Hand Of God: An Amazon Originals series, it’s about Judge Pernell Harris (Ron Perlman) whose son is in a coma after a suicide attempt brought on by witnessing his wife’s sexual assault. His son has been declared brain dead and everyone is ready to pull the plug, including his wife, except for Pernell. This is due to Pernell believing he has been receiving messages from God (in the voice of his son and other assorted surreal visions) that if he completes God’s will (vengeance for his son's wife's attackers who got away) his son will wake up. Most of the people around him become aware of this and dismiss him as insane. The viewer is in the position of judging for themselves.
There is a tedious subplot about the mayor building a new complex at the site of some former affordable housing, which is interconnected but never particularly interesting. Pernell spends most of his time with a born again minister and a former prison inmate who is also a believer (Garett Dillahunt) who believes he is God’s /Solomon’s (Pernell’s) Hand. It’s all a bit loose and slow going, it could have been made much tighter in fewer episodes. But the acting is impeccable. I love Dana Delaney who plays Pernell’s wife Crystal. Ron Perlman provides a solid base for a potentially unreliable central character. Garrett Dillahunt was fantastic if a bit underused (but I think every show should have more Garrett Dillahunt!). It lost some of the dramatic punch presented in the pilot I felt as it went on, but it had a killer finale so I wouldn’t be surprised if it is picked up for another series.
The Following (series 2): I had mixed feelings about the first series but the chemistry of Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy were enough to make me return for the second series. I actually enjoyed this one a lot more, it felt looser and more humorous – which did perhaps affect the tension/thriller aspect at times. Serial killer Joe (Purefoy) is not really the main problem anymore, there are new psychopaths in town, from a Machiavellian matriarch (Connie Nielson) and her creepy twin sons (played by an actor who played Dexter’s serial killer protégé in the final series!), to a gormless yet dangerous cult leader played by the always excellent Jake Weber (Medium, Hell On Wheels). It had maybe a bit too much going on at times but it was more fun to watch and interesting to me than the first series and Kevin Bacon has settled into the role of troubled hero Ryan Hardy nicely. He and James Purefoy are fabulous in their few scenes together, their cat and mouse relationship continues to compel and I'm slightly sad there is only one more series to watch.
The Internship: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as fired salesman turned middle aged Google interns. I found this surprisingly sweet and likable as a story about new starts in life. It does a cute job highlighting the age gap/tech knowledge gaps and how the old dogs (Wilson and Vaughn) can teach the smarty pants millennials about people skills. Completely implausible of course, Vaughn in particular has less computer knowledge than your average grandma, which is just a bit silly. The Rose Byrne/Owen Wilson romance felt a bit shunted in/pointless but other than that it's an enjoyably watchable if not earth shatteringly hilarious film. I think I will always have a Vince Vaughn weak spot, as a 90's kid who will ever forget how amazing he was in Swingers? (le big sigh).
Barney’s Version: I love Paul Giametti and will watch him in anything. I had heard mixed reviews of this one and I can kind of see why. It’s sort of all over the place. At first it seems like a typical horrible cranky man manages to make lots of women fall in love with him tale. Barney (Giametti) is shown from his youthful (though trying to make Paul Giametti look anything under 40 is just…weird) days hanging out in Italy in the sixties with a bunch of artistic beatnik types. His best friend is a writer (Scott Speedman who will forever be Ben from Felicity to me!) who Barney helps fund despite the fact he is more interested in women and drugs than writing. Barney marries a rather annoying artist he has gotten pregnant. It ends BADLY. Dustin Hoffman is funny as Barney’s politically incorrect retired cop Dad. Barney falls in love at first site with Rosamund Pike at his OWN WEDDING and proceeds to court her while being a newlywed. Despite Barney’s generally bad behaviour he’s portrayed quite sympathetically and you don’t entirely loathe him (Giametti is excellent in these kinds of roles). Barney is happy and content with his true love for awhile, until she starts hanging out with overly earnest NPR types. It has a super tacked on ending that felt like it was meant to just make us feel more sympathy for Barney. But I didn’t hate this movie, it’s gentle (when it’s not being cruel!) and elements of it felt like real life.
A Most Violent Year: (SPOILERS!) This whole film is kind of a tease. It’s playing at and seemingly building to be a thriller, but the problem is the central character (Oscar Isaac of Inside Llewyn Davis) is a pacifist, in a brutal business. He owns an up and coming oil transport company that is constantly being robbed and is under pressure from the Justice Dept. for various white collar crimes. This movie felt like a rather tedious and overlong parable. “We know you want bad stuff to happen, how much can this man take before he breaks?” Which is fine, it did make me think “Ah yes, I see what you did there, you made me want bad things to happen, because I‘m conditioned to expect violence, especially in movies like this”. Except…it could have been done in a much less dull way. None of the characters are well drawn enough for the film to feel meaty without more action. It’s all a bit clichéd feeling. Oscar Isaac, who I liked in Llewyn Davis, was not given much to do other than intone endless moral declarations. One scene of Jessica Chastain punching at her calculator while smoking menthol ultras in her designer 80’s clobber (she does look fabulous though!) instead of half a dozen would have done. Her Brooklyn accent faded in and out like my interest in the film. Even Albert Brooks in a blonde wig couldn’t save this.
Under The Skin: Confession: It took me two attempts to finish this film. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien fem bot who lures unsuspecting Glaswegians to her lair for gruesome purposes. It is shot very starkly and naturalistic when showing Glasgow, filming it almost as if it were a freak show at times (through the eyes of an alien), using mainly non-actors. It’s jarring. And then it slithers into dreamy special effects and an unsettling soundtrack that just makes you feel like you are floating and have no idea what is going on and I want to get off this ship now! It has that Eraserhead quality, basically! It has an upsetting denouement, it’s not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a look for fans of art house cinema. I’m still making up my mind on it but I think I (sort of) liked it!