1984 was a great year for movies, but it was also the year that one of the great sitcoms came on the scene. I'm talking about Night Court. Yes, you already hear the theme music in your head, don't you? No? OK, for those of you who haven't heard it, here it is.
While the first season, like many shows, took tiny steps towards achieving the greatness that lay ahead (Markie Post, who played Christine Sullivan, didn't join the show until the second season), there were glimpses. Harry Anderson's Judge Harry Stone was a jurist who was still caught between stunted adolescence and adulthood. John Larroquette, the man who should have had the best supporting actor Emmy just named after him during his run as Dan Fielding, was a lothario who had the stirrings of a soul underneath. Who can forget Fielding running for a city council slot and losing to a dead man? Selma Diamond, may she rest in peace, was really the glue that held that show together with her deadpan deliveries. She was the perfect one to ground Richard Moll's Bull Shannon. It was a shame she died right after the first season ended.
Of course, the main attraction was the absolutely insane people that appeared before Judge Stone in his courtroom. There was a man in a lobster suit, to begin with. The thing was, the show, while acknowledging the sheer absurdity of these defendants and plaintiffs, it also stopped just short of labeling them as cartoon characters. The vast majority of them were imbued with a humanity that made us laugh more at the situations they were in rather than completely at them. There was the hooker with the real heart of gold, to begin with.
As the seasons went on, the people in the courtroom got zanier, weirder and the cast just jelled perfectly, with Charles Robinson's Mack and Marsha Warfield finally beating the curse of the Female Bailiff, after Diamond and Florence Halop died in quick succession. It was an ensemble comedy with all the cast members hitting on all cylinders. I'd even put it up there with The Golden Girls as best comedy of the '80s. Of course, fans of Cheers might disagree with me.
Right now, Larroquette, Moll, Post and Robinson are all still appearing as guest stars on various shows. Anderson has done sporadic work after playing Dave Barry in Dave's World in the '90s. All the seasons are on DVD - I highly recommend picking them up or renting them through Netflix. Heck, it might get you into Mel Torme too.
Writer/director Richard Curtis has abandoned plans to create a third Bridget Jones's Diary movie because the woman behind the books that inspired the films has killed off the literary heroine's love interest. Curtis, who adapted author Helen Fielding's books for Bridget Jones's Diary and its sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, admits he's upset with the writer for not telling him about the demise of Mark Darcy, portrayed by Colin Firth in his films, in her latest book Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy.
He tells WENN, "I feel very tricked and cheated because Helen has been my best friend since I was 19, but she loves my daughter more than me and my daughter is her goddaughter and she had many conversations with Scarlet about the fact that Mark was going to die and Scarlet has read chunks of the book and no one told me anything until Sunday.
"That's been all happening under my nose. I don't think there will be a third movie. Why would there without Colin?"
The following contains minor spoilers of Beautiful Creatures.
I've never liked the Twilight movies. And I've tried. What turned me off wasn't the romantic lead sparkling in the sun, or the complicated and somewhat creepy concept of imprinting,it wasn't even Edward Cullen's excessive brooding: it was Bella. And upon watching the film billed as the "next Twilight," Warner Bros.'s Beautiful Creatures, I finally found what I was looking for: a fantastic young lead in Lena Ducchane.
On paper, Lena (Alice Englert) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) aren't all that different. They both love to read, they both feel as if they don't belong, and they're both not concerned with wooing the boys at school until the right one arrests their attention. (And that's the reason I never got into Young Adult Fiction: cliches.) But in practice, at least as far as the movies are concerned, Lena is a far better character, especially for a YA audience. Sorry, Twihards.
RELATED: 'Beautiful Creatures' Review
Lena is a bit of a problem child. She's a caster (a more humane word for "witch") and she's got powers she can't quite control that get her in trouble from time to time. It's these growing pains that make her an actual outcast at school, fielding constant cruel jokes about devil worship from her Southern belle classmates. Bella constantly feels she's not like her classmates, and as such, is withdrawn, even when the girls at school befriend her. She mumbles, she broods, she goes after a man who behaves like 30 year-old from the 19th century like a lovestruck little girl. She’s convinced no one understands her, but it’s her own barriers that are keeping her from making connections.
