Tag Archive | Banshee

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Third-episode verdict: Quarry (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)

Posted on September 28, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerQuarry.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Fridays, 10pm, Cinemax
In the UK: Sky Atlantic. Starts October

Good direction can go a long way towards making a not-great show seem better. Quarry is such a show, benefitting pretty much with every scene from Greg Yaitanes' direction. The former Banshee exec producer and director might not have created Quarry, but directing every episode of this first season, he's certainly made his mark on what is simultaneously both Banshee and 'anti-Banshee'.

As I pointed out in my review of Quarry's first episode, thematically the two shows have a lot in common, with Logan Marshall-Green's ex-Vietnam-vet turned hitman 'Quarry' enduring a lost love, the lure of a criminal lifestyle that draws him in and the simultaneous acknowledgement of crime's costs, just as Banshee's 'Lucas Hood' had to experience. Since then we've also had greater emphasis on Damon Herriman, the gay fellow criminal who helps Marshall-Green, who is the Job of the piece.

But while Banshee was also often very beautiful to look at, it was a fast-paced, modern show that revelled in its pulp origins and ultra-violence, whereas Quarry wants to be a languid, visual, 70s, noirish piece that finds violence upsetting. All Quarry's acts of violence are coming back to haunt him, practically in every scene, whether they're his alleged war crimes from Vietnam or the murders he committed in the first episode.

The ex-soldier turned hitman isn't exactly a new trope, but it's more or less only Yaitanes' direction and the largely non-American cast that lift it out of the ordinary and into the realm of quality TV. Would the second episode have been much good without the bravura first person POV car chase? Not a chance. Indeed, the whole show could have been a slower moving, slightly less ridiculous Blindspot if it had had a different director. 

But visuals can only get you so far. Quarry's plot is slow-moving, its characters unappealing, its message muddled and confused. It's not saying or doing anything you won't have heard before in countless genre shows and movies. In fact, it's probably saying less, and you could have watched Peter Mullan doing more or less the same act he's doing here over on ITV in The Fixer for free.

Nevertheless, just as you would look at a painting for its aesthetics rather than its plot, you could certainly watch Quarry just to see some genuine innovation in visual storytelling on US TV. The story itself is no great shakes, but the visuals could keep you going for a whole season. 

Barrometer rating: 3
TMINE prediction: Might make it to a second season, but a harder sell for Cinemax than Banshee

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Review: Quarry 1x1 (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)

Posted on September 16, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Cinemax's Quarry

In the US: Fridays, 10pm, Cinemax
In the UK: Sky Atlantic. Starts October

As fans of The Great British Bake Off have recently discovered, format rights are very important these days. In fact, there have been 60-odd legal disputes over format rights around the world, over the years.

This is odd, since legally, there's no such thing as format rights. After all, it's one thing to argue that as you created suave British superspy James Bond, someone else writing books about suave British superspy James Bond without your permission is doing something untoward; it's quite another to argue that no one else should be able to make a TV show that involves amateur cooks making cakes.

Of course, there's a grey area somewhere between those two extremes. How about books featuring British superspy? Or superspies of any nationality? Or just regular spies? What about baking competitions that have a host called Mary Berry and all the same rounds as The Great British Bake Off, that's called The Pretty Good British Bake On?

It's somewhere lurking in this middle ground that we found Quarry, Cinemax's latest excursion into adventure, drama, things being shot and ladies getting naked. It stars Logan Marshall-Green of Traveler, Dark Blue and Prometheus fame as a soldier returning home to Memphis after the Vietnam War, where he discovers not only that veterans aren't that welcome, particularly ones implicated in rather heinous massacres, but also that jobs aren't that common. However, the rather mysterious Peter Mullan (Miss Julie, Red Riding, My Name is JoeTyrannosaur) is willing to pay him and fellow war buddy Jamie Hector (The Wire) rather a lot of money to put their soldiering skills to work killing people, and before you know it, the body count is piling up.

If that sounds a bit familiar, it's because of one of two things. 

  1. You've read Max Allen Collins' Quarry series of books on which the show is based
  2. You've seen ITV's The Fixer, in which a war veteran who's done some bad things ends up killing people for Peter Mullan.

The shows aren't exactly 100% identical and the Quarry series was written way before The Fixer. But with the very Scottish Peter Mullan playing a very Southern but otherwise identical 'tough bastard boss'? Hmm. That does not to me coincidence say.

If only format rights were real, ITV might be having some quiet words with Cinemax right now.

As well as being a relocated Fixer, Quarry also has a lot in common with Cinemax's own Banshee, beyond simply the involvement of Greg Yaitanes. 'Quarry' - as Marshall-Green soon becomes known - is returning to a lost love whose love he might have lost (Jodi Balfour); he's come back brutalised by his experiences and has to adapt to normal life again; there's the lure of criminal life and its rewards but the acknowledgement of its costs, particularly in the lives of people we care about as well as of normality; there's a sexually fluid and amusing fellow criminal (Damon Herriman - last seen as a trans spy in Australia's Secret City); and practically everyone in the cast is from outside the US (Mullan - British; Balfour - South African; Herriman - Australian; Nikki Amuka-Bird - Nigerian-British).

But the tone's different - whereas Banshee was pure pulp that both transcended and embraced its trashier qualities, Quarry wants to be something greater, something more noirish, something more philosophical. As well as lapping up its period setting, the mid-70s being a respite from the omnipresent 80s nostalgia we're currently experiencing, Yaitanes also gives us all the directorial tricks he can throw our way, ranging from flashforwards and dream sequences to odd camera angles and compositions. And both Marshall-Green and that non-American cast list are top-tier acting talent - they're not here for the shootouts. 

While the feature-length first episode was a little too long and a little too exploitative for its own good, Quarry made a good start, clearly setting itself up to be Banshee mark 2, a more refined show that should still appeal to the same audience but which isn't going to dwell in the realm of the hyper-violent and could draw in more discerning viewers as a result. The producers need to work a little on making the characters more appealing, as pretty much everyone is either too messed up or too criminal for you to want to spend much time with them. But they have the foundations they need in place, plenty of source material to work with (including The Fixer) and a decent story to tell, so I'll be tuning to see waht they do with it all.

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What have you been watching? Including Lady Dynamite, Vis a Vis (Locked Up), Banshee and DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Posted on May 23, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. 

It's the last WHYBW? for a little while, since I'm off on holiday next week. Fingers crossed, it'll be back on the 6th, but don't be surprised if the 10th or more likely the 11th is the actual date. You know me.

There have been a few new shows this week, although the networks oddly decided to start them on Friday and over the weekend for the most part, meaning that I haven't had a chance to watch most of them yet. Preacher (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Prime) started airing last night, but Amazon crazily got its act together and gave me access to previews of the first three episodes. However, it only gave me access on Friday, so it might be a couple of days before I get through all three of them. Also coming this week (more crossed fingers - how many hands do you have?) is a preview of Outcast (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic).

But I have managed to watch a couple of new shows:

Lady Dynamite (Netflix)
Yet another "promises much, offers little" comedy from Netflix, with Maria Bamford the actress/comedienne playing 'Maria Bamford', the actress/comedienne, as she navigates family, life, mental illness, stand-up comedy, acting, etc. Coming from Pam Brady and Mitchell Hurwitz of Arrested Development fame, you'd expect a lot more of Lady Dynamite than you would of normal comedies. It certainly thinks it's better than normal comedies, playing with form and convention, from its 70s-style title sequence, its breaking of the fourth wall and having Patton Oswalt and John Mulaney turn up to critique the show's narrative choices, through to Bamford fight-tuning the colour balance for the video of the scene by asking the editor to adjust it.

But despite watching the show for an episode and a half, I didn't laugh once. I admired its cleverness, its time jumps and more. But I didn't laugh. I was also very irritated by Bamford, who's as close to the female equivalent of Pee Wee Herman as it's possible to get, I suspect. And following on as it does from Netflix's Flaked, perhaps I had less patience than I once did for YA show about a dysfunctional, self-involved Californian.

Then again, I never really laughed at Arrested Development, so YMMV.

Vis a Vis (Locked Up) (Spain: Antena 3; UK: Channel 4)
Young woman gets sent to prison and meets lots of other women of varying degrees of friendliness. The first 15 minutes or so are basically Orange Is the New Black again, but after that, the show becomes more of a thriller, with our friendly little office worker having to learn to survive inside. If you want to box-set it, all 11 episodes are now on All 4, but I didn't find it particularly arresting (see what I did there?).

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, The Americans, Arrow, The Flash, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the season finale of DC's Legends of Tomorrow and the series finale of Banshee

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