Chicago P.D. – Episode Six: Conventions – Recap/Review

Did you catch Chicago PD on Wednesday. It was nice to have the show back on the air replacing that mini-series from Sochi, Russia. Officially, this C.P.D. was Episode Six entitled Conventions. It was about a series of rape/murders that began in New York on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and now apparently had resurfaced in Chicago. Hence the crossover episode to Chicago PD. As you know, both shows are Dick Wolf productions.

On ‘the advice of his Commander’, Voight brought in a couple of detectives from the New York Special Victims Unit. Basically, Fin who is played by Ice-T and Rollins who is played by Kelli Giddish, made the crossover appearance. Their stay would be open-ended at least until the perp was caught.

That’s your set up.

What impressed me most about the episode wasn’t the stellar police work. It wasn’t the crossover aspect either. Nor was it the great performances by the series regulars. Instead of those, I was most impressed by the fact that the writers sat down and did make some changes to the story lines on Chicago PD that were getting stale.

Sgt. Platt and Officer Burgess

Sgt. Platt and Officer Burgess

1) Officer Burgess and Desk Sgt. Platt – I’ve watched week after week as Platt threw her rank , experience, and age around and did her best to make Burgess and her fellow officer Atwater feel miserable. Yes, they made mistakes, but Platt overstepped more than a few times. Atwater did not appear in this episode.

This week, Burgess (played wonderfully by Marina Squerciati) took some time off from her patrol after telling the dour Platt (played by Amy Morton) that she would be out for a while on official business. She then came back with the information (actually a photo) that led to the case getting solved. After which, she got a compliment from Voight, and then when Platt made another snide remark, Burgess let it sail by, and wished the Sgt. a pleasant evening as she left.

2) Ruzek and Olinsky. For almost every one of the first five chapters, Ruzek (played by Patrick John Flueger) would make a mistake because he was impulsive, because he didn’t think things through, and because he didn’t play the situations according to the book. The consequences were that Olinsky, the veteran undercover played by Elias Koteas, was always pissed at him.

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NBC’s New Shows: About A Boy & Growing Up Fisher

NBC launched two shows in the 9:00 PM and 9:30 PM slots Tuesday night. Given the strong lead-in of The Voice, these family shows were slotted perfectly. Of course NBC with their obsession with ratings, may not give these shows enough time to succeed. After all, NBC gave Ironside, only three episodes this past fall before axing the show.

The first one is called About a Boy, and is based on the 2002 Hugh Grant film of the same title which was based on a Nick Hornsby best-selling novel. In short, it is about a young man – played by David Walton called Will. He’s in his late 20’s, or maybe just over the border into a neighborhood called The Early Thirties. Per David Walton, Will is a man-child. He is irresponsible, kind of a layabout, and has considerable interest in members of the opposite sex. To be more precise he is a womanizer.  So this show might be related to Two and a Half Men – as in a distant cousin, and only as a much kinder and gentler version. He loves a good time, but at the first sign of a relationship moving from fun to semi-serious – he moves on.

In this series he’s based in San Francisco and owns a home as he once wrote a popular Christmas song, and in his words – made a ton of money. To set the show in motion, he leaps off a cable car in order to chat up a beautiful blonde, a cellist, played by Leslie Bibb. He lies and tells her he is a single father so he can follow her into a single parent talk circle.

There he lies even more stating to the group that he has a son, Jonah, who has survived leukemia. Leslie is quite impressed, and moments later they’re back in his bedroom and she’s on top of him.

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Mind Games – New ABC-TV Series – Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Mind Games is a new ABC-TV series. Starring Christian Slater and Steve Zahn, the series is about two brothers, one Clark Edwards (Zahn) is a bi-polar ex-college professor, and the other, Ross Edwards (Slater), is an ex-con who did a two-year stint in a minimum security federal lock-up for securities fraud. What is it that they will do is the question that’s probably forming, right?

They have opened a business called Edwards & Associates. They specialize, as they describe it, in getting people to change their minds without them having any idea that they been manipulated – or in the parlance of the show – mind games have been run on them without them knowing it.

ABC itself says: a little bit of science, a dash of con-artistry, plus a smattering of Jedi mind tricks, enable brothers Ross and Clark Edwards to tailor a plan to influence any life-altering situation.

The net effect is that their clients get the results they want or need, and the problem has found a solution. The brothers believe that people’s decisions are influenced by their environment in ways they’re haven’t considered. Which really means that they will tweak the situations, based on their own nearly sixty years of studying human behavior.

If you’ve checked out the pilot which aired on Tuesday night (Feb 25th), then you have a pretty good sense of the show. If you haven’t checked it out yet – think of TV fare like Leverage, or Psych, or in more cinematic terms – Mind Games settles in somewhere between Jedi magic Tricks (Star Wars) and Mission Impossible – only without the light-swords, interplanetary travel, C3PO, Glocks, fast cars, and so far , we’ve not seen any latex masks.

It’s all about misdirection and manipulation; and lets not forget dirty tricks with borderline illegality. The show will toss in a more than a few scientific terms, or more accurately psychiatric/psychological buzz words like memory activation or adrenalized implimentation. But it still boils down to fooling somebody.

Okay, as this is a broadcast network offering, we can expect a few trailing subplots involving ex-wives, ex-girl friends, money issues and so forth. But the meat and potatoes will be a new case each week that requires a good old arm twisting – only with out the physical twisting. In short, Mind Games.

The leads, Christian Slater and Steve Zahn bear a similar look and size. Which means we won’t have to suspend disbelief to think of them as brothers. However, in the pilot, for most of the first 15 minutes, we got mostly a lot of bickering, and busted game plans between them, and a failed pitch to a corporate biggie played by Ron Rifkin. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best opening.


Soon enough a client comes in – a single mom with a teenage son who required recurring heart surgeries or could undergo a surgery that would or could provide a permanent solution. Only the medical insurer has denied it, claiming cost, uncertainty, and the fact that it was still considered ‘experimental’.

As this client is poor, and would not be able to afford a hefty fee, a decision is made to take on this case pro-bono. Edwards et all really haven’t any alternatives because as a start-up, they have no other clients, and paying the rent or facing eviction looms.

The problem isn’t too hard to solve. They need to make the insurance claims manager dude to start thinking of himself as someone who can make life-altering decisions. meaning that he will see himself as something of a hero. So these Edwards guys and associates put on one of their staged productions – and lo and behold – they get a favorable decision. Which vanishes almost as soon as they get it as the insurance company, at the corporate level, wants further discussions, so the case is kicked upstairs to senior management – who promptly says NO.

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The Blacklist Returns

Has it really been a month since we last watched James Spader’s Red Reddington pump those shots into Diane Fowler? Yes, time flies when you have True Detective, House of Cards, and the 2014 Winter Olympics on your television as more than intriguing and definitely capable fare to watch.

HOC has run dry for me. Not that it is or was arid as a TV show – merely that I’ve watched every episode, exhausting the mother lode. True Detective has been parceled out, an episode a week, with just two episodes remaining. We still aren’t sure who killed Dora Lang, but we all have expectations of a resolution of all the crimes and misdemeanors previously committed.

Finally, the splendors of Sochi and environs are history which means that it’s high time for The Blacklist.

Tonight, you're not a cop...

Tonight, you’re not a cop…

Yes, I watched The Blacklist, and I hate to say it. But I wasn’t impressed, rather I was depressed. The Blacklist has become Mission Impossible, only with Spader in the tux instead of Tom Cruise. Early on we learned that the key part of the episode would be set in the Syrian Consulate, in short the equivalent of being in a foreign country, with Harry Lennix as Harold Cooper intoning the words that MI used to attribute to the Secretary. Instead of disavowing, Cooper said, You’ll be on foreign soil. We won’t be able to help you.

... you're a criminal

… you’re a criminal

After the heist, Lizzie was left in the deep end of the pool, requiring a save by Red. Then Spader/Reddington arranged a fake kidnapping, a taser snatch and grab, in broad daylight, on a NY city sidewalk, followed by  the incarceration of himself and the target Madeline Pratt played by Jennifer Ehle.

As they recovered from the tasering, supposedly in a lock-up somewhere, in adjoining cells, with a clear window of opportunity as well as being a literal window that they could communicate through. I also thought that suspects, victims, and those about to be interrogated were always kept apart. But hey, that’s just me. Anyway, given the opportunity, Red spun a tale that had Pratt all aquiver. My reaction was to nearly nod off. Yup, it was numbing. And boring too.

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The Past (Le passe) – 2013

I think the best way to get you interested in this film, The Past, is to show you the trailer first.

The Past, aka Le Passe, was directed by Asghar Farhadi, and stars Bérénice Bejo , Tahar Rahim, and Ali Mosaffa, along with three kids. Basically, aside from Bejo, I was unfamiliar with any of the principals including Director Farhadi who won an Oscar For Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, in 2012, for A Separation, a film that he wrote and directed.

The Past begins with a metaphor. Simply, a woman waits for man at a Paris Airport. Ultimately they are able to see each other but a thick glass separates the waiting from the arriving. They can see but not touch or hear. Each says something, but we here in the states are not given a clue – we cannot guess unless we happen to speak French or Farsi and can read lips in those languages.

In any event, it is a metaphor for the wall between them, the figurative wall, as well as the literal thick glass. In the first few moments after that, we learn that they were/are married, the man/husband has returned to sign the divorce papers, and that there is still something below the surface, in each of them, that is a deep affection, even love, and around that, we can even say wrapped, is the fact that this husband left the woman, and children, to go back to his birth country which is Iran, four years ago.

That is how the film opens, and there is more, much more that we will come to learn about Marie (Berenice Bejo) and Ahmad, played by Ali Mosaffa.

There are three children; Marie has two daughters from her first marriage, and there is a 7-year-old boy who now lives with Marie and her lover, Samir (Tahar Rahim),

and is Samir’s son.

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Thinking about tomorrow. Looking ahead. Making resolutions. Planning. And if we are lucky, following any of those, next comes Doing.

We all try to do these things and we all have varying degrees of success with them. It’s not so much about what our goals and aims are, or about our backgrounds as well as our pasts. It is, looking ahead, a universal process, that most of us do. Not all of us, as some are content, or unable, tor don’t want to plan any further than the next hour or the next day.

Sometimes things happen, as if out of the blue, or without you having made a decision, or even thought about it. Like today, I went to see a film called The Past. This film had been on my mind for sometime. I had planned to do a discussion on this film with one of my readers. But The Past is not a film that you can see just anywhere. It was not scheduled to open in every town with a multiplex.

So the plan was that, we would wait until we each had an opportunity to see it. I discovered that The Past was opening this past Friday, February 21st, at my local art/indie film house, The Burns Court Cinema. So I contacted this person to confirm the date when we would each see the film, and then sit down for a joint discussion on it.

Unfortunately, the film had come and gone in his area. While I had been checking the movie schedules every few days, he had somehow missed The Past’s arrival in his area. So, unless we wanted to wait another full month for Netflix to make the film available, or have the discussion based on his reading the screenplay but not seeing the film, I was released from the plan, and could do a solo review, if I wanted.

So today I saw The Past. On my way home, I was listening to the car radio, and A Prairie Home Companion Radio Show, which is broadcast on NPR (National Public Radio) and is carried in my area by WUSF (89.7 FM) in Tampa, Bradenton, and Sarasota. Today’s broadcast was likely a repeat. Garrison Keillor is the creator and originator of A Prairie Home Companion, and he’s been at it since July of 1974. That’s nearly 40 years ago. I heard just one segment – a piece by Erica Rhodes.

It s about a person who is looking ahead, thinking about tomorrow, and making resolutions. I have to say that the timing and circumstances that occurred to put me in a position to hear this radio show, was a bit of good fortune, or it was just serendipity. I could have seen a later showing of the movie, or gone to see The Past on a different day, and would have missed this.

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Java Heat

Java Heat’s title is not a reference to hot coffee. Now that I’ve gotten that out-of-the-way, it is time for the film review.

Ever been to Indonesia? Java? Ever heard of Borobudur Temple? Well it is these places that form the back drop for the film Java Heat.

The films stars Kellan Lutz as an American Marine/FBI Agent/Grad student/Teaching Assistant. Pick one or pick them all – same result as he is all of the above at one time or another in the film. He’s paired with an Indonesian Muslim cop played by Ario Bayu. They play the good guys in a combo cop/buddy/fish out of water adventure thriller set in Indonesia.

Naturally there’s a bad guy. For the worst of them, look no further than the third billing and we find Mickey Rourke as Malik. Roarke, even when speaking English, requires subtitles. Okay, I get that he’s not playing an American but a European, but still – if ever the expression – a mouth full of marbles – could be used, please consider this performance.

What’s the film about? Kidnapping, jewel theft, and terrorism all show their heads in this one. As I said above – pick one or pick them all as they all fit.

Lutz is the hero per se. Assuming we want to use Channing Tatum and the words acting chops in the same sentence, then we can slot Kellan Lutz as a low rent version of Channing Tatum. Only without the ‘acting chops’.

I liked the Indonesian cop played by Ario Bayo much better.

