So last week saw the grand finale of HBO’s Eastbound and Down. The sitcom that followed Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers, an ex pro baseballer as he desperately tries to cling on to his fame and win over the love of his life. I was a late-comer to the show but it quickly became one of my favourites, every season managed to create a fresh, new situation to throw this brilliantly observed character into. After initially announcing that the third season as the last after the final episode it was announced that there would be one last blaze of glory for Kenny Powers.
Season four picks up with Kenny having quit baseball and becoming a stay at home dad, while his wife makes her name as a real-estate agent. It’s not long before Powers’ ego gets the best of him and he can’t handle playing second fiddle to his wife and when he is offered a guest spot on a sports TV show it’s not long before he slips back into his fame hungry, selfish ways. What has always been the best thing about Eastbound and Down is that it manages to keep the laughs flowing but also makes you feel for it’s tragic lead character who can’t seem to grow out of his ten-year old mindset. His sidekick Stevie is also a consistent provider of big laughs while being a completely tragic pushover. What the writers do so well is making the drama feel real without going over-the-top. Season four in particular makes use of this emotional connection we have with the characters creating probably the most touching moments of the show and providing us with a fitting end to one of the most ingenious sitcom’s to come out in recent years.
The quality of the show is so high it’s impossible to pick a best season, as every one of them could make a good case. Although the very final moment of the season leaves you wondering what was actually going on season four gives us a fine farewell to a superb comedy creation.
The big blockbuster of the moment is sci-fi epic Gravity. The hype surrounding the movie is some of the biggest we’ve seen all year, with five-star review pouring out and money stacking up at the box office it was impossible not to feel the excitement for Alfonso Cuaron’s lost in space drama. Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock the film, set almost entirely in space, follows the two as they become abandoned in space with their ship destroyed and the rest of their crew dead.
What’s interesting about Cuaron’s film is that he takes sci-fi very much back to basics, forget what you’ve been reading about how new and fresh this is that doesn’t fit. What Gravity is a taking sci-fi back to the drawing board. Rather than upping the concept Cuaron opts for a simple story but one that is full very dread and tension. This is easily one of the most realistic sci-fi’s you will see this year (bar the ridiculous ending that I won’t give away) and what it does so well is capture the sense of being in space. Instead of bombarding you with aliens, galaxies and laser guns this is about two everyday people stuck in a bit of a jam. The strengths of the film come in it’s depiction of space itself, with the only worthwhile 3D since Avatar you genuinely feel for moments like you’re floating through space with them. Within the first ten minutes this is utilised to great effect as Bullock’s character becomes separated from the space craft and goes spiralling off into open space. While the first half of the film flawless depicts this horrific ordeal I felt the movie let itself down in the second. As the film goes on there’s less and less of the loneliness, less and less of the silence that works so effectively to create this feeling of isolation and the movie instead turns to a soppy, unnecessary back story delivered through bland and uninventive dialogue. While the film never drifts from it’s entertainment value it’s lame attempt at a plot falls well short of the mark and is ultimately just not needed.
Gravity deserves a huge amount of credit because in many ways it has revolutionised the sci-fi genre, it has brought us probably the most accurate depiction of space ever seen in a movie. And it does an excellent job of taking the audience with it on the journey but I don’t think it deserves quite the praise it has received when it’s back story and dialogue are so badly put together. A great film that unfortunately lets itself down.
When news of The Bling Ring first spread, I must admit, I actually got pretty excited. Not only has Sofia Coppola proved herself as a restrained and artistic director with the likes of Lost in Translation and Somewhere, but also because it boasted Emma Watson looking ridiculously fit as a rich Hollywood bitch. That aside though it did seem an interesting premise for a movie, based on the real group of teens who burgled celebrities homes by following their twitter feeds and finding the houses on google maps. But it also seemed an unusual choice for Coppola whose previous best outputs have been arty, sentimental affairs with slow moving plots, instead exploring human emotion on a more basic level. Perhaps that’s why, then, that The Bling Ring is ultimately a confused movie.
When it begins we are bombarded with some bass heavy music that sets up a super stylised vision of life for these teenagers growing up in Hollywood, surrounded by celebrity and greed. From the off, Coppola’s comment on social media is made clear and throughout the film facebook, twitter and smart phones are never far. One of the films most insightful scenes comes in the mid-section when the group go for a night out and there are moments where every single one of them are on their phones, an all too familiar scene for me! But while at points the film does make some very acute social comment what it doesn’t quite grasp is a mood and style of it’s own. As the robberies continue, getting larger and larger each time and things start to get a bit more serious for the gang we start to get these prolonged slo-mo shots of the characters standing on their own, or in one particularly strange moment the one of the characters singing into their webcam and while this attempt to change the mood could have been successful Coppola still attempts to keep this youthful pop video feel to the other scenes. Meanwhile the story gets lost amongst it all, having only read a few small articles about the real Bling Ring I was hoping for the movie to show me something I didn’t know, I was bitterly disappointed. It seems that plot wise Sofia has only just scratched the surface of what was going on in these guys minds. The long slo-mo’s worked well in other films like Lost in Translation because the movie was about emotions but here this is a movie about real people and she fails to give us a proper insight into their lives.
While The Bling Ring isn’t unenjoyable to watch and it’s cast does perform well with such a limited script and muddled direction (that said Watson’s accent occasionally doesn’t quite work) the movie doesn’t quite do what I had expected. There’s a much better movie to be made about this group of desensitised youths of the information age and Coppola doesn’t manage to dig beneath the surface.