Mike Kueber's Blog

April 6, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #108 – Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and Homeland (season three)

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 10:17 pm
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My cable/internet bill with Time Warner has grown so much (over $160) that I recently called to cut back, but after a few minutes with their salesman, I left with an equally expensive package, but one that included HBO and Showtime for my viewing pleasure. My first order of business with these premium channels was to watch the inaugural season of True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and as I noted in my blog, that was time well spent.

My next order of business was to watch season three of Homeland. I had already watched and enjoyed the first two seasons, and this would bring me up to date. Unlike True Detective, season three of Homeland was hugely disappointing.

Part of my disappointment was probably due to Dagan McDowell failing to give a spoiler alert on Imus in the Morning a few months ago when she announced that Brody died in the last episode. Nothing ruins a series more than killing a popular, leading character – a la Game of Thrones, season one.

Even without McDowell spoiling the ending, I would not have enjoyed season three because Brody (Damian Lewis) had a much reduced role and the other star (Claire Danes as bi-polar Carrie) is entirely unappealing and getting more so each season. I thought bi-polar meant a person swings back and forth from manic to depressive, but Carrie is forever unstable and erratic and neurotic. I just want to get away from her. Mandy Patinkin as Saul has a much expanded role in season three, but, although he does well, he can’t salvage the Carrie carnage.

The other annoyance in season one is Brody’s daughter, Dana (played by Morgan Saylor). Way too much time is wasted on her difficult time in dealing with having a terrorist father. Who cares? (The series 24 also had a similar problem with Jack’s daughter. When she was integral to the story, she was fine, but when she was gratuitous to the story, she annoys.)

According to press reports, season four of Homeland will show up in the fall this year (each season has earned better ratings than the previous one), and it will revolve around Carrie. Although there are rumors that Brody will do a Lazarus, most people give that little credence, and without Brody, I don’t think this series survives.

12 Years a Slave (2013) tells the true story of a free black man in antebellum days being abducted in the north and then shipped south into slavery. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as the noble black man and a succession of evil white people, culminating with Michael Fassbender as his final owner. Lupita Nyong’o plays Ejiofor’s plantation love interest (she won a Supporting Oscar), and Brad Pitt in a minor role plays one of the few non-evil whites. Although the movie won the Best Picture Oscar, I think it fails as a drama. It reminds me of Oscar-nominated Captain Phillips, where you get the feeling that much of the middle of the movie is merely filling space instead of creating drama. I guess that’s a problem when the viewer knows the basic story arc from the beginning. The Rotten Tomato critics loved the movie at 97%, while the audience was at 91%. I give it only two and a half stars out of four.

I was warned by a friend that Gravity was disappointing, but I watched it with an open mind because it was a Best Picture nominee, plus I’ve always like George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

My friend was right. Although the 90-minute film is characterized as a science-fiction thriller, so much of the action was so implausible (kind of like later episodes in the Die Hard series) that the viewer has to suspend all critical thinking. And with Clooney’s early disappearance from the screen, the viewer is left with a shallow Bullock in a massively truncated version of Tom Hanks in Castaway. I would have preferred the director taking an additional 30 minutes of filming to develop the characters and the drama. The Rotten Tomato critics give it a 97% score, with the audience less giddy at 83%. I give it only two and a half stars out of four.



  1. In retirement, you have way too much time on your hands. What I would give to have that much time to watch that much TV.

    Comment by Barbie — April 10, 2014 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

    • Barbie, I hope things keep improving in your new hometown, although I miss you in your old hometown. You are a brave explorer, and only by experimenting do you learn how to flourish personally. When you get as old as I am, you will have experienced so much stuff that you will be a fount of wisdom and will be able to settle into a flourishing life. Regarding TV and movies, I rationalize them by thinking that they are the modern equivalent to literature, so I am quickly becoming well-read.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — April 11, 2014 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

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