Tag Archive: Sally Field


Dispatches from Elsewhere Lindley Segel

Review by C.J. Bunce

For anyone still in withdrawals and languishing from the news that AMC’s Lodge 49 did not get renewed for a third season, a new show premiering this week may help fill the void.  It also hails from AMC, and carries over many of the same themes as that drama/comedy masked as fantasy about a group of people stuck in a similar place in their lives who find that spark of magic to get them back on track.  It’s writer/director/star Jason Segel’s Dispatches from Elsewherethe first two episodes are now available on AMC and at AMC’s website, with new episodes airing each Monday night at 9 p.m. Central.

Depending on your perspective, your tolerance of the unusual, and your openness to new things, like the four lead characters on the screen, you may think the series is about a game, a hoax, a conspiracy, or something very real.  Dispatches on Elsewhere is a ten-episode limited series that challenges its characters (and the viewers at home) to examine their own lives.  Our on-screen heroes each have their own personal issues–at the core is the average person dealing with the monotony of the daily grind, with the first four episodes spotlighting each member of an unusual assemblage.  Not so self-indulgent like dramas with a similar off-center sort of production design and story like Legion or [insert any Charlie Kaufman screenplay here], the show searches out the honesty of lost and lonely souls at work on the street corner or at home, all searching for more meaning from their lives.

nonchlance

Writer/director Jason Segel plays a near extension of his character in How I Met Your Mother named Peter, this time he’s single, living in an apartment in Philadelphia, disengaged from everything, and embarrassed of the boring nature of his data assembly job in the music industry.  But he brings to the table a vivid imagination, working out in his head (and brought to the TV screen for viewers) those things he ponders, beginning with his reactions to a string of flyers taped to street posts.  On a whim he pursues one of the brochures, calling a number he tears from the bottom.  This leads him to the beginning of his journey with this strange Jejune Institute–the exact place for someone who doesn’t think he’s special.  He meets a transgendered woman named Simone, played by Eve Lindley, whose endearing enthusiasm is simply stellar, especially in the Simone-focused second episode (consider this series her breakout role).  Her imagination finds her carrying out a conversation with a painting of a woman in a museum.  She becomes his partner, and the team expands to include a kindly older lady played by Oscar-winning actress Sally Field, and an uptight genius played by André Benjamin.

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You’ve all been selected as Agents of Nonchalance.

With its critically acclaimed series Lodge 49, which starred Wyatt Russell, Brent Jennings, and Sonya Cassidy, apparently canceled after only two series, the cable network AMC looked to fill the quirky drama niche it left behind.  It found Jason Segel′s quirky dramedy Dispatches from Elsewhere, releasing its first trailer this week.  This is labeled an anthology series, which typically means individual stories in each episode and different characters, yet it lists its five leads in all ten episodes.  So what’s going on here?  It’s an anthology to the extent that the series gets renewed–meaning you’ll likely only see the billed cast of characters in the first season, with a new story and characters in subsequent seasons.  It’s billed as “a transcendental series about a group of ordinary people who stumble onto a puzzle hiding just behind the veil of everyday life.”  That describes Lodge 49 perfectly, too, right?

Dispatches from Elsewhere has similar bits going for it compared to AMC’s departed Lodge 49.  It looks like it was filmed on the same paneled set and it, too, features a directionless guy lost in his own world, detached from a meaningful existence, with How I Met Your Mother and The Muppets co-star Segel in that role (along with serving as show creator, director, and producer).  And like Lodge 49, with its street cred of actors like Paul Giamatti, Bruce Campbell, Cheech Marin, Bronson Pinchot, and Brian Doyle-Murray, Dispatches from Elsewhere has its own style of actor cred, co-starring Academy Award winner Sally Field, Academy Award nominee (Doctor Who star, new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker villain) Richard E. Grant, and Grammy-winning musician André BenjaminMr. Robot’s Eve Lindley rounds out the main cast.

It looks strange in the vein of Lodge 49, Mr. Robot, Russian Doll, or Legion.  But is it the good kind of strange?  See what you think.  Here’s the first trailer for Dispatches from Elsewhere:

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If this film doesn’t scream Oscar nominee I don’t know what will.  And no, we’re not talking about the film about Lincoln as a Vampire Hunter.  This afternoon Steven Spielberg released the first trailer for his film Lincoln, a big-screen account of the last days of President Lincoln and the U.S. Civil War.

Check out the supporting cast: Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-man), Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, Captain America), David Strathairn (Alphas, Memphis Belle, Sneakers), Hal Holbrook (The Fog, Into the Wild, All the President’s Men), Bruce McGill (Star Trek Voyager, Animal House), Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Dark Knight Rises, Looper), Jared Harris (BBC’s Sherlock)… Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the top 10 of superhero films, the original Sam Raimi Spider-man movies likely would not make the cut.  The first in 2002 was too preachy with it’s in-your-face “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra.  Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker seemed to have fun in the role, but the story was light compared to other superhero films.  The best feature was Willem Dafoe as a superb villain playing the Green Goblin.  I know many oohed and ahhed over the original cinematic web swinging across the city, but in hindsight it doesn’t really compare to Christopher Reeve’s Superman simply flying, Chris Evans’ flame-on as the Human Torch, or Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man test driving his armor.

The second Spider-man was flat with solid character actor Alfred Molina doing his best as the bizarre villain Doc Ock.  The complete lack of chemistry between Tobey Maguire’s Peter and Kirstin Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson caused me to pass on Spidey 3.  Ultimately the original Spider-man efforts lacked heart and a triumphant spirit.  Supposedly the only reason for a fourth Spider-man film was Sony’s obligation to churn out a film in the franchise or lose the opportunity and money.  Switching away from Raimi and Maguire was also supposedly about money.

So is there any reason to see a reboot origin story in The Amazing Spider-man only ten years after the first origin story in Spider-man?  It probably depends on whether you have anything better to do on the Fourth of July.  It would be easy to pass on this one except for the fact that there were a lot worse movies this past year, and this Spider-man definitely has fun moments and not even one groaner that makes you wish you stayed home.  It’s maybe not “amazing,” but it’s good fun.  The new Amazing Spider-man took some real thought to create, learned from mistakes of past superhero movies, and thereby nudges out the original.  Leaning in favor of this film first and foremost is the supporting cast.

The standout performance of The Amazing Spider-man is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.  Stone showed her potential for a lead role in Superbad and here she plays a very real, believable character as Parker’s friend and target of his affection.  Stone and young Brit actor Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker have a spark.  Their conversations are slightly silly (in a good way) when they are not talking serious science or in the process of saving New York City.  Stone’s career is ready to take off.

As Dr. Curt Connors, Welsh actor Rhys Ifans plays what would normally be a supervillain, in a typical superhero movie.  But here, Dr. Connors genuinely has a valid scientific goal.  He genuinely supports the work in his lab, which includes Gwen Stacy, and seems to really feel remorse for never contacting Peter after Connors’ partner (and Parker’s dad) died (or went missing).  His own act that turns him into a giant lizard menace is an attempt to prevent lab owner Osborn’s goon from using veterans as test subjects.  As a sort of Mr. Hyde (as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) Connors is not in control of his actions, and therefore is more sympathetic than the average superhero flick antagonist.  Rhys Ifans played Luna Lovegood’s desperate dad in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, and Hugh Grant’s hilarious roommate in Notting Hill.  Here he has established a great voice and presence, someone who could take over the parts once given to David Warner or Alan Rickman and is an actor to keep a watch for.

Instead of being a one-note “girlfriend’s dad” Denis Leary plays police chief and Gwen’s dad as protective and savvy but also smart enough to know when a crazy story he’s being told may actually be true.  How many movies have taken this role into a routine “daddy doesn’t know best” place?  Parker’s own dad is solidly played, albeit for little screen time, by Campbell Scott (Royal Pains, Dead Again), who seems to only get better over the years with each new role.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field lend a bit of classic Hollywood nostalgia and authenticity to the picture as Parker’s aunt and uncle.  A surprise, slightly bigger than a cameo role, was C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders) as a crane worker who helps save the day for Parker.  The only missing classic Spidey element was Parker as newspaper photographer and more specifically JK Simmons’ feisty performance as his editor, J. Jonah Jameson.  And Spidey creator Stan Lee has his own Marvel cameo as you’d expect.

We all know that Peter Parker is a nerdy kid who gets bullied.  He is physically always a weaker kid, then after he gets bitten by a spider and possesses amazing spider senses he gets to have the scene where he confronts the bully.  In Superman 2,Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent doesn’t make the bully bleed so much as make him regret his bullying of Kent earlier in the story.  Garfield’s Parker is even less vindictive, choosing instead to poke fun of basketball star Flash in front of Flash’s friends.  A nice move that helps establish this Parker’s good guy character.  Andrew Garfield is more bumbling, a little more modern dark hero like Anakin Skywalker as compared to the 1960s clean-cut boy-next-door Peter Parker.

At times Garfield’s Parker seems a little too real–a struggling teen who in real life probably needs someone to tell him to “get with it.”  He’s not a typical actor for a part like this, and yet, Peter Parker is not the typical superhero.  His performance doesn’t dazzle, but he fills the shoes very well.  Do we care whether the web comes from his hands or techno-gadgetry?  Probably not.  Are the best action scenes someone else in costume with Garfield voiceovers?  Probably.  Had this been the first Spider-man film, we all might be more excited about this Peter Parker.  Because of the many stunts and CGI, you wonder how much screentime Garfield gets in the supersuit.  The end credits state that the suit was “manufactured by” Cirque de Soleil, which makes you think maybe there is more stunt trapeze-type swinging than CGI.  Either way, the Spidey swinging takes the roller coaster ride of Spidey’s movements to a fun, new level.  And a focus more on spider abilities and creative web use surpasses the use of this key Spidey element as compared to the earlier movies.

The original Spider-man story is known by everyone.  Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, then he gets these powers.  The Amazing Spider-man now has a combination of  classic sci-fi story elements not found in the source material, with warnings of playing with science as a bit of The Fly meeting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Jurassic Park.  There is, or may one day be, a downside for Parker’s newfound powers, for playing with and expanding the realm of science, which may be fleshed out in later films.  And Parker doesn’t try to get rid of his powers as other superheroes in their origins.  He uses them for fun until he becomes wise enough to use them for good purposes.  An odd mid-end credit snippet shows a cloaked Osborn speaking with an imprisoned Dr. Connors, suggesting a return of Green Goblin in a fifth Spider-man film.  Based on this week’s box office, no doubt that sequel will be coming along in the next few years and we’ll soon enough be comparing it to Spider-man 2.