Tagged Acting

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 8: “Omega Station” ends with beauty & tragedy

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 8: “Omega Station”
Directed by John Crowley (Boy A; previously directed the episode “Other Lives” this season)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the previous episode, “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” – click here

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN IT – FILLED WITH SPOILERS! WHY WOULD YOU BE READING THIS ANYWAYS? EITHER WAY, BE PREPARED.
IMG_0763This final episode of Season 2 starts in bed with Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) after their steamy night together. Ani recounts what happened to her back in childhood, the abuse she suffered at the hands of the man from her visions in Episode 6 at the weird sex party. It’s clear the two of them bonded; it wasn’t simply two people having sex together, they were trying to forget, at least for awhile, together.
There’s no doubt Ani is a damaged woman. She blames herself for the abuse, saying “I got into a van with a stranger“. She doesn’t understand that feeling proud her abuser thought she was pretty is a symptom of abuse, a symptom of mistreatment at the hands of men. Unfortunately, this didn’t only cloud her when it comes to judging herself, it clouded Ani completely in terms of men; from her father, to her boyfriends, to her partner and all the men in the Vinci P.D.
What’s great about this opening is that Ray also talks, he opens up to her. So it’s not simply Ani pouring her guts out. Ray confesses to her that he killed a man he thought to be his wife’s rapist, and that it made nothing better; it made everything worse. Ani says she doesn’t blame him for any of it, even saying other cultures would understand, it’s a human thing to want revenge. But Ray reveals that it was not him, that he found out who the real rapist was, so we’re seeing this beautiful opening up between the two damaged characters of Ani and Ray. The way it all comes off is wonderful. There’s this peace about the two of them together.

Ani: “Trees. A little place in the rock, in the trees. A cave, is how I remember it. It was like a fairytale.
IMG_0767 IMG_0766 IMG_0768 IMG_0769Sadly, as they rolled around in bed together, Detective Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) got shot from behind, then had his brain blasted out all over the pavement. Seeing such an incredibly powerful, emotional, beautiful scene, knowing what lays beyond those motel doors – it’s tragic really.

Back to Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) trying to tell his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) she doesn’t have any choice but to get out of town. Frank’s trying to drive Jordan away, but it is not because he doesn’t love her. Jordan knows the difference. A great bit of the scene is when they throw their wedding rings away – Jordan is a strong lady, she takes off her big diamond, to Frank’s dismay, and tosses it into the street like he did with his, too. I thought this was excellent. Shows how badass Jordan is because she does not care about the money; she clearly loves Frank. She doesn’t abandon him, no matter what, even after seeing the damage Frank inflicted in the last episode. Some critics have said the relationship between Frank and Jordan has been stale, or whatever; I completely disagree. They’re a trouble couple, and I think each of them plays it well. The chemistry between Reilly and Vaughn works, in my opinion. Vaughn does a good job playing the businessman trying to shake his ‘gangster’ roots while she does a great job portraying a torn woman who loves her husband, wants to get away from the crime, but won’t let him go no matter the price.

Frank: “Wear a white dress
Jordan: “You wear a white suit with a red rose in your jacket
Frank: “I’ll wear a red rose in my jacket
Jordan: “I’ll see you coming out of the crowd, head higher than everyone else.
Frank: “At first I worry, I can’t see you.
Jordan: “But then you do.
Frank: “I see the white dress.
IMG_0764 IMG_0765Ray Velcoro gets the news about Woodrugh straight from the killer’s mouth – Lieutenant Kevin Burris (James Frain). Everything is coming down on Ray’s head, on Ani, on their little investigation. Even worse, there’s the fact the P.D and their players know about Paul and Miguel, so the higher-ups see Woodrugh as an outsider. Naturally, Ray and Ani are devastated about Paul’s death and plan on trying their hardest to expose whatever is left to bring out into the light, and hopefully salvage their careers, or at the very least their lives. Ray says, worst comes to worst, he knows a way for them to get out of the country.
Big things are at play now.

