Monday, November 03, 2014

Seen in October 

The Battered Bastards of Baseball tells the short but spectacular life of a single-A ball club, the Portland Mavericks, owned and operated by Bing Russell, actor and father of actor Kurt Russell. Image via the Cleat Report

This must be unprecedented. In the entire month of October I saw only 2 films? Watching series two of Ripper Street clearly took up the bulk of my viewing (not counting repeats of Brooklyn Nine-nine), which I guess accounts for about nine hours of viewing but still, it’s hard to believe. I mean, I feel like I watch a lot of television but maybe it’s more like a drawer of odd socks than full suits?

Ripper Street series 2
The 19th century never seemed so thrilling and excruciating than this. This police procedural set in 1800s London Whitechapel makes the City seem so seedy, unseemly, vile and violent, it’s a wonder anyone wanted to live in what essentially was a cesspool of humanity. Why not just work in a coal mine or a farm or something? Better yet, take a boat to America. Still, it’s great viewing and the primary characters have all had their turn. The lonely, too-noble-for-his-own-good Captain Edmund Reid always takes the moral high ground until that ground shifts uncontrollably beneath him. Reid’s Sargent Bennet Drake loses his taste as Reid’s attack dog after losing his wife to a weirdly Victorian cult (based on a real occult organization of Victorian London). Lastly, the shiftless but innovative and talented American doctor, Captain Homer Jackson finally loses the faith and trust of his wife, Long Susan, who in turn decides to never trust another man. All of this season long turmoil did give the series the feeling of ending but without any real resolution so it’s disappointing to discover the BBC cancelled the show only to have Amazon pick it up – meaning it will only be available to Amazon subscribers.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Chris Pine plays marine Jack Ryan as he is recruited by the CIA as an analyst only to be later thrust into action as a field agent. Kevin Costner is great as Ryan’s mentor and handler. The story combines the dryness of a financial analyst tracking unscrupulous Russian investors with the action you’d expect of an American spy thriller. Kiera Knightley has a strangely large role as Ryan’s fiancé. I say strange because I was convinced of an entirely different sub-plot that never developed which involved her character. I’d be surprised if Pine didn’t reprise this role in the future.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball
Highly entertaining Netflix documentary about an independent minor league baseball team (meaning unaffiliated with a major league club) owned and operated by the actor Bing Russell, Kurt Russell’s father. I’d always known Kurt Russell had played minor league ball but never imagined it was his father’s club. It’s also surprising given the Bad News Bears type back story that this hasn’t been made into a feature length Hollywood film. Maybe no one would believe that a Portland A-league team (that’s a single “A” instead triple-A) made up of cast-offs and guys who showed up to an open tryout would go on to have sold-out home games and contend for the league’s pennant against teams consisting of players with big league contracts biding their time in the minors. They certainly didn’t play for the money and looked like they had way more fun than should be allowed in any profession. In short, they played for the only reason anyone should play sport, for the love of the game.

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