Blindspot: A Stray Howl – Connections (Review)

Blindspot - Season 1

In the pilot of Blindspot, Jane Doe and the FBI found their first clue amid the myriad of tattoos on her body. Behind Jane’s ear was a Chinese tattoo with an address on it.  The residence revealed a connection between the ink and  a man named Chou who wanted to blow up the Statue of Liberty.  Jane has her first “triggered” memory; target practice in the woods.

At the start of A Stray Howl, Chou dies from a “stroke” after surgery (the man was shot  in the pilot episode) and later it is discovered that he was murdered. Patterson (Ashley Johnson) finds another tattoo that is connected to the first tattoo (that Jane translated).

The newest tattoo spotted by technician is deciphered using the vigenere cipher which is a poly-alphabetic substitution code. It spells out a name, USAF Major Arthur Gibson (Robert Eli). The Jane Doe team go to Gibson’s Brooklyn address. Gibson answers the door and refuses to speak to the group on his doorstep.

As the FBI and Jane leave,  the house explodes. There is no body and it turns out that Arthur is up to no good and has kidnapped a little girl in order to steal a government drone which he uses to kill those who turned against him.  As Gibson continues to target people, Weller rushes to find the child and Jane has more memories pop up in her mind.

Blindspot - Season 1

The drone pilot kills his former commander and tries to kill the colleague who turned him in to authorities.  As the FBI team rush to shut him down, they learn that Gibson plans to kill all the other domestic drone pilots along with thousands of other employees at the government facility.

Kurt Weller’s past is brought up via a discussion with his sister. Their father was accused of abducting and murdering a childhood friend of Kurt’s 25 years ago; Taylor Shaw. Although his dad was cleared of the crime, because the child was never found the stigma has hung over the man for years.

The missing  girl was Kurt’s best friend and he has been full of guilt about her disappearance for years. The issue of Shaw has also clouded his relationship with his father.   Weller sees the scans that Patterson did of all the tattoos on Jane’s body and he notices a scar which identical to one that the girl Taylor had.

A scar that the young Kurt inadvertently gave to his childhood friend. The presence of this identical wound, convinces the  FBI agent that Jane is Shaw. Later his boss orders  DNA tests done to see if he is correct.

Jane has another “triggered”  memory while shooting several weapons at the range. One, a silenced pistol,  prompts a flashback of shooting a nun. Jane is horrified by the memory and is concerned that she may be a terrible person. As the episode progresses, the flashback lengthens and she sees that the “nun” was a man disguised as a holy figure and in the memory she is receiving a flash drive from the body.

Weller and Jane team up to tackle the vengeful Air Force pilot. They track the man to a tall building, with the help of Patterson, and Kurt goes up to  face Gibson.  The Major is armed and the two men exchange gunfire.  Gibson escapes and uses the elevator to get away from Weller.

Once he reaches the ground floor, he fires an entire clip of ammo at Jane, who is in Weller’s car. The man drives off and Jane quickly follows.

Blindspot - Season 1

A Stray Howl, which could apply to Gibson as he was a would be whistle blower, reveals more about Jane Doe. She is proficient with many different weapons and can drive using advanced techniques. For example, when she is pursuing Major Gibson in Weller’s SUV she uses a pit maneuver (a police pursuit tactic) to stop his vehicle. Weller saves the girl that Gibson kidnapped after Jane crashes the SUV.

By the end of the episode Weller is convinced that Jane is his missing childhood friend. Agent Reed (Rob Brown) exhibits some major trust issues with Jane Doe. Jane sees the man from her flashback, played by Jimmy Whitworth, and later he shows up at her apartment. 

Jane recognizes that she and Weller have some connection and Kurt tells his sister that he believes the tattooed woman is Shaw.  Sarah (Jordana Spiro) tells her brother that their father is dying of lung cancer and he needs to see him before it is too late.

This is a taut and well constructed thriller which may boil down to a “tattoo a week” set up, but thus far it is working brilliantly.  Alexander’s character  is a giant cipher which appears to work as a crime prevention tool.  The chemistry between Sullivan and Jaimie is spot on.

Blindspot: A Stray Howl - Connections (Review)

On a sidenote, it seems that so far Jaimie Alexander is doomed to have her face covered with dirt in many of her scenes.  It should be pointed out at the “Lady Sif” actress may be one of the few female performers who still looks gorgeous covered with muck.

Blindspot airs Mondays on ABC. This is a well-crafted thriller that has a more than capable cast and an interesting premise. Tune in and see where this illustrated woman’s journey takes her.



Blindspot: Jaimie Kennedy & Sullivan Stapleton

Blindspot - Season Pilot

There cannot be many who would not appreciate finding a nude, tattooed, Jaimie Kennedy in a giant equipment bag in Times Square.  Blindspot, about an illustrated woman found nude and disoriented with no idea who she is, comes from Stargate Atlantis producer Martin Gero. This Bourne-like thriller with Aussie actor Sullivan Stapleton (another import from down-under a la Longmire star Robert Taylor) as the other half of this mystery double act, starts off brilliantly.

Directed by Mark Pellington, the pilot episode comes out of the gate at a swift trot.  Giving us Kennedy as victim; memory wiped clean, except for procedural memories. The example given that “Jane Doe” understands music but has no idea who The Beatles are.  As the episode moves into gear, it turns out that “Jane” also has some pretty spectacular muscle memory as well. 

Before the more “Jason (Jennifer?) Bourne” elements come about we meet FBI Special Agent Kurt Weller (Stapleton) who qualifies as an agent somewhat smarter than the average perp. A hostage situation is controlled when Weller proves he can think outside the box. After using door charges to capture the bad guy, by blowing the floor right out from under him, Weller is called to the office.

The Jane Doe found naked in Times Square has Weller’s name tatted on her back.

Kennedy’s character is scanned, printed and has DNA samples take and in every database on record, she does not exist.  As Jane gets more involved with trying to learn who she is, skills begin appearing. In a scene with Agent Patterson (Ashley Johnson) Jane sees Chinese lettering on a tattoo she has not noticed before.

Blindspot - Season Pilot
Jane Doe (Jaimie Kennedy) demands help.

Patterson tells her it is behind her ear and Jane Doe reads the tattoo revealing that she can read and speak Chinese.  The characters are a date and an address. The illustrated woman begins to actively help the FBI and as the episode progresses, her first memory is triggered.

The concept of the show is that Kennedy is a female SEAL;  she has a SEAL tattoo deliberately covered up by another tattoo. This seems to indicate that she was/is special ops which could well explain her absence on any databases.

Writing on this pilot episode is tight and comprehensive. There are a number of scenes which stand out. For instance the “coffee/tea” scene. Dr. Borden brings in a cup of coffee and of tea. Jane Doe tries each.

Taking a sip of first one cup and then the other, she holds up one and says, “I like this one.” Putting the other cup down she says, “This one tastes like grass trimmings.” Borden responds that woman now has learned two things. One, that she knows what grass trimmings taste like and two, she has figured out that she is is a coffee person.

The doctor gives Jane Doe a little pep talk and finishes by telling her “You can still find yourself.” This scene does many things, but overall what is does is show the care the writers took to set up the scenario of enforced memory loss and its aftereffects and the skill, not just of Kennedy, but of Ukweli Roach as performers. This piece feels real and convincing.

Blindspot - Season Pilot
Kurt Weller and Jane Doe

As exhibited by the hostage scene, Weller is a “think outside the box” type of guy who figures out that all the ink on Jane Doe is a series of messages. After the date and address reveal a bomb plot, which is done very nicely in the episode, the viewer now knows that this will be a “mystery of the week” scenario with Jane learning more about her abilities as the series progresses.

The pilot has plenty of action, a bomb on the subway and a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty. It is all very exciting and quickly paced.  The bit where Weller pulls off some of the plastic explosive is a bit farfetched but this is fiction after all.

NBC have got a winner on their hands and one that does not require a cannibal serial killer. This may mean that Blindspot can continue until Jane Doe (who does have an identity we learn in the pilot) runs out of tattoos.

Blindspot airs Mondays on NBC. This is cracking television. Action, mystery, thrills and another Australian who can flawlessly speak American along with “Lady Sif.” What more could you want?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Yes Men (Review)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Yes Men (Review)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Yes Men gives its audience another little glimpse of its big screen cousin, so to speak, by bringing in Lady Sif. This Asgardian warrior, who appeared in the film Thor,and briefly in the sequel Thor: The Dark World is played ably by actress Jaimie Alexander who does not allow the constraints of being on the smaller screen interrupt her channeling of this strong female character. It does seem to be the show’s trump card; pulling in characters from the larger screen verse of Marvel.


The Last Stand (2013) The Western Revisited

The Last Stand Movie Poster

Despite the poor reviews that this film has garnered, I could not wait to see it. I wanted to see it in the cinema, but due to low viewing figures, by the time I could see it, it’s run in the theatres had finished.

This film felt like a reworking of two “classic” westerns. High Noon and Rio Bravo. Borrowing from the High Noon script of the bad guys (or guy) who  are coming in on the train (or via the road in a super duper corvette) and I/we need to stop him works well for the continuation of the story. Then it borrows from the Rio Bravo bit of the sheriff trying to get himself sorted out to defeat the baddies and having the help of his deputies, new and old and a bit of help from at least three citizens from the town.

But maybe I am wrong about my allegations of film similarities, but, it certainly felt that those touches were in there, albeit much more modern that the settings of the previous films. There were no horses, jangling spurs or Duke Wayne or even Gary Cooper. Ahnold will never be mistaken for either of these two cinematic western heroes, he doesn’t even wear a stetson, but he does a pretty good job.

Kim Jee-Woon does a brilliant job on his first US feature. He shows that the brilliance that he’s shown in his South Korean films aren’t just something he is capable of in his native country. This man is talented and gifted no matter where he directs.

I’ve guessed that part of the “mixed” reviews this film got was more because Arnold Schwarzenegger was the lead (and maybe Johnny Knoxville had a part to play in the negative viewpoints as well) more than anything else. I think that no matter what film that Arnie had chosen would have gotten him mixed reviews.

Jee-Woon has shown that he can direct films written by  folks than himself and he’s done well with this modern day western.

The film has a good cast, despite the fact that Ahnold is making his “comeback” in the film, it has enough other talent to take that sting in the tail out. I will hold my hand up and admit that I still like the ex “Governator’s” films. I like him less as a person since reading his autobiography (which I talked about in an earlier post) but I do still like him on the big (or in this case, smaller) screen.

But back to the cast.

How can you not like Peter Stormare as the big bad guy’s number one “bad-guy” helper;  Jaimie Alexander as one of the deputies; Forest Whitaker as the head FBI guy; and the legend that is Harry Dean Stanton as the grumpy, and possibly homicidal, farmer in a brilliant cameo. (A cameo that is miles too short)

Harry Dean Stanton

The plot, despite the holes that do occasionally make an appearance, is pretty straightforward. Ex cop from the big bad city of  Los Angeles  has set himself up as the sheriff of a small one horse town near the Mexican/Arizona border. Drug cartel super villain escapes from FBI custody and heads straight for the border. The villain blows any opposition away by using a lot of muscle hired by a lot of drug money.

The villain is making a bee-line for the small town and its tiny police force.

I’m not going to make a lot of observations about the holes, existent or not, or about whether this whole thing is unrealistic or not. If you want realism in your cops and robbers stories watch the nightly news, not a movie. If you cannot take off your disbelief hat at the door, why the hell do you watch movies anyway?

The biggest obstacle you have to get over is why would the citizens of this small, pokey, out in the middle of nowhere town hire a sheriff whose command of the English language keeps him from using the correct syntax when he speaks. Once you get past that one, the rest is easy.

As a debut film for the genius that is Kim Jee-Woon it’s good. He’s proven that he can deliver an entertaining American Hollywood film. One that has humour, pathos, a smidgen of death, shoot-outs, and car chases. The body count isn’t that high (under…say…20?) and only the fact that this was Schwarzenegger’s come-back vehicle kept it from doing better in the cinemas; in my honest opinion.

This is a cracking film. I enjoyed the hell  out of it and I’ve watched it about three times since it came in the post today. My mood is quite up in the area of films at the moment with two western films in my collection of such recent vintage, (In case you’ve forgotten the other western is Django Unchained – see previous post.) it gives me hope that the genre might be making a comeback.

Only I hope it’s better received than Arnold’s comeback.

5 out of 5 stars, cause it’s a Kim Jee-Woon film, man!

Kim Jee-woon
Kim Jee-woon
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