Breaking Bad 503 Hazard Pay

Mike visits an associate in jail posing as a paralegal. He tells him about last week’s deaths and that it has been taken care of. The associate is unsure about the future and doesn’t think anyone can hold up their part of the bargain anymore. Mike tells him he has a new venture and that everyone will be fine.
Later, Mike is in Saul’s office, waiting to meet with Walt, Jesse, and Saul. Saul doesn’t want Mike involved and is clearly afraid of him, but Walt assures him all Mike does is threaten. Mike is allowed in the room and he lays down the rules, saying they don’t tell each other how to handle their part of the business but Walt clearly feels he is the one in control. Now to find a place to cook! Saul shows the boys a factory that he thinks is perfect for cooking but Walt vetos the space. Next stop a tortilla factory which Walt points out will be prone to government inspection. They leave but Jesse make sure he snatches a free tortilla. Oh Jesse! The laser tag place is out so Saul brings them to a garage that Jesse and Mike immediately dismiss but Walt see potential in some plastic tenting. He suggests they stalk an exterminator company using the fumigated house for temporary cook houses. Saul knows a crooked exterminator company that could be an ally. Mike wants to vote but Walt doesn’t see the point as he and Jesse are a united front
Skinny Pete and Badger are back in the fold and we learn Pete has some unexpected musical talents, Badger, not so much. They are purchasing gear to help the new business. They are super excited about these new developments but Jesse cannot involve them in this new venture. Meanwhile, Mike briefs the exterminator crew about how to address Walt and Jesse and that they will not be stealing from the houses involved.
The exterminators arrive at the first house that will become a lab for Walt and goes over all the legal mumbo jumbo. Once the family is gone, Walt and Jesse roll up and are warned of a nanny cam in the living room. The boys get their hazmat suits on and are ready to get to work.
When Mike counts out the money and Walt thinks their short. Mike explains that the mules need to be paid and he doesn’t have a choice. Mike distributes the wealth and Walt sees more people need to be paid off than expected. Mike is a man of principle and wants to help the people that are now under the D.E.A.’s watch thanks to Walt but Walt wants the full payday he expected. Jesse tries to plays peacekeeper but Walt relents. He’s clearly unhappy but Mike says this is how things are going to be. One alone with Jesse, Walt is now seeing Gus differently and understands some of his more nefarious actions. This talk clearly unnerves Jesse.
Back at home, Walt moves in some more of his stuff much to Skylar’s surprise but she has learned not to question him anymore.
Marie stops by the car wash to have lunch with Skylar and freaks as she watches a “less ethnic” car washer performs questionably. She tells Skylar that Hank is back at work and doing so great with his physical therapy. She also wants to start planning Walt’s birthday but the topic upsets Skylar to the point that she whips out her cigarette. Marie is absolutely shocked by this and start to lecture her sister causing Skylar to have a full on meltdown, telling her sister repeatedly to shut up, like there’s anyone who hasn’t want to do that.
Later, Marie waits for Walt at the Whites’ house and is obviously upset as she tells Walt about Skylar’s meltdown. She wants to know what’s going on and won’t leave until she knows the truth. Walt tells her about Ted’s accident and is shocked to learn Marie knows nothing about the affair. You know he’s been waiting to drop that bomb.
Skylar walks in on Walt and the kids enjoying Scarface, great family flick, Walt, but she finds nothing enjoyable about a movie where a bunch of drug dealers are gundown at the end.
Walt gets a glimpse of Jesse’s family life with Andrea and Brock when an unsuspecting Andrea invites Walt over to dinner. Walt has the balls to ask Brock about the hospital stay he caused and tells him he;s a very brave boy. Walt has a moment of having to curb the control freak within when Brock’s video game obviously gets under his skin.
Later at the cook house, Walt and Jesse share beers and watch the Stooges as Walt casually grills Jesse about his relationship and if Andrea knows what Jesse does for money. Jesse swears he’s told her nothing, but Walt doesn’t know if secrets are the best thing for a relationship. Jesse is clearly ashamed by his past actions and is reluctant to share them with anyone.
When we next see Jesse with Andrea and Brock, he’s obviously distracted and he later shares with Walt that he broke things off. This is most likely exactly what Walt did. It’s Walt’s world, and everyone else is his puppets.