Lena would never behave like that. She's truly outcast and a brain, so her feeling otherness is expressed by pouring herself into reading Charles Bukowski novels and multitudes of poetry. It’s something Bella’s character is supposed to do as well, but Lena’s character actually seems to cull meaning and a sense of self from her literary learnings. She's highly educated, and independent, to the point where she's barely even willing to let her suitor Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) give her a ride home... after her car breaks down... in the rain... on a country road. She’s no damsel in distress, like Bella, whose first encounter with Edward is being saved by his brute strength. This is a girl after my own heart.
Yes, Lena eventually falls hard for Ethan, as even bookworms are wont to do, and of course, it's not long before they're in love (this is a YA story, after all). But it's the way they handle themselves that's truly exemplary. In the Twilight books, Edward is unable to be too affectionate with Bella for fear of hurting her. At the surface, it's because he's a vampire, but the underlying meaning is one of extreme chastity and resistance to temptation. It’s a little 1950s. Every time Bella hopes to go a little further with Edward, he makes her wait, promising to consummate their love when they are married, not when they’re older, or when they’re ready. When he puts a ring on it. Without Bella even attempting to go to college. Why would she? She's going to be 18 forever, so who cares, right?
RELATED: Why Is Viola Davis in 'Beautiful Creatures'?
Lena and Ethan, however, are a little more liberal, a little more modern day. The couple doesn't hop into bed together (although they do literally cuddle in a bed, clothed, at one point), but there are no obnoxious metaphors for chastity and restraint. If anything, their story of love in the face of adults who try to keep them apart is a case for young people being more capable of making their own decisions than their elders give them credit for. It's not a PSA for teens to have sex, but it promotes trust in young people to make the right, educated decisions for themselves while acknowledging the potential for teens to feel something as deeply as Lena and Ethan do. It’s a healthier, more modern picture of young love than the one we get in Twilight. And while both youngsters love each other so much, a makeout session could light a roadside sign on fire (and does), college is a constant element of their plans. The future is not just sex in Rio and eternal marital bliss.
And it’s the element of an educated, rational choice that separates Lena’s story from Bella’s. When Miss Swan decides she wants to change her whole life and give up her relationship with her mother to be with Edward, she’s doing so with passion, and a love so consuming that she’ll give up anything for it (we’re assured of that when she pulls daredevil antics in the second movie to induce visions of Edward). Lena, however, is struggling to find herself and her true path, whether that be light or dark magic, and she’s desperate to figure out how Ethan fits into her plan. She's not trying to figure out how her life could change to make her fit into Ethan's.
RELATED: 'Beautiful Creatures' Director Okay With 'Twilight' Comparisons
Even though her love will do anything to help her find a way to ensure she stays on the side of light magic, Lena eventually sends him away so that she can figure out the plan on her own. This is her cross to bear, it’s not something that Ethan or her uncle can be a part of. She spends her days studying a spell book, seeking a way to deny her family’s dark magic curse and the rules of the caster world that dictate that women cannot choose their own fate. When she finds the answer, which requires Ethan to die, she makes the mature, selfless decision to sacrifice her own happiness to save him. She wipes his memory of her and journeys to her magical claiming solo, where she chooses not light or dark, but a combination of the two. She completely rewrites the norm and forges her own path.
It can be argued that Bella breaks the rules too when she not only bears a human-vampire hybrid, but survives the process and becomes a vampire, however, that happening is something of a miracle. At best, she accomplishes the feat through a stubborn sense of hope. Lena, however, accomplishes the change she seeks in the world through hard work and education. It’s a dry message when it’s spelled out so simply, but that’s why we have things like magic and romance to coat it with.
