Tuesday, January 31, 2017

OJ: Made in America - Part 4 (2016)

This installment of the series was entirely focused on the trial and the things that surrounded it.

Mark Fuhrman played a big role in this part of the documentary. He had appeared prior to this but for the first time the spotlight is turned on him. His reputation is that he is a racist. He denies this under oath, on the witness stand. Later tapes emerge from 1985 of him using racial epithets and advocating very heavy handed tactics against African-Americans. Fuhrman is interviewed for the documentary and he plays it off as stories he made up. When asked about the tapes during the trial he invokes his 5th amendment rights and refuses to answer the questions. The jury only gets to hear a couple snippets from the tapes.

The questionable methods used by the Los Angeles Police Department in gathering evidence are also spotlighted. There were cameras everywhere when the police were working and by carefully examining photographs and video of crime scene investigators the defense team was able to poke a number of large holes in the value of the evidence being used by prosecution in their case against O.J. Simpson. At first it seemed like there was a preponderance of evidence that OJ killed his ex-wife, Nicole, and Ron Goldman but the case made by the defense calls into question the validity of much of that evidence based on the fact that there was lots of potential for contamination of the evidence.

Underlying the murder case is the the larger context: the African American community vs the Los Angeles Police Department. As was made clear in the first two installments, the LAPD had a very poor track record when it came to how they treated African Americans who lived in LA. A large portion of the African American citizens felt that OJ was innocent. The subtle implication is that their support for him was not because they felt he was innocent but because he was an African American man on a big stage in their hometown who was being put through the ringer. He was emblematic for them, his case was emblematic for them. It wasn't that he did or didn't do it. It was that he was one of their community (or at least looked like he was) and facing off against the same police department that had treated them poorly for decades.

There are a number of smaller spotlights cast on people like Ron Shipp when he tried testifying for the prosecution, and Ron Goldman's father's public reactions to the defense team's tactics. The bloody gloves that were found, one at the murder scene and the other behind OJ's house, also get their own moment as Chris Darden gets goaded into asking OJ to try them on only to discover that they don't fit. The installment winds down with the closing remarks of Johnny Cochran and leaves it there for the final installment.

Once again fascinating to watch. It is much easier to watch now that it isn't everywhere on the news like it was back then. It also doesn't hurt that the dust on the case has settled.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Orange Is the New Black 1.03

Lesbian Request Denied

Chapman finally gets wise to the fact that Crazy Eyes wants to be more than just friends. I guess it was only hinted at in the last episode but she probably should have known better, should have known that nothing in life is free, especially in prison. Eventually Chapman lets Crazy Eyes know that she can't be her wife. Crazy Eyes seems disappointed but okay with it, but that isn't the end of it.

Chapman has a few more encounters with Alex. One of them occurs in a flashback to when they first met. In another one Crazy Eyes defends her, by throwing food at Alex. Alex insists that it wasn't her who gave her name to the police. There were a number of other people who were caught at the same time. Alex insists that it could have been any one of them. She also lets it drop that Piper broke her heart.

Piper hasn't told Larry yet that Alex is in prison with her. When she talks to him on the phone she asks him to see if he can find out who ratted her out, if it was Alex or someone else. He says he will try. He doesn't visit her this episode. Instead she gets a visit from her mother and her business partner.

The other major story in this episode is the backstory for Burset, one of the other inmates, the hairdresser, who used to be a man. She was married to a woman and had fathered a son. She was a firefighter. Her wife was very understanding about transitioning and even comes to visit her in prison. What she isn't okay with is the crimes that landed Burset in prison, major credit card fraud that she perpetrated to pay for her surgeries.

In the present Burset is facing a crisis when the prison cuts back on her estrogen pills. She is panicked enough that when the warden refuses to let her see a doctor she swallows the head of one of his bobble head toys. This does get her a visit to the doctor but not the right dosage of the pills she needs so badly. One option that presents itself is one of the guards, Pornstache, who offers to help her out if she "helps" him out. So far she isn't interested but based on the looks she gives him maybe that will change in the next episode.

I like how they have weaved in the backstory for characters other than Chapman in this and the previous episode. I expect that they will continue to do so and look forward to see who's next.

There are some other subplots developing, like the guard/prisoner budding romance.

I've got a feeling that things aren't going to last for Piper and Larry, or at the very least that there's some rough waters ahead. I think she is going to cheat on him with Alex, eventually. I wouldn't be surprised if he does the same to her. I'm not sure which will happen first.

This show is still batting 1000. I think it is great. I'm probably won't love every episode this season but the show is off to a tremendous start.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Justice League Unlimited 3.10

Far from Home

Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow get abducted by a time bubble sent from the 31st century by Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Supergirl gets very punchy once Brainiac 5 introduces himself but her teammates manage to calm her down. The only other Legionnaire around when they arrive is Bouncing Boy. All the other Legionnaires (Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Ultra Boy, Blok) have been abducted by the Fatal Five.

It isn't long before the Fatal Five strike again. This time it is just Emerald Empress and the Persuader but they prove to be a little too much for the 5 heroes. The villains try to capture all the heroes but in the end settle for just taking Green Lantern and Bouncing Boy.

Green Arrow picks up on the budding romance between Supergirl and Brainiac 5 and gives them a little space. In addition to flirting the Kryptonian and the Colluan figure out where the Fatal Five are and what they are up to. They have the kidnapped Legionnaires plus Green Lantern brainwashed to do their bidding and send them to destroy the capital of the United Planets. Supergirl does her best to prevent the mindless heroes from leveling the capital of the United Planets while Brainiac 5 and Green Arrow take on the Fatal Five.

There are a lot of good, funny lines in this one. It isn't all humor but it had enough to keep me chuckling and it was well placed. A fair amount of it revolves around the mutual attraction between Supergirl and Brainiac 5, whom she initially describe to Green Lantern and Green Arrow as "seriously cute",

This is at least the second time that Supergirl has teamed up with Green Lantern and Green Arrow. The other episode that comes to mind is episode 1.01: Initiation.

There are a lot of captured Legionnaires who show up in this episode but none of them have any lines. On the one hand I wish that there had more Legionnaires with significant roles in this episode, on the other hand I think they did a great job with what they chose to use.

This episode has the feel of a back door pilot for a show that never happened, Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. There was a Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon not too long after JLU went off the air but it was not done by the same team that did JLU and had a very different look to it. I don't think Supergirl was a regular on that show.

I remembered this episode but I didn't remember very much about it. I was cautiously optimistic that I would enjoy it. I was not let down.

Parks and Recreation 6.11

New Beginnings

Leslie returns to the Parks Department only to discover that things have changed. She immediately tries to put her stamp on how things are being done. This includes interfering with Tom's plans to open a lemonade stand in a city park.

Ben takes over as city manager. He tries cracking down and playing pranks on the Parks Department employees at the same time but it kind of backfires on him.

Ann and Chris drive an employee at a jewelry store nuts when they dither over whether to get married or not.

Ron wins it all. Speaking of which is Lucy Lawless going to show up on this show ever again? (Answer: According to IMDB her only remaining appearances on the show are in the two-part finale to season 6)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Iron Man (2008)

Act I: Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) get kidnapped while in Afghanistan. He is badly injured. There is damage to his heart. The Ten Rings, the group holding him, orders him to build them weapons. They are already using weapons built by his company but they want something bigger and better. Instead he builds a device to keep himself from dying and then builds an armored suit to help him escape.

Act II: Back from Afghanistan Tony starts working on a much improved version of the suit he built while in captivity. The original was left behind in his rush to escape. After completing the suit he flies back to Afghanistan and does his best to take down the Ten Rings. Unfortunately he sustains some damage and is unable to complete the job.

Act III: Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), his business partner of sorts, gets his hands on the original suit and makes some serious improvements to it. Stane is the one who was selling arms to the Ten Rings. Eventually there is a showdown between Tony and Stane.

There are a number of characters that I didn't mention in the 3 act description above, the most important of them are Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). Both play pivotal roles in third act.

I saw this movie in the theater when it was first released. This may be the first time I've watched it in its entirety since then. It totally holds up. I have no complaints about plot holes. It isn't perfect but it works for me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Star Wars: Clone Wars 3.04

Sphere of Influence

The daughters of the Pantoran Chairman are kidnapped. Ahsoka teams up with Senator Chuchi to locate and recover the Chairman's missing daughters. The kidnapping is all part of a plot to get the Pantorans to join the side of the separatists.

One of the kidnappers is Greedo, the same Greedo who didn't shoot first, makes his one and only appearance in this show.

Not great but solidly good and a considerable improvement over the previous episode.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Black-ish 1.04

Crazy Mom

Dre tries to help Rainbow take care of the kids, more than he usually does. At first he is a celebrity but then it blows up in his face when he stops getting recognition for every little thing he does.

Not bad but not my favorite episode. There were some scenes that brought a smile to my face but I don't recall any laugh out loud moments. Maybe the problem was that it was just a little too formulaic or predictable.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Orange Is the New Black 1.02

Tit Punch

Chapman continues to get punished by Red (who runs the chow hall) for insulting the prison's food. Her punishment comes in the form of being denied food. Using her skills from the outside world Chapman makes it up to Red by scrounging some supplies and making her some lotion for her back. The peppers that go into the lotion come from Crazy Eyes, another inmate, who asks for nothing in return. The episode ends with Crazy Eyes doing her another kindness, but how altruistic is she? When is she going to come to collect?

Alex is in this episode briefly in a few scenes. She passes Chapman a piece of cornbread. Chapman tosses the food without eating it. Others are watching and news of what Alex did gets back to Red. Just as Chapman is given her first plateful of food, Alex is being cut off.

There are two series of flashbacks in this episode. One series is about Piper and Larry. She remembers them doing a cleanse together. I guess this helps her to cope with the lack of food. She also remembers the origins of the soap business she had before she got locked up.

The other series of flashbacks focus on Red (Kate Mulgrew) and her life before she got locked up. She ran a Russian deli with her husband. She pissed off the local Russian mobsters when she punched one of the mobsters wife in the chest and popped the implant in one of her breasts. This story is left hanging, is not told in full so hopefully they will return to it soon. I did not recognize Kate Mulgrew in the first episode. It wasn't until I saw her name in the credits that I was able to see that it was her. She looks and sounds very different than other things I have seen her in.

Chapman gets a visit from Larry in the middle of the episode. She's freaking out because she is so hungry. She makes him promise not to watch Mad Men without her. He does but towards the end of the episode they show him at home watching Mad Men. He's starting to slide down a slippery slope. Where will it end? Is this the beginning of the end for Piper and Larry?

Awesome. Two for two. There's no doubt in my mind that I want to continue watching this show. It isn't clear exactly where things are going at this point but I'm okay with that.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Justice League Unlimited 3.09

Grudge Match

Huntress notices that Black Canary seems a little off her game. She tracks her to an underground fight club which is run by Roulette. It turns out that there are several female heroes (Black Canary, Fire, Hawkwoman, Vixen, and Wonder Woman) at the arena fighting against their will.

This is kind of sort of a Birds of Prey episode. The two central characters were member of that team. It is also a bit of a call back to an episode from season 2 of JLU, The Cat and the Canary. The only male Leaguer to appear in this episode is the Question.

Story-wise I thought this episode was just so-so but the animation was crisp and the fight scene choreography was fantastically detailed.

OJ: Made in America - Part 3 (2016)

This segment covered more territory than I thought it would. It started with murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman and went into a good portion of the trial.

There was a lot of material to cover and somethings didn't get quite as much of or the sort of focus that I thought they might. There is some discussion of the initial investigation. There are a number of police officers interviewed, many of whom also appeared in earlier episodes commenting on non-OJ related topics like the beating of Rodney King.

There are spotlights on Johnny Cochran, Marcia Clark, and Christopher Darden. Clark is the only one of the three interviewed for the documentary. Cochran passed away in 2005. Carl E. Douglas, a lawyer and member of the defense team has quite a bit to say about the case. There is also a spotlight on LAPD Officer Mark Fuhrman and the showdown of sorts that occurred between Cochran and Darden in court over the admissibility of Fuhrman's track record as a police officer.

There is some exploration of why the African-American community rallied behind OJ, who up to that point did as much as he could to distance himself from them. References are made back to past events such as the Watts riots, the beating of Rodney King and the trial and the riots that followed the trial, all of which were discussed in prior episodes.

One of the things that really sticks with me about this part of the story is the way two of his friends from childhood reacted differently to the murders. Al Cowlings stuck by OJ and was driving the white Bronco when OJ fled the police and headed home where he was eventually arrested after a long standoff. Ron Shipp reacted very differently, especially after he heard OJ tell different people different stories about how his hand was cut the night of the murders. The defense team asked Shipp to be a part of their team, but he declined.

The other thing that stuck me the most about this part of the story is the look on OJ's face in court. I'm not sure if it is accurate to say that he was enjoying watching his defense team work but he didn't seem down in the dumps in the footage they did show from court. I found myself drawn to watch him even when he wasn't the one speaking.

Once again, it was riveting to watch. I was out of the country for most of 1994 and don't have a coherent recollection of the series of events. Even after I returned I didn't pay much attention to the coverage in the news. Considering that this one ends in the midst of the trial I am eager to get back to this story and see how it is covered in the two remaining segments of the documentary.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Parks and Recreation 6.10

Second Chunce

On Leslie's last day on the city council she considers running for office again. Tom tries to decided what to do with the money he made from selling Rent-a-Swag to Dr. Saperstein. Ann and Chris learn the sex of their as of yet unborn child from Dr. Saperstein.

Funny. Probably not my favorite episode but still fun with some good laughs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

West Wing 3.10

Bartlet for America

Leo and other White House personnel reflect back on the early days of the presidential campaign as he is getting grilled by a congressional committee over what and when he knew about the President's diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

Not my favorite episode. The flashbacks felt a little forced. The main cast characters didn't seem any different despite the fact that they were working for a governor running for President and not for the President of the United States. It got a little more interesting towards the end when Congressman Gilborn started asking questions. This led into the final flashback of the episode where Leo gets tempted with alcohol, while fundraising for Jed Bartlet, and falls.

I could have done without the romantic overtures on Leo's part toward his attorney. It didn't add anything substantive or of interest for me. If anything it seemed a bit creepy and inappropriate. Looking ahead I see this is the first of 5 episodes in which she appears, all in season 3.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Star Wars: Clone Wars 3.03

Supply Lines

Senators Bail Organa and Jar Jar Binks are sent on a diplomatic mission to Toydaria. They are there to negotiate a deal which will allow the Alliance to use Toydaria as a staging area for a relief mission to Ryloth which is currently under attack by the Separatists.

Jar Jar Binks. Sigh.

Yes, this was not one of my favorite episodes. It wasn't awful. It wasn't a save the cute aliens story but it also didn't really move me. I didn't get emotionally invested in it on any level.

It is worth noting that this episode is the precursor to the pilot episode. That may sound weird but this show tends to jump around in time quite a bit.

Unlike in the movies, where he was played by Jimmy Smits, Bail Organa was voiced by Phil LaMarr. He sounded very much like Samurai Jack, another character that Phil LaMarr plays, and very unlike Jimmy Smits.

Black-ish 1.03

The Nod

Andre gets very concerned when Junior doesn't nod to another black student. He quickly discovers that his son doesn't have any black friends. Even more concerned than he was before he does his best to find his son some black friends.

Rainbow gets upset after discovering that Diane wants to follow in her father's footsteps. She takes her youngest daughter to work with her at the hospital but Diane isn't impressed until she sees some of the ER patients.

Very funny. So far this show has yet to disappoint. I love the clash of cultures between the generations.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I saw this for the first time in the theater. I just finished watching it for the second time, this time on Netflix. In between I re-watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier which makes considerably more sense now that I understand that it is the middle act of a longer story.

I know that a lot of people prefer the previous Captain America movie but this one is my favorite so far. I'm probably missing something because I have yet to see Avengers: Age of Ultron which (I believe) introduced Vision and Scarlet Witch and probably the villain in this installment, Helmut Zemo. That said I didn't feel like I was missing much but hopefully one day, when it is available on one of the streaming services for a reasonable price I will probably watch it.

This movie builds off the ones that came before it, especially the two aforementioned  movies. It also pulls Ant Man into the larger story, introduces Black Panther, and hints at the Vision's growing attachment to Wanda Maximoff (aka the Scarlet Witch). The plot revolves around Bucky aka the Winter Soldier. He disappeared at the end of the previous Captain America movie. In this one he gets framed for an act of terrorism which kills among other T'Chaka, the ruler of Wakanda and father of the Black Panther.

The Avengers are ordered to stay on the sidelines but Captain America cannot resist stepping in to help his childhood friend. Cap quickly discovers that the Black Panther is pursuing Bucky. He gets some help from Falcon and Agent 13. Iron Man is ordered to bring in the renegade superheroes which leads to him recruiting Spider-Man to help his side and a big superhero on superhero brawl at an airport in Germany.

The way it is all arranged is quite delicious. Mixed in with everything else is the fact that Bucky's brainwashing at the hands of Hydra is still in place. Helmut Zemo, the man who framed him, uses the Hydra instructions codes to force him to fight his friends. Zemo's next trick is to get the heroes to turn on one another once again after he reveals that Bucky murdered Tony Stark's parents when he was brainwashed years ago.

All in all a very satisfying movie. It felt a bit more like an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie but that didn't bother me. All in all I thought it was a great chapter in the series of Marvel movies and my favorite chapter so far.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

OJ: Made in America - Part 2 (2016)

Unlike the first part, I watched this one in a single sitting. It was riveting. It covers the 1980s and the early 1990s, from the marriage of OJ and Nicole to their divorce.

Similar to the previous installment this one is also about the climate in Los Angeles at the time, especially about the relationship between the LAPD and the African-American community. There are a number of cases that are used to illustrate the excessive and deadly levels of violence used by the police when dealing with the African-American community. I was not familiar with cases like that of Eulia Love, Latasha Harlins, or Operation Hammer prior to watching this installment.

The beating of Rodney King is shown several times. There are a number of (presumably retired) police officers who offer comments about it and the trial of four police officers that followed it. None of the officers interviewed condemn the beating of Rodney King even though some do question the leadership of Police Chief Daryl Gates.

Community leaders that are interviewed for this case are very vocal. Their stories help to illustrate the mood in the African-American in Los Angeles and why things to continue to deteriorate and eventually exploded in riots following the conclusion of the trial of the police officers who beat Rodney King.

The parts that focus on OJ begin by addressing his ego and the way he kept distance between himself and the African-American community in Los Angeles. Most notably he did this by moving to Brentwood, an upscale, mostly white neighborhood. There isn't a lot of detail on his marriage to Nicole Brown, but what is focused on quite heavily is the heavy handed way he dealt with her. Several of his friends from that time are interviewed and are candid about his womanizing and the way he brushed off Nicole's allegations of physical abuse.

This part of the story was both riveting and eye opening. It ends less than a month before Nicole was murdered. It makes it quite clear that she was scared for her life and had suffered quite a bit of physical and (probably) mental abuse in the years that she knew him. It is unclear exactly why she stayed with him as long as she did but some reasons are put forth in the interviews with people who knew her during this part of her life.

Orange Is the New Black 1.01

I Wasn't Ready

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) reports to prison for a 15-month stint. This episode is split between (on the one hand) the first 24 hours of her prison stay and (on the other) flashbacks that help to fill in how she wound up in prison. The short version of her backstory is that she was in love with Alex (Laura Prepon), a woman who was a drug dealer. Piper helped her erstwhile lover to transport money from the United States to Belgium. She was later named as an accomplice. Rather than fight the charge she plea-bargained and that's how she wound up in prison. She has a fiance, Larry (Jason Biggs), who is very supportive. Her family, parents, grandparents, brother, seemed considerably less supportive.

In the present Chapman is doing her best to hold it together. She doesn't take to prison like a fish does to water but she is managing. Not everything goes her way. There are a couple interesting twists right near the end of the episode.

Took me a while to give this show a try. Must say I'm very impressed with the first episode. I like the characters and the pacing so far. The story is slowly evolving and I like what I see. Maybe that shouldn't surprise me since I was a big fan of the first couple seasons of Weeds. After that it kind of lost me. Weeds was also created by this show's runner, Jenji Kohan.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Justice League Unlimited 3.08

The Great Brain Robbery

Dr. Fate tries using magic to track Gorilla Grodd by reading Flash's mind. At that very moment Lex Luthor is using scientific means to try to read Grodd's mind. Unexpectedly Flash and Luthor change bodies. Luthor, now in Flash's body, wrecks havoc on the Justice League's Watchtower as he tries to escape back to Earth.

Flash stumbles quite a bit after he wakes up in Luthor's body and hilarity ensues. There is already dissension in the ranks of the Legion of Doom. Dr. Polaris is leading a group of villains challenging Luthor's leadership. Grodd is the only one who knows what happened and he refuses to help change things back to the way they were.

In addition to Dr. Fate, there a number of other heroes who show up in this episode: Mr. Terrific, Red Tornado, Dr. Light, Steel, Ice. There's a fair amount of action mixed in with the humor.

I only had a sketchy recollection of this episode before watching it this time. It was much better than I remembered. This is the funniest episode of the season so far. I laughed several times. Most importantly it all flowed together well. Nothing felt tacked on or out of place.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Parks and Recreation 6.09

The Cones of Dunshire

Ben invents a new game (the Cones of Dunshire) and gets a new job after getting fired from Sweetums Corp. Donna and Tom help Ron sell his cabin. Leslie gets some help Chris taking on Councilman Jamm one last time before she is ousted from office.

Overall very funny. Lots of good laughs in all the plot threads.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Star Wars: Clone Wars 3.02

ARC Troopers

Kamino is attacked by separatist droids led by General Grievous and Asajj Ventress. They are after the Clone DNA vault. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalked lead the forces that are sent to defend the Clone home world.

Lots of action in this one and lots of cool fight scenes. The Separatist forces look as though they are attacking form the air but the brunt of their attack comes from the sea. Obi-Wan faces off against General Grievous and Anakin takes on Ventress. The best character moments are reserved for the clone troopers. The maintenance clone from last episode, 99, returns and gets to be a hero.

This episode was quite awesome. There was a lot going on all at the same time but it was all beautifully assembled.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Black-ish 1.02

The Talk

After an unfortunate incident, Andre decides it is time to have the talk, the sex talk, with Junior. It isn't easy and he doesn't actually talk to him about sex but afterwards he feels much better about himself. While he is busy patting himself on the back Junior returns and wants to talk about sex some more. Pretty soon this becomes a regular thing to the point where Andre can't stand it and starts avoiding Junior.

Rainbow has a similar experience experience with Zoey. Rainbow's problem is that whenever Zoey starts talking Rainbow starts daydreaming and can't remember anything her daughter has said.

Lots of chuckles. Very funny. I'm far from ready to stop watching this show.

OJ: Made in America - Part 1 (2016)

I was fascinated by this installment of this five-part series. It starts with his time at the University of Southern California and follows him up until he met Nicole Brown, his future second wife, a little more than 10 years later. There is a good mix of coverage of his college and professional football career, his work as a spokesman for Hertz and Chevrolet, and insights into his personal life and what motivated him at that time. OJ appears in the documentary quite a bit, although he did not take part in the making of the it. It is all footage from past interviews he did with various news people.

There are a number of people who are interviewed who knew him personally and professionally in various capacities: childhood friends, college and professional football teammates, sports journalists who interviewed and wrote about him over the years.

This installment opens on a chilling scene from a probation hearing that occurred 5 years after OJ was incarcerated for armed robbery. I was surprised that the director was able to obtain such footage for the movie.

One other part that I found chilling was the juxtaposition of various footage from 1968 without explanation or dialogue from interviews. The scenes from that year are a mix of OJ's appearance on a Bob Hope special, the announcements of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics, and the riots that occurred in a a number of cities following the assassination of MLK.

OJ isn't the only subject of the documentary. It also looks at the world he grew up in and was living in during this period. There are profiles of the Los Angeles Police Department, the Watts Riots, and Muhammad Ali who (unlike OJ) took a stance on the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. OJ is the primary focus of the movie but the inclusion of these little sidebars help to flesh out the story and provide contrast to OJ and show who he was and was not.

This documentary is almost 8 hours long. It was released in 5 parts. Ezra Edelman, the director, recommends watching it all in one sitting. I can't stomach the thought of doing that. It took me three sittings just to get through this part, which is 90 minutes long. I am fascinated by it but I just can't sit still for that long to watch a movie.

I don't recall exactly where I heard about this documentary series first. It was discussed on a number of podcasts that I listen to regularly. I recall hearing Ezra Edelman talk about it on WTF. That is probably what got me the most interested in watching it. That episode of WTF is available but it is behind a pay wall now. I should probably chip in so that I can listen to it again but if I decide to do so then it won't be until after I have watched all five parts.

The only other podcast that I listened to where this program was discussed at length, that I recall, is Crime Writers On. They talked about it on the June 23, 2016 episode which can be found by doing a google search for Crime Writers On Made in America. I believe they also covered The People vs OJ Simpson on a different episode but I have not watched that yet.

I highly recommend this installment to anyone who is remotely interested in a nuanced documentary about OJ Simpson. I was out of the country when the Ford Bronco incident occurred and didn't pay close attention to the murder trial. I do recall where I was when the verdict was announced but once again I didn't pay much attention, probably because everyone else was talking about it and that's just the way I am. I'm looking forward to watching the next installment in the series and seeing what other insights it provides and the way in which Ezra Edelman assembles and presents the information.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Justice League Unlimited 3.07

Patriot Act

The show takes a step back from the Legion of Doom story for a one-off that is a bit of a callback to the Cadmus story from the previous two seasons. General Wade Eiling (J.K. Simmons) breaks into a government lab and injects himself with a super-soldier serum. It makes him big, strong, and deformed. He bears a certain resemblance, after the transformation, to the Hulk, not so much in his appearance as in his mannerisms.

After being transformed he goes looking for Superman. He still doesn't trust superheroes and is convinced that the military is the best defense for the United States. He sees superheroes as a threat and probably has at least since the events of the Starcrossed story, at the end of season 2 of Justice League. Instead of Superman he finds a bunch of heroes who have volunteered to fill in for Superman at a parade.

The heroes (Green Arrow, Shining Knight, Vigilante, Star Girl, STRIPE) do their best but can't beat the General. He is ready to kill them until an old woman shames him into backing down. Unlike the Hulk, he has not lost the ability to reason. He runs off in the end never to be seen again.

This episode is notable for a couple more things. First, the groups of heroes that comes together and fights General Eiling were at one time known as the Seven Soldiers of Victory in the comic books. In this episode they are just thrown together by chance and Mr. Terrific. Speedy (Green Arrow's former sidekick) and Crimson Avenger show up in mid-fight to help out. The Seven Soldier of Victory had a run that lasted 14 issues in Leading Comics in the 1940s.

Second, the Newsboy Legion shows up in this episode. The Guardian, a costumed hero who usually appeared with the The Newsboy Legion, does not. The Newsboy Legion helps to get people to safety while General Eiling is fighting the costumed heroes but that's about the extent of their role in this episode. The Newsboy Legion were created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in Star Spangled Comics in the 1940s.

Third and finally there is also an appearance by Spy Smasher in a flashback to World War II. It is this sequence that introduces the super-soldier serum and tells the story of how Spy Smasher stole it from the Nazis before it could be used to create a Nazi super-soldier. It is presented in back and gray tones and made to look like a newsreel.

Overall this is a middling episode in my opinion. I like it more than episodes 2,3,5 but not as much as 1,4,6. I think it tries a little too hard to pull in too many elements and is a little too fan service laden. Despite that fact I think it is fun even though it is lacking in the sort of serious character moments that I like so much.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Secret Diary of a Call Girl 1.06

Belle has a bad experience with a client who is acting weird; bad as in he creeps her out. Nothing bad happens to her physically and she kicks him out before either of them start removing their clothes. She turns to Ben for emotional support who suggests that she take a break from her night job and try relaxing a bit, which doesn't last very long. Before very long she has a man back at her place but he isn't a client, just someone she met while shopping for a wedding present for Ben and his fiancee.

Matt Smith, who went on to play Doctor Who a couple years later, showed up in this episode. He plays Tim, the guy Hannah meets when shopping for a wedding present. I would call it stunt casting, what with her having been on Doctor Who prior to this show, but this was a couple years before he was cast as the Doctor.

Not a spectacular episode but it was interesting enough. I don't love this show. I think I will finish off the season, just two more episodes, but after that I'm not sure if I will continue watching.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

West Wing 3.09

The Women of Qumar

Josh meets with Amy Gardner (Mary Louise Parker), the head of the Women's Leadership Coalition, at the the First Lady's request. Dr, Bartlett is concerned about the new treaty with Qumar, a country where women are treated very poorly and to which the United States has just sold arms. I think Ms. Gardener is going to be something of a regular on the show, based on what I am reading seeing on IMBD, at least for this season and the next one. By the end of the episode it looks like olitics are getting set aside and their may be some romance blooming between Josh and Amy.

CJ is flipping mad about the US treaty with Qumar and goes out of her way to let everybody know including the representatives of a veterans' group who are their to talk to Toby. This doesn't really get resolved although CJ does have an interesting chat towards the end of the episode with Nancy McNally, the National Security Adviser, on the topic of the treaty with Qumar.

The C plot has to do with the treat of Mad Cow disease and how it should be handled. Everyone seems to be opposed to telling the public about it except CJ. She doesn't make any headway in convincing the President until the end of the episode when she lays out her case for leveling with the American people.

It had been over a year since I last watched West Wing. I put the show on pause in Oct 2015 and I'm just getting back to it now. I'm not sure why it took so long but I'm glad I decided to tune back in. This was by no means a perfect episode but it was a very good one.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rick and Morty 2.10

The Wedding Squanchers

Rick's past comes back to haunt him when he and his family attend the wedding of his best friend, Bird Person. It tuns out that Rick and several friends of his friends have been on the run for years. It all dates back to the fact that they backed the wrong side in an intergalactic war.

There is lots to like in this episode even though it is not as fall down funny as some other episodes. I love the introduction of a new part of Rick's past. Just when I thought he couldn't get any cooler, Rick Sanchez does it again.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Star Wars: Clone Wars 3.01

Clone Cadets

A team of clone cadets, Domino Squad, go from working very poorly as a unit to excelling and graduating with the rest of their class.

The focus of the episode is a particular test (a simulated attack on a droid stronghold) which they repeat a few times during the episode. At first Domino Squad bickers quite a bit and can't get through it successfully. It isn't until their final attempt that the team members are finally able to get it together and pass the test.

This story could have used more time to breathe. Everything in it happened very quickly. It was difficult for me to differentiate between the clone troopers of Domino Squad. The most distinctive character was the maintenance clone, 99.

Not even close to being my favorite episode. It would have to have better action beats or character moments to get high marks from me.

The Fosters 1.01


Callie, is let out of juvenile detention and moves in with Lena and Steph and their three kids, temporarily. She's happy to be out of juvie but has other things on her mind, namely the safety of her younger brother who is still in the foster home where she used to live. Brandon, Steph's biological son, insists on tagging along when Callie skips out on school to go looking for her brother.

Mariana is hiding something from the rest of the family. She says she doesn't want to meet Ana, her biological mother, but her actions indicate that something is up, something that she isn't talking about to anyone including her twin brother, Jesus. Eventually it becomes clear that she has been in contact with Ana.

Callie sees Mariana stealing medication but doesn't say anything to anyone. Callie sells the medications and meets with Ana, at night while Steph and Lena are out looking for Brandon and Callie. She gives her the money. Ana looks like she has probably seen better days. I got the impression that Mariana was hoping that Ana would take her with her and is left confused when she does not.

There are other less prominent plot threads that don't get as much attention but that hint of possible things to come.

I ran across this series while browsing through Netflix and decided to give it a try. Shows like this sometimes get a little too melodramatic for my tastes. Not all the acting was top notch but there was enough there to keep my interest and pique my curiosity. I will probably watch at least a few more episodes.

Parks and Recreation 6.08


Leslie gets into a battle with Councilman Jamm and the Sweetums Corporation over what should be added to the Pawnee Reservoir, fluoride or sugar water. Chris tries to learn life lessons from Ron while he learns how to build a crib. April upsets Donna when she picks the wrong spirit animal for her.

Overall a good one. The A story worked the best for me. Hard to believe it had been about six months since I last watched this show.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Starring Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing, and Christopher Lee as Dracula

Jonathan Harker travels to Dracula's castle to attempt to destroy him. He is not only unsuccessful in his quest but himself is turned into a vampire. Harker's associate, Dr. Van Helsing, arrives a little too late to catch Dracula but disposes of Harker by driving a stake though his heart.

Van Helsing then travels to the home where Lucy, Harker's fianacee lives, with her brother and her sister-in-law. By the time Van Helsing arrives it is a little too late for Lucy; Dracula has already paid her a visit. Van Helsing tries to help cure the woman but thanks to the maid; Dracula gets in to see Lucy once again and completes the process of turning her into one of his followers. Van Helsing is forced to deal with Lucy in the same way that he dealt with Jonathan.

Arthur, Lucy's brother, finally overcomes his skepticism and assists Van Helsing in tracking down Dracula. Before they catch up to the Count he gets to Mina, Arthur's wife, and whisks her back to his castle. It is there that the final showdown with Dracula occurs.

This was not a great movie but it was a lot of fun. Some of the scenes are unintentionally funny. I loved the melodramatic tension throughout the movie. The special effects weren't great but it was kind of fun to see how they shot some of the scenes like the one where Van Helsing is driving a stake through a vampire's heart. Probably not everyone's cup of tea but I thought it was fun to watch as a historical piece in part to compare to other vampire movies.