Bellevue – Season 1, Episode 5: “How Do I Remember?”

CBC’s Bellevue
Season 1, Episode 5: “How Do I Remember?”
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Written by Jane Maggs & Thomas Pound

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hello Little Light” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Problem with The Truth” – click here
Pic 1Talking through the surveillance system, Annie (Anna Paquin) talks to the Riddler, the mystery man. She thanks him, for helping with her father’s death. He helped give her purpose, in a strange way. He tells her now to “trust her instincts” about his identity. She asks him more about the murders of Jesse Sweetland and Sandy Driver, how they’re connected. It’s a strange relationship she has with the Riddler. To keep it going any further, she asks more of him. Although he doesn’t give her much more than before, only cryptic references and no promise of any concrete answers.
Maggie (Victoria Sanchez) goes to talk with Danny (Cameron Roberts), about how to remember Jesse at the funeral, what do for him; he replies only with the word “she“. At the same time, Annie’s figuring out more about Rainmaker Jed (Neil Napier), whose further information about his drug distribution sends the detectives in other directions. The package in Jesse’s room wasn’t done up like how Jed and his operation do things. So, there’s somebody else in the mix. Someone dangerous.
Not only that there’s trouble with Eddie (Allen Leech). Annie sees him punching his truck window, looking very angry. She knows’s something is up. Moreover, she starts believing he is caught in a bad place, possibly trafficking drugs. All the more troubling for the fact Daisy (Madison Ferguson) is around him. Could make for nastiness. Simultaneously, Annie believes the mystery man is suggesting things about her estranged boyfriend. He responds by telling her to wear Neil Driver’s watch during the funeral for Jesse. Hmm, why?
I dropped a stone, but youre not seeing the ripples.”
Pic 1AAt the funeral, tensions run through the crowd. Particularly when Danny comes in. But Bethany (Emelia Hellman) and others embrace him as a big part of Jesse’s life. Maggie talks about her boy, mourning his death; more importantly, she refers to Jesse as “my daughter.” Suddenly, Mr. Driver (Andreas Apergis) barges in saying she deserves everything that’s come to her family before cops pull him outside.
What’s the full history between Maggie and Sandy Driver?
Down by the lake, being morbid, Daisy hears a woman’s voice calling out in the woods. She runs into Bethany and Danny and Max (Ryan Doherty). They call out in grief to the woods, saying they loved Jesse, that it hurts having lost her. Finally they’re able to grieve, out in the open. A sad, tragic openness.
Eddie is tasked with doing something by the people for whom he’s working. While he’s doing that Annie finds their daughter’s dog in his freeze. Weird. He admits to her about owing money, but denies planting any drugs at Jesse’s place. He says the drugs were stolen from him. The dog was killed in retaliation for his debt, obviously. In way over his head.
Welland wants him to testify the drugs belong to him; they were stolen AFTER Jesse’s death. These two have history, the cop doesn’t exactly like him. Except he knows that Eddie, at heart, is a good man. So with it being a first time offence, a self-professed “one time thing” Peter is willing to give him a chance. Afterwards, he leads Annie on with more lies about the burning of the shack and the fire at his house Still playing towards something dark, unknown.
Pic 2Such a strange connection between the Riddler and Annie, like two strange souls linked together in the night. She’s starting to realise that, too. She believes he’s getting his kicks from watching her scramble, listening to his clues. Yet I can’t help wondering who he is, why he’s doing all this to her. She gets a trace on his line and finally something’s come back. Annie follows the signal out to the grave of Sandy Driver, where she finds a phone and a text message reading YOU’RE NOT CRAZY.
But she wants this relationship done, sickened by the manipulation she’s allowed.
Cali (Catherine Kidd) has ties to the drugs, whether she’s top dog I don’t know. Regardless of that, Eddie goes to her, he wants to be relinquished of their ties; it’s clear she wants Annie taken out of the equation. This requires he take a beating instead, which he does willingly.
Maggie tells Annie about the “retribution” she’s faced, for what she did to Sandy back then. Before she can tell her story, though… she passes out, having binged deliberately hard by herself on pills. No telling if she’ll survive, but the chances are good with Annie being there at the right place, the right time. We at least know there’s a strong connection between Maggie and the death of Sandy.
Annie goes back to talk with Neil, about the night his daughter die and where he was supposedly working. He kept the receipts of being on the road, all these years. In order to remember that he actually did not kill her. He gives them over to our detective, providing another bit of evidence from which she can work.
And later at home, Annie falls back to the relationship with the Riddler. Trusting in him more than she does herself, or anyone else for that matter.
Pic 3The building of character is as good as the plot development, all the backstory. Bellevue deserved better in terms of viewership. I think because of it being a Canadian show and done by the CBC, it might not have been eagerly watched by too many. Certain viewers likely didn’t expect the gritty, deep, mysterious (and weird) take on the typical crime-mystery series that we received here.
“The Problem with The Truth” is next, I’m looking forward to seeing further things about Eddie and his situation, and again – what is Welland up to? Need to know.

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WE OWN THE NIGHT Examines a Family’s Violent Intersection at the Edge of Criminality & Law

We Own the Night. 2007. Directed & Written by James Gray.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Robert Duvall, Danny Hoch, Alex Veadov, Oleg Taktarov, Maggie Kiley, Paul Herman, Antoni Corone, & Craig Walker.
Columbia Pictures/2929 Productions/Industry Entertainment.
Rated 14A. 117 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★1/2
POSTER Ever since 1994’s Little Odessa, James Gray has been a writer-director to watch. He has an excellent style as director, but as a writer he also has as much style. Gray does well with the visual plane of any film he takes on. It’s his attention to detail and character that make the worlds he infiltrates so interesting. We Own the Night has a great throwback look of the 1980s, feeling of the time without being too heavy handed in its execution. More importantly, the main characters played by Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, and Robert Duvall each come off as realistic, endearing, frustrating. They’re genuine people. A lot of writers fill up their crime films with either generic characterisations or over-the-top caricatures. Gray explores characters in similar fashion to pictures from Martin Scorsese in that he takes us into that self-contained world, involving us in the lives of these people instead of making us feel like we’re standing at arm’s length. Also doesn’t hurt that Gray does fine work with Phoenix and Wahlberg, having previously directed The Yards; Gray and Phoenix also did The Immigrant in 2013, another amazing little drop of cinema.
But what you get here, all those elements together, is a classic crime story combining concepts of law and order, family and loyalty, as well as much more. Focusing on a cop family, and the one black sheep within it who rubs shoulders with the criminal world, Gray takes us on a ride through a Brooklyn rife with danger and new possibilities.
Pic1 The character arc of Bobby (Phoenix) is by far the most complex and interesting out of anything. He starts as this completely aloof, loving life-type guy who’s only concerned with clubbing, doing drugs, having a fun time with his girl and his friends. Even confronted with a story about a scary Russian gangster, he and his good buddy Jumbo (Danny Hoch) laugh it off making crude jokes, not taking it seriously in the least. Over the course of the plot, though, we watch Bobby move from careless and clueless to someone very aware of the dangers in front of him. The large divide between Bobby and his family – father Burt (Duvall) and brother Joseph (Wahlberg) – makes for such an exciting change. And it doesn’t happen instantly, not even once Bobby gets hauled into jail, charcoal poured down his throat, seeing a Russian with a self-inflicted slash in his throat bleeding over the police station floor. That’s where the entire thing gets so interesting. Because it takes a terrible act of violence committed against his brother to finally set his moral compass into motion. After that, the plot’s emotional intensity becomes ruthless, as Bobby dives into the world of his family instead of teetering on the edge of crime. Truly great writing.
Pic2 While We Own the Night comes most heavily as a dramatic crime-thriller, there’s a nice helping of action tossed into the mix. The first scene of that nature is probably most devastating. It stays brief, nasty. When Joseph takes a bullet, he gets it right in the face, and the way Gray has it shot makes for maximum effect; brutal and vivid. Later, the action pieces get more intricate as the plot does, too. Once Bobby feels compelled to start fighting against the crime right under his own nose, the nature of the plot involves more excitement, more suspense and tension. Leads to a great finale that’s at once action-oriented, but also wildly emotionally involving. We feel rooted to Bobby, his whole family, and through him Gray lets us feel the suspenseful moments ratcheted up to the point you could grip whatever chair or couch arm or anything next to you.
The obvious strength that lifts everything up is the performance of Phoenix as Bobby Green. Yes, Duvall and Wahlberg and Mendes, they each offer solid supporting performances. The meat of the emotional hook is in Phoenix. We start with a character that’s not particularly a criminal, he lives in the midst of them managing a club in New York and living the high lifestyle of which his police family does not approve. By the 60-minute mark, Bobby’s transformed into an entirely different person. He’s been sprayed with brains and blood, he’s jumped out a window just to survive, smashing his body into a chain-link fence and to the pavement below. The vulnerability and equal amount of bravery Phoenix instils in the character is really damn impressive. First time I saw this I expected nothing more than a run of the mill crime tale. Was I ever surprised, especially with the powerhouse performance at its centre.
Pic3 This is absolutely a four-and-a-half star film, all the way. Maybe a couple blemishes here or there. However, over all, We Own the Night builds upon a mountain of tension, each step filled with emotion and suspense, all kinds of elements in one gritty package. Phoenix leads the charge by making Bobby a real, ultra-human character with whom we relate, and then follow into the belly of the beast that is the Brooklyn crime world. Duvall and Wahlberg give their all as the cops in Bobby’s family, as well as Mendes makes Bobby’s girlfriend Amada an atypical female character in a male-dominated cast and story. The story is the crowning achievement. Gray directs well, yet his writing weaves a nice, dark tale of the line between criminals and cops, illustrated in rich colour by examining one family’s struggle in particular. All the turns the story takes could have felt melodramatic, but Gray allows it to flow organically alongside his excellent directorial choices. If you’ve not given this one the chance, do it. This is one of the better crime-thrillers since 2000 and it does not get the love it deserves.

The Kettering Incident – Episode 4: “The Mill”

Foxtel’s The Kettering Incident
Episode 4: “The Mill”
Directed by Tony Krawitz
Written by Louise Fox

* For a review of Episode 3, “The Search” – click here
* For a review of Episode 5, “The Forest” – click here.
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With the body of Chloe Holloway found right underneath her father Max’s (Damien Garvey) nose at the mill, things are looking bleak for Kettering. Most certainly for Dr. Anna Macy (Elizabeth Debicki). Constable Fergus McFadden (Henry Nixon) and Detective Brian Dutch (Matthew Le Nevez) are on the scene. They go to let Max and Barb (Sacha Horler) know, as well as inform everybody, anybody who was at the big party recently in the woods needs to come in, get themselves cleared, help out.
Now the investigation is on, and I feel we’re about to start seeing more of that ugly underbelly of Kettering, Tasmania. Just you wait.
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You can see that Dt. Dutch is reticent towards Fergus. He doesn’t, obviously, reveal his dealings with Chloe, nor Dane Sullivan (Dylan Young). So we’ll eventually begin to discover more about Dutch. Surely his secrets will also start to unravel. Liza (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) tips the cops off to Chloe and Anna having a physical fight of some sort up in the forest. Here, we further discover Dutch is continually harbouring ill will towards his fellow lawman for his willingness to defend Anna, or at the very least give her the benefit of the doubt. And speaking of Dane, he’s devastated at home when he hears about Chloe on the radio. Terrible to see him impacted so deeply. They were clearly close.
Finally, Fergus has to take Anna in. Bit of questioning. He does so reluctantly, though Dutch is much more happy to do so. Back at the station, Anna reveals the drug “packets” that Chloe had on her that night. The discussion is getting a bit too close for the detective’s own comfort, so he veers the conversation elsewhere. Smart man. Bad man, too. At the same time, Roy (Anthony Phelan) shows up. He’s much more concerned about her now than last we saw them together. He doesn’t like that Anna’s being questioned. Begging further questions: who is Roy, really, as in who is he to the town, and what sort of secrets is he hiding? Most interesting is the almost hook up between Dutch and Anna, as he’s more threatened with the knowledge she has, that necklace she found.
A bombshell some may have seen coming – Gillian Baxter is a half-sister to Anna. Well, remember: Roy and Renae Baxter (Suzi Dougherty) had an affair. One thing leads to another, you’ve got two girls very close, close as sisters, but never officially. “Guess it wasnt something he was very proud of,” Anna says of her father’s little secret. But is that the only thing Roy is masking?

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Then there’s Renae, whose life has all but been obliterated by the disappearance of Gillian. She continues on trying her best. You can just see that sadness sitting right below her skin. In other news, everyone in Kettering is out to the bar, drinking. In mourning collectively. Liza and her mother Sharon sit together, even her ex Craig (Ben Oxenbould) shows up for a moment. A really awkward one. At the bar, Renae worries for Barb; now we know this is her sister, that’s their connection. Wow. Two kids that went missing in the same family tree. Sad. Tragic. However, I feel that Renae has a much different perspective, as we’ve already seen her interest in… otherworldly ideas.
Fergus goes over to talk with Dane. He wants to figure out more about Chloe, the drugs, and obviously this is the young man with whom he needs a chat. Eventually, Dane lets a bit slip. Yet the big fish is still swimming around. That’ll be a tougher bit of information to figure out for Constable McFadden.
Chloe has broken bones, a burn, possibly poisoned or completely blitzed on drugs. She died just after the witching hour. Some blunt force. Then Fergus notices the strange marks on her arm. The same type Anna had seen on the little boy at the hospital. Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser, down the rabbit hole.
The Holloway family is a fractured one. “Do you want a hug?” Max asks his son Adam (Brad Kannegiesser) out of the blue, feeling inadequate as a father because of his own boy finding solace in Craig’s arms after the body of Chloe was discovered. There’s a lot more to the family. Hopefully we’ll see more about Max come out in the coming episodes, maybe it’ll unravel some much needed backstory.
When Liza goes to see her father, Craig is surprisingly tender. At first, anyway. She needs a place to stay after Chloe’s death. Unfortunately, she’s on her own. And sadly it’s as if Craig actually cares more about her than Sharon does. Afterwards, Liza tries to go to her mother’s and only gets driven away into the darkening, ready-to-rain sky. So she only has sleeping in a car to which she can look forward. Hers is one of the more sad character arcs in the series, as she literally has no one else except for Chloe, and now she’s gone.


Renae goes to help and be with her sister Barb. They talk of death, grief, the “vampires” who feed off that sort of thing. “Theres nothing, theres just shit,” Barb explains to her sister. Like the fact Chloe is dead, headed for the grave is worse than never knowing where she is really. Not sure if that’s true, but she does make a good case.
When Anna listens to an old tape of her and Gillian singing, she finds her mother yelling, kicking her friend out. At this point we all know exactly why. That’s a heartbreaking kind of thing.
Simultaneously, Anna finds out more information re: the boy with the strange marks on him at the hospital. This leads her out into the forest to a lot of land where she soon comes across a bit ofa shanty house and its inhabitants. When she meets the boy Anna asks if he ever loses time, if he wakes up in strange places, all those things. The boy even says he wakes up at the Sullivan place, where the lights are. Then he leans in and tells Anna: “Theyre looking for you, you know.” She’s got a blood sample to boot.
Dutch and Fergus try figuring out more with the Holloways, to find out if there were any enemies, any family fights, threats to Max, et cetera. Their son makes a point to mention the “Greenie” group always poised to try making life hell for the mill. Max goes on to reveal the letters he received. Are these really the letters, or did Max replace them with others to suggest the environmentalists have a part in it? I’m inclined to believe there’s a little foul play.
Over the radio, Anna hears strange broadcasts as she gets further to Mother Sullivan’s place. She hears about a “military aircraft” and then other strange readings come up on her odometer. Adam Holloway also sees lights in the sky while he drives someplace else along the road before slamming into a bunch of trees off the side. Anna then hears “Crimson and Clover” hum through the radio. And horror strikes Adam at the same moment – a piece of wood he chainsaws away from his vehicle hits him in the eye, prompting him to slice a part of his thigh open. While he lies there a hooded figure appears above him, obscured slightly. Anna hears Adam’s cries from the trees and soon gets to him, as he bleeds out more onto the road. She strips her shirt to make a tourniquet. The doctor is a great one, that’s for sure. She ties off the wound, washes his eye out, but Adam soon passes out. This will be great, won’t it? Another Holloway in a terrible predicament and here she is, as usual, right in the midst of trouble. Luckily, Jens Jorgensson (Damon Gameau) comes along to help cart them out of the wilderness.

