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Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda

Joe Friday lives and his name is Joe Kenda
Yes, I'm old enough to have watched the original "Dragnet" series, starring the late Jack Webb, with great interest and understanding. That's why I only needed to watch a couple of episodes of "Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda" to become a dedicated fan. Much like the deadpan Friday of "Just the facts, ma'am," real-life Colorado Springs, CO, detective Kenda approaches the worst murder cases with a keen eye for detail and a steadfast dedication to speak for the victim.

Since "Homicide Hunter" is produced for Investigation Discovery, one of the Discovery cable networks, Kenda has the freedom to share most of the gruesome clues with which modern mystery afficionados are passionately familiar. Even better, Kenda reveals great insight into the twisted psyches of the most vicious killers as he leads them into interrogation traps that force them to confess to their crimes.

I confess, I hope to continue watching "Homicide Hunter" for years to come. Since he's solved over 400 murders since the 1980s, Lt. Joe Kenda has a lot of 'war stories' to share with dedicated--and addicted!--fans like me.


Better than average movie; potential series pilot; irritating music at all the wrong times
Can someone tell me why Hallmark and Lifetime movies don't allow a single second of film time without that intrusive background music overwhelming the best lines?! If it weren't for that irritating score drowning out all the best lines, especially when Kylie Burch (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) lowers her voice, I'd give this film a 9, at least.

Some people might call the plot by-the-numbers, and it does cover all the bases: single mom can't keep a job because of asthmatic kid and hair-trigger temper developed over years of frustration with heartless system meets spoiled wealthy law student forced to help her find a job just to get a grade so he can graduate and join dad's high-powered law firm. Add alcoholic mother and son's frustrations with his father's plans for his future, and the inevitable happens.

What makes this story work is the excellent script and believable performances by O'Keefe, Justin Bruening (as Whit Sheffield), and Eric Roberts and Catherine Mary Stewart as the elder Sheffields. Even Maxwell Perry Cotton plays young Shane Burch as a normal kid, instead of the stereotypical self-conscious child role.

My take-away from this flick is that the hopeful ending leaves the characters with more story to tell. Almost all of them have learned and grown, but I felt they had more to do together and separately, perhaps in a series about the Burch-Sheffield clan. The characters and their potential for story-telling are some of the strongest I've seen in this genre.

A Price Above Rubies

A film that reveals more and deeper meanings each time I view it
I've seen "A Price Above Rubies" completely through twice now and parts of it more than that. Each time I watch it, I recognize symbolisms that I hadn't quite noticed before. With each viewing, I begin to understand messages and meanings that weren't clear to me earlier. Only now do I see enough that is special about the film that I feel ready to share.

Other reviewers discussed the main plot and primary characters: Sonia (Renee Zellweger), burning with desires that few can understand, especially at her young age; her husband, Mendel (Glenn Fitzgerald), whose religiosity is so overwhelming he can't deal with his wife's needs; Mendel's overbearing brother, Sender (Christopher Eccleston), and sister, Rachel (Julianna Margulies); and Ramon (Allen Payne), the sensual artist whose talents and sexuality offer Sonia the way out of her nightmarish bonds to religious tradition.

Watching "Price" again this morning, I finally realized the deeper importance of three characters that received minor mention by only one other reviewer: Sonia's long-dead brother, Yossi (Shelton Dane); the nameless and mysterious "beggar" woman (Kathleen Chalfant); and the unusually honest and grateful Rebbitzn (Kim Hunter). The purpose of these vital characters is to contrast Sonia's earthy spirituality with Mendel's ritualistic piety.

Unlike so many films, the script is so tightly written that as I watched it from beginning to end for the second time on IFC, I failed to detect a single scene or shot that could be cut. And while the ending wasn't the kind of sappy-happy Hollywood finale that some might desire, it was realistic and tied up important details of the opening scene very neatly.

Deck the Halls

Finally, a watchable TNT Mystery Movie!
After the first couple of movies in this series, I gave up on the next two in the second week, but had to check out "Deck the Halls" expressly because of Kathy Najimy's participation. Besides that, it looked like this one might actually be a MYSTERY rather than an over-long romance flick with a bit of mayhem thrown in, as the first week's movies were. Turns out I wasn't at all disappointed! Now I might actually check out a few more entries in this series--if the trailers interest me.

