REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 1 & 2

SarahConnorChronicles

MAIN CAST

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thomas Dekker (Heroes)
Summer Glau (Arrow)
Richard T. Jones (Godzilla)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games)
Garret Dillahunt (Winter’s Bone)
Shirley Manson (Knife Fight)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Owain Yeoman (Supergirl)
Sonya Walger (Flashforward)
Nick Wechsler (Roswell)
Dean Winters (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Charlayne Woodard (The Crucible)
Tony Amendola (Annabelle)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
Jonathan Sadowski (Friday the 13th)
Brendan Hines (Lie To Me)
Catherine Dent (Taken)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Tiya Sircar (The Vampire Diaries)
Andy Umberger (Angel)
Lee Thompson Young (Smallville)
Neil Hopkins (Lost)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Bruce Davison (High Crimes)
Karina Logue (Scream: The Series)
Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Jon Huertas (Sabrina: TTW)
Mackenzie Brooke Smith (Supergirl)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final Concflict)
Stephanie Jacobsen (Alex Cross)
Adam Busch (Buffy)
Richard Schiff (The Cape)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Rebecca Creskoff (Bates Motel)
Carlos Jacott (Firefly)
Samantha Krutzfeldt (A Mann’s World)
Connor Trinneer (Stargate: Atlantis)
Chad Lindberg (The Fast and The Furious)
Chad L. Coleman (Arrow)

When we first heard that FOX was making a Terminator series, we mostly groaned and rolled our eyes. It just sounded like a bad idea and a cynical ploy to capitalize on a flagging movie property. What’s more, when you think of Terminator, you think of big movies with huge effects and action sequences that set new standards. You don’t think of “Terminators of the Week” battling on smaller screens with tighter budgets.

 It was the first regular episode after the pilot that I feel the show really came into its own. That’s when the tone of the series was established, the more deliberate and introspective pace. Summer Glau’s performance as Cameron changed a bit.
 It’s the mark of a good show when, one by one, all of your issues are accounted for. In the episode Heavy Metal John does what he has to do despite Sarah’s overprotection. He’s becoming the leader he needs to become, and when Sarah says it’s too soon, Cameron says something to the effect of “Is it? The world ends in 4 years…” At the same time, Sarah came to value Cameron’s strategic value. She might not trust her (and should she?), but she no longer denies her the tactical advantage they have when using her.
As for the missing Terminator parts, the show picked up the ball there and ran with it. Agent Ellison finds the missing hand, and destroying the Terminator Cameron disabled becomes a great scene and establishes the use of thermite. When a show proves to you that it’s got the bases covered, and that it isn’t being sloppy with its storytelling – it gains your confidence and makes tuning in each week that much more satisfying. Terminator pulled this off in just nine episodes – which is remarkable considering they had only so much time and never planned on having such a short season because of the writers strike. There were a number of stylistic flourishes throughout the show that demonstrated how the series was different from the movies, and that this wasn’t going to be a show that was afraid to strike out on its own. Sarah’s dream where she assassinates the creators of the atomic bomb was particularly inspired. Bruce Davison (as Dr. Silberman) describing in awed rapture the events from T2 was a terrific bridge between this series and one of the most famous sequences of the entire franchise. The series ended on a high note, with Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” playing while a Terminator does what Terminators do. Only this time it’s done in a stylistically original way. It’s another scene that serves as an example of how the show stepped out on its own. It shows a level of creative maturity not usually found in franchised properties.
Then there’s the introduction of Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese. This was a decision that had us – and other fans – concerned that the show was making a big mistake. Why Green? It seems there could have been dozens, if not hundreds of other actors to take on this role. Actors who didn’t play the keyboard wielding dweeb on Beverly Hills 90210. Yet, again, the show proved worthy of our confidence and trust. Green did an excellent job, and played Reese not as your standard badass, but instead a man of emotional depth who had been turned into a soldier because the world around him fell apart.
Green’s best moments came in the finale. First, he uses a little girl to creatively settle a hostage situation. Then, he takes John to the park to celebrate his birthday. Without getting specific, there’s a touching moment, playing on the time travel device. “Happy Birthday,” Derek says, and leaves it at that. It’s an emotional note that was never quite achieved in the movies – and proof that the episodic format allows for greater complexity and character development than we’ve seen in the franchise. It’s also encouraging that the characters had become so resonant in these early episodes – and bodes well for the future.
No one likes to see a good show go under, especially just as it’s approaching new heights, and the recent cancellation of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009) proved almost equally disheartening. At least the latter had a fighting chance, though: the mid-season replacement pulled down great numbers at first, but its popularity rapidly declined during the initial nine-episode run. Higher production costs didn’t help matters, either…yet Chronicles was renewed for a full-sized second season, where it expanded the series’ mythology and tossed in a few stand-alone episodes. Featuring plenty of terrific characters, tense action and special effects on par with Hollywood blockbusters, there was plenty to like…but roughly a month after the season finale aired, it was confirmed that the series wouldn’t return.
Nonetheless, this second and final season stands as one of the better stretches of television in recent memory. In an accompanying behind-the-scenes featurette, creator Josh Friedman admits that the cast and crew had no idea that Season 1 would end where it did—but you’d never know from watching, since the series stops and re-starts so seamlessly. Opening adventure “Samson and Delilah” kicks things off in a major way, punctuated by a gripping slow-motion sequence set to a musical cover by Shirley Manson of Garbage fame. Speaking of Manson, she’s front and center this season as Catherine Weaver, the mysterious leader of ZeiraCorp, a growing corporation with an interest in advanced technology. She’s eventually joined by former FBI agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones); Ellison acts as her head of security and a mentor to ZeiraCorp’s experimental computer, who’s known as “John Henry”. Though more intelligent and efficient than the world’s greatest minds put together, this powerful entity is still a child learning about the the world and the humans in it.
Naturally, such a vague company—especially one with its hands in high-tech gadgetry—soon ends up on the radar of Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), who continues to forge onward with her son John (Thomas Dekkar), John’s uncle Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green) and Cameron, a Terminator sent from the future to aid them. New to the crowd are Jesse Flores (Stephanie Jacobsen) and Riley Dawson (Leven Rambin); both serve as love interests to Derek and John respectively…but like Catherine Weaver, they seem to have somewhat questionable pasts. Far more than the typical good-versus-evil formula that typically dominates modern sci-fi, The Sarah Connor Chronicles takes a decidedly different approach: it focuses on human existence and emotion as much as firefights and chase sequences. The formula works amazingly well during this season of 22 episodes.
 After the blistering “Samson and Delilah”, things don’t let up for a while. “Automatic for the People” introduces Riley and takes our heroes inside a nuclear power plant—but a major clue is unearthed, as Sarah discovers a list of events, places and other clues about Skynet, the company that Sarah believes will bring about Judgment Day. “Mousetrap” is a standout episode for a number of reasons: not only does it push the story further onward, but it’s one of the more suspenseful and exciting episodes in the bunch. “Allison from Palmdale” stands tall as a solid origin story for Cameron, while the extended “Goodbye to All That” sends John and Derek on a field trip with a Terminator model 888 in hot pursuit. These episodes—and several others, of course—show how much Season 2 has expanded the story’s scope. Well over half the episodes are shot on location in various parts of California and beyond—and with the vague threat of ZeiraCorp looming overhead, tension remains high throughout the first half of the season.
As the season’s second half approaches, things start to get a little cloudy…both for the narrative itself and the show’s ratings, which gradually slid as the season progressed. “Self-Made Man” and “Alpine Fields” are two stand-alone episodes designed to draw in new fans, as the creative team felt that a continuous thrust forward would hurt the series’ chances of survival. Unfortunately, these two episodes are some of the least impressive: while decent enough on their own terms, they feel completely out of context and arrive at the wrong time. These may have added a few viewers, but I imagine they probably confused and frustrated those expecting the series to continue its steady pace forward. Nonetheless, “Earthlings Welcome Here” gets things back on track…but within the context of the series’ original broadcast dates, it may have come too late. This would be the last episode before the holiday break, with Chronicles returning two months later in the dreaded Friday night timeslot…which television fans refer to as “the kiss of death”.
It’s sad, really, because The Sarah Connor Chronicles really got back on its feet from that point onward. “The Good Wound” was much better suited to draw in new fans than a stand-alone episode: taking several cues from Terminator 2, this Sarah-centered adventure re-acquaints us with an important figure from her past. The next several episodes flesh out story elements introduced earlier in the season, as Sarah, John, Derek and Cameron set out to solve a mysterious factory explosion in the desert. After “Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep”, Chronicles sprints to the finish line: Jesse and Riley’s pasts begin to unravel, John Henry and ZeiraCorp’s true intentions are revealed, Sarah and company head off into unfamiliar territory and several major characters meet their doom. It all culminates with “Born to Run”, which ends the series on a high note, tying up several loose ends but leaving others to the imagination. Poignant, clever and almost hopeful, it’s a fitting farewell to a series that was killed off too early.

Regardless, Warner Bros. has given The Sarah Connor Chronicles a strong send-off on DVD, as this second season arrives in a fully-loaded six-disc collection. The series’ crisp cinematography and ambitious sound mix—both of which feel more like big-screen efforts than typical TV fare—are supported by a solid technical presentation, while fans can also look forward to a collection of entertaining and informative bonus features. Though Friedman’s excellent series now joins the gone-too-early ranks

Advertisements

REVIEW: LOOPER

CAST

Bruce Willis (Red)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises)
Emil Blunt (The Girl On The Train)
Paul Dano (The King)
Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly)
Jeff Daniels (The Martian)
Noah Segan (Cabin Fever 2)
Pierce Gagnon (Rio 2)
Xu Qing (League of Gods)
Tracie Thoms (Wonderfalls)
Garret Dillahunt (Killing Them Softly)
Nick Gomez (Hours)

In 2044, 25-year-old Joe works for a Kansas City crime syndicate as a “looper.” Since future technology has made it near-impossible to dispose of bodies, the syndicate uses time travel, invented thirty years later and outlawed instantly. Managed by a future man named Abe Mitchell, loopers kill and dispose of face-concealed victims, and are paid with silver bars strapped to the target. To prevent connections to the syndicate, loopers kill their future selves with gold bars strapped to them when they retire, effectively ending the contract and “closing the loop”.Joe’s friend Seth, part of a minority that manifest low-level telekinesis (or TK), confides that his old self has escaped, after warning him of a person in the future called the Rainmaker who will overthrow the five major bosses and close all loops. Joe reluctantly hides Seth in his apartment’s floor safe, but is taken to Abe by Kid Blue, one of Abe’s elite “Gat Men.” Joe reveals Seth’s location instead of forfeiting half his silver, and Abe’s men cut an address into younger Seth’s arm, then begin severing body parts. As Old Seth’s limbs disappear, he goes to the address and is killed. When Joe’s next target arrives, it is his older self with his face uncovered. Before Joe can kill him, Old Joe shields himself, knocks younger Joe unconscious and escapes. Returning to his apartment, Young Joe fights with Kid Blue, only to fall off a fire escape and black out.In another timeline, Young Joe kills his older self as he arrives. He moves to Shanghai, where his drug addiction and partying persist, becoming a hitman to finance himself. Years later, he meets a woman during a bar fight and they marry. Thirty years after, Joe is taken to close the loop and his wife is killed in the process. Overpowering his captors, Joe sends himself back to 2044 thereby altering history. When Old Joe sees Young Joe fall, he shoots the Gat Men and drags him away. Old Joe begins to manifest vague memories of Young Joe’s actions in the present, and meets his younger self at a diner to explain that he intends to save his wife by killing the Rainmaker as a child. Kid Blue and several other Gat Men arrive at the diner and a gunfight ensues: Young Joe collects a corner of Old Joe’s map as both escape. Young Joe follows the map to a farm where Sara and her son Cid live. Sara recognizes the number on the map as Cid’s birthday and birth hospital’s code. Young Joe guesses that Old Joe is going to kill all three children born at the hospital that day, not knowing which one will become the Rainmaker, so he waits at the farm to protect Cid and Sara.Jesse, another Gat Man, comes looking for both Joes at the farm, but Cid and Young Joe hide in an underground tunnel. Later that night Sara and Young Joe have sex, and Sara reveals she has TK powers. Cid’s powers are revealed to be even stronger, with Sara hiding in a safe when he has a tantrum. In the morning, Young Joe wakes to find Jesse holding Sara at gunpoint in the living room. Frightened, Cid falls down the stairs and telekinetically destroys Jesse. Young Joe realizes that Cid will become the Rainmaker, using his powers to control the city, and that Old Joe will now know this from his memories.Kid Blue captures Old Joe and takes him to Abe. Old Joe breaks free and kills Abe and his henchmen, then travels to Sara’s farm. While Young Joe kills Kid Blue, Old Joe pursues Sara and Cid. Cid’s cheek is grazed by Old Joe’s bullet, and he creates a telekinetic blast that destroys much of the surrounding cane field and wrecks Young Joe’s van, but is calmed by Sara before he can kill anyone. Telling Cid to run into the still-standing cane, Sara stands between Old Joe and her son, and Young Joe realizes that the death of Cid’s mother will turn him into the Rainmaker. Unable to run due to injuries to his legs sustained when Cid wrecked the van and knowing Old Joe is out of range of his weapon, he shoots himself, erasing Old Joe’s existence and saving Sara. The film ends with the implication that Sara’s demonstration of love towards Cid has healed the rift between them, meaning Cid will not become the Rainmaker, and they will have a much better life – especially as they find Joe’s silver in the van.This is a brilliant movie experience, its an wholly original and entertaining idea, that the writer/director has managed to successfully transpose to film.

 

 

REVIEW: REVENGE FOR JOLLY

CAST

Brian Petsos (Bridemaids)
Kristen Wiig (Paul)
Elijah Wood (Lord of The Ring)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Adam Brody (Jennifers Body)
Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions)
Garrett Dillahunt (Deadwood)
Amy Seimetz (You’re Next)
Kevin Corrigan (The Get Down)
David Rasche (Ugly Betty)
Gillian Jacobs (The Box

The film reverts 36 hours earlier after a man pulls up at a house and confronts another man at his front door. The tale centers on Harry (Brian Petsos), a freelancer who spends a great deal of time with his beloved female pup, Jolly. Owing a group of people a large amount of money for refusing to do them a favor, he plans to leave town to avoid the debt. One day when he returns home, Jolly is found dead. Stricken with grief and anger, Harry enlists the help of his close cousin Cecil (Oscar Isaac) to find Jolly’s murderer, dragging him through a path of destruction.At a bar, they interrogate a rude bartender, Thomas (Elijah Wood), getting a lead on a man named Bachmeier (Ryan Phillippe), a regular visitor and suspect who was given Harry’s address upon request. Harry snaps and shoots Thomas dead for that reason. Next, they track down known hooker, Tina (Gillian Jacobs), who was recently seen with Bachmeier. Refusing to pay her for sex and written info, Cecil is shot by Tina in the hand with a gun, but Tina joins her friend Vicki (Amy Seimetz) in death when Harry shoots them, as he grows overly vengeful.The following stop takes Harry and Cecil to a law firm office, where they confront and wipe out three unscrupulous lawyers, Bobby (Bobby Moynihan), Eichelberger (David Rasche) and Danny (Adam Brody), for withholding info. The receptionist eventually tells them Bachmeier is at a wedding reception. There, Harry and Cecil show up uninvited and hold the people hostage, although Bachmeier is not present and his sister, Angela (Kristen Wiig) informs them that her family is dysfunctional. After killing many people in attendance, assaulting Angela and shooting her husband, Gary (Garret Dillahunt), a man soon gives them Bachmeier’s address. The film returns to the beginning. Harry pulls up at a house, leaving Cecil in his car to approach an armed Bachmeier at his front door. Harry blames him for Jolly’s death, and Bachmeier invites him in like nothing is wrong. The final image shows two shots fired inside the house, though it is only seen from a distance on the outside.While this is a comedy, it is not a movie with comedy that will make you laugh yourself crazy. However, the comedy here is so bizarre and outrageous that it just works out quite nicely. I enjoyed this oddball comedy and was rather entertained by it.

REVIEW: THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD

CAST

Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Sam Shepard (BLack Hawk Down)
Jeremy Renner (The Avengers)
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2)
Paul Schneider (Elizabethtown)
Garret Dillahunt (Winter’s Bone)
Mary-Louise Parker (Red)
Zooey Deschanel (Tin Man)
Alison Elliott (Birth)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael Parks (Argo)

In 1881, young, starstruck Robert “Bob” Ford (Casey Affleck) seeks out Jesse James (Brad Pitt) when the James gang is planning a train robbery in Blue Cut, Missouri, making unsuccessful attempts to join the gang with the help of his older brother Charley (Sam Rockwell), already a member. The train turns out to be carrying only a fraction of the money originally thought, and Frank James (Sam Shepard) tells Charley Ford that this robbery would be the last the James brothers would commit. Jesse returns home to Kansas City, bringing the Fords, Dick Liddil (Paul Schneider) and his cousin, Wood Hite (Jeremy Renner). Jesse sends Charley, Wood and Dick away, but insists that Bob stay. He wanted the younger man just for his help in moving furniture to a new home in St. Joseph, Missouri. Bob becomes more admiring of James before being sent back to his sister’s farmhouse, where he rejoins his brother Charley, Hite, and Liddil.Liddil reveals to Bob that he is in collusion with another member of the James gang, Jim Cummins, to capture Jesse for a substantial bounty. Meanwhile, Jesse visits another gang member, Ed Miller (Garret Dillahunt), who gives away information on Cummins’ plot. Jesse kills Miller, then departs with Liddil to hunt down Cummins. Unable to locate him, Jesse viciously beats Albert Ford (Jesse Frechette), a young cousin of Bob and Charley. Liddil returns to the Boltons’ farmhouse, and argues with Hite, which ends with Bob Ford killing Hite. They dump his body in the woods to conceal the murder from Jesse.Jesse and Charley Ford travel to St. Joseph where Jesse learns of Hite’s disappearance, which Charley denies knowing anything about. Meanwhile, Bob goes to Kansas City Police Commissioner Henry Craig (Michael Parks), saying he knows Jesse James’ whereabouts. To prove his allegiance with the James gang, Bob urges Craig to arrest Dick Liddil. Following Liddil’s arrest and confession to participation in numerous gang robberies, Bob brokers a deal with the Governor of Missouri, Thomas T. Crittenden (James Carville). He is given ten days to capture or kill Jesse James, and promised a substantial bounty and full pardon for murder.Charley persuades Jesse to take Bob Ford into the gang; the brothers return to St. Joseph. Introduced as cousins to the Howards (the James’ pseudonym), they stay with the family, including Zee James (Mary-Louise Parker) and their two children. Jesse wants to revive his gang by robberies with the Fords, beginning with the Platte City bank. On the morning of April 3, 1882, Jesse and the Ford brothers prepare to depart for the robbery. Jesse reads in the newspaper about the arrest and confessions of Liddil. While the three men are in the living room, Jesse removes his gun belt and climbs a chair to clean a dusty picture. Bob shoots Jesse in the back of the head and flees with Charley. They send a telegram to the governor to announce Jesse’s death, for which they were to receive $10,000. However, they never receive more than $500 each.After the murder, the Fords become celebrities, touring with a theatre show in Manhattan in which they re-enact the assassination, but people soon dislike that Bob shot Jesse, unarmed, in the back. Guilt-stricken, Charley writes numerous letters to Zee James asking for her forgiveness, but does not send them. Suffering from terminal tuberculosis, he commits suicide in May 1884. Bob works around the West. On June 8, 1892, Bob is murdered by Edward O’Kelley (Michael Copeman), at his saloon in Creede, Colorado. O’Kelley is sentenced to life in prison, but Colorado Governor James Bradley Orman pardons him after ten years in 1902.Get ready for the assassination everyone knows is coming but no one can prepare for. Never has been a film that tells you the entire story in the title and can still surprise the viewer with beautiful cinematic moments.

REVIEW: KILLING THEM SOFTLY

 

CAST

Brad Pitt (Fight Club)
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In Teh Woods)
Scoot Mcnairy (Batman V Superman)
Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises)
James Gandolfini (8mm)
Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down)
Garret Dillahunt (Terminator: TSCC)

In the fall of 2008, during both the American financial crisis and the presidential election campaign, an older man named Johnny “Squirrel” Amato (Vincent Curatola) plans to rob an illegal poker game. He enlists two younger men to do the robbery: Frankie (Scoot McNairy), a former business associate, and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), a heroin-addicted Australian expatriate who is stealing purebred dogs for money. Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), the proprietor of the poker ring, is revealed to have previously orchestrated an inside job by paying two men to rob his own illegal poker room. He holds up under rough questioning by the hitman Dillon (Sam Shepard), though later he openly admits his involvement to various criminals who laugh it off, and Markie suffers no retaliation. Squirrel anticipates that the Mafia will automatically blame Markie for the heist.

Frankie and Russell, though obviously amateurs, do the holdup and leave with the money. However, Driver (Richard Jenkins), an emissary for the Mafia, discusses the recent robbery with an acquaintance of Dillon, a hitman and mob enforcer named Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt). Although Jackie understands Markie was uninvolved in the recent heist, he believes Markie should be murdered in order to restore the mobsters’ confidence in the local illegal gambling scene.

Upon completing the crime, Russell travels to Florida to sell the dogs. While in Florida, he inadvertently informs a man named Kenny Gill (Slaine) of his involvement in the heist while trying to recruit him as a drug dealer. Kenny informs Jackie, who deduces that Russell, Frankie, and Squirrel are the perpetrators. All of this occurs during a backdrop of televised speeches about the financial crisis given by then-President George W. Bush and then-Senator Barack Obama made during the 2008 US Presidential election.

Jackie carries out the hit on Markie himself, killing him in his car, but brings in another older hitman, Mickey Fallon (James Gandolfini), who is on parole in New York, to kill Squirrel. Jackie explains to Driver how he prefers “killing them softly”—shooting his victims from a distance, without warning, giving them no opportunity to experience fear or despair—and that his acquaintance with Squirrel risks complicating this approach.

Mickey postpones going through with his assigned hit, instead indulging in drunkenness and sex with prostitutes in a hotel room. During conversation with Jackie, Mickey also reveals that he has violated his parole, and doesn’t seem to care about or really comprehend the consequences; instead he goes off on drunken tangents. It becomes clear to Jackie that the respected hitman has lost his nerve and ability to do his job. Jackie eventually decides to carry out the hit on Squirrel himself. He convinces Driver to arrange Mickey’s arrest before the job has been completed.

Russell is arrested on a drug possession charge and deported; meanwhile, Jackie confronts Frankie and convinces him to trade Squirrel’s whereabouts for his life. Jackie has Frankie drive him to Squirrel; upon reaching Squirrel’s apartment complex, he kills Squirrel with a shotgun. After confirming Squirrel is dead, Jackie has Frankie drive him to get his car several hours away. Frankie becomes very nervous and begins speeding. Unable to get Frankie to slow down, Jackie takes over driving. Once they arrive at the parking garage, Jackie shoots Frankie in the head without warning. Jackie then wipes down any fingerprints he might have left and leaves the scene.

On the night of the presidential election, Jackie meets with Driver to collect his fee for the three hits. On the TV in the bar, Barack Obama is giving his election victory speech. Jackie sees that he has been paid $30,000. He alleges that at $10,000 each, Driver has underpaid him for the jobs—on the argument that it would have cost $15,000 to have Mickey kill Squirrel. Driver responds that Dillon charges ten, and tells Jackie to take it up with Dillon. Jackie tells Driver that Dillon died that morning. Referring to Obama’s speech, Jackie says angrily, “This guy wants to tell me we’re living in a community? Don’t make me laugh. I’m living in America, and in America, you’re on your own. America is not a country; it’s just a business. Now fucking pay me.” The film smash-cuts to black, leaving the issue unresolved.

The message of this film appears to be two fold. One: America is a business, just like the Mob. Two: the Mob and Politics are sometimes one and the same. When there is a financial Depression, the Mob suffers as much as the country. Make if this what you will. Superb acting by all. Plenty of blood and violence for all looking for this sort of thing.

REVIEW: WINTER’S BONE

 CAST

Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games)
John Hawkes (Identity)
Kevin Breznahan (Superbad)
Dale Dickey (My Name is Earl)
Garret Dillahunt (Terminator: TSCC)
Sheryl Lee (Vampires)
Tate Taylor (Pretty Ugly People)

Seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) looks after her mentally ill mother, her twelve-year-old brother Sonny (Isaiah Stone), and her six-year-old sister Ashlee (Ashlee Thompson). Every day, Ree makes sure her siblings eat, while teaching them basic survival skills like hunting and cooking. The family is destitute. Ree’s father, Jessup, has not been home for a long time; and his whereabouts are unknown. He is out on bail following an arrest for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Sheriff Baskin (Garret Dillahunt) tells Ree that, if her father does not show up for his court date, they will lose the house because it was put up as part of his bond. Ree sets out to find her father, following his trail into the world where meth use is common, violence is frequent, and people are bound by codes of loyalty and secrecy. She starts with her meth-addicted uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and continues on to more distant kin, eventually trying to talk to the local crime boss, Thump Milton (Ronnie Hall). Milton refuses to see her; the only information Ree comes up with are warnings to leave the situation alone and stories that Jessup died in a meth lab fire or skipped town to avoid the trial.

When Jessup fails to appear for the trial, the bondsman comes looking for him and tells Ree that she will have about a week before the house, and land are seized. Ree tells him that Jessup must be dead, because “Dollys don’t run”. He tells her that she will need to provide proof that her father is dead to avoid the bond being forfeited.

Ree tries to go to see Milton again and is severely beaten by the women of his family. Teardrop shows up and rescues Ree, promising her attackers that she will not say anything or cause any more trouble. Teardrop tells Ree that her father was killed because he was going to inform on other meth cookers, but he does not know who killed him; he warns her that if she ever finds out who did, she must not tell him because he would kill that person.

A few nights later, the same three Milton women who beat Ree come to her house. They offer to take her to “her daddy’s bones”. The women place a burlap sack on her head and drive her to a pond, where they get into a rowboat and row to the shallow area where her father’s submerged body lies. They tell Ree to reach into the freezing water and grasp her father’s hands so they can cut them off with a chainsaw; the severed, decaying arms will serve as proof of death for the authorities. Ree takes the hands to the sheriff, telling him that someone flung them onto the porch of her house.

The bondsman comes back to the house and gives Ree the cash portion of the bond, which was put up by an anonymous associate of Jessup. Ree tries to give Jessup’s banjo to Teardrop, but he tells her to keep it at the house for him. As he is leaving, he tells her that he now knows who killed her father. Ree reassures Sonny and Ashlee that she will not ever leave them, regardless of the money she just received.

The heroine of the movie inspires admiration and affection, and even raises a few laughs despite her perilous predicament. Although the film portrays a landscape of desperation and desolation, it is ultimately satisfying and uplifting.

 

 

REVIEW: LIE TO ME – SEASON 1-3

maxresdefault

MAIN CAST

Tim Roth (The Incredible Hulk)
Kelli Williams (Army Wives)
Brendan Hines (Terminator: TSCC)
Monica Raymond (Chicago Fire)
Hayley McFarland (The Conjuring)
Mekhi Phifer (Divergent)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jake Thoams (A.I.)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Arrow)
David Anders (Izombie)
Rance Howard (A Beautiful Mind)
Anthony Ruivivar (Scream: The Series)
Isabella Hoffman (Legends of Tomorrow)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
Kristen Ariza (Startup)
Mekenna Melvin (ChucK)
Sean Patrick Thomas (Save The Last Dance)
Deidre Lovejpy (Bones)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
Megan Follows (Reign)
Christine Adams (Agents of SHIELD)
Ajay Mehta (Anger Management)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Cheryl White (Major Crimes)
Virginia Williams (Fairly Legal)
Pej Vahdat (Bones)
Jennifer Beals (Flashdance)
Kevin Tighe (Lost)
Currie Graham (Stargate: The Ark of Truth)
D.B. Woodside (Buffy)
Jason Beghe (Californication)
Clea DuVall (The Faculty)
Mageina Tovah (Spider-Man 2 & 3)
Melissa Tang (Mom)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Erika Christensen (Flightplan)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
James Marsters (Buffy)
Gretchen Egolf (Roswell)
Marc Blucas (Red State)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)
Karina Logue (Bates Motel)
Sean O’Bryan (The Princess Diaries)
Garret Dillahunt (Terminator: TSCC)
Lennie James (The Walking Dead)
Alicia Coppola (Another World)
Roy Werner (Weeds)
Jason Gedrick (Beauty and The Beast)
April Grace (Lost)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Ricky Jay (Flashforward)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible)
Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars)
Ashley Johsnon (Dollhouse)
Howard Hesseman (That 70s Show)
Mark Harelik (The Big Bang Theory)
Melissa George (Triangle)
Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars)
Bruce Weitz (General Hospital)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Michael Beach (The Abyss)
Yara Shahidi (Ugly Betty)
Alyssa Diaz (The Vampire Diaries)
Kenneth Mitchell (Odyssey 5)
Richard Burgi (Chuck)
Conor O’Farrell (Stir of Echoes)
Catherine Dent (Termiantor: TSCC)
Kenny Johnson (Cold Case)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate SG.1)
Natalie Dreyfuss (The Originals)
Tiffany Hines (Bones)
Haley Ramm (X-Men 3)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight)
Jennifer Marsala (Hart of Dixie)
Shawn Doyle (Reign)
Jamie Hector (Heroes)
Audrey Marie Anderson (Arrow)
Brent Sexton (Birds of Prey)
Katherine LaNasa (The Campaign)
Daniela Bobadilla (Anger Management)
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Kathleen Gati (Arrow)
Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Maury Sterling (The A-Team)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Secret Circle)
Brandon Jones (Pretty Little Liars)
Jim Beaver (Mike & Molly)
Barry Shabaka Henley (Heroes)
John Diehl (Stargate)
Keith Robinson (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic four)
Frankie Faison (The Silence of The Lambs)
Paula Malcomson (The Hunger Games)
Victoria Pratt (Mutant X)
Adam Godley (Powers)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Annabeth Gish (Flashforward)
Alexandra Lydon (Mockingbird)
Ashton Holmes (A History of Violence)

We have all told a lie at one point in our lives. While our the lies we have told may be small, one needs to look no further than his or her local news to see that not all lies are harmless. Sometimes though lies seem like a last resort and getting the truth isn’t as simple as a lie detector. Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) would be the first to tell you a lie detector is garbage and he illustrates this point in an early episode in the series.  A lie detector establishes a baseline for truthful statements and then measures body factors like pulse rate, skin conductivity and temperature; any changes from the baseline readings indicates a lie. The problem is as Dr. Lightman shows in his trademark sardonic fashion, do something as simple as introduce an attractive woman in the room and the most honest man will instantly be a liar to the machine. His solution? Himself.


Lie to Me throws viewers into the world of human lie detector, Cal Lightman. His lie detecting skills rely on universal facial expressions and how a well-trained individual can detect a liar from reading “micro expressions.” Lightman heads up the private deception detection firm The Lightman Group and throughout the course of Lie to Me’s thirteen freshman episodes, Lightman and his associates Dr. Gillian Foster, Eli Loker, and new protégé Ria Torres will put their finely trained skills to the test as their group is hired from clients ranging from billionaires worried about potential gold diggers to law enforcement in stopping a copycat serial rapist. As absurd as the notion of Lightman being able to read facial expressions to determine whether a person is lying is, prepare to be blown away, as it’s all based on the very real and groundbreaking research of Dr. Paul Ekman.


Dr. Ekman pioneered the study of micro expressions and universal emotion and serves as a creative inspiration for Roth’s character. The creators have kept Ekman in the loop throughout the creative process and Fox allows Ekman to blog about what is factual and what is exaggerated on the show’s website, which earns this new series bonus points for giving viewers something to think about once the episode ends.

Once Roth is able to establish himself in the role of Lightman and we get bits and pieces of his human side (his relationship with Dr. Foster as well as his teenage daughter). Fortunately, the formula of the show does allow for Lightman’s other colleagues to hold their own as there is almost always a secondary case assigned to the pair not working with Lightman on the primary case. This allows for character bonds to be formed, in some cases from scratch as Monica Raymund’s character, Ria Torres, is a new addition to the team and provides some great dramatic tension from time to time as her ability is natural, which often draws the ire and jealousy of her brilliant boss.


Finally, the most unique positive aspect of Lie to Me comes from viewers being able to play along at home. As we learn little explanations of micro expressions from Lightman, in later episodes it’s fun to try and spot character motivations before they are revealed to us by one of the team.

Back for a second longer season, this show is every bit the show that I so enjoyed in the first season and even a little bit more. As with all shows, the first season suffers from a few growing pains. Actors need to settle into their roles, writers need to discover their characters’ true personalities and basically the show needs to settle. Thats why the second season is often a bit better than the first and Lie to me is no exception to that. The show was smoother, the acting more comfortable and the character relationships had chance to really blossom in a believable manner.

In this second season Cal seems to be much more lively, a great deal more fun to watch. HIs mock nervous energy, dry sense of humour and heart of gold is a more likeable. The other key element I liked in this series was the advancement of the relationships. There’s not any major romantic steps forward in this season, but Cal’s relationship with his daughter is a real high point of the show, as are his relationships with Foster and the rest of the gang. Every character seems to enjoy real chemistry with the others and that’s rare in any show, yet alone a procedural drama.

Overall this is another strong season. The show is funny when it needs to be, fast paced and action packed when thats called for, and finally it is interesting enough to more than keep your attention with every episode. Quite frankly, by the end of this season I would normally be hooked for the long hall. Shame then that there’s only one season left to watch

I was aware going in that this was going to be the final season of the show however it quickly becomes apparent that show runners weren’t similarly informed . The series really didn’t have the feel of a final season and indeed the show seemed to be picking up pace as it approached its final episode with new characters getting screen time and relationships moving forward with the usual pace of a procedural show finding its feet.

Because of this not only did the season not feel like a final season, the finale lacked any kind of closure whatsoever. It’s a shame as this show deserved more than just to fizzle out in what felt like a mid-season break rather than a complete end.

All I can say to finish is that once again a good show has been cancelled early while so many bad shows remain, which is a real shame. However, don’t let the poor ending to this show put you off.