Hunted (Season 1): 1 year after a botched murder attempt secret agent Alex Kent must find out who betrayed her, whilst carrying out a new mission for her private contract company. The production values on this are through the roof – it always looks more like a film than TV series (Going for the Luther / HBO vibe). A few characters stand out as good, including the botoxed lead Melissa George, but the rest are all definitely TV standard. The writing’s solid, with the current mission dramatically unfolding, as well as several well-connected revenge storylines weave through the central drama. As the season progresses and the plot thickens the show really grabs you – but – like with almost every modern TV show the greedy prospect of a second season made the writers go for a disappointingly limp finale that fails to conclude the bigger mysteries in the story, and (more annoyingly) raises even more last-minute questions. It’s a sour ending to what’s otherwise a top spy/thriller/espionage thriller show.
Silver Linings Playbook: after a mental breakdown and bi-polar diagnosis, Pat Solitano strikes up a relationship with an equally challenged family friend. STOP PRESS! HOLD THE PHONE! Someone somewhere managed to find a very good performance in Robert De Niro, how the hell did they do it? Both leads are also way above what’s required and expected from ‘rom-com’ standards, and both deliver solid, believable, performances as afflicted people. The story’s engaging and interesting, right up until the final act where it runs through the entire checklist for clichéd movie endings. In saying that, you don’t really grudge the ending as the laugh-count in the first two-thirds of the film was ridiculously high (again) compared to what you usually get in a rom-com. The only thing that kept pinching me was that both leads are ridiculously good-looking Hollywood A-listers, centered around an interesting, unconventional relationship – those two roles could have been brilliant breakthrough fodder for unknowns, but in a way, they still are eye-opening performances, and you wouldn’t want to change the casting of Cooper or Lawrence. Silver Linings Playbook is a surprisingly funny and enjoyable quirky rom-com.
Awake (Series 1): after a fatal crash a cop lives two lives, one where his wife survived, the other where his son did – he’s just not sure which one is his dream. It’s a high-concept show, but it helps that both ‘realities’ are instantly distinguishable: different partners, cases, therapists and to further aid distinction, one has a cold turquoise hue, whilst the other is a glowing amber colour. The first 10 episodes are basically dual-homicide investigations, where details from one world are subconsciously pointing Detective Britten towards the clues in another, very interesting, and easy to roll with. There’s a much bigger story/conspiracy that’s infrequently – but ominously – mentioned, although it doesn’t materialise until Ep10. (Hello to) Jason Isaacs is fantastic, having a difficult dual-role and really shining towards the end of the series when his character and psyche starts to buckle under the stress. The rest of the cast are all decent, but it’s a one-man show. Episodes 10-13 are fantastic, thrilling and adrenaline-pumping, leading in to the final 15 minutes of the series; which has Inception levels of mind-bending inner-consciousness, in which it looks like we’re going to see a definitive, wrapped up, (brave) one-season deal – then WHAM… a wholly unnecessary – series tainting – final scene. Despite that, Awake is a fresh, new and interesting twist on quite a stale, overcrowded format & genre. Top production, writing, acting and more family/police procedural than action thriller – it’s very watchable top-drawer Telly.
In Time: the currency in 2161 is time, and on your 25th birthday you stop ageing… but only have one year left unless you work, beg, steal, borrow or inherit more. Most importantly, this is a well-realised vision of the future, not too ridiculous or unbelievable (Cars, buildings, technology, even the cool designer clothes). The concept is also strong, and quite unsettling that everyone looks fairly young – although not always under 25! Casting’s very clever, JT is more than watchable, Seyfried makes a great damsel with attitude, Cillian‘s a naturally magnetic authority and Pettyfer and his goons make for good pantomime baddies. There’s an interesting parallel/undertone of the current financial crisis, but it’s never the main focus, and due to the subject, there’s also a lot of ‘ticking clock’ situations, which are always visceral. The only downside is that the film has two main settings; standard and turbo. Standard is the great concept/story being played out in quite a mechanical, baggy, and fairly obvious way, however, at least a third of the film is in Turbo mode; the big reveals, pivotal moments and action sequences are all on an air-punching level. Put it all together and you have a well-designed, well-planned, neat, powerful, original and immersive sci-fi film – that’s more than just an update of Logan’s Run!
Faster: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, an insane gun and a fast muscle car are out to avenge his dead brother ten years after a failed heist. Despite everything about this film looking awesome, it’s totally pants. For a stripped down revenge film there’s almost no action and only a handful of kills. Dwayne almost goes full retard, with no expressions and about two pages worth of lines in total. Then there’s the wholly unnecessary assassin side-story that serves absolutely no purpose but to beef the film up – and has no payoff. Billy Bob turns up and does his thing; nobody else leaves a mark. Also, for an R-Rated revenge film with an action star, massive guns and fast cars there’s no boobs… genre fail! The two-minute Red Band trailer honestly has the whole story – and all the best bits. If you can’t tell by now, Faster is a waste of everyone’s time and money, that’s been done about a million times, and far better.
District 13: It’s the near future and entire urban areas of an unstable Paris are walled off to contain the scum! From the very first frame, this film’s an insane mix of athleticism, action, martial arts and physical prowess. The jaw-dropping breakneck action is complemented spectacularly with ultra-slick editing (that show’s every single jump clearly from start to finish) and pounding Euro techno/grime music. While the action’s totally nuts, it ends up being used quite sparsely and never really surpasses the opening chase scene. Much of the run-time is beefed up with huge sections of socio-political story, clearly rooted in modern France, which makes the story pretty believable. Despite there being no ‘real’ actors everyone’s good to watch and the two main guys in particular are solid – the theory Vs reality angle makes for some great back-and-forth. The style and feel are 100% gritty, urban, French and in-yer-face. Everything’s aimed at the guys, from the uber macho gangsters right down to the grotesque super sports cars. With the Taken director behind the camera and Luc Besson as producer you’re in good hands here, and although this goes down in most people’s books as ‘that parkour film’ it shouldn’t be overlooked, as District 13 winds up being a very enjoyable, solid action flick with remarkable stunts and a worthy & interesting story to match.