“Return 0”- Person of Interest Review (Season 5, Episode 13)

23 06 2016

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What made Person of Interest great? Was it the initial victim-or-perpetrator hook, or the conspiracy theory plot lines centered around surveillance? Or maybe the increasingly sci-fi nature of the artificial intelligence war, handled in a way that was both clever and easy to understand? All of these pieces fit together to create a thoroughly enjoyable show, but they were all built on a foundation of characters. Deep, evolving characters who we got to know more over the series, characters who we ended up caring about, and in some cases, mourn.

Luckily, the POI writers understood this when they crafted the series finale. Yes, we get one last battle between Samaritan and our (Root) Machine. There’s action and twists and one last cheesy pun from Reese (“Midas Touch”), but the parts that tore our heartstrings and will stand out in our memory were the final moments between the heroes, and watching the culmination of years of building relationships.

So, let’s address the elephant in the room. Jim Caviezel‘s John Reese took the bullet (several in fact, plus one missile) to save Finch (Michael Emerson) and save the world from a psychotic AI. It was tragic. It was a beautiful sacrifice, complete with a tear-inducing last conversation with Finch, thanking him for giving him purpose and saving him from his own despair. And all of this after Finch tells Reese that he always knew he’d make a good employee, but was astonished at how great a friend he had become. Sorry, my feels just got kicked in again.

Was this a cheap way to heighten the drama? No. This was the path Reese has always been on, and we had been continually warned about. He was a soldier, charging into the gates of hell like his father, finding ultimate redemption for past sins. Reese would have never been able to live a normal life, and had Finch been the one to die, he would have wrecked even harder than he did after Carter’s murder.

The “now” part of the show (with Finch and the Machine/Root’s last conversation) that we kept flashing back to was another highlight, and bringing back Root to visually illustrate The Machine was brilliant. Both Emerson and Amy Acker shone during the scene, showing the Machine finally fleshed out as an almost-human character, learning about death and what makes life worth living. Seeing Amy playing The Machine playing Root was one last unexpected treat.

Fusco finally got into the main action, and can I say how happy I am he didn’t succumb to his stab wounds? That would have been an awful and pointless end to his story. The ex-dirty cop found redemption over the series, and in a way came to represent the every-man, we the audience. His future is unclear (goodbye pension fund), but he didn’t seem too worried at the end, so we can make up our own reason for his happiness.

I’ll be honest, Shaw was probably my least favorite member of Team Machine (ducks garbage being thrown). By definition her character couldn’t feel like others can, and while she could kick butt, she never got as deep as the others. However, she became much more empathetic for me this last season, seeing her react to simulations and reunion and grief. She’s still BA, killing that jerk Jeff Blackwell, but at the end with Bear and the phone, everything felt right for her.

About the ending- I dare say everyone had the best possible realistic ending. Fusco survives to eat another cheeseburger. He and Shaw get to continue working together. Shaw continues her mission, got Bear, and gets to talk to sort-of Root all day. Reese and Root died, but both on their own terms protecting Harold (and the world). Root would be thrilled to know what The Machine did with her voice, if it didn’t already tell her that as she passed away. Reese may have looked the happiest he’s ever looked in the series as he watched Finch walk away to a new life- a normal life, with the love of his life Grace.

Everything about this finale was bittersweet. It was heavy and emotional, but it gave closure for the characters and story, and left with more than enough hope to make us feel somewhat happy. I hate to see this show go, but at least it got to go out on (mostly) its own terms. This may have been one of the last great dramas on network television, and that’s a shame. Thank goodness for reruns on Netflix, and thanks for the wild ride, Person of Interest.

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Straight to the gut.

Points of Interest:

  • One of the few funny moments in this heavy finale? Reese’s stunned face while Finch goes dark and threatening to the security guard. Priceless.
  • Reese: “Try not to die.” Fusco: “Yeah, love you too.”
  • Root/Machine: “I know we made some mistakes. Many mistakes. But we helped some people, didn’t we?” Finch: “Yes. Yes, we did.” Sorry, let me soak up these tears with a few towels.
  • Despite everything I said about Reese’s tragically epic end, I would have loved a cliche escape at the end, just so I wouldn’t be so depressed.
  • Kudos to the writers for punking us again and again with Root’s intro this season, that turned into the Machine talking, that turned into the dying Machine’s recording for the newly created Machine copy. (Mind explodes)
  • It’s been great writing these blog reviews since season 1. I’ve loved this show and it’s kept me going here. Thanks, writers and actors, for such a great show.

Final Score:

POI five bear

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Run All Night- Review

3 04 2015

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Run All Night is one of those films Liam Neeson fans will flock to, but maybe not other moviegoers. That’s a doggone shame, because it has a surprising bit of emotional weight, and is better than some of his latest offerings (looking at you, Taken 2 and 3). Speaking of which, no it’s not Taken 4, all you haters. Neeson plays a bit against his everyman hero type this time as Jimmy Conlon. Honestly it’s almost hard to root for him at times. Jimmy is a guy who’s hasn’t just become an alcoholic or lost touch with his family- he straight up murdered innocent people for his  “best friend” Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) for years, and now he’s a pathetic shell of a man, wavering between apathy and regret. So, not quite an ex-CIA family man. Along the way, he delivers the “best” worst party Santa ever, but that’s another story.

 

Joel Kinnaman Conlon

At least they haven’t taken his son.

 

It’s little layers like this that help the film rise above the average action flick. Ed Harris and Liam Neeson work well together, helping sell their (soured) friendship. They’ve been through bad and good together (mostly bad), and even though it’s obvious the relationship has been a bad influence on Jimmy (and maybe even Shawn), they cling to some sense of loyalty even to the end. The conversations they have about having to kill the other strike an odd tone, and highlight how lost the two criminals are in their own actions.

 

Shawn Maguire

The friend your mother warned you about.

 

So blah blah story, how is the action, you impatiently inquire? Well, let’s just say that once the plot gets moving Liam starts Neeson-ing everything and everyone and doesn’t let up. There are several standout moments, including close combat inside a burning inferno, and a slick slow-motion rifle scene that reminded me of Non-Stop‘s crazy climax. Neeson is still fun to watch as an action hero, and Joel Kinnaman fills in nicely as his son Mike Conlon. While Mike coaches boxing, ultimately his character ends up watching or running while Papa Jimmy clears the room. Rapper “Common” brings a formidable opponent as hitman Andrew Price. My only issue with his character is the ridiculous laser that remains on and brightly pointing the entire movie. What’s with that? I get it’s there to look cool in the fog and darkness, but would an elite hit man really give his presence away like that? It’s not even a sniper, just a sidearm.

Common Rapper Andrew Price

Sweet laser tag arena.

 

Finally, amidst the chaotic firefights and chases, we get a wonderful introspective moment where the weight of his choices (and life) finally hits Jimmy. It’s not played off in a corny way- instead it becomes a surprisingly emotional moment that stuck with me a little longer after the credits. The ending may or may not be surprising to the audience, but let’s say there’s more to think about than a typical guilty pleasure Neeson action flick. Don’t take my word for it- check this one out for yourselves. Or else, Jimmy will come for you.

 





“Karma” – Person of Interest Review (Season 4, Episode 17)

11 03 2015

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A lot of people were sharing their feelings this week on Person of Interest. Between this week’s POI who was a psychologist, to Iris (Wrenn Schmidt) returning (yay!), almost every scene had a least one shrink in it. And hey, it’s actually a perpetrator this time! Oh, and also, Finch can be freakin’ scary when he gets angry (more on that later).

First of all, we got one of those nice, contained stories that help keep this show accessible for the casual or new viewer. “Karma” focused on a psychologist who helps his clients move on from violent crimes- by framing the criminals who got away for a different crime. Sure, they may not have been guilty of the new crime, but they already got away with a crime that they were guilty of. See, vigilante logic. Since Team Machine is comprised entirely of vigilantes themselves, this POI’s rationale causes a bit of a rift between them in whether to stop him from bringing backdoor justice or not to his wife’s murderer. Of course, once it’s revealed that he’s actually planning to take his life just to frame the guy, it became a bit more black and white.

Meanwhile, Reese goes through a few more therapy sessions of his own with Iris. At this point it’s obvious he’s just got a crush on her, because he’s certainly not going to spill his soul. I’m rooting for something to happen between them eventually, but not too soon. Any fan knows a relationship in the middle of the series will just end with her either being a mole or just getting killed off.

Finally we got a flashback to the days directly after Nathan Ingram’s murder. Yes, we knew Finch was broken by the incident, but we didn’t know how vengeful he initially became. He psychologically tortured and nearly killed Alicia Corwin in her own car, showing us just how dark he really went in the past. That scene with them together provided the most intense moment of this episode, and it was glorious. Geez, pissed-off Finch makes Elias look like a kitten. Person of Interest can handle the heavier themes just as easily as the humor, which is why I’m really looking forward to what’s in store leading up to the season finale.

Finch phones Alicia Corwin

Darkest timeline Finch.

Points of Interest:

1. Reese + Iris = Team Riris.

2. Finch would make a terrifying villain. He did everything except say, “Let’s play a game” to Alicia.

3. Finch also gets repulsed at the best things, like getting an illegal gun from a bathroom waste can. Never mind the murdering part.

4. Best line goes to Fusco- “Hey Glasses,  tell him about your nutball friends. Maybe he can give you guys a group therapy discount.”

5. DID HE OR DID HE NOT KILL THE WIFE?! C’mon Machine, you tease!

 

Final Score:

POI four bear





“The Cold War” – Person of Interest Review (Season 4, Episode 10)

17 12 2014

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The war between two AI giants has begun- and it all kicked off with Root in a bear suit. “The Cold War” started light- predictable banter between Root (Amy Acker) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi), the awesome “Bernstein” costume, and Fusco having a great morning. However, things started getting messy after Root/The Machine rejected Samaritan’s offer to formally negotiate. It was interesting how Samaritan can instigate bad human behavior just as easily as curb it, and how coldly methodical it is either way. Either outcome was simply a move to get The Machine to talk with it face-to-face.

And how about that dialogue when it finally happened? Root’s the obvious interface choice for The Machine, but I’m still not sure how/why Samaritan used a ten year old prodigy, besides the outstanding creepiness factor. I suppose it was one agent that Root wouldn’t try to take out, but couldn’t she at least given the kid a spanking? Apparently Samaritan really only wanted to talk to The Machine to gloat, or perhaps manipulate it somehow. I personally think the scene would have been more effective if Claire from “Nautilus” had been the interface. How chilling would it have been if she was sitting there, devoid of any personality and only speaking for Samaritan? The kid was creeps for sure, but where were his parents and how did he get there? Showing a previous POI completely under Samaritan’s control (essentially being an evil Root) would have felt less random.

There really wasn’t a real POI this episode, unless you count Greer (John Nolan) perhaps. I enjoyed the parallels shown between the AI War and the Cold War because it helped it feel more grounded by precedence. The flashback scenes also gave us an interesting back story for Greer, explaining his lack of allegiance to anybody but artificial intelligence.

This was the mid-season finale, but of course “The Cold War” was also the first episode of another trilogy. The last time Person of Interest had a three episode story arc, we lost Detective Carter (sniffle). You can bet the show-runners are riding that hype train into the new year, but will we really lose anybody? Jonathan Nolan has said in past interviews that if a show threatens characters but never kills them off, the effect is lost and the story feels cheap to him. If he and the writers are still in that mindset, we could very well be in the final episodes of a main character. My guess is either Root or Shaw, given all the excessive exposure their characters have gotten lately. Again, I’d hate to see either one go, but if Finch or Reese (heck, even Fusco) got killed, I would lose 90% of my interest in this show. Plus, it really is getting a little stale with their awkward relationship, and I’d like to think that’s been setting that up just for extra impact when one of them gets offed. Honestly, I love Amy Acker (if I haven’t already made that abundantly clear in previous posts), but between her and Shaw, I feel like Root’s character arc is more complete. Maybe losing her could be the trigger that finally gets Shaw in touch with her emotions. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a long wait.

Root Finch Amy Acker Emerson

Ominous looks mean danger.

 

Points of Interest:

1. Best quote from Root- “Mr. Bernstein was a big hit.”

2. Is Fusco being set up to help more intimately with numbers? Reese gave him the info on POI’s. Will he ever learn about The Machine?

3. If Samaritan isn’t taken out after this trilogy, I’m not sure how Team Machine can survive this exposed.

4. If Samaritan is taken out, we can only assume Elias vs. The Brotherhood will take center stage.

5. Hearts, prepare to be broken in January.

 

Final Score:

POI four half bear





How Can Person of Interest’s Season 4 Succeed?

17 09 2014

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In one week, Person of Interest returns with its fourth season, but fans will know this time things are not the same. One of the biggest villains in the show’s rogues gallery, Decima, successfully convinced the government to adopt a new machine in last season’s finale. Since this Machine (called Samaritan) is a bit more hateful than Finch’s creation, the entire USA has become a sort of Orwellian nightmare of hyper-surveillance. Team Machine only survived because of some brand-new identities that Samaritan has been hard-coded to overlook (thanks to Root, because who else?). They’ve (sorta) officially disbanded the team and quit taking numbers, but of course that won’t last too long since CBS doesn’t want to end its show just yet. That said, Season 3 got a lot of things right, and a few things not-so-right (just look at some particularly vocal commentators on Facebook). So, like any fan with a blog, I decided to throw my wish list out there for Season 4, with the end goal being enough ratings for Season 5…

 

Keep balancing the serialized with the procedural

Jonathan Nolan has stated numerous times that The X-Files was one of the inspirations for the show’s structure. That is, there’s a crazy, evolving mythology with a main story (or stories) that connect the episodes, but also every hour there is a smaller case of the week. That’s awesome to me, because some shows burn through story so fast the latter seasons really go off the deep end or just starts repeating themes. Mixing the serialized and procedural storytelling helps even it out, and most shows haven’t been able to pull it off like POI has. Some fans have voiced concerns over too much extra big-picture story arcs and recurring characters, but honestly I think Season 3 balanced things nicely. Keep it there. And, keep putting some love into the weekly stories.

Finch and Reese time

One of the main reasons Person of Interest originally took off was how well Finch (Michael Emerson) and Reese (Jim Caviezel) work together as leads. Lately, they just haven’t had that much quality time together. Their characters naturally play off each other, so why not a mission where they aren’t split up, like in the old days?

Ease off  a bit on Root 

Yeah, I get that Root is a favorite of the writers, and some fans. Heck, does any guy not have a little crush on Amy Acker? However, since becoming Cyborg Root and in constant contact with The Machine, she’s become way too much of a crutch for the show to get out of rough situations. Basically, she’s way overpowered and stifles any sense of danger. Have her do her own thing- “Root Cause” was a great episode. But she doesn’t have to take center stage every other scene. I’d say out of all of the members of Team Machine, she overwhelms the scene/dialogue/fight the most. It’s not the Root show (see above).

Team Machine relational twists and turns? Please no.

Okay, let me start by saying I thought the kiss between Reese and Carter (Taraji Henson) was a little out of left field, but I didn’t let that spoil my day. That said, a lot of people hated that non-scripted addition (thanks Jim Caviezel) because they thought it was out of character, and it weirded out the team dynamic right at the end of her run. Everyone knows the audience generally loses interest after the will they/won’t they couple finally gets together (see The Office). I don’t want to see any more random pairings with other team members, please (including Root and Shaw). These are characters who are supposed to be borderline psychotic (Root), already in love (Finch), or just incapable of emotion (Shaw). We really don’t want to see another moment that changes what the show has already established. If anything, maybe a Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy flirty pal relationship could work between them, but gosh how long did the show take to continually show how incapable of emotion Shaw is?

Elias’ Return

This is self-explanatory. Elias was the first Big Bad, and he’s been rebuilding his empire in the background. He’d be great as a friend-enemy of Team Machine, depending if he still feels he owes them something. If an uneasy ally, he could help them stay undetected from Decima.

 

What do you think? Am I off base here, or would this be a dream come true for you? Either way, you can bet I’ll be watching the premiere next Tuesday…

 

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

13 05 2014

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the story of how Spider-Man helped Sony keep its movie rights with a decent sequel, but was ultimately defeated by ridiculously two-dimensional villains. Sure, there’s some fun to be had, since it’s always fun to see what millions of dollars of CGI can do, and there’s even a profound theme about time somewhere. Unfortunately there’s also four or so other story lines that distract and tangle up in a web of too much information. Some great examples of too much material: a completely unnecessary opening act that finally answered the question, “did Peter’s parents die in a plane crash?” (yes, they did), a completely unnecessary villain (Rhino), and a jaw-droppingly small payoff to the big mystery about Peter’s dad.

Aw. So sweet, good thing nothing happens to them.

Aw. So sweet, good thing nothing happens to them.

But hey, let’s talk about the good aspects first. First, I finally bought Andrew Garfield‘s Peter Parker. He came across as more fun and less of a jerk, and I even ended up enjoying bits of him and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) together. Their love story was handled just as well as the original Sam Raimi trilogy (you can’t help but compare to the original films if it’s been less than 10 years). Also, there was an underlying theme about spending your time wisely that I enjoyed. There were multiple shots of clocks, Gwen spelled it out in her valedictory, and Gwen’s final scene was in a clock tower. Did you miss it? I sure did, until someone pointed it out to me. If they stayed focused on this deeper content instead of throwing in more and more plot fluff, I really believe this could have been a stronger movie. Finally on that note, Dane DeHaan‘s performance as Harry Osborn was surprisingly my favorite villain, even though they crunched into half a movie what the original trilogy developed in three. Sorry, I don’t buy that you’re “best friends” if you hung out ten years ago (at age 8!) and just reconnected for a whole 24 hours. That said, DeHaan seemed to understand his character and made the most of it.

Rhino Electro Green Goblin

Emo Harry, Doctor Manhattan, and Drunk Uncle.

Now for the bad, that is,  the other two villains. Jamie Foxx is supposed to be the film’s main villain Electro, who becomes a powerful electronic entity who can fly because he electrocuted the crap out of himself in a tub full of eels. Yes, it makes about as much sense in the movie too, and his whole origin scene seemed out of place in a movie series where they made so much effort to logically explain Goblin and the Lizard. Even more hilarious  was how frying his brains out with electric eels did several year’s of orthodontic work on his teeth, even taking out the world’s most fake looking  tooth gap. What really fizzled (ho!) was his pre-Electro acting as Max Dillon. Foxx as Max was an eye-rollingly cheesy example of over-acting that did the character no justice. I could go on to discuss how he went from Spider ultra-fan to Spider-hater in 5 seconds, but I won’t because at that point his special effects were at least awesome. His end fight scene also crackled with pretty lighting effects until its sudden K.O. and the writers swept him under the rug.

If you ever wondered what Paul Giamatti looks like tripping on bath salts, this is your answer. Paul as Aleksei Sytsevich aka Rhino basically acts like a psycho Russian caricature who’s had too much crazy vodka. It’s a cartoonish, 60’s-era performance that somehow makes Jaime Foxx’s seem subtle. Out of all three villains, Rhino’s appearance in the movie is definitely the most rushed (clocking in with 10 minutes screen time at the most), but he still somehow manages to remove any emotional payoffs from the ending with the worst buildup to the worst non-existent fight ever. As in, if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen the entire Rhino robot suit battle. It simply cuts off out of shame. By the time the mid-credits X-Men trailer (I know, what?) shows up, any lasting effect from the movie’s deeper parts had largely disappeared.

Meth. Not even once.

Meth. Not even once.

Final impressions? Too much exposition and too many villains clog up an otherwise entertaining film. The Amazing Spider-Man movie series is getting better, but in my mind this was still not even as good as Spider-Man 3, because at least that bloated film had better villains and J. Jonah Jameson. On that note, here’s a clip of him laughing.

Still Missed.

Still Missed.

 





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

30 04 2014

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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