Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Bourne Legacy trailer...

...wherein Jeremy Renner continues his quest to take over the world:

People, this is gonna be GOOD... :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

The middle installment of this all-too-short second series of Sherlock on Masterpiece Mystery saw the twenty-first century incarnation of the world's foremost consulting detective tackle a reimagining of arguably his most famous case -- The Hound of the Baskervilles. Originally published in serial form from 1901-1902, Doyle's original tale is a dark and twisty story of family secrets and murder, the latter inspired by a local legend of a fearsome, other-worldly hound roaming the moors. I must admit I was quite curious as to how Sherlock would adapt this fantastical tale to its 21st-century setting and audience. Anchored by a strong script from the pen of the show's Mycroft, a.k.a. Mark Gatiss, I was not disappointed -- as only this series can, Gattiss' script manages to retain the essence of the original story while at the same time transforming it into a unique and fresh spin for this series' purposes.

To begin our analysis of this episode, here's the summary from the PBS website:

Boredom has set in at 221 Baker Street, with Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Last Enemy, War Horse, The Hobbit) jonesing for a meaty case and — in its absence — a cigarette. Only the arrival of Henry Knight (Russell Tovey, Little Dorrit), terrorized and desperately clinging to sanity, piques the consulting detective's interest. A gigantic hound — part tourist attraction, part conspiracy theory, part demonic moor stalker — is legend around Baskerville, a top-secret military compound where, it's rumored, chemical and biological weapons experiments are conducted on genetically engineered animals. And Henry Knight has just seen the hound's footprints in the very location where it killed his father decades before. Sherlock gleefully sets off to track the demonic hound with John (Martin Freeman, The Office UK, The Hobbit) at his side and Mycroft's access-granting government ID on hand to enter the high-security corridors of Baskerville. But he may have opened doors to a realm where deduction and reason have no place. Written by Sherlock series co-creator Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who), The Hounds of Baskerville offers thrills, chills, laughs, and an unsettling, unprecedented facet of our hero's clinically controlled mind. (One episode; 90 minutes, TV-PG)

The episode opens with images of a terrified young boy crashing through the woods, desperately trying to escape the something (or someone?) viciously attacking his father on the moors. Now a young man, Henry Knight has returned to the scene of his worst nightmare twenty years later at the urging of this therapist, hoping to put his demons to rest -- only to discover he's standing on ground covered with giant, hound-like footprints. Henry is played by Russell Tovey, who I first fell in love with as the lovelorn John Chivery in the 2008 miniseries adaptation of Little Dorrit. Look at his ears, isn't he adorable? *wink* Also, how deliciously ironic is it that Tovey makes his Sherlock debut in an episode centered on a legendary, fearsome hound, when he played a werewolf in Being Human? At any rate, Tovey's character Henry retains the same first name and status as sole male heir of his family, only with significantly more baggage than his counterpart in Doyle's novel. I thought it was an extremely nice touch to change Henry's last name from Baskerville to Knight, a nod to the original character's status as a peer.

At 221B Baker St., Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) is in desperate need of a challenging case or, barring the appearance of the former, a nicotine fix. I ADORED Sherlock's entry, blood-covered and brandishing a harpoon (a nod to the short story "The Adventure of Black Peter"), completely clueless as to how crazy he must've appeared to everyone he encountered. :) This sequence between Sherlock and John (Martin Freeman) puts the focus squarely on the heart of the series -- the wonderfully odd and unexpected friendship that has developed between Sherlock and John. Freeman is just brilliant here, so matter-of-fact because by this point he knows better than to be surprised by anything Sherlock does. And it reminds viewers of Sherlock's penchant for falling back into drug usage (in this case, cigarettes) when no suitable case presents itself with which he can exercise his incredible intellect. Sherlock's manic desire for cigarettes, even going so far as to suggest something "seven percent stronger" when offered tea (a nod to the canonical Holmes' cocaine habit, mentioned in The Sign of Four), is vintage Holmes -- manic, energetic, self-absorbed by the desire for something, anything, "worthy" of his time. The banter between John and Sherlock in this scene is a prime example of just how perfectly suited each actor is to his respective role -- and to a lesser extent I must include Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), as her never-failing cheeriness in the face of Sherlock's "eccentricities" is a mark of just how much these three oddly-matched individuals have become a family of sorts.

Thankfully for John's patience (ha!), Henry arrives at Baker St. seeking Sherlock's help for explaining what happened to his father all those years earlier, and what, exactly, haunts the moors and his dreams to this day. Tovey is just brilliant as Henry -- edgy, haunted, his every word and action is weighted with survivor's guilt and torment. Sherlock's initial interview with Henry is in every respect a vintage "client scene," one of those moments that occur so frequently in the canon where Sherlock makes a series of amazing and spot-on deductions simply by looking at someone. We've been given this to some extent in previous episodes of the series via the text-message style pop-ups that appear on-screen when Sherlock first meets someone -- however, this time Gatiss gives viewers the joy of watching a maniacally intense Sherlock wow one of the lesser mortals he so frequently has the burden of dealing with, as he lays out, piece-by-piece, Henry's journey to Baker St. (Also, how funny was it watching Sherlock insist that Henry smoke, just so he could get all up in his personal space and inhale second-hand?)

Much to Henry's chagrin, Sherlock is at first uninterested in the case until he is struck by Henry's repeated use of the old-fashioned word "hound" to describe the monstrous beast he saw on the moors. No longer the ancestral home of the novel, Baskerville is now a top-secret military testing facility. Henry's father had been one of the "conspiracy theorists" sure the base was involved in animal testing and the like, developing super-beasts which would of course explain his childhood memories surrounding his father's death. Sufficiently hooked, Sherlock at first promises to only send John to Dartmoor -- a nod to the original novel wherein Sherlock is mostly absent for the first half, Watson sending reports to him, unaware that his friend is observing all, hidden away in an isolated house on the moors. Thankfully for Sherlock, Gatiss and Moffat opted to make Sherlock and John more equal partners in this investigation, giving the ultimate rationalist a chance to confront the seemingly impossible.

I loved the scenes of Sherlock and John driving across the moors -- the bleak beauty of the scenery is the perfect moody, atmospheric setting for a tale of an impossible monster. When they arrive at the nearby village inn (a vegan establishment, significance forth-coming), they discover the the legend of the hound has created something of a cottage industry with tours to areas where there have been alleged sightings. One of the innkeepers is a cheery Little John -- I mean some guy named Gary played by Gordon Kennedy, a.k.a. Little John, which just got me to thinking why oh why did Robin Hood have to end the way it did? *sigh* Despite the claims of a local tour guide, Sherlock remains unconvinced that the local legend is real, and after John swipes a suspicious receipt for a large meat delivery from the vegan pub, the two proceed to the Baskerville testing facility.

In one of the episode's most brilliant comic touches, Sherlock impersonates his brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), using a stolen ID card to gain access for John and himself to the top-secret facility -- buying them an estimated twenty minutes, give or take, before the ruse is discovered. I love how John voices a token objection before going along with the plan (of course), even going so far as to "pull rank" when questioned by the officer who greets them, freaking out over the unheard of "surprise inspection." It's a nice reminder of John's military days, a past that seems to have been more frequently mentioned in the stories than it's been given play in this set of films. During their highly illegal tour they meet Dr. Frankland (Clive Mantle), who is WAY too nice for his own good, and Dr. Stapleton (Amelia Bullmore), a highly secretive woman who seems to relish her animal experiements. Now, I was probably biased here, but Bullmore's appearance immediately set me on alert -- not only does her character share the name of the novel's villain, but Bullmore had the distinction of appearing in one of my favorite Inspector Lewis episodes from last season -- the deliciously twisty Wild Justice. Incidentally, I loved how Stapleton's work reminded Sherlock of a query he received through his website -- where a child wrote wanting to know how her pet rabbit disappeared from its locked cage. It's a nice touch that reminds one there's rarely a throwaway reference in these scripts, so tightly do Moffat and Gatiss strive to present their incarnation of Sherlock and his powers.

