Tag Archives: Amazon Studios

#byNWR Presents TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG. Reviewed; Part I.

Too Old to Die Young
Miles Teller as Martin Jones in TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG

Amazon Studios has just unleashed a juggernaut, Nicolas Winding Refn’s TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG as a new exclusive to their streaming platform. The series, which runs ten episodes wherein more than not have a feature-length runtime, is moody and stylized, and quite frankly might be the first series that one cannot simply binge. It is not that it is bad; on the contrary. Refn has developed a show that is so dense and exhilarating that some viewers might need to take a break between episodes and get back into the routine of the normalcy of their respective lives because TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG is not just dark, it is pitch black.

Much like his previous two pictures, ONLY GOD FORGIVES and THE NEON DEMON, Refn has become a fierce auteur, channeling other filmmakers like David Lynch and Michael Mann, but mostly carving out his own niche within arthouse filmmaking.

Too Old to Die Young William Baldwin
William Baldwin as Theo in TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG

The first five episodes of the series build a world of degradation and debauchery. There are few likable characters, and the ones that are likable are fundamentally likable for the wrong reasons. The plot is loosely strung together by central events that the characters weave in and out of. Much like TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, the viewer just has to put their trust in Reft and co-creature Ed Brubaker and enjoy the ride that is wonderfully accompanied by Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic score.

The series is anything but formulaic, including its center characters. Miles Teller is Martin Jones, a police officer whose partner is killed in the opening scene of the pilot. He’s also a hitman for a gang, as well as dating a seventeen-year-old high school senior whose father is a beautifully coked out and wealthy investor, William Baldwin.

Too Old to Die Young Mandy
Miles Teller, TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG

It absolutely, positively cannot be understated; William Baldwin gives the finest performance of his career. His introduction scene is one where he’s sitting across from Teller. Not really interrogating him, or yelling at him for being a thirty-year-old policeman who is illegally dating his daughter; he is establishing his dominance over his daughter’s older suiter through intense stares and clearing his sinuses that have surely are from an obscene amount of cocaine he did.

The four episodes that follow introduce us to new characters. The second episode is solely focused on the killer of Teller’s partner from the pilot. He’s in Mexico with his Uncle, a Cartel head. The third episode introduces us to Jena Malone who is a caseworker by day and an energy healer who connects with the parents of victims of sex abuse. She sends out a one-eyed John Hawkes who is an off the radar former g-man who is dying. They are lovers, pretty sure.

The worldbuilding is mesmerizingly intense. Themes of murder, deviant sex, self-discovery, and vengeance are all prominent parts of each episode, creating an environment that is apathetic on itself, where our “heroes” of Teller, Malone, and Hawkes are trying to restore the balance in a world that has become total darkness. Halfway through the series, the pendulum swings to and fro the motivations of the characters, leaving so much to be discovered and desired. Amazon Studios deserves all the credit in the world for having the balls to back a project such as this. Regardless of the ambiguity and self-indulgence of Refn, one thing is for certain; TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG is a work of beauty and everlasting art.

 

Review: Gray’s ‘Lost City of Z’ is a visual feast for the ages.

First featured on The Movie Revue, contributing critic Brian Wallinger and editor Ben Cahlamer sit down to discuss James Gray’s astounding The Lost City of Z.

BEN CAHLAMER:  Brian, thanks for joining me today.

BRIAN WALLINGER:  It’s my pleasure, Ben.

BC:  Is it safe for me to say that you enjoyed Gray’s effort overall?

BW:  Yes.  This 2016 release, based on the 2009 novel is a taught and tense adventure set in the jungles of Brazil.  All throughout the film lays an undiscovered land where danger lurks around every corner.

BC:  I too found the story telling to be riveting and adventuresome, filled with stunning locations and brilliant technical achievements.  I especially liked the acting in the film.

BW:  Both Charlie Hunnam and Robert Patinson are the true stars of the film, executing clear and sharp performances.

BC:  Hunnam as Percey Fawcett, British officer-turned-explorer and Patinson as Henry Costin were stunning, especially Patinson, who just completely immersed himself in his role.  Hunnam has a commanding presence about him, but Gray kept him in check.  Both performances are extremely strong.  They are complimented by several smaller roles featuring Ian McDiarmid of Star Wars fame, Franco Nero, Angus Macfayden, who has been nothing short of brilliant in both John Wick films, Sienna Miller who plays Nina Fawcett, Percey’s faithful wife,  and Tom Holland as Jack Fawcett. What did you think of Gray’s directorial efforts?

