PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 3]

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 3]

The third season of Peaky Blinders picks up about two years after season 2’s thrilling climax. Let’s check it out now [Note : Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the second season of Peaky Blinders].

After the successful coup on Derby Day to take over Sabatini’s racetrack gambling business and the killing of Major Campbell[along with Tommy’s all-too-close an encounter with death], we jump forward in time by about two years. Grace returned at the end of the second season, and the first episode begins with Thomas Shelby getting married to her. During the reception, a Russian refugee comes to the Shelbys and gives them a code for a money-exchange meeting between Tommy and an unknown other. Also, Tommy has entered into a deal with Father John Hughes and Co., not something Tommy wanted to be a part of, but something he can’t really help in his current situation. With the tensions between the Soviet and the British factions within the country increasing, Tommy is forced into a conspiracy  in which he has to plan and play both the sides to get out safe and sound. Can he and his Peaky Blinders gang survive this?

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                                                            One of the cool scenes…

Far as the setting and atmosphere are concerned, no worries about the creators messing them up; they do a clean job of conveying the conditions of the times perfectly, and the early-mid 1920s have been recreated well. But this was only expected from a team which has been consistent over two previous seasons. Also the pacing of the story has only increased, which is all to the better. Acting is top-notch as always. Some new characters have entered into the Peaky Blinders saga now. Chief among these are Paddy Considine playing Father John Hughes, and Gaite Jansen as Princess Tatiana Petrovna; both being nothing short of amazing. Just see for yourself, as revealing any details about their roles might spoil some of the sense of discovery to the viewers.

If you’ve watched and enjoyed the previous two seasons of Peaky Blinders, then there should be little stopping you from getting into the third installment as well. Great stuff as usual.

RATING : 8.6/10

PROS :
– even better pacing
– amazing new characters

 

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PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 2]

Anyone who has watched the first season of Peaky Blinders and enjoyed it, ought to sign up for its next installment too. So without further ado, let’s jump into this. [Note : If you haven’t watched the first season of the show yet, you might find some spoiler here, so keep away!]

The plot picks up after the dramatic happenings of the first season, with the guns being found thanks to Grace’s spying from the inside of the organization, followed by her taking her leave from the country, off to America. About a couple of years after these happenings, we return to the show, just in time for Freddie Thorne’s funeral. While they were attending the funeral, someone blows up the Shelby pub. When Tommy goes to confront those who he thinks were behind this atrocity, he winds up in yet another conspiracy, this time of an even greater magnitude than the one before. As if that were not enough, Tommy’s old, old friend, Chester Campbell, now a Major, makes his way back to Small Heath to settle scores with Tommy.

Also, Tommy’s plans of expanding his business to London is met with hostility by the Italian gangsters working under Sabini. So, to get a foothold in the city of London, Tommy decides to join hands with a Jewish gang working under Alfie Solomons, a difficult man to predict at the best of times. Arthur is losing his mind due to recurrent flashbacks of his experiences during the war, and Aunt Polly is trying to make contact with her long-lost children who had been forcibly taken away from her. So basically, a lot of stuff is under foot.

Anyone who has watched the first season of Peaky Blinders should feel right at home with the sequel’s pacing too. The plot is solid as expected, and the character development is brilliant. New characters make their way into the show, and at least two of them are awesome choices. Tom Hardy plays Alfie Solomons, the Jewish gangster, and his depiction of the role is intense, to say the least. Finn Cole’s role of Michael Gray is careful and calculated, and the actor fits into the role like it was made for him. And all the familiar cast is great as usual, no complaints there. Arthur Shelby’s role has now been more fleshed out, a welcome addition, if somewhat unsettling to watch.

Overall, a great follow up to a great show. Watch it immediately if you have watched the first season.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– all the positives of the first season
– new characters are great

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 1]

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 1]

As I might have said before once or twice, I’ve always been a big fan of British/Irish films. Especially the crime-type ones, with their gritty, dark humor throughout. So I thought, why not watch a series instead? And that’s the gist of how I came to watch Peaky Blinders.

The show is set in the immediate years after the first World War, in the town of Small Heath, Birmingham. It kicks off with the discovery of a robbery of ammunition and weapons from a BSA munitions factory, with some telltale signs of it being the work of the Peaky Blinders gang. This prompts none other than Winston Churchill himself, to send in a special branches officer to Small Heath to retrieve and possibly, apprehend the Peaky Blinders in the act. Meanwhile Thomas Shelby, a WW I veteran and head of the family, has taken over the family business of gambling and bookmaking in the town, and has grand plans for expansion. The arrival of the special branches officer, Inspector Campbell, complicates things for Tommy Shelby and family, and now begins a tense game of cat-and-mouse between Campbell and Tommy. Also, where the hell did the munitions go?

Image result for peaky blinders

                                                                       The Peaky boys…

The plot is pretty tight and is relatively free of flaws. It is a bit slow at the start, but that is something I’m sure most would be fine with if they stick with Peaky Blinders for more than two episodes. Also the setting of the post-WWI conditions has been faithfully recreated, with great attention to detail. The cast is filled with amazing actors; Cillian Murphy as the battle-scarred Thomas Shelby is beyond brilliant. So is Annabelle Wallis’ portrayal of Grace, a new barmaid at one of the Shelby bars, and Helen McCrory as Aunt Polly. But my personal favorite was Paul Anderson’s act of Arthur Shelby. Even I myself don’t know why this is the case.

Get on the Shelby train if you are a fan of atmospheric dramas and gangster stuff. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret the decision. Because the show is great. Unless you don’t like watching good shows. But I digress.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– setting is faithfully recreated
– awesome acting
– slow, tense buildup

CONS :
– slow pacing early on

 

THE PEOPLE VS O.J.SIMPSON : AMERICAN CRIME STORY

THE PEOPLE VS O.J.SIMPSON : AMERICAN CRIME STORY

After watching Making A Murderer, my interest was piqued regarding similar real-life incidents that shook the world. And I hit on this show by FX.

The year is 1994. Nicole Simpson, O.J’s ex-wife, and her friend Ronald Goldman, a waiter, are killed at Nicole’s house one night. Some of the police set off to notify O.J Simpson of his ex-wife’s death, but he is nowhere to be found. At the same time, preliminary evidence-gathering puts O.J in the vicinity of the crime scene, and on subsequent analysis O.J’s blood is found at the crime scene, along with that of the victims’. When the cops try to arrest O.J, he absconds with his friend A.C. Cowlings in his white Ford Bronco, and leads the police on a long-spanning low-speed chase, with O.J.Simpson threatening to blow his head off if he is arrested. After O.J and the police arrive at a compromise, he is taken into custody, and soon enough what will be known as the Trial of the Century starts up. Marcia Clark is handed over the reins for the prosecution’s case against O.J, while Robert Shapiro takes over as the lead attorney for the O.J.Simpson defense. Follow them as they build their case against each other, while more attorney are added to both of the teams as the show moves on forward.

Absolutely, 100% not guilty!!!

Regarding the setting of ACS, I can’t really say if it was faithfully recreated as I’m neither an American, nor was I around when all this stuff took place, but I’ll go along with it. But I must say, the acting was really awesome; my personal favorite was Courtney B Vance’s portrayal of Johnnie Cochran and Sarah Paulson’s Marcia Clark, they were absolutely phenomenal, if I may say so. And so was Sterling K Brown’s passionate performance in the role of Christopher Darden. And even if David Schwimmer and John Travolta may not appear for very long, they were  great as well. Only thing is, I’m doubtful about Cuba Gooding Jr. being cast in the titular role O.J “The Juice” Simpson. He does come across as a wee bit whiny and needy at times. And the pacing of ACS? That’s one thing you needn’t worry about, seeing as it never lets up at all.

Overall, if you are a fan of real-life documentaries and shows based on true incidents, this must definitely be on your radar. And even if you are not, still give it a try; it’s a great show, after all.

RATING : 8.6/10

PROS :
– great adaptation
– stellar acting
– good pacing

CONS :
– titular character comes across as a whiner sometimes

 

 

BLACK MIRROR [SEASON 1]

BLACK MIRROR [SEASON 1]

These days, I’ve started watching more TV series than I’ve ever watched before. Excepting my marathon through Breaking Bad, that is. In the course of my browsing through some shows I should watch, I came across Black Mirror, a British show about how technology can influence our lives in negative ways. So I thought to myself, “Hey, let’s try this out!”

Black Mirror is a show of just 3 episodes, each of which are about 40 – 60 minutes long, with each of the episodes containing their own self-contained story. The show goes where no other show has gone in its exploration of the dark things that just may happen due to over-dependence on technology. The first episode has one of the princesses of Britain kidnapped, with the ransom being that the Prime Minister has to perform a degrading act if he intends to get back the princess alive. And the other episodes are set in different locations and timelines too, probably, with their own tales to tell.

The acting in Black Mirror is pretty solid throughout the show. And the settings for the incidents are unique from what most would have seen in TV shows[unless you watch sci-fi stuff all the time]. The writing is pretty good for all the episodes, too. But what I found to be a bit inconceivable in the show, was the technology being used. Some of it felt a bit too far-fetched for me, but who knows, it might become the reality of the future. But the biggest weakness to me, was that it wasn’t altogether as special as I’d hoped; maybe my expectations from the show were a bit too unrealistic, but what I felt was that the later episodes couldn’t hold a candle to the pilot episode.

If you want to watch a psychological drama in a somewhat futuristic setting, try out Black Mirror.

RATING : 7.8/10

PROS :
– unique settings
– cool concepts
– good acting

CONS :
– later episodes aren’t as good as the pilot
– technology shown seems a bit too far-fetched, for now

 

MAKING A MURDERER

MAKING A MURDERER

Netflix has got it going on with really smart and thoughtful shows, I must say. I don’t really watch TV series much, but whatever offerings I’ve seen from Netflix have all been quality stuff. With the same confidence, I began watching Making A Murderer, a real-life thriller incident; the show spanning over ten years in the time-line. So, how good is it?

Steven Avery was a 23-year-old man convicted of rape and attempted murder in 1985, and was sentenced for thirty years in prison. But eighteen years into serving his sentence, DNA testing of the crime-scene evidence conclusively proves Avery’s innocence, and in fact proves that another convict was guilty of the crime Avery was jailed so long for. Looking into the case also shows many discrepancies in evidence-gathering and investigation by the police, and the corrupt nature of the local law enforcement is exposed. Avery is finally released in 2003.

Understandably pissed-off at the county police, Steven Avery sues them for $36 million, and begins preparing for the lawsuit. But within a few months, Avery is once again the prime suspect, this time for an even bigger crime, that of murder. The show takes the viewers through this high-profile case which made national headlines during its day, with the circumstances being all the more bizarre this time around. And this time, the county police seem to have caught him cold. What really happened? And who is the murderer? These are only a few of the questions we viewers are faced with at the beginning of the show, and some of them have not been answered, yet.

This show is a documentary of the events that transpired before and during the case, with the show looking mainly at the defense argument for the case. And as such, Making A Murderer makes use of only real-life footage, ranging from news clippings to court proceedings to interrogation and investigation footage. Not to forget the voice-overs and comments from the actual players in the case; the prosecution, the defense lawyers, the defendant Steven Avery and his family members, the witnesses and such. I like the fact that none of the events have been actual footage by the makers, as it really helps in maintaining the authenticity of the show. Also it must have saved the makers a lot of money, but that’s another matter entirely and is not worth our consideration.

And let’s get down to the business end of it; is the show any good? You bet. This is probably the best show I’ve seen in recent times, and if I have to compare, it is as intense as the final two seasons of Breaking Bad. In fact, Making A Murderer is so intense in its content that you’d want to binge-watch the whole show.  However this is almost impossible as emotions take over the viewers all the time, and may leave you too pissed-off at some of the incidents and the people, to the point where you really will need a break from the show. Also, kudos to the screen-writers  for maintaining the pacing of the show at a swift, trotting pace,so to speak. In these kinds of shows, it is very easy to mess up and drag out some events, or rush through others, but I’m glad to see the show not fall into the same old trap.

Overall, I would say Making A Murderer is one of the best shows I’ve ever watched until now. Those of you guys who want to believe in the criminal justice system, please watch this show at your own peril, as your trust may find itself getting eroded by the happenings.

RATING : 10/10

PROS :
– effective use of live footage
– intense and atmospheric
– great pacing

CONS :
– will probably make you lose faith in the justice system

STRANGER THINGS

STRANGER THINGS

This show wasn’t even on my radar. Until I started seeing just about everyone talk about how great it was. But I started getting curious about the show once I saw Stephen King recommending it on Twitter. So what did I do? Start watching Stranger Things, of course.

Stranger Things is set in the year of 1983 in a sub-urban Indiana town in US. We have four geeky friends Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair, Dustin Henderson and Will Byers. They of course get regularly bullied at school for studying what’s being taught by their teachers. After a 10-hour session of Dungeons&Dragons at Mike’s house during a weekend, Will disappears under mysterious circumstances on his way home. Now starts a town-wide search led by the alcoholic Chief Jim Hopper, the head of the town’s police force. Will’s mother Joyce Byers, starts having some really freaky experiences at their home, while the three remaining friends decide to search for their friend Will on their own. Meanwhile Nancy, Mike’s elder sister, starts making out with Steve Harrington, a popular guy in her school. During their searching expedition in a freezing rain, Mike&Co. find a girl with a shaved head, and Mike decides to take her home to give her a place to recuperate. Little do they know that she’s got mad skills[read : psychokinesis]. What does this girl have to do with Mike’s disappearance? Watch on to find out.

    The rescue party…

With government conspiracies, alternate-dimensions, telekinesis and some good old jump-scares, this show really packs a lot of ammo for the viewers. The story is pretty great; what’s even better is the way it has been presented. The screenplay is top-notch for this show, with three separate arcs being handled more than competently. It’s all too easy to have multiple arcs where some of them really kill off the pace and mood of the story, but Stranger Things is made of sterner stuff. And I also like how they did not over-use the horror sequences; quite often we see shows which overdo the jump-scares and come off worse for wear. But this show doesn’t fall into that trap.

Acting is brilliant in Stranger Things. The four kids playing the friends all do a great job at being the science-loving geeky types. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, is pretty funny too. Natalia Dyer who plays Nancy is somewhat annoying as a character, but that’s exactly how the role was supposed to be, so no complaints on that. Winona Ryder is stellar in her performance of a concerned mother who doesn’t give up hope for Will even though she has to deal with all sorts of stuff, and with David Harbour[Chief Jim Hopper], they together make a fantastic lead. But the one who really carries the show is Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, the girl of few words and mad skills. She is sensationally good in her role. I may have missed out on a few other actors, but it’s only because there are so many of them in the show who have been well fleshed-out.

Only thing that really seems a bit unbelievable to me, is the Wheeler parents’ lack of any knowledge whatsoever about their kids’ lives. But hell, we’ve seen stranger things than that, right?

With brilliant use of jump scares alongside the persistently bleak ambience, Stranger Things is one of the best shows of this season, and becomes yet another reason for Netflix sign-ups to go through the roof. Recommended for everyone who wants to watch something awesome*.

RATING : 9.3/10

PROS :
– bleakly atmospheric
– Stephen King-like plot
– awesome cast

CONS :
– Wheeler parents felt a bit too off to me

* Those with photosensitive epilepsy should keep away from watching Stranger Things. The show makes heavy use of strobing light effects during some of the scenes.