We've long waited for a more personal look into the life of the Doctor and his adventures. And oh, did things ever get personal tonight during writer Neil Gaiman's return to Doctor Who, "Nightmare in Silver." The penultimate chapter in series (oops, sorry Americans: season) 7 found our fair Doctor battling one of his oldest enemies: the Cybermen. Seemingly extinct for thousands of years at this point in time and space, the oft-hokey baddie went ahead and upgraded itself for 2013 — causing a turn for the terrifying at Hedgewick's World of Wonders, the now-defunct theme park planet home that once was the most terrific place in time and space. The biggest and the best there ever was: so what happened?
The Recap Itself
Well: the Cybermen have been reborn and they're hardly the bad guy we remember (that's a good thing). The Doctor arrived at Hedgewick's with Clara, Artie, and Angie (her two wards from the first episode, "The Bells of Saint John") in tow, only to discover that the planet theme park is now closed by Imperial Order from the Emperor of the human race that we later learn to be actor Warwick Davis, a.k.a. Porridge.
Davis' work as the Emperor stands alone, to me, as one of the best guest stars the show has seen this season, and his parallels with the Doctor and his scenes with Clara were some of the best moments of emotional expositing we've encountered. From his mourning of the Tiburion Galaxy ("I feel like a monster sometimes. Because instead of mourning a million trillion dead people, I just feel for the bloke who had th push the button.") to the secrets he kept to protect his people, the parallels between the Emperor and the Doctor were great. The Emperor — just like the Doctor — abandoned his home planet to protect the human race. Lonely monsters indeed.
We also met the weirdly Willy Wonka-esque Webly, who has his own ship of Wonders burrowed into the ground, complete with wax work (like the phrase "human wax works" was seen on alley signs in "The Crimson Horror"?) statues of some of the most infamous creatures the universe has ever seen. And if that wasn't enough to give you a serious case of the heeby-geebies, surely the next bit would.
How about a game, friends? Better yet: how about a game of chess with a Cyberman! Eek. Seems a simple enough task, but sure did turn high stakes rather quickly. Chess seems to be a bit of repetitive storytelling, as it was this very game that he used to manipulate the man that worked for The Silence in "The Wedding of River Song." (Live chess to be exact. Man's name was Gantok.) But yet, the game of chess goes from simple to deadly after a group of Cybermites (one of a seeming unending and constantly evolving set of upgrades the clunky baddies made to become truly terrifying) have attached themselves to the Doctor to be upgraded into the system, and therefore fully integrated to what are — according to a plaque on the wall — "The Great Enemy." But if the enemy is so Great, why didn't they use that crazy-fast-run-walk-speedy-thingy all the time? Certainly to unwit the Doctor, you must outrun him. And nothing is scarier than the thought of someone who could ever outrun the Doctor.
Turns out the Cybermen were alive the whole time, merely in wait — but waiting for what? Waiting for children, or a savior of a kind? But if it was just anyone they wanted — why not use Webly or the Emperor or one of the members of the Imperial Guard? Because these Cybermen, I think, were waiting for either the Doctor or his companions. (Because who else can defeat the Doctor but the Doctor himself, eh?)
Now it seems, the Doctor is fighting against time at both ends — stuck yet again in the middle of two warring sides.
Clara is put in charge of the guard and they head off to the "comical castle," which is just a lovely way for Gaiman to inject a bit of humor into the episode's seemingly perma-zingy dialogue. Gaiman was at his best when characters were communicating with one another. Except of course, when he was at his greatest — which was when he was writing for the Doctor and this Cyber-Planner alterna-Doctor.
Here, for me, is where the episode really sung and Gaiman's strengths were most effective: Matt Smith playing two sides of himself. I know I'm prone to a bit of hyperbole here and there (and everywhere), but seriously: Matt's Doctor/Cyber-Planner/Mr. Clever (which, "clever" !!!!) moments were a tightrope act of balance and performance that he pulled off with a level of deft and precision that I thoroughly enjoyed. Honestly, it's such a delight to see the Doctor's wits used against him and Smith pulls it off with a startling intelligence. Playing those different aspects of the Doctor's personality against one another is where Smith's talents as an actor shine the brightest, I think. My Doctor might always been Ten, but Eleven really has won me over this season. His performances are always far more dynamic that many fans give them credit for because it's hard to see just how nuanced they are until all the pieces have been set. When people go back for a second look at this season, they'll like it a lot more than they do now.
But let's get back to the story. Hedgewick's World of Wonder was simply a trap designed to capture children to use to make more Cybermen. Children's brains are far more malleable and therefore, easily upgraded. Children are the future, as they say. (Teach them well and let them lead the waaaaay!) Infinite potential, which in turn means they're so much more than just a bunch of spare parts for repairs. Apparently, the next model of Cybermen "will be undefeatable."
Undefeatable, likely due to the Doctor's mind. And in his mind we learn so much and yet so little — only what the Doctor wants Mr. Clever here to see.
Like the moments of regeneration. Which: Hello! We need to talk about this. The giant explosion between Ten and Eleven is a bit of a game-changer, is it not? Because it gives us an alternate we never thought of: what if something happened between Ten and Eleven. And what was that "thing"? What does it mean? Was there once a missing Doctor there? Is he sealed within the Time War? Is Eleven actually not the Eleventh Doctor, but the Twelfth? The moment didn't give us much, visually. But here's what we saw in that "explosion":
It looked like the wisps of regeneration, but with a green light in the right-hand corner. Is that a planet? The one from Ahkaten? Or, is that when Oswin Oswald erased him from history, in turn creating a paradox (where there are two Doctors living two different realities of time (with him and without him)? I wonder if [POTENTIALLY SPOILERY STUFF AHEAD] this weird blip in time is what ties John Hurt's upcoming guest role in the 50th into the storyline. [POTENTIALLY SPOILERY STUFF DONE] All the other Doctor renegerations flowed fluidly from one to the next up until that point: why was it so disruptive when Ten rengerated into Eleven? (Or is this all just because Ten was feelin' bratty and not ready to let go at the end there?)
The Doctor used his threat of insta-regeneration to successfully keep Mr. Clever from fully integrating the Doctor's brain into the main Cyber hub. "After me, who knows what'll pop out," the Doctor threatened. There's .223% of the Doctor's brain up for grabs, and whoever controls this controls the whole Doctor. What is that .223%? Is that the mental Clara block? Is there a battle between the two Doctors to control Clara, or is that .223% the "sliver of ice" that Emma Grayling mentioned during "Hide"? Regardless, it's apparently nothing a wee game of chess can't solve.
So we all know that the Doctor's been eliminating himself from history (thanks to the help of good ole Oswin Oswald), but did he not consider the fact that doing so could cause one seriously epic paradox? All the good he'd done just, what, vanished without consequence? Please. The repercussions are bound to be insane. Because as Mr. Clever told us: "You know you could be reconstructed by the hole you've left." Like... out of spare parts? ("We didn't have the parts." - a line from one of those clocks from "The Girl in the Fireplace." AGAIN, I know! I'm obsessed.) Perhaps this is why the Doctor's companions are all being chased after: through their eyes and minds the Doctor can be reconstructed and used as a weapon.
Still, the Doctor has a golden ticket, and utilized that gold to interfere with the Cyber-interface, giving him slightly greater (albeit temporary) control over the flip and flop between Mr. Clever and himself. And in those moments, the Doctor is able to leverage a side of him we rarely ever see him use: his emotions. Emotions are seen as the enemy, and losing the game of chess was an act of emotion that landed the Doctor in a position of control again (also thanks to Porridge's expertly-timed entrance into the fold with the cybertech-killing hand-thingy). Oh also also Time Lords invented chess. What a bunch of clever folks!
They're not the only clever ones, though: turns out Angie figured out pretty early on that Porridge was in fact the long-missing Emperor of the human race. Upon defeating Mr. Clever and all of the Cybermen, we were transported to a ship that looked a heck of a lot like the place where Rose Tyler and Nine saw the world explode. And here, again, we see the world explode.
The Emperor finishes out the episode with a monologue about how people will keep a close eye on him now that he's been found. A post he calls the loneliest in the universe: being the emperor. A job, Clara insisted, didn't have to mean he was lonely. Naturally, the Emperor has fallen a bit for Clara (haven't we all in a way?) and offers her a proper marriage proposal: Clara, Queen of the Universe! One small hitch: Clara does not want to rule a thousand galaxies. Lucky for the Emperor though, because if he's still looking, it's a title Angie seems quite keen to tackle: "When someone asks you to be Queen of the Universe, you say yes. You watch. One day: I'll be Queen of the Universe." Ooh snap, could Angie be Liz Ten from the early days of Amy and Eleven ("The Beast Below")? I think I'd like that, really.
Loose Ends:- Angie got a new phone as a "gift from the TARDIS." Interesting!- "See you next Wednesday." Oh, wait, does Clara only go on adventures with the Doctor on Wednesdays? He says, "Well, A Wednesday," signifying that he never knows when he'll see her next, either. - Upon making a slightly objectifying comment about Clara: "What are you?" the Doctor asks himself. And for once, I don't think he's talking about Clara.
Next week's episode is going to be a DOOZY:
Oh my — Clara born to save the Doctor, eh? Well I have long being saying her life was part of something bigger. And hoo boy, do I have some theories for you!
The Nerdy Stuff
Holy cats, you guys. OK — now let's talk about the good stuff: fun theory crazy shenanigan time. There's a lot of subversive stuff going on that has continued throughout this season: leaving the TARDIS far away from the center of the action, and there's just so much emphasis on whether or not the Doctor has a plan. For the past few episodes especially, it seems particularly pointed, the way they're constantly mentioning how The Doctor doesn't have a plan (when he usually always does. But as we know, rule one: The Doctor lies.), which in turn causes the humans in the stories to step up and solve the problems du jour. Sure, these companions have all been human thus far, but each one has been mentioned or referenced this season. Every single one: it's as if they're all connected.
Which in turn feels, to me, like an attempt on Steven Moffat's part to link the past, classic Doctor Who to its current, new-Who iteration. Allow me to explain what I mean.
We already know that experimentation has come up a few times. Again, I feel brought back to "The Girl in the Fireplace," a.k.a. Madame Du Pompadour a.k.a. Reinette. A name which is awfully close to The Rani (Reinette meaning "Little Queen" and The Rani meaning "Queen" as well). We never fully got an explanation as to whom The Rani is/was: could that be Clara? We've seen different aspects of the Rani's time throughout Matt Smith's version of the Doctor in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (the Rani's TARDIS was destroyed by a T-Rex), and even in Clara's two trips to the industrial revolution ("The Snowmen" and "The Crimson Horror"). Plus, the Rani's name was known in old Who as Ushas. And Ushas is a religious diety often spoken of in the plural ("the dawns"), sent to ward off evil. Could Clara be the sum of all parts (the companions), born to save the Doctor thanks to Rose? Ushas was often represented as a reddish cow: Clara's always wearing red and when the TARDIS showed her image in "Hide," she called it a cow. Could also explain why the TARDIS may not like Clara so much.
Also seems interesting to note the tie-in/coincidence that River Song's name was Mel/Melody Pond, and the Doctor's companion during the time he fought the Rani was Mel/Melanie Bush (Well, her family name was never revealed on-screen, but production notes refer to her as Melanie Bush). When you look at the two words "pond" and "bush," well: they're both the result of what happens when nature nutures itself (water being a key ingredient to life) And Melody Bush's involvement with the Doctor functioned quite a lot like how Melody Pond's has thus far (intersecting timelines that weren't linear). Could they be the same? And could Clara/The Rani be the same? Could John Hurt's character be the Valeyard? There also feels to be connections to the Meddling Monk from early classic Who. And we all know that monks are NOT cool!
Is all of this stuff with Matt Smith just the Doctor's way of rewriting time? And if Bad Wolf/Rose is involved, how does that connect? We know the Doctor's guru from Gallifrey back in his old, old days — in an episode titled "The Time Monster" from classic Who — pointed to a flower on a hill. Gallifrey was a red planet. What are the chances that it could've been a rose on that hill, you think? We've seen roses and red-hued things in every episode since Clara arrived.
What if Clara was the sum of all former companions built to be a super-companion by Rose/Bad Wolf in order to help the Doctor (I mean, she did see all that is and was) in his quest to do whatever it is that must ultimately be done in the 50th anniversary episode while simultaneously helping our Lonely Monster to remember who he is, what he does, and all that comes with that? After all, Nine gave up his life for Rose, and Rose always worried that she would lose the Doctor again (hence the intense love and attachment to Ten): sound familiar to Eleven's relationship with Clara, eh?
Perhaps Rose took on the energy of the Bad Wolf to mold him a perfect companion (Clara) and help him out when she couldn't be there: the perfect (too perfect?) foil. There's got to be something in here that relates to UNIT, though, as we have seen Clara wearing the UNIT pendant as a necklace before and we know they're coming back for the fiftieth. Maybe Clara will have to die senselessly and far from home as Mr. Clever here mentioned: but not yet.
And was anyone else reminded of Alfie Owens and his dad Craig when they saw that one chubby imperial guard who claimed to have heard about the Cybermen since he was in his cradle? Craig Owens (remember him and Sophie?)'s son Stormageddon a.k.a. Alfie (weird/interesting when you think of all the kids names: Alfie, Artie, Angie) may very well be a coincidence, but I'm not 100% sure. The whole "power of three" thing, coupled with the fact that those three kids feel like they could possibly be part of River Song's team of archeologist helpers from "Silence in the Library" makes me think there's a bigger possibility here. The children borne of the Doctor's deeds and doings, taken care of by his wife, River Song, and watched over by their governess and nanny, Clara. Keys to a bigger puzzle. Of course it could just be a coincidence, but still worth nothing, I think.
This all feels like a set-up not to reveal the Doctor's actual name, but perhaps another title or destiny that he had that he wanted to change. Certainly a big enough way to change the scope of the series that both honors the past and looks ahead, doesn't it? Perhaps that's the reason for the dissonance fans feel between episodes. The Doctor had to fight all these battles in order to remember how to beat whatever this reconstruction of him is (I'm convinced this has something to do with John Hurt's character in the 50th), which is why he must run — but also, eventually, remember.
And this is where I think John Hurt's character comes into play: an amalgamation of all the Doctor's past renegerations through the eyes/souls/minds of his old companions, which is in turn utilized to reconstruct the Doctor into some sort of special being. But who could it be: The Valeyard? The Meddling Monk? The Master? The Celestial Toymaker? Perhap it was all put in motion when the Doctor put all of his past memories and lives into the dying star/Grandfather in the "Rings of Ahkaten"? Perhaps all of that was a trap to give it infinite life thanks to Clara's Most Important Leaf in Human History.
When it comes to the part of what's at play here: the idea of the Celestial Toymaker is, personally, most appealing to me. The connection to Blackpool (a town Clara mentions) may hint at this — she was lost in Blackpool before her mother found her as a girl — as it was the place where the Toymaker was banished to by the sixth Doctor: sealed within a forcefield made up of his own thoughts, trapped for seemingly ever. He had used mirrors to create clockwork duplicates to defeat the Doctor, but failed. Which: clocks. (Bespoke engineering? Apparently I'm seriously obsessed with "The Girl in the Fireplace," you guys.) It could also tie in to the Dream Lord because messing with a person's dream sounds like a sort of game and the Celestial Toymaker loved games.
Massive undertaking, no doubt, but would anyone really expect anything less of this series? I never understood why people were so against Moffat's run, and perhaps that's because I tend to believe that there's more at play with Moffat's idea for Doctor Who than can be seen until the full breadth of the story is realized. This half of the season feels serialized in a timey-wimey sort of way. It would also explain a lot of the holes fans feel have been popping up throughout Moffat's run.
I'm forever-convinced that Moffat's had this storyline in his head for years and years, and has been dropping hints of it in tiny ways since his first few appearances as a writer on this show. Perhaps this is his own way of tying up loose continuity ends while also including the mythical ole Cartmel Masterplan. Or maybe I just have way too much time on my hands, and/or give Moffat a bigger benefit of a doubt than I should. But I'm betting it's not the latter.
This episode may polarize fans because the successes and failures of it are squarely pegged in the place where "episodic" and "overarching thematic storyline" meet. Which means it's a struggle between old and new Who in a lot of ways: do you want big, flashy stories or episode-by-episode fun? It feels to me like this is an attempt to give us both, but until everything is revealed to the audience, it won't feel that way. And that's why when Gaiman's strengths were good, they were really good, but the parts that weren't (the fast-walking Cybermen only use that fast-walking bit sometimes even when it is highly effective) felt a bit lazy.
Next week's episode of Doctor Who is the finale. We're positively bubbling (OK, maybe more like gurgling) with thoughts and anticipation: the fields of Trenzalore! The fall of the eleventh! Doctor WHO? The return of River Song (Alex Kingston)! Will she be pre- or post- The Library? "The Name of the Doctor" may prove itself to be the most interesting and potentially infuriating episode in Who history, as it will likely be a lead-in to the 50th Anniversary spectacular taking place in November.
Check out the prequel for next week's finale, "She Said, He Said," written by showrunner Steven Moffat, below:
Let us know what you thought of "Nightmare in Silver" in the comments!
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More:'Doctor Who' Recap: The Crimson Horror'Doctor Who' Recap: Journey to the Center of the TARDIS 'Doctor Who' Recap: Hide
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Very little can impact the fact that I'm pumped for Ender's Game.
Having read the book in my younger days, Orson Scott Card's militaristic science fiction classic was relatable. Young Ender Wiggin stood in for myself and every kid who dreamed of exploring the universe (or at the very least, go to Space Camp). The novel delivered exhilarating action on the page, complicated relationships, and a challenging conclusion that flips everything we've devoured up to that point on its head. When previous life lessons came in the form Boxcar Children adventures, the final moments of Ender's Game were a big deal.
You can see why my anticipation for the long-gestating adaptation, starring Hugo's Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, is through the roof. So why are invisible forces trying their hardest to make me give up on the movie?
The big picture moral questions of Card and his controversial world views aside, our first glimpse at Ender's Game footage comes packaged with an introduction by Butterfield and Ford that could only be more phoned in if it was a voicemail message played over black. In a half sleepy state, the two give us a rundown on their characters before unveiling a snippet of clips from the film. The footage looks dazzling, juxtaposing the steel backdrops of Ender's Battle School with bright colors and fast-paced, anti-gravity action.
Then there are Butterfield and Ford, who try their best to sell the teleprompter lines. When Ford tells us he plays "Colonel Hyrum Graff," it looks like he's about to follow it with, 'What is this s**t?!' I love me some rough, gruff Harrison Ford, but c'mon man. Muster up some enthusiasm!
Watch the video below for Butterfield and Ford's impressively canned presentation and a hint at the impressive footage to come. The full (intro-less) trailer premieres next week.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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Doctor meets girl. Girl and Doctor are thrown into London-based adventure. Girl follows Doctor into blue box that is, actually, quite bigger than it looks on the outside — leading to remarkable adventures throughout space and time, until said girl gets too old, or dies. Such has been the modus operandi of the beloved cult show Doctor Who throughout much of its 50-year (on and off) run, but according to show runner Steven Moffat, newcomer Jenna-Louise Coleman is about to throw a wrench in all that.
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"She's the insolvable mystery and the enigma, and he's the one chasing after her," Moffat told reporters on Wednesday. "The Doctor wants to solve the mystery of Clara."
The mystery he's talking about, of course, is the one that was revealed during December's Christmas special — that Clara, "the impossible girl," has lived at least three separate lives throughout different points in history. You have Victorian governess Clara Oswin Oswald, futuristic badass Oswin Oswald, and now, modern-day nanny Clara Oswald. They all share the same characteristics, but current Clara has no memory of her other selves. Thankfully, Moffat has promised that this won't be a convoluted mystery like the death of the Doctor/River Song shenanigans that went on last year. "You will uncover the mystery of Clara in the next eight episodes," he says. "All will be made clear. You'll get your answer."
