Monday, March 29, 2010

24 Season 8: 5AM-6AM Quick Review

Why is everybody whispering on 24 tonight? It's pissing me off!

If you're a mole, you need to whisper intel to the bad guys- that I get. You're at work, you're surrounded by good guys and you're single-handedly undermining the entire effort to save Western Civilization (for what? We don't know yet, but it's probably money and a suite in a Dubai tower or some nonsense). So, whisper your little heart out, Dana Walsh. That's completely acceptable villainous behavior.

(One key piece of information culled from the Walsh/Terrorist whisper-chat is that she's working for someone else. Of course, this is the same person or group that got her criminal ass into CTU in the first place. Let the speculation on the identity of this uber-villain begin!)

Meanwhile, CTU Director Hastings briefs the President (who just woke up apparently?) that the nuclear material is taking Manhattan like a bunch of Muppets (ANIMAL! A-NI-MALLLL!!!!) and she immediately replies: "Get me Jack Bauer." Damn straight, Madame President!

Jack, fresh from a stabbing and some gunshots to the chest, rolls his eyes at Chico, Jr. when he asks if Chloe is trustworthy.  Jack then fails to convince Renee Walker to go back to his apartment, she wants to ride along on the crazy train a little while longer. That's quite alright with me, now that Renee has worked out her Russian issues hours ago.

Jack meets President Hassan's hair in the UN Security Council room to whisper some stuff about getting him "not killed" any further.  I admit that seeing the one-man torture machine standing in the UN as kind of ironic, if not absurd. I like the scenes between Anil Kapoor and Kiefer Sutherland- they are prime examples of professional acting. In another universe, these two guys should do a buddy cop movie together. Something set in the '70s, with lots of chili dogs and shitty driving through San Francisco. Anyway... why were they whispering?

Terrorist Tony Al-Qaeda (thank you for the nickname, Amy!) chats calmly (almost whispers!) with President Taylor and informs her that he's chillin' on some nuclear rods that will take out 40 NYC blocks unless she hands over President Hassan's luxurious hair. Immediately afterwards, Taylor sits though several excruciating minutes of terrible political dialogue (in which her television advisors throw out some absurd ideas like giving in to the terrorists and selling off Florida to the commies, etc.) and she finally flips out and says "No! We're America! AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!" Cue swelling music! I'm setting off fireworks in my house in celebration of Taylor's awesomeness.

Meanwhile, some General (I think his name is Burr) is not convinced Taylor (who saved the country last time things went nutty) gets the seriousness of the situation. So, Gen. Burr tries to enlist Chief of Staff Skippy to help him circumvent the US Constitution to stop the terrorist attacks. More whispering!!! Geez, I may be getting older, but I think my hearing is still within a nominal range. I got my TV volume set to 40! And then when the CLASH OF THE TITANS commercial plays afterwards I go deaf with the cry "Release the Krakken!" Ouch!

Anyway, you know where this is going to lead- some silly rehash of Mike Novick's betrayal of David Palmer. Skippy, I know Mike Novick, Mike Novick is a friend of mine, ah, you know the rest of that sentence!  Back at CTU (working off of room-temperature shrimp and buckets of cold coffee), CTU Director Hastings gives a Knute Rockne speech telling his people to save the world by making phone calls and chatting to people. Ummm, can we use Twitter too, boss? I see #nuclearholocaust is trending like a sunovagun!

Gen. Burr tracks down Chief of Staff Skipster one more time, handing him a jump drive that will cause the downfall of the Taylor Administration. Ethan Kanin walks in on these two traitors and has a timely heart attack, but not before giving Skippy a guilt-trip. I groan at this sort of writing. I... (sigh) let's move on!  Gen. Burr has a crack team of commandos roving around, ready to intercept Jack & Co. while they attempt to escort Hassan to freedom. Too bad these patriots aren't trying to find the nuclear material or bad guys, right? Yeah, well I smell a contrived gunfight coming but I'll take that over no gunfight at all. Lucky for us, Bauer is attempting to move Hassan down a tunnel that's ripe for an ambush! Jack, suspicious of this whole deal, makes a phone call demanding to speak with Kanin, which Skippy intercepts. Jack hates Skippy and almost drops an F-bomb (come on, Jack, it's the last season! Say it!). And just like that, a gunfight replete with terrible aim by professional killers unfolds.

