Columbus, the debut feature from writer/director Kogonada, was so quietly self-assured that I figured I knew what to expect from his sophomore effort After Yang. Carefully composed framing, slow-but-steady pacing, and a general construction so precise that it borders on the architectural (and not just because Columbus was partly about architecture) — these are the hallmarks I readied myself for in After Yang, which premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival.
…so an opening that included the year’s flashiest techno dance sequence could very much be called a surprise. Based on Alexander Weinstein’s 2016 short story Saying Goodbye to Yang, Kogonada’s second feature is definitely the work of a director trying to reach farther, trying to push out beyond the bounds of his finely-calibrated debut. It’s an admirable and exciting endeavor, and After Yang would be disappointing if it adopted the personality of Columbus. In certain respects — see: techno dance sequence — this endeavor is a success. But After Yang is a bit disappointing in other ways, even if only in falling short of the high bar Kogonada set for himself.
Continue reading After Yang (2022)
Boasting a “return to roots” formula meant to appeal to champions of the first season, Daredevil‘s third season premiered on Netflix this weekend in the wake of the cancellation of its peers Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Trailers revealed Matt Murdock back in his homemade origin-story duds, rather than the classic crimson armor. The villain is also back, Wilson Fisk returning to his old ways and prompting Murdock and Co. to take him down…twice and for all. The question was whether there would be enough newness to offset what frankly sounds like a remake of the first season, enough to actually move the series forward. It’s worth remembering that the Netflix/Marvel model is a business model, not a storytelling model, and while both could be said to have an “arc” it’s always been evident that the former has dictated the output strategy of both Netflix and Marvel Studios.
And the arc here is a fairly predictable one:
- Marvel and Netflix launch a new arm of the all-encompassing MCU, populated by more “realistic” street-level heroes.
- Praise follows, mostly for Jessica Jones and Daredevil, which has a second season that spawns a Punisher series of its own.
- Iron Fist premieres to negative reviews, the first show to break the streak. Probably just a fluke, though. Right?
- The Defenders happens in an attempt to mirror the team-up mentality that led the film series to Avengers: Infinity War. The main difference, of course, is that Defenders is one of the most arduously-conceived, inconsequential, straight-up boring television shows ever made.
- This seems to spook the larger Netflix/Marvel model, predicated on interconnectedness from the get-go, and each individual series begins to shy from too much overlap. Rosario Dawson’s Night Nurse, the only character to appear in each show, seemingly evaporates.
- The second seasons of Jones, Cage and Fist premiere, all to lowly-to-middling reviews that fail to generate much more of a reaction past “meh.”
- Cage and Fist get the axe and Daredevil‘s third outing arrives with the promise of a return to the Glory Days of Season One, back when it was the only one of its kind in existence.
Continue reading Daredevil – Season 3
As we ventured in our review of last week’s pilot episode “The Western Book of the Dead“, the structure of the second season does indeed come into slightly sharper focus in the second hour “Night Finds You”. This installment echoed some of the weaker points of the previous one, including a whole lot of exposition and a whole lot of angsty brooding. And what’s up with the melancholy bar singer? How about a hosting a karaoke night instead? Or bring in Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, liven the place up a bit. Velcoro and Semyon could be use some groove. Spoilers follow for the second episode “Night Finds You”.
Aside from all of that, there were a handful of exciting things that occurred in the second hour. Some of these things were pure True Detective. I suppose I never quite realized how much of the first season took place in a moving vehicle, but it felt fitting to see Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro and Rachel McAdams’s Ani Bezzerides exchange trailer-worthy capsule philosophies as they traversed the post-industrial Vinci (His: “My strong suspicion is we get the world we deserve”; Hers: “I don’t distinguish between good and bad habits”). The starting point of their relationship is characterized by mistrust and conscious deception, as both are informed about the other during individual briefings at the start of the episode. Ani learns that Ray is rumored to be a bent cop, while Ray is more or less tasked with seeing that the investigation goes nowhere. The pair use the car ride to “get to know each other”, which in True Detective means testing the other for weak spots, for betrayals, and eventually for a point on which an alliance might be formed.
Continue reading True Detective 2.2 – “Night Finds You”
Most everyone is comparing last night’s premiere of True Detective‘s second season with all of the highs of the first, which is both an inevitability (it’s True Detective, after all) and an exercise in futility. For the purposes of our Season 2 reviews we’ll be largely ignoring Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart (trying, anyway) although some comparisons do hold favorably with the current cast of characters. Our recent piece “A Man Without a Family” touched on the various family circles throughout the first season, and it’s clear in characters like Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro and Rachel McAdams’s Ani Bezzerides that some themes are inherent to the show regardless of which season we’re in.
“The Western Book of the Dead” was jam-packed with stuff, juggling a handful of protagonists and delving into flashbacks and allusions to mysterious pasts. Ray, a California cop in the Vinci Police Department, is introduced to us as the father of a young boy. The kid’s afraid of his classmates picking on him, but Ray seems tender and loving in his encouragements. “Be proud,” he says. When we discover that Velcoro’s kid is likely product of the years-ago violent rape of his wife, our picture of Ray the Loving Father starts to disintegrate. By the end of the episode he’s ripped into his son, driven to the home of the kid that’s been bullying him, and beaten the father of that kid to hell while making the kid watch. The beauty in the fact of watching this scene on Father’s Day is not lost on me.
Continue reading True Detective 2.1 – “The Western Book of the Dead”
John: In Bruges is the debut effort of far-too-unknown writer and director Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, this is the kind of film that makes you feel guilty about bursting out into gut-wrenching laughter. Farrell plays the young, impatient thrill-seeker and Gleeson portrays the classic oldie who only wants to take in the beautiful architecture of Bruges, Belgium, where the whole film takes place. This might seem like a familiar dynamic, but there’s a twist: they’re a pair of assassins-in-hiding after a job gone wrong.
The brilliance to the film really starts with its basic premise. Bruges, one of the most aesthetically beautiful and quaint little towns in the entire world, has become the hideout and eventual battleground of the hitmen and, ultimately, the mob boss they work for. There’s a vague element of mystique, as well, an almost dream-like quality to the film that fits so well because of how easily Bruges might compare to one’s idea of heaven. I suppose it’s possible that is what allows the layer of absurdity the film also possesses to work as well as it does. At no point does it feel like some of the more ridiculous occurrences are too much, or that they do anything but add to the awesomeness of the film. It is a true shame that Mr. McDonagh has, as of yet, only made two films (the second being 2012’s Seven Psychopaths). The Oscar-nominated writing, fun performances and harsh themes all make the film immensely enjoyable for anyone with even a slight taste for the darker comedy. If that’s you, then In Bruges is fun as hell.
Continue reading Netflix Picks #3