Review – Boardwalk Empire Full Series Review

There’s always a worry in finally being able to watch something you’ve been waiting ages to see.

Regardless of whether it be a film or a TV series, there’s a fear that it won’t meet expectations that have had plenty of time to grow.

So when I discovered the box set of Boardwalk Empire was on Now TV at long last, you can imagine my apprehension.

Well, I am over the moon to be able to say that it met every one of my expectations. I was so contented with the Prohibition-era set crime saga that I was kind of gutted when it came to an end. You know something? I can say I’ve watched plenty of good TV shows with multiple seasons, but I don’t remember any of them being as consistently good as this one. From the very first episode right up until the very last, it was rock solid. I would struggle to say the same about any show I’ve watched over the last few years.

One of the main things owing to the show’s consistent appeal was the eclectic mix of characters that were all brilliant in their own ways. And of course, where you find fantastic characters, you also find even greater performances. There’s too many for me to cover them all in this review of the full series, but I’ll cover some of the most honourable mentions.

Steve Buscemi is the ideal person to play some like Nucky Thompson. He’s played some right greaseballs during his career, and I think his turn as Nucky might be a beautiful culmination of them all. Buscemi probably isn’t the first man who comes to mind when trying to create a notorious gangster, but he absolutely owned the role and it’s hard to think that there would ever been a point where anyone else was in contention.

A truly star-studded cast stood alongside Buscemi here. Kelly MacDonald played Nucky’s wife Margaret. She underwent quite the transformation over the five seasons. Michael Kenneth Williams, a favourite of mine from The Wire, played businessman Chalky White and was as charismatic as ever. However, if I was to nail down any of the main performances for the sake of this review, I’d have to cover those put in by Stephen Graham and Michael Shannon.

Graham played the infamous Al Capone as he rose through the ranks to become a made guy. It was a very interesting performance, and certainly an entertaining one too. His Capone was a scrappy little terrier of a man, and he had the power to completely change the dynamics of a scene in seconds.

It is Michael Shannon’s performance that will stick in my mind for the longest though. That man can fucking act. Shannon was on another level entirely as Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden. He was exciting watch, and every time I thought he’d peaked he just smashed through the glass ceiling. Every. Single. Time.

Storylines across the five seasons were fantastic, each one throwing up surprises that kept everything interesting. The writing constantly introduced us to new characters who were determined to topple Nucky’s empire one way or another. If I had to isolate one season though, I would have to go with season 3. The balance struck between all the different elements of the show was just a tiny bit more perfect on this occasion than it had been on all the others. That being said, all the others knocked it out of the park – even season 5 where I must admit I started out sceptical due to the massive amount of change that had clearly taken place between it and the one before it. I kept the faith though and was rewarded for doing so, is it went of to be one of the greatest final seasons and final episodes I’ve seen.

Written aspects aside, a 1920s drama wouldn’t be the same without all the costumes and the music – two things that define a period I think. The show always looked the part, and I think the attention to detail that the costume department possessed really shone through. There was never any disputing when in history this was all taking place because of it.

I really, really enjoyed Boardwalk Empire. There was nothing that I didn’t like about it if I’m being honest. The great mix of brilliantly well-written characters and the ways their stories intertwined, plus the flair of the roaring 1920s made for a barrage of viewing that made me feel like my life was missing something when it was over. For a history nut like myself, this was a real treat, but trust me when I say an interest in the past is not essential to fully engage with this one. An appreciation for good TV will suffice well enough.

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Review – Big Little Lies Season 1

The perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel, resulting in murder.

When Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) moves to Monterey with her son Ziggy to escape her past, she is quickly befriended by Madeleine Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), who introduces her to Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman). Together, the three become a formidable trio amongst the rest of the mums at their kids’ school, especially in the wake of a playground incident after which, Ziggy is witch hunted by the other children and parents. What unfolds is a tale of ex-husbands, second wives and school yard scandals, all in between the little white lies that they all tell to uphold the fronts each of these women present to the world.

I’d heard a lot about Big Little Lies following it’s premier in the U.S. a couple of months ago, and seeing it would be shown soon after on Sky Atlantic, I thought I too would give it a spin, although I hadn’t expected it to be my thing at all. I was, however, proven wrong, and thankfully so, because here I am now sharing what a wonderful show it was with you.

