REVIEW: GOOD OMENS

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)

Starring

David Tennant (Mary Queen of Scots)
Michael Sheen (Passengers)
Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland)
Jon Hamm (Baby Driver)
Josie Lawrence (Humans)
Lourdes Faberes (Knightfall)
Adria Arjona (Life of The Party)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Jack Whitehall (Bad Education)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Mireille Enos (Hanna TV)
Yusuf Gatewood (The Originals)
Brian Cox (Rise of TPOA)
Reece Shearsmith (Stag)
Nina Sosanya (Marcella)
Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders)
Ariyon Bakare (Rogue One)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Grinch)
Steve Pemberton (Psychoville)
Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones)
Nick Offerman (The Lego Movie 2)
Daniel Mays (The Bank Job)
Sian Brooke (Sherlock)
Simon Merrells (Legends of Tomorrow)
Susan Brown (Game of Thrones)
Paul Kaye (Anna and the Apocalypse)
David Morrissey (The Walking Dead)

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Once upon a time, Good Omens was considered unadaptable. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s sprawling, 400-page fantasy novel was notorious within the film and TV industries. Screenwriters turned their noses up at the project, and various attempts over the years to bring page to screen ended in disappointment. However, an adaptation of the unadaptable proved to be Pratchett’s last request to his co-author before he died in 2015, and Gaiman set about writing the screenplay for what would become an epic six-part BBC/Amazon co-production.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)So first things first: was the unadaptable, well, adaptable, after all? The short answer is, yes. Gaiman — also showrunner on the series — has pulled off a colourful, quirky, funny, poignant (although not entirely flawless) feat. One might even suspect there’s been a spot of divine (or devilish) intervention… The true triumph is the casting. Michael Sheen shines (quite literally, in some scenes) as the angel Aziraphale, a celestial field agent who teams up with his opposite number, the stylish demon Crowley — played with a Bill Nighy-esque swagger by David Tennant — in order to prevent Armageddon.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)It’s this pairing that proves to be the beating heart of the series. Crowley and Aziraphale have been on Earth since the very beginning, and in their own ways they’ve both “gone native”. Aziraphale owns a Soho bookshop, and likes gravlax salmon with dill sauce. Crowley drives a pristine 1926 Bentley and listens to Queen. They’ve formed a professional agreement not to meddle in each other’s affairs, and in their spare time they’ve enjoyed a series of rather nice clandestine lunches. Every time either actor appears onscreen, you can almost hear the costume department’s (and fandom’s) squeals of joy. David Tennant in snakeskin boots! Michael Sheen with artfully tousled bleached hair! A tartan bow tie! Tennant also sports appropriately flame-red hair (not in the books, but worth it for Doctor Who fans’ realisation that the Tenth Doctor finally got his wish) that frequently changes style. In one particularly memorable moment during episode one, Crowley disguises himself as a bobbed-haired nanny, a Satanic crossover between Nanny McPhee and Mrs Doubtfire.good-omensHe and Aziraphale have a teasing, love/hate relationship that fans of the book have shipped for almost two decades. Gaiman has since promised that “the TV series gets deeper into Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship,” and some viewers will be hoping that that will translate into a burgeoning romance. Certainly in episode one, Aziraphale seems rather overexcited at the prospect of he and Crowley becoming joint “godfathers” to the infant Antichrist, whose arrival on Earth threatens to catalyse the apocalypse. Gabriel has bright purple irises in the series, a nod to Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary lilac eyes according to the show’s companion book, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion. However, as anyone who’s worn thick coloured lenses for Halloween and lived to tell the tale will know, the effect is rather distracting and painful to look at, as are Crowley’s reptilian yellow eyes (thankfully hidden away under trendy shades for much of the show). Gabriel barely appears in the book, and he’s a welcome and much-needed addition to the series: someone to put the proverbial heat on Aziraphale.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Various sets are also new for the TV show: Heaven is now a vast corporate headquarters, while Hell resembles an overcrowded basement office. A rather gloomier version of The IT Crowd, if you will. Some of the show’s special effects can feel a bit hammy (think Russell T Davies-era Doctor Who with a couple of rubber frogs thrown in), but the scene depicting the entrances to both Heaven and Hell features a pretty cool bit of cinematography, including a mirror effect and an upside-down Tennant. However, despite the addition of characters like Gabriel, much of the show remains doggedly faithful to the books. Reams of dialogue are almost word-for-word during episode one, to the extent that there are certain moments and scenes where one feels that the show’s pace has been sacrificed in favour of preserving the ‘voice’ of the book. Of course, it’s understandable given the circumstances — Gaiman has spoken about the pressure to protect Pratchett’s narrative creations in his absence. For example, he made sure that one of Pratchett’s characters, the 17th century witch Agnes Nutter, remained in the show despite calls to replace her (and an expensive, explosive period shoot) with a series of woodcuts.good-omens-key-art-600x314In Agnes’s case, it makes sense to preserve her: her spookily accurate prophecies drive much of the plot and predict the present-day apocalypse. But there are chunks of God’s narration (voiced by Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) that feel a bit laboured. Some sections, like the bit about demons’ talents for “lurking” around graveyards, must have read well on the page in that distinctive Terry/Neil voice, but in reality they fall rather flat — much like a certain angel’s misguided attempts to pull a rabbit out of a top hat at a children’s birthday party. At the end of the day, however (and according to Agnes Nutter, there aren’t many more days left), the series is a love letter to the book, combining Gaiman and Pratchett’s brilliant characterisation and quippy jokes with vivid, gorgeous sets and memorable costumes.

 

 

REVIEW: KISSING JESSICA STEIN

CAST
Jessica Westfeldt (Two Guys and a Girl)
Heather Juergensen (The Haunted Mansion)
Tovah Feldshuh (Lady in The Water)
David Aaron Baker (The Hoax)
Brian Stepanek (The Island)
Kevin Sussman (Ugly Betty)
Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer)
Michael Ealy (Flashforward)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Idina Menzel (Frozen)
Twenty-eight-year-old Jessica Stein, a copyeditor living and working in New York City, is plagued by failed blind dates with men, and decides to answer a newspaper’s personal advertisement containing a quote from Rilke that she had read and admired earlier. The advertisement has been placed by Helen Cooper, a thirtysomething bisexual art gallerist who is seeking a lesbian relationship to replace her unsatisfying and meaningless sex with men.
Given some of the men Jessica is shown to be test-dating at the start of the film, it’s no surprise she’d want to fan out her prospects a little. As nervous as Jessica is about dating Helen, she realizes after a surprise kiss that a different experience can be good. Through the early part of their relationship, Jessica finds in Helen everything she’d dreamed of finding in a man. They are compatible, they like many of the same things, and they are caring for one another. Even when Helen gets sick—which she says earlier in the film never happens to her—Jessica is there to care for her.
The only predicament for the relationship is Jessica’s nervousness concerning same-sex intimacy. Over the early weeks of their relationship, she and Helen slowly work on building up her confidence in this area by gradually extended make-out sessions. Eventually, they graduate to full intimacy, which is initiated by Jessica during an over night stay at her parents’ home in Scarsdale. In spite of Jessica’s happiness with Helen, she keeps the relationship secret. Jessica’s secrecy means that she has to endure scenes that would not happen had she been open about the two of them. One example occurs during a dinner to celebrate her brother’s engagement. Her mother had invited an IBM executive in hopes of setting him up with Jessica.
Helen and Jessica later get into a quarrel about Jessica’s refusal to inform her family of their relationship, resulting in an apparent breakup. It isn’t until later, as her brother’s wedding approaches, that her mother figures out that they are dating. Her mother reminds Jessica of when she was little and had been given the lead in the school play, but after the first rehearsal, Jessica had deemed her co-star not to be up to the task. She quit the play because she thought the play wouldn’t be “the best ever.” Her mother says that she worries about Jessica having this attitude towards life, and that sometimes she thinks back to that night and thinks that if Jessica went on, maybe it wouldn’t have been the best, but it might have been pretty good—and who knows, maybe it would have been the best ever. She then tells Jessica that she thinks Helen “is a very nice girl.”
This acceptance on her mother’s part gives Jessica the confidence to come out in the open with her relationship with Helen, and invites her as her guest to her brother’s wedding. Helen quickly becomes popular with the other women at the reception, who don’t seem to mind at all her lesbian relationship with Jessica. At the same time, Jessica gets a love confession from her ex-beau and current boss Josh, who declares he’s had feelings for her for a long time. Jessica rejects him, explaining that she already has Helen. Jessica and Helen move in together, but their relationship, while good in most respects, begins to suffer from a lack of frequent sexual intimacy. Jessica’s behavior towards Helen is more akin to that of a best friend rather than a sexual partner. The relationship ends amidst Jessica’s tears and Helen’s realization that she wants more than Jessica is willing to offer. After moving beyond the heartbreak, Jessica and Helen appear to remain friends, and it is suggested that Jessica might now have a renewed interest in Josh, after both have left the newspaper where they previously worked.
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Westfeldt and Juergensen first created and played the characters of Jessica and Helen for their stage play “Lipschtick,” which certainly explains why they are both so totally comfortable in their roles. As writers they have created a script that is smart and witty

REVIEW: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: FIRST DAY OF CAMP

CAST
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Janeane Garafalo (Mystery Men)
David Hyde Pierce (Hellboy)
Michael Showalter (The Ten)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
Michael Ian Black (This is 40)
Zak Orth (Music and Lyrics)
Bradley Cooper (Serena)
A.D. Miles (Role Models)
Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel)
Molly Shannon (Never Been Kissed)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad)
Amy Poehler (Mean Girls)
Marisa Ryan (Cold Hearts)
Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games)
Kevin Sussman (The Big bang Theory)
H. Jon Benjamin (Not Another Teen Movie)
Lake Bell (No Strings Attached)
Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death)
Samm Levine (I Love You, Beth Cooper)
John Slattery (Ted 2)
Chris Pine (Star Trek)
Jon Hamm (Man Men)
Michael Cera (Scott Pilgram vs The World)
Kristen Wiig (paul)
Jayma Mays (Ugly Betty)
Richard Schiff (The Cape)
Janeane Garofalo in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (2015)
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp – the Netflix prequel series to 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer that we never knew we desperately wanted – is very funny. In fact, it’s freakin’ hilarious for uber-fans of the original. I can only assume it’s mildly amusing to those who’ve either never seen the movie or saw it and weren’t fans.The thing about it though is it’s really tethered to the movie. This is a prequel series made under extreme prequel rules. Not only is it specifically designed to be watched afterward, but many of the jokes won’t land if you don’t know what lies ahead come the “last day of camp.” Quick non-spoilery example: Comedian “Alan Shemper” is mentioned (perhaps I should have put comedian in quotes instead) and the young counselors of Camp Firewood freak out with excitement. Why? Well, the movie pre-answered that. And that’s just one of many instances that indicate that, despite this being a hyped-up Netflix Original event, you need to watch the movie.

Now, the original Wet Hot American Summer came with a loaded cast, many of whom went on to become even more famous than they were when the movie was released. One of the gateway jokes for the prequel is that everyone, in real life, is much older, but now they’re playing even younger versions of the characters they portrayed in the original. And it was even a stretch back then that they were playing teenagers. In fact, this “old teenager” gag was part of the original’s charm as well. Here, the joke isn’t as much of a joke as you’d think. Most everyone has held up fairly well. Noticeably older, sure, but not hilariously so. In fact, the only time it feels like a goof is whenever Showalter shows up as Coop, as he’s really the one who’s, let’s say, a much different shape than he used to be.
So let’s talk about the cast. Again, this was an impressive ensemble back in 2001. And everyone’s back. Showalter, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Marguerite Moreau, Zak Orth, Christopher Meloni, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino,  Michael Ian Black, and many more. Even director Wain has a recurring role this time around. And while it must have been difficult to get everyone back given people’s busy schedules, Wet Hot American Summer is set up to be an accommodating side/pet project. As in, it’s not often that all the characters interact, and most of the time they’re paired off and go about their separate stories. The actors weren’t as famous back in 2001, but that movie was still filmed super quick and designed to section people away from each other into different threads.
Now, some characters, given the rising careers of the actors who played them back in the original, have somewhat of an expanded presence. It’s understandable. For example, both Banks and Poehler have a lot more screen time here than they ever did in the movie. But this is also now a four-hour story, so there’s room for this type of change-up. And one of the best things this series does is create zany, clever origin stories for beloved elements from the movie. Not just characters, like Meloni’s Gene and Banks’ Lindsey, but actual things. Songs. Characteristics. Odd in-jokes. They all get a “beginning.” The way Poehler’s Susie came to be so hard on auditioners. The reason David Hyde Pierce’s Henry summers by the camp. The empty vegetable can voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. The freakin’ “Higher and Higher” song! All these things are given a backstory.
And this series didn’t just manage to get back its  original cast. There are also guest stars galore. Doing some amazing, quirky things here. Jon Hamm as a government assassin, Chris Pine as a mysterious hermit who lives on the camp grounds, Michael Cera as a ambulance-chasing lawyer given the case of a lifetime, Lake Bell as Coop’s “mixed signals” girlfriend. Hamm’s not even the only Mad Men’er around as John Slattery recurs as a “renowned” theater director and Rich Sommer stooges for Josh Charles’ snobby Camp Tiger Claw counselor Blake. Camp Tiger Claw which — instead of being a badass, evil Cobai Kai-type commune like the name suggests — has a “blue blood country club from the 50s vibe,” including evening socials that involve dancing the foxtrot.
Like the film, First Day of Camp takes place over the course of one day. And similar story beats and lunacy are employed. There are strained romances (Rudd’s Andy trying to fart his way into Moreau’s Katie’s heart, Coop wondering if Lake Bell’s Donna is faithful), a stressful stage production that has one day to come together for a nighttime performance (here it’s new wave musical “Electro City”), and a doomsday crisis that Garofalo’s Beth must avert in order to save the camp. There’s even a spectacular Victor Pulak chase scene. So the actual structure of the original is upheld.
es, I’d say that you definitely need to be a fan of the original Wet Hot American Summer movie to enjoy all First Day of Camp has to offer. The entire thing’s a love letter to itself and it’s wonderful. It’s great to see everyone back as well as all the new faces.

REVIEW: FAMILY GUY – DVD SEASONS 11-15

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Seth MacFarlane (Flashforward)
Alex Borstein (Power Rangers Zeo)
Seth Green (IT)
Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Mike Henry (Ted)
Jennifer Tilly (Curse of Chucky)
Patrick Warburton (Scream 3)
Adam West (60s Batman)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST (VOICES)

