Woodworking awards, a holiday party thrown by Jerry, the return of Tammy 2 (and maybe another much-beloved character, hint hint) — the Parks and Recreation mid-season finale has everything I could ever want (and maybe a little bit more). No more waiting, let's get to it!
Jingle Bells, Jingle Yay, Jingle Good For You
Ron has been nominated for an Indiana Fine Woodworking Award! While you might not be able to tell from his stoic expression and relaxed posture, Ron is very excited. Good thing Leslie is full of enough outward enthusiasm for the both of them — and, like, a whole busload of kindergardeners on a sugar high. And Leslie can't wait to celebrate with Ron at the awards ceremony, whether Ron wants her there or not (which he doesn't).
You see, things are going well with Ron and Diane (Lucy Lawless), and he can't wait to share what may end up being the best night of his life with his new warrior princess — er, I mean, leading lady. For Ron, this will be a night filled with the smell of cedar, the taste of good whiskey, and, perhaps, the sound of applause, as he is recognized for a craft of which he is actually proud. There's only one thing that could screw this up. To be continued…
Every time Jerry does something stupid and someone in the Parks Department laughs, they put a dollar in a box. At the end of the year, they take the money and go out to dinner. I present to you: The Jerry Dinner. It's mean, but also brilliant. This year, Tom, April, Andy, and Donna have raised $516 $517 $518, and they're ready to feast. Until, that is, Anne points out that what they are doing is deplorable.
With Ann's scolding words, a seed of doubt takes root in Donna's mind, one that sprouts as the gang-o-bullies makes their way to Jerry Dinner. Finally, unable to stomach one more Jerry Story ("My favorite was when he ate a bowl of glue," says April) and overcome with guilt, Donna decides to turn her car around and pick up Jerry. He will be the guest of honor at this year's Jerry Dinner.
But as the gang's car rounds the bend to Jerry's house, what to their wandering eyes should appear but a driveway full of cars and a home full of cheer. Jerry Gergich is hosting a Christmas party! And a bustling one at that. Chris, Ben, Ann, and tons of friends we couldn't even imagine Jerry having are sipping eggnog and munching on hors d'oeuvres under the mistletoe. The crew, now hungry for lack of Jerry Dinner, wants in. But ho! Not so fast. Ann is guarding the door like a righteous, angry troll and she requires a hefty toll to partake in A Very Gergich Christmas. The meanies must win back their good favor in the eyes of God and men by doing something nice for Jerry. Donna, who ended Jerry Dinner, can go inside. Everyone else is left out in the cold to think about what they've done.
Leslie Knope: Emotional Guardian
Tammy 2! Tammy 2 could screw up Ron's perfect night! Even as Ron prances and dances — no exaggeration here — giddily around the ballroom, a bone-rattling chill sweeps in and the smell of decaying library books grows thick in the air. Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally), clad in a low-cut red dress with nothing underneath (thanks pixelated screen!), has arrived to chip, chip, chip away at the ideal night Ron has built for himself. Leslie Knope, self-proclaimed Emotional Guardian of one, Ron Swanson and newfound appreciator of Diane, is on the case. She won't let a horny librarian get in the way of Ron's happiness!
Unfortunately, in tagging along to the awards ceremony and standing up to Tammy 2, Leslie shows just how close she is with Ron, and it's making Diane nervous. Diane can handle an aging harlot like Tammy, but she worries about Leslie's intimacy with Ron. After all, Leslie knows that Ron, "secretly loves artichokes and plums." While Ron is off hiding from Tammy, Diane slips away from the ceremony.
You're Jerry's Beautiful Wife… And You Look Like That
Inside the Gergich abode, merriment abounds. Jerry and his shockingly beautiful wife (Christie Brinkley) sing carols with their gorgeous daughters — seriously, what is in the Gergich ladies' water? — while Ben marvels at Chris' new positive outlook on life. Chris, now seeing his therapist 15 times a week, is able to handle such crippling blows as accidentally drinking non-non-fat eggnog and running into ex-girlfriend Millie Gergich, new fiancé in tow, without batting an eye. Way to go, champ! Keep up the good work.
Outside in Loserland, the irrational Jerry haters are coming to their senses. They discover that, thanks to their "Jerry Filter," they have missed years of nice emails from Jerry — including an invitation to his annual Christmas party. Tom, April, and Andy reach down deep inside their hearts to find the small pocket of goodwill they feel towards Jerry, and decide to donate their Jerry Dinner money to the Jerry Fart Attack fund. Welcome to the party, kids.
Ladies and Gentleman, But Especially Ladies
While Leslie staves off the wild, feral beast that is Tammy 2, Ron seeks out Diane. He takes her to Cozy's Bar, where he explains that, while he values Leslie as a dear friend, he would rather go to Europe than have a romantic relationship with her. He would, however, go to Europe if Diane wanted to — but not France. He draws the line at France. To prove to Diane that he is invested in their relationship, he decides to share with her something even Leslie doesn't know.
Everyone, help welcome Duke Silver to the stage.
Best line of the night: "Smart, funny, independent, and sexy? Diane Lewis? More like Diane Sawyer!"
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: NBC]
'Parks and Recreation' Recap: Down with Eagleton!
'Parks and Recreation' Recap: Every Dog Has Its Day
'Parks and Recreation' Recap: One Quilt to Rule Them All
From Our Partners:
Kate Middleton Pregnant: A Look Back at Famous Royal Baby Portraits (PHOTOS)
Pregnant Kate Middleton Leaves Hospital After Four-Day Stay
Sorry, everyone, but Tuesday night the only thing you will be allowed to watch on television is the results of the presidential election as they slowly roll in from across this great nation of ours. Yes, that means field reporting, concession speeches, red and blue states on a big old poster behind the anchor desk, and pundits turning red in their faces when the races don't go their way.
Even if you can't tell the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and a donkey and an elephant fighting over pizza and burritos, you're going to have to watch something. But what? Here are all your major choices, broken down by what to expect and what is the best for you. If you're going to be stuck with journalists, you might as well find some that you like.
Talent: Diane Sawyer, George (copy, paste) Stephanopoulos, Barbara Walters, and Katie Couric
Pros: Sawyer and Stephanopoulos have both actually worked in the White House, so that is some real K Street cred right there. With Walters and Kouric they'll have a nice balance of hard and soft news. Also, they have a lot of female reporters. It's almost as if they had a binder, and it was full of women, and that's who they put on the show.
Cons: Walters and Kouric have devolved into daytime chatterers. They might not be able to deliver the gravitas an occasion like this merits. And seriously, can't we just put Barbara Walters on Social Security already and make her give up a place at the anchor desk? Oh, wait, not if Mitt Romney wins and there is no more Social Security. Never mind.
Watch This If...: You think The View is hard-hitting journalism.
Talent: Scott Pelley, Bob Schieffer, Norah O'Donnell, John Dickerson
Pros: Bob Schieffer moderated one of the debates, so he might have some insights. The network will be using virtual reality models to display the election results. I don't know what that means, but "virtual reality" always sounds like the future.
Cons: What is a Scott Pelley? Who are these people?
Watch This If...: You are old and can't find NCIS.
Talent: Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie, Andrea Mitchell, Tamron Hall
Pros: Everyone will be reporting from a place called Democracy Plaza, which sounds like what the inside of a voting booth should be like. Either that or a politics-themed restaurant in Times Square. There will be a lot of really deep voices, so your dog won't be able to hear a thing. It's also the only major network to bring back a returning anchor, so thanks, Brokaw. Oh, and have you seen Brian Williams on 30 Rock? He brings the funny.
Cons: Tamron Hall will be reporting from the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. We are already embarrassed for her. Also, no one likes Savannah Guthrie (especially Ann Curry).
Watch This If...: You want to be like the cast of Girls.
Talent: Bill O'Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove
Pros: If Mitt Romney loses, they'll freak out so bad it will look like a million nervous breakdowns at once.They're the only ones to have a former candidate in the newsroom.
Cons: That candidate is Sarah Palin. Also, Karl Rove, a lugey of human phlegm that came to life, will share his evil ways. That could be insightful but is also like making out with Emperor Palpatine. And, just like MSNBC, this broadcast has a political bias. Unlike MSNBC, they're not bothered by those little things called facts.
Watch This If...: You hate truth, liberty, and the American way.
Talent: Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, Erin Burnett, Paul Begala, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleischer, Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Roland Martin and Ana Navarro. Is there anyone they didn't hire?
Pros: Since it's a news network, you can watch it all darn day so you can get all the sweet political news you need to stay alive. Also, it tries to be fair and balanced, which is nice. You never know when Cooper is going to lapse into a fit of the giggles and Begala and Carville are the funniest talking heads in all of punditville.
Cons: Who wants their news balanced? Tell me what to think, news! I'm stupid and need some opinions. Also, remember last election when Wolf Blitzer talked to a hologram. Yeah, that's gone. I already miss it.
Watch This If...: Like Anderson, you'd rather be watching Real Housewives.
Talent: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Rev. Al Sharpton, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz, Steve Schmidt
Pros: If there was ever a pro, it's Rev. Al Sharpton. If Obama wins, he'll go crazy. If Romney wins, he'll go double crazy. Stay tuned! Also, Matthews will yell and Maddow will say lots of smart and vaguely mean things that are totally right.
Cons: There doesn't seem to be any virtual reality, holograms, reincarnated robots of William Taft, or anything. Where are the bells and whistles?
Watch This If...: You wear glasses.
Pros: Well, it's unfiltered, unbiased coverage of the democratic process.
Cons: That sounds more dry and boring than a dump truck full of Shredded Wheat.
Watch This If...: You hate fun.
Talent: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert
Pros: Screw taping, these guys are going live! That means the funny is going to be fast, furious, and possibly NSFW (damn those seven-second delays). Also, Colbert's half hour is called Election 2012: A Nation Votes, Ohio Decides; The Re-Presidenting of America: Who Will Replace Obama? ‘012!. Yup, I'd watch that. Oh, and he'll have Andrew Sullivan too.
Cons: Their coverage starts at 11 PM, so you have nothing to watch until then. But, then again, if you have a life outside of watching boring political reporting on TV, then that is actually a pro. They each only get 30 minutes. Boo!
Watch This If...: You think The Onion is real.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Getty Images (2), Comedy Central]
MemElection 2012: What if Memes Chose The President?
Why We Can't Peg President Obama's Pop Culture Persona
Elephants Vs. Donkeys: The Pop Culture Election
Over the summer, beloved Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts went public about her struggles with Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood and bone marrow disease. Fans were subsequently told that Roberts would be taking leave from her spot on the ABC morning program, and that she would be undergoing treatment and a bone marrow transplant for her condition. Roberts underwent the surgery on Thursday; ABC News reports that the operation was completed in only five minutes. Robins' sister Sally Ann provided the donor cells with which the GMA host was injected.
Following the procedure, Robins is reported to have made the following statement: "I will now wait and anxiously watch and see what happens ... In the next seven to 10 days my counts will continue to go up and we’ll be on to phase three, which will be get out of here. Get out of here. Go home. It’s a journey."
Dr. Gail Roboz, Robins' oncologist from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, appeared on Good Morning America Friday morning to share some encouraging words about Roberts' recovery. "This morning she sounds energized and she wants to be out of bed, and the end [an] email was, 'I want to go home' with an exclamation point," Roboz said. Roboz also expressed her amazement with the incredibly quick procedure: "Nobody can believe it ... People have in their mind all kinds of images of what can happen in a transplant, but it’s still an incredibly powerful moment."
Roboz went into detail about the procedure and where Robins' treatment will take her from hereon out. "Inside of that syringe are millions and millions of stem cells that are now circulating around and trying to find their home and start growing, which is what we’re going to be looking for over the next couple of weeks," she said. “We have to roll with the punches over the next few days because, don’t forget, her systems are down and Sally-Ann’s aren’t up yet so we’re in that in between zone of watching very carefully. We are wanting every day to be a good day but we are ready for some bumps in the road."
ABC News reports that Robins' colleagues Sam Champion and Diane Sawyer were among those in the operation room with the anchor during the procedure.
[Photo Credit: Wenn]
Robin Roberts Addresses Fans in a Heartfelt Video Prior to Bone Marrow Transplant
Shakira Is Pregnant!
Melissa Joan Hart Gives Birth to Third Son
From Our Partners:
Blake Lively, Avril Lavigne, Kate Hudson: Guess the Celebrity Engagement Ring — GALLERY
Celebrity Style Copy Cats — GALLERY
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
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.