True Detective Season 2-What Went Wrong?

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I don’t have H.B.O., so I had to wait 6 months for the Blu-Ray release of Season 2 to get a chance to watch this. In that 6 months I have seen reviews from critics and other looks at the series from novelists and fans. All of these reviews were negative, I did not read one thing about this second season that was positive. Some of these looks where things like how Ray Donovan was the better show on Sunday nights or how Fargo Season 2 got it right and True Detective got it wrong, etc. Needless to say, I had low expectations of this when I started watching it.

Season 1 of True Detective may have been the best first season of a television series in history, it maybe the best season of television ever. I really was amazed by Nic Pizzolatto story and the acting was second to none.  Here is my look at Season 1:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/04/23/re-watching-the-best-of-2014-true-detective-season-1/

Season 2 is a totally new cast, story and location, the only thing that is the same is Pizzolatto is in charge again and we are going to cover another story of crime. From this alone Pizzolatto was set up to fail. How could he ever match his masterpiece of season 1? How could he create a completely new world with no connection to season 1 and make it just as good?

I don’t believe Pizzolatto failed at all! Where Season 2 fails is only when it is compared to something else. Stop comparing this 8 hours to something else and just enjoy it for what it is.

For me Season 2 was a great modern take on California’s noir world, a homage to noir of the past. I think Pizzolatto took cues from past greats and put them in a big stew and threw them into modern Southern California. I seen hints of Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald and a lot of Ellroy in the story. I seen scenes that looked a lot like scenes from High Sierra, Mulholland Drive, L.A. Confidential, and others. The best thing I liked about this series is he took some of classic film noir tropes and characters and threw them into a modern setting and gave them an original spin.

Lets break down each of the four main characters:

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Colin Farrell is Detective Ray Velcoro

Ray is our classic hardboiled detective for this story. He takes a bit of the cop looking for revenge, and a pinch of dirty cop, add a man that has lost his way and his family. The twist here is we learn what set this good guy into a downward spiral of evil.

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Taylor Kitsch is Officer Paul Woodrugh

Woodrugh is a motorcycle cop who is part of a tabloid news story involving a famous actress. Woodrugh maybe the most classic film noir style character of the group. He is back from the war and that war has effected him. He is trying to fit into a society, he no longer recognizes. He is trying to hide his homosexual tendencies by making a nice family life everybody expects of him.

 

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Rachel McAdams is Detective Ani Bezzerides

Ani is the cop with the dirty mouth. The cop that uses the opposite sex and throws them away. The cop that is as hard as nails and you want by your side in a knife fight. In today’s world this is the cop that needs to go to sexual harassment meeting for their affairs with co-workers. Pizzolatto flips the scrip here and makes this cop a female.

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Vince Vaughn is Frank Semyon

Frank is a gangster who has worked his way up to the top and used his life savings to go legit with a land purchase. Frank is our classic gangster getting out, but never really does. He made it to the top by surrounding himself with loyal guys he trusts, and that may be his downfall.

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Kelly Reilly and Abigail Spencer play opposites. One will do anything to stay with her husband and the other will do anything to get as far away as possible from her ex-husband.

Pizzolatto uses a lot of classic film noir tropes in this basic 8 plus hour movie. We see the heist film, the gangster film, the hardboiled cop film, and the revenge film all rolled into one. There is a couple McGuffins, one in the form of some rare blue diamonds and another in the form of a hard drive with some compromising films on it. We have double crosses, corrupt politicians and police, a prostitution ring, a freaky psychologist(played by an almost unrecognizable Rick Springfield), a dark and dingy bar, a night club where it is easy to get whatever you want, a semi legit casino and it goes on and on.

Pizzolatto’s plot is not easy to follow and doesn’t take you on simple A to B trip. This series takes some thinking and may even need to be watched more then once to get everything out of it. Some didn’t like how all the questions are not answered, but I think it is more like the answers they got are not the ones they wanted. This may upset the average viewer, but is right up the noir fan’s alley. Not having a clue on how a show is going to end is half the fun of the ride. So what went wrong with Season 2? Personally I don’t think anything went wrong. I really enjoyed this season. I think what went wrong is when it is compared to the first…or a totally different show. No Season 2 is not as good as Season 1, but it is still very good. I look forward to a third season and hope Pizzolatto takes on some different film noir tropes, like a really interesting femme fatale, maybe a location in New York, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. How about taking on the subject of drug dealers and using the Canadian/American border as a focal point? Whatever you do, Mr. Pizzolatto, I look forward to watching it.

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Book Review: Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker

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Dog Eat Dog is a novel by Edward Bunker. Bunker is an interesting character. His past involves a criminal career, a horrible childhood, a very high I.Q., becoming an author in prison and acting in some of the most classic neo noir films of the last 40 years. This book was released in 1995 and should be read by any crime fiction fan and especially any fan of noir fiction.

This story is about 3 ex-convicts who have been friends since juvenile hall. Mad Dog lives in Portland with his girlfriend and young daughter. Diesel has been working with a union in Sacramento and does the odd job for the local mob boss from time to time. He has a nice house, a wife and a brand new Mustang. Troy is our third man in this trio. Troy is a smart man that most criminals love. Troy has just got out of prison and is already got a plan in place to make some money.

This journey takes us to the underworld of Los Angeles in the 1990’s. We have drug dealers, crooked lawyers, kidnapping, murder, drug addiction and robbery just to wet your appetite for the dark corners this book goes to.

You can tell Bunker cribs from his own experience in crime for this book. There is a lot of parallels between Troy and Bunker. Bunker also covers some social issues in this book. One thing he covers is the disappearance of the middle class in Los Angeles. Something that continues to happen in many areas of the country today. Another topic is the Three Strike Law that went into effect in California in 1994, a year before this book was released. The law basically states that after your third felony you where going to go to prison for life. This book basically tells us that with this law, we are making people with two strikes willing to do anything not to go back to prison. This maybe a very good point and is something that has been changed in 2012, now it has to be a serious or violent felony for your third strike. I am no lawyer and don’t get into politics much, but for example, in one case a 2 time felon was caught stealing a set of golf clubs. He was sent to prison for life because of the 3 strike rule. Though he is a 3 time felon, and I have no idea what his previous 2 felonies are,(and he did already serve his time for those) life seems a little extreme for stealing golf clubs.

This is an amazing book and I could not put it down. Knowing a little bit about Bunker’s background made me interested in reading him. I was not expecting such a well written book. You will not be disappointed in this book! I highly recommend reading this before the movie is released later this year.

This movie could be amazing or it could be very disappointing. Lets look at the information we have so far. First off the material is second to none for a neo noir film. Second is the talent involved. Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay and is directing. His movie writing credits are some of the best neo noir films in the last 40 years. On the other hand his directing credits have been hit and miss, some are very good and some are unbelievable bad. Our main star, playing Troy is Nicolas Cage, if there is ever an actor in modern film that can be absolutely brilliant in one film and then over act and go totally campy in the next, it is Cage. Schrader promises a return to form for both him and Cage in this picture and I really hope he is right. Here is a link to a couple articles about the upcoming film:

http://deadline.com/tag/dog-eat-dog/

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One thing this film has me excited about is Willem Dafoe as Mad Dog. This casting should be worth the price of admission.

 

 

Article: Dark Christmas: 7 Noir Holiday Films

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Jake Hinkson has put together a list of films, noir lovers will enjoy over the Christmas Season. So if you are looking for something a little darker then the Christmas Musicals and Comedies that will be all over this season, take a look at this list for some options.

http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2014/12/dark-christmas-7-noir-holiday-films-jake-hinkson

Did Hinkson miss any? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorites not on this list, what are yours?

Article: WHAT MOVIES WERE YOU WATCHING 20 YEARS AGO?

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The Line-Up found this best and worst of 1995 crime films in The Armchair Detective in 1996 and was written by Ric Meyers.

It has many now classic neo noir films on both the best and worst lists. It is an interesting time capsule. What films are on the right lists and which ones are not? Personally I would have put the the film in the number 5 spot on the worst list as my favorite from 1995, how about you?

Here is the link to the full article and list

http://www.the-line-up.com/media/flashback-best-worst-movies-1995/

Anybody else find it interesting that Heat did not make this list?

Article: ‘Heat’ at 20: Michael Mann on Making a Crime-Drama Classic

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Here is a great write up on Heat by Jennifer Wood over at Rolling Stone. This is a look at how the film was made and how it became a classic.

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/heat-at-20-michael-mann-on-making-a-crime-drama-classic-20151215

Everything Noir also looked at Heat for its 20 year anniversary here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/12/re-watching-the-classics-heat/

 

News: ‘Synchronicity’ Trailer: A Genre-Bending, Time-Traveling Sci-Fi Noir

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“‘Sci-fi Noir’ in the tradition of Dark City, Blade Runner,” well that is enough to get me intrigued by this new film coming out next month. Synchoronicity sounds like a film worth checking out. Check out the trailer here:

Also read the review over at Slash Films here:

http://www.slashfilm.com/synchronicity-trailer/

Review: The Detective

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The Detective is a neo-noir from 1968 starring Frank Sinatra. This film is based on a book by Roderick Thorp by the same name. The book is the first book by Thorp based on his P.I. character Joe Leland. In this film the character Joe Leland is changed from a private investigator to a New York Police Detective. This book isn’t as popular as Thorp’s second Joe Leland book,  Nothing Lasts Forever. Nothing Lasts Forever was also adapted for the big screen. In this film, the Joe Leland character is also changed from a P.I. to a Police Detective, but his name was also changed from Joe Leland to Officer John McClane. Yup, Nothing Lasts Forever was adapted to a little film called Die Hard.

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So…in the literary world Die Hard is a sequel to The Detective…and Frank Sinatra played a younger version of Bruce Willis’ John McClane or Willis played an older version of Sinatra’s Joe Leland? I have not read either of these books, and find the movies have very little to nothing in common, but find this knowledge fascinating.

The Detective was directed by Gordon Douglas, due to Sinatra’s request. The film revolves around Sinatra’s Joe Leland who is a hardboiled detective and is at the top of his game. Leland is a bit displaced as he seems to be a detective stuck in the 1950’s and sometimes comes across as a man who doesn’t fit in to the late 1960’s changing world. When confronted with drugs, open relationships, and homosexuals, you get the feeling he wishes he was back in simpler times, when this stuff was not openly paraded in front of his face.

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The film starts out with a prominent businessman’s son found dead and Leland is brought to the crime scene. The son is brutally murdered by somebody and the police force is under pressure to find the killer fast. The film then flashes back to Leland remembering how he meet his wife, played by Lee Remick. This flashback shows his wife as a damaged soul that is self destructive.  When we return to the present, Leland helps solve the case and sees his suspect go to the electric chair. He also gets a promotion due to this case, but did he send the wrong guy to death?

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As the film continues Leland is approached for help from Norma MacIver played by Jacqueline Bisset. Her husband has committed suicide, but Norma doesn’t think this is the whole picture. Is this second case tied to the first? Is it just part of a bigger conspiracy?

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Look for Robert Duvall and Jack Klugman in small roles as police detectives.

This may not be Sinatra’s best work, but it is an intriguing film that is well worth watching for Sinatra fans. This film is a good bridge for the classic film noir of the late 1950’s to the classic neo noir’s to come in the 1970’s.

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Favorite Tidbit: At the time of this film Sinatra was married to Mia Farrow who was filming the now classic Rosemary’s Baby. Farrow was scheduled to play the role that eventually went to Jacqueline Bisset. When Rosemary’s Baby went over schedule, Sinatra tried to get Farrow pulled from the production. When Farrow was not pulled from the production and did not make it to the filming of The Detective, Sinatra sent her divorce papers to the set of Rosemary’s Baby.