Double Your Spies

DATELINE: Double or Nothing?

 Gere & Topher!

It only took us a decade to come around to The Double, a Russian spy infiltrates the CIA and/or FBI thriller. This one slipped through the cracks ten years ago, and we wondered why.

Perhaps the stars were box-office poison back then. Today, they look like classic performers, doing Hamlet.

You might be held back because of the smarmy leads: there is Richard Gere, in varying shades of white and gray as he plays himself in 25-year flashbacks as the ubiquitous CIA wrecking crew.

Then, there is the ever-irksome millennial Topher Grace as the research librarian turned field agent for the FBI.

They are forced to team up to find the former Soviet agent called Cassius who led one of the most dangerous murder groups out of Russia back in the 1980s.

You need only watch the trailer for this film, and you have a pretty good idea who the double is and how dangerous he may be. You will be on the road of the Red Herring.

Topher Grace’s analytical agent claims Cassius is not dead, not executed by Gere in his last act before retiring. They disagree, and then we begin to suspect that the double is the agent leading the hunt.

All of this is droll and clever until improbable meets impossible in the grand finale. We still aren’t sure who was supposed to kill whom for what government. Oh, Martin Sheen is along as head of the CIA. So, you can trust him.

As for the rest of these double agents, you sympathize at your own risk. Well, it was diverting.

Blue Book Invasion & MK Ultra

 DATELINE: MK Ultra

  More Malarkey 

Project Blue Bookcontinues to leave loose ends on the cutting room floor. The latest involves the blondie beauty who is some kind of Soviet agent, or was, now she has been dispatched after failing to stick Captain Quinn in the rear end with a hypodermic bigger than a switchblade.

Those nasty Commies don’t fool around—and she has been replaced by a dragon lady who is even more 50s butch with lipstick on thick.

She seems to travel with her own batch of Men in Black, Soviet style.

Blondie was  putting the make on Dr. Hynek’s wife Mimi, but that didn’t fly with the audiences, so they have given her a nerdy UFOlogist for company.

It may be the government is faking an alien invasion to gain more power in the new Einsenhower administration, but the ever-vigilant and heroic CIA (well, it is the 1950s) now has started a group of remote viewers called MK-Ultra.

You know things are changing when house villain Neal McDonough now is having doubts about UFOs.

Our clairvoyants can see the tea leaves and read them too. Only Dr. Hynek and his spit and polish liaison (Mike Malarkey looking spiffy no matter what costume they throw on him) can save the world.

How can Malarkey’s character smoke, drink bourbon and eat junk food and look like that? We think he may be the extra-terrestrial. The episode tries to open him up as a soldier with lots of PTSD, which doesn’t help with UFO, MK-Ultra, CIA, no matter what color you call your book.

When you end your episode with a three-ring circus, metaphor becomes reality.

 

 

 

 

We Got Bingo & Lost Gold Too

DATELINE:   Eureka?

bingo

 Bingo Minerva.

The lost treasure among the many treasure hunters from the new History Channel series Lost Gold of World War II is their at-home in the U.S. researcher and Man Friday.

His name is Bingo Minerva, and he has the most interesting and least stressful job of the pack. He interviews old gold hunters and experts in myriad evidence, then skypes his response back to the Luzon Island boys.

The elderly gold diggers on Luzon Island seem to be sweating more than usual in this episode. We worry for the health of old-man Peter Struzzieri.  The only smart one is the expert in reading Japanese markers: he seems to remain back at home base in the air conditioned bungalow, aka shack, of the treasure hunters.

As per usual, they take the wrong road constantly: deciding to dig next to a waterfall—and then becoming amazed that water leaks into their air vent pit.

The other brainiacs have decided to dig down into the area where drill bits have been worn to a nub. The volcanic rock is, of course, impenetrable.

The upshot is a waste of time and a waste of one episode: the sole interesting point was made by Bingo who interviewed an aging attorney who represented a man who sued Ferdinand Marcos for stealing millions of dollars in hidden loot.

There is a hint of danger in that the CIA is also after the Japanese treasures hidden in some remote mountain tunnel.

As the series will go on hiatus after the next episode, we suspect we are about to be left hanging for a year.

 

TWA & Flight 800’s Terrible End!

DATELINE:  Pre-9-11 Terror in the Skies!

800

After twenty years of endless scandals, plane crashes, government coverups, terrorist attacks, and boundless conspiracies, it may be hard to recall the events of the summer of 1996. A documentary directed by Kristina Borjesson for Epix may infuriate you.

Like a hideous and fantastic episode of Twilight Zone or X-Files, the truth is out there—but the US government won’t tell you.

Off Long Island, a plane crashed, killing many people on their way to Europe. It was long before real security at airports, but this weird event contended that a missile shot down the airliner.

A few aging NTSB investigators have not forgotten how they were shunted aside and dismissed from finding out the truth—or speaking in public about this. The FBI even threatened witnesses about their applications for citizenship!  Shades of Homeland Security!

Back then the notion was simply preposterous, or in the realm of UFO coincidences. Witnesses were treated like alien abductees.

When your FBI and CIA conspired to undercut over 200 credible witnesses who saw some kind of streaking flare hit the airplane, you know you are no longer in Kansas, Dorothy.

What’s crystal clear from this documentary is that some high-level people had a strong interest in making sure this event was dismissed as mechanical failure and relegated to yesterday’s dead news.

Instead, the events of the 21st century are now annotating the 20th.

Something stinketh.

Our conspiratorial Internet enthusiasts may have found the best example of a real coverup that the United States has orchestrated in history.

Oh, perhaps UFOs and the Kennedy Assassination are also on the short list. The notion that terrorists acted 5 years before 9-11 is mind-boggling. The complicit national media acted in a disgraceful manner.

At the highest level, Bill Clinton declined to be interviewed for this film.

Clearly, what was so horrific or despicable or preventable is the first step by the government to shut down citizens and never to hear  or to tolerate an ugly word.

Equalized by Denzel Again

DATELINE:  Inequality!

denzel as mcCall

Don’t infuriate The Equalizer, as played by Denzel Washington for a second time in Equalizer 2.

We loved the Michael Sloan series about “retired” agent Robert McCall on TV with Edward Woodward, and we really like the idea that he has retired into hiding, faked death, to work as a vigilante for hire to help the helpless. We do miss Robert Lansing as Control.

Here he lives in Boston, and the backdrop of the Hub is photographed with all kinds of reverence, from the Zakim Bridge to Roxbury. We also like the notion that to meet people, McCall now works as a Lyft driver.

An old familiar face plays a Jewish passenger. We were shocked to learn it is Orson Bean, whom we have not seen in 40 years.

The corrupt people at the Agency, the Company, or whatever you want to call that American secret spy group, going by odd alphabets, seem to be worse than ever. No wonder McCall wanted out. Now, one of the few people he liked and trusted, Susan, another retired agent (Melissa Leo), has met a mysterious circumstance.

When Denzel goes into full mode, the bad guys should cringe, though these kind of villains always think they can match the hero. Otherwise, there’d be no entertaining movie.

The moral questions about the right of agency’s to off people they deem bad guys, without proof, is at the heart of this film, which makes it a cut above the usual death-by-gruesome-means movies.

Director Antoine Fuqua is adept and amusing enough to set the climax in a hurricane, which certainly helps with the dispatching of bad guys.

 

Unlocked: Bloom of Youth Gone?

 DATELINE: Spies Who Came in from the Heat

bloom Fading Bloom?

Unlocked is a gender-bender spy tale in which the producers take a routine story and make the hero a heroine, casting the burned-out case of an agent from man to woman. In this case it is Noomi Rapace or is that Roomi Napace?

You can’t tell CIA agent without a scorecard or iPO address.

