On Sunday night, the TV-viewing public — or at least a relatively small, geeky-ish fraction thereof — let out a collective gasp when Melisandre (spoiler alert!) gave birth to Lost’s smoke monster on HBO's Game of Thrones. We’re still in a little bit of a head-scratching haze over the development, which got us wondering about 2012’s TV moments that’ve rocked our world, because even though the year is not even yet six months old, there have been WTF?! moments aplenty. Here are our top seven picks!
Game of Thrones: Smoke Baby (Duh!)
This show is known for pushing every conceivable boundary, but it took an interesting turn when new character Melisandre gave birth to a smoky demon while Davos Seaworth, and viewers, looked on in horror. She stripped down to her birthday suit in a wet, gloomy cave, revealing a very pregnant belly that wasn't there last week. Whatever was in there began making its way out violently, resulting in a horrifying birthing scene that consisted of a reincarnation of Lost's smoke monster grabbing her calves and pulling its way out. Then, it disappeared into the night while Melisandre smiled. She's weird! -Shaunna Murphy
Next: Don Draper did what? Mad Men: Don's Fever Dream
Don's murderous fever dream was shocking. Even though we knew it was a dream Don clearly has some terrible stuff creeping up on his subconscious. Things aren't going to end well with him and Megan, but this dream may have been a sign of how bad it could get. -Aly Semigran
We all sighed when we thought Don Draper had broken his vows to new wife Megan when he pounced on an old girlfriend while home sick. But then, following their regrettable romp, we all gasped watching Don pounce on her again… and strangle her to death. Of course, we know there was something as suspect as Pete Campbell about the moment — we are way too far away from Mad Men's finale for the murder to be real. Though it turned out to be a fever-inducing hallucination, realizing that the character is capable of killing — even only in his dreams — was a shocking setback for the new Don. -Kate Ward
Next: The Parks and Rec relationship heard 'round the world.Parks and Recreation: Anne + Tom Sittin' in a Tree
Ann is actually dating Tom. For real. And she didn't even pass his "Oh-no-no" test. How can Tommy Fresh have a boo-bear who doesn't even know who Ginuwine is? GINUWINE! Until this relationship hits a wall, I will perpetually be found making Ron Swanson's hernia face. -Kelsea Stahler
Next: Idol voters' temporary insanity.
American Idol: Jessica Sanchez (Almost) Gets the Boot
Jessica Sanchez receiving the lowest number of votes, while Hollie Cavanagh sat comfortably on the safe couch. How voters allowed the best singer this show has seen in years feel the sting of elimination (before the judges rightfully saved her talented tushie) while Hollie, the unpolished-pixie-wonder, enjoys waves of votes is absolutely inconceivable. Are they not watching the show? Do they not notice how deathly silent CBS studios gets every time the judges slam Hollie's performances? -Kelsea Stahler
Next: Ru-Paul's Drag Race gets slimy.RuPaul's Drag Race: Vomit-gate
The action on this campy reality show is usually straight forward: the queens put on their dresses, lip sync for their lives, and one of them is sent home. On one episode this season, things didn't go according to plan. Willam, one of the favorites in the race, was safe from elimination when he just started barfing all over his platform pumps. After two other contestants were up for being voted out, Ru called Willam back on stage and told him he had broken the rules and to pack his bags. He wiped the vom off his lips and sashayed off the show, without any further explanation given. Seriously, everyone, WTF to all of that! -Brian Moylan
Next: The Bachelor gets schooled.The Bachelor: That Awkward "Kissing Lesson"
On dating shows like this you're always going to encounter a few (many) awkward moments. But Jamie Otis took things to a whole new level when she decided to straddle Bachelor Ben Flajnik (in a very short dress, might I add) and instruct him on how to kiss properly. No man at any age wants to be told that he's not kissing the right way! Any chance of this girl winning Ben's heart went out the window at this precise moment. It was all kinds of awkward times ten. -Kelly Schremph
Next: Old Favorites on the 'Town.The Scrubs Cast on Cougar Town
As a Scrubs fan from the early indie-dramedy style days right down to the cartoon-esque finale season, it couldn’t have been more of a thrill than it was to see Cougar Town accumulate five surprise Scrubs alums for the purposes of a 30-second joke at the very end of its Season 3 episode “A One Story Town.” As Sam Lloyd (Scrubs’ Ted) begins to freak out that everyone around him resembles people from his old job at a hospital, the jokes become more and more absurd, climaxing with Zach Braff showing up as a pizza boy and Rob Maschio (The Todd) requesting a high five. It was nuts, and incredibly fun. Oh, and yes, I watch Cougar Town. -Michael Arbeiter
If Pixar could ever be said to have a red-headed stepchild it would be 2006’s Cars. Other studios would be doing backflips and buying self-congratulatory Variety ads if their tentpoles earned Cars’ 74% Rotten Tomatoes rating but for Pixar it represents an all-time low. Scan the positive reviews and you’ll notice they’re mostly filled with praise of the qualified kind as in “It’s no Toy Story or Incredibles but…”
So why bother with a sequel? Because even a studio of such vaunted artistic integrity as Pixar must occasionally bow to the dictates of the market: Cars may be among Pixar’s lesser-regarded and lesser-performing films (though a $461 million worldwide gross hardly constitutes failure) but it is astonishingly successful as a brand second only to the Toy Story franchise in its worldwide merchandising haul. The prospective numbers alone – Cars 2 is expected to outstrip Toy Story 3’s multi-billion-dollar retail sales tally – made another Cars installment all but inevitable.
That’s not to say Cars 2 is just some naked cash-grab. As the Toy Story follow-ups demonstrated Pixar and producer-director John Lasseter take their sequels seriously and never embark upon them without a plan that allows a reasonable chance at surpassing the original. And their plan in the case of Cars 2 calls for a wholesale overhaul.
The story begins with racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) now a four-time Piston Cup champion accepting a challenge by arrogant Italian Formula One racer Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) to compete against him in the World Grand Prix a series of races in Japan Italy France and England. But once Cars 2 arrives in Tokyo the setting of its first race the plot pulls an audacious switcheroo morphing into a rollicking spy thriller. (This is presaged by its opening sequence an elaborate take-off of classic Bond-movie prologues.) Lightning the hero of the first film retreats to the sidelines as the story shifts its focus to his dim-witted tow-truck sidekick Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) who through a case of mistaken identity is thrust into the center of a conspiracy involving efforts to thwart a revolutionary alternative fuel called Allinol.
On the trail of the mysterious green-energy haters are British secret agents Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) the spitting image of 007’s iconic silver Aston Martin DB5 (actual brand names are for the most part avoided) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) a plucky purple roadster who believe Mater to be an American agent under deep cover. Fumbling toward gallantry his ignorance and clumsiness attributed to his elaborate disguise Mater’s arc echoes those of the protagonists in Being There and other works in which simpletons inadvertently elevated to positions of significance. Heroism it seems knows no IQ.
All told Cars 2 represents a solid upgrade – lighter quicker sleeker and brighter than the original model. Leaving the provincial confines of Radiator Springs the setting of the first film is a boon to the animators allowing them to showcase breathtaking 3D renderings of exotic skylines and cityscapes. The film boasts an earnest if artlessly conveyed pro-environmentalist message but I would hesitate to call it a message film. In fact it may be Pixar’s least-serious film to date: silly whimsical and crammed with one-liners and throwaway sight gags. It lacks the immense depth of feeling that characterizes more esteemed Pixar releases like Toy Story 3 or Up! but it's by no means hollow either. Those wishing for that old familiar Pixar profundity may simply have to accept that a world made up exclusively of anthropomorphized cars just isn’t conducive to it.
All of which suggests that Cars 2 is principally geared toward the audience’s younger and more distractible members who may lose track of the conspiracy plotline or fail to grasp its energy politics but will devour the rest of the film like a supercharged pixie stick. A handful of vehicles actually die in the film though never on-screen. The implied vehicular carnage probably won’t traumatize the little ones but it could prompt a few uncomfortable “Do cars go to heaven?” conversations.
Adults’ appreciation for Cars 2 may ultimately hinge on their respective tolerance for Mater’s bumbling redneck shtick and the film’s reliance (some might say overreliance) on fish-out-of-water/culture-clash humor. The comic tone of Cars 2 is about what you’d expect from a film in which Larry the Cable guy gets the lion’s share of the dialogue which is to say: exceedingly lowbrow. I tired of it shortly after the first act; your mileage may vary.
Writer and director Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd The Mighty Boosh) claims copious influences for his feature debut and the film can’t help but remind us of other indie-flavored coming-of-age flicks like Rushmore and Harold and Maude but Submarine is a decidedly and endearingly unique film. In a season where most of the films we flock to see merit descriptors like “super ” “action-packed” and various forms of the word “huge ” Ayoade’s little dark comedy creeps along below the water line ready to pop up and deliver a delightful surprise for summer movie goers.
Adapted from the novel by Joe Dunthorne Submarine tells the story of Oliver (Craig Roberts) a rather strange highly-intelligent 15 year-old boy who’s determined to lose his virginity by his next birthday rescue his parents’ ailing marriage and to see it all retold in an epic New Wave-y cinematic tribute. This idea that his life will be retold on film flows throughout the film contrasting Oliver’s grandiose retelling of his life against its stark realities. Ayoade allows us to see how unreliably Oliver tells his own story but as the plot thickens we tend to get almost as lost in Oliver’s fantasies as he is.
Oliver’s virginity-ending quest leads him to his girlfriend an eczema-riddled pyromaniac named Joanna (Yasmin Paige). He’s picked her out as being most likely to acquiesce to his proposal thanks to various calculated social factors and thus their adolescent romance begins. While Oliver is exploring his relationship with Joanna – greatly consisting of her burning the hair off his legs with matches while he reimagines their romance as captured idyllically on super 8 film – Mr. and Mrs. Tate’s (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) relationship is slowly crumbling. Jill Tate’s old flame Graham a new age life coach with a useless theory about colors (Paddy Considine) moves in across the way sending Jill into a bout of reminiscence and a longing for her youth that stands to threaten her marriage. Oliver being the precocious young man he is is determined to barrel in headfirst to fix his parents’ ailing marriage which he’s been monitoring for months using the dimmer switch setting in their bedroom. (And it’s been on the sex-less setting for quite a while.)
Of course the most obvious reason this film works is Ayoade’s tight script and meticulous direction but the lynchpin is certainly the fantastic cast. Roberts and Paige though both very young fill the screen like two adults trapped in adolescent bodies. Tayor is fantastic as always but Hawkins ably treads the wafer-thin line between goofy hilarity and the complete and total sincerity of a housewife in crisis. Considine’s Graham gets a little cartoonish at times but those moments are reigned in with a little help from Hawkins.
Ayoade lends a sort of film-brat aesthetic to Submarine playing with French New Wave elements and giving nods to films like Love in the Afternoon. Of course the fact that Oliver is so inclined to remember his life in film scenes helps to unleash the techniques in Ayoade’s repertoire. In other settings this combination may have felt a little jumbled but the story almost begs for it here. Bolstering Ayoade’s plethora of techniques is the style he chose for the film. It’s a bit retro but not overly so. Ayoade situates Oliver’s gloomy seaside town in a timeless space that feels simultaneously old fashioned and completely fresh.
Finally tying all the elements together with a big bow is the soundtrack comprised of original songs by Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys. While he had some of the tunes composed before Ayoade brought him in to work on the film the tracks perfectly complement Submarine’s style providing the cinematic drama that Oliver would approve of without undermining the understated reality that he’s so determined not to see.
It certainly doesn’t feel like Submarine is Ayoade’s debut. He’s done his fair share of writing and directing getting behind the scenes on a few British television shows and directing music videos for The Arctic Monkeys and Yeah Yeah Yeahs but this film feels like it comes from someone who’s been in the feature film business for years. It’s seemingly without glaring rookie mistakes or hiccups. And while the retro indie dark comedy vein often lends itself to overdrawn quirk Submarine doesn’t.
Film-brat elements aside at its heart Submarine is a fiercely genuine slightly complicated and completely lovable film.
The Four Weddings & A Funeral star is so beloved among film fans, he's mostly forgiven for his liaison with prostitute Divine Brown 13 years ago - a scandal that would have ruined many men.
Instead, Grant bounced back with a string of hit movies like Notting Hill, Two Weeks Notice and Bridget Jones's Diary, in which he played the perfect cad.
Away from Hollywood, he has dated two of the world's great English beauties in Elizabeth Hurley and Jemima Khan and he's a huge fan of golf, soccer and cricket.
To many, he's an example of all that is good - and bad - about the upper-crust British bloke, and we salute Hugh!
To mark his 50th, we dug through his archive for 10 things you might not have known about Hugh John Mungo Grant:
- he won a scholarship to England's prestigious Oxford University.
- the editors of British film bible Empire picked him 43rd in their 100 Sexiest Stars in movie history list in 1995.
- ex-girlfriend and business partner Elizabeth Hurley called their production company Simian Films, because she thought Grant looked like an ape.
- top star Vincent Cassell used to dub Grant's voice for the French release of his films - even though Grant is fluent in French.
- he is working on a script about his grandfather's real-life escape from a prisoner of war camp during World War Two.
- like Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, he's a big fan of London soccer club Fulham.
- he was originally cast as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
- Andrew Lloyd Webber's mother taught the young Hugh how to play the piano.
- he pleaded no contest to lewd behaviour after police officers found him and hooker Divine Brown in a car on Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard and was fined $1,180 (£787).
- Hugh shares his birthday with Leo Tolstoy, Otis Redding, infamous rock groupie Pamela Des Barres, Adam Sandler, model Rachel Hunter and U.S. drug kingpin Frank Lucas, who was portrayed on film by Denzel Washington in American Gangster.
Everything appears to be status quo between humans and mutants. There’s a president who is sympathetic towards mutants Prof. Charles Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) school is thriving and Magneto (Ian McKellen) is quiet--for the moment. But when a “cure” for mutancy is discovered which would give those with the mutant gene the choice to give up their powers and become human Magneto sees red. Cure mutants? Dem’s fightin’ words. With a few more allies on his side--including the resurrected Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who now calls herself the Phoenix and has unlimited powers--Magneto prepares to trigger the war to end all wars while the X-Men--lead by the stalwart Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and milquetoasty Storm (Halle Berry)--try to stop him. I seriously doubt this is really their Last Stand. All the usual suspects are back. Stewart is once again sufficiently wise as Xavier while McKellen’s Magneto continues to be one of the cooler comic-book villains. It’s amusing to watch him calmly mangle cars or dislodge the Golden Gate bridge with a gleam in his eye. Janssen also seems to relish playing dual roles--the tormented Grey and her evil alter ego Phoenix who is one scary broad. Unfortunately Jackman doesn’t have as much to chew on in Last Stand as he did in X2 and Berry is once again only good for drumming up fog. But the new mutants are kind of fun: Ellen Page (so deadly in Hard Candy) plays sweet this time as Kitty Pryde who can “phase” through solid material; Vinnie Jones (Snatch) is boisterous as the aptly named Juggernaut; Kelsey Grammer is diplomatic as the highly intelligent--and very blue--Dr. Hank McCoy aka Beast; and Dania Ramirez (Fat Albert) as the blink-of-an-eye quick Callisto gets to kick Storm’s ass. Cool cat fight. How dare director Bryan Singer leave his X-Men to go direct another superhero movie even if it is Superman Returns. If Wolverine had anything to say about he might have ripped Singer a new one. You really do feel Singer’s absence in The Last Stand. All of the director’s tormented pathos towards his mutant comrades and their struggles to live in the human world are not as prevalent in this third installment. Instead we’ve got happy-go-lucky director Brett Ratner of Rush Hour fame who turns The Last Stand into one giant id--big explosive and campy. Of course to his credit Ratner is pretty good at delivering a rousing albeit superficial action movie. It’s just not as gripping as X2. But listen the spirit of the comic is already built in from the previous installments so in essence we already know these characters pretty well. Do we really need more angst?