From March 2016

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 5: “War”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 5: “War”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici

* For a review of the previous episode, “Trudy” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
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The penultimate Season 1 episode of SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard starts out after the betrayal in the previous chapter, on the part of Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) with the greasy Paco (Neil Sandilands).
But we step back in time, to when Hap Collins (James Purefoy) was a little boy, and the racism in Marvel Creek is alive and thriving. A minstrel show is put off, as people crack up laughing and enjoy it, far too much. We see little Hap and his father driving, when they notice a black man on the road with car troubles. Then the worst looks like it’s about to happen.
Cut back to the 1980s again. Angel and Soldier, with Paco alongside, have Hap, Leonard (Michael K. Williams), Trudy (Christina Hendricks) in tow. So what kind of madness will we see this time around? Surely Hap and Leonard aren’t going down without a fight.


Naturally, Trudy is disgusted by Paco, having been an intricate part of their team before. He’s a man of his own, though. Meanwhile, Leonard tells Hap: “If you see a chance, dont you hesitate.” For the time being, they go along to get along. They start digging up the money from their little treasure hunt. And poor Leonard’s the one designated to do the shoveling. Typical.
Except, down in the dirt there’s no money. Just an empty box. Turns out Trudy moved the cash somewhere else. Soldier takes her aside for a little heart to heart, though, she’s one tough cookie.
Love the dialogue. Not only does it keep in the spirit of Joe Lansdale, it’s just solid television writing, and keeps the scenes moving along at a nice, spirited pace. There’s wit, there’s profundity at times, others it can even be silly as hell. Dig it all around.
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Soldier: “The biggest balls in this room are swinginfrom a cooch, I gotta love that.”
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With only Trudy holding the whereabouts, things might get to looking ugly. Well, not until Soldier’s had himself a nice meal of french toast a la Angel. A set of handcuffs Leonard uses in bed end up chaining him and Hap down; nice little touch there, especially his mouthy response to Paco.
But the situation is starting to get scary. Soldier is a psychotic, as is his partner/lover in crime. The headstrong Trudy will not reveal where the money’s hidden, despite Hap trying to convince her otherwise. “Who are you, Joan of Arc?” sighs Soldier. This may lead her somewhere dark and disturbing. My favourite scene so far comes when Soldier throws on some VCMG, “Spock” to be exact, and starts dancing. Right before Angel reappears with a toolbox. Lots of interesting things to use. Nothing really works on Trudy, though. Even a semi-crucifixion. Until Howard suggests they put some pain on Hap, that’ll get her mouth jawing.


Soldier: “I figured you more of a Soul Man
Leonard: “Country got soul


Finally, Hap reveals he’s pretty sure where Trudy put the cash – he’d seen something on her shoes which gave her away. What’s most interesting in this scene is the bond, again, between Hap and Leonard. It’s stronger than the one between Hap and Trudy, even as lovers. Because Leonard stopped Howard from bashing Hap’s face in. Then when Leonard faced a bullet, Hap stopped it all. He could’ve really stopped things when Trudy got that nail in the hand. Yet he didn’t. He saved that card for Leonard.
Ole Howard bites the dust. I knew somebody had to. But the chaos goes on. Hap’s busy leading Soldier to the right spot. Can they slip themselves out of this mess?
At the dog pens, Hap goes in to try digging out the money. Then they throw a plan into action, as does Trudy, stabbing Paco through the eye after hauling her hand off the table and using the nail in self-defense. Everything goes wild. Hap and Leonard run off, though, the latter takes a bullet. Trudy manages to do Paco in. But Angel and Soldier are still lurking about, just as ready as ever to do more damage.


Hap and Leonard go back for Trudy, holing up in the house. Outside, Soldier removes an arrow from Angel’s neck, one Hap gave her. And so Soldier watches as she fades away, whispering sweet nothings to her; a tender relationship for two maniacs, all the same. Will this only serve to make Soldier more crazy?
Right now, Leonard’s bleeding out quick, and Hap decides running is their best option. Well, Hap plans on carrying Leonard, but still – high tailing it is their only shot.
The plan gets interrupted by Soldier. And then Trudy leaves, fast as she can. Alone. Another double cross in the books for this Southern femme fatale. How are Hap and Leonard about to squeeze out of this one?


The final Season 1 episode, “Eskimos”, comes out next week. Stay with me, folks. Loving this Lansdale adaptation to the fullest!

The Path – Season 1, Episode 2: “The Era of the Ladder”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Era of the Ladder”
Directed by Mike Cahill
Written by Jessica Goldberg

* For a review of the previous episode, “What The Fire Throws” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Homecoming” – click here
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After the first episode, Hulu’s The Path continues on its ominous journey.
We open on Eddie and Sarah Lane (Aaron Paul/Michelle Monaghan) going through some type of couples therapy. They go, together, back in time to a different place in their lives. Turns out Eddie’s taking the rap for infidelity, instead of admitting the truth – he is doubting, his faith is crumbling, and he was in that motel meeting a woman named Alison (Sarah Jones). Although, he only goes so far. He adamantly refuses the “14 days“, which seems to be some type of reflective punishment.
Meanwhile, Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy) is off meeting with a possible wealthy donor to the cause. The family has an addict son who requires a last ditch effort to be turned around. Speaking of young people, Hawk Lane (Kyle Allen) is coming up against the religion of his family. He’s not supposed to spend time with young women outside of school, alone, things like that. Eddie sort of bands with Hawk against the rest of the family, which is obvious. He’s trying to slip out of the whole debacle as it is.


In the aftermath of the tornado also lies the aftermath of Cal supposedly protecting Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell). So then there’s Cal, pushing forward into his own agenda. He talks with Sarah, wondering how the couple therapy – branded with yet another Scientology-like name, IRP (Infidelity Rehab Program) – is actually going. Also, Cal continually presses into the life of Mary, as now they’ve got a bond over what happened in the previous episode. And she definitely, clearly, has a lust for Cal.
We’re finally introduced to Detective Abe Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar). He’s discovered the reach of the Meyerist cult, how they swooped in on the latest disaster area. This will provide an excellent, fun thriller element to the series.
Outside the community, in the real world, Cal and his minions help spread their word. Subtly, sly, they infiltrate the minds of others and casually rope them in.


Deeper down the rabbit hole goes Eddie. He and Alison have another meeting. “Maybe it doesnt matter if its real or not,” says Eddie. Now he’s doubting his doubt. “Because it fucking matters,” Alison replies. She reveals her husband was killed after they tried to leave the cult, and though Eddie doesn’t believe it, there is an obvious fear in him. The elderly people she was going to meet were her grandparents. She’s on the run, “like a fugitive“, and all because of the madness within the cult of Meyerism. For now Eddie decides to halt on going any further with their clandestine activities.
Hawk’s trying hard to fit in with the little family of his maybe-girlfriend, Ashley (Amy Forsyth). He even eats meat. The whole situation is sort of odd, especially in modern times. He asks personal questions of the girl, the mother, he doesn’t like to have the door closed in the room alone with the girl. Such a noble, honourable kind of belief system, though, under it all there lurks darkness.
That darkness is defined in Cal. He appears so candy coated on the outside. But inside, there is chaos. He has huge ideas, wants to help humanity. Yet is he any kind of leader? He manages to keep the anger inside him at bay, at least when required. Then it rips out of him at times. A very Hubbard-esque characterization in contemporary times. One little thread slips out – Cal’s mother. He avoids talk of her completely when asked point blank if they see one another. Mommy issues, Cal?


Eddie and Sarah still struggle. There are tons of underlying bits and pieces to their relationship. He was a sort of outsider, one who found his way into the inner circle with the likes of Sarah and Cal, those who’ve spent their life in the cult. So there’s an aspect to Eddie that’s on the fringes to begin with, and now this bit of doubt pulsing in him only serves to put him further on the edge. But he and Sarah can’t talk too long before they tear one another’s clothes off for a steamy romp. Hawk comes home in the midst of their lovemaking and has a bit of an existential mini-crisis, throwing up the meat he’d ingested earlier.
One way or the other, the Cleary family tries to keep on keepin’ on.
The media are being courted as a new possible avenue for the cult. Cal claims Doc told him the message is ready to spread. It’s obvious there are chains, a hierarchy, one that’s as rung-like as The Ladder they tout – whomever is higher has more authority, more knowledge, supposedly. And Cal exploits that to a certain degree in order to further his personal agenda, where he wants things to head. I love that they’ve used Scientology as a basis for the cult, but steer clear from copying everything too readily.


