“The Devil You Know” – Person of Interest Review (Season 4, Episode 9)

26 11 2014

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Tonight’s Person of Interest broke a lot of fan’s hearts (mine included) by instantly taking away all of the swag and BA-ness that was Scarface (David Valcin). The long time Number 2 and friend to Elias (Enrico Colantoni) has become something of a fan favorite- not bad for a recurring character who showed up just a few times per season. We didn’t even learn his real name, Anthony, until tonight- which turned out to be his going out with a bang night. POI has this odd talent for making us start to root for the bad guys, if only because they’re fighting much badder guys. Elias’ journey (and by extension, Scarface’s) has taken us from one of the biggest twist villains ever on the show to us rooting for him and his crew in “The Devil You Know.” He’s more complicated than most villains out there, and at this point we’re not even sure if he’s a protagonist or antagonist- more like a necessary evil who ends up doing good. Scarface was more a straight-forward, but likable character, but even he got a whole back-story during his last hour. I’ll miss the awesomeness of seeing him, Elias, and Reese (Jim Caviezel) together in a scene.

On the flip side, again, Root (Amy Acker) and Shaw’s (Sarah Shahi) scenes are my least favorite. I may be crazy, but their story seemed to come from the past year of the  POI (Samaritan, their usual forced moments together), while Reese and Elias’ main plot line could have come straight out of the best parts of seasons 1-2 (gang wars, Reese/Finch focus, Elias). I also loved the callback to Fusco’s doll, straight from Season 1. Don’t get me wrong, I like Root and Shaw, but what they’ve done with them has really changed the tone of the show and dynamic of the team. Their predictable giggle-wink moments feel more at home in a (light) fan-fic than a network show.

Finally, the mid-season finale is going to be on December 9. Is there a chance we’ll see somebody from the team get knocked off? I doubt it, as this week’s packed enough punch for the hardcore fans. The writers will probably keep Dominic (Winston Duke) in the shadows, saving this great villain for the second half. In the meantime, let’s see Team Machine take on some creepy Samaritan shadow operatives!

Enrico Colantoni

Walk into that sunset, Scarface.

Points of Interest:

1. Fusco with the camera was hilarious. I love that the prop has lasted this long. Also, way to hold his own with Martine.

2. Wanna take bets on how many seconds it will take before Shaw breaks out of the subway?

3. If Elias ever gets taken out, I’m not sure I could watch anymore.

4. Awesome locations tonight. Gotta love how this is all filmed in New York. It really helps sell the show.

5. Midseason finale incoming! Auugggh!

 

Final Score:

 POI four half bear





Point of Origin – Person of Interest Review” (Season 4, Episode 8)

19 11 2014

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It’s basically an established rule now that the last few minutes of Person of Interest will blow your mind. How many main and recurring characters have almost made it through the episode, only to be offed in the last few frames? Or what about the late-hour reveals of major villains or plot points? “Point of Origin” decided to end with a whiplash setup of what I’m assuming will eventually be the mid-season finale. Not to start the review with the end of the hour, but that was a crazy ending with Elias coming up as the next POI and Martine (Cara Buono) identifying Shaw (Sarah Shahi).

It feels like we could seriously lose another significant person on the show, and I would hate it if it were Elias. He’s just coming back into play, and he’s simply the best villain in the show’s rogues’ gallery. Since Shaw was specifically shown to be in danger, my guess is she won’t be the one to take the bullet. My strongest hunch if it were a Team Machine member would be Root, trying to save Shaw. That would at least give a point to the thus-far-pointless new dynamic the show-runners have given those two. Honestly, between Shaw, Elias, and Root, I’d much rather have Shaw go, since she’s had the least believable character arc out of the three, and all her stuff with Root just weighs both characters down.

Speaking of Shaw, this POI, an undercover cop posing as a police academy student, sort of felt like a lighter version of her. She didn’t care about her safety, was focused, and was quite capable with a weapon and tactics. I do wonder if we’ll ever get a perpetrator again, as I literally cannot remember the last one we had. Odd? Yes, but that’s not to say tonight’s POI was boring- I enjoyed her story and she came across as likable.

Also, I’m really enjoying Dr. Iris Campbell’s (Wrenn Schmidt) interactions with Reese. Ever since “Prophets” I was hoping she would be more than a one-shot character, and she’s definitely being set up as a larger factor. She has good chemistry with Reese in the few scenes they were in together. In the older days, I would have been worried she was HR, but with that threat eliminated, maybe it’s just time ol’ Reese got some new love? She’s also capable of seeing through his cover, so maybe that’s the turn it’ll take instead.

And now the meat of the story- Dominic’s Brotherhood. His connection with the person of the week gave a more important vibe to the case, and we got to see more into how his empire is run. He’s ruthless, smart, and focused on taking out Elias and his guardian angel “Officer Reilly.” His circle chart chat in the school finally sold himself to me as a true major villain. Will he turn out to be a larger threat than Samaritan for the team?

Chapman Lionel Point of Origin

Staring at Shaw’s newly discovered makeup.

Point of Interest:

1. Sweet scuba-certified Bear action!

2. We need more Fusco/Shaw time. They’re hilarious when they have to work together in close quarters.

3. “You wear makeup?!”

4. I get that Martine is supposed to be like Samaritan personified, but sometimes her Machine-like behavior just comes across as stiff acting. That said, her scene with Katya (from last episode) was pretty solid.

5. I love that they brought back Katya and Romeo during Martine’s investigation. It helps link the episodes together for us core fans…

Final Score

POI four bear

 





“Honor Among Thieves”- Person of Interest Review (Season 4, Episode 7)

17 11 2014

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“Honor Among Thieves” was an off episode for me. I say this because I’m not used to the drastic changes the writers have put Shaw’s  (Sarah Shahi) character through this season. Remember when we were first given some background on her in seasons 2 and 3, and how they continually drove home the point that this is a cold-blooded assassin who is medically unable to feel emotion (besides anger)? She stoically asked for a sandwich after her dad died in a car crash, for crying out loud. Now fast forward to this episode, and she’s giggling and swooning over a random thief like a schoolgirl. A thief who still wasn’t cleared from being the perpetrator, by the way.

Look, I get that maybe the show runners would like to attract a younger male demographic (representing here), but Shaw was never the slinky dress-wearing woman who falls for people at the drop of the hat. It’s like one day the show-runners realized Sarah Shahi was hot, and realized their mistake. Don’t even get me started on Root (Amy Acker) and Shaw’s interactions. Person of Interest, you had a character who was great because of her flaw, and then you took it away to make her more sexual. During this hour, she didn’t even feel like a real person, just a stereotypical TV female role.  The fact that Reese was largely absent didn’t help either- it only helped draw a comparison to past Shaw-centric episodes that were actually awesome …

Anyway, now that my rant’s over, I did enjoy seeing the Relevant side (AKA Shaw’s old work buddies) showing up. Grice seemed like a good guy, even figuring out things had changed with the system. I also loved Root and Finch’s mission to stop Samaritan from indoctrinating children with tablets, especially after finding out they might have been harmless. Finch voiced his inner struggle after ruining yet another person’s life, all in the name of fighting Samaritan. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. So no, I didn’t hate the whole episode- I only dislike how carelessly they’ve been playing around with characters who normally are solid.

Honor Among Thieves

Shaw, enjoying her newly found emotions.

Points of Interest:

1. Root’s “French Nanny Barbie” moments were great.

2. Will Grice possibly return? He seemed like an interesting guy, and since he wasn’t killed off by his partner at the end, I wonder if he’ll help Team Machine in the future…

3. Can 3D printers really create tablets? That’s new to me, but I’m too lazy to double-check on the Google.

4. It’s official, Finch can say just about any line and make it sound compelling.

5. Next episode appears to have a lot of Bear, so that’s a good sign, unless you have no heart.

 

Final Score:

POI three half bear





Interstellar Review

7 11 2014

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(Disclaimer: I’ve been accused of being a Nolan fanboy before, but I’ll do my best to stay objective here.) Christopher Nolan’s latest work departs from the action-packed nature of Dark Knight Rises and Inception,  trading dreams for black holes and fist fights for time jumping. There’s the trademark blend of blockbuster and philosophical, and at nearly three hours, it takes a while for the space travel to even take off (zing!). However, the longer segment on Earth is time well spent, and it you can endure the marathon length, there are some great payoffs.

 

Cooper Nolan

Meanwhile, on Hoth…

Chris Nolan’s brother Jonah penned the script all the way back in 2008. At the time, he intended somebody like Spielberg to direct, but after his brother’s directorial rise in recent years he was able to take control instead. Basically, the planet has been running out of food/crops ever since The Blight (some sort of parasite) and the subsequent giant dust storms. This is a futuristic world that was thrown back into a situation not unlike the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. So when Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) finds out that there may be a chance off-galaxy to find a new livable world, he joins Emilia Brand (Anne Hathaway) and crew to jump into a black hole near Saturn. So yes, it’s a sci-fi plot, but it attempts to reach for higher themes then your typical sci-fi flick. Are we alone in the universe? What could we have wrong about science? What is mankind destined for, and what should and shouldn’t we sacrifice to get there? And finally, what does love have to do with all this? (Talk about a curveball).

If it sounds a little heavy, it is (and thank goodness for the fair amount of humor included). And some of these themes and elements (especially the time manipulation) cause some logical leaps in the movie. For example, why is Anne Hathaway’s character not decades older than Cooper in the film’s final act? Did the black hole slingshot slow time down for her too? Or heck, the ending is pretty ambiguous, so maybe what we’re shown of her was in the past? Also, the whole “other civilization” thing is sort of an easy way to explain plot developments, but is not fully explained. I don’t need to know everything, but I would have liked to know why Murph was so important to them in the first place.

