Thoughts on the Previews: September 21, 2015

The Martian (Ridley Scott, USA 2015)

  • Every time I’ve seen a commercial or trailer for this, I immediately think it’s a sequel to Interstellar about Dr. Mann’s original mission.
  • The pre-release buzz is so high on this film and Andy Weir sounds like a cool guy, though I haven’t read the book, but . . . Ridley Scott. Ridley Scott’s films have essentially been awful for 40 years.
  • I’m going to see it when it comes out, but my expectations are not high.

The Walk (Robert Zemeckis, USA 2015)

  • I don’t understand people’s fascination with this story.
  • The accent seems rather weird, but I assume that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be great, because he’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And I’ll watch it, because it’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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Movie Review: “Black Mass” (Scott Cooper, USA 2015)

In 2011, when James “Whitey” Bulger was arrested, tried, and sentenced, I was in law school. As a result, I didn’t pay very close attention to the story. I remember Tony Kornheiser talking about it a few times but mostly just saying, “Wow–this is incredible! And now he’s so old! He looks like me!” and the like. But all I remember is that he had been on the run for a long time after having been a mobster and government informant. It’s possible that I heard more, but I find it strange to believe that I forgot what a bizarre story his was. He spent two decades growing his criminal empire in Boston while the FBI blocked all investigation of his activities because he was supposedly an informant of theirs, even though he apparently was essentially providing no information. His handler was falsifying information to make Bulger appear more important than he was in order to advance his own career while allowing Bulger to take over the city.

According to the film, the handler, John Connolly, doesn’t appear to have been on Bulger’s payroll or to have been placed in the FBI in order to execute this plan. So, the fundamental question that occurs to me is, “Why the hell did he protect Bulger like this?” This film, while it is supposedly about Bulger’s career, essentially attempts to answer that question. The answer that it gives is that Connolly, Bulger, and all of the other main players in this enterprise were children playing at a game of advancement and “success.” They never grew into men, remaining at heart kids on a playground even as they beat and murdered rivals and broke every law on the books. Continue reading

TV Episode Review: “Doctor Who” “The Magician’s Apprentice” (09.01, 2015)

“Your chances of survival are about one in a thousand. So here’s what you do: forget about the thousand, and concentrate on the one.”

Steven Moffat has always been capable of a great turn of dialogue. He’s had an excellent sense of when to let them play out as melodrama (The “remember every black day I ever stopped you” speech in “The Pandorica Opens”) and when to turn them into a joke (“Who da man?” in “The Eleventh Hour”), but that sense of timing has been less consistent in recent years. Sometimes the show feels like it decides episode-to-episode whether to be completely comedic or not at all comedic. This episode feels like a rarity in that its found the balance that the show once had. That line made me smile because it’s the right level of ridiculous and heroic–a level we’ve seen Moffat hit more rarely in the last couple of seasons. Continue reading