Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Hall’

“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…)

Read Full Post »

(Left to right) Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall

“THE DINNER”  My rating: C+ 

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Few things are quite as frustrating as watching great actors knock themselves out on material that’s not nearly as good as they are.

“The Dinner,” based on Herman Koch’s best-selling novel (it’s already been dramatized in Dutch and Italian versions), certainly has its moments, most of them provided in killer perfs by Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Rebecca  Hall and especially Laura Linney.

But the film, set mostly in a restaurant so pretentious that the unctuous maitre’d announces each dish’s ingredients practically down to the molecular level, is itself off-puttingly  pretentious. Plus, the characters’ attitudes and behavior are so sleazy that you really can’t find anyone to root for.

In the first scene Paul Loman (Coogan), a former history teacher now working (abortively) on a book about the Civil War, and his wife Claire (Linney) are preparing for a family dinner at a posh eatery.

Paul isn’t keen on the gathering.  It’s the idea of his brother Stan (Gere), a U.S. Congressman now running for governor of their home state, and it’s obvious that the siblings don’t get along. Paul takes a fierce anti-establishment attitude, oozing sneering comments about his politician brother. The awesomely patient Claire somehow gets him into his clothes and out the door.

Once at the restaurant civility rapidly evaporates.  Paul is in a bitchy mood and it’s up to the wives, Claire and Katelyn (Hall), to smooth over the rough patches.

Why has Stan called this conclave?  Well, there’s a family crisis, though writer/director Owen Moverman (“Rampart,” “The Messenger”) takes his sweet time in giving us the details, relying heavily on convoluted flashbacks that almost send the narrative spinning out of control.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Rebecca Hall as reporter Christine Chubbuck

Rebecca Hall as reporter Christine Chubbuck

“CHRISTINE” My rating: B

115 minutes | MPAA rating: R

An almost unbearably sad story well told, “Christine” hovers on the nexus of individual mental illness and societal insanity.

But however painful this yarn may be, it offers an acting showcase for Rebecca Hall, the Brit actress who here dowdies herself down to portray real-life TV reporter  Christine Chubbuck with a quiet anguish and growing desperation that can make your skin crawl.

Set in the early ’70s in a TV station in Sarasota, FLA, Antonio Campos’ film (the screenplay is by Craig Shilowich) follows
Christine’s personal and professional meltdown as she is beset both by inner  demons and what she sees as an unconscionable deterioration in local TV news.

She’s a workaholic…perhaps not by choice. Christine has  no personal life to speak of.  She lives with her mother (J. Smith-Cameron) and hasn’t had a proper date in years — though she has a clumsy case of the unrequited hots for the station’s preening anchorman (Michael C. Hall).

When she has a spare moment she puts on hand puppet shows for elementary school kids — shows that are a lot heavier on moral instruction than entertainment value.

And that’s Christine’s dilemma at work as well.

She is forever battling her news director (Tracy Letts), whose mandate is to beef up the station’s pitiful ratings. That means minimizing the thoughtful reports in which Christine specializes and leaning heavily on “juicy” topics: crime, violence and the outrageous.

“If it bleeds,  it leads,” he advises the staff.

(more…)

Read Full Post »