What’s Simple and What Isn’t: “Resurrection” and “Believe” Reviews

When trailers for Resurrection and Believe started to crop up, I started to get excited about American television again. It feels like it’s been forever since an American show wasn’t about a) comicbook superheroes or b) antiheroes—both of which have long overstayed their welcome. From their trailers, both series seemed to cover some kind of fantastical phenomenon without coming off as too comicbook-y. And if at least one of them was solid, then I’d be a happy camper.

resurrection dmncapThe good and bad thing about Resurrection is that you can get the gist of what the entire first episode covered from the trailers alone. People that have been dead for years are suddenly showing back up completely unharmed as if nothing ever happened and no one knows why. It’s a simple enough concept that’s shrouded in enough mystery to keep viewers wanting more.

What I especially liked about the first episode was that it took its sweet time with the story without coming off as too meandering. You’re introduced to Agent Bellamy, who escorts a lost (almost comically all-American-looking) boy, Jacob, back to the small town of Arcadia. During Bellamy’s time in Arcadia, he slowly takes in his surroundings as well as pieces together the inhabitants and their relation to the lost boy. Everything comes off as free-flowing as you the viewer explore and take in the town through Bellamy’s eyes, and yet a story and plot development seems to form so naturally regardless (or perhaps “due to”).

Definitely something I’ll be looking forward to keeping up with this season.

believe dmncap…Compare, on the other hand, Believe—supernatural drama about an escaped convict having to take care of a young girl with superhuman abilities as they’re on the run from a mysterious organization. Maybe if I remembered that JJ Abrams had a hand in this series going into it, I wouldn’t be so disgusted with the goings-on of its episode one. Then again, I feel like any amount of disgust had to be had regardless.

Unlike Resurrection, Believe practically hits the ground running and continually bashes the viewer over the head with plot in the form of overly blatant exposition from its characters. Every character seems to wear their heart on their sleeve if only for the sake of moving the plot forward. How do you demonstrate the main character is untrusting and hates kids? I guess having him outright say that he’s untrusting and hates kids is sufficient enough.

The overall writing throughout the episode was just so painfully straightforward when it came to “developing” its characters. Either that or it was ridiculously inconsistent. One of the first scenes has the token female eye-candy antagonist (who by the way, will no doubt end up having a one-one-one fight with the token female eye-candy protagonist) snap the necks of two innocents only to later show how inept and just plain unprofessional she is in her line of work when she asks for a day off for her mother’s birthday. You would think something like that would be played for a laugh, but the fact that it’s being used as an honest-to-goodness point to build off her character is just… no.

And in terms of world-developing, things just move too fast for comfort. Normally, something would slowly introduce you to a concept and build on it as it progresses: “When you start from the beginning, it acclimates you to the bullshit, so that once it gets to the really crazy bullshit, you’re like ‘eh, makes sense I guess.’” Not true in this case. With Believe, so much over-the-top nonsense happens involving the plot and it’s just too much to take in, not to mention accept. Why would a secret organization be willing to free a convicted killer, but be against using guns because “they’re the good guys?” How come said convict can hold his own in a fight against someone that seems to be who I can only assume is a mercenary? Maybe if it were a comic or animated series, I’d be more accepting of some of these points, but as it stands, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Second to the writing is the actors. Even in the case that a show’s writing is awful, a well-cast actor can save what’s left of it with their performance. In the lead role as the little girl with supernatural powers is actress Johnny Sequoyah, who sadly suffers from child-actor syndrome. Absolutely every one of her lines is delivered with a sense of precociousness that is just unfitting for the character and takes me out of the moment every time. It doesn’t help that for some reason, as precocious as she is, the script mixes in some moments where she puts herself in danger in the stupidest way possible (seriously, they’ll buy you a new stuffed animal after they escape from the gunman).

