Posts Tagged ‘Idris Elba’

mcnulty-in-the-pit

The Detail starts to slowly reveal details on some of the game’s more substantial players.

It’s like unraveling a tightly wound ball of yarn—piece-by-piece. However, the boss (Avon Barksdale) remains largely out of sight. Avon is like a black unicorn. The myth and legend supersedes the man. The investigation into Barksdale doesn’t even have a picture of him. It’s pathetic. To them, he is a name without a face.

Since Avon is virtually untouchable at this stage, the cops try to get to him through his nephew. D’Angelo is adjusting to his demotion to running The Pit after almost ending up in jail on a murder charge. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. is captivating as the conflicted criminal compelled to stay in the family business of drugs and violence. It’s all he knows. But D’Angelo is as soft as butter. He wasn’t made for the game. Although it’s inadmissible in court, the slightest bit of pressure gets D’Angelo feeling guilty so he writes an apology letter to the victim’s family. It’s beautiful teamwork between Bunk and McNulty to carefully craft a strong line of bullshit to rattle D’Angelo.

dangelos-letter

I must comment on the phenomenal choice to almost exclusively dress D’Angelo in a turtleneck sweater. In that one seemingly minor decision, they convey the point that D’Angelo isn’t cut from the same cloth as Avon. He is out of place in this world, but he’s powerless to change his circumstances. He is expected to continue the family tradition. But you can start to see that D’Angelo has a good heart by how quickly he’s consumed by guilt—even though he’s not directly responsible for the death of the witness who testified in his murder case. Deep down, he knows who ordered the hit and D’Angelo is overwhelmed by the burden of that responsibility. D’Angelo is just trying to survive the game, but he’s finding out that it’s not a game at all. This is all terrifyingly real.

The slimy, weaselly lawyer for the Barksdale crew arrives just in the nick of time. Maurice Levy is epitome of a shitbag lawyer, and Michael Kostroff excels in the role. I feel like Kostroff’s filmography is stocked full of similarly-themed creeps—it’s his niche. I want to slap the smirk off his smug fucking face.

Seriously, I cannot stress how impressive The Wire is as an accomplishment. I don’t know how it’s possible to make so many high-caliber, movie-quality episodes. It’s a treat to go back and re-watch this TV show because it’ s a new experience each time. Since I know the story, I can really focus on the acting this time around and see how the characters bring everything together. There are too many great actors to name in this ensemble.

Even Nat Benchley (as Det. Polk) and Tom Quinn (as Det. Mahon) are rock-solid as drunk worthless sacks of shit. Polk and Mahon are dead weight meant to tie down the investigation. While it doesn’t seem that challenging in the grand scheme, Benchley and Quinn—two actors who I cannot recall seeing before or after this series—are extremely effective as believable, everyday drunks. Fucked up, but somewhat functional. Their eyes are squinted and stare far-off in the distance as their heads bob while trying to maintain the aura of sobriety during a meeting. The only contribution they make to the discussion is to ask about who approves overtime.

polk-and-mahon

In my research, an interesting tidbit of trivia is that “pogue mahone” is an Irish expression that roughly translates to “kiss my ass.” Although it is the name of one of their albums, The Pogues also considered calling their band Pogue Mahone. Polk and Mahon are nods to the Irish expression as well as The Pogues—whose music is often featured. Prior to The Wire, my awareness of The Pogues came from a Stephen Lynch song mentioning the hideousness of Shane MacGowan—he is quite possibly the ugliest man alive. But they’re an iconic Irish band.

Unlike any other show, The Wire created strong supporting characters and cast phenomenal actors to fulfill the roles. When I say strong supporting characters, it doesn’t mean they are all thoughtful or great at their jobs. The bumbling idiots are just as fun as the cool, calculated detectives. In particular, The Detail highlights the depths of Pryzbylewski’s incompetence, which now features an unintentional firing of his weapon inside to go along with intentionally shooting up his police car. Eventually, Przybo pistol-whips a kid in the eye with his gun in this episode. Somehow, he still seems to be one of the more innocent cops—especially with Herc coming off like a petulant child bitching and complaining about everything. Without question, Lt. Daniels has been given nothing worthwhile (save for a few exceptions) to operate this investigation. They have no hope of a substantial bust with their current approach.

If they can avoid tripping over their own feet, the investigation has potential.

Some damn fine police work can pick up the slack for a lot of shitbirds.

rawls

Quote of the Episode

“What the fuck did I do?”
– Jimmy McNulty

season-1

If the opening scene telling the story of Snot Boogie doesn’t draw you in, what is wrong with you?

When the setting shifts to the courtroom gallery of the D’Angelo Barksdale case, you can see the rivalry and sense of mutual respect between Detective Jimmy McNulty and Stringer Bell within 5 minutes. It’s a casual smirk from Dominic West to Idris Elba (after Stringer shows his superhero sketch that says “FUCK YOU DETECTIVE”), but that body language says more than any words. It’s a showing of appreciation that warms my heart because it’s a microcosm of how I feel about this show, The Wire—the greatest show in the history of television.

