James Scurlock’s Maxed Out, now available on DVD, isn’t necessarily eye-opening, but it is horrifying. I say it isn’t eye-opening because how could any American watching it not nod and say “Yes, I knew this. On some level, I knew this.” That Americans are more and more in debt. That the federal government, from the chief executive on down, has been lax in policing credit card companies and other lenders–lax, in fact, in defending tax payers generally, and siding with corporations.
Mary Louis Parker is one of my favorite actors, and for the first two seasons of Showtime’s Weeds, her adventures as a suburban drug mom, with a strong supporting cast and plenty of subplots, entertained the heck out of us.
But season three has turned what always had a hint of satire and spoof into full-blown parody–of itself. Just as Arrested Development eventually turned ridiculous, Weeds has jumped the shark by being too unrealistic, instead of just unrealistic enough.
Ann and I have now watched five episodes of the new Showtime series Californication, and while I can say it seems to have settled down into a comfortable rhythm, it still mostly comes across as a male writer’s wet dream. David Duchovny is a passable, sometimes enjoyable-to-watch, down-and-out writer in LA who gets a job writing a nihilistic blog column while watching his ex-wife prepare to get married to someone else, going through a succession of one-night stands (always with him on the bottom so we can get a good flash of breasts), and drinking too much…and not writing much at all.
Don Cheadle is amazing in Talk to Me, which purportedly tells the story of a hip, streetwise DJ named Petey Green, popular in the DC area around the time of Martin Luther King’s assassination. More than in any role before, Cheadle is subsumed by the character he’s playing. At times in the past, I’ve admired his acting more than loved it, but here he’s the real deal.
Ann and I went to The Bourne Ultimatum expecting it to be as good as its two predecessors. The first had been a good, solid spy movie, while the Bourne Supremacy had ratcheted up the adrenaline level, the exotic locations, and the stakes.
Unfortunately, The Bourne Ultimatum dispenses with showing us the how–how Jason Bourne can so easily slip between countries, how he can get into a CIA building in a plausible manner, how he manages to survive multiple car wrecks. In addition, The Bourne Ultimatum features Villains Behaving Stupidly and Victims Behaving Stupidly. When the CIA’s number one man in Spain goes on the run…he uses his own passport to travel to Tunisia. For example.
The set pieces are often still amazing–the director, who also did United 93, is an artist–but sometimes overlong, and pointless. When Bourne stages an elaborate ruse in a London subway station in order to talk to a journalist who has information, you wonder why. The cell phone slipped into the man’s pocket during this escapade could as easily have been slipped into his pocket without telling him to come to the station. Bourne could have just talked to him by phone somehow. And, finally, the Silence of the Bourne, which spoke to character in prior films, here just makes you long for something more.
In short, on our buckwheat scale–“buckwheat” being a mob reference in Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead to shooting someone up the ass and letting them die slowly–The Bourne Ultimatum is about three-fourths buckwheat.