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Conflict (1945)
Interesting film-noir with Bogie & Greenstreet
29 October 2018
Somehow, after decades of following the work of Bogart, I stumbled across this gem I had overlooked. It falls into the mystery-film noir category in plot, but lacks certain noir characteristics in execution. Certainly, a man infatuated with his young(er) sister-in-law and hatches a plot to get rid of his somewhat shrewish wife is following classic lines of noir stories. However, we lack the dark, empty rain soaked streets, and sudden brutal violence of other 'classic' noir flicks.

All performers are wonderful, esp. Bogart as a man who can't get a break with his current spouse. You can almost pick the point when he makes the 'jump' in his head & decides to end her life at the first convenient opportunity. When he achieves it, it seems to be the perfect crime. However, the film was made in the 'production code' era-so, you know that something will go wrong.

In a way, that was the downfall of the Hayes code: it eliminated other possibilities-the 'bad guy' had to suffer for his crime. It was just a matter of when & how. This story, if made in 1933, could have resulted in the wife's death being ruled an accident, or caused by a criminal with a hacking cough (Leacock-ism) who dies moments after the 'guilty' verdict, leaving the protagonist to pursue his goals, albeit with a guilty conscience (so-called). *sigh *

Still, if you can allow several leaps of imagination, you will enjoy seeing how the authorities put the pieces together, and, thus seal poor Bogie's fate.

No spoilers here: the Hayes code was the biggest spoiler.
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Not too shabby...
15 October 2018
I know many of the reviews here at IMBD are derogatory, but I just saw it on Apple movies, and it really is a good watch. I was surprised that the action does not take place on the island for very long. Yes, we have new villains, trying to make a buck in the same old way, exploiting the poor friendly dinosaurs. Yes, some of the chases we have seen before, but this is a Jurassic action flick, so that can't be helped. Overall, I found this to be an exciting, suspenseful romp while we wait to see if the good guys prevail.

If you liked the previous Jurassic World entry, see this episode also-there may be another chapter to come.
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Decent time-waster action Jack Ryan flick
13 September 2018
Good casting, with Kenneth Branagh as a bad (Russian) guy, and Chris Pine (from the Star Trek reboot movies) as Jack Ryan. Don't know why the reviews are generally negative here at IMDB-suddenly, everyone wants Shakespearean plots & character-development in action movies. This flick has great suspense, plus some decent fights & chases.

Kevin Costner plays Ryan's recruiter & handler. This is a good supporting role for him & he delivers (never felt he had the range to be a lead-Kevin should sign up for any secondary role he is offered). Keira Knightly plays Cathy, the eye-surgeon who becomes Mrs. Jack Ryan one day.

Just enjoy. You can catch it on Apple TV or pick up the DVD at Amazon, under 10$.
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Karppi (2018–2019)
Great style & characterization, maybe lacking in pace...
30 August 2018
This is a twelve-parter Finnish whodunit, tastefully filmed with lush views of Helsinki and the Finnish countryside. All characters are well fleshed out, even if they are not particularly likable. Is the payoff worth the wait, is the big question? My wife checked out after 3 episodes, as the plot seems to unfold at a snail's pace. I am a little more tolerant of a good story, with great performances, even if it drags a bit.

Pihla Vitala and Laurie (male) Tilkanen play the lead detectives Sofia & Sakari, trying to solve the murder of a pretty wife and activist, Anna Bergdahl, who meets her demise after attending a swanky party brokered by her (secret) boyfriend, Alex (Tommi Korpela), a shaker & mover in the eco-friendly wind-driven energy business. Poor Alex spends most of his time pleading innocent to the crime in many interviews with the police, but he faces several life-changing crises, even if he did not murder his erstwhile mistress: his own wife tosses him (in stages, mind you) & Anna's brooding surviving husband starts stalking him, gun in hand.

I am in the midst of episode 9, and I think I got it figgered, but there are lots of red herrings. Time was devoted to an apparent abduction of Alex's grouchy actress wife, which I suspect was faked (but I don't know why). Also, the detectives visit Anna's home town, where she was a swimming champ 20 years earlier, and possibly mixed up in a doping & blackmail scandal, but I don't see any connection-yet.

I could have produced this in 6 episodes, by picking up the pace & chopping the excess. But I think it will have been a good ride... in a couple of hours, when I finally get through.
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Unriddle (2010– )
Another great series from the Far East...
10 January 2018
Producers from South Korea, and the Far East (Singapore, etc.) are churning out the best 16- and 20- chapter mini-series on the planet at present, and, if you dig on Netflix, you will find them. All themes are covered, particularly in the mystery and law-enforcement lines. Unriddle is another entry. We were delighted with the first season and are ready to tackle the second.

Unlike Hollywood, who aim to produce a sitcom or a crime series that will go multi seasons, in the Far East, they use the Brit approach, which is to create a show with unconventional twists for one season by scripting short movie type episodes (40 to 70 minutes). The story quality stays high, and the possibilities are endless, since one of the heroes of the story may not survive, giving the scriptwriter more freedom to develop a complex theme.

Unriddle (Unravel might have been a better name) tells the tale of a group of investigators with the Singapore police who are pursuing several lines of inquiry. Initially, a gang is smuggling in girls to serve in brothels, but one of the gang, an over-sized tomboy named Bun, breaks ranks to join with pretty Detective Hu Xiaoman as a paid informant. This smart cop and streetwise hustler make a good team. Plots overlap and intermingle, but the main plot involves a group of officers who recover a large sum of unaccounted-for money, and decide to split the profits. A falling-out occurs and the money disappears. Years later, one of the gang is a supervisor and potential love-interest for (major babe) Hu Xiaoman. He disappears, and one-by-one, the original gang bites the dust. Is it the supervisor, stepping out of character, to sneak back & take the gang out?

That is just one of the plot-lines pursued in Season one of the series. When reviewing other series of this kind, I caution readers to book lots of free time to binge-watch these things. Although this one had a few 'draggy' moments, generally the stories move along quite nicely. Performances and camera-work are great. I should have been able to 'sort' this whodunit, after reading so many Agatha Christie novels, but I must confess: this one bamboozled me completely, but in a delightful way.
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The Method (2015– )
hmmm. hard-hitting but sometimes compelling
17 November 2017
Surprised there's no reviews yet for this gripping series, as it is available on NetFlix (Canada, anyway).

This pretty young grad, Esenya, from the Police Academy in Moscow wants to do her internship with a reclusive, legendary homicide detective named Yosodin Meglin. For some reason, even though he hardly talks to anybody, he agrees to accept her, but only on his terms, of course, since he is very secretive - however, he is very successful at 'getting' the bad guys (and in Russia, with loony-tune government problems over the last 20 years, and a sky-rocketing alcohol-abuse rate for a couple of centuries, there are plenty of brutal murders to sort out). Meglin first shows his stuff in Episode One, whilst attending the 'grad party' of the graduates from the Academy. One of the grads is cut down by a trick piece of jewelry, and Meglin, attending to enjoy a few drinks, picks the culprit right out of the crowd. After a cheery conversation, the weirdo confesses and gives the police information on the silent partner who helped him perform this nefarious crime on a totally innocent young female.

I thought the first two episodes were gripping. The performances are first-class, and the stories are compelling. However, there seems to be boundaries to which we adhere (less & less, I agree) in the West with regard to cinema that are NOT observed in Russian movies. So, there are some gory attacks, and shocking displays of body parts (dead & alive) - I had my hand on the FF button throughout) - included in the episodes. Also, I did think the quality and coherence fell off somewhat in the later stories.

This is a macabre blend of the edgy British show Cracker, with characteristics of Columbo, Blacklist and Monk added (to give you some comparison). NOT for the faint-hearted.
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China Seas (1935)
Earthy performances, terrific special effects!
25 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I hardly knew what to expect when I played this offering from a nifty 4-disc set of Harlow films from Turner-Classic.

In this one, Cable, a naval commander, has tired of his skullery-maid-like former consort (Harlow), discarding her for a high-class prospect (Ros Russell). Harlow doesn't like it, and teams up with a crooked officer, Wallace Beery, who has cut a deal with some villainous pirates. This role required Harlow to be a semi-trashy blond bombshell, which fits her platinum blond persona (but she could do characters of a higher class, when required -- see 'Wife and Secretary' with Gable and Myrna Loy)

** Spoilers below **

Remember, though: the Hayes production code was now being enforced, which meant that Beery and Harlow could not profit from their crime.

So, the good guys win, in the end, but Gable says he will stick with his pretty former-consort Harlow--even marry her--but first she must face the justice system for her role in an attempted theft. I doubt the original story ended that way, but the Code demanded that villains NOT prosper from their nefarious deeds - so, Harlow will face prison for 3 to 5, I guess. If made in 1932, that film would have ended with Gable suppressing the role Harlow played, and marrying her the same day, in a local church!

Contrast this to 'Dinner at 8' made only a few years earlier with Harlow and Wallace Beery. Two (at least) of the female major players are guilty of indiscretions, but escape unscathed.

China seas was a pleasant surprise, and featured a brutal storm at sea, done with tons of water and wind machines (no FX in those days)..

Recommended. 8/10
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Harlow shows she had more than a pretty face...
25 October 2017
I bought the Turner-Classic 4-movie set of Harlow, and she is excellent in all 4. 'Dinner at 8' I had not seen in a long time, but I did recall some juicy conflict between Beery and Harlow. The camera loved Harlow (as it did Monroe, 20 years later). The sets, lighting and her ensemble truly highlighted her beauty and sensuality. Her ability to feign 'culture' - and then talk like a carnaval barker the next minute is delightful to regard.

Being a 'pre-code' film, we also get some frankness that would have been excised only a few years later: Harlow is having an affair with a handsome family doctor, who, according to his faithful wife, is a frequent philanderer; Marie Dressler confesses that she has acquired expensive jewelry from men in her previous relationships that were not matrimonial; pretty Madge Evans--engaged to a very suitable partner--falls in love with a charming, but over-the-hill, alcoholic actor (John Barrymore). These indiscretions are presented openly (without skin), in the spirit of pre-code films, which presented imperfect characters who seemed lifelike, and sometimes suffered for their sins - but sometimes didn't.

Contrast this to 'China Seas' made only a few years later with Harlow and Clark Gable: Gable says he will stick with his pretty former-consort Harlow--even marry her--but first she must face the justice system for her role in an attempted theft. I doubt the original story ended that way, but the Code demanded that villains NOT prosper from their nefarious deeds - so, Harlow will face prison for 3 to 5, I guess. If made in 1932, that film would have ended with Gable suppressing the role Harlow played, and marrying her the same day, in a local church! In Dinner at 8, at least 2 leading female characters are guilty of unfaithfulness, but neither really 'face the music'. My point is: at least in pre-code films, the guilty didn't have to suffer harsh consequences -- hence, the writers had more freedom to wrap up the story as they saw fit.

This is a fine ensemble cast, featuring Harlow at her prettiest and maybe most feisty (she & Beery disliked one another - so, maybe art was imitating life!?). Recommended.
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Open Range (2003)
I like revival westerns.. but:
13 October 2017
I haven't seen anything that matches Lawrence Kasdan's 'Silverado', made in the early 80's, also featuring (an albeit youngish) Kevin Costner. This is a bad guys versus good guys formula-type film featuring interesting characters and fine performances by Costner, Annette Bening, and particularly Robert Duvall. However, Duvall seems to have dug into the bag of tricks he developed for the excellent 'Lonesome Dove' mini-series (1990's and highly-recommended), and recycled some facial expressions and assorted idiosyncrasies he used then. Costner is a darker version of his Silverado character: this time, he is haunted by the guerilla-type tactics in which he engaged during the civil war -- not proudly. Why have I rated it 7, instead of the glowing 9-10 other Western-lovers assigned?

To begin with: the premise. I don't doubt that, historically, smaller herders of cattle encroached on the fenced-off ranges set up by powerful cattle barons in a growing number of areas (lol-this 'device' was parodied effectively by the Andy Griffith character in 'Rustler's Rhapsody'). It's just that Duvall, the itinerant here, has such a measly herd of cattle. The cattle baron in this case (portrayed with dark cynicism by the English veteran Michael Gambon) threatens, murders, and throws a fit over a handful of cows that would hardly be noticed in such a wide-open area! I mean: Duvall only needs 3 guys to care for the entire herd - why bother? Mitchy the kid (City Slickers-Billy Crystal) had a dozen guys on his modern-day fantasy cattle drive -- what size herd can be handled by 3-4 guys when one of them is the cook?

Next: Annette's character: Sorry-- a 40-year old single 'pretty' women in the old West was rare. You went from being someone's daughter to someone's wife (or someone's widow, hopefully a wealthy one - see Anjelica Huston in Lonesome Dove) - or you were doomed to life as a hooker above a bar. This was so realistically shown in Lonesome Dove: there were no pretty girls who moved out of Dad's house and rented a flat with a female friend. You needed the security and protection of some guy with money and muscle. It was the Wild West, after all. OK- Annette is a doctor's progressive s-i-s-t-e-r -- so, you could make a case. But why ain't she married? A pretty, well-educated lass with a good family background would probably marry a teacher or another doctor, before age 25, or she would end up as an old maid. I'm not saying it was fair - I'm just saying it was true. In my script, Annette would be a widow pining for a great guy she lost in death - who takes a shine to Costner's rugged character.

Finally: the ending drags on for several minutes. What Magnificent Seven did in 2 minutes takes Costner 15. My wife actually got up and left the room!

So, my problem is not with the general plot, nor the action, nor the cinematography (note the small river running through the middle of town during a driving rain storm - wow!) -- my problem is with the setup or premise, the 'draggy' ending, and how A Benning's character was scripted. 7/10
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Allied (2016)
Wasn't what I was expecting....
21 August 2017
Spoilers ** Spoilers **Spoilers ** below

Performances were good all around. Keep your hand on the FF button, unless you want to see gratuitous groping and moaning (I don't). Nice period piece. Brad, a highly-ranked espionage agent in World War II, with a pilot background, gets hooked up with the Marian Cotillard character, pulling a dangerous coup in Morocco, and then escaping to safety in Britain, where they marry. As you're aware, allegations are made to Brad that his bride (and the mother of a new child) is, in fact, a spy, planted in Africa by the Germans, as a replacement for a legit French freedom fighter who was executed. Brad has reason to suspect his mettle is just being tested.

** Don't read below unless you've seen it **

Spoilers ** Spoilers **Spoilers ** and plot questions

1> why didn't Marianne change sides, once she got to Britain? Confess, and switch sides? The Gestapo had less assets than the Brits in England, if things went sour -- she could have been a great double-agent, passing bad info onto the Gestapo. lived happily ever after. when she finally owned up, she showed that she was a self-serving schemer. Sorry - it's a hard world. There are prices to pay for lying--and betrayal.

2> she (finally) gives herself away by not being able to play the piano like the real person. No decent Espionage outfit would commit an oversight like that. The Gestapo would have gotten her lessons up front, or, maybe on the sly in U.K. once she settled there, in case the subject ever came up. With 3 weeks practice, I could play La Marseillaise convincingly. It ain't a recital at Albert Hall.

Apart from that, I am impressed that the production team didn't script a typical clichéd happy ending. Even if she goes for option 1 above, you could still deliver a tragic conclusion by having a German agent finally 'get to her' (lethally). It's just that her character didn't strike me as a German patriot - hence, I can't buy that she would jeopardize her new life, just to pass low grade info to the Axis side, which, by 1944, was obviously going to lose anyway.
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Passable Thriller...
7 August 2017
I did not see the original (1987) version, which, I gather was more gory. This 'PG' movie constituted a decent time-waster, with a few thrills. Sela Ward is ageless and always pleasant to watch. Dylan Walsh plays the villain, who does a good job of altering his appearance, and putting on a sweet family-loving appearance to hide his dark motives.

Comparisons are made here at IMDb to the real-life case of John List. I didn't see much of a connection. Walsh's character uses the alias David Harris, a man who drifts from single-mom to the next, leaving a trail of bloodshed. A better comparison - one I would recommend over this offering - is the Brit production 'Amnesia', with John Hannah, a 3-parter. Hannah is a detective with his own marital problems who stumbles onto related cases wherein the family is 'eliminated' via an accident, and the ex-husband drifts away after cashing an insurance cheque. The suspect is a man with similarities to the culprit, but claims amnesia! Gripping!

But Stepfather isn't made of such stern stuff. David Harris alters his appearance, but, although his m.o. is suspected from the film's outset, we see no ongoing effort by the police to track him down, other than a America's Most Wanted broadcast. He really does make a good Stepfather to Sela's kids, until her college-age son returns home. There are minor clashes. Sela makes no effort to do a background check on her new beau, whom she intends to marry. Soon, he must dispose of a few people who are 'on' to him, but the local police are inept at linking him to the events. Sela's son is more aggressive, fortunately.

All-in-all, well-performed and a few thrills. The ending is face-lifted from the 2004 Amnesia (mentioned above), but with less effectiveness. Other than sex and free 'room & board', it's hard to see what David Harris gains from his nefarious deeds, whereas in 'Amnesia', we can see the bad guy's ill-gained dollars adding up substantially.
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Les témoins (2014– )
Season 1: on par with other great noirish Euro Series / Season 2: beware!
4 July 2017
Another IMDb reviewer (daggersineyes?) liked season 1, but urged readers vigorously to 'pass' on Season 2. But Season 2 started with a bus full of dead frozen people and a pretty amnesiac trying to reconnect with her family. Compelling?! Yeah, I should have listened to dagger. I also enjoyed Season 1 with its mysterious piles of bodies turning up, implicating a high official in murder. But Season 2 fell off the tracks after a few sessions. I can only imagine that the writers thought they were doing a 4-episode offering, but then we're told to expand it to 8----& they went "huh? We have identified the killer & his cohorts and possible motive'(the guy's a loony-tune... What else would explain it?)... Why would we need 4 more episodes?" Seriously, the writers should have just insisted on writing a new 4-parter instead of producing this drivel. It was as bad as those C-westerns of the early 40's with Nazi war criminals... And trucks! Typically, an 8-session season might be 3 story-lines (4+2+2) or whatever... Anything but a dragged-out bit of nonsense over an entire season.

I have seen 8-parters done in mystery series, but the scope was broader, of course. When you start with a bus full of dead people, you have to 'cut to the chase' fairly quickly . Oh well.. next time (I listen to 'dagger').

Not belittling the performances here, but the story was disgraceful! Not something the writers want on their resumés, I can assure you (O, you wrote t-h-a-t? That the one where 2 villains commit suicide? Always wondered what you guys were thinking ... We'll call you - don't call us..)
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You Get Me (2017)
New Age take on 'one-night stands'
23 June 2017
Hunky guy (Tyler) has a nice girlfriend (Ali), but they have a difference of opinion at a party and he splits, but gets picked up by a girl he chance upon earlier (Holly) and taken for a ride (a 'day-ride', I guess). Soon, he discovers that Ali did not intend to terminate the relationship after all - in fact, Ali is a polite, exemplary young lady, who has abandoned some 'party' habits she used to pursue, and seems like the kind of high school sweetheart you might marry one day. That means Holly gets dumped, of course, written off as a one-night stand, but since she now attends the same high school, she can insert herself into Tyler's circle of friends, and make his life miserable.

