Top Things for 04/08/13

What’s up guys! Welcome back to another edition of “Top Things,” in which I try to regulate your lives, one blog at a time. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out this week, so let’s get right to it, yes?

Books

This week sees the release of Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb. I haven’t read the series yet (Dragon Keeper), but it’s got pretty decent scores up on Goodreads. So maybe check that out. The only other books I see coming out are diet books, so…

Comics

If, by now, you don’t know that I’m going to recommend SAGA each month, well you clearly don’t know me. Last issue ended on a powerful, if somber, note. And as much as I’m sure our characters could use a minute to grieve, it looks like Prince Robot IV will be making his return to the series.

Over at Marvel, the new Hawkguy issue is out, which promises to be as fast-paced and fun as it has been since the first issue.

Movies

42 comes out this week, if that’s your jam. I don’t typically care for sports movies (with a few notable exceptions), nor do I care at all about baseball. That being said, Jackie Robinson is an important historical figure, so there is a story to be told I’m sure. At this point I’m really just biding time until Iron Man.

Music

Paramore is coming out with their fist album since two founding members left the band. From what I’ve heard/seen, the reviews have been pretty positive, but this could potentially be a make-or-break moment for the band. Will they use this opportunity to shake up their sound, or will they try to reassure long-time fans by sticking to what they’ve done so far?

Television

We’re really living in a sweet spot, television-wise right now. The network shows are still on and ramping up to their season finales. At the same time, cable has started rolling out some of their summer shows, such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men. This week, we’ll be seeing Cece’s bachelorette party on New Girl, Community will be a puppet show, and Leslie takes on the animal control department in Parks and Rec. And as always, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Doctor Who on the weekends.

 

On the blog this week, I hope to have a review of Mad Men‘s premiere, or else maybe Game of Thrones‘ season so far, up on Wednesday, and a movie post from Will on Friday!

Advertisements

Top Things for 03/18/13

‘Sup. I’m back, flush with patriotism after my week-long excursion to our (well, my) nation’s capitol. And also fresh bunions. Because, in case you didn’t know, D.C. is mostly just stuff to see so basically it’s just walking for like five hours a day. So let’s get to it!

Books

There’s a new book by Orson Scott Card but really eff that guy. I don’t care about Ender’s Game, and the dude just lost an artist on a Superman comic because he’s so homophobic. So eff that guy.

Comics

This week, the most note-worthy release is almost certainly Action Comics #18, the conclusion to Grant Morrison’s rather polarizing run. While I have not been the series’ strongest supporter, I am reserving judgment until the end. Regardless of how it turns out, I’m sure it will be noteworthy.

Other notable releases: Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and SAGA!

Movies

This week looks like a bit of a competition to see what can be the worst release. The Croods, while likely to please the kiddos, does not appeal to me in the slightest – despite the inclusion of Emma Stone. Then there’s Olympus Has Fallen, which looks like a truly spectacular waste of time (and I can’t wait to read the racist tweets about Asians after people see it). InAPPropriate Comedy looks even worse than those terrible parody movies and includes Adrian Brody (blugh). So, for what it’s worth, Admission looks like the best option. I love Tina Fey unconditionally, and I desperately want Paul Rudd to be my best friend and/or platonic life partner.

Or, you know, go see Oz the Great and Terrible. It was pretty good. Review forthcoming.

Music

Ummm, there’s a new Brian McKnight album?

Television

Well, after this week I’m basically going to be recommending Game of Thrones non-stop, so enjoy this while it lasts. That being said I’m not really sure what to recommend! The Biggest Loser finale is on right NOW, Girls just ended, there’s no new Parks & Rec… what to do!?! I guess I’ll suggest Community, even though it hasn’t been quite itself this season. BUT it has been finding its feet, and even zombie Community is better than no Community.

Basically, Winter Is Coming, so deal with it.

Thirty Days of Feelings: Day Sixteen

This year I’m undergoing a bit of an experiment: Thirty straight days of doing/watching/listening to/reading something that makes me feel – however fleetingly – like an actual human being, in the hopes that this will thaw a layer of ice off my frozen shriveled little heart, and allow me to not be such a buzzkill this year. So let’s get to it.

Day Sixteen: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas

Abed's Christmas

My love for Community is hardly a secret. There’s a cold-hearted slacker who slowly learns the importance of friends who I relate way too strongly to (Jeff Winger/Joel McHale). There’s a sexy blonde (Britta Perry/Gillian Jacobs). There’s a sexy brunette (Annie Edison/Alison Brie). There’s an intensely genre-savvy guy who references all the best parts of nerd-culture I love (Abed Nadir/Danny Pudi). There’s a beautiful bromance. There’s a “pan-sexual imp” who goes through multiple, bizarre costume changes per episode (Dean Pelton/Jim Rash). And so much more goodness.

But what I love most about Community is the underlying gooey center. It’s more than a show that spoofs action movies, spagetti westerns, and Law & Order. It’s a show that unapologetically shows again and again the depths to which these deeply-flawed characters care about each other. It’s a show about growing up, about changing and being challenged. It’s a show about diversity, and the importance of having people in your life who are different. It’s about accepting others no matter what. It’s shockingly sentimental for a show with such jaded, sarcastic characters. 

Perhaps one of their boldest episodes stylistically is “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” the second season Christmas episode which is entirely stop-motion (claymation), just like Rudolph, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, and others. The premise is surprisingly dark: after Abed (who is heavily implied to have some sort of mental illness) receives a letter from his mom, telling him she will be spending the holidays with her new family rather than watching Christmas specials with him like always, he snaps, and begins seeing the world in claymation. The study group determines that the only way to bring him back to reality is to allow him to live out his quest to find the meaning of Christmas. Along the way, the group is slowly whittled down to just Abed. Shirley, Jeff and Britta are removed from the fantasy for not being supportive, while Annie and Troy sacrifice themselves to save the fantasy from a greedy psychologist looking to study the case. But when the psychologist returns and forces Abed to confront the cause of his episode, he freezes. Luckily, his friends return to fight off the shrink with the power of love and Christmas, and Abed realizes that the meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning. About being with people you love. About whatever you want it to mean. 

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of claymation. It reminds me too much of dolls, and dolls freak me the hell out. I mean, I enjoy Rudolph et al., but I really don’t feel any need to watch them pretty much ever. This episode however, is something I fully intend on watching year after year. It’s got all the staples of a holiday classic. Humor. Songs. Hugs. Christmas Pterodactyls. You know. The usual. I will never grow tired of watching a makeshift group of misfits band together to save the troubled psyche of their friend, wandering across Planet Christmas, through the Cave of Frozen Memories, and fighting an evil wizard. I will always feel a warm glow build in my chest as even the most cynical characters sing a song about what Christmas means to them, and then snuggling up to watch Rudolph together. And isn’t that what Christmas should be? Not Santas and elves and tinsel or presents (Nana), but about spending time with friends and family doing something you all love. Like watching Community, for example.

I got a FEVER, and the only prescription is more recommendations!

20120514-093907.jpg

Hello folks what’s good? I hope your Monday is off to a decent start. You know. For a Monday.

Music

This week is pretty light, much like the last few have been. But, there is one release I’m fairly excited about: Garbage! They’re back, and they’re weird, and they’re good!

There’s also a new album from Tenacious D, about which I have absolutely nothing to say.

Movies

We’ve got another light week at the box offices, which is good for me considering I’ll be out of town. It’s also good for The Avengers, who continue to smash records at the box office and in my heart.

The one release I might try to see is What to Expect When You’re Expecting, pretty much only because I love Elizabeth Banks so much. Lord knows it’s not because of J-Lo or Cameron Diaz. Gross.

And of course there’s always Battleship if you’ve recently suffered head trauma and lost the capacity to think. I just… I just want to know who greenlit this thing? I mean, who hears the words “Battleship: THE MOVIE” and thinks “Hot damn that needs to happen”???

TV

For all that it might be a week light on music and movies, that is certainly not the case with television, which is having an uncommonly huge week.

Monday – HIMYM Finale! Both parts! Lily is in labor and Marshall is gone. We will also jump forward in time to see some of Barney’s wedding! On Eureka we see a bodyswap! Not gonna lie, i LOVE bodyswap episodes. It’s just so much fun to see how an actor plays another character, and most of the time you can tell that they’re having a to of fun with it too. House sees the return of Olivia Wilde in the second-to-last episode. Personally I stopped watching last season, but if I was ever going to tune back in, it’d be for Olivia Wilde. The Bachelorette premieres, which ALWAYS makes me regret knowing so many females. And finally, America’s Got Talent premieres, which always leaves me saying, “But does it really?”

Tuesday – There are two episodes of Glee this week – an Alternate Universe/Bodyswap, which would have me shaking in fits of, well, glee, if it were any other show. Plus in the second episode: Nationals! The stakes couldn’t be lower while seeming OH! SO! HIGH!

Wednesday – Modern Family does what it does best and makes everyone fight! Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll hug it out in the end. On Revenge – the penultimate episode of the season – someone apparently dies, bringing Jack and Emily closer.

Thursday – THREE COMMUNITY EPISODES!!! WAHOOO! The first sees Pierce taking on his former company, with the group rallying to his side. The second has the group infiltrating Greendale in an attempt to free the Dean (which totally needs to become a T-shirt slogan), and the third episode sees Shirley vs. Pierce, with Jeff representing the former, and an ex-colleague the latter. There should also be healthy doses of A/C Repair School drama and John Goodman. AND if the trend holds, Annie will make out with someone. ; Person of Interest – actual finale! I think I said it was last week, oops, but I’m for realzies this time. Grey’s Anatomy has its eighth (EIGHTH!!!) season finale, and while I haven’t watched in four or five years, I’m sure some of y’all do. And finally, Awake will air part one of its SERIES finale (I know, sad but also kind of predictable).

Friday – Grimm has its first season finale, and I swear I will watch this show eventually, probably over the summer. Supernatural also has its season finale, and I’m trying to go into it pretty cold.

Comics

It’s a pretty big week for comics as well, though pretty light on what I
personally read. That being said, the reviews for the big Bat Event are impressive enough that I think I might pick up the trades.

DC: Night of the Owls hits FOUR titles this week – Catwoman, Batwoman, Red Robin, and Nightwing; Wonder Woman is also new this week, picking up after Diana was shot by Cupid’s arrow bullet, and presumably now in love with Hades.

Image sees the release of its two most epic, crazy, interesting, original new series: Saga and the Manhattan Project.

Marvel sees new Avengers vs. X-Men with a battle raging across the globe, and the first confrontation with The Phoenix Force itself. We’ve also got new Uncanny X-Men, and new X-Factor!

Books

No real releases I’m much excited about, but if you’re interested, I’m reading ‘Hyperion’ by Dan Simmons. Check out the Sword and Laser book club on Goodreads, the podcast on iTunes, and the video show on YouTube for ongoing discussions of this sci-fi classic. I also bought two books by N. K. Jemisin – part two of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and her new High Fantasy epic. Feel free to read them along with me! I doubt I’ll finish this month, but who knows.

On the blog, I’ll be talking about something TV related on Wednesday. Possibly the Once Upon a Time finale, and the show’s progress. Maybe not. And on Friday Ben should have a post on books! See y’all then!

A Post Just For Community

Considering how much I love “Community” [spoiler alert: it’s a LOT] I’m kind of surprised I haven’t written about it all that much. I’m not sure I can explain why, except that I know that very few people watch it, and that even fewer appreciate it on the same level I do. 

You see, “Community” appeals to me on a number of levels. Within the show itself, I relate to different aspects of different characters. Most strongly I relate to Jeff Winger, a vain, self-absorbed, emotionally-distant man who is very bright but even more lazy, preferring to charm or cheat than work. But, at the same time, he secretly cares about people and is only half as jaded as he pretends. In a different way, I relate to Abed, a nerdy guy somewhere on the Autism Spectrum who is awkward and overly invested in television. I appreciate his many, many references to assorted tropes and trivia, and understand the vast majority of them (which is more than I can say for most people, I believe). I can also see my fear of exclusion in Pierce, my judgmental nature in Shirley, and a fear of failure in Annie. How I reconcile that last with my association with Jeff is beyond me. 
On a more meta level, I appreciate parody/homage. Scratch that, I love it. Crave it. And that has become what “Community” is famous for. A claymation episode, an Apollo 13 episode, a Western, an Action Flick, a Zombie Movie, a Bottle Episode, a Conspiracy Thriller – all of these and so many more have been done. I think it’s ambitious, and super impressive because these episodes are more than just fan-fiction or wish-fulfillment. They reveal things about the characters we might not find under “normal” circumstances. They put our characters in outrageous positions, push them to strange places, and allow us to see the results. What we get is a shockingly character-driven show, that highlights each of the group in turn. We may get paintball in a post-apocalyptic world, but we also get to see why everyone is playing – for family, for fun, to prove something to themselves or to others. We get moving speeches, beautiful relationships, dysfunctional family, bizarre plots, fun weirdness, and painful fights. The show is so diverse, so eclectic, so unpredictable… it’s unique.
Tonight’s episode was by far the best of the season – which isn’t saying much at this point, but I’m convinced that when the season is over this will still be one I particularly remember. The plot (at first) is simple: Troy and Abed – TV’s greatest bromance – invite the study group to their new apartment to celebrate living together. During their game of Yahtzee, the pizza arrives, and someone has to go down and get it. Obviously, they roll dice for to decide who will go. What follows are seven different timelines where each character in turn is chosen.
That may sound weird – and it is – but it is also BRILLIANT. Why? Because we get to see how the group reacts to the same things, but in different combinations. For example, with Shirley gone, we find out about her “Baking Problem,” later revealed to be her attempt to be needed. Annie’s absence reveals her gun (she lives in a bad neighborhood). Pierce leaving develops the relationship between Troy and Britta, AND Jeff and Annie. 
Honestly, I’m still freaking out about this. It goes to show just how fragile this group is – that they’re one single move away from either making out or having a nervous breakdown. That they could either rise above their vindictive urges, or succumb to them in the worst ways. 
And where it blew my mind was the real universe. The one where Jeff – the leader and often glue of the group, leaves. What results is a group dance. No one’s feelings are hurt. No revenge is enacted. No drugs are smoked. No feelings are prematurely acted upon. Everyone is happy. Which has all sorts of implications. Is Jeff necessary? Is Jeff in fact detrimental? Has he convinced himself that the group needs him, just to avoid having to realize that he needs them more? Has Jeff refused to change, and has everyone else’s growth led to them outgrowing him? Apparently Jeff is going to be put through the ringer this season, and while I hate to see him hurt, I know it will benefit him in the long run. 
So, in conclusion, please watch this show. The first third or so of the first season is a little choppy. They were still figuring themselves out, JUST LIKE FRESHMEN REALLY DO, but when they hit their stride, YOU’LL KNOW, and thank me for it.