Happy last Tuesday of the year folks! Hope you had a lovely Christmas break. Mine is relatively mellow on Christmas day, though we did go up North to Duluth Friday and spent the night there to see the Bentleyville Tour of Lights (I’ve shared the pics here).
We came back in time for Christmas Eve church service, which was wonderful. For the next couple of days, we pretty much hibernated indoors as the weather is quite frightful outside. But hey, it gave us a chance to finally watch a Christmas classic we’ve missed all these years…
Thanks to Courtney’s post on her favorite things about Scrooged, I thought it’s about time I checked it out. My hubby and I loved Bill Murray and the movie is directed by Richard Donner, who I’ll love forever for giving us Superman: The Movie. Well, the updated Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas staple and it’s easy to see why. Murray is perfect as a selfish, heartless TV exec, he’s just effortlessly funny and the slapstick stuff was hysterical. Nice to see Karen Allen here too though she’s barely given anything to do. The movie itself isn’t exactly perfect but still it was a lot of fun and has that rousing ending with great music. Glad I finally saw this movie, a Christmas must-see movie I can now cross off my list.
If you were to ask me to sum up what I did on Christmas weekend… it’d be bingeing on Westworld! My hubby and I couldn’t wait to finally have time to devote to this series, and I much prefer to binge on tv shows these days, and having a free subscription to HBO on the first month certainly helps! It took us two days to get through halfway of the first season, with just five more episodes to go.
Well, first impression is… we LOVE it!! It’s definitely the kind of sci-fi shows we like… bold, visually-stunning, thought-provoking, well-written and well-acted… it pretty much ticks all the boxes of what a binge-worthy show should be. It reminds us a bit of another sci-fi we used to binge-watch, Battlestar Galactica, an ensemble-cast series which also deals with the interactions of humans and robots but I think Westworld is even bolder and sharper in scope. I love that the show is not melodramatic or bogged down by unnecessary romantic plots, but man does it give you a ton of stuff to think about. It’s what people call a mindf*ck in the best possible way! The cast are simply astounding and most of them bring their A-game to the series. If I had to list my four favorite characters, it’d have to be these:
… Anthony Hopkins effortlessly adds gravitas as the park creator, whilst Ed Harris is wonderfully menacing and cool as hell as Man in Black. He’s such a terrific actor, and he adds SO much to his role. I can see why Margaret goes ga ga over him now 😉 I haven’t seen Evan Rachel Wood in hardly anything, but she’s no doubt the heart of the show and her acting is phenomenal!! I sure hope this show will give a boost to her career as she’s clearly very talented. As for Thandie Newton, this is perhaps the strongest performance I’ve seen her in, though she was memorable in Crash and Rocknrolla.
I’m also impressed with James Marsden who I think is an underrated actor who people might not take seriously because of his good looks. Well he’s still a sight to behold here as the cowboy Teddy, but at least he gets to show his acting chops too. I’m most intrigued by Jeffrey Wright‘s Bernard, as he seems to have a hidden agenda that’s been hinted out since episode 1. But please guys, NO SPOILERS in the comment as I’ve only got to episode 5. My hubby and I couldn’t help watching fan theories on youtube after each episode, there’s really SO MUCH to ponder and analyze, that’s why we’re limiting ourselves to a couple of episodes a day even though we can’t get enough!
The Nolans sure have the brains for storytelling. Jonathan Nolan‘s written a ton of my fave films with his brother Christopher (esp. The Dark Knight). Here he teamed up with his wife Lisa Joy who’s a talented TV writer in her own right. Executive producer JJ Abrams sure has a midas touch too, is there anything that guy can’t do?? I might also check out Michael Crichton‘s 1973 film Westworld in which the series’s concept is based on. I had no idea Crichton was also a film director on top of being a best-selling author.
Well, I’ll do another summary post again once I’m done w/ the season. So far I think Westworld does live up to the hype!
So what did you watch this Christmas weekend? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Westworld too!
Happy Wednesday everyone! Are y’all watching the Olympics? I missed the opening ceremony so I only caught up w/ some clips on Flipboard. I did watch the Men’s 100m backstroke as Minnesotan David Plummer, a swim coach who’s perhaps one of the oldest at 30, won Bronze. Woo hoo!
A couple of Suicide Squad-related posts: Margaret lamented on the lack of Jared Leto’s Joker’s scenes, among others, whilst Jordan actually had some praises for the movie.
Jia posted a Blindspot review on one of my favorite modern noir thrillers, L.A. Confidential
Jay reviewed a movie I missed at the theaters, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I can’t wait to rent as soon as it’s available.
I hadn’t reviewed Spielberg’s The BFG yet, but it seems Mark liked the movie more than I did, whilst Zöe pretty much agreed with me in regards to Jason Bourne.
I enjoy reading ranking lists! Keith just ranked the Marvel movies from worst to first ( I LOVE his #1 pick!)
This is a movie which trailer intrigued me… Dan reviewed Indignation
Last but not least, Cindy shared some great book recommendations.
Ok, we’ve still got a couple of months to wait yet for this upcoming series, but man, everything about this upcoming series looks really good!
A series inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton about a futuristic theme park populated by artificial beings.
Now, I’ve never seen the original series with Yul Brynner, but the idea of a western sci-fi instantly intrigues me. Ok now it doesn’t always work, as in the case of Cowboys & Aliens, but we’ve got quite a pedigree in terms of its creator.
I love that it’s a husband/wife team behind this series remake: Jonathan Nolan and fellow screenwriter Lisa Joy Nolan. Oh, and JJ Abrams also serves as executive producer along with the Nolans. Check out the trailer:
Here’s just a sampling of the impressive ensemble cast:
Evan Rachel Wood
The 10-episode season 1 will premiere on HBO on Sunday, October 2 at 9 p.m. I can hardly wait! ///
As Game of Thrones‘ fans are waiting for season 7 with bated breath, its author George R.R. Martin has long set his sights elsewhere. He just may have another sprawling fantasy world on television, according to Variety.
Universal Cable (same studio behind Mr. Robot that I’m currently watching) has purchased the rights for Martin’s work. The first volume in the book series was published in 1986, with 22 volumes released to date.
Here’s the premise:
“…the shared world of the Wild Cards diverged from our own on September 15, 1946 when an alien virus was released in the skies over Manhattan, and spread across an unsuspecting Earth. Of those infected, 90% died horribly, drawing the black queen, 9% were twisted and deformed into jokers, while a lucky 1% became blessed with extraordinary and unpredictable powers and became aces. The world was never the same.”
I quite like the sound of this, so I’ll keep an eye on this project. Surely plenty of actors are salivating to be cast in this.
Hello folks, happy almost Friday! I’m going to see Steven Spielberg’s BFG later this evening, though I have to admit I wasn’t really all that excited about it. I sure hope it’s entertaining and not as melodramatic as War Horse.
Today marks an important day for the UK as voting is under way in a historic referendum on whether the UK should leave or remain a member of the EU. I’ve been reading a ton about it and I’m really curious to see the outcome as the result of this Brexit ballot will certainly reach beyond Europe. It’s kind of a coincidence (or not?) that I’ve been obsessed lately with a British monarch, more on that at the end of the post.
Ok, let’s get to those links!
Jay talks about child actors, which ones make it and which don’t
Make sure you make a mental note for Cindy‘s July’s Film Club on movies based on books. Glad to see Michael as the special guest next month!
Brittani reviewed Locke, that one-man-show starring the awesome Tom Hardy
One of the Flick Chicks duo Allie reviewed The Hateful Eightwhich she really, really liked
Father’s Day was just last Sunday, and Alex did a great Movie Fathers Quiz to commemorate it
Paul, the loyal admirer of Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan wrote a post about One Fine Day & Addicted to Love
Zöe did a fine character tribute on Walter Bishop from Fringeseries
Nostra confirmed my dread about Independence Day: Resurgence. I was supposed to go to an AM screening on Friday but decided not to bother.