When I was in college, my best friend introduced me to The Wire. In high school, I introduced him to HBO’s Oz and we reveled in the ridiculousness of that prison soap opera. I’ll always appreciate that passing of the torch. I’ve made it my mission to share great TV shows with others in order to return the favor. You live a better life once The Wire is part of your lexicon. There is so much to savor about this show, which is why this is my fifth time around. Now I get to share it with all of you and walk down memory lane recalling my journey with the show.

No TV show has ever been as successful at bouncing between characters and keeping the story moving as The Wire. Somehow, this show never wastes a scene. Well, at least that was the case until Season 5, but let’s enjoy the ride before focusing on how the train horrifically derailed from the tracks.

Maybe I’m biased as a result of my earlier admission, but The Target is the best TV pilot. More than 20 diverse, vibrant characters are introduced while setting up the story of the cops, criminals, drug addicts, and how their interplay shapes the City of Baltimore. Bodymore, Murdaland. There’s nothing like it.

bunk-and-mcnulty

Many of the characters and incidents in The Wire come from David Simon’s book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The authenticity shines through. The first season focuses on the pervasiveness of drugs in the inner cities. The problems caused by both the gang violence and misguided police priorities in the bullshit War on Drugs helped to cripple our society. For cops, following chain of command makes their dick bust concrete.

David Simon’s creation is an in-depth exploration into the true fucked up nature of our modern world. It will be interesting to re-watch The Wire in light of recent current events. Y’know, where mistrust between cops and the people they are supposed to serve and protect has led to black bodies laying dead in the streets. I wish we still had a show like this going to shed light on these dark corners of the American experience.

Near the end of the episode, Bunk and McNulty are getting drunk by the train tracks. When talking about this newly opened, sprawling investigation into Barksdale’s drug operation, a drunk McNulty is pissing on the tracks with a train barreling down at him. With his typical cavalier attitude, McNulty steps out of the way just in time and expresses his commitment to work the Barksdale case “the right way” and take down the whole fucking thing.

When Jimmy McNulty puts his mind to something, sit back and watch the master at work.

pissing-on-the-tracks

While The Wire is a slow burn, The Target starts off and ends with a bang—both literal and figurative. If you didn’t like the taste of this pilot episode, then you need to get your palette cleansed. The Wire is not a police procedural. David Simon rips those shows to shreds, and this should be enough to ruin that formulaic structure for anyone who watches this unique brand of storytelling. The Sopranos gets so much undeserved credit when people mention great HBO shows, but there were entire seasons of wasted, filler material. The Wire is an efficient machine.

Please take this initial step and start the journey with me to watch (or re-watch) The Wire. The corruption and dysfunction of our institutions has intensified because they are no longer relevant. In this country, the way we think about and approach important societal issues is laughable. Our prison-industrial complex is a prime modern example. Private institutions profit off the imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders. No one gets healed in jail. Those who are sick only get worse. While The Target is only the beginning, The Wire delves deep into the War on Drugs by using the Barksdale drug operation and the Baltimore Police investigation as the gateway.

In light of 9/11, The Wire accurately predicted the government response shifting from the War on Drugs to the War on Terror. Both of these wars are unwinnable. Most people are still in denial about that undeniable fact. Like a recovering drug addict, the first step of solving a problem is realizing there is a problem to be solved.

A lot of the apathetic masses are content to continue not giving a fuck.

bunk-smdh

Quote of the Episode

“There you go, givin’ a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.”
– Det. Bunk Moreland

Poster

I have zero connection to Disney movies.

Even as a child, I was already too grown-up for their fake worldview.

I am a better person for it. Disney is a disease that infects children with unrealistic expectations. Director Jon Favreau does an admirable job subverting the classic expectations of Disney movies as much as possible. But the cheese is overwhelmingly ham-handed and inescapable.

Of course, this is still a children’s movie—first and foremost. Like most kids movies, they sell audiences on the bullshit line that it’s for children but can also be enjoyed by adults. While Favreau performed substantially better than most would in his position, that balancing act is very visible.

Neel Sethi

Before we get into spoiler territory, let’s talk about what works. Above all, The Jungle Book is a success because Disney nailed their casting of Mowgli. Neel Sethi was phenomenal and picture-perfect for the role. Few child actors could pull of the physicality needed for Mowgli to move throughout the jungle in a realistic fashion while also believably interacting with CGI animals. Apparently, The Jim Henson Creature Shop was wisely brought in to fabricate puppets to serve as reference points for Neel Sethi. However, this movie probably doesn’t work remotely as well with any other child actor.

You have to love Mowgli because this is his journey and you are with him every step.

Baloo and Mowgli

Bill Murray is always a welcome presence, and he does a superb job bringing Baloo (the bear) to life. The character depiction perfectly matches Bill Murray’s voice and delivery. The third casting choice that Disney had to perfect was Shere Khan (the tiger) because he’s the villain that you must fear and despise. Idris Elba reveled in this opportunity and he chews ample scenery. As a result, Shere Khan is the correct mix of menace and power. I could do without every other casting decision.

