In Wanderlust, George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) find their New York lifestyle overturned when George’s firm goes under and Linda’s depressing documentary about penguins gets rejected by HBO. With no jobs and no way to afford their apartment (tiny though it might be), the two are forced to leave the city so George can get a job working for his brother, Rick (Ken Marino). On the way, though, a small mishap (involving an encounter with a wine-drinking nudist played by Joe Lo Truglio and their car flipping over), they’re forced to spend the night at a place called Elysium. At first George and Linda assume Elysium is a rural bed and breakfast, though they quickly discover it’s a commune (or “intentional community” as the denizens call it) inhabited by an eclectic bunch of free-spirited men and women. They’re oddballs, but they all seem to have achieved a certain peace and happiness that George and Linda have never known. Is this a better lifestyle for them than the hustle and bustle of big-city modern life?
Wanderlust was directed by David Wain (who also directed the very funny Role Models) and written by Mr. Wain and Ken Marino. I really enjoyed Role Models, and as I mentioned in Monday’s post I’ve become a huge fan of Ken Marino based on his work in Party Down. So I was interested in Wanderlust, and the film’s stellar cast was an added bonus.
The film did not disappoint. There’s nothing dramatically revelatory in the movie, and I can’t say that mining humor from the hippie lifestyle is a particularly original idea. But I found Wanderlust to be a very funny, weird, and even sweet film, one that I quite enjoyed.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are both strong in the lead roles. Neither actor strays too far from his/her comfort zone character type, but in a way that works for the film as we start from a place of feeling like we know and like these two people. Both George and Linda are normal enough characters that they work as audience surrogates when they encounter all of the weirdness at Elysium. But Mr. Rudd and Ms. Aniston are also skilled enough comedic performers that they’re able to give George and Linda some surprising weirdness of their own, whether it’s George’s increasingly insane way of motivating himself in the mirror before trying to have sex with the beautiful Eva (Malin Akerman), or Linda’s strategy for halting the groundbreaking for a casino that certain businessmen are trying to construct on Elysium’s land.
But while Mr. Rudd and Ms. Aniston are strong leads, the film rises or falls depending on how funny and interesting the … [continued]
I’ve gotta open with Alan Moore’s article about his feelings on the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta (his brilliant comic book series, published in 1982) is now being used by protesters of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The piece is a fascinating read (and if any of you haven’t read the brilliant V for Vendetta, do so immediately!! The film adaption is OK, but the original graphic novel is genius.).
Alan Sepinwall on Hitfix posted an article in honor of The Simpsons’ 500th episode (a ludicrously incredible milestone) asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons episode. The article currently has nine pages of comments and is still going strong. You’ve got to read them — it’s a wonderful trip back down through memory lane, remembering classic Simpsons episodes. By the way, my pick? ”Homer the Heretic” (in which Homer decides not to go to church and winds up having the best day of his life, then starts his own religion, then finds himself trapped in a fire from which he must be rescued by his friends of other faiths, “be they Christian, Jewish, or… miscellaneous.” ”Hindu! There are seven hundred million of us!”).
And if you’re looking to kill any MORE time, check out Mr. Sepinwall’s follow-up post asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons quote: “Pick Only One Favorite Simpsons Quote? That’s unpossible!” That article has NINETEEN pages of comments and they’re all so much fun to read through. My favorite Simpsons quote? ”Man alive! There are men alive in here!”
Capone at AICN has posted the start of a fascinating interview with David Wain. I am very excited for his new film, Wanderlust, starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston. Here’s the red-band trailer and here’s the green-band trailer. They’re quite different and both are very, very funny. (I especially love the green band trailer for including lots and lots of Party Down’s Ken Marino, who co-wrote the film with Mr. Wain.)
If you have eight minutes and forty-two seconds to spare, I encourage you to check out this video montage of Nic Cage’s 100 greatest quotes.
I’ve been watching this slightly-extended version of The Avengers’ Super Bowl spot a LOT lately. I REALLY hope this movie is good! In all of these trailers it still looks pretty small-scale to me, which has me worried… and I think the new versions of both Thor’s and Captain America’s costumes both seem a little more “costumey” and less real than the versions in their individual films. Still, it’s nice to finally see a glimpse of the extra-terrestrial bad-guys (please let them be Skrulls please let them be Skrulls) and that circular pan of all the heroes … [continued]
I love watching the Oscars every year, though I am dismissive of them as an institution for judging great movies. It’s rare that I agree much with the nominations, and even rarer that I agree with who wins. Still, I love the spectacle of the show, and am always hoping for a great comedic performance from the host. I also see the Oscars as a great occasion to hang out with friends and talk about movies for hours, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!
Here are the 2012 nominees for Best Picture:
War Horse — click here for my review.
The Artist — click here for my review.
Midnight in Paris — click here for my review.
Moneyball — click here for my review.
The Descendants — click here for my review.
Hugo — click here for my review.
Tree of Life – My review will be up next week!
The Help — My review will be up next week!
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – this is the one Best Picture nominee that I haven’t seen yet.
To read MY opinions on the best films of 2011, just click here. Despite that fact that I listed fifteen films instead of my usual ten, only two of my selections (Hugo and The Artist) were nominated for Best Picture. Though I do take some comfort for the fact that, for the first time since I started MotionPicturesComics.com, my choice for best film of the year — that would be Martin Scorsese’s Hugo — was nominated for Best Picture. (In 2010 I selected Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as my favorite film of the year; in 2009 I selected Where the Wild Things Are, and in 2008 I chose The Dark Night. Not only did none of those films win the Academy Award for Best Picture, they weren’t even nominated!) So that probably means bad luck for Hugo, but we’ll see!… [continued]
Now that’s what I’m talking about!! I just finished reading David Mack’s novel Rise Like Lions, the phenomenal, long-awaited conclusion to the Mirror Universe storyline begun back in the second-season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and continued in several terrific Star Trek novels which have been published in the last half-decade or so.
But let’s back up. Back in 2006, David Mack wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Warpath. It was a magnificent novel, a fast-paced, rip-snorting adventure yarn that really shook up the post-finale DS9 literary universe Pocket Books had been crafting. It was one of the best Star Trek novels I’d ever read.
And also one of the most frustrating.
A huge chunk of the novel was a depiction of some-sort of alternate-world dream of the near-death Kira Nerys. It was hinted, at the end, that this was a vision given to Nerys by the Prophets, and at the time I loved this oblique glimpse at what story-lines were lying ahead in the Deep Space Nine world. As the years have gone bye, though, that glimpse given in Warpath has grown more and more frustrating to me, as those story-lines have not yet been continued. Warpath is also notable for its absolutely brutal cliffhanger ending. At the time, I was delighted by the boldness of the ending, but here again that delight eventually grew to frustration as the months and eventually years passed and no new DS9 novel ever appeared. (The cliffhanger was eventually resolved in Olivia Wood’s 2008 & 2009 novels Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key.)
But the reason I’m bringing up Warpath is because of the other twist found in the novel’s closing pages. As the events reached their climax, suddenly the story we were following shifted direction, and for a few pages we were taken back into the Mirror Universe and witnessed the death of a major character.
I’m not sure whether this was all planned before Warpath or not, but the next few years gave us several new Pocket Book Star Trek novels that explored the Mirror Universe. There was the excellent duology Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances (click here for my review), each of which contained three novellas which explored the history of the Mirror Universe, from the time of Enterprise to the days immediately after the first crossover (in the Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror”), to the post-DS9 finale time-period. That duology was followed by a short-story collection called Shards and Shadows (click here for my review), which further explored the back-story of the Mirror Universe. The key story, to me, in all of those novels was David Mack’s novella The Sorrows … [continued]
What a terrific show!
I feel like I’ve been discovering a wealth of TV show genius on DVD recently: Party Down (click here for my review of season 1, and here for my review of season 2), Louie (click here for my review of season 1), Boardwalk Empire (I am making my way through season 1) and now Bored to Death!
Created by Jonathan Ames (who also wrote or co-wrote all of the episodes), the series stars Jason Schwartzman as a fictionalized Jonathan Ames, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson. The trio are marvelous, and the wonderful way those three marvelous actors inhabit their three characters, and the way the three totally different men are drawn together over the course of the season provides the heart of the show and the main reason why I found it so enjoyable.
Jason Schwartzman plays Jonathan Ames. Like the show’s creator with the same name, he is a writer living in Brooklyn. Unlike the show’s creator, boredom crossed with a mounting desperation at his inability to start work on his second novel prompts this Jonathan Ames to post an ad on Craigslist advertising himself as an unlicensed detective. To his surprise, he begins getting calls from people asking for his help. To his even greater surprise, he finds himself throughly enjoying this new persona he’s able to create for himself, and the fact that, in his bumbling way, he’s actually passably good at being a Private Eye!
Ted Danson plays Jonathan’s mentor, George Christopher. The wealthy, dapper George is the editor of a prominent New York Magazine. I was blown away by Mr. Danson’s performance — he might be my very favorite aspect of this series. I of course loved Mr. Danson’s work on Cheers back in the day, and more recently he’s been entertainingly acerbic on Curb Your Enthusiasm. But, hang onto your butts, George Christopher may just be his best role. Am I overstating things? Well, probably. But Mr. Danson is lovable and hysterical as George, a man who is on the one hand at the height of the New York City intellectual elite, but also incredibly childish — innocent and filled with child-like glee at everything that Jonathan is involved in. Mr. Danson brings incredible joie de vivre to every scene he plays, and it’s quite beguiling.
The final third of this trifecta is made up of Zach Galifianakis as Ray, Jonathan’s schlubby comic book artist Ray. Ray is as much a man-child as George (and, I suppose, as Jonathan himself), though far less successful, and with far less self-confidence. Where George is suave, Ray is a bull in a china shop. But he, too, … [continued]
The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, by John Ortved, is a look back at the creation and early days of The Simpsons. The book is told in the form of an oral history, with the story assembled by Mr. Ortved’s weaving together of interviews with the many people — super-famous and otherwise — connected to the show’s origins.
I love the use of the oral history device to tell these sorts of stories. (The crown jewel example, for me, is Live From New York, Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller’s voluminous oral history of Saturday Night Live.) To moderate your expectations, I have to tell you that Mr. Ortved’s history of The Simpsons is not as great as Live From New York. For one thing, it’s nowhere near as thorough. Whereas Live From New York covers, within its lengthy page-count, thirty years of SNL history, Mr. Ortved admits right in the introduction that his book is not intended to be a history of he show’s twenty-plus seasons. His focus is on the show’s beginnings. That’s a perfectly understandable choice for an author to make, though it perhaps renders the book’s title, which bills the tome as a history of The Simpsons, a little inaccurate.
Still, Mr. Ortved’s focus on the early years of The Simpsons is deep and engaging. I’m pretty well-familiar with the history of the show. I’ve read articles about the show’s creation, I’ve watched the specials, I’ve listened to the DVD season-sets’ commentary tracks. Despite that, I found this book to be filled with stories I’d never known. And when I got to the “good stuff” — that is, the juicy, vicious in-fighting among the show’s creative forces that is the meat and potatoes of these types of books — I found Mr. Ortved’s recounting of events to be endlessly fascinating. And it’s not as if the novel only focuses on season one. Later chapters do indeed explore, in a decent amount of depth, some of the later seasons. (There’s a particularly great chapter that compares and contrasts the different show-runners that The Simpsons has had over the years, allowing people to comment on their different styles and the different flavor that each individual show-runner gave to the seasons they oversaw.)
The book has two main flaws. One, it’s pretty shockingly filled with typos. This is definitely a manuscript that needed a copy-editor to have taken one more good look through it before being published. Secondly, I think Mr. Ortved allows his narrative voice to overwhelm, at times, the oral history he’s compiling. It’s not unusual in these sorts of books for the author to occasionally insert a few paragraphs of introduction of explanations of … [continued]
I discovered the comedian Louis C.K. when he appeared in a recurring role during the second season of Parks and Recreation, and I fell in love with his work after watching his concert film, Hilarious. I’ve subsequently devoured all of his stand-up comedy CDs that I could get my hands on. I knew that Louis C.K. had a show on FX, as well, and as as I started reading the rave reviews for the show’s second season over the past few months, I knew that this was something I had to track down. I’m so pleased that I did!
The structure of Louie resembles that of early Seinfeld episodes. Louis C.K. plays Louie, a fictionalized version of himself: a divorced stand-up comedian with two kids. The narrative of each episode is punctuated with several clips from Louie’s stand-up routines, which usually have a tangential connection to the stories being told.
But Louie is a far weirder concoction than Seinfeld, and I love it for that. For one thing, whereas Seinfeld became known for it’s densely plotted, clockwork-like stories, many episodes of Louie barely have any plot to speak of. Episodes often consist of two or three extended vignettes that have entirely nothing to do with one another. It’s bizarre, and quite off-putting to anyone weaned on the familiar rhythms of the sitcom. But the technique is so determinedly idiosyncratic that I find it makes the show extremely endearing.
Louie is, often, extremely hilarious. In particular, I find Louis C.K.’s stand-up bits to be phenomenal. These stand-up routines (and they’re usually lengthier, meatier bits than the short snippets of stand-up seen in Seinfeld episodes) tend to be the highlight of the episodes for me. But the show is unafraid to have extended sequences that are not funny at all. Sometimes that’s because we’re watching something serious (such as the lengthy conversation, right at the start of the second episode, between Louie and his friends as to whether it’s OK for him to use the word “faggot” in his stand-up routine). Sometimes it’s because we’re watching something teeth-grindingly awkward (such as some of Louie’s failed dating experiences).
