“ENTOURAGE” (2015) Review

 

“ENTOURAGE” (2015) Review

When I first learned that a movie continuation of the HBO 2004-2011 series, “ENTOURAGE”, was scheduled to hit the theaters for the summer of 2015, I responded to the news with a shrug. Quite honestly, I was not interested. I would have skipped the movie if my relatives had insisted upon seeing it. So, I was stuck . . . and I saw the movie in the theaters.

Picking up some time after its final season, “ENTOURAGE” focused upon movie star Vincent “Vince” Chase’s attempt to direct his movie career to a new path, following the failure of his nine-day marriage. His former agent-turned-studio chief, Ari Gold, offers Vince the lead in a new movie called “Hyde”. The latter agrees to star in the film, only if he is allowed to direct. Also, Vince ensures that his older brother, actor Johnny “Drama” Chase, is cast in a major supporting role. While “Hyde” is in the middle of post-production, Vince asks for an additional $10 million to finish it, despite being over budget. Ari watches a rough cut of the film and realizes that the studio might have a major hit on its hands. He flies to Texas to meet the movie’s co-financiers; Larsen McCredle and his son Travis; in order to get the additional $10 million. A reluctant Larsen sends son Travis back to Los Angeles with Ari to see a cut of the film at Vince’s private screening. Although Vince never gets around to showing the cut at his screening party, Travis does see the film . . . and declares it a disaster. He believes the only way to save the film is to re-shoot it without Vince as lead actor or director.

Meanwhile, Vince’s personal manager and best friend, Eric “E” Murphy, seemed to be having girl trouble. While helping ex-girlfriend prepare for the birth of their child, his womanizing around the Hollywood/Beverly Hills community is attracting negative attention from current and past girlfriends. Vince’s other best friend, Salvatore “Turtle” Assante, seemed to be in a conundrum over whether or not to seriously date mixed martial artist/actress Ronda Rousey. And while “Drama” is worried over whether or not his part in “Hyde” will make the final cut, he veers into an adulterous affair with a married woman, who has a dangerous and vindictive husband.

“ENTOURAGE” did not fare well at the box office. It garnered negative reviews and was not even able to earn twice its budget. One of the main complaints of the film was those movie audiences who never saw the HBO television series would not be able to understand the plot or its characters. My experience with the television series is very limited. Although I enjoyed them, I only saw a handful of episodes from either Season Seven or Eight. But despite my limited memories of the series, I did not want to see this film. But you know what? I am glad I saw it. Because I rather enjoyed it.

Let me be frank. “ENTOURAGE” proved to be a rather fun little souffle among the major blockbusters, this summer. I have no problems with this. I do not demand that every film be some heavily special-effects driven action/fantasy film or a contender for an Academy Award nomination. And my sister, who had never seen a single episode of the series before she saw the film, actually managed to understand the film . . . and enjoy it as well. This was due to producer-director-writer Doug Ellin’s decision to recap the five major characters’ past in a sequence that featured a news story about Vince and his co-horts on one of those entertainment news shows that I had stopped watching over a decade-and-a-half ago. Equally entertaining was the movie’s physical setting. Southern California never looked as good as it did in this film. Thanks to Steven Fierberg’s sharp and colorful photography, Los Angeles looked more gorgeous than it usually does on a clear and sunny day.

As he had done for the television series, Ellin did a pretty good job of weaving the main story regarding Vince’s film with the movie’s other subplots. Mind you, I enjoyed those subplots involving Eric’s womanizing, Turtle’s budding relationship with Ronda Rousey and Johnny’s disastrous affair. But I really enjoyed the movie’s main narrative regarding Vince’s movie, “HYDE”. First of all, I found the entire plot something of a nail biting affair, as Ari moved heaven and earth to save Vince’s film. And second of all, Ari and Vince’s struggles with the crude and pushy young Travis McCredle reminded me of how time and again, many Hollywood productions have been compromised by their financial backers’ lack of artistry.

The four actors portraying the old friends from Queens – namely Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara proved that even after four years, their screen chemistry remained strong as ever. I especially enjoyed Dillon’s performance as the insecure Johnny “Drama”. “ENTOURAGE” featured its usual share of celebrity cameos . . . well, perhaps more than I cared. Among my favorite appearances were Jessica Alba, Andrew Dice Clay, David Faustino, Armie Hammer, Chad Lowe, Bob Saget, and Richard Schiff. Ronda Rousey really surprised me by showing she could give a competent performance, even if she was portraying herself. I also enjoyed Emmanuelle Chriqui’s performance as Eric’s warm, yet no-nonsense ex-girlfriend, Sloan McQuewick. But one my two favorite performances came from – not surprisingly – Jeremy Piven, who was sharp and funny as ever as Hollywood slickster Ari Gold. The other performance that really impressed me came from Haley Joel Osment, who was fantastic and spot on as the crude and arrogant young Travis McCredle.

Was there anything about “ENTOURAGE” that I disliked? Honestly? Well . . . yes. I disliked the movie’s mid-end credit scene. It was nice that Ari’s former assistant Lloyd got married. But otherwise, the sequence seemed out of place. I realize that it has become traditional for the Disney Studios to add a mid-credit scene for their big films. But I saw no reason for Doug Ellin to add one for “ENTOURAGE”. It was just . . . meh. And Lloyd’s wedding could have been part of the main narrative. One would think that I regard this film as some kind of comedic masterpiece. Trust me, I do not. I never had any high expectations for“ENTOURAGE” and found myself surprised by how much I found it entertaining. That is all.

It seemed a shame that “ENTOURAGE” laid an egg at the box office. Then again, the early-to-mid summer struck me as the wrong time to release a piece of fluff like this film. I would have released it during August or September. Otherwise, I found the movie colorful and entertaining. And it was nice to see that the five leads still managed to generate a good deal of chemistry.

“LOST”: “Kidnapping a Child”

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“LOST”: “KIDNAPPING A CHILD”

I was reading this ARTICLE about the girl who had been kidnapped at 11 and found, 18 years later. And it made me think of the numerous child kidnappings that have occurred on “LOST”:

 

 

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*Ben Linus’ kidnapping of Alex Rousseau, Danielle’s infant daughter. Ben had kidnapped Alex when she was an infant, against Charles Widmore’s orders. He pretended to be her father for sixteen years. Eventually, mother and daughter were finally able to reunite. But they were never able to enjoy their reunion, due to them both being killed by Charles Widmore’s hired thugs within a few days.

 

 

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*Walt Lloyd’s kidnapping by Tom Friendly, at Ben’s orders. We all know the circumstances that resulted from that particular kidnapping. Walt’s father, Michael Dawson, disappeared for a while to search for Walt. Once he found the Others, he made a deal with them to free Ben, who had become the Losties’ prisoner. In order to free Ben, he murdered Ana-Lucia Cortez and accidentally killed Libby. Then he made a deal with the Others to lead Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, James Ford and Hugo Reyes to their camp. Upon leaving the island, Walt forced him to tell the truth about his deal with the Others and his shooting of Ana-Lucia and Libby. Father and son became estranged. And later, Michael returned to the island to atone for his actions . . . and ended up deal in a freighter explosion. All because Ben Linus had ordered Walt’s kidnapping.

 

 

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*Kate Austen’s kidnapping of Aaron Littleton. Upset over Sawyer’s decision to jump from a rescue helicopter and return to the island; and traumatized by the events of their departure from the island; Kate decided to claim Aaron Littleton, the infant son of missing castaway Claire Littleton, as her own. She convinced Jack to help her. And both of them convinced Sun Kwon, Sayid Jarrah, and Hurley Reyes to pretend that Aaron was Kate’s son. Kate kept Aaron from his grandmother, Carole Littleton, for nearly three years; despite knowing that the woman was alive. And I cannot help but wonder if Carole Littleton would have ever learned about her grandson if Sawyer’s ex-girlfriend, Clemmentine, had not convinced Kate to give him up or Kate had decided to do so on her own.

 

Favorite Films Set in the 1950s

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Below is a list of my favorite movies set in the decade of the 1950s:

 

FAVORITE FILMS SET IN THE 1950s

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1. L.A. Confidential (1997) – Curtis Hanson directed this outstanding adaptation of James Ellroy’s 1990 novel about three Los Angeles police detectives drawn into a case involving a diner massacre. Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce and Oscar winner Kim Basinger starred.

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2. “Grease” (1978) – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starred in this entertaining adaptation of the 1971 Broadway musical about a pair of teenage star-crossed lovers in the 1950s. Randal Kleiser directed.

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3. “The Godfather, Part II” (1974) – Francis Ford Coppola directed his Oscar winning sequel to the 1972 Oscar winning adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel. Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall and Oscar winner Robert De Niro starred.

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4. “Quiz Show” (1994) – Robert Redford directed this intriguing adaptation of Richard Goodwin’s 1968 memoir, “Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties”, about the game show scandals of the late 1950s. Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow and John Tuturro starred.

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5. “The Mirror Crack’d (1980) – Angela Landsbury starred as Miss Jane Marple in this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1962 novel. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie also starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Edward Fox.

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6. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” (2008) – Harrison Ford returned for the fourth time as Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones in this adventurous tale in which he is drawn into the search for artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie was produced by him and George Lucas.

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7. “Champagne For One: A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001)” – Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin starred as Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe in this television adaptation of Rex Stout’s 1958 novel. The two-part movie was part of A&E Channel’s “A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY” series.

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8. “Hollywoodland” (2006) – Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Ben Affleck starred in this intriguing tale about a private detective’s investigation into the life and death of actor George Reeves. Allen Coulter.

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9. “My Week With Marilyn” (2011) – Oscar nominee Michelle Williams starred as Marilyn Monroe in this adaptation of Colin Clark’s two books about his brief relationship with the actress. Directed by Simon Curtis, the movie co-starred Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Redmayne as Clark.

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10. “Boycott” (2001) – Jeffrey Wright starred as Dr. Martin Luther King in this television adaptation of Stewart Burns’ book,“Daybreak of Freedom”, about the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. Directed by Clark Johnson, the movie co-starred Terrence Howard and C.C.H. Pounder.

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Honorable Mention: “Mulholland Falls” (1996) – Nick Nolte starred in this entertaining noir drama about a married Los Angeles Police detective investigating the murder of a high-priced prostitute, with whom he had an affair. The movie was directed by Lee Tamahori.

“A Deadly Choice”

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“A DEADLY CHOICE”

One of the most emotionally devastating episodes that aired on ABC’s “LOST” (2004-2010) turned out to be the Season Six episode, (6.14) “The Candidate”. The episode marked a final turning point in the saga’s main narrative. More importantly, it featured the deaths of three main characters who had been with the series since the beginning.

The fact that three long-standing characters met their deaths made “The Candidate” a topic of great debate by “LOST”fans. The fact that the three characters happened to be non-Western – Jin and Sun Kwon, along with Sayid Jarrah – added fuel to the episode’s controversial nature. But the main controversy that emerged from “The Candidate” centered around a choice made by Jin Kwon. It was a choice that affected (off screen) his and Sun’s young daughter back in South Korea, Ji-Yeon.

The end of the previous episode, (6.13) “The Last Recruit” saw the Kwons and other Losties prisoners of billionaire and former Other Charles Widmore on Hydra Island. Widmore called himself protecting the castaways from the Smoke Monster, now assuming the form of the late John Locke. However, the “Man in Black” recruited Jack Shephard and Sayid to rescue the castaways from Widmore and his followers in “The Candidate”. The Losties made their way to the Ajira 316 airplane, where the “MIB” discovered explosives planted inside. Eager to leave the island, the castaways and the “MIB” decided to use Widmore’s submarine to leave. At the same time, James “Sawyer” Ford conspired with Jack to prevent the “MIB” from leaving the island by instructing the latter to shove the Smoke Monster into the water. A gun battle between the Losties and Widmore’s people exploded near the submarine. Jack shoved the Smoke Monster into the water and Kate got shot. The rest of the castways – aside from Claire Littleton boarded the submarine. Jack carried the wounded Kate aboard. While searching for something to treat her inside his backpack, Jack found a bomb planted by the “MIB”. He tried to convince Sawyer and Sayid not to pull the wires, explaining that the Smoke Monster wanted them to do exactly that so they would kill each other. But Sawyer refused to believe Jack and pulled the wires.

Before the bomb exploded, Sayid grabbed it and ran into another chamber in order to prevent the other castaways from experiencing the initial blast. The explosion loosened a door that knocked pilot Frank Lapidus unconscious. It also put a hole in the side of the submarine, which allowed Frank to float to the water’s surface. More importantly, the explosion loosened heavy debris that trapped Sun into a corner. Jin, Jack and Sawyer tried to free Sun with no success. Jack ordered Hugo “Hurley” Reyes to take one of the air tanks inside the chamber and help the wounded Kate reach the ocean surface. After Hurley and Kate left the submarine, more debris loosened and knocked Sawyer unconscious. Jin told Jack to grab the remaining air tank and take Sawyer to the surface. Jack reluctantly followed Jin’s suggestion, leaving the Kwons alone aboard the sinking submarine. And here is where viewers arrived at the controversial moment. Jin made several attempts to free Sun from the debris. When husband and wife realized his efforts were futile, Sun sadly suggested that Jin attempt to swim for the surface on his own. Recalling the three years he and Sun had spent apart, Jin refused to abandon his wife and insisted upon remaining by her side. Both of the Kwons remained together to the very end and drowned.

