The Laughs, The Smiles, And The Awkward Dead Silence: Fall TV Roulette (Part Two)

fall-2014-sitcoms-blackish-cristela-mulaney-jane-the-virginComedy is hard. I know that to be true. It’s hard to make, and in the case of network sitcoms, it can also be extremely hard to sit through. There are few things more awkward than watching someone try to be funny and fail miserably at it, especially when a canned laugh track subs in for any actual human amusement.

I don’t generally expect a whole lot out of network comedies these days. Last season brought us The Goldbergs, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the unjustly canceled Trophy Wife, all of which did the trick for me.

What has this fall added to the mix? This season, I’m basically adding shows to my DVR all willy-nilly and dropping them when I get bored. Occasionally, I give up after one episode, and sometimes it’s hard to even get that far. My second Fall TV Roulette is focusing on the comedies — or at least, the shows that are trying to be funny. (Actual comedy not guaranteed.)

Continue reading

‘Rigby’ Goes Down: Marriage Is A Bummer From Both Perspectives

James McAvoy Jessica Chastain Marriage is hard work. Ben Affleck said it, rather awkwardly, in his Oscars acceptance speech for Argo, allowing us to wonder what hells he and Jennifer Garner had been through that caused him to profess such a sentiment in front of millions of viewers. And this year, Affleck stars in Gone Girl, a movie that has prompted a lot of discussion about men, women, and the holy matrimony between the two.

Marriage has been the topic of many movies this year, from one of the first films centered on a same-sex married couple (Love Is Strange) and the unconventional twist in marriage counseling found in The One I Love. Of course, marriage is such a broad topic that I’m sure every year has numerous movies exploring the subject, yet with Gone Girl bringing the topic directly to the center of the cultural conversation at the moment, it’s hard not to think of other new releases in similar terms.

Continue reading

10 Reasons ‘Black Swan’ And ‘Birdman’ Are Actually The Same Movie

black-swan-birdmanBirdman is one the year’s most critically beloved films. It features brilliant performances, breathtaking filmmaking, an off-the-beaten-path score, and unfolds in one long unbroken take (but not really).

And how about the story? Well, on a narrative level, it’s pretty much the same movie as Black Swan, which is why I admire the film but can’t get fully on board the Birdman train as so many critics have.

Don’t believe me? Below are 10 irrefutable reasons why Black Swan and Birdman are practically the same movie.

(Massive spoilers for both films ahead.)

Continue reading

Hero To Zero: Keaton Returns In ‘Birdman’

_AF_6405.CR2What has Michael Keaton been up to lately?

I don’t know the answer to that. I know he’s appeared in a handful of movies I haven’t seen (and have no desire to see) such as RoboCop and Need For Speed. He voiced the hilarious Ken doll in Toy Story 3, a fairly recent blockbuster. I still think he’s the big screen’s Batman, in the big screen’s best Batman movies.

But on the whole, it doesn’t seem like Keaton’s been on the Hollywood radar since the late 90s. Thus Birdman feels like something of a comeback, even though I acknowledge that Michael Keaton never exactly went anywhere. (He always knew where he was, even if the rest of us didn’t.) At least Keaton’s still getting paid, which makes him better off than Riggan Thompson, the character he plays in Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance). Thompson and Keaton are both famous for playing superheroes named after flying animals, so it’s hard not to feel like this is a little autobiographical. But the superhero connection is hopefully all these two have in common… because Riggan Thompson is nuts.

Continue reading

Don’t Do Anything: Life Gets Easier Thanks To DVR

Don-Knotts-Pleasantville-tobey-maguire (Flashback Friday: The danger in writing about something “cutting edge” is that you will soon sound ridiculous. So I’ve learned upon reexamining my old columns, such as this one about the dawning of DVR and how it changed our television viewing processes forever. Of course, this was well before streaming changed the game even further; at this point, it was still rather mesmerizing just to choose when you watched any given program. This piece was first published in INsite Boston in March 2007.)

Architects and screenwriters know equally well: structure is important. Without it, stories come crumbling down.

The same is true in life. Without a schedule, we’re bound to idle away hours chatting online, playing Guitar Hero, contributing nothing to the world at large. To remedy this, many have looked to work or school to dictate how they spend their time.

Me? I looked to television.

Continue reading

Tempo Tantrum: J.K. Simmons Drums Up A Terrifying Case Of ‘Whiplash’

Whiplash-5547.cr2Annabelle. Gone Girl. Ouija.

It’s no accident that such films are released in October. That’s when audiences are most in the mood to be thrilled and chilled, perhaps even killed, at the movies.

Most Octobers come and go without adding a truly classic villain to the repertoire — a Jason, a Ghost Face, a Freddy Kreuger. Yet this October, there is a new big screen baddie coming to a theater near you. A twisted psychopath who preys on guileless teenagers, who strikes fear into the hearts of all who invoke his name. You see him coming, you run the other way; but usually, by the time he’s set his sights on you, it’s already too late. He’s a monster.

Michael Myers and Leatherface, meet your new contemporary: Terence Fletcher.

Continue reading

‘Gone Girl’ Wild: Marriage And Media Are The Real Killers In Fincher’s Latest

gone-girl-rosamund-pike-amy-dunne-pen-twistMarriage is a contract. We select one person we love and trust, and pledge to continue loving and trusting them until our dying breath. We give them equal stake in all our assets. We promise to be with them and them only. We will eat, sleep, and travel with this person. Their friends become our friends. Our friends become their friends. Their interests become our interests, and vice versa. Words like “we” and “us” replace “I” and “me.” They will have more influence over us than any other person we have ever known — our parents, our best friends, our siblings — even if we have known this person for only a couple of years. We refer to that person as a “partner.”

And, when you think about it… isn’t that a pretty fucking insane agreement to enter into?

Continue reading