Chicago PD – Called in Dead – Fall Finale

We’ve all heard of a Series Finale – we just had one yesterday for The Newsroom.  A series had its run and then the curtain comes down for the last time. Then there are Seasonal Finales which means see you later, as in next year.

Last Wednesday, I watched a Fall Season Finale. Now I hadn’t heard of this term before, or said differently, I hadn’t paid the strictest attention. What the Fall Season Finale means, in this case, is that we are taking a few weeks off, and don’t really want to collide with the Holiday season.

Case in point is Dick Wolf’s Chicago PD on NBC. The fall season finale aired on Wednesday, December 10th. Chicago PD will resume in January, 2015.

The episode, called Called in Dead centered around the squad taking down a vicious heroin ring. As the show aired five days ago, and is off the air for a while, I plan to discuss the cliff hangers which Wolf and co handed to us. So there will be some spoilers ahead; you’ve been warned.

We find out about the heroin as it arrives right in Lindsay’s apartment via a girl OD’ing. Nadia brought the girl to the apartment. This girl is able to tell Lindsay that she scored the H called Passion at a club. Right away we get the first mini-cliff hanger, as this club is soon robbed at gun point by a truly well-organized crew – all dressed completely in black with everything concealed – black jackets, pants, and shoes. Black balaclava masks with dark sunglasses.

Who did the robbery – why none other than Sgt. Voight and his merry band of coppers. Why? To squeeze the club manager. Who, once brought in for question on the basis of wire taps and security footage, is between a rock and hard place. Either he helps the cops by setting them up with a meet with the big boss, or they bust him for the H lab, or they’ll turn him loose, and the big boss will want answers or his 20 million worth of heroin back.

Worked like a charm – as the robbery went down we had no idea who it was. And getting the club manager to roll over was effective but not so brilliant. I mean, what choice did this guy have.

So the meet is set up and the cops take in this guy Blue, only Blue isn’t the very top – he’s just near the top. And not so easily intimidated. So the case is stalled.

With the case stalled, Olinsky heads home. He’s graduating from the garage to the main house, a sure sign that his estranged wife is ready to take him back. But he’s in for a surprise.

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The Newsroom Ends Its Run

If you don’t have a way to push the story forward, then take the easy way out, and circle back to the beginning,

Of course, using that as my lead would be not quite correct. The Newsroom brought down the curtain for the final time tonight, and strangely enough, Aaron Sorkin waited until the last 10 minutes or so to push the story ahead into the future.

The actual length of this, the final episode, was about 65 minutes or so. I guess they found the extra time that they had saved in the earlier episodes this season. Aside from the fact that Charlie Skinner died at the end of the previous episode, this episode ended on a series of definite upticks.

And that means that I am not going to take Sorkin out behind the shed for a good old-fashioned critical ‘whipping’. In short I’m saying that I rather enjoyed this last episode called What Kind of a Day Has It Been. Basically everyone and all the dangling couples, lovers, jobs , and uncertainty has been wrapped up in many ‘happy endings’, and kudos to Sorkin for doing so.

In fact he ended this show with Will McAvoy speaking the words that were the title of the very first episode of The Newsroom which aired on June 24, 2012. Do you remember them?

We Just Decided To.

But getting there wasn’t easy. To borrow from A Tale of Two CitiesIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Meaning that The Newsroom , which totaled 25 episodes, provided a kind of television that could be called exhilarating. It was also at times, silly, or exasperating, or pedantic as we watched as McAvoy spoke to us from his Sorkin pulpit. Or Sorkin wrote some maddening stuff for the female characters. Or at worst – who really cares if Maggie Jordan and Jim Harper ever find their way.

I loved Charley Skinner. He gave new meaning to the words cantankerous as well as curmudgeonly. When he was hopping mad, he was something that could be called beautiful. I loved Mackenzie – even with her less than stellar computer skills. After all, despite all that she was good for News Night, and even better for Will McAvoy. On top of that, she even ‘solved’ the Genoa issue.

Don began as the bad guy and ended up as someone to admire, even with his stance on the Princeton rape case last week. I never figured him for some one for Sloan to go for. As for Sloan, she was funny, brilliant, and sometimes a bit shrill – but always lovable. I’ll never forget the first time she made Charlie Skinner hopping mad – and I mean that literally. That was when she had a conversation, on the air, in Japanese, which got her suspended. The second time she really riled up Charlie – he died.

So both Don and Sloan had these strong feelings of guilt. But the reality was that Charlie’s fires had gone out seven weeks before. He wasn’t supporting Pruitt’s measures as much as he was simply living through them – getting deeper and deeper into a state of depression.

As the episode opened we saw those TPC limousines arriving for the Skinner funeral at a beautiful suburban church. The church choir was singing, the church was packed, and everyone was present except for Mackenzie who was outside the church on her cell phone. She was getting some important news, which she would pass on to Will as they sat in the pew, but not to us. At least not directly. When she told Will who had called her – we all got the message – including Will.

But seconds later we flashed back to -

Hey! Sorority girl! When you ask me to tell you why America is the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Yosemite?

Yeah, that was the opening. Not the actual panel discussion at Northwestern – but a video of it which Charlie Skinner was replaying in his office. Which means we were back in 2010. Charlie was aghast. Yeah he’s back, in the sense of not now, or ever again in the foreseeable future, if there was one, but via flashbacks to when Will lost it at Northwestern, and then to a few places we had never been before – like Will alone at a bar in the Caribbean. No Erin Andrews in sight.

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Peter Pan Live

To be honest, I’ve not been an aficionado of Broadway musicals or shows of other stripes. Nor have I attended Broadway musicals in a way that could be described as more than sporadically and that’s over a lifetime. At best, I can name about two hands worth of shows on Broadway that I saw in person. West Side Story, Cats, Hair, Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, The Lion King, Aida (not the Verdi opera but rather it was the Tim Rice/Elton John production) and maybe Sound of Music. But since this post is about Peter Pan, I definitely can say that I saw Peter Pan in person during the Cathy Rigby/Broadway era. Only Rigby had the night off when I saw it.

Which meant that I was all-in, for some still undefined reasons (that may have had something to with that failed series Smash) to watch last year’s NBC production of The Sound Of Music. There’s no way that I would say that Carrie Underwood was the next coming of either Mary Martin or Julie Andrews. But the live production was the first such production of a Broadway musical on live television in 50 years, and that certainly added to the allure. I was definitely not in the same camp as the Haters who set the Twitter world ablaze with vitriolic about the production. I rather enjoyed the show.

Thank you Rodgers and Hammerstein for your memorable words and music in that place where the hill were alive.

Which brings me to Thurday night’s NBC production called Peter Pan Live. I don’t believe any one who tweets, blogs, texts, or instagrams is ready to say that Peter Pan’s music/lyrics is or was better than The Sound of Music’s.

There were a lot of discussions yesterday, and more today, in every newspaper and all over the internet, about how the viewing numbers for Pan Live were down about 50% from last year. There are a number of reasons for that – first, the novelty of a Broadway show on TV was no longer that much of a novelty. Second, the Sound of Music, at least to me, was more of an adult story than Peter Pan. Third, the schedule of a Thursday night was a mistake from the jump, as there was a NFL football game on at the same time, and finally, a three-hour TV show running from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM on a school night would be most likely a problem for parents with younger elementary school aged children as the show would go far past ‘normal’ bed times.

But, not being an NBC executive or an advertiser, my interest in the ‘numbers talk’ has no useful purpose. What ever the numbers, most of us watch TV in our homes rather than in public auditoriums. So if I am home watching Peter Pan, I’ve no interest in whether or not the people across the hall, the couple with a six-year-old boy, are watching the show or not.

It seems that there is a great divide in the opinions on the quality of the performances. I for one didn’t much care for Christopher Walken as Hook. He sorely lacked the energy that I was expecting from a pirate captain. At his age, he may still be able to do a relaxed soft shoe kind of theatrical stage dancing, but his voice wasn’t able to project as such a role, captain of a band of brigands, likely calls for.

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By the Gun

While this brand new film which opened today, at a few theaters and mostly On-Demand, may have the look and feel of being in Soprano territory, or being a Soprano wanna-be – you know, a North Jersey location with a North Jersey crew – however it takes place in the North End of Boston and there was only one Boston accent to be heard.

By the Gun is an oft told tale of a guy who grew up in a tough neighborhood, and when he got old enough, he wanted to graduate from being a low-life, petty criminal to becoming a made man in the local organization. The big boss, Sal Vitaglia, played by Harvey Keitel, takes a shine to this kid, Nick Tortano, played by Ben Barnes, and in what seems like a blink of an eye, soon Nicky is taking the vows of omerta, as he pledges lifelong allegiance in ‘this thing of ours‘ and he’s now a made man.

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Congratulations kid, is what he hears. The thing of it is, that while Nicky earned the button, he never made his bones. It took his friend George Mullins (Slaine has the role), a loose cannon if there ever was one, to finish the assignment as Nicky froze when it came time to squeeze the trigger.

Slaine aka George Carroll

Slaine aka George Carroll

We soon meet Tony Matazano played by Ritchie Kostner, who has made a career of playing psychopaths and criminals. This Tony likes his nose candy, and beyond that he likes getting his johnson waxed as often as possible. Kostner, as usual, is so in-your-face, that he steals every scene he’s in, even when he’s about to join the hole-in-your-head gang forever.

The problem is that as soon as you lay eyes on Kostner’s Tony, you know what you’re going to see next. Ditto for the soft speaking Harvey Keitel. The casting director, Jessica Kelly, is the one person who worked on this film, who is worthy of a commendation. She’s got a great eye for character roles, and every one you see, looks just right.

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Just a Sigh

Doug: Why did you follow me?
Alix: I didn’t follow you. I went and found you. It’s very different.

Just a Sigh is not your grandfather’s Strangers on A Train, yet all that matters begins on a train from Calais to Paris. I was scanning through Netflix and found this one and was intrigued by the Netflix description -

During a break between performances in Calais, French theater actress Alix meets an enigmatic English man on the train to Paris — and the two wind up having a passionate encounter that may change both their lives.

It was just two years ago, in November of 2012 that I took the train down to Paris from Amsterdam. I even arrived at the same station as the people in the film – Gare du Nord. Alix is an actress and as the film begins, I didn’t know where we were or who was who, and then I found that this film opened with a long single take of an actress preparing to go on stage for a performance of an Ibsen play. Flashes of Birdman danced in my head – but this idea only played through a few moments ending with the second or third final bow by the on stage players.

Alix had a talk with the stage manager – nobody had been paid in two weeks – such is the life of actress performing in a road company. She needed the money because she had to take the train down to Paris for an audition for a film the next morning.

But Alix, who is played by the enigmatic as well as beautiful Emmanuelle Devos, had other issues to deal with like a phone with dying battery and the phone charger left in the Calais apartment. Like a blocked credit card because no one in the show had been paid. And only a small handful of cash.

On the train, she makes contact with the brooding Gabriel Byrne. At this point we know nothing about him. All we now is that Alix and he have made eye contact, and only eye contact. As the train pulls into Gare du Nord, Byrne, still unnamed as a character asks Alix if she can direct him to a particular church – St. Clothilde. Alix knew it vaguely, and she was trying to give in instructions in English, not her first language, but clearly Doug’s (Byrne).

But Alix is interrupted by a knowing traveler who proceeds to give Doug a point by point set of instructions including directions of the Metro and which stations to change for another line. Alix slinks off, a bit embarrassed as well as unsure if approaching this complete stranger is something she ought to do.

Plus, she has to get to the audition.

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Bad Country – ‘Hell With the Lid Off’

Now I’ve never been to N’Awlins, and don’t know the words to Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou or even Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Born on the Bayou. I can gu-Waa-rahn-tee that I’ve never been in the state called Louisiana. At least not in person.

But earlier this year, from January 12th, to March 9th, I invested about 8 hours of my time to spend it with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McGonaughey. Maybe they weren’t all that Cajun, but certainly True Detectives they were. No doubt about that. But last week I spent some time with another detective in bayou country. Willem Dafoe portrays Baton Rouge detective Bud Carter in the straight to video film called Bad Country.

When we first meet Bud, he’s working a buy and bust deal that goes bad when he shows up on the TV, in the bar where the deal is going down. Hey, this guy is a cop!!!

Bud worked the narcotics detail among others and he knew who he was and where he was. He knew that he was swimming in a river of shit, and he aimed to make it better.

In his own words, Bud Carter said – South Louisiana in the 1980’s was a different kind of time and place. Some called it lawless. But it wasn’t. Others said we just got a certain way of doing things down here. But it ain’t that either. Instead, I call it what it was. Hell with the lid off.

So with the pressure mounting, and more and more drugs finding their way into Baton Rouge and N’Awlins – strong measures were called for. While Carter was doing his thing, a contract killer called Jesse Weiland (Matt Dillon) was doing his thing.

Circles crossed and one day Weiland found himself looking down the twin barrels of a shotgun in the hands of Officer Carter. Being a two time loser, as well as a parole violator, Weiland was looking at the shotgun which represented the end of his freedom forever.

He had no choice but to accept a deal offered by Carter. It was simple. Come to work for us. Get yourself close to Lutin (Tom Berenger) – the boss of all bosses in these parts. Report everything to us so we can take down Lutin once and for all – and you’ll stay free.

There’s your set up, and there’s your film.

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Charlie Wilson’s War

 

Mike Nichols died recently, and with The Newsroom having just two episodes remaining, I decided I needed to watch Charlie Wilson’s War – a 2007 film directed by Mr. Nichols, and written by Mr. Aaron Sorkin – that somehow had fallen through the cracks without me having seen it.

I went in with high expectations about Tom Hanks as the former US Congressman Charlie Wilson. Would I get an ‘Aw Shucks’ version of Hanks, as if he was reprising Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or maybe his own Larry Crowne.

Would I get an American Idol film star on a par with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, or maybe a Gary Cooper as Meet John Doe.

Or maybe Hanks would come off as a guy somewhere between a Bogie or a Bond?

What I got was Tom Hanks doing a good-looking and slicked up version of Lyndon B. Johnson. A good old boy down from East Texas, a master in the arts of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, a king among deal makers, as well as man who could consume vast quantities of liquor and equally large quantities of women.

He’d party anywhere – in a bar, a bedroom, or even a hot tub in a Las Vegas hotel complete with a handful of bimbos.

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Dicte: A Danish TV Series Now on Netflix

 

When we meet Dicte (short for Benedicte) she is 16 years old and in the throes of giving birth to a child which turns out to be a baby boy. Within two hours, the baby is taken from her.

Flash forward 24 years. Dicte is now a divorced Mom of a 17-year-old daughter. She has returned to her hometown of Aarhus, Denmark, and is working as a crime reporter for Dag Bladet which happens to be Norway’s 2nd largest tabloid newspaper, and there is a Swedish daily newspaper of the same name. Since we are set up in Aarhus in Denmark – it really doesn’t much matter as the office is quite small and could easily be a bureau office for either paper’s Danish edition.

Any way, we come to learn that Dicte Svendsen has returned to her hometown and is working as a reporter. Long ago, within hours of the birth, her baby was given up for adoption, she was disowned by her parents, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses for bearing an out-of-wedlock child, fathered by a man who was not a Jehovah’s Witness.

She’s very good at her job, and she has a nice house out-of-town, where she and her daughter live. Dicte has two girlfriends – Anne Skov Larsen who works as a midwife at a large Aarhus hospital, and Ida-Marie Svensson, who is married and struggling to become pregnant.

Lars Brygmann as Wagner

Lars Brygmann as Wagner

There’s a photographer at the newspaper who will play a major role in this series, as will Dicte’s daughter Rose, and a pair of police detectives – a man named Wagner, and a lady detective called Bendtsen. Season One consists of 10 Episodes that each run about 45 minutes. And these are 5 stories of two episodes each.

The crimes are drug smuggling, black market body organs, surrogate mothers who are prostitutes, crimes of passion, a kidnapping, and revenge etc.

In a single sentence Dicte can be described as a woman who tries to cope with being a full-time reporter, a part-time sleuth – all while trying to restart her life.

The stories are adaptions of the mystery thrillers written by Elsbeth Egholm, who is a very successful Danish author. Right now Dicte Season One is available on Netflix, and Season Two, which has just concluded its broadcast run in Europe on November 26th is scheduled to become available via Netflix in 2015.

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State of Affairs: Episodes 102 and 103

Well I’ve made it through three episodes of NBC’s replacement for The Blacklist – State of Affairs. The Blacklist will resume on February 1st, 2015 – so, unless we hear differently, State of Affairs is a fill-in while James Spader & Co are on hiatus.

To her credit, star Katherine Heigl has done rather well for herself with this show. She is a definite plus in a show that finds itself in sort of no womans land between Homeland and Madam Secretary. Heigl plays Charleston ‘Charlie’ Tucker – a CIA analyst who is in charge of a team that prepares the Daily Briefing Book for POTUS, or as she’s correctly referred to – President of the United States. POTUS is of course an acronym or short hand.

When President Constance Payton enters onto the Capitol Building’s Congressional floor, she’s announced as The President of The United States. But behind the scenes, and obviously out of Payton’s hearing, the Secret Service, and staffers of all the cabinets use the shorthand POTUS – far fewer syllables if you were counting.

Anyway Charlie has field experience, and obviously knows her way around a myriad of technological assets at her disposal. In the pilot episode, Dennis Boutsikaris had the role of CIA Director Skinner. But beginning in the 2nd episode, Skinner has been replaced by Raymond Navarro as the new CIA Director. Nestor Carbonell has the role.

Right from the jump, literally within a minute or so after he’s been introduced we get this:

Charlie Tucker: Looking forward to working with you, sir.
Director Navarro: You won’t be working with me, you’ll be working for me.

Hellooooo!

Okay, if you have some tension between the lead, Charlie Tucker and her new boss, Director Navarro, that’s fine. But do we have to be hit over the head with it so quickly? Later in the episode, we find out that Charlie is receiving some text messages on her phone, that lead us to believe that some one knows something about that attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, which killed the President’s son who was also Charlie’s fiance.

Okay, I think it is safe to assume that Navarro didn’t get appointed Director of the CIA from doing well in the retail sector. He’s likely been in The Company for a while. So, although through three episodes, we have no indication that he is behind these disturbing phone texts, I’m picking him as the likely person.

Especially since Syd, played by James Remar, who is Charlie’s off-the-books ground operative has not been able to connect another new character Nick Vera, (Chris McKenna) with this phone business. It seems that Nick and Charlie have a past that stretches back at least five years, when Nick was on a CIA black site, a ship in international waters, and his job was interrogations.

In a scene that seems a direct lift from Zero Dark Thirty, Charlie is repulsed by the tactics used by Nick to elicit intel from one Omar Fatah, who in the Pilot was introduced as the world’s number one terrorist. Charlie complains but Nick shuts her off and threatens worse.

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