Not usually a fan of Marvel movies, this one thrilled me with exciting action & a surprisingly well-juggled ton of characters.
Season 1, Episode 9: “Finish the Song”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Craig Rosenberg
* For a review of the previous episode, “El Valero” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Call and Response” – click here
Back in ole Ratwater, we find ourselves discovering more about The Cowboy (Graham McTavish). In a saloon the patrons all listen to a man singing. When The Cowboy arrives, returning for his vengeance, he finds the preacher (Justice Leak) with whom he recently had a run-in before the devastation of his family. The preacher tells everyone about the “Butcher of Gettysburg” a.k.a The Cowboy before them. They’re all horrified. When the holy man asks The Cowboy whether he’ll succumb to the love of Jesus Christ, the reply is not subtle whatsoever: “I love my horse. I love my wife. And I love my little girl. As for Jesus, he can join us all in Hell.” Out come a bag filled with decapitated heads, then his dual-wielded guns. The end for everyone in that saloon is not a happy one. It is bloody, merciless. It is an act of absolute hatred because of what’s happened to him and his family. Even the poor singing man from earlier gets knocked off. As does the man using the player piano. Our Cowboy, he pours himself a drink, as a massive storm bears down on Ratwater.
What a god damn opener. One of the best, if not THE best, so far in this first season. Amazing stuff. Heavy.
Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is carting Jesse (Dominic Cooper) off to jail. He’s also asking where Eugene (Ian Colletti) is, what’s happened to him. Custer only says he sent the boy to hell. Well, Hugo isn’t happy. He’s giving the preacher a little story about what happens to kid killers in jail, as if Jesse would have actually killed a young man like Eugene. Then with an “I‘ll see you Sunday,” Jesse tucks and rolls out of the cop car leaving Root completely stunned. There’s that old thief spirit.
In other news, the two angels, or whatever they are, DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke) are out for a stroll on a rainy Texas evening. They’re looking to go on a trip. “We wanna go to hell,” DeBlanc makes clear after their travel adviser suggests Nova Scotia, Canada, or maybe Tasmania. Fiore makes it clearer: “MUCH further South.” Anyway, they get it all done. Even after Fiore almost has to bang the lady out back. But the arrangements are made, all above board. Or, as above board as it can get with dudes from heaven trying to get into hell.
Over at Tulip’s (Ruth Negga) place, we find her and Emily (Lucy Griffiths) trying to take care of the ole vampire himself. Tulip lets goody two shoes Emily in on the fact Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is an ancient bloodsucker. Poor guy is trying to regenerate after proving himself to be a creature of the night to Custer. Taking a lot to get him back to good health. Now, Tulip tells Emily she couldn’t care less about Jesse, as he’s done enough to break her trust already. Oh, and Emily even readily admits to dating Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe). Well she does a good job pretending it’s “cool.” Learning a bit from all the liars around her. Tulip? She’s gone to “kill a man in Albuquerque.” So Emily gets left to feed the starving vampire all on her own. When she gets too curious, opening the door more than a crack, Cassidy – still burnt, bloody, a hideous creature – snarls at her.
Chilling under a bridge, having breakfast and a bit of wine, Jesse hangs out with some homeless friends. One of whom is quite curious as to how Jesse plans on bringing God right to church, as he so claims.
DeBlanc and Fiore are worried about being separated, so they don’t want to call heaven and settle things that way. Then they suggest a coin toss for whether they go to heaven, or to hell. When they do a double or nothing flip they get heaven. Excited, they then find out their precious phone is missing.
DeBlanc: “You left a telephone with a direct line to heaven‘s throne under the bed!”
Fiore: “I thought it was clever. Who checks under the bed anymore?”
Miles gets a call from Emily. Turns out Cassidy got out of the room, as he cried for help. A trick? Regardless, the trusty mayor heads over to the O’Hare place. Strange noises, guinea pigs and rabbits in cages squeaking.
Then we find out Emily’s figured a way to get Miles out of her life, after watching a bit of Psycho on television and hearing Norman Bates talk about how we’re all stuck in our lives, unable to break free. This single mother has found a way to break free. That involves feeding Miles to Cassidy. Two birds with one stone: Miles isn’t creeping around Emily, forcing himself into her bed + Cassidy can heal. Also, we get a nice shot reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining, as Emily keeps Miles locked in the room just like Jack Torrance pressed himself against the freezer door, ranting to his terrified wife outside. And the sounds of Mayor Person meeting his nasty demise.
At the motel, Sheriff Root finds a blood spattered room. In the tub, a woman with her arms and legs cut off. “Kill me,” she begs. Looks like the angelic duo had to leave her behind. As Root contemplates helping the woman die, our awareness makes it a tragic moment. He has no idea the trouble he’s about to cause once he strangles the dying… thing… to death. She reappears behind him before leaving the room.
DeBlanc and Fiore have to leave everything behind after they get on the bus to hell. This is the exact same spot where Walt and Jesse were respectively meant to meet the extractor nearing the end of Breaking Bad.
Over at the O’Hare house, Jesse turns up. He sees Cassidy in his low, dangerous state, curled in the corner. On the floor is the corpse of Miles. We see the two friends discovering everything about each other. Will Jesse accept Cassidy once more? “I‘m not goin‘ anywhere,” Jesse tells him: “You saw me too, Cassidy. The worst part of me.” He apologises for letting the man burn in front of him. “You put me out, that‘s what matters,” replies Cassidy. And then they’re off, getting rid of the mayor’s body. Putting all that’s right in its place.
Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) is looking forward to seeing the preacher fail inf ront fo everybody at church on Sunday. Should be quite a show when the “greatest lie ever told” gets the rugged pulled out from under it.
The phone to heaven’s throne? Jesse has it. However, not being an angel doesn’t exactly make it easy for him to make a call. He does make a call on a regular phone, though. To Tulip. He recounts having pancakes with the homeless people, which reminded him about a story a few years ago when they were on the run from some Rodriguez Brothers; about pancakes, M&Ms, and essentially about how much he cares for her. “For me, it‘s just you ‘til the end of the world,” Jesse says while Tulip sits in Albuquerque, a man tied to a chair in front of her, a meat tenderiser in her hand.
We flash back through moments with The Cowboy. All those horrific events which led to him killing everyone in that saloon. Like going through his own personal hell.
Back at the bar, him having a drink, the storm starts to rage outside. The walls shake and everything is about to fall down around him. Yet The Cowboy drinks away.
Then we can hear footsteps coming down a dark, barely lit hallway. The feet then step onto the saloon floor, all the bodies, the bloody squishing beneath them. DeBlanc and Fiore stroll up to the bar, as our Cowboy draws his guns. “You want this to end? You want to be free of all this? We have a job for you,” DeBlanc explains to the man. Before getting a bullet in the face. Afterwards, Fiore explains they need him to kill somebody: a preacher. Ah, and things keep on coming together.
In Annville, Jesse and Cassidy dig a hole in the night, somewhere along the desert. They’re digging for angel hands from the bodies Cassidy already buried. Alongside the rest, they lay Miles to rest. So with a line to God now, is Jesse going to use those angel hands to try and convince him to come to church on Sunday? Have mercy.
My favourite episode yet! I’ve said that a couple times, but this takes the cake. Amazing. Through and through. The mystery and suspense of the series has never been better (or paid off more) than in this chapter. Finale is titled “Call and Response” and you can be sure we’re about to see something spectacular, on all fronts.
Season 1, Episode 8: “El Valero”
Directed by Kate Dennis
Written by Olivia Dufault
* For a review of the previous episode, “He Gone” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Finish the Song” – click here
In a ski lift heading up a mountain, the Quincannon family drop off the wire and to their certain death. Odin (Jackie Earle Haley) sits in his office with crates in front of him. Is this his family? He looks dishevelled and worn out.
Simultaneously we hear him talking to John Custer (Nathan Darrow), as we switch to Odin covered in blood, organs in his hands; either his daughter’s organs, or the dead cow’s next to him. In those boxes are his family, indeed. He’s looking for proof of God, though Custer will not denounce his faith. Outside waits a young Jesse, catching a slight glimpse of the horror inside before leaving with his father.
Whoa. Preacher steps up the game with this one.
At the church in present day, Odin finds his guys aren’t having much luck infiltrating the church of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). Speaking of the preacher, he’s inside drinking, brandishing guns and speaking with God. Or at least speaking at him.
When he makes a deal not to use his powers again, he manages to lift Eugene (Ian Colletti) right up from out of the earth beneath the floorboards. He’s back! Poor dude has been places. He’s alive, though. When they talk, Eugene says that hell was pretty “crowded.” Not surprising.
Outside Odin and his gang are frothing at the mouth. Inside, the preacher doesn’t sweat it. He’s busy trying to lay bare his ego, though I’m not so sure if that’s going to last. Either way he admits, for the time being, Eugene was right about God being the only one to judge him re: Tracy Loach. In this moment Jesse has clarity. He knows that DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke) were right to come take the power from him. But then we start to see that Eugene isn’t just thirsty because he’s been in hell for a little. He’s FROM hell. An apparition of Jesse’s guilty mind.
The ever fun Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) is on the look for a dog. She finds one named Brewsky. Perfect. At the same time, Emily (Lucy Griffiths) is experiencing a slight crisis. She’s also got Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe) sniffing around, as usual. Plus he drops the bombshell about Jesse supposedly giving up his church to Quincannon. Man, is Miles ever a creepy dude. Sure he helps out around the house, but that’s not exactly his place.
Donnie (Derek Wilson) leads the charge for Odin’s men on the church. They head in, weapons ready and bulldozer going hard. Except Jesse can shoot a rifle like nobody’s business, as well as tosses a few molotov cocktails. When Odin thinks the preacher won’t hurt anybody he’s swiftly proven wrong: one of the boys, Clive, had his dick shot “clean off” by the renegade Custer. Oh shit. Is this Custer’s last stand? Too on the nose.
Jesse asks for the agents – our heavenly hitmen. They go to see him with all their equipment in tow, as Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) stands out with Quincannon, wondering about his kid inside. He also doesn’t like that Odin is trying to tear down the church. We know, from that vicious opener, he is not a religious man. Not for a long time.
Everyone’s worried about Jesse and his mental state. He still sees Eugene. Although Fiore lets sleep there is actually a way to bring a person back from hell, which DeBlanc doesn’t seem too pleased about. Outside, Mayor Miles talks a good game about Quincannon and his plans to Emily, conning her in. He’s got blood on his hands, literally, so I wouldn’t trust him. That’s for sure.
DeBlanc and Fiore plan to use their little tune to draw out Genesis. For his part, Jesse wonders why he was chosen. Why he didn’t explode like the others. “No one understands God‘s plans at first,” Jesse wonders to them aloud, trying to hold onto Genesis awhile longer. “And what good have you done with it?” questions DeBlanc. Good point, dude.
Just about the whole of Annville is waiting outside to see the show at the church. They’re all hoping for more shooting. Y’know, yeehaw! Fitting that Donnie is dressed in his Civil War reenactment costume. Looking like an asshole. Then he heads over to his car, puts his head in the trunk, then places a gun inside before pulling the trigger.
It seems like Genesis has been pulled from out of Jesse. With DeBlanc and Fiore heading off, not planning on helping with Eugene, or not so concerned really, Jesse is not playing nice. Not to mention Genesis isn’t done with the preacher. It’s found a home, even blowing the can apart. Then they’ve given up. What’s the next step, though? Is there a more extreme measure DeBlanc and Fiore will take now that their basic methods aren’t working?
Now a gunfight is raging. Bullets fly through the walls of the church, as jaded Texas residents stand watching; some in awe of the violence, others nearly sexually aroused by the carnage. Jesse holds tough inside, shooting back between swigs of liquor. Then Donnie shows up. Whaaat? Has something taken hold of him? No, he’s popped his ear drums. He can’t be forced to do what it is Jesse (and Genesis) wants him to do.
Donnie gets the upper hand. Inside the church, Jesse signs over the deed to his father’s land, the church. “The God of Meat” is now a thing, ruling over the tangible and everything genuine. Well, in this comics universe, God does exist. As does the Devil. As does some other intense creation, Genesis. And so all of that logic Odin tries using means nothing. Jesse opts to make a double or nothing deal, of sorts. He says he’s literally going to bring God to Sunday’s next service. If not, he’ll denounce his faith, God, all of it.
And that dog Tulip picked up? I think she’s fed it to Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun).
Sheriff Root takes Jesse off to jail. He’s also still wondering about where his boy has gone with no answers from the preacher, either.
Down in a dark room, Pappy (Biff Yeager) stops a pressure overload, working in Quincannon’s factory. What exactly’s happening, and where is this leading? Another good bit of mystery.
Loved this episode. Very different, very cool. Also, we’re seeing the ego of Jesse come out, more and more. Likewise we’re starting to understand the power of Genesis. And all the mystery, the intrigue, it’s so gradual in the right kind of way that I dig the writing so much. Next episode is titled “Finish the Song” – the penultimate Season 1 finisher.
Avengers: Age of Ultron. 2015. Directed & Written by Joss Whedon; based on the Marvel comics by Jack Kirby & Stan Lee.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Linda Cardellini, Stellan Skarsgård, Claudia Kim, Thomas Kretschmann, Andy Serkis, Julie Delpy, and Stan Lee. Marvel Studios. Rated PG. 141 minutes. Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
I’ll start off by saying, for those might doubt my allegiance, when I was growing up I absolutely loved comics. For me, I was always a huge X-Men fan, not particularly a lover of The Avengers. But still, I’ve always been into comics and lots of the characters. Even Thor himself I’ve enjoyed, just never been big on Iron Man/Tony Stark or The Avengers team. Separately from the group, as individuals I do like a lot of the characters. For instance, I think the concepts behind both Hulk and Captain American SO INTERESTING – for Hulk it’s this incredible duality between man and the beast within, ever since Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde this has been explored and I think in the comics this pans out to something even more fun; in Cap’s case, I think that idea of the “perfect American”, that ultimate patriot, is another compelling idea because it entails everything we want to believe in soldiers, that we want them to be this perfect warrior and patriot yet underneath they are STILL human, just like Steve Rogers underneath all the Captain America experimentation.
So when I say that I’m not really huge on either of The Avengers films, maybe you can chalk that up to me not being a fan of them in general. However, I can absolutely admit when there’s a good film, whether or not I’m into the source material.
For me, I just don’t get enough heart. Not saying there’s no emotion, not at all; there is plenty. What I mean is that there feels like, beneath the CGI and the star powered cast, there is ultimately nothing much going on. While the action sequences are wild, the inner headspace of some characters get explored, but in the end there’s nothing hugely impressive to me which puts this above any other blockbuster in the summertime.
Avengers: Age of Ultron has a lot going on. This is one of my first real problems with the film. When I first sat down to see this, I knew it would be long, but when I learned it was near two and a half hours the urge to leave struck. But I’m not afraid of a long movie, there are plenty of films I enjoy that run well past two hours (The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, & those are just the classic ones). It’s just that, personally I can’t see how a near two and a half hour movie is necessary. Sure, there are lots of characters in here – The Avengers alone are too many to flesh out in a regular length film – but is there really any need for such length?
There’s a great part to this movie, which is that we get to see more of who The Avengers themselves are, as individuals. That’s something I do love because like I said in the beginning, it’s most the characters individually I like rather than the team as a whole.
And still, I think there could’ve been about 20 minutes yanked out of this screenplay without really hurting any of the character development, or the plot for that matter. I get it – there’s tension between the team, between certain members, even within themselves. There’s just no world in which I can see myself agreeing with the need for a two and a half hour Marvel movie. The complexity is there to work with, no doubt. Not enough to justify the length, though.
My other big beef with these Marvel movies, this one especially seeing as how I’ve watched it recently, is the fact everything is so drenched in CGI. I absolutely understand that a lot of what happens in these comic book stories WILL NEED CGI. Totally understandable. In opposition, even if you don’t like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, you have to at least give Nolan the benefit of agreeing that he attempted to use practical effects wherever possible. Even with The Dark Knight, you actually get to see Bale as Batman on the edge of an insanely tall building, and other shots such as this; of course it’s not ALL practical, not even close, but there’s still effort to try and ground SOME of the movie in a tangible world.
With Age of Ultron, there’s scene after scene of CGI madness, over and over. In between there are wonderful little scenes between actors, just straight up good writing/dialogue and story. Most of the time, however, Joss Whedon is just giving us a CGI show, everything is green-screened and any real, visceral emotion simply gets taken out of it. I think there’s definitely enough on the brainy sides of things – love the plot of this story Whedon gives us out of the comics – but to go with that there’s nothing here drawing me in, making me feel those emotions Whedon injects into his script, nothing hooking me other than “Wow that looked cool” or “Robot James Spader is wild”, or “LOOK AT ALL THOSE BUILDINGS AND CARS AND OTHER THINGS GETTING SMASHED”, or “Ooh pretty laser… ooh pretty laser… ooh pretty laser.”
I’m not saying I want the quote-unquote gritty version that everyone seems to crave after Nolan’s Batman. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of it all. Because in the end, so much of it is ultimately superheroes just flying around, beating each other up, with the tiniest bits of human drama and emotion peppered in for a scant flavour. That’s AWESOME if you’re a kid, or maybe if that’s your style – I don’t mean to knock you. For me, I need something more than Whedon and his Avengers seem capable of serving up.
While I don’t like this movie, not in the slightest really other than a casual admiration for the technical work and some of Joss Whedon’s screenplay, I’ll give it 2 out of 5 stars on those aspects alone. I cannot deny AT ALL that Age of Ultron is a technical marvel (see what I did there?). There’s a great deal of effort in so many areas which went into the making of this huge blockbuster film. I bet there are plenty, millions, of people out there who downright loved this! No doubt in my mind.
For me, and for others I’m sure, the amount of CGI smashing together and flashing all over the screen during most scenes throughout the enormously bloated runtime isn’t all that exciting. Visually there’s a feast of things to look at, but not a feast I’m starving for really. I like to see some interesting set pieces, costumes, effects as much as the next filmgoer. On the contrary, I like to see practical effects, and above all I like an emotional story that can entertain you with a bit of thoughtfulness while also sucking you into its intensity. Age of Ultron is, for me, too big and bright and it has no solid core. There are a TON of amazing actors here – I’m particularly a big fan of Mark Ruffalo and Paul Bettany – I just don’t think there’s enough time individually for any of them to make a real impressive impact.
See it and judge for yourself. I’m no one to listen to, surely. Objectively, I can’t agree that this is a great film. It’s mediocre at best, served up as near to the lowest common denominator of movies – a mindless bit of action. But whereas some action films get into you viscerally, put you right in the seat of the heroes matching up against the villains, there’s none of that here, in my opinion. Joss Whedon is a good writer and director, I’d rather see him take something else on other than his childhood love for comics. Might be great for some. Me? I’m worn out. As a lover of comics when I grew up, it’s still too saturated a market for me nowadays when it comes to superheroes, and it’s all the same as this: big, loud, flashing bright, but only to mask there’s nothing other than that to offer. Even further there’s the fact the Marvel movies always end the same way – heroes win, bad guys lose, another day they’ll find more bad guys to fight. You know from the get everyone will be alive at the end, no lives will be lost. Starting to get tedious, if you ask me. Maybe if the next Marvel film opts to kill off a big character, not for novelty but for a well-written reason in Whedon’s screenplay, then I’d be more inclined to take it in (this one doesn’t count because the ‘big’ character who dies in this one isn’t around long enough for me to or anyone to really care about).
Otherwise, it’s the same routine, over and over, where you don’t really have to ever worry because your favourites will ALL BE SAFE AND SOUND. No tears.