Tag Archives: Noirs

“Riverdale” Season 1 – A Quality Noir Inspired by Archie Comics

  “Riverdale” is one of the best shows on the CW. This is a show that manages to adapt comic book characters in really creative ways and give them depth and nuance as well as tell an all around fun mystery that is explored over the course of the season. “Archie Comics” comics are comics that I read at different points growing up but I haven’t read the modern stuff, though I’ve heard good things. If it is anything like this show I think I would enjoy the modern stories immensely. Suffice to say, this is the best thing to come out of the CW in some time that isn’t an ongoing show.

The series was created by the creative director of “Archie Comics” Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and producer Greg Berlanti.

The story involves the mystery surrounding the murder of Jason Blossom as the the town of Riverdale reels from the death as secrets are revealed and the characters must find themselves as their own problems and drama begins to consume them.

The Pros: The Premise – I’m a fan of Noirs as the story is narrated by Jughead, one of the main characters who is writing the story of the murder and what unfolds as secrets about himself and his friends are revealed as the mystery is solved.

Riverdale – The location of a small town that is full of dying industries where everyone knows everyone and murder has to be solved is compelling. I like stories like this. It was what made “Broadchuch” interesting and it is the kind of location that breeds interesting drama and characters in stories like this.

The Characters – The characters the best part as we get characters who are multi-faceted. Archie is a player but great at empathy and connecting with others and does grow up, Betty is a perfectionist whose flaws consume her, Veronica is selfish but ends up being one of the most selfless and by contrast Jughead is presented as selfless and an idealist but is also quite selfish and consumed by his own ego. All our characters are contradictions and grow up, even the minor characters are shown to have many layers and it makes the show powerful. I cared about most of the characters in this, which is not something I can say about every show.

The Search for Self – The search for self is a huge theme of the show. Whether it is the Blossom legacy that consumes Cheryl Blossom while facing her own family’s dark present and actions, Archie facing his blue collar background, divorce and love of music that arose out of an affair but the love and passion for music is still there and Betty and Veronica…like Cheryl finding an identity outside of the expectations and corruption of their parents (same goes for Jughead too). This is powerful and the beginnings of these explorations are laid out.

Facing Trauma – Another theme is the theme of trauma as all our characters have experienced it at some point and it is only in opening up and honestly facing it that they have the chance to heal. All our main characters are at different levels of facing this trauma so I’m curious to see where Season 2 takes this given actions happen at the end that will increase it for 2 of our characters.

The Cons: The Love Triangle – I hated the love triangle between Betty, Veronica and Archie. I get it was in the comics but it is the weakest part of this series. I’m glad that we only real deal with it at the beginning and end of the series. Outside of that, I want more character exploration not stupid love triangles that usually only exist for cheap drama.

“Riverdale” is a series I’d highly recommend. It is intelligent and reminds me what I loved about reading the comics. This is a show that captures what it means finding yourself as you grow up and facing the contradictions within yourself. People aren’t simple and are almost always complicated and so much of that is facing the different parts of who we are. “Riverdale” does that with the characters of it’s show and I highly recommend it to both fans of the comics and any fan of good drama and characters.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

 

 

“Gotham” Season 1 – Establishing the Crazy City, The Moral Grey and Characters

Gotham Season 1

     “Gotham” was a series that I didn’t expect to like. Part of the reason is it does start out slow and the child actors are the weakest part of the series…but once the Gang Drama starts up it gets really fascinating. I grew to care about the different fighting Crime Lords  and wanted to see what they would do to rise and how they would fight one another. This is a show that is a Noir and as someone who has always enjoyed Noir style films the city of “Gotham” is the perfect location to tell a Noir Drama which over time pulled me and from there I grew to care about the series.

    The series was created by Bruno Heller who was also one of the producers along with Danny Cannon, John Stephens and Ben Edlund.

      The story is about Jim Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) return to London and him facing the corruption of the city with his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) as the drama between the Crime Lords tear the city apart as Gordon tries to establish order and solve the mystery behind the Wayne Murders.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World of Gotham – Gotham is a fascinating world..and as a fan of Batman I really enjoyed this interpretation. What kind of world would it take for Batman to be a good thing? A pretty broken and crazy world and that is the world of Gotham, where the good are few and become corrupted and a new bad will always rise.

Law and Order  – The Law and Order side of Gotham is fascinating and we get to see some of Batman’s rogues and allies here and see what motivates them.

Edward Nygma – Nyma is fascinating as the awkward riddle man who is drawn to one of his coworkers who gets into a lot of abusive relationships. It is from him being the outsider and obsessive that we see him become corrupt when he kills his crushes abusive boyfriend, hides it and from there he breaks. Cory Michael Smith gives a tenderness to the character that isn’t often seen.

Sarah Essen – Sarah Essen is in charge of the Station and we see her advocate for Jim and Bullock, including risking her life when Zsasz comes for Gordon’s head on orders from Falcone. From here we see her walking the very thin line between her job and corruption as she does all she can to help. Zabryna Guevera is good.

Harvey Dent – Harvey is shown to be the driven and idealistic lawyer willing to take the fight to the Mob, until Loeb comes in and cuts out his feat from under him and we learn he will fight but he toes the line because he does have ambition. He doesn’t stop being Gordon’s ally though, even through it all. Nicholas D’Agosto is wonderful.

Leslie Tompkins – Leslie starts out as a Doctor in Arkham, but after her and Gordon hunt down one of the escapies she joins GPD and becomes their doctor as the past was fired for corruption. She is really cool and it’s great seeing Morena Baccerin (Inara from “Firefly”) again.

Harvey Bullock – Harvey is one of my favorite characters on the show. He’s the corrupt cop in so deep with the mob but because he is he knows how to keep peace on the streets and cut deals. It is the idealistic Gordon who changes him as we see him risk for more than himself and put himself out there helping Gordon reform Gotham and the GPD. Donal Logue is fantastic.

The Thugs and Crime Lords – These guys are the best part of the show, not the crazies…but the crime lords who use Gotham as their chessboard. Each of them has such fascinating motivations and it is a joy to see how those unfold.

Victor Zsasz – Zsasz is wonderful in this as the brutal thug and enforcer who has no fear. It is he who breaks Fish’s number 2, Butch and turns him into Falcone’s puppet. He also survives the gang war and upheavel at the end showing that he’s a survivor. He’s also really creepy too as he puts a cut on his body for every hit he does.

Butch – Butch is Fish’s number 2 who is broken by Falcone. He is the guy who turns on his friend because he believes in Fish only to lose it all when Zsasz breaks him and turns him into Penguin’s pet. He tries to rebel against it but fails in the end when Penguin reigns triumphant.

Carmine Falcone – Falcone is  an old world crime boss who keeps all his deals and shows that he can play the long game. When Fish plots rebellion he uses Penguin to reveal her as well as to reveal his rival Sal Maroni. In the end he is done with it all though as he goes into retirement away from it all as the fight is out of him and he’s tired of people and betrayal. Falcone’s primary drive is power and order and when order is lost all he wants is safety where he can keep his own power and order away from the chaos of Gotham.

Sal Maroni – David Zayas is awesome as Sal Maroni. After seeing him play a stupid and kind character in “Dexter” he is amazing as the smooth criminal who plays his cards really well right until the end when his insulting Fish Mooney leads to her head shotting him. His drive is respect and family and we see how his old friendships are what put him at risk, as well as his need for revenge and to be the leader of his world.

Fish Mooney – Jada Pinkett Smith is awesome as Fish Mooney! Her character loses everything at one point when she is in the Dollmaker’s prison, yet we see her insight and lead a prison rebellion, escape and in the she is the one who kills Sal Maroni. My money is on her being alive even though Penguin pushed her into the river in the final fight. Her first name is Fish afterall, and she’s survived more than that. Her character like Penguin is a survivor who is absolutely ruthless against her enemies. Her drive is to protect her own and to rule and from that respect.

Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin – Robin Lord Taylor is wonderful as this manipulative, rat punk who rises through the ranks betraying Fish, Falcone and Maroni to become the King of Gotham…and in the end he succeeds. He proves in this world ruthlessness and being without morality will get you what you want. Gordon also owes him a favor so he has control over GPD in his own way too, plus Gordon doesn’t kill so there is that. One of his primary motivations is caring for his somewhat insane mother and giving her the illusion that he is an honorable man. He goes full crazy and ruthless when Maroni tells her the truth of who he is.

Main – The main cast who isn’t GPD isn’t as strong at this point and I’ll get into why further on. Alfred, Barbara and Jim Gordon are great though.

Barbara Kean – This show is Barbara breaking as we see her isolated and living with Selina Kyle and Poison Ivy and eventually being chosen and broken by the Ogre turning her into a mad murder stuck in Gotham after she kills her parents and tries to kill Leslie.

Alfred Pennyworth – Sean Pertwee (son of Jon Pertwee the 3rd Doctor from “Doctor Who”) does a great job as Alfred. He’s an ex-marine still bearing the weight of the things he was made to do (one reason he doesn’t believe it in anymore) and it is that guilt that leads to an old friend almost killing him. He is the moral center for Bruce Wayne who is angry and broken and he is the one who supports and trains Bruce as best he can.

Jim Gordon –  Ben McKenzie is actually a pretty good actor. In this we see a man driven by his job and code forced to make compromises for the greater good and from it slowly grow corrupt in his own way while his actions lead to the rise of the Penguin as the new King of Gotham. His story is a tragedy as his ex Barbara goes insane from a serial killer and Loeb does all he can to hurt Gordon so the GPD will not change.

Okay: Selina Kyle – She is just a punk and we don’t know why she does the things she does. She’s a blank slate and it is only the actresses performance that elevates her above a con.

Bruce Wayne – Bruce has the same problem as Selina. He is a blank slate though he does have a little bit more development. He is obsessed and a bit of a savant and may be autistic which lends some depth to Bruce that isn’t often seen or explored in regards to his character. It is that helped me get through the okay performance by the child actor.

Arkham – There is nothing unique about Arkham Asylum. I cared so much more about GPD Headquarters and the Penguin’s and Fish’s Lounge than this place…which is sad is this location is so central to the mythos.

Cons: Poison Ivy – She is just a mean kid from an abusive household. No depth, nothing interesting…a waste.

Commissioner Loeb – He’s a one-dimensional corrupt man trying to protect his insane daughter. Really wanted more from this character as Falcone, Maroni, Fish and Penguin all have more development.

   This is a show I’d recommend for sure! The weakest parts are when there are child actors and the first third of the series isn’t all that strong, but when the betrayals begin happening and Gordon’s desire to reform kicks into full gear the story really takes off. If you like Batman and that universe you will probably like this show. It is a fascinating and twisted Noir that enjoys it’s place in the Batman mythos. I’m looking forward to Season 2 and where the story will go.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10

Mulholland Drive (2001): A Delusion, Dream or Alternative Reality Noir Masterpiece

Mulholland Drive

   “Mulholland Drive” was amazing! I tend to be a fan of films that play with the nature of reality and the fact that this happens in the context of a mystery noir where we never quite know which reality is real makes for a whole host of interpretations, all of which have merit and lend strength to the story. It also has the dark that makes David Lynch so fun and has some fantastic acting by the leading actresses.

     The film was directed and written by David Lynch and produced by Neal Edelstein, Tony Krantz, Michael Polaire, Alain Sarde and Mary Sweeney.

    Before the story begins we see a jitterbug competition before we cross onto a silent road where a woman (Laura Harring) is being to Mulholland Drive where is about to be shot. After some teens crash into the car she has no memory and is taken in by Betty (Naomi Watts) an aspiring actress as together they try to figure out who she was. Things are not as they appear to be as we see mysterious forces pressuring a director to a cast a film and changes in reality as the film progresses.

The Pros: The Tone – The tone is dark and mysterious and kicks off with a man being haunted by an unseen force behind a building and this force continues in the words of “Silencio” and a man with a tiny head who controls Hollywood from a stage.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is dark and haunting as well as dreamlike, playing into the themes of dreams, many realities and delusions. Peter Deming did a fantastic job on that.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack compliments the situations really well with some great Spanish Capella, somber instrumentals and of course the jazz feel throughout. Angelo Badalamenti gave great variety to a score that complimented the story really well.

The Characters – The characters are complicated, especially the director, “Rita” and Betty who each have a few different versions of themselves that we see over the course of the film.

The Hitman – A young Mark Pellegrino plays the hitman who Diane pays to kill Camilla and who in the first reality takes out a young actress who was Rita’s roommate. We see him much more active in the first timeline as he messes up an operation to get a black book of info. and ends up having to kill a whole bunch of other people to hide it up. He is good at playing the punk who is out of league and keeps getting into worse situations.

Rita and Camilla – Harring does a great job as the possible former prostitute turned heroine in Rita who is figuring out the world around her and discovers the truth and disappears in the process after finding love with Betty, and Camilla the arrogant premodana who manipulates others for her own ego and amusement. Harring does the two different roles so well.

Betty and Diane – I can see why Naomi Watts won an award for this role. We see her playing roles within roles as she plays characters in scenes as she is applying for parts in Hollywood and we see her as the kind, caring and curious Betty as well as the unstable, angry and broken Diane. Betty’s arc comes full circle at Silencio and Diane’s ends when Silencio is said too as Betty finds peace in her love with Rita and Diane goes insane from a whole bunch of things and takes her own life.

The Interpretations – There are quite a few ways to see what the film is and I’m going to share the interpretations that make the most sense to me.

The Dream – The story is all a dream and nightmare dreamed up by Betty and she is still asleep as all her fears and hopes of having a new life in Hollywood play before her in her mind. We never know if she wakes up or is just jumping between dreams…given the dream jitterbug dream sequence at the beginning and the nightmarish vision at the end with the same people at the end of the Jitterbug opening give credence to this interpretation.

Delusion – The character of Betty is a delusion by the character of Diane who has a crush on Camilla who is getting married to the director. Making Camilla the damsel in distress in her mind was the only way to cope with her situation that eventually lead to her being a prostitute on the streets ready to kill her former friend and lover who had found happiness with another. This is one of the darker ones and the counter to it is the Key and “Silencio” which seem to hint at other realities.

Alternate Realities – There is a supernatural element that pervades the story, from the man behind the building to any seen in Hollywood where we see unhinged characters with power and no people skills who are capable of destroying livelihood. This element is true through both realities making me think that Diane and Camilla are one reality that is true and that the Rita and Betty romance also happened and is true as well but we leave that reality when Rita opens the box to the reality where Camilla and Diane are. I liked this one the best as the mystery is still there and it doesn’t forget the strange forces we’ve seen at work from the beginning of the production.

  If you like David Lynch or Noirs, chances are you will really enjoy this film. It is a favorite and I liked it more than “Eraserhead” which was a really good film. This film was great at exploring the mind and the themes of illusion, dreams and realities are hard to pull off, but Lynch does so seamlessly. The actresses are amazing too and I really like Rita’s and Betty’s romance as it had so much richness to it as they grew together. This contrasted by the second reality gave the first one strength and gave room for interpretations, which I liked. I tend to like films with clearer answers, but this one was great in how open it was and how it truly let the viewer decide what happened.

Final Score: 10 / 10