Weekend Roundup: The Americans (FX series) and The Bling Ring reviews

Happy Weekend everybody! WOW, everything’s still very much awesome for The LEGO Movie, winning box office for the third straight weekend with $31 mil. It’s now made $183 mil domestically, and with a production budget on only $60 mil, that’s quite a huge hit for Warner Bros. The McG/Luc Besson’s spy thriller 3 Days to Kill (review coming later this week) is a distant second with $12 mil but with a low production budget of $28 mil, I’d think they’d still turn a profit. Pompeii on the other hand, lives up to its subject matter, being a major box office disaster as it only made a measly 10% of its $100 mil budget, ouch!

It’s home cinema this weekend for me, catching up on some older films and TV series I’ve been meaning to check out. Here are my thoughts:

The Americans (FX series)

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Two Soviet intelligence agents pose as a married couple to spy on the American government.

A few people have mentioned about this show, but finally my hubby and I had a chance to check out the pilot last Friday. We’re definitely gonna try to catch up with Season 1 as there are only 13 episodes.

I thought the concept of having two Russian protagonists in an American show is very intriguing. It certainly offers a fresh twist to an otherwise run-of-the-mill spy show. It’s set in the 80s during the Reagan-era Cold War, and according to IMDb, the show is based on a true story that broke in 2010 of Russian sleeper agents hiding in plain sites in the US for decades. So just like in the series, their children, coworkers, friends, and neighbors had no idea they were spies.

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Having just seen Austenland, it’s quite a change to see Keri Russell as a bad ass spy here, in the opening sequence she’s dressed like a hooker seducing an FBI agent. Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, with impeccable American accent, plays her *husband* aka spy partner. Both are excellent in the role of married couple Elizabeth & Phillip Jennings, who look like a typical suburban DC couple with a couple of kids posing as travel agents. The pilot presents quite a dilemma for the couple when their assignment involves kidnapping a defecting KGB agent whom Elizabeth had a personal vendetta. Their loyalties to Mother Russia is tested as the Jennings don’t always share the same feelings about their job. Of course things are about to get even more interesting when one of the FBI agent hot on the trail of the kidnapping suspects move in to their neighborhood! A strange twist of coincidence or is there more to it than that?? Well, I can’t wait to find out! Nice to see Noah Emmerich as FBI agent Stan Beeman, he’s one of those character actors I’m always impressed with every time I see him in a movie or TV series.

I think the most riveting of all is how the American audience are no doubt compelled to perceive the “enemy” of the states in a whole new light. I definitely sympathize with them more than I probably should. But really, are they really so different from our own agents working in a foreign country? The sharp script keeps me engrossed and in suspense. I love that this spy series is not about the cool action and gadget you’ll find in escapist fun like James Bond, but it’s more in the vein of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that explores the tricky adventure of espionage and really get into the intricate psyche of a secret agent.

I refrain from giving a rating at this point as I’ve only seen the pilot. But I highly recommend this one if you’re a fan of the spy genre or if you’re looking for a quality show to get hooked to.

Now switching gear to Sofia Coppola’s latest effort from last year. 

The Bling Ring (2013)

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At first glance I really wasn’t all that enthused to watch this film. I mean I couldn’t be more disinterested in seeing materialistic and fame-obsessed teenagers robbing their favorite celebrities. I find the whole TMZ culture so loathsome, I don’t even care to read US magazine anymore even when I’m at the salon. It’s interesting why Coppola choose to do a film on them, but perhaps there’s some kind of message she’s trying to tell us with this story. Well, unfortunately this film is as shallow as protagonists depicted here.

The film basically shows us how these teens, led by its ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang) and her new BFF Marc (Israel Broussard), rob one celebrity’s house after another. They’re mostly C-list celebs who are more famous for their shenanigans (Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton) or those famous for being in the fashion mags instead of actual work (Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson). So apparently none of these celebs have heard of home security as even Hilton’s mansion was so easy to break into, in fact, the group barely had to break anything to access their homes. I don’t know what is more repulsive than witnessing these kids stealing things left and right or seeing the excessive decadence on display.