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In the hospital, Anna gets thanks from Barb. The grieving mother wants to know more, too. She wonders why Anna was curious about Chloe having nosebleeds, and this begins to play on Barb’s imagination. Right now it’s grief. Pretty soon it may be more, as the secrets and lies of Kettering, of which she is a part don’t forget, slowly come out, piece by piece.
Why are we being punished like this?” Barb asks her husband, as they stand over their wounded but alive son. He has no answers. Or does he? I’m starting to believe, more and more, that he has some devious skeletons hiding in his closet. Bigger ones that Barb and her affair with Dutch.
Not long later Max goes to see Roy, saying that somebody “knows what happened,” about what “theyve done.” He believes it’s Craig, though Roy isn’t so sure. What are they hiding together?
And Anna, she goes to see her mother Wendy (Sarah Wood); she’s deaf and blind, hasn’t moved in years sitting in a psychiatric nursing home. Been quite a long time certainly. Even a Mother’s Day card there despite Anna’s insistence she did not make it. Intriguing. Regardless, she talks briefly with her mother, even if the woman can’t hear. A whisper of ANNA comes out; from her mother, or something else we don’t know. Strange noises emanate from the hallway, from out the window. More than that we see Wendy isn’t as catatonic as she lets on. So eerie.
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What a fabulous episode! One of my favourites yet, and it continues the deepening mystery with each step of the way. Next episode is titled “The Forest” and I hope we’ll start finding further clues to lead us down the path.

The Kettering Incident – Episode 3: “The Search”

Foxtel’s The Kettering Incident
Episode 3: “The Search”
Directed by Steve Krawitz
Written by Cate Shortland

* For a review of Episode 2, “The Lights” – click here
* For a review of Episode 4, “The Mill” – click here
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Out among the forest surrounding Kettering, moths float about, and at home Dr. Anna Macy (Elizabeth Debicki) feels as if she can literally see the air around her. She continues to record everything in her notebook. She’s in the bed of Fergus Mcfadden (Henry Nixon). Meanwhile, Fergus has found the cellphone of missing Chloe (Sianoa Smit-McPhee). He brings it to Max and Barbara Holloway (Damien Garvey/Sacha Horler), the parents, and her brother Adam (Brad Kannegiesser) is there to hear the news, too. They have somewhere to begin now. Although they hvae no idea where the road is headed.
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Anna has to contend with Dt. Brian Dutch (Matthew Le Nevez) asking all sorts of questions re: Chloe. We know his intentions. However, even without knowing everything Anna has a sixth sense about guys like him.
On the cell, Fergus listens to the voicemail from Chloe, the terrifying message. He questions Eliza Grayson (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) about whether it’s a joke. She is a good pretender. A faker, really. She doesn’t realise that tihs time, Chloe isn’t faking. What we’re seeing is the hysteria in Kettering: “I guess I just wanted to be a part of it,” says Eliza. All a sham.
Bad boy Dutch is over to see Dane Sullivan (Dylan Young) about the rest of his drugs. Now the young guy is on the hook for $10K, and the dirty cop’s not exactly the forgiving kind. He has jobs to do that need a hand. Just great.
Anna heads back to her father Roy’s (Anthony Phelan) place. She finds a map marked with spots in the Kettering forest. Out there people are searching for Chloe. A base camp is setup, all sorts of operations. When Anna winds up there nobody is exactly welcoming. Not after all that’s happened. Although she manages to muscle her way into Deb Russell’s (Alison Whyte) vehicle for a ride up to where the search parties are moving. On the way they hit a small kangaroo. Deb watches on as Anna puts the creature out of its misery with a rock to the head. Chilling, though only because Deb sees this as creepy herself. We know Anna’s probably the least capable of murder in ole Kettering.

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Nobody at the search is pleased to have Anna there, not even Papa Roy. Doesn’t help she has blood all over her hands, literally. She gets the cold welcome from Craig Grayson (Ben Oxenbould) and others, as well as the semi-longing star of activist Jens Jorgensson (Damon Gameau). Nevertheless, everyone heads into the woods, protective gear on, police with their dogs alongside.
Between the trees Anna sees something red. She starts hearing noises, seeing lights in the woods. She gets stuck in the mud, calling out for “Gillian” but it’s only Adam there to comfort her surprisingly.
Dutch is at the Holloway place. Of all people to be leading that side of the investigation. Not only is he dirty, he and Barbara have an affair going on. He gathers up a piece of clothing, talks about combing through Chloe’s social media accounts. Then once he gets a moment to himself in her room he finds the package for which he’s looking so frantically. All the while Eliza has her eye on Barb and Dutch.
Husband Max is just numb. And perhaps there’s a bigger worry behind all that. We know there is a lot more to Max. Likely something sinister down the pipes.
When Adam takes Anna back to the search site, Roy shoos his daughter away. Typical. There’s only more suspicion and paranoia for Ms. Macy. Even her own father doesn’t know what to think of her innocence, or guilt. The whole town is leaning her way mostly. In some way. For Roy’s part he seems to have something to hide, too. He was a cop, sure. There are further skeletons, though.


Anna secretly discovers Deb’s cancer, seeing the chemo implant on her chest. She also suggests Anna’s attitude “sucks” and that changing it may help her fit in. But further than that Anna finds out more about the Dr. Fiona McKenzie (Kris McQuade) with whom she was trying to speak at the hospital recently. Turns out she works as a tour guide at a prison nearby.
Over at the mill, Roy lets Max know the search is over for the day. He also talks about the Sullivan place. There’s more to that land than just the UFO sightings. Something else happened out there.
Dutch goes through Chloe’s computer. He finds videos on the presence of alien life, et cetera. Also there are pictures of him, all over Kettering. She kept a nice visual log of his comings and goings. At least for a little while. Smart girl. Now, the detective heads things off with his access to her things. Sketchy, dude.
Finally, Anna goes to see Dr. McKenzie and finds out lots more. “Things started happening,” she tells Anna. “Strange cancers” and all sorts of other things. One of those cases includes Deb. All of Kettering both threatened Dr. McKenzie, plus labelled her crazy. She knew Chloe had nosebleeds. She knows more than she even lets on to Anna, only warning she ought to leave. Now. Afterwards, Anna winds up talking with Fergus across the bar, as Dutch keeps his eagle eye trained on them. She tries getting to Gillian’s files, to dive deeper into the investigation herself. Sadly, Fergus can’t understand the greater significance of what’s been happening in their quaint town all these years.
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Renae Baxter (Suzi Dougherty) continues believing her daughter Gillian is out there. Her man Travis (Kevin MacIsaac) is not at all interested in entertaining those thoughts, to the detriment of their relationship. When she calls him “simple minded” and a “leech” this is more than his fragile masculinity can take. He beats her. A real piece of shit. We see a better side to Dutch, as he responds to a call that brings him to Renae’s place. His mother was a battered woman. Well, Renae is tragically typical, not wanting anyone to know. Especially not the police. Travis doesn’t respond too kind to Dutch, as he knows about the detective and his drug dealing. But Dutch isn’t a pushover. He threatens the guy, fatally, if there are any more domestic abuse calls.
To the Holloways goes Anna. She brings a bottle of wine, looking to know if Chloe had any strange marks on her skin anywhere. Barb doesn’t remember anything specific, eventually wanting her out. Although Max is a little more reasonable, it’s probably best for them all. Upstairs, Eliza is dressed in Chloe’s pyjamas, and there’s an odd moment between her and Max. An almost eerie look from him, though that could just be my eye.
Then Anna makes a big mistake. She has sex with Dutch. Or at least begins the lead into it before getting a nosebleed. In the couch, Anna finds a necklace; you know which one. This gets her quite suspicious. Immediately that puts Dutch in aggressive mode, defensive. The questions from Anna start to shed light on his shady behaviour. Glad she didn’t fall into bed with this guy.


Dutch: “Why did you come back?
Anna: “Its my home
Dutch: “You dont have a home


The reoccurring “Crimson and Clover” interest comes from Anna and Gillian having loved the song, recording their own version on a tape she carries with her. Roy isn’t pleased with his daughter’s attitude or behaviour. He doesn’t like that Anna went to talk to Dr. McKenzie. You just know there is something more to it all, that Roy knows more than he leads on. He tries to push his daughter away from home, but she is not leaving. We discover more about how Renae and Roy had an affair, which is a sore spot for him. He drives Anna out his house after she brings it up.
Next day the search continues on. Roy finds Anna gone, elsewhere. Anywhere. Barb and Max spend their days apart staring out separate windows; her at home, him busy over at the mill trying to keep his mind occupied. In a pile of logs, the body of Chloe is found. Right under the nose of her father. So god damn sad.
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One truly intense episode. A great chapter in this mini-series. Love this show! Great drama, lots of mystery. I dig when a show can draw things out properly, and the writers are doing a fantastic job. Next episode is titled “The Mill” and it looks extremely intense.

The Kettering Incident – Episode 1: “Anna”

Foxtel’s The Kettering Incident
Episode 1: “Anna”
Directed by Rowan Woods
Written by Victoria Madden

* For a review of Episode 2, “The Lights”, click here.
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In August of 2000 we find ourselves in Tasmania, in the midst of the Kettering Forest. Young anna (Maddison Brown) rides a bike with her friend Gillian into the trees, down a quiet path. Soon the forest emanates odd sounds, not quite human or animal. Followed by lights flickering around the woods. When Jillian disappears, Anna is left alone and calling out into the darkness.
Cut to the present day and things have changed a good deal. Dr. Anna Macy (Elizabeth Debicki) is drunk and laying against a dumpster in London. Whatever happened sixteen years previous obviously shattered her proper.
Love the opener, as well as the title sequence and theme. Excellently eerie, subtle. Excited to see what’s in store.


Anna’s life isn’t too organised. Someone named Tim Edwards (Nathan Lovejoy) calls, leaving messages and waiting for her to show up at some meal that likely won’t be happening. She writes in her journal about all sorts of details. I assume those are related to maybe losing time, or something similar, all tying into that event back in 2000. Either way, Anna is an interesting character. She struggles privately with what appears as addiction, though she’s also the type to ride a bike to work. And then she spends her day trying to help others instead of helping herself. There’s a patient in treatment to whom Anna feels especially drawn, a little blond girl; she buys her things, reads her books.
We watch Anna suffer a nosebleed out of nowhere. She gets her head checked then reveals she’s lost 7 hours. Ah, yes, the lost time. This starts to bring us back to 2000, the last time she lost any time that way. Later, she meets with Tim and gets some bad news, on several fronts. Especially when he produces some security footage; the kind she ought to watch privately.
Then Anna sees herself, walking into the hospital, tap dancing in the hallway. It shocks her. Everything is disoriented and she flashes back and forth to various events of her life.

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When Anna comes to again, she’s back in Tasmania. She has her passport, a board pass for a flight. A terrifying loss of time. All the way back home she is now lost in her own head and the place of all her old fears.
Out in a boat, Chloe Holloway (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) and Dane Sullivan (Dylan Young) are out meeting another boat crew for some drugs. They see lights on the horizon, curious ones. Then after they get the drugs, Chloe starts having a nosebleed.
Cut quick back to poor Anna. A man finds her stalled out in the middle of the road, acting strangely. He helps get her into the town of Kettering, the old stomping ground. As she stands in front of a place called the FOUR LEAF CLOVER, only the letters OVER blink on and off. Also, we begin to discover there’s lots of stuff going on concerning the Greenies, those dedicated to environmentalism, so that’s likely to play into the story and various plots in some way. Furthermore, Anna runs into people that know her, and the mood changes swiftly. She’s uncomfortable, thrown off. Some people are less than welcoming while others try their best to be nice, such as Chloe. “You got a bloody nerve cominback here,” one man says ominously before Anna runs out of the diner.
We find that her father Roy (Anthony Phelan) is retiring. Anna goes back to the home of her father where relics of her old life sit around every room. Roy’s surprised to see her. Not exactly thrilled, but not altogether unhappy, at all. They embrace, albeit awkwardly. There’s so much history in their family and I’m looking forward to seeing all those little secrets and dark nooks to come to light.
Barbara Holloway (Sacha Horler) and her husband Max (Damien Garvey) have their own troubles. Mostly him. He receives a troubling letter suggesting he’s done something awful. Of course his wife has no idea.
Roy goes to see Renae Baxter (Suzi Dougherty) to tell her about Anna coming home, apologising for the sudden arrival. For her part, Renae says she’s happy for him. Is the mother of Gillian, the one who went missing nearly two decades ago? If so, there’s more to rear its head yet.


Anna begins trying to piece together bits of the past, in order to help her present unify and become more stable. In the garage of her father’s place she looks through Missing Persons cases, some of which involve strange lights. We also see a newspaper clipping that possibly relates to her own incident – a man arrested over a missing teenager in Kettering, is this perhaps some of what makes the town feel strangely about Anna? Well, she has another fit of sorts, flashes of events and weird images.
She loses more time, waking up in bed. Chloe’s there to pick her up. Again we hear “Crimson and Clover” playing, which Anna says reminds her of her mother. Moreover, she also doesn’t like to have her picture taken. We’ll see more of that, no doubt. For now Anna finds that her car is no longer where she left it. Chloe soon reveals she’s also seen the lights around their town. She has a tattoo of a moth because they go towards the light; similar to a moth Anna recently envisioned during one of her episodes. Such intriguing little threads all setup to pull apart and together eventually.
Now we meet Dt. Brian Dutch (Matthew Le Nevez). He receives Anna about the stolen car. She then comes across another familiar face, Fergus McFadden (Henry Nixon). They’ve not seen each other in many, many years. Simultaneously, the car turns up. Except not in the way Anna may have hoped. The Greenies are out protesting and her car’s ended up in the midst of it all, burning to bits. Max Holloway is out there – I expect he’s a logger, or something similar. The police are trying to get things under control, though the whole thing is gone pretty wild.
There’s a dark side to Mr. Holloway. He’s gotten more letters than just that one. For some reason, he keeps them. Although they’re hidden away nicely. What lurks in his closet with all the skeletons? Bits and pieces of the story come together in nice, slow burning methods. The exposition doesn’t slap us in the face, and in this way keeps things interesting. Many are comparing this to Twin Peaks, but it isn’t at all. Maybe echoes at times, but overall completely different. Though honestly, the level of storytelling so far is on par.
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Max and Roy are close friends. The former acts strangely like a creep around his buddy’s daughter: “Remember me?” he asks eerily. But Anna’s off with a bottle of liquor, staring up into the sky. She meets up with Chloe afterwards, asking to be taken to where she those lights. Meanwhile, a man named Dominic Harrold (Neil Pigot) is tuning into radio frequencies, headphones on listening in the darkness. What’s he up to? Oh, and Dt. Dutch, he’s banging Mrs. Holloway. All those small town lives are heading for collision.
And Anna, she’s out with Chloe, taking drugs – not the smartest thing in her condition – and heading to where the lights were, supposedly. It mostly turns into a rave, which is what the place is anyway: a massive rave in the woods around a fire. Until Anna and Chloe wander out into the forest. Is this the beginning of an unfortunate event just like that one 16 years ago? The lights in the woods come out again. Anna watches as Chloe heads towards them. Just like Gillian. Just like before.
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Wow. What an intense opening episode. This one aired together, so I’m finishing the recap/review here. I’ll continue Episode 2 shortly, so stay tund with me. I’m loving the show already, even in the first hour. What great suspense, mystery, tension. All the ingredients for a great 8-episode series.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 4: “Dead to Me”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 4: “Dead to Me”
Directed by Regina King
Written by Etan Frankel

* For a review of the previous episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Flesh is Weak” – click here
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An episode directed by TNT’s Southland alumni Regina motherfuckin’ King! Yeah, baby. Go on and get it. Let’s do this already.
Uncle Deran (Jake Weary) wakes up his nephew Josh (Finn Cole). He offers a free swing, apologising for the pool incident. J’s fine with things being smooth from here on in, though Deran is still a bit edgy. He’s only worried if Smurf (Ellen Barkin) knows everything is fine again. Downstairs, Baz (Scott Speedman) pulls in and helps poor, helpless Pope (Shawn Hatosy) make coffee. The Cody Boys discover there’s no breakfast. Smurf has been doing her own thing during the night, she had a man over. Nobody is surprised, but Pope doesn’t like the look of it. In other news, it’s his birthday. Everybody has big plans from sky diving to paintball. Pope’s not into any of it. All the while, Deran, Baz, they’re all hiding the fact they’ve made some of their own money since they were supposed to be keeping things on the down low. Upstairs, Josh finds himself in another awkward naked encounter with grandma Smurf; she gives him cash, unaware he also has more of it himself. She tries to get info, but Josh is solid. Probably more concerned his uncles would kill him if he blabbed. Still, Smurf knows there’s something up. She is not at all stupid.
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So the boys are all having a fun time. Deran and Baz get the paintball kicking off, as a reluctant Pope gets pulled into it before smashing up the new gun. No fun, dude. All of a sudden Baz gets a text from Smurf: CUTBACK. He takes all the cellphones, switching out SIM cards. There’s something shitty about to happen. Emergency measures are taken. Everyone’s leaving town, or at least hiding out. Cash and anything else necessary is being packed, ready to ship off. Baz wants Pope to stay, but you know that ain’t sitting with the man himself. The Cody Boys and Baz all head to a safe house with food and supplies to wait on a call from their lawyer. As it turns out there’s no emergency. All Smurf. She knows there’s “bullshit jobs” going on without her involvement. Mama offers her boys once chance to come out with the truth. Then she shuts down her sons, telling them no more jobs, no more money. They’re cut off on their own now, so she says.
Josh is having a hard time adjusting to his family. Especially when you consider the fact he’s got school, a normal life, Nicky (Molly Gordon), and that’s tough to juggle. He gets caught smoking a joint at school, by a teacher who’s interest in him is not positively all teacher-like, in my opinion. That could end up going somewhere further. She isn’t exactly professional, smoking the joint and asking him to go to a photographer’s surf exhibit.


The Cody Boys and Big Baz are up in the air, getting ready to skydive. At that very same time, they argue about the side jobs they’ve been doing. Not a nice place to be arguing and pushing each other around like a bunch of animals. Sure enough, one of them gets tossed from the plane and then they all head for the air. This is an awesome sequence involving some GREAT stunts mid-air. These guys are lunatics. Whoever did the stunt work here are a bunch of wild dudes. Makes the whole thing plenty fun.
Catherine (Daniella Alonso) finds Josh coming to check on her, bringing mac and cheese. He’s such a good kid amongst a family of maniacs. In the meantime, Baz is over at his dad’s trailer again. Only dear ole dad is nowhere to be found. And Craig (Ben Robson), he finds his girlfriend Renn (Christina Ochoa) overdosed in her bathroom, dead. So he takes advantage, great guy he is, taking any jewellery and pills and whatever else he can find. What a man.
Josh is having a bit of a rough day, being his mother’s birthday and all. The Codys don’t talk of her “like she never existed” and Catherine knows this all too well. We find out more about Josh’s mother; Baz tried to get her help, but that didn’t work. She stole a lot of money from them, it seems. But mainly I’m sure Smurf couldn’t control her daughter, and lack of control is a problem for Mama Smurf when it comes to her brood. Speaking of her, she’s trying to keep Nicky close, digging her claws in.
And boy, does Craig have big trouble. His painkiller supply is in danger of drying up. At least he’s got plenty of other drugs kicking around. Well, that isn’t exactly good. There’s a chance he could burn out quick. Especially because he’s got addiction and guilt all rolled into one, all the while keeping secrets from mommy. Tsk, tsk.
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We find Baz being a dick now to Josh. He doesn’t want the kid poking around. But it’s only because Baz is paranoid. About the Codys, about what Josh might want to know concerning his mother. About everything. He’s letting that tear his own family apart, as Catherine hates that Smurf controls him the way she does. Because that’s the bottom line, he’s worried about being “iced out” by the matriarch of the gang.
The birthday celebrations are still going hard. And the boys are all fretting over what their mom knows, even while sitting in a strip club. Deran is fronting hard trying to convince everyone, mostly his nephew, that he’s straight. Pope hooks Josh up with a lap dance while Baz tries to give Pope a nice time with a lady of his own. Except Pope has some issues – what exactly, I’m still not sure, though I have my guesses. Alone with the stripper, Pope reveals: “I cant remember the last time I had an erection.” Not just that, he seems so unbelievably wound up inside that it’s scary. Then he makes the woman say “we cant, Andrew” – and now I’m sure he’s had intimate contact with his mother. He and Smurf have had sex at some point. There is no doubt. Good fucking lord. I expected the incest, but still a shock.
Most interesting? Craig gets a call from Renn, alive and in the ER. Whoa, this could be a devastating turn.

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Later on, Pope takes Josh out with him into the woods somewhere. He talks about the Seven Seals, the Horsemen, et cetera. He thinks maybe the Cody Boys and Baz are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. An eerie conversation. Just goes to show his warped, strange way of thinking. Then Uncle Pope takes his nephew over a fence to a graveyard. They’re headed for Josh’s mom, to pay respects to her grave on her and Pope’s birthday. There’s a side to Pope that is also gentle. It rarely comes out. More now I begin to think he’s so messed up because of things that have happened in his life. Things that could have, and should have, been prevented. The root of all the evil might just lie in Smurf. For the time being, Pope reminisces about his and his sister’s birthday, how they made wishes and told each other, keeping their secrets; the whole Cody family’s foundation is built purely on secrets, lies, hidden truths. Josh comes out and asks Pope about Baz and his mother. “Baz has a way of getting what he wants,” replies the uncle with an acidic tone. Moreover, we see that Pope has lingering feelings about what happened to his sister, and that he knows more than he lets on. No telling what happened to Julia for her to fall into such despair. Just being part of that family is enough to make a person an addict, as we can also see by looking at Craig.
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At home, Smurf kicks everybody out. She is really putting that foot down. And then Baz snitches to Smurf, about Pope. He reveals the job Deran and Josh did with Pope. Ah, more ammo to fuel the fire between the brothers, between Pope and Baz, between Baz and the Cody Brothers. So many things coming together, pulling apart. There’s only so long this can last. I wonder how Smurf’s going to react to all this going forward. You can never tell with her devious behaviour.
In the hospital Craig finds Renn. She’s okay, though took a hard overdose. She also thinks there was a robbery. No idea that it was her supposedly sweet manfriend. Renn wants Craig to take care of who stole from her: “You hurt him and Ill make it worth your while.” He is a piece of shit for letting this happen.
Once Josh gets back home Smurf is waiting with a cupcake, a candle in it. She also wants to know the truth about her boys and what they’re doing behind her back. Further than that she makes clear that Josh needs to do right by her. Or else.
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Everything is so intense and suspenseful within the wild Cody family. I love seeing Finn Cole in the midst of it, he does well with the character. I can’t wait for the next episode “Flesh is Weak” because there’ll be plenty more intrigue, excitement, and disturbing shit. Stay with me, fellow fans!

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 3: “Stay Close, Stick Together”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 3: “Stay Close, Stick Together”
Directed by Christopher Chulack
Written by Eliza Clark

* For a review of the previous episode, “We Don’t Hurt People” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Dead to Me” – click here
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With all the lies, all the secrets floating around, can Josh Cody (Finn Cole) manage to keep his head above water? Can he survive his own family?
Pope (Shawn Hatosy) is out fishing, gutting and skinning some sharks. He receives a visit from an old friend wanting to a do a job. Then we find out that this guy thinks Pope is with Catherine (Daniella Alonso), and that they have a baby together. So, could the baby actually be Pope’s child, or is that merely his ego, telling people this or that, lying? Hard to tell. Either way, it weighs heavy on Pope.
Then there’s Josh who seems constantly plagued by the strain of his family. He even has to steal back the gold watch he gave Nicky (Molly Gordon). Heading out from her place he runs into Nicky’s father, Navy Lieutenant Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell). Not good. Yet the father doesn’t go too hard. He’s fairly lenient, most of all concerned about how his daughter’s doing.
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Baz (Scott Speedman) and his Mexican girlfriend bang while Craig (Ben Robson) is being fixed up. This is not a good side to Baz. I hoped there was an inherently good part of him compared to the others. Not quite.
Back at home, in America, Smurf (Ellen Barkin) is looking after Catherine’s daughter and asking Josh whether he’s having sex with Nicky. “Does she satisfy you?” asks grandma. The closeness of the Cody family is wonderfully creepy. You sense that Smurf loves her boys, but there’s an overprotective quality that borders on inappropriate. This was always alluded to in the original film, as Smurf had a penchant for kissing her boys right on the mouth, even as grown men. Here, Barkin’s crack at the character goes deeper into that element, and we start to see how she’s the criminal glue holding these boys together. As well as tearing them apart at times.
Pope isn’t feeling well lately. Probably because mom is slipping him anti-depressants or something else into the food he’s eating. Moreover, he also doesn’t like what has been happening at home. He does not like his nephew, him being around and possibly being a liability, nor does he like how Baz is the big king in the Cody Gang anymore. His mother’s trying to turn him around. But will that put her boys at odds? There’s a good chance.
Speaking of the boys, Baz and Craig are on a Mexican beach enjoying themselves. At least for a while. Craig’s wanting to do more jobs, as Baz tries to keep him from doing anything stupid.

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Out collecting rent, Deran (Jake Weary) runs into Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) – not only is he the one who owes money for the surf shop, he’s also the guy who was going down on Deran. His face is a mess. He dropped tons of cash on an MRI to make sure there were no internal injuries. Now, he doesn’t want to pay rent. It’s all on Deran, or else Smurf finds out her boy was sucking dick then decided to sucker punch the guy whose dick he sucked. Nasty stuff for ole Deran, he’s in quite the position.
Pope picks up Josh. As advised by his mother, the uncle plans on bringing his nephew into the fold. Just not Baz’s fold. He wants to exert some of his influence on the kid and get him on the perceived ‘right’ side of the family. This will only mean more and more of the brothers being at odds with one another. Not to mention Pope also ropes Deran into the mix. But though Smurf suggested Pope ought to include Josh in things, she knows nothing of the job the boys are about to do. Plus, Smurf is too busy trying to make sure she gets to spend time with Catherine and Baz’s daughter. Even if that means being greasy.
You ready to have some fun?” Pope asks his nephew, as they haul on some uniforms, throw decals on their truck, and prepare to get busy. Inside their target building, the boys break through a wall and look for a safe. They find it, though they’re interrupted, and the pace quickens for them. Josh ends up doing Pope right when Deran refuses. At the very same time, coming back across the border, Craig lets Baz know there are drugs on board. Right as the police dogs come closer. It goes smoothly, but god damn – these guys play fast and loose. The only sensible one criminally is Baz. Just an all around shitshow at both ends.

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The safe gets opened. Pope doesn’t want to give Deran any, as Josh did the work needed to be done: “He has more balls than you do,” Pope berates his brother. There is plenty of aggression and tension between these two now. Josh agrees to split things three ways, but Uncle Deran doesn’t want to admit he was scared, and walks off. There’s more tension elsewhere. Smurf and Catherine are at odds, too. Mama Smurf doesn’t like that Catherine has been getting money, et cetera, from the Cody Gang while thinking she’s above it. That is a slight bit of hypocrisy. All the same, Catherine doesn’t want her daughter around that viciousness. And I agree.
Craig’s drug plan pays off for him and Baz, even if the latter wasn’t too pleased with how things played out. At least they’re home in one piece. At home, Pope won’t take the watch back from his nephew, he tells him to keep it; all in the name of rebelling against mother. Man, these are a bunch of dudes with a terrible load of mommy issues all over the place. Aside from everyone else, Josh tells Deran he didn’t see anything down at the beach. Although the uncle plays it dumb. He shouldn’t. Because eventually Josh is going to find himself in a place where he’s going to drop that secret out in the open.
Around the couches, the Cody Gang talk about their father(s). One was a seagull. The other a one-eyed dolphin. Regardless of what or who he was, this is all about resentment. Pope pulls out more of it for Deran before leaving. It’s all too clear this situation will come to a head sooner rather than later. But Pope, he’s pushing hard against other issues. He keeps creeping around Catherine. Yet part of him is only concerned for her, the baby. He offers money to get a good babysitter. For all his weirdness and his temper, Pope seems to have a good heart. It’s just buried far beneath the issues with Smurf, his troubled life of crime, and a ton of bravado.


Poolside, Deran challenges nephew Josh to a competition: who can hold their breath longest in the pool. They stare one another down, as Josh clearly has more trouble than his uncle. When he tries to go back up, Deran stops him. He tries to drown his own nephew. All in good fun, right? Josh continues to figure out how dangerous it is being a Cody, and that being born into that blood is more like being birthed into Sparta than a Californian family.
Josh goes to see Nicky – he gives her back the watch. Certainly Mr. Belmont isn’t all that happy, but he’s still not an outright dick. I want to see more of his involvement with Josh. That makes me worry slightly for him because a man of the law involved with the Cody Gang is a recipe for disaster. At the house, Smurf bitches out Deran for Josh being gone with all his things. Where’s the boy headed?
Baz keeps money at his father’s place, stashed below the cupboards. Once more, he contemplates shooting his father, who for his part eggs him on. There’s a deep pain in Baz that stems from his family, his father in particular it seems, so there was likely abuse of some form in his past.


Smurf finds her grandson ready to head out of town. She’s sad to see him running. We find out more about Smurf’s own history, that her mother was also a junkie, which clearly passed down to her daughter, Josh’s mother. For his part, the kid wants to know who his father was, for sure. Smurf doesn’t know, only the one that she loved and that she tried to bring into the fold – Baz. They were in love. Whoa. That’s a ton of intrigue thrown into the batter right there. Well, Smurf takes Josh back home. We can see there’s something in Deran’s eyes; is it worry? He doesn’t want his secret gay life to get exposed, and also doesn’t want to be thrown from the family, for any reason.
Baz and Josh end up chatting briefly. The latter reveals he shot his mother up that day she died. That’s heavy. His semi-uncle assuages his guilt, saying that his mother did that to all of them and it was the family burden, essentially. I want to see more of this relationship between Baz and Josh. At least now we know why Baz is more gentle than any of the rest with Josh, as he has a personal connection to the kid.
Trying to sleep, Smurf feels the eyes of her crazy son Pope on her. He stands watching her for a while before coming to her bedside and crawling in next to her for a cuddle. I keep wondering if there’s something sordid to do with Smurf and Pope specifically. He seems to have the most issues. We’ll find out soon, I’m sure.
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Another solid episode. Next up is “Dead to Me” and with a title like that, YOU KNOW something is going down. Stick with me, and with the series. Digging these episodes a ton. I hope some of you are, too.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”
Directed by John Wells
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a review of the pilot episode, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
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After a wild pilot, things continue on for the Cody Gang.
Well they’re certainly a good lot for hedonism. Smurf Cody (Ellen Barkin) hangs poolside with her boys, Andrew a.k.a Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary), the new addition Josh (Finn Cole), and their close man Baz (Scott Speedman). Pope gets a bit too heavy, not playing nice with their nephew Josh. At the same time, he’s not exactly playing nice with anyone else either. Inside Smurf asks J’s girl Nicky (Molly Gordon) if she were shipwrecked and could only pick one Cody, aside from Josh, who would it be? She replies Baz is “pretty cool” and it’s easy to see that Mama Smurf is testing this young woman to see if she’s got what it takes to hang with the rough crew. Even Josh is finding it hard keeping up with his uncles and big Baz.
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Speaking of Baz, his significant other Catherine (Daniella Alonso) is pissed. Rightfully so. There’s a casualty from the job the Cody Gang pulled recently. Furthermore, we see how Baz considers Smurf’s place “home” as opposed to their own place. I can see all types of trouble from a mile away.
When Smurf gets wind of the death due to the robbery you can be sure nothing’s going to go too smooth. In other news, Craig’s wound is festering and he is getting pretty hooked on painkillers. He says it’s because he’s a big dude, but you can clearly tell he is falling down the rabbit hole. Not a good thing with the dead cop on their hands.
Smurf lets Josh know there’s a bit of serious business about to come up. He’s being slowly brought into the fold. “There are no secrets in this family. Not from one another. Especially not from me,” says Grandma Smurf. We also see the strange, quasi-incestuous relationship she has with her men, making Josh strip down his dirty clothes right in front of her. Awkward, and telling.
Then Josh witnesses an incredible moment that nobody can know about – his uncle Deran is getting a blowjob from another man. When he sees his nephew, Deran beats the man down claiming he was trying to steal a wallet. Whoa. Just… whoa. No family secrets? Yeah, okay, Smurf. Deran has his nephew join in on the beating, though you can see the young guy is apprehensive. Poor Josh, he just gets deeper and deeper in every way. And worst of all it’s as if there’s danger from some of his uncles at every corner. First Pope and his machismo, now Deran and his closeted secret. There’s a lot of danger being a Cody.


Smurf and the boys are having a meeting about what to do next. Of course Pope is not happy with any of them. Baz tries to quell Smurf’s worries about any witnesses. Then she finds out the boys took off their masks when dealing with the tweakers for the robbery. Uh oh. Well, that’s not too big of a deal, seeing as how those were addicts and they probably don’t remember much. Not well enough to rat. Meanwhile, everything else is going to shit – their vehicle is still out there, cop’s bullets in it along with Craig’s blood. Moreover, there’s dissent between Smurf and her boys. She doesn’t blame Baz, but rather her own blood, and they don’t like that. Also you have the fact Deran is now quietly pissed with nephew J for finding out his secret, so he tries to pile the grunt work on him. Afterwards, J reveals to Baz what Pope lied to Smurf about, and they start forming a subtle bond. Because let’s face it, the uncles are aggressive with their nephew, whereas Baz is more welcoming and gentle despite being a hardened criminal himself. Still, Baz lies about what “kind of family” the Cody Gang is truly.
We see how everybody is weary of Pope and exactly how his mental health is doing. Particularly Baz and Smurf, as they have a little conference together on his well-being. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out further.
Deran and Craig start tearing apart the vehicle from their robbery. The former rages against his mother and how the split goes for them economically. Craig agrees, mostly. Neither of them are too happy with Baz or Pope, either. But what’s most intriguing is seeing how Craig hides his pill intake from even Deran, as he doesn’t want anybody questioning his state of mind. None of these guys are open in the family. Secrets are everywhere.


When Josh finds his room torn apart he also finds Pope. Looking for the watch he gave his nephew. They’ve got to clean up loose ends. The uncle is convinced his nephew is hiding things; secrets, who knows what else. Then he goes on a brief nostalgia train about his days, hiding things from Smurf. Not much has changed. I like the relationship between Pope and Josh in the series. In the film, it was great, as well. Here, we’re able to get more of a look at the antagonistic behaviour of Pope towards his nephew and that is more fleshed out with an extended series, as opposed to a film under two hours.
Even worse, there’s Pope influencing Nicky. I’m afraid for her. Those who’ve seen the movie know there’s danger for her involved with the family. So it’s only a matter of time before there’s a serious threat to her safety. The more we see of Pope, the more I worry about what he’ll soon do.
Baz and Smurf are so much like actual mother and son. We hear more talk about Pope, that he’s off medication and that it might be worth trying to get him back on some soon. Although neither of them are too optimistic about that. And then they burn up the watches, so that’s a loose end cauterised, literally in fire. More worry about Pope when he shows up suddenly at Catherine’s, playing with her daughter, and no sign of Baz. Yikes. He’s a creepy bastard.
Now we start to hear about Pope sending letters to Catherine. There’s a love for her that Pope has held since they were young. She apparently got drunk and something happened between them. Baz knows nothing of it, and Pope wonders if maybe he should tell him about it. Oh, man. There are so many nasty things going on within the walls of the Cody Gang and the family itself. Only so much can build up before it breaks. Is Catherine’s little girl of Baz, or of Pope? That’s one to think about.

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Mama Smurf is up to a few tricks. She smashes a heel of her shoes, scratches up her hand until it’s bloody. She lies to a guy so she can get into an apartment, then into a bathroom. She steals pills. Are those for Pope? We get a quick flash of what looks like Smurf as a little girl, doing the same thing with her own mother. A very great moment. In the meantime, Craig is strung out on pills and not getting any work done. Deran notices. He notices the wound in Craig’s shoulder is getting hideous. Then they decide just to burn the rest of the vehicle. Bad move? Sure is, at least for the fact Smurf won’t be too happy about it. Josh arrives just as they’re doing the dirty. More secrets for him to keep.
Baz is cleaning up after someone, an older man. Likely his father. For a moment, he contemplates shooting him in the head. There’s lots more to why Baz is a member of the Cody Gang, and the family as it stands. I want to see more about that, so I look forward to exploring his backstory throughout the series. I was always curious about that in the film, as he seemed like such an integral part of the gang. He is even more so here. Later we see Mama Smurf is crushing up pills to sneak into Pope’s food. Real good idea there. Also, we hear more about Baz being taken into the house. Smurf talks about when he first came to them. He hid food, not sure he’d be fed there. Terrible parents at home. “I dont how you survived,” Smurf laments.


When Baz goes home he finds Catherine not herself. She worries about the dead cop, all the commotion on television. Baz assures her nothing will come of it for them. Everything’s taken care of, as he says. Don’t be so sure of that. Mostly, Catherine worries for her daughter, and what could happen if the SWAT team bursts in. He promises to lay himself down if that’s the case. Then he discovers the doll Pope brought her and Catherine lies, saying it came from a store somewhere. Ah, the lies are EVERYWHERE!
And Craig, he keeps chopping lines and pushing back the pain. That’s because he’s preparing to do some homemade surgery. Smurf, she’s upstairs watching her insane son Pope outside, naked, staring into the moon. When she hears a bunch of noise downstairs she finds Craig, mutilating himself. So it’s off to Mexico for a bit of low-key surgery. But what else? Baz has a woman down south of the border. Jesus. The lies are seeping out from every crack.
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A great follow-up of a second episode. Next up is “Stay Close, Stick Together” and it promises plenty. This is an excellent series in addition to the film. I know many, like myself, were wary. But this is proving, with each chapter, that Animal Kingdom has power as a television show. All the acting is so spectacular, loving Ellen Barkin, Shawn Hatosy, and Scott Speedman, but everyone else is just as good, too.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”
Directed by Terry McDonough
Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the previous episode, “Negro y Azul” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “4 Days Out” – click here
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Oh, Badger (Matt Jones)! What are we gonna do with you?
Sitting on a bench unsuspectingly – one that has an add stating BETTER CALL SAUL no less – Badger is met randomly by a skinny guy looking for drugs. But smarty pants Badger judges him to be a cop, so he won’t immediately sell him anything. No way. Then as the guy pathetically wears him down Badger slips up, selling some of the good blue stuff.
And then swarm the police. Good job, dummy.
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On a television a commercial from Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) plays while nobody watches. In bed, Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Jane (Krysten Ritter) lay together. What we can already see is how he’s becoming a bad influence on her possibly. She leaves abruptly, though he can tell something’s off. Turns out she’s in Narcotics Anonymous. You can already tell he is very interested in her, attracted and maybe even falling a bit. Or a lot.
At the White household things are still in a bit of disarray. Not as outwardly aggressive, yet still passive-aggressive slightly. Skyler (Anna Gunn) is off to work, and Walter (Bryan Cranston) worries about her being back around Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). Still, she kisses him and heads out like a normal couple.
Then Walt gets a call from Marie (Betsy Brandt). Seems things with Hank (Dean Norris) since the incident in Juarez have gotten worse. He sits around mostly, by himself, depressed and withdrawn. Naturally, though. I mean, he saw a bunch of guys get blown to bits. Tragic to see a guy like Hank, a tough dude with principals, get so shaken by his work. He tries putting on a good act for Walt, but it’s easy to see through. Perhaps Hank isn’t reacting how he hoped he would when coming up against the big terrifying stuff. Doesn’t help they think it was a little shitty he was the one to make it out of things, getting an evidence bag while the explosion went off. What’s interesting to me here is how Walt is on the opposite side of the law from Hank, yet he sits there caring for his brother-in-law, urging him to push forward. Such a darkly funny thing, and at the same time sort of awful, that Walt is there as a shoulder to lean on while heading out later to do some drug business.


Walt: “Fear is the worst of it. Thats the real enemy.”
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Jesse hasn’t heard from Badger yet, so their cash is light. Well little does he know. When he reaches Combo (Rodney Rush), he finds out what’s actually been going on. And that does nothing at all to ease the tension between him and Mr. White. So with Badger in jail and Walt worried sick, they’ve got to figure out what’s next.
Cut to Hank. He’s close to one of those panic attacks again heading into the DEA office for the first time since getting back. Yet he puts on the tough front and walks through the fire. Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) catches him up, as well as checks in on his old buddy.
In an interrogation room, Badger’s sweated by the young cop (DJ Qualls). Then Saul arrives – his lawyer! Goodman starts running his game, of course, and the tale has begun to weave. He tells Badger exactly how things are about to go; after he’s paid, certainly. He even has cheques made out to “Ice Station Zebra Associates“, which is awesome if you know that movie. Best of all, Saul goes right at the DEA even taunting Hank and his boys right to their faces.
Now we’ve got Jesse and Walt about to meet with Saul for the first time. Walt’s not at all impressed with the look of Saul’s stripmall practice. Although, the younger of the two makes a good case for having a “criminal [who’s a] lawyer” and not a Criminal Lawyer. When Walt heads in he makes the transaction. However, he’s appalled to find out the DEA is involved. Furthermore, Walt now knows the DEA is after Heisenberg. And that Saul plans on having Brandon take a deal involving talking to them about what he knows. Ironic to watch Walt on both sides of a situation once again, as Saul has no idea he’s the Heisenberg the law is after.
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Saul: “My real names McGill. The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys, they all want a pipe hittinmember of the tribe, so to speak.”


What happens next is a step up in the criminal game for Mr. White and his clueless partner. Jesse and Walt kidnap Saul and take him into the desert. They wear masks, of course. Only the cough Saul heard earlier in his office gives Walter away. Then the slippery lawyer greases out a little deal for himself, even making Jesse and Walt his clients in the process.
So Saul cooks up a deal with the DEA for Badger to give up Heisenberg. Really, it’s an old bald dude who gets paid to go to jail. He’s a lifetime ward of the system, so that’s sewed up. They set up a meet between this fake Heisenberg and Badger, on the very same bench where he was pinched at the episode’s start. Yet things get messy, and Walt ends up interjecting himself right in the middle of Hank and the boys staking things out from across the way. This is a tense and also comical moment, written well, played perfectly by both Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris; they have awesome chemistry and work great together. Through everything, the old con Jimmy gets arrested and things work out in the end for everybody. Er- not the DEA, just for Jesse, Walt, Badger, and Saul.
Hank ain’t sold, though. Not on this prison lifer being a mastermind meth cook.


Then Saul tracks Walt down in his classroom after hours. Wow. The Heisenberg persona wears thin, hey? Spells trouble for Mr. White who so relentlessly tries to conceal his true identity. But there’s nothing below board, Saul is merely looking out for his new client. First he confuses Walt with a reference to The Godfather, eventually offering up his silent partner services in their meth industry. Not blackmail. Definitely not ethical.


We’ll see how this new relationship becomes more prominent in the upcoming episodes. Next is “4 Days Out”, so stick with me for another recap and review.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 7: “Negro y Azul”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 7: “Negro y Azul”
Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá
Written by John Shiban

* For a review of the previous episode, “Peekaboo” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Better Call Saul” – click here
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We start with a nice narco-corrido about Heisenberg, a.k.a Walter White (Bryan Cranston). These types of ballads are a part of a Mexican subculture that rocks out over songs about the cartel, murders, and so on. Fitting to include this in an opener to an episode for this second season, as we move further into the Mexican cartel territory. What the song makes clear is the blue stuff has gone south and they are loving it. So naturally the cartel is going to seek out this Heisenberg. Because not only are people loving the drugs, the cartel’s not happy about this mysterious man cornering the market.
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Walt’s busy trying to get through to a student. More and more, the life he lives as a high school chemistry teacher gets to him. Also, we can see the conniving ways of Mr. White work just as well sometimes in school as they do in the drug business. Furthermore, we see he’s got a cellphone stashed up in the ceiling. Y’know, for important calls. He rings up partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), from whom he’s yet to hear after the whole Spooge situation. Of course Walt takes back what he told Jesse to do, but too little too late, as we know already.
He heads over to Jesse’s place, lying to Jane (Krysten Ritter) about being his father to try getting inside. Hilarious in its own right – Mr. Jackson, father of Jesse. Soon, the door opens and they have a chat. Walt has no idea what’s gone on over at the Splooge family home. Jesse lets his older partner know all about it. But Walt, as always, spins this whole yarn into making Jesse more confident, saying it’ll play as good street cred for people to think he’s crushed Spooge’s head in savagely.
In lieu of Jesse laying low, Heisenberg himself heads out to meet Badger (Matt Jones), Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), and Combo (Rodney Rush) at the National Atomic Museum – ironically enough, a recording talking about Werner Heisenberg plays; the man that inspired Walt’s name choice.


Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) is trying hard to fit in with the task force. He isn’t exactly slipping in without notice. He just doesn’t get this world, not yet anyway. He’s saddled alongside Agent Vanco (J.D. Garfield). But very much out of his league not knowing how to speak Spanish, which is a big time downside when you’re trying to fight Juarez cartels.
At the Atomic Museum, the boys meet Heisenberg, and seem rightly in awe. They’ve also heard about what Jesse did, or what people think he did at Spooge’s place. The streets are abuzz with the fear of Pinkman and his apparent violence. And Walter lets the lie ride, opting to make Jesse’s reputation on the streets grow. For the time being, at least.
Meanwhile, Skyler (Anna Gunn) is out to see an old boss and almost flame of hers, Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). She used to work for his company in the payroll department, accounting an such. Now she’s looking for work, unknowing of her husband paying medical bills with his plethora of meth money. It’s unbelievably clear Ted has a thing for her, always has, as he all but planks her down in an office right there and then.
Laid out like a oil tycoon plotting land, Walt shows Jesse a map of different territories. He’s ready to up their distributing game. He also doesn’t understand it isn’t simply “initiative“, but that they can’t just stroll into other peoples territory and take things over. Walt’s convinced Jesse has a new reputation that will keep other crews at bay. Yeah, right. Things aren’t that easy. But what’s more, the bullshit of Walt, how he spins things worse than the media, is on display here while he tries to tell Jesse how he has a unique opportunity to use this as intimidation: “You are a blowfish.” Is it illusion, really? Or is it delusion on Walt’s part? Inclined to believe the latter.


Jesse: “Yeah, blowfishinthis up.”


Federal informant Tortuga (Danny Trejo) is holed up in a hotel room, being waited on hand and foot by the task force. And Hank does not like that mess. They all but kiss this guy’s ass to get cartel information. All the while he’s ordering stuff out of SkyMall magazines. Overall, Hank hasn’t figured out how to navigate the murky waters of Cartel Land. He presses Tortuga to get talking instead of placating his “Lets Make A Deal” game. Love seeing Dean Norris up against Danny Trejo here, both of whom are awesome. Even more than that Hank is soon about to find out just how dangerous the world of Juarez and the cartels can get.
At home, Marie (Betsy Brandt) is convinced the whole thing is a desk job. She doesn’t realize he’ll be out in the field dealing with actual gangsters. Walt then finds out Skyler’s headed back over to Beneke with the accounting department. More than the money, it seems she wants control, something of her own, particularly since Walt has been less than honest with her about certain things. Even though they’re mended this is going to provide her with something she’s missing.
Very slowly, Jane gets to know Jesse, after he finds her drawing on the porch outside their attached houses. He reveals his once artistic side that slipped away from him along the way. He changes the subject quickly, though, not wanting to talk about himself. We also discover Jane isn’t huge on commitment, mentioning not wanting a tattoo because of it. Also, a guy on a bike drives by and calls Jesse by his real last name, which reveals more about him to Jane. She’s more intrigued than angry.
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Out amongst the desert, Hank and the other agents on the task force wait for the big meet Tortuga let them in on. Simultaneously, the others make fun of Hank in Spanish, lying to him and saying they’re glad to have him around. From nowhere, he’s the one to spy something moving in the distance. His binoculars pick up a gruesome image. When they head down it appears Tortuga’s head is mounted to the back of a tortoise. Worse? On the shell is painted: HOLA DEA. This is a huge shock to Hank, who runs off sick, further being made fun of for his apparent weakness. Still, moving away from the tortoise also puts him away from the blast – when an agent tries picking up the head, the tortoise explodes and sends this into utter chaos.It is one nasty fucking scene. Finally, Agent Schrader bloodily understands the lessons of Juarez and its danger.
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Jesse is riling up his troops to take over the city: “Were gonna be kings,” he tells them laying out the plan. He also tells them the structure will be “layered like nachos“, so that he reaches them in their language. Back to Walter goes Jesse with news that things are going ahead. But never ever is Walt satisfied. He starts applying “simple economics” to a business that is far from simple.
In the end of this episode, Jesse and Jane come together. Is this the start of something beautiful, or tragic? For those of us that have watched through, several times, already – we know.
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Again, loved this episode. Each one is incredible.
Next up is “Better Call Saul”, an introduction to one of the more fun characters in Breaking Bad‘s little world.

