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To Live and Die in LA holdup William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve James

To Live and Die in LA: when his partner is murdered by a counterfeiter a rabid secret serviceman will do anything to avenge him. All the classic cop tropes are in here: the three days left on the job veteran, mismatched and reluctant partners, etc etc. However, instead of the one-dimensional ‘good cop bad cop’, we get two complex and grey characters going through a moral minefield. For relatively unknown actors (at the time), the performances across the board are rock solid, particularly young Willem Dafoe’s slimy and menacing ultra-villain. The star for me is Friedkin; his direction here is outstanding and the opening 15 minutes or so has some bold editing, imagery, and musical choices – almost giving the film a bona fide arthouse vibe, and really putting the viewer on the back foot. Everything from an intense crazy car chase (wrong way through traffic) through to nail-biting tension (a split screen break-in) is handled superbly. The plot is the only thing that lets the film down a bit; it’s a simple revenge story that becomes unnecessarily convoluted through lots of tertiary characters and tangents. That being said, the film is always interesting and memorable – with the anti-hero cops on the edge, and characters on the fringes of society in out-of-the-ordinary situations (jail, strip club, dance troupe…) Depending on your tolerance, this film may be ‘too 1980s’ to handle: the fashion, dominating synths, neon title cards, and homo-eroticism that didn’t  quite make it to the 90s. I feel sorry for William Friedkin: after two major successes (The Excorcist and French Connection) critics have been queuing up to stick the boot in to everything he’s done since. For my money he’s one of the most rock-solid film-makers, and one of the few that uses the medium to really get in your head – his framing, soundscape, editing, imagery, and commitment to shocks and disruption are awe-inspiring. To Live and Die in LA is an 80s cop film that stands the test of time because of the talent involved – not for the faint-hearted though.

Score: 8/10

To live and Die in LA Burning Painting Fire William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve JamesTo Live and Die in LA Window Shatter William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve JamesTo Live and Die in LA Facepaint Dancer William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve James

 

Dogtooth Family Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis, Anna Kalaitzidou, Yorgos Lanthimos

Dogtooth (Kynodontas): three teenagers are completely isolated from the outside world by their overprotective parents; but they’re starting to become curious. This manages to successfully juggle various usually-avoided elements: it’s all very strange, quite full-on, and doesn’t really go anywhere; it’s completely awkward and deadpan – yet despite all of this, it manages to draw you in, entertain, and make you laugh. A lot of the funnies come from simple things like the misuse words; they call a salt shaker a telephone, a large lamp a cunt, flowers are zombies, and in one of the best – and weirdest – scenes the father intentionally mistranslates “Fly Me To The Moon”. The house is an unsettling location, almost like a laboratory: total white-out where everything is crisp, clean, clinical. There’s some full-on sex, full-frontal nudity, and a lesbian sub-plot – but these are also completely cold and sterile. Cast-wise, the three children are fantastic, and the main reason this film works: their naivety and childlike awe of external interference is completely believable and great to watch. It’s also masterfully directed, and effectively shot & framed – the most important part of scene is usually off-center, or sometimes completely out of shot. In a word Dogtooth is bizarre – on the cinematic map it’s in relatively uncharted territory between the severity of Haneke and the dark humour of Solondz – and as the runtime progresses it just keeps getting weirder and funnier. Dark and original, Dogtooth is a treat for those that want to try something completely different.

Score: 7.5/10

Dogtooth Dad Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis, Anna Kalaitzidou, Yorgos Lanthimos

Dogtooth Sisters Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis, Anna Kalaitzidou, Yorgos Lanthimos

Day Watch Timur Bekmambetov, Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Dmitriy Martynov, Galina Tyunina, Zhanna Friske, Aleksei Chadov, Ostankino Tower, 2 Дневной дозор

Day Watch (Дневной дозор): Anton is torn between the light (a love interest) and dark (his son) when he is framed for a murder that could start the next war between feuding vampire factions. Whereas Night Watch felt like a big-budget action movie Day Watch feels like it’s pulling in about 20 different directions; not simple enough to be mainstream, too vast and ‘out there’ to be an indie, too silly and eclectic to be ‘fantasy’, too grim to be a comedy…  even the music baffles as it skips between a grand Mary Poppins-style theatrical score, cheap and tinny Russian nu-metal, and Euro-pop for the duration. Night Watch was also a little bit mental, but if you’re hoping for Day Watch to explain everything anything think again. Face swapping, body swapping, an apocalyptic yo-yo, magic chalk, two levels of gloom… mix that up with new characters, unexplained and unrelated sub-plots, and general incomprehensible madness – it really tests your patience. The big finale has a lot of distracting slow-motion large-scale havoc and devastation for no reason other than ‘we can afford it’ – which significantly undercut the emotional climax. This isn’t helped by frenetic editing and direction, with lots of hard cuts between contrasting scenes that start and stop with no real warning or reason – a car chase stops for about 10 mins, then cuts straight back to the action. Whereas Night Watch was dazzling and busy enough to distract you from how weird it was, Day Watch really shows the how a visionary director without the budget, runtime, or discipline struggled to fully realise such an ambitious sequel: sure it’s bigger, louder, and more expensive but it’s defining features are that it’s overlong, over-complicated, and yet another round of light vs dark.

Score: 3/10

Day Watch Punch Timur Bekmambetov, Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Dmitriy Martynov, Galina Tyunina, Zhanna Friske, Aleksei Chadov, Ostankino Tower Дневной дозор

Day Watch Timur Bekmambetov, Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Dmitriy Martynov, Galina Tyunina, Zhanna Friske, Aleksei Chadov, Ostankino Tower 1 Дневной дозор

Game of Thrones Season 1 Mark Addy, Maisie Williams, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Rory McCann, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena HeadeyGame of Thrones (Season 1): several noble families with royal ties feud over the right to rule all seven kingdoms in a medieval-ish fantasy epic. One year prior, Spartacus was balls deep in rumpypumpy and graphic violence, which felt like it was pushing boundaries; then someone in HBO said had said: “lets take Spartacus as a starting point, then add as much over the top sensational stuff as you can. 3, 2, 1… GO GO GO!”  GoT is loaded with full frontal nudity (sausages, chuffs, and udders), blood, gore, prostitutes, lesbians, and as much offensive language as censors allow; not to mention the taboos like breastfeeding and incest being pretty major plot points. Whilst these add to the show’s notoriety, it detracts from the Rome-like inter-weaving political storylines; continually reminding you that it’s actually being pitched at teenage boys. Other than the odd stinker (Arya Stark!!) the cast are generally decent; although different characters giving their roles different levity levels – from scenery chewing (King) to borderline comedic (Bronn). Peter Dinklage is the one actor that really sticks out from the vast ensemble – impressing and entertaining with his larger than life character. Due to the number of characters, families, locations and concurrent plots there’s a lot of dialogue-heavy slapdash whistle-stop history & exposition lectures between characters – some hit the mark better than others, but most are required. While there’s one big “Holy Shit” moment, Season One feels like a 10-hour teaser – promising better things to come; introducing white walkers (zombie-ish creatures), dragons, teeing up a war – but blatantly not following any of it through to anywhere near conclusion.

Score: 6/10

Game Of Thrones Season 1  Mark Addy, Maisie Williams, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Rory McCann, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey Game of Thrones Season 1 Mark Addy, Maisie Williams, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Rory McCann, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey

Orphan Black Season 1 - Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Michael Mando, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dylan Bruce, Natalie Lisinska, Matt Frewer, Evelyne Brochu, David Richmond-Peck,

Orphan Black (Season 1) [Mild Spoilers]: When her doppelganger commits suicide a con artist tries to steal her identity; but gets way more than she bargained for. I’d class this as ‘Sneaky Sci-Fi’ – it starts out as an innocuous TV drama, but soon hits some obscure territory: DNA sequencing, evolution, cloning, body mods, it even gets a bit ‘Matrixy‘ in tone and style. The smart part about this is that by the time someone figures out it’s not something they’d usually watch, they’re probably hooked. Despite the Sci-Fi leanings there’s enough titbits of standard genres (Police procedural, Suburban Housewife comedy, Science girl for the nerds, religion) to give it general appeal. The central actress (Tatiana Maslany) is absolutely outstanding; she has to play at least 6 people, often one disguised as another – and is so convincing throughout; looks, mannerisms, accents – all nailed down. The gay step-brother is also fantastic comic relief. There are a heap of welcome – albeit unnecessary – panty shots / lesbian scenes for no real reason other than to keep the hard sci-fi dudes interested. Overall, a good concept, tight story, great talent and a solid budget – what’s not to like?

Score: 8/10

Orphan Black Season 1  - Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Michael Mando, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dylan Bruce, Natalie Lisinska, Matt Frewer, Evelyne Brochu, David Richmond-Peck,

The Good Wife Eli Gold Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Diane Lockhart Will Gardiner Carey Agos Kalinda Sharma Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

After five series’ (and renewed for a sixth) this show is obviously a big hit in the ‘States, but The Good Wife (TGW) in an unsung hero of the UK TV schedules – big props to Channel 4 and More4 for giving it a punt, and sticking with it. As a late-20s guy that loves Action & B-movies, It’s not the type of show I thought I’d like, but here’s a bunch of reasons that will hopefully convince you to give this a spin!

The Good Wife Alicia Florrick Hot Sexy - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Women: unlike 99% of other TV shows the main character is a strong, powerful, hard-working mother (don’t run away!). She’s written well, brilliantly acted, fleshed out, and what’s more – she’s surrounded by other equally capable ladies – Diane, Kalinda, and dozens of other minor, characters. It’s a sad time when around 50% of all movies fail the ridiculously simple ‘Bechdel Test’ – and ½ that pass do so by the skin of their teeth – but TGW puts women front and centre, making it a refreshing change.

The Tech: I work in IT and the tech in TGW never fails to amuse and impress, not just the kind of gadgets they use day-to-day – but the way in which cutting edge technology is often the centerpiece of a story arc, or the focus of a case. There are entire episodes based on Bitcoin, search algorithms, NSA surveillance, Reddit (Scabbit), Silk Road, drone murders, leaked documents, Anonymous, ISPs turning over IP addresses, memes, video game murders, and a recurring Google-esque client – ChumHum. You watch it and think “WTF TGW, this exact case was in the news last week!?!?” It’s easily the most tech-savvy show on the planet.

The Good Wife Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Will Gardiner - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMajor characters: Although Alicia is the eponymous Good Wife, there are around ten recurring characters that come in and out of the spotlight throughout the seasons. Kalinda Sharma, Will Gardner, Peter Florirck, Eli Gold, Diane Lockhart, Cary Agos, and to a lesser extent, the kids and grandparents. All of these enjoy a good share of screentime, character-building and season-spanning story arcs, that bring some much-appreciated depth to the cast – making them way more than “The husband”, “The Boss”, “The Competition”.

THE GOOD WIFE Dylan Barker Colin Sweeney Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMinor and recurring, characters: arguably the show’s best feature is the ability to craft great minor characters with very little time. David Lee (Family Law!!) is one of the best lawyers on TV; Colin Sweeney is deliciously creepy; quirky lawyer Elisabeth Tasioni, politically incorrect Senior Partner Howard Lyman, the ever-scheming Louis Canning (Michael J Fox), promiscuous brother Owen, morally sound Clark Hayden, those are just off the top of my head. These characters – and many more – are so good that you cross your fingers every episode, hoping they re-appear and you get enough time to have a proper catch up with them.

The Judges: interestingly, the show has a small roster of regular judges, each with their own personality, leniency threshold, quirks, and history with Lockhart/Gardner. You find yourself thinking “un-ohhh, this is the strict Judge” or “Yeeess, this one fancies Alicia”, or “Is that in your opinion?” Technically another bunch of minor recurring characters, but they’re definitely worthy of their own spot on the list.

The Good Wife Judge Charles Abernathy Dennis O'Hare - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

The main reason that all of these characters are awesome is that the casting for the show is phenomenal. I can’t think of a single actor who you could say was totally mis-cast. Re-inventing actors so inseparable from their big roles – Chandler Bing, Ugly Betty, Marty McFly – making them work alongside relatively unknown / under-rated actors. Someone somewhere has outstanding vision – like a Tarantino of the TV Sphere – making something special out of people with fairly unremarkable careers. It’s a true anomaly of TV. The guest appearances are also often surprising: Eddie Izzard, Method Man, Anna Champ, Sarah Silverman… it feels like everyone is lining up to appear in the show.

The Good Wife Judge George Kluger Jeffrey Tambor - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Law: probably the most important aspect of a legal program – and not that I’m a qualified lawyer or anything – but it’s one of the few shows when the law is complex, believable, but still completely accessible (usually through some ‘approach the bench’ exposition). The show’s also not obsessed with Lockhart Gardner winning every case, and you sometimes see the flipside when they have to knowingly defend a guilty party… There’s so much fiery courtroom drama that you’ll soon find yourself walking around shouting phrases like Objection! Sustained! Over-ruled! Leading the witness your honour!! STRIKE THAT!! RECUSE YOURSELF!!!

Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerThe dynamics: it’s baffling that a show with such a super-broad appeal, and so many angles, still works this well. Ultimately, it appears to have been pitched at more senior viewers (median viewer age is 61 years old, and rising), yet it’s very tech-savvy and has a lot of explicitly gay/bisexual characters. It’s supposed to be about a lawyer, but that’s not even ½ of the runtime as family and politics feature heavily. It flips between serious drama, social commentary, and contemporary comedy so easily that it must be enviable to other show writers. You can watch the show as booth case-of-the-week, or appreciate the larger stories that bridge episodes and seasons. On paper it would look committee’d to death – a show that really shouldn’t work – but it’s a true anomaly.

The Good Wife Kalinda Sharma and Blake Calamar Parking Lot Baseball Bat Stand Off Fight Fashion Boots Jacket - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

 

it’s just a shame that the title is so bad. “The Good Wife” – bleurgh! It instantly repels most male viewers (probably wimin’ too); it’s just so frustratingly vague that anyone flicking through the TV Schedules could be forgiven for not giving it a second look. It could be a show about housewifery, it could be a melodramatic soap opera, hell – it could even be a softcore Movies For Men / Cinemax / Bravo style show.

 TL; DR? Short Version: this is a peach of a show, and you should be watching it.

Hardcore 2004 Katerina Tsavalou, Danae Skiadi, Ioannis Papazisis, Omiros Poulakis, Andreas Marianos, Dimitris Liolios, Konstadinos Avarikiotis, Yannis Stankoglou, Yannis Stefopoulos, Vyzantia Guy Pyriohou Movie Greece Dennis IliadisHardcore (2004): two young prostitutes meet in a brothel and help each other through their tough lives. Packed full of nudity, sex, prostitutes, guns, cars, drugs and lesbians – it feels like it’s going for an overly-outrageous/sensational DVD-shifting Baise Moi vibe, although this is far less nasty. The story’s quite unique in that it’s about young girls that aren’t forced into the sex trade, which makes the two central ladies feel more rounded. I think the film would have worked better if they switched the roles around as they made the prettier girl ‘frumpy/damaged’ and the more average lass ‘sexy manipulator’. However, the person that shines most is the director, who uses a lot of tricks and techniques to make the film more visually interesting, and some hard & fast editing to hold your attention. Despite this it’s all fairly average; the melodrama and ridiculouness gets heaped on heavier and heavier until the Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky style finale. Best Greek film I’ve seen? Probably, but I’ve not seen any others.

Score: 4/10

Hardcore 2 2004 Katerina Tsavalou, Danae Skiadi, Ioannis Papazisis, Omiros Poulakis, Andreas Marianos, Dimitris Liolios, Konstadinos Avarikiotis, Yannis Stankoglou, Yannis Stefopoulos, Vyzantia Guy Pyriohou Movie Greece Dennis IliadisHardcore 3 2004 Movie Greece Katerina Tsavalou, Danae Skiadi, Ioannis Papazisis, Omiros Poulakis, Andreas Marianos, Dimitris Liolios, Konstadinos Avarikiotis, Yannis Stankoglou, Yannis Stefopoulos, Vyzantia Guy Pyriohou, Dennis IliadisClick here for the 1979 George C Scott film Hardcore