As predicted, the facility quickly realizes they've experienced a major security breach -- and Mycroft's reaction in London is appropriately, hilariously, droll. The commander of Baskerville, Major Barrymore (Simon Paisley Day), is enraged until Dr. Frankland unexpectedly steps in and vouches for Sherlock and John's story -- allegedly because he's a fan and as a friend of Henry's father, is eager to help the son. Barrymore is a throwback to the novel, as that was the name of the butler -- and as such it is a nice touch to see Baskerville's modern "gatekeeper" share the name of its literary counterpart.

Meanwhile, following an intense session with his therapist Louise Mortimer (Sasha Behar), Henry has remembered two words -- "Liberty" and "In," though he has no idea how they are connected to his father's death. Dr. Mortimer is a nice connection between the novel and this adaptation, as in the novel Mortimer is the family practitioner responsible for bringing the Baskerville family to Holmes's attention, and a sort of self-appointed guardian to the family heir. (Side note: how hilarious is John's reaction to Henry's apparent wealth -- and why can't I live in that house?!) That evening the the three of them make their way to Dewar's Hollow, the site of Knight Sr. death. John gets separated from Sherlock and Henry, and while on his own he notices a series of flashing lights, apparently Morse code, but the letters being transmitted make no sense. (I LOVE how Sherlock has "inspired" John to observe and consider everything as a potential clue!) This "code" is later revealed to be shaking car lights from couples hooking up at a popular romantic spot -- it is a hilarious and cheeky twist on the situation John discovers regarding Barrymore's brother-in-law in the novel, where signal lights are used to get the escaped prisoner supplies. When he hears an unearthly howl he immediately runs toward Sherlock and Henry, just missing the fact that they've seen it, the monster of Henry's dreams, and a sight that has left the unflappable Sherlock shaken to the core.

This is a fascinating deviation from the canon, in that Moffat and Gatiss have chosen to place Sherlock right in the midst of arguably supernatural occurances, forcing him to confront the seemingly impossible with his oh-so-rational mind. This leads to an extraordinarily painful (but brilliantly played) scene between John and Sherlock at the pub. Sherlock is so rattled, so uncharacteristically upset, he rages at John's every attempt to calm him and dismiss what he saw (though he cannot, because being Sherlock he must explain it). It was a well-constructed moment in which to play one of Sherlock's most famous quotes -- "Once you've ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true" (a variation of which appears in several stories, including The Sign of Four). Watson's rejoinder to this bit of philosophizing to is to call Sherlock "Spock," which is just brilliant since Cumberbatch has a role in the upcoming Star Trek film. But I digress. In response to John's concern Sherlock then lets rip the killer line that he has no friends -- and wounded (enraged?) John leaves Sherlock to stew.

This is such a pivotal scene in the development of the Sherlock/John friendship over the course of this series. Does John put up with Sherlock in order to avoid dealing with his own issues? Perhaps, to some degree. But I keep coming back to the moment at the end of "A Study in Pink," when Mycroft muses that knowing John could be the "making" of his younger brother. And this is why I think Freeman's portrayal of John is so achingly brilliant. He's every bit the steadfast friend Watson is in the canon, willing -- happy, even (most of the time, ha!) -- to stay in the shadows while Sherlock hogs the spotlight with his brilliant deductions and his quick wit. But he feels deeply about this friendship in a way that Doyle, I think, only touched on in the stories. No matter how Sherlock may (most of the time, unintentionally) wound him, John seems to know he doesn't mean it, or rather can't help it -- and to realize that while he may never say it, Sherlock needs him as much as he needs Sherlock. These two wounded, messed-up people really are the making of each other -- and the way they complement each other, the depth of that friendship is the heart and soul of the show -- at least for me. :)

The following morning Sherlock is on a roll thanks to the revelation that "hound" is not necessarily a thing but perhaps an acronym. I loved watching him try to apologize to John for his rudeness the night before, because just saying "sorry" would be way too easy (he even makes COFFEE!). His admission that he doesn't have friends, he just has one -- oh, that was brilliant and Cumberbatch's delivery just broke my heart into a thousand pieces. This was of course followed by unbridled hilarity when Sherlock shoots himself in the foot going on about John being a "conductor of light," not a genius but inspiring genius in those like himself. *wink* Oh, Sherlock. The breach temporarily repaired they discover the arrival of Lestrade (Rupert Graves), sent down by Mycroft to keep an eye on Sherlock, but really just ridiculously happy to be there. I love Rupert. :) And the whole thing about Sherlock not knowing Lestrade's first name was Greg? HILARIOUS. The three of them really have this sort of deliciously dysfunctional "three musketeers" vibe going on. John takes advantage of Lestrade's presence to clear up the matter of the vegan pub's meat order. In another nod to the novel, the pub owners had been keeping a dog which they loosed on the moors to feed the legend, similar to how Stapleton in the novel used his own monster of a dog to feed the legend and frighten Sir Henry's predecessor to death. The pub owners claim to have put the dog to sleep for its out-of-control behavior, but Sherlock doesn't buy their explanation, because he definitely saw something, something that can be explained loose on the moors.

After convincing Mycroft he needs access to Baskerville's facility, Sherlock and John return, and John strikes out on his own to investigate labs for signs of animal testing while Sherlock (allegedly) meets with Major Barrymore. John finds himself locked in an abandoned lab, where he hears a growling and gradually becomes increasingly terrified (loved how valiantly John fought the fear impulse, one has to credit his military discipline), to the point that he locks himself in an empty cage until Sherlock arrives to free him. He tells Sherlock he's seen the hound, but Sherlock attempts to calm him by assuring him that they've all been drugged with something that mainifest their fears, i.e. what they've been conditioned to see/expect. It's a nice role-reversal from earlier. And oh, while my rational side "knew" Sherlock "had" to use John as a test subject, given their recent fight, oh how I hated it -- but at least Sherlock gives us the sense during the reveal at the end of the episode that he realized most people would take being made secret test subjects emotionally.

Sherlock then bans all from his presence so he can "go to his mind palace," a mental-mapping memory technique that allows him to sift through everything he knows regarding Henry's key words "Liberty" and "In." Cumberbatch was just brilliant in this sequence. It not only showcases his masterful grasp of the character, but it is a wonderful visual showcase for the series' colorful and visual filming techniques used to bring Sherlock's thought processes to life. This scene results in Sherlock realizing that Henry's key words refer not to things, but to a place -- Liberty, Indiana. He then utilizes Dr. Stapleton's computer access to research the location -- failing that, they go to a higher clearance level -- Barrymore's -- after Sherlock deduces the Major's password. Liberty, IN was the location of the H.O.U.N.D. project, a CIA chemical weapons experiment with a goal of developing an aerosol that would defeat the enemy by disorienting the fear stimulus center of one's brain, triggering violent, over-powering hallucinations. The project was shuttered after the test subjects were driven mad -- but clearly one of the founding scientific minds behind the technology hasn't given up on it -- as identified by Stapleton, the over-eager Dr. Frankland, with his penchant for Americanisms like "cell" instead of "mobile" is the culprit. (Interesting that a female Stapleton is once again key to solving the crime!)

The hound-through-hallucinogenic-gas is just a brilliant method, I think, of updating the original storyline. It retains so much of the story beats and flavor of the original while at the same time becoming something wholly unique to this series' incarnation and vision of Sherlock & Watson. The Holmes of the canon encountered the effects of hallucinogenic gas in the story "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot," which became to my mind one of the creepiest and most memorable episodes of the classic Jeremy Brett television series.

The episode reaches its climax when Dr. Mortimer calls John, frantic over nearly being shot by an out-of-control Henry. He, Sherlock, and Lestrade arrive at the hollow just in time to prevent a hysterical Henry from committing suicide. Now -- I love this conclusion, I adore how it plays out -- but given the limitations of the ninety-minute format, it feels just a tick too convenient, too rushed to be quite perfect. But all told that's a small qualm when one considers the overall quality of the episode. :) Sherlock manages to talk Henry out of suicide, explaining that Dr. Frankland was responsible for his father's death and strove to discredit Henry by driving him slowly insane with the hallucinogenic gas (dosing him up via the pressure-release pads in the hollow every time he visited). Just as Henry seems to calm down, a fearsome hound appears -- a wonderful moment for fans of the original novel. With the gas dosing everyone in the area, the dog looks every bit the monster Doyle created. The dog's appearance is followed by Frankland in a gas mask -- and I loved the touch of Sherlock ripping off the mask, only to reveal the face of Moriarty, not Frankland -- a telling moment for what keeps the great detective up at night, no?

Once Lestrade shoots the dog, it is revealed as completely ordinary -- and Henry is given the mental reprieve to process Frankland's betrayal. It's a painful but rewarding payoff for Henry, as his faith in his father is rewarded -- brilliantly and heart-rendingly played by Tovey. I thought it was an extremely nice touch to have Frankland run off onto the moors, stumbling into the Baskerville minefield -- and meeting his end in much the same way his novel counterpart did (though slightly more *ahem* explosively).

So all's well that end's well outside of Baskerville -- and while I treasure those little moments between Sherlock and John, I really feel the episode could've used a post-reveal scene with Henry, something to assure us that he's getting healthy and moving forward with his life, you know? Instead we cut to a prison, where Mycroft is overseeing the release of Moriarty (Andrew Scott) for a cell where he's covered the walls with graffiti of one word -- Sherlock. It's an ominous promise leading into the final Reichenbach-themed episode of this series.

"The Hounds of Baskerville" is really a brilliant episode, putting a unique update on the classic story, allowing us to see the ultimate rationalist confront and overcome fear -- which for Sherlock I think perhaps stems from a complete loss of control, the fear that logic would fail him. This is hands-down the eeriest, most atmospheric episode of the series to date (the moors never fail in that regard) -- in fact, if it was filmed in black and white I'd think it was  prime example of classic film noir thanks to its brilliant use of light and shadow to foster suspense. It's a fitting bridge looking towards Sherlock's next confrontation with Moriarty, the man this episode reveals to be Sherlock's greatest fear -- perhaps because Moriarity is his complete antithesis, chaos to Sherlock's order.

Les Miserables trailer!!

Oh. My. WORD. The look alone of this film promises to be amazing! (And yes, yes the trailer made me tear up...I predict I will be a blubbering mess while watching this in the theater!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Doctor Who - Google Doodle

Back on May 23rd, the Google doodle was a playable synthesizer celebrating the 78th birthday of its inventor, Dr. Robert Moog...which turns out to be the perfect vehicle for this variation on the Doctor Who theme --

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hyde Park on Hudson trailer

Have any of you heard about this film? I think it looks interesting, particularly since SAM WEST plays the King of England!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grimm 1.22: "Woman in Black"

Grimm's first season finale was a thoroughly enjoying cap to a show that has gotten progressively stronger week-to-week. And while the finale didn't really answer any burning questions (i.e., WHO EXACTLY IS FRIGGIN' RENARD?!), so many of the key pieces sprinkled throughout the season, clues to Nick's role as a Grimm, fell into place in a way that felt completely pitch-perfect and natural, advancing character story arcs in such a way that I cannot wait for the show's return in "late summer" (how exciting is that, late summer instead of "fall"?).

The episode opens with Nick (David Giuntoli) and Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) meeting for coffee (how adorable is THAT?!) to discuss the problem of Hank and his recent Wesen sighting, when he caught a glimpse of Monroe in his Blutbad form. Nick is really worried about Hank (Russell Hornsby), as he's edgy and not sleeping, but he's limited in how much he can help his partner since seriously, who is gonna believe the whole Grimm business?! Unbeknownst to them, a private investigator is tailing their every move, taking photographs as they leave the shop and then calling to report to an unseen employer. Among the PI's things is a newspaper clipping detailing the death of Soledad Marquesa, killed during the "Three Coins in a Fuchsbau" episode -- and also one of the men behind the attack that took the lives of Nick's parents. The employer turns out to be Akira Kimura (Brian Tee), the fourth man Nick recently discovered who also participated in the hit on Nick's parents. Kimura is after the Coins of Zakynthos, and armed with the PI's intelligence that Nick, Hank, Renard, or Monroe were involved in the Marquesa case, and one of them most likely has the coins, he morphs into a Schakal and kills the investigator. After he leaves, a mysterious woman in black (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) enters the abandoned room, finds the mangled body, and then leaves. (So I have to ask, who at this point suspected her identity?)

Meanwhile, Adalind (Claire Coffee) makes a reappearance sans her Hexenbiest powers (side note: I really hope she appears in season two so her role as a Wesen "outcast" can be explored further). Apparently the day of reckoning has come for Nick since he succeeded in making her "normal." After feeding her cat Magick (sp?) milk laced with some sort of potion that turns his eyeballs into freaky black orbs, she takes him to Juliette's (Bitsie Tulloch) office (yay for seeing Juliette at work two weeks in a row!). As Juliette examines the animal, it leaves three deep claw marks on her hand -- and this is where the fairy tale inspiration for this week's episode comes into play. The episode opened with a quote from "Sleeping Beauty," which is BEYOND awesome because it is my all-time favorite fairy tale. I suspect -- hope, rather -- that this inspiration will be revisited in the season two opener. The cat's scratch is obviously the enchanted "hand prick," Adalind's revenge play. But this show being what it is, a twist is all but guaranteed. *wink* More on Juliette in a second...

While investigating the PI's murder, Nick and Hank are pretty taken aback  to say the least when they discover that the investigator was tailing them (as well as Renard and Monroe). Before they can warn Renard (Sasha Roiz), he's arrived at his apartment to discover it ransacked and his poor housekeeper murdered. Kimura gets the drop on him and starts beating the you-know-what out of Renard. This whole sequence of events is packed with pretty much unbearable levels of Renard-hotness, and I'm not gonna lie when Kimura was threatening Renard's perfect face with a gigantic kitchen knife I was getting pretty tense. :P Kimura lets drop the fact that he is looking for the coins, but before he can harm a single hair on Renard's head (thank goodness), Sgt. Wu (Reggie Lee) shows up, shortly followed by Nick and Hank. The mysterious woman in black is also seen loitering outside Renard's building (VERRA interesting, hmm?!). After returning to the station (with Renard in a sweater and khakis, be still my heart the man looks amazing in  casual clothes!), the captain reveals that it was Kimura who was in his apartment, and he's after the coins -- and suddenly more than ever Nick is invested in getting to Kimura first. OF COURSE if he's going to do this he needs Monroe's help -- and despite the possible danger, Monroe is more than willing to help Nick gain a little "Grimm time" with the baddie. 

Back to Juliette -- when Nick returns home it seems like he might be in for a romantic evening until he discovers the deep scratches on Juliette's hand, and then proceeds to have a proper freak-out when he learns the scratches came from Adalind's cat. Juliette of course thinks he's being completely unreasonable and refuses to go a doctor until he explains exactly why he's been so weird (since last October, ha!). With Juliette's life in the balance, Nick decides to take the plunge and explain everything, taking her to Aunt Marie's trailer. This is actually kind of a painful scene. On the one hand, I loved seeing Nick's passion for his work as a Grimm -- he's really and truly getting into this twisty work and all that it entails, and I loved seeing that. But on the other hand, Juliette's heartbreak at what she views as insanity underscores a heartbreaking reality -- the lonely life of a Grimm. Nick is so desperate to let her into this part of his world, so hopeful she'll understand -- and at this point that is completely out of the question. So he takes her to MONROE. :)

Monroe is unbelievably shocked that Nick wants him to transform into his Blutbad form in front of Juliette, especially considering Hank's recent issues with seeing a glimpse of the Wesen world. I loved Monroe's reaction to Nick's sudden request -- he's so unassuming, lol! Just as he transforms, Juliette faints, falling into the "deep sleep" of the Sleeping Beauty legend. Now it just remains to be seen what type of poison Adalind utilized, and how her "spell" will be reversed. After seeing Juliette admitted to the hospital, Nick gets a call from Wu, who'd followed a lead to Kimura's hotel room. The catch is, he didn't find Kimura, but the woman in black, who is a kick-butt martial arts fighter. The working assumption is that she's a dangerous Kimura associate -- but Juliette is Nick's priority now, so he and Monroe head to her office to quarantine Adalind's cat. 

Now this poor cat has either been made evil by Adalind's poison, or it just has an unusually strong reaction to Monroe -- if it's the latter, well Monroe's awkwardness around a cat was hilarious. *wink* They take the cat to the spice shop, where Rosalee (Bree Turner) makes a welcome reappearance (I have a feeling this was written in when it was announced that she is going to be a season two regular -- thank goodness). I love how Rosalee is the go-to person for Wesen drug analysis and medical's like she was going to be a doctor but her career got derailed by her drug issues or something (possible backstory? you can have that one for free, writers -- ha!). Unfortunately for my inquiring mind, this episode doesn't reveal Rosalee's discovery (but how cute are she & Monroe together? I mean seriously, I can hardly stand it!) -- but Juliette is clearly facing some Wesen issues in season two since she wakes up with the same freaky all-black eyes Adalind gave that poor cat. Any theories on what she's been transformed into -- and if it can be reversed??

Poor Hank will be in desperate need of therapy in season two, especially after discovering that Kimura has completely trashed his house. I don't see him carrying the level of tension he exhibited in this scene for very long without some sort of breakdown, so I'm very curious if the writers are going to have him just "come to terms" with his "visions" or if somehow he'll be looped into Nick's Grimm-ish world. (I've gotta admit, the final view of Hank sitting in his trashed living room reminded me of Deliverance or something...or maybe the Hatfields & McCoys? I have that on the brain since I've seen so many previews for the miniseries. :P)

Nick realizes Kimura will be coming to his house next, and when he arrives at his home the place is trashed. He's very conveniently alone, so he gets his Grimm crossbow ready with arrows dipped in a solution designed to subdue Wesens so Grimms can extract information (forgot to mention that is what Monroe & Nick discovered during the earlier trailer research session). It takes a while for Nick to get his game on as his first shot misses, giving Kimura time to transform, and resulting in the biggest, baddest fight of the series. Seriously I had NO idea Nick was capable of this level of awesome. I have to wonder if, when he's really "inspired," if you will, by a Wesen threat, that something comes out in Nick -- some essential Grimm quality that transforms him into an expert in hand-to-hand combat. Just when Nick seems to be getting the upper hand, the woman in black shows up and he starts fighting her, Kimura comes to and nearly offs one of them with Nick's abandoned crossbow, she kills Kimura, and then Nick gets the drop on her -- and the show drops its season finale bomb. SHE'S HIS MOTHER!

At this point I started laughing like crazy because this is the second show I've seen this YEAR that ends with the lead guy's mother coming back from the dead (anyone else watch Hawaii Five-O?). I mean seriously, WHAT ARE THE ODDS??? But I like this -- once Nick gets over the initial shock of his mother letting him think she's been dead for eighteen years, I'm sure she'll prove to be no end of useful getting Nick up to speed on Grimm things. Thoughts on the finale? Personally I cannot WAIT for season two. This show, while not perfect of course, has gotten so much stronger over the past year -- and that's instilled a lot of confidence in me as a fan that the writers and team will deliver an equally thrilling second season. Bring. It. ON. :)

Review: Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer

Cindy Ella
By: Robin Palmer
Publisher: Speak
ISBN: 978-0-14-240392-1

About the book:

Prom fever has infected L.A. -- especially Cindy's two annoying stepsisters and her overly Botoxed stepmother. Cindy seems to be the only one immune to it all. But her anti-prom letter in the school newspaper does more to turn Cindy into Queen of the Freaks than to close the gap between the popular kids and the rest of the students. Everyone thinks she's committed social suicide, except for her two best friends -- the yoga goddess India and John Hughes-worshipping Malcolm -- and shockingly, the most popular senior at Castle Heights High and Cindy's crush, Adam Silver. But with a little bit of help from an unexpected source -- and the perfect pair of shoes -- Cindy realizes that she still has a chance at a happily ever after.


For most of her life, Cindy Ella Gold has managed to remain relatively invisible -- no small feat considering her name's unfortunate resemblance to a certain famous fairy tale princess. But all of that changes when the fifteen-year-old sophomore sends a letter to the editor of the Castle Heights High school newspaper, calling out the upcoming prom as superficial social construct designed to separate the haves (the popular kids) from the have nots (the unpopular kids). Cindy little realized the firestorm her letter would start, positioning her as a social pariah at her elite school, all but guaranteeing that her long-time crush, Adam Silver -- the "prince" of the school's social system -- would never look at her once, much less twice. But following the publication of her letter, Cindy finds herself torn between not one, not two, but three potential love interests. With the help of her best friends -- the peace-loving, yoga-obsessed India and the fashion-conscious Malcolm -- and an unexpected fairy godmother stand-in, Cindy learns the real magic that might help her win the boy of her dreams lies in just being true to her own unique, quirky self.

I have a life-long love affair with fairy tales, and the "fractured" type holds an endless appeal since I love seeing an author put a fresh and unique spin on a classic. I was thrilled to discover Robin Palmer's modernized reimaginings of fairy tales, beginning with Cindy Ella, very loosely based the Cinderella story. Like her fairy tale counterpart, Cindy Ella is the "outcast" in her blended family, but in a refreshing twist her home life, while not ideal, is free of the maliciousness that shades the traditional stepmother and stepsisters' actions. While Cindy's stepsisters, a.k.a. the Clones, Ashley and Britney certainly feel that Cindy's lack fashion sense and popularity reflect poorly on them, they are strictly comic characters and who don't go out of their way to sabotage Cindy's tenuous high school standing. And her stepmother Clarissa's penchant for relating everything to Lifetime movie plots is hilarious (particularly when one considers that Palmer once developed scripts for the network). While they may not understand her, it's refreshing to see a Cinderella's family situation that isn't riddled with complete soul-crushing dysfunction.

