Guilty Pleasure No. 15: Cocktail (dir by Roger Donaldson)


For the past two months or so, Cocktail, a 1988 film that stars Tom Cruise as a bartender with big dreams, has been on an almost daily cable rotation.  A few nights ago, my sister Megan and I sat down and watched the film from beginning to end and we laughed ourselves silly.

Seriously, if there’s ever been a film that deserves to be known as a guilty pleasure, it’s Cocktail.

Cocktail tells the story of Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise), an apparent sociopath who, having just gotten out of the army, is now determined to become a millionaire.  During the day, he takes business classes but at night, he and his mentor Doug (Bryan Brown) are dancing bartenders.  While customers wait for drinks, Brian and Doug do the hippy hippy shake and toss bottles up in the air.  The crowd loves them and Doug educates Brian on how to be a cynical, opportunistic bastard.  (Myself, I didn’t think Brian needed any lessons but the film insists that he did.)

When Brian and Doug get into a fight over Gina Gershon, Brian ends up in Jamaica where he eventually meets both Jordan (Elisabeth Shue) and Bonnie (Lisa Banes) and has to choose between love and money.  (Guess which one he goes for…)  Gee, if only there was a way that Brian could get both love and money…

Why is Cocktail such a guilty pleasure?  Just consider the following:

1. Cocktail is an example of one of my favorite guilty pleasure genres.  It’s a film that attempts to give an almost religious significance to a profession or activity that, in the grand scheme of things, just isn’t that important.  Hence, Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown aren’t just bartenders.  No, instead, they are the linchpin that New York nightlight revolves around.  If not for the talents of Cruise and Brown, we’re told, thousands of people wouldn’t have a good night.  And then who knows what might happen.  They might go to a different bar and they might get served by less rhythmic bartenders.  Chaos and anarchy might be break out.  The living would envy the dead.  Fortunately, the super bartenders are there to save the day.  (Just consider the film’s tagline: “When he pours, he reigns!”  Really?)

2. In the pivotal role of Brian Flanagan, Tom Cruise gives a performance that seems to hint that the character might be a sociopath.  Whenever he speaks to anyone, he flashes the same dazzling but ultimately empty smile.  Whenever he feels that anyone is failing to treat him with the respect that he deserves, he responds with child-like violence.  When he drags Elisabeth Shue out of her apartment, he looks over at Shue’s father and snaps, “It didn’t have to be like this!”  It’s a line that makes next to no sense unless you consider that Brian is a pathological narcissist who is incapable of empathy.  “It didn’t have to be like this,” Brian is saying, “except you dared to question me so now I’m going to kidnap your daughter…”

3. In the role of Doug, Brian’s mentor, Bryan Brown gives perhaps one of the most openly cynical performances in film history.  While everyone else is earnestly reciting the script’s platitudes and trying their best to sound sincere, Brown delivers every line with a hint of resignation and an ironic twinkle in his eye.  It’s as if Brown is letting us know that, of the entire cast, he alone knows how bad this film is and he’s inviting us to share in his embarrassment.  But Bryan Brown need not worry!  The movie may be bad but it’s also a lot of fun.

4.  Brian and Doug become New York nightlife sensations by doing an elaborately choreographed dance as they mix their drinks.  The other people in the bar absolutely love this, despite the fact that it seems like all the dancing would mean that it would take forever for anyone to actually get a  drink.

5.  While bartending, Brian also takes a business class that is taught by one of those insanely elitist professors who always seem to show up in movies like this.  When he returns student papers, he doesn’t just pass them out.  Instead, he literally tosses them at the students while offering up a few pithy words of dismissal.  Seriously, this guy has to be the worst teacher ever.  No wonder Brian would rather be a bartender than a student!

6. After having a fight with Doug, Brian somehow ends up working as a bartender in Jamaica where he suddenly starts speaking with a very fake Irish accent.  The Jamaica scenes serve to remind us that — despite the fact his great-great-great grandfather did come from Dublin — Tom Cruise is one of the least convincing Irishmen in the history of film.