As I had earlier hinted, this scene had generated a good deal of controversy among “LOST” fans. Some fans were moved by the Kwons’ fierce devotion to each other and determination to die together. Some complained over what they saw as a lack of originality about the Kwons’ deaths, claiming that “LOST” not only provided Charlie Pace a similar death in Season Three’s (3.22-3.23) “Through the Looking Glass”, but also a more dramatic one. But many had issues over Jin’s decision to die by his wife’s side. They believed that he should have tried to swim for the surface and live in order to be with his and Sun’s only child, Ji-Yeon. They believed that Jin had neglected his parental duties when he made the decision to remain by his wife’s side. By making Ji-Yeon an orphan, Jin left his daughter in the hands of Sun’s ruthless father, Mr. Paik. If I had to be honest, my sentiments regarding the Kwons’ death seemed to match the first group. I was moved Jin’s decision to remain at Sun’s side. Part of my feelings were based upon my frustration toward the two seasons in which the couple were separated. But I also believe that Sun’s parents would care for Ji-Yeon . . . and Jin would have never survived a swim to the surface.

Mr. Paik may have been a ruthless bastard, but I could never accuse him of being a lousy parent. Granted, he struck me as something of a disciplinarian. But Sun has never struck me as an ideal offspring, considering her penchant for lying and other flaky behavior – including an extramarital affair. The only true downside for Ji-Yeon – aside from being parted from her parents – is that I suspect she will never get to meet her paternal grandfather, Mr. Kwon. As for my allegation that Jin would have never survived a swim to the surface, I stand by it. If Jin had left Sun behind and accompanied Jack and the unconscious Sawyer to the surface, he probably would have survived, thanks to the remaining air tank in Jack’s possession. But Jin continued his efforts to free Sun when Jack departed the submarine with Sawyer and the air tank. Without an air tank, Jin would not have survived. Even if he had managed to free Sun, they would not have survived the swim to the surface. Not without an air tank.

Many would point out Frank Lapidus’ survival of the submarine’s destruction as proof that Jin could have made it to the surface without an air tank. But the bomb blast had knocked Frank unconscious. Because he was in that state, his body did not offer any resistance and this allowed the water’s currents to convey his body to the surface. Ana-Lucia Cortez had experienced something similar during the Oceanic 815 plane crash, three years earlier. When that plane broke apart in mid-air, a suitcase fell from one of the overhead compartments and knocked the former police officer out cold. The water’s current carried her body close to the surface, before she eventually regained conscious.

Unlike Frank and Ana-Lucia, Jin was conscious. Unlike Jack, Sawyer, Hurley and Kate; he lacked the assistance of an air tank. I suppose that many can still accuse him of selfishly choosing Sun over a future with their daughter. But since Jin was conscious and lacked an air tank, he would have drowned before reaching the surface. And in the end, both he and Sun would have died anyway . . . only apart from each other and alone.

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“CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” (2014) Review

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“CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” (2014) Review

If I have to be perfectly honest, I do not recall the initial reaction to many Marvel fans, when the studio first released the news of the upcoming release of the second Captain America film. I do recall various comments regarding the first one – 2011’s “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER”. The comments for that film ranged from mediocre to box office disappointing. I found the latter opinion odd, considering that movie made a considerable profit at the box office. And besides . . . “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER” proved to be a favorite of mine from 2011.

It was not until the release of this second Captain America film was less than a month away, when I finally heard some excellent word-of-mouth about it. Some were even claiming that it was better than the 2012 blockbuster hit, “THE AVENGERS”. Personally, I could not see how any comic book movie could top that. But I did look forward to seeing “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” – especially after I learned that Robert Redford, of all people, had been cast in the film. I mean . . . honestly, can you imagine an actor like Redford appearing in a Marvel Comics movie? And yet . . . he appeared in this one. Either he was desperate for work, or he really liked Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay.

“CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” begins two years after the events of “THE AVENGERS”. Steve Rogers aka Captain America now works as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Washington D.C. During an early morning jog, he meets and befriends an Army veteran named Sam Wilson, before he is summoned by Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow for a new mission. Steve, Natasha and a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents led by Agent Brock Rumlow are ordered to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from a group of mercenaries. During the mission, Steve discovers that Romanoff has another agenda – to extract data from the ship’s computers for Director Nick Fury. When Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, to confront Fury, the latter briefs him on Project Insight, which consists of three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites and designed to preemptively eliminate threats. After failing to decrypt Romanoff’s recovered data, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks World Security Council member Alexander Pierce to delay the project.

Fury is later ambushed by assailants and a mysterious assassin named the Winter Soldier. After reaching Steve’s apartment and giving the latter a flash drive of the information acquired by Natasha, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Steve is summoned by Pierce to explain what happened between him and Fury. But Steve refuses to cooperate and is later declared a fugitive by Pierce and S.H.I.E.L.D. When Natasha helps him evade S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, she also becomes a fugitive. The two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents discover that Steve’s old World War II nemesis, HYDRA, had been infiltrating the agency for years. They seek sanctuary with Sam Wilson, who turns out to be a former U.S. Air Force pararescueman, trained for combat and the use of an EXO-7 “Falcon” wingpack. The trio sets out to learn more details about HYDRA’s infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and their agenda, before they can do something about it.

If I must be brutally honest, I feel that “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” is not only one of the best Marvel Comics movies I have ever seen, but also one of my top favorite comic book movies. It is superb. Some have claimed that it is better than “THE AVENGERS”. I do not share that belief. I have yet to see a comic book movie that is better than the 2012 film. But this movie was fantastic. I could see why Robert Redford was willing to be cast in this film. I agree with many that “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” was reminiscent of the political thrillers released during the 1970s. But this particular film did more . . . it shook up the Marvel Movieverse in ways that no one saw coming. The revelation of HYDRA’s infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. certainly had a major impact on the ABC television series, “AGENTS OF MARVEL”, which is a spin-off of the Marvel films. I also have to say a word about the fight sequences. There have been fight scenes from other Marvel movies and the TV series “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” that I found admirable. But the fight scenes featured in “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” – especially those between Steve and the brainwashed Bucky – were probably the best I have ever seen in a Marvel movie, let alone in recent years.

