Show Me A Hero Episode 1 & 2 Review

From April to late August, HBO has been ensured a monopoly for my attention span. Game of Thrones was mandatory, ritualistic viewing but the letdown of True Detective Season 2 continues to sting. I should be pondering why this premium channel is still cajoling me back on Sundays month after month. However, with the pedigree of The Wire’s David Simon, director Paul Haggis and actor Oscar Isaacs, how could I pass up the six-hour miniseries Show Me A Hero?

Painstakingly nuanced and rich with procedural shop talk, The Wire enraptured the audience with a sweeping panorama of Baltimore’s drug trade from the bottom-feeder addicts to the mayoral office. A beeper is our preliminary signal that we’ve traveled back to the 80’s epoch and a digital distress message of 911 indicates that New York council member Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaacs) is in the eye of a typhoon.

Bruce Springsteen’s music smacks of blue-collar nostalgia and his bootstrap philanthropy is a lyrical companion piece to the low-income struggle (ex. The “Hungry Heart” montage). Two temps gossiping about the main players in district caucus is a masterful tool for introductions to Yonkers politics where left-wing and right-wing are not factors.

I wasn’t enthusiastic about Isaacs after the misogynistic mess that was Sucker Punch, but he is maturing with each role and I believe he was snubbed for A Most Violent Year. Unlike that obdurate businessman, Nick is a bit willowy and sophomoric with his 28 years of age making him an unorthodox candidate for the electoral race. The housing zoning debate is an uproar of dissent and smooth-talkers. My favorite scene is when Nick skittishly sits in silence as the other representatives breath vehement brimstone for their opposition. It’s a filibustering cacophony which resembles most sessions of Parliament where whoever is loudest is deemed the most righteous.

One salient point broached by Michael H. Sussman (Jon Bernthal) is that the NAACP should be more steadfast for the integration of a few hundred housing units but a president says that he isn’t “giving up, [he’s] just tired” from the perpetual squabble. It was a war of attrition and the African-American contingent were beginning to surrender from exhaustion.

Some might rankle that Show Me a Hero is almost too tangible and vérité but those are precisely the assets that it will be beloved for. The street beat of a grassroots campaign would be neglected by other masterminds but David Simon and journalist William F. Zorzi peruse the process for every John Q. Public-pandering fiber. It’s an inspirational sight when Nick sees blocks of hand-made endorsements strewn along the lawns of constituents in Angelo’s district.

The fact that Isaacs is excellent is not a staggering revelation but Jim Belushi channels his working-class appeal entirely into the laissez-faire braggadocio of Angelo Martinelli, the incumbent, six-term mayor. He is the undisputed favorite in the upcoming ballot-casting and it can be ascribed to his gregarious nature (his wink at Nick amidst a meeting could be construed as a backhanded insult or friendly gesture of media rivalry).

The show is bifurcated into two parts for each of its three nights. Episode 2 is already at an electrifying crossroads with the ordinance vote resulting in the city of Yonkers being fined for each week they don’t submit to the judge’s (Bob Balaban) decision. They could be bankrupt within a minuscule frame of time which adds a race-against-the-clock desperation to the proceedings. The controversial complexity is that Balaban is coercing Nick to enact a moral proviso that is beyond reproach. It also punctuates the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement and the inheritance of doom upon being sworn into office.

If the show has a mild spot for improvement, it’s the skid-row scenes in the projects prospects where the disenfranchised must repatriate back to their native land, retire due to diabetes-precipitated blindness or be currency mules during exchanges. It should’ve tautened the focus or added more breadth to these characters because it feels like a rogues-gallery rerun of The Wire.

The same people who were fierce supporters of Nick were also the most rabid detractors of his housing initiative. Show Me A Hero is a stupendously sociological, immaculate dramatization of the executive branch and how the stressful resistance and burden of responsibility can cause ulcers from our leaders (Nick is continuously swigging Maalox for the heartburn of leadership).

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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Podcast August 14 – Man From U.N.C.L.E., 10 Years and The Hateful Eight

It’s not every week we’re this excited about trailers, but it’s also a slow film week. Cory went to theaters to see as much as he could, but only came out seeing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Not to worry though, as you’ll hear from the podcast, Cory liked it quite a bit. He wanted to see Straight Outta Compton as well, but we’ll save that for next week along with American Ultra and the new Hitman film. Tristan didn’t get to theaters (he’ll see U.N.C.L.E. on Monday) but he did watch a film with a plethora of budding young actors – 10 Years, starring Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Oscar Isaac, Ari Graynor, Chris Pratt, Kate Mara and Anthony Mackie. Is it worth a look now that all these actors are huge? Find out in the podcast below, where Cory and Tristan also rain praise down on trailers for the new Tarantino film The Hateful Eight and Bradley Cooper project Adam Jones:

Good Sports August 13th – Bad Boys, Bad Boys

Recently there have been a string of incidents involving drugs, sexual abuse, violence, or other tragic misdemeanors that force professional sports teams to ride a fine line of morality. It seems to me that every week something new crops up, threatening to dismantle the very fabric of the games we love to watch. Here are five players that have recently dominated the news feeds for things they shouldn’t have done:

1) Jarret Stoll

stoll

The New York Rangers surprised the hockey world on Monday by taking a chance in signing on the 2014 LA Kings poster child for misbehaving – Jarret Stoll. In April, Stoll was arrested in Las Vegas apparently in possession of cocaine and ecstasy. In June he pled guilty, and thus begins his rehab, at least in the eyes of the NHL. At a contract of one year, $800,000, the Blueshirts get a fairly decent player at quite a low price. Perhaps he’ll be suitable adequate for the team on their journey towards a Stanley Cup. By that time, the sting of drug abuse and the fallout with the Kings will be far behind him, which is interesting. Stoll’s case is not a huge one, but drugs like these shouldn’t be taken lightly either.

Continue reading Good Sports August 13th – Bad Boys, Bad Boys

True Detective Season 2 Episode 8 Review

The end is nigh for Season 2 and with a 90-minute runtime, this is a feature-length wrap-up. Last week, the tragic ending of Paul was appropriately brash, Ray and Ani consummated their erotic yearnings and Vinci police department has been revealed to be a nest of corruption. Conclusively Paul isn’t a phantasm like Ray at the end of Episode 2. We see him enveloped in a body bag and he is now a bygone player. But the truth is he hasn’t left a vestige on the remainder.

Emotionally raw and naked, Ray has become the sounding board for both Paul and Ani who confessed their darkest pasts to him without much foreplay. For someone as unhinged as Ray, he is the de facto priest of the group. The tapestry overlapping of McAdams’ molestation story was gritty and jittery all at once. It was clever symbolism to show them disrobing physically and figuratively and then redressing after they’ve collectively bared their souls.

It was bittersweet to witness Frank coax Jordan (Kelly Reilly) to disband her marital vows and expatriate to a covert locale despite her stubborn obstinance to remain yoked during this maelstrom of peril. Their schematic to rendezvous in two weeks with a rose in his pocket and a white dress is redolent of classic film noir.

Exit strategies abound but Frank, Ray and Ani are lockstep in their quest for vengeance. When Frank says he has “one more play” that the Russian competitors don’t know about, we anticipated a diabolical Rube Goldberg device of comeuppance for them. Unfortunately, Pizzolatto resorts to Frank jaunting around California manors and a cabin lodging with an arsenal by his side and slinging Antisemitic epithets over the phone.

Instead of a low-key switcheroo, Pizzolatto is uncharacteristically slapdash and highly predictable when Ray and Ani investigate a crew member’s house with the conveniently brandished crow’s head costume and incriminating photo development room. The problem is Pizzolatto has squandered most of the season on dead-end backstories and he neglected the overview of the Agatha Christie mystery at the center.

The indentured sex-slave ring and its victims, the railway blueprints and Paul’s closeted behavior; they’ve all evolved in a bubble of ennui. It’s also become a parlor trick of plagiarism. The exchange of a hard drive and diamonds at an airport is blatantly “influenced” by Midnight Run. By the way, why did the airport retrogress into sordid pyrotechnics? The exodus to Mexico is a melodramatic retread of Breaking Bad. Finally, The Long Good Friday is the forefather to Frank’s fall-from-grace plotline.

The audience for Season 1 loved it for its gravitas from McConaughey and Harrelson, its deontological complexity and its chilling creepiness. The virtues have disappeared because Pizzolatto miscalculated the reasons behind the plaudits. Now, instead of a haunting chase into the catacombs, he panders to the audience (those who are left) with a verboten love story, heroic martyrdom, zero ambiguity (the baby coda with Jordan and Ani) and a shoot-em’-up finale.

Perhaps, I’ve been deluding myself this season by playing devil’s advocate and falsely advocating that Pizzolatto wasn’t a one-trick pony. I’m despondent that Season 2 not only wasn’t tantamount to Season 1 but it straggled behind in belabored subplots, pointless grimness and pedestrian direction. Case in point, the Rob Zombie-esque hallucinations of Frank’s slovenly father and his foes in the desert. By the last pat minute, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t just the worst episode but it was incontrovertibly the most dissatisfying.

Rating: 1.75 out of 5 stars

Podcast August 7 – Fantastic Four, The Gift, Irrational Man, Grosse Pointe Blank and Raising Arizona

Cory and Tristan are back again! This week they met up and caught the new Woody Allen film Irrational Man – was it as irrational as the trailer seemed? Speaking of rational, Cory saw two highly implausible films – The Gift and Fantastic Four. Guess which one ended up being more ridiculous….Tristan viewed a few classics of great 80s stars John Cusack (Grosse Pointe Blank) and Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona). After some long winded discussions on these films and more, they get onto a few news items including Donald Trump and fun with Vin Diesel.

Enjoy, everyone!

Good Sports August 6th – Baseball Trade Deadline

As I imagine most baseball fans are aware, the trade deadline in MLB passed on the final day of July, last Friday. Quite a few players saw their locale change, and sure enough all the rumored pieces were dealt. Here’s my ranking of the five most interesting and important deals of the trade deadline, which is one of the most interesting of all time for me:

1) Toronto Blue Jays All In

Well, the biggest news of the week for me started with the first big trade of the summer season, Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays. It came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, though Rockies fans had all but given up hope of ever seeing their superstar play October baseball in purple pinstripes ever again. For me, this is a bittersweet moment – Troy can finally get some postseason play, while I also enjoy Toronto baseball so it will be doubly nice to see a great player help them reach the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Colorado also sent over LaTroy Hawkins, opting to let him finish his career in a foreign country (it’s actually helped him achieve a neat goal – last night he recorded a save against the Twins – which means he’s saved against all 30 teams). Toronto swapped their own shortstop Jose Reyes to the Rockies, which I don’t find disagreeable. For a few days rumors had him being flipped to another team so the Rockies could gain another prospect or two, but that didn’t come to fruition. In the long run, Colorado saves a ton of money on Reyes in comparison to Tulo, and only has him for another two years as opposed to Tulo’s 5 extra past this season. They also gain prospective pitchers – Jeff Hoffman, Jesus Tinoco and Miguel Castro – who should be ready to play in the big leagues by the end of next season at the latest. So did either team really win this deal? I would have said moments after learning of this that Toronto had a nice advantage with Tulo’s offensive production being an upgrade to Reyes, but they are apparently fairly similar in defensive play, plus a lot of other voices have mentioned Tulo’s penchant for injury and fear of the turf in Rogers Centre. Plus, the Jays lead the league in runs batted in with 557. The Yankees in second place only eclipsed 500 this past weekend, after all the deals were done.

Toronto Blue Jays' Troy Tulowitzki looks at a long fly ball out in the seventh inning of their AL baseball game against the Minnesota Twins in Toronto on Monday, August 4, 2015. The Jays defeated the Twins 3-1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill

Did Toronto really need another bat? Their rotation was floundering and they added Tulo to a lineup with MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, stalwart Jose Bautista and surprise favorite Edwin Encarnacion. So how did the week end? By stealing the prize player from Detroit, David Price, out from under the nose of teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Yankees and Astros. With Price and Tulo, the team is proving that they are ready for a deep run into October and want it this year. It comes with a steep…sacrifice, of course, as they gave up three prospects to Detroit as well – Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt and Daniel Norris, one of the best prospects out there. Wins all around, I’d say. Detroit, after announcing they’re rebooting, certainly took a step in the right direction, as has Colorado. We’ll just have to see if it all worked out in the end for Toronto too.

david-price

Continue reading Good Sports August 6th – Baseball Trade Deadline

Podcast August 2nd – Mission: Impossible, Vacation, Wet Hot American Summer

Quite a bit happened this week, and it was for once in all aspects our blog covers! Cory got out to see the new Vacation film, as well as Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation. Tristan stayed in and watched a documentary on Netflix: The Battered Bastards of Baseball. Cory was able to binge watch prequel series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, and tells us here whether it was worth the wait to see the cast reunite and age two months younger in fifteen years. Several new trailers dropped, good and bad, and we put the spotlight on all of them.

Hope you enjoy this week’s podcast, as summer nears its sweltering denouement.

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