My Feelings About “TRUE DETECTIVE”

MY FEELINGS ABOUT “TRUE DETECTIVE”

I am among the many viewers who saw the Season Two finale for HBO’s “TRUE DETECTIVE”. And like many viewers and critics, I did not really care for it. But unlike many viewers and critics, I feel the same about Season One.

Season One managed to garner a great deal of accolades from critics and television viewers alike. Quite honestly, I never understood this attitude. I found Season One ridiculously slow, pretentious and a little too complex for its own good. I am still wondering why it took the main characters portrayed by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey practically two decades to find a killer that struck me as nothing more than a murderous lunkhead.

The problem with the Season Two finale is that it ended with the bad guys winning and most of the good guys dead. It ended with a realistic portrayal of how city corruption really works and many television viewers and critics could NOT take it. They needed an ending with the bad guy(s) dead and one or more of the protagonists – either Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch or Vince Vaughn – crying with manpain or woman pain, a’la McConaughey. I suspect that if “CHINATOWN” had been released today, many people would be tearing it apart for its downbeat ending.

I am not saying that “TRUE DETECTIVE” is better or just as good as “CHINATOWN”. It is not. Both Seasons One and Two cannot compare with the 1974 movie. But I will say this . . . I understood the finale of Season Two better than I did the Season Onefinale, which left me shaking my head in disbelief.

I do not like “TRUE DETECTIVE”. I did not like Season One, with its ridiculously complex story arc, pretentious writing and slow pacing. These are the same reasons why I dislike Season Two. But I did understand the finale of the second season . . . a lot more than many critics and viewers who would prefer if our movies and television series would reflect society’s illusions, instead of its truths.

“SOURCE CODE” (2011) Review

“SOURCE CODE” (2011) Review

It is a miracle that I ever got the chance to see the new techno-thriller, “SOURCE CODE”. It is a miracle . . . at least to me, because I never saw a movie trailer or read an article about it before the eve of its release. I would have ignored it completely if I had not noticed several billboards advertising the movie throughout the city. And since the movie featured actors I happened to admire, I decided to go see it. 

Directed by Duncan Jones and written by Ben Ripley, “SOURCE CODE” is about a decorated army helicopter pilot named Colter Stevens, who finds himself on a mission to locate the maker of a bomb that exploded and destroyed a train headed into downtown Chicago. Stevens is isolated inside a chamber, where he communicates with Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin. She explains to Stevens via a computer screen that he is inside the Source Code, a program that allows him to take over someone’s body in his or her last eight minutes of life. He learns from the program’s creator, Dr. Rutledge that the Source Code is not a simulation, but a visit into the past in the form of an alternative reality. Stevens cannot truly alter the past to save any of the passengers, but that he must gather intelligence that can be used to alter the future and prevent a future attack. In short, Steven’s mission is to locate the bomb on the train, discover who had built it and report back to Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge before the bomber can detonate a second larger bomb, a dirty nuclear device in Chicago.

While watching the movie’s first half hour, I had assumed that the psychic essence of the Colter Stevens’ character was being sent back into the past to change the timeline and prevent the destruction of the train. I thought that this was some kind of cinematic version of the old UPN television series, “SEVEN DAYS” (1998-2001). But Stevens eventually discovered how he got the assignment to identify the bomber. Confused and frustrated, he used the cell phone of a train passenger and discovered that he had supposedly died in the Afghanistan war two months earlier and that his severely injured body was appropriated by the Air Force and used by Dr. Rutledge to enter the Source Code. When that plot twist was revealed, I realized that “SOURCE CODE” might have more in common with both the U.K. and U.S. versions of“LIFE ON MARS”.

“SOURCE CODE” was not a hit. Although the movie earned three times the amount of its budget, it really did not earn that much at the box office, despite favorable reviews from critics. Pity. Because I believe that it was a well made film. I also have to give kudos to Don Burgess for his supervision of the movie’s visual effects, including his photography of Montreal and Chicago. I was especially impressed at how he and his crew handled a particular scene in which the Stevens character exchanged romantic glances with one of the train’s passengers, a woman named Christina Warren, while the train was being incinerated by the terrorist’s bomb.

Director Duncan Jones did justice to Ben Ripley’s first-rate script with excellent pacing and action sequences. And using the superb cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal, he handled the dramatic scenes very well. Jones managed to do a great job in balancing both the dramatic and actions sequences. But what really made “SOURCE CODE” very appealing to me was Ben Ripley’s screenplay. I cannot help but admire how he paced each big revelation in the movie’s story without rushing or bringing it to a slow crawl. And as I had watched the movie reached its finale, it occurred to me that “SOURCE CODE”ended on a note that I believe that the U.S. version of “LIFE ON MARS” should have. I found the whole experience very satisfying.

Earlier, I had commented on the superb acting in the “SOURCE CODE”. And I still maintain that belief. Although the movie featured solid acting by the supporting cast, it was the four main leads that shined . . . at least in my opinion. Jake Gyllenhaal did a marvelous job in his portrayal of Coulter Stevens, the military helicopter pilot that found himself a part of a government program that he never signed for. Gyllenhaal perfectly conveyed his character’s initial confusion, growing awareness of the Source Code program, his growing affection toward the Christina Warren character. And the actor managed to pull all of these acting chops and remain a very effective action hero. Both Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright as Colleen Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge respectively, took me by surprise. Literally. Farmiga’s Captain Goodwin started out as a cool professional that utilized a brusque manner to ensure the completion of Stevens’ mission. But the actress did an excellent job in conveying her character’s growing attachment and compassion toward the doomed helicopter pilot. Wright’s Dr. Rutledge followed a reverse path. When his character was first introduced, I was left with the impression of a slightly nervous and shy man who was determined to save Chicago. But as the movie progressed, Wright slowly, but effectively pulled back the layers of his character to reveal a man, whose obsession with his creation had eroded a great deal of humanity from his personality. Behind the shy and nervous man was a ruthless being that lacked any compassion whatsoever. Watching Wright perform, it occurred to me that he has become a true chameleon, capable of getting under the skin of any character. Michelle Monaghan’s portrayal of the passenger Christina Warren seemed to lack the complexity of the other three major characters. But I must admit that she did a great job in portraying her character as a warm and vibrant personality. One could not label her character as a “damsel-in-distress”. After all, her character had died before the movie’s first reel. But it finally occurred to me that instead of the damsel, Monaghan’s Christina Warren served as Coulter Steven’s emotional center.

Did “SOURCE CODE” have any flaws? Well . . . I realize that I had commented on the supporting cast’s “solid” action. And I stand by my word. However, not all of them were perfect. There were a few characters among the train’s passengers that struck me as a tad over-the-top. If the movie had any other flaws, I did not notice. I was too busy being intrigued and entertained by Ben Ripley’s first-rate story, Duncan Jones’ direction and the superb acting by the movie’s four leads. It is a pity that the movie failed to become a major hit, despite earning a profit. I still believe that it had deserved to become one.

“DUE DATE” (2010) Review

 

“DUE DATE” (2010) Review
I have always been a fan of road trip movies. This come from a love of long-distance traveling that I managed to acquire over the years. Some of my favorite movies have featured road trips – ”IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT””SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT”,”MIDNIGHT RUN” and even ”PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES”. Because of this, I looked forward to seeing ”DUE DATE”, Todd Phillips’ new movie that starred Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Also written by Phillips, along with Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, and Adam Sztykiel; ”DUE DATE” told the story of an architect named Peter Highman trying to get home from Atlanta to Los Angeles to be present at the birth of his first child, a scheduled C-section, with his wife, Sarah. At the Atlanta airport, Peter has an encounter with an aspiring actor named Ethan Tremblay. After inadvertently using the words terrorist and bomb during a quarrel with Ethan, Peter is shot by an air marshal with a rubber bullet. Both are forced off the plane before take-off. And after being questioned by airport security, Peter discovers that he has been placed on the No Fly List and will have to find another way to get to California. After realizing that he had left his wallet on the plane, Peter reluctantly agrees to travel with Ethan all the way to Los Angeles.

At first, it occurred to me that ”DUE DATE” was not as . . . hilarious as two of his other well-known films, 2003’s ”STARSKY AND HUTCH” and last year’s ”THE HANGOVER”. By the time the movie ended, I realized why. ”DUE DATE” strongly reminded me of the 1987 comedy, ”PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES”. In fact, it could easily be considered a remake of the John Hughes film. Both movies are basically comedic road trips about two different men – an uptight professional desperately trying to get home for a certain reason who is forced to travel with a flaky and accident-prone, yet desperately lonely man for financial reasons. There were differences. In the 1987 film, Steve Martin and John Candy traveled from New York to Chicago, spending most of their journey throughout the Midwest. In this film, Downey Jr. and Galifianakis traveled through the Deep South, from Atlanta to Los Angeles. This movie focused a lot of their journey in Texas – especially in the second half. But if I must be honest, the differences are minor in compare to the similarities. Let us just say that ”DUE DATE” is definitely a remake of Hughes’ film.

