Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Mercenary (1968)

I'm a big fan of those spaghetti westerns that were shot in Spain and Italy in the late 1960's.  The Mercenary is one of those films that is pretty fun to watch.  Franco Nero stars as Sergei ‘The Polish’ Kowalski  who gets involved in the Mexican revolution.  The film is written and directed by Sergio Corbucci who gave us films such as Django (1966) , Companeros (1970), and The Great Silence (1968)

The movie is one big flash back as our Franco Nero's character explains to us how he and his revolutionary friend meet played by Tony Musante.  Musante gives a hilarious performance in the film, and he and Franco make an interesting pair.    Sergio Corbucci
does a good job keeping the audience entertained.  It is not one of Corbucci's best films, but he has fun here, and the film shows it.    Eduardo Fajardo and the ever nasty Jack Palance play the two villains in the piece, and Palance seems to have a ball doing so. 

For a spaghetti western the film shows restraint on the violence.  Corbucci deliberately averts the camera from the horror and by doing so he heightens the violence in an impersonal and more chilling fashion.

Finally, it is impossible to discuss the merits of this film without mentioning the outstanding musical score delivered by Ennio Morricone.  Everyone know his music from "the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", but Morricone does here an excellent job in marrying both the image and sound together.  

The Mercenary is a film that is fun and well produced.  It stands the test of time, and should be enjoyed by many who see it.

It's currently on Xfinity, and is listed in the free movie section.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mob Doctor (TV series) 2012

To continue with a TV theme here.  Saw the other day Mob doctor.  Why you ask?  Well I heard William Forsythe was in it, and I'm a fan of his.  He is one of the most under-rated actors, and is usually cast as the heavy.  With no surprise he is here too, but the story of the characters seems interesting.

The only thing is that the series has it wrong.  Forsythe's character is the one that is interesting and the relationship between him, the lead (Jordano Spiro) is the key.

I really do think that the medical part of this is interesting.  Like in the first scene of the series where a guy has a screw driver removed from his head, but I really am tired on how TV depicts the medical community.  ER in it's early days was the pinnacle of a medical series.  So was St Elsewhere, but ER took it a step further and it really grabbed it's audience.  Now we're relegated to soap operas.  Like whose sleeping with whom, and who is in love and out of love.  One word..... BORING!!!!!

Mob Doctor has a somewhat interesting idea and it gets it wrong.  But it's early and we'll have to see where the producers and writers take us.  Having a actor of William Forsythe's caliber can only enhance the series, but I hope they just don't play him as a straight heavy.  After all why was the series Soprano's so popular?  Because we LIKED Tony Soprano, and that's a credit to James Gandolfini as an actor and performer.  Here they have William Forsythe who has had his share of playing heavies, but can do so much more.  Watch Waterdance as one of his outstanding performances.  I can only hope and pray they use him and have him in more of the storyline.

One nit pick.  To the shows director of photography.  Stop with the sloppy shots.  I know TV series production is hectic and quick, but some of the shots where some of the actors eyes looked sunken into their heads were just bad.  Sure the female lead looked marvelous, but the actor looked like some demonic character from a horror movie.  Try some fill light please.  That's just sloppy, and as a production snob I have to call it out.  Also the MTV editing seemed out of place.  I know it was trying to get atmosphere into the series, but to me it was just filler, and if you have filler you don't have enough character development which means the writers aren't doing their job.

Oh and please use more of Zeljko Ivanek.  He too is an underused actor with great potential.  He is a great character actor who can be used more effectively.

So there is potential here, but whether the producers tap into that is any ones guess.  My opinion is to watch William Forsthe, and see how the storyline develops.  More of him would be better.  Jordano Spiro does a good job here too, and with such talent surrounding her she could really make this more interesting.

Just remember guy's it's about character development.  Make them interesting and the series will take off.  Stick to the stereo-typical character outlines and Mob Doctor won't last long.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Revolution (TV series) 2012

It's been said that the real innovative and interesting shows are on cable and or TV.  Revolution debuted this week and from what I can make of it it has an interesting premise.  My only pet peeve is why do the networks have to rely on the cliffhanger model of storytelling?  I know that it is to engage an audience and make sure that they come bask each week, but this model of storytelling is a bit frustrating.  Since the early 80's the networks have begun to rely on this type of storytelling more and more.  But the cliff-hanger isn't that all interesting either so the writers need to punch it up a bit and stop being formulaic.

The cliff hanger synopsis is not a new type of way of telling a story.  The serials of the 40's and 50's were just the same.  The studios back then wanted their audience to return week after week to see how the hero escapes or prevails.  So you see it's not new.  It's just gotten a bit more sophisticated.  The multiple story-lines in a series seems to be keep it's audience glued to the screen., but it does seem that it is more prevalent now then at any time in TV.

TV has gotten more competitive because it has many competitors and a shrinking audience, and where success is measured in the size of ones audience anything goes.  But has this hurt story telling?  Has TV become so dependent that stories just unveil quicker and faster then any stories in the past.

I guess some psychologists would say that with the advent of computers and multi-tasking the human brain can retain more and is trained now to keep track of many different  scenarios.  I don't know about that.  I'll leave that to the experts to quarrel about.  All I do know is that sometimes it makes for interesting drama, and character development. 

Revolution is such a series.  It has many different plot-lines, and the pilot which aired Monday seemed to have a layered construction.  I'm sure the filmmakers have it all layed out for them for the season, and it's this careful construction of a story arc that fascinates me.  How long can they carry the arc, and how long till the writers change it up, and try to get "fresher" without loosing their audience.

TV network is littered with shows that have had story arcs that have been less successful.  The series "Lost" comes to mind.  But I digress.

Is Revolution any good?  It's interesting, and presents a frightening post-apocalyptic world where there is no electricity, and man is thrust back to an earlier time, yet man's desire for conquest of each other still remains.

I have to say I'm intrigued by the series so far.  In an hour the filmmakers presented an interesting scenario, and maybe all will be explained in later episodes.  I don't know if they can keep the story arc going without giving the audience what it needs and that's a pay-off for viewing.

I hope they can.  But by showing us that some people have the power to turn on the electricity I don't know if the series creators have doomed themselves to a series that has an end or if they can keep being innovative and keep us interested.  I enjoyed each of the actors performances and really thought that I could watch these characters week after week and not get tired of who they are.  Maybe try and see it through the villians eyes, and make them more three dimensional.  That's the hope at least.  The characters are there, but they need to be more real, and maybe in time this will happen. but we'll see how that all pans out.

Here's hoping that Revolution is an evolution of a new type of series. Of course TV is not known for being innovative.  If TV executives can rely on the same old formula week after week they'll do that.  I'm just hoping NBC does something different.  Only time will tell.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Another Earth

Another Earth is one of those films that you start off watching and before you know it you're absorbed into the plot and need to see how it all works out.  At least that's what happened to me.  I had heard of the film and it's debut at Sundance and was a bit intrigued.  I was also interested in how the filmmaker made the film, and that in itself is noteworthy of another blog entry.  Needless to say the film is an interesting character piece.   Brit Marling plays Rhonda Williams whose life changes by a tragic accident she causes.  How she goes about redeeming herself is a fascinating journey.  William Mapother character is just as fascinating and compelling to watch as Ms Marling's.  As a debut film by Mike Cahill "Another Earth" is a film with some interesting concepts. 

The concept of two Earth's and different alternative realities is something that the film presents.  There is no tech speak on how, or why the event is happening, and that makes the film all the most interesting.  The science in the film isn't correct either, but one does not dwell on it, and it doesn't take away from the films story.

I'm trying to be vague here because the film is better seen when you don't know much about the film.  To me it was a long "Twilight zone" type episode.  The movie is slow paced, but the pacing of the film works.  It's the characters and their particular situation that interests us.

If you're not into these types of films I don't know if you would enjoy it, and a film that leaves you wanting more always peeks my interest.  If such a film isn't to you're tastes then you'll have a problem with it.

The ending has more questions and I like it that way.  For each viewer it may be different. 

I'd like to write more about the making of the film and how the filmmaker accomplished his goals on a shoestring budget.  Brit Marling, and Mike Cahill are both the writers of the film as well, and you can sense the time and effort they put into the film to make it what it is.  Marling's performance is quite compelling, and Cahill's direction is simple and very direct.   It gives "Another Earth" a quality I like.

I recommend seeing the film highly.  It's the dramatic punches and solid performances from the leads that keep the film so entertaining and interesting.