In our quest to bring you the best TV content, sometimes we have to look... backwards. That's why we have Thursday TV Throwback, wherein each week our staff of pop culture enthusiasts will be tasked with bringing back some of the best television clips that have been forgotten by time, space and the general zeitgeist.
This week, we decided to take our quest to the big leagues — during last week's FX Upfronts, we asked some of the network's biggest stars what scared the crap out of them as children. From Sons of Anarchy to Justified to Legit, we grilled em' all. Read on, as their answers might surprise you...
Rob McElhenney, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "It. Stephen King's It. Tim Curry played Pennwise the clown, and it was horrific. I don't know why he didn't do more stuff. He should have been a romantic lead. He's a great actor!"
Theo Rossi, Sons of Anarchy: "Stephen King's It, easy. He was a clown with yellow teeth, I mean... I have nightmares, but they're not about clowns."
Glenn Howerton, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "V. V and V: The Final Battle. Enough said."
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Jim Jefferies, Legit: "TV-wise, H.R. Pufnstuf scared me. He was just creepy, H.R. Pufnstuf. And the talking trees, and the witch with the nose... it just didn't sit with me."
*Jacob Pitts, Justified: "Just after Sesame Street... I don't know what it was... in retrospect I think it was a staged opera of some kind. It was very hard for my three-year-old mind to understand. It wasn't Zoobilee Zoo. It was adults, in plastics, screaming. Which makes me think it was an opera. I saw it as people on a boat, screaming. That terrified me."
*ED Note: We do not know what he is talking about, but it sounds awful.
Kim Coates, Sons of Anarchy: "My dad used to do some bad things to me, man. He would watch black and white horror nights. I was about 6-7 years old, and my dad would go '[makes ghost noise] The Shadow knows!' Scared the s**t right out of me. I mean, Dad! Then he'd make up to me and say, "It's okay, it's just Dad." So yeah, black and white stuff.'
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[Photo Credit: Warner Bros Television]
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When Austin’s winters fail to produce even the slightest chill, as is currently the case, I find myself, without fail, recalling a certain scene from one of my favorite films. An old Russian sea captain, his eyes fixed on the horizon, stands on the deck of his vessel, a nuclear submarine, and returns a trivial remark about the cold weather to one of his officers. In that moment, it is clear that the elements are the last thing on his mind as he consequently and irreversibly captivates us. That scene is from 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, and we hope you’ll consider giving it a spin via Netflix’s Instant Watch service.
Who Made It: The Hunt for Red October was directed by John McTiernan, who is best known for giving us the action film standard that is Die Hard. McTiernan also gave the ultimate mercenaries-vs-aliens film with 1987’s Predator. The Hunt for Red October is a decidedly different film for him, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Who’s In It: Easily one of the biggest draws of The Hunt for Red October is its tremendous cast, in terms of both size and excellence. The cast is lead by the incomparable Sean Connery and a baby-faced Alec Baldwin. In addition, the film boasts Sam Neil, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, Stellan Skargard, and Jeffrey Jones. Usually Quentin Tarantino has to be involved to wrangle this much talent in one film.
What’s It About: Taking place in 1984, still very much in the midst of the Cold War, The Hunt for Red October is the story of a Russian nuclear submarine, The Red October, equipped with an experimental new propulsion system that allows it to run almost completely silently. The captain of this submarine disobeys his direct orders and makes a b-line for U.S. waters. When alerted to this, the Navy scrambles to mount a counteroffensive and blow The Red October out of the water. But is this rogue Russian sub captain out to initiate World War III, or is he, as one you analyst suggests, trying to defect and hand the sub over to America?
Why You Should Watch It:
The Hunt for Red October is one of several films based on a novel by Tom Clancy, a man who specializes in political and military thrillers. More specifically, it is the first of four Clancy adaptations to revolve around his recurring character Jack Ryan, played in this initial outing by Alec Baldwin (the role would later be played by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears). Alec Baldwin’s depiction is my favorite—his Ryan is a lovable fish-out-of-water who gets more assertive as the film progresses. As an analyst, you might doubt his heroic capacity at first, but by the time he cuts himself free of the helicopter tether, plunging himself dangerously into the ocean rather than delaying his mission, your doubts will be thoroughly assuaged.
Let me be as clear about this as I possibly can: any film featuring Sean Connery is worth seeing. Even the dreadful Avengers is worth one viewing thanks to him. Yeah, I said it. Connery plays Marko Ramius, the rebellious captain of the Red October. He plays the character with so many remarkable facets, not the least of which is his dizzying cunning. He makes reference at one point to playing a game of chess, and that parallel is quite apt considering Connery’s character always seems to be thinking several moves ahead. It is fascinating to watch his plan unfold.
The Hunt for Red October is a magnificent thriller, but one that interestingly incorporates conventions of the genre into a cerebral military strategy film; again, the chess metaphor is upheld. But just when you might expect the film to list into tedium, that’s when an unexpected murder or a shootout or a submarine battle sequence will crop up. Not so much to win back your attention, but as a reminder of the stakes at play in this dangerous game. At the risk of alienating any female readership, The Hunt for Red October is one of the quintessential “guy movies.” I’m not at all saying that women won’t appreciate it, but it’s a film focused on warfare, Scotch-swilling, constantly asserting dominance over one’s peers, and Sean Connery’s badassery. Yup, that about sums up what we look for in film. You win again, John McTiernan.
Find more recommendations in our past For Your Consideration columns!
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.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.