I first fell in love with Lisa Kudrow while watching Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. I had never encountered someone so enjoyably silly. It wasn't long after that I discovered the joys of Friends and Phoebe's similar eccentric silliness. Now that The Comeback has returned nine years after its first season, I'm reminded of that love. I couldn't decide which of her characters is my favorite though: Valerie or Phoebe?
Both ladies are respected for their dance moves.
Winner: Valerie. Phoebe's dance moves come off a little frightening, especially compared to the pure joy that radiates from Valerie while she dances the night away.
Both ladies have a flare for musical performances.
Winner: Phoebe. As much as we love watching Valerie cover Gloria Gaynor, we have to give props to the Central Park songstress for her ability to come up with creative songs that often made us cringe. She was able to develop rhymes for all of the names of her Friends, cover The Police in ways to persuade Ross, and even sang of darker things, like the death of grandparents and her mother's suicide. Val couldn't even sing without reading the lyrics.
Both understand the importance of physical fitness:
Winner: Phoebe. She actually exercises, and manages to have fun doing it, which we thought was impossible. Our approach to exercise is closer to Val's, which we suspect isn't doing much for our physical well-being.
Both ladies know how to get what they want from men.
Winner: Valerie. Phoebe may have Mike, but Valerie has Mark. Valerie also has Paulie G somehow creepily in love with her, which we can't decide if it's a good or bad thing, but it's getting her jobs, which is really all she wants anyway.
Both ladies have somewhat awkward approaches to sex.
Winner: We don't think anybody wins in this situation; we're just glad to have witnessed both of those moments.
Neither is afraid of using a little profanity when it's called for.
Winner: Phoebe. Valerie always seems a bit uncomfortable when she has to use foul language, yet Phoebe's Pac-Man-inspired outburst has such a beautiful quality to it; it's like watching a symphony conducted.
Neither lady is the greatest actress (sorry, Val).
Winner: Valerie. It's kind of a no contest, she has a People's Choice Award, after all. Phoebe's stint on Days of Our Lives ("DOOL," for those in the know) doesn't hold a candle to Valerie's career: I'm IT, Room and Bored, and now Seeing Red? It's a wonder she only has one PCA!
Most importantly, neither is afraid of looking a little silly.
Overall winner: anyone who has gotten to watch Lisa Kudrow's hilarious antics for the past 20 years.
This past season of Suits seems to have joined in on cable TV's trend of catering to the dwindling attention spans of viewers. At only six episodes long, it was one of the shortest TV seasons out there (though certainly not the shortest — the BBC runs three-episode seasons of Sherlock). But even though this method is becoming common practice, is it effective?
The hope is that short sesasons will provide tighter, more cohesive storylines — an absence of meandering fluff (something prevalent in network TV, thanks to seasons of 20 episodes or more). It's what's keeping the audience riveted, and it's also what's making binge-watching on services like Netflix, Amazon Streaming, or Hulu even more appetizing. Late to a series? You can burn through a season a day or two.
The question is, though, was six episodes too short, or did it hit the Goldilocks measurement of just right? To this viewer, this past season of Suits seemed more rushed, like they took conflict that could have been stretched out over the course of several episodes and crammed it all into an hour. Rick Hoffman' Louis Litt had a heart attack, proposed to his girlfriend and lost her all in the span of one single hour. Patrick J. Adams' Mike Ross waffled back and forth about leaving the firm for what seemed like too short a time. This season wasn't given space to breathe — a six-episode cap warranted longer individual broadcasts, in earnest. FX adds time to its episodes all the time (for example, Sons of Anarchy) and it has proven a more effective way to tell stories. The cost? Missing out on a rerun of Law & Order: SVU once a week. Not too big a price to pay,
Another big trend is the splitting of seasons into two parts. Breaking Bad's two eight-episode semi-seasons made the final run of the show feel stifled. The time between the setup for Walter White to put all his chess pieces in place and his vindication felt too rushed — an extra episode or two in the home stretch might have helped. As a result of the format, the series finale seemed to fly by to quickly, with the last 15 minutes cramming in what needed another hour at least.
Obviously, there's no one-size-fit-all for a season's length. Some want to have entire real seasons (winter, spring, summer) go by as they watch their shows while others may want to have the show wrapped up as quickly as possible so they can move onto the next thing. I tend to find that the sweet spot is at least 12 to 13 episodes. Just long enough to really be able to have some meat in the plot but not so long that they have a ton of fillers that move the main plot along at a glacier's pace (Supernatural, I'm looking at you). I just think that this season of Suits felt as though its jacket sleeves ended at the elbows its pant legs ended at the knees. Do a better job of tailoring next time.
Game Of Thrones author George R. R. Martin has gifted a superfan with a $30,000 (£18,750) life-sized iron throne. Martin gave away the throne to Mike Ross after calling out a random seat number as part of a raffle at a screening and panel discussion with the cast in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday (20Mar14).
Ross tells Reuters, "I have no idea where I'm going to put it. We'll make a little room for it."
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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It's the bitterest of winters and spring seems near and yet so far. Fear not, though, there's news that will brighten your day. Suits is coming back to TV in March. The sassy, snarky people of the constantly re-named law firm that employs Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) and Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) will be heating up your living room. Of course, the madness will all be overseen by Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), a good, strong woman boss who more than holds her own against the supposed boys club that is Law.
With all due respect to Almost Human's Kennex and Dorian, Specter and Ross have the best bromance on TV. Macht and Adams have great banter between each other despite events that strained their professional and personal friendships in the past. This must continue this season - it's part of the glue that really holds the show together. Of course, they can get mad at each other every now and then — the show needs drama, after all. But if it drags on too long, then the show loses some of its luster.
The character whose personal change works best is Litt. At the show's beginning, he was supposed to be the firm's resident jerk and foil for Specter and Ross. As the seasons have passed, he has slowly fleshed out into a really loyal person with his own code of honor. The events in last season's finale had him learning of Ross' duplicity regarding the fact that he had never attended Harvard Law School — or any law school for any matter. This is a fact that Pearson and Specter both know, but have kept under wraps. If the old, first season Litt re-emerges, all hell could break loose. I'd actually be very sad if that happened, since Hoffman has been turning in a consistently nuanced performance straddling the line of a comedic device and real person.
The fourth season is kind of a tricky one. By all accounts, it should really be hitting its stride and firing on all cylinders, since the cast is largely comfortable with each other. Then again, it has to also push some envelopes, so as not to become stale. The problem is, if they push in the wrong direction, then things can fall apart very, very quickly and it's hard to get viewers back after missteps. But if the cast keeps its cohesiveness, then that would go a long, long way.
That said, get ready for March 6. Spring and sunshine won't be too far behind. Time to get the suits out of storage.
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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Would Dr. Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) confess his love to Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew) before her wedding?
That was the question before the Grey's Anatomy winter finale. Kepner's marriage to Matthew (Justin Breuning) seemed forced.
Yeah, he's a nice guy, but the spark that Avery and Kepner shared was apparent.
Avery waited until the actual wedding. He delivered a moving plea to the redheaded bride in an "oh, damn" moment: "April, I love you. I always have. I love everything about you. Even the things I don't like, I love. And I want you with me. I love you, and I think that you love me too ... do you?"
But that wasn't the only part of the winter finale that raised eyebrows. Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Dr. Meredith Grey's (Ellen Pompeo) friendship is deteriorating.
"You know what Meredith ... go to hell. I have listened to your crap for weeks now and I'm not gonna stand here and take it any more."
Their fight over surgical competence and the importance of family has been brewing for a while. The only solution could be bare-knuckle boxing or a steel-cage match. Hair pulling would definitely be legal.
Speaking of Yang, her boy toy Dr. Shane Ross (Gaius Charles) is out of control. He's mean-spirited, edgy, reckless and disrespectful. All because he finally got some. His surgical mistake should get him in hot water, possibly even resulting in termination.
The other docs have OK story lines, but nothing really intriguing, although Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) could have a game changer thanks to a phone call from the President of the United States.
Kepner's response will be the juiciest outcome at all. Avery has played his hand and it will have a gigantic domino effect whether Kepner's answer is yes or no.
When Grey's Anatomy premiered, the steamy relationship between then-intern Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and superstud surgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) hooked the audience. It was wrong and hot and captivating. Since then, interns have been fodder for the elder docs, some resulting in relationships while others became regretful one-night stands.
The new batch of interns (now they're residents) has gotten plenty busy. Except for one. The timid Dr. Shane Ross (Gaius Charles) has missed out on the all the sexy fun that happens in the on-call room.
His time could come soon. Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) wields the power in this potential horizontal dance. She's on the prowl now that her marriage to Dr. Owen Hunt is finished. Ross confessed his interest earlier this season, but the dude is too shy. It was a half-hearted pass.
Yang took the first step by planting a big kiss on Ross after the resident defended her in an argument with Grey. A kiss is just a kiss. Will Ross step up and continue the Grey's Anatomy tradition?
So far, the other youngsters have gotten theirs. Dr. Jo Wilson is with Dr. Alex Karev. Dr. Stephanie Edwards and Dr. Jackson Avery are an item. Hell, Dr. Leah Murphy got with two doctors: Karev and Arizona Robbins.
Ross needs to get into the game. It won't happen till Yang continues the pursuit. Watching Ross kick game is like witnessing an inexperienced seventh grader talk up a high schooler. But Yang is in need.
The hookup could happen in the next episode. Or maybe not at all. We need to pull for Ross — every doctor needs some lovin'.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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As a fan of the Whedons (and Whedon-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen), I've happily been following Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the get-go. While its reviews have so far have stayed mostly in the moderate-to-mediocre category, I have high hopes. I think it just needs to find its footing – it's steadily improved week by week, after all.
But the aspect of the show that bothers me most? All of the ships! Don't get me wrong; I love shipping: I'll take your Nick and Jess and raise you a Ross and Rachel. But keep in mind, this show has six series regulars, and all are neatly paired off. I mean, that would be like if Monica and Chandler flirted from episode one, and Phoebe ended up marrying Joey instead of Mike. It even has built in shipper names…from the pilot on, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons have collectively been called FitzSimmons. And Skye and Ward, or rather, "SkyeWard" – come on.
There was hope – when the series first started, Fitz and Simmons seemingly platonic, brotherly/sisterly relationship was intriguingly unique. And I was quite pleased to see Fitz (very awkwardly) try to put the moves on Skye (because if there's anything better than shipping, it's ill-fated love triangles). But Simmons' near-death experience in "F.Z.Z.T" made it clear that she and Fitz are in looove.
In fact, this week's episode, "The Hub," only sought to increase their couple-y-ness. She frets over him as he goes on his first dangerous mission – she even makes him a sandwich, fer cryin' out loud. And don't even get me started on Ward and Skye: from his truth-serum induced admissions of her hotness, to her clunky comparisons of Ward to her ex-boyfriend Miles, you might as well hit us over the head with a frying pan. All that's not even mentioning May and Coulson: if their flirty innuendos and one-liners are any indication, we're slated to see Coulson and May fall for each other too.
What's the fix? I suppose spending your days on a jet (no matter how big that jet may be) with the same group of people would lead to some incestuous-feeling relationships. Maybe they need some juicy guest stars to join the team and shake things up a bit before mating for life like metaphorical swans.