Mike Colter

Evil (2019) s01e03 – 3 Stars

If it never does anything else, “Evil” was probably worth it just for this John Glover performance. It’s John Glover as a brilliant theatre director who’s a tad eccentric and has gotten to be mean in addition to it. Dascha Polanco (from “Russian Doll”) is the one who brings them the case; she’s his Catholic assistant. “Evil” seems like its goal, as far as the religious stuff goes, is to somehow launder lapsed Catholics into atheism through the absurdity and awfulness of the Catholic Church. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

So about a third of the show is Glover turning it up to eleven in playing this asshole genius. He’s phenomenal. It’s not a good part, as it turns out, because it’s just a guest star part and “Evil”’s guest stars are just caricatures in the end… but he’s awesome. It’s nice to see him still able to let loose. Acting like John Glover for so many years apparently did not stop John Glover from acting like John Glover.

Otherwise… it’s got problems. Michael Emerson is way too evil—this time he’s trying to get a Black kid tried as an adult so he can be raped into sociopathy—and lead Katja Herbers (they love saying her character’s last name, Bouchard, way too much) even says, “Isn’t this a little much?” But then it turns out he’s not so smart, which means his big conspiracy to turn people into violent sociopaths to bring about the end of society is just like a little project. It’s weird. Also the writing on D.A. Danny Burstein is ludicrous. He’s an idiot, the way he falls for Emerson. Again, weird.

The show also is starting to reveal its hook on the debunking thing—this episode is about Echo and similar devices being used to manipulate the technologically uninformed boomer. Very obvious stuff. Very anti-tech.

Herbers’s daughters aren’t on the episode.

They aren’t missed.

Not even Christine Lahti is missed.

The Clark Johnson cameo doesn’t pay off either

Evil (2019) s01e02 – 177 Minutes

“Evil” doubles down on the debunking of magic this episode. This time it’s about a miracle, not a possession. The heroes are looking into a girl being pronounced dead then coming back to life after a priest whispers to her. Dakin Matthews plays the priest. It’s a small part but it’s nice to see Matthews. He’s a solid character actor.

And this episode is definitely an improvement over the first. The teases of religious explanation are shorter, the debunking is better… though I was shocked how far they take it in the last scene, revealing former priest-to-be Mike Colter gets high on shrooms to talk to God. No wonder it doesn’t matter how much Colter prays about something God never helps; God’s his trip.

Duh.

Sorry.

There’s more with lead Katja Herbers’s night terror demon, even putting her kid in pseudo-danger because nothing says serious network show like the willingness to mutilate children. Herbers and the kids are fine, there are just too many of them. Plus grandma Christine Lahti who apparently goes out partying every night, which is cool, but also means Lahti’s just a constant cameo (I forgot to even mention her last episode); it’s like she’s doing the part as a favor to the producers or network. Anyway. There are so many kids on this show it’s like a seventies sitcom.

Michael Emerson is back—working at the D.A.’s office, planning on reversing all of Herbers’s old cases to let the evil free. Herbers’s boss just thinks she’s a jealous silly woman, apparently unable to appreciate Emerson’s wild performance (he seems like a villain from the “Batman” TV show; he’d be less absurd in a leotard).

Boris McGiver (another fine character actor) shows up as Colter’s higher up at the Church who’s keeping a secret about angel sightings for some reason.

So, better than the first episode, but still sort of uneven. It’s too thorough where it needs some brevity and vice versa.

Evil (2019) s01e01 – Pilot

I’ll just say it now. “Evil”’s religious politics are either going to get it in a lot of trouble or they’re going to do some “Heaven is for Real” shit. It’s going to be one or the other. And the pilot really makes it seem like it’s going to be the former, but not in any daring way; “Evil” is very safe.

Katja Herbers is a forensic psychiatrist who consults with the district attorney’s office. She’s a professional witness and has to be because she’s got an absentee rock-climbing, thrill-seeker husband off in the Himalayas, four daughters at home (you’d love to see the show bible on how Herbers managed to have all those kids, go to college, be a celebrity rock-climber, go to graduate school, become professionally successful, and not yet be forty; but whatever). It’s all going fine until she gets the case of serial killer Darren Pettie. See, Pettie says he just blacks out during his murders. But Pettie’s attorney says Pettie’s possessed. Herbers ends up quitting because the D.A. wants her to lie about something with the possession angle.

Couple days later, Mike Colter shows up to offer Herbers a job. He’s with the defense… sort of. He’s actually with the Catholic Church; he and partner Aasif Mandvi triage possession and miracle reports for the Church. Herbers needs paycheck and she’s also hot for Colter’s bod, so she signs up.