The three lead performances here were tremendous. Woodley, Witherspoon and Kidman were all as brilliant as each other in their own special ways, but I have to say that the latter name mentioned just pipped the other two for the title of best performance in this series. If there is a god, or any sort of higher power in existence, Kidman will be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Celeste Wright. Celeste was such a complex character, and in each of the seven episodes that made up this mini-series more and more was revealed about her. There were so, so many layers to this particular character, and for her alone I was willing to return for the next instalment each week.

The story was very simple, yet also very complex, if that makes any sense at all. If you strip the story back to the very basics, it is essentially a whodunnit, only the thing here is we don’t know a) who the killer is or b) who the victim is, so already it’s a small twist on the traditional. Add then the numerous points of conflict that arise throughout the course of the seven episodes and you struggle to come to a definitive conclusion on what the motive might be as well, which scuppers any chance of you being able to come up with a very shortlist of suspects. It was very refreshing to see the story told in this way, and while I had my guesses at who had ended up dead as a result of the many chains of events shown in the series, I was never exactly sure of who, how or why until the dying moments of the finale.

So, despite my initial scepticism, I have to say that Big Little Lies may very well be one of the best new shows of 2017, if not the best. I am going to be keeping my eye out for the book from which the story was adapted for the screen, because while I was very impressed by this series, I have an inkling that there is even more to be taken from the book, which is the case more often than not. What makes this so intriguing is the way the story is told, but just as important are the performances that deliver us this story. If you’ve not seen Big Little Lies, I would urge you to watch it, as it may very well be one of the greatest things you’ll watch this year.

Review – Westworld Season 1


A futuristic Western-themed amusement park allows high paying guests to live out their wildest fantasies without real world consequences.
Westworld is a theme park with a difference – it enables rich holidaymakers to experience whatever fantasies they possess through artificial consciousness. The park is maintained by robotic ‘hosts’, who aid the fulfilment of the guests desires. However, the many advances in technology that have taken place since the park opened have meant the hosts have become increasingly lifelike over the years. Now, they’ve reached a point where they are growing more and more self-aware and have a stronger grasp on reality, that reality being that they are simply there to carry out a function. After this long, it would appear that the hosts have had enough, and the ultimate rebellion starts to get underway.
I know Westworld was on TV ages ago, but it is only now that I have managed to get round to seeing it. I have to be honest, for the first couple of episodes, I didn’t really know what was going on, but I’m glad I persevered because it built up to a very good finale that ha some very excited for the next season. Maybe I was at a disadvantage because I have never seen the original Westworld film? Who knows… I did eventually end up really enjoying the series, which is all that really matters I think.

A number of things caught my attention when it came to the previews for the show, and one of those things was the cast. Westworld boasts quite a line up. Anthony Hopkins plays Robert Ford, one of the co-founders of the park. I initially loved his character – the fact that Hopkins stuck with his native Welsh accent for the role really worked for me, however he turned out to be a right piece of work in the end, and something about that just didn’t quite sit right. It didn’t have the impact I would have liked it to.

My favourite character had to be Thandie Newton’s brothel madam Maeve. She really reminded me of a character similar to her in Ripper Street, and she was great to watch as she cottoned onto what had been going on for years and years inside the park. I also liked watching the transitions she and the other host actors underwent when the people in charge of the park were running diagnostics and carrying out other technological tasks. The smallest changes made a huge difference in these scenes and it was very easy to differentiate between their personalities and analytical selves.

As I’ve said, to start off I didn’t really have much clue as to what exactly was going on with the storyline, but by the time it got to the third or fourth episode I was fully on board. I think this is partly due to you watching the drama unfold as would be the case from the hosts’ perspectives. It is a non-linear narrative, and the story goes backwards and forwards a lot. Each episode tends to go back to the beginning with a different character, and each time it does this it brings up both old and new details. It kind of felt like what I’d imagine was what the hosts were experiencing as they woke up at the beginning of each storyline. Maybe that’s a bit out there, I don’t really know – that’s just the way I tried and succeeded in making sense of it all.

So, would I recommend Westworld? The answer is yes I would. After having not seen the original film, I didn’t really know what to expect, so I suppose I went into the series with fresh eyes compared to a couple of other people who I had spoken to who had seen the film and perhaps hadn’t quite been convinced by this version of things. It does take a couple of episodes to warm-up, and for that reason Westworld certainly isn’t for everyone. Those of you with patience, however, will hopefully find it to be a rewarding watch with a real Wild West vibe, which was absolutely the case for me!