Friday, January 31, 2014

Redemption - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

And now, for the final movie, and also the official finale for The Commish, Redemption. I know I said yesterday that the second movie was the one I found most entertaining and interesting. Still true. This one, however, may be the best, overall. The story is extremely well-done, to the point of being heartbreaking, and the acting is as top notch as it ever was on this show. And it's pretty powerful, too. I'll get to why soon. Let's begin.

In the first scene, we see two different things happening. First, there are people working in what is, no doubt, a sweat shop. Then, it cuts to someone installing a phone bomb. Within moments, we hear a phone ring, and there is a huge explosion. Miraculously, no one is killed, but Tony and Paulie immediately begin to investigate, especially motivated because there were children in the building.

As it happens, the factory was owned by Bel Chemise, a fashion company, run by Oskar Rothman and his daughter, Carla. When Tony arrives at one of their shows, he meets with Carla, played by Natalija Nogulich, who calls herself Kitty Jordan, as to give her fashion line a better name. He asks for some financial records, since the fire must be investigated, and she understands. Then, enter her father, Oskar, played by the masterful Rod Steiger, who is absolutely at his most brilliant here. He's a bit standoffish with Tony, but ultimately gives him what he needs for the investigation. As he waits backstage, Tony runs into his father-in-law, Ben, played by Mike Nussbaum, who has been working as a subcontractor for Bel Chemise. Also, he's dating one of the models named Cindy. Yeah, that's not going to do much to fix his relationship with his daughter, Rachel, which has been strained for her entire life. Still, Tony invites Ben to dinner that night, as a surprise. Funny thing, I'd think that Tony would be the one most upset about this, considering that this model is his wife. No, seriously, I'm pretty sure that Cindy is being played by Michael Chiklis' wife, Michelle. And played very well, I might add.

Now, one thing we learn about Rothman and his back story is that he is a Jewish man who survived the concentration camps. This is an important plot point for a few reasons. One is that Tony is having to deal with some hate groups that are wreaking havoc in Eastbridge. They've been attacking a lot of synagogues, including the one Rachel and David go to. So, he also has to be investigating that as he is investigating the fires. Gee, if they were connected, it might make this a little easier.

Anyway, we see Tony, Rachel and the kids having dinner with Ben at their house. He has brought his new, young girlfriend, Cindy, whom Rachel was not expecting. As I said, this does not help the tension of their relationship, but the two women manage to have a moment of kindness to each other. After they leave, Rachel vents to Tony that Ben hasn't changed, even reminding him of when her father was supposed to take her to the circus, and he never did, though she kept the tickets. Tony tries to get her to let go of the anger, but she can't. It's sad, though, because shortly thereafter, Ben has a heart attack. Rachel and her father do get a chance to have one last talk, wherein Ben reminisces about taking her to the circus, something that obviously didn't happen. Sadly, he passes away and we see the funeral. Here's where I have to give some major props to Theresa Saldana's acting. Everyone is standing in the cemetery, visibly upset, especially Tony and David, who are crying. But Rachel is just standing there, stone faced, not an emotion in sight. Yet, somehow, there is so much behind this look on her face. She did love her father, no doubt, but there was so much hurt that he brought to her, that it's almost as though she truly has no clue how to react. Like she wants to shed tears for him, but that wounded part of her doesn't think he deserves it. And her being that way, at this point, is way more effective than having her cry and grieve as much as her family was. Brilliant.

In the aftermath of that, Rachel and Tony go to Ben's apartment to clean it out. Rachel finds a stuffed bear he had given her, intending to take it home for her daughter, Sarah. Unfortunately, Tony finds something, too. It's notebook with circled dates and locations, which pretty much could be evidence that Ben was behind the fires at the Bel Chemise factories. Yes, fires, because there were more. He goes back to talk to Rothman, to determine if he was involved, especially since they got some proof that the fires might have been intentional to get insurance money. Rothman is personally offended accusing Tony of persecuting him, understandable due to his history. He is assured that the investigation will be done honestly and the police will follow nothing but the evidence.

The bad news is that a lot of the evidence continues to point at Rachel's father, like her finding one hundred dollar bills stuffed into that teddy bear and a lot of dead people turning up, including Ben's girlfriend. Then again, a lot of evidence is also pointing to one of those hate groups that had been causing trouble. In fact, Tony and Paulie go to this rough looking bar to pick up a suspect, and everyone there tries to be scary to them, but Paulie pulls out a huge, Terminator-style gun, so they back off. Why does Paulie have a huge Terminator-style gun? Because he's Paulie, and that's how he rolls. Turns out, the guy they picked up used to date Cindy, but she dumped for an old, Jewish guy, which is going to make someone in a hate group not so happy. They really think he's guilty until another fire is set while he's in custody. They also eventually find out that someone robbed an armory and is planning an even bigger explosion. That technically sucks, but Tony and Paulie do find this out by way of an informant named Magic, and the scenes with that guy are priceless.

Anyway, Tony is more motivated than ever after David is beat up by members of the hate group at the synagogue. A clue they manage to find is the initials "C.W." Unaware of what it means, they continue to investigate Oskar Rothman. What they find out there is that Oskar Rothman died in the camps back in the forties. So, what's going on? Well, it turns out that the man they have been talking to who calls himself Oskar Rothman is actually Carl Wolfe, the "C.W.", and not only is he not Jewish, but he is a German who left the country and fled to America with this false identity to escape being prosecuted for war crimes. Can you even imagine? But we're not even done yet.

Wolfe plants another phone bomb at Rachel's and David's synagogue whilst several people are there. They manage to get everyone out, and Tony finds Wolfe, drags him back inside, and makes him dial the phone number, which would set off the bomb. Of course, he doesn't do it and ends up being arrested. Outside, Tony demands that Wolfe tell Rachel that her father was innocent and to explain himself and why he did this. The only response he gives at first is to very coldly and nonchalantly say, "He was a Jew". You know, sometimes it takes just one little statement like that, just a few chilling words, for you to feel a lifetime worth of hatred in a person. He does go on to say a few more things to explain himself, but the way they are said is so overwhelming to me. And I give credit to Rod Steiger for being able to do this, because he delivers these words, these utterly hateful words in such a flippant way, but that's how someone like this character would say it. It's as though he's saying, "Of course, I framed him. He was Jewish. Who cares?" Sorry to use this word again, but it was so chilling, this accepted hatred. It's also a bit frightening.

We, then, see Wolfe led away to jail, and, as his daughter, Kitty, stands there, he shouts out that he loves her. Kitty, with her back turned to him, just says, "Papa" and cries. It's so devastating, because you realize that this woman's entire world has literally collapsed, because she knows now that the person she loved most has been building that world on lies. Rachel goes to comfort her, and that moment is just so moving between them. And it's that moment that, I think, leads us to the final one.

The last scene is Tony and Rachel at her father's grave, where she is finally able to let go and cry. And I believe that her seeing Kitty weep over losing her own father, despite the horrible things he had done, made Rachel realize that, while her father may have made a lot of mistakes, it could have been much worse. And the last thing we see, the final image for the entire series, is Tony comforting Rachel, holding her up and loving her as always. And I cannot even imagine a better way to go out. I mean, as I've been saying over and over, yes, this was a cop show, but it was so much more. And, frankly, the love between Tony and Rachel was always the heartbeat of the show. It was where we got the life and the warmth, and seeing them be there for each other is the last image I would have wanted to see from this series.

So, that was Redemption, and what else can I say about it, other than it was excellent. Also, it has emotionally drained me, so I will stop. Until tomorrow, that is. Because we have one more day to The Commish tribute week. Just one more day.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Father Image - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

And now for Commish movie number two, Father Image. I'm going to say something right off the bat. Of the three movies, I think this one is, by far, the most entertaining. Is it the best where other things are concerned? Maybe, maybe not. I honestly can't decide. I would say that it's also the most interesting based on a few things, which I will get to, but a lot of it has to do with the plot. Or plots, I should say. As I've said, the show would normally have a main plot and at least one subplot. Here, it kind of has two main plots that intertwine into one, very well, as a matter of fact. So, we can go back and forth between the two, but see that they are still holding hands. Now let's get started.

The movie starts at a fundraiser dinner for the current mayor, Louise Hinton, played by Linda Darlow, and it is being attended by people who paid a thousand bucks to be there. Also, Tony and Rachel. I bet they got in for free. Anyway, Mayor Hinton was actually a recurring character on the show. She was always on the side of The Commish, wanting him to do whatever he could to catch the bad guy du jour, but she got a bit pushy sometimes. This was mostly because, whilst she did want the bad guys caught, she knew that if Tony failed, it would reflect on her. And here, we are on the brink of an election, wherein Hinton is facing a younger, charismatic, male opponent. This comes in to play a bit, but later.

Anyway, Tony is complaining about having to be there, and in a random moment, some guy bumps into Rachel and starts hitting on her. Of course, Tony does his whole "Back off. Because I'm her husband" thing, and the guy leaves. At first, this seems like, as I said, just a random moment, used for one-off joke. Not so. The guy heads down to the bar and finds a gorgeous, British woman there, impressing the bartender with her knowledge of ... well, fancy booze, I guess. And, of course, because he's clearly on a roll, the guy starts hitting on her, as well. I'm sure things will work out for him this time. Cut to an undetermined amount of time later, and Tony gets beeped...on his beeper. The nineties! Anyway, they tell him to get to the parking garage, where - surprise! - the guy who likes to hit on women has been murdered, with a straight razor, no less. Things look a bit messy at the crime scene. Especially when the press shows up. Yeah, there's also a bit of a thing about the intrusive reporters getting in the way. We do always need some side stuff.