Menace II Society and Visions of a 1990s Clinton Nightmare

Menace II Society. 1993. Directed by The Hughes Brothers. Screenplay by Tyger Williams.
Starring Tyrin Turner, Larenz Tate, June Kyoto Lu, Toshi Toda, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Johnson, Glenn Plummer, Reginald Ballard, Khandi Alexander, Jada Pinkett Smith, Saafir, MC Eiht, Pooh Man, Vonte Sweet, Cynthia Calhoun, Clifton Powell, Ryan Williams, Too $hort, Dwayne Barnes, & Bill Duke. Warner Bros.
Rated R. 97 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★★
POSTER
I’ve always found the situation for black people in America fascinating, in a tragic way because of how they’ve been treated from day one. What so many don’t realize, or care to consider, is the fact so much of what happened in the past is what informed and created the conditions of modern day ghettos, underprivileged neighbourhoods, high crime rates, and more. Similar to how the terrible treatment of Natives in Canada has also done the same thing for their culture and their people for generations.
So for a white guy from the far East Coast of Canada who does actually want to empathize, a film like Menace II Society is not simply a bit of crime-thriller entertainment from the hoods of South Central Los Angeles, it is a true learning experience. The way through to truth is often paved through great literature. I believe wholeheartedly the same is true for film. And that being the case, this Hughes Brothers movie brings us into the world of young gang bangers, the unhinged types. The sort of young men that see death on daily basis, so their own has become less and less threatening with each body dropped. With a solid screenplay from Tyger Williams, impressively gritty cinematography that takes under the surface of the gang world, the Hughes Brothers make what could easily be a gratuitously shocking, empty crime-thriller with a few shootouts. It is something much, much more than any of that.
Something I do know positively? The characters out of Menace II Society are the types that’d make someone like Hilary Clinton terrified. At least the Hilary in ’96, anyways.
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To me one of the largest parts of the message Albert and Allen Hughes convey, alongside Tyger Williams and his honest screenplay, is the fact that areas like those in South Central – the same ones people like O-Dog (Tate) stalk with their predatory, gang banging mentality – they are endemic to anywhere the socioeconomic game is stacked against a certain group. Particularly, in places like Compton, Inglewood, the black community has been dealt a ton of shit hands over the course of their history in America. We know this no better than now in a day and age where, stunningly, racism still exists, thriving in larger than you’d like to believe pockets. Some places it swells ready to burst into extreme unrest, probably violence. Menace II Society captures a microcosm of what America is still going through, 23 years later as of this writing.
Furthermore, the Hughes Brothers and Williams make a point about the recurring, systemic cycle of violence that begins to perpetuate itself within these gangland territories. We start in the beginning with Caine (Turner) and follow him through a life plagued by crime. But what people – mainly, let’s face it, us white people – forget is that like any learned behaviour, the attitude of a criminal is fostered, nurtured. Children are not born bad. Like Caine, whose entire outlook on life is informed by the violence of his father Tat Lawson (Samuel L. Jackson); Caine even remarks through voice-over that “that was the first time Id ever seen my father kill anybody, but it wasnt the last. I got used to it, though.” So just how any other male child would learn how to be a ‘man’ from his father, Caine can only work off the presumptive, reactionary violence Tat showed him. And like his father, his career ends up being selling drugs in the streets.
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In addition, the end of the film involving Caine and Ronnie’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) little boy directly speaks to the cycle of violence and murder of the inner city. Her boy and Caine as a boy are paralleled well in this screenplay. Before that we’re treated to an almost exact replica of the young Caine’s earlier scene on the steps with friends of his father, as Ronnie’s boy does the same with a grown Caine and his crew. So we can almost see right into the future – a sequel with the kid all grown up, Ronnie older now and world weary as her son bangs himself to death in the streets of the hood. That’s the saddest, most tragic part is how we effectively watch as the cycle revs itself up for another spin.
Finally, the Hughes’ and Williams make their biggest point, spoken clearly by Caine at the end, in the fact that usually when young men gang banging figure out the error of their ways, and that getting out would’ve been the best chance of living a full life, it is far too late. The end of Caine’s story is the end of far too many black men in cities and neighbourhoods like those in the film.
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Caine: “All I had to do was catch some fool slippin‘. Jack his ass.”
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Above all else the raw style of the Hughes Brothers directorial choices. Added to that is the excellently captured cinematography courtesy of Lisa Rinzler. Side note, I’d not realized after all these years of watching Menace that it was filmed by a woman; awesome discovery. Her style as cinematographer is great to look at, from the wide exterior shots of the various neighbourhoods in South Central L.A. to the closed in, shadowy interiors of the housing projects, the cars readying to kick a drive-by into gear, the neon lit businesses in the dark of night on the dangerous streets. Aside from the unapologetic style of the screenplay, Rinzler’s lens allows us a genuine peek inside the world of these gang bangers. The look of the film is realistic, as is the overall atmosphere. Even in more stylized scenes, there’s never any surreal portions, dream sequences, none of that. The screenplay keeps this story one hundred percent rooted in the grim reality of these gangsters, as Rinzler helps with her well photographed work to captivate us visually.
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This is one of those 5-star cinematic experiences that not only brings you into a world possibly foreign to you, it further acts as a learning experience through fiction. Some of the best pieces of art, whether film or otherwise, examine issues that are near to our hearts. For many in America, in 1993 upon this film’s release and still to this day, the events and characters of the film are, unfortunately, not too far from what they know in their own lives. And though it offers no answers, no ready-made solutions, nothing concrete, Menace II Society absolutely does offer a tough dose of medicine for those not in the know. Like I said at the start, for a white guy from a relatively decent little town in Canada this movie provides a perspective I’ve never had the chance to see or know up close. I’m certainly glad the Hughes Brothers made this film because it was and still is a valuable film experience that relates directly to an understanding of certain parts of our world.

Dealer’s Refn-Inspired Parisian Crime

Dealer. 2014. Directed by Jean Luc Herbulot. Screenplay by Samy Baaroun & Herbulot.
Starring Dan Bronchinson, Elsa Madeleine, Salem Kali, Bruno Henry, Hervé Babadi, Dimitri Storoge, Fatima Adoum, Didier Mérigou, Emmanuel Bonami and Franck Boss. Multipass Productions/Mad Films-Mi.
Unrated. 75 minutes.
Action/Crime/Thriller

★★★1/2
POSTER
Ever since Nicolas Winding Refn brought the Copenhagen drugworld out in all its gritty, raw glory with Pusher twenty years ago, many other filmmakers have tried their best to attain the same level of magic with their own tales of the mean streets in various countries. Most recently, I loved Gerard Johnson’s Hyena, which definitely pulled from Refn yet kept its own vibe in tact with lots of dubious police morality, a few nasty splashes of blood and plenty of the ole ultraviolence.
And now, we have Jean Luc Herbulot coming at us with the 2014 crime-thriller Dealer. There are absolutely bits and pieces of the film which exhibit influences of Refn. At the same time, there’s a little more action here, more dialogue, and certainly there’s the differing narration in this movie which sets it apart from any of its influences, Refn or otherwise. And while it isn’t a perfect crime-thriller there are a ton of impressive sequences, well-written scenes, as well as debilitating moments of violent action which propel us into the French underworld, filled with odd and quirky characters, drug dealing pieces of shit, murderers, and a whole lot more. Herbulot may not succeed on every note, hitting a few that call to mind too much other films. But outside of that, Dealer is a lot of fun – grim fun, at that. If what you’re looking for is another guided tour through the drug life of a middle man dealer in the gutters of Paris, or what could be any major city with a taste for illegal substances, then this is certainly a film you don’t want to pass up.
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Always dreaming of going to Australia with his daughter, drug dealing Dan (Dan Bronchinson) is in a bad way. His life isn’t exactly stellar, trying to navigate a rocky relationship with separated wife Léna (Maïa Bonami), sleeping with a prostitute named Chris (Elsa Madeleine), all the while attempting to exit the cocaine business to make his dreams come true.
When Dan is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity he must remain a little longer as a cocaine dealer. Except in a twist of fate, the drugs he’s given – worth 70,000 francs – end up disappearing, which leads Dan and his tenuous associates on a fast thrill ride through the underbelly of Paris looking for the culprit. And worst of all, his family finds themselves in the cross-hairs of his disgusting business, and the conclusion will be tough; for every last person involved.
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One sequence I loved is where Dan walks the streets, mourning the loss of his cocaine and stressing over where to get the money he owes for it. His red jacket is the only colour visible in the frame for a while, as he smokes and pushes through crowds of people. Best of all, he sees everything from cellphones to shoes to jackets, and more, with price tags next to them. Tallying up how much he’d have to steal and hawk in order to make up the 70,000 francs, which is the equivalent of nearly $100,000 in American and Canadian dollars. This whole sequence is great and gives us more than just the raw style director Herbulot goes for most of the film; not to say I don’t enjoy that, it’s just nice to see more than one technique displayed.
Above all, it’s the intense pacing of the film I enjoyed. Whereas many crime-thrillers, particularly those with twisty plots, sometimes find themselves with a slow pace due to heavy dialogue, too much exposition, or any number of issues, Dealer succeeds in keeping things fast paced, exciting, from the very beginning straight into the finale. That’s one thing that helps Herbulot distance his movie from Refn – not that he needs to, but you know what I mean. The fact Herbulot keeps the film speeding from scene to scene is impressive work, as we could easily find ourselves bogged down in so many details, too many characters, too much violence. However, this never ever happens. Not once was I looking at my watch, as has happened in the past with other similar films. In fact, the 75 minute runtime whittles away incredibly quick, and I was surprised during the final 15 minutes when I realized everything was almost finished. The lasting impact of the few final scenes is especially resonant. Again, it brings to mind quite a bit of the way Refn ended his first Pusher. Although, I found the writing here from both Herbulot and Samy Baaroun leaves Dealer in a much more intense, chaotic, and even scary place. Refn did a much better job on the whole, but Herbulot could certainly pick up and make his own Pusher sequel, that’s how well executed this film comes off.
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With a few pieces I thought could’ve been fine tuned a little more, Dealer is still a 3.5 out of 5 star crime-thriller. Plenty of action, lots of the grime and grit we seem to expect these days from stories such as this, and on top of that the performances are full of energy, which matches the pace Herbulot and Baaroun set with their screenplay. You can certainly do a whole lot worse if you’re looking for a thrilling crime film to pass the time. Apparently the lead actor has experience in this sort of world, quoted as saying almost 70% of it is straight out of his own life. So that’s another wild aspect. Regardless, this holds excitement, brutality, and even the rare touching moment near the end. Dealer certainly keeps up the future of crime films, joining the ranks of Refn, Gerard Johnson and others who have depicted the criminal underbelly of the world in a highly stylized and intriguing fashion. I’ll be keeping Herbulot on my radar from now on. Hopefully he’ll follow up with something equally as impressive.

The Knick – Season 2, Episode 1: “Ten Knots”

Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 1:
 “Ten Knots”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the next episode, “You’re No Rose” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.30.53 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.30.58 PMI’ve only just now decided to start reviews for The Knick‘s second season. Being a huge fan of the first, I thought it’d be fun to get in on the action.
So, after the wild events of the first season in New York – in particular the gutpunch of the final episode as Dr. John W. Thackery (Clive Owen) finds himself being weened off one drug, only to be weened onto the dreaded heroin – Season 2’s opener “Ten Knots” begins with a nice fade in on ole Thack’s eyes; fitting shot to start. But first it’s a blurry image turning into a little girl… then the watery eyes of Thackery emerge.
Then we’re back with Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). She’s dictating a letter in narration to Thackery. Apparently Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) is “bearing up” according to her while Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is still kicking about, naturally, as well as young Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) and the steadfast Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland). They’re all getting by best they can. Though, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) hasn’t returned as of yet, even with his suspension lifted.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.32.15 PMMost interesting, as usual, is Dr. Thackery. In a tiny room he works on a woman’s nose. Very gruesome little bit, not to mention Thack looks like something ragged and worn out. Worse, it appears he’s working for vials of drugs. Sad state of affairs.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.32.27 PMAnother suffering soul, Sister Harriet gets a visit in jail from her Mother Superior (Maryann Plunkett). Mother asks Harriet if the charges against her are true, to which the latter does admit clearly. It’s a sad scene once again, as even the non-religious (like myself) will feel bad for Harriet; she only wanted to do the right thing and help women in need, but this of course turned her against her faith in confrontation. Mother Superior pretty much rubs salt in the wound.
Another actually gruesome scene – at the home of Dr. Gallinger, his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) is helping to size up her sister Dorothy (Annabelle Attanasio) for some new teeth… teeth which came out of her own face. Eleanor has a grim smile now with sharp and stumpy gums in her mouth. What an image.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.33.11 PMDr. Edwards has a problem with the retina in his left eye. This is obviously troubling regarding Algernon’s abilities as a surgeon, difficulties with his vision would mean even worse things for his career. At the same time, Edwards hopes to become the permanent chief surgeon at The Knickerbocker Hospital while Thack is not around. What I love is that Edwards works well with those who wish to give him a chance. For instance, his relationship with the youthful Dr. Chickering seems pretty great; he gives Bertie the chance to have a hand at doing a surgery, encouraging him not to simply watch and rather get his hands on the work himself.
Only problem is, as always, Edwards is constantly the underdog to everyone at the top – simply because he’s African-American. Foolish nonsense, though, we are at the dawn of the 20th century in this series. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.
But the scene where Dr. Edwards is being completely dismissed by the hospital’s board was downright brutish! Wonderfully acted and written scene. Still nasty, though. He’s clearly an amazing doctor, we as more modern men and women can see this, yet those racist old white men just can’t get it through their heads.
One of my favourite moments in this Season 2 opener is near the end when Dr. Edwards is let in on the photo-op for The Knickerbocker, to the dismay of a few old white men. Such a classic moment! Loved the look on all the faces of the others involved in the photo, actually made me laugh aloud. Also fist pumped a little for Algie, he’s fucking classy.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.33.25 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.33.32 PMWe watch Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) still continually trying to do good in the world – she carts a load of green vegetables into an obviously poor neighbourhood, Chinatown, and finds herself overrun with people trying to get their hands on a bit of food; pretty dire, no?
Inspecter Jacob Speight (David Fierro) is still kicking around the hospital, up in Barrow’s office, investigating patients records. Certainly we’ll see more about the outbreak of plague, the dirty Black Death, more and more as the episodes get going this season.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.34.23 PMDr. Gallinger heads over to Cromartie Hospital where Thack, under the name Dr. Crutchfield, is wasting away. Turns out Thackery doesn’t want to leave, he’d rather not go back to The Knick. The drugs have taken hold and I doubt they’ll ever let go. He actually tries to convince Everett to infiltrate one of the doctors offices in order to get some cocaine and other drugs for him – a true addict, through and through. Naturally, Gallinger is only there to try and bring Thackery back to the hospital so Dr. Edwards can’t become chief of surgery; therefore Everett could gladly go back and work under him. It’s amazing Everett is willing to work under a drug-adled headcase like Thackery and not Edwards, all because of race. This whole hypocrisy really shows off the idiocy of racists.
Then in a scene later, Thack wakes tied at the wrists. He’s in the belly of a small sailboat, which is headed out on the ocean. Is Dr. Gallinger going to try detoxing Thack?
Way out on the Atlantic, Gallinger tells Thackery about his plans saying he’s going to “fix the mess” Thack drummed up. Only two options Everett says: “Either get well, or jump off.” Everett also gives Thack some rope to tie, saying he’ll know the naughty doctor is back in control if he can tie the ten knots on a wall chart nearby. I thought this was a great touch.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.34.36 PMTom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) shows up down at the jail where he sits with Sister Harriet. He gives a sort-of-apology. Funny, though, how Harriet shows off her sense of humour in the face of so-called justice. She jokes around with Cleary quite a bit here, and even Cleary acts the serious part of the pair. He’s worried about her, clearly. Even with the weak apology (that wasn’t even really an apology), you can tell Tom wants to help Harriet and plans on doing just that. Can’t wait to see how their subplot plays out because I like these two characters, ever since the beginning of the first season. Even further, both Sullivan and Seymour are great actors playing off one another.
Over in Chinatown, Barrow is meeting with Ping Wu (Perry Yung). Wu is negotiating terms with ole Herman – he needs his women, the prostitutes, to be clean. Barrow’s hoping to whittle down his debt from Season 1 by providing discount services for Wu’s stable of ladies; $2 reduction with each service. The money man at The Knickerbocker is no better than a gangster when it comes down to it.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.34.56 PMSo happy the continuity of the aesthetic in The Knick overall is being preserved. With Soderbergh as D.P and Cliff Martinez still rocking out his unique, beautiful score in every episode, there’s no way to deny the power of so many scenes. There’s one sequence which begins with an old school boxing match – in a padded ring with no ropes and a big Masonic-like eye/pyramid on it (similar to the American dollar bill) –  then leads back out to the boat with Thack/Gallinger… such an amazing piece of filmmaking. Soderbergh gives the grim plot such a distinctive look and feel with his camerawork, on top of that there’s a relentlessly percussive score happening which almost keeps you in a frenzy for the two or three solid minutes of the entire sequence. It does not get any better. More and more of this as the episode heads to a close in the last 20 minutes, proving why this Cinemax series is one of the best to ever grace television. Period.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.35.20 PMWhen the episode’s finale comes, Thack has managed to tie the ten knots for Gallinger. However, at the edge of the boat he sees a sickly looking girl – the one from the beginning of the episode – and starts at her with his wide, bloodshot eyes. It’s clear he is not at all back in full control, nor should we have ever thought so – Everett may be too gullible compared to the addiction that rages inside Thack.
Could the girl be Thack’s daughter, one who may have died? There’s a pain inside him he tries to drown in drugs. Take a look at the girl’s eyes – they look very much similar to those bulging out of Thack. Either way, we’ll figure out more about the force driving him towards drugging himself into a stupor, this season will bring us more characterization. Owen does a fantastic job with the role and I’m always itching for more after an episode finishes.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.36.17 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.36.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.36.30 PMCan’t wait for the second episode. This is one of my favourite series’ ever, plus it’s one of the best on television right now. Stay tuned for my review of the next episode, “You’re No Rose”, coming again this Friday, October 23rd. Cheers!

