"The future holds nothing else but confrontation." That's the first line of Public Enemy's song "Lost at Birth," and it fits this episode to a T. There are plenty of standoffs and staredowns here. There are some clear winners and some clear losers, and then there were some that were waiting to be resolved.
Chief Marshall Art Mullen: He gets to take on Elias Markos (Alan Tudyk), a clean-up man for the Detroit Mob, twice. The first time, he's in a restaurant with Wynn Duffy and Ethan Picker (John Kapelos) and just manages to avert a shootout, since Markos wants to kill Picker. The second time is in a warehouse, when he has Raylan Givens as backup. Despite Marcos having a Tommy Gun and several tins of ammo, Givens is able to shoot him. Added bonus: He's able to get Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin), the head of the Detroit Mob. This is a nice gift for his impeding retirement.
Johnny Crowder: For now. He looks to be in the catbird's seat after turning the tables on his cousin Boyd and Hot Rod Dunham. Who knows how long his victory will last before he has vengeance exacted on him by Boyd?.
Lee Paxton: First he gets set up by Lieutenant Nick Mooney for burning bodies at his funeral home to make money, and then Boyd stages his suicide by making him hold his own gun and shooting him to begin the episode.
Canadian Goon: Poor Will Sasso. He was just talking up how much he enjoyed acting on this show, and now his character gets shot by Markos at the beginning of the episode.
Mooney: He gets plugged by an associate of Boyd's who has the black lung and wouldn't live to see trial.
Mara Paxton (Karolina Wydra): After her husband's death and witnessing Mooney's murder, she learns that Boyd was giving her ransom money to the family of his soon-to-be-deceased hitman and was also told in no uncertain terms to leave Harlan and never come back.
Baptiste: He gets turned into "Haitian Hamburger" by Danny Crowe at the end of the episode after confronting him about his behavior towards his other family member. Tough break for Edi Gathegi. His character looks like a real badass for the first few episodes... and then he gets shot by a raging redneck.
Dunham: Johnny gets his own men to turn on him after arranging to turn Johnny over to Boyd. The scene ends with several guns pointed at him, though I'm not sure if they are discharged or not.
Boyd Crowder: Boyd winds up on the winning side with Paxton, Mooney, and Mara, though he loses with getting Ava free and it's unclear what will happen after he refused to give Darryl the cut of the money.
Darryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport) - His brother Danny is a loose cannon, recklessly killing Baptiste and he's got Boyd angry at him now. Let's not count on the Florida Crowe clan staying in Harlan for more than this season.
Givens: He gets Picker to give up Markos' whereabouts but who knows where his confession to Mullen at the end will lead?
Four people dead, five if Dunham does wind up getting lead deposited in him. That's mild compared to some other episodes, though.
Is Ava Crowder Free?
The hashtag #FreeAva was trending last night. Sadly, it was to no avail, as the episode sees her framed for shanking the same guard who almost raped her last week. She gets sent off to the State Penitentiary, triggering Boyd's fury to the extent that he needs to be held back by several guards upon learning of this.
-Boyd is going to rain hell down on the people that sent Ava back into prison. He was just so evil in the way he killed Paxton and Mooney and then calmly sat with Mara while she still had Mooney's blood on her and issued his ultimatum. You can't spell "High Body Count" without "Boyd."
-Things are REALLY going to get bad with Mullen and Givens. Next week's preview shows the older chief slugging his younger deputy.
-I'm still puzzling out what is going on in the Crowe clan. Baptiste's death further muddies matters and it's going to be interesting to see what sort of infighting goes on.
Was It a Good Episode?
Considering that I found my head spinning several times due to all the twists and turns, I would definitely say so. The only disappointments include that Gathegi, Sasso, Tudyk all expiring earlier than I would have liked. This week's is a bloody episode and a lot of things get pushed forward at a seemingly earlier time in the season. This is a show that unwinds at its own pace, with most of the action occurring later in the season. Considering that there's only one more season after this one, I'd predict that it's going to be a hell of a ride.
The State of Raylan
He's growing up. Raylan seems to man up at the end of the episode by apparently telling Mullen that he had been the one on the airport tarmac. The next step will be for him to spend some time with his daughter. Will this maturation be too late for the lawman, who has been living by the seat of his pants for far too long?
"Is this because I stuck my finger up your butt last time?" A hooker asking Dewey Crowe why he was waxing philosophical.
"You want to swap?" One hooker to the other after Dewey had given them a couple of crappy trinkets that reminded him of his ties with the Crowe clan in Florida.
"I've been called many things, but 'inarticulate' ain't one of them." Boyd to Darryl Crowe Jr.
"I want you to think about something. The only reason you're in the position to blackmail me is because of the things I do... that you witnessed me do." Givens in a not-so-subtle threat to Picker to get him to give up Markos' address.
"You could do the old thing." Wendy Crowe (Alicia Witt) to her brother Darryl about how to raise money. Now let's find out what that "old thing" is.
The American military has always been at the forefront of technological innovation often working on the fringes of scientific credibility in its constant search for new ways to locate and eliminate enemies. At times the military's eagerness to gain an edge over its adversaries has led it to some strange dark places many of which are chronicled in The Men Who Stare at Goats British author Jon Ronson’s real-life account of the U.S. government’s efforts to create an army of “psychic supersoldiers."
If you’re not familiar with the world of psychic warfare (and really why would you be?) the book’s title refers to an experiment conducted during the 1980s at Fort Bragg North Carolina in which specially trained soldiers using methods culled from the top-secret First Earth Battalion Operations Manual attempted to stop the heart of a goat using nothing but the power of the mind. The ultimate goal obviously was to develop the skill for eventual use on enemy combatants.
Chock full of similarly wild yet credible stories The Men Who Stare at Goats’ strange-but-true subject matter lends itself perfectly to film adaptation. Its structure — a disparate collection of loosely related vignettes covering over a 30-year timespan — does not. Nevertheless director Grant Heslov and screenwriter Peter Straughan gave it a shot refashioning the material to such an extent that the movie is no longer “based upon” Ronson’s book but instead merely “inspired by” it.
Thankfully Heslov kept intact two of the book’s greatest strengths: its lively irreverent tone and its fascinating array of colorful characters. The latter is no doubt what attracted the film’s star-studded cast led by George Clooney as Lyn Cassady a fidgety veteran of the “psychic spy” brigade whose chance meeting with journalist Bob Wilton Ronson’s onscreen counterpart (played as an American ironically by U.K. actor Ewan McGregor) provides the catalyst for the storyline.
As Cassady squires Wilton through the Iraqi desert en route he claims to a contracting gig he regales the awe-struck reporter with stories of the New Earth Army and its founder a Vietnam vet-turned-New Age acolyte named Bill Django (Jeff Bridges). In the early '80s Django now a ponytailed flower child managed to obtain Army approval to spearhead a pilot program that would to train a legion of “warrior monks” to read minds pass through walls and disable enemies through a wide variety of non-lethal methods.
Any program like the New Earth Army is bound to attract its share of bad apples amoral folk who aim to use its teachings to enrich themselves and cause harm to others. In The Men Who Stare at Goats the entire rotten orchard is represented by Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) a sleazy manipulative charlatan whose devious machinations ultimately serve to bring down the entire operation.
Goats is at its loopy best as Cassady cycles through various off-the-wall anecdotes of Django and his increasingly bizarre training methods. But it falls apart when Heslov attempts to weave it all into a coherent storyline complete with a climax centered on a hairbrained scheme to spike the water supply at an American fort with LSD. It's understandable that Heslov felt compelled to invent something that could bring some resolution to the story but getting everyone high on acid? It sounds like a gimmick stolen from one of the lesser Revenge of the Nerds sequels.
Needless to say that last part wasn’t in Ronson’s book.
While passing through Cairo during a sabbatical from the priesthood following World War II Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) receives an offer from Semelier Ben Cross) a collector of rare antiquities to join a British archeological excavation in the remote Turkana region of Kenya where a Christian Byzantine church has been unearthed. Although Merrin has lost his religion (he left the church after being forced by the Nazis to commit atrocities against people of his parish) the skilled archeologist accepts the mission out of curiosity: The pristinely preserved church dates back more than 1 000 years before Christianity even reached the East African plain. Once there Merrin anxiously heads to the excavation sight and enters the partially buried church to discover it has been vandalized--or so he thinks; a large wooden cross has been broken and hung upside down. He also encounters Dr. Sarah Novack (Izabella Scorupco) who runs a local hospital and informs the men that the last man in charge of the excavation had gone mad and was now in a sanitarium in Nairobi. The mystery thickens when a local boy Joseph (Remy Sweeney) shows signs of satanic possession. The Turkana blame the mysterious church for the unexplained supernatural activity including a woman's delivery of a Satan-like maggot-covered still born infant. Soon tension mounts between the Turkana and the British troops stationed there.
