30 Degrees in February – New Netflix Series

30° in February is the title of a 2 seasons (20 episodes) series on Netflix. The series begins in the month of February with the temps cold and blustery, and with snow every where in sight. We could be anywhere in the northeast of the USA or any of the plains, or central, or mountain states. In those locales, 30 degrees, and lower, in February is the norm.

But we are not in those locations. Rather, we are in Sweden, and in Sweden, the temperatures are measured in Celsius degrees, rather than the Fahrenheit scale used in this country.

So in Sweden, 30 degrees in February is a dream, a fantasy, and not a normal occurrence. Using 30 degrees Celsius as the measuring stick, that temperature in Fahrenheit is 86.

And so, more than 600,000 Swedes vacation in Thailand every year. Now I’ve been to Sweden, not in February, but in middle late March. I missed most of the snow, but I saw some on the ground. I’ve also been to Phuket, Thailand, a number of times. So I was rather eager to watch this series.

In case you are thinking that this series might be something like the films The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1 & 2), where a group of British retirees all go the same hotel – only with Phuket subbing for Jaipur in Rajasthan, India, along with Swedes replacing the Brits – then you’d be just partially correct, and that would be in the broad strokes rather than the details.

Here, our Swedes are both separate and unrelated. They did not meet at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, nor did they travel as a group. They did not arrive together, or meet on a tour, or even stay in the same location once they reached Phuket.

They’d traveled to Thailand to find themselves and to find happiness. They leave everything behind and their search for a new life, and a new page in their book dreams begins. And in this particular series, the location maybe the idyllic Phuket, but finding happiness anywhere does not happen by accident. If it happens at all. There are no guarantees.

I am through all ten episodes of the first season, and I think I’ve seen enough to be able to offer you a fine introduction to the series. Let’s meet the characters. First up is Glenn. He’s a geothermal heating installer, and he’s single. And lonely.

It is no surprise to find him at a speed-dating get-together, Nor should we be surprised to know that he’s carrying on an internet chat with a woman from Thailand. We know that Glenn has posted an image of another man, a much better looking man than himself. But the woman in Thailand does not know this.

Glenn is played by Kjell Wilhelmsen. He’s far more towards slovenly than neat. He’s portly, and with nearly every encounter he has with a woman, he speaks too much. His loneliness and needy personality ooze from every one of his pores, which means he’s lacking in what is called impulse control.

He’s not a particularly likeable character, but you do root for him.

Next is the teen-ager Joy, played by Hannah Ardéhn. She’s the daughter of Kajsa (played by Maria Lundqvist, and there’s a small seven year old sister called Wilda (played by Viola Weidemann) that rounds out this family. 

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HBO’s The Night Of – Episode 7: Ordinary Death

Just one episode remains of the hit HBO Limited Series – The Night Of. The case and trial haven’t been decided yet, but (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW) in this, the penultimate episode there was enough info brought out in the trial to make the jurors decision quite tricky. Ours too for that matter.

Especially since the episode had begun with Detective Box and another detective at a crime scene. A woman had been stabbed to death with multiple wounds. Box would say, This looks just like the Andrea Cornish murder. The response from the other detective: Yeah another uptown misdemeanor murder.

Nice opening – makes you immediately consider that while Naz Khan is on trial, the real murderer is still out there doing his thing. This also made think of a similar set  of circumstances in The Shawshank Redemption when Tommy was told by another con how he did the crime that some banker (Andy Dufresne) had gotten sent to prison for.

Weiss did a fine job in getting Dr. Chester, and his previously ‘coached’ testimony into the proceedings. This was the testimony that the wound of Naz’s palm was caused by his hand slipping onto the blade during the thrusting of the knife into the victim repeatedly.

But Defense Attorney Chandra Kapoor went straight to work on the ME. She subtly poked a hole in his credentials if not his testimony by bringing up another case that this ME’s testimony was in part a responsible element resulting in a conviction. However that conviction (the Arthur Metz case) was later overturned in an appellate court appeal. The ME called it an interpretative judgement – the appellate court had not agreed with Chester’s interpretation. Chester would say it wasn’t a mistake – it was a different interpretation.. But Chandra had won the point. ME’s can and do make mistakes.

Weiss also had the High School coach who testified that not only did Naz throw a student down a flight of steps, but he also referenced a second instance of Naz over-reacting physically. Upon his return from a two-week suspension, Naz had thrown a full can of Coke at another student , creating a wound that required 12 stitches on the boy’s face. Kapoor had been unaware of this event, as Naz had not told his attorney about it.

Weiss closed the State’s case with Detective Box who would say that he’d been a homicide detective for 13 years, and had been a NYC Police Officer for 33 years. He would go on to say that he would take evidence over a confession and day of the week. 

After the state had rested their prosecution, Box would be dismissed from the trial. He was a prosecution witness. Stone would have to get a Judicial Summons to get Box back on the stand. Which he did.

Chandra then took on Detective Box in direct and led him into a couple of traps. He had to admit that he knowingly broke a chain of custody rule by taking Nasir Khan’s asthma inhaler out of evidence/custody and giving it to Naz to alleviate his trouble breathing.

What’s more, Box stated in direct that he had interviewed only one suspect, Nasir Khan. Kapoor sprung the trap by showing the video footage of Box interviewing the young black man called Trevor. When Kapoor asked Box if he had interviewed either Duane Reade who had been with Trevor on W.87th Street that night, the hearse driver who had been parked at the gas station where Naz refueled the taxi, or the witness from across the street from where Andrea lived, Box could only say that he didn’t interview witnesses when he had enough evidence already in hand. Box would go on to say that he couldn’t interview someone he wasn’t aware of.

Kapoor then played the video of the hearse driver at the gas station which Detective Box had scrupulously collected. Since there could be nothing Box could say about that – Box again reiterated that evidence is always preferable to a confession.

Chandra pounced on that by stating the Nasir Khan had never confessed during his interrogation in the precinct, had not confessed during his subsequent booking and bail hearings, and finally, Naz had not confessed when a 15 year sentence plea bargain deal was offered to him rather than losing in a trial and getting a life sentence or a death sentence.

Definitely a bad day for Detective Box on the stand.

Meanwhile Stone had asked some questions, interviewed some people, taken it upon himself to follow Taylor around, all for the purpose of finding out more about Don Taylor, Andrea’s stepfather. Stone’s connections supplied the following – all of Taylor’s credit cards had been maxed out, and that Taylor, if he would declare bankruptcy again – it would be for the third time. Taylor, would be called a trapeze artist by his ex-wife. When Stone asked, she said – You know, a trapeze artist, swinging from one old bag to another. A joke she said. But she also told Stone that she had paid Taylor $200K to go away rather than fight through a contested divorce settlement.

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HBO’s The Night Of – Episode 6: Samson and Delilah

After last Sunday’s great Episode 5, I expected a little bit of a drop-off in quality this week in the HBO Limited Series The Night Of.  I wasn’t wrong about that. The episode begins with a peculiar scene.

John Stone is cleaning the cat litter box. To the best of my knowledge, as a long time cat owner, I can say that I never cleaned the litter box by placing it on my kitchen counter, as Stone did. But this is not really here nor there in advancing the story. I just thought it was strange.

Stone will later visit one Dr. Yee, at a Chinese Apocathery with an office on East Broadway in New York’s Chinatown. Without me getting very precise, I’ll say this, Yee looked at each of Stone feet and lower legs, and Stone asked, Can you help me?, Yee answered in the affirmative. Yee offered up some sort of powder and suggested that Stone mix a spoonful or so with water. The finished concoction didn’t look pretty, and it cost $300 cash (no credit cards) for an ounce of the powder which Yee measured into a plastic baggie.

Guess what – it worked. With the eczema gone, soon Stone was trying on a brand new pair of shoes to wear to the upcoming trial of Nasir Khan.

Chandra Kapoor, Khan’s lawyer, was hard at work, as was Stone – but more on Stone later.

By looking at the CCTV video clips, that were available to her, Chandra was able to trace the funeral hearse that was parked at the gas station on the Upper West Side, where Naz and Andrea had stopped. You will come to see that this man, the hearse driver who was also probably a mortician as well, seemed, no, make that was, truly kind of creepy.

Chandra looks him up (likely she was able to trace his license plate number to an address). He’s at his funeral home and at first he says he can’t spare even a minute which seemed strange as he was lounging around with the tv on. This guy hasn’t a favorable opinion about women which at this point you are supposed to wonder if he is another suspect (or a red herring) – after all he might have followed Andrea and Naz to W.87th Street the next stop on the carefully researched itinerary prepared by Detective Box.

But rather than dismissing Chandra, they go into the back room where this guy begins to add nail polish to a deceased woman’s fingernails. While he does this he is carefully quoting the story of Samson and Delilah to at least point out a biblical reference of women’s perfidy.

Chandra needed to acquire a bible in order to absorb this fully. And Stone offered this – No more Nancy Drew investigations for you. If you want to talk to someone bring me along.

Chandra and Stone meet at a bar. Here Chandra was given a primer in jury selection. Stone would say, Get as many young urban women as possible. The only thing that matters to them is what they think (their own opinions). We only need one; meaning just one jury member to believe Khan is innocent.

Chandra is drinking heavily and she tells Stone that she has broken up with her boyfriend. Stone says, So you’re alone. So am I. Stone is not a cad who would take advantage of a drunken woman. When Chandra signals the bartender for another drink (it would be her third in five minutes) Stone then signals the bartender to cut her off – no more drinks. He does this even though we can see that his interest in Chandra has increased from co-counsel to something more.

Meanwhile at Rikers, Freddy is smoking meth and talking with Naz. He gives Naz a burner phone. By now Naz has bulked up a bit more and taken on some prison tats, but Naz doesn’t take a hit off the pipe.

Later another con asks Naz if he may use the phone. Naz turns him down. Freddy will later chastise Naz for this indiscretion. The phone is a money-maker (Freddy actually referred to it as a cash machine). You can get $10 a minute for letting them use it. Freddy will also attempt to give Naz a white shirt and a nice tie. Naz refuses to take them. Freddy, quite knowledgeable about court room appearances is not upset. He merely says, It’s your funeral.

Naz says simply that his family will bring him some clothes. Freddy says, Family is everything.

Things proceed. Stone continues to care for the cat, even playing with it (albeit through a door). Chandra works on her opening statement. Stone tries to get Chandra to see him as a man rather than just co-counselor. But she’s not going down that path at the moment.

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HBO’s The Night Of – Episode 5: The Season of the Witch

This is a recap with spoilers and hopefully this will help you prepare for tonight’s episode.

Borrowing a couple of examples from baseball, the hit HBO TV series The Night Of, which aired its 5th Episode, called The Season of The Witch, last Sunday night, was comparable to, first, an ace pitcher, who held back his most dominant and killer pitches early in the game. Then as the game approached its home stretch, this pitcher unwrapped his best stuff and began to blow batters away.

Or, the batters, meaning Steve Zaillian, the director and co-writer of the series, and his writing partner Richard Price – each came up to the plate and knocked one out of the park, as in a home run.

That said, and I will add that I thought this was the best episode since the first one – however, I’m not claiming that this was an episode without some problems.

From a viewer’s perspective, the Episode basically concentrated on 4 characters who were all involved in doing what they’re supposed to do.

ADA Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) is the prosecutor the case. She examines the video footage of the time when Naz had pulled his cab over, somewhere either within or near the East Village to get his bearings. The video feed discloses that two men had gotten into his cab and Naz had refused service. After all, he wasn’t a licensed taxi driver. He didn’t even know how to turn off the Taxi sign on the roof of the cab.

Weiss: He didn’t want two guys. He wanted a girl. Then when Andrea gets into his taxi, he doesn’t immediately turn her away. This is the A-HA moment for Weiss. She says to her colleagues – There it is. He wanted a woman in the cab. That’s premeditation.

Maybe.

At this point Weiss has no idea if Andrea offered either money, sex, or drugs to Naz in exchange for transporting her to where she wanted to go. We know what happened in the cab. But Weiss doesn’t. Nevertheless, she could easily convince a jury that this was the premeditation.

We next see Weiss when she runs into Detective Box (Bill Camp), who Weiss has heard is turning in his retirement papers. They talk and we learn that Box doesn’t want to open a bar, or get a commercial fishing licence, or some other retirement gig. Weiss says, So what does that leave? Golf?