Fear the Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 4: “Not Fade Away”

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 4: “Not Fade Away”
Directed by Kari Skogland
Written by Meaghan Oppenheimer

* For a review of the next episode, “Cobalt” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dog” – click here
IMG_1992This episode starts with Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” playing over a montage of what’s now the new normal in Los Angeles neighbourhoods.
Travis (Cliff Curtis) jogs through the fenced in area of the their neighbourhood. His son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) sits on top of the roof and talks to his camera, in the distance noticing a flash; is it a signal, gunfire, or something else? Either way, Chris says: “Hello
IMG_1993For the time being, Travis and his son, Madison (Kim Dickens), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and the still detoxing Nick (Frank Dillane) are all trying to get along with normal life; quote unquote normal, anyways. At the same time, Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is off helping others.
Either way the friction is real, it is constant. Even Alicia acknowledges there’s nothing normal anymore.
Back on top of the house, Chris discovers the signal flashing back to him as he tries to signal it. He tries to show his father, though, Travis has no part of it. Clearly it is someone and Travis knows this, worrying too much. Will he got out on his own? Is he going to do something dumb? We’ll see.
Madison and son, Nick, are also dealing with a slight bit of friction. Although it seems Nick is trying to kick the junk a bit more proactively, his mother’s only concerned for him and questions whether or not “forgetting” to take his medication is the best thing or not. Regardless, Nick acts as if he’s willing to get clean and swims around in a dirty pool while acting fairly non-chalant about it all.
IMG_1995The National Guard has moved in. They’re not only occupying the neighbourhood in order to keep things under control, they impose lots of rules – obviously – but as Travis sees quickly, these troops mean business; strict fucking business.
Travis is called on to deal with the Thompson family, who are apparently holed up in their house and will not comply with the National Guard. Lieutenant Moyers (Jamie McShane) makes it clear, Travis either helps get him to go along, or the Guard is going to take him down.
Unfortunately, Doug Thompson (John Stewart) is having a bit of a hard time telling his children what’s been happening. Yet luckily Travis is able to get Doug calmed down, thinking level-headed. A testament to the level-headedness of Travis, but there are things even this quality won’t help him with in the days, weeks, months… years… to come. Depending on how long he makes it.
IMG_2008Nick proves fairly fast his lying self is prevalent. Seeing Liza leave a sick neighbour’s house, he sneaks himself into the room and hooks himself up to an old, obviously near death patient’s IV all to get his fix. Despicable, sad, all at once.
He and his mother have a confrontation later where she basically beats him up, briefly, telling him “You have no idea“. While it’s sad to see a mom have to essentially kick the shit out of her junkie son, it’s something certain junkies ACTUALLY need (coming from someone who is nearly 7 years clean from drugs & 6 years sober from alcohol).
What’s worse is the fact Madison is trying hard to be positive, trying to hard to be there and be strong, all for her family. All the while, Nick is shitting all over the trust she gave him earlier.
The thing I love is the writing here concerning the family. There’s a parallel between the sons, each giving the two parents grief. Nick is bad enough, but then there’s Chris who – maybe rightfully – won’t let go of the fact he saw a flash out in the distance, out where, supposedly, there aren’t any people.
Clearly, though, Nick is worse.
That night, Madison flashes a light on her own at the top of their roof. Finally, after a few flashes, one comes back and she gets confirmation Chris actually saw someone out there. Who is it? The suspense is already killing me, honestly. Loving it.
IMG_1996Everything gets more and more tense once Doug Thompson disappears in his car. Obviously Travis didn’t do such a great job talking Doug down earlier. He tries to talk with Lt. Moyers, but this guy is a REAL douche. No doubt on that one.
It feels a bit sketchy once Moyers gets sort of standoff-ish after Travis mentions his son saw a light in the DZ (for those who don’t happen to know: DZ, or DMZ, means demilitarized zone). The lieutenant passes it off, forgetting it right away, but it’s the way he’s body language speaks: you know the guy is lying, he knows something, he knows what the military knows and you can bet it’s nasty.
IMG_1997One of my favourite scenes so far in this first season of Fear the Walking Dead happens when Madison, albeit irresponsibly (and I thought Chris would be the dummy to attempt this), heads out through the National Guard implemented fence, cutting a hole through a tiny section and making her way into the DZ.
At first there’s this intense bit where we watch as Madison walks through these desolate bits of neighbourhood, everything destroyed or abandoned. Then come the dead bodies, a stench washing over her. And BAM – out comes a military vehicle, troops in tow. This was an incredibly tense sequence. These moments amped up higher than they would have even with the excellent cinematography and overall production design, all due to an amazing score from Paul Haslinger.
IMG_1999 IMG_2002 IMG_2003 IMG_2005 IMG_2006Dr. Bethany Exner (Sandrine Holt) is now roaming the neighbourhood. In private, she outs Liza to her face as not being a real nurse, and they sort of… strike a deal. Now, she’s heading through the neighbourhood, checking everyone out.
Griselda Salazar (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) is being eyed to have sugery under Dr. Exner. It’s hard to tell whether or not Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) is willing to let that happen.
But he tells Madison a story, as they’re together after her adventure outside the fence, about how the government came and took some people from where he lived; they did not come back, only ended up dead. His whole point is that if he goes, and does not come back, she needs to be there for Ofelia Salazar (Mercedes Mason). I thought this was a really great scene, Rubén Blades is an awesome actor whose credibility adds something to this cast of characters of which I’m a big fan.
IMG_2009When the shady Dr. Exner and the National Guard come to take Griselda, things get extremely tension-filled and a bit scary.
First, they refuse to take Daniel with his wife, as the only other name on the list is Nicholas Clark. Second, in the struggle to get Nick after Alicia tells him to run, the National Guardsmen draw their guns on everyone, from Daniel to Chris. It provokes everyone. Everything goes mad in those few moments and the troops take Nick, Griselda, and even – though willing – Liza.
What’s even wilder is that in the final few moments of the episode, Travis goes up to the roof in grief as everyone else left does their own thing, each reeling. Up on top of the house, Travis not only sees confirmation of a flashing light out in the DZ, he witnesses big bangs, flashes of light, and realizes someone has been killed. No doubt after Lt. Moyers caught wind of it from him, another party of troops went out to sweep the area, finding them in the night naturally and snuffing out the problem. Incredibly intense and disturbing as hell.
One thing’s for sure – Madison and Travis are headed for rough territory, as Liza is the cause of all this nonsense at the close of the episode. Maybe not fair, however, the only reason she was there was due to the fact Travis wanted her to be; being the mother of his boy and all. Still, there’s going to be some trouble in the house amongst everything else going on outside in the devastation that is Los Angeles.
IMG_2010 IMG_2011Looking forward big time to the penultimate episode of the first season, “Cobalt”, which is again directed by Kari Skogland. I like how the number of directors has been cut down in this first season, it gives directors the chance to sort of bridge episodes together instead of simply doing six one-off directed episodes by six different directors. Gives the season continuity in that sense, to me anyways. I think Robert Kirkman and Co. have a good thing on their hands with this series, even though the naysayers will, no doubt, continually naysay. Digging it over this way!
Stay tuned for more reviews, my friends! #FearTWD

Fear The Walking Dead: Series Premiere – Review

AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Adam Davidson (The FollowingHell On Wheels)
Written by Robert Kirkman & Dave Erickson; based on the graphic novel series by Charlie Adlard/Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore

* For a review of the next episode, “So Close, Yet So Far” – click here
IMG_1738The opening scene of Fear The Walking Dead is a doozy to me. A nice open throat, a man stumbling around in a worn down church, zombie woman eating a face with a knife sticking from her belly. I found the atmosphere of the scene combined with a tense chase pretty awesome, plus the guy playing Nick (Frank Dillane) ejecting himself from the church and into the street where he’s hit by a car looks genuinely frightened.
So this initial moment makes things exciting. Nothing like starting things off on a wild and creepy moment to get viewers interested. Furthermore, I found for at least a few minutes I wasn’t totally positive if Nick was a junkie, or if he was in the first throes of becoming a part of the walking dead horde. Very cool how they played with that whole angle.
IMG_1739There’s a bunch of family drama at the start of this pilot. A lot of people online seem to be lamenting this, wanting more of the zombies. But what you’re not getting, if in that camp of viewers, is that this is NOT The Walking Dead. We’re beginning at the very start, not in media res of the apocalypse like Rick Grimes in the initial episode of the original series.
So if you’re not interested in that – fine. Just don’t say it’s a bad show; first of all it is the pilot, second you can’t judge it badly because you don’t like drama and want zombies. The zombies, at least in the pilot, are not the first and foremost element of what is happening. We’re watching the world as it is about to plunge into the darkness we’ve come to know on The Walking Dead.
IMG_1740There’s a big mix of families happening. We’ve got Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) whose son happens to be Nick, from the start, so that’s enough trouble for her as it is. But then she’s involved with Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) whose ex is Lisa Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez). Then amongst them of course is Nick, as well as Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), plus Travis’ son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie). At first I found it a little confusing, mostly because it was introduced quick and brief upfront. After a little time, though, I settled in and it was interesting to me. The family represents that sort of mixed racial family that I’m sure is fairly prevalent nowadays in a place like Los Angeles; where this spin-off is set. Some I’m sure will cry that Robert Kirkman, the creators, the writers are all trying to be a little “PC” by making it such a family, but I think it’s more realism than pandering.
IMG_1741What I enjoy in this pilot episode is how Travis (Curtis) tries to listen to Nick (Dillane). Unfortunately for him, the things Nick is saying are far too real. When Travis goes to the church Nick crawled out of – a place where it’s essentially “junkie communion” as he puts it himself – there’s little to verify his story, however, the mood and tone are ominous. He doesn’t necessarily think the zombie apocalypse is upon the all, but Travis does tell Madison (Dickens) he thinks something terrible happened there. Mostly, it all speaks to him wanting to help himself as a father, a stepfather, and just feeling the need to given Nick a hand.
IMG_1742 IMG_1743Looks like there are complains about how Fear The Walking Dead has such a junkie-centric thing happening in its first episode. Although, if you look at it wouldn’t a junkie den like that church be a place an epidemic could start? Who knows, really. To me, it’s a place nobody cares about; they are the throwaways of society. So if a guy like Nick shambled out of a place like that, no doubt people would toss off anything he says. Especially if he’s saying someone ate another person. Nowadays it would spread around social media, everyone would claim BATH SALTS, then move on to the next thing. By the time anyone turned around, the apocalypse would be in full-swing and the cities would begin to fall all around us as we’d be in no position to head anything off. So, to me, I found this beginning fitting because it feels genuine, from the relationships to the entire situation of Los Angeles.

I love the scene with Travis as he’s teaching the class about Jack London and his story “To Build A Fire”. Highly ironic when one of his students says he doesn’t care about learning how to build a fire; when asked why not, he replies “I got a stove”. The irony, of course, lies in the fact we already know what’s coming. We’ve seen The Walking Dead, we’ve seen all the zombie horror movies, we can understand that eventually all of these people we’re seeing right now will NEED those skills. If not, their furthering survival is at risk of a quick extinction. So maybe some might say this scene is heavy handed. To me, it follows a great tradition of horror films – from classics like John Carpenter’s Halloween to newer films following it such as It Follows – in which there are these wonderful scenes that speak to thematic/plot elements we’ll see as the story progresses.
IMG_1744There’s solid atmosphere throughout this whole pilot, honestly. From the grim opening with Nick in the church, spilling into the street, to scenes in the hospital – an old man in the bed next to Nick goes into cardiac arrest or something similar; moments later an eerie older woman smiles at Nick, staring. Small bits like this, as well as the look and feel of the scenes themselves, really make for quite a bit of tension.
Moreover, Nick takes off from the hospital, so in terms of plot things get suspenseful. We’re already aware the zombies are out there; the apocalypse has begun officially, whether the characters realize this or not. While Nick saw it, he is a junkie and does not know for sure if he saw a zombie, or if it was the drugs, or if it was drugged madness on the part of the other junkies in that church. So he’s out on the streets, he picks up a burner cellphone, and there’s this wretchedly ominous feeling to the scenes. We’re left wondering exactly how this sad junkie will make out once things start to get insane out in the streets of L.A.

Another thing I love is that the setting is Los Angeles. So while we as the audience hear helicopters and sirens going around, thinking this is the beginning – knowing it – these sounds are commonplace to the characters, as L.A is one hell of a busy city at all times. Never stops, even the helicopters flying over different neighbourhoods. Those characters would not automatically assume that the apocalypse had begun simply because of sirens and helicopters and police cars and ambulances going mad.
Then after a scene with Madison and Travis, once they’ve sped off from the highway, the next day at the school everyone watches a clip from the nightly news, where they’d been near the highway; EMTs are attacked by people on stretchers. Most assume it was drugs, maybe shock as Travis points… but us? Well we know the difference already, even before the characters themselves come to understand what is happening.
Enjoy the inclusion of cellphones, with a bunch of the high school characters watching online videos of the events from the previous night. It seems like a joke to some, yet school is let out early. There’s a sense of chaos brewing. Everything from the music, to the evacuation of buildings, the sound design with more choppers flying about and voices in the air. It’s a great build up towards the episode’s finale.
IMG_1745A scene between Calvin (Keith Powers), who is obviously a friend and dealer both, and Nick is incredibly well done. There’s a genuine terror in Nick; he’s not simply addicted to drugs, he has seen something terrifying and it’s rocking him. Not just that, Calvin is clearly paranoid because Nick’s mom came to him, he’s afraid that Nick has been saying things that ought not to be heard. Very foreboding feeling to the car ride Calvin takes Nick on, as we’re pretty much expecting him to blast the poor junkie away, which we fast discover to be the truth.
Though, it isn’t a drug dealer and a gun Nick needs to be most concerned about. When his mother and Travis show up to get him – after he’s killed Calvin in self-defense – Nick takes them down to where it happened. However the body is not there.
Do you see? DO YOU SEE?
Nick is looking crazier and crazier. Still, we know something is going to happen, something is already going bad.
THEN THE SCORE KICKS IN! That music we know well from The Walking Dead – deep bass, distorted, heavy. In the dark red tunnel, Calvin reappears and he is zombified. Thus begins the zombie apocalypse, which ushers in Fear The Walking Dead.
IMG_1746 IMG_1747 IMG_1749 IMG_1750This episode, while slow to some, is a solid opener to the series. Others wanted a ton of zombie action right away. I stress again: this is not the show you’re looking for! We are getting a slight prequel, once that begins right on the cusp of the apocalypse we’ve already been smack dab in the middle of during The Walking Dead. So it’s only natural to see a lead up to the actual zombie epidemic breaking out.
I guarantee the second episode will pick up in pace and intensity, as well as there’ll be more gore and zombies for everyone. I’m a fan of all that stuff, too! For those who’ve not read this blog, most of what goes on here involves horror one way or another. So I am a massive horror fan, love the gore and the blood where I can get it. At the same time, I do love the drama involved in a good horror series or film. It’s what makes the horror more real, more visceral.
For me, this pilot was great. An incredible mix of family drama, tension, and bits of horror. Really felt like the world going on as normal, right before the zombies descend on Los Angeles. Even more, not a moment did I find myself checking the time; in fact, I had to stop and see how much time was left simply because I hoped it would be at least 15-20 minutes more, as I’d been enjoying the episode that much. Looking forward to a second episode – it’s titled “So Close, Yet So Far” and is directed by Adam Davidson (Hell on WheelsThe Following). One thing I’m sure of – poor ole Nick is going to have some rough withdrawals as the zombie epidemic commences. It’s gonna prove pretty interesting, if anything.

Stay tuned! I’ll be keeping up with each episode of AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead. I’m also soon starting to review The Walking Dead from its first season onward, and I’ll do each episode of the new season once that comes on, too.

