Sunday nights are always a great night for television, but this week, it seemed as if every channel had a major premiere, shocker or special event to brag about. Between the biggest Game of Thrones twist since the Red Wedding, the final season of Mad Men kicking off, and tweens screaming their heads off at the MTV Movie Awards, it's easy to get a bit overwhelmed by all of the TV options available, especially when you know that everyone in your office and Twitter feed will want to talk about nothing else. But rather than having to reveal that you didn't find a way to watch every single show that aired that night or avoid social media discussions until you're all caught up on the latest episode of Veep, we've created a handy run-down of all of the biggest Sunday night television moments to help you out. Whether it's the latest death on Game of Thrones or the strangest situation the Belchers have gotten themselves into, we've got all of the essential information about this weekend's must-see-TV and the best way to fake your way through a conversation about it. Let's start with the big ones:
MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!
Show: Game of ThronesWhat Everyone's Talking About: Joffrey died after being poisoned at his wedding feast, and Cersei thinks that Tyrion is to blame. Also, both Stannis and Ramsay Snow continue to be slightly unhinged and a little terrifying and Bran is still alive and still in the woods. But nobody really cares about that, Joffrey's dead! How to Fake It: Just sing "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead" when the topic comes up in conversation. Everyone will join in, we guarantee it. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Because Joffrey went out with an elaborate temper tantrum, this episode will have spawned more reaction .gifs than you could possibly imagine. Look for Joffrey pouring wine on Tyrion's head and Margaery's side eye to show up in a comment section very soon. Also, if everyone in your Twitter feed didn't make "burn" jokes when Loras put Jaime in his place, you need to follow new people. What Next?: Right now, the big question (for show-only fans, at least) is who killed Joffrey. Look for the Internet to abound with conspiracies, and for your more obnoxious Facebook friends to make status updates spoiling it for everyone. Honor the fallen king by pouring wine on their heads.
Show: Mad MenWhat Everyone's Talking About: On the final season premiere, Don went to Los Angeles in an attempt to find himself, and only found that Pete Campbell is still a complete tool. But he did meet Neve Campbell on the way home, so at least he's still got his charm and good looks. Peggy's breaking down under the pressure of both her professional and personal lives, and Joan took down Dan Byrd, only to be confronted by the realization that she is still undervalued and unappreciated at her job. How to Fake It: Attempt to pinpoint the exact moment that everyone watching the show stopped being madly in love with Don Draper, and instead started finding him kind of sad. Or just start talking about how Pete's the worst. Everyone wants to talk about that. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Ken Cosgrove's one-eyed earring toss is almost as great as his Season 6 jig.What Next?: We'd speculate as to whether or not Don will have an affair with this new woman, but he totally will, so the point is moot. It's more fun to try and predict which references to 1969 the show will shoehorn in. We've got our money on the Moon Landing, Led Zeppelin, and the Manson murders (after all, Megan is in LA).
Show: The MTV Movie AwardsWhat Everyone's Talking About: Awards-wise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the big winner of the night, and We're The Millers caused an "upset" when Will Poulter scored both Best Newcomer and Best Kiss. Mark Wahlberg spent most of his Generation Award speech cursing, and everyone was strangely obsessed with Mila Kunis' baby bump. Oh, and Zac Efron took his shirt off, because that's what Zac Efron does now. How to Fake It: Ask if anyone caught the clip from The Fault in Our Stars that aired during the broadcast. If they don't immediately burst into tears over the beauty of Hazel and Gus' relationship, they'll probably launch into a rant about how twee and pretentious that book is. Either way, you don't have to say anything more. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Shirtless Zac Efron. Considering how many pictures, GIFs and videos of that moment are online already, nobody else needed to bother showing up to the awards last night. What Next?: Remember that period of time between 2006 and 2009 when the whole world was obsessed with Zac Efron, to the point where it started to get a little uncomfortable? Yeah, we're heading back into that phase, and this time, it's going to be a lot weirder for everyone involved. It's a good thing you never forgot all the words to the High School Musical soundtrack.
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Show: Veep What Everyone's Talking About: Selina's presidential campaign is officially and secretly underway, with Dan and Amy still vying for the role of campaign manager. Jonah has decided to reinvent himself as a political blogger, a job which requires him to scream insults into several cameras while wearing hideous sweaters and to bug Selina's staff for gossip. The POTUS drops a bombshell about his position on abortion, which forces Selina to scramble to find a response that will keep her voter-friendly. How to Fake It: If anyone attempts to segue a discussion of the episode into a discussion about real-world politics, call them some of the many names that have been lobbed at Jonah over the years. They will either change the subject in order to join in or they will get so offended they will never speak to you again. Either way, you win. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Dan has a mini-breakdown over Selina's reluctance to pick a position, jumping and screaming and flailing his arms at the whiteboard in her office, before hunting Jonah down and shoving a breakfast burrito into his face. You need that in GIF form, trust us. What Next?: Selina is hitting the campaign trail, so it's time to place bets on how many people she will manage to offend per episode, or how many times Jonah will get punched this season. Those are the real issues.
