S2E9: Despite the title of this week’s Boardwalk Empire, “Battle of the Century,” it is actually a pretty calm, introverted episode of the series. Sure, there is a murder. And an attempted murder. Not to mention disease, adultery, betrayal, the incision of a strike, and some scandalous office romance. But still. Somehow, in spite of all this, the tides are calm in Atlantic City this week.
Not to say the episode is dull—as a matter of fact, my personal tastes are more in line with some of these subtler episodes. It is particularly fun to hold Season 2 Jimmy up against early Season 1 Nucky. His flaws aside, Nucky is foremost a cerebral, logical criminal, whereas Jimmy is a young man destitute of emotional stability. We will see just how much damage he imparts unto himself in episodes to come, but I don’t imagine a personal or professional success ever skyrocketing much further than a couple of promiscuous women approaching him during the Dempsey fight with physical intentions.
“I think there’s blood on the ground sufficient for your lifetime and mine.” – McGarrigle
Nucky heads to Ireland, under the guise of burying his father, to deliver a sampling of guns to John McGarrigle, a leading figure in The Cause (Ireland’s rebellion against Britain), in return for the supply of Irish whiskey. Some particularly inconvenient timing engulfs Nucky’s business proposition, as England has suggested a truce, to which McGarrigle is willing to listen. Though a steadfast and humorless supporter of Irish independence, McGarrigle is also willing no longer to spare the lives of his men—one of his associates tells Nucky that McGarrigle lost a son in the battle recently, thus tiring him of the bloodshed.
McGarrigle gets to reunite with Owen (who has come with Nucky to Ireland) in this episode, telling the young man that he has changed, and lost the spirit of his country since moving to America. When you consider the ending of the episode, this scene is incessantly intriguing: after Nucky accepts that his deal will not go through, McGarrigle has his assistant see Nucky to the port to go back to America. At this time, McGarrigle is shot by his own men who wish to usurp his position so that they may continue on with The Cause and reject England’s truce (all of this, Owen knew about beforehand). What Owen must have been thinking, being lectured about losing his cause by a former mentor who was about to be executed for himself losing his cause.
Nucky takes issue with Owen’s involvement with McGarrigle’s murder, clearly because he himself was the victim of his own former protégée’s betrayal. Nucky keeps lining himself up with pretty disloyal right hand men (his brother not excluded)—although considering the fact that Owen slept with Maggie, one shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that he’s not exactly a reliable second-in-command.
Ep. 21: Clip - Remus meets with Jimmy and Gangsters
“Manny Horvitz is a dead man. Before we go any further, you need to tell me if that’s a problem.” – Waxy Gordon
“Maybe. But it’s not mine.” – Jimmy
Even in brief, more or less uneventful scenes like the one early on in this week’s episode, I love it when Jimmy gets together with the other restless protégées (Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky), as well as Richard and Mickey Doyle. The group meets with George Remus this week to elucidate a business deal. Meanwhile, however, Jimmy has the nagging problem of Manny Horvitz, to whom he owes a great deal of money that he just doesn’t feel like paying.
Jimmy meets with Waxy Gordon to discuss the removal of their mutual enemy, Horvitz. Here’s the thing that nobody seems to get: Manny Horvitz is unstoppable. I say this with an esteemed Zionistic pride—he is the biggest rock star on this show. A hired gun makes an attempt to kill Horvitz, but the butcher wrestles the man from his own weapon and then kills him with one of his butcher’s knife. Manny will persist as a thorn in Jimmy’s side—this might be the straw that turns him into Jimmy’s primary source for concern, especially since he found an Atlantic City matchbook on the would-be murderer.
If you recall, one or two episodes ago, Jimmy promised Richard that he’d find himself a nice girl with whom he’ll someday settle down. We learn this week that Richard took this as mockery, understanding himself to be fit for no woman’s affections. Both men attend an auditorium radio broadcast of the titular battle of the century, the boxing match between Dempsey and Carpentier. While there, Jimmy earns the eyes of a great deal of the audience—his fame is escalating rapidly around A.C.—especially two woman who pursue him flirtatiously. Jimmy demands foremost that one of them offer Richard company, trying to solidify the friendship that he insists to Richard the two of them share.
This is a tricky one to crack: what exactly is being built up between Richard and Jimmy? For a few weeks now, there have been traces of a fragmenting friendship. But why? Richard isn’t the type to betray Jimmy, to take action out of rage, or to develop any large ambitions. The only thing I could see happening is Richard pursuing Angela, but she’s got her own romance brewing with that woman Louise from last week. So what’s with the Richard/Jimmy angle?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. But I know the law. And I don’t have to go on sitting here if I don’t want to. … Do I?” – Deputy Halloran
More Esther Randolph. She and her subordinate—the investigator named Cliff, who resents Van Alden’s new involvement in the case thanks to his hefty sum of files accumulated on Nucky that he gave to Richmond—are both romantic partners as well as an adept interrogation team. After finding out that Nucky lied about going to Ireland to bury his father, they interrogate Deputy Halloran about various crimes Nucky and Eli may have committed, including the murder of Maggie’s late husband. Scene rating: fun as hell.
Remember Dunn Purnsley, the loudmouthed inmate who antagonized Chalky White for being uppity and self-righteous until Chalky had all of the other inmates, whom he had personally helped out in the past, beat the hell out of him? Well, Chalky and Purnsley are in cahoots now. Chalky wishes to incite a strike in the black community in A.C., and the silver-tongued Purnsley is his key to this: Purnsley, working in a kitchen now, encourages all of his black coworkers to rebel against their jerk of a boss and begin a strike. It goes as all dramatic strike scenes do (and should).
“Forgive me for what I’ve brought upon you.” – Maggie
Finally, the most human problem in this week’s episode: Maggie’s daughter Emily has contracted polio…and considering her dismissal of the Quarantine sign in Emily’s hospital room, Maggie might be getting a bit sick too. Things have gone horribly wrong for Maggie over the course of the last few weeks. Her own brother wants nothing to do with her. She succumbed to her weaknesses by sleeping with Owen. Now, her daughter is ill. And the idea of one of his surrogate children unwell is apparently the only thing that can bring horror to Nucky’s stone face.
Whereas most kids have a pushy thorn-in-your-side gym teacher growing up John Farley (Seann William Scott) was taught by the devil incarnate Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton) whose whistle might as well have been his pitchfork. As a teenager Farley was Woodcock's prime target an honor that routinely led to (over)weight jokes and dodgeball beanings but 13 years later Farley seems to have gotten the last laugh. He is now a best-selling self-help author--thanks to his book inspired more than a little by his former P.E. tormenter--and returns home to Nebraska a full-blown celebrity. Things have come full circle--almost. Full circle comes when Farley learns that his mom Beverly (Susan Sarandon) is now dating Woodcock and class is once again in session. After a few botched attempts by Farley and his childhood friend/co-victim Needleman (Ethan Suplee) to dig up dirt on Woodcock Farley goes straight to his mom to prevent her from marrying his archenemy. And before long teacher and student return to their old stomping grounds the school gymnasium to duel over Beverly. Once upon a time--2003 to be exact--Billy Bob Thornton was a fresh bit of casting as a miserable crotchety Santa Claus; he has since appeared as a nuanced Bad Santa no less than twice and the third time as Mr. Woodcock is anything but a charm. As his latest grumpy old-ish man Billy Bob seldom imparts humor that doesn’t involve chucking a ball at an unsuspecting teenager’s head. At times in the movie it seems as though even he is tired of the same character. Speaking of playing the same character Frat Pack wannabe Scott doesn’t fare any better. He and Thornton have their moments of chemistry but when Scott is without proper assistance from a co-star or a pratfall his acting is exposed—as rather unfunny. He again appears unable to succeed at well under-the-top comedy. Luckily the supporting cast picks up some of the leads’ slack to balance it all out. Sarandon her days as a leading lady sadly a thing of the past adds desperately needed warmth to an otherwise inane farce. And in a too-small role SNL’s Amy Poehler as Farley’s heavily sarcastic publicist manages to score Woodcock’s biggest laughs. Not that that’s a particularly tall order in this case. Mr. Woodcock is the first of director Craig Gillespie’s two movies in two months--October’s Lars and the Real Girl is next--and he essentially has nowhere to go but up. The newcomer shows some comedic talent but certainly not in any way we haven’t seen a million times--in 2007 alone. Heavy on notions of comedy but light on execution thereof Woodcock succumbs to the same conventionalism that claims almost every other non-Apatow-affiliated mainstream comedy (yes it is necessary to continuously reference the genre’s gold standard). But it’s not all Gillespie’s fault. Writers Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert would’ve been on to something had they made Woodcock the quirky Freudian dramedy it probably wanted to be on paper but they tried instead for the ol’ crowd pleaser. As a result audiences will anticipate each attempted joke the direction of the story and the ending. They may even laugh too but only out of sheer habit.
Valentine's Day is all about hearts, and yesterday's first annual "Love Rocks" concert, where U2 singer Bono received the "Heart of Entertainment" award for his philanthropic work, was no exception.
Several big name celebrities--including Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey, Sean Penn, Ray Romano, Drew Carey, No Doubt, Lauryn Hilland R.E.M.--turned out at Hollywood's Kodak Theater Thursday for the event, which benefited cardiovascular research.
During the concert, R.E.M. performed the '60s classic "I Got You Babe," and one of the song's original performers, Cher, of Sonny & Cher, made a surprise visit to the stage for a duet with R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe. It was Cher's first time performing the song without Sonny.
Later, Bono joined R.E.M. on vocals as they performed U2 ballad "One."
During the V-Day love fest, the compliments were flying. Stipe described Bono as a "singer, songwriter, statesman, fashion plate," and Tom Cruise said of Bono, "[he] makes us all proud to be human."
When he made his own speech, Bono challenged his celebrity audience to not only remember those who suffer in the world but to do something about it.
He also proudly dubbed himself "a thorn in the shoe" of President Bush's administration for urging American legislators to alleviate poorer countries' suffering.
Bono, whose given name is Paul Hewson, has been a political activist for the two decades that U2 has been in the musical limelight, working with groups like Greenpeace and Amnesty International and helping to increase public awareness of large-scale Third World tragedies like AIDS and debt.
Hollywood.com staffers Stephanie Marcucci and Leigh Johnson contributed to this story.