Parks and Recreation

TIE ME UP discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (Criterion) Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was a massive cross-Atlantic hit in the early 1990s, helping to launch the global career of Antonio Banderas. Following an obsessive but charming former mental patient (Banderas)  as he captures a porn star (Victor Abril) so that she learns to fall in love with him, the dark comedy was the import of the season on summer movie screens 24 years ago, accompanyingWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as the one-two punch that made Almodovar an arthouse fixture. While Almodovar has gone through various stylistic phases since, Tie Me Up remains a prime example of his unique propensity for comic chaos that plunges unabashedly into the trenches of sexual id. The film’s success can be credited in part to its massive controversy: its sexual content threatened its US release with an X rating, which began a lawsuit that resulted in the creation of the NC-17 rating. The story behind the film is thus as much a part of it as the film itself, and Criterion justly adorns this set with a collection of new special features that illustrate how the film changed the career of those in front of and behind the camera, with Almodovar thankfully present across all of them. Hopefully this first release of Almodovar’s work promises many Criterion treatments of the Spanish auteur to come. […]

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What happens when you’re the loudmouth who spoils an episode of Breaking Bad for President Obama? Recently, The New York Times did an oddly in-depth piece on the viewing habits of the 44th President of the United States, and though I’m disappointed he’s not working his way though the Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition box set, as everyone should be, his list of series he’s keenly interested in is a solid one nonetheless.  Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad is a series the president is late to the game on, where, as noted above, there appears to be a standing order not to spoil his early entry into the world of Walter White. On the opposite end of that spectrum, the entire Obama clan likes to catch episodes of Modern Family and NBC’s Parks and Recreation, thought the president himself has noted that his alone-time viewing habits tend to go a bit darker. Political thriller Homeland, led by Claire Danes’ oft upset and cry-faced CIA operative Carrie Mathison, political drama House of Cards, of which Obama was invited to cameo by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, fall under his must-watch list. I’ll leave other journalists to pick apart any subtle associations between Mr. Obama’s viewing habits and his current occupation. Also, the guy loves HBO’s The Wire, calling it “one of the greatest shows of all time,” which is fine, and pretty standard. Like, I’m almost certain it’s a requirement for sealing the Presidential deal, like taking the oath of office.

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The Best TV Shows of 2012

While the new fall line-up wasn’t too impressive (there are only two freshman series on this list, neither of which premiered in the fall) and former powerhouses have stumbled (Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire), this is still an amazing time for TV. The most outstanding programs don’t just have excellent writing and actors, they’re reinventing genres and challenging viewers with daring storytelling. TV is gutsier now (sometimes literally gutsier with blood and innards all over the place) and its fantastic. When compiling this list, I chose the shows that sparked visceral reactions. These are the comedies, dramas, and (often overlooked) animated gems that made me laugh out loud, cringe, cry like an idiot, or yell “oh snap” at every wild turn.

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Quick A motorcycle courier finds himself targeted by police after a mysterious man forces him to deliver bombs to various addresses while an ex-girlfriend unlucky enough to have strapped an explosive helmet to her head comes along for the ride. This Korean effort takes the single plot thread of Speed and combines it with a lot of goofiness. The action runs the gamut of cartoony to thrilling, but it’s never less than entertaining. There’s also a little bit of heart to add more weight to the matter, but it’s never enough to extinguish the goofy fun. I’ll be honest… this is casual entertainment and a rental at best for most folks, but those of you as partial to Korean films as I am may want to pick it up too. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Making of, trailer, featurettes]

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Channel Guide - Large

The precocious child; the old grump with a heart of gold; the plucky young woman, looking to make it in the big city all on her own, who spins around in the middle of a busy street with a big, stupid grin on her face while wearing a hat. For better or worse, these sorts of characters have been and, most likely, will always be a part of the TV landscape. They’re templates that take all of the pesky guesswork out of creating a show. Over the years, familiar archetypes are re-imagined and deconstructed to reflect the changing values. This is why we have the wholesome Brady Bunch in the ’70s and the dysfunctional Bundys of Married with Children in the ’90s. And then, sometimes, new constructs are born. But you know all of this. We may be in the midst of a TV renaissance but that doesn’t mean that shows aren’t leaning hard on archetypes—these five in particular are getting a lot of play.