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The first of these eight episodes premieres on Saturday, "The Bells of St. John." Hollywood.com has screened the (fantastic) episode, which introduces a modern-day Clara as she battles "spoon head" monsters that steal your soul through your Wi-Fi. "[The monsters] grab hold of whatever is omnipresent in your life, and turn it into a monster," Moffat explains.
And how does Clara become involved in all this? Well, the Doctor has been trying to find her since the death of Victorian Clara, and he gets lucky when his TARDIS is somehow alerted to this Wi-Fi crisis — that has locked its evil tendrils into to Clara. The two then embark on "a rollicking adventure" which begins the story of what Moffat insists is the most important element of Doctor Who: The companion.
[The companion is] the person to whom the story happens," Moffat says. "A hero is somebody who saves the day and is extraordinary, and that's the Doctor. For the story to have an emotional connection, it has to happen to somebody. The Doctor himself has to happen to somebody. The companion is sort of the main character — not the hero, but the person whose story it is."
And this particular companion will be unlike anyone the Doctor has encountered before. "She has that kind of speed and wit and this unimpressed quality that makes the Doctor dance a bit harder," Moffat explains. "[The Doctor] works a bit harder with Clara. She's obviously secretly devoted to him, but she's little bit harder to impress… she's tough, she's fast, and she's hard to impress. Of course, he's absolutely devoted to Clara [as well]. That's very much driven by Jenna's particular style, which is a fast, snappy response — from a beautiful girl. There's a real sense of toughness. She can be a real adversary if she wants."
So what are we thinking, fellow Who fans? Some potential "romance" has already been teased, so are you anticipating another Rose Tyler? Or, will we get a controversial, fiery character like Amy Pond? Let us know in the comments!
Watch 'Doctor Who' Saturday at 8PM.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[Photo Credit: BBC Worldwide]
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After living her adult life in an enchanted palace, ruled by an immortal wizard, it seems as though Holly Madison has taken to a more... colorful reality than that with which you or I might be familiar. The 33-year-old Playboy Bunny has drawn from the pages of fantasy (or, at the very least, 1980s childrens product lines) in the naming of her newborn daughter, whom she welcomed into the world on Tuesday. The Daily News reports that Madison and her boyfriend, Pasquale Rotella, have decided to name their new baby Rainbow Aurora. Thus preparing the child for a life of whimsical adventures alongside the other My Little Ponies.
Yes, while mother Madison might have been confined to human form in the kingdom of Hefnernia, young Rainbow Aurora will embrace her moniker and soar beyond the galaxy, transcending time and space to become the savior of humanity. In the name of magic. And friendship. And loud animal prints.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: Shea Walsh/AP Photo]
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Although the Community fan base is rapidly thinning, many of us still watch weekly, holding onto the hope that the cast can crank out something enjoyable for one of these episodes. Although I checked my investment at the announcement of Dan Harmon’s departure, satisfied with the Season 3 finale as a spiritual conclusion of the show (it really did wrap up everything in a pretty excellent way), you can bet I’ll be tuning in for Jeff’s upcoming reunion with his father, a Greendale origin story, and a puppet episode that was announced at Tuesday night’s PaleyFest Community panel. If only out of morbid curiosity.
NBC describes the episode's premise in a press release: "In the episode, the study group takes a wild balloon ride that crash lands in the woods, and they end up spending a little time with a friendly mountain man, played by Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) ... As the study group recounts their adventures in the woods, which has left them all feeling a little awkward with one another, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) encourages them to speak about their experience with the use of puppets. The puppets include characters Jeff (Joel McHale), Pierce (Chevy Chase), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), Abed (Danny Pudi), Annie (Alison Brie), Troy (Donald Glover) and Chang (Ken Jeong)." So ... we'll see.
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Just a season ago, a theme episode of this nature would inspire a different attitude entirely. The series has managed several high concepts, tackling film genres and a number of different types of animation, as some of its greatest triumphs to date — not because of the style, but the substance. Community's winners have used big and small screen tropes and highly specific lenses to tell personal and meaty stories, delving into the characters' relationships and fragmented psyches, while the lesser examples of the breed amount to little more than short form parodies.
And while Season 4 in particular remains the target of our gripes, it's not as though Community has had a perfect record with its high concept episodes in the past...
"Contemporary American Poultry" (Season 1, Episode 21)Why It Worked: The first of the lot introduced Community's ability to bend reality just enough, using Mafia movie schematics to tell the story of Abed's feelings of isolation among the study group and people in general...
"Modern Warfare" (Season 1, Episode 22)Why It Worked: ...but the real game changer came a week later, launching Community into a new plane of existence entirely for its memorable action movie sendup, which creator Harmon describes as colossally dependent on the effectiveness of its emotional core: the culmination of Jeff and Britta's romantic tension.
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"Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" (Season 2, Episode 11)Why It Worked: The real victory of the claymation Christmas episode was in its explanation of why it was a claymation Christmas episode — the heartbreaking and frightening manifestation of Abed's emotional decay over his estranged mother's abandonment of him around their formerly cherished holiday. Abed dealt with the tragedy by imagining everything as one of the Rankin/Bass specials the two used to watch together, dipping the bright and fun imagery in a vat of heavy, dark sorrow. Happy ending, though!
"Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" (Season 2, Episode 14)Why It Worked: The Lord of the Rings-ian style fit the theme of the episode while not submitting too much to the mechanics of the epic movie. And beneath an epic episode there lurked epically emotional stories: Fat Neil's struggles with suicidal desires, Pierce's vicious insecurities and fear of exclusion, and Jeff's paining guilt over having inadvertently unleashed this degree of insensitivity on an innocent classmate. All delivered via a medium capable of capturing the grand nature of these conflicts.
The Documentary Episodes: "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" (Season 2, Episode 16) and "Documentary Filmmaking Redux" (Season 3, Episode 8) Why They Worked: The show had so much to say about the documentary format that it warranted two independent episodes. The first channeled and poked fun at the luxuries of the mockumentary style in the up-close-and-personal examination of each character's emotional turmoils during a trip to visit Pierce in the hospital. The second, even more interesting episode both gave the Dean his first glimmer of spotlight, diving energetically into his frazzled, frayed psyche, while also tackling the age-old question of whether a documentarian can and should truly be detached from his or her work.
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"Basic Rocket Science" (Season 2, Episode 4)Why It Didn't Work: Serving as little more than an Apollo 13 parody, the Season 2 episode grabbed at the goofy nature of space mission movies, using the flimsy, unbelievable throughline of Annie threatening to transfer out of Greendale (on a whim, so it seemed) as its seed.
"Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" (Season 3, Episode 9)Why It Didn't Work: While this episode's emotional engagement in Jeff and Shirley's previously unknown childhood rivalry was gripping and sweet, there were a few missed marks throughout. In regards to Jeff/Shirley, the arbitrary shift to anime style during their cathartic foosball faceoff didn't pull us in as much as it did cock a few eyebrows. It was a nice idea, but didn't contribute anything to the episode. On the other side of the group, the Abed/Annie/Troy storyline, a tackle of the age-old sitcom trope of covering up a misdeed, didn't so much play with or deconstruct the notion as much as it did simply enact it.
"Regional Holiday Music" (Season 3, Episode 10)Why It Didn't Work: In the same vein as "Nocturnal Vigilantism," this Glee parody hardly seemed like an intelligent spin on the much detested "rival" series. Instead, Community just took the Christmas episode as an opportunity to sing vaguely clever songs and take cheap shots at the Fox hit.
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"Digital Estate Planning" (Season 3, Episode 20)Why It Didn't Work: I might be in the minority here, but I never much cared for the video game episode. Not because of its substance — Pierce's redemption and the discovery of a half-brother whom he'd come to care for are worthy fodder. But in this case, the style. The writers didn't seem to have enough fun with the idea of a video game episode, padding the script with exposition and bland chatter where there should have been more frequent takedowns of the video game generation via Troy.
"History 101" (Season 4, Episode 1)Why It Didn't Work: Only a portion of the Season 4 premiere was stylized, and in keeping with our expectations of a post-Harmon Greendale, was so in the most obvious way possible: a four-camera sitcom parody. What lurked beneath the surface was Abed's phobia of change, but the delivery seemed heavy-handed and hammy, whereas past exhibitions ("Uncontrollable Christmas" is the most pertinent comparison) were subtle and poignant.
"Paranormal Parentage" (Season 4, Episode 2)Why It Didn't Work: Another lackluster non-deconstruction. In this haunted house episode, spoofing the tropes of Scooby Doo and its leviathan of spinoffs, the gang didn't seem to have anything to say about mystery stories. They just took one on. And with a severe deficit of jokes, no less.
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ON THE FENCE
"Pillows and Blankets" (Season 3, Episode 14)Why We Can't Decide: While the emotional core was vivid and strong, a good deal of the episode seemed to submit to the functionality of a Ken Burns doc, feeling like just another grab at the ol' parody grail. To its credit, a few odd deconstructions do subsist throughout — the text message gags are especially memorable.
"Basic Lupine Urology" (Season 3, Episode 17)Why We Can't Decide: It was funny, very much so, but kind of lacking in anything new to say about Law & Order.
To those who consider this list incomplete, thinking the clip show episodes ("Paradigms of Human Memory" and "Curriculum Unavailable"), the zombie episode ("Epidemiology"), and the bottle episode ("Cooperative Calligraphy") among those deserving of a place in this context, we invite you to sound off in the comment section.
How do you think the upcoming puppet episode will fare?
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
[Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC]
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Friday, movie goers will have another Oz tale to fall in love with, just shy of 75 years after the original Wizard of Oz hit theaters. Oz the Great and Powerful gives us a different take on the classic tale, delivering the Emerald City's famous wizard (James Franco) as he becomes the man behind the curtain and meets the witches (Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Wiesz) who will later dictate the fate of one Dorothy Gale.
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While it may appear that Disney's take on Oz is the first attempt at extending the Oz universe in pop culture, the merry old land of Oz has actually been spawned into so many filmic, televisual, and textual adaptations that the pieces can't even fit into one solid timeline (it's got at least three that run parallel to each other). But did you know that amongst those adaptations are Korean comic books, game shows, and even some mild pornographic cartoons? Well, there are. And for those who make it to the bottom, prepare to have your entire childhood completely ruined. Spoiler alert?
Here are the 22 Oz adaptations you didn't you needed (and a few no all-powerful wizard could erase from your fragile memory):
1. The One Where Dorothy is She-Hulk and The Cowardly Lion is Captain America.
The Avengers teamed up for Marvel's Fairy Tales series to tell the story of Dorothy's visit to Oz.
2. The One Inspired By Apocalypse Now.
Oh yeah, Heart of Darkness and Dorothy traipsing through Oz: totally the same thing. This is going to do some serious damage.
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3. The Japanese Cartoon One That Takes Place in Space and Has the Best Theme Song Ever.
Alright, someone get me an MP3 of this cheestastic '80s theme. It's almost on Inspector Gadget level.
4. The One Where Dorothy Sounds Like Mickey Mouse.
This 1933 cartoon version makes Dorothy into a stout little cartoon lady who inexplicably has the same voice as every Silly Symphony character.
5. The One Where Dorothy Goes XXX.
The cover of Alan Moore's comic book Lost Girls looks innocent, but inside its placid binding are pages of X-rated material involving Dorothy, Alice (of Alice in Wonderland), and Wendy Darling (from Peter Pan) and their sexually explicit adventures — sometimes with each other. Consider your childhood tainted.
6. The One Where It's All In Turkish.
It's all about those dance sequences, starting with the one at 3:58.
7. The One Where Oz is a Text Adventure Video Game.
Rivetting stuff. And that beep-laden music, oh my!
8. The One Where Oz is a Metaphor Used for Self-Help Teachings.
Don't let "false wizards" tear your family apart. And never forget "there's no place like home." This is not a drill, folks.
9. The One Were It's an Australian Rock Opera.
Get it? Because they call Australia "Oz"? And it's rock 'n' roll because Dorothy is riding a motorcycle? Thank you for this incredible piece of cinema, 1976.
10. The One Where Dorothy is the Hero of a Korean Comic Book.
Okay angry nerds already formulating some comment for the bottom of this post, it's actually Manhwa but most people have no idea what that is. Anyway, Dorothy kicks some serious ass in these comics. She also looks like she is strangling that poor dog. Perhaps there's a darker storyline they're not advertizing here...
11. The One Where Sweet, Little Dorothy Gets Electroshock Therapy.
Because, you know, thinking you went to a land of munchkins, tin men, and flying monkeys is totally bonkers.
12. The One With Multiple Singing Dorothys
BBC's Over the Rainbow was a game show much like The Voice or American Idol aimed at finding a Dorothy and a Toto for the stage version of The Wizard of Oz. Sometimes it got a little creepy.
13. The Anime One Where Dorothy Looks Suspiciously Like Alice in Wonderland.
But really though, why isn't she the plucky little brunette we've come to know and love?
14. The One That's a Silent Movie of a Stageplay, Complete With Men Dressed as Donkeys and Cows.
Who knew a man in a cow suit could be so terrifying?
15. The One Starring Richard Dreyfus and Zooey Deschanel's Surprised Face.
Back when SyFy was spelled properly (SciFi) they gave us an alternate regular world story about a regular girl who gets into a regular supernatural pickle. Regular.
16. The One Where a Ginger Dorothy is the Lead Character in a Final Fantasy-style Video Game.
Just watch her and her trusty companions spin! There's nothing they can't do!
17. The One We Can't Post Here Because It's Too Disturbing.
Seriously. This is f**ked up. NSFW, duh.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credits: Merie Wallace/Disney; Marvel; UDON; Top Shelf Comics; Hillcrest Publishing]
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One of the first things diehard Star Wars fans thought when news broke that a new trilogy set after Return of the Jedi will be made was this: "What will Episodes VII, VIII, and IX mean for the Expanded Universe?"
The timeline after the destruction of the second Death Star and the deaths of Darth Vader and the Emperor has already been heavily explored. Dozens of novels since 1991's Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn have furthered the saga, showing us how the Rebel Alliance became the New Republic — not to mention the marriage of Princess Leia and Han Solo, the birth of their three children, Luke Skywalker's efforts to rebuild the Jedi Order, and eventually his own nuptials to feisty Emperor's Hand-turned-Jedi Mara Jade. The events depicted in these novels have always been considered to be canon. But is it a continuity that will be honored by screenwriter Michael Arndt and director J.J. Abrams when Episode VII hits theaters in 2015?
When you talk to the Expanded Universe authors themselves, however, you find that's not something that overly concerns them. They're such big Star Wars fans the biggest issue for them is the fact we have to wait three long years to see the words "A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...." on the big screen. And, like any fans, they have some major opinions about what they want to see from the new films. We reached out to eight of the most prominent authors in Star Wars publishing — Drew Karpyshyn, Paul S. Kemp, Troy Denning, John Jackson Miller, James Luceno, Michael Reaves, Christie Golden, and Aaron Allston — and asked them what they hope to see from the new films, what supporting or Expanded Universe characters they'd like to see get a bigger role, and how, if they are indeed fated in these movies to become One with the Force, they would like to see Luke, Han, and Leia die. Here's what each had to say.
Drew Karpyshyn, author of Star Wars: The Old Republic — Annihilation
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: I'd like to see films that are directed towards an older, more mature audience. It felt like Episodes I-III were directed at children and a generally younger demographic - which is great for bringing in new fans - but as an adult Star Wars fan I'd like to return to the darker, more serious tone of The Empire Strikes Back.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Obviously I'd love to see the films explore the Old Republic era; I think there's so much potential there, particularly with a character like Darth Bane. (The fact that I wrote three Darth Bane novels in no way makes me biased!)
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: My hope is that they live to ripe old ages before passing away peacefully. I'd prefer to see their role in the later films be more as mentors/advisors in the same way Obi-Wan was in the original trilogy, though I hope they don't all end up having to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. These characters have paid their dues, so as a fan I don't want to see them suffer an untimely or violent death.
Paul Kemp, author of Star Wars: The Old Republic—Deceived
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: What I really hope to see is love of the underlying subject matter. I think Star Wars is a phenomenon because it’s more than just a space opera or space fantasy (take your pick). It’s a mythic story and touches at something deep in the human experience. It’s built on a foundation of heroic myth and heroic transformation and that’s what makes it so appealing, generation after generation. I’d just like to see the new stories build off that foundation (because it’s a rich one, and there is lots of room for new and wonderful stories, all while hewing to the mythic structure).
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Hmm. That’s a real toughie so I’m just going to weasel a bit. I’d very much like to see a female Jedi in one of the leading roles. In that regard, Jaina Solo would be excellent, but there are many others to choose from.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: If they have to die, Han and Leia should go out together, wrapped in each other’s arms. “I love you,” he says. She smiles and answers, “I know.” And then it’s lights out. Yeah, that’d work. As for Luke, I think Luke has to go out in a grand, self-sacrificing way, with full knowledge of what he’s doing before he does it, and all in service to the greater good of rebuilding the Jedi Order. Ideally, just before he goes out he’d see the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin (thus recalling for the viewer/reader the iconic ending of Return of the Jedi), and in dying Luke would take his place among them.
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Troy Denning, author of Star Wars: Crucible (Out July 9)
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: This time, I think it would be fun to follow the hero’s journey of a young woman, the way we followed Luke’s journey in Episodes IV – VI. And I want the thrilling lightsaber duels and epic starship battles of Episodes I-III. Give me three films that combine great action with mythic themes, and I’ll be a happy fan.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Jaina Solo, without a doubt. Jaina is Han and Leia’s only surviving child, and one of the most capable members of the Jedi Order. She’s emerging as the leader of the next generation, and she’s one of the most popular characters in the novel line. I don’t think there could be a better choice.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: I’d want to see Luke go fairly early, in an incredible display of Jedi power that saves his companions and/or deals the villain a real setback. And I’d want his sacrifice to become a rallying point for the good guys. I’d want him to become more dangerous to the villain in death than he was in life.
Han and Leia should go out as a team, executing a cunning trick that sets the villain up for a hard fall. I wouldn’t want a lot of on-screen sentimentality, just a sense of courageous self-sacrifice from Leia and, from Han, a smug smirk. But as the final moment comes, I'd want to see them together — holding hands or leaning in for a final kiss — because that's who these characters are, two people in love to the last.
John Jackson Miller, author of the upcoming Star Wars: Kenobi (Out Sept. 24)
What I hope to see from Episodes VII-IX: It's something I've speculated about since I first saw them mentioned in Lucas's Time magazine interview back in 1980. My presumption would be that, obviously, it jumps ahead a generation, matching the gap between the other two trilogies — and I would assume that it takes on the larger themes of the ongoing series: power and temptation. My assumption was always that Luke, not Anakin, was really the "chosen one" who brought "balance to the Force" — but as those lines weren't in the original trilogy, they could also take this opportunity to bookend that section by addressing it anew.
Something delving more into Sith philosophy and why it's attractive would be fun to see. I did a deep dive into Sithiness with my Lost Tribe of the Sith stories — their all-for-me-nothing-for-you views are interesting, as are the challenges with achieving power on a galactic stage. You can see why Palpatine had to hijack an existing government — they're not the most attractive bosses to work with!
I would also hope to see something addressing one of the broader issues that I've attempted to take up in stories in other parts of the timeline (in Knights of the Old Republic and Knight Errant) -- namely, the love-hate relationship between the Jedi and the Republic, which is a far larger organization. The Jedi do a lot for the Republic, yes, but they've also been more trouble than they're worth on more than one occasion. One can imagine the Republic chancellor finally revoking the Jedi Council's parking spaces!
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What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: From the movies, it'd be a blast to see Lando as Chancellor. The gamblers, smugglers, and criminals have sort of a world of their own, apart from what's going on in the galactic drama between the Jedi and the Sith.
From the Expanded Universe, most of my work has been in the past or distant past, so if we're getting pantheons of blue ghosts, there's a range of folks that would be fun to see, from Arca Jeth to my own Zayne Carrick and Kerra Holt. There are some old villains that could do turns in holographic form, too. And practically every droid from the past has at least a theoretical chance of still being around. If we see a droid that's refusing to do any work, that'd be Elbee from the KOTOR comics. Sitting immobile for 4,000 years would suit him just fine!
