The Mindy Project is on the bubble. In other words, send help! The show has struggled out of the gate, but it's managed to hold on for one and a half, lovely, hilarious seasons. And we want – nay, need – a third.
The show has too much to offer before it goes riding off into the sunset – it's too young to die, and here's a few reasons why:
* Brendan DeLaurier: I may or may not have an obsession with Brendan – he's my favorite of Mindy's exes (so move on over, shoe store mogul Casey and oral surgeon Bill Hader). His reaction to Maria Menounos' rendition of "Santa Baby" ("You were offering up your womanhood to Santa in exchange for material gifts!") may just be one of my favorite lines on the show, ever. Heck if Danny Castellano wasn't on the scene, I'd be pulling for a reunion: his douchey pretentiousness is unparalleled in its hilarity.
* Peter and Morgan Forever: As Danny and Mindy have grown closer and closer, Peter and Morgan have spent a lot of recent storylines together (guess fifth-wheel castmate Dr. Reed has his unhealthy relationship with food to keep him company). Even better, they've been thrown together by mutual shipping of Mindy and handsome-lawyer-Cliff – they spent the entirety of "You've Got Sext" sending him … you guessed it, sexts from her phone, and they recently (heartwrenchingly) convinced him to get back together with her following their break-up. And watching them suffer through the dulcet strains of Cliff sobbing along to Jewel through the air vents? A+.
* Will-They-Won't-They?: No good romantic comedy is complete without a will-they-won't-they couple, and The Mindy Project has the ace in the hole with that one. Mindy and Danny started out quite adversarial, but have grown closer and closer as friends, and in the midseason finale, they finally kissed. But it's far too soon for it all to be peaches and cream – Mindy even hinted at the fact that their impromptu airplane makeout may lead to some regret; so it looks like the two are in for some more turbulence. And we need them to be able to see them through their bumpy ride to happily ever after.
The Mindy Project is a show that's only improved with time (I'm not even going to make the standard "fine wine" joke) and our lives simply wouldn't be the same without it.
Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
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In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
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DC Comics / Splash News
Ben Affleck is sure having a love affair with the comic books these days. After taking the role as the caped crusader in the upcoming Batman/Superman film, the actor/director is teaming up with his old buddy Matt Damon to bring another comic series to the big screen. The dynamic duo is producing a film version of Ed Brubraker’s comic book Sleeper. A couple of television writers, Shawn Ryan and David Wiener (from The Shield and The Killing respectively) will pen the screenplay.
Sleeper follows a secret operative who losses his sense of pain and gains a Wolverine-esque healing factor from an alien artifact that allows him to bounce back after otherwise grave injuries. He can also pass his powers on to other people.
However, it seems that Affleck will too busy backing this picture and zip-lining through Gotham to make time for other things, including a remake of the critically-acclaimed French thriller Tell No One. Affleck dropped his directorial position on the remake all the way back in August, but that project has just now found a new helmer in the form of Warrior director Gavin O'Connor. Tell No One's dense and layered thrills would have benefited from Affleck's deft directoral hand; it's doubly a shame that Affleck couldn't find the time for the film since it would have reunited him with Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio. But hopefully Terrio and O'Connor can do the film's remake justice.
S4E1: Tonight's premiere of Parks and Recreation kicked off with a reminder that the show's unlike any other sitcom on TV. Whereas most comedies can jump straight into a new batch of crazy situations and antics, Parks has a story to continue. While the episode gave us a quicky "Previously On..." recap of the Season Three finale's events (which you can get your own refresher course on here ), "I'm Leslie Knope" wasted no time jumping from the end of "Li'l Sebastian" to its own set of hijinks.
"I've accrued 128 personal days and I'm using them all now." - Ron
This week's cold open saw Ann comforting a still-anxious Leslie as she figures out a way to run for office and secretly date her boss Ben. Unfortunately, they both come to the same realization: It's impossible.
Before she can turn to him for advice, Leslie encounters Ron, still in panic mode after his ex-wife ("Tammy 2?" "No, Tammy 1") made a surprise appearance at the office. Racing down the halls, Ron gives Leslie a little heads up that he'll be taking some personal time to escape the clutches of his former flame. And that's there's ground beef in his desk that she should probably throw out.
Even when Ron's moving at the speed of light, he's still Ron. When it comes to a Parks and Recreation premiere, knowing all you friends (I mean...characters) are still familiar makes for a great start.
"That's a baller move—and I mean that literally" - Tom
The tail end of Season Three saw Tom Haverford teaming up with the fast-talking, always-rhyming Jean-Ralphio on a new enterprise: the media conglomerate Entertainment 720. But would Tom really leave forever? Inexplicably (and thankfully), Tom stops by at the beginning of the episode to remind his former co-workers he's got a new gig.
At the same time, Leslie discovers that the her countdown clock to break things off with Ben just got a little bit shorter—she's to start her campaign in three weeks. This sends the generally calm and assured bureaucrat into a tizzy, which (in true Parks fashion) is quickly derailed by another concern: someone's e-mailed all the women in the Pawnee government system a picture of their penis. Thank God Tom was around to drop all the terrible puns.
When Chris (whose grown quite the set of hair since we last saw him) gets word of the stunt, he moves into action, alerting the team and comforting them with usual poetic wisdom:
"If I could go back in time and cut your eyeballs out, I would." - Chris
When things die down and the hunt for the sexual organ e-mailer begins, Tom pulls the bumbling Andy aside from his shoe shining duties to make him an offer. Tom wants Andy to work at Entertainment 720. In Parks history, we've learned that Andy is the nicest guy in the world, ready for anything and capable of little to nothing. So, of course, this is the biggest decision of his life. If actor Chris Pratt was hired for any particular reason, I'm pretty sure it's for the face he makes when he's confused and frightened. Comedy gold.
When Anne finally gets a look at the infamous penis picture she realizes there's something terribly wrong with the balls and immediately alerts Chris. Chris notes that he too has problems with balls, saying that he always considered testicles to be "the ears of the genital system." Rob Lowe may come out as the victor of quotes this episode. Anne shrugs the odd comment off, telling Chris that the penis appears to have the mumps. Rut roh.
Elsewhere, Leslie puts her own problems aside to play damage control, making an appearance on Pawnee's favorite day time talk show host Perd Hapley's live coverage of the scandal. Naturally, Leslie slides in a little pre-campagin banter into her statement. This thrills her backers. This terrifies Leslie. The ticking clock counts down even further: her party wants Leslie to announce her candidacy in a few days time.
"Look what I have...I got you an L-shaped eclair!" - Ben
Why can't all shows be as nice as Parks and Recreation ? Leslie's biggest problem is finding a way to break up with Ben so there secret relationship doesn't blow up in her face. But she can't, because he's too damn nice . "He bought me an eclair!"
With a little digging, Ben and Chris soon discover the penis picture was sent by one of my favorite recurring characters, Sewage Joe, Pawnee's chauvinistic waste management man. Now we know Joe's e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sarah Lawrence?
When word gets out that Anne diagnosed the mysterious penis picture for mumps, her e-mail box becomes a dumping ground for wiener photos, with every male government official looking for medical answers. Chris astutely assess the situation: ""Your inbox is LITERALLY...filled with penises."
Later, Leslie attempts to break-up with Ben over a nice meal and a few glasses of wine. When Ben reveals he's bought her a gift, Leslie loses her cool and bolts for the door. Where does she go? Where else—the middle of nowhere a.k.a. Ron Swanson's cabin. It's only been a few days since we've seen Ron depart from the office, but he's already grown a full mountain man beard. All too appropriate for the lover of bacon, whiskey and rifles.
"I'd really like to shoot a gun right now" - Leslie
"Fishing it is" - Ron
Back in the office, Tom is still hanging out pimping Entertainment 720, complete with Haverford-branded shwag like Rubix cubes with Tom's face on them, fireplace bellows and sound effect key chains. I have a feeling Tom's time at Entertainment 720 may not be lasting too long.
To put an end to the penis picture sending, Chris calls an impromptu meeting to explain to the city officials that Anne will not be analyzing their dong shots for mumps. I love every member of the Parks cast, but the pinnacle of the show is the forum scenes, when all of Pawnee's wackiest come out to play. "Let's say I was watching a lot of women's golf and I've had some wine..." Priceless.
Ron's defining quality is that he hates everyone on the planet and just wants to live his life in peace. That attitude makes Ron the best advice-giver on the show, as he as to buckle up against everything he loathes to help his real friends. We get another tender moment in this episode, when Ron reveals how he lost one of his toes in a nail gun fight with his brother. Ron explains that if he had gone straight to the hospital the day he lost his toe, maybe the doctor could have done something. Maybe they shouldn't be running away from their problems.
"You only have nine toes?" - Leslie
"I have the toes I have." - Ron
April didn't have too much to do this episode with Ron gone, but she flies in at the nick of time for her husband to help him sort out Tom's offer. Andy wants to be a rockstar, but he knows it might not be possible...at least for three or four more years. But April, in an unsually sweet turn, sets a mandate: "One year from now, Andy Dwyer won't be a shoe shinist." I'm glad to see April evolving as a character—Aubrey Plaza can do more than mope and this season, she's already proving it.
Tom and Leslie return to the office to find everyone in the main hub. It's time for action. Tom announces that Leslie will be running for office and she'll need a new assistant. Enter: Andy, who is thrilled to have an exciting new job (although I'll miss his shoe shining cubby hole, complete with Mouse Rat CD display). After business is taken care of, Tom returns to his office. April wonders if she should find Tammy 1, but Tom already knows—she'll find him. "She has the tracking ability and the body odor of a blood hound."
Now, it's Leslie's turn. Sitting Ben down for the big talk, Ben makes the first move, handing (and opening for her) the box he originally gave her as a present. Inside is a "Knope 2012." Yup, as if their relationship couldn't get any more adorable/sweet/awwwwww-worthy.
The episode ends with Leslie's announcement (which she's apparently been giving in her sleep all week): "I am Leslie Knope, and I am running for city council."
"Hello Tammy" - Ron
"Ronald" - Tammy 1
"That's enough small talk" - Ron
Sometimes end credit bumpers are just a cap on a fantastic reoccurring gag. Sometimes, they're the beginnings of a whole new arc.
The premiere bumper introduces us to actress Patricia Clarkson's Tammy 1, who arrives in Tom's office to deliver him an IRS audit. Everything Tammy 1 does and says is intimidating—even to Ron. "Why is your mustache trembling?"
I can already tell it's going to be a wicked fun season.