Lt. Burris: “Why do you care? You know the guy was a fag, right?
IMG_0770 IMG_0772Following up on some further leads, Ani and Ray finally come across the lair of the Raven-headed man. The mask, the shotgun and blast rounds, as well as a woman cuffed to a pipe in the living room. We get more revelations about the people involved with Ben Caspere from the handcuffed girl – Laura Osterman. This has to do with her brother, Leonard. They’re the reason Caspere ended up in such a state, because apparently Lenny lost a little control, went extreme. The whole acid bit was meant to scare him. I guess Leonard went further than scaring Caspere.
We met Laura back in Episode 3, very briefly. She was known as Erica – Caspere’s assistant. And so the plot thickens.
IMG_0773Nice poster for Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia in the background of one scene. Good stuff!
IMG_0774For those who aren’t following much of the plot this season one major thing to remember ultimately is: corruption due to the impending build of the new railway.
The company Catalyst are intricately involved with high-ranking members of the Vinci Police Department. This is why Woodrugh was killed, this is why the Caspere murder is being covered up. The murder is being covered because all those high-ranking members of the PD had a hand in the robbery-murder which set off the entire Caspere situation – the murder of Laura and Leonard Osterman’s parents. Plus there’s all the land and everything entailed with the railway deal, yadda yadda. You get the picture.
IMG_0775So Ray, with the information he now has, ends up meeting Police Chief Holloway (Afemo Omilami), hard drive in tow from the care of the Osterman kids. There are only so many plays left for Bezzerides and Velcoro, they’re trying to get as much traction as possible before everything hits the fan.
Then it does hit the fan once Holloway reveals the Osterman girl was illegitimately the child of Caspere. Lenny, who is nearby, hears this and attacks Holloway, prompting Lt. Burris out of his hole to open fire. Luckily, Bezzerides and Velcoro make it out alive.
IMG_0776There’s a TON of tension and suspense in this finale. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Basically the two of the remaining detectives are greenlit, by Vinci P.D, Catalyst, and everyone else who is locked up with them in all the god damn corrupt madness.
What I enjoyed most was how this season of True Detective has brought the detectives together with the criminals.
Amazing scene between Frank Semyon and Ani Bezzerides, the first introduction. Frank is now helping the two of them try and escape with their lives still in tact. They’re all heading down south somewhere.
Also, Ray finally discovers that Blake (Christopher James Baker) was the one who actually set him up, not Frank. In a way there’s honour in Frank, even though things don’t always come out the way they should. Either way, he made up for it by just really brutalizing Blake.
IMG_0778Frank: “We met? You’re a cop, right? Lady cop.
Ani: “What gave me away – the tits?
Frank: “I meant you’re a lady, you have dignity. You like Ray? I like Ray.
IMG_0781Frank (to Ray): “I did not live my life to go out like this… you?

Ray: “I owe these filth. I owe Woodrugh.
Ani: “Would you run? Now, if I asked, would you?
Ray: “I might. I just might.
IMG_0779One thing I couldn’t get enough of in this episode was the music. I mean, it was just ominous! Really great electronic sounding, deep, dark score. Drove things along with the subtle, quiet action that was happening. I honestly think they pulled out all the stops on this finale. “Omega Station” fired on all cylinders.
There’s more of that under the cover of darkness stuff. Ani is in Dr. Pitlor’s (Rick Springfield) office, looking for whatever information she can, while the doctor is found with his wrists slit. Meanwhile, Ray and Frank are sneaking around in the woods and they make their way in, descending upon Osip Agronov (Timothy V. Murphy).
I loved this bit. Frank and Ray together is like the Dream Team. Each of them with all the right gear, the weapons. Frank is merciless, too. He goes in there probably expecting to death, maybe half hoping to, and he just blows away whoever is in his destructive path.
IMG_0782 IMG_0783Osip: “I saved you. You’re like my son.
A sweet line right before Frank shoots him in the face a couple times.
Incredible. The tension mounted a nice bit up to this point, which felt great, as the action was swift, it wasn’t a massive scene, and it came off so slick. I think True Detective as a series overall has done some great work with action scenes.
IMG_0786Now that everyone is cutting ties and taking off to some southern dreamland, Ray decides to head back and try reaching out one last time to his son, Chad (Trevor Larcom). Seeing that the boy has still held onto the present – Ray’s father’s P.D bage – Velcoro leaves to head on and get going. Back at his car, he notices a leak underneath, so of course he is being followed everywhere, closely. Someone is still watching; there’s a tracking device on his car.
He calls Ani, tells her to go without him, and that he’ll follow along behind.
IMG_0787 IMG_0788Again I can’t say this enough times concerning Season 2, Colin Farrell has done a spectacular job. It has been worth the time just watching Ray Velcoro’s character arc play out through the episodes. The way he internalizes everything, making the gestures of Velcoro mean so much, one after the other, building this tension about him and canning it in, until things are ready to explode. Love the performance. It is a television character I hope that will go on to be a classic. I’ve loved Farrell’s acting every step of the way.
IMG_0784 IMG_0785Ani: “I’m gonna talk to you again, right? We’re gonna see each other again.
Ray: “You kidding? You’re gonna need a restraining order.
Ani: “No. No, I won’t.
IMG_0789When Ani hands the phone over to Felicia (Yara Martinez), Ray immediately tells her: “I’m not going to make it
I thought this was so incredibly tense, it blew my mind. I did not expect it, honestly. Even though it looked as if Ray was in hot water, I still did not expect this and it hit my chest with a thud. Excellently suspenseful few minutes in that scene between Ani, Ray, and Felicia.

