Thursday, August 17, 2017

Broadchurch Season 3: Hope to See You Again

BBC America offered the series finale of Broadchurch last night - the end of the third and apparently final season - with customary complexity, emotional turmoil, and sheer brilliance.

The lead characters Hardy (David Tennant) and Miller (Olivia Colman) were good and true to their personas to the very last drop, with Hardy saying no to Miller's offer to have a drink, she ever striving to humanize their relationship and he ever resisting.

The plot this season, as the two search for a rapist of an older woman, once again managed to serve up a plethora of suspects, all plausible and many despicable, each in their own ways.  And the revelation at the end of the whodunnit was nonetheless surprising.

This third season also managed to provide at least a little closure on the crime which started the series off two seasons ago, the death of Danny.  The Latimers are fractured, maybe, almost, beyond repair, and the final scene between Beth (Jodie Whittaker, moving on to Dr. Who, which of course Tennant once played) and Mark (Andrew Buchan) was itself worth the price of admission.

For a variety of reasons, the American version of this drama (Gracepoint), which also starred Tennant, was disappointing, and lasted only a single season.  But the British version, also for a variety of reasons, is memorable as one of the best police dramas ever on any television, and certainly deserves and could support further seasons, in case that counts for anything.

Those reasons include superb acting in all the leading and supporting roles, stories with sharp turns at every juncture, and a realistic view of human nature that is almost Dickensian, except darker and Freudian, too.

I hope to see more of it, someday - and Miller, I'll have a drink with you any time.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Somewhere Between 1.5: The Affair

Well, we finally get see what's really going on with old Tom in Somewhere Between 1.5: he's having an affair.  This (presumably) accounts for all his secretive activities, including destruction of police evidence.

Except - and here's why I say presumably - it's not crystal clear to me that all the evidence he has been absconding with and then destroying relate to his affair.  This is because either (a) I haven't been paying sufficient attention, (b) the narrative is too murky to fully get, or (most likely) (c) both of the above.

In fact, there was precious little about time travel, or indications of its effects, in this most recent episode.  We've learned nothing more about how and why Laura and Nico jumped back in time a week, other than a little more about their being destined to be together, because they keep moving closer together. This was nice to see, but didn't really add much or address the central, vexing problem of the series: what happened and why?

Here, I just want to mention, again, that this time jump is at the far end of the continuum of how people can go back in time, with no indication at all of how it's done. As such, Somewhere Between is more fantasy than science fiction, but even that requires some sort of explanation, and the series needs to get crackin' in that regard.

I'm looking forward.  But since I have access to no method of time travel, via fantasy or science fiction, I'll have no choice but to wait until next week for more.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Twin Peaks 1.14: Painstaking Progress

Hey, it's tough to make progress when your adversary is from/in another dimension and an evil one at that, and one with the power to snap up good people and return them with an evil twin.  Not to mention that the FBI agent in charge of the case can't speak softly and carry a big stick, because he's hard of hearing (proof - he was a hearing aid).  But the forces of good made a small amount of painstaking, painful progress in Twin Peaks 1.14 nonetheless.

Truman finally managed to convey to Cole that there may be two Coopers afoot.   It's especially appropriate that Truman was the conveyor of this news, seeing as how he's the brother of the original Sheriff Truman - Harry Truman - who likely has no relationship to the U. S. President who dropped the atom bombs on Japan, though, come to think of it, you never know, given the almost entire hour devoted to inside an atomic explosion on the Return a few episodes ago.  David Lynch again shows a knack for being uncannily in synch with what's happening in the real world, given the concern about nuclear warheads and North Korea these days, though maybe that's too serious to even slightly joke about (but probably not).

But, anyway, the two true Trumans in Twin Peaks are not twins but brothers, and they don't even look all that much alike, but being a bro on this show is good enough.  Our heroes are also beginning to close in the E's - Janey-E and Doug E - and I'm wondering if these E's have any connection to E=mc-square (that's what Elvis may have said to himself about Ed Sullivan, i.e.,  E[d] = mc-square - those these types of puns ain't E-asy).

Meanwhile, back at the end of the episode, we once again have a great musical performance by Lissie - especially appropriate (memorable music) given the appearance of David Bowie in vintage Twin Peaks aka dream sequence footage.

See ya next time.

See also Twin Peaks: The Return 1.1-2: Superluminal Sans Cherry Pie ... 1.3-4: Coffee and Cole ... 1.5: The Mod Squad Meets Big Love in the Diner ... 1.6: Red Door and Childish Scribbles ... 1.7: Lost and Not Lost ... 1.8: Atom Bomb and Mr. Homn ... 1.9: "I Don't See No Hidden Buttons" ... 1.10: "No Stars" ... 1.11: Double Cherry Pie and Viva Las Vegas ... 1.12: No Song - Slim Hope of Deliverance ... 1.13: Humor

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Available on Prime

Game of Thrones 7.5: Reason Breaking Out All Over

Game of Thrones 7.5 tonight was a rare episode indeed in which reason seemed to be breaking out all over - just in time for at least the beginning of a united front against the dead of the north.

Among the most memorable rapprochements - actually a meeting for the first time, literally, hands on - was Jon and the dragon.  If he survives his trip to the north - which he pretty much has to, given all that rides on this character - what we saw tonight might well be prelude to his riding one of the dragons, as Daenerys rides another in the skies.

Cersei and Jaime were pretty amazing tonight, too, with Cersei actually seeing the logic, or her own logic, at least, of an alliance with Daenerys.   And it was actually sort of good, even given the perversion of it all, seeing the two of them of together.  I was glad that I was right that Jaime would survive his brave charge into the dragon's fire.

Sam's leaving the library was a brave move, too.  The forces of life will need his wisdom in the fight ahead.  You can't save the world sitting in a carrel.

And the episode ended with one of the best scenes this season, too - and there've been plenty of them. But Jon and Mormont and the Hound and the Wildling walking north of the Wall - in many ways, the best that humanity has to offer.  And a big step indeed to Jon astride a dragon fighting the dead, fire melting ice, though the dead are more than cold, and their power will take more than just flames to overcome.


And see also Game of Thrones 6.1: Where Are the Dragons ... Game of Thrones 6.2: The Waking ... Game of Thrones 6.5: Origin of a Name ... Game of Thrones 6.6: The Exhortation ... Game of Thrones 6.7: Giveth and Taketh ... Game of Thrones 6.8: Strategic Advantage ... Game of Thrones 6.9: A Night for the Light ... Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale: That Library

And see also Game of Thrones 5.1: Unsetting the Table ... Game of Thrones 5.8: The Power of Frigid Death ... Game of Thrones 5.9: Dragon in Action; Sickening Scene with Stannis ... Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale: Punishment

And see also Games of Thrones Season 4 Premiere: Salient Points ... Game of Thrones 4.2: Whodunnit? ... Game of Thrones 4.3: Who Will Save Tyrion ...Game of Thrones 4.4: Glimpse of the Ultimate Battle ... Game of Thrones 4.6: Tyrion on Trial ... Game of Thrones 4.8: Beetles and Battle ...Game of Thrones 4.9: The Fight for Castle Black ... Games of Thrones Season 4 Finale: Woven Threads


And see also Game of Thrones Back in Play for Season 2 ... Game of Thrones 2.2: Cersei vs. Tyrion

And see also A Game of Thrones: My 1996 Review of the First Novel ... Game of Thrones Begins Greatly on HBO ... Game of Thrones 1.2: Prince, Wolf, Bastard, Dwarf ... Games of Thrones 1.3: Genuine Demons ... Game of Thrones 1.4: Broken Things  ... Game of Thrones 1.5: Ned Under Seige ... Game of Thrones 1.6: Molten Ever After ... Games of Thrones 1.7: Swiveling Pieces ... Game of Thrones 1.8: Star Wars of the Realms ... Game of Thrones 1.9: Is Ned Really Dead? ... Game of Thrones 1.10 Meets True Blood

And here's a Spanish article in Semana, the leading news magazine in Colombia, in which I'm quoted about explicit sex on television, including on Game of Thrones.