I understand why they would want to cast Ben Kingsley as Bagheera (the panther)—especially considering the backstory of the book in the context of India. I mean, he’s fucking Gandhi. But it felt like a decision obligated more out of politics/commercial incentives instead of a character-based decision. Personally, it feels like Ben Kingsley mailed it in—either that or he’s not a good voice actor. Emotionally, Bagheera feels flat. While he may have intended for it to come across as regal, Ben Kingsley’s delivery feels like he’s bored and divorced from what is happening on the screen.

Bagheera

For a completely computer-generated movie (except for Neel Sethi), The Jungle Book breaks new ground and deserves praise for being a technological achievement. As usual, the 3D is completely unnecessary and I think it would drastically detract from the visuals. While there is a certain disconnect between the voice actors and CGI animals moving their mouths, I was able to forgive and forget that these were actors in a sound booth. You just have to go with it because you can only do so much to replicate how voices echo through the space and density of a computer-generated jungle.

Although it may look silly 5-10 years later, this is an important step in CGI development.

Now that I’ve praised this enough, let’s get down to talking some shit about a children’s movie.

Spoilers galore.

A surprising amount of death occurs in The Jungle Book.

However, no real violence is shown when a death happens, but the character completely disappears from the story without so much as a lingering shot. This occurs multiple times. Maybe I’m guilty of overanalyzing, but I believe you negate the impact of the death you’re showing by just breezing right past it. Mufasa’s death in The Lion King makes a monumental impression because they show the act and direct aftermath—Simba seeing the body of his dead father and mourning him.

Whereas in The Jungle Book, it’s impossible to tell whether or not some characters actually died—specifically Kaa and King Louie. Both of these characters feel shoehorned into the movie. I have no idea what their previous roles were in the animated movie or book, but the screen time for Kaa and King Louie appears to primarily serve as clumsy exposition to further plot points.

Kaa

Kaa is a massive python s-s-seductively voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She is in one scene where she basically tells Mowgli the story of the red flower (Shere Khan killing Mowgli’s father and getting burnt badly in the process) and then tries to devour Mowgli. Somehow, Baloo silently climbs up an extremely high tree and I guess he viciously kills Kaa to save Mowgli. Remember, Baloo is a lazy, obese bear—but evidently he can climb really high steathily undetected. Kaa never reappears in the story, but you also never see Baloo kill Kaa. It’s just a roar, heavy implication, and quick cut.

King Louie appears in a similar yet even more bungled sequence. King Louie is voiced by Christopher Walken, which is so weird that it works. While King Louie is an orangutan in every other incarnation, Jon Favreau turned the character into a Gigantopithecus. Essentially, he is King Kong as an orangutan with all of the quirky personality traits of Christopher Walken. King Louie wants to learn the secret to controlling the red flower from Mowgli so he can use it for his own sinister devices.

King Louie

Bagheera and Baloo track Mowgli down after he’s kidnapped by the monkeys and taken to King Louie. With their help, Mowgli escapes, but they all have to outrun and outwit King Louie. This leads to King Louie destroying his kingdom so he can try to grab Mowgli. As a result of his greed, the whole kingdom literally crumbles down on top of King Louie. These scenes make it seem like Kaa and King Louie only exist to talk about the red flower (fire), threaten to kill Mowgli, and then die.

It seems very odd as an adult, and I would imagine children must also be confused.

And apparently, all life is precious in the jungle except monkeys. Countless monkeys presumably get slaughtered—or else we’re supposed to pretend they’re made of rubber and have no bones so they can get clawed and trampled without any repercussions. Why did the monkeys get fucked over? As far as I can recall, the monkeys are also the only animals that aren’t given human voices.

That is some fucked-up shit to do to our closest DNA relatives, Fatreau.

Finally, Mowgli learns from King Louie (before he is crumbled to death) that Shere Khan killed Akela. That was also another glossed-over death because Khan attacks Akela and throws him off a cliff. It is incredibly quick, but at least that is a death that has an impact. While the wolves let Shere Khan reign supreme over their domain, Mowgli is immediately out for blood when he hears the news.

Shere Khan

Mowgli runs to the man village to steal fire and sprints through the jungle with a lit torch.

In his haste, embers from his torch fly off and ignite the jungle. This all leads to a very stilted final stand after Mowgli miraculously runs back home in a matter of minutes (the same ground that it took him days to flee). Inevitably, Mowgli kills Shere Khan with fire—using the blaze he created by burning the jungle. But it’s all cool because elephants are natural firefighters. Problem solved!

So the lesson here is don’t play with fire…unless you have an elephant around.

I don’t know why they intentionally made the hero (Mowgli) destroy part of the jungle—even if it was by mistake. Apparently, that fire didn’t kill any other animals or destroy their habitats. Remember, elephants are magical and can fix any situation by knocking down some trees.

Despite all its faults, The Jungle Book is a good movie.

But everyone should relax on the instant classic bullshit.

Red Flower

3.5 out of 5 stars