American Horror Story: Freak Show: Ladies and Gentlemen, Naomi Grossman

Categories: Film and TV

I had seriously contemplated asking my editor if maybe covering American Horror Story this season was worth continuing. Since the end of the Edward Mordrake story arc, the show has stumbled through its second act being neither particularly scary or especially riveting drama-wise. For the first half of "Orphans," I found about as much pleasure playing with my phone as I did on the screen.

Sure, Esmeralda showing off the massacre of freaks that her partner Stanley has been masterminding was good for some shock value, including a rather obvious twist ending that was powerful for all that it was predictable. Still, it was at least a little horrifying.

And then there was Pepper.

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Marion Cotillard Wins -- Twice -- in Our 2014 Film Critics' Poll

Categories: Film and TV

Sundance Selects
Marion Cotillard, was voted best actress in this year's film critic's poll.
What kind of circle is time again? A year after blowing the doors off our annual critics’ poll, golden boy Matthew McConaughey won just a single vote for his turn in the loudest movie of the year, Christopher Nolan’s tears-in-space effort Interstellar, which has tied with the unprescient Transcendence as 2014’s worst film. (Transcendence dreamed that Johnny Depp’s character would take over every screen in the world — that didn’t happen.) But his margin of victory lives on, this year in the form of Marion Cotillard, who wins best actress twice: first for the Dardenne brothers’ vote-gathering drama Two Days, One Night, then besting second-place Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin) with her turn in James Gray’s glorious melodrama The Immigrant, available now on Netflix streaming because Harvey Weinstein doesn’t believe Oscar voters will bite.

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The Colbert Report's Greatness Arrived With Its Very First Episode

Categories: Film and TV

Colbert in the opening of the very first Colbert Report.
The funniest and most incisive show on television is ending this week -- so let's look back at how it began. On October 17, 2005, a power-suited Stephen Colbert furrowed his eyebrows and showed off highlights of his new set. Red letters above him shouted, "The Colbert Report." The title of his show was silhouetted in back of those letters, so it appeared twice. The host's last name was also proclaimed by a plasma-screen on the front of his desk, and it flashed four times on a ticker that ran below it, and was even spelled out on either side of that desk -- "which," he pointed out, "is itself shaped like a giant C." There were nine "Colbert"s in all, not counting the initial he sat in.

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The 10 Best TV Shows of 2014

Categories: Film and TV

"My Dream Breakup" on Inside Amy Schumer.
TV continued to unmoor from its origins and transform into something else this year. No longer tethered to a specific appliance, a particular kind of storytelling, or even commercial concerns, "television" now feels like an increasingly obsolete word.

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Reality Bites: Chug

Photo courtesy of National Geographic
"So, Austrians *weren't* Nazis?"
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Who doesn't like to drink? Recovering alcoholics, I guess. Also people who are allergic to it. Oh, and those of you who don't like the way it makes you feel, or the taste, or the fact you flunked out of college because you discovered tequila your freshman year and spent the next two years in a haze of keg stands and impromptu road trips to SeƱor Frogs.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like *my* freshman year.

So fine, plenty of you don't like to drink, but plenty still do, and for those people (who also have ample disposable income), there's Chug, National Geographic's new travel drinking show. Because what could possibly go wrong when you get drunk overseas?

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Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Title:The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

Peter Jackson Is Done With Middle Earth, Right? So he says. Here's a little exercise in masochism for you: once BotFA is released on DVD, watch all six movies back to back (special editions, of course). That's probably close to 30 hours.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half Orson Beans out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Short person tries to prevent war, mostly gets in the way. Like they do.

Tagline: "Witness the defining chapter of the Middle Earth saga."

Better Tagline: "What Would Legolas Surf?"

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Age of Ex-Stink-Tion: The Worst Movies of 2014

Categories: Film and TV

As movie years go, 2014 was fairly unremarkable. You had a couple superhero sequels (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Amazing Spider-Man 2), the requisite remakes (RoboCop, Endless Love), and even a handful of pleasant surprises (Guardians of the Galaxy, The LEGO Movie, Edge of Tomorrow).

But it still feels like we were sort of marking time before the blockbuster blitz of 2015, a year that will see the next installments in the Avengers and Batman/Superman franchises, a reboot of Mad Max, and a new James Bond movie, among others. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of fine films this year (Birdman, Boyhood, Nightcrawler), but we probably won't be looking back on any of these as all-time greats.

And that just made the crappy movies -- of which there were many -- stand out all the more. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and my tolerance for that which wastes what little time on Earth I have left is at an all-time low, but the bad movies this year seemed *really* bad. What follows are the ten worst, excerpts from my quote-unquote hilarious reviews included. "Enjoy."

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Why Do Disney Films Have So Few Women in Them?

Cinderella on Sofia the First
"And then the prince traveled the land with the glass ceiling trying it on every woman in the kingdom."
There's no argument to be had that women are in fact underrepresented in Hollywood. Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, the executive director at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, compiled a report of the characters in the top 100 grossing films of 2011. Despite women being 51 percent of the population, they only represented 33 percent of the speaking roles in movies, up 5 percent from 2002. Worse than that, only one out of ten films featured a clear female lead protagonist. We won't even go into how embarrassing it is that neither Marvel or DC has launched a solo female superhero at a time when The Hunger Games is breaking box office records and even a terrible film like Lucy can rake in almost $500 million.

I got into a discussion about this online when someone spoke up about Disney as a counter argument. He said he couldn't even remember a male lead in a Disney film besides The Jungle Book. It's become a pretty silly and sad talking point of the Men's Rights "movement" that Disney has descended into this hot bed of radical feminism bent of emasculating men. "Where are teh menz?" they ask of this den of she wolves where men are barely present.

Which is a little weird because women are nearly as poorly represented in animated Disney films as they are in other films.

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Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Exodus: Gods and Kings

Title:Exodus: Gods And Kings

That Title Feels Like It Should Be In All Caps: VERILY YOU SPEAK THE TRUTH, MORTAL.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half Chuck Hestons out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: When Israel was in Egypt's land/Let my people go.

Tagline: "Once brothers, now enemies."

Better Tagline: "Just like Jimmy and Billy Carter."

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HBO's Getting On Is the Brainiest (and Fartiest) Comedy You're Not Watching

Categories: Film and TV


Hospitals are depressing. Until recently, medical shows glossed over this basic fact of life by focusing on the most glamorous clique within them: doctors. For the past two decades, the upwardly mobile audience identification integral to most TV shows taught us to look away from the bedpans and sheaves of insurance paperwork and focus instead on the halos (ER), the lip gloss (Grey's Anatomy), the chicken soup for the soul (Scrubs), or the preening intellect (House) of every hospital's upper crust.

Grey's Anatomy is still going strong in its 11th season, but since House's departure from the airwaves in 2012, we've been living in the twilight of the docs. Last year, Shonda Rhimes' cornerstone series was the only medical show to crack the top half of the broadcast ratings. This week brought news that Fox has canceled its pediatric-ward-set Red Band Society. Already a kind of backlash to its treacly cousins, House ushered in a wavelet of even more self-aware or cynical medical shows including Showtime's Nurse Jackie, Cartoon Network's Children's Hospital and HBO's Getting On that channel viewer disinterest in the goodliness of doctors and, arguably, the nation's growing suspicion of medical professionals.

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