“Beta”- Person of Interest Review (Season 3, Episode 21)

30 04 2014

POI banner

Tonight’s Person of Interest featured the world’s scariest beta test in what could only be described as Big Brother on steroids. All-powerful computer AI “Samaritan” finally got to flex its prying resources, attempting to track down Harold. When this proves too challenging for the fledgling machine, Decima baddie Greer (John Nolan) shifts course and takes Finch’s only weakness- his old fiancee Grace Hendricks (played by Emerson’s actual wife Carrie Preston!). It’s always a highlight to see those two on the show, which is remarkable because many real-life couples just don’t translate well onto the screen.

Obviously another highlight was Amy Acker‘s continued joyful portrayal of Root. Her character has gone through the craziest story arc and I’m hoping the writers aren’t done with her yet. Watching her banter/interactions with Fusco and Shaw entertains every time. Plus, in a show filled with heroes who first had to be redeemed from a darker past, she’s turning out to be the character with the largest second chance.

To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this hour- I didn’t even know if Grace would make it out alive with the way this season’s been going. The ending definitely shifted a different way than I think most people anticipated. So Finch is gone, stuck in Decima’s clutches, and we’ve still got one more episode and the finale! One thing I’m excited about was Greer’s passing remark on how they hadn’t  even fully activated Samaritan’s higher artificial intelligence functions due to hardware limitations. Well, guess that problem’s solved now, with both The Machine and Samaritan gaining some significant servers at the end of the episode. How much smarter could Samaritan get? It already looked like it followed The Machine’s processes- can’t wait to see how crazy things could get. Here’s to a giant omniscient AI war!

 

Carrie Preston Beta POI

This could also have been called “Grace’s Bad Day.”

 

Points of Interest:

1. Detective Stills will always live on as a foolproof fake ID. It’s  cool that the writers keep referencing the pilot.

2. My favorite part was probably Reese’s “surprise interrogation,” with Fusco grinning outside.

3. A little meta-humor with Reese explaining to Shaw that he “would just have kneecapped that guy.”

4.  Where’s Bear? If only they could use him to track down Finch, Lassie-style.

5. This show continues to impress. “Beta” could easily have been a season finale, but nope, we’ve got two more. Stay tuned!

 

Final Score:

POI four half bear

 





Transcendence Review

25 04 2014

Johnny Depp bomb poster

I really wanted to like this movie. Transcendence boasts an interesting sci-fi premise, a dream cast (for me at least), and was directed by Wally Pfister, who was the cinematographer for The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception. Fool-proof formula, right? Well, for most of the movie, everything seemed to work together decently. However, an awkward shift in tone and theme during the latter half of the film, coupled with some other (smaller) issues, proves to be a virus that this movie just can’t handle (badum-tss). First, let’s get this out of the way- Johnny Depp is a phenomenal actor, but he’s grossly misused in this role. “Robotic” should never describe a Depp character, but here he’s intentionally monotone and unfeelingly hollow the entire film. I don’t remember one time he ever broke his distant demeanor, which ultimately made him unrelatable as a character. Instead, his performance goes from detached to creepy to boring to creepy boring. It simply wasn’t a good fit (I kept wanting  him to start yelling, “I’ve got a jar of dirt!” or “Where’s the RAM gone?!”)

 

Cillian Murphy Morgan Freeman Johnny Depp

Mr. Fox and Scarecrow investigate Wayne Industries.

 

The rest of the cast is comprised of very capable actors who needed more meat in their character’s screenplay. I’m not sure if Cillian Murphy was supposed to be a hero or villain (more on that later), but it was the blandest 2D role I’ve seen him in. The kicker is he usually delivers a super creepy bad guy (Scarecrow in Batman Begins, also RedEye)  or at least a good everyman (Inception). In this film, he plays a very low key Federal agent who tries to shut down Depp’s machine. Morgan Freeman must love doing sci-fi movies, because his only role here is to walk around scenes looking worried. Rebecca Hall stands out, not only because I heart her acting, but because the writers thought at least one character should have a range of emotions. We sympathize her in her loss, and want her to escape the dangers even though they’re ultimately of her own making. However, ultimately we aren’t really shown if her sacrifice at the end was a good choice or bad, and that sort of cheapened her development for me. But hey, it was fun to see all these actors/actresses in the same shot together.

 

Rebecca Hall

Unfortunately all the star power combined won’t draw in crowds if the writing falls flat. Why would the movie build up just how eerie and menacing a human/computer AI hybrid could be, only to change tones at the end with a line like “People fear what they don’t understand’? What, were we supposed to decide that maybe changing all of humanity into robots with a hive mind would be the greatest thing since Wi-Fi? Yeah, people can be so close-minded. I guess I was just confused as to what the movie was trying to say, or maybe it was just trying to be too smart by being ambiguous. Anyway I would have also preferred more a of climax as well. Instead, it got all hyped up, and then…just sort of ended on a note of melancholy. That sentence could also describe the movie’s gross income so far.

So is it worth a watch? Yes, especially if you enjoy some science fiction and the listed actors, but this is easily a better RedBox rental than a $10 theater outing. And make sure to unplug your local network first.

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp’s face after hearing the box office results.





“Death Benefit” – Person of Interest Review (Season 3, Episode 20)

16 04 2014

POI banner

Oh my word. This hour went from mostly normal to crazy town in the final act, and I’m pretty sure I held my  breath for the majority of those last 10 minutes (more on that in a few). “Death Benefit” turned out to be a chillingly appropriate name tonight when the Machine Crew found out that the Congressman they had been protecting wasn’t being targeted at all. Normally, that would mean that the politician was a perpetrator, but that wasn’t the case either, for the first time in Person of Interest‘s history. No, it turns out that this time, the perpetrators were Reese, Finch, and Shaw, at the request of The Machine. That’s right, The Machine just gave them a hit list in a dramatic departure from its normal duty of saving people. This could only mean that killing  the Congressman would save hundreds, even thousands of lives by keeping Decima Technologies from using Samaritan. The POI couldn’t be reasoned out of supporting Decima (it’s inevitable, he said) and he also (surprisingly) couldn’t be bought off by Finch. With the SWAT approaching, the only way to stop him would be to murder him, and they had me half believing that one of them would pull the trigger.

I liked when they argued over the ethics in the house, and then remembered how neither Reese nor Shaw (especially Shaw) had been out of the assassination business for too long a period. This raised the possibility of someone preventing greater loss by taking one life. The problem was they would be shooting an unarmed Congressman, who even though he was an enabler of a huge threat, was unaware of it being a threat. I don’t see how the writers could have Reese or Shaw go to that level and still come away as the hero. Perhaps they would have the SWAT come into the house and find him dead (as it looked like at first), with the actual shooter a mystery. This way we wouldn’t know if it was Reese or Shaw, and they could play that up for a while with each not proven guilty. From watching Finch, Reese, and Shaw trying to escape through the woods while wondering if one of them had killed the Congressman, to seeing Samaritan booting up and immediately searching for Harold, this was an insane finale for a “regular” episode. Also, gotta give kudos to the music choice “Medicine” by Daughter during that entire action sequence- it gave just the right amount of emotional punch to the moment and really made it seem that there would be a death coming. Luckily, everyone got out mostly OK (besides a wounded Shaw), but next episode it’s obvious POI will have a new number: Harold Finch. Speaking of that song “Medicine,” how appropriate were these lyrics? They always pick the perfect ending songs…

 

Pick it up, pick it all up.
And start again.
You’ve got a second chance,
you could go home.
Escape it all.
It’s just irrelevant.

It’s just medicine.

 

Reese Finch Secret Service POI

Hide and Seek masters.

 

Points of Interest:

1. Let’s not forget Root and her epic motorcycle scene.

2. Let’s also not forget Root’s and Shaw’s hilarious bonding scene in the bar, sharing drinks in the aftermath of an apparently epic fight scene with around 10-15 guys (now incapacitated).

3. There was so much action I barely noticed Fusco was absent this hour, but he better be in the last few, right?

4. Another great moment: Reese having to endure Finch’s music choice during a stakeout. “Maybe I’ll just sing for you next time.”

5. Is anyone else wondering what Vigilance’s next move will be, and if  Team Machine may actually collaborate with them out of necessity? Who knows?

Final Score:

POI four half bear





“Most Likely To…” – Person of Interest Review ( Episode 19, Season 3)

2 04 2014

POI banner

Person of Interest struck comedic gold this week by splitting up the team into two pairs with their own story lines and then watching the character moments happen. Finch/Fusco and Reese/Shaw (let’s call them The Odd Couple and Mr. and Mrs. Smith) never really ran out of funny bits, even though they both had quite a few intense moments. “Most Likely To…” saw the privacy terrorist group Vigilance stepping up their game and blowing up a government worker right at the beginning. But we all know the numbers never stop coming, so Team Machine had to divide their resources- Finch and Fusco followed up the Vigilance lead in Washington, D.C.. while Reese and Shaw protected the new POI (much to their chagrin). Their disappointment reached new lows when they realized the number (LOST and Dark Knight actor Nestor Carbonell) was attending his high school reunion for the whole weekend, leading to deliciously awkward moments. This fueled most of the laugh out loud segments, as Shaw and Reese both had to impersonate their covers (who had been actual classmates) through bowling tournaments and dance nights. Oh, and bed bugs.

Finch and Fusco’s time was a bit more secondary in showtime given, but was ultimately more important to this season’s big picture. They broke in and stole information about Northern Lights, only to have Vigilance take it from them. This led to a series of events that included part of Northern Lights going public and Control pulling the plug on the program (for now). I’ll admit, I did not see her calling it off when she picked up the phone. I was sure she was calling good ol’ Hersh to knock off the Senator. Why in the world has she supposedly given up so quickly? Perhaps her and her “black hooded goons” are just going dark until they can take out Collier ( Leslie Odom Jr. )?

Anyway, the number of the week was arguably the most entertaining in a while, and even turned into the first perpetrator (though with arguably good reason) in what seems like months (why have they all been victims lately?). This was also one of the funniest hours this season, between Shaw and Reese being so alike in training but outrageously different in personality, to Finch and Fusco trying to find common interests, and of course Root (the always welcome Amy Acker) so happy about her new FBI badge. Three episodes are left, and all the pieces are now moving.

Nestor Carbonell POI

Most likely to kneecap you.

 

Points of Interest Best Quotes of the Night:

1. “You’re like two scary ninjas fighting!”

2. “What happened to Phil?”

3. “When did Phil become a terrorist?!”

4. “Are you still the swing dance king?” Reese: “I don’t like to show off.”

5. Fusco to Finch: “All right, AC/DC or Dixie Chicks?”

 

Final Score:

POI four half bear