Ray: “You turn here, you turn there and then it goes on for years.. becomes something else. I’m sorry – for the man I became, for the father I was. I hope you got the strength to learn from that, and I hope you got no doubts how much I love you, son. And you’re better than me. If I’d been stronger, I woulda been more like you. Hell, son.. if everyone was stronger, they’d be more like you.
IMG_0791The last 20 minutes of this extra long finale, I could not let go of my grip on the couch. Great, tense stuff. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true – this entire episode has ratcheted up the tension. Everything is coming to bear at the end of Season 2, here at the fittingly titled “Omega Station”.
Frank is brought out into the desert and there, things get terribly rough for him. Though, I’ve got to say, Frank Semyon does not go out like any punk. He takes an awful stab in the guts, then his former ‘colleagues’ leave him there next to an open grave dug into the sand. Instead of laying down to die, Frank walks on, bleeding, towards an uncertain future against the vast, open desert in front of him.
IMG_0792 IMG_0795At the same time, Ray Velcoro is running for his life through the woods, Lt. Burris and a bunch of armed men on their way after him. It’s so amazingly suspenseful. I couldn’t stop leaning in towards the screen, wanting to just jump right inside the television. Ray is like a scared dog, but he keeps his wits about him, taking down who he can through the trees, running, running. Burris is constantly calling out “Where is Bezzerides?” and before jumping out, only to be cut down viciously, Velcoro mutters to himself: “In a better place”. Just wow. I expected at some point Ray might meet a terrible fate at the hands of his own kind, but this was rough. So close to getting away and making it to that better place with Ani. He just couldn’t go the whole length.
Even worse, his last speech for Chad didn’t go through before he was killed – the final nail in the existential coffin of Ray Velcoro.
IMG_0793A lot of great tension, but also there are great bits such as Frank’s hallucinations in the desert. He’s seeing his father, blaming him for all their problems, calling him everything from faggot to the reason your mother left. Then he has more hallucinations of a bunch of black guys harassing him; no doubt another early memory of his days living in a bad neighbourhood, one of the only white boys around. It’s a wild little moment thrown in there, which I thought worked well. You can see Semyon pushing and pushing, willing himself to move, every inch of his being wanting to go on and keep living another day.
Powerful imagery when Frank sees Jordan out in the desert, white dress on, standing radiant in the middle of nowhere. I loved this, yet at the same time it’s a sad image.

Jordan: “What’s a guy like you doin’ in a place like this?
Frank: “Just makin’ my way baby.
IMG_0797IMG_0798 IMG_0799 IMG_0801 IMG_0800 IMG_0803Personally, I don’t think there is any way this season could’ve ended better. There’s a totally pessimistic ending where Velcoro turns out to be the actual father of his child Chad, but then the P.D pins everything on him. There was plenty of action, suspense, and tension going on. The final few minutes show all the corruption still going on, further and further, becoming worse with every step.
I really love how Ani has kept on with everything, she is showing the evidence off now after the fact to someone whom I would assume to be a journalist of sorts. This is a great, real life-feeling situation. In the time of Edward Snowden, such a piece of crime fiction is welcome, as we see Bezzerides dealing with the aftermath of a huge scandal. Of course, Pizzolatto did model parts of Season 2 after the real story of corruption in a city called Vernon, which I believe is actually in California. Maybe I’m mistaken on that last part. Either way, this has such true to life tones that I think that’s one of the reasons I ultimately loved the storyline this season, all the subplots and everything.
IMG_0804Ani: “We deserve a better world
IMG_0805 IMG_0807People will hate me, but I do like Season 2 the best of the two. You can read my review of Season 1 – I have nothing bad to say. Simply, it’s a case of enjoying the characters more, their arcs, and how real the investigation felt. I have nothing but love for Season 1, and I will always say it’s one of the best seasons of any show, ever. There’s a special place in my heart for this season. The end was true tragedy, in the best sense of the word.
It’s my belief Nic Pizzolatto made a great, grounded crime drama with this second season and proved that it didn’t have to be all whimsical conversation at the hands of Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle. These characters were incredible and I could not get enough. This season went out beautifully and I hope to the stars Pizzolatto will do another season, at least one more, and give us another few detectives onto which we can latch.

Prisoners: Guzikowski & Villeneuve Subvert the Usual Thriller

Prisoners. 2013. Dir. Denis Villeneuve. Written by Aaron Guzikowski.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano. Warner Brothers Pictures. 14A. 153 minutes.
Drama/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★★ (Movie)
★★★ (Blu ray release)

Denis Villeneuve has been on my radar ever since I was first able to see Polytechnique; a great little film about the awful Montreal Massacre on December 6th in 1989. Of course he’s also directed several other fascinating films including Incendies and another recent film again with Jake Gyllenhaal, the unique and, for some, the confusing Enemy. When I heard he was doing a film with both Hugh Jackman and Gyllenhaal, I got really interested. First of all because Villeneuve has a real talent for dark subject matter. Second, I love Gyllenhaal. After first seeing photos from production and the trailer, I couldn’t believe the look he had going for this film; it was thrilling. And last but not least, I think Jackman is underrated. Sure, he’s in tons of big budget films, and people know him very well, but I don’t think he exactly gets the praise he deserves. However, Prisoners changes the trajectory of his career, and I believe people should notice how good an actor he really is. While the entire film is also just about perfect, all these things come together to make Prisoners a dark modern classic.
prisoners-poster
We’ve seen the story here probably more than we care to: young girls are kidnapped, police except for one crusader are inept, one of the parents takes the law into their own hands. Yet even though the story seems familiar, the plot Guzikowski weaves through it goes into very deep, dark territory. It isn’t the same thing we see time and time again. There’s something in Prisoners that taps into our fears, and it does so easily.

Essentially this is a lot like other thrillers on the same subject. Where Prisoners excels is the acting, cinematography, and of course the writing. The script is tight. Honestly, it kept me guessing until late in the game. What really gets me here is Roger Deakins. If you don’t know the Deak then what are you doing to yourself? I don’t even want to start listing the great films he has done as Director of Photography. Okay, okay, here’s a few: Sid and NancyHomicideBarton FinkThe Shawshank RedemptionThe Hudsucker ProxyFargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?House of Sand and Fog, JarheadNo Country for Old Men, and the film adaptation of Doubt, among many others. Deakins has an absolutely flawless eye for beauty on film. The way he does things is phenomenal. Prisoners has a very dark, gritty quality to it, but yet it is still pristine looking. The tone is absolutely set with the way Deakins shoots things. Villeneuve and Deakins must have had a grand time working together.
PrisonersAlthough Jackman is probably seen to be the star of the show, as his role is central to the plot, I think Gyllenhaal is the real star. Not that his performance is actually better than Jackman’s own, I just think his character is the most important.

Gyllenhaal plays Detective David Loki, although his first name can only be seen on his business card. Of course, a lot of people automatically pinned Loki as the eventual culprit in the kidnapping of the two girls; his surname is deceptive, and naturally many thought it was a key to some answers. First off, any screenwriter who would actually name the villain in their film Loki is way too ham fisted. It should be obvious, sooner than later, Detective Loki’s name is just a red herring. The character is far too interesting to write off with simple character nims. We get glimpses of Loki’s tattoos, as they’re all over his body. At one point, you can clearly tell Loki is wearing a Masonic ring implying he is most likely a member of the Masonic Lodge (for those conspiracy theorists out there this is just another herring – regular Masons, such as my father and grandfather and a ton of other people I know, are not taking over the world, they are meeting at lodges and doing community work such as fundraising and other things – but here it is meant, again, to throw you off from figuring out the real criminal). There are so many tiny eccentricities about Gyllnehaal’s portrayal of Detective Loki you could go on and on for days. It’s just one of the things, aside from Gyllnehaal’s excellent performance, that makes Loki work perfectly as a character in this film.
THE-PRISONERS9-1024x542Jackman, on the other hand, plays the simple character of Keller Dover. I only say simple because he doesn’t have any flair; there are no little mysterious bits about Dover. He is a man who has lost his daughter, and is willing to go to any lengths necessary needed to find her and bring her home. The intensity Jackman brings is no surprise. He strikes me as an intense actor once he gets going. What does surprise me are the quieter moments. And they are there. Some people pass the performance off as all brash, loud scenes with Jackman yelling, growling, et cetera.
What they neglect are the small moments. The few in the beginning with his son. Little moments in the middle. As well as some powerful, subtle scenes nearing the very end. It isn’t all outright intensity. There are some really small and touching bits we get out of Jackman. Although, my favourite scene is when Dover is interrogating a man he believes to be the kidnapper of his and his friend’s children, and there’s a hammer involved. I don’t want to ruin it – it’s not really violent in the sense someone gets hurt with the hammer – but it is totally worth it to see this part. I didn’t expect it. It was one of those scenes I actually paused and imagined how the other actors reacted to his performance. I can’t imagine there wasn’t at least ONE person who was genuinely frightened by Jackman after those takes. Apparently Villeneuve coaxed Jackman into being more vicious, and this take was the next one he did; of course, it made its way right into the film. Rightfully so.
p5I cannot find anything I don’t like about Prisoners. As a film, I can happily and confidently give it a 5 star rating. There will always be differing opinions, on any movie. I just don’t see how you can’t enjoy this one. The acting, even the supporting roles and smaller bits, was wonderful. The script, while centered on a topic often covered in film, is fresh, and doesn’t go down all the same roads other films tend to travel on; some may disagree again, but we’ll have to amiably agree to disagree. I think the plot here, the writing, the acting – it all works to create a really amazing, dark, and exciting film.

I especially love the end. Villeneuve could have went several ways on it, but the ending is beautiful. It is a quiet, subdued ending. It even gives an air of hope, even if things are grim. Even if they may still come out grim after all. But the finale gives a glimmer of hope, and I enjoy that. Though I do enjoy all things dark and gritty, this film really gave the ending the right touch with just enough hope while still leaving things on an ambiguous note.
prisoners-image02On the contrary, I can only give Prisoners a 3 out of 5 stars in regards to the Blu ray release. The picture itself? Absolutely gorgeous. The cinematography really jumps out at you on this release. I can’t complain whatsoever about the picture or the sound; it’s all perfect. Though there is a complete lack of any real interesting extras on the disc. There are two small featurettes which give you some interviews with the cast and crew, but other than that there isn’t anything. They aren’t particularly long either. So the release itself isn’t amazing, aside from the picture quality of course, and if that wasn’t perfect then there’d be no real reason to want the Blu ray anyways – quality is expected when it comes to the visuals. I just wish they had some more special features to dive into. Alas, no such thing.

I highly recommend this Blu ray. Even though the extras don’t really fill out the release, the picture is still absolutely worth it. What you’re coming for is the movie either way, and the movie definitely delivers. The running time is long, but it doesn’t feel long when you’re sitting there watching it. And the picture is really stellar, again – I can’t stress that enough. While I wanted more extras, I’m absolutely okay with the release simply on the basis that it looks incredible, sounds great, and the film is spot on.
What I’m rambling on about? Pay more attention to the rating I gave Prisoners as a film and less about the Blu ray release – and go get yourself a copy of this brilliant, thrilling masterpiece! It’s a real modern work of dark and thrilling art.

Music Heals All in Metalhead

Málmhaus (English title: Metalhead). 2013. Directed & Written by Ragnar Bragason.
Starring Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Thora Bjorg Helga, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson, and Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson.
Unrated. 97 minutes.
Drama

★★★★1/2

Hera, as a young girl on her family’s farm, witnesses her older brother Baldur die in a freak accident while riding a tractor. Later, as a teenager, Hera gets into the heavy metal lifestyle and music Baldur enjoyed. She lives in a tiny community where her newfound choices don’t exactly go over well. Her father and mother struggle with the motions she goes through. They attend church, while she only rebels against it. Hera not only picks up heavy metal, both listening to it and playing it, she also takes to more violent, destructive behaviour; this all culminates in a very serious act of vandalism and arson. She is at odds with the people and place where she lives. Everything feels too ordinary and small for Hera, and so her rebellion grows large.
Metalhead
The whole film is essentially about Hera’s struggle, however, we also get an eye of what her parents go through in their own struggle to deal with death. Aside from the family there is also the great character of Janus, a new priest in the town. He is secretly a very cool guy underneath the black clothes and the collar; in a very suggestive scene, or at least it is at the start, Janus takes off his shirt to reveal to Hera a tattoo. He then proceeds to tell her he loves Iron Maiden, Venom, Celtic Frost, among others. His taste in music transcends the priestly garb, and he even gives a line similar to “don’t judge a book by its cover” (or maybe it was exactly that – I can’t remember now).