Weiss also tells Box that she wants him to plot out a timeline/travel line for Naz. She wants to know exactly where Naz went and when after he left his parents apartment in Jackson Heights and eventually ended up on W.87th Street.

Box gets into it and they did a great job of making it watchable. Certainly watching a man look at CCTV footage, then consulting papers documenting his credit card usage, phone logs, cell phone tower logs, ATM logs, and so forth does not inherently make for great TV. But this is the grunt work needed for investigations, and it went by easily.

Getting back to Weiss. When Naz was arrested he had a gash on the palm of his hand. Weiss thinks this ‘event’ will play better for her in the trial, if she can present testimony that the  cut came from the way Naz handled the knife (while he was stabbing Andrea) instead of cutting his hand when he punched in a panel of the glass in the door of the 87th Street building to retrieve his jacket.

So Weiss visits the coroner. Obviously they have a lengthy professional history and are on a first name basis.  Weiss enters and the ME is drawing fluids from a corpse. An actual corpse. She asks if they can discuss the probability of a knife wielding hand slipping down to the blade area because the blade thrust hit bone.

Now the scene includes Weiss coaching the ME about what to say and how to say it as well as more views of a male penis – the inert dead man’s penis – than you normally care to see on your tv. Many have objected to it. But the main takeaway is that both the ADA and the ME are doing their jobs, and the sight of a nude dead body on a table in the morgue has no more impact on them as when a yellow cab passes us on the street when we are not looking for one.

Whether Price and Zaillian are saying that the jobs of the ADA and the ME have dehumanized each of them as they continue to do their work; so much so that they can barely distinguish between a corpse on a table in the morgue from an empty table in the morgue.

Of course this is up for interpretation by each of us.

Next let’s have a look at John Stone (John Turturro).

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Café Society

Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.

That’s a quote spoken by Bobby Dorfman, the central character (played by Jesse Eisenberg) in the new Woody Allen film Café Society. And in my opinion, that was the best line of the whole film. And it could only have been written by Woody.

Café Society is not really about society, be it the Hollywood film industry crowd – where the whole town runs on ego, or the Manhattan high society that is home to the swells decked out in black ties with their trophy wives or the gangster’s molls awash in jewels and furs. Yes, these are the folks that do all the night club trotting, and champagne swilling, that enables them to be called rich.

In reality, Cafe Society  is a three-cornered love story with the ‘society’ continually flitting into the film, or showing up in the margins, in one scene after another.

There’s more of the Hollywood name dropping than you can imagine. Adolph Menjou nearly walked off the set. I’m working on a big deal for Irene Dunne. This is where Joan Crawford lives, and on and on.

I'm Bobby

I’m Bobby, says the eager Bobby Dorfman, finally gaining access into his uncle’s grand office. That is after his uncle had avoided him for a number of weeks.

Said another way, this is just Woody being Woody. When the young protagonist, Bobby Dorfman, out of the Bronx, finally gets some footing in the Hollywood Hills – he’s hired by his Uncle Phil Stern (Steve Carell).

Phil is a leading Hollywood mover and shaker, and king of the agent biz across town, and a philanderer. Bobby will be a glorified go-fer (agent to be) and a guest du jour at the various brunches, power lunches, and dinner soirees that Phil will either be hosting, or acting like a king in his court but on foreign turf. You just know that going in, that this sojourn in Bobby’s life can be expected to end badly for him, especially after he says, I’m not used to drinking champagne with my bagels and lox.

When he leaves La-la land, after the romance of his life (with Vonnie played by Kristen Stewart) crashes and burns, it seems that young Dorfman is just the on-screen presence (read that as a stand-in for Woody ) who returns to New York. Woody Allen has never been a big-fan of Hollywood. And Hollywood has never been an ardent admirer of Woody either. If he said as much before, he’s saying it again.

Speaking of which, much of this movie seems like so many of Woody’s recycled plot lines. Nothing new, just more of the same. Then again, Mr. Allen is 80 years of age, and although he has managed to maintain his one film a year output, many are saying that some of it seems a bit tired, or rushed, or incomplete.

Now this is not to say that Cafe Society does not have wonderful moments. Not at all. I think Allen loves the nostalgic look of Hollywood in the thirties’. Or Manhattan. Stuff that he missed while growing up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.

