Parks and Recreation is determined to come up with a season long arc, and so far, Leslie's (Amy Poehler) idea for a merger with rival town Eagleton is proving to be a good one. This week, the department took on their Eagleton counterparts in order to learn the lay of the land. Ultimately, the episode feels a little light because no matter how much we may want to see more of the Eagleton Parks Department, there was no way the cast was going to double in size, but the conceit was funny enough that it doesn't matter whatsoever.
April (Aubrey Plaza) is back to full agent-of-chaos mode, first rebranding Jerry (whose actual name is Gary) as "Larry Gengrich," and then torturing her doppleganger, Tynnyfer (June Diane Raphael) by mimicing her vapid cluelessness and tricking her into quitting her job and breaking into Dwayne Wade's house in Miami. Ron (Nick Offerman) slowly realizes that his counterpart, played by Sam Elliott and also named Ron, might be another mustachioed man of few words with a love of the outdoors, but while Ron is a libertarian suvivalist and meat-lover, Eagleton Ron is a vegan enviornmental crusader and nut nut ("They make wonderful milks"). They go from instant friends to instant enemies, and it's nice to see the slow build of things our Ron hates coming out of an increasingly gleeful Alterna-Ron's mouth. The only downside to so many great day players was that aside from Leslie's attempts to figure out who to fire, we didn't get to see any of our usual inter-character chemisty. Tom (Aziz Ansari), in particular, was stranded alone in his struggle to conceal that his doppleganger was a super-efficient computer program called E.R.I.C by constructing a fictional drug-dealing, racist, messy jerk identity for Eric who does, indeed, get fired.
And despite all these machinations, Leslie would have never fired someone from the main cast tonight, not just because they are under contract for the rest of the season, but because after recieving the news that Chris (Rob Lowe) and Ann (Rashida Jones) are planning to move out of Pawnee, she becomes hyper loyal, panicking about the loss of a friend by hanging on desperately to her employees, even attempting to get them to sign a Loyalty Agreement that binds them to the town for 50 years. Though Ann tries to soften the bad news with a plate of waffles and a picture of a shirtless Joe Biden riding a horse, Leslie still feels betrayed.
If only things were as easy as they are for Chris and Ben (Adam Scott), who have become close again over the last few episodes but dealt with the news in a mature and kind way. But Leslie's panic is understandable and totally in character. Additionally, Ann is pretty much nowhere to be found in what should have been a much bigger episode for her. Even as Leslie constantly reminds us how they are best friends who love working together, she spends far more time seeking advice from Ron and working with the rest of the department. If there was ever a time to show their friendship and its tightness, it was here. And with Pawnee becoming extreme in its unhealthiness (Chris orders a "salad" filled with gummy worms, cheese, a gumball, and toffee) and this merger giving her a natural break in her job, it's hard to tell exactly how she feels about leaving or about starting a new life with Chris. While it does seem best for the show to lose Ann as Ben becomes a more logical anchor in Leslie's life, that doesn't mean Ann should be unceremoniously shipped off. And the abrupt ending of the episode, which cuts to black just as Ann and Leslie sit down to talk, felt confusing, as the audience doesn't really know the answers to what they're talking about. Hopefully, next week we'll get a chance to hang out with both characters as they think about how to say goodbye.
Questions, Comments, Concerns:This week's stray observations will be used as a shrine to Craig, Donna's doppleganger, who was played by Billy Eichner, was the only Eagleton member left on the "maybe" side of returning vs. being fired, and was by far the most quotable. Case in point:"Donna? That is the perfect name for you. I love it, don't ever change it.""I wanted to be a Spanish man named Terrance, but that didn't happen." "I carried the Eagleton Department on my back and I loved every second of it, you don't even know!" (You have to imagine that this is at a shrill, manic pitch capable of waking the dead.)"You want me to put Bermuda grass in a continental climate that's a six on the Beauford scale in a park with zero drainage? I want Kentucky Bluegrass, I want a 10 percent discount, and I want you to apologize to my best friend Donna!" "I have a medical condition all right. It's called caring too much... and it's incurable! Also I have excema." "I'm halfway through designing a bamboo gazebo as a tribute to the founders of Motown.""My DVR is pregnant with 13 months' worth of Scandal."
