S3E3: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Somehow one of the best shows on television has suddenly become frustratingly mediocre. Where is the Community we fell in love with? Our characters’ absurdities can’t possibly have run their courses already. There should still be that element so unexpected and ridiculous we can’t help but laugh and the dialogue so tightly crafted that we have to wrack our brains to make sure we understand the references. It’s those elements that turn off many would-be viewers, and this season is admittedly an easier watch, but making things easier also seems to make things less fun. And what’s the point of television if it’s not fun in some way, shape or form?
“She was a dame. Legs that went all the way to the bottom of her torso. The type of arms that had elbows.” –Chang
The first element that really killed this episode for me was Chang’s storyline. By all rights this should be comedy gold. Chang, desperate for some real police action, starts up his own noir detective narrative in his head while he starts to investigate absolutely nothing. He literally has no mystery, he just sees random objects or people and asks the audience “am I crazy?” before connecting the item at hand to absolutely nothing. By the end, his haplessness causes him to accidentally burn down his secret closet apartment behind the Greendale coffee bar. Munez wants to get the police involved when he discovers the remnants of Chang’s little lair, but the Dean needs to cover the decision to secretly let Chang live there so he buys into Chang’s baseless conspiracy theory and Munez quits. Boom, Chang is head of security.
So what’s the issue here? The problem is that we love crazy Chang. He’s the unsung hero of Community. He’s someone you can’t wait to see do something inconceivable. This storyline was neither appropriately crazy for Ken Jeong’s talents nor appropriately indebted to pop culture or even literary references (Raymond Chandler anyone?) to make it worthwhile. It was easy and it didn’t make sense for the fantastic Chang character we’ve come to know and expect. “I need answers like a fish needs a bicycle…a lot?” Really? Since when did Chang become Kenneth from 30 Rock?
“You guys have weird reactions to stuff.” –Professor Kane
First, I’ve seen the error of my apparently aging ears: I know now that Michael K. Williams is playing Professor Kane, not King. That being said, I still think Williams is being wasted as some sort of accessory other than as a truly interesting character, which is a damn dirty shame. With that taken care of, we can get back to business. Professor Kane makes everyone pick lab partners for the year and our study group accidentally pairs up with strangers – oh the horror. New friends can be scary. They beg Kane to let them switch to each other after a self-indulgent rundown of all the show’s most interesting and grand adventures, which was pretty obnoxious on the writers’ parts. He agrees and they all pick each other, except they're an odd-numbered group so Pierce is stuck with some random guy named Todd, which is, like, just the worst.
It’s not long before Britta gets tired of Shirley’s baby pictures, Shirley tires of Britta’s rants about “baby meth,” Annie gets tired of Jeff letting her do all the work, and Troy and Abed realize they’re spending way too much time together. Everyone wants to trade, so they call a meeting to fix the Todd Problem -- which is really the study group problem and has nothing to do with poor Todd -- and they get new partners. Only there’s an issue; Abed had everyone rank their partner preferences from 1-8 and he used a secret algorithm to decide who’s partnered with who. Troy is obsessed with getting Britta and he does, but they quickly find it was determined based on popularity and they find out who was first in popularity and who was last. Shirley gets the bottom spot, though Jeff seems more hurt by his 5th place than Shirley is by being last. Before long, the conversation descends into madness and Jeff tries to see the ballots so he can see who put him lower on their list. Britta acts wisely for once and burns the list, only she burns it on Todd’s turtle. Todd flips out and lays out his misfortunes – dead father, diabetes – and his admirable qualities – he says really wonderful things about his wife and kids – while delivering a speech about how screwed up the group is like he’s Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Womp, womp.
“If loving worms is stupid, I don’t want to be smart.” –Britta
“It is and you can’t.” –Annie
It’s really strange when the class buzzkill – Britta – is the only one making me giggle. And she’s only making me mildly giggle. With all this fighting, they not only waste all their time and have nothing to show Professor Kane in class, but they make Todd, the Iraq war vet, cry. Professor Kane, thoroughly annoyed with the study group, says they’ll all be partners and share the same grade, following it up with the fact that they all failed their first assignment.
They get to work in class, but immediately go back to bashing the sweet, unbashable Todd. Kane said they were the mean clique and it really seems like they are here. Granted, I’m sure it’s meant to be a commentary on the social norm that finds many people bonding more easily when they’re bashing random people outside of their insular groups. The problem is that this is a sitcom, which means this whole thing should be funny and it simply wasn’t.
Hell, the tag in which Britta reads scantron sheets as cartoons penises when there is absolutely no evidence of cartoon penises was the funniest part of the episode – and it wasn’t even that funny.
I get that they’re setting up the season and that they may be toning it down a bit for the network in light of lower ratings, but here’s the thing: they sure as hell aren’t going to gain more viewers by becoming vanilla. And set up is all well and good, but it should be fun to get through that set up – it shouldn’t feel like homework. I truly hope things pick up on this show. The last thing we need is for the series to give execs a reason to lose their faith in the program.
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.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has chosen Todd Field's In the Bedroom as its best film of 2001, while the film's lead actress Sissy Spacek took best actress honors. David Lynch won the best director nod for his compelling Mulholland Drive and Denzel Washington was named best actor for his work as a rogue cop in Training Day. The supporting actor picks went to Jim Broadbent for his performances in Moulin Rouge and Iris, while Kate Winslet was chosen for her turn as the young Iris Murdoch in Iris. Other honors went to screenwriter Christopher Nolan for his screenplay Memento No Man's Land for best foreign film and Shrek for best animated film. The awards were announced Saturday and will be presented Jan. 22.
To avoid the same strike panic that occurred earlier this year, the Directors Guild of America met with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Nov. 26, six months before the contract expires, and voted unanimously to recommend ratification of a three-year contract with the movie studios. The new contract will go into effect July 1, 2002, and will last through 2005.
Siena Heights University in Michigan will be adding the popular animated TV series The Simpsons to its curriculum. A two-credit class will explore how religion and philosophy are part of popular culture, including The Simpsons. Some of the class reading requirements will be The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer by William Irwin and The Gospel According to the Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the Most Animated Family by Mark I. Pinsky.
Country singer Tanya Tucker gave a very disappointing performance Nov. 30 at the Weidner Center in Green Bay, Wis. and the arena is having to give discount certificates to the attendees as an apology. During the hour-long concert, entitled Tanya Tucker Christmas, Tucker sang only five Christmas songs and used lyric sheets.
British actor Ian Holm, currently starring in The Lord of the Rings, was reportedly flown to the United States for urgent prostate cancer treatment, according to the The Mail. The actor apparently had an operation during the summer for the condition and his agent told the paper, "He is currently in America receiving treatment. It is a personal matter."
Opera great Placido Domingo's spokeswoman reports that the famed tenor is doing fine since his blood pressure soared during a performance at La Scala Opera House in Milan Tuesday, forcing him to walk off the stage. He was able to return, however, and finish his performance of Verdi's Othello.
Musician Rufus Thomas, best known for his songs "Walking the Dog" and "Do the Funky Chicken," died in St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Saturday of unknown causes. He was 84.