LUTHER DvD Review II: Praise for actresses Nicola Walker and Indira Varma

[Contains minor spoilers for Season 1 of Luther]

I’m rewatching season 1 of Luther in preparation for watching season 2, which I just got in the mail.

The strength and magic of LUTHER is grounded in it not being the standard cop show about the serial killer or the case, those are ancillary to the real story. which is about Luther trying to make all the dysfunctional pieces of his life, particularly the women in his life… work, to be right.

His greatest challenge not surviving the serial killers, but something far more deadly and relate-able, trying to emotionally survive and make happy the women in his life, from his boss, to his wife, to his… arch-enemy/friend. And it’s only when the writer loses that plot, that heart of the story of Luther, that it suffers… badly, and devolves into its sub-par 1st season conclusion.

See my previous review, for my detailed list of problems with season 1, but in brief, a poorly written and cliched final episode (couple of episodes actually) that marred an otherwise tremendous, and amazing series.

Now that said, perhaps I didn’t give enough love to the first 4 (4.5) episodes. Those episodes are really powerhouse television, the quality of which you seldom see.

And a big reason is the quality of the actors. Idris Elba of course is phenomenal, as is Ruth Wilson who plays the red-headed Alice, as well as the rest of the principal cast. But I wanted to give attention to two actresses that I saw in this series first, and have since come on my radar for other work they’ve done.

One is the gorgeous Indira Varma, who plays Luther’s less than faithful wife. She also played the cheating wife in the first season of ROME. She seems to be making a career of playing cheating women as well as playing women who do not end well, with this series, ROME, and MOSES JONES (ugggh— traumatized me. A good series, but one that is too violent for its own good). She’s a convoluted character here in LUTHER, as his estranged wife she is in many ways more damaging to Luther, by far (in her hot/cold nature), than any of the monsters he has to face. She doesn’t set out to be cruel, though there is a bit of that there, but mostly it’s more a half hearted indifference, which is all the more crushing. It’s another strong performance by Indira Varma.

But the 2nd actress I want to give praise to, and the one I really wrote this post to mention, starred in only one episode of Luther, but left an indelible impression. I’m speaking of Nicola Walker, who stars in episode 4′s tale of a purse fetish serial killer. The salacious and slightly silly description of the killer, doesn’t really do justice to the uneasiness of the episode, or the wrenching, and episode making performance of Nicola Walker.

Following seeing her on LUTHER, I caught her earlier work on SPOOKS, and in that she was equally… brilliant. She brings a very unique presence to the screen, something thoughtful, and considered, and deeply heartfelt, she is so… there. In a world where so many people are shutdown, from themselves and others, there is something so rich and full and impassioned and human about her in the noblest most caring definition of that word. She’s not the ravishing beauty of say Indira Varma, but she has something that can only be called… more. Something within, a stillness, a sense of depth, something both furtive and fathomless, fragility married to something slightly frightening, her intensity, kept subdued… just out of sight, something haunting.

To put not too fine a point on it… I adore this actress’s presence, her performances, her ability to channel humanity– definitive, in a world that is anything but… humane.

So yeah that’s the refresher on LUTHER, and a couple actresses who deserved mention. I’ll post on season 2 soon.

Luther

Luther: Season 2

[Season 2 Review: Contains Spoilers]

Addendum: I just watched season 2 of LUTHER, if you can call 4 episodes a season. It’s utter rubbish!

Well, why don’t I tell you how I really feel? :)

The main problem with season 2 is it veers sharply to the irrational, and soulless, and more than just a little bit trite and tired.

Trite uninteresting villains, once smart cops inexplicably made moronic, including the lead Luther. And it makes the mistake, that the original series initially didn’t, of concentrating on the villains, and losing all the intriguing personal ties that made LUTHER interesting and captivating television in the first place.

Unlike many shows LUTHER originally understood something seemingly lost on most crime shows, the fact that criminals are a boring lot, and it’s the procedural and the dynamics of Luther’s life and the extended family around him that was the draw.

Season 2 undoes all that originality, and just makes Luther and all the cops incompetent, feckless caricatures rather than fleshed out characters. Add to this the fact that the new cast I just don’t care for, and you have a show working at a significant disadvantage; a show that plays, while you are watching it, as just so tired, and so disappointing and irresponsible, and so worthy of fast-forwarding.

The best way to describe it is that it performs as if writer Neil Cross had 4 episodes worth of story for season 1, and after that completely ran out of ideas and anything close to originality, for the ending of season 1 and the entirety of season 2 (With the exception of the very ending of Season 2, the coda if you will, I thought that was a nice scene to go out on, but everything leading up to that 5 minutes was largely rubbish, from the overlong plot of killer twins, that was nicked from a far better episode of Tom Fontana’s HOMICIDE, to the completely annoying and useless characters from Erin Gray, as the new detective, to the mother, to the killers. It’s just a lot of hackneyed and overwrought, and unforgiveably tedious characters, that just don’t remotely interest).

I have seldom seen such a sharp fall from grace from the same writer in such a short period of time. Bottom line: Season 2 of LUTHER is just plain awful, which is unfortunate for a series which in terms of performances and look and sound is laudable and had such potential.

Final Grade: D-/F.

HOMICIDE Season 3 Review!

“When everything’s made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am”
-IRIS by the Goo Goo Dolls


Homicide: Life on the Street – The Complete Series (repackaged)

I could never get into any of David Simon’s later series, neither THE BLOCK nor THE WIRE.

They lacked something that immediately galvanized me to his first series, HOMICIDE LIFE ON THE STREETS… most clearly characters I cared about. But also a certain idealism, a delineated, if murky, sense of fighting on the side of the angels, that comes with those who are tasked with that most crushing of jobs… to speak for the dead. As opposed to THE BLOCK about druggies, or THE WIRE about a drug war, waged by sides I found equally unlikeable.

And to be fair HOMICIDE was a Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana series, and that is why I think it works. They were the ones steering the ship on the property based on Simon’s book. And they brought a humanity, perhaps an idealism, all their own. And for me that’s what makes HOMICIDE work… the idealism, even when it falters, the idealism.

So I continue with my review of the show, begun sometime ago. This is season 3 of HOMICIDE LIFE ON THE STREET, Enjoy.

HOMICIDE: SEASON 3

NEARER MY GOD TO THEE- The third season of Homicide starts off with a precredit sequence satirizing how Networks force sex into shows. And obviously that’s the case with this new season. Introducing a famale shift commander, and concentrating on Bo Felton’s unstable wife. At the heart of it a murder investigation of a good, devout catholic, this episode meanders, and loses the razor-point intensity that highlights the best of the first two seasons. The strengths of the show lost in a soap-opera inanity. C-.

FITS LIKE A GLOVE-The 2nd episode of the 3rd season continues with the investigation into the catholic killer, and back room romantic shenanigans. Continuing the concessions to the network of less cases per episode, and slower, soap-opera pacing. The dumbing down of Homicide. C-.

EXTREME UNCTION- The 3rd episode cranks up the season a bit. Whenever Andre Braugher is center-most, particularly in the box, the show sings; however the ludicrousness, salaciousness of the episode, the multiple personality killer, kinda torpedoes any momentum the episode has. Leaving something more talk show, than up to the levels of the series’ best. And of course the subplot of Bo Felton’s annoying wife continues to be tired and uninteresting. C+.

The 4th episode, CROSCETI by writer James Yoshimura rights the sinking ship of HOMICIDE. Being the first great episode of season 3, dealing with the death of one of their own. B+/A-.

THE LAST OF THE WATERMEN- Another fantastic episode, this one tinged with nostalgia and a great score. As Howard, sickened by the murderous city, seeks solace… off the prosaic waters of her childhood Chesapeake home. But finds murder, like rain, is everywhere. Great score. B+.

A MODEL CITIZEN-Talk of Romper Room. :) Meldrick feels the first pangs of infatuation.And Pembleton is sued by a serial killer. This is a return to the multiple plot-lines of earlier seasons as quite a bit happens in this episode. B+.

HAPPY TO BE HERE-Another packed episode. As many story threads are pursued, Baylis’ continuing romance, Bo’s search for his family, the pursuit of the murderer of a newspaper publisher. An alternately fun and fantastic episode. One of Baylis’ best episodes. A-.

-to be continued-

Homicide: Life on the Street – The Complete Series (repackaged)

John Luessenhop’s TAKERS Trailer


TAKERS is another trailer that comes from a relatively unknown director, but fortunately with its cast it has a lot going for it.

Idris Elba, I consider one of the best actors working, being a huge fan of his OBSESSED. From THE WIRE to ULTRAVIOLET he elevates everything he is in so was intrigued enough to give this trailer a look.

(Now all that praise about Idris Elba said, casting him as one of the Norse Gods in the upcoming THOR movie?

Really?

Only if you give me some Neil Gaiman ELEMENTALS type reason for a Norse God to be inhabiting a Nubian dude, failing that I have to agree with the Geek Syndicate guys on this particular casting.

There is no question of Elba’s talent.

There is colorblind casting, but when the ethnicity of the character, is part and parcel of the character, the history, the mythology, then colorblind casting doesn’t come into it. Just as it would be idiotic to have white guys portraying Nubian Gods, or playing Reggae– makes me laugh. Jah is a concept that no amount of braiding your hair can give you. So click on the link to hear the GS take on the casting. That said, they are completely wrong on their Samuel L. Jackson bashing. He was GREAT in IRON MAN II! :)

So yeah, I’m always glad to see Elba in a flick, but like I said… to make this casting okay, make it not a lightning rod against the film, they are going to have to write-in some type of Gaiman ELEMENTALS type reason for it. If they can do that they can make it work.

Okay back on topic…) ,

Before I get to the trailer, the poster… just poor. What the hell is up with these marketing guys. There was a time when posters were high art, as well as sought after collectibles. These days posters more often than not are just lazy.

Thankfully the trailer, has no such issues. Trailers are typically poor, good, or great. I mean you typically either get it right or you don’t.

300, STAR TREK (2010), OBSESSED, WATCHMEN these are examples of GREAT trailers.

I’ve rarely seen a trailer, that starts off in one gear and then kicks in to overdrive, that goes from good to great. TAKERS trailer goes from good to great. WoW. If the movie can live up to the trailer, I’ll be a happy camper.

Take a look! :) .