Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tyrant 1.6: Don't Mess with Jamal

A really satisfying Tyrant 1.5 last night - in fact, the best episode so far - even if the satisfaction came from seeing an act that was the antithesis of democracy.

But the act validated Jamal, and who he really is.   Yes, he takes good advice from his brother, designed to make Jamal acceptable to the Western world. But that could only go so far.  And when Barry tells Jamal that, even if he loses the election, Jamal can always retire as an immensely wealthy man to an island he bought somewhere, I just knew that Jamal's acceptance of that didn't ring quite true.

How untrue it didn't ring became brilliantly clear in the final scenes of the episode.  The Sheikh - I know he's speaking for democracy but he still has a sanctimonious streak - continues to taunt Jamal, saying Barry is the real brains of the Al Fayeed operation, for no reason other than to get under Jamal's skin, and make him an even less effective campaigner, I guess, than he is.  How much of this can Jamal take?

His murder of the Sheikh - which, as I said, is anti-democratic, to say the least, and is, after all, murder - was narratively appropriate and right, in the Shakespearean sense of heroes and villains being at their best in the story when they most express their own truest nature.

Kudos to Tyrant for not shying away from this.   The murder also accrues to Jamal's smarts, because the way he killed the Sheikh, given the Sheikh's condition and the ease with which he could have accidentally hit his head on the toilet, may well make Jamal's crime undetectable as a crime (unless he admits it to someone, which my guess is at some point he will).  And while we're at it, Jamal also was not unsympathetic sleeping with the American blonde.   After all, his wife rejected him, and she was a fool to do that.

Tyrant is heating up to the boiling point, and I'm looking forward to more next week.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rectify 2.6: Rare Education

An especially tender and psychologically brutal Rectify 2.6 tonight - actually, all the episodes of this show are that way, especially tender and brutal, sometimes psychological, sometimes physical - but it never gets old to say it.

It's the small things that are the most exquisite in this series.   Daniel mispronouncing panini a few episodes ago - "palini" - that makes him so endearing.   Tonight it was a few lines from his stepfather that had such resonance.

Last week, we saw Ted Sr. coming down too hard on Daniel for ripping up the kitchen.   Daniel's mother correctly gave Ted a piece of her mind.   And guess what?   Ted Sr. has learned his lesson. Tonight, when Daniel and the erudite junkman deliver a second-hand stove to Daniel's mother for her birthday, and Ted Jr. goes off about how much work it would take to get it up and running in the kitchen, Ted Sr. comes to the rescue with a great pep talk about how easy it would to set it up, and how the gas stove will make food that his wife cooks even better tasting than on the electric stove.  This sort of education rarely happens in real life.  It's heartening to see if happen on television with Ted Sr.

Speaking of Ted Jr, he's clearly one of the most despicable characters on the show, unable to do almost anything good or right.  Two episodes ago, he told the sheriff about Daniel and the coffee grounds, swearing him to secrecy.   And tonight, in a surprisingly low-class move, the sheriff blabs to the senator - more loathsome than even Ted Jr in his determination to get Daniel back in the jail.   At this point in the series, I probably wouldn't want Daniel back in jail even he was indeed guilty - a measure of how well the series has presented Daniel as an injured, gentle being.

But Daniel's intersections with the law are  the broad strokes, often brutal, which, as I said, are not the truest genius of this series.  That resides in the small things, the little conversations, that Daniel has with Tawny, for example, when he tells her she awakened something in him.  That was even more powerful to see than Daniel's expression when he then finds out she is pregnant and Ted Jr is crowing about it.

What a show.  My only regret is I can't sit down and watch the whole story in one sitting.

See also Rectify 2.1: Indelible ... Rectify 2.2: True Real Time ... Rectify 2.3: Daniel's Motives ... Rectify 2.4: Jekyll and Hyde

And see also Rectify: Sheer and Shattering Poetry ... Rectify 1.5: Balloon Man ... Rectify Season 1 Finale: Searingly Anti-Climactic

another kind of capital punishment


get Rectify season 2 on 

The Bridge 2.3: Marco's Dilemma

The second season of The Bridge is shaping up as even better than the first, which was excellent.   In episode 2.3 last night, we get a clear view of one of the main reasons:

Marco is in an exquisite dilemma.   He's at his best, happiest and most effective, when he's working with the El Paso police, who welcomed him, via Hank, with open arms last night.   Indeed, when the DEA says their not comfortable with a Mexican detective knowing what the DEA is doing - given the corruption south of the border, and the cosy relationship between the police there and the drug lord - Hank stands up for Marco.

