“You can’t sit in this chair without being a savage.”
With that line, Sons of Anarchysignaled the true fall of the King and the rise of Charming's new leader, its tarnished young prince. It’s taken Jax (Charlie Hunnam) five seasons and the brutal loss of his childhood best friend to bring him to the harsh truth, but he’s finally accepted it. If he wants to run the club correctly, he’s going to have to get his hands a little bloody. He’s been inching towards this conclusion all season, but it wasn’t until he sat down at the Sons’ table after sentencing Clay (Ron Perlman) to excommunication from the club that has defined his entire life, that Jax truly accepted his new fate. In order to do this right, he’s got to, in a sense, become the reaper. By the end of the episode, Jax has taken his first violent action against his ex, Wendy (Drea de Matteo), who after being kidnapped by the Irish tried to use her newfound knowledge of Abel’s kidnapping back in Season 2 to wrest custody from Tara and Jax. Now that Jax has fully assumed his role as ruthless leader, those principles are bleeding into the rest of his life as well. He takes a page from Gemma’s playbook and replicates her sly move from Season 1: he corners Wendy, injects her with drugs, and says he’ll call for drug testing if she pursues the custody battle. This dark, violent reaction is the perfect picture of who Jax has become. When it comes down to it, everything he does – no matter how vile – is for family, whether that family is the club or Tara and the boys. At its core, each horrible act is based in love and honor, but in Jax’s reality that honor can only be achieved by sinister means. That's the simple, sad reality of Charming. It’s a questionable existence that Jax was never able to fully accept or ingest, and chasm his father never managed to cross. But Jax has become what his father couldn’t, and he’s discovering that he needs pieces of Clay’s ruthlessness to truly reach that goal. It’s fitting and poignant then, that the final scene before Jax takes down Wendy is that of Clay’s excommunication. While the miserable music flows over the scene, Clay’s Sons tattoos are blacked in. Unlike other former club members, whose tattoos were removed with excruciating pain and melting of skin as a way of obscuring the mark they no longer deserve, Clay’s final moments as a member of the club were quiet and simple. He didn’t flinch and his body was covered with the giant black mark of his betrayal. He very simply told Gemma they’d sleep at his place, to avoid getting the ink on her fancy, clean sheets, and sauntered off to his hour of reckoning. And while the moment was all about Clay and what he’d lost, it’s impossible to view this moment without thinking of the man coming in to truly take his place. It's the passing of the crown, as only SoA can do it. Jax has been leading the club all season, and all the while, Clay has been trying to usurp him. Now, with his betrayal on the table and his membership stripped from him, Jax’s transformation is complete: he's got the final piece necessary for his ruling armor. As the black ink filled in Clay’s image of the Reaper, we could see Jax’s authority becoming whole. And despite everything Clay has done, the moment is tinged with great sadness. This is what was always meant to happen. This is what we wanted, what Jax wanted. So why does it feel so wrong? Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: FX (2)] More: Sons of Anarchy Stars Kim Coates and Theo Rossi on How Not to Die - VIDEO Sons of Anarchy Won't Let Up, Sends Gemma Off the Deep End Sons of Anarchy: Introducing the New Jax
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
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.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Year One centers on the exploits of two moronic early dudes clumsy hunter Zed and deadpan and dopey Oh. After Zed is banished from his village for eating the wrong thing Oh joins him on a journey over many miles of land and through the sands of time. They wind up in the biblical era (don’t ask how if you want to continue enjoying this thing) where they meet the likes of Cain and Abel become slaves and somehow wind up in forbidden Sodom. It’s not EXACTLY the "year one " but hey who’s counting?
WHO’S IN IT?
Jack Black is an obvious choice to play the Neanderthal idiot Zed. He looks like he was born into the role in fact and offers up the appropriate belching and farting to make you believe he’s a VERY primitive kind of guy. As his reluctant partner Oh Michael Cera does not stray far from the screen persona he has been building since Juno and even in caveman attire he still has the air of a confused high school nerd. His right-on deadpan delivery of his lines though is the one saving grace in this whole sorry enterprise. Casting this most contemporary of actors in the most period of pieces turns out to be inspired. As various biblical characters David Cross Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) Vinnie Jones and especially Hank Azaria (as the prophet Abraham) do what is required to squeeze the humor out of a bad situation. Even an uncredited Paul Rudd turns up as the doomed Abel to help keep Year One afloat and is actually quite funny for the few minutes he’s around.
Best idea was to put the nonplussed Cera into the movie. He’s not an obvious choice for this sort of thing and it’s nice to see him out of his comfort zone. He gets genuine laughs — an exceedingly rare occurrence in this concoction.
Director Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters Stripes) certainly knows his way around outrageous comedy situations but he doesn’t seem to know what to do with this one. It’s not enough to put a couple of funny comics in furs and cave attire without giving them funny lines. The fart jokes only go so far(t). Year One is so forgettable and lamentable that by the time the end credits roll you just want to head straight to the exits and forget what you’ve just sat through for 97 minutes.
Pick anything from the trailer or the TV spots because they contain the ONLY genuinely amusing bits in the picture.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Hmmmm let’s just say NEITHER.