Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! I watched some really good ones this week!
How come your family, no matter how long you’ve been away, still knows how to push your buttons? Because they installed them. – Jack Taylor
Jack Taylor (2010) Irish series S1 (3 90-min episodes) WAS on netflix
Starring: Iain Glen, Nora-Jane Noone, Killianj Scott, Paraic Breathnach, Sighle Ni Chonail, Liam Kearney
Creator: Stuart Orme (based on Ken Bruen’s crime novels)
Genres: private eye
Synopsis: Iain Glen, who I know as Jorah Mormont, the faithful right hand to Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, plays Jack Taylor. Jack was a Guard/Police Officer but got drunk and acted a fool and so was kicked off of the force. In episode 1, “The Guards,” the foundation of the show is set, showing Jack adjusting to being off of the force and falling into private eye work when someone who knows his reputation as being the best at police work asks him to find her missing loved one. In episode 2, “The Pikemen,” there’s a gang of vigilantes causing mayhem, and Jack is hired to investigate the death of one of their targets. In episode 3, “The Magdalen Martyrs,” (see more info in Etc. section) features prominently. These “episodes” are more movies because of their length. You’ll get no complaint from me! This is a quality series, and Iain shines as they show him not just as a cop, but as it explores his upbringing, his alcoholism, and how they have influenced his way of doing things. Nice to see Galway up close as well.
Etc.: Made and set in Galway, Ireland. In a bit of synchronicity, when I did my post on Sinead O’Connor for Women Music March, I first heard of the Magdalene Laundries when I read that Sinead was confined there for a year and a half as a teenager. E3 goes in-depth on some of the traumatizing experiences those who were confined there went through. About Netflix: After the last episode, which I didn’t realize was the last one, the next night I tried to watch the next one, but there wasn’t a next one. Not only that, the whole series disappeared on Netflix. That’s the first time that’s happened. Luckily the dvd.com branch of Netflix has S2 in disc, so it will be mailed to me soon. There is an S3 but dvd.com doesn’t have it available yet.
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin J. O’Connor, Michael Harney, Molly Kunz, Brian King, Tonray Ho, Coburn Goss, Philip Rayburn Smith
Director: Steve McQueen
Genres: criminal and political underworld drama
Synopsis: When this first came out I’d read mixed reviews. I’d watched “The Kitchen” (2019) (which is much better than this) right around the time I heard of Widows and so held off on watching it. Viola Davis is given a peach of a role in this movie. Everyone else feels like a wooden caricature of a person, aside from Cynthia Erivo, who against all odds brings her character to life. I was particularly disappointed in how Daniel Kaluuya was portrayed, as a soulless demonic thug, especially after seeing him recently in his role in “Queen and Slim.”
Looking at the cast, you’ve got to be thinking how is it possible with Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson in it that it wasn’t a hit? The supernova star power was underutilized by being crammed into tired stereotypes. Maybe it was intentional by the director to flip the script and have Viola Davis shine like a Dirty Harry type character, showing that black females can be smart, tough leaders? A lot of money could have been saved by hiring nobodies to play the caricatures; but again maybe having superstars as wooden window dressing was the intent? Sorry if I’m in conspiracy theory mode on this one, but something just doesn’t shake out for me about it.
The movie is not all bad. Redeeming features are its setting in Chicago, which allows you to see the seedier parts of town, but it makes sure to show you just a few blocks away the 1%ers are living in luxury. (Which I’ve seen an example of in Detroit, with 8 Mile Road.) As I said before Viola Davis is given the big peach role and she doesn’t disappoint as a person who suddenly gets hurled into an impossible situation and needs to make a way out of it.
Train to Busan (2016) Netflix
Starring: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jeong, Dong-seok Ma, Eui-sung Kim, Soo-an Kim, Choi Woo-shik, Sohee
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Genres: zombie apocalypse and family relationships
Synopsis: Workaholic, unethical young father who, with his young daughter, lives with his mother and is separated from his wife that is now living in Busan, a town some distance away. Young daughter has her heart set on spending her birthday with her mom, so dad reluctantly tears himself away from his workaholic lifestyle – and a recent environmental disaster that his company is directly responsible for and is coming to public awareness – to ride the train with her to her mom’s house. Unfortunately zombies disrupt their plans a for nice ride that was supposed to get the dad back to work by noon. Being stuck on a long train where most of the cars are filled with maniacal zombies is not anywhere I’d want to be, and the director does a good job of showing the audience exactly why that is. There is a sense of claustrophobia and of course terror. The director does a good job of showing the best – and the worst – of human nature in time of crisis. A significant portion of the plot is devoted to the relationship between the main character and his adorable little daughter. Both of these actors play their roles well, as do the rest of the cast.
Etc.: Set and made in Korea, with English subtitles; there is a sequel coming! Thanks goes to Keith for recommending this movie to me.
The Invention of Lying (2009) Netflix
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, Edward Norton
Director: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Genres: comedy, romance
Synopsis: The brilliant premise here is that EVERYBODY tells the truth, i.e are brutally honest, until a situation arises when the main character, played by Ricky Gervais, tells the first lie ever. A domino effect from that lie turns Ricky from a “loser” (used liberally to his face) to a wealthy prophet. But does it make him happy? Jennifer Garner is Ricky’s love interest and Rob Lowe is his competition in business and to gain his love interest’s favor. Goofy and loyal sidekicks Louis C.K. (I had no idea it was him when I watched it; he looks very different now.) and Jonah Hill (in his very heavy days) and Tina Fey as the vicious secretary (I used to work with an administrative secretary JUST like her!) round out the cast. The rest are cameo appearances for the most part. Garner and Lowe play their parts just right. Ricky Gervais has been brilliant and funny for a very long time. This movie is one that makes you think after it’s done.
Etc.: This Elvis Costello cover of a Cat Stevens song is a standout in a great soundtrack.