It's all been done before, and I kept my hand on the FF button skipping over a few brief egregious moments, but it seems to be a PG type of flick. Tyler really isn't the cad his actions seem to indicate - but, as the Eagles say, 'in a New York minute, things can get pretty strange..' A passable teen-romance-gone-bad suspense movie from Netflix; yet, the sad thing is: people in their 50's are getting into these kind of jams these days -- they ought to know better - after all: 'the wolf is always at the door.'
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Blackway (2015)
Expected better from Stiles & Hopkins
19 June 2017
Film is available on Netflix, but not recommended for family entertainment. For one thing, the language is (needlessly) foul in places.. which usually means the actors can't act, or the writers can't write so they insert bad language to add an 'edge' (so-called). In this case, we have a capable cast with a mix of talent: Stiles, the able-bodied likable aide to Jason Bourne; Ray Liotta, the ex-cop turned bad in a 'stalker' role; and award-winning Hopkins, who steps up to assist dear Julia in dealing with the thug (Liotta), when no one else, including the law, will. Talent OK - hence, we can indict the scriptwriter for a mediocre effort. Example: Julia keeps saying, "I can handle this on my own - it's my problem." But... she can't. If she could, we wouldn't have a movie.

The obvious answer is that Julia should have telephoned Jason Bourne -- this is his kind of fight. Instead, she joins Hopkins on a quest to track down 'Blackway', who has been harassing her. This takes quite a while, for some reason, and finally leads to a showdown on Blackways' turf, deep in the woods. How improbable is that? Why would a group of amateurs venture away from a quiet town in the wooded Pacific Northwest to confront a deranged sociopath on his own turf (because that's what the script says, I guess). I will leave the issue of why Hopkins, a major talent on the Shakespearean level, would accept such a poorly-contrived project, to someone else.

As much as I like Stiles & Hopkins, if you are looking for 'sleepers' on Netflix, keep looking. This ain't one of them.
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Old-Timey Story-telling via Cinematography
14 June 2017
I like (many) pre-code movies, simply because you never know what might happen. Quite a contrast to the formulaic stuff that was produced after 1935 (approx.) and, for those who think the 'Hayes' code is dead, the assembly-line production of rom-coms since 1990 rigidly stick to the same drivel: about 20 minutes from the end, a disagreement causes the intended couple to split, but miraculously re-unite by the final curtain. Nauseating.

Sins of Norah Moran is a bit melodramatic in places, esp. in the early going, but Majestic Studios (one of the so-called 'Poverty Row' film-makers, who rented space and equipment from the mainstream guys to keep costs down) weaved a melancholy tale here of a sad-sack orphan who grows up only to have the 'system' beat her down. She stands accused of murdering a former co-worker at the circus (he sexually assaulted her - a modern screenplay might have her nominated for Congress), and facing a death sentence. Her recent 'governor' boyfriend probably did it, but will Nora blow the whistle? I was struck by how the 'governor', a married man, cavorts so openly with this pretty young girl - were the 'Press' so under control during this era or was there just so much of this 'running-around' going on that the gov could hide in plain sight?

In time, he sees her at a 'kept' home every Friday & Monday - it kind of blows up when his wife finds a stack of unsigned love letters. The script makes no effort to condemn Nora or the Governor for their dallying, but, of course, it's poor Nora who will face severe consequences when the villain is suitably dispatched. Dang it-where's Perry Mason when you need him?

But that's pre-code: anything can happen. That's what makes it so interesting. Great camera work & use of flashbacks & voice-overs. Experimental. Unorthodox. Compelling. Kudos to TCM for reviving interest in this era. 8/10
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Hinterland (2013– )
Fine but moody, noirish series with complex characters...
4 June 2017
Hinterland features excellent authentic landscapes and first-class camera work -- great shots from above, below, up a staircase, down a staircase, through the branches of a tree, etc. etc. Very artsy. The stories are complex and difficult to solve for the viewer - but in a BBC series, it's always the trip rather than the final arrival that keeps you glued.

In this case, we have DCI Tom Harris (Richard Harrington), a capable but complex and rather gloomy guy, who takes the lead in solving the case of the dead {fill-in-the-blank}. Tom is bright, but impulsive, and is fond of fielding a question from a colleague, giving them a cold stare and then rudely walking off without responding. He has a troubled marital background and strikes me as the kind of husband who would drive a wife batty. His pretty colleagues in Wales find him intriguing enough, but too distant to pursue romantically.

Following him as he tries to sort out cases is half 'will he stumble onto the culprit?' and half 'will he ever crack a smile?'. If you want to see how these things end up, you will stay aboard for the ride, but, like me, if you ever had to work with the guy, you might collar him and tell him to stop walking out of the room without explaining himself, unless he wants a cricket bat in the back of the head. Had he married my wife, his career would have been cut short via cranial injuries, but Tom is single, at the moment.

Great supporting cast and new guest stars each episode. Don't worry about Tom ending up in an explicit romantic scene. Might end up in Emerg, however.
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Not in the same League as Iris-1, but a decent time-waster
17 May 2017
Somehow, all through the 20 episodes of Iris-1, Ailiseu (original title), I was able to keep the characters straight, although Westerners have difficulty sorting faces of Orientals, and the names are tricky, too. In Iris-II, I don't know who is who after a single viewing, although the performers are quite capable of portraying a character, and delivering some great stunt-fighting, also.

From IRIS-1, I think the head of the North Korean Secret Service is the same guy (but we don't see him much), but the main holdover character is double-agent, Park Cheol-yeong, who is imprisoned now by the South Korean Secret Service (NSS), of which he was once a top boss. Anyway, IRIS wants him back, since he (alone) knows where some nuclear weapons are stashed. There are a few battle scenes and ambushes that involve IRIS bad guys attacking NSS units, nominally to get Park back. Park is having second thoughts about his nefarious connections, however. The rest you will have to figure out. Some characters seem to be playing on both sides, which will probably have you saying, 'Boy.. he sure looks like that other guy who plays for the bad guys..'. He (or she) may actually be doing that - I can't say for sure just yet.

No word on our heroes from IRIS-1, which, after 20 episodes, was destined to have a happy ending and marriage for the two star-crossed lovers & protagonists of the series, when, in the final frame, a sniper's bullet ended all that. Unlike an American Soap Opera, at least we didn't get both lovers surviving with temporary amnesia! Nonetheless, I was hoping for some wrap-up or concluding info on that tragic event, but the Producers played hardball, and just carried on with a new potential crisis. O, well, woe is me.

IRIS-II is a good shoot-em-up entry, lacking the scope and intricate character development of the first series (this is only a 2-hour movie, after all). It might give you partial closure on IRIS-1, but, I think it's a bit muddled: looking at the photos on the DVD jacket, I couldn't tell you any of the character names, nor distinguish the bad guys from the good. At least there won't be an IRIS-III (if they ever do make one, I will write the producer and ask for name tags).

6/10 Canuckteach
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Broadchurch (2013–2017)
Tremendous 2nd season follows gripping Season-1
11 April 2017
We watched Season-1 on weekly network TV, when it first appeared here in Ontario, and we enjoyed it. The writers certainly didn't give anything away. You would have been hard-pressed to spot the killer of the young boy. Afterwards, we sort of filed the show away on the back shelf.

Thanks to the joys of Netflix, we were treated to Season-2, which we undertook reluctantly, having been disappointed by a 2nd season of a similar Brit show. However, as soon as we started Broadchurch Season-2 we were hooked, and we ended up binge-watching all 8 episodes in 2 days. The murder case of the previous season is revisited, but David Tennant's character is also compelled to follow up the troubling (and unsolved) case that tore him apart in his 'back story' or previous life, as an investigator. Two of the principal characters in that grimy mystery appear on the scene, and indeed, it appears they are harbouring secrets. If Tenannt can resolve this, maybe he can finally unburden himself and move on? Re-connect with his own family? O perchance to dream? Compelling and highly-addictive and ultimately very satisfying, Broadchurch Season 2 screams to a crescendo-like conclusion. I see there is a season-3 coming -- OK, but this is a tough act to follow.
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The Blacklist (2013– )
Every Episode isn't great, but the series is...
17 March 2017
The Blacklist appeared on NetFlix recently, adding considerably to the viewing enjoyment of this new James Spader series, since the viewer can binge on the episodes, instead of waiting a painful week to see what happens next. I have rated the series highly -- it's maybe the best I have seen since the 20-parter (Part 1) of IRIS, a South Korean spy extravaganza.

Featuring a brilliant, ruthless, but sometimes benevolent anti-hero isn't new on network TV. I recall the 'It Takes a Thief' offering years ago with Robert Wagner as a legendary safecracker recruited to work with the Secret Service. However, Wagner's character never approached the complex and sinister nature of Spader's 'Red Reddington', who is a Jason Bourne mixed with Ersnt Stavro Blofeld (from the James Bond series). Red turns himself in, and offers to assist the FBI catch (other) dangerous criminal individuals or groups, as long as he gets to work with one particular agent, a rookie profiler named Elizabeth Keen. Why remains a mystery for quite some time, but Keen has only memories of her early childhood, but there are hints that this guy was a guardian or a parent. Keen herself is a troubled creature, married happily to a guy Red suspects is not all he appears to be. (And Red seems to know a lot secrets).

Some interesting guest actors include Alan Alda, Robert Sean Leonard and the ever dependable David Strathairn. Casting is interesting: some supporting cast seem to lack range and deliver their lines stiffly. I also found some of the female players a bit 'grizzled' -- even unattractively old for the part -- sorry, don't mean to be offensive, but there are so many available supporting actors who may have odd, but compelling features and deliveries, I wonder why the casting director chose these players. The episodes themselves are quite gripping, and Spader delivers as a manipulator, and sometimes, assassin to deal with a variety of criminals and threats to national security.

I would suggest that an occasional episode has a premise that is just too 'wacked-out', in which case, skip it and go to the next one. Continuity and re-summary is excellent -- you can catch up quickly. Most of the time, you will be on the edge of your seat and anxious to get to the next chapter. There's a bit of shoot-em-up and action, but no foul language and very little hint of amorous activity (everyone's too busy trying to figure out what game Reddington is playing?).

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Wild at Heart (2006–2013)
Highly-acclaimed - mostly meets up to expectations...
3 March 2017
We have Acorn-TV - so, we can stream every season. It is kind of a unique show wherein a blended family also tried to adapt to like in Africa. The photography and scenery are splendid. Some of the family conflicts are needlessly mean-spirited, in pursuit of meaningful plot lines. And the early episodes 'regress' - by which we mean, the characters get over a hurdle, and then climb back over it to repeat the process.

In this case, the 'step' family almost breaks up when 'Daddy' of the 2 kids flies in with his new juvenile-looking chickie to stake a claim to his offspring. Such a situation is awkward enough to resolve in real life, but we do get there in this episode.

However, in the next episode, the kids cross over certain lines and resolve to depart (again) after outbursts of anger, dredging up hurt feelings and sadness we just got over. Let me tell you how this works in real life: There is NO 'my family, my kids' - there is only OUR FAMILY. No one is leaving. There is husband and wife - the kids in the brood are a STAGE of the marriage - they are NOT the reason for the marriage. Sorry. Sound cold-hearted? Darn right. It works no other way. Once everyone in a blended family understands that they are stuck on this desert isle together with no escape, they will quit whining and get on with the job of survival. Step family survival 101.

The writers seem to be sadly lacking in how 'regression' can spoil a series. Soon, in a following episode, we have ANOTHER problem when a nearby plantation owner makes subtle advances on the wife in this little caper, but she fails to inform her husband, leaving HIS daughter to inform him. Oh, boy. She isn't believed - and now, we have 2 difficult problems instead of one. The husband is a great problem-solver (however), a nice easy-going guy - he'll patch things up. I'd like him for my dad. But this isn't what I was expecting him to deal with. Some of the above caught the eye of a few other reviewers.

I still like the series and will persevere. Like when dealing with a real step-family, I can look for the good things. 8/10
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The Interview (1998)
Hugo Weaving rocks... it's Agent Smith suspected of murder..
1 March 2017
"And what good is a phone-call, if you are unable to speak?" Remember that line from the Matrix? Spoken by 'Agent' Smith played by Hugo. This 1998 gem features him as an innocent (-looking) guy dragged out of his apartment roughly by an arresting crew of Aussie police, to be taken for 'an Interview' at Police Headquarters (the kind of treatment that wouldn't normally even raise an eyebrow in the USA).

Hugo plays 'Eddie Fleming', a soft-spoken guy down on his fortune - lost job & family. The police have highly-circumstantial evidence against him for the theft of a car, whilst out of town (job-hunting) recently, but can they make the accusation stick? He deftly denies any connection to the charges raised against him, leading us to believe that, perhaps, the skilled investigator, John Steele (played brilliantly by Tony Martin) is barking up the wrong tree. Steele's superiors seem to have an alternate agenda, but, after all, he is 'the guy' they depend on to do 'the Interview' in tough cases like this one. Fleming soon asks for a lawyer, but the 'right to attorney' works differently there, I guess. Fleming is, more or less, left on his own to deflect further questioning, but he chooses a different track that has drastic repercussions for all.

Brilliantly acted and filmed. Imaginative conclusion. Sorry: no happy endings. That's strictly for syrupy TV films made in the USA.
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Familiar cast in docu-drama about early DNA testing..
28 February 2017
If you are a fan of the true-life crime investigation series out in the wild (Forensic Files, Murder Comes to Town, etc.) that involve matching suspects to DNA evidence, then this is a must-see for you. The inventor of DNA testing, Alec Jeffreys, is a main character in this 'sort of' 3-part docu-drama about catching a rapist-killer in a small town in England in the mid-80's. Jeffreys' research at a university lab near the infamous attacks on 2 teen girls is profiled, as his work is key in exonerating a falsely-accused boy, and nailing the real killer.

Interestingly, if this were a fictional story, many viewers would be saying, 'O come on... this sort of thing could never happen that way...!', thus proving that truth is stranger than fiction (or 'life imitates art', as you please).

Three actors always worth watching (together or apart): John Simm (who plays Jeffreys), Robert Glenister (the DCC - Glenister looks like a real DCC, or a cop you would want on your side if you were wrongly accused of murder - he gets my vote) and David Threlfall as the determined DCS doggedly chasing the real perpetrator. I think Simm & Glennister effectively teamed up also in the Brit version of 'Life on Mars'. Threlfall looks completely different from his IMDb profile pic, thus showing that great Brit actors transform themselves enough to suit even a grim role, unlike popular American actors who show the same glam profile in every shot of every movie - (you know the ones I mean: pretty boys!).

A great BRIT 3-parter I caught on ACORN-TV, well worth the price of admission for this alone. 9/10
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19 February 2017
I packed it after maybe 10 minutes. This writer of greeting cards loses his job, and apparently starts another similar job for higher stakes.

Before we get to that, however, there is a bizarre scene wherein our man hears moaning from another room, and enters to find a giant but hostile owl-like creature 'involved' with an unseen female. huh? Too rich for my blood. Click! No, I don't want to know what this was supposed to be, or what it symbolized (I think it was some kind of dream sequence). So, don't write me an explanation. I ain't interested. I am not into weird. Enter at own risk.
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Cardinal (2017– )
Some moments, but doesn't measure up to similar series from Europe..
16 February 2017
It is refreshing to watch a home-grown production, involving a homicide investigation, since we see many from the USA, or, recently, from Denmark, Norway, and especially Britain. Unfortunately, the end-result does not measure up to the foreign offerings, for a few reasons.

Cardinal (played ably by Billy Campbell) is a capable, but troubled homicide investigator, who may, or may not, have ties to graft from a local hood. When bodies start turning up, he must join up with new partner Lise Delorme, (played by Karinne Vanasse), who has, secretly, been recruited to gather evidence of Cardinal's complicity. It's a compelling mix of plot elements, but fails to maintain a suitable pace. I could easily have done this in 3 episodes (rather than 6).

The 3rd episode is an example: we are dragged through an endless confrontation between the captor(s) and a young male abductee, which was disturbing and plodding. So, by now, the audience knows who is responsible for the killings. The motives are unclear, other than the guy is a loony-tune.

In the 4th episode ('Woody'), a local small-time thief gets involved while stalking the captor(s) with the intent to steal a guitar they carry around in a case. Yeah, but unless you know guitars well, you could be stealing a $75 piece of junk, with no re-sale value! When was the last time you heard of a B&E for a guitar? You might be risking 5 years in jail for kindling wood! (Even Martin guitars range from $800-5000 - I own 2 guitars myself and I can't tell the difference!). The story just didn't establish the basis for the thief targeting that particular guitar. Poor story-writing - amateurish. These are the kind of little things the European series never miss.

Having said that, the scenery and camera-work are pretty decent. I might suggest you watch this with your hand on the fast-forward button to do your own editing. It might turn out to be a decent time-waster.

To compare, we just finished season-2 of Happy Valley, a Brit offering with Sarah Lancashire as a Brit police sergeant. Six episodes, multiple plots, but they flew by in nail-biting, gripping fashion. Seems easy, until you watch something that doesn't have 'it'.
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The Young Pope (2016– )
John Candy gets Elected Pope!
31 January 2017
Recall the 'Days of the Week' satire on the old SCTV? Dr. Wainwright (played by John Candy) tries to pull a con job that goes horribly wrong when he chooses a moron (Rocko) as his 'inside man'? Now imagine Dr. Wainwright as the Pope! So, these Vatican guys vote a young (American named Lenny) Jude Law into office as Pope, apparently thinking he will be a bridge between the old and the new, in other words, he will be a puppet, easy to manipulate. How wrong they were (and this I say after only 3 episodes).

Jude Law's Pope Pius XIII is wacko, a lunatic. I'm not even sure he believes in God. He ticks off all the power brokers in the Vatican, and recruits a few close friends and confidants (including Sister Mary, his childhood Mentor - played well by Diane Keaton), whom he treats kindly. He dumps on everyone else, and gives a vengeful first homily (speech) to the assembled hordes at St. Peter's square. It's actually more of a rant. He cuts the pompous Secretary of State down a peg or two, thus incurring the displeasure of this powerful enemy.

There's only a handful of episodes left, and I wonder how 'Lenny' will survive to the last one, considering what happened to the last guy who refused to play according to the rules in the real-life Vatican, Pope John-Paul I.. remember him? Pope for 33 days? Cremated before an autopsy could be done? Yeah, that guy. Well, the Young Pope, I fear, will end up the same way, which is too bad, because he is a real hoot.

Quite a unique series, if you like murderous intrigue. It won't do much to confirm your Catholic faith - maybe more hard-hitting than a Yallop book!

Warning - a bit of explicit content, esp. Episode 6 (tnx for a FF button!)
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