While that's continuing, we then find ourselves in a dark apartment, belonging to ... the British woman from the bar. Why do we care about this person? What's her deal? Well, she sits down in her room, starts to take off her make-up, as you do, then her fake nails, because again, the nineties, and also she removes a wig. Okay, so she likes to dress up a lot when she goes out. Nothing wrong there. Until she opens her purse and pulls out a straight razor. If you would like to call this foreshadowing, be my guest, but this is just them flat out telling us that this woman is the killer. We actually witness her killing someone at one point, but this story is not about us trying to figure out who's guilty as the police do, the way it usually works. This is all about why she is doing it. Now when it comes to this character, her name is an issue and a non-issue at the same time, so, for now, I will be referring to her as Disguise Lady. And she is played by Wendel Meldrum, an actress who did an amazing job here. Seriously, when I said this was entertaining and interesting it is thanks, in large part, to her. Now let's get to that other plot.

After briefing his precinct about the murder, Tony goes off to pick up an old friend and mentor of his named Terry Boyle, played by The Old Man Parker, himself, Darren McGavin. And if you thought I wasn't, or am not again, going to make any A Christmas Story references, first, welcome to the blog, and second, you are just no fun. Anyway, though Terry is merely there for a visit, as he is going through a difficult time in his life, Tony talks him into helping with the investigation. Wait, isn't that how he got Paulie to work for him permanently? Well, at least, he's consistent. And nothing could possibly go wrong with this. Right?

So, let's get back to Disguise Lady. She turns up at, of all places, the precinct, and she's there talking to Officer Ronnie about having to pick up her car, because it was found abandoned, after she apparently misplaced it. Her car. Just go with it. Of course, when we see her now, gone is the classy Brit and in her place, we find a woman who is quiet and clearly shy, uneasy being out in public, and most importantly, she isn't dressed as well as she was, so downgrade. Relax, though. As soon as she gets to her car, she, quite literally, whips her hair back and forth, and decides to take on a new persona. This one consists of a lot of leather. Leather vest, leather chaps...over jeans, so calm down, and a brand new accent. Southern, this time. Yeah, I guess if I was forced to nitpick at all about the performance of this actress, I'd say she went a bit over the top with this persona. Not bad, just a bit much. But it's a small nitpick. Anyway, she goes into a tattoo parlor where she does two things. First, she gets a rose tattoo...on her boob, as you do, and second, she leaves with a guy who is old enough to be her father and has a motorcycle. No, he's not going through a midlife crisis at all. Not at all. So, he takes her for a ride on his bike, letting her sit behind him. So, isn't there some thing about not turning your back on certain people, because, you know, stuff can happen? Well, stuff happened. She basically killed him. How? She covered his eyes as he drove, proceeding to gouge them and then jumped off the bike just before he flew off the side of a mountain. That was quite creative, also risky, considering she may have killed herself, too. But, hey, you have got to take a few risks if you want to have an adventurous life.

They find motorcycle dude's body and bike at the bottom of the mountain, and Tony, Terry and Paulie begin to speculate on what might have happened. Doesn't take that long for them to figure it out, nor to get rid of the crime scene paparazzi. Yes, they show up again. Go away, just go away. The boys do some more canvassing, which leads them to the tattoo parlor. They show the artist the police sketch from the previous murder, but he draws the woman he saw. They look kind of different. Of course they do. It's Disguise Lady.

Speaking of which, in this time, she has decided to go blond and go personal trainer, and she manages to sneak into a country club. Well, she manages to "idiot security guard" her way in, which is more accurate. Ironically, Tony is there at the same time, picking up his son David, who is there with friends. And he actually has a conversation in passing with the woman. WHAT! Okay, to be fair, he wasn't looking for a blond and probably didn't think that a serial killer could be so ... perky. Too bad he didn't know who it was because she ended up killing someone else. Another old guy, and this time, with a golf club. Killing an old guy with a golf club at a country club. There's irony in there, somewhere. Also, another old guy? What could it mean? It's at this point where Mayor Hinton, who has been on Tony's back the whole time, decides that she wants Terry to officially be on the case. And I don't know if he got paid, but I'm sure he would have been quite happy with a new furnace and some turkey. Yeah, I went there.

Now, it's around this time where we start to figure out just why Disguise Lady is doing all this. The biggest clue is when she wakes up and freaks when she sees the tattoo. She also starts calling out different names asking who did it. Get it! They aren't just disguises or personas that she chooses the take on. She has multiple personalities. This was, by the way, a major go-to in the eighties and nineties in television and movies. Well done here, though. And she is so upset with the tattoo, she tries to burn it off with hot water, something that lands her in the hospital. It's around this time, as well, that Tony finds out about the woman who came in to find her car near the start of the movie, and we finally find out that her name is Emily Daniels. Hey, now I can call her that. She eventually is arrested when they find the straight razor with the victim's blood on it in a box of detergent in her house. She maintains her innocence and is eventually let go. But not because of that.

As it happens, Terry, so sure of her guilt, thought it would be a good idea to plant some evidence to ensure her arrest. Let me stress that he is not a bad guy,; he just did a bad thing. I don't think that's a good idea and neither does Tony. It's because of this that they have to let Emily go, but, after talking with a doctor about a previous case, he believes that Emily may be both innocent and guilty, due to multiple personalities. He goes to her house managing to bring out the core persona, a little girl named Jessica who was abused by her father. So you see why she chose all older men to kill. But it's not enough to re-arrest her. Besides, Tony feels like Emily might not even know what she has done. So, despite being upset with his friend, he lets Terry help, acting as the bait for one of Emily's murderous personalities. It eventually works, ending with Jessica coming out, trying to do the only thing she thinks she can to stop all the people inside of her, which is to kill herself. But Tony manages to save her life, probably in more ways than one.

And so everything comes to a close, with the mayor celebrating her re-election and Tony sending Terry back home. Their relationship has been obviously strained, but it is still intact, nonetheless. It's clear that, though Tony has always looked up to him, wanting to be so much like, he has to do what he always does - the right thing. It's what ultimately always sees him through.

And that was Father Image. As I said, it is the one I find most interesting and entertaining, what with so much going on. Still, you never seem overwhelmed with it all. It's just right. Well, it is after all, The Commish.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In the Shadow of the Gallows - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Okay, I think I have to do some explaining before I begin today. If you do a web search for an episode guide of The Commish, you will see that they refer to the three television movies I will be reviewing as Season 5. Also, on the complete series DVD collection, which I own, of course, it referred to them as such there as well. Basically, what they are trying to tell us is that an entire season of a show can legitimately consist of what is ultimately, and sans commercials, three 90-minute TV movies. That is just ridiculous. (Insert Sherlock joke here)

In all seriousness, when I first saw these, they aired in November through January, following the ending of The Commish Season Four. And, unless my memory is playing tricks on me, they were each billed as being a "Television Movie Event". So, you understand why I never labeled them as normal episodes in a normal season. I've always considered them TV movies that wrapped up what needed to be wrapped up for the series. Therefore, I will be reviewing them as said TV movies. Now let's get to the first one, In the Shadow of the Gallows.

I love the way that this thing begins. What we see is a lovely juxtaposition of scenes. On one hand, we are watching, though not too graphically, a man being executed. On the other hand, we see Tony and Rachel in the audience of an opera, wherein a death scene is taking place, and the music of which serves as a soundtrack for both scenes. It was shot very well, and it also reminded us what a cultured man Tony Scali is. He did love his classical music and whatnot.

Next, we see Tony at the precinct where the conflict of the story really begins. The man who was executed was named Webster MacKenzie, and Tony played a major role in his arrest and ultimate conviction. Unfortunately, another already jailed man, Robert Allardyce played by the legendary Dean Stockwell, decides to confess to the murders for which Mackenzie was executed ... the day after he was executed. Um...timing? This all seems a bit suspicious to me, as it does for Tony and Paulie, so they begin to investigate, to prove that justice was, indeed, served, and it was not an innocent man who was executed. Because they stand for truth and justice. Also, Tony is named in a $10,000,000 lawsuit that the family filed against the city. And he gets served on about the same day that this other confession is revealed. Wow! Look, I can appreciate that the family is upset, but...WOW! That was awfully fast. I'm sure it's not about the money, though. I'm sure of it.

So Tony goes upstate to visit Allardyce and figure out what the heck. The guy holds tight to this confession of his, but Tony just is not buying it. At all. Now Allardyce doesn't straight up say, at this point, that he lied, but he hints at it when he says that he will recant if Tony can prove that he didn't commit the murder he was in jail for in the first place. Well, that is...elaborate. Also, kind of clever, since Tony is very upset about the whole situation. Not about being sued, especially since he's covered by the city, but because this system of law to which he has dedicated his life and career may have failed him, with overwhelming consequences. And here he sits with another man who may be innocent and it prompts him to so what he can.

Tony and Paulie then travel off to figure out what is going on, and it leads them to some corrupt cops and Native Americans. What! Okay, corrupt cops are something that have been done and done again, sometimes well, sometimes not so well. It's fine here, but the Native American part? I should be personally offended by this for a couple of reasons, because I, in fact, have a bit of Native American blood in me. Not a ton, but it still counts. First of all, the Native Americans were referred to as 'Indians' quite a few times. I guess it couldn't be helped in some cases, since they were dealing with the BIA, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an organization that has been around since 1824! So, yeah, Indians. Guess we'll just have to deal with it when it comes to this. Not that it's the only longtime organization wherein the title contains an inappropriate name for the people its representing. Anywho, the other thing that should offend me is just the fact that some of the bad guys are Native Americans. Not cool. How dare you come into our casinos and besmirch our legacy! Seriously, though, after I thought about it, I saw the method to the madness here. See, there's a character in this named Clyde Smoke. I know, right? It's like best name ever. Now if you know anything about Native American surnames, you know that there are some seriously cool ones out there, mostly nature-related. Or something like 'smoke'. If a guy of any other race had this name, you'd probably automatically tag him as the villain. But this is an expected name of a Native American, so it would go unnoticed. You see, it was a red herring. Or was it? Genius! Of course, it wasn't so shady with the corrupt cops. You could spot them right off the bat. And speaking of ethnic insensitivity, the police chief they encounter, when Tony and Paulie asked if there might be mob ties with the casinos, took it upon himself to make a "Why are you asking me about the mob? You're Italian. Why don't you just ask yourself and/or your immediate and/or extended family?" comment. First of all, if that gut thought he was being original with that, then he deserves to be in jail. Second, you assume someone is in the mob, and you think it's a good idea to say ... THAT!? Whatever! Moving on.

So Tony and Paulie head off and have to meet with the head of the BIA, and it is none other than Maria Bello. Because who better to run the Bureau of Indian Affairs than a white, blonde woman. Oh, there I go again. Actually, I think this was the first time I ever saw Maria Bello, and a stint on The Commish should be a great way to start, in my opinion. Or so I thought. More on that in a moment. Anyway, she plays Betsy Nolan, and she tries to help out with their investigation. So, the thee of them go off and gumshoe, and there is actually quite a bit of action in this. We see Tony horseback riding, badly, which is great. But there is truly nothing better than that scene wherein he and Paulie have to jump from the roof of one building to another. And they totally pull it off!! I'm not kidding about this at all! Things begin to awry, though. Paulie gets beaten up by thugs, and Betsy takes him back to her place to "nurse him back to health". We all know what that means, don't we? Yeah, at this point, my crush on Paulie was still there, so I wasn't much of a fan of Ms. Bello for awhile. Because I hold grudges against actors for the actions of their characters, a lot. She should be pleased to know that I have since forgiven her for this faux pas. Now whether or not I forgive her for being in Grown Ups is a complete other issue.

Now, as it turns out, it was some FBI guys chasing Tony on the horse. Sorry, I must stop and chuckle as I remember that scene. Okay, they have also been investigating the cops and the casinos, but because of stealing money crimes and whatnot. Still, they all manage to work together to catch the bad guys. When I say bad 'guys' though, I say it loosely, because, as it happens, Betsy was more involved with the shadiness than she was letting on. A lot more. Because she didn't let on at all. No, seriously, I give her credit for being able to pull the wool over the eyes of two seasoned cops, and for quite a while. But you can only fool The Commish and his minions for so long before you are discovered. And she is discovered, though I kind of despise her motivation behind what she did. It's bit... YA, if you will. After that, all the guilty people are in jail, and all the innocents are let out. Hooray!

Okay, though I do call this a movie, I do have to admit that they did something which they often did on normal episodes, which is have some B and C plots. One of those dealt with Tony's son, David, who was about fifteen at the time, dating a slightly older girl. Actually, she was eighteen. Dating a fifteen year old. And Rachel, David's mother, who did not approve in the first place, catches them as they nearly seal the deal. If you know what I mean. And this raises a question - Why isn't this person in jail? I'm not kidding. She is technically an adult trying to get it on with a minor. Wrong, and also stupid, because the minor happens to be the son of the police commissioner. Whatever! But it does show, yet again, that no matter what insanity is going on in one's work life, family life still goes on at home, and it must be dealt with. Another subplot, one a bit less disturbing, is that the precinct is being observed by a psychiatrist or psychologist, I don't know, who is evaluating the officers. Both I and Commissioner Scali appreciate the fact that this must be done to keep everyone safe and sane, but, holy crap, this chick was awful. Look, lady, when you distract a cop from doing his job, you are not helping anyone. But she gets some amusing comeuppance in the end, so good times.

So that was In the Shadow of the Gallows, the first of The Commish movies. I really liked it. Sure, it felt a bit episode-y, but what do you expect from a TV movie spawned from a TV show? It was still good and did what The Commish did best, mixing the action and drama with some funny, and showing off some great storytelling and acting performances. It's all I ever ask for, and as usual with this series, it was delivered.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Episodes of The Commish

Greetings Pups,

And welcome back. Today, I will be discussing my Top Ten favorite episodes of The Commish. If you've been reading what I've put up with this week already, there really is no need for too much introduction. Still, I will say it again - MAJOR SPOILERS! Also, get ready for me to make mention of some more of those sweet guest stars. Now let's get to the list.

#10. "Dying Affection"(Season 3) - So, imagine this scenario. You're dating Kevin Sorbo, you break up with him, you think he's stalking you. Well, that is exactly what happened to Cyd in this episode. Now you may be thinking, 'Why would anyone break up with Kevin Sorbo? He's awesome'. Unfortunately, he is very different in this universe, what with the short hair, suits and glasses. Yeah, that's right! Glasses! In short, not Hercules! Seriously, though, he was kind of whiny and obnoxious here. So THAT is why she broke up with him. Aside from all that, this episode had some good and unexpected twists in it. Also, I do, in fact, commend Kevin Sorbo for his performance here. I've always really liked him, and he made me kind of want to smack him. So good acting, Sir.

#9. "Head Case"(Season 4) - Say, do you remember Dan Lauria who played the dad on The Wonder Years? He's great, isn't he? And what about Barbara Mandrell? What a lovely, sweet woman she has always been. Yeah. Well, FORGET THAT! Because NOW they're trying to KILL you! Okay, maybe they didn't try to kill anyone, at first. It might have just been an 'Oopsy-Daisy, we killed someone' situation. Too bad for them, though, that Tony found out. So, did they try to explain that it might just have been an accident? Nope, they kidnap him and lock him away in their nuthouse. Okay, I'm not usually a person who calls a facility in which those with mental problems are cared for a 'nuthouse', but here, I call it that due to the people running it. I'm not wrong on this one.

#8. "Working Girls" (Season 4) - This is a good episode. Actings's good, writing's good, and the title is quite accurate to what is being dealt with in it. But, seriously, let's get to the reason why I really love this episode. Besides the main plot of this episode, we are also seeing that Tony is trying to decide on a new detective to hire, and he is having no luck whatsoever. Then, right at the end, he is reading a resume that is just right. But, wait! There's no name on it. Who could it be? Well, according to Officer Ronnie, it is someone who The Commish knows. What? It's also someone that he fired? Gasp! Is it who I think it is? Could it be? Cut to a shot of the empty door to Tony's office and in ... walks ... Paulie! Now, I have made it abundantly clear that I am not a squealer. I may have squealed a little bit when this happened. What! He had been gone for two years (more on that later) and after what I had been going through in the previous several episodes (again, more on that later), I deserved to be 'School Girl' excited about this. Sue me.

#7. "Out of Business" (Season 2) - Telly Savalas plays a gangster. More? Fine, if you think you need it. So, this is actually the third and last episode wherein Telly Savalas, being his fantastic self, appeared as this character, Tommy Collette. It was a small arc, but a great one, nonetheless. I enjoyed Telly Savalas a lot, and, since this is one of the last things he did before he passed away, I think this episode is pretty special.

#6. "Officer April" (Season 1) - I know most shows tend to have an A plot and a B plot for their episodes. The Commish was no different. However, sometimes, for reasons I cannot understand, they would name the episode after the lesser plot line. Such is the case here. Anyway, the main story is about Officer Stan having shot a woman who pulled a gun on her husband, and the husband wanting revenge on Stan for what he did. It's actually a pretty heavy story, and I always liked it when Stan got to be the main focus, being that he was one of my favorites. However, whilst that was going on, a woman (played by Kim Alexis, by the way) visits the precinct in order to find police officers for her - and I'm not kidding about this - "Hot Cops Calendar". Alrighty, then. And guess, just GUESS who she thinks would make a great "Officer April"? Yes, it's exactly who you think it is, and it's where we got this title. Still, love this one. Oh, and did I mention that this also has an amusing C plot concerning Rachel's brother, Arnie, played by the amazing David Paymer. He's off doing some word traveling with unfortunate, but still funny results. And that ends up tying into the opening scene wherein Tony arrested a diplomat, saying that the guy had no immunity since he wasn't in America but Tonyland. Yep. Holy crap, does that mean we also have a D plot! Good grief.

#5. "Video Vigilante" (Season 1) - So, that thing I mentioned about A and B plots? Well, this one has that and also another C plot, too. But I think no D plot, so, progress. And, again, our title comes from the B plot, though, it does end up tying in to the A plot. Anyway, the main story has to do with a college girl getting beaten and left for dead in her dorm room, which leads to some professors and students being investigated. And while that's going on, The Commish is having to deal with some guy running around after criminals, punishing them and videotaping what he does. A tough job, considering that this was in the early nineties, when cameras were ever so slightly bigger than they are now. And while THAT was going on, Stan and Carmela were undercover as pawn shop owners, trying to catch people with stolen goods. All that. ALL THAT in one episode, and, miraculously, they managed to do it in such a way wherein it didn't feel like too much. That made it very enjoyable. Oh, and "Hi,young Donal Logue". Yes, before he made everyone's list of most underrated actors, he did this. Good way to start, if you ask me.

#4. "The Iceman Cometh" (Season 3) - Okay, so in the episodes leading up to this one, we follow Stan on his journey to become a sergeant. To do so, he investigates this shady guy. Shady Guy has a wife, as they do, and she is played by Leah Remini, fresh off her stint on Saved By the Bell. Moving up, are we? The wife and Stan actually become kind of close. Of course, Shady Guy doesn't like this, so he puts out a hit on Stan and succeeds. Yes, Stan is dead. Blown up in his car, and I, the big fan of Stan that I was, totally let the idea that maybe he survived enter my head. He did not. Anyway, this episode is the aftermath wherein Tony has to deal with two things. First of all, Shady Guy also put out a hit on Tony and his family. Because, ya know, why the heck not? Second, he feels a lot of guilt over Stan's death because he was the one who assigned him the case. Look, I don't care if you're a fan of Michael Chiklis or not, but watch the scene where he reads a letter that Stan sent to his father, in which Stan says some truly touching things about his boss, Tony, and I dare you not to cry, at least, a little. Go ahead, I really dare you. This is why, of all the words used to describe Mr. Chiklis' acting abilities, "meh" will never, EVER be one of them.

#3. "Adventures in the Skin Trade" (Season 2) - So, in my #8 episode here, I mentioned that it marked the return of Paulie after having been fired by Tony and absent for two years. Here's where it happened. In the season 2 opener, a two-parter, mind you, Tony and Paulie have to delve into the seedy world of porn films. Oh, goodie. Yeah, I know that technically porn films aren't illegal, but in this case, there are some underage girls involved. Now this would obviously upset anyone, even cops who have seen it all multiple times over, but Paulie is extremely affected by having to deal with this, saying that kids still have goodness in them, and he hates to see it stolen away. All of this gets to him so much that he starts easily losing his cool with a lot of people, and the episode ends with him, let's say, overreacting a bit. It is this incident which causes Tony to have to fire him. He fired his best friend. Again, what the heck? Oh, well. At least, we got a good episode, and Paulie got to go out with a bang. And if you've seen this episode, you'll know that wasn't a metaphor.

#2. "Brooklyn" (Season 4) - I like a good flashback episode, and I do not mean a clip show. No, here we get something of an origin story for Tony and Paulie, at least, as cops, as we head back to Brooklyn with them. They're going there to re-investigate the murder of their closest friend, Vinnie, which happened twelve years earlier. The plot is that a witness, who is now clean and sober after years of drug abuse, was going to come forward to exonerate the man who was in jail for the murder. But things go awry. Very awry. They run into this guy named Reggie, who they grew up with, but who put himself on a different path than that of our cop friends. He was also a suspect in Vinnie's murder back in the day, which, of course, makes suspicions against him be raised again. And they also meet up with Vinnie's widow, Gina, played by the perpetually adorable Nancy Allen. I could sit here and tell the whole plot, but let's just say that a lot of secrets are revealed. And, let me also say that, whilst I thought John Cygan's acting was fantastic in the "Skin Trade" episode, he really nailed it something fierce in this one. I could easily say that, from the perspective of pure quality at his craft, this was his best performance for his time on the series.

#1. "Skeletons" (Season 1) - Hey, you wanna talk about Paulie some more? Great, this is his first episode. In season one, after having lost another detective, Tony's best friend, Paulie shows up. He's just there for a visit, but Tony ropes him into helping with an investigation. This eventually leads to him just saying, "Hey, why don't you just come work with me?" Why not? There's a lot that makes this episode great. First, we get appearances from some great character actors like Dion Anderson and Micole Mercurio, and Ann Dusenberry, who you may remember as Tina in Jaws 2, the greatest sequel of all time. And, in a hilarious side plot, David Paymer returns as Arnie, still world traveling, still getting into trouble that makes us laugh. Actually, he didn't return as traveling Arnie, since this one came first, but you get it. I can't even get into what happens, because it's so good, but it does go well with the other hilarious side plot concerning Stan looking for a missing child. Okay, I know that doesn't sound funny, but when you see the picture of the kid, it will be. So factor all of that in and you get my all-time favorite episode.

And there you have it. This was tough to do. I admit it. But reminiscing through all these fantastic stories just makes me even more curious as to how this show didn't last longer. I guess we just have to appreciate what we were given when it comes to this fine series. But I'm not done yet. Come back over the next few days for my analysis of the three Commish television movies.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, January 27, 2014

On a Commish-ion

Greetings Pups,

So, how do you like the wordplay in that post title? In all seriousness, though, I am on a mission, to tell those in the world, who don't already know, how amazing The Commish was, and still is. Today, I'm going to give a nice, detailed explanation of all the things that made this show one of my favorites. If you're a fan, you may enjoy this as a way of reminiscing on the wonder that was The Commish. If the most you know about the show is that it exists, read on. I won't be giving a boat load of spoilers (those will come later), so you can see what all of us love about this series, maybe get intrigued and be able to check it out for yourself. So let's get started.

The Commish was a cop drama that aired in the early to mid nineties and centered around Commissioner Anthony J. Scali of Eastbridge, New York, his precinct and his family. Right from the start, you could see that this was not a typical, cold, procedural cop show. No, this delved into personal things quite a bit, and how the job of law enforcement could have an affect on someone. Of course, we could follow along with how things work when it comes to investigating and solving crimes, but it always equally juxtaposed with the home life of our lead character. I think that was the appeal of the show. It wasn't just a cop show; it was a show about a cop, and cops often have families and lives outside of work that can be impacted by what they do. In short, it had a lot of heart to it. And I love shows that go beyond what you expect and give you a lot more. Now, like most successful shows, this relied on a few things to make it as such. The stories, the writing and of course, the actors. Let's get to them first.

In case you didn't already know, our titular character, Tony Scali, was portrayed by the incomparable Michael Chiklis. This is probably where everyone got a first glance at him, but not a last one, obviously. Now, you may be thinking something, like "Oh, he played a cop here. Kind of like he did on The Shield". To that, I say, "NO! NO! NOTHING LIKE THE SHIELD!" Okay, admittedly, I didn't watch The Shield, outside of the first few episodes. I mean, I know it was an extremely, well-made series, but I just couldn't handle the change, something I've written about on this blog before. From what I gather, Vic Mackey was a little, let's say, mean. Not my beloved Tony Scali, not my cute, cuddly Commish. Now don't get me wrong. If someone needed to be yelled at, he certainly did it. I mean, he was in charge, and he was a cop who came from the mean streets of Brooklyn. Pre-Hipster Brooklyn, mind you. He was tough when he needed to be, as well he should have been. But Tony also was a kind, loving man, who cared deeply about a lot of people and wasn't afraid to show that. Also, he was hilarious. That was the thing about The Commish and the writing of it. It did do its duty as a straight up cop drama, but it knew how to inject the funny in there, as well. And a lot of that came from the star himself. To be frank, Michael Chiklis played this role perfectly. He made Tony Scali a real person, not a joke and not a stereo-typical, hard-edged guy. A real, balanced man. Brilliant. Still, as good of a star as he was, he needed some backup. Get it. Cops, backup. I am a comedy genius. Yeah. So let's get to that supporting cast, shall we?

I will begin with the people closest to Tony Scali, his lovely family. First is his wonderful, loyal wife Rachel, played by Theresa Saldana, one of my personal heroes in life. Seriously, look into her story. She is a true survivor and will, no doubt, inspire you. Anyway, Tony and Rachel have known each other, basically, forever, and that led to them falling in love, getting married, and building a beautiful life together. All that, despite the obstacles they faced. Well, possible obstacles, like his being Catholic and her being Jewish. I only bring this up because the show did. Not constantly, but naturally. It was a part of their lives, and thus, it came up on occasion, but not to a point where it became too much. Now Tony and Rachel were not alone. They had two children. David, played by Kaj-Erik Eriksen, was their son, who ultimately grew up during the course of the show, going from child to teenager and into his young adulthood. And they didn't leave David out when it came to dealing with those effects that the cop job had on the family. There were a few episodes wherein this was the focus. Of course. Also, they had daughter named Sarah. She was born in the second season and by the fourth season ... she looked like a two-year-old. Wait, what? They didn't age her ten years between seasons to get some cheap 'cute kid lines' out of her? Wow, this show really did want to be original. And that is the immediate family. Now let's go to work.

Due to the success of Law and Order and its offspring, I think we've been trained to see TV crime investigations in a certain way. That being, two detectives, who are partners, go off to work a case together. You know, your Briscoe and Green, your Benson and Stabler, your Goren and Eames. You get the picture. Things were a little different with The Commish. It tended to be a group effort, with Scali at the helm. Even though I am about %100 sure that the job of commissioner is a desk job. But who cares? He went out there and got his hands dirty like everyone else. And he had some good help with that. For example, he had some #1 detectives at his side. First up was Irv Wallerstein played by Alex Bruhanski. He was a long-time friend of Tony's, but wasn't on the show for an extended period of time. He was pretty good for what he contributed, though. After that, there was my personal favorite, Paulie Pentangeli, played by John Cygan. And when I say favorite, I mean, yes, I had kind of a crush on this guy. Blame me not. He was awesome. Now he came on in season one, visiting as Tony's best friend from childhood who was also a cop. By the end of that episode, he agreed to come and work for him, leading to about a two year stint, though not consecutively. But, my word, we had some good times with him. During the years when Paulie wasn't there, we had Cyd Madison played by Melinda McGraw. Cyd, by the way, was short for Cydavia, something that is brought up only once,I think, mostly due to her threats of gunfire should anyone ever call her that. I did really like her, though, and I have no idea why she isn't held up as one of the iconic, strong, female characters in television. Because people suck, that's why. Moving on.

Besides the head honcho detectives, we also had a bunch of cool, blue-shirted cops. Why blue shirts? Because red shirts only lead to trouble. Am I right, Star Trek fans? Seriously, though, there were a lot of great cop characters, and I do mean 'characters'. They did a fine job of giving all the guys different personalities that we could all remember. We had Hartley (Peter Outerbridge), the quirky one, Caruso (Nicholas Lea), the hot and hot-headed one, Rose (Pat Bermel), the one who sometimes was a quasi-bad cop, and Papadakis (Evan Tylor), the one whose name we liked to hear over and over again. In addition to them, we had Hibbs(Ian Tracey), McGinley(William McManuc) and Ronnie Lopez(Jason Schombing), who was a bit in the background for the first couple of years, but really started to shine in the last season. And lest we forget our ONE female cop on the show, Carmela, played by Gina Belafonte. Okay, technically, she wasn't the only one. We did have Cyd, and you could occasionally see other female cops in the background. She was just the only one they let talk. I'm not kidding. Also, they kind of made her...I don't want to say unfeminine, but they sure did 'tomboy' her up quite a bit. For real, I do not doubt that she could have beat the crap out of every guy she worked with. Some of them twice, probably. Still, she was extremely likable. Of course, when it came to the blue shirts, one stood head and shoulders above the rest. That was Stan Kelly played by Geoffrey Nauffts. Stan was another one of my favorites, and I think a lot of other people felt that way. He was a really good cop, a bit young, but he did well at his job. The thing is, he could be a bit of, for lack of a better word, a 'woobie'. Like, you really felt the need to take care of him and look out for him, even at his most competent. Perhaps, this is why The Commish took him under his wing the way he did, treating him as a little brother or even a son. Still, Stan was the one we saw the most for a while, and he was well-loved by a lot of the fans. I know. I'm one of them.

Okay, I know I've talked about a lot of characters already, but whilst we are still discussing Tony Scali's work life, I must bring up a few more. For example, we have Lucille (Kimberly Scott), who served as secretary to The Commish.! A lot. And she never took crap from anyone. Good times. Then, there was Freddie (Dave 'Squatch' Ward), the maintenance man, in theory. Yeah, he pretty much sucked at his job, but they never fired him, because, I don't know, comic relief? And also we had D.A. Alex Beebee played by the fantastic Richard Kind, who some of you might remember from Spin City, Curb Your Enthusiasm and tons of voice over work. In fact, he and the aforementioned, John Cygan, were both in Toy Story 3. What a twist! Anyway, he was a character we took seriously, for the most part, but there was a bit of a 'bumbling' aspect to him, if you know what I mean. Still, enjoyable as all heck.

All of those characters were the ones who we saw on a regular to semi-regular basis, but I have to make a point of mentioning how many amazing guest actors showed up in this series. Some you know by name; some you recognize because they are well-known as character actors; some are downright legends. I'll be mentioning several later this week, but, just to name a few now, we had Wendie Malick, Ray Walston, Giovanni Ribisi, Bruce McGill, Gerald McRaney, Danielle Harris, and late, great Academy Award winners, Dr. Haing S. Ngor and Ernest Borgnine. Uh...YEAH, this show was MAGIC!

I understand that a lot of factors went into making this show what it was, but none of it would have been possible without the two men who created it - Stephen Kronish and Stephen J. Cannell. A dream team, if ever there was one. Besides his work on The Commish, Stephen Kronish has been a producer on some other well-known shows, like Wiseguy, Profiler and 24, as well as the quite good miniseries, The Kennedys. He was also a writer on a lot of shows, too. And Stephen J. Cannell has one of the longest resumes I have ever seen in my life. I kid you not. He is responsible for some of the most well-known crime shows of all time, at the very least, being somewhat involved to, at most, being the creator. We can thank him for such gems as The Rockford Files, Hunter, Baretta, The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero. Okay, that last one wasn't exactly a crime show, but whatever. Oh, and do we have any Johnny Depp fans in the house? Well, Mr. Cannell also was a creator of 21 Jump Street. Look, you wanna give Wes Craven credit for introducing Johnny Depp to the world, fine, but I say he honed his craft on this series. In addition to that, Stephen J. Cannell was also a novelist and an occasional actor. In fact, some of you may recognize him as part of the author's poker game on Castle in season one. Sadly, he passed away in 2010, but they kept an empty chair at that poker table for quite awhile in his honor. That was nice. He was great man.

So, this post has gotten quite long. I better wrap things up. Anyway, that is The Commish, and I love it. Yes, love, in the present tense. And every fan of this show knows what I'm talking about. I hope they enjoyed reminiscing with me. And for those of you not so much into The Commish, or those who may never have seen it, I hope this encouraged you to do some DVD renting or even buying. It's all worth it. Plus, if you don't know what went down on the show, my next several posts will probably not be for you. But for the rest of the ... Commish-ionaries (Yeah, I went there!) join me tomorrow, as I reveal my favorite episodes. Spoilers galore!.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Commish , My Week Long Tribute

Greetings Pups,

Time for my first theme week of 2014. Not the last, though. Trust me. And so I have decided to dedicate this week to one of my favorite shows of all time, The Commish. If you have never heard of this fine show, first of all, shame, and second of all, prepare yourself, because you are going to find out. If you have heard of this show and you love it as much as I do, this week truly is for you.

Now I am kind enough to always warn people if I am going to give spoilers about anything, especially things I want them to check out for themselves. So here's the warning - MAJOR SPOILERS! Tomorrow, I will be starting with a lovely little essay of sorts, detailing why I love this show so much. I will discuss the setup of the series, the characters, the actors and all the rest, all spoiler-free, mind you. This way the non-watchers will see why I'm doing this and hopefully, be encouraged to check out the episodes via rental or otherwise. After that, it will be a different story. I'll be giving my Top Ten episodes, followed by reviews of the three television movies that closed out the series. So, yes, most of this week is for the hardcore fans who already know what happens, but whom I will, again hopefully, entertain with my analysis.

Honestly, I just want to use this tiny platform of mine to give credit to a series and a lot of people who I think have never gotten enough. So, if you're not a fan of The Commish, read tomorrow and see if you want to become one. And if you already are, come and celebrate with me all week long.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The One Seasoner's Club - Three Rivers

Greetings Pups,

When I did a One Seasoner's post about My So-Called Life, I pointed out how a lot of people where I lived liked the show, because it took place in our general area. That being the Pittsburgh area. And that's as good as it gets for those of us on the outskirts of the big city. Still, I think most people get a kick out of shows or movies that are set and, at least somewhat, shot close to where they live. My So-Called Life was one of those for me and my "neighbors", and so was the show Three Rivers.

Three Rivers was a medical drama that centered around doctors who did transplants, and every episode was about some crisis involving said transplants or the recipients or the donors and what all the people go through. And that's about it. Nothing wrong with that, on the surface. In fact, they managed to tell a few compelling stories about how this whole process can affect people. That was probably the strongest aspect of the show. However, it seems like there are only so many stories you can tell and things might get overly repetitive. It got to the point where every episode was extremely similar, just with different guest characters. And a show can't last long on that. Not that it didn't have its good parts, like the cast.

The cast of Three Rivers was pretty great. Easily, the biggest name on the show was Alfre Woodard, who I love, of course. Who doesn't? She played Dr. Sophia Jordan, head of surgery, however, she wasn't the star of the show. That honor went to Alex O'Loughlin as Dr. Andy Yablonski. Now he came with something of a built-in fan base from his days as vampire Mick St. John on Moonlight, another One Seasoner that I will cover someday. And a lot of people hoped he would become the breakout star of this show, as well, that could propel it to success. Other familiar faces were Katherine Moennig as Dr. Miranda Fostor and Justina Machado as Pam Acosta. The rest of the cast was filled with relative unknowns, like Daniel Henney and Christopher Hanke, actors who did a good job here, but who I just had never seen before. And that may have been another problem. While everyone in the cast was exceptional at the roles they played, I'm not sure if there were enough big names to attract a large audience. Oh, and about those roles that they played.

Yeah, I had a bit of an issue with the characters here. I wouldn't go so far as to call them unlikable, unless they were supposed to be, but I wouldn't call any of them particularly likable either. By that I mean I couldn't relate to any of them. With me, in order to get attached to a show, I have to get attached to at least one character, usually more, but that just did not happen here. I never honed in on anyone and thought, "Hey, I like that person, and I want to spend time with them every week". That can be a big problem.

Also, though I could get drawn into an episode as I watched, the show, as a whole, could be a little slow. When it got cancelled, that was the issue I heard people mention more than anything. I can see where they were coming from, and what with that and all the competition, it's not so surprising that it only got one season.

So, let's get to the question. Did Three Rivers deserve a second season? Maybe. I watched the show, and I would not flat out say that it was bad, like I have for others. It wasn't bad. It was fairly well-made, and it was certainly well-acted, but sometimes that is not enough. All the issues that made people not watch and caused ultimate cancellation, I understand them. But I think that this was one of those shows that just needed time. Not every show is like Lost, where the pilot is so overwhelmingly exciting and unique that it hooks in a huge audience and is an immediate hit. Some shows need time to find an audience and hit their stride, something that can often happen in a second season. These days, though, no one has the time to give to a show like this, especially when CBS had some shows starting that season that did become hits. So, I say it had potential to become great, but we'll never know.

Like I said, I watched Three Rivers, mostly because of its location and the fact that I was a fan of Alex O'Loughlin. And I enjoyed it a bit. I don't regret having seen the episodes that I did, because it wasn't that bad. And, as of right now, it is on Netflix, so if it sounds interesting or like something you want to check out, it is available. You probably won't watch it more than once, but it is worth at least one go round.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Two Of Us - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Hey, did you ever wonder what went on in an infamous meeting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1976? Well, wonder no longer, because VH1 already told us with their television movie Two of Us.

Back around 2000, VH1 started delving into the world of television movies with a fair amount of success. One of these films was about a meeting that took place in New York between Lennon and McCartney on April 24th, 1976. Now if you are a Pop Culture Fact Geek, like myself, you'll know that as the same day that Lorne Michaels made the infamous and amusingly low offer of $3000 for the Beatles to reunite. This, of course, was on the heels of them being offered hundreds of millions of dollars to do so. That's why it's funny. Oh, wait, this was also back when SNL was just funny without anyone having to tell us why. Moving on. Anyway, as far as plot goes, that is basically it. Paul shows up at John's apartment, and they spend the day together. Doesn't seem like much, right? Well, sometimes less is more, as we all know, and in this case, it was much more.

Two Of Us stars Jared Harris and Aidan Quinn as John and Paul, respectively, and they are pretty much the only people in this thing. No lie, we are with just these two guys for a good 95% of the movie, whether it be in the apartment, in Central Park, in a cafe, we are with John and Paul for the whole day. Because of this, it does almost feel like a stage play at times, particularly the scenes at the Dakota. And it works well, because Jared and Aidan work so well together. I guess I should talk about their performances now.

When I first heard about this movie, I was a bit concerned, like any Beatles fan might be. As much as I love Jared and Aidan, anytime an actor has to play a real person, there is the danger of the performance becoming an impersonation. In my opinion, that did not happen here. These two actors truly embraced the essence of John and Paul, as best as I've ever seen anyone do it. I know there haven't been a ton of people to portray Lennon and McCartney, but these are easily the best. Both actors shine in their own way. Like I would say that Jared was better at capturing John's physical mannerisms, the way he moved and walked and even stood, whilst Aidan pretty much nailed Paul's voice. And they managed to portray how John and Paul were perceived on a personality level, though, a ton of that credit should go to the writer, Mark Stanfield. Still, we see John being his snarky self and Paul rolling his eyes at the behavior, but always with a smile on his face. We get to see two friends, who have been through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, spending the day together, no more, no less, really. So, put this all together, and you get something really fantastic. Oh, and speaking of "highs", yes, they smoke pot together in this thing. Shock.

Now, as you may have guessed, there is a lot of talking in this movie, and you may be wondering of what it consists. Well, frankly, the script is full of what every fan would assume a discussion between Lennon and McCartney in 1976 would have. Talk about the group, their breakup, their families, arguments, inside jokes, and even a little singing. I'm not going to presume that what is said in this film is exactly what was said between these two guys in reality, and neither did VH1, but I can't help but think that some of this stuff was discussed at some point or another. Regardless, it was all done very respectfully, just to make the fans watch and wonder what might have been.

And that about sums it up. Yeah, there isn't much to say about this TV movie, other than what I already did, like the fact that it's really good. I must say, it's amazing how accurate this story felt despite no one knowing what that particular conversation would have been like. And VH1 did not get any info from anyone who would know, not Paul and certainly not John. Still, they must have done something right, since, according to Aidan Quinn, Paul McCartney liked it a lot. Now that's a thumbs up you'd want. Actually, the only true tie to any of The Beatles was the director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who also directed many of their promotional music video and the documentary Let It Be. I think his being there gave it some real legitimacy and history where Beatles things are concerned.

This is just a very well-made, well-written, well-acted, simple, but effective movie. Sometimes that's all you need. Besides love, of course. Now I haven't seen it on TV in years, but you can rent the DVD. If you are a fan of The Beatles, or even just John or Paul, I say give it a watch. It might make you see things differently, but better.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Carrie Gives Me Hope

Greetings Pups,

I certainly enjoy a good round of channel surfing. I enjoy it on my TV, and I also enjoy it on the You Tube. I know that there is a ton of time-wasting crap on both of those things, but you can occasionally come across something that is very much worth the effort to watch. I've actually mentioned some of them on this blog before. Well, today, I'm going to tell you about another one of those things that can be found on You Tube. Well, not so much a thing as a person. A wonderful person named Carrie Hope Fletcher. And I'm going to tell you a little about why I find her so irresistibly charming.

If you go back to the early days of Carrie's channel, you'll see that she began by posting videos of herself covering popular songs, as many people do. These stand out, though, because they're fantastic. She truly has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. She's so good, in fact, that she is currently playing Eponine in a production of Les Miserables. Also, she's adorable, so needless to say, people took notice and subscribed. As time went on, Carrie expanded the content of her videos to cover, well, pretty much everything. She talks about her life, her friends and family, her career, her likes and dislikes, everything. She even goes so far to do some fun sketch episodes and has shared some original songs with us (P.S. Go download "Running Through Rivers" It is gorgeous!). Oh, and she loves books. Yes, she is a major book person, so, of course, she gets major points for that.

But let me get to why I really want to tell you all about this lovely, young woman. I mean, what I mentioned before concerning what she does, those things are good. Great, even. But it all goes deeper than that. Carrie is an amazingly positive person, and she is constantly sharing that with everyone who happens to come across her videos. She's encouraging to the young people, and for those of us who are ever so slightly older than her, she makes us see some hope for the future. She proves that, while there are a boatload of messed up kids out there who are slowly but surely becoming messed up adults, there are a few very uplifting ones in the world as well, who seem to be on a good path. Carrie has made it a point that, no matter what, she always wants to show life from a positive point of view, even through difficult times, because it is the idea of something better being just around the corner that can get us through them. With all the negativity out there, it is just so nice and comforting to see someone spreading this message around. To put it bluntly, Carrie is an expert at brightening up the day for a lot of people.

So the next time you're poking around You Tube, looking for something good to see or listen to, may I strongly suggest that you check out Carrie Hope Fletcher's channel, which is officially named It's Way Past My Bedtime. You may become one of her fans aka a "Hopeful" (and she really appreciates and loves her fans!), or you may not. Though, I cannot imagine WHY you would not! Either way, I can pretty much guarantee that, for those few minutes, she will make you smile. Talk about a valuable contributor to the world.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top Ten Beverly Hills, 90210 Episodes, The Brenda Years

Greetings Pups,

I've made mention of the fact that there are a few shows that can be divided within themselves. Whether it's because of cast changes, venue changes, whatever, some programs have a distinct Part One and Part Two, at least. I've even covered a couple of them here, with Mama's Family and CSI. And now, today, I will discuss another show wherein there is a distinct difference between one set of episodes and those that follow. That show would be Beverly Hills, 90210, the original.

I don't want to put aside all of the great people who were on this show during its decade long run, because there were a lot of talented actors and actresses in the mix. Still, I think we can all agree that, as soon as Brenda left, the show became very different. Not better or worse, just different, and a lot of the fans considered that something of a line drawn in the sand between early 90210 and later 90210.

For those of you who don't know, after the fourth season, Shannen Doherty left the show and her character, Brenda Walsh, was written off. Now, I could get into all the hoopla of what did or did not go on behind the scenes, and why she was no longer on the show, but who cares? Bottom line, I always thought Shannen Doherty was a very good actress, certainly one of the best here. That never changed during her stint. Her character, on the other hand, did have some changes. Long story short, people really started to dislike Brenda Walsh. And with good reason, since whoever was writing this character, started to make her unlikable. Let me stress the fact that I certainly do not blame Shannen for this. Whatever Brenda was doing or saying, Shannen was still acting it out very well. Again, I don't know what she may or may not have been doing in real life at this time, but, remember, she was in her early twenties. If she made some questionable decisions, who cares? We all make mistakes. I really like Shannen Doherty, and she was and still is a fine actress. Moving on.

Whatever your feelings about that whole situation are, we divide up Beverly Hills, 90210 between Brenda's Here seasons and Brenda's Not Here seasons. Today, I'm going to talk about my favorite episodes during the Brenda years. And like with my CSI, the Grissom Years post, not all of these episodes center around Brenda, but she is there, so it counts. Oh, and this is one of those lists that is mostly for the fans, because, spoilers, I guess. Anyway, let's begin.

#10. "A Presumption of Innocence" (Season 3) - Beverly Hills, 90210 was never a show that shied away from tackling touchy topics. In this episode, it deals with a teacher maybe getting too close with a student. I like this one because it's practically a mystery, wherein you truly do not know who to trust. The two characters involved were both new to the show, so we didn't now who to side with. Our regulars weren't helping either, since they were all on opposite sides. Still, it's a pretty gripping episode that, in the end, when secrets are revealed, ends up being heartbreaking.

#9. "Slumber Party" (Season 1) - Ah, yes, the proverbial slumber party episode that every show with teenagers (well, "teenagers") needs to have. Here, our regular cast girls get together to have some fun, but it's ruined by this other friend that Kelly brought. She is super mean and makes them play a game called "Skeletons in the Closet" or something. It's like Truth or Dare without the Dare part. Needless to say, secrets start pouring out and fights are had. Will the girls relationships recover by the end of the episode? Really? You're really asking that? Still a great episode and a good way for us to get to know the characters even better.

#8. "The Next Fifty Years" (Season 2) - This episode was very hyped up because they told us that one of the main cast was going to die. And as soon as I saw the picture in the TV Guide, I knew who it was going to be - Scott Scanlon. Don't remember him? I'm not surprised. Okay, this character was never a main main character, not like your Brandon or Brenda or Dylan. In the first season, he was there as David's best friend, and in the second season, he was there, but barely. It was their way of offing a cast member, but not one that was too popular. However, I commend them for this one. It was extremely emotional, well-acted and beautifully written. They really did capture how it is for young people to go through things like death, something they don't expect to have to deal with until they're older. They're upset, angry and confused about everything. What started off as something that might have been a ratings gimmick ended up being one of their best.

#7. "The Child is Father to the Man" (Season 3) - Okay, so after months on end of us dealing with the whole Brenda/Dylan/Kelly fiasco, I welcomed this emotional mallet to my very existence. This one takes place immediately after the episode which ended with Dylan witnessing his father (played by the wonderful Josh Taylor, by the way) die in a car explosion. And may I say that Luke Perry's acting in those final moments was kind of brilliant. So much so, that it carried over into this episode, just more in depth. This makes the list solely based on Luke's performance. I know some people like to dismiss the quality of a show like Beverly Hills, 90210, but it is moments like these that could prove the critics wrong.

#6. "April is the Cruelest Month" (Season 1) - So, I think I mentioned before that, despite his stardom arising through comedic means, Mathew Perry is actually a fine dramatic actor. And here is where that all began. That's right. We get baby Chandler Bing playing a very rich, but very messed up kid who has, let's say, issues with his father. We find this out, because Brandon is nosy. Hey, he works for the school paper which is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD!! To the kids who work on this particular school paper anyway. Whatever. Matthew Perry was fantastic, and I hope all casting directors will watch this episode and give him a nice part in solid production. Just do it, already.

#5. "Things To Do on a Rainy Day" (Season 2) - In this episode, Donna finds out that her mother is having an affair. How devastating. But who cares?! This is the Color Me Badd episode! That's right, kids. Somewhere between the tail end of the New Kids on the Block and way before the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync, we had...this! Another boy band that had "Fifteen Minutes" written all over them. Now I was never a fan of this particular "musical" act, and I'm not lying about that. I just never saw the appeal. Can't say that about the overwhelming amounts of girls and others screaming for them outside the Bel Age Hotel. Yeah, a lot of crap went down at the Bel Age on this show, just for the record. I'm not trying to undermine the serious subject that they were, otherwise, trying to deal with, but when you put one of the cheesiest groups of the nineties on your show, you earned this one. But it is that cheesetastic-ness that makes this episode one of my favorites.

#4. "Truth and Consequences" (Season 4) - During the later years of Beverly Hills, 90210, they turned into a straight-up soap opera and said 'so long' to being episodic. But even in these earlier shows, we got a few sequences of episodes that could have been classified as two or three parters. In this case, it would be considered the last entry in a three episode arc. So, back story. Brenda wants to be an actress, and she really wants to star in the production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But so does this other girl, Laura, played amazingly by Tracey Middendorf. They audition for the director who is played by some guy who should portray British Dracula, if that is ever needed. I'm not kidding. He was good, but just seemed both charming and menacing all at once. Anyway, there is a little bit of competition between the two girls, and it...escalates. Yeah, that's a way too tame word to use. Anyway, the whole story culminates in this final episode, and it is seriously tense. A few of our regulars are closely involved, like Shannen as Brenda, obviously, but also Ian Ziering as Steve. The two of them and Tracy, as well, do an excellent job.

#3. "Perfect Mom" (Season 1) - When Beverly Hills, 90210 began, I think a lot of people may have thought that it was going to be some generic high school show, filled with all the cliche characters you could ask for. I'd say this is one of the first episodes that showed everyone how they were not going in that direction. From the beginning, we saw Kelly Taylor as this pretty, blonde, vapid, spoiled, bimbo-ish popular Beverly Hills girl. What? She kind of was. And Brenda from Minnesota wanted to be just like her, of course. Turns out, though, that Kelly's perfect life is not so perfect, because of her mom's secret substance abuse problems. Kelly always hid it away, but one night, everyone finds out, and she's crushed. Now, the same way they could have made her character cliche, they also could have done it with this episode's story. But it was actually really well done. Clearly, this is where we knew that, at some point, the people running this show decided that they were not going to have a cast full of stereotypical, one-dimensional characters. Their characters were going to have some depth, and they proved it here. Also, major props to Jennie Garth for a spectacular acting performance.

#2. "My Desperate Valentine" (Season 2) - Here is another end point for an ongoing story line. At the start of season 2, we got a new girl at West Beverly High, Emily Valentine. I think that to the audience, this character was, at best, polarizing, at worst, hated. When she first got there, she pretty much dated her way through our regular cast of guys, within the first episode, mind you. But she settled on Brandon. They dated for a while, they broke up, she went crazy. For real. All the good stalker stuff? Oh, yeah, she did it. Well, all the stuff you could do in the nineties, before even folks in Beverly Hills had caller ID. Apparently. Look, this is episode is pure, over the top entertainment, and I LOVE IT!

#1. "The Time Has Come Today" (Season 4) - So, I was really into the sixties ... in the nineties. We all were. So what would be better than an episode of one of my favorite nineties shows taking place in the sixties? Nothing, that's what! Let me explain. Brenda, home alone and feeling alienated from her friends, discovers an old diary in the window seat written by a teenage girl in the late sixties. She should count her blessings that that's all she found. Remember what happened to poor Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace? Anyway, she starts to read it, as you do, and begins putting herself and her friends in the places of the people in the diary. And we get to witness it all. That's right. Everyone is a hippie, and it might be the best hour of television I've ever witnessed. Actually, I love this episode a lot because I've always had the desire to find someone else's diary or letters or something and read them. Because being able to legally invade a stranger's privacy is the best gift that can be bestowed upon a person. I'm not kidding. Thank you, 90210 and Brenda Walsh, for letting me live vicariously through you.

And there you have it. Look, say what you will about Beverly Hills, 90210, but I think it was a great show. And it certainly deserves more acclaim than it got. Were some years better than others? Sure, but for the most part, it had good acting and writing and stories. What more do you want from a show?

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Words - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

I don't know why this is, but the films in which I think some actors are at their best tend to be ones that not a ton of people have seen. Or worse, they've seen them and don't like them. It could be because my taste is different from that of the masses, or I'm just smarter than everyone. Yeah, I like that second explanation. I kid. Truth is, when I enjoy these kinds of movies, I usually understand why they didn't appeal to everyone. For example, because I'm a writer, I have gravitated a lot toward films about writers. Now, in some cases of those, I can see why people who aren't writers might not be interested. Maybe that's what happened with the movie I will be discussing today, The Words.

The Words is a 2012 film starring Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid and Bradley Cooper, acting NOTHING like his character from The Hangover. Well, no wonder I like this thing so much. Anyway, the plot of this film is not confusing at all if you're watching it, but trying to explain it to someone else may be a bit tricky, mostly because it is a story within a story, and yet another story added in there as well. Some people might call this a deal breaker; I call it a way to challenge the audience a bit. And all that's fine, because it was meant to be seen, not just told about. Still, I will do my best here.

The movie begins with a writer, Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) doing a public reading of his new book. It is called The Words (Hey!), and as he reads, we see the story play out for us. It is all about a man named Rory Jansen(Bradley Cooper). He is an aspiring writer from New York, and he has a girlfriend named Dora(Zoe Saldana). Rory has written a novel and hopes to sell it, but it is constantly rejected by publishers. Still, he refuses to give up on his dreams of being a successful writer and will do anything to become one. He even becomes so desperate as to borrow money from his father, played by J.K. Simmons, in order to sustain himself as he pursues his goal.