Last but not least, check out Mickey‘s interview with the DOP of Finding Dory, Ian Megibben
Here we go again… I have such an obsessive streak in me and I never know when something struck me. I finally finished The White Queen last Sunday, and for the past three days I’ve been consumed by much-maligned king Richard III. The last time I was obsessing over a deceased real-life character was Ian Curtis after seeing Sam Riley‘s portrayal in Control.
Like most of you, the image I have of the last Plantagenet King is that he’s an evil hunchback, thanks to the villainous Shakespeare portrayal which is more of the Tudors’ propaganda. He’s also often been portrayed as an old man when he actually died at the age of 32. Philippa Gregory‘s The White Queen paints a far more sympathetic portrayal of him, which seems to line up more with the recent discovery of the monarch’s remains back in 2012 at a parking lot of all places. Out of the three York brothers, Richard’s story certainly is the most compelling and he’s become my fave male character in the series.
It doesn’t hurt that in the series, Richard’s played by this terrific Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard with his dramatic eyes and tortured-soul temperament. For once he’s actually closer to the age of the real king when he reigned, give or take a couple of years as Aneurin was about 26 when he filmed TWQ. It’s funny but the first time he appeared on screen I gasped a little as he resembles my dahling Sam a bit with his intense, penetrating gaze. So yeah, I’m crushing a bit on him, but I’ve also become seriously obsessed with the historical character Richard III.
I think I’ve watched pretty much every video I could find on the long-dead monarch on youtube and Netflix, both the historical biographies on him and all the videos about the recent discovery in Leicester, led by another woman named Philippa. Suffice to say, like Philippa Langley, I’ve become a Ricardian now and I’m dying to see a proper Richard III film that is more historically-accurate, though I’d imagine his death scene in the Battle of Bosworth Field would likely be extremely gory to film!
In any case, here’s a preview of the brutal final episode of season 1 that ended the War of the Roses:
And here’s a clip of Richard talking to Elizabeth Woodville (the wonderful Rebecca Ferguson) about the Princes in the Tower, the ultimate cold case that remains unsolved to this day. It made me wish there’s a spin-off series of Richard III with the same cast!
I’m pretty sure Ricardians everywhere are very pleased with Aneurin’s portrayal of Richard III. He’s definitely NOT the physically and mentally crooked monster we’ve been subjected for decades. Apparently back in 2013, Langley wanted actor Richard Armitage (who’s apparently named after the king himself) to portray Richard III (per Scotland’s Herald). I’ve talked about it extensively here three years ago. Now at 44 he’s become too old (and at 6’2″ too tall as well) to play him, but I think it might still work. Heck he’d still look far younger than Lawrence Olivier or Ian McKellen who’s played the character in the past.
I for one would prefer Aneurin reprising the role in the film version. I mean if you look at the facial reconstruction created from the skull remains, he even resembles king Richard a bit.
As the series progressed, I also found myself more drawn to his relationship with the kingmaker’s daughter Anne Neville (Faye Marsay). To say it’s a complicated marriage is putting it mildly. I mean the lines between enemies and friends are often blurred during the War of the Roses, but there’s something so romantic yet tragic in how this particular union is depicted.
It’s funny how a movie/series can get you all excited about learning history, but I’ve always been a fan of the underdogs and there’s not a monarch out there more unfairly portrayed/judged like Richard III. So I’m ordering a few Richard III books and I can’t wait to devour them!
Have you seen ‘The White Queen’? I’m also curious if there’s any screen character(s) you’re currently obsessing over. …
Wish I had been able to see Hamilton whilst I was in NYC before Miranda left. Ah well, I’d love to see it one day!
As for my weekend, I spent most of my time outside as my good friend is in town. So I didn’t see a single movie but on Sunday night, I did watch three episodes of a 2013 series I’ve been wanting to see for some time.
I’m such a sucker for period dramas as you already know, and British royal families are ripe for an engrossing drama filled with royal lust, love, seduction, deception betrayal and murder. I love that the series is female-centered. Told through the perspective of three different, yet equally relentless women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville.
Rebecca Ferguson plays the beautiful Lancastrian commoner Elizabeth, and Janet McTeer played her strong-willed mother Jacquetta. Apparently Tom Cruise chose Ferguson to be his co-star in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation after he saw her in this mini-series. She certainly is versatile, as she seems as fitting in 15th Century England as she does in a modern spy thriller. I’m not too fond of Amanda Hale‘s acting style as Margaret, but Faye Marsay as Anne is quite intriguing. So far though, my faves are Ferguson and McTeer. Those two actresses are the main draw for me to see this series and they certainly outshine the boys.
In the first episode, Elizabeth won the heart of the House of York ‘s young King, Edward IV (Max Irons, yep Jeremy’s hunky son). There’s a bit of a Romeo & Juliet factor here the fact that The House of York and The House of Lancaster are bitter enemies. Edward owed his throne to his cousin, master manipulator Lord Warwick (James Frain) who resented Edward’s choice as it spoiled his own plan for power. It’s a wonderfully-tragic tale of England’s earliest civil war.
The quality of this Starz production is top notch. Beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted, it’s not as violent as the European series BORGIA, but still pretty gritty. Based on British historical novelist Philippa Gregory‘s novel, it’s definitely a must-see for fans of period dramas!
Out of all the men, Frain is the only one who made an impression to me as the scheming ‘Kingmaker.’ He’s a terrific character actor who’s been in so many different films/tv work. Irons is pretty good but he doesn’t quite have the same screen presence as his dad, but perhaps that’s unfair to expect that. David Oakes and Aneurin Barnard played Edward’s brothers George and Richard, respectively, both are easy on the eyes as well, and Barnard resembles my crush Sam Riley so much it’s uncanny!
I’ve only seen three episodes and boy am I hooked! Thankfully there’s only one season so far which I can’t wait to finish it. The sequel, The White Princess, has been green-lit by Starz and is currently in production (per Deadline).
So that’s my weekend recap folks. How about you? Seen anything good?
My hubby and I usually would spend 15-20 minutes just browsing iTunes and Netflix and agonize over what to watch. So we’re sure glad Daredevil Season 2 dropped on Netflix last Friday, as we know what we’ll be bingeing on all weekend. But our extent of ‘binging’ is actually just 3 episodes a day, so we’re only about halfway through season 2 with 7 episodes in, but that’s not bad considering it took us nearly 3 months to finish Jessica Jones!
I don’t usually blog about Netflix stuff but that seems to be the case the past couple of weeks. It’s a coincidence really, but hey, they do churn out quality stuff and this season of Daredevil sure is another winner in my book. As I mentioned in my Jessica Jones‘ post that it took a while for me to warm up to the character and the show. Well, not so w/ Daredevil as the same with season 1, I was immediately hooked. Once one episode ended, we couldn’t wait for another one!
Since I haven’t finished the entire season yet, I’ll just briefly list some of my favorite things about what I’ve seen so far, without revealing any spoiler (if I do, I’ll be sure to warn you).
What I’m liking so far:
The Punisher. Boy, Jon Bernthal‘s casting is just brilliant. There’s a lot of hype about his character but he did NOT disappoint. He fit the character like a glove and he’s the quintessential antihero, someone I sympathize with despite his obvious flaws. I have to say I don’t miss Wilson Fisk at all this season, and in terms of both having a rather tragic past, I think Punisher is far more compelling. At least so far anyways.
I can’t wait to see more of his backstory revealed, which only makes me want to see an entire season on him. That’s saying something given that I’ve never been all that interested in this character before and have skipped all of the cinematic adaptations so far. I’d even watch a movie of The Punisher w/ Jon Bernthal in the role!
I’ve always liked Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) since season 1 but I love her even more this time around. She’s acting like a investigative journalist here, as she gets dragged deeper into about Frank’s story. This girl’s got some chutzpah! I mean she has no superpower but she’d readily walk into things that’d likely get her in trouble. I absolutely admire her and I’m glad to see Karen gets more screen time this season.
The key member of Nelson & Murdock, as well as Matt’s indispensable BFF, is the extremely affable Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). He’s rather underused in first season so I’m thrilled he’s also got more screen time and Henson got a few chances to shine in the role. I love how much he genuinely cares for his BFF and he’s not afraid to get in his face if he thinks Matt’s in over his head (which is quite often). I also love the fact that they utilized his legal training, as well as an admirable oratory skills, to good use. I’m not going to mention which scene, but when you see it, you’d want to stand and clap. Well done Foggy!!
Now, I haven’t decided how I feel about Elodie Young as Elektra Natchios yet at this point. So far her character arc is a rich, spoiled brat who’s pretty persuasive to get men (including Matt) to do her bidding. Well, the French actress certainly fits the femme fatale role well, though at times she seems to try to be too sexy that it’s irritating. I do like the playfulness of her banter with Matt, it actually gives a nice contrast to the unrelentingly-dark storyline of the Punisher.
Of course, Charlie Cox himself is still awesome as the title character. He’s even more comfortable in the role and it’s great to see his character grow and evolve. His concern for Hell’s Kitchen is unmistakable, but he’s a bit more world-weary (naturally so) and still ravaged by guilt. He’s also more careful about getting involved romantically, for fear that he’d mess things up.
And for a show called Daredevil, we expect some awesome fight scenes. The fight scenes between Daredevil and The Punisher sure is a highlight. The rooftop scene between the two are fantastically-done because it isn’t just fight, fight, fight but there’s plenty of conversations between them. I LOVE that Netflix doesn’t skimp on character development. (spoiler alert!) As you would see on ep. 4, Bernthal has one long emotional monologue at the cemetery that’s wonderful to watch.
But Daredevil also got plenty of opportunities beating up goons and hooligans from one episode to the next. The hallway fight scene below is pretty darn cool! I wonder if the director(s) got some inspiration from The Raid movies for this scene in particular.
But as cool as those fight scenes are, without a truly compelling story, I wouldn’t be inclined to keep watching. The morality tale of Daredevil is well-written and the inner conflict of the masked hero is what makes him intriguing to watch. With the arrival of Punisher who’s got his own brand of justice, that moral dilemma is even more palpable. Like Batman, Daredevil is a vigilante who doesn’t believe he has the right to take a life, no matter how bad the crime the villain has committed. The difference is that Daredevil is depicted as being a devout Catholic. Season 2 doesn’t shy away from the faith aspect and whether you agree or not with his views, it’s certainly make for a thought-provoking discussion.
As I’ve just finished episode 7 within an hour I posted this, I think season 2 is just as strong as the first one. At least based on what I’ve seen so far. Interesting that based on Rotten Tomatoes score, season 2 is a step down, and the critics consensus said ‘… the additions of Punisher and Elektra can’t quite fill the void left by Wilson Fisk’ Huh? Ok so maybe so about Elektra, but I definitely LOVE the Punisher character more than Fisk. Heh, that goes to show why I don’t always trust the professional critics.
Anyhoo, can’t wait to catch up w/ the rest of the season. Hopefully I’ll be done by next weekend!
So what did you watch this weekend? If you also binged on Daredevil season 2, I’d love to hear what YOU think!
I finally finished Jessica Jones a couple of weeks ago, nearly 3 months after we fired up the first episode. But hey, better late than never right? I was hoping to finish my post on this series before Daredevil season 2 comes out tonight (Friday 3/18), well it comes pretty darn close!
Before I get to my top 10, I have to highlight its fantastic opening credit sequence. The design for series’ opening credits have been impressive from what I’ve seen so far, but this is still one of the best.
It certainly sets the tone of the series, which is inherently dark and bleak. It’s definitely not a feel-good show, but that’s to be expected when the protagonist suffers from PTSD. It’s not perfect and I have to admit it took a while for me to really get into it, but my patience was rewarded and now I’m anticipating season 2!
Here are 10 reasons why Jessica Jones’ series won me over:
1. Slow burn mystery, more of a noir than an action-packed superhero series
Right from the first episode when Jessica is hired to find a missing NYU student, it’s clear this isn’t your typical superhero series. I love noir films which often feature a femme fatale, and this one certainly has that vibe. Creator Melissa Rosenberg (who had written for Dexter as well as the Twilight franchise) said in an interview that she’s influenced by Chinatown and Humprey Bogart films. I love detective stories so the fact that I’m a bit superhero fatigue made this series far more appealing.
2. A psychologically-complex & flawed super heroine
I love that we see our heroine having a regular job and we don’t see her use her abilities right away, so we see her more as a person than a larger-than-life character. She’s NOT one-dimensional, thank goodness, and the show takes its own good time in revealing who she is and what she’s about.
I like what this writer of BBC Culture said about Jessica: “Finally, we’re getting superheroines with the kinds of flaws common in the last decade’s male superheroes – and anti-heroes. Catwoman and Elektra didn’t seem like real women because they didn’t have complicated, human personalities to go with their sexed-up superpowers. (Catwoman is too meek; Elektra is too angry.) Jessica Jones, on the other hand, is an alcoholic commitment-phobe.”
“I need to update my resume. Would you put day drinking under experience or special skills?”
It took me a couple of episodes before I actually warmed up to Jessica, but that actually adds to the appeal in the long run. I didn’t immediately like her because honestly, Jessica likely doesn’t care about being liked or admired and that made me respect her right away and finds her more and more interesting AND relatable as the series went on.
3. A solid, taut script that gets better as the season progressed
The strong, silent type isn’t just for the male protagonists. Miss Jones doesn’t say much but when she does, in the format of voice over or dialog, it’s always laden with sarcasm and somber tone. But that’s part of her charm!
“Pain is always a surprise, I try to avoid land mines, avoid caring, I can even see it coming. But until it hits you, you have no idea what pain is.”
The storyline of the series is complex, just like our heroine, and there’s always more than meets the eye. It’s always tough in any series to maintain audience interest from one episode to the next, but at the end of each episode I’m always intrigued to find out what happens next. It also handles the backstory of key characters (Jessica’s and Kilgrave’s) in an effective manner that it doesn’t bog us down with details by giving us just enough flashback to see why they are the way they are, as well as explains some of the relationships within the series.
4. Intriguing main cast
I actually had never seen Kristen Ritter before, though I know she was a regular cast-member of the hit series Breaking Bad. I have to admit it took a while for me to warm up to her as the heroine, but as I mentioned above, I think that’s intentional. It’s actually a testament to her convincing performance that I wasn’t immediately sympathetic to Jessica, but after about a couple episodes in, I was fully invested in her journey. Ritter is beautiful but in the show she’s made up to be tough, even crude, and she wears the same rugged clothes of denim & black leather jacket the entire season. The fact that she’s vulnerable is part of the appeal. You could even say a broken person after what she’s been through, but that makes her real and relatable in some ways.
