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

TD DESERVE

                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.

McADAMS TD

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.

LEFT BEHIND

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.

TD Kitsch

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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STEVEN SODERBERGH’S THE INFORMANT! — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The Informant! is one of many masterworks from the sly and crafty filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. The film is like a cinematic onion, and over the course of more than 15 viewings, has repeatedly shown itself to be a brilliant piece of satirical storytelling. The screenplay by Scott Z. Burns is fascinating in many respects, and Matt Damon delivers what’s probably the best (and my favorite) performance of his excellent career. This is a deceptive and tricky and extremely clever black comedy that’s going to confound many viewers and delight others. Getting old-school Marvin Hamlisch to score the film primarily with a kazoo was a typically absurdist move by Soderbergh, who always surprises with bold filmmaking decisions and his unconventional sense of humor. He’s a filmmaker who has openly stated that the various films by Richard Lester have continually inspired him; The Informant! feels like possibly his most Lester-esque piece of filmmaking.

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The Informant! is an extremely funny movie but in a very ironic, irreverent fashion. And yet, it’s also completely terrifying in that you’re basically watching a schizophrenic yet genius-level individual flush their entire life down the toilet. Comparisons to Michael Mann’s The Insider are appropriate but not entirely accurate. Sure, the landscape is big business and both films feature “whistle blowers” as their protagonists, but The Informant! struts its stuff as a devilish social comedy, whereas Mann’s masterpiece was a rigorous journalism thriller on par with the likes of All the President’s Men. The Informant! is yet another instance of Soderbergh taking wild creative chances, and having those chances pay off like gangbusters. Damon’s interior monologue which is heard in voice-over is some of the most dryly hilarious stuff you’re likely to find in any movie, and what did the fantastic Scott Bakula do to deserve that haircut?! There’s a deep and inspired supporting cast of comedians playing it straight (more Soderbergh tomfoolery), and as usual, the filmmaker acted as his own cinematographer and editor, because, you know, Peter Andrews and Marry Ann Bernard POWER.

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BRYAN BARBER’S IDLEWILD — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Bryan Barber’s Idlewild is a tour de force of style, of song and dance, of energetic cinematic pizazz, and a loving ode to the big Hollywood musical that happens to be spliced with the gangster film, all shot in a modern, MTV-inspired aesthetic that I think is wildly unique and more than eye-popping on an aesthetic level. Charles William Breen‘s extravagantly detailed and lush production design should have received an Oscar nomination – it’s really crimes against cinema that this didn’t happen. Every set, every scene, all sense of art direction is so in tune with all the elements that this really becomes a true feast for the senses. From top to bottom, Idlewild is insanely underrated, as it never had a wide enough release nor was it treated with any sort of respect from a pedigree standpoint. Marketed simply as “the Outkast movie,” Idlewild is so much more than that — it’s a crazy explosion of so many elements and genres and styles that I’m not really surprised that it flew under the radar. It’s sort of like The Cotton Club on acid, spiced up with sexy and sultry song and dance numbers, with a solid gangster-movie plot that sets into motion all the dramatic conflict that a narrative would need. Barber threw everything in his back pocket into this film — it’s stuffed (some might say overstuffed but not me!) with visual information that stretches the mise-en-scene to new heights and the film seems absolutely drunk with the many possibilities that the cinematic art form can provide.

Swept under the rug with a half-hearted, late summer theatrical release by Universal Pictures, the film hasn’t even been graced with a spiffed up transfer on the Blu-ray format, which is tantamount to a slap in the face to the extremely gifted cinematographer Pascal Rabaud, who shot the ever-living-hell out of each and every frame of this dazzling motion picture. I had the chance to see this one in the theater, and I can definitely say that it was an overwhelming experience to behold on the big screen. The absolutely ridiculous cast includes Ving Rhames, Terrence Howard, the show-stoppingly gorgeous Paula Patton, Cicely Tyson, Macy Gray, Faizon Love, Ben Vereen, Patti LaBelle, Bruce Bruce, Malinda Williams, and Jackie Long. John Debney’s eclectic and always present musical score envelopes the entire picture with a jazzy sense of spirit, and because the film is so thick with period flavor and distinct visual atmosphere, you really get the sense of being fully transported to the world that all of these fabulous people put on display. I knew this movie was for me when the song notes started dancing off the music-book pages for the piano players, and when the rooster emblem on the flask started to dance and crow. At times, the film feels like it belongs in the same company as Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge or The Great Gatsby — this was maximalist filmmaking delivered at a furious pace with a ton of heart and soul underneath the supreme sense of high style. Idlewild is like no other musical that you’ve seen and it’s so deserving of rediscovery that it almost feels comical.

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AARDMAN’S SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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It’s truly a shame that not enough parents with young children took a chance this weekend on Shaun the Sheep Movie. This film is a 100 Star Masterpiece, written with zero spoken dialogue, containing some of the best visual storytelling in ages, made in the grand tradition of FUN, filled with heart, humor, sophistication, and an endless sense of CUTE. I knew I was a goner when I first saw the madcap trailer (the film is way less rambunctious than advertised) and this constantly delightful movie never let me down. And it doesn’t matter how many times I watch a “making-of” when it comes to a Claymation film, I just don’t “get it” in terms of how these films are made. The painstaking process of arranging and re-arranging the characters and backgrounds and props seems, to my eye, to be a herculean effort, and I don’t understand how they make water look the way it does within the context of this unique universe. There is a boundless sense of energy and wit in every single frame of this film, while the strong internal message of valuing your friends and family is never lost during the big action sequences and frequent bits of absurd antics. And did I mention that this film is funny? It’s both laugh out loud and LQTM, with not one but two instances of snapper-fart humor, burp jokes that actually make sense within the context of the narrative, and an unending supply of animal related hijinks that would delight just about anyone with a pulse. So why don’t these movies get enough traction in the U.S.? Is it the “British-ness” of them? Are they just too good for people to latch onto? Whatever the reason, I don’t care. I don’t finance movies, I just shoot from the hip and report on how any particular film has made me feel after I’ve viewed it. This is a smashing piece of entertainment, made with sneak glee and just the right amount of smarts to balance out the silliness. This one made me feel like a kid, it reminded me of how blissfully innocent a child can be while watching a film on the big screen (the small amount of children in attendance seemed overjoyed), and it’s further proof that every year, the chance for a massive cinematic surprise is always possible.

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DAVID GREGORY’S LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is a painful documentary highlighting the challenges that Stanley faced while trying to mount his ambitious – and no doubt avant garde – reimagining of the classic material. Directed with a probing sense of mystery by David Gregory, this is an info-packed hour and 40 minutes filled with first hand tales of Hollywood idiocy, behind the scenes footage to die for, and enough stories about Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer to choke a horse. The notion that Stanley infiltrated the set post-firing while dressed up in creature make-up and costume is an utter pisser to even contemplate let alone realize actually occurred, and the not-so-fond stories of John Frankenheimer were quite interesting to note. Because I am not a filmmaker and clearly wasn’t there during the middle of this fiasco, all I can do is report on what was presented in this documentary – it’s yet another sad, disgusting, totally backwards tale of studio-led buffoonery that ultimately led to the destruction of someone’s vision. This documentary has that “check out this car wreck” quality where you just have to see what’s going to happen next, because it just can’t get any worse for the people involved. The amount of money that was flushed down the toilet while making this film was staggering, and the amount of time spent on the part of the actors and crew just sitting around and waiting to accomplish something – ANYTHING – would be enough to discourage anyone from making another movie again.

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CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE’S MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The MVP of Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, which was directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is CLEARLY cinematographer Robert Elswit. I can’t get over some of the shots in this latest entry in the franchise. His overwhelming sense of what is photogenic continues to dazzle my eye-balls, and his stunning photography and sharp camera placement in this film is extraordinary to observe and study. The stunts and action sequences pop with authority — the car and motorcycle chase in Casablanca was utterly superb — and it’s clear from watching that Elswit knows no bounds as a cameraman. He’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s regular cinematographer (minus one film) and all throughout his incredible career he’s demonstrated a mastery of the visual language (this is his second go-round on the Mission franchise having last shot the visually exuberant Ghost Protocol). The rest of the film is serviceable and fine — it’s predictable, it’s exposition heavy, Cruise is doing Solid Cruise here, nothing remotely challenging except in the physical sense, and sorry to say it, after Gibney’s incendiary documentary, I’m still seeing Xenu. Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner get some good laughs, and repeatedly, the film’s thunder is stolen by the sexy and confident Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who kicks a TON of ass, takes very few names, and looks extremely hot in evening gown and bathing-suit attire — she’s like a more athletic version of Ruth Wilson. Second Unit director Gregg Smrz and stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood more than earned their paychecks. And kudos to the filmmakers for not totally spoiling the absurd opening stunt with Cruise hanging off that cargo plane — I loved how long they held on the master shot of Cruise dangling off the side — they knew what they had in that moment. If CGI was used, it was flawless. If it wasn’t, Cruise is more than certifiable to even think of doing such a thing. For $5.75, you’ll get your bang for your buck. I’m just sort of wondering what ground is truly left to cover in this series of films.

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AMIN MATALQA’S CAPTAIN ABU RAED — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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***GREAT FILM ALERT – FOR PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT CINEMA – GREAT FILM ALERT***

I had not heard of the 2009 film Captain Abu Raed until my intrepid FB movie buddy Ryan Marshall made me aware of its existence. The less you know about this powerful, slow-burn drama from writer/director Amin Matalqa the better. This was the first Jordanian film in 50 years and the first that the country ever submitted for Oscar consideration, which is as hard to believe as it sounds. American productions have been using Jordan as a Middle East backdrop for years, but apparently, the countries own film economy was slow to start, and since the production of Captain Abu Raed, at least 10 other films have been completed. This is a poignant, touching, and finally devastating portrait of people randomly thrown into each other’s orbit, and it’s yet another film that goes to some extreme places to make a statement about the overall human condition. I loved this film. The lead performance from long time character actor Nadim Sawalha was nothing short of brilliant, the performances from the various child actors resonated with truth and believability, and I commend Matalqa for not bowing out in the final act, taking his narrative to its sad, inexorable conclusion. Sawalha plays Abu Raed, an airport janitor who spins stories to the local youth about how he’s really a pilot. He’s a man holding intense personal secrets, and his life takes a potentially tragic turn when he intervenes on a situation with an abusive neighbor. Add in a sweet and unlikely friendship with the severely pretty Jordanian TV personality Rana Sultan, playing a pilot who crosses paths with Abu Raed. There isn’t a wasted scene in the entire film, and it’s deceptively simple opening 40 minutes quickly gives way to a potent last half that challenges your expectations. This film likely makes my top 20 for had it been released this year. Seek it out.

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