Saturday, August 12, 2017

Better Call Saul Season 2

Better Call Saul Season 2 picks up right where the previous season left off, but that's part of the problem. The repetition found in the previous season is found again. We see Saul turn down the new job, take the job, want to leave the job, decides to keep it, decides to leave it, told he can't without losing money, decides a new way. In that we get several scenes of various cons that take a long time yet aren't all that entertaining. Then we have his relationship with his brother where Saul undermines Chuck, Chuck undermines Saul, they come back together, and repeat for the rest of the season, thankfully that does get somewhere in season 3, this season though is just a whole lot of wheel turning. Mike's side, where Jonathan Banks is more co-lead, is effective though technically be directly evoking Breaking Bad right down to the return of several characters. It's good though, and that's the important thing. Of course the other half isn't truly bad, there is some bad supporting acting again, yet the main players including Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Banks and especially Michael McKean, the visual directing also is on point. I will say it successfully set up a great third season. Its progression though would've probably been handled in less than half a season on Breaking Bad, and it is not as though it is so much richer in character or entertainment value, quite the opposite.
3.5/5

Better Call Saul Season 1

Better Call Saul comes out the seasons swinging from its bleak black and white epilogue after Breaking Bad, to its opening that evokes that original seasons so effectively. Yes there is a bit of style change even the first few episodes yet it is fairly light made out from the far less intense protagonist at the center. Saul's just trying to find his way to success, there is nothing hanging over his head as there was for Walter White. Using this though it leads to a somewhat more humorous, though Breaking Bad often was rather amusing itself, series. Again the first two episode are great amplified by the return of an old foe from that earlier series, yet it does successfully set up this alternate plight of Saul, or Jimmy,  here amplified so well by Bob Odenkirk's performance. The series though loses that earlier steam. Now it has strong elements throughout including Odenkirk but also some of the new additions particularly Michael McKean and the return of Jonathan Banks as the fixer Mike. The series though suffers though from some of the bit players, never really a problem with the original series, who are outright bad playing living cartoons. The story though also suffers from an excessive amount of repetition in its storytelling through false leads in Saul's career and con after con. Certain revelations are often obvious and underwhelming particularly the revelation of Mike's background. The strengths of the series are evident and consistent, in the performances, and the visual direction, yet it struggles to find its own path away from its properly lauded predecessor.
3.5/5

Narcos Season 1

Narcos Season 1 focuses upon the life of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and his various wildly outrageous, but true, exploits during 1970's and 1980's. It frames the story though through the exploits of two DEA agents working with the U.S. government with the Columbian government. In one way the series is often, well, a series of fascinating anecdotes about the war drugs and Escobar's personal ridiculousness. Whether it is a particular method of trafficking, Escobar's insane acolytes, or the terrorist acts by Escobar trying to keep the government off his back. It attempts more personal stories with the DEA agents but these at best are only mildly interesting. Their arc of becoming more morally compromised is also fairly thin. The more interesting character lawful character is the ground level Colonel Carillo, as his personal battle with Escobar is often the series at its most intense and compelling. The most engaging aspect overall is Escobar played Wagner Moura. He is a consistently fascinating character but the show also manages to create an emotional investment in his story despite in no way hiding his ill-deeds. His performance is captivating as are the almost unbelievable, if they weren't true, details regarding his exploits whether it is trying to become the president of Columbia or his assassination of any one who stands up to him. Escobar's story carries the season, and though the overall series is not quite great the character study around him is.
4/5

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Show Me A Hero


Show Me A Hero is a six part miniseries focusing on the tensions revolving around the opposition against mandated public housing within the city of Yonkers. The series itself focuses mostly around one of the mayors of the city during this conflict Nick Wasicsko played by Oscar Isaac. The series carefully focuses upon that man's personal story even as the main story continues even past his part of the story. The series also shows random personal stories of the various eventual residents of the housing. I will say that though the intention is obvious in the stories, to give life to those changed by the housing, this are the weakest aspects. They are just very standard stories with nothing particularly interesting or notable about any one of them. Although they can be normal, the problem is they are indeed boring in their normality. Every time it cut away, despite the purpose being there, it felt like we were cutting away from the actual main story. That is the case as the main story focusing on Wasicsko's personal story, which has the needed drama, and the story of the housing is compelling throughout. The drama is there particularly in Wasicko's story due to Isaac's heartbreaking performance. The problem is if you probably got rid of all the side stories except Wasicko's you could probably reduce to a feature length film which would have been engaging throughout which this mini-series is not.
4/5

