IR Film Review: TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG [IFC Films]

The perspective of a criminal mind can be the product of many stages. The texture of upbringing and formative experiences key into these factors but the idea rests within the situations that befall a character. in “True History Of The Kelly Gang” which has had its perception integrated before in the aspect of “Ned Kelly” starring Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom some years ago, the texture here plays more into the idealism of the boy versus the expectation of a man The building of the man is formative and the imbalance of class struggles and the efforts of a normal children are sowed from birth. Ned’s mother is surviving herself and Ned admires her tenacity even when she herself uses him in a way for her survival. In these earlier times, the impressionable intensity of two characters played by Charlie Hunnan and Russell Crowe show two different sides of the life being led (especially in the 1870s when women had very little choice). Both these men offer their friendship to Ned but truly just as a pathway to his mother.

The eventual coming of age of the boy is quite intensely done in on e scene which imbalances Ned’s whole perception of his life. This s the most telling and best acted scene because it provides that intensity with Crowe, though overweight, showing his acting prowess. As the story progresses to Ned’s formative years, his mother’s influence but also his naivete paint an interesting picture of a boy wanting the idea of what a man is rather retroactively. He falls in love with the wrong girl who, as his friend who turns to be his enemy says, “is not the marrying type”. Most of the men and the women, in more practical fashion in the film, are only out for themselves and their interrelations are messy. This is more than adequately purveyed with the relationship between the Constable and Ned being the most telling.

George McKay plays the older Ned and it is a completely different person by far than he was in “1917”. This movie, as it was filmed, was made it seems a year or so prior to “1917”. Nicolas Hoult pays a slimy character but no more so than anyone else. The flash point, in trying to protect his sibling is what causes the decent into criminality because he seems to have no choice in the defense of his mother. Granted the idea is that he learned this from Crowe. Kelly’s actual decent into crime and madness is not really adequately defined in him. His life becomes broken on but literally in most points he is leading an army of would-be children. The final solution of his idealism shrouded in an ironclad mask works as an interesting low budget approach to a set piece but muddles the metaphors a little bit.

Granted this is more straightforward than the director Justin Kuzel’s “MacBeth” but less cinematic. The acting is good, organic and not stilted but the problem is within the script which operates tightly with a build n the beginning but seems to meander in its meaning a little too much as it personifies its ending with an author taking credit for understanding Ned in the guise of politics. While it is played for irony, the through line of Ned’s letters own letters have more power. It would have made more sense almost to break the 4th wall with McKay as Kelly telling his story from beyond the grave. Ned only did what he did for his family. It simply gt away from him and he lost control of both himself and his world..

C+

By Tim Wassberg

IR Blu Ray Review: PAPILLON [Bleecker Street/USHE]

The accessibility of a remake always depends on the people making it and the necessary ramifications for such a pursuit. The ideal behind “Papillon” which was previous made as a movie in the 1970s starring Steve McQueen & Dustin Hoffman is one of showcase. Most younger generations wouldn’t have had a perception of such a story, especially one that begins in the 1930s. But like most great stories worth telling, the essence borders in the mythic. Charlie Hunnam portrays Papillon. Hunnam definitely has an eye for unusual material with literical overtones which might not necessarily give breathe to his marquee value but definitely marks him differently. He turned down “Fifty Shades Of Grey” right before he was to shoot it. While “King Arthur” didn’t succeed, “The Lost City Of Z” was an interesting choice. The challenge is obvious within “Papillon” for him but like “ A Prayer Before Dawn” from A24 earlier this year, the power of the story might not have been enough to connect with audiences. The aspect of Rami Malek, who now has reached a mainstream perception with his lead role as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, playing Louis Dega nicely complements Hunnam’s Papillon much like Hoffman to McQueen. Malek brings a quite reserve and nervousness to Dega which again shows his dynamic range as compared to say his work on “Mr. Robot”. The locations are interestingly vague yet specific. It starts out in Paris in the 1930s, all shot on soundstage. Most of the actual prison and interiors seems to be have been shot in Serbia. There is an old world dirtiness to the proceedings while including a sense of history. The essence of Malta is definitely felt in Devil’s Island (who many may recognize from the ending of 1980’s “Popeye”) The themes of escape and abandonment versus a sense of belonging resonate throughout the film. The film does get a bit esoteric during Papillon’s isolation time which is a creative choice but unbalances the progression. In terms of extras, there are a nice selection of deleted scenes though only two specifically give a specific enhancement to the film in terms of detail: one being the escaping band of criminals negotiating with a village of lepers and the other being Louis finding a sense of piece in gardening and caring for animals. Both scenes show a sense of gentleness both in Papi and Louis that maybe gets lost at times in the savagery of the prison. “Papillon” didn’t necessarily need to be made but those involve definitely show their passion in these continuing stories that need to be told.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Sons Of Anarchy: Season 3 – Advance TV Review

With the kidnapping of Jax’s son in last year’s finale of “Sons Of Anarchy” [Tuesdays/10pm], the question became one of sanity and structure within the club. Either the VP would fall apart or he would step up to the plate again. The interesting element about the first two episodes of the new season of “Sons Of Anarchy” is how much Kurt Sutter understands the psychosis of Jax (played with quiet and rage-filled solitude by Charlie Hunnam), who is a man on his way to ruin at an eventual point. Like “The Godfather” story of biker gangs [which I made reference to in the first season], the key within this story is loyalty and betrayal. While the essence of Clay’s involvement in the killing of his father still brims on the edges of Jax’s mind, the kidnapping of his 8-month old son at the end of last season brimming into the initial episodes of this season begins to pull him apart. He was the strong one and what is interesting as the possibilities unfold is how people change around him.

Katey Sagal’s character Gemma, who is engaged in problems of her own, is being kept in the dark which is going to have vicious repercussions in terms of trust. Maggie Siff’s character Tara who is Jax’s girlfriend also is really coming into her own. The transformation is allowing her to become the matriarch-in-training which is ultimately the irony of this series. It is the women who will ultimately pull the strings. Charlie Hunnam continues his journey as this man, this former boy searching out answers. He knows right from wrong. He knows the code. He is conflicted. He begins this season by trying to push Tara away but there is also a hesistancy which ultimately could get him killed. Jax is the character through which people from their homes see this world. As an actor, you can see Hunnam’s method progression. He lives this entire mode of thought. Having met him when he made “Green Street Hooligans” long before “Sons”, there was always that intensity in him much like Heath Ledger. This is what fuels “Sons”. Seeing Jax in the shower in almost utter catatonia because of the supposed loss of his son Abel (not a random name choice) balanced with a later moment in Episode 2 where Clay (the stoic presence of the great Ron Perlman) tells Jax that he knows what he is feeling but he has to give a show of power and confidence to “The Club” shows the other core element at the heart of the show: the psychology of power. “Sons” continues to surprise with exceptional verve in the opening episodes of its 3rd season. Out of 5, I give it a 3 1/2.

Mythic Bikers & Parallel Existence: Returning Television Fall 2009 – Part I – Review

As the new fall season enters in texture, the returning shows entering display a differential that plays the same with an added sense of knowing. With the cable networks still outpacing in general story, the writers on all sides are keeping their intensity at a high level which shows in the first inferences of the new.

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Mad Men The key with this show is allowing the characters to breathe with finesse. The greatness of the show lies in its ability to let you watch the characters’ thoughts unfold with the knowledge that it might not work for them in the end. Don Draper continues to move in mysterious ways and his interaction with the would-be Conrad Hilton sends him on a disnomer of emotional proportions just when he seems to be finally bringing things under control. Don’s by-the-wayside Rockwell type moment with his daughter and newborn son show both the inevitability but also the paradox of the American Dream. As his relationship disentegrates with Roger over what should be a tryst and Cooper pulls a dark card to make him sign a contract, the walls seemingly are starting to close in again. Don is a MacGuffin more than ever. Add to this a rich surrounding of women between his wife (played with just the right amount of knowing by January Jones) who is looking for life extension especially after the death of her father to Peggy (played by an increasingly aware Elizabeth Moss) who continues to rise up the corporate ladder acting like one of the boys and finding her true rhythm in business deals. Also one must not forget Joan (played with distinctive knowing by Christina Hendricks), an exceptional shark in her own right who makes a decision based on traditional values that is inevitably biting back at her. There are also so many other characters that are secondary that are simply being ignored at times because the main proponents are so engaging and allowed to develop organically. This is the show’s great gift: its ability to create the essence of time while seemingly moving the story along without being rushed.

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Sons Of Anarchy This story operates in an antithetical way because it is about instinctual, visceral and primal elements not shrouded by stiff suits (although Adam Arkin is giving it a run for its money). Last season, the culimation of Jax’s perception of Clay as a divisive change in the rule of the club made him a bit of a tragic hero. Kurt Sutter, who also worked on “Deadwood”, has created a modern family story shrouded in love, death, crime and brotherhood within a story about a biker club with killer follow through. He had the series run at an incessant pace with an almost “Godfather” exit in the finale last season. The thing about Sutter is that he doesn’t pull the punches. Gemma, played by Katey Sagal (who is also Kurt’s real life wife), is put through the wringer in the first episode that completely changes the dynamic of the season in an instant. Sagal takes on a whole different dimension in a sharp turn in terms of the choices she needs to make. This directly affects her life with Clay, who has secrets of his own, not the least of which is that he ordered the botched murder of an innocent woman in trying to kill one of his own men. Ron Perlman told me at TCAs that playing the role of Clay can be very uncomfortable. He likes Charlie [Hunnam] who plays Jax like a son so he says it is hard for them to go at each other with such thinly veiled hate. That for him is the challenge. People are pushing themselves on the show. Even in the first four episodes of this season, you can see Charlie Hunnam simply melding into the role but the fact of how he can modulate between the life of the club and the life at home with his re-united childhood sweetheart as well as his new son comes off as heartbreaking because you know something bad is going to happen as time goes on. This show has Emmy written on it simply because of the performances, especially Charlie. Even the way his girlfriend in the series has to assert herself in the politics and alpha female intensity of the club’s dealings to retain her man is great. The power here lies in the women which is a phenomenally underlying truth. This to me in a plethora of good TV is one of the most cutting edge shows out there because it doesn’t need a high concept to make exceptionally riveting. And where it is going is ratcheting up.

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Fringe At the end of last season, a new world unfolded before the eyes of the audience and of agent Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv). As the new mythology evolved, the story aimed to jump start the stakes. Whereas Jared Harris (who is also on “Mad Men”) led her to a bit of ruin last season, the key here is unfolding a showing an intensity of will, which seems to come to fruition when Anna emerges from nowhere into the world almost dead in the opening moments of the season opener. It is Peter Bishop (played with restrained authorship by Joshua Jackson) that takes control and finds a way to make the division work under threat of shutdown. The relationship between Peter and his father Walter (played with delicious inventiveness by John Noble) is really starting to anchor the series. There is a degree of connection that is starting to be apparent and the humor definitely is getting a following. At one point Walter is doing an autopsy but is having his assistant help him make pudding at the same time. There is just something in that paradox that makes it work. The cornerstone in terms of the drama does revolve around Dunham but a smile or two (like in “Castle”) works miracles. The crux with her that keeps developing is her relationship with men and the betrayal of her trust (which continues to happen). Her relationship with her former partner now dead motivated her last season. This year, the problem rests in her close friend inside at FBI who is not who she believes him to be. The shake up of this structure will continue to affect her both personally and professionally. In terms of mythology versus stand alone, the alternation continues. The second episode actually includes a Gollum-like creature as if something out of “Children Of The Corn”. “Fringe” shows that it is mixing it up but the ultimate personification of William Bell is still the focal point with [Leonard] Nimoy nowhere in sight yet with his presence still lingering. It is just a matter where this story leads since the danger is of the mythology becoming too intrinsic. The show has infinitely more potential than “Warehouse 13” yet that show already has distinct control over its trajectory which in turn creates the effectiveness and clarity in ways of its storylines. “Fringe” needs to simply optimize its machine which it has the power to do.

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Parks & Recreation At the end of the abbreviated last spring introduction of this “Office” type mockumentary, its charm had not yet settled in. It was seemingly trying a little harder than it should have. However, the texture has seemed to relaxed heading into its fall progression. Having not watched “The Office” at its inset, the ability to see this show from inception focalizes that the inherent nature of it rests in creating the situation in an offset manner to the character development. The relationships in last season seemed to be more of a focal point whereas the starting point of this new season works because it makes use of events in each of the episodes to motivate the characters which inevitably works much better in terms of structure. The first episode has Amy Poehler’s character mistakenly marrying two male penguins at a function at a zoo seemingly creating a gay rights issue. The trouble that she and her Indian Carolina-born associate get into trying to live it down ends up involving a party where she is heralded as Queen. Another subsequent episode has Poehler discovering what is supposedly “marijuana” growing in the community garden she planted. While she is cultivating the garden, her associate is getting a suntan on a reclining chair nearby. It is just a perfect balance of earnestness and sheer ridiculous humor perpetrated by these two lead characters. There are couple more characters establishing themselves slightly but with the exception of Poehler’s boss pulling something in the most recent episode, there hasn’t been anything to truly diversify the rest of the cast in true form yet. But according to most, it took “The Office” in the US a couple seasons to get in stride. The question becomes will the ratings here be good enough in general to allow for that kind of possible success. Poehler fuels the show and the writing is starting to know what it needs to be so there is possibility but not quite yet.

The key with these first 4 returning shows is their different levels of intention and acceptance and how each is purveying its individual trajectory. “Mad Men” can make its story work while looking effortless in terms of character and interweaving storylines which has caused it to hit a stride of sorts in its third season after two exceptional seasons before. “Sons Of Anarchy”, in terms of energy, burns brighter with a sense of Shakespearean tragedy but rivals “Men” at times in terms of mythic perception even though it has not gotten anywhere near the kudos of the former. It however seems very steady in its identity and knowing what it needs to be. “Fringe” is a good show that is still very much finding its focus while discerning its balance between mythology and stand alone and between drama and biting humor leading towards the direction it is choosing. “Parks & Recreation” is a much simpler creature but, in the beginning of its second season, is realizing the the story/situation must take precedence and the character arcs will naturally follow. However, all in all, positive progressions for all involved, some more than others, but all showing a tightening of ranks.