Saturday, September 24, 2016

CBS's MacGyver: "The Rising"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 5:30 A.M.

Over the years, there have been many rumors and at least two unaired pilots attempting to reboot the 1985–92 classic MacGyver. The version that finally aired on CBS last night comes from Peter Lenkov, who previously helped reboot Hawaii Five-0 to six seasons and counting of moderate success.

Exec-produced by Lee David Zlotoff and Henry Winkler, the new MacGyver shows some of the ol' heart, even if Mac's supporting cast has been tweaked: Meet Jack Dalton (George Eads), Mac's gun-toting, ex-Delta operator backup; and the boss, Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt).

The pilot sees MacGyver infiltrate a Lake Como party in search of a biological weapon for sale. The mission goes sideways, and Mac is forced to hand over the weapon only to see his analyst girlfriend, Nikki Carpenter (Tracy Spiridakos), shot.

After three months recovery, Mac and Jack go after the bio-weapon again, recruiting new analyst Riley (Tristin Mays) out of prison. I've buried the lede long enough: Does Lucas Till pull off MacGyver? I'd say so, most importantly Mac's sheer earnestness that inspires characters like Riley, who have even a shred of decency, to do the right thing.

I'll generalize my criticism: the show overloaded me with information, from Mac's voiceover to pop-up text telling me what Mac saw that he could use, e.g. paper clip, light bulb filament, etc. This isn't an irreparable problem. The voiceover waned in later seasons of the classic.

Tellingly, the new MacGyver was scheduled in the little-watched Friday 8:00 P.M. slot—Firefly, anyone?—but I've got nothing better to do the next few Fridays.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

FOX's Lethal Weapon

Matt Miller (of ABC's Forever and NBC's Chuck) is behind the TV adaptation of the Lethal Weapon franchise. The characters are tweaked in ways that seem minor in the pilot: TV's Riggs is a Texan former Navy SEAL whose dead wife is named Miranda. Feature film Riggs was Army Special Forces with a dead wife named Victoria.

Clayne Crawford as Riggs and Damon Wayans as Murtaugh aren't Gibson and Glover, but they are likable enough for me. I had previously seen Crawford on NCIS: New Orleans as LaSalle's bipolar brother, Cade.

Just as the Lethal Weapon movies remain a cut above the Rush Hour movies, TV's Lethal has an edge on CBS's Rush Hour, canceled last season. Its challenge is balancing breakneck action scenes and more leisured scenes, such as those with the Murtaugh family.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bull: "The Necklace"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 9:15 A.M.

I ought to like Bull, the show Michael Weatherly left NCIS for. It has shades of several shows I've liked, three in particular: House, Shark, and Lie to Me. Weatherly plays psychologist and jury analyst Jason Bull, loosely based on Dr. Phil McGraw. In a nutshell, Bull reads people as uncannily well as House diagnosed medical mysteries. He also manipulates them to achieve his ends, more than a little creepy.

It's as early as can be to react to a series, but I worry that playing the mysterious, commanding role of Bull won't allow Michael Weatherly's spontaneous humor to show, the gift that fueled Anthony DiNozzo for thirteen seasons. If I'm right about that, I'm going to have to find reasons to like Bull besides Weatherly. Time will tell if any emerge.

NCIS New Orleans: "Aftershocks"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 5:15 A.M.

Now sooner does Pride's team return from forced leave in the aftermath of John Russo's terror plot do they have to deal with a sniper later discovered to be targeting Russo's accomplices.

A good deal of the episode's emotional weight came from Brody's offscreen decision to quit NCIS, which didn't sit well with Pride and the others. Percy especially saw it as Brody retreating when she was needed most. I might have swallowed it better myself if Zoe McLellan had been in any scenes. Most believable would have been a cold, practical, executive decision to drop Brody due to her involvement with Russo. I have to say, like her debut, Brody's departure was somewhat mishandled.

As bad as I feel about that, if the writers felt the show could do better with a change of character, they had to go that route. I'm onboard to see how Vanessa Ferlito's FBI agent Tammy Gregorio develops and how Season 3 unfolds.

NCIS: "Rogue"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 4:45 A.M.

NCIS's fourteenth season—its first post-DiNozzo—began with a military family being car-bombed due to their relation to NCIS Special Agent Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), whose deep cover has been blown. Meanwhile, Gibbs's rejection of eight agents sent to replace Tony draws out FLETC instructor Alex Quinn (Jennifer Esposito), whom he may have wanted as Tony's replacement all along.

Since Michael Weatherly's January announcement of his departure, I'd been wondering how well NCIS would compensate for the humor and physicality Tony brought to the table. I've liked Jennifer Esposito since Spin City. As Quinn, she has a lot to teach McGee and Bishop, yet still a few things to learn from Gibbs. Torres strikes me as close to Shane Brennan's original vision of Callen in the Season 6 two-parter "Legend", but better executed out of the box.

The episode's most powerful scene was a physical confrontation between Torres—who wanted to go out of NCIS bounds to get revenge for his family—and Gibbs—who gained little if anything from his own act of vengeance.

NCIS can still deliver the goods, including an appearance by now-Captain Bud Roberts (Patrick Labyorteaux), one of the victims' JAG colleagues. In fact, Bud almost tells McGee what Rabb and Mackenzie are up to before Quinn brings him back on point.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

ROBERT B. PARKER'S DEBT TO PAY by Reed Farrel Coleman

© by Gerald So | geraldso.blogspot.com | 9:30 P.M.

In Coleman's first turn continuing the Jesse Stone series, Blind Spot (2014), Jesse bargained with crime boss Gino Fish to get a lead on an elusive hitman known as Mr. Peepers. In this third turn, Peepers comes out of hiding to take vengeance—"pay his debt" to Fish, Stone, Suitcase Simpson, and the Paradise police force.

With the long-simmered premise and several chapters from Peepers' perverse perspective, Debt to Pay's only mystery is how the chessboard will look when the smoke clears, yet that had me curious enough to buy the book today (release day) and finish it tonight.

The longer a series runs, the more I wonder how it might be shaken up, especially when continued by new authors. Debt to Pay shows it still works to, as Raymond Chandler advised, "have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recovery

© by Gerald So | geraldso.blogspot.com | 6:00 A.M.

If the September 11 never happened, I'd have a false sense of security that nothing of their magnitude could ever happen on U.S. soil. I'm sure many Americans felt the same. Maybe they've gone through the same progression of feelings I have: helplessness, fear, anger, acceptance.

Part of me will always wish the attacks hadn't happened, but from them I think the U.S. has slowly developed more awareness of what can happen, which has helped foil subsequent plots.

On the day itself, I was home on Long Island and heard about the plane hits via texts with friends. I was fortunate not to lose any friends or family that day, but I empathize with those who did. The written word has always been my best means of connecting with the world and with my feelings. While the act of writing leads me to the greatest empathy, the act of editing is an empathic leap above that of reading. It prods me to think critically about what's written, and my opinions affect the final product. Editing Dave White's Thrilling Detective story "Closure" was a test of how well I empathize. You be the judge.

A piece of writing is of the moment it's written. In the fourteen years since "Closure" was published, undoubtedly Dave has matured as a writer, but just as we'd all like to do the right thing in the right place at the right time, I'm grateful to have been in a position to help Dave polish "Closure".

Saturday, September 03, 2016

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

© by Gerald So | geraldso.blogspot.com | 5:00 A.M.

Tropical Depression 9/Hurricane Hermine blew away our planned family road trip to Florida, from where I would have gone on to New Orleans and Bouchercon, so instead my brother and I spent his second of ten days off watching the latest stop-motion animated movie from Laika Entertainment.

Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) is born from a love affair between one of the Moon King's immortal daughters (Charlize Theron) and the mortal samurai Hanzo. For her defiance and for attempting to shield Kubo from the Moon King, Kubo's mother is banished to earth. Lucid only for moments each day, her fuzzy memories become stories she tells Kubo. In turn, Kubo tells stories with origami that magically come to life as he plays his shamisen.

Still very protective of Kubo, his mother warns him never to stay out past sundown or the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) will see and steal him away. One day, while trying to pray to his father, Kubo does stay out too late, and the movie kicks into gear as he breathlessly tries to escape the Moon King, aided only by a monkey charm imbued with life by the last of his mother's magic and by a samurai-turned-beetle they meet (Matthew McConaughey).

Poignantly acted, beautifully animated, boldly original, Kubo and the Two Strings unfolded in ways I couldn't predict and had to watch.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

© by Gerald So | geraldso.blogspot.com | 11:15 P.M.

I'm borrowing a Buffett song title to report regretfully I've had to cancel my trip to Bouchercon 2016 because the September 1 Amtrak AutoTrain covering 900 miles of the trip was canceled due to inclement weather. The same weather concerns led my relatives to back out of driving, and here we are.

Sorry I won't get to see old friends and make new ones, but I wish you all safe travels and a great con.

THE FORSAKEN by Ace Atkins

© by Gerald So | geraldso.blogspot.com | 6:30 A.M.

Before leaving on Thursday for about three weeks on the road winding up at Bouchercon, September 15–18 in New Orleans, I finished reading Ace Atkins' fourth Quinn Colson novel.

Diane Tull, the survivor of a 1977 kidnap attempt during which her best friend was killed, decides to come forward with new information. She tells Sheriff Colson that the black man lynched for the crime was not the real culprit.

Coming to terms with the past is a larger theme of the Colson series, which began with Quinn returning to his hometown for his uncle's funeral in The Ranger. The Forsaken delves most deeply into the past, teasing out history that relates not just to Diane, but to Quinn and town kingpin Johnny Stagg.

Atkins has kept a good handle on the series as it's progressed. Each story is memorable on its own, but also foreshadows future stories. I have the fifth and sixth Colson novels—The Redeemers and The Innocents—but am saving them for after my trip because packing hardcovers isn't packing light.