In the past six months, we've said goodbye to a king and hello to another, met some new clones, traveled the flat circle of time, and had an old friend for dinner. So far, it's been a stunning year for television. We've seen so many wonderful, gripping horrifying, funny, and poignant moments blaze across our television screens in 2014, so it's hard to fathom that we're only halfway through the year. Here's a list of some of our favorite moments in television this year... so far. (Beware spoilers!)
The Mountain Crushes the ViperShow: Game of ThronesEpisode: "The Mountain and the Viper"
It was all too easy for Oberyn, who was doing backflips and chanting accusations while easily besting the Mountain in combat. But style, grace, and most importantly, honor have no place in the world of Game of Thrones. A lesson the show has painfully reiterated time and time again. What really gets things done in Westeros is brutal efficiency. So when the Mountain grabs hold of Oberyn by the scruff of the neck, unlike his competitor he wastes no time in gouging the prince's eyes out and crushing his head in horribly graphic fashion. The scene was a disgusting display of SFX wizardry and we've been wincing for weeks.
Three Years Later...Show: Parks and RecreationEpisode: "Moving Up"
For the past six years, Leslie has served Pawnee with moxie and unbridled enthusiasm, but it soon became clear that the devoted public servant was becoming too big for her little Indiana town. Pawnee after all, is somehow simultaneously the greatest town in America and hell on earth for anyone with more than two brain cells rubbing together. We knew Leslie would have to move on eventually, we just didn't know it would be so soon. In a brave gambit, Parks and Recreation jumps ahead three whole years and catches up with Leslie working a new job in Chicago with three toddler-aged kids. Ben is also inexplicably wearing a tuxedo. We've sometimes criticized Parks and Rec for growing a little stagnant formula-wise, and this was a brilliant shake-up for the series.
Helena ReturnsShow: Orphan BlackEpisode: "Governed as it Were by Chance"
At the end of the first season, Sarah shot her “seestra” Helena and left her for dead, but in the second, she found out that it takes more than a gunshot to take out the most unpredictable clone of all. Their reunion in the bathroom is one of Tatiana Maslany’s finest performances, a tense, terrifying moment that highlights the differences between all of the clones. As Helena, she’s creepy and otherworldly and desperate to be loved and protected; as Sarah, she’s terrified and traumatized, shaking uncontrollably and unable to breathe. It’s everything that’s exhilarating and mesmerizing about Maslany’s work on the show condensed into a powerhouse of a scene.
The Dinner PartyShow: HannibalEpisode: "Mizumono"
Season 2 of Hannibal opened and closed with a deadly dinner that was nothing short of a game-changer. The season's slow burning tragedy ended with a shocking, bloody, and audacious final 10 minutes that leaves Will Graham and essentially the entire principal cast bleeding out, dead, or dying, while Hannibal escapes into the night. It's hard to think of a moment of television in 2014 that left us more gutted.
The Long TakeShow: True DetectiveEpisode: "Who Goes There"
These days, television is on a definite winning streak, with some even proclaiming that the lowly boob tube has even transcended film. TV has certainly come a long way in the past 10 years, and even in the last five, but one area where television has always felt lacking is in cinematography. Directing on television can sometimes feel largely perfunctory, a means to an end. But then we saw the fourth episode of True Detective. And then we forgot what movies even were for a couple days. When undercover cop Rust Cohle is caught up in a white supremacist robbery gone wrong, he escapes in a breathtaking six-minute long take that's not only absurdly complex and seamless but so unflinchingly thrilling. We can't even begin to comprehend how Cary Fukunaga put this one together.
The Coming Out PartyShow: ShamelessEpisode: "Emily"
Generally, when characters come out as gay on television, they do so through a heartfelt confession underscored to soft piano music. But Mickey Milkvoich is not a typical character and Shameless is not a typical show. So when Mickey came out, he did so by getting into a bar fight with his abusive, homophobic, alcoholic father. It’s a testament to Noel Fisher’s performance that he’s not only turned Mickey from a one-off bully into one of the most sympathetic – if not necessarily likeable – characters on the show, but he also created a scene that it simultaneously touching and triumphant.
Ding Dong, the King is DeadShow: Game of ThronesEpisode: "The Lion and the Rose"
With the Starks scattered in the winds, Stannis virtually army-less, and Daenerys still tying to be the Abe Lincoln of Essos, we expected Joffery, the cruel boy king of Westeros, to sit on the Iron Throne for decades. to come. Luckily, Game of Thrones doesn't give a crap what we expect, and in the midst of Joffery's garish wedding celebration, right when Joffery was being his Joffery-est, the king is murdered. And when the big moment finally happens, it isn't triumphant or cathartic like we had always imagined, but horrifying. Watching the life slip out of this child (a fact that's so easy to forget) as he clutches for his mother, and seeing his terrified face go blue then grey, with eyes wild and confused, struggling to understand what was happening, the scene is actually deeply sad. We even felt pity for the poor monster. But we felt even worse for the people caught in the blowback of his assassination.