The nominations for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards are out, and, surprise, Justin Timberlake is leading the pack. He and Macklemore both have the most nominations with six each, including Video of the Year. Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus are also up for a few awards each, and of course familiar faces like Rihanna and Drake are in the mix as well. The full list of nominees is below.
Video of the YearJustin Timberlake, "Mirrors"Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz, "Thrift Shop"Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"
Best Hip Hop VideoMacklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"Drake, "Started From The Bottom"Kendrick Lamar, "Swimming Pools"A$AP Rocky feat. Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, "F--kin' Problems"J. Cole feat. Miguel, "Power Trip"
Best Male VideoJustin Timberlake, "Mirrors"Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"Ed Sheeran, "Lego House"Kendrick Lamar, "Swimming Pools"
Best Female VideoRihanna feat. Mikky Ekko, "Stay"Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"Pink feat. Nate Ruess, "Just Give Me A Reason"Demi Lovato, "Heart Attack"
Best Pop VideoBruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"Fun., "Carry On"Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"Selena Gomez, "Come and Get It"
Artist To Watch, Presented by Taco BellTwenty One Pilots, "Holding On To You"Zedd feat. Foxes, "Clarity"Austin Mahone, "What About Love"The Weeknd, "Wicked Games"Iggy Azalea, "Work"
Best CollaborationJustin Timberlake, feat. Jay-Z, "Suit & Tie"Pitbull feat. Christina Aguilera, "Feel This Moment"Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding, "I Need Your Love"Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"Pink feat. Nate Ruess, "Just Give Me A Reason"
Best Video With A Social MessageKelly Clarkson, "People Like Us"Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Same Love"Snoop Lion, "No Guns Allowed"Miguel, "Candles in the Sun"Beyoncé, "I Was Here"
Best Rock VideoImagine Dragons, "Radioactive"Fall Out Boy, "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)" Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait"Thirty Seconds To Mars, "Up in the Air"Vampire Weekend, "Diane Young"
Best Art DirectionCapital Cities, "Safe and Sound"Thirty Seconds To Mars, "Up in the Air"Janelle Monae feat. Erykah Badu, "Q.U.E.E.N"Lana Del Rey, "National Anthem"Alt-J, "Tesselate"
Best ChoreographyChris Brown, "Fine China"Ciara, "Body Party"Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull, "Live It Up"will.i.am feat. Justin Bieber, "#thatPOWER"Bruno Mars, "Treasure"
Best CinematographyThirty Seconds To Mars, "Up in the Air"Lana Del Rey, "Ride"Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Sacrilege"Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"A-Trak & Tommy Trash, "Tuna Melt"
Best DirectionJustin Timberlake feat. Jay-Z, "Suit & Tie"Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Sacrilege"Fun., "Carry On"Drake, "Started From The Bottom"
Best EditingPink feat. Nate Ruess, "Just Give Me A Reason"Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch, "Sweet Nothing"Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"
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In the Season 5 finale of Parks and Recreation, appropriately titled "Are You Better Off?," we find Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) on the first anniversary of her election to the Pawnee City Council. For her unofficial victory lap, she has gathered the town together to ask that titular question — do they believe they are better off now than they were when the year, and Leslie's reign, began?
As is the way of these public forums, Leslie quickly loses control of the crowd. Contrary to her well-laid plan, the meeting devolves as each person Leslie confronted (except, mysteriously, Councilman Jamm) in the past year raises concerns against her. Remember when Leslie banned gigundous soft drinks in restaurants? Well, the head of the Pawnee Restaurant Association is out for blood. We also meet a rotund gentleman who resents that a Paunch Burger wasn't built on the vacant lot and crazy Marcia and Marshall Langman of abstinence only sex education have returned. It seems the only people willing to speak in favor of Leslie are Pawnee Video Dome owner Dennis Lerpiss (Jason Schwartzman) and porn star Brandi Maxxx, who want to thank the councilwoman because, as Brandi says, "If it weren't for Leslie Knope, there would be far, far less pornography in this town." And maybe that's not such a good thing.
