Viola Davis

How To Get Away With Murder, Ep. 1.14 and 1.15: “The Night Lila Died” and “It’s All My Fault” stick the landing

How To Get Away With Murder wraps up its season with a two-hour finale that solves the central mystery while leaving some questions unanswered. Some of the episode is a slog, padded out by yet another snoozy case of the week, but the last 10 minutes are as suspenseful as anything on television. If Peter Norwalk and the writers can figure out how to drop the procedural element of the show and more fully explore the actions of the regular characters, some of whom are not much more fleshed out than when the series began, the show will be much improved in season 2.

‘Blackhat’ is a cyber-thriller that makes Solitaire look exciting

Blackhat is a cyber-thriller that starts out boring and ends dumb. It’s almost unimaginable that a gifted director like Michael Mann, responsible for, arguably, the best crime-thriller of the last 30 years in Heat, could helm a film so utterly bereft of tension or drama. Not even his signature hyper-stylized aesthetic can disguise what a lackluster film this is. From the unimaginative script to the indifferent editing, Blackhat needs a complete overhaul to escape the basement of Mann’s distinguished filmography.

How to Get Away With Murder, Ep. 1.06, “Whack-a-Mole” addresses race and injustice head on

Six weeks into fall and How to Get Away With Murder is the biggest hit of the new season and one of the most watched shows on television. Viewers are connecting with its potent mix of legal procedural, murder mystery, and soap opera. They also must be connecting with the character of Annalise Keating, a woman as complicated as has ever been seen on network television, and where the question of her likability, or lack thereof, is deemed completely irrelevant on the strength of Viola Davis’s masterful performance. Annalise is an idealist and a hypocrite, passionate and calculating, funny and terrifying. But is she a good person? The creators trust their audience’s intelligence not to even bother asking that question.

How to Get Away With Murder, Ep. 1.01, “Pilot” is TV’s newest obsession

How to Get Away With Murder, the new ABC drama from writer Peter Norwalk and executive producer Shonda Rimes, has the potential to drive off the rails at any moment. The premise it sets up for itself (spoiler alert: it’s a murder) cannot sustain itself for more than a season. Its characters, a group of ambitious law students, are pitched at tones ranging between frantic and rabid. Its procedural elements are nothing that would be out of place on a Dick Wolf show. But the one element that gives me utter confidence that this show is worth watching, besides Shondaland’s unquestionable track record, is the central performance of Viola Davis, one of the great American actresses of our time. Her role as Annalise Keating, criminal law professor at Philadelphia’s fictional Middleton University, shows herself to be charismatic, intelligent, and supremely manipulative in just a handful of scenes. She’s a predator with flashes of humanity. If the writing holds up, Davis will be able to create an antihero in the league of Tony Soprano and Walter White.

‘Ender’s Game’ a suitably entertaining, if very condensed, young-adult adaptation

Condensing a popular young adult book to its most basic and necessary parts is an unenviable task. No matter how passionate the filmmakers are to the original text, someone’s bound to be disappointed. No film adaptation can satisfy every fan; it doesn’t matter how hard you try. Take out one character or rewrite them to be minimal, and you’re doomed.

‘Prisoners’ is an engrossingly gruelling drama soaked in blood, grief and indefensible deception

Overstuffed with an A-list cast, Denis Villeneuve’s (Incendies, Polytechnique) Prisoners is a funereal and often shocking meditation on what people are capable of doing for their loved ones. Permeated with savagery and blood, this is a film that forces ghastly situations on the audience which they’ve likely seen before but are hopefully not entirely numb to processing from a victim’s point of view. The drive behind what holds a family together for better or worse is showcased in painful detail. Gruesome, agonizing, and distressing, Prisoners goes for the jugular and leaves everyone wincing at the hideous view of the human condition that it leaves in its wake.

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