Daredevil – Season 2 Review: Red & Black


Creators: Doug Petrie, Marco Ramirez

Channel: Netflix

Stars: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Jon Bernthal

daredevil-season-two-color


Genre: Action, Crime-drama, Superhero

Premiere: March 18th, 2016

Country: USA


4½/5

Best part: Jon Bernthal.

Worst part: A few too many episodes.

Last year, Netflix and Marvel’s first collaboration, Daredevil, set the bar for superheroes on the small screen. With Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War taking over the big screen in 2016, Marvel and DC Comics/Warner Bros. continue their ongoing war for supremacy and positive reviews in our homes. Eclipsing The Flash, Gotham, Agents of SHIELD, and Arrow, Daredevil – Season 2 is the best superhero show and one of contemporary TV’s biggest surprises to date.

Daredevil – Season 2 kicks off acknowledging the back-breaking, bone-crunching events of Season 1. With Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) behind bars, Law firm Nelson and Murdock, held up by colleagues/best friends Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), is – despite sending Fisk to the slammer – facing a swift tumble down the plughole. Murdock, donning the red, leather Daredevil costume every night, is forced to decide between a quaint existence alongside Nelson and assistant Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and ongoing vigilante/saviour responsibilities.

Of course, topping the quality and events of the previous season, Daredevil’s second outing introduces higher stakes and several alluring new characters. Frank Castle/The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) is a man driven to the edge of sanity by the death of his wife and child. With Hell’s Kitchen gangs hunted down one by one, the public soon turns against Castle and Murdock’s forms of citizen justice. Castle, depicted in several lacklustre big-screen iterations previously, is treated with respect here. Like his comic-book counterpart, this version is a cunning, thought-provoking anti-hero unafraid to twist the knife. Their action sequences provide that ‘dark & gritty’ aura most blockbusters fumble, informing each character’s persona and the show’s hyperkinetic atmosphere.

Daredevil and Castle’s conflict provides the psychological and thematic backbone other superhero adaptations typically lack. Castle provides a no-holes-barred approach, eviscerating criminals with military precision whilst making sure they never get back up. Daredevil, however, beats people to a pulp but leaves them for the police to put behind bars – eventually facing the consequences of their actions. From the scintillating courtroom sequences to thunderous set-pieces, this debate adds new layers to the genre whilst keeping the audience guessing.

Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) slinks out of the darkness to give our favourite blind lawyer/vigilante, and her old boyfriend, a run for his money. A significant part of the season’s second half, the character is too given an honourable treatment compared to previous iterations (Sorry, Jennifer Garner). Utilising her sex appeal, tenacity, and ferociousness to her advantage, her persona pulls Murdock into a befuddling world of ninjas, scheming villains, and spiritual awakenings. She, balancing out Castle’s impact on the narrative, is a force to be reckoned with and worthy of a spin-off before joining The Defenders.

Most importantly, Cox provides a delightful, multi-layered performance as the Devil (angel) of Hell’s Kitchen. Similarly to Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers/Captain America, the performer creates a unique, nuanced divide between superhero and alter ego. Creating a physical specimen and vulnerable everyday citizen, the creators, writers, directors, and Cox combine to develop an arresting lead character – carrying all 13 episodes with ease. With Murdock facing off against physical threats, Nelson and Page aptly balance the warfare with wit and flair throughout their all-important sub-plots.

Sitting comfortably alongside Season 1 and Jessica Jones, Daredevil – Season 2 is a tight, taut continuation of one of TV’s best shows and the Marvel Television/Cinematic Universe.

Verdict: A major notch above Season 1.

Boiler Room (2000) Retrospective Review: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems, Mo’ Respect


Director: Ben Younger

Writer: Ben Younger

Stars: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Affleck

Boiler_room_ver3


Release date: February 18th, 2000

Distributor: New Line Cinema

Country: USA

Running time: 120 minutes


2000 crime-drama Boiler Room is one of the most underappreciated and surprising features of the past century. Between its time of release and today, this crime-drama has become an instruction manual for crime, corruption, and excess on screen. There is now an extensive, and somewhat questionable, laundry list of features and TV shows discussing the same topics and banging the same drums. If you are afraid of reality’s slimey infrastructure, look away now! Though broken in parts, Boiler Room is a fearless, imposing monster convinced the strength of power will always outmatch the power of strength.

This game-changing crime-drama focuses on the confusing life of 19-year-old Queens College dropout Seth Davis in 1999. Seth runs an illegal, unlicensed casino in his cheap, rundown residence. Despite his financial success, he continually faces the bitter disappointment of his New York City Federal Judge father, Marty (Ron Rifkin). One day, as his narration describes as a “What if” moment, his cousin Adam (Jamie Kennedy) and his wealthy, charismatic work associate Greg (Nicky Katt) come over to try their luck. Greg’s work pitch to Seth pays off, with the youngster hurriedly joining Greg and Adam at brokerage firm J.T. Marlin. Based off the Long Island Expressway, the firm is the ultimate place for Seth to get rich or, at the very least, die trying. boilerroom

Boiler Room, directed and written by newcomer (at the time) Ben Younger, is a cool, calm, and charming ode to cinema and society of future past. The narrative, though splintering off into several key traits, sticks alongside Seth throughout tumultuous highs and lows. By all means, Seth is a despicable individual. From the get-go, he would rather keep his illegal casino running rather than shutting it down to prevent his father’s immediate termination. In addition, his treatment of friends and family leaves much to be desired. From his point of view, his brother and mother barely register whilst his friends are reduced to co-workers/employees forced to bow down (figuratively, of course) after each shift.

However, Seth’s rise of prominence at J.T. Martin is handled with care and flair. The second third delivers some of 2000s crime-drama’s most thrilling and light-hearted sequences. Chris Varick (Vin Diesel), taking the phone from Seth mid-trade, sells one customer on the sale of his life. Varick, the wolf amongst sheepish employees, shows off his fanciful, albeit questionable, skills to the tune of thunderous applause. Seth’s story runs through a gauntlet of exposition before the better days kick in. Stock jargon, particularly describing the importance of the Series 7 exam, might fly over most people’s heads. Younger and co. never drown in stockbroker gobbledegook or any movie like Margin Call would offer up. Even the twist – Seth discovering the firm creates fake demand for the sale of speculative penny stocks from expired or fake companies – is a bit of a bummer. The ride is seemingly too fun to leave behind.

Younger’s focus on story and character follows a familiar, albeit lively, beat through its speedy 2-hour run-time. On paper, these protagonists are supervillains sucking people dry. On screen, they are simply overcompensating for a lack of depth for ambition. They are little more than get-rich-quick schmucks. Younger’s film, against all odds given our post-Global Financial Crisis perspective, allows you to care for everyone involved. Seth, entering a relationship with receptionist/Greg’s ex Abbie (Nia Long), puts his new-found confidence to good use. Of course, in true Ribisi fashion, looking and sounding like an easy target will put you directly in the firing line.

NVMuDeSThe fall – Abbie turning Seth in to protect her sick mother, his father’s involvement, Seth losing one client’s life savings – hits with brutal intensity. Ultimately, Boiler Room‘s final quarter draws multiple surprises out of its otherwise stock-standard characters. Its life-lesson schpiel takes swift turns away from what many crime-dramas would typically accelerate towards. The film, if anything, provides a look at the Ghosts of Hollywood Past, Present, and Future. Ribisi, stuck in conventional villain roles today, showcases his immense tenacity. Diesel, having taken on several meaty roles well before his Fast & Furious/Riddick successes, proves he is more than just a bald head and deep voice. Affleck, shows glimpses of the charismatic professional he is today. Meanwhile, Tom Everett Scott and Scott Caan have since risen and fallen similarly to Boiler Room‘s plot.

Boiler Room, though a small-scale corporate-espionage thriller, paved the way for everything from Knockaround Guys to The Wolf of Wall Street. Stuck between Leo’s Oscar-worthy black comedy and David Mamet’s esteemed creation Glengarry Glen Ross, Younger’s breakout feature, like many of its actors, is filled with potential and chutzpah but fails to connect with the masses.

A Most Violent Year Audio Review: Crimes & Cruel Demeanours


Director: J. C. Chandor

Writer: J. C. Chandor

Stars: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks

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Release date: December 31st, 2014

Distributor: A24

Country: USA

Running time: 125 minutes


 

4½/5

Review:

The Captive Review: Think of the Children!


Director: Atom Egoyan

Writers: Atom Egoyan, David Fraser

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Rosario Dawson, Scott Speedman, Mireille Enos


Release date: December 12th, 2014

Distributor: A24

Country: Canada 

Running time: 140 minutes


 

2/5

Best part: The dynamic performances.

Worst part: Egoyan’s direction.

Review: The Captive

Verdict: A lifeless and inconsistent kidnap-thriller.

Article: Fight Club: Masculinity Within Millenial Transition


Article: Fight Club: Masculinity Within Millennial Transition

Nightcrawler Review – L.A. (Not So) Confidential


Director: Dan Gilroy

Writer: Dan Gilroy

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton


Release date: October 31st, 2014

Distributors: Open Road Films, Entertainment One, Elevation Pictures, Madman Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time:  117 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: Gyllenhaal’s mesmerising turn.

Worst part: The detective sub-plot.

No, Hollywood’s latest attack against Western Civilization – scintillating crime-thriller Nightcrawler isn’t an X-Men spin-off. Almost certainly, this crime-thriller won’t resonate with average film-goers. In fact, those waiting for said superhero flick may shrug it off. From its casting choices to its viewpoints,the movie rallies against everything comfortable and wholesome. However, in this business-over-artistic-value era, few movies pack the one-two punch of creativity and intelligence.

Jake Gyllenhaal.

Several recent movies have dissected capitalism, Western prowess, and modern media. Crime-dramas including Maps to the Stars and Gone Girl tear through the wool over our eyes. Nightcrawler seeks to uncover the lowest rung of humanity. However, from a production standpoint, it appears unaware of its own hypocrisy. Despite attacking media, culture, and society, Hollywood’s allure still shines through. The cast and crew live financially and culturally rich existences. What would they know about lower-class suffering? So, with such people leading the charge, how does Nightcrawler get away with it? By being accurate, determined, and so damn entertaining! The premise, though charging into several big questions and themes, revolves around one bizarre man. Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an unemployed twenty/thirty-something with his eye on the prize. Desperate for cash, he resorts to stealing and trading metal from industrial complexes. Attacking and stealing from innocent people, his disturbing behaviour never pays off. One night, after pulling over to watch TV-news cameramen (nightcrawlers) film a fatal car crash, he concocts a get-rich-quick scheme. Obsessed with money, power, and respect, our unqualified and unstable lead becomes lost inside his uber-calculated conscience.

Rene Russo.

Rene Russo.

Arming himself with a cheap camera, a police scanner, and unemployed sidekick Rick (Riz Ahmed), Bloom aims for industry success, adrenaline rushes, and recognition. Certainly, Nightcrawler is an ambitious and opinionated crime-thriller. Ambitiously, it strives for the action-thriller and Aaron Sorkin crowds. Tackling major endeavours within a taut 117-minute run-time, certain sequences eek under immense pressure. Rushing towards its resolution, the movie struggles to define its points. Delivering a crash course in 21st-century living, director Dan Gilroy – acclaimed filmmaker Tony Gilroy’s brother – throws everything at us. Obsessed with its snaky lead character, the movie’s ethical and emotional current crafts a punishing and relentless swell. Throughout the first half, this crime-drama seems intent on following Bloom’s rise to success. Examining its slimy go-getter lead, the opening scenes deliver several nasty surprises. Contrasting Bloom’s home and work life, it becomes a unique thesis on the American Dream. Watering his one plant before hitting the web, our near-nocturnal lead pours blood, sweat, and tears into his journey. As the second half rolls through, he transitions into a murderous, selfish psychopath. Post dynamic station manager Nina(Rene Russo)’s introduction, the movie becomes a schizophrenic struggle between right, wrong, and modern civilization. The narrative, examining what  Network expounded upon decades earlier, obsesses over delivering harsh truths.

“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them?” (Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), Nightcrawler).

Gyllenhaal & Riz Ahmed.

Nightcrawler‘s nihilism may repel some viewers. Set in one of America’s most violent cities, its anti-capitalism agenda unfolds spectacularly. Presenting a pro-TMZ/anti-ethics world, the movie worships this seedy underbelly of vile men and lifeless machines. Bewitching those around him, Bloom’s ultra-slick business speak describes everything about him. Like a self-help speech, he communicates in lists, statistics, jargon, and tiresome cliches. His actions, proving pictures speak louder than words or morals, discusses this era of citizen journalism, the cameras-on-everything craze, and matter-over-mind media. Feeding TV stations with graphic images and exclusive/first-on-the-scene accounts, there is nothing he can’t, or won’t, do. Credit belongs to Gyllenhaal’s complete career-180. Following up star-defining vehicles Prisoners and Enemy, his Oscar-worthy turn tests each tick and inflection. Russo, fresh off a long-term screen hiatus, excels as Bloom’s shadowy game’s central victim. Gracefully, Ahmed and Bill Paxton provide chuckles as Bloom’s personality-driven distractions. Gilroy, like our lead character, creates show-stopping, unshakeable thrills. Several set pieces – depicting everything from shootouts to car accidents to home invasions – deliver edge-of-your-seat fragments throughout. The car chase, set up by our icky ‘protagonist’, boosts the scintillating and gruelling last third. Bolstered by Bloom’s Mustang, this sequence distinguishes itself from everything else.

In Nightcrawler, the City of Angels plays host to spiritual, emotional, and psychological demons. As Bloom crawls under our skin, the drama accelerates whenever he’s on-screen. Chronicling a slick rise-and-rise-and-rise story, this pulsating crime-thriller revs with force, meaning, and consistency. Similarly to Collateral and Drive, LA becomes a mix of crime, grime, and slime. Despite the sickening blackness, the grey areas keep the reviews flowing and ratings soaring.

Verdict: A zany and zippy Oscar hopeful.

Gone Girl Review – Till Death…


Director: David Fincher

Writer: Gillian Flynn (screenplay & novel)

Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry


Release date: October 3rd, 2014 

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 149 minutes


5/5

Best part: Fincher’s direction.

Worst part: Minor book-to-film translation issues.

Movies and relationships – despite the major differences between fantasy and reality – share one vital similarity. Oddly enough, these two ‘necessities’ rely on first impressions. A good first impression can make for blissful rewards, while a bad one can turn smiles into frowns. Tinseltown’s latest smash hit crime-thriller/marriage deterrent Gone Girl makes it mark within its first few moments. In its second scene, one of our two lead characters, standing next to a wheelie bin, looks around the neighbourhood before skulking back into his/her house.

Ben Affleck as struggling journo/murder suspect Nick Dunne.

Analysing this one uneventful moment, Gone Girl‘s audience could piece a million ideas together to create a billion different interpretations. In a year of shlocky actioners and dodgy biopics, the movie pick critics and film-goers up off the ground. We can all rest easy, thanks to this pulsating crime-thriller. We can now look forward to a potentially ingenious Oscar season. Obviously, I fell in love with this movie and might never let go. Thanks to its commendable cast and crew, this is 2014’s best movie. So, what is it about? Well, that is certainly an interesting question. The aforementioned lead is Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a disgruntled writer dangling on the thinnest moral tightrope imaginable. The bin scene delivers only a minuscule look into his existence. Kicking off in the present, the narrative scours through his hit-and-miss past. Early on, we witness a younger, more confident Nick introducing himself to alluring femme fatale Amy (Rosamund Pike). Hitting it off immediately, our cute characters ignite the ultimate topsy-turvy relationship. At first, our lovebirds float through life in each other’s arms. Bolstered by kinky sex and likeable personalities, their coupling seems perfect. However, soon after Nick and Amy’s wedding, life swings the one-two punch of a recession and mass lay-offs. Following Nick’s twin sister Margo(Carrie Coon)’s advice, our leads move from New York to his hometown of North Carthage, Missouri. On their fifth anniversary, Nick comes home to find a crime scene. Amy has been kidnapped, and detectives Boney (Kim Dickens) and Gulpin (Patrick Fugit) are on the case.

Rosamund Pike as mousey housewife/victim Amy Elliot Dunne.

From here, I promise to stick to my specific criticisms about the final product. In doing so, I will be avoiding Gone Girl‘s jaw-dropping twists and turns. Based on tabloid journalist turned novelist Gillian Flynn’s best-selling beach-read, the movie elegantly tackles several genre tropes and thrilling ideas. Faithful to said momentous page-turner, Gone Girl hands screenplay duties over to Flynn. Gracefully, Flynn develops a straight-to-the-point translation of her own material. The novel – telling a slinky and cynical story about marriage’s ups, downs, and left turns – tip-toes between plot-points and chapters. This adaptation, though aided by Flynn’s succinct screenplay, is bolstered by mega-successful psychological-thriller filmmaker David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven). Along with the aforementioned modern classics, Fincher’s no-nonsense direction has delivered such gut-wrenchers as The Game, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake. Like his Stieg Larsson adaptation, his take on Flynn’s novel amplifies the emotional resonance and stakes. Examining the text’s denotations and connotations with microscope-like focus, his style aptly suits the narrative. Amy – the missing gorgeous, white woman – sends the world into a tailspin. Meanwhile, Nick, a handsome journalist sulking inside their McMansion, becomes the prime suspect. The first half, setting up its story and character threads, omits the fat and lovingly nurtures its more-important concepts. Thanks to Fincher’s non-linear style, aided by chapter-defining fade-ins/outs, the narrative peels back story-lines with fingernail-like sharpness and intensity. Relishing in Amy’s oppressive diary entries, Fincher and Flynn craft an alarming tale of regret, temptation, monogamy, and gender politics. Adding to the overbearing cynicism, the story even pits Amy against her mother’s notorious literature creation ‘Amazing Amy’. Slithering around one another, these people are despicable, desperate, and just plain fascinating!

“I will practice believing my husband loves me. But I could be wrong.” (Amy Elliot Dunne (Rosamund Pike), Gone Girl).

Tyler Perry as top-shelf attorney Tanner Bolt.

As a pulpy, trashy, and intriguing mystery-thriller, Gone Girl makes airport novels, Hollywood cinema, and Affleck look so damn irresistible. Affleck, coming off an Oscar win and a major career resurgence, makes the most of this experience. Shedding his polarising persona, the A-lister succumbs to the character. However, credit belongs to Pike for perfecting her indelible role. Delivering multiple turns within one performance, the British character actress deserves the Oscar win. In addition, the stunt casting works wonders. Neil Patrick Harris goes full ‘One Hour Photo‘ in his disturbing role. Tyler Perry delivers a charismatic turn as ego-driven attorney Tanner Bolt. Boosting everyone’s careers, Fincher is the all-seeing, all-knowing God of big-budget filmmaking. Dissecting Nick and Amy’s marriage like a water-logged body, the movie delivers several arresting surprises and hurl-inducing moments. Certain scenes, testing each viewer’s tolerance levels, lodge themselves in the consciousness. Throughout the second half, in which character psyches are repeatedly broken and remoulded, the narrative delves into its own unabashed insanity. In fusing 1940s film noir, 1980/90s Brian de Palma/Paul Verhoeven fare, and modern kidnap-thrillers, this mystery-thriller crafts an unconscionable swagger. As the cameras and Nancy Grace-like newscasters obliterate Nick’s life, Fincher – like with previous efforts – beheads 24-hour news media, police ignorance, and studio-driven dross. In fact, the movie points out its own quirks; calling attention to everything meta, symbolic, and cliched. Matching Flynn’s sarcasm, Fincher’s blackly comedic humour is worth the admission cost. Gone Girl‘s technical precision stands out above almost anything else in 2014. Jeff Cronenweth’s handsome cinematography, highlighting Fincher’s signature style, lends pathos to this gruelling experience. In addition, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score boosts their already impressive oeuvre.

Despite the wheelie-bin scene’s infinite importance, the scene before it sums up Gone Girl‘s insatiable   prowess. Nick, looking at the back of his wife’s head, discusses his overwhelming desire to break her skull and learn her many saucy secrets. The following two hours does this with style, gusto, and chills. Thanks to Flynn’s taut screenplay and Fincher’s vigorous direction, this adaptation succeeds where similar efforts fail. Like Fincher’s previous efforts, Gone Girl takes the genre, eviscerates it, reshapes it, and dares others to do better. It’s a worthwhile experience…just don’t watch it with your significant other!

Verdict: A pulpy and confronting mystery-thriller.