Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cut to the Chase: Louisiana Murder and Poetry

The weakest part of Cut to the Chase, a 90-minute Louisiana noir movie about an ex-con searching for his missing beloved younger sister, who is also his lawyer, is at the beginning, where there's a little too much humor for my taste in this kind of movie.  But even that part's pretty good.

And the movie moves into high gear after that, and manages to build to a smashing crescendo with even some ambiguity in the ending, no mean feat and even memorable, the more that I think about it.

Along the way, Cut to the Chase  develops into a first-class whodunit - the "it" being who did what to the sister. As is often the case in these movies, there's no shortage of miscreants, villains, and killers, which means there are all kinds of plausible suspects.   Max Chase - played by Blayne Weaver, who also wrote and directed - makes a fine, behind-the-eight-ball brother and de facto detective, and the plot is tightly enough spun that we and he have no idea who the ultimate villain is, which makes the ending surprising in addition to slashing.

Speaking of which, there's a kind of poetry in a lot of this, as befits the genre, and it goes beyond the play on words between the title and name of the main character.  In fact, there's a play on the first word and what happens in the movie, too, as well as a visual mistiness, a darkish bayou watercolor, that spills into and over scenes when you expect it and don't.

All of which is to say - check out Cut to the Chase.   It's not Hitchcock or Body Heat, but it has something of those classics, won in some regional film festivals, and is much welcome on the screen - where it's coming in theaters on March 7,


a different kind of noir

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Humans 2.1: Westworld Meets Nashville

Humans was back with its second season this week, with an episode that was every bit as good as the first season, which is to say, good indeed!

Comparisons inevitably arise with Westworld, since both series are about androids or human-like robots who want to be human, but otherwise the two are very different.  In Humans the androids are out in the world, all over the world, and although there's some significant philosophic musing about the nature of human cognitive intelligence, there's much more focus in Humans on relationships, and what psychologists call emotional intelligence.

The set-up in the second season is a bold departure from the first.  Niska has released a code world-wide which jump-starts some of the androids into human sentience.   The "some" is, at this point, apparently very few, and the other sentient androids - our main characters - don't know why the code worked, and, for that matter, how the code worked.   (Possibly/presumably Niska does.)  This is a big leap from last year, in which the emergence of sentience was much more organic (in the figurative sense).

But as was the case last year, the best part of Humans are the specific androids and their personalities. Max, always ready to smile and see the best in people - and androids - is still among my favorites.   His optimism is a tonic.   Mia, wanting more than any other sentient android to be not only humanly sentient but fully human, and the aforementioned Niska, the most dangerous of the androids in all kinds of ways, and now exploring her sexuality, are back in good form as well.

Some newcomers are in the mix, too, such as Sam Palladio as the human Ed (Gunnar from Nashville!) - would be great to hear him sing "Borrow My Heart" to Mia - and Carrie-Anne Moss has the makings of an intriguing AI scientist.   Not much yet with the Hawkins family, who were the centerpiece of the first season, but they seem suitably simmering for significant interaction with the androids, and Niska's showing up unannounced at their door in the last scene should set that in motion.

And I'll be back here next week with another field report.

See also Humans: In Ascending Order ... Humans 1.7: "I Think You're Dead, George"


a different kind of humans

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Timeless 1.15: Touched!

A wild shoot-em-up Timeless 1.15 last night, with lots of profundity between the bullets and tears in time.  As I keep saying, the show keeps getting better and better - and you listening, NBC?

In this next-to-last episode of the season (I hope - of the season, that is), we see both Eliot Ness and Al Capone (good to see Cameron Gharaee from the late, lamented Tyrant in that role) laid to waste well before their time.  God knows what this will do to future history, and that's likely why there was a scene with Flynn in a church at the beginning.

Significantly, Timeless has refrained from shakeups in history due to the doings and undoings back in time, focusing instead on changes in the personal lives of our main characters, and even that doesn't happen all too often.  That may be one of the problems with the series - maybe we should see more shocking changes in our history when major historical figures die before their time.

Still and all, last night's was a good episode in a good series, with lots of nice touches.  The idea of wiping out Flynn by killing his innocent mother is still not tabled by everyone, which only makes sense.  And Wyatt's first thought being to save Lucy's sister was satisfying, too, even though it didn't happen.