Mind Your MannersShow: Orange Is the New BlackEpisode: "We Have Manners. We're Polite."
You know all that catharsis we were missing from the death of Joffery on Game of Thrones? Well, we sure felt it in spades here. Vee spent Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black terrorizing and manipulating the inmates of Litchfield. So when Rosa crunches into Vee with her stolen prison van, extinguishing the menace for good... Let's just say we've never felt better about seeing someone get hit with a car.
Ginsberg Looses His S**t... and NippleShow: Mad MenEpisode: "The Runaways"
Most of Mad Men's psychological traumas occur beneath the skin. But Michael Ginsberg, the least "polished" of the Sterling Cooper & Partners troupe, found a way to bring his issues to the surface in one of the weirdest scenes in the series' history: he removed the valve. He cut off his own nipple, exemplifying a bout with what can only be presumed to be paranoid schizophrenia at the behest of a mechanical interloper. Mad Men is all about metaphors... and we're still clawing at this one to figure out what it means.
Emmett and Leanne's KillerShow: The AmericansEpisode: "Echo"
On FX, there is a show that is every bit as good as Game of Thrones, Hannibal, or True Detective, but only a scant few are watching. The Americans wrapped up its sophomore season in brilliant fashion, letting loose a twist that shocked to the core. After spending the season searching for the killers of fellow undercover KGB agents, Emmet and Leanne, Philip and Elizabeth discover that the real killer was none other than their friends' own son, who was admitted into the KGB behind his parents' back. As the young man revealed his misdeeds between bloody gasps and blind soviet patriotism, everything about the second season was suddenly turned on its head. The most frightening revelation: Paige and Henry, Elizabeth and Phillip's own kids, are next in line to become operatives. Is it 2015 yet?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is filled — and I mean jam-packed — with genre-bending, action-heavy, sportily tense and relentlessly sinuous, sky-high-concept and maniacally bonkers stuff. Polygonal mayhem that aims, and impressively so, to top the Marvel lot in ideas, deconstructing every thriller staple from government corruption to talking computers to odd couple agents gone rogue. But oddly enough, the moment in the Cap sequel that I find most arresting several weeks after seeing the film is our peaceful reunion with Steve Rogers, trotting merrily around the Washington Monument as the sun rises on our nation's capital.
The scene is shot from far overhead, a low pulse/high spirits Chris Evans reduced to a shapeless blur as he repeatedly (but politely!) laps fellow jogger and veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie)... and yet it might be the closest we feel to Cap throughout the movie.
The Winter Soldier has a lot to worry about in the delivery of its content. Managing a plot as ambitious and multifaceted as its own, with themes as grand as the scope of the American mentality — as represented by Steve Rogers, raised in the good old days of gee-golly-jingoism — it doesn't always have the faculties to devote to humanizing its central troupe. Cap isn't left hollow, but his battles with the dark cloud of contemporary skepticism play more like an intriguing Socratic discussion than an emotional arc. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, a character who ran circles around her Avengers co-players in flavor, feels a bit shortchanged in that department here (in her closest thing to a starring role yet, no less).
Mackie's Falcon, a regular joe who is roped into the calamity thanks largely to his willingness to chat with a fellow runner — a rare skill, honestly — is less of a problem. He doesn't have much to do, but he does it all well enough. Dynamic though he may be, Mackie keeps things bridled as Cap's ad-hoc sidekick, playing up the along-for-the-ride shtick rather than going full (or even half) superhero. We might want more from him, knowing just how fun he can be, but it's a sating dose. The real hunger is for more in the way of Black Widow, Cap, and — perhaps most of all — the titular villain.
Still, these palpable holes pierce through a film that gets plenty right. As elegantly as Joe Johnston did the Spielberg thing back in 2011, Joe and Anthony Russo take on the ballots of post-innocence. They aren't afraid to get wild and weird, taking The Winter Soldier through valleys that feel unprecedented in superhero cinema. We're grateful for the invention here — for Robert Redford's buttoned-up Tom Clancy villain, for the directors' aggressive tunneling through a wide underworld of subterranean corruption, and especially for one scene in an army bunker that amounts to the most charmingly bats**t crazy reveal in any Marvel movie yet. We might be most grateful, though, for a new take on Nick Fury; here, the franchise gives Samuel L. Jackson his best material by a mile.
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But in the absence of definitive work done in our heroing couple, a pair rich in fibers but relegated to broad strokes and easy quips in this turn, most of it amounts to a fairly good spy thriller, not an ace-in-the-whole neo-superhero masterpiece... which, justly or otherwise, is what we've come to expect and demand from these things.
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Cicely Tyson and Vanessa Williams are set to reprise their stage roles in the TV movie adaptation of The Trip To Bountiful. The actresses starred in the Broadway play when it ran from April to October (13), and now they'll be joined by Blair Underwood and Keke Palmer in the movie version of the drama.
Michael Wilson, who directed the play, will make his television directorial debut with the project, according to TheWrap.com.
The play first hit the stage in 1953 and was previously adapted for the big screen in 1985. Geraldine Page won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Carrie Watts in that film.
Production has already begun in Atlanta, Georgia and the movie will air on U.S. network Lifetime in 2014.
"I just totally and completely adored Chilli. I was like, 'OK, that's me, that's who I am.' I would lip-sync in the mirror and I would sing and I would pretend to be her and it was so surreal for me... We had a sleepover at her house and I was like, 'I hope this isn't weird when I tell you this, but this is a dream come true for me, you don't understand how much this means to me.'" Actress Keke Palmer is still pinching herself after landing the role of R&B star Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas in TV biopic Crazy Sexy Cool: The Tlc Story.
Rapper/actress Lil Mama is convinced Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes was watching over her as she portrayed the tragic star in a new Tlc biopic after experiencing a series of spooky incidents on set. The Waterfalls hitmaker was killed in a car crash in 2002 and Lil Mama is bringing her back to life on TV for Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story, alongside Keke Palmer as Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas and Drew Sidora as Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins.
They shot the film earlier this year (13) and Lil Mama, real name Niatia Kirkland, was left spooked by what she believes was the spirit of Left Eye.
She tells U.S. talk show host Wendy Williams, "Stuff was knocking over on set and every time I did a dark scene, an ambulance would pass by, or a siren, and then it (production) had to shut down and I'd get these really deep moments to think right before I shoot (sic).
"Drew and I shot a scene and she was like, 'Did you notice that every time you shoot a dark scene this happens?' And I looked at her and said, 'Yes.'"
Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story airs on VH1 in America on Monday (21Oct13).
"I love Corbin. He was my first kiss in life... We did Disney Channel's Jump In together. I was 12... It was on the lips. I was very nervous. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is the first person I'm kissing outside of my family'. We did it, like, 20 times." Actress Keke Palmer shared her first lip-lock with High School Musical star Corbin Bleu.
Simon Pegg is to play an assassin in a new Australian movie featuring Liam and Chris Hemsworth's brother Luke. Kill Me Three Times will also include Alice Braga, Teresa Palmer and Bryan Brown among the cast.
Principal photography begins this week (ends20Sep13) in and around Perth and the southwest region of Western Australia.
The movie is set in "a sun-drenched Australian surfing town, where a young singer, portrayed by Alice Braga, is the thread that binds three tales of murder, blackmail and revenge".
Pegg's assassin is hired by the wealthy husband of Braga's character, and Aussie movie veteran Brown plays a corrupt local cop. Luke Hemsworth portrays Braga's love interest.
Classic rockers The Moody Blues have added Roger Daltrey to their latest cruise festival. The Nights in White Satin hitmakers' five-night Moody Blues Cruise II around the Bahamas will recreate the vibe of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival - and it will mark the first time the band and Daltrey have shared a bill together since The Who headlined the iconic festival over four decades ago.
The cruise will also feature performances from The Zombies, The Orchestra starring ELO, Starship, Little River Band and former Emerson, Lake & Palmer star Carl Palmer.
The high seas festivities will kick off on 2 April, 2014.
Outspoken rocker Amanda Palmer has defended Miley Cyrus over her naked antics, insisting the former child star should be given an "allowance" to explore her raunchy side. The former Hannah Montana actress has attracted criticism after stripping naked save for a pair of boots in the video to her new track Wrecking Ball.
The promo premiered just weeks after she was slammed for donning latex underwear for a raunchy performance with Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards, but Palmer is adamant critics should leave the singer alone.
Giving a speech at Australia's Bigsound music conference, Palmer says, "Let her be. There has to be an allowance for that, otherwise art becomes safe and sanctioned. And it shouldn't be."
New York rockers Luscious Jackson are set to return to the charts for the first time in 14 years with an album fully funded by fan donations. The Naked Eye hitmakers recently reached out to devotees via PledgeMusic.com to help raise enough money to make Magic Hour, and now they are preparing to release the project on their own City Song label in November (13).
Frontwoman Jill Cunniff says, "When we were making the new album we felt like we did when we were making our first demos. We were just smiling and laughing all the time because we rediscovered a musical connection we all really loved and missed."
Magic Hour is the follow up to 1999's Electric Honey.
Luscious Jackson aren't the first artists to turn to fans to help fund the release of their new material - country star Jo Dee Messina recently succeeded in her mission, while former Dresden Dolls star Amanda Palmer enjoyed huge success on Kickstarter.com - she pulled in $1 million (£666,670) in public donations last year (12) to fund her next record.