Sunday nights are always a great night for television, but this week, it seemed as if every channel had a major premiere, shocker or special event to brag about. Between the biggest Game of Thrones twist since the Red Wedding, the final season of Mad Men kicking off, and tweens screaming their heads off at the MTV Movie Awards, it's easy to get a bit overwhelmed by all of the TV options available, especially when you know that everyone in your office and Twitter feed will want to talk about nothing else. But rather than having to reveal that you didn't find a way to watch every single show that aired that night or avoid social media discussions until you're all caught up on the latest episode of Veep, we've created a handy run-down of all of the biggest Sunday night television moments to help you out. Whether it's the latest death on Game of Thrones or the strangest situation the Belchers have gotten themselves into, we've got all of the essential information about this weekend's must-see-TV and the best way to fake your way through a conversation about it. Let's start with the big ones:
MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!
Show: Game of ThronesWhat Everyone's Talking About: Joffrey died after being poisoned at his wedding feast, and Cersei thinks that Tyrion is to blame. Also, both Stannis and Ramsay Snow continue to be slightly unhinged and a little terrifying and Bran is still alive and still in the woods. But nobody really cares about that, Joffrey's dead! How to Fake It: Just sing "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead" when the topic comes up in conversation. Everyone will join in, we guarantee it. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Because Joffrey went out with an elaborate temper tantrum, this episode will have spawned more reaction .gifs than you could possibly imagine. Look for Joffrey pouring wine on Tyrion's head and Margaery's side eye to show up in a comment section very soon. Also, if everyone in your Twitter feed didn't make "burn" jokes when Loras put Jaime in his place, you need to follow new people. What Next?: Right now, the big question (for show-only fans, at least) is who killed Joffrey. Look for the Internet to abound with conspiracies, and for your more obnoxious Facebook friends to make status updates spoiling it for everyone. Honor the fallen king by pouring wine on their heads.
Show: Mad MenWhat Everyone's Talking About: On the final season premiere, Don went to Los Angeles in an attempt to find himself, and only found that Pete Campbell is still a complete tool. But he did meet Neve Campbell on the way home, so at least he's still got his charm and good looks. Peggy's breaking down under the pressure of both her professional and personal lives, and Joan took down Dan Byrd, only to be confronted by the realization that she is still undervalued and unappreciated at her job. How to Fake It: Attempt to pinpoint the exact moment that everyone watching the show stopped being madly in love with Don Draper, and instead started finding him kind of sad. Or just start talking about how Pete's the worst. Everyone wants to talk about that. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Ken Cosgrove's one-eyed earring toss is almost as great as his Season 6 jig.What Next?: We'd speculate as to whether or not Don will have an affair with this new woman, but he totally will, so the point is moot. It's more fun to try and predict which references to 1969 the show will shoehorn in. We've got our money on the Moon Landing, Led Zeppelin, and the Manson murders (after all, Megan is in LA).
Show: The MTV Movie AwardsWhat Everyone's Talking About: Awards-wise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the big winner of the night, and We're The Millers caused an "upset" when Will Poulter scored both Best Newcomer and Best Kiss. Mark Wahlberg spent most of his Generation Award speech cursing, and everyone was strangely obsessed with Mila Kunis' baby bump. Oh, and Zac Efron took his shirt off, because that's what Zac Efron does now. How to Fake It: Ask if anyone caught the clip from The Fault in Our Stars that aired during the broadcast. If they don't immediately burst into tears over the beauty of Hazel and Gus' relationship, they'll probably launch into a rant about how twee and pretentious that book is. Either way, you don't have to say anything more. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Shirtless Zac Efron. Considering how many pictures, GIFs and videos of that moment are online already, nobody else needed to bother showing up to the awards last night. What Next?: Remember that period of time between 2006 and 2009 when the whole world was obsessed with Zac Efron, to the point where it started to get a little uncomfortable? Yeah, we're heading back into that phase, and this time, it's going to be a lot weirder for everyone involved. It's a good thing you never forgot all the words to the High School Musical soundtrack.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Show: Veep What Everyone's Talking About: Selina's presidential campaign is officially and secretly underway, with Dan and Amy still vying for the role of campaign manager. Jonah has decided to reinvent himself as a political blogger, a job which requires him to scream insults into several cameras while wearing hideous sweaters and to bug Selina's staff for gossip. The POTUS drops a bombshell about his position on abortion, which forces Selina to scramble to find a response that will keep her voter-friendly. How to Fake It: If anyone attempts to segue a discussion of the episode into a discussion about real-world politics, call them some of the many names that have been lobbed at Jonah over the years. They will either change the subject in order to join in or they will get so offended they will never speak to you again. Either way, you win. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Dan has a mini-breakdown over Selina's reluctance to pick a position, jumping and screaming and flailing his arms at the whiteboard in her office, before hunting Jonah down and shoving a breakfast burrito into his face. You need that in GIF form, trust us. What Next?: Selina is hitting the campaign trail, so it's time to place bets on how many people she will manage to offend per episode, or how many times Jonah will get punched this season. Those are the real issues.
Show: Bob's Burgers What Everyone's Talking About: Television's weirdest family took on possibly the strangest sub-culture around today, Bronies, when Tina heads to an Equestranauts convention, only to find that the other attendees are grown men. After one of them tricks Tina out of her favorite pony, Chariot, Bob decides to go undercover as a "Equisticle" and get his daughter her horse back. Yes, that involves him dressing up as a giant purple horse. How to Fake It: Bring up the fact that Bob's Burgers took on Bronies. If they know what a Brony is, watch them shudder in response. If they don't, explain it to them, and delight in the looks of horror your receive in response. Either way, someone will change the subject very quickly. Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Everything about that Equestraunauts convention. The Internet will never be the same again. What Next?: The only Bob's Burgers-related question worth asking is when the soundtrack is going to be released. How can they expect us to live in a world without a full version of Linda's "Harry Truman" hair-braiding song? And where is our copy of the best selling Boyz 4 Now album?
Show: The Good Wife What Everyone's Talking About: Not much, actually. Turns out that if a character isn't getting killed off in a dramatic fashion, people don't really care about what's going on with Alicia Florrick. This week, she's still recovering from Will's murder, although she has finally admitted to Peter that she was in love with Will. How to Fake It: Just pretend you were watching Game of Thrones instead. Everyone else was.Most Internet-Friendly Moment: Let's be real: your Twitter feed was dedicated entirely to Joffrey's death. Nobody knows what happened on The Good Wife. What Next?: Uh... Michael J. Fox is coming back sometime soon?
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.
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
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.
Easy A a teen sex comedy with no actual sex aims rather conspicuously to plumb the best bits of Diablo Cody and Alexander Payne in its upside-down self-consciously campy take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In the role of its high-school Hester Prynne is Emma Stone the sly husky heroine of last year’s surprise hit Zombieland. Tested by a film that is far less clever than its director Will Gluck or screenwriter Bert Royal would have us believe (and they desperately want us to believe) she passes with flying colors delivering a performance that should elevate her into the upper echelon of actresses possessing brains and beauty in equal measure.
Stone plays Olive the kind of quick-witted hyper-literate teen that our educational system produces in ever-diminishing numbers. (If it ever produced them to begin with.) More knowing and sophisticated than others her age she is nonetheless not immune to the pressure of peers and the dread of being labeled a loser. Under duress by a prying friend (Aly Michalka) to dish the details of her birthday weekend a rather mundane affair mainly spent jumping on her bed to the tune of Natasha Bedingfield’s pop monstrosity “Pocket Full of Sunshine ” she feels compelled to embellish a bit and concocts an entirely fictional account of losing her virginity (dubbed the “V-Card” by Royal trying too hard) to a boy from a junior college across town.
Word of Olive’s deflowering spreads with startling speed aided by the incessant rumor-mongering of a catty Evangelical eavesdropper (Amanda Bynes). Suddenly branded a tramp on account of a seemingly harmless little lie Olive opts to embrace her newly tarnished reputation and put it to good use. In a viciously stratified social environment where even the most awkward acne-plagued pariah can earn respect and even admiration from members of the upper castes for having gone All the Way Olive anoints herself the Mother Theresa of (fake) sluts bestowing her blessing upon downtrodden gents in need of a reputation boost. And she resolves to look the part too traipsing around in scandalous bustiers and affixing the letter “A” to her chest.
There are limits to Easy A’s Scarlet Letter conceit overly Glee-ful tone forced repartee and pop-culture references (John Hughes is invoked so many times he should get a producer credit). Which is why director Gluck must be grateful to have found Stone who handles the verbal calisthenics of Royal’s script with charm and verve and a certain effortless appeal that keeps us engaged even as the film wallows in contrived irony and heavy-handedness. Keep your eye on her.