Grizzled Grandpa Returns

Posted in Review with tags , , on September 20, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

Liam Neeson’s second career as a onscreen badass is in full bloom. Starting with Taken in 2008, Neeson has carved himself a niche as the gloomy European elder statesman of capable-action-heroes-who-have-seen-some-shit. His sense of authority, and sadness, provides a welcome relief to the never-ending parade of cobble-stoned abs that define most younger action stars. In A Walk Among the Tombstones, Neesons is paired with the most compelling script and able director of his surprising renaissance, with satisfying results.

The film centers around Matt Scudder (Neeson), a unlicensed private detective. In a prologue set in 1991, we see a wild-haired Scudder accept free shots of whiskey with his coffee at a dark bar. When robbers burst in a kill the bartender, Scudder, still an NYPD cop, follows them into the street and shoots them dead. One of his bullets ricochets and hits a nine-year-old girl in the eye.

Flash forward to 1999, Scudder is retired from the force. The “unlicensed” part of his detective practice means he doesn’t charge a fee. He does favors for people, and they give him “gifts” in return. He gets called the elegantly-furnished home of Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens, a.k.a. Matthew from Downtown Abbey), a drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped. Kristo paid the ransom, but his was still killed. He offers Scudder forty-thousand dollars to track down and deliver the kidnappers to him.

The script is based on a Lawrence Block novel of the same name, and the film captures the toughness and nonchalance of his writing. Hard-boiled is like cool, you can’t appear to be trying. Director Scott Frank also adapted the screenplay, and he and Neeson get the attitude right. Let the darkness speak for itself. Nothing is overplayed. Except for black-homeless teenager sidekick part, TJ (Astro), which mostly works while flirting with cliche. Highly recommended for fans of stories where bad people do bad things and sorta good people do bad things in the name of good.

Sins of the Father: Calvary

Posted in Review with tags , , on August 18, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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Brendan Gleeson has quite a face. Wide, pock-marked, and in the film Calvary, covered in a regal red-and-grey beard; he resembles a sad lion. Calvary is an existential mystery set in Sligo, Ireland. It follows Father James (Gleeson) as he spends a week fending off evil forces and investigating the spiritual malaise of his town.  In the very first scene, a man threatens his life in confession, telling him he’ll die in one week’s time.

The unknown accuser claims he was molested by a different priest years ago. Father James, though innocent, will have to pay for a dead man’s sins. Continue reading

Funky, Mysterious, Incomprehensible

Posted in Review with tags , , on August 11, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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The rare musical biopic where the music is at the forefront, Get on Up makes the case that James Brown’s music is at least as important as James Brown the man. Raw energy comes through by the bucketful as Brown (Chadwick Boseman) grunts, growls and shimmies across the screen.

One of the (mostly) refreshing aspects of the film is the way it avoids traditional Behind-the-Music-style redemptive arcs. Continue reading

Killing Season 4: Reanimated

Posted in Review with tags , , on August 3, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

 

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The Killing, the show that will not die, is done for. Cancelled three times over the span of four seasons, the mostly excellent, frequently infuriating show capped off its run with a six episode fourth season on Netflix. Typical of the original content on the video streaming site, the whole season premiered simultaneously, in this case last Friday, August 1st. I gorged obligingly, and here are my thoughts (MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW).

Continue reading

Dollhouse in Decline: Grand Budapest Hotel

Posted in Review with tags , on March 22, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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At this point, most viewers who are familiar with Wes Anderson films know where they stand. Either they find them enchanting or precious. After Moonrise Kingdom, I had been leaning towards the latter, but Grand Budapest Hotel won me over. There’s an appealing grandness  of scale that’s been lacking from some of his recent work. It’s as if his dollhouse has expanded to include a whole chunk of history and (fictionalized) geography.

The film follows the adventures of Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) a world-class concierge and his trusty “Lobby Boy” Zero (Tony Revololi) through a series of adventures involving dead elderly lovers, disputed wills, a priceless painting and an alpine chase scene. Continue reading

Downton Abbey 4: TEA COZIER

Posted in TV (Prime-time) with tags , , , on January 6, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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Last night was the U.S. premiere of the fourth season of Downton Abbey.  I watched it in a group, and there was a lot of faux-gasping (mostly on my part) and explaining (for the one guy who had only seen one episode). “Who’s that?” “The sister.” Who’s that?” “The other sister, the ugly one.” “Wait, who’s that?” “The butler, the evil one.”

The whole affair was enjoyable, even if I took offense at shameless smushing together two one-hour episodes and calling it a two-hour premiere.  The stiff and formal characters were rigid, the paterfamilias was patriarchal and condescending (“Leave Lady Mary alone, she’s too grief stricken to bathe/breath/think/eat/poop!”) and Maggie Smith dispatched with her requisite zingers. Continue reading

Killer with a Code

Posted in Catch-up on January 2, 2014 by Timothy Parfitt

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I finally got around to watching Parker, the new Jason Stratham-as-Parker iteration of Donald Westlake’s most amoral criminal survivalist. Having read all of the 24 Parker books, I qualify as a fan-boy, so I’ll do my best not to bore you with a laundry list of ways it’s not EXACTLY LIKE THE BOOK. The movie has a nice, punchy, old-school action movie vibe. Cars crash, people shoot other people, heisters double cross each other, all without the aid of shape-shifting robots or CGI dinosaurs. Continue reading

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