Damian Lewis

Homeland One Last Time

“One Last Time” was a great acting showcase for Damian Lewis, who, having appeared only thrice so far this season, really needs to pad his portfolio to earn another Emmy nod. Other than that, last night’s episode was about as rote as they come, serving as a necessary transitional interlude between Brody the Junkie to Brody the Badass Marine so the season can propel toward its final espionage plot. Which, it turns out, is another convoluted assassination mission. Believing he has Javadi under his thumb, Saul has Brody dried out and back in fighting mode, so the latter can become besties with Javadi’s boss and eventually get close enough to kill him. Then Javadi will be installed as one of the most powerful men in Iran while being an American double agent. It’s all a bit Dr. Evil, no? Is Brody going to attack Javadi’s boss by hurling a shark with a laser attached to its head at him?

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Gerontion

The third season of Homeland has been a kind of meditation on the merits and and demerits of espionage, a thematic venture that sounds much more promising on paper than what’s been offered on screen. Part of that disappointment stems from the fact that the writers haven’t really come up with a point of view on the subject: one week Saul is the voice of reason for railing against the increasing devaluation of human relationships in spy work, the next week it’s that same kind of relationship that jeopardizes an operation. The show’s debates have become sound and fury, signifying nothing. Last night’s episode, “Gerontion,” is a continuation of this season’s unfocused jumble of ideas. Take, for example, its attempt at staging a debate between the moral relativism necessary to work with evildoers versus the ethical imperative bringing those evildoers to justice. “We should try [Javadi] for what he’s done,” says newbie analyst Fara, referring to the Iranian intelligence official’s role in funding the Langley bombing. Later in the hour, Quinn gets uncharacteristically introspective, declaring, “I just don’t believe it anymore…that anything justifies the damage we do.” He still feels guilty over killing that kid in Venezuela, which is good, because he’d be a sociopath otherwise.

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Homeland

The last time we saw Homeland‘s Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), he was at the Canadian border, being framed for the murder of 200+ CIA agents and ready to run away with Carrie (Claire Danes). Out of loyalty to Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and her her former place of employment (and maybe even a sliver of a survival instinct), though, Carrie decided to stay in D.C., but promised her bad romance that she’d clear his name. Since then, she’s no closer to fulfilling that promise. Instead, Carrie’s been stuck in a terrifying psych ward, where she figures the only way out is through groveling. Assuming that Saul and her doctor are in cahoots, she tries to thank them for doing her the “favor” of putting her back on lithium. The doctor thinks she’s still paranoid, though, which isn’t going to bolster her Brody-was-framed argumemt; she’s in fact so far from being able to leave she’s not even allowed visitors yet. Nor does she help her case by bashing her head against the bathroom mirror. “I’m going cr — I’m doing everything’s that’s asked of me,” she cries to a sympathetic nurse, who inexplicably risks her own job to allow Carrie to meet with a lawyer. But Carrie sees this white-bread attorney, Paul Franklin, as a recruiter for one of America’s enemies – a sign of her paranoia, perhaps, but also a surprising indication of her extant loyalty to the CIA.

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Homeland

As far as I can recall, there was no theme song for Homeland‘s season three premiere. That seems appropriate – it’s in line with the fact that, with Brody in hiding and the CIA in tatters, the Showtime drama is undergoing an identity crisis. For the first two seasons, Abu Nazir, Homeland‘s Osama Bin Laden, was the show’s Big Bad. Then Nazir was killed. Now what? For the first half of “Tin Man is Down,” it seemed like Marid Javadi, an Iranian terrorist responsible for arranging the bombing that took out over 200 senior CIA officials in the second season finale, might step into Nazir’s shoes. But showrunner Alex Gansa has promised “something that’s smaller, that is sort of a little more John LeCarre” for the series’ third year, which might mean something more inwardly focused: the point of the CIA. The Langley bombing occurred two months ago, and the rubble still stands as a rebuke to the intelligence agency for failing to foresee the event – Congress is forcing the CIA to sleep in the bed it wet. As the spy bureau’s acting director, Saul now carries the burdensome responsibility of not just rebuilding and redefining the organization, but defending its actual existence.

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review sweeney

The Sweeney is a celebration of shoddy police work. Not that it’s different from many other cop movies in that respect. If you think about it, the amount of collateral damage that piles up in the genre should get most of the silver screen’s badge-carrying heroes fired. Cars fly into buildings, public spaces get blown to bits, and innocent civilians get drawn into the fray. Usually we don’t even think about it. The Sweeney, to its credit, is often about its own indulgent and bombastic style. The cops in question are London’s Flying Squad, known as ‘The Sweeney’ by way of some Cockney rhyming slang (Flying Squad sounds like Sweeney Todd). They are lovingly adapted by writer/director Nick Love from the classic British television show of the same name, which ran from 1975 to 1979. Ray Winstone takes on the role of the head of the squad, hot-heated Jack Regan. His second in command is George Carter (Ben Drew), an up-and-coming young detective whose ambition is only matched by his loyalty to Regan. The Sweeney’s job, ostensibly, is to prevent armed robberies. They accomplish this by interrupting crimes in progress, always out of uniform, and usually brandishing baseball bats.

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Cate Blanchett

What is Casting Couch? It’s a round-up of Hollywood casting news, not one of those porn videos where a 19-year-old gets exploited in a grimy-looking office. Move along, perv. Now that we’ve got all of those live action Snow White movies out of the way, it makes sense that we would move down the fairy tale lineup and start seeing a rash of new Cinderella projects popping up. And, if Disney has their way, their Mark Romanek-directed Cinderella script from The Devil Wears Prada scribe Aline Brosh McKenna will be the hit that starts the trend. They’re trying to get casting for the film off on the right foot with the acquisition of a big name, as Deadline reports that the House of Mouse is in serious negotiations with Cate Blanchett to come on board to play a character called Lady Tremaine, known in some circles as the wicked stepmother. Given her experience playing a creepy elf in the Lord of the Rings movies, this seems like something of a perfect fit.

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Over the last month, many critics and even its creators have been citing Showtime’s new series Homeland as the first “post-post-9/11 program” as it deals with the issue of what to do now that the biggest threats of the last decade have been eliminated. It’s hard to say if that’s truly the case, but for now it would be fair to say that Homeland is the first legit espionage show to appear on the small screen in years. Legitimate in that this is a very realistic portrayal of what the word ‘espionage’ means. Webster defines it as “the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company.” It doesn’t make mention of aggressive tactical operations, shootouts, explosions, fist fights or kick boxing matches. The verbal form of spying, no matter the definition one uses, refers to the basic act of observing, not fighting. So much of what’s portrayed in television and film of the spy world is focused on offensive measures, often times meant to be interpreted as defensive counter-measures. But, in Homeland that concept is reversed, and to great effectiveness. Rarely do we get to see the truly defensive measures that are taken on U.S. soil and what our intelligence community’s response is when we are the foreign entity being infiltrated.

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Over the weekend, I sat down for the 10-hour marathon that is Band of Brothers for an upcoming edition of For Science. And while I’m not here to write about that just yet, I will say that I was once again driven to madness by the superb acting of Damian Lewis.

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escapist-header

In an exclusive interview FSR chats with Rupert Wyatt, director and co-writer of the prison escape drama The Escapist, now playing in limited release and on IFC Films On Demand.

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Life: Find Your Happy Place

TV’s most interesting detective — who also happens to be on its most clever and intelligently written show — is back. And he’s more interesting than ever.

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Brian Cox stars as a man who decides to escape from his life-long prison sentence to see his dying daughter one last time.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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