If you were counting on an intense, whirlwind episode to bring us straight into Act 2 after last week's side adventure, then you're a genius and should be doing my job. Just kidding, I have to pay rent and want to buy a new TV stand. But not only did Boyd and Raylan finally unite (unwillingly) during a fight to locate a common enemy, but Arlo received a shot to get out of prison, Colton screwed up royally by hiding Ellen May's escape from Boyd, and Shelby was revealed to have kidnapped Ellen May in an attempt to bring down Mistah Crowder. Oh, and there's also the fact that Wynn Duffy is fully back in the game, planning to use Boyd to find Drew Thompson, at which point he'll double-cross and murder him to please Johnny (we think). (Aside: All of this going off without a hitch is extremely unlikely.)
Two weeks ago we saw an FBI Agent kill himself over the information he had on the Drew Thompson/Theo Tonin ordeal, and now the powers that be have decided to hand the case over to the marshal service in the FBI's stupid stead. They've also decided that Arlo (whose facial acting was magnificent during his few scenes in this episode), should be released if can lead them to Thompson. Guess who wasn't a fan of that idea?
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So Raylan had 24 hours to find Drew Thompson before Arlo got his turn, but since this is Justified, he wasn't the only one on the case. FBI Agent Barkley (Stephen Tobolowsky) was revealed to be a traitorous bastard working with the Detroit mafia, who sent one of Tonin's top henchmen — Nickelodeon GUTS alum Mike O'Malley, natch — to have a polite conversation with Barkley on why, as an FBI honcho, he had let the fact that Thompson was still alive slip through his fingers for decades. Just kidding! He shot him in the head, and hired Wynn Duffy — the guy you hire whenever you want anything illegal done, ever — to find Thompson, via his redneck friends like one Boyd Crowder.
Raylan got his first clue on Thompson's whereabouts from an unlikely source: the troubled, slutty teenage girl from the premiere. Patton Oswalt made a brief but very welcome return as Constable Bob Sweeney, who had picked up said girl for doing… something illegal, who knows. Whatever it was, she offered him a blow job to get out of it, which he DID NOT ACCEPT, thank you very much. (Was it integrity, or her cheap orthodontic work that held him back? Let's discuss, kiddos.) She led Raylan to her stepdad, who had been using her to do his Drew Thompson huntin' bidding. Stepdad, who was chained to his house due to a police-activated police anklet, led Raylan to something called "The Hill People."
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A little bit of exposition on The Hill People: they have accomplished the nearly impossible feat of being the trashiest people ever featured on this show. We know nothing about them, other than the fact that they live in shacks on a hill and kill visitors with shotguns. They also seem to enjoy never washing their hair ever, but they aren't big on dentistry. Oh, and one of them is related to Raylan. I mean, of course.
Anywho, when Raylan headed up the hill to find Thompson — who was taken there back in the day with all of his cocaine — he did not receive the warmest welcome. Drew had been hidden by Arlo and Bo Crowder in exchange for said cocaine back in the day, but he wasn't there now — only a tied up Boyd, who had found the same information slightly before Raylan, via Wynn Duffy/Mike O'Malley's very full pockets. Both men were nearly killed, until Raylan's Hill connections and smooth tongue got him off the hook. He even saved Boyd and got another lead on Thompson — who was somewhere in Harlan county — but then he cuffed Boyd to a tree, so. No love lost there.
So Boyd reported the info they'd received back to Duffy, and demanded half of the heroin trade in Harlan. Movin' on up! Johnny, of course, was disturbed to hear this, but Wynn promised the OTHER Crowder that he'd dispose of Boyd once he located Thompson — if, of course, he got there before Raylan. TBD.
Unfortunately for Boyd, Duffy may not be his biggest problem: as it turns out, it was Shelby who kidnapped Ellen May, in an attempt to garner incriminating information (the murder of Delroy being the number one option on the table) on Boyd and his criminal enterprise. Colton spent the whole episode lying to his boss/friend, running around town trying to find Ellen May before Boyd or Ava could find out, but his search led him absolutely nowhere. Colton seems like a loose cannon, so wherever this is going cannot be good.
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Oh, and did I mention that Winona came back? No, I did not — because her return was so ridiculously uneventful that I don't know why they included it at all. Here's how it went down: Raylan shows up early to sonogram. Winona enters lobby, lets Raylan feel kicking baby. Cute. Winona asks why Raylan did not respond to her text about the changed appointment time. He did not, meaning Raylan was actually way LATE to sonogram, as he did not know about changed appointment time. Raylan did not stay for sonogram, and instead headed straight to work. Great guest spot, Natalie Zea. Collect that paycheck and run back to your big fancy Fox show, K?
The episode ended with Raylan returning to stepdaddy's house to ask why he sent him on a death hunt to the Hill People. The first thing he saw was the green light beeping from the ankle bracelet… strange. How'd he get that off? Well, either he sawed off his own foot, or someone did it for him.
So, there you have it! Act 2 starts with a bang. Raylan needs Drew Thompson for baby-daddy money, and so Arlo the cop-killer won't go free. Boyd needs Drew Thompson for heroin business. The Detroit mafia needs Drew Thompson so that they can murder him. Colton needs Ellen May so Boyd won't kill him. Shelby needs Ellen May to nail Boyd, since he sort of hates him. And Winona needs something else to do.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: Prashant Gupta/FX]
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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.