The fifth season of NBC family drama Parenthood kicks off on Thursday, September 26th at 10 PM ET, and there aren't enough tissues in the world to get us ready.
We can always count on the Braverman clan to make us feel things. Sure, modern life has made us cynical, immovable robot-people. But then cancer patient Kristina (Monica Potter) teaches her autistic son Max (Max Burkholder) to slow dance or Jabbar (Tyree Brown) calls Crosby (Dax Shepard) "Daddy" for the first time, and we robot-people melt into puddles of emotion, kind of like when all the black-and-white people turn into color in Pleasantville.
While it's difficult to imagine anything that could make us more weepy than little Victor's adoption ceremony, we're sure that the Parenthood creative team has some heartwarming and heartbreaking moments in store for this year. In an effort to store up the emotional reserves and spare our loved ones our worst ugly-cry faces, let's attempt to guess how our fictional extended family will hit us where it hurts.
This 30-second promo spot for the new season confirms what producer Jason Katims predicted at this year's Paleyfest: the premiere leaves off eight to nine months after the events of the season four finale. Jasmine (Joy Bryant) has given birth to a happy and healthy baby, which means that there will be plenty of opportunities to swoon as senstive Crosby falls in love with another kid. (Shepard must have drawn some inspiration from his real-life new dad status.) Ray Romano's grumpy photographer Hank is clearly back in the picture; hopefully perpetual man-fixer Sarah (Lauren Graham) will finally be lucky in love. Amber (Mae Whitman) seems as in love with ex-soldier Ryan (Matt Lauria) as she was when we last saw them, window-shopping for wedding rings. But the casting of All American Rejects' frontman Tyson Ritter may hint that their relationship will be tested. (Haven't you learned not to trust rock stars yet, Amber?) Rough waters might also be ahead for Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae) and Victor's (Xolo Mariduena) mom and dad; Sonya Walger will play an architect who will get close to contractor Joel (Sam Jaeger), and David Denman will be an unemployed dad who helps workaholic Julia (Erika Christensen) transition into being a stay-at-home mom.
Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina have weathered her breast cancer ordeal (and how adorable is Potter's new shoulder-length cut?), but is she out of the woods for good? Max made huge strides at his mainstream school last year, but his Asperger's still presents constant challenges. Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) brushed off his family's worries about his heart problems in season four; was that foreshadowing for a serious health scare? Drew (Miles Heizer) had a tumultuous year with Amy's pregnancy and the move into and out of Mark's apartment. How will college pressures weigh on the unexpressed emotions he's still holding in? We assume that Haddie (Sarah Ramos) now knows that her parents kept the truth from her about the severity of Kristina's diagnosis. Does she resent them for their good-intentioned lie?
Whatever happens, we can be sure that Parenthood will wage war on our tear ducts with no shortage of grace and nuance. In fact, we can't wait to be destroyed by this TV family all over again.
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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.