Review – True Detective Season 2

As the police anthology series continues, a man with serious power winds up dead and it is down to an unlikely bunch of heroes to track down who did it.

When a big figure of the LA underworld is found dead on the side of the highway, the job of catching and bringing his killers to justice falls upon Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch). They are a trio of detectives you would never even dream of meeting in the same place, but after drawing unwanted attention to themselves from their individual departments, they are thrown together so the state police can keep an eye on them more easily. They and casino boss Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) are eager to find who killed Ben Caspere and why due to the fact it could uncover forces altogether more sinister.

Well, it finally arrived! Season two of True Detective – the highly anticipated follow-up to the show launched with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey last year – returned eight weeks ago to somewhat mixed reactions. After the first episode was shown, viewers took to the Internet to express their thoughts and there was no real overruling majority either side. Lovers on the first season were disgusted, and those who didn’t enjoy the first season too much loved this first episode. Myself personally? I wasn’t overly impressed with the first episode and knew immediately it wouldn’t be a patch on season one. However, it seems I was wrong with that assumption. The longer this one went on, the more I warmed to it, and I’m not afraid to say that, whilst I don’t think it quite reached the same standards as last year, it wasn’t as far off the mark as I originally thought it would be.

There were, of course, the strong performances that seem to be making themselves a trademark of the show, and the same dark characters being portrayed. Farrell as Velcoro was excellent. He played the cop who everyone thought was bent, when in fact he wasn’t, but due to things that had happened a long time ago, Velcoro’s reputation was heavily tarnished and many people struggled to see past this. He never let is show at work though, and in all fairness, Velcoro played his cards very close to his chest throughout the whole series, although from Farrell’s expression and body language it was clear the man had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and that he just wanted everyone to realise that, deep down, he was a good person.

Kitsch as Paul Woodrugh was every bit the match to Farrell’s character. Even now that the whole things has finished, I’m still not entirely sure quite what to make of Woodrugh. Not an awful lot was ever revealed about him, but he was a very tormented character and that sort of let my imagination run wild about where he had come from and some of the things that had happened to him. Kitsch played him very well, and never gave too much away about him, but he did give just enough to start you wondering…

McAdams as Ani Bezzerides was my favourite character. It was nice to see a strong female lead, especially after all the male roles in season one. Like Woodrugh, Bezzerides was full of mystery, but each week more was revealed about her allowing you to empathise with her more and more. The perspective of a female police officer also gave an insight into the sexism that is rife and the challenges this can pose. McAdams was wonderful and gave the woman’s touch that this show has required for a while.

Finally, there was Vaughn as Frank Semyon. I’ll be honest with you here, I didn’t think initially that he was the man for such a large role in a gritty show such as this, and I genuinely thought that he might have been the show’s undoing. HOW WRONG WAS I? He was tremendous as the casino owner balls-deep in God knows what. The feeling he brought to the programme was unreal. I do believe this could help rejuvenate his career a great deal, and help him get into many more serious roles.

Okay, so I’m going to state the obvious here and say that the story was awesome again this year. The nice thing about it was the fact that it seemed to attract a lot of non-believers and reach an even further audience this time round. Nic Pizzolatto did a fantastic job yet again, and I think that is partly down to the fact he took the story to a totally different part of the country and didn’t try to recreate what had been done before.

All in all, may I first say to all other fans of show: you are my people! And to those of you yet to see any of True Detective, sort yourselves out and get watching – you don’t know what’s good for you. 

Review – Rage

A former gangster’s daughter is kidnapped with suspicions arising that it could be the revenge of an old rival. He rounds up his old friends and seeks his own kind of justice.

For years, Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage) has been out of the mob circle and made a living as a legitimate businessman in the area of construction. One night, he and his partner go to a party, leaving Paul’s pride and joy, his daughter, Caitlin, at home with a couple of her friends. Later on during the evening, the party is cut short when detective Peter St. John (Danny Glover) turns up to inform Paul of his daughter’s abduction. Paul learns that three criminals invaded his home and took his daughter, and he suspects it could all be linked to a job he and his friends did in a former life that went wrong. Soon, the news emerges that Caitlin has been found dead in a park and it was a Russian Tokarev pistol that killed her. Paul is haunted by his past, and is even more convinced that this whole situation has something to do with the Mafia. However, his war against the Russians reveals no connections between Caitlin and the Mob, which leaves the question of who really did kill Caitlin?

Well, Nicolas, I think perhaps it is time you got on the phone to one of these pay-day loans companies, because making three films a month to try to get back the money you lost years back is getting very tiresome for us all. Rage (or Tokarev) was painful to watch, and that really was when the film was at it’s best. I’ve seen more emotion displayed by a loaf of bread than there was shown by any of the actors – if they can justify calling themselves that – in this. I mean, I do feel quite sorry for Cage because he is only doing jobs for the money it would appear, and the vast majority of the roles he is picking are terrible. It’s a real shame because the man can act, and he has made some very good films, however unfortunately it seems that a few choices he has made when it comes to films and characters have cast a very dark shadow over his earlier, far more successful career.

The story was agonisingly slow. Rage is a 95-minute long film, which was labelled by the TV guide as a ‘blood-soaked revenge thriller’. I can tell you it took close enough to fifty minutes for anyone to get killed. To try and communicate how bored I was as I watched Rage, I’ll let you know that Nicolas Cage wears so much hairspray that he looks like he is wearing a German army helmet on his head, and the longer the film went on, the harder I was looking for a hair to have fallen out of place. It is incredibly sad, I know, but it was all I could do to keep my sanity.

Overall, I don’t think there is an awful lot more I can say other than avoid Rage at all costs. It is not to be confused with any film of a similar name, and do not feel you have to watch it because someone, goodness knows why, is pressuring you to do so. Remember kids, no means no. Nobody should have to be subjected to this. 

Review – Boyhood

A tale of adolescence filmed over the course of twelve years.

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is a young boy who has a very hectic childhood. His mum (Patricia Arquette) had him and his sister very young and had to give up school to look after them. Once they’ve grown up a bit, she announces that they are all moving to Houston. Texas, where she is going to go back to college and get a teaching degree. There she continues to go to school whilst the kids meet their dad (Ethan Hawke) every weekend. This generally tends to be the norm over the next twelve years, during which a pair of drunken husbands come and go, the family move another couple of three times, and Mason grows up.

Boyhood is something that can be viewed as a landmark achievement in cinema and film making. The whole production took twelve years (more than a decade!) to film and put together. A project lasting that long faces a shed-load of potential problems. For example, Coltrane who played Mason was very young when filming started. A lot of the risk involved in making Boyhood lay with him, and the sort of person he mature into, and the acting quality he came to possess, as he was essentially, who the story revolved around. However, from my point of view at least, it seems that the risks paid off. Boyhood turned out to be a tremendous feat, and has made director Richard Linklater something of a legend.

I loved the performances of all the main actors and actresses in the film. Obviously there was Coltrane. He really needed to be brilliant for the film to succeed, and he was – all the way throughout. He showed the emotions that every child experiences as they grow up and that was the core of everything. And as for all the friendships and relationships Mason had over the years, the as he dealt with them was portrayed by Coltrane excellently. Very well done to him.

Hawke was also wonderful as the dad who never really grew up himself. He wanted to be as good a father as possible to his kids, but when they were still very young, he just wasn’t ready. Him and Coltrane had very good on-screen chemistry with their father/son bond and you felt as if they really cared about each other. Hawke also showed that whilst he perhaps wasn’t prepared for fatherhood when his kids first came into the world, he wouldn’t change either of them for anything.

And now for Arquette – that woman won an Oscar for a reason, you know! In all fairness, Boyhood followed her story as much as her son’s, therefore she was equally as vital as Coltrane. Throughout the film, her character went on quite a journey, and a rough one at that. But she grew as much as Mason on that journey and by the end, she was a very strong, inspirational woman who had raised two wonderful children. It was a remarkable performance she gave, and the Academy were right in giving her Best Actress.

Linklater, as I’ve already said, did an excellent job in directing this film. He had a vision for how he wanted the whole thing to play out and he went for it, and the end result, I’d imagine, was very rewarding for him.

All in all, Boyhood is an achievement that should be witnessed by all. At nearly three hours long, it may be quite a long session for some, but it is well worth the numb bum you’ll have by the end of it. The story is great (and relatable), and the performances are just flawless – Boyhood certainly blossomed into something beautiful.

Review – The Affair Season 1

Both sides of an affair between a married waitress and a married teacher who spends his summer in the Hamptons.

Noah Solloway (Dominic West) spends his summer at his in-laws estate in the Hamptons. Whilst he is there, he meets waitress Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson). After numerous encounters, the pair embark on a lustrous affair whilst trying to also stick to the mundane ins and outs of their everyday lives. However, between the time of the affair and the present day, someone winds up dead and both lovers are implicated in there murder.

