Secrets and Lies: Season Two Juliette Lewis is Back

ABC has kindly put up the season two premiere of Secrets and Lies and while Ryan Phillippe has not returned Juliette Lewis is back as the dour and focussed Detective Andrea Cornell

JULIETTE LEWIS

One of the bonuses of writing about television and the entertainment industry, is getting to screen upcoming new shows and “new seasons” of existing ones.  ABC has kindly put  up the season two premiere of Secrets and Lies and while Ryan Phillippe has not returned Juliette Lewis is back as the dour and focussed Detective Andrea Cornell. Having not seen season one of this clever crime drama, Phillippe was not particularly missed and his character would seem very out of place in this story of murder, “secrets and lies,” with its new victim and storyline.

Michael Ealy, a firm favorite who played the “cyborg” Dorian on the very short-lived Fox science fiction cop show  Almost Human,  stars alongside  Lost star Terry O’Quinn and the eternally youthful and talented Jordana Brewster.  This season appears to be all about the family Warner and the murder of Kate (Brewster). 

MICHAEL EALY
Michael Ealy

Ealy is son Eric, who has just taken over his father John’s (O’Quinn) business and whose wife Kate (Brewster) takes a high dive off the company building’s roof on the day. Mekia Cox  and Charlie Barnett round out the Warner clan as siblings Amanda and Patrick respectively.

At the start of the episode Kate is propelled off  the twelve story building’s roof and when Det. Cornell arrives, Eric is cradling his dead wife’s body and contaminating the crime scene. The no-nonsense detective is not happy and makes no secret of the fact.  She immediately gets the grieving husband away from his dead wife and starts the investigation.

As the episode progresses, more secrets are laid bare. Things are revealed about the victim and not all of the surprises come from the police investigations.  Eric learns that his wife had a number of things that she kept hidden. As the Detective begins the groundwork to find Kate Warner’s murderer, her widower has flashbacks and memories that are very painful.

TERRY O'QUINN
Terry O’Quinn

In terms of popularity contests, Lewis’ homicide detective may actually be more unpleasant than David Tennant‘s American version of the homicide investigator “Emmett Carver” in the Yankee remake of the superior ITV crime drama Broadchurch, titled Gracepoint. (It should be pointed out that the Scottish version of Tennant’s character, Alec Hardy, was dour, but for some reason this cop was nowhere near as “nasty” as his American counterpart…perhaps it was the accent?)

Lewis comes across as an investigator who has a tendency to leave compassion at home as she zeroes in on asking questions and looking for clues. Her questioning borders on aggressive rather than inquisitive or assertive and the detective’s demeanor is just “this side” of unpleasant.  The power of the actress’s performance is such that one senses immediately that this how the cop handles homicides. It is not personal, but harshly impersonal.

Not having watched the first season, it is not clear whether this is Detective Cornell’s Modus Operandi, but is would seem to be as there is no indication that the investigator is anything other than a focussed professional.  Earlier in the episode, Cornell  tells a uniform cop that if he has issues controlling a crime scene that he should, perhaps, change jobs.  This detective wants the job done correctly above all else.

From the outset Cornell appears to believe that the grieving widower is the one responsible for Kate Warner’s death and the show’s synopsis makes it sound like Ealy’s character, Eric, will be battling to prove his innocence.

JORDANA BREWSTER
Jordana Brewster

Secrets and Lies is listed as a “crime drama” but is also also part mystery. The “reveals” in the premiere episode alone equals a lot of mystery as each memory of Eric’s shows something else not previously known.  ABC have not given a proper “air date” for season two, but season one began in March 2014 so 2015 may be in March as well.  Regardless of when the 2016 second season starts, the wait will be worth it. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

Shaun the Sheep Movie: Studio Aardman Do it Again

Shaun the Sheep still

Shaun the Sheep Movie from Studio Aardman, aka Aardman Animations,  does it again, they go back to that Nick Park well. This time however, the Creature Comforts (1989) creator, Park himself, is in the producer’s chair versus the director’s one.  In some ways it is blatantly obvious from the first frame when one observes that there is no discernible dialogue.

Sounding more like a episode of Morphbut deeper and with a decidedly Scottish bent to it, the dialogue consists of sounds. Grunts, partial “almost” words and a kind of “Sim” speak make up all “lines” in the stop motion film.  (Nod if “Sim-Speak” means anything at all, think expresso drinking…)

Apart from this irritating decision to keep any of the “people” type characters from speaking, Shaun the Sheep Movie will be  hit with both young and old audience members.  There are enough sight gags to keep even the smallest shaver happy and enough “homages” to grown up films to keep a Simpson’s fan happy, who may have accidentally strayed onto this film.

(The Simpsons are mentioned just for the Cape Fear reference toward the end of the film. One that the yellow colored cartoon family did so well on the television show with Sideshow Bob versus Bart…)

The plot of Shaun the Sheep Movie is not too different, it seems, from the television show source. Shaun and his little sheep mates decide to have a day out and it all goes colossally wrong.  The farmer gets a conk on the head and forgets who he is, the sheep and the dog all wind up in the nick (animal jail) and after some antics it all works out in the end.

Perhaps watching too much Wallace and Gromit (and hearing the delightful Peter Sallis saying “Cheese! Gromit!”) has spoiled any other characters in the Aardman stable (see what we did there) like Shaun, who actually first showed up in A Close Shave. The little wooly creature soon spawned his own series but has never really been  a personal favorite.

Add to this the mumbling and muttering of each character and this one leaves a little to be desired, in terms of “acting” per se. Still, there are enough gags and homages to make the film interesting to a wide ranging audience.

There are jokes aplenty, the farmer becomes an amnesiac celebrity hairstylist and the sheep all dress up like people. Since no one can really speak anyway, the lamb’s bleating comes over as “language” so they fool everyone.

Shaun the Sheep Movie has a cracking soundtrack and enough action to keep the little ones from getting distracted. There are a number of “exciting” action pieces although nothing on scale of Curse of the Were-Rabbit or The Wrong Trousers.  (Once again Wallace and Gromit features with brilliant action set pieces; the train or the flying arcade plane for example.)

The main fun for the grownup viewers of this Aardman offering will be all the various nods and winks to other films and genres. Critics have waxed ecstatic about the film and ratings are high for this “silent” grunting film.  While dialogue would have improved the film for this viewer exponentially, the overall effect was one of amusing action and clever homage fun.

The youngsters will love more childish antics of Shaun the Sheep Movie while the adults will appreciate the trouble that Mark Burton and Richard Starzak went to making the film one that everyone could enjoy. 

A 4 out of 5 star stop-motion animated feature that would have gotten a full 5 if the character’s had talked (or had Peter Sallis in it). Good fun regardless of the lack of real dialogue. Studio Aardman do it again and give us entertainment for the whole family.

Jessica Jones: Guided Falling…In Love

After taking time to watch almost all of the episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix and starting to write thoughts on each single installment, it was decided to do an overall feeling about the series and this unlikely superhero.

Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones

After taking time to watch almost all of the episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix and starting to write thoughts on each single installment, it was decided to do an overall feeling about the series and this unlikely superhero. An uber strong, limited self healing, gal who does not fly, but engages in guided falling, it is this description from the heroine that almost wills the viewer to fall in love with this character.

Throughout the season, we have seen Jones become more heroic (as she fights to catch and take out Kilgrave),  Jeri Hogarth become more evil, Kilgrave become pathetic, Simpson become deadly and Trish become stronger.  The entire first season of the show is all about becoming, apparently…and death.

It all about learning the backstory of Jessica and eventually Kevin, aka Kilgrave. But over and above all that, is this seedy, unglamorous and gritty side of Marvel. Set in New York, along the same time line as The Avengers saving the city, Jones is the red-headed step child of the verse.

(In the Marvel verse, Jones was a member of the Avengers very, very briefly.)

Jessica Jones is the “noir” version of Marvel, along with Luke Cage, and she epitomizes the hard-drinking, sloppy P.I. of fiction….except,  she has super strength and can fly.  Although she calls it, “controlled  or guided falling.

Krysten Ritter plays Jones as a downtrodden, attitudinal passive aggressive.  Like the rest of the verse the character inhabits, the city is grey, dark and dirty. The juxtaposition of Jones’ life compared to the Avengers; Tony Stark, Captain America is just too brilliantly ironic.

Cap and Ironman are heroes looked up to by the denizens of New York who believe they lead the charge to save them, along with that “big green guy” mentioned a lot in the Netflix series. Jones, who was not even part of the “rescue” is attacked by a disgruntled woman whose mother died during Loki’s attack.

Once again, like the big screen Marvel adventures and the small screen actions of SHIELD (both Agent Carter and Phil Coulson and his crew) despite all the fantasy elements of the verse, everything is rooted in a semblance of reality. Although arguably, Jessica Jones and her world feel much more in the trenches, or gutter, than the superheroes who saved New York.

Jones’ world takes a look at gory homicide, the messiness of divorce and even tackles drugs, the red white and blue pills that Simpson takes are pretty spectacular and apparently addictive as well as combat enhancing.

Apart from all these gritty, there’s that word again, realities, this version of Marvel is full of malcontents, the socially inept, the downright weird and full of destruction. Jessica lives in a world of broken walls, furniture and people.  As do most of the inhabitants of her verse. Even the more successful, like high-powered lawyer Hogarth is broken, personally and in terms of ethics, granted, she is a lawyer so it is to be expected…

There is at least one person who lives in an ivory tower, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), former child star and radio talkshow host of New York, is in a different realm from her “sister.” After Simpson turns up, completely overrun by those red pills he keeps popping like breath mints, he leaves two dead men outside Walker’s posh apartment.

When Trish comes home, she find the place spotless, no dead bodies and nothing to indicate that they were ever there. At Jessica’s place, the unconscious Simpson is removed, but her apartment/office still looks like a nuke has hit it. Vive la’ difference…

Leaving lifestyles of Marvel’s rich and famous aside, the noir-ish world of Jessica Jones is still firmly part of the comic verse. Nods and winks to her “colleagues” abound. References to the Hulk and at least one kid running around in a Captain America outfit. Then there is the reference to “inhumans.”

Dorothy Walker (Rebecca De Mornay), the stage mother from Hell, shows up at Trish’s place with an envelope with the mysterious initials IGH. Obviously a reference to Daisy, aka Tremors, and the other Inhumans and must stand for Inhuman Growth Hormone.  This is, apparently, the reason for Jessica’s strength and limited healing capabilities.

This down and dirty version of Marvel is as addictive as the cleaner shinier one.  While there is no real news about a second season or not, this one is pretty entertaining. Jessica Jones and her guided falling has made it easy to fall in love with this “darker” heroine.

 

 

 

Agent X: Finale – A TNT Slap in the Face

Perhaps the fashion that TNT handled the last ever Agent X, with its two hour finale, clearly shows how the network feels about their “former” series.

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Perhaps the fashion that TNT handled the last ever Agent X, with its two hour finale, clearly shows how the network feels about their “former” series.  The last two episodes were put together for a two hour, in reality slightly less, extravaganza where John Case questions would be, hopefully,  answered.  Sadly, as the old saying goes John Case and his world was fleeting, so much so that only one of the two episodes can actually be viewed upon “demand”  from the TNT website, the day after.

What a slap-dash approach toward the fans of the show.  Where if they did not have the wherewithal to record or watch live the demise of their series, TNT gave no option to view the last two episodes the day after on their own network site. Is it any wonder that the show was doomed to fail?

Agent X was beginning to feel like the red-headed stepchild of TNT, before being given the axe.  There were things that could have been done to improve the overall “awesome” factor of the show. For example, having Fred Dryer (old “Hunter” himself) showing up, not once but twice and having some excellent comic banter with Gerald McRaney was a good thing.

Sadly, like the reintroduction (finally) of Olga Fonda, it was too little too late. On a sidenote here, it was great to see that busy, busy actress Kristina Klebe as a cornrowed villain (Do not tell Amandla Stenberg…Kay?) who got to kick a little butt before Fonda’s character won…

Fonda and Jeff Hephner made a great team and should have been put together as much as possible while on the same token less could have been seen of Ms. Stone and her “boss” John Shea. Neither of these two ever really meshed properly.  Sharon Stone is understandable, she is “big screen” and downplays as a matter of course, sadly this worked to her disadvantage in the series.

(There are other examples of “big time” stars and actors who have a hard time performing outside the medium of film. A perfect example is Lance Henriksen. On the big screen, Henriksen is a master at what he does. *He was also damned brilliant in the small screen “X-File Clone/wannabe” “Millennium”  as Frank Black – 1996-99.*

In 2009, Lance played General Shepherd in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. At least one CoD player was super excited that Henriksen was on board as an “in-game” character. Until, that is, Shepherd opened his gob in the game and spoke.  The actor downplayed his performance so much, he seemed to be reading his lines and was apparently bored out of his skull while doing so.  Big screen technique just did not work for the video game VO and this seems to be what Stone has suffered from.)

Shea, however, is a flat out miss. The actor is a TV performer, but he just failed to “spark.” C’est  la vie.  Some things just do not work in the area of casting…

Sadly, Agent X being terminated after its one season, leaves Jeff Hephner out in the cold. Hephner was more than capable in terms of acting and looking damned impressive whilst doing his stunts.  As stated before, McRaney (an old hand at the game) was spot on and Hephner had no apologies to make at all.

Andrew Howard as the  villain, did a good job given the OTT dialogue he was given and considering that in the last episode (available to be seen from TNT thus far – Penultimatum and not the “real” end episode Fidelity) he worked in pitted him against an abysmal acting partner the actor did very well.

It is harsh and unpleasant to point out, but  John Case’s gal Pamela (Carolyn Stotesbery) may be lovely to look at and delightful to hold, but the young lady’s acting skills would leave her trapped inside a wet paper bag.  To be fair to the performer, perhaps the lines never felt right, or…something. 

How sad that Agent X has gone out on a note where the wooden love interest of Agent Case is saved  (In the first half of the final episode that is).  Not wishing her harm but, if Pamela expired in that cargo container, Olga Petrovka and John Case would have made a “killer” couple…

So long to John Case’s short lived world, t’would have been nice to see the entire two hour end episode, but the end result is the same, another one bites the dust. TNT slaps its show in the face, or more accurately the show’s fans. Nice one chaps.

 

The Librarians: And the Final Curtain (Review)

The Librarians (and the series finale – see what we did there) was entertaining, clever and as part of the “final curtain” a fitting end to season two. There were, however, some highly annoying things about the season’s end episode

Librarians_06-10_368

The Librarians and the series finale  (see what we did there) was entertaining, clever and as part of the “final curtain” a fitting end to season two.  There were, however, some highly annoying things about the season’s end episode.  Granted the theme of season two was all about Shakespeare and England (cor blimey) and horrible English accents. Or at the very least extremely  watered down “Hollywood-ized” versions of the Queen’s English. The season was also about fictional characters, aka Fictionals,  inhabiting real life.

Sidenote: Back on the accent rant: When your South African actor has the “most convincing “accent? There is a problem. 

Colour this reviewer picayune, but if an entire season is going to be built up in order to have an English payoff,  do not fall back on faux/contrived accents a’la Shakespearean pentameter in the arcane sense, but with modern day phrasing and the odd word.  Take a breath, that was a long sentence…

That is not to say that the finale did not work and was not amusing.  Au contraire.  There were many funny moments that amused highly whilst gritting teeth at the atrocious accents and Oregon once again substituting for Jolly Olde England.

The Librarians utilize time travel and the episode gets to do a riff off of  the “Terminator ” verse:

“Come with me if you want to live,” says a deadpan  Moriarty.

South African actor  David S. Lee also delivers, with a perfectly straight face his,  “my British accent is better than yours.” Admittedly, it is but…There is no ” British” accent per se.  Britain is made up of a few countries, Wales, Scotland…If the Librarians traveled back to England, at the time of Bill Shakespeare, they would be speaking English, not British… (not a thing)

Sidenote: Apologies to Team Librarian and the show’s makers, but come on guys and gals.  So much of the this show is cleverly done. Do not let the side down by fluffing the English bits and using standard “Hollywood” tosh.  Surely there are enough English actors (or even Aussie/Kiwi ones who both do pretty spot on impressions) on hand to have a bit more authentic “brit” for your buck… 

Grumbling aside, Wyle is funny as the wildly overacting potential thespian and the dual storyline works extremely well.  The execution of the present day events, Ezekiel Jones and Stone counting down the “five” seconds before Flynn and Eve return was heart wrenching and touching.

There are plenty of gags about time travel and paradoxes and so on.  It is explained, by Flynn, that all time travelers have “winked” into non-existence.  Thus follows a great sight gag: Wyle’s character references the first time traveler and a picture on the library wall shows a “dinosaur” standing on two feet…in clothes.

This “gag” will crop up later in a slightly different form.  The storyline is that Flynn and Eve travel back to stop Shakespeare from creating Prospero (in his new story) while the remaining Librarians, along with Jenkins, must find any clues that Flynn “left forward.”

The two teams work simultaneously (sort of) to fix the issue  of Prospero taking over the world, despite being a fictional whose “story” does not entail his doing so. Of course the entire Shakespeare portion deals, rather transparently, with the idea that the “glove maker” from Stratford-upon-Avon could not have really written all those plays and sonnets.

In the real world, a number of suspects are trotted out to be the real “Shakespeare.” Christopher Marlowe,  Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere are just three men that historians claim to be the real author(s) of Shakespeare’s body of work.  In The Librarians and the Final Curtain, Bill writes his own words, but…With a magic quill.

(So magic in fact that this quill does not need to be dipped, or loaded, with ink.)

The quill is made from  a broken bit of the “tree of life” aka the “Staff of Life” so, unlike real quills, it is not made from a feather but a bit of wood. Such ingenuity never ceases to impress.

Historical inaccuracies aside, the entire “smelly” bit between Flynn, Baird and the two “bumpkins” in the garden was not only funny, but entirely accurate.  People in England at that time did not bathe often or well. Shakespearean performers of the time used to carry oranges (stuffed with cloves) on a stick and/or carry a perfumed handkerchief to ward off the stench of the audience.

Eve’s exclamations of dismayed disgust were hysterical:

Col Baird: “Ugh, ugh! It’s on me! His smell is on me!”

Carson Flynn rather wisely points out that “smell” is one of the things that films about time travel never mention. After explaining this, he warns Eve that there will be a lot of pus. With this last bit of helpful information, he then tells Baird to put on the clothes of the unconscious and very smelly local. Eve reacts accordingly:

“Uh, no, no, no, no, no, no. No way. Nope, nope, nope, nope. nope.”

Comedy gold aside, the show manages to bring in references to King Arthur, the round table, the lady in the lake, and the “return” of Excalibur.  Some reviewers believe that Flynn’s being able to weld Excalibur, aka Cal, means that he is Arthur…a bit of a stretch, although Jenkins is a knight…Hmmm.

There are plenty of clever uses of logic and Shakespearean references that are brought up to solve the Prospero problem. (Hint: Check out Stone’s little spiel about carnations.) Moriarty and Flynn finally show how they really feel about one another but, the evil mastermind actually helps to “save the day” somewhat before bleeding out ink and disappearing.

It should be pointed out that the reading of Shakespeare, each quote pertanent to the issue at hand, was beyond brilliant.

The Librarians finishes with a lot of cute moments, a couple of “aw” ones and seemingly a promise that Noah Wyle as Flynn will be in a lot more episodes next year.  While this can only be a good thing, after all, he and Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn) make such a great couple, hopefully this will not mean less Lindy Booth, Christian KaneJohn Harlan Kim or John Larroquette

This was an entertaining season finale and now time will drag until a new season returns fall of 2016. One plea, and this is an earnest one, please TNT and makers of The Librarians, stop using contrived “British”  accents (which are not really a thing, remember) and use real sounding English ones… This would go a long way to making Oregon stand in for any location as long as the players “sound right.”

Please.