Todd Phillips did an excellent job with his cast. The supporting characters turned out to be interesting. Juliette Lewis, who had worked with Phillips in ”STARSKY AND HUTCH”, portrayed a flaky marijuana dealer in Birmingham, Alabama, from whom Ethan (Galifianakis) wanted to purchase some weed. This sequence provided the funniest moment in the movie – an encounter between a very annoyed Peter (Downey Jr.) and the dealer’s bratty kids, which ended up with a surprising punch to the gut. Another interesting supporting performance came from Danny McBride (who worked with Downey Jr. in ”TROPIC THUNDER”), who portrayed an intimidating and physically disabled Western Union employee they had encountered. The movie also featured a wild and funny encounter with two Mexican border patrol cops who arrest Peter for possession of marijuana (thanks to a fleeing Ethan). But the funniest supporting performance came from Jamie Foxx (Downey Jr.’s co-star from 2009’s”THE SOLOIST”), who rediscovered his comic roots by portraying Peter’s oldest friend from college, now living in Dallas. What made Foxx’s performance rather funny was that his character seemed like a very together man . . . who harbored a slight obsession toward Peter’s wife (Michelle Monaghan), whom he had dated in college. But the real stars of the movie were Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Phillips was very lucky that the pair managed to generate such a strong screen chemistry. They did an awesome job in portraying two rather emotionally disturbed, yet different men who found themselves forming a strong bond during the 2,200 miles journey. Downey Jr.’s sharp-tongue, yet uptight character balanced very well with Galifianakis’ emotionally immature dweeb.

Did I have any problems with ”DUE DATE”? Well . . . yes. Like ”PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTO”, it was a strong comedy with some equally strong angst moments. And like the 1987 movie, those angst moments felt very forced. I believe that was due to Galifianakis’ performance. Mind you, there was nothing wrong with his acting, but it felt rather forced. And another scene I had trouble with was the encounter between the two travelers and the Western Union employee. That particular scene started out funny. But when McBride revealed his character to be a disabled Iraqi War veteran, the laughs dried up. The situation grew worse when McBride’s character began beating upon Downey Jr.’s sarcastic character. I did not know whether or not to take this scene seriously. Instead, I winced through it all.

It is possible that many moviegoers might not take this movie seriously, due to its strong resemblance to ”PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES”. Roger Ebert went as far as to compare it unfavorably to the 1987 film. Personally, I have decided to regard ”DUE DATE” as a remake. Is it a good remake? Yes. In fact, not only does the 2010 film not only share similar strengths with Hughes’ film, but also similar flaws. But it is still a first-rate movie, even if I would never regard it as a personal favorite of mine.

“The Fugitive Kate Austen”

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I might as well make this clear. I dislike the character of Kate Austen from “LOST”. She is one of my least favorite characters in the series, and on television, period. And I wrote this article on how much I dislike her. Call it therapy on my part:

“THE FUGITIVE KATE AUSTEN”

I wish they would simply kill off the Kate Austen character. Just scrag her freckled butt, so I could watch the rest of this series in some semblance of peace. But . . . it will never happen.

The show’s producers will never get rid of Kate. Never. She will probably be around until the very last episode. It occurred to me that even if Kate’s character becomes “redeemed” in the end, I would still dislike her. I have never liked her. I used to be indifferent to her character . . . until I saw (1.12) “Whatever the Case May Be”. Then my dislike of her character began in earnest.

Yet, despite the backstory given to her in episodes like “Whatever the Case May Be”, (1.22) “Born to Run”, (2.09) “What Kate Did”, (3.15)”Left Behind”, (4.04) “Eggtown”, (5.04) “The Little Prince” and (5.11)”Whatever Happened, Happened”; Kate’s lack of morals and responsibility is not the main reason why I dislike her character. Many of the other characters are just as flawed. But many fans have never gone out of their way to make excuses for the actions of other characters like they have done for Kate. And I suspect that there is a reason for this phenonemon.

I suspect that the Kate Austen character is supposed to represent the either a physical embodiment of the American feminine ideal (odd, for a character being portrayed by a Canadian actress) and the wet dream of the aged 30-to-50 fanboys like the show’s producers, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindehof and J.J. Abrams. Many fans already suspect that actress Evangeline Lilly was hired because she represented the “look” he wanted for Kate’s character. Hell, Abrams had even had hired actress Michele Monaghan to portray Tom Cruise’s wife in “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III”, which was directed by Abrams. And Monaghan bears a strong resemblance to Lilly. Frankly, I wish she had been hired to portray Kate. Perhaps I would have been able to identify with the character a little more. Hell, Sun-Hwa Kwon is, in her own way, just as flaky as Kate. But her character was put into the hands of a first-class actress like Yunjin Kim. Which is why I find it easier to understand her character.