The rest of it is them finding a religiously informed clue, then a rational, scientific explanation. Non-believer Herbers talking to believer Colter about his faith and blah blah blah.

It’s all fairly predictable. Though maybe not when Michael Emerson shows up as an evil forensic psychiatrist out to make the world a worse place by encouraging people to do bad things. Hence the show title.

Also seems like show creators Robert King and Michelle King really liked that similar and dumb subplot from Halloween H40.

Herbers is likable and pretty good. Colter is likable and pretty good—he’s much more suited for this part than the Hero of Harlem. Mandvi’s fun.

There’s some poorly executed nightmare stuff and the script fails villain Pettie; both those fails seem foreboding for the future and the show’s potential. It’s uneven but has a lot of good pieces.

Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood)

Million Dollar Baby has a somewhat significant plot twist. Well, it actually has a couple of them. And neither comes with much foreshadowing. A little in Paul Haggis’s script, which director Eastwood visualizes appropriately, but they’re in the background. The film has its larger than life story to worry about–Clint Eastwood as a stogy old boxing trainer taking on a female boxer, played by Hilary Swank. Except she’s not a kid. She’s a grown woman.

The film opens without cast title cards. Immediately, it’s very smooth. Eastwood has a gym, Morgan Freeman runs it for him. There are assorted goings-on at the gym involving the guys training there. It’s a great supporting cast at the gym–Jay Baruchel, Mike Colter, Anthony Mackie–but the gym is initially just where Eastwood hangs out, not where he interacts. So instead Freeman is telling him the goings-on, which does fantastic setup for their relationship throughout the film. Only when Swank arrives does Eastwood get forced to participate and only after prodding from Freeman.

It’s great character development, funny, sweet, sincere. Eastwood’s very careful not to push too hard on any emotional buttons. He makes sure the actors’ emotions are authentic and doesn’t lay it on with the filmmaking. Tom Stern shoots Million Dollar Baby with crispness for the daytime scenes and sharpness with the nighttime. It works as to how the performances come across, how Joel Cox edits them. If it weren’t for how well Haggis’s script works, especially how it integrates Freeman’s narration, Million Dollar Baby might just be one of film’s finest melodramas. Well, if Eastwood–who does a lot in Million Dollar Baby as an actor and a director–wanted to make a melodrama.

He doesn’t though. Instead, he makes this strangely small, while still big, character study of three people and a location and shared experiences. Most of the film takes place in the gym. It’s the touchstone for the characters and the audience. Eastwood and Haggis never wax on about the hopes and dreams of the boxers at the gym–or even Swank’s. It’s not a meditation on the sport of boxing. It’s this devastating human condition piece, with characters revealing depths the entire length of the film, both through scripted dialogue and the actors’ performances. All of the acting is great; Swank is the best, but Eastwood’s the most surprising. You never once get the feeling Eastwood ever has an idea of what he’s going to say to Swank.

Freeman is great too, in the film’s most “of course” sort of way. He gets to be a bit of a mystery and has some fun with it. He narrates and he’s never untrustworthy or anything, he just isn’t telling his own story and it turns out–thanks to Freeman and Haggis–it adds to the film.

Eastwood also did the music, which is sort of unsurprising and also fantastic. The music is perfect. It’s such a strange film, this gentle American Dream rumination, celebration, and condemnation. It’s always sincere, never cynical, never defeatist, but never hopeful either. Eastwood’s filmmaking is focused character study. The music is restrained and minimal.

So many different things are going on in the film at any moment–whether it’s Swank’s Rocky story, Eastwood’s aging one, Freeman’s supporting mostly wry one, Eastwood and Haggis rely heavily on that Freeman narration. He never disappoints. Million Dollar Baby is kind of a love letter; all of a sudden I’m wondering how the script was written with the narration or if it was cut together later.

Eastwood, Swank, and Freeman don’t reinvent the melodrama; they just perfect the melodramatic character study. Ably assisted by Haggis, Stern, and Cox. Million Dollar Baby is phenomenal.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; screenplay by Paul Haggis, based on stories by F.X. Toole; director of photography, Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox; music by Eastwood; production designer, Henry Bumstead; produced by Eastwood, Haggis, Tom Rosenberg, and Albert S. Ruddy; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Clint Eastwood (Frankie Dunn), Hilary Swank (Maggie Fitzgerald), Morgan Freeman (Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris), Brían F. O’Byrne (Father Horvak), Jay Baruchel (Danger Barch), Anthony Mackie (Shawrelle Berry), Mike Colter (Big Willie Little), Lucia Rijker (Billie “The Blue Bear” Osterman), and Margo Martindale (Earline Fitzgerald).

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