Looks like they won't be "live from New York" any longer. After a difficult, uneven season that saw an influx of new cast members, controversy and the loss of Head Writer and "Weekend Update" host Seth Meyers halfway through the year, Saturday Night Live is by cutting down its slate of featured players down to a more manageable size. Brooks Wheelan announced that he would be leaving Tuesday morning on Twitter (via a joke, natch). Later in the day, it was announced that Noël Wells and John Milhiser also wouldn't return after they failed to make an impression with audiences this year. Those announcements come about a month after Nasim Pedrad, one of the current longest-running cast members, would be leaving to work on Mulaney.
But just because they won't be on SNL any longer, that doesn't mean that it's the last we'll ever see of Wheelan, Wells, Milhiser and Pedrad. There are plenty of people who only lasted a couple of seasons on the show and then went on to become major stars: Sarah Silverman, Damon Wayans, Rob Riggle, and Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., to name just a few. With that in mind, we decided to take a look back at their tenure on SNL in order to best predict what's next for Wheelan, Wells, Milhiser and Pedrad. Although if any one of them is going to wind up playing a superhero, our money's on Heshy.
Brooks Wheelan What’s Next: Wheelan doesn’t have a lot lined up at the moment, though he does have a short film titled Lose Yourself, Save Yourself, where he plays Fighter 2. His Strengths: Possibly because he comes from a standup background rather than a sketch one, Wheelan didn’t create very many memorable characters, and his most significant moments on the show were his two appearances as himself on “Weekend Update,” where he would warn audiences against the dangers of getting terrible tattoos and binge drinking. Where We See Him: Wheelan seems to embody the same kind of “goofy, wisecracking All-American” guy that actors like Jake Johnson or fellow SNL alum Jason Sudeikis trade on. We could easily see him bringing some of the energy to a sitcom where he plays the sarcastic straight guy to a group of off-the-wall characters. Still, his weirdly funny exterminator bit with Ed Norton proves he’s capable of some truly strange characters, and so we could see him playing smaller, supporting roles in films for a while as a variety of strange, obnoxious characters. And of course, there’s always his stand up career to fall back on…
Noël Wells What’s Next: Wells has the TV series Gentleman Lobsters, which is slated for a 2014 premiere. She’s also a photographer in her spare time, and her work has been showcased in exhibitions and been printed in magazines. Her Strengths: Though they were slightly hit and miss – her Nancy Grace was four minutes of eye twitches and catchphrases – Wells made the biggest impact on the show through her impressions, most notably, playing Lena Dunham in the season premiere’s parody of Girls. Where We See Her: Though her talent with impressions and slightly offbeat characters would serve her well on another sketch show, something along the lines of Inside Amy Schumer or Key and Peele, Wells most reminds us of two other early SNL departures: Jenny Slate and Casey Wilson. Like them, Wells has a quirky charm to her that would serve her well in indie films (she actually earned solid reviews for her work in last year’s Forev) and in an ensemble sitcom, where she would be free to play up her weirder side.
John Milhiser What’s Next: Like Wheelan, Milhiser has a short film on his slate, Little Horribles, and he also starred in the indie film Camp Takota, which is available online. His Strengths: Milhiser didn’t get much of a chance to make an impression on audiences, although eh did show off a pitch-perfect Jon Cryer impression during a Family Feud sketch. He did, however, have one highlight during his tenure, a sketch where he and Lady Gaga played “encouraging” stage parents helping their child through a talent show performance, which let him show off his goofier side, and his ability to execute a high kick. Where We See Him: Milhiser strikes us as a Ben Falcone or Nat Faxon-type, someone who pops up in different things all the time, playing characters with varying levels of insanity and oddity. He’s definitely shown that he can play both weird and silly characters, but since he didn’t make that much of an impression, he’ll probably be “that guy from that thing” for a while, until he manages to find the right project to help him break out.
Nasim Pedrad What’s Next: After five years on SNL, Pedrad is leaving in order to play Jane, the roommate of John Mulaney’s character on the FOX sitcom Mulaney. Her Strengths: During her time on the show, Pedrad played a wide variety of characters, including Kim Kardashian, Arianna Huffington, Bedelia, the awkward teenager whose best friend is her mother and Shallon, the world’s most dangerous fifth grader. Though she never made the kind of impression that Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon have, she’s become a vital part of the ensemble over the past five years, thanks to her ability to inhabit both the sanest and the oddest human beings. Where We See Her: Hopefully, her role on Mulaney will be exactly what she needs to properly break out, since she never quite managed to on SNL. From there, we could see her following a similar career path to Wiig or Tina Fey, playing both broad comedy and more serious roles in both television in movies. Alternatively, she could become more of a Michaela Watkins/Ana Gasteyer- type, and becoming the go-to actress for slightly odd, scene-stealing characters.
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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The Amazing Spider-Man would prefer if you didn't call it the fourth Spider-Man movie. See this ain't the Spider-Man your older brother knew from ten years ago — it's a reboot. The latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger throws three movies worth of established mythology straight out the window swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and resetting the franchise with a spiffy new origin story. "New" in the loosest sense of the word — the highlights of ASM mainly a sleek new design and spunky reinterpretation of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and gal pal Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are weighed down by overpowering sense of familiarity. Nearly a beat for beat replica of the 2002 original with some irksome twists of mystery thrown in Amazing Spider-Man fails to evolve its hero or his quarrels. The film has a great sense of cinematic power but little responsibility in making it interesting.
We're first introduced to Peter Parker as a young boy watching as his parents rush out of the house in response to a hidden danger. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave their son in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) who raise him into Andrew Garfield's geeky cool spin on the character. Parker's a science whiz but faces the challenges of every day life — passing classes talking to girls the occasional jock with aggression issues — but all of life's woes are put on hold when the teen discovers a new clue in the mystery behind his parents' disappearance. The discovery of his dad's old briefcase and notes leads Peter to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a scientist working for mega-conglomerate Oscorp and his Dad's old partner. When they cross paths Connors instantly takes a liking to the wunderkind and loops him into the work he started with his father: replicating the regeneration abilities of lizards in amputee humans (Connors is driven to reform his own missing arm). But when Parker wanders into Oscorp's room full of spiders (a sloppily explained this-needs-to-be-here-for-this-to-happen device) he receives his legendary spider bite that transforms him into the hero we know.
Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) desperately wants Amazing Spider-Man to work as a high school relationship movie but with the burden of massive amounts of plot and mythology to introduce the movie sags under the sheer volume of stuff. Stone turns Parker's object of affection Gwen Stacey into a three-dimensional character. Whenever they happen upon each other an awkward exchange in the hallway a flirtatious back-and-forth in the Oscorp lab (where Stacey is head…intern) or when the two finally begin a romantic relationship the two stars shine. They're vivid characters chopped to bits in the editing room diluted by boring franchise-building plot threads and routine action sequences. Seriously Amazing Spider-Man another mad scientist villain who uses himself as a test subject only to become a monster? And another bridge rescue scene? Amazing Spider-Man desperately wants to disconnect from the original trilogy but it's trapped in an inescapable shadow and does nothing radical to shake things up. Instead it settles for the same old same old while preparing for inevitable sequels instead of investing in its dynamic duo.
There's a sweet spot where the film really hits his stride. After discovering his spider-abilities Peter hits the streets for the first time. He's superhuman but still a headstrong teen full of obnoxious quips and close calls with shiv-wielding thugs. The action is slick small and playful Webb showing us something new by melding his indie sensibilities with big scale action. If only it lasted — the introduction of Ifans reptilian half The Lizard implodes Amazing Spider-Man into incomprehensible blockbuster chaos. A gargantuan beast wreaking havoc around New York City promises King Kong-like escapades for the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man but the lizard man has other plans: to rule the world! Or something. Whatever it takes to get Lizard and Spider-Man fighting on the top of a skyscraper over a doomsday machine — logic be damned.
Amazing Spider-Man peppers its banal foundation with great talent from Denis Leary as Gwen's wickedly funny dad and the police captain hunting down Spider-Man to Fields and Sheen as two loving adults in Peter's life to Garfield and Stone whose chemistry demands a follow-up for the sake of seeing them reunited. But it's all at the cost of putting on the most expensive recreation of all time with new demands imposed by the success Marvel's other properties (except that franchise teasing worked). Amazing Spider-Man introduces too many ideas that go nowhere undermining the actual threat at hand. No one wants to be unfulfilled but that's the overriding difference between the original movie and the update. You need to pay for the sequel to know what the heck is going on in this one.
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.