Morning Is A Deeply Moving Human Drama

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult situations that any person can go through.  Losing someone with whom one has barely gotten to spend any time in life is even more difficult.  It’s just as difficult for those around those that have suffered such a terrible loss.  Until or unless someone has suffered this loss, it is nearly impossible to know exactly the emotional and mental pain that it can and does cause.  That is the premise behind Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new deeply emotional drama, Morning.

Morning is not an easy movie to watch.  But that perhaps was the intent of writer/director Leland Orser (The Bone Collector).  Orser, who also stars as Mark opposite Jeanne Tripplehorn’s Alice, has crafted a story unlike any other drama in Morning.  It presents two parents that have lost a child.  Both are suffering in their own way.  What’s interesting about Orser’s script is that he doesn’t just come out and tell viewers that this is the case.  It is gradually revealed through a series of scenes that do so much with so little.  It would have been so easy for Orser to use all of the standard drama clichés to tell his story.  Instead he chose to take the road less travelled.  And for that, he is to be applauded.  The movie’s first fifteen minutes use barely any dialogue whatsoever.  Those formative minutes rely solely on the Orser and Tripplehorn’s emoting to help establish the story’s base.  And both actors do their jobs splendidly.  It serves to make suspension of disbelief that much easier.

The acting on the part of both Orser and Tripplehorn does so much to drive the movie’s story line.  One would be remiss though to ignore the acting of the pair’s supporting cast.  Mary’s (Julie White) attempt to be supportive toward Alice in her time of loss is entirely relatable.  The story itself is centered on Alice and Mark having lost a child. But being the outsider looking in is just as difficult as being the one that has suffered a loss.  It is difficult because the outsider wants to be able to help, but is essentially walking an emotional tightrope, or walking on the proverbial eggshells.  Her reaction to Alice’s broken emotional state is exactly what any person would have done in her situation.  It really is a wonderful imitation of real life.  Yet again, Orser is to be applauded for doing this instead of choosing a more standard, schmaltzy route.  It’s one more aspect of Morning that makes this story so wonderful, as painful as it is to watch.

Orser’s script and the acting of both the main and supporting cast do so much for this movie.  There is still so much to consider, too.  The symbolism used throughout the movie should also be considered.  The moment in which the couple’s pool is being drained is one of the most notable moments involving symbolism.  Not to spoil the story any.  But that single moment plays an enormous role in the story, as simple as it was.  Mark building things from legos and pretending to be an indian is also important symbolism.  It represents his personal emotional turmoil.  He is doing all the things that he wanted so badly to do with his son.  It adds so much to the movie’s emotional depth.  There is more symbolism included throughout the story.  Viewers will find those moments for themselves when they watch this movie.

The symbolism used throughout Morning is just as important to the overall presentation as the acting and the script itself.  Bringing things full circle, the way in which Orser separates the movie into acts plays a role in the movie’s success, too.  Orser separated Morning into four separate acts.  Once more, Orser is deserving of applause.  This was a very intelligent move on his part.  He showed in doing this that he obviously kept in mind the typical attention span of most audiences today.  By splitting up the movie into acts, he ensured that he would keep audiences’ attention from beginning to end.  It is the final piece of the puzzle that makes this movie worth at least one watch by any fan of the drama genre.  And for anyone that has ever suffered a tragic loss in their own lives, it shows that hope is possible.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=8b43318a-a7dd-e211-8257-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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Endeavour Just As Impressive As Its Forerunners

Courtesy:  PBS/itv

Courtesy: PBS/itv

PBS has proven time and again throughout 2013 why it is such an important addition to any family’s viewing schedule each day.  The network offers so much enjoyable programming for viewers of every age.  That includes its imports of itv’s recently ended series, Inspector Lewis and its new replacement, EndeavourEndeavour brings itv’s whole story started with its hit Inspector Morse series full circle as it brings viewers the story of how the famed detective got his start.  Television today is overly rife with crime dramas across the Big 4 and even across the cable spectrum.  That raises the question of what makes Endeavour stand out.  Endeavour stands out first and foremost because of its writing.  Tied directly in to the show’s writing is the overall lack of overt sex and violence.  In connection to both of the aforementioned factors of the show’s success is the acting on the part of the cast.  All three of these factors together make Endeavour stand out among the endless masses of crime dramas that currently pollute American television.

Writing is everything in any movie and television show.  Far too few people pay attention to writing as the source of a movie or television show’s success or failure.  In the case of itv’s Endeavour, the writing behind the show’s first five episodes is an example of writing done right for a crime drama.  Much as was the case with the two series the preceded this prequel to the Inspector Morse series, the writing behind this show will keep any viewer guessing all the way to each episode’s end.  There are just enough twists, turns, and red herrings to keep viewers engaged despite the roughly ninety-minute run time of each episode.  The crimes in each episode aren’t all that viewers will appreciate from this new series.  One of best examples of those twists and turns is the episode, “Fugue.”  Anyone that remembers the 1999 movie, The Bone Collector or the movie that inspired it, 1935’s The Raven (which itself was remade in 2012 with John Cusack in the starring role) will see the obvious influence of both movies in this episode.  It’s definitely one of the best episodes from Series One.

The writing behind the episodes’ primary plots will be highly appreciated by anyone that appreciates a true mystery.  There is another aspect of the writing that audiences will appreciate in the secondary plot that runs through Series One.  That secondary plot involves the bond that forms between the young Endeavour Morse and his partner of sorts, Fred Thursday.  The bond between the pair grows throughout the course of each episode.  It grows to the point that Thursday becomes a surrogate father of sorts, considering what eventually becomes of Morse’s own father.  This plays into the first series/season’s finale.  There is in fact one point in which Thursday does something that makes him more of a father figure to Morse than ever before.  It is a short moment.  But it is also a very moving moment for any viewer.  It’s one more element of the expert writing that makes Series One a wonderful introduction to what will hopefully be another long running series from itv.

The solid writing does so much to make Endeavour’s first series an impressive reintroduction to the world of Inspector Morse.  Tied directly into the show’s writing is the general lack of sex and violence throughout the first series.  This is a standard established throughout both Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis.  By comparison, the amount of sex and violence that permeates American crime dramas is stunning.  Yes, the crime scenes sometimes can be a tiny bit unsettling.  But that unsettled feeling of said crime scenes is extremely minimal at best again by comparison.  And those people within the police department aren’t big, muscle bound men and women with….shall we say overt amounts of cleavage showing.  Both men and women are dressed in full dress.  The men wear suits.  The women’s attire is just as classy.  It’s a nice change from what viewers are exposed to on the Law & Orders and CSIs and others across American television.  Keeping that in mind, it’s without a doubt, one more positive that audiences will appreciate from Endeavour: Series One.

The writing and general content included in Endeavour: Series One play very prominent roles in the show’s success.  One would be remiss to ignore what is perhaps one of the most important factors of all: the cast’s acting.  The acting of both Shaun Evans (who plays the young Inspector Morse) and Roger Allam (his mentor Fred Thursday) is just as solid as the writing itself.  The pair has such incredible on-screen chemistry. Throughout each episode, the two work so well together, whether in investigating crimes or building their personal friendship.  On another level, audiences will be just as appreciative of the acting on the part of Jack Laskey in the role of DS Peter Jakes.  Jakes is wonderfully despicable opposite Evans as Morse’s antagonist.  Jacks really makes audiences hate him.  That is the sign of top notch acting.  And along with Evans and Allam, his acting and theirs becomes the icing on the cake that is an excellent new crime drama from itv.  It is an equally wonderful addition to PBS’ lineup for audiences that have gotten so accustomed to the high standard set by this show’s forerunners.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20427326&cp=&sr=1&kw=endeavour+series+1&origkw=Endeavour+Series+1&parentPage=search.  More information on this show and others from PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery programming is available online at http://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs and http://www.pbs.org/masterpiece.

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Perry, Fox Carry Patterson’s Cross

Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Actor/producer/director Tyler Perry is known largely for his widely popular movies focusing on the over the top Madea.  So it goes without saying that when he was announced to take over the role of Alex Cross from veteran actor Morgan Freeman, audiences both of his work and that of author James Patterson were left quite in shock to say the least.  Any time that an actor or actress takes a leap outside of his or her comfort zone, it also pulls said actor/actress’ fans out of their comfort zones.  And that apparently is what happened in the case of his take in the new action flick bearing the character’s name.

Perry’s audiences and critics alike were pulled out of their comfort zone with Alex Cross because all involved became so accustomed to seeing Perry in dramadies, not action flicks.  So much so that they refused to see Perry’s potential in this movie.  Director Rob Cohen even discusses this in the Director’s Commentary of the movie’s new home release on DVD and Blu-ray.  It’s just one of many discussions that he raises which will make for more appreciation for this movie among audiences.  The reality of Alex Cross is that while the story may be somewhat outrageous, it’s no more outrageous than the criminal profilers in CBS’ Criminal Minds going out on “missions” to stop deranged killers, which is exactly what co-star Matthew Fox (ABC’s Lost) plays here.  Fox expertly plays the absolutely deranged sociopathic killer Picasso who is hell bent on taking down Cross for past events.  Much like Perry, his performance is a powerhouse.  He is one of those villains that is totally believable.  He is one of those rare villains that audiences love to hate, and by whom they are disturbed.  That means that Fox did his job and did it well.  So to that extent, Fox and Perry together really are what make the story work.

Keeping in mind why Picasso is after Cross, one can’t help but make at least a slight comparison to fellow actor Denzel Washington’s 1999 crime drama, The Bone Collector.  The difference between the two is that this crime drama is far better and moves much faster.  What Perry has done here for all intents and purposes is harnessed both Washington and fellow action star Will Smith and proven to be even better than both.  Audiences need only allow themselves to suspend their disbelief and they too will realize Perry’s talents as an action star.

It goes without saying that a number of factors were changed in this adaptation of its namesake book by author James Patterson.  But few movies ever adapted from books have ever stayed one hundred percent true to their origins.  Just look at the movies in the Die Hard franchise.  They are prime examples of that.   Audiences need to keep this in mind as well in order to maintain their suspension of disbelief.  Allowing that to happen allows audiences to simply enjoy the fast paced action that starts right off the bat and barely lets up right to the movie’s final confrontation.  And if doing that doesn’t work, then perhaps watching the bonus making of featurette in the brand new DVD and Blu-ray release of the movie will finally convince people to let go of their own expectations.  The feature, “The Psychologist and the Butcher: Adapting & Filming Alex Cross” features interviews with James Patterson himself in which he in no uncertain terms lets audiences know that he accepts the big screen adaptation of Cross.  It’s nice to see an author giving his personal stamp of approval on an adaptation of one of his books.  And hopefully both Patterson’s readers and Perry’s fans will come together after watching this new home release and give the movie the appreciation which it deserves.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online and is worth at least one watch by any true action movie fan.

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