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The Sopranos: Down Neck (Review)

I’ve said before (and many far smarter individuals have said it before me), but The Sopranos really feels like a novel for television. You can see that approach most distinctly in the first season, where David Chase cleverly structures the show that we spend more than half the season getting to know the cast, and getting comfortable with them, before things actually start happening in any truly meaningful sense. Of course, things have happened. The restaurant exploded, Junior and Tony nearly came to a head, but the approach has really been first and foremost about defining who these characters are, before we really get into what they do.

Down Neck, halfway through the first season, is really the perfect example. Not much really happens. Sure, plot threads advance. Livia discovers that her son is seeing a therapist. We hear that Junior is really settling into his new-found position of nominal authority. However, the most significant beats of Down Neck are concerned with character. A large portion of the episode is an extended flashback focusing on a dead character, and the rest sees the family dealing with the possible diagnosis of Anthony’s Attention Deficit Disorder. Hardly what one might have expected from the halfway point in the first season of a mob drama.

Family values…

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Non-Review Review: Contraband

Contraband is a thoroughly enjoyable little thriller, albeit one with several significant flaws. Indeed, “thorough” seems to be quite the word to apply to this smuggling caper, as director Baltasar Kormákur and writer Aaron Guzikowski seem intent to wring every possible thrill from the basic plot. While it can lead to some seemingly disjointed tangents, it ensures that there is always something happening, even if it feels like the movie never really develops its core ideas. Still, it’s a solid thriller with a wonderful cast and an interesting enough central premise.

It'll counterfeit right in...

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Non-Review Review: Solaris

Can you tell me what’s happening here?

I could tell you what’s happening, but I don’t know if it would really tell you what’s happening.

– Chris Kelvin and Snow

Soderbergh’s Solaris is bold, challenging, brilliant, chaotic, unstructured, clever, obtuse, dense, frustrating, unsatisfying and fascinating. Frequently at the same time. The director’s adaptation of Andrei Tarkovsky’s incredibly dense science-fiction feature might not necessarily be for everybody, but there’s enough substance here for eager audience members to chew on. A film subscribing to the idea that less is more, it seems to take more joy in posing questions than in answering them. This will obviously frustrate those viewers who dislike that sort of ambiguity.

Well suited to this drama...

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