At school, Hawk gets called “Jim Jones” and warned of bringing the “Kool Aid” too close to Ashley, by her boyfriend. I knew repercussions for this were coming. A fight ensues, no doubt bringing more drama to the Lane clan. Needed at the school, Eddie’s drawn away from investigation the claims of Alison, re: her husband Jason. Mostly here we get an examination of how these cults, these communities affect families, the children in them, their social relationships, and much more.
Closer and closer, Cal and Mary come together. And no longer can he control his urges. Well, sort of, sort of not.
After everything, Eddie wants to go through with the rest of therapy. He wants to normalize their relationship, to “get back” to the old way. It’s the whole fourteen days thing. And into the room he goes, a veritable jail cell, self-imposed. A place of introspection, of clarity. Two weeks in there? Very similar to a practice in Scientology, though, again – not lifted entirely.


The media’s eye is now finally coming down on the cult of Meyerism. On a set, Cal is interviewed by a reporter. He tries to delineate their cult from the very world itself. The power of persuasion is on Cal’s side, as he is charismatic, charming, intriguing. His skills of oration are impeccable, he can almost melt people into the palm of his hand.
With Detective Gaines watching on, Eddie straddling the fence and Alison on the outside fighting, when will the cult find themselves at direct odds with the outside world? Soon enough. I’d bet on it.
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The finale of this episode sees Cal moving on helping the would-be-donors with their junkie son. Not just that, he’s making sure the donor professes his love and admiration for their religion. He wants true, faithful followers, and is doing whatever necessary to ensure that. “Cause I dont give a shit about your million dollars, Mr. Ridge,” says Cal: “I want your faith.”
At the same time, Eddie goes through the beginning of his fourteen days. It is a head trip. A one way ticket to absolute insanity. All billed as therapy, somehow. This whole sequence is almost terrifying, watching Eddie pace around the room, answering questions, painting, throwing paint, all kinds of things. Then, we get another glimpse at his revelation from Peru, behind the door, as Stephen Meyer (Keir Dullea) lays in a hospital bed, draped with a large snake. Back in the stark white room, Eddie loses his mind. Apparently he admits to an affair with Miranda Frank (Minka Kelly), and everything is fine afterwards. A few men go to pick her up in a cult van. What will be her fate?
Cal relays the new happenings to Doc in his bed, pronouncing their new era, “The era of the Ladder“, and now we know for sure what Eddie knew to be true really is true after all.


Where does The Path head from here? Let’s stay tuned together and find out.

The Path – Season 1, Episode 1: “What The Fire Throws”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 1, Episode 1: “What The Fire Throws”
Directed by Mike Cahill
Written by Jessica Goldberg

* For a review of the next episode, “The Era of the Ladder” – click here
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The new Hulu series begins in New Hampshire. A desolate landfill-type location, some sort of disaster area, with various types o people everywhere. Up pulls a van, beeping loudly. Out of it emerges Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy), as well as a team of others, and they proceed to start saving people. Later, we come to discover there was a tornado.
Immediately one of the things I loved about this pilot episode is the cinematography. Really beautiful stuff. With Hulu in the game now, also putting out the Stephen King adaptation 11.22.63, the tv arena is getting wider.
Cut to Eddie and Sarah Lane (Aaron Paul/Michelle Monaghan). They’re at the dinner table surrounded by others, everyone hand in hand reciting some type of ritualistic grace. We’re directly in the midst of the cult, smack dab in the middle of conversations about their practices, and so on. Sarah’s worried about her husband, whose recent return from Peru seemingly prompted a change in attitude. There is definitely something off, whatever that may be.
A short time later, Eddie gets a text that sends him off. Not before he and his wife connect intimately a little.

 


Everything about the opening ten minutes is eerie. There’s an unsettling air about these first few scenes. When Sarah creeps about the house listening in on husband Eddie, there’s some great suspense. And that sets the tone for what’s likely to be a bit of an unnerving drama. At least that’s the initial feeling that this episode lays out.
Now we’re at the compound. A gated little community, guard at the front. Everything is quaint, almost too perfect. Everything is built and structured to look very country.
And at the center of it all, or at least lead puppet: the enigmatic Cal. He is charming, he reads people well, and his history with Sarah clearly runs deep. We get a little snippet on someone named Doc, who Cal claims is in “lockdown” working on a book. Hmm. Is this some L. Ron Hubbard-esque character, a Jim Jones kind of man, or someone altogether different?
One of the people saved by Cal and his crew is Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell). She’s had drugs problems, it’s clear, and now this cult is going to nurse her back to health. To her, it’s as if the sky has opened up and Heaven shined down. But perhaps it’s more than it seems, perhaps not all it appears on the surface. She’ll have to wait and see.
An interesting aspect of this series already is Hawk Lane (Kyle Allen). He and other children of the cult members have to deal with life at school, following their beliefs in a modern world with bullying. That to me is something worth including, and hopefully will get more time to play out.

 


We get a quick scene with a woman named Alison (Sarah Jones). She tries to go talk to an elderly couple, but two men stop her on the street. Is she trying to reconnect with her old life? Are they preventing this from happening? This could be our first view into the darker side of life in this little community.
Mary Cox is being introduced to it herself. Sarah says she was “born into” this way of life, and that Cal came to the group as a young boy. There’s talk of “rungs” on a ladder, obviously parts of their belief system – the titular path, most likely.
Then there’s Eddie. He gives a sort of inspirational lecture to the newest recruits. He talks about his brother, Johnny. Sadly, Johnny hung himself, and Eddie found him. What’s most interesting is how he and Cal are incredibly close, so much so the latter already knows the story. Front to back. The community is clearly one built around close relationships, intimacy. But quickly we move into talks of “Meyerism“, books – because there’s always more than one – and more spurts of the ladder everyone climbs. Most importantly, the foreboding presence of Cal is so evident already. As is the doubt in Eddie. His faith is slipping; an amazing edit takes us over to Eddie reading to his daughter, poignantly giving us an exclamation point on his situation.

 


In a quiet room, Mary goes to see Cal. She undresses for him. His reaction certainly isn’t one of professionalism. He admires her a little before putting the clothes back on her body. For the time being, Cal’s playing it safe, which then prompts her to spill all the awful secrets in her past. “All my life I had this fantasy, one day an angel would float down from the sky and save me,” Mary tells him. Cal, for his part, spews some quasi-Scientologist madness, or pseudo-psychiatric nonsense. Either way, Mary doesn’t particularly buy it.
Another point to mention. The score in this episode is impressive. Both tense and subtle, it swells, pulsing underneath many of the scenes adding something properly ominous to the atmosphere. Props to Will Bates.
More on Eddie, as he takes off in the middle of the night. Not without Sarah on his tail. She follows him right to a motel. An affair? Could her husband be that sort of man?
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Jump back three weeks. Peru.
Eddie’s sweating out a pretty intense hallucination. He sees his brother, the one we’ve just heard of, and it brings him to tears. The shaman there encourages him to talk with his brother, which he does. To interesting results. He ends up staring through a doorway into some light. What does he see?
Forward, again in the present.
Things are obviously no longer the same for him. He Googles “Is Meyerism real?” and other such phrases, seeking out the elusive truth. His text messaging is to someone claiming to have such a truth. They cryptically communicate awhile, put off a little by the impromptu lovemaking in which Eddie and Sarah engage. Nonetheless, he’s been altered. Beyond that door, we only manage a glimpse of some sort of hospital equipment. Keeping someone alive? What could it be? The mystery is amazing, so palpable and full. Especially with the writing, which weaves us back through events we’ve seen already in the episode, giving us new insights, et cetera. Great work all around. The character development is slow, yet very full thus far while holding back just enough.

 


Eddie: “I think that I am having doubts

 


Maybe letting on too much, Eddie questions things about Doc to Cal. In front of everyone. A little out of line, from the looks of Sarah, and the slight apprehension, or faked apprehension, on the part of Cal. Appearances are a big deal here, they’re everywhere; people are keeping up a mask. At least Cal is, anyways.
Has Eddie discovered something about Doc? While Cal is fronting the whole thing, talking about what Doc is up to, writing, so on, is Doc really lying somewhere, barely alive, kept breathing by machinery? Is that what Eddie saw when let into the inner sanctum? Maybe he’ll discover the madness of the cult, just as people like Paul Haggis did in real life after figuring out Scientology was all about Xenu and a ton of fucking insanity.
Now, the whole mystery is wrapped up in a family drama. This edgy thriller is built inside a compact emotional framework. And Eddie, off in that motel, is talking to Alison. A highly interesting development.
Meanwhile, Sarah goes to see Cal. She talks about their early days together. “Your hands were like fire,” says Sarah. Things are deteriorating in the world of the Lanes, she keeps saying Eddie “transgressed“, but they’ve got no clue as to what he’s actually been up to.