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I have to admit I wasn’t as bored out of my wits watching this as I did watching her last film Somewhere, but I felt that even that movie perhaps had a bit more depth as at the very least Coppola tried to present some kind of redeeming quality for the disenchanted Hollywood actor. In this film, the characters only pass through time, living their incredibly shallow life in succession, simply motivated by the grand hedonistic lifestyle and self-indulgence. It’s stylishly shot but everything is so detached. Despite a few engaging and hilarious moments in a self-parody kind of way, I struggle to find a meaning – if any – that Coppola is trying to say here.

The only saving grace here seems to be Emma Watson, simply because it’s amusing to see her portray someone so different from Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. Her American accent is spot on and she certainly has the gift of comedy. It’s amusing to think that the young actress is surely as wealthy – if not more – as the victims that her character rob in this movie! But even she could barely save this vapid drivel. Even though it’s only 90-min long, it felt pretty tedious by the repetitive stealing-and-partying scenes displayed over and over. It’s darn near impossible to sympathize with any of the characters the way Coppola depicted them here. I think Marc was perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film as he seems to be the only one who has the slightest bit of remorse. But really, that’s not saying much.

This is the third film by Sofia Coppola I saw, but so far my favorite is by far still Lost in Translation. I might give her other earlier films a try, hopefully The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette fare much better than this one.

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So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on The Americans series and/or The Bling Ring? 

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58 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: The Americans (FX series) and The Bling Ring reviews

  1. I happen to love The Bling Ring. Then again, I’m a big Sofia Coppola fan as I think it’s her most accessible feature to date. Especially as I think it’s an exploration into Hollywood and kids wanting to be part of that celebrity culture as they’re disconnected from the real world. It’s part of her continuing exploration as a filmmaker as I’ve divulged more about that in my review and in my essay about Sofia as she is my favorite filmmaker.

    1. Hmmm, if that’s meant to be some kind of exploration into celebrity culture, it seems to be lost in the inherent vapid-ness of it all. It’s just me though, that’s good that you seem to get what she’s trying to say, but I find it to be very, very shallow and repetitive.

  2. Ted S.

    Love The Americans show, Kerri Russell was a revelation for me, I mean I’ve seen her in other movies and TV shows but I was never impressed with her until this show. There are more twists and turns as the season progresses, can’t wait for season 2 starting this week.

    I have no desire to see The Bling Ring, a movie about celebrities obsess people just isn’t that interesting to me. In fact I find people who ardors or worship celebrities/athletes/singers kind of sickening, how sad are your lives that you worship these people who are just entertainers and not really doing anything to contribute to society. They’re just entertainers to me and nothing more. Then I again I’m just not that impress with famous people in general, unless they did or do something to contribute to society.

    Well it’s still too damn cold to do anything outside so I’ve watched a few movies over the weekend. Rented Ender’s Game, I’m a big fan of the book but the movie was a letdown. Then I watched Lockdown starring Guy Pearce, I don’t know what he was thinking by agreeing to star in that movie, it’s one of the worst sci/fi action movies I’ve seen in a long time. But I watched one of the best sci-fi films ever made, The Thing, I watch it every winter since the film took place in the winter time.

    1. Hi Ted! I’m so glad I finally got around to watching it. Yes Keri is excellent, it’s so unlike anything I’ve ever seen her before. Matthew Rhys is also fantastic, no surprise though as he’s a Brit. More twists and turns, oooh I can’t wait to see more!!

      I don’t think you’ll enjoy The Bling Ring at all. I was curious about it but I had hoped there’s an interesting angle to the story, alas it’s just a shallow depiction of a bunch of loathsome characters.

      Haven’t seen the two you rented, I might still rent Ender’s Game but Lockout (not Lockdown, ahah) looks awful even w/ Guy Pearce in it.

      1. Ted S.

        Ha ha, see it’s so bad I didn’t even get the title right. I thought for sure it’s going to be one of those so bad it’s good movies but as the movie progresses, it gets dumber and dumber. Luc Besson basically copied every other sci-fi movies from the past and combined them into this movie. I wonder if Guy even read the script before he agreed to star in it, I don’t think he did it for the money because the movie was pretty low budget, the special effects looked like something from the early 90s films.

        Ender’s Game wasn’t bad it just didn’t deliver compare to the book, maybe it’s just doesn’t translate well to film. I think had a more talented writer/director like say Spielberg or Nolan directed the movie, it could’ve been very good. Gavin Hood is not in the same league as those guys and he didn’t deliver at all. Technically it’s flawless, in fact I thought the film would probably look great in 3D, but somehow it’s release in 2D only.

  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Caught the pilot and first season of The Americans . And living just outside and having worked inside DC., found more things wrong with the series than right. The couple are performing tasks more aligned with GRU (Military Intel.) than KGB (State Security). There aren’t that many alley ways in DC. And the housing developments resemble nothing I’d seen in and around DC, MD and VA in the 1980s.

    Keri Richards may be a bad ass. Having far too many “issues” to be a viable field officer.
    But she and her husband are there to sell the show. The money men of FX should pry open their budget wallets and decide to shoot in DC at night. The city, north west and south east have tons of night time Noir potential!

    It’s also nice to see Emily Watson test uncharted waters. Though, if the rich and pampered of celebrity are lazy, dumb or trusting enough to not secure their valuables. And they do get ripped off. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for either party.

    1. Ha! Somehow I knew you’d probably pick fault with the series as you’re familiar w/ the era and having lived in DC. For me I thought it was well-written and well-acted, even if there are some inaccuracies in the details.

      It’s Emma not Emily Watson 😉 But yeah nice to see her showing her range, she’s really quite good. The story is lacking though, I have no sympathies for everyone involved either.

      1. jackdeth72

        D’OH!!! On my Emma, instead of Emily Watson.

        It must be a good thing that I’ve not been contacted as a Technical or Continuity Adviser. I’d probably drive FX broke within weeks.. 😉 Though, I’d more than likely leave their ‘Justified’ alone.

        Coppola’s ‘The Bling Ring’ may also be operating under a disadvantage. The Living Channel had done a lower budgeted and slightly less detailed, made for TV version of the tale by the same name. Though they had the “obsessed teen” angle down pat.

  4. We got The Americans some time before Christmas and it didn’t grab me to be honest. I might just have not given it enough time, but I’ve got so many series on the go I only have so much time 🙂

    As for the Bling Ring, I haven’t caught it yet. Think it’ll be one I wait to come on TV to be honest.

    1. Hi Chris! I’m with ya, too many shows too little time. But I figure since there are only 13 eps and there’s only 1 season so far it’s easier for us to catch up on. I really dug the pilot, looking forward to seeing more!

      The Bling Ring is only worth seeing on TV I think, glad it was on Netflix so I didn’t have to pay for it.

  5. Have not seen the TV show, but Bling Ring was alright. You are right that it wasn’t as boring as Somewhere, but the lack of judgement of these characters can be annoying when watching it.

    I had an amazing movie weekend as I went to a festival yesterday (on Saturday I started watching the second season of House of Cards). Saw five films:
    – August: Osage County which I know you liked and I enjoyed it as well.
    – Her, which is simply amazing and will end up high in my end of year list.
    – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which bored me quite a bit
    – The Keeper Of Lost Causes which is a Scandinavian crime thriller, which was alright but basically felt like a pilot for a TV show
    – The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I really enjoyed. Have already put up a review for that one.

    1. It’s funny but as I was watching The Bling Ring I kept thinking wow, this actually made Somewhere seems like it had more depth!

      WOW, 5 really good films Nostra! Haven’t seen Ain’t Them Bodies Saints & The Keeper Of Lost Causes yet but might give them a shot. I can’t post my review of The Grand Budapest Hotel yet but I’m not as enamored w/ it as you did though it was pretty entertaining.

      1. I had no restrictions in posting a review as it was shown during a festival. I’ll wait for your review to read about your exact feelings. When will it be up? In two weeks around the general release?

  6. And I forgot to mention that I also watched that Ray Harryhausen documentary on Saturday, which was quite interesting as I am not too familiar with his work.

  7. That’s series sounds quite good, Ruth. Nice to hear Noah Emmerich is still around. I always liked him too.

    Not too keen on The Bling Ring, I have to say. Not really my cup of tea!

    1. Hi Mark! Yeah Noah Emmerich is a great character actor, I’m glad to see he’s still working too.

      Ahah no, I didn’t think you’d be into The Bling Ring.

        1. Ahah, really?? You like him THAT much eh? Well I understand. Certain actors (Dalton, Armitage, etc) sometimes can sway me to see a film I otherwise would never watch!

            1. Not a fan of Emma Watson? I take it you’re not an HP fan or did you see her in something else? This is the first time I saw her outside of her HP character and I thought she’s pretty darn good. Eons better than someone like say, Kristen Stewart!

              1. I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower but turned it off. Didn’t think it was as good as everyone had been saying.

                I do like HP but I find the films a bit drawn out to be honest. They’re no Lord of the Rings for sure.

                1. Ahhh that’s one I’ve been curious to check out as everyone’s been saying how good it is. Hmmm, now I’m going to proceed w/ caution, he..he..

                  Oh I agree HP is no LOTR! I got on the HP franchise late but I really like the supporting cast, the who’s who of British cinema. But yeah, overall it didn’t have the depth of Tolkien’s story IMO.

  8. Hey, Ruth. I haven’t seen a second of The Americans, so I won’t comment on that part.

    I agree with you on The Bling Ring, though. It is depthless and shallow. Worse, it’s so repetitive as to quickly become tiresome. I see a theme in it (deconstruction of our obsession with celebrity), but I don’t care. It had the material to be a thirty minute short and was stretched into a feature. Which makes it not good. The actors, especially Emma Watson, notwithstanding.

    1. Hello James! The Americans is very good, definitely worth your time if you’re looking for a series to be hooked on 🙂

      Glad you agree on The Bling Ring. I feel that a documentary is perhaps a better avenue for such a story.

      1. The way it was made, with no connection to characters, I think a documentary would have been a better choice. Or even a mockumentary. It just didn’t work as a straight fictional piece, because the characters were so blah.

  9. Popcorn Nights

    I disagree about The Bling Ring Ruth, sorry! I think I am in the minority but I thought it was a fairly smart attack on the emptiness and narcissism of celebrity culture, as well as this gang of shallow, vacuous kids…and especially their parents. I enjoyed it! I also liked the way social media feeds and the likes of TMZ and Entertainment Tonight news reports influenced the editing and the look of the film at times.
    p.s The Virgin Suicides is well worth watching, but given that I liked The Bling Ring you might be better off holding out for someone else’s recommendation… 🙂

    1. Oh no need to be sorry. To each their own right? I felt that perhaps that’s what Sofia was trying to do w/ showcasing the narcissism of the celeb culture but I don’t think she succeeded. I guess my aversion to those fame-obsessed folks didn’t help my enjoyment.

      Ahah, I don’t know when I’ll get around to Sofia’s other films, but I’m in no hurry.

  10. Great that you enjoyed The Americans. Such a well put together show. Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys are fantastic.

    I adore the music they use in the show. The opening scene from the pilot will always stand out for me – the use of Tusk by Fleetwood Mac was perfect!

    1. Hi Jaina! We seem to like the same types of show, I see you’re a fan of BSG too 😀

      Yes fantastic on all fronts, really enjoyed seeing Russell and Rhys, first time I saw the latter in anything. Yet another Welsh actor to complete my Top 10 Fave list 😉 I like the music too, never thought Phil Collins’ song is used for a sexy scene like that, ahah.

  11. I’m perhaps in the minority who hasn’t found Sofia Coppola’s films very interesting. I do need to revisit them however. Having said that though, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve got a distaste for this latest one – I’m definitely not thrilled by the concept: I hate TMZ and all the celebrity gossip mags/TV shows.

    1. Oh I happen to think she’s a bit overrated myself Dan. I really like Lost in Translation, but her latest two films made me think she’s perhaps a one hit wonder?

      The concept of Bling Ring seems to be an odd choice for her to film considering that Sofia herself is born of privilege.

  12. Hmmm, it doesn’t sound like I missed much with “The Bling Ring”. Honestly it never really appealed to me at all. Your review makes me not want to waste my time. Good stuff Ruth.

    As for my weekend watching, I saw “3 Days to Kill” (review up now) and “Life is Beautiful”. I also caught four classic movies, two were rewatches and two were first time viewings. Some good stuff this weekend!

    1. Hi Keith! I don’t blame you that it didn’t appeal to you. It wasn’t a complete time waster for me as it was still a fascinating topic, I just wish there were more to it than how it’s presented.

      Sounds like an excellent weekend indeed. I’ll be reviewing a classic tonight which were one of my BlindSpot, I think you already know that I love this one. My review of ‘3 Days To Kill’ will be up later today 😀

    1. Sorry Fernando, I remember you really like The Bling Ring. It wasn’t a complete waste of time but at the same time it could’ve been a lot more compelling.

  13. I like “Bling Ring” way more than “Somewhere”. The latter was a real bore to me. You know the thing about “Lost In Translation” and what separates it apart from other Sofia Coppola films is Bill Murray. He makes a huge difference. Back to Bling Ring, what intrigued me most is how much of it actually happened in real life. Quite a lot it seems, including the celebrity houses…

    1. Hi Asrap. The Bling Ring wasn’t as slow as Somewhere but now that I think of it, the latter might’ve had a bit more substance though not by much. You’re right about Murray, he made ANYTHING more watchable, even Monuments Men is better w/ him in it.

  14. PrairieGirl

    The Americans sounds good, I hope I’ll be able to catch up with it somewhere.
    Watch the first episode of Restless… exceptional!

    1. The Americans should be worth your while Becky. Ooooh, so you’ve got the DVD of Restless then? When can I borrow it? [waiting w/ bated breath!]

      1. PrairieGirl

        Yep, got the DVD last Friday. I haven’t watched the second episode yet because I just don’t want it to be over, I mean seeing Rufus in something new, with a good story and very high-quality production value (it’s been a while since Zen) :-D. I’ll keep you posted… (grin)

  15. Heh, I didn’t hate The Bling Ring quite so much as you did, though it’s true that there’s not much there to really latch on to. Emma Watson sure is great, though, isn’t she? 😛

    1. Hi Chris! I don’t absolutely hate it, but can’t say I love it either. Watson is great, that’s why I said she’s the saving grace here, though it’d take more than her to *save* the film.

  16. I actually watched The Virgin Suicides this weekend, and I liked both Somewhere (WHY does everyone hate my favourite film?? :D) and Bling Ring much better than that one. And I didn’t like Bling Ring all that much — I’ve heard it was Coppola’s aim to have the film shallow as a kind of a technique or something, but honestly, what does it add? It just makes a crappy, shallow film. I had most fun with watching Watson as well. 😀

    1. Hi Elina, always lovely to see you stop by! Y’know, after seeing The Bling Ring, I actually appreciated Somewhere a bit more. It was very s-l-o-w but I think there’s more character study in that one than in TBR. Someone suggested earlier the subject matter might’ve been better done as a mockumentary and I’d agree!

  17. Ooh, I’ve wanted to check out The Americans since I saw the trailer last year. Speaking of spies, I’m also very interested in the Ian Fleming mini-series with Dominic Cooper.

    I consider The Bling Ring one of Coppola’s “worst” films, but I actually give it 4/5. I’d put The Virgin Suicides beneath it. Maybe you should check out Marie Antoinette next then. 🙂

    1. It’s really good Josh, I think you’d like it! Oh I’m looking forward to Fleming’s miniseries too as I’m a big Bond fan, though I had wished to see James McAvoy as Fleming instead. Cooper is a good actor though.

      I might give Marie Antoinette a shot but not all that interested in The Virgin Suicides to be honest.

  18. I haven’t seen The Americans because the amount of shows I do watch already borders on insane, but I did see The Bling Ring – it was really boring, but at least it was beautifully shot. I liked Watson too, but the whole film seemed pointless and was really forgettable.

    1. Hi Sati! Yeah, there are too many good shows out there. The Americans is really good though, so maybe during breaks of True Detective or GoT you can sneak this one in 😀

      Yep, TBR is pointless though it’s still worth a watch for Watson. Overall it’s just so meh.

  19. The Bling Ring sounds so disappointing. :-/ Love Lost in Translation. The Virgin Suicides is good. Not seen Marie Antoinette but plan on watching it soon. Agree Somewhere was BORING. : ( Would love another Lost in Translation from her!

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