Tuesday, August 11, 2015

TV Show Review: Flashpoint

(Please note that while I will not be reviewing specific episodes, I will be commenting on the specific trends that most of the episodes followed.)

Title: Flashpoint
Author: ION Television, CTV Television Network, CBS (a Canadian police drama)
Release Date: 2008-2012 (5 seasons)
Genre: crime, violence, drama, family, friendship, action, thriller, romance
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: N/A
Age Group: 16+

IMDb describes it simply as "The missions and trials of a Toronto police tactical unit."
I guess so.
But this is the story of the Team 1 of the SRU (Strategic Response Unit). People who face death every day and are forced to kill become really close, so this isn't your typical idea of the word "team." People come and people go, both on the team and in team member's lives, but the story goes on. A threat is called in, and off the SRU goes to face whatever it is and save the lives of anyone put at risk. Anyone. Even the drug dealers and murderers and people they don't like. And they do it at the risk to their own lives. Every time.
But this isn't something you can do and then go home and forget about it. Because you can't forget about when you shot a man threatening to blow up a building, nor a girl threatening to shoot her father. You can't forget watching the girl you love get shot by a sniper buildings away. A man stealing a baby. A teammate's death. Bombs blowing up. Stuff. Life--to those on the team.

Word of Warning
  •  Crime. There is a whole awful lot of crime going around. This might surprise you, it being a cop show and all, but there's a lot of it. Theft, murder, attempted murder, blowing things up, kidnapping, rape, gangs, drugs, the list goes on forever.
  • Death. People die. Sometimes they are shot by SRU officers, sometimes they are not saved in time. Sometimes they try to kill themselves. There are a few major deaths that keep popping up during the series, so I will mention those. 1) a man is shot in the first episode by an SRU officer, right in front of the man's teenage son. 2) a girl who is threatening her father with a gun is shot by an SRU officer. There is a slow-mo shot of her falling, but no blood is shown. 3) one of the officers shot his friend by accident while in the military. 4) one member of the SRU dies in an explosion (off screen).
  • Injuries. People get hurt a lot too. Gunshot wounds, getting punched and shoved around, stab wounds, etc. Rarely is there any gore shown. Blood, yes, but that's not the focus of the show so it is not dwelt upon. Even when there is blood just enough is used to make the point. Three instances stand out to me where there was a lot of blood: when a woman is hit in the arm with a piece of shrapnel, when a woman is shot by a sniper on a rooftop, a man is shot in the abdomen.
  • Romance. It's not necessarily a problem, unless it is. I'm not spoiling anything by telling you this, since it establishes itself pretty early on, but two of the SRU team members quickly form a romantic relationship even though it is against regulations. They sleep together often. Aside from the SRU couple, some of the violence revolves around couples (abuse, rape, divorce, cheating on spouses, etc). There is more than one out of wedlock pregnancy.
  • Stress. Sure, this is a big deal for the minor characters committing the crimes, but the focus is on the SRU. There's a lot of mental stress that goes with the job, and that's not ignored. Flashbacks, freezing up, PTSD, all that good stuff. The mental stress is there and it's acknowledged.
  • Drinking and drugs. People go and get drinks all the time and rarely get drunk. Sometimes minor characters get drunk and that's involved in the SRU call. One officer had a history of being drunk, resulting in his wife taking their young son and moving to a different state. Drugs are not a problem on the SRU team, but are involved in a few different calls.
My Thoughts
It's good. It's also really hard to stop watching. While I really did find the action part of it interesting, I appreciated that attention was given to the mental state of the SRU officers. I think that was my favorite part, aside from the on-again-off-again romance on the team (which drove me crazy sometimes). My only objection is that there seems to be a disconnect at times between episodes. After doing some research on the web, it appears the disconnect (storylines not being carried over to the next episode when they should have been, etc) is because this is a Canadian show so the US only has most of the episodes. I haven't found anything to confirm this, but it would make sense. The whole thing is so well-written I have a hard time believing they just decided to forget about key storylines when writing the next episode.
I like that the focus is on the lives of the SRU officers, not the calls themselves. And I really like the bond of the team, how it flexes to work with new situations or nearly breaks when it cannot get over the old.
Overall, there's really not much to say about this show. It's just good. And if you have some free time, you might want to watch all of it. Because once you watch one episode, you'll be watching all of them.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Movie Review: Inside Out

Title: Inside out
Author: Pixar
Release Date: 2015
Genre: family, drama, friendship, fantasy, psychology, animation, adventure, comedy
My Rating: *****
Official Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Age Group: 6+

Summary: Riley has a great live in Minnesota. She's on an awesome hockey team, has a great best friend, and has parents who love her.
But when Riley's dad moves the family to San Francisco along with his job, this get a little challenging. Then, something goes very wrong. Riley doesn't understand, but her emotions are all out of whack and the poor confused little girl has no idea what to do.
Joy does. Because Joy is an emotion and she lives in Riley's head (along with Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) and she has always made sure Riley's life is the happiest it can be. That's why Riley has so many happy memories.
But Sadness is feeling left out and suddenly Joy and Sadness find themselves running through Riley's mind trying to get back to the control tower in time to save Riley from making a terrible mistake. Along the way, Joy learns something about Sadness--and about life.

Word of Warning
  • A cartoon dog is cut in half. It's funny, but kind of freaky too. And it's meant to wake Riley as a bad dream, so no matter how comical the scene is its intent is to be scary and that's not easy to miss.
  • A clown is shown as being scary and causes Riley to have a nightmare.
  • Riley runs away.
  • Riley's life is monopolized by Joy. Which sounds really nice, but it's not. It turns out that's not a healthy way to live.
  • Riley feels as though her parents do not love her as much as they used to (they do, they're just really busy).
  • Riley steals a credit card.
  • An imaginary Canadian boyfriend says "I would die for Riley," apparently being her ideal. The girl is 11. He (and many copies of him) do die for her--but it's all in her mind and she's not even aware of it happening. So they're not actually dead. But they kind of are. It's complicated.
  • Riley's mother is frustrated with her husband, so her emotions settle on a memory of a Brazilian pilot who asked the mother to run away with him instead of marrying Riley's father.
  • One character falls into a place in Riley's mind where things are forgotten. We watch this character sacrifice himself to get Joy back to Riley and then he slowly fades into nonexistence (it's really sad and beautiful).
  • A dead mouse is seen on the floor. Later, it appears in Riley's dream.
  • In abstract thought, Sadness, Joy, and Bing Bong (Riley's imaginary friend) get twisted into strange shapes.
  • Anger mentions a few times that he really wants to use the curse word they all know. When he's about to, someone pushes a button that makes a "beep" sound, cleverly hinting at the word being beeped out (even though it was never said)
My Thoughts
At the end, Stacy and I concluded that someone took an academic paper and turned it into a children's movie. Because that's basically what this is. And while that may make the movie sound very unappealing, that's so far from the truth I don't even know where to start.

I mean, where does one start on such a brilliant movie? The insights into how the mind works, how people interact, what emotions do....the list goes on forever. I was blown away. I watch a lot of children's movies, and this is by far in the top ten. Probably in the top five. Because it's a great story with some really great humor for the young 'ins. And for the older folks...no crass humor is hidden there for us to laugh at. No, that's not what keeps us hooked. What keeps us hooked is the beauty of the story and the insights into psychology and the great little jokes.

Why don't we get more movies like this?

I'd watch this one again in an instant. The biggest reason I haven't seen it again since Sunday is because
I have two jobs.

Obviously, I can't seem to speak highly enough of it. And obviously it is not without its faults. But it was good enough that I would recommend it in a heartbeat.