Fargo Season 2


Fargo 2 dares again not only to somehow continue being the greatest show ever inspired by a film, but also somehow making a prequel not feel tired or inspired. In fact the sequel is only greater in scope and ambition, and leads to one of the greatest television seasons ever made. Season 2 switching back to the 70's and this is not just an aesthetic choice. It is intelligent narrative and thematic choice as explores the ideas of the paranoia after Watergate and as well as a changing in America itself. This is represented, with proper subtly, through the central conflict between the family business of the criminal Gerhardt family against the corporate crime group wishing to move in on their territory. The series again feel no constraint in its title instead cleverly moving on to include elements from other Coen brothers films particularly Miller's Crossing and No Country For Old Men. Again though this is never as simple as having it, they blend in all into its always effortlessly compelling narrative and style. This season is also worth noting for its incredible cast where every single member is on their A-game giving a three dimensionality to even the most minor role. No one feels a throwaway and in doing so makes the season all the more complex and emotional even when we have technically one group of bad people killing another group of bad people. It is so much fun, yet always investing again in that it uses tropes we know always as strength by either using good ways, using them in new ways, or subverting them in a most clever fashion. The season is a masterpiece which proves just what is capable within the medium of television.
5/5

Fargo Season 1


Fargo Season 1 attempts to create a good television show out of adapting a great movie, the idea behind this is commonly attempted yet most often leads to failure, in fact there was even already an unsuccessful Fargo television series pilot before this one. Of course that earlier series and most commonly go oh here's the movie character, played by someone else, going on a different adventure every week. Well this Fargo series tosses all that out instead taking the tropes of the show and playing with them. This season takes the idea of a hapless salesman, a dogged atypical police officer, and a vicious killer then does what it pleases. Their paths being highly divergent from the original film with but a final scene. The series continues to mess with the ideas by throwing a few other killers, worthy of their own story into the mix, along with bumbling FBI agents, dark crime syndicates, and black mail scheme on top of the overarching criminal investigation. The series goes as it pleases never confined by the series instead it offers it more material and the overarching style found in the series' direction worthy of a feature film.
5/5

True Detective Season 1 and Season 2

It is best to look at both season of True Detective together as that is the easiest way to see how season 2 could go so wrong after season 1 went so right. Both seasons are written with thick philosophical dialogue within in its long convoluted plot. Season 1 thrives in this regard as it importantly grants the dialogue to characters marked around death that being Matthew McConaughey's Rust and the killers they find deep in the swamps of Louisiana. The dialogue seems fitting to the minds of those men and also all the performers, particularly McConaughey make it natural in spoken form. Season 2 is less careful giving often to random characters such as Vince Vaughn's gangster who is only strangely poetic and it does not help that Vaughn struggles with the lines. They never seem natural to those who speak it and little sense is given to how odd they all sound. Now in neither season does the plot flow as smoothly as say a L.A. Confidential or a Chinatown. Season 1 though you can follow it fairly well, maybe only lost a point here or there. Season 2 the whole plot is thick yet wholly unengaging so even though the information is said it is hard to care. Both focus on the character's personal lives yet the first season has two characters of contrasting values, and though Woody Harrelson's Marty is also troubled he outwardly seems happy. In season 2 the series bluntly hits you with four main characters all desperate in one way or another that comes off as almost a parody of a gritty cop show. One of the most damning elements of season 2, and one of the strongest elements of season 1 is the directorial vision. In season one there was the singular vision of Cary Joy Fukunaga which created such a vivid and captivating horror atmosphere out of its setting. The direction amplified the writing and even helped to overcome some of it weak points. There is no cohesive direction in season 2 leaving it often a lifeless affair and making nothing out of its urban world, after making such a rich one during season 1. Another unfortunate loss was in that otherworldly horror hinted at in season 1 that helped make the series unique, while this is almost wholly dropped in season 2 for an often rote story about corrupt cops trying to cover their tracks. Season 1 was not a flawless series but it was series that was able to even wear its flaws well. Season 2 is a deeply flawed series that has the occasional inspired moments muted by those flaws.
5/5 - Season 1
2/5 - Season 2