Amelia Brand

You’ve got some explainin’ to do…

Potential plot (black) holes aside, let’s get to one of the strongest parts of the movie- the cast. The heart and driving force of the movie is unquestionably Cooper and his daughter Murphy (played very well by both Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain). Their scenes together in the first act of the movie kept the later parts from falling apart. We could believe Cooper’s drive to see them again, and this was a huge source of the film’s emotional impact. It was so effective in fact, that I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed at the less-than-ideal way this plot was resolved. I’m not saying it was a negative; I just like happier endings, okay?  It was a huge surprise to me when Matt Damon showed up near the third act, and kudos to them for keeping it a secret from most of the audience. His portrayal of Dr. Mann effectively sold that he had lost a few screws up there during isolation. The fact that he was Matt Damon distracted a little, especially considering the initial surprise of such a big actor appearing out of nowhere. I may have complained about the ambiguity of Anne Hathaway’s final state, but she carried her weight as Brand, somehow selling us on her love for a man we never physically see. Finally, it’s always nice to see Michael Caine in a Nolan project, but I wish he had a little more to work with during his shorter screen time. Topher Grace and John Lithgow must have just wanted to be in a Nolan film, because their parts were so small I barely had time to notice them.

Matthew Cooper Interstellar Nolan Foy

He did give her a terrible name though…

 

The musical score (once again by the great Hans Zimmer) and special effects were top-notch. My serious advice is to see it in IMAX, because I did not (yet). Nolan loves using those rare, expensive cameras, and around a whole hour of this space epic was shot with IMAX cameras. Besides the spectacle, I could have also benefited from the superior speakers in an IMAX theater. The speakers in my auditorium were so janky some higher musical moments were all but ruined. Hopefully this isn’t widespread but there have been some reports of faulty sound experiences.

 

Murphy Nolan

Somebody really hated Signs…

To sum this all up, Interstellar is a deeply introspective film that trades the action and pizazz of Inception or Dark Knight Rises for an emotional and philosophical sci-fi journey through the stars. You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up, and you’ll definitely look up the plot explanation later just to figure out everything that was happening. But that’s a typical Nolan movie, right? Because of the slower pace, it lacks the re-watch potential of some of his other movies, but this is one trip you don’t want to miss.





The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Review

2 11 2014

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Mockingjay was my least favorite novel out of the trilogy, so there was no giggling with anticipation from me before as I sat in the theater (not that there would normally be anyway). The main drawback of the book (besides the ending) had to be Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) regression as a character. I suppose Suzanne Collins may have been trying to illustrate PTSD (the games were pretty dramatic), but I (and other vocal readers) became frustrated with her wallowing around for several chapters. Thankfully, this part of the story was downsized for the movie, but it was easier to see all the pressures and forces that caused those feelings in the first place. Is District 13 any better than the games? Well, yes, but Katniss still feels like a pawn, and meanwhile the districts are dying for her.

 

Jennifer Lawrence

Katniss- now with less angst!

Part 1 is slower-paced than the previous two movies were, but it still retains its cast of familiar, interesting characters. It’s great to see Philip Seymour Hoffman continue to deliver as Plutarch Heavensbee. Plutarch didn’t come across as particularly likable in the books to me, but with Hoffman’s portrayal he actually became one of my favorite characters to watch. The actor’s early passing will always be a shame. Julianne Moore’s President Coin comes across as somewhat-sympathetic jerk who should listen more to Heavensbee’s advice on sensitivity. Speaking strictly on what we’ve seen on screen on Part 1, I can understand her and Plutarch’s actions with Katniss- propaganda fuels wars, since they’re the underdogs. She was noticeably softened in this portrayal.

Philip Seymour Hoffman Julianne Moore

Impressed and Not Impressed.

 

Propaganda and ulterior motives take center stage for most of the movie. Basically all the action sequences start with either a Mockingjay trip or a Peeta interview in The Capitol.  Peeta appears on TV, and Katniss is told to go to X location for a shoot. Katniss performs the Mockingjay, and we see a battle/uprising scene. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it- I liked how we saw outside of District 13 all through the movie, quite unlike the book. The dam scene stands out as one of the better parts of the film- perfectly choreographed and also composer James Newton Howard’s best work of the soundtrack.

 

Donald Sutherland Josh Hutcherson Jena Malone

One of these people gets literally 3 seconds of screen time…

 

Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) unfortunately takes a back seat for the movie, with really only one noteworthy scene. That’s disappointing because he was memorable in the earlier films, and here he’s mostly limited to jokes about forced sobriety. However, we do get an unexpected treat thanks to the writers- Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), who was noticeably absent in the novel (I think she was in the Capitol the whole time?) steals a few scenes with her adjustments to District 13. She also took a scene or two that was originally written for Hoffman, rewritten for her after his passing. Honestly, without hearing that, I wouldn’t have noticed since Banks fulfills the role so well.

 

Woody Harrelson

Sober and Sad.

 

To sum up, I was pleasantly surprised by how the movie improved on a lesser book, but parts of the movie felt like padding. I know Harry Potter ended with a two-parter, but we’re talking about a much larger book. I’m sure my final impression of this will rely on part 2, but so far we have a very well-done setup for the final act. Let’s hope they improve on THAT part as well.

 

Basically.

Basically.