It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
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.
S3E12:Thank God for the Sam and Mercedes storyline. It’s not novel or unique by any means, but at least it’s something. Despite the fact that this storyline is a result of personnel issues in the real world (Chord Overstreet quitting and then coming back), it’s the most viable of the various stories on Glee. This week saw stories pop out of thin air: Emma’s ambition, Schue’s sudden incompetency, Sue’s need to procreate, unnecessary bitchiness from a Real Housewife of Atlanta posing as a swim coach. Plus, that whole Finn and Rachel nonsense gets an extra layer of obnoxious when she compares her love to that of Twilight’s Edward and Bella. And if all that wasn’t enough, Schue decides to have the kids sing songs in Spanish, which means the songs don’t replace nearly as much dialog as they usually do. But it wasn’t all bad – Emma keeps the humor in the episode afloat with her ridiculous pamphlet titles like “So you’re a cheating ho.” They’re annoying at first, but by the time she slips one into Schue’s Spanish dictionary, we’re onboard.
“I’m sorry, can you speak slower? Maybe your accent is throwing me off. Where are you from?” –Will
“Ohio” –David Martinez
A history teacher loses her mind and subsequently loses her job, so Will is naturally after the tenure position. There's just one giant problem that didn’t exist until the third season of the show: he’s terrible at Spanish. He starts taking Spanish from the night school teacher, David Martinez (guest star Ricky Martin) whose generic Spanish name has to have been pulled out of a Spanish teacher name-generator. After some overdrawn story about being a tooth model – is that why we were all so mesmerized by “Living La Vida Loca?” I always thought it was in the hips – David says he’s tired of modeling and that he wants to teach Spanish and help kids. Then he gives Will his only great Spanish class idea (but one that will only benefit the glee club, who cares about the other kids?): learning languages more easily through music. Will thinks if he can teach the whole club to sing in Spanish, he’ll get the tenure spot – but would he really deserve it if he got it by stealing another teacher’s idea?
Schue introduces the “Latin” songs week and Santana points out that he doesn’t know anything about Latin culture and questions his reasons for starting it in the first place. (Because she should. It’s suspicious!) Schue brings in David with the flimsy explanation that he wants to start a night school choir – but really because he’s Ricky Martin and he needs to perform. Everyone falls in love with David – I want a GIF of Sugar’s face when he first walks in. Please, someone get on that. Schue keeps overusing David’s term “Duende” which they won’t define simply, but it’s basically “passion.” So, David sings LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” – and there are already so many things wrong with that sentence. The song literally says, “passion in my pants” and that “wiggle” section is not referring to shaking one’s arms. What is with the teachers on this show singing inappropriate songs? This is not a song for high school! Why is this never an issue? But, I suppose dealing with the fact that Schue can’t speak Spanish is probably important too.
“Same goes for you, Porcelain. The weirdness ends with you.” –Sue
We learn that Sue is looking for sperm donors because she has the glee club men lined up while she lectures them about their masturbation habits. What is going on? There’s a difference between being open about sexuality and using it for shock and awe - Glee has started using sexuality in the latter sense. Sue wants a kid because she says she did a good job with her sister and with Becky, and she uses this as a segway into her bid for the open tenure position while asking Will offhand for his sample. This should be a joke, but the sad thing is that it turns out to be a piece of the actual story.
How? It starts when Figgins gets a complaint about Sue’s ability to coach the Cheerios and he appoints synchronized swimming coach Roz Washington (Nene Leakes) to help choreograph the team. Besides the fact that she has the Cheerios practice in their letterman jackets (dear costume designer, this makes zero sense) having Leakes as a real character on this show is the joke of jokes. Ricky Martin’s not a great actor, but her inadequacy puts his to shame. It’s an insult to Jane Lynch to have her to go tete a tete with the Real Housewife. Plus, she’s just plain nasty, telling Sue she’s too old to be a coach, too old to have kids, even going as far as saying all that will ever come out of her “old wrinkly boobs” is sand. I’m sorry, but since when does this string of insults pass for dialog on this show? Glee, you’ve been better than this before. Come back to us.
Because that request for Schue’s sample apparently wasn’t a joke, Emma confronts Sue about why she asked for it. Sue says she’s mean and that Schue has always been such a good person; if kindness is genetic, she wants to get it from Will. Emma gets all saintly and tells Sue she’s not okay with this request but that Sue will be a good mother – but honestly, if experience tells us anything she absolutely would not. This scene tries so hard to be sweet, but tender music and slowing of dialog combined with Roz’ unnecessarily mean commentary does not a gooey emotional center make! And then they take it a step further by having Santana respond with an insult about Sue’s vagina when Sue’s falsely accuses her of complaining to Figgins – how many times do we need to hear “boobs” and “vagina” in one episode of Glee of all things? They try to bring the "Sue as a mother" theme home when we find Becky issued the complaint, but it’s okay because she thinks Sue will make a good mother. Nope. It’s not working, writers. Sorry.