Christina Milian (Bring it On 5)
Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Nana Visitor (Star Trek: DS9)
Carrie Fisher (Star wars)
Dana Gould (Mob City)
Arianna Huffington (The Cleveland Show)
Christine Lakin (Valetnine’s Day)
Bill Maher (A Million Ways To Die In The West)
Ashley Tisdale (Scary Movie 5)
David Boreanaz (Bones)
Gary Cole (Chuck)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Adam Carolla (Two Guys and a Girl)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Jessica Stroup (Ted)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Alexandra Breckenridge (The Walking Dead)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Cheryl Tiegs (The Brown Bunny)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy)
Meredith Baxter (Family Ties)
Julie Hagerty (Airplane)
Michael Gross (Tremors)
Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride)
Judy Greer (Jurassic World)
Chris O’ Dowd (St. Vincent)
Tara Strong (Batman: TAS)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk vs)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Scott Grimes (American Dad)
Ari Graynor (Bad Teacher TV)
Missi Pyle (Dodgeball)
Sanaa Lathan (Blade)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Jessica Barth (Ted)
Marlee Matlin (My Name Is Earl)
Sara Fletcher (Icrime)
David Herman (Futurama)
Ellen Page (Super)
Ricky Gevais (Ghost Town)
Lucy Davis (Shaun of The Dead)
Scott Bakula (Chuck)
Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Anna Kendrick (The Voices)
Martin Spanjers (8 Simple Rules)
Dan Castellaneta (Fantastic Four)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Sandra Bernhard (2 Broke Girls)
John De Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Will Sasso (Anger Management)
Emily Osment (Mom)
Megan Hilty (The Good Wife)
Jessica Biel (New Girl)
Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Emma Roberts (Scream Queens)
Chad L. Coleman (Arrow)
Tony Sirico (Goodfellas)
Ashley Benson (Spring Breakers)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Lauran Bacall (The Big Sleep)
Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride)
Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror)
Keke Palmer (Scream Queens)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
David Thewlis (Harry Potter)
Hank Azaria (The SMurfs)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Julie Kavner (Rhoda)
Yeardley Smith (As Good As It Gets)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Maya Rudlph (Bridesmaids)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty)
Lucas Grabeel (Smallville)
Ana Gasteyer (What A Woman Wants)
Glenn Howerton (That 80s Show)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Nat Faxon (The Descendants)
Harvey Fierstein (Mulan)
Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother)
T.J. Miller (Deadpool)

Season 11 is really the reamaing of episodes of season 9 but by now you get use to the dvd season. great epsiodes and more greats jokes and anyones fair game, be it the spiritual, who get assaulted in “Brian Writes a Bestseller,” as the dog writes a quickie self-help guide, but can’t defend it against Bill Maher’s questions, pretty much any minority and Meg, the family’s socially-awkward daughter, who not only tries to weasel her way into wheelchair-bound Joe’s life, but hooks up with her brother. Nazis, a standard part of the show after so many years, get their moment to shine as well, as the neighborhood pedophile Herbert recognizes Chris’ new friend as a war criminal, setting up an epic old-man fight, and perhaps one of the few times in history where you might find yourself rooting for a kid-toucher.
One of strangest jokes is where Peter is reminiscing about 1985, and notes that it gave us the gayest music video ever, before showing nearly half of David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s “Dancing in the Streets.” As it plays, you start wondering when we’ll get back to the show, before beginning to question if we’re ever going back. And then you start questioning how the video ever came into existence. Then you ask, how did they get the rights to use it in the show this way? Then you kind of forget you’re watching Family Guy. Then you kind of wish you were watching the video again, but that was the point of the episode doing it to mind screw you.

 This season is a pretty strong one. It has the mean-spirited episode is Screams Of Silence: The Story Of Brenda Q and it’s not only the strangest episode on the season but one of the strangest of the entire series. Basically Glenn’s sister gets into an abusive relationship and he, Peter and Joe decide to take care of the problem. The episode gets increasingly darker as it plays out and the ending, which is presented straight and without any obvious irony or attempt at humor, is pretty grim. The crew should get credit for tackling a serious social issue with at least some semblance of seriousness but is this really the right format to raise an issue like this? Opinions will vary, obviously, but this episode is twisted.

Aside from that, it’s more or less business as usual. There are some fun celebrity cameos here, the most obvious one being Ricky Gervais who provides the voice of a dolphin who helps Peter out and then demands a ridiculous amount of favors in return. The Lottery Fever series opener is a fun one which shows not only how Peter behaves after winning the lottery but how those around him will leach off of him when he does. We get to see Brian take mushrooms before a hurricane hits the town and then watch him trip out and see some seriously bizarre hallucinations. The Back To The Pilot episode also stands out as we see Stewie travel back with Brian in tow to January 31, 1999 (which was the broadcast date of the series’ first episode). This shows how the series has changed over the years and also how in just as many ways it has stayed the same.

Quahog news anchor Tom Tucker gets the spotlight in Tom Tucker: The Man And His Dream in which we learn about his acting career. It seems he played Michael Myers in Halloween IV and once Peter learns that, he and James Woods get involved in resurrecting his thesping profession. In Killer Queen Peter and Chris wind up at fat camp where a serial killer is at work, while back in Quahog, Stewie is terrified by the artwork of Queen’s New Of The World album cover. H. Jon Benjamin from Bob’s Burgers and a bunch of other great credits does a guest voice here. Stewie falls for a girl named Penelope, voiced by Kate Blanchett, in Mr. And Mrs. Stewie but of course that can’t end well even if she shares his love of weapons and math. Tea Party is another stand out. When Peter tries to open his own business and gets shut down, he becomes an advocate for small government and takes hardcore conservative Tea Party ideas to ridiculous extremes with predictably funny results.

All in all, this is a pretty great season. It’s also fairly daring, not that the show has ever really shied away from controversy but they definitely push things on a visual level here. That’s not a bad thing, so long as you’re accepting of the fact that as offensive as the series can be, it’s an equal opportunity offender and it provides a great opportunity to laugh at the absurdity that is all around us on a daily basis.

So how does this season hold up? In a lot of ways, it’s more of the same, but at the same time, by being more of the same there’s a certain expectation of unpredictability that this collection consistently meets and occasionally exceeds. You get to a point in the show where you expect the unexpected, and there’s a whole lot of unexpected to appreciate this time around. The season starts off strong with Into Fat Air where Lois runs into an ex-boyfriend who boasts about his family’s accomplishments. This gets Lois feeling competitive and before you know it, the Griffins are climbing Mount Everest. Shades of Alive run deep in this particularly perverse episode. The show takes on the Nielson Ratings in Ratings Guy. When the Griffins are selected to a Nielson family, Peter goes for a blatant abuse of his power to shape TV to his liking but is then tasked with trying to set things right. It’s actually a pretty amusing take at the fickle viewing habits of the general public. The health care industry and its corporate ties are taken on in The Big C when Peter finds out that his father in law has been keeping the cure for cancer his corporation has discovered secret in the name of making more profits off of treatment. As irreverent as this series gets, this episode will at least get you thinking.Family Guy (1998)The seemingly obligatory time travel episode in this season is Yug Ylimaf and once again Stewie and Brian cruise back in time and goof off. It’s old hat at this point but there’s comfort in familiarity. We get to learn more about Joe’s disability when the man who shot him and confined him to a live in a wheelchair goes on the lam and Peter, Joe and Quaigmire hunt him down to get revenge. The Jesus, Mary and Joseph! episode lets Peter tell us his own version of the Nativity Story in what is essentially a Christmas episode gone awry. Nothing is sacred, fans know that by now. Quagmire is the focus of The Giggity Wife, an episode that shows what happens when Glenn marries a skaggy old hooker on a trip with Peter and Joe. He realizes quickly that this was a horrible idea but she won’t grant him a divorce. Glenn tries to convince her that he’s actually gay, with Peter’s help. In Chris Cross the elder Griffin son swipes some money from his parents to go out and buy some cool new sneakers. When Meg finds out, she blackmails him but Chris quickly has his fill and decides to go live down the street with everyone’s favorite pedophile, his old friend Herbert. Meanwhile, Stewie convinces Brian to help him track down Canadian songstress Anne Murray. In Call Girl Lois uses her voice to make some extra money as a phone sex operator and in Turban Cowboy Peter befriends a Muslim and then converts to Islam. Phone sex might not be so topical these days, but the Islam episodes pushes some buttons in some clever ways.

As the season comes to a close, in the Bigfat episode we find out what happens when Peter, Joe and Quagmire go on a trip to Canada. Peter goes missing for months and when they finally find him, he’s lost the ability to communicate like a ‘normal person.’ Total Recall is another ‘Rupert’ inspired episode where Stewie and Brian try to get the teddy bear back after a recall is done. Peter and friends try to save their favorite bar in Save The Clam while Peter takes up farming in Farmer Guy, but soon gives that up in favor of dealing meth. Road To Vegas sees Brian and Stewie clone themselves and head to Vegas where they have completely opposite experiences from one another and last but not least, No Country Club For Old Men gets the Griffin’s into a posh country club when Christ strikes up a romance with a girl who comes from the wealthiest family around. This doesn’t sit well with Carter, who winds up getting the boot.

It’s all pretty much non-stop insanity but hey, it wouldn’t be Family Guy if there weren’t a lot of guest voices, right? Right! Popping up throughout this collection are such luminaries as Elizabeth Banks, Ryan Reynolds, Sofía Vergara, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Biel, Drew Barrymore, Will Sasso, Emma Roberts, J.J. Abrams, Sandra Bernhard, Cheryl Tiegs, Anne Murray, Bill Maher, Sharon Osbourne and quite a few others. And we’d be remiss not to mention the mighty Robert Loggia shows up here too. There’s a lot of fun to be had in this set so long as you go in with an open mind and remember that pretty much every one from every walk of life is fair game.  This marks the second time a full season of the show has been released in one set (season 13 12 had the full season 11 on it). In prior years Fox, in its infinite wisdom, would release sets that had half of one season and half of another on it. It has really been a minor point because in terms of following the show, it is not like it ever has season long story arcs that need to be followed. You just have to have seen a prior episode to get a reference if they call back to something. But for those of us who do get the DVDs it has often meant paying the same price for a set with a partial season on it. So it is nice that they have come around to doing what they should have in the first place. It also makes for a pretty funny joke this season in one of the episodes.

As far as the show itself goes, it is pretty standard with what it has been doing the past few years. It can get repetitive with some of the gags (they do like vomit), but I do think they are still entertaining on a consistent enough basis to keep fans of the show entertained. This season has the controversial story line in the middle involving Brian (chances are everyone knows what it is and the cover of the DVD set basically gives it away) that definitely shook the show (and the fans) up. It also sees the return of Cleveland after the Cleveland Show’s cancellation. Like the show always has, it makes fun of pretty much any topic, and because the DVD is uncensored it replaces some of the tamer jokes from the broadcast version with harder edged versions. It is also worth noting that nothing gets bleeped out on the DVDs, so expect all the swearing to be in every episode.

 


For those who get the DVD set, as far as extras go, there are deleted scenes from every episode, a couple episodes showing the full animatics with the dialogue, and a short feature on the Brian storyline with show runners and Seth Green talking about the fan reaction. Pretty standard for what has been included before

This is really season 13, its the season featuring the Simpson/ Family Guy Crossover. The hour in Springfield started off in poignant, self-referential fashion, with Seth MacFarlane and co. recognizing that this was probably a “one time shot.” Cue the slew of Easter eggs and references for fans of The Simpsons, and the fan-service is appreciated for the most part. There are guest appearances from Apu (once in his natural habitat, and once as Stewie’s prisoner), and hilarious scenes with the likes of Cleveland and Quagmire meeting their Simpson counterparts.

The entire premise of this episode (an attempt to put the rumors of any Family Guy vs The Simpsons feud to rest) hinges on each show taking some low blows and wearing it’s respective heart on it’s sleeve. Whether it’s The Simpsons (or Duff Brewery’s) longevity, which invites criticism about it’s consistency, or Family Guy’s (and Pawtucket Brewery’s) questionable originality and knack for what may seem like “pale imitation,” this episode takes stabs at both parties involved. The argument begins in a bar at the start of the third act, and spirals out of control into an absurd, and probably overlong, classic chicken fight.Comic-Con-Family-Guy-The-SImpsons-Crossover-SG-21

Other highlights in the set include,

The 2000 Year Old Virgin where Jesus shocks peter by saying that he has never had sex. Determined to change this, Peter enlists the help of Cleveland, Joe and Quagmire so Jesus can lose his virginity for his 2000th birthday.

Stewie, Chris, & Brian’s Excellent Adventure where Stewie and Brian invite Chris on a journey through time to help him pass a test that is his only hope of finishing ninth grade, and the three end up stuck in 1912 aboard the Titanic.

and of course the Fight Irish episode where Peter claims that he could beat Liam Neeson in a fight, but his skills are put to the test when Neeson himself actually shows up. Meanwhile, Stewie is annoyed with Lois when she becomes a class mom and starts paying more attention to other children.

Another classic season with great jokes and great guest stars, The Simpson Guy being the biggest highlight now we can own it on dvd

REVIEW: THE A-TEAM (2010)

CAST

Liam Neeson (Batman begins)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Jessica Biel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
Quinton Jackson (Vigilante Diaries)
Sharlto Copley (Powers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Gereald McRaney (Mike & Molly)
Henry Czerny (Revenge)
Maury Sterling (Coherence)
Terry Chen (Bates Motel)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica)
Dwight Schultz (Star Trek: TNG)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Brian Bloom (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Brendan Penny (I Love You, Beth Cooper)
Jason Schombing (Timecop)

John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) is held captive in Mexico by two Federal Police officers working for renegade General Javier Tuco (Yul Vazquez). Hannibal escapes and sets out to rescue Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper), who is held captive at Tuco’s ranch. Hannibal saves Face after enlisting fellow Ranger B.A. Baracus (Quinton Jackson), driving to the rescue in BA’s modified GMC Vandura van.[9] Pursued by Tuco, they stop at a nearby Army Hospital to recruit the services of eccentric pilot Howling Mad Murdock (Sharlto Copley). They flee in a medical helicopter, chased by Tuco, in a dogfight that leaves BA with a fear of flying. The battle ends when they lure Tuco’s helicopter into American airspace, where it is shot down by a USAF F-22 Raptor for trespassing.Eight years later in Iraq, Hannibal is contacted by CIA Special Activities Division operative Lynch (Patrick Wilson), who assigns them a black ops mission to recover U.S. Treasury plates and over $1 billion in cash from Iraqi insurgents slated to move it out of Baghdad in an armored convoy. Hannibal’s commanding officer, General Morrison (Gerald McRaney), consents to the operation but Face’s former girlfriend, Defense Criminal Investigative Service Capt. Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel), tries to discourage the team against getting the plates. The mission is successful; when the team returns to base, however, the money and Morrison’s vehicle are destroyed by Brock Pike (Brian Bloom) and his men from the private security firm Black Forest. Without Morrison (the only proof that they were authorized to act), Hannibal, Face, Murdock, and BA are court martialed and they are sentenced to ten years in separate prisons and dishonorably discharged. Sosa also ended up court-martialed and is demoted to lieutenant.Six months later, Lynch visits Hannibal in prison and tells him that Pike may be trying to sell the plates with the help of an Arab backer. Hannibal, who has been tracking Pike on his own, makes a deal with Lynch: full reinstatement and clean records for his team in return for the plates. Lynch agrees and Hannibal escapes, breaking out Face, BA, and Murdock in the process. Sosa is hot on the team’s trail. The team hijacks a USMC Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, which is later shot down by Reaper UCAVs, but not before the team parachute away in a tank stashed aboard and make it to the ground safely. The team moves to reclaim the plates and kidnap Pike’s backer. It is revealed that the backer is actually General Morrison, who plotted with Lynch and Pike to steal the plates but teamed up with Pike to double-cross Lynch and fake his death. Lynch orders an airstrike to kill the team and Morrison, but the team manages to escape.Hannibal arranges to meet Sosa on board a container ship at the Los Angeles docks, saying he will hand over Morrison and the plates. Face then calls Sosa on a drop phone he planted on her at the train station, and conspires a different plan with her. It all unfolds according to plan until Pike, who is now working with Lynch, blows up the container ship and chases Face to near death. BA finally gives up his pacifist ways and kills Pike, saving Face. Hannibal leads Lynch into a container with Murdock, who, wearing a covered bullet-proof helmet, is portraying Morrison. Lynch shoots at Murdock’s head, believing that he is killing Morrison, and is later tricked into admitting that he stole the plates, and is subsequently arrested by Sosa.The CIA agents led by a man named “Lynch” (Jon Hamm) comes and claims custody of the other Lynch. Despite their success and proving themselves innocent, the military still arrests the team for escaping from prison, also a crime; they and Sosa are angered by this. Sosa is reinstated to captain, but she promises to do all she can to set the team free and kisses Face as everybody is led into a prison van. In the van everyone starts saying that the system has burned us again, but Hannibal tells them that there is always a way out of any situation, and turns towards Face, who smiles and says “I dont want to steal your line boss but, I like it when the plan comes altogether” and opens his mouth and reveals a handcuff key, given to him by Sosa through the kiss.The final scene includes a narration (spoken by Corey Burton) similar to the show’s opening narration.In a post-credits scene, Murdock and Face of A-Team’s original cast are seen.A Strong cast. I think that it is a good stand alone romp with lots of twists and turns, good plot and nice nods to the original series. I know that it has been criticised, and that Dirk Benedict subsequently regretted his involvement; but for me at least it was a brilliant film. It had a good pace, great stunts.