At the heart of Beautiful Creatures is an obstacle that can only be overcome by the willpower, knowledge, and dedication of our strong heroine. Bella becomes a strong mother by the end of her journey, she follows her heart, and she changes her fate, but it’s not the same. Lena is exactly who she is always going to be at the start of Beautiful Creatures, and she strives throughout the film to maintain that sense of self and to find a way in which the person she is fits into the larger world, whether that includes the girls at school and a boyfriend, or not. In the end, it's the fact that Lena is so well-read and so resolute in who she is that attacts Ethan. It's not some cosmic calling, much like the magnetic pull between Edward and Bella. With Ethan and Lena, it's a matter of mutual respect and admiration.
Lena's story is what young girls should be yearning for: the ability to truly understand themselves, their goals, and their desires, the dedication to make those goals a reality, and if they're really lucky, they'll stumble upon a charismatic, funny, cheerful young man to keep them company along the way.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. (2); Summit Entertainment]
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Richard Ayoade perches quietly in an ornately-crafted chair at the Crosby Hotel in New York. Dressed to the nines in an outfit I can only refer to as the epitome of nerd chic, his hands rest resolutely on his lap and he awaits a barrage of reporters’ questions. The man behind this summer’s Submarine (June 3) doesn’t exactly embody the sort of director we’ve come to know in Hollywoodland. Generally, we find men and women who are just itching to speak and be spoken to. They could allow their own soliloquies to run endlessly; their excitement and passion almost overflows from every response. Ayoade is no such director, but it’s certainly not for a lack of passion or love of the craft. He respectfully listens to every query, carefully crafting a meticulous and worldly response for each inquisitor. While atypical of many successful folks in this profession, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to those who know his work.
The London native made a name for himself as one of the stars of cult-hit and British sitcom, The IT Crowd, where he plays a socially awkward but ultimately brilliant IT expert and of late, his feature film debut is a meticulously-crafted, inherently intelligent, and genuinely hilarious piece of work. It would almost be disappointing if the man himself turned out to be a loud, outspoken individual.
But it’s not just his introverted manner that’s remarkable; Ayoade is almost alarmingly humble. He’s quick to thank those around him before giving his efforts any credit. He jumps at the chance to give the author of the novel Submarine, Joe Dunthorne, thanks as his “co-writer” on the film. It’s a bit funny, considering the adaptation is wholly Ayoade’s interpretation of Dunthorne’s original work and differs in more than a few ways from its source material. “You have a big source that you’re looking at and Joe was always available to talk – he was writing his next book which was just finished – but he always made himself available to answer questions,” was his only comment on his adaptation process.
When I asked about how he handled a complicated, precocious character like Submarine’s protagonist, he also dealt the bulk of the credit to his young actor. “I think a lot of it’s down to Craig’s [Roberts] performance, and he’s just very real and he doesn’t send things up and he’s not mugging and trying to be funny in that kind of a way,” Ayoade said. Of course this is all true of Roberts’ turn in the film – he’s almost like a miniature adult trapped in the tribulations of adolescence – but Ayoade gives almost no credit to his own adaptation or to the guiding hand of his direction. While it makes for a much more difficult interview, it’s almost refreshing to find someone so talented who’s simultaneously so unnervingly humble.
Of course, if you delve into Ayoade’s past work, you’ll find if anything, that he’s got little reason to be so humble. He’s had his hands in so many areas of film and television that it’s alarming more people don’t know his name – granted, in England, he enjoys a bit more fame than he’s experienced in the States. Besides starring as Moss on The IT Crowd, Ayoade played the comedic better half to comedian Matthew Holness in their creation of a spoof horror series called Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace as well as in a few other tangential projects. The writer/director/comedian was also part of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding’s comedy series The Mighty Boosh up until it switched from radio to television and he directed a handful of music videos, which is how he became friends with The Artic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, who scored Submarine.
