‘Fargo’ Season Two Reunites ‘Burn Notice’ Stars

Bruce Campbell and Jeffrey Donovan
News that FX, utilizing the sharper than sharp pen of Noah Hawley, is doing a second season of Fargo is pretty exciting. Even more so is the knowledge that two Burn Notice stars are reuniting in the show. Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell will both be in the return to the brilliant criminal quirkiness that is Fargo.

The first season of the FX series, based on the Coen Bros big screen award winning cult classic 1996 film starring William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare, did much better than anyone could have predicted. The success experienced by Joel and Ethan Coen  was not expected to transfer successfully to the small screen.

But maestro Hawley utilized the verse of Fargo and introduced new characters and a splendid set of actors to play them. Billy Bob Thornton played the creepiest villain ever, Martin Freeman’s character was a nebbish everyman who murders his wife and Allison Tolman became a star.

The cast list for this second season foray into Fargo “world” includes Ted Danson, Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell. The last two were costars on the long running USA network series Burn Notice. In that Miami based show Donovan played the burned (blacklisted) agent Michael Weston and Campbell played his old pal Sam,  a former Navy Seal. In Fargo season two Campbell is slated to play Ronald Reagan and Jeffrey is slated to play a crime family member.

On paper, at least, it does not look like the two will be playing many scenes together. The second season is set in the 1970s, specifically 1979, and Reagan has not yet been elected president. He would be just gearing up his presidential campaign. Considering the chemistry that Bruce and Donovan had in Burn Notice it is hopeful that the crime family resides in California and the two will have a few scenes together.

Donovan has not been overly busy since the USA series was cancelled, he is working on something called Shot Caller and its status (on IMDb) is “filming.” Campbell is also not overly busy although fans are eagerly awaiting the series premiere, in October, of Ash vs Evil Dead.  He is not currently “filming” anything else.

The two Burn Notice actors were a great double act in the show but despite this little reunion, they may be just a little overshadowed by the storyline chosen by Noah Hawley for the second season of Fargo. Information released about the plot reveals that this season is set in Minnesota and…Danson will play his age, Martin Freeman’s role will be played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, and Patrick Wilson is playing Alison Tolman’s dad.

Plemons, who was brilliant as Todd, the thug with the crush on Lydia Rodarte-Quayle;  the herbal tea drinking drug boss (played by Laura Fraser), should have no problem fitting in another criminal type scenario. While there are a number of impressive names involved with this newest visit to Coen Bros territory, fans of Donovan and Campbell can take a moment to be excited about their pairing.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008) Real Life, But Not

Poster for How to Lose Friends and Alienate PeopleThis, sort of, biopic about Brit journo Toby Young is entertaining fodder. Never mind that it took me around seven years to finally watch this film, there were reasons…Okay? Essentially, like most amusing features based upon humorous memoirs, the film is about real life, but not really. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is pretty much fictional from the first frame. Where Toby, renamed Sidney, for the film worked in New York for Vanity Fair magazine, Pegg’s journalist works for Jeff Bridges, in the guise of Clayton Harding owner of Sharps a celebrity focused glossy.

It is fun, at the start of the film to see Thandie Newton, as herself, interacting with Pegg’s character, probably a payback for appearing together the previous year in Run Fatboy Run! and what’s wrong with that?

The romantic interest in the film is played by, alternatively, Megan Fox, who had not yet insulted her Transformer’s producer Michael Bay and Kirsten Dunst who had just finished her Spider-Man run as Mary Jane. There are a number of respectable names in the film. Gillian Anderson, whose character may, or may not be a cougar who tempts Young into dancing with the devil so to speak.

Everyone in the film looks ridiculously young, no pun intended. Pegg looks like he has regressed age-wise from the superior television comedy Spaced and Fox looks very different as well, having not gone that final step with plastic surgery that “refined” her face, and body even further. Sadly, there is no cure for “toe-thumbs.”

Jeff Bridges could have been Shemped at the start of the film as he talks to Pegg’s character looking away from the camera. In fact, the Oscar winning star could have phoned his role in as it did not require an enormous amount of effort on his part. The same could be said of Dunst.

Danny Huston, however, excelled as the sleazy and oily king of the paps who heads up the “show and tell” portion of the magazine. I will admit a soft spot for Huston whom I fell in love with initially in 40 Days of Night and then later in The Warrior’s Way and American Horror Story.

The beginning of the film offers such familiar British acting worthies as Chris O’Down, James Cordon and Fenella Woolgar as well as the more famous English stars in tiny cameos, Daniel Craig, Kate Winslet; and Australian star Toni Collette.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is amusing and at one point it borrows from the second of the Cornetto trilogies, Hot Fuzz, where they do a riff on the “Can I have your autograph” gag. Compared with other Pegg offerings, this film is much better than, say, Burke and Hare but not quite on par with any of the Cornetto trilogy films.

On Netflix at the moment, along with A Fantastic Fear of Everything and while the biopic is definitely worth a look, the latter film can be missed without too much guilt. 3.5 out of 5 stars for this older funny film.

1 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

All Good Things (2010): A Stranger in Disguise

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Despite the name change, All Good Things is a fictionalised account of property tycoon Robert Durst who killed his next-door neighbour while he was living incognito as a mute woman. Proving that truth is indeed stranger than fiction, Durst’s wife disappeared mysteriously over 31 years ago and the only other person who might have known what really happened to her wound up dead after receiving a 9mm gunshot to the head.

Execution style.

Directed by Andrew Jarecki who has a fascination with Durst’s case and history, All Good Things is a slow movie. Its languid pacing is overshadowed by a sense of discord from the start of the film. The movie changes Durst’s name to the ironic moniker of Marks, this overly obvious ironic name change is just a few of the films problems. Such as relying on cliché’s and stereotypes to tell the story.

The Plot:

David Marks (Ryan Gosling) meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst) one of his father’s tenants when she complains of a leaky kitchen sink. He stops by, at his father’s insistence, to see if he can fix it. They are immediately attracted to one another and strike up a relationship. It’s a case of opposites attracting with Marks’ family is in the higher stratosphere of the monied gentry and Katie’s in solid middle class. After some growing pains, they marry and David turns his back on the family business. Their wedded bliss is short-lived, however, and after some interference from ‘poppa’ Marks (Frank Langella) they move back into the family fold. Their troubles begin almost immediately.

The Cast:

Ryan Gosling
Kirsten Dunst
Frank Langella
Sanford Marks
Lily Rabe
Deborah Lehrman
Philip Baker Hall
Malvern Bump

*Cast courtesy of IMDb.*

The Device:

Money can buy you anything and what you see is definitely not what you get.

Gosling and Dunst.
Gosling and Dunst.

The Twist:

There is no real twist here at all. Ryan Gosling as David Marks makes it apparent from his first appearance on-screen that there is something wrong with this character, hence, it comes as no surprise when we find out what he’s really like.

The Story:

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Marks is based on the real-life story of Robert Durst. Durst’s first wife disappeared and has not been seen since. The only person who may have known anything about the disappearance (Susan Berman aka Deborah Lehrman in the film) was dispatched with a bullet as soon as a Prosecuting Attorney got in touch with her. Durst took to living as a woman (who was mute) and he murdered an elderly neighbour claiming self-defence,

The Characters:

David Marks looks and acts slightly off kilter from frame one. He’s obviously got some hidden issues that would probably be better off left alone. I’ve never been a huge fan of Gosling’s, but, he is a more than capable actor. In this film he delivers but the movies pacing and perhaps the “filler” plot let him and Dunst down a bit. All the actors gave good solid performances and delivered characters who were believable and flawed. Unfortunately, as in any film that is based on true events, a lot of things for the film had to be “filled in” and therefore felt contrived.

The Verdict:

Although the script does a pretty good job of filling in the blanks, as it were, the pacing of the action lets everything down. I’m not saying that it needed to race towards the finish line, but it needed a shot of adrenaline administered here and there to pick up the flow. It is oddly compelling to watch. I could not stop viewing it even when I got frustrated at some of the events and their dipped in molasses recounting.

I’d have to give this film a 3.5 out of 5 stars for Dunst’s performance and that of Frank Langella. With an honourable mention to Lily Rabe as Deborah Lerhman and the delightful Philip Baker Hall. It is not a film that I’d care to watch twice and once I’d checked out the “true” story the film was based on; I felt that ,quite possibly, the real events probably overshadowed this celluloid re-telling.

Don’t break a leg rushing to see this one.

*And a quick word of thanks to Kevin over at Claratsi for giving me the “bump” I needed to finally watch this film. You can check out his blog by clicking on the link above!*

The delightful Philip Baker Hall.
The delightful Philip Baker Hall.

The Amazing Spider-Man Returns…Again

With the 2002 release of Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as ‘Spidey‘ and his love interest, I felt that Sam Raimi had done justice to Stan “The Man” Lee’s comic creation. Two more films quickly followed and a fourth was rumoured to be in the works.

Then, nothing.

The scuttlebutt was that differences of opinion between Maguire and Raimi was causing delays. It ended apparently with both sides leaving the ‘table’ and shelving Spider-Man 4 indefinitely.

Enter director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) with just the one feature film under his belt who was now going to helm the “new” Spider-man film.

With Toby Maguire admittedly being a bit long in the tooth to reprise Spidey at this late date, a search for a younger actor was launched.

Enter English actor Andrew Garfield, former gymnast and Spider-man fan. Good looking enough to set the ladies heart racing and athletic enough to do a lot of his own stunts.

With a new Spider-man, a new love interest was required. Kirsten Dunst was, like Toby, a bit old for the new, younger Spidey so they replaced her with the drool inducing Emma Stone. *Not as Mary Jane, but Peter Parker‘s first love in the Comic Verse,  Gwen Stacy.*

English: Emma Stone at the 2011 San Diego Comi...

The story line has been changed to allow a different take on the perils of Peter Parker. Deciding to focus on the ‘lack’ of Peter’s parents, it follows his journey to discover what his father did and who he was.

In a move that completely baffles me, actress Sally Field has been cast as Aunt May. Presumably because Cliff Robertson is no longer available, forever, they felt that a ‘name’ actor was required. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Sally Field, but I am having a hard time picturing The Flying Nun as Peter’s auntie. It also does not help that she doesn’t have the white librarian hair bun that May always sported in the comic.

They’ve also come up with a new villain. The Lizard  aka Dr. Curt Connors, who, I am pretty sure, does not exist in the comic book world of Stan Lee. But hey! Why not ‘make up’ a villain? You’ve already made up a dubious plot line for Spidey and friends.

**I have to stand corrected on the Lizard villain, he does indeed exist in the Spider-man verse, I just forgot him, quite understandable considering he was introduced in 1963 when I was five. I was not yet a Spider-man fan. Just goes to show there is a reason to do ALL your research.**

Stan Lee
Stan Lee (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

I know that a little detail like a non-existent search for Peter’s parents demise will not stop most of the targeted audience from attending in droves. It will be in the ‘new’ 3D, it will feature the ever beautiful Emma Stone and it will feature lots of web slinging, swinging, and splatting.

It looks to be witty (at least in the trailers it does) and very action packed. A perfect Blockbuster for the summer holidays. It opens here in the UK on the 3rd of July. I doubt I will be queuing up to see it.

I am slightly allergic to the demographic that will be in attendance and I really rather liked the ‘old’ Spider-Man. So I’ll most likely wait for the DVD. My Spidey-Sense is tingling and it’s telling me that, chances are, this might not be that great a film.