Dead Man’s Shoes & Haunting Revenge

Dead Man’s Shoes. 2004. Directed by Shane Meadows. Screenplay by Paddy Considine & Shane Meadows, with additional material from Paul Fraser.
Starring Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell, Stuart Wolfenden, Neil Bell, Paul Sadot, Seamus O’Neal, and Jo Hartley.
Warp Films.
Unrated. 90 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★★
dead-man's-shoes-dvd
There is a special place in my soul for Dead Man’s Shoes. There are equal moments of thriller and drama here, bundled together with a bit of a crime story. What I love most, though, is the fact that Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine wrote an excellent, and even at times subdued, revenge thriller that doesn’t require a woman to be assaulted or savaged in order for the plot to kick in. Of course, one of the characters experiences an awful, cruel fate, however, this movie doesn’t feel the need to linger on extended sexual violence, as it seems is a trend over the past decade in a lot of horrors or thrillers going for the revenge angle.
Apart from the revenge side of the story, I love Paddy Considine’s acting in general. He is an enormous talent who, while he’s had his share of recognition, still in my mind appears underrated overall. Put him together with Toby Kebbell – another fine young actor – and the drama of the story in Dead Man’s Shoes becomes something beautiful.
There’s enough here to satisfy the revenge quota, but what Meadows does most is linger on the humanity of the revenge. Even in the finale of the film, there is this desperate need for the main character to feel human again after all that has happened. I think it’s one of the most important parts of this film: the revenge we watch in this films, it’s often too much about the revenge itself, and instead here we see the character seeking revenge, by the end, regretting the things he has done. Because ultimately, revenge will never bring back the lost souls of those who have been assaulted, raped, killed, or lead down the path of darkness wrongly by others, and so on. What I love so much about Dead Man’s Shoes is that the darkness and the light co-exist, even in a visual way, throughout the film. By the end, we come to understand that the only way for the light to shine on is if we can come to terms with the darkness in our hearts.
IMG_1224I won’t detail too much of the plot, so as to save at least some surprise for you if you’ve not yet seen it.
Dead Man’s Shoes sees a soldier home from a tour of duty in army to some small spot amongst the Midlands. His name is Richard (Paddy Considine). More than anything else he’s come back in order to exact revenge. Some cruel people in his old town did awful, nasty things to his younger, mentally challenged brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell). Slowly, Richard begins to enact a plan to wreak havoc and vengeance upon those who did his brother young, and as it escalates from psychological warfare to full-on violence, then murder, there is no telling how far Richard will go before he washes his hands of all the blood.
Richard: “God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.
As I mentioned before, part of why I enjoy Meadows’ film so much is because it isn’t the same old typical plot we’re treated to in every last revenge thriller. Most of the time it’s a woman being assaulted, in some form or another, then a man, or maybe the woman herself, hunts down the culprits and does them in. Much as there are a lot of similar elements in Dead Man’s Shoes, there is still a good deal here which sets it apart from the pack.
ATTENTION: In order for me continue on with what I want to say, I need to include some spoilers. If you don’t want a big portion of this film ruined then you should turn around and stop reading. See the movie before you read ahead.
Some of what I think separates this movie from similar revenge based films is the angle of Richard’s brother Anthony.
There are so many ways this comes into play. First, there’s all the flashbacks in black-and-white, which I love as a visual storytelling device. At many points in the plot of present day, Meadows will cut back to a black-and-white memory to show us what happened with these bunch of lowlifes and Anthony.
These are some incredibly emotional flashbacks, honestly. Toby Kebbell does such a good job with the character of Anthony. He doesn’t make it a stereotypical performance of someone with a disability. Instead, there are nuances to the role with him in it. Makes everything feel so tragic.
IMG_1240 IMG_1241Then there’s the fact that by the end HUGE SPOILER ABOUT TO BE REVEALED we discover that Anthony’s been dead the whole time. All the while he’s trotting along with his brother Richard, they’re talking and laughing together, Anthony looking on as his brother avenges him, the whole time he has been just an image; love the way Meadows does this throughout the entire film. Basically showing us how heavy Anthony weighs on Richard’s mind, how present he still is to his older brother, and I think this speaks volumes to their relationship. Richard walks around with the memory of his brother constantly, always beside him, always a reminder.
I thought there were actually a couple creepy parts. Like when Richard shows up wearing the gas mask the first couple times. Then he’s left the words cheyne stoking written on the wall of the lads’ flat – those words are associated with several conditions, but it is a pattern of breathing often displayed by those who are about to die. Truly chilling moment to see that scrawled over the wall in spray paint!
Love the writing in this movie. There are a couple crack-up bits, as well. Such as the moment when Sonny (Gary Stretch) opens his door with a face painted up like a clown or a mime of some sort. I actually laugh aloud most times I watch this because it’s just such a kick in the guts for ole Sonny – he has no idea his face was painted. But this also is a part of Richard’s psychological warfare that he heaps upon the gang until they’re about ready to fall apart at the seams. Considine and Meadows came up with some interesting stuff for their script, one of my favourite films out of the U.K in the last 10-15 years.
IMG_1253The performances all around in this film work so well. They kill me, but they’re great. Gary Stretch, who I’ve never personally been impressed by in anything else, plays a menacing, evil drug dealer. I mean, the flashbacks between his character Sonny and Anthony make me want to weep. Both of them did a fantastic job in their scenes together, which are hard to watch but rather important to the film. I think Stretch should try and go for more small indie films like this because I thought his performance was perfect here. You hate him, however, it’s a love-to-hate him situation because the acting is impressive.
Paddy Considine is still, for me, the highlight of Dead Man’s Shoes because he brings out every last emotion you can imagine might emerge from a man whose mentally challenged younger brother was treated like human garbage by a bunch of lowlife drug dealing idiots. Just the depths of anger that would be brought up in a person is enough, but Considine further blows me away by how he shows the pain. Anger is one thing, pain is entirely another. There’s a sadness in Richard, as he walks about the streets of his tiny town, followed by Anthony wherever he goes. Even when he’s confronted by Sonny in the streets and raving mad, there’s still a sadness Considine pushes through behind his eyes. Every angry gesture is steeped in that depression beneath the skin of Richard. A great, great job on his part, and a great, great actor.
Richard: “I’m not threatening you mate. It’s beyond fucking words. I watched over you when you were asleep and I looked at your fucking neck and I was that far away from slicing it.
While I’ve probably spoiled lots already, I don’t want to spoil any more for those of you still reading.
This is a 5 star film. Dead Man’s Shoes is a fabulous independent film with stellar writing from Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine, as well as incredibly poised direction on the part of Meadows. The low budget feel of the film comes across, but what Meadows does with all of it is great work. The performances, even the supporting and smaller roles, each help the movie rattle along with a great deal of suspense, tension, and a nice few thrills thrown into the mix. Considine leads the charge with his vicious yet subdued acting, but Kebbell and Stretch are equally fine actors on their game here, as well.
IMG_1280I can see how this might not have fared well at the box office because most people aren’t ready for such an intensely personal view of revenge, tragedy, and forgiveness. Especially with a grim and sombre finale like we’re treated to at the end; a downer, at the same time there is also peace in a sense for the character of Richard.
There’s no matching Dead Man’s Shoes, except for a couple other titles – very few though – when it comes to the revenge thriller. This is at the top of my list, maybe #1. Either way, you should see it if you have not yet. Lots of beauty, sadness, gorgeous music and settings, with enough heart and soul and thrills to satisfy most eager viewers. Enjoy this gritty, tough little flick. Considine and Meadows do wonderful work when they’re together, as well as apart.

Avoid The Bunny Game & its Needless Misogyny

The Bunny Game. 2010. Directed by Adam Rehmeier. Story by Rodleen Getsic & Adam Rehmeier.
Starring Rodleen Getsic, Jeff F. Renfro, Drettie Page, Coriander Womack, Gregg Gilmore, Loki, Curtis Reynolds, and Jason Timms. Death Mountain Productions.
Unrated. 76 minutes.
Horror

No ★s
bunny_game_ver2Sometimes there comes along a film that is so dreary and needlessly graphic that I question why it was ever made. Now, before anyone says “Well if you can’t handle it then that’s not the film’s problem”, let me tell you this – I’ve seen plenty of disgusting, disturbing, outrageously graphic, gory, and beyond fucked up films in my time. I’ve seen a little over 4,100 movies in total. Many, many of those are horror. I’ve seen my fair share of good horror, as well as a lion’s share of terribly made, awful horror movies. I own Cannibal Holocaust, which is a nasty piece of work, and I’ve actually seen Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom one more than once occasion – don’t ask me why. Plus, I’d actually consider those good horror. Then there’s the type of stuff I’ve just about perished while trying to watch, like the absolutely terrible August Underground stuff; pure, utter tripe, does nothing for the genre except make it look awful. Realistic? Sure. Realism does equate to quality, though.
So when I say that The Bunny Game is a grim and dreary, nasty piece of work, I’m saying it in the sense that it is all that but nothing comes of it. It’s not a good film overall. Ultimately, this is one of those brutal horror films which goes nowhere with what it’s trying to accomplish, and by the end you’re just wondering: A) why didn’t I turn this off sooner?, and B) I hope nobody makes a sequel to this one.
Either way, the result of The Bunny Game is not, as some no doubt paid crew members have spouted off on IMDB and other sites, in any way the reinvention of the genre. No way, shape, or form is it anything close. I never like to rag too hard on a film, but unfortunately for this one I just cannot find the words to express anything enjoyable or positive about any aspect of this muggy turd.
IMG_1084 Bunny (Rodleen Getsic) is an unfortunate soul, left on the streets – who knows what her sad story truly is – and resorting to prostitution.
She goes from one motel room to the next, searching for another meal, trying to stay high and alive. She squats and pees on the side of the road because she has nowhere else to go. She’s also so coked up that she passes out; one of Bunny’s customers goes ahead and has sex with her anyways, then proceeds to loot the bag she carries around constantly. After waking up to find the trust backpack empty, she loses her mind. But it’s just back out on the street once more, on to another miserable day.
Finally, she gets picked up by a trucker who wants to do some drugs with her; he needs a pick me up after a long stretch on the road. But that’s not all he wants – Bunny is taken hostage, thrown into the back of his truck, where a camera is setup, there are chains, and the trucker has plenty of sick games in mind for the poor, lonely girl.
IMG_1085 IMG_1086At times we’re treated to these shots that go on for what feels like eternity, and I’m truly at a loss as to why they’re in film. I get that the trucker guy this insane dude, is supposed to be developed slightly before things get going into the brutality full-on. However, having this man just walk around a little, smoke some cigarettes, drive – I mean, what’s the purpose? Perhaps if there were some nuisance, subtlety in this character, or in the performance, there’d be a reason to focus so much on him in such a languid, boring way. The camera’s not doing anything interesting, we’re simply watching this man. There’s nothing going on much in his face, in his mannerisms, though, I suspect there should be. We’re just not seeing much.
Then he climbs into the back of the truck with Bunny, who is out completely cold, and the real misogyny and nastiness begins. I honestly loathe the stupid “torture porn” label because I think it’s stupid, although I realize what the label is meant to convey. That being said, I’d go ahead and say this is the concept of “torture porn” at its worst, at the most base and vile it can be on film. We’ve got to watch this mental trucker suck on Bunny’s nipples, play with her earlobes and other weird sexual stuff. It’s fine to have a character that deranged in the movie, but why do you have to explicitly show all this stuff? Only makes things disgusting. There’s nothing scary about what he’s doing, it’s the same as watching a badly lit, poorly shot pornographic movie that’s all about sadomasochism and extreme bondage. That’s pretty much what this whole section felt like, as he trucker revels in having Bunny captured in the back of his truck’s trailer. You don’t have to go subtle on every last creepy/scary scene. For me, though, I find there needs to be some sort of tension through not having to graphically see every last bit of the nasty business. Adam Rehmeier says fuck that. Leave nothing to the imagination.
Also, just the fact that the trucker does a bunch of nonsense supposedly “crazy” stuff, it really took me out of things. So much overacting. Awful, really. I thought it was bad, others think he’s some kind of amazing villain. Seriously? I couldn’t get into it. One bit of bad shlock after the other. Huff gas – go crazy – laugh – tell Bunny to shut up or shhhh – repeat.
IMG_1077The black-and-white also did nought for me. I honestly gave The Human Centipede II a star or so just because I found Tom Six’s use of black-and-white pretty interesting in some of the more tame scenes. They gave it a nice off-kilter feel that was very creepy. Here, The Bunny Game feels like it used black-and-white to try and force the idea that this is somehow an innovative or interesting film. There is nothing good about the movie and the use of black-and-white only made things more dismal; not in a good sense.
Ultimately, the whole movie is a bunch of perverse nonsense, mixed with Rodleen Getsic screaming at the top of her lungs a little, plus a ton of quiet, boring moments with the trucker doing nothing at all. Honestly, I don’t jump on a film for the sake of jumping on it. I’m actually one of the types who is often a fan of films people hate – not as a rule, there are just a handful or so of movies I love that others despise (like Exorcist II – fucking love it!). But I just simply can’t bring myself to like what Adam Rehmeier has done here. There’s nothing inspiring in terms of the horror genre, it’s a retread through territory we’ve seen before, just as nasty, but there are plenty of so-called “torture porn” films out there which aren’t this terribly made or as horrid for no purpose.
IMG_1080 IMG_1081I also saw, maybe on Bloody Disgusting or a similar site, that someone said this was extremely well edited. Is that truly their opinion? My good lord Satan. If they think this is masterful editing, I don’t want to see what they find to be bad examples of editing. Because this is, at times, like a black-and-white music video on crack. There’s a frenetic quality to it that’s absolute irritating, as well as fairly useless in my opinion. I really hated the way this was edited, and to think others found that to be one of its best, probably its only, good aspect – I can’t fathom what other poor movies they think contain nice editing. There’s not a moment where I found myself impressed by any of the technical side to The Bunny Game. I’m not trying to be mean: there’s nothing here that’s any good.
IMG_1079In all good conscience, I cannot give this film a single star. On IMDB, you can’t give 0 ratings, so if you happen to come across my ratings page on there and see it has 1 star, versus my 0 here, just remember: they won’t let you do it.
There is not a solitary redeeming aspect of The Bunny Game. It aims to be terrifying and disturbing, and while it may come across as the later at plenty of moments there’s nothing overall scary about this film. There’s not an ounce of suspense or tension in the whole lot; that’s enough to kill any horror. The acting is bad. There’s mostly a lot of yelling and screaming and spitting and weird touching and sexualization at every near, but no good acting, the script is complete trash, and the thing is filmed poorly.
I suggest that you see this only if you’re a completist, or if you’re one of those people who gets off on terrible horror that borders on the line of being the recreation of a snuff film. Otherwise, pick up a better bit of horror and have yourself an enjoyably creepy view! This didn’t make me feel anything, not for a second, and if a horror doesn’t scare me, even in the slightest sense, I don’t see what the point of it is in the end.

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 6: “Church in Ruins”

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 6:
 “Church in Ruins
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (BansheeGame of Thrones)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Black Maps and Motels Rooms” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Other Lives” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.27.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.28.31 AMBeginning where we left off, the tense moments between Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) pick up. Frank sits down with some coffee, asking if Ray would like some sugar, anything else. Normally you might laugh, however, the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
I would’ve been different,” says Ray.
Of all the lies people tell themselves,” Frank replies.
I sold my soul for nothin’,” Ray says as he bursts at the seams.
That choice was in you before your wife or any of this other stuff. It was always there, waiting,” Frank tells him.

There is still a solid discussion of morality going here. Essentially, Ray Velcoro has still committed murder; no matter how we cut the cards. Frank Semyon puts it bluntest, and maybe most truthful, when he tells Ray: “Own it.” Because yes – Frank is a dirty dog, he tricked Ray into believing he was doing his wife justice by killing the man who raped her, when truly it was a point of leverage for Frank, to have a cop under his thumb.
But at the same time, Nic Pizzolatto is having his characters basically ask us – is murder ever justified? These are philosophical situations. I think people – some, not all – seem to be pissed because the second season lacks what the first had in the existentialist dialogue of Rust Cohle. When really, you just have to pay attention: it’s all there. Pizzolatto just isn’t spelling it out as blatantly as he was in the first season through Rust. More power to him – his detractors last season were complaining that Rust and his ramblings made things clunky. You can never satisfy everyone. The morality question is constantly in play, most certainly the heaviest theme going on for Ray Velcoro’s arc.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.28.44 AMProblem for Ray is, he’s supposed to be helping Dt. Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Dt. Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch).
Instead he’s at the prison confronting the actual man who raped his wife, seeing as how the man he’d killed at the word of Frank Semyon was not the actual rapist.
Tense damn scene with Velcoro here. Incredibly tense and cutting acting. The look in Farrell’s eyes always seems to speak more than he ever can with whatever dialogue he’s given – such expression in them, his whole face. I’ve long said Farrell is an excellent actor when given the appropriate material. Much the same as I feel often about Taylor Kitsch; he’s giving a great turn this season, as well.
Even worse again, Ray is having to go to supervised visits with his son. It’s painful to see their relationship because Ray wants to hold on – he doesn’t care whether or not the biological father is the rapist. He needs something other than being a cop, being a vigilante, to make him whole, and that something is being a father. Every little bit that it slips away, I can see the cracks forming in Ray’s outer shell, his ego already crumbled long ago, and the more it falls away there’s no telling where Velcoro is going to end up.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.29.54 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.30.17 AMFrank tells the son of his dead ‘colleague’: “This hurt, it can make you a better man. That’s what pain does – it shows you what was on the inside.” Here, for the first time, we can actually see that good side of Frank that does want to be a part of the world. We can see that Frank wants to be a father, and he might be a good one.
Juxtaposed with Frank and this fatherly moment, we see the deterioration of Ray and his son.
I am your father, you are my son,” says Ray. “I will always love you.” You can see the torture inside him as he grasps onto the last bits of himself. Right afterwards, he heads home and hits the booze, rails a ton of cocaine, and just gets completely obliterated. The stable little bits of Velcoro we saw, those tiny glimpses, are quickly vanishing.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.30.53 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.31.12 AMI cannot say it enough – Colin Farrell is fucking knocking this role out of the park and into the lot, smashing the windows, sending everyone home. Anyone who says different is not paying attention. I don’t care what you think of the overall plot, if you can’t admit that Farrell is nailing the character of Ray Velcoro then you’re beyond blind. His drunk and stoned scene, the aftermath, it is complete perfection. There’s no way it could’ve been played any better, it felt like watching an actual man fall apart right before my eyes.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.29.14 AMI’m enjoying where Ani Bezzerides’ arc is headed. She’s got to go in to a party where they won’t allow even a purse, so Ani and her knives won’t be headed inside. What interests me is that sexuality is a whole struggle for Ani. It’s because she works in such a macho, predominantly male environment in the police department. She has been railroaded into a sexual harassment therapy group where the men mostly just enjoy hearing Ani talk about sex – it’s a hypocritical and nonsensical punishment from the patriarchal department. To see her headed towards a situation where she’ll need to play up her sexuality, use that against men, it’s not as easy as it may sound – Ani’s sister Athena (Leven Rambin) is telling her that she’ll need to strip even, and you can see the struggle already on her face hearing this news.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.32.13 AMThings are getting murky murky here in the sixth episode.
When Ani heads to the party – using her sister Athena’s name – we see how deviant and weird everything surrounding Caspere’s murder, the events following, is truly beginning to get. Ani and a ton of other sexed up women are loaded onto a bus, their purses and cellphones taken, and herded like a sheep of cattle to the slaughter.
Behind the bus, both Woodrugh and Velcoro tail a ways back to try and cover Ani. They even rush in, as Woodrugh chokes a guard outside, both clad in black gear. Loving their little undercover type task force, it’s making things get more exciting especially with this episode.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.32.48 AMFrank is still sorting motives out on the Caspere end, trying to track down the hard drive and figure out where things disappeared to after Caspere’s place, as well as who they disappeared with, in what hands. I like how Frank has become a sort of detective in his own right here. Certainly after he and Ray have started butting heads, he has to take some of the burden on himself to figure out what has truly been going on.
Unfortunately for Frank, getting to the bottom of the Mexican side of things is bringing more death and destruction into his life. I keep thinking how Frank seems stuck in that old gangster lifestyle, try and try as he might to get out of that quicksand.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.32.00 AMThe party. Man, oh, man – what can I say about this party? Weird, wild, maybe wondrous? Sure.
Sex, drugs, booze. And of course: food! When you’re having an orgy with about a hundred or more people, you’ve got to have food on hand. People get hungry. Need to keep the energy up for more orgying.
It’s fucked up. Pizzolatto is proving there’s still enough oddity in Season Two of True Detective to keep some of the first season’s hardcore fans interested.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.33.46 AMIt’s scary watching Ani essentially walk into the lion’s den. She has no phone, no weapon, and surrounded by so many old perverts. Creepy stuff to endure at times because YOU KNOW bad things happen at these “parties”. Plus, she spots prominent members of society walking through the rooms – Richard Geldof (C.S. Lee), among others. All the girls are given some drugs to help get them in the mood, keep them going, and Ani feels the effects. This whole time I was so worried about poor Ani – she’s such a strong woman but in this situation her power has basically been stripped completely.
We get a huge glimpse into Ani’s past – she has a major flashback during the party. It actually wowed me for a moment or two, so clear and at the same time brief. There’s most definitely a traumatic assault of some sort in Ani’s past which has ultimately guided her uneasiness and uncomfortable nature with men (we see a bearded man with long hair who claims there’s a unicorn in those woods and at one point leads Ani off in a dreamy shot to an old VW van). I felt terrible for her at this party, wandering around; so many people jerking off and watching others have sex, rooms full of orgies. Nasty, rough stuff!
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.34.18 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.34.27 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.34.43 AMThere is a ton of great stuff going on throughout “Church in Ruins”.
I love how the entire way to the party, as Woodrugh and Velcoro sneak up, when Ani slices and dices a few thugs – there is a great piece of classical music playing. Amazing. This was one of my favourite series of scenes since Season Two stared, it was just so perfectly composed and put together in terms of how the camera moved, the scenes changed, the music played over top. It made that whole finale to the episode more exciting than it would’ve been already. Amazing way to amp things up.
At the end of “Church in Ruins”, we see Ani in a rough spot. It’s interesting, but disturbing all the same. Luckily her night of psychological torture brought the detectives some well deserved information.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.36.01 AMA lot of plot movement going on here, plus a good deal of character development. I think “Church in Ruins” is the best episode so far in Season Two. I predict a great few revelations, some more excitement and thrill, as well as maybe even a death or two. We’ll see! Such a solid crime drama in my opinion, with plenty of elements to make it a full-on thriller at many times, but I’m sure half the internet would call me an idiot or say I know nothing about television or movies because I like this – whatever.
Tell me what you thought in the comments or hit me up on Twitter: @yernotgoinatdat – we can have a (civil) chat.
Lots of people are disappointed in this season. I am not, whatsoever. It started off a little rocky, and since then it has gotten great, week after week. Despite the naysayers. Let them keep on. The last couple episodes are going to knock my socks off.

Next week’s episode is titled “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”. It’s directed by Daniel Attias. His filmography as director includes episodes of Masters of SexBloodlineThe AmericansRay DonovanHomelandThe Killing, and even 16 episodes of one of my favourite comedies, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Particularly, I’m excited for Attias to do an episode because I love both Bloodline and Ray Donovan, which are both extremely gritty at times.
Stay tuned and we’ll find out how wild things get.

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 1: The Western Book of the Dead

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 1:
“The Western Book of the Dead”
Directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Night Finds You” – click here
Picture 2To start, this is NOT a repeat of True Detective True Detective Season 1 – the show is trying to do a new story, new characters, the whole shebang. Of course the whole thing is still very existential, regardless if Rust Cohle is not spouting out Nietzsche rehashes and what not [which I loved but come on – they weren’t anything groundbreakingly new outside of philosophical circles]. I mean, Colin Farrell’s low-down-and-dirty Ray Velcoro already gave the beauty line “We get the world we deserve” in the second episode of this season, so there is definitely still an existential element kicking around inside of Nic Pizzolatto’s second season. However, this time around there’s much of a demon-within type of vibe going. Whereas the police detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were truly trying to serve justice for the sake of the victims, all those poor young girls taken and killed by vicious, hateful men, the second season of True Detective seems to be focusing on how some of those same police get lost along the way, how they bend the law to work for them, and even though they’re ultimately trying to do good, they end up doing a lot of bad along the way.
Picture 1Starting off, we get to see Ray Velcoro [Farrell]. His tale is a rough one – his wife was raped, they never found the attacker, and neither she nor her now ex-husband Ray know if their boy is his or not. Certainly Ray does the true blood thing to do: he raises the kid as his own. He doesn’t want to know anything about DNA, he just wants his son to be his son. Problem is ole Ray has vices – the drink and the drugs – and his temper is fierce. Like anyone, Ray wanted revenge for what happened to his wife, and as an officer of the law, he naturally felt stuck when even the law let him down. In comes Frank Semyon [Vaughn] who facilitates the revenge Velcoro needs by tracking down the man responsible, which coincides with Ray’s wife and her statement. This puts Ray deep in with Semyon, who uses him as a man on the inside, and as Ray climbs the ranks to detective, of course Frank reaps the benefits.
I think Ray is going to be one of the most interesting of the bunch in this season. There’s a scene involving Ray and a kid who bullies his son at school, plus the boy’s father, which really takes you from “Okay, Ray is a normal guy in a bad situation” to “Wow, Ray is a bad dude”. Even while you side with him, he takes things much too far. Not hard to see the booze and the cocaine, and the more booze, doesn’t help his natural temperament. At the end of the tunnel, for Ray I see a bit of redemption. Now, whether or not Ray will have to die for this, it is way too soon to tell [even in light of Episode Two’s events]. We will see.
Picture 3Next is Rachel McAdams as Detective Ani [Antigone] Bezzerides who has more than her fair share of issues, as well. First, her estranged father Eliot [David Morse] is a New Age guru-type who runs a sort of 1960s style institute or commune, and clearly is a narcissist. Then her sister, Athena, is a webcam girl doing porn who is off her medication and living free. Not to mention the fact their father named both her and her sister Antigone and Athena. So, Ani drinks, gambles, and raids houses to find out where her sister is when she feels like it. Also, her boyfriend is not exactly the sexually adventurous type when Ani clearly surprises him with something in the bedroom he couldn’t handle straight away. She is a dominant woman; she carries knives all over her, making clear in the next episode this is because she has no illusions about certain female-male situations where she will be physically smaller than a larger man in which the knives will come more than in handy. There is no doubt the years living in the cult with daddy brought on issues, most likely from some kind of abuse, but we can never be sure. Perhaps she’s just a smart, cautious woman who has seen too much. Either way, I’m excited this season has a lead female character and one who is also in the police. Offers a great new perspective for the show.
Picture 9Officer Paul Woodrugh [Taylor Kitsch] is another interesting character. Clearly Paul is a troubled man. He worked for Black Mountain Security in Iraq, obviously mimicking a similarly named military contractor, and has issues from what he calls “the desert”. It isn’t hard to see Woodrugh has issues with his sexuality; he sneaks a blue pill while claiming to be showering and taking far longer than necessary before trying to have sex with his girlfriend, then when she is going down on him Paul looks off into space as if troubled, maybe trying to concentrate so that he’s able to get an erection. This becomes even more clear in the second episode with a comment he makes to another detective. Furthermore, Paul obviously has deeper issues – he speeds out on the highway on his motorcycle, flicking off the headlight and rushing through the darkness, almost daring death to come and get him. I can’t wait to see more of him. Kitsch is a talent, and I don’t care what anyone says. Given the right material with this character I can see Kitsch doing excellent work this season.
Picture 4Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon spit out the worst line by far of the entire show since the first series began, along the lines of “don’t do anything out of hunger – not even eating”. Now I’ll give it to you – some of Rust Cohle’s lines, which personally I loved, were equally batty, but Matthew McConaughey was able to let them roll off his tongue and out of his mouth like they were natural to that character. Vaughn is good, I dig him, even as Semyon. I just didn’t dig that line. I can buy Vaughn as that character, totally, because he isn’t an outright psychotic gangster type like something out of Goodfellas with Henry Hill’s outbursts or the violence of Joe Pesci – I buy Vaughn as a collected, calm business sort of crook, and sure, he’s a big guy, I bet he can lay hands. Mainly, I think his attitude suits the part. However, that line in his mouth sounded like garbage. Moving past that point, Vaughn was great, and he does the dark/brooding thing well. Given more time the character of Frank will grow on people, I believe.
Picture 5Mainly people need to lay off this season, and forget about the first, in the sense that this is an anthologized show. There is no continuity other than it involves police work; that’s it. Once again, there are existential themes at play here, heavily. We just need to keep in mind – existential doesn’t mean that people have to constantly spout philosophical musings. That was a character Pizzolatto used, and it worked. This season is different. Existentialism has to do with human beings, the experience of existence and reality, and the touch of humans on existence. So we’re going to see how human beings deal with their terrible inner demons, and this season we’re going to see more about the abuse of power from the perspective of those abusing it mainly instead of solely from the perspective of those outside and looking in. The police here are good police, but they toe a dangerous lines, more so than anything Rust Cohle did in Season One. I can’t wait for the next episode.

Refn Looks Back on the Criminal Life in PUSHER III: I’M THE ANGEL OF DEATH

Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death. 2005.  Directed & Written by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Starring Zlatko Buric, Marinela Dekic, Slavko Labovic, Ramadan Huseini, Ilyas Agac, and Levino Jensen. Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Not Rated. 90 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★★ (Film)
★★★★★ (DVD release)

The third film in Nicolas Winding Refn’s drug/crime thriller trilogy, Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death begins with Milo (Zlatko Buric) attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting (the people in the meeting are actual addicts – adds a heightened reality to the film having people basically cast off the street). Milo is trying to get ready for his daughter Milena’s (Marinela Dekic) birthday; he has agreed to cook for about 40 people. On top of all this, clearly, he is trying to kick his drug habit. Because not only does Milo deal, as we’ve seen throughout the first two instalments of Pusher, he also snorts and smokes a good deal of product himself. Throughout the film, we basically watch Milo as he tries to balance his family life with his professional life, and how the professional side of his life infringes on both his family, as well as his desire to get clean. Someone on IMDB accurately reviewed this film with the title referring to Eugene O’Neill’s beautiful and equally sad play Long Day’s Journey Into Night – it does feel somewhat like O’Neill, especially with the additional element of Milo’s family, his new son-in-law to be, all thrown into the mix. Milo struggles from the beginning of his day to the end trying not to use, and trying not to let his business consume him.
There are some really great, realistic scenes once again in this film, like the other two previous instalments. One of the early scenes shows Milo and his crew trying to find the hidden drugs stashed inside a vehicle. They search everywhere, and finally one of them locates the drugs. Except they aren’t the drugs Milo wanted; they’re ecstasy pills, while Milo primarily deals with heroin. This kicks off one of the subplots happening in Pusher III, and just another bump in the road for Milo whose day progressively gets worse and worse with each passing minute.
visuel-164I particularly love how Milo enjoys making his own food. At one point, a guy complains to his boss, posing as chef, that the meat is raw to which Milo replies “Your dick is raw,” and continues on about his day. It’s just so comical – and it works. There are bits to make you laugh out loud in the previous two films, but this one actually made me laugh really hard a few times. Amongst all the grim realities of the Copenhagen drug trade Refn shows us, he also gives up some great comedy; albeit, dark comedy, once you factor in the world we inhabit while laughing at the jokes. It all works together. While we know Milo is a drug pushing murderer by the end of the film (if we somehow hadn’t already) there is still a part of us sympathetic to his situation, as we spend the entire running time essentially watching him try and try again only to fail and fail some more. The funny bits and the dark comedy Refn works in helps not to alleviate the heavy tone of the film, but to make it feel real – Milo feels like a real man. He isn’t a fake caricature of a druglord in the slums of Copenhagen. He comes across as a real man; caught between his terrible life choices and the fact life must go on. Watching him struggle between business and preparing for his daughter’s party, you really feel for him. Even if you know he is truly a terrible human being because of the sleazy world he lives in.
One of the best and funniest moments is once a guy who works for Milo seems to get really sick. Of course Milo does not want to admit it, but it’s clearly his cooking that did the job on his man. As they’re about to leave and head out to take care of some things, the guy shits his pants. Milo keeps calling him an idiot, and the guy yells back that it was his cooking. It’s so funny because any other film it might come off as hammy and silly, but here it is super real, and while funny it comes off naturally. Other movies might use this moment as a gag. Here, it’s just another problem for Milo to add to the plate (pardon the terrible pun).
pusher34All that being said, Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death is titled so for a reason. For all the black comedy in the script, there is still a fiendish evil lurking behind the story. Milo, while sympathetic in some lights, is above all a killer. Later in the film, we see Milo call upon his former enforcer Radovan (Slavko Labovic) to help him deal with some of the business which has reared its head on, of all days, his daughter’s birthday. It’s interesting because Radovan appears to have gotten out of the life, as he mentioned to Frank (Kim Bodnia) in the first Pusher film. He is no longer a bad guy. Or so it seems. This perception quickly changes once Radovan falls back into his old ways and the old profession. There’s one scene where Milo and Radovan are getting into very heavy, very wet, work, and though it’s brief there are some moments of pure terror in those shots.
Also, Radovan’s presence is sort of a foreshadowing in some sense. While Milo is attempting to change his life in regards to his drug habit, the fact Radovan falls so easily, and quickly, back into the old life he seemingly gave up makes Milo’s try at kicking his habit almost futile. It just goes to show these Pusher films are not defined as being genre movies – they are absolutely more than that. Not that there’s anything wrong with genre movies. They’re wonderful. But these movies, especially this third instalment in my opinion, go beyond simple definitions. There is more to them than simply drugs and crime.
The film itself is another 5 star rating. I love each of these films in the trilogy. Apparently, before the guy who played Little Mohammed actually went to jail there were supposed to be plans for a fourth film focusing on his character. These three were so great I do wish Refn could’ve gone and done that. Perhaps it would’ve been overkill. But judging by the trilogy as is, there could have been another great film. Regardless, Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death is the best as a character study out of the three films. They really get better with each film. I love Milo as a character, and I’m super happy Refn explored him more in this finale of the trilogy. There is a lot of crazy stuff going on, and I really enjoy this one more and more with every viewing.
1qd0xats6jhqha6tThe DVD release is, once again, proper and on point. Again, there is commentary with Refn, and I always love it. Very enjoyable to hear him talk about film, and his films specifically. There is another featurette titled “Street Casting”. However, the one I enjoy most is the featurette called “Cooking with Milo” – there’s a whole 50-minute feature with Milo, and some other kitchen hands, where we watch him and others cook a few of the dishes he was cooking throughout the Pusher films, such as sarma, and more treats. This is really awesome. Zlatko Buric jokes around a bunch. It’s fun to see him half in-half out of the Milo persona. He seems, aside from the psychopathic madness of Milo, a lot like the character – he’s charismatic, he laughs and jokes, and seems to have a lot of fun with whatever he’s doing. Really enjoyable. Of course he lights up a few smokes, talks about Denmark in reality as opposed to Refn’s vision of Copenhagen, and has a couple glasses of wine, too. A great time, and worth spending the 50 minutes to watch.
This is my favourite of the three films, honestly. They’re all great, but I feel by the time this third one came around, Refn really had a handle on where he was going with them, both visually and thematically, as well as with the overall tone. There’s also that one running electronic-style theme, dark sounding and ominous, which reoccurs throughout each of the films, and it is present again here. I love it – the whole sound of the scoring really helps remind us at times, if me somehow forget, that we’re in a dangerous and scary world.
Refn has given us one of the best crime trilogies ever made, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been a fan of his from the first time I ever saw the first Pusher. I got this DVD set of the trilogy a few years ago now. I really can’t wait to snatch these up on Blu ray because I bet they look just downright fantastic in high definition; the gritty quality would really come across in a beautiful way, I think. Highly recommend if you’ve seen these movies, even just the first, and enjoyed it, to go out and find this DVD trilogy. Amazing films. Worth every penny. Fun watch from the films themselves to all the exciting and enjoyable special features Magnolia Home Entertainment made sure to include for anyone who loves Pusher as much as I do.

My review of the first Pusher and its sequel, Pusher II: With Blood On My Hands.