Soon after, Rory and Dora get married and head off on their honeymoon in Paris. And, no, I don't know how people who need parental handouts can afford a trip to Paris either, but whatever. We'll call it a plot point, because it kind of is. Whilst in an antique shop, Dora buys Rory an old (duh!) briefcase in which to carry his writing work. When they get home, amid even more book rejections, Rory examines the case until he discovers something inside - a manuscript. He reads it and gets inspired by it. Extremely inspired.

So this new book of Rory's gets published. Not only does it get published, but it becomes overwhelmingly popular. Rory is enjoying this success, of course, until one day who meets an old man in Central Park played by Jeremy Irons in the best performance I've seen from him in years. The old man (yes, that is his character's name) tells Rory the tale of a young man and a young woman and the life they once had together. This story sounds quite familiar to Rory. You see where this going, I imagine. So they talk, and then, the man leaves.

Back in the real world and between the sharing of these parts of the book, Clayton meets a woman named Daniella, played by Olivia Wilde. After the reading, they go back to his place, because...of course, they do. While there, Daniella asks to know how the story in the book ends. Hesitantly, Clayton tells her. And that's where I'm going to stop. Not that there is some huge twist, but there is story and character development that culminates at this point. All the pieces come together, and, though it is a tad predictable, I don't think it's that big of a deal.

Ultimately, The Words ends up being more about the small parts, the moments with characters, that hold the bigger picture together, rather than the story as a whole. Not to say that the story isn't good or engaging. It is. But, like I said, you tend to see where things are going. Fortunately, though, the path on which we are put to get there is built very well. Also, with such a phenomenal cast, which also includes Ben Barnes, John Hannah, Nora Arnezeder and Zeljko Ivanek, you can't go wrong with how it is all brought to the audience.

I personally enjoy this movie an awful lot. Again, though, I am a writer, so I was attracted to a story about a writer. I loved the way that it showed what so many of us go through in regards to so many aspects of our artistic life. It shows the effects of wanting success, getting success, being honest with one's work, and how whether or not a person is truly a writer is not measured by fame or popularity. Now I would understand if others weren't interested, but, if you're a fan of anyone in this movie, I say give it a shot. You might like it; you might not. It's definitely worth a look.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, January 6, 2014

Making Mirrors / Gotye - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

Remember a while back when I made a list of my Dream Songwriting Partners? Well, today, we are going to discuss someone who ranked very high on that prestigious list. That would be Gotye, and his album Making Mirrors.

It almost seemed crazy to me to review an album that I was pretty sure a ton of people already had. Then, I started seeing Gotye pop up on some One Hit Wonder lists. First, no. Second, I hate the term 'One Hit Wonder', mostly because it tends to imply that these artists literally only did one good thing. That may be the case with some of them. And with some of them, I'd barely call their one supposedly good thing...good. But if anyone deserves to not be put into that category, it would be Gotye. Like I said, I'm sure a lot of people own this album, based on the success of the most known song from it, but I bet some people also just got that one song, sadly. So, I'm gonna tell you guys about the rest of this fine collection of music.

Making Mirrors is the third album release from Gotye, but it was the first to have any major success. That was brought on by the runaway hit song, "Somebody That I Used to Know", which featured a singer named Kimbra. It actually ended up being the biggest song of the year, though it was actually the second single from this album. More on that in a moment. It's the one that everyone knows best, so let's talk about it first. Admittedly, I, like most everyone else, heard of Gotye because of this song. It actually took me a couple of listens before I really was able to appreciate how good it is. And it is, very good. Also, different, something quite welcome in this world of 'same old, same old' music. It is a perfect representation for what else we get on the album.

The single that came out before "Somebody That I Used to Know" was called "Eyes Wide Open". It is easily one of the best tracks. The lyrics are visually stimulating, and the music is, again, extremely unique. This is, no doubt, due to some very interesting ways that Gotye makes said music. In the case of this song, he visited something in Australia called the Winton Musical Fence. It is exactly what it sounds like. Just a fence, sitting out there, that you can make music on from all the wires and percussion-y things on it. In a documentary I saw on You Tube, Gotye showed how he went there to get samples and then incorporated them into this song. It gives it such a full sound that is almost industrial, but hearing him play a bit of it on the piano makes it no less moving.

Another stand out song is "Easy Way Out". It seems simpler, in a way, if only because it feels almost like it has the sound of a garage band. A real one. And it is very short, cutting off suddenly as if to say, "Well, there's your easy way out". Very subtly clever. There's also a song called "I Feel Better". Now, whilst I would never call Gotye unoriginal, this track pretty much shouts out, "Hey, guess who I really like? Stevie Wonder!" Yes, it sounds very much inspired by that particular legendary musician. I never mind a songwriter being heavily inspired by another artist. I am myself. In fact, since Gotye is so creative with his work, I let it go even more in this case.

Another good song is "Smoke and Mirrors". It speaks about something called "the impostor syndrome", wherein a person cannot accept any success they have due to believing that they are a fraud. I don't know if he was talking about himself here, but, in the song "Save Me", it is clear that he is speaking about his own bouts with depression. It's something I admire about the music of Gotye, the openness of the things about which he writes. And he can bring you to tears with this, even going so far as to close out the album with a song called "Bronte", which is apparently about the passing of a friend's dog. Seriously, any way you can make people feel, I say go for it.

Now let's talk about my personal favorite song on Making Mirrors, "State of the Art". If you've ever read my album reviews before, you may have noticed that I tend to pick a heartwarming or heartbreaking love song as my favorite. It's just how I am. Well, this is not one of those. I know I've said a lot here about Gotye being very unique, but this one goes far beyond just being unique. I don't really think I've ever heard another song like it. Let's start with what it's about. It's about a 1970's Lowery Cotillion. What's that? Well, it's this old school, organ type thing with a bunch of different sound effects and whatnot. Old timey synthesizer, if you will. It was something his parents bought him, and he had loads of fun just playing around on it, so he wrote a song about how amazing it is. No kidding. That's what the song is about. But what makes this one especially great for me is the music. It's a bit out there, but that is why I love it. This whole thing, lyrics, music, and the fact that Gotye distorts his voice, makes it all seem other-wordly, which I think was the goal. It's just so, for lack of a better word, neat. I do love things like this that make you think, "Okay, where did that come from?" Of course, it is also songs like this that can be polarizing. And I've heard a couple of critics say that they didn't like this song or they didn't get it. Fine. I can see how some people may feel that way, but I don't. Still, speaking of critics...

Okay, for the most part, this album got very positive reviews, well-deserved, and it certainly sold a lot. Of course, there will always be critics and reviewers who won't like something. One of the complaints I've heard from them was that the album is very sample heavy. Alright, I agree. Gotye does use a lot of sampling in his music. Now when any of us think of sampling, we think about it in the way it's been used or overused in the past couple of decades. By that, I mean that a lot of artists will use an old and loved song to somehow almost trick the public into liking their new and untested song. I suppose I can't argue with the fact that it has worked. Well, commercially speaking. The difference here is that Gotye uses very, very obscure music when he samples. I mean, I wouldn't have even known about it had he not said anything. So you know he's not doing it in the way that others have often done. He uses them as building blocks for his own vision. Nothing wrong with that as far as I am concerned.

So, in conclusion, go buy this album. Yes, it is that good. If you liked "Somebody That I Used To Know", you'll probably like all the rest of his work here just as much or better. And while you're at it, check out Gotye's You Tube channel. It's where you can find those documentaries of which I spoke. It truly is amazing to watch a man like that create, and it was one of the reasons why I put him on that Dream Songwriting Partners list of mine. Isn't he just so lucky?

Love ad full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

Greetings Pups,

So it's New Year's Day. Happiness to one and all. Just thought I'd do a quick post to say a few words for this annual turning of the page.

As some of you may have noticed, 2013 was quite a roller coaster ride for me in a lot of ways. At the time that I was going through some difficult things, I, like so many of us do, felt like everything was crashing down around me. Well, it wasn't. The fact that I survived it all proved that. Sure, it wasn't pleasant as I was going through it, but I always say that, if I give up, they win. You guys know about the "theys". You probably have a few of your own. So, I didn't give up, and they didn't win. That means to me that 2013 ended on a good note. Because I said so. And as for 2014...

As I have mentioned, I do not make official resolutions. It's kind of like making a "Not-to-do" list. Why even bother? Still, I am intending to do a lot with my writing, like polishing up all my manuscripts for publication. I should take advantage of the fact that I have a place to do said publishing. And I want to keep improving on this blog, maybe even expanding it to videos and whatnot. So I do have goals for the coming year, like we all do. I hope and pray and work for great things to happen. I even claim these things for my life. All of you should definitely do the same.

Of course, you must remember that no matter how hard you hope and pray and work, that doesn't mean you won't have days that seem difficult. They do happen. It's all about how we choose to react to them. I won't begrudge anyone taking a moment to cry or even scream about it, but I pray that, after that, you can move on and take back your life, putting yourself back on the path you want for yourself. It's worth it. And I know it may seem cliche to say this, but look at those tough times as things to make you stronger. That's what they are, if you let them be that.

So, that's about all. I pray that God will bless you this year and beyond, and I hope to keep entertaining you and encouraging you through this little blog of mine. I am very grateful for the support of everyone who reads it.

Again, God bless you all!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer