IR TV Review: HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER – EPISODE 10 (“We’re Not Getting Away With It”) [ABC-S6]

The paranoia of mystery depends how bathed the characters are in guilt versus survival. With the episode “We’re Not Getting Away With It”, “How To Get Away With Murder” uses the aspect of who is smarter. Granted the aspect of people working behind the scenes has always been a part of the game that is being played. The interesting purveyor here is letting the doubt sow while very smartly highlighting Viola Davis as Annalise only briefly. The aspect of her physical change is undeniably (perhaps she was starring in a movie at the same time) but that idealism shift is supposed to reflect the turning of the screw. Everyone in this series has their intentions but most seem on the level save for someone who skirted the edge of hard core ethics and a student that doesn’t seem in his right mind. The best aspects within the redemption inherent in a series is the notion of sacrifice. However that progression needs to mean something. Everyone, as the dominoes fall and people start to try to see sides, comes down to the element of selfishness with glimmers of both hope and betrayal. The important detail in this episode is how many lines in key moments are not answers, not denials but not admittance either. In the course of rebuilding a crime that they are at the center of, the team interestingly enough is disjointed which is the whole point. It is just a matter of what Annalise ultimately actually wants to do.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: CARNIVAL ROW [Amazon-S1]

Immigration stories tend to be cyclical but they show the undeniable structure of human spirit. The one great thing fantasy does, whether it be in “Game Of Thrones” or “Lord Of The Rings”, is that examines the notion of human behavior in its many shapes and forms. “Carnival Row”, the new Amazon series, is nothing if not a more tame version of “From Hell”. It wants to hit a wide audience and yet have something for everyone. In its two lead stars, Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne there is an interesting structure at play both because of their previous roles but also how their real lives distinctly push the plot in a certain way. It is well constructed in that way since the essence of their love and strife as the characters parallels the journey in a way that is genuine. Delevingne’s choices have been good for the most part (even with “Valerian”) but a bit below the radar. Bloom with his “Rings” and “Pirates” cred (even though he often gets some grief of being the second guy in the franchises he has been in) still challenges himself. His character here is the lead but is understated which belies the heart with which he plays it. It is an interesting irony seems this inspector character wears so much on his sleeve and yet betrays nothing. This character of Philo is a man fueled by secrets but it is interesting to see who he shares it with.

Like films set in the Old West, there is a certain lawlessness that is burrowed in this world with a degree of civility. This imbalance is what makes the plot work as it is the viciousness that lies underneath (without giving too much of the plot away) that fuels the fire. The progression is also about subversion. One of the most dynamic subplots examines the history and consolidation of power in a very specific way. While these are mostly secondary players these ideas are being examined through, their intention plays very much in tandem with the overall plot. Another aspect structures in the elements of class with an unlikely pairing but one that speaks of bridges and not denying those who fall in love. David Gyasi, who has picked to be part of some very interesting films, most specifically “Interstellar” and “Annihilation” is superb and understated here, again making a perception both on history but also on tolerance in a way.

All of this of course is in play from the main relationship structure between Philo and Vignette, Delevingne’s characters. Without giving too much away, the aspect of truth and consequence plays heavily in their journey. While both actors are trying admirably, the chemistry is seemingly not there for the most part. Delevingne is not a natural actress but she is getting undeniably better. Bloom’s chemistry actually with another actress is more palpable which might slightly be a function of the plot but also of the actual structure of what the story is. The similar aspect can be said of Delevingne and a former flame within the story as well. It is an interesting dichotomy that gives the story and its player indeterminate layers. Of course, the aspect of “Carnival Row” moves within the nature of the underworld or the power that moves beneath it.

The idea of family and what that connotates figures heavily into the proceedings. That power is incumbent throughout most of the season with The Chancellor played by Jared Harris and his wife subtly and then overtly moving and pushing buttons. The nature of their power is driven by love and perhaps fate. All of these characters are seemingly on a path of their own choosing which is nonetheless orchestrated by someone else. The show does well is not overdoing its technical elements making it functional enough without overdoing the CG elements. It in many ways mirrors “Warrior” on Cinema. Though that show is set in late 1800s San Francisco, it parallels the aspects of the downtrodden who in many ways don’t have a say within their own destiny until they actualldo. “Carnival Row” again shows Amazon’s continued predilection for interesting stories without going too far left field which sometimes other streamers do in an effective way to create interest. The most important angle is to tell the best story while not losing track of the actual story being told.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: ANOTHER LIFE [Netflix-S1]

The texture of “Another Life” as a series revels in a structure of both existentialism but also a progression of what life or the essence of what it means to an individual person really is. Katee Sackhoff, in the most dynamic and essential character she has played since Starbuck in “Battlestar Galactica” is a commander who is brought in to lead a mission with a crew who undeniably is stacked against her. The dynamic and the subsequent ideal of perhaps a one way trip is personified in the intentions and perceptions of the crew. The one aspect that truly comes through, whether by design or organically, is the diversity of the characters and the personal interrelations. Some seem forced while others seem very fluid in the very sense of the word. The most interesting of the secondary cast is Blu Hunt as August and Jessica Camacho as Michelle simply because of their dynamic opposite personalities which shows the extremes of what space travel can do because of psychological resilience or as a coping mechanism.

The motivation of the first season (as seen in full but not revealing spoilers) involves finding the source of an alien probe which has made it’s way to Earth. Sackhoff as Captain Niko goes on the voyage as a modulation of protecting her daughter while her husband stays on Earth as a analyst trying to decode what the alien is about. The backdrop is perhaps similar to “Annihilation” which is vastly superior in terms of its texture and philosophy but more esoteric in terms of its character development. Reflexivity and what we think of ourselves play a big part as well as the hierarchy of command but also the curiosity of exploring the unknown.

The interesting structure that some episodes take on is the aspects of say a “Star Trek” episode with angles of the unknown (with a slightly darker tinge) while others can have the dread of say “Alien” or “Event Horizon” with differing levels of success.

Returning to the character work, the writers are not afraid of showing the different facets of human fallibility but also sexuality and insecurity. Some of these interactions and relationships work organically while others require a little more angling in the narrative to work. The most interesting by far but also the one that reflects Niko’s psychology even more is her interaction with William, the onboard AI who controls the ship. Like a variation of The Doctor on “Star Trek: Voyager” melding with that of Bishop in “Aliens” the context of what dictates emotions or the simulation of emotions comes to bare along with elements of the unconscious. This culminates in certain ways as the season progresses.

Back on Earth, the different paradigms reflect in the people on earth reacting to certain stimuli of the alien presence. Selma Blair as a would-be social media maven seems a little too specifically geared to the modern sensibility but her delivery especially in context of what can be perceived actually works in the long run while Tyler Hoechlin as Niko’s left behind husband reacts in understandable ways. The Earthbound story is not as engaging as the one taking place on the ship but, by extension, the stakes seem much higher up in space.

The special effects are effectively done with a certain veracity (much like the recent “Lost In Space”) and take into account some of the ideas that “Interstellar” played into with but sans the elite grandeur vying for the more practical. The design inside Niko’s ship balances between the claustrophobic but the technical much like a blend between The Nostromo in “Alien” and The Sulaco in “Aliens”. There is a dank humid element to the technology inside the ship like a submarine but with the idea that pressure or the lack of it lurks just beyond the walls.

“Another Life” is an interesting perspective into the sci-fi genre with a character worthy of Katee Sackhoff whose career choices will always be compared to her groundbreaking Starbuck on “Battlestar Galactica”. The assemblage of the crew and their dynamic plus a hidden foe which will not be named in various forms keeps the tension in play while exploring different ideas of psychology, sociology and space travel.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: JETT [Cinemax-S1]

The texture of a series like “Jett” really keys into understanding what it is but the implicit necessity of what can be done within its confines. Writer/Director Sebastian Gutierrez and his wife/actress Carla Gugino have a real sense of the way to make noir idealism with sexuality and emotional overtones without becoming melodramatic. They have done this in many of their low budget films like “Elektra Luxx” and “Women In Trouble” but were always limited by the budgets or the eyes of the independent film crowd.

In making “Jett” with Cinemax (which has delivered another interesting tale right after “Warrior”), this series takes that European sensibility that Gutierrez has created (watch his most recent film: “Elizabeth Harvest” which played SxSW in 2017), but gives it an effective almost low end DePalma make over without losing the abstract elements in part that have become a stalwart of these collaborations. Gugino famously starred in “Snake Eyes” with Nicolas Cage for DePalma nearly 20 years ago so seeing her transformation from there to this is undeniably satisfying. Though there are moments of plot driven exposition, the idea and dynamics flow along at a decent pace while still letting some of the scenes breathe.

The plot without getting into too many details follows Jett played by Gugino whose real name is Daisy who is a master thief both helping and providing intel for Charlie, a debonair gangster played with aplomb by the dynamic Giancarlo Esposito. Many different characters interplay but what is interesting is no matter how damaged they are, or how cold Jett might be, there is always a sense of what might be called malignant hope…a hope that gnaws in the plot and the characters even though you know it is bad to believe in it. Whether it is Elena Anaya (who Almodovar discovered) as the rock Maria to Gaite Jansen as the lost Phoenix to Michael Aranov as the intrepid Jackie, there is so much to rip them apart and yet certain travails keep them going and connected. The violence is motivated but also malignant in its wantonness.

Gutierrez is specific with his colors and textures as he has always been but what this medium allows him to do (as he wrote and directed all 9 episodes) is a consistency of vision but also to focus on small character moments which are made specific by the titles of all the episodes. One of the more dynamic because it doesn’t focus as much on the main characters is called “Rosalie” where Bennie, one of Esposito’s hitmen, gets into a different situation than he bargained for with one of the affected victims of a hit. It is both a diatribe on human behavior but also ironically funny and introspective in many ways. The inherent essence also behind “Jett” is that it doesn’t feel it necessary to put an air of true finality on certain relationships and yet it defines them…it gives the perceptions of the characters but lets the viewer decide on their own what they think of them.

“Jett” is by no means an excellent series but it is quite good. It is self indulgent at times. But it is also undeniably poetic and vicious, tender and dark, beautiful and messy. Gugino glides through the scenes like a crow stalking its prey but also understanding that without the surrounding messy ends around her, she would not exist. Her losses are visceral but they are also necessary. Jett is an image but also a reality in terms of the character build. And for that reason because Gugino and Guitterez can approach this material in this medium with a sense of instinct, style, fun and gravitas, it allows that kind of tone that maybe might have been difficult to give a wide breathe in an independent movie the kind of texture it needs in a cabler series like “Jett”.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR Print Interview: David S. Goyer For “Krypton” [SyFy – NBC TCA Winter Press Tour 2018]

Very few Hollywood writers have had the kind of interaction with both comics lore and top tier filmmakers in honing the craft. David Goyer is one of the elite few. He worked on The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan Trilogy but also on Man Of Steel & Batman Versus Superman. On top of that, he is actively working on “Fantastic Voyage” for Jim Cameron as well as being in the writers room for the new Terminator trilogy as soon as the right reverted back to the legendary director. His TV work is also very accomplished. Most recently he created “Constantine for NBC and “DaVinci’s Demons” for Starz. Next might be the most high stakes challeng”e for him via TV: “Krypton” on SyFy which follows the exploits of Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather. After completely a panel for “Krypton” at the NBC TCA Winter Press Day, Goyer spoke with The Inside Reel about texture, family and responsibility within his new series.

Can you talk about integrating Adam Strange as a sort of perceptor point for “Krypton” as a series?

David Goyer: Jeff [Goyer] and I always have a soft spot for him. As Jeff said, he’s a guy who ping-pongs around the world. I think he’s got an interesting backstory in and of himself, so maybe there was a possibility for an interesting spin-off or something like that. And we just thought we needed an audience proxy for the show. We needed somebody to represent people that aren’t comic book fans, that maybe don’t know anything about the Superman mythology. It seemed like a good match, and as Jeff alluded to, in terms of some of the other comic book arcs– there’s just some interesting things that we can do with him, particularly looking forward to season two and season three.

Can you talk about casting Seg-El and what compelled you about Cameron Cuffe as the character?

DG: It’s funny because I saw his early audition in the UK, and I called Jeff and I said, “I think he’s the guy. Check him out.” I don’t know. He’s calm and he’s heroic. He’s instantly likable as a person when I met him. I was joking about the talk, but that was a very real talk that we had in London. I said [to him], “You’re going to be under a tremendous amount of pressure, and it doesn’t mean you have to be a choir boy, but it does mean that you are an ambassador on a different plane than most comic book worlds.” And he got it. And he’s a genuine fan. He genuinely wanted to be there, which is also really important, because when you cast someone like that, you are thinking about, “Okay, this has to go hopefully for eight, nine years, and [we’re] at the beginning of it.” But he’s going to be front and center, doing all this press, meeting all these people in real life, and he will be an ambassador for us as a show. So he’s a great actor and he’s mature for his age, or it just doesn’t happen.

Now how did the whole idea, when casting, how far along were you in the writing process, and how did that sort of inset to the psychology of Seg-El as a character?

DG: I mean we were — if we hadn’t cast Cam, we would’ve had to push filming. We were right up against start. We’d already seen over 500 people and we cast sort of everyone but him.

And all 10 episodes of Season One were written at this point?

DG: No. Not all 10 were written. We’d written the first three. So we were literally talking about pushing production because we hadn’t found him, the guy. We’d already cast Georgina, who plays Lyta Zod, and the only reason she’s not out here, too, is because they’re both in so many scenes– we’re still filming — It was impossible to get them both here at the same time.

Did you ever worry, I mean chemistry-wise, that you hired the most important guy last? What if he doesn’t match up?

DG: Well, that’s why we had a screen test with Georgina. I mean, because they have to work together, because there’s a Romeo-and-Juliet aspect to the show, which I shouldn’t talk about. And so their relationship is the central relationship in the show.

This must be an intense production…

DG: It’s definitely intense. In terms of Warner Horizon, it’s by far the biggest budget — or Syfy. In terms of science fiction, it is the biggest budget show we’ve ever been on.

Could you talk about the family aspect? The whole thing with Zods. You can’t give too much away, but can you talk about the intersection of that?

DG: It’s a big, big aspect of the show, and the show is — it is as much about the House of Zod as it is about the House of El, and so family lineage, and what families stand for, and the family name, is an enormous part of the show.

By Tim Wassberg