. Above is a nice shot of her in closeup. There’s another woman who has an important role. The character is called Maggie Beauford. She’s down in Franklin County to get away from a tawdry past in Chicago. One day, she simply shows up at Blackwater Station, where the Bondurants live and own a combo gasoline filling station/saloon. Maggie is looking for work.

Well Mr. Bondurant, do I get the job?

Jessica Chastain has the role of this woman who was beaten by the fast life in the city, but emerged unscathed. She believed that life in Franklin County would suit her better. As is turned out, life in this backwoods town wasn’t all that safe either.

Guy Pearce as Charlie Rakes. Rakes is not someone you’d want to cross.

Then there’s the bad guys. First is Guy Pearce who plays Special Deputy Charlie Rakes. He’s corrupt Continue reading

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Premium Rush

For a couple of reasons, Premium Rush took a very long amount of time until it was completed and distributed to your local cineplex. Principal shooting of the film began in July of 2010. Star actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt was injured doing a scene, and that caused a delay.

Then there was a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement made in 2011. In July of 2012, a federal judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit brought by author Joe Quirk, which claimed that Sony Pictures, and the film’s principals – Pariah Productions, director David Koepp, and co-screenwriter John Kamps – were in breach of an implied contract.

With that background, the film opened five days ago on Friday, August 24th, and it veritably jump starts you right into the action with no delay whatsoever. Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a bicycle messenger working in Manhattan. His assignment will be to go up to Columbia University at 116th Street and Broadway, pick up an envelope, and get it delivered to an address in Chinatown on Doyers Street by 7:00.

When he gets the assignment, it is close to 5:00 PM and he is at the messenger service office in midtown. For this package, time is of the essence, and for this, the agency dispatcher labels the delivery Premium Rush, and charges a higher than standard fee.

So Wilee has to ride up to Columbia, pick up the package for delivery, then ride back downtown in a little more than 90 minutes,

which coincidentally is the length of the movie.  When the client signs the delivery order ticket, it is 5:33 PM, so, as you can imagine, things are going to happen very quickly in this film. Maybe they should have called the film Breathless. Apologies to the 1960 film, Breathless, by Jean-Luc Godard which starred Jean-Paul Belmondo as a car thief, and also to the 1983 film of the same name which starred Richard Gere, as a car thief. On second thought, Breathless may not be the correct title, as Gordon-Levitt never seems out of breath.

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The Newsroom: Episode 10 – The Greater Fool – Recap

Ten weeks, ten episodes, and the sand has ran out of the hourglass, meaning the HBO’s TV series The Newsroom, had run out of time. Season One came to a close. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the season. This episode was called The Greater Fool, and it should have been terrific, in fact some of it was terrific, albeit with some heavy blemishes. The same could be said about the overall series too.

Rather than doing only a straight linear recap, I’ll close my series of posts about The Newsroom with a different kind of ‘End of the Season’ recap by using Random Thoughts about things in this episode and some overview of the series in general.

The episode was built using a flashback/flash forward structure. It began with McAvoy doing a broadcast on August 8th, 2011. His topic – and it took him a while to get to it because he first told us what stories would not be the number one news story of the day. But he did get to it, and ‘tonight’s top story is about Dorothy Cooper‘, But just after introducing the topic – we flashed back to eight days prior.

Will hadn’t shown up for work, and so Mackenzie and Lonny the bodyguard arrived at his apartment to find out why. It took them a few minutes to discover Will unconscious, and bloody, on the bathroom floor. As it turns out, Will had mixed antidepressant drugs and bourbon, which impacted a bleeding ulcer. Not good. Cue flash forward to the news broadcast.

Will: Dorothy Cooper is a 96-year-old resident of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and has been voting for the last 75 years. This year she’s been told she can’t. There it is. With Cooper being the sub topic, the main topic is new voter registration laws in a number of states requiring a government issued photo ID. Will used a film clip of Texas Governor Rick Perry, and then showed us some stats (about voter fraud) which yielded a number that was .0004% of the number of voters. New laws were enacted in 33 states to protect against voter fraud. In 32 of the 33 states, the bills were introduced by state legislatures that had a Republic majority, and signed in to law by Republic governors. The concept?

If you can’t get people to vote FOR you, then reduce the number of people who would likely vote AGAINST you. Time to flashback again, this time to 7 days prior. Continue reading

Boss: Season 2 Episode 2 – Through and Through – Recap

When we left Episode 1 of the second season of Boss, shots had just been fired at the groundbreaking ceremonies at O’Hare. Both Mayor Tom Kane and his wife Meredith Kane went down. Mayor Kane was unhurt. But Meredith’s status wasn’t known, other than she remained down.

A lot happens in Episode 2, called Through and Through, but the overall perspective is that lines have been drawn, forces are gathered, and sides are chosen. This episode begins with Mayor Kane still having hallucinations. A butterfly flutters against a window, and if this has some significance, I can’t say what it is. We will see this again reprised later in the show. At this point we meet the doctor giving Kane the news but we don’t hear the words. It’s like Kane is in shock, or whatever, but he’s not comprehending much. He recalls the terrifying events in his head, the shooting, the chaos, then with the ambulance carrying Meredith arriving at the hospital with the Mayor’s cars right behind them.

Later we will find out that Meredith had been shot in the chest with her right lung taking the brunt of bullet’s force. Meredith will survive.

Rather than giving a linear recap, I’ll work through this via some of the situations/characters.

Kane: Still has the Lennox Gardens vote to deal with. He experiences hallucinations. He has bouts of stress and extreme anger and frustrations. Ezra ‘Stoney’ Stone continues to appear in the hallucinations along with scenes in the desert, snakes, and visions of being helpless in a building with 4 corridors, one in each direction.

Alderman Ross – Stepped right into the spotlight at the press conference about the shooting. As head of the operating committee of the city council, Ross oversees that plans are in place to keep City Hall functioning. Ross also tells Mona Fredericks that he intends to do what ever it takes to make sure the Mayor will not be able to wrestle Lennox Gardens out of the Housing Authority’s control. He intends to bribe other council members. Fredericks is shocked by this.

The Zajacs – We now see that the command power of Ben Zajac isn’t his political acumen. Rather, it is his good looks. The real person directing the power of the Zajacs is Zajac’s wife. She’s the one calling the shots. Against the wishes of Ben’s campaign manager, the Zajacs intend to make capital out the shooting tragedy. They’ll show up at the hospital to offer the Mayor support, but really, they’re there for the exposure and publicity.

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The Newsroom: Episode 9 – The Blackout Part II – Recap

Was that The Newsroom I watched last night, or was it the TV equivalent of running on a treadmill? A lot of talk, but basically very little in the way of plot developments. I’m not quite crawling out on a limb to say that nothing happened, but the ingredients necessary for a fine episode were mostly MIA. I guess Sorkin is saving the ‘firing’ of Will McAvoy for the season-ending, cliff-hanger finale for the next and final episode coming next Sunday.

Or maybe it will be a shooting instead?

So opinions must be set aside – I’ve a recap to do. Wait – more opinion: All the groundwork of the last few episodes was undone.

First the blackout itself. They managed to get the word ‘blackout‘ into the titles of two most recent episodes, including this one.  Last week the blackout arrived as the episode ended. This week the blackout left as the episode began. When the blackout was in force, Mack was making decisions, rallying the troops, and calling out that they would drop ‘the rundown‘. Didn’t quite workout did it? Cue Sandy’s Weiner-Tell-All.

Solomon Hancock: He fails the white glove test. His vetting turned up mucho problems. His psychiatric review came back looking very spotty, so the NSA lowered his security clearance. He was arrested (nearly 30 years ago) on a solicitation beef, and has been charged as having been in violation of a restraining order which his ex-wife had requested. So is the guy for real, and more importantly, can Charlie Skinner trust him?

You know those Presidential Candidate Debates that the ACN team wanted so badly that they had to wade into the dark waters of Congressman Weiner and Casey Anthony – well, their efforts failed. Will and Mack actually wanted to ask tough questions, and follow ups, but this ‘revolutionary idea‘ was shot down. Some ass-hat, a GOP/RNC big shot called Tate Brady felt the questions, (in the mock debate)  were too tough. The questions would embarrass the candidates. He felt that Will was asking the questions as a grandstanding, self-promoting act. So this Brady wasn’t buying into the ACN debate format. He was of the opinion that if they would go for a kinder and gentler format, that might work. But Brady wanted Mackenzie McHale to replaced by someone else.

Which was an unacceptable condition, so Will told Brady to go to hell. So Brady played another card, asking Sloan Sabbith if she would be the debate moderator. Sloan was very succinct when she said, Me? Fuck you!

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Boss: Season 2, Episode 1 – Louder Than Words – Recap

The last post was a short recap of the entire first season of Boss. Following is a full recap with spoilers, quotes, play-by-play, and opinions and comments.

It’s the Season 2 premier of the starz network drama BOSS. When we left them in the concluding episode of Season 1, Chicago’s Mayor, Tom Kane, was locked in his own bedroom, experiencing a seizure. He has the debilitating disease Dementia with Lewy Bodies. He was on his back, on the floor, helpless. His wife Meredith had returned from her good faith mission for the Mayor. She had just returned from having to sleep with Gerald “Babe’ McGantry (played by Daniel J. Travanti). The elder McGantry was the father of the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the toxic waste suit. In return for Meredith sleeping with him, he would have his son drop the lawsuit.

Tom Kane’s political adviser Ezra Stone had been killed. Kane’s Executive Assistant Kitty O’Neill was pregnant and she had been trapped by Kane’s false rumor of stepping down. Alderman Lalo Mata had his teeth knocked out, then he was stabbed, and finally he was buried alive. Alderman Ross discovered that his wife had been sleeping with State Treasurer Ben Zajac. The newsman Sam Miller had been promoted to Chief Editor of The Chicago Sentinel newspaper to insure some silence from Kane’s most vocal opponent in the 4th Estate if only for just a short spell.

In short, Mayor Kane had bested his opponents, freed himself of the divisive members of his own staff, and had regained control of the City Council. It was true that Kane had turned in his own daughter, resulting in her being arrested in a drug bust. Things were now manageable for Kane. Except for one thing – his illness.

So with these facts in front of you – Season Two begins. Episode One of the second season is called Louder Than Words. Kane’s thoughts reach us: Every one who has plotted against me will feel the force of my wrath. No one will be left unscathed. Delusions of grandeur? Or is it reality?

Just like Episode 1 of Season 1 began, we again have Dr. Ella Harris laying it out for Kane.You’ve experienced a heightened acceleration of the disease. It is progressing faster than expected. Although he has been shocked by the effects of the disease, he believes he can handle it; even though as Dr. Harris speaks, Kane hallucinated that he is in a desert somewhere – at least until he can’t handle it. He says, ‘I have purpose‘, as if that mantra could keep the disease at bay.

As if to prove his purpose, and resolve, Kane says, It can’t have been easy, missing your friends, your family, and starting over. There’s an opening in the Neurological Department in the local hospital [where they are is undisclosed] for you. And arrangements have been made for admittance to a prestigious private school for your son Roman. Dr. Harris issues her warning to Kane: Mr. Mayor, you have to know that your best days are behind you.

As if to make the doctor’s words all the more prophetic, Kane hallucinates again that he is in a desert, and is being eyed by a large lizard as he’s being driven back in his limo.

Meredith visits Emma in the jail. Emma relents and tells Meredith that Kane has DLB, and has 3 to 5 years to live.

When Kane arrives back in town, he is accosted on the street by Darius, Emma’s lover. Kane shoos his protectors away saying that he will listen to what this man has to say. Darius is really upset that Emma was arrested. What kind of man would have his own daughter arrested, Darius wonders out loud. Kane leans in close to tell Darius that he has pulled strings to keep Emma in the precinct lockup rather than in the Joliet prison general population. Darius is in up close and mutters something threatening. Kane steps backs and loudly says (so everyone in earshot would hear) You had the unmitigated stupidity to threaten the Mayor of Chicago…

As Kane heads for his office, we hear that it took a very long time to get the O’Hare project going. Twenty-two goddamn years to stick a single shovel into the ground…that’s an abuse of power. All those obstructionists on the City Council…

Sanaa Lathan as Mona Fredericks

Soon enough, we find ourselves in Alderman Ross’s apartment. His life has unraveled since his discovery of his wife’s infidelity with Zajac. The apartment is a mess, and he’s unkempt. His assistant is Mona Fredericks (Sanaa Lathan). They’re discussing the upcoming vote on Lennox Gardens, a onetime pleasing housing project that has fallen on hard-times. Mayor Kane wants to take over control of Lennox Gardens, presumably to tear it down and sell off the land to his favored business associates. Ross will have to call in some favors to sway the vote against the Mayor. But he doesn’t look like he’s up for anything. Fredericks secures his proxy.

Mayor Kane and Ian Todd

Tom Kane is back in his office, once again hallucinating. That couldn’t be a real lizard on his mantel, could it? Kane allows the thought to flee of its own volition. Meredith arrives at Kane’s office and blows through the attempted blockade by Kane’s assistant Ian Todd. Meredith tells Kane that she has visited Emma. Kane says, Did she tell you …, about me? Rather than answering directly, Meredith says, What’s our plan Tom?
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BOSS – starz Original Series – Season 2

Would you want to work in a place where betrayal, backstabbing, corruption, and outright manipulation of the facts, the truth, and the media occurred on a daily basis?

Well in a fictional City Hall, run by a fictional Boss who was also the fictional Mayor of the very real city called Chicago, that most American of American cities according to Mayor Tom Kane – that was exactly what the situation was.

Of course I’m talking about the starz Original TV Series called Boss. Well, the series Second Season will premier on August 17th – this Friday night. As you know, if you’ve been reading my columns, that this year I’ve covering selected TV series in addition to my film reviews.

We started in February with the NBC series Smash. then in late June we began coverage of the HBO Series The Newsroom, which has just two episodes left before going on hiatus. That brings us up to the present. I am quite eager to see what happens to Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, played by the 5 time Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer, in the 2nd season of BOSS.

In this post, I’ll give you enough background from Season 1 to prepare you for Season 2. This is a dramatic series shot on location in Chicago. The series was created and written by Farhad Safinia. Episode One was directed by Gus Van Zant.

To set the opening episode in motion, we have the traditional gospel song Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down. You can check it out via this clip of the opening credits

As the series Season One begins, we meet Mayor Tom Kane, he’s being told that he has DLB – Dementia with Lewy Bodies – a neurological disorder that is clinically similar to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. His doctor is giving him the bad news in an empty warehouse, as Kane is not about to go public with this information, so he could not be seen at the doctor’s office. Continue reading

The Newsroom: Episode 8 – The Blackout: – Part 1 – Tragedy Porn – Recap

I thought The Newsroom: Episode 8 called The Blackout Part I: Tragedy Porn was a nice recovery from the previous episode which I categorized as the weakest of the season. This one was like a highlight reel. Not only was it mostly all good, but it improved by subtraction as well. We didn’t have to deal with the Maggie/Jim/Lisa/Don follies this week.

From the jump, as Will interviews the writer Brian Brenner (played by Paul Schneider) to the closing blackout which was followed by Bob Dylan singing Saved as the closing credits rolled by, this episode was just superb.

Will wants to get the story out there. That News Night and Will himself have changed. Now he’s no longer a ratings whore. He wants the story of how he and Mackenzie McHale have changed the face of the news at ACN to be told. He’s willing to give Brenner full access for a few days to hang around, to talk to whoever he wants – all off the record. If Will likes the vibe – they’ll go forward and do the story

Brenner: You’re asking me to audition.
Will: Yeah.
Brenner: Why would I do that?
Will: I can think of some reasons… four years ago you were on the masthead of Newsweek Magazine turning out 10 cover stories a year, and spending Sunday mornings on TV. Now you have a blog.

Paul Schneider as Brian Brenner

Will: The Sunday Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, GQ, The New Republic, the Atlantic Monthly – everyone’s offered a cover, and I get to pick the writer. I’m going with New York Magazine, and you.
Are you okay with the audition?

Brenner: That’s fine with me (the limitations that Will has just handed down) but that’s the last time you will tell me what I will or will not report. I’m not your stenographer.
Will: Do we have a deal?

Next Will, Mackenzie, and Charlie Skinner have been summoned to take a meeting with Reese Lansing (the Ratings Guy). Turns out the that viewers have left the News Night show in droves. They’ve lost a half a million viewers because they haven’t been covering the Casey Anthony and Anthony Weiner stories. Reese is livid.

Reese to Mackenzie; You have a ratings obligation…

Reese: You have a ratings obligation.
Mackenzie: No, you have a ratings obligation. You’re in business with the advertisers. I’m in business with the viewers.
Reese: You just lost their business.

Unfortunately, The News Night folks cannot refute that. Reese tells them – That’s it. Use the facts as you see fit.

Back in Charlie’s office – Charlie directs Mackenzie to begin coverage of the Casey Anthony trial. Mack protests strongly. She hates it – equating it to being – ‘just this side of a snuff film‘. Charlie hates it too. But he has to be the pragmatist. Since they’ve lost half their viewers in five days; that much of decline is unprecedented, so they have no choice. Mack thinks Will will take the same stance as she has.

Will is just about to agree to cover the Casey Anthony story. This will leave Mackenzie isolated, so she’ll have to sign on for Casey Anthony and Anthony Weiner coverage even though she doesn’t like it.

But Will wants something to happen. He wants to ‘fundamentally change the way we interview candidates for the job of President. I want the debates’, and he wants News Night to have it. But without viewers and ratings – they have no shot.

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The Bourne Legacy

I remember a scene in The Bourne Ultimatum aka Bourne 3, where CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) is having a phone conversation with Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). We get this from Stone:

“If this thing goes south, we’ll have to tie it off, roll it up, and hang it around Pam’s neck.”

One might think that this bit of planned scapegoating might be an effective place to start The Bourne Legacy. We do get about one minute of Noah Vosen lying through his teeth to a Senate committee, as well as Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) fending off the media hordes as she tries to defend herself of the charges of aiding and abetting an enemy of the United States. When do we get this? About two hours into The Bourne Legacy which opened today. This was just one of the many references to Bourne.

In my view – there are far too many Bourne references in this new film.

Any way, Ultimatum ended with Matt Damon‘s Jason Bourne surviving despite being shot and falling a dozen stories from a building into the East River in New York. He suddenly comes alive while submerged in the chilly waters, and swims off.

Well one super agent’s ending is the beginning for another super agent. This time it is Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross and he is swimming in the ice-cold waters of an Alaskan river. This is a part of a training mission which no one bothers to explain. Cross was looking for and finds a submerged vial containing his meds. It takes a while for us to learn that Cross and his kind are not just skilled in the field, in hand-to-hand combat, or anything else via physical training and brainwashing as was Bourne. No, Cross, and his fellow agents who have been a part of Operation Outcome, and all their super powers come from biological refinements and genetic alterations that come from drugs.

Of course, Cross will soon come to realize that he has been targeted, like all the other Outcome agents, by the suits who run the program. Rather than name these suits, I’ll simply name the actors – from the top – Edward Norton, Stacey Keach, Donna Murphy, Dennis Boutsikaris, and Corey Stoll.

Obviously things have gone south (again or still isn’t clear) so the agents, all of whom are dependent on a steady stream of meds, that is, until they can be ‘locked in’ which means they retain the super abilities but no longer need the meds, are called in for re-dosing, but are given a deadly poison pill instead. Four of them die off nearly instantly. All except for Aaron Cross who was able to avoid being blown up by a missile launched from a drone, as well as fighting off a wolf – all while still in the Alaskan wilderness.

Back in the states – at a scientific lab where all the behavior modification research is done, a scientist goes bonkers and begins to kill off all of his fellow scientists. All are killed except one – Dr. Marta Shearing, played by Rachel Weisz. Maybe it was sheer luck (no pun intended), but this particular doctor was the one who administered the drugs to Aaron Cross while he was still a human lab rat. Continue reading