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Spiraling down the Rabbit Hole
Steve falls off the wagon and goes on a bender after discovering his ex-wife is pregnant and planning to remarry, leaving Jim and Billy to care for Emily during a weekend visitation.
In contrast to the previous episode, "Licked"'s, seemingly being crude because it could be, "Weekend" is purposefully dark, skillfully bringing together recurring plot elements from several previous Legit episodes and going down unexpectedly dark paths.
The highlight of the episode is Steve's "magical mystery tour" down the rabbit hole. which begins at a gun range, moves into alcohol and drug abuse, and, eventually, Steve in his underwear. Most of the episode was funny, but not in a way where I felt comfortable laughing, along the lines of "I could hit these targets better if they had my ex-wife's picture on them," to which the gun nut running the range replies, "Obama won't let us." I was half-expecting Steve to be killed off and this to be the last episode. "Weekend" probably wouldn't have resonated with me as much as it did, however, without the unexpected return of a character from a previous episode, whose return is foreshadowed in a powerful scene involving Jim's paternal status. In some ways, the scenes with Jim and Billy caring for Emily in Steve's absence contrast to the surreal nature of Steve's pathetic spiral.
This was an episode that was much darker than any sitcom you're likely to see on network TV. Regular viewers of Legit will probably appreciate the touches that elevate this episode more than someone who's never watched the show before, but it definitely ranks among the series' better episodes. Highly recommended.
Paladin reluctantly accepts the assignment to accompany to the border an Austrian duke who expects troops to help him overthrow the government of Mexico.
This episode was a lot more enjoyable than I was expecting from the summary I had read or even from the first few minutes. The series' customary conciseness in storytelling was even more impressive in "Duke of Texas" as Paladin did not immediately leave from San Francisco at the beginning of the episode and something germane to the plot actually happened there.
The villain of the piece makes a mistake that alerts Paladin to his treachery, and the villain must know that Paladin is at least suspicious of him because of what he did, while the duke remains oblivious in his delusion. It's a dynamic that lends the story a wry sense of humor while maintaining an undercurrent of danger. Consequently, the action does not feel tacked on as an afterthought and the show still feels like a western. My appreciation of this episode was also bolstered by a somewhat melancholy ending that doesn't result in the survivors necessarily being wiser.
"Duke of Texas" is as pertinent today, in light of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as it was in 1961 as the U.S. was sending military advisors to Vietnam.
Cannon: Dead Lady's Tears (1973)
Like a Film Noir Without Flashbacks
Cannon agrees to investigate the murder of a publicist's girlfriend, with whom the publicist had an argument just before she was killed. The client was seen leaving the apartment by the victim's roommate, who had been the publicist's girlfriend before he met the victim, Cannon is cautioned not to expect any special treatment just because he's an ex-cop by the lead homicide detective (played by a preSlap Maxwell Dabney Coleman), who apparently thinks he has an open-and-shut case against the publicist, and the trail that Cannon follows consists mainly of men who had been smitten with the victim.
While reasonably well done, "Dead Lady's Tears" plays like a film noir minus the shadows and flashbacks, and I wonder if it was intended as a homage to Betty Grable, who had died a few months earlier. The episode's writer, Steve Fisher, in addition to having written the screenplay for Lady in the Lake, also wrote the novel that served as the basis for the Betty Grable vehicle, I Wake Up Screaming. In 1973, before cable and home video, the similarities between this episode and that film might not have been so obvious as they seem today.
Oddly Paced But Superior Kid-Free Sequel
If you're a fan of Gamera from '90s trilogy, Gamera vs. Barugon may be the original Gamera movie for you.
The movie begins with Gamera's being freed from the rocket he was trapped in at the end of Gamera, the Gigantic Monster and returning to Earth to wreak havoc on a dam. He then disappears for a good 45 minutes while the movie follows a trio of treasure hunters to a tropical island on their quest to retrieve an opal the brother of one of the hunters hid in a cave during the Second World War. Not to give away too much, but the procurement of this opal leads to the emergence of Barugon, in the middle of Japan, who Gamera (eventually) fights in typical Gamera fashion.
Three things immediately stand out about the second entry in the Gamera series:
There are no kids in this movie. As in its predecessor, Gamera is apparently motivated purely by a quest for energy sources.
Gamera is barely in the movie. He opens the movie, returns to fight Barugon, then comes back after another long absence to fight Barugon again. The bulk of the movie deals with the birth of Barugon and the Japanese's attempts to defeat him. (Maybe this was the genesis of the military's conflict in Gamera: The Revenge of Iris over which monster to attack first.)
Finally, the movie is in color, and Daiei seems eager to exploit that fact. The opening titles are played out over shapeless colors, and one of Barugon's weapons is a rainbow beam emanating from his back.
The movie contains some silly moments (most notably the theft of the diamond), but the human conflicts and relationships are played surprisingly straight and adult, at least in comparison to those in a typical Godzilla movie; everyone doesn't necessarily agree on strategy, and it's probably safe to say the two leads don't view each other as siblings. The biggest problem with the movie is its odd pacing, but without a delusional kid and several characters who do virtually nothing running around, Gamera vs. Barugon is a decided improvement over the original.
I Spy: Turnabout for Traitors (1968)
Kelly is accused by British intelligence of selling out their network in Acapulco and goes on the run after his escort to Washington is murdered.
One thing I don't like about "I Spy" in general is how much Kelly and Scotty's competence varies from episode to episode, which is somewhat indicative of how the quality of this episode varies. The first three quarters are very well done. British Intelligence's case against Kelly is presented very stylishly in a series of flashbacks centered on surveillance photos presented to him and Scotty at the beginning of the episode, and there's a certain grittiness to the dialogue that contributes to the desperate atmosphere of the episode. ("You don't get to tell me who my loyalty's supposed to go to."/"Never mind me; get him!") I also like Kelly's look once he goes on the run--slightly unshaven with a light blue sports coat and slacks, as opposed to the bright red jacket, white pants, and tennis shoes Kelly usually wears in the later episodes. This isn't an episode where Scott and Robinson are able to take everything in stride.
Unfortunately, whether it's due to settling for a first take to meet a production schedule or because of the production facilities in Acapulco, there's something about the climax that, even presumably remastered, reminds me of B-movies from the seventies. When Scotty confronts the main villain in a house, neither the composition of the shots nor the film stock display the same production values as the first 40 or so minutes. As much as I like the character Goyo and how he is introduced (as well as the role he plays), it is a little disconcerting to realize that both our heroes would have been owned by the villains without him. And what was the villains' plan? Did it change halfway through? When the assassin first throws his knife and kills Kelly's escort back to Washington, is he trying to hit Kelly?
"Turnabout for Traitors" is a good episode for late in the series, but it also displays some of the later episodes' deficiencies.
Very Cool Episode
Al is sent behind the Iron Curtain with orders to retrieve or kill Dover, who's been captured by a legendary spy.
Although apparently a backlot-bound production, this episode has a very impressive look. The only episodes more impressive looking from season three are probably the ones that Barry Shear directed and another Bruce Kessler-helmed episode, "Flowers from Alexander." "Blue, Blue Danube" is a relatively straight-forward affair, lacking those other episodes' flashbacks and freeze frames. Most of the episode is set at night and most of the characters' clothes are dark. Munday is very smooth in this one. One of my favorite scenes is of Al entering a room, removing the glasses he's using as part of his cover as a Canadian theatre critic, perching on a window sill, and springing off. Most of the humor comes from the jealous Cultural Minister and his flirtatious diva of a wife. Al isn't perfect in this episode, but he isn't clumsy or careless either.
Away from Her (2006)
Hard to Watch
"Away from Her" definitely has a sense of place and a "realness" about it. Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie play a retired college professor and his wife who have to cope with the onset of her Alzheimer's Disease. Eventually, they decide to move her into a rest home, where she seems to be drawn to another patient, almost to the neglect of her husband.
The movie is definitely set in Canada not Canada standing in for some part of the United States, whether named or unnamed, but Canada. And in contrast to a Hollywood movie I saw the same night, the cars have dirt on them. Aside from the pain of watching a loved one's mind slip away, which, unfortunately, is a very relateable situation, the disjointed narrative technique that writer/director Sarah Polley uses is at first a little distracting. The scenes of Gordon Pinsent looking for an address eventually bear fruit, but the payoff is a long time coming.
It's good to see a film attempt to tackle a serious subject maturely, but it's not the easiest viewing.
Neither the ad campaign nor the pre-release buzz did this film justice. "Fracture" isn't a knockoff of "Silence of the Lambs"; it's more of a cross between "Wall Street" and "Columbo." Ryan Gosling is a deputy district attorney on his way out the door to take a job with a prestigious corporate law firm when he's assigned the case of Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), an airline executive who's shot his wife. Focused on starting his new job and thinking the case is a slam dunk, Gosling is blindsided by the defendant (who, like Columbo, isn't as clueless as he affects to appear) and becomes determined to win the case and, perhaps, regain his moral compass.
While director Gregory Hoblit's TV roots are showing in some of the early transition scenes (e.g., the drawn-out introduction of Gosling's character, pointless skyline shots), overall the cast and crew deserve high marks for delineating the characters and their motivations as succinctly as they do. With basically two scenes, they manage to paint a portrait of the airline executive's wife and elicit sympathy for her situation, despite her being an adulteress. We're also given a good sense of Ted's manipulative nature and why he does what he does. David Strathairn, as the district attorney, manages to cut a patronly figure within the confines of an elected official having to deal with the political ramifications of a failure to convict. The movie is lean and streamlined without leaving the viewer feeling cheated.
"Fracture" is as much about the choices its characters make as it is about foiling the bad guy. That and the sharp dialogue place it a cut above most current Hollywood productions.
Little More Than a 60-Minute Teaser
This seventh season finale was advertised as revealing the Miniature Killer (who's been a thorn in Grissom's side from the season opener), but not before he claimed a CSI for his last victim. Well, we did find out the identity of the Miniature Killer, as well as his motivation and how he got the layouts of his murder sites. And I suppose being abducted does constitute being a victim. However, after a whole season of wondering who the Miniature Killer is, ending on a cliffhanger seemed like a letdown, particularly compared to the great, largely self-contained season finales from seasons 3 through 5 ("What's in the Box," "Chimera," and, of course, "Grave Danger," which had a similar premise).
To be sure, there are some chilling scenes in this episode, particularly the miniature hand moving under the toy car and the flashback to the Miniature Killer's first murder, including the way the victim's father tells it through his ventriloquist dummy, but I doubt inserting the shot of the overturned car in the rain and the arm clutching from beneath the wreck (or even opening with it) before going to the scenes in the convenience store could have made the teaser any more confusing than it already was, and it would have heightened the sense of dread and made the episode as a whole seem less like one long teaser for the next season premiere. Maybe we'll find out some relevance to the guy with the switchblade in his belt and the girls shorting out the microwave, but I'm not holding my breath.