Category Archives: TV-shows

Fargo (season 2)

Creator:Noah Hawley; Main Cast: Kirsten DunstPatrick WilsonTed DansonJesse PlemonsBokeem WoodbineJeffrey DonovanZahn McClarnon;

FARGO

After a brilliant first season inspired by the Cohen brothers’ masterpiece, series creator Noah Hawley manages to outdo himself. Following the new fad in television of anthology series, this time around the story is set in 1979 between Luverne, Minnesota, Fargo, North Dakota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota with a brand new cast and another “true crime” tale.

A young Lou Solverson (Wilson), State Patrol officer and Vietnam veteran, investigates a multiple homicide case involving a judge and the disappearance of Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), the youngest son of  a local crime lord based in Fargo; helping him piece things together is his father-in-law, Hank Larsson (Danson), Sheriff of Luverne. The investigation will lead them to a colorful collection of characters that includes Ed (Plemons) and Peggy Blumquist (Dunst), a Luverne’s butcher and his wife, who are not exactly law-abiding citizens, and the Gerhardt family, kingpins of North and South Dakota. Led with iron fist by Otto (Michael Hogan) until his stroke and then by his wife Floyd (Jean Smart), they are ruthless and fearsome, in particular Dodd (Donovan), the eldest son, who has big dreams of building an empire and champs at the bit. However his big dream is thwarted by an encroaching criminal organisation from Kansas City with expanding ambitions of its own. When negotiations for a peaceful merger fail, Mike Milligan (Woodbine), is left to deal with the Gerhardt. He is skilled enforcer with plenty of street smarts, and aided by the Kitchen brothers (Todd and Brad Mann), slowly works toward his goal of wiping out the competition.

The stage is set for an interesting tale of intertwined stories with very engaging and well-rounded characters and it doesn’t disappoint. The vicious confrontation between the two criminal organisations is the perfect foil for the struggle of Lou and Hank, both decent reasonable men, to make sense of the blood trail they are following. Wilson and Danson have great chemistry and embody their characters wonderfully, giving them depth and humanity that make them very relatable. Durst and Plemons are equally great as Peggy and Ed, normal folk who are swept into a life-changing situation and become a little detached from reality. Special kudos go also to Nick Offerman as Karl Weathers, the town lawyer of Luverne, and Zahn McClarnon as Hanzee Dent, right-hand man of Dodd and enforcer of the Gerhardt clan. The script is strong and the few lulls in the pace are well repaid afterward. Moreover there are some very inspired cinematic choices that add charm to the already beautiful visuals. Engrossing —8/10

 

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Bloodline (season 1)

Main Cast: Kyle ChandlerBen MendelsohnLinda CardelliniNorbert Leo ButzSissy SpacekEnrique MurcianoSam Shepard;

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“All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and it applies very well to this family drama set in  beautiful Florida Keys. The Rayburns are well-respected and pillars of the community of Islamorada. The patriach  Robert (Shepard) and his wife Sally (Spacek) own and manage a renowned inn. Their grown-up children are quite arrived and leading a nice life: John (Chandler) is a detective for the sheriff department with a lovely wife and two teenager kids, Kevin (Butz) owns a marine services facility and he’s married and Meg (Cardellini) is a gifted lawyer with a charming boyfriend Marco (Murciano), who is also John’s partner.  The exception is the eldest: Danny (Mendelsohn), who seems to always find himself in trouble and he’s the only one who’s left their hometown. Danny’s return for the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the inn is both expected and dreaded by the rest of the family, since there’s clearly something in the past that hangs over all of them. After a little back and forth, Danny decides to stay in town, although his father and his siblings are ambivalent about it (to say the least!). The story is intertwined with flash-forwards that give you hints of what’s to come but not to the detriment of the plot. I liked the juxtaposition of the bright sunny weather for the current tale and the dark rainy one for the future tidbits. This is a slow burning tale, that takes its time flashing out the characters and moving along the plot, and it is more a “whydunit” than a whodunit, since it is clear from the beginning that something has gone terribly awry and who is responsible for it. It should be seen as a very long film so stay away if you are impatient and want episodes that make sense as stand-alone. If you, on the other hand, like getting to know the how and what and why for each main character then this is your cup of tea. The cast is incredibly good (Chandler, Spacek and Shepard in particular) but Mendelsohn is spectacular! Worth watching just for him. Riveting —7.5/10

