Direct Beam Comms #31
The Night Of: Grade B
I don’t watch any procedural series like NCIS or Chicago P.D. While I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, to me, the stories of those shows move so fast they break the bonds of believability. I caught part of an episode of NCIS once when I was out where the squad was involved in a stakeout where they caught a guy dropping money off at a club, they interrogated the guy and found our where they money was coming from, one of the characters found out that his father died and he flew home, where he went through his father’s things while at the same time the NCIS squad was back out trying to take down this money-moving ring.
And all of this was supposed to have taken place in less than 24 hours and all happened before the halfway mark of the episode. Which to me is way to fast to even be remotely realistic. These stories seem like the Cliff-Notes version of a longer, more satisfying story.
Which made me think — what would happen to these single-episode stories if they were opened up and “let breath” over the course of an entire season? That these procedural series single-episode stories might actually be interesting over the course of many episodes. (And I suppose the opposite is true too, the first season of True Detective could probably be condensed down into a single episode of something like Chicago P.D.)
That’s what I think is happening with the new HBO mini-series The Night Of which premiers tonight (Sunday, July 10). It’s essentially a single episode of something like Law and Order but instead of it all happening in one episode is being told over the course of eight.
In The Night Of, college student Naz (Riz Ahmed) goes out one night to a party and on the way meets a beautiful women and the two both go back to her apartment for a night of drugs and debauchery. Only when Naz awakens early the next morning he finds the woman brutally murdered with blood literally on his hands. What follows are the police investigating the murder and Naz just happening to cross paths with defense attorney Jack Stone (John Turturro).
Which sounds like every other procedural series out there, but I think that since The Night Of is going to play that story out over the course of an entire series might be a really interesting series. With one caveat.
The first half of The Night Of is pretty bad. That part focuses on Naz pre-murder where he’s not just a college student, he’s a college student who tudors student athletes. And he’s only invited to the party because of the athletes. And he only steals his dad’s cab because a friend can’t drive them to the party. And he only accidentally picks up the girl because the “off duty” light on the cab is broken. And he only takes the drugs the girl offers and goes back to her place because she’s beautiful. And because of all this he wakes up in her blood covered apartment charged with murder.
Which to me is a lot of coincidence. Like the creators of the series are so desperate to show Naz as this bright, shining light of character that he’s made almost too good. Less of a real person and more of a martyr not deserving what’s about to happen to him in the criminal justice system.
However, once past this The Night Of gets really good.
Turturro’s character of Jack Stone is really interesting. A lawyer who wears sandals because of his eczema and only takes the case because he happens to be at the police station the night Naz is brought in. Equally compelling is Bill Camp as Detective Box, a cop who’s less world weary and more a cop who’s good at his job but isn’t all that emotionally invested in the cases he investigates.
After watching The Night Of I had to look Camp up since I knew I’d seen his face before and he’s absolutely wonderful in this show. I’d last seen him in the WGN series Manhattan but has been a working actor since the 1990s and has recently been in films such as 12 Years a Slave and Black Mass.
I think if the first episode of The Night Of had ended before the introduction of Stone or Box I would have been done with it after the first episode. Instead I’m really intrigued as to what the future holds for this show.
Cleverman: Grade B
I’m not even sure exactly how to review Cleverman, the first season of which just ended on Sundance. This series takes place in a near future Australia where a species of human(?) named the “Hairies” have emerged from the outback and integrated themselves into society. But instead of being welcomed, these fur covered super-strong people are instead ghettoized and discriminated against.
Cleverman is an interesting concept and I stuck with the series to the end but there were a few things that bothered me. Like with the Australian specific cultural stuff I was mostly lost. From what I can tell the “Cleverman” who’s a kind of shaman for the Aboriginal Australians is real, but I’m assuming they don’t all have powers like being invulnerable to harm. And I’m assuming that maybe the “Hairies” might be some cultural thing in Aboriginal culture like maybe Bigfoot is here?
Still, the series was enjoyable if a bit over the top with an evil government, mad scientists looking to splice “Hairies” DNA with ours and monsters roaming the countryside ripping the hearts out of unsuspecting Aussies.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition): Grade: C+
The world of Batman v Superman is very much like our own. It’s a world full of terrors, mass executions and violence. And with every fiber of its being the message of Batman v Superman seems to be that this is the way things are, it sucks and there’s nothing you, or any superhero can do about it. Which to me is a big problem with Batman v Superman — that a fictional reality has superheroes like Superman and Batman who could seemingly do something about these problems, yet they spend most of the movie trying to figure out the best ways to punch each other in the face than actually do anything about their planetary troubles.
With visuals and tone seemingly taken from Se7en (1995), the story of Batman v Superman is a little odd. It’s 18 months after the events of Man of Steel (2013) leveled Metropolis and killed what had to be millions in the process. Superman’s (Henry Cavill) been framed for a crime he didn’t commit and a pill-popping and hard-drinking Batman (Ben Affleck) wants to take the alien down since there’s a possibility that he’s so powerful that one day he’ll enslave humanity. Much of the movie follows the super frame up by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) which comes to a head with Batman battling Superman. But the plot of Batman v Superman is so paper thin and full of holes and the reason that Superman actually ends up fighting Batman is so dumb that it seems as if at every point the story of Batman v Superman started to work something would happen to derail everything and send the story crashing back down again.
I honestly feel like Batman v Superman is really an 1990s Image Comics movie and not a DC one since the movie really fits better with those Image comics than DC ones. Here, Superman and Batman exist mostly to grit their teeth and go after one and other no matter what the cost is to the general public. Be it Batman crashing through buildings with the Batmobile, which I’d assume some would have people inside, or beating seemingly innocent security guards so violently that one dies and has to have CPR by paramedics to try and save them. Superman is no better here. He has no qualms about crashing through buildings to go after terrorists who threaten Lois Lane (Amy Adams) or even fight and try to kill Batman when he feels like he has to do so.
Superman actually does go after terrorists here, which are a big part of this movie, but only when they threaten Lois Lane. I guess if you’re not her you’re on your own!
Whatever happened to the Superman willing to lay down his own life to protect others, or a Batman so affected by the death of his parents that he too would die if it meant saving just one life? Those aren’t the characters in Superman v Batman who’re ready to shoot/punch each other first and ask questions later be damned whoever gets caught in their colossal fisticuffs crossfire which is essentially the plot to every 1990s Image comic.
The one character who does come across as somewhat unscathed in Batman v Superman is that of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). She at least seems to be connected with her comic book source of being a fierce, independent warrior who doesn’t take guff lightly. I think the reason she comes off so well is that she’s got a lot less screen time than either Batman or Superman and thus less a chance of the writers of this film having her character do something stupid.
The Reading List
- Making A Nuclear Apocalypse: How The Iconic Sequence In ‘Terminator 2’ Was Created
- It’s All In The Reflexes: The Story Of The Contentious ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ Screenplay
- How Flight of the Conchords outlasted the hipster
- My Days Doing Atari Box Art
This week in pop-culture history
- 1940: Patrick Stewart, Captain Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Charles Xavier of the X-men films is born.
- 1984: The Last Starfighter premiers in theaters
- 1985: Explorers opens in theaters