Best current TV Show : BBC One’s and Hulu’s MUSKETEERS!!

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MUSKETEERS courtesy OF BBC One and currently available on Hulu is far and away my current favorite show. From series creator and main-writer Adrian Hodges comes this wonderful reworking of Alexandre Dumas perennial classic, THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Perhaps outside of Shakespeare and the Bible, the work of Alexandre Dumas (the son of the Black Giant, The Black Devil, Napolean’s greatest general, Thomas Alexandre Dumas) has been the most adapted into film of any body of work.

Napolean’s Greatest General

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–Olivier Pichat’s portrait of Alexandre the Elder

And with good reason, its themes of heroism and villainy, liberty and tyranny, corruption and honor, love and lust, are timeless, and its characters… iconic, and its swashbuckling action lends itself to the cinematic.

I’ve seen many of the films, and a few different TV shows, seeking to adapt the work of this most brilliant of France’s writers (a writer whose work was infused with a pride in his father, and his heroic exploits) and unfortunately none of the adaptions, none of them, ever refect the rich Haitian, and Black, and African, and Moorish nature not just of the writer, nor of the inspiration for these stories… his father, but of a France and Spain and an Europe that was teeming with a melting pot of a people… a rich vibrant stew of exslaves, freemen, and emissaries from distant lands.

So adaptions have always felt for me lacking, due to this sense of a fiction, less rich than the facts, this lack of any characters of color. Which is no great plot, it is infact an extension of Dumas himself writing for a mainstream audience, so the grestest mass of france could see themselves in his writing.

And so finally 172 years after Alexandre Dumas first wrote of his d” Artagnan and the Three Musketeers (serialized in the Parisian paper Le Siecle) in Adrian Hodges MUSKETEERS we finally get a Black Musketeer, played awesomely by Howard Charles. And on top of that you get a multicultural France, sprinkled with people of color.

In many ways I find the BBC One Adaption superior, because it takes risks in terms of ethnicity and politics that are, if not completely absent, dialed down, in at least the English translation of Dumas THREE MUSKETEERS. But the current adaption appeals to a 21st century audience, the original had to appeal to a 19th century audience, and be published.

“In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the King. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody.”
—THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas

I really think the series, wonderfully speaks to a little bit of the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ lives of the Alexandres. The wonder of their lives, the height of their challenges, the magnificence of their victories. You get just a smidgen of this in the new series, but its enough… to finally allow me to completely embrace this show.

That and the fact the writing in the series is great, the direction is great, the performances are great, and the action is fun and swashbuckling. I love this show.

The third season has wrapped up, BBC says it is the last season. Hopefully Netflix will pick this up for a fourth season. But whether or not they do, for my money they have left us with the definitive version of Alexandre Dumas’ MUSKETEERS. (At least until Carl Franklin releases his version of the THREE MUSKETEERS, with multiple musketeers of color 🙂 )

I am going to buy all three seasons, because this is a series, (much like the 80s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD that is also the definitive treatment of that property) that deserves to be always readily available; whether or not you have an internet connection.

Highly Recommended!

 

 

 

Musketeers, The (BD) [Blu-ray]

Musketeers, The: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

Musketeers, The: Season 3 [Blu-ray]

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Now Watching : Netflix’s DAREDEVIL and WRONG TURN AT TAHOE!

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The Entire 1st season of Netflix’s first Marvel Studios series DAREDEVIL has  dropped, and one episode in and it feels like… it feels like faith rewarded. From the first frame to the last, the show is pitch perfect.

From the direction, to the writing, to the performances, to the action. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, the Man without Fear is revelatory.  Charlie Cox in that first scene, with the speech in the confessional about his father, and letting the Devil loose, he defines the damaged nature of the protagonists, and this world. The initial costume is perfectly fine, a work in progress. I really hope Netflix will offer this up on Blu-Ray with commentary and features. It clearly deserves it.

Episode 2 here I come.

 

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Cuba Gooding Jr, has made his share of questionable movies. That said, in the largely direct to video world that has become the domain of most actors, in the last decade or so he has made some gems. WRONG TURN AT TAHOE is one of those gems, and following my first episode of DAREDEVIL, I find the film a nice counterpoint to the Netflix series. Cube giving a wonderfully poised and understated performance… yet full of menace. A great film from beginning to end.

Strongly recommended. Grade: B+

BEST SPY TELEVISION SHOW EVER: SPOOKS!


“I wonder if you can even remember the truth of what you were. You’re a killer John, who fell asleep, and dreamed he was a hero. Now it’s time to wakeup and remember the truth. The dream is over now, and the killer… is awake.”—SPOOKS Season 9

I just got done watching 9 Seasons of SPOOKS.

Wow.

What can I say, except… best cliffhangers ever!! And one of the most uncompromising and emotional shows that I’ve ever seen. And notice I say SPOOKS and not MI-5. For the love of God avoid the edited, censored US version of this phenomenal British show (one reason I refuse to watch anything on BBC America, I’ll just wait for the unedited DVD).

Get yourself a multi-region DVD player, buy the original PAL/UK DVDs and see this show as it was intended, in all its uncompromising, and at times anti-US glory. Or else don’t see it at all. Oh and avoid plot synopsis and reviews that give away reveals that are exceptionally important to really being flabbergasted by the series.

Like any series that runs this long, not all the shows are going to be home-runs. An occasional show is going to underwhelm, writing is going to falter become a bit too soapish and irritating (I think particularly noticeable in season 3). It’s a show that while no stranger to the cliches of the genre (to include at times a bit too much style over substance, the slow-mo walks and jittery camera work particularly in season 8 calls attention to itself… and not in a good way) manages to always transcend its missteps and crank it up and deliver and make you care.

The writers and particularly the actors are to be commended for making you care… oft deeply, for these tales of spooks and spies and private eyes.

For those of you who have never seen this series, I envy you the journey. Just start with season 1 of SPOOKS, and keep on going.

I have the last season yet to see, but I tend to take a break after every three seasons, mixing up my DVD binges with book binges, so I’ll probably get to season 10 sometime this spring. Plus I’m hearing mixed things about the last season, so I’m in no rush to get to it.

The show for a decade has managed to keep reinventing itself every season, in a way I did not think would be possible. But it just goes to the strength of the British talent pool, that every irreplaceable actor… could indeed be replaced. That goes to the truth of the fiction the show crafts.

What elevates this show is the courageousness of its scripts, that for the most part resists the simple black and write, good guy, bad guy, lowest common denominator story-lines you would get from a US show. Best spy show ever? I cannot think of one better.

Highest Recommendation. A-.

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.