Thursday, February 26, 2015

(The Big Disrupt) TWIST: Jaron Gilinsky's Storyhunter gives unprecedented benefits to vid journos...

Check out this great interview by This Week In Start Ups with host Jason Calacanis posing questions with Storyhunter Co-Founder and CEO Jaron Gilinsky.

(TV) Better Call Saul Season 1 Episode 4 “Hero” TV Review

In “hero” we get to see that Saul is anything but as the episode starts where last week’s episode left off after a short trip down memory lane where we see Saul in his criminal pomp back in Cicero running a con on a mark.

There isn’t much truth to be found in this week’s edition of Better Call Saul but then again, is there ever? We begin the episode with Saul and a partner in crime scamming a mark for beer money and after the opening credits, we hear the bullshit rationalizations from the Kettlemans as to why they stole money and even why they deserve the money in all fairness!!

However Saul’s not exactly BS free as he tries to get the Kettlemans to come home so he can get Nacho off the hook and save his own skin. The Kettlemans however are not so keen on coming back as coming back will make them guilty despite the fact they’re guilty as sin.

The Kettlemans are so determined not to go back or give back the money that they offer Saul a bribe which he rejects, at first.  After refusing the Kettlemans bribe several times, Saul suggests that he can take the money as a retainer to represent them legally. Saul then keys into sales patter selling himself as a better alternative to HHM but is shut down by Mr’s Kettleman with a galling but truthful line when she tells Saul he’s the “kind of lawyer guilty people hire”.

Saul has suffered one gut punch after another with nothing to show for it but in the next scene we see that this time he come out smelling of roses and lot of money. So far, Better Call Saul has been a tale about morally flawed man doing his best to fight his own moral corruption and getting punished for it at every turn but in “hero”, we see Saul become a little less morally conflicted and in the next few scenes bask in the “glory” of his ill-gotten spoils.

But before that we see Saul assert himself after Nacho accuses him of snitching. So far, we’ve seen Saul wear his fear of Nacho for all to see but in “hero” Saul’s disdain for Nacho’s crude methods would have got him caught without his “intervention”. Saul’s disappointed with most things but his pet peeve is inefficient criminals as we saw him castigate the twins for their choice of victim and rakes Nacho over the coals for his crude plan to extort the Kettlemans with brute force.

In the few scenes we see Saul return to his office making a paper trail for his new windfall that day before spending some of his new funds on a new suit and haircut. However, in the next scene we see what his transformation was for as Howard and Kim make a short tip off the highway to reveal a hilariously large advertisement with Saul cut like Howard from the hair to the winning smile promoting his “JMM” firm using the same logo and font as HHM. For all the we’ve learned about Saul so far what has clearly stuck out is his desire to compete with Howard and HHM despite him knowing he’s up against the odds as he is, in his own words, a lemonade stand going up against Wal-Mart.

And like the real Wal-Mart, HHM doesn’t take competition lightly no matter how insignificant it is as we find out when Kim makes a visit to Saul’s office with a cease and desist letter. Kim clearly cares about Saul as she probes him over his motivations in poking Howard and HHM in the eye by cloning his and the firms likeliness. Saul denies it’s personal but we all it’s definitely personal as Howard, through his brother, tried to get him to use another name than his own.

Since then Saul’s been looking for a way to get at Howard and HHM and the ad, placed perfectly in a highway Howard takes to get to work everday, was just another attempt to do it. Despite Kim’s attempts to reason with Saul, Saul remains resolute in his personal war with HHM and Howard in particular Kim (and Saul) knows he can’t win.

In the next scene we see Saul and Howard in front of a judge making their cases with Howard accusing Saul of trademark infringement as he stole the HHM logo and “Hamlindigo blue” font. Saul counters with the fact that he’s being penalized by using his own name by HHM causing a “restraint of trade” and basically cites them as being anti-competitive. However, the judge wasn’t buying it and order Saul to take down the ad.

Despite another setback, we get another montage showing Saul as his best trying to sell a story that frames him as the little upstart being thwarted by a bigger and faceless corporation in HHM. When that clearly doesn’t work, we see Saul resort to what he knows best, the con game.  This time Saul plays a con on the press as he just happens to film a public message attempting to shame HMM and the court that made him take down the billboard as he “saves” a billboard installer who hangs suspended in the air screaming for help before Saul climbs up and pulls him back up.

From the outset of Better Call Saul we’ve seen that Saul has a real talent for deception and “hero” is no different as his con on the press works perfectly as his local TV interview after his “heroic” effort makes it into the HHM boardroom and regional newspapers. He also gets 7 new messages on his answerphone which just might help him deal with his painful anxiety in checking his messages in the future.

However his work isn’t done as he has to hide all evidence of the con away from Chuck who can see through Saul’s bullshit a mile away. Knowing full well the truth will break his brother’s heart; Saul lies through his teeth about his recent success crediting his brother’s sage advice for the turnaround. While pleased with brother’s recent success, it clear that Chuck smells a rat and thanks to an episode induced by his desire to read a local paper, his suspicion are confirmed.

All in all, “Hero” was another solid episode with Bob Odenkirk putting in another great performance.

Till next week!!

(TV) The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 12 Promo "Remember" | The Walking Dead...

Check out this short sneak peek into next week’s episode of the AMC smash hit drama “The Walking Dead”.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(TV) The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 11 “The Distance” TV Review

“The Distance” was great episode where we got to see the depths of Rick’s paranoia and someone, finally, get in his face and question his authority which instantly brought an end to the “Ricktatorship.”

While Rick officially brought an end his dictatorial reign at the back end of season three and part of season four, Rick still has made just about every major call since then without little or no push back. As per usual, not all his decisions we’re great including the dangerous 100 mile hike to Washington. But in “The Distance”,  Michonne makes herself heard and makes Rick see sense.

While we’ve seen Michonne grow leaps and bounds from when we first saw her and in this week’s episode we see her browbeat Rick into giving new character Aaron a chance. However, for all that we’ve seen in the last five seasons of The Walking Dead we can’t fault Rick from looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Just about every time the group has placed trust in strangers they’ve paid the price from the Governor to the Terminus residents and now a polite, well dressed and clean shaven man comes along promising salvation is sure to cause suspicion. Rick paranoia pops up front and center the moment Maggie and Sasha introduce Aaron to the group as Rick quizzes him wearing his “I’m going to kill you and wear your face” look. Despite the understandable skepticism, hostility and caution among Rick and most of the group, Aaron manages to keep his composure selling his community to a tough crowd.

From the first few minutes we can tell that Aaron has perfected his pitch and is a skill salesman but trust is hard enough to establish in the world we live in but so just imagine how much harder it is to do in a zombie apocalypse where the only humans left are more dangerous than the flesh eating monsters aimlessly walking around looking for lunch. This point is punctuated as Rick gets sick of his well-polished sales patter and nails him  with a right cross that put Aaron out cold.

And with that begun the episode long clash between Rick and Michonne as she gets in Rick’s face for attacking Aaron but Rick is too busy preparing for an ambush from Aaron’s group. Aaron come back from right cross induced stupor and still manages to keep his cool despite being decked and interrogated by a dead eyed Rick. In this scene Aaron makes a great point about trust when he questions Rick skeptical mindset about as points out to Rick that no matter how many of his people he says is out there, Rick won’t believe him anyway because he’s skeptical from the outset.

However his well-reasoned and argued point goes way over Rick’s head as he continues to wear his paranoia on his sleeve. You can’t really blame him as for all that he’s lost since the zombie apocalypse began; he still has the most to lose out of the group which makes the safety and well-being of Karl and Judith his number one priority.    

So for all the well-reasoned and argued points Aaron can come up with under serious interrogation from Rick and the group’s more skeptical members, he’s not making any hay on getting them to join his community. However Aaron does kind of shoot himself in the foot when making a point about what would happen if he had foul intentions by describing how he would ambush a group. This was a whopper of a mistake given all Rick and the group has shown him is hostility and suspicion. However I don’t really think this the fault of the show’s new character but of the writers of TWD looking for ways to introduce tension where it doesn’t exists.

The writers are well aware that TWD suffers from a serious lack of dramatic tension in light of the show having no real antagonist with The Governor gone and the Walker now a palpable but ultimately manageable threat. So far Aaron has maintained his polite demeanor and has given the group no reason to trust him but with the writers looking to introduce tension where there isn’t reveals the writers eagerness to fix a problem they can’t fix anytime soon.

After Aaron makes another attempt to get the group to trust him by revealing that another member of his community is up the road with a camper, Rick and Michonne clash again as Rick thinks it’s a trick but Michonne, notably desperate for sanctuary in the second half of this season, is willing to give Aaron the benefit of the doubt as is Maggie.

Rick, not willing to take the risk, retorts that Michonne’s plan to check Aaron’s claims out are dangerous but Michonne rightly points out that living hand to mouth in a barn in the middle of nowhere isn’t exactly safe either. Then what happens next is pretty much one of the highlights of the episode as Michonne rallies the group into following her plan and sternly insists that Rick plays ball. We’ve seen Rick for the most part get his way without much resistance right or wrong but in “The Distance”, Rick is forced to follow the lead of one of the group members.

This a good development as the “what Rick says goes” regime the group has pretty much cosigned from the outset clearly needs tweaking. Most of the group has been fine with merely surviving but Michonne has been pushing for a place to settle and realizes that it may take a risk like trusting a stranger to get it no matter how much what they have to say or offer is hard to believe due to the group’s bad experiences with other groups willing to take them in.
The group then splits in two with some of group following Michonne while other hanging back looking out for threats. Michonne’s plan was the smart play but leaving Rick with Aaron wasn't due to his paranoia clearly getting the best of him. We find that out pretty quickly as Rick threatens to put a knife in the base Aaron’s skull if  Michonne and co weren’t back in an hour.

In between the couple of scenes where we see that Aaron’s story checked out, we see the depths of Rick’s Paranoia after Aaron offers Rick apple sauce to feed Judith to stop her crying because she might attract walkers. Rick then makes Aaron taste the apple sauce before he gives it to Judith which is understandable but telling given the fact that if Aaron did poison the apple sauce, it would be an automatic death sentence for him given his job means he has to encounter groups with every reason to distrust him.

When Michonne, Maggie, Glenn, Rosita and Abraham return to the barn with a bevy of canned food, Michonne once again campaigns for the group to leave the barn, most of the group is onboard given Aaron story checked out and even Daryl, who’s been a Rick loyalist for the longest, joins Michonne in her insistence to leave the barn and join Aaron’s community.

Seeing that Michonne has pretty much has the whole group on her side, Rick reluctantly agrees. Once again Ricks mistrust puts him and others in danger as Aaron tells him and the group which road to take back his group but thanks his paranoia, Rick decided to split group with him, Michonne, Glen and Aaron take another route and the rest of the clan take the route Aaron suggested.

The plan pretty much went Pete Tong for Rick, Michonne, Aaron and Glen as Aaron was correct when he suggested that Rick’s plan to go down a route his group hadn’t cleared of walkers was a bad idea as Glen mows down a herd of walkers. The group get out of the car when  Aaron gets out of the car after seeing a flare light the sky. If the plan hadn’t already gone awry it’s about worse as the group end up having to shoot and chop their through a herd that nearly gets them killed before they make it back on to the main road and walk the rest of the trip.

As the group meet up again we follow Aaron into as he meets up with his partner Eric and find out Maggie and Glenn aren’t the only hope for relationships in the zombie apocalypse. The few seconds we spent with Aaron and Eric revealed a relationship that’s tender and loving which makes one of the bleakest and cynical shows on television today a more bearable watch considering the emotionally draining episodes over the last two weeks.

In the next scene we see that Aaron has some steel to go with his politeness as he stands up to Rick when tries to tell him where to sleep. This scene was particularly telling because Aaron was prepared to take on Rick before Glenn stepped in to talk sense into him. His steel is even more impressive as while he must have figured out by now that while Rick is good man willing to do what it takes to protect the ones he loves, he is also a stone cold killer with a serious case of paranoia made worse by the burden of leadership.

The real highlight of the whole episode was in the last three minutes of “The Distance” as get a close up on Rick’s eyes and in them we see a man looking for hope while waiting for other shoe to drop until the hears the sound of children playing which allows him relax as we see the life rush back into his dead green eyes. For all faults the show has, the performances from its cast are almost always on point with Andrew Lincoln acting his boots off in this episode.

Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron, was also pretty good in his first full episode as we, through his performance, learned much about his character. Now that Rick and co are now part of another group, we get to see how they deal with a group of real human beings that don’t want to kill them and keep their walker remains or eat them alive.

The show has needed an instance where the group joins a community where they’re not in control and now we get to see whether they can really play nice with others or has the being out in the world hardened them beyond repair.

We may get some answers on that front next week.

Monday, February 16, 2015

(TV) Better Call Saul Season 1 Episode 2 “Mijo” TV Review

“Wow. You gotta mouth on you”

In “Uno” we saw life handing Saul lemons but his sharp lawyer but in “Mijo” we see Saul show off his ability to, in his own words “turn a death sentence to six months’ probation”

“Mijo” started where “Uno” left off as the twins talked their way into a world of trouble after the old lady (who we find out in short order is the grandmother of Breaking Bad alumni Tuco Salamanca) informs Tuco of the accident but one of the twins makes the mistake of calling the old lady a “crazy old biznatch” which instantly hit the kill switch in Tuco who we know from Breaking Bad is not one to take insults or even perceived slights lightly.

The Tuco presented to us so far seems a far calmer and sober version than the violent lunatic we saw in Breaking Bad who took meth in just about every scene we saw him in and killed for little or no reason. However, it’s not long before we see Tuco’s violent tendencies get the best of him as after he ushers his distressed grandmother upstairs and waits till she’s out of sight, he clocks both of the twins unconscious with his grandmother’s walker after getting sick of the twins disrespectful tone and constant claims for compensation.

It’s not been a great day for Saul and it gets worse as he interrupts Tuco in the middle of scrubbing the twin’s blood out of his grandma’s carpet. We hear Saul knock on the door and as soon as the door opens he’s greeted with Tuco sticking a gun in his face ushering him into the house.

After searching Saul, Tuco offers Saul a seat while pointing his gun right at his face asking him who he is. Saul, scared out of his mind, pretty much tells Tuco the truth though leaving a couple of incriminating details. When their discussion is interrupted by Tuco grandma, Saul notices the “salsa stain” on the carpet he knows full well isn’t salsa and which instills even more fear in him.

However, despite being petrified, Saul still manages to stay in full lawyer mode as he manages to talk Tuco into releasing the twins after but the twins, desperate to find a way out, undo all of Saul’s good work and incriminate Saul which earned all three of them a trip to the New Mexico desert.

When we see Saul, the twins, Tuco and three of his goons in the desert, I instantly perked up and paid attention as in Breaking Bad trips to the desert accounted for some of the best television of the last decade as characters either, died, made deals or talked their way out of the death in the New Mexico desert and this scene in “Mijo was no different. Trips to the desert in Breaking Bad often came across as a masterclass in how talk your way out of impending death as Walt and Jesse found themselves, more often than not, begging for their lives at the end of a gun and in this episode, Saul showed us he can match Walt’s world class talent for presenting rational arguments under duress.