The show doesn’t shy away from digging deeply into serious issues. The episode “God” is a notable example, in which we watch an extended flashback of a brutally unpleasant experience young Louie had at a Catholic religious school. By the way, this episode is particularly notable for the way in which we see the real Louis C.K. throwing traditional notions of structure right out the window. The flashback sequence takes up almost the entire run-time of the episode, which is a surprising and unusual choice. The episode also raised some eyebrows for Louis’ casting of … [continued]
OK, I already posted a link to a “sweded” version of The Dark Knight Rises trailer. Now check out this version of the trailer created entirely from re-edited footage from the seminar and still-amazing Batman: The Animated Series:
I love that so much!!… [continued]
OK, we’ve arrived at the final installment of my look back at 2011!
Click here for my Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, and part three. Click here for my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one and part two. Click here for my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011. And, finally, click here for part one of my Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2011.
Now, let’s wrap up my list!
5. Treme: “What is New Orleans?” (season 2, episode 9, aired on 6/19/11) — As the second season built to a climax, everything started to come together in this powerhouse of an episode that encapsulated everything I love about this amazing show. So many of the story-lines that had run through the entire season come to a head in this episode: The talented young rapper in Davis’ new group begins to upstage him; Lt. Colson gets transferred (against his will) to Homicide; Janette really begins to flower under her new chef in New York City, and so much more goes down. But the episode’s two highlights come from opposite extremes of the emotional spectrum. There’s the hilarious sequence in which Antoine steals an audience from Kermit, luring them into the club where his new band is playing… at least until Kermit turns the tables on him. Then there is the shocking, horribly tragic death of a main character in the final moments. (I almost selected the Game of Thrones episode “Baelor” for this list — that’s the amazing episode that also climaxed in the death of a main character. I absolutely adored that episode — it reminded me of the way I fell in love with 24 when they boldly killed off Jack’s wife in the season one finale, a shocking display of anything-can-happen — but ultimately I selected a different episode of Game of Thrones, “You Win or You Die,” for the number ten spot on my list. ”Baelor” was amazing, but it’s testament to the power of Treme that it’s this episode that left even more of a mark on me.) I am dying for season three of this marvelous show to arrive.
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Mister Softee” (season 8, episode 9, aired on 9/4/11) — Curb Your Enthusiasm is pretty much always great, but every now and then an installment comes along that shoots right up into the level of genius. My friends, I would postulate that “Mister Softee” is just such an episode. There’s so much greatness on display in this episode that I hardly know where to begin: With Larry’s condescending, loose-lipped psychiatrist (played by Sy Abelman himself — A … [continued]
Well, we’ve finally arrived at my last Top 10 list for 2011. I hope you’ve enjoyed the previous lists! (Follow these links to check out my Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, part three, my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one, and part two, and my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011.)
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to put together a Top 10 Episodes of TV list this year. For a whole host of reasons, I don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to. I’m super-busy, and there just aren’t that many shows that interest me enough to want to watch religiously these days. And a whole heck of a lot of the TV I watched this past year was OLDER TV — in the form of DVD box-sets (of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Party Down, etc.). There’s a lot of current TV that interests me that I just haven’t had time to watch: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Community, Homeland, Louie (season 2 — I have watched season 1 on DVD and LOVED it — I’ll be posting a review soon), Bored to Death (I also just finished season 1 on DVD and loved it — I’ll be posting a review of this soon, as well, and I’m hoping to get to seasons 2 and 3 soon). All of those shows look interesting and I do hope to eventually sink my teeth in them all via the magic of DVD.
So I felt weird putting together a list, seeing that there’s so much probably-great TV out there that I haven’t seen. But when I sat down to start to compile the list, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily the top ten choices manifested themselves. I guess I DID watch some great TV this year! But keep the above list of TV-I-haven’t-yet-seen in mind when perusing my choices. OK, enough intro, let’s dive in:
10. Game of Thrones: “You Win or You Die” (season 1, episode 7, aired on 5/29/11) – I’ve never read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin, and I wasn’t immediately taken by the first few hours of the HBO adaptation. But after a few episodes, the complex fantasy story started to get its hooks in me, and by the time I arrived at this stand-out episode I was loving this show like few other things on TV. Pretty much all of the show’s continuing story-lines jumped to the next level in this installment, which left me absolutely desperate for the next episode … [continued]