Chris Hardwick has fashioned quite a nice career for himself by celebrating his geeky inclinations. And on Monday, Jan. 27, he played host to the reunion of the favorite troupe of many a comedy nerd: The State.
The episode of @midnight started with three comic contestants, just like any other — this time, The State veterans Michael Showalter, Kerri Kenney-Silver, and Michael Ian Black. As they off-handedly insulted their “absent” or possibly “dead” friends, each one of them popped up in the studio. Soon, all eleven members of group were on stage.
The venue makes sense, since Hardwick and The State are all survivors of '90s MTV and must have crossed paths in the hallways a few times. And that makes this episode of @midnight essential viewing for anyone who stayed up late to catch Singled Out or Black and Thomas Lennon as Barry and Levon, rubbing their butts in “$240 worth of pudding.”
If this is the jumping off point for a larger scale reunion, we now know what to expect. We'll get to hear our favorite catchphrases, for sure. Showalter was cut from the game first and reacted as his most famous character, disaffected teen Doug, certainly would have. ("I'm outta heee-reee.") And Ken Marino cut right to the chase when he was introduced, letting us know exactly what he wanted to do with Louie's famous ping pong balls. Joe Lo Truglio will probably wear a tux, as he has been ever since Brooklyn Nine-Nine won a couple of Golden Globes. And the comics will continue trying everything they can to make each other laugh. In the final round, when the contestants threw joke after joke at their straight-faced former costars, Michael Ian Black pointed out that it looked a lot like a The State pitch meeting.
For the love of Barry Lutz and everyone down at the Porcupine Racetrack, let's hope that this little get-together was a sign of bigger things to come.
Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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Last week’s episode of 30 Rock was largely devoted to bidding a fond farewell to a handful of beloved recurring characters: Devon Banks, Dr. Spaceman, Len Wosniak, and (to a lesser degree) Kylie Hooper. But behind the showmanship of these oddballs’ sendoffs, a few key plot points were sneaked into the show’s chronology: Liz decided that she would opt for the adoption of an older child, and Jack came out on top in the battle for the position of KableTown CEO.
But this week, both of our main characters have their bright futures challenged: Jack, still plagued by his mother’s ostensibly manipulative last words (“I just want you to be happy”), heads down to Florida to settle her estate. Liz tags along at the last minute, taking to heart Tracy’s admonition of her as too uptight and unwilling to live in the moment. Once down in the Sunshine State, Jack meets his Colleen’s housekeeper Martha, who regales him with stories of how joyful and gentle she knew Jack’s mother to be. Jack is at first suspicious that Martha is making up stories about a woman she didn’t even know, plausibly to con her way into Colleen’s inheritance. But it is Liz’s energized snooping that allows the realization that Colleen and Martha were, in fact, lovers.
The revelation, which Jack resists furtively, sparks Liz to question the nature of her own relationship with her longtime boss and friend. After dismissing Jack’s insistence that Colleen and Martha could have shared a platonic relationship despite spending every waking second together and even sharing a bed, Liz wonders why she and Jack — who have cohabited the sky highs and deep lows of past seven years — never pushed their rapport to the romantic, even once.
Through Liz and Jack’s exchange (the heat of said conversation bolstered by the duo's obligation to share a bed while staying in the late Colleen's Florida home), 30 Rock explores the very will-they-won’t-they that fans have kept alive since the beginning of the series. As Jack confirms, the pair’s unique, complicated friendship — one free of any sweeps weeks flings — is far more interesting than the standard, unimaginative alternative. But springing from this meta commentary comes further insecurity from Liz. Does Jack’s consistent lack of interest in her (when considered in opposition to his promiscuous nature) indicate that she is not an appealing person? Too serious and uptight, as Tracy had insisted earlier?
And once Jack does indeed come to terms with his mother's romantic arrangement, thus accepting her as a genuinely happy person later in life and, in turn, sincere in her final words to him, he begins to engage in a few big questions of his own. Is he really happy? Does he know how to be? Is becoming the CEO of KableTown what will actually grant Colleen's dying wish, or has he only been driven by compulsion rather than a conscious effort to live the life that will satisfy him the most?
But these problems are small potatoes compared to what Liz and Jack are in for when they return home. See, while the two levelheaded higher ups are away, and Pete is off at some glossed over convention, Tracy and Jenna take charge of TGS, instituting complete anarchy. The real trouble sets in when Hazel (ugh, yes, her) files a lawsuit against TGS, highlighting the leviathan of inappropriate conduct enacted by each and every member of the staff. While Tracy, Jenna, Frank, Lutz, and the rest of the amoral loons have no problem denying their behavior in a signed deposition, Kenneth finds himself at an ethical crossroads, wanting to tell the truth but wishing not to betray his friends. Seeing how troubling the ordeal is to Kenneth (who dons a leather jacket and a new ambivalence towards hard work, as he might as well give up his standards entirely), Tracy and Jenna employ their soft spots for the ambiguously aged grunt worker and encourage him to tell the truth. The whole truth. Every detail about all of the horrendous misdoings he has witnessed since working at TGS. And he does.
As such, as Liz finds out upon returning home, the final deed of a retiring Hank Hooper is to cancel TGS. All this just when she has agreed (again, on a whim, to prove herself not the tightly wound by-the-book bore that people seem to think she is) to adopt a pair of twins, without even consulting Criss. Dramatic stings all around.
It's kind of a pain that Hazel is at all a perpetrator of any major plot points in this show's conclusion, considering the derision that character's existence warrants. But this week's episode does tackle the sort of ideals that 30 Rock needs to explore in its final weeks. What will Liz do without her show? And what's to come of her hope of a family life in light of this news? What can Jack do to be happy, if not devote himself entirely to work? And what about Subhas? WHAT ABOUT SUBHAS?
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
The celebrity couple was in the city to support the St. Bernard Project, which provides relief for survivors of the 2005 disaster.
McCord has been on a fundraising mission for the charity recently, urging her Twitter.com followers to vote for the organisation to win the latest Pepsi Refresh Celebrity Challenge, which could land the project a $250,000 (£156,250) grant to build a wellbeing centre in the city.
And the 90210 star proved her dedication to the cause by taking boyfriend Lutz, along with her sister Angel, with her to New Orleans for a house building project.
In a post on his Twitter.com page, Lutz writes, "I'm here all weekend and we have a building goal of around the clock building five houses in seven days ending tomorrow on the 5th anniversary (of Hurricane Katrina)."