Series Review: True Detective Season 1

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Richly-developed, eerily-haunting, and at times edge-of-your-seat gripping, the first season of “True Detective” was definitely a breath of fresh air, a near genre-breaking achievement in cinematic television with terrific performances and a slow-burning plot that contains a handful of effective plot twists.

From the opening sequence, paired to perfection with the Handsome Family’s “Far from Any Road”, we knew that the series would be dark with very little humor.  But the show never crossed the line from darkness into dullness, as the main characters, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, carried the darkness of the show with an enigmatic charisma that was always intriguing.

Cary Fukunaga directed the entire first season and did not return for the second (although Nic Pizzolatto did write both seasons) and it showed.  Season 1 was a showcase of excellent direction and cinematography.

The biggest regret I had with regards to watching this series was how much time it took me to finish it.  Not that the series was bad, just that I never got around to it.  The eight episodes probably took me about 6 months to finish.  I’m glad I did, though.  I’m sure if I had binged watched it, or at least watched it over a span of 3-4 weeks, that I might have enjoyed the show even more, particularly for its tone and atmosphere.  As it stands, “True Detective” Season 1 sits as one of my top 5 favorite television shows.

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Movie Review: Out of the Furnace

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Boasting a truly star-studded cast that includes Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, and Forrest Whitaker, “Out of the Furnace” nearly overwhelms the audience with its sheer amount of good acting performances.  The film is also proof that intriguing premises or mind-blowing concepts aren’t always prerequisite for good entertainment.

The film is a drama set in the shadow of the latest Iraq War, in working class, suburban America.  It follows the life of Russell Baze (Bale), a hard working mill worker and his brother Rodney (Affleck), who struggles to transition back into civilian life after four tours in Iraq.  The drama that unfolds is gripping, and we care about what happens to these characters every step of the way.  We feel their pains, and their reliefs.  We experience the fear together with the main characters as the endeavor into the lawless and barbaric countryside.

“Out of the Furnace” doesn’t break new grounds, but it is two hours of solid entertainment, and it deserves more viewing and recognition than it has so far.

Quick Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Much praise has been lauded onto the sequel to 2012’s “The Hunger Games.”  The film is well-directed, intense throughout, and boasts strong performances by a large ensemble cast, lead by currently the hottest actress in Hollywood, Jennifer Lawrence.

The biggest obstacle faced by filmmakers today is making familiar plot lines interesting and fun to watch.  We have seen stories like these a thousand times before, but what separates the good from the bad is the execution of the story, the post-production, and the ability to avoid awkward, unintentional laughs.

It had occurred to me today that the story of Katniss Everdeen, a tale freedom and (reluctant) heroism set in a tumultuous political climate and led by a symbolic figure, is pretty much a carbon copy of the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius from “Gladiator”, played by Russell Crowe.  I’m sure many others can name stories similar to this.

“Catching Fire” isn’t remotely genre-breaking, but it’s darn good entertainment and certainly worth the price of the ticket.