BW:  The direction proves that Gray is not yet a truly masterful film maker, but he surely is on the path to greatness.  The film has an uneven balance in its run time and with the overall script.

BC:  I confess to not having seeing his previous directorial efforts, but I found his direction here to be top notch, especially for something that is so reflective of glorious epic adventure films and characters of the past, such as The Bridge on the River Kwai or even, Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I didn’t have an issue with the run time, and as a matter of fact, I found it to be necessary to tell the full story.  John Axelrod’s editing kept the film’s pacing even. I felt as if I was watching a younger version of Indiana Jones thanks to Hunnam’s acting, Gray’s direction and his screenplay, based on David Grann’s novel of the same name….

BW: …The story is based on actual events depicting several attempts at an expedition ultimately leading to an unsolved mystery.

BC:  Yes, indeed.  It was David Grann’s debut novel, based on his 2005 visit to the Kalapalo Tribe that set the stage for his novel and this film effort.  The level of detail in all of the characters is a combination of the entire production’s efforts.

BW:  You have hit the nail on the head, Ben.  There is a unique style and theme that pays homage to classic adventure films you mentioned: a form that has since gone unnoticed, yet through this film, finds a breath of new life.  I found the cinematography to be visually stunning, providing a sincere essence of the peril the characters faced.

BC:  YES!  Academy Award-winning Darius Khondji’s work here is astounding, and is a hallmark of this film.  His use of shadows and light are simply stunning.  I recently watched Fincher’s Se7en on a cinema screen and fell in love with Khondji’s work there too.  He is just a magician with light in any setting and I’m looking forward to seeing his work on the upcoming Okja.

BC:  Any other thoughts, Brian?

BW:  The film has several minor technical flaws but is so much fun and sincere to its convictions that I can forgive them.  I’m Recommending The Lost City of Z.

BC:  This film was stuck in development hell for a very long time at Paramount.  I’m really glad that it got picked up by Amazon and Bleecker Street.  Although its box office was not very strong, word-of-mouth should propel this film into the minds of many moviegoers.  I also am Recommending this film. Thank you for joining me today, Brian.

BW:  Thank you, Ben.

 

Amazon Studio’s GOLIATH

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Amazon Studios quietly released a new series in October called GOLIATH from creators David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro.  It stars Billy Bob Thornton in his Golden Globe winning turn as Billy McBride.  Thronton is his seminal drunk, lovable loser role but with a twist; he’s a brilliant (defrocked) lawyer.  Thornton reluctantly gets lured into a case against a weapons contractor that is represented by a gigantic law firm that he helped created and no longer is a part of.

The casting of the series is wonderfully rounded out by Maria Bello who is Thornton’s ex-wife, Molly Parker as a cut throat lawyer working for Thornton’s former film, Harold Perrineau as the judge overseeing the case, Dwight Yoakam as the CEO of the weapons contractor Borns Tech, and William Hurt in a beautiful showboat of a performance as Donald Cooperman, Thornton’s former partner.

This show has a very complex structure.  It is equal parts CALIFORNICATION with Thornton in an apathetic daze, where he spends his days drinking and co-parenting his daughter with Bello – yet it is steeped heavily in dark LA noir.  Just when you forget about how transgressive and dangerous the show is while watching Thornton bumble through a scene with his trademark zeal – we get quickly reminded of the dangers of the show by a cut to William Hurt who is always seated in his dark office, face half covered in burn scars, listening as his gaggle of lawyers discuss their best course of action against Thornton, as he answers their questions with a paratrooper signalling clicker.

hurt-goliath

The affability of Thornton is starkly contrasted by the overbearing menace of Hurt.  He’s the big bad of series, and his danger and power is very much akin to a Blofeld esque villain of importance and stature.  Hurt’s brilliant performance is a reminder that he hasn’t faded as an actor, but that he is constantly able to turn out remarkable work decade after decade, never allowing himself to disappear as time carries on.

It hasn’t been announced if there will be a second season of GOLIATH, whispers are that the show will not continue; which comes as bittersweet news.  The series wrapped itself up brilliantly, without the finale hinging upon a second season.  Much like HBO’s LUCK or AMC’s LOW WINTER SUN, the series contains and closes its taut narrative within a singular season, yet the characters are so rich and developed with complexity and care that it truly would be a shame to let them go so quickly.  Whatever the fate of GOLIATH may be, it stands tall and even superior to most of Netflix and HBO’s original programming.

GOLIATH is available to stream on Amazon Prime.