Stepping out of Neighbors into the cold, calm, dick-joke-free real world, you might find yourself hit with a barrage of "But wait..." moments: "Why did they move into a new frat house just a month or two before the end of college?" "When was it established that she wanted to sleep with him?" "Where did that pledge come from?" "Who was that other guy?" "If he, then why?" "When did?" "How?" "What?" "Huh?!" Yeah, there are enough logical holes in Nicholas Stoller's comedy to warrant an "Everything Wrong with Neighbors" gag trailer and a dozen or two angry message threads. But the tenability of a movie's realism isn't exactly on trial when it sells itself as the Seth Rogen comedy in which a baby eats a condom.
Neighbors eagerly liberates itself not only from the laws of basic reality or tight storytelling, but also from the rigid shackles of any one comic tone. We jump from a slice of life about new parents Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Rose Byrne) who aren't quite ready to say goodbye to their youth instantly to a wild and wacky college farce about the fraternity one house over (led by Zac Efron and second banana Dave Franco), borrowing a lexicon from latter day National Lampoon. As the war picks up between these congenial neighbors-turned-close-quarters enemies, we're invited into a back and forth of vicious, albeit loony, aggression, each maneuver to "get those fogeys/punks next door" escalating in hostility, danger, and independence from earthbound possibility. As we're treated to this ceaseless exercise in human malignance, Neighbors peppers in episodes of cartoon-grade zaniness, macabre pathos, and absolute surrealism. And although it might not seem like all of these comic identities can exist in the same film, Neighbors has a special trick up its sleeve to make it all work: it's funny. Never brilliant, and rarely all that fresh, but always funny.
The frat stuff plays broad, often saddling Efron's sadomasochistic pseudo-villain, Franco's vulnerable prick, and the pair's gang of goons — a wily Christopher Mintz-Plasse and an effortlessly charming Jerrod Carmichael at the top of the heap — with the usual party flick shenanigans like dance-offs and flaming barrels of marijuana. The team of youngsters is at its best, though, when the standard routine is shirked for more peculiar fare, like an abstract non sequitur that has Franco demonstrating a bizarre biological skill, or a fractured history of drinking games as narrated through flashbacks by a passionate Efron.
A good deal of fun can be pinned on the usual assortment of physical gags, pop culture references (one extended bit plays on the film histories of Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Al Pacino to endearing results), and the goofball antics of supporting players like Ike Barinholtz (as Mac's zealous, dimwitted pal). But Neighbors' secret weapon is Byrne, outshining the established comedic reputations of her co-stars with her performance as Kelly. Catapulted miles from the doldrums of straight-man-hood, Byrne tops even Rogen in awkward panache (watching her struggling to interact with the younger breed early on in the movie is delightful) and diabolical villainy alike — the very biggest laughs come from Byrne unleashing her furies or executing evil schemes. If Neighbors inspires any lasting impression, it should be a new appreciation for Byrne's chops in the humor department.
Somehow, this farcical grab bag never feels lethally convoluted or overstuffed. While the film's pacing does no great favors — we jump right into the principal conflict, which is a tough beat to sustain for so long — and a few abject narrative leaps keep the story from feeling tidy, these problems feel like a second priority. Even if some of the jokes feel strained or rehashed, if the characters are malleable, if the conceit is overcooked, or if there are too many plot holes to count... we're laughing. So it's working.
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Fans of football, Americana, and quality TV in general were rewarded for their good taste when Friday Night Lights and Parenthood crossed over in a very special web series, Friday Night at the Luncheonette. Dillon meets Berkeley when Amber (Mae Whitman) opens the studio one night to the best band in Christian speed metal, the Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons) -fronted Crucifictorious, and an accompanying rager led by perpetual maker of bad decisions, Billy Riggins (Derek Phillips). Parenthood creator Jason Katims has found plenty of work around the Braverman clan for his FNL actors, casting Minka Kelly, Michael B. Jordan, and Phillips (whose wedding guest character must have been an identical cousin of Billy) in the family drama. But this is the first time the two tear-jerking shows have been confirmed to exist within the same universe. And that means that crossover can happen again! Obviously, we want more. Here are a few suggestions on how these characters can cross paths in the future.
