The Hero (2017): Downbeat and Deep Sam Elliot Rocks (Review)

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Written for Sam Elliot and directed by Brett Haley, The Hero is a loving homage to the star and his long running career as consummate character actor. This deep and downbeat drama also manages to pay tribute to all those TV westerns where Sam, along with fan favorite Tom Selleck, helped to bring the tales of Louis L’Amour to life. Elliot, in short, rocks in his performance and should, if nothing else, get an Oscar nod for this role.

This is not a fun film to watch. With the exception of the award ceremony where Elliot proves he can play “high” with the best of them, the film is a cold hard look at the profession, aging and, ultimately, death. It also, through the auspices of Laura Prepon, tells us that romance is not dead at 71.

Co-written by Haley and Marc Basch The Hero tells the story of Lee Hayden. (Can there be a better name than this for a one time western star?) Lee is 71. His glory days are far behind him and he is estranged from his daughter (Krysten Ritter). Lee learns that he is to receive an award for his star turn in an old western “The Hero.” 

Before he can attend the ceremony, Lee marches through his days as a voice over artist; flogging barbecue sauce, smoking pot and wondering about his existence. He meets Charlotte (Prepon) who has a thing for older men and Lee learns that he is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer.

The Hero is a slow, almost languid, film. It is more interested in looking at Lee’s state of mind and the internal machinations of a man who knows he is dying. (There is a sort of irony at work here. Patrick Swayze – Elliot’s co-star in Roadhouse – died from pancreatic cancer. As this was written for Elliot, it stands to reason that this may be a slight nod to the late actor.)

The film has a fine mix of comedic moments (very low key) and a number of tearful scenes. Elliot’s resurgence in the social realm, after his award speech is broadcast on YouTube, leads to an audition. It is not a surprising scene. There is a splendid buildup to the moment in a previous scene.

Lee reads his sides with onetime costar and drug dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman).  The lines deal with a space cowboy who is trying to save his estranged daughter. Themes of desertion, death and betrayal resonate in the brief bit of dialogue and the stage is set for what transpires later. 

Katherine Ross (Elliot’s real life wife) plays his ex with conviction and the only complaint here would be with her lack of screen time. This is, however, Elliot’s story so everyone else must stay on the periphery of the tale. The Hero strides slowly towards its somewhat ambiguous ending with a pace that is evocative of a western hero striding slowly down main street; spurs jangling, to that fateful shootout.

Prepon is spot on as Hayward’s young poetry obsessed lover. Ritter proves that whether she is playing a Marvel superhero, doomed drug addict or the  estranged daughter of a self centered actor, she  nails the character completely.

The Hero is the perfect counterpoint to the redneck comedy on Netflix where Elliot has been both miscast and misplaced. The actor can do comedy brilliantly and still manages to, with nary a word spoken, show pathos almost effortlessly.

(When Sam cries we all cry, such is his depth and honesty.)

The Hero is a full five star film, despite its somewhat lacklustre ending. The film is one that needs to be seen and savoured. Haley has put his heart and soul into this cinematic love letter to Elliot and this should net some gongs at the next Oscar ceremony.

Chelsea: Krysten Ritter Spills the Beans on Jessica Jones Season Two

Chelsea Handler

On Friday’s Chelsea, Krysten Ritter made one of those gaffes where she almost gave out too much information.  On the episode, that Chelsea dubbed “Bada** B*tch Day,” Ritter came out to talk about the Marvel character she played in the first season of Jessica Jones.

Before the verbal slip, Jones and Chelsea talked about traveling together with a Netflix promotional tour.  She also mentioned how much she liked working on the Marvel show.

Chelsea and Krysten talked about how Netflix is not releasing any information about a new season of Jessica Jones.

The subject of knitting then came up; Ritter’s new pastime on set and she almost says what she is working on right now.

At this point, she stopped and said, to herself, “I’m so fired.”

However, the clues are that her very appearance on Chelsea is a big hint in itself. Artists come on the show to plug their latest bit of work, or upcoming releases. So fans of the series can almost breathe a sigh of relief as it looks like Jessica Jones is indeed coming back.

Chelsea started the episode talking about the creepy clown epidemic.  (Coincidentally the show ends with a creepy clown lurking behind a potted plant on the Netflix stage.) The highlight of this opener was a picture of Donald Trump with a red nose. Chelsea called the presidential candidate an “A** Clown.”

Next up were documentary filmmakers Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst. They produced the Amanda Knox documentary that is streaming on Netflix currently.

