TV Room: ‘Slow Horses’

The new Apple TV series Slow Horses is an adaptation of the first entry in Mick Herron’s superbly semicomic spy novels. It stars Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas and premieres this Friday.

My review is at Slant:

The six-episode series at times recalls The Americans, with which it shares an executive producer, Graham Yost, and an appreciation for the workaday realities of spies’ tradecraft, as well as a tendency to resort to sudden bloodletting. Slow Horses similarly breathes life into a somewhat moribund genre due to its grumpy antihero, Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), and the nontraditional gaggle of spies whom he has to rely on to save the day…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Features Yet More Apes

Caesar leads his primate army in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (Twentieth Century Fox)

dawnplanetapes-posterThe ever-expanding world of sci-fi reboots gets another entry with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which rejiggers themes and even a few climactic scenes from the raggedy 1970s series (Conquest of…Battle for…, etc.) only without much satirical intent. Like 2011’s admittedly lamer Rise of the Planet of the Apes, none of it manages to stand out except, again, for Andy Serkis’ regal, affecting, and soulful performance as the leader of the apes, Caesar.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is now playing pretty much everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:

[The film is] expected to deliver summer action set-pieces, including the battle featuring a rifle-wielding ape cavalry that was promised in its saturation ad campaign. As misunderstandings accumulate and warmongers on both sides get their way, the battle is joined on the crumbled, vine-covered streets of San Francisco. Many, many apes are shot down but curiously, we see just about no humans killed. This may be a nod to a specist ratings board in order to keep a PG-13, but it also points to a general lack of interest in the human characters. Even the heroic humans are pallid and unmemorable, unlike the carefully delineated apes. By the time the apes do gear up for battle, the audience is ready to charge right along with them…

You can see the trailer here:

Now Playing: ‘Paranoia’

Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman wonder what they’re doing in ‘Paranoia’.

paranoia-poster1Opening tomorrow with a near-complete lack of fanfare is the techie-thriller Paranoia; which is perfectly made for folks who get interested when somebody says the words: “Liam Hemsworth.” You’re out there, somewhere.

My review is at Film Journal International:

It’s not that the director of Legally Blonde, Robert Luketic, couldn’t direct a decent thriller. But the director also responsible for 21 and Monster-in-Law (which one was that, you say? The one you didn’t bother to see because it looked so horrendous, that’s what) most certainly cannot. This is particularly the case when he’s saddled with an empty-eyed lead like Liam Hemsworth and a techie plot that would have seemed cutting-edge right around the time that the World Wide Web was trying to kill Sandra Bullock in The Net. Seeing the likes of Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman skulking around the premises just adds insult to injury…

Here’s the trailer, enjoy!


Film Flashback: ‘True Romance’

One of the late Tony Scott’s films that broke free of his glossy Top Gun / Beverly Hills Cop 2 template was 1993’s True Romance. Scripted by Quentin Tarantino and his old running buddy Roger Avary, it featured Clarence (Christian Slater), an Elvis-worshipping Tarantino-esque comic-book geek who goes on the run with the proverbial golden-hearted hooker Alabama (Patricia Arquette) after killing her pimp (Gary Oldman). Everything ends up in a feather-strewn and John Woo-esque shootout with mobsters, movie producers, and the FBI. With its glossy cinematography and crowded cast of stars who wanted in on the next big thing, this was a turning point for Scott and Tarantino in specific, and Hollywood in general…

My article “What ‘True Romance’ Did for Tony Scott and Hollywood” is up at PopMatters.

The original trailer is here: