Manhattan – New TV Series on the WGN America Network

The setting of The Grapes of Wrath, the novel penned by John Steinbeck in 1939 which won a Pulitzer Prize, and became an Oscar Winning film in 1940, was the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. This novel dealt with the struggles of a particular family called the Joads. They were forced to deal with a calamitous drought, changes in the farming industry, economic difficulties including foreclosures, and near hopelessness. In the film, Henry Fonda played Tom Joad.

What they strove for were steady employment, land, human dignity, and a future. The Joads had to pick up their stakes in Oklahoma and then they headed further west with California as their goal.

The TV series called Mad Men is set in the 1960’s, a generation later. But it still qualifies as a period piece. In this TV drama series, the people worked in the advertising industry. Mad Men was actually a short form of reference for people who worked in advertising on Madison Avenue in New York. The American society and culture of the 1960 was different than that of the Great Depression.

Most people were far better off than the general population was during the Depression, but this era was not without its issues – like the harmful activities of smoking and drinking, and the larger social issues of racism, homophobia, the lessening of personal values, sexism, and of course unrest in the country as a whole which lead to assassinations, and then came the war in Vietnam in the latter part of the 60’s.

The new series on the WGN America Network, Manhattan, begins in 1943, which while not a perfect fit, the show still lands squarely between the Great Depression era and the 1960’s Like both The Grapes of Wrath at the time it was published, and Mad Men, Manhattan is a period piece. Set in a small area of New Mexico, Manhattan is about the people who worked on the Manhattan Project, which was the research and development that would produce the first atomic bombs.

That’s the overview. If we ratchet up the zoom, we find that Manhattan is not going to be exclusively about the building of the bombs, but rather about the impact, and upheaval of life, on the people who were working on this super-secret project while living in the middle of nowhere.

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Murder in The First: Episode Eight – Win Some, Lose Some

****SPOILERS AHEAD****

Eight episodes of the TNT series Murder in the First have aired – just two to go. Murder in the First was expected to be a worthwhile summer series. I had high hopes for it. But since the SFPD Inspectors Mulligan and English have been pushed off stage center, the show has slid downhill. With the verdict in, I now have solid hope for the detectives to be back in play in a major way.

Now that the jury has decided to reward Mr. Blunt (Tom Felton) with freedom, despite his arrogant and defiant flare up at Siletti which was a neat bit of misdirection by the writers. The acquittal not only freed Blunt, but simultaneously added a L for Loss on Mr. Siletti’s (Currie Graham) stat sheet, it seems pretty obvious about what comes next;  and that can only be punishment Blunt may have beaten the rap, and danced victoriously in the faces of English and Mulligan while tossing double jeopardy in their faces. That can’t work out well for him.

In column A we have Inspector Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson). I don’t think she’ll be able to get that sour Blunt taste out of her mouth ever. And knowing Erich Blunt’s fondness for in your face behavior, it seems likely he will try to get a date with her. And he’ll want some sex as well. Hildy might have to fight him off. And we already know she is more than ready and able to use her weapon.

In Column B we have Bill Wilkerson (Steven Weber). He can’t have been pleased when Blunt told him that he had sent the email with the sex video to Mrs. Wilkerson. What ever happened to I’ve got your back, Bill. Blunt may regret having made the confession about the email to Wilkerson.

There’s a couple of dark horses – one that you might guess at is the slippery Ms Ivana West (Bess Rous). I mean Blunt was in the court room when West told Siletti that she wasn’t protecting Blunt. So none of us, with the exception of West, would be surprised if Blunt fires her now that he’s able to resume his duties as CEO.

The dark horse might be Captain Kono (Ian Anthony Dale). His affair/relationship with DA Perez (Nicole Ari Parker) surfaced only the one time, and now that she, being Siletti’s boss, has to take a Loss in her W/L column as well, Kono might have some payback in mind. I name him as a candidate only because he seems the least obvious.

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Begin Again

Let’s start with a bar in downtown New York City. A place that has open mic nights. A guy is singing and when his song is done, he asks a friend to come up and perform a song. She demurs, but is a songwriter and cannot resists the impulse to share. A guy walks in and orders a drink. While most of the club isn’t much interested in her song, this guy is. He hears it, stands up with his drink and gets a bit closer. Her music reaches a place inside of him.

Then we get the cue for a flashback as the words ‘earlier that day’ appear on the screen. The guy is Dan Mulligan, who once upon a time formed an indie record label. His track record since then has been spotty – and that’s being very, very kind. In fact, he hasn’t discovered a talent (as in signed a new artist) in seven years. His marriage has fallen apart.

He’s not quite estranged from his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife, but he’s not all that far from it. And he’s been fired that very morning.

Cut back to the present and we now focus on the singer, Gretta. Then, once more, via the flashback, we get her back story. She’s British, and she and her boyfriend have been flown to New York, where they are wined and dined by a big record label. While they’ve written songs together, the record label isn’t interested in her, they’ve signed him, and only him. Gretta and Dave are set up in a terrific loft apartment and life is good. Then the boyfriend has to go out to LA for recording sessions, marketing, and all the other stuff.

He’s distracted and begins an affair with a hottie that works at the label. So, after he sends Gretta an MP3 file of his new song, she realizes it is about a different woman. The boyfriend has cheated on her, and their relationship will blow up that very day, and Gretta’s world comes crashing down around her.

Cut back to the present, or to use the film’s title, Begin Again.

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And So It Goes

Has it really been 37 years since Diane Keaton and Woody Allen kept a lobster at bay in Annie Hall as they clung fiercely to their separate neuroses. Yes it has. Well I say la-ti-dah to that. And So It Goes, is more like Gordon Gecko meets Annie Hall, only without Woody Allen.

I’ll still buy a movie ticket to see Michael Douglas play imperious self-centered jerks, or a cantankerous curmudgeon. They can change the script, or the title, but if Rob Reiner is at the helm, and he’s the one asking Mr. Douglas to hit his marks, or even if he has to call a cut to explain to Ms Keaton that a specific scene calls for a fluster rather than a flutter, or a bit of nervous laughter – I’m there to see it.

And So It Goes is the brand new rom/com for seniors directed by Rob Formerly known as Meathead Reiner. Michael Douglas plays Oren Little, a widower as well as a near to retirement real estate agent living and working on Connecticut’s Long Island Sound coastline. The film opens with a marvelous long tracking shot which begins over water and is barely high enough to clear some of the taller masts on the anchored sail boats before heading inland to track a car. A nice touch and quite amazing even if I say so.

Little absolutely believes the home he’s showing to a prospective buyer is worth every penny of the 8.6 million dollar price tag he’s placed on this house. Even if no one in his office thinks the home is worth any more than 5.8 million. Little would love to sell the house, but he’s not about to allow for any kind of negotiations. Not for the Vietnamese couple who are the first prospective buyers we meet. And not for the black couple who follow, and not for the Hispanic couple after that.

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A Most Wanted Man

With all the talk about the film A Most Wanted Man being Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s last starring role, flying just below the radar is a scene in the film that seems almost a direct lift from The French Connection which came out in 1971.

In the scene, human rights lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) is on the run with a man who is the titular most wanted man, the half Chechen/half Russian Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). Richter wants to stash Karpov in a safe-house, actually an apartment under renovation. They are being followed by an operative who works for Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

We watch as they head up the steps of an overhead U-Bahn station in Hamburg, Germany. A train arrives and they board the train as does Bachmann’s guy in the next car. Suddenly Richter and Karpov quickly exit the train and just as quickly they reboard the train. Bachmann’s guy was able to get off the train as well – only he wasn’t quick enough to get back on. So, as the train pulls out of the station, he heads back down the station steps for the street.

While he’s doing that he calls Bachmann who is in a car. What’s the next station? Bachmann asks. And we watch as Bachmann drives his car on the streets, as the train makes for the next station.

Now I know that Gene Hackman did the same thing in The French Connection as he played the on and off the train game with the guy he was chasing who was played by Fernando Rey. And when Ray got on the train, Hackman had to chase the train in his car.

Ultimately, Bachmann made a correct guess, as the next station was on the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg. We watch as Richter and Karpov emerge from the train station. Bachmann tries to cut them off with his car. But Richter sees him and they flee. A foot chase ensues.

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Murder in the First: Episode Seven – Suck My Alibi

Murder in the First aired its 7th episode tonight. The title was Suck My Alibi, which was a bit too obvious for me, like a writer’s gimmick rather than something someone might actually say to the police. Aside from an intriguing turn by Bess Rous as Ivana West, and Kathleen Robertson as Inspector Hildy Mulligan, this wasn’t much of an episode as it offered little in the way of great writing, or suspense, yet it was a distinct improvement over the previous week’s debacle, and that was due to the actors.

Bess Rous as Ivana West

Bess Rous as Ivana West

While this episode again featured some egregiously stupid courtroom scenes, this episode was more about evidence. As in no evidence, or made up evidence, or disappearing evidence. It’s not often you have a show where the cops break the rules,

This is Captain Kono - who said - There was no laptop

This is Captain Kono – who said – There was no laptop

and the DA spins her way out of an awkward situation, and the ADA is a bungler. Beyond that, tell me when you have seen a show about a murder trial and in one of the episodes, the defendant does not speak even a single word.

ADA Mario Siletti twice broke a cardinal rule in courtroom behavior. I mean even Tom Cruise as the lawyer in A Few Good Men knew enough to NOT show disappointment when something didn’t go his way. But Siletti looked forlorn after Warren Daniels hung Wilkerson out to dry in cross. That was the first time.

As long as I mentioned Wilkinson, I have to ask – why did Siletti put Wilkinson on the stand? To introduce into evidence an SMS message that Wilkinson received at 9:02 purportedly sent by the deceased Cindy Strauss? This after Siletti’s forensic specialist had stated the time of death was 8:30 PM.

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The Leftovers: Episode 01 x 04 – B.J. and the A.C.

Let’s put it this way – Do you really care if Laurie is able to grasp the lighter, a gift from her daughter, that she had earlier intentionally dropped into the water drainage system?

And if so why? Is it symbolic of something?

And the two big reveals – that Tom is likely the good reverend’s son, and that Christine s pregnant with Wayne’s child – gee, what a surprise. Since Tom didn’t rough up Christine, why would he bolt from the hospital? And what was the point of the shoelessness? And the targets on the foreheads? I wonder if Joseph who went around with Mary who carried the real baby Jesus was shoeless?

Then Police Chief Garvey’s brakes fail, and…?

Or the long assembly line of making those Aforda A Babies. I was kind of creeped out watching that. And then the Baby Jesus is stolen, by Police Chief Garvey’s own daughter only to be returned a few days later, which is followed by Police Chief Garvey tossing it out the window of his borrowed truck. After all, a replacement BJ had been provided by the Reverend. What does that symbolism mean?

But the worst part was watching the Guilty Remnant break into all those homes and steal the photos of The Departed. They’re saying: No pictures of family so – no family – so move on …

Now I know many of you will disagree. I’m in the process of washing my hands of this series, while you’re like’y to point out – the empty pamphlet – in other words – we, as individuals,  don’t matter. Isn’t that interesting? Don’t you want to see where that leads? Or the spilled corpses on the highway must mean something. I mean didn’t Christine reference that because the half-naked man said something about it in a dream? Frankly, I don’t want to know what those events mean.

Since I don't have to spend time with these two on a Sunday night, why would I want to?

Since I don’t have to spend time with these two on a Sunday night, why would I want to?

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