Chicago PD – 1 x 04 – Now is Always Temporary

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A bit of a review, a recap, and some thoughts about the latest episode. I’m announcing a Spoiler Warning for those of you who haven’t watched the episode yet.

Chicago PD‘s 4th Episode called Now Is Always Temporary had a little bit of everything. But mostly it was about families. Having said that, the opening scene is a dinner with Hank Voight, Erin, and Hank’s son Jay who has been recently released from prison. The phone interrupts and Hank and Erin head out on a hostage situation.

Chicago P.D.

A desperate man is holding a woman as hostage. Erin and Hank try to get him to hand off the woman and work things out. Eventually the nut job agrees. But before he surrenders, he says, I’m a dead man anyway – then he blows his own brains out. We don’t see the brains but we do see the interesting upward blood spatter, a natural occurrence when a gun barrel is placed beneath the chin pointing up before squeezing the trigger.

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Did I say this was a family episode? Well actually it really is. The above scene preceded the opening credits. In short this episode opened strongly before we moved on to Olinsky and his daughter, more of Voight and his son, and the problems Detective Halstead was having because of and with the Rodiger family.

And all of that was wrapped around the case of the week which would go on to be about a counterfeit ring, an underage hooker with a heroin problem, a church support group that fronted for a crew of guns for hire with a money laundering operation, and more.

Erin worked with the 17-year-old hooker named Nadia who provided some intel because Erin promised to fix her up with some drugs after they worked through the case.

Olinsky’s daughter was suspended from school because a few joints were found in her locker. She claimed they weren’t hers.

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The Blacklist: Are You Happy with Show’s Direction?

Lately I’ve been somewhat dissatisfied by the new and different direction of  The Blacklist. When the show premiered, I think we all saw James Spader’s Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington as an arch-criminal with a decently sized good streak within him.

We liked him immediately because he was smart, clever, and he had a sense of humor. Besides that he was always steps ahead of the FBI. It’s not that we were rooting against the FBI, but wasn’t it pleasant that Red was right far more often than they were. We also liked him because he cared deeply about the new FBI field agent, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone).

Then there was the over-arching mystery of why Red Reddington turned himself in, and why he was willing to work with only Elizabeth Keen. Of course, Keen’s boss – Harold Cooper, played by Harry Lennix – had doubts about Reddington. The ‘doubting boss’ is a standard character in police/cop/spy stories , so it seems natural to dislike him. Keen’s agent partner, Donald Ressler, didn’t seem too ‘keen’ about Lizzie either. So with those lines of division clearly visible, it was easy to root for Keen and Red.

Red was to help the FBI capture some of serious criminals. Often these criminals were truly bad guys, or said another way – so good at what they did – that the FBI wasn’t always aware of them, hence the Blacklist was Red’s list rather than a list of the most wanted.

The list of criminals that they would seek to capture, kill, or bring down, begins with terrorists, sex-traffickers, a Chinese killer who targets CIA agents, an assassin called the stewmaker who not only kills but makes the bodies disappear, a corporate terrorist, a bomb-maker, and a few others. All deadly in their own way. All capable of doing society great harm. The 2nd episode involving Anslo Garrick, a bad guy for hire who abducted Red, aired on December 2nd, and was the last episode until the show resumed on January 13th, 2014.

Now in 2014, Red is much more violent. He kills often and with alarming regularity. Red is after those responsible for his abduction. He’s also intent in finding the mole within the FBI who, no doubt, had a role in Red’s abduction.

Meanwhile, the The Blacklist villains of the week have become less interesting because they gone from threats to peace and well-being, to just being very, very creepy. The Good Samaritan was a guy who repaid child-abusers in kind. The Alchemist was a creepy scientist so skilled in the arts of genetic manipulation that he was hired to make it appear that certain people had died, when in fact, the dead people were genetic doubles created through science.

The most recent episode was called The Cyprus Agency, and it aired this past Monday. On its surface, this agency was where couples seeking to adopt children could request a specified race and ethnicity, along with certain genetic and hereditary traits.

While the prospective parents may have viewed the Cyprus Agency as a kind of baby boutique, the reality was far more sinister and gross especially when you factor in that the mothers of these babies were stolen from their own lives, the pregnancies were conceived via insemination after these women were put into chemically induced comas, and all of that compounded by the fact that these babies were all fathered by one man.

