Conviction: Haley Atwell Plays American Justice System (Review)

HAYLEY ATWELL

Hayley Atwell goes on to prove there is life after Agent Carter by starring in the new ABC crime drama Conviction. The show that delves into the American justice system to right wrongful convictions airs 3 October this year.

It is a curious series and as part of the fall schedule offers a different look at crime.  Atwell plays  Hayes Morrison, the daughter of a former first lady who is still in politics. (Hillary Clinton anyone?) She is a topnotch lawyer who spends too much time getting in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons.

The pilot episode starts with Morrison in jail for cocaine possession and the D.A. forces her to go after wrongful convictions to clean up his record. She is beyond reluctant and fights Wallace, and her mother, every step of the way.

The first case is a football player convicted of murdering his girlfriend. Initially it looks like the evidence is stacked up against him. However, as the new team begin to check the facts it looks like the young man was railroaded.

None of her assembled team particularly care for Morrison and the feeling is mutual. As the investigation delves into the crime and the evidence, however,  the group begin to bond.  Everyone brings something to the table and eventually the truth is uncovered.

Conviction has  brilliant cast. Atwell is always good value as a performer. Although her stock American accent falters here and there in its execution.  Emily Kinney proves that she can act in something other than The Walking Dead.

Eddie Cahill provides just enough gravitas to his role and Shawn Ashmore proves there is life after The Following.  Merrin Dungey is the “cop” on the team and she brings a certain amount of truth to her character.  Manny Montana gives good angst and determination as Cruz.

The new show is a combination of CSI and soap opera. Team members all seem to have either a subtext, hidden agenda or a dramatic backstory to be learned later.

Even Kinney’s character, who has yet to have a lot of relevant screen time, has a secret that Morrison knows about.

There is quite a bit of forensic testing going on from Cruz and Larson. Investigations in the woods, where the victim was found shot, work well and later the pig experiment mirrors real life forensic science.

A lazy cop, a mother who read her dead daughter’s diary and a newly determined Morrison are all part of this case.  It all comes together in the end with a snap, crackle and pop despite a few false starts and stops along the way.

It will be interesting to see if a crusading and privileged lawyer will catch on with audiences. Atwell is a more than capable actress and if anyone can pull off the silver spoon heroine act, she can.

The formula of Convicted may need to be tweaked here and there but overall it does entertain. At the end of the first episode Hayes Morrison’s cautious enthusiasm is catching.

Atwell and her costars bring a lot to this wrongly convicted table and overall, despite the leanings towards a soap opera subplot, Conviction looks pretty good.

The show airs Mondays on ABC starting 3 October.

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The Shrine (2010): Polish Horror with a Twist

Still from The Shrine
Directed and co-written by Joe Knautz, the 2010 Polish themed horror film with a twist, The Shrine which is his second feature length film, tells the story of a journalist who is pursuing what she believes to be the next big story. Starring Aaron Ashmore (Killjoys, Warehouse 13), Cindy Sampson (Swamp Devil, The Last Kiss) and Meghan Heffern (Chloe, What If) it could be seen as a message to those who aspire to greatness, “Be careful of what you wish for” or “Don’t you think the bee story would have been safer?”

Carmen (Sampson) is a junior journalist who wrote an expose that caused a lot of problems for her publication. Her punishment is to be given mediocre and banal stories to cover. Somewhat ironically, given the mysterious virus that is killing off honeybees in the real world, she is told to investigate and write about two separate bee keepers whose bees have suddenly and mysteriously died. Finding the prospect of talking to a couple of “bee farmers” fairly dull, she tosses the assignment in the bin.

The fledgling reporter has been following her own leads and she has discovered a possible link between a local lad who has gone missing from Poland. Like others before him, the boy’s luggage showed up in an airport miles from his last known destination, a small town in Poland, and Carmen talks her boyfriend Marcus (Ashmore) and her intern Sara (Heffern) into going to the village and learning what really happened to the missing local man.

The three fly to the area and begin their investigation. They find a spot in the woods that the backpacker described in his last diary entry. A place where smoke or fog hangs in one spot. After being chased out of the small town by the locals, Carmen, Sara and Marcus double back and check out the smoke filled copse.

Sara goes into the fog while Marcus and Carmen argue. She disappears and Carmen goes in after her intern. While enveloped by the dense fog, she finds a statue of a large snarling creature clutching a heart in one clawed hand. She takes a picture and as she moves to get another shot, the statues head followers her.

This is an interesting film. Starting off as more a mystery than horror, it has all the signposts of turning into another Hostel or something very similar. However once the protagonists reach Poland, it ceases to be a mystery and goes slowly and effectively into a sort of quasi-religious horror film.

The filmmakers chose to keep subtitles off the screen when the local villagers are talking each other and the visiting Americans in Polish, although they think the reporters are British. “English?,” asks one man, “Go back to England, English, nothing for you here.” The lack of subtitles keeps the viewer in the same space as the three young American’s who cannot speak the language.

The Shrine is not too dissimilar to Ashmore’s twin brother Shawn’s horror outing in The Ruins two years earlier, it looks like the hostile townies are trying to keep the outsiders out, at first, and later to keep them there…permanently.

The twist at the ending is not earth shattering but impressive enough and although the film does end rather abruptly, but not too ambiguously, this works. The combination of no subtitles and the short chopped off ending puts the audience firmly in the shell shocked shoes of Aaron Ashmore’s character. Quite an entertaining horror film that scores a full 3.5 out of 5 and is well worth a look. True horror fans will enjoy this little gem. Steaming on Netflix at the moment.

Killjoys: Canadian Export Fun

Poster for Killjoys
SyFy is offering quite a number of fair to quality new programs this year and Canadian export Killjoys is a fun little series featuring some storylines that may not reek of originality but the cast make it work. Starring Aaron Ashmore (Warehouse 13, The Shrine), twin brother of Shawn (The Following, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as John, partner/employee of Dutch who are a couple of “bounty hunters” who work for the RAC.

Dutch, played by Hannah John-Kamen (Misfits, Dark Souls I & II), is a strong female character who has been trained by her father (Rob Stewart) as some sort of assassin from childhood. John’s brother, a decorated war hero with a kill order against him is rescued by the pair in the first episode. D’Avin, played by Luke Macfarlene, becomes a reluctant “unofficial” member of the bounty hunter’s team and in the second episode is actively helping on Dutch and John’s latest warrant.

The bounty hunter leader is surprised by her father’s re-entry into her life, Daddy dear is there to enlist her skills as an assassin and he drops off a red box. The receptacle is a reminder of her childhood and holds a weapon and a target that she has one week to eliminate.

During the latest warrant, D’Avin and Dutch bond as they try to complete the job and get off a warlike planet separated by crime lord areas and scavengers who steal anything, including things nailed down. The writing is not too shabby; episode two uses a Shaun of the Dead line, “Stop pointing that gun at my mother!”

Killjoys may not have a huge budget, but really how much is needed for a show set in a world that is dystopian at best with a lot of buildings in ruinous decay and Spartan decor for official offices and/or buildings. There are not a lot of gunfights so far and the FX are pretty impressive but nothing to write home about.

In this instance it is the actors, as mentioned before, that make this series work. Ashmore, an excellent actor by anyone’s standards, could interact admirably with a lamp. Given that his two costars are also capable performers the chemistry moves the plot forward with ease.

It is hard to pick on a program with a positive female character who is intelligent, can kick major bad guy arse and show just a bit of vulnerability. There may be a let down as the show progresses, after all this is only episode two and SyFy does have a reputation…

Before the end credits on episode two roll, there is a pretty decent shoot out and some mild hand to hand combat, performed by Ashmore, or his stuntman. The team now seem to be pretty comfortable with the two brother’s working for Dutch, after she makes the offer and those red boxes from Daddy look to be a future plot thread that will not go away.

Pretty entertaining fare, although nothing to induce too much in the way of thinking. Just a fun combination of good actors and action that does not, thus far, bore the viewer. Another SyFy offering that airs on Fridays.

The Following Silence: Death Via Twin? (Recap/Review)

The Following Silence: Death Via Twin? (Recap/Review)

*Contains Spoilers*

After the shocking, or perhaps not so shocking to those who’ve been watching The Following from season one, death of Lily in last week’s episode; last night’s show,Silence, ends on a clear cliffhanger moment and it looks like Ryan may die via one of the twins if not both of them. This penultimate episode shows events barrelling down a path so steep that nothing anyone does will stop, seemingly, the vicious slaughter that Joe Carroll has planned for his last stand.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Following and Fargo Catching Up and Intro

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Following and Fargo Catching Up and Intro

Television this week has been a sharp divide of action, pathos, and more action and slow paced oddness, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Following and Fargo fall into two distinct categories of excitement. S.H.I.E.L.D and The Following are moving on an ever increasing plot escalation where it looks like some series favorites may not make it through the season finale and Fargo looks infinitely interesting, strange and chaotic. In other words a lot like a Coen Bros feature film but on television.