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Jul 15, 2014

THE STRAIN S01E01 - REVIEW

Being a devoted TV fan, I have little respect for the acclaimed movie directors and generally I don't expect anything good from them turning to television. Making movies is very different from creating TV shows. With movies you just want to throw a couple of familiar faces in, some kind of a story about the potential end of the world (alien/supernatural invasion has worked perfectly for many-many years now) and a number of special effects, of course. Congratulations - you've got a movie! You don't need to pay much attention to your characters, the dialogues and so on. In fact, you have about fifteen minutes for the actors to deliver their condensed lines that would make even the stupidest viewer understand who's the hero, who's the nerd and who's the evil one. But in TV, if you do not have the characters that are thoroughly worked through, that are compelling and with plausible motivation for their actions - you have nothing.

All of this is an introduction to the review of del Toro's attempt to earn some easy money, the newest FX drama - The Strain. The first episode was directed and co-written by del Toro himself, so he's fully responsible for whatever I've seen so far. So, can an old dog learn new tricks? Well, not this one.


There is hardly any other creation out there that is further away from the saying "less is more" than this one. The series is full of every possible gimmick that drive the general public to the movie theaters. There is a virus threat, weird worms that try to infest humans, a creature with vampire-ish eating habits, some version of zombies or undead, evil corporate bastards that are not even really human, an old man with a sword; there are even freaking Nazis.


The main part of the head of CDC, Eph Goodweather (what kind of last name is that?), is played by Corey Stoll (you may remember him as the troubled congressman, who got killed in the first season of House of Cards, only now he has hair). Who is Mr. Goodweather? Surprise-surprise, he's a workaholic who is about to lose the custody of his son as his wife hates him for not being there and divorces him. He has a thing for his sexy, emotional and obviously smart (because she wears glasses) colleague Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro). It hasn't happened yet, but I understand that this couple will start killing undead creatures with swords in the near future.


Not only the characters are plain and boringly typical for the genre (by the way, haven't you got tired from these emotionally unattainable magnificent bastards? I know I have). The lines they say made me roll my eyes on numerous occasions. Just look at this monologue by Eph: 

You don't like terrorists? Try negotiating with a virus. A virus exists only to find a carrier and reproduce. That's all it does and it does it quickly. It has no political views, it has no religious beliefs, it has no cultural hangups, it has no respect for the badge, it has no concept of time or geography. It might as well be the Middle Ages, except for the convenience of hitching a ride on a metal tube flying from meal to meal to meal. That’s how a plague begins. So you still want to be the first one through the door?


Only I feel that this is excessive to prove a point?

Then there's this one by some evil rich man, who seems to like tag questions a lot:

You may notice how chilly it's gotten in here (...) but [it's] not too cold for you, I trust. Of course, It can't be too cold for you, can it? 

And:

Throughout my life, I've learnt what it feels to cross a line. To do things... the things that cannot be undone. That line - it has been crossed now, hasn't it? 





I literally laughed when the main evil creature escaped in a hilarious manner, waving with all its limbs! The thing that lives in the jar with water and looks like a stomach is also pretty funny. All of this could be a great parody on thrillers of that sort, the sad thing is that the creators a dead serious.


All in all, it seems like a more expensive Salem. No Fargo here, ladies and gentlemen, move along, there's a queue of boys and girls with popcorn, desperate to check this out.

Jun 25, 2014

ORPHAN BLACK 2/10 RECAP

As much as I liked the first episode of this season, the finale left me extremely frustrated. Conspiracy stories only work if the writers know (in essence, at least) what they want to come to in the end of the entire series, and unfortunately, it seems that John Fawcett and Graeme Manson invent stuff on the go (actually, they don't even try to hide it in their interviews, for example, they said they wanted to kill Mark off in the sixth episode, and look what happened). I can relate to their desire to try new things, including those from the technical point of view, but sadly "we thought it would be fun to try" approach rarely doesn't lead to chaos.


Anyway. To get Kira back, Sarah gives in to Dyad, and after having answered numerous questions about her sexual life and pregnancies (dramatic as they sounded on the show, there hardly was a single question that no woman has heard from her gynecologist), she signs a consent for having her eggs removed. Delphine gets relocated to Frankfurt, but she manages to send a file to Cosima with the exact time when this procedure takes places. In order to help her sister, Cosima turns a fire extinguisher into a pencil shooting mechanism. Scott volunteers to help Sarah escape and infiltrates the group of doctors performing the surgery.


People outside of Dyad also work on Sarah's release. Cal comes to Mrs S and says he's managed to get in touch with someone inside the institute over the internet. To prove this, he begins chatting with the mysterious person and mentions that he's with S. Then this person asks about [project] Castor - something that Siobhan seems to know about.


She arranges a meeting of the secret person with Paul, who, as it turns out, was a double agent all along and worked for both the Dyad people and the military. He brings documents on project Castor and gives them to the Dyad insider - Marian, who promises to release Sarah and Kira in exchange.


Rachel tries to get Duncan's key to the synthetic sequences, but he poisons himself with a special tea bag and dies right in front of her eyes (plural for now). When she overcomes this personal tragedy, she visits her sister in the ward, ready for the operation, gives her a picture that Kira has drawn with Cosima earlier on and asks for the key. Sarah says she knows nothing, so the psycho clone destroys Kira's bone marrow. Luckily, Sarah notices a fire extinguisher on the drawing - an odd thing for an eight year old to sketch, and finds one in real life, next to her bed with the label saying "sqeeze". So she does, and this leads to Rachel catching a pencil with her eye. Scott unties Sarah and gives her his access card.


This turns out unnecessary, as Marian had all doors open already, so Sarah and Kira escape the institute without any issues. 

Helena gets to Art's apartment, and the highlight of the episode for me was when she responded with "noo" to a question whether or not she has burnt the Prolethean's camp, grinning. The four semi-good clones get together under Felix's roof and dance (???). At night Helena leaves her frozen eggs inside and walks out, just to be abducted by the military at the door.   


Sarah comes to Marian's mansion, where she sees a younger version of herself - the only survivor of Dyad's 400 attempts to create another clone. We finally get to know what project Castor is - the military worked on male clones and Marian somehow got a hold of one faulty copy that looks exactly like Mark, only seems a bit more retarded. In the meanwhile another Mark-faced individual guards a military plane that Helena is escorted onto. Seems that Mrs. S has helped Paul to arrange the abduction in exchange for Sarah's freedom. At about the same time the real Mark marries Gracie, and one can only guess, whether he's a double agent, interested solely in Helena's baby inside of his fiancee or not. 


Cosima nearly dies, but Kira sort of brings her back to life, asking to read a book for her. After having listened to some childish story about puppy, the girl asks her aunt to read Duncan's book. Cosima opens it and sees something that looks like the key to the sequence inside. 


People say the introduction of male clones was inevitable, but I don't agree. We could easily live without them. Sure, this season focuses on ethical issues of having humans turned into science projects, but it's not why I enjoy the series. There's this part of the show that describes how different the seemingly similar women are, and how they get along, against all odds, and how they are willing to risk their lives for one another. The strength of this bond and this story line will be weakened by the male clones, I'm afraid. Besides, male body has never been as objectified and as... I wanna say politicized? Meaning there are still pro-life vs pro-choice wars on a national level in many countries. So hardly this new development can really add any significant emotional component. And storywise it's gonna be a mess. Well, whatever.



Jun 20, 2014

FARGO - MORTON'S FORK - SEASON FINALE RECAP

[I feel like there is something wrong with me. It seems everybody who watched the show wanted Thornton's character to be killed. That was never the case with me, so naturally, I'm grieving.]

Many of recappers and reviewers compared Lorne Malvo to the devil, though in my opinion, he was more like a werewolf. One way or the other, he was turning people he would meet into animals (not necessarily predators - remember the guy from the motel, whom he convinced to use his boss's car as a toilet?). And  he died like an animal, wounded by the bear trap, still breathing after numerous shots taken at him.

Anyway, back to the recap. Lester goes to his shop, puts his car keys into Linda's hand and comes to Lou's diner to arrange an alibi. He orders grilled cheese sandwiches and ginger ales for himself and his wife, who, according to his words, went down to the office to pick up some papers. He asks to use the bathroom, leaves the place through the backdoor and calls the police from the payphone outside, anonymously reporting gunshots . Then he gets back to the cafe and waits.


Only seconds before he sees the police cars drive by, he realizes that he's left the e-tickets to Acapulco in the pocket of the jacket that Linda was wearing. He rushes to the office and plays grieving husband, screaming "aw jeez!", like that time when he was hitting his first missis with the hammer. He convinces Bill to let him say goodbye to his wife and tries to steal the tickets, but Molly doesn't let him do that.


Lou comes to the police station and tells his daughter about how Malvo asked him where Lester lives. Bill, Molly and the FBI agents interrogate Mr. Nygaard, but he denies knowing Lorne, and after realizing that the chief won't help him escape this time, he refuses to answer questions without a lawyer.


Deputy Solverson decides to use Mr. Bluebeard as a bait and sends him home with the FBI guys (considering they missed Lorne twice, at that point in the episode it was already clear that they were doomed). At the same time Bill realizes he's not capable of being chief and offers the position to Molly.

Gus calls his wife while driving somewhere to ask her not to take part in the search for Malvo personally, proving once again he's not the brave kind, and she promises him to stay at the station. As he hangs up, Gus sees a wolf in the middle of the road and stops his car. He notices a red BMW, that he's seen before, parked next to a cabin and comes closer to check it out. He sees Malvo getting into the car and driving away. Grimly enters the cabin.


Prior to all this Lorne used the police scanner and overheard that the FBI got involved. He once again proves being very resourceful, as he calls the bureau and successfully cancels back up with the help of the Bemidji police receptionist and the information from the notebook he stole from the agents' car earlier.


Malvo visits a car dealer, where the guy to whom Lester tried to sell life insurance to in the first episode (only then the guy was a librarian) works. Lorne chooses a dark Ford, which looks like an undercover FBI car and asks to go for a test drive.


Lester gets driven home and refuses to let the FBI agents in, so they wait outside. Soon they see Malvo's new car coming. They point their guns at the vehicle and demand that the driver gets out. As no one does, they close in. When they realize that it's Malvo's hostage who's behind the wheel, it is already too late, one by one, the killer takes them out.


Mr. Nygaard sees the abandoned FBI car and the blood trail on the snow and rushes upstairs. As Lorne breaks into his house, he hears Lester "speaking on the phone" from the bathroom. The killer approaches the room and takes a few steps, before he gets into Chazz's bear trap hidden under a pile of clothes and screams. The next moment Lester jumps out of the bathroom and takes a shot at his rival. Lorne manages to escape the bullet and throws "Salesman of the Year" award to the shooter's face (once again Lester's nose breaks from being hit against the glass, luckily for him, he doesn't lose consciousness this time). Then Malvo gets a hold of the gun and shoots back. Lester rushes to the bathroom and stays on the floor, pointing a gun at the door. After a few moments, he walks out and finds no Malvo, just the blood trail he's left behind.


Lorne gets back to the cabin and deals with the open tibia fracture. Only after he's done, Gus walks in and says he's figured out the riddle about shades of green. Malvo takes a look at him. "And?" he asks. Instead of an answer, Gus shoots him in the chest. Covered in blood, Lorne stays still for a while, as if dead, only to regain consciousness moments later, coughing and growling, like a dying wolf, until Grimly puts a bullet to his head.


When Molly comes to the cabin, her husband shows her the case with the tapes, and she listens to the one under Lester's name. Finally, she's got the evidence she needed.
   
Mr. Nygaard runs to Montana, but the cops spot him two weeks later. He rushes to the lake and falls through the ice, dying from what Numbers and Wrench planned for him a year ago.


Molly receives a call about his death. She goes back to the living room, where Gus and Greta watch Deal or No Deal. Gus says he's going to be given a citation for bravery and that Molly should have gotten it instead, but she argues that this is his deal.

"I get to be chief", she concludes.


Even though there were a couple things that I expected to play some role in the narration and that did not (like Lester's nephew noticing him in their house), as well as a number of loose ends - we've never got to know what happened with Mr. Wrench, Milos, Mrs. Hess and Bill's African kid, the main story still feels complete and there's even a happy ending of sorts, which nowadays is so rare in series like this. I don't think I've seen any other TV show that is as good as Fargo script-wise, and I'm afraid it'll be long before there will be one. There is no official confirmation of the season two yet (not that I know off, at least), but I'm positive it'll come, and hopefully, Noah Hawley can deliver another story of a similar quality. 

Jun 16, 2014

ORPHAN BLACK 8/2 RECAP

After last week's disappointing episode, it was good to see Orphan Black finally back on track, though Kira's repetitious kidnapping is starting to grow old. There's only one episode left, and I hope this time Sarah manages to get her daughter back before next season.
 
The other girl is actually Tatiana's double from the scene with two clones.
We finally have a chance to see what Helena is up to. Henrik plants fertilized eggs into her, but she later realizes that she's not the only "broodmare" for her children, as Grace undergoes the same procedure. When Mark comes to the room where the blonde and the ginger are held to check on his loved one, Helena confronts him with his inability to stand up to Henrik, who makes his own daughter carry his (Henrik's - as he fertilized Helena's egg with his... hmm material) babies. In the middle of the night Helena and Grace decide to take off, but the cult leader interferes. He knocks the clone out with the stock and locks his daughter up. Mark, who comes in the very moment stands by Grace, lets her out and runs away with her, while Helena takes care of Henrik. And when she's done with him, she torches his little cult camp.

Such a GoT look!
Alison and Donnie dispose of the corpse. They learn from Cosima that according to Dyad Leekie died on a private jet, so they choose to bury the body underneath the floor of their garage. Vic shows up at the worst time possible and tries to see what is it that the couple is doing with the jackhammer. Donnie catches him and very emotionally threatens to shoot him (this time he makes sure the security is on as he puts a gun to Vic's head), so the ex-drug user confesses that he spies on them because of Angela, who's waiting outside in the van. I guess she wanted Ally's confession on the tape. Donnie brings Vic back to the van, takes a photo of him and Angela together and promises to get the cop suspended, if she shows up again. 



Rachel makes Delphine the new Leekie and convinces her to turn to Sarah for Kira's bone marrow. Reluctantly, Sarah agrees and one of Mrs. S's pediatrician friends performs the procedure. Delphine brings the material to the Dyad institute and "accidentally" sees an email with the photo of one of Mrs. S's friends, who helps guard Kira. Delphine goes back to the hospital and gets Sarah to her limo to tell her that, while Rachel, disguised as Sarah, kidnaps Kira and brings her to a very girly room.


Jun 12, 2014

FARGO - A FOX, A RABBIT, AND A CABBAGE - RECAP

I guess, Molly is the fox, Malvo is the rabbit and Lester's definitely the cabbage in this week's episode.


First of all, we get to see how Lorne ended up in Vegas, surrounded by two cheerful ladies and an old guy. Turns out, for six months he pretended to be a dentist, got engaged to his hot assistant, hosted dinner parties  - and all of it to get to his "co-worker's" brother, who's under witness protection. Finally, the guy decided to introduce Malvo to his bro, a family reunion had to take place in Vegas. And that's where Lester spotted the guy who changed his life.

Being a changed man, Lester chooses to say hi. Lorne acts as if he's never seen the insurance salesman in his life and the party leaves. Mr. Nygaard catches up with them and gets into the elevator with the group, saying that the new Lester will not just let it go. So Malvo asks him the question he asked in the emergency room a year ago. Is it what he wants? Yes or no? After hesitation, Lester responds in the affirmative. Not sure what he expected to happen, but the next moment Malvo takes out his gun and shoots everyone but the salesman of the year. He tells Lester to help him throw the bodies to the dumpster, but instead Mr. Nygaard hits the killer from behind and runs away. He gets to his room, wakes up his wife and tells her to dress up. They leave for Bemidji, where Lester plans to pick up some things and fly off to sunny Acapulco.



Bill is out of town, so Molly acts as a chief in his stead. She gets a call regarding murders in Vegas - the Sin City police wants her to question a potential witness, Lester Nygaard. She comes to his new impressive house; he attempts to send her away, but Linda interferes. So he gives a statement: nothing out of ordinary, he saw nothing, he knows nothing. When asked about the reason why the couple returned earlier than previously planned, Linda lies that it was her idea.


Malvo also gets to Bemidji; Gus spots him driving by, but like during their first encounter, does nothing about it. Lorne comes by Lester's old house, the new owner tells him Nygaard's got his own insurance shop now with his name on the sign. The office turns out to be closed, so the killer tries his luck in Molly's father's diner. He orders coffee and a piece of an apple pie and tries to find out where Lester lives now. (I'm sure Lou recognized him, and after Malvo saw Gus and Molly on the photo, he (Malvo) realized that). Lorne leaves moments before Molly enters the place to meet with the FBI agents, who also arrive at the same time and pass the killer by without noticing him (again).

I'm gonna miss this guy.
 

They found out about Molly's calls to the bureau and came to talk to her. She takes them to her office to show the scheme on the wall. This is when Bill appears. He rolls his eyes on Solverson displaying her "collage" and says they caught the guy, but the agents criticize him for not caring about all the loose ends and praise Molly for her work.


Lester prints out the tickets, and together with Linda he drives to his shop to pick up the passports and some cash. He notices a lamp turned on, so he gives his wife his old jacket, tells her to put the hood on and sends her in. He remains in his car and watches Malvo appear behind his wife's back and kill her and then walk away.


I wonder if we see the wood chipper in the finale. Lester can't possibly leave the corpse in the office - the second dead wife within one year would look too suspicious. 

Jun 11, 2014

MURDER IN THE FIRST - EPISODE 1 REVIEW

Created by Steven Boncho, the latest TNT crime drama Murder in the First seems to be a remake of his earlier production, Murder One. Like in Murder One, only one case is being solved throughout the entire season, however the newer show is telling the story through the point of view of the two inspectors investigating the crime, and not the lawyers defending the suspect(s). The series is set in San Francisco.


A great number of familiar faces stars in Murder in the First. The leads are Taye Diggs (Private Practice), playing the part of Terry English, and Kathleen Robertson (Kitty from Boss), portraying Hildy Mulligan. The role of the main suspect, Erich Blunt, an arrogant CEO of a tech company, ingeniously named APPLSN, is played by Tom Felton (Draco from Harry Porter), one of his lawyers is impersonated by James Cromwell (American Horror Story, Betrayal), Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls) acts as one of Blunt's private jet pilots, and so on.


Both of the leads have personal struggles to overcome. Hildy is going through a divorce (it is such a cliche to make her live the way a single guy would - not capable to make a proper breakfast for her daughter and not giving a damn about how messy her house is). Terry has a much more serious drama to deal with: his wife has stage four pancreatic cancer (I can't help but think they chose this specific type of cancer, because everyone knows about it, now that Steve Jobs died from it). Both of these issues seem to be unrelated to the homicides that they investigate, which isn't a good sign: if the murder case does not affect the main characters, what is the point of it, really? 

After all the nearly pornographic scenes Robertson had in Boss, her exposure of various parts of bare skin in Murder in the First seems almost innocent. However, the series can't let us live our lives without some proper nudity, therefore one of the victims, Cindy Strauss, just had to be murdered naked. I hope this will be treated as a clue, otherwise it'd be simply cheesy.


There is nothing unorthodox about how the story develops, the twists are typical for the genre. All what's happened so far implies that Felton's character is the murderer, which means it's safe to assume he has nothing to do with either of the homicides. My money is on the pilot.

All in all, it's just another cop drama, not the worst one, mainly thanks to the cast, but after the world has seen True Detective and Fargo, describing Murder in the First with any adjective other than "mediocre" would be too generous.

Jun 9, 2014

ORPHAN BLACK 8/2 RECAP

I'm quite upset with this series for going too far with the introduction of a transclone (Tatiana is talented, but there are limits to what she can do), besides the episode was clearly a filler, so I'll just write down the most important points very briefly.

- Professor Duncan starts working for DYAD to help fix Cosima. He informs Rachel that the clones were meant to be infertile by design, which causes her to smash almost everything in Leekie's office.

- The new clone, Tony, is introduced. He comes to inform Beth Childs that Paul, who by the way is now missing, is not like other monitors - he's a ghost, whatever that means. After making out with Felix and meeting only Sarah, Tony leaves.

- Alison returns from the rehab, she confesses to Donnie she killed Aynsley, her husband says he shot Leekie with her gun and his body is in the trunk of his car in their garage.

- Cosima and Delphine made up. Cosima tells Scott she is a clone, a moment later she meets Ethan Duncan, and almost instantly starts coughing out blood and collapses, shaking in convulsions on the floor.

That's about it.

FARGO - THE HEAP - RECAP

Molly attempts to present the results of her investigation to Bill, but he's just had an omelet and therefore can't spend his energy on anything but digestion, so he tells her to let it go. After celebrating her own comeback with cake (with rifle made out of frosting on top), she comes to Lester's shop and watches him tell a story to his colleagues. He notices her, but acts as if her presence is not a big deal.


He's no longer the jumpy loser. Earlier he's purchased a new - silent - washing machine, thrown all Pearl's things away and stood up to Gina and her dumb sons by putting clips to each of the boys' foreheads, when she visited his workplace demanding $2 mln. This scene has impressed his co-worker Linda so much that she's called him "amazing".


Lorne Malvo kills the cop guarding Mr. Wrench's door and pays the deaf hitman a visit. He informs the guy he's unemployed, gives him the key from the handcuffs and tells him to find him, after healing up.


Gus sends an extreme amount of flowers to Molly. The day before the hearing on the shooting, he calls her and they plan to go on an official date. And then the time leap happens.

In about a year from when the main events took place, Gus works as a mailman, like he's always dreamed. He now lives in the suburbs with his daughter and Molly, who's very pregnant, just like her prototype from the original movie. She hasn't let Lester's case go, although when she calls the FBI about Lorne Malvo, it is apparent that she has not succeeded to convince anyone so far. The two agents, who once let Malvo kill over twenty Fargo criminals, work with the archives, so hopefully they will be willing to help her.


Bill is still a chief. He tells Molly a fascinating story of his black foster kid, who looks as if he's in his twenties. The kid was lost before he's had a chance to be introduced to his new American family, until Bill caught him shoplifting in Phoenix Farms and "recognized" him.


Lester accepts his first salesman of the year award in some fancy hotel venue. He's happily married to Linda and is definitely a changed man. Almost ready to call it a night, he notices a bunch of young girls making eye contact with him, so he sends his wife to her room, and follows the ladies to the bar. He orders a dangerous drink, Blood and Sand, occasionally checking out his target. And suddenly he sees Lorne Malvo, hair completely gray, entertaining a group of people.