Frankly, I believe that Kate is a character that the producers should have written out of the show back in Season Three. Instead, they kept her around because of Lilly’s looks and they needed to extend the much hated Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle until the bitter end. And to ensure that Kate’s character remain as long as possible, they dumped the Aaron Littleton storyline on her. Why? To justify her continuing presence on the show. And if I have to be honest, they have barely done squat with that storyline. Really. We finally discovered why Kate did not bring Aaron back with her in (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened” . All it did was extend my disgust toward her. But you know what? I guess I should not care. I would rather see Kate dead than find out what she had done with Aaron. Especially since she had kidnapped him and pretended to be his mother for nearly three years . . . all because she was upset over Sawyer jumping out of that helicopter in the Season Four finale.

When I heard that Kate might finally confess about the lie surrounding Aaron, I thought she would end up confessing to Sawyer, Juliet and the other castaways. Instead, she confessed to Sawyer’s old girlfriend, Cassidy. That was disappointing. And now, Sawyer still does not know about the lie surrounding Aaron. Nor does he know that Kate had no intention of returning to the island to save his life. And she still has the murder of Wayne Jensen hanging over her head. If we’re supposed to root for them to get together following this episode, I think that the writers have failed. At least with me.

Regarding Kate’s decision to return to the island, she tells Cassidy that her intention is to find Claire and get her back home to Aaron. How? Is Kate really that stupid? Surely she must have realized that there was no way to achieve this in 2007. She does not know about the runway that Frank Lapidus had used to land Flight 316. Locke had destroyed the Dharma submarine back in Season 3. And Kate knows about the destruction of the freighter. How was she planning to send Claire back to Aaron? Or was she simply talking out of her ass?

You know, ever since (4.04) “Eggtown”, Kate’s story arc has been badly handled by the writers. It started with that ludicrous attempt by her to get information from Miles about her status as a fugitive. Then it developed into the storyline surrounding her custody of Aaron that went no where. The only thing that the Aaron storyline achieved was a temporary estragement between her and Jack. It was revealed in (5.04) “The Little Prince” that she had decided to claim Aaron as her own, because she was traumatized over losing Sawyer. And yet . . . “Eggtown” made it clear that she was willing to use Aaron to re-start a romance with Jack. If Aaron represented as a substitute for the loss of Sawyer, why did she have a photograph of both Aaron and Jack on her mantlepiece in Los Angeles? Was this a symbol of her continuing desire for both Jack and Sawyer? Or what? And the storyline surrounding her return to the island . . . contrived and badly written. After refusing to return to the island for Sawyer’s sake, she visits his ex-girlfriend, confesses the Aaron kidnapping and vows to return to the island in order to find Claire Littleton and send the Australian woman back to her son and mother . . . without knowing how to achieve this little act? The only thing Kate did right was hand Aaron over to Carole Littleton. And I saw that coming a mile away. Once Kate returned to Los Angeles, she uses Jack for comfort sex and later rejects him after boarding Ajira Flight 316.

And then the producers dumped the badly written “Whatever Happened, Happened” episode on the viewers in order to make Kate favorable to the viewers again. They had her acting like a frantic Florence Nightingale over a kid she hardly knew. I understand if she was perturbed over young Ben’s situation, like the others (sans Jack). But the writers . . . took it too far with Kate’s frantic desire to save him, which included her donating blood to him. And they even used this episode to blame Jack for Ben’s slide into darkness. I guess that the show’s writers and producers’ attempt to redeem Kate in the eyes of the viewers seemed to be working. The viewers are eagerly lapping up this shit. But Lindehof and Cuse achieved this at a heavy price. In the end, all they did was sacrifice any semblance of artistic achievement for bad characterization and mediocre writing. How sad.

But they will never get rid of Kate. She is like this disease that never goes away. Some article from the “E! Online” website had the nerve to say that many fans were glad that Kate was not being killed off. Perhaps that is true. One would think that she is such a compelling character. But I do not think so. I suspect that my problem with Kate is that she is one of the most badly written characters on this show and in the history of television . . . and she is the female lead. And I find that disturbing.