“So You’re A Talking Pikachu With No Memories, Who’s Addicted To Caffeine…”
For those who happen fall into my particular age group, the original worldwide boom of Pokémon during the 1990’s was something of which defined an entire generation of die hard fans eager to collect each and every rare trading card, every cutely designed and easily swallowed toy, and for me personally, play their way through absorbing Pokémon contests on many different modes of video game consoles as they developed from the brick-esque solidness of the Nintendo GameBoy to the high-tech, high definition box of tricks which make up the market today. With big screen adaptations of popular video games famously not faring too well with both critics and the box office when released upn eager audiences, recent years have at least attempted to bring some respectability to the transition, with Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft my own particular cinematic saviours, and what we have with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a movie which although is by no means perfect, is most definitely a fan pleasing, visually satisfying solid work of child friendly drama which managed to make me laugh and gasp in awe at the world in which I was treated to, and even for someone with only a basic understanding of the Pokémon universe, was a movie which passed the time rather splendidly.
Directed by Rob Letterman, a filmmaker with a knack for successfully cultivating generic family adventure movies in the ilk of Goosebumps and Gulliver’s Travels, Detective Pikachu boasts not only one screenwriters but four, and whilst nowadays it can be usual practice for a movie to have a whole army of different thoughts being put onto paper, Letterman’s movie undoubtedly suffers as a consequence of such a decision, with the central murder mystery narrative not exactly worth the time or effort come the final revelation in which every left turn greets us with a twist which even the softest of minds can see from around a mile off. Where the film does overwhelmingly succeed however is in the world in which the narrative plays out, with its’ Blade Runner esque, neo-noir futureworld featuring enough neon lights to short circuit most counties whilst beaming with cute Pokémon at every corner which resulted in many of the fellow cinemagoers rightly exclaiming their delight at witnessing their favourite digital characters materialise upon the big screen. With a well designed leading Pikachu featuring the comedic tones of Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 2) and a well meaning, optimistic sensibility, Letterman’s latest is by no means a classic, but with enough positive elements to pass the time nicely, Detective Pikachu is another step in the right direction for big screen video game adaptations.
Overall Score: 6/10
“She’s An Enigma My Wife. You Can Get Close To Her, But You Never Quite Reach Her…”
Directed by Paul Feig, the American filmmaker behind the all female led reboot of the woefully unsuccessful Ghostbusters and the mildly entertaining action comedy Spy from 2016 and 2015 respectively, A Simple Favor, based on the 2017 debut novel of the same name from American author, Darcey Belle, sees Feig turn to the “dark side”, a self proclaimed statement of intent plastered within the film’s thoroughly intriguing trailer which sees Anna Kendrick’s (Table 19) Stephanie attempt to unravel the mystery of Blake Lively’s (Age of Adaline) Emily’s recent disappearance. Based on a screenplay from Nerve screenwriter, Jessica Sharzer, A Simple Favor is a strange beast, a film which on the one hand attempts to emulate the domesticated mysterious oddity of David Fincher’s wonderfully dark Gone Girl, and on the other, an Ira Levin-esque centralisation in which everything on the surface appears cosy and calm yet underneath, is riddled with secrets and lies, and whilst the key mystery of the film’s narrative begins well with enough room to flourish if handled correctly, the end product is ultimately produced in a manner way too convoluted and preposterous to be regarded as anywhere near the excellence of the many films Feig’s latest evokes.
Whilst it is fair to say that the increasingly agitating figure of Anna Kendrick in recent times has always left me loathing her acting ability more and more with every new release in which she inevitably sucks, with Table 19 being the key text of a film in which death by torture undoubtedly seems more rewarding, what a relief that when under the direction of Feig, a director who does manage to get the best out of his performers no matter the final product, (see Kate McKinnon circa Ghostbusters for example) Kendrick does manage to flourish and arguably gives the best performance of her career so far. Add into the mix the ever radiant Blake Lively, her knowingly ripe and hilarious portrayal of a walking ambiguity manages to work perfectly in tandem with her co-star, resulting in a healthy amount of hearty belly laughs which always seem so spare in American comedies of a similar ilk, and whilst the second half of the movie in which the core mystery unravels to an annoyingly predictable end does ultimately dive-bomb the overall appeal of the feature, A Simple Favor is throwaway, good-natured fluff which puts Kendrick back into my own personal acting guild good-books.
Overall Score: 6/10
“I Love You So Much Leo, But You Don’t Know Me…”
Engaging with and including myself within the small minority who can actually stand up proudly and state that 2016’s Warcraft was actually better than most critics gave the movie credit for, Duncan Jones’ career has drifted from contemplative low-budget success story (Moon) to big budget science fiction spectacular (Source Code) in a reasonably swift amount of time, and with the release of Mute this week as the latest Netflix original after years of development hell, Jones’ long-term project, one deemed as the “spiritual sequel” to 2009’s Moon, is finally brought to life, if only on the small screen. Following Alexander Skarsgård’s (The Legend of Tarzan) Leo, the titular mute barkeep who attempts to solve the mystery of Seyneb Saleh’s Naadirah’s sudden disapearance within the heart of a future-world Berlin, Jones’ latest is unfortunately a cliched and utterly soulless Blade Runner rip-off, one which attempts to sew together a noir-esque primary plot thread amidst stereotypical Russian gangsters, The Fifth Element style campness and eerily ill-judged set pieces which are as ridiculous as they are jaw-droppingly stupid, resulting in Mute conforming to the fate of The Cloverfield Paradox by being yet another Netflix funded let down.
With Sally Hawkins managing to convey both rigorous emotion and heartwarming depth to a character of similar ilk in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, the inclusion of Skarsgård’s Leo, the speech-free central character of the piece, is somewhat gimmicky and undeniably underwritten, with Hawkins’ character necessary in furthering the audience’s understanding of the relationship between herself and Doug Jones’ aquatic monster, a level of narrative depth which is completely absent from the entirety of Jones’ screenplay, resulting in Skarsgård’s performance coming off as nothing more than a growling, angst-ridden puppet which is used to facilitate the furthering of plot when necessary. Whilst the opening forty five minutes of the piece is somewhat interesting, even with a heavy handed dose of exposition which explains absolutely everything in a excruciatingly painful paint-by-numbers fashion, the film really turns after a showdown between Leo and Dominic Monaghan’s sex facilitator on a bed next to a staggeringly imaginative pleasure doll which resulted in one of the biggest unintentional laughs I will have this year, and with the emergence of the similarly awful Paul Rudd (Ant Man) as the least threatening villain of the year so far and Justin Theroux’s (Mulholland Drive) overly misjudged paedophilic sidekick, Mute turns overly wacky and staggeringly dull rather quickly and with a conclusion which doesn’t entirely make up for the wait, Jones’ latest is annoyingly his weakest work to date, and for a project which took more than a decade to bring to the screen, one could have argued it should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
Overall Score: 4/10
“I Think I’ve Made A Terrible Mistake…”
Chosen as Russia’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony, director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s (Leviathon) stark and overly moody latest, Loveless, may be a particularly difficult picture to try and seek out thanks to an incredibly limited release, and whilst icy cold Russian mysteries aren’t exactly the type of movies audiences tend to rush and out and catch as quickly as humanly possible, Zvyagintsev’s latest is an interesting tale of extreme familial breakdowns and a depressing vista of Russia society, one which is helmed together by a central narrative regarding the disappearance of a young, seemingly unloved child and a movie that definitely deserves to be sought out. With a staggering plot pace and a claustrophobic overarching sensibility which not only takes its’ time setting the pieces of the narrative chess board in place but may seem too tough to handle for wandering minds, Loveless is an uncompromisingly depressive tragedy which fails to enforce even the smallest amount of redemption, but for those who can withstand the harshness of its’ winds, Zvyagintsev’s latest is an impressive, overly mysterious achievement.
