Director John Michael McDonagh has returned to the big screen with another small-town Ireland caper Calvary, the story of a righteous parish priest Father James Lavelle played by Brendan Gleeson. Standing alone against the moral decay of his flock, Lavelle is informed during confession that he will be murdered in one week by a disgruntled parishioner who we are told was the victim of child abuse at the hands of the clergy. From this premise unfolds a suspenseful, archetypal who done it or rather who will do it murder mystery.
The last few weeks I’ve been near obsessed with the new HBO show, True Detective and I’m not ashamed to say that this is being written in order to convert the uninitiated; both those of you that haven’t yet heard of it and those who just don’t feel it would sit right in your cinematic tea cup. If you were to glance at the show from a distance you could (mistakenly) categorise it as just another cop show that can join the legions of others out there that provide a satisfying episode where everything is neatly tied together by the time the credits role. What sets True Detective apart from these other shows is its intelligent thought provoking script that explores interesting themes, the fantastic cinematography that can rival and in some cases outshine full movies, and the leg up it receives from having Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson both immerse themselves in their leading roles so completely you forget about How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days and White Men Can’t Jump.
I love cinema but the cinema is a place I rarely trudge to these days. No not because I’m down with the kids and steal everything on my laptop, but rather I find it quite a scary place to be right now. Never ending sequels, comic-book franchises and U.S. military propaganda abound and the mostly enormous publicly traded corporations that comprise Hollywood, now more than ever, are beholden to the maxim of making profit before art. People go to see movies, but not films. Case in point the luscious There Will be Blood, one of the strongest films of the past decade, lost a huge sum of money despite its critical acclaim and awards haul.
Hell On Wheels is a western focusing on the building of the Union Pacific Railroad and the characters involved in its construction. Its also one of AMC’s latest pet projects, attempting to get a share of the success being had by Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and of course, Mad Men. Although the show seems to have received less attention overall than any of the other three its US TV ratings are surprisingly high. It’s pilot with 4.37 million viewers easily beat any episode of either Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but is still a ways short of the Walking Dead’s 5.35 million US viewers. Overall its ratings have been equal or greater to Mad Men and Breaking Bad even though the two seem to have much more widespread popularity and fame. However it can’t compete with The Walking Dead which is building an ever increasing following; in its second season the show barely suffered from the mid season slump that affects most t.v. series and could almost match the audience for the other three combined with its latest episodes.
The season three premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead aired stateside last Sunday to 10.87 million viewers, smashing its own record and by default AMC’s too. In the process of rendering these benchmarks I mentioned last week redundant, the show displayed, through its ever growing popularity, that both it and the zombie theme as a whole, aren’t just a passing phase, but a lasting one.
The episode itself didn’t disappoint, it was one of, if not the best episode to date. It was a lot more satisfying with regard to both plot and character development than most of season two. Which, as well performed as it was, had gotten fairly stagnant and repetitive midway through the season. Hopefully this one will be able to carry on its momentum and will manage to avoid getting stuck in the mud that plagued Hershel’s farm.
If you haven’t seen it, John Carpenter’s Escape From New York is set in a “futuristic” New York city circa 1997 (Keep that date in mind). The city itself has been turned into a national prison. Yes you read that correctly As we learn in the opening sequence, the crime rate in the US had risen over 400% by 1988 so the powers that be decided to turn the big apple into a walled orchard. Just in case that premise alone wasn’t exciting enough for an 80’s action romp, air-force one crash lands inside this incarcerated metropolis. With the president now a hostage of the hostile inmates and an official rescue mission off the cards, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’s Lee Van Cleef has but one option: To send in Kurt Russel’s reluctant Snake Plissken, the same character that inspired the Metal Gear Solid video game series, eye-patch and all.
“Well, that’s all of life, right? It’s the constant, it’s the cycle. It’s solution, dissolution. Just over and over and over. It is growth, then decay, then transformation. It is fascinating, really.” – Walter White, Breaking Bad
A Walter White quote from the pilot episode of Breaking Bad explaining chemistry to his students, an explanation that hints at the less than subtle but gradual changes that take place in the life of Walter White as he ambles down the path of evil. Although it underlines themes of Breaking Bad, it reminded me of another series. One that I turned back to, in order to temporarily fill the emptiness of having to wait another ten months for Breaking Bad to resume. The show is called Oz. The first four seasons of which I watched in rapid succession, and then recently revisited to finish the remaining dozen episodes.
Just a few days ago, Disney’s studio head Rich Ross resigned his position in the wake of a string of big film flops, most notably John Carter. The movie is the tenth most expensive movie ever made at $250 million and this puts it on a par with the likes of Avatar and Spider Man 3. Unlike those two though, which recouped at least triple their budget, so far John Carter has only earned $70 million in total. Unfortunately worldwide popularity is a very fickle mistress and does not reflect the quality of a movie’s story or acting, which in this case was quite good. Never before though has such a highly publicised movie ever failed to make a profit so badly. When only thirty movies have had a budget as big as the loss John Carter will likely post on Disney’s financial returns, serious questions were rightly asked. Add this to Disney’s other box-office disaster Mars Needs Moms last year, the profileration of conservative film ideas like sequels can be forgiven. Over half of 2013’s Disney releases are continuations of past successes, with the other big studios doing the same.
Addiction comes in all manner of forms. Most are frowned upon, some more than others. Society’s least favourite tend to be the abuse of illegal narcotics such as heroin. As opposed to the lighter end of the spectrum where you have the current wave of addiction to all things tech. From the latest smartphone and it’s apps to the research material for procrastination studies that is social networking. No matter the addiction it can have disastrous consequences, making it all the more dangerous. Whether the addicts cravings are relieved by a daily dose of smack or the latest update on the twitter feed of their favourite celebrity’s favourite cat, it all breaks down to the hole in their life they fail to fill with anything productive or constructive. Of course comparing the two addictions is unfair – one is something truly shameful, causing its abusers to waste away slowly in dark rooms neglecting all the things actually important in their life. The other is imported from Afghanistan.