Homeland : Season 3 Begins with Ep 01 – Tin Man Is Down

Homeland threw open the doors for Season 3 last night. Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) had some tough decisions to make. The first was about covert operations on three continents with 6 six high value / high priority targets, and the other about personnel under his direct command. Throughout all of the show, Saul looked lost. Depressed.

Mira: Saul, you're paralyzed... Saul: Apparently

Mira: Saul, you’re paralyzed…
Saul: Apparently

Or as his wife Mira (Santa Choudhury) told Saul, You’re paralyzed. To which he could only reply dejectedly, Apparently.

But that malaise was present elsewhere too. In fact I’d say that this case officer in the national clandestine service, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is, from the jump, a mess.

When she was being grilled about Nicholas Brody, and her relationship with him, and what she knew, and when she knew it, by a Congressional Select Committee, it was a more than just a witch hunt. Carrie’s off her meds, and her quivers, tics, slight trembles combined with the fear which she struggles to conceal, does not put her in a good place.

Peter Quinn is back too. He’s actually seen in the opening shots. He’s assembling a bomb. We don’t know where he is, but we will come to learn that he’s in Caracas, Venezuela.

And we will find out that he’s good with munitions, motorbikes, infiltration, as well as small arms.

In yet another carryover from last season, we find that Dana Brody had attempted suicide, and that she’s about to be released from a rehab center. This is/was more than teenage angst. As the doctor told Mrs. Brody, Dana meant business.

Dana (played by Morgan Saylor) in her last group session in therapy.

Dana (played by Morgan Saylor) in her last group session in therapy.

Overall, as a carryover from last season, when Brody’s car was used to bomb the CIA HQ in Langley resulting in the deaths of 219 Americans, we have two huge craters. The actual physical one in the earth from the bomb blast. Saul says We [the CIA] are being punished is an apt description for this crater which has yet to be even touched by even a shovel two months after the blast. The second is the metaphorical crater that all of the lead characters find themselves in emotionally.

This CIA is not a place filled with happy agents. Nor is the congressional investigation room where Carrie and her lawyer played by Amy Morton (seen last year in Boss) sit alone facing the committee.

What we have in this Season 3 Premier which is entitled Tin Man Is Down seems to be a course correction made by the Homeland show runner and writers. This is going to be a more contemplative season. Apparently we will have more character development than action. At least to start the season. Without Brody, who did not surface in this episode, we are lacking the Brody/Mathison dynamic. There’s no Abu Nazir either, so who do we hate?

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Rush is high-octane, high-energy, loud and exciting. It is also marvelously entertaining as well as engrossing. If you think auto racing is dull – you know, endless laps with the same repetitive turns and straightaways surrounded by huge looming grandstands – then you are thinking of the Indy 500.

In Europe, Formula One racing has a much stronger presence than it does in the USA. But what is key is that while the roads are level in some places, they rise and fall in other places and have crazy turns like hairpins, tight corners, and slow arching bends, along with various chicane turns that require drastic drops in speed. No, Formula One is anything but boring.

In Ron Howard’s Rush, he’s going to put you behind the wheel, inside the engine, on the various pit rows, as well as placing you into bedrooms and board rooms. This film is based on the real life story of two premium race drivers who battled tooth and nail for much of the 1976 racing season.

One is James Hunt, a British party animal with extraordinary driving skills, who was more than willing to put his life on the line in each and every race. The other is Niki Lauda, an Austrian, a scion to a large family fortune who walked away from all of that to pursue his dream which was to be a champion race car driver. He was precise, and so very knowledgeable about the risks as well as the best ways to set up a car.

He didn’t care for the flash and sizzle of Hunt’s lifestyle. Lauda much preferred the companionship of his mechanics. While Hunt would be out on the town looking for a new playmate each night (his motto was Sex: The Breakfast of Champions), Lauda was often in the mechanics shop discussing the intricate fine tuning necessary to put a race car in the best shape it could be.

In one neat moment asks the mechanics if they had tried making the parts out magnesium. The blank look on their faces told us that they had never even heard of magnesium That’s how involved Lauda was.

Lauda calculated everything in advance. He was called risk averse by some, but Lauda’s mantra was that he wasn’t there to make friends, he was there to win races.

Chris Hemsworth plays James Hunt. Most of us know Hemsworth as Thor, from the Marvel Comics films. Here, his character hasn’t a lot of depth to it, but what he’s got in spades – is the will to win. Hemsworth does a good job of delivering the proper amount of arrogance and charm to make you root for him.

Daniel Brühl portrays Niki Lauda. And his Lauda is not a likable man. Not only did Brühl give him the swagger which stemmed from not only being the best driver on the planet, but also being the smartest guy in whatever room he was in. When Hunt called Lauda a rat, Lauda defended rats by pointing out how smart they were, and how they had such great survival instincts. Brühl as an actor, gave a remarkable performance as a man you wanted to root against, but some how you found that it was just as fulfilling to root for him.

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Nashville: Season Two Begins, Episode 1 – Recap

Deacon is in the cooler, Rayna is in a coma, and Juliette Barnes is interviewing a candidate for the job as her Assistant – between the sheets. Yup, Nashville: Season Two has commenced. The first episode was called I Fall to Pieces, and aired last night on ABC.

Avery had a solo song, Will invited all his friends, of both genders and persuasions to a housewarming party in an attempt to bring Gunnar out of his funk. Gunnar’s depressed? Why not? Scarlett has dumped him. When a girl at the party comes on to Gunnar, he’s attracted but not interested. Why? Because they are still in Scarlett’s house and still sitting on her sofa. What’s the answer to that – burn Scarlett’s sofa. Gunnar even pours barbecue lighter fluid on the thing to accelerate the blaze.

Deacon is not interested in mounting a defense. He’ll do the time for Driving Under the Influence, and other charges. But if Rayna doesn’t survive, the charges will be upped to include involuntary manslaughter. Deacon’s court appointed attorney tells him the prosecutor is going to delay the case as long as he can, because Rayna might die. Deacon fires this attorney anyway. Only Deacon wasn’t driving. More on this later.

Teddy has told pregnant Peggy that the best he could do is financial support. Only within minutes, things change. Peggy goes from the being pregnant to being formerly pregnant. She has miscarried. When Teddy inquires about how the visit to OB-GYN went, Peggy lies and tells Teddy she heard the baby’s heartbeat.

The doctors bring Rayna out her coma in order to perform some tests.Things look quite dark. Tandy and Lamar as well as Maddie and Daphne have gathered bedside. Even Teddy and Juliette make an appearance. Leave that hankie where it is folks – Rayna isn’t going to die. More on this later.

At the hospital, the good Juliette gets chummy with Maddy. [can’t see this being good for Maddie, can you?] But there’s still the bad Juliette who has sharpened her fangs, claws, and what not. She’s more than looming. She’s happening.

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The Bridge: Episode 12 – All About Eva

Yes, the fat lady did sing, actually it was the Duet from The Marriage of Figaro, so, in fact, two ladies sang, but that did not signify either the end of the show, or even the end of the season. The Bridge, which has just been granted a second season on the FX network, began with Mozart’s classic Duettino Sull’aria, and from there, we sort of did a rewind which took us back to the early part of the series with Steven Linder looking for a girl.

Linder arrived at Reverend Bob’s hacienda/chicken ranch only to find out that Eva Guerra, Linder’s intended, had left the flock. So he never got to make the proposal. Eva? Back in Juarez with a factory job. We know it but Linder doesn’t.

Speaking of Juarez, reporter Adriana Mendez is helping Daniel Frye get back on his feet – both literally as well as figuratively. In addition Adriana is still dealing with her mother’s disapproval of her lifestyle. The mother wants Adriana to settle down, mend her ways, and get married. But Adriana goes her own way. So we have a standoff.

David Tate is in custody, Marco is in a deep depression, Charlotte is cooking up a deal with Galvan, and girls are still being plucked off the street in Juarez. Some of these girls get parked in a jail cell, before becoming party favors. Steven Linder doesn’t know this either.

But some one does know, and this is what is going to get Marco off his month-long bender, and back on his feet.

The above are the salient points of this episode called All About Eva which is the 12th episode. Only one more remains.

The thing about this one is that following last week’s showdown on the bridge, the set piece involving Tate, Marco, Cross, Wade, and Frye, what followed, this week, would have to be disappointing. Last week, as we watched, all that excitement and tension, sort of sucked all the air out of the show. It would be natural to expect that this week we would find ourselves in a decompression mode, and this was exactly the case for Sonya and Marco.

So the other dangling story lines – Frye, Mendez, Charlotte, Linder, Eva, and Galvan were brought into play. I think the episode worked just fine, and despite the wheel turning back to a point from the beginning of the series – at least to the point following the first bridge murders, they did a good job of rekindling our interest.

Mendez and Frye back when Frye could walk, talk, and work at the same time

Mendez and Frye back when Frye could walk, talk, and work at the same time

So heading towards the Season Finale next week, we are looking at the following questions:

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Broadchurch – BBC America: Season Finale

The Season Finale of Broadchurch aired on BBC America on September 25th, and I was in full couch potato mode at precisely 10:00 PM. I wasn’t going to miss this for anything. What follows is not a recap, nor is it spoiler rich. I am going to give you some idea of how it played it out, but I’ve done my best to withhold much of the key info.

Well, I got the torch bearing procession through the town that I had mentioned weeks back. Finally. Only it wasn’t a crowd filled with hate and blood lust. There were no cries of string him up! Rather, this was a gathering of the townsfolk, a coming together to heal and find solace, and to send Danny’s soul on to its reward.

Yes, I correctly tabbed the murderer, but not for the right reasons. To see who I named, you can go back to my previous post on Broadchurch here And I was incorrect about the use of the boat. The boat was used to ferry Danny’s corpse to a point on the beach where his body was later found. But as I surmised, the boat was not truly a clue that helped them locate the killer.

In fact, it wasn’t a mistake that solved the crime. Nor was it sparkling detective work. The solving of the case came from a confession, and from a lie. The Vicar Paul Coates did turn over Tom’s laptop, despite the threats made by Tom. And this laptop was the source of some important emails – only they weren’t pulled off of the remains of the hard-drive Instead, Detective Alec Hardy was able to trace them back to the ISP email server.

Hardy: Where is your laptop Tom?

Hardy: Where is your laptop Tom?

And once Hardy had them, he was able to question Tom, who being completely unaware of the evidence, glibly lied to the detective by saying his laptop had been either nicked, or he had lost it.

Another beacon, not of light, but rather that of a cell phone signal that was being traced and routed to Hardy’s phone led him right to the murderer. Who said simply, I can’t fight anymore. Meaning the shame and anguish were too great, and too much of a burden.

I was wrong about the reason for the slaying too. I had labeled it as something along the lines of parental protection, or parental jealousy. But it was neither of those things – it was simply a matter of need, and personal gratification.

Now that the series has ended, I will look forward to a second season.

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Hostages – New CBS-TV Series

HOSTAGESThough the TV ratings had The Blacklist far in front of Hostages, I’d like to give a shout out to the new CBS-TV Series in the oh-so-important Monday night at 10:00 PM slot.

Hostages stars Dylan McDermott as a multifaceted character called Duncan Carlisle. First time we see him, he is holding a family of four hostage. With a quick flashback to 18 hours earlier, we find out that he is a strong and fierce FBI Field agent, and we see him in action in a bank robbery/hostage situation. The difference is that then he was on the side of law and order, and in the present he is a perp.

Finally, after the bank robbery case is resolved, we meet him as a caring and devoted Dad who is parking his daughter with her grandfather.

On the other side of the original hostage situation, we have the family of four. The wife is Dr. Ellen Saunders, played by Toni Colletti. She’s a top rated surgeon and she’s been tabbed to perform surgery on a very important person – the President of the United States, played by James Naughton.

Her husband, Brian Saunders, is played by Tate Donovan. He has the look and feel of a successful businessman. But before we are more than just a few minutes in, we see that he is lying to his wife, and a big business deal that he was working on is dead in the water.

They have two kids – both teenagers. A lacrosse playing high-schooler of a son, Jake (Mateus Ward), and a moody college girl daughter Morgan (Quinn Shephard). We will soon learn that these kids have secrets too.

To guard the four hostages, we have three other people besides McDermott’s Carlisle. Rhys Coiro (recently seen on Entourage as the film director Billy Walsh) is Kramer Delaney, Sandrine Holt, who performed in House of Cards last winter, is Maria Gonzales, and Billy Brown plays Archer Petit.

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The Blacklist – New NBC-TV Series

Last night was the premier of the new NBC-TV Series The Blacklist, and expectations were high – especially since this, the pilot episode, was directed by Joe Carnahan from the world of films. Carnahan directed the 2011 hit The Grey and wrote the screenplay for the still in pre-production movie, a remake of the 1974 hit, Death Wish.

So James Spader slid into a Hannibal Lecter-ish type of role. Instead of ‘a victim’s liver, fava beans and a nice Chianti’, he contented himself to merely chew up the scenery with great gusto. Spader plays Raymond Reddington, a listee on the FBI’s most wanted list. As the series begins, he comes in out of the cold, literally, as the trees are still lacking leaves in Washington DC. He turns himself in at the FBI headquarters requesting a meeting with assistant Director Harold Cooper.

