NBC's The New Normal is a delightful show about a not very ordinary gay couple trying to have a surrogate daughter with a strange woman who has an oddball child and an unbelievably bigoted (and funny) grandmother. NeNe Leakes is also somehow involved. As much as it would like us to believe that this is the way the world works today, like most Ryan Murphy shows it is really a celebration of the oddities within all of us. Therefore this weekly feature is both a celebration (and indictment) of all the abnormality contained within it.
Normal: Wanting to do something to get ahead in your career.
Abnormal: Having Matt Bomer shirtless in your apartment and wanting to work on your Smallville spec script instead.
Normal: Watching a sexy movie to get in the mood.
Abnormal: Sorry, straight people don't watch Y Tu Mama Tambien to get in the mood.
Normal: Wanting to have a big family.
Abnormal: Wanting to have three children. No one wants three. They want one or two or like 20, but three? That's how you end up with an awful middle child like Lady Edith.
Normal: Turning schoolyard enemies into eventual friends.
Abnormal: Ever living down the nickname Debbie Dumper.
Normal: Getting advice on how to stop bullies.
Abnormal: Getting advice from a Real Housewife on how to stop bullies. Nene Leakes knows something about beating down mean girls as an adult, now doesn't she?
Normal: Getting to know each other on a first date.
Abnormal: No one admits to being Intersex on a first date. That's nuts.
Normal: A gay man on roller blades.
Abnormal: Finding a gay man on roller blades attractive.
Normal: Fixing up your sad sack friend with a potential mate.
Abnormal: No homosexual on earth would set their sad sack friend up with Matt Freakin' Bomer.
Normal: Having a drag queen teach you about reading.
Abnormal: No drag queen reading tutorial starts without quoting Paris Is Burning.
Normal: Hanging out with people your own age.
Abnormal: That means even though he is Matt Freakin' Bomer that Frank Ocean probably doesn't want to be chilling with him.
Normal: Shaving your hairy belly.
Abnormal: Gay men don't shave, they wax.
Normal: Gay men being versatile.
Abnormal: Being versatile does not mean you hold each other's feet while doing sit ups.
Normal: Exercising in your own house with a shirt off.
Abnormal: If my body looked like Matt Freakin' Bomer's, I wouldn't ever wear a shirt either.
Normal: Telling a shirtless man you're trying to have a conversation with to put on some clothes.
Abnormal: I'm sorry, no gay man would ever tell Matt Freakin' Bomer to put his shirt back on. Never.
Normal: A throw-down reading scene with "To Be Real" in the background.
Abnormal: They finally got something right!
Normal: Wanting to sell children's clothes at the farmers' market.
Abnormal: Doing that and not having someone rich to support you because no one wants to buy those ugly damn clothes.
Normal: Eight-year-olds wanting each other to read The Hunger Games.
Abnormal: Eigh-year-olds wanting each other to read Germaine Greer. Even I don't want to read that!
Normal: Matt Freakin' Bomer having any gay man he wants.
Abnormal: I'm sorry, there is no way Matt Freaking' Bomer would ever get with Gary. Not in a heartbeat. Has Ryan Murphy ever met a gay?
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Vivian Zink/NBC]
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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.