Law and Order: Criminal Intent

Director: Frank Prinzi (among others, including many guest stints)

Lead Actors: Kathryne Erbe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Courtney B. Vance, Eric Bogosian, Jeff Goldblum, Julia Ormond, Tony Goldwyn, Kahan James

Producer: Dick Wolf

Plot Synopsis: This show centers on the NYPD's Major Case Squad (and the offbeat, Sherlock Holmes-like Detective Robert Goren) in its efforts to stop the worst criminal offenders in New York. 

It also puts a new twist to the "Law & Order" formula: now, in each episode, we see the crimes as they are planned and committed.               

Who Would Like it and Why

These particular Law and Orders with Vincent D'Onofrio put an intellectual spin on the law and cop genre that I found engaging. Upon watching more than a few episodes, one realizes that Vincent D'Onofrio pushes people to their confessions by taunting them, making them angry and sniffing around in their trash. '

Sometimes the audience wonders whether or not D'Onofrio's character, Detective Robert Green, has the mind of a criminal himself and that's what makes him so good. 

For all of the future B-list beefcakes we have seen in the endless horde of cop and lawyer dramas that have paraded by on USA over the years and put me to sleep, D'Onofrio stands out in a few ways. 

One, most detectives in New York have to really dress up by wearing a nice suit and tie, but they're still cops with guns and they have to be ready to get dirty. Well, Goren just sort of shows up to work a little dirty. He seemingly never shaves, seems to sweat a lot and doesn't seem to be always preening for the camera the way some other light weights do. 

One gets the impression that Goren sleeps on the subway or in an open cell at the police station sometimes instead of going home. 

Forget about money, if there's donuts on the ta able, Goren's gonna take one. 

He also has a somewhat bizarre speech pattern which makes the viewer want to pay attention to him more. 

Goren also believes no one and effortlessly sheds away away fake alibis and excuses. He seems like the guy who eventually will refuse to believe someone who's actually telling the truth, kind of a reverse person who cried wolf. 

I know from my limited viewings of this series that Gorren eventually gets himself in a lot of trouble, as one episode with him picking a dead rat out of his desk, likely put there by his fellow cops.

But the few full episodes I watched show how he picks apart the cases and always manages to get to the bottom of them, playing a great "bad cop" with Kathryne Erbe's nice cop. They are both after the same results, it's just that Gorren, being a somewhat large and slovenly man himself is able to be much bolder than Erbe's Detective Alexandra Earnes. Erbe, by the way, I think is much older but manages to be very lovely on the show and a sort of welcome break to D'Onofrio's reminder that not all men are created equal. 

Some of this team's methods for uncovering people seem a little aggressive, almost to the point of them finding evidence that is inadmissible in court because they lied or pretended to be someone they weren't in order to get it. For example, in one episode Erbe pretends to be a graduate student while interrogating a professor.

Who Might not Like it and Why
I had always had an aversion to Law and Order, not sure why, it all seemed so mundane. Just the Law & Order sound would put me to sleep. I didn't have the time or the interest to wait for another crime to unfold. 

But, I found D'Onoffrio intriguing enough and the crimes interesting enough to stop by and watch a few episodes during Christmas break, and I was not disappointed.

Gorren shares a few similarities and characteristics with the most famous fictional detective of all time: Sherlock Homes. He is a genius forever sort of stuck in his head. He is undaunted by people from any class of society and he also doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. 

Highlights/Top Scenes
I enjoy how they go all over New York to solve one case at a time. They must have some allowance and they seem to have all the time in the world. Aso, D'Onofrio mocking the criminals in never old. 

Gorren knows his place in life as a detective, and is never, ever intimidated by Wall Street Investors, or television producers, or anyone else. Also for someone who is merely a detective, he seems to have a great knowledge of the law.

Three Mike and Ikes.


This will be a unique review in which I review a rising stand-up comedy star in Los Angeles, by the name of Chris D'Elia. People will know him by his show, "Undateable", on NBC, which is directed by Fred Savage from "The Wonder Years".

I first became aware of Chris D'Elia at a "Comedy Juice" at The Improv on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, CA. I had free tickets that I got online. Other people who were there were paying $15 per ticket. I was lucky to get the free tickets and this was a way for The Improv to fill seats.

So, I went with my friend and what we stumbled into was some sort of open mic for the stars wherein Dane Cook, Chris D'Elia, Joe Rogan, Whitey Cummings and Neal Brennan were performing. I would say that of all these people, Chris D'Elia was the most intriguing. I had never seen him before.

When I first got to the Improv, I was waiting at the bar area, where I guess he was doing an earlier show and I could watch him on the monitor. He made some crack about "You know when you get to work and you're just like eh . . . , well that's how I feel right now . . . "

Turns out that's how he starts every show as if to tell his audience that he's just sort of winging it, I guess. Far be it from me to try to get into a comedian's head, especially if their name is Bill Cosby.

