If you are a devotee of time travel...

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Your Honor 2.2-2.3: Who Knows What?

The second (and final) season of Your Honor continues to be as riveting and wrenching as the first.

[Spoilers follow ... ]

Adam and Fia's baby continues to be a moving, beautiful star attraction.  The scene of Desiato and Baxter standing over his crib at the end of the third episode was letter perfect.  The two grandpas, no love lost between them, standing over the one person in the world they both so deeply loved.  Night and day meeting over a young dawn.

But the true nature of Baxter is still not completely clear.  In episode 2.2, he almost seems weak, especially in comparison to his wife's implacable expression of power and thirst for revenge.  In contrast, in 2.3, we see him assuring his consigliere Frankie that he would have killed Adam on the spot had he known that it was Adam not Michael driving the car that killed Rocco.  Indeed, the only thing that stopped Baxter from killing Adam last season was Eugene accidentally doing that, first.  And although Gina leaves her nasty argument with her husband still defiant, he made it clear in that room that he was boss, at least in his own head.  I had a feeling, watching that scene, that Jimmy might kill her, or try to kill her, before this season is over.

Meanwhile, it seems we still don't for a fact whether Fia knows or doesn't know that Adam killed her brother.  I'd say she doesn't know.  Adam was close to telling her last season.  But his getting killed got in the way of that confession.  Jimmy, however, did know, which raises the question of why, then, didn't he tell his daughter?  He certainly can't be happy that Adam's name comes right after Rocco's in Jimmy's grandson.

Or perhaps Fia does know, but her love for Adam, and the fact that Rocco's death was an accident, allows her to live with it, and draw Michael in to be his grandson.  This is a story of Shakespearean proportions.  That was already clear in the first season, and the family ties and conflicts are even more trenchant and inscrutable now in the second season.

See also Your Honor 2.1: Scorching

And see also Your Honor 1.1: Taut Set-Up ... Your Honor 1.2: "Today Is Yesterday" ... Your Honor 1.3: The Weak Link ... Your Honor 1.4: The Dinner ... Your Honor 1.5: The Vice Tightens ... Your Honor 1.6: Exquisite Chess Game ...Your Honor 1.7: Cranston and Stuhlbarg Approaching Pacino and De Niro ... Your Honor 1.8: Nothing More Important ... Your Honor 1.9: Screeching Up to the Last Stop Before Next Week's Finale ... Your Honor 1.10: Final Irony

Friday, January 27, 2023

Criminal Minds: Evolution 16.6-16.8: Better Than Ever on Paramount Plus

Back with a review of the last three episodes of the revitalized Criminal Minds on Paramount Plus -- 16.6, 16.7, 16-8 -- and revitalized is exactly what we got.  These three episodes tightened all the various stories underway, including the BAU's search for Elias the master of the serial killer network, the BAU's fight with the FBI, and most of the personal stories of the BAU's team.

Zack Gilford continues to do an impressive job as the master villain Elias.  It was good to see more of him with his family, and the increasing difficulty he has of reconciling and managing that with his serial killer endeavors.  More on his family in a few paragraphs.

[Spoilers follow ... ]

Penelope's personal life is the most happy at this point.  Sleeping with Tyler the good-looking material witness, despite Emily's explicit directive not to do that, was a good move on Penelope's part.  In a funny scene that typifies that more realistic portrayal of the Criminal Minds characters on Paramount Plus, Luke and Tara quickly realize that Penelope's good mood stems from her "getting some".  Of course they would realize what's come over Penelope -- after all, they're profilers, right?  The language has also become more realistic on Criminal Minds on Paramount Plus, and this adds spice to the stories told.  All that's missing in this new Criminal Minds for it to be in full R-rated territory is a little nudity.  But we don't get that much of that in any kind of television these days.

The other personal stories are not as happy, but it was good to see that A. J's husband's cancer is not getting worse.  Tara's pushing her significant other to help the BAU on a crucial case resulted in the two breaking up.   Personal relationships have always been a challenge for the BAU and its seven days a week, 24 hours a day schedule.

But the BAU is getting a boost from FBI Deputy Director Doug Bailey, who is turning out to be an important ally and champion of the BAU.  I expect he'll be playing a permanent role in the series as it moves into the next season.

I'll conclude with one important part of the narrative I didn't quite get -- indeed, it's the dramatic, cliff-hanging conclusion of 16.8, with Rossi knocking on Elias's door in Seattle, and his wife opening it, shortly after we see Elias calling her and telling her he'll be home in a few hours.   A little earlier, Penelope told Rossi that he would have a huge number of homes to search.  What's the likelihood that Rossi would get so lucky so quickly?  Or, for that matter, that Rossi would get to that house when Elias was due to return so soon?

I'm very much looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the concluding two episodes of this season, and I'll be back here with a review.

See also Criminal Minds: Evolution 16.1-16.4: Outstanding! ... 16.5: Assessment of What Could Have Happened at the End


Some reviews of episodes from earlier seasons:


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In-Depth Discussion of Golden Age Science Fiction


If classic science fiction is your cuppa tea, you might enjoy this in-depth interview about  A. E. Van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, capped off with a reading of my alternate history story about John Lennon, "It's Real Life", which can read in its entirety, for FREE, right here.