In fact the costumes, the cars, the clothes and the sets are just wonderful to see. One can only imagine the work that went into getting the details so right. Like Phil Stern’s office. Like the movie theater where Bobby and Vonnie took in a film. Or the homes high up in the Hollywood hills.

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The Night Of: Episode 4 – The Art of War – Recap and Commentary

Episode 4 of the HBO hit series The Night Of aired Sunday night. The episode was entitled The Art of War which certainly can be called a reference to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu because what we had in this episode was, aside from the fact that we saw no tanks, howitzers, or automatic weapons, definitely within war’s parameters.

Episode 4 of the HBO hit series The Night Of aired Sunday night. The episode was entitled The Art of War which certainly can be called a reference to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu because what we had in this episode was, aside from the fact that we saw no tanks, howitzers, or automatic weapons, definitely within war’s parameters.

Here’s what he said –

“I left my parents’ house to go to a party in Manhattan. I got lost and Andrea got into the back of the cab, thinking I was the real cab driver. We drove uptown. We talked. She gave me something — some pill. We went back to her place. We drank. She gave me something else — some powder. We went up to her bedroom. We had sex. And then, I fell asleep and woke up in the kitchen. I went upstairs to get my clothes and say goodbye. I went to her. And I saw that she was dead. I panicked. I ran.

“That’s all I remember.”

Later Naz would be on the receiving end of a prison made napalm dousing. Hot boiling water, accessible from a wall spigot so the prisoners can make tea, plus a dollop of baby oil is altogether way too hot and incendiary for the human skin to handle.

Speaking of skin, Stone continued to wrap his feet in Crisco and Saran Wrap, which basically did nothing for him. Poking and prodding with a wooden chopstick wasn’t a good idea either. So Stone visited a new doctor who prescribed a corticosteroid, a drug taken orally, instead of topically.

That led us to Stone’s neighborhood pharmacy where we got a cameo by Fisher Stevens as a chatty pharmacist. Oh you don’t want to take these, said the pharmacist, Because there are serious side effects.

Like what, said Stone.

Like severe loss of hair, shrinkage of your testicles, and a heavy dose of acne.

Scary, huh. But I’m told this isn’t correct. These are the side effects of anabolic steroids, but not necessarily corticosteroids. Lacking a degree in either pharmacology or medicine – I’m just passing this on. But I won’t bet on its accuracy.

As I said above, Alison Crowe decided to step away – because as she said before no one wants a trial if avoidable. So basically she attempted to get Naz to take a plea deal. The same thing she had warned the Khans that Stone would do. Plus she was not interested in spending her law firm’s time and energy and money in defending Naz. That’s why she wanted Naz to take the deal.

So, as expected, this brings Stone back into play. He’s still working the case (in his detective mode) which was something that Detective Box was no longer doing. Stone took pictures with his sell phone, and discovered that Andrea had some connection to a rehab facility called Invictus House for drug addicts.

This led us to another cameo. This time it was Aida Turturro, who is John Turturro’s real life cousin. We all remember Aida who played Janice Soprano.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 7.26.37 PM

Any way Stone makes a deal with a sleazy guy who was with Aida, who promises to get Stone images of all of Andrea’s records at this drug rehab in exchange for $350 dead presidents. Of course these copies would be inadmissible as such.

Stone, as well as Detective Box, also attended, or should I say watched from the periphery Andrea’s funeral. This resulted in a brand new possible suspect. Don Taylor, Andrea’s step Dad was seen having a heated conversation with a young man. Stone got some of this on video. Who is he?

Later Stone approaches Chandra Kapoor , the Indian lawyer, whose parents were from Mumbai. She’s the one who worked for Alison Crowe. She has since then agreed to represent Naz. She agrees to buy the docs from Stone for $500. Oh that Stone, always playing the angles.

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Jason Bourne (2016)

The long-awaited and much-anticipated returns of both Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass to the Bourne brand of action films has happened. It’s been nine years since The Bourne Ultimatum’s successful release. So many of us were really primed for this new film

While the box office returns are so far excellent (an estimated 60 million for the opening weekend), there’s both good news and bad news. This new entry is called simply – Jason Bourne. and the one factor that has served the Bourne franchise so well over the years, is that they have a successful formula. That’s the good news as the box office returns have shown us.

