Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Over Labor Day weekend, I binge-watched Ozark, a show about a Chicago family whose financial-expert patriarch, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), made the unfortunate decision to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. He eventually winds up in the Ozarks with his family, where he finds ways to launder more money through the lakeside businesses he gobbles up.

The first season worked just fine. Bateman himself directed a couple of episodes that I found to be generally gripping, and Laura Linney had some great moments as Wendy Byrde, mother and wife. Julia Garner was very good as Ruth, a local looking to ride Marty’s fake wealth into a better life.

As for the just-released second season … I am four episodes in so far, and it stinks.

It’s all about the Byrdes being stuck in the Ozarks and trying to manipulate their various schemes, with the first few episodes trying too hard to explain what happened in Season 1. It’s a show in which it seems like the writers are desperately worried about reminding viewers about all the past details. Hey, let it fly; we’ll figure it out.

The first season focused on criminal activity in the small territory. The second goes into state government and political intrigue as the Byrdes try to build a casino. The dialogue gets dumber and dumber as the show wears on, and it becomes a slog.

I don’t like what I’m seeing. Ruth has become nothing but annoying; Marty and Wendy are just running around over-explaining why they are bad; and Trevor Long’s increased screen time as Ruth’s disgusting dad is unwelcome.

I hope things get better in the final six episodes of Season 2, If they do not, Ozark will have been better off as a limited series rather than a continuing entity. It’s stretching its premise to extremes that are not at all entertaining.

Ozark is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Don’t go see Sully, Clint Eastwood’s take on the heroic actions of pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, expecting a lot of historic realism.

The portions about a pilot successfully landing his plane in an ice-cold Hudson River and allowing more than 150 people to tell the tale are really the most important, and most compelling, parts of this movie. As for the evil, fictitious inquisition that tortures Sully (played by Tom Hanks in a typically riveting performance) and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (welcome back to decent movies, Aaron Eckhart!) … well, that’s basically a lot of made-up horse shit.

That’s not to say Sully wasn’t tormented in the days after the event, and the film does a good job of displaying his internal struggles. The man had to essentially crash-land a plane after a bunch of birds flew into his engines, and then he had a bunch of dicks asking him tons of questions in the aftermath. Undoubtedly, he went through hell during that flight, and is haunted to this day. Eastwood and Hanks deliver a compelling psychological drama about a man who doubts his own heroism—to the point of nightmarish visions and self-deprecation.

However, the film goes a bit afoul in the depiction of a panel that didn’t even give Sully and his crew a chance to breathe after being plucked out of the Hudson. Yes, there was an inquiry, but it took many months, and did not take place a few days after the event; eventually, the panel’s findings were in favor of Sully and his maneuvers. Surely, Sully worried about the investigation, as any man in his situation would, but there’s no doubt that Eastwood and his scripters got a little carried away creating bad guys.

As for the actual flight, one that only took a few minutes: Sully proves that a pretty decent movie can be made around that amazing occurrence as the centerpiece. Eastwood (86 freaking years old!) has put together some of the best scenes of his movie-making career in this film, especially when that plane takes the bird hit, can’t make it back to LaGuardia and starts plummeting. It’s scary stuff, and he puts you in the cockpit—and in a crowded coach seat—every step of the way.

Hanks should find himself in contention for another Oscar nomination. (He hasn’t gotten a nomination since Cast Away in 2001! That is crazy!) His performance is understated, non-showy and straight-up brilliant. Anybody who has seen the real Sully conduct himself during an interview can see the man has a low-key persona. Hanks gives us a dude with a lot going on beneath that quiet exterior.

Eckhart, whose career hit the skids after his bravura turn in The Dark Knight, gets back on track as a man who can’t believe his friend is being grilled so harshly after saving so many lives. His work here is almost good enough to make you forget I, Frankenstein. Laura Linney plays Sully’s wife, Lorraine, and she basically spends the whole film on the phone acting totally worried. Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn plays one of Sully’s interrogators; it’s a role that doesn’t really further her career.

Eastwood has been specializing in biographical films and real-life events in the latter part of his career. Sully, like American Sniper, is an entertaining if somewhat untruthful film about a real guy. (Then there is J. Edgar, which was a disaster.)

It would be hard to create an entire motion picture out of such a short event, so it’s no surprise that Eastwood and friends had to make up some garbage to pad the running time. Luckily for them, and for us, the great parts of this movie put it over the top. It doesn’t hurt that Hanks heads up the cast.

Sully is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Ian McKellen is shockingly good as the infamous Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, a decidedly unorthodox twist on the sleuth’s story.

McKellen plays him as an aging man in his 90s, fighting memory loss and struggling to recall the details of a case that caused him to walk away from the detective life. He does this on an estate accompanied by his housekeeper (a typically wonderful Laura Linney), her son (the charming Milo Parker) and his bees.

The film features flashbacks to the events of 20 years before (which has McKellen playing in the vicinity of his actual age), with Holmes trying to remember the circumstances involving a beautiful woman, her husband and a Japanese man. Things are a little slow-going at first, but when the pieces all get put together, it’s a nice payoff.

Director Bill Condon is miles away from his pitiful two-film stint on the Twilight series. Here, he has made a film full of sumptuous visuals, splendid acting and good humor.

McKellen plays Holmes as a dignified, if sometimes nasty, older man who never wore that silly hat or smoked that huge pipe. In an interesting twist, his character is actually world-famous—and the subject of movies he considers garbage.

The year has been a little light on great performances so far. McKellen’s Holmes is certainly one of them. His interactions with Linney and Parker are classically good.

Condon and McKellen worked together before (Gods and Monsters). This stands as a much-welcomed reunion.

Mr. Holmes opens Friday, July 17, at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342), the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565) and the Century Theatres at the River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Published in Reviews