Chelsea had seen the documentary and clearly  felt strongly about what she saw as injustices in the Italian legal system. She also expressed a lot of disdain for the lead prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini.

Both McGinn and Blackhurst spoke about the prosecutor and about the case. They also explained that things were not quite as they seemed as both Mignini and Knox  as each were seeing things differently.

Part of the aim of the documentary was to show the loss of privacy in prison and how this affected not only Knox but the many trials she underwent  as well.  Knox agreed to participate in the film, after initially saying no, and according to the filmmakers the Italian participants did the same.

Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, was the last guest. She and Chelsea spoke of her time on Dancing With the Stars and the cabaret act that Willis has started promoting.

There was also some conversation about being the kid of famous parents and Willis revealed that she had been told that Chelsea was a “b*tch.”

The actress also talked about her stance against photoshopping pictures and explained how detrimental the practice of altering images really is to young women.

Chelsea also did a pre-recorded segment where she learned to objectively view art. It was a class  established to teach law enforcement and medical personnel how to objectively read a situation. As usual, Chelsea ended up confusing the lecturer.

There was also another segment with female powerhouse lawyer Laura Wasser.

The female guests on the show appeared in jeans and a red blouse; Krysten and a diaphanous green dress; Rumer. Both women  came across as strong and positive role models who completely sold Chelsea’s self titled  segment of “Bad A** B*tch Day.”

Chelsea airs Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on Netflix.

Guests:

Jessica Jones: Guided Falling…In Love

After taking time to watch almost all of the episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix and starting to write thoughts on each single installment, it was decided to do an overall feeling about the series and this unlikely superhero.

Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones

After taking time to watch almost all of the episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix and starting to write thoughts on each single installment, it was decided to do an overall feeling about the series and this unlikely superhero. An uber strong, limited self healing, gal who does not fly, but engages in guided falling, it is this description from the heroine that almost wills the viewer to fall in love with this character.

Throughout the season, we have seen Jones become more heroic (as she fights to catch and take out Kilgrave),  Jeri Hogarth become more evil, Kilgrave become pathetic, Simpson become deadly and Trish become stronger.  The entire first season of the show is all about becoming, apparently…and death.

It all about learning the backstory of Jessica and eventually Kevin, aka Kilgrave. But over and above all that, is this seedy, unglamorous and gritty side of Marvel. Set in New York, along the same time line as The Avengers saving the city, Jones is the red-headed step child of the verse.

(In the Marvel verse, Jones was a member of the Avengers very, very briefly.)

Jessica Jones is the “noir” version of Marvel, along with Luke Cage, and she epitomizes the hard-drinking, sloppy P.I. of fiction….except,  she has super strength and can fly.  Although she calls it, “controlled  or guided falling.

Krysten Ritter plays Jones as a downtrodden, attitudinal passive aggressive.  Like the rest of the verse the character inhabits, the city is grey, dark and dirty. The juxtaposition of Jones’ life compared to the Avengers; Tony Stark, Captain America is just too brilliantly ironic.

Cap and Ironman are heroes looked up to by the denizens of New York who believe they lead the charge to save them, along with that “big green guy” mentioned a lot in the Netflix series. Jones, who was not even part of the “rescue” is attacked by a disgruntled woman whose mother died during Loki’s attack.

Once again, like the big screen Marvel adventures and the small screen actions of SHIELD (both Agent Carter and Phil Coulson and his crew) despite all the fantasy elements of the verse, everything is rooted in a semblance of reality. Although arguably, Jessica Jones and her world feel much more in the trenches, or gutter, than the superheroes who saved New York.

Jones’ world takes a look at gory homicide, the messiness of divorce and even tackles drugs, the red white and blue pills that Simpson takes are pretty spectacular and apparently addictive as well as combat enhancing.

Apart from all these gritty, there’s that word again, realities, this version of Marvel is full of malcontents, the socially inept, the downright weird and full of destruction. Jessica lives in a world of broken walls, furniture and people.  As do most of the inhabitants of her verse. Even the more successful, like high-powered lawyer Hogarth is broken, personally and in terms of ethics, granted, she is a lawyer so it is to be expected…

There is at least one person who lives in an ivory tower, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), former child star and radio talkshow host of New York, is in a different realm from her “sister.” After Simpson turns up, completely overrun by those red pills he keeps popping like breath mints, he leaves two dead men outside Walker’s posh apartment.

When Trish comes home, she find the place spotless, no dead bodies and nothing to indicate that they were ever there. At Jessica’s place, the unconscious Simpson is removed, but her apartment/office still looks like a nuke has hit it. Vive la’ difference…

Leaving lifestyles of Marvel’s rich and famous aside, the noir-ish world of Jessica Jones is still firmly part of the comic verse. Nods and winks to her “colleagues” abound. References to the Hulk and at least one kid running around in a Captain America outfit. Then there is the reference to “inhumans.”

Dorothy Walker (Rebecca De Mornay), the stage mother from Hell, shows up at Trish’s place with an envelope with the mysterious initials IGH. Obviously a reference to Daisy, aka Tremors, and the other Inhumans and must stand for Inhuman Growth Hormone.  This is, apparently, the reason for Jessica’s strength and limited healing capabilities.

This down and dirty version of Marvel is as addictive as the cleaner shinier one.  While there is no real news about a second season or not, this one is pretty entertaining. Jessica Jones and her guided falling has made it easy to fall in love with this “darker” heroine.

 

 

 

Jessica Jones: AKA the Crush Syndrome (Review)

The second episode of Jessica Jones on Netflix follows the aftermath of Hope shooting her parents to death in the elevator (lift). Marvel can do dark brilliantly and Jones as protagonist just does not get much darker.

Jessica Jones and Jeri Hogarth

The second episode of Jessica Jones on Netflix follows the aftermath of Hope shooting her parents to death in the elevator (lift).  Marvel can do dark brilliantly and Jones as protagonist just does not get much darker.  This noir-like offering gives us strong women in spades, albeit all are damaged somewhat, and two “stronger” male figures. Cage and Kilgrave (the latter is strong in will and his ability to make people act against their nature) are both arguably stronger than Jones, but then she has vulnerabilities because of David Tenant’s character.

In terms of overly capable performers in the dark series, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones,  Aussie actress Rachael  Taylor as her sister (adopted) and Carrie-Anne Moss give us a trio of women who are strong, assertive and successful. (Although admittedly both Trish (Taylor) and Jeri Hogarth (Moss) are higher on the scale of “success” than Jones.)

The build up of Kilgrave (Tennant) is brilliant. Thus far, even though we have yet to see KIlgrave, apart from a very quick profile shot as he screams into Jones’ ear, the series is making him out to be a villain amongst villains. (This  lack of appearance is rectified by the end of the episode when he takes over  a family and shuts their children in a closet.)

As Jessica continues to track down Kilgrave we are treated to a number of moments that stand out.  Apparently even his near death experience, being hit by a bus may not have killed the baddy but it certainly messed him up, did not lessen his powers of persuasion.

Such as the poor man who gives up both his kidneys to Kilgrave. This particular sequence in the episode was as blackly funny as it was horrific.  Attached to a dialysis machine and trapped with his cloying mother, the man seems almost oblivious to his surroundings.

After his mother leaves to get Jessica a drink, she questions this victim of Kilgrave. The man motions for a pencil, taking the instrument, he then starts awkwardly printing on a scrap of a paper after Jones asks who did this to him.

K-I-L…

“Kilgrave,” Jessica prompts.

“KILL ME.”

This hapless victim of Kilgrave is clearly in his own personal hell with his  devoted mother, who believes his condition is God’s punishment for his previous indiscretions, as the jailer. What makes this scene so ironic is Jessica’s statement to Jack the victim.

“God didn’t do this to you, it was the devil, and I’m going to get him.”

How can you not love this type of sly black humor? It is obvious that poor Jack wants to die, not because of what Kilgrave has turned him into, but to get away from his suffocating overly religious mother.

Later we learn just what happened the night that Kilgrave was injured. It is also  made clear that Jones has a thing for Cage. She tells him about his married lover, whose husband, she says, hired Jessica to prove her indiscretions with Luke (Mike Colter).  

Another stand out moment shows us the mythos of the bartender. A man who is “unbreakable.” Certainly the power-saw scene was goosebump inducing, as was Jones’ reaction to his little display, but the use of the phrase brought up visions of Bruce Willis and M. Night Shyamalan. (As well as a delirious Samuel L. Jackson shouting out, “They called me Mr. Glass!”)

This display of invincibility, against a power-saw at least, is one of the more overt shows of power. So far, the series has downplayed Jones’ power. It appears in snippets, such as Jessica stripping off locks from the hospital lockers in the changing room, or her fight in the bar when she aids Cage, who clearly did not need it.

Jessica Jones so far,  is focusing on her relationships with Trish and the cool, aloof Hogarth (Moss) as well as her initial attraction to Luke Cage. There are brief flashes of life “under Kilgrave” and of course the Shlottman murders committed by Hope (Erin Moriarty) are part of Jones’ current workload.

The P.I. also discovers what may be Kilgrave’s achilles heel after learning that he underwent the kidney transplants sans anesthesia.  She learns that certain drugs  could leave him vulnerable.  Propofol or Sufentanil were the drugs he turned down before the operation.  She also learns what “Crush Syndrome” is; after one kidney is destroyed the other begins to shut down in sympathy.

The episode ends with Cage in her apartment, after Jones has that epiphany about the drugs being Kilgrave’s weakness and Luke get the last, and perhaps coolest line in the episode, with his, “You can’t fix me. I’m unbreakable.”

Jessica Jones is great small screen Marvel, darker than Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, as both of these offerings contain an amount of overt humor, versus the black kind.  So far, Krysten Ritter rocks it as the strong, P.I. who has a personal demon to slay. The series is on Netflix which means that the whole thing can be watched without waiting. Tune in for the dark humor and a storyline that promises much.

Jessica Jones: The Underbelly of Marvel Noir

Jessica Jones is the dark side of Marvel, it is noire to the very core with a heroine that drinks too much and has been to the dark side and back, but only just. Played by the impressive Krysten Ritter (who will be remembered principally for playing Jesse Pinkman’s druggie girlfriend that Walter lets OD) this series is darker than dark and full of bad attitude.

Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones is the dark side of Marvel, it is noire to the very core with a heroine that drinks too much and has been to the dark side and back, but only just.  Played by the impressive Krysten Ritter (who will be remembered principally for playing Jesse Pinkman’s druggie girlfriend that Walter lets OD) this series is darker than dark and full of bad attitude. 

It is also addictive to watch and great fun.  Jessica Jones is enjoyable in a way that the regular Marvel “good guys” cannot be. Sure there are superheroes, and just plain old heroes, who have dark pasts and some pretty messy backstories, but Jones, who will also turn up in The Defenders (which will also be aired on Netflix) in 2016 beats those hands down.

If one is interested enough there is at least one “wiki” page entry for Jones’ character in the Marvel verse.  Apparently the dark haired super-strong gal with limited invulnerability powers was a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. at one time until her dark nature got her the boot.

The magic of Jessica Jones is that Krysten makes the hero so watchable that it is difficult not to binge all 13 episodes on offer over at Netflix.  Another point in this dark Marvel heroine’s favour is that we don’t need to know an awful lot about the superhero.  The pacing and story telling is such that we find out all that is needed to know.

Certainly there are characters in the show that come from the verse and are all part of the lore of Jones’ world. Luke Cage (played with an impressive depth and bearing by actor Mike Colter who is working currently on TNT’s Agent X and will, apparently have his own TV show titled, appropriately enough, Luke Cage) has ties with Jessica in both the comic world and on the series.

Whether there are any “Easter Eggs” in the show or not remains to be seen. Admittedly it is hard to take one’s eyes off of Ritter, just as it was in Breaking Bad.  The actress oozes a sense of dangerous reality in Jessica Jones and merely walking across her cluttered apartment floor takes on special meaning.

The flashbacks and her mantra of street names, to help get over “the Purple Man” aka, KIlgrave go a long way toward telling us that this is one flawed superhero.  Thus far the viewer has yet to see more than a silhouette or an arm of Kilgrave and we have only heard his voice. The part will be played by David Tennant (former Dr Who fan favorite and star of the US version of Broadchurch, which he also starred in, Gracepoint.)

Once again the Purple Man is part of the verse and a major nemesis of Jones in the comics.  In the pilot episode, AKA Ladies Night, Jones is serving papers to douche client when she picks up the vibe of Kilgrave. Later a girl’s parents show up asking Jessica to find and save their daughter Hope (Erin Moriarty). 

Jones accepts, reluctantly and in the process of tracking down the girl learns that Kilgrave is still alive, despite what Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Jones’ adopted sister believes. The pilot episode is tight and entertaining. It ends with the viewer wanting more and as it is on Netflix, this is definitely possible. 

Perfectly timed to fill that holiday gap left by midseason and fall finales, Jessica Jones is a really dark gem. Tune in to Netflix and get hooked on that bad girl superhero vibe.