7. In Jamaica, Brian meets and falls in love with Jordan (Elisabeth Shue) but, because he’s a sociopath, Brian cheats on her with Bonnie (Lisa Banes), who is a wealthy TV executive.  Bonnie brings Brian back to New York with her but, unfortunately, it turns out that Bonnie and Brian don’t have much in common beyond Bonnie wanting a young lover, Brian being young, Brian wanting a rich woman to take care of him, and Bonnie being rich.  What’s particularly interesting about these scenes is that the film doesn’t seem to understand that Brian is essentially coming across like the world’s biggest asshole here.  I think we’re meant to feel sorry for him but all we can really think about is how Bonnie could do so much better.

8. Around this time, Bonnie drags Brian to a museum where Brian ends up getting into a physical altercation with a condescending artist.  It’s at this point that the audience is justified in wondering if Brian has ever met anyone who didn’t eventually end up taking a swing at.

9. But guess what!  It turns out that not only does Jordan live in New York but she’s actually rich as well!  And she’s willing to forgive Brian for being a sociopathic jerk.  Unfortunately, Jordan’s father objects to his daughter running off with a sociopathic bartender so Brian — as usual — reacts by beating up a doorman and then literally dragging Jordan out of her apartment.  One scene later and Brian and Jordan are suddenly married and Brian owns a bar of his own.  Where did Brian get the money to open up his own bar?  Who knows!?  At this point, all that’s important is that the movie is nearly over and, in order for there to be a happy ending, Brian must both be married and a bar owner.  That seems to be the film’s message: “Just stay alive for two hours and the film’s script will be obligated to give you a happy ending whether it makes sense or not.”

10.  Brian is not only a bartender, he’s a poet!  And, amazingly enough, bar patrons are willing to put aside their desire to get a drink so they can listen to their bartender recite poems like this:

” I am the last barman poet / I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make / Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake / The sex on the beach / The schnapps made from peach / The velvet hammer / The Alabama slammer. / I make things with juice and froth / The pink squirrel / The three-toed sloth. / I make drinks so sweet and snazzy / The iced tea / The kamakazi / The orgasm / The death spasm / The Singapore sling / The dingaling. / America you’ve just been devoted to every flavor I got / But if you want to got loaded / Why don’t you just order a shot? / Bar is open.”

Seriously, how can you not enjoy a film like Cocktail?  It’s just so totally ludicrous and melodramatic and, best of all, it seems to have absolutely no idea just how over-the-top and silly it really is.  Both Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue seem to take their roles so seriously that you seriously have to wonder what film they thought they were making.

Cocktail is the epitome of a guilty pleasure.

Tom Cruise In Cocktail

Previous Guilty Pleasures:

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear


Dance Scenes That I Love: The Prom From She’s All That

I was shocked and saddened to learn, earlier tonight, about the tragic death of actor Paul Walker.  Though Paul is probably best known for appearing in The Fast and Furious Films, he also appeared in several other films, including 1999’s She’s All That.

Below, you’ll find my favorite scene from She’s All That.  And yes, it does involve dancing.  I was either 13 or 14 when I first saw She’s All That and I have to say that it gave me a lot of very unrealistic expectations about high school.  Imagine my disappointment when I went to my first prom and discovered that, despite the best efforts of both the DJ and myself, hardly anyone was actually interested in breaking out into a carefully choreographed dance routine!

But, I guess that’s why we have the movies…

44 Days of Paranoia #13: Quiz Show (dir by Robert Redford)

For today’s entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, I want to take a look at a film that I recently caught on cable — 1994’s Quiz Show.

Directed by Robert Redford and based on a true story, Quiz Show was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture but lost to Forrest Gump.  Among those of us who obsess over Oscar history, Quiz Show is often overshadowed by not only Forrest Gump but two of the other nominees as well, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption.  When compared to Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show certainly feels old-fashioned.  At the same time, it’s not quite as much of a sentimental crowd-pleaser as Gump or Shawshank.  Perhaps for those reasons, Quiz Show never gets quite as much attention as some other films that have been nominated for best picture.  However, taking all of that into consideration, Quiz Show is still one of the best films of the 90s.

Quiz Show takes us back to the 1950s.  The most popular show on television is 21, a game show in which two contestants answer questions, win money, and try to be the first to score 21 points.  The American public believes that all of the questions asked on 21 are locked away in a bank vault until it’s time for the show.  What they don’t know is that the show’s producers have instead been rigging the show, giving the answers to contestants who they feel will be good for ratings.

When Quiz Show begins, nerdy Herbie Stempel (John Turturro) has been the champion for several weeks.  However, both the show’s producers and sponsors feel that the untelegenic Herbie has peaked.  Hence, the handsome and charismatic Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) is brought on the show and Herbie is ordered to lose to him.  Reluctantly, Herbie does so.


Charles is initially reluctant to cheat but, as he continues to win, he finds himself becoming addicted to the fame.  Charles is the son of the prominent academic Mark Van Doren (Paul Scofield) and his success on television finally gives him a chance to escape from his father’s shadow.  Indeed, the film’s subtle and nuanced portrait of Charles and Mark’s loving but competetive relationship is one of the film’s greatest strengths.


Herbie, however, is bitter over having to lose and has subsequently gambled away all of his winnings.  When 21′s producer (David Paymer) refuses to help Herbie get on another TV show, Herbie reacts by going to the New York County district attorney and publicly charging 21 as being fixed.  Though the grand jury dismisses Herbie as being obviously mentally unbalanced, his charges come to the attention of a congressional investigator, Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow).


Goodwin launches his own investigation into 21 and discovers that the show is fixed.  (As the ambitious Goodwin puts it, he wants to “put television on trial.”)  Along the way, he also meets and befriends Charles Van Doren and finds himself torn between his desire to expose the show and to protect Charles from the bad publicity.  Again, the film is to be applauded for the subtle way that it uses Goodwin’s investigation of both Charles and Herbie as a way to explore issues of both class resentment and class envy.  Goodwin may have come from the same ethnic background of Herbie but it quickly becomes obvious that Goodwin has more sympathy for the genteel (and very WASPy) world that produced Charles Van Doren.  When Goodwin tries to justify protecting Charles, his wife (played by Mira Sorvino) responds by calling him “the Uncle Tom of the Jews” and it’s hard not to feel that she has a point.


While I greatly enjoyed Quiz Show, I do have to say that, on one major point, the film fails.  Try as he might, director Redford never convinces us that a rigged game show is really as big of a crime as he seems to be believe it to be.  Perhaps in the 1950s, people were still innocent enough to be shocked at the idea of television reality being fake but for cynical contemporary viewers, it’s hard not to feel that the “scandal” was more about Richard Goodwin’s ambition and less about any sort of ethical or legal issue.  Towards the end of the film, one character suggests that television will never be truly honest unless the government steps in to regulate it.  “What?” I yelled back at the TV.

Seriously, it seemed like a bit of an overreaction.

As I watched Quiz Show, I found it hard not to think about the reality shows that I love.  For instance, I know that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are largely staged.  I know that the previous season of Big Brother was largely set up so that Amanda could win.  (And, believe me, if Amanda hadn’t sabotaged her chances by turning out to be a mentally unstable racist bully, she would have won and she would probably would have been invited back for the next all-stars season.)  I know that shows like Storage Wars and Dance Moms are “unscripted” in name only.  I know that reality shows aren’t real but my attitude can basically be summed up in two words: “who cares?”  Perhaps I would be more outraged if I lived in the 50s which, to judge from both Quiz Show and a host of other movies, was apparently a much more innocent time.


That said, I really enjoyed Quiz Show.  A lot of that is because I’m a history nerd and, therefore, I have a weakness for obsessively detailed period pieces.  But even beyond that, Quiz Show is a well-made, entertaining film that features three excellent lead performances and several strong supporting turns.  If you love to watch great actors playing great roles then Quiz Show is the film for you.  Rob Morrow lays his Boston accent on a bit thick but otherwise, he does a good job of suggesting both Goodwin’s ambition and the insecurities that lead him to desire Charles’s friendship even as he tries to expose him as a fraud.  John Turturro brings an odd — if manic — dignity to Herbie Stempel while Johann Carlo is well-cast as his wife.  Best of all, Ralph Fiennes makes Charles Van Doren into a sad, frustrating, and ultimately sympathetic character while Paul Scofield is the epitome of both paternal disappointment and love as his father.  The film is full of great supporting turns as well, with David Paymer and Hank Azaria perfectly cast as the show’s producers and Christopher McDonald playing the show’s host with the same smarmy charm that he brought to a similar role in the far different Requiem For A Dream.  Perhaps best of all, Martin Scorsese shows up as the owner of Geritol and gets to bark, “Queens is not New York!”

Even if Robert Redford doesn’t quite convince us that the quiz show scandal was as big a deal as he obviously believes it to be, Quiz Show is still an uncommonly intelligent film and one that deserves to rediscovered.


Other entries in the 44 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading

44 Days of Paranoia #12: Burn After Reading (dir by Joel and Ethan Coen)

For today’s entry in the Days of Paranoia, let’s take a look at Joel and Ethan Coen’s wonderfully satiric look at espionage, greed, lust, and stupidity, 2008’s Burn After Reading.

Like most Coen Brothers films, Burn After Reading tells the dark story of a group of obsessives who all think that they’re far more clever than they actually are.  Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst who, because of his alcoholism and generally sour personality, is demoted.  Cox angrily quits his job and then starts working on his memoirs.  Meanwhile, Cox’s wife Katie (played by Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with the handsome but idiotic Mark (George Clooney).  On the advice of her divorce lawyer, Katie secretly downloads copies of all of Osborne’s records, including his memoirs.  Katie gives the disc to her lawyer’s secretary.  The secretary then proceeds to accidentally leave the disc at Hardbodies Gym.

This is where things, in typical Coen Brothers fashion, start to get complicated.  Two trainers at the gym — Linda (Frances McDormand) and her fitness obsessed friend Chad (a hilarious Brad Pitt) — find the disc and mistake Osborne’s very mundane files for national security secrets.  Linda, who is obsessed with raising enough money to get a boob job, convinces Chad that they should blackmail Osborne and demand that he pay them before they return his disc.  Osborne, who has no idea that Katie copied his records, refuses to pay so Linda takes the disc to the Russians.  This leads to a series of misunderstandings that eventually lead to several murders, all of which have to be covered up by the CIA, despite the fact that both the director of the CIA and his assistant agree that there’s no way to understand how any of this happened and that, in the end, neither one of them has learned anything from the experience.

Perhaps because it was released between the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men and the Oscar-nominated A Serious Man, many critics tend to dismiss Burn After Reading as just being an enjoyable lark and nothing more.  While it’s true that there’s not a lot going on underneath the surface of Burn After Reading, the surface itself is so fun, vivid, and vibrant that it seems rather petty to complain.  Burn After Reading finds the Coen Brothers at their most playful and snarky.

The Coen Brothers have made films in several different genres and styles but all of their work has one thing in common.  The Coens tell stories about obsessive characters who aren’t anywhere close to being as smart as they think they are.  When critics complain that the Coens tend to view their characters with a rather condescending attitude, they’re usually talking about films like Burn After Reading.  Fortunately, in the case of Burn After Reading, the Coens assembled one of their strongest casts.  From the insanely focused Frances McDormand to the perpetually smiling Brad Pitt to cynical John Malkovich, everyone does such a great job that you can overlook the fact that they’re all essentially playing idiots.  Perhaps the film’s best performance comes from George Clooney who, in the role of Harry, proves himself to be a very good sport by satirizing both his own reputation as a womanizer and his career as an old school movie star.  In one of the film’s best moments, Harry, gun drawn, dramatically leaps and then rolls into an empty bedroom.  Like almost all of the characters in Burn After Reading, Harry is just a big kid playing action hero and Clooney’s performance here is perfect.

As for Burn After Reading, it may not be perfect but it’s certainly a lot of fun.


Other entries in the 44 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective

TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode #9, “Repairs”


I apologize for the delay in this recap. I blame the holidays, then catastrophic personal problems, then myself. Maybe in inverse order. Don’t worry about it. The fact remains, this column is here, and it means just what you think! Yes, my friends, it’s that time again! It’s time for we here at Through the Shattered Lens to deliver all of the information you could ever want to have about the latest episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. You know, short of actually watching the episode. If you’re inclined to do so, I can’t promise there are no spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk. If, on the other hand, you feel like you’d rather bail out to watch the latest episode of “Paint Drying” or “Grass Growing”… well. Go on ahead. I promise. I won’t judge you. If you’re looking to find out whether this episode might interest you by reading a recap, or if you’re in some kind of nether-state where you feel compelled to read snarky recounts of television shows, however? This column might just be for you. Let’s get started.

Cold open!

A lovely young woman (Laura Seay) is in a convenience store. She is buying a few things. Essentials. The proprietor confronts her. “Jack Benson was a friend of mine,” he says. You are not alone! He was a friend to all of us, shopkeep! Our young woman confirms this, saying Jack was her friend too. But she was in charge, says the shopkeeper! It’s about then that he begins being bombarded with stuff. Cans. Entire gondolas of merchandise. He’s suddenly recoiling from the young woman, who, despite assertions that it wasn’t her fault, appears to have calamity following in her wake. As the camera pulls back, a newspaper front page cleverly reveals to us that a laboratory explosion killed four people. I’m sure that won’t come up later though, right?

Act One?

Repairs takes up exactly where the previous episode left off. Agents May and Ward had an alcohol-fueled night of what we must assume was surgically precise but strangely wooden lovemaking. Ward is talking about discretion, but Ming-Na has no interest in being part of that discussion, because, frankly, she doesn’t talk. Aboard the Shieldplane, Coulson and Skye discuss the cold open. A particle accelerator exploded! Coulson reveals his understanding of the physics involved in conversation with Fitz-Simmons, and speculates that not only could our young woman (her name, I’m told, is Hannah) have developed a kind of telekinetic power, but she might also lack the ability to control it. They’ll be on the ground in five, and Skye wonders about her role in the mission. Coulson tells her to stay behind, because the situation is delicate. For some reason, Skye is concerned that delicate situations are not always best handled by Clark Gregg’s smug “I’m smarter than you” face and the aggressively wooden natures of Agent May and Agent Ward. I share some of these concerns, Skye! Let us form a S.H.I.E.L.D. Level 7 team together.

The upside of the situation is that we once again get to seat ourselves in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Actionmobile (the official term for the totally inconspicuous black SUV with dark tinted windows that is the official land transport of our heroes). A mob has gathered around Hannah’s house, and while the police are there, ostensibly to diffuse the situation, they don’t really appear to be doing much more than hanging out and enjoying the clean air. Coulson steps forward and attempts to diffuse the situation himself. Then someone throws an egg at Hannah. While Ward is yelling at the local authorities to get the mob under control, a police car spontaneously starts moving at speed. Coulson tackles a local out of the way just in time, and the car crashes into the fence. Even as Coulson is trying to talk Hannah down, worried that her emotional stability may be, you know, causing objects to crash into fences, Agent Ming-Na shoots her in the back. With a taser. She’ll be fine. Probably.

Meanwhile, Fitz and Simmons had a conversation about pranking. They decide to prank Skye, because she is a newbie! Also, world-building detail: there is a S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy. I think the idea of some kind of S.H.I.E.L.D. academic studies was broached before, but not quite this directly. As far as I recall. Skye describes it like a S.H.I.E.L.D. Hogwarts, and I am delighted! Which House was Fitz sorted into? I imagine that one of the Houses must be known for producing wooden secret agents, because we have two and a half of them on the Shieldplane already. Back on the Plane, incidentally, Fitz and Simmons tell Skye a fairly improbable story about Agent May gunning down mooks from horseback. It sounds like a lot of action for her character. She seems to hoard both words and deeds the way that I might hoard bottled water and canned foodstuffs against the impending apocalypse.

In the ‘Cage’, the metahuman containment chamber of the Shieldplane, Coulson and May talk things out (believe it or not, it’s not only Coulson talking) with young Hannah. Coulson says that he believes that she’s developed some kind of telekinetic ability. Hannah says no, she hasn’t done anything. She would actually rather that she had some control over these events. Instead, Hannah believes that she is being punished by God for her role in the laboratory explosion. She is being haunted, by demons, she says. God is no longer in her corner.

Fitz says that Hannah must be hallucinating. Ward and Skye are concerned about her mental state. Coulson is concerned about all of that, except also her probable uncontrolled telekinetic powers. So, you know, safety first.

Skye wants to go be Hannah’s friend. She thinks she can do some PR work after Hannah’s harrowing adventure with objects going berserk around her, then being shot in the back, abducted aboard S.H.I.E.L.D.’s plane, then interrogated by the team. Coulson and May are adamant in their refusal to let Skye contact the prisoner/patient. For some reason, Skye goes to Ward as her emotional sounding board. He suggests that being confrontational with Agent May will accomplish nothing. He also tells Skye a revised version of the crazy yarn that Fitz-Simmons spun for her about May, and her nickname, ‘The Cavalry’.

I’d poke fun at how many scene changes there have already been, but why bother? It’s like using dynamite to fish. In a barrel. Uhh. A dynamite-proof barrel.

Fitz-Simmons are working late in the lab, workshopping prank ideas, and trying to recreate what possibly might have gone down in the laboratory explosion. Also, it’s late, and the lights are low. Skye is looking through the dossiers of those killed in the explosion, and comes up with a Tobias Ford. Hannah thought Tobias was her friend, but it seems that he lodged several safety complaints that she would have been obliged to respond to. You know, before being killed in an explosion. Doesn’t sound good.

Simmons (see? scene changes!) is retrieving a mop. He has what is undoubtedly a very clever and original prank in mind to use it with. As he’s groping around a supply closet, we see the ominous figure of a man (Robert Baker) materialize behind him. When Simmons turns to leave, there’s nothing. Back in the lab, Fitz is looking at the holographic image of a strange, alien landscape. She describes what she’s seeing “as if a hole was torn to…” then our mystery man appears behind her. “To Hell!” he roars. It is dramatic. Then he de-materializes into purple smoke. That’s probably not good. Shortly thereafter, he is seen in the avionics section of the plane, ripping out handfuls of cable! This seems like a very unfortunate thing to do while the plane is traveling at speed through the air! Now the plane is crashing!

Not to worry though, the plane can still achieve flight, so Agent May brings it down for a landing.

Coulson rallies the crew. Hannah is not telekinetic. There’s just a weird re-and-de-materializing around her, tormenting her, doing bad things. Like driving cop cars through fences. And throwing cans at shopkeepers! Now, the agents will defend the “Cage” from attack, to keep Hannah safe from aforementioned blue smoke guy. Skye is concerned that Hannah may be a little upset by the whole situation, and she might be slightly more empathic than, say, Agent Ward. Agent Ward says something blunt to drive the point home for us. Also, Fitz is missing. Well, mostly, he’s been locked in a closet. He is half convinced that he’s being pranked, and begins wandering the darkened plane with a small knife for personal defense, and a small flashlight. In a twist that no one could ever have seen coming, he blunders into Fitz and Ward. Everyone is startled! May orders Fitz-Simmons to avionics to fix the plane, while she is going to personally defend the “cage” from attack.

Meanwhile, Coulson is calling for help. Our purple smoke man has a very large plumber’s wrench, however, and knocks the transceiver right off the surface of the plane. So much for that plan!

Skye comes to deliver some of that empathy to the luckless Hannah. Skye tells Hannah that she must stay in the cage for her own safety, and that something is pursuing her. Hannah believes that it is demons, come to torment her. She believes strongly in God, obviously, and believes that not only is God punishing her, but that she absolutely deserves his wrath. Skye shares a story about her upbringing, with nuns about, and that one thing that stuck with her is the idea that “God is love”. Simple! Sappy! Hopeful. May arrives and orders Skye to help Coulson. You know, with that whole communications issue.

Coulson sets Skye straight on what actually happened to Agent May. What started as a weird story that seemed like it had been concocted by Fitz-Simmons, apparently had a kernel of truth. It seems that some cultist-like folks had taken hostages. S.H.I.E.L.D. was pinned down. May said she would fix the problem. She did. Apparently, while May has always been quiet, she used to be warm. Still fearless, but not empty. It’s about this time that our disappearing friend appears. He demands that they either allow him into Hannah’s cage, or allow her to come out. Coulson says that it’s not up to him.

May is not happy with the ‘wait and hope this guy goes away’ approach, so she takes Hannah out of the plane and into the woods, saying that she will ‘fix the problem’. It’s weirdly ineffective, despite being well set up to be a kind of poignant moment.

Some padding occurs. It’s kind of a blur, really. Lines are exchanged. Ward is back awake after having taken a wrench to the back of the head. May hauls Hannah into a barn. There’s a lot of barns in this show. Coulson and Skye escape the room they’re apparently trapped in, then free Fitz-Simmons-Ward from their own jammed closet. As they wander the plane, they trigger Simmons’s prank. It’s pretty sophomoric, which gives Skye an idea about their disappearing tormentor.

