American Gods – Episode 4

After a string of episodes directed by David Slade, Craig Zobel (Compliance) takes over for episode 4 of American Gods. It’s not the only major change-up. Following Episode 3’s reveal of ‘alive’ Laura awaiting Shadow in his motel room, Episode 4 is devoted entirely to how she got there, going all the way back to when she and Shadow first met.

There’s no ‘Coming to/Somewhere in America’ interlude, no Mr. Wednesday, not really much in the way of new characters. Heck, the only god to appear at all is Anubis, who we met last week. Diverting almost completely from previous episodes’ form, this excellent episode is primarily a nuanced character study of a multifaceted, unhappy woman, albeit one still packed with plenty of weird stuff and dark comedy – this year, you will believe a revenant woman can excrete embalming fluid…

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The Secret Scripture (Jim Sheridan, 2016)

The most striking moment in Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture occurs in the very first scene, as a soft Irish voice repeatedly states, “My name is Rose McNulty. I did not kill my child.”

Older and younger incarnations of Rose are played by Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara respectively. The former dictates an account of her misfortunes to a psychologist, Dr Grene (Eric Bana), as documented in the graffitied bible she’s kept hidden during her plus 40-year stay in a psychiatric hospital. She’s been there since the waning days of World War Two, admitted under accusations of both infanticide and nymphomania. Convinced the son she had snatched away from her is still alive, the older Rose argues her case…

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American Gods – Episode 3

It probably says something about American Gods’ somewhat assaultive nature that an episode where a man is suddenly, and gruesomely, impaled by a pole flying through his car windshield feels pretty tame. That bit of goriness aside, as well as a brief moment with Mad Sweeney pulling a shard of glass out of his cheek, “Head Full of Snow”, the third episode of the series, is relatively free of the show’s ostentatious violence to date…

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The Levelling (Hope Dickson Leach, 2016)

The phrase “quietly devastating” can be a tad overused in the realm of film criticism, but it’s all too appropriate when a modestly scaled film, one largely dealing with a tragedy with unsentimental honesty, manages to hit you like a ton of bricks with even the smallest moment of uplift. Such is the case with The Levelling, the impressive, assured feature debut of writer-director Hope Dickson Leach…

Full review for The Skinny

Tramps (Adam Leon, 2016)

Back in 2012, American director Adam Leon made his feature debut with Gimme the Loot, which concerned two graffiti artists looking to tag an iconic landmark as revenge against a rival gang, but needing to raise $500 prior to pulling off their grand scheme. A shaggy two-hander caper that was short and sweet, Gimme the Loot was a film that thrived on the chemistry of its two young leads and an evocation of a side of New York City rarely given much attention in contemporary cinema. It recalled much of the spirit of early Richard Linklater and lighter Jean-Luc Godard fare, as well as the humanist, music-heavy films of the late Jonathan Demme, the latter of whom lent the US release of Gimme the Loot a “Jonathan Demme Presents” credit to help it out.

A few years on, Leon is back with Tramps, under the Netflix Originals banner, which concerns a very different pair of young protagonists, but is a film of a similar mould – a romp through upstate and city-based New York that’s thin on narrative, but high on energy. The caper plot this time around involves a briefcase swap deal that goes wrong, the full specifics of which are so vague as to be inconsequential; Tramps is more about the mischief of the matter than the danger. One’s mileage may vary as to how important that lack of, uh, importance is, but details such as what’s actually in the briefcase, or where it’s from, are besides the point for the tone Leon (who co-wrote the film) is going for…

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American Gods – Episodes 1 & 2

Following a slew of production attempts over the years, including an HBO incarnation and at least one stab at a feature film, Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods, a phantasmagorical journey through the immigrant experience and soul of America, finally receives the television treatment – and it gets off to an intense, haunting start…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams