Narcos (Season 1): two D.E.A. agents try to take down the world’s most notorious criminal – Pablo Escobar; a humble weed smuggler who became the wealthiest criminal in history. This feels like a mix between a high-production TV series, and a documentary – with dozens of long sections of expositional dialogue, archive footage, and additional information explaining (in great detail) external factors leading to some of the plot points. Even though this wasn’t particularly slavish to the historical facts; the continual reliance on archive footage makes it feel like it’s handicapping the story to non-fiction only. The ‘Original’ stuff is all brilliantly shot and written: and doesn’t shy away from the nasty side of the drug trade and organised crime; there’s plenty of blood, guts, sex, and violence in here for added authenticity. This is matched by a handful of fantastic lead performances from a cast of relatively unknown actors, who set the screen on fire. In fact, my only real gripe with watching Narcos is trying to figure out how long has passed between scenes – at one point a baby becomes a proper kid in the next scene, but Escobar is still running for election! Season 1 (10 Episodes) covers 43 out of 44 years of Escobar’s life in sufficient detail; leaving the worry that season 2 will be padded out or overly dramatised: 10-12 episodes could have made this a great one-off. Narcos is a gangster / crime epic that’s up there with the best of them: it’s is smart, thoroughly engaging, and truly addictive TV; adding another string to Netflix’s bow. Netflix and Chill? More like Narcos and Kill!!1!11!! AMIRITE?!?
Boardwalk Empire (Season 1): 1920s prohibition drama mostly following the racketeer Enoch Thompson, who controlled Atlantic City. There are lots, and lots of factions and institutions interacting with each other, not to mention around a dozen well-rounded, complex characters. It’s extremely well-cast; nobody stands out as being too little or too much, and with this many characters, they’re all physically distinguishable – a great job from the casting team. There are too many outstanding performances to mention in this cast of accomplshed actors, but I felt most sorry for Michael Shannon who does a magnificent job with the hardest character, a Prohibition Agent of extreme (almost comedic) faith and morals… Shea Whigam as Sherriff Eli Thompson also impresses with unbelievably great acting, and Jack Huston is superb as a ruined, deformed WWI vet. There’s an impressive level of throwaway period detail in the background, costumes, homes and through conversation. The visual effects to recreate the era are also impressive, and when tag-teamed with some brilliant old-fashioned music/entertainment it’s a solid nostalgia trip. Strangely, there’s an outrageously high level of gratuitous nudity for such a solid TV show, somewhat unnecessary, but hey, I ain’t complaining. This isn’t dip-in / dip-out TV, nor is it for the easily offended or faint hearted – it’s graphic, there’s adultery, sex, debauchery, racism, religion… and that’s just for starters. Boardwalk Empire is entertaining, dramatic, funny, and fascinating for the duration, and never really puts a foot wrong. Must see TV.
Hobo with a Shotgun [Blu Ray]: tells the tale of an individual with no permanent residence, and his acquisition of a short-range firearm… Duh! Being born the same way as Machete, I had some reservations before starting this – but they were short-lived. EVERYTHING about this film is an authentic ode to the horror/exploitation ‘masterpieces’ I grew up watching from the 70s and 80s. The setting is a dystopian, lawless town, so rotten that only the eponymous anti-hero can clean it up with a shotgun. There’s fantastic gore every 5 minutes, and all kinds of insane and outrageous blood-soaked SFX. The story is so absurd and OTT that you simply can’t begin taking seriously. – it’s essentially a cheap vehicle used to maximise the blood ‘n’ guts factor. Rutger Hauer is a little too good for this type of film, fleshing out an emotional, solid central character. Abby also makes a good scream queen, and the rest of the cast are enjoyable stereotypes. The colour pallet is very saturated; bright and poppy, the blood leaps off the screen – Hauer’s face was also what BD was made for; the faithfully recreated Carpenter-esque 80s sci-fi horror synth soundtrack and gunshots pump out of all speakers – this is worth the Blu Ray upgrade if the film sounds like your bag. All in all, the video, music, plot, gore, sleaze and nastiness all combine to make this feel like an authentic retro film – unlike the one crappy video-grain effect used on Machete. This beat every expectation I had, and while it’s no cinematic masterpiece, it’s certainly an absolute must-see for all horror/B-movie/retro movie fans.
Nude Nuns with Big Buns: tasteless throwback nunsploitation revenge flick with a latino twist. The single best thing about this film is that the entire female wardrobe could have been packed in to a purse; this is proper bang-for-your-buck stuff – with so much tits and ass that birthday suits seem normal by the end! It’s also way more offensive than your standard b-movie with some genuinely filthy scenes like the gas station encounter and motel self-surgery – it feels like a proper old-fashioned video nasty but without the hype – and it’s actually nasty. Story-wise, it’s pretty standard for the genre – following a lesbian, drug-addicted nun-gone-wild, with plenty of bad habits(!!). Technically, it’s pretty solid for a low-budget b-movie, and the acting’s passable for a bunch of z-listers playing stock characters. With possibly the most honest title in cinema history, this is genuinely packed full of gratuitous nudity and violence; it’s also got the greatest dispatch of a main bad guy in any film. Although this definitely isn’t for everyone, Nude Nuns with Big Guns is an entertaining, formulaic Machete-esque revenge flick aimed at the proper fans of ‘blood and titties’; a solid B-movie