Many film critics and some moviegoers have commented on the movie’s action sequences. To them, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” seemed to be a movie with a great deal of action sequences and very little dramatic moments. That was not the movie I saw. Mind you, Anthony and Joe Russo handled the movie’s action sequences very well. Their work was aptly supported by Trent Opaloch’s gorgeous cinematography, Jeffrey Ford’s excellent editing and the exciting work from the visual effects team. I was especially impressed by the following sequences: the S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s rescue of the hostages; HYDRA’s attack upon Nick Fury on the streets of Washington D.C.; Steve, Natasha and Sam deal with a team of HYDRA agents led by the Winter Soldier; and especially the big finale in which the trio and Maria Hill attempted to stop HYDRA’s plans to use the three newly constructed S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers.

But as I had earlier stated, I do not believe that “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” was all action and very little drama. The film featured some dramatic moments that not only brought out the best in the cast, but also struck me as very well written. There were a good deal of verbal confrontations in this film. And most of them seemed to feature the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury. I was especially impressed by the drama and the acting in scenes that featured Fury’s two conversations with Steve – one regarding the helicarriers and the other about the future of S.H.I.E.L.D. I also enjoyed Fury’s final confrontation with Alexander Pierce inside the Triskelion. I was also impressed by how the screenwriters and the Russo brothers managed to inject some very good drama in the middle of Steve’s final fight against Bucky, while he tried to convince the latter to remember the past. Speaking of the past, this movie also featured a poignant moment that displayed the strength of Steve and Bucky’s friendship in a late 1930s flashback regarding the death of Steve’s mother. The movie also featured another friendship – the budding one between Steve and Sam. This was especially apparent in one poignant scene in which Steve and Sam discussed the latter’s experiences in Afghanistan.But the best scene, as far as I am concerned, featured Steve’s last conversation with a very elderly and dying Peggy Carter. That moment between the two former lovers seemed so sad that I found myself crying a little. How this particular scene managed to evade the memories of those who claimed that the movie was basically an action fest baffles me.

Was there anything about “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” that baffled me or turned me off? I found it hard to believe that Fury actually accepted Steve’s rather ludicrous suggestion regarding the future of S.H.I.E.L.D. Why he did not laugh in the super soldier’s face or told the latter that suggestion was dangerously naive is beyond me. Why did the movie make such a big deal about HYDRA infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D., when certain characters made it pretty obvious that it had infiltrated other government agencies . . . all over the world? And considering that Steve’s personality was not suited for espionage, I am still wondering why Marvel – both in the comics and in the movies – would have him join S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place. And what happened to World Council Member Hawley in the movie’s climax? The movie never explained.

I certainly had no problems with the performances featured in the movie. Once again, Chris Evans proved that he could be a first-rate dramatic actor in his portrayal of Steve Rogers. Although he injected a little more humor into his character – especially in the movie’s first half hour – he did an excellent job of expressing Steve’s continuing discomfort of being a man in the wrong time period, his penchant for making friends with people who are not Tony Stark, and his priggish nature. I should have known that since Evans, who can be a first-rate comedic actor, should also prove to be excellent in drama. He certainly proved it in his scene with Hayley Atwell, who reprise her role as former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Peggy Carter. And she was marvelous as the aging Peggy, who wavered between joy at being with Steve again, sadness that they are now far apart age wise, and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. But Evans’ leading lady in this film proved to be Scarlett Johansson, who reprised her role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow. And as usual, she was fantastic. I do not know whether she did all of her stunts, but she certain looked good. And . . . as usual, Johansson did a great job in conveying the agent’s ambiguous nature – especially in the film’s first half hour. I was especially impressed by her chemistry with Evans in this film. Mind you, they did a good job of projecting a newly developed friendship in“THE AVENGERS”. But in this film, there seemed to be an extra sexual charge between the two characters.

So far, Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in at least six Marvel films. Of the six, he has somewhat sizeable role in“IRON MAN 2”, and major roles in both “THE AVENGERS” and “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”. He did such a marvelous job as the manipulative Fury in “THE AVENGERS” that I did not think he could repeat himself in portraying that aspect of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Director’s character. I was wrong. He not only did a great job in portraying Fury as manipulative as ever, but at the same time, conveyed Fury’s own anger at being a victim of his mentor’s betrayal. Speaking of which, a part of me still cannot imagine Robert Redford in a comic book movie. And I cannot help but wonder if he felt the same. I wonder who approached him – the people at Marvel or his agent? Nevertheless, I am glad he accepted the role of World Security Council Alexander Pierce. This is the first time I have seen Redford portray a genuine villain and he was great. His Pierce was intelligent, soft-spoken, friendly, manipulative as Fury, and cold-blooded. It is a pity that he did not portray similar roles in the past.

Anthony Mackie joined the cast as Steve’s new friend, Army veteran Sam Wilson aka the Falcon. And like the rest of the cast, he gave a great performance. Mackie injected a good of down-to-earth sensibility to the story, along with some much-needed humor – especially in scenes in which Sam expressed annoyance at the machismo of both Steve and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Brock Rumlow. I was especially impressed in one scene in which Mackie’s Sam recalled his time in Afghanistan and the death of a fellow Army comrade. Sebastian Stan reprised his role as James “Buchanan” Barnes, Steve’s old childhood friend. Only his Bucky Barnes in “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” is, like Steve, a man out of time. More importantly, he is a brainwashed amnesiac and super assassin known as the Winter Soldier. I have to give kudos to Stan for skillful portrayal this seemingly cold-blooded assassin, who seemed torn between his role as a HYDRA killer and a confused man haunted by memories of his friendship with Steve.

The movie also featured some solid supporting performances from Cobie Smulders, who portrayed Fury’s no-nonsense second-in-command Maria Hill; Maximiliano Hernández as Agent Jasper Sitwell; Frank Grillo, who portrayed the cocky Brock Rumlow; Gary Shandling as Senator Stern, and the members of the World Security Council – Alan Dale, Chin Han, Bernard White and Jenny Agutter. By the way, many fans will be amazed to see Jenny Agutter kick butt in one particular scene. And for fans of “LOST”, you might be able to spot Adetokumboh M’Cormack, who portrayed Mr. Eko’s brother in the series, as one of the mercenaries who took control of the S.H.I.E.L.D. ship early in the movie.

There may have been a few things that left me feeling a bit uneasy in “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”. But if I must be brutally honest, I think it is one of the best Marvel and comic book films I have ever seen . . . period. And one has to thank Kevin Fiege’s excellent control of the Marvel films that centered on the Avengers Initiative, the marvelous screenplay scripted by Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, Anthony and Joseph Russo’s superb direction and an excellent cast led by Chris Evans. Not only is this a superb film, but it managed to shake up the Marvel Movie Universe considerably.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”

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Nearly seven years ago, (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”, a Season Four episode of “LOST” aired for the first time and I wrote a review of the episode nearly two years after it first aired.  However, after a recent viewing, I decided to write another article on the episode:

 

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”

I am beginning to wonder if (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”, a Season Four episode from “LOST”, might be one of the most misunderstood episodes of the series. When I recently viewed it for a second time in four years, I came to a realization that I may have misunderstood it.

“Something Nice Back Home” is basically a Jack Shephard episode that featured three main subplots – two of them about the very intense Dr. Shephard. One of them centered on James “Sawyer” Ford, Claire Littleton and Miles Straume’s efforts to reach the Oceanic 815 survivors’ beach camp, after surviving the near massacre at the Others’ compound by mercenary Martin Keamy and his merry band of killers. The second subplot was about Dr. Juliet Burke’s efforts to save Jack’s life after he had been struck down by appendicitis. And the final subplot turned out to be a flash forward about Jack’s time with fellow castaways Kate Austen and Aaron Littleton in Los Angeles, three years in the future.

During the first subplot, Sawyer, Claire and Miles’ jungle trek to the beach camp proved to be a tense little adventure that obviously appealed to many viewers. Ever since Sawyer had rescued Claire during Keamy’s attack upon the Others’ compound in (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”, fans began labeling him as the series’ “hero”. After my second viewing of the two episodes, I found this odd. Aside from his rescue of Claire, I cannot recall Sawyer doing anything worth noticing. Former Others leader Ben Linus had saved the survivors of Keamy’s attack and the Smoke Monster by leading them out of the besieged compound in “The Shape of Things to Come”. And in “Something Nice Back Home”, pilot Frank Lapidus saved Sawyer, Claire, Miles and Aaron with a warning and prevented them from encountering a very angry Keamy and his surviving men. Frank also convinced Keamy to use another jungle trail in order to distract the latter from the castaways’ hiding place.

One might view Sawyer’s protective attitude toward Claire as an example of his heroism. People are entitled to do so . . . even if I have trouble accepting this. Mind you, I found the exchanges between Sawyer and Miles rather amusing. But when Sawyer caught Miles shooting odd stares at Claire, the former decided to go into a belligerent protective mode and warn Miles to keep his distance. This incident, along with Miles’ detection of Danielle Rousseau and Karl’s bodies were signs of Miles’ psychic ability, but Sawyer was unaware of it. Eventually, Sawyer regretted his warning, when Claire disappeared into the jungle with the Smoke Monster, who was in the form of Christian Shephard – hers and Jack’s father. Like I said, this subplot provided plenty of suspense, adventure and snark. But “LOST” never answered some of the questions that it raised. Why did Claire leave with the Man in Black (Smoke Monster)? Why did she leave Aaron behind? What happened to her during those three years before her reunion with her fellow castaways in Season Six? And was Claire’s disappearance nothing more than a plot device for Kate’s story line featuring those years with baby Aaron?

The second plot line focused on Jack’s appendicitis. In fact, this episode began with this subplot, using the trademark shot of Jack’s eye opening. Not much came from this particular subplot. While gathering surgical instruments and medical supplies at the Staff Station, both Jin and Sun Kwon discovered that one of the freighter newcomers, Charlotte Lewis, spoke Korean. Jin informed Charlotte that he will harm her fellow freighter passenger, Daniel Faraday, if she did not secure a place for the pregnant Sun aboard the Kahuna freighter. The subplot also revealed Juliet’s talent for leadership. She also realized that Jack still loved Kate and that her romantic friendship with him was nothing more than an illusion.

In the end, Charlotte did not ensure Sun’s departure from the island. Juliet did in the Season Four finale, (4.12) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part I”. Knowledge of Charlotte’s ability to speak Korean only allowed her to issue a warning to Jin about the dangers of the island before her death in Season Five’s (5.05) “This Place is Death”. And Juliet’s leadership abilities were never explored in future episodes. Adhering to Hollywood’s sexist codes, John Locke ended up acting as leader of the castaways left behind during the island’s time jumps. Sawyer assumed the role of “leader” following Locke’s departure from the island, via the Orchid Station’s donkey wheel.

And to this day, “LOST fans have no idea on what led to Jack’s attack of appendicitis. Many have speculated, claiming that either it was a sign of the Island’s displeasure over Jack’s eagerness to leave or a symbol of his subconscious reacting to Jack’s desire. Who knows? Fellow castaway Rose Nadler expressed her belief to husband Bernard that Jack’s illness was an ominous warning. In her view, everyone “gets better” on the Island. Naturally, she could only speak from her personal experiences and knowledge of what happened to Locke’s legs. I have decided not to view Jack’s appendicitis from any metaphoric point of view and see it as nothing more than an opportunity for “LOST” writers to end the burgeoning Jack/Juliet romance. When Jack made it clear that he wanted Kate to participate in his operation, Juliet realized that Jack was not in love with her and told Kate. What made this whole mystery surrounding Jack’s infirmity ridiculous is that three years and two seasons later, island guru Jacob told Jack and a few others that staying or leaving the island (and accepting the role as island leader) was a matter of choice.

The episode’s last episode – the 2007 flash forward featuring Jack and Kate’s romance in Los Angeles – seemed to have generated the greatest amount of contempt from the fans and the media. Many fans blamed Jack’s personal flaws for his meltdown and break-up with Kate, complaining about his alcohol and drug dependence, his jealousy toward Kate’s feelings for Sawyer (who had remained on the island), and his controlling nature. They believed if Jack had kept these flaws in check, he could have enjoyed a happy life with Kate and Aaron. Others believed that Jack’s visit to Hurley at the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute triggered a realization that he needed to return to the Island in order to meet his “destiny”.

I have a different views on the subplot featuring Jack’s meltdown. One, I believe it was the best subplot in “Something Nice Back Home”. It was the only subplot that helped drive the series’ main narrative. And unlike the Sawyer/Claire/Miles and the appendicitis subplots, it did not end with unanswered questions. More importantly, the episode raised a question that many fans, including myself, had failed to notice. What really led to Jack’s post-Island meltdown and break-up with Kate? In my previous review, I had expressed an opinion that Jack’s perfect life with Kate and Aaron was too superficial to last. I never realized the extent of how shallow and false his life was. After viewing “Something Nice Back Home” for the second time, I realized that this question was answered in (4.04) “Eggtown” and in future episodes such as (4.12) “There’s No Place Like Home”, (5.02) “The Lie”, (5.04) “The Little Prince” and (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened”.

