Ray Donovan – the New Showtime Series

Ray Donovan is the title of a new series on Showtime. The series premiered today June 30th. Since it was available for a free preview, I checked it out. Liev Schreiber plays the LA tough guy Ray Donovan. For all intents and purposes, Donovan is a ‘fixer’ in the mode of George Clooney’s Michael Clayton, with two differences: Clayton worked New York, and Donovan works LA. Clayton dealt with corporate shenanigans and some criminal work, while Donovan seems to be walking on the wild side with some very nasty people who beneath their wealth and glitz are just lowlifes.

As the show opens we see Donovan smoothly navigate through a series of what would be for most folks – utter disasters.

A pro basketball player wakes up in a LA hotel room with a dead girl in his bed. An action movie star claims that he made a mistake when he picked up a tranny hooker. Another wealthy client wants Donovan to keep tabs on his girl friend. This guy is already married and he doesn’t trust the girl friend. So while staking out the girl friend’s beach front pad, our guy Ray Donovan notices that this girl is being stalked by some creep.

Anyway, you’ll have to watch the show to find out how Donovan deals with these messy cases. He works for a fancy LA law firm that is headed up by Donovan’s partner Lee Drexler played by Peter Jacobson. Also on hand is Donovan’s mentor, Ezra Goldman, who is played in a round-the-bend, or off-his-rocker way by Elliot Gould. They are willing to do any and all of the dirty work needed for their deep pocket clients.

Make no mistake. Ray is very good at what he does. What I haven’t told you yet is there’s plenty of problems in Ray’s family. He’s a Bostonian transplanted to LA. He, his wife, and two kids live in a tony LA suburb called Calabasas. The usual family stuff goes on at home – the young son getting into fights at school, daughter growing up, as well as Mrs. Donovan hating Calabasas right down to her core. Toss in the pressure of getting the kids into a swanky private school, and you have the full picture of life in the Donovan’s home.

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Magic City: Review/Recap of Episode 2-03 – Adapt or Die

One down, one up, and one held steady. I’m talking about the three TV series (Magic City, Graceland, and The Killing) that I have been following of late. The show that went down, and has been in a rather severe downward spiral since the season premier is Magic City on the Starz Network.

I think the show conceptually was a good idea, but Mitch Glazer has fallen into his own trap of trying to keep too many stories going at once. What is ironic is that all the separate story lines do tie together, but the show seems to drag severely.


When we first met Nicky Grillo (last week) he looked like a guy interested in Mrs. Diamond, and he seemed a bit innocuous, even while being portrayed as someone Ben Diamond should ‘give a fuck’ about. Now we find out that he’s an arms dealer and he is selling guns to Esai Morales, who has set up shop in Ike Evan’s Miramar Playa hotel. Morales, as Carlos Ruiz, is plotting to overthrow Castro and reclaim Cuba.

Speaking of Ike’s hotel – another new face has shown up, a casino manager, and he’s already working with blue prints to redesign the hotel lobby with slot machines. You will recall that Ben Diamond has that Florida politician in his pocket via booze and broads. Diamond believes that the vote to legalize casinos in Florida will pass. Me? I’m sure it won’t.

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Magic City – Review/Recap of Episode 2: Angels of Death

Oy Vey! The megillah continues over at the Starz Network’s Magic City. The second episode of Season 2 was called Angels of Death ( A Jewish Passover reference) and it wasted a ton of time on a unnecessary Passover Seder at Ike Evan’s.


We get it. The Evans family is Jewish, and Ike’s wife Vera has converted to Judaism. But it feels like show creator Mitch Glazer thinks that we need to be reminded over and over to make sure we know it.

The show is a rather curious mix of early 1960’s fictional criminals, historical facts involving the CIA and its dealings with Cuba, sex, and violence – all of it seasoned by tossing in Yiddish expressions in what feels like every 6 or 7 minutes.

Vera pushed Ike away when he wanted to fool around because she had to go make the gefilte fish. Bel Jaffe calls Stevie Evans boychick. Jimmy Caan finally showed up as Sy Berman and had one scene this week. He managed to get the word fercockt into a conversation he had with Ben Diamond. Fercockt is the Yiddish equivalent of ‘all fucked up’.

I don’t know about you – but I am once again losing patience with this show. Last year, I bailed on the show after the first three episodes. This year, I’ll give the show a few more chances. But I think Glazer and his writers have to tighten the show up. Things don’t have to be served up and spelled out for us.

As an example – Caan’s Berman is having a talk with Danny Huston’s Ben Diamond in his greenhouse in Wilmette, Illinois. Seems like Sy had to give Benny a good talking to.

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Graceland: Episode 1-03 – Heat Run

Been watching Graceland since the jump, and while I do like the show, I thought the most recent episode was a step backwards. They called the episode Heat Run, which was sloppy because the actual Heat Run was in the previous episode as well as mentioned in the opening segment of this episode. After 5 minutes it was done, never to be mentioned again.

Last week, when Paul and Mike sold the cop-killer bullets to Bello’s man Eddie, Paul introduced Mike as “This is my guy from Pendleton.” Okay. As we’ve been told, you don’t give out more info than you need to because it just might come back at you in the form of questions.

So that brings up a question – If Paul didn’t introduce Mike as Mike to Eddie – how does Bello come to call Mike by his name? Second point is that – by having Paul pull his gun on Mike, and then, Bello and his men come in with their guns drawn – all in the first five minutes – we all knew no one was going to get hurt.

Bello returns Mike's weapon to him

Bello returns Mike’s weapon to him

This week there were a preponderance of meaningless events that seemed to go off into tangents that went nowhere. Like why did Bello ask one of his men to fire up the stove and then absolutely nothing came of it. Like at the first bar scene – DJ says the he’s “… like a chocolate Jesus – watch and learn my young friend“, as if he was going to teach Mike something, but all he does he exit the scene.

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Love Is All You Need

Love Is All You Need is set up as a romantic comedy, and it is pretty much by the numbers. Only the numbers don’t add up to a top-tier successful movie – which has been proven by a weak box office. The film was directed by Susanne Bier – who won an Oscar in 2011 for Best Foreign Language Film with  In a Better World. To give you some idea of what the world’s film industry thinks of Bier; currently she is in the post-production phase of a film she directed called Serena which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper which will open overseas in the fall.

We meet the two leads quite simply. Ida is a hairdresser employed ‘somewhere in Copenhagen’. She’s also been through a mastectomy and chemo for breast cancer. Her physician announces that things look under control (as in remission) but there’s no guarantees. And would she be interested in breast reconstruction. Ida says – no thanks – my husband hasn’t noticed that there’s only one.

But before you decide to stop reading any further – thinking this film is going to be about illness – it really isn’t. Ida looks wonderful in a blonde wig – the chemo has taken her hair. Ida is played by Trine Dyrholm. When she gets home from the hospital she finds her husband frolicking on the living room sofa with a blonde bimbo half his age.

He explains that he was on his lunch hour. And this is Thilde from Accounting.

I don’t know if he should be called a brute, a lout, or just an idiot. Or all three as he tries to blame Ida by claiming that her illness was difficult for him too.

Then we meet Pierce Brosnan as a Philip, a rather successful British importer of fruits and vegetables (of all kinds). He’s kind of a dour guy. He’s never gotten over the death of his wife in a tragic accident years ago. He wears sorrow and sadness as part of his regular ‘look’. When one of the office ladies makes a play for him – he turns her down flat.

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AMC’s The Killing – Episode 4 Season Three

Loved the line the Detective Sarah Linden said to the old-timer and arrogant SOB, Detective Carl Reddick:

Why haven’t you made sergeant despite your 23 years of experience, [because] all you are is in the way.

That was the highlight of the show. Last week I did a write-up of the first three episodes of Season 3 of AMC’s The Killing. I felt quite positive about the show, despite the difficulties in dealing with a show about runaway kids, and a predator who makes some of them dead. So I had high hopes and was looking forward to the 4th episode.

Simply – for almost all of the episode, nothing much happened in terms of action. But there were some advances made on the case. They busted the motel proprietress known as ‘Mama Dips’ played by Grace Zabriskie who long ago portrayed George Costanza’s almost mother-in-law on Seinfeld. I did get a kick out the way Mama Dips snarled and acted all tough when she was grilled by the cops.

Twitch (foreground above) suffered at the hands of his parole officer before going out of his way, seemingly intentionally, to get beaten up by some young punks at a skating playground called Freeway Park. Bullet did her part by trying to dissuade Twitch, but he ignored her.

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Let’s start with two women who live more than 500 miles apart. They don’t know each other, and have never met. They have something in common, and that is that each of their husbands have taken jobs overseas. The husbands leave on the same day from their respective locations. Left behind are the wives who have to live with the memories of their last nights with those husbands for an indeterminate amount of time.

As beautiful as the above and below images are, the next day, one of these women looked at a bus pulling out of a lot, and the other watched a train leave a station. At the moment they knew nothing about the other, nor had they any idea that circumstances overseas would bring them together in the future.

In today’s world where our films are filled with violence, explosions, drugs, and corruption, where our films are technological marvels with special FX, 3D, CGI, Imax, and so forth – it is refreshing to watch a film that makes you think and feel. In the words of the director:

Every scene is filled with drama. If it is not the actors and the script, then it is the location. If not the location, then it is the camera angles, and if not that – it is the lighting.

Aren’t those marvelous words? And don’t you want to watch a film that makes your heart beat faster, not from action but from emotion. A film that makes you think, feel, and care – and does so without simply battering the senses?

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Magic City: Season 2 Opens with a Thud

So Magic City Season 2 launched its opening episode tonight on the Starz Network. Despite all the hype – there was no sign of James Caan as Sy Berman. Oh he was mentioned, but the first we saw of him was in the preview clip of next week’s episode.

Aside from that, Magic City was less than scintillating. I’ve seen better Magic from Mr. Clean’s Bath scrubbers. Talk about dull … oh wait I called the show dull last year. All the improvements made in the last five episodes of the first season were washed away between boring board room meetings about where and how to bail Ike out of jail and some agonizing jail house meetings between Ike and his ill-dressed attorney.

You recall that the cliff hanger finale from last year was that Ike was arrested for the murder of Jimmy ‘Shoes’ Clayton. State’s Attorney Klein thought he had his case all wrapped up with the testimony of the prostitute. But she recanted and beyond that, she told the Grand Jury that Klein had threatened her at gunpoint.

Even the judge, in an ex-parte discussion in the courthouse men’s toilet got a chuckle out of it. How could Klein not have seen that one coming?

Aside from that, the sexual content was diminished. Ben Diamond fondled a bare breast as he cooked up a business deal with a Madam to run a house of pleasure in Opa-locka that he would bank roll in exchange for 70% of the profits.

Ben to Ike: You have a choice to make - adapt or die

Ben to Ike: You have a choice to make – adapt or die

And they revisited, via flashback, the explicit lovemaking between Stevie Evans and Mrs Diamond as Ben watched from above. Once Ike was sprung from jail – they had a party in Atlantis, the subterranean poolside bar. Diamond came in, and Ike basically blew him off. Diamond didn’t like it and left with this oh-so-scary parting shot – Ike, I believe you have forgotten who you can, and who you cannot disrespect.

Ike must have been quaking in his boots upon hearing that.

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Graceland: Episode 2 – Guadalajara Dog

Watched the Graceland series pilot (Show # 1) last week and did a write up of that show here. Last night was the 2nd show of the series, an episode called Guadalajara Dog. No, that reference isn’t about some case in Guadalajara – it’s just the third time in two weeks when our intrepid UC’s head off to a food stand on wheels. This week it was the Sun City Hot Dog truck and the specialty of this kitchen-on-wheels is a fanciful hot-dog called the Guadalajara Dog. But that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

So, to get back in place, to open the show, Briggs takes Mike and Johnny to a place of gastric delights called Hector’s Taco Stand. Some kid steals a bag of chips and Mike high tails it after this perp. Until he’s intercepted by Johnny. Briggs and Johnny lay into Mike heavily – about possibly blowing his cover to chase down a thief of potato crisps in a bag. Lesson learned. We hope. Not to worry, it’s all part of Mike’s learning curve and that’s both necessary as well as fun for us.

As you know, FBI agent Mike Warren (Aaron Tveit), who is just out of the Academy has been placed into Graceland. His main job – to keeps tabs on Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) who the FBI higher-ups suspect, no, believe – is dirty. But they need to catch him in the act of breaking the rules, and the law. They’re looking for an indictable offense.

But Briggs is no fool. From the jump he has been suspicious of Warren. Which creates a level of undercover within the undercover roles all these agents play. However this presents a structural problem for the show.

Briggs must be dirty – otherwise why is he so suspicious of Mike Warren. But if Briggs is dirty – we haven’t seen any evidence of malfeasance yet.

Warren is super smart. He’s clever. He can think rapidly while under duress. He’s very observant. The script has dropped more than a dozen visual clues at we viewers that Briggs suspects Warren. Warren is too smart, too observant to not have noticed.

So let us assume he’s noticed. How come he hasn’t reported this to his handler? How come he hasn’t suggested that he back off for a while and sever contact with HQ until Briggs is less suspicious?

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