Tuco and his crew interrogate Saul who spills the beans on his original plan to scam his way into getting the treasurer’s business that had gone woefully wrong but Tuco and his crew don’t believe him. One of Tuco’s guys makes a trip to the van to take a toolbox which only makes Saul reiterate his line which Tuco and his crew aren’t buying. Tuco then takes out pair of sharp looking pliers and motions to cut Saul’s fingers off which makes Saul talk real fast insisting he’s not a cop.

Tuco still doesn’t believe him after taking checking his business card. After Tuco cuts slightly into his fingers and realizing that the truth just might get him killed, Saul starting singing claiming to be an undercover FBI agent and insist that Tuco lets him go. Tuco is totally sold that Saul’s a fed but one of his henchmen is not so sure as he questions “Jeffrey Steel” about the apparent “investigation” but Saul, working off his wits, is running out of story. Saul’s already proven that he has a real talent for deception but the BS story about operation “kingbreaker” runs thin as Tuco’s man borrows the pliers and coldly asks him to tell the truth. Seeing that his FBI deception isn’t working on Tuco’s savvier henchman, Saul reverts back to the truth.

Probably thinking two moves ahead of his less than strategic crew leader, Tuco henchman suggests that Tuco let’s Saul go. After short exchange where Tuco’s Henchman convinces his boss that Saul is not FBI agent, he cuts Saul loose reminding him that he knows where to find him which, as we find out later in the episode, is way sooner than Saul would like.

As one of Tuco’s other henchman escorts Saul back to his car, Tuco, undoing his shirt cuffs, bears down on the twins which prompts Saul into one of great performances of his life as he goes from creating a BS story about the twins’ mother to talking Tuco down from gutting, blinding and slitting the twins throat to breaking their legs with by giving Tuco a small lecture in justice 101: proportionality.

It was truly a great feat to watch and clearly a great feat for Saul to pull off as the whole ordeal gives Saul a major shot in arm as he realizes he’s “best lawyer ever” after saving the twins from a slow and painful death. It was the stand out scene the episode and arguably the season as it will take something great in future episodes to top it.

In the last two episodes we’ve seen Saul’s ability to think on his feet but in “Mijo” his skill to react to situations quickly made this less of a painful as we watch a signature Gillianesque montage involving Saul negotiate the daily grind his profession of taking on no hope clients, an overcharging prosecutor, poor pay and a formidable toll booth operator an awful lot better than he did in the first episode.

However towards the end of the montage, we see the daily grind of his job wear him down as the shot in arm earned from the Tuco situation wears off. In the next scene we see Saul pass through the nail salon to get to his office which is isn’t much to write about but what was notable was that the ladies in the shop were much more receptive than they were in “Uno” as he glided through the shop barely noticed.

Once we’re in his office, we once again see his hesitation in checking his messages in fear he has none and once again, his fear are realized. Just before Saul opens up takes a siesta on his bed cum office sofa, his landlord inform that he has a customer but, as it turns out, it’s not a customer he’d bargained for. Tuco savvy henchman pays Saul a visit he’s less than glad to receive and propositions him to rip off  the treasurer and his wife which Saul, surprisingly, rejects swiftly stating that he’s “a lawyer,  not a criminal”.

His insistence that he’s not criminal took me aback  as it brought out of me the same “you’re shitting me” reaction it brought of Tuco’s henchman as it seemed out of character of a man who has shown he’s prepared to break the law to get clients. This was the only misstep made so far in the series as Saul in just two episodes has shown a high level of street smarts that would make Tuco henchman’s last line about Saul figuring out he’s “in the game” redundant.
Nonetheless, “Mijo” was a great episode and another sterling performance by Bob Odenkirk who once again shows he’s a great dramatic as well as comedic actor. More episodes like this and Better Call Saul just might be as award laden as its predecessor.


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