While it was nice to see some familiar faces return, the airing of past grievances and the flashback footage that accompanied them seemed lazy. Is this a clip show or a season finale? Instead of looking ahead to Leslie's and Pawnee's — and, inherently, the show's — future, it seems we are getting bogged down with the past. You're better than this, Parks and Rec. Or at least you were.
Leslie's conflict comes to a head at the annual Founders' Week Parade. Chris "Nipple King" Traeger (Rob Lowe) warns Leslie of an unflattering float seconds too late, causing Leslie to come face to face — or face to inflatable knee cap, really — with a larger than life, finger-waving, glowering Leslie Knope. "Leslie Knope Says No to Fun," the banner reads, and no amount of huffing, puffing, yelling, or irate gesticulating from Leslie can convince the town otherwise.
Then, Icky Mean Restaurant Lady (who doesn't deserve to be named… also, I forgot her name) drops her bomb. She has started the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope and she won't sleep until she sees Leslie kicked off the city council.
At first, Leslie is heartbroken. She has failed her people and ruined their lives, she thinks. She may have lowered the obesity rate by an amount equal to 800 pregnant manatees but the people hate her for it. Luckily, Leslie married the best pep talker of all time. Ben (Adam Scott) asks Leslie to look deep within herself and answer the question, does she think Pawnee is better off?
She does. Of course she does! Because Mary Poppins ain't got nothing on Leslie Knope — Leslie Knope is actually perfect in every way. Leslie throws a press conference for herself and tells the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope to bring it on, step up, and stomp the yard, honey (which is also a dance movie, starring Jessica Alba). If the Aesop's Fablesy sheen Parks and Rec has developed in recent seasons has taught us anything, it's that Leslie (the good guy) is going to be just fine.
The other characters' storylines are linked together as Andy (Chris Pratt), who has resurrected FBI Agent Burt Macklin for one final case, tracks down the owner of a mysterious positive pregnancy test he found in Ron's (Nick Offerman) cabin. It must be one of the five ladies present at the Parks Dept. retreat, he deduces. Which means either Ann (Rashida Jones), Leslie, April (Aubrey Plaza), Donna (Retta), or Mona Lisa (Jenny Slate) is expecting.
Burt/Andy begins to narrow the ladies down. After a few red herrings and much good news — Ann and Chris are happily fornicating, April got into veterinary school (!!!) — Andy has ruled out all the women present at Ron's cabin. So then, who is pregnant?
Tom, meanwhile, is faced with a difficult decision: an anonymous client (who may or may not be Jay-Z but is definitely not Diddy) has offered to buy Rent-A-Swag. Tom ultimately declines the buyout in favor of building up his business, which is obviously successful. In a twist, Tom's benefactor becomes his adversary when his lawyer announces that his client will just build a competitor, called Tommy's Closet, across the street from Rent-A-Swag. Tom best get ready to bring his A-game.
The final moments of the episode are the most jaw-dropping. The pregnancy test belongs to, you guessed it, Ron's girlfriend Diane (Lucy Lawless). Or, at least, so we are lead to believe. As Andy is expressing his frustration with his failed investigation to Ron, Dianne walks into Ron's office and says she needs to talk to him in private. We are treated to a shot of Ron's paling face as the meaning of Diane's words set in. Is Ron, a loner who despises change, ready to become a family man?
This raises the question, will every central plotline next season have to do with babies? Ron: baby. Ann and Chris: trying to have a baby. Leslie and Ben: have talked about starting a family (which means having a baby). Going on record now as saying that's too many babies.
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The film and television nominations for the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards have been released, recognizing achievements in both individual performances and the strengths of ensemble casts. This year's television award nominations are listed below, including many worthy recipients, but there are also a few surprising absences. Among the hard-hitters listed below are dramas like HBO's Mildred Pierce and Boardwalk Empire, AMC's Breaking Bad and comedies such as ABC's Modern Family (which swept the Emmys this year) and NBC's 30 Rock. However, some might be surprised not to find the new Showtime drama Homeland or NBC's secret weapon Parks and Recreation.
The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will air live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Jan. 29, 2012 on TNT and TBS.
Click here to read the list of this year's film nominees.