Fans of U.S. sitcom Community may be surprised to know that after forging a friendship with the show’s lead actor, Joel McHale, thanks to their scrapped U.S. version of The IT Crowd, McHale lobbied for Ayoade to direct one of the most talked-about episodes this last season. “Critical Film Studies,” also known as the Pulp Fiction episode that didn’t deliver the Pulp Fiction tribute everyone was expecting, was more of a tribute to the ‘70s film My Dinner With Andre. For a film-nerd like Ayoade, this was a perfect fit. The show often comes under fire for its sometimes overwhelming pop culture references, but Ayoade doesn’t see that as an issue.
“I think Community [makes itself accessible] very cleverly in that references are never for their own sake, they’re motivated by character and they’re very careful at doing that and picking storylines that have bases in reality instead of just [being] parodic,” he said.
We could say the same thing of Submarine, which Ayoade admits pulls inspiration from such disparate areas as French New Wave cinema, Taxi Driver, The Graduate and Love in The Afternoon. “There’s no sense that you’d want it to be a collection of references or if you don’t know you’d feel alienated, they’re just characters who are aware of films, I guess, and that informs who they are,” Ayoade said of the referential practice.
As for the future, the director has a few things on his plate. In addition to The IT Crowd’s next season, Ayoade says he’s working on another adaptation, only this time it’s a bit more ambitious as he aims to tackle one of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s works, The Double. Of course being the comedian he is, aims to find the humor in the tortured work, but if anyone can do it, it’s him. If Submarine is any indication, Ayoade will soon be shaking the “super geeky one from The IT Crowd” moniker and joining the ranks of the other well-known hilarious Brits.
The Writers Guild of America announced their list of nominees for their annual film awards Thursday, six days before the coveted Oscar nominations.
The WGA nominees for best original screenplay include Gosford Park, written by Julian Fellowes, Monster's Ball, written by Milo Addica and Will Rokosand, and The Royal Tenenbaums, written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson.
Joel and Ethan Coen, who previously won a WGA Award for Fargo in 1996, and were nominated last year for O Brother, Where Art Thou, were again nominated for The Man Who Wasn't There.
Australians Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, who were also nominated for the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for direction, were nominated for the musical Moulin Rouge.
Nominees for best adapted screenplay include A Beautiful Mind, written by Akiva Goldsman, Black Hawk Down, by Ken Nolan, Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis, and Ghost World, written by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff.
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson were nominated for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which was also nominated for a DGA Award for direction.
All films released in 2001 under the jurisdiction of the Writers Guild of America are eligible for Writers Guild Awards. The nominations were chosen from 187 films, 111 in the original screenplay category and 76 in the adapted screenplay category.
Oscar favorites In the Bedroom and Memento were ineligible for this year's Writers Guild awards because their writers were not members of the Guild when the screenplays were written.
The 54th Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place Saturday, March 2, 2002, simultaneously in Los Angeles (Beverly Hilton Hotel) and New York (Pierre Hotel).
So you pay your taxes, then you pay off some loans and after that you decide to get that tummy-tuck you’ve always wanted. And before you know it, your $1 million winnings just doesn’t seem like that much money anymore.
Perhaps that’s what sole "Survivor" Richard Hatch has been feeling lately, for he sure has been hustling hard for dough despite his seven-figure jackpot.
After a report from Inside.com this week that the 39-year-old corporate trainer has signed a $500,000 book deal with St. Martin’s Press, word today is that he has also set his eyes on showbiz.
Daily Variety says that Richard has singed with Creative Artists Agency, the management firm Pure Arts and publicist Polaris PR as his representatives. They will assist the pot-belly one, who is said to be looking for on-air commentator gigs and TV show guest spots -- in fielding various offers.
DO WE HEAR EBAY!? Apparently, defection happened both on and off the set of "Survivor." After the show’s big finale last week, the publicity folks at CBS discovered that a box of autographed "Survivor" photos had been looted. The network suspects that workers who were involved with the show’s town hall special may have walked off with the goods, which was intended for various charities and fundraisers.
SEE JENNA ‘TALK’: Didn’t get enough of Jenna on the regular season? Well, the single mother will host E!’s "Talk Soup" tonight. She’s the third "Survivor" contestant to moonlight on the show this week, after Kelly on Monday and Sue last night. So what about Colleen?