Show: Bob's Burgers What Everyone's Talking About: Television's weirdest family took on possibly the strangest sub-culture around today, Bronies, when Tina heads to an Equestranauts convention, only to find that the other attendees are grown men. After one of them tricks Tina out of her favorite pony, Chariot, Bob decides to go undercover as a "Equisticle" and get his daughter her horse back. Yes, that involves him dressing up as a giant purple horse. How to Fake It: Bring up the fact that Bob's Burgers took on Bronies. If they know what a Brony is, watch them shudder in response. If they don't, explain it to them, and delight in the looks of horror your receive in response. Either way, someone will change the subject very quickly. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Everything about that Equestraunauts convention. The Internet will never be the same again. What Next?: The only Bob's Burgers-related question worth asking is when the soundtrack is going to be released. How can they expect us to live in a world without a full version of Linda's "Harry Truman" hair-braiding song? And where is our copy of the best selling Boyz 4 Now album?
Show: The Good Wife What Everyone's Talking About: Not much, actually. Turns out that if a character isn't getting killed off in a dramatic fashion, people don't really care about what's going on with Alicia Florrick. This week, she's still recovering from Will's murder, although she has finally admitted to Peter that she was in love with Will. How to Fake It: Just pretend you were watching Game of Thrones instead. Everyone else was.Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Let's be real: your Twitter feed was dedicated entirely to Joffrey's death. Nobody knows what happened on The Good Wife. What Next?: Uh... Michael J. Fox is coming back sometime soon?
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Seventeen years ago, Harrison Ford grumbled four simple words that defined a genre, a demographic, and a country: "Get off my plane." In a pre-9/11 world, there was no shortage of jingoistic glee in a movie like Air Force One, in which a man's man American president doled out justice to a militia of Russian loyalist terrorists who made the silly mistake of attempting to hijack his flight home from Moscow. In 2014, we don't have the luxury of facing a plotline like this with reckless merriment. There's a damp gravity to the premise behind movies like Non-Stop, which in another time would have been nothing more than Taken on a Plane. But rigidly conscious of the connotations that attach to a story about a hijacking of a civilian international flight into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, Non-Stop doesn't play too fast and loose. It still plays, and has some good fun doing so, but carefully.
From the getgo, we're anchored into the grim narrative of Liam Neeson's U.S. Air Marshall Bill Marks, who settles his demons with a healthy spoonful of whiskey. A dutiful officer even when liquored up, Marks eyeballs every nameless face in London's Heathrow Airport, silently introducing the bevvy of characters who'll come into play later on. After takeoff, Marks finds himself on the unwitting prowl for the anonymous party who's attempting to take down the red-eye through a series of manipulative text messages, well-timed threats, and clandestine killings. Chatty passenger Julianne Moore and flight attendant Michelle Dockery join Marks in his efforts to identify the mysterious criminal before the entire aircraft falls to his or her whims. So less Taken, more Murder, She Wrote.
Our roundup of suspects challenges our (and their) preconceived notions, and quite laughably — most vocal among Neeson's fellow passengers are a white beta-male school teacher (Scoot McNairy), a black computer engineer with an attitude of entitlement (Nate Parker), a softspoken Middle Eastern surgeon whose headwear gets more than a few focal shots (Omar Metwally), a middle-aged white businessman whose latest account landed him more than your house is worth (Frank Deal), an irate black youngster draped in irreverence (Corey Hawkins), and a white, bald, machismo-howling New York cop who secretly accepts his gay brother (Corey Stoll). Just a few talking heads short of Do the Right Thing, Non-Stop manages to goof on each man's (notice that they're all men — Moore, Dockery, and a barely-in-the-movie Lupita Nyong’o are kept shy of the action for most of the film) distaste for and distrust of one another as they each try to sidle up to, or undermine the harried Marks.
Non-Stop plays an interesting game with its characters and its audience, simultaneously painting the ignorance of its characters with a thick coat of comedy while pointing its finger straight out at us with accusations that we, too, thought it was whoever we just learned it wasn't, and for all the wrong reasons. "Shame on you!" Non-Stop chides, adding, "But let's keep going, this is fun!"
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It is fun — that's the miraculous thing. Without any "Get off my plane"s or "Yippee ki yay"s, Non-Stop keeps its action genre silliness in check (okay, there is a moment involving an airborne gun that'll institute some serious laugh-cheers), investing all of its good time in the game of claustrophobic Clue that we can't help but enjoy. It sacrifices some of its charm in a heavy-handed third act, tipping to one side of what was a pretty impressive balancing act up until that point. But its falter is not one that drags down the movie entirely. Fun and excitement are restored, sincerity is maintained, and even a few moments of sensitivity creep their way through. We might not live in a world of President Harrison Fords any longer, but Air Marshall Liam Neesons could actually be a step up.
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.