True Detective

2014review_tv

Television! The original moving picture-centric method of in-home entertainment. The boob tube has gone through significant changes over the past few years, earning some long-fought-for respect and gifting the world with the kind of bold and original programming that doesn’t always find its way to the big screen. Alternative networks, from Netflix to paid premium channels like HBO, continued to flex their creative muscles, and the result has so far been a new, if not golden, at least silver age of television. Of note: this year’s list is a combination of returning shows that exhibited some extra achievement and newbie series that display significant promise. It’s not perfect — no list is, after all — but it serves to illuminate the shows that, for various reasons, were truly the best of the year. From series approaching the end of their runs to recent debuts that have already impressed us, it’s a massively mixed bag, but the quality is consistent. These are the shows you should be watching.

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Serial Podcast

It’s happened. A podcast has achieved the status of a cultural phenomenon. Where podcasting has largely either operated as a supplementary commentary on culture (from new films to dead authors to linguistics, and probably everything else) or an extension of talk radio (political or public radio-style podcasts), serving as the custodian of our connected watercooler conversations, This American Life’s Serial podcast has now found itself at the center of a cultural conversation and a thing to be witnessed on its own – the type of thing people make podcasts about. Serial as a phenomenon can be largely credited to its inventive use of the medium – to tell a story over weeks like a must-see television show. And like the way we currently watch television, Serial has inspired a regular output of recaps, conversations, fan theories, thinkpieces, and parodies. Add the stakes inherent in the fact that Serial is one journalist’s episode-to-episode investigation of a complicated 15-year-old murder case, and what you have is the capacities of a storytelling platform transforming real life into accessible, compelling, perhaps exploitative drama. But the way we’ve been making sense of Serial as a phenomenon says a great deal about how we relate to – and “elevate” – new media phenomena based on prior media phenomena.

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David Fincher

David Fincher likes his TV. First came his executive producer stint on House of Cards, then that film noir series he’s been bandying about with James Ellroy. And here comes another- Fincher’s just announced that he’ll be doing the director’s version of a TV bingewatch through the entirety of 2015- directing every episode of his planned remake of the BBC conspiracy thriller, Utopia. Please, for yours and everyone else’s sakes, do not confuse the Fincher-approved Utopia (coming to HBO) with the Fox reality series that puts the immense responsibility of building a perfect society in the hands of a group that contains a raw vegan chef, a tantric sex enthusiast and the “Hillbilly MacGuyver” (good luck with that).

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Rachel McAdams

See? We told you guys to just wait — and, yes, we had to take that advice to heart, too — because, no matter what the addition of Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn to the True Detective second season roster meant, it didn’t mean that casting was over. Now, well, casting still isn’t over, but it’s getting there, and it’s certainly moving in a very nice direction. Variety reports that, as has been rumored off and on for awhile now, Rachel McAdams has been offered one of four lead roles in the HBO series’ second season. The part will reportedly see McAdams playing “a Monterey sheriff with a troubled past that has led her to a gambling and alcohol addiction.” The part is one of three law enforcement types on the new season — Farrell is on board as one, Taylor Kitsch is still expected to play the other, and Vaughn is set to star as a “career criminal” — and it marks a very important step forward in the realm of complicated female characters on the small screen.

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Vince Vaughn

The latest news in the wacky world of True Detective may not have come to us care of the Colin Farrell Gazette (the paper of record, duh), but it’s still official enough to send fans (and foes) of the HBO series into a major tizzy. Everyone, calm down. Let’s talk about this. HBO (via ComingSoon) has announced that, yes, Farrell is on board to star in the series’ second season, as is Vince Vaughn, who has long been rumored to take on one of four leading roles in the next installment of the deep, dark detective drama. The breaking of this news has apparently sent literally thousands of Twitter users into a downward spiral of guilt, blame and fear (at least, by our count) — which is weird, because the series hasn’t even completed half of its casting. Put the towels down, guys, let’s not throw them in just yet.

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Colin Farrell in Miami Vice

If Colin Farrell is really serious with this True Detective business, he’s going to have learn how to shut up (or at least willfully misdirect his audience) sooner rather than later. Farrell has been in the possible casting mix for the critically acclaimed HBO series’ second season since July, and while we’ve heard plenty of rumors as to who else could star in the series, Farrell is the first “confirmed” member of the cast. Well, that’s what Farrell says. The actor told Sunday World’s “The Dub” (uh) that he’s set for the show, reportedly sharing with the outlet: “I’m doing the second series. I’m so excited.” Desperate for more details? Well, too bad, because that’s pretty much all “The Dub” is willing to share unless you’re willing to pay to become a member of their “exclusive club” (is this True Detective cosplay?). Don’t want to shell out actual pounds for that? Neither are we, so here is the full text of the non-exclusive article: “Colin Farrell is the latest Hollywood star to make the move to the small screen, the Sunday World can exclusively reveal. The Dub last night confirmed he’s been cast in HBO’s award-winning True Detective and added: ‘I’m doing the second series. I’m so excited.’ The actor has signed up to star in the series, which has become the hottest new show on television.” We have questions. HBO and creator Nic Pizzolatto have not yet confirmed the news, but if Colin Farrell wants to take up the mantle of “official True Detective news-bearer,” that’s cool, too. […]

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Zodiac

Please read the following sentence: Look here, sister, start usin’ them getaway sticks or you’ll be takin’ a pill from this roscoe here.* Did that make any earthly sense? Yes? No? Well, either way we’ll be learning the ways of the noirish gentleman (and lady) soon. Hopefully. Because David Fincher and James Ellroy are in talks with HBO to start up a film noir TV series. From the Playlist, we’ve got a scant few details: it’ll be set in Los Angeles and steeped in the same general ’50s backdrop as previous Ellroy works (they cite “L.A. Confidential” as a biggie). And that’s about as far as “scant” gets us. The Playlist stresses that there’s “no deal in place,” but given the talent involved, HBO would be foolish to pass this one up. Fincher’s never made an out-and-out film noir (unless you count a couple of ads for The Gap), but he’s dabbled in things with noir-ish vibes to them. Like Se7en, which was kind of a horror movie and kind of a neo-noir but still had Morgan Freeman in a three-piece suit, trenchcoat and hat. Totally counts in that regard. Ellroy, by comparison, is 100% gumshoe, having written two of the best noirs in recent history: “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia.” Also, here’s a salient quote that should be mentioned every time his name comes up — Said by Ellroy, about Ellroy: “declarative and ugly and right there, punching you in the nards.”

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justin-lin-and-michelle-rodriguez-in-furios-si-iute-6-2013--large-picture

We’ve known for a while that True Detective isn’t doing the one-director-per-season thing, because that takes eons longer to film than an average TV show and HBO would very much prefer to run new episodes on a consistent schedule, not whenever a bunch of “time is a flat circle” mystics will it into existence, man. What we haven’t known is which directors will be stepping in to fill the Cary Fukunaga-sized hole left in the series. Until now. Potentially. The Hollywood Reporter names Justin Lin as the first director to be officially courted by HBO. The publication, sporting a stringy ponytail and jamming a penknife into a Lone Star beer can, says he is in talks to direct two episodes of the eight that are coming next season. Probably the first two, but it’s hard to tell amongst the crinkle of metal on metal and THR’s lengthy discussion of how life is memory that’s been locked away and left to rot, and all that remains is something something nihilism, alright alright alright.

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Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man

It’s time you asked yourself a tough question: when was the last time you had a genuine interest in seeing a Vince Vaughn movie? I’ll go ahead and start things off myself. Wedding Crashers. And Wedding Crashers was released 10 years ago. At first glance, Vaughn’s newly announced film The Politician looks to continue the trend of Vince Vaughn films the general public has no vested interest in. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he will star as a holder of elected office who’s caught in the act with a couple prostitutes. Rather than stand up and face his own failings, this politician gives a collective “ehhhh, the hell with this” to the nation and goes on the lam. At which point the FBI, the US Marshals and a drug gang all tear after him. But when the news broke, something curious bubbled up around it, just barely noticeable from our current position of general Vince Vaughn apathy: Talk of a Vince Vaughn comeback. It’s not much; only a few outlets are speaking of The Politician in the whispered tones and shifty eyes of “comeback” conversation. Here’s what we’ve got so far: “Maybe Vaughn truly is taking back his career á la Matthew McConaughey.” (Evan Dickson, Collider) “Hopefully that pans out and that starts something of a career comeback for Vaughn.” (Cricket Lee, GeekNation) “This film sounds like it could signal a turnaround in Vaughn’s fading star power.” (Damen Norton, UnrealityTV) “We could see a return to form for the actor.” (Graham McMorrow, JoBlo)

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True Detective

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Colin Farrell in Miami Vice

Would the word “Carcosa” sound cooler when spoken in an Irish brogue? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Because while Colin Farrell might be in talks for True Detective, the second season has been confirmed for a California setting. So unless creator Nic Pizzolatto was writing the series with an Irishman in mind, chances are Farrell will have to put on his best American accent for this one. Also, that whole Carcosa thing is over and done with, so there’s really no earthly reason for Farrell to be putting those syllables in that order. But yes, the announement is official. Colin Farrell. True Detective. In talks. In a story broken by Deadline, we have the first big piece of news for the HBO series’ second season (Sorry William Friedkin, but unless you’re willing to make your directing gig on the season official, Farrell wins the “first big news” statuette). And like anything and everything relating to True Detective, this news is shrouded in a veil of secrecy so thick you’d need a machete to hack through it.

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True Detective Titles

One of the best things about True Detective is the complicated relationship between detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) with McConaughey’s Rust working as the perfect philosophical foil to Harrelson’s gregarious man’s man. The two have the ability to rub each other the wrong way personally, but they also make each other better detectives. Viewers who love the relationship between Rust and Marty (and McConaughey and Harrelson) were likely disappointed when the show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto, announced that not just two, but three, new detectives would be taking the reins in season two, leaving Team Rust/Cohle behind. True Detective will not only be changing up the cast, but also leaving the bayous of Louisiana to explore sun-soaked California. These changes may be less than great news for fans of season one’s location and character dynamic, but this approach is an exciting way to keep the series feeling fresh and expansive from season-to-season. For a series rooted in unraveling mysteries, it makes sense that certain elements need to change to keep viewers on their toes, always guessing and always questioning what may happen next. But there is one element of True Detective that should remain constant – the music.

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RAM Releasing

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Hide and Seek Sung-soo is a successful business owner with a perfect family, a gorgeous condo and an enviable life all around. He also has memories of a step brother he essentially abandoned years ago. When he gets word that his brother has gone missing he heads to the man’s apartment and discovers a dangerous mystery. This Korean thriller manages to be far creepier than any “typical” piece of Asian horror as psychopaths will always be scarier than long-haired ghost girls. More than that though the film is directed and edited to near perfection. Sequences thrill, excite and terrify as the story unfolds, and while the script has some major issues they’re easily ignored because everything else works so damn well. From the legitimate twists to the commentary on class warfare and fears, this is a fantastical thriller. [DVD extras: Making of]

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True Detective

True Detective is in a slightly difficult position right now. The first season of HBO’s detective story was a fantastic eight hours of television. The central mystery itself was fairly routine, but that’s not what the first season was about: it was about seeing Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle’s (Matthew McConaughey) wildly different world views conflict and come together. Each second with Marty and Rust is a treat. Their limited exposure (in an age of 9-season TV franchises) is part of what makes the experience special. Those episodes said everything we needed to know about their relationship. Since they’re not the focus of season 2, show creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto has to create a new dynamic that will be inescapably compared to the star-gazers. Considering how people responded to Marty and Rust, that won’t be easy. Right now all we know about season 2 is it’s set in California and focuses on two men and one woman. One of the show’s executive producers, Scott Stephens, participated in a panel at the Los Angeles’ Produced By Conference over the weekend. While he couldn’t discuss any specifics, Stephens did explain how much more challenging the production will be on season 2.

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True Detective Season Two

Jonesing for your True Detective fix before the beloved and HBOGO-killing HBO hit comes back for its second season? We might have something that can help you with that. We’ve long known that the Nick Pizzolatto-created series would essentially reboot with each season, with a new cast and a fresh location, which means that fans of the show (conspiracy theorists, all) would have plenty to mull over and pick apart before the show returned to them. Pizzolatto knows this, which is probably why he’s been doling out little bits of tantalizing information for months now. No, the creator isn’t cruel, but he is wily. In the latest batch of True Detective news, Pizzolatto has let on a couple of interesting details: that the show will now have three leads and that it will take place in California. Who will play those leads is not yet known (besides the fact that Jessica Chastain will not be playing any of them, sadly), and we still don’t know when the show will take place, what kind of crazy source material it may pull from, what sort of evil we might encounter or pretty much anything else. But that doesn’t mean we can’t analyze the things we do know.

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True Detective 1

Your theories were wrong. Well, probably. HBO’s latest opus of small screen cinema, the Nic Pizzolatto-created, Cary Fukunaga-directed, and Matthew McConaughey- and Woody-Harrelson-starring True Detective, ended its first season last night (unless you were trying to watch the season finale on HBO GO, in which case you might still be watching the flat circle of time known as the loading screen endlessly unspool) and after eight weeks of obsessive viewing, the first season finale is already the subject of intense hyperbole. The final episode, “Form and Void,” is less than a day old, and it’s already fiercely divisive – it was either the best possible ending or a tremendous letdown. The truth is, of course, somewhere in the middle – though that doesn’t mean that True Detective is not, on a whole, great entertainment. And although True Detective is the kind of often dense programming that benefits from closer reading and a few outside sources (“The Yellow King” post over at io9 remains essential), it’s also the kind that has suffered at the hand of relentless fan theorizing – because it’s those people who are most let down by its final conclusions.

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Ursula in The Little Mermaid

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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True Detective

There were two McConaugheys broadcast on Sunday night. One was the McConaughey honored for his portrayal of a real-life AIDS victim turned treatment advocate, for which he shed fifty pounds and (symbolically) years of critical bad will. It was a comeback story as predictable as any Hollywood ending. The other, far more interesting and less predictable McConaughey was tucked into the premium world of HBO in the form of True Detective’s Rust Cohle, where each week he delivers free-form philosophical jargon at just above a whisper and performs oh-so-calculated-yet-mesmerizing actorly business with only the end of a cigarette and a six pack of beer. The hive mind has credited True Detective for making an invisible supporting push toward McConaughey’s win in the form of a “reverse Norbit effect,” legitimizing him as a strong performer outside the clichéd obviousness of a recognition like this. But as critical and fan communities show a much stronger collective love for True Detective than they did for the supposed apex of McConaughey’s well-heeled comeback, I’m not convinced that True Detective and work like it is simply another gear in the machine of an industry’s collective good will for a once-dismissed actor. Even with a forecast of movies that promise inventiveness and risk, serial television looks to dominate the efforts and imagination of filmmakers for the near future.

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Kiefer Sutherland in Pompeii

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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2014 is almost upon us, and as loyal viewers of things on screens, we must prepare in advance for all that must be watched in the coming year. HBO feels the same way, it seems; in the last day or two they’ve begun rolling out previews for anything and everything available on the network next year. First came Girls, which we saw last week. Now comes a fresh crop of premiering TV for us to devote our lives to and/or quickly grow bored of. And yes, I know that “it’s not TV. It’s HBO,” but were I to actually write using that descriptor, this whole thing would be impossible to read. So let us begin. First to premiere (on January 12th) is True Detective. We’ve already seen a trailer for this one a few months ago, and this “Slow Boil” trailer is actually quicker and shorter than the original one. So no points there. But we’re given a few new tidbits that imply detectives Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey have, in fact, done something not-so-good somewhere between the twin timelines of 1995 and 2012. Also, keep your eyes peeled for Michael Potts, who, to all who’ve ever burned through five season of The Wire in a single weekend, will be instantly recognizable as Brother Mouzone. Glance below to watch.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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