Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the squadroom comedy starring Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, is the best new situation comedy of 2013. However, given that its competition includes shows like The Millers and the recently-canceled Welcome to the Family, that's not saying a whole lot. The show at this point is good but not great, although it's been showing signs of improvement after an awkward first couple of episodes. And series creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor obviously have experience in making improvements on a series that had a rocky start: they came to this show from Parks and Recreation, which went from an absolutely terrible first season to becoming the sharpest, funniest and sweetest comedy on TV. (By the way: up yours, NBC, for putting Parks on hiatus until 2014.) So what cues can the showrunners take from their former series to make Brooklyn Nine-Nine better still?
Open Up The Characters
Now that the leading characters have their basic traits down, let's see them expand on them. Samberg's Jake Peralta is supposedly a cocky slacker who gets results, but for the most part, they've forgotten the second half of that. Show us that, like Parks and Rec's Leslie Knope, Jake is really good at his job. Similarly, giving more layers to Braugher's Captain Ray Holt, who so far has been so stoic that he makes Ron Swanson look like Chris Trager (to continue the Parks and Rec comparisons), would give Braugher more to work with.
Juice Up The Support Team
There is a potentially great supporting cast here, but so far, their characters haven't been given enough depth. The worst offender is hapless Detective Boyle; though I've been a fan of Joe Lo Truglio since his days with The State back in the early '90s, Boyle is so far a one-note character. Similarly, Stephanie Beatriz's Detective Diaz and Melissa Fumero's Detective Santiago haven't been able to expand beyond their initial descriptions as The Tough Cookie and The Overachiever. Only Chelsea Peretti as the snarky administrator Gina and Terry Crews as Sgt. Jeffords, a former hard case who has lost his edge since his wife had twins, have shown much dimension. Recent episodes where these supporting characters have had the opportunity to bounce off each other have been promising, such as a subplot where Boyle helps Jeffords build a dollhouse for his daughters. The show needs more of this.
Fox clearly has faith in the series, which last week was given next February's coveted post-Super Bowl slot alongside an episode of New Girl. And the series has been showing steady improvement in quality if not ratings. Giving it a better lead-in than the disappointingly unfunny Dads (a show that's wasting an amazing cast with terrible scripts) would be a help, too. Shifting Brooklyn Nine-Nine to 8PM, followed by Raising Hope, then New Girl and The Mindy Project, would be a solid evening of comedy.
"We were at a little coffee shop near the studio and Kim walked in at some point and said, 'I'm flying home tomorrow'. She quit the band. It was an awkward moment. We didn't hug or shake hands or anything. Joey (Santiago) and I just stood up and said, 'OK'. Then we had to get out of there, so we immediately went to a bar. I had to move from coffee to alcohol." Pixies frontman Black Francis on how he and guitarist Joey Santiago dealt with Kim Deal's decision to leave the band earlier this year (13).
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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If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
S01E03: Call me a sucker for bank robberies and broken hearts, but tonight’s episode of Person of Interest is a step up from the last two weeks. And this conclusion is based entirely on two separate lines in the episode—one spoken by Finch, one by Reese.
Tonight’s episode picks up the “Here’s this week’s case” theme less than two minutes in. Finch awakens in his apartment to see Reese standing over him, feeling guilty about blowing his cover at the company last week—or at least claiming to. We quickly move from any particle of continuity into the weekly mission: the machine has singled out Joey Durban (James Carpinello) a former soldier working as a doorman and involved in a long-term relationship.
"If Joey’s bad choices mean he’s about to walk into a bullet, we have to find out who is firing it." - Finch
Reese tails Joey for a while, noticing nothing of interest until the latter participates in a (successful, and nonviolent) bank robbery with a few other men. After the robbery, Reese follows Joey to a rendezvous with a young woman, to whom he sees him give an envelope of money. Finch and Reese surmise that Joey is likely cheating on his girlfriend with this woman.
Through some high-level surveillance work and information gathering (there is nothing these two men cannot see/find out), Finch and Reese figure out that the other men with whom Joey robbed the bank also served with him in the war.
One is a cabdriver—Finch plants some illegal weaponry in the man’s trunk and has him arrested. Reese goes “undercover” as a soldier looking for work and speaks with the head of the crime syndicate (syndiquette, really) who gets Joey & co. their heist jobs—for the benefit of the finder’s fee. Through some trickery, Reese convinces the man, Sam Latimer (Ruben Santiago) to link him up with Joey and the team. Of course, they don’t give him a warm welcome. They throw a bag over Reese’s head, drive him out to a back alley and point a gun in his face. Reese can tell that Joey does not intend to kill him—he’s not a murderer. This cements the idea that Joey must be the victim (as the machine chose him, so he’s either a potential murderer or a potential murderee). Reese also manages to convince the soldiers to let their guard down about him, at least to some degree.
Reese decides to get close to Joey to better solve the case. He “bumps into him” at a bar, and the two discuss war. Joey goes off on a speech, questioning the purpose of the war and berating the big businesses that profit while men like him come back to squalor. This instigates a couple of blue collar jackasses, provoking them to put down soldiers in general. Reese responds by knocking one out, and Joey does the same to the other. The scene…well, I guess it helped to characterize Joey, a little. And it brought Reese and Joey a lot closer. But it seemed more intent on illustrating just how big a jackass the writers think every banker and big business employee is.
Anyway, Reese begins following another member of the heist team: Straub (Keith Nobbs) who approaches Latimer for a job opportunity and seems to be considering killing his partners so that he could get a larger sum of money per job to pay his gambling debts/mother’s rent money.
"You can't cure someone of guilt." - Reese
Another heist takes place—of a casino, this time—and Reese is on board. He wears his direct-to-Finch headset, so he knows exactly when the cops are coming (and leading the cops is, of course Detective Carter, who caught a “glimpse” of Reese on the security camera in the bank robbed earlier). The gang escapes, but Straub is livid that they were unable to get the money.
Finch and Reese find out (through investigation and conversation, respectively) that the woman Joey is supporting is not a lover, but the lover an old soldier friend for whose death Joey feels responsible. The two had a daughter together, and Joey is dedicated to putting her through college.
Although Reese admires Joey for this, he tells him that he must be more present with his girlfriend. Here, Reese is channeling his own inner turmoil. We get a few flashbacks through the episode of Reese bumping into his ex, Jessica, who he finds out is engaged. But we’ll get to that.
"I waited six years for him to come home and it's like he's still over there." - Joey's girlfriend
Before the last heist, Reese pays a visit to Joey’s girlfriend, telling her just how much her boyfriend loves her, but also telling her that “there are other fish in the sea” if it doesn’t work out. Kind of a mixed message; I'm not too sure what he’s trying to drive home there.
The group, Reese included, pulls one more heist. Finch manages to find out and inform Reese of the fact that Latimer is setting them all up and plans to kill all of them. Latimer does manage to kill Straub, but flees the scene when Carter and co show up.
Reese gives Joey his share of the heist money and convinces him to leave town with his girlfriend, which he does.
"The truth is, it was easier for you to be alone." - Jessica
This channels the final flashback: Reese’s ex telling him that if he put himself out there and asked her to wait for him, that she would. She can’t take how protective of his feelings he is, and she needs him to be more open. He can’t bring himself to ask her, so she leaves. But once she’s gone, he mutters, “Wait for me. Please,” teary eyed. Sure, it’s not exactly never-been-done, but it’s powerful enough to make Reese’s character all the more valuable. That, by the way, is one of the two lines that made this episode an improvement.
The other comes from Finch after Reese heads to Latimer’s apartment to take him out — finding that someone else already has. When Reese investigates this, he comes up with the name “Elias,” which Finch claims he knows nothing about, but he’ll “look into it.” This means one thing: a continuous arc. Continuity! A larger story! THAT is what this series needs, beyond episodic mysteries. This is promising.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.