Ray Donovan: Fish and Bird – Execution (Review)

RayDonovan_406_1376.R

After the comedy of errors last week that left Ray Donovan and Mickey empty handed, and Mick turning himself in for the Minassian’s, “Fish and Bird” turns very dark for Ray. It starts with his running errands for Kovitzky and ends with Ray getting drunk and two deaths.

Ray is having issues with Mickey taking the rap for the murders. As MIckey is processed into   County, Ray cleans the blood out of the van.  He tells Abby about Mick and she tells him about her treatment; medically induced menopause.

Taking off her top and bra, she tells Ray to “F**k me like you used to.” Upstairs, Conor gets sexually aroused by topless women shooting automatic weapons.

Bunchy and Maria at his brother’s house  and when Ray lets him in he sees Belikov’s driver, Vlad.  The man tries to intimidate Ray who punches him and takes his gun. Vlad leaves.

At Kovitzky’s Donovan learns that until Belikov gets the charges dropped he is expected to keep paying his installments. Ray tells the art dealer that he cannot pay. She tells him that sweat will do. Donovan has to pick up a piece of art from the port for Kovitzky.

Ray  goes to the warehouse and meets the “string girl” (the one the security guard is masturbating to at the start of the episode). The girl is named Lilya (Alisa Vilenaand she is a gift for Belikov. Donovan picks up the Kovacs painting that will  be auctioned.

Bunchy reveals that Teresa has postpartum depression and that she has been gone a month.  As Abby starts her treatment Bunchy tells his support group that Ray has been drinking and is upset about Mickey going to jail.

Mickey confesses to Jackson Evans and Ray  escorts Kovitzky’s charity event. At the auction Ray bumps into  Ashley Rucker (Ambyr Childers) who is upset she has no sex pictures on the Internet. 

Ray works out that Sonia Kovitzky has cancer and that she is dying.  Donovan is tasked to take a forged version of  the painting to Stu Feldman. Belikov is released  from County.

While picking up the forgery, Ray bumps into Lilya again.  She is still playing with the string and her English has improved. Donovan plays Cat’s Cradle with the girl while waiting for the painting.

Bunchy asks if Abby is ill and she lies.  Donovan drops off the forgery to Stu Feldman (Josh Pais) who has just finished shooting a sex tape for Ashley his wife. He introduces Ray to her partner in the film, who is standing naked clutching a cell phone. 

Feldman wants Ray to leak the tape and he refuses.

Kovitzky tells Donovan to take money to Belikov and apologize to him.  Sonia then takes Ray into a room; a panoramic art viewing room. In what turns into a seduction, she reveals that she has already had a mastectomy.  Sonia then takes Ray hand and places it on her scarred breast. “Am I beautiful” she asks. Ray answers that she is.

Donovan  attends Maria’s christening and becomes his niece’s godfather. After the ceremony Ray gets drunk and upsets Bunchy.  Damon, who was invited by Terry, splits a bottle with Conor. Later the two take out the gun from Abby’s safe.

Ray delivers the money to Ivan. The Russian mobster tells Ray that he needs his help and that Donovan will be paid.  Belikov reveals that a sex party  with Lilya resulted in the girl having her neck broken. He asks Ray to help him ship the body to Moscow.

Conor shoots a neighbor’s bouncy castle as  Damon watches.  Ray drives the girl’s body and Belikov to the port.  The Russian tells Ray that he will protect Mickey in prison.  A drunken Bunchy tells Abby he knows about the cancer and he gets upset with her.

Belikov tells Ray to put Lilya’s body in a crate and seal it up.  He grabs Ivan by the throat and head butts him twice. Yelling at Ivan to look at him, he shoots Belikov with his own gun;  executing  him for Lilya’s murder.  He then seals the dead Russian in the crate.  Unfortunately Belikov’s death means no protection for Micky.

Kovitzky calls Ray as he drives the dead string girl to the local morgue.  He leaves the cross and rosary beads with her body.

Ray Donovan this season has been dark, action packed and full of death.  This episode was  very grim and the death of Belikov was brutal and sudden.  The splash of blood on Ray’s face was shocking, as was the death of the Russian girl.

The string playing girl seemed to be a nod to the village scene in The Wild Bunch, where the Gorch brothers play Cat’s Cradle with a local girl.  Sadly,  this young lady meets a horrible end unlike the one in Peckinpah’s film.

Earlier  in the episode, Ray’s Learning of Sonia’s cancer affects him deeply. The scene in the viewing room was intense and moving. This episode should garner a gong or two come Emmy time.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime. Tune in and see how Mickey fairs in County with no protection.

CAST:

Guest starring Richard Brake as Vlad, Pasha D. Lychnikoff as Ivan Belikov and Dominique Columbus as Damon. 

Tallulah (2016): Ultimately Uncomfortable (Review)

Ellen Page is Tallulah

Written and directed by Sian Heder  (Her first feature-length film.) Tallulah is a drama built around Ellen Page‘s “free spirit” character. Despite being an addictive film it is, ultimately, uncomfortable to watch.

Tallulah (Page) lives in the back of her van with boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit). It is not an ideal set up and after the two make love in the vehicle, he complains about their living arrangements. She tells Nico that this is how she lives, full stop. 

The next morning, Tallulah wakes up to find Nico gone.

A journey to Manhattan puts the 20 something woman in touch with Nico’s mother Margo (Allison Janney). At first Margo turns Tallulah away but then immediately regrets her decision.  

Hungry, Tallulah heads to a hotel and eats food off the room-service trays outside the rooms. She is caught by Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard), a drunken and disturbed mother who needs someone to look after her baby.  

Carolyn is clearly not in an emotional state to look after a child of any age. Later when she returns from her date, Carolyn passes out on her bed. Tallulah, after stealing cash and jewelry from the woman, takes her baby.

Tallulah goes to see Margo again and this time tells her that the baby is Nico’s.  Margo reluctantly allows the pair to stay for “just one night.”

The film spends a lot of time  allowing the three to bond. It also delves into the breakup of Margo and Nico’s father  Stephen (John Benjamin Hickey).  Stephen has moved in with his gay lover Andreas (played by long time pal of Sian Heder, Zachary Quinto).

Carolyn realizes her baby is missing and calls the police.  Detective’s Richards (David Zayas) and Kinnie (Uzo Aduba) contact the baby’s father Russell (Fredric Lehne) and start investigating Carolyn while they look for Tallulah and the baby. 

Heder’s first feature length film is a mixed bag.  Not amusing enough to be classified as a dramedy, it is, however,  oddly compelling and impossible to stop watching. Throughout the film one cannot escape the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Tallulah taking the infant is so intrinsically wrong, yet we understand her motivation. It becomes even clearer later on when more backstory is revealed.  The young woman is a impulsive creature who lies and steals to make her way through life.  Taking baby Madison was done on the spur of the moment and it is clear this will end in tears.

Margo and Tallulah eventually bring out the best in one another but ultimately it really changes nothing in the terms of direction that this story must take.  The free spirit and the “stuck in a rut” woman are undergoing a change. One that could end badly for all concerned.

The film is ultimately a bit of a downer.   Page, always watchable in whatever project she works in,  gives her survivor role a lost and vulnerable air. She also provides Tallulah with a certain truth, a stubborn belief that everything will work out if one just keeps  slugging away at the problem. And if that does not work, there is always running away.

Margo is angry and resentful of the husband who left her for another man. A writer of relationship books, she has become a bitter introvert. She is a slightly anal older woman who keeps a turtle as a pet. (This choice of pet speaks volumes about author.) But…she wants to care about someone.

Tallulah offers a glimpse into the lives of a few disparate individuals over a couple of days. The ending is quite surrealistic and a tad ambiguous.   It is also one of those tear inducing finales that has one reaching for the tissue box.

The downbeat  finish is not surprising.  This story was never going to end well for anyone, let alone Tallulah.

Page and Janney turn in some brilliant performances and Blanchard is splendid as the alcoholic mother who entrusts her baby to a stranger. It was lovely to see  Uzo Aduba outside of Orange Is the New Black.

Tallulah looks brilliant, the crisp cinematography by Paula Huidobro and the spot on editing by Darrin Navarro enhances the story perfectly.

This film is a 4.5 star production that only loses a half star because of the ambiguity of the ending. Tallulah is streaming on Netflix at the moment and it is definitely worth a look. It will have to be a long one as the running time is just under two hours.

Be advised however that, despite IMDb touting the film as a “Comedy/Drama/Romance” it is ultimately an uncomfortable film to watch. Regardless of this fact it is entertaining.

Chelsea: Trump, Jay Leno and Tatiana Maslany (Review)

Chelsea Handler Netflix

How can one not enjoy the eclectic nature of Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talkshow? Three episodes over three days with guests and topics that range from politics, sex, drugs and not rock and roll. This week had a Trump class, Johnny Carson’s replacement, the now sort of retired Jay Leno, the aging Go-Go’s on their last tour and the one woman army that plays all the roles on Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany.

Chelsea as a talkshow is a odd animal.  The episodes can be watched back-to-back or one at a  time. Generally one can  wait and watch all three consecutively on Friday and lose nothing.  Each episode has at least one micro segment (meaning very short in duration) that outshines the other’s easily.

The Wednesday episode featured more political “lessons.”  The audience learned about how Trump may “self fund” but he makes money out of the deal. This episode was easily the most annoying as Ms. Handler chose to include Khloe Kardashian  as a guest. (It was Handler’s choice as she is the show runner now that “what’s his name” left after only a few episodes.)

Granted, the segment was about “The Apprentice” and Khloe, like the other guests had all been on the show with Donald Trump. Still, like Chelsea’s other, earlier,  parasitic guest; Arianna Huffington these people all have to be somewhere it would just be nice if it were not here.

The next episode had the marvelous Jay Leno, who  had Chelsea on his show a staggering 28 times. (Leno told his host that only 18 were memorable. Her reply was “F**k you.”) Also invited on the show was another Netflix denizen Gillian Jacobs.  Amusingly, Jacobs nearly ran down Jay as she rushed to greet Chelsea. 

Perhaps the best bit of the last two episodes was Chelsea’s Airbnb pre-recorded segments. Broken down into Handler joining the organization, meeting her guests and getting tired of them. The family who rented the house were Filipino and quite nice. Chelsea starts out being a lovely host but things do go sideways a bit from that point on.

The pre-recorded segments are generally good value as long at they are not  the “dinner parties” where Handler and her old chums get together. Thankfully, none of these were part of this week’s offerings.

Chelsea’s final episode featured the Go-Go’s all grown up, and then some,  who are on  their farewell tour. The group is now down to four and they spoke briefly about their fights on the road.

The last segment of Airbnb was aired and for Chelsea the bloom had gone off the rose.  Drinking too much and getting a little pushy, Handler serves the group cold burritos and rice for breakfast. She then leaves early to avoid spending any further time with the family.

“Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslan was the last entertainer on the show and she talked about working on the series.  The final guest was “sex-pert” Mary Roach.

Chelsea’s talkshow is quirky and, at times, very funny. She managed this week to cover a lot of bases. Her favorite subject, politics,  was covered with various interviews and the Trump lesson earlier. One guest was the first gay Republican delegate who came across as too serious by far.

There was a “nother” (Sorry Chelsea, could not resist this one.) grammar lesson which was pithy and totally Chelsea Handler. Very funny indeed.

Netflix have allowed Chelsea to experiment with format and despite some bits not working as well as others, the show entertains.  Handler is an oddly addictive woman (no pun intended) her irreverent attitude combined with her sometimes aggressive approach fits her like a glove.

She is not afraid of coming off badly and her humor sometimes almost misses the mark but there is something about this comedian that keeps one coming back for more. Hopefully the network will keep this show on for a long time. It is different from the usual talk shows on offer and in that sense is quite refreshing.

While there is the odd misstep, i.e. Khloe Kardashian and that Huffington woman,  overall Chelsea Handler makes it worth watching.

The episodes air three times a week on Netflix. Watch them one at a time or save them up for a long dose of Chelsea.

Orange Is the New Black: Friends in Low Places – Branded Pt 2 (Review)

Judy King kissing Cindy OITNB

In the previous episode of Orange Is the New Black, Piper was branded by Maria and her gang.  “Friends in Low Places” sees Chapman get a new brand and Judy has her picture taken kissing Cindy.  Nichols puts the make on her old girlfriend while stealing from Red to finance her reawakened drug habit.

Caputo is upset that his education initiative has been turned into “Cool Hand Luke” and Linda pulls a gun on Sophia Burset’s wife.  She turns up at Caputo’s house demanding to know how Sophia (Laverne Coxis doing. MCC  is stonewalling the woman and using their private status to withhold information.  Somewhat bizarrely Mrs. Burset is accompanied by her boyfriend.

At the start of “Friends in Low Places” Judy King is still terrified of being attacked for her 1980s racist videos.  A corrections officer even has to watch over the celebrity prisoner in the showers.

Standout Moment of the Episode:

Suzanne “Crazy Eyes”  Warren (played by two-time Emmy winning actress Uzo Aduba) steals the entire episode.  As King returns to her cell with the CO escort, Suzanne swans by with a long white sock on her left hand and arm. Using the sock as a puppet she sings a song from King’s ’80s “racist” video. A truly hysterical moment that shows all too well why Uzo won two Emmy’s for this show.

King later speaks to her biggest fan, Poussey and asks why her fellow inmates want to hurt her. She learns that the “attack” was actually a “paparazzi” moment.  Judy decides to help the enterprising Cindy, Taystee and Alison. She grabs Cindy and gives her a big kiss. Cindy is nonplussed at the action and muses that her mother will see her kiss a white woman.

The former employees of Whispers are called out to the yard for “vocational training” which turns into a behind the walls chain gang. The woman are very impressed with the construction foreman instructor (what a mouthful) who asks if anyone  has experience.

Standout Moment of the Episode Part Two:

Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) makes a reference to the iconic film “All About Eve” to Doggett (Taryn Manning) and the younger inmate goes off on a  riff about Adam and Eve. The expression on Boo’s face is priceless.

Back to the new construction site: No one has prior experience. Then the instructor reveals he needs an  an apprentice is needed all the women, sans Piper, volunteer. The backhoe (digger) breaks down and all the women are handed shovels and hardhats.

Maritza  (Diane Guerrero) is almost caught with contraband and later tries to quit. Maria refuses to let Ramos go. 

After failing to reconnect with her old girlfriend Nicky puts the make on Alex who also turns her down. She does agree to partake in some recreational drugs with Nichols.

Piper is in agony and her brand is bleeding.  Later she joins Alex and Nicky in the cornfield and shares a crack pipe with them. Chapman and Vause then reveal each other’s secrets.   Alex admits to killing her assassin, who is buried under the corn,  and Piper shows them swastika burned onto her forearm.

Later Red helps Chapman out, taking her into the kitchen and changing the swastika to a windows logo.

Honorable Mention:

Nicky Nichols was all wide-eyed in the corn patch.  The eyeliner around her peepers helped emphasis her wild facial expression. She  looked quite mad throughout the big revelatory  crack scene.

Lorna (Yael Stone)is convinced her husband is cheating on her, after her conversation with Nicky earlier. She asks her sister to check on him. Nichols stops by the salon to buy drugs and Aleida  (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is annoyed that Maria is selling drugs in the salon.  

At Caputo’s house Linda proves that she knows nothing about cooking and that she has no problem pulling a gun on someone.  After she threatens Mrs. Burset with the weapon, Linda and Joe presumably have sex.

This episode of Orange Is the New Black has a lot of humor. It also built up future plots by showing that Red  (Kate Mulgrew) knows   Nicky is stealing from her.

Despite the amusing highlights in this episode, the end of “Friends in Low Places” was quite emotional.  Donuts apologies to Doggett and it is a moving moment . As Piper is held down, this time voluntarily,  Red adapts the swastika.  Chapman tearfully says “I’m so  sorry” twice.

Cue viewers reaching for tissue boxes in unison.

With less attention spent on procedures the show was able to spend more time on the inmates.  It served to bring us that bit closer to these prisoners and their lives. Well done OITNB.

Orange Is the New Black is streaming on Netflix. Binge it,  or parcel out the episodes sparingly, but however you do it, watch this show.

CAST:

Dark Matter: We Voted Not to Space You – Android Interrupted (Review)

Dark Matter - Season 2

Dark Matter has handed out more twists than a demented Chubby Checker this season.  Last week The Android got a game changing bit of illegal tech that would upgrade her to practically human.  In “We Voted Not to Space You”  The Android uses her new “self” in a number of ways. This upgrade does indeed  make her more human in that it also allows her to make a mistake.

Six is let out of his holding cell he also helps save the day later after the GA capture Four.  Three, however, is not impressed.  The reduced Raza team track down Jace Corso on a  revenge mission. The mission takes place because Derrick Moss’ murder investigation has been suspended . Corso is seen by hotel security so the Raza crew know who killed “One.”

The episode begins with The Android in a bar. She orders a whiskey and another patron warns her about flashing her money about. The Android states she can “handle” herself. “Watch me,” she tells the concerned barfly.

The Android then approaches Danny Bones. She offers him money which he takes with no intention of telling her what she needs to know.  A one-sided fight begins where The Android kicks arse and takes no names. She does, however, take Bones.

(The choreography for this fight sequence was brilliant.  Major kudos for The Android using the butt of one opponent to launch an arial attack on the other bodyguard. In the fight she places one foot on the downed bodyguard’s nether region and pushes up and off to take out the other chap.)

Six is quite helpful in this episode even though he is still healing from Devon’s surgery.  Nyx proves to be a valuable new crew member and Devon seems to have a version of PTSD. Three still does not trust Six and The Android enjoys her upgrade as she  evolves  into something  more human.

Evolving is the subtext in  Dark Matter this week.   Six is evolving into his new role as distrusted crew member. Two has learned to care, but is still cold blooded enough to shoot Corso between the eyes. Out of all this evolution, The Android is the focus of attention here though.

She becomes so human that, as mentioned before, she makes a mistake.  Her evolution is so complete that The Android then tries to justify her boo-boo.  The holographic Android points out, yet again, that   robot  is flawed. This, says the computer software program, is why the mistake was made.

The upgrade does allow The Android to go solo on two missions. One, to plant a bug in a small GA station computer and the second to bring Danny Bones in for questioning. Her new “personality” has The Android practicing  her swordsmanship. Four points out that her skills are programmed. “You can’t get any better,”  he says. The Android replies that it makes her feel “powerful.”

Speaking of power…What is going on with Nyx? This recent addition to the crew can instantaneously learn fight moves and has…What? Supersonic hearing? She saves Three when the tunnel ceiling collapses. She shoves him out of the way seconds before the rocks come tumbling down.

When Three asks her about it, she attributes it so great hearing.  Three does not buy it and neither do we. Is Nyx another version of Two, aka Portia Lin? Is she another human enhanced with nanites or could she be like The Android and her new chums, an upgraded bit of tech?

Only time and more episodes will tell. Nyx is quickly becoming a fascinating new crew member on the Raza.

Points to Ponder:

Three must be on a diet. He did not “stuff his face” once in this episode.

The Android computer  program has turned into a pedantic Jiminy Cricket.  The thing is also quite grumpy with her real life counterpart. Are we talking “upgrade envy” here?  Probably not as the software version does not like “flaws” of any sort.

Should Six still be in so much pain? Devon clearly has issues with surgery, this appears to be the reason for his “drug” abuse, and his mention of internal bleeding is worrying.

Two has developed feelings. (Or compassion.) Corso sneers at the Raza commander. He calls her vulnerable and declares it will bring her down in the end. It is Jace, however, that is brought down with a bullet in the brain.  Portia Lin may have lost that cold edge but she can still pull a trigger.

It was interesting to note that when The Android has her mistake pointed out by her computer self, she gives a technical excuse that is akin to “the sun got in my eyes.”  (Or any other similar “it’s not my fault” justifications that humans trot out.)

Who, or what, is Nyx?

Dark Matter - Season 2
Four, Two, Nyx and Three

Overall Thoughts:

Paul Mullie penned this episode and he has given us a new Android. A version of herself that is not the norm, a sort of Android interrupted.  The build towards a robotic/human  conversion has been in the cards since season one.  This upgrade will, no doubt, shake things up a bit and may even be quite disastrous for the Raza crew.

Mallozzi and Mullie have  taken this second season and pumped it full of creative steroids.  The looming GA and Corporate war and the evolution of the crew members have shot this series forward at warp speed.

That “pockets of inter-dimensional space-time” card is still hanging out there and it will be, like The Android’s upgrade, a game changer. The general already knows it can win the war.  It could also be used to save Derrick Moss from being murdered.

So many questions remain not least of which is who gave The Android those flaws? There are eight episodes left in season two. Will One be saved and will the new improved Android endanger the crew? (And will Three ever trust Six again?)

[The previous paragraph incorrectly stated that five episodes were left in season two. The show’s creator and Executive Producer graciously pointed out that there are eight episode left. This has been corrected.]

*Sidenote* Zoie Palmer looked brilliant in her new Android threads and relaxed hairdo.

Dark Matter airs Fridays on SyFy and Space. Like the old Batman intro used to say, “Don’t touch that dial.” (Or do to make sure you do not miss this brilliant show.)

CAST:

Guest Stars:  Melanie Liburd  –  Nyx and Shaun Sipos  –  Devon