Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Wire Season 3 Episode 5: Straight and True

The Wire Season 3 Episode 5: Straight and True. Irish actor Aidan Gillen dellivered a consistently outstanding performance in The Wire as Councilman / Mayor Tommy Carcetti an essentially principled though conniving and adulterous politician. While certainly not as pivotal as the role of Detective Jimmy McNulty, Carcetti's journey as the white renegade councilmember wanting to unseat an entrenched black mayor in Baltmore adds further complexity to an already complex narrative of the city's efforts to save itself. Gillen, known best in Britain as the star of the original Queer as Folk and now as member of the large cast of characters in Game of Thrones, is a fine actor who is given one of the most dramatic speeches (and the series has quite a few such moments) as he dresses down the city's police brass for their inability to defend and protect the citizens of Baltimore. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vmWkJ8hLoE

Friday, April 27, 2012

21 Jump Street

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller offer a singular comedic vision in the motion picture parody of the deservedly lampooned '80s undercover cop series 21 Jump Street, which starred Johnny Depp and Richard Grieco, both of whom make cameos in the last reel. The film, which stars uber-schlub Jonah Hill and pretty boy du jour Channing Tatum, is a gutbucket laugh riot of genuinely clever pop culture references, unceasing penis jokes, and the kind of profanity and vulgarity that evokes guffaws because it's so excessive. Hill and Tatum play recent police academy graduates who are pulled from park patrol to infiltrate a high school drug operation. (The ridiculousnes of the premise has not diminished over the years.) In a fresh turn of a familiar storyline, the new world of high school clique-dom is ruled by geeks and Hill's character is suddenly the cool one and the former jock (Tatum) has to play "smart" with the chemistry club to crack the case. (I won't write that hilarity ensues but it does.) Ice Cube delivers several moments of scowlingly unhinged obscenity as the undercover detail's captain, and Dave Franco (younger brother of James Franco) is a standout as a vegan dope dealer. I wouldn't call 21 Jump Street a bromance but it's probably the gayest straight action film currently playing in the theaters.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wire Season 3 Episode 4:Hamsterdam

The Wire Season 3 Episode 4: Hamsterdam. David Simon poured undiluted menace into the character of drug lord Marlo Stanfield, a ruthless sociopath who reigns over the bloodiest crew of drugland enforcers in Baltimore. Much of the body count that has sent the BPD scrambling to solve or conceal can be traced to Stanfield and his insatiable lieutenants -- Chris (Gebenga Akinnagbe) and Snoop (Felicia Pearson). They make for a deadly trio of characters so removed from civil society and social conventions that the dread they elicit whenever they're screen radiates long after they're gone. They're a palpable threat to the life of the city, a disease that Major Colvin hopes to quarantine to a Free Zone where dealers and users can transact their business without fear of police harassment. The Free Zone is referred to in passing as Amsterdam -- the Dutch capital where some drugs can be purchased legally -- but the name is unwittingly converted by the corner boys to a ruefully ironic Hamsterdam. In short order, however, the warmth and fuzziness of that appellation will ill-fit the unrelenting social decay in the Free Zone.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Flowers 5: For You

The Wire Season 3 Episode 3: Dead Soldiers

The Wire Season 3 Episode 2: All Due Respect More than any of the other law enforcement characters in The Wire, Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin epitomizes Simon and company's conflicting views of the general ineffectiveness of modern day policing and the general decency of police officers. Colvin is in charge of a district that is swirling down the toilet with heroin being sold openly and law abiding citizens barricading themselves in their homes while warring gangs pull their children into their criminal operations to replace those killed defending their turf. This is not the community Colvin remembers as a boy or even as an officer on foot patrol back in the day. He's despairing and counting the days until he can retire. But pressure from City Hall to clean the street of dealers and druggies and lower the murder rate leads Colvin to philosophize about the nature of the crime they're asked to police and prevent. Running low-level drug dealers off the street is not an efficient use of police time, he reasons, but he knows his elected bosses won't understand. Toward the end of this episode, Colvin gives a speech to the officers in his district in which he describes the corner as the poor man's lounge, a place where he could go and drink a beer as long as it was in a paper bag and the police would look the other way. It's a resonant moment that is just the opening salvo of one of the most intriguing narrative threads the writers of The Wire will concoct over the five seasons: Hamsterdam.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Wire Season 3 Episdoe 2: All Due Respect

The Wire Season 3 Episode 2: All Due Respect More than any of the other law enforcement characters in The Wire, Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin epitomizes Simon and company's conflicted view of the general ineffectiveness of modern day policing and the general decency of police officers. Colvin is in charge of a district that is swirling down the toilet with heroin being sold openly, law abiding citizens barricaded in their homes while warring gangs pull their children into their criminal operations to replace those killed while defending their turf. This is not the community Colvin remembers as a boy or even as an officer on foot patrol back in the day. He's despairing and counting the days until he can retire. But pressure from City Hall to clean the street of dealers and druggies and lower the murder rate leads Colvin to philosophize about the nature of the crime they're asked to police and prevent. Running low level drug dealers off the street is not an efficient use of police time, he reasons but he knows his elected bosses won't understand. Toward the end of this episode, Colvin gives a speech to the officers in his district in which he describes the corner as the poor man's lounge, a place where he could go and drink a beer as long as it was in a paper bag and the police would look the other way. It's a resonant moment that is just the opening salvo of one of the most intriguing narrative threads the writers of The Wire will concoct over the five seasons: Hamsterdam.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Wire Season 3 Episode 1: Time after Time

The Wire Season 3 Episode 1: Time after Time. When the series left the harbor docks to focus on the sullen streets of West Baltimore, many fans no doubt breathed a sigh of relief. Simon and company's expansion of their tale of a city on the verge of moral collapse to the waterfront in the second season seemed to be just a foray, and not an entirely successful one. (I thought Year Two had some weak moments but overall was enormously entertaining.) Opening the new season with the demolition of the Barksdale organization's beloved highrises signaled changes coming, but as the dust from the crumbling wreckage indicated, there would be stifling fallout. It was a clever visual effect.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Wire Season 2 Episode 12: Port in a Storm

The Wire Season 2 Episode 12: Port in a Storm. Harbor police pulled the body of Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer) out of the bay the day after the Greek (Bill Raymond), Vondas (Paul Ben-Victor) and their henchmen were informed the union boss was about to turn state's evidence on the drug, smuggling and prostitution syndicate. It's an agonizing opening sequence that mirrors the scene from the first episode of the second season -- the harbor patrol pulling the body of a murdered woman from the water. Both bodies were deposited by the Greek's crew and despite huge expenditures of material and human capital, the Baltimore PD didn't appear to be any closer to arresting "Mr. Big" than when the season started. And that would be a recurring theme throughout the series. And yet, the program was not entirely cynical. Small victories were marked and celebrated and there were signs that a storm, stirred by the work of the major crimes unit, was on the horizon. The appetites of the members of the major crimes unit under Lt. Daniels (Lance Reddick) had been whetted and they needed to be fed. They would be in Season 3.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Wire Season 2 Episode 11: Bad Dreams

The Wire Season 2 Episode 11: Bad Dreams This episode features the fateful encounter between two celebrated gunmen -- renegade Robin Hood Omar Little and Barksdale hired gun Brother Mouzone of NYC. Stringer Bell, in a move that will ultimately lead to his downfall, tells Omar that the torture and murder of his young lover Brandon was not done by the Barksdale crew, though it was, but by Mouzone, as vicious a killer as ever walked the earth. Omar bites and tracks down Mouzone with the help of his associates Kimmy and Tosha. He shoots and wounds Mouzone in his downtown motel and tries to extract a confession from him before putting him away permanently. Mouzone denies the charge that he killed Brandon but accepts that his time has come and tells Omar to do what he wishes. Omar lets the wounded Mouzone live and calls 9-1-1, believing he's been had by Bell. It's a wonderful scene. And is among the best in the series as it is both terse and tense and probes provocative questions like definitions of honor and loyalty and goodness.

The Wire Season 2 Episode 10: Storm Warnings

The Wire Season 2 Episode 10: Storm Warnings When Nick Sobotoka tells his uncle, union leader Frank Sobotka, that Frank's son, the irrepressible Ziggy, has gunned down two members of the Greek's smuggling and prostitution syndicate, Frank asks Nick, "Where were you? You're his cousin." And Nick responds, as if just becoming aware of the fact he's about to share, "But you're his father." Dysfunction runs through all of the relationships on The Wire, and Simon and company explores the dynamic of several interesting father / father surrogate and son pairings over the course of the series' five seasons. Detective Jimmy McNulty's tenuous grasp on paternal responsiblity was a central element in the writer's development of his character in Season 1. (The McNulty boys, for all intents and purposes, disappeared after Season 3.) In Season 4, the flinty exchanges between incarcerated Barksdale trigger man Wee-Bay and his thuggish son Namond (and Namond's ghetto fabulous mother, De'Londa) were comic highlights and one of a handful of representations of a complete family unit among the Barksdale crew. When Frank meets with the beaten Ziggy downtown, he clearly is staring into the face of his own failings. His attempt to boost his son's confidence that all will work out fall on deaf ears. "You're a Sobotka," Frank tells his son. "Fucked, is what I am." And there's no denying that.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Drew Goddard's Cabin in the Woods is a cinematic feast for those of us who love horror movies and understand that the tease "don't look in the basement" is an inevitable invitation to do just that. But the wonder of Cabin is that that hackneyed warning leads to a fantastic array of outlandish terror/slasher genre tropes and tricks all in the service of ... well, I'll leave that alone. The story, written by wunderkind Joss Whedon (Buffy, the Vampire Killer and Firefly) and first-time director Goddard, is a bloody moebius strip, twisting in and around itself after introducing the four comely college kids (slut, jock, geek and virgin) and one unrepentant stoner who go off for a weekend in a remote cabin, without Internet or cellphone access. The film is brimming with vitality and smartness and humor and is, not a little bit, inspired.

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

Interestingly, even though Chad Stahelski's John Wick: Chapter 3 —Parabellum delivers deliciously brutal set pieces where our hero (K...