How I want to see Luke, Han, or Leia die: I'm certain that I don't want to see that — it's much more fun to imagine them living on. It would be preferable to think that they died while sitting on a beach drinking blue martinis delivered by serving droids — but I imagine that's not very cinematic!
James Luceno, author of Star Wars: Darth Plageuis
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: A new and perilous threat — of the Sith sort, to be certain that the dark and light sides of Force, as well as lightsabers, are heavily featured.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: If for whatever reasons the Sith don't figure into the film plots, I would love to see an appearance by the extra-galactic Yuuzhan Vong, who battled the Jedi through the twenty-one Expanded Universe novels that comprise The New Jedi Order.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Luke, with lightsaber in hand, in a blaze of glory; Han, Leia and the Millennium Falcon in an act of heroic sacrifice.
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Michael Reaves, co-author of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Out Feb. 26)
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: The latest estimates for the Milky Way suggest literally billions of Earthlike worlds. With lifeforms like gigantic space slugs that can live in hard vacuum, it's obvious that life in the GFFA is at least as tenacious as it is here, if not more so.
My tendency is to poke around the backwaters and the seedier places of these many and richly varied worlds. There are many other monomyths and archetypes besides the Hero's Journey. One thing I do not want to see is the same storyline with new faces.
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Hey, I'm not gonna be disingenuous; I'd love for Jax Pavan and I-Five to get a shot.
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How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Saving the galaxy. They're heroes, right? So let 'em die heroically.
Christie Golden, author of Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi—Ascension
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: Follow-up adventures with Luke, Han and Leia! I would be amenable to seeing new actors in the old roles if Lucasfilm wants to pick up right where Return of the Jedi left off, but the actors would have to be VERY well cast. I'd actually love to see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprise the roles of Luke, Leia and Han...alongside their kids! ;)
What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: Vestara Khai. *coughs a little* Okay...Pocket the chitlik. No? Seriously, though, the Skywalker and Solo offspring are such terrific characters in their own right, it would be wonderful to see them brought to life.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: Oh this question is just cruel! Well...if they HAVE to, Han or Leia would have to die sacrificing him/herself for the other. And I want a "dies in your arms" scene, darn it, if either one has to go. Luke...should die alone, of his own free choice, saving countless lives. It should be set to John Williams' most beautiful music, and I better see Luke become One with the Force pretty much immediately or I will not be responsible for all that Kleenex on the movie theater floor.
Aaron Allston, author of Star Wars: X-Wing—Mercy Kill
What I Hope to See from Episodes VII-IX: Could I see "Screenplay by Aaron Allston"? No?
Well, barring that, I'd like to see the story move away from the Skywalkers, Solos, even the Jedi a bit, reminding us that there are other people doing important things in the galaxy. I'd like to see a greater proportion of female characters. I want to see more spectacle — Tatooine junkyards and bongo interiors aren't exactly challenges for ILM's skills. And I hope to see a return to the lightheartedness and humor of A New Hope, putting the fatalism of the prequels behind us.
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What secondary or Expanded Universe character I'd Like to See Get the Spotlight: This kind of depends on exactly when in the timeline Episodes VII through IX take place. Timothy Zahn's Mara Jade would always be a good choice. The next-generation Solos and Skywalkers, such as Jaina Solo and Ben Skywalker, would be welcome. If any sort of espionage is in the offing, some sort of nod to my own Wraith Squadron characters would be a thrill for me.
But what I really hope to see most is any sort of appearance by recognizable EU characters, which would be an acknowledgement that the EU is a significant part of what constitutes Star Wars.
How I Want to See Luke, Han, or Leia Die: You know, I actually don't want to see them die in the movies, and it's not just because of affection for the characters.
Action movie characters live pretty tortured lives. There's no chance of them appearing on-screen for 90 minutes of shopping or gossip, so any time we put them in front of the camera, it's for punishment. At a certain point, we recognize there's no way they can keep doing this and survive, so we kill them, an act so common and callous we don't even refer to it as killing them — it's "killing them off." Ellen Ripley. Bernard Quatermass. Hoban "Wash" Washburne. Sometimes characters die because their portrayers can only show up for one or two day's filming, and the director and producer decide to maximize those three minutes of screen time by whacking the character.
Me, I'm all for having Luke, Leia, and Han be in a scene showing them knocking back shots of Corellian brandy while playing cards. Then the screen can go through a 1940s-style wipe and the camera can zoom in on their descendants saving the galaxy for a new generation.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: LucasBooks (5)]
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Fairy tale films are all the rage in Hollywood right now. One movie in particular, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, is receiving an overwhelming amount of criticism. But are we unfairly averse to the genre? Here's a rundown of why fairy tale movies aren't just a cash-in craze, but a time-tested cinema staple.
Once upon a time, you and your best friend were at a wild party. The drinks were flowing, the music was bumping, one thing led to another. And suddenly, she lost a shoe. Luckily, that ridiculously handsome guy returned it to her and they started dating. Or how about when your mom grounded you for wearing too much makeup — clearly jealous of your beauty — and she forbade you from going out that night? It was really cute when your true love woke you up with that oh-so sweet text. Somewhere in the back of your mind, a faint bell of recognition is ringing. These are fairy tales. Tweaked and twisted with a modern day edge, but they’re still fairy tales.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Sleeping Beauty. Beauty and the Beast. Cinderella. Peter Pan. Hansel and Gretel. The list goes on and on. These childhood fables — no matter how farfetched — are something that anyone, regardless of age, race, or orgin, can love. We grew up reading about Jack’s crazy beanstalk adventure, Goldilocks' issues with personal space, and the overly trustworthy girl whose signature style included a red cape. And now, these stories that were once only found in books or in sing-songy Disney flicks are being transformed into full-fledged action adventures. What’s so wrong about that?
Fairy tale-centric films have been popular since long before contemporary Hollywood decided to cash in on the craze. Movies with motifs of good versus evil, a quest for adventure, or all-consuming love have been featured on the big screen since the industry began. But now that we’re seeing our bedtime stories spring to life one after another, some movie-goers are wishing they could banish these tales to a far away land. Here's what I have to say to that: Bibbity Bobbity Boo-Hoo. Get over it! True, some enchanted flicks have not been the most compelling or entertaining cinematic creations (Oh yes, I’m looking at you Mirror, Mirror!) but are they really something that should make you huff and puff until you’re red in the face? I don’t think so. These stories are supposed to be whimsical, imaginative, and completely unrealistic. They’re fairy tales! We love them because they are a way to escape into an unknown world where the stresses of work and everyday life magically disappear for two blissfully fun hours.