Lastly, since I couldn’t find any place to naturally transition to the subject, I just wanted to bring up the casting in the series. Normally, this is something you would pay absolutely no mind to, so the fact that I feel the need to even bring it up must mean something’s up with it. In total, the first episode of Believe had three women in it: the main kid, Jamie Chung in a protagonist role, and Trieste Kelly Dunn in an antagonist role. All three of them fall into the same category of having a petite body and cute face, which I just find odd. Give the child actor a couple years, and I feel like all three of them would be auditioning for the same role. This is nothing against the actresses themselves (even if Jamie Chung has one of the worst IMDB entries I’ve seen), but rather the casting decision. Usually a point is made when similar people are cast in certain roles, but in this case, it feels like it was done more on a whim than anything else.

If anything, JJ Abrams is a master at making shows that come off as “smart” for a stupid audience, and keeping said audience viewing on a weekly basis through sensationalized nonsense in his narratives. In that sense, maybe Believe will find a big audience. Just don’t count me as part of it. I’ll be on board the Resurrection-train, where things may be simple, but at least they’re better put-together.

Advertisements

Spoiler-Free Review: Gravity

With movies in general, it’s easy to get caught up in a running list of “things” needed to keep audiences entranced through the entirety of the film, whether it be from dialogue, special effects, constantly shifting scene locations, cast size, etc. So to see a modern day movie take a rather minimalistic approach to their story-telling while still maintaining a quality story is nothing short of amazing.

Gravity 2013 Movie Poster

As suggested by the trailer, Gravity is something of a disaster movie, with all the disaster focusing primarily on a one Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock). Stone is a medical engineer who’s received six months of appropriate astronaut training and is currently in space alongside some other astronauts when they’re unexpectedly hit with by a cluster of debris from a destroyed satellite. Having been cut off from Mission Control, Stone must rely on her own limited training to get herself out of this fix.

Now on paper, it sounds like some standard stuff that isn’t exactly new to the world of movies. But where Gravity truly shines is in its execution. Rather than keeping to a standard big budget movie-telling format of having a large cast and cutting from mission control to the characters in space, the entirety of the movie focuses on Stone’s character. No cuts to what’s going on at Earth; no flashbacks when Bullock’s character starts giving some backstory and reason for viewers to care for her well-being… actually, I’m pretty sure the camera makes a point of either keeping focused on Stone, or switching to a first-person perspective as Stone fumbles her way through one disaster after another (really, the movie gives Bullock little to no time to breathe either due to the stress or the literal inability to breathe because well… space situations can do that). And it’s that amount of focus that gives the movie a real sense of isolation from the world, in both a beautiful and frightening manner.

You would think that with the movie having such a focused perspective for its story-telling that it would result in certain scenes becoming too chatty (or worse: too exposition-y), but the dialogue is actually kept at a rather nice balance alongside the destruction sequences. The somewhat smug and chatty Astronaut Kowalski (George Clooney is right at home as this guy) properly sets the stage and overall feel as we’re introduced to their world in space and doesn’t come off as too overbearing, keeping in mind that Bullock is the true star of the movie. Bullock’s character keeps to herself, but as she realizes the fix she’s gotten into, she begins to take a more proactive role, relying solely on what she herself is capable of doing given the situation and the handful of metaphorical bones thrown at her. Her acting is spot-on from beginning to end, (for the feminists out there) her character of Ryan Stone proves to be a very strong, independent, and capable person, and (for the dudes out there) she looks pretty good doing it, without coming off as ludicrously fanservice-y (#demlegs).

Action (er, “destruction”) scenes are over-the-top, but service the plot well, as space debris is whipped and turned about without coming off as wanton destruction. Coming from someone that hasn’t exactly been wowed by 3D in movies, I actually really enjoyed it this time around. Like the special effects themselves, the 3D is treated in such a manner that directly services the plot and is consistent throughout the film, so you don’t feel like you’re cheated “3D wise” by just having the one scene that looks really good in 3D and the rest just kinda being okay. While there was clearly a large amount of special effects used, you are never given the feeling that the effects were put first, with story second. Everything is kept tight, and compliments each other accordingly.

My one semi-complaint would be the handful of baby imagery. While I understand how this relates to Stone’s backstory, I found it coming off as more of a stretch than anything else. Regardless, it does prove to be some of the most beautiful shots/scenes in the movie, so I won’t make too much of it.

As a whole, Gravity was a somewhat simple story, executed in a unique and even beautiful manner, giving a real feeling of isolation in the vastness of space.

%d bloggers like this: