Last week, we discussed our favorite TV series of the last year. This week, we turn to the big screen.
PAUL: 10. DJANGO UNCHAINED (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
With Django Unchained, director Quentin Tarantino takes us once more back to a terrible moment in our history, and once again asks us to indulge him his little anachronisms and revisionist revenge fantasies. This time, instead of Nazis and baseball-bat-wielding Jews, we get slavers and bounty-hunting dentists. Set in the pre-Civil War Deep South, Unchained is Tarantino’s homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of Leone and Corbucci, which he prefers to call his Spaghetti Southern. I’ll say that the absence of editor Sally Menke is sharply felt here, though. If I, of all people, notice the nearly three-hour runtime, then there could’ve been some tightening. The cast is great across the board, including a list of hidden cameos longer than my arm (among others, original Django Franco Nero makes an appearance). Jamie Foxx is great in the title role, though I imagine what Will Smith could’ve done with the part, as was the original intent. Leo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins all shine in their respective roles. Kerry Washington was reduced to little more than the damsel in distress, however, which is unusual for a Tarantino picture. But the standout here is Christoph Waltz. He is every bit as charmingly heroic and admirable this time as he was charmingly repulsive and hateful in Basterds.
AJ: 10. MOONRISE KINGDOM (dir. Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson’s films often have a childlike quality about them, whether it be his colorful storybook compositions or the petulance of many of his characters. So it’s fitting that he’s finally made a film about children, one in which the kids are on the run from what’s expected of them and their adult guardians are forced to accept the roles they’ve played in their children’s abandonment of them. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both in their first screen acting roles, give perfectly awkward performances. Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are in their element here, while Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton join the auteur’s troupe with ease. Perhaps most encouragingly, Moonrise Kingdom is the first sign of life in years from Bruce Willis–who, with a movie soon to appear on our lists, proved later in the year that he’s most definitely still kicking–and Edward Norton, two actors who really needed a movie like this.
On this, the eve of 2013, Paul and I begin to look back at some of our favorite things of 2012. First up, our ten favorite TV series.
Also, let’s give a slow clap to Paul, who struggled through severe illness just to get these words to you, dear reader. A speedy recovery to you, sir!
PAUL: 10. PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC)
Season 5 gets out of the office a little bit, with Ben and April in Washington D.C. (with an evil robot congressman). Ron gets a new love interest (the always lovely Lucy Lawless). Tom starts a new business. And Andy finds a new career.
AJ: 10. GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
What Game of Thrones did in its first season was nothing short of exceptional, a 10-episode narrative that goes down as one of the finest accomplishments the medium has seen thus far. And while the second season struggled at times to recapture that majesty, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The scope and breadth of George R.R. Martin’s world remains impressive; the cast, especially Peter Dinklage as the kind of noble imp Tyrion Lannister, continues to knock out high fantasy material that would crush lesser actors; and thrilling hours like “Blackwater” remind us that this is the closest thing we have to a Lord of the Rings on TV. And it’s a whole lot nastier and sexier, too.
Gobbledygeek episode 108, “Grave of the Rabbits,” is available for listening or download right here.
We know that every episode of Gobbledygeek makes you cry, but this one might especially depress you. It’s Geek Challenge time once more, so Paul has tasked AJ with watching the 1978 animated adaptation of Watership Down; in turn, AJ has challenged Paul to watch the 1988 anime Grave of the Fireflies. One is about the brutal escape of a group of rabbits from their soon-to-be-demolished warren. The other is about the brutal attempts at survival made by a very young brother and sister after their home is demolished in WWII-era Japan. Both are very sad. To lighten the mood, AJ talks about watching every episode of Childrens Hospital over the last week, and both of them discuss the addition of Ciarán Hinds to the cast of Game of Thrones.
Next: as summer winds down, it’s time to take a look ahead at the Fall/Winter Movie Preview.
(Show notes for “Grave of the Rabbits.”)
“What you’re fixin’ to see is a true story.” So says the title card at the very start of Richard Linklater’s Bernie, and it tells you everything you need to know about the movie. A lot of unbelievable things happen, but they closely follow events that actually took place in Carthage, Texas, in 1996, and Linklater tells the tale with genial down-home charm. Making a black comedy out of a real-life murder is tricky business, but Linklater pulls it off.
16 years ago, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) shot Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) in the back four times, killing her. Bernie was known around town as an eccentric but lovable guy; a funeral director who also directed and starred in musicals at the local theater, who wore Hawaiian shirts on his days off and gave generously to various charities. Marjorie, on the other hand, was regarded as the meanest, nastiest, and wealthiest piece of work in all Carthage. We see her whack a gardener with a broom and fire a black employee for stealing her car because he took it in for repairs. Nobody in town wanted to be in the same room with Marjorie, which is why it’s so interesting that Bernie essentially became her live-in servant.
I love the first Men in Black. Really, truly, sincerely love it; to me, it’s the Ghostbusters of the ’90s. If you know me, that’s high praise. I was seven years old in 1997, so there’s always going to be some nostalgia attached to my memories of the movie, but I was surprised by how well (read: completely) it held up when I watched it again a couple years ago. I so adored the first film that when the sequel came out in 2002, there I was on opening day dressed all in black, wearing sunglasses and an MiB: Alien Attack hat I’d gotten at Universal Studios earlier that year. It’s fair to say I was excited. Even at 12, though, I felt something missing from the sequel. Like Ghostbusters II, it lacked the freshness of the original, content to rest on its laurels and half-heartedly copy what made the first so enjoyable.
That said, it’s a pleasure to see Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) still knocking E.T.s around in Men in Black III, and perhaps more so to see that their partnership has been developing off-screen over the last ten years. J is still the wisecracking hothead of the pair, and K the no-nonsense straight man. But they’ve grown complacent in their roles. When J wants his partner to actually open up for once, K can’t. Still, they’re partners, so when K disappears and no one but J can remember him, J resolves to get to the bottom of things. It turns out that there’s been a fracture in the time stream; K was killed in 1969 by a nasty piece of work called Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). Time travel was made illegal long ago, but J doesn’t seem to have much trouble tracking down an undercover time travel service. He jumps (literally) back to the day before K was murdered; hijinks ensue.
No, we’re not talking about our clever concoction “Also Sprach Bat-Turkey,” which used to play at the beginning of every episode. The very weird, very hilarious Matt Farley, under the guise of Papa Razzi and The Photogs, has released his new album Papa Razzi Is Back. And He’s Singing More Nice Songs!, which includes a track called “A Song About Arlo J. Wiley and Paul Smith.” Yes, an actual song about your very own Gobbledygeek guys.
A couple months ago, we used the Papa Razzi song “A Song for George Lucas” in our episode “Talking Turkey.” After the fact, Matt reached out to us to let us know how cool he thought it was that we used one of his songs and that he’d be recording one about us for his next album. And so he did. And it is wonderful. And it kind of sort of made Paul cry a little.
You can check out Papa Razzi Is Back. And He’s Singing More Nice Songs!, in all its 97-track glory, on iTunes now.
THOR (DVD/Two-Disc Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Combo/Three-Disc Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Combo)
The penultimate pre-Avengers Marvel franchise hit like a thunderbolt! Well, a severe summer shower at least. Chris Hemsworth (Papa Kirk from Abrams’ Star Trek) plays the titular Thunder God, an impetuous and brash young warrior eager to earn the respect of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Instead, he reignites a war with his people’s ancient enemies the Frost Giants, and finds himself exiled, penitent and powerless, to Earth. There’s a rushed romance with a sexy scientist (Natalie Portman); a fun but sadly bloodless battle to reclaim his birthright Mjolnir, the literal hammer of the gods; and a final showdown with his half-brother, the once and future God of Mischief. But the real highlights of the film aren’t the action set pieces: Hemsworth is a joy, with the muscles and the cocky but charming smirk; Hopkins chews the scenery appropriately, adding to the Shakespearean vibe director Kenneth Branagh was aiming for; and Tom Hiddleston as Loki steals the show with his wounded-little-boy-in-the-body-of-a-god routine. My earlier review was perhaps a bit glowing for what is probably just a good-not-great summer popcorn film…but then perhaps not. I look forward to watching it again and seeing if the ol’ Asgardian magic can still enchant me like it did before. – Paul Smith
(Originally reviewed by Paul and myself in “The Hammer Is His Penis.” Like Paul, I also wrote a review for the blog.)
Gobbledygeek episode 66, “TV Party,” is available for listening or download right here.
Paul and AJ have already told you what movies you’re going to watch this fall, but what about those nights when you feel like staying in and staring slack-jawed at your television screen? Well, ladies and germs,we’ve got you covered! The boys discuss a number of new shows–sci-fi dramas like Terra Nova and comedies like New Girl, starring the glorious angel that is Zooey Deschanel–and returning ones–from Community to Boardwalk Empire. Now you have no excuse not to be as anti-social as humanly possible. You can thank us later! Plus: Paul reviews more DC New 52 books; AJ tells you why you need Spotify in your life; we’ve got the second half of last week’s Formspring question; and a listener e-mail!
(Show notes for “TV Party.”)
Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott in 'Party Down'
You’ve probably never seen an episode of Party Down. It had dire ratings; this past Friday’s season finale, for example, only garnered 74,000 viewers. My rationale was that it was on premium cable channel Starz (which, we can agree, does not have the luster of HBO or Showtime) but with that channel’s relative hit Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I was proven incorrect. Each episode was also available on Netflix Instant Viewing, but I doubt that expanded viewership much. Perhaps it was just too bleak; good things rarely happened to its team of fame-seeking caterers, and it reveled in the art of schadenfreude almost as much as the British Office. Or maybe it just wasn’t on the right channel at the time, or something.
What I do know is that for two seasons, it was the funniest show on television, or at least tied with Parks and Recreation. It was hindered by the fact that its stars were only signed for season-by-season contracts, which meant it lost Jane Lynch after season 1, and would have lost Ryan Hansen or, far more troubling, main caterer Adam Scott after this season. (The irony here is, of course, that they lost Scott to Parks and Rec.) But I presume that Rob Thomas, John Enbom, and the rest would’ve carried on and would’ve continued to make one damn funny show. Alas, Starz officially announced that the series was canceled today.
Now that Party Down is over, there are only a handful of worthy sitcoms left on the air: Parks and Recreation, Community, Modern Family, and maybe 30 Rock (this season was good, not great, but maybe it can come back; I have no such hopes for The Office).
I still haven’t watched the finale. I think I will right now.
Director: Robert Luketic
Writers: Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin, based on a story by DeRosa
After 2004′s The Butterfly Effect, I swore off Ashton Kutcher movies. Now, of all the terrible actors in all the movies in all the world, there are many worse than Kutcher. Rob Schneider, for instance. I’ve successfully avoided Schneider’s films for three years, or eight if you discount the many bizarre cameo appearances he makes in Adam Sandler comedies. Why did I swear off Kutcher, then? He’s certainly more talented than Schneider, exuding at least a slight hint of prettyboy charm. It’s because there is no reality in which I can conceive of Kutcher doing something interesting. He just doesn’t have it in him. He’s not interesting to watch, he never has anything interesting to say, and his status as the second most-followed person on Twitter–trailing, of all people, Britney Spears–is merely indicative of the fact that even hip social media sites fall prey to old prom king-type popularity contests.