Car chases, deadly hand to hand combat, exciting locales, as well corruption and intrigue within the government.

Jason Bourne (this is the 5th Bourne feature and the 4th with Matt Damon) clings almost religiously to that formula. In short, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And that’s also the bad news. Let’s look at some of the particulars.

After Bourne jumped into the East River from the facility on E 71st and then swam away, and after Parsons boarded a bus to somewhere out of Tangiers, Morocco in The Bourne Ultimatum – one would have thought that they’d have trouble reconnecting. But they did. Albeit nine years later.

Nicky who was in charge of logistics and the agents well-being is now capable of hacking. And how she found Bourne is not explained any kind of depth.

As for Bourne himself, these days he supports himself in a Fight Club kind of atmosphere and the his latest match is near the border between Greece and Albania.

Nicky tell Bourne that his own father was somehow involved with creation of Treadstone. And as expected Parson’s intrusion (hack) was detected. So off we go.

From this jumping off point it is another Bourne film which means Greengrass stuck to the formula. The film works quite well as an action/adventure. And by sticking to the formula, there were no surprises. As well as a distinct sense of this all seems so familiar. Including the shaky-cam aspects.

In Supremacy at the location known as Alexanderplatz, with its student protest march in Berlin became Syntagma Square in Athens where Greek citizens protesting,  often violently, the new Greek program of austerity. In each case, Bourne used the crowds as cover to make an escape. Below he has just taken Nicky off the tram at Alexanderplatz.

How about Bourne riding a motorcycle up and down steps in Tangier becoming Bourne riding up and down steps in Athens on a Greek police motorbike..

Or An unbelievable motor chase that we saw on the streets of Paris (Identity) and then in a tunnel Moscow (Supremacy) becoming a parking garage in Las Vegas.

Tommy Lee Jones has replaced David Strathairn who replaced Brian Cox as the sharp end of the stick. Jones was kind of subdued here, yet he retains all his gruffness and craggy visage, that we’ve come to love over the years.

And Alicia Vikander has replaced Joan Allen as the Bourne antagonist/supporter. Alicia Vikander may been cast in this key role just as a marketing ploy to attract some younger female viewers, and although she wasn’t bad, she didn’t look old enough, or seasoned enough to be running a CIA Operational Control Room like Joan Allen’s Pamela Landy.

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HBO’s The Night Of – Episode 3 – The Dark Crate: Recap & Review

The Night Of, the hit series currently airing on Sunday nights on HBO, unwrapped Episode Three called The Dark Crate last night. The Dark Crate is a reference spoken by inmate Freddy about how young lambs are kept (or more accurately imprisoned) prior to being taken to the slaughter-house. That’s what Freddy was speaking of.

But below the surface it is also a reference to Naz with Naz being confined and really not knowing or understanding how dire his circumstances are – just like the lambs confined to their crates.

While the reference was only a small slice of the episode, it did lead up to Freddy asking Naz if he wanted Freddy’s protection in this particular over-crowded cell block in Rikers.

We didn’t see or hear Naz’s answer to Freddy, but whether Naz did not answer or answered either in the affirmative or the negative, it seems clear that this is not the last we’ll hear about Freddy’s protection.

Williams as Freddy

Williams as Freddy in The Night Of

By the way, Freddy is portrayed by Michael Kenneth Williams who was the actor who played Omar Little in HBO’s The Wire. For the record, Williams also had a small role in HBO’s The Sopranos Season 3.

Williams as Omar

Williams as Omar in The Wire

The episode itself breaks down into three areas: The case and Naz’s lawyers, Naz’s entry into Rikers, and the aftermath about what happened to Naz’s father’s cab. While the cab remains missing neither the elder Khan nor his two partners can make a living. And at this point I am shocked that neither the elder Khan or his wife have even asked either the police or Naz about the cab.

As far as the investigation, it seems that Detective Box thinks he has a slam-dunk case. Meaning there’s been nothing new from him.

Stone (John Turturro) continues with his agita provoking skin disease. His latest advice from his skin doctor – Coat your foot and lower leg in Crisco All Vegetable Shortening then wrap it all up tight with Saran Wrap. Then Stone sits in at his support group. But he’s got a tough assignment ahead of him.

He’s got to see Nasir Khan’s parents about his fee. Now Stone is known in the criminal justice system as a lockup crawler. Which means most of his clients are going to receive a plea offer rather than a trial. That’s because an accepted plea offer is easier on everyone from judges, prosecutors, and other assorted court officers. So at Stone’s urging most take the deal. Which means that Stone hasn’t much if any in the way of trial experience.

He’s sort of a low-rent version of Tom Cruise’s Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men. He’s also sort of a modern version Lt. Columbo – which means he doesn’t shave every day, his clothes are down market, he’s just this side of disheveled. It also means that he cannot command the high fees of more experience criminal trial lawyers.

So he does his spiel for the Khans. After telling them that most criminal trial lawyers get $150K and up. Or on an hourly basis every meeting, every call, every note taken and on and on carries a charge. So to help the Khans, he offers to do the case for $75K – a figure well beyond their means. Eventually he comes down to $50K but the Khans must sign off on that figure right now – and we’ll worry about the fee payments schedule later.

But the Khans can’t even see their way at that ‘bargain’ rate. Mr. Khan tells Stone that he has just $8K in the bank.

So Stone leaves without a signed retainer statement. He heads over to the DA’s office where he meets the ADA in charge. That would be Jeannie Berlin as Helen Weiss. She’s not willing to offer a plea deal, and the best she can do is to offer Stone a card of a tailor she knows. Get yourself a new suit. Tell him I sent you. Anything but brown. 

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HBO’s The Night Of – Episode 2 – Subtle Beast

On Sunday night HBO rolled out Episode 2 in its new series The Night Of. The episode’s title, Subtle Beast is a reference to Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp). Box, like any good detective wants to solve the case. ****SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*****

But this is where it gets tricky. Box wears sympathy on his face, and when he speaks, we hear sympathetic tones.

After discussing the case with the DA, he understands that a confession would a) solve the case, and b) would go a long ways toward making the case as open and shut as he wants it to be.

But when Box interceded with the desk sergeant to allow Naz’s parents an opportunity to see their son and talk with him, he was again showing a sympathetic side. Of course Box knew that he would not be breaking any rules if he monitored the conversation between Naz and his folks.

Box and all detectives may NOT listen or view any discussions between the suspect and his attorney. But no such rule exists for family members.

Naz noted the camera mounted on the wall and after that, he told Box that he would not speak with him anymore.

Apparently the advice that had been repeated and repeated often by attorney Jack Stone (played by the marvelous John Turturro) at last, had sunk in.

But there’s more, much more going on other than what Detective Box does or wants to do. Let’s talk about Attorney Jack Stone. We got a good look at his skin ailment (eczema or psoriasis) on his legs and feet. How did that happen? Mostly because Stone was wearing sandals and was sockless. Not only did we get a good look at his bare ankles and feet, but so did some of the passengers riding in the same subway car as did Stone. Stone was kind of low-rent in his way. We know that he found his clients by hanging around in precinct station houses. So it was perfectly normal for him to say that he got the case because he was ‘in the right place at the right time.’

We also found out that Stone had a black wife (or ex-wife) and an adult son. That’s about all we learned (about Stone’s personal life) this week as no other background or back story was provided.

We also learned that the New York Justice System was kind of an old boys club. Jack Stone knew the personnel at various precincts, he knew bailiffs, and was on a first name basis with some judges. As we heard – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

But more than that, we are to understand the monolithic structure of the New York Justice System as a self-contained structure that had been and would be an institution forever. The lawyers, judges, prosecutors, as well the victims and perpetrators would change; they’d come and go, and no matter who was speaking in any of the courtroom, the system retained its own life.

And that made it all the more scary as watched, protected by being in the safety of our own living rooms as young Nasir Khan began his own trip into the depths of the system. I can’t give the writer Richard Price and the Director Steve Zaillian enough credit in this regard.

From a holding pen in the 2-1, Khan was transported via a van to the Tombs, a jail connected to the NYC Criminal Courts building. Khan was marched from the van into the depths of the Tombs. The walk seemed to be ever-downward through a series of gates, fences, locked doorways that  needed to be buzzed from a control station in order to open.

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