Anyway, back to D'Elia. He wears a t-shirt and jeans mostly and has long hair  and a beard. One who has spent too much time in West Hollywood can tell that D'Elia works out, as does Dane Cook, which sets a weird standards for these younger comics. Comics are usually supposed to destroy their bodies, are they not?!

Anyway, Chris, who I've seen about four times now at the Improv, and I can't remember signing any disclaimers not to talk about him, unlike for some of the other shows that I've been to. 

Anyway, so Chris D'Elia's rant goes along the lines of how soft he is and how many regrets he has about not being hard and then he launches into a bit about being around little kids and how much they open up your heart. I found it intriguing and funny, and D'Elia's caricatures of little kids and Tupac are really good and endearing!

Most notable though about D'Elia is his energy. A few weeks later I saw him follow Rob Scheider of SNL fame, and Schneider, albeit a comedy legend for his movie roles such as Deuce Bigalow, was a little wobbly doing stand up comedy. He had a notebook and was quiet and weird and still funny. Buuut, Chris followed him and brought the energy right back up without insulting Rob.

I happened to be sitting near the row on that show and when D'Elia was going to the stage, his brow was furrowed and he was deep in thought, not the cocky bearded dude you see on stage. This is how I would expect a real writer to look.

Anyway, if you read the LA  Weekly, you will notice that Chris is everywhere, including the Palladium and The Wiltern. Is it possible that he's the new white big thing in comedy. Is it ironic at all that he is doing stand up with Dane Cook?

In fact, when this blogger got up to go the bathroom another night, Cook and D'Elia were both sitting next to each other chatting about stand up comedy when I went into the bathroom. Perhaps they are partners in crime.

How do other comics feel about D'Elia? Will they hate him like they hate Dane Cook?! Not sure, I don't spend that much time around working comics, unfortunately.

Anyway, just know that D'Elia is a comer, not a blower, and that his energy is great and you should take every opportunity you can to watch him for a bargain, otherwise you may end up having to spend about $200 on him!

A Walk Among the Tombstones was a walk to remember

Director: Scott Frank
Lead Actors: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour

Producer: Tom Armbrust

Plot Synopsis:
We meet Matt Scudder in the early 90s when he is an active police officer in New York city. It seems we first meet him in a car in the middle of a bribe with someone, but this is not clear.

Anyway, once he gets out of the car, we see Liam Neeson with full facial hair, and his hair is grown out bushy.

He walks into a bar and orders two shots and a coffee. We see him walk a bit sloppily to a booth, then drink the shots and coffee and reads the paper and suddenly a robber comes in the bar and shoots the bartender.

Then Neeson chases after the robber and his cronies and takes all three of them out.

On that day though, his life changes forever. Later on we learn exactly why. But, before any secrets are given out, we meet him about 9 years later - clean shave, clean haircut and 9-years sober. Here, he is more clean cut and closer to the character, Ra's Al Ghul he played in Christopher Nolan's first batman.

Scudder also is no longer a police man but a private investigator, still in New York.

While he is eating in yet another great-looking diner (the kind that make a filmmaker want to out there with someone who knows the area and just eat and talk movies all day), one of his acquaintances from the AA meetings approaches him and asks him if he wants to do a job.

Turns out his brother needs an investigator to find out who murdered his girlfriend. Turns out this man's brother is also a drug dealer, turns out this man's girlfriend was chopped up and put into several tiny bags by the nutty criminals Neeson will spend the rest of the movie hunting down.

To make a long story short, our flawed hero Scott Rudder has a bit of a savior complex and once he finds out how the kidnapped woman was treated, and packaged, he decides to take the job, despite the seedy nature of his client and how it conflicts with his present-day sobriety.

One thing is for sure though, as we watch Scudder descend into Hell and lead an underground man hunt: he is as tough as any of the other bastards! Deranged kidnappers, gang bangers and even D.E.A. agents all get their fair share of rough treatment from Neeson's Scudder.

This makes for a great, gritty movie. In fact, we are treated to some of the snarl that Neeson displayed in an earlier movie he made called, "The Grey", wherein he fought wolves with his bare hands.

Although Scudder hits as hard as he is beaten with crow bars and gun handles and tasers and the like, and he never loses his sense of humor or his affinity for those less fortunate than him.

Enter the comic relief and a key plot point at the end of the movie - TJ. - a homeless youth with sickle cell anemia who ends up being Neesam's assistant.
Astro plays TJ in A Walk Among the Tombstones- he is Matt Scudder's assistant.

Who Would Like it and Why
I think this movie had a great feel to it. By that I mean the lighting was right, the cinematography was right, and it gave us a sense what it might be like to live in these older, tight-knit communities that vary in income. For a life-long west coaster, this is all very intriguing, albeit a bit claustrophobic at times.