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Channel Guide - Large

On shows like The Newsroom, Californication, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the curmudgeon is exalted; intentionally unlikable folks populate the worlds of Girls and Mad Men; and a thoroughly bratty child holds court on Game of Thrones. Opportunists, narcissists, jerks, the morally bankrupt—these are some of people that we tune in to watch every week. I’d say all of this is a good thing, a sign that we’re living during a time where viewers are smart enough and open-minded enough to appreciate irony and satire and flawed, realistic characters. But sometimes, maybe not usually, or even often, people aren’t selfish, cold, or totally self-involved, and for the sake of diversity, it would be nice to see more shows with characters who are as optimistic as, say, Hank Moody is misanthropic. To make myself clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t enough family-oriented programs on TV today—that isn’t an issue that I’m even remotely concerned with. I’m not advocating wholesomeness or a return to the benign, Miller-Boyett characters of my ’90s, TGIF-centric youth (I cherish the Danny Tanners and Balki Bartokomouses of that era, but TV is a lot more interesting now and I think even cousin Larry would tend to agree with that). But cynicism and self-centeredness are the go-to traits for so many characters and even if that’s an authentic representation of the way people actually are, it’s kind of boring. I mean, do I really need to see it on my TV all the time if it’s already a […]

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Culture Warrior

Two nights ago, Aaron Sorkin’s heavily-anticipated and rather polarizing new show The Newsroom aired its debut on HBO. With the pilot’s central focus on the BP oilrig explosion, the premium cable network has established itself (alongside with their recent TV movies) as the primary venue for dramatizing recent political history. However, other contemporary television shows have addressed political issues well beyond the headlines of the past few years. In this election year, it seems that TV comedies and dramas from several networks have a surprising amount to say about the political process in a way that resonates with this uncertain, often frustrating moment. Here’s how The Newsroom stacks up against a triumvirate of other TV shows with overtly political themes…

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Anybody who watches Parks and Recreation already knows that Jean-Ralphio is probably the most connected, cutting edge entrepreneur/promoter/personality in Pawnee, Indiana, and maybe in all of the Midwest. This guy could find a way to get you bottle service on the moon. But what a lot of people probably don’t know is that Jean-Ralphio isn’t actually a real person. He’s just a character played by an actor named Ben Schwartz. I know, I was shocked, too. And even more mind-blowing than this news is a report that Schwartz has a new job lined up in a feature film, which will see him working with some of the biggest names in the game. According to THR, Schwartz has signed on to star alongside Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake in Brad Fuhrman’s (The Lincoln Lawyer) upcoming tale about the world of online gambling, Runner, Runner. Even though Jean-Ralphio is the real power player in this situation, Timberlake technically stars as a professional gambler who starts working under the tutelage of an offshore gaming CEO (is that a real job?) played by Affleck. Schwartz is signed on to play the friend of Timberlake’s character, which makes sense, because he’s going to need someone to help him figure out the most fabulous ways to spend all of the money he wins. First step: buy a helicopter made out of crystal.

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The 11 Best TV Shows of 2011

Because it’s Saturday, we’re talking television. That’s when Amber Humphrey publishes her weekly entry of Channel Guide, our twice-weekly column on all things television. But there’s something else at work this week. It might be Saturday, but it’s also the final day of the year. And what better way to send off our coverage of television in the year 2011 than with a list of the shows that we loved most dearly. In order to do so, Channel Guiders Amber Humphrey and Mikela Floyd each contributed their picks for the five best shows of the year, in no particular order. In keeping with our ’11 Best’ theme for the Year in Review, FSR Publisher and closet television fanatic (don’t tell movies, we don’t want them to be jealous) Neil Miller throws in one final pick with his own best show of the year. All powers combined, they have unleashed our list of the 11 Best TV Shows of 2011.

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

Ah, the Golden Globes. The redheaded stepchild of award show season – a veritable island of misfit toys in terms of pop cultural offerings. Ridiculous as they oftentimes may be, the picks of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are now among us, and up for the inevitable scrutiny of the Internet as a whole. Film nominations aside, the small screen selections for this year’s statuettes are as random as ever. With regular contenders ineligible for nomination (Mad Men), and former heavy-hitters now struggling to stay relevant (I’m looking at you, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy), the pool of nominees is a hodgepodge one – often seeming as shallow as Paris Hilton. So just which shows should take home the statues when the Golden Globes are telecast January 15th? Here’s my breakdown of the nominees – from the way-to-go to the WTF.

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

When NBC revealed its mid-season line-up last week, the Internet reacted almost instantly, with a violent fervor befitting of Arrested Development’s cancellation. Not because the travesty that is Whitney was able to score a full-season and not because Maria Bello’s stateside adaptation of Prime Suspect got temporarily shelved. Nope, the hums and haws exuded from the Internet glitterati were in objection of another shuffle – the benching of Dan Harmon’s ensemble cult comedy Community. The show, which follows a group of misfit community college students (a jilted-then-reunited housewife, a not-so-lovable curmudgeon, a handsome lawyer forced to make good, a wannabe activist with uncertain intentions, a former footballer, a meta filmmaker, and an anal-retentive honor student with anxiety issues) began on somewhat unsteady footing. Reeking potential, the jokes were a bit hit-or-miss at first, making Community a slow burn, a la its NBC cohort Parks and Recreation. Yet over time, Community found its stride – at its absolute best when able to cultivate its own brand of cultdom. With the paintball episode, the study group formed its own meta clique; a way to weave pop culture references so strong that Abed wasn’t the only one drinking the Kool-Aid. Very few episodes have the cast (or creative moxie) to pull off a holiday Claymation episode that reeked of charm, let alone that was actually funny. Don’t get me started on the Pulp Fiction-meets-My Dinner with Andre homage last season – a lesson in television nerdery that not only paid respect to one […]

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

Editor’s Note: We are very excited to welcome you to the relaunch of Channel Guide, our twice weekly column covering the world of television. Taking over the column are not one, but two talented ladies with a wealth of knowledge and wit. Every Wednesday will feature a new essay from Mikela Floyd, a newcomer to FSR and a voice we’re really excited to be able to share with all of you. And now, on with the show… Something’s happening on network television, and it’s conjuring some pretty serious childhood flashbacks. That’s right, TV’s got a pretty big mean streak these days, and it’s got me feeling like my weekly viewing habits are just one televised squabble over the seating arrangements at the cool kids’ table. Sure, there are some notably peppy programs filling my DVR, but for every ‘Steak Me Home Tonight’ sandwich (Happy Endings) and anorexia-stricken stewardess (Pan Am), there are innumerable instances of primetime snark that are getting meaner and meaner.

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This Week in DVD

This is a pretty big week for DVD releases with plenty of titles worth buying and renting as well as a couple worth skipping completely. There’s no real common thread here aside from almost half of titles featured below being TV shows on DVD. The best of the bunch include the second and third seasons, respectively, of Community and Parks & Recreation, but other TV releases include the classic seventies series Police Story, the trippy Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, the piss poor Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, and more. But there are some great releases for film fans too including Hanna and X-Men First Class. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Rebirth The events of 9/11 affected all Americans in one way or another, but for many people the nightmare struck very close to home. Jim Whitaker’s documentary was almost a decade in the making and follows five of those people as they deal with the events across the years. Each year we revisit with a son who lost his mother, a woman who lost the love of her life, a man who lost his brother, another who lost his best friends, and a woman who suffered massive burns across her head and body. We see them descend into depression, struggle with survivor’s guilt, and hopefully emerge whole again. Everyone grieves differently, and this ultimately triumphant and redemptive film shows it as a necessary step when coping with tragedy. Time lapse […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It hasn’t been around for an entire week, so to be honest it’s not really sure. It knows that its primary function is to collect movie news links, but then what? Is there some sort of witty commentary that must be placed before and after said links, or can it just dump the links below? In the haze following its ruckus celebration of America and the death of colonialism, it seems to have forgotten how to do this. Maybe its like riding a bike… with no hands… while holding sprinklers and drinking from a beer helmet… Lets hope so, because that’s all it knows how to do at the moment. Perhaps one of the most overlooked and delightful animated films of the last decade, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has earned its place atop my Netflix Instant watch queue. I watch it what feels like weekly. And rightly so, as it’s a vibrant display of Sony Pictures Animation’s ability to carve out own unique place inside the shadows of Pixar and Dreamworks. So the fact that Cloudy is getting a sequel makes me happy. Time to go watch it again.

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What is Movie News After Dark? Usually it’s a pretty straightforward look at what’s happening in the world of film. But sometimes, mostly on Friday nights when we’ve run out of actual news, it becomes an eclectic mix of notes and links that will tickle your cinema-loving fancy. It’s full of things you might want to read after heading out to see this week’s new releases. So read it, before you fall asleep and dream of what’s in Super 8‘s mystery box… Roger Ebert has extended the reach of his ever-growing empire. He will now be on your iPad, should you choose to download him. Ebert’s Greatest Movies app has hit iOS devices, recommending to you all the greatest that cinema has to offer. Think of it as a Cliff’s Notes version of his books, and a great cheat-sheet for filling up your Netflix queue.

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Culture Warrior

Episodes and seasons and weeks after its inspiration and its humor have peaked, I still continue to watch new episodes of The Office week in and week out. I don’t know why – I never do this with dramatic shows, only with comedies – but I tend to stick with comedy shows whose legacy I appreciate even if their time has passed, either out of respect, blind hope, or simply the desire to have some noise in the room while I take a break to eat a meal or fold laundry. While The Office certainly isn’t what it used to be, even before Steve Carell left, it’s still an inoffensive and enjoyable way to pass some time. I can’t deny that the affinity I developed for the show’s characters early on in the series has carried me through a lot of its creative droughts (in other words, I hardly watch it only for its comedy) even as more recent network sitcoms like Modern Family, Community, and (especially) Parks and Recreation have made me LOL significantly more often. But in the bizarre cameos leading up to a strange and dry seventh season finale, The Office seems to have encountered much greater problems than a rudimentary lack of inspiration typical for the (possibly cyclical) lifespan of a long-running television show. The Office seems to have rejected the defining characteristics that made it unique in the first place.

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Earlier today NBC released their full schedule for the fall television season. Much of the schedule confirms things we already knew from previous reports. But the schedule does confirms some of the “sure thing” renewals as well as revealed some major changes being made to the network’s time slots. Plus, we’ve got some video clips of some of the newer shows (like The Playboy Club and Prime Suspect) they’ll be showing soon in a home theater near you. Of the highlights:

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This Week in DVD

This week sees a first in the history of the column… at least I think it’s a first. Not only are there no new DVDs worth buying this week, but there are also none worth avoiding. It’s an all rental week here at the West Coast offices of FSR! That may be because this is a fairly light week of releases in general which is odd considering the proximity to Christmas, but just because the pickings are slim doesn’t mean they’re not worth watching. The DVD pick of the week is the surprisingly funny, dirty, and sweet romantic comedy Going the Distance. You shamefully missed in theaters… but now have a second chance to watch in the comfort of your own home and in the arms of someone you love to play with naked. Also out this week? Part three of the emotionally vacant Twilight series, Eclipse! Nicolas Cage playing with his wand in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Tom Cruise in Knight and Day, the better than expected action comedy with worse than expected CGI! Two documentaries about Walt Disney that both avoid the subject of cryogenics! And more!

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Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves competing against the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company with his own paper company called Disemboweled Trees Inc. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs. This week… Angela Lansbury, Jewish detectives, haunted houses, and more!

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