But the kicker is that we and Marco know that he's on this case precisely because Capitan Robles and Fausto have put Marco on the case, to serve their interests more than the cause of justice, should those two interests conflict.   Marco is basically an honest detective.  But you can hardly blame him for agreeing to repay Fausto for the favor the drug king rendered in helping Marco get the killer of his son.

This puts Marco in an exquisite dilemma.   Will he betray Hank and Sonya and the police who have been good to him in El Paso?  For that matter, how will he react if something bad happens to Pintado, the Mexican state prosecutor who seems to be only person there not in some kind of bed with Fausto? Difficult to say, which makes for an excellent season ahead.   Sonya, as we know, can be almost preternaturally sensitive, if not to people's attitudes, then to things that don't quite add up - sort of the flip side of her condition - and that means it's likely just a matter of time until something Marco does or doesn't do tips her off that all is not right with him.

Her honesty in her sexual relationships continues to be refreshing.  In 2.3, she tells the brother of her sister's killer that sleeping with him this time, the second time, wasn't as good for her as the first.   There's something to be said for an absence of courtesy.

It's also good to see Charlotte back in the story, and in a way that has direct relevance to the larger narrative.  Looking forward to more!

See also The Bridge 2.1: What Motivates Sonya? ... The Bridge 2.2: First-Class Serial Killer

And see also The Bridge Opens Brooding and Valent ... The Bridge 1.2: A Tale of Two Beds ... The Bridge 1.6: Revelations ... The Bridge 1.7: A Killer and a Reluctant Professor ... The Bridge 1.8: Some Dark Poetic Justice ... The Bridge 1.9: Trade-Off ... The Bridge 1.10: Charlotte's Evolution ... The Bridge 1.11: Put to the Test ... The Bridge Season 1 Finale: Marco Joins Mackey and Agnew

another kind of crime story


get The Bridge season 2 on

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'll Follow You Down: Excellent Time Travel Movie

I just saw I'll Follow You Down - an excellent small-scale but large-idea time travel movie, panned by myopic critics, such as in this review last month in the Hollywood Reporter.

By small-scale, I mean that the movie concerns one family only - grandfather, daughter and husband, and their son and his girlfriend.  There's no gunplay (except one time), no history of the world at stake, none of the things we've come to expect in time travel on the big screen, and which, by the way, I also very much enjoy.

But I'll Follow You Down has something else, more rare in time travel stories.  We see the effect of time travel on a few human beings - in this case, the time traveler's family.   To do this well, a movie has to make the time travel seem plausible, real enough so that those characters who realize what has happened to their family can take action to correct it.

At the same time, the story has to respect the paradoxes of time travel, especially the chestnut of, if I travel to the past to correct a problem, and I succeed, how will I know about the problem in the first place, in the future?  Multiple universes or realities are one good way of dealing with this, as I explain in this 2-minute video on Vidoyen:

How can I get around the grandparent time travel paradox? posted by Paul Levinson, PhD on Vidoyen.

I'll Follow You Down takes great and rare care in treating these paradoxes seriously, in both the set-up and resolution of the story.   The acting is excellent - with Haley Joel Osment, Gillian Anderson, Victor Garber, and Rufus Sewell in the major roles - and the plot is satisfyingly tight in both the interpersonal relationships that power the story, and the science in the science fiction that makes it possible.  Little details such as a pocket watch being left on the ground in a mugging, and a character commenting I don't know the reason the muggers left the watch, create a straightforward verisimilitude that lends credence to the entire story.  That's a better way of handling loose ends than coming up with a convoluted explanation.

The ending in particular is outstanding (don't worry, I won't give it away) - motivated, shocking, and ultimately ...  well, see the movie.   It's not perfect - there's a crucial scene in which a father should have recognized his son a little sooner - but this movie comes pretty close, and scores on all the issues that count in a narrative about the impact of time travel on a family that could almost be living next door.

Other reviews of off-the-beaten-track recent time travel moviesDimensions: Watercolor Time Travel and 95ers: Time Runners: Original and Entertaining

another kind of time travel


And The Chronology Protection Case movie

podcast review of I'll Follow You Down and
two other time travel movies

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Falling Skies 4.5: Cloudy

Well, I took a break from reviewing Falling Skies last week, hoping my opinion of this season would rise, but it hasn't.  Indeed, when the news broke that Falling Skies was renewed by TNT for its fifth and final season a few days ago, I wasn't surprised, given the weak and cliched story lines the series has descended to this season.

The biggest action for Tom in episode 4.5 was his falling in with a pair of brothers who seem to be good, but raise his suspicions when they talk about getting booze from a Mormon home (Mormons refrain from drinking).  They soon turn out to be not so good, lie to Tom about killing Matt, and in the end get killed themselves after coming pretty close to killing Tom.  Sound familiar?  This is the exact same thread already spun a dozen times on The Walking Dead, and spun much better, because sometimes the bad humans do lasting damage on that show to our heroes, which makes for a much more compelling story.

Meanwhile, the Lexi story is proceeding at such a snail's pace that I'm beginning to think there's some alien snail DNA at large in the people who make the show.  We've suspected to the point of knowing since last season that Lexi's father was an alien.   Anne had to know it, too.   So the big reveal last night was ... what?

Hal continues to be a somewhat interesting character, if only because it's unusual to have a son be almost exactly like his father in voice intonation and delivery of lines.   Drew Roy, who plays Hal, is seriously a good Noah Wylie (Tom) study.

As I've said before, this is sad.   Although post-apocalypse stories are as common as dandelions on television these days, alien invasion stories are not, and Falling Skies started out as something much better than Defiance.   Optimist that I am - about our ultimately beating the aliens in story lines, and about failing series beating the odds and coming up with a good resolution nonetheless - I'm still hopeful that Falling Skies can somehow come up with a good ending this season and next.

See also Falling Skies 4.1: Weak Start ... Falling Skies 4.2: Enemy of my Enemy ... Falling Skies 4.3: Still Falling

And see also Falling Skies 3.1-2: It's the Acting ... Falling Skies 3.3: The Smile ... Falling Skies 3.4: Hal vs. Ben ... Falling Skies 3.6: The Masons ...Falling Skies 3.7: The Mole and a Likely Answer ... Falling Skies 3.8: Back Cracked Home ... Falling Skies Season 3 Finale: Dust in Hand

And see also Falling Skies Returns  ... Falling Skies 2.6: Ben's Motives ... Falling Skies Second Season Finale

And see also Falling Skies 1.1-2 ... Falling Skies 1.3 meets Puppet Masters ... Falling Skies 1.4: Drizzle ... Falling Skies 1.5: Ben ... Falling Skies 1.6: Fifth Column ... Falling Skies 1.7: The Fate of Traitors ... Falling Skies 1.8: Weaver's Story ... Falling Skies Concludes First Season


get Season 4 of Falling Skies on

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tyrant 1.4: Close to the Bone

Catching up with a short review of Tyrant 1.4, which was quite good.

The two major high points of this episode were the cliff-hanger ending, and Molly (Barry's wife) finally saying something important to him and the series.

On the cliff-hanger - they're rare in television, even non-existent, unless we're talking about a two-part to-be-continued episode, which we sometimes get at the end of seasons, or every episode of 24, which is itself unique in television.   Ending Tyrant 1.4 with the crisis of the verge of exploding was a very good move.

As for Molly, her role as Barry's wife has either been obvious or unexploited for good drama until Tyrant 1.4, when she finally has an important talk with Barry, which sets his mind straight and on the right track.   This is exactly what a wife should be doing in these circumstances, and it at once makes Barry a more believable character and lifts the show.

Meanwhile, there was a report in the real news last week that, due to the real war in Gaza, Tyrant is moving its production to Turkey.   This is both sad, owing to real loss of life in Gaza, and testament to how cutting edge Tyrant is.   Getting back to 24, its series premier was postponed back in September 2001 due to 9/11.   And, indeed, the creators of that series have often talked about how they changed the ending of that first season, due to September 11 (don't have a link to where I read this, but I've seen it online).

We want our fiction, in dramas such as Tyrant, to be as close to bone of real events as possible.   Events have conspired to bring Tyrant even closer to that jagged edge than it was before, and will make the series even more interesting to see.

See also: Tyrant: Compelling Debut ... Tyrant 1.2: The Brother's Speech and His Wife ... Tyrant 1.3: A New Leaf?


get Tyrant season 1 on

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to Survive the End of the World ends on NatGeo tonight

It's been a wild eight months.   Since early December 2013, David Bartell, I, and sundry commentators have been scurrying from bunker to bunker in Brooklyn - all at undisclosed locations - doing our best to combat zombies, volcanos, bone-shattering cold, and a planet-wide storm.  Tonight it all comes to end, as we witness and try to put into some semblance of perspective our civilization consumed by nano-tech, literally, at 9pm Eastern, followed by a Noah's Arc flood at 10pm.

Actually, if you're a real glutton for scientifically plausible doomsdays, you can tune in to NatGeo at 8pm this evening for their rebroadcast of Hell on Earth, the volcanic scenario.   But keep tuned for or DVR the following two hours for two different kinds of roller coaster rides from hell.

We were able to get these videos with a few clips of the action out of the bunker.  Enjoy.

 FREE on Kindle Unlimited


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Bridge 2.2: First Class Serial Killer

The second season of The Bridge is already coalescing - nice and darkly - with its second episode last night.  Sonya and Marco are now working together on the case, and the case entails a piece-of-work lady psycho serial killer.   Can't ask for much more than that.

More specifically, Sonya continues to be a little smoother - less quirky - than last year, which I like. She stands up better to Hank, who's right to still be concerned about her, but I think perceives that she's less the basket case than she once was.   Even Marco and Sonya in bed together, which would have been flatly impossible last season without Marco seeming to take advantage of her, seems a less impossible possibility now.   Not it that it will necessarily happen.   But when Marco showed up at her door late at night last night, to go over the new case, there seemed just a sliver of that possibility.  We'll see.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Nacht's soul and metier indeed seem dark as her last name.  She's one of the creepiest psychos to come down the television pike - in a non-horror, non-fantasy show - in a while. Already in two episodes she's equalled or exceeded some of the worst monsters in Criminal Minds, and in Dexter as well - indeed, she would have made a worthy target for Dexter in his prime.   Her specialty is apparently young teenage boys, whom sure lures with the promise of a little sex (just touching), then kills so she can see the "light," and keeps a record of all of this in her ledger.   Fausto Galvan - a primo mob boss in his own right - has Eleanor on his radar, Sonya has her on the video she swiped from the DEA, so sooner or later Sonya and Marco will come face to face with her.

About the only part of the second season I've seen enough of, in fact, is the DEA, whose lording it over the local police is a theme we've seen a hundred times on television.   Abraham Benrubi, who was just great in ER, is excellent in the DEA lead agent role on The Bridge, but we'll just have to see how this develops.

See also The Bridge 2.1: What Motivates Sonya?

And see also The Bridge Opens Brooding and Valent ... The Bridge 1.2: A Tale of Two Beds ... The Bridge 1.6: Revelations ... The Bridge 1.7: A Killer and a Reluctant Professor ... The Bridge 1.8: Some Dark Poetic Justice ... The Bridge 1.9: Trade-Off ... The Bridge 1.10: Charlotte's Evolution ... The Bridge 1.11: Put to the Test ... The Bridge Season 1 Finale: Marco Joins Mackey and Agnew

another kind of crime story


get The Bridge season 2 on

Monday, July 14, 2014

24 Season 9 Finale: For Whom the Silent Clock Tolls

Well, in the powerful, heartbreaking, excellent Season 9 finale of 24 just on Fox tonight, we finally get a real silent clock.  And though President Heller collapsed in last week's coming attractions, the silent was not for him but for Audrey.

Before we get to that, let me first say what an outstanding performance William Devane gave throughout this whole 9th Season of 24, but never more so than tonight.  His "I'll forget" speech, given to the British PM about Audrey and everything as he makes his way to board Air Force One back to the U.S., was one of the best ever delivered on 24, and Shakespearean in its harrowing, haunting beauty.

Jack's relationship with Chloe was also brilliantly played out tonight - and Kiefer Sutherland's acting was as outstanding as ever in this role, too.   It makes perfect sense that Jack would turn himself over to the Russians to free Chloe.  And this certainly leaves open lots of room for another season, which I hope we'll see, someday - next year or soon after would be my preference.

Kate was a strong character throughout but tonight was not her best hour. Not because Audrey got fatally wounded right next to her - this was not Kate's fault - but because she didn't do anything to help Jack in the aftermath.   Why didn't she look into what was going on, if Jack didn't tell her, and have the CIA mount some sort of supporting attack on the Russians, so Jack as well as Chloe could be free?

A part of Jack wanted to die - hence the gun he put to his head before deciding to vent his rage on Chang and his men, and the sword on Chang's neck - and a part of Jack no doubt also wanted to be taken prisoner by the Russians.   But he still asked Chloe to look in on his family, and someone in Kate's position should have been looking out a little more for Jack at the end.

This season vividly showed that 24 still has the juice it had for its first eight seasons, and maybe even more.   The jumping ahead 12 hours for the last segment worked just fine, meaning the 12 hours for the season worked as well as the 24, maybe even better.  24 is second to none in adrenalin and plots that are both complex and fast moving, and I say bring on some more.  This season hasn't slaked my interest in this narrative in the slightest, it only stoked it.

See also 24 Season 9 Hours 1 and 2: The Sheer Intelligent Adrenalin Is Bac... 24 Season 9.3: Shades of Disloyalties ... 24 Season 9.4: Brass Tacks and Strong Women ... 24 Season 9.5: Jack and Audrey .. 24 Season 9.6: Expendable In-Laws ... 24 Season 9.7: Silent Clock in President Heller's Future ... 24 Season 9.8: Clearing the Deck ... 24 Season 9.9: The Reason for No Silent Clock, Misleading Coming Attractions, and the New Villain ...24 Season 9.10: Every Card on the Table ... 24 Season 9.11: Partial Redemption

And see also Season 8 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ...Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hour 11 ... Hour 12... Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hours 15-16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18 ... Hour 19... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22 ... 24 Forever!

And see also Season 7 reviewsHours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hours 11-12 ...Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hour 15 ... Hour 16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18 ... Hour 19 ... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22  ... Hours 23-24  

And see also Season 6 reviews: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hours 8 and 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hour 11 ... Hour 12 ... Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hour 15 ... Hour 16 ... Hour 17 ... Hour 18... Hour 19 ... Hour 20 ... Hour 21 ... Hour 22 ... Hours 23-24


  Enjoy a little high-tech espionage?  Try The Pixel Eye

Ray Donovan 2.1: Back in Business

The key to understanding Ray Donovan is that he can handle more crises in a day than most mortals could deal with a week or a month.   In last night's season two premiere, he puts out or contains fires regarding each of his kids, gets a client in a position to win a major television talent contest after she's been wounded by a bullet, and manages to find his irrepressible father in Mexico.   Ray usually does this with only a scratch or three to show for it, and as long as he can get his hands on a new shirt to replace the one he has which has blood on it - usually not his - he's in business.

Last season - two weeks ago in narrative time - Mickey killed Sully, the White Bulger-like character brilliantly played by James Woods, and to get out of being nabbed by the law for this now, Ray has to pin it on his father. Actually, all of the roles are brilliantly played in this series, including the tour-de-force performance of Liev Schreiber as Ray, and especially Jon Voight as Ray's father Mickey, which may be the best acting of Voight's career, with the possible exception of Midnight Cowboy.  In Ray Donovan, Voight pulls off a remarkable performance of a character who is both lovable and despicable at almost the same time.   Indeed, in 2.1, we see these traits in evidence at precisely the same time, as Mickey supports his son Darryl in the ring (having previously welcomed him with open arms as a son), roots his heart out for him, and then collects money he made on betting against him.  A father from hell and heaven at the same time.

Ray has been much more in touch with the hell than the heaven part of Mickey, and their unresolved -to say the last - relationship is at the heart of the series.   Ray has actually been moved a tiny way towards the positive side of this ledger, apparently not wanting to kill Mickey just now, and needing him to take the fall - again - for Ray.   Everyone else in the family - Ray's wife and two kids, as well as his three brothers - are in Mickey's corner, more or less, though Darryl is now moving into an alliance with Ray contra Mickey after seeing his father raking in money for Darryl's loss as he's on the floor of the ring.

This is not only Irish family narrative but television at its best, and it's good indeed to see Ray Donovan back on the air.

See also Ray Donovan Debuts with Originality and Flair ... Ray Donovan 1.2: His Assistants and his Family ... Ray Donovan 1.3: Mickey ... Ray Donovan 1.7 and Whitey Bulger ... Ray Donovan 1.8: Poetry and Death ... Ray Donovan Season 1 Finale: The Beginning of Redemption