Meanwhile, Agent May battles the disappearing guy. She’s fast, and she’s well-trained, but she can’t teleport around, and she does not have a wrench. It’s not going great for her.

Skye is piecing things together about the disappearing guy. In case it wasn’t obvious to everyone by now, he’s not actually trying to attack or kill Hannah, he’s trying to protect her. He set the cop car a-drivin’ through the mob, threw cans at the shopkeep who was about to freak out on Hannah. He’s behaving childishly, Skye says, trying to get the girl to notice him. He likes her! He really likes her!

Back in the barn, Hannah identifies teleportation guy as Tobias, a co-worker and friend. She tells him that May is her friend, and everything’s cool. It turns out that not everything is cool, though. Wrench guy was responsible for the explosion that started all of this nonsense in the first place. Apparently he compromised everyone’s safety in order to get Hannah, the safety inspector, down to his department. Exchanging words with her was the highlight of his day! He begs for forgiveness, as he believes that what is happening to him is dragging him into Hell itself. Hannah tells him that only God can forgive him.

“But he won’t,” May says, before delivering a weird, cold, speech. Coulson and Co. arrive shortly after, and May confirms that aforementioned weird, cold, speech was the same one she received from Coulson after the ‘Cavalry’ incident. Weird.

Back on the plane, Coulson and Skye have a conversation. Skye says Coulson knows how people tick. Coulson retorts that Skye does, too, and that it was one of the things he recognized about her right away. He thinks she someday might be the best at what she does. Skye bounces up to the cockpit to hang out with May in silence as they take off.

One last scene change?

Skye, Coulson, Fitz, and Ward are playing Scrabble. Fitz uses a word no one else knows, Skye looks it up. It’s legit… oh, and here’s Simmons, he’s been the victim of the old ‘handful of shaving cream’ prank! But who was responsible? Everyone denies involvement.

One more scene change!

May’s facial expression contorts slightly into the grim approximation of a slightly less grim than expected smile. Oh, that May! What a prankster!

Alright guys, that does it for this week’s episode. Yes, that’s seriously what it was about. No, I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed it. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. kind of plays like a YA Novel that hasn’t realized that it’s a YA novel. There are some adult themes (like the alcohol-aided affair that we followed through from last week) but they seem curiously out of place juxtaposed with the rest of the material here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the show – I certainly don’t find it offensively bad… but it is kind of bland. That having been said, I continue to enjoy recapping episodes of this TV show, so, long live the recap column! See everyone next time.

Trailer: Gimme Shelter


This film, which features Vanessa Hudgens in a change-of-pace role, looks good and life-affirming.  However, there are two reasons for concern.

First off, the movie is being released in January, which is traditionally the time of year that all of the really bad movies are released.

Secondly, the trailer features three quotes praising the film but they’re all from the same review.

Hopefully, Gimme Shelter will beat the odds.

44 Days of Paranoia #11: Police, Adjective (dir by Corneliu Porumboiu)

For today’s entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, I want to take a look at Police, Adjective, a Romanian film from 2009.

Alex (Alexandru Sabadac) is a teenager who has recently been accused of being a drug dealer by a police informant.  Burned-out detective Cristi (Dragos Bucur) is assigned to follow Alex and keep him under surveillance and, ultimately, gather enough evidence to send Alex to prison.

However, Cristi quickly realizes that Alex is just a bored kid who likes to smoke weed with his friends.  Cristi realizes that Alex isn’t a threat to anyone and, that by doing his job, Critsi will essentially be ruining Alex’s life.  As well, Cristi feels that the informant is a bigger threat than Alex but he’s told that the informant is the son of a powerful man and therefore, won’t be prosecuted.

After spending the majority of the film watching Alex and dealing with the drudgery of the never-ending police bureaucracy, Cristi has a meeting with his superior, Anglehache (played, with a subtle brilliance, by Vlad Ivanov).  Cristi argues that there’s no reason to arrest Alex and send him to prison for seven years.  Anglehache responds by opening a dictionary, forcing Cristi to read the definition of the word “police,” and then explaining why the law must be rigidly enforced regardless of logic.  It’s now up to Cristi to decide what’s more important, his conscience or the demands of the state.

I can still remember the Saturday afternoon that I spent watching Police, Adjective.  My reason for wanting to see the film was simple: I had never seen a Romanian film before and, living in Texas, there was a pretty good chance that Police, Adjective would be my only opportunity to do so.  I approached all of my friends and every member of my family and I said, “We have to see this movie!  It’s from Romania!”  I could tell by their reactions that they weren’t quite as enthusiastic as I was.  “Fine!” I declared, “I’ll see it by myself!”  And that’s exactly what I did.  Early in the morning,  I went down to the Dallas Angelika and I saw Police, Adjective.

When the film started, there were 7 other people sitting in theater.  The first two walked out after 15 minutes.  The next one left at the 30 minute mark.  As the rest of the film played out, I was aware of the other four viewers getting frustrated.  I could hear them impatiently rattling their popcorn bags.  I could hear a few of them demanding, under their breath, to know how The Dallas Morning News could have possibly given this film a good review.  I could hear them as, one-by-one, they stood up and walked out of the theater.  By then end of the movie, I was the only one left.

Now, you should understand that Police, Adjective features no violence, no profanity, no nudity, and no mention of religion.  In short, the audience didn’t leave because it was offended by anything it had seen.  Instead, they left because Police, Adjective is quite literally one of the slowest films ever made.  It’s a police film that features no action but instead emphasizes the drudgery of both the work and existence in general.  For 90 minutes, we watch as Cristi secretly follows and observes Alex.  During that time, Alex pretty much does nothing.  Then eventually, Cristi goes back to a depressingly shoddy-looking police station, questions whether the law is worth enforcing, and gets a lecture from a guy with a dictionary.

Exciting stuff, no?

Well, in its own way, it is.  Police, Adjective is a film about ideas and, despite what some filmmakers seem to believe, ideas can very exciting.  By emphasizing the drudgery of Cristi’s job and rejecting the clichés that audiences have been conditioned to expect when it comes to police films, Police, Adjective invites the viewer to consider their own attitude towards the law.  Why do we have laws and do we really need them?  Cristi is forced to consider whether his superior’s attitude — that the law must be obeyed just because of the fact that is the law — is correct or if it’s just another excuse to justify the power of the state at the expense of the rights of the individual.

Not only is it a good question but it’s a question that not many films have the courage to ask.

Fortunately, Police, Adjective does.


12 Random Things That I Am Thankful For In 2013


Happy Thanksgiving!

Traditionally here in the States, Thanksgiving is the forgotten holiday that sits between Halloween and Christmas.  This is the time of year that those of us in the States are supposed to think about what we are thankful for.  According to the people in Washington, this year we’re also supposed to talk to all of the members of our family about politics.  They’ve even made talking points available, just in case you have a relative who isn’t crazy about your personal ideology.  To me, though, that seems kind of foolish.  Why would you ruin a perfectly good Thanksgiving with politics when you could spend your time thinking, talking, and arguing about movies and television?

After all, Presidents are only around for, at the most, eight years.  Movies are forever.

With that in mind, here are twelve random things that I am thankful for in 2013.

1) I’m thankful that there are still visionaries like Shane Carruth who can make films like Upstream Color.

2) I’m thankful for actors, like Robert Downey, Jr., who are capable of making mainstream films, like Iron Man 3, memorable.

3) I’m thankful that a show like Breaking Bad got a chance to remind us of just how good television can be.

4) I’m thankful for Blue Is The Warmest Color.

5) I’m thankful that at least some people understand that The Counselor is one of the best films of 2013.

6) I’m thankful that this October was this site’s most succesful horror month yet!

7) I’m thankful that, in 2013, we can still watch movies like The Passion of Joan of Arc.

8) I’m thankful that I actually saw Tyler Perry’s Temptation because, otherwise, I would not believe that such an inept and deeply offensive film could have been made.

9) I am thankful for Icona Pop’s I Love It, which is currently my favorite song to play while I’m dancing around the house in my underwear.

10) I am thankful that the series finale of The Office was everything that it should have been.

11) I am thankful that Dexter finally ended because, seriously, the show was getting so bad that it was running the risk of overshadowing how good the first few seasons actually were.

12) Finally, and most importantly, I am thankful for our readers and for our subscribers.  Y’all are the ones who make all of this worthwhile.  Thank you!