Fairy tale movies are widely considered captivating because they have large elements of nostalgia, but with surprising cinematic twists thrown in. You may remember reading about a damsel in distress who needed a prince to fight her battles, but now the scripts have been flipped: suddenly she’s the one wielding the sword. No matter how well you think you know a tall tale, there is always someone waiting to bring you an new and hopefully intriguing adaptation.
One could argue that it’s the same reason that the movie industry keeps churning out remake after remake of every comic book superhero ever created. Green Lantern was an embarrassing flop, but at least it gave us an excuse to see Ryan Reynolds in a skin-tight body suit. There are pros and cons to every genre, it’s just a matter of looking at the potion as half-full.
So before you roll your eyes or groan at the next mythologically based movie, just remember it’s all in good fun! If you still don’t have any desire to see a fairy tale film then I’d suggest wishing on a star, throwing a penny into a well, or calling up your fairy godmother. But take note, you’re going to need a lot of magic because these spellbinding shows are going to be around until movie-goers get their fill of happily ever afters.
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]
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So, I don’t know what some of you Clone Wars fans are complaining about. This four-episode arc is pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted to see from a droid-centric storyline. And if I had any doubts about that, “Point of No Return” quickly put them to rest. Smart integration of robots into a complex, action-heavy Dirty (Half) Dozen-style mission? Check. Impressive delineation of multiple astromechs’ personalities despite the fact they can’t speak? Check. Implicit philosophical musings on the worth of every sentient being, whether organic or cybernetic? Check. Gorgeous animation that capitalizes on the opportunity given by non-verbal astromechs to tell a visually-driven story? Check.
What I did not expect is that “Point of No Return” would feature some of the most beautiful animation of space that Clone Wars has given us. There was an ethereal grace to those opening shots of our heroes' winged shuttle gliding birdlike above Abufar to reunite with the Jedi cruiser, itself hanging like a dagger above the planet. And of course, that final explosion…well, we’ll get to that later.
As WAC piloted the shuttle into the Jedi cruiser’s bay for a landing, Col. Gascon began anticipating the heroes’ welcome he’d surely receive. Already he told WAC to request a meal with the ship’s captain, and that he would appreciate it if bantha were left off the menu. I guess, like all snails, Gascon is a vegetarian. However, no one from the cruiser was answering their hails. No welcoming committee was on the landing deck to receive them. In fact, the ship seemed entirely abandoned. And what to make of the fact that all the blast doors near the hangar were sealed shut? It was a sight for sore eyes then when Gascon and his posse of droids reached the bridge and found a company of clones milling about. The colonel jumped up onto a table next to what he thought was the captain and proudly placed the Separatist encryption module they had worked so hard to recover in his hand. Or rather, through his hand. Yep, this ship’s captain was unable to grab on to anything because he was a hologram. Actually, all the clones on this ghost ship were holograms. Guess Gascon’s promotion to P1 Brigadier would have to wait.
Suddenly, the cruiser lurched into hyperspace. But who (or what) was flying this thing? It only took one peek down into the navigation pit on the bridge to see who was in command. Separatist battlebots! They’d hijacked the ship! Gascon and his droids quickly fled as the Separatist robots, and one angry tactical droid, gave pursuit. It didn’t take our quirky heroes long to find out what exactly the Seppies were doing on their ship. They ran into a detonator that two battle droids had left behind, because they forgot the foremost rule of heavy-lifting: lift with your legs! When our gang saw the detonator, they realized that the whole ship had been turned into a bomb. Suddenly all the blast doors to the hangar opened and—mother of Kwath!— we could see that every last storage bay was crammed with rhydonium. Enough to blow up the entire Republic fleet1 And yet even though Gascon himself recognized that it was enough to blow up the Republic fleet, he still didn’t think for some reason that the ship would be used...to blow up the Republic fleet. I guess he thought that the Seppies were just going to use an excessive amount of ordinance to destroy just this ship alone. It’s like he wandered suddenly into Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2D hand-drawn Clone Wars series, where clones would indulge their penchant for comical excess by arming dozens of thermal detonators just to destroy one cannon. Also, as much as this episode was about respecting the intelligence and merit of droids, I still don’t know if I would trust one named C4 to be handling explosives. Get it, C4? Zing! For more droid and explosive-based humor catch my comedy act at the Jekk’Jekk Tar Night Club on Nar Shaddaa.
Tom Cruise: the very name conjures up immediate images of his many iconic roles: the young kid sliding across the floor in his underwear in Risky Business; the cocky fighter pilot Maverick in Top Gun; Vietnam vet Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July; the sports agent with a conscience in Jerry Maguire; the exasperated brother of Dustin Hoffman's autistic savant in Rain Man; the high-flying hero of the Mission: Impossible franchise. And countless other indelible performances.
Cruise has long been identified as the very definition of a movie star and box office champion. But 2012 was not as kind to him as previous years have been. In 2011, the end of the year release Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol enjoyed a strong and steady performance in theaters. This past June, the musical ensemble comedy Rock of Ages opened in third place with barely $14.5 million. And this past weekend, Jack Reacher came in second with just $15.6 million. All in all, a far cry from the type of figures he used to put up on the board.
Let's look at some quick box office stats. Cruise has appeared in 37 movies since his first role in Endless Love in 1981. Of those:
— 21 have opened at No. 1.
— 17 films to earn over $100 million at the domestic box office!
— He had 5 consecutive $100 million plus earners, from A Few Good Men (1992) to Jerry Maguire (1996).
— He had 8 consecutive $100 million plus earners, from Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) to Mission: Impossible III (2006).
— His highest grossing film in North America is War of the Worlds (2005), with $234.3 million.
— He had an unprecedented streak of 15 consecutive No. 1 wide release debuts starting with A Few Good Men (1992) and ending with Tropic Thunder (2008)!
— His total North American box office revenues total nearly $3.5 billion!This is an incredible career track record, virtually unmatched by any other major star. Yet it appears that since 2007's Lions For Lambs (which opened in fourth place with $6.7 million), Cruise's career has not been the model of consistency that it was in the past. Of recent years, only Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was a breakout hit, earning $209.4 million. Additionally, only one other film in the group of seven since 2006's Mission: Impossible 3 was able to crack the $100 million mark (the ensemble driven Tropic Thunder).
So what does this mean for Cruise? Is he " over"? Are audiences more interested in concepts than movie stars? What does the future hold for his career? Does the world only want to see him in Mission: Impossible movies?
These are all valid questions in light of the less than stellar results for his latest two films. However, lest anyone try to count Tom Cruise out, keep in mind that at age 50, he is as tireless and tenacious as anyone working in film today. It will be his next several projects — including sci-fi adventures like All You Need Is Kill and Oblivion — that may ultimately provide the answer to all of the above questions. At this point we are not ready to count Tom Cruise out. What do you think?
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]
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