After rave reviews and a Golden Globe for Best Actress, you’d think The Affair would be worth a watch, wouldn’t you? Er…. You’d be wrong to assume. For the past ten weeks I’ve had to suffer every single vapid episode. The sheer monotony of the whole thing was unbearable. Basically, the series is a very simple case of he said, she said, and somewhere in amongst all this somebody dies, or for added excitement, is murdered. Despite the audience’s knowledge of such an event, instead of turning into a vaguely gripping whodunnit, The Affair still follows… you guessed it. I mean, I wouldn’t mind but each episode goes as follows; you get details of each of the lover’s day, and at some point they both meet up for a quick shag at varying locations and then that’s it, for another episode at least. Beyond all that, not a fat lot else happens, and for ten episodes, that’s a long time for not a fat lot to be happening.

For a bad story, the performances were good. West put on a convincing show as Noah who, quite honestly, would take sex just about anywhere he could find it. He was so convincing in fact, that you could very easily believe that West was gagging for it equally as much in real life. However, he did try at every opportunity to end things with Alison, although he failed miserably, and you could sense the desperation in West’s performance. At the end of the day, he wanted Alison in his life, but he also wanted to cause his family as little pain as possible.

Wilson as Alison was very good. Throughout her whole life, she had been through the mill a bit, and when she met Noah, I’d imagine she was the happiest she had been in a long time. She was so willing to risk everything for him that you sort of knew that this was the best things had been for her in a long time. So, do I believe the Golden Globe went to the right person? Yes, it was certainly a worthy performance – they both were. Unfortunately. They just didn’t lift the rest of the story enough in order to make it even remotely watchable.

As I’ve said before, I really didn’t like the premise of the storyline. The fact that the love story between the two main characters took precedence over a murder where nobody real seemed to anything about what happened just didn’t sit right with me. However what annoyed me even further was the fact that in order to find out exactly what happened regarding the murder, I am going to have to sit through another ten episodes next year. Aggravating does not even begin to describe my feelings towards this.

Overall, I think you can probably tell that I wasn’t grabbed by The Affair. It is certainly not something that I will be forcing everyone I know to watch, and I’m not going to ram it down any of your throats either.   

My Top Ten Favourite Actors

So, now I think it’s time that I did something on the people I would watch regardless of what ever they were in. Bear with, there’s quite a few…

Bruce Willis

 I have my parents to thank as the reason for why I’m such a fan of Brucie. If ever they happened to be stuck for something to watch and they found a Bruce Willis film, it would be that they would stick with. I remember when I was younger I got sent to bed early after they found Die Hard With A Vengeance one night, just as it got to the infamous billboard scene. Years later, they found Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free Or Die Hard) and I was allowed to watch it. After that, they recorded all the other films in the franchise and I got to watch them, and after that, I was allowed to watch more or less whatever took my fancy. So I not only like Willis as he is almost always a bad-ass action hero, he corrupted the innocence that my parents thought I had kept until I was fourteen and this meant I could watch anything. I have seen 21 of his films to date and will happily watch many more.

Al Pacino

 Pacino only came to me after recently watching The Godfather Trilogy, and I was blown away by him. As I’m pretty sure I said in my reviews for each of the three films, he was menacing as Michael Corleone and there was an air of real unpredictability about him. I couldn’t quite decide for myself whether he was one of the good guys, or one of the bad. Since watching them, Pacino’s acting really stuck in my mind and I decided to keep an eye out for any of his films to come on TV. So far I’ve only found Scent Of A Woman, but I will hunt down the likes of Heat, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico as I would love to see more of the man’s wonderful performances.

Bradley Cooper

 The story of how I came to know of Bradley Cooper and his acting is remarkably sad. I was watching TV one day and a Haagen-Dazs advert came on and he was in it. At the time, I didn’t have a clue who he was, so I went straight to Google to find out exactly that and what he was in. I’ll put my hands up now and admit that this only because I thought he was rather nice to look at. But after seeing the likes of The Place Beyond The Pines and Silver Linings Playbook alongside many others, I can confirm he can act as well. After first discovering him a couple of years ago, I can definitely say that after a variety of many wonderful performances ranging from from highly comedic roles in The Hangover Trilogy and gritty parts such as his role of Chris Kyle in American Sniper, plus a very charming personality and a handsome face and ripped body, Mr Cooper will, for a long time, be one of my favourites.