For a character who spends much of the novel bemoaning her peers' obsession with material things, Cindy can be equally flighty when it comes to her love interests. But that is part of the fun of this frothy confection of a novel. Much like the 2004 film A Cinderella Story (with which this novel shares more than a passing resemblance, particularly in the IM-relationship respect), Palmer's first foray into fairy-tale inspired fiction is a frothy slice of dreamy escapism. While Cindy grapples with her image and sense of self, her dialogue and thought-processes, occasional as flighty as the her stepsisters, are quite genuine for a teenage voice. And the payoff for remaining true to herself and her ideals (following a glittering makeover by her gay fashion-savvy SAT tutor), though arguably predictable, is a wish-fulfillment at its finest, a sweetly realized dream come true that revels in Cindy's individuality (and seriously, any guy who puts up with an infant younger-brother tag-along on the first date is a PRINCE). Cindy Ella is a light-weight slice of escapism for the fairy tale aficionado, and shows Palmer's promise for updating fairy tales in fun, unique, and modern settings. I'll definitely check out more of her work!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Grimm 1.21: "Bigfeet"

The penultimate episode of Grimm's first season is a largely Monroe-centric outing, highlighting the unavoidable reality that Nick's Grimm life is literally exploding at the seams, becoming harder and harder to contain from those closest to him not "gifted" with his unique sight. This episode opens with a documentary style setup, where a group of Bigfoot hunters/enthusiasts are in the woods following a lead on a sighting. When one lets loose with a "Bigfoot call," the forest explodes in violence as the group is viciously attacked by something or someone. Cut to local rancher who discovers something is attacking his horses. He scares it off with a shotgun blast and then calls Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) in to tend to a horse with bizarre bite marks on its neck (also, horse is eerily calm all things considered -- ha!). But YAY for finally getting a chance to see Juliette DO HER JOB! Juliette and the rancher follow a trail of huge footprints and blood spatters into the woods where they discover the violently dismembered remains of the filmmakers. Visibly shaken she calls Nick (David Giuntoli), who shortly thereafter arrives with Hank (Russell Hornsby) to investigate. The wounds suggest an animal attack, but the human footprints suggest otherwise. The appearance of the lone survivor of the attack sets the record straight -- she hysterically claims Bigfoot is to blame.

Back at the station, the recorded footage from the Bigfoot hunters is retrieved, revealing glimpses of the attacker who appears to be wearing flannel. Renard (Sasha Roiz) is of course eager to keep potential Bigfoot murders out of the news (love how he is so matter-of-fact about everything). When Nick shares the video findings with Juliette, she's positive that a human couldn't have attacked those horses -- sort of  plays into the whole idea about how those who aren't Grimms or Wesen will figure out ways to deny the evidence of the fantastical, even when it is staring them right in the face, no?

Cut to Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), who apparently fell asleep reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which makes me love him even MORE (who knew that was possible?), who wakes up when the Wesen-gone-wild shows up at his house. The guy full of crazy turns out to be Larry, a friend from Monroe's Wesen support group, whose Wesen identity is that of a Wildermann, i.e. Bigfoot (the catch being they are normally friendly, even-tempered loners). Larry's injuries leave him passed out on the couch, but even more troubling is the fact that he cannot fully transform back into his human state. So this raises an interesting dilemma for Nick when Monroe calls him over to help -- clearly Larry has done something horrible, but he can't arrest him in his current condition. And then there's Monroe's assistance that Larry's behavior is COMPLETELY outside the norm for a Wildermann. Talk about being caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, yeesh! When the search dogs arrive, Monroe quickly decides to don Larry's shirt and transform into a Blutbad, leading them off the scent. Monroe freaking out the poor dogs is all kinds of funny, but things go south when Hank arrives on the scene a bit sooner than expected, and catches a glimpse of Monroe in wolf-form. YIKES.

The news that Hank has seen a Wesen completely freaks Nick out, because unless Hank chalks it up to allergy-eyes or something he is going to need a TON of therapy. :P But before he and Monroe can worry too much about that hot mess, Larry wakes up, pleading with the two of them to help him and get "it" out, apologizing for his actions. Larry is so distraught, so desperate he claws the back of his neck open, yanking out a drug-delivery device. He then promptly DIES IN MONROE'S kitchen, which I'm pretty sure is gonna put him off cooking (at least it would me, just sayin'!). In order to protect Monroe's involvement, he & Nick plant Larry's now-human form in the woods for the police to find, along with the device so it can be investigated officially. Monroe's reaction to his friend's violent end is terribly wrenching to see, especially since Larry had seemed so happy with the progress he'd been making with a Wesen psychiatrist. (His eulogy about everything having an ending, except a sausage which has two was pretty priceless!) 

When I initially watched this episode, I assumed that the writers chose to explore the Bigfoot legends as a natural extension of the Wesen mythology rather than pulling from a particular story. But yours truly of little faith in the writers was proven wrong (SHOCKER! *wink*) when I discovered that the show also pulled from the Grimm story "Hans the Hedgehog." Basically the story concerns a young man who is half human, half hedgehog, easily relatable to Larry in this episode (and pretty freaky to imagine at any rate). The Hans story takes a disturbing turn when he rescues a king who promises him his daughter, tries to renege on said promise, and then Hans goes crazy and kidnaps daughter, returning her bleeding from spike wounds (SYMBOLISM ANYONE?). At least in Larry's case it is revealed that his violent state was a result of "Wesen suppression drugs" and not the the fact that he was pitching a fit, no? Apparently everything ends well for Hans as he can magically (all of a sudden and MOST conveniently) remove his hedgehog half on his official wedding night, and apparently all is forgiven, but poor Larry does not have such luck.

So with Larry's body the police are sure the case is closed, but of course NICK KNOWS BETTER so he goes to visit Larry's psychiatrist, Dr. Brinkerhoff (Roger Bart). First thing, a psychiatrist on a TV show like this named "Brinkerhoff" just sounds shady, and that's not even considering his freakish, creepily calm demeanor. The doctor admits to working on Larry's "impulse control" issues, but doesn't own to any drug therapy. It's fascinating to note that this late in the season the show is choosing to address the idea of Wesen dual-natures in such depth. Brinkerhoff leads the camp that would espouse denial of self, suppressing an essential and natural part of one's nature as the way to happiness -- even going so far as to suggest that Nick needs therapy to deal with his "Grimm side." I love seeing how Nick is, at this juncture, finally at a place where he's accepted his Grimm abilities, as Brinkerhoff's methods are a tragic example of going to extreme lengths to deny oneself -- instead of facing the issue head-on, denying it, suppressing it, only leads to explosive (literally) carnage.

When a second Bigfoot style attack occurs, and the perpetrator is killed, he's revealed to be a family man and lawyer with no violent history, but the same drug pump Larry had implanted in the back of his neck. Meanwhile, Juliette is testing hair samples she took from the scene of the first attack, where she's discovered that the DNA points to a "para-human" -- a human/animal hybrid -- but of course, that isn't possible, right? (Poor Jules...) The second attacker/drug victim was also a former member of Monroe's old therapy group, and a third recently committed suicide -- so my favorite Blutbad takes it upon himself to start asking questions about why his friends were pursuing "therapy" with Brinkerhoff (real question: why did no one else try Monroe's vegan/pilates method? I mean seriously...) Just when Nick learns that the drug pumps were shipped to Brinkerhoff (he ordered FOUR), we see that Monroe is visiting Brinkerhoff's office -- and the doctor is about to pull a Jekyll/Hyde since he is testing the drug suppression regimen on himself. Can I just stop for a second and say I LOVE LOVE LOVE Monroe's proactive investigating? The guy should give up on clock repair and look into becoming a licensed private eye, so his work with Nick can be official (when Nick and Hank arrive after Brinkerhoff transforms and runs off to wreak havoc on downtown Portland, one of the episodes funniest moments is Hank's comment of "what's he doing here?!" -- referring, of course, to Monroe...if only you knew Hank, if only you knew...ha!).

The Brinkerhoff chase was I think one of the show's more entertaining, as it culminated in a standoff in the rigging of a theater that reminded me of The Phantom of the Opera and King Kong by turns. Before getting shot and falling to his death, Brinkerhoff reveals that he meant well -- like that counts in the wake of this ep's body count! -- but a patient's true nature could not be controlled, and the effort was more disastrous (clearly) than the dual-life thing they had going on before. I think this type of tension in the Wesen community adds some interesting tension to the show, and it is a subject I hope they revisit in Season 2. Anyways, this whole manhunt mess ends with Brinkerhoff's death and Hank seeing his second Wesen in something like a week. His shell-shocked look does not bode well! The episode closes with Nick and Juliette watching a recap of the story on the news, where Brinkerhoff's appearance has been spun as a mask. Given the DNA evidence she's been studying, Juliette is riddled with doubt -- and in a really well-played moment she turns to Nick and shares her thoughts -- what if the stories aren't really stories? what if they're real? I love the fact that Juliette is 100% sincere in this question -- leaving Nick at a crossroads.

In some respects this episode felt like filler leading up to the season finale, but having seen it twice now I think it's a very solid outing for the show and I like the fact that it touches on the whole dual-identity theme and the problems that come with that in the Wesen world. AND the fact that it is very Monroe-centric doesn't hurt either. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

White Collar

White Collar Season 4 promo photos by Nigel Parry. I LOVE THESE. This show can't return soon enough...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Skyfall teaser trailer

I think it is safe to say this has pretty much made my day, possibly my week. :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (Avenue of Dreams #1)
By: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2038-4

About the book:

She has a secret to keep. But will she give her heart away?

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work and squeeze herself into the mold of the well-dressed wife who spends most of her time and money redecorating.

When she meets Will, an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Get swept away into the lavish world of Chicago's high society as Oliva Newport brings to life an age of glitz and grandeur, stark social contrasts, and one woman who dares to cross class lines for what she believes.


Chicago on the cusp of the 1893 World's Fair opening is a city brimming with excitement and possibility. Lucy Banning, one of Chicago society's most privileged daughters, finds herself in the center of this social whirlwind, torn between familial expectations and the alluring promise of furthering her education and the chance to use her social position to make a difference. Acquiescing to the family pressure to marry long-time childhood friend Daniel, a banker with a promising career, Lucy agrees to the engagement but postpones definitive wedding plans, secretly attending a class at the newly-opened University of Chicago and working at a local orphanage, the former a secret she's desperate to keep as higher education is viewed as a wholly unacceptable occupation for a well-born lady destined for a society marriage. After meeting a poor but promising young architect, and developing a most unconventional friendship with Charlotte, a new maid in the family household, Lucy realizes she can no longer even maintain the pretense of wanting the future society and her parents expect her to crave. But flying in the face of convention brings unexpected risks to her doorstep -- risks that could threaten her dreams and everyone she holds dear.

Newport's first novel in the Avenue of Dreams series paints a glittering, mutli-faceted portrait of Gilded Age Chicago, an era of stark social contrast and economic and social change. The history during which Lucy's story is set is the novel's strongest asset. The fictional Banning family's neighbors are among the brightest and wealthiest of the time, from business entrepreneurs such as department store magnate Marshall Field to inventors such as George Pullman, whose sleeping car revolutionized rail travel. In sharp contrast to the wealthy and privileged atmosphere in which Lucy was raised are the underprivileged children at the orphanage where Lucy volunteers and the closely-guarded secrets members of the Banning family staff such as Charlotte hold close. The set-up plays perfectly into the enduring popularity of shows like Upstairs Downstairs (Charlotte's story is markedly reminiscent of two season one episodes) and Downton Abbey, playing into the public's timeless fascination with exploring the historically sharp divide between the "haves" and the "have nots."

Unfortunately, despite the promising setup and rich historical background, Lucy's story falls short of its initial promise. The novel clocks in just shy of three-hundred pages -- and while something can be said for brevity, in this case the apparent determination to deliver a fast-paced novel results in multiple plot holes and awkward transitions between scenes and time jumps. One example involves a much talked-of outing to an art exhibit relating to Lucy's university course -- the planning, the secrecy goes on for roughly the first hundred pages -- only to have the experience relegated to a brief recap after the action occurs. Pivotal, allegedly life-changing conversations are rarely, if ever, seen on the page, only joined or recapped following the tensest moments "off-screen." Moments such as these build up the tension in the narrative, promising a critical scene or conversation that is rarely, if ever, delivered, leaving the storyline disjointed.

There's also the issue of character development as regards the titular heroine. While Lucy possesses an admirable desire to test social boundaries and a worthy heart for those less fortunate than herself, the means by which she seeks to accomplish otherwise worthy aims are less than admirable. The level of secrecy and falsehoods she engages in as regards her educational endeavors in particular seem especially excessive, the reaction out of step in comparison with parents who prove, in the end, to be amenable to change when confronted with the truth. There's also the issue of a complete lack of romantic tension regarding Lucy's budding relationship with Will, the architect. Their "romance" is poorly developed with no real tension or development -- it's a foregone conclusion from the moment they first meet, despite Lucy's engagement at the time. Charlotte, the new maid, is a better-realized character, her past shrouded in secrecy and her attitude and response to circumstances seem in particular in-step with the times. I did enjoy the growth of Charlotte and Lucy's cross-class friendship, and I'm sufficiently invested in Charlotte's story to look forward to Newport's second Charlotte-centric Avenue novel, due to release in January.

With a setting replete with fascinating history and tapping into the public's fascination with stories exploring the lives of the extraordinarily wealthy and those who made a living as their servants, Newport's first Chicago-set novel contains a wealth of possibilities but falls short of delivering on its promise. With greater plot development and more polished characterizations, the Avenue of Dreams series possesses real potential as a compelling American-esque glimpse into a glittering world lost to history.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grimm 1.20: "Happily Ever Aftermath"

For the first time since episode seven, Grimm tackles one of the well-known princess fairy tales (Cinderella) with tremendously successful results. Now I've loved Grimm from the start, but I have a special affinity for the princess stories since I adored them as a child, and seriously -- is there anything better than a twisty send-up of the iconic happily every after embodied by a story of a girl finding her prince? I think not (ha!). :) This episode also delves further into Nick's backstory and investigation into his parents' deaths, an ever-present burden brought to the fore by his encounter with the Shakals (jackals) who arranged the "accident" that left him in Aunt Marie's care as a child.

The hour opens when Arthur (David Clayton Rogers - is it just me, or could he be Nick's brother?), a handsome and prosperous businessman, discovers that he's fallen victim to a well-executed Ponzi scheme that has completely wiped out his fortune. In a panic he calls Spencer (Tom Wright), his wife's godfather (who is suspiciously reminiscent of a Sydney Glass in Once, no?) for advice. Spencer quickly surmises that Arthur is more worried about telling his wife, Lucinda (Amanda Schull), about their reversal of fortunes than the actual loss of money/prestige. Spencer encourages Arthur to ask his stepmother-in-law for money, a step Arthur is loathe to take since apparently there's a bad history there. But when he sees Lucinda return home, deliriously happy from an incredible shopping spree, he realizes he has no choice. You know how people seem a little too sweet, a little too perfectly happy? Yeah, that's Lucinda. :P Arthur and Spencer approach Lucinda's stepmother Mavis (Patricia Hunter) for money -- and in keeping with what we're conditioned to expect from Cinderella's "wicked" stepmother, she flatly refuses. Mavis is a pitch-perfect modern representation of the "evil" stepmother of legend -- a cool, cutthroat businesswoman, when she's first introduced it is implied that she took advantage of her husband's death to cut Lucinda out of the family fortunes. The set-up is so suggestive of the story, when Mavis is shortly killed by a disgusting batlike creature in an apparent home invasion, it seems like vigilante justice -- the only question is who took up this "helpless" Cinderella's cause -- right? Think again. :) (Side note: LOVED the way the attack was filmed, the whole sequence had a very intense, film noir-ish vibe -- and oh goodness, what a way to go with the blown out eyeballs. Ick!)

Cut across town, and Nick (David Giuntoli) is in the throes of a nightmare about his face-off when the men who killed his parents. When Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) wakes him, he only admits part of the issue -- one never gets over a violent loss, but he withholds the information he recently uncovered about who exactly was behind the "accident." Nick, Juliette is awesome, just tell her everything -- she's a smart woman, she'll find out sooner or later! *sigh* Proving my thesis that Juliette is AWESOME, she suggests contacting the lead investigator in an effort to gain some closure for Nick -- and makes the call herself the next morning (I LOVE THIS COUPLE). The officer in question makes good on his promise to contact Nick, telling him that the case was classified as an unsolved homicide, and four men were involved, though nothing could be proved -- three of the men are already dead (the Shakals involved in the coin heist), leaving a fourth to be reckoned with -- Akira Kimura. THE PLOT THICKENS!

When Nick and Hank (Russell Hornsby) arrive at Mavis's home, they're puzzled by the broken glass literally EVERYWHERE and the victim's phsyical "implosion." Tiffany (Orianna Herrman) and Taylor (Niene Pugliano) immediately cast suspicion on Arthur and Spencer, since they know their mother just turned down the pair's request for financial assistance. Again, since we're conditioned to think poorly of CInderella's stepsisters, the scripting for this episode plays into that time-honored stereotype -- sure, Mavis died a horrible death, but in the context of the fairy tale framework we're conditioned to view the step-family as a collection of horrible, abusive people. When Nick and Hank follow-up on the sisters' tip, Arthur is panicked, Lucinda is apparently grief-stricken, and Spencer loses his cool and transforms into a batlike Wesen, identical to the one who killed Mavis, catapaulting him to the top of the suspect list.

During questioning the Arthur/Lucinda backstory is revealed, and all the pieces of the seemingly idyllic Cinderella story are in place -- meeting at a ball, first dancing with the less-favorable stepsisters, Arthur was immediately smitten and it's been his mission in life ever since to keep Lucinda happy (he seems particularly brain-washed here, no?). Spencer, the (fairy) godfather figure, has made it his mission to look after Lucinda ever since her father's death and her stepmother subsequently cutting her out of the family fortune. Revenge AND monetary motives? Check and check. Spencer initially seems like the most likely culprit, until the deceptively vapid Lucinda insists on visiting her childhood home and paying her respects to her stepsisters. I loved how Lucinda's meeting with Tiffany plays out -- it quickly becomes apparent that Lucinda's condolences cannot bridge a chasm of loathing years in the making. When the sweet and pretty Lucinda suddenly morphs into another batlike creature, emitting the shrill, piercing noise that blows out Tiffany's head, Cinderella the victim has become Cinderella the out-of-control perp, her beauty masking a horrific secret. This, my friends, is just one of the many reasons I love this show, because how it transforms the victimizers of the traditional story into the ones who need protection is deliciously realized.

Nick and Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) meet at the trailer to research this latest case, since conventional weapons would be useless or quickly overpowered since this creature kills via sound waves. After finding a drawing of the batlike creature, Monroe explains that Spencer is a Murcielago, which is basically a "bat out of hell" (fitting since my initial response to Lucinda's transformation was that she's "bat-sh** crazy" -- couldn't help myself, sorry! LOL!). *wink* This brings up an interesting dilemma for Nick -- how to merge his work as a police officer with his Grimm identity -- because the latter's crime-fighting methods would certainly be viewed as unorthodox by his coworkers (well, Renard excepted! ha!). The only weapon capable of incapaciting the bats is a crank-style device that emits a sound that leaves Murcielagos temporarily stunned. Seeing as Monroe's Wesen alter-ego is a wolf, with particularly sensitive hearing, he's also affected, but I love how gamely he works through it, because DANGIT HE HAS TO HELP HIS BFF! (Also, how hilarious was his question about whether or not Nick had the trailer insured? Like that would go over well!) 

Now Nick is prepared to faceoff against Spencer, who he finds standing by Tiffany's body (apparently in the Portland version of Cinderella, the godfather gig mostly means taking the rap when one's charges commit felonies). While Nick and Hank question him, he lets some very telling comments drop about his Wesen capabilities IN FRONT OF HANK, which is all kinds of awkward for Nick and just leave Hank thinking they're questioning a loon. This is where the script adds some layers to the Cinderella/stepfamily dynamic -- instead of merely reversing the traditional roles, there are suggestions that Lucinda was unfairly marginalized after her father's death, and that her position as her father's favorite likewise marginalized her would-be sisters -- it's a tangled web, implying that no one in the family was without culpability in adding to the toxic stew of emotional abuse that culminating in Lucinda's murderous spree.

So, wrapping things up here...Spencer tips off Nick that Lucinda is the culprit, and the remaining sister will be her next target. He promptly escapes custody in an attempt to stop her, while Nick and Hank rush to Taylor's house -- but they're too late as Lucinda has already entered the premises. Taylor's terror is palpable and the whole scene leading up to Nick's final confrontation with the bat is among the show's best thus far -- I thought it had something of a cinematic quality. Nick has called Monroe to bring the sonic weapon (I hope he's given Monroe copies of the trailer keys by now!), and when Lucinda makes a break for it he moves to head her off and sends Hank in another direction (if only Hank knew what Nick was saving him from, ha!). The weapon forces Lucinda into the open, but Spencer finds her first and "helps" her to her death (clearly therapy wasn't going to be an option). Of course one good bat shriek isn't enough to take Lucinda out, as she kills Spencer too -- and then Nick and Monroe are left with the problem of explaining THAT HOT MESS to Hank. The look on both their faces was just priceless -- horror at the crime scene, and then puzzlement -- i.e., how the heck are we going to get out of explaining THIS one?

To cover the Wesen fingerprints ALL over this mess, Nick makes the call to turn in the Grimm sonic device as the murder weapon. Show of hands, who thought Renard's (Sasha Roiz) rather puzzled response was absolutely hilarious? *wink* For my money this easily ranks as one of the season's best standalone episodes, with the added "bonus" of a choice development on the Nick-investigating-his-past front. Side note: I love the growth in Nick and Monroe's friendship, and the unorthodox nature of their working partnership, but how the heck does Monroe support himself? He can drop everything whenever and whereever Nick calls, and really is the clock-repair gig that lucrative? He seems to have no routine outside of Pilates and cello-playing and that bothers me. LOL!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Grimm 1.19: "Leave It to Beavers"

Following the introduction of the "Wesen resistance" in the previous episode, this installment of Grimm opens with Nick finally (FINALLY!) putting in some training time as a Grimm (instead of, you know, just winging it with his police officer skills). Nick (David Giuntoli) takes several menacing weapons from the stash in Aunt Marie's closet (just typing that cracks me up) into the woods to meet Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) for an informal training session. Two things: 1) how much fun is it to see Monroe geeking out over the whole experience? Loved how he takes it so seriously he ambushes Nick in wolf form. And 2) on a slightly more serious note, I thought Giuntoli played Nick's whole attitude towards the experience rather well. It was a nice balance of "I can't believe I'm doing this, this is ridiculous!" balanced with a growing acceptance of his position (and everything that implies) in the Wesen world as a Grimm. The fact that he's so unexpectedly adept with weapons like the crossbow seems to hint that in accepting his calling/identity as a Grimm that opens the door to a flood of hereditary (?) and previously unimagined talents.

Cut to a construction site, where a business owner (who just happens to be a familiar beaver-like creature known as an Eisbiber) owes protection money to a hood named Sal (David Zayas), who is clearly a wannabe member of the mafia, also known as a troll (if the shoe fits...ha!). Very uncharacteristically for beavers, the business owner refuses to pay, and Sal the troll kills him by drowning him rather horrifically in a vat of wet cement. The attack is witnessed by a construction worker named Arnold who also happens to be an Eisbiber. He calls 911 and then makes for the hills, figuratively speaking, since Eisbibers (not sure about the plural) don't have a great history of bravery. When Nick and Hank (Russell Hornsby) arrive the next morning to investigate the mob-like hit, they discover the victim had a meeting scheduled with an "S.B." in his calendar appointments. They also get more info about the anonymous 911 caller, and identify him as Arnold -- but when they arrive at his home, they discover he's not home (unsurprising considering he witnessed a MOB HIT). When looking at photos, Nick realizes he knows some of Arnold's friends, among them Bud (Danny Bruno) the refrigerator repairman first introduced in "Danse Macabre."

Now, while I'm not all that crazy about beavers per se, I LOVE the fact that this show has been building its world through little recurring glimpses of supporting players like Bud. It helps flesh out the fantastical world of the show, building a sense of community, reminding viewers that the Wesen world is much bigger than Nick's regular interactions with Monroe. Also, how brilliant is it having beaver creatures gravitate towards construction work in the regular, human world? I love little touches like that.

The murder investigation leads Nick and Hank to Sal, who happens to be a member of the local planning commission. Sal's Wesen identity is that of a Hasslich, which are trolls with a predisposition for violence and an affinity for bridges where they collect tolls/protection money (interesting that the bridge in Once Upon a Time is named "Troll Bridge"). After Nick leaves Sal's office, the latter decides he wants Nick eliminated ASAP, and against the advice of his cronies decides to call in the Reapers, since he figures he has an "in" with them since his great-uncle was a Reaper -- clearly the guy is enamored with the idea of making such a ham-fisted power play. I didn't realize until this episode (did I miss a clue earlier in the season?) that Reapers are primarily Hasslichen. Sal does not seem like the brightest troll to ever grace a fairy tale, which is why I think it is so interesting that the Reaper ranks are filled by his kin, since they've seemed fairly intelligent (at least thus far in the show's run).

In an attempt to ferret out his lone witness, Nick visits Bud -- and this is where we get to see how much just talking with Nick has done for Bud's self-image. Associating with a Grimm flies in the face of everything Eisbibers are conditioned to believe about life and their place in the world, so Bud's willingness -- no, eagerness to help Nick and set up a meeting with his people is really quite extraordinarily brave (even though Bud still -- hilariously -- favors undercover contact methods and Nick is all "just call me"). Bud follows a hunch and discovers Arnold hiding in a mutual friend's basement, determined to live there for all time if that's what it takes to avoid the trolls. At the beaver lodge meeting (LOVE THAT), after Bud's impassioned plea to listen to Nick's proposal the rest of the lodge members overwhelmingly vote to maintain the status quo -- allying themselves with a Grimm and risking Hasslichen wrath is just too much to expect -- or so they think, much to Nick's disappointment. This exchange is a prime example of how Nick's passion for justice, born from his calling as a police officer, can change the balance of power in the Wesen world. Yes, he's a Grimm but he's also a cop -- and as such he's perhaps more willing than most (?) Grimms to cross cultural barriers and historic norms to get things accomplished. I can't wait to see how this dynamic plays out in season two!

Crime aside the absolute BEST ASPECT of this episode occurs when Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) informs Nick that she'd like to have Monroe over for dinner, sort of a belated "thank you helping to save my life" gesture. I'd even go so far as to say that this sequence of events ranks among my favorite this season -- the whole thing from start to finish is PURE COMIC GOLD. For much of the season the Nick/Monroe friendship came across as rather one-sided -- Nick has always been nice to Monroe, but it was usually shaded more towards needing the Blutbad's knowledge vs. really connecting with him as a friend (make sense?). Nick's reluctance to agree to the dinner is understandable, considering he and Monroe would have to lie about pretty much every aspect of their friendship, but as much as he might want to he can't keep Juliette insulated from Grimm life forever. And really, you can't ask for a better "intro" to Wesen living than Monroe, I'm just sayin'! Love how adorably excited he is at the prospect of dinner and how he's TOTALLY into working out a game plan -- which obviously is going to blow up in their faces, but aren't he & Nick cute for trying? HA! Favorite moments -- the "fist bump" of victory when they "survive the initial introduction, followed by this hilariously awkward scramble to talk about how they work together without revealing Monroe's very unorthodox role in the success of Nick's investigations, culminating in Monroe basically giving up and demanding Juliette's vegan salmon recipe. And the icing on the cake? Juliette telling Nick that yes Monroe is weird but she just might love him so yes, yes he should be worried (AMEN SISTER!).

Sal's call to "the family" in Germany is answered with not one but two Reapers, one of whom is Slivitch (Henri Lubatti), who lost an ear to Renard (Sasha Roiz) in "Lonelyhearts." I find it hilarious that Sal's pipedream of playing buddy-buddy with Reapers blows up in his face as they promptly set to torturing him for information about Nick (oh the irony). While he's getting the crap beaten out of him, Arnold's decided -- with the support of Bud -- to come forward and trust Nick to do his job and protect him from troll-related reprisals -- just in time, too, since Renard is going on and on about how the witness needs to do his civic duty. Renard talking about civic responsibility is really hot, I'm just sayin'! I loved the moment when Arnold steps up, and the three beavers are so proud to receive his approval in spite of their fears. YES, NICK, YOU'RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!!!!! :) Handily for Sal, Nick's request for a meet so he can turn himself in for an identification line-up is a timely reprieve from the Reapers' beating. Once Arnold identifies Sal, Nick takes Arnold to the lodge so he can lie low, little realizing they're being followed by the Reapers.

This leads to the second unbelievably awesome fight of the season (the first being Nick's showdown with Adalind). Nick apparently made the very intelligent call of keeping select Grimm weapons stashed in his car, which is his only prayer of surviving a face-off against two Reapers. People, THIS FIGHT WAS AMAZING. You know how I rave about the sword fights in Once Upon a Time? This is the Grimm version and it was GRAND. Nick, I didn't know you had THIS level of awesome in you. :) The Reapers are of course not prepared for Nick's level of awesomeness. In fact, he throws them off their game so badly one ends up beheading his partner and is them promptly dispatched by Nick's mad crossbow skills. Cut to Monroe playing the cello (always a win), when he gets a call from Nick. I can barely put into words how much I love how Monroe doesn't ask any questions, he's just there for Nick no matter what, even when he tells him to bring a shovel. :) Monroe is adorably, wildly impressed with the aftermath of Nick's epic fight, and the two decide to send an unforgettable message to the head of the Reapers, airmailing the two assassins' heads back to Germany on dry ice. I've watched this episode twice now and each time laughed so hard with the sheer awesomeness of the final ten minutes. Nick is becoming quite a badass, who knew Giuntoli had it in him?! 

The fairy tale inspiration for this episode comes from the tale "Three Billy Goats Gruff." The original story involves three goats trying to cross a bridge guarded by a troll. This episode substitutes three key beavers, led by Bud, for the goats. Inspired by Nick they step wildly outside their comfort zone to help Nick stop a bullying, murdering troll. (How much fun was it to see the beaver community's overwhelming gratitude towards Nick, showering him and Juliette with scores of homemade goods and gifts? Loved it!) This was yet another extremely solid episode, stacked from start to finish with hilarious Monroe quips and Nick being extraordinarily awesome. Keep bringing it, show, I'm loving every second! :)