The heroic Secret Service lays down cover fire so Jack and Hassan can flee safely. There are rules to these types of things. The leader of the Secret Service team, a tough-as-nails young lady, gets the most kills against the bad guys because 1) she had lines of dialogue and 2) it's obvious that the writers have a thing for girls with guns (Renee, Chloe, etc.). I wonder if the writers hang around gun ranges in their off hours, trying to meet single ladies packing heat. Ha!

President Hassan makes an awesome kill to close out the gunfight (refrigerator salesman my foot!) and the surviving soldier unloads a ton of helpful intelligence which basically reveals the entire traitorous conspiracy to Jack. The soldier tells Jack to give Hassan up to the terrorists and Jack says he's not too keen on the idea!

Dana and Tony Al-Qaeda have one last brief whisper-fest which results in the terrorists deciding to skip abducting Hassan and go straight for the dirty bomb plan. Why did they bother trying to get Hassan again? They gave up so quickly on the idea, it's as if they really didn't care about it anyway. This is like making a waiter go through the whole list of daily specials when you already knew what you were going to order beforehand. You're just wasting time, man!

So, the bomb is set to go off next episode, and we get a 2-hour bonanza next week which means I need to get some extra sleep!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

24 Season 8: The Jack Sack Tribute To CTU Director Brian Hastings

As promised after last week's episode, here's my photoshop tribute to CTU Director Brian Hastings. You trusted Jack when it mattered. You trusted Chloe when it mattered even more. Sure, you were confused by Renee killing a Russian mobster within an hour of having sex with him, but you've been catching up quickly. Welcome to the show, you're proving yourself to be an awesome addition this year.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Executive Producer Howard Gordon spoke with The Hollywood Reporter and announced that Jack deserves to take a nap. So, he and the gang are ending the television series and moving their operation to feature films. The last episode of 24 will air May 24, 2010.

UPDATE: Thanks to Denise Martin and Maria Elena Fernandez of the LA Times for providing a link to this site. Their article on 24's cancellation is a great piece of reporting, which can be found here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

24 Season 8: 4AM-5AM Quick Review

I hope you brought your flak jackets tonight!

Jack, Chico, Jr. and some collateral damag-err "backup" close in on the terrorists once they realize that the terrorists were actually following them in the first place! Here's a little Chemistry 101 quiz: What happens when you mix one part Jack Bauer with even one molecule of terrorist? Oh yes, you get combustion!

Meanwhile, Brian Hastings is "not okay" with things going tits-up at CTU. Chloe has a momentary lapse in common sense and we get a classic exchange between her and our slouchy, cranky CTU Director about his overall feelings. Arlo keeps bringing useless updates to Hastings, which accounts for even more crankiness! But what's worse is the inevitable bureaucratic turf war that is a hallmark of this series. Some cocky NSA guys show up and makes Hastings feel really dumb for breaking his brand new CTU toys.

Unfortunately, this one-dimensional NSA prick is not privy to the genius of Chloe O'Brian. She offers some efficient workarounds which are summarily dismissed by Mr. Personality. Chloe opens up her one-woman CTU in her head and starts marshaling resources on her own, including the dormant doormat Renee Walker. Walker is DONE being put in a corner! All of her previous psychosis is resolved with one loading of the pistol. Welcome to 24-therapy, folks.

But then just as I'm rolling my eyes at the continuation of "Danas of our Walsh" Chloe busts into the server room and pulls an appropriate amount of attitude, telling the NSA guy to do it her way or eat a healthy serving of lead. YES! Chloe pulls a pistol and psychoanalyzes the NSA guy all in the span of ten seconds. He is predictably offended by her conclusions regarding his work persona.. and the threat to his government-scale pay life.

Meanwhile, back on the quietest streets of New York City, Jack resumes his ridiculously violent gunfight, shepherding his Fisher-Price® crack unit of "My First CTU Agents" through danger times one-thousand! The weakest links, including Owen the Intern, take some hits and one of the guys dies defending America. Owen, through blood-soaked teeth, screams a Klingon Death Growl and Jack nods at him saying "Now, you're a man."

