Monday, October 29, 2007

Song of the Week: The Kills "Murdermile"

I will confess I was purposefully looking through our CD collection for possible Songs of the Week. At first when I spotted The Kills' CD, I thought I could just use 'Love is a Deserter' the one song of theirs I really know, but really love, because you know the band name has the word Kill in it. But on closer inspection, I found this song Murdermile and luckily enough someone had made a little video to go with it on YouTube. And its pretty damn good - I must give their CD another listen.

Living in London, the Murdermile to me is somewhere in Hackney. Not sure if it is this one to which the song refers (Jamie Hince is London-based and currently 'stepping out with' Kate Moss) or if it is just an allergorical murdermile.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Three Times a Lady (Detective): Mataharis

The OH was going to an NFL game (yes, bizarrely, in London) so I thought I might do something cultural with the afternoon myself. I looked at the website for the London Film Festival, expecting it to all be sold out but was surprised to find a screening this afternoon with tickets available. And the film sounded right up my street. A Spanish film called 'Mataharis' about three female detectives. I could believe my luck so bought a ticket on Friday. Unfortunately, today comes along with a stinking cold and going out in the rain is the last thing I want to do, but I've got the ticket already so off I go.

The introduction prior to the film given by someone from the British Film Institute talked about the film's look at society and some other such things that made it sound terribly worthy and dull. I wasn't in the mood for unflinching protraits of women's role in society - I had come for detectives! But the film rose above my misgivings.

Set in present day Madrid, it followed the lives of three detectives who work for the same agency run by an uncompassionate male boss. Eva is a mother of two young children, who has recently returned to work. Her story is mainly about the off-duty detecting she does when she suspects her own husband of having an affair. Carmen has been following the business partner of a man who suspects they are doing extra work behind his back, only to discover that the business partner is actually having an affair with the client's wife. Away from work, she is struggling in a love-less marriage. Ines goes undercover in a major corporation, where she is expected to report on the union activity but inadvertantly falls in love with one of the main subjects.

All in all, not much detective work was actually done. It was more about relationships with each woman representing a different stage in a love affair. But it was a beautiful film, it has a wonderful lyrical quality to it that Spanish films often do. I was glad I had ventured out into the rain to see it.

District Double

I had always considered The District to be a lighthearted show and yet yesterday's double-bill had me close to tears.

The first episode involved Jack's relationship with his son. The son has got himself involved with a woman and drugs. The plot was a bit meladramatic and improbable. I couldn't understand why he would take ecstasy during the day to visit a police station - not the most sensible move. No wonder his father was disappointed in him. But it wasn't this main storyline that moved me - it was the subplot of a woman being kidnapped in the boot of a car and the team tracking her down. I shared their relief when they found her alive and thought I might cry with happiness!

The second episode was more openly tearjerking. A black cop goes undercover and is shot by an off-duty white cop. It had been has last undercover assignment which as soon as this was mentioned, I knew it wasn't going to end well. The white cop wasn't a bad guy either though and was stricken over what he'd done but others were trying to stir things up for political ends, making it into a race issue. The black cop died which I was rather shocked by, having previously assumed things always ended well in The District. It was a good episode but not much fun.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Canine Crime Fighters

If there is one thing I love more than detectives, its dogs.

Watching an episode of The District on Saturday, I saw Jack Mannion’s dog for the first time. It wasn’t on screen long enough for me to work out what breed it was but it was an adorable bundle of fluff. And it got me thinking about dogs in detective shows.

The Red Hand Gang had a dog, Boomer and Columbo sometimes hooks up with a Basset Hound in some episodes, but I’ve also been noticing a few other canines recently.

In an episode of Law & Order Special Victims Unit we watched recently, a woman is murdered in Central Park while walking her dog. Munch picks up the dog and takes it back to the station until they can identify the woman. I was rather disappointed when the dog was returned to its master quickly as I had hoped for a whole episode of Munch carrying a dog about – two of my absolute favourite things together!

Then in Homicide Life on the Street (we are working our way through Season 3) there was an episode featuring an illegal immigrant family who had eight children and four dogs and were all leaving in one motel room. Then last night, I was watched the episode Justice Pt 1 and again the murder victim was accompanied by his dog. I feel asleep before the second part, so I don’t know what happened yet but I’m convinced the dog knew something...

But the undisputed king of the dog detectives has to be Freeway from Hart to Hart, an unclipped Lowchen. For all Jonathan Hart might be a self-made millionaire and part-time sleuth, Freeway is probably brighter and cuter too. On Sunday, I watched an episode on the Screen Gems on demand channel where Freeway took centre stage – ‘Which Way, Freeway?’. In this episode, Freeway pairs up with Susie (possibly a Setter), solves a murder and foils a diamond heist. Not bad going for a small fluffy thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Song of the Week: The Smiths "Shoplifters of the World Unite"

Very low level crime here. Shoplifting isn't the plot of many crime shows - at least not these days. It may have been the crime every week in Dixon of Dock Green (a show that ran for a generation but way before my time and not, to my knowledge, repeated recently).

According to IMDB, shoplifting features in the plot of a couple of episodes of Heartbeat - the Sunday night police comedy/drama set in the 1960s. Again, this isn't a show I've watched properly - I've had it on in the background a few times as they do play good music in it. It also features in an episode of Juliet Bravo and Rumpole of the Bailey.

I doubt Morrissey had any of these shows in mind when he penned this and actually the lyrics do hint at a list of crimes - littering and jay walking perhaps?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Talking to Cabbies

A double-bill of The District this afternoon. In the first episode, the Chief is concerned with crimes against cab drivers so some detectives go undercover to catch the criminals who target them. The trap works and one of the detectives finds himself being threatened by a criminal with a syringe of blood, the attacker claiming to be HIV+. Its a nasty, malicious crime (although it turns out to not be true) but what struck me most about this episode was the conversation the assailant had with the pretend cabbie beforehand. He asked the cab driver who long he'd been working and if he'd had a busy night. I thought this just happened in England, but apparently not - it would seem that world-over it is expected that you will make this same inane conversation with the cab driver, even if you intend to assault him!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Where Did It All Go Wrong: Hart to Hart

I found it quite hard to watch Hart to Hart yesterday. Not because of the corny plot, the hammy acting, Max's suits, the Hart's inappropriate innuendos in the face of murdered prostitutes. No, I found it hard because Jennifer Hart is living the life I thought I'd lead.

As a child, I love Jonathan Hart and I always imagined I'd marry someone like him - a self-made millionaire with a love of sleuthing. What more could a girl ask for? But my life hasn't worked out that way. Jennifer Hart has it all - the dashing husband, the part-time journalism job, the gnarled man servant and the fluffy dog. And I have none of those things.

Sick as a Detective

I was off work sick yesterday which in itself was a bad thing but it did mean I got to watch a lot of television. A huge amount in fact including lots of things I normally wouldn’t watch.

Cagney & Lacey
The plot involved an informant going undercover in a school to find out who was selling drugs to the pupils. The drug was PCP, not something you hear much about these days but obviously a big worry in Eighties New York. There was also a subplot involving Harvey Jr’s school project.

Starsky & Hutch
An improbable story of an old people who fill a car with dynamite in a plan to blow up their residential home, but the car is then stolen. I must admit I dozed off during this but it will seemed to work out fine in the end with the old folks being promised better food in their home.

A beauty queen is murdered and suspicion falls on her uncooperative parents, but then similarities are noticed with other murders. It was pretty dark, taking in possible incest, voyeurism and piano tuning! The on-going storyline of Jack stalking the profiler reared its head at the end of the episode too.

The Rockford Files
An airhostess friend of Rockford (Sharon Gless of Cagney & Lacey in her younger days) gets into an argument with a passenger, a Coin Collector when she comments on his frequent flying. He later attempts to kill her. Rockford gets involved with some strange plan to get the Coin Collector arrested which seemed rather foolish and pointless. But it was an engaging episode and I’ll make a point of watching it again next time I’m ill.

Hart to Hart
Redhead prostitutes are being murdered and the police aren’t that interested in solving the crime. So Jonathan and Jennifer get involved, much to the police’s disdain, another girl is murdered, they solve the crime.

Charlie’s Angels
The Angels are sent to Mexico to trap a drug baron. They each adopt a persona that suits their varied talents – Sabrina pretends to be an air hostess because she speaks Spanish, Kelly attracts the drug baron by wearing a daring bikini and Jill becomes a swimming coach for his daughter – the latter two roles obviously based more on getting the girls in swimwear than furthering the plot. There was a plot twist at the end that I saw coming a mile off.

Plus a couple of episodes of Homicide Life on the Street to round the day off nicely.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Style File: Baltimore Homicide Police

A new detective, Kellerman, joins the Homicide division from the Arson unit at the start of Homicide Life on the Street. He seems a natural for the job, but Giardello reprimands him for wearing jeans. ‘Homicide police do not wear jeans. We were slacks, chinos, not jeans’ he chided.

I was pleased Giardello pulled him up on this, because earlier in the episode I had commented to the OH that the new guy was dressed in a way I hate – smart jacket, shirt, tie and jeans. I suppose it is a very literal interpretation of ‘smart casual’ but I hate it. If you’ve gone to the effort of putting on a tie, is it really too much to put on proper trousers?