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True Detective: Episode 1 x 03 – The Locked Room

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This world is a veil – and the face you wear is not your own.

I’ve been watching the HBO series True Detective, and it is hard to believe that we’ve only seen 3 episodes. Last night’s episode was called The Locked Room. The title is intriguing because we will not visit any particular place that has a locked room. The title refers to our own thoughts.

Preacher Theriot

Preacher Theriot

What amazes me about the series is the way we viewers have been drawn in little by little. That quote up above was not said by either Woody Harrelson as Detective Martin Hart or by Detective Rustin Cohle played by Matthew McConaughey. Rather it was made by a bible thumping, evangelical, traveling tent-show minister – but it gives you a strong idea about the series.

At the core is of course a brutal murder, which occurred in 1995. We watch and learn as these two detectives go about solving the crime. It is also set 17 years later as the original two homicide detectives are being questioned by two other police detectives (in 2012) about how they solved the case because a strikingly similar murder has just occurred.

Hart and Cole are looking for a lead. The crab catcher, the grandfather of a victim, gives them a name - Reggie LaDue

Hart and Cole are looking for a lead. The crab catcher, the grandfather of a victim, gives them a name – Reggie LaDue

As I said, the core is the murder, but there’s a few other ‘mysteries’ in play.- how was the case solved? Did they get the right man? How and why did these two detectives stop talking to each other 10 years ago. Why have they apparently gone in different directions?

Why does Detective Martin Hart now look older, and a bit heavier, but otherwise no worse for the passage of time whereas Detective Rustin Cohle looks down on his luck, a bit thread worn and tired, and also a bit scuffed up – like the years haven’t been kind to him?

Back at the case, following the lead of the burned out church, Cohle and Hart track down the preacher’s traveling ministry.

What is on Cohle’ mind when he says at the preacher’s tent?

Marty, what do you think the IQ of this group is?

Hart responds:
Can you see Texas from up there on your high horse? What do you know of these people?

Cohle: Just observation and deduction. I see a propensity for obesity, poverty, a yen for fairy tales, Folks putting what little few bucks they do have in a wicker basket that’s being passed around. I think it is safe to say that no one here is going to be splitting the atom.

So Cohle doesn’t think all that much of this group. Hart defends them.

Hart … Some folks enjoy community, the common good…

Cohle: If the common good got to make up fairy tales then it’s not good for anybody… if the only thing keeping a person decent is a divine reward, then brother, that person is a piece of shit.

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Rake – New Fox TV Series

Rake premiered on the Fox Network tonight. This is the American version of an Australian TV Series, of the same name, that will launch its third season next month. Starring Greg Kinnear, the series is about an L.A. criminal defense attorney who has issues, to the say the least.

He takes on what he thinks are high-profile cases, or cases that could become a money tree in his mind. Cases that one would think he has no chance of winning, and he wins them (so says the promotional notes) – yet his personal life, and at times his professional life, are simply situations where keeping his damned mouth shut would have the wiser choice.

As such, he can be described as a man with self-destructive tendencies that verge on making him a hopeless individual.

We might wonder if this version, or the version from Oz, is modeled after the Jim Carrey 1997 film, Liar Liar, which was about a lawyer who must tell the truth, no matter what, which gets him into trouble time and time again. There is a difference, this attorney is a master of the lie, the deflection, and the denial.

To give you a clear mental image of Kinnear’s Deane:

  • His wife has divorced him
  • He’s been crashing at his friend’s place now going into a number of months, rather than the original plan of a couple of weeks
  • His driver’s license expired two years ago
  • He has a secretary who he hasn’t paid in an indeterminate amount of time – but she needs the work permit to stay in the country
  • His lover is a prostitute, who may love him, but charges him her full rate just the same
  • One of his clients pays him, not in cash, but with a tuna worth $25K – that’s not $25K worth of a lot of tuna, it is one tuna.
  • He owes a bookie $59,000 and as we meet him, he takes a beating, with a promise of more to come – if he doesn’t settle up

Despite all of the above, he doesn’t seem to be the least bit worried. In less polite circles – we could call this kind of character a motor-mouth who never thinks before he speaks. Only as Kinnear plays him – his speed of speaking is toned way, way down, while conversely, his narcissism, his lack of correct self-assessment, and the utter denial of what is actually going on around him rises to off the chart levels. Kinnear’s Keegan Deane is low-key to a fault, and clearly is no one’s idea of a role model. Yet people put up with him.

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Chicago PD: Episode 1 x 03 – Chin Check

Chicago PD Episode 1 x 03 aired last night. They called it Chin Check. My initial reaction to the series based upon the first two episodes was very positive. I still like the action and the performers but I believe that the writers have put too much on our plates.

By that I mean that there’s a helluva lot of characters to keep track of besides the specific major case of the week. Do the math – There are 10 cops including the desk sergeant who goes back and forth between giving Burgess and Atwater tough love and jerking them around. The only Detective who hasn’t made an impact yet is Detective Sheldon Jin.

Then there’s Justin who is Voight’s son. He’s just been released from prison and Erin is there to meet him, Dawson’s wife Laura, Ruzak’s girl friend Wendy and his departmental shrink. There’s the kid D-Anthony who Voight helped. Voight’s C.I. Maurice, Dawson’s C.I. Jasmine, which adds up to six more. So that brings us to 16 characters

If we take out D’Anthony because Voight parked him with his Aunt who has an out-of-town address), we must add in the daughter of Olinsky who will appear in the next episode.

And I haven’t even mentioned the so far unnamed I.A. woman officer who Voight must answer to. The good about that is that so far, Voight has held his ground, and delayed giving this mystery woman what she’s asked for. The bad? She has appeared at the end of two straight shows. Hey writers – can you mix that up a bit?

Halstead on a stakeout

Halstead on a stakeout

Okay moving on – there’s not enough lighter moments. Aside from Atwater and Burgess dueling with Desk Sergeant three weeks running, we have to look hard to find anything funny.

Yes, Olinsky had to buy a power saw to get the pawn shop guy to give him an in with the arms guys who were selling the long hardware and the cop-killer bullets. Not exactly laugh out loud material, but I do understand that bit of subtle humor. But a stinky squad car, from an earlier episode, wasn’t so funny. In fact it was weak.

I liked the way that Mrs. Dawson and Detective Dawson both danced around the truth when it came to Dawson’s Confidential Informant Jasmine. Again, while this wasn’t funny per se, because it wasn’t meant to be, it did work out in the end, and was satisfying.

I think Ruzak is heading for more issues. First he screwed up in the second episode with the collar, then he lied to his girl friend about his job, he had words with Halstead who used the old stand by response – What do you know? You’ve been on the job for what? Fifteen minutes? Then, not only was he was indifferent to the fact that he shot and killed someone in the line of duty, but he ignored the shrink’s advice to take a couple of weeks off.

According to what we’ve heard, from the other characters, and the girl friend, he should be experiencing some after-effects after taking a life. Even the Chicago PD had mandatory counseling as a requirement for any cop who killed. Ruzak gave the counselor nothing, and wanted out asap. After telling Wendy the facts, he was ready to waltz back into a party as if nothing had happened. Wendy is left with some serious doubts about Ruzak.

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Her

They say timing is everything. Today is January 21st, and today (just about six hours ago) I saw the Spike Jonze film called Her. I exited the theater, and hopped into my car. Just then, as my car radio came on – I found that the NPR outlet, WUSF (89.7 FM), here in Sarasota, was airing the Fresh Air show, hosted by Terry Gross – which was an interview with actor Joaquin Phoenix.

The actor was describing what it was like, as an 8-year-old child actor to appear in a movie and be on a movie set. He mentioned the excitement, the energy, the thrill of being on a set surrounded by so many different people all so enthusiastic about what they were doing.

His words: “I remember feeling like I was buzzing, like my whole body was vibrating, because it was just so exciting to experience this thing that wasn’t real but at moments felt like it was real,” he says. “It’s basically the feeling that I’ve been chasing ever since.

Now this was just a few short moments after I had left theater, and as I was heading for the car, my mind was already in a compositional mode as the beginnings of this review started to take form. How apt to hear Joaquin speaking about unreality after I had just watched him for 126 minutes in a movie about a lonely man who finds love when he begins a relationship with the operating system on his phone.

While the title of the film is Her, an alternative might by The Rise and Fall of Theodore Twombley. Theodore is a professional letter writer, and from the looks of his apartment, he’s doing very well in his field. He’s in the throes of a difficult divorce from his wife Catherine, played by Rooney Mara.

When he’s not moping about he plays video games. He’s not a particularly social fellow so he’s just perfect for the latest innovation in artificial intelligence – an operating system that’s designed to meet his needs.

This isn’t anything like Siri on the iPhones. This is a far better system. A voice that can laugh, one that carries enthusiasm, emotion, as well as empathy. A voice that cares for you, attends to what you need and want, in short – a system that the grows with you.

It will surprise no one that Joaquin’s Theodore falls in love with the OS voiced by Scarlett Johansson. It will also surprise no one that this is ultimately a sad film.

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True Detective: Seeing Things – Episode 1 x 02

Watching HBO’s True Detective is like jumping into a swimming pool while fully dressed. You climb out of the pool and your clothes are soaked. They feel heavy. But as the show proceeds, and the light brightens, and we see more and more of what’s behind these windows into what these two men are about. We notice less and less the weight of our own clothes because we are noticing more and more of the weighty emotional burdens and scars that these detectives carry within themselves.

Others say watching this show is like watching paint dry. I think not, but you know, everyone has an opinion. I believe the real key to understanding and appreciating True Detective, is to find our way inside the characters. Both Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are complex and interesting. They both carry secrets, and are burdened by them – and neither are easy to figure out. I think it will take some time.

Even if you missed the line in Episode One where we learned that these two worked together for a while (like 7 years and haven’t spoken in about 10 more years), the friction between them is not buried. It is right there; at times just below the surface, and at other times – right out in the open where we can see it. What follows is all from the second episode with some spoilers.

Cohle: What do we know about him (the perp) … smart, artistic, religious in some sort of way.
Hart: Every person within a thousand miles of here has some sort of religion – except you.
Cohle: How many db’s have antlers, blindfolds, painted symbols on their back?

That is the case they’re working to solve. They’ve made no real headway yet. The folks higher up on the chain of command have noticed, and will soon have something to say.

Cohle: I can’t say the job made me this way. It’s more like being this way made me just right for the job.

Cohle has a busted marriage, and a dead daughter. And he’s killed people in the line of duty. He’s also got a hole in his soul, and entry wounds made by three .25 caliber bullets pumped into him. He worked 4 years in Texas as an undercover in drug crimes while deep in the heart of HIDTA. He did a stint at the NSPC. He was deemed unfit and was offered a psych pension. Which he turned down. Following that, he asked for an assignment in Homicide. Texas washed their hands of him and assigned him to homicide opening in Louisiana.

Hart: Sometimes you got to get your head right.You got to take your release where you find it, or where it finds you. In the end, it’s for the good of the family.

Hart is defending his extra-marital activities to the 2012 detectives.

HIDTA – High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
NSPC – North Shore Psychiatric Center

Cohle, as a part of his undercover work –

Drug Peddler Woman: You might be dangerous.
Cohle:I am dangerous. I’m police. I can do what ever I want. With impunity.

So Cohle has his problems, but he also likes the power he has.  They catch a couple of leads after the victim’s mother describes a place south of the town – she calls it a place where girls stay. Near Spanish Lake. It’s really a trailer park bunny house. Cohle will beat up a couple of guys he knew from his undercover days to get a better handle on the location. Once they find it they talk to the Madam and one of the girls.

Hart: We’re going to question any girl who might have known her.
Madam:That’s a tougher ask than you might think. Folks be staying away once they hear y’all are out here.
Cohle: Well Ma’am, that’s the best way to get us to leave.

Hart asks politely, but it is Cohle who makes the winning argument. Cohle thinks one of the girls is underage.

You know you got underage working here?

You know you got underage working here?

Hart: That girl’s not 18. Sheriff know you got underage working here?
Madam: Girls walk this earth all the time, screwing for free. Why is it you add business to the mix and boys like you can’t stand it. I’ll tell you. It’s cause you don’t own it the way you thought you did.

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

In the last seven days there were four separate events about the film awards in the USA. Three were TV broadcasts, and one an announcement across all kinds of media. We started with the Golden Globes last Sunday, January 12th, which was followed by the Critics Choice Awards, the announcement of the Academy Award nominations, and then, the SAG/AFTRA awards on Saturday, January 18th. Is it possible that by now, you may be tiring from all these Award shows and news coverage? So, as a change of pace, let’s look at a film that likely won’t get any nominations or win any awards

Jack Ryan arrived in town, at your local cineplex, on the 17th. Finally. Every one on the planet had expected him on Christmas Day, but the suits over at Paramount, one of the producers AND the distributor in the USA, chose a far safer release date, January 17th.

I know what you’re thinking. Because of the winter weather, pro football playoffs, and the generally widely known fact that January has long been considered as a time when no one opens a film that has hopes of becoming remembered a few months later – so the film must be lacking.

I’m talking Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, and Kenneth Branagh. We all know the character Jack Ryan as he’s been a major player in numerous Tom Clancy books as well as having been portrayed on screen by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford twice, and Ben Affleck. This time, Pine stars as a younger Jack Ryan making this a prequel/reboot because when we first meet this young Ryan, he’s still in college, in post-graduate studies, in London, and he’s not in the CIA or any another government agency.

As the film begins, in London, the date is the afternoon of September 11th, 2001. Jack Ryan has just seen the bombing of the WTC in New York on the British telly. Shortly after that, in cinematic time, Ryan enlists in the Marines, and shortly after that – he is in a helicopter over Afghanistan that is shot down. He suffers severe traumatic injuries. He survives, but he needs a ton of therapy to master the art of walking again. His doctor (actually a med school resident) is a Cathy Muller. Keira Knightley has the role.

While Jack is involved in this physical therapy, he’s visited and recruited by Kevin Costner, as Thomas Harper, to work for the CIA, as an analyst, undercover, at an unnamed major Wall Street firm. Ryan will be looking for patterns, anomalies, unusual transactions, and trading that could be, might be, or would be a part of the planning and funding of terrorists activities.

There was a single humorous line at the meeting between Costner’s Harper, and Pine’s Ryan. Harper asks Ryan about something Ryan wrote, and Ryan responds with ‘How did you get a hold of it. That’s my Dissertation (Ryan is going for a doctorate). Harper smiles sheepishly, extending his arms to the sides, palms up – Jack, I’m CIA. Other than that – it was all business.

Well, now installed as a Compliance Officer on Wall Street,  Jack Ryan discovers some secret accounts held at the firm by its main partner, the Russian, Viktor Cherevin, played by a dour and grim Kenneth Branagh. As expected, Ryan cannot gain access to all of the info. What he does figure out is that Cherevin is trading on the Currency exchanges buying up large amounts of dollars. So he tells Harper, and then his Wall Street boss. As expected, it’s time for Jack to saddle up. Moscow and Cherevin await.

There’s your set up. All the four major players have been introduced. It is a spy-thriller. But that’s as far as I’ll take you regarding what the film is about.

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Chicago PD 1 x 02 – Wrong Side of the Bars

[SOME SPOILERS AHEAD] Chicago PD Episode 2 aired tonight. They called this one Wrong Side of the Bars. But whatever they called it, on the surface, it was about getting Diego Dawson home safe. As you recall from the pilot episode broadcast last week, the show ended with a cliff hanger as Detective Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) was notified by his wife that their son, the eight year Diego, had gone missing.

But below the surface, two other major story lines sprouted wings and flew into our midst. As the episode began, and it was one of the best opening segments that I’ve seen on a cop show in years. The squad had to run down leads which they culled from extensive pouring over case files. There was palpable tension. The level of intensity was high.

And even when things looked promising, like the location of a prime suspect became known, it was all undone by a mistake made by rookie Kyle Ruzak (Patrick John Flueger). So it was back to square one.

Meanwhile the heat was rising under Voight. In an aside with his Commander, Voight is told that a lot of people are unhappy with him and that he’s off to a very bad start with one his cops being killed, and the kidnapping of Detective Dawson’s son.

Voight absorbs this dressing down, and toughens up. He tells his crew, Until we get the kid back, nothing else matters. Nothing else.

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