 


We finally get a look at one of their little services. Interesting enough, Cal gives a bit of a speech on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. He goes over the “shadows of reality” and other talking points. He uses this to shape people and their minds. The way Cal uses his charisma, his natural charm, is almost dangerous. We can already see him peddle his heavy influence. An excellent performance from Dancy, love this turn from his other great role as Will Graham on NBC’s Hannibal.
Funny enough, Cal talks about not being able to live knowing what one knows, without breaking free of the chains which bind us. Same thing Eddie struggles with.
The part of this episode that’s most interesting is when Mary brings Cal back to her trailer park home, to meet dear old dad. To make everything “right“, as Cal had put it earlier. Such a terrifyingly quiet nature about Cal that explodes wildly, unexpected. His is a deep flowing rage. Juxtaposed with him lecturing people on Plato, it is a powerful scene.

 


Cal confronts Eddie later about what Sarah told him re: motel meeting.
Then we discover what Eddie saw, cut alongside his meeting with Alison. It is in fact Doc, Stephen Meyer (Keir Dullea), in an almost 2001: A Space Odyssey-like homage, laying in bed, hooked up to hospital equipment, as Eddie explains: “There is no light.”
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I love, love, loved this first episode. What an odd, beautiful, well-filmed and written, expertly acted pilot. Look forward to taking in the second episode ASAP.

American Crime Story – Season 1, Episode 9: “Manna From Heaven”

FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 9: “Manna From Heaven”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

* For a review of the previous episode, “A Jury in Jail” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “The Verdict” – click here
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The penultimate episode of American Crime Story has arrived.
We begin with recap of the trial via television. The tapes of Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) are being tracked down. Meanwhile, in court Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) is doing his thing, asking his witness whether someone “sounded black“, which prompts Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) to go off. It gets so heated that Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) calls a recess. Of course, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is pissed herself because the racial nonsense distracts from anything truthful.
But the defense are jumping all over Fuhrman and the supposed tapes. Bob Shapiro (John Travolta), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) and the rest try to get things in order. “We must get them,” orders Johnnie re: the tapes.
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Johnnie: “God brought us these tapes. Theres something much larger at play here. This, is Manna from Heaven.”
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The prosecution are variably worried in their own respects about Fuhrman; Darden more so. Yet Johnnie and his crew are moving along to the beat of their own drum. We’ve got F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) touting his influence in the boardroom, offering to head up the whole Fuhrman angle in North Carolina, where he and Cochran are headed for the tapes and transcripts. And so the two dig in on Fuhrman and his extremely complicated racist background. Unfortunately, the NC judge is not happy to have a flash, proud, strong black man like Johnnie in his court. So, Bailey has to take over. He placates the Southern racists, managing to slip out those tapes and transcripts for their case in California.


Bailey: “Mr. Cochran take a good look where youre standing. Were in the South. Havent you noticed the scent of mint julep and condescension in the air? Right behind you is a statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle. With all due respect, I dont know if you play as well in Dixie.”
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Back in Los Angeles, Marcia is getting even more worked up, as the tapes make their way further towards their trial. Ito won’t let them in yet, but the teams are allowed to review them. There’s an ominous tone to this episode. All the looming racism of the past connecting with Fuhrman and the ongoing racism, that sadly still burns today in the U.S. The entire opening 10 minutes or so are incredible.
So everybody tucks in and listens to what Fuhrman’s got to say on the infamous recordings. The editing in this series is spectacular, as always. They cut both of the teams listening to the tapes together, back and forth between the two. Super intense sequence overall. Immediately, Fuhrman launches into a tirade about “niggers” and “Mexicans“, and talks about the right way to enforce the law, tough on the street. He says the word nigger about a dozen times in the first few sentences. Brutal. Each side realizes what this will do to their case; obviously, Marcia and Darden see this can crush them.
But they’ve got something “unexpected” for Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood), an “O. Henry twist“, as Marcia puts it eloquently. There’s a bunch of talk from Fuhrman on the tape about Ito’s wife, the “highest ranking woman in the LAPD” – another nail in the whole Mark Fuhrman witness debacle. The entire thing becomes a massive shitstorm.


Gil: “This screams gross incompetence


Both sides are pressed against the wall, though. Cochran and Co. don’t want a mistrial, while Darden suggests to Marcia that’s their best option, to start over without Fuhrman and his madness. Everything involving Ito spill out in open court, as he prefers it to happen. He even happens to give a little shout out to hardworking women in male-dominated environments.
Above all else, Ito determines another judge has to call whether the case should stay in front of the court. Yowzahs. So much happening on each side.
So Marcia and Chris go back to the drawing board. As do Johnnie, Shapiro, and everyone else. The whole court, really. Cochran suggests giving Ito the tapes with the parts about his wife edited out. Everyone seemed to find that suitable, but it’s up to a new judge now. Tempers flare in the meantime, with Shapiro blowing up on Cochran. Same goes for Darden – he chews Marcia out for not having listened when he advised they shouldn’t use Fuhrman to begin with, and this opens more cans of worms, relationship-wise amongst them.


Darden: “You put me on this trial because you wanted a black face. But the truth is, you never wanted a black voice.”
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On his own, Cochran is running against the tapes, him and the Coalition with which he’s involved. They’re determined to root out racist LAPD officers. Everyone from Shapiro to Garcetti is worried about more riots like in Watts. The city is almost on fire with racial heat.
People like Ito, they’re caught in the middle. People like Johnnie are willingly in the middle o the storm.
In court, things get rolling again. Johnnie wants those tapes, and he is running with them. On the other side, Clark isn’t defending Fuhrman, but rather the victims of the crime at the center of their trial. Regardless, they’re both passionate speakers. Merely different breeds of thinkers, different strategists. And Marcia does her best to try and make sure the jury won’t hear the tapes.
It’s all down to poor Ito. He has to read through a ton of vile, racist trash, as well as contend with the backlash on either end of his decision. A terrible position in which to find oneself. Nobody would’ve wanted to be him during that time. Especially once he decides the tapes will be allowed, as they’re a matter of “national concern“, so says Ito. A huge blow-up comes out again between Darden and Cochran, with the former unimpressed how his old mentor is making a mockery of the court. This gets Marcia up on Chris’ behalf, each of them nearly held in contempt by the judge. One of the most INTENSE sequences of the entire series. Orderly chaos. Eventually it all calms down, but the dirty laundry is out on the line for all to see.


Finally, the court hears some of Fuhrman. The recording is played, his speech is spelled out in text. Damning stuff, as he goes on about police brutality. Everyone in court is horrified by some of the things he says. Openly admitting to hating black people, as well as the brutality that routinely goes on behind the scenes of the LAPD. Awful, vicious. A very creepy scene, hearing these things come out. Imagine what it must’ve been like in the courtroom that day. People like Fred Goldman (Joseph Siravo) are disgusted with the focus being taken off the murder victims, and everything honing in on Fuhrman, et cetera. At the same time, Darden and Clark are licking their wounds, attempting to figure out somewhere to move next. Marcia apologizes for not listening to Chris earlier. Too late, though, better late than never at all.
Ito rules on the Fuhrman tapes. Only concerned with “perjury” and not all the LAPD corruption. Cochran isn’t happy, neither is Bailey. As usual, Bob dances around not wanting to piss off the police. He doesn’t get why Johnnie is so inflamed. Because he’s white. He could never fully understand. Nevertheless, Johnnie blows things up and advises Los to “remain calm” – but does he want that, or would some riots help his cause? The enigma of Cochran is that he’s at once a theatrical act, a performer, a disguise, and simultaneously he’s a proud, tough man who does right by people, too. You just never know who you’re going to get at any given time.


Fuhrman is being brought to the stand. Outside the court it’s a circus, inside like a morbid auditorium awaiting some bloody dissection of a patient. And that’s sort of what’s about to happen. All his lies are poised to come out.
And before things get started, Darden leaves the courtroom. Wow, a powerful statement in itself.
Johnnie starts his surgical procedure in open court. Only Fuhrman asserts the Fifth Amendment for all his questions. Another wrench in the machine. The one question Cochran does go on to ask gets the same response, and casts further doubt on the evidence. Things are getting very rough from here on in for Clark and Co.
One ray of sunshine? Marcia got primary custody of her children. A small glimpse of hope after a terrible time in court.


Next and final episode, “The Verdict”, promises lots of interesting things. Let’s see how Ryan Murphy finishes things off along with his super talented crew of actors, directors, writers, and everyone else involved. An amazing series that’s giving us impressive insight into the events behind the scenes of such an infamous trial.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 4: “The Number of a Man”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Number of a Man”
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
Written by Nazrin Choudhury

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Deliverer” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Seven Curses” – click here
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What will Damien Thorn (Bradley James) encounter next? Last we left him, Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) was working her wiles against his fragile mind. And it turns out she is more than just obsessed.
Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is trying her hardest, too. In order to stay away from an evil approaching. Can she manage to keep free of it? She digs up some sort of chicken fetus-like creature from her bathtub, and it’s no doubt an ominous moment.
Damien’s busy fighting with whatever is inside him. Having a shave, he nearly feels like cutting his own throat. But the feeling passes. In his bathtub, he finds a tie clogging the drain – of course, the tie of the man from last episode. Which he then brings to John Lyons (Scott Wilson), whose council is no good. As we now know the older man, posing as a dear friend, is merely one of those watching along as Damien slouches towards his destiny as Antichrist.


Detective James Shay (David Meunier) gets some footage of Damien’s chase in the subway, which produces a strange, ghostly effect while being watched. More to be curious about. Meanwhile, Amani (Omid Abtahi) tries to convince Damien into taking a break from everything, taking it easy. Everyone’s worried. Even Shay arrives later to talk more with Damien about all the events surrounding him lately.
Damien and Shay head down to the cop shop for a longer chat. The cat and mouse thrill of the plot picks up, as the detective knows there’s something going on. But due to all the supernatural madness, he can’t exactly place everything correctly. Yet there’s Damien on CCTV, running after the man who died on the escalator. His proximity to the nastiness as of late, consuming those around him.
In the boardroom, Lyons addresses his staff. He even has Ann “say a few words“, in all the irony. She talks a good one about togetherness, compassion, and all sorts of similar things. Nice speech by a woman no doubt well versed in watching people die. “Nature of the beast,” she tells Lyons: “Pardon the pun.” Turns out afterwards that Ann didn’t leave the tie, but either way, she and John form a sort of partnership. For the time being, Ann goes along.
Shay is getting closer and closer to a theory of what’s going on. He knows Damien’s pulling “some freaky shit“, and that involves dogs. He shows Damien the hall where he was also attacked, right in the station. But the cop’s more concerned with trying to push the young man into a confrontation. Poor damn fella has no idea what he’s up against. Plenty of tension between these two. Something intense is certainly rearing its head, and soon there’ll be trouble. Lots.


Damien: “People who come after me dont fare so well


In the police station, a man confronts Damien, calling him a serpent, “The Destroyer“, and when he grabs some scissors Damien attempts to stop him from stabbing someone. Seems he only wanted to stab himself. In the groin. Whoa, what a vicious moment! Bloody, creepy, and foreboding.
With lighter things to worry about, Amani’s trying to get Damien a job. He is a true friend, one who knows his partner is a great photographer. So he kicks a little ass in an interview for him.
Ann receives Detective Shay at her place. He’s suspicious about the “special room” Damien told him about. The whole thing sounds like something from a mystery-thriller novel, a bad one, though, she leads the cop to her supposed panic room: “I never use it. I never panic,” Ann tells him. Well, she cleaned out the basement and there’s nothing to be found, which obviously paints Damien in a worse psychiatric light.
But now Amani is running into trouble. The protege of Ann Rutledge, Veronica Selvaggio (Melanie Scrofano), is circling around like a vulture. No doubt readying herself to clear Amani from the life of Damien. Convenient for Ann, too. Whom will escape any scrutiny for anything that may happen.
As for Simone, her mother is getting some voodoo-style witchery going on to help with her latest fetus in the bathtub troubles. She doesn’t feel too into it, but her mother and the witch doctor are awfully serious. And things get… pretty wild.


A little while later, Ann collects Damien from the station. Though he’s clearly not happy with that situation. Damien gets violently serious with Ann, threatening to kill her if that’s what’s required. Don’t forget – Ann has a serious BDSM thing happening, so who knows what she’d be into. “The day will come,” she tells Damien before walking off into the night. You creepy, sly bitch.
Damien gets a visit from Simone. More of the 666 prophecies. She brings up the visions since her sister died, the prevalence of the birds, and more. They’re both being torn apart, in different ways. He talks about the things he’s seen, in war photography, and that suffering happens; that’s it. There is no higher power with a purpose. Hard to hear, though, necessary. Only Damien will soon realize there is something else behind it all. a great, dark power.
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Damien: “Kelly died. And a bird is just a bird.”
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At home, Detective Shay and his husband have a nice little life together. Except up shows another hound of Hell, and it’s got an eye on their little boy. It lures the child out towards the swimming pool. Uh oh.
Then Shay finds the boy underneath the pool cover, dragged about by some mysterious force. The whole sequence is terrifying, as something evil tries to drown the boy. But Shay, he fights back. One of the most unnerving scenes out of the series so far, and certainly doesn’t help a kid is involved. However, Shay now knows there’s something bigger, something more horrific at play than simply Damien.


Next episode, “Seven Curses”, should be another exciting one. This was a fun episode and I’m enjoying with Glen Mazzara and Co. are doing, as the show gets better with time. Stay tuned for me with me.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 7: “Inflatable”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 7: “Inflatable”
Directed by Colin Bucksey
Written by Gordon Smith

* For a review of the previous episode, “Bali Ha’i” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Fifi” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 12.11.19 PMCOVER
This episode begins with The Stampeders’ “Sweet City Woman” playing softly in the background. A young kid grabs himself a copy of Playboy off the shelf – young James McGill, in fact. Meanwhile, his father listens to a man at the counter with his father. This exchange pits little Jimmy against the man; one bullshitter knows another. The father, all the while is clueless. Before the man leaves he says to Jimmy: “There are wolves and sheep in this world, kid. Wolves and sheep. Figure out which one youre gonna be.” Afterwards, this prompts lil’ Jim to take a bit of cash from the till for himself.


Back to present series times. Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) has Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) helping him once more. He’s trying to get the whole Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) situation cleared up, or else deal with the wrath of the cartel and Uncle Hector (Mark Margolis). Naturally, Jimmy works a bit of magic, and then slips Mike out of the room without saying too much.
On the phone later, Jimmy talks with Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). She’s still whipping up a nice deal with Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris). Hopefully it goes well. She has been the slave girl at HHM far too long. At the same time, Jimmy’s getting ready to resign from Davis and Main. Omar (Omar Maskati) brings up a few good points, though, about the company car, et cetera, and possible payments he’d have to make. So Jimmy switches his tune proper quick.
What’s going on in the mind of James McGill? An oddly happy look in his eyes is tough to read. Well, at home, the first look of Saul Goodman comes out. After seeing one of those big inflatable men in the wind his style comes out. Lots of wild looking colours, bright ties. His whole demeanour changes, he becomes more of who he once was, back when that man in the store told him – choose, or else the world will choose for you. Even a ridiculously funny scene where Jimmy’s busted for not flushing his shits, concerned about the local “watershed” and so on. This whole sequence absolutely slayed me. It introduces us to who Jimmy will become. Plus, he’s obviously looking to be fired, or pawned off somewhere. Finally it’s the bagpipes he plays in his office that puts Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) over the edge. Now Jimmy’s got himself out, bonus in tact.


Jimmy: “Hey Clifffor what its worth, I think youre a good guy.”
Cliff: “For what its worth I think youre an asshole
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In other news, Jimmy has the idea of starting his own firm with Kim – Wexler McGill. He loves her, but also has huge faith in her skills as a lawyer. Together, they could be a force to be reckoned with, possibly. “Or we fail and we end up with nothing,” Kim quips. She still has doubts, clearly. Especially with Schweikart’s deal on the table, very enticing, very surefooted unlike this new enterprise with Jimmy. She wants his assurance that he’ll “play it straight” and not “be colourful” – he tries to pretend, then comes clean. He can only be himself. Ultimately, Kim wants Jimmy, as a lover, a friend. Not a partner in law.
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Jimmy: “Ive been tryinto be the person someone else wants me to be for I dont know how long. I mean first it was Chuck, then it was youand that’s not your fault, that was my choice. But if were gonna do this, I gotta go into it as me. So, yeah. Colourful, I guess.”


Mike’s busy trying to move daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) into a nice place. She is very happy to be getting into a new neighbourhood, a safe place. At heart, he is a good man. An honourable one, to the fullest. Might be mixed up in some wild shit, but Mike is a decent human being. Somewhere along the line things just got complicated. Later, we find him still watching the Salamanca crew, their little diner hideout. What’s he planning?
Back at the nail salon, Jimmy is moving things in, including his cocobolo desk from Davis and Main. “Onward and upward,” he says to Omar. But without Kim and the supposed new firm, where does Jimmy go next from here? Somewhere colourful, no doubt. He starts to record a voicemail message for himself, one to lure people into believing he’s got an actual office. It’s going to something more for him to break through this way.
And Kim is meeting with Schweikart and his people. They seem fairly impressed with her, especially Rick himself, who eyes her with both admiration and maybe something else. Regardless, they’re all happy with her interview. Even after she calls Rick by the name of Howard. There’s something else going on with Kim, too. The relationship she has with Jimmy has an odd sort of stranglehold on her.
She rushes over to the salon quick. He is happy as a clam being on his own again, even if in the back o a nail shop. Then Kim reveals her decision to go “solo practice” and it catches Jimmy off guard. She proposes they find a space together, just practice law separately. A-ha. Although, it doesn’t seem to be exactly what Jimmy had hoped. It’s still good, all the same.


Nice episode that’s heading towards something big. What can we expect from Mike’s situation? And how much more of Saul Goodman is going to peek its head from under the disguise of Jimmy McGill? We’ll see in the next episode, titled “Fifi”, so stay tuned with me, fellow fans.

11.22.63 – Episode 7: “Soldier Boy”

Hulu’s 11.22.63
Episode 7: “Soldier Boy”
Directed by James Kent
Written by Bridget Carpenter

* For a review of the previous episode, “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Day in Question” – click here
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The penultimate chapter begins, with Jake Epping (James Franco) having been left in bad shape at the end of last episode, as well as Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) being committed to a mental ward.
Seventeen days before the assassination of JFK, we find Jake coming in and out of consciousness. He sees Anderson Cooper on the television, a man on his iPhone. All these modern things. Then his ex-wife. Even Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) appears as the doctor. “I know this isnt real, I just want it to stop,” plead Jake. “Sometimes we dont get what we want,” replies Al. He expresses disappoint over the entire mission. The whole thing is nightmarish. Once things settle down, there’s Sadie Dunhil (Sarah Gadon) and Deke Simmons (Nick Searcy). But as Jake puts it: “Everythings mixed up.” Will the past take a toll on Jake, or is this simply a bump in the road?


Al: “Youre not the man I thought you were
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Worst of all, Jake’s memory is troubled. His brains are all jumbled. There’s even a great little joke by the writers, as Jake asks whether the man he worked with was named George; in fact, the name of the actor playing Bill. Love it. But feel terrible for Jake and his poor brain.
Meanwhile, Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) is out to talk with an agent of the FBI. He’s concerned about the bug in his home. But nobody takes him seriously. Likely part of why he gets crazier and crazier.
With Jake and his memory all mashed, he missed the passing of Mimi. So sad, even sadder for Deke. But after a few moments, Jake starts to get bits of memory back. He remembers “where Bill is“, and oh… is it ever a nasty place, the darkened mental ward of a hospital in the early 1960s – a place for “people who cant pay“, a proper dungeon. They go to find him. His mind is almost no better off than Jake’s, though, it comes as a result of being subjected to psychiatric treatments that only served to make people worse decades ago.
But before they can take him away from the hospital, Bill slides out a window and plummets to the parking lot below.


For her part, Sadie tries to help Jake remember his mission. She breaks out newspapers touting JFK’s tour of Texas cities coming up soon, she brings up the Russian on those tapes in his basement. He gets a little frustrated, but Sadie’s determined to keep him on track. A good, loyal woman. A loving one.
In other parts of Texas, there’s Lee and his mother Marguerite (Cherry Jones). They have a nice relationship. She clearly loves her son, and doesn’t want him mixed up with anything crazy. Any sane mother would worry about her child, if her child were spouting out the things Lee thinks. Leading up to the assassination, it’s creepy to see them together. Not sure why. Even creepier still is Lee sitting on a park bench, enjoying a Babe Ruth. Almost like seeing some odd, rare, dangerous animal in the midst of the forest. When he spies a newspaper about Kennedy in Texas, even mapping out where the President will be going, an idea dawns in him; a purpose. What a powerful moment. The way it’s filmed is full of weight. Plus, Webber plays Oswald incredibly well.
But still, while the grimness lingers on, life goes on, too. Jake finds his memory slipping back in slices. He remembers living on Madison Street, the old place where he and Bill shacked up. Slowly, they retrace his steps. And then they run into Lee Harvey Oswald himself. What a turn of events! And more memories come back to Jake, all of Oswald, after he spies a newspaper in a pile, a pro-communist paper called The Worker. Excellent scene, especially the editing. But this whole twist, to send Jake back there recovering his memory, it’s a real treat.


Marina (Lucy Fry) and Lee have all but grown completely apart. This does nothing to help his deterioration. With Jake remembering now, is it fast enough to get the job done? Having Sadie alongside, Jake certainly has a leg up on things. They weasel their way into the garage of Marina’s friend, looking for the equipment Lee will use to kill JFK. No such luck in finding anything, though.
Only twelve hours left. Jake and Sadie do what they can to prepare for what will come next. And then the past starts to come out, pushing back against Jake. All of a sudden the Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor) is in the car with him. Everything is eerie, strange now, with the man telling him a story, recounting how he “cant stop the past“, and weeping. It’s a sad and tragic exchange, as the man reveals his daughter drowned, and that he keeps repeating it, trying to save her but only watching the past repeat itself. He warns Jake. Then he’s gone again.
While Jake wants to abandon the plan, Sadie urges on, not wanting him to give up. She is his rock. But the past continues to push, not letting Jake start his car in the morning. So it begins. Because at home, Lee is upright, alert, ready to do whatever it is in his mind to do next. He leaves Marina in bed with something long, wrapped in paper under his arm.
We watch the final scene and find Lee setting up, in the window at the Book Depository. He looks chilling, a sentinel on high.


Amazing. Looking forward to the finale of this amazing mini-series, “The Day in Question”, which should hopefully nicely cap off these 8 episodes. Stay with me, folks!

Vinyl – Season 1, Episode 7: “The King and I”

HBO’s Vinyl
Season 1, Episode 7: “The King and I”
Directed by Allen Coulter
Written by David Matthews

* For a review of the previous episode, “Cyclone” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “E.A.B” – click here
COVER
After the literal and titular “Cyclone” of last episode, Richie Finestra (Bobby Canavale) is back!
This episode begins as Richie reads The Farther Reaches of Human Nature by A.H. Maslow. He’s having Cece (Susan Heyward) cart out all the alcohol. He’s “on the wagon” apparently, so everyone else is excited to get the runoff. In the American Century Records boardroom, Zak (Ray Romano), Scott (P.J. Byrne) and Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) are trying to help Richie get things running “lean“, which includes cutting up the company cards and such. They discuss how to trim all the fat, including getting rid of their plane, et cetera. Then up turns Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse). She’s doing her best to keep her end of the ship above water. Nevertheless, Richie’s still having trouble keeping it together. Being sober and dealing with everyday problems, plus ACR’s bullshit, can’t be easy.


On their plane, while they’ve still got it, Richie talks to Zak about Devon (Olivia Wilde). Although, it’s pretty clear that Zak has problems with him. He doesn’t have much sympathy for Richie and his broken marriage. Still pissed about his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, and Richie showing up stoned, very, very late, and so on. Their issues all come out over the ride. It’s obvious Zak is more than offended, he is genuinely hurt by someone whom he thought was a close, dear friend. A slight discussion about Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) and Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo) comes up. Yet Richie does his best song and dance to let this slide by without much talk. And his addiction, the want for booze, for anything, is certainly clear.
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Zak: “Because youre an infant, Richie. I trust my wife, naked, in bed with Burt Reynolds before I trust you with a hundred grand in cash.”
Richie: “I partly see your point
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In the life of Jamie Vine (Juno Temple), her mother is trying to control her life. But Jamie’s one strong lady, and she’ll do whatever it takes. Meanwhile, Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid) is busy out doing his new duties, getting dogged by a bunch of black employees, which is damn hilarious. He’s trying, anyways. There’ll definitely be more to come out of his little situation.
Zak and Richie get their plane off-loaded, with Lou Meshejian (John Ventimiglia), who’s very happy to have it, lots of plans. But the boys from ACR aren’t feeling so hot, as they’re looking like the ones on the block who can’t get things done right.
At a big lavish party, Richie decides he’s going to try and lift some clients for Lou’s sassy behaviour. He passes by a few people, such as Mama Cass, then Zak introduces him to Gram Parsons (Wesley Tunison), and then there’s Stephen Stills (Brett Schneider) whom Richie already knows. “Pheasant just lands on your shotgun, doesnt it?” Zak quips when a woman feeds Richie pineapple out of nowhere. A little later, we see Crosby, Stills, and Young in the same spot. Awesome little drop in the bucket of the massive universe within Vinyl.
Above all else, Richie realizes the word on ACR is out in the air and he has to do something to change that soon. At the party there’s a bit of talk Zak hears, which prompts him to suggest to Richie they ought to try signing Elvis Presley, whose unhappiness at his label is a hot topic in the rumour mill.


Jamie and Clark bond a little. Turns out, Clark had her job several years ago, now he’s back down in the trenches. “Hustle and moxie,” Jamie suggests as what the ACR heads want in their people. There’s simply something missing in Clark. He fits in, slightly, but he doesn’t push, he doesn’t go for broke on the right things, and above all else he is fairly spineless. Especially after breaking down crying in front of Julie (Max Casella) a couple episodes ago. Still, though, Jamie tries to help him keep his spirits up because she is a good soul. Bringing a bit of marijuana to work might help Clark bond with his new co-workers in receiving.
At a hotel, Zak and Richie meet with legendary Colonel Tom Parker (Gene Jones) – manager of the famed Elvis. The whole thing is like a clandestine meeting, off the books, but it’s whatever it needs to be. They’ll do anything necessary.
In other news, Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) is out doing his thing, throwing money and orders around. “Stop beina cock,” he tells one radio man before shelling out even more money. Even further, Corrado and Maury arrive. Nothing looks too friendly, particularly when it concerns Corrado’s name getting tossed around willy nilly. “Think before you talk,” Maury advises Joe. And just around the corner sits one of the police investigating Rogers’ murder. Hmm.
Waiting around to their deals, Zak and Richie strike up conversation and drinks with a couple pretty ladies. Only problem? The cocaine comes out. Instead of doing it, he skips a bump, tosses one of the women in the pool then jumps in himself. Smart move, Rich. Can he last? Can he turn away from the lure? Only time will tell.
A little bit of Elvis (Shawn Wayne Klush), too. He rocks onstage, as Zak, Richie, the women, and a huge crowd watch on. Zak isn’t impressed for his part, not with the new Elvis Presley. “This isnt Elvis,” shouts a drunk Zak.


Zak (watching Elvis): “This is a tragedy. Fuck JFK, MLK, Vietnamthis, thisI cant. Rock nrolls died tonight.”


In the hotel room, Richie leaves Zak to the two women.
He goes to meet Elvis instead. They have a down to earth chat. Seems they’ve both been reading the same material, re: Maslow. Then Richie gets to talking him up, though, not a hard sell. He merely gives Elvis compliments, genuine ones, and plays on the King’s love of the form of rock n’ roll. It’s a great scene, the whole thing is intense, weird, and well-written. These appearances of people playing music gods since the first episode have been interesting. They don’t come off at all as gimmicks or inorganic. Dig every last one of them. Perhaps Elvis is my favourite thus far. Furthermore, we see the grip the Colonel seemed to have had on Presley, acting almost like an abusive master than a manager.
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Elvis: “I want them to feel the music, yknow, I want them to live in the music. Thats where I live; in the music, man.”


Back at the room, the girls cleaned Richie and Zak out. Big time. Including their safe, the cash inside. Looks like Zak fucked them even worse than anything he perceived Richie’s done. Well, at least it’s on par. For all his faults, Richie mostly drained their wallets with his coke habit, which is no more. Now it’s Zak making things into a mess: “I wanna die,” he weeps to Richie. “Everyone fucks up, okay?” he reassures in reply. Through thick and thin, these guys.
Or is that the case? We skip back a little. All the number 18 moments hit Richie. So he went to the room as Zak got his three-way on, and he took the money downstairs: all on 18 at the craps table, over and over, loss after loss. So on the plane home, he naturally has a drink. So much for being off the wagon. Then, the symbol of the two travel bottles of vodka leave stains on his book from earlier, as if the inescapable nature of his addiction leaves an imprint on every little aspect of his life; that’s his human nature.


Excited for the next episode. This has been an amazing season, better and better as time wears on. Next up is “E.A.B”, so stay tuned with me!

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 15: “East”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 15: “East
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Channing Powell

* For a review of the last episode, “Twice As Far” – click here
* For a review of the Season 6 finale, “Last Day on Earth” – click here
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After the events of last episode, we’re given what seems like a brief flash forward. An ominous one.
Then we’re back to Carol (Melissa McBride), preparing to leave Alexandria. Tobin (Jason Douglas) comes to see her, talking about the recent death of Dr. Denise. As we know what’s happened already, Carol leaving, it’s obvious this death was yet another to take her by surprise, and a tough one.
So in the middle of the night, Carol slips away, off on her own. In the morning, everyone’s up to their usual routine. Glenn and Maggie (Steven Yeun/Lauren Cohan) shower together. Carl (Chandler Riggs) eyes the guns. Daryl (Norman Reedus) is very upset over Denise, obviously taking it to heart. Everybody’s doing their thing. All the while Johnny Cash croons that “It’s All Over” and it makes you wonder.
Up in bed, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) wake up together, sharing an apple together, being much too adorable for a couple in the post-zombie world. They also share their thoughts, their worries. A great pair.

 


Rick: “The worlds ours. And we know how to take it. Everything we need is right here inside these walls. And were not losing any of it again. Im not.”
Michonne: “No youre not. Im not.”

 


Daryl takes off, as Michonne and Glenn head off to try find her. Afterwards, Tobin lets everyone know about Carol. This prompts Morgan and Rick to go looking for her. Uh oh. Divided up, heading in different directions.
Meanwhile, on the open road Carol gets her car shot at by some men in a vehicle headed her way. She ends up talking to a man named Jiro (Rich Ceraulo). He tries his best to get information out of her. The men even know about Alexandria down the road. Carol starts to freak out like she did when taken captive alongside Maggie. But she pulls a fast one and guns the men to death, having hidden one in her sleeve. Except one guy, whom Carol stabs through the heart. Wow. I guess Carol had no choice, though, it certainly goes against wanting to not kill people anymore.
This brings us back to the episode opener. Carol guns down Jiro, as he tries to stab her.

 


Heading towards anywhere Carol may be, Rick and Morgan are buddy-buddy again. At least by necessity. Morgan tries to get cryptic with Rick, and gets straight to the point simultaneously. He basically points out Carol didn’t want to go “West” and instead went the titular “East” because of a difference in opinion. Never have Rick and Morgan been so far apart in the sense of morality. Sure, Morgan’s done things to survive. He hasn’t infiltrated another group’s home and cut their throats while they sleep; Rick has, though. Either way, Rick could learn something right about now from Morgan and his philosophy.
They come across Carol’s massacre. Yet she is nowhere to be found. In other news, one of The Saviors survived her, and wanders off through the fields, likely back to home; to Negan.
Michonne, Glenn and Rosita (Christian Serratos) try their best to find Daryl. When they track him down he’s intent on doing what he ought to have done long before, to kill Dwight (Austin Amelio). It ends up with Rosita heading off, too. Everybody is splitting apart, going their own ways, different directions again.
Glenn and Michonne? They end up found by Dwight. Looks like he really should’ve been killed. One of Daryl’s few mistakes.

 


Morgan: “People can come back, Rick.”
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On their journey, Rick and Morgan come across a man at a farm. He runs off when walkers crowd the place. As Rick takes a shot at him, Morgan knocks him off balance, so that the shot hits a walker instead. “I dont take chances anymore,” Rick says after they have a little argument. Morgan talks about the Wolf he met on the road, the one who lived and showed up in Alexandria. He spouts more “all life is precious” and Rick is fairly pissed at first. But then there’s a sort of understanding between them. Morgan decides to head off on his own looking for Carol, and reluctantly Rick lets him go. More and more, they separate.
In Alexandria, the group are still scattered, with Glenn and Michonne obviously still out on the road. Not by choice. For the time being, Rick and Abraham bond over having someone to love, that it scares them going into the hordes of zombies, but also makes them stronger in a way. Then Maggie starts to have pains, bad ones. Nothing’s good in Alexandria for too long.

 


When Daryl and Rosita find Michonne and Glenn, they walk directly into a trap.
Then, it appears as if Dwight, who steps out behind the two would-be rescuers, pulls the trigger on Daryl, a load of blood spurting out into the camera’s eye: “Youll be all right,” says Dwight, as the camera then goes to black. Wow. Is Daryl dead? Or will it just be a wound to match the one he likely has on his dick from Eugene’s chomp? We’ll have to see.
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Come back with me for the season finale, “Last Day on Earth”, so stay tuned.

Deadpool is a Superhero Gone Superbad

Deadpool. 2016. Directed by Tim Miller. Screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Karan Soni, Ed Skrein, Michael Benyaer, Stefan Kapici, Brianna Hildebrand, Style Dayne, Kyle Cassie, Taylor Hickson, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, & Gina Carano. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kingberg Genre/Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment.
Rated R. 108 minutes.
Action/Adventure/Comedy

★★★★1/2
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The only thing I’ve ever enjoyed that I know director Tim Miller was involved in is the way underrated 1995 Hideaway. Surprisingly, Deadpool is Miller’s first feature film. Not saying they shouldn’t have done it, but it blows me away they gave him the reins to this adaptation. The bet pays off. While this isn’t nearly what I’d call a revelation, as some people out there would have it be seen.
That being said, Deadpool is absolutely a solid, fun bit of cinema. A superhero movie technically, in category, there’s a bit more to it. The humour is better, obviously more nasty and foulmouthed than others. The action is wild, and at times a bit gruesome in an awesome comic book way. There’s a more interesting structure of storytelling that puts it above the other comic adaptations in Hollywood. Using the Rated R stamp, Miller, with a playfully devious screenplay from writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, crafts one of the best superhero movies to date. I’m not a hardcore comic fan, not for a long time. But the Deadpool comics were some I read, as well as X-Men, Batman, and others. I feel like this adaptation was made not simply for nerds, but with the readers of the comics in mind – and taking into consideration they’re now adults. So away with the campy, light visions of superheroes and the villains they confront. This carves out its own niche.
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For those who don’t know, Deadpool was Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) once upon a time. He had a nice life brewing with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Then, he became riddled with cancer.
Conveniently enough, later he gets recruited to have some experiments done on him. The villainous Ajax – a.k.a Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein) – does it, destroys his face, makes him hideous.
Left on his own, Wade takes up the moniker Deadpool. He hunts down Ajax to try and take revenge for what’s happened to him. What ensues is darkly comedic, foolishness, nasty, and violent, as Deadpool slices, dices, joking his way from start to finish.
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I have to say, above all else Deadpool is subversive. From the very beginning, even the credits are lampooning the seriousness of comic book superhero movies already out there – “Written by the real heroes here” is an awesome touch. But immediately this obviously sets itself apart from the regular pack of Marvel films thus far. The metafiction elements of the Deadpool comics come out quickly. Some of them are misses. One of the early Wolverine/Hugh Jackman references made me laugh out loud. A few of the lines were just crude and not actually funny. A lot of them were pop culture references and gags that definitely worked, and they were in the spirit of today – instead of sticking with references from the period of the comics themselves. The best is that Deadpool skewers the Marvel movies themselves even, or just poking fun at little bits and pieces. My favourite of those is when Colossus says he’ll take Deadpool to see the Professor, to which Deadpool responds: “Which one, McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing.”
The pacing of the film is proper, as we’re almost introduced to the schizophrenia of Deadpool through how many jokes and foolishness are packed tight into the dialogue. I mean, Deadpool is a mile a minute, like the comics. And that’s due to the writing. How we’re introduced quickly to Wade as Deadpool then work back through his story, it’s more interesting than the way we’ve seen the stories of other superheroes in other films. Because the story of Wilson up until he becomes Deadpool is, if we’re being realistic, sort of cliche in terms of comic book characters – we recognize it especially because the whole thing rings bells re: Wolverine, just a different treatment (plus the comics had Wolverine’s blood used in the experiment on Wade, so, yeah). But that’s not a bad thing. Because it’s only that one component, then everything else becomes a subversive, edgy take on superheroes. As well as just downright balls-to-the-wall fun in a Rated R romp. Not that it makes any grand statements. Only that the writing is significantly different, and that’s refreshing. We even get Deadpool commenting on the genre within his dialogue, breaking the Fourth Wall as we go along. Then there are just completely hilarious, laugh out loud lines, such as when Deadpool calls Professor X a “Heavens Gate looking motherfucker” and many more.
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Wade: “Fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break. Thats likesixteen walls.”DEADPOOL
I firmly believe nobody else in Hollywood could’ve played Deadpool. The character is too goofy, too fun, all while being annoying and charming wrapped into one. Ryan Reynolds was almost born to play this one role. He has the physicality, obviously, needed to play a superhero character. And no matter how funny I find Hugh Jackman can be, and James McAvoy too in a sly sense, the material of Deadpool is what allows Reynolds to knock it out of the park. His portrayal and the adaptation of his character to film are equal parts what make this so worthwhile. There are a few misses along the way in the writing, ones even Reynolds can’t save. In the end, though, the energy of his performance is undeniably infectious.
Over everything else, the screenplay for this film is what makes it so spectacular. While keeping certain elements of the superhero movie genre, Deadpool totally subverts it at the same time, making fun while being a part of the gang. It’s the oddball out at the party, just like its titular character. And that’s what makes it wonderful. Because the filmmakers simply go for broke.

Halloween II: Supernatural Michael Myers

Halloween II. 2009. Directed & Written by Rob Zombie.
Starring Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Dayton Callie, Richard Brake, Octavia Spencer, Danielle Harris, Margot Kidder, Sheri Moon Zombie, Chase Wright Vanek, & Caroline Williams. Dimension Films/Spectacle Entertainment Group/Trancas International Films.
Rated R. 105 minutes.
Horror

★★★1/2
POSTER Rob Zombie is a take-him-or-leave-him-type director. You either love him, or can’t stand him. Much the same as with his music career. But for me, and I’m sure others, Zombie is one director whose entire film career feels like the last bastion of a time before too much CGI, too many remakes (yes; even though he’s done two Halloween flicks). He works like how many directors did during the late 1960s and the 1970s, focusing on performance, practical effects, instead of loading down his horror films with computer generated blood and watering it all down for public consumption. Even if you don’t like his movies, you have to admire the fact he lays it all out there. Particularly, The Devil’s Rejects and The Lords of Salem are my favourites, and are a great representation of how he goes for it, no matter the subject, themes, or style of the movie. He always leaves everything on the table and gives us to us in his typically Zombie-like fashion.
So then there’s Halloween II. Many people I know didn’t even enjoy the first one, the remake to Carpenter’s classic slasher from 1978. Me, I find this sequel to the remake endearing in its own ways. There are some pieces I don’t enjoy. But overall, there’s enough in this Zombie sequel to enjoy apart from the first Halloween II. It doesn’t come as a faithful remake. It’s a furthering of aspects in the Zombie version of Michael Myers. We dive deeper into the mind of the notorious slasher, and the almost supernatural element of Michael, one which came out later in the original series, is on display full force.
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After the events of Halloween, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is left wounded. Both physically, and especially mentally. She’s living with Sheriff Lee Brackett (Brad Dourif) and his daughter Annie (Danielle Harris). They do their best to try and understand her, to try and help. But Laurie is damaged beyond belief.
Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is shopping his book around and making lots of money, getting famous. Although, people are wary of him, as they believe he’s profiting off the death of many.
And then there’s Michael Myers (Tyler Mane). He’s not dead, and the men transporting his dead body discover that. Michael, driven by visions of his dead mother Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie), keeps looking for Laurie.
And he will find her. No matter who gets in the way.
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One thing I do truly love about this sequel to the remake is that, like the original series as it went on, it really pushes the boundaries on Michael’s brutality. Later on in the original series, either in the fourth or fifth installment, Myers pushes his thumb through a person’s head. Even in John Carpenter’s original classic, his power is displayed pretty clearly with him picking up a teenager and pinning him to the wall with his knife. But here in the new Halloween II, Zombie almost goes further. In the opening 20 minute sequence there is some savagery. A nasty decapitation. Lots of raw, brutal force from Myers, as he starts to murder his way back into Haddonfield, one corpse at a time.
Many people, it seems, had a problem with the backstory to Michael with Zombie’s remake to start. I understand that. Some fans of the franchise just like Michael as this faceless entity. My argument is that, had Zombie not changed anything and done the same thing, people would likely have ragged on him for copying Carpenter. Instead, Zombie brings a fresh face, literally, to Myers. He gives him humanity, but takes it away. He makes Michael human to make him a monster, an even more vicious killer than the original (even though I love Carpenter’s film most). We even get him wandering around sans-mask, which some of course cried sacrilege over. I dig it because that sets him apart as Zombie’s own character, as opposed to a simply copy of Carpenter.
There is a further brutal nature to Michael when he’s this person that became a unrelenting killer instead of just The Shape. So an extension of this version is that psychology plays a big part in what Michael becomes, who he is as the unstoppable serial killer. The whole white horse deal I found a bit of fun. And I like how Laurie, in her trauma, starts having the same vision of her mother. Very eerie, and supernatural without quite being supernatural. It’s like a fever dream.
Now, I don’t dig that the same kid didn’t play young Michael. It was really off-putting. Not only because they’re definitely different looking (and yes I understand the real actor likely changed a good deal in between the films), but the original actor Daeg Faerch has a very perfect charisma and style for the character. So that’s one of the aspects of this movie that truly disappointed me. The actor here didn’t fit the role and his intensity is starkly different, so the flow of this film with the remake is a bit shaky.
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I’m back and forth on Laurie as a character in this movie. Her trauma is very real, I don’t doubt she would be a woman torn apart after the events she’d experienced. However, the writing on Zombie’s part makes her so whiny and just too unlikeable. The way she treats her best friend, Annie, who went through lots of trauma herself, is difficult to reconcile. Maybe that was the intention. But still, it actually annoys me, Scout Taylor-Compton makes me hate her and I didn’t during the first one. I can appreciate characters who are despicable, et cetera, this only serves as a way to make me feel like fast forwarding. And I’m already in the minority of people who actually dig this flick.
In the acting department, what saves Halloween II is the fact Brad Dourif, Daniel Harris, and Malcolm McDowell give us pretty good performances in their respective roles.
Dourif is always a treat, especially when given the proper material. His Sheriff Brackett is even better than Charles Cyphers in the first two original Halloween films. I love the way Zombie writes characters, and it shines with Brackett. Performed by Dourif it is a dream. The whole Lee Marvin bit is some of my favourite banter from any recent horror. So funny, even funnier that the girls have no idea about Lee Marvin, nor do they get the barn part of the joke. Just a great sequence. Dourif and Harris are great as a father-daughter combo. Harris herself is a Halloween veteran. Here, as a grown woman, she does a nice job in the tragic role she plays. Her energy is what’s enjoyable, even in films that aren’t so great. But the Annie Brackett she plays is equally as fun as Nancy Kyes (billed as Nancy Loomis). Harris doesn’t get a huge part before the fate she runs into, but what we get is solid.
Finally, it’s McDowell as Dr. Loomis that I enjoy most. I will always love Donald Pleasence and his portrayal above anything in any of the films, truly. He was amazing. What I enjoy here is how Zombie writes Loomis as a fame-whore, a guy who just wants another shot at being well-known, at money and glamour. As opposed to the original, Loomis here is an opportunist, who only after it’s too late realizes the error in his ways. So with McDowell acting his ass off and bringing this new vision of the doctor to life, it’s a ton of fun. Some of the dialogue with his assistant is downright hilarious. But it’s the tragedy of this character, the blind ignorance, which really sells it. McDowell was made for this role, too. He has all the right range to play a man who’s got this saccharine sweetness about him in public and, when pushed, a bitter rage that comes out.
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With warts and all, I give Zombie’s second Halloween a 3&1/2-star rating. There is a great dose of horror and terror within. Not all of Zombie’s writing is on par here with the first, or some of his other work. Nevertheless, he gives us a version of the Michael Myers tale that doesn’t try and straight-up adapt the original sequel (apart from a nice dreamy sequence in the beginning). The brutality of Myers is always evident, as is the trauma that his serial killing rampaging has caused. Although the script could’ve been better, I still thought Zombie did some interesting things, as well as brought the savagery required to make this worthy of a watch.

Bleed is Never Better Than the Sum of its Parts

Bleed. 2016. Directed by Tripp Rhame. Screenplay by Ben Jacoby from a story by Rhame.
Starring Chelsey Crisp, Riley Smith, Michael Steger, Lyndon Smith, Brittany Ishibashi, Elimu Nelson, & David Yow.
Spitfire Studios.
Not Rated. 82 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★1/2
POSTER Tripp Rhame’s debut feature Bleed, also known as The Circle, is a mixed-bag of tricks. Some of those tricks work wonders. Some of them are better left in the bag.
There are absolutely a few great aspects to this film. It goes for broke instead of skirting around the edges like some indie horror-thrillers. While it borrows heftily from fare such as Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and others, Bleed has its own energy. There are flaws, there are mistakes and bad choices, but it’s still a decent little flick that has a few scares, a few surprises. The biggest problem with Rhame’s film is that there are too many sub-genres jammed into one, and I can’t help but feel that if the screenplay stuck with trying to put less into one story there would’ve been more coherence all around. Nevertheless, if you want a decent, at times horrifically fun indie horror romp, there are far worse out there and this one will at least creep you out a couple times.
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When Sarah (Chelsey Crisp) and husband Matt (Michael Steger) head to their new house out in the backwoods, ready to have a baby, start a new life, they invite some friends out for a getaway. Dave (Elimu Nelson) and Bree (Brittany Ishibashi) arrive for some fun with the couple, as well as Sarah’s brother Eric (Riley Smith) turns up with his new girlfriend Skye (Lyndon Smith).
Aside from the tension between slacker brother and husband, there are other things going on. Eric’s actually a bit of an amateur ghost hunter. So Dave brings up a story about the area; a local legend of a preacher, some sort of Satanic-like believer named Kane (Rajinder Kala). Apparently, he died in a prison fire out in the woods.
After Matt wants to disprove Eric’s nonsense, they all head out to the location of the old prison. This puts them directly in the path of a supernatural entity, the remnants of Kane’s savage spirit, and the halls of the old prison, the woods, they become a possible tomb. Unless the group can somehow manage to survive and find their way out of the darkened woods.
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I’m always into any Satanic cult-ish type plots. One of the biggest things I enjoyed during Bleed were the early, brief views of Kane, the horrific preacher. Especially when Eric and Skye are having sex, then all of a sudden she starts seeing Kane thrusting at her, his terrifying face going back and forth. It’s a genuinely eerie moment that unsettled me to the core. Even earlier, when Bree – who suffers from schizophrenia – sees a glance of him sitting in a chair, there’s a definitively strange, scary look to him.
That brings me to another aspect I loved: Bree’s mental illness. Whereas some elements of the screenplay feel too jammed in, not organically grown out of the story or the plot, Bree having schizophrenia added an extra dimension to the ghostly supernatural stuff happening around the group. Because it plays against the mind, making her more susceptible to the ghosts, as she chants to herself – “Its not real” – and wanders around the dark hallways of the prison. To be honest, more could’ve been done with this character angle, though, what was done works proper. Earlier in the film, I actually expected she was going to play a larger part in what happens later, so it’s a nice tough in that sense. Keeps you guessing, and definitely make you fearful of what will come next.
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On the one hand, I enjoyed Kane, as a character, as a creepy addition to the plot. On the other hand, there were a couple scenes I hated. When Dave comes across Kane in an isolated little room, instead of a vicious kill, something to up the intensity, there’s this very anti-climactic death via supernatural means that I found really took me out of the scene. I would’ve much preferred Kane slaughter him, or even something a bit less cheesy.
Some of my problem with the movie is the pacing. There are times it felt like things were going much too fast. Added to that, the pacing doesn’t help anything when there are too many mixed pieces. The backstory of the town, Sarah, so much of it is ham fisted into the final twenty minutes. Makes a mess of things. Sarah’s entire plot as a character needed more care. They set her up as a main character, but don’t afford her and the plot surrounding her enough time to justify everything in the finale. The end is grim, macabre, though, its impact isn’t enough because of the entire setup, from characters to the story. If things were jammed into 82 minutes, maybe the story would get stretched out appropriately. Instead, there’s like a log jam of ideas and madness near the end that never fully fits in.
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This is at beast a 2&1/2 star film. There are too many threads not correctly stitched through Bleed which, in the end, hurt it overall. A few moments are downright creepy, truly scary. At times I was reminded of the recent Last Shift, a flawed film but intensely odd and with great frights. But this was even more flawed, and the end result is too much a mixed-bag to be anything more than mediocre. Hopefully Tripp Rhame continues, he definitely had some working material here, and the Kane story was excellently unnerving. If only the screenplay were tighter. Nonetheless, check it out. It’s a decent little indie, that could certainly have turned out worse. Don’t hold all its messiness against it, still worth watching once.