Condor
US TV

Review: Condor 1×1 (US: Audience)

In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm ET/PT, Audience
In the UK: Not yet acquired

The 70s was a great era for conspiracy thrillers. Fresh from the Watergate scandal, the second half in particular was littered with paranoid stories about corrupt governments and organisations: The Parallax View, The Conversation, All the President’s Men, Capricorn One, Brass Target, The China Syndrome, Futureworld, Marathon Man – the list goes on. Indeed, the genre didn’t really end until halfway through Reagan’s first term with the likes of Blue Thunder and Blow Out.

However, because there are some true classics in that list, the not-quite-so-greats of the genre also tend to get elevated to higher status as a result. Three Days of the Condor is not really a classic. Not really.

Based on James Grady’s Six Days of the Condor, it sees Robert Redford playing a somewhat nerdy CIA analyst who analyses the plots of novels for a living. Then one day when he’s supposed to be at work, armed men break in and kill everyone in the office, leaving just Redford alive. Redford goes on the run, but then has to work out whom he can trust and who’s out to get him.

I’ve watched it twice and I’ve still yet to really get why people like it, other than because of Sydney Pollack’s taut direction, a reasonable air of mimesis, Robert Redford’s acting and the genre itself. Because it’s all right, sure. But Redford doesn’t really have much by way of tradecraft, beyond an ability to hack the old analogue phone system, and he doesn’t exactly treat women well. Not a lot happens, either.

Nevertheless, it’s still regarded as a classic and its influence continues to this very day. Indeed, in many ways, the dearly departed Rubicon owes a very obvious debt to Three Days of the Condor.

Birdie

Now we have Audience’s Condor, which presumably is so-named either to keep the show open-ended or because it’s following a strict arithmetic progression from the original novel. A new adaptation of both the original book and the movie, it marries Three Days of the Condor, Rubicon and 24 into something that if not a classic, is at least a whole lot more exciting than its film source. Which is surprising, given it’s by the people responsible for NBC cluster-f*cks Kidnapped, Bionic Woman, and My Own Worst Enemy.

It sees Max “son of Jeremy” Irons in the Redford role. Now a coder working on data analysis in a similar sort of set-up to Redford, he’s disillusioned with spying and on the point of giving up. It’s been six years since his previous relationship and every time he goes on a date with the likes of Katherine Cunningham, either work gets in the way or he’s unable to open up. He grouses about it to fellow CIA buddy Kristoffer Polaha (Valentine, Ringer, Life Unexpected, Miss Guided) and Polaha’s wife Kristen Hager (Being Human (US)) and decides to hand in his notice in.

Then he’s hauled off in the middle of the night by Polaha to meet some CIA big bods including his uncle (William Hurt) and the deputy director Bob Balaban. An old program of his designed to pick up potential terrorists has identified – with only a 12% chance of accuracy –  just such a person… and he’s in the US, heading to a packed stadium with a package from a PO box. What should they do?

Irons waxes eloquent about civil liberties and presumably bored and insulted they send him packing to the dirty without him.

Before you know it, thousands of people have been saved and Hurt is tasking Irons and the rest of his Rubicon-esque co-workers with the job of finding the people who organised the attempted incident. Except within a day, everyone’s been shot at work and Irons is on the run.

What’s going on, who’s responsible, why are they targeting Irons, where can he run to, when will he be safe and how can he know who to trust?

Presumably we won’t find out in three days any more.

Continue reading “Review: Condor 1×1 (US: Audience)”

Reverie
US TV

Review: Reverie 1×1 (US: NBC)

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Entering people’s minds is something that TV and film likes to do. I don’t mean the minds of the audience and I don’t mean it metaphorically – I mean it’s a medium that likes to visually recreate the thoughts and dreams of characters and make them a world that other characters can enter. In this genre, film has given us the likes of Brainstorm, Dreamscape, A Nightmare on Elm Street and, possibly best of all, Inception.

Meanwhile, TV has given us VR5Stitchers, Falling WaterLegion and now its least impressive effort to date, Reverie.

Reverie - Season Pilot
Reverie – Pictured: (l-r) Sarah Shahi as Mara Knit, Dennis Haysbert as Charlie Ventana — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

Reverie

Reverie is an even more nonsensical, formulaic affair than the average piece of NBC sci-fi, giving us Sarah Shahi (Life, Fairly Legal, Person of Interest) as a former hostage negotiator who’s dropped out of the force. Why? BECAUSE THE ONE PERSON SHE COULDN’T SAVE WITH HER SKILLS WAS HERSELF. And her sister. And her niece. Basically, it didn’t go well.

Anyway, old pal Dennis Haysbert (The Unit, 24, Incorporated, Backstrom) comes a knocking at her door one day. He’s gone private sector and now works at the stupidly titled ‘Onira-Tech’ (it’s Greek, darling), which has developed a new dream manipulation-virtual reality technology that allows people with a bit of cash to tailor-make their own dreams. Trouble is, loads of people are now in comas because they apparently don’t want to leave their dream dreams and any attempts to wake them will probably kill them.

Fortunately, version 2.0 of the tech is in the offing and that allows people to share their dreams with someone else. Will Shahi be willing to use the experimental tech as well as her hostage negotiation skills to talk the dreamers down and out of their self-made utopias? And will it mean she’ll have to face her own mental demons to do so?

You betcha. Unfortunately, it’ll make you fall asleep when she does.

Continue reading “Review: Reverie 1×1 (US: NBC)”

SEAL Team
US TV

Review: SEAL Team 1×1 (US: CBS)

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, CBS

Well we’ve seen how the amateurs do it – now it’s the turn of the pros, because following NBC’s efforts at doing manly special forces operations with The Brave, we now have CBS’s rejoinder in the form of SEAL Team.

In an ideal world of course, they’d be calling it SEAL Team 6, but since History has already given us the almost identical Six, CBS presumably could only get custody of the first half of the name. Maybe this is SEAL Team 5.

Anyway, it’s basically The Unit again, as we get an elite troop of special forces blokes (and a woman) who have to take off at a moment’s notice to shoot people overseas. Against that backdrop, they have to juggle complicated home lives and the toll the job takes on them. The big difference? It’s that David Boreanaz from Bones and Angel in charge, not Dennis Haysbert.

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News

News: 24: Legacy cancelled; Loosely Exactly Nicole, Insatiable rescued; + more

Film trailers

Internet TV

International TV

  • Annalise Basso, Maura Tierney, Essie Davis et al join Channel 4 (UK)/Amazon’s Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams

UK TV

New UK TV shows

New UK TV show casting

  • Indira Varma, Luke Treadaway and Neil Maskell to star in Channel 4’s The Truth

US TV

US TV show casting

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Netflix's Marvel's Iron Fist
Internet TV

Season review: Marvel’s Iron Fist (Netflix)

Marvel took the movie world by storm with The Avengers, a little film one or two of you may have seen. One of the most important aspects of The Avengers was the fact it wasn’t the first movie to features its protagonists, all of whom had appeared in the preceding movies Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, either as the leads or as co-stars.

A staple of the comic book world, the crossover was something that had never really been tried in the movie world before and audiences loved it.

With a few reservations. The most notable of these was that there wasn’t a huge amount of diversity in that superheroic line up: lots of straight white men as leads and usually as the villains, too, but women, people of colour et al were either in the supporting cast or completely absent. And while the movies have slowly added black characters such as Falcon and Black Panther and bumped up the role of supporting superheroine Black Widow to the point where Captain America: Winter Soldier was as much about her as about Captain America, solo movies with black or female superheroic leads are still a little way off.

So, when Netflix and Marvel announced they would produce a series of comic book TV shows together, three things were almost compulsory. The first was lower budgets. That meant having none of the movie universe characters in any of the shows, which meant having to pick completely new characters. The second was that there would be crossovers, which in turn would lead to one great big TV series featuring all the new heroes. The third was diversity would be key.

And thus we have a new group of superheroes: ‘The Defenders’. Not to be confused with ‘The Avengers’, obviously. The Defenders is also the name of the ultimate TV show at the end of the list.

The sequence started with Daredevil, a really superb opening featuring probably the one character many people would have heard of, thanks in part to the Ben Affleck adaptation over a decade ago. Daredevil’s also blind and a lawyer who does pro bono work defending the poor and helpless from big business.

That was quickly followed up with the suprisingly excellent feminist deconstruction of the entire genre, Jessica Jones, and then Luke Cage, an affair almost plotless because rather than being a superhero show, it largely was more interested in discussing black culture, history and what is the true and correct course of action for the modern black man of honour. A quick second season of Daredevil proved less satisfying, as it ditched gritty reality to pit our hero against a bunch of immortal ninja called ‘The Hand’.

All the same, for all their pros and cons, diversity – globs of it everywhere.

Which makes Marvel’s Iron Fist something of an odd choice. Because although it fits well with Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of diversity, it’s almost a slap in the face to the other shows’ efforts.

Young Danny Rand, the white male son of white corporate mogul billionaries, is on their private jet to China when it crash lands in the mountains of Tibet. Coincidentally, that’s just as the mystical city of K’un-L’un appeared from heaven on its 15-year regular cycle, journeying between planes of existence. Taken in by the warrior monks who guard K’un-L’un, the orphaned boy is trained in their ways and eventually succeeds all trials to become ‘the Iron Fist’, K’un-L’un’s ‘living weapon’ who uses the power of the heart of the Shou-Lao the Undying dragon, to defend the city from the Hand, whenever it appears on Earth.

However, when K’un-L’un returns to the Earthly plane again 15 years later, Danny abandons his post and heads to New York where he discovers the Hand are already in residence at his parents’ company, Rand Enterprises. Soon, he must prove who he really is, take back his company from the bad people who now run it, and stop The Hand.

Yep, that’s right: Iron Fist wants you to care about boardroom politics and a spoilt, immature billionaire who wants to clear his family name.

Bad decision by Marvel and Netflix? Well, actually, despite some very odd decisions, a very shaky start, and a very long list of flaws, Marvel’s Iron Fist turned out to be really, really enjoyable stuff – due in part surprisingly because it features Sacha Dhawan (Outsourced24, The Tractate Middoth, Line of Duty, An Adventure in Time and Space) as a sarcastic warrior monk named after a Swiss ski resort.

Big spoilers after the jump…

Continue reading “Season review: Marvel’s Iron Fist (Netflix)”