Why so series? – Penny Dreadful

Yay, I’m not dead.

So, about that show I most recently watched.

Penny Dreadful is a good series.

To start, Penny Dreadful is grotesque, haunting and very slow-paced. If you’re looking for a fast-paced series with many twists and turns, you should back away.

Penny Dreadful chronicles the misadventures of Vanessa Ives and company, mostly made up of sad souls that find themselves on the wrong side of the supernatural and often fighting for their lives. The main story-lines revolve mostly around Miss Ives, but the rest of the cast are well fleshed-out.

The main cast of season one, with a notable exclusion. (From left, Ethan Chandler, Brona Croft, Victor Frankenstein, Vanessa Ives, Dorian Gray, Sir Malcolm Murray, Sembene)

Miss Vanessa Ives (brilliantly played by Eva Green, but we’ll get back to her) is a woman that is haunted by many demons, both personal and literal. She forms a team with an old friend of the family, and a rag-tag group of broken men as she seeks to save not only her father-figure’s real daughter and herself from unfathomable evils.

Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) is a famous explorer, having mapped big parts of Africa and intends to return for more (especially to look for the elusive source of the Nile). He’s a close ally of Vannessa, as their families were very close, and acts as her father-figure. He searches for his lost daughter Mina, and is haunted by his dead son Peter, who he left in a shallow grave in Africa.

Ethan Chandler (played by Josh Hartnett) is an American gun-show performer and former soldier recruited to the not-quite-merry band by Ives. He initiates a relationship with Brona Croft  in his personal time and during “work hours”, he finds out about a world few know exist in the shadows. He also harbours quite the dark secret.

Brona Croft (played by Billie Piper) is a prostitute that enters a relationship with Ethan. She’s suffering from tuberculosis, and also crosses path with a certain local handsome lad.

Sembene (Danny Sapani) is a servant of Malcolm’s he acquired somehow in Africa. Sembene’s past is a mystery, but his loyalty to the cause is unquestionable.

Dorian Gray (yeah, him – played by Reeve Carney) is a beautiful young man, indulging in sensuality for the most-part of the show. Has his classic painting to keep him young.

Doctor Victor Frankenstein (yes, that one too – played here by Harry Treadwell) is a local arrogant doctor, obsessed with the pursuit of the essence of life. He wants to create an immortal being. He’s extremely socially inept and rather dismissive of the group’s intentions, but finds himself drawn to the action anyway. Now you can probably figure out the last cast member.

Frankenstein’s Monster (Rory Kinnear) is just that. He returns to haunt his creator and demands that Frankenstein creates a wife for him. He has some interesting interactions with the rest of the cast that are of stark contrast to his antagonistic relationship with Frankenstein.

The story these characters are drawn into is very good and simple. It’s a bit predictable at times, but it works well. It lacks direction for long stretches of each season, but I find it works for the show in general.

About the quality of the acting; Eva Green absolutely owns the screen as Vanessa Ives. If anybody doubts her capabilities as an actress, I really don’t know how. She gives you nearly every facet of Miss Ives, from happiness to absolute rock bottom. Her mannerisms, her voice, fucking everything. She’s the best actress on TV by far.

Also great is Harry Treadwell as Victor Frankenstein. His performance is absolutely stellar, and it makes it a treat to watch Frankenstein grow into a man on screen. I’ll be keeping an eye out for him in other projects.

pennydreadful-frank

One of my negatives is Dorian Gray. I’m not very fond of the show’s take on the character – Or the character in general. He’s just rather boring and has little impact. He does however improve in season two, and has probably the best side-story. Much better when he’s being played straight, instead of having him strut around and recite poems like a love-sick philosopher. It looks as if he’ll have a big part in season 3, where he might end up being the main villain.

pennydreadful-dorian

The villains are also rather uninteresting, even if the ones of the second season are far better. Still, the show plays it off well and instead puts more focus on how the “heroes” deal with the situations at hand.

Without spoiling much, the second season is a considerable improvement on the first one, with the stakes being raised and the characters being put in more interesting situations.

The series is gorgeous and the setting is very well presented.

The second season has a story arc about sexuality that was surprisingly effective, and proves that the Dorian Gray character can work with a bit of set-up and not just having him walk around being fabulous. Then it’s just thrown away rather abruptly, which made the whole thing feel like a waste.

The show is also very noir, in the way it treats it’s characters. They usually walk head-long into sadness or deny themselves happiness. Not a whole lot of sunshine and puppies around.

In closing, Penny Dreadful is an excellent ensemble drama with a variety of characters and personalities that usually work well together. It’s quite slow-paced, but is well-worth sticking with. Filled to the brim with spectacular performances – especially that of Green – it’s a constant treat to watch. Very highly recommended.

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Film-night: And Soon The Darkness

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Yay, I watched a film.

Sadly,

And Soon The Darkness is a bad film.

Well, there you have it. It’s such a shame, too, because the premise looks great: “When two American girls on a bike trip in a remote part of Argentina split up and one of them goes missing, the other must find her before her worst fears are realized.” (thanks, IMDB – coincidentally I nabbed all the images from there as well) It’s a simple, but effective premise, leaving lots of room for twists and great acting. Sadly, this film has almost none of each.

So, you might just assume that this is a b-flick with a list of b-actors. Not true. The film’s three leads are bona fide great actors. Let’s see who they are, then.

Amber Heard, who is surely most remembered for action (Drive Angry) or comedy (Pinapple Express), is the one you’d expect to throw out a hammy performance making us cringe. Not the case. She’s the best out of the three main draws in the film. She also had the best material to work with, so she had a bit of a handicap. She plays Stephanie, the more sensible of the female lead duo, and is the one who is sent on a depressing chase after her friend is kidnapped. She also seems to have a bad track-record with guys, and is thinking about getting back with her ex, who we’re told isn’t a great dude.

Odette Annable (at that time, known as Odette Yustman – fun fact, she was in Kindergarten Cop with Arnie), who you might know from her stint on House, plays the party-girl of the duo, Ellie. She’s hot and she knows it, flirting around with the lads. After a small fight with her friend, she ends up being kidnapped, and largely disappears from the film. Pretty bland character that we’re not really told to root for. There’s almost a relief when she ends up being kidnapped, because her friend is by far the better person.

Karl Urban plays a guy. Really though, his name is Michael, and he’s a brooding, mysterious guy who keeps showing up around the girls. It saddens me to see Urban get such a shitty role, because he’s a fantastic actor. He brings a cool and actually rather creep vibe to Michael, but not enough to make him truly remember-able in the long run.

Special mention goes to César Vianco, who puts in a great performance as corrupt and incredibly creepy policeman Calvo.

To the story, then. Two girls are on a trip in Argentina with some sort of cycling expedition. They break away from the group, to spend the night in some seedy area and go dancing, with plans to join the bus the day after. Which they do, and then they go on in peace. Ha, no. They of course almost get in trouble as Ellie picks up a dude, who turns out to be pretty aggressive in wanting to bed her. After Michael pops out to intervene, the man is chased off. The not-so-dynamic duo end up missing the bus and decide to see the sights while they’re there. They go to a waterfall, and end up having a little fight when Steph wants to go see the caves. While they are separated, the aggressive lad from last night shows up and kidnaps Ellie. Stephanie shows back up and can’t find her friend. Michael shows up from nowhere, and creeps her out. He claims to be a nice guy and wants to help her. We later find out that Michael is looking for his friend (or girlfriend, I really can’t remember), who also went missing. Apparently, girls have been kidnapped here for some time and then smuggled off to Paraguay. Ellie would apparently fetch a good price, as she is American. And so the two go off on a hunt for Ellie, in the hopes they aren’t too late.

The thing that makes the film bad is that it’s so unbearably predictable. Everything happens as you suspected it would. Spoilers are below. I also watched The Hunter, which is a much better film. I’ll try to write some words about it later. If you like the concept of And Soon The Darkness, but didn’t like the film or were persuaded to avoid it – check out Eden Lake. Very similar film, but done correctly. I’ll warn you, though: It’s very disturbing.

To no-one’s surprise, they take help from a cop that turns out to be a corrupt arse-hole, and are forced to do the looking on their own. Stephanie stumble onto the right place to find Ellie, but is noticed by the guy who kidnapped her friend. A chase starts, but ends abruptly as the man shoves Ellie onto a rock, and she dies. Well, that happened rather sudden, indeed. Stephanie goes blind with anger and attacks the man, when Calvo and Michael shows up (Michael had earlier been caught by Calvo when looking around – both knows the other guy knows about them and it’s a nice little cat-and-mouse game between them, which is the only intriguing part of the film. In a surprising moment, Michael gives in to the lure of being able to see the girl he’s looking for and ends up being shot and killed by Calvo. Damn, you don’t see that happen often in films. At this stage, it’s apparent that it’s a damned bleak film. Calvo and the guy captures Stephanie and plans to sell her. Things go awry and in the end, Stephanie ends up killing Calvo. I was kind of disappointed. It was well on it’s way to being another Eden Lake (if you haven’t yet, look it up – endlessly disturbing film) but then copped out a generic ending with Steph getting away clean.

What the fuck, though. Nothing ends well, no lessons are learned and Stephanie just goes away and probably goes into a depression. No story was really told all the way through. To best describe ASTD would be to say it’s a series of unfortunate events. It’s not a good film in any way and should not be viewed by anyone, other than to see the brilliant acting of César Vianco as the creepiest fucking policeman EVER.