The Shield (****)

Posted on April 1st, 2004 in Television by mynagirl

The Shield

F/X, Tuesdays, 9 pm Central

Ok, this show rocks. I finally put it on TiVo Season Pass (amazingly, it didn’t conflict with any other shows we normally record) after reading probably the 50th review of how great it was. Boy, were the critics right. Boy, do I wish I’d found this show earlier. It goes right up at the top of my list.

I love the show’s many characters and the storylines that arc over multiple episodes. It takes you a while to get into the rhythm of the show but I like that. “Wait… is he the same guy who was accused of excessive force?” “Why was she getting her job back? Why did she lose it before?” They do the obligatory “previously on…” at the beginning of each episode but it really does pay to be a regular watcher. The writers don’t pander to you about understanding bad blood between characters; you either get the subtexts or you don’t.

I know people either like or dislike that the show’s main characters aren’t all 100% good guys; to wit they have stolen a bunch of money from the Armenian mob that they are sitting on until they can figure out how to successfully launder it. I personally have always loved moral ambiguity in my protagonists, so The Shield works out just fine for me. It makes for a more interesting storyline at all times because not all members of the strike team are in on the “money train” deal and our main guys juggle doing their regular cop duty with doing it within their ability to recover some of their money that’s been lost without tipping their hand to a guy not in on the deal.

I have to say, a couple years ago when Michael Chiklis won the Emmy for Best Actor, I (along with much of America, I’m sure) went, “Who? What show?” All I can say now, is “Effing yeah, buddy!” He is fabulous! In this recent episode Chiklis is watching via closed circuit as the Feds tell a local gang member that his money is actually from the aforementioned Armenians and they know this because some of the money (the same money our “heroes” have stashed in a warehouse) has been marked. The scene is amazing because Chiklis does such a great job — you can see the instant that the adrenaline and ice hits his gut as his character realizes not only that the money that they’ve stolen might be worthless but that the Feds might actually shortly have some of it with his fingerprints on it.

Overall, I didn’t realize being on F/X meant you could be quite so… gritty! Not being an HBO subscriber, I’m not used to too much swearing and nudity on cable, but the Shield manages to work it in there after they put more warning letters in the top left than you could shake

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (****)

Posted on April 1st, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Click here to see the review of Kill Bill: Vol 1.

I have a love-hate relationship with the films and public persona of Quentin Tarantino. Part of me is overjoyed that a trumped-up, slacker video store clerk could rise to the position of big-budget, kid-in-a-candy-store auteur. For the most part, I love his writing and directing styles, and even enjoyed his acting in From Dusk Till Dawn. He sometimes edges a bit too much into self-indulgent, homage-heavy, comic-book-styled extravagance for my tastes, and he seems to revel in his celebrity a bit more than will prove healthy in the long-term, in my opinion.

However, I can’t argue with the results demonstrated in Kill Bill: Vol. 2, and its predecessor Kill Bill: Vol. 1. In both installments he takes the action and violence to a point that is not just over-the-top, but transcendent. But in Vol. 2 we also get much more of the back-story and gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their actions. In fact, there are extended moments of quietly spoken dialogue that had me on the edge of my seat as much as, and in some cases even more than, the fight/action sequences.

And the cast all give incredible performances. Uma Thurman continues her Terminatrix-like rampage, but still manages to remain a vulnerable human being. Daryl Hannah makes a brief but explosive reappearance. Michael Madsen should only work on Tarantino films, as here he shows amazing depth as Bill’s shallow brother who also has more layers than we expect. Only Quentin Tarantino would think to cast Bo Svenson (yes, *that* Bo Svenson) as a small-town, West Texas preacher. For those of you who are asking, “Who the hell is Bo Svenson??!?”……..exactly my point.

And then there’s the quirky casting of Michael Parks. If you’ve seen From Dusk Till Dawn, Parks played the Texas Ranger at the convenience store near the beginning of the film. In Kill Bill: Vol. 1 he played the small-town Texas sheriff that investigates the chapel murders. And in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 he appears, effectively but almost unrecognizably, as Bill’s 80-year-old, Mexican, adopted, pimp, daddy-figure. Where in the world did Tarantino find him, and what compelled him (rightfully) to cast him in these films? Parks’ resume reads like a history of episodic television, including roles in The Real McCoys, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Ben Casey, Wagon Train, Route 66, Medical Center, McCloud, Get Christie Love, Police Woman, Police Story, Baretta, The Rookies, Ellery Queen, Fantasy Island, The Equalizer, Murder She Wrote, Twin Peaks, and Walker Texas Ranger. I have to hand it to Tarantino for finding and casting Parks perfectly in his roles, although I think I have just answered my own question, knowing that Tarantino was an avid TV-viewer growing up.

Which brings us to David Carradine, who plays Bill. Yes, *that* David Carradine…most famously known as the peace-loving, wisdom-imparting, ass-kicking Kwai Chang Caine