She is a manly girl, and so is her butch boss, Toni Collette, playing one of those MI6 supervisors in conflict with her American counterpart in the CIA, John Malkovich.

There is some deadpan humor evident, but the main point is whom can you trust? And is anyone really dead?

Don’t make any bets.

Michael Douglas is Noomi’s mentor in a few clipped scenes. He takes a clip or two more than once.

Orlando Bloom looks haggard and covered in tattoos to diminish his once-boyish charms as some kind of thug-cum-wish-come-true.

Yes, there are twists galore and violence unremitting as we try to figure out who the terrorists are and why they are so sympathetic. It seems their cell in London wants to downplay terror attacks in multi-cultural London.

We recall the days when it was New York City that was the melting pot, but times and spies change the war terms.

The film is utterly brazen in its attempt to create a franchise, following the exploits of this female James Bond hopeful. Most of the cast likely could return in one role or another as the spies who loved each other.

 

 

Dark Legacy: CIA & Bush Take Their Lumps

DATELINE:  Who Dunnit?

Bush:Kennedy

In the week that Donald Trump released the long-hidden Kennedy Assassination documents from the National Archives, we decided that revelations never quite meet the theories spawned. The hidden truth was never put into a government memo.

So, we took in one of the most outlandish and yet frightening of all Kennedy murder conspiracy films: Dark Legacy.  This is a three-Hankey movie: John Hankey wrote, directed, and produced this disturbing documentary and conspiracy theory.

This time it is CIA-centered George Bush, the 1st one to be president, who in the 1960s worked for and led (as J. Edgar Hoover called it) ‘some misguided anti-Castro people.’ Bush later was director of the CIA, but his family had dark ties to CIA director Allen Dulles (fired by John Kennedy months before the assassination). Dulles was the fox in the chicken coop when he was appointed to the Warren Commission.

The coincidences pile up about who knew whom. We waited breathlessly to find out that Oswald took in a monthly allotment from the FBI, and that Jack Ruby was on Richard Nixon’s congressional staff in 1947.

The film borders on accusing the CIA of trying to embarrass J. Edgar by putting one of his operatives into the center of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

We think it unlikely the recent papers released under Trump’s order will embarrass the Bush family—or even Ted Cruz’s father (allegedly an associate of Oswald). However, the dots connecting so many famous names will rattle you.

This little conspiracy documentary borders on overkill, but however improbable the conclusions, the facts hint at possibility.

Person of Interest: Midseason Adjustments

DATELINE:  Control Bites Dog

Interesting Persons

Readers who follow this blog know our predilection for Person of Interest, perhaps one of the most intriguing series ever to appear on network TV.

Last week one of the principal characters was apparently killed off, not innovative in itself. They did the same a year ago to another major star. This blog never likes to spoil anything, but the spoils of weekly TV are here in this column.

This week’s episode did amuse us as the show put complete focus on Control, the CIA house villain. Played by Camryn Menheim, a literal heavy, Control hijacked the series.

We must admit that when your series introduction disappears and a semi-regular villain appears as a major character for the first teasing sequence, we were not surprised. We were shocked when Control continued to be the main focus of the show through the first two commercial breaks.

Only after what seemed like an eternity, about 25 minutes, did the regulars appear—and then as ironic villains, helping terrorists. What gives?

This is a daring and original TV series, likely to charm and titillate regular fans. Person of Interest has become the sentient sentinel of the death of privacy in America as a supercomputer has taken over the nation.

By show’s end, it appeared to us that the wonderful Menheim’s Control character was about to become a believer in our vigilante protectors of privacy. The Manchurian Candidate has come full circle.

Suspicious, Control visits the scene where Shaw was apparently killed in a firefight on the previous episode. She asks if the scene has been sanitized—and it has literally, with fresh paint still on the walls.

The look on Camryn Menheim’s face as she ran a finger over the wet paint makes us thrilled she is coming over to the right side. This is must-see TV.