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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Grimm "Trust Me Knot" Review

Good for Grimm. The proposed resolution to Nick’s and Renard’s problems was classic Grimm. Nick, somehow, someway, would return to the precinct after Renard dropped the charges against Nick because she testified to free him of the murder charges. How tidy, right? Hadrian’s Wall called Trubel into service near the end of the episode, which is another early season Grimm tradition: Trubel takes off once the season premiere two parter has completed and the narrative has returned to the status quo. Grimm’s writers didn’t do anything of the above. They finally freed Nick, and themselves, from the prison of procedural case-of-the-week format. Nick remains the most wanted man in Portland after Renard’s Black Claw contact and Grand Jury judge dismissed the case prior to Adalind’s testimony. It only took cancellation for Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt to make the change.

Grimm should’ve dropped Nick’s work as a detective earlier in the series, especially when Nick and Hank met wesen after wesen after wesen every episode. The primary reason should’ve been the strength of the series’ serialization, though. The case-of-the-week episodes weren’t bad, but I wonder what Grimm could’ve been if the writers, or the network executives if it was them that upheld the series format, embraced serialization.

“Trust Me Knot” is the second part of the season six premiere. The characters, again, ran around to different locations. Nick, Bud, Trubel, and Juliette hid in the tunnels. Monroe and Rosalee watched Kelly and Diana as Adalind met with Renard in prison. Hank and Wu arrested Renard for the murder of Rachel Wood. The stick, and the stick’s cloth, was a major focus of the character. Nick reacted to putting the stick in the box like Frodo Baggins reacted after Sam rescued him from Shelob. The stick’s power has affected him. Diana read the many signs and symbols on the cloth, which Monroe explained as something related to astrology. So far, it’s all about the tease and the allusion to a great power, perhaps bigger than Renard and Black Claw, or perhaps not.

The episode had some of Grimm’s signature awkward and unnecessary instances of exposition, meaning characters repeat information to each other that the audience already knows. No one working for the show has attempted to make the exposition entertaining or funny either. I like it, though, for nonsense reasons. So, Diana sees Trubel and Juliette and tells Trubel that she likes Nick. She also tells Juliette that she’s different. Juliette says she know. The scene shows once more that Diana has special powers, powers that probably relate to the stick. Later, she told Nick that she likes Kelly. Nick appreciated that.

Anyway, Renard’s freedom means Nick’s doom. I know that’s hyperbolic. He’ll be fine. Nick told Adalind to move in with Renard. I don’t know either. Hank and Wu must resign from the precinct, which guarantees a departure from case-of-the-week episodes. Trubel urged Nick to join her with HW. Nick declined. Who else would defend Portland? Renard’s motivations still baffle me, as it is, like the decision to boot Nick from Portland PD, years past when it made ‘narrative sense’ but this show’s all about the nonsensical, and it’s the final season, so let’s roll with it.

Other Thoughts:

-I bet a magic stick that the trust me knot spell suddenly works at a most opportune time for Nick and Adalind. Blood magic can’t let a crooked judge deter it.

-Monroe told the group about Rosalee’s pregnancy. Thank goodness. Her pregnancy didn’t need to be a secret for multiple episodes. He told the group seconds before SERT broke in. Also, the stick took out six SERT officers. That’s a wild stick.

-Renard continues to experience guilt and visions associated with Meisner.

-Jim Kouf & David Greenwalt wrote the episode. John Gray directed.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Vampire Diaries "We Have History Together" Review

 “We Have History Together” dwells upon a lot of history only to conclude that not much will change. Early in the episode Stefan tells Damon that history won’t repeat, meaning that he won’t go on a Ripper spree. Of course, the episode ends with a Ripper spree. Elsewhere, near the episode’s end, Sybil echoes the old line about the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and yada yada), and I’m not sure whether the writers wanted to troll the audience or not. The audience has seen everything in this episode before throughout the series. Yes, creative challenges mount the older a series becomes, but most writing staff’s don’t pretend to change what they repeat when they won’t change what they repeat.

The B and C stories that involved the magic Maxwell bell were decent parts of the episode. Matt and Peter worked through more of their history together and Matt learned more about his family’s history while Caroline tagged along with Sybil’s history class. You’ll remember that the last time we left Sybil Damon had ripped her heart out and left it next to her on a bench. One line in this episode suggests that Sybil’s now, literally, heartless. Sybil wanted to find the bell, and she needed to threaten Caroline into helping her by threatening an entire Mystic Falls high school class. Seline took the bell before Sybil found it (in the Forbes’ garage), which led to more threats and more reminders about Stefan as violent mass murderer. Caroline basically said that Stefan would stay disciplined this time.

He didn’t. The brother roles reversed for the 367th time in the series in “We Have History Together”. I don’t understand why the writers wanted to tell the story of a doctor who loses Stefan’s morality game because Stefan rigged the game. Damon has already struggled through his servitude to Cade and Sybil due to the memory of Elena. Sybil hacked his memories to make him stop. Remember that? An episode or two later he returned to remembering Elena. In fact, Sybil made it so that she replaced Elena in all of Damon’s memories. Her possession of Elena’s necklace motivated him to rip her heart out. That necklace motivated Stefan to play his game with Damon under the guise of playing it with the Elena doppelganger. Would he kill her or not? There was never a question. The brothers Salvatore will kill anyone when Team Good or Evil. The difference lies in their feelings about the killing. If their humanity’s on, they feel bad for an act; if not, they don’t, and then they feel bad for two acts after they switch their humanity back on—and then the writers drop it.

Damon returned to find Elena’s necklace the morning after he threw it out of the car and after he murdered the doctor who decided to let him die. (See, Elena 6.0 had the same backstory as Elena original, but when Elena 6.0 learned the identity of the killer (Damon) she made the dark choice to let him die (after Stefan’s compulsion of her.)) His morality survived another test. Now, Stefan’s Ripper spree makes it seem possible he may choose to remain with Cade after the year service (He won’t).

Was there a time in TVD when a character seemed beyond salvation? No. The writers would like fans to think the souls of Stefan and Damon could be beyond saving and bound for the eternal fires of Cade’s hell, but the exact opposite is true. The mere fact that it’s the final season ensures the inevitable redemption and eternal happiness of the Salvatore brothers, Caroline, Bonnie, Matt and his father, Enzo, Alaric and his daughters, Dorian, Jeremy, and, of course, Elena.

Other Thoughts:

-The “Which Cast Member Has Clearly Checked Out” award this week goes to the TVD writers!

-Alexandra Chando guest starred as the doctor. She previously starred in ABC Family’s The Lying Game. Whenever I saw previews for The Lying Game I noted her resemblance to Nina Dobrev. They could’ve recast Elena with Alexandra for the last two seasons.

-Dorian, the world’s most exploited intern, now knows more about Alaric about Cade, the Sirens, the bell, and other such helpful expository things. Matt gave him a death glare for acting cordial with Peter. Matt’s passive-aggression is a poor look.

-Caroline’s story began as a possible homage to the late 90s romcom Never Been Kissed starring Drew Barrymore. I interpreted it as Julie Plec’s homage to early Buffy season seven when Buffy returned to the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High as a guidance counselor.

-Matthew D’Ambrosio wrote the episode. Ian Somerhalder directed the episode.

-Only eight more episodes left!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Grimm "Fugitive" Review

“Fugitive” continued Grimm’s fine tradition of producing riveting season premieres and season finales. Nick’s status in Portland as the Most Wanted Man suggests that the case of the week procedural formula won’t continue in season six. It will. He was wanted for murdering a FBI agent a few seasons ago, and the case of the week episodes resumed in the third episode. We shall see if Grimm resets by episode three. By the end of the episode, Renard and the Portland PD have him surrounded at Bud’s repair shop. Will Nick survive episode two? (Yes).

No time passed between the fifth season finale and tonight’s season premiere. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf promised and teased that the final season would pit Renard vs. Nick, and the season premiere quickly got to that central standoff. I wrote in my season finale review last May that ‘neither Nick or Renard wanted to watch the world burn.’ I misunderstood Renard. He wants to control the world. It’s Nick he wants to burn to death. Well, he wants to shoot him dead, and he doesn’t even want to shoot him himself—he wants his officers to shoot him dead. And, actually, his pursuit of Nick has more to do with him covering himself with Black Claw because he drove the sword through Bonaparte. Grimm’s writers always want to make sure there’s a way to redeem or rehabilitate a character. I mean, look at Juliette. The magic stick purified her soul.

So, the majority of the episode follows the characters running around as they clean up the mess from the previous night’s melee with Black Claw. It’s fun to see the gang against Renard, Black Claw, and the Portland PD. It reminds me of when Buffy and her friends, and Angel and his friends, only had each other. In between the running around, Nick has a sparkles reunion with Adalind before he disappears from the grid (only to be found not long after), Monroe suggests leaving Portland after Rosalee, in a true network TV moment, asks that no one know about her pregnancy, and Kouf and Greenwalt throw in various flashback scenes to remind the viewer of what’s what after a long hiatus.

“Fugitive” teased or set up a few plotlines beyond the immediate ‘Kill Nick’ problem, such as the continued redemption of Juliette, which probably won’t satisfy the fandom. The audience learned about her pure soul during a scene in which one of the dead Black Claw members tried to pull her into death with him via a death grip.  If that’s not a deliberate troll move by the writers, what else is? I’m sure the writers know how much the vocal Grimm fans loathe Juliette. I wonder if they brainstormed what would piss their fans most, like, how do they top bringing Juliette’s personality back, and then one of them shouts, “Purify her soul!” Throughout the episode Juliette loses more and more of superhuman powers. She can barely woge by the end. Also, she told Nick, “I’m so sorry” as the Renard and Portland PD close in on Bud’s. The stick not only purified her soul but it purified her. She’s returning to original Juliette.

The episode ended when Renard ordered the SERT team to take them all, which continues Grimm’s season premiere two-part tradition. I look forward to that. Overall, “Fugitive” hit the familiar premiere beats. It cleaned up some loose ends from the finale, introduced new storylines, and delivered an engaging episode.

Other Thoughts:

-Adalind resembled a fairy tale princess. Bonaparte’s damned engagement ring for her and Renard adds to the fairy tale quality. Remember her Alice in Wonderland/Cincinnatus C. in Invitation to a Beheading arc in Viktor’s castle? I want more strange Adalind fairy tale stories. Her character’s been too dependent on the men in her life throughout the series.

-Hank and Wu were pretty great as a duo. I found their plan to work in the precinct as normal to be somewhat curious considering everyone knows they only work with Nick. The writers can’t have Renard threaten them if they’re hunkering down with Nick. Also, Trubel continues to be a badass. Will she rebuild HW?

-Renard suffered from Macbeth’s madness in two scenes. He saw his hands bloodied in his office, and, later, Franco became Meisner for a moment. Meisner’s parallel is Banquo. Is Diana Fleance?

-Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt wrote tonight’s season premiere. Aaron Lipstadt directed.

-Welcome to the final season of Grimm. Critics expected Grimm to fail hard when it premiered in 2011. It did not. I will review every episode of the final season. I look forward to hanging out with this fever dream of a show until it ends in May (or April. NBC, hook a blogger up with an exclusive finale date).

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Best Things I Watched This Year

II haven’t written a ‘Best’ post at the end of the year since 2012 (maybe?) because I dislike Best Of lists. I’m writing this specific post because I want to highlight one episode of Frontline. Other things struck me and surprised me this year. Do read on. 
While the mainstream media has finally become aware of the horror, hardship, and atrocities happening in Aleppo, as they question why Westerners ignored Syria until this week (and, hey, mainstream media, don’t project your shortcomings on the general public; some of us have followed this story for years), as Assad’s forces and the Russians push the rebels out, Frontline broadcast a documentary made by Marcel Mettelsiefen in April 2016. One will not see the documentary make the multiple ‘Best Of’ lists of the most notable TV critics in the United States. It aired one Tuesday night. Newsweek was the lone outlet to publish an article about the documentary describing it as ‘deeply moving’. Christiane Amapour called it “extraordinary”. Children of Syria was the best thing I watched this year and maybe ever. It’s an immeasurably moving and touching documentary of one Syrian family, from Aleppo, the Kassmou famly, that struggled to live through the civil war and ISIS occupation (ISIS kidnapped the children’s father, and they never saw him again, except for Hala Kamil, the mother and his wife, who received a photo of his dead body, but she denied that it was him) as they leave Syria behind for a new life as refugees in a quiet, small German town.
The United Nations featured the documentary, its director, and the Kassmou family, at a special event for World Humanitarian Day in August. I wish that every American whose vote for Trump was motivated partially or primarily by fear of Syrian refugees would watch Children of Syria. We’re all the same. Our cultures and our religion have differences, but no one should be abandoned in a living hell and left to die because Americans have been led and brainwashed by fear-mongering politicians who would welcome another Kristallnacht before they offered Syrian, Iraqi, Somalian, and Yemeni refugees any measure of salvation, of rescue, of refuge.
The documentary features many stirring moments, including when Hala receives the photo of her husband, the eldest daughter becoming the teacher of her siblings, the eldest daughter’s momentary anxiety-ridden paralysis on her first day of school in Germany, the German students lovely welcoming of their new classmates, the son’s list of what he’ll miss about his home, his Syria, but no moment is more stirring to me than when one of the younger daughters says, “We love you Syria, forgive us” as their van turns a corner and out of the van window we see three small boys playing, or looking, around the rubble and the trash.
I think Children of Syria essential viewing. Frontline has produced a number of recent episodes about Syria, including an episode titled “Inside Assad’s Syria” in which we see Assad promote the country as if he hasn’t killed thousands and thousands of his own people. The scenes of Damascus, particularly, are surreal, or the areas of the country Assad has made for tourism. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the rise of ISIS, the fight against ISIS, and on December 27, they will air an episode titled “Exodus” about the reality of the global migration crisis.
Watch the episode or on the PBS website.
The series concluded on Wednesday night. Critics have already christened it ‘The next Wire’ because few people watched the series. I most agree with Sarah D. Bunning’s opinion about the finale. It had the defect of Ray McKinnon being too aware that it was a finale and that he needed to satisfy an audience. The season had some wonderful stuff overall, and no scripted series came close to Rectify’s quality even if past seasons were stronger overall.
No, this post isn’t restricted to things released in 2016. It is about things I watched in 2016. I recently watched Room and thought it was masterful. In this era of overstuffed streaming shows, I liked the reminder given by Room that the silver screen still has something special to give.
I loved the film’s cinematography, especially the framing , composition, and natural lighting. I also marveled at The Revenant’s cinematography during a sickly day last month. The common thread between both movies? Natural lighting. Eggers and his D.P. Jarin Blaschke used an ARRI ALEXA to shoot the movie. Watching the movie returned me to my younger dreams of making gorgeous movies and TV. I wanted to make my own coming-of-age TV series for TheWB in the early 2000s. Nikki Reed had written and co-starred in Thirteen when she was 14, the same age as me, so I wondered why I couldn’t become a creator, show runner, lead writer, and director of my own coming-of-age TV show. Also, I wanted to act as director and cinematographer on my episodes. I had a fantasy of me drinking Orange Juice and arriving to set on a Monday morning and completely running the set with wonderful ease.
A fun note about The Witch, via an IndieWire article: Blaschke wanted to shoot on film, but logistics made that impossible. I’ve spent months researching digital cameras. He explained that he chose the Alexa because it’s the only digital camera he can stomach. I looked at the rental price for an Alexa on LensRental. No, I will not shoot the ocean or the wilderness with an Alexa anytime soon.
I never expected to like High Maintenance. It seemed like another one of those NYC/Brooklen set hipster half-hour comedies about flawed, directionless twentysomething hipsters. I watched the second episode first, randomly, late on a Friday night (It aired at 11). The first half of that episode followed a young Muslim woman who wants a normal college experience; the second half is set at a birthday party. I knew only that I never saw anything quite like High Maintenance before on TV as I watched that transfixing episode. The next week’s episode, “Grandpa”, was even better.
Donald Glover’s Atlanta was funny, bizarre, and similar to Louie in that it experimented weekly and did not care about any kind of ‘grounded reality’. The Tavis Smiley esque talk show episode was a highlight, as was the Justin Bieber episode.
I watched some of PBS’ Nature documentaries this year. “The Soul of the Elephant” and “The Thin Green Line” stood out to me. “The Soul of the Elephant” showed, among other aspects of their interesting lives, how elephants mourn the dead. “The Thin Green Line” showed how impactful modern society is on every creature, their ecosystems, and nature at large.
THE X FILES-“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”
The X Files revival was worth it for this Darin Morgan episode. Amazingly, the three episodes written and directed by Chris Carter were among the worst things I watched in 2016. Season 11 hasn't happened yet because of Carter's currently playing Matthew Modine playing Dr. Brenner on Netflix's Stranger Things. 
Now that Rectify has ended, Better Call Saul becomes my favorite scripted show. I love the cinematography, the production design, the writing, and the acting. The writers and the entire crew haven’t made a bad episode yet.

About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot. I write regular posts about Grimm & The Vampire Diaries.