Mike Colter as Luke Cage has quite an instant impact on screen. I mean, look at him. The second the 6’3″ muscled-man with a disarming smile and irresistibly deep voice entered the screen, I was like ‘who’s THAT?’ But Mr Colter is more than just eye candy for the series. Just like Jessica, he’s also got superhuman powers in that he’s practically indestructible. But he’s also got a dark past that’s later revealed to have a connection with Jessica’. He’s got a scorching chemistry with Rytter (but what girl wouldn’t?), which made for some torrid love scenes. I wish he’s on more episodes but I’m thrilled to hear he’s getting his own spin-off series that might actually premiered later this year!
5. An unconventional-but-effective villain
When I first heard that David Tennant was going to be the villain I was a bit skeptical. I mean, it’s not that I didn’t think he’s a good actor, but I just don’t see him as menacing at all. But the show did a nice job building up to the moment we finally saw Kilgrave on screen after we’ve learned the horrendous things he’s done to Jessica and others. He has the unique ability of mind control, enabling him to get victims to do anything he wants, including killing themselves.
This is the way Rosenberg described Kilgrave in this interview, “What was most important with the villain was very much that he be multi-dimensional, that he not be a mustache-twirling, out-to-rule-the-world [villain]… [the crime] is more personal. It’s a more intimate wrong. I think it’s relatable in an individual way, whereas taking over the world, as well the stakes are incredibly high, it’s perhaps a little harder to connect to.”
Kilgrave ends up being one of the creepiest Marvel villains ever, a worthy adversary that is evil through and through. Hiring the affable British actor is brilliant as he seems harmless on the outset. He has the appearance of a polite and refined British gent, but his deeds certainly made me shudder in horror. He doesn’t care who he would harm, even children, and he does it in the most nonchalant way. Every time Kilgrave spends time with our heroine, there’s always bone-chilling tension in the air and her absolute contempt strongly radiates from the screen.
6. A strong supporting cast w/ interesting story arc
I love how one character may appear minor initially, almost like a throwaway character if you will, but then later on he/she ends up being integral to the plot. The revelation is clever and smoothly interwoven into our heroine’s journey, so it’s not just tacked on to add interest. Two of my favorite supporting cast are her BFF Trish (Rachael Taylor) and neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville). Interestingly both are Aussies, but you wouldn’t know it from their perfect American accent.
Carrie-Anne Moss is pretty interesting as a ruthless attorney with her own issues with her lesbian divorce, and the conflict with her wife culminated into a chilling battle in the ‘1,000 cuts’ episode. Will Simpson (played by yet another Aussie, Wil Traval), a cop who became Trish’s love interest also ends up being a rather sinister character. I’m curious to see what arc he’d have in season 2.
7. A truly gritty and moody atmosphere
People use the term ‘gritty’ so liberally on movies or tv shows, but Jessica Jones truly has that somber, moody atmosphere and the set pieces in New York City looks appropriately dark and dingy look to it, it’s decidedly unglamorous to match our spunky and feisty heroine. It certainly matches her biting wit and sarcasm. But it’s not just in the looks alone, the show is uncompromising in exposing truly dark subjects such as rape, trauma, sexual assault, etc. It’s also pretty violent and bloody, including one seemingly inspired by the Se7en. I had to avert my eyes in quite a few scenes, but I don’t think it’s as violent as Daredevil.
The series is visually striking, with interesting camera work and spectacular sceneries of NYC. But the visuals never overshadows the narrative, as our eyes are always focused on the characters.
8. Believable relationships that aren’t always rosy
I’m always glad when an on-screen romance is handled well and I think Jessica & Luke Cage is a great example. They have a believable chemistry but right off the bat you know it’s a complicated relationship that will get tested time and time again.
You’re the first person I ever pictured a future with. You’re also the first person I ever shot in the head.
Jessica Jones, you are a hard-drinking, short-fused, mess of a woman, but you are not a piece of shit.
The theme of friendship is compelling in this series. It’s rare to see the protagonist’s BFF actually has an integral part in the story, she’s not simply a sidekick or the voice of reason, what have you. The friendship between Jessica and Trish feels realistic because they tell things as they are. They disagree and often bicker, but you know deep down they love each other and would risk their lives for each other.
9. A superhero film that isn’t concerned w/ heroics & spectacle
You could say that this is a superhero film for grownups given the dark subject matter. I think the fact that Jessica isn’t concerned about doing the heroic thing or saving the world is so refreshing. In fact she has a pretty grim view about people… “Humanity sucks and they don’t deserve saving.” She’s probably right, especially in her line of work as a PI, hired to spy on people doing horrible things. But what makes her a hero is that she does care about people, not the way Superman cares about the concept of ‘justice, truth and the American way’ but people she knows whose lives might be in danger, and she’s willing to put her own lives at risk to protect them. But at the same time, the morality isn’t simply black and white, sometimes the good people do bad things and our heroine herself deal with a lot of guilt and even self-loathing.
10. A killer finale to top off a strong first season
‘AKA Smile’ is the name of the final episode and it sure is a fitting title. The stakes get higher and higher for Jessica in the last two episodes and she had to do very difficult things to someone she really cares about. There’s also the Daredevil crossover that’s exciting for me as I’m a huge fan of that show as well. But given all the conflicts has been between Jones & Kilgrave, the final episode definitely gives a gratifying climax that’s suspenseful right up until the end. It’s also one of the most action-packed episode that showcase Jessica’s extraordinary abilities.
Well, that’s my top 10 review of Jessica Jones. I’d love to hear what YOU think of the series.
It’s just three days away until Daredevil Season 2!! All 13 episodes will be out on Netflix on Friday, March 18 at 12:01 PST. It’s actually two weeks earlier than the air date of the first season which was released on April 10, 2015. It wasn’t until about a month later that my hubby and I finished all 13 episodes but once we’re done, we couldn’t wait for more!
Well, after nearly a year, that day is just around the corner! The latest trailer just dropped and it wets my appetite even more!
I’m just in the process writing my review of Jessica Jones‘ season 1 and I don’t think it’d be a huge spoiler to say there’s a connection between these two Netflix superhero series. I was literally screaming at my tv when I saw one of Daredevil‘s characters made an appearance!
Season 2 synopsis:
Just when Matt (Charlie Cox) thinks he is bringing order back to the city, new forces are rising in Hell’s Kitchen. Now the Man Without Fear must take on a new adversary in Frank Castle and face an old flame – Elektra Natchios. Bigger problems emerge when Frank Castle, a man looking for vengeance, is reborn as The Punisher, a man who takes justice into his own hands in Matt’s neighborhood. Meanwhile, Matt must balance his duty to his community as a lawyer and his dangerous life as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, facing a life-altering choice that forces him to truly understand what it means to be a hero.
Where season 1 left off
It ended on an optimistic note but still left plenty of uncertainties for resident of Hell’s Kitchen. The scary big dude Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) managed to escape custody in the finale but thankfully Daredevil was able to corner him and so he’s now in prison.
I thought that white wall thing in his cell for him to stare at is quite hilarious. Murdock and his BFF/law partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) put up a new sign outside their law office, and now Foggy is fully aware of his best friend’s nightly activities as a crime fighter.
New adversaries for Matt Murdock…
I thought that Wilson Fisk was a pretty scary adversary but sounds like we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Jon Bernthal has joined the cast as Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher, who’ll come to Hell’s Kitchen to deliver his own brand of justice. Whilst Matt typically incapacitate the criminals but left them alive, Frank didn’t seem to have any qualms finishing them off any way he could. And Bernthal sure have the physicality and grit that made him truly menacing. I actually haven’t seen any film version of The Punisher, there just hasn’t been any worth checking out to be honest. But THIS version looks pretty darn cool and I’d welcome a spinoff of his character which is currently in the works. Just like Batman vs Superman though, I think these foes will eventually join forces against a common enemy, not sure who that’ll be.