REVIEW: SUCKER PUNCH

 

CAST

Emily Browning (Sleeping Beauty)
Abbie Cornish (Limitless)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers)
Jamie Chung (Once Upon A Time)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Jon Hamm (Mad men)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Monique Ganderton (Smallville)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Chrstine Willes (Dead Like Me)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Gerard Plunkett (Travelers)
A.C. Peterson (Shooter)
Michael Adamthwaite (Stargate SG.1)

 

Like many men, when I saw the trailers appear for the film a number of things caught my eye immediately. First and foremost was the cast of hot scantily clad young women with cool sounding names like Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Amber, and Blondie. The next thing noticed was that it seemed to blend fantasy with a lot of ridiculously over the top action that involved zombie Nazis, fire-breathing dragons, robot samurai, and other entirely bizarre and irrational things that would surely only come out of the imagination of a weirdo who has a strong affection for anime, video games, and everything else considered genuinely bizarre: this was not the kind of thing I expected to see for a big-budget spectacle showpiece. The end result was that Sucker Punch ultimately looked to me like something that would only appeal to young men looking for thrills or pop-culture junkies. It seemed like it would have plenty of pretty images and little substance whatsoever. What could possibly be worthwhile about the film beyond some mere thrills.MV5BODk0MDI3NDI5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzc2MjA3NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,825_AL_Sucker Punch begins with what essentially adds up to being a music video stylized opening that aims to bring audiences into the start of the story. Prepare to see a lot of this throughout the entire experience. I actually embraced it because it’s in part the kind of thing I always felt Snyder should be doing: making music videos or commercials. By placing an emphasis on the music and striking imagery I felt allowed to have a visceral experience that actually grabbed on to me and wouldn’t let me go. We discover early on that the girl we would soon know as Baby Doll (Emily Browning) was being sent to a mental institution by her stepfather. It’s no fault of her own mental health – she witnesses the murder of her younger sister who I presumed was also raped beforehand. The stepfather doesn’t stop there as he tries to rape and murder them both, and when Baby Doll fights back he somehow arranges it so that they believe the murder of her sister was why she was being committed into the mental institution in the first place.MV5BMTg1MjM1ODk3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTc2MjA3NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,828_AL_Upon entering the mental institution Baby Doll enters a fantasy-world she creates where the storyline of Sucker Punch allows her to enter a dream within another dream state of mind (and this really made me wonder if this had anything to do with why Christopher Nolan picked Snyder for the Superman reboot). She visualizes the mental intuition as actually being a dance hall – but the truth of the fantasy is that the director of the asylum, Blue (Oscar Isaac), is really trying to prostitute the girls out to clients in his role as the owner of the dance hall. The doctor of the mental institution, Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), is now seen as the dance instructor and every time one of the characters ‘dances’ they are actually entering a deeper fantasy world where all of the crazy video-game/anime like qualities truly step in to play (such as the dragons and robots – oh my!). The dancing in the film is never visualized in the way most men probably want or expect – there isn’t a lot of ‘sexy moves’ on display in these moments and to my disappointment I have heard some complaints about this as a detractor. The dances in this movie are not ordinary dances at all but are in fact moments when Baby Doll enters her deeper fantasy state.MV5BMjA1MzYxNDUwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDY2MjA3NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,829_AL_Baby Doll has met the other girls Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jamie Chung), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens). Eventually, the girls team up in each of these sequences. During the first ‘deep dream’ sequence Baby Doll encounters a seemingly wise old man (Scott Glenn) while alone. He informs her that in order to become free she must collect five items: a map, knife, fire, key, and another item that she must discover on her own. He also gives her a handgun and sword that can be used while inside her dream world. Over the course of the story, Baby Doll convinces the other girls that following this plan of action is the only way for them to escape. Some of the girls are on board with the idea while others (mainly Sweet Pea) seem against it.MV5BMTM0NjM2MjgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDc3ODIxNA@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_I realized at some point that there began to be a correlation between the first layer of the fantasy world and the second one. Actions taking place within the dream-world fantasy affected the other. Characters died unexpectedly and the result was their death and removal from both of the fantasy plot-lines taking place. Towards the end of the film the items gathered are used for the last surviving girls to escape and they are used in the film . In concluding the story, Baby Doll realizes that the fifth thing needed for her to escape was simply her, and then she helps one of the other girls to find freedom while she stays behind. Upon entering into the reality of the situation – in the mental hospital – we find that Baby Doll is about to have a lobotomy. Dr. Gorski enters the room and talks to the man performing the lobotomy (Jon Hamm). She questions why such a thing is happening, and soon realizes that a forgery was done of her signature for someone to make the lobotomy occur. Yet it was already far too late as the operation had just been completed.Baby Doll is led away by some guards to a room where Blue awaits her. He tells her that he can now do anything with her that he wants to do. The guards seem reluctant; saying something about being sick of letting him do what he wants to these girls. Dr. Gorski breaks into the room and stops whatever was about to happen. In a scene that appears as an epilogue thereafter, we see the lone girl who escaped get onto a bus with the same old man from Baby Dolls dream world as the driver.The audience just got sucker punched. The conversation held between Dr. Gorski and the man performing the lobotomy revealed that Baby Doll had actually done some of the things the audience witnessed in the fantasy world she created. In other words, the film blends reality and fantasy in a way that makes it hard to state what moments were real and what moments weren’t. Some will call this a cop out. I actually disagree for once. It had my own imagination going rather wild.

REVIEW: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)

CAST

Keanu Reeves (Speed)
Jennifer Connelly (Hulk)
Kathy Bates (Misery)
Jaden Smith (The Karate Kid)
John Cleese (Rat Race)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Robert Knepper (Heroes)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Sunita Prasad (Hardwired)
J.C. MacKenzie (Dark Angel)
Lorena Gale (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Ty Olsson (Izombie)
Kyle Chandler (Argo)
Rukiya Bernard (Van Helsing)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Bill Mondy (Blade: The Series)
Brandon T. Jackson (Tropic Thunder)
Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)

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The movie’s first act shows the most potential. Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is swept away from her with a police escort, by flustered agents who inform her that even they don’t know why she’s being picked up. She’s rushed into a room crowded with other scientists and engineers and told that not only is something from outer space going to impact Earth in the middle of Manhattan, but it’s going to happen in less than 80 minutes. I always question the way government officials act in movies, but there’s a palpable sense of tension and paranoia, and even a few good character touches (. A better movie would have played out closer to real time; the concept that Earth might be destroyed with such little forewarning is a really great idea (although there’s a shade too much 9/11 imagery here). Sadly, it barely makes up the first twenty minutes. At the end of it, a giant swirling orb touches down in the middle of Central Park, and an alien creature steps out, only to be shot by an overzealous soldier.The creature is taken to a hospital, where its’ strange, placenta-like shell melts away to reveal what appears to be a human being. Instead it turns out to be Keanu Reeves, playing an alien creature named Klaatu who somberly informs the President’s first-hand aide (Kathy Bates) that he’d like to address the United Nations. Bates’ character is problematic. She plays it as reasonably as she can, but as written, she’s yet another trigger-happy, kill-all-the-aliens caricature straight out of endless alien invasion movies that prevents logical characters from doing logical things. She refuses his request, and they tell Helen to drug him so they can interrogate him. She fakes it instead, injecting him with saline instead of sedative, and Klaatu makes his escape.During the escape sequence, Scott Derrickson’s direction goes into hyperdrive, using flashy editing and CGI to amp up the excitement, but it feels forced and unnatural. It happens several times, all in isolated bursts (Robert Knepper’s thankless and stereotypical military commander is the worst offender, popping up occasionally to yell in a Texas accent). Only part of the spectacle, like the swarms of tiny bugs that eat up everything in their path (as seen in the misleading trailer), feel integrated with the story. The effects themselves are hit-and-miss. The giant orbs, shown on the movie poster, are stunning to look at, and those swarms of bugs are eye-poppingly cool, but most of the effects that integrate real actors look weak.I’ve always thought of Keanu Reeves as a more physical actor than an emotional one , and it’s almost endearing the way he doesn’t seem to “get” the joke in regards to his flat acting style, which the producers of Day 2008 have ably exploited in having him play an emotionless alien. I liked him in the movie, but those who already dislike him as an actor aren’t going to have their minds changed. Jennifer Connelly does a fairly good job during the first half of the film, but as the bits of characterization from the first act peter out, it’s like she’s acting into a vaccuum; she puts plenty of emotion out but none of it registers. Will Smith’s son Jaden plays her step-son, and his primary mode is “whiny”.The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)Klaatu’s goal in Day 2009 is to save the Earth, which is bad news for its inhabitants. “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives,” he tells Helen. Yet the film doesn’t want to be a “message” movie, so no obvious examples are shown lest the audience get upset. I felt The Day the Earth Stood Still was better than expected but the commercial aspect of its existence overpowers its low-key successes. Derrickson’s version misses ample opportunities to explore the nature of meeting a creature from another planet, and the times it does breach the topic it doesn’t have anything to say.Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)The 1951 original is a social landmark, and even won a Golden Globe for promoting International Understanding. The new version is entertaining, but the fact that it can’t emotionally connect to its audience, much less connect other people, is going to leave many fans rightfully disappointed.