S3E1: The first episode of Justified’s third season picks up three months after the shootout at the Bennetts’. Raylan is recovering from a gunshot wound and has been assigned to desk duty by Art. He and Winona discuss their baby on the way—she apparently has opted to stay in the deputy marshal’s life, despite her considerations of leaving him due to his dangerous lifestyle. And Boyd has seized control of the local weed game. Unfortunately for Boyd, his entire product has rotted due to improper packaging, losing him and his men their prospective buyer. Doubly unfortunately for Boyd, he is thrown into jail after attacking Raylan in the middle of the marshals’ station over the issue of Raylan disallowing Boyd his revenge on Dickie Bennett, who shot Ava at the end of last season.
“Mags’ bank accounts have been seized, along with her property, but there’s still a sizeable amount of money missing.” – Raylan
“How sizeable?” – Boyd
“Well over ten dollars.” – Raylan
This week’s episode, “The Gunfighter,” introduces a new nemesis for Raylan: Fletcher Nix (played by Desmond Harrington—Joey Quinn to Dexter fans). Fletcher is introduced in the office of Emmitt Arnett, the businessman with the penchant for adding a “kick” to his coffee whom we have met twice before on in the series. Arnett is clearly in over his head in a business arrangement with a surprisingly dangerous figure (Neal McDonough) who seems to favor bolstering his reputation over earning some money.
Arnett hires Nix, an affiliate of Winn Duffy’s (who looks to be finding a more prominent role this season), to steal a set of watches to pay off McDonough’s character. Nix is your classic Western baddie: he’s a cold-blooded, slow-talking sociopath, and apparent fan of mind games. He has a habit of placing his firearm on a table between he and any man he intends on killing, and instructing an unlucky witness count to ten, giving the victim a chance to reach for the gun before he can. The trick: Nix pockets a blade with which he stabs his adversary’s hand just as he reaches for the gun. It’s pretty sick stuff. And to be honest, I didn’t think Joey Quinn had this kind of thespian bravado in him.
“The last time I saw him, I said our next conversation wasn’t going to be a conversation.” – Raylan
“Oh, this is a different conversation.” – Tim
Raylan investigates the ordeal with Tim (whose suggested post-shooting trauma seems to have been swept under the rug pretty promptly), despite Art’s orders to remain at his desk. But, this is Raylan. So anytime he’s told to do anything, we can expect the counter.
Yvette, Arnett’s employee and devious sexual partner, leads Raylan on the trail of Nix, in a plot we later find out is orchestrated by McDonough’s character. At first, the man admits that his real desire is Yvette herself, and that he is attempting to get Nix out of the way and Arnett killed so that he and she can reign supreme in this wonderful world of crime. But after he shoots her, we figure that she was kind of just a pawn as well. We do get a slight hint at McDonough’s man’s humanity, as he chats briefly with his young son on the phone about his trip to Kentucky.
“‘Jiffy Pop’ for a boy. ‘Palmolive’ is obviously a girl’s name.” - Raylan
So, like I said, McDonough kills Yvette. And Arnett. In front of Winn Duffy—apparently to assimilate himself into the underworld as a figure not to be messed with. In the meantime, Nix, on the trail of his trailer Rayland, has holed up in Raylan’s and Winona’s apartment, laying the whole “count to ten” ordeal on his new victim. The catch, though: this is Raylan (that seems to be a recurring theme). Raylan anticipates Nix’s trick and pulls the tablecloth abruptly, forcing Nix to stab his knife into the table at the last moment and leaving Raylan with the gun. He shoots, but does not seem to kill, Nix. I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more of this character.
In an interesting turn of events, Ava has seized control of the drug trade in Boyd’s absence. Upon his command, Ava instructs Devil and Arlo Givens to burn the marijuana, which frustrates the two money-hungry criminals. Boyd understands that if the group sits on such a large amount of drugs (thanks to their newly uninterested buyer), they will surely run into legal troubles. Ava takes full control of the house, smashing Devil with a frying pan and insisting to Arlo that she is making the orders now.
And speaking of Boyd, the last shot of the episode shows him entering the county jail, sparking a shock in two fellow inmates and two of Justified’s most colorful characters: Dickie Bennett (I am quite glad that he’s still around) and Dewey Crowe.
What did you think of the first episode of Justified’s third season? Does Fletcher Nix have what it takes to command the villain role as well as Mags Bennet did last season? What about Ava’s immersing into the drug operation?
In this era of remakes and reboots writer-director J.J. Abrams is here to introduce a third option: the throwback. Though ostensibly an original work his new film Super 8 is meticulously designed to appear as otherwise. Its intent which it makes no effort to hide is to mine our nostalgia for the early oeuvre of Steven Spielberg to invoke our affection for films like E.T. Close Encounters of the Third Kind and even Jaws. Should Mr. Spielberg be concerned? Hardly: He’s complicit in the scheme. The presence of his name atop the poster and his production company Amblin in the opening credits doesn’t just bestow credibility; it embeds the association in our memory making the bridge between what is and what was that much shorter.
Super 8 is set in 1979 – a creative decision which affords a measure of built-in nostalgia and allows the filmmakers to sidestep modern narrative nuisances like cell phones and Google – in the fictional working class community of Lillian Ohio. Our hero our embodiment of those prized (and I believe copyrighted) Spielbergian virtues of youthful innocence and wonder and unbounded curiosity is Joe Lamb (wonderful newcomer Joel Courtney) a polite earnest boy made all the more sympathetic by the recent death of his mother a steelworker in a workplace accident. Joe’s home life is rather dreary – his father Deputy Jack Lamb (Kyle Chandler) is too immersed in grief to be much of a parent – so he jumps at the chance to spend the summer with his mates shooting a DIY zombie movie.
They gather one night at a local train station to shoot a key scene for which they’ve pulled off the minor coup of convincing a pretty classmate Alice (Elle Fanning) to play the female lead. But the camera has scarcely started to roll when a passing train collides head-on with a pickup truck. resulting in perhaps the most over-the-top train crash I’ve ever seen on film an interminable sequence of ever-escalating vehicular carnage that would make the Final Destination folks gasp.
The driver of the truck that caused the crash is revealed to be the kids’ science teacher Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman). Bloodied but still breathing he delivers them an ominous warning: “Do not speak of this. They will kill you.” We learn who “they” are soon enough when hordes of soldiers members of a top-secret branch of the Air Force descend upon the crash site to comb the wreckage.
Shortly thereafter the town is beset by strange unexplained phenomena. Engines disappear from cars. Dogs flee en masse. Worst of all townsfolk are vanishing abductees of a creature glimpsed only in shadow and yet utterly terrifying nonetheless. We need not see the monster to know its fearsomeness: All of the scare scenes are expertly choreographed by Abrams the score shot and sound design fine-tuned for maximum menace.
Chaos and panic spread. Believing the mysterious events and the train crash to be related Joe and his pals decide to mount their own investigation. With each successive clue they gather the implications of the conspiracy become clearer and they are soon on the verge of a revelation that will change their lives – and indeed the world – forever.
Super 8’s genre spread is staggering. The film is equal parts sci-fi epic conspiracy thriller creature feature coming-of-age drama and teen comedy. (You can even add “zombie flick” if you include the film-within-a-film.) The mish-mash isn’t so much a problem in the first half of the film – Abrams is such a gifted storyteller that he handles massive tone shifts with almost laughable ease – but as the story gathers steam it has more and more difficulty reconciling its disparate elements. More than once in the third act does Super 8 teeter on the edge of Shyamalanism only to pull back at the last moment.
The film is surprisingly affecting but never in a cynical or manipulative way. (This is a minor miracle.) Abrams’ secret weapon in this regard – and easily the film’s best feature – is his cast of child actors who are universally superb. Their interactions feel genuine their comic rapport natural and unforced. Fanning in particular is wondrous. At this point calling her a “child actor” feels somehow belittling as her talent easily outpaces that of the majority of her adult counterparts.
Their efforts are largely betrayed by an ending that feels false. A hasty and belated attempt is made to turn the creature into a sympathetic figure followed by a denouement drenched in artificial sentiment with smiles and hugs and assurances both stated and implied that everything is going to be all right from now on. It’s an ending that Spielberg might have been able to pull off but Abrams is no Spielberg. Not yet.
Invincible is Rudy and The Rookie all rolled into one. Set in the mid-‘70s Mark Wahlberg stars as the real-life Vince Papale a blue-collar Philadelphian down on his luck after his wife leaves him. His only solace is playing football with his cronies and rooting for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles who are in a real rut. Newly hired head coach the legendary Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) decides to infuse some new blood into the team by holding open tryouts. All of Vince’s friends think he’d be perfect and urge him to go for it. He does makes it and is soon playing with some of his idols much to their chagrin. I mean who is this punk anyway? Sure he’s got some excellent instincts but can he really be a NFL player with no experience? Yes in fact he can proving to all those regular Joes out there you can live the dream. Yeah yeah. Unfortunately none of the actors really add anything either. Wahlberg is definitely a natural to play this kind of role having already done so in Rock Star. At least in Invincible he gets to show off some of his athletic abilities rather than just his bare chest in black leather pants. But the performance is run of the mill. As is Kinnear who as Vermeil takes on the headaches of turning a losing team into winners all while his supportive wife sweetly reassures him he’s doing the very best he can. Seen it. To their credit some of the supporting actors—including Kirk Acevedo (The New World) Michael Kelly (Dawn of the Dead) and Michael Rispoli (Mr. 3000)—paint a convincing picture of genuine camaraderie between local Philadelphians. And Elizabeth Banks (The 40 Year-Old Virgin) rounds things out as Vince’s cute love interest (and eventual real-life wife) who knows a few things about football by golly. You’d think Invincible would be a no-brainer feel-good kind of sports flick. It’s based on a real-life person has that whole underdog thing going for it and it’s football. What could go wrong with that? Nothing really besides the fact it’s been done about a hundred times over—and has now been left in the hands of newbies. First-time director Ericson Core a former cinematographer and writer Brad Gann are clearly green doing things by the play book line for line. It’s scary helming a feature film for a big studio like Disney who had such sport hits like The Rookie and Remember the Titans. Perhaps Core wanted to go more out on a limb but was reigned in. Who knows? The football scenes are definitely the highlight and Core handles the action well. I mean you do want Papale to prove himself the natural athlete he truly is and make all his homies proud. But the rest of it is just blah.
Heaven. Hell. Us humans in the middle. It's all very complicated. But John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) seems to have a handle on it. Born with a gift he says no human should ever have he has the ability to see what he calls "half-breeds"--angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin (and apparently there are a lot of them). Of course the horror of it is too much to bear and Constantine tries to take his own life. But he fails. Now having been to hell and back again quite literally Constantine is marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life. He patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell acting as an exorcist of sorts. Of course the guy isn't doing it because he feels empathy for the human race or anything. It's for purely selfish reasons. He hopes that if he sends the devil's foot soldiers back to the depths he'll gain some kind of redemption a free get-out-of-jail card so to speak. Constantine's attitude changes however when a skeptical police detective Angela (Rachel Weisz) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister. They end up uncovering a twisted master plan brewing between the demons and angels which could bring about a catastrophic series of otherworldly events. Perfect.
John Constantine is a little like The Matrix's Neo--an ultra-cool but tormented man of little words with a sardonic fatalistic outlook on life who kicks a myriad of nasty-looking demons (instead of a myriad of nasty-looking machines) back from whence they came. Yes Reeves has done this before but that's because he's good at it. You can't blame him for sticking with something that works. Weisz also holds her own as the devoutly religious Angela who nonetheless has a hard time believing there are actual angels and demons running around among us. That is of course until she spends about 10 minutes with Constantine and sees just how real they are. As far as the rest of the humans in the film Shia LaBeouf (Holes) does a nice comical turn as Constantine's sidekick and protégé while Djimon Hounsou (In America) works his voodoo mojo as a witch doctor who has a long-standing if strained relationship with Constantine. The not-so-human counterparts are equally intriguing. Peter Stormare (Fargo) delivers a somewhat over-the-top but devilishly eccentric performance as Satan. Tilda Swinton (The Deep End) dons the wings of the arch-angel Gabriel to whom Constantine is always asking for a reprieve but who has got her own agenda.
Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo comic-book Hellblazer Constantine is demonic eye candy. Obviously inspired by the many music videos he's helmed in the past director Francis Lawrence making his feature film debut paints a pretty dark and moody world with shadowy wet rat-infested (or cockroach-infested) corners that hide the horrific demon half-breeds as well as all other kinds of terrible baddies. Then when we get into Hades itself where the demons and seplavites--a sub-genre of the damned who are sightless mindless soul eaters--prowl it's an apocalyptic landscape. Lovely place. Unfortunately the script isn't nearly as stimulating. It must be an arduous task adapting a series of comic books so to his credit screenwriter Kevin Brodbin does do a nice job introducing us to Constantine and his world. But Brodbin seems to have incorporated too much. As the action escalates more and more plot points and characters are thrown in complicating matters. By the time the long-winded climax is over you're exhausted.