The Gifted: season one review

So mutants have moved to the small screen these days, with The Gifted, starring Stephen Moyer (of True Blood fame) – and it’s set in a world which runs on an alternate mutant timeline to the big screen films (although those are all over the place these days), and it’s one where the main X-Men have disappeared and have seemingly left John Proudstar/Thunderbird (Blair Retford) in charge of what’s known as the mutant underground. Although he’s not the show’s primary character.

We first meet the underground when Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer), a district attorney who prosecutes mutants, is forced to go on the run with his family after learning his kids, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White), are, shock horror, mutants themselves. The sweet, sweet irony. This setup means the Strucker family are our way in as an audience.

And so we have a cat and mouse game of back and forth between the evil government agency, Sentinel Services (S.S., see what they did there), and the sweet little Struckers and their mutant friends, forced to live in hiding.

Not that hiding seems that bad. The underground has food, water and an array of hi-tech computers to aid tracking of the enemy. There’s a lot of mutants there too, with most of them pleasingly attractive, which is important if we’re going to stay interested in their plight.

First, we’ve got hunky Johnny/Thunderbird, part Apache with tracking abilities and super pecs, sorry, strength; then Lorna Dane/Polaris (Emma Dumont), a pale, sexy goth type with green hair who’s also the daughter of Magneto, so she can manipulate metal; her partner Marcos Diaz/Eclipse (Sean Teale), a tall, dark and brooding dude with links to the Mexican cartel, so he’s a bit of a bad boy, oh, and he can manipulate photons to shoot hot beams from his hands; and there’s Clarice Gong/Blink (Jamie Chung), a sexy teleporter with a bit of a thing for Johnny; plus Johnny’s actual ex-girlfriend, Sonya Simonson/Dreamer (Elena Satine), a sultry lady who’s all lips and boobs and blows seductive pink smoke at you to manipulate memories. What a temptress.

There’s also a bunch of other lesser characters we don’t really get to know that well, so I won’t spend a lot of time on them.

So with each of these main lot they all seem to have their own personal soap opera going on, and some are more compelling than others. I guess the show’s creators wanted an ensemble cast so they didn’t have all eggs in one basket. Because it’s probably a bit of a burden being the lead in a new X-Men property, even if it is TV.

And thinking on it, I wonder how much the reputation of the films loom over this show.

So much so that the show’s creators aren’t taking massive risks, from what I’ve seen so far. By this I mean, it’s a show that has a lot of action, an abundance of characters, and plenty going on, but at the same time nothing of much significance actually happens. Which is a skill in the writing in itself, but in this golden age of TV one cannot simply amble along for the majority of a season without getting to the sodding point.

Where is this story going exactly?
Is anything bad actually going to happen?
Will I care it if it does?
Are any of these sexy people going to hook up with each other?
Can we see some nudity? (If only relevant to the plot of course.)

Clearly the questions that plague me are the same ones I’m sure you’re asking yourself. Or perhaps you’re not. Perhaps I shouldn’t be? Maybe this is more aimed at young teens, I don’t know.

Maybe you’ll be asking yourself, why am I watching it if I’m not that engaged?
Probably because I’m engaged just enough, and I’m praying more happens. But it’s also one of those shows that, from probably the second episode, I filed under ‘easy watch’. Like when you’re tired and home from work and don’t want anything too taxing that you have to focus on a great deal.

So that’s that really. A solid, dependable 6/10 for entertainment, story and character. If that’s your thing, then get watching. If not, and you’re after geeky TV that has something more to give, try Agents of SHIELD or Jessica Jones.

Michael Fassbender: The shame of Hollywood

ridley scott cormac mccarthy

What is it with Michael Fassbender? Until a few years ago most of us had never heard of him. Now he seems to be in practically everything. Let’s get this straight, this post isn’t a rant in his general direction, I think he’s a phenomenal actor. It’s just we’re all liable to suffer Fassbender burnout if his output of films continues at the current rate.

michael fassbender in fish tankCast your minds back to 2008, his breakout came playing Bobby Sands in Steve Mcqueen’s, Hunger. This put him on the map. In 2009 he appeared in Fish Tank, a gritty drama set in an English council estate, highly recommended.

He then pretty much stole the show as Lt. Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds. Whilst Tarantino does write damn good dialogue and create a seriously tense, yet darkly comic scene – it’s Fassbender that makes this truly special. Watch the flicker of his eyes when he knows his time is up, then switching from German to the King’s English. Classic stuff.

Then in 2010 he appeared in Jonah Hex and Centurion, neither particularly memorable, critically or commercially. However, this didn’t stop the mighty Fassbender. The following year he really began to get into his stride, playing lead roles in Jane Eyre, X Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, Shame, Haywire and Prometheus.

Let’s just take a step back for a second. All these films in 2011 were both critical and commercial successes. He’s not exactly limited himself in the type of roles he plays either: a Lord in a period drama, a superhero who can manipulate metal with his mind, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a sex addicted ad executive, an MI6 agent who gets beaten to hell by a real life mixed martial artist, and an android.

fassbender shameHe’s clearly a highly accomplished, versatile and chameleonic actor, who can convince in a number of roles. Indeed, Director Steve McQueen compared him to Marlon Brando in an interview. High praise, yet justified.

I think he must have realised this avalanche had to stop at some point. IMDb shows us he hasn’t had any films out this year, but has some in the pipeline. He could do with a break as far as I’m concerned. That said, I’m excited to see what he does next. I recently saw Shame, talk about stripping yourself bare as an actor and I don’t mean physically, although I imagine that took a bit of bravery too. An intense performance.

What’s next?
ridley scott cormac mccarthyI must admit, I’m excited about The Counselor. Written by Cormac McCarthy and directed by Ridley Scott, it’s got a cracking cast. As well as Fassbender in the lead role, it also includes: Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and – my personal favourite – the legend that is John Leguizamo! Check out more info here. Looks promising, it’ll be good to have him back.

Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

charlie bronson

I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.

As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?

In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!

The guys

  1. charlie bronsonDaniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
  2. Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
  3. Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
  4. Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
  5. Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
  6. Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
  7. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
  8. Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
  9. Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
  10. Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
  11. Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
  12. Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)

The gals

  1. helena bonham carter harry potterHelena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
  3. Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
  4. Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
  5. Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
  6. Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
  7. Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
  8. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.

One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.

Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.

Marion Cotillard artwork