16 July 2015

The Americans (FX, 2013–)

The Americans is a period drama that takes its time to build characters and relationships, benefits from production design that silently and completely builds worlds, and is founded on writing that is just awesome in its understatement.

For a show that is set in the 1980s and begins with the almost risible situation of an FBI agent innocently moving his family into the same street where deep-cover Soviet agents are already well established, this is — according to an entry in my viewing diary — gut-churningly awesome.

Like any reasonably successful television show, it uses the ideas of family, relationships, and character to tell good stories. Where it differs from most others is — aside from its engine and setting — in how it uses those same ideas for its own ends: family —the Soviet agents' teen children are unaware they are part of their parents' cover; relationships —when the FBI agent turns a Russian embassy employee by having an affair with them, is he working an asset or is he being unfaithful to his wife? and character —how does each Soviet agent hold onto his or her core values after years of living in a democratic and capitalist environment?

Heavy stuff, I know — there's guns, sex, and spy stuff if you really only want that kind of stuff — but there's so much more to savour and enjoy.

The best drama really is on the box these days.

Essential viewing.

15 June 2015

Powers S01E05

It's the Game of Thrones season finale tonight but the Better Half is out and since my box-watching plate is a little light, I thought, “Was Powers really as shit as I thought?”

I could've tolerated its anaemic 37-minute running time, forgiven how it reused footage from the previous and current ep several times over in some kind of present-day-flashback-suspenseful-character-dynamic-building narrative device, and waited out a pace as slow as a well-meaning am-dram parlour piece. (I've been here before: I watched all 800 fucking hours of The Cult so I'm a goddamned TV watching badass.)

So when two female superheroines arrive to rescue our mere mortal protagonist, and the first one — having been expressly warned to never turn her back on the superpowered antagonist —turns her back not once but twice and is swept aside, and the second one has a glass jaw, I'm like, “Yeah, this is shit, alright.”

23 May 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015; Matthew Vaughan / Jane Goldman and Vaughan)

After watching Samuel L Motherfucking Jackson's villain defeated by Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Michael Caine as the eponymous Kingsmen I couldn't help thinking: If you're a gazillionaire with the resources and willingness to save the planet, and you happen to be a person of colour, a bunch of honkies with delusions of knights and chivalry will stop you and protect the status quo.

22 May 2015

Chappie (2015; Neill Blomkamp / Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell)

District 9 just fuckin' rocked, didn't it? Social commentary as sci-fi action film, it had awesome, eye-popping tech, smart, adaptable and resourceful villains, and a protagonist that was classic Joe Campbell.

The long-awaited Elysium had a jaw-dropping trailer and premise but the final product was really just District 9 on a bigger scale. I hoped it was just a sophomoric misstep.

Watching Chappie is like watching a very expensive assembly of the dumbest parts of Star Wars Episodes I–III, Return of the Jedi, and Robocop 2 and 3: a tedious asssult of infantile characterisation and insulting story-telling that no amount of action can save.


02 May 2015

Daredevil S01 (Netflix, 2015–)

The casting is what got me interested: the always — always — awesome Vincent D'Onofrio as the villain, and the ever underrated Scott Glenn as a crotchety ol' cuss of a mentor. A wonderful surprise is Rosario Dawson who has the best lines and chemistry with lead Charlie Cox who inhabits the character well enough but is surprisingly the least interesting thing in Daredevil.

Overall, the show hits the right notes, taking cues from each of the Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis runs that respectively humanised and grounded the character in the comics, and efficiently builds a world — nay, an arena — for hours of future fun.


24 April 2015

Arrow S03E10

There’s a first time for everything: the moment I recognised Vinnie Jones voice, followed by the reveal of his mug, I thought, Yeeesssss.

17 April 2015

Justified — Series End

After six seasons, Justified called time on its run, and it's a damn' cryin' shame, too.

Better to quit while you're ahead, but. Seasons one and two remain the standouts, with this final season a not-all-that-close-but-still-decent third. A bit like its sidewindin' dialogue, the other seasons meandered a little, even repeated itself some, but Harlan County was always a welcome place to spend thirteen hours each year.

The show captured Elmore Leonard's ear for dialogue and eye for character, the guest and supporting characters often stealing scenes and hearts with their tiny and often tragic arcs. I'll miss Damon Herriman's little-boy-lost Dewey Crowe, Duke Davis Roberts' Forrest Gump-gazzumping Choo Choo, and Ron Eldard's foggy-stoner-killer Colt just as much as Marshall Raylan Givens and his nemesis, Boyd Crowder.

Good enough to buy and add to the collection.