Poor Skarsgard. To his credit the veteran actor tries his best to add a dash of distinctiveness to his underdeveloped character Father Merrin. Skarsgard (King Arthur) supplies Merrin with an air of attitude a sort of aloofness that screams I don't owe anyone anything. Armed with brute strength and fearlessness (he moves a large concrete slab without breaking a sweat and crawls through unlit basements without ever flinching) Merrin is practically transformed into sexy religious superhero. But Skarsgard even can't escape the silly dialogue that explains what is self-explanatory. "If everyone died who buried them?" Merrin asks aloud outside a cemetery where a plague supposedly whiped out the village's population. Scorupco (Reign of Fire) meanwhile doesn't inject anything extra into her rather forgettable role as Sarah a rather sweet but boring physician. Her metamorphosis in an identical looking Regan MacNeil form the original 1973 Exorcist however pumps some much needed thrills into what's otherwise lackluster horror. One of the most memorable performances comes from Alan Ford (Brick Top Polford form Snatch) who plays a perpetually drunk archeologist with a putrid skin ailment. Ford's rendition of Jeffries is so alarmingly disgusting that it makes Lucifer look like a sweetie pie.
The best thing about Exorcist: The Beginning is its deceptively promising opening set in Africa in the mid 400s. It's an eerie scene bound to make audiences' hair stand on end as a lone bedraggled priest slogs through a dry and dusty plain littered with millions of corpses nailed to upside-down crosses. But in its post-World War II setting the film suffers a setback both in storytelling and visuals. The film was originally directed by Paul Schrader who replaced helmer John Frankenheimer who died before filming began. But producers reportedly thought Schrader's version wasn't frightening enough and handed the reins over to Renny Harlin (Driven) in hopes he would turn out a more spine-chilling rendition. But sadly there is no chilling of the spine to be experienced here. Harlin uses horror film clichés to spook the audience like the faithful light-going-out-in-dark-settings scenario that the film feels more like an episode of Scare Tactics. Harlin's special effects are laugh-out-loud funny too including his inane man-eating CGI hyenas with beaming blue eyes. The beasts move about the screen as if they have no weight or substance to them. What makes those cartoony hyenas even sillier though is the fact that their presence is not needed (they're hardly scary) or even explained which pretty much sums up the film's biggest problem: The spotty story leaves too many questions unanswered. The script credited to Caleb Carr and William Wisher and later revised by Alexi Hawley is so vague it's irritating.
From the creators of the TNT miniseries Gettysburg including executive producer Ted Turner and writer/director Ronald F. Maxwell Gods chronicles the Civil War from its beginnings when the South rises up. Confederate General Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall) a distinguished military man but also a loyal native Virginian chooses to fight for his home rather than his country while Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang) a devoutly religious man becomes Lee's most trusted lieutenant. On the other side we have Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) a professor from Maine who ends up one of the Union's finest military leaders. In between there are glimpses of the wives and families left behind. Stories of this magnitude with their dramatic bloody battles and tragic endings usually leave you numb or crying for those lives lost and destroyed. Instead Gods and Generals holds no resonance whatsoever meticulously plotting out the details and making this decisive moment in American history interminable at three and a half hours. It's like wading through a textbook--or worse watching Civil War fanatics carefully reenact the famous battle scenes on the very ground they were fought over and over again--while the players stand around quoting long-winded verse from the Bible or Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Blech.
The actors in Gods and Generals must have honestly thought they were making something important when they signed up. Main players Lang (who played Major Gen. George Pickett in Gettysburg) and Daniels (who reprises his Gettysburg role as Chamberlain) have their moments but after hearing them recite one speech after another especially Lang's Jackson who says more prayers to God than anything else you start to wonder if they ever realized they made a mistake. (Or have we for sitting through it?) One of the more superfluous scenes is when Jackson and his black cook Jim played by Frankie Faison are standing outside in the freezing cold night for about 15 minutes both looking up at the stars and praying to God. It seems like the actors are trying to make such sermonizing poignant meaningful but all this pontification simply drags the movie further down. These speeches aren't just Lang's and Daniels' territory--Mira Sorvino as Chamberlain's wife and Kali Rocha as Jackson's wife get their own personal moments in the sun too. If you count the cast of thousands each with their own things to say well you get the point. Thankfully Duvall who is the only good thing about the movie gets to keep the talking to a minimum.
If you want to see a Civil War melodrama at its best where watching the heroes race through a sacked city makes you hold your breath and witnessing horrific hospital scenes makes you squirm then watch Gone With the Wind. If you want gut-wrenching Civil War battles or more understanding of how slaves truly felt then watch Glory. If you want a heartening history lesson about the Civil War that not only teaches you about the era's political machinations but also shares the insights and thoughts of the men and women who experienced it then watch Ken Burns' documentary series The Civil War. Gods and Generals offers none of that in its dry textbook version of the Civil War which uses the same shots are used over and over again (how many times does the camera pan up to the night sky or show the panoramic view of Fredericksburg Virginia? I lost count) features more actors waxing prophetic than real drama and actually makes you yawn during what should be intense battle scenes.