With the first hour detailing in harsh detail the toxic relationship between Maryana Spivak’s Zhenya and Aleksey Rozin’s Boris as they both attempt to conclude an ongoing divorce and build fresh lives away from one another with new partners, Matvey Novikov’s Alexey is the isolated child in the middle, whose decision to abandon both mother and father sets up a second hour in which the picture switches from an uncompromising domesticated drama to a Scandi-esque thriller of ambiguous and uncertain temperament, bringing to mind in more ways than one the brilliance of The Killing (The Swedish one, not the American re-hash) and the ice-cold atmosphere of Let The Right One In. Portraying a society in which the birth of a child is met with disdain in favour of flavoursome trips of winding romance with new lovers and uninterested public services in which authorities are forced to act through procedure rather than through willingness, Zvyagintsev’s portrayal of modern Russia is unflinchingly negative, and with a conclusion which only serves as a reminder of the stark reality of consequence, Loveless is a sucker punch of a movie, one which leaves you gasping for the cheery horizons and one that even with obvious pacing flaws, keeps you thinking about it for days afterwards.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Here We Are, Again..!”
Based upon the 1994 novel “Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem” by English author Peter Ackroyd, American director Juan Carlos Medina hits the big time this week after a string of independent, low-key releases with The Limehouse Golem, a British murdery mystery featuring the enigmatic figure of Bill Nighy in the leading role of Inspector John Kildare and a supporting cast which features the ever-reliable figures of Olivia Cooke, Daniel Mays and Eddie Marsan. Adapted from novel to screen by writer Jane Goldman, whose previous successes include Kick-Ass and the jet-black gothic horror of the worlds scariest 12A rated movie, The Woman In Black, Medina’s movie is unfortunately a slog of predictability, one which forces through style over substance and shock tactics over story, resulting in a televisual murder mystery which ultimately feels rather too silly to be taken seriously even with some eye-catching performances from its’ leading cast and effective gritty, murky cinematography from the film’s DP.
Put onto the case of the “Limehouse Golem” after a string of grisly, violent murders in Victorian-era London, Bill Nighy’s Inspector Kildare’s high profile history and attachment to former stage actor Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) is placed onto the local spotlight. With Cree on trial for the supposed murder of her husband, Kildare balances his attempt to prove her innocence along with revealing the identity of the crowd-pleasing vicious killer, one who has striked both fear and excitement from the bloodthirsty London audience. With the violence ridiculous, the dialogue cliched and the final twist so obvious even a half-asleep audience would have got there eventually, The Limehouse Golem doesn’t quite manage to live up to the retro, murder thriller vibe it so obviously wants to excrete on-screen, and whilst Nighy, Cooke and Douglas Booth give it their best go, Medina’s big-screen debut is B-movie fluff of which memorability isn’t exactly its’ leading trait.
Overall Score: 5/10
“Out Here, You Either Survive Or You Surrender…”
Although first brought to my attention as the short lived Deputy Hale in FX’s Sons of Anarchy, Taylor Sheridan has effectively reinvented himself as one of the most effective and reliable scriptwriters Hollywood has to offer over the course of just two years, with the Denis Villeneuve directed Sicario and last year’s ballsy heist drama Hell or High Water, two of the most hard edged, grit fuelled thrillers to brace the big screen in quite a while, and too films which although featured extensive action set pieces and white-knuckle levels of tension, understood that in order to make a film of such an ilk be more than just surface, development and characterisation of the leading players is ultimately key and the true basis of any decent film’s narrative. Whether it be the battle between morality and revenge in the likes of Sicario or the double-edged sword of family and justice in Hell or High Water, Sheridan’s writing has so far always brilliantly balanced audience-pleasing drama with enough substance to make them much more than your average run-of-the-mill crime tale. Taking the jump this week onto directorial as well as scriptwriting duties, Sheridan’s latest release comes in the form of Wind River, a Scandi-inflicted crime drama set in the heart of the titular Indian Reservation in Wyoming, U.S, and a film which continues rather enjoyably the success rate of Sheridan, a filmmaker who is starting to earn a reputation as an auteur of modern day crime drama.
After the body of a deceased 18 year old female is found by local Wildlife Sevice Agent, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) in the scarce, bitter landscapes of the snow-covered plains of Wyoming, rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is flown in to assist with the investigation in order to establish both a cause of death and whether a murderer is hiding within the vicious cold of the out-dated, unforgiving mountainous American state. Akin more to the likes of Hell or High Water than Sicario, Wind River is once again the character driven drama audiences have come to expect from the writings of Sheridan, and whilst there is indeed explosive action set pieces and a frighteningly executed concluding chapter, the film spends most of its’ time layering substance upon substance on the key players within the base of the narrative, particularly Renner’s Lambert, a practical, unflinching hunter who through a past trauma has more reason than most to attempt to solve the mystery which unravels trepidatiously throughout the course of the movie. With sweeping cinematography from DP Ben Richardson and a haunting, whispering score from Nick Cave, Wind River is the most low-key of the Sheridan back-catalogue to date, but with sparking leading performances and a nail-biting final movement, Sheridan’s latest is an absorbing, brilliantly written crime thriller. Who would expect anything less?
Overall Score: 8/10
“I Want To Know What I’m Involved With…”
In the IMDB trivia page for Inferno, the wildly unwanted continuation of Ron Howard’s big screen adaptations of Dan Brown’s ridiculously popular string of novels, one of the most interesting facts was that during production the film was hidden under the code-name “Headache” due in part perhaps to the constant concussion that professor of symbology Robert Langdon apparently suffers from throughout most of the film’s bloated 120 minute run-time, yet in my own personal opinion, the “headache” in question can only relate to one thing; the effect the film has on those who bear to see it. Not only is Inferno one of the most painfully boring films I can remember seeing in a long, long while, with recurrent fidgeting and patches of drowsiness inevitably resulting in short yet effective cat naps, my experience of watching Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones run amok across Europe in order to locate their next museum-infested clue was indeed one of utter horror, one which will not escape my memory quickly, unlike the bland and completely ludicrous story which encompasses Inferno.
Where other films this year, particularly the woeful array of summer blockbusters, have suffered from fundamental issues of awful storytelling, Inferno takes such a core element of film-making and throws it into one of the rings of hell, with not one moment of dramatic tension or effective storytelling giving the movie the right to command its’ shockingly long two-hour runtime, a runtime which feels almost twice as long due to the filmmakers decision to create dull, two-dimensional characters who are hell bent on running from museum to museum in order to find the titular “Inferno”, a deadly disease created by Ben Foster’s kooky radicalist, Bertrand Zobrist, who believes the only way to sustain humanity is basically to destroy it, a plot line left over from Utopia anyhow, and a plot line which results in the said disease being carried inside a jiffy bag which floats harmlessly within the Basilica Cistern. No, I’m not kidding.
With a twist as obvious as the “radical” twist-ending in this year’s Morgan, which although I’d fallen asleep already to really understand what it all meant, still managed to annoy me to the extent I thought falling asleep might make it better, and an ending what verges on the edge of cheesy, cliche-ridden claptrap, Ron Howard has succeeded in creating a true stinker of a movie, one in which not only the audience will be bored of ten minutes in, but has even effected the actors on-screen with Tom Hanks seemingly passing the time in order to pick up the cheque and ride out his mistake of signing on for three Dan Brown-based movies, and whilst Felicity Jones at least brings some sense of kooky campness during the second half of the movie, you can’t help but feel she would rather be back on the set of Rogue One as fast as possible. Inferno isn’t the worst film of the year, but it is definitely the most boring cinematic achievement I can remember in recent years. And remember, I’ve seen The Cobbler.
Overall Score: 3/10
“What Happened That Night In The Tunnel?”
Much like the unreliable UK train service in out current state of affairs, this review comes somewhat a little late to proceedings in contrast to our usual disciplined services, due in part to my reluctance at seeing the big screen adaptation of The Girl on the Train, the ridiculously popular novel published last year and written by author Paula Hawkins, a novel in which I came to thinking it was something completely different, a novel which was indeed gripping in places but ultimately felt like a jumped up Midsummer Murders with an added slice of spice in order to fit in with the literary era of a novel such as Fifty Shades of Grey. Although book reviews aren’t a speciality of Black Ribbon just yet, Tate Taylor’s cinematic adaptation was somewhat something of a mystery on the face of it. Coming to the movie being well aware of the plot, it could have been an utter bore, yet with a cast that boasts pedigree left, right and centre, The Girl on the Train isn’t exactly remarkable, it’s just straightforwardly solid, featuring a stand out performance from Emily Blunt and sticking so close to the source material of which had the inherent problems the film contracts onto the big screen.
