We've got another year of Pawnee on our hands people! NBC has just officially announced a seventh season of Parks and Recreation. NBC Chairman Bob Greenblat gave a preliminary announcement at the TCAs a few weeks ago, but the network announced the renewal officially last night. Thanks to NBC's recent dire straits, in just a few years Parks and Recreation has gone from teetering on the edge of the cancellation abyss, to improbably becoming NBC's guaranteed renewal. And while Parks and Rec obsessives might be excited for the prospect for more episodes, we can't help but worry about our one-time favorite comedy.
Sadly, Parks and Rec feels like a pale vestige of its prime seasons. What once was a triumphant workplace comedy now feels like a show that's just going through the motions. Ever since the show hit its high watermark in Season 3, each subsequent season has brought diminishing returns, and each return to Pawnee is less joyous and gleefully hilarious than the last. Now we find the show deep into its sixth season, but seemingly scared to commit to making any drastic changes. After the inspiring city council race, Leslie is back at the Parks Department, Tom has another failed business venture under his belt, and has dreamed up yet another, while April and Andy are doing... something. Every time a character takes a chance and makes a reach for something greater, the show spring 'em back to the status quo like a rubber band. If the next season of Parks and Recreation is its last, like it should be, then we want to see several things happen before we say goodbye for good.
The show should end with Leslie and Ben leaving PawneeEven Leslie Knope herself is realizing that she needs to leave Pawnee for good sooner rather than later. Leslie has abilities and aspirations that reach far beyond the confines of small-town government, and it's made worse by the fact that only a few people even recognize all the good that she's done. Leslie needs to pack things up and move on to bigger and brighter pastures. After seven seasons of dealing with the people of Pawnee and Eagleton, she deserves it.
And Pawnee needs to recognize Leslie's accomplishmentsIt's a long running joke of how dimwitted and unappreciative the citizens of Pawnee are. Despite the jeers from residents, Leslie has always given them what they didn't know they wanted or needed. Unfortunately, funny has turned to aggravating, especially after the city council storyline. Not that Parks needs to get all shmaltzy and cloying, but the town should be sad to see Leslie move on. She deserves something after all of the crap she's put up with over the years.
Tom finally needs to find a stable business ventureTom's multiple failed startups are one of the biggest indicators that the show is just spinning its wheels. Entertainment 720 was doomed, and for good reason since it showed an inexperienced Tom creating a business with all flash and no substance. It was a learning experience for him, and one that he needed. Next was Rent-a-Swag, which was actually a great idea, and actually showed Tom using good business sense, but the show saw fit to rip the business right from under him via Henry Winkler. Parks is setting up Tom with these new projects and knocking them down again just so Tom has something new to do each season. It's all starting to feel too repetitive. The writers should actually give Tom the business he deserves and let him keep it for at least a while.
Andy and April should find a causeOne of the problems with Parks and Recreation's characters is that few characters besides Leslie seem to have any specific goals that stay relevant after more than a handful of episodes. Tom leapfrogs from one new dream project to another, while April similarly feels like she's just going through the motions of progressing though city government. We hope that April finds a personal and fulfilling goal to work towards, and that Andy might do something else. Actually we wouldn't mind if Andy just played Mouserat gigs forever.
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.
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We love horror; we love the edge-of-our-seats, don’t-watch-it-with-the-lights-off, scare-the-pants-off-us type of horror. So far, AMC’s The Walking Dead has been our go-to for scares on television, but Syfy’s Helix has tossed their show into the mix. Though showrunner for Helix, Steven Maeda, hates any comparison between the two series, they do fall into the same category. Helix is a dramatic sci-fi thriller series, similar to the zombie hit, but that’s where the comparisons end.
Helix revolves around a group of doctors from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to a research center in the arctic in order to stop an outbreak of an unknown virus. Helix combines the best aspects of a thriller — crazed infected people going on murderous rampages, crawling through the air ducts, and leaping out from the shadows — with all the great staples of drama — conspiracies, lies, and a love triangle (because why not?). Plus the unknown virus has a serious ick factor: in the first episode it turns two scientists into bags full of black goo (cue the dry heaving).
It’s hard not to see the similarities between The Walking Dead and Helix. They both deal with a virus that infects and changes people. However, while The Walking Dead deals with the aftermath of a virus and what it takes to survive that kind of destruction, Helix focuses on the outbreak as well as the struggle to contain and cure the virus. That being said, fans of The Walking Dead are sure to love Helix as well, and vice versa. These are the two best horror dramas TV has to offer at the moment.
Actor Willem Dafoe has made a career out of playing the kinds of sleazy characters you wouldn't want to meet in a back alley on the wrong night. In his latest film, Out of the Furnace, the actor uses his gifts to play John Petty, a bookie that takes Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) under his wing and guides him through the world of underground street fighting. Dafoe plays a complex character that adds texture to Scott Cooper's portrait of a dying town trying it's best to stay above water when everything feels like it's sinking. We sat down with Dafoe to talk about his role in Out of the Furnace, what it's like working with Scott Cooper, and why playing sleazy is completely worth it dramatically.
What drew you to this particular story?I’m always very much keyed into directors. After I saw Crazy Heart, I met with Scott (Cooper) and we talked about working together and he called me up and sent me a script. By that time there were some actors attached and I liked the people attached. It really defined what he was going to do with the story. The script was strong and the character is interesting because he’s a conflicted character as well. He’s a bookie but he’s also got kind of a sweet side where he’s kind of paternal with the Baze brothers and I think it’s an interesting conflict with an interesting resolution.
You said Crazy Heart attracted you to the role. What was it like finally working with Cooper?He’s good, you know. He was an actor and he’s very positive and confident. He’s very passionate. He participated a lot in making this film happen and shaping it. It’s got his fingerprints all over it. It’s strongly his view and aesthetics. He was a strong personality on set and since he was an actor he has a special interest in performance that sometimes directors don’t have.
Your character in the film is pretty sleazy. Do you find it enjoyable playing those sorts of people? I like playing characters that are on the margins of society because they have a different code and they see the world differently. I think it’s sometimes interesting to adopt that point of view because it can kind of cleanse you from the lockstep of modern life. I like characters that have streaks of transgression or conflict or perversity and that’s because I think sometimes it’s an interesting perspective to adopt.
This film takes place in a depressed steel-mill town. Are you familiar with this sort of area?I knew Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh is an interesting place because it’s not Detroit but it did take quite a hit. When the steel-mills went into decline, everything changed. That mirrors where I grew up. I grew up in a paper-mill town. It’s not exactly the same, but I was a little bit familiar with this kind of city that had taken a hit with suburbanization and the economic downturn. So it loses population, and the people that stay are the people that can’t get out, so then you have sort of a desperate situation where people have to choreograph new strategies to live, and they start to question the traditional beliefs that kept the community together before. I think all that is part of the story that Out of the Furnace tells.
Some critics have said that this film is about the downfall of the American Dream. Do you agree with that?A little bit, a little bit because you have Russell, who's the older brother played by Christian Bale, who is kind of sticking to his guns. He’s had a little trouble in the past and he can’t make it so he’s going to go out like his father went out, and it’s not a very pleasant way because he’s on his way out with bad health problems that are partly due to his work. Then we see his brother come back after vaguely fighting for our security and our values, and he comes back and there’s no place for him here. That’s a common predicament and it is an indictment of how, for some people, the American dream is it’s vice. So, that’s all in the mix. I can’t think of too many dramatic films about blue collar people that have a slight whiff of politics recently, so I think there’s something attractive about that. The film has its Hollywood elements and it’s elevated a little by dramatic things like bare-knuckle fighting and the revenge aspect, those are Hollywood devices, but still I think what’s most important about the film is that it’s a little bit of a meditation on family, community, and conscience, and all these moral issues that people deal with when they’re scrambling when a downturn happens, and the way they used to live has to be re-examined because things have changed.
Relativity Media via Everett Collection
Scott Cooper has a wide gaze. This "actor’s director" has a knack for seeing the potential stories that lie in the periphery of Hollywood’s lazer focused vision, and highlight people that don’t get a light shined on them all that often. In his thriller, Out of the Furnace, Cooper weaves a tale about two brothers facing a supreme evil, but he also tells the story of a declining steel mill town that shows a real affection and admiration for the community and it’s people. We sit down with Cooper to discuss the hidden America he showcases in his films, what he thinks about the direction our country is headed in, and the role that actor Woody Harrelson most wanted to shed once filming stopped.
This isn’t an area we see in Hollywood films very often. What drew you to this place?I am from the Appalachian Mountain region, which extends from Georgia to Maine. When I was promoting Crazy Heart, I spent some time in Pittsburgh and had been reading about the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and was really moved by the city’s plight and how the city had fallen on hard times like many small towns in America. But I loved the fact that the town was filled with people that remained, that were filled with courage and a sense of optimism that life would eventually get better, and I visited, and I found the town to just drip with atmosphere. [It was] just very cinematic and people were very welcoming so I wanted to set a film there. I wrote a screenplay around those citizens in the town and infused an air of personal history. That’s why I chose that region, because we also don’t see many films about Western Pennsylvania, or certainly where Woody Harrelson’s character is from, which is the Ramapo Mountains of New Jersey.
Do you think this story could have been set anywhere else? It’s intrinsic to the people of Western Pennsylvania and that sense of human spirit and endurance and resilience, and as the grandson of a coal miner I thought it was important not to show an industry of people who were given many things, and it seemed to be the most fitting place for this character and this world.
Your script seemed to have some interesting things to say about the state of America.I wanted to tell a personal story about what America is undergoing in the past five very turbulent years: a crumbling economy, soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and having no real job prospects, having a really difficult time assimilating back into society and the fact that we live in a violent nation. I wanted to weave all that into a personal narrative that spoke really about us as Americans. There’s a cycle of working-class life that I found appealing and far under-represented in American cinema.
Out of the Furnace is much more of a thriller than your last film. Is it different shooting a movie that relies more on suspense?I didn’t approach it as a thriller, I approached it as a searingly realistic drama that happened to have very intense moments interspersed throughout. Both Crazy Heart and this film deal with the human condition and the human spirit and in this particular instance, I wanted this to be a more bracing and emotionally charged experience for not only the actors but also the viewer. I wanted the films to feel like they were directed by the same hand and to also feel like distant cousins of sort, to have a sort of melancholy end of line tone.
Woody Harrelson gives probably one of the most freighting performances of recent memory. How much of that was Woody and how much of that was on that page?It was on the page, but when you have an actor as skilled as Woody who brings just a great amount a depth and a searingly and bracingly performance, we worked very hard on crafting the evil that would reside in him, and admittedly, Woody said it was the part that he was most ready to shed when he finished shooting. If you know Woody, you know he’s a thoughtful and kind and really intelligent and sweet man, but to see him play that type of evil is a testament to his abilities as actor.
Did you ever have to tell Woody to dial it back or take it up a notch?You’re always directing and adjusting performances and trying to find the right tone and trying to fin truth. That’s my job as a filmmaker, to make everything emotionally truthful. If you see that truth on screen, then you know that I’ve done my job.
There's a wealth of material for filmmakers to pry out of the troubles that America has faced in the past decade. The depressed economy, the plight of the returning soldier, and the loss of American industry have all informed the plots of many of the best films written in the past couple years. In his second directorial effort, Out of the Furnace, filmmaker Scott Cooper attempts to turn the myriad of America’s most pressing issues into a story set in the backdrop of the country’s hard suffering Rust Belt, but he comes away with a merely competent dramatic thriller that clearly aspired to be something grander.
In the film, Christian Bale plays the hardworking and upstanding Russell Baze, an almost impossibly good-natured man who has worked in the local steel mill his entire life, and had planned, just like his ailing father, to do so until the day he died. But when the steel mill is scheduled to close, Baze's way of life as well as the town itself is crippled. Casey Affleck plays Russell's sensitive brother Rodney, whose tours in Iraq have left him emotionally eruptive and dissatisfied with his brother’s working man existence; Rodney would rather spend his time competing in underground fighting rings where he can still feel something. Rodney soon finds himself wrapped up in violent and reactionary crime ring that doesn't take kindly to strangers. It’s up to Russell to save his brother from the grips of the areas most terrifying criminals
Out of the Furnace is appealingly glum. Cooper finds beauty in the rolling hills and crumbling infrastructure of small town Pennsylvania, and the film fully embraces the derelict beauty of its settings, down to even the homes and the cars that the characters own. The film clearly prides itself on feeling authentic and it reaches its goals visually — at the very least.
The relationship between the brothers Baze also feels remarkably authentic. Both Bale and Affleck sell the relationship deftly, and have an almost tangible amount of on-screen chemistry that expresses their bond for each other in a way that no script could. This chemistry makes the scenes where Rodney has gone missing burn with terrific dramatic intensity.
There’s a quiet desperation in these people. Though they may be hopeful and happy in their set paths, there’s a feeling that they’re all walking along streets heading nowhere. America isn’t the land of opportunity anymore, not for the soldiers or the factory workers. The only thriving ones seem to be the criminals like Woody Harrelson’s Curtis Degroat, who is so overarchingly villainous that the only thing the character is missing is a dastardly moustache to twirl.
And this is the big issue with Out of the Furnace. While Harrelson’s performance is at times chilling, the script often dovetails Degroat into an overdone cartoon bad guy, and this weak characterization flows through a lot of the characters and seriously undermines a lot of the authenticity that the film believes itself to be built upon. There's a particularly groan-inducing scene where Degroat decries the human race in the gruffest voice he can muster. Woody’s Degroat character, and most of the others in the film, aren’t so much developed characters, but act more like clichéd archetypes in Cooper’s parable about a broken America. Degroat is simply the bad guy, and not characterized beyond that one-dimensional role in this story. Affleck’s wounded war veteran feels overwrought as well, with many of his scenes laying down the melodrama in thick sheets, particularly when he’s discussing the terrors he’s faced in the war oversees.
Out of the Furnace has a lot of things on its mind about the state of America’s small towns and working class heroes, but it doesn’t know the best way to express itself, and while some of it’s sentiments ring true others clank harshly like an off-note. The remarkable cast does its best to prop up a film that wants to tell a great American story, but it only manages to tell a fairly middling one.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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If there's one thing going to the movies has taught me over the years, it's not to get Christian Bale's bad side. In these exclusive pics from the film Out of the Furnace, Bale looks like he's getting good and ready to kick some teeth in. In the film, Russell Baze (Bale) is a man on a mission, seeking small-town American revenge when his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) goes missing and a local crime lord (a sneering Woody Harrelson) is suspect number one. Out of the Furnace, Scott Cooper's sophomore effort after Crazy Heart, looks to have all the trappings of a great thriller, with the two brothers' relationship remaining the beating heart of a film with revenge on its mind. Who's ready for a slide into the Rust Belt's murky underworld?
Check out these exclusive shots below:
It’s a sad day for the people of Pawnee.
In a seriously Eagleton-like move, NBC has sidelined Parks and Recreation until November 14, and will replace the upcoming episodes with a repeat of The Voice on October 24, an SNL clip show on Halloween, and finally, a live episode of The Voice on November 7. When the show does return in November, it will air back-to back episodes for two weeks before disappearing again all the way until January 9.
NBC is burning through its new shows like a historical Indiana fire and the network is scrambling to save what has been a disastrous TV season. Two of its new shows, Welcome to the Family and Ironside, have already been cancelled, while Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show continue to underperform. In the desperation to save face and ratings, Parks and Recreation has gotten lost in the shuffle.
NBC knows that the audience for Parks and Rec has grown as big as it ever will, and is banking that ratings juggernauts like The Voice will help attract viewers to the fledgling Sean Saves the World and Michael J. Fox Show. While this move makes good business sense, it is a bit of a disservice to fans that have been consistently tuning in to what has become one of NBC’s highest rated comedies. NBC knows that Park and Rec's small yet reliable audience will follow the show to whatever date or time slot it's dropped into, so it's not worried about delaying it for the rest of the year. It's unfortunate that the network is willing to play keep-away with one of its most critically acclaimed shows in order to save new programs which are, at this point, pretty much dead in the water. NBC should do whatever it can to protect its shows, but not at the expense of the show that has carried the network's Thursday night lineup on its back for the past couple seasons. It's like Li'l Sebastion has died all over again.
Presidents were this year's hot item on the big and small screens, but pop culture has always been obsessed with dressing up actors to look like the men who fill our text books. Inspired by 2012's trend, Hollywood.com has combed through cinematic history to whip up this handy infographic, chronicling decades of Presidential appearances in pop culture. In the end, one thing is clear: Futurama did a lot in the name of presidential representation.
Check below the image for the key, revealing the actor assigned to each president.
Click to Enlarge
David Morse as George Washington in John Adams
William Daniels as John Adams in 1776
Nick Nolte as Thomas Jefferson in Jefferson in Paris
Burgess Meredith as James Madison in Magnificent Doll
Morgan Wallace as James Monroe in Alexander Hamilton
Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams in Amistad
Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson in The President's Lady
Nigel Hawthorne as Martin Van Buren in Amistad
David Clennon as William Henry Harrison in Tecumseh (1994)
John Tyler in Futurama
James K. Polk in Futurama
James Gammon as Zachary Taylor in One Man's Hero
Millard Fillmore has never been portrayed
Franklin Pierce in Futurama
James Buchanan has never been portrayed
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln
Dennis Clark as Andrew Johnson in The Conspirator
Kevin Kline as Ulysses S. Grant in Wild Wild West
John DiMaggio as Rutherford B. Hayes in Futurama
Francis Sayles as James A. Garfield in The Night Riders
Maurice LaMarche as Chester A. Arthur in Futurama
Pat McCormick as Grover Cleveland in Futurama
Roy Gordon as Benjamin Harrison in Futurama
Pat McCormick as Grover Cleveland in Futurama
Brian Keith as William McKinley in Rough Riders
Robin Williams as Theodore Roosevelt in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Walter Massey as William Howard Taft in The Greatest Game Ever Played
Bob Gunton as Woodrow Wilson in Iron Jawed Angels
Warren G. Harding in Futurama
Calvin Coolidge in Futurama
Herbert Hoover in Futurama
Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park on the Hudson
Gary Sinise as Harry S. Truman in Truman
Tom Selleck as Dwight D. Eisenhower in Ike: Countdown to D-Day
Bruce Greenwood as John F. Kennedy Thirteen Days
Randy Quaid as Lyndon B. Johnson in LBJ: The Early Years
Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon in Dick
Dick Crockett as Gerald Ford in Pink Panther Strikes Again
Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Carter in Saturday Night Live
James Brolin as Ronald Reagan in The Reagans
James Cromwell as George H. W. Bush in W.
Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton in The Special Relationship
Timothy Bottoms as George W. Bush in That's My Bush!
Jordan Peele as Barack Obama in Key and Peele
[Photo Credit: Hollywood.com]
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