Morning Glory (2010)

morningAh, I know- what in the world was I doing even watching this? I can’t say. Worlds fail me. But its a strange world, you just wind up watching the oddest films sometimes. Hey, sometimes they can surprise, but, er, this one didn’t really. You can easily see why people didn’t race to the cinema to go see this one.  

Girl gets a job as producer of a struggling Breakfast TV show. Girl improves the lives/careers of all her workmates (well, except one guy who she fires, but maybe she was doing him a favour). Girl has faith in childhood hero-figure/cranky old guy. Girl’s faith in cranky old guy is tested but ultimately redeemed. Girl meets perfect guy. Girl gets guy. Girl saves Breakfast TV show. Morning Glory is one of those films that you can predict its every turn, its every beat, and its end is certain from the very beginning. But some people like that in movies. They find it reassuring, maybe. Its not a very reassuring universe really (as evidenced by me somehow watching this film) so hey, its clear some people get their reassurance wherever they can get it. After 2020, good for them.

Rachel McAdams. There was a time when she seemed to be in all sorts of stuff. She was pretty great in that season of True Detective that nobody seemed to like. And she was okay in that Game Night film, although I’m not entirely sure comedy is good for her, whatever her agent says. She’s really wasted in stuff like this.

Mind you, on the subject of wasted- Harrison Ford. Well, one has to remember this was released back in 2010, back during that period of his career when he seemed to have given up, How else can one explain it? He plays this old, surly, cranky “third-worst-person-in-the-universe’ guy in the twilight of his career left behind by his industry and its almost like an ironic casting  statement. Honestly,  it seems like Ford’s not even trying, it hardly rates as a performance at all. Maybe he thought his old natural matinee-idol charm would get him by, but at that point such times were over. Looking at him in stuff like this, its an absolute wonder he was so good in BR2049. I suppose he’d suggest its all about the material, and that Morning Glory warranted the performance it got from him, and who could argue with that? 

Game Night (2018)

game1Well, the Westie was kind of cute (and was, I have to admit, the reason we watched this, damn those marketing boys and their sorcery). Game Night is one of those entertaining comedy-thrillers that are empty-headed and mildly diverting and mostly harmless. Its also terribly manipulative and silly and cynical. The thing that struck me most while watching this was, what the hell is Rachel McAdams doing in low-rent stuff like this? Well, it was a pay-cheque I guess, but it reminded me of what some people must have thought seeing Alec Guinness in Star Wars all those years back. Not that I’m comparing McAdams to Alec Guinness, you understand, but you know, the point is there. I thought she was beyond stuff like this (her performance in True Detective some way in the distance, and raising another interesting comparison between movies and television now).

Which is possibly overly disingenuous of me as I quite enjoyed the film. Its certainly slickly done, but it always feels knowing and manipulative and seldom surprises. Maybe that’s the point, I mean, the audience for films like this will expect films like this to do what they do, be what they are. They won’t want the film to be terribly realistic or fully make sense. But one of the characters gets shot in the arm, the bullet goes straight through and there’s quite a lot of blood in one scene (to comedic effect) but the guy should be in terrible pain/feeling faint/out for the count but instead goes around on an adventure for several hours involving chases and fights and stunts and I’m thinking, ‘he’s got a hole in his arm, he should be crying like a little girl or something‘ but of course instead he’s racing down a runway in a sports car bringing down a jet-plane that’s trying to lift off and then facing off the bad guys and…

Yes, its lightweight nonsense. Just feels a bit cynical, the whole thing, but maybe that was just me in the wrong mood.

 

True Detective Season 2 (2015)

true12016.5: True Detective Season Two (Blu ray)

Season Two makes the unforgivable (in some eyes) sin of not being True Detective Season One. I think it’s a shame people were so intent on getting more of the same and were so appalled when faced with something else. Me, I’ve no problem with it being different- that’s the genius of these anthology-format shows, each season offers something different, a fresh take on the basic format. It worked for the second season of Fargo and had mixed results with American Horror Story, but I think it worked very well for True Detective.

Season Two is a great piece of work. Its a hard-boiled, pulp-paperback film noir crime drama. Its an urban nightmare of characters trapped in a concrete, neon-drenched world they cannot fully understand and certainly cannot control. Its confusing, its contradictory, its fascinating, its full of incredible performances.

I seem to be in the minority though- a lot of people really REALLY disliked this season. I find that interesting.

Maybe people were made uncomfortable by this season because it wasn’t easy to disseminate; the plot was confusing, yes, but so is real life, and yes, by the series finale some of the good guys died and some of the bad guys prospered, but that’s like real life too. Life doesn’t always have a happy ending- in fact I think it could be argued that by series end, there isn’t a happy ending for anybody but the bad/corrupt people. That frustrates, I know. And yes it is rather labyrinthine over the eight episodes- even though I loved it, I can’t say I fully understood the complicated web of plot and subplot- but that’s such perfect noir, or maybe Hollywood Noir in this case and I’m fine with that.

It would be argued by some that, on the basis of expectations from the first series, the show should simply be a mystery, about a murder to solve. In season two, the murder and the establishment of the task force to solve it is almost incidental, it’s not really what the series is ultimately about. That may have been a step too far for many and evidently upset plenty of fans from season one. While it was certainly a brave move by HBO and the programme makers to make a show that distanced itself so much from the first series, unfortunately the negativity can’t help but impact on an eventual third season. I guess a return to something more akin to the first season is inevitable next time around.

I think the way I watched it may well helped, but that’s the beauty of binge-watching tv boxsets- in this case, two episodes per night over four consecutive nights, the series unfolding like the chapters of a novel. Perhaps weekly airings would have frustrated, weakened its impact; it calls into question how such programmes are aired and consumed by its audience these days. That said, I think this series was so different to season one that part of that audience would never like it however they watched it.

true3The acting is universally excellent- even Vince Vaughn delivers. But Colin Farrell is amazing in this show. Strange to think I was only watching him in the dismal Total Recall remake last week and here he is in such incredible form. I guess its all in the material. There is a scene late in the series -I hesitate to go into detail so as to not spoil anything- when the camera dwells on his face in silence as he reacts to a revelation about something from his past; in his changing expression you can see his mind racing, disintegrating as he feels his world unravelling about him. Its a great performance throughout the season but this moment is a highlight.

Rachel McAdams, too, is pretty amazing. Her character, like the others, is haunted by an event in her past which she cannot escape from without self-destructive action. It puts her in awful danger in one incredibly gripping scene, when she gets herself into a depraved sex party where the rich and powerful use and abuse women, and she has to try escape it and rescue someone (in a final irony typical of this show, that someone didn’t even want saving). Like  the event from her past, the experience is something that will haunt her,  another stone to carry, another weight on her forever. All of the leading characters seem to have seen things or done things that they cannot escape from. Again, that’s just perfect noir.

true2The cinematography is great- its a beautiful show to look at. Crushed blacks, hot reds, deep greens, it’s all those gaudy pulp-paperback covers brought to vivid life. The music is just as dark, reminding me of Twin Peaks at times. Indeed, I wouldn’t be too surprised if next year’s Twin Peaks revival looks and sounds a lot like True Detective Season Two. As a fan of Twin Peaks, maybe that’s why I enjoyed this season so much.

I love Film Noir and I think as an homage to that genre, True Detective Season Two absolutely nailed it.  It’s a modern day Chinatown, a story in which the place and the events within it dwarf the characters, a place full of bent politicians and corrupt cops, and pasts that return to haunt and destroy the protagonists. I think it’s great, remarkable television. I think this was a great series, and I look forward to watching it again.