18th ANNUAL SAG AWARDS NOMINATIONS: PRIMETIME TELEVISION
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Laurence Fishburne - Thurgood (HBO)
Paul Giamatti - Too Big to Fail (HBO)
Greg Kinnear - The Kennedy (Reelz Channel)
Guy Pearce - Mildred Pierce (HBO)
James Woods - Too Big to Fail (HBO
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Diane Lane - Cinema Verite (HBO)
Maggie Smith - Downton Abbey (PBS)
Emily Watson - Appropriate Adult (Sundance Channel)
Betty White - Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Lost Valentine (CBS)
Kate Winslet - Mildred Pierce (HBO)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Patrick J. Adams - Suits (USA)
Steve Buscemi - Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights (DirecTV)
Bryan Cranston - Breaking Bad (AMC)
Michael C. Hall - Dexter (Showtime)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Kathy Bates - Harry's Law (NBC)
Glenn Close - Damages (DirecTV)
Jessica Lange - American Horror Story (FX)
Julianna Margulies - The Good Wife (CBS)
Kyra Sedgwick - The Closer (TNT)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock (NBC)
Ty Burrell - Modern Family (ABC)
Steve Carell - The Office (NBC)
Jon Cryer - Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Eric Stonestreet - Modern Family (ABC)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Julia Bowen - Modern Family (ABC)
Edie Falco - Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Tina Fey - 30 Rock (NBC)
Sofia Vergara - Modern Family (ABC)
Betty White - Hot in Cleveland (TV Land)
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire (HBO) - Steve Buscemi, Dominic Chianese, Robert Clohessy, Dabney Coleman, Charlie Cox, Jose & Lucy Gallina, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston, Anthony Laciura, Heather Lind, Kelly Macdonald, Rory & Declan McTigue, Gretchen Mol, Brady & Connor Noon, Kevin O'Rourke, Aleksa Palladino, Jacqueline Pennewill, Vincent Piazza, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Van Wagner, Shea Whigham, Michael Kenneth Williams, Anatol Yusef
Breaking Bad (AMC) - Jonathan Banks, Betsy Brandt, Ray Campbell, Bryan Cranston, Giancarlo Esposito, Anna Gunn, RJ Mitte, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk, Aaron Paul
Dexter (Showtime) - Billy Brown, Jennifer Carpenter, Josh Cooke, Aimee Garcia, Michael C. Hall, Colin Hanks, Desmond Harrington, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Rya Kihlstedt, C.S. Lee, Edward James Olmos, James Remar, Lauren Velez, Peter Weller, David Zayas
Game of Thrones (HBO) - Amrita Acharia, Mark Addy, Alfie Allen, Josef Altin, Sean Bean, Susan Brown, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Ron Donachie, Michelle Farley, Jerome Flynn, Elyes Gabel, Aiden Gillen, Jack Gleeson Iain Glen, Julian Glover, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Conleth Hill, Richard Madden, Jason Mamoa, Rory McCann, Ian McElhinney, Luke McEwan, Roxanne McKee, Dar Salim, Mark Stanley, Donald Sumpter, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams
The Good Wife (CBS) - Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, Alan Cumming, Matt Czuchry, Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Archie Panjabi, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
30 Rock (NBC) - Scott Adsit, Alec Baldwin, Katrina Bowden, Kevin Brown, Grizz Chapman, Tina Fey, Judah Friedlander, Jane Krakowski, John Lutz, Jack McBrayer, Tracy Morgan, Maulik Pancholy, Keith Powell
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) - Mayim Bialik, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Jim Parsons, Melissa Rauch
Glee (Fox) - Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Ashley Fink, Dot Marie Jones, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Mike O'Malley, Chord Overstreet, Lauren Potter, Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, Mark Salling, Harry Shum Jr., Iqbal Theba, Jenna Ushkowitz
Modern Family (ABC) - Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, Julia Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Nolan Gould, Sarah Hyland, Ed O'Neill, Rico Rodriguez, Eric Stonestreet, Sofia Vergara, Ariel Winter
The Office (NBC) - Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Creed Bratton, Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, Kate Flannery, Ed Helms, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, John Krasinski, Paul Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Oscar Nunez, Craig Robinson, James Spader, Phyllis Smith, Rainn Wilson, Zach Woods