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House of Cards: Chapters 18 & 19 – Highlights and Commentary

***Mild Spoilers ahead***

The 5th and 6th episodes of House of Cards in Season Two, entitled Chapters 18 & 19, began with Erotic Asphyxiation, then journeyed via a startling jump cut to a place called Spotsylvania, Pennsylvania for a reenactment of the Civil War’s Overland Campaign. While not quite true time travel, we did learn that an Underwood, previously unknown, did die in that fierce battle. Frank Underwood was surprisingly moved by this news.

But as you might expect, he was able to shoe horn this into a secret meeting right on that very same killing ground. Read on.

Xander Feng

thXander Feng

Frank, Raymond Tusk, and the Chinese business tycoon, Xander Feng, went round and round about a number of items. Starting with a bridge from Port Jefferson, New York to Milford, Connecticut, then Tusk’s venture with Feng for a rare earth element called samarium, and then on to funds that went from the pockets of Feng and his associates straight to the Republican Party coffers with Dan Lanigan, an associate of Tusk, with his Missouri casino, serving as the middle or bag man.

(l to r) - Secretary of State Catherine Durant, Raymond Tusk, and Frank Underwood

(l to r) – Secretary of State Catherine Durant, Raymond Tusk, and Frank Underwood

The Frank/Raymond dueling continues with poor Doug Stamper having to be in so many different places. He’s handling the Lucas Goodwin situation,

Lucas and Gavin

Lucas and Gavin

which resulted in Lucas accepting a jail term after Big Nose, who we now know is a FBI agent named Nathan Green, threatened Gavin Orsay to keep his mind on business, as well as Janine Skorsky, now teaching in Ithaca, New York.

Doug is also keeping tabs on Rachel Posner who tells Doug, If there’s one thing I know, it’s when a man wants me. There seems to be a lot more than just watching over Posner going on within Doug. But he manages to keep his distance, this time. From there Doug flies to Kansas City to sniff around Lanigan’s casino, and he manages to bed a barmaid in order to learn about that Chinese money being funneled through Lanigan’s casino. This barmaid hits the nail on the head when she tells Doug that he really didn’t have fun as his mind was on someone else. How very astute.

Doug then flies to Beijing, China to ‘sit’ on Feng until he has the confirmation about the money and Feng lets him in on what he really wants.

It’s not so much that these two episodes are not exciting, but they do seem to be more about moving and positioning also known as plotting and planning rather than about action (aside from Doug). Poor Doug is so tired he can’t even make use of the playmates, arranged by Feng for him. Chapter 19 closed with a power blackout with Vice President

Frank at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He's about to say, "Go Orioles!"

Frank at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He’s about to say, “Go Orioles!”

Frank Underwood on the pitcher’s mound in Baltimore’s Camden Yards, preparing to the throw out a first pitch at an Orioles game. If we are being honest, I don’t think Frank was going to reach home plate with his pitch, so that blackout (courtesy of Tusk) was actually a blessing for Frank.

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True Detective: Episode 1 x 05 – The Secret Fate of All Life

True Detective began its second half last Sunday night. To this viewer it seemed at once a departure and a beginning. The departure really began in the second half of Episode Four called Who Goes There, which I discussed here  when Rust departed from being a detective and went under cover with an East Texas biker gang called The Iron Crusaders was the most external part of the change or departure. He and Martin Hart had developed a lead on Reggie Ledoux, who was supposedly working as a Meth cook for this gang. So the departure was a left turn away from being both a character study (of Martin Hart and Rust Cohle) and a police procedural. The turn led to a lengthy action sequence (one long no-cut event) which gave us a first look at Rust in action.

The beginning that I referenced earlier is that we now know (and feel) that the two 2012 detectives are no longer questioning Hart and Cohle about how they ‘solved’ the case back then. Rather, it seems obvious that they feel that Rust could be a prime suspect in these newer murders as well as being the real culprit back in 1995.

While I can understand how these detectives are thinking, plus the fact that we now know that Rust and Cohle are lying their asses off about how that shootout went down. As Martin Hart says – you know why the story’s remained the same, seventeen years gone, because it went down just the one way.

Okay, our detectives executed Reggie Ledoux, and how that shooting got through an internal investigation, or the shooting board, seems a bit suspicious. I think it all ties back to the Yellow King and Carcosa references described by both Charley Lang and Guy Francis. Rich and powerful folks were involved in the rituals surrounding the Yellow King. Of course we’ve seen none of it, nor have we met anyone (with one exception) that would fit into the category of ‘big people’ or ‘important and rich people’.

But Detectives Gilbaugh and Papania have strong feelings that Cohle is involved. I don’t agree. And I don’t think that Martin Hart is involved either. Sure Hart executed Ledoux, and sure Cohle assisted and was a part of the coverup.

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