Liam Nesson fans get to see him growl, beat up criminals, shoot people and confidently set up a rendezvous for exchanging "money for the girl".

Also, everything about this movie gave it the feel of a 1970s cop drama
                                     A typical, gritty, crime drama.

The cinematographer managed to keep everything dark enough so that there was a constant sense of foreboding throughout. Again, though, Scudder's humor and exchanges with TJ dulled the pain.

Who Might not Like it and Why
Well, there are some very tense moments when women are brutalized. Trophy wives of drug dealers receive the most punishment in this movie.

Not because of revenge from rival dealers, but something much more sinister. One can argue that even though these women made their beds when they chose to date or marry drug dealers, they seem to receive a lot of punishment that may be should be reserved for the dealers themselves.

Highlights/Top Scenes
Liam as a poorly shaven, whiskey swilling cop was fun. TJ and Neeson's exchanges were also well-written and fun. Also, there was some fine character work  as Neeson zeroes in on his main suspects, who were perhaps the best actors of all.

Three Mike and Ikes.

Lebron James in Re-established 2014


Lead Actors: Lebron James


Plot Synopsis
The camera takes us into working-class Akron as the piano from Hozier's (new) and earthly spiritual "Take Me to Church" slowly starts growing in the background. 

We see parts of Akron, construction, demolition, working people.

Then we see Demi-God Lebron James humbly walk back into his high school, where, even then, he established himself as a nationally recognized basketball legend.

In a scene ripped almost directly from the Gene Hackman movie "Hoosiers", he looks from the free throw line to the hoop, and most likely realizes that the distance from floor to rim is still 10 feet, the same as it has always been. 

The same 10 feet it has been as James, like a young soldier plucked from a small village  to fight foreign wars for the Roman army, has been slashing and dashing and dunking and blocking for the Miami Heat.

This is a team he himself decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for and leave his home state of Ohio to fend for itself so many years ago. If you are familiar with the story, the piano chords and stark shots of parts of Ohio outsiders never see are that more meaningful.

Hozier chants "Amen, Amen" as James hits the weight room. James, a talented player and one of the best to ever play in the NBA, is possibly best known for his God-like physique and muscle structure. 

A comparison between him and NBA greats from the 80s would show how much stronger he probably is than most of his fellow hall-of-famers.

And of course, in the new NBA, is that much more important as the sport becomes more about contact, grit, fighting skills and brute strength than it is finesse. 

Perhaps a 1980s version of this commercial would show Lebron polishing his three-point shooting skills with a dozen basketballs at his side.

But no, this ad focuses on the immediacy of the approaching season and the need to get back into fighting shape.

Throughout everything James' face remains a humble expression.

James then transitions to flipping a tractor tire, for yet more upper-body strength.

As he does this, we hear a woman's voice, most likely James' mother, saying "don't ever forget where you came from", good advice in any context unless you are a spy in a Quentin Tarantino movie and how you signify you want three drinks could mean the difference between life and death!

Who Would Like it and Why
Basketball fans obviously. Anyone familiar with James' journey. Also, anyone disgusted with free agency and the fact that most players don't even manage to keep the same job with the same professional basketball team for one season, let alone play in a town that is anywhere close to where they live or grew up.

In fact, some basketball players commute half way across the country to attend practice!

What makes James' journey unique though in this author's mind is the fact that he started playing in Akron, Ohio, which is also where he grew up. 

Then, when he was drafted, he was drafted to the Cavaliers, that region's professional team. It was there that he stayed for several years before he requested to be traded to the Miami Heat,famously, or infamously taking his talents to south beach.

This move was met with the ire of all of Ohio. Jerseys were burned, James was cursed by all and by some reports, his life was in danger.

Now, after several seasons in Miami, two of them championship -winning, the last one a bitter loss to the San Antonio Spurs for the title, he is back. Ever the prodigal son.

I felt this commercial, albeit designed to promote headphones and miniature beat "pills", seemed to capture the goodness and hope and humanity in Lebron James' decision to go back to Ohio.

This is important because the United States' three main sports are decaying due to greed and lack of education and refinement in the players who are becoming drafted at younger and younger ages and developed only for their skills and not for character. 

In this author's opinion, by moving back to his hometown while he is still in his prime as a player, showed calculations that possibly came more from Lebron's heart more than they did his Endorsement and Marketing Manager.

That, and Hozier's heartfelt song, make this commercial, albeit a plug for another product, kind of nice.

Who Might not Like it and Why
Straight dudes skittish about shirtlessness.
I felt there was a little too much shirtlessness for a commercial about a sports figure most likely aimed at straight males between the ages of 18 and 34.

Highlights/Top Scenes
There's a lyric about "straighten my knife" that comes up as Lebron is working his triceps in the weight room, it seemed to work well visually, evern though it endorse the showing of way too much adult male skin!

Three Mike and Ikes