Recent Silence Here

By Rev/Views
Having major personal difficulties, the kind which sap my will to write - I don't want to go into them more on here as this isn't a place for my life and issues. I'll try and get Watching the Wire's 3rd episode up tomorrow and something about Sons of Anarchy next week. Hopefully things will go back to normal sometime in the next week or two, but no promises as I haven't felt up to writing for a while now.
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Doctor Who: Waters of Mars

Category: By Rev/Views

If you haven't seen it yet you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer here (while it's available).

Hey, that wasn't that bad at all was it?

I'm going to compliment sandwich the latest Doctor Who special, that is I'll write about some good stuff, then some bad and then finish with the really good stuff. Now the trailers for the special had made the story look quite exciting and the general tone to be very dark and possibly filled with horror. Certainly there was a big deal made out of the episode being 'the scariest in a while'. So I did go into this expecting something a lot better than the previous offering, which had me rolling my eyes at the flying bus (amongst other things). It certainly couldn't be as bad as the utterly turd-tastic "Voyage of the Damned" which was redeemed only by the performances David Tennant, Bernard Cribbins and the wonderful "friend of Rev/Views" Clive Rowe.

And well, yes the penultimate story for the tenth Doctor was something rather special indeed. The story was a solid affair which played to the strengths of both Rusty's writing and Tennant's ability to be awesome on screen. The whole scenario set itself up well and just looked fantastic.

But there were a few glitchy areas in the story. The "robot" Gadget was a completely useless piece of plot device which was both annoying and irrelevant. The "racing across the surface of Mars" and "being better at opening a key in a lock than 99% of the human population" (seriously, who manages to get the key in the lock first try?) was an almost pointless piece of plotting. I would have gone with "Doctor returns to the TARDIS then decides to save them by materialising with it at the last possible moment." it would have given a stronger level of psych-out for the viewer. We could have watched the TARDIS vanish and think "My word, he's left them to die. He's actually done it!"

Additionally, for an episode which claimed to be 'bringing the scary [spice] back' Waters of Mars really failed on that part. The "water zombies" looked interesting but failed to elict any emotional response from me at all. Seriously the Candy man from "The Happiness Patrol" arc back during the McCoy years was scarier by miles. Which was a bit of a shame, because the trailer did manage to make it all seem scary, I guess at the end of the day people getting wet just doesn't make for good horror (unless it's either Jaws or the Japanese are at it.)

Lindsay Duncan was great and the ending of the story was pretty dark as well, giving us some of the excellent emotional dialog which Rusty CAN write well (he just can't write good Science Fiction, shame) and Tennant's performance as he goes on a roller coaster ride of emotions was something to behold. He went from watching passively to directly interfering and then hitting a state of elation and energy more intense than he's managed before. Then he goes too far and reveals the ultimate hubris of the Tenth Doctor, Pride. And of course we all know pride mealy signals a fall. What a fall it was, I don't think I've ever seen such a crushing moment on Who, at least since either the loss of Donna or the second part of Family of Blood. Great emotion there.

Still, everything was utterly overshadowed by the trailer for 'The End of Time'. I think the BBC screwed up a little by putting that teaser trailer right after 'Waters of Mars' because frankly it overshadowed everything which had happened in the special and blew it all away with it's sheer awesomeness.

Seriously Beeb, we're going to watch Doctor Who regardless, you don't need to give away so much before each episode airs. But still, yay John Simms and Catherine Tate! (Yes, I liked Donna a lot).

Sadly John Barrowman will also be in it... Can't win them all.

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Watching The Week That Was - November 9th to 15th Edition

I missed this feature last week, mostly because I had guests around on the Sunday and as such had less time to spend writing. That is in part why last week was rather update light, but ho hum we must press onward.

Community: "Debate 109"

If you're sick of my praising Community already then I'd skip onto the next entry in this, because this week's episode was another huge hit for me. It's been a long time since I've watched a sitcom which clicks so completely and feels like it's speaking to me. The last sitcom to make such an impression was Arrested Development, and while Community isn't at that level - it feels like it could get there.

I'm really enjoying the way the show is building on it's past episodes, keeping characters who could easily have been one off guest stars in the rotation. Including the awesome John Michael Higgins, who made a welcome return as Professor Whitman and the lovely Holland Roden as "girl" (second appearance for her).

The two main stories split up the usual pairings somewhat by having Pierce "hypnotise" Britta, Jeff team up with Annie in the debate competition (have I mentioned how awesome Alison Brie is? One to watch there) and the exceptionally amusing Shirley/Abed B Storyline which had her constantly accusing him of witchcraft and wizardry.

As for the end of the episode with Sandeep Parikh and Manley Henry (at least I believe it was them). Just brilliant.

The Office: "Murder"

In contrast The Office just wasn't on form this week, I can't put my finger on why. On the surface it should have been a fantastic episode, you've got everyone (apart from Oscar and Jim) taking part in a murder mystery game instated by Michael to try and distract attention from a possible company bancrupcy. This results in ridiculous accents, accompanied by pedantic correction of ridiculous accents and a chance for Dwight to get over enthusiastic about the entire thing.

But they are moving the Andy/Erin thing forward (haltingly), but they seem to be drifting back towards relying on the tired will they/won't they trope. Thinking about it, that might be the reason why the episode didn't do it for me. We spent ages waiting for the Pam/Jim story to resolve and I for one am not interested in walking into another version of that involving Andy and Erin. Still it's early days yet, they might move things forward with a more reasonable pace this time.

30 Rock: "The Problem Solvers"

I am disappointed with the direction this season has taken, and this episode was no exception. What happened to the 30 Rock I know and love? I do adore Jane Krakowski, that is all.

Parks and Recreation: "The Camel"

I picked up P&R last week and got up to speed with it this week, so I'm afraid I'll be skipping past all the episodes which have already aired in previous weeks and going ahead from this one. Which was by all accounts a great episode. I adore the ongoing series of 'inappropriate murals' which the show has and focusing around one - or the act of replacing it at least - was a lot of fun.

This was also the first episode to actually make Tom a likable character for me, while he is clearly a well written and amusing individual I find Aziz Ansari irritating to a high degree. This week though his obsession with the abstract painting he commissioned was endearing and funny.

Elsewhere it was the Ron and Andy storyline which did it for me, those two characters are brilliant and putting them together then creating such an awkward moment was hilarious. Especially afterwards where Andy's desperate attempts to avoid Ron just result in him spinning on the spot before having a faulting and slightly humiliating conversation. But the crown in the cap was Mark's suggestion for the winning mural, a completely inoffensive 'old man in park' which was delivered with such cynical intent that it was impossible not to love it.

Oh and bashing Jerry's frankly brilliant "murinal" because he mispronounced the word was hilarious, especially as he had a fantastic idea which would have certainly won.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: "Officer Krukpe"

Two episodes away from the "Seinfeld" episode and we had a pretty decent, but not overwhelming, episode of Curb. Myself I'm enjoying the Seinfeld moments more than the Curb ones now, which isn't a good thing for the show if I'm honest. It's reminding me just how great Seinfeld was - and the two auditions for the part of George's wife demonstrated to me how I prefer the pitch and pace of Seinfeld over Curb. Don't get me wrong, Curb is great, but it's no Seinfeld.

How I Met Your Mother: "The Rough Patch"

Not a great episode on the whole, it was entertaining, but it didn't feel like it brought much to the show beyond the ridiculously hilarious "fat Barney" (A nod to Friends and fat young Monica there?) Still that was a lot of funny and alongside Lily and Marshall's secret porn obsession it was pretty good.

The end of the episode was amazing.

Doctor Who will have it's own seperate post.

Other News:
I'm making a big push to finish watching the first season of Sons of Anarchy so I can deliver a verdict on it. I also received Moon last week and while I don't write about films that often I think it bares repeating to say that it's an excellent film with plenty to recommend.

I've also started to watch Legend of the Seeker, I've read the books since the first one was released over here - I'm not exactly a fan of the series, at times the writing is stunning but at others it's pretty flat and Terry Goodkind tends to rely on the same tropes over and over - so this means I'm actually pretty open to a re-envisioning of the story. Only seen two episodes at the time of writing this though, so I need to hang fire on judging it.

The last thing is a quick quesiton for those of you who care. I happen to already own the entire collection of The Shield on DVD, but I keep staring at the collected edition box set and being tempted to purchase it. Would it be overkill to own the series twice?
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Watching the Wire: Season Three: Episode Two: "All Due Respect"

“There’s never been a paper bag.”
-- Major Howard 'Bunny' Colvin

Teleplay by Richard Price
Directed by Steve Shil

Dominic West as Det. James "Jimmy" McNulty, Jim True-Frost as Det. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, Wendell Pierce as Det. William "Bunk" Moreland, Clarke Peters as Det. Lester Freamon, Sonja Sohn as Det. Shakima "Kima" Greggs, Lance Reddick as Lt. Cedric Daniels, Corey Parker Robinson as Det. Leander Sydnor, Frankie Faison as Police Comm. Ervin H. Burrell, Domenick Lombardozzi as Det. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk, Andre Royo as Bubbles, J.D. Williams as Preston "Bodie" Broadus, Deirdre Lovejoy as Asst. States Attorney Rhonda Pearlman, John Doman as Deputy Ops. William A. Rawls, Wood Harris as Avon Barksdale, Idris Elba as Russell "Stringer" Bell, Aidan Gillen as Councilman Thomas "Tommy" Carcetti, and Robert Wisdom as Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin

Chad L. Coleman as Dennis "Cutty" Wise, Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield, Al Brown as Major Stanislaus Valchek, Clifford "Method Man" Smith as Melvin "Cheese" Wagstaff, Melanie Nichols-King as Cheryl, Richard Burton as Shaun "Shamrock" McGinty, Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr, Anwan Glover as Slim Charles, Kelli R. Brown as Kimmy, Edwina Findley as Tosha Mitchell, Ernest Waddell as Dante, Brandon Fobbs as Fruit, De'Rodd Hearns as Puddin, Addison Switzer as Country, Shamyl Brown as Donette, Erik Todd Dellums as Randall Frazier, Joilet F. Harris as Officer Caroline Massey, Jay Landsman as Lieutenant Dennis Mello, Richard DeAngelis as Colonel Raymond Foerster, Ed Norris as Detective Ed Norris, Rick Otto as Officer Kenneth Dozerman, Melvin Williams as The Deacon, R. Emery Bright as Community Relations Sergeant, Justin Burley as Justin, Benjamin Busch as Anthony Colicchio, Norris Davis as Vinson, Nakia Dillard as Lambert, Barnett Lloyd as Major Marvin Taylor, Rashad Orange as Sherrod, Melvin T Russell as Jamal, Ryan Sands as Truck, Brian Anthony Wilson as Detective Vernon Holley, Jonathan D. Wray as Tank and Rashad Orange as Sherrod.

The Summary:

Omar continues his bold strikes on Barksdale stash houses, now heavily guarded. Under orders from Stringer Bell, Bodie faces Marlo, a fierce young dealer with lucrative corners near the now-toppled Franklin Terrace towers. McNulty launches his own reinvestigation of last year's prison suicide of D'Angelo Barksdale. Greggs' relationship with Cheryl and the new baby is shakey. Burrell is feeling heat from Councilman Carcetti and reaches an uneasy peace with the legislator. The street violence also presents Daniels with the difficult decision of whether to help end a drug war in the Eastern district, at the cost of giving up a months-long wiretap. Cheese loses more than a little on his bet at a bloody dogfight and later is hauled downtown for questioning as a murder suspect by Bunk and McNulty. A beleaguered Cutty seeks employment outside the drug world. Carver, Herc and the Western drug unit take to the street undercover, but a hand-to-hand drug-buy goes sour, prompting Major "Bunny" Colvin, the district commander, to question his thirty years on the force and the legacy of his career.

Read about paper bags, hard rain falling and shooting mah dawg beyond the link...

The Recap:

A couple of young hoods are talking on the street outside a stash house, they’re talking about Edgar Allan Poe’s house when a nurse rolls up with an apparently old gentleman in a wheelchair. The nurse asks them to help the man up the stairs and after they frisk him they do so. Inside it takes a moment before the gangers realise that they’ve been punked by Omar and his posse. One of the lads tells him “All due respect, but this right here… It’s a Barksdale joint, man.” Omar’s only response is “Do tell.”

Cue the credits…

In the Baltimore city morgue an officer is giving a talk to a group of young lads when McNulty arrives intending to talk to the mortician Dr. Randall Frazier (remember him from the previous seasons?) He wants to talk about D’Angelo’s suicide – have the case looked into and ensured that it was a suicide and not murder.

At county Stringer and Avon are talking about the situation on the street, forming a plan of action now the towers are down and gone. Avon wants to push forward and ensure that the Barksdale name rings out, but Stringer wants to do it without dropping to many bodies, because, as he points out, its bodies which got Avon locked up in the first place. Drug dealing tends to be ignored by the police apart from the occasional bust, but homicide gets their attention. Add to this a general loss of muscle with little fresh replacements and they have every reason to be a little cautious. They then move on and talk about Avon’s parole hearing, it’s looking good for the man – he’ll probably be out soon thanks to his hotshots and Levy’s silvered tongue.

Across the city the same story replays over and over, Stringer’s boys move into the corners not with muscle but with product. Good product at low prices, it gets the attention of the other dealers. But Bodie isn’t having it as easy, he’s been asked to talk to Marlo, but Marlo’s boys aren’t willing to let him know where their boss is.

Major Valchek is meeting with Carcetti, Valchek sees the direction that Carcetti is taking things and he’s looking for an angle to play for himself.

Bodie;s still trying to figure out where Marlo is, but he believes he has it nailed.

In a warehouse a ring is set out and a scoreboard put up.

Bodie sets up on the street and waits.

Cheese arrives at the warehouse, it’s a dog-fighting competition and he bets heavily on his own pooch ‘Dawg’.

Herc and Carver are sat in the car talking their usual trash. This time Carver is asking Herc what woman he’d like to have as his sexual slaves (he goes with the Olsen twins) and what guy he’d do once, one time, in order to have them. Herc is a little reticent to reply to this, he’s convinced that it’s a trap. Carver pushes him and Herc clarifies that he wouldn’t be catching, he’d be pitching.

The dog fighting is about to reach full swing, the corner men step out and the two dogs fight. Cheese’s brown Dawg and a vicious white brute. After a short fight Dawg is badly injured and Cheese is out twenty five thousand. Cheese picks up Dawg, collects his gun and walks out of sight. A shot rings out.

Herc is still unwilling to name a guy, he tries to bargain for an “unbearable looking woman” instead but Carver demands a guy. No compromises. A lad walks past with his cap on the side and Herc calls him over, asking him where the lad gets the caps which go on sideways, because he can only find “the ones with the bills in the front.” The lad answers without realising Herc is being facetious, explaining that it’s the same kind of cap but just turned sideways. He then marks Poot out.

At the corner where Bodie is hanging out Marlo arrives in his SUV. Marlo tells the boy who called him up to get back to work and then rolls past Bodie without stopping.

Down at the waterfront Burrell is meeting with Valchek, they’re talking about Carcetti. Valchek explains the lay of the land. Burrell needs to placate Caretti in order to avoid being screwed hard, but as Burrell notes, he can’t go back-dooring the mayor and get away with it. Carcetti arrives and Valchek departs, leaving them to talk with.

At the funeral home Stringer and his lieutenants are discussing how the situation is playing out. It’s hard work, especially for Bodie who can’t even get near Marlo to talk. Stringer tells him to get out and look for Marlo. Stringer then moves on to talk about the Omar situation. It’s clear to them that Omar has a hard on for Stringer and they need to shore up against him.

Carcetti and Burrell talk about their situation. Carcetti admits that he’s screwing around with Burrell and the police force because he’s bored. Burrell decides to softly play ball and asks Carcetti to try and sort out the problem he’s having with car repairs.

Marlo is at the auto shop, talking about the potential situation with the Barksdales. If he’s not willing to work with them he’s going to have to saddle up for a storm.

McNulty is drinking with Bunk and they’re talking about Dee’s “suicide”. Bunk somewhat agrees with McNulty about Dee, he doesn’t see it as a suicide, but he’s cautious about sticking his neck out. McNulty then spots a cute woman and asks Bunk to help him out with a “number three”, which turns out to involve Bunk hamming up his drunken state to allow McNulty to introduce himself.

In the street one of Cheese’s corner boy – Tri - is shot dead in mid sentence.

Cutty talks with his parole officer about what now, he’s told to stay away from criminals and “get a job”. But that’s as far as he’s going to be assisted.

At the mortuary McNulty and Dr Frazier are discussing Dee’s injuries, things don’t quite add up right.

Tri’s shooting runs up the wire and Caroline translates for Freamon and Prez.

On Poot’s corner Herc and Carver arrive, Poot calls for a time out to his boys and is then picked up by the dynamic duo. Herc and Carver talk with Poot about the situation, Poot plays it hard and the pair let him go with nothing for their troubles. They then move back to their previous conversation, Herc asking if a hand job would be enough.

At the Office things are heating up, Peanut’s dead now as well and then another voice cuts across the wire. It’s Cheese, he’s having trouble sleeping since he shot someone, his dawg. The detail are thrilled, they have an angle on Cheese now. Then another wire barks up and they here someone get shot. Freamon calls Detective Norris and tries to pass on the good news – Norris hangs up on him.

In the western district stats fixing is under full swing. While Herc and Carver meet Poot and Bodie at the cinema, it’s almost like co-workers meeting.

In the offices Freamon is checking out the pictures of the bodies from the shootings.

At home Kima and Cheryl sit on the sofa, conversation is forced and strained between them after the birth of Cheryl’s baby.