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Wolf Hall (TV mini-series)

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Main Cast: Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Claire FoyJoanne WhalleyBernard HillJessica RaineJonathan PryceAnton Lesser;

One might be tempted to say: do we really need yet another take on Henry VIII and his desperate need for a male heir? Well, yes. Forget bodice ripping and Henry’s cavorting with all the pretty ladies while the peers of the realm fight for his favour, this is more A Man For All Seasons only in reverse. This time around the hero of the piece is Thomas Cromwell (Rylance) and his cautious and shrewd navigation of the dangerous waters of Henry’s (Lewis) court. The story starts with the fall from grace of Cardinal Wolsey (Pryce), the banishment of Catherine (Whalley) from Henry’s side and the rise to power of Anne (Floy), the Boleyns and the Duke of Norfolk (Hill). The villain is embodied by Thomas More (Lesser), unrelenting and quite fanatic in all matters pertaining religion and the Holy Church. Notwithstanding the fact that Cromwell is Wolsey’s protege, he manages to achieve a position of power and to help Henry solving his Great Matter and finally marry Anna. We all know the fate of the second queen, what is interesting is the characters’ study and the political maneuvering. This mini-series is a six-part adaptation of two of Hilary Mantel’s novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and it leans more towards the Reform, presenting the Catholic Church and his chief defender and champion, More, in a rather harsh light. It also doesn’t pull punches when it comes to look at family relationships of the rich and powerful with their perpetual scheming and always selfish motives. It’s hard to find a character to root for, even Cromwell comes across mostly as an ambitious man who needs to prove his worth to the world. However he’s not without redeeming qualities and it is exactly these shades of grey that makes the story more captivating. The acting is top-notch, in particular, Mark Rylance gives a very nuanced performance and Lewis brings the right gravitas as Henry. The settings and costumes are a great complement to a slow-burning but engaging tale. Enthralling —8/10

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The Fall (season 1)

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Main Cast: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, John LynchBronagh WaughNiamh McGrady;

I decided to watch this for two reasons: I like detective stories with a leading lady and I heard that Jamie Dornan was cast in Fifty Shades of Grey because of his role in The Fall. Let me clarify the latter: I haven’t read the books nor I saw the movie but, since I don’t live under a rock, I’ve read reviews and commentaries about both (some pretty hilarious!) and I find telling that an actor who received good reviews for his performance as serial killer is considered an apt choice to embody a billionaire with a predilection for BDSM… well, he’s more a controlling sadist but let’s not open that can of worms. So back to the series in question. The story is pretty straightforward: driven and experienced detective Stella Gibson (Anderson) is looking for a serial killer who targets pretty brunettes with good jobs in Belfast. Gibson is from London and on a different task when she reaches Belfast. Being smart and with years of police work under her belt, she makes a connection between two separate murders that eluded all her local colleagues and sets up a task force to deal with this unstoppable criminal. Anderson is very good at bringing out both the tough and the caring side of Gibson, but keeping her past shrouded  in mystery. The viewer also meets right away said serial killer: Paul Spector (Dornan), grief counselor with a very particular hobby. Unfortunately for Dornan, those puppy dog eyes of his do him a disservice here and prevent him from truly selling the psychotic murderer persona of Paul Spector. He does manage to give off some creepy vibes but there’s nothing in his demeanor really menacing or chilling, which is a pity since the audience spends so much time in Spector’s company. I wasn’t asking a performance at the level of Hopkins’s Hannibal (or Mikkelsen’s) but something more was needed to make Spector a worthy villain and this hunted/be-hunted story more convincing. What I like a lot is the Northern Ireland settings: the scenery, the light and the accents! The supporting cast is solid and helps improve the quality of each episode: Waugh as Sally Ann Spector, Paul’s wife, John Lynch as Jim Burns, the local chief of police with a personal relationship with Gibson, and Niamh McGrady as Danielle Ferrington, a determined policewoman who joins Gibson’s team. In the end I’m left with mixed feelings about this first season, well, only five episodes. There are a few strong points but nothing really revolutionary about the plot or the characters. Ambivalent —5.5/10

 

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This post is part of The Begorrathon 2015 hosted by Niall at The Fluff Is Raging and Cathy at 746 Books, go to their blogs and check all the other contributions out!

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Bosch (season 1)

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Main Cast: Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Amy AquinoLance ReddickAnnie Wersching

I’ve decided to watch Bosch because of Titus Welliver, finally someone had the guts to give him a chance as lead actor after decades of solid work as character actor in many TV-shows  and a few films (most viewers will remember him as “the man in black” from Lost but to me he will always be War, the horseman, from Supernatural and Jimmy O from Sons of Anarchy). The show is co-created and co-written by Michael Connelly, based on his successful (apparently) series of books. I’ve never read the books so I cannot judge on the quality of the source material but the on-screen version works well, with a vibe halfway  between Southland and a Michael Mann’s movie.  Set in Los Angeles, Harry Bosch is a homicide detective in the Hollywood division with a reputation for being tough, not following the rules but always getting the job done (seriously?!?). In addition our hero has a tormented past (war vet and traumatic childhood), a difficult love life, he’s a loner, a workaholic and a distant father. What can I say: all the boxes for the most used cliches about detectives are checked so let’s move on, nothing new here. What really works is Welliver’s performance, he makes the character believable and, as a viewer, you can’t help but root for him. It also doesn’t hurt to have two The Wire alumni among the main cast: Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar, Bosch’s partner, Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irving. Both actors do their best but, unfortunately, their characters have little depth and are mostly one-dimensional. Fans of The Wire might cringe a bit thinking that Lt. Daniels has metamorphosed into Deputy Rawls, all politics and no real police work, but hey that’s life (if you have not seen The Wire, you should definitely do that before even thinking of watching Bosch!). Amy Aquino is Bosch’s direct superior, Lt. Billets, smart, tenacious but also a good friend. Luckily she has a more well-rounded role and it’s a fair depiction of a woman in a tough line of work. Same goes for Wershing’s rookie cop: pushy and go getter, who champs at the bit and can’t wait to be a detective. She also happens to be Bosch’s love interest that, naturally, will complicate his life even more. The two intertwined story lines of a cold case and a serial killer on a rampage keep you interested and mildly invested and I liked the photography and some of the directing choices. So all in all a honest, quality cop show without thrills or innovative approach. Reliable —6/10

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Mr Selfridge (season 1)

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Main Cast: Jeremy PivenFrances O’ConnorAisling LoftusGrégory FitoussiTrystan GravelleAmanda AbbingtonTom Goodman-HillKatherine KellySamuel WestZoë Tapper;

Harry Selfridge (Piven),  visionary American tycoon, moves with his family to London in 1908, to open a high-end department store. Based on the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead and written by Andrew Davis (Pride and Prejudice, Wives and Daughters among his works), it follows not only the struggles and successes of  the titular character but it gives us insights on his employees, friends and family. Using a well-tested formula of upstair/downstair, we navigate through both high society and working class worlds, with a little dose of what goes on in between. As an outsider in the upper crust of London, Selfridge needs a sort of sponsor or patron to be accepted and, thanks to friend and journalist Frank Edwards (West), he finds just that in Lady Mae (Kelly). Her shrewd and calculated moves help Harry greatly and set him and his store on the path of success. What I found particularly interesting are his publicity stunts using the celebrities of the time (a pilot, an explorer, Arthur Conan Doyle, a renown ballerina) and his idea to enlist a famous showgirl, Ellen Love (Tapper) as “the spirit of Selfridge” (an ante litteram celebrity endorsement). As it can be foreseen from the beginning, matters will end up quite entangled between Ms Love and Mr Selfridge. Among Harry’s family, the focus is mostly on his wife Rose (O’Connor) who is reserved, sensible and with an independent streak that will lead to a surprise. On the employee front, the attention is on: the ingénue Agnes Towler (Loftus), shop girl with big dreams and a lot of determination; Henri Leclair (Fitoussi), French genius designer, who creates artful tableaux for the windows of the store; Victor Colleano (Gravelle), waiter with a talent for cooking; Mr Groove (Goodman-Hill), chief of staff and capable right hand of the boss, and Miss Mardle (Abbington), head of the accessory department who seems a little too controlled for her own good. At the beginning I found Piven’s performance a bit grating, even over the top, but then I realised it was just his take on the character when he finally started to show more nuances. I must say: kudos! Occasionally, however, I wished for a witty one-liner of the Dowager Countess of Grantham or a caustic comment from Lady Mary to jazz up a scene. Other times I ended up thinking: “Carson would find this rather unseemly”.  Still, the story has a good pace and the cast works well. The costumes, the sets and the production design are splendid, they add indeed charm to each episode but at times they feel like one of Henri’s store windows: beautiful but distant. My overall impression is that Mr Selfridge is to Downton Abbey as Elizabeth Gaskell is to Jane Austen. Nonetheless a good fix for period drama withdrawal. Pleasant —6.5/10

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House of Cards (season 2)

Main Cast: Kevin SpaceyRobin WrightKate MaraMichael KellyKristen ConnollySakina Jaffrey;

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I have read reviews in which Frank and Claire Underwood have often been compared to Lord and Lady Macbeth but I don’t think it is enough for this second season: the Macbeths are rank amateurs! The Underwoods are more “thy mother mated with a scorpion” kind of people. Unlike season 1 (here is my review, in case you were curious), this time around their end game is very clear from the start, which takes, a little bit, the fun out of watching Frank and Claire move the pieces on the chessboard. Frank utters in the second episode what should be the tag line of this brand new 13-parts story: “Democracy is so overrated!”. He also delights the audience with his personal version of Cersei Lannister’s “when you play the game of thrones you win or you die, there is no middle ground”, in his first breaking-the-fourth-wall monologue. After swearing in as United State Vice President and moving his “war room” to the White House, we see Frank still trying to work both fronts: loyal supporter of the President and eminence grise of the Capitol. Although the writers manage to ambush the audience with a couple of sudden twists and give us scheming and backstabbing, there are also scenes that seem a little out of character for both Claire and Frank, and the “nosy journalist” plot line is resolved hastily and it feels swept under the rug, which diminishes somewhat the overall good quality of the script. This aside, the season is rather enjoyable with an excellent cast (Spacey is superb) and strong, capable directors for each episode. Crafty —8/10

 

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Almost Human (season 1)

Main Cast: Karl UrbanMichael EalyMinka KellyMackenzie CrookLili Taylor

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A procedural cop show meets Caves of Steel, with some blatant allusions to Blade Runner and more subtle innuendos to Star Wars to tantalise the highbrow sci-fi geeks and attract the uninitiated. In 2048 human policemen are paired off with androids to face criminals armed with cutting-edge technology. Our hero is John Kennex (Urban), a maverick cop with a tragic past (of course!). He, naturally, doesn’t like following rules and conforming to departmental regulations so, in her infinite wisdom, Captain Maldonado (Taylor, and, seriously, who came up with the name?!) pairs him with Dorian (Ealy), a DRN i.e. a robot with a “synthetic” soul, layman explanation for a nifty bit of coding that replicates human emotional response (yep, the Nexus-6 model was a bust in comparison, no Voight-Kampff test necessary for this one). We have also Rudy (Crook), a geek for all seasons, who is not only tech-expert extraordinaire but also pathologist, chemist and, well, the go-to guy for everything that is related to science. Good job at saving money on personnel, “Unidentified City” Police Department! Last but not least the token eye-candy and possible love interest, agent Valerie Stahl (Kelly), utterly uninteresting and probably added by the creators just to pass the Bechdel test* for at least half of the episodes. The show doesn’t have a clear direction, it opens up too many story-lines but it rarely follows through. The only thing that works really well is the dynamic between Kennex and Dorian, mostly due to the fact that the actors have good on-screen chemistry and they are good at their craft. So even with neat special effects and technological ideas, this show can go only so far without a well-thought plan for a cohesive story. It is a pity because some of the topics brought up in a few episodes could have been innovative and unusual TV. So if it’s a rainy Sunday and Law & Order or CSI re-runs are not enough, you might think of giving it a shot. Unfulfilling  —5.5/10

*i.e. if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man

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Fleming: the Man who would be Bond (TV mini-series)

Main Cast: Dominic CooperLara PulverAnna ChancellorSamuel WestAnnabelle Wallis;

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This four-episodes mini-series stars Dominic Cooper as legendary 007 writer Ian Fleming, and his real life spy exploits that influenced the Bond novels… well, a fictionalized version anyway. He is the second son from an affluent and well-connected family, always outshone in his widowed mother’s eye by his big brother Peter. It’s 1939 and Nazi Germany is on a rampage in Europe, Peter is doing his duty for King and Country while Ian hankers for something better in London, working at a job he clearly hates and giving into debauchery. To prove to his family and friends that he’s worth his salt, he enlists as a Navy Intelligence officer, putting to good use his undeniable skills of spinning tales and giving lies the ring of truth, along with his knowledge of German and European high society mores. His new boss Admiral Godfrey (West) and second officer Monday (Chancellor) are initially bemused by his brash attitude and unconventional ideas and methods, and they seem the blueprint for M and Miss Moneypenny or the other way around, who knows how much of this story is fiction. However Ian gets his way most of the times and he’s more successful than not in his job as “spy”. He also has a rather complicated love life, having a girlfriend, Muriel (Wallis), and an affair with a married woman, Ann (Pulver). The story is overall intriguing and Cooper pulls the suave persona off quite well, the dynamic with the other characters is quite  convincing: playful banter with Monday, respectful/antagonising behaviour with Godfrey, torrid passion with Ann and idealised love with Muriel. The settings and cinematography are rich and colourful, glamour and danger dosed just right and there are plenty of homages and references to our favorite spy and his escapades. Entertaining and alluring. —7/10

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Girls (season 2)

Main Cast: Lena DunhamAllison WilliamsJemima KirkeZosia MametAdam DriverAlex KarpovskyChristopher AbbottAndrew Rannells;

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The adventures and mishaps of Hanna and her friends continue (here is my review of season 1, in case you missed it). Since the very first scene we can see that, this time around, Girls is more about boys. Not only as friends, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends of the girls in question but also as characters in their own right. We see how Adam (Driver), Hanna’s former boyfriend, reacts to heartache and is more peculiar than ever. Charlie (Abbott), after breaking up with Marnie, bounces back pretty nicely and his friend Ray (Karpovsky), cynic and rather jaded, finally falls for a girl. Hanna’s life seems back on track: getting along splendidly with her new roommate Elijah (Rannells), a new boyfriend and a job as writer, everything is rainbows and puppies. On the other hand Marnie has fallen, rather spectacularly, to pieces: no more ideal job, no more boyfriend and no more great expectations. Jenna, while breezing carefree through her days, still exuding charisma, has found her focus or so it appears. Shoshanna finally feels like a grown-up with a proper boyfriend, Ray. The set-up is for meaningful character development but that’s not the life of twenty-something girls, at least according to Dunham. The evolution is more a devolution and we witness the downward spiral of our heroines, their attempts to solve messy situations land them, more often than not, into more predicaments. Moreover they show signs of borderline mental disorder, Hanna most of all, and it is a little disconcerting. Watching episode after episode is similar to the morbid fascination of looking at a car crash: you know you shouldn’t but you can’t help yourself.  Baffling but addicting —6.5/10

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Sherlock (season 3)

Main Cast: Benedict CumberbatchMartin FreemanAmanda AbbingtonUna StubbsRupert GravesLouise BrealeyMark Gatiss;

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The world most renown sleuth in my favorite modern incarnation (sorry Jonny Lee Miller but you come second) is back, played wonderfully by Benedict Cumberbatch! After his “death” in the Reichenbach Fall everybody wanted to know how he did it and throughout the first episode we get several versions of the deed, especially from Anderson and his club of believers (in Sherlock, of course!), some with hilarious implications. Naturally John Watson (a glorious Martin Freeman) is rather upset with Sherlock for keeping him in the dark for two years but there’s nothing like mortal danger to reconcile old friends. The dynamic between them is sparkling and entertaining as ever but we also see more character development and a more “human” Sherlock. All the usual suspects are back (Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Molly, Mycroft) but we get two great additions: John’s fiance, Mary (Amanda Abbington), who is far more intriguing than meets the eye, and a cunning new villain. There are some lulls in the tight paced tales that might seem to drag down the overall good quality but the viewer is compensated with quite a few memorable moments. Steven Moffat (another evil genius of the small screen) and his partner in crime Mark Gatiss did it again, bravo! Three episodes aren’t enough so to while away the hiatus…let’s play murder! —8.5/10

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Supernatural: the Animation

Main Cast (voices): Jared PadaleckiAnnakin SlaydJensen AcklesHarry Standjofski

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If you are looking for a good anime and you like horror and fantasy, well, look no further. The Japanese had a pretty nifty idea, they remade the live-action show Supernatural (created by Eric “evil genius” Kripke) which is awesome to begin with, into 22 animated episodes. So our favorite hunters of all-things-that-go-bump-in-the-dark, Sam and Dean Winchester, take us on the road from case to case; you get classics like vampires, demons and werewolves or stranger stuff based on urban legends and ancient mythology. Like Buffy, most of the episodes are a “monster of the week” type of story but there is also a series arc with a Big Bad.  The different medium allows for a more striking and creative rendering of all that is supernatural compared to live action. The animation itself is top-notch and it doesn’t hurt, at least in my book, that Sam resembles Spike Spiegel (fans of Cowboy Bebop won’t fail to notice it). It is fast-paced, grim and quite dark but still with plenty of funny moments. If you know the live-action show, this series covers roughly the storyline of season 1 and 2, taking a few liberties with background stories and making it more PG13. Furthermore all the characters’ appearance, except for the Winchester bros, are very different so it might take a while to get use to. Lastly, one minor issue, unless you are a hardcore anime fan who watches everything in the original Japanese, the English version has Jared Padalecki (live-action Sam) dubbing Sam but Annakid Slayd dubbing Dean for all but two episodes instead of Jensen Ackles (live-action Dean), which sounds really weird and requires from the viewer a little time to adjust to it. Anyway great anime with gripping story and characters. —7.5/10

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Top of the Lake (TV mini-series)

Main Cast:  Elisabeth MossThomas M. WrightPeter MullanDavid WenhamHolly Hunter;

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Forget New Zealand as beautiful Middle Earth, in this series you can see a very different aspect: grim, darker and rather misogynistic. It is a detective story written and directed (most of the episodes anyway) by Jane Campion, so we get: a female lead character, complex and multi-layered played brilliantly by Elisabeth Moss, and violence against women (both physical and psychological). It starts like a case of child rape in a small town: 12-year-old Tui is five month pregnant and tries to kill herself, Det. Robin Griffin is called in as expert in child abuse. She is being back in the area, visiting her sick mother, after many years of absence. After her first interview with Robin, Tui disappears  and no one knows what happened. We embark with Robin on a mission to find Tui and the truth, and in each episode we find out more about her past and the people of the town. The more interesting aspects are the dynamics among the characters and the different facets of misogyny (from demeaning comments to outright abuse) weaved in the everyday life of girls and women of this small community. The cast is outstanding: from Peter Mullan to David Wenham and Holly Hunter, they all give very convincing and enthralling performances. Very special kudos to Thomas Wright, who reminds me of a young Daniel Day-Lewis, and masterfully balances vulnerability with strength and desire to portrait his Johnno. The scenery is also used quite skillfully to set the mood of the story: alternatively bleak, peaceful, menacing, hopeless or foreboding; it can almost be considered a character in its own right. Being a rather gloomy tale I would not recommend it for a week-end of light entertainment but I do recommend you to watch it. Striking and unconventional —7.5/10

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Girls (season 1)

Main Cast: Lena DunhamAllison WilliamsJemima KirkeZosia Mamet;

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The stories of four girls in their early twenties living in New York City: Hanna and her roommate Marnie, Jenna and her cousin Shoshanna. We follow their everyday life and their struggles with work and relationships. Hanna (Dunham) is self-deprecating, aspiring writer but she has to face the dullness of regular job in order to pay her bills. She tries to live as much as possible in order to have lots of material for her stories but she ends up, more often than not, in weir/ridiculous situations that only increase her self-loathing. She also aspires to a nice boyfriend but she seems not to want to make an effort into building a proper relationship, she is “dating” Adam, a free spirit with a very unconventional uptake on life.  Marnie (Williams) is quite the opposite of Hanna, she is an assistant in an art gallery, first rung on the ladder of her dream career, she has a long-term boyfriend Charlie and she has got her act together, or at least it looks like that at the beginning. Jenna (Kirke) is beautiful, charismatic with a bohemian life-style and a penchant for making the world revolve around her. Shoshanna (Mamet) is still in college and she seems conflicted between being a serious, responsible girl or being glamorous a la Sex and the City. Director/writer Lena Dunham has a knack for making messed-up, disagreeable characters rather likable, so much that following the (mis-)adventures of these girls is quite addictive, I’m curious to see what comes next. —6.5/10

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House of Cards (season 1)

Main Cast: Kevin SpaceyRobin WrightKate MaraCorey StollMichael KellyKristen ConnollySakina Jaffrey;

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Kevin Spacey is Frank Underwood, devious and machiavellian Congressman of South Carolina and House Majority Whip for the Democrats. After being blind-sided by the newly elected president and denied the position of Secretary of State, he decides to seek revenge with the help and support of his equally cunning and ruthless wife Claire (Robin Wright), head of an environmental NGO. Frank is also aided in his enterprise by faithful right-hand/consiglieri Doug (Micheal Kelly) who is not afraid of doing the dirty work, and ambitious, “new-media” journalist Zoe (Kate Mara), with whom he strikes a quid-pro-quo deal. Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), the rookie Congressman from Pennsylvania, is volunteered to participate in Frank’s game, well… more a “he received an offer he couldn’t refuse” type of situation. We see the characters move in this world of political maneuvering, back-room bargains and shady compromises, quite stunning in its infinite shades of gray. I haven’t seen a show this impressive since The Wire (well… Boardwalk Empire comes very close). The acting is brilliant and Kevin Spacey reaches an incredible level of bravura, and I love his breaking-the-fourth-wall monologues! The cinematography and the directing is top-notch, I’ll just say that the first two episodes have David Fincher at the helm. Last but not least the writers, chief among them the creator of the series Beau Willimon (The Ides of March rings a bell?), don’t drop the ball for a moment and keep you wondering about Frank’s end game. So if you like political drama, gritty and dark with a healthy dose of cynicism, this is for you, if not… well, it’s your loss. —9/10

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Mob City (TV mini-series)

Main Cast: Jon BernthalMilo VentimigliaNeal McDonoughAlexa DavalosRobert KnepperEdward Burns;

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Frank Darabont tries his hand at TV again (after The Walking Dead). This time it is about gangsters and cops in L.A. in the late forties and, let me tell you, it is a cloyingly sweet love letter to the noir genre. You get all the cliches: the grey cop, the femme fatale, the righteous policeman, the fixer, the corrupt cops, the mob boss, the ruthless hitman, the shady bar, the glamorous nightclub, blackmailing, tons of night scenes and rain puddles (in L.A.? sure!). The attention to details into recreating the noir genre is borderline OCD but it is an empty exercise, the story is flat and rather boring. Notwithstanding the brave efforts of the actors and the lovely soundtrack the six episodes end up being uninteresting and predictable. Pity, it completely missed the mark. Watch L.A. Confidential to see how it’s done right. —5/10

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Death Comes To Pemberley (TV mini-series)

Main Cast: Matthew RhysAnna Maxwell MartinMatthew GoodeTrevor EveJenna ColemanTom Ward;

death-comes-to-pemberley

Have you ever wondered what happens to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy after they get married? Well, this is the TV adaptation of P.D. James’ take on it. It is less about proper manners in polite society and witty exchanges and more about a murder mystery. Wickham is yet again up to no good and the shades of Pemberley are at risk to be thus polluted…Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship is put to the test but all will end well. There are few minor flaws: some anachronistic details and some dialogues that are a bit out of character; however the three episodes are quite enjoyable and entertaining. The cast is very good, bringing their own interpretation of the characters, costumes and settings are splendid, Pemberley in particular. If you love these kind of forays into “Austenland” I also suggest Lost in Austen. Charming —7.5/10

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