Summer 2014: This Time With More Big and Loud

July is fading into August and the movies being released into theaters are noticeably quieter than they have been and it can only mean one thing. Summer is coming to an end. Summer doesn’t really have the same meaning anymore now that I’m a real boy and out of school. It’s just a hotter time of year now, it doesn’t really have the same ties to relaxation and fun that it once had. But one thing I can always count on is that Hollywood will always be trying to outdo itself in theaters and this year didn’t disappoint. Well, actually it really did.

This summer I saw six movies in particular; Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Amazing Spiderman 2,  22 Jump Street, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Godzilla. I suppose you wouldn’t call this a random sample since I chose to see them all, but it’s a sample of what came out this summer and according to box office numbers it’s probably a similar list to most avid movie-goers from this summer. Overall there was a lot of entertainment to be had here and, for the most part, there was a lot to enjoy. However, looking at some of these movies individually and with a critical eye so many recommend you leave at home during the summer, you can see so many problems and issues that make you really wonder how exactly some of these movies are getting made.

Anyways, here’s a short review of each. They will probably contain spoilers so just, like, be aware of that if you choose to go further.

 

Godzilla

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Godzilla was the first movie I saw to start this shindig. It came out in May, technically a week after Amazing Piderman 2, but I saw Godzilla first. I’ll admit that I was somewhat hopeful that we might get a really great Godzilla movie and it would kick off a great summer. I’ll admit that I, too, was taken by the casting of Bryan Cranston and the breathtaking promo video of the HALO jump. There was a lot to love about the movie before it came out. Unfortunately, it came out.

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I didn’t think Godzilla was a bad movie. I want to say that right now, because what I’m about to say may sound harsh without that prerequisite. I thought it was somewhat disappointing and overall unimpressive and generic. But it wasn’t bad. It’s weird to admit that some of the issues I had with Godzilla centered around its marketing campaign, but part of me thinks I would have been able to enjoy it more if the trailers hadn’t made Cranston seem like the protagonist, using all of his lines from the first 20 minutes of the movie in the trailer. I wasn’t surprised when he died, I just felt cheated. They switched out the actor they hinged the ad campaign on for a different, less interesting, protagonist.

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Aaron Taylor-Johnson is in the midst of some cool upcoming roles which I’m excited for, but him and every other character in this movie fell completely flat. He never had a dissenting opinion from someone else in the movie unlike his more interesting father character. Elizabeth Olsen’s character also had a serious case of “nothing to do in this movie.” I mean, I don’t know whose idea it was to have a character who’s a nurse and never have her help someone or save a life throughout the entirety of a disaster film. Like, seriously? Not even, like, trying to stop someone’s bleeding with a shirt? Something? Whatever. My point is here that almost every second that a human character was on screen nothing was happening. Even Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins seemed to just be running around explaining things to other characters. I could have forgiven these issues if there was sufficient Godzilla on monster action, but the screen time the actual fights got was surprisingly low, though that time was a big highlight of the movie.

 

The Amazing Spiderman 2

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Here’s a franchise that’s a mystery to me. It seems like Sony is trying really hard to cling on to its only profitable comic book franchise as to not be forgotten while comic book movies rule the box office for the next decade or so. As a lot of people know, Sony had to reboot this franchise so quickly or they were in danger of losing the rights. Which is fine, I can look past that, but upon seeing the reboot in 2012 I was pretty disappointed that what we ended up with was seemingly the same story as the original Sam Raimi Spiderman movie with a shiny new cast and a funnier Spiderman. And while there were some things about it I really liked, I couldn’t help but scratch my head and wonder if Sony really thinks we have that short of memories? But in their defense, we probably do.

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Needless to say, I didn’t seek out Amazing Spiderman 2 when it came out. I waited until it was in the dollar theater, if for no other reason than I couldn’t find the time or motivation to go see another god damn comic book movie for theater ticket prices. Much like the first one, there were some things I really liked. I thought Dane DeHaan made a fantastic Harry Osborn. He is a really natural actor and I immensely enjoyed his time on screen. I also found Garfield’s Spiderman to be, once again, thoroughly entertaining. His comedic timing is on point. In fact, almost all of the notable actors were great in this movie. Emma Stone is a great Gwen Stacy and Jaime Foxx was even compelling as Electro. It’s just kind of a shame that these great actors giving solid performances are doing so over poor writing that lacks subtlety and a movie that feels like it could have easily been at least two movies.

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There were a lot of awkward moments in the writing and, in general, a lot of problems that could have been solved in one line but were seemingly just ignored. For example, when Oscorp security is hunting down Gwen Stacy for trying to find Max Dillon (Electro) in the company directory and she gets away thanks to how hilarious Garfield is. The fact that she was being hunted by security never comes up again. But she works there. Surely they have her address. Surely she didn’t just quit her job at a multi-billion dollar company. Surely there must have been some resolve to that. Right? It could have even been Harry telling security to back off after he has the conversation with her in the elevator, but instead they opted to just cut to the next scene and hope the audience forgets. There was also an awkward moment at the end where Harry, as Green Goblin, misremembered something that happened earlier in the movie. He seemed to forget that Spiderman came to visit him to deny him his blood and thought that Parker delivered the message for him. Seems to me like there were some rewrites and reshoots and everything came out very sloppy. These may seem like oddly specific complaints, but the movie is full of awkward pacing and silly mistakes like that. Which is a shame because in this almost 2.5 hour long test of patience there is probably a 1.5 hour solid Spiderman movie in there. The Gwen and Peter stuff was great due to fantastic chemistry, Electro was a good villain just with shitty motivations, and the bigger things the movie is building to could have been done more subtly over more movies. You can really feel Sony’s lack of confidence in not only their audience, but their ability to create a strong cinematic universe and it’s unfortunate because they have a great cast and a capable director on their hands.

 

22 Jump Street

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By far the most self aware movie of the summer, 22 Jump Street succeeded as a sequel if only because it knew how stupid it was, or perhaps, how stupid it should have been. Reuniting the unexpectedly hilarious duo of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, 22 Jump Street didn’t try and hide for a second that it would be churning out pretty much the same movie as before but with different one liners.

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There is a difference, though, in how this was done compared to other sequels. 21 Jump Street had a certain amount of meta to it, with Nick Offerman providing a critique on reboots and remakes in the beginning as well as toying with action movie tropes like the exploding oil truck. 22 Jump Street was no different, only this time rather than subverting the action genre and the idea of a reboot, it was mocking itself for being a sequel to a reboot. And it did it really well, so well that the audience is able to instantly forgive the movie for being another rehashed sequel and simply enjoy the pure comedy that the cast has to provide while not worrying about the plot. I criticized The Amazing Spiderman for being so similar to the Sam Raimi Spiderman. And here, 21 Jump Street is doing the same thing even more blatantly. But the fact that it’s aware of it, that it’s making fun of itself for it, and that it still has great qualities outside of that saved it and, in the end, resulted in one of the better comedic sequels out there.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

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X-Men Days of Future Past was met with a slew of positive reviews and a general consensus that it was the “Avengers” of the X-Men cinematic universe. And that’s not too far off. Fox has been filling the X-Men cast with a lot of talent since they cast Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in 2000. And although the X-Men Origins: Wolverine work print leaked seemed to set back the franchise a few years after the initial trilogy, they bounced right back and gave us X-Men: First Class which was surprisingly good and, once again, had a great cast.

So when you take two great casts in one of the more sprawling and expansive comic universes you are bound to make a neat movie, and Days of Future Past certainly was that. The societal critiques were still there with the mistreatment of mutants, and the toying with history is becoming a really fun staple of the X-Men franchise. Lawrence, McAvoy, and Fassbender were all great and really own those characters, and even though Stewart and McKellan and Page were not as focused on it was still neat seeing all of them in the same movie. It really brought together the whole franchise as if they’d planned it all along.

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It still suffers from being a comic book movie, and that’s not to say all comic book movies are bad, but because of their status as box office gold they are often forced into compromise and studio interference. Things like Anna Paquin being edited out and the really forced and awkward exposition in the first five minutes of the movie made it feel sloppy, like it was holding itself back. But once we stopped asking why Kitty Pryde has time travel powers now and got into the meat of the story everything got a lot better and, overall, was one of the best comic book movies of the year next to Captain America: Winter Soldier.

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction

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What is there to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? Even though the elite critic crowd seems to hate Bay and the movies he is making now, he is such an interesting filmmaker that everyone still has a lot to say about this movie, even if it’s mostly just different ways to say “It looked nice but it was a bad movie.” And that’s really what these movies boil down to. They don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the script, the characters, the plot, or trying to find any emotion in any of those things. But they do pay attention to how the shots look, the use of color, the action, and the CGI.

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This turns a lot of people off, and I’m one of them, but in the vein of giving credit where credit is due, yes it was a pretty movie. Beyond that it was emotionally flat, incredibly shallow, and awkward to the point of wondering how someone was getting paid to write it. You could clearly tell Mark Wahlberg was in love with his daughter, but it’s not because that’s part of the movie, it’s because the writing is awkward. You could tell no one sat down and worked out the ins and outs of the plot, and you could tell giving the robots a personality wasn’t the filmmakers prime directive, but these things were covered up by a mask made of Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammar, John Goodman, and some pleasing visuals and neat action sequences. And while it’s somewhat offensive to think that those things could mask such a stupid movie, it’s also not the worst mask I’ve ever seen a movie use. So there’s that.

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Also it was way too fucking long. Plain and simple.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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One of the movies I was more excited to see after being surprised by the quality of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Rise had its issues, but overall it was pretty well done and they are doing some really great things with motion capture CGI that are making the apes a lot more relatable. It’s also turning out to be a great prequel, which if you look at the Wikipedia list of prequels you will see that good ones are actually quite rare. Mostly because a fundamental issue with prequels is that the audience automatically knows the jist of where it’s going.

This set of Apes movies are all going to the same place, eventually to the original Charlton Heston movie, but it’s not how far in the past compared to those movies that is saving these movies. Everyone who sees these movies know the Apes will eventually take over. What’s saving them is the new perspective being put on the old idea. Society collapsing, racism, and artificial intelligence are all very real fears people have today and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes definitely has hints of each in it. Even though the actual story is somewhat cliche, the ideas being presented are relevant and interesting and it definitely makes for a better movie, a movie that I can look past some small issues to appreciate the larger picture it’s painting.

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Probably the best part of the movie was watching the apes interact in their own society. Seeing the halfway point between apes in a zoo and the apes in the original Planet of the Apes. There is respect, love, and rebellion alive in the ape society. Father and son relationships took the spotlight in this new movie, with Jason Clarke motivated by protecting his son, Caesar motivated by his two sons, and a pivotal moment in the movie being when Caesar’s son agrees with Koba and takes him on as a father figure. Making that father/son relationship so important in the ape society brought a lot of great emotion into an already interesting story.

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Although the humans do a fine job in this movie, some of them do suffer from lack of characterization in the movie. Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke seem to be the only ones who get any real characterization, although you get hints of what each character lost when the virus took over. But what is most impressive in this movie is how the apes are done. They looks, act, and feel like real apes. They have made even more strides in motion capture CGI since Rise and it’s so apparent. Maurice the Orangutan looks flawless, you almost forget there aren’t real animals on screen sometimes. Even though I think Andy Serkis is a bit of a diva with all of the spotlight he’s been getting the last few years, he is definitely doing interesting things with motion capture and it will be interesting to see what he does with The Jungle Book and any other projects he works on in the future.

You know, there’s still a lot of movies I want to see from this summer. Original movies that aren’t a sequel or a prequel or a remake. Movies like Jon Favreau’s Chef, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer, Edge of Tomorrow, and even the Seth Rogen and Dave Franco movie Neighbors. But I chose to see the above movies for some reason. Sure, some of these movies may have been small release or not as anticipated, but from reading reviews almost all of them are guaranteed to be better than half the ones I did see. But in the end I guess I took the role of the average movie goer and went for the movies with familiar titles and stories, and as the box office shows time and time again, the quality of the movie tends to matter less than the franchise behind it these days. It’s not a good thing, but it’s certainly the state of cinema right now and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss out on it.

- Boner

Movies That Could Qualify as Antiques and Why They Stood the Test of Time

In February two things happened that allowed me to delve a little further than I had previously into the great world of classic and foreign films. The first thing was that TCM was playing the past’s best Oscar nominated movies non stop all month, so I just set my DVR to record everything I could. The second thing was that I got a library card to my local Austin Public Library.

Sidenote: Holy shit, have you been to a library lately? I mean, you walk into the place and it doesn’t look any different than it used to. Shelves of books with protective plastic and the kind of random eccentricity that screams “purely donated.” But then you get a card and they tell you that they have 80 locations in your city and you can borrow and return to any location as well as go through an online catalog and request something get sent to your local branch free of charge. They have e-book’s too, so you can just rent books straight from your Kindle. They let you keep everything for three weeks with very loose renewal policies and you can have five movies and some ungodly number of books at a time. I don’t know if this is just another testament to how sweet Austin is or if every library is like this now, but I urge you go get yourself a card. Libraries are not worth forgetting about.

Anyways, back to the point at hand. With my new super-powered library card and the little red light ensuring me movies are being recorded non stop, I took some time in the last two months to watch some movies that I had never had the chance to watch before. I’ve decided to choose some highlights for this post, and those were:

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington directed by Frank Capra in 1939

Casablanca directed by Michael Curtiz in 1942

North by Northwest directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1959

On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan in 1954

The African Queen directed by John Huston in 1951

Ikiru directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1952

Scandal also directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1950

The 400 Blows directed by Francois Truffaut in 1959

Port of Call directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1948
This is, for all intents and purposes, a random list. Beyond all being made over 50 years ago these movies share little in common with each other outside of a few actors or directors doing double duty on this list. Another trait they all share is that I really enjoyed all of them, which also shouldn’t be surprising since I chose these movies off of a slightly bigger list of movies I watched in the last two months. But there’s a reason I liked them beyond seeing them under the impression that they would be classics, and there’s a reason I wrangled them all together for this post. But before I get into that, a few short words about these movies.

Mr Smith
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington- Already having been a fan of Capra as many probably are, I was able to sit down and watch what has become my favorite movie from him. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington follows simple Mr. Smith, a hardworking and honest young man who is thrust into the position of a state Senator after a quick and exposition heavy opening sequence. The conflict arises when his honesty and determination to do good clashes with his fellow Senator’s plans to use their position of power to profit. It’s a great look at our Legislative process and Jimmy Stewart is as likable as ever.

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Casablanca- Everyone has to see it for the first time at some point, right? It’s funny when you watch a movie that so many movies since have borrowed from and so many pop culture references based on. For example, I had no idea before watching this movie that Out Cold (2001) is practically a remake of Casablanca. Humphrey Bogart was at some career highs for coolness here, and that’s saying something, while the story was as touching and exciting as I would have hoped a movie that tops so many lists would be.

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North By Northwest- Another oft referenced movie. I’m sure you’ve seen a reenactment of the crop dusting plane scene in at least five different places and the surprise ending is so worn out by now that any fifteen year old could watch it and say, “Saw that coming.” But there was enough Hitchcockian camera use and enjoyable acting from Cary Grant to keep anyone interested. In North by Northwest our protagonist finds himself the target of a spy conspiracy due to a simple misunderstanding. The way information is revealed to the viewer is really well done and the story is as intriguing as it is well acted.

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On the Waterfront- Hailed as one of Brando’s best performances, I can’t say I loved the movie overall as much as I hoped I would but I can say the story and the acting were brilliant enough to warrant another view in the near future. Brando really did carry this one on his shoulders and he never crumbled under the pressure. Several scenes caught me by surprise with how emotionally invested I was getting and his character was so well written that the movie around him could have been much less than it was and still be great.

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The African Queen- Probably my least favorite on this list, but an epic tale well worth your time nonetheless. It felt like an older, lower budget, yet more pure and higher quality version of Titanic. The story wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I have never not enjoyed watching Bogart do his thing. A solid film that was maybe not as up my alley as some others on this list.

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Ikiru- Having been on a mission to delve further into Kurosawa’s rabbit hole ever since I saw Yojimbo last year I was delighted to find that my Library carries several of his movies. Ikiru was the first one I picked up, as it seems the complete opposite of Yojimbo. While Yojimbo was light hearted at times, full of badassery, and had the infinitely cool Toshiro Mifune, Ikiru is a much more character based and deliberately paced work with a much more depressing premise. After finding out he only has a few months to live, a boring government worker tries to find out what it means to live and how best to spend his remaining time. Going much more in depth than I thought it would, this was a great look at not only mortality and the meaning of living but also a wonderful movie about how people perceive you and how your actions are tied to that perception.

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Scandal- A great mid point between Ikiru and Yojimbo. While the story isn’t as serious as putting an expiration date on a person, it’s not as light hearted or fantastical as an old samurai story. Scandal is the story of an artist who finds himself the center of a tabloid scandal after being photographed with a beautiful and famous singer. Not willing to accept the slander he becomes one of the few to fight back against the lying tabloid, but his lawyer is dealing with his own problems and is tempted to fight for the other side by desperate men. An apt look into the world of celebrity scandals and tabloids fueling the fire that is still as relevant today as it is entertaining to watch.

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The 400 Blows- My first Truffaut movie and one of the better coming of age movies I’ve seen. Following a young boy who goes about being misunderstood, given poor advice, and generally being a kid perceived by the adults in his life as a trouble maker who won’t listen. As we follow the protagonist it becomes painfully obvious to the viewer why he acts out or does what he does, yet to the authority in his life he is just another unreachable youth and that is the real tragedy of this movie. An exercise in empathy and understanding, The 400 Blows is another movie that helps us remember that sometimes problems are easier to see than we think.

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Port of Call- Another first but this time for Ingmar Bergman. One of his earlier works and somewhat similar to 400 Blows except that one could be the before story and the other the after story as to how troubled youths are dealt with and processed in society. Following a suicidal young woman who falls for a sailor that doesn’t know about her institutionalized past, Port of Call focuses on not only the relationship they build but the many ways in which society puts restrictions on our protagonist due to the state of mental health their very institutions imposed on her. I remember applauding Dirty Dancing after having seen it for being a movie that dealt with real issues like abortion, yet Port of Call comes in handling that and other disturbing events 40 years before and does it with great reverence.

So what do these movies have in common? And not just these movies, but movies from the larger sample of classics and foreign films that went beyond their own borders? What makes a story great, what makes it timeless? The answer is simple, relatability. The problems proposed by these movies, whether it be the troubles of a misunderstood youth or the pain that comes with not being able to be with the one you love, skewed public perception or a battle of the few honest against the many greedy, or being a pawn in something larger that you aren’t allowed to understand, these are stories that will always be relevant. They not only depict the time and place in which they happened to perfection but they also show us that no matter the time nor the place these are problems that don’t have real answers and will always be present in our lives as long as we feel.

The other day I saw a question posted to /r/movies that asked why we loved movies. Why, above all other art forms and ways to spend our time, why it was movies that we chose to watch and analyze and practically fetish over. And I thought about it for a while. I thought about all the ways movies have steered my personality or all of the moments I’ve been able to watch over and over and all of the props I wished I had simply because someone filmed them and how much I would stupidly be willing to pay for them. And that’s all great as to why movies entertain me, and why they are so accessible to everyone. But that’s not why I love them, or more importantly, why they are worth watching.

Movies are simply the most easily consumable form of storytelling, but no matter how good your movie looks or how interestingly you used a new filming technique, in the end the mark of quality in my eyes is in the storytelling and character. And the reason is because storytelling is how we as people learn to empathize and tolerate those around us. Listening to a story from the perspective of someone else reminds us for a moment that everyone around us is a main character in their own life and everything they do is the result of a lifetime’s worth of experience, and not just actions meant to affect you. The more stories we see, the more situations we see people other than ourselves react to, and the more we have to question our own morals and actions due to what we see on screen or read in a book, the more we learn to be accepting of other’s and their actions. And I think that is not only the real reason we all watch movies but also why the above movies were donned classics by those before me and still stand the test of time today.

Let’s talk about Community and Archer (But more about Community)

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Last night I was able to take a moment to catch up on a few of my favorite series that are airing right now. Both Community and Archer started up again in the last month and I would like to talk about the new seasons a bit in comparison to each other because I think one is doing great and the other is struggling, and I’m sure you can guess which one is struggling if you are a fan of the shows.

First off, why compare these shows? Well, I find them similar in many aspects. They both take place in a kind of altered reality, a reality that is close enough to ours that we accept it but just quirky enough that crazy things can happen and still be believable. In fact, this is an interesting scenario in which the cartoon actually attempts to be less cartoonish than the live action one. They both reference movies and other pop culture constantly, and they both have this zany core group of characters and their interactions are really what make the show unique and funny. How Britta, Annie, Jeff, Troy, Abed, Shirley and Pierce interact is the core of what is funny about Community in the same way that watching Archer, Lana, Cyril, Cheryl, Pam, and Mallory interact is what makes Archer unique, and funnily enough both shows always tend to drop their characters in the middle of movie references. The final and possibly most important part of all this is the head writer, both Dan Harmon and Adam Reed have a strong voice and style that comes through in all the characters and scenarios.

Which brings us to where we are today. Community is 3 episodes into its highly anticipated 4th season while Archer is also several episodes into its 4th season, and while I once held the shows in regard, it is obvious at this point that Archer is stealing my heart this season while Community leaves my heart feeling like he’s watching a cardboard cutout episode, like it’s being used for ratings.

Obviously, before we go on, I should mention what is very likely the reason for my change of heart concerning Community. As you probably know, the head writer Dan Harmon was asked the leave his own show after last season for reasons that I’m not sure of well enough to discuss them here. Why he left the show isn’t as important as what happens to it now? Dan Harmon didn’t only have the key to making these ridiculous characters believable and easy to sympathize with, he also had a specific plot structure used in almost every episode. His writing was a very tight mixture of quirky characters, character development (for one or 2 characters per episode) and witty jokes and references sprinkled throughout. It seems as if now the writers of community have written down everything Harmon did and are trying desperately to replicate it in order to please the dedicated Community fans, who are a huge reason the show is still on.

Let’s take a look at plotlines that have been used so far this season. For fun, I’ll go ahead and put a * next to the ones that have been used before.

- Abed is unable to deal with the group splitting up after College *

- Abed and Troy are growing apart *

- Abed has a delusional spell in which reality is altered to fit TV tropes *

- Pierce and Jeff have father issues in the same episode *

- Pierce tries to trick the group out of jealousy *

Now, these aren’t character traits or recurring jokes. Those I can dig on. These are episode plots and they have been done multiple times. While I understand the predicament of the Community writers in that they have a delicate line to walk, I think they are walking on the complete wrong side. So far this season they have given us nothing new. No new plotlines, characters, classes, conflicts, anything at all. The only thing that’s really different about this season is that Troy and Britta are dating and Jeff and Annie look like they will be soon, too. But that’s not really that new, Britta and Troy were set up for a relationship at the end of last season and Jeff has been trying to bang Annie since season 2. And even though the Britta and Troy relationship is new, it has to be the most awkward and shoehorned in relationship I’ve ever seen. They just go ahead and introduce it in the first episode with no explanation of how they ended up together. They just are now.

What I’m getting at here is that it seems that the Community writers are trying to give us more of what we already have and it’s pointless. Dan Harmon was great at blindsiding the audience. His characters were lovable and conflicts weren’t contrived, but now we just seem to be getting a carbon copy. The jokes aren’t as witty, the timing not as good, and the plotlines are stale. I mean, remember how season 3 opened up and all of a sudden there were new classes with new teachers? Omar from The Wire came on as a biology professor, Betty White was an anthropology professor for an episode or two, Todd became a great side character, and all of these new characters were given to us in fun plots that took place in these interesting new classes. Every episode used to be named after a class and the show took place in a college. 3 episodes in to the 4th season and I have yet to see any teachers, students that aren’t in the Greendale 7, or classrooms. I’m fairly certain the Dean would have been written out too if seeing him in a crazy costume wasn’t on the list of things the writers were trying to emulate. Whatever happened to Leonard and Todd and Vicki and Neil?

The characters have also stopped developing, and out of everything this might be the worst factor of the new season. Remember at the end of season 3 when Abed comes back to reality and Britta is his new oddly-effective psychologist? Well, for some reason when 4 starts he is just as delusional as he was before. Him and Troy still have this odd and fragile relationship they had in S3, and Annie and Jeff are still in some sort of weird sexual attraction vs. age difference stalemate. Pierce is still a manipulating douche and Shirley… Wait, has Shirley even done anything this season? I mean, the first episode had her and Annie doing these poorly thought out pranks that were seemingly only there to give them something to do in the cluster fuck that was S4E1. The revelations that the characters are going through in these episodes are the same as the ones they have already gone through. Why, even?
I know. What’s the point in complaining? Well, I’m not really complaining. We will always have seasons 1-3 and we were lucky to get them. I guess if I had a point in writing this out it would be to help recognize what makes a show good and how royally you can fuck it up. Community was good because it was unpredictable. It talked about race and sexism in a way no other show did, things happened you could never have guessed, and characters said things so fast you were as surprised they said it as you were at how funny it was. The writing in this season has been so wooden and contrived it hurts. Arguments used to feel natural, but watching Britta and Troy fight in S4E1 in the fountain, Troy and Shirley argue in the hallways in S4E2, and any other negative conflict has been so forced it hurts to watch. My point is that Community was not a formulaic show, it was an unpredictable one with really funny writing, and that’s what made it great. Now it’s just another formulaic show and I guess I’m not angry, just disappointed.

Now let’s talk about Archer. Archer is doing everything perfectly, probably because they didn’t fire the guy who created and wrote the show. That’s really all I have to say about that. Archer is still handling the same core characters but we are still learning a lot about them. They aren’t reusing old scenarios or jokes, and they definitely aren’t stale on the character development. Honestly, the whole Community thing is just shame more than anything. Community was just as new and interesting as Archer is, yet without the creative voice behind the project it has lost all uniqueness. The future of both shows is up in the air, and they still have the rest of their seasons to play out. Hell, for all I know Community could turn around and have the best end to a season yet, but as it stands now the show is nothing like what it used to be. It’s like the shitty store brand of your favorite cereal instead of the real thing.

 

-C