Denzel Washington

 Anything this man is in has got to be worth watching. There are so many characters he can play, both good and bad. Again, the main reason I’m a fan of Denzel Washington is due to the fact that my parents are, therefore anything he is in must be watched. My favourite film he has been in that I have seen has to be Training Day. His character was great fun to watch and he says he was great fun to play. Whilst I don’t know too much about Washington, he does seem like a real genuine man who just loves his job, and if that’s the case, he will remain just as enjoyable to watch for years to come.

Clive Owen

 Clive Owen was someone I only just discovered last year, and in all honesty, I am amazed it took that long for him to come to light. A film I had wanted to watch for ages, Children Of Men, finally came on TV and it turned out that he was in it. I didn’t really know who he was, but I decided to find out more about him and the films he had starred in. I found out that he comes from Coventry, which is probably only half an hours’ drive from where I live. I also learnt that his rise to fame was a real rags to riches story and those are things that just make me happy. I then made it my mission that summer to watch whatever he was in that I could find, and he has been in some terrific film, and also a wonderful TV series called The Knick.

Clint Eastwood

 I think every time he comes up, I always at some point in the conversation refer to him as the ultimate hard man, words to that effect. Clint Eastwood is one of Hollywood’s most iconic actors and has been in our screens for more than half a decade now. He has not only acted, but he has directed many great films. He has certainly come a long way from the days of The Dollars Trilogy, now starring in a fistful of modern day masterpieces. The way I see him is always going to be as Dirty Harry, and whenever I watch Eastwood, he always makes my day.

Matthew McConaughey

 He is someone whose films I’ve only just very recently started to watch, but Matthew McConaughey is already undoubtedly one of my favourite actors. I had watched The Lincoln Lawyer a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until I watched season one of True Detective that I realised how much of a big deal he was. I went on to watch Dallas Buyers Club and Killer Joe and would love to see Mud as I think anything post-2010 from him might just be terrific. Not only is he a great actor, McConaughey seems to be a really chilled, down-to-earth guy who just enjoys the life he was so lucky to fall into. In an interview with the SAG Foundation, he said himself that it was purely by being in the right place at the right time that he got to where he is today, and he appears to be really grateful for the good luck he has been blessed with. However, probably my favourite thing about him is he is very witty, and he has some brilliant stories to tell about his rise to fame.

Robert De Niro

 I think he’s been a big thing ever since he won his first Oscar as a young don Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, but Robert De Niro is also someone whose films I have felt compelled to watch only recently. There is something about him that tells you that no matter what he’s in, or what kind of character he plays, there is no way on this earth De Niro is going to take any crap off of anybody. He is a very diverse actor who has been around a long time, and there are a huge number of his films I am still to watch. I look forward to them.

Jake Gyllenhaal


 Jake Gyllenhaal is, as anyone who read my feature on new films I’m looking forward to this year, the most recent actor that I have taken a shine to *wink, wink*. This kid commits fully to any role he is in. The first film I saw him in was the go-to DVD of my   school’s science department on the last day of term, The Day After Tomorrow. After that, it was End Of Watch. But it wasn’t until I saw Nightcrawler that I really sat up and paid attention to him, which is rather worrying as he was total psychopath in that. What can I say? I like dangerous men. I really like the very tough roles that Gyllenhaal doesn’t seem to ever shy away from, and I think he pulls them off brilliantly. Plus, he is so, so, so fit – I think I might have forgotten everything to mention that.

Javier Bardem

 The roles most know him for are that of Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men and Raoul Silva in Skyfall, and ever since watching the first film, Javier Bardem has most certainly been someone I’m a huge fan of. It just seems to me that he gives an absolute masterclass is whatever he appears. Take The Counselor, for example – I watched it purely because he was in it, and even though it wasn’t the greatest film I had ever seen, Bardem nailed his part and made watching it worthwhile. I just love his work, possibly because it comes with fond memories. When I watched No Country For Old Men for the first time, I jumped so spectacularly at one particular scene that I threw an entire can of Coke over my mum and we couldn’t play the film for ten minutes after until we’d gotten changed and stopped laughing. Dearest Javier’s wondrous acting has gifted us with good times. I even watched a Spanish film recently because I wanted to see more of his work. A review for The Sea Inside will follow shortly.

So, there’s the list of my favourite actors. A few honourable mentions include Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hardy, Robin Williams, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker and Tom Hanks. They are all so wonderful in their own ways and I am happy to say I have witnessed their work. Do you agree that they are brilliant? Or who would you include on your list?