Here’s a featurette of Frank Castle, a man looking for vengeance descend into Hell’s Kitchen. He is reborn as The Punisher, a man who takes justice into his own hands in Matt’s neighborhood.
I’ve also got the good fortune of not having seen the Daredevil movie w/ Batfleck aka Ben Affleck, nor the spinoff Elektra starring his current ex Jennifer Garner. I only know that Elektra has a romantic history w/ Matt Murdock, which naturally sex things up a lot. Daredevil’s former flame is now played by a French actress Elodie Yung whose exotic looks goes well with her dangerous martial arts badassery.
… but the old gang are back again
I LOVE all of the supporting cast of Daredevil and they all have interesting character arc that serve the overall narrative.
I love both female characters in season 1, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). I’m especially excited for Claire and hope that there’ll be more scenes between him and Matt. They certainly have a pretty scorching chemistry but most of the action involves nurse Claire stitching up Matt after a bloody fight. Hopefully there’ll be more interactions between her and Foggy & Karen, too as they’re the only ones who know about Matt’s secret identity.
Karen’s an intriguing character in her own right, as she’s more than just a legal help in Nelson & Murdock law firm. I’d love to see a bit more of her backstory in season 2, hopefully it isn’t lost in the battle between Matt and his two new formidable foes.
The scene where she shot Fisk’s right-hand man Wesley was unexpected but a welcome story arc for her. There was a hint of romance between him and Matt in the first season, so maybe there’ll be more of that in season 2? I just hope there’s no love triangle (or even quadruple??) nonsense and it’s rarely handled well and it almost always comes out corny. Must be nice being Charlie Cox though, having not one or two but three potential love interests in a single show, wow!
Well, I’m gonna end it with this photo of Nelson & Murdock legal team, now this is a law firm I can totally get behind. Friday can’t come soon enough. For sure I know what I’ll be watching this entire weekend!
Having laughed uproariously over the hue and cry of the media’s perceived panic from its Meteorologists, weather people and Doomsday oracles regarding Climate Change along the nation’s East Coast. I’ve also been allotted time wisely used to suit up, dig deep and scribble notes about one of the best episodic Anthology television series of the very late 1950s and 60s.
Which graced prime time evening B&W screens for five 30 episode seasons. Allowed copious room for young and notable writing talents of Rod Serling, Richard Matheson and others to come up with the verbal grist for tales. Predominantly in the usually dark fantasy realm. Though Science Fiction would drop by from time to time. Providing a “Who’s Who” and Rogues Galley of talent from novices to seasoned veterans to deliver the consistently satisfying goods.
So, please allow me a few moments of your time. As I wax nostalgic and apply my own unique perspective in high or spotlighting these talents with:
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964):
Character Actors’ Paradise!
Every historian, critic, blogger, geek, nerd and fan person has their own personal list. So, I expect to catch some Flak. That comes with the territory in my selections. But that is what sites like this are all about. The polite discussion of like and differing views and opinions.Though, I do claim sole responsibility for the categories and methods used in my proffered selections.
#1: Best Solo Performance:
The Invaders (Season 2, Ep. 15)
Picture a barren mountainous Outback. A lone ramshackle shack and its old, solitary and silent woman eking through evening chores in a spartan kitchen to a meal on the table. When a loud noise followed by a crash upon the roof turns the old crone’s world upside down.
The old crone is veteran actress, Agnes Moorehead. At the time, a very popular commodity and frightening voice acting talent for the radio stage play/soap opera, ‘Sorry, Wrong Number’. And later, as the evil witch and Mother In Law, “Endora” on ABC’s ‘Bewitched’. Denied the use of her pipes. Though making up for it through facial expression, gestures and Physicality. Delivering an Emmy worthy performance. As she cautiously gives into Curiosity, fear and finally, retribution as the cause(s) of the noise and crash make themselves known!
All done on a next to nothing set better suited for a small stage play. Spartan and wanting in every respect. While speaking volumes loudly in setting mood and shadowy, sometimes dusty and lamp lit atmosphere! Also a model of frugality with the episode’s Director, Douglas Heyes providing the tinny whispered voices of what doesn’t belong.
Where Is Everybody? (S1.E1)
As Earl Holliman (‘The Big Combo’, ‘Police Woman’) tries to make sense of his investigation of an abandoned rural town. Searching high and low. Coming up empty while staving off panic and a possible breakdown.
The Last Night of a Jockey (S5. E5) Mickey Rooney as a washed up jockey in a cheap flop house room. Facing doping charges while arguing over the telephone with the reporter who broke the case. Until ironic fate intervened.
King Nine Will Not Return (S2 E1)
Bob Cummings (‘My Living Doll’) is the sole survivor of a battle damaged B-25 medium bomber crash landed in the North African desert during WWII. The episode’s twenty five minutes is devoted to Mr. Cummings’ Capt. James Embry searching the downed plane and surrounding sands for the missing crew members. While retracing the steps of the mission and fighting heat stroke and dehydration.
Note: Based somewhat on the true story of a B-24 bomber, ‘Lady Be Good’ lost during WWII. And discovered intact during oil exploration of the Libyan desert.
#2: Episode I Most Empathize With:
Time Enough At Last (S1 E8)
Stalwart veteran of the art, Burgess Meredith is meek, quiet, henpecked at home bank teller, book keeper Henry Bemis. Of poor vision and very thick glasses, Mr. Bemis has a vice. Close to an obsession and easy form of escape. Reading.
Books. Newspapers. Not a surfeit of magazines. Mr. Bemis can be found with his nose buried in any of them. When he should be paying attention behind the Teller’s counter to customers wanting to transact business and finances. Life is not good for Mr. Bemis. Nor is it for the rest of the world as that pesky political “Doomsday Clock” ticks and clicks closer to midnight. Which means nothing to Henry as he heads off to work. Takes his lunch in the bank’s basement vault. Contentedly reading away. Surrounded by steel and paper, Two of nature’s better insulators against blast and radiation. As the ground shakes. Dust falls and the lights go out.
Leaving Mr. Bemis alone amongst the ruins of fallen building and businesses. Intent of finding the local library. Which he pillages for stacks and stacks of authors; works. Mixed with history and other temping delights. Finding a comfortable place to sit on the library’s stone steps. Henry takes his glasses off to clean them. They drop and lenses break amongst the rubble.
Personal Note: Though I despised grade school “Dick & Jane”primers as a child. I somehow learned to love words. Their construction, music and proper spelling by age ten. I don’t know how or why. But I latched onto it. And a pair of glasses. The results has been a voracious appetite. With many more paperbacks than hard covers. As the former gave me something to be occupied with after completing maintenance tasks on aircraft assigned to dozens of flight lines around the world through a decades long career.
#3: Best Use Of Available Talent:
The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine (S1 E4)
Though this episode completely slipped through on my critique of Martin Balsam on It Rains… You Get Wet blog. I’ll give this episode its due. For excellent us of Ms. Ida Lupino as Barbara Jean Trenton. Fading, near forgotten movie star. Who spends most of her time watching herself and other actors in the “screening room” of her expansive home.
Fate begins to intervene with the arrival of her agent, Danny Weiss (Tailor made Martin Balsam), who has a proposition for a part in an upcoming film. Opposite another older leading man, Marty Sall (Arrogant Ted De Corsia). Who now runs a chain of popular super markets. And demands a face to face interview. Which really doesn’t go very well. As the egos of two Divas clash. And Billy is left to smooth ruffled feathers. Give a few deserved verbal licks to Marty. And pick up the pieces as Barbara returns home. Sits before the screen to avoid the questioning maid. Who opens the screening room door as Danny arrives. Only to see Barbara on the screen. Gliding away into the scene. Before turning and tossing a red silk scarf that blanks out the.image. Leaving Billy to turn and enter the wide foyer and find Barbara’s scarf.
Note: Good old fashioned story telling. Highlighted by Ms. Lupino and Mr. Balsam. Aided with Mr. Serling’s bit of homage to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. While using the film’s original composer, Franz Waxman.
The Masks (S5 E25)
One of the earliest, creepiest and beat precursors to the novel and later film, Daddy’s Dying. Who’s Got The Will?!. Though, in this tale directed by Ms. Ida Lupino. The location is New Orleans. And “Daddy” is wealthy industrialist, Jason Harper. Who has invited his whiny, hypochondriac daughter, Emily (Virginia Gregg). Her greedy, near sociopath husband, Wilfred (Milton Selzer). Narcissist grand daughter, Paula (Brooke Hayward) and sadistic, glutton, Wilfred Jr. (Alan Sues)… All they have to do is don and wear the masks Jason had made by “an old Cajun”and perfectly reflect their inner selves until midnight
#4: Jack Klugman:
A Passage for Trumpet (S1 E36)
Mr. Klugman plays beyond down and out, broke and proven untrustworthy trumpeter, Joey Crown. Who pawns his horn and steps in front of a speeding truck. Shaken and confused, Joey discovers that he’s not exactly dead. Nor alive, either. More like in a holding pattern until greater decisions are made. And surprised that someone else can see and hear him. A dapper well dressed gentleman with a horn named Gabriel (John Anderson). Who talks to Joey and lets him see where he screwed up his life, club owners and friends. And didn’t. Delivering the gift of optimism as Joey returns to the Pawn Shop and hears the squeal of a trucks brakes.
Flashed back to the moment of the accident. Where he gets up from the sudden crowd around him. Dusts himself off as the truck driver hopes Joey will keep his mouth shut. Stuffs a wad a bills in his hand. And Joey ready to buy back his horn. Play it on a rooftop within earshot of a woman new to the city (Mary Webster) who likes his playing. And takes Joey a step further into his new life.
A Game of Pool (S3 E5) Jesse Cardiff (Mr. Klugman) is a kind of sloppy, unkempt pool player/hustler with dreams of immortality. Gifted, but not quite as good as the seriously revered, James H. “Fats” Brown. Whom players and wannabes around Chicago and Lister’s pool hall keep reminding Jesse of and comparing him to. But, Jesse is just a tad wanting. Until Jesse calls “Fats” out in a pique of anger.
Surprised. Jesse turns at a sound as “Fats” (Jonathan Winters. Surprising calm, level headed and good!) introduces himself and the stakes are set… Immortality for one. Anonymity for the other. Winner take all!
In Praise of Pip (S5 E1) Max Phillips (Mr. Klugman) is a two time loser bookie with a conscience. Suffering from a gunshot wound from a botched hit. And has received a DoD telegram informing him that his son, Pip has been seriously wounded in a far off country called Vietnam. Which doesn’t help Max’s present plight of trying to elude the persistent shooter through the arcades, rides, crowds and noise of Pacific Ocean Park.
Turning away from a kiosk, Max thinks he see his young son, Pip (Billy Mumy) break away from a clutch of gawkers. And leads Max on a chase to catch up. Stumbling into a House of Mirrors. Max finds Pip. Who explains that he is dying. Before dashing deeper into the mirrored mystery and beyond. Unable to follow due to blood loss. Max prays to God to take his life in lieu of Pip’s.
Many years later. A grown Pip returns to the Park with the aid of a cane. To remember his father and all of the fun times shared there.
#5: Best Use Of A Well Hidden Ironic “McGufffin’:
To Serve Man (S3 E24)
To all of the true fanciers of this classic, long running series. All I have to say is: “It’s… It’s a cookbook!”
The Eye Of The Beholder (S2 E6)
A woman under heavy bandages (Maxine Stuart) awakes under heavy bandages awakes from having undergone state sanctioned and mandated facial reconstructive surgery. In the hope of being beautiful. Or at least looking like everybody else. In a tale told exclusively from Ms. Stuart’s perspective. Expressing joy and anticipation. Until the bandage come off!
The Rip Van Winkle Caper (S2 E24)
An arrogant criminal “mastermind”, Farwell (Oscar Berigi Jr.) assembles three expendable accomplices. De Cruz (Simon Oakland), Brooks (Lew Gallo) and Erbie (John MiItchum) to hijack and rob an armored car shipment of gold from Fort Knox, Kentucky to Los Angeles. The robbery goes well and the gang pulls their vehicles into a cave at the base of a granite mountain. Where Farwell has arranged their “escape plan”. Four man sized cylinders to be filled gas that will put them into suspended animation for 100 years. Far exceeding any Statute of Limitation. The hired help is skeptical, especially De Cruz, but climb inside their chambers.Only to awake and find that Erbie’s chamber had been breached by a fallen rock and leaving a wretched looking skeleton.
The pick up truck Farwell has secured still runs. And Farwell promptly runs over Brooks and over turns the transportation dodging Brooks bullets. leaving a 50-50 split of whatever gold bar De Cruz and Farwell can carry as they walk towards civilization, De Cruz starts putting high prices on sips of water from De Cruz’s one remaining canteen. Farwell has had enough and shoots De Cruz. Stumbles out onto an endless deserted highway. And if found near death and rambling about gold to an elder couple out on a Sunday Hover Car ride. George (Wallace Rooney) calls the police to report the body. As he and his wife (Shirley O’Hara) share a laugh over gold being worthless for close to a century.
#6: Best, Over The Top Chewing Of Scenery: Nightmare At 20.000 Feet (S5 E3)
William Shatner is Bob Wilson. A businessman recovering from a nervous breakdown. Who is traveling back home with his wife, Julia (Christine White) on a Douglas DC-4 airliner. Bob also has the sad misfortune of being assigned a window seat just behind the plane’s propeller engines. Drawing the window’s blind closed as a the airliner tries climbing above a thunderstorm. Whose accompanying lightning reveals something on the left wing!
Bob must quell the desire, the near need to absolutely lose it. Lest he return to the Sanitorium as the thing (A Gremln) toys with Bob between bouts of tearing off wing panels. Julia senses something is amiss and tries to calm Bob. Who has fifteen minutes of “logical insanity” to play with, And is even more certain of the sabotage. Even if those whom he calls to look out his window see nothing. Determined. Bob notices a uniformed cop of a holstered .38. Takes matters and the pistol into his own hands, And turns the “Emergency Exit” latch beneath his window…
The Obsolete Man (S2 E29)
Burgess Meredith is Romney Wordsworth. A librarian caught up in a future totalitarian society where words and their meaning have become confused, irrelevant and obsolete. Finding himself persecuted and on trial for his life. Prosecuted by the smug, arrogant and erudite “Chancellor” (Fritz Weaver). Who easily turns around every one of Wordsworth’s arguments. Wordsworth is deemed “Obsolete” and scheduled to die at midnight. By a method of Wordworth’s choosing. With the State taking advantage of present technology and broadcasting the execution live!
Now. One may expect that Burgess Meredith can chew some righteous scenery, given the opportunity. And he does get some decent licks in. But, it is Fritz Weaver’s “Chancellor” who gloats and revel in the infallibility and surety of the State who runs past the End Zone with it! So sure of himself. His position and power. As he shares Mr. Wordsworth’s last moments on earth.
But, Mr. Wordworth is content and serene. Having made his peace. Quietly reading The Bible as the hidden bomb ticks down. The Chancellor starts showing cracks and signs of weakness, cowardice. And fear! Being allowed to escape seconds before the bomb in Mr. Wordsworth’s quarters explodes. Leaving The Chancellor to face the wrath of his staff, minions and the State!
Being of a time and age when “Must See TV” of the 1970s and 80s was decades away. Certain series were given their allotted half hour or hour to be enjoyed around the television set week after week. And The Twilight Zone was one of those series. Not necessarily for a glimpse at a “Monster of The Week”, but for each episode’s stab at uniqueness and difference from competing shows. Best shown in its near forgotten Canne’s Palm D’Or winner, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (S5 E22). A superb import that deals with “What could happen against what did happen” during a Civil War attempted act of sabotage.
Yes. Several episodes have been forgotten, but this is my thumbnail of collected works. And what offerings have stayed with me. And aided in the selection and inclusion of those exceptional pieces of work more than ready to be spotlighted and discussed.
Hi everyone! Just to switch things up from all the awards chatter (which is so tiresome already), let’s talk about TV shows.
In the start of the new year, I thought I should catch up on some great shows that people have been recommending. So last week I finally caught up on Season 1 of BROADCHURCH starring Olivia Colman and David Tennant. Thanks to my friend Dave W. who gave me this top 10 reasons of why you should absolutely check out this amazing British drama if you haven’t already. It’s every bit as gripping and emotionally-engaging as I had expected. It took me about four days to finish all 10 episodes as it’s really quite addictive that I couldn’t stop watching!
Now, just yesterday I finally got around to seeing another British series I’ve been meaning to check out: The Honourable Woman.
I erroneously thought that this 8-part series will leave Netflix at the end of the month but it’s actually not up for renewal so it will REMAIN on its streaming service, yay! In any case, I can’t tell you enough how good this series is and Maggie Gyllenhaal absolutely deserves her Golden Globe win as the show’s protagonist. Here’s the premise:
Nessa Stein, a woman who inherits her father’s arms business and finds herself in a international maelstrom when as she continues to promote the reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Right from the get go, the show created by Hugo Blick is immensely riveting and suspenseful. Plot twists abound as you have no clue who’s good or bad, there’s no clear heroes or villains which makes it all the more intriguing. The writing, acting and cinematography are top notch, and not only does it have a strong female protagonist, it’s nice to see women playing prominent characters in this series. As a fan of British dramas, the show is filled fantastic mostly-British cast: Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Andrew Buchan (who’s also in Broadchurch), and Tobias Menzies. Maggie is a native New Yorker but her British accent is flawless (well it sounds that way to me anyway) but it’s her acting and elegant way she moves that is truly fun to watch.
Check out the trailer:
So that’s what I’ve been obsessing lately. Which *new* shows did you just discover that you can’t get enough of?
Having gotten family Thanksgiving feasting and festivities out of the way a few days early. And indulging in minor Tryptophan comas through many variations of sumptuous leftovers. I’ve decided to make good on a debt or favor and honor to our Hostess, Ruth.
Accumulating information, intelligence and perspective on a well budgeted, thought out and executed extension of the Twentieth Century Fox television derivative, FX. And their inspired doubling down and betting it all on one series. As successfully done with their previous offering,”The Shield”. And again coming out on top!
The series in question isn’t exactly a Western. Nor is it what I consider a full fledged or procedural “Cop show”. Though it has topics, drama and situations taken from both genres. Cleverly updated and blended together in ways that only veteran novelist and writer, Elmore Leonard could conjure up and bring to tense, sometimes comedic life.
So, allow me a few moments of your time to delve in, peel back layers and hopefully lay bare a perspective on one of the more enigmatic, yet surprisingly addictive series of this decade with:
5 Reasons Why FX’s ‘Justified’ Rocks Out Loud!
Though not given a numerical value that might place one specific above another. I am going to be au courant and simply state the reasons. Since each is an integral part of the others. And how well they mesh to create superlative adult entertainment.
The foundation of any series, film, feature or short subject lays trapped inside the writers’ imagination. And how well those thought and ideas flow through to paper. And later, processor or lap top. And few are better than master novelist and screenwriter, Elmore “Dutch” Leonard.
Whose pedigree runs from the 1950s heydays of Budd Boetticher’s low budgeted, Randolph Scott films (‘The Tall T’). Through the original ‘3:10 to Yuma’. Both renditions of ‘Hombre’. To ‘The Moonshine War’, ‘Valdez Is Coming’, ‘Joe Kidd’, ‘Mr. Majestyk’ and ’52 Pick Up’. And later, more recognizable efforts, ‘Get Shorty’, ‘Jackie Brown’. Television’s ‘Karen Sisco’ and low budgeted, mid west winter revenge flick, ‘Killshot’,
Add an eye for minor details with Graham Yost (HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers’ and major Wild West meets Shakespeare cult class series, ‘Deadwood’). And you have the makings of grittily modernizing the “Old Gunslinger comes to town” premise. Add a few love interests. The odd family and home town feuds. Old school (Moonshine) and updated forms (Grass, Oxycotin and Heroin) of illegal recreational pharmacology. Bracing old friends and new snitches. Serving warrants and transporting prisoners. And you have a continuing tale and mixture that pays off in ways unimagined!
With the writing for the ever developing. overall idea nicely tied up. We move to:
With the sunny beaches south of Miami used as a backdrop for a Han Solo and Greedo like sit down showdown with a mid tier Columbian drug runner to get the story moving westward during the series’ pilot and premiere episode. Then shifting ever so quickly to the rustic, quaint and near antique confines of Harlan, Kentucky. Talent is needed to find just the right look and feel of a town and outskirts that architecturally haven’t left the 1960s.
And that’s where Jared Kurt, Andrew Keeler and Eric Klosterman come in. Finding out of the off the beaten path and less accessible way places, townships, railway heads, trestle bridges and occasional steam powered locomotives and trains to add back woods and water authenticity. Where forested, hilly, coal country Kittaning and up against the Appalachian and Ohio border, Washington, Pennsylvania come into their own. Though much more in the second season and beyond. Where coal, mining, land sales, drug deals, the “Dixie Mafia”, organized crime out of Detroit and local politics move to the fore. Not exactly a perfect, restored time capsule when dealing with contemporary eyesores, safety rails and the like. But a pleasantly rewarding treasure trove for those who appreciate the look and feel minor details add to an organic domestic mix. Accepting and often looking forward to these tidbits, because of their solidity and tangibility.
While Santa Clarita and the outskirts of Pasadena, California fill in for the rustic and slightly time warped main drag and town square of Kentucky’s capital, Frankfort. Its court houses, municipal buildings and the more affluent parts of cities and towns where the movers and shakers on both sides of the law and criminal scale live and do business,
Sets of all shape, size and devotion to detail abound. From the Marshall’s office in Harlan with computers on every desk and a flat screen televisions in the boss’ office. To the incredibly old time clap board country and general store of “Mags” Bennett (Margo Martindale, magnificent and made for the role!). The tough as nails, seemingly omniscient matriarch of a low scale crime clan way out in the hills. And several old, disused and forgotten coal mines and shafts which fill a more lucrative purpose. Add some Honky Tonk bars. Dirt floored and otherwise. Mobile home and trailer-ed brothels of the series’ main nemesis. And watch some magic go to work!
Which moves us along to those who ride herd and maintain control over all this largesse of imagination and logistics.
Far too many to mention here. Though the number tops out at twenty. With notables being Adam Arkin (Who also has a cameo role as elegant Detroit mob shot caller, Theo Tonin). Who came on board early and has a nice touch for the series tone, grit and occasional irony and humor. While honing his near veteran skills with two episodes for each season.
