SPOILERS below the cut

The catalyst for everything that happens in 11.22.63 should have tipped me off that this mini-series would have fundamental flaws. The main character travels back to 1960 to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. How? Through a time portal in the back room of a diner.

As a means of time travel it’s more suited to a fairy tale or a sketch comedy than a serious drama. The script doesn’t even bother to distract us from how arbitrary a plot device it is. But for the first few episodes, the contrivance is forgivable because it efficiently ushers us into the unabashed fun that the premise creates. In one of his periodic shifts sideways into unexpected jobs for a movie star, James Franco plays Jake Epping, a Maine schoolteacher recruited by his old friend Al (Chris Cooper), owner of the diner, to save JFK. He moves to Texas and spends three years preparing, including by spying on Lee Harvey Oswald. If he determines that Oswald acted alone, Jake will kill him to change the future.

The opening episodes have a Back to the Future appeal as we watch Franco adjust to life in the early 1960s, often failing to hide his 21st century perspectives and speech pattern. Watching him track down alleged key players in the assassination conspiracy has a meta thrill. This period of American political history has become so culturally iconic that it feels mythical and almost fictional in what a strange loose end it remains. 11.22.63 understands how exciting it would be to follow a contemporary of ours crossing that divide and watching it unfold around him.

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Midnight Sun

midnightsunThe opening sequence of Midnight Sun is a challenge to the viewer to keep watching. With no context or explanation, we see a man wake up to find he’s strapped to a helicopter rotor. The rotor powers up and he begins to scream. The blades speed up into a blur and, well, you can imagine what happens next.

Nordic noir viewers may not be accustomed to murders quite this grisly. But the choice is a deliberate, stylised one, and the series that follows isn’t a carnival of horrors. Beyond the opening credits is a visually ravishing and heartfelt series with a dense, captivating mystery.

The murder has occurred in far north Sweden during the summer, when night never falls. Because the victim is French, Paris detective Kahina Zadi (Leïla Bekhti) is dispatched to remote mining town Kiruna to investigate alongside local prosecutor Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten). As the killings continue, the investigation draws in a local conspiracy and tensions with the area’s indigenous Sami people.

Midnight Sun is created and directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. Their previous show, The Bridge, was a Swedish co-production with Denmark. This time they’ve joined forces with France. But Midnight Sun is even more of a transnational production. Because the only common language between Zadi and the Swedes is English, large portions of the series are spoken in English with the remainder in Swedish, French, and Sami. The evidently high budget, allowing stunning cinematography of remote locales, further positions the show to stand out internationally. The result is a series whose cultural identity is fluid, breaking down boundaries while asserting that European television intends to compete on the world stage even more vigorously than before.

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… and we’re back.

I won’t dilly-dally with too much in the way of preamble and explanation. Let’s just power on.

Remote Wanderings will continue to be a melting pot of screen and print pop culture commentary, particularly film, TV, comics, and books. I can’t predict what each day’s post will be, and I hope that’ll be as fun for you as it will be for me… after I’ve actually thought of each day’s post…

‘Basic Training’ and ‘Finishing School’ will continue (or, more accurately, begin in earnest), particularly because it gives me added impetus to get through my DVD backlog and plug shameful gaps in my experience of cinema.

As for other features, we’ll have to see what develops…

So let’s go!

And we’re back

After a three-month sabbatical (there’s a euphemism if ever there was one), Remote Wanderings is back with a fiery vengeance. Film reviews, news, and links of note will now pour forth as steadily as I get around to them. There will be a few reviews going up today and hopefully some more tomorrow, along with the major news of the past few months that springs to mind and some choice links from across the interweb. These reviews will be me playing catch-up, but look for my take on new releases like Transformers and Knocked Up shortly after they come out (I hope).

So pull up a chair and a preferred beverage and prepare to be dazzled by some moderately competent reviews. Tell your friends!

Where it says hello

Welcome to the inaugural post of Remote Wanderings, a blog dedicated to my musings and ravings about movies, television, comics, and any other news and movements from other corners of popular culture that tickle my fancy. The next post (or posts, depending on how much text Blogger will allow me to submit) will re-present the film reviews I’ve written over the last year and a half for my personal blog, and if you actually manage to wade through some of it you’ll get an idea of whether or not my witterings are worth your time. I hope they are, because I love doing this stuff. Hope to see you again soon.