The superhero genre is not, in fact, a genre. Adapting comics to film has become a billion-dollar industry in the past decade, and the movies comprising that industry have certainly been typified by a familiar formula. Marvel movies are with few exceptions fun but mostly mindless. DC movies are with few exceptions Marvel movies with all the fun wrung out. Those exceptions usually end up being the best of the bunch, but the point is that the “superhero genre” — while technically an applicable term for things grouped by subject matter — is more a “superhero formula” applied across genres. There’s action-thriller, action-comedy, action-adventure, sci-fi action…heck, when’s someone gonna make a superhero rom-com or a superhero road trip flick? Or a super-workplace melodrama devoid of any action whatsoever?
That ain’t Aquaman, an action movie that feels like someone took three of the other action movies we just described and crammed them into one package. Starring Jason Momoa as himself, Aquaman is DC’s most eye-popping blockbuster in quite some time, more reliant on world-building and flashy set-pieces than Wonder Woman or the feeble Justice League, which is sort of saying something. By and large this world-building is thorough and these set-pieces are inventive. If you’re sensing a big huge HOWEVER looming on the horizon, then this review is evidently as predictable as Aquaman.
Continue reading Aquaman (2018) →
Aaron Guzikowski said he was going to break Jason Momoa in the second season of The Red Road, and in the finale “Shadow Walker” we get a glimpse at what the writer might have meant by that. Momoa’s Kopus spent much of the first season manipulating the people around him in such a way that Walter White would have been proud, but season two showed a few cracks in the otherwise stoic armor. The final hour blew those cracks open and ended up being a solid end to a shaky and uneven season.
And that title — “Shadow Walker” — gets to the heart of Kopus’s character (and Harold’s character, too) and relates beautifully to the title of the show. In my limited understanding of Native American spirituality, the “red road” is the right path, the good path, the road to redemption. Whether we’re talking about the taut first season cat-and-mouse game between Kopus and Harold or the flagging, multifaceted plots of the second, it’s always been clear that this shifting morality is at the heart of the show. Both main characters walk the red road to varying degrees, as does Junior, as does Jean, as does every other character in the show. Kopus and Harold are the most interesting (in theory) because they’re foils: Harold is the police captain and family man who gets to where he is by lying, Kopus is the ex-convict who just might be starting to see the light.
Continue reading The Red Road 2.6 – “Shadow Walker” →
While portions of “A Cure” provided promising angles on The Red Road‘s second season, the feeling persists that the direction and drive of the first season have largely evaporated. The set-up for this season was Mac’s death, with Kopus somewhat framed and thus determined to find the real killer. While threads of that are still hanging loose, “A Cure” tied off enough that Mac’s death no longer feels like the unifying catalyst for this six-episode arc.
On the plus side, Kopus and Harold find their worlds converging yet again after following disparate threads for the first three episodes of the season. The cat-and-mouse tensions of their collective past have given way to a strange kind of mutual respect that neither are comfortable with. In the season opener “Gifts“, Kopus remarks on their lying, cheating and stealing eventually resulting in a promotion for Harold and prison for Kopus. “A Cure” follows up on last week’s “Intruders” with an even more explicit version of this societal unbalance: Harold kills a suspect and gets made Captain of the force, while Kopus has as much of a hand in solving that same case and ends up with a bullet in his shoulder this week.
Continue reading The Red Road 2.4 – “A Cure” →
A relatively quiet second episode of The Red Road‘s sophomore year provided a little more clarity with regards to the direction the show might take after a cracking first season. The impetus for much of the going-ons here is the murder of Mac, elder chief of the Lenape chapter of the Ramapo Mountains, which we saw at the end of the the second season opener “Gifts“. As suspected, Phillip Kopus is now the front-and-center suspect in Mac’s demise.
A recent interview with Jason Momoa touched on the “breaking” of the Kopus from the first season; Aaron Guzikowski, creator of Red Road and scribe behind Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, certainly seems to be heading in that direction with “Graves”. It’s interesting that Kopus more or less shuns the traditional trappings of his Lenape ancestry and yet seems to find himself cornered by it throughout the opening episodes of the second season. That disregard for the tribe led to Mac’s abandonment of him, which in turn presents a motive for people to attach to Kopus when Mac turns up dead. Even though the mountains have their own tribal police force, the method of attack on Kopus is the same as it has ever been, with a “half-assed lynch mob” (in Kopus’s disdainful estimation) beating him and covering him with tar.
Continue reading The Red Road 2.2 – “Graves” →
There was no small degree of uncertainty with regards to the direction The Red Road could take after a successful first season. Jason Momoa’s Phillip Kopus, the heart and soul of the show, seemed headed for prison; Martin Henderson’s Harold Jensen somehow came out in front of both Kopus and the ongoing familial strife that had plagued his wife Jean and their household for the past few months. But with a few major storylines seemingly reaching their conclusions — particularly one about the years-ago death of Jean’s twin brother and one about Kopus’s manipulation of Harold —where would season two go? “Gifts” starts by picking up right where the first season finale “Snaring of the Sun” left off, with Kopus being his usual menacing self and Harold showing he’s learned how to lie pretty damn effectively.
But that first scene is more of a coda to season one than it is a prelude to season two, as we’re soon treated to the ONE YEAR LATER tag that introduces the world of season two. And calling it a “world” is intentional, because although many of the same players are here the second season of The Red Road is already very different than the first (there are some new faces too [Wes Studi!]). We spoke a little about the setting of Road and the way in which it relates to the characters in our review of “Snaring”, so it was nice to see “Gifts” really run with that idea.
Continue reading The Red Road 2.1 – “Gifts” →
The opening scene of the first season Red Road episode “The Great Snake Battle” reminded me of a scene from James Gray’s directorial feature Little Odessa. Both use a skinny hallway of a rundown New York City tenement as their setting, both depict a passionate confrontation between father and son, and both show how quickly a power dynamic can change from one man to the next. The comparison is strengthened somewhat by the fact that Gray directed Road‘s pilot episode “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream“; this fifth episode, focusing almost exclusively on main characters Phillip Kopus and Harold Jensen, is also the best since Gray’s opening hour.
We’ve seen how smart and manipulative Jason Momoa’s Kopus can be in pretty much every episode so far. He always seems to have the upper hand, even when he’s pissed off or cornered or spoken to like a child by his manic father Jack. It’s Jack and Phillip who come head-to-head in that dim hallway, the former ripping the door open with a gun in his hand and demanding his payment, the latter hardly saying a word at all. It’s not the fact that Phillip is quiet that makes this scene different — we’ve talked at length about the silent observations of Kopus, watching from afar and gathering ammunition to use against anyone and everyone. But he’s more than just quiet in this hallway scene. As his father rips into him, Kopus seems truly sad. Sad Kopus is without a doubt a new Kopus.
Continue reading The Red Road 1.5 – “The Great Snake Battle” →
- David Lynch stated that season 3 of Twin Peaks may still be “up in the air” despite some series regulars already signing on. We wait with bated breath.
- Meanwhile, The X-Files‘ limited season seems to be getting closer to a green light at Fox. Don’t expect any more than ten episodes, though, since David Duchovny claims everyone is “too old.” I think Gillian Anderson would beg to differ!
- Bridge of Spies will be the first of 27 Steven Spielberg films not to feature a John Williams score. This time the honor goes to Thomas Newman, though Williams will return for The BFG.
- Annapurna Pictures, champion of compelling artistic cinema, has filled out Ana Lily Armipour’s mysterious The Bad Batch with some fascinating names: Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Jason Momoa, and Diego Luna.
Continue reading Film & TV News: March 23 →
The Red Road, great as it is, is like any other show in the history of television: it has weak spots. “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky”, the third episode of the opening season, is likely the first time the chinks in the armor are visible. The writing up until this point has been largely commendable, succumbing to the occasional been-there-done-that moment, but mostly avoiding them, hinting at new roads (red ones) instead of relishing the old ones. “Woman” is a bit shakier, but thankfully Jason Momoa’s Philip Kopus, far and away the best character on the show, does what he can to save this particular episode from sliding wholly into those moments of cliché.
These days, “antihero” is like a curse word. We’re living in a post-Breaking Bad world, so the last word on the TV antihero thing has kind of been said. Does that mean antiheroes should be avoided altogether? Of course not. But is that what Kopus is? Hard to say. He has some qualities of an antihero in that he’s definitely a bad guy, robbing medical wholesalers and dealing in guns and drugs and manipulating kids, but he’s simultaneously someone you root for. It’s fun as hell to watch him do his thing, even if that thing isn’t strictly legal.
Continue reading The Red Road 1.3 – “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky” →
Though True Detective devoured nearly all of last year’s television glory, the SundanceTV series The Red Road deserves mention in the same breath. Massively overlooked but strong enough to be renewed for a second season (which premieres April 2015), the show centers on a small New Jersey town in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains. Decades of rough history between the town locals and the Lenape Native American tribe begins to flare up again, and two men — Officer Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) and ex-convict Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) — become wrapped up in the middle.
Created by Aaron Guzikowski (writer of Prisoners), The Red Road brings that rough history into the present in a way that few series dare. At times it’s made explicit, especially in scenes recounting the death of Harold’s brother-in-law as members of the Lenape tribe (maybe even Kopus himself) stood by. Those scenes are compelling, but it’s the mysterious, unseen aura of Us vs. Them that really gives The Red Road serious clout, vibing uneasily in every sequence. Is it racism? Or is it simpler, illogical and obdurate hatred, free of any and all motivation, free as a virus in the mountainside community?
Continue reading The Red Road 1.1 – “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream” →