“Sam just tweeted that I smell good.” –Mercedes
“I won’t stop until it’s trending.” –Sam
Now, for the part that is working: the sweet romance between Trouty Mouth and Mercedes. Emma is counseling them because they kissed and they don’t know what to do. Tired references to our generation’s over-saturation of technology aside, Emma makes a decent point that they should cease communication for a week so they can make an informed decision. Their response to the need for showing the growing desire between the pair, while managing to not break Emma’s no talking rule, is for them to each sing songs in glee club that represent their feelings. Because that’s this show’s bread and butter, of course! Mercedes sings “Si Voy a Pederte” by Gloria Estefan which is more about loss than a reunion, but maybe that’s what they’re going for? (Or it sounds romantic, so they used it anyway.) Sam sings a mashup of “Bambolea” and “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias. This accomplishes about as much as it sounds like it did: cute looks and lots of musical flirting. By the end of the episode, they’re both watching the clock and waiting until their period of silence is over, rushing into the hall when it ends only to have Mercedes whisked away by her boyfriend. It seems they are deliberately stretching out the inevitable just so it can happen during the Valentine’s Day episode (and it had better – it’s a good story, but it’s not strong enough to be this drawn out).
“The proof’s in the pudding…my pudding sucks.” –Finn
See, Glee? You can still be funny. This borderline disgusting joke works because it’s innocent – remember when that’s what informed your comedy? (Hint: we really liked it that way.) Anyway, Rachel spills the beans about her engagement to Finn while watching Twilight with Kurt and Mercedes and they think both Finn and Rachel are nuts, despite Rachel’s assertion that she knows she and Finn will be together and that he’s part of her journey to stardom.
Kurt is angry that his stepbrother didn’t tell him about the proposal, but he’s more worried that Finn is selling himself short. He tries to show Finn the different colleges in and around New York and notes that if he has to keep the engagement a secret, it’s probably not a good idea. This turns into a discussion about how Finn thinks his future is bleak and that Rachel’s the only bright spot, but Kurt rightfully tells him that he’s special and he does have a future – though I don’t know if pushing him to pursue a career as “the football star who can sing and kind of dance” is really a viable career option. It is however, a good jumping off point for college. It appears that Finn will continue to wrestle with whether or not being engaged to Rachel is a way of giving up on himself or not. Now that Rachel’s on board, let’s all wait for Finn to pull the rug out from under her and crush her tiny, self-obsessed bird of a spirit.
“Mr. Schue, what’s with the shiny coat? I thought you were Kurt.” –Finn
“I’m an authentic Spanish matador.” –Schue
David is showing the glee club the ways of Latin culture, like wearing “Mexican hipster boots,” and Santana asks how Schue plans to defend his Spanish teacher honor. And considering that when he starts working on his challenge song, he has to look up “coversaciòn” in a Spanish dictionary, it’s not looking so great. To make matters worse, when Emma uses her pamphlet about male performance anxiety to try and cheer him up (single-handedly carrying the weight of comedy in this episode) Schue berates her and says he’s doing this to take care of her before saying her pamphlets are stupid. Luckily, Emma doesn’t roll over – she tells him she doesn’t need him to take care of her and storms out.
But before we get a solution, Schue’s manhood takes another hit. Santana sings “La Isla Bonita” with David. How is this not being declared inappropriate? Their dance is far too sexy for a student-teacher-from-night-school relationship. At least David and Schue admit it makes so sense for David to still be at McKinley during the day. But then, it’s time for the train wreck, but to be fair, it’s a deliberate train wreck. Schue sings “A Little Less Conversation” translated into Spanglish with Mike Chang and Brittany dressed as bulls charging around the stage. It’s pretty much the WORST thing ever, but like I said, it was intentional. (And boy, did they hit the mark.) Santana admits she complained to Figgins about Schue; she says that he’s making a joke out of Spanish culture – because he is. And that no one seems to notice because they don’t know any better, and this would be great except that they created this storyline out of thin air to suddenly make Schue bad at his job. He admits he took the job because it was the only open teaching position and Santana makes sure to cap off the conversation by saying he’s a great music teacher. Too bad that doesn’t seem to be an actual job at this school.
Life gets even harder for Schue when Emma’s pamphlet “Taint Misbehavin’” (seriously, how are they getting away with this at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday?) is sold to Ohio State and all the Big 10 football teams. Will’s just had his huevos crushed by Santana, so he has trouble dealing with Emma’s swelling pride. But, because he’s Schue and is incapable of being wrong for very long, he tells Figgins to hire David to teach Spanish and Schue will teach History, a subject he also doesn’t know all that well. (But he can sing, so who cares?) We end the episode with Will handing Emma apology pamphlets and making her a celebratory dinner because she nabbed the tenure position. While I love seeing Emma finally gain a little strength, this ending didn’t feel significant. It was just an event in a string of other events. Maybe the Valentine’s Day theme will help the writers deliver an episode that feels like, well, an episode next week.
Are you getting annoyed with Glee? Are you clamoring for the days when the storylines really grabbed us? Or do you think the show it just as compelling as it ever was? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler