Longmire (Season 6): What do we do Now? (Season Review)

longmire-robert-taylor

Walt Longmire says it himself in the season six finale, “What do we do now?” He is talking to Vic, after they have finally, and officially, become a couple after almost six seasons of “will they, won’t they” false starts and stops. We ask ourselves the same question.

The popular cowboy cop show has ridden off, not into the sunset, but into a manufactured sunrise. Walt goes off to find the buried treasure that Lucien spoke of while Vic sits on the porch of the Longmire homestead sipping coffee. The Ferg looks to be soon reunited with his very angry ex-girlfriend, Cady will be stepping into Walt’s boots and the big bogeyman from the previous few seasons; Malachi Strand, is finally dispatched with extreme prejudice.

We also have Henry Standing Bear getting Longmire’s blessing to run the casino after Jacob Nighthorse leaves the money making venture and Cady Longmire has found love now that Zach Heflin (played brilliantly by Barry Sloane) is hired, again, by Walt. 

A lot of things are tied up in this final season of Longmire. Ferg gets a very final bit of closure when he shoots Eddie Harp right between the eyes. This closes the chapter on when the drug pushing enforcer terrorized The Ferg last season. We also find out that this WASP mob member was playing Hector for Malachi Strand to make sure that only the Boston Mob heroin was being sold on The Rez.

Along the way to the season six finale, Vic saves Walt’s life, gets shot and loses the new life in her womb. Travis takes off for parts unknown (not to be cruel but it this was a good thing, he was never a good fit for Vic…) and Henry comes close to death a number of times.

Even Longmire is wounded by the vicious Strand in the final showdown before being shot to death by the bleeding lawman. Cady kidnaps a Native American child to give him penicillin and loses whatever goodwill points that her shooting of the white man earned last season. Mandy; her secretary/receptionist, also turned out to be more loyal to the tribe than her employer.

Cowboy Bill, the elusive McGuffin that takes most of the final season to wrap up, turns out to be the local woodworker, nee’ rodeo clown. It is after Ferg shoots Harp dead that the local deputy decides that his girlfriend’s ex is the polite bank robber. His investigation leads to the nurse dumping him like a hot rock.

Overall, this was a fairly satisfactory season. There were overtones of manufactured stories though. The Lucien storyline, with Walt’s former boss killing the despicable Tucker Bagget, played superbly by Brett Rice, felt a tad too convenient  and there was far too little of Radha Mitchell.

Marilyn, the Crow Medicine Woman, is killed by one of Strand’s Rez goons and it was a shame to see this character go. It was also sad to see Lucien self destruct. “No one notices old people,” he says before revealing that Walt Longmire was right about who murdered Bagget.

(One of the better scenes in this season was the very short, and up close, gunfight between the two lawmen.)

Jacob Nighthorse is almost vindicated when he admits to doing some dodgy business deals with the Boston mob. He did so for the greater good but even he has to admit that Longmire was not too far off base with his accusations of criminality. Nighthorse was not greedy so much as speedy. He wanted good things for the tribe, but at a cost that was detrimental overall.

This final season still had the issue of bad continuity with any scene dealing with guns and close-ups. When Walt confronts Cowboy Bill in the band, the gun is uncocked in many of the shots and they vary from the robber holding the gun with two hands to one and only at the climax of the scene is the pistol cocked and ready for action.

Of course the biggest letdown of all has nothing to do with plot holes or continuity errors. Longmire has finished and fans of the series are mourning the loss of a brilliantly “adult” television show. Not having read the books that the show was based upon it is hard to tell just how far the show deviated from the stories written by Craig Johnson. But one feels that the characters have changed steadily as each season ran on.

It does not really matter however as changes were to be expected. There were, after all, only 13 books about the Wyoming lawman and these were, presumably, stretched into six whole seasons. One can assume that after A&E dropped the popular show that they were nearing the end of book storylines already.

Walt Longmire may be searching now for buried treasure while Vic waits for her new partner to come home but the sheriff will live on. In fact, there were no major character deaths, apart from Strand (and Peter Weller’s Lucien) but  these were to be expected, and all our heroes look to be carrying on regardless of Walt’s stepping down from the saddle.

There are moments of comedy, tragedy and not a few tears in this last season. While it may be bittersweet, this last season has managed to deliver on many levels. It may not contain the sheer level of entertainment of the first seasons but damn it it has given its fans a bit of closure.

For those who can make the time, all six seasons are on Netflix for the bingeing. Check out Walt and his story, if you have not already, and you will not be disappointed. In answer to Walt’s question, “What do we do now,” we say head back and start watching from the beginning.  If for no other reason than to see the Longmire/Moretti relationship blossom and evolve.


Cast:

 

Skin Trade (2014): Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa

A message Action Film

Thai action films have been ruling the martial arts film market for some time now. Movies like  the 2008 martial arts action feature Chocolate with JeeJa Yanin as an autistic martial arts prodigy are almost eternally popular. ( Yanin was being groomed to  be a female version of Tony Jaa.) JeeJa’s film followed the Ong Bak and other, more recent, Thai action films’ formula where stunts are real, painful and make each fight sequence something special.  Jaa is, in the world of Thai film enthusiasts, an icon.

Dolph Lundgren, who has made a bit of a comeback since Expendables 1,2,3, ad nauseam, provided a story, and a screenplay, which was doctored by several writers, including the wildly talented John Hyams (Z Nation, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning). The storyline was prompted by a real skin trade incident that the actor witnessed while working on another film.

Lundgren’s message film, delivered via the action film genre, has a pretty impressive cast. Peter Weller, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Dolph (of course) and the ultimate (type-cast) baddie in the guise of Ron Perlman. Apparently the film took some time to come together enough for production to start and apart from the dynamite fight scenes, it shows. Unfortunately despite the Asian setting and the inclusion of the legendary Tony Jaa,  the film cannot match “ordinary” Thai action movies.

Sadly, compared to Ong Bak or even the somewhat disappointing follow up to Chocolate, 2009’s Raging Phoenix , the fight scenes are not too overly impressive. That said, his presence alone elevates any action choreography set up by maestro coordinator and choreographer Dian Hristov,  who has nearly a hundred features to his credit. While the fights are not as spectacular as the ones featured in, for example, Chocolate, they are pretty convincing.

A Message Action Film
Tony Jaa mid-air shotgunning…

When Lundgren fights Jaa and later White fights the Ong Bak star as well, the efforts of the men and their stunt doubles feel almost real and painful. Certainly one assumes there were a few injuries incurred, but it is the actor’s who sell the altercations. Each performer makes the action that bit more convincing by slowing down as the fight goes on.

Dolph, despite looked darned good for 57, the same age as this reviewer, is old enough now that these types of films must be harder for him to pull off physically. Lundgren may look 30 years younger in the muscle department, but this type of exertion at over-50 is harder than it was at over-20.

The story is a multi-national set up, where Serbian baddie Perlman has a family business that entails stealing girls, or buying them (Life is very cheap in the skin trade world where Vietnamese, Thailand, and other impoverished Asian countries will sell their children to the sex trade.) from poor families.

These drugged up, and uncooperative, recruits are used in a Cambodian club or shipped out all over the world. One container ship lands in America with a shipment of long dead girls. Police Officer Nick Cassidy (Lundgren) goes after the leader of the skin trade Viktor (Perlman) and loses his family as a result.

Peter Weller does a more than competent cameo as a narcotics detective, Michael Jai White is the turncoat who tries to have Cassidy killed and Tony Jaa is the “local” cop in Cambodia whose girlfriend is an inside informant at the club.

