Category Archives: True Detective

True Detective We Get the Show We Deserve

True Detective We Get the Show We Deserve

“I didn’t live my life to go out like this.” – Frank Semyon

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                Bleak and hopelessness.  That’s what we’re left with after the conclusion of the second season of Nic Pizzolatto’s masterclass series, TRUE DETECTIVE.  Each one of the characters got exactly what we were promised, they got the world they deserved.  I want to preface what I’m about to say next with this: From the first episode of the first season, I was completely obsessed with TRUE DETECTIVE.  After the season concluded with the most satisfying ending it possibly could, I thought there was absolutely no way that a second season could, at the very least, be comparable on any level to the first.  Rust Cohle was a cinematic and ideological godsend.  No one had higher expectations for season two than I.  Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch were announced as the primary cast.  I thought, okay, this is interesting.  I always loved Vaughn in dramatic roles and Farrell has always been an actor I’d watch in anything.  Kitsch was good in SAVAGES, though I had not seen FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.  McAdams piqued my interest based on her performance in TO THE WONDER.  All that being said, and after digesting the finale of season two, I can honestly say that not only did Farrell, Vaughn, Kitsch and McAdams give career-high performances, and not only is season two better, but it completely upped the artistic game for not only Nic Pizzolatto, but also HBO and serious television series from this point on.

If you’re outraged by this, let me explain.  The first season was too big to fail.  It was backed by HBO, had Cary Fukunaga directing all eight episodes, T Bone Burnett doing the music, and drew the star power of Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monahgan.  The season was a dark cop show, wrapped in McConaughey’s dialogue sewn with lyrical realism.  The first season became not only a phenomenon but a revelation.  We had never seen anything like this before.  It became a monster that everyone suddenly watched.  Whether or not they grasped the content is irrelevant.  Everyone watched it because everyone was watching it.  Then came the finale, which underwhelmed a lot.  Disappointed many.  Those people were concerned about the ritual killing case not being fully closed.  But that wasn’t what the first season was about, was it?  It was all about Rust inadvertently finding his inner peace.

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Then came season two.  Some people found the casting to be lackluster.  There wasn’t one director for the entire season, and then the initial reviews came out, which were mixed, but predominantly overly harsh on the show.  Keep in mind, the critics were only sent a screener of the first three episodes.  The critics directed their negativity specifically at Pizzolatto himself.  The harsh criticism is akin to the same media sabotage that Michael Cimino suffered from his masterpiece HEAVEN’S GATE.

                Not all of the criticism to the second season is unwarranted.  The dark noir and the pulp dialogue are not for everyone.  Even those who are avid fans of that genre had legitimate criticism of the second season.  Understandably, TRUE DETECTIVE certainly is not a show for everyone.  I will be the first to admit that.  I’m friends with a lot of filmmakers and writers on Facebook.  The reaction from them was mixed as well.  Some loved it, some didn’t like it, and some were very vocal about their absolute disdain for the show, and specifically Pizzolatto himself.

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I chat with one filmmaker very often, and he initially didn’t love the show nearly as much as I did, but as the second season unraveled, he was just as drawn to it as I was.  I asked him one day why there was such hostility directed towards the show and Pizzolatto.  His response was one word: Jealousy.  He then elaborated and told me that the disdain for Pizzolatto came from the fact he was not a part of the machine, he was a novelist who wrote a brilliant first season and went from a college professor to the showrunner of the most powerful show on the most powerful network overnight.

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Whether or not that is true, it doesn’t really matter.  What has me in absolute disbelief are the people “hate-watching” this previous season and proud to be doing so.  I can’t help but take away that these are the same people who started watching the first season because it became pop culturally trendy too.  They were the same people who on their initial reaction to the first season’s finale didn’t register it at first.  These are the same people who jumped on the trendy bandwagon to hate the show this season.  It became a game of Facebook “like” baiting, and Twitter retweeting.  Whoever could make the snarkiest hashtagged quip won the internet for the day.

                I wish I could thank each and every one of the “hate-watchers” personally and tell them how much I appreciate their viewership to keep buzz for the show high and keeping the ratings very high and ensure a third season from HBO is Pizzolatto is willing to do another.  Whether or not you loved the show as much as I did, or thought it was an admirable follow up, or absolutely hated it, one thing is the absolute truth — we got the show we deserved.

 

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TRUE DETECTIVE 2.7 BLACK MAPS AND MOTEL ROOMS – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

TRUE DETECTIVE 2.7 BLACK BLACK MAP AND MOTEL ROOMS

“Look me in the eyes.  I wanna see your lights go out.” – Frank SemyonTrueDetective207Main

So much happened in this weeks episode.  A tease to who the identity of the killer, Crow Head might be.  Frank engaging in a full-out POINT BLANK mode, Ray and Ani transition their brooding rage and anger into intimate feelings for one another, and Paul is dead.

Let’s start with Frank.  I am so completely satisfied with the transgressive story arc of Frank Semyon.  Anyone who continues to ridicule Vaughn’s performances is now, undoubtedly an idiot, and has no idea what they’re talking about.  Semyon rose to a successful gangsterless business man before we saw the first episode, and from that first episode we slowly watched Frank lose everything that he built, and now it’s time from him to rise like the phoenix from the ashes and completely obliterate anyone who has wronged him.  The escalation of the last scenes with Frank were a direct homage to the epic preamble of the climax to THIEF.  Remarkable writing.  I truly hope that Semyon makes it out alive, out of all the characters that we’re given this season, Semyon is the most pure hearted one.  He didn’t choose the life he has, it chose him, and he did his best to shake it.  I can’t imagine a better thematic end to Semyon than to get LONG GOOD FRIDAY’D.

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Ray and Ani’s final scenes in the episode together were beautifully poignant.  They are two people who are completely burnt out by their lives.  They are dead inside, partially from where they came from, but particularly the choices they made in the past and how they’ve dealt with their lives splitting.  Whether or not if Ray and Ani are good people is irrelevant.  They are good with each other, and trust and embrace each others shadows.  They are the only ones that can ever really understand and accept one another.

Then there’s Paul.  Wow.  I was legitimately sadden by his fate.  What made it even worse was cutting to his fiancée laying in bed, watching that old movie with Judy Garland embracing the baby.  Wow.  Just…wow.  Out of all the characters, I think Paul was the one who had the hardest time coping with life.  He was a killer, who lived the life of who he thought he should be.  He hit a breaking point of either ruining the life of his beautiful fiancée, Emily, or trying to make it work.  Maybe he couldn’t have, but he was going to try.  And now, now it’s all over.  He’s dead.  And his baby is inside of a pure hearted good woman who is stuck in a hotel room with Paul’s awful mother.  That might even be more profound and sadder than Paul’s death.

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As for Crow Head.  So, cult killings are out.  Blake fessed up to killing Stan, giving Frank a glorious scene to showcase his well warranted brutality.  My guess is Crow Head is either Tony, the Mayor’s son, or the girl from the diamond robbery where Caspere was the sole proprietor of.  Maybe that little girl was the one who worked at Caspere’s office and was seen in that photograph from the party with him.  Maybe she isn’t, and maybe it’s something bigger and/or completely different.  All I know is that next week is the finale, and they have not announced a director yet.  One can only hold out hopes for the likes of William Friedkin or HBO player Timothy Van Patten.  Or, maybe, just maybe Nic Pizzolatto will direct it.  That would be worth it if only to see all the rage hater’s heads explode.  Either way, I am counting down the days and cannot wait for the conclusion of what I still say is, the best show on television.

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TRUE DETECTIVE 2.5 OTHER LIVES – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

True Detective 2.5 OTHER LIVES

“I try and limit the people I can disappoint.” – Ray Velcoro

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Two months have passed since the blistering shootout close of last week’s episode.  The characters have all moved on, trying to reinvent themselves.  Vince Vaughn has now sunk to where his character presumably was months, maybe even years before the show started.  He’s nowt living in the suburbs in a small house and being driven to a bar he currently runs.  Colin Farrell shaved off his Sampson mustache and now works for Vaughn as an enforcer.  Taylor Kitsch is moving ahead with his charade engagement and McAdams is now smoking cigarettes and ditched the e-cigs.

The big revelation in this episode was family.  It took five episodes for it to sink in, but the three detectives come from terrible places.  Affliction parades over all of the main character’s souls .  Whether it is Farrell’s drunk and racist cop father, or McAdams’ free loving, inner-self father or Kitsch’s drunk and tarting mother; all three of them escaped where they came from and tried to live their own lives, but always in the shadows of their former selves.  And then it struck me during the formation of the secret investigation they got wrangled into.  The only place these three belong are with each other.  There is no other family for them in this world.  They accept and understand each other’s plights, and speak fondly of one another.  Acceptance is something that the three detectives desire the most, and with each other – that completely achieve that.

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The big reveal this episode was that Vaughn gave Farrell the wrong information on the man who raped his ex-wife, in order to put Farrell in his pocket.  Sometime between the fourth episode and the fifth, the actual rapist was caught unbeknownst to Farrell, until he was told mid episode.  This sent Farrell into a path of self-righteous destruction, beating down Rick Springfield’s creepy doctor to get information about the sex parties, uncovering a blackmail scheme that shined a lot of light on the mysteries of the season.  Something happened after Farrell got the information from Springfield, he lunged towards Springfield and the camera cut away to a new scene.  What happens after the cut?  Does Farrell beat him to death?

The episode finishes strong with Vaughn and his wife in bed, in a good place.  They were open and honest with one another about who they are and what they want, and came to the realization that they love one another, regardless of how far Vaughn has fallen from grace and whatever his wife’s struggles were prior to their marriage.  Farrell shows up, banging on Vaughn’s front door.  Vaughn answers.  Farrell can barely contain his rage of being strategically misled by Vaughn.  He’s shaking, he’s grinding his teeth.  Vaughn is at a standstill, unsure of what happened to Farrell and what his intentions are.  The camera cuts back to Farrell.  He’s stone cold.  Not moving.  In that moment, Farrell has made up his mind that he is going to kill Vaughn.  Give Collin Farrell the Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award now.  Same goes for writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto.  He is a literary genius.

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TRUE DETECTIVE 2.4 DOWN WILL COME – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

TRUE DETECTIVE 2.4 DOWN WILL COME

“Sometimes your worst self, is your best self.” – Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn)

We are now at the halfway point of the second season of TRUE DETECTIVE. The latest episode was an incredible slow burn of more complex character development, so slow that the episode came to a crawl at certain points, only to brilliantly explode in the final ten minutes to a Michael Mann inspired street shoot out.

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Vince Vaughn’s back is to the wall, he’s out of resources and he’s going back, extorting the current owners of his previous businesses, his marriage is falling apart and he is losing trust in the people working for him. Colin Farrell is exiled inside his self loathing, saying goodbye to his son by giving him his father’s badge. Taylor Kitsch relapsed and drunkenly slept with his former “Black Mountain” buddy, and shored that up with more self destruction by getting engaged to his former girlfriend when she told him that she was pregnant. Rachel McAdams’ life is still a mess, and a formal sexual misconduct complaint was charged against her by the simpleton officer she was having sex with as well as her current partner helping fuel the complaint.

We also get a glimmer into what I think is the underlining occult story line of the show. McAdams’ father (David Morse) shows her and Velcoro a picture from the 70’s of him, Vinci’s Mayor’s father and Rick Springfield’s characters all on a beach side. I’m thinking that the sex parties that have been referenced in the last two episodes have something to do with them.

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The episode ended like the fourth episode of the first season, a tremendous shoot out. This time, it wasn’t one take like it was in the first season. This time, the camera followed the three leads exchange gunfire with a gunman from a meth lab, as well as chasing an SUV down on foot. The scene was absolutely graphic. Civilians that were protesting outside of a public transportation bus terminal were gunned down; the officers supporting Farrell, McAdams and Kitsch were all gunned down.

What I found more engaging and interesting than the intense shoot out, was after it was over, the camera held on each character, we watched them regroup in the aftermath that left everyone dead but them. Farrell’s hands were shaking, saliva dripped from his mouth. McAdams was crying. And then there was Kitsch. Kitsch was stone cold, no emotion, no remorse and no empathy.

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A lot has been built around Kitsch’s character. He’s gay, but more interestingly enough he was involved in “Black Mountain” during the Iraq war. Black Mountain can only be the fictional version of the “defense” contractor Black Water, that had free reign in Iraq, and they killed anyone and everyone. Kitsch’s vulnerability came out in his scene with Farrell earlier in the episode:

“I just don’t know how to be, out there in the world.”

“Look out that window, look at me. No one does.”

Pizzolatto’s writing is unique and he truly has his own voice. The four main characters, much like this episode itself, are all slow burning. Whatever inner torment and turmoil they are dealing, they’re completely lost in who they once thought they were, or better yet who they thought they could have been. As Leonard Cohen’s theme song says, “I live the life that I left behind.”

TRUE DETECTIVE 2.3 MAYBE TOMORROW – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

TRUE DETECTIVE 2.3 MAYBE TOMORROW

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The third episode of the new season did a perfect job of fleshing the four main characters out in a complex and natural way. The episode opened with a surprising and welcome turn from veteran character actor Fred Ward as Colin Farrell’s retired cop father, in Farrell’s dreamscape. Ward, who later appears in a fantastic scene with Farrell, was cast perfectly much like Jack Palance being cast as Nicholson’s boss in BATMAN.

The episode dug deeper into Vince Vaughn’s primal gangster psyche, where he is forced to revert back to his thug brutality casting aside the educated facade he’s so carefully constructed around himself. Vaughn is currently giving the performance of his career, playing a man who is so desperate to shake his Chicago gangster persona by speaking in analytical riddles and multiple syllable words he’s heard, presumably, spoken by the sophisticated men he’s trying to legitimize himself with.

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In my review of last week’s episode, I referenced THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, and this episode falls in line perfectly with that. The scene where Vaughn summons all the criminals he knows into the basement of the club is a clear homage to that film. The scene was only missing the men dangling upside down from meat hooks. But it was championed by Vaughn’s vicious use pliers.

Colin Farrell lives, because of course he does. Whilst killing him off in the second episode would have been audacious and perhaps even brilliant, he is the central hub of this show. Farrell is giving a blistering and raw performance as a man who has nothing left to live for, and the only thing propelling him forward is the rage inside him that he can barely contain for much longer. The entire episode, Farrell is physically distraught, rarely blinks and is a bomb waiting to detonate that will lay absolute waste to anything surrounding him. Farrell’s whiskey and cocaine bloated physicality is a prime example of how carefully details are paid to on this show.

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Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh is losing his grip on himself. He can barely keep his homosexual urges repressed, and his inner torment is causing his world around him to erode. I can’t wait to see how Kitsch’s storyline plays out, and I imagine it’s going to keep spiralling downward.

Rachel McAdam’s is fantastic as the emotional vampire, sucking life from the patrolman Mike, just so she can keep moving onward with hers. I am absolutely loving the running joke of everyone commenting on the fact that McAdams keeps smoking an e-cigarette.

Ritchie Coster is fabulous as the drunken mayor of fictional city of Vinci who is the antithesis of corrupted power. Coster has been chameleon like in everything I’ve seen him in. Such as THE DARK KNIGHT, THE BLACKOUT and HBO’s tremendous but ill fated LUCK. This is the second time in as many episodes we’ve seen the picture of the privileged Mayor and George W. Bush embracing one another. I can’t help but enjoy the kinship and association we are meant to take from that.

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What makes the second season of TRUE DETECTIVE so fantastic thus far is that if the seasons were flipped all the critics and naysayers would be complaining about how self indulged and pretentious Matthew McConaughey’s dialogue is. I honestly cannot understand what the critics, who were sent a screener containing the first three episodes of this season (so we are now caught up with them) are complaining about, and frankly I don’t care. Each episode of this season has been better than its former. What we’ve seen from the second season as of right now are four career high performances from the leads, a fantastic noir with an ambiguous time setting (cops are smoking in the Vinci police department at their desks, as are people in the bar where Farrell and Vaughn meet, tube TV’s strategically placed, digital and analog technology mixed together) and a pitch black world, where the main characters get exactly that. Maybe tomorrow will be better, but deep down inside they each know it won’t. They are getting the world they deserve.

TRUE DETECTIVE 2.2 NIGHT FINDS YOU – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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TRUE DETECTIVE EPISODE 2.2 NIGHT FINDS YOU
Dir. Justin Lin

“It’s my strong suspicion, we get the world we deserve.” – Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell)

There’s been so much backlash and disdain for the new season of TRUE DETECTIVE. Vince Vaughn isn’t delivering his performance well enough, Justin Lin’s direction is misguided, the dialogue is not lyrically poetic like it was in the first season.

No one had higher expectations than I did when it came to the new season. I have watched the first season in full at least five times, and watched select episodes much more than that. This season I’ve watched the first episode four times and the second episode that aired last night, three times.

This new season is absolutely excellent. It is exactly what the second season should be, a distinct and sharp contrast from the first, while keeping the same themes and upping the darkness of the new leads.

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Vince Vaughn is brilliant in the show. He’s an under educated streetwise thug that speaks in double negatives and his physical persona fleshes out the towering and domineering Frank Semyon incredibly well. The character of Frank Semyon is brilliantly constructed, and at this point in the series, Semyon is really the only sympathetic character, but we have yet to be fully exposed to his shadow world where the other three leads clearly live.

Lin’s direction has been outstanding thus far, from the overhead shots of the LA highway system, to the creeping close up to Vaughn’s face in his opening monologue to the extreme close up of McAdams’ eye as she is viewing the darkly salacious videos on her laptop. Lin is obviously influenced by Michael Mann. The gorgeous industrial complexes, the overhead shots of infrastructure and the blue toned shots of Semyon’s home, to me, are clearly influenced by Mann, and in particular his seminal film, MANHUTNER.

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And yes, holy Rick Springfield showing up as the eerie doctor who clearly has a much bigger role in the arc of the series than his brief scene in the most recent episode. He was great as himself in CALIFORNICATION.

And no, I don’t think who got shot is dead. While it would be quite audacious of killing that character off so soon, they’ll be back in next week’s episode. I don’t want to trek into spoilers, but I do not believe for a second that the character is dead.

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Creator Nic Pizzolatto continues to absolutely amaze me with his writing. His dialogue is just as fierce in this season; especially without coding it in poetry. He transitioned to pulp dialogue for this season, and it works incredibly well. This season seems to be a nightmarish merging of CHINATOWN and THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY. I cannot wait for next week’s episode.