The next morning Cutty finds work labouring while Kima and Freamon bring the recording of Cheese on a platter to Daniels. At the moment they’re looking to hold onto the recording for as long as possible, because once they give up the wiretap by collaring Cheese then the jig will be up and the remaining dealers will switch up their communication methods.

McNulty is over at Donette’s house, he asks her about her opinion on Dee’s sucide, and extrapolates a little on his suspicions and explains why he’s doing this. She’s clearly not happy to have him there and so he leaves his card then departs.

The majors are in for their briefings, Rawls is roasting one of them over his (lack of) knowledge over the shootings in his area. Colvin watches from the sidelines.

Marlo arrives on the corner and Bodie clocks him, he gets up and walks over to talk to the man. Marlo ignores him initially, but then tells Bodie to walk off and leave. Bodie sighs, turns and leaves.

The Major Crimes Unit meet with Ronnie about the wiretap and the bodies. McNulty wants to hang on, but Daniels points out that the unit is about the violence, not the drugs. So they plan to use the tap and try to roll up Cheese.

Cutty is working in the garden, the owner of the house talks to him and the other gardeners in broken Spanish. Cutty can only star incredulously at this assumption, he doesn't even look the least bit Spanish.

At the MCU Office things are a go. They pick up Cheese, planning to break him and move up the ladder towards Prop Joe and Stringer Bell.

Outside the western district Herc and Carver are still talking about Herc’s decision, Herc has increased the list to four women and finally settles on Gus Triandos. Carver doesn’t rip into him over the choice and then turns to address the men. He tells them they need to keep their incident numbers sequential, photograph everything before bagging it and to make sure that their cameras are loaded with film.

In the interview room Bunk and McNulty interview Cheese, he doesn’t even flinch so Bunk pulls an impression of him on tape talking about shooting his dawg. Cheese shakes his head and tells them the truth; that he thought he was being punked and lit up his dawg. McNulty and Bunk offer to let him go if he rolls up on this shooting. Cheese doesn’t roll and tells them that the body is in the warehouse. Everyone looks pleased and happy outside the interview room until Bunk and McNulty walk out. They can charge Cheese with ‘improper disposal of an animal’ and ‘discharging a firearm within city limits’, maybe even ‘animal cruelty’. As you should have figured by now, Cheese was talking about having to shoot Dawg, his dawg. Not any person. The wiretap is screwed.

Herc and Carver are outside, Herc is asking Carver to let loose on him when Dozerman comes up and starts talking about Gus Triandos. Herc is not impressed.

At the bar the MUO are drinking in commiseration over their sorrows. They’ve lost the wire and Daniels is feeling a little sorry for himself. Ronnie soon turns things around for the man, by suggesting that he could still have his cake and eat it. She places a hand on his thigh.

Dozerman and Carver continue to rile Herc over his ‘confession’ while they work narcotics.

Burrell meets with Carcetti who’s managed to turn things around and get 20 squad cars back onto the streets by the end of the week. Burrell moves on to let Carcetti know that there’s no money for academy training of new officers. Carcetti offers to help out.

Kima arrives home, finding the place covered with baby stuff and Cheryl asleep with the baby. She turns away, fixes up her hair in the mirror and heads out again.

Dozerman makes the hand-off with the dealers and is then shot. Colvin is called about the shooting. Daniels brings Ronnie back to his place, it’s almost empty as he just got the lease.

It turns out that the shooting wasn’t fatal, Bunny tells them that they did good getting to him fast, but the shooter is in the wind. Dozerman has even lost his gun in the process. Bunny finishes his drink and tosses the can up onto the roof.

Kima is out at a gay bar, she’s caught the eye of an attractive young woman.

Daniels and Ronnie wake up in the morning and get reads to head out. Bunny rolls out on the street, meeting up with the Deacon to talk about what’s happened. He’s frustrated because he’s left almost nothing behind, the city is worse than when he started on the job. The Deacon tells Bunny that there’s nothing you can do to fight drugs.

In the MCU Office the wires have gone dead, Freamon is back to making his dolls house furniture. It’s all quiet now they’ve tipped their hand.

In the western district Bunny briefs his men. Dozerman is now in a ‘guarded condition’, but all hand to hands are suspended. Bunny then pulls out a brown paper bag holding a bottle and tells the story of the brown paper bag. About how the paper bag rose up as a compromise between the drinkers and the police, with the bottle inside the bag it meant that the officers could look the other way and not lose face.

There’s never been a paper bag for drugs. Until now.

Herc and Carver find themselves sat back out in the car, Herc is confused about Bunny’s speech. They roll past Bodie without busting him, Bodie nods acknowledgement to them and we cut to black…

The Review:

Well it didn't take long for things to turn sour did it? The wiretap is dead for no benefit, people are dying, the higher ups are in bedlam over what this means to stats and Herc is talking about screwing a baseball player. Still, it wouldn't be The Wire if things ran smooth would it?

For myself the main things I take away from this episode is the relationship between Herc, Carver, Bodie and Poot. In many other shows and even films the "confrontation" in the cinema would have been far more aggressive and possibly violent, but instead it plays out more like a meeting between co-workers. Bodie is quite civil, in truth he's genuinely surprised because he's never really thought of Herc and Carver in personal circumstances. To him they're the policemen who bust his head every day for no real reason. But here he's seen them as the men behind the badges, or at least had a glimpse and it's surprised him no end.

Apart from the collapse of the wiretap and the general personal things the other storylines start to build slowly. You can see how Marlo fits into this as an atagonistic element for the Barksdales, his presence has to be dealt with and can end in either co-operation or the destruction of one drug organisation. The political aspect of the show ticks along in the background, while politics is a huge thing, especially when you're dealing with drugs and law. But it isn't dominating the storyline.

Still, at this point there's not much more to write about, because the first few episodes of each season are mostly build up. And we've got plenty of that yet to come!

This episode quotes it's title three times in the episode and shares the name with the fifth season finale of The Sopranos.

Bunny's speech at the end of the episode is more or less taken direct from book The Corner and it can be directly attributed to ex-policeman and David Simon's writing partner, Ed Burns.

The Deacon is played by Melvin Williams, the real life inspiration for Avon Barksdale and crime lord until he was caught by Ed Burns and sentenced to 34 years in a wiretap similar to the first season's storyline. Needless to say some people were outraged that Melvin was "rewarded" for his crimes in this manner.

How great does Rhonda Pearlman look in this episode?

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The Silent Matrix: What if The Matrix had been filmed at the birth of television

Category: By Rev/Views
I've been rather busy, also writing Watching The Wire means I have less time to update over the week than I normally would.

As penance here's a wonderful comedy sketch which recreates The Matrix (remember? It was that awesome science fiction movie with two progressively rubbish sequels that had only one redeeming feature - Hugo Weaving) in the style of a silent movie.

The translation from Russian isn't perfect in places, but this isn't a film about the words really.

Enjoy, proper content to come later.
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Category: , , By Rev/Views
Science Fiction tends to belong to one of two categories; the first of which can be called 'soft sci-fi' and tends to revolve around using science fiction as an excuse for story telling, or more often as an excuse for explosions and flying cars - Demolition Man, Ghost Busters, Pitch Black and Pretty Woman are examples of this. The second is 'hard sci-fi' and tends to use more "realistic" near science to explore present day issues, often taking an unusual viewpoint on what it is which makes us human, or highlighting the atrocities humanity inflicts upon itself on a daily basis - Blade Runner and 2010 stand up here and show their chops.

There have also been films which straddle the line between the two with ease (Terminator 2 and Alien for example), but Moon is a film that definitely places itself in the 'hard' category with a story that takes a long look at many issues, both current and potential.

It's the story of one Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), an astronaut who's about to finish his three year stint on the far side of the moon. A stretch which has been spent isolated and alone with nothing other than the lunar base computer GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) plus the occasional video message from Lunar Industries (the company who owns the base) and his wife Tess and young daughter Eve. It's been a lonely time for Sam and he's eager to return to Earth and start living a normal life again - three years is too long to be so alone.

But an accident reveals something startling to Sam, something which brings everything he comes to understand into question, and rapidly he discovers the truth about his time on the moon.

Warning... Beyond this link lurk heavy spoilers which will reveal major points about the film, click at your own risk...

Watching the film is a little confusing at first, I did find myself wondering what the 'hook' would be for the first 'act' of the film. Initially the film suggests that it's about finding resources to solve the world's problems, harvesting helium-3 from the Moon's surface and dispatching it to Earth in order to provide limitless energy. It then dances along the edge of the 'supernatural' with a few strange incidents that suggest paranormal events, before settling in for an examination of cloning.

Once I realised that this was the focus of the film I was able to settle back and enjoy it more fully, it's during this section that the best performances come from Sam Rockwell. He spends the rest of the movie interacting with himself (and occasionally GHERTY) both verbally and physically - showcasing a great acting range as the second, newer, Sam-Clone is younger and angrier; while the "original" clone is both dying and a far more world (moon?) weary individual who's developed skills and tempered his anger.

The camera work throughout this section is likewise fantastic, you've got one man interacting with himself in a variety of methods which show a level of sophistication way beyond the old 'split screen clones' of the past. It's entertaining the number of ways the film likes to "show off" by having Sam move around and even touch himself.

But for me, the most important part of this film is the way it makes you think. It's a film about exploitation of resources, at first it's the Moon which is being exploited - that's a fairly harmless thing and easy to accept. But it does mean you're jarred greatly when you discover that Sam himself is nothing more than a resource, a three year clone designed to live out a miserable existence under the false assumption that he'll be returning home to his wife and daughter at the end of it. The truth of the matter is that each clone lasts just three years before dying and Sam is the fifth such clone - the fifth out of what seems to be hundreds.

You're left with the question of morality and ethics, which is additionally compounded with the revelation that the original Sam is living on Earth and is (assumed) compliant in this entire operation. His wife Tess implicates the pair of them with her involvement in the video messages to Sam-Clone #5 (The "Original Clone" in the movie. These people have been bred for the purpose of mining the Moon and are lied to about their whole existence and while their work is of huge benefit to all of humanity you're left asking about the cost.

I can't finish up here without mentioning GHERTY, the lunar A.I. with emoticons that is voiced by Spacey. He's a fantastic character; exhibiting a combination of programmed desires, needs and orders. All of which come together to give you a creature which is totally compliant in the entire operation, but can't be judged for it's actions because it's a limited machine with boundaries to it's understanding.

I also like it when a film bucks my expectations, I half wondered if GHERTY would pull a HAL 9000 on Sam and was thrilled to discover that it was instead able to adapt it's programming enough to assist the Sams in their voyage of discovery.

The one thing I feel somewhat let the film down was the final dialog over the scenes of Sam #6 travelling back to Earth. It wrapped things up a little too neatly for my taste, I would have prefered to wonder about the events and be left to draw my own conclusions. It's a minor point, but for a film which raises so many questions to the viewer I personally felt that I could have done without being given the answers at the end.

So is "Moon" any good? The short answer is a simple one, it is - it's a fantastic film with something quite significant to say. The message is both strong and meaningful on many levels. But it's certainly not a film for everyone, it's a character driven piece and while the pace is strong - it's not going to wow someone who's looking for action and explosions. Instead this is a film for the science fiction reader, it's one for those of you who like to sit and think about what you've just watched.

It's one of the best films I've had the pleasure of watching this year.


The DVD set itself comes with an impressive set of extras.
  • Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery and Production Designer Tony Noble
  • Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones and Producer Stuart Fenegan
  • "Whistle" a Short Film by Duncan Jones (28 minutes long)
  • The Making of Moon
  • Creating the Visual Effects
  • Science Center Q&A with Director Duncan Jones
  • Filmmaker's Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival
Details (DVD):
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Anamoprhic Widescreen
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run time: 1h 33mins approx
Soundtrack: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English (HOH), English, Hindi

Moon will be released on DVD and Bluray on the 16th of November.

Direct Link

Watching the Wire: Season Three: Episode One - "Time After Time"

"Don't matter how many times you get burnt, you just keep doin' the same."
-- Bodie

Teleplay by David Simon
Directed by Ed Bianchi

Dominic West as Det. James "Jimmy" McNulty, Jim True-Frost as Det. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, Wendell Pierce as Det. William "Bunk" Moreland, Clarke Peters as Det. Lester Freamon, Sonja Sohn as Det. Shakima "Kima" Greggs, Lance Reddick as Lt. Cedric Daniels, Corey Parker Robinson as Det. Leander Sydnor, Frankie Faison as Police Comm. Ervin H. Burrell, Domenick Lombardozzi as Det. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk, Andre Royo as Bubbles, J.D. Williams as Preston "Bodie" Broadus, Deirdre Lovejoy as Asst. States Attorney Rhonda Pearlman, John Doman as Deputy Ops. William A. Rawls, Wood Harris as Avon Barksdale, Idris Elba as Russell "Stringer" Bell, Aidan Gillen as Councilman Thomas "Tommy" Carcetti, and Robert Wisdom as Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin

Glynn Turman as Mayor Clarence Royce, Callie Thorne as Elena McNulty, Chad L. Coleman as Dennis "Cutty" Wise, Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield, Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr, Hassan Johnson as Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice, Method Man as Melvin "Cheese" Wagstaff, Maria Broom as Marla Daniels, Leo Fitzpatrick as Johnny, Joilet F. Harris as Officer Caroline Massey, Al Brown as Major Stanislaus Valchek, Jay Landsman as Lieutenant Dennis Mello, Ed Norris as Ed Norris, Richard Burton as Shaun "Shamrock" McGinty, Brandon Fobbs as Fruit, Anwan Glover as Slim Charles, De'Rodd Hearns as Puddin, DeJuan Anderson as Bunk Junior, Anthony Cordova as Sean McNulty, Eric G. Ryan as Michael McNulty, Tony D. Head as Major Bobby Reed, Benjamin Busch as Officer Anthony Colicchio, Christopher Mann as Councilman Tony Gray, Frederick Strother as State Delegate Odell Watkins, Cleo Reginald Pizana as Chief of Staff Coleman Parker, Justin Burley as Justin, Lee E. Cox as Aaron Castor, Richard DeAngelis as Colonel Raymond Foerster, Nakia Dillard as Lambert, Mustafa Harris as Lavell Mann, Derek Horton as Brian Baker, Barnett Lloyd as Major Marvin Taylor, Robert Neal Marshall as Comstat Police Major, Keith Moyer as Junk Man, Rick Otto as Kenneth Dozerman, Melvin T Russell as Jamal, Ryan Sands as Truck, Rico Sterling as Tyrell, Addison Switzer as Country, Rico Whelchel as Rico and Jonathan D. Wray as Tank

The Summary:

The Franklin Terrace public housing towers are razed, forcing the Barksdale drug crew to find a new home on the streets of West Baltimore. Stringer Bell sets up shop using a new sales strategy for Bodie, Poot, Puddin and the rest of the gang, as he awaits the return of Avon from prison. McNulty, Greggs and the detail look to make a case against Stringer with a wiretap on a drug ring run by his ally, Proposition Joe. Assigned to the Western District drug unit, Carver and Herc notch up the pressure on street dealers. Burrell is caught in a power play by First District Councilman Tommy Carcetti. Mayor Clarence Royce, facing re-election next year, puts Burrell on notice that murders must go down. Rawl's Comsat meetings begin to look like the McCarthy hearings. Daniels' promotion to major appears to be derailed because of his estranged wife's political ambitions. A rash of murders cuts short Bunk's day at the ballpark, as Bubbles and Johnny lose big in their latest caper for cash. On the eve of his parole, Cutty Wise is offered a new start on the outside by Avon, but after being released, he finds the drug life has changed.

Read about old friends, new faces and the evolution of the game beyond the link...

The Recap

Open with Boadie, Poot and Puddin walking down towards the Franklin Terrace housing, talking about the place while Mayor Royce gives his speech to an appreciative crowd about the planned improvements and residences which will replace the ill reputed Towers. The boys reminisce about the past while the politician talks of the future.

The biggest issue for the lads is the loss of territory, which is what this change represents and as the crowd count down we see the end of an era for Baltimore. An end heralded by a dust storm which for a brief moment makes the place look like the end of the world.

Cue the new credits. These credits depict the change in focus for the show, while the drugs and crime are still front and central there are also new elements, including drugs, property development, boxing, politics and a large slice of sex depicted alongside the crime and police themes.

Sydnor and McNulty are in a disused apartment, the place is a sty but it’s essential for their work. The target, one Cheese Wagstaff is outside. Elsewhere, in the new offices for the Major Crimes Unit (previously known as the Detail), Freamon and Prez are listening to an wiretap. Unlike the previous seasons, where the story took around six episodes before electronic surveillance was on the cards it’s here from the get go. It’s not just their offices which have improved, everything has. But some problems never change, one of which is the difficulty Prez and Freamon are having with the dialog recorded. (Ironically reflecting the difficulty some viewers, especially British ones, are reputed to have when watching the show. Of course, to watch it with subtitles is considered to be reducing the show from serious drama into comedy. And if you’re not sure, that’s scorn I’m heaping on George Pecalonos’s statement there) Fortunately for them they have the assistance of Caroline who translates for them both with clarity.

The phone rings again, there is a short conversation with Cheese’s number two and then Cheese heads off. While the phones help, the important information is kept in face to face conversations, as Freamon comments it’s been three months work and they haven’t yet heard Cheese’s voice on tape.

Herc and Carver are talking with some fellow officers, they discuss a plan for busting some hoppers, the most notable element is to ignore the runner and pick up everyone else instead. They’ve learnt from their time with Kima and the Detail previously, even if they weren’t happy with the way they were treated. Herc rolls out to the Shaft theme.

They arrive and the strains of the theme play out while the lads are arrested, Carver waves to the runner but his amused snark is cut short when the boy picks up a bag and runs. They realise he’s not just making a break for it to distract the cops, he’s running with the stash. Everyone scrambles, leaving the others standing, one lad picks up another bag. It seems that the runner is a decoy after all.

But Herc and Carver are unaware of this and as they head out (with Shaft blaring) it’s Herc who picks up the lad in his car while Carver runs on foot. Carver calls for back up and the black and whites arrive with helicopter support. Herc picks up Carver and they arrive at the block where the lad went to ground. Carver stands on the roof of the car and gives a long speech, posturing in an attempt to flush the lad out (and assert his authority). There’s no response and he’s left looking a little foolish.

At the funeral home Stringer is holding a meeting with his lieutenants, Boadie is keen to move on some territory but Stringer explains the game is now about product not location. The Barksdales have the best product and that means people will come to them. Slim Charles points out that without territory it’s going to be difficult to sell, you can’t sell if people can’t come to you. Stringer explains how things worked out when they gave up some of their territory in exchange for product with Prop Joe (see season two), they made more profit. But Boadie wants to know where they will stand, Stringer explains the plan is to bring the competition in by selling to the competition. The only issue (as pointed out by Slim Charles) is if the competition doesn’t want their product.

Poot is upset about this, but Stringer lays down the line, it’s time to start thinking like businessmen not hoods.

Sydnor and McNulty return to the Office, much to the amusement of Kima, Ronnie and Freamon they’re an absolute state. McNulty is resigned to the mocking amusement, he’s more frustrated about how hard it is to pin Cheese down to a phone. Ronnie and Daniels talk about closing down the wiretaps now and trying to roll up some of Cheese’s lieutenants.

They may have had good intel as a result of the port investigation, but it’s lead them almost nowhere. McNulty is convinced with a little more work they’ll hit Prop Joe and then reach Stringer. But Daniels points out that they have little time left.

Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin is in his office, he’s talking with two of his men about the importance of directions, he explains how the numbering of the city streets work and throws the pair some compasses before welcoming them to the west. As the two officers head out Carver and Herc rib them a little before Bunny comes out. They caught the runner, (and delivered the promised beatdown on him) but the boy didn’t have any drugs on him in the bag.

Bubs and Johnny are out on the street, they’re back collecting scrap, moving it in a shopping trolley. But suddenly it gets away from them and the stuff spills, hitting a car and seriously upsetting the owner of the car who produces a gun and puts it to Johnny’s head. A few moments later another man steps out and asks “what’s up”, the first explains to the second and he tells the guy to either do it or don’t. As the second, one Marlo climbs into the car his lieutenant demands some dime. Bubs and Johnny don’t have any money, so he takes their pants.

(Note: If you look carefully here you can see that Andre Royo [Bubs]’s legs are far too healthy and strong for his role as a perpetual drug addict, but the scene is kept short and he moves fast to try and conceal this fact.)

Burrell and Rawls are at city hall, they’re being grilled by one Tommy Carcetti over the increase in shootings during recent times. Burrell passes the issue to Rawls, who – as the stat obsessed individual he is – already has the answers. Carcetti closes the meeting and heads out to talk with Burrell in order to arrange a lunch meeting later today.

McNulty, Kima and Freamon are out in a car; they’re watching their last, best hope at getting a crack at Cheese, Prop Joe and Stringer. One Drac, the “talkingest motherfucker” Freamon has ever heard on a wiretap. He’s a small fish who re-ups from Lavell Mann, but if they eliminate Lavell from the equation it’s Drac who’s most likely to be promoted into the space.

In a scene which should be familiar to those of you who’ve watched the corner, Johnny and Bubs collect the money for their scrap metal. They’re reminded that they’re missing pants by the scrap collector. Neither man looks amused.

Carcetti and Burrell have lunch and Carcetti tells Burrell a story about Jimmy Carter and one Dominic DiPetro. Carcetti’s point is that he wants to be more than he is, and his problems are schools and crime. He offers his services to Burrell to help the man in any budget shortfalls. Burrell isn’t interested though, he’s determined to follow the chain of command rather than circumvent Mayor Royce and risk any backlash.

Wee-bay is in the prison yard, he’s meeting with one Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise, a long term inmate who’s about to be released tomorrow. Avon walks across the baseball yard, prompting a time out from the prisoners, just another example of his power inside the jail. Avon joins Cutty and Wee-Bay and they talk about the changes outside, the changes and the things which have remained constant. Avon wants someone outside to be his man, he’s keen to have Cutty back in the game and sweetens the deal with a little ‘coming home gift’. Cutty heads off and Avon wonders if Cutty has been broken by his time in prison, Wee-Bay doubts it. Cutty was a hard soldier in his time.

Bubs and Johnny; a little short now they had to purchase replacement pants, attempt to pick up a pair of vials for sixteen, which is four dollars less than the street price. The hoppers aren’t having anything of it though and turn the duo down.

Burrell and Daniels are talking about where to go now on the Major Crimes Unit. Daniels explains the plan concerning Lavell and Drac. When Burrell asks why the dealers would promote the wrong man, a man who could endanger their institution, Daniels pauses for a moment before admitting “We do it all the time.” Burrell laughs and then talks about Daniels’ impending promotion, a promotion which is being held back because of Daniels’ wife. Daniels isn’t happy about the situation as their deal was for the Major Crimes Unit and promotion to Major. Burrell believes he’s honoured his part as far as he can.

Bunk and McNulty are at the ball game, talking about McNulty’s kids while looking after Bunks. McNulty spots his two sons with Elena and some guy, a man who’s clearly involved with Elena from his body language. The four people are sat in the front row of seats with an amazing view of the field. McNulty isn’t pleased about the suit, Bunk is amused.

Bubs and Johnny are in their den, talking about the failure of the day. Johnny is optimistic about tomorrow, Bubs is realistic. He’s tired about things, half a shot isn’t enough to get him high. Shots ring outside.

McNulty meets with his lads, Elena chats a little about her ‘friend’ Dennis. McNulty goes to take them both up to the mezzanine and the lads aren’t pleased about the idea of sitting there. Dennis arrives and attempts to integrate himself with McNulty, but of course Jimmy isn’t interested in making friends with the man who’s sleeping with his ex-wife and winning over his kids with his money. McNulty takes his two boys off, cut into silence by the situation.

In West Baltimore the shootings are on the rise, Detective Cole is supposed to be up, but he’s working a case off Belvedere. The shooting will either go to Crutchfield or Bunk, needless to say the Bunk man will not be happy if he’s called in on his off day.

Bunk himself is still enjoying the ball game, but McNulty is now engrossed in watching Elena and Dennis together and is barely paying attention. Bunk’s phone rings and its bad news. He’s up for the shooting and has to head in. So Bunk leaves his son in McNulty’s capable hands and heads off.

It’s the following day and Cutty is out walking, free at long last and just revelling in the sounds and sights of the world outside the walls. It’s clear he’s looking at places he used to remember, most of them now boarded up, but not the home of one E. Wise. Cutty’s mother.

Rawls and Burrell are in a meeting regarding the overview of police work in the city. Burrell is talking aside about Carcetti while Rawls roasts the officer (Marvin) over his decisions. The bottom line here is that all of the robberies are linked and the homicides are out of control. Stats, stats, stats.

Sydnor is strapping up, ready to head out with a wire. Ronnie heads in to talk with Daniels and realises that the man is living out of his office. Daniels dismisses his men, sending them out to sting Lavell in order to get Drac promoted. Ronnie looks at Daniels for a moment afterwards before the two part.

Sydnor talks with Lavell, getting the agreement on the deal before the rest of the force push in. Arresting Lavell and Sydnor together. Sydnor puts on a little show, shouting at Kima while he’s dragged off in cuffs.

Elsewhere in Baltimroe Cutty picks up a payphone and calls the number he was given. He arranges a meet at the Oxbow before hanging up, looks like Cutty is back in the game.

At the Major Crimes Office Drac is all over the wire, mouthing off about what’s happened to Lavell.

Cutty arrives at the Oxbow, he’s greeted by an SUV, the two rollers inside tell him to head over to the shorty and pick up a little help. When he’s ready for big action he’s to get back in touch with them. Cutty walks over to the lad who stands up and wals away, leaving behind a package. Cutty exclaims when he picks it up.

Daniels returns back to his home, his wife is having a meeting with Delegate Watkins about Marla’s run at her office. Daniels then heads upstairs.

Following morning, Burrell and Rawls arrive at city hall and they’re greeted by a host of camera men. The pair look concerned as they sit down in front of a stern looking Carcetti.

At the Major Crimes Unit it turns out that Cheese has been promoted into Lavell’s position, not Drac.

Carcetti opens up his broadside at Burrell and Rawls; he’s refusing any extra money for the police department. By bringing up the various expenses which are being incurred by the higher ups in the department, he humiliates the pair publicly and sends a strong message to Burrell.

Daniels is woken up by Marla from his nap on the sofa. Daniels is willing to help her out as best he can, he admits as much before leaving the house.

Burrell meets with Mayor Royce about Carcetti’s move, they’re not sure exactly what Carcetti’s planning, but they want Burrell to keep the murder rate down under 275 for the year. It’s at 232 right now, which means it’s going to be tough.

Cutty stares at the package, it’s filled with vials.

Burrell and Rawls pass on the good news to the Majors and Foerester is more than a little concerned about the number required. Rawls blasts him and then lays down the bottom line. Bunny speaks up, asking how to make bodies disappear. Rawls looks set to strangle him, but Burrell places a hand on the man and stands up. Reminding everyone about the precarious nature of their positions before leaving. Rawls eyeballs Bunny as he dismisses the men. Valchek is incredulous about Bunny’s outburst. Bunny explains he’s close to retirement and just doesn’t care.

Cutty sits on a stoop, watching a few young hoppers deal. Observing the process.

Ronnie wants to know if anyone has any more ideas now that the Drac angle has come up dry. McNulty suggests bugging a few corners. Daniels points out how weak and expensive the whole thing would be. It’s time to wrap things up. McNulty is not happy about this, revealing just how personal this is when he exclaims “We’re just gonna let that same son of a bitch [Stringer] beat me again?” McNulty is obsessed with Stringer, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Stringer is the big fish in the pond here, but McNulty has once again offended his co-workers with his outbursts.

Cutty approaches one of the lads, the one who runs the corner. He offers to sell his goods to the lad. The guy offers an even split on the drugs, Cutty haggles to a 60-40 split and is told to hand on his goods.

The Western District troops are debriefed, Bunny is planning to head out and ride the district for a while. He’s seeking a solution to the problem of bodies. As he heads out he finds Herc and Carver with another batch of young lads – this time charged with loitering and being ‘assholes’.

McNulty is alone in the Major Crimes Unit, the wire blurts into life and he pulls out one of the old boxes containing the case file from the Barksdales.

Bunny drives out in the streets, watching the people on the stoops. He’s marked as an officer quickly.

Prez arrives at the MCUO and sees McNulty flicking through the old file. His look is enough and it’s Caroline who vocalises to McNulty. McNulty claims that it’s important to look at what went before. History doomed to repeat itself. He lingers on a picture of D’Angelo before heading to the computer to look him up. Lights out as he leaves.

Cutty heads up the corner and goes to meet with the lad he made the deal with. It turns out that the stash was snatched up. Cutty asks if the boy has a number for the police report. He knows he’s being sold a story, but there’s little he can do as the boy produces a pistol and shoves it in his face.

Cutty crosses the road in front of Bunny. He rolls up next to a group of lads and one of them attempts to sell him some drugs. Bunny puts on his cap, almost incredulous that the lad couldn’t identify him from the police radio and uniform. The boy's friends mock him and Bunny drives off…

The Review:

Well compared to the previous two seasons the third one hops up with quite a lot in full swing. There's a wiretap up, the Major Crimes Unit is up and running and compared to the first episode of both previous seasons it's almost filled with events and movement. It's also considerably expanded it's cast, bringing the political side of policing more to the front by encompassing City Hall in it's scope. This means that we get to see more of Burrell and Rawls than previously and also we get to meet the politicians who influence and effectively control the pair (Rawls now being promoted to Deputy of Operations thanks to his slavish devotion to stats).

There's also new faces in the game at street level, Marlo and his crew provide a lot of new people to keep a track of - which can be difficult when they're not mentioned by name too often, there's also Dennis 'Cutty' Wise returning to the streets and Major Colvin as well. So it's impressive that the show manages to bring so many new characters onto the screen without losing it's focus. The Wire is a show with a lot of characters already, but it's almost bursting at the seams now.

Still, all of this hustle and bustle - especially around the MCU - isn't all progress and light. In fact, as things unfold we've seen that the promising looking investigation into Prop Joe and Stringer is struggling. They can't even get as far as Cheese Wagstaff, let alone Prop Joe. So they're around four (or more) rungs away from reaching the key players they need.

This is because the dealers have learnt from their previous experiences, once bitten, twice shy. And this is something I appreciate about The Wire's scope and characterisation. The "villains" (and I use that term loosely) learn and evolve, they're not one dimensional cut-outs who are a single step away from wearing a cape and twiddling their moustaches. They're rounded, understandable individuals - they're human - at least, the ones we get to know are, but that paints the rest in a strong light also.

Much like Homicide, the police in The Wire are driven by statistics. While "the wall" (the whiteboard where names of homicide victims go up) isn't front and centre in The Wire - the bodies and their linked statistics are. They had a growing focus the second season - the sheer quantity of names up in red from those Jane Does just dominated a lot of conversations involving Rawls and Landsman. But the third season has taken the scope and widened it further - across the city now the stats need to show a drop of 5% in crime rates and no more than 275 bodies for the rest of the year.

Which if you think about it is an incredible idea, policing is not normally an excercise in preventation - it's about solving after the fact. Especially when you're talking about murders, the only way to directly prevent crime is by increasing police presence, but no city has enough police for an act like that - in part because of the cost and in part because of "police state" fears from the public. So what's being asked is nothing short of impossible, as Colvin himself notes in the episode - you can reclassify crimes to fix the stats, but how do you make bodies disappear? You can't and shouldn't, because the problem isn't caused by the police force - it's caused by society.

And that's the kicker.

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Parks and Recreation: First Season Thoughts

Category: , , By Rev/Views

So I finally got around to watching the six episodes which constitute the first season of Parks and Recreation, the new series from Greg Daniels and Michael Schur (The Office - USA), which aired earlier this year. The show is superficially similar to The Office, it's filmed in a talking head/mock-umentary style and the humour has parallels, but beyond that it's quite a different beast from the expected show. Which was initially thought to be a spin-off from The Office.

Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope (a good sign because I generally love sitcoms with a character named Leslie in them - see 10 Items or Less) the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana. At a meeting with the townsfolk one nurse named Ann (Rashida Jones) stands up to complain about a huge hole near her home. A hole that her boyfriend Andy (Chris Pratt) fell into and broke his legs.

Leslie forms a committee to deal with said hole; bringing on board Ann along with co-workers Mark (Paul Schneider), Tom (Aziz Ansari) and their intern April (Aubrey Plaza). The committee is "pushed through" by Ron (Nick Offerman) a bureaucrat who believes local government should do absolutely nothing at all but quite likes Leslie. So Leslie embarks on a quest through local government to try and fill in this huge pit and get a park put on top of it.

It has to be said that the first season is something of a mixed bag, while it does have a few great moments smattered about, on the whole it's a tad underwhelming. Leslie is enjoyable, but doesn't rise to any great heights of comedy and the show seems a little lost with where to direct her. Poehler herself is fantastic in her performance, hardly surprising considering her pedigree - and at times her performance does manage to echo Michael Scott's brilliance, while also reminding me of her husband's (Will Arnett) comic genius. There are a couple of moments where she delivers lines which reminded me of either GOB (from Arrested Development) or Michael Scott. This is a good thing.

As for the supporting characters, they're a mixed bag. Tom is rather "eh", but then again I didn't really like Aziz's performance in Scrubs, so it's not surprising I don't like his portrayal of Tom. They're very similar characters. Likewise April is rather weak as characters go, having little more than a single dimension at this time. Mark has a little more depth, but also toes the line towards that dreaded 'Will they/won't they' trope when placed near Leslie (they had sex once, will they get together in the end? WHO CARES? Pfft!) And Rashida is solid as Amy, but plays the role straight - giving an every-woman for others to bounce off.

But there are two supporting performances which are nothing short of fantastic, the first is Ron - the apathetic bureaucrat who would rather do nothing and promote people who feel the same way. His observations and talking head interviews are at times side-splitting in their hilarity and his office is just awesome. The second is Andy, who provides some great physical comedy combined with general piggish "douche-ness" and occasional moments of genuine thoughtfulness. He's the terrible boyfriend who does just enough to make himself be likable and seem redeemable before lapsing back into being selfish.

So on the whole the first six episodes are solid, but not amazing. There's some real promise in the show lurking beneath the surface - the cast certainly has people capable of great comedy moments - and given time to find it's groove this show could grow. The first season of The Office (USA) was at around a similar level and that grew into one of the best sitcoms on American television at the moment, so Parks and Recreation is certainly something to keep an eye on.

I've already heard that the second season shows strides in improving the show, and I'm going to get on that as soon as possible.
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The Saddest Moments on Television

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I'm feeling somewhat melancholic as of late for personal reasons which I won't go into here. But it has left me thinking about the way television has the ability to not only lift the viewer up to the heights of adrenaline or joy but it can also take the watcher on a journey down to the depths of great sorrow. Which is a mark of a truly great show; if it can not only manage to make you laugh, rant, speculate and gasp; but it can also bring you to the point of genuine sadness over the events portrayed in a completely fictional environment.

