words on the internet

i'm will dennis. these are my movie reviews and thoughts. i don't proofread before publishing so forgive the editing or lack thereof

Tag: tv

NARCOS – SEASON 2 (2016)

Fun ride. You don’t really walk away with any key insights or perspective on the human condition, other than sometimes ambition for ambition’s sake is what drives people.

Other strong themes are that there’s always another bad guy around the corner and that even if you want to succeed, you may actually be enjoying the journey more than the success it eventually brings.

Some great integration of archival footage, in the last episode especially, with the DEA agent posing with Escobar’s body.

This season felt like a lot of ‘here’s a tip, follow it, shoot out, kill some bad guys, repeat.’ Felt a little linear – fun, for sure – but a little too linear.

I would have liked to see more of agent Murphy’s family life towards the end because he seemed to be a bit of a warm body towards the end without much development.

The end of the season became a quieter look at Pablo Escobar and his family, which was welcomed and interested. The acting from Pablo Escobar was constantly gripping and so believable.

They set up the show for a very explicit 3rd season – following the Cali cartel with agent Pena – but without Pablo’s acting I’m unsure if it will be as gripping. Pablo was a man amongst boys – so do we really want to see the boys play?

Maybe the look into the Cali cartel will be more sophisticated and oriented around money laundering and finance, which could be a refreshing change to the bomb and kill approach of Escobar.

If they take that approach, which I bet they do, I’m in. I think Murphy and Pena are charismatic enough to keep driving this thing forward.

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GONE GIRL (2014)

So dark. So twisty. So fun.

Second time watching this one – threw it on in the background as I was doing some work and cleaning.

The major stand out is the number of twists and how well they’re executed. They happen quicker than you expect and as a result the rabbit hole is deeper than you expect.

We’re learning just how bad these characters are and to what lengths they’ll go.

The more I watch great movies and shows the more I find that point of view is the key to great storytelling. Managing who knows what and when – for both the audience and the characters – can be the difference between average and excellent storytelling.

In GONE GIRL we start with the unreliable narrator then back to real time – as we shift our allegiances shift as well.

The role of the media as a character in this film is brilliant – our opinion is manipulated in much the same way the media manipulates the public’s perception. The media is either villain or friend – depending on if you agree with them.

Brilliant and fun and dark. A good comment on media and the idea of normalcy in relationships – is it what we really want?

STRANGER THINGS (Series, 2016)

Great for moments. The production design is flawless. However, it felt like it should have been a movie.

There was a lot of Winona Ryder upset and a lot of walking around in the woods and exploring. Not enough plot to justify 8 episodes. Very luxurious filmmaking and definitely delightful at times but feels like they took a great 2 hour movie and pulled it from both ends.

The main issue is that we didn’t learn a tremendous amount more about the characters or the world as the story progress.

We know we have a telekenetic girl, a monster, multiple dimensions, and a corrupt government agency early on. Feel there we don’t learn a ton more about their motives other than some 3rd party predictable “testing on expanding the human psyche to create a weapon.”

I’m not fully sure what the box in the woods was at the end that Hopper dropped the egos off for – I suppose Eleven is in the upside down world fighting the demagorgue and protecting the real world?

The ending was nice with Will having flashbacks to the upside down world and still having the “snake” in his system – raises a few interesting questions of how he’ll recover in the future.

WHERE ARE BARBS PARENTS? She died. Nancy was upset. Moving on haha. Nothing to see here. They could have been incorporated to heighten the tragedy of the situation and balance out the happiness of getting Will back.

I suppose Hopper is now sort of the gatekeeper between the upside down and the real world? I suppose that’s all we can take away from the mysterious car ride with the “bad men.”

Glad I watched it but wish it was denser.

THE NIGHT OF (TV MINI SERIES – 2016)

It’s all about point of view. Something that underwhelmed me about STRANGER THINGS was the lack of clear boundaries around point of view. It was omniscient and restrained, a combination that I find very frustrating as a viewer – it feels like you’re being withheld from the story rather than following along with it.

THE NIGHT OF manages perspective wonderfully. You’re along with Nas during the night of the murder and are exposed to what he’s exposed to. You don’t know if he killed her because he doesn’t know if he killed her. No one knows if he killed her – it’s brilliant. In this way the audience is taken on an intellectually honest journey through the minutia of the criminal justice system. The facts, evidence, and behavior of Nas all became crucial breadcrumbs for deciding for yourself – did he or you’d he have killed her?

He starts as a very innocent “good” kid and progresses into a harder, darker person. Is that the prison system or has the hardened interior been there all along? Was his fights in school indicators of things to come or simply post-911 defense?

These types of questions keep the show consistently compelling and engaging through it’s slow, but intense, pace.

The character development is brilliant with amazing acting and characters who each are trying to do their jobs righteously by the best efforts. There’s no good vs bad – just everyone trying to figure out what the truth is. It’s a refreshing presentation of what feels like a more realistic presentation of the criminal justice system.

Defense attorney’s aren’t scum, and the DA isn’t the knight – everyone has a conscious and is trying to do right by themselves and the accused.

There’s enough drama to keep it from getting dry as well – mostly related to the prison life – murders, suicides, drug smuggling, lawyers who overstep – that felt not entirely fresh but excited and visceral nonetheless.

John Stone is an amazing character – his constant battle with excema and allergies provides a light hearted but still tender subplot that adds depth to his persona and a nice escape from the severity of the prosecution. His sacrifice of his own comfort of the preservation of the cat is an touching way to end the series and underscores the theme of love vs suffering and sacrifice for the greater good – but perhaps most importantly that life is unfair, but fuck it move along – as John eloquently says to Naz in the bodega.

An excellent, beautiful exploration of the fallibility of humans despite their best intentions.

Cinematically I found myself quite often struck but the beauty of the compositions. Racking focus and shallow focus were used quite often as well – occasionally brilliantly and occasionally in a way I found distracting. The cool dark pallate combined with the composition and focus – as well as purely artistic framing from time to time – kept the show feeling dramatic, moody, and claustrophobic.

It’s the kind of show I wish didn’t have to end (it’s a limited series) but maybe it’s best that it does because the result is something very tightly structured and wound. The introduction of a more likely suspect in the final episode offers some potential for another series or a continuation – but the best part is is that it offered key motivation for the DA to pass on further prosecuting Naz.

There’s also some compelling and under-told views into the repercussions of having a family member convicted of murder or being a defense attorney for a high profile murder(er). It’s the sacrifices we make for the ones we love and for what we feel is right (back to the beautiful cat ending). I

Great great storytelling, photography, and editing – in particular the pacing.

I just finished and want to watch it again.