Friday, January 19, 2018

TV Show Review: The End of the F***ing World

One of the weirdest and most delightful new series on Netlfix, this wild love story has charm and plenty of great comedy. James (Alex Lawther) believes he's a psychopath and needs to kill someone. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) needs someone in her life and looks like a perfect victim for James. Their courtship is awkward and funny as James tries to enact his plan to murder and Alyssa wants to rebel against her posh mother Gwen (Christine Bottomley) and father-in-law. Instead of murdering her, Alyssa convinces James to steal the car from his dad Phil (Steve Oram) and take off on a wild road trip. 

The episodes are short but a lot happens. The second episode begins as the couple stand outside the wrecked car and then recounts how they got there. Without any actual money, the two of them are quickly broke because they waste Alyssa's last few pounds on laser tag. They leave restaurants without paying growing quickly accustomed to being thieves. A strange man Martin (Geoff Bell) picks them up and takes them to another diner. Martin molests James who allows it to happen until Alyssa catches them and blackmails Martin by threatening to tell his family. This gives them enough money for a night at a hotel. 

After they leave the hotel, they find an empty house belonging to a professor. They dance and drink until Alyssa grows bored with James's strange behavior. She goes out and finds a young man who she brings back to have sex with until she decides that she isn't into him. James discovers horrifying pictures of murdered women belonging to the owner of the house. The professor comes home and nearly kills Alyssa until James stabs him in the neck. They burn their clothes and set off again but a police investigation commences with DC Teri Darego (Wunmi Mosaku) and DC Eunice Noon (Gemma Whelan) on the case. 

James and Alyssa leave behind incriminating photos but the professor's mother burns them before calling the police. James finds murder displeasing and not what he expected while Layssa suspects something weird is up with him for conveniently having a knife on him. The couple split up going their separate ways. Alyssa is caught shoplifting while James goes to the police to tell them about how his mother committed suicide in front of him when he was younger. The investigation proceeds as the detectives learn about Alyssa and James from various interviews and begin pursuing their suspects. The couple moves on highjacking a car and robbing a gas station. Their destination is Alyssa's father Leslie (Barry Ward) but he is a drug dealer who will easily turn them over for the reward. 

The End of the F***ing World ends with a heartfelt realization on James's part as he learns about love just as he is pursued by the police across the beach and possibly shot. The sudden ending came as a shock as I wasn't totally sure this was a limited series but the complete story is charming and hilarious. Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther are great young talents who should have bright careers ahead of them. The story is so silly and an enjoyable romp against authority that I found myself engaged from the second episode. I would recommend this to those who can take a few psychopath jokes and can understand thick British accents. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sports: NFL Playoffs (Divisional Round)

The NFL decided its final four over the weekend with the top two teams in each conference set to meet each other next week. The games had their fair share of surprises and upsets with an odd bunch winning in this round to make for an interesting championship weekend. 

NFC Divisional
Atlanta Falcons vs Philadelphia Eagles
My most disappointing game of the week ended with the Atlanta Falcons exiting the playoffs on an embarrassing final few plays as the Philadelphia Eagles and their backup quarterback Nick Foles are hosting the NFC Championship next Sunday. The Atlanta offense needs a huge overhaul in the upcoming season because there is no reason a form MVP and one of the best wide receivers in the league plus a strong running game should get shut out in the second half. The Eagles look like they will have to rely on their defense against a much tougher team next round. 
New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings managed to survive with some last minute magic as a final pass pushes them into the next round. The New Orleans Saints put up quite a fight but it just wasn't enough to survive a strong defense and a rookie quarterback. No team has ever hosted the Super Bowl but I am starting to think that the Vikings might break that streak. 
AFC Divisional
Tennessee Titans vs New England Patriots
In a solid blowout, the Patriots dispatched another opponent on their way to their possible sixth Super Bowl win. The Tennesse Titans scored first but they just never had enough to handle the reigning champions. The Patriots cruised by with a comfortable 35-14 win. 

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Pittsburgh Steelers
In the most stunning victory of the weekend, the Jacksonville Jaguars showed that they are not just a strong defense but that their young quarterback Black Bortles can handle the playoff pressure. The Jaguar topped the Pittsburgh Steelers in a high scoring battle that resulted in a 45-42 win. The Jaguars will have their greatest challenge yet against in the next round.  

Movie Review: The Post

Steven Spielberg adds another great film to his great career of producing high-quality cinema. This award contender tells a story I was almost wholly unfamiliar with and learning something new about history added to the entertainment of seeing some of the greatest actors and actresses of the generation performing under the direction of Spielberg. The story strikes relevant themes as political figures actively attack the news media as it struggles to stay relevant in a changing world. The film opens in Vietnam where Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) is conducting an academic research of the war. When Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) refuses to be honest with the American people, Daniel takes it upon himself to release the papers but smuggling them out of Rand corporation headquarters to the New York Times.

In Washington D.C., Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) deals with pushback from an antsy White House as she tries to reason with her hard-charging editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). The Washington Post editor suspects that a big reporter from the New York Times is up to something and he doesn't like reading about scoops in the morning paper of a competing news company. When they learn about the Pentagon Papers, Ben puts his best reporters including Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) on the job to obtain the report. He even asked Katherine, or Kay, to ask Robert McNamara, a close friend of hers, to give them the report. The White House sues the New York Times to file an injunction from publishing any more scoops from the study. 

The movie has a great fast pace to it that makes even simple conversations or boardroom meeting highly engrossing. Katherine employs the help of Fritz Beebe (Tracy Letts) to negotiate with the bankers as she hopes to bring her media company up for a public offering. Arthur Parsons (Bradley Whitford) does not hold back when he expresses his doubts about Katherine running the company. Her father gave the running of the company to her husband but he killed himself leaving Kay in charge. Bagdikian manages to track down Ellsberg and obtains copies of the report.  He brings them to Bradlee's house where a group of reporting including Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon), Howard Simons (David Cross), and others work to make sense of the shuffled pages. 

Ben is unsure of his legal standing in publishing so he brings in the attorney Roger Clark (Jesse Plemons) to understand the possible repercussions of publishing. Bradlee relies on his wife Tony (Sarah Paulson) to not only feed the reporters but advise him when he has doubts. Fritz is doubtful and frets for the company but the decision comes down to Kay who decides to publish in an intense phone conversation. Ben gives his reporters permission and they begin to print the paper that would display scoops from the Pentagon Papers The case went all the way to the Supreme Court but now there were papers all across the country publishing this information. The ruling is in the newspapers' favor and they go on to publish more scoops changing the national feelings towards an awful war. 

The Post shines under Spielberg's direction with big movies stars bringing these passionate characters to the screen. The movie is enjoyable in the way it lays out a national conspiracy and the newspaper process to uncover these government secrets. The ending sets up the next major crisis for the Nixon administration that would end in impeachment. In these troubling times with the current president constantly attacking the news institutions, this kind of movie strikes the right tone for how to handle these awful proclamations from the highest parts of the government with courage intsead of fear. I am looking forward to revisiting Steven Spielberg's films over the next few months as I wait for his next release this year. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Movie Review: The Commuter

Every so often, Liam Neeson signs up for another silly action movie. I usually don't take the time to see these films but managed to catch the most recent installment. The film is a by-the-books action movie that takes the short route on the action with only a few scenes of combat or train mayhem. I have only been to New York City a few times but from what I've heard, the logistics of the train are not the actual case for the city's line. All of these issues aside, this January release has some decent moments and a story that can keep a viewer mildly entertained for two hours. Michael MacCauley (Neeson) makes his daily commute on this mysterious train as he challenges his son each day to read works of classic fiction and argues or laughs with his wife. He sells life insurance for a big company but they lay him off just as he is trying to budget for his son's college tuition. 

Before he catches the train, Michael stops by the bar to chat with his old cop partner Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson) to vent about his unemployment and Murphy has some issues with his fellow officers, especially Captain Hawthorne (Sam Neill). MacCauley is in desperate need of a new source of income so when a mysterious stranger Joanna (Vera Farmiga) offers him a total of one hundred thousand dollars, twenty-five up front and the rest once he completes a simple task. Joanna somehow knows that MacCauley is a cop and a regular train rider so she uses his current situation to force him into her employment. He needs to figure out who is on the train and doesn't regularly ride it. MacCauley finds the first bit of cash but he wants to just get off the train until a young woman gives him a warning in the form of his wife's wedding ring. 

MacCauley tries to borrow another regular passenger's phone and tries to call his wife and the police. Joanna punishes MacCauley by killing fellow passenger Walt (Jonathan Banks). MacCauley begins to cooperate with Joanna's demands and searches through the train cars for passengers getting off at a particular stop. He narrows it down to a few but when he confronts one of them, he is attacked and has to fight the man off. He continues his hunt but he finds out that the man he fought with was an FBI agent. The train is stopped and the police search the line but MacCauley crouches in a compartment. As the train starts up again, he has to crawl beneath it, roll between the wheels and jump back on the train. He decides to cut off all the air conditioning so he can get the remaining passengers into one car. 

He confronts each of them and figures out who the right person. Murphy had informed him that the person that he is looking for witnessed a crime that was mentioned briefly on a background news segment. Joanna orders Michael to kill the witness but he refuses so somehow the train is set at an increased speed and the driver is killed. Working with Conductor Sam (Colin McFarlane), Michael separates the cars. Conductor Sam sacrifices himself but this is never really mentioned again. McCauley stages a hostage situation and Murphy enters to talk him down until he reveals that he is the crooked cop. Michael manages to switch a sniper marker while fighting with Alex and the snipers kill Murphy. The witness clears McCauley's name a little too easily. 

The Commuter is nothing special, just very generic action movie that may turn a profit because Liam Neeson has been able to draw a crowd. I will probably skip the next iteration of these action movies but I'm a sucker for silly January genre fare so I can't make any promises. I was revisiting the Taken films and have found them a bit silly and wonder how they spawned multiple sequels and a following. January is an interesting month because mixed in with these throwaway releases are award-winning films that are just getting a wide release. It makes for a medium run at the movies for the next few weeks with really good stuff alongside mindless fun. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sports: College Football National Championship

The National Championship turned out to be an exciting late night finale to the college football season. I am still recovering from staying up past midnight and having to do a few other things this week so my post is coming a bit late. This is more of a personal record for me to remember this extraordinary game. The Georgia Bulldogs took the lead in the second quarter and were up 13-0 to zero after shutting out the Crimson Tide in the first half. Nick Saban made a bold decision to substitute his starting quarterback and put in Tua Tagovailoa who drove down the field for a touchdown. 

The Bulldogs scored another touchdown but it still wasn't enough to pull away. The Crimson Tide managed to make up for a rookie interception by getting an interception of their own. They followed up with two field goals to put them in the position for a great comeback. They scored the tying touchdown and stopped Georgia from making a winning drive. Alabama almost won it but their kicker missed the game-winning field goal. Georgia managed to get a field goal on the first drive of overtime but a pass from Tagovailoa won the game for Alabama 26-23. This was a Championship for the history books.

I don't much care for these teams but I would have preferred a Bulldogs win over the Tide. Still, I ordered an Alabama hat to commemorate the stunning victory. My attention turns to college basketball where a ton of crazy stuff is going on and I hope to be posting about later this month! 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Golden Globes 2018

The first awards show that I'll write about this year comes a little early for me as I've not been able to catch a lot of the nominees, especially in some of the big film awards. I usually write about the nominees before the show but I'm just going to do one spot talking about the show and the winners since I don't have opinions about things I'm only looking forward to seeing in the next week. Surprisingly, I did see a lot of the winners as the Hollywood Foreign Press made some interesting choices that I'm not sure will transfer to the Academy Awards. 

Best Motion Picture - Drama
I actually read an article about the controversial characters in Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri right before the awards show but remember the story being full of twist and turns and a ton of shocking revelations to make it entertaining. It is hard to argue with Frances McDormand being awarded Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama along with Martin McDonagh winning Best Screenplay. The most controversial character is portrayed by Sam Rockwell who won Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. I had predicted this film to be totally shutout so was thrown off guard by the sweep as I forgot that awards shows don't react to controversy as fast as social media. I enjoyed many parts of the film and understand how it won over the voters but could see the backlash hurting it in the next competition.
Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Greta Gerwig's heartfelt story Lady Bird is full of hilarious scenes and a beautiful coming of age story. Saoirse Ronan is brilliant in the lead role which is why she deserved her win for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Gerwig deserved to be recognized in the director category but was left off. Lady Bird could ride this momentum to an Academy Award Best Picture.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama

Gary Oldman's performance had a lot of tough competition as a younger newcomer and a retiring veteran challenged him but with stellar makeup and a brilliant performance, the skilled actor was barely recognizable. The film centers around Oldman's Winston Churchill and would hardly be worthwhile watch without his deep dive into the role. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture  - Musical or Comedy
The performance to best challenge the Drama category when they are combined is James Franco playing Tommy Wiseau. In one of the more awkward moments of the night, Wiseau tried to make a speech when Franco one but the actor pushed him back to deliver thanks to his family and friends. 
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
I was unable to catch I, Tonya yet but I looked forward to seeing Allison Janney in her award-winning role as she is a wonderful performer and I can only imagine this is the role of a lifetime that should get her many awards. 

Best Director - Motion Picture
I have yet to see this beautiful looking film but I am even more excited after Guillermo Del Toro won this award. The direction looks especially amazing and I'll have a lot more to say in two weeks when the film finally comes to Kentucky. 

Best Television Series - Drama
The most powerful television show of the year that tells a story of our haunted past placed in the future by the brilliant author Margaret Atwood. Elizabeth Moss also took the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama.

Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy
One show that I was able to catch at the very end of last year and finally reviewed this month was The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and I enjoyed it immensely. Rachel Brosnahan is brilliant, delivering jokes on stage earning the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Big time movie actresses made this limited series a must-see event that delivered a powerful story about abuse and the secrets a wealthy society keeps. Nicole Kidman shows her amazing skill as the abused wife winning Best Actress, Limited Series and Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd won Best Supporting Actor Limited Series as her husband. I also had the chance to read this amazing book and would enjoy seeing more of what the creators come up with. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy

I have enjoyed acting and comedy from Aziz Ansari for quite some time so it is really nice to see him awarded for his great Netflix show. Not only is he deserving of this award but he is breaking down barriers while he does it. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama
This Is Us is a show that I always kind of forget about how great it is and then another episode comes on and the rush of emotions flow. Sterling K. Brown is a great actor and I can't wait to see him in more movies or television shows as he has delivered tons of stellar performances including his role in this basic cable show. 

The Golden Globes had a lot of stunning awards but also a lot of performances and films that deserved it so while some great movies were shutout this year, they still have a chance at the Oscars but it is also a testament to how many great movies came out this year. 

Sports: NFL Playoffs (Wild Card)

Professional playoff football is one of the greatest sporting events every year and always a January highlight. This year has plenty of great matchups though the results may not matter when it comes to the Super Bowl. The winners of each game will go on to play the top two teams in each conference who are currently enjoying a bye week. An interesting result of this weekend is that all four winners come from the South division of their respective conferences. 

AFC Wild Card
Tennessee Titans vs Kansas City Chiefs
In the first upset of the NFL Playoffs, the Tennesse Titans survive a battle in Kansas City beating the Chiefs 22-21. The Chiefs started the game in dominant fashion and took a halftime lead of 21-3. The Titans had an extraordinary second half including a touchdown pass that he threw to himself, an extraordinary play that may be the best of these playoffs. Tennesse heads to New England where they will probably lose to the Patriots.

Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars
In a game between two pretty weak offenses and decently strong defense, the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Buffalo Bills 10-3.  The bills were never able to score a touchdown and they lost their quarterback at the end of the game. Both of these teams did not look great but the Jaguars have performed well against the Steelers this year so they have a chance to make it the AFC Championship.

NFC Wild Card
Atlanta Falcons vs Los Angeles Rams
In an exciting game that I was most excited about, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Los Angeles Rams 26-13. The Falcons were up at the half as the young Rams showed life near the end of the second quarter. The Atlanta defense shut them down with only a field goal in the second half. Both teams have explosive offenses but the Falcons defense is looking great which should set them up for a solid chance at beating an injured Eagles team. 

Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints
In the most competitive game of the wild-card round, the game went down to the final seconds. The New Orleans Saints triumphed against their NFC South divisional rival the Carolina Panthers 31-26. The Saints went up with huge plays including long passes from Drew Brees. The Panthers fought back in the second half with Cam Newton scoring two touchdowns in the fourth but it wasn't enough. The Saints have a strong chance of defeating the Vikings in Minnesota.