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Last of Us 1.1-1.2: The Fungus Among Us

So why would I watch yet another post-apocalyptic series -- apocalypse caused by some biological agent?  I mean, aren't Station Eleven, Y, not to mention our real COVID-19 pandemic enough?  And for that matter, the endless Walking Deads, which I stopped watching a while before COVID hit?  Well, yes.  But something moved me to watch the first two episodes of The Last of Us on HBO Max, and here I am reviewing them, and telling you I'm going to watch the rest of the episodes of this inaugural season.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

I mean, this new series, based on a game I've never played, doesn't fool around.  Joel, one of the lead characters, sees his daughter shot to death in the first attempts of our military to stop the spread of the fungus that turns anyone who's bitten in a violent monster.  That was at the beginning of the first episode.  And tonight, at the end of the second episode, we see Anna Torv's character apparently killing herself because she was bitten and needs to stop of hoard of fungus heads.  She's an icon of science fiction, having burst on the scene and distinguished herself in Fringe.  Well, maybe she's not dead, given my principle that if you don't see someone blown to bits they could still be alive.  Or, maybe we'll see more of Torv in flashbacks.

Meanwhile, Joel, portrayed by Pedro Pascal who was so good in Narcos, is alive and kicking, as he and the spunky, wisecracking young Ellie (Bella Ramsey) are maybe heading West.  Ellie at this point looks to be carrying the cure to this fungus, which so far has resisted all medications and vaccines.  She has been bitten and so far has not gotten sick or fungus-head homicidal.  Joel is beginning to appreciate this.

I do have a question about Ella, though. She said she was what, 14?  But the fungus hit some 10 years ago.  So, how did she get what seems to be such good knowledge of history and culture -- which presumably began crumbling pretty quickly after the fungus took hold.  Could a four-year old have been that precocious?

We'll just have to see.  And I'll be back here with more reviews after I see more of this series.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Chasing the Ghost: A Horror Movie with a Drug Warning

So how's this for a low-budget movie with actors I've never seen on the screen before, a horror movie that is in effect a nearly two hour PSA (public service announcement) on the dangers and damages of drug addiction not just to you but your family and close friends?  I'd say Chasing the Ghost, which I just saw for free here on tubi (also a site I'm seeing for the first time) does a pretty good job of it.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'd say this odd, compelling movie is memorable.

The set-up is the curse that's put upon our hero: either stay constantly high, or your beloved family and close friends will die, one by one, in no predictable order, so there's really no way you can warn them.  How Clay deals with this I won't tell you (hence no spoiler warning), and I certainly won't tell you the ending, which was a bit of a twist, but I guessed would happen, but that's ok, the movie still worked for me just fine.

The narrative is fleshed out by all kinds of nice touches, ranging from light through Venetian blinds on characters that makes them look a bit like extra-terrestrials to a hot sex scene with an even hotter sex song that I also never heard before.  (I couldn't find any identification of the singer or the songwriter either in the credits at the end of the film or on IMDb).  And most of the action takes place in front of buildings that look like the Grand Concourse in the Bronx back in the 1950s -- which adds a Gothic flavor these days -- but probably is someplace much else.

Don Pesta as Clay was excellent, as was Nicole Alexander as his significant other Neveah, and Solo Lucci as Dion (not from Dion and the Belmonts, this Dion is the entity who puts the curse on Clay).  The rest of the acting was ok, as was the background music, which had a suitable 1950s B-movie ambience.

I can even imagine this movie being shown in schools as an effective warning about drugs.  On the other hand, that sex scene with that song ...

Fauda 4: Very Much Alive and Wounded

Fauda is like no other military, espionage series I've ever seen, showing so many sides of a story in so much life and death and depth, in this case, Israelis, Palestinians, and other peoples in the area and further away.  Watching a season is an immersion in these cultures, and an exploration of complex personal relationships under pressure, interspersed with breakneck military battles and operations.

[And that's the most I'll say before I alert you to spoilers ahead.]

Fauda 4 opens up with Doron and other members of his team in various stages of wanting to retire.  This only progresses as the 12 episodes unfold.

The kidnapping of Gabi, and the plan of the Palestinian team that kidnapped him to launch missiles against Israel, are the main objects of our team's focus on stopping.   As in previous seasons, let's just say that they don't succeed as quickly and as entirely as they would like, if they succeed at all.  Again, this reflects Fauda's uncompromising mirror of reality, however painful that may be.

Lior Raz, star of the series as Doron, and co-creator with Avi Issacharoff, once again puts in a powerhouse performance, as does everyone else in Fauda 4, in all sides of the physical and psychological battles.  As Gabi points out to Doron, he has a tendency to start to fall in love with women who are good human beings, whether Arab or Israeli, because he has such a big heart.  This time, that's Maya (very well played by Lucy Ayoub), a Palestinian whose brother is behind Gabi's kidnapping, whose Israeli husband is in the Israeli military, and she herself is an Israeli cop -- this is what I mean about the personal relationships in Fauda being complex.  But not so complex as to get in the way of the riveting narrative, which will keep you glued to the screen (I haven't used that old metaphor in years, if ever).

