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Black Work (2015)
Far above mediocrity, but still not among the finest UK miniseries
For decades, the UK has produced so many high-class crime dramas, that it is impossible to "shoot without fail" all the time. Tastes develop, as well as circumstances, and viewers may move beyond the approaches and issues they used to like in Poirot or Morse, for example, or have begun to like "new age" in the form of Luther or Prey... Black Work is a kind of related mix, but worrying and grief overshadow other elements, including credibility, several male performers are too look-a-like, and the final 20 minutes or so add unnecessary sophistication.
True, Sheridan Smith as P.C. Jo Gillespie is catchy and the background realism is up there, but I am able to "blurt out" dozens of more interesting (mini)series I have seen in recent years. To me, Black Work is more a long film than series, and when you see all 3 episodes in a row, you could realise that many scenes and dialogues could have been more compact.
Visually effective, but shaky plot and unvaried characters
It is not easy for a non-US filmmaker to introduce himself/herself with a sci-fi movie - the Americans have usually created something similar using lots of funds the "smaller" film countries tend not to have. With District 9 and Elysium, Neill Blommkamp from RSA obtained fame and praise, and they are both good movies to watch - even for me not so fond of aliens and robots solving problems.
Alas, Chappie is much weaker than the other two. The plot has too many flaws (particularly regarding Chappie's and gangsters' "evolution"), leading roles are performed by mediocre actors (big names like Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman in small and static roles), and the share and angle of visual effects is more characteristic of B-movies. In the course of 2 hours, we can see this and what, crumbly scenes, odd solutions (incl. ending) and too many clichés and foreseeable twists. Even if I realize not being a member of target audience, I would have expected meatier experience than I got.
The Brokenwood Mysteries (2014)
A nice familiarisation of New Zealand's drama series achievements
/refers to Series 1 and 2/
Being an admirer of British and Scandinavian crime dramas, from time to time, I "look around" to realise what is going on regarding related field in other countries. As far I can recall, The Brokenwood Mysteries is my first watch of series coming from and depicting New Zealand - a country so far away, but with lots of interest and praise.
In spite of evident similarities and benchmarks with particularly UK series, I liked The Brokenwood Mysteries from the beginning: realistic characters, beautiful landscape, often black humour making you giggle... True, in and "old" fashion, one episode is dedicated to a single case and a small township in a safe country cannot be a venue of frequent felonies, but the story, characters and environment is so pleasing (at least to me residing tens of thousand miles away) that I just followed all the 8 cases continuously, often "forgetting" the commonness of the case or its solution/ending. Besides, the viewers can obtain additional information in wines, rugby and other areas or branches as each case deals basically with a certain activity.
So, all in all, I liked the series and might recommend it to our local TV stations to be screened. But I am sure that NZ and neighbouring viewers might have their reservations on the series and its originality...
Another solid location-based British crime series
/refers to all episodes/
As I am fond of British (and Scandinavian) detective dramas, I try to watch them as many as possible - preferably in sequence. Although recent decades have seen the bloom of series without single cased based episodes, it is sometimes nice to "look back" as well - as here in Rebus.
It is a bit odd that this series is divided into 2 - the episodes starring John Hannar and those with Ken Scott as DI John Rebus; both the approach and the depiction of Rebus are different, and now, after watching all series, I would say that I find Scott's performance more pleasing - he is rougher and his views and behaviour patterns include giggling moments, plus the episodes are shorter. Although not all episodes are equally interesting and sustained - in some cases I could guess too early who the wrongdoer was - the series in general is another nice example of respective British talent, with the beautiful city of Edinburgh within a supporting cast.
As a whole, 8 points from me - 7.5 for Hannah's Rebus and 8.5 for Scott's.
The Honourable Woman (2014)
An intense and solid creation, with great dialogs and performances
Usually, I tend to skip movies or series on sensitive and politicized issues as they usually emanate from black-and-white approach and simplified views or solution proposals. So, before my respective decision, I try to obtain a lot of background material and diverse opinions, meaning that I do not watch them "bright and early". This was also the case with The Honourable Woman that was revealed in 2014 and honored in 2015.
And from the first episodes, I was pleasantly surprised and ravished, both performance-wise and plot-wise. True, that Maggie Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein was wonderful and fully deserved her Golden Globe Award, but I am somewhat puzzled that Stephen Rea's great performance was not too much noticed; he is an otherwise wonderful actor and his performance here as Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle was front-ranking as well, particularly under dialogs, including with Gyllenhaal; Rea does really know how to express profundity using minimalistic manners and scenes. Of course, all other performances were at least good as well, but they spent less time on screen.
The plot is captivating, at times a bit over-sophisticated and some scenes protracted, but the versatility and tensions are present and the storyline and values expressed go beyond confined Israeli-Palestinian issues. There are many twists and turns, "good guys die too", and the volume of 8 episodes lets all this enjoy in a relatively short time- frame.
All in all, a good series, recommended even to those not particularly fond of pending political issues. Even just following the dialogs and scenes with leading characters provide a memorable series experience.
Another solid Danish crime thriller, elevated by fine performances
For a decade a so, the term "Scandinavian crime" has been a sign of quality in the film world, and I have tried to watch them as much as possible - luckily it is no Bollywood... The film in question is the second one in line (after Kvinden i buret) where the detective duet Carl Mørck and Assad have to solve a felony happening over 20 years back, enabling to take a glance at the world of "Danish rich and spoiled". The tension is nicely there (although somewhat less than in the first film), and, in addition to as-usual fine performances by Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares as the leading characters, one can follow the talents of Pilou Asbæk and David Dencik who are also versatile character actors (plus Søren Pilmark in a small role).
So, unless you are fond of constant chases, explosions, shootings, etc., this film (with captious title) is a pleasant example of a crime thriller with mystery elements, where human attitudes and relations play the biggest part, and deducing is the main factor in solving crimes.
The Team (2015)
Somewhat topsy-turvy, apparently due to trans-European scope
For decades, following the fall of Iron Curtain and fast development of technology, felonies and combating them have become more international as well, money laundry and human trafficking included. Thus, on one hand, it is interesting to follow diverse beautiful places and characters of different nationalities performed by respective actors speaking respective languages, but when the series of eight 1-hour episodes deals with one "enemy", then the plot becomes perfunctory and the role of leading characters unbalanced, with some obtaining too much unnecessary attention and the others' characteristics remain unfinished, with several questions unanswered.
The police characters are obviously realistic, but often not too interesting to follow, and even Lars Mikkelsen is unable to show his talent in full. Plus it is odd that Alexandra Rapaport had so insignificant character. And Jasmin Gerat as Jackie Müller and Veerle Baetens as Alicia Verbeeck provided just okay, but not memorable performance, and those depicting Lithuanians were not particularly catchy, somehow underlining the role of Eastern European villains. Plus, of course, Belgium as a symbol of negligence and corruption...
All in all, not a bad creation, but not on the level of e.g. The Eagle: A Crime Odyssey ("Ørnen: En krimi-odyssé).
Realistic and gloomy in many ways
/refers to all 4 seasons/
In my country, there are not too many series-films available, but it is always nice to have some change from time to time. As I am fond of UK and Scandinavian crime series, I did not expect something "out of the way" - and so it was. Poor climate with harsh, yet oddly beautiful landscape, relations among people used to live in underpopulated areas and work hard for daily living, small community vices and virtues - all this is properly depicted in Single-Handed as well. True, there are several protracted scenes, the cases are often subordinated to personal issues, and some supporting/infrequent cast (particularly Stephen Rea in The Lost Boys) overshadows the main one (although e.g. Owen McDonnell seems appropriate for the role).
Thus, the series in question is no Luther or What Remains, for example, but brings realistic moments in front of TV and decent familiarisation with life and people in distant Ireland.
Code of a Killer (2015)
A bit too static, even for a film based on true events and characters
I am aware that planning and creating a feature film/series when many people know of the course of events and ending is a challenge, with the need to emphasize other elements, e.g. acting, background, directing, etc. In spite of the fact that the events happened "before my time" in a different country, I could still guess the outcome, and many decisions probably relevant then seem odd and questionable at present. The result for me is a half-documentary and protracted depiction with "not-among- the-finest" actors in the leading roles, with focus on hesitations instead of implementation and, in retrospect, odd blunders by the local police.
Both the director (James Strong) and John Simm and David Threlfall have participated in more integral and more interesting works, but if you like docudramas and are not too young, then Code of a Killer is definitely above average.
Out in the Dark (2012)
Warmhearted film resulting from complex benchmark
Joint headwords "gay", "Islam", "Arabs in Israel" are already so versatile and involving so much controversy that, based on them, one can expect a creation full of hatred, resentment and violence and with taking sides. But differently, Out in the Dark is a film dedicated to high human values (love, trust, friendship, loyalty), and the background and headwords mentioned are only the means to express them. Thus, the result is a pleasant, not strictly a gay film, with love pleasantly depicted, without domination of lust or gay clubbing, with political and social issues present, but without black-and-white approach or appeals to end the situation present in Israel by any means. Both the leading performers - Nicholas Jacob, Michael Aloni - do a great job, and the ambiguous ending let the viewers nicely ponder on and over the main topics of the film.
Thus, Out in the Dark - with so relevant title - is a fine opportunity to become acquainted with modern Israeli cinema.