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses is a fairly timely comedy about three friends (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day) who love their jobs but hate their respective bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston) and feel the only way their lives will get better is if they kill their employers. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. It has a strong cast and everyone seems to be having a good time, particularly the bosses themselves. This one gets bonus points from me for having Charlie Day of Always Sunny fame and everything could use more Charlie Day. Also, I encountered a boss that wasn’t too far off from Colin Farrell’s character, only missing the illegal activity and the martial arts obsession.
I remember when this came out, many were confused why the protagonists would go to such great lengths when they could just quit their jobs but the film does a very good job at making the stakes very high, with two characters being told their bosses will make sure to ruin their reputations if they quit and Sedeikis’ boss making deals that will danger the environment. Aniston’s character even tries to blackmail Day’s character into sleeping with her. The three bumble their way through devising a plan with help of the most dangerous guy they can get to talk to them, Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx) who acts tough but ends up having a very tame rap sheet.
You can really tell this film was a treat to make for the cast. The three bosses are so over the top awful, who wouldn’t want to act that badly with no consequences? This isn’t the first time Spacey played a boss so terrible he inspired his underlings to cause him bodily harm (See his performance in Swimming With Sharks) and he hurls insults with the best of them, but for Farrell and Aniston, these characters were a change of pace. Farrell had dropped out of the spotlight after a string of disappointing films, and returns as the almost unrecognizable Bobby Pellitt. Bald and paunchy, Farrell is a far cry from his usual charming self. It reminded everyone how much fun he is to watch, allowing him to return to leading man roles in big blockbusters life the upcoming Total Recall remake. And Jennifer Aniston is anything but the girl next door as she sexually harasses her assistant played by Day. She’s raunchy, getting all the most jaw dropping bits of dialogue and makes every action uncomfortably sexual. It’s roles like this one that make we think Aniston may be cooler than her typical film persona makes her out to be. Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day are what you expect but they gel well as longtime friends even though in real life they wouldn’t be the right ages to be former classmates.
Good movie to watch after a stressful day at work. Very relatable plot for these troubled economic times. While not a stand-out, it’s an enjoyable 98 minutes with a solid cast.

The Philadelphia Story

Was talking to a co-worker today about how one of the big difference between stars of Hollywood’s golden era and stars of today is that stars used to have a distinct look. With one glance, you knew why they belonged on the big screen, while today there are so many actress who are just generic blonde chicks or textbook definition good-looking guy, but stand them all next to each other, the average person would be hard pressed to identify who’s who. Also, with sound still being a fairly new development , stars had voices you could identify by them simply saying “Hello”. Everyone can do a Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn impression, but could anyone tell me what a Channing Tatum impersonation would entail? As far as golden Hollywood stars get, you don’t get much bigger that the triple punch of Grant, Stewart, and Hepburn starring in The Philadelphia Story, the big screen adaptation Philip Barry play that saved Hepburn’s career and won Stewart a best actor Oscar.
Socialite Tracy Lords (Katharine Hepburn) is preparing to marry for the second time. Her groom is a self-made man who seems very interested in Tracy’s celebrity status. However, just in time for the wedding, she receives an unexpected visit by her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), who has invited himself and tabloid reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) who are posing as friends of Tracy’s brother in order to get the scoop on the wedding of the year. While at first Tracy suspects Dexter is purposely trying to ruin her wedding, he explains that going along with the ruse is in her best interest, as Spy Magazine has photos of her father with his mistress that they will print if they are not allowed at the wedding. As the wedding draws closers, Tracy learns that Dexter is a changed man and that she may be more responsible for the end of their marriage than she thought. She also shows Mike that the rich are not as vapid as he previously believed.
This film saved Hepburn’s career. After a string of box office disappointment she was virtually uncastable and sought refuge in the theater. When the stage version of The Philadelphia Story was a hit, boyfriend Howard Hughes bought her the film rights. Its success secured her status as a bankable star. Hepburn has a lot of fun as Tracy, getting to sling insults at Grant and get drunk with Stewart, and her Bryn Mawr accent projecting an air of superiority.
Cary Grant was given the opportunity to choose which role he played and picked the less showy part of C.K. Dexter Haven. This surprised many, and may have cost him an Oscar, but Grant does a lot with the role, giving Dexter a sadness to him. Grant used his celebrity to secure a $100,000 payday for the film, a large sum of money at the time but ended up donating all of it to the British War Relief Fund.
Stewart didn’t really think himself the best fit for Mike and was very uncomfortable going into many of the scenes. He was surprised to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance and almost skipped the show but was persuaded by a last minute phone call from an insider to attend. He always felt his longtime pal Henry Fonda was more deserving for his role in The Grapes of Wrath and wrote the award off as a “deferred payment” for his performance in Mr. Smith goes to Washington. He certainly wouldn’t be the last actor to feel this way. The Academy has a history of passing over brilliant performances only to honor the actor for lesser works later on.
Hussey holds her own beautifully while surrounded by legends. Liz is a really cool chick and its saddens me that she is fully appreciated by Mike. However, she makes up for it by getting most of the best lines.
I’m not sure how this one plays with modern audiences; it’s very much of its time. But, if you’re a fan of old Hollywood, and haven’t seen this one, make sure to find it immediately and enjoy three film giants sharing the screen together.

The Shawshank Redemption

Very few films are as universally beloved as The Shawshank Redemption. It has remained unchallenged for years as number one rated film on IMDB and I’ve yet to meet anyone who has seen it and didn’t think it was, at the very least, a great film. I read a blog post once trying to pinpoint exactly what it is about this film that has led to so many people adoring it and they can up with an interesting theory by comparing it to 1994’s other big films, Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. The writer said that Forrest Gump is very much Oscar bait, an inspiration story that warms the hearts of most but is looked down upon by film snobs who would define it as sentimental crap (though I love the Gump to death, I can understand this veiwpoint), while Pulp Fiction is edgy and dangerous, so while film kids eat up the expletive filled dialogue and the graphic violence/drug use, the masses find it too extreme and shy away from it. However, Shawshank courts both teams by being a really well-crafted piece of art that doesn’t challenge the general public. In the world of Shawshank bad guys are punished and good guys are rewarded eventually so middle America is happy, but the good guys are the prisoners and the bad guys are those in charge and the script, direction, and performances are so high quality the snobs enjoy it as well. Another person said it’s the pepperoni pizza of film, it’s not too unusual for pickier eaters, but it still has a zing for the foodies.
When Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is falsely convicted with the murder of his wife and her lover, he refuses to allow prison to change him or allow him to lose hope. He befriends fellow inmate, Red (Morgan Freeman) who is known throughout the prison as a man who can get things.
Two scenes in this film really stand out to me every time I want it. The first being Andy’s first night at Shawshank. The inmates have all places bet on which of the new meat will be the first to crack. While Red’s money is on Andy, another prisoner breaks down, begging to be released because he doesn’t belong there. The guards respond by beating him, but things go too far and he dies as a result of his injuries. At breakfast, as the inmates share the juicy gossip, Andy asks what the man’s name was. This is Andy’s first instant of standing out, of not letting his setting turn him into a monster. But I also have question about this man. What did he do to be imprisoned? Were his cries that he didn’t belong there the truth, or the whining of white collar criminal that thought himself above the law and better than the thieves and murderers he was surrounded with.
I am also fascinated by the story of Brooks, Shawshank’s seemingly oldest prisoner who is lost without the structure of prison life once released. While we know him as a sweet old man who runs the library and keeps a pet bird in his coat, one does get a seventy year sentence without doing something atrocious. The internet rumor is he killed his wife and daughter after a losing streak in poker, a monstrous act you can’t imagine sweet old Brooks committing. It demonstrates the point Red makes to the parole board that he isn’t the person that committed his crimes, and you end up an old man wasting in his life because of the actions of a kid.
The films was a box office flop when released and while it was nominated for several Academy Awards, the filmmakers when home empty handed on Oscar night. However, it became a beloved classic after it was released on video. It became the biggest rental of 1995 and is not in heavy rotation on various cable networks. Not a week goes by that I don’t run into The Shawshank Redemption while channel surfing. It always cracks me up because when I think of movies one always catch on cable “Oscar nominated prison drama” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But Shawshank’s success is much like Andy’s journey, slow and steady.

The IT Crowd

Many hours have been spent debating over which country’s humor (or humour) is superior, America or England. While I appreciate both, I feel like British comedy has a kernel of truth at its core that American humor neglects. I think The IT Crowd is a good example of this, because while much of the show is over the top, every IT guy I’ve ever worked with approaching every issue just like Roy and Moss with a “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
After exaggerating about her computer experience, Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson) is hired as IT manager of Reynholm Industries. Sent to the basement and put in charge of cranky Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and awkward Moss (Richard Ayoade), she frequently finds herself in over her head. The group often tries to escape the drudgery of the basement and attempt to mingle with their co-workers, always with disastrous results.
Jen is a really fun character. While she could have easily just been a dumb blonde type, her refusal to let a little thing like not knowing what she’s talking about get in her way. She always presents complete confidence regardless of how much she’s bullshitting. In an effort to be politically correct, women in comedy tend to regulated to straight man status, letting the silly boys have all the fun. Whether she’s acting as an Italian translator for an important meeting or presenting a box that contains “the internet” to a room of executives, Jen frequently makes a fool of herself as her delusions of grandeur get the best of her.
Chris O’Dowd is the series’ break-out star, appearing in last summer’s mega hit Bridesmaids. He’s the polar opposite of Jen, full of knowledge but short on social skills. He’s quick to tell anyone how indispensable he is, but remains unappreciated by a group of people who need him to explain what a button is. One thing I find cute, is every season O’Dowd gets a little more polished and Roy a little more socially acceptable. In season four he has a steady girlfriend and is wearing trendy t-shirts, for crying out loud.
Moss is a fairly typical social outcast nerd. He lives with his mother, he has a bizarre sense of fashion, and is a technological wiz who has trouble related to all the simpletons around him. He was the only castmember to be featured in the ill-fated Americanized pilot featuring a pre-Community Joel McHale. He will be starring along side Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill in The Watch and it seems like he’s still rocking Moss’ odd style, which includes thick black glasses and what can best be described as a side parted Jewfro. It will be interesting to see how much this new character has in common with Moss.
I would definitely recommend this series to any fan of geek humor, but be warned, British television does not have the production value that Americans are used to (all British television kind of looks like it was made in the 70s). When you get past the poor video quality, you have a really funny show with great character and very quotable dialogue.

Breaking Bad 502 Madrigal

Taste test in Germany shows a man joylessly trying new tater-tot dipping sauces. An assistant enter informs the executive that they’re back, three of them this time. He watches workers take down the El Pollos Hermanos logo as he goes to meet with the police, who observe framed photos of him with Gus. He locks himself in the bathroom and undresses as the police knock on the door, insisting he come out. Instead of meeting with the police, he kills himself with a defibrillator.
Jesse feels incredibly guilty about the missing poison cigarette, he doesn’t want someone to find it and get hurt. We see Walt creating a new poisonous cigarette, hiding the old one as he assures Jesse it will turn up somewhere. The two search Jesse’s house, Walt excellently playing along. Suddenly Walt discovers Jesse’s roomba. Walt suggest they check it and surprise, surprise- they find the cigarette. Jesse breaks down. He can’t believe he almost killed Walt when he stupidly lost the cigarette! Poor manipulated Jesse! Walt tells him it’s ok and they will be stronger in the future. The future? Jesse asks.
Mike relaxes at home when there’s a knock at the door. Walt and Jesse are looking to partner up with Mike as they want to start cooking again. It will be all theirs this time and they won’t have to share the profits with people like Gus. Mike is not interested. Walt insists Mike not make his decision based on personality differences but Mike says he doesn’t want to be around Walt the ticking timebomb any longer.
Hank enter the DEA offices without a cane when Steve fills him in about the Germans that have flown in. The Germans insists that they knew nothing of Gus’ illegal activities and their company’s involvement. Hank’s boss is getting forced out for not jumping on Gus when Hank first spoke up. They talk about the magnet incident and confirm the laptop was destroyed. The boss cannot believe he trusted Gus, had him in his home. A criminal mastermind was right under his nose. Cut to Hank who calls Heisenberg brother-in-law.
Mike sits in a diner reading the paper when a mysterious woman enters the diner and sits in the booth next to him. Her name is Lydia and she is visibly nervous and uptight and Mike does not have time for her theatrics. She wants to know who killed Gus and she’s worried about the men who worked for him who will bring everything else crashing down when they talk. She has a list of eleven men and wants Mike to kill them. Mike tells her these are good men who will keep their mouths shut. He chose them because they could be trusted. He tells her stop acting like she’s living in a movie and walks out.
Mike runs into some Asian associates who appear very shaken after meeting with the DEA. It’s Mike’s turn to be questioned by Hank. Hank tries to find a hole in Mike’s story but Mike knows his game seeing that he’s a former cop. But Hank knows all about this and that he left the force under shady circumstances. Steve tells him they have a witness placing him in the meth lab and Mike asks to leave. On his way out, Hank tells him about an offshore bank account with a large sum of money in his granddaughter’s name attached to it. Damn Hank’s good. They hint that if he cooperates, they could arrange for Mike’s granddaughter to get some of that 2 million.
The crew meet at Saul’s and Walt rules out a RV for the next place to cook. Jesse says supplies aren’t available at the moment but Walt will not accept this. Saul encourages Walt to thank his lucky stars and retire but Walt needs cash and know he can make it by cooking.
Mike’s grandpa time is interrupted by the nervous Japanese man who says the DEA have taken all his money and want to talk to him again. He asks Mike to come over so they can speak in person and when Mike agrees we see the man is being held at gunpoint. Mike approaches the house and while the gunman seems prepared to shoot, Mike’s too smart for him. He takes over the situation and knows who is behind all of this. The gunman is a former associate who says he had to take on the job Mike turned down, he needed the money. Wrong answer. Mike kills the man.
We see Lydia with her family. Mike has snuck in and holds the woman at gunpoint. She begs him to keep her daughter safe and asks him to not shoot her in the face. She doesn’t want her daughter seeing her that way. When Mike tells her not to worry about her five-year-old finding her, she begs him not to make her disappear. She can’t do that to her little girl. He asks her if she can still get supplies and she says yes. Seeing that she’s still useful, he lets her live. He calls Walt about tells him he’s in.
Skyler has not been able to get out of bed. Walt promises everything she’s feeling about Ted’s situation will pass. While kissing her, he reminds her they are doing all of this for good reasons, they are doing it for their family. Oh boy.

Velvet Goldmine

With the latest (and last) installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, The Dark Knight Returns, coming out this week, I think back to my first introduction to its star Christian Bale, as gay music journalist Arthur Stuart who researches MIA glam star Brian Slade in Velvet Goldmine. While Bale is far from the most interesting part of the movie, it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing him in these kinds of roles any time soon. It’s fun to remember a world where future Obi-Wan Kenobi and future Batman can share a special night together. While Star Wars appears to have been a momentary detour for McGregor, Bale seems to like bigger films, as long as they are of above average quality.
Arthur Stuart came of age and came to terms with his homosexuality during the era of glam rock, when stars like Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Curt Wild (Ewen McGregor) could openly experiment with bisexuality. Stuart moves to New York City to pursue journalism and most likely escape his homephobic roots. Stuart gets assigned to write a “Where Are They Now?” piece about Brian Slade, who faked his own murder on stage ten years before, and disappeared amidst the scandal. Stuart tracks down Slade’s original manager and his ex-wife Mandy (Toni Collette) who discuss how Slade became the legend the world knew and how rocker Curt Wild both inspired him to become the glam rock king and destroyed him as he began a downward spiral when their affair ended. As Stuart continues to dig, Slade and Wild remain elusive, until Stuart connects the dots and realizes Slade has been hiding in plain sight. He also runs into a past his prime Wild who seems to have forgotten the one night stand he had with Stuart ten years ago after a show.
Slade is obviously David Bowie. The script borrowed heavily from two Bowie biographies but Bowie refused to allow his name or songs be used in the film (not too surprising, it’s not a very flattering portrayal) , so the writers got creative and got Brian Eno to pen some new tunes and Brian Slade came to be. However, while Curt Wild is all Iggy Pop on the outside, he is really a mix of a couple of Bowie collaborators including Lou Reed and Mick Jagger who were rumored to being more than musical partners if you catch my drift.
While Velvet Goldmine is very style over substance I’d still recommend it to any music fan. It’s a great look into the world of glam rock and interesting performances by McGregor, Collette, & Meyers.

Breaking Bad 501- Live Free or Die

During a flashforward, Walt is having a very special 52nd birthday by himself in a Denny’s. He has hair, a beard, and a New Hampshire ID. He chit chats with the waitress when a person of interest enters and they meet in the bathroom. It’s the guy Walt got the gun from. They make a quick exchange and he leaves with a key. Walt leaves with a new car and a heavy duty weaponry.
Back to the present, Skylar is on the phone with Walt telling him the news of Gus’ death. He tells her it’s over and they’re safe. Walt returns to the house to dispose of all the evidence of his bomb making. He then pours himself a drink but he’s not ready to relax. He has more evidence to hide, the plant he used to poison Brock. Skylar and the kids return and Walter Jr is all abuzz about Gus’ death and how Hank knew all along he was a drug king, but Skylar is obviously disturbed by Walt’s involvement. Walt prods for some sort of reaction and she admits to being scare of this new Walt.
Hank explores the destroyed lab. Steve begs Hank to just say “I told you so” but he’s on the case.
Mike is alive but still in Mexico recovering when the doctors get the news about Gustav. Mike hits the road to return to the state and as soon as he finds Walt he pulls a gun on him but Jesse stands in the way. Walt asks Mike where Gus kept his important information. Mike knows it is all on a laptop that is being labeled as evidence by the cops.
Mike knows everything will be revealed now that the laptop is in the police’s hands. Walt and Jesse try to get more information about where the laptop is but Mike doesn’t want to help Walt blow up a police station or whatever his plan is. Mike and Walt argue as Jesse suggests, several times, with increasing volume, that if they could get a strong enough magnet, their problems will be solved. The trio goes to a junkyard but Mike still thinks disappearing is their best options.
Skylar is obsessed with Gus’ story when Saul pays a visit warning her the police might want to speak to her seeing as Ted just gained consciousness.
The junkyard guy goes through the list of things they can’t have on them when working with the magnet and accuses Jesse of having a pierced penis, something he has serious opinions on. They test run the magnet with a random laptop and it works like a charm, inspiring a “Yeah, Bitches! Magnets!” from Jesse but Mike is still not convinced.
Skylar visits Ted in the hospital to find him paralyzed from the neck down. He promises he won’t tell anyone about Skylar’s involvement in his accident.
Operation Magnet is in effect as Mike breaks into the police station allowing Walt and Jesse to enter with the magnet. Everything in the evidence room is pulled by the magnetic force and the cops run out to find the truck but no Jesse or Walt. Jesse let’s out a celebratory “Bitch!” but is Mike’s still unsure the plan won’t create more headaches. Walt ensures no one can trace anything back to him. And says the plan worked because he says so. Creepy much?
The cops survey the evidence that was damaged including the laptop but a broken picture frame reveals what is most likely a bank account number that will certainly come back later.
Saul fills in Walt about Skylar giving Ted money to pay off the IRS. Walt is furious he was never informed but Saul points out he has done enough for him, including stealing the poison cigarette from Jesse. He tells Walt they are done but Walt lets him know he doesn’t get to make that decision.
Walt goes home and tells Skylar he knows about Ted and he forgives her. Sure….
While Walt is seemingly able to walk away from this whole nightmare, the flashforward assures us, nothing is over yet.

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

While the late Patrick Swayze appeared in better known films, he never seemed to enjoy himself more than as drag queen Vida Boheme. When you think about it, it was quite the ballsy move for him. He was known for playing romantic leads in hits like Dirty Dancing and Ghost and for more masculine roles in films like Road House and Point Break, so donning a bouffant hairdo and high heels could have been career suicide, over fifteen years later, very few straight actors darn to play gay, let alone do a whole film in full on drag, but he felt he had to play Vida. Swayze landed the role after improvising a monologue about how he was bullied back in Texas for studying ballet. He knew what it was like to be hated when you’re just trying to be yourself and completely becomes Vida, who represents the proper upper class suburban world that rejected her. Wesley Snipes, known best at the time for roles in Major League and White Man Can’t Jump, is hilarious as Noxeema Jackson, Vida’s sassy rival in the drag queen world who dreams of becoming the next Dorothy Dandridge. The film was sort of a break-out vehicle for stand-up John Leguizamo who plays drag newcomer Chi-Chi Rodriguez, who struggles with fitting in both conventional society and the drag world.
Pageant winning drag queens Vida and Noxeema agree to take green novice Chi-Chi under their win, transforming her into a true drag queen during a cross-country roadtrip to the Drag Queen of America pageant. While on the road, they have an altercation with a handsy cop and are on the run after they think they’ve killed him. They stumble upon a quaint little town and while at first glance the locals are cultureless hicks, they soon bond and change each others’ lives in the process.
Each queen touches the town in their own way. Vida helps an abused wife (Stockard Channing) escape her brute of a husband. Noxeema finds an old woman who she lives apart from the rest of the town, but shares Noxeema’s love of old movies. While Chi-Ci is desperate to be accepted as a real woman, she helps two local kids find love. Together they give the town a make-over and in return, the town protects them when the cop they accosted finds them, and is bent on revealing them as the freaks he views them to be. Instead he is kicked out of town by an army of “drag queens”.
While there are some corny moments (there’s a “I’m Spartacus” scene which is one of my film pet peeves), it’s an amazingly quotable script with some amazing put-downs. It’s a fun pick for a Friday movie night.

Union Square

After an upsetting phone call with her boyfriend, Lucy (Mira Sorvino) finds her on the doorstep of her estranged sister Jenny (Tammy Blanchard). She camps out on the couch, intent to stay the night, turning Jenny’s world upside down. Jenny has worked hard to build a life for herself away from her family and hasn’t told Lucy that she is engaged. Lucy has some secrets of her own, including that she has had a child since the last time she saw Jenny and their mother has passed. The two women must confront their past and present in order to move forward with their lives.
Mira Sorvino is mesmerizing as Lucy. She’s loud, she’s obnoxious, she’s uncultured, and is her own worst enemy, but there is something very lovable about her. You feel as if you know Lucy, or at least someone a lot like her, or maybe that’s the native Long Islander in me talking. Patti LuPone has a cameo as the girls’ mother and you see that she too was full of life one minute, on the ledge the next, but it’s hard to tell how much of Lucy’s imbalance is a result of grief and what is her becoming her damaged mother.
Blanchard stands her own in a role that could have easily been overshadowed by Sorvino’s showier performance. The two play a kind of acting tennis as Sorvino’s every action annoys Blanchard furthers and further. One can’t blame Jenny for distancing herself from the family and their never-ending drama. You can really feel Blanchard feeling and more and more out of her element the longer she is exposed to her sister. Also clear is her struggle to maintain the fabricated reality she has built for her fiancé, which includes being from Maine, a lie one could see through just by hearing Lucy say “hello”.
The film’s biggest drawback is that it’s a film. There are few characters and the majority of the action takes place in one location. When things become more cinematic, it feels forced. Given how performance driven the story is, it would have been really interesting to watch Sorvino and Blanchard play with these characters on stage eight shows a week. Also, the film kind of ends with no solid conclusion. We’re left with a lot of questions about what these women’s next steps will be. While there’s nothing against an ambiguous endings, I was left wondering for a moment if there was a missing reel or something.
While the performances are strong, the story is fairly forgettable and the ending unsatisfying, which is a shame considering how perfectly casted the leads are.