On paper, Broad City and Girls are virtually the same. Both series are about educated, under-employed, hipster-adjacent single women in New York City. Both comedies take a drastically different approach to sex and relationships than Sex and the City. And yet, the shows couldn’t be more different. Broad City, by virtue of being on Comedy Central, is obviously opting for the LOLs. It’s also doing for New York what Portlandia does for the Pacific Northwest. Girls is written and directed by and stars Lena Dunham so it’s an invitation into her mind and sense of humor, and underneath her clothes. It has funny moments but seems to target a specific niche audience.
Both programs have some iconic comedy minds on board. Broad City was created by and stars Upright Citizen’s Brigade alums Illana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, and is produced by Amy Poehler, while Girls is produced by Judd Apatow. The main difference is that the former has the virtue of a broader sense of humor. Get it? Broad City ensures that everyone is in on the joke. It opts for absurdly wacky takes on real life scenarios. For example, the girls want to make money for a concert so they try everything from street peddling and office supply theft to naked maid service. The jokes go so far that at some point you will hop on board. Girls is very subtle in its humor. Outrageous things will happen, and you’ll laugh here and there. But then a huge conversation will erupt about these moments and you start to question if you were supposed to laugh in the first place.
Winner: Broad City
Both series take a frank view of sex. It’s great to see women at the helm of representations of female sexuality. It shows that despite the questionable feminism of Sex and the City , something good came of it. On Broad City, both girls frankly discuss their sex lives... occasionally during the act, via skype. The show doesn’t shy away from being graphic. And yet, Girls goes 10 steps further. Sure, Girls is on HBO and free to exhibit nudity and strong sexual content. But it really goes there. Whether it’s precariously pedophilic pillow talk, the girl from Roswell getting caught in the line of fire, or Dunham baring her breasts in every episode, the show opts for a hyper-real approach to sex. It explores the taboo, awkward, or painfully uncomfortable moments of America’s favorite pastime. Whether wanted or not, Girls is forcing people to confront their discomfort with and timidity about sex by facing it head on.
Girls seems like a photo-real version of the New York City in Friends. It may not be filmed on a Hollywood sound stage, but the vast majority of its characters are white and of superhuman attractiveness. Despite Dunham’s celebration of her nude body and a shocking full frontal by Bosom Buddies star Peter Scolari, the series tends to prominently feature hot-bodied model types. It exists in a parallel universe where the unemployed and baristas can afford large New York City apartments. In Season 2, the show’s solution for its lack of diversity was to have Hannah date Donald Glover for a few episodes. Remember, that very special Friends episode where Ross dated Aisha Tyler? We haven't come too far.
On Broad City, people look like people. People of all different shapes, sizes, and races pop in and out of the show. That’s what New York is. The question of race on the show is handled honestly. Illana has a friend with benefits played by black comedian Hannibal Buress. Although not politically correct, the show does acknowledge that Illana fetishizes him and most men by their race. It does not endorse these ideals, but serves to showcase the character as racially insensitive and a sexual predator.
Ultimately, it seems there’s a class distinction for both series. Broad City embraces the fact that the girls are broke and have to suffer to survive in New York. The humor, tension, and wild scenarios come when they try to make light of that struggle. Girls exaggerates the struggles of entitled young artists and professionals who seem to have no financial stakes. They seem oddly connected though; serendipitous book deals and financial opportunities happen as if by magic.
Winner: Broad City – there’s still a recession!
Which series do you prefer?
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
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!"
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com