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David Poland

By David Poland

X-Men 3: The Last Review

X-Men: The Last Stand is a real Brett Ratner movie.
And by that, I mean that it is endlessly flawed, hamfisted in many ways, but still has enough flourishes to get away with it. Not every Brett Ratner film is as successful a film as this one. There were moments when I considered whether this is his best film. It may be. But it is really too flawed to allow the word

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62 Responses to “X-Men 3: The Last Review”

  1. Lurconis says:

    I always thought that Famke Jansson would be able to hit this role square and true. She is one of my favourite actresses, who has never gotten a truly big break, and is never going to be in the top tier of female stars, but she has talent and presence on film. I am disappointed that the Phoenix saga isn’t the real plot of this film, as there is more than enough material to warrant placing it front and centre without the need for the trendy political baggage. But I have always found that there is something special about X-Men as a franchise – more than Spiderman, or Batman or Superman, these feel like real conflicted modern people. And I couldn’t disagree more Dave – I thought X2 was fantastic, though it didn’t have quite the impact that the first X-Men did.

  2. EDouglas says:

    As a 30-year fan of the characters, I was disappointed by The Last Stand…there was so much potential here but it was marred by too many characters and too many ideas in too little time. True, Famke/Phoenix was the best part of the movie, followed by McKellen, but most of the other characters were sorely underused, particularly the bit betwen Angel and his dad, which wasn’t resolved properly after all that set-up.
    Totally disagree about the last movie being overrated, too… compared to the first movie (which I hated even more than Last Stand). The second movie really pulled the ideas together and it was well written (gives me high hopes for Superman). While the new one is better than the first, there was no way it could have been better than the last one.

  3. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    X2 was great stuff.
    I am still excited about X3 by pure virtue of its nature.

  4. Arrow77 says:

    This is probably the review that responded the most to my concerns. Some of them were founded, sadly. The Poenix saga is the most important storyline of the X-Men comics, ever. Why would anyone thought that wasn’t enough to make a film?
    I’ve been a fan of the X-Men franchise since the first film (who worked better than most with a ridiculously low budget) and I’m still going to see the third, if only to have some closure.

  5. brack says:

    I’d say Ratner’s flawed movies are when he tries to do action comedies, like his Rush Hour movies. While enjoyable, the second one is really a mess.
    I liked The Family Man a lot, and Red Dragon was damn good. Neither I think are “flawed,” but maybe just not “great.” I haven’t seen After the Sunset, but I remember the terrible reviews.
    But since he’s only directed 5 movies (I’m counting all Chris Tucker movies as the same movie, which they really are), I think it’s hard to know what a Ratner film is just yet.

  6. repeatfather says:

    I think it’s inevitable that X-Men movies will continue to be both disappointing and enthralling at the same time. The X-Men universe is simply too big for feature-length films.
    I’ve always thought X-Men would work best as a television series, though we’re still probably a decade away before that would be economically feasible. The TV format would provide the time needed to do these characters justice.

  7. jesse says:

    Brack, are you serious about Red Dragon? That movie has got to be one of the biggest wastes of a great ensemble of the past 10+ years. Red Dragon is exactly what scares me about Ratner & X-Men 3 (which I haven’t seen yet). RD has Norton, Hopkins, Emily Watson, Harvey Kietel, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ralph Fiennes and Mary-Louise Parker. Amazing cast, right? But there is almost NOTHING memorable about the entire film. It’s not a travesty while you watch it, but it’s one of the most distinctly zero-sum movies I’ve ever seen in terms of the sheer nothingness of it. It’s like watching a bunch of fine actors doing a TV movie; sure, they make it marginally more interesting and classy, but what’s the point? Red Dragon had everything going for it and was completely forgettable; I’m terrified that Ratner will do the same unto the X-Men, though the word seems (mildly, low-expectations-style) positive.
    Repeatfather, I agree about the X-Men universe. I love the first two movies (though I prefer the first one because it seems more idiosyncratic), but X2 still felt a little too rushed and hearing about an X3 that doesn’t top the two-hour mark yet has like a dozen important characters, yet is determined to bring closure to a series that seems to have barely just begun, makes me nervous. I’m usually all for capping a franchise at “trilogy” and letting it go, but X-Men seems like one property that could actually stay fresh for five or six movies — a TV series might work, but with a series of movies you could basically skip the TV part and get straight to the “movie version” with big-budget semi-stand-alone stories coming out every 2-4 years.

  8. brack says:

    I dunno, I remember Red Dragon pretty well, it’s definitely better than most of the horror/suspense stuff out today.

  9. James Leer says:

    Sir Leigh “Teabag”? Really? Is there going to be a gay joke every time you mention McKellen (after last week’s bit on the MCN homepage)? Why?

  10. repeatfather says:

    Or, Jesse, at the very least, the studio has to bite the action figure bullet and stop piling on the characters and story arcs. There’s just too much going on. If the movies had just focused on the Xavier-Magneto dynamic, the Wolverine-Jean Grey-Cyclops love triangle and Rogue dealing with her powers it would have been a great trilogy. Instead we’ve got three incredibly disjoined parts of a trilogy.

  11. brack says:

    FYI, teabagging isn’t necessarily “gay”

  12. Martin S says:

    The ending of X2 is a blatant, note-for-note ripoff of Wrath of Khan that rivals anything Emmerich or Sommers did in the laziness department. Deplorable filmmaking.

  13. anghus says:

    its a little silly. i mean, for someone who writes so many articles that are intellegent, if not always entertaining, the gay joke thing seems a little “Aint it Cool Talkback”-y, which is probably the most insulting thing i can think to say.

  14. Crow T Robot says:

    People keep forgetting how Rush Hour 1 was one of the most unusually entertaining movies of the past 10 years. The characters are awful, the plot is pointless and the directing tv movie grade… but the movie’s got this real kind of energy to it. Like a 70s exploitation flick.
    The chemistry between the two leads (which was so phoned in in the sequel) was just irresistable.

  15. brack says:

    Teabagging is silly, but damn does it feel good.

  16. Geoff says:

    Martin S, you are so right!
    I noticed it when I first saw X2, but was the only one among my friends who could acknowledge it.
    Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies, with one of the all-time great endings, and it just completely aped everything about that ending, including the voice-over, music flourishes, and the camera pan to where Jean supposedly lie deceased.
    And my wife noticed how the nifty Magneto escape scene in X2 COMPLETELY references the similar one from Silence of the Lambs, right down to the choice of music. But hey in both cases, if you’re gonna borrow, why not borrow from the best?
    X2 was great, but the last third certainly had some issues. I mean, it was just completely out of left field for Magneto to all-of-a-sudden try to wipe out all humankind, and especially in a fraction of the time it was taking to wipe out the mutants.
    Both X films left some room for improvement, and in the end, I think they will all be known as a “flawed” trilogy of films.

  17. Jimmy the Gent says:

    Before the release of Red Dragon I was willing to give Ratner all the chances a young filmmaker needed. After the release I realized he was a hack who would never improve. Forget his obnoxious demeanor in interviews for a moment, Red Dragon should’ve been a classic. Ratner’s rather blase approach to the project told me that he had no respect for the Michael Mann classic. And I do consider Manhunter to be one of the greatest thrillers made in the last 40 years. It is the work of a true artist working at the top of his game. It contains a senes of dread and suspense that has rarely been surpassed in thrillers. The performances by Petersen, Cox, Farina, and a very sexy Joan Allen remain some of their best work. The last 30 minutes of the movie is one of the great climaxes ever. The use of the Iron Butterfly song has got to be one of the greatest uses of pop music in movie history.
    But Ratner had no respect for what had come before him. He even went as far as to belittle Mann’s work in the EW cover story for Red Dragon. Mann’s response to Ratner’s dismissal of his adaptation of the book as lackluster: “He must be mistaken.”
    This is a classic example of the producer hiring actors for their star power without considering if their acting styles would match up. Norton, Hopkins, and Fiennes are great actors but they don’t fit into their respective roles. Norton suffered the worst because he didn’t look like a man who had been to hell and back. He looked liked the FBI’s most organized desk clerk. The only scene of his that works is the last one where he pretends to be tormenting his son. He’s like Gordon Gekko gone psycho.
    The less said about After the Sunset the better.

  18. Nicol D says:

    The ending of X2 does borrow from Wrath of Khan. However, it also works.
    But most movies have borrowed from something or other. Even great directors from the past acknowledge this.
    The Raiders truck chase is partially borrowed from John Ford’s Stage Coach.
    The difference now is that in the modern post 1970 film era, the films that are being borrowed are more remembered due to VHS and DVD. That makes them more noticeable.
    I do not have a real problem with director’s borrowing as long as it is incorporated properly.
    It does not make Singer a hack or anything. X2 is overrated a bit but it is a great summer film.

  19. palmtree says:

    The great question is which will “win” this summer: X3 or Superman? At this point, it’s a toss up and if Mr. Poland is any indication, X3 may have some legs to propel it for another month, which is when Superman opens. Superman, however, only has a week between its opening and the movie of the summer, Pirates.

  20. brack says:

    ^^ Superman vs. Pirates will probably echo King Kong vs. Narnia of last winter, but Pirates far outpacing Superman.

  21. jeffmcm says:

    I’m curious to know why those who don’t like the first X-Men feel that way; it feels very similar to the second one to me.
    If Ratner can’t come up with a ‘style’ after five movies, he’s never going to. I think by now we know exactly what he can deliver: either mildly amusing buddy comedy stuff, or complete imitation of other, better directors as in X3 (apparently) or Red Dragon (which was thoroughly mediocre, and there have been 15-20 better horror movies released since).

  22. brack says:

    15-20 better horror movies, in the last 4 years? Has there even been that many horror films released since?
    I really don’t care if Ratner does well with his film career or not, at least he was smart enough to put his name on Prison Break.

  23. jeffmcm says:

    I have 9 horror movies in my DVD collection that were released since Fall 2002, so I’m sure I could find another 6 that were mediocre but still marginally better. But then, I’m a horror fan.

  24. Stella's Boy says:

    Red Dragon is a fucking piece of shit, and there’s a special place in hell for Brett Ratner for dissing Michael Mann. 15-20 might be a conservative estimate jeff.

  25. palmtree says:

    There have been at least 7 horror movies released this year (2006) alone:
    The Hills Have Eyes
    American Haunting
    Silent Hill
    Stay Alive
    I’m not a fan of the genre, but it seems like there’s been a rather steady stream of them in the past couple of years.

  26. Stella's Boy says:

    How about See No Evil? How could you forget that? And When a Stranger Calls.

  27. jeffmcm says:

    You’re forgetting:
    Final Destination 3
    See No Evil
    When a Stranger Calls
    Underworld: Evolution
    Abominable (yes, it’s a Sci-Fi Channel movie, but I saw it in a theater).
    Sorry to get off subject, but I would say that of these 12 movies, half are better than Red Dragon.

  28. palmtree says:

    8: When a Stranger Calls.

  29. palmtree says:

    Thanks, Jeff and Stella. Notice I said “at least”…I knew you guys would chime in.
    So, the total is 11 at last count.

  30. David Poland says:

    My point about X2 is not that it’s bad. I just think it was SO exctiedly reviewed that it is overrated.
    I too would place it a step a head of X-Men. The best of the trio. But “great?” Not for me. Solid filmmaking and clearer characters. And ultimately, not very focused storywise.

  31. Arrow77 says:

    The thing about Singer’s X-Men movies is that he genuinely cared about the characters. After years of comic book based movies being look down, it was such a welcome change that people overlooked the flaws the movies had and overrated them.
    Which is fine by me. I’m much more inclined to forgive a filmmaker who cares than a filmmaker who wants to be “cool”.

  32. brack says:

    I wasn’t counting “cheap scare” movies.

  33. jeffmcm says:

    Then what were you counting? Major-release ensemble-cast horror thrillers based on best-selling novels? No, there haven’t been a lot of those.

  34. brack says:

    I was being sarcastic before, of course there’s loads of shitty horror that come out every month, like those listed. But ones that actually try to tell a story, with a decent script. I guess I was just fooled by RD pretending to have a plot. I’m amazed at how none of those listed from this year were any good.

  35. Stella's Boy says:

    And some of those listed from this year that you say aren’t any good are still somehow superior to the high-pedigree Red Dragon. Fancy that. I’d much rather sit through many of those shitty horror movies than watch RD again.

  36. brack says:

    I think it’s pretty clear that I don’t agree there.

  37. jeffmcm says:

    Sorry to drag out this huge tangent, but story is overrated in horror movies. Mood and visuals are more important. If Red Dragon had been less ‘classy’ and hadn’t tried so hard to be another Silence of the Lambs, it could have been something weird and cool…like Manhunter.

  38. THX5334 says:

    This thread just got lame.

  39. brack says:

    Sorry if I hate movies being gritty just for the sake of being gritty (Saw, Hostel, etc.). Bunch of Seven ripoffs.

  40. brack says:

    Thank the people who had to argue how wrong I am for liking Red Dragon.

  41. jeffmcm says:

    Difference of opinion.
    I thought of one ensemble-cast thriller based on a novel and made in the last 4 years that is superior to Red Dragon:

  42. Stella's Boy says:

    For the shit weasel’s?

  43. brack says:

    wow, Dreamcatcher. talk about disappointing. I guess we just have completely opposite tastes.

  44. jeffmcm says:

    I don’t expect everyone to like it.

  45. David Poland says:

    I think Dreamcatcher is better than Red Dragon too… just a slightly less smelly turd.

