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Thursday, October 30, 2014

American Horror Story: Coven by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk - FX, 2013 (TVMA)

Exploring humankind's unsettling capacity for evil, this darkly twisted drama plays upon the power of supernatural fears and everyday horrors. Each season brings back familiar faces, but they're playing different characters in an all-new setting.
Coven tells the secret history of witches and witchcraft in America. Over 300 years have passed since the turbulent days of the Salem witch trials and those who managed to escape are now facing extinction. Mysterious attacks have been escalating against their kind and young girls are being sent away to a special school in New Orleans to learn how to protect themselves. Wrapped up in the turmoil is new arrival, Zoe, who is harboring a terrifying secret of her own. Alarmed by the recent aggression, Fiona, the long-absent Supreme, sweeps back into town determined to protect the Coven and hell bent on decimating anyone who gets in her way.

This third season has a lot of interesting elements, but in the end, it feels a little too light, there is nothing about the characters that helps us empathize, feel that the story is coherent. It feels like some sort of Harry Potter with all the voodoo culture of the South packed together. We forget about the neighbors, the Beowulf, and even most of the witches are not as relevant. Somehow, also, the empathy for Evan Peters is limited to his performance of an irrelevant character. Jamie Brewer is great but same happens to her, because the meaninglessness of her existence in the script. The freshness come from the new cast made of Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates and most of all Gabourey Sidibe, although somehow, they are simplistic and exaggerated. The only characters that are somehow intriguing are the ones performed by Denis O'Hare and Sarah Paulson, still with an expected outcome. Jessica Lange's characters are now a continuous performance of the same, but simplified more and more. Anyway, the third season is always a more challenging one, and they pulled it off ok.

Currently watching Season 4: Freak Show. Will keep you posted.

with Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange (Tootsie, The Vow), Sarah Paulson (Game Change, Mud), Emma Roberts (We're the Millers), Evan Peters, Lily Rabe (All Good Things), Taissa Farmiga, Jamie Brewer, Denis O'Hare (The Normal Heart, Dallas Buyers Club, True Blood, Milk, Duplicity, Michael Clayton), Angela Bassett (This Means War), Kathy Bates (Valentine's Day), Gabourey Sidibe (Tower Heist, Precious), Patti LuPone, Danny Huston (The Congress, Hitchcock, You Don't Know Jack, Robin Hood, The Conspirator), Stevie Nicks

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Season 1: Murder House
Season 2: Asylum

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

American Horror Story: Asylum by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk - FX, 2012 (TVMA)

Exploring humankind's unsettling capacity for evil, this darkly twisted drama plays upon the power of supernatural fears and everyday horrors. Each season brings back familiar faces, but they're playing different characters in an all-new setting. Season 2 of this horror anthology brings new characters and a new location as Jessica Lange returns to portray the administrator of an East Coast mental institution for the criminally insane in the 1960s.

I love the concept of recreating a total different scenario with the same cast as season 1. It works almost like a theater company performing different plays, and somehow you feel the actors are getting to know more about how to work with one another. This season was in a way far scarier than the first one, in the way people were far more twisted, mentally dark, and it used the fascination of the darkest sins to make us feel uncomfortable about humanity. Nevertheless, the characters are explored in various ways, and play with the humanity in each of them, or even play us into believing one thing and twisting it into another. The set for the second season is also far more interesting that in the first one, and the performances pushed to more extremes, to our very pleasure. It is a great second season, even better than the first one.

Read More about Season 1: Murder House and Season 3: Coven

with Jessica Lange (Tootsie, The Vow), Sarah Paulson (Game Change, Mud), Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek Into Darkness, Margin Call), Lily Rabe (All Good Things), James Cromwell (The Artist), Frances Conroy, Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry), Ian McShane (Snow White and the Huntsman, Scoop), Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, The Red Baron - Der rote Baron), Lizzie Brocheré, Naomi Grossman, Clea DuVall (Argo), Dylan McDermott (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Adam Levine

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American Horror Story: Murder House by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk - FX, 2011 (TVMA)

A Boston family makes a new start by moving cross-country to Los Angeles ... only to find that their new home might already be "occupied." As the house's dark secrets come to light, creepy characters come out of the woodwork. Exploring humankind's unsettling capacity for evil, this darkly twisted drama plays upon the power of supernatural fears and everyday horrors. Each season brings back familiar faces, but they're playing different characters in an all-new setting.

This is a very particular way of looking at haunted house. The beginning of the season was giving you great scare, but it would seem that the producers were more interested in getting to know the monsters, and somehow unveil the real monsters, who don't correspond to the cliches of monsters. The story twists in itself making you less and less fearful, and more interested about what really happened in that house. The performances are great, the characters completely and sometimes absurdly realistic. You might even think of the series as a comedy. Anyway, hard not to spoil the suspense. I got into watching the next one right after!

Read more about Season 2: Asylum and Season 3: Coven

with Dylan McDermott (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Connie Britton, Taissa Farmiga, Jessica Lange (Tootsie, The Vow), Evan Peters, Denis O'Hare (The Normal Heart, Dallas Buyers Club, True Blood, Milk, Duplicity, Michael Clayton), Frances Conroy, Kate Mara (127 hours, House of Cards), Lily Rabe (All Good Things), Alexandra Breckenridge, Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek Into Darkness, Margin Call), Sarah Paulson (Game Change, Mud)

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Alceste à bicyclette (Bicycling with Molière) by Philippe Le Guay, 2013

A TV celebrity faces an uphill battle as he tries to persuade his old pal, once-famous actor Serge Tanneur, to take on the lead in a Moliere play, no easy task considering the reclusive Serge has given up acting and burns every script he receives.

This is an interesting original idea, with quite brilliant ideas, and... with always the same Luchini character, and a plot that becomes a little repetitive after a while. I have to say, from the same director, I loved "The Cost of Living - Le Coût de la Vie". This one was a little weak. We could believe totally Fabrice Luchini in his eternal grumpy role, but Lambert Wilson's role was a little fabricated, somehow too fake or too nice, and not really coherent. I would love to have more opinions on it.

with Fabrice Luchini (Paris), Lambert Wilson (The Matrix: Revolution, On connaît la chanson - Same Old Song, Of Gods and Men (Des Hommes et des Dieux), Maya Sansa, Camille Japy, Laurie Bordesoules, Patrick Bonnel

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Penny Dreadful by John Logan - Showtime, 2014- (TV-MA)

with Reeve Carney, Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Eva Green (300: Rise of an Empire, Dark Shadows, Perfect Sense - The Last Word), Josh Hartnett (The Virgin Suicides), Rory Kinnear (Wild Target, Skyfall), Billie Piper (Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Danny Sapani (Trance), Harry Treadaway (Fish Tank)

The classic tales of Dracula, Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and more are woven together in this horror series set on the dark streets of Victorian London.
To be honest, aside from the aesthetic, the series isn't very interesting. It is pulling all the strings of the masterpieces of British literature and culture, piecing it like doctor Frankenstein, and the result is a little scattered, with intense scenes, no sense of humor and a heavy weight story that now has all the strings interlaced and stuck together in a huge mess. Could have worked still, but the characters are not interesting enough, and Eva Green is too much Eva Green in any movie, which tends to be tiresome. My only curiosity now is to see where the Egyptian lead of the very beginning is going, with the unleashing of a combination of gods, and the last tale of vampire that has been released just before the end of the season.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler, 2013 (R)

This dramatic rendering of a real-life tragedy recounts the final hours of Oscar Grant, shot by San Francisco transit police on New Year's Day, 2009. In portraying the energy Oscar brought to life, the film mourns the tragic loss of a unique soul.

This is not a movie I was going to watch, and when I did, It reminded me of the recent excesses of the police in Ferguson, and how justice is often slipping away from its true definition. Racism is still overly present, and with a minority of African American in the police, the police isn't doing a great job proving itself impartial. Anyway, another sad story it is important to hear, to see... The tragic end of Oscar Grant isn't a pattern that we can't change.

with Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer (Snowpiercer, The Help), Kevin Durand (Cosmopolis, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O'Reilly (The Help), Ariana Neal

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The Newburgh Sting by David Heilbroner and Kate Davis - HBO, 2014

Just 60 miles north of New York City sits the poverty-stricken town of Newburgh, where, in 2009, four men were LURED by a shady Pakistani man into a plot to bomb Jewish centers in the Bronx. But once the men were on board, their leader, who doubled as an FBI undercover agent, led them straight to the authorities. Their arrest was hailed as a national victory in the war on terror. Using never-before-seen footage from hidden cameras, David Heilbroner and Kate Davis investigate just what homegrown terrorism truly means in this shocking and galvanizing exposéis.

This is a documentary that came out I don't know how, since all the footage I guess were supposed to be confidential. This explains so clearly the entrapment there is little to rethink about. The press ate the information provided by the FBI and the Mayor's office, simple PR, good PR for the war against terrorism, except they had it all wrong. Targeting Islam isn't going to build a confidence between the Mosks and government, and therefor isn't going to facilitate a dialogue in case of suspicious behavior within their community. This guy was really an obvious case of somebody trying to get people involved in extremism, that even the Imam noticed in his first visit. Then, the recruiting looks even like a joke. Non-practicing, poor and called by the money, how could they possibly have been smart and say no. The involvement was minimal, and they were naive enough, perhaps unconscious. Now, yes, they accepted to be a part of it, for their own reasons, which are explained by bits by their family, they were following somebody who knew what he was doing, and honestly it looks like it wouldn't have been possible without him. So what does it say about the war on terrorism... There are times when the counter-terrorism is effective, but in this particular case, it has deviated to a community-targeting, with an accent on poor and hopeless people, and Muslims, which is exactly wrong in essence. I think Ben Affleck said it better the other day: "How about more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punch women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, pray five times a day, and don’t do any of the things you’re saying of all Muslims. It’s stereotyping.”

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Homeland Season 4 Premiere, by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa - Showtime, 2014 (TVMA)

with Claire Danes, Rupert Friend, Nazanin Boniadi, Laila Robins (Concussion), Tracy Letts, Mandy Patinkin, Amy Hargreaves, Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi), F. Murray Abraham, Sarita Choudhury, Corey Stoll (House of Cards, Non-Stop, The Normal Heart), Nimrat Kaurm

Carrie Mathison is calling the shots as the newly appointed Station Chief in Afghanistan, deploying every weapon in the Agency's arsenal to fulfill her mission. But every drone strike and tactical raid comes at a cost and she soon learns the true price of power. 

Fuliginous start for Homeland with a two-episode premiere. Honestly, aside from missing Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) through Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), his death doesn't feel like a gap in the story. We already moved on to a far more intriguing storyline. The story reflect on the reality of today's wars in the American way and the controversy of it, through drones and blind operations, as well as the question of guilt and detachment when everything is only visible through screens. On a different level, the series explores the ethical conflict of being a mother but not being able to confront the responsibility. And more... because everything is on a spinning table and we don't know anything, so much is open to possibilities. Looking forward to see where the characters of Aayan Ibrahim (Suraj Sharma - Life of Pi) and Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) are going, and how they will put back once more Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) into the action.
More on Homeland past seasons

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