The storyline is almost boringly formulaic, a by-the-numbers drill where Dolph’s character loses his wife and daughter (the latter “loss” is set up to enable a sequel presumably) and the bad guys buy out law enforcement and government officials.  After Lundgren is badly injured by Viktor’s Serbian mobsters, he goes out to kill the mafia leader.

Director Ekachai Uekrongtham (Beautiful Boxer, Pleasure Factory) does a good enough job with the story handed him. This film went almost straight to VoD and a few years back would have been relegated to the ‘B” picture slot at the local participating drive-in.

Skin Trade is a solid 3.5 star film. Nothing too exciting, but it is never boring and the film earns a half-star for 57 year-old Lundgren’s ability to still look and act like a cinematic action-man.It is streaming on US Netflix at the moment. Check it out, if for no other reason than to enjoy Peter Weller’s cameo or the ability of Tony Jaa to amaze outside of the Ong Bak verse.

Longmire: Season Four Episode 4 ‘Four Arrows’ (Review)

Longmire and Nighthorse working together

 

Considering that the new season of Longmire was released by Netflix all at once, which made the impulse to watch the first three episodes too strong to resist, it seems that now watching each episode seperately is now in order. Four Arrows, aka episode four, was in-depth enough to warrant writing about on its own. Besides, skipping ahead and watching episode five made it immediately apparent that Help Wanted was even more involved and needed to be approached on its own.

*Sidenote* Not to mention that there was a glaring error in the climax of the piece (“Help Wanted”)  where a gun went from cocked to un-cocked all because of a lack of continuity. Something that is becoming a normal occurrence on television and many films these days. There was no such event on “Four Arrows”, which the superb Peter Weller directed and guest starred in. Hence the decision to write about each one individually. 

Peter Weller returned to the Longmire verse to play Lucian Connally, brother of Barlow. Apart from his directing this episode, Weller’s character gets the best lines of the show.  He and Walt are talking about Barlow Connally at the episode’s end:

“After you shot Barlow, I cogitated on all the ways I could have been a better brother. Maybe if I’d done more… spent more time with him, Branch would be alive, Martha would be alive.”

“You believe that?”

“I’ll tell you what I believe. My brother would have been a good man if somebody had been there to shoot him every minute of his life.”

Before the episode gets to that point, however, there is a lot of territory to cover.  Four Arrows opens with a moving montage that explains everything the viewer needs to know about what happened after the final fight and death of Barlow Connally at the end of episode three.

We see FBI agents and forensic technicians going through the crime scene (Walt’s cabin). The lawman removing the step with Connally’s blood on it, reading John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (something that will become more meaningful in Help Wanted), after having read a mountain of books while drinking his beer, and finally Walt taking his wife’s greeting off the answer machine.

The most touching part of that being when Walt records his new greeting, he cannot get  beyond “This is Walt.” Stopping the recording and replaying it, Longmire deems this change enough and leaves a day early for work.

The episode explores further the whole “Hector is alive” subplot  via the auspices of Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Walt’s attachment to Vic. Walt is apparently so jealous of the temporary help from the next county that, after the deputy makes a faux pas, he dismisses the man. It is also a welcome return to the Sheriff’s office investigating  other murders. 

*Sidenote* In many ways this series of a western sheriff named Longmire which has, it seems, a murder a week, is much like the beloved English drama “Midsummer Murders” (with  “Bergerac”  star John Nettles as the Inspector). As one witty critic once pointed out, no one would really want to live there with all those homicides going on each week. One gets the same feeling with the “land of Longmire” but as one viewer commented, the scenery is so beautiful

In this episode the main storyline dealt with a hen party (aka bachelorette party) whose RV crashes with a casino bus (for the opening of Jacob Nighthorse’s new casino Four Arrows – hence the episode title). Lucian Connally is there when the local sheriff’s department show up and after they get everyone from both vehicles on their way, they find the body of a young woman in a black duffel bag.

The women were on their way to Jacob’s new casino and this necessitates Walt having to apologize to Nighthorse in order to question possible witnesses.  Longmire apologizes,

“I’m sorry that my deeply held belief that you are a dishonorable, untrustworthy person led me to falsely accuse you of killing Branch Connally.”

“And your wife.”

“And my wife.”

“I now know it was Barlow.”

Jacob then gives his permission but not without the proviso that the news not be spread around. Bad press could hurt his business since Barlow left him in the lurch, the reason his casino’s hotel is not completed. Jacob also tells Longmire,

“For the record Walt, that was the worst apology I’ve ever received.

The temporary deputy Eamon O’Neill (Josh Cooke) and Vic release a picture of the dead girl and Nighthorse is furious. So too, is Walt who lets O’Neill know about it. Shortly afterward, he tells Eamon to go back to his own department. 

After a few false leads;  an innocent roughneck framed and a driver dodging child support payments, Longmire zeroes in on the real murderers.  Henry, under the guise of Hector, helps a mother and son to escape their abusive husband and father.  Walt proves once again that he is very “Sherlock-y” (watch the episode and this reference will become crystal clear) and there are not many who can get past his deductive reasoning…even if it is a little “last minute.”

This was the Walt Longmire viewers fell in love with. Not to say that his search for who really killed his dying wife was off putting, but it is Robert Taylor’s sincerity as the Wyoming lawman in his day-to-day interactions that gives the show such a following. (Along with the good storylines and  messages the series passes on about life as a Native American and in this season, Japanese American and in the next episode veterans with PTSD.)

Messages aside, despite losing Branch (who was having a very rough time of it before being murdered by his own father) it is the cast that make this show work. Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee SackhoffAdam Bartley as “The Ferg,” Louanne Stephens as Ruby, Cassidy FreemanA Martinez and Zahn McClarnon all make the series feel as real as they present their characters. 

Of course the presence of Peter Weller as Lucian made this episode a winner. Along with the  fact that Weller’s calm and talent hand guided this segment along.

Episode five, Help Wanted, has Walt trying to find a replacement for the temporary officer that Vic liked.  Netflix has all 10 episodes on offer for those who cannot resist the urge to watch the entire season.  MikesFilmTalk will,  now that the first rush of excitement has passed, review each episode seperately.

RoboCop (2014) Decent Remake Sans the Quirky Humor

Poster for RoboCop
Perhaps the most noticeable thing missing in the RoboCop 2014 remake, directed by José Padilha (Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within) are the quirky commercials, “I’d buy that for a dollar,” and the sunscreen that gives the user skin cancer are just a few of the adverts that made the first 1987 version, the Peter Weller starring Paul Verhoeven directed tongue in cheek thriller so beloved by its fans, that little bit special.

RoboCop the remake had a good amount of big names attached to it. Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, who would go on to give a brilliant performance in the oscar winning film Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) in the same year. The original did not rely so much on names to sell the film and Weller was shot to prominence as a result of his portrayal of Alex P. Murphy.

In RoboCop, Keaton plays the Ronnie Cox character and Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman is the Peter Weller in this updating of the cult classic film. In this telling of the man/robot crime fighter the female partner, played by Nancy Allen in the original, has been replaced by Michael Kenneth Williams and Murphy’s wife and child play a huge part in the film, too much so.

Added to the mix are Patrick Garrow as Kurtwood Smith’s replacement, and what a shallow replacement he turned out to be, and Jackie Earle Haley as a new, and totally arsehole-ish character not in the 1987 film. While the film entertains, it lack the humor and the pathos of the first one. Murphy feels different and does not have the same impact that Weller’s RoboCop had.

Having said that, the film is good. One still feels sorry for Kinnaman’s Murphy but from the very beginning when he wakes up as the “tin-man” this Alex is much more aware. In the first film, Murphy is in shock for a long time and it is only his former partner’s persistence that enables him to regain his humanity.

I personally missed the over-the-top villainy of Kurtwood Smith’s character. Clarence J. Boddicker is an icon as perhaps the most despicable bad guy in cinema history. Smith, who later went on to become the beloved Red in That ’70s Show, would most assuredly been a hard act to follow so it makes a certain amount of sense that the filmmakers did not even bother to try.

Gone too is the outright hostility and mistrust by the other Detroit police officers. Still, despite the differences, I enjoyed the film and found Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak amusing. The overall storyline was satisfying enough and the only real complaint, apart from the missing “I’d buy that for a dollar,” was the arcade feel to the shoot outs.

RoboCop 2014 is available on US Netflix right now and definitely worth a look. 3.5 out of 5 stars. Points lost for lack of quirky humor and no Nancy Allen or Peter Weller cameos…

Life in the Slow Lane

Las Vegas Sign

I returned to the USA last year on January 15. I flew into the airport in Las Vegas to meet a man I’d only encountered on Skype and the Internet. The promise of working as the head of Entertainment for a relatively new “news-site” seemed like a dream come true. The job, and the publisher, appeared to be legit. After all, I had been sent to South Africa to speak to sources who told our “reporter” in-country that Nelson Mandela had died in June and was not still alive as the SA government and the rest of the world were reporting.

That was in 2013 and everything certainly felt like it was “above board.” However, what seems all too real over the Internet can turn out to be something altogether different in the flesh. But this article is not about the fall, and continued fall, of the publication where I worked for 18 months, I’ve already written about that. This is more about my sudden change of lifestyle and working conditions, the second in a two year time period.

I jumped at what seemed like a generous offer to come over and live with the publisher and his wife until I could get settled. Working and living in Las Vegas was, a lot like my job in Her Majesty’s Prison Service, not something I’d ever planned on or dreamed of doing. It was another of those, “just turned out that way” moments.

After being ill health retired from HMPS I was in a bind. I’d stupidly spent my way through the one-time cash payout from “her majesty” and was down to trying to survive on £255 per month via my tiny ill health pension. Time to leave my adopted, and beloved, country behind and come “home.” Leaving my daughter behind with her boyfriend, I boarded a small plane in Norwich and began my journey back to the US.

Again, I digress, I am pretty sure I’ve covered this before so I’ll move on. Once I arrived in Vegas and got the lay of the land, I slowly began covering events and doing interviews with celebs and authors and got to attend my first ever Comic Con.

After working very hard to fix a communications problem with the local studio reps I also got a slew of invites to film screenings and reviewed each one attended. I was busy building up our Entertainment section and having a ball doing it. Sure there were problems, money being one of them, but I was enjoying the act of meeting and talking to actors I had admired from afar for years.

I also got to meet new actors and celebs from television as well as from the world of literature. One happy accident was getting to meet the Winner Twins. Two delightfully talented, and damned nice, girls who rock it in the world of Science Fiction. Award winning authors, the two young ladies were positioned diagonally near two ladies I was desperate to meet and interview from the SyFy channels series Heroes of Cosplay. Brittany and Brianna Winner started out in this world as two dyslexic children whose love of stories, and their father’s encouragement, learned to overcome this problem by writing their own tales.

Las Vegas Amazing Comic Con
The Winner Twins and Moi

The two ladies from the SyFy channel, Jessica Merizan and Holly Conrad, were two of my favorites on the show and are partners in a business related to cosplay. Both were very friendly and I owe the both Holly and Jessica a bit thank you for telling me where to find British food in the country. Especially Heinz baked beans.

Both pairs of women were lovely to talk with and I was pleased to find that both Jessica and Holly had been reading my reviews of the show. Later on I would meet a very busy Chloe Dykstra at another convention who, while not quite so eager talk, did allow me to take a quick snap of her at the Star Trek Convention.

I met a number of well known folks at my first ever Comic Con and got pictures taken with as many as I could. Later I would learn that this was a unique opportunity. At year two of the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con it was relatively easy to access the celebs. At the Star Trek convention I learned that interviewing the “stars” was pretty much verboten unless set up before hand. I did “luck out” and got to speak (illegally) to the late Richard Kiel, just a month before his death, and a number of other stars I have idolized since childhood.

Tony Todd is a brilliant chap who spent hours talking to me and was one of the most fun interviews I have ever done. He made me laugh so much that my cheeks hurt. This Horror genre icon has a tremendous sense of humor and really enjoys interacting with his fans. I even spent two seconds, well maybe a bit longer, with the wonderfully intimidating Peter Weller (the other baddie in the last Star Trek film in case you’re wondering).

Weller, whom I adore, was giving “private” autographs to fans who spent a pretty penny to get the opportunity. A minder stood outside the room where Peter was ensconced and I asked if he thought it was alright to take a picture from the hallway. He went in to ask and the great actor looked up and saw me hovering in the doorway. “RoboCop” motioned me to come forward.

“You realize,” he said, “that people are paying a lot of money for pictures and autographs, don’t you?” I replied that I was not a fan attending but a member of the press and only wanted a snap to pop on Instagram for our readers. He then smiled and said, “Sure.” I stepped back toward the doorway, as I really was not supposed to be in there, to take the photo and he stopped me. “Oh no,” he said, “Don’t take it from there, take it here. The light is much better.”

Peter Weller Star Trek Las Vegas Con
Peter Weller the light WAS better…

What a guy.

There were many stars and things were so hectic that I missed half of those I wanted pictures of and hoped to have a word with. On one evening while leaving the venue I bumped into Walter Koenig. He was dressed in a flat cap and long jacket. He walked feebly between two people who were apparently holding him up. I stopped and put my camera away. I told him that I admired his work and was so pleased to see him at the conference. He smiled and shook my hand and moved slowly away.

The next day he was onstage and there was nothing feeble about him. I realized that his two minders were part of his “act” and kept most fans at a distance. The night before only one other person recognized “Chekov” and if she had not spied him, I would have walked right on by.

Almost all of 2014 was full of meeting people I never dreamed of ever getting close enough to speak to. I met and interviewed Tommy DeVito from the iconic group The Four Seasons and on the same night got close enough to his best friend Joe Pesci to smell his cologne. The press were not allowed to speak with Joe or take his picture unless it could be done without bothering him. Short of stature both men might be but the aura they both put off was that bigger than life projection that only stars can manage.

I met many more, got pictures of a lot, selfies with some others, and spoke to more. The publication I worked for might not have been “the real deal” but it provided me a banner to work from and to fulfill part of a dream. I got to meet the rich and famous, and not so famous, speak with them and write about them.

This year I have faded back into the woodwork. Obscurity beckons as I wait, not so patiently, for decent Internet and the ability to write enough articles for a new site to make a little money. I still have the odd film to watch/review and the odd interview to schedule, but this is life in the slow lane and I’ve got to say, despite all the negative aspects of working in Vegas, I kinda miss it.

Hopefully, once things are sorted out, I’ll be back in the thick of it. Nervously interviewing those talented people who entertain or inform for a living by directing, acting, writing or a combination of the above. While I have not met a number of folks I’ve interviewed in person, I have spoken to some brilliant people: Stephen Bishop, Jordan Hayes, Tiny Lister, Terry Kiser, Dr. Cyril Wecht and a number of other folks who were great fun to meet “over the phone.”

James Darren Star Trek Las Vegas Con
James Darren another man who knew where the good lighting was!

I would like to do an Arnold Schwarzenegger and say firmly that I’ll be back, but I cannot do so with any degree of certainty. What I can say is that even with all the negative things that were going on in the company I was attached to for 18 months, I had one helluva good time and met some great people. For awhile there I was doing the dream job. It was nice while it lasted but sadly it was not the opportunity it was advertised to be.