S2: E6 I’m not even going to try to contain my excitement over this week’s episode of Community. It had everything I love: Halloween costumes, tacos, zombies, creepy music (ABBA), and Troy without a shirt. (Sorry dudes, we do spend a lot of these episodes talking about Annie’s boobs, so I figure it’s only fair that I get to lust after Donald Glover for a bit.) Oh, and did I mention it was narrated by George Takei? As in Sulu from the original Star Trek? Yeah, it was just that cool.
After a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque intro from George Takei, the scene opens on Greendale’s Halloween party. Pierce is dressed as the Shatner- variety James T. Kirk (maybe someone told him Takei would be narrating), Jeff is his handsome self as David Beckham (complete with $6,000 suit), and the dean is dressed as what I assume will this year’s most popular costume – Lady Gaga. After downing several “tacos” Jeff spills the beans (ha! Get it? Because they’re eating tacos? Like Mexican food? Okay, I’ll stop) and it turns out they’ve been eating military rations from an army surplus store. Yuck. Britta as a T-Rex/ Dragon-turtle points out that the dean’s endless loop of ABBA songs is occasionally interrupted by his personal voice memos (including one reminding him to check out Human Centipede.) Damn, he’s creepy. Shirley is once again in a “dangerously ambiguous” costume – Annie dressed as Little Red Riding hood hasn’t solved the mystery but she does warn them NOT to call Shirley Miss Piggy. (Of course, now that’s all they can see.) Troy and Abed have a joint costume from Alien, Troy as Ripley in a power loader and Abed as an alien (he really commits to the costume, it’s awesome), but when Troy fails to pick up girls in his yellow frame, he no longer wants to play Abed’s nerdy games. But the main problem is the dean’s tacos; Pierce and many others are starting to get ill after eating. Just when Annie’s friend the doctor (in a banana suit) is making a case for food poisoning, Pierce grabs Starburns and tried to eat his arm. Yep, definitely not food poisoning. Try zombies, glorious zombies.
Before everyone starts to notice that the school is being taken over by zombies (oh, it’s no big deal), Troy ditches his Alien-inspired costume for something a little more lady-friendly. He comes back from the bathroom wearing little more than a toilet seat cover with the word “Dracula” written on it, leaving Abed alone in his nerdiness. He’s a “sexy Dracula” – DUH. Meanwhile, the zombie virus is taking hold of the infected students and the dean elects to call the surplus store where he got the “taco meat” to complain. Apparently, it was not taco meat. Nope. It was some top secret toxic waste – how dumb is this guy? He’s patched in to an officer from the army who commands him to quarantine the zombies for 6 hours until the army can swoop in and fix everything. That’s one hell of a time window. Who do they think they are? The cable guy?
Meanwhile, shit’s starting to get crazy. Just as Annie suggests they evacuate calmly, all hell breaks loose, zombies attack, the dean locks everyone in the library, the study group fends off zombie attackers and barricades themselves in the study room as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” plays jauntily in the background. God, I love this show.
Before they finally seal off the room, Doctor Banana wants to double check that everyone managed to escape the attack without getting bitten. (And he totally has a bite on his ankle that he’s hiding. Bastard.) He also explains that the infected people will develop high fevers and that in a matter of hours, the zombified students’ brains will overheat and turn to mush. No longer the undead, they’ll just be plain ol’ dead. They figure out a plan: if they can get to the thermostat and turn up the AC, they can break the fever and kill the virus. But nope, too late. Doctor Banana’s speech goes all drunken undead dude and Britta’s not far behind. The remaining group tries to escape the newest zombies, but Annie gets taken. Chang and Shirley get separated from Jeff, Abed, and Troy and barricade themselves in the bathroom. As they hold the door shut, Chang notices that Shirley’s not Miss Piggy, she’s Glenda the Good Witch. In turn, Shirley notes that she loves Chang’s Peggy Fleming costume and he’s happy to hear that she’s not racist (because everyone else assumed he was an Asian figure skater like Michelle Kwan). BOOM. The unthinkable happens – a Shirley-Chang hook up. Give me a second while I pick my jaw up off of the ground.
Troy, Abed, and Jeff find themselves in the basement under siege from a crazy cat that’s inexplicably being launched (or flying on its own?) across the room. Once they get past the crazy cat, Troy and Abed notice a window for their escape. Unwilling to mess up his precious suit, Jeff insists they use the door. Dammit Jeff, have you never seen a zombie movie? Of course, he opens the door, zombies flood in overtaking him and stretching out his super swanky clothes as Troy and Abed run towards the window. With nothing to climb on, to reach the opening, Abed elects to hoist Troy up so he can make Abed proud and be the first black man to survive a zombie attack. (Abed would know, he is a film nerd after all.) Troy doesn’t want to leave his bestie, and as he’s about to escape yells back at Abed ,“I love you.” And as any movie nerd should, Abed responds like Han Solo did to Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, saying “I know” as he’s overtaken by a pile of undead students. (Hold on while my nerdy side does a mini fist pump.)
Now Troy’s the only uninfected guy left. He returns to his power loader costume, bursting into the library and punching out zombies to reach the thermostat and save the day as ABBA's "Mamma Mia" plays. Gotta love that juxtaposition. As he trudges through the library, he takes out all the zombie versions of his friends until he reaches Abed. He hesitates, and in a final ironic blow his zombified best friend is the one who finally bites him. He manages to crawl to the thermostat and push the button (stopping for a second to take note of Jeff who’s still poking at his blackberry and “still cool as a zombie”) before finally taking full zombie form and joining the rest his groaning, grey friends. Damnit. It’s over, right? Everyone’s a zombie.
But no, as ABBA’s “Fernando” starts to swell, the AC starts to flow and the zombies start to sense a slow return to normalcy – Jeff goes from slapping at his phone to getting right back to sending texts and emails. Just then, the army arrives, ready to “dose these suckers.” Yeah, I don’t know what that means. The two army officers show up wearing black suits and sunglasses at night, but thank God that one of the underlings interrupts them before they can follow through on what was sure to be a Men In Black reference.
After they dosed the suckers, everyone wakes up in the library, bandaged and confused. No one remembers anything that happened, and the army officers tell everyone that the party was mass-roofied. (Chang is disappointed that he wasn’t the mastermind behind it all. He would. Creep.) George Takei closes it out with narration that has nothing to do with the episode, but might benefit you if your name is Kevin.
It’s hard to imagine that the tag could even come close to the Halloween episode that I can only describe as 22 minutes of pure zombie awesomeness, but Troy finding a voicemail that was left during the zombie attack after the army’s erased his memory. Watch and enjoy.
The misadventures begin when amateur wine enthusiast Miles (Paul Giamatti) decides he's going to take his old college buddy the charming Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a relaxing trip to the vineyards of California's Santa Ynez Valley the week before Jack's impending nuptials. It would be nice if it were that simple but in actuality the two comically mismatched friends have some serious mid-life crises to work through: Miles is a sad-sack worrier who has been depressed for the last two years over a failed marriage and several failed attempts to get his novel published while over-sexed Jack faces his faded youth and fading acting career. Their journey denigrates into debauchery as trips like this is are wont to do and Miles and Jack soon find themselves sniffing swirling and downing wine while chatting up the local denizens--including the vivacious wine pourer Stephanie (Sandra Oh) to whom Jack takes a shine and the quiet wine-savvy waitress Maya (Virginia Madsen) who takes a shine to Miles. At the end of the week the guys eventually emerge from a haze of pinot noir sexual escapades and wistful yearnings to collide with the reality of heading back home.
Payne didn't want to cast what he calls "movie stars" for Sideways deciding to go with lesser known actors who could bring out the human drama in a more instinctive way (even though Payne probably could have brought out good performances in just about anyone; look what he did with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt). Casting the superb Giamatti as the beleaguered Miles however is a stroke of genius: The actor elevates the movie to another level turning in an unbelievably heart-wrenching performance. Sure Giamatti is the king of playing losers having played plenty of them in his career (American Splendor
Duets) but it's the surprisingly sweet and gentle way he becomes the guy who maybe just maybe gets the girl that knocks you out. Madsen as Miles's would-be paramour Maya also comes out of nowhere to give a very genuine portrait of a woman who's dealing with her own divorce while looking for some companionship. The actress has finally been given the chance to shine after a lot bad television (anyone remember
Just Ask My Children? My point exactly) and the movie's the better for it. As the other two players in the quartet Church whose been out of the loop since his days on TV's Wings does a wonderful job as Jack the cad who actually has a heart while Oh (Under the Tuscan Sun) adds a nice touch as the gullible Stephanie just looking for Mr. Right.
How about these quirky indie writer/directors these days getting all mushy and romantic? Charlie Kaufman started the trend this year with his terminally hip but eternally tender Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and even David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees
has its gooey moments weird and existential as they were. Now it's Alexander Payne's turn--and he's hit the jackpot. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Rex Pickett Payne along with writing partner Jim Taylor has crafted another exquisite slice-of-life movie to follow his brilliant efforts About Schmidt Election and Citizen Ruth but has also delved into the heart-ripping love story genre; Sideways is so painfully aching at times it hurts. The characters give eloquent soliloquies rather than come off as just talking heads spouting dialogue--Maya's explanation on why she loves wine so much; Miles' take on the delicate beauty of the pinot noir grape; Jack's tearful pleading with his friend to save him all hit home. Then of course there's the wine. Payne so vividly paints the artistry the tastes the pure love of wine as well as stylishly filming California's wine country that connoisseurs and novices alike will appreciate this movie. Heck anyone who just likes to drink the stuff is going to be mesmerized by the intimacy of it all. Speaking of which where's that bottle opener?