This list is a tribute to the shows and episodes which elicited frank and open feelings of sorrow, sadness or even despair from me when I watched them. Shows which touched me in ways which most shows fail to do so (as I'm a calloused, jaded and heartless individual with no soul.)

Be warned, the following contains major spoilers for several television shows because it's normally the HUGE reality changing moments which elicit such a response from me. Check the labels at the top of the post to be aware of what shows are going to be spoilered here.

You've been warned.

"Jurassic Bark", "Luck of the Fryish", "Bender's Big Score", "Time Keeps Slipping" and "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings"

Futurama is an unusual comedy cartoon show in that it consistently shows the ability to portray exceptionally strong and emotionally moving moments and episodes. All of these tend to revolve around Fry, who's a character completely in touch with his emotions, even if his childishness and stupidity often make you forget just how deep his character can run. Jurassic Bark and Luck of the Fryish are the two strongest tearjerkers from the above list - both of which deal with understanding just what Fry has lost when he went to the future. While he may have cheered during the pilot episode when he voiced the thought "My friends, my family, I'll never see any of them again. Yahoo!" these later episodes reveal just how much he lost to both the viewer and Fry himself. While Jurassic Bark has lost a little of it's punch now that Bender's Big Score retconned the events, Luck of the Fryish remains as potent as ever.

The other kind of emotional moments involve Fry's yearning for Leela; he's a faulty, broken down individual in so many ways, but many episodes reveal hidden depths to Fry with astonishing results. In Time Keeps Slipping we see just how much he cares for Leela (also echoed in other episodes) and in The Devil's Hands (plus it's companion episode Parasites Lost) we get to see the potential of Fry if he wasn't so crippled by (frankly) poor and incestuous genetics.

Finally there's Bender's Big Score, which is an intensely enjoyable romp filled with fun that suddenly drags the carpet out from under your feet with a massive and touching revelation at the end of the film regarding one character in it. We learn that Lars, a man Leela has fallen for completely, is in fact a paradoxical clone of Fry - we get to see that given time, loss, yearning and wisdom that Fry is the man Leela wants - or at least he could be, but this is only revealed after Lars' death and that makes it all the more potent.

The Wire
"Final Grades"

Of all the gut punching moments in The Wire, of which there are many, it's the events of the season four closer which hit me hardest. Over the previous seasons I'd come to love and enjoy the show, I'd seen many characters pass in a range of terrible and heart aching situations but the one which actually made me reel was the death of Bodie Broadus in the final episode of the stunning fourth season. He's shot twice in the head by O-Dog because he was seen with McNulty and (incorrectly) suspected of being a snitch.

While Bodie's death is surprising, coming at a point where he seems at his strongest - proclaiming how no-one will run him off his corner before being blindsided and killed - it's more the surprise how much it made me reel which makes it such a sad moment. I'd come to take Bodie for granted, I thought he was always going to be around as one 'smart ass pawn' (to quote the man himself), watching the world and spitting through his teeth until the show ended. I just didn't see it coming, but what I also didn't see coming was the sorrow and loss I felt over his senseless death. Bodie's a drug dealer, a man who killed one of his best friends (Wallace), a thug and a gangster to the core. But he'd completely endeared himself to me, he'd become a rounded and understandable individual - he was a human being to me, not a one dimensional villain. It was the shock over the sorrow I felt about his killing which brought it completely home.

And then we get to see how hard McNulty his hit over this, and it hurts all over again.

Life Everlasting (aka Homicide: the Movie)

Life Everlasting is a melancholic swan song for a magnificent series (which spawned two of the other shows on this list almost directly) filled with sad moments, because you can't expect a show like Homicide to end on an upbeat moment.

There are many to choose from, but the one which haunts me is Tim Bayliss' confession to Frank Pembleton on the rooftop of the police station. Two men, two characters I came to love completely - just talking honestly with each other. But then Bayliss begins to confess to murder, a murder you always knew he committed but hoped he didn't, and you sit there watching Frank break down. Torn between his love for his ex-partner Bayliss, a man who he coached throughout the series (until Frank retired) and watched grow up into a capable and excellent cop. Torn between that and his unbending sense of duty to the law (mixed with Bayliss's request to be turned in). He's left in an impossible situation, but there can be only one solution.

And as such, the name of the man Bayliss murdered - one Ryland - goes from Blue to black, indicating that the case was solved but leaving the man's final fate unresolved.

The Shield
"Postpartum" and "Family Meeting"

The final episodes of the fifth and seventh seasons of The Shield are by far and away the most significant ones. They're also the ones with the hardest hitting punches for the viewer. The fifth season builds up towards it's final episode by having Lieutenant Kavanaugh hounding the least deserving member of the Strike Team, harrying Lem to the point of destroying his career before realising what he's done in his mindless pursuit of Vic Mackey.

Lem is forced to go on the lam, but in a final act of indignity for us we see him head out to meet up with the other members of the Strike Team, but to end up meeting with just Shane. Shane, a man who's got more to loose than anyone (other than Vic), a man with a young family, a man who's desperate. A man who Lem considers to be one of his closest friends, the very man who got Lem into trouble with Kavanaugh in the first place (Lem illegally confiscated drugs from a dealer to gain leverage in order to save Shane in the previous season). He heads over and hands Lem a sandwich before dropping in a live grenade which he palmed earlier.

There's a horrible moment as he walks away, a moment where you realise that this is entirely premeditated murder and then there's an explosion and Shane's running back. And then it hits you, you realise that Lem has lived just long enough to see Shane break down over what he's done. Lem died knowing who killing him.

As if that wasn't hard enough to watch, we then get to see Vic break down over Lem's murder and the entire Farmington district stand around in shock over it.

But if that wasn't enough, Family Meeting manages to top it - both in the betrayal stakes and the emotional ones. Family Meeting performs the amazing trick of taking Shane, a monster who killed my favourite member of the Strike Team, a redneck, racist goofball who's been nothing but trouble - taking him and turning him into a credible human being who you actually feel sorry for. When he calls out those fateful words "Family Meeting", there's a terrible realisation of what he's going to do - which is made even worse by what happens when Claudette finds him. Shane shoots himself and then you realise the full picture, he's gone so far down the rabbit hole that he saw no light at the end of the tunnel other than murdering his pregnant wife, young boy and then killing himself. Vic manages to kill Shane without even firing a shot, he quite literally talks Shane into this.

This is also in the episode where Vic shows his true colours, betraying his last surviving friend - Ronnie Gardocki - in an attempt to protect his wife and children. Protection they don't need because they're already distancing themselves from him. So Vic ends up destroying everything around him that he cared about. In the end, the cheese stands alone.

Six Feet Under
"Everybody's Waiting"

I've saved the best for last. The series finale for Six Feet Under was an absolute tour de force which just swept along with power and potency. While it wasn't surprising that Six Feet Under - a show which understood just how to portray emotions - managed to pull off an accomplished ending, it's the closing montague which just completely blew me away.

It was so completely unexpected, so final, so simultaneously filled with hope, joy, sorrow and loss, that it just caught me by surprise. While I should have expected a show about death to end with the deaths of every single character in the show, I wasn't prepared for the finality and completeness of it all. The way the show gave us each character's final moments and date of death was so poignant because it not only wrapped the end of the show in the way the show carried itself - demonstrating how everyones journey must come to the same eventual end, even if the circumstances and time varied. But it also hinted at the lives lived by these characters before their deaths, many of them lived for many years after the "end" of the story; dying of old age after full lives.

The unexpected power of this finale unhinged me in a way I didn't expect. I'm not ashamed to admit that I weeped openly and uncontrollably while watching this, weeping at the mixture of gladness over the lives they lived and sadness over their deaths. Sadness which mounted as each one of them went, one after another until just Clare was left - and then she died. Closing the show out.

It was an incredible finale; pure, focused and true to the show in every aspect.

So what moments put a lump in your throat?
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The Week That Was: November 2nd

The usual sitcom suspects are all present, Dexter was planned for watching this weekend but was bumped due to real life commitments. From what I've heard I'm definitely interested in catching up, I have some holiday time I need to spend before the end of the year, so I'll probably use that for doing so.

It's also been hard to get excited about Dexter because I'm watching and writing about the third season of The Wire for the third part of my Watching the Wire feature - it's my favourite season and as great as Dexter is, it does struggle when I'm watching at the same time as The Wire. I know I shouldn't compare them, but it does happen and Dexter always comes off unfavourably - which spoils my enjoyment of Dexter. I know this time last year I was watching the final season of The Shield and Dexter was positively awful in comparison. I know it was a weak season for Dexter, and comparing it to the strongest season of The Shield (and The Shield's swan song) is completely unfair. But it happened, and as such I'm trying to avoid that happening with the fourth season.

"Introduction to Statistics"

The episode was so great that it made it into my favourite Halloween episode list on Saturday. I shan't repeat myself too much here - I think it's enough to say that Community presses all my buttons comedy-wise. A great cast with fantastic stories and jokes. That is all.

The Office:
"Koi Pond"

For a show which has managed such amazing Halloween episodes in the past The Office didn't really try this year. It gave us a Halloween themed cold opening and then moved onto the main story, I guess the writers didn't really have much they wanted to involve Halloween in this year and as such they only included the opening skit to make it a Halloween episode.

For once I did think that everyone overreacted a little too far to Michael's costume of a hanged man, Halloween should be about scaring kids - within safe boundaries which do not put them in physical danger. I do think children are a little too protected these days and a good scare is not a bad thing for them. (Talking about suicide is a different matter though, even in the context of "it's wrong".) I'll tell you one thing, I'm glad that the present Michael had hanging over his crotch was not where the children were supposed to collect their candy from. Aborted joke maybe?

The rest of the episode was reasonable fair, I didn't really enjoy Pam and Andy out on sales calls, it felt exceptionally forced and unpleasant. Andy's a great character, but at times the writers take him a little too far along the scale and place him in overly creepy land. Considering what's happened to him it's not surprising he reacted the way he did, but ugh. It was not pleasant to watch.

On the other hand Michael falling into the Koi pond was pleasant to watch, as was the revelation about Jim's reaction at the time. This co-manager thing is really working well for The Office, I wasn't sure it would - but it's great.

Last of all, I did like the final pay off from the Pam/Andy storyline with Pam talking to Erin about Andy. Erin's just a lovely breath of fresh air in the show, she's nice, lovely and doesn't do the unpleasant things everyone else seems to get involved in. I could tolerate an Andy/Erin matching, but I'm pretty sure Andy would botch things in his usual indomitable fashion.

Curb Your Enthusiasm:
"The Bare Midriff"

An odd one for Curb, it travelled off into toilet humor - something I don't normally associate the show with. I'm not sure why to be honest, the shows first ever episode is titled "The Pant Tent" and is about erections. But I think it's the utterly slapstick way Larry's peeing is depicted, the amount of splash and the volume of the stream is ridiculous.

Still, the episode was frankly fantastic - if exceptionally Seinfeld in it's feel. Larry is falling into the role of George when Jerry's around on screen, this is not surprising as George is based on Larry, but it is giving the show a different feel. You could probably swap out the Curb theme and put in the Seinfeld music stings instead and you'd have an episode of Seinfeld. This, of course, is not a complaint - it's an observation.

30 Rock
"Stone Mountain"

An episode with some good moments, but on the whole it was pretty mediocre. As observed over at Cultural Learnings (a site I recommend you consider adding to your reading list) 30 Rock is very uneven in quality when you're dealing with their holiday specials. This one was not great.

The better moments included a few throwaway gags like Jack McBrayer appearing in the background as a "Female Kenneth" and a "Mustachioed Kenneth" and the always entertaining Tracy Jordan method of just setting him off in a direction riven with paranoia. But it didn't grip me too hard, Halloween felt like a barely present event. Now you don't have to do a Halloween featured episode in every sitcom, that's not a law
(though maybe it should be), but if you do include it either embrace the event or have a short segment on it and then move on. Don't have it sitting about like an elephant in the room all episode without handling it correctly.

30 Rock seems to have slipped a little in it's standard this year. But it's early days, so I'm hoping it'll pick up again.

In other news How I Met Your Mother wasn't on this week (so no return of the Slutty Pumpkin, which is something I hope for every year), and on the DVD front I've just been enjoying my way through the first three seasons of Futurama. Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad are still 'to be watched' and 'Parks and Recreation' has made it's way onto my to be watched list as light entertainment.

I was going to pick up the fourth season of Bones, but it was completely sold out everywhere I looked for it, there were piles and piles of Tru Blood and Lost season 5s around, but absolutely no Bones Season 4. I found this amusing for some reason.
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Watching The Wire: Season Three: An Introduction

Category: , , By Rev/Views

"The Game Remains the Same..."

So as promised in October it's time to start viewing the third season of The Wire and following along with the third edition of Rev/Views' rather verbose crib note/recap/review series. For those of you seeking the first or second season their respective contents/introduction pages are located here and here, each of those two pages will contain thoughts about the season, the journeys that the characters involved have undertaken and most importantly they contain links to each individual episode recap and review.

For those of you who are already up to date then you'll know the drill by now, every Sunday for the next three months or so a post about an episode of the third season will appear here. Each post will contain a relatively lengthy recap which is spiced with occasional thoughts, notes and small bits of trivia and this will be followed with a short review. For the record, while The Wire tends to be more about the city of Baltimore and the various institutions which direct and control it's destiny (and thus the destinies of the people living in it) I do focus more on the characters as they are the vehicles through which the prose and events are driven.

For now here's a reminder of where the story so far stands:

Season One:
The first season stands as a reminder of the relative failure called 'the war on drugs'; an investigation into a drug organisation - know loosely known as 'The Barksdales' after it's leader, one Avon Barksdale - is catalysed by the trial of one D'Angelo Barksdale, who gets off thanks to a key witness recanting her statement. One Jimmy McNulty is present at this trial and later "mouths off" to Judge Phelan (who was presiding). This sparks an investigation which McNulty continues to fuel, something which is originally filled with humps and career minded "quick answer cops" but gradually becomes a working, functioning unit. In part thanks to the exceptional skills of one pawn shop detective known as "Cool Lester Smooth" Fremon.

The investigation gains legs and momentum and looks like it's going to become something serious and huge when disaster strikes as one member of the detail - Kima - is shot while undercover. The department then goes off half cocked and rolls up as much of the Barksdales as possible, spoiling any chance that the detail has of completing their investigation. While Avon, D'Angelo and several others are arrested and charged Avon's number two man "Stringer" Bell remains on the street and the dealer's organisation is dealt a severe blow but not slain.

Season Two:
The second season - which deals with the death of the American blue collar workplace - opens with McNulty living out his penance for stepping out of line, as prophesied by Landsman McNulty seems fated to spend the last of his police career on a boat - exactly where he didn't want to be. McNulty uses his time and considerable detective skills to dump a floating Jane Doe on Rawl's Homicide Department, petty revenge for what happened to him.

But in a case of synchronicity thirteen more Jane Does are found dead in one of Baltimore's loading docks, an area run by one Frank Sobotka. This investigation wouldn't have had much in the way of legs except Frank managed to upset Stan Valchek, a short police captain with a huge stick up his arse and a lot of political clout. As a result the detail are all summoned back from their various positions (minus a few members - including McNulty who's been blackballed by Rawls) and they look into the trafficking at the Docks.

Time and the investigation unfolds and it becomes clear that there's a lot of dope being smuggled in via this particular dock, an organisation known only as The Greeks and headed by a man known only as "The Greek" use these docks to bring a whole host of illegal items in and out; not just drugs but also human trafficking and more besides. Unfortunately the investigation collapses thanks to a leak from the FBI which warns The Greeks that the game is up; they shut up shop and tie up loose ends, which include one Frank Sobotka - who turns up the following day floating in the harbour with his throat cut. The top members of The Greeks Organisation escape, leaving only a few lieutenants to take the fall.

In the meantime Kima has been bringing a few interesting photos to the attention of the detail, it seems that their old friend Stringer Bell is back in business and working with some interesting new partners - in particular one Joseph "Proposition Joe" Stewart - a dealer who bought his product direct from The Greeks and is now sharing it with Stringer and the remains of The Barksdales...

Season Three:
Which brings us to the third season, my personal favourite - while it's not the season which I intellectually acknowledge as the best one (that's the fourth season) it is my favourite one. It expands on the mythos of the first season and deepens the world of The Wire's Baltimore in several significant ways. Introducing an entirely new layer to the city's landscape by revealing the significance of politics in the lives of every individual in the city and telling a story about politics in a fresh and gripping fashion.

The show also introduces not one, not two, not even three, but four significant characters to the world of The Wire - just one of whom we've encountered before (in a brief season two cameo). These individuals live separate lives, but the actions of each has an impact on the others. It's quite an achievement to bring in four new characters and make them so significant and natural in the show. These four are the ambitious politician Tommy Carcetti, returning character Major Howard 'Bunny' Colvin, released ex-convict Dennis 'Cutty' Wise and the young up and coming Marlo Stanfeld. We'll learn more about them as the season progresses, but it's enough to say that each of them is a fantastic character in their own right and that each of these characters has an impact on the other, even if it's only through indirect effect.

But the season isn't just about new characters, it's about old pursuits of previous ones - McNulty is back on the chase after Stringer Bell, a man who evaded and bested McNulty in the first season. And so the show swings back to looking at the Barksdales (if you recall Avon engineered a bargaining chip with the prison parole board last season in the episode 'Hot Shots', using said hot shots to "expose" a corrupt guard). It's a tale of two brothers with different attitudes.

But more than that it's also a tale of one man who has the head and the attitude for the bigger game. It's about a man from the Baltimore streets with ambition and drive. It's a story about Stringer Bell, the gangster with the glasses and the business classes - it's a story all about him. And you've just got to love the guy.

And that's introducing the third season of The Wire.

It's all about the game...

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