February 21, 2018

The Team, Danish crime drama on MHZ

The Team is a Danish crime drama television series which premiered in 2015 and is currently streaming on MHZ network. Lars Mikkelsen (seen in Borgen) is the Danish point detective Harald Bjorn working with Belgian homicide detective Alicia Verbeek (Veerie Baetens) and police superintendent Jackie Muller (Jasmin Gerat) from Berlin on a cross-border crime case.

Murders occurring in various European locales are suspiciously similar. The crime team connects the dots to determine the guilty party or parties.

We get glimpses of the European sex trade, human trafficking, political in-fighting within the police and pretty gruesome scenes containing waterboarding torture, the slaughter of chickens and the mutilation of corpses. If that does not put you off, you will be drawn into this story of international crime and intrigue.

For those that like a little emotional drama, there is also a sub-plot with two of the main detectives having had an adulterous affair that resulted in a child.

MHZ continues to offer some of the best European crime dramas. Danish, English, Dutch, French, German and Swedish are the languages heard in this production with English subtitles. Besides the scenes with subtitles, the principal actors all speak very clear English, with Mikkelsen having a scarily good British accent.

The eight 57-minute episodes of The Team are typical Scandi-noir with great cinematography, crisp dialogue, graphic crime depiction and an intricate plot. Is this perhaps your mug of glogg?

Scott & Bailey on Hulu

I had a ho-hum reaction when someone recommended the police procedural Scott & Bailey with it’s Cagney & Lacey parallels. Two women are detectives working together on major crimes, murder in particular. I watched a couple of episodes on Hulu and pretty quickly changed my mind about the appeal of the series. This show may have a boiler plate premise, but the acting, scripts and production values are first rate. The Manchester, England setting and the curious accents add to the entertainment.

Members of the Manchester Incident Team, Detective Janet Scott played by blonde actress Lesley Sharp and Rachel Bailey portrayed by dark-haired Suranne Jones are the major focus of the show, but boss Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) seems like the Third Female Musketeer on the program. Bullmore is also listed as the scriptwriter for seven episodes.

There are men, to be sure, co-worker police staff, ex-husbands, lovers, witnesses and criminals, but the plot concentrates on the women of the show. Each episode has a stand-alone crime, but there is an over-arching storyline that involves love lives, friendships, ambition and problematic family members.

As a side note, Lesley Sharp’s real life husband, actor Nicholas Gleaves has an engrossing dramatic story line as her detective colleague and sometime adulterous lover, Andy Roper.

Season One has six episodes, followed by Seasons 2, 3 and 4 with eight episodes each, ending with a brief 3-episode Season 5. Bullmore is not in Season 5 which robbed the series of a little magic.

Nevertheless, if you like female-centric police procedurals, especially set in foreign countries, the 33 episodes of Scott & Bailey on Hulu might be a good candidate for your watch list.

Manhunt: Unabomber on Netflix

I vaguely remember news reports on the Unabomber, but the new Netflix series Manhunt: Unabomber takes you into the world of Ted Kaczynski, the infamous man who sent mail bombs from 1978 to 1995. Don’t view the series as true history however, since FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald, well-played by actor Sam Worthington, is a composite character who never actually interviewed Kacznyski.

As far as drama goes, you will be sucked into this compelling tale with Paul Bettany creating an amazing portrait of the genius serial killer. The cast is fine throughout, but you may be tickled by some of the star turns: Chris Noth as FBI boss Don Ackerman, Janet Lynch as Attorney General Janet Reno, Michael Nouri as Bob Guccione and Brian d’Arcy James as evil professor, Henry Murray.

My only quibble is with the time jumps between 1995 and 1997 which are sometimes confusing and leave some unanswered questions. The flashbacks to earlier decades are much easier to follow. Nevertheless, the 8 episode mini-series created by Andrew Sodroski, Jim Clemente and Tony Gittelson might be worth your time if you like crime drama and exceptional acting.

As we see electronics and artificial intelligence creep into every aspect of our daily lives, Kacynzski’s Manifesto can be read today as a cautionary tale, not only for what he was saying, but for making clear that there is no message that justifies deadly means.

And I must admit that I have looked at my delivered packages in a somewhat different light since watching Manhunt: Unabomber.

Fearless on Amazon Prime

Hats off to the Brits for featuring heroines who are a little older, show a few more wrinkles and don’t look like they have just exited a trailer for hair and make-up.

Fearless on Amazon Prime stars Helen McCrory as appealing but non-glamorous human rights lawyer Emma Banville who attempts to exonerate Kevin Russell (Sam Swainsbury) who has served 14 years for the murder of a teen-aged girl whose body was found buried close to his workshop.

As Emma starts her investigation, she discovers threads that link to politicians, American military interests and to Olivia Greenwood (Wunmi Mosaku), the original detective on the Russell case who is now a bigwig in Great Britain’s anti-terrorism department.

If you are watching foreign dramatic television, you will notice that the CIA and other clandestine American security personnel have supplanted Nazis as the new villains. Heather Myles chillingly played by Robin Weigert is the ultra-baddie American fixer who will go to any lengths to protect her important clients.

Throw in an ISIS sub-plot, Emma’s gay guy sidekick (Dominic Truelove) along with name actors Michael Gambon and Jamie Bamber and you have a very brainy and diverting six episode series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Just a heads up that the tag line for the show is “Read Between the Lines” with Fearless below it, so I was initially confused as to the title of the show until I saw the opening credits.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the fearless Emma Banville on another case, and pronto.

The Big Sick movie streaming on Amazon

I recently wrote about the podcast, Stay Tuned With Preet which featured an interview with writer/actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani who was unfamiliar to me.

Amazon is currently streaming The Big Sick, with a script co-written by Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon. The film definitely covers all the bases of a romantic comedy, but it also examines a Pakistani Muslim family’s belief in arranged marriage, the challenging life of a stand-up comedian and the travails of our medical system when one is faced with a serious and unknown malady.

The film is based on how Kumail and Emily met before their marriage. Emily’s medically-induced coma ultimately brings the couple together as Kumail holds vigil with Emily’s out-of-town mother and father. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter turn in winning performances as Emily’s open-minded but very white parents.

Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon (Zoe Kazan is cast as Gordon in the movie; Nanjiani plays himself.)

You may find yourself laughing at the comedic dialogue yet getting a little teary at some of the touching scenes about life, death and love.

Kumail Nanjiani’s acting and writing credits for tv, movies and video games indicate that he not only got the girl, but he’s done pretty well for himself. He and his wife have turned their rocky courtship in Chicago into an intelligent yet hilarious movie. The Big Sick was indeed a diverting film to view on a cold winter’s night at home.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon

As I was listening to rapid fire clever dialogue in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an Amazon original series, I was vaguely reminded of another show that uses this screwball comedy conversational timing: The Gilmore Girls. Small wonder since both series were created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and co-produced with her husband, Daniel Palladino.

The heart and soul of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the titular character played by Rachel Brosnahan, a mixture of New York housewife chic and very blue humor. The unexpurgated comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) becomes her jail buddy and helpful colleague. The two people most important in her life at this juncture, however, are her wanna-be comedian and cheating husband, Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen) and her fledgling manager, Susie Meierson played by the wonderfully acerbic Alex Borstein.

While the heroine’s overbearing WASP parents were played by Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrman in The Gilmore Girls, Marin Hinkle and a daffy Tony Shalhoub are cast as Rachel Maisel’s Upper West Side Jewish parents. Hey, if something works the first time around, why break a winning formula?

Set in the late 1950s, the music, the clothing and the New York atmosphere are all convincingly evoked. Palladino’s script does point out that racism and sexism were alive and well, so this was no golden age in our country’s history for large segments of the population. Still, if a time machine existed, I would go back for a night in one of these New York comedy/music clubs.

Thankfully, we have The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as an entertaining alternative. Season Two, please!