And see "'Game of Thrones': Why the Buzz is So Big" article in The Christian Science Monitor, 8 April 2014, with my quotes.

Also: CNN article, "How 'Game of Thrones' Is Like America," with quote from me



"I was here, in Carthage, three months from now ..."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Somewhere Between 1.4: The Husband

So how is it that the killer is killed before he kills Laura's daughter Serena on Somewhere Between 1.4 tonight, but there's still a harrowing story to be told?   Because the killed killer is not the killer, after all. (Or, as is always the case with time travel, maybe he was but someone changed history so he no longer is.)

And that's less than the half of it.  The other big development is what we've been seeing increasingly throughout the series:  there's something not right about Tom, who's both DA and Laura's husband (and presumably Serena's father).

He continues to take crucial evidence out of police control.   He has some connection to man on the motorcycle (who I suppose could be a woman), who killed the killer and then went on to deliver stolen evidence to Tom at home.

Fortunately, Serena saw this, including the kind of envelope in which the evidence arrived, and when she tells Laura about this, that tips off Laura that Tom is lying to her, covering up what he's doing, when he lies to her a few minutes later.   Serena, of course, also saw the blood-stained scarf which played such a big role in the previous episode.

But still there's a profound puzzle with not a clue to its resolution so far:  if Tom is the bad guy, surely that doesn't include killing his daughter?  He certainly seems to love her and care about her when the two are alone.

So, maybe his actions are all designed to save her?  But, how?  And what connection does he have to the time slip that Laura and Nico (and who knows who else) went through?

I'll check in with another report next week.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Twin Peaks 1.13: Humor

Twin Peaks may not always be comprehensible or comprehendible (well, almost never), but it's always good for a laugh, with a variety of visual, acoustic, and linguistic punchlines, and just some good old-fashioned gags (and I don't just mean scenes that make you feel like gagging).

For example, in tonight's episode 1.13, we get the following: Anthony Sinclair (played by Tom Sizemore, who looks like Michael Madsen, you get a lot of that in Twin Peaks, too) can't bring himself to kill good Cooper (still mostly in a stupor) via poisoning his beloved coffee.   So Sinclair takes the tainted coffee to the men's room, pours it in down a urinal, and the guy standing in front of the next urinal comments, "that bad, huh?"  To me, that's really funny.  (Marshall McLuhan always liked to say that behind every joke is a grievance.  The grievance in Twin Peaks is that it makes no sense - i.e., is not a linear narrative.)

This episode had other good news for good Cooper tonight.  In the same scene as above, he gets a piece of cherry pie along with his coffee!  It may not be the diner's patented cherry pie and coffee, but hey.

And bad Cooper has a good night by his standards, too.  He not only bests mean Mr. Clean in an arm wrestle, but kills him with just one punch.  He also (unknowingly) sends that green ring back to the other dimension where it surely belongs.

And the song - well, tonight we do get a complete song.  James Hurley is back with the worst singing of the season, including two women who can barely (I almost spelled this bearly) hit a note in the background.  But this is a definite improvement over last week, when we got no song at all - and it was nice to see that woman in the venue so moved by the performance.

And in another departure, we got a little action after the end of the song - barely, but it was a new scene.  But here's a question: who owned the hand in the other dimension that received that little green ring?  Just asking.

