Tag Archives: Matt Letscher

TNT’s The Alienist: Angel Of Darkness

TNT has blessed us with another season of spectacular television based on The Alienist books by Caleb Carr, and this one rocks *almost* as much as the first story. Angel Of Darkness it’s called, and it’s blanketed in the same gothic, austere, turn of the century New York City atmosphere where attitudes are shifting, scientific revelations burgeon through the thicket of superstition lingering from the past and terrifying criminals, gangs, corrupt law enforcement, decadent government peons and disturbed serial killers make life difficult for everyone. We once again join psychiatric guru Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), intrepid gentleman reporter John Moore (Luke Evans) and intuitive private investigator Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) as they try to track down, smoke out and put a stop to a shadowy individual who is kidnapping the infant children of affluent couples and killing them ruthlessly and methodically. I can’t believe I’m saying this but despite this season being about a fucking baby killer it’s still somehow less dark than the first, there were just aspects to that that were unnerving in a way I can’t explain, whereas here for all it’s macabre portent and ghastly subject matter, it’s just somehow more within the bounds of what is palatable. One change I liked between this and the first is that before we never ever saw the antagonist until the very last second of the finale, and only for a quick flash whereas here we know who the villain is halfway through the season and from there are treated to one of the most complex, heinous, theatrical yet grounded performances from someone whose cover I won’t blow in the review for the sake of spoilers but my god what a work of art in the medium of acting. One thing I noticed is that the first season mined the collective Hollywood past and casted some truly eclectic faces, people you hadn’t seen in years and wondered if were still around, it felt like a 80’s/90’s genre college reunion of sorts. This season does that to a lesser extent and the cast isn’t as prolific but there are some old guard personas that show up including Alice Krige, Michael McElhatton, Matt Letscher as a smarmy William Randolph Hearst and returning baddie Ted Levine as the scheming department fixer Byrnes, who has more of a discernible arc this season. The heart, soul, comic relief and pathos of this whole show rests on the shoulders of our three leads though, who are once again superb, each in their own right. Brühl’s Kreizler is a thorough pragmatist who uses that nature as an effective tool in his research into the human brain but discovers that certain aspects more geared towards the emotional are just as important. Fanning as Howard is fiercely guarded, wicked smart and relentless in her pursuit of truth and vindication for the less fortunate souls she strives so hard to understand and help on their journey. Evans as Moore is my favourite, he’s just a tad naive, deeply soulful and finds a real and genuine way to express himself verbally here that is a wonderful progression of his character from season one. These three characters work as a unit and as wildly different individuals, they are the essence of what makes this show so special and rarely have I seen a trio of series leads so well painted, acted, written and intuited as I have from these three artists. If you like dark, intense, morbid yet persistently life affirming storytelling that breaks molds, challenges convention, strives for uniqueness in character and narrative and rewards the viewer endlessly while terrifying them in equal doses, this is for you. Bring on season three please and thank you.

-Nate Hill

Martin Campbell’s The Mask Of Zorro

Martin Campbell’s The Mask Of Zorro still holds up today, thanks mostly to its sumptuous, sultry production design and three passionate, swashbuckling and delightfully self aware performances from Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas. This was one of the first more intense and violent adventure films I saw as a young’un, and while the PG13 heroics seem tame in comparison to other films, it still has that menacing edge for me. Hopkins is a scene stealer as Don Diego, the fearless rascal who takes up the mantle of Zorro and passes it along to haughty young thief Alejandro (Banderas) years after he’s betrayed by despicable nobleman Montero (Stuart Wilson, slimy and then some). The real eye catcher is drop dead gorgeous Zeta Jones as Diego’s daughter Elena, whose swordplay and roguish attitude both match and spar with that of Banderas, their chemistry onscreen is pure Latin fire in full flame. It gets quite lighthearted and theatrical at times but this is after all Zorro and not Batman we’re talking about here, he’s kind of like the Latin Lone Ranger and the flamboyant flourish is part of the charm. The supporting cast is fun too, but Matt Letscher is a bit vanilla to play the dastardly secondary villain who literally keeps heads in a jar, they would have been better off going the grizzled character actor route instead of a golden boy like him. All is well with Maury Chaykin as a testy prison warden and the late L.Q. Jones as a crusty outlaw who mentors young Banderas and has arguably the most memorable scene of the film. The star power of our three leads is where it’s at though, Banderas is smokin’ good in the charcoal black outfit waving the classic needle sword around in people’s faces, Hopkins exudes an amused nobility and Jones… man, you don’t find beauty and charisma like that every day. James Horner’s score is a trumpet blast of celebratory cues that fires up the action energetically, Cecilia Montiel’s production design lovingly brings the world and time period to life, while Campbell paints in broad, playful director’s strokes, all to bring us what has become an adventure classic. There is a sequel, but it’s kind of a listless, gaudy retread that loses the magic in cheesy set pieces, stick with this diamond instead .

-Nate Hill