The ending is about as wild as it gets.  Just about everyone on the team lying on the ground, badly wounded but alive -- and speaking of metaphors, that pretty much is the story of life that Fauda continues to tell: badly wounded but very much alive.  I'm very much looking forward to a season 5 and more.

See also Fauda: Beyond Homeland ... Fauda 2: Another Unforgettable Visit ... Fauda 3: Blood, Tears, Humanity

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Hunters Season 2: Alternate History Hitler

I just binged the eight-episode second and final season of Hunters on Amazon Prime Video.  I liked it a lot more than the first season, and I liked the first season a lot, with some reservations.  Indeed, though the first season was an intensely personal story set in all-too real world, the second season was even more personal and managed also to be about the real world, our current real world, in fact.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

The first season ends with the revelation that Hitler and Eva Braun are alive and well and planning to take over the world from their secret compound in Argentina.  That revelation comes after the upending unmasking of Nazi-hunter Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) as the German concentration monster Wilhelm Zuchs aka The Wolf.   The second season picks up the backstory of Offerman/Zucks but shows its mettle in the Hitler/Braun story, and how our band of Hunters finally brings them to justice.

It does such a good job of this, on so many levels, that I'd say it lifts Hunters into The Man in the High Castle TV series territory, and lands just slightly behind it. The relationship between Hitler and Braun -- their mutual contempt, with Braun thinking she's the logical leader of the Fourth Reich and Hitler telling her at some point that the most important accomplishment of her life will be that she married him -- is both surprising and convincing.  The battles of the Hunters and Nazis are exciting and unpredictable.

But the biggest strength of the second season, right up there with its achievement as alternate history, is the way it links its 1979 story by strong implication to the resurgence of Naziism and white supremacy that grips our country and our world today.  The January 6, 2021 attack on Congress, the shootings of New Mexico Democrats by a Republican who lost the 2022 election, reported just in the past few days, show how looming and dangerous fascism is in the United States right now.  Putin says his savage attacks on Ukraine are to root out Nazis but he and his military are the ones employing Nazi tactics in their atrocities and propaganda.  In the very last scene of Hunters, Jonah looks across a table at an outdoor cafe at someone who looks like Hitler.  We last saw Hitler locked up in a high security prison in Europe, so there's no reason to think the man at that table was Hitler.  But there's every reason to think that the imprisonment of the real Hitler has not put much of a dent in the would-be Hitlers at large in 1979 -- and even more so today.

If I had one quibble with this powerful story, it is that too many of the characters on both sides seem to be able to easily survive being hit and even riddled by bullets.  I could accept this happening once.  But even twice is too much, in terms of stretching credibility.

But there were also some masterpieces of scenes and episodes in this second season.  I thought the seventh episode, nearly a standalone story of a German couple who give shelter to several families of Jewish people, could easily have been an Oscar-winning movie in itself.  And the battle scenes throughout the narrative were as good as they get.

Inevitably, the question arises of how about another season?  I thought Amazon cancelled The Man in the High Castle a little too quickly after four seasons, and that's certainly the case for Hunters after two seasons and the crucial story it's been telling.  Given the precarious condition of the world in which we now live, I have a feeling we'll be seeing a continuation of the Hunters story in some format and venue before too long.

See also Hunters: Praise and Reservations

my interview of Rufus Sewell about The Man in the High Castle

poems about the Holocaust ... my review

my interview with Grzegorz Kwiatkowski

It's Real Life

an alternate history short story -- get it on Kindle, or read it free on Vocal

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Podcast Review of The Pale Blue Eye

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 348, in which I review The Pale Blue Eye on Netflix.

Read this review.


Check out this episode!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Pale Blue Eye: Splendid Secret History of Young Poe

A murder mystery with all kinds of twists featuring a young Edgar Allan Poe quoting from Thomas Grey's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," my all-time favorite poem, what more could I ask for?  Well, The Pale Blue Eye has that, as well as a first class story of life at West Point in 1830, so I couldn't ask for much more regarding a movie indeed.

This gem of a movie is in effect a secret history of Poe, that is, a story of what happened to him in 1830 when he was a cadet at West Point and a newly published poet -- a story which could have happened, but no doubt didn't, which is why we don't know anything about it.  We find Poe already a published poet at this time, and his involvement in a case in which hearts and other organs are removed from bodies, and his success in figuring out who the ultimate villain was (who was also and mostly a good guy), provides a brilliant case study of how Poe already had and further developed the chops to become the father of the mystery writing genre in our real history.

[Some very general spoilers ahead ... ]

Meanwhile, the mystery story is first class.  The ultimate solution is that one person was the murderer (for the sake of revenge) and two other people dismembered most of the dead bodies.  This is itself a solution that the real Poe in our history, and for that matter, Agatha Christie, would have approved of.

Like all good secret histories, The Pale Blue Eye offers satisfying anchors to what we know of the real Poe in our history.  The stolen physical heart shows up in our reality as one of Poe's most famous short stories, "The Tell-Tale Heart".  The name of a beloved and major character shows up as title of one of Poe's best-known poems.  And of course there's a raven -- though for all I know, it could have been a crow.

The West Point and surrounding upstate New York ambience in the 1830s feels just right, at least from what I know of it from my late 20th-century early 21st century experience.  There's nothing quite like the Hudson River at this point, with the cliffs and the trees and that upstate shade of green.  John Crowley captured it well in his science fantasy trilogy, as did Scott Cooper who directed and wrote the script of The Pale Blue Eye, based on Louis Bayard's novel of the same name (which I haven't read).  And while we're at it, Harry Melling, whom I recall from the Harry Potter movies and The Queen's Gambit was excellent as Poe, even looking like him, as was Christian Bale, whom I've seen in a ton of movies, as retired NY detective Landor.  Robert Duvall as Professor Jean Pepe and Gillian Anderson as Julia Marquis were pleasures to see.  And Lucy Boynton, whom I don't recall seeing before, was just right as Lea Marquis.  All in all, one stunningly fine cast.

If you're at all a Poe fan, you won't regret seeing this movie.  I'm a huge Poe fan, and count it was one of the best films I've seen in years.

It's Real Life

Poe figures in this alternate history short story -- get it on Kindle, or read it free on Vocal

Your Honor 2.1: Scorching

Your Honor returned for its second and final season on Showtime yesterday, and it was about as brutal, wrenching, and ugly as it comes.  Even more so than the first season?  Yeah, especially with the judge being force-fed in prison.

[Probably some spoilers ahead ... ]

One thing I didn't particularly like was the jumping between the future (when the judge is in prison) and the present, which picks up right where season one left off.  The jumping makes the searing story, already complex and multi-faceted, a little difficult to follow.

But that said, both stories, of course interconnected, are riveting.  Rosie Perez plays a new character, Detective Delmont, who gets Desiato out of prison in return for his cooperation in her attempt to put Jimmy Baxter behind bars.  As we increasingly saw in season one, it's Baxter's wife Gina who is truest villain in this story.  Hope Davis as Gina and Michael Stuhlbarg as Jimmy are excellent, as they were last year.

In the part of the story that is close to the present, it was good to see Eugene escape, even though I of course hate what he did to Adam.  But that was an accident.  The interaction among the various members of that rival crime family is an important counterpart and contributor to the battle between the judge and the Baxters.

But Eugene escaping is not quite the biggest surprise in this first episode of the second season.  That would be Fia being pregnant with Adam's baby.  This of course means that when this second season concludes, the Desiastos and the Baxters will be literally bound together, in the best way possible.  Given the deep grim gravity of this story, the smile of a baby would be much welcome.

See also Your Honor 1.1: Taut Set-Up ... Your Honor 1.2: "Today Is Yesterday" ... Your Honor 1.3: The Weak Link ... Your Honor 1.4: The Dinner ... Your Honor 1.5: The Vice Tightens ... Your Honor 1.6: Exquisite Chess Game ...Your Honor 1.7: Cranston and Stuhlbarg Approaching Pacino and De Niro ... Your Honor 1.8: Nothing More Important ... Your Honor 1.9: Screeching Up to the Last Stop Before Next Week's Finale ... Your Honor 1.10: Final Irony

Jurassic World Dominion: Enjoyable, Exciting, and Even Profound

So I watched Jurassic World Dominion on the small screen of my laptop, a far cry from a movie theater screen and even a television screen, where I've seen and enjoyed all the previous Jurassic Parks.  And you know what?  I thought the movie was quite good!

The key idea sprung out, literally, at the end of the previous movie in the franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: the dinosaurs are no longer on that fabled island, they're now out and about in the world!  The opening scene of Dominion picks up right where Fallen World left off: there are dinosaurs in our oceans.  And Dominion ends with some excellent scenes of dinosaurs living right alongside the creatures large and small that currently inhabit our off-screen world.  My favorite is a triceratops or maybe stegosaurus (I'm no expert) walking right along with a herd of elephants.

The key ethical lesson in all of this is cooperation.  Current mammals and prehistoric reptiles now back to life can live together.  Owen commits to returning the young raptor to its mother, and he delivers.  In another meaningful final scene, Owen and the mother raptor exchange glances of understanding.

Of course, the toughest kinds of cooperation are between we humans ourselves.  Some of us, like Dodgson, CEO of Biosyn (well played by Campbell Scott) are incorrigible.  But just about everyone else proves to be amenable in the end.  And speaking of acting, it was excellent to see Jeff Goldblum as Malcolm, Laura Dern as Settler, and Sam Neill as Grant back in action (and, yeah,  I think Settler and Grant make a good couple).

The action was outstanding, as it always is in Jurassic Park movies.  Indeed, some of the chases, especially those involving vehicles on the ground and in the air, were reminiscent of James Bond movies.  All of which is to stay: the series is still vibrant, and I look forward to the next installment.


Friday, January 13, 2023

Echo 3 Season 1 Finale: The Other Shoe

The season one finale of Echo 3 up on Apple TV+ today -- at least, I hope it's the season not the series finale, because I'd really like to see more -- was a compelling mix of escape from Colombia, and our seeing if Amber will come back to herself after being liberated from her time in cruel captivity.  In effect, then, Amber's was also an escape story, an anguishing treatment of whether she could really escape from his immediate past.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

The physical escape from Colombia offered another heart-in-mouth extended action sequence, in which our trio manages to escape a troop of Colombian soldiers out to kill them in a marketplace.  The action scenes in Echo 3 have been consistently top-notch, and this final scene was one of the best. I was relieved and delighted to see our three heroes make to the speed boat and out of imminent danger.

Amber's escape from her past unfortunately didn't go as well.  She started not even wanting to talk to Prince and Bambi, but seemed to come to -- to be more like herself -- in the marketplace action, only to tell Prince at the end that he needed to accept that she didn't want to be with him anymore.  Prince understands what Amber has been through, and is willing to give her time, but doesn't want their marriage to end.

He gives it his best shot, after seeing her in a nice bathing suit, and maybe as a result wrongly assuming that she's coming back to her normal, pre-kidnap self.  But she's unbending.  Her bathing suit may be a sign that she wants to live, but she's saying to Prince that she doesn't want to live any more with Prince.

He says he's heartbroken, but what can he do?  Well, it seems to me that we need at least another season to get the answer to that question.

See also Echo 3 1.1-1.3: Bondian Flavor and Pure Adrenalin ... 1.4 Welcome to the Jungle ... 1.5: Currents ... 1.6: Fighting Back ... 1.7: Your Mother Should Know ... 1.8: The Past ... 1.9: Yes!

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Y: The Last Man: We Need More

I just finished watching Y: The Last Man on Hulu, about a year after I should have watched it in the first place.  Why am I saying that?  It's because Y is a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind daring one season of a series, which warranted multiple seasons, but was inexplicably cancelled in October 2021 before the first season was over (all ten episodes are now up on Hulu).  To be clear, I get that the viewership sagged, as widely reported, and Hulu had other reasons for not continuing the series.  But given how groundbreaking the narrative was (based on a comic book I haven't read), it eminently deserved more story and screen time.  Or, to be less courteous, I think the cancelation was one of the most clueless moves in all of television history, rivaling the cancelation of Star Trek (the original series) by NBC after three seasons back in the 1960s.

The overall story of Y, in case you don't know it, is that the planet is hit by the death of all male mammals, except the son of a woman who is elected Speaker of the House (she's already a Congresswoman) -- and therein via line of succession becomes President -- and the President's son's male monkey.  We then follow a combination of political intrigue in the White House and various colonies of women in the United States who ultimately live and die by the sword, actually more usually guns. But the series even manages to indulge in a drop of gonzo humor from time to time, and The Beatles' "Everyone's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" might well have been an appropriate theme song for Y.

This is a startling and provocative set-up for a narrative, breaking all kinds of rules, and it amply succeeds most of time.  The dialogue is sharp and refreshing.  The daughter of the deceased Republican President (a man), comments on the progressive Democrat who becomes President that she's a "Rachel Maddow fever dream".  One of the women is who is leading one of the gang communities has a single mastectomy and flaunts it.  There are pitched battles, scientific attempts to figure out what happened -- why all the male mammals died -- and explorations of parent-child and sibling relationships in all kinds of ways.

I said "succeeds most of the time".  So what didn't work for me?  About halfway through the series, the action began shifting away from the White House to the Walking Dead-like hinterlands, and the scientific attempts to understand the calamity pretty much stalled.  I would have liked to have seen more Washington, DC and science, and less of the teenage girls carrying guns, under the sway of a nearly maniacal leader.

But the politics and the potential science and the sheer set up of the series was so riveting, that I very much want to see more, much more of this story.  I probably know just slightly more than you about how television programming in the streaming age works.  But, optimist that am I am, I'm holding out hope that I'll someday see at least a another season of Y.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

George & Tammy: Two Intertwining Stories

So, the wife and I saw George & Tammy on Showtime, and very much enjoyed it.  Neither of us are especially fans of country music, but we did also watch and really loved Nashville (the TV series) a few years ago.  So much so, that we went to a concert with some of the Nashville stars at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden.  (I guess we're secret country & western fans.)

Now, speaking for myself, I of course did know Tammy Wynette's blockbuster hit, "Stand By Your Man". But I'd never heard of most of other songs performed in George & Tammy, and the real joy of the limited six-episode series for me was the discovery of great country songs that were new to me.  Like "Two Story House," released by Tammy and George in 1980, with a catchy melody and a brilliant lyric (song written by Tammy, with David Lindsey and Glenn Douglas Tubb).

The story of George and Tammy --  portrayed memorably well in the song -- is actually very familiar, in reality and on the screen.  A famous male singer gets together with a talented newcomer female singer who is a big fan of his, and she soon eclipses the guy in fame and commercial success.  The personal lives similarly have those ups and downs, as they marry and break up (usually because the guy is an alcoholic) but they still love each other, to the very end.

But the performances of Jessica Chastain as Tammy and Michael Shannon as George were so incandescent and perfect -- including their singing --  that they made that old story very much vivid and alive.  And the particular ending of both the series and the true story of George and Tammy was presented so well in the final episode that whatever else you might think of the rest of the series, you'll think it was worth watching.

So bravo to everyone who made this series, and here's a video of the real Tammy and George singing "Two Story House".

See also Nashville in New York City: Reality Even Better than the Fiction

And here's about the closest I ever came to singing a country song ....

Monday, January 9, 2023

Podcast Review of Kaleidoscope

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 347, in which I review of Kaleidoscope on Netflix.

Read this review.

See my in-depth video interview with Rufus Sewell about his role in The Man in The High Castle.

Check out this episode!

Kaleidoscope: Right Up There with Kurosawa and Scorsese

Hey, I just saw a great movie on Netflix -- actually, not a movie, but nine episodes of a television series, each of which feels like a movie in itself, and they all fit together like, well, a kaleidoscope. 

And, this is the best heist story I've ever seen.  It has everything, a suitably complex plot, a story in which every character is memorable, all kinds of things that go wrong and sometimes right, a superb soundtrack, and scenes that will move you to tears.

[There's bound to be some spoilers ahead ... ]

Apropos a kaleidoscope, we're told at the beginning that the episodes can be seen in any order.  I saw them in the order presented on Netflix and listed on IMDb.   I have no idea if this was the best order, or indeed if there is a best order.  I will say, for whatever it's worth, that I thought the first and last (ninth) episodes were the weakest.  That's because the eighth episode, which takes place at the end of the story, was the best.  And even though I thought the first and ninth episodes were the weakest, I still think this was the best heist story I've ever seen on a screen.

I'm not going to reveal how many characters die and in what circumstances.  But I will mention two unexplained deaths and my best guesses as to who did the killings.

Let's look at FBI Agent Abassi's death first.  An old guy brushes past her on a New York City street, and she soon keels over and dies.  The characters with the most motives are the Triplets (whose bonds in Salas's vault were the object of the heist), Leo/Ray's daughter Hannah, and Roger Salas's son Brad.  Here's why: the Triplets want to stop the FBI's investigation into their business, Hannah is the one who got away with the money and she also doesn't want the FBI to continue looking into this heist, and although Roger is in prison his son Brad must know there is a lot more crime his father could be kept up the river for.   My best guess is: Hannah.  And if I had to rank the three, I'd say Hannah, the Triplets, and Brad, in descending order.  Hannah has more than one motive.  In addition to wanting to keep her money, she also wants to protect her father.

But speaking of her father, and even more important, who killed Leo/Ray?  First, we don't see him actually killed.  We see him, struggling to walk with Parkinson's, being stalked.  And we hear a shot fired.  So ... he easily could have fallen right before the shot was fired, with some good samaritan then tackling the gunman.  But who then was the shooter?  Not Hannah, who clearly continued to deeply love her father, in some of the best scenes in the series, by the way.  The Triplets really had no motive, especially given Ray's deteriorating condition. That leaves, by process of elimination, Roger's son Brad.  His motive was he blames Ray for ruining his father's life, and doesn't know Ray's true motivation.

By the way, not only was every character memorable, so was the acting.  Three that especially stand out:  Giancarlo Esposito as Leo/Ray gave the best performance of his career, even exceeding his outstanding work in Homicide and Breaking Bad.  Rufus Sewell, as superb and versatile an actor as you'll find, was perfect as the complicated, driven, highly intelligent villain and victim of the heist.  And Paz Vega as Ava was just perfect as Leo's indefatigable supporter.

This will be a series for the ages, right up there with the best work of Kurosawa and Scorsese.  Hats off to creator Eric Garcia, and the four directors.

my interview of Rufus Sewell about The Man in the High Castle

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Treason: Who Should Have Lived and Who Should Have Died

Just binged Treason on Netflix -- if you can call watching five episodes in a row really binging.  It's a top-notch MI6 British spy story, right up there with the very best of them.

Every important character has unpredictable twists and turns in their story, including the killing of a very major character, which I'll tell you more about after I alert you to spoilers below.  You'll be on the edge of your seat just about every minute, in a story that rips through London town just about as fast as you can keep track of.  And the political variables, including the role of Russia and poisons its agents so frequently administer, are pitched just right.  But--

[Ok, here's the alert about spoilers ... ]

There were two things I didn't much care for in the narrative.  One was a death -- the one of the very major character -- that needn't have been -- and the other was a death that should have occurred, at least in my humble opinion.

Adam -- as of course you know if you've already seen the limited series -- is the death that wasn't needed.  He could have been badly wounded, and laid up in the hospital, and that would have had the same effect of motivating his wife Maddy to go all out at the end.  It's true the pimest movers in the story are women, but that point could still have been made with Adam surviving.

And the woman who shot Adam dead -- CIA agent Dede -- should have been killed after her murderous act, by either Maddy, who had the greatest motivation, since Dede was her friend and Maddy loved her husband and Dede knew it -- or Kara, who as a seasoned Russian agent must have known better than to leave Dede alive and ever dangerous.   Although Dede won't exactly have a happy time of it, and her career may well be ruined with the downfall of Sir Martin, she deserved a more definitive fate.

But, hey, that's just me, and in addition to most of the narrative being so good, the acting was great, including Ciarán Hinds as Sir Martin (always rewarding to see him on the screen), Oona Chaplin as Maddy (same as Ciarán Hinds), and Olga Kurylenko as Kara (the only other time I've seen her was as a Bond girl in A Quantum of Solace, where she was memorable, too).  Charlie Cox also put in a fine performance as Adam, and a shout-out to Beau Gadsdon as Adam and Maddy's daughter Ella.

All of which adds up to: see Treason, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Echo 3 1.9: Yes!

A superb, break-neck speed, thoroughly satisfying episode 1.9 of Echo 3 up on Apple TV+ today.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

Yes!  Prince and Bambi and their team finally liberated Amber from that prison she was in, but it certainly wasn't easy.  Interesting, as always, to see the slightly different but complementary roles Amber's husband and brother played in freeing her.

Bambi is the better battle strategist, calling shots on the move, on the fly, with piercing accuracy.  But Prince is the one who refuses to give up on the mission, even when Bambi rightly says that the mission and therefore Amber is in grave danger with the oversight towers that we took no longer in action.  The enemy tank could have ended the mission, and it was great to see the savvy and daring with which it was taken out.

So, what happens next?  Our three leading characters are still a long way from home, deep in enemy territory.  The Venezuelans know that it wasn't the Colombians who freed Amber, and the Venezuelans will be doing everything in their power to recapture Amber and kill the team who demolished their compound.  A big continuing question is what role the US government will play in all of this.  At the very least, they/we will need to unofficially help get Amber, Prince, and Bambi up in the air and back home.

So far, all three have survived, against incredible odds.   I hope we see them standing and back on American soil in the season finale next week.

See also Echo 3 1.1-1.3: Bondian Flavor and Pure Adrenalin ... 1.4 Welcome to the Jungle ... 1.5: Currents ... 1.6: Fighting Back ... 1.7: Your Mother Should Know ... 1.8: The Past

The Mosquito Coast Season 2 Finale: Examining the Ending

Well, I saw the Season 2 finale of The Mosquito Coast on Apple TV+ late last night, and I was enjoying the episode immensely, until the ending, which I didn't like at all, because--

[Big spoilers ahead ... ]

Well, if you saw the episode, you'll know why.  Why kill Allie?

Let's look at this a little more closely.  First, is Allie really dead?  I have a fundamental principle about death of characters in my television reviews.  If you don't see the character's head blown off, or the character blown to bits, he or she may still be alive.  Actually, shows like 24 sometimes violated that rule, or came pretty close, so let's say that principle holds in 99% of television series.

So, what exactly happened to Allie?  He was shot in the back by Lee (I hate that character), but certainly was alive after that to be able to touch a button that blew up the whole building he was in.  So things look pretty grim for Allie.  But, since we didn't literally see him blown to bits, I'd say there's an outside chance he survived.

What we do see is Margot, Dina, and Charlie enjoying that Mosquito Coast island sometime later.  Allie wasn't with him.  But he could be back in a shack convalescing.  I don't know if I'd bet on that,  But it's certainly possible.

There's been no announcement yet from Apple TV+ about a third season of The Mosquito Coast.  I suppose there could be a third season without Allie, and I suppose it could be as good as the first two seasons, but, at this point, I don't know if I would want to see the story continue without Allie.  He was -- I hope, is -- the central character in the narrative.

So the best I can say is maybe I'll see you back with here with reviews of Season 3, if there is one -- and, hey, I did entitle this review "Season" rather than "Series" finale -- and I'll certainly be here with reviews of a third season if it has Allie alive and well ... and well, he's never exactly been well, but you know what I mean.  

See this review by  Jonathon Wilson in Ready Steady Cut for a different opinion.

See also The Mosquito Coast 2.1: Thirteen Years Ago ... The Mosquito Coast 2.4: Motion Pictures on the Cave Wall ... The Mosquito Coast 2.5: Hitting the Fan ... The Mosquito Coast 2.6: Close Calls ... The Mosquito Coast 2.7: Sandpiper ... The Mosquito Coast 2.8: Hari Seldon in Mexico ... The Mosquito Coast 2.8: Dina's Story and Margot's Story

And see also The Mosquito Coast 1.1-2: Edgy, Attractive, Enlightened, and Important ... The Mosquito Coast 1.3: Broadening Horizons ... The Mosquito Coast 1.4: Charlie and the Gun ... The Mosquito Coast 1.5: Charlie and the Gun, Part II ... The Mosquito Coast 1.6: What Kind of Brother? ... The Mosquito Coast season 1 finale: I'm Well Bitten

See also my essay, Foundation, Dune, and LaPlace's Demon

Monday, January 2, 2023

Three Pines 1.3-1.8: Unique and Wonderful Series

Continuing my reviews of Three Pines on Amazon Prime Video, having watched the concluding six episodes (1.3 - 1.8) of what I hope will be just the first season of many.

Because I really think this is a top-notch, outstanding detective show (note that I haven't read the novels upon which the series is based.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

Some of the things I like most about this series:

  • How Inspector Gamache always tells the police on the scene, including his own team, to lower their weapons as he tries to talk the suspect/perpetrator down, i.e., to peacefully surrender.  It's a real pleasure to see a police detective who has such a strong belief in the possibility of logic winning the day.
  • Alfred Molina's portrayal of Gamache is just superb.
  • His team  -- Jean-Guy, Isabelle, and Yvette -- are excellent too.  I especially liked Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers -- an indigenous actress -- and her portrayal of Isabelle, but Rossif Sutherland as Jean-Guy and Sarah Booth as Yvette were fine, too.  All were fresh, delivering characters we haven't quite seen before on television.
  • Speaking of indigenous people, the Crees were very well portrayed in this narrative. We're introduced to  a wide variety of people, of all ages, who play crucial roles with their wisdom and attitudes in solving the crimes, including the crime that weaves its way through all eight episodes, the murder of two young Cree adults. (Tantoo Cardinal -- Outlander, Stumptown, etc -- was memorable, as always.)
  • A great example of this wisdom is the difference between white pine needles and red pines needles, conveyed to Gamache, and central in his solving the above murder.
  • And speaking of nature, it's beautifully captured in every episode.
One thing I didn't like: Pierre getting the better of Gamache at the very end.  I suppose it's understandable, considering, again, Gamache's deep belief in rationally appealing to criminals to do the right thing.  But given that Gamache knows that his friend Pierre callously murdered Blue Two-Rivers, it still bothers me that he didn't search Pierre at gunpoint before walking away from him.
I do hope/expect that Gamache will survive, given that he wasn't shot in the head and showed some signs of life at the end.  And I really hope and expect that we'll see the aftermath of that final scene in a season two of this unique and wonderful series.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Good Way to Start off 2023

"The Soft of Your Eyes", song I wrote for Tina in 1968, just added to new, short "Best of Wrapped" Spotify playlist.

And see 16 other playlists "The Soft of Your Eyes" was added to in the past few years.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Mosquito Coast 2.9: Dina's Story and Margot's Story

An excellent, next-to-last episode of this season of The Mosquito Coast -- 2.9 -- in which we see and learn all kinds of things about Dina and her mother Margot.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

Dina has quite a story, after she takes off in Adolfo's car. (Significant footnote: Adolfo later tells Allie, when he's questioning Adolfo about what happened to Dina, that Adolfo loves Dina.)  But Dina manages to stay in a fancy hotel, even have a room, enjoy the pool, and have an hilarious conversation with two latter-day Valley girls from the East Coast.  What all of this shows is that, however much Dina may want to get away from them, she's very much her parents' daughter.

And Margot has quite an adventure of her own, as the story of her and Richard twists and turns at least three times.  First, we think she's betraying Allie, in order to get her and her kids back to the safety and comfort of the U. S.  Next, we find out -- happily -- that's she's actually going to betray Richard, because she's still loyal to Allie, or at least thinks that he's her and the family's best ticket to safety.  (Romantic than I am, I still think she loves Allie -- that's why she asked him if he and she are over.  And note that he doesn't answer.)  But, finally, we find that Richard was on to her.  He escapes the trap, which means the U. S. government owes Margot nothing but anger about their wasted time.  And this in turn means that Margot and Allie and the family's only path to safety is the one they make -- the one being mostly made by Allie.

All of this is a great foundation for next week's season 2 finale.  No announcement yet from Apple TV+ about a season 3, but I'll 100% be watching and reviewing it if there is one.

See also The Mosquito Coast 2.1: Thirteen Years Ago ... The Mosquito Coast 2.4: Motion Pictures on the Cave Wall ... The Mosquito Coast 2.5: Hitting the Fan ... The Mosquito Coast 2.6: Close Calls ... The Mosquito Coast 2.7: Sandpiper ... The Mosquito Coast 2.8: Hari Seldon in Mexico

And see also The Mosquito Coast 1.1-2: Edgy, Attractive, Enlightened, and Important ... The Mosquito Coast 1.3: Broadening Horizons ... The Mosquito Coast 1.4: Charlie and the Gun ... The Mosquito Coast 1.5: Charlie and the Gun, Part II ... The Mosquito Coast 1.6: What Kind of Brother? ... The Mosquito Coast season 1 finale: I'm Well Bitten

See also my essay, Foundation, Dune, and LaPlace's Demon

Friday, December 30, 2022

Echo 3 1.8: The Past

An instructive episode 1.8 of Echo 3 on Apple TV+ tonight -- wisely entitled "Family Matters" -- as our guys move in for their ultimate rescue mission.

[Spoilers follow about the history that's revealed ...]

There were two very significant pieces of the past that we saw:

1. How Banbi as a boy kills his abusive father, with Amber seeing that and wholly approving.  This, in effect, started Bambi on his career as a bad-guy killer, and it explains completely his devotion to his sister.

2. What really happened with Bambi and Prince when they were under attack by the Taliban.  We saw a lot that in an earlier episode.  What's now revealed is that Bambi had a choice in saving either Prince or the other member of their team, and chose to save Prince.  And the reason is directly connected to Amber supporting Bambi is his killing of their abusive father: Bambi had promised his sister that he would always look out for Prince.  Also news is that Bambi still feels guilt about letting the other commando die, and he resents Pince because of that.

There are still two concluding episodes yet to be seen in this series.  But episode 1.8 provides crucial background to  what we'll be seeing the first two weeks of January.  I know this series is based on an Israeli series, and I'm glad I haven't seen it.  Because, at this point, I can honestly say that I don't who will come out of this alive.  I certainly hope its Bambi, Prince, and Amber.

See also Echo 3 1.1-1.3: Bondian Flavor and Pure Adrenalin ... 1.4 Welcome to the Jungle ... 1.5: Currents ... 1.6: Fighting Back ... 1.7: Your Mother Should Know