I hadn’t really paid much attention to the detective’s dress sense up until this episode and with over 200 murders a year, I doubt its high on their list of priorities, but it did remind me of one of my favourite lines from The Wire which also involved the homicide division of Baltimore’s finest. Beatrice Russell has joined the unit for one case which means she doesn’t have to wear uniform and the slug-like Sgt Jay Landsman offers the following sartorial advice and critique of the other officers clothing.

“For you I would suggest some pantsuits, perhaps muted in color, something to offset Detective Moreland's pinstripe lawyerly affectations and the brash tweedy impertinence of Detective Freamon.”

Detective Bunk Moreland’s besuited lawyer look is a good one – miles preferable to his off-duty outfit that involved a Lacrosse top.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Song of the Week: Public Enemy "911's Joke in Your Town'

I've really no business liking Public Enemy. What do they really have to say about my life - a white middle-class woman from northern England? Not alot. But still I love a few of their songs, including this one. The less said about the Duran Duran cover version the better - although I suspect a group of middle-aged millionaire ex-New Romantics from the Midlands know as little as I do about the problems of getting the cops to answer your calls in the ghetto.

The reason I love this song is undoubtedly for the beats behind the lyrics, but its being featured here for its lyrics - in particular it makes me think American shows like The Shield and The Wire where often the police have lost control or are out of control.

We have Homicide!

During my lunchbreak today I purchased Homicide Life on the Street Season 3.

It was rather expensive (£40) but I couldn’t be bothered to wait to have it delivered from somewhere cheaper. I need my John Munch/Richard Belzer fix. I wonder if he’ll actually solve any crimes this series or just be there for the wit & wisdom?

What's Wrong with Wong

The last week or so, I’ve mainly been watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 4 on DVD. Whilst the subject matter is nearly always pretty hard going and disturbing, I find watching SVU bizarrely comforting. I think it might be no matter how stressful my life is, the things happening in the show are a zillion times worse.

Also I feel I know the team well – unlike say CSI where I struggle to distinguish individuals, the SVU team feel like family that I feel comfortable around. There is however one exception – B.D. Wong’s character Dr George Huang, the FBI psychiatrist.

He is so annoying. Always there ready with a handy syndrome to explain a crime. Whilst I recognise the importance of psychology/psychiatry (I confess I don't know the difference) in police work and ordinarily find this aspect fascinating, it is his absolute certainty that annoys me. He never has any doubts, there is never any grey areas with him. This doesn’t seem right as I don’t consider psychology to be a science of absolutes. Dr Grace Foley in Waking the Dead has doubts, Cracker is all too fallible, but Wong is never wrong.

I much prefer the episodes without him. He's taking up valuable screentime that could be given to Munch instead.

And his real name is Bradley Darryl which isn't quite so professional sounding.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Song of the Week: Nancy Sinatra "Bang Bang"

I've been working at a film festival for the last couple of weeks, so it seems fitting that this week's choice is best known these days for its use in a film, namely as the theme tune to Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'.

I love Nancy Sinatra, controversially probably liking her more than I do her father. 'Some Velvet Morning' her duet with Lee Hazlewood is one of my all time favourite songs, but this is pretty good too. I'm featuring this song here because of all its talk of shooting people down, although I'm pretty sure its not a meditation on gun crime! Its still pretty eery though.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Old Friends in New Places

Yesterday’s viewing was full of familiar faces popping up in new places and I’m not just talking about Tom Bosley/Mr Cunningham from Happy Days in Murder She Wrote!

I finally got the OH to see the resemblance between the character Lechero in Prison Break with The Wire’s Bunny Colvin. And it turns out, its little surprise there was a resemblance as both are played by Robert Wisdom.

Next up as Law & Order: Criminal Intent. One of the suspects is played by Brad Renfro who we last saw in Larry Clark’s film Bully. But the more familiar faces were those of the new pair of detectives. Detective Carolyn Barek is none other than Annabella Sciorra who I recognised immediately as Gloria Trillo, Tony’s obsessive girlfriend in The Sopranos. The OH was sceptical at first, before concurring. He then expressed the sentiment that her voice was too seductive to be a cop, only to contradict himself minutes later by saying she made a good cop. Not sure what she did in the between times to change his mind.

But the big return was that of Chris Noth, back playing Detective Mike Logan who he played for several years in the original Law & Order. Of course, most women the world over know him as Mr Big from Sex & the City but I must be the only woman alive who didn’t like that show much and barely noticed him in it. To me he will always be Mike Logan, although he still has some way to go before he equals Richard Belzer’s record for the number of series he’s played John Munch.

So at first I was pleased to see him back fighting crime on the streets of New York but as the show progressed I became disappointed. First of all, what has happened to his voice? The pitch of it was so low, I could barely make out what he was saying most of the time. The other thing is that he seems to have had a makeover. We regularly used to mock his tartan ties when he was in L&O – he had quite a collection, all of them horrid. But they have gone, replaced with an almost stylish dark grey number last night. Its just not the same.

I’m also not convinced by his new found role as one of the elite detectives. I don’t see how he can match Goran’s vast knowledge and I don’t recall intuition being his strong point. Also I thought he left under a cloud having punch a city official or something similar so not sure how he’s ended up in this position.

Day Off = Multiple Murders

I had a day off yesterday so managed to watch a few more shows than the average Monday.

Columbo in the afternoon - in episode about a politician.
Jane Doe - started to watch this but then suspected I'd already seen it so gave up
Diagnosis Murder - an episode about mercy killings which I'd already seen so switched over
Murder She Wrote - the murder of a famous artist in Cabot Cove
Profiler - saw this was on but went back to Murder She Wrote
Prison Break - watched two episodes - its still exciting and silly in equal measures
Law & Order: Criminal Intent - first time I've seen the new series with Chris Noth (more on this later)
Law & Order: SVU - a couple of episodes from Season 4 on DVD.

Today, I'm back at work so won't see anything.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A day of new discoveries

Today, I watched two shows I'd never seen before - Janek and The District.

Janek: A Silent Betrayal I suppose technically might be classed as a tv movie rather than a normal series, but still he was a detective I'd not come across before. The plot involved a producer of broadway musicals, played by a very hammy William Shatner - I couldn't quite decide whether he was hammy because the man was in the theatre business or just because Shatner isn't a great actor. Liev Schrieber was also in it, who I'd last seen in the remake of the Manchurian Candidate - I spent a lot of time during Janek trying to remember his name. There was a high body count (six I think) but the plot wasn't particularly gripping.

Next I watch an episode of The District. This seems to be on the Hallmark Channel pretty frequently but I've always assumed it be rubbish, basing this solely on a trailer I saw where the commissioner was demanding to find who had stolen his chocolate bar. Whilst there were moments of humour, it turned out to be more meaty than I'd given it credit for and I actually quite enjoyed it. There was a good balance between the crime and ongoing personal stories. I'll definitely be watching it again.

So now I'm off to bed to attempt an episode of Criminal Minds

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Song of the Week: The Auteurs "Housebreaker"

Hmmm, I’m struggling a little of the Song of Week. I’ve thought of several songs but none of them have been on YouTube because they either weren’t singles and/or they weren’t that popular. So this week’s Song of the Week will not be using a video, instead I will just direct you towards a site where you can listen to the track – not ideal, but the best I can do.

So this week’s selection is ‘Housebreaker’ by The Auteurs, which is from their debut album New Wave. The Auteurs are the band of singer/songwriter Luke Haines, a man who seems to have been universally hated by the music press. I love this album - it was around the same time I was listening to a lot of Suede and lyrically they cover similar ground of seedy underground life and doomed relationships. At the time, I thought there was a glamour in squalor.

They did a later album called ‘After Murder Park’ which contains a track by the same name and one called ‘Unsolved Child Murder’ but I don’t know that album at all and though a song about breaking and entering might make a nice change.

So here are the lyrics to Housebreaker and if it sounds like you sort of tune, I suggest you can probably here it at Last FM here.

When I first met you
You were not house trained
A backwoods trier
world's your oyster
Your time is mine
What's yours is mine all
There's no honour
Amongst thieves
So we worked together
varied richand famous crime
You had your motivesI had mine
For a soul to
Little piece rub off on mine
Trinkets, memorabilia
for the taking
One mans treasurenever meant a thing
When I was
Took a buckshot landing
From my most famous
Must have lost it in the fall
Came away empty handed
I first met youI was not housetrained

Crime Hotspots: Cabot Cove

Oxford is a city, Midsomer is a county but this crime hotspot is just a village. However Cabot Cove’s murder rate is probably higher than those other places as it is often the setting for television’s longest running detective show, Murder, She Wrote.

But this should perhaps not come as any great surprise because Cabot Cove is in Maine (or it would be if it wasn’t fictional!) and Maine is often the setting for Stephen King’s stories, making it probably the deadliest of US states.

On the surface, it is a picturesque fishing village that has lately become a popular tourist destination, which bolsters its killable population. It has a Sheriff although I don’t know why they bother with him because its most famous resident, Jessica Fletcher solves all of the crimes.