Atelier aka Underwear: New Original Series on Netflix

Have you ever looked at a Victoria’s Secret catalog?

Me? I’d love to but haven’t had the opportunity. And for those of you who might be intrigued and would love to wear those kinds of unmentionables, I’ve got a brand new TV series for you.

The folks over at Netflix have partnered up with Fuji TV from Japan and a new Netflix Original Series has just been released. The title of the series is called Atelier, which is a French word for workshop or studio, especially when it is used by an artist, artisan, or designer.

The Atelier of this series is an upmarket lingerie boutique called Emotion in Ginza, Tokyo. Their products are bras and panties sets of the haute couture variety – meaning custom-made, handmade, and very, very expensive.

They don’t know what the term prêt-à-porter (pronounced pret-a-por-tay and rhymes with holiday, or replay, or area way) means at this boutique. Actually it means RTW or ready to wear, or OTR aka Off The Rack. These term do not apply to Emotion.

The alternate title for this series is Underwear, a word more likely to be immediately understood than Atelier.

The series is about a young woman called Mayuko Tokito (dressed in the striped jacket and black skirt above), played by the gorgeous Mirei Kiritani, and she’s in fact just out of college where she studied textiles and fabrics (no fashion studies for her). She’s something of a country bumpkin, also known as a hick from the sticks. On her first day on the job, she shows up in standard Tokyo office lady wear, a gray suit, a white blouse, and flat shoes. It won’t take her colleagues very long to jump all over her (albeit gently) for her lack of fashion style.

In fact there’s nothing wrong with her clothes which would go over just fine in the corridors and cubicles of corporations. But here, at Emotion, she’s an eye sore. Initially, she’s asked to make coffee, do the dusting, keep the display counters sparkling, and organize the records, stock, and supply room. And as Mayuko learns about the bra business, we are drawn deeper into shop itself. The front room, meaning just off the street, is a show room.

Behind the double doors is the actual atelier where the designers and business side works, and then there’s a second set of double doors.

This is where the owner and founder of the business, the chief designer, and CEO works. She’s called Mayumi Nanjo. When the staff talks about her, she’s called The Boss, and when they address her, the Japanese word for Corporate President is used – shachou. She’s played by Mao Daichi. While she may be a bit of a tough boss, a la Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, she is in fact not nearly as severe or feared.

That's Mao on the left, and Anna on the right

That’s Mao on the left, and Anna on the right

Her look is apparently based on the long time doyenne of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour. And doesn’t the above picture tell that story.

Within the first few moments after Mayuko meets the shachou, Nanjo tells her that she’s tacky. Which is a pretty good indication that Mayuko will not only have to learn the ropes of this business quickly, she’ll also have to work extra-hard to get on the good side of her boss.

What lies ahead (there’s 13 episodes), is a coming of age story, as well as a Cinderella story lacking only a prince-charming. It is a story that mixes industrial espionage, corporate maneuvering, theft of intellectual property, jealousy between designers who some day may want to create their own brands and labels ( we can almost call that overriding ambition) along with insights about creativity, ageing, motivation, evolving as a creator, and determination – yet while all of this is happening we continue to learn about all the players – from the shachou down to the lowly summer intern.

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The Gunman (2015)

Do you like films that bring us to places we haven’t visited on our own? How about this – all in one film – the DRC aka the Democratic Republic of the Congo, London, Barcelona, and Gibraltar. With those specific locations, in a film that could be called a global conspiracy/action thriller – does that increase your desire to see the film?

When you hear of a film that has an impressive cast list – including either big and well-known names (A-Listers or award winners) in addition to desirable locations, does that get you ready to leap off your couch, grabbing your wallet and car keys, or Metro-pass, as you race out the door. In this case we can start with Sean Penn, then add in Ray Winstone, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, and Mark Rylance.

Ray Winstone as Stanley and Sean Penn as Jim Terrier

Ray Winstone as Stanley and Sean Penn as Jim Terrier

Then we can toss in some comps and equate the film in terms of: Somewhere between the Bourne films and books by Robert Ludlam and/or Tom Clancy, or, a hitman with a conscience, or even: the stuff (consequences) that they don’t tell you, and that aren’t in the job description, when you sign on to be a contract consultant working under the CIA umbrella.

Such a film is The Gunman. Which is set in the locations described above and with actors named above. The film opened on March 20, of 2015 and created only small and shallow ripples. It achieved a Metascore of 39 out of 100 based o 41 critic reviews as compiled by Metacritic.com and an aggregate of 5.8 out of 10 by nearly 23,000 IMDB users.