See also Twin Peaks: The Return 1.1-2: Superluminal Sans Cherry Pie ... 1.3-4: Coffee and Cole ... 1.5: The Mod Squad Meets Big Love in the Diner ... 1.6: Red Door and Childish Scribbles ... 1.7: Lost and Not Lost ... 1.8: Atom Bomb and Mr. Homn ... 1.9: "I Don't See No Hidden Buttons" ... 1.10: "No Stars" ... 1.11: Double Cherry Pie and Viva Las Vegas ... 1.12: No Song - Slim Hope of Deliverance

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Available on Prime

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ray Donovan 5.1: Big Change

Ray Donovan 5.1 debuted with a huge change tonight (and I wouldn't read any further if you're allergic to spoilers).

Well, you can read a little further - but just this paragraph.  There are two possible causes of what happened - the big change.  And, for all we know, neither is the reason.

[spoilers ahead]

Abby's gone - as in, deceased.  Presumably her cancer got her, after all.  But, why, then, did we see the car accident, and Abby with a bump on her head right after?   And, since this is just the first episode of what promises to be an explosively pathbreaking season, Abby may have died or been killed for reasons we don't yet even know.

Who was the scantily clad woman who caused Ray to serve off the road? The credits listed Lili Simmons, and that makes sense - that backside looked familiar, seen many times on Banshee.

Other than all of this, there was at least one surprise with presumably good consequences in this Season 7 start: Terry had a pacemaker put in to control his Parkinson's.  I didn't know that was possible, and I'm glad for Terry and the show - he will be an even more powerful character, this way.

You have to give Ray Donovan the series credit for taking a risk like this.  Abby was in many ways the spiritual centerpiece of this family and therefore the show.  She was someone managed to keep it and Ray together.   Without her, everyone will need to find new bearings, because there's only so much you can get from a memory.

Looking forward to more.


See also Ray Donovan 4.1: Good to Be Back ... Ray Donovan 4.2: Settling In ... Ray Donovan 4.4: Bob Seger ... Ray Donovan 4.7: Easybeats ... Ray Donovan 4.9: The Ultimate Fix ... Ray Donovan Season 4 Finale: Roses

And see also Ray Donovan 3.1: New, Cloudy Ray ... Ray Donovan 3.2: Beat-downs ... Ray Donovan 3.7: Excommunication!

And see also Ray Donovan 2.1: Back in Business ... Ray Donovan 2.4: The Bad Guy ... Ray Donovan 2.5: Wool Over Eyes ... Ray Donovan 2.7: The Party from Hell ... Ray Donovan 2.10: Scorching ... Ray Donovan 2.11: Out of Control ... Ray Donovan Season 2 Finale: Most Happy Ending

And see also Ray Donovan Debuts with Originality and Flair ... Ray Donovan 1.2: His Assistants and his Family ... Ray Donovan 1.3: Mickey ... Ray Donovan 1.7 and Whitey Bulger ... Ray Donovan 1.8: Poetry and Death ... Ray Donovan Season 1 Finale: The Beginning of Redemption


  

Game of Thrones 7:4: Dragon vs. Byzantium

Well, this is the episode of Game of Thrones we've been waiting for - or least, one of the episodes.  In 7.4, we finally get to see one of the fearsome firespewing dragons in battle ... against Jaime Lanister's army.

Except it's more than just an army, modeled in fantasy retrospect after the Romans, wearing red and all.  But just as the Romans and even more so their Byzantine successors were known for their ingenuous weapons, the Lanisters have on their side the dragon-slaying auto-spear we've seen in development this season.

It's never been used before.  It's powerful, but is it enough to bring down a dragon?  Well, it depends where it hits.  And after missing the first time, it indeed hits - but not in the head.  Our dragon with Daenerys astride is wounded, brought down, but still more than to fire its fire.

Jaime makes a desperate, heroic attempt to kill it, but a man on horse with a spear is not as potent as the mechanized spear machine, and Jamie doesn't get close enough.  His charge is refuted by dragon fire.  We see Jaime floating under water in the last scene.  Is he dead?  I don't know - I haven't read the novels, and I've seen no spoiler.  But if I had to bet, I'd bet on his surviving.

But we and Cersei have learned something very important - the dragons are not invincible.  They can be slowed down and stopped, and likely even killed.  Just as the Romans were stopped in the end, as well as the Mongols - stand-ins for the Dothraki in this timeless fantasy drama - so the dragons, like all living things, can be stopped, too.

Which leaves us with the dead of the way north.   They'll be the hardest of all to stop, seeing as how they're no longer alive.  At this point, only Bran may be privy to their ultimate fate.


And see also Game of Thrones 6.1: Where Are the Dragons ... Game of Thrones 6.2: The Waking ... Game of Thrones 6.5: Origin of a Name ... Game of Thrones 6.6: The Exhortation ... Game of Thrones 6.7: Giveth and Taketh ... Game of Thrones 6.8: Strategic Advantage ... Game of Thrones 6.9: A Night for the Light ... Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale: That Library

And see also Game of Thrones 5.1: Unsetting the Table ... Game of Thrones 5.8: The Power of Frigid Death ... Game of Thrones 5.9: Dragon in Action; Sickening Scene with Stannis ... Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale: Punishment

And see also Games of Thrones Season 4 Premiere: Salient Points ... Game of Thrones 4.2: Whodunnit? ... Game of Thrones 4.3: Who Will Save Tyrion ...Game of Thrones 4.4: Glimpse of the Ultimate Battle ... Game of Thrones 4.6: Tyrion on Trial ... Game of Thrones 4.8: Beetles and Battle ...Game of Thrones 4.9: The Fight for Castle Black ... Games of Thrones Season 4 Finale: Woven Threads


And see also Game of Thrones Back in Play for Season 2 ... Game of Thrones 2.2: Cersei vs. Tyrion

And see also A Game of Thrones: My 1996 Review of the First Novel ... Game of Thrones Begins Greatly on HBO ... Game of Thrones 1.2: Prince, Wolf, Bastard, Dwarf ... Games of Thrones 1.3: Genuine Demons ... Game of Thrones 1.4: Broken Things  ... Game of Thrones 1.5: Ned Under Seige ... Game of Thrones 1.6: Molten Ever After ... Games of Thrones 1.7: Swiveling Pieces ... Game of Thrones 1.8: Star Wars of the Realms ... Game of Thrones 1.9: Is Ned Really Dead? ... Game of Thrones 1.10 Meets True Blood

And here's a Spanish article in Semana, the leading news magazine in Colombia, in which I'm quoted about explicit sex on television, including on Game of Thrones.

And see "'Game of Thrones': Why the Buzz is So Big" article in The Christian Science Monitor, 8 April 2014, with my quotes.

Also: CNN article, "How 'Game of Thrones' Is Like America," with quote from me



"I was here, in Carthage, three months from now ..."



Ozark: Frying Pan into the Fire

Netflix checked in with another unusual, noteworthy binge-watchable original series last month - Ozark, the story of how a brilliant high-finance money-launderer in Chicago escapes with his family to the Ozarks, and goes from the frying pan into the fire.

Among the many highlights are memorable performances by even the supporting characters, to the point where just about everyone has a crucial role, and a plot full of twists and turns that surprise from the first episode to the end of the last.

Like just about all of Netflix's original series, and Amazon's too, Ozark tells a story which on first glance is familiar - the city slicker in the hicks - but on second and third glances and every glance thereafter is rich with original detail.  Marty Byrde, superbly played by Jason Bateman, finds himself beset not only by the "second biggest" drug cartel in Mexico (whose murderous rep in the U. S. sarcastically notes Byrde with his precision can't help but mention) and the FBI, but by two hillbilly or redneck families (and I'm glad I'm not a character on the show because mis-identifying one as the other could easily get me killed).

Byrde's family plays a major role - Laura Linney puts in a great performance as Marty's wife, who was having an affair in Chicago before the family was forced to leave - and the two kids have quirky, unpredictable and powerful stories, too.

There's a lot of time spent in or near and around the water, which also plays a crucial part in the story. And though the characters remark that it's a little too cold for swimming, it feels like summer - I don't recall seeing any snow, even in Chicago - which makes Ozark especially good viewing for anyone now in the Northern Hemisphere.   But, hey, the Southern Hemisphere will find lots to be glued to screen about in this one, too.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones

Rob Sheffield's stand-out chapter on the Beatles vs the Stones in his Dreaming the Beatles is another example of the many candidates for flat-out best chapter in this great book, in this case because Sheffield demonstrates a mastery in discussing the Stones equal to what he does about the Beatles throughout his book.

Just to be clear, I don't agree with every point Sheffield makes or even explores in this book, but I agree with a lot more than I usually do in any book about anything. But to give you an example of one point in which I strongly disagree, Sheffield says in the chapter before the Stones that Magical Mystery Tour is a terrible album.  I agree it's not one of their best, but it's much closer to superb than it is to worthless.

I'm not even sure I hold the Rolling Stones in as high esteem as does Sheffield.  I usually think they're the second best rock group of all-time, but the Beach Boys for very different reasons aren't far behind. But I agree completely that the Beatles are better.

And I agree with and very much like Sheffield's analysis of the Stones vis-a-vis the Beatles, and how the Stones finally broke free of and beyond the competition with the Beatles with their "Jumpin Jack Flash".  I remember the time I first heard that masterpiece on the radio, and I thought immediately that the Stones had done something, at very least, different from what the Beatles had ever done.

So the Stones deserve credit, for, if nothing else, breaking free of the sway of the Beatles, which every band, especially those in England, had to be in the grip of, in one way or another, in those days and even now.  But one point I would also make about the Stones, which Sheffield didn't (at least, not yet), is that the Stones were able to survive the death of Brian Jones and be vibrant and path-breaking as a band which the Beatles could not in the case of John Lennon.  And that's not only because the Beatles had already split apart a decade before Lennon's murder, but because he was essential to the Beatles in a way that Jones never was to the Stones.  (An equivalent blow to the Stones would have been the death of Mick Jagger, or perhaps Keith Richards.)

Which means that part of how we now evaluate the Stones is due to their continuing on to this very day as a band.  In living on into the 21st-century - performing, writing, recording - the Stones thus took their considerable accomplishments in the 1960s and 70s to another whole, unique level.

But Sheffield's still right that the Beatles were and are better.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ... 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4 ... 9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver ... 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper

 
lots of Beatles in here

Somewhere Between 1.3: The Scarf

The most significant development in Somewhere Between 1.3 last night was Laura's husband Tom, and his collection of evidence pertinent to the murders - collection apparently out of the legal process, kept at home, and reported by Tom to some unknown person via text message.

Since Tom is the on-point prosecutor in this case, his actions are especially puzzling. Laura and Tom's daughter sees Tom trying to conceal a scarf, takes it, and hangs it out a window.  This happens just as the mother of the guy convicted of the murders, now on death row, walks by.  She knows what the scarf means, tries to retrieve it, but the daughter pulls it back, apparently without seeing the woman below.  She soon lets Tom know that she has the scarf and cleaned it - it had blood stains.  It's hard to tell what Tom is thinking - maybe he's relieved? - but hard to say.

So where does this leave us?  The mother of the guy on death row knows she saw the scarf, but she apparently doesn't know who put the scarf there.   We know that Tom took the scarf from the evidence room, but we don't know why.

Before the episode ends, Tom again intervenes with evidence, again apparently off the record.  What is Tom up to?

It's all too easy for time travel stories to get too convoluted to follow.  We did learn last night that, as Nico puts it, the needle of fate can be slightly moved by his and Laura's actions.  But, other than that, we're still after the third episode in possession of almost none of the facts and none of the principles of time travel governing this story.

But there's still time in this time-travel tale to make at least some of that more clear.

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