I really like that the film included Janus as a character because this shows the multiple lives a person can live; they are not defined by their occupation, nor are they defined by the music they listen to. However, Janus gives off signals Hera misinterprets. Their relationship isn’t what she thought, and it sets her off further against God; this being one of the threads running through Metalhead.
MetalheadAny drama truly thrives on its performances. Above story, above mood or setting or plot, the actors and actresses of a film (or any performance truly whether it’s onscreen or onstage) really carry things; if they do a bad job, the film can fall flat. On the other hand, if they do even a mediocre job a film that might not have been any good without them becomes really worthwhile. In Metalhead, the performances give even more punch to a great story. Thora Bjorg Helga, as Hera, really does a spectacular job portraying a young woman trying to find herself while also mourning the loss of someone whom she loved very much.
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The film does a good job of illustrating, to those who don’t already know, how music can both destroy as well as heal; it has both of these capabilities, whether people like it or not. Hera clings to music as a means of identifying herself. She also immerses herself into music because it helps her still keep Baldur with her in spirit. There are beautiful scenes where we get to watch Hera go through intense emotion while she puts the dark soul in her inside the music she plays.

There are some other solid performances in Metalhead to round the film out. Such as Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson as Janus, the heavy metal rocker priest, and also Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson who portrays Hera’s equally trouble father Karl. Although Helga herself is the main focus of the film, and a strong female lead, these two male leads also provide great non-typical characterizations of familiar characters.
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Later in the film, after Hera has almost fully abandoned music in her life; it has gone away, and she resigns herself to a life that is simply available to her instead of one she actively seeks out and wants. Then when three men show up looking for Hera, having heard some of the demo tapes she made while deeply mourning her brother, music comes back into her life. What follows in the finale of the film is absolutely beautiful.
There is a final moment of catharsis in the moments before credits roll on Metalhead which almost made me cry. I couldn’t believe it. The whole time you watch the film there are moments where you actually hope for a good end to everything. Most times, even while watching a terrifying film like a horror or maybe a thriller, I find myself looking for a grim ending because honestly, in my opinion, those are more interesting film-wise. Happy endings don’t usually jive with me because they are too heavy handed, too smug. On the contrary, the moments closing out this film are absolutely perfect, not only for the plot, but also tonally. It just, simply put, works; damn well. The tragic and heavy tone throughout much of Metalhead, including what I feel are some excellent moments of dark comedy, all play well with the end. Some endings can take the tone and throw it out, however, this one hits its mark, and strikes a fair balance where everything comes out slick.
metalhead_01-thumb-630xauto-41451I have to give the movie a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. I have one small problem with Metalhead. I felt they could have used a little more time on female relationships. They explored the mother slightly because there were some fascinating shots and bits of scenes where we really got to see her almost in the same light as Hera.  But they didn’t get enough of it in there. With the inclusion of Janus and Hera’s father Karl, it felt as if there was a lack of more female presence in movie. It isn’t necessarily something that detracts from how beautiful or successful in its goal Metalhead is in the end. Personally, it’s just something that would’ve made this a little stronger overall. There is a lot of ground left to be covered concerning Hera’s mother that I wish they could have, or would have, covered. I recommend anyone who loves a good drama to check out Metalhead once they can.

I believe Raven Banner is handling the Canadian distribution across all media. This is really great film. Not only for those who are fans of metal (there are some musical treats within, no doubt!), but those who enjoy heavy, personal dramas. There are some big, great aspirations here concerning faith, music, forgiveness, and other themes. I think Metalhead delivers on most levels. It is worth the money and time to see something not typical of most dramas: a middle-ground view of ideas about death, love, heavy metal, and religion.

