Murder In The First – Episode Four – ‘Burning Woman’

After three excellent episodes, Murder In The First took a backwards step in Episode Four called Burning Woman. As the episode began the Department of Corrections officers ordered Erich Blunt to saddle up. ‘Show time’ is how they phrased it. We know it as The Arraignment.

Eric was decked out in the latest monochromatic prisoner garb which was doubled stitched, collarless, and button less. In short, in Blunt’s current surroundings, Orange is the New Armani.

Apparently ADA Siletti and Blunt’s hired gun, Warren Daniels, have a history of some sort. Daniels asked for reasonable bail, and the judge set it at $1 million. A tidy sum indeed, except for the fact that Blunt is a billionaire.

Siletti then dropped his bombshell – that this was a double homicide. Without blinking the judge raised the bail to $10 million.

Meanwhile the show cross-cut between two hearings. The first being Hildy’s sit down with IA about the shooting. The second being D-Hop and his mother, who have changed their story, and are now suing the city and the SFPD for a huge sum of money.

Yes Hildy smart mouthed off to the IA when they asked about the knife; even her union rep was shocked by this:

I.A. Officer: You saw the deceased with a knife? What kind of knife?
Hildy Mulligan: Well it wasn’t a butter knife, if that’s what you’re asking.

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The Leftovers – New HBO Drama

The Leftovers arrived at 10:00 PM on HBO. I usually know what to do with leftovers. They were the reason microwaves were invented. But these leftovers – I haven’t a clue.

Long ago, back in 1969, the then President of the United States, Richard Nixon, gave a speech asking for the support of the great silent majority. Nixon was addressing the nation and referencing those Americans who did not join in the protests against the Vietnam War, those who did not join any counter cultural movements, and those who did not participate in public discourse. It was just Nixon asking for those people to support him – and those members of The Silent Majority were not aligned with the more vocal minority. Which is why Nixon wanted them.

In the new HBO drama called The Leftovers, the new series created by Damon Lindelhof and Tom Perrotta, from his book of the same title, and directed by Peter Berg, we now have to deal with a literally silent minority. Following the tragedy of three years previous when 2% of the entire world’s population simply, in a single instant, vanished from the earth, some people are still trying to pick up their lives, and return to normalcy. Others simply float through life, like that boy at sea (The Life of Pi). This story doesn’t have global size. Instead we are going to deal with the aftermath in the fictional town of Mapleton, NY. In this town, 100 people vanished, and three years after the fact, many people are still troubled and without answers.

We understand that as no one knows what happened. Not the government, not the religious leaders of the world, and certainly not the Chief of Police in Mapleton. People are still struggling with it. Teenagers live on the edge, as if nothing matters any more. When violence stemming from the the emotions of the people seems to explode into action , it seems as though this is something that happens on a regular basis.

I found the show grim, depressing, and scary. The grief and anger I can understand. But what about that Congressman who was driven out to some location (he was blindfolded so he couldn’t see where he was being taken), and he forked over a big stack of currency. Now that part was scary. Because we have no idea what it was about.

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Blood Ties

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.

Blood Ties is about relationships. Set in Brooklyn, NY in 1974, this is the tale of two brothers. Chris is played by Clive Owen, and he is a criminal, while Frank, is a NYC Police detective played by Billy Crudup.

The film starts as Frank and his fellow cops bust into an apartment on a raid. A shootout ensues. As the bullets fly, we hear the song New York Groove performed by Ace Frehley. To complete the bookended film, the film closes in New York’s Grand Central Station with bullets flying once more. Violence to begin and violence to end the film.

Directed by Guillaume Canet who also directed Tell No One, you may be surprised to know that this film is a French production even though it was filmed entirely in the USA. From that opening raid, we quickly shift to the outer gate of a prison. Chris is being released, not fully – it is a weekend furlough. His brother Frank and his sister Marie, played by Lili Taylor, are there to pick him up.

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The Rover

You never stop thinking about a life you’ve taken.
That’s the price you pay for taking it.

That’s a quote from the new film The Rover. This is a brand new film which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18th, before its limited USA opening on June 13th. It is now in a far wider distribution stateside as both the AMC and Regal movie chains are showing the film.

The setting is Australia’s Outback. The time is somewhere in the not too distant future. Things are quite difficult, and even though it is ten years after The Collapse, an unexplained but likely financial disaster, it is definitely a dystopian place. In short, a place that undergone a cataclysmic decline in society.

In The Rover, we are not told anything. The film begins simply with a man walking into a bar and having a drink. He’s filthy, and decidedly stoic. While he’s drinking, there’s a robbery possibly nearby, and it goes bad. One man is left in the street dead, and another is thought to be dead. And there is a car crash.

So this guy steps out of the bar, and sees his car being driven off. Their vehicle which had the accident is still there. In their vehicle he gives chase. That’s all he does (for most of the film), as he’s just got to get that car back. He’s called Eric, and Guy Pearce has the role. He strong, and a man of a few words.

He’s going to catch up with bad guys, and demand the return of his car. What he gets instead is a rifle butt to the back of his head. He’s knocked out. Exit bad guys.

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Firestorm (2013)

Firestorm is an action thriller out of Hong Kong. It came out in late 2013 and was shown at three festivals here in the states this spring – Dallas in April, and San Francisco and Seattle just last month. As a starting point, there’s an armored car heist, and there’s a shootout in the city streets, just like in the 1995 action thriller Heat. I think we shall probably have this film in our theaters later this year.

The key point is that Firestorm has way more firepower than Heat. Bigger shootouts, bigger explosions, this film’s second or alternative name could be ‘Pyrotechnics‘. On the other hand, Heat had plenty of character development to keep you involved between the action set pieces. Firestorm makes a stab at it – but is really not all that concerned with developing characters.

The story is simple. Hong Kong mega-star Andy Lau plays HKPD Inspector Liu, and a guy that Liu went to school with, Tou Sing Bong, is played by Gordon Lam. Liu went into the police for his career. Bong went into crime, and as the film opens, Bong and another con have just been released from prison at the same time.

Bong has a girl friend waiting for him. She’s desperate for Bong to go straight. She’s even hooked him up with a job as a chef in an upscale restaurant. But we know his heart isn’t in cooking. But after protesting, he agrees. But the siren song of big time heists is too strong for him.

Liu soon after has to deal with the armored truck heist. And car chases, and a raid in an apartment block which, like we saw in the Johnny To  2004 thriller Breaking News. I could be wrong, but it seemed like in every action set piece, cops and swat teams went flying due to grenades being launched at them. In every car chase, how did they end? Right – with airbags deployed.

In one sense, which I will call the action factor, this movie has it all.

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Dedh Ishqiya

Once there was a priest who had a pet female parrot.
The parrot hurled such vile abuses that even I would feel ashamed.
The priest shared his problem with his friend, the Judge.
The Judge asked the priest to bring the parrot to his house.
He had two male parrots who were very pious.
They sang praises of Allah all day long.
Good company would make all the difference.
[So] The priest brought the parrot to the judge’s house.
The judge put the female parrot in the cage with the other parrots.
A soon as she went in, the parrots stopped reciting the prayers.
One smiled and turned to the other…
…and whispered in his ear…
Stop chanting the Lord’s name. Our prayers have been answered.

This is neither a parable or an outright joke that I would normally hear much less pass on. How ever it does open the film Dedh Ishqiya, a sequel to the film Ishqiya which I reviewed (and loved) back in July of 2011.

In fact, on the DVD cover, the title reads: Dedh Ishqiya 1 1/2. So whether that makes it a full sequel or just a continuance, is up to you. But whatever you call it, this is a superb film. If the title doesn’t mean that much to you, think of this – the legendary Queen and story-teller (One Thousand and One Nights) called Scheherazade stayed alive by telling a king a story each night until he fell asleep. Now fuse that with the classic film, The Sting, and simmer with some spices from Thelma & Louise, and you have Dedh Ishqiya.

Having said that, I really mean to suggest that film has secrets kept from the audience, has a pair of strong female characters, as well as con men and plenty of dark humor. Our two protagonists are Khalu and Babban. They are an uncle and nephew con man team. They are also grifters, car thieves, and are not above snatch or grab, then run kind of robberies in jewelry stores. In fact, via flashback, we learn that it was just such a situation, that while they were fleeing with a stolen necklace, and the police in heavy pursuit, that they became separated.

So as this film opens, Babban is standing in a hole meant to be his grave, and he’s telling the above joke to his nemesis – the guy they stole a bag of money from in the first film, Ishqiya. The joke got a chuckle, but didn’t save his life. The Boss told his men, Bury Him!

Bury him!

Bury him!

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Tyrant – New FX TV Series

Somewhere between the Garden of Allah and the Sicilian village of Corleone, lies the fictional country Abbudin. This country had long been under the heel of a tyrannical despot, Khaled Al Fayeed. This man had two sons – the older was Jamal, and the younger one was called Bassam.

Bassam would leave his family for sunny Pasadena in Southern California and become a practicing pediatrician. He left Abbudin 20 years ago. He now has a wife and two teen age children, and has not returned to his homeland until now.

While he may be a member of the Al Fayeed family, he now calls himself Barry rather than Bassam. The occasion for his return is the wedding of his brother Jamal’s son. Burdened with some horrific memories,


Barry reluctantly agrees to return to his homeland and to be re-united with his family.

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Murder in the First – Episodes 2 & 3

TNT Drama – Boom

Do you think that’s catchy? When Ari Gold used that term (Boom!) on Entourage a few years back, I liked it. Now, not so much. But it’s only the network tag, and has nothing to do with TNT’s new series named Murder In The First. *** Recaps with some spoilers ahead ***. If you read further, it will because you’ve seen all three episodes.

As you may recall from my first post about this show – two seemingly unrelated murders took place in San Francisco. SFPD Homicide Detectives Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) and Terry English (Taye Diggs) caught the case. Before long the common denominator was revealed. It turned out to be Erich Blunt, a Silicon Valley wunderkind worth billions.

The vics were an older man found killed in the Tenderloin district, and a beautiful stewardess. The older man was – surprise, surprise – the biological father of Mr. Blunt. The cabin attendant worked on Blunt’s private jet, and on the day she was killed, Blunt had fired her for spilling a drink on him.

We later found out the death of the blonde stewardess was actually a double homicide as she was two months pregnant.

In Last week’s Episode Two, called The City of Sisterly Love, a few things happened. One – Detective Mulligan was able to get DNA samples from three different men without them being aware of it. The first was the suspect in the murder of the older man. The second was the pilot of the Blunt jet, and the third man was Blunt himself.

Mulligan kind of flirted with Blunt in the police interview room, and like darkness eventually follows the setting of the sun, he was turned on and asked for a dinner date. She went along, and ratcheted up the teasing. So much so, that she and Blunt began some PDA (Public Display of Affection) on the water front esplanade. When Blunt asked her if she was wearing a wire, Mulligan placed his hands on her breasts – you don’t see that with an SFPD detective very often. Finally, Mulligan and Blunt kissed, with Mulligan surreptitiously spitting the kiss saliva into a sample jar as she walked off. That was quite a surprise, and I’ve never seen that kind of a goodnight kiss before. And it ended the episode.  Great stuff – but was it legal? We’ll see.

In an unlikely happenstance, the blonde victim was found to have semen in her mouth, and in the police corridors the case became known as The Blow Job Murder – again a first.

Finally, out of nowhere, the suspect in the old man murder case suddenly, after profusely denying he had any role in that killing, decided to sign a confession and accept a plea bargain.

Which brings us to Episode Three called Who’s Your Daddy? which aired last night. The biggest news came after the earlier third of the show, which began with Blunt having a sex and drug session with a woman in his apartment, which was followed by another police interview with a woman who told them that Blunt had raped her some years back. She had brought charges but couldn’t go through with it, and settled out of court. She also had signed a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), which apparently she had just violated by telling the cop her story. The police are going to try to use this – but I think she is a plant. Like the situation in Witness for the Prosecution, the Billy Wilder/Agatha Christie film from 1957 where damaging evidence against the defendant was intentionally introduced, was false, and had no other purpose but to get the defendant acquitted.

Blunt now changed his mind and decided to hire the expensive lawyer Warren Daniels (James Cromwell has the part) who immediately laid it out for Blunt.

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Cold War (2012)

On a particular day, a couple of events occur to set the stage in Asia’s safest city. First a bomb explodes near a movie house, in a busy shopping district in Mongkok. This is followed by a car driving at dangerously high speeds. A police Emergency Unit (EU), a veritable high tech van/comm center, proceeds to give chase. Ultimately the car will careen out of control and crash with the police just a few seconds behind.

The driver is shaken but unhurt, but acts in a drunken manner. The police jump out of their van and beginning questioning the man who is extremely belligerent and resistant. When the police state that they are going to arrest him, he asks for a moment to make call. He calls a judge. Whatever the judge tells the van’s commander, we aren’t privy to, but it is safe to assume, an arrest is not imminent.

The city is Hong Kong, and the film is called Cold War. With the Police Commissioner en route to Copenhagen, Denmark for a high-level international police conference,  the next two highest ranking senior Police Executives are in charge. One is Sean Lau who is the Deputy Commissioner of the Police (Management) and the other is M.B. Lee who is Deputy Commissioner (Operations) and is Acting Commissioner of Police.

What they are facing is the likelihood of the two events not being random at all as they soon find out that the EU Van has gone offline, the police officers’ mobile phones have been shut off, and the van is off the grid and it can’t be raised by normal comm links. With five highly trained officers , and some state of the art equipment on board, the now missing van is said to be fully loaded and in a worst case scenario that assumes all the officers die, with the lost equipment and the death benefits paid to the families, the cost would be in the millions.

And that says nothing about the loss of confidence by the police (and the public) in their ability to protect the city and the citizens.

Sure enough a package is delivered, and left on the sidewalk. Suspecting a possible bomb, the package is opened by a remote-controlled robot. Inside are a mobile phone and a memory card which contains video and voice data stating that they want to trade the van and the officers for a huge sum of money.

Once everyone, the police brass, and we know what is at stake, the film switches gears. It turns out that M.B. Lee’s son is one of the officers being held hostage. So Lee wants to go into full-bore attack mode, here called a Tier One Response.

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