Parks and Recreation is determined to come up with a season long arc, and so far, Leslie's (Amy Poehler) idea for a merger with rival town Eagleton is proving to be a good one. This week, the department took on their Eagleton counterparts in order to learn the lay of the land. Ultimately, the episode feels a little light because no matter how much we may want to see more of the Eagleton Parks Department, there was no way the cast was going to double in size, but the conceit was funny enough that it doesn't matter whatsoever.
April (Aubrey Plaza) is back to full agent-of-chaos mode, first rebranding Jerry (whose actual name is Gary) as "Larry Gengrich," and then torturing her doppleganger, Tynnyfer (June Diane Raphael) by mimicing her vapid cluelessness and tricking her into quitting her job and breaking into Dwayne Wade's house in Miami. Ron (Nick Offerman) slowly realizes that his counterpart, played by Sam Elliott and also named Ron, might be another mustachioed man of few words with a love of the outdoors, but while Ron is a libertarian suvivalist and meat-lover, Eagleton Ron is a vegan enviornmental crusader and nut nut ("They make wonderful milks"). They go from instant friends to instant enemies, and it's nice to see the slow build of things our Ron hates coming out of an increasingly gleeful Alterna-Ron's mouth. The only downside to so many great day players was that aside from Leslie's attempts to figure out who to fire, we didn't get to see any of our usual inter-character chemisty. Tom (Aziz Ansari), in particular, was stranded alone in his struggle to conceal that his doppleganger was a super-efficient computer program called E.R.I.C by constructing a fictional drug-dealing, racist, messy jerk identity for Eric who does, indeed, get fired.
And despite all these machinations, Leslie would have never fired someone from the main cast tonight, not just because they are under contract for the rest of the season, but because after recieving the news that Chris (Rob Lowe) and Ann (Rashida Jones) are planning to move out of Pawnee, she becomes hyper loyal, panicking about the loss of a friend by hanging on desperately to her employees, even attempting to get them to sign a Loyalty Agreement that binds them to the town for 50 years. Though Ann tries to soften the bad news with a plate of waffles and a picture of a shirtless Joe Biden riding a horse, Leslie still feels betrayed.
If only things were as easy as they are for Chris and Ben (Adam Scott), who have become close again over the last few episodes but dealt with the news in a mature and kind way. But Leslie's panic is understandable and totally in character. Additionally, Ann is pretty much nowhere to be found in what should have been a much bigger episode for her. Even as Leslie constantly reminds us how they are best friends who love working together, she spends far more time seeking advice from Ron and working with the rest of the department. If there was ever a time to show their friendship and its tightness, it was here. And with Pawnee becoming extreme in its unhealthiness (Chris orders a "salad" filled with gummy worms, cheese, a gumball, and toffee) and this merger giving her a natural break in her job, it's hard to tell exactly how she feels about leaving or about starting a new life with Chris. While it does seem best for the show to lose Ann as Ben becomes a more logical anchor in Leslie's life, that doesn't mean Ann should be unceremoniously shipped off. And the abrupt ending of the episode, which cuts to black just as Ann and Leslie sit down to talk, felt confusing, as the audience doesn't really know the answers to what they're talking about. Hopefully, next week we'll get a chance to hang out with both characters as they think about how to say goodbye.
Questions, Comments, Concerns:This week's stray observations will be used as a shrine to Craig, Donna's doppleganger, who was played by Billy Eichner, was the only Eagleton member left on the "maybe" side of returning vs. being fired, and was by far the most quotable. Case in point:"Donna? That is the perfect name for you. I love it, don't ever change it.""I wanted to be a Spanish man named Terrance, but that didn't happen." "I carried the Eagleton Department on my back and I loved every second of it, you don't even know!" (You have to imagine that this is at a shrill, manic pitch capable of waking the dead.)"You want me to put Bermuda grass in a continental climate that's a six on the Beauford scale in a park with zero drainage? I want Kentucky Bluegrass, I want a 10 percent discount, and I want you to apologize to my best friend Donna!" "I have a medical condition all right. It's called caring too much... and it's incurable! Also I have excema." "I'm halfway through designing a bamboo gazebo as a tribute to the founders of Motown.""My DVR is pregnant with 13 months' worth of Scandal."
After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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Movies that take place in the White House are usually focused on the President of the United States, but Lee Daniels' drama The Butler serves up a new perspective on the old location. Starring Forest Whitaker, Jane Fonda, and Oprah Winfrey (among a long list of Hollywood power players that make up the rest of the cast), the movie tells the story of Eugene Allen, the longtime White House employee who served under eight American presidents.
Allen was the White House's head butler from 1952 to 1986, and had a unique front-row seat as political and racial history was made. The Butler also stars Alex Pettyfer, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Melissa Leo, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, Terrance Howard, Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Vanessa Redgrave.
Watch the just-released trailer below:
The Butler hits theaters October 18, 2013.
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Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.