And speaking of men, Brian Hastings is THE MAN (not "The Man" as discussed at length in the attempted comedy UNDERCOVER BROTHER, but rather the coolest cat in ALL of the world!). Chloe gives a very impassioned, awesome plea to Hastings to let her "tap dat trunkline" and Hastings, feeling his own awesomeness bubbling to the surface agrees to her plan, telling NSA dude and a back-stabbing Dana to shut their mouths (for ten minutes, at least). Hastings, you're no Bill Buchanan, but you're a worthy successor. You'll be getting a photoshop tribute later this week. I promise it will be badass, just like you, sir!

Back on the mean streets, Owen dies quietly, giving Jack and Chico, Jr. free license to resume kicking terrorist ass. Just as Jack is about to receive a round to the head, Renee Walker appears, exacting her timely awesomeness and saving Jack's life. But then there's the twist, the one I called a couple of weeks ago....

Dana Walsh is the mole. Well, now we can shoot her in the face without worrying about the paperwork.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

24 Season 8: CTU Is Powerless!

Chloe needs to improvise. Welcome to the stone age, people!

Monday, March 15, 2010

24 Season 8: 3AM-4AM Quick Review

This is the halfway point of Season 8-- it starts quite well! We get a hostage situation with Hassan's daughter which spills out into the *very* empty streets of NYC (I know, it's 3AM...) and a pretty good car chase ensues. But like with most spy thrillers, the bad guys know how to conveniently lose the good guys by going into a tunnel and ditching their getaway vehicle. Standard-issue action trickery? Sure, but I'm digging it regardless.

Oh, and then the Jenny/Walsh thing had to pop back up. The ever-reliable Stephen Root (Milton, the stapler-loving lunatic from OFFICE SPACE) brings the most dedicated probation officer known to creation to "24." He manages to make the terrible subplot fun- a tribute to his abilities as a character actor more than the aspirations of this show's writers.  Mr. Root, welcome to the show. I wish you showed up sooner!

Jack and Chico, Jr. run over to the UN for a top-level meeting with Hassan's hair. I like this personal touch by Jack- to tell the leader of the U.S.'s most pivotal global adversary that they lost his daughter when they had the building surrounded. Mrs. Hassan lets Jack know that she hates infidels, but Jack's faced down far tougher Middle Eastern women before- women with guns and homicidal husbands. Mrs. Hassan is too "country club" to register on Jack's radar.

The terrorists holding Hassan's daughter make some whispery demands for a file over satellite phone. Hassan replies "You can never rule Kamistan! You have the hair of a mid-level bureaucrat at best!" Hassan then shows Jack and gang the special file, which just happens to contain ALL of the U.S.'s defense protocols against a nuclear attack. Okay, so Hassan carries this on his MacBook Pro is silly enough. But that the file even exists is kind of silly unto itself. How do you exactly defend against a domestic nuke? It's a freakin' nuke! You could set it off in a farmhouse in Syracuse and it would still bring major damage. But lastly, why do terrorists who already have nuclear material in the U.S. need a file to tell them how to smuggle nuclear materials into the country? That's like asking for a recipe for brownies after you baked a batch. Besides, they've been moving these rods all over the city for 12 hours. If there are radiation detection checkpoints, we have yet to see them actually work!

Meanwhile, in the midst of this most intense of crises, Milton wanders about CTU like an amateur Columbo, solving this intricate plot by Dana/Jenny in a matter of minutes. This is my kind of guy. I love his tenacity. I love his knowledge of "what is that called- meta-data?" Hilarious! A fly in the ointment is always a great thing- and to see Walsh squirm is long overdue. She calls Chico, Jr. to whine about the bumbling detective ruining her life, and Jack slaps the show back into reality, saying "Stop this subplot, we've got a really good superplot unfolding!"

Hassan's daughter gets bored with waiting to be saved, so she bats her eyelashes just enough times to convince her evil boyfriend to not be so darn evil for a moment. He relents, helping her escape before taking a bullet in the back. Oh well, she thinks- now I'm single again. Time to go to CTU and see if there are any cute boys there! (How does she know how to get to CTU? Well, lucky for her, Dana can double as a GPS device! Finally, she did something useful! Ha!).

Okay, so here's where it all goes nuts! Kayla's dead boyfriend isn't dead after all. And the terrorists don't need that stupid file either! She was allowed to escape! And she is delivering an EMP bomb on behalf of these crafty terrorists. Well, their little scheme works- they force Hastings to run for security like they're giving out free shrimp salad sandwiches and succeed in taking out CTU's electricity.

Yet again, America turns to Jack Bauer's analog justice to save her. All Hail Analog Bauer!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A PROPHET: The Jack Sack Movie Review

Note: This is a review of a current release, not a "Movie Classic" like my last film article. I'm trying to keep boundaries here! The Jack Sack Movie Classics will return soon.

Here's a name you'll hopefully start hearing more of in the next few years: Jacques Audiard. Audiard is the director of A PROPHET, a present-day crime epic set in a French prison. Malik, the film's main character, is a clueless, defenseless and friendless 19-year-old starting a 6-year sentence. Ah, a prison movie, that means there's some path to redemption here, like in THE GREEN MILE or THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, right? Um, not so much. This is the story of a young man who learns to become a true criminal through his time as an inmate. There's something very twisted about that notion- and it appears Audiard appreciates the irony as well.

If you're familiar with television series THE WIRE, then you'll understand how this movie treats its characters. There are no Hollywood contrivances or "outs" here, this is a movie meant to immerse you in uncertainty and danger. On its surface, prison is a chaotic environment, but if you dig deeper you discover a very ordered society. Malik is our guide through this world- each new thing he learns is a revelation to us as well. The story shows how Malik adapts to each new realization about his surroundings. We also see that he is a fast learner and a shrewd problem-solver. Despite the confines of prison, he has a full, rich life unfolding throughout the film.

Audiard, who has made some notable French movies (among them READ MY LIPS and THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED), will definitely be making films in Hollywood in the near future is he so desires. His eye for details is the most impressive quality to his films. Have you ever sat in a room, listening to someone talking and had your eyes wander about, lingering on random things like a coffee mug or a box of cereal? That's what Audiard's camera pulls off without you even thinking about it. He places you in the movie- without the aid of James Cameron's beloved 3-D tech (the cinematic version of Viagra if there ever was one). In film school-speak, Audiard is a master of cinema-vérité.

For someone that loves movies, I admit to having a blind spot towards French films up until recently. Yes, it's tiresome and distracting to read subtitles for two hours. And there's also that cultural divide that pops up from time to time. But I'm glad I broke down and started chasing down these films. I am completely impressed by the style, grit and economical storytelling of French filmmakers. They're carrying on the great tradition of 1970s cinema, when America was making films like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, SERPICO, and MEAN STREETS. I'm not sure why we don't make those kinds of movies anymore- but whatever the reason, it's kind of frustrating. American life is no less real than what's taking place in Marseilles or Mexico City. There are worthwhile stories here that are not being told through our movies. Maybe we need someone like Audiard to make a large impact here, to kick us in the ass and start thinking about these things.

In the meantime, A PROPHET is a completely engrossing journey, a saga about a simple boy who reveals himself to be a complicated man. It's playing in theaters now, and will probably be available on video within months.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: FOX to Cancel "24"

Variety is reporting that the official announcement is expected in the next day or so. Season 8 will be the last for the Jack Bauer. I guess all that cash they blew on Seth MacFarlane ($100 million-- no, I'm not kidding) caught up with FOX. Good move, guys!

While I've been cranky about this season, I am honestly going to miss this show. And I will miss writing about the show as well. As the dust settles with this news, I will give thought about the future of this blog and hopefully come up with a sustainable concept that will keep you all coming back. I truly value my readers and I want to continue the fun here.  Let's hope I can come up with something awesome!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The State of "24": Season 8 Spoilers & Speculation Too!

Madame Senior Intelligence Analyst, The Jack Sack of "24!"

(Thunderous applause)

My fellow "24" fans, I come before you today on the eve of the 12th episode of Season 8. We have met many new characters, we've delved into some ridiculous subplots and we even have a new leather manpurse that costs nearly $900 retail. While we face many challenges in the coming episodes, I stand before you today very optimistic that this season will redeem itself.  The State of "24" is not ideal, but its future is strong!

(Several people applause politely)

Now, I can go on about the problems- how Cole Ortiz has a terrible NY accent, how Arlo Glass is one margarita away from ending up on Datline's "To Catch a Predator," how Brian Hastings has limited range of motion from the neck up or how Dana Walsh/Jenny is the most ridiculous human being to ever occupy space in our television sets. Indeed, these have been challenging weeks in which many of you have come to me and stated your deep displeasure with the new CTU. I agree with your concerns, but I am here to tell you that things are going to get better. No, I'm not hopeful they'll improve, I am absolutely sure that Season 8 is about to explode your weary brains.

Perhaps we should think of this show as "13" as there are that many episodes left. In 13 episodes we will meet new villains, we will be reunited with Former President Charles Logan, and most importantly we will continue to have a fully armed and operational Jack Bauer slaying bad guys (and girls). Ever since Jack moved his manpurse shoulder strap over his head to his opposite shoulder, he has become the one-man militia that we all embraced many seasons ago. Last night's episode was further proof of Jack's resurgence ("LOOK INTO MY EYES!") and he has had enough of these amateurs at the new CTU. Remember, Jack has watched these episodes along with us, and he is pissed off.

(Thunderous applause!)

Now, I have been more critical than most about the first 11 episodes. I can count this season's great moments on maybe 2 or 3 fingers to be honest. Everything else has been either average or downright frustrating. Renee Walker started out as a full-blown badass but quickly dropped all toughness once she got into the room with a lawyer from the Department of Justice. While the women's movement may have been set back several years, I remind you all that she still knows how to fire a gun. I will auction off one of my vital organs if she does not prove to us her valor with weapons by season's end.

(A lone voice yells out "You lie!")

Can the show redeem itself despite these problems? A week ago, I would have said probably not. And even through last night's frustrating episode, I found signs of hope-- CTU Director Brian Hastings has become a worthy leader, trusting Jack Bauer at every important moment and even promoting Chloe O'Brian to her rightful place as CTU's boss of techie stuff. And Hastings is not a pushover either- giving Ortiz and Walsh a proper dressing-down that we've all been waiting to see happen. With Hastings and Jack working in sync, we've hopefully overcome the inevitable frustrations that come with Bauer clashing with authority figures every single season. Sure, they'll have disagreements again, but they will concern whether Jack should use his fist or a knife when interrogating a terrorist.

And while the politics of this season have been incredibly dumb so far, they've all been a set-up for the really big reveal, which I expect to be shortly forthcoming. I don't know exactly what that revelation may be, but I have theories. In addition I have a big speculative spoiler that will likely ruin you for next week's episode, so consider that before reading further:

Click here to have your mind ruined by spoilerific revelations!

The big spoiler: I predict that next week we will learn that Dana/Jenny was a mole all along. The whole redneck plot was meant to diminish Jenny-- to make her appear weak, incompetent and annoying, and to also minimize our expectation that she's dangerous. A lot of us have asked "How could she have cleared a background check to get a high-security job at CTU?" Well, she had help, my good people. She had help from powerful allies who obviously have some access & influence in our national security system.

Yes, it's a well-worn twist in 24-land, but at least it explains away the idiocy of her character. And she will likely be the link to whomever is behind the bigger plot that we have yet to know.

And that's where the speculation begins: who's behind Jenny? The guys trying to take over Kamistan from President Hassan? Not likely. This is "24"- they insist on adding new layers of villainy to every plot. Last season we got a double-decker of intrigue with Jonas Hodges being the first beef patty of badness and Alan Wilson being the next. So, it will likely be the same with Season 8- and there's one character that I'm hoping will figure large in this game- Former President Charles Logan.

Chuck was last seen in Season 6 with a Henckel knife protruding from his upper body. While his fate has been unknown since, the show has publicly acknowledged that the character is coming back this year. He's my favorite "24" villain and he deserves another shot at taking on Jack & Co. Maybe he's not a villain this time around, you say? Maybe, but I don't think they're going to bring Logan back to rehabilitate his character. If they do, I'll be disappointed. I would rather see him exact revenge upon those whom he feels have wronged him. "Revenge! Now we're cooking!"

But either way, there's that extra layer of evil behind the nuclear rods and Jenny that we have to expect. Alan Wilson's fate has been hinted at in passing, and I expect either he or his organization have some involvement in this season's crisis. I will speculate no further, but I am very hopeful that things will become very interesting starting next week.

I declare comments for this post a SPOILER zone. Therefore, if you've skipped the spoiler section, you're advised to not read the comments to this post. If you want to comment on this article without reading the spoilers, feel free to post your thoughts at the State of "24" Preview article here.

In closing, let's tighten up our ranks- we have a half of a season of this show left and I refuse to give up hope on a more violent, dangerous future! God Bless 24!

(Thunderous applause, The Jack Sack walks up the aisle and shakes straps with various purses and manbags).

Monday, March 08, 2010

24 Season 8: The State of "24" Preview

Check back tomorrow for a big post- I'm going to offer an honest take on the first half of this season of "24" as well as some serious speculation/spoilers for the remainder of Season 8. Pack a sandwich and juice box!

24 Season 8: 2AM-3AM Quick Review


Stephen Root has entered the building! But more on that later...

CTU Director Brian Hastings is officially legit. He speaks for all of us when Chico, Jr. and Dana/Jenny waltz back to work. He socks them both with a very realistic dose of reality- and he comes oh so close to firing these two terrible plot points- err "employees." And Hastings promotes Chloe O'Brian to her rightful place as Queen of CTU. So, with hiring Jack Bauer and giving Chloe the power she deserves, Hastings is this season's best addition to the show for the very reason that he doesn't suck like everyone else. And Stephen Root materializes as a probation officer looking for one of the Brothers Dim! Who knew probation officers worked at 2AM? Maybe he's up to shenanigans (of course he is, but we'll have to deal with that subplot at a later date).

And then the remainder of the first-half of tonight's episode just kind of dragged on with Marcos hiding out in the hyperbaric chamber. Let's just say this is the first time in a long time that the real-time format of this show felt truly real. On the plus side, Jack pulls a new move and gets Marcos' mommy to tell her son to quit being such a whiny little terror. When Marcos realizes his mom is there, he loses his cool and says "Mom! You're totally embarrassing me in front of these guys! Did you bring me snacks?" Her reply "Get your butt out of that hyperbaric chamber RIGHT NOW!"

Well, all this melodrama is good and fine (not really) so, thankfully Jack decides he's going to inject some speed into the proceedings. Jack promises to do terrible things to Marcos' mommy, and he convinces all of America with his best Chili Palmer impression ("Look at me! I own you!"). This gets Marcos to come out of the chamber, but the vest is remotely reactivated by his sneaky cohorts and this gives Jack only 60 seconds to get our next terrorist lead figured out (it's Hassan's "Head of Security" and prospective son-in-law). And just like that, Jack throws Marcos back into the chamber and the kid goes boom-boom in a spectacular blaze of violence. Okay!

Now, Hassan's daughter is put in a vintage 24-situation- just having bedded a terrorist, she must delay his departure in order to aid CTU in arresting the guy. She's a pretty good liar, but she's not quick enough on her feet. Her boy-terrorist-toy wants to run off with her pronto, but she says she has to get dressed first. "Why do you need to wear clothes, my love?" he wonders. If I was in her position, I would have said "Babe, ya know all that lovemaking and spicy Kamistani food has done a number on me- I gotta go drop a deuce before we head out." Crude? Yes, but nobody argues with someone when they declare they have to poop. You all know I'm right.

Jack returned to form tonight with his intercom intimidation. However, other silly things tripped up tonight's episode.  I'll give you all a full debrief tomorrow on the "State of 24" but I will say that the preview for next week looks very promising!

Friday, March 05, 2010

MILLER'S CROSSING: The Jack Sack Movie Classics

I'm introducing a new feature here, something I'm calling "The Jack Sack Movie Classics." As many of you have come to realize, I'm a film fan- and in this series of articles, I'll be sharing thoughts on my personal favorites- and hopefully spur some discussion with you as well. 

Don't give Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) the "high hat!"
First in this series is MILLER'S CROSSING, the 1990 Irish-gangster film from Joel & Ethan Coen. Well, the TV guide will tell you it's a gangster film, but MILLER'S CROSSING is a deceptive movie. Tom (Gabriel Byrne) is lieutenant to New York's most powerful mob boss, Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney). There's a world of lies, greed and betrayal that engulf these two men-- and by the film's end they are given a choice: to either remain in that life or move onto something different.

