Review Repost: Brilliantly Canceled: The IT Crowd

Earlier today, Splitsider published my review of The I.T. Crowd‘s American pilot. And now I’m reposting it here. What an age to be alive?

So, without further adieu, here’s a look back to the alternate past that almost was, an alternate past without Community. 

Here’s a taste:

An American version of The IT Crowd was never a bad idea. With American audiences already going “bazinga” over nerd-based and workplace comedies, the combination seemed like a homerun. But it’s all in the execution, and The IT Crowd has a hard time letting go of its British base. Of course, while it uses the same script as the pilot, it also keeps the mix of multi- and single camera footage found in the British version, star Richard Ayoade, and the cluttered sets of the original. The show has a decidedly British look and feel to it with nothing to distinguish itself from its source.

Based on series creator Graham Linehan’s original script, the American pilot follows Jen’s first day as manager of her company’s IT department. When the department’s only two workers, Roy and Moss, find out she doesn’t know anything about computers, they attempt to undermine her position and get her fired. The script made the trip across the Atlantic remarkably well. Despite the new accents, many of the jokes that kill in the original, still work here. Most importantly, we get clear sense of who these characters are and why they’re acting this way. As far as pilots go, the script for “Jen’s First Day” holds up.

Read the rest here.

The Birds and Attack the Block come to different conclusions about outsiders

Outsiders can generally be found at the center of horror movies. Their presence causes a disturbance that sends the community, whether it’s a summer camp, a small town, an apartment, or a neighborhood block, into flux. The values of the outsider gives the horror something to oppress, and the character a core system of belief to uphold. This can be most easily be pointed out in slasher movies where disruption generally follows “The Last Girl” or the virgin. Because she won’t conform to the standards of her sinful friends, she must uphold her pureness against the monster. In the end, if she can maintain her beliefs, she will survive.

Two movies in particular use the disruption of outsiders to their own advantage, one to punish and the other to politicize. The Birds and Attack the Block were made for and in different eras. The former exists at the dawn of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution, the latter in a world rife with gentrification and racial profiling. But while these movies seem completely different externally, at their core, they pit a social outsider against an invasion, allowing them to be punished or vindicated. Continue reading

Trailer: Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

In the past five years ago, West Anderson has dropped a number of sizable bombs on kids movies. Moonrise Kingdom and The Fantastic Mr. Fox elevated the genre aesthetically and intellectually by having gorgeous renderings of foxes talk like cool, calm, and collected astronauts. And his latest The Grand Budapest Hotel seem to be no different—though there are more accents.

Armed with another powerhouse cast, Anderson makes what looks like his most stylistically ambitious movie to date. If you’re a fan of intricate and precise framing, the color purple, or being punched in the face, the time to start getting excited is right now.

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “The North Star”

Image

To say that Boardwalk Empire‘s fourth season has been spotty would be an understatement. While the former intrigue and weight of the old show glimmers through every once and a while, season four comes and goes in waves. A thematically rich and engaging episode followed by several disparate scenes lassoed together without any rhyme or reason. “The North Star” is the latter. Following one of this seasons most original and interesting episodes, “The North Star” brings its characters as far from home as possible, anchoring them to plot lines that neither intersect nor advance.  Continue reading

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Erlkönig”

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 4.59.37 PM

“Erlkönig” is the episode I’ve been waiting for, one that erupts in change for all of the cast. The cause and effect that made the first few seasons of Boardwalk Empire so engrossing returns with a bizarrely directed and universe changing installment. People die, people pay, and halfway through season four, Boardwalk finally reveals its characters.

Throughout Boardwalk‘s run, we have watched characters create their own systems of operation. Within those systems, they run things a certain way, some through violence, others through cunning, and some through sex. Season four aims to change this up and has done so in the past few episodes. For instance, the sharpshooting phantom of the opera who feels nothing for the lives of criminals, Richard Harrow, buried his gun after failing to kill his sick dog. He can no longer get the job done, a far cry from the dependable assassin of previous seasons.

Continue reading

Recap: Eastbound & Down, “Chapter 22”

eastbound and down chapter 22

Ask any messiah and they’ll tell you, “resurrections are tricky business.” To rise from the ashes like a phoenix, one must first become the phoenix, ready to vanquish their enemies from God’s green earth and take back what is rightfully their’s. But how you justify your return lies in the details. In this case, “Chapter 22” of Eastbound & Down has a lot of ground to cover.

After completing the Kenny Powers saga last year, Jody Hill, Danny McBride, and HBO hope to justify the return of their star pitcher, but where can he go? Apparently, back to suburbia. “Chapter 22” brings Kenny back to “Chapter one,” in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC. There, he reigns king over his castle with a house and family, who think he’s pretty much the best. Domesticated, Kenny rinsed the bleach from his hair, clipped the testicles from his truck, and extinguished the fire in his heart. Kenny Powers might as well still be dead.

In many ways, this seems like the story that always should have followed season two, bringing the story full circle (and, apparently, this was the story McBride and Hill always wanted to tell). Things have come back around for Kenny, and rather than being a disruption in his suburban town, he’s now just a member of it. What a better place for the phoenix to rise?

The show makes perfect use of his surroundings. Kenny’s asides to April, her awards, Ken Marino’s Guy Young, and Kenny’s boss at the car rental depot work perfectly, mostly because McBride feels right at home as Kenny Powers. Him trying to fit in is almost as funny as Powers trying to reign.

Hill’s direction felt a bit off in this episode. HIs camera work was more fluid and faster, as was his use of music, almost bordering on parody. Maybe that was a reflection of Kenny’s supposed transformation, but it just wasn’t working for me.

Like Kenny, Eastbound & Down has a lot to prove this season, and as Kenny started interacting with his old friends and re-kindling that old fire, the episode started to come into its own. Considering most of this episode was setup, there were still plenty of great laughs and little bits about what the season will be about, namely Kenny’s relationship with his son.

Kenny fucking Powers is back and digging his own pool this time. Let’s just hope he can fill it with enough water to float through these next couple episodes.

 

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “All In”

There are specific beats a good season of television should hit. Just like any narrative, a seasonal story arc has moments of rising action, a climax, falling action, and resolution. With the initial over-arching relationships and themes of the show far behind us, Boardwalk Empire has made attempts to make these moments count the best it can.

Last season worked as a Deus-Ex machina, a reset button for the world. Gyp Rosetti presented an element of catastrophic violence to help the audience move on from the Darmody dilemma and Nucky’s relationship to Margaret. While these were some of the show’s strongest anchors, the show must continue to move forward without them, even if they put the show’s star, Nucky Thompson in a bind and Buscemi nothing to do.

Left with very few places to go, Boardwalk has made a strong point early in the season to turn the supporting players into the show’s central interest. While Nucky remains the sun in this universe, episodes like “Resignation” and last Sunday’s “All In” show how integral Nucky’s minions and minions in general are to these operations. Piggybacking off the themes of “Resignation,” episode four examines why picking your partners remains the most important part of the game. For Nucky, his inability to do so in the past, with Jimmy, Margaret, and Owen, has cost him, and it looks like this time should be no different.

Many characters reveal their inability to handle the responsibility of crime in “All In.” Willy learns that boyhood pranks can be deadly if you don’t have a partner that knows his science, Van Alden passively joyrides with Capone, and Arnold Rothstein proves that simply looking for action isn’t the best way to do business. “All In” shows characters for who they really are (a child, a thug, a habitual gambler) in a way that’s tense and weighty. Actions have consequences no matter how harmless they seem and napping on the job can lead you to some uncomfortable situations. 

Boardwalk works best when it links themes through different characters and pushes them on clear path. The editing of the episode makes a distinct path from one thread to the other. By cutting from the FBI meeting about Nucky’s weakest link to Eddie or the violent jokes of Daniel O’Bannon to Willy Thompson, the show constructs a clean episode of rising action, a slow build to the problems the rest of the season will deal with.