Followed closely by crime connoisseur and master of Neo Noir, John Dahl (‘The Last Seduction’, ‘Red Rock West’, ‘Rounders’) Who brings out the “Tough Guy” talk and image beautifully in the Good Guys, Bad Guys, crews and clans memorably the early seasons and beyond. While Jon Avnet has a real penchant for introducing and fleshing out new, often returning characters and the beginning of major twists seasons before they sometime disastrously occur. And leaves some slack to expand upon for Peter Werner, Tony Goldwyn, Don Kurt and Peter Werner to run and play with.
Creating a fluid, uninterrupted canvas for this cabal of visual choreographers to deliver solid consistent work. About the only director who hasn’t been called in to add his perspective is Peter Weller (“Robo Cop’, ‘Shakedown’), who has been doing superior work directing and being a crooked retired police chief on FX’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’!
Which brings us to the meat of the series. Split into two groups.
The GOOD and BAD Guys
THE GOOD GUYS
Relatively small in numbers. As is befitting any continuing tale of Good versus Evil.
Raylan Givens: Veteran U.S. Marshall. Tall, lean nonconformist. Made for denim jeans, jacket, chambray shirt, Tony Lama boots and a wide brimmed, down turned Stetson. That he absolutely rocks. Even in Mimi, Florida! A fast and deadly accurate shot. Reassigned back to Harlan after a controversial shooting. Played with a wise, sly, cynical smile by Timothy Olyphant (HBO’s ‘Deadwood’, ‘Live Free or Die Hard’, ‘Hitman’, ‘The Crazies’).
Art Mullen: Raylan’s unassuming “Been There. Done That” boss. Elder statesmen, mentor and conscience to Raylan and his squad. Overweight, Long of tooth. Up for retirement. Yet knowing more about his stomping ground, feuds and secrets than he lets on. Embodied near flawlessly by baritone, veteran character actor, Nick Searcy (‘Castaway’, ‘Moneyball’, ‘The Ugly Truth’, ‘To Appomattox’).
Rachel Brooks: (Erica Tazel) So much more than meets the eye. Smart, clever, efficient, quiet. Yet very proud of her being a Marshall. And not adverse to drawing and using her sidearm or shotgun.Can read most men in less than a minute. Slated to take Art’s place upon retirement. Huge potential for an actress just starting out. And showing the chops to stay ahead of the pack.
Tim Gutterson: (Jacob Pitts. HBO’s ’21’, ‘The Pacific’, ‘Euro Trip’) The squad’s long range rifleman and occasional back up for Raylan. Former Army sniper with multiple tours in Afghanistan and the desert. Equally proficient with a pistol. Doesn’t talk much, because he really doesn’t need to. Also a dead ringer for a younger Chris Cooper! Possessing quiet “Old Time Toughness” as well as a bit of sly when confronting criminals.
ADA David Vasquez: (Rick Gomez: HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers’, ‘Sin City) Up and coming Federal Prosecutor trying to “make his bones” and a name for himself far away from the power players in Washington, DC. Fast talking. Too shrewd by half. Knows Raylan’s gun slinging reputation and wants to capitalize on it to his advantage.
Judge Mike Reardon: (Stephen Root: ‘Office Space’, ‘Fargo’, ‘News Radio’) No nonsense judge who carries a licensed pistol under his robes. And has a red Swingline stapler atop his desk beside the blotter and phone in his chambers!
Which leaves the floor open for:
THE BAD GUYS
Many with extended families and cousins. Most vying for supremacy. Or control of a criminal beyond the reach of their respective towns or counties.
Boyd Crowder: Criminally under rated Walton Goggins, Channeling Shane Vendrell of FX’s earlier, ‘The Shield’. Finally being the Outlaw he was meant to be. Sly, smooth. With a chess player’s mind and a scary familiarity with violence. Had worked in the mines as a youth with Raylan. Very handy with explosives.
“Mags” Bennett: (Margo Martindale: ‘Million Dollar Baby’, ‘The Hours’, Orphan’) Hard luck woman. Matriarch of the Bennett clan. Sons Doyle, Dickie and Coover. Sells Moonshine (“Apple Pie”) and decent grass. When not trying to get family land from a fading coal company.
The Crowes: Daryl Crowe, Jr. (Michael Rapaport). Muscle bound ‘roid raged bully and small time grafter with delusions of grandeur. Danny Crowe (AJ. Buckley. Lab nerd on ‘CSI:NY’ turn in a bravura turn as a knife freak fixated on challenging men with guns from a distance. Dewey Crowe (Damien Harrison). Skinny. Loud mouthed. Former gator poacher. Possibly the most hapless criminal in Florida or Kentucky. Nose broken by Raylan early on lead to a lawsuit and payoff that bring Dewey’s cousins ruing at the scent of opportunity and money!
Wynn Duffy: (Jere Burns) Represents “The Dixie Mafia” as front man and “arranger”. Always mobile in a Winnebago. Constantly stuck in the middle of attention drawing Turf Wars. Thinks his talents are misplaced.And would rather be elsewhere.
Robert Quarles: (Neal McDonough. Another ‘Band of Brothers’ alum) Enforcer for the Detroit syndicate. Sexual sadist and usually calm sociopath. Favors a two shot derringer in a forearm to wrist slide rig.
Ellstin Limehouse: (Mykelti Williamson: ‘Forrest Gump;, ‘CSI:NY) Overseer to an historic hollow where slaves were left alone to thrive. post Antebellum. Shot caller fo many gangs throughout the state. And not adverse to the odd bank robbery.
Which leads us to:
The Ladies in Attendance
Winona Hawkins: (Natalie Zea) ADA for Harlan County. Former girlfriend of Raylan. Smarter than she lets on. Though sometimes lets emotions get in the way.
Eva Crowder: (Joelle Carter) Married to Boyd’s cousin Johnny, whom she shoots with a Deer Rifle at the dinner table in the series premiere. Falls for Raylan. Then Boyd. To become the font of knowledge of criminal activity in Harlan. And Boyd’s woman. A hard luck. Hard loving woman. Who may just be out for herself, after all.
Wendy Crowe: (Alicia Witt) The only Crowe to earn a law degree. And not bashful about using that knowledge gaming others and The System to her and her son’s advantage. Pretty, clever. Dreams big. But manages with just enough to get by.
Katherine Hale: (Mary Steenburgen: ‘Joan of Arcadia; ‘Elf’, ‘Sunshine State’) Back up for Wynn Duffy. Elegant, fetching. Heart of ice. May or may not off Wynn during this last season.
Loretta McCready: (Kaitlyn Dever) A teenage girl with the mind far beyond her years. Whose father was killed by Coover Bennett and sought revenge. Then redemption. Every bit as sly as the boys and a perfect foil for Raylan!
A series that has done surprisingly well. With its first season devoted to character introductions and small scale crime. That has smartly built on copious notes taken and expounded upon in later seasons. Whose script writing team wisely hangs around at the ready for new ideas from its constantly expanding cast and directors. Creating memorable scenes on the fly with Margo Martindale. Hints of the beginnings of the blood feud between the Bennett and the Givens clans. Or Damien Harrison’s Dewey Crowe for incredibly shameless comic relief.
But the real meat of the series is the continuous slow raging war for supremacy between Raylan and Boyd. A perfect team up of wits. The give and take of discussion that Boyd makes sure work to his advantage. Add an endless stream of often returning bad guys. And variations on slowly solidifying schemes. And an episode rarely ends the way anyone predicted!.
Toss in well tended Art and Set Direction, Dressing and Continuity. And Stunt and Special Effects men too numerous to mention. Music by Steve Porcaro. Notable late night, middle of nowhere location cinematography. And you have the makings of superb adult television!
Author’s Notes: I’ve only scratched the surface in as concise a thumb nail and sketch as I can manage. There are multiple clips, tributes, mash ups, interviews and complete episodes from the previous five seasons of ‘Justified’ n You Tube and IMDb