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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Alexander’

“TALES FROM THE LOOP” My rating: B+ (Now streaming on Amazon Plus)

Television has had no shortage of sci-fi/fantasy anthologies (going as far back as the original “Twilight Zone” and continuing today with streaming hits like “Black Mirror”), so when you find an example of the genre that feels fresh and invigorating you’ve got to pay attention.

“Tales from the Loop” on Amazon Plus is a surprisingly potent blend of technological pipe dream and essential human longing for connections.  Though it debuted in April, I’d heard almost nothing about it until stumbling across it while web surfing. This one sticks with you.

Inspired by the paintings of Swedish artist Simon Stalenhag, the series’ superb art direction mixes small-town Americana with futuristic (actually retro futuristic) trappings.

The Ohio burg in which the show is set looks utterly normal…except that a field outside town is dominated by three huge concrete silos, the only visible part of The Loop, a massive underground research facility (the circular corridors suggest a particle accelerator) that is the region’s biggest employer.

An old red barn is pierced by a crescent-shaped metal superstructure (it looks a bit like the wrecked spaceship in “Alien”) and some homes are outfitted with tentacle-like ductwork (shades of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”). Moreover, the nearby woods and fields are littered with the fantastic carcasses of decaying machines, Loop experiments that apparently didn’t work out and were left to rust. (As we soon discover, many are still functional, though their original purposes remains a mystery.)

In fact, pinning down just when “Tales from the Loop” takes place is problematical.  The setting is pre-digital…no cell phones or flat screens.  Home phones are of the rotary variety; computers still use floppy discs.  The costumes and set dressings have a timeless quality…if I had to guess I’d say it all happens in the late ’70s, though that’s really not important.

What is important is how the  scripts (by show runner Nathaniel Halpern and Stalenhag) create an all-inclusive world and a sustained mood.  Like Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (clearly an inspiration), “…Loop” presents us with numerous characters who move in and out of each other’s stories, taking the lead in one, serving as an extra in others. Each episode examines the interaction of residents with the Loop’s abandoned detritus.

In one instance, teenage boys  (Daniel Zoighadri, Tyler Barnhardt) find a rusting bathysphere-like globe which allows them to inhabit each other’s bodies.  What could go wrong?

(more…)

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Bradley Whitford, Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins

“THREE CHRISTS”  My rating: C-

117 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The title “Three Christs” suggests the possibility of blasphemy.

If only.

Jon Avnet’s film — shot in 2017 and on ice since then — is an adaptation of psychiatrist Milton Rokeach’s The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, about his experiences working in a mental institution outside Detroit in the late 1950s.  The three Christs of the title are schizophrenics  suffering from the delusion that they are, well, Jesus.

Going in there’s reason for optimism.  Stone, the physician handling their cases, is played by Richard Gere, who in recent years has enjoyed a late-stage career resurgence (“Arbitrage,” “Norman,” “The Dinner”).

His three “holy” patients are played by heavy hitters Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins and Bradley Whitford.  Even the supporting cast has depth: Julianna Margulies, Kevin Pollack, Stephen Root, Jane Alexander.

So why does this feel like a waste of time?

Richard Gere

Neither Avnet nor his screenwriter, Eric Nazarian, seem to have a clue as to how to proceed with this yarn.  We get the basic setup — Dr. Stone attempts a revolutionary new therapy by putting his three “Christs” together in isolation; it’s an experiment to see if each can be cured of his delusion by observing his fellow’s delusions.

But what ensues doesn’t play like drama, comedy, or anything in between.

There are digressions into Stone’s personal life — the Missus (Margulies) is developing a drinking problem and he must  perennially steel himself against viewing his pretty young assistant (Charlotte Hope) as anything more than a professional colleague.

But the three Christs themselves remain ciphers. We should be feeling for these seemingly hopeless cases, but while the players are occasionally amusing, they never really engage our emotions.  The characters’ manias are too extreme to seem like anything but a sideshow. They are — I hate to say it — cardboard crazy men.

| Robert W. Butler

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