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RECAP: A bear, a baseball glove and Boardwalk Empire

“Powerful” episodes of cable dramas make a huge impression on viewers, and are often acclaimed as the best of their season. Sometimes the praise is deserved; other times it’s a reaction to the sight of characters we like being diagnosed with fatal illnesses, beaten, raped, killed, etc. Meanwhile, low-key but complex episodes often get short shrift from critics and viewers. I hope that doesn’t happen with tonight’s “Boardwalk Empire” episode, “Two Boats and a Lifeguard,” because in degree of difficulty, it’s impressive, in some ways extraordinary. As written by Terence Winter and directed by Tim Van Patten — a dynamic duo on a lot of great “Sopranos” episodes — “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” seems like just a “housekeeping” episode that’s mainly concerned with wrangling subplots and exploring characters. But as I’ll explain in a moment, the episode went way beyond that.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 14, 2011 3:53 AM
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Are We Penn State

This is from one of Joe Posnanski's's recent blog entries on the Penn State contretemps. Joe Posnanski, in case you don't know the name, is a "sportswriter," but really he's a writer straight ahead, a very good one who can probably make you care about whatever sport he's addressing even if you thought you couldn't. He also has a fun podcast, The Sports Poscast, on which Parks & Rec's Michael "Ken Tremendous" Schur frequently guests, but Posnanski hasn't done many episodes lately because he went to State College, PA to write a book about Joe Paterno. Several times over the last few days, I wondered in passing how he would handle that, how he was doing, whether he was sitting on the edge of the bed and just kind of staring into his lap. I wondered how I would handle that, in his position, having to incorporate ongoing history into a planned biography.
  • By Sarah D. Bunting
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  • November 12, 2011 11:50 PM
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SLIDE SHOW: John Williams' Greatest Hits

A couple of weeks ago, my young son asked me if I had “any more DVDs of John Williams movies.” It took me a second to register what he meant by this. He thought that the prolific Hollywood composer was actually the director of some of his favorite movies, a list that at this point consists entirely of the fantasy, science fiction and adventure films that thrilled me and his older sister as kids and kids-at-heart: “E.T.,” “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the “Jurassic Park” and “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” and the Indiana Jones pictures, and many others. I started to explain that Williams was not actually a filmmaker. But then the truth of his assumption hit me: In a sense, Williams is the unnamed co-author of a good many of the films he’s scored. His galloping, wondrous tone promises a particular type of entertainment, and is so recognizable that we can’t think of certain blockbusters without hearing their themes in our heads.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 12, 2011 12:18 AM
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24: Kiefer Sutherland's ticking clock classic turns 10

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kiefer Sutherland's ticking clock classic debuted 10 years ago this week. To mark this milestone, Press Play is re-publishing the video essay series "5 on 24" which was created by Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas for the Museum of Moving Image in 2010. According to their introduction, "5 on 24" examines various aspects of the show, including its real-time structure, its depiction of torture, and the psychology of its hero, counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer. The show tapped into the ticking-clock on-the-go mentality of post-millennial society. And its machine-gun pacing, real time structure, and long-form plotting took aesthetic risks that no other action show had dared.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz & Aaron Aradillas
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  • November 11, 2011 3:21 PM
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SIMON SAYS: Is Frank Henenlotter a horror genius or a sick man?

Somehow, it seems wrong to single out two of Frank Henenlotter's more "horror-comedy" films as examples of the writer/director's style — which, in a sense, is fitting. Henenlotter's a guy whose crew has abandoned him on two separate projects because they found what he was making to be in such poor taste that they refused to be a part of it. You can complain all you want about how his films are juvenile and gross and unpolished and what have you. But don't you want to see a penis-shaped monster suck the brains out of a woman through her mouth like he were a very evil boner and she were giving the world's worst blowy? Doesn't the thought of seeing something so uniquely low and disgusting intrigue you? Don't you want to see a man with no shame, no sense of good taste and no self-restraint at work?
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • November 10, 2011 11:40 PM
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GREY MATTERS: The top 10 movie-metal moments

I blame it on David Lynch. Until "Lost Highway," I didn't even know how to contextualize metal as anything more than a mighty but occasional pleasure. But that film's magnificently insane dreamtime imagery opened the floodgates, and suddenly, I understood how certain loud sounds connected to a freighted language of images that in turn connected to all kinds of interior "stuff". By "Lost Highway's" end, I literally stumbled onto Second Avenue buzzed; I was seriously, no-kiddingly "high." The lockstep tech-metal ache of Germany's industrial titans, Rammstein, was still ricocheting in my cortex while Marilyn Manson, in his disreputable, goth-Ziggy prime, worked the sleazier shadows. And there was Nine Inch Nails pounding away on "The Perfect Drug" which lived up to its name in spades. Everything else just sounded "weak" after that.
  • By Ian Grey
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  • November 10, 2011 10:55 PM
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  • 2 Comments

Eastwood's "J. Edgar" takes few risks with its controversial subject

You'd think Clint Eastwood would be the right guy to direct a movie about J. Edgar Hoover. After all, who better to tell the story of the 20th century's most influential law enforcement officer, the man who wrote the rule book on fighting crime only to disregard those rules when they prevented him from getting his man, than Dirty Harry himself? Or, to be less obvious, what would the man responsible for "White Hunter Black Heart," "A Perfect World" and "Million Dollar Baby" — movies about men who defied authority, be it Hollywood, the law or God — bring to the life story of the man who held authority over the country for nearly 50 years? Alas, Clint Eastwood's stately biopic "J. Edgar" is a frustrating experience. For nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes we are held captive by the possibility of a major revelation or insight into a man whose obsession with cataloging every single detail of a person's personal and professional lives foretold the collapse of privacy. We get hints, intimations and suggestions of darker urges that shaped Hoover's behavior, but nothing concrete about the man's personality, and no attitude whatsoever toward his actions. Eastwood mistakes vagueness for ambiguity and puts us in the position of being armchair psychiatrists.
  • By Aaron Aradillas
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  • November 10, 2011 9:29 PM
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  • 1 Comment

In a kingdom of dicks and d-bags, the one-eyed Ratner is king

Brett Ratner is the dumbest muhfucka on the face of the earth! He’s also the worst director on the face of the earth, but let’s delve into the dumb-muhfucka stuff first. You’d think that after making a movie where he’s received some of the most favorable reviews of his career, along with getting a gig producing the most prestigious awards show out there, Ratner would work his ass off not trying to sound like his usual dickish self and try to maintain some sort of respectful, professional image. But, no, this is Brett “I Lost My Virginity to a Paraplegic” Ratner. When have you ever known this guy to be respectful or professional?
  • By Craig D. Lindsey
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  • November 10, 2011 4:08 AM
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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The big tease of "Glee"

Really, Glee? Was it really necessary to end an episode revolving around virginity loss with a shot of a roaring fireplace? That’s a trick question. Midway through its third season there’s little that’s necessary about Glee, save for the underused Chris Colfer’s performance as out gay teenager Kurt Hummel, the even more severely underused Mike O’Malley’s performance as his dad, one out of every five musical numbers, and Sue Sylvester’s surreal rants, which Jane Lynch sells even when the writing is just sassy word salad. And even those compensatory values aren’t enough to make me watch each week.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 9, 2011 3:07 AM
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  • 1 Comment

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The awesome, thrilling spectacle of Vietnam?

Before I review “Vietnam in HD,” the six-hour History Channel epic, I need to get a couple of caveats out of the way. First, if you have a high definition television, access to the History Channel’s HD signal, and a killer home stereo system, you should record the series and watch it in a dark room with no interruptions, preferably while indulging your inebriating substance of choice. It’s a sound and light show extraordinaire — a trip.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 9, 2011 12:24 AM
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  • 0 Comments

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