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.
The Guard: An odd Irish policeman teams up with an FBI agent to stop a major shipment of drugs. As the main character, Gleeson steals every scene and the entire show with his portrayal of an offbeat copper that switches between brilliance and insanity so often and effortlessly that you never know if he’s playing it straight or dumb. There’s a lot of other memorable characters woven through the story like Mark Strong’s disillusioned drug trafficker, both other bad guys, the elderly mother and rookie partner. The humour’s blacker than black, and drier than a bucket of sand – not for everyone, but for me it was fantastic, easily one of the funniest films I’ve seen so far this year. The story’s good, and keeps going through to the very last scene. The Guard is funny, sweary, a little surreal but very entertaining.
Titanic: What can you say about this that hasn’t already been said? The continual use of establishing shots and long swoops over the ship confirm that James Cameron was all about the spectacle, size, scale and cutting-edge GCI at the time (sounds familiar…) Although nobody’s looking at her face for the last half hour Winslett’s acting is sketchy at best, DiCaprio out-classes her like you wouldn’t believe but looks sooooo young. It all gets a bit too epic and stupid near the end: gun-fight, child rescue and too many scenes of real-time sinking and survival – although the limp bodies smashing off the railings / propellers are pretty cool! For me, the musician’s sacrifice is the saddest part of the film by a long shot. Overall Titanic is too long, and the present day story’s adds nothing, just serves to deliver some corny / cheesy comedy. Some retrospective tongue-in-cheek comments about Picasso and Freud were a neat touch. It’s a decent story, big spectacle but just too over the top.
The Proposition: would have been far more watchable if there wasn’t so much violence and gore in your face throughout the entire film. Don’t get me wrong, I like my action, but this is a bit much. The story’s simple and had potential to be powerful, but was drawn out and poorly executed. There were no lasting rivalries, little suspense, no shoot-em-up scenes and no deep characters… basically, no staple Western ingredients! Definitely failed to make the most of the superstar cast, Ray Winstone in particular seemed to think he was playing a gangster. Gets a lot of hype because of the hardcore Nick Cave following, but surely such an acclaimed musician should have nailed a better soundtrack! It looks good, and is atmospheric, but if you like westerns you’ll have seen the story before, just never told this poorly, and with so many boring soliloquies.