Nightcrawler & the Vulture-like News Media

Nightcrawler. 2014. Directed & Written by Dan Gilroy.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, and Riz Ahmed. Elevation Pictures.
Rated 14A. 117 minutes.
Crime/Thriller

★★★★★

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is a bit of an unusual film. First off, Gilroy has never directed a feature film, or anything else to my knowledge. His start came with screenwriting. The only particularly worthy bit of writing Gilroy has the credit for would be an interesting 2006 film called The Fall. Other than that his screenplays have mostly been for box office fodder like Real Steel or more recently The Bourne Legacy. Yet out of nowhere Gilroy both writes and directs a small film like this.
With not only Jake Gyllenhaal but also veterans such as Rene Russo and Bill Paxton. I say small because this film only had a budget of $8-million. Believe it or not that is actually small compared to most movies you see at the theatre. Compared with the $125-million budget of Gilroy’s previous screenwriting venture The Bourne Legacy an $8-million film is an indie. However, what Nightcrawler lacks in budget it makes up for in heart and storytelling.
nightcrawler-jake-gyllenhaal1-600x400 Gyllenhaal is a tour-de-force in Nightcrawler. His character, Lou Bloom, is a wayward young man. The first we see Lou it is in the early dark of night on the edge of the city. He has a trunk full of stripped copper wire, and is currently in the process of cutting out a section of chain link fence. A security guard confronts him. He claims being lost. After decking the guard, and stealing his watch, Lou visits a construction site where he proceeds to auction off the fence and wire. Right away the message is clear: Lou is a scavenger. Through mere coincidence he ends up witnessing a brutal car crash. As two police officers try rescuing the injured driver, Lou watches a guerilla television crew trying to get exclusive, gruesome footage of the accident. Lou asks a member of the crew (Paxton) if he could get a job, but is shooed away.
On the morning news the following day, Lou sees the same footage he witnessed being taped the previous night, and is in awe. It brings a smile to his haunted looking face. This chance encounter leads to a new obsession Lou sets his sights on.

Essentially, the film is a look at modern society. Gyllenhaal plays a seriously motivated and possibly (no, definitely) very unstable young go-getter who only wants to find something at which he can be successful; something at which he can excel. I believe Gilroy is attempting to present a look at not only how the media is a cutthroat and vicious business, but how we as modern viewers are also demanding more and more of this extreme footage. We, as much as we may hate it or try and deny it, are a part, a big part, of the process. No longer are news channels simply a NASDAQ scroll on the bottom of the screen while reporters talk about elections and local events, global news, the like. Today the news is almost like a horror film reel at times from images of war to school shootings to all sorts of awful, terrible stuff.
Lou Bloom represents the younger generations today and how we widely hold the view that anything can be a career. Even in this case, where Lou risks his own safety and the safety of those around him to get even 60-seconds of footage to auction off at the highest price for different television networks competing against each other. In a day and age where the grotesqueness of reality television dominates ratings it isn’t hard to imagine there are already plenty of Lou Blooms already out there exploiting car crashes and victims of gun violence (et cetera) for money.
Point being: Nightcrawler is highly relevant to the day and age its been released, no doubt it will probably come to be – unfortunately – even more relevant as the role of the media and technology in media changes over the years ahead.
Night-crawler Most reviews of Nightcrawler have been positive. I cannot disagree at all. It is a cracking good film. Technology aside, it reminds me of a movie we could very well have seen in the late 1950s or 1960s. It’s like a creepy noir-ish style thriller. Gyllenhaal himself is worth the price of admission. He physically embodies the character of Lou; the way he walks and talks all frame him as a ghoul, out in the night to find dead bodies and other nasty business, or even dig up the damn graves if he has to – whatever it takes. It’s really remarkable to see the young kid from Donnie Darko continually choose challenging, unique roles now that he’s older.
Another thing I particularly liked about this film is the lack of a forced in love story. Gilroy utilizes Rene Russo, playing a television network executive, here as a strong female character who is both complicated and flawed. He does not write her as a typical love interest so common in a lot of other mainstream films. Although there are a few sexually charged moments between Gyllenhaal and Russo, the film never falls prey to pushing anything in our faces, and stops very short; the plot never gets bogged down with unnecessary love scenes of any kind. It’s refreshing to me.

I can’t help giving this a full 5 star recommendation. Though I often try to avoid nitpicking a film to death because it ruins the fun, I’m definitely capable of admitting when a movie is not the greatest. Even if it’s one I personally enjoy. But there is nothing about Nightcrawler I can pick apart. It’s a great film with a tight script, beautiful camerawork, and a genuinely starmaker performance from Jake Gyllnehaal. Get out and see this. Now.

For another stellar review of Nightcrawler, see Thy Critic Man’s review here.