But in some ways the most interesting moment in the episode was near the end, when Mason describes a data-mining system which, if implemented, would add a Person of Interest element to Timeless.   That would be a strong addition to the show.

I'm not worried that Rufus will die, even though he was wounded badly, because he's too essential to the show.  On the other hand, if next week's episode is the end not just of the season but the series, then anything's possible, and--   Nah, I don't want to go down that road at all.

See you next week with Joe McCarthy and, who knows, maybe even Edward R. Murrow!

See also Timeless 1.1: Threading the Needle ... Timeless 1.2: Small Change, Big Payoffs ... Timeless 1.3: Judith Campbell ... Timeless 1.4: Skyfall and Weapon of Choice ... Timeless 1.5: and Quantum Leap ... Timeless 1.6: Watergate and Rittenhouse ... Timeless 1.7: Stranded! ... Timeless 1.8: Time and Space ... Timeless 1.9: The Kiss and The Key ... Timeless 1.10: The End in the Middle ... Timeless 1.11: Edison, Ford, Morgan, Houdini, and Holmes (No, Not Sherlock)! ... Timeless 1.12: Incandescent West ... Timeless 1.13: Meeting, Mating, and Predictability ... Timeless 1.14: Paris in the 20s


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

24 Legacy 1.3: First Big Card Revealed

The first big card was revealed in tonight's 24 Legacy 1.3.   The question is whether anything revealed this early is real or valid.  Sceptic that I am - especially regarding 24 plot structure - I'd say not.

That's why I didn't believe for a moment that Nilaa, Senator Donovan's chief assistant, was in with the terrorists, or even with the hacking, if the two were separate,  She as villain was much too easy, much too soon.

And I pretty much feel that way about Donovan's father, Henry.  He clearly was responsible for the hack, to the point of trying to pin it on Nilaa.   But I'm thinking he doesn't want a multi-pronged terrorist attack.  I mean, sure, it could help his son't campaign, but that still seems like going a little too far to believe.

Of course, part of the problem is that Gerald McRaney has been playing bad guys in high places, even in government of late, right?  He did that in House of Cards, and in Longmire he's a big businessman or rancher (I forget) who goes bad.  So it's easy to think he's a big bad guy in 24 Legacy.

But I don't think I'm buying.  Which leaves open the always intriguing question of who on the inside is doing this - helping set up and maybe even run the terrorists?  I have no idea, yet, except that in 24 fashion, it's bound to be a shock.  And while we're getting there, my favorite secondary plot development tonight was the kid not dying in high school, and Amira (with Kathryn Prescott's strong performance), managing to get into the ambulance with him, to make sure he does, if need be.

See also 24 Legacy 1.1: Dammit! I Liked It ... 24 Legacy 1.2: Heroes and Villains

Monday, February 13, 2017

Black Sails 4.3: Decisive Victories and Losses - On Both Sides

A great derring-do episode 4.3 of Black Sails earlier tonight, with big victories and grievous losses on both sides.

First, let me say that what I like best about the these battles is how Flint and Silver just stand there, firing their weapons, with lots of bullets being fired at them, and they keep standing and firing.  Part of the magic of being a pirate, I guess.

Of course, not all the pirates are so invulnerable.  Blackbeard suffers his fate tonight, at the hands of Rogers who's as blood thirsty as the rest of them.  And his victory on that ship was complete: Rackham and Ann are in shackles now, too.

Back on Nassau, it was good to see Rogers' right-hand man get just what he deserves, after Billy shows up unexpectedly and levels the battlefield, actually tips it in the pirates' favor.  I was thinking Max was gonna be a goner tonight.  She came close, and I was glad to see she survived - at least for now.

So Flint has rallied the slaves and Billy and his men, and he and Long John have never been better allied.   But Rogers controls the seas now, and has a powerful and energized force at his command, not to mention two prime hostages in whatever confrontation looms ahead.

I'm looking forward.

See also: Black Sails 4.1: "True Friends and Mortal Enemies" ... Black Sails 4.2: Bones vs. Flint

See also Black Sails 3.1: Restored ... Black Sails 3.2: Flint vs. Sea ... Black Sails 3.3: Gone Fishin' ... Black Sails 3.4: Mr. Scott's People ... Black Sails 3.5: Alliance ... Black Sails 3.6: The Duel ... Black Sails 3.7: The Blackening of John Silver ... Black Sails 3.8: Whether Vane? ... Black Sails 3.10: Wither Vane ... Black Sails Season 3 Finale: Throckmorton

And see also Black Sails 2.1: Good Combo, Back Story, New Blood ... Black Sails 2.2: A Fine Lesson in Captaining ... Black Sails 2.3: "I Angered Charles Vane" ... Black Sails 2.4: "Fire!" ... Black Sails 2.5: Twist! ... Black Sails 2.6: Weighty Alternatives, and the Medium is the Message on the High Seas ...Black Sails 2.7: The Governor's Daughter and the Gold ... Black Sails 2.9: The Unlikely Hero ... Black Sails Season 2 Finale: Satisfying Literate and Vulgar

And see also Black Sails: Literate and Raunchy Piracy ... Black Sails 1.3: John Milton and Marcus Aurelius ... Black Sails 1.4: The Masts of Wall Street ...Black Sails 1.6: Rising Up ... Black Sails 1.7: Fictions and History ... Black Sails 1.8: Money

#SFWApro

 


pirates of the mind in The Plot to Save Socrates 


Homeland 6.4: "A Man with Painted Hair"

The best line in tonight's Homeland 6.4 is delivered by Franny, Carrie's daughter, about Dar Adal, calling him "a man with painted hair".

Out of the mouths of babes, because, that's of course true, in one way another, of just about everyone on this spy show.  Almost everyone is not who they seem to be, or say they, or say what they're doing, to the people around them.  They're are wearing masks.  As well befits espionage.

Saul lies through his teeth to his sister in Israel, and then to his Israeli counterpart who locks him up. Carrie lies to Dar about what she's telling the President-elect, and Dar lies more than anyone.

Only Quinn has been truthful so far, for the most part, this season.  He's truthful to Carrie, but of course lies to the guy across the street, who Quinn thinks is spying on Carrie, and is no doubt right.

What's he up to?  Likely connected in some way to Sekou and the stunner at the end of the episode, which I won't lie to you about or keep from you as a spoiler, because it's too important: a terrorist attack in New York City, in the form of a bomb placed in Sekou's car.

This is the most decisive event to happen so far this season, and shakes everything up - in a good way for drama, if not for the characters on the show.   Is it the first of a series of attacks?  The beginning of a larger attack?   Those few seconds at the end of the episode up-end everything that's been happening so far, including the reason for Saul's trip to Israel.

He's released, and will be on his way back to New York, where some of Dar's painted hair is likely to go the way of a toupee in a tornado,






And see also  Homeland on Showtime ... Homeland 1.8: Surprises ... Homeland Concludes First Season: Exceptional

#SFWApro 


  more espionage in New York City


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Project Almanac: Primer with Found Footage and Soul

With Frequency concluded, and Timeless soon to be - for the first seasons, I hope, but likely for good - I thought it was time to watch a good time-travel movie, as prep for the lean times ahead.  Project Almanac did not disappoint.

On the surface, it has the trappings of Primer - that is, a group of young friends invent a time travel machine.  Almanac has a lot of the close intensity, low-budget feel, and philosophic flavor of Primer, but in the end - and in the middle, too - it is a very different movie.   But it could well become in years to come a cult classic, too.

Project Almanac partakes of the found footage ala Blair Witch Project subgenre of movie.   The action starts when 17-year-old David sees himself in the mirror - as a 17-year-old - in a video taken of himself and his family at his 10th-birthday party.  David's a budding inventor, his father apparently already was one, and 17-year-old David and his friends and sister soon find his father's schema for a time-travel machine.  (He father died in a car accident right after the fateful party).  They build it and use it, and David falls in love with Jessie (played by Sofia Black-D'Elia, of The Night Of, which makes two for two good performances I've seen from her), a girl in high school who already has eyes for him and encourages him to push the envelope.

The time-travel manipulations take the low-key path.  No one attempts to stop any assassinations or any world-shaping events.  The device can't send anyone back more than a few years at first, though David works to get it to go back at least 10 years to that birthday party, for obvious reasons. The young time travelers focus on getting money, better grades and prestige in high school, and, in David's case, correcting a blunder he made with Jessie so they can be in each other's arms.

But as in all cases of time travel with any profundity, even those relatively minor adjustments in the recent past have big, unintended ripple effects, including a plane crash.   David has to figure out a way of getting what he wants without those unintended literally disastrous consequences.

I won't say more, in case you have seen the movie, except the that ending is in many ways the best part, with the found footage motif playing a decisive and satisfying role.



more low-budget time-travel on Amazon

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ascension: Brilliant Misfiring

I saw Ascension again on Netflix last night - a six-part mini-series, produced by the CBC and Syfy and first shown in December 2014.  I saw it back then when it was first aired - here's my review [w/spoilers] - and enjoyed seeing it again. Although it misfired on some cylinders, it's an excellent piece of science fiction.

The initial premise is flat-out brilliant.  In our reality, there really was a Project Orion in early planning stages in the late 1950s/early 1960s for a kind of space craft that could literally travel to other stars - which, well, never got off the ground. Ascension is in effect about an alternate reality in which it did, via a starship known as Ascension, and its multi-generational voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system. More specifically, the voyage is to a planet around Proximi Centauri (one was apparently discovered there last year, and, for that matter, such a planet is also the destination of my own 2002 science fiction novel, Borrowed Tides).   Alpha Centauri, though the star closest to our Sun, is still more than 4 light years away, which is why the trip has to be multi-generational.

In the case of Ascension, the trip requires three generations, and we join the voyage midway, with the second generation in charge, and already having children.  Since the ship left Earth in 1962, its culture is completely in that milieu, with talk of Marilyn and Elvis, and recordings of television shows and movies from that era as entertainment.   As I said, this part of Ascension is outstanding.   [Spoilers ahead]


Thursday, February 9, 2017

iBoy: Science Fiction in the Neighborhood

I saw iBoy last night, newly arrived on Netflix, just as the snow started falling a little north of New York City.  Yeah, it was late, but the world was quiet and beautiful, and I was doing some writing. And the movie was pretty good, too.

On the surface, iBoy is another one of many movies about a teen acquiring superpowers due to some weird accident.  Or, from another angle, the story of someone who acquires super-hacking mental powers.  But there is something about the scale of iBoy, the perspective on life in London it conveys, that makes the movie appealing, even memorable.

The set-up barely makes the level of scientific plausibility - Tom gets shot in the head while he's running and talking on his smartphone - and he survives with some smart bits of the phone embedded in his brain.   This gives him the power to hack into any phone at will, and a little more than that when needed, with no equipment at hand other than his brain.

The setting is an "estate" - what we would call a project or a neighborhood in the U.S. - where Tom interacts with bullies, a friend (more or less), a girl he really likes, his grandmother (with whom he lives) and ultimately a resourceful and intelligent crime boss.   These ingredients don't sound like much, but put together they make an at times compelling story, lifted throughout by strong acting.

Rory Kinnear (James Bond movies) as the crime boss, Jordan Bolger (Peaky Blinders) as the friend, and Maisie Williams (playing a character equivalent in many ways to her Arya in Game of Thrones) were especially fine.   Bill Milner offers just the right mix of vulnerability and power as Tom.  And it was good to see Miranda Richardson looking good as grandma.

iBoy stops just short of Tom's powers expanding to the point where he can rule the world, or destroy buildings or stadia with a single revved-up thought.  And that's all to the good.  Keep it in the neighborhood and you can't go wrong.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Timeless 1.14: Paris in the 20s

An excellent episode 1.14 of Timeless tonight, which does just what this kind of time travel series does best.  I mean, where else can you find Lindbergh, Hemingway, Picasso, and Josephine Baker, not to mention a cameo of the Fitzgeralds, all in one episode?  Having just watched Z: The Beginning of Everything, it was especially good to see Scott and Zelda again.

One of the charms of Timeless is the attention to historical detail in every episode, including not only environments and people, but even off-the-cuff but accurate blurbs on the popular philosophies of the time.  Tonight we got a thumbnail description of "The Lost Generation" as not vanished but directionless.

Unfortunately, though Timeless is no danger of being the latter it is at much risk in being the first - that is, vanished as in not renewed by NBC.   Which would be a shame.   Because, again, the history is so vividly rendered that the series could flourish on the History Channel, PBS, or any number of other places.

The right mix of history, metaphysics, and adventure is tough to achieve in a time travel series.  12 Monkeys of SyFy has more metaphysics - a lot more - and less history in its mix, and that works for that series.   But Timeless is in a class by itself in terms of the sheer cavalcade of historical portraits, each a little gem of a story in itself, that go back centuries.

I'm looking forward to the final two episodes of this season, and hoping I can get to enjoy my weekly cocktail of literary, scientific, political, otherwise cultural history in a second season later this year.

See also Timeless 1.1: Threading the Needle ... Timeless 1.2: Small Change, Big Payoffs ... Timeless 1.3: Judith Campbell ... Timeless 1.4: Skyfall and Weapon of Choice ... Timeless 1.5: and Quantum Leap ... Timeless 1.6: Watergate and Rittenhouse ... Timeless 1.7: Stranded! ... Timeless 1.8: Time and Space ... Timeless 1.9: The Kiss and The Key ... Timeless 1.10: The End in the Middle ... Timeless 1.11: Edison, Ford, Morgan, Houdini, and Holmes (No, Not Sherlock)! ... Timeless 1.12: Incandescent West ... Timeless 1.13: Meeting, Mating, and Predictability


Monday, February 6, 2017

24 Legacy 1.2: Heroes and Villains

24 Legacy was back with 1.2 tonight - the second hour in its debut - and the action was as high-adrenalin nonstop as it was last night.  Which is say: bring it on!

Now the most interesting character in this new take on the classic series is the central character, Eric Carter.   He seems as intelligent and resourceful as Jack Bauer, but he has a humanity that Jack didn't have since the first season of 24, at the end of which Jack lost his beloved wife (Jack had deep tragedy with the women he loved throughout the rest of the series).

This is just the beginning of 24 Legacy, so who knows whom Eric will lose, and what effect that will have on him, but at this point it's refreshing to see that he still cares about the people whose lives he's shoving around on behalf of the mission - like, at very least, the younger of the two cops.   This concern about the people around him, in addition to the mission, makes Eric a character to watch.

The second most interesting character is Nilaa, Senator Donovan's campaign manager in his run for President.  It would be too obvious for her to be a terrorist, just because she has an Arabic name (not to mention it would be racist), so I'm expecting her to be an especially interesting, even pivotal character in this story.

And then there's Amira, who apparently is indeed a terrorist - but then, why was she so upset when the chemistry teacher (building a bomb or whatever) killed the high school kid who liked her?  Either she's (a) a terrorist with a heart, or (b) an undercover agent herself, which makes her another one to keep an eye on in any case.

Yet to be revealed is what role Donovan's father will be play in all of this.  If I had to bet right now, I think he not Nilaa is working with the terrorists, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves on this.

On the other hand, that's part of the fun of 24, and I'm looking forward to much more.

See also 24 Legacy 1.1: Dammit! I Liked It


Black Sails 4.2: Bones vs Flint

You can feel the players moving into final place, the characters coalescing one last time, as befits the final season of Black Sails.  What interested me the most was what we see in episode 4.2 between Flint and Billy Bones.

We've seen this before.  But tonight was the closest to all-out break, and fight to the death, interrupted only by the attacking redcoats.  Of course, as I keep saying, it can't be a fight to the death - not between characters for whom either real history or Robert Louis Stevenson's fiction has ordained will live a good somewhat longer. But it's still fun to see.

The thing about Bones vs Flint is that neither is wrong.   In their confrontation, we have a classic case of two lines of logic, both of which have merit.  Flint, as always, is the superior global theorist.  But Bones' more immediate strategy has its points, too.

This is the problem with all the pirates.  The leaders are keenly intelligent in their own ways.  But they can never quite agree on the crucial moves.  Even Teach and Rackham and Bonny can't agree on how to best avenge Vane.  And, usually, the decision is forced by some event that is beyond their control.

But if Black Sails is constrained by history and Stevenson, it does have some compelling original elements.  Woven into the story is not only the power of women, but the alliance between the pirates and slaves.   I'm hoping that, however this fine series ends, we'll see some benefits, real or fictional, from that alliance.

See also: Black Sails 4.1: "True Friends and Mortal Enemies"

See also Black Sails 3.1: Restored ... Black Sails 3.2: Flint vs. Sea ... Black Sails 3.3: Gone Fishin' ... Black Sails 3.4: Mr. Scott's People ... Black Sails 3.5: Alliance ... Black Sails 3.6: The Duel ... Black Sails 3.7: The Blackening of John Silver ... Black Sails 3.8: Whether Vane? ... Black Sails 3.10: Wither Vane ... Black Sails Season 3 Finale: Throckmorton

And see also Black Sails 2.1: Good Combo, Back Story, New Blood ... Black Sails 2.2: A Fine Lesson in Captaining ... Black Sails 2.3: "I Angered Charles Vane" ... Black Sails 2.4: "Fire!" ... Black Sails 2.5: Twist! ... Black Sails 2.6: Weighty Alternatives, and the Medium is the Message on the High Seas ...Black Sails 2.7: The Governor's Daughter and the Gold ... Black Sails 2.9: The Unlikely Hero ... Black Sails Season 2 Finale: Satisfying Literate and Vulgar

And see also Black Sails: Literate and Raunchy Piracy ... Black Sails 1.3: John Milton and Marcus Aurelius ... Black Sails 1.4: The Masts of Wall Street ...Black Sails 1.6: Rising Up ... Black Sails 1.7: Fictions and History ... Black Sails 1.8: Money

#SFWApro

 


pirates of the mind in The Plot to Save Socrates 

24 Legacy 1.1: Dammit! I Liked It

24 Legacy debuted tonight, and I've got to say, though I missed Jack, this new 24 has all the power and pacing and riveting story-by-the-minute of its predecessor.   Which is to say: Dammit! I liked it a whole lot.

Among the salient elements of the plot, my favorite was CTU being taken over by Rebecca (played by Miranda Otto), former CTU head.   She has to work - of course, frantically - underneath the nose of the current director. This is a classic 24 gambit, and great to see again.  Also of interest at CTU headquarters is Edgar Stiles' cousin Mariana (the late Edgar died nobly at CTU for his country, from poison gas, if memory serves).  There are other interesting characters at CTU, and, as always, the most important thing about them is one or more of them is is a double agent.   I hope it's not Mariana.

The new Jack - Eric Carter (played by Corey Hawkins) - is certainly not a double agent.  What he is sharp and driven and highly capable, like Jack.  But, unlike Jack, Corey has a strong wife, much better than the late Audrey.   And Eric has a more significant back story as brother to a gang leader. Good material here for future developments.

The heart of the story is some sort of major attack on America, with a Chechnyan high school student who, in a nice minor twist, has her chemistry teacher wrapped around her little finger and more, and an Isis (or whatever) terrorist group on the hunt in Washington for a list of everyone set to carry out the attack.

And if that's enough, and also in classic 24 tradition, Rebecca is married to a Senator (played by Jimmy Smits) who's running for President.  One of the best things about classic 24 was how it wove great Presidential life-and-death drama into the CTU action.  At times, 24 at its height was House of Cards before its time.

Now, if 24 Legacy were on ABC not Fox, we could actually get Jack Bauer right into the series - or Kiefer Sutherland, at at any rate, who's playing a President in ABC's Designated Survivor, another fine series which has a lot of 24 derring-do, too.

I'll keep watching both, for sure, and will be back here with a review 1.2, or the next hour of the ticking clock with the multiple screens, tomorrow.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Z: The Beginning of Everything: Yes Indeed!

I'm always up for a series about writers - one of the reasons I'm a fan of The Affair - and you can't ask for anything more on that score that the early part of the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, done up in ten 30-minute episodes on Amazon.

The writer part of the story is the centerpiece - F. Scott's mostly boundless confidence in his talent and success, Zelda's contribution - not only in terms of believing in Scott but literally providing him with some of his best lines - Scott's dealings with his publisher, critics, and other writers, is just superb.   I had no idea that the line "blowsy clean" in his second novel - and the riff on the difference between that kind of wind-swept clean that you find on the beach, in contrast to what happens when you scrub a frying pan - came from Zelda's part of a conversation.

The two shared everything - from words to gin to the Roaring Twenties Jazz Age zest for life, which they had a large hand in creating, or at least mining and miming every day.  Zelda's happy to strip naked on their wedding night and stand in the open doorway of their bedroom in the Biltmore in New York because Scott is tarrying too long with his friends in the parlor. Scott is a man ahead of his time, pleased to let Zelda drive their car, but when she hits a deer that proverbially came out of nowhere, he reverts to berating her in classic 20th-century-man fashion.

And what a car!  And whether it's a Model whatever Ford, or a plush train, or a Firestone car that they take from New York City to Princeton, the two delight in the new world that is coming into being, with their frivolous, outrageous, profound assistance.  And all the while we know this:  as Scott struggles with his genius, and doubts his ability just once in a while to get the world to recognize it, as Zelda inspires him even she's not trying to do that, we know from our vantage point here in the 21st century that both succeeded, if not beyond their wildest dreams, at least beyond the down-time qualms that all great dreamers and creators are prone to have on occasion.

Christina Ricci as Zelda and David  Hoflin as Scott are outstanding - looking and behaving, as someone famous in the 1920s said of the real Fitzgeralds, as if they'd just come out of the sun.  The music's fine, too, with an early or retro-recording of "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" at the end of one of the episodes that I hadn't heard before.

Indeed, my only regret about Z: The Beginning of Everything is that Scott and Zelda can't via some science fictional magic (hey, he wrote "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") watch and enjoy it. They would have quickly understood and come to appreciate and utilize Amazon and the Internet and blogging of course television (which is just radio with pictures), and even though Scott was a little uncomfortable with the attention Zelda received for her writing talent, the two would have laughed their drunken assess off at this series and loved it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Vikings 4.20: Ends and Starts

A good end to a good not great second part of the fourth season of Vikings, with pieces well in place for the next.

The most surprising development was Ivar killing Sigurd - more than surprising, shocking, actually, and not because we didn't know that Ivar had the temper to do that.  But killing a brother is something we haven't previously seen on Vikings, including, especially, Ragnar and Rollo, and it;s bound to shake up everything.   Will Bjorn still sail south?  How will the other brothers come to terms with this?  Anything is possible next season, which is good for the series.  That was the best part of the season finale.

Ecbert's conning the Vikings was ok, but it was both too little and too much.   I wouldn't have minded seeing Ecbert somehow survive, or, if not, see his attempt to fool the Vikings dramatically fail.  I guess this is supposed to symbolize why the Vikings actually didn't permanently take over any part of England in our real history, so in Ecbert's end we have the narrative constrained by real history once again.

Helga's death was sad but predictable - there was no other reason that she would have accompanied Floki on this expedition with her captive child.   Floki's response was also to be expected.  But it was good seeing him walk off in the mist.   Perhaps we'll see him again.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers' character was good to see and promises to be compelling.  And it's only appropriate that someone who did so well in Michael Hirst's earlier great series, The Tudors, comes back on Hirst's currently excellent Vikings.  But I would have liked to see a little more development and build-up of Meyers' lusty warrior-priest, rather than just dropping him in unconnected at the end.

He will be a good, radically different successor to Ecbert, not as king, but as adversary of Ragnar's sons, and I'm looking forward to more.


See also Vikings 4.1: I'll Still Take Paris ... Vikings 4.2: Sacred Texts ...Vikings 4.4: Speaking the Language ... Vikings 4.5: Knives ... Vikings 4.8: Ships Up Cliff ... Vikings 4.10: "God Bless Paris" ... Vikings 4.11: Ragnar's Sons ... Vikings 4.12: Two Expeditions ... Vikings 4.13: Family ... Vikings 4.14: Penultimate Ragnar? ... Vikings 4.15: Close of an Era ... Vikings 1.16: Musselman ... Vikings 1.17: Ivar's Wheels ... Vikings 1.18: The Beginning of Revenge ... Vikings 4.19: On the Verge of History

And see also Vikings 3.1. Fighting and Farming ... Vikings 3.2: Leonard Nimoy ...Vikings 3.3: We'll Always Have Paris ... Vikings 3.4: They Call Me the Wanderer ... Vikings 3.5: Massacre ... Vikings 3.6: Athelstan and Floki ...Vikings 3.7: At the Gates ... Vikings 3.8: Battle for Paris ... Vikings 3.9: The Conquered ... Vikings Season 3 Finale: Normandy

And see also Vikings 2.1-2: Upping the Ante of Conquest ... Vikings 2.4: Wise King ... Vikings 2.5: Caught in the Middle ... Vikings 2.6: The Guardians ...Vikings 2.7: Volatile Mix ... Vikings 2.8: Great Post-Apocalyptic Narrative ... Vikings Season 2 Finale: Satisfying, Surprising, Superb

And see also Vikings ... Vikings 1.2: Lindisfarne ... Vikings 1.3: The Priest ... Vikings 1.4:  Twist and Testudo ... Vikings 1.5: Freud and Family ... Vikings 1.7: Religion and Battle ... Vikings 1.8: Sacrifice
... Vikings Season 1 Finale: Below the Ash

 
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