Where the film succeeds is in the casting of Blunt in the lead role of Rachel, who takes to the challenge of giving her all to the max, swaying in a drunken mess throughout most of the movie, unaware of her actions and the consequences that are the cornerstone of the movies’ mystery, whilst The Magnificent Seven’s Haley Bennett also deserves a mention for the conflicted Megan Hipwell. Aside from the movies’ two leading ladies, The Girl on the Train features a rafter of one-dimensional male characters, with Luke Evans and Justin Theroux being portrayed as sex/power hungry misogynist pigs, a cold portrayal of humanity in a film similarly cold and lifeless without much dramatic effect to keep it entertaining. Aside from characterisation, The Girl on the Train suffers from having the same problem as the novel; it’s just not that groundbreaking. Sure, as a two-part ITV drama it may have succeeded, yet on the big screen, Tate Taylor’s latest isn’t anything apart from good and for a film with such a cast list, I expected more.
Overall Score: 6/10
Loved from an early age, Quentin Tarantino has no doubt had a astronomical effect on the early stages of my cinematic knowledge with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and to an extent, his work elsewhere on True Romance and everyone’s favourite guilty pleasure, From Dusk Till Dawn, being early examples of a somewhat unhealthy obsession which over the years has strangely subsided due perhaps to my ever-increasing age or Tarantino’s failure at creating something that topples the magnum opus of his early, and better, work. Reuniting with actors such as Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and of course, Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight suggested somewhat a return to Tarantino of old, whereby nostalgia and almost cringe-worthy attempts to reassert Tarantino’s love for cinema of the past would be discarded in place of a film that is in fact, wonderful. Staying away from trailers and fast-tracked reviews in the build-up to its’ release, the experience of watching The Hateful Eight was similar to that of watching your dad attempting to dance at a wedding, where although some parts are cringe-worthy and incredibly misjudged, on the whole you are quite amazed and taken aback, with Tarantino’s latest being a weird mixture of thrills, spills and blood, lots of blood.
After a series of fortunate events lead to an array of characters being bundled in to a place of shelter away from the snowy storm of a time soon after the American Civil War, tensions soon begin to mount regarding the real intentions behind many of the occupants who may indeed may not be who they say the are. In the middle of such is Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, a.k.a “The Bounty Hunter”, a man whose intentions mirror that of Kurt Russel’s John Ruth, a.k.a “The Hangman” who is escorting the captured criminal Daisy Domergue to Red Rock in order to face swift and meaningful justice, yet their forced stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery leads to a turn events seemingly based around the captive Domergue whose real identity is equally ambiguous as the rest of the occupants within the stagecoach lodge. Following in light of its’ title, The Hateful Eight does indeed feature a rafter of characters all hell bent on being more vile and unlikable as the next, with both Warren and Ruth being violent, notorious bounty hunters whilst Domergue being completely unparalleled in her disgusting nature, all the while being beaten, strangled and flayed in blood over the course of the movie. With such characters at the heart of the film, it is indeed hard to engage emotionally with any of them, resulting in a strange situation similar to that of Pulp Fiction whereby although most of the people portrayed on-screen are inherently bad, it doesn’t stop from them being rooted for in some sense, with the character of Warren being my personal choice throughout most of the film even when told of his downright disturbing history as a bounty hunter and killer.
In terms of the film’s successes, the movies’ cinematography, direction, and score all deserve a sincere amount of applause, particular the former and the latter, with the swerving scenic scale of the mountainous surroundings being a beauty to behold and then brought right back down to earth within the confines of the cabin, boosting the tense atmosphere that takes note from Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs rather too obviously, whilst the return of Ennio Morricone also marks the best score within a Tarantino film since Kill Bill: Vol 1 and should indeed reward him with yet another Oscar. Positive too is the acting trio of Jackson, Russel and Leigh who combine to become the standout performances, whilst the utterly stupid amount of violence that resonates within the film is not only ridiculously enjoyable but taints the film with Tarantino’s lust for a sense of exploitation he has always seemingly been after since the days of Pulp Fiction, which although may not be for everyone, added to the film’s overall sense of fun and B-Movie grandness.