One of the great things about this film is that all of this deep soul-searching stuff isn't the focus of what's taking place onscreen. Instead, MILLER'S CROSSING is a highly active story- pulling in characters (and I do mean "characters") from a very diverse collection of gangsters, politicians, thieves, cops, freaks and even the genre-requisite femme fatale. The story can get pretty dense in places only because so much is going on. Tom is into a large debt with a bookmaker, he's fooling around with Leo's girlfriend, he has to choose if this girl's brother, Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) should live or die, he's being squired by a rival gangster, Johnny Caspar (the brilliant Jon Polito), and he's being scrutinized by Capsar's muscle guy, The Dane. I'll be honest, it took me two viewings to really soak up everything that's happening in Tom's world. But I think things are complicated on purpose, so that we emotionally identify with Tom's bewilderment, which is well-hidden by his very droll, placid demeanor. The more some people get overwhelmed, the more calm and whimsical they act- that's old-school tough-guy stuff that this movie examines both critically and with a little romantic appreciation.

What separates this movie from a lot of other gangster films is something that on its surface makes it the quintessential mob flick- its dialogue. The script is full of gangster slang- there are words in here that you've probably never heard of unless you lived during the 1920s. Compare this to a movie like 1987's THE UNTOUCHABLES, and you'll see what I mean about the dialogue. THE UNTOUCHABLES feels like an '80s movie, even though it is very much involved in its Prohibition-Era setting. MILLER'S CROSSING doesn't try to make itself modern. It is devoted to its period, so much so that some of its most brilliant lines can be lost on an audience that is not intently listening. But if you do pay attention, you will see the humor and complexity of these characters. That's what continues to draw me back to this film- each time I watch it, I find something new to consider.

This is a movie concerned with morality- not in the basic "good versus evil" sense but in terms of how people affect those around them through the choices they make. It's also a movie with some really memorable gangster violence. One of the film's highlights is a scene where men are sent to kill Leo at his home. Here's how Leo responds:

If you've seen MILLER'S CROSSING, jump in and comment on what you think of the film. If you haven't seen it yet, I think it would be the perfect movie to watch on St. Patrick's Day later this month. As the first film in this ongoing series of "Classics" I highly recommend it as one of my all-time favorites.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB) Devours The Oscars: INGLORIOUS BASTERDS

Hey peeps,

This blog is a proud member of The Large Association of Movie Blogs- a consortium of the best movie bloggers on the entire planet. We at LAMB have an ongoing, annual series of articles covering all of the categories for this year's Oscars. Yours truly had the pleasure of writing about Quentin Tarantino's INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. My thoughts on the BASTERDS can be found here.

Monday, March 01, 2010

24 Season 8: 1AM-2AM Quick Review

Previously on "24"- Dana Walsh told Chico, Jr. that she's really Jenny The Redneck. The subplot I've been aggressively ignoring has finally made it to top of my Quick Review article. Why? Well, come on now- how many more photoshops of Jack and Renee do I need to do before I make my own self throw up? Well, this is probably (hopefully) the last one I'll ever do of Cole and Dana/Jenny.

Meanwhile, the writers attempt to try their hand at politics (again). They gum up the first 15 minutes of this episode with some convoluted negotiation over intelligence files. I will continue to hold back my simmering rant on how terrible the political angle has been so far this season, just suffice it to say this is about as amateur a reading on geopolitics that I've ever seen on "24."

The best thing that happened early on was CTU Director Hastings taking his size-12 and delivering it firmly up the White House Chief of Staff's arse. It looks like Jack Bauer's rubbed off on our slouchy bureaucrat. Man, what a great scene- I'm glad the showrunners have let Hastings take on some likable qualities. When Jack calls him later and comes up with an inventive plan to use Emo-Hassan's dead body to lure the bad guys, Hastings kinda digs the idea- almost cracking a smile when he says "Ferrying a dead body around the city isn't standard procedure" but... sure, why not?! Apparently Hastings' favorite comedy is "Weekend at Bernie's."

Well, the latest batch of bad guys (holed up in an undisclosed diner, killing cups of coffee like they are infidels!) send their most disposable reliable operative (who weighs 80 lbs) to kill a dead Emo-Hassan once and for all. When the operative arrives at the hospital, he takes CTU's version of Jimmy Olson (who weighs 79 lbs.) hostage by threatening to use an explosive vest. What do you think happens next? That's right, the vest is psychically disarmed by Chloe!  But then the little terrorist runt somehow barricades himself in a hyperbaric chamber. What? I'm confused... and bored to be honest.

In any case, I had fun making pictures tonight. But I'm running out of stuff to say about "24." I don't want to become a serial cranky blogger.  Are there things outside of this show that you'd like me to write about? I'm open to suggestions! (Seriously).