1. Crucifictorius rolls through town again.
And Landry takes Amber on a date. Those two totally worked!
2. Kristina attends a special education conference out east.
She makes friends with a smart and warm Texan principal named Tami Taylor and they share a couple of bottles of wine in the hotel bar.
3. Matt and Julie open a gallery next door to Hank's studio.
And Sarah's photos are shown in their very first exhibit.
4. Eric goes out to visit Matt and Julie and is confused by the Berkeley-ness of it all.
"What do you mean these people don't care about football? Where can I get a damn steak?"
5. Tyra comes to UC Berkeley for her first year of teaching.
Drew falls madly in love with her.
6. Tim Riggins.
Whenever, wherever. Zero reasons needed.
"Carrie Underwood is the Julie Andrews of country music," said no one ever.
Yet, NBC is building an entire live concert special around that idea. Sound of Music, Live! (yes, the exclamation point is a part of the official title) will air — live — on Dec. 5 at 8PM ET. The bizarre casting choices continue, as Stephen Moyer of True Blood steps into Captain Von Trapp's uniform. The three-hour event is brought to us by the producers of Smash, the network's last big-budget musical disaster. And it's only got to live up to a classic, beloved movie musical that's a part of family traditions all over the world. So, trainwreck conditions are looking pretty good.
Camp levels will be high, so Sound of Music, Live! is prime for a good old fashioned hate-watch. If you're planning on taking one for the team, here are some steps for getting the most out of it.
Step 1: Call Your Snarkiest Friend(s)The more (and the more sarcastic) the merrier. Also, double-check your WiFi connection so you can live-tweet with all your social media buddies.
Step 2: Pick Your PoisonWhiskey, vodka, red wine, eggnog. ("These are a few of my favorite things...") Pick one and define the rules of your drinking game. We'll get you started: drink anytime Underwood belts the crap out of a song that isn't meant to be belted. Christopher Plummer claims to have gotten blisteringly drunk every night of filming the original, so think of this as a tribute.
Step 3: Silently Hope the Captain Takes His Shirt Off in This VersionBecause otherwise, why?
Step 4: Spend Commercial Breaks YouTube-ing the Supporting Cast's Broadway Greatest HitsAsk your showtune nerd friends for tips if you must. But Laura Benanti, Christian Borle, and Audra McDonald are all treasures and deserve better than this.
Step 5: Take Bets on the Next Holiday Classic to Be ButcheredJustin Bieber as Hermey in a live-action remake of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer? We know his hair can do the thing.
S3E16:: Fans of the contentious love triangle on the CW’s Vampire Diaries were probably a little disappointed with this episode, but fans of a good old fashioned murder mystery (with some blood-thirsty vampires thrown in) were in luck. “1912” is all about solving the mystery of the Mystic Falls serial killer and patching up that brotherly love between Damon and Stefan.
While it certainly feels like punishment to have absolutely no movement forward in the Stelena story line - just one giant step back - it’s one thing that’s actually really great about the series. While the love triangle is the obvious hook, this episode proved that it’s got more going on than a pair of lovesick vampires.
“If you’re gonna slaughter council members, at least go a-list.” -Damon
After staring down the barrel of Meredith’s gun last week, Alaric is accused of being the killer after Meredith seems to twist the story. She healed him with vampire blood and says that he came after her with the knife from his file. And when non of Alaric’s alibis check out - he was always drunk or “sleeping” which are pretty flimsy excuses - Rick is starting to look really guilty.
And while Damon says he’s going to stay out of it, but he goes home and uses Stefan’s diaries to dig through the year 1912, when Mystic Falls last had a serial killer going after the council members. His and Stefan’s nephew, Zachariah Salvatore, was one of the victims. This somehow connects to the time he met another vampire named Sage, who taught him to stop pining over Katherine and “enjoy” women: and we’re back to Vampires 101. The art of feeding as seduction, it’s all just a little Bram Stoker, but how could the series delve into that time period and not pay homage to the classics? (It was written in 1897, so not too far off.)
“How could you do this to him? He didn’t kill anyone and you know it.” -Elena
“You date vampires, Elena. It shouldn’t come as a shock to you that your guardian is a murderer.” -Meredith
When Elena confronts her, Meredith is insistent that Rick has a pattern, along with a history of violence and alcoholism, which indicates the probability of his guilt. Determined to stop her, Elena and Matt break into Meredith’s place and find her secret cubby with files on all the victims as well as a Gilbert family journal. They find a letter from the coroner’s office saying the medical examiner’s death was at a different time than Meredith claimed, but before they can do anything about it she comes home and catches them in the closet. In that brief moment, Elena and Matt have an almost intimate silent exchange - which only prolongs her inevitable return to Stefan. Why, writers, why?
Meredith catches them and takes them to the police station, where Sheriff Forbes lets them go but tells them that Meredith turned in the letter earlier that day and she apologized for accusing Rick. And we’re at a turning point: we want to believe Meredith is the bad guy, but she doesn’t press charges and she turned in the letter. We need these factors to start believing her story.
“After my parents died, there was something about being with Stefan that felt safe.” -Elena
Though there was no forward movement for Elena’s journey back to her chosen Salvatore, there was one giant step back. Stefan is craving human blood badly after abstaining for so long, and Damon is determined to fix his cold turkey spell, convinced that moderation is the only way Stefan can be normal again. He and Rebekah threaten to kill an innocent girl unless Stefan feeds on her. He finally gives in, and Elena walks by and sees Stefan with blood all over his face. Of course, she’s completely crushed.
Matt, stealer of break-in-and-hide-in-the-closet moments doesn’t understand how she ever became so connected to a vampire, and she says he was the perfect comfort after her parents died: he can’t die on her, it felt safe. At Paleyfest, creator Julie Plec said that we’d be going back to that night when Stefan saved Elena and her parents died, so while this feels like a step back, it could in reality serve as the factor that propels that latent emotion forward.
“Before you know it, you’ll be the king of moderation.” -Damon
Now that Elena has spurned him, Damon is burning every bridge he’s got. Even the sexual one between him and Rebekah. He lets her come along and play with the big boys for a while, but as soon as Stefan finally sinks his teeth into that poor girl, Damon tells Rebekah to scram like some sort of alley cat.
With no one left, he’s ready to give all his attention to Stefan and he’s certain Stefan is making progress. And when Stefan says he doesn’t need Damon’s help, we learn the last time he said that was 1912, when Damon convinced him to drink human blood. That time, he turned into a ripper almost immediately and Damon did nothing. Damon says he did nothing because he didn’t want to something, but he wants to now. He’s certainly going off the deep end in the wake of Elena’s heartbreaking response, but not the way he did when we first met him. He may be freewheeling it a bit, but he’s putting his relationship with his brother above all else. He’s good-bad Damon.
“I’m the one that’s supposed to look after you, even though I suck at it.” -Alaric
But the big mystery this episode is whether or not Meredith is right about Rick. She’s seeming more credible and the evidence suddenly piles up. Elena reads Jonathan Gilbert’s granddaughter Samantha’s journal, and it seems insanity runs in her family. But there’s more to it.
Damon also discovers that Samantha testified about the murders, but she was deemed insane and was sent to a mental hospital. There’s just one gaping hole in this story: Damon killed her before the testimony took place. She was a Gilbert, and she had the Gilberts’ protective ring - the same one Alaric wears - and the strain of dying and coming back to life so many times started to make her crazy, literally.
Meredith comes to Elena’s house saying she cleared Alaric’s name and she wants to help him, and this time, we want to believe her. She’s redeemed herself a bit and Elena has read further in Samantha’s diary and realizes that what happened to Samantha is happening to Rick: he’s the serial killer, he just doesn’t know it. Cut to a flashback of Samantha stabbing Zachariah and our worst fears have been realized: Rick really is guilty. But how does one go about fixing a mental disorder caused by a magical ring? That’s a tall order, but a mystery worth postponing the series’ romantic hook for just a bit longer.
Did you think there was any way Alaric could have been the killer? Do you trust Meredith now, or is there more to her? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler
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.