Where the film is ultimately knocked by any chance of gaining full marks is its’ ridiculous need for a strong-willed editor to come in and say, “look Quentin, can we lose at least half an hour of the film?”, particularly in the first act in which the endless waves of dialogue start to become tedious and un-engaging, something of which I kind of expected when seeing its’ eye-popping runtime, whilst the inclusion of a nonsensical voice-over by Tarantino himself, the pantomime performance of Roth’s attempt as an Englishman, up to the final act, and a borderline racist, cliched inclusion of the character of Bob, a.k.a “The Mexican”, result in The Hateful Eight being a few steps away from the masterpiece many have proclaimed it to be. Highly enjoyable but with rather too many obvious flaws, The Hateful Eight is a strong return for Tarantino yet continues my willingness to see another masterpiece in line with his better and bolder earlier work.
Dan’s Score: 8/10
As you’ve probably noticed, Dan is a big fan of Tarantino. Myself however, not so much. I watched Pulp Fiction many years ago and honestly didn’t pay much attention to it as I had other things to be doing and seeing snippets of crude, over the top violence didn’t really do it for me. It felt like he was always trying too hard to be edgy and I couldn’t stand it. Until Django came. Django was the film that peaked my interest. A topic that’s typically trodden delicately around was attacked with brutal honesty, a western flair and little discretion. It’s cast were huge, it’s acting was on Oscar worthy and the music still livens up my commutes 4 years on! You’d suspect those 4 years to reward those patiently waiting with something as equally delectable but I can’t say I’m impressed. Dan and I have seen two variations of the film. For some reason, somewhere along the line, something was cut out which equated roughly 6 minutes less for Dan’s viewing alongside no interval break while I was “treated” to the original cut. So, what was this space filled with and why? We don’t quite know. It certainly wasn’t the excruciating “Chapter” breaks throughout that took your immersion and used it to floss and spitting you break a dribbled mess. Perhaps it was the rolling credits at the very beginning of the film that informs you of an actor that you spend the majority of the time waiting for to pop out of the woodwork while you watch a horse drawn cart get pulled through the snow several miles away. We don’t quite know.
My Mum and Dad always taught me not to play with my food so lets be frank. Its OKAY. That’s it. Sure, the filming is gorgeous and the scenery locations are real pretty to look at and all but you can’t polish a turd. While Django pulled no punches and its actors were on top of their game, The Hateful Eight swung and missed. Samuel L Jackson is back to his usual self as there is a fair bit of consistency with him. Tim Roth however is a completely different kettle of poison. I liked him in Lie To Me and hated him in that one Hulk flick that no-one talks about. The stereotypical British accent was god awful. Its almost laughable until you realise that this isn’t a comedy. The stereotypes all the way through are painful and feel like more of a joke than actual characters. Even more so when you consider that Tarantino actually tried to develop some of these characters. Instead he just gave up and insulted them all by making them utterly annoying and dull as doorknobs. Does the story pull it together, Pete? I don’t feel it does. As I mentioned previously, you are waiting for a certain actor to appear who is the catalyst to the whole situation and that really ruins any sort of surprise. Now as a premise, the story could be great. Eight bounty hunters locked up in a blizzard with one prisoner with a huge bounty on their head. But logic defies these guys. Everything is coincidental and was actually rather lacklustre in execution that bored me for the majority of the time.
Rather than drag on for too much longer, I’d like to note a few more things. The violence, while excessive was alright, the effects for it were fairly lacking and with The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero involved, I expected a higher quality of visual gore. I also expected a lot more from the soundtrack. John Legend’s “Who did that to you?” is a common tune for my playlist and Rick Ross’ “100 Black Coffins” joins that also but I’ve got nothing from this. The songs mirrored the movie incredibly well while Hateful Eight’s soundtrack merely blended into the background. I don’t feel that the Hateful Eight was a film for the consumer. It was no where near complete and didn’t have the pizazz needed to contend with its big, badass brother. Tarantino has been noted over the years talking about wanting to make a western film and it seems he’s probably riding that wave and letting the marketing sell the product no matter what. So overall what do we have – An exceptionally long experience which left me with nothing more to say than, “Meh.”
Pete’s Score – 6/10
Overall Score: 7/10
A Truer Detective?