In short, The Gunman neither made a mark critically, nor hit its projections financially.The gross box office returns were $15.9 million which when measured against a $40 million budget can in no way be deemed anything other than a flop.

So why am publishing a review now? Well yesterday was a slow day and I found the film highlighted on Netflix, so I gave it a try.

Sean Penn is now in his mid fifties and he’s come along way since playing the stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982 which was followed by Bad Boys in 1983.

His film career has had plenty of highs (Colors, Deadman Walking, Mystic River, and Milk, as well as some lows, just like his personal life, and he’s no stranger to being attached to ’causes’ that are often controversial.

Javier Bardem as Felix and Jasmine Trinca as Annie

Javier Bardem as Felix and Jasmine Trinca as Annie

But with this film, Penn has attempted to transition himself into the Middle-Age Action hero; a neighborhood currently occupied by the likes of Tom Cruise and Liam Neeson.

Penn does well with the action set pieces in this film, and is often seen shirtless, intentionally and as if the intent was to show off his fitness and muscles.

He also received a screen-writing credit and a producer credit for the film. So this film The Gunman can easily be described as a vanity project.

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Homeland: Season Five Ends – Final Thoughts

Season Five of Showtime’Homeland has aired and is in the books. The season’s final episode, called A False Glimmer aired last night. To wrap the season, I thought I’d take a look at some of the major players for this season, and offer some analysis and some personal impressions. 

Please be advised that what follows are serious spoilers, so proceed only after seeing the episode yourself.

Carrie Mathison:

In the Homeland universe, there’s no doubt that Carrie Mathison was the sun around whom all the other major male characters orbited. While the list is not legion, there’s at least seven major players:

  1. Saul Berenson
  2. Nicholas Brody
  3. Peter Quinn
  4. Dar Adal
  5. Otto Düring
  6. Jonas Hollander
  7. Aayan Ibrahim

Of these, only one, Jonas Hollander (above), was outside of Carrie’s usual professional circles. However he did work for Otto Düring.

Carrie began this season as a mother and with her young daughter Frannie, was living nicely in Berlin. She worked for Otto’s humanitarian foundation (Otto is below), and was set up as a mother, and homemaker with Jonas.

As the finale for Season Five began, Carrie was entering a tunnel in the bowels of the Hauptbanhof – Berlin’s largest rail station. We knew what was at stake – she had to stop a pair of terrorists from releasing the deadly sarin gas.

Surprisingly, this event opened the episode, and it was less compelling than expected. But what it did was to release almost all of the tension that had built up. I’m not saying the placement of the scene was totally wrong. What I am saying, is that it kind of put the rest of the episode into a bit of a decompressed state.

From there, it was a matter of resolving the two still dangling story lines. One was the fate of Peter Quinn, who is now hospitalized and is in a critical state. He’s had brain surgery, is comatose, and the odds of him both recovering and recovering with all of his cognitive powers intact, is, according to the doctor, remote.

The second major plot line waiting for resolution is that of Allison Carr, who has absconded from the hospital as well.

And we will get to those, but for now let’s stick with the ephemeral Carrie. As this season began, Carrie would decide to go off her meds, survive an assassination attempt thought to be directed at Otto in a refugee camp, when in fact Carrie was the target, and then be placed on a kill list.

Carrie would have to go on the run for a while, and then follow a trail to Amsterdam. Then there was the stolen documents, and the circumstances of the ‘rogue’ reporter, Laura Sutton.

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Broadchurch – A Look at the Second Season

After a day and a half of deliberations, the Jury told Judge Sonia Sharma that they had not reached verdict. The Judge sent them back with the provision that if they could not reach a unanimous verdict, that she would accept a majority verdict.

On the next day, a verdict was reached and read out in court. Later in the attorney’s changing room (all Queen’s Counsels must wear gowns of a prescribed design, white dickeys, as well as wigs), we got this exchange –

How’s the family taking it?

Maybe you should have asked that question before you took on the case.

Oh please don’t be a sore loser.

And don’t be a shitty winner. I trained you to be so much better than this. Of all the people you could have helped, you took on a tawdry child killer. All you ever wanted was to prove me wrong so you could show the world how brilliant..

No, no. All you wanted was for me to be a mini you. You know the difference between us? I don’t see the nobility in this job. I see a loaded, lopsided game, full of people justifying their cynicism as a higher calling. It’s just street fighting in wigs…

Just street fighting in wigs… and these are the only the involved lawyers in the Joe Miller murder trial. This is Episode 8 of Season 2 of the BBC drama Broadchurch (now available on Netflix).

If you like characters that are strong and intense – Broadchurch is an ideal series for you.

For the defense

For the defense

One of those lawyers, Sharon Bishop, the defense attorney is played by Marianne Jean Baptiste, you probably know her as Bethany Mayfair, an FBI boss in the NBC hit series, Blindspot. The other attorney, Jocelyn Knight, represents the Crown and is prosecuting the case. She’s played by Charlotte Rampling.

Back in August and September of 2013, I wrote 8 separate posts as Broadchurch’s Season One progressed, and when it ended, Joe Miller, the husband of Detective Ellie Miller, has been brought in and has confessed to killing Danny Latimer.

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Luther (2015)

Luther time rolled in at about 9:00 PM on BBC America last night. Basically I knew Luther, played by Idris Elba, from the three seasons that had previously aired. Besides that, I knew Elba from The Wire, Beasts of No Nation, and the disappointing Ridley Scott space epic – Prometheus.

I found him to be a very watchable actor. Up front I liked Ruth Wilson as Luther’s nemesis/ally Alice Morgan, but she’s moved on to The Affair, and isn’t in this Luther. Physically. But she’s a presence in this latest all the same

I only heard about this Luther late yesterday afternoon, via a Facebook post sent to me. Otherwise I would have missed it. But I was set up on the sofa, and ready at 9:00 PM. When the closing credits rolled at around 11:40 I formed an immediate opinion.

Great character but unfortunately, a less than stellar script this time. One has to love the recklessness and the bravado that Luther displays throughout, even when it is borderline ridiculous. But the story was nothing new.  A serial killer with cannibalistic tendencies has been done before.

I also wasn’t thrilled about the structural set up which basically bifurcated the story into four separate and distinct quadrants. More on that to follow along, but before we get to that,  let’s go straightaway with a mandatory spoiler warning. Don’t read further, until you have watched the show.

As the episode opens, Luther is on an extended leave of absence. He’s set up in a house on a cliff’s edge overlooking the sea somewhere, and for the lack of specifics, I’ll just call the place World’s End. [Edit] I’ve since found out the location was in Beachy Head in East Sussex, southeast of London, on the U.K.’s south coast. In a bit of serendipity, just prior to watching Luther, I had tuned in for Episode 4 of the 2nd Season of Broadchurch, another British murder mystery set in another British coastal town, and actually shot near West Bay, in Dorset, which also has cliffs.

Luther is heading back to his cliff side cottage on foot, no doubt he had been on a small shopping excursion. Two detectives from his old squad arrive to talk to him. They bear bad news. Alice Morgan has been found dead in Antwerp. They wanted to know if he knew, and could offer any insights.

He hadn’t known, and the long and the short of it is, that Morgan’s demise did not appear to be from a criminal event. While Detective (DCI) Theo Bloom (Darren Boyd) is searching around Luther’s place, Detective (DS) Emma Lane (Rose Leslie)

sets about to make some tea. Bloom doesn’t find anything, and before the tea is made, Bloom gets a phone call directing himself and Lane back to HQ to get cracking on a new murder.

Unbeknownst to anyone at Luther’s cottage, there was another visitor, who manage to both nick a file from Luther’s desk and get away cleanly. Luther happened to check the drawer, after the coppers had left, and immediately notice that file was now missing. Which made his mind up. He’d report back to work at once.

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The Good Wife – KSR (07-10)) Has a Best Episode of the Season Event

I caught The Good Wife today via on-demand. This is Season 7 for TGW and for the most part, I’ve been disappointed by the show’s direction, as in what the show was about, where it was heading, the new characters, and the various plot strands this year. Until now.

This episode was called KSR, and in my estimation, as well as those who cast votes or ratings on IMDB, this episode had the season’s highest ratings – that is in terms of viewer appeal as opposed to how many viewers.

And the timing was perfect as this was the show’s Winter Finale and it has just began its Holiday Hiatus. The next episode, called Iowa, will not air until January 10th

I hope the show runners, Michelle and Robert King will appreciate my efforts in giving this show and alternate title. I’m calling it Bet You Didn’t See That Coming.

That’s because almost none of the story lines ended as expected as the episode began. If I am to discuss the particulars, allow me to issue a STRONG SPOILER ALERT, in case you haven’t watched the episode yet.

I’ll begin with Eli Gold. As played by Alan Cumming, the character has always been something of a cold-fish. Borrowing from Star Wars, Gold, to me, came off as something like the human version of C3PO. Likeable and smart, yet he often was kind of overly prissy or maybe fussy might be a better term. Then, in 2011, we met his daughter Melissa Gold, and that improved his status immensely for me. This year, with the appearance of Vanessa Williams as Courtney Paige, for Eli, it was a jackpot.

They met casually at Peter’s office, and eventually there was some sparks and some chemistry, and in this episode, Eli and Courtney are shown as lovers. Eli is on cloud nine, and why wouldn’t he be? Courtney was both beautiful and rich.

After the post-sex cuddling, interrupted by a phone call, Courtney says, Well, that was fun…

Eli’s heart-about-to-break sensor immediately switched on, And the bad news would follow. Paige was returning to California, and she said she wouldn’t return for about a year. Eli was crushed. Bet you didn’t see that coming, at least while they were still in bed. But common sense should have told you that Vanessa Williams was too big a star, meaning too costly, to be on the payroll for an extended period of time. But still, it was really impossible to have seen that coming right then and there.

Meanwhile, the associates at LA&L (Lockhart, Agos & Lee) have decided that it’s no fun working there. Too much O.T., no freedom to choose their own cases, the culture, and the lack of upward mobility were all contributing factors. So, instead of pulling an all-nighter on a hugely important case, en masse, and under the cover of night, they flew the coop. Who knew?

Certainly not Cary Agos. He was the first to discover that the associates had not only become the departed, but they’d also erased all the files and work product. Again who knew? The reality is that they had never even started work on the case, or even looked at it, meaning this had been preplanned. So Agos tracks them down, naturally at a convenient watering hole near LA&L. and asks for the why, and the rest of the details.

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Homeland: Episode 05-11 – Our Man in Damascus / Recap and Analysis

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Homeland raced toward its Season Finale with Episode 05-11 Sunday night. Next week, they’ll bring down the curtain on Season Five. In case you were wondering, Showtime has already announced that Homeland will return for a sixth season. Which is good news. The bad news, right now, is that some of the characters are already dangling from slim threads, some characters have become thoughtless dummies, the writers are lazy and/or inefficient, and that it will be left to Carrie, alone, to save Berlin from an impending cataclysmic event. Many spoilers ahead.

This episode was called Our Man in Damascus – and while that title has a certain strong hint or ring of espionage and derring-do to it, I’m not sure of either who that Man in Damascus might be, or more importantly, what it has to do with both this episode, and this season of Homeland (aside from sort of being snatched from the news events in Syria, Paris, and San Bernardino).

Now it is easy to award high points for the episode in the entertainment, excitement, suspense, stress, and tension categories. But this episode must get extreme low marks for plausibility, plus it lacked any semblance of being realistic, and to pound the nail of disdain in – this episode can serve as a horrendous example of lazy and poor writing.

Let me count the ways.

And I’ll start with Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who on paper, should be one of the strongest and most likeable and popular characters of the series. Yet Quinn’s role has been almost criminally wasted this year. He was brought back (from the Middle East) by Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and tasked with performing off-the-books wet work. Meaning Quinn would be a hitman this season. He’d have no personal contact with anyone from the Company, and all of his assignments (target and kill instructions) as well as his pay would be handled via a dead drop in an out-of-the-way Berlin neighborhood post office. Which was fine, as Quinn is very capable. But things went south, when he received instructions to take out Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes).

But it didn’t happen. And Quinn now had to be considered a danger to those who wanted Carrie taken out. So they tried to have Quinn killed. They succeeded in shooting him at the post office (Episode 4 I believe),

Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn

Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn

but not killing him. Since then, he’s been basically useless. Carrie had Jonas watch him for a while as he was just shot. Quinn flew the coop, and was then helped by a kindly Middle Eastern Doctor who treated his wounds. But Quinn was reduced to lying on a cot and dealing with infections. Then the doctor introduced Quinn to a terrorist cell who happened to live in the same building who wanted/needed Quinn’s help in getting to and into Syria.

Quinn then went from either being laid up in bed, to unconscious, to being tied and gagged in the back of a truck,

to being a guinea pig for Sarin gas, to being unconscious and almost dead, to being in coma in a Berlin hospital after being found by Astrid and Carrie, and then more torture came his way –  attempts to revive him from his coma to get the info about the terrorist attack that would come within hours.

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Transparent: Season 2 – Episodes 1 & 2

Jill Soloway’s Transparent series, airing on Amazon, walked off with five Emmy’s back on September 20th. Two months and 20 plus days later, on December 11th – Amazon rolled out the second season. All the episodes are available now and you can space them out, or binge watch all 10 of the half hour shows in one afternoon if you like.

I watched the first two episodes tonight. The titles are Kina Hora and Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump which won’t make a lot of sense to many or even most of you, at least until you’ve seen both episodes. But to help, I’ll offer a bit of a leg-up for you.

Kina Hora is a version of a Yiddish expression, and it is often used in a variety of circumstances – but the long and the short of it is this.

No evil-eye! May the evil-eye look elsewhere.

In practice, it is said by a well-wisher as praise to ward off the evil eye. It compares to Knock on wood.

So that’s the title of the first episode which opens at the wedding of Sarah Pfefferman, played by Amy Landecker and Tammy Cashman played by Melora Hardin. This wedding required everyone to be dressed in white, and every member of the wedding party and every guest was.  Soloway opens with a four-minute shot of the wedding party attempting to pose for a group picture. Every one is not completely happy, as some unexpected family members are present, and there’s bad blood in the air,  plus the photographer is a putz. So while some photos are taken – the upshot is when this happens:

Mort/Maura Pfefferman (to the photographer): Do you want my chin up or down? Photographer Reggie: I think chin up for you, sir. Mort/Maura: Did he just call me ‘sir’? Shelly Pfefferman: Yes he did. Mort/Maura: That’s it. We’re done. (As in we’re out of here).

And with his former wife Shelly in tow, Mort/Maura storms off.

We are now just 4 minutes into Season Two and things are not only off to a rocky start, but they’re going to go downhill from here.  And it won’t matter how many Kina Horas have been said.

Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump is a sexual activity reference. Not one that any of us have heard before, and I won’t describe it in detail. What I will say, is that back in the Seinfeld days, a certain sexual act was called The Move. Jerry: Did you close with the swirl? Hope that helps.

Okay in this episode we have another party/gathering, and as the wedding party in the previous episode crashed and burned, this party, held by Josh Pfefferman (played by Jay Duplass) is for music industry folks. Josh is launching his latest musical find – a band consisting of three women. But besides the music industry types, all the Pfeffermans are there.  Some secrets are revealed, and some hard feelings are exposed with all the rawness and pain that such things can create.

But the party doesn’t totally crash and burn until Tammy arrives. And shortly thereafter, people, being smart when they should be smart, have determined that now would be a good time to leave, as an emotional downpour has certainly dampened the festivities, so all are heading home. Maura tells Ali to tell Sarah to make sure Shelly gets home safe as he/she has a stop to make.

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Mad Dogs (2015) – New Series from Amazon

Partial recap with a few slight spoilers.

Four guys get off a plane in Belize. We know next to nothing about them, other than apparently these early 40 somethings used to know each other back in the day. There’s a limo waiting for them, and the limo driver waits placidly holding up a sign that says ‘LOSERS’. This is how the pilot for the Amazon Series Mad Dogs begins.

They’re driven out into the countryside to a huge and fabulous beachfront villa. This place has a serious electronic gate and a top of the line security system. It is isolated and the nearest neighbor is 4 miles up the coast. Not bad at all for a beachfront pad.

I should probably bring forth some introductions. Billy Zane plays Milo. He’s the big success story of the group and the owner of the villa. It was on his ‘dime’ that the foursome arrived. He had invited his friends to join him in this venture years back, but none of them took him up on it. There’s a brief non-explanation by Milo of how he got to where he is, but in reality – you don’t know any more about that after you’ve heard his explanation than you did before the explanation. As he puts it to the other guys – You made your choices. I made mine. 

Now that may be a hint of something seriously shady, but we don’t get any depth on that in the pilot.

Michael Imperioli plays Lex, not a name you hear in use much these days. We don’t get much info on him in the pilot other than he’s grounded and serious, and works at fitting in and enjoying himself.

Steve Zahn plays Cobi and he seems the least grounded. On their first night on the town, he’s the only one that comes home with a woman, and then has wild, loud, and raucous sex with her. Of course he’s married.

Romany Malco plays Gus. He’s the one that is seemingly kind of running scared. He’s in the midst of a big-time custody battle with his soon-to-be ex-wife. He’s the one that comes off as having the most to lose.

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