HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: ALIAS: DOPPELGANGER

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MAIN CAST

Jennifer Garner (The Kingdom)
Ron Rifkin (Limitless TV)
Michael Vartan (Bates Motel)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Merrin Dungey (Conviction)
Carl Lumbly (Justice League Unlimited)
Kevin Weisman (Clerks II)
Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow)

GUEST CAST

Tom Everett (Air Force One)
Lori Heuring (Wicked Little THings)
Yvonne Farrow (Roswell)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)

Superman-II-645x370Back in “So It Begins,” Alias used Vaughn’s expansive map of SD-6’s influence to give both Syd and the audience a sense of the scope involved to truly take down Sloane and Company. “Doppelgänger” emphasizes what “A Broken Heart” reinforced: that ultimately taking down The Alliance not only would be slow, but had a degree of difficulty so high that any single mistake could undo the entire operation. Usually mistakes come in the form of incomplete intelligence. Sometimes you don’t know the existence of a factory in Badenweiler. Sometimes you don’t know the true nature of a Social Security number. Sometimes you don’t know your partner has a secondary detonator. If knowledge is power, then sometimes the lack of it can be fatal.

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As such, it’s fitting that this is the first hour that features a cliffhanger that represents an emotional moment, not simply an exciting stopgap in the action. The last three hours have featured final moments that interrupted an exciting sequence, but here all we have is fire shining in Syd’s horrified eyes. She might have maintained her double agent status, and Paul Kelvin might have only escaped with a broken arm, but the CIA field agents that died in the factory explosion are yet more casualties in a war Sydney may be waging but barely understands. What’s personal for her isn’t personal for Vaughn’s buddies inside of that blast, and that makes her guilt all the more potent.

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Syd talks again in this hour of the difficulty with which she masks her true feelings towards Sloane in their daily briefings. That’s an intense struggle, to be sure, but it’s one she can ultimately manage since it’s specific and self-contained anger. She can put aside her desire for revenge in order to obtain a greater, more permanent justice for Danny’s death. But she has a much more difficult time assessing the collateral damage that her actions (augmented by the CIA’s actions, which are equally sincere though not as emotionally specific) cause. “Doppelgänger” is rife with people that consciously or inadvertently get caught up between a Syd and a Sloane place this week: Jeroen Schiller, Kelvin, Dixon, and Will are all caught up to some extent in Syd’s decision to tell Danny about her spy status.

The show never shies away from the weekly assets that come under duress from the show’s missions. Oftentimes, these people have either signed up for the rollercoaster or have made decisions that leave them no other choice. But Dixon and Will (and Marshall, to an extent, though he’s still way on the sidelines at this point) both fashion themselves as protagonists in a story that they don’t yet realize is fabricated. I’m always fascinated by thinking about certain shows, and how they might be better if they focused on a secondary/tertiary character as opposed to the one the show chooses to highlight. (Case in point: Covert Affairs, an Alias knockoff that apparently never actually watched a damn episode of Alias, might actually be a fairly interesting show if it were about Auggie, not Annie.) But I’m also equally fascinated to watch characters that have no idea they aren’t actually the most important person in the narrative being spun.

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Dixon fashions himself the sturdy, non-flashy agent of an elite, noble government spy agency. He doesn’t think he’s James Bond, but he takes pride in a job well done. He acts as both partner and semi-father figure to a fellow agent that he worries may be in danger in light of her ex-fiancé’s death. He doesn’t picture himself as a hero per se, but definitely has trouble seeing himself as a pawn being used by other people. As for Will: we see in this hour how he can actually be a powerful player in the world of this show once his bullshit detector starts moving from green to red. Until this point, the evidence has been circumstantial at best, easily dismissed by someone like Francie. But a borrowed SSN from a dead woman? You can see his eyes harden in his interview with “Kate Jones,” turning him from a semi-skeevy dork willing to sell out his assistant’s looks for a scoop to a man that just might make some in-roads into the spy world after all. As for the spy world stuff this week, pretty good stuff here, if not the epic awesome of the past few weeks. Watching Dixon knock out Patel was hysterical, mostly for his “I am SO sorry!” apology pre-punch. And the subsequent ambulance chase is the type of sequence that Grand Theft Auto dreams are made of. But mostly the show eschewed big explosions for smaller, more intense interrogation scenes. Jack’s function as in-house Jack Bauer came to light this week which, along with his possible previous investigation by the FBI (Case 332L), gives yet more shading to Spy Daddy’s true leanings.

The lack of big action for a majority of the hour did, however, lead to make the final fireball that much more potent. Previous episodes have left us wondering how Sydney would get out of the situation she was in. This one leaves us wondering how Sydney will mentally cope with what she couldn’t prevent. While Alias will return to its more usual cliffhangers in episodes to come, it’s good to see them show that Syd’s life as a double agent won’t simply be threading the needle each week. There are consequences to her actions, even if she herself escapes them directly. Danny was only the first to die for her role in this dangerous world. But he won’t be the last. And he certainly may not be the only one close to her that has to suffer.

REVIEW: RUNAWAY JURY

CAST

John Cusack (2012)
Gene Hackman (Superman)
Dustin Hoffman (Hook)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Bruce McGill (Timecop)
Marguerite Moreau (Wet Hot American Summer)
Nick Searcy (The Dead Girl)
Leland Orser (Taken)
Lori Heuring (8mm 2)
Joanna Going (Nixon)
Dylan McDermott (Texas Rangers)
Stanley Anderson (Red Dragon)
Celia Weston (Hulk)
Bill Nunn (Money Train)
Cliff Curtis (Blow)
Nora Dunn (Bruce Almighty)
Rusty Schwimmer (The Perfect Storm)
Jennifer Beals (The Prophecy II)
Guy Torry (American History X)
Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Gary Grubbs (Angel)
Luis Guzmán (Traffic)

In New Orleans, a failed day trader at a stock brokerage firm shows up at the office and opens fire on his former colleagues, then kills himself. Among the dead is Jacob Wood. Two years later, with attorney Wendell Rohr, Jacob’s widow Celeste takes Vicksburg Firearms to court on the grounds that the company’s gross negligence led to her husband’s death. During jury selection, jury consultant Rankin Fitch and his team communicate background information on each of the jurors to lead defense attorney Durwood Cable in the courtroom through electronic surveillance. In the jury pool, Nick Easter tries to get himself excused from jury duty. Judge Frederick Harkin decides to give Nick a lesson in civic duty and Fitch tells Cable that the judge has now given them no choice, and that he must select Nick as a juror. Nick’s congenial manner wins him acceptance from his fellow jurors, but Frank Herrera, a Marine veteran, takes an instant dislike to him.A woman named Marlee makes an offer to Fitch and Rohr: she will deliver the verdict to the first bidder. Rohr dismisses the offer, assuming it to be a tactic by Fitch to obtain a mistrial. Fitch asks for proof that she can deliver, though, which Nick provides. Fitch orders Nick’s apartment searched, but finds nothing. Marlee retaliates by getting one of Fitch’s jurors bounced. Nick shows the judge surveillance footage of his apartment being searched, and the judge orders the jury sequestered. Fitch then goes after three jurors with blackmail, leading one, Rikki Coleman, to attempt suicide. Rohr loses a key witness due to harassment, and after confronting Fitch, decides that he cannot win the case. He asks his firm’s partners for $10 million. Fitch sends an operative, Janovich, to kidnap Marlee, but she fights him off and raises Fitch’s price to $15 million. On principle, Rohr changes his mind and refuses to pay. Fitch agrees to pay Marlee to be certain of the verdict.Fitch’s subordinate Doyle travels to Gardner, Indiana, where he discovers that Nick is really Jeff Kerr, a law school drop-out, and that Marlee’s real name is Gabby Brandt. Gabby’s sister died in a school shooting. The town sued the gun manufacturer and Fitch helped the defense win the case. Doyle concludes that Nick and Marlee’s offer is a set-up, and he calls Fitch, but it is too late. Nick receives confirmation of receipt of payment and he steers the jury in favor of the plaintiff, much to the chagrin of Herrera, who launches into a rant against the plaintiff, which undermines his support. The gun manufacturer is found liable, with the jury awarding $110 million in general damages to Celeste Wood. After the trial, Nick and Marlee confront Fitch with a receipt for the $15 million bribe and demand that he retire. They inform him that the $15 million will benefit the shooting victims in Gardner.This was a movie that wasn’t over-hyped, filled with talented actors and kept you watching all the way through.  Hackman was flawless as usual as an actor and once again maintained his great screen presence. Hoffman really portrayed the idealistic lawyer character well. Weisz played the female lead with the right mix of the strong and vulnerable.  The plot twists were not overdone but did offer some slight surprises which were hinted at along the way if you payed attention. Overall I’d recommend this movie to anyone, especially those who take their movies seriously

REVIEW: ANGER MANAGEMENT

CAST

Adam Sandler (Jack & Jill)
Jack Nicholson (Batman)
Marisa Tomei (Captain America: Civil War)
Luis Guzman (Waiting..)
Jonathan Loughran (50 First Dates)
Kurt Fuller (Scary Movie)
Krista Allen (The Final Destination)
January Jones (X-MenL: First Class)
John Turturro (Transformers)
Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games)
Kevin Nealson (Weeds)
Allen Covert (Big Daddy)
John C. Reilly (Cyrus)
Harry Dean Stanton (Avengers Assemble)
Lori Heuring (Wicked Little Things)
Heather Graham (The Hangover)

In 1978, a young Dave Buznik is about to kiss the girl of his dreams, when a local bully, Arnie Shankman, pulls down his pants and underwear, embarrassing him in front of everybody. This leaves Dave with lasting trauma about public affection, as well as repressing his emotions. In the present day, Dave Buznik lives in New York, working as a secretary for Frank Head, an abusive boss who takes credit for Dave’s work. His problems also extend to his private life, his girlfriend Linda’s ex-boyfriend Andrew still being close friends with her and being condescending to Dave at work.
Adam Sandler in Anger Management (2003)
While flying to a business meeting, Dave sits next to a man named Buddy Rydell. After a series of annoyances cause Dave to lose his temper, a sky marshal tasers him, and Dave is arrested and sentenced to anger management therapy. The therapist happens to be Buddy. Buddy’s unorthodox techniques cause Dave to lose his temper, and Buddy tells Dave he recognizes his problem as passive-aggressive anger. After Dave gets into a bar fight caused by another of Buddy’s patients, Chuck, Dave is sent back to court and Buddy intervenes on his behalf, choosing to move in with Dave and shadow him in his life as part of more intensive therapy. Failure to comply will result in a year of jail time for Dave. Having Buddy as an unexpected and hovering roommate irritates Dave, which prompts Buddy to offer more therapeutic advice which, in turn, irritates Dave even more. Although Dave believes Andrew is doing nothing to ruin him at work, Buddy suspects otherwise and tells him that he needs to start fighting back or nothing will change. After receiving a phone call for Buddy informing him his mother is undergoing minor surgery, Dave jokes to him about its seriousness, prompting Buddy to warn he’ll get Dave back.
After seeing Buddy’s mother, the two stop at a restaurant on the way back to New York and after Buddy pressures him Dave flirts with, and goes home with, a young lady, but rejects her amorous advances out of loyalty to Linda. Later, Dave is devastated to learn that Buddy has told Linda about the woman, but Buddy explains the woman was a former patient of his, having set up the encounter to get revenge on Dave for the “dying mother” prank, and he will explain the truth to Linda. Buddy takes a detour to a Buddhist temple, so that Dave can confront a reformed Arnie, who has become a monk. While confronting his tormenter, Arnie expresses his sincerest apologies to Dave for bullying him all his life and asserts that Dave didn’t deserve the abuse. But Arnie laughs when Dave reminds him of the kiss incident and Dave attacks back. Dave and Buddy tease the monks into a rage are chased off the grounds, Dave feeling good on confronting his tormentor. Back in New York, Dave attempts to propose to Linda but loses his nerve, and Linda suggests that they take a break from their relationship. Soon after Buddy begins dating Linda, Dave (not aware this was the next step of his therapy) sees this as the last straw and loses his cool by attacking Buddy. Being called back into court, Dave is given a restraining order by the judge, who threatens to lock him up if Dave has another incident.
Called into work and yelled at by his boss, Dave finally snaps when he learns that his boss intentionally passed him and gave the promotion to Andrew. He immediately confronts both men for the way they’ve mistreated him in the past. Dave calls Andrew out for trying to interfere with both his promotion and relationship with Linda, revealing he wants Andrew out of their lives permanently. Andrew attempts to insult him about being too dependent on Buddy to back him up and admits he isn’t good enough for Linda. Taking Buddy’s advice, Dave debunks the claim and knocks him out cold. He proceeds to humiliate his boss by using a golf club to wreck his office and reminding him of all the years of his loyal services just to be denied of the promotion he wanted so much in favor of someone who didn’t deserve it. Dave then tells his boss that if he ever gets out of jail within three years, he expects his boss to do the right thing and give the promotion to him that Andrew presumably resigned from.
Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in Anger Management (2003)His boss agrees and before Dave leaves, he warns his boss to treat his cat, Meatball, with more respect because he is eating his crab cakes as revenge for the mistreatment he put him through. As Dave leaves, he intentionally steps on Andrew’s head as one last bit of revenge. Learning Buddy has taken Linda to a New York Yankees game, Dave assumes Buddy intends to steal his proposal idea and races to the stadium. Security captures him and begins to remove him from the stadium but Mayor Rudy Giuliani orders them to allow Dave to speak. After admitting that he does have an anger problem and is willing to change, Dave agrees to kiss Linda in front of the stadium in exchange for her marrying him. Linda and Buddy then reveal that the game was the final part of Dave’s therapy, and explain that the tormentors and aggravations he has been put through were Buddy’s doing to teach him how to unleash his anger in healthy doses to avoid it building up. The passenger, the Judge, the waitress and the flight attendant are Buddy’s friends. Dave then asks about the Sky Marshall who tased him if he was involved with Buddy and Linda admits he wasn’t. The marshall was just having a bad day (briefly shown to be angered over the fact he is in the middle of two sleeping obese people).
The three attend a picnic with Buddy’s other patients, where Dave plays a final joke on Buddy with a friend holding the group up with a water pistol, and the film ends as the friends sing “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story together.
Jack Nicholson in Anger Management (2003)
Adam Sandler plays a good part but no where near as good as Jack Nicholson. Nicholson’s potrayal of the doctor who tries to cure Adam Sandler’s character is fantastic! Nicholson’s jokes are hilarious and his general manor and quotes are just brilliant!  It’s a must see for any Nicholson fan and a generally funny film.