REVIEW: DAMAGES – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Glenn Close (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbors 1 & 2)
Željko Ivanek (Heores)
Noah Bean (Nikita)
Tate Donovan (Argo)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)

Glenn Close in Damages (2007)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Philip Bosco (The Savages)
Anastasia Griffith (Shadow of The Sword)
Peter Riegert (The MasK)
Marlyne Barrett (The Wire)
Maya Days (Blue Bloods)
Peter Facinelli (Twilight)
Donnie Keshawarz (Homeland)
Michael Nouri (The O.C.)
Casey Siemaszko (Back To The Future)
Zachary Booth (South of Hell)
David Costabile (Suits)
Carmen Goodine (Alter Egos)
Tom Aldredge (Cold Mouintain)
Victor Arnold (The Seven-Ups)
Todd A. Kessler (Bloodline)
Elliot Korte (Just Another Story)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years A Slave)
Robin Thomas (Pacific Rim)
Mario Van Peebles (Highlander 3)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Donna Murphy (Spider-Man 2)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)

Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)No grandstanding or overwrought speeches. Hardly any impassioned objections. No interchangable characters. No cases that are wrapped up in a neat, tidy bow before the end credits for each episode make their upward crawl. FX’s Damages shatters every preconceived notion viewers have been trained to expect from a legal drama, and its critically acclaimed first season is now making its bow in high definition on Blu-ray. MV5BMjc4MjU1Nzg1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA1NzQ2MjE@__V1_The series opens as a young woman — half-naked, spattered with blood, and shellshocked — slips out of a high rise apartment building and frantically darts through the streets of New York. Damages then cuts to the exhausted, disheveled woman in an interrogation booth as a couple of detectives almost disinterestedly look on. Far too deep in shock to speak, the only clue as to who this devastated young woman is or what happened to her is a bloodied business card she was carrying, and as the camera closes in, a title card reading “Six months earlier” quickly splashes across the screen.It may only be a difference of six short months, but the Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) we see when the clock rolls back is an unrecognizably different person. This wide-eyed idealist is in the middle of being courted by one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. Even though an offer is slid in front of her with more zeroes than the prospective first year associate would ever have thought possible, Parsons blurts out that she has an interview scheduled with Patty Hewes later in the week, and the cheery atmosphere abruptly turns cold. Hewes has carved out a reputation for herself as one of the most powerful and unrelenting forces in high stakes litigation, and taking it as a foregone conclusion that Hewes will offer Parsons a position that she’ll eagerly accept, Hollis Nye (Philip Bosco) warns her that Hewes will irrevocably change who she is.Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)As Parsons starts to see each and every one of her dreams suddenly lurch within arms’ reach, some five thousand former employees of billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) have seen their hopes savagely ripped away from them. His corporate empire collapsed after the SEC caught onto his Enron-like shell game, costing his employees their entire retirement fund — upwards of a billion dollars — while Frobisher himself escaped with his checkbook intact. The government was immediately leery of the timing, with Frobisher pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars by cashing out his stock just before a catastrophic SEC report revealed the company’s underhanded accounting practices, but an intensive three year investigation was unable to turn up any convincing trace of wrongdoing. The criminal trial may have been a total failure, but Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) has been tapped to spearhead a colossal class action law suit against the billionaire on behalf of his thousands of financially devastated employees, and she’s hellbent on fleecing this corporate bully of every last cent. As it turns out, Parsons may be the linchpin to shattering Frobisher’s carefully constructed facade, but at least at first glance, that has nothing to do with the neophyte’s legal prowess.Glenn Close in Damages (2007)Part of what Damages such an infectiously addictive series also leaves it tougher than usual to review. Nothing — nothing — can be taken at face value, and there are so many twists, turns, deceptions, and double-crossings in the plot that any attempt at describing what happens even from the second episode would spoil more than I’d like. Just to be clear, this isn’t Anatomy of a Murder; the courtroom is overly familiar territory, and Damages has no interest in retreading it. Tossing aside legal maneuvers and precedents in dusty books, the season prefers instead to pull back the curtain into the extensive prepwork behind an investigation of this scale, including Hewes’ deft manipulation of everyone and everything around her, Parsons clawing her way through months of backstabbing and mistrust, and Frobisher’s stubborn determination to reclaim his family’s name and clear himself of any wrongdoing.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722887-500-281With hundreds of millions — and potentially a hell of a lot more — at stake, it’s an agonizing journey for everyone involved, riddled with blackmail, assassination threats, subterfuge, abortions, bomb threats, murder, blackmail, kidnapping, infidelity, media manipulation, suicide, deranged stalking, toothless, bloody nightmares, and…oh, just for good measure, a book deal. Damages strikes an extremely effective balance in being lurid enough to stay interesting without veering too far over the edge and coming across as some sort of Prison Break-like cartoon. It also gets a hell of a lot more free reign than I’d expect from basic cable, which is made clear early on when Frobisher is screwing a random blonde in the back of an SUV, snorts a line of coke off her hand, and makes a call to have a witness in the wrong place at the wrong time gunned down. The language isn’t neutered either, with a “bullshit” or “shit” spat out several times each episode, used sparingly enough that the profanity still carries a substantial impact.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722572-500-281Unlike most legal dramas, Damages is an intensely serialized series, focusing squarely on a single case for the entirety of these first thirteen episodes. The writers have a knack for lobbing out a big revelation in each installment, continually maintaining the momentum set into motion in the premiere. Damages has a unique structure that suits the material particularly well. For one, no meandering subplots creep in as filler. Virtually everything that happens is either essential to the Frobisher case or to understanding these characters. There are really only three subplots in the entire season: one involving a mentally unhinged stalker, another following the drastic measures Hewes takes to rein in her rebellious teenaged son, and a third swirling around her number two’s possible defection from the firm. The writing mixes in these stories deftly enough, ensuring that the pacing of the Frobisher case doesn’t stumble along the way and that the audience doesn’t get overly distracted. The only of these plot threads that’s ineffective revolves around Tom Shayes’ loyalty to Hewes and the firm; its inevitable resolution is the only particularly predictable element in the entire first season and the only time the writers seem to be fumbling to fill time.D_EP_105_206Damages also effortlessly juggles two separate timelines. There are brief stretches in each episode set in the here and now, revealing tantalizingly vague clues as to what it is that’s left Parsons drenched in blood and shellshocked: a bloodstained shoe, a disappearing corpse, and a garish bookend caked in blood and tangled with hair, to rattle off a few. The majority of the season takes place in the past, starting off six months earlier and inching forward to the present day from there. As Damages go on, we find out who the players are…what these visual teases mean…how entire lives were upended or butchered outright. The series would’ve been compelling and tense even if it had unfolded in a more linear, traditional way, but the additional layer of that second timeline really adds another layer of intrigue, making it that much more of a suspenseful mystery. For all of this to gel under a slew of different writers and directors shows how strong a hand was guiding the series, and the work in piecing it all together in editing is exceptional.Rose-in-Damages-1x05-A-Regular-Earl-Anthony-rose-byrne-16730966-500-281Damages lives and dies by the strength of its performances. As effective as the twists and turns of the investigation into Frobisher’s machinations are, this is inarguably a character-driven series. The centerpiece is, of course, Glenn Close as Patty Hewes. She’s a legal shark, and much like the great white in Jaws, the writers avoid overexposing her to ensure that every appearance — every line of dialogue — carries a dramatic impact. Essential for this sort of puppet master, Hewes remains impenetrable throughout. There are no weepy monologues or impassioned speeches in front of a sobbing courtroom. There’s a vulnerability she tries her damndest to mask — something that leaks through as the season draws to a close, despite her best efforts — but that steely veneer remains intact whenever someone else shares the scene. It’s an exceptional performance by Close, who infuses the character with a strength, intensity, and slightly elusive charm that make it instantly clear why Hewes so utterly dominates the field: beloved by her clients, at least when victory is in sight, cautiously admired by her associates, and terrified by any lawyer ambitious enough to sit on the other side of the aisle.damages7_0Hewes is far removed from any of the attorneys I’ve seen in dozens of other legal dramas. Hewes wants to give her clients what they deserve, of course, but it’s not about altruism or doing the right thing; this is a game to her, and Hewes is a damned good player. Being pitted against an arrogant bully like Frobisher just makes the battle that much more compelling, and Hewes is so determined to pull a win that the law itself is incidental. She’s not a do-gooder or a staunch heroine, and the steps she takes to ensure victory and to get her unwitting pawns to step in line are nearly as repulsive as the lengths Frobisher goes to in order to protect his bankroll. This intense character isn’t watered down to be more easily embraced by some particular TV viewing demographic. Hewes is humanized just enough to make her seem like a well-realized character and not a one-note force of nature, defined largely by her relationships with her family: her husband is a jet-setting financier who she barely sees, and Hewes’ son is a brilliant but rebellious teenager who resents his mother and is teetering on the brink of expulsion.Rose-in-Damages-1x09-Do-You-Regret-What-We-Did-rose-byrne-16752016-500-281Ellen Parsons too is defined in large part by her relationships. Parsons thinks she’s lost her shot at working under Hewes when her interview is inflexibly rescheduled to her sister’s wedding day, and she without hesitation chooses family over her budding career. Two of the driving forces this season are part of Parsons’ extended family: her fiancé David (Noah Bean), whose grueling hours as a surgical intern make any chance of spending time together that much more remote, and her best friend and future sister-in-law Katie (Anastasia Griffith). Parsons’ personal and professional lives are continually colliding, and there’s an instant level of intrigue by how in the space of six months she devolved from an upbeat, optimistic, naive law school grad eager to start her first day at a prestigious firm to an embittered, disheveled mess accused of murder…to see just how her short time at Hewes and Associates so profoundly and irrevocably transformed her. Rose Byrne does a marvelous job playing what at first glance looks like two entirely different characters, and it’s fascinating to think that she so seamlessly weaves the two together throughout the course of the season, despite these moments being shot far out of sequence and not even being entirely sure how these puzzle pieces connected together during filming.Ted Danson in Damages (2007)Ted Danson is another standout as billionaire executive Arthur Frobisher. One intriguing choice Damages makes is that Frobisher himself isn’t a worthy adversary for Hewes. His corporation may have been modeled after Enron, but Frobisher is hardly a Ken Lay. This isn’t the usual corporate stereotype: a balding, bespectacled man in his 60s who condescendingly sips a glass of $1,200 Scotch in some palatial office and barks out orders. No, he’s a reasonably down to earth guy — fit, trim, eager to sit down for a family barbeque, shoot hoops with his teenaged son, or grab a sandwich from a cart on the street corner. Nothing about the man, at least to those who don’t religiously tune into Court TV or Fox News, would point to a couple billion dollars at the bottom of his balance sheet. That said, Frobisher is fiercely protective of his fortune and his name. While it’s never in doubt that Frobisher is guilty of bilking his employees — or that he’s at the very least hiding something — he’s arrogant enough that he’s convinced he’ll be vindicated in court, no matter what his handlers say or suggest. Far from the calculating criminal mastermind these sorts of series are usually littered with, Frobisher is an impulsive screw-up. He stubbornly sticks to whatever game plan seems like a good idea at the time, backed by a big enough bankroll to pay someone to mop up whatever mistakes he makes along the way. The most intriguing villains are almost always the ones who sincerely don’t think they’re in the wrong, and Frobisher’s been lying to himself about his innocence so long that he even seems to buy the party line himself.untitledThere are a couple of other key roles worth noting as well. Even if Frobisher himself isn’t much of a capable opponent, his attorney Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek) is as close to a match for Patty Hayes as they come. There’s a particularly intriguing relationship between Frobisher and Fiske — an uneasy friendship borne out of the fact that there’s not much of anyone else to whom either of them can relate. One of Hewes’ greatest assets is Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), her instantly likeable second-in-command. Shayes is bright, talented, and doggedly loyal, but he doesn’t have what it takes to step out from Hewes’ shadow. The fact that he’s a quietly reluctant second fiddle makes him more compelling than someone who unquestionably follows orders with a smile.Rose-in-Damages-1x12-There-s-No-We-Anymore-rose-byrne-16757877-500-281I was thoroughly impressed by Damages. As frequently as the series teases and misleads viewers along the way, all of it seems logical and earned, not just a case of the writers lazily pulling the rug out from under the audience just to keep them off-guard. The season resolves all of the central conflicts before it’s over and done with, and although it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, exactly, there’s a hell of a lead-in for season two and some tantalizing questions left dangling in front of viewers. It’s such an addictive show that I devoured the entire first season in a day, and there are very, very few series that have compelled me to do that. Tightly woven, wonderfully acted, and sharply written, Damages is a series that’s well worth discovering on Blu-ray for those who missed its first season.

 

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REVIEW: FULL ECLIPSE

CAST

Mario Van Peebles (Highlander III)
Patsy Kensit (Tunnel Vision)
Bruce Payne (Dungeons & Dragons)
Tony Denison (The Closer)
Jason Beghe (Thelma & Louise)
Paula Marshall (Veronica Mars)
John Verea (Collateral Damage)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Jennifer Rubin (Screamers)

untitledMax Dire is a Los Angeles detective who is feeling the strain that his profession entails when his wife of two years, Liza, accuses him of bringing his work home and leaves him to ponder her future, while his partner, Jim Sheldon, commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. Realising that Max is experiencing problems, Adam Garou, a high-ranking officer distinguished by his success in reducing crime in other big cities, invites Max to join him at a weekly meeting of other police officers who are experiencing difficulties at his apartment. Adam informs Max that he should try to solve his problems rather than quitting the force as he is a good detective.Although Max is skeptical as to whether he will derive any benefit from the meeting, as he and his wife had already attended counselling sessions without success, he reluctantly attends the meeting at Garou’s apartment where he meets other police officers who have experienced problems such as Casey Spencer and Ramon Perez. Everyone who Max meets at the meeting praises the impact that Garou’s influence has had on their fortunes. Max soon realizes that the activities of the group consist not merely of talking but also entail embarking on vigilante missions to clean the streets of criminals.untitledMax advises Garou that he is not interested in joining the group, but he immediately forgets this and agrees to accompany them to a party where criminals are exchanging weapons. Before gatecrashing the party, Max, being a veteran detective, notices that each of the group members injects themselves with a strange chemical, which he learns has been produced by Garou. After they have injected this chemical, Max notes, thanks to his finely honed powers of observation, that Garou and his group are transformed becoming more powerful and seemingly impervious to injury. The next day Max attempts to advise his incredulous boss of the strange goings on, but to no avail. He visits Casey Spencer who tries to persuade him to inject himself with the chemical. When he refuses, she shoots him. As Max lies dying on the floor gazing at her in a perplexed manner she injects him with the chemical and he is instantly healed. They sleep with one another and afterwards raid a criminal lair after injecting themselves. As Max and Casey kill and then intimidate the criminals’ corpses, it is slightly noticeable that they grow plastic claws out of their hands, similar to a popular comic book hero, and their teeth become sharper and enlarged. One of the criminals escapes and informs his crime boss what he is up against. He is given instructions to deal with Garou.
untitledGarou learns of Casey’s sexual encounter with Max and angrily advises her that he is ‘top dog’ before raping her. Afterwards Garou and his group, including Max, gather together for another night of attacking the criminals. After injecting themselves with Garou’s chemical the officers enter a vehicle to depart on their journey. The vehicle explodes as the key is turned in the ignition. As the remnants of the vehicle burn, the criminal who had been instructed to kill Garou looks on with glee. This happiness is soon replaced by terror when he notices that all of the officers have survived and that they are in their monster-like state. In the next scene the dead bodies of the criminal and his associates are dropped from a helicopter through the glass ceiling of the crime boss’ home. The same night, Max meets in a holding cell an ex-police officer from a city where Garou used to work. The officer is deformed and speaks badly of Garou. He advises Max that Garou may have cleaned the streets of the other cities, but that all of the officers who had worked with him were killed (though he had escaped). He also explained that his deformity was caused by overuse of the chemical. Garou kills the officer to silence him and Max covers for him, but his suspicions are aroused and he begins to conduct some research into Garou.
untitledAfter making a startling discovery, he sneaks into Garou’s apartment and finds Garou extracting the chemical from his own brain. Max advises Garou that he realises that he is a werewolf. Conflict ensues and although Max and Casey escape from Garou’s apartment, the latter is fatally injured. The next day Garou prepares to complete his final operation and Max resolves to stop him. After Garou has killed all of the criminals, including the aforementioned crime boss, Max shoots him with a silver bullet and Garou falls to the ground. Thinking that Garou is dead, Max turns away . Then suddenly, he hears Garou say ‘Didn’t you get my memo? A full eclipse protects me from everything; including silver’. A full eclipse had passed overhead as these events took place. As Max dreads to consider what will happen next, Garou asks him ‘Wanna see something really scary?’. He then turns into an extremely large werewolf, losing his human form entirely.
untitledMax flees as the other members of Garou’s group are killed. Garou tries to kill Max, but the latter injects Garou with a solution of silver nitrate. As the eclipse is over, this kills Garou. Before he dies Garou returns to his human form and tells Max that if he lies in his blood he can take his power. In the final scenes of the film, Max is shown to have moved to Denver with his wife Anna and their relationship seems to have improved. She is shown cutting her finger with a knife as she is chopping up food. Max licks her finger and then leaves to undertake some paperwork. She notices that her cut heals immediately and stares after Max bewildered. Meanwhile, Max is shown looking up on a computer the dates of coming eclipses in different American cities. These scenes reveal that he has inherited Garou’s power.untitledThis is 90’s sci-fi at its strangest, the effects for the time of release are great and the story line is good if not predictable, if you like the standard good cop goes vigilante to fight crime scenario this adds a twist that is very enjoyable. worth watching at least once.

REVIEW: THE FINDER – THE COMPLETE SERIES

MAIN CAST

Geoff Stults (Bring It On Again)
Michael Clarke Duncan (Sin City)
Mercedes Masohn (Red Sands)
Maddie Hasson (Twisted)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Toby Hemingway (Black Swan)
Amy Aquino (White Oleander)
Jaime Murray (Ringer)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
John Francis Daley (Bones)
Mitch Pileggi (the X-Files)
Ryan Cutrona (Hot SHots)
Brandon W. Jones (Pretty Little Liars)
Blake Shields (Heroes)
Mario Van Peebles (Highlander 3)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (The Vampire Diaries)
Ian Reed Kesler (2 Broke Girls)
Lance Gross (Sleepy Hollow)
Jake Busey (Fast Sofa)
Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project)
Jason Beghe (G.I. Jane)
Eric roberts (The Dark Knight)
Spencer Garrett (Air Force One)
T.J. Thyne (Bones)
Peta Wilson (Superman Returns)
Juliette Goglia (Mike & Molly)
M.C. Gainey (Lost)
Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Am Legend)
Ignacio Serricchio (Quarantine 2)
Mercedes Colon (Route 666)
Kelly Carlson (Nip/Tuck)
Yara Shahidi (Salt)
Patrick Fabian (Veronica Mars)
Mageina Tovah (Spider-Man 2 & 3)
Chris Bronwing (Supergirl)
George Stults (Hydra)
Annette O’Toole (Smallville)
Patrick Fischler (Birds of Prey)
Karina Logue (Bates Motel)

I honestly didn’t expect to like The Finder. I wanted to like the show, of course. It has an intriguing concept — a former military man, now suffering from brain damage, is capable of finding absolutely anything — and comes from Hart Hanson, the man who made the weirdness of Bones possible. But I was not convinced. Fortunately, I was wrong. The Finder has flaws, but they are not enough to take away the show’s fun.

Viewers got their first peek at The Finder, when the show and its characters were introduced during an episode of Bones. That back-door pilot wasn’t a complete fiasco or anything, but it did indicate that The Finder might just be a clunky, non-murder version of Bones, only without the romantic chemistry.In its series debut, the central characters and setting of The Finder remain the same — Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults) hangs out in a Florida Keys bar with his mammoth-sized sidekick, Leo (Michael Clarke Duncan), when not actively looking for a bizarre assortment of people and possessions.

But there are changes. The character of Ike, a bartender and pilot played by Saffron Burrows, is gone. In her place, we get two new characters — Isabel (Mercedes Masohn), a US marshal with a casually semi-romantic interest in Walter, and Willa (Maddie Hasson), a felonious teen dropped at Walter and Leo’s bar by the juvenile justice system.

The crux and plot-generating device of The Finder is Walter’s almost-supernatural (and possibly brain damage-caused) ability to locate things. In the premiere episode, “An Orphan Walks into a Bar,” Walter manages to locate:

a) John Fogerty’s guitar
b) A bank robber attending a cock fight
c) The father of an orphaned teen who had crashed his plane and disappeared

Walter’s method and madness are both a lot of fun to watch. The central mystery is just twisted enough to provide solid entertainment throughout the hour. Geoff Stults and Michael Clarke Duncan are obviously having a great time with their characters, and that joy translates well on the screen. Mercedes Masohn’s Isabel is also a useful addition — not only does she have believable chemistry with Stults’ Walter, but she provides a much-needed connection to actual law enforcement.

Like its main character, The Finder is pleasant but a little bit awkward. The show is easy to watch, has an interesting mystery at the center and is well acted. It’s just going to take awhile before everything feels smooth. But a few bumps are not enough to derail the fun of The Finder. The show does crossover twice Bones, first Lance Sweet appears on the show then, Hodgens shows up for an episode.

As the show continued, it became a nice companion to Bones and a highly enjoyable show, sadly it was another show cancelled all too soon, with a cliffhanger leaving things unanswered. With the death of Michael Clarke Duncan it is unlikely we will ever see a conclusion of the story.