This week brought an end to the second season of Nic Pizzolatto’s highly addictive crime sage True Detective, a show that this year has been rife with criticism and finger-pointing with many arguing that aside from being wholly unsubstantial to its’ predecessor, it has also been an utter disaster with many being critical of its over-elaborate plot, cliched characters, and the ability of lead-writer Pizzolatto who has come under much scrutiny for this season’s attempt to diverge from the occult-ridden themes of the first and move into a noir-fueled epic, featuring a bundle of new characters and a range of different plot threads in order to make up its’ eight episode run. In terms of my own personal viewpoint on this season of True Detective, I am seemingly one of the few in believing that this series offered the opportunity for Pizzolatto to expand his horizons in regards to what can be achieved with such a format that True Detective holds, resulting in a season that yes, did have a wide range of flaws and weaknesses, but was also highly enjoyable with moments of sheer greatness which distinguished itself from anything else on TV at this particular moment of time. And I salute it.
In a rather ironic sort of way, “Omega Station”, the concluding episode of this years’ series, pretty much epitomised everything that True Detective stood for this time around, with the beautiful cinematography, including the wonderful overhead shots of California’s vast landscape, and heart-pounding scenes of tension, particularly in regards to Velcoro’s tragic last stand, being the highlights of the episode. These particular highlights were traits that although were absent slightly from the first three episodes of the series in which time seemed to go rather slowly with not much actually happening in regards to the overall plot, came to form the basis of the second half of the series in which the story finally managed to take a step forward, resulting in the last three episodes of the series being undoubtedly the best in a string of episodes that began with a drag yet concluded with an almighty band. And what a bang it was. If Frank and Ray’s raid on Agranov’s cash deal wasn’t thrilling enough, “Omega Station” left us with a range of memorable scenes, ranging from Velcoro’s redemption to Semyon’s hallucinatory last-breath, something of which was straight out of the Lynch-school for dramatic weirdness.
In typical noir-esque fashion, the fate of our three heroes in this years’ season, as well as Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon, was rather depressing to say the least, with only Rachel McAdam’s Ana Bezzerides coming out alive, albeit on-the-run from the corrupt power structure that has overtaken our beloved heroes’ home, following the now-famous Game of Thrones policy that sometimes that bad guys have to win. In regards to out main band of heroes, it was obvious that Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro was indeed the most interesting of the bunch, with Farrell’s acting being on top-notch from the start, whilst Vince Vaughn must also take credit for embodying a role which so easily could have gone majorly wrong due to Vaughn’s capacity for cringe-worthy comedic acting, yet ended up being one of the better points of this years’ season resulting in a true sense of redemption for an actor so easily laughed at for his involvement in a string of rather questionable movies more recently. So, where did it all go wrong? In my own opinion, most of the backlash in regards to this years’ series simply came from people jumping on the True Detective-bashing bandwagon, with it seemingly being hip and cool to add to the growing list of haters for this years series, whilst many simply couldn’t deal with the fact that this years’ series was nothing at all like the first, something of which I was impressed by, with this season offering a truer and more down-to-earth take on the crime genre than the occult-ridden themes of the first.
But in all my fondness for the series, there were noticeable weaknesses and missteps, no more so than the ear-gratingly bad dialogue that our characters spoke at particular moments of the season, with our heroes’ hatred of E-Cigarettes being a personal favourite whilst Semyon’s attempt at being his own personal Gandhi with cringe-worthy anecdotes and “inspirational” speeches being draining at times, highlighting that perhaps all the critical praise Pizzolatto received first time around slightly going to his head. Also on the weaker side was the rather messy plot lines that although were rather hard to follow at times, also resulted in a sense of hollowness during the revelation of Caspere’s true murderer, which, in the end, was wholly anti-climatic and had only a slight relevance to the messy plot lines regarding corrupt police officers and business officials which Pizzolatto felt compelled to tell us about. But hey ho, I’d rather watch a series with flaws and weaknesses than anything else if that particular series has as much entertainment value as True Detective undoubtedly has. At the end of the day, Nic Pizzolatto’s crime sage may not have been for everyone this time around, but for me it was wholly refreshing and gave me a reason to wake up early on a Monday morning, and for those reasons alone I am going to miss it. I can only hope for Season Three this time next year.
Episode Score: 9/10