  46. SheppardAustenReyesFord says:

    Neither Red Dragon or Dreamcatcher are horrour movies. Once a SUSPENCE THRILLER with horrour elements, and the other is fucking retarded (snare hit). Dreamcatcher still remains one of the most painful experience I have ever had in a theatre. As I watched it. It felt as if it would never end. Then I had to sit through overly long credits to see the Animatrix short. Oh the joy of it all.
    That aside, Poland, the X-Men are all about UNFOCUSED storylines. A guy that has loved the comics all his life, and gets a chance to make a film adapted from those comics. Well, the CONFUSION was going to come from more places than him. Even the CURE storyline written by Whedon is a bit unfocued and confusing at parts. So, it’s valid criticism for a movie, but in general the X-MEN are all about being unfocused and confusing!

  47. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    I find it kind of ironic that everybody is ragging on Brett Ratner (who is NOT a director I like) yet Bryan Singer seems to getting out of the X3 debate scot free.
    Could it be that Singer is a greedy idiot. He obviously didn’t care as much about the X-Men characters as people say he did if he’s willing to ditchy the franchise just before the final one in order to jump ship to ANOTHER superhero movie.

  48. jeffmcm says:

    They must have hired Tom Cruise to drive a truck full of money to his house.

  49. jeffmcm says:

    I see that Moriarty’s review seems to be the minority opinion on AICN.

  50. Eric says:

    Camel, I remember reading somewhere that Singer was willing to do the third X-Men movie, but that he wanted to do Superman first. Fox wasn’t willing to wait for him, and as a result they were willing to hire any old schlub with a viewfinder.

  51. Martin S says:

    Geoff – nice call on the Lambs rip in X2. Now that you brought it up, I can see it clearly.
    Jimmy Gent – You’re right on about Red Dragon. The casting was was just another bad ingredient in a useless film. What amazes me about guys like Ratner is they cannot see the effect Manhunter has had on the crime genre. Look at CSI – William Petersen knows full well Gus Grissom is a riff on Will Graham. From the forensics-focused solutions to the Dante Spinotti lighting…and that probably never crossed Ratner’s mind. He probably doesn’t even realize that the X-Files was simply Graham and Clarice as a team.
    Nicol – I am so disappointed you made that argument. I usually find myself simpatico with your view, but not here.
    It’s one thing in a post-Tarantino world to borrow from obscure films, (foriegn, silent, 50’s drive-in). It’s another to lift scenes from very popular films. For example, a college friend of mine did a shot-to-shot comparison with ID4 and found most of the Hoth battle sequence from Empire – frame-for-frame – throughout the movie. That’s reprehensible.
    I apologize for how arrogant this sounds, but I think if you spent some time in pre-production, (or as Singer coined it “pre-visualization”), you’d realize how conscious of a decision it has to be for a director to glom a scene.
    And something you point out, the VHS/DVD effect, when coupled with the dovetail of box office *attendance*, (emphasis for Poland so he doesn’t think I’m talking about revenue), should also tell you that maybe a lot more people notice the rip-offs than the studios want to believe.
    I know people who didn’t realize that Gladiator and Braveheart were the same film because it was a story-beat mimic, not a visual one. You can get away with making Predator-after-Alien-after-Jaws because that don’t share overt similarities. It’s this new generation of wannabes – Emmerich/Sommers wants to be Spielberg, Ratner wants to be Donner – that’s going to be the kiss of death for big films. They have nothing to reference but other movies.
    OK, time for Lost…

  52. Martin S says:

    Eric – I don’t where you heard that, but it’s as wrong as wrong can be.
    Arad would never let anyone work on a Marvel and non-Marvel project continuously, let alone a DC project. Goyer lost Ghost Rider because he took the Batman Begins writing gig while doing Blade Trinity. Watchmen got shelved at Paramount because Avi had a no-compete clause written when he signed the exclusive distribution deal. He’s had numerous non-Marvel superhero projects killed at Sony, like Bendis’ Powers.
    Singer left because he and DeSanto were at odds from the first film. The Singer draft for X2 was terrible and DeSanto let it be known. Singer went ahead with it but was stopped because Halle threw her weight behind DeSanto. When FOX backed Halle, Singer was looking for payback so he jumped on Superman – during X3 pre-production. Singer may play the BS passive-aggressive “I wanted to do both” game, but it’s a lie.
    Marsden is another example. He was told from the first picture that the Phoenix saga would put him at the heart of one film. Then Singer left and the story changed. He got pissed, signed for Superman and well – go watch X3 to see how well that went over.

  53. DCLXVI says:

    Juggernaut is not a mutant!!! I think that made me angrier than anything else in the film. Phoenix was great, Wolvie was good, BUT…this is not a film for fans of the comic.
    The first two films were not cut straight out of the pages, I know, but at least they held more continuity than this episode.
    There were bits I absolutely loved! But those jewels made me aware of how unpolished the rest was.

  54. Keffmaster says:

    The movie did not follow the X-men story. If you are like me and have read the comics and know the real story you maybe very disappointed in the film. I know I was!

  55. jeffmcm says:

    Fortunately for Fox, 90% of the moviegoing population isn’t aware of and doesn’t care about the continuity of comic-book storylines from 20 years ago.

  56. SirTucker says:

    This was GARBAGE! I mean where do I began to pick apart the flaws. How about the fact that Professor Xavier has been in his wheelchair less than twenty years. Or maybe the meaningless death of a KEY X-Men (Cyclops & Professor Xavier); and 30 minutes into the movie no less. And the scene where Xavier just wheels right past Juggernaut made my stomach turn. We all know the story between those two. And what was the deal with the curing of Mystique? Can someone tell me where all the past mutant stars were? Like Sabertooth, and Toad (I know they haven’t been seen since the first movie. But since this is a last stand, ya know…). And after all the story revolving around Nightcrawler in the previous movie, where was he! Then Rogue getting the cure! C’mon, what was her purpose in showing back up at the school? She no longer has a purpose there. Then there seemed to be more of a focus on The Brotherhood than the X-Men. I mean, I know they could’ve “pulled out” more X-Men for the fight than those 6 (against an army of mutants no less). This movie was flawed from start to finish. Before this, I thought the worse comic book movie (first run, or sequel) was Batman & Robin. But I’d rather PAY to watch that 5 times, than sit through even a FREE showing of X-Men: The Last Stand

  57. jeffmcm says:

    Can I just cut and paste my previous comment as a response to SirTucker’s?

  58. JBM... says:

    With adaptation comes change (duh). I personally don’t give a shit about whether the films follow the exact storylines as the source material as long as the finished product is …y’know…good.
    (For all you Iron Man fans, When I discovered the upcoming film’s rights reverted back to Marvel from New Line after the Gough/Millar/Hayter draft was rejected, I started writing a treatment based on the US’s current situation in Iraq. I was about halfway through when it was announced Jon Favreau got the directing job…)

  59. jeffmcm says:

    Your script sounds like a ballsy idea that no studio would touch with a ten-foot pole.

  60. JBM... says:

    I dunno about that, but since adaptation involves what to keep, I’m just hoping that Favreau keeps Tony Stark as a defense contractor and not a…Wonka bar salesman. Not like the script would have been made anyway. Maybe I’ll finish it just for fun.
    Oh, and SirTucker, Nightcrawler’s absence in this film is apparently explained in X-Men: The Official Game. Go figure.

  61. JBM... says:

    …and when I say “I dunno about that,” I mean about the treatment being ballsy, not that any studio would want to come near it. I’m a 20-year-old nobody, so that’s a given.

  62. Arrow77 says:

    Martin S.: I’m sorry dude, but Eric’s sources are more accurate than yours. Your explanation of why Singer left is just a variation of a story that appeared in the NY Post. Singer allegedly had a big argument with both DeSanto and Berry during X2’s shooting; it’s probably true but concluding that’s why he left is extremely far fetch for a few reasons:
    1- Singer and DeSanto didn’t just dicovered each other on X-Men, they both worked on Apt Pupil. They also once planned to work on Battlestar Galactica together before it fell apart so their working relationship had to be pretty solid for them to keep trying to work together. Besides, Singer is reputed to have a pretty explosive temper so him yelling one day isn’t that big of a news.
    2- Neither him, Berry or DeSanto were contracted for the third film, so it would’ve been stupid to leave because of them if Singer weren’t even sure if they were coming back. By the way, DeSanto didn’t come back either, which leads us to…
    3- Right after X2’s release, DeSanto kept talking about their plans for Dark Phoenix that they had been preparing since the first film. Obviously, he tought both he and Singer were coming back otherwise the movie wouldn’t have ended that way. After Singer left, I can’t see DeSanto mentionning X3 anywhere so I assume he decided he wouldn’t come back without Singer.
    4- When he started negociating for X-Men 3, Superman was not yet available so he had to be serious in wanting to stay.
    5- No matter how you look at it, Bryan Singer left a sure box office hit for a risky project that’s been stalling for years. He had to like Superman a great deal to make that leap.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon