Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Somewhere Between Finale: Photograph

Well, Somewhere Between concluded tonight with a photograph.  I'm tempted to hum Ringo's song "Photograph" - I've heard it a few times in the past few weeks on the Beatles Channel, and it sounded good - but no, it wasn't that kind of photograph at the end of Somewhere Between.  It was a snapshot of a happy family at a wedding, and I won't say anything more, because no point in trafficking in spoilers.

I will say that there was some good action in the finale, but lots of missed opportunities.  Among them was the old dilemma of two people you love are drowning just off the dock, there's only time to save one, so whom do you jump in and save?  I thought Laura was going to have that choice with Nico (she really loves him now) and Serena (she's loved her all along) both in the water, but it didn't go that way, and, let's face it, if it had, there's no way Laura wouldn't have saved her daughter.

But the biggest missed opportunity in the short series was time travel itself.  The water scene in the finale did harken back to the water which generated all of this, but, after a promising beginning, there was a decreasing amount of time travel in this series, or, exploration of the paradoxes and conundra that time travel inevitably and provocatively leads to.

So Somewhere Between will likely go down as a good start that looped on to itself to the point that you could barely tell at the end that time travel had anything to do with this.  Which I guess is interesting in itself, in some meta way, since time travel when it is working on all cylinders is all about loops - just not the kind that are so self-obliterating you forget about time travel and think you're watching a pretty obvious police show.

But thanks for the ride, anyway.  I'm always up for time travel, and will usually stay with it, as this complete set of reviews demonstrates.  Cueing Ringo.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Outlander 3.2: Whole Lot of Loving, But ...

Outlander 3.2 put on a good show tonight, with Claire and Frank making love in the late 1940s, and Jaime doing the same (mostly off camera) back in those 1750s...

Problem is, Claire's thinking of Jaime (of course), and Frank knows it (also of course).  And Jaime doesn't really want to, but, hey, he's gone too long without it, and he closes his eyes.

I have an idea (and, again, I should say that I haven't read the novels, so I know nothing beyond this very episode).  But, if Jaime misses Claire so deeply, and he wants to stop endangering his sister and her family (his family, too), why doesn't he just make his way to up to those standing stones and try to find Claire in the future?

But that said, it was still a good episode, especially seeing what Jaime's family went through to protect him, and what Claire's going through to assert her professional aspirations at Harvard in the 1940s, where apparently women were not usually thought of as doctors.

I say apparently, because I grew up in the 1950s, and two of my pediatricians - both excellent - were women.   Where did they get their degrees?  If we're to believe Outlander, presumably not at Harvard - which, if true, says Harvard was a lot more misogynistic (and racist, too) than other colleges and universities.

But I digress.   We clearly have a good, tense, dramatic situation now in Outlander, with Claire and Jaime both missing and wanting each other, and not only an ocean but an ocean of time between them.  It will be fun to see if and how they manage to cross it.

See also Outlander Season 3 Debut: A Tale of Two Times and Places

And see also Outlander 2.1: Split Hour ... Outlander 2.2: The King and the Forest ... Outlander 2.3: Mother and Dr. Dog ... Outlander 2.5: The Unappreciated Paradox ... Outlander 2.6: The Duel and the Offspring ...Outlander 2.7: Further into the Future ... Outlander 2.8: The Conversation ... Outlander 2.9: Flashbacks of the Future ... Outlander 2.10: One True Prediction and Counting ... Outlander 2.11: London Not Falling ... Outlander 2.12: Stubborn Fate and Scotland On and Off Screen ... Outlander Season 2 Finale: Decades

And see also Outlander 1.1-3: The Hope of Time Travel ... Outlander 1.6:  Outstanding ... Outlander 1.7: Tender Intertemporal Polygamy ...Outlander 1.8: The Other Side ... Outlander 1.9: Spanking Good ... Outlander 1.10: A Glimmer of Paradox ... Outlander 1.11: Vaccination and Time Travel ... Outlander 1.12: Black Jack's Progeny ...Outlander 1.13: Mother's Day ... Outlander 1.14: All That Jazz ... Outlander Season 1 Finale: Let's Change History

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gypsy: Beyond Treatment

Binge-watch Gypsy on Netflix in you're in the mood for a highly original, riveting, erotic, New York-based, not quite a thriller in the conventional sense but it has a a lot of that too, and a tour-de-force performance by Naomi Watts.

It was especially good to see Watts after her necessarily gonzo, unidimensional performance in the alter-dimensional Twin Peaks: The Return, which was excellent in a very different way.  In Gypsy, she plays psychologist Jean Holloway, who has at least two identities and numerous looks and attitudes.  Watts plays them all to perfection.

The set-up is she's a shrink who crosses the line and gets involved - literally, in at least one case - with the close relations of her patients.   Though her motives could be magnanimous, i.e., born of a desire to better help her patients, we soon learn, at least in one case, that Holloway is doing this much more for her own gratification.  Further, she doesn't even struggle with this - it's as natural to her as stopping by the coffee shop where her main infatuation (or maybe it's true love), the ex-girlfriend of one of her patients, works as a barista. In other words, this is no In Treatment. Now, New York's a pretty big town, and we have to suspend our disbelief that she is constantly in danger of her patients running into her when she is seeing or doing more with one of their loved ones.  That's where the thriller part comes in, and Holloway loves the adrenalin rush.  I liked it, too.

There are good performances everywhere, especially by Melanie Liburd, who plays Alexis, secretary to Holloway's husband Michael, a lawyer, played by Billy Crudup, who does what's needed in portraying a well-meaning character who's usually behind the eight ball about his wife's activities, but gradually gets the picture.  In the end, this first season of a series that so evocatively calls for more is an ode to feminine sexual power, as typified by a scene in which Jean and Alexis each have sexual encounters, against most odds, and Michael, of his own choosing, has none.

Highly recommended for a few late summer evenings, or, I'd bet, a few evenings any time of year.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Somewhere Between 1.9: Clearing the Deck

And in this next-to-last episode of the season (series? who knows) of Somewhere Between - 1.9, to be precise - we get lots of important developments, including [spoilers abound  below]

  • Tom is dead.  Shot dead, that is, by the team of bad guys, whom we learn are working for ...
  • The Governor, or maybe the Governor's wife, it's not entirely clear.  What is clear is that this is one dysfunctional family, with a son who kidnaps Serena (though he seems to have a good heart), and another who likely is the killer.
This puts everything in much sharper perspective.  The reason that the Governor is not willing to relent on the death penalty for Danny - or, again, maybe it's the Governor's wife who is not willing to relent on this, so she's encouraging the Governor to be "strong" - but, in either case, the goal is to close the case on the murder, by killing the convicted murderer, Danny, so the real murderer, the Governor's son (the really bad one) will get off scot free.

Serena's kidnapping is a bit more complicated.  She was certainly taken as a way putting pressure on her father, Tom, and that was working, for a while.  But Tom got wise, then got killed, so now that's no longer a reason to use Serena as a negotiating hostage.  Given that the good - or at least, better than the murdering - brother kidnapped her, it would seem that he might be inclined to release her now.

Except - his mother, the Governor's wife, certainly doesn't want that, since Serena has seen the face of her kidnapper, many times, which of course would endanger the Governor and his family.  At this point, then, Somewhere Between has become a pretty good, if convoluted, cop or murder mystery show.  And, hey, the killing of Tom totally frees Laura to be with Nico, in case there was even a sliver of doubt before.

As for the time travel - well, that's scarcely been in evidence, and I do hope it returns in whatever kind of finale we see next week.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Outlander Season 3 Debut: A Tale of Two Times and Places

A strong, sensitive season 3 debut for Outlander tonight, with two parallel stories, excellent in different ways, as befits the splitting in time and space of Jamie and Claire that we saw at the end of the second season.

Claire's story had lots of nice touches of life for her and Frank at Harvard in the late 1940s, including snobbish support for Dewey in the 1948 Presidential election and insufferable male chauvinism from just about every man in town, with the partial exception of Frank, who's nothing but understanding, or as understanding as he can be, under the circumstances.  As in all time-travel conversations, our knowledge that indeed Truman would win, as Claire thought he might, makes her opinion all the more enjoyable to hear (and it testifies to her acumen, given that she has yet to travel into her own future, via the stones or any other means).

Jamie's story is far more harrowing, coming to the brink of death after the carnage of Culloden. Again, we know that Jamie cannot die that way - not because we know the future, Jamie is a fictional character, after all, unlike Dewey - but because he's too important a character to die, certainly at the beginning of a new season like this.  (Though after what happened to Abby in another series on tonight, I guess anything is possible).  But it was still engrossing to see how Jamie got out of the death sentence, despite himself, and after a lot of good people met their maker or whomever you might meet in a universe in which time travel's possible.

And one very bad person died, too - Black Jack, at Jamie's hand - but here I'll offer my customary point that unless you see someone's head cut off or blown off, you never know for this sure, and, again, especially so when time travel's afoot.  (I haven't read the novels.)  But I'd guess (and hope) he truly is dead.

Good to have this story back, and I expect I'll be back every week or so with a review.

See also Outlander 2.1: Split Hour ... Outlander 2.2: The King and the Forest ... Outlander 2.3: Mother and Dr. Dog ... Outlander 2.5: The Unappreciated Paradox ... Outlander 2.6: The Duel and the Offspring ...Outlander 2.7: Further into the Future ... Outlander 2.8: The Conversation ... Outlander 2.9: Flashbacks of the Future ... Outlander 2.10: One True Prediction and Counting ... Outlander 2.11: London Not Falling ... Outlander 2.12: Stubborn Fate and Scotland On and Off Screen ... Outlander Season 2 Finale: Decades

And see also Outlander 1.1-3: The Hope of Time Travel ... Outlander 1.6:  Outstanding ... Outlander 1.7: Tender Intertemporal Polygamy ...Outlander 1.8: The Other Side ... Outlander 1.9: Spanking Good ... Outlander 1.10: A Glimmer of Paradox ... Outlander 1.11: Vaccination and Time Travel ... Outlander 1.12: Black Jack's Progeny ...Outlander 1.13: Mother's Day ... Outlander 1.14: All That Jazz ... Outlander Season 1 Finale: Let's Change History

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Narcos 3: The Gentlemen of Cali

Narcos was back the first of September with its third streaming season on Netflix.   It had a lot to live up to with the death of Escobar at the end of the second season, someone who in his own way is right up there with everyone from Robin Hood to Michael Corleone, and who was actually real in recent history.  But Narcos 3 did it, and manages to present a season every bit as riveting if not quite as biographically significant as in the first two runs.

And that's because the Rodriguez brothers, aka the Cali Cartel along with Pacho and a guy in New York, want to keep a low profile, or a much lower profile than their late rival, Pablo Escobar.  They -- or at least, the Rodriguez brothers -- consider themselves not only corporate executives but "gentlemen".  And they are, of sorts.

Miguel Rodriguez - very well played by Francisco Denis, by the way - has a fairly important high-level manager in their organization killed because Miguel covets his wife.  She takes him up on his offer of a free luxury apartment for her and her son, because what can she do?  But when she starts taking her dress off for Miguel, he gently puts it back on her.  That's gentlemanly, right?  I mean, he did kill her husband, but ... (They do sleep together a little later.)

DEA agent Peña (continually well acted by Pedro Pascal) has become a USA hero of sorts, having brought down the legendary Escobar, but he of course has his hands more than full trying to do the same for the Cali Cartel.  He's assisted by two young, gung-ho agents, but the crucial difference is made by Jorge Salcedo, the ace Cali tech wizard and security chief who (spoilers) switches sides.  (Good performance here by Matias Varela.) As was the case with the first two seasons, we know the ending of this true story, but not how everyone gets there, and there's lots of great action -- especially from Chepe, the guy in New York, who actually does not keep such a low profile - and surprises along the way.

Highly recommended!

See also Narcos on Netflix: Outstanding ... Narcos 2: In League with The Godfather Saga

a different kind of crime

Somewhere Between 1.8: Capital Punishment and Time Travel

Somewhere Between ratcheted up the life-and-death tension in 1.8 this week, pitting Laura's daughter Serena vs. Nico's brother Danny as the one-or-the-other victim to be saved by Laura and Nico, who have the advantage of knowing what will happen any day now, at the end of this, but little else going for them in terms of power over events.

Nico, I've got to say, is not even too good a fighter, losing most of the one-on-one's he's been in. Laura can't seem to get it through her head that she has to stop screaming around authorities in clinics who can keep her locked up.

One good thing is that Tom - Laura's husband and Serena's father - seems to really want to help now. Were it up to him, he'd probably stop all executions, if there was a chance that would save Serena, who he can see is now undeniably in danger.  The villain in office has shifted to the Governor.

By the way, I'm against capital punishment in principle, because our legal system is too imperfect to support the state taking anyone's life.   Danny shouldn't need that evidence to keep him off death row - he shouldn't have been there in the first place.  In that sense, Somewhere Between, between the lines, actually works best as a disquisition against capital punishment.

As for time travel, the series is also doing a good job portraying what I think of as a recalcitrant universe - that is, a universe unwilling to let time travel undo what it the universe has laid out for itself and us.   (I explore that kind of universe in The Chronology Protection Case, so I'm always glad to see it on a screen.)

I'd say episode 1.8 was the one of the best so far, and has put Somewhere Between on a fast track for an exciting ending.

Available on Prime

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Finale: The Beginning

Well, Twin Peaks: The Return went out the way it all came in: at the beginning.

As usual in The Return, that little man who told Cooper early on to "Wake up!" and last week, when Cooper got back his senses (to the extent that anyone has senses or sense in this multiple inside-out reality) after far too long, intoned "Finally!," tonight spoke truth when he asked of Cooper the question, "is it the future or the past?" in that slo-mo way that folks speak in the alter-dimension.

And the answer turned out to be the latter as Cooper drove with someone who seemed to be Laura Palmer 25 years later:  it was the past.   So maybe this whole Return was another prequel, which happened even earlier than the first prequel, which we saw a year after the original Twin Peaks series back when.

There were plenty of nice touches in this double-hour finale prelude, such as -
  • the man the Palmer house in the past being heard but not seen, which suggests he may be a character in the original Twin Peaks and perhaps The Return
  • the stuporous Cooper is back with his "family" - i.e., Dougie's family - just as the newly re-sentient Cooper promised them last week.  Except ... who is he?   Maybe bad Cooper, except now his mind is scrambled, taken over by good Cooper in a stupor?  I don't know ... maybe.
  • the Cooper in possession of his faculties sleeps with Diane - or, she sleeps with him - which was good at least insofar as the bad Diane who was killed last week doesn't get the last word
  • Gordon told his team the truth - well, ok, that wasn't all that nice a touch or important, but it gave Gordon a chance to get off a line about hard and soft, and Albert to make a crack about the Marx Bros, and you don't get that every day in a television series, so I wanted to give it a shout-out
Some excellent B-movie cheesy science fiction visuals in this finale/beginning, and I've got to say I enjoyed The Return, and would definitely watch more.

So I'll say ... see you last week.

Available on Prime

Friday, September 1, 2017

Prisoner X: Time Travel with a Twist

I'm always up for time travel - especially in a movie - so I was pleased when the Netflix DVD for Prisoner X, a 2016 movie by Gaurav Seth based on a story by Robert Reed, showed up in the mail today.  I should mention, before I continue, that Seth expressed some interest in making a movie from one of my time-travel stories almost almost a decade ago, but nothing came of it, and I've met Reed one or two times, and like his writing.  But, hey, that's not surprising, it's a small world - especially when it comes to time travel ...

Speaking of which, Prisoner X is quite good when it comes to what I regard as the basics of time travel.  The characters in a position to know indeed know that paradoxes engendered by travel to the past (such as accidentally preventing your grandparents from meeting, so how did you come to exist and travel to the past in the first place?), can be avoided by the multiple worlds/universes/realities scenario, in which every action in the past brings a new world/universe/reality into being.  (PL1 from World 1 travels to the past and gets in the way of his grandparents meeting.  This leads to World 2, in which there is no PL - but there's no problem or paradox invoked, because the fool who prevented his grandparents from meeting was PL1 from World 1, not from World 2.)  And the characters in Prisoner X also get that no such paradoxes are invoked in travel to the future.  (Though I'll also point out that travel to the future creates other profound problems, like the obliteration of free will, since if you travel to tomorrow and see me wearing a blue shirt, that interferes with my free will to wear a light green shirt tomorrow.  But that's another story.)

In any case, Prisoner X is good at that paradox and the past business, and even better with some excellent twists that come up near the end, and are thoroughly plausible in retrospect.  I won't tell you what those twists are, because I don't want to spoil your fun if you see the movie.

Otherwise, the plot in general is ok, featuring a time traveler from the future who claims to have a connection to a devastating Islamic attack on the world that happens in a not-so-distant future.  The most serious problem is not a specific part or point in that plot, but the general flavor of the story that is supposed to take place in 2017.  I get that the movie was released in 2016 and no doubt was in part made a few years before that.   But not only does the atmosphere feel nothing like Trump, it doesn't have much resonance with the Obama era either (even though ISIS is mentioned once), and feels like maybe sometime around 2005 or 2006 (with, among things, constant reference to Iraq).  And, in fact, Reed's Hugo-nominated story ("Truth," on which Prisoner X is based) was first published in 2008.

But that problem, though more than a quibble, doesn't interfere too much with the time travel and the twists, which makes Prisoner X well worth watching if you're a devotee of the genre.

watch FREE on Amazon Prime

Available on Prime

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Somewhere Between 1.7: No Deja Vu

So we found out in Somewhere Between 1.7 last night that Nico is not a killer, just a "black-out" drunk, which we already knew (both attributes), and that Tom is pretty bad, after all, though I still can't see him doing anything to hurt let alone kill his daughter.

I'll give this oddly acted show this: here we are after seven episodes, and we the audience almost haven't a clue as to what's really going on.  That's not easy to do in a narrative.  In effect, it puts the audience in the same boat as Laura and Nico, the two lead characters.

What I don't get - and that's why I tried to go easy, and say "oddly" acted - is why the acting is so obvious, almost cartoonish.  This applies to all the characters, big and small, up and down, including Paula Patton as Laura, who was memorable as Denzel Washington's love interest and focal point of the story in one of the best time-travel movies ever made, Deja Vu.

We're certainly not getting a sense of deja vu in her acting here, in Somewhere Between, where, when she's not rattling off her lines, she's making obvious faces, and whose fault is that?  The director's? And why would that be?  To make Somewhere Between seem more like a comic book?  I have no idea.

But the premise of the story is still intriguing, especially so because, somehow, we still don't know much more than the premise, which is why I keep watching every week, looking for more, looking forward to more.

See you next week.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return 1.16: Finally!

Well, by the far the best episode of Twin Peaks: The Return - 1.16 - with the two-hour finale on tap for next week (though the inside the atom bomb episode was a nonpareil story in itself).  But tonight -

1. As I (sarcastically) said I was hoping last week - because I'd just about given up hope - that near electrocution indeed brought the good Cooper back to life on Earth, totally woken out of his stupor.  I couldn't agree more with that little man from the other dimension, Cooper's (and our) guide of sorts, who said "Finally". Yes, indeed.   It was great to Cooper back to his old, so deeply decent self, and my favorite line was when he said "I am FBI."  Close seconds were the Twin Peaks theme playing as good Cooper moved back into play, and Cooper saying goodbye to Janey-E, and she realizing that he was something different from her Dougie, and something very good to her and their boy.

2. The shoot-out in front of Dougie's house was also top-notch Lynch, also reminiscent of the Cohen Brothers.  (As I think I mentioned in an earlier review, Fargo the television series is certainly deeply indebted to Twin Peaks.)  But every single character in that shoot-out was perfectly played, especially by Tim Roth (who just played one character, but he was just right in a deadpan way.)

3. Jim Belushi, who's been just outstanding all season in one of his finest comedic roles, was also just right tonight.  I read somewhere that David Lynch was unhappy with some or one or whatever of Belushi's ad libs - I don't know what the ad lib was, but what was on the screen tonight was high camp deluxe.  (And Robert Knepper as his brother was 100%, too.)

4. Even the ending was the best so far: a double-ending, with Eddie Vedder (Edward Louis Severson II) doing an acoustic-guitar concluding song, unexpectedly followed by Audrey dancing and clearly awakening from a nightmare herself.

In fact, this whole Return could be seen as awakening from a nightmare, because that's what it is. And now I'm feeling a little bad that it all be over next week (and hoping our Cooper will indeed come back to Janey-E).  See ya next week.

See also Twin Peaks: The Return 1.1-2: Superluminal Sans Cherry Pie ... 1.3-4: Coffee and Cole ... 1.5: The Mod Squad Meets Big Love in the Diner ... 1.6: Red Door and Childish Scribbles ... 1.7: Lost and Not Lost ... 1.8: Atom Bomb and Mr. Homn ... 1.9: "I Don't See No Hidden Buttons" ... 1.10: "No Stars" ... 1.11: Double Cherry Pie and Viva Las Vegas ... 1.12: No Song - Slim Hope of Deliverance ... 1.13: Humor ...1.14: Painstaking Progress ... 1.15: Meditation on a Gas Station

FREE on Amazon Prime

Available on Prime

Ray Donovan 5.4: How to Sell a Script

My favorite part of tonight's Ray Donovan 5.4 was the Mickey story, and how he goes about getting his Clover script into business.  It's something every writer who's not already a successful screen writer can relate to.

First, Mickey can't get to first or any base with his script.  Who knows how good it is - actually, from the little part he read to himself and us in the car, it had potential (though that may be just be a commentary on my taste or lack of).  But the point is that unless you have someone attached to it - someone usually being an actor with some heft - you won't get anywhere if you aren't already somewhere in Hollywood.

Fortune smiles on Mickey when he comes upon a successful actor in trouble - not in movie-making but in real life, as in accidentally cutting off the head of his samurai master teacher.  Not to worry, Mick knows what to do.  Cut up the body, put the parts in buckets of concrete, and throw them all in the ocean.  (Actually, I would have thrown them in different places, miles or whatever apart in the water, but I know even less about disposing dead bodies than I do about selling screenplays.)  (If you must know, I've so far had a total of one story made into a short movie - but that was not by anyone famous in Hollywood, though the movie is on Amazon Prime for free now - see end of this review.)

But back to Mick, after disposing of the late sensei, he breaks the news to the actor aka accidental killer - Mick's price for the body disposal is Jay (the actor) has to get behind Mick's script. This couldn't have come at a better time for Mick, having just been rejected along with his script by some high fallutin' agency.

(Hey, you know what?  I'd pay money to see Mick's movie.  Maybe not, I'll wait for it on Amazon Prime.)

But back to Ray - it's sad business, Abby being gone, which is why I'll end this here on happy note about Mick now having a fighting chance of breaking through.

FREE on Amazon Prime (see, I wasn't kidding)

Available on Prime

See Ray Donovan 5.1: Big Change

See also Ray Donovan 4.1: Good to Be Back ... Ray Donovan 4.2: Settling In ... Ray Donovan 4.4: Bob Seger ... Ray Donovan 4.7: Easybeats ... Ray Donovan 4.9: The Ultimate Fix ... Ray Donovan Season 4 Finale: Roses

And see also Ray Donovan 3.1: New, Cloudy Ray ... Ray Donovan 3.2: Beat-downs ... Ray Donovan 3.7: Excommunication!

And see also Ray Donovan 2.1: Back in Business ... Ray Donovan 2.4: The Bad Guy ... Ray Donovan 2.5: Wool Over Eyes ... Ray Donovan 2.7: The Party from Hell ... Ray Donovan 2.10: Scorching ... Ray Donovan 2.11: Out of Control ... Ray Donovan Season 2 Finale: Most Happy Ending

And 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