This week’s Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels largely like a retread of the pilot episode. But without the fantastic J. August Richards adding heart to the monster of the week, things feel pretty cold and distant, which is especially disappointing considering the baddie of the week has the power to create fire.
The episode opens on a bustling street in Hong Kong where a street performer is doling out low-rent magic tricks to a crowd of semi-interested on-lookers. The magician turns up the heat and reveals that he has fire powers. But calling them "powers" is a little generous, considering he has the pirokinetic ability of a human bic lighter. The magician is approached by a sultry woman who takes special interest in his cigarette lighting abilities, but she turns on him in what is probably the most obvious kidnapping in human history.
The magician, named Chan Ho Yin, was being watched by S.H.I.E.L.D., and his disapearence sets of some alarms. It turns out that the folks at The Rising Tide were the ones who leaked the information to Chan's kidnappers. All eyes turn to Skye, who denies involvement. The team tracks The Rising Tide hacker to Austin where Ward gives him a chase, only to lose him after the guy employs some nifty hacking on the city's street lights. The Hacker get’s home only to find Skye there, who starts to berate him about stealing S.H.I.E.L.D info. The two then do the most logical thing to do when an impossibly powerful multi-national security force is searching for you, it's obviously time for a quickie. When the deed is done, Melinda May is waiting right behind the door, just as Skye is looking for her shirt in a terribly obvious reveal. Skye is in big trouble with Coulson and the gang, and she tries to pretend that they're only friends, as if that would make tipping off a rouge hacker okay.
Centipede is revealed to be behind the kidnapping and they inject the human bic lighter with the Extremis serum from the first episode, believing that his fire ability will stop the drugs' unfortunate side effect of blowing people up. Chan's powers multiply and he becomes more of a human blow torch. Centipede then steal his blood platelets (which were controlling his powers) resulting in some nasty burns. Chan then begins attacking both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Centipede agents, so Coulson must make the tough decision of killing him... though they didn't try all that hard to save him in the first place. I'm starting to think that Coulson likes to skip all the moralizing and just kill the "out of control good guy turned bad guy of the week" just so he can get back to his jet sooner. Lola needs a good buffing anyway.
An angry Coulson meets with Skye and demands to know what she's hiding. It turns out she joined S.H.I.E.L.D. to learn what happened to her parents, information that was redacted by none other than S.H.I.E.L.D.. For some reason, she's still allowed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent after all of this. I guess Coulson lost his common sense when he got stabbed by Loki.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still resting on the fact that action and superhero name checks are a suitable replacement for actually creating interesting characters and compelling stories. Everything about this episode was terriby bland. Everyone's decisions and actions ring false, and the show makes impossible to emphasize with anyone. It's trying to be a show for everyone, but it's failing at entertaining anyone.
Best Quips and Other Observations- "Oh crap. They gave him a name."- "Scorch" is such a lame name for a superhero. It's a shame Chan got so attached to it.- Even lamer than Scorch is Centipede. Really? You named your terrorist organization Centipede? Watch out for their fearsome sister-organization "Gentle Bug."- Couldn't Coulson just shoot the guy in the head when he snuck up on him instead of purpously blowing him up? How is that "minimizing the damage"? Thats actually increasing the damage... by a lot. - Just how long was Melinda May waiting behind the door while Skye and generic hacker guy were getting it on? Was she just waiting there listening? That's kinda creepy.
There's probably still someone somewhere that would fall for one of Sacha Baron Cohen's weird and wooly scenarios but let's face the facts: the days when Ali G. could snag an interview with Pat Buchanan or Gore Vidal are long gone. 2009's Bruno definitely let some steam out of Borat's tires not to mention the ensuing lawsuits. But it's refreshing to see Cohen and his Borat/Bruno cohort director Larry Charles flex their muscles in the fictional universe of The Dictator a vehicle that doesn't skimp on their signature cringe-worthy humor.
The world of The Dictator gives them the leeway to create crazy spectacles — at one point Cohen's General Aladeen rides down Fifth Avenue on a camel surrounded by a giant motorcade. Having a plot helps too; although part of the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick is how the viewer is made culpable by proxy by our amusement and horror at how he tricks and torments people who aren't in on the joke The Dictator continues the self-reflexive satirical bite. We're certainly not off the hook. Aladeen says and does truly outrageous things but they're also exaggerations of the world we live in. It might be a stretch to call Sacha Baron Cohen the British Lenny Bruce or George Carlin in a face merkin but rest assured that no topic is off limits. If you are offended by jokes about abortion rape feminists body hair race religion politics STDs war crimes ethnic cleansing necrophilia and/or bestiality don't even bother. However if you like the kind of comedy that makes you hide your face in your hands feeling like each laugh is being pried from you against your will you're in business.
Cohen eats up the screen as both General Aladeen and his incredibly dumb body double; the latter prefers the intimate company of one of his goats to a human while the former is a fairly stupid ruthless dictator whose own people are so disloyal to him that they actually ignore his commands to execute people. (He really likes to execute people.) When he arrives in New York City to attend a summit at the UN his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) has the two switched so he can easily manipulate the "General" into signing a treaty to make Wadiya a democracy and reap the financial benefits. Aladeen finds refuge with Zoe a hairy-pitted activist who thinks he's a political dissident and is excited to be able to give him a safe haven in her touchy-feely Brooklyn grocery co-op. Instead of being typecast as another blonde dummy Anna Faris is finally given room to play as the wide-eyed naïf who takes Aladeen's very serious statements as jokes or simple miscommunications. She's a great foil to Baron Cohen who is easily half a foot taller than she is and has a wolfish grin. Their banter is often the most politically incorrect of the bunch but also the funniest.
Alas the plot. It's a bare bones situation to get a very broad character from A to B. Aladeen is obviously an outlandish mishmash of modern dictators; he spouts racist misogynist rhetoric endlessly and after a while...yeah we get it. However like all of Sacha Baron Cohen's humor The Dictator also takes a direct shot at Western countries (specifically the United States) which would be all fine and dandy if he didn't wedge an expository speech in about it as well. The problem with making a traditional narrative movie is that with some exceptions you've got to play within the guidelines. The Dictator isn't trying to do anything fancy; all it needs a few big beats and a neat ending to wrap it all up. It doesn't quite manage to tie it all together in a way that makes The Dictator more than an hour and a half or so of laughing and cringing.
Besides Faris and Kingsley there are a number of cameos by a very wide variety of comics and actors. Megan Fox plays herself Kevin Corrigan appears as a creepy dude who works at the co-op John C. Reilly is a racist security guard and Fred Armisen runs an anti-Aladeen café in New York's Little Wadiya district. The very funny Jason Mantzoukas has a large role as Nadal the former head of rocket science who was supposedly executed for not making Aladeen's nuclear warhead pointy. It's a good ensemble and hopefully Sacha Baron Cohen's next feature-length film will build on The Dictator's weaknesses.
What is an ensemble cast? How many actors constitute one? There aren’t any guidelines that determine what qualifies as a true ensemble, but if anyone can offer some insight it would be Woody Allen, who has been getting great groups of actors together for decades now. From Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters to Melinda and Melinda and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, he’s always had a keen eye for casting and the stars continue to line up to work with the iconic auteur.
With the home entertainment release of his latest, fore mentioned film at hand, I thought it’d be apt to honor some of the coolest ensemble casts ever assembled. Keep in mind: this isn’t a list of the best films featuring an ensemble cast. It’s about the best rosters of talent roped in for a single production.
This under-appreciated Tony Scott action spectacle was polarizing to audiences because of its ultra-violent approach, particularly toward women. But Patricia Arquette proved herself to be one tough chick, able to take a beating a give it back in equal measure. Together with her beau-to-be Christian Slater, she embarks on an odyssey to free herself from pimp Gary Oldman and, later, his criminal overlord Christopher Walken, all while L.A. detectives Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn are hot on the trail of drugs and blood. With bonus appearances by Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport and more, True Romance is a twisted web of cameos and special roles filled by some of the coolest actors of the time.
The Thin Red Line
WWII films have a long history of stellar casts comprised of legions of screen legends. This 1998 genre entry continues that grand tradition with enough A-listers to make five separate movies. George Clooney, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, Miranda Otto, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Nick Stahl, Elias Koteas and Jim Caviezel all appear in the prestigious picture at one point or another – a logistic achievement in and of itself.
This sweet rom-com gets me every time. Not just because of the cheerful dialogue and warm and fuzzy relationships, but also because of the charming cast of characters played by Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Elizabeth, Andrew Lincoln, Denise Richards and the adorable Thomas Sangster. Together, there are around eight revolving, relatable romances in the film, but we wouldn’t have cared about any of them if not for the lovable cast.
In telling this sprawling tale about the intersecting lives of a handful of Angelenos, director Paul Haggis needed an international cast to represent the diverse population of the City of Angels. He got it with Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esposito, Shaun Toub, Daniel Dae Kim, Matt Dillon, Loretta Devine, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Keith David, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Pena, Tony Danza and Thandie Newton. Though Dillon was the only actor recognized by the Academy at awards time, the triumph of the film belongs to its eclectic cast.
The Magnificent Seven
Akira Kurasawa’s epic Seven Samurai was practically begging for a Hollywood adaptation when it was released in 1954. By 1960, director John Sturges had made it a reality with a pack of screen idols including the dashing Yul Brynner, the inimitable Eli Wallach, the ultra-cool Steve McQueen, the bad-ass Charles Bronson, the slick Robert Vaughn, the cool James Coburn and the “newbie” Horst Buchholz. The septuplet of stars had a great deal of chemistry that made their on-screen antics all the more enjoyable to watch, and fifty years later their work on this classic film has become the stuff of movie mythology.
The star power packed into these popular motion pictures is astonishing. With Hollywood heavyweights like George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt leading an army of talent - young and old - including Don Cheadle, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Elliot Gould, Casey Affleck and Julia Roberts, there's no shortage of charisma throughout the film. You may be wondering why I chose Oceans Twelve over the 2001 remake of the 1960 original; it's because this hit heist pic also features the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Albert Finney, Robbie Coltrane, Jared Harris, Vincent Cassel and Bruce Willis in appearances big and small. Not too shabby for a sequel...
Forget the awful 2008 remake. I implore you to give the original a chance. It’s a virtual who’s who of top Hollywood talent of the era. The premise is simple by today’s standards, but in 1939 its empowering themes were ahead of its time. Some of best actresses to ever grace the silver screen, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Lucile Watson and Marjorie Main delivered the message. All of the above are Oscar winners or nominees, making this cast of female performers one of the most celebrated of all time.
I’m not sure if Francis Ford Coppola knew what he was onto when he picked his rag-tag group of actors for this kick-ass 1983 film. After all, most of the actors were relatively unknown and untested at the time (save for C. Thomas Howell, who had just starred in Steven Spielberg's E.T.), but that quickly changed in the years following its release. Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise all appeared in the acclaimed teen drama, leaving behind one hell of a legacy.
Nicolette Sheridan's Desperate Housewives vamp Edie Britt has topped a new
poll of U.S. TV vixens.
Man-eater Britt beat soap bitch Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) and Sarah Clarke's 24
character Nina Myers to crash in at number one on the new TV's Top 10 Vixens
poll in magazine Inside TV.
The top 10 is:
1. Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan) - Desperate Housewives
2. Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) - All My Children
3. Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) - 24
4. Alexis Carrington (Joan Collins) - Dynasty
5. Valerie Malone (Tiffani Thiessen) - Beverly Hills, 90210
6. Jolene Butler (Denise Richards) - Sex, Love & Secrets
7. Abby Cunningham (Donna Mills) - Knots Landing
8. Julie Cooper-Nichol (Melinda Clarke) - The O.C.
9. Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear) - Melrose Place
10. Lauren Reed (Melissa George) - Alias (KL/ITV/ES)
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