The first reviewer gave a great rundown of the main characters, played by Najimy, David Selby, Jane Alexander, and the delightful discovery (for many of us who viewed her first in this movie), Scottie Thompson. But I wanted to add my compliments to the excellent supporting cast. Luciana Carro delivers just the right amount of fun and fear in the role of Selby's chauffeur, and the policemen who enjoyed various relationships with each of these strong female leads were a delightful change from the hard-boiled misogynists that are normally found in these types of crime novels/movies.

I concur with the other reviewer: We need to see more of Alvirah Meegan, Regan Reilly, and their entire circle of friends/colleagues. And please, if this is really a pilot (one can hope!) and it becomes a series, stick with all the actors you've got here. There's not a clinker in the bunch!

The Closer: Cherry Bomb
Episode 3, Season 4

A momentous turning point in Brenda's relationship with Commander Taylor
In the overall series arc of the relationship between Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) and Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), "Cherry Bomb" is the episode/case that marks the most dramatic turning point. From the time Brenda first joined the LAPD, Commander Taylor seemed to be the greatest obstacle to everything she wanted to do. He's spent his entire career playing the toady, but when Brenda arrives, he begins to realize how much he's wasted his talents trying to be no more than a "good ol' boy." Finally, he drops the ball on an investigation into the rape of a teenage girl by the son of a powerful LA County sheriff's deputy. When the victim commits suicide a week later, Taylor swallows his pride and begs Brenda to help rectify the mess he's made of the case. As Taylor and Brenda work together to expose the sordid conspiracy concocted by a group of sleazy high-school boys, they must also deal with the volatile temper of the primary suspect's abusive father (Daniel Baldwin).

Besides enjoying the satisfying denouement in this episode, loyal "Closer" fans will note a remarkable turnaround in Commander Taylor's attitude toward Brenda. From this point on in the series, observant viewers will notice numerous instances in which Taylor eagerly does whatever he can to help Brenda in her quest to bring evil doers to justice.

The Closer: Speed Bump
Episode 2, Season 4

One of my favorite "Closer" episodes!
Start with the fact that almost every episode is top notch, with an intriguing and often kind of off-beat mystery. Then add the usual circuitous route, but ultimately logical, path that Brenda takes to trap her suspect, and "The Closer" is rarely a disappointment. But the "Speed Bump" episode takes the denouement to a new high--or low:

Warning: Spoiler!:

It's always a hoot to watch the reruns of this episode when the murderous team of old ladies, played by the wonderful character actors Wendy Phillips and Jenny O'Hara, ends up in a knockdown-drag out cat fight on the floor of the interrogation room!

It's special scenes like this one that set my favorite episodes apart in one of our favorite crime series.

In peace, Debbie Jordan

Author: THE WORLD I IMAGINE: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace (Outskirts Press) Author: LION'S PRIDE (Outskirts Press)

Sister Wives

A chance to learn Polygamy isn't all about abuse, tax cheating, or welfare fraud
Having read reviewers who insist polygamy must remain illegal, I had to provide my vote for tolerance for the lifestyle of people who don't hurt anybody or cheat anyone. That's the Browns, pure and simple. Kody and his four wives entered the relationship as consenting adults, and they're raising all their children with two primary rules: they'll be educated to the extent they choose, and they'll choose whether they'll be polygamists as adults.

I've written articles about the fact that illegality of polygamy protects people who break other, much worse laws, such as spouse and child abuse and defrauding the government.

I understand polygamy doesn't sit well with many people, but something must be done to protect children from being forced into marriage, especially with older men, and prevent tax and welfare cheating. Some sort of legal registration of these relationships could protect everyone and let people live their chosen lifestyle in peace.

With all the negative press about abusive groups like the Warren Jeffs clan, it's refreshing to see people like the Browns living the polygamous lifestyle without hurting anyone.

The 19th Wife

A revealing fictional account of life in extreme polygamous communities
A reviewer claimed details were invented for dramatic effect. Actually, abuse and terror are common in the most secretive clans. Self-proclaimed "prophets" assign who will marry, reassign "disobedient" men's wives and children to others, and claim dead men's wives and children. The threat of eternal and earthly retribution for disobedience was recorded by Joseph Smith in Section 132 of Doctrine and Covenants when he acknowledged "plural marriage," the bigamy he and his elders had secretly practiced for years. Even Ann Eliza Young's history is accurate.

With 30,000 to 50,000 polygamists scattered throughout the western U.S., many live in picturesque settings. St. George, UT, boasts resorts, agriculture, and mountain forests.

Jordan's sexual orientation wasn't changed for politics, as indicated by an article. Parameters are looser for novels than movies. Jordan's lifestyle would demand time to explain FLDS disapproval of gays and lesbians isn't about morality but the belief that men need at least three wives and numerous children to reach the highest level of heaven.

Viewers can learn about strict polygamous communities from "The 19th Wife."

Little Girl Lost: The Delimar Vera Story

Fascinating, thrilling, despite knowing outcome from media reports
I have to weigh in on this one because I completely agree with "annrfiesta." It didn't even matter that I'd heard most of the main details when the story broke in the news. It was still a tear-jerker, suspenseful, and absolutely thrilling. I especially enjoyed seeing A Martinez portraying such a stand-up guy--a politician yet!--who played such a vital role in the outcome of the story!

On the other hand, I don't know where "tumors" is coming from with his criticism of the bilingual characters. My experience with numerous Hispanic friends is that such a mix of language is quite common when families are trying to survive in one culture while also trying to preserve their native culture, of which language is a cornerstone. And the rolled "r"s is just a particular dialect that perhaps is not so familiar to the reviewer. Spanish is much like English in that there are numerous accents and dialects. So, "tumors" should give these people a break. I was delighted to hear a primarily English-language production that was not shy about depicting the minority element with such reality.

Overall, this is a movie I'll watch every chance I get! Wonderful!

In peace, Debbie Jordan

Peace Examiner

Phoenix Progressive Examiner

Author: THE WORLD I IMAGINE: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace (Outskirts Press)

Author: LION'S PRIDE (Outskirts Press)

Bones: The He in the She
Episode 6, Season 4

Our fave Bones episode deals intelligently with hot-button issues
This episode is just about our favorite episode of our favorite series, because the characters have serious and intelligent discussions of a couple of our favorite subjects, religion and transgendered persons. Even more important, the scientists treat the deceased woman, who happened to be born as a man, with the utmost respect. Even the conservative Catholic Agent Booth insists that "she" will be referred to as such, because that's what she was at the time of her death. During the investigation, Brennan and Booth discuss, between themselves and with other characters, the relationship between religion and the LGBTQ community, especially regarding people with gender identity issues who choose to act on their innate tendencies. In the end, identifying the guilty party who's responsible for the woman's death becomes less important in the episode than what happens with the relationships and work that the deceased person had before her transformation and those to which she'd dedicated her life after she became the self she felt herself to be. And besides the fact that, as usual, the contrast between Brennan's atheism and Booth's mainstream faith adds a level of insight and humor, the added factor of the liberal religion of the deceased and her fellow worshipers give rise to some of the best parts of this episode. All in all, this episode gives B & B one of their best chances to do what they do very well!

The Nanny: The Nose Knows
Episode 15, Season 4

Any Nanny episode in which Sylvia eats while talking is worth the price of admission
"The Nanny" is a great example of TV bubble gum--a fun way to spend half an hour without challenging the gray cells. Most episodes of the series are about Fran Fine getting herself into and out of an embarrassing situation or clearing up a misunderstanding with her boss, Maxwell Sheffield. But any episode in which the remarkably gifted Renee Taylor demonstrates her comedic approach to eating while chatting with her TV daughter is as much of a treat as the delicious food her character, Sylvia Fine, manages to slop all over the place. In this episode, her usual performance is enhanced by the fact that she's complaining about another person's lack of etiquette as she provides her own spectacle of questionable manners. Bravo, Ms. Taylor!

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