What am I trying to say? Simple. Jack and the other members of the Oceanic Six had created lives filled with unnecessary and/or selfish lies, deceit, illusions and grief. Audiences had already experienced Hugo “Hurley” Reyes’ crash and burn in flashbacks featured in the Season Four premiere, (4.01) “The Beginning of the End”. In this episode, audiences finally witnessed Jack’s future meltdown. In a flash forward from “Eggtown”, Jack revealed the Oceanic Six’s major lie about the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 during Kate’s criminal trial:

DUNCAN: Were you aware that Ms. Austen was a fugitive being transported by a United States marshal on that flight to Los Angeles for trial?

JACK: I did learn that eventually, yes.

DUNCAN: From the U.S. Marshal?

JACK: No, the marshal died in the crash. I never spoke to him. Ms. Austen told me.

DUNCAN: Did you ever ask her if she was guilty?

JACK: No. Never.

DUNCAN: Well, that seems like a reasonable question. Why not?

JACK: I just assumed that there had been some kind of mistake.

DUNCAN: And why would you think that?

JACK: Only eight of us survived the crash. We landed in the water. I was hurt, pretty badly. In fact, if it weren’t for her, I would have never made it to the shore. She took care of me. She took care of all of us. She — she gave us first aid, water, found food, made shelter. She tried to save the other two, but they didn’t—

As we all know, this is a load of horseshit. But what led Jack to tell all of these lies. The episode (4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home”featured a scene in which Locke asked Jack to lie about the Island and their their experiences during the past three months . . . to protect the Island. Jack had announced his intentions to follow Locke’s instructions in (5.02) “The Lie”. Kate, Sun and Sayid agreed to support his lies. Hurley did not, claiming that they were unnecessary. Eventually, Hurley capitulated to Jack’s demands. I never understood why Jack had created such unnecessary lies about the island. It had disappeared after Ben had pushed the Orchid Station’s donkey wheel. By the time the Oceanic Six were “rescued”, they had traveled many miles away from the island, thanks to Kahuna freighter’s helicopter, floating in the ocean for several days and Penny Widmore’s yacht, which conveyed them to the Java Trench, where a fake Oceanic 815 airplane was planted by Penny’s father, Charles Widmore and near the island of Sumba. The only person who could have found the Island was Widmore. Being a former resident of the Island, he knew how to acquire information on the Island’s locations. And once he did, Widmore dispatched Martin Keamy and his thugs there to collect Ben Linus. The authorities would have never found the Island, and the lie did not prevente Widmore from finding it again, as Season Six eventually proved. Leaving behind so many castaways and pretending they were dead did not serve a damn thing.

There was another lie that proved to be even more destructive . . . namely the lie about fugitive Kate Austen being the mother of Aaron Littleton, Claire’s son. When “Something Nice Back Home” first aired, many viewers believed that Jack had coerced Kate into pretending to be Aaron’s mother in order to protect him from the foster care system or Charles Widmore. In “There’s No Place Like Home, Part I”, both Jack and Kate learned that Claire’s mother, Carole Littleton, was alive and well. Both realized they were keeping Aaron from his grandmother via the lie, but both continued the deception. A flashback in “The Little Prince” revealed that it was Kate who had suggested she pretend to be Aaron’s mother, due to her selfish desire to use Aaron as an emotional comfort blanket:

KATE: I’ve been thinking a lot about him. Did you know that Claire was flying to L.A. to give him up for adoption?

JACK: No. No, I didn’t.

KATE: I think we should say he’s mine.

JACK: What?

KATE: We could say that I was six months pregnant when I was arrested and that I gave birth to him on the Island. No one would ever know.

JACK: Kate, no. You don’t have to… [sighs] There’s other ways too this.

KATE: After everyone we’ve lost–Michael, Jin, Sawyer… I can’t lose him, too.

JACK: Sawyer’s not dead.

KATE: No. But he’s gone. Good night, Jack.

JACK: Kate… If we’re gonna be safe, if we’re gonna protect the people that we left behind, tomorrow morning, I’m gonna have to convince everyone to lie. If it’s just me, they’re never gonna go for it. So I’m gonna turn to you first. Are you with me?

KATE: I have always been with you.

Wow. I find it interesting that so many fans have complained about Jack’s controlling nature. Yet, it is also easy to see that he can be very susceptible to Kate’s manipulations. Yet, very few people have commented on this. By the way, Kate’s suggestion was confirmed in a confession that she had made to Cassidy Phillips, Sawyer’s ex-girlfriend and fellow grifter, in “Whatever Happened, Happened”. And Jack . . . due to his selfish desire to earn or maintain Kate’s love, agreed to support her lie. I suspect his encounter with Carole Littleton at his father’s funeral service dealt two major blows to Jack’s psyche. He learned that Claire Littleton was his half-sister, due to an affair between Christian Shephard and Carole. And two, he had allowed Kate to use his nephew as an emotional blanket, while keeping said nephew from the latter’s very healthy grandmother. I suspect that this discovery had led Jack to stay away from Kate for a while. But after seeing her at her trial, he realized he could not stay away and caved in to her demand that he need to accept Aaron as hers in order for them to have a relationship.

But Jack’s conversation with Hurley at the mental hospital only proved something that Jack could not face – he was living a life based upon lies about the Island, the survivors of the crash and especially Aaron. And I also suspect that his discovery of Kate’s deception about the favor she did for Sawyer made him realized that he was maintaining lies for the love of a woman who was lying to him. No wonder he freaked out in the end with booze, pills and anger. I suspect that Jack’s outburst about Kate not being related to Aaron was a hint of her own meltdown and realization, a few months later.

“Something Nice Back Home” was not perfect. The episode featured one entertaining and suspenseful subplot that brought up questions behind Claire Littleton’s disappearance – questions that were never really explored after Claire’s reappearance in Season Six. It featured another subplot regarding Jack’s appendicitis that raised both questions and minor subplots that were never dealt with any satisfaction. The only subplot I believe that had any meat or merit was the flash forward featuring Jack Shephard’s meltdown regarding the Island, Kate Austen and his nephew Aaron Littleton. So in the end, all was not lost for “Something Nice Back Home”.

“How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Charmings?”

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I first wrote this article before (2.10) “The Cricket Game” of “ONCE UPON A TIME” aired on January 6, 2013: 

 

“HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE THE CHARMINGS?”

I will be the first to admit that I have become a diehard fan of ABC’s “ONCE UPON A TIME”. It was not easy for me. The concept of fairy tale characters existing in the modern world because of a magical curse really appealed to me. However, I had some difficulty in maintaining interest in the series, due to what I felt was the slow introductions of the major characters and slow pacing in the first half of Season One.

In the end, it took episodes like (1.11) “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”(1.12) “Skin Deep”(1.15) “Red-Handed” and (1.18) “The Stable Boy” to maintain a strong interest in “ONCE UPON A TIME”. By the time protagonist Emma Swan broke the curse (somewhat) in the first season finale, (1.22) “A Land Without Magic”, I was a diehard fan. Then Season Two arrived and the series’ hold on my interest continued. Some critics and fans have complained about the storylines and characterizations featured in the first half of Season Two. Many complained about Emma and Snow White’s adventures in Post-Curse Fairy Tale Land, frustrated by Snow and Charming’s new period of separation. Some have complained about the minimal attention toward the Rumpelstiltskin/Belle romance. Some have complained about Regina Mills/Evil Queen’s redemption arc, demanding that she remain a non-redeeming villainess. And some have complained about the revelation of Dr. Whale as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a character from literary horror.

If I must be honest, I had an easier time enjoying Season Two’s first half than I did the first half of Season One. The pacing seemed faster. Unlike many others, I had no problems with the idea of Emma and Snow White being stuck in Post-Curse Fairy Tale Land. The sequence re-introduced memorable guest character Cora Mills/the Queen of Hearts as a more memorable recurring character and a new spin on Captain Hook. I certainly had no problems with Regina Mills’ redemption arc, and my instincts tell me that the character is in for a long and difficult road ahead. And Dr. Whale’s revelation did not bother me one bit. Yes, I had a problem with the writers’ handling of the Mulan and Princess Aurora characters, even if I did like them. Rumpelstiltskin and Belle did not strike me as interesting as they were in Season One. And I was not impressed with (2.07) “Child of the Moon” and its handling of Red Riding Hood’s wolf nature or the King George/George Spencer character. But the one aspect of Season Two that I found truly annoying were the characterizations for the members of the Charming family – Snow White and Prince Charming, their daughter Emma Swan, and her biological son Henry Mills (Regina’s adoptive son). I found them more than annoying. There were many times when I felt bile rising up my throat.

Snow White and Charming were not much of a problem for me during Season One, especially their cursed Storybrooke alter egos – Mary Margaret Blanchard and David Nolan. Superficially, Mary Margaret and David seemed like slightly boring personas. But at least their affair, which really hurt David’s alter ego wife Kathryn Nolan (aka Princess Abigail), made them interesting and somewhat corrupted. Last year, I had viewed the affair as inoffensive, especially since they were really husband and wife in real life. But as far as the pair knew in their cursed state, David was married to Kathryn . . . and that did not stop them from hurting her with an affair. It took a second viewing of Season One to make me realize this. I found the affair distasteful, but I also believed it made Mary Margaret and David more interesting than their Fairy Tale Land counterparts.

After the couple regained their memories of their true selves, Snow White and Charming became very annoying. Season One introduced the idea of Snow White being an action woman. But the writing in Season Two took this concept to ridiculous heights in two particular episodes in Season Two. In (2.03) “Lady of the Lake”, Snow White made a big deal about the dangerous aspects of ogres. Yet, when an ogre threatened Emma, Snow killed him so easily that I found her warnings rather ludicrous. Writers Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg did not even bother to make it difficult for Snow to kill him. I found the ogre’s death anti-climatic and disappointing. The writers’ handling of Snow White in (2.08) “Into the Deep” really pissed me off. One, her fight with Mulan left me shaking my head in disbelief. I realize that the years of evading Regina had transformed her into some kind of action woman. But honestly . . . I really found it difficult to swallow the easy manner in which she got the best of Mulan in a fight over the compass that could lead them to a portal. Mulan was a trained warrior, who had more experience in combat. Yet, the audience was supposed to believe that Snow could easily best her in a fight? This was a fairy tale of the worst kind. Snow’s intitial compassion toward Aurora disappeared real fast after Mulan took the compass to trade it for the younger princess’s life. Even worse, she tried to kill Mulan for the compass. While most fans bashed Mulan for being concerned enough about Aurora to take the compass, I was too busy being disgusted by Snow’s murder attempt. And guess what folks? Her act of attempted homicide has been swept under the rug and quickly forgotten.

Charming has been a real pain in the ass in Season Two. Remember the finale of the Season Two premiere, (2.01) “Broken”? I do. The Charmings had learned that Rumpelstiltskin had sent a wraith after Regina to kill her in retaliation for Belle’s incarceration during the curse. They prevented the wraith from killing Regina, but it dragged both Snow White and Emma into Jefferson’s magical hat and Fairy Tale Land. What happened next? An enraged Charming shoved Regina and threatened to kill her if she did not bring back Snow and Emma. Regina retaliated and nearly killed him using magic. Guess which act Henry conveniently appeared to witness? Not Charming’s attack, but Regina. And Henry threatened to never talk to her again if she did not bring back his mother and grandmother. How convenient for Charming. And the self-righteous bastard never admitted that his attack on Regina led to her to attack him, thanks to Horowitz, Kitsis and their writers. Charming proved to be an ineffective guardian for Henry. Even though he knew how to be the kid’s best friend and promised to train him in the arts of being a knight, he never really bothered to discipline Henry. When Regina informed him about a resurrected Daniel in (2.05) “The Doctor”, Charming’s only method in getting information from her was to threaten her with jail time. Honestly, I found the scene laughable. However, I was not laughing in the scene in which he punched Dr. Whale for the latter’s one night stand back in Season One. I was simply disgusted. Whale pointed out that his brief affair occurred during the Curse, when everyone believed that Charming was married to Abigail (Kathryn Nolan). But Snow’s husband had to prove his manhood with a move that left me viewing him as a dick. A good number of the fans shared my views. But there were many others – especially male fans and critics – that crowed with delight over Charming’s punch. The incident merely lowered my opinion of him a step further. His decision to use the sleeping curse in order to communicate with Snow White via dreams struck many as infantile, especially since he discovered that he could not be awakened by her in the dream state.

As I had stated earlier, Emma Swan and Henry Mills have been a problem since the series’ premiere. I personally believe it was a big mistake for Horowitz and Kitsis to make Henry the biological son of Emma. I suppose the pair needed him as a means for Emma to “somewhat” break the Curse with a mother’s kiss. But honestly? Their storyline has been a problem since Day One. One, how on earth did the 10 year-old Henry get from Storybrooke, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts on his own? To this day, I am still flabbergasted by the idea of Emma, who had given up her son while in prison, remaining in Storybrooke to keep an eye on both Regina and Henry. All because Regina had insisted that she stay away from the boy. This was Emma’s excuse? It is only natural that the parent of an adopted child would want the biological parent to stay away . . . especially if the child was a minor. I do not believe that Regina’s antipathy toward her was a good excuse for Emma to remain in Storybrooke. Regina could have easily filed a restraining order against Emma for harassing her and Henry. She even threatened Emma with a restraining order once, but she never made good on her threat, thanks to the writers. And are we really supposed to believe that Regina was an abusive parent? Henry has never exhibited signs of being an abused child. The worst Regina ever did to him was hint that he may be emotionally or mentally unstable in order to maintain the secret of the Curse in the first season, and use magic to keep Henry with her in (2.02) “We Are Both”. Regina may have been a bit of a disciplinarian, but I found that a lot more admirable than the Charmings’ penchant for indulging Henry’s habit of skipping school or putting himself in dangerous situations. I still recall one Season One episode in which Emma allowed Henry to skip school without Regina’s permission in one of the early episodes . . . a habit that Charming occasionally continued in Season Two.

Ever since the character was first introduced, Emma has boasted of her ability to sense when someone was lying to her. I found this boast a joke, especially since newspaper editor Sidney Glass/the Magic Mirror in Season One and Regina’s mother, Cora Mills in Season Two; have both been able to successfully lie to her. Many fans have also complained of Emma’s talents as a law enforcer. If I must be frank, I have not been that impressed myself. Think about it. She has no real experience or training to be a police officer, let alone a town sheriff. She spent her adolescence either as a thief or a prison inmate. And she spent the rest of her years before her arrival in Storybrooke as a bails bondsman. Emma was qualified to find a missing person, not police a small town, let alone a city neighborhood. And how did the writers ensure that Emma would maintain her job as sheriff? By having her run in an election against Sidney Glass, the town’s newspaper editor? Who were they fucking kidding? It got worse in Season Two. After her first encounter with Cora in “Lady of the Lake”, Emma regained her ability to sniff out a liar when she met Captain Hook for the first time in “The Doctor”. She first proved that she was her mother’s daughter by killing Maleficent in dragon form in “A Land Without Magic”. I found the scenario of a bail bondsman successfully killing a dragon just as implausible as her father Charming killing his first dragon with ease in (1.06) “The Shepherd”. Although Emma displayed a lack of familiarity in Fairy Tale Land during the season’s early episodes, she became another ideal action woman – like her mother Snow White – in episodes like (2.06) “Tallahassee” and “(2.09) “Queen of Hearts”. The latter episode featured a sword fight between Emma and Hook before she and Snow White jumped into a portal in order to return to Storybrooke. I realize that Emma had difficulty in defeating Hook. I simply had difficulty in believing that she was able to defeat him at all. He is an experienced swordsman. The series has never hinted that Emma knew anything about sword fighting. Hook should have sliced her up in bits within a minute. I do not know how to explain this phenonemon. Perhaps his feelings for her led him to merely toy with her. Between Snow White and Emma, the producers and writers seemed to believe that portraying the Charming women as badasses, while maintaining near ideal personalities is a sign of good characterization. Audiences also discovered in this episode that being the offspring of “Twu Luv”, Emma’s heart is impregnable from being ripped out by magic. Oh God! I guess no one can spare me from this ridiculous crap. Some fans and critics found this revelation brilliant, romantic or both. When I saw Cora fail to rip out Emma’s heart because she is the embodiment of “Twu Luv”, I merely rolled my eyes in disgust.

I have saved the worst for last – namely Henry Mills, Emma’s biological son, Snow and Charming’s biological grandson and Regina’s adoptive son. God, I cannot stand him. I really cannot stand him. Henry has to be one of the most unreal child characters I have ever come across in recent years. I have discovered that in one-and-a-half seasons, he has not developed as a character one whit. He has remained the same, self-righteous child with a desire to be a fairy tale hero. How did he discover that Emma was his natural mother, let alone discover that she lived in Boston? The series has never revealed this and honestly, his possession of the Fairy Tale storybook is not much of an excuse. And not only do I find his ability to track down Emma in Boston and travel to said city without his stepmother’s knowledge implausible, I also find his ability to identify nearly every citizen of Storybrooke with their Fairy Tale Land identity hard to accept. Did the fairy tales book in his possession provide him with this information? I became increasingly weary of his penchant for skipping school. His self-righteous claims of“magic has a price” got on my nerves. To be honest, I got tired of many characters – especially Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold – making the same claim. I also became weary of Henry’s constant and self-righteous “good always defeat evil” declarations. Are we, the viewers, supposed to regard this ten year-old as the voice of morality? Dear God! I hope not. But what really irks me about Henry is that he seems to be the driving force of many of the actions of the major characters. Regina decided to redeem herself in order to win Henry’s love. It was Henry who lured Emma to Storybrooke so that she would act out her role as savior. It was Henry who reunited Jefferson/the Mad Hatter with his daughter. It was Henry who drove Emma to finally break the curse. It was Henry’s dreams that provided Rumplestiltskin with the opportunity to communicate with Emma and Snow so they could return to Storybrooke. Henry, Henry, Henry! I am so sick of him. Then I remembered. Both Horowitz and Kitsis used to be among the staff writers for “LOST”. And that series did a piss poor job in its portrayals of children characters. With Henry’s characterization, the tradition continues.

Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis need to do something about the Charmings. By mid-Season Two, they have become ridiculously ideal and at times, self-righteous. I get tired of certain fans wallowing in the crimes or mere mistakes of other characters, while making excuses for the mistakes of this increasingly annoying family. Please do something. Provide the family with some real character development or moral complexity, instead of portraying them as badasses and ideal leaders. And please have another character call them up on their bullshit. Just for once. As for Henry Mills, the only change in his character that will truly please me is his death. Yes, I realize that I sound cruel. But that damn brat simply brings out the worst in me.

POST SCRIPT: The last scene of the Season Two episode, (2.15) “The Queen Is Dead”, revealed Snow White’s plans to kill Cora Mills, Queen of Hearts; in revenge for the death of her mother, Queen Eva. In the following episode, (2.16) “The Miller’s Daughter”, she made good her vow. Unfortunately, this dark turn in Snow White’s character was explored in two or three episodes before Horowitz and Kitsis dropped it completely by the season’s finale. I found myself very disappointed.

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