What’s his plan, or why did he turn himself in? We have no idea but it seems safe to say that he does have a plan. To set things in motion he informs Cooper and associates that he will give them information about one arch criminal, a Ranko Zamani.

The FBI is not impressed as they believe that Zamani’s been dead for six years. Reddington says, “Not so. Otherwise a dead man just walked off a flight from Munich to Dulles.”

A quick scan of the video of the immigration area at the airport show a man who looked remarkably like Zamani passing through immigration. A finger print was lifted from the armrest on the plane, and to the surprise of no one, except the FBI, Reddington was right.

Of course, the FBI doesn’t really connect the dots. For Reddington to know all this, he must have been working with Zamani. Of course, and to clarify,  he immediately states this. Any way, he then reveals why he’s come in – to help the FBI capture some criminals, so powerful, and so secret, that the FBI doesn’t even know they exist. So sayeth Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington.

He has one condition. Starting now … he will only talk with one Elizabeth Keen, a recent Quantico graduate, and a transfer down from the NYC FBI HQ. She is beginning that very day as a FBI profiler.

Keen is played by Megan Boone, and while she’s no Jodie Foster, it looks like Keen and Reddington are going to become a pair just like Clarice and Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

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Broadchurch: Episode 8 – More Talk About Who Done It?

Broadchurch 8 aired last night. Many questions were answered. Okay, maybe not all that many, but the fact that remains is the single most important one – we still don’t know with certainty, who killed Danny Latimer.

After reading my post following episode 6, and following Episode 7, I received a lengthy series of questions from reader FD. Mind you, these were set forth as questions not questions AND answers.

FD: Great discussion. No solution yet. But, let’s try to focus on some key details.

1) Why were there paint chips that matched Danny’s skateboard found in the remains of the burned boat? And why was the boat burned?

2) Why did Susan hide the skateboard for six episodes and then give it to Tom Miller, the son of Detective Miller? Was she trying to provide new evidence to the police? And why did Susan Wright change her name? What secret(s) is she hiding about her past?

3) Why did Tom Miller delete the information on his hard drive and then destroy the laptop entirely when he found out the police might be able to recover the deleted data? Is he trying to protect himself or someone else by destroying the data?

4) Why did Nigel take Susan’s dog Vince? Did he kill Vince? Why? Did Vince know too much, or does Susan know things she won’t disclose unless she sees Vince is safe?

5) Why was Danny’s body moved? From where? How? And why did he have 500 quid under his bed? Where did the money come from?

Danny was killed by person or persons unknown. Was it murder, or an accident?
If it was murder, what was the motive? Drugs? Blackmail? Sex? All of the above?
Find the motive and you find the killer. Unless Danny was not the intended victim. Or he wasn’t a murder victim at all.

Hardy botched his last murder case. He has to solve this one. Like Hardy, Ellie Miller now says “the longer the case goes on, the more I suspect everyone.”
She needs to look closer to home.

JMM: Following FD’s commentary, I didn’t respond. A week went by and no other reader offered any theories, or alternatives. So reader FD posted again yesterday:

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A Man and a Woman (1966)

When a woman sends a telegram that says, ‘I Love you’

You go see her…

From the beaches at Deauville, France, to the drivers racing to their cars on the track at Le Mans, to the haunting melody written by Francis Lai – the film A Man and a Woman still is impactful today, almost fifty years after it won the Grand Prix at Cannes, and then snared two Oscars – for Best Screenplay and for the Best Foreign Film

It is a simple story – two widowed parents meet at their children’s boarding school in Deauville. It was mere happenstance – she had missed her train back to Paris, and he was late in dropping his son off at the school. So they drive back to Paris together.

For him, Jean-Louis Duroc played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, the attraction to her came quickly and swiftly. She, Anne Gauthier, played by Anouk Aimée, was reserved and elegant – beautiful with her shy smiles, her long nose and her lustrous dark hair.

She seems to have leapt from the pages of a fashion magazine or a tv commercial. But this is a trick of the mind. It was this film that bled into the consciousness of untold commercial art directors who then were influenced to make similar artistic choices for their own aesthetics in commercials and print ads.

I mean check out the image above of the Jean-Louis and Anne on the beach with their children. There’s no dialogue – just the images and the sounds of the surf and the sea-gulls. Change the season, and the ocean, and American Painter Steve Hanks created a similar image below.


This painting is called Holding the Family Together.

The movie is notable for the distance of many of its shots. In the filmed beach scene above, you will note how long it takes for the children to run directly towards the sea.  The camera will get in real close when intimacy is required …

… but in the main, Claude Lelouch employed many shots utilizing a long lens that compressed the distances.

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