ABC Television Network
It's been a rough year for freshmen comedies. Despite critical raves, loyal-but-tiny fanbases, and heavily orchestrated Twitter campaigns, we lost a lot of potentially great series this year. Trophy Wife showed us a new kind of TV family, but may have been crippled by its ironic title from the start. Enlisted won the hearts of its few viewers and the support of the U.S. military, but couldn't overcome a weak timeslot and wonky scheduling. And despite an A-list star in Robin Williams, advertising comedy The Crazy Ones never found its audience. But while we've had to say our farewells to these shows, we don't have to wave goodbye forever to the comic talents they introduced us to. Here are a few of this season's breakout stars who we know have illustrious careers in their future.
Parker Young, Enlisted
We're always surprised to find that someone so chiseled can be as funny as Parker Young is in Enlisted's first and only season. As sweet and sincere baby brother Randy, Young tempered the swagger and sarcasm of older siblings Pete and Derrick and brought some serious heart to the show. Before booking the military comedy and a role on the slightly longer lasting but also canceled Suburgatory, the actor's credits consisted of guest spots here and there and — obviously — several modeling gigs. Now that the world knows he's not just a pretty face, we're hoping for big things from Parker.
Albert Tsai and Michaela Watkins, Trophy Wife
If Trophy Wife left us with one gift, it was that of little Albert Tsai, who has the timing aspiring comics would chop arms off for. Bert worked in conjunction with any and every other character on that show, but we're especially fond of his scenes with loopy mom Jackie. Michaela Watkins isn't exactly a Hollywood newbie, but Trophy Wife reintroduced her to some viewers who hadn't seen her regularly since her single season as a SNL cast member. Watkins got to deliver some of the show's finest one liners ("Wait. Robert Downey had a son?") and we're dying to see her back on our TVs soon.
James Wolk and Hamish Linklater, The Crazy Ones
Wolk is no stranger to Mad Men fans, who know him as the mysterious (and, as of late, heartbreaking) Bob Benson. And Linklater is a veteran stage actor who also played a significant role in The Newsroom's second season. But The Crazy Ones got us to fall in love with the two of them together, and we just can't let go. Zach Cropper and Andrew Keanelly — or Zandrew, if you will — had a bromance that, given time, would have rivaled that of even Turk and J.D. Wolk and Linklater are both skilled actors in their own right, but we can no longer imagine them apart. Thanks, CBS.
Jordin Althaus/FOX Broadcasting Co.
Despite a small but passionate fanbase and critical support across the board, the Fox comedy Enlisted lost its Friday 9 PM time slot to Gordon Ramsay and his Kitchen Nightmares. And it doesn't figure at all into the network's summer schedule. There are four episodes left in the original order of 13, but when and if they'll see the light of day remains a mystery.
Despite the fact that Fox surely knew it was taking a risk on a heartfelt sitcom set at an Army base with no big names attached, Chairman Kevin Reilly pledged his support for the show. So then why in the name of the Rear D platoon would the network choose to air its episodes out of the intended order? We're stumped.
Another new Fox comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine came onto the scene with the caché of an SNL veteran lead, an Emmy-winning straight man, and the creative brains behind Parks and Recreation. Still, the series' character development and the escalating chemistry of the ensemble kept viewers engaged. Brooklyn Nine-Nine got a comfortable early renewal and a couple of Golden Globes for its troubles. Now, if the episodes had been shuffled as Enlisted's have been, would fans be as invested in the Jake/Amy relationship? What about Captain Holt's growing respect for his squad?
The Enlisted swaps confused viewers. In one episode, Derrick is dating dive bartender and single mom Erin. In the next, they don't speak. On social media, part of the show's potential audience knew of the shake-up and were vocal about waiting to be able to watch the series as the producers intended, harming the show's chances at getting a decent live tune-in crowd. (Also an issue? The way Nielsen inaccurately measures viewing in "group quarters" like, say, an army barracks.) We have to assume that Fox guessed that certain later episodes would capture viewers' attention better than the ones immediately following the pilot. But when a creative team is working to build a world and characters that an audience can connect with and follow, pulling a move like this is nothing but frustrating.
Welcome to October, friends. It's time to finalize those Halloween costume plans, pull your sweaters out of storage, and down so many Pumpkin Spiced Lattes that you almost go into sugar shock. It's also time for every family channel on television to put Hocus Pocus back into heavy rotation.
The live-action Disney movie turns 20 this year, and remains a cultural touchstone for every kid who grew up watching it. And it's impossible to grow out of it. Two decades later, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are still delightful as the Sanderson sisters, three colonial witches who are brought back to life in early '90s Salem and run amok ("Amok, amok, amok!"). We still identify either with new kid on the block Max or his annoying tag-a-long little sister Dani (a very tiny Thora Birch). We still cry when Binx the cat dies. And "Come Little Children" still gives us the creeps.
For a kid, Hocus Pocus is just scary enough to feel a little bit illicit. Think about it: in the opening exposition, the Sanderson sisters are hanged for murdering Salem's children by stealing their souls. Yikes. And then a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle, and suddenly it's a fish-out-of-water comedy with the murderous sisters befuddled by modern inventions like, say, the bus ("Tell me, friend, what is this contraption?") or a lighter ("Look! He makes fire in his hand!") In one memorable scene that must have slipped past the Family Values lobby, the girls meet a man (director Garry Marshall in a cameo) dressed up as the devil and fall down worshipping him ("Oh, master!). And we've got the Divine Miss M, so why not throw in a production number?
The spell has a hold on us, for sure. Happy birthday, Hocus Pocus. Thanks for the memories. And for the word "yabbos." We still use it a lot.
More:A Scaredy Cat's Guide to Non-Gory Horror MoviesDisney Is Planning a Cruella De Vil MovieUnmasking the Villains of Horror
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
It’s not as if Spider-Man and his neurotic alter ego Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) haven’t seen a fair share of gloomy corners in the first two films but the third installment wisely – and literally – darkens his life with a new black costume and a bad attitude to go with it. OK much of our hero’s turn in temperament comes courtesy of said black threads--which are in reality a malevolent force from outer space. But like all of Spidey’s greatest Marvel Comics melodramas his always-problematic personal life delivers some curveballs to sharpen his edge. Even as the public embraces Spider-Man Peter has to deal with: The splintering romance with his lady love Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst); a smarmy rival photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who threatens to snatch his job at the Daily Bugle; the true killer of his beloved Uncle Ben revealed to be an escaped ex-con (Thomas Haden Church) who via a scientific mishap turns into the shape-shifting Sandman; and oh yeah his best friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is trying to kill Peter believing Spider-Man responsible for the death of his evil dad the original Green Goblin. Vengeance blood feuds broken hearts and an alien symbiote feeding on anger--dark enough for you? Don’t worry. The film deftly mixes the pathos with plenty of action adventure and some of the funniest moments yet in the superhero saga. Maguire in particular really lets himself go this time around and embraces everything the story provides him to play with aplomb. The actor plays everything from angst-driven avenger to wounded romantic to cocky tango partner in perfect pitch. Among Maguire’s fellow returnees Dunst is less well-served by the ambitious story but makes the most of her emotional beats when not pressed to play MJ Girl Hostage. Franco’s turn is his most nuanced in the trilogy yet. And Rosemary Harris as Aunt May and J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson deliver ably as always on sage wisdom and blowhard buffoonery respectively. Church demonstrates that the dramatic range he evinced in Sideways was no fluke adding dimensional shades to his monstrous Sandman without the benefit of much dialogue. Grace with his snarky Eddie Haskell-on-crack riffs specializes in stealing scenes though he might have upped the menace when the plot goes pitch-black. And as the dishy girl-next-door-ish Gwen Stacy Bryce Dallas Howard not only captures the iconic look of the iconic ice cream blonde she makes her a genuinely appealing alternative to MJ in Peter’s love life Simply put Sam Raimi knows how to make Spider-Man movies. As a student of the Stan Lee-Steve Ditko-John Romita school of storytelling which helped revolutionize comic book superheroes four decades ago Raimi continues to understand that unlike Superman’s awesome powers or Batman’s intense obsession it’s Spidey’s Everyman humanity underneath his mask that makes him an engrossing character. And Raimi not only extends his reach beyond the ‘60s-‘70s era he grew up on to include more contemporary characters like Venom he – along with brother/writing partner Ivan and acclaimed screenwriter Alvin Sargent – does it in ways that cleverly serve the story advance the themes and broaden the relationships. Here’s hoping this isn’t Raimi ’s final outing as his is one web to enjoy being ensnared in. Even with its lengthy running time and packed-to-the-gills story the film is certainly a webbed wonder to behold.