Random Thoughts on Fantastic Four

The best thing that I can say about the Fantastic Four 2015 reboot is…that it was better than Green Lantern. That movie was traumatically horrid. Fantastic Four isn’t quite that bad, but it felt incomplete — as if the studio released a rough cut of the movie or an entire act was missing. It’s certainly not a good movie (superhero or otherwise), but I was surprised by how unfinished it felt. It doesn’t have a grand climax or a profound sense of resolution. Instead you’re left with a feeling of, “That’s it?” Whether it’s in a bedroom or in a movie theater, you don’t want that feeling.

In the grand RPadTV tradition, here’s a binary breakdown of the 2015 Fantastic Four movie.

Flaccid Four (Bad): Someone involved in the making of this superhero movie doesn’t like superhero movies. Fantastic Four lacks the standard superhero movie devices of epic battles, a stentorian soundtrack, and cool special effects. The movie’s finale was such a letdown. When the Fantastic Four finally fought Dr. Doom, the buildup was slow…and then suddenly the fight was over. Whether it was the director, the editor, or the studio, the people involved with this movie took the Fantastic Four and made them a fantastic bore.

Dr. Doom (Bad): Why, why, why can’t a movie portray Dr. Doom properly?!? It’s confounding. He’s one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe! Comics Doom is an awesome combination of science and sorcery. While much of the world fears him, the people that he rules love him. Many of his actions are driven by mommy issues (i.e. love). He’s arrogant and capable, with just enough vulnerability to make him sympathetic. In the last two Fantastic Four movies, Doom was an evil businessman. In this one, he’s an angry tech geek. In all three films, he lacked the confidence, competence, and heart that make Doom such a brilliant character in the comics.

Kate Mara Fantastic Four

Kate Mara (Good): On the plus side, Kate Mara was the best part of the movie (visually). She wasn’t great as Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman, but she did an adequate job and will satisfy those that felt Jessica Alba was too dopey in the last two Fantastic Four movies. I am, of course, biased when it comes to Kate Mara. She’s alluring and she comes from a wealthy family. It’s fun watching her on a big screen while you dream about her making you a kept man.

Michael B. Jordan (Bad): When Jordan was announced as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, some fans were livid that an African-American actor was cast as a white-bread character. What they should really be mad about is that he completely sucked in the movie. Jordan was easily the worst lead in the Fantastic Four. While the rest of the cast did a reasonable job of movie-level acting, Jordan brought his WB-level game to the film. He was so bad that I have high hopes of him replacing Paul Walker as my favorite crappy actor. If Jordan adds a bit of charm to his inept acting then he has a good chance of getting there.

Michael B Jordan Human Torch

Franklin Storm Rocked (Good): The best actor in the movie wasn’t one of the four main protagonists or the sole villain. He was a supporting character — Reg E. Cathey’s Dr. Franklin Storm. His performance was easily the best in the movie — dude has a wicked voice that adds gravitas to his scenes.

Oyster Bay Why?!? (Bad): For reasons that seem random, the movie’s version of Reed Richards and Benjamin Grimm grew up in Oyster Bay. My personal problem with this is that there’s a cutaway scene in Oyster Bay where the Manhattan skyline is shown. I lived in Oyster Bay for a few years. Unless you have a really tall house and a very powerful telescope, you cannot see Manhattan from Oyster Bay. The scene reminded me of Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, when a cutaway of the Statue of Liberty was shown. Similar to how you can’t see the Statue of Liberty from the Bronx, you simply can’t see Manhattan from Oyster Bay.

The bigger issue pertains to Ben Grimm’s character. In the comics, he grew up on the Lower East Side on Yancy Street. His older brother was killed in a gang fight. Grimm’s rough big-city upbringing is a huge part of his identity and The Thing’s rocky exterior is a metaphor for his tough shell that covers a soft heart. Going deeper, comics Thing has several personal elements from his creator, Jack Kirby. “The King” grew up on the Lower East Side on Delancey Street and had an older brother that died when he was young. The movie’s change in locales makes no sense geographically and is insulting to the character’s creator.

Thing Yancy Street

Not the Least Bit Fantastic: Honestly, Fantastic Four isn’t as bad as some people are making it out to be. It felt like it was a little more than halfway to being a decent superhero movie. Whether it was the directing, editing, or studio meddling, something went terribly wrong and the end product was poor. Again, it’s not nearly as wretched as Green Lantern (an admittedly low bar) and has a few moments that were superior to anything from the last two FF films. At the end of the day, Fox bungled Marvel’s first family of superheroes. The movie definitely isn’t worth seeing in theaters and certainly not worthy of a Blu-ray purchase. When it gets in cable rotation then perhaps you can justify watching it out of curiosity, but there are better superhero films to spend your time with.

7 Days in Hell Review: A Love Letter to Tennis and Sports Documentaries

7 Days is Hell is a wonderfully absurd and surprisingly raunchy made-for-TV short film currently playing on HBO. Starring Andy Samberg and Kit Harington as a pair of polar opposite tennis players, the movie is a mockumentary that skewers so many things — tennis, sports documentaries, Sweden, sports moms, British talkshows, the Queen of England, and more. Although 7 Days in Hell parodies a wide variety of topics, director Jake Szymanski does an admirable job of keeping the movie focused. If you’re a fan of tennis or sports documentaries (think HBO Sports numerous documentaries and ESPN’s 30 for 30 series) and don’t mind smutty humor then you should definitely give 7 Days in Hell a shot.

Andy Samberg does most of the heavy lifting in 7 Days in Hell as Aaron Williams. The adopted brother of tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams, Aaron is a physical pastiche of Andre Agassi, but with the personality of John McEnroe…with the lewdness cranked up to 11. Samberg does a fantastic job of playing a character that’s brash and obnoxious, but charming and vulnerable enough that you don’t hate him.

On the other side of the net is Kit Harington’s Charles Poole. Trained to be a tennis superstar since he was a child, Poole has a terror of a sports mom and few redeeming qualities outside of his athleticism. While Samberg owns many of the scenes in 7 Days in Hell, Harington was pleasantly subtle as Poole. Best known as the heroic Jon Snow on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Harington plays a character that’s wonderfully dim and vacant — the perfect contrast to the over-the-top Williams.

In order to make 7 Days in Hell feel like an authentic sports documentary, there are several cameos from athletes, analysts, and newscasters. Serena Williams, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Soledad O’Brien, and Jim Lampley help make the movie seem like a real HBO sports production. Fred Armisen and Will Forte help make fun of the overly serious tone of many sports documentaries as a pair of fictitious tennis historians. Rounding out the cast are a bunch of characters playing themselves in a tongue-in-cheeks manner, including magician David Copperfield and movie star Dolph Lundgren. Without spoiling anything, their involvement in 7 Days in Hell is most excellent.

As a fan of the game of tennis and someone that has watched dozens of sports documentaries, I had a feeling that I’d enjoy 7 Days in Hell. The movie was different from what I was expecting. It’s far more crass and sexual than I thought it would be, but the real surprise was how deftly the director managed the short film’s tone. I was very, very impressed by how seamlessly 7 Days in Hell alternated between crass humor and witty satire. Juggling the two contrasting forms of comedy into a congruous experience is difficult and director Jake Szymanski handled things excellently.

While I love the pomp and circumstance of Wimbledon, 7 Days of Hell is a refreshing take on a sport that many view as stuffy and elitist. While the over-the-top humor will appeal to many viewers, the real joy of the film will be had by those that know tennis and sports documentaries. That said, the mockingly serious take on an absurd situation featuring two absurd characters is so good, that there’s a chance 7 Days in Hell will be enjoyed by people that don’t like sports at all. With a runtime of 43 minutes, I recommend giving the movie a shot. If you like it, I recommend watching it again because there’s a lot of subtle and background humor that you’ll probably miss the first time around.

If you’ve watched 7 Days in Hell, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Please share your musings in the comments section. Now excuse me, as I’m about to give the movie a third viewing.

Random Thoughts on Pixar’s Inside Out

Pixar’s latest summer spectacular, Inside Out, is a very good movie, but not among the company’s best. Like previous Pete Docter Pixar films, Inside Out is quite clever and full of heart. It’s a simultaneously cute and heady story of what goes on inside a young girl’s head as she deals with stress of moving from suburban Minnesota to San Francisco. Moviegoers get to watch anthropomorphic versions of the girl’s emotions — Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear — working together in her head. Naturally, things get fouled up, the emotions go through struggles, and everyone reaches a new understanding during the denouement.

First off, I’m going to admit that I probably enjoyed the movie more than many people will, simply because I’m a huge Pete Docter fan. I loved his work in Monsters Inc. and Up. Docter co-wrote and co-directed Inside Out. Secondly, I’m rooting for the movie to do well because Ronaldo Del Carmen is the other co-director; I have to support the work of my fellow Filipino-Americans. Thirdly, since the movie takes place in San Francisco, some of the scenes touched a place in my heart, bringing up fond memories of a city I lived in for many years. With all of that in mind, Inside Out is at the top of Pixar’s second echelon of movies for me. However, I completely understand anyone that rates it as middle of the pack.

Like most good Pixar movies, Inside Out is enjoyable for children and adults. It has plenty of visual gags and slapstick humor for youngsters, but also has several smartly written scenes. After the screening, my friend Paul said that this is one of the smartest Pixar movies to date and I totally agree. Emotions can be complex and intricate, and Inside Out had lots of fun playing with how human brains function. From cherished childhood memories to jingles that get stuck in your head, Inside Out handles the brain in a very clever way.

In a recent Google Hangout, a few of you RPadholics said that Inside Out was Pixar’s version of Herman’s Head. While several of the concepts are similar, the Pixar movie is much smarter and emotionally deeper than the Fox sitcom. Frankly, comparing Inside Out to Herman’s Head is more than a little bit insulting to Pixar. I mean…it’s Fox.

Anyway, the main conflict of the movie has Joy and Sadness getting separated from the other emotions. The pair go on a journey through other parts of the girl’s head, desperately trying to get back to headquarters so that they can restore emotional balance. The main problem I had with Inside Out is that the journey seems too long. There isn’t a single part of the quest that I disliked or would have cut entirely, but the whole thing could have felt tighter.

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The actors and actresses that play the emotions are the best parts of Inside Out. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith are perfect as Joy and Sadness, respectively. Mindy Kaling is great as Disgust and Bill Hader is lots of fun as Fear. My favorite was Anger, played by Lewis Black; let’s face it, the guy lives to play angry. An honorable mention goes to Richard Kind as Bing Bong, the girl’s imaginary friend. A forgotten remnant of the girl’s childhood, Bing Bong has a scene that will leave many moviegoers in tears.

The way the various internal characters work with and against each other is a fun take on emotions. While neuroscientists will probably disagree with Pixar’s take on how the human brain functions, it makes for an entertaining plot device. Personally, I believe that emotions are complex chemical reactions that happen in your brain; I don’t believe that there’s anything spiritual or magical about them. However, I’m also a man with borderline ridiculous emotions, so anthropomorphic characters playing around in heads is a plausible (enough) explanation. For some people, the plot device of Inside Out will be a fun exercise in examining the sometimes inexplicable intricacies of emotions.

With a runtime of 94 minutes, Inside Out isn’t very long, but it feels like a loose 94 minutes. The movie is an entertaining and emotional ride, but there are several parts of the film that feel close to going off the rails. Better editing and tighter writing would have made the journey smoother. Nonetheless, Inside Out is a very good Pixar movie that’s shy of being among the greats. Keep in mind that my opinion is in the context of the high bar Pixar has set.

As an added bonus, Inside Out viewers also get to watch the delightfully charming and exquisitely animated “Lava” short movie. As a fan of ukulele-based music, I loved it. It’s a shame that Hawaiian legend Iz passed away. A singing island with a sweet voice was meant to be played by an island of a man with a sweet voice.

If you’ve seen Inside Out, let’s compare notes (please!). Kindly share your thoughts on Pixar’s latest movie in the comments section. For another take on the movie, be sure to check out this fine review on PaulSemel.com.

Random Thoughts on Avengers Age of Ultron

Avengers Age of Ultron is sure to delight most fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie has everything that made the first Avengers movie incredibly popular — fantastic special effects, awesome action sequences, and snappy Joss Whedon dialogue. As a lifelong comics nerd, my usual pet peeve with comic book movies is deviating greatly from the source material. To my surprise, I really liked the major changes made for the movie.

While I greatly enjoyed Avengers Age of Ultron and will definitely see it in theaters again, there were a few things about it that bugged me. Below is the customary RPadTV binary breakdown of the film. As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say about the movie, so after you’ve seen it, kindly share your thoughts in the comments section. Now turn on your spoiler shields and let’s get avenging!

Ultron Owns (Good): I’m a big fan of the comics version of Ultron. Since the movie version is very different, I was worried about this incarnation of the robotic bad-ass. The original was created by Hank Pym (Ant-Man, Goliath, Yellow Jacket, etc.) and based on his brain patterns. The movie version was created by Tony Stark and based on his personality. That made for a highly entertaining baddie. Whereas comics Ultron is a megalomaniac that’s hellbent on wiping out organic life, the movie version is like a warped version of Tony Stark with the “sardonic dick” dial turned to 11. Like the original, movie Ultron is powerful, ruthless, and brilliant. Unlike the original, movie Ultron is hilarious and witty. Despite the fact that movie Ultron wants to destroy humanity, you kind of want to have a drink with him (yes, I know he can’t actually enjoy liquor, but still….).

Some of the early reviews of Avengers Age of Ultron criticized the movie’s villain, saying that Ultron wasn’t nearly as good as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. I could not disagree more. Even though he was very different from the comics version, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ultron character. James Spader had fun material to work with and he rocked it.

Incredible Action (Good): This aspect of Avengers Age of Ultron was completely expected, but enjoyable nonetheless. I loved the blend of CG special effects and melee choreography. The effects — there are just so many cool ones to choose from. As for combat, there were a few Captain America scenes that made me utter a Keanu Reeves, “Whoa.”

Black Widow and Hulk (Bad): While the first Avengers movie was very Iron Man heavy, Avengers Age of Ultron was far more of an ensemble effort. The movie gave more characters time to shine than the original did. Unfortunately, it also gave us plot lines like the romance between Black Widow and Hulk. This bit did absolutely nothing for me. It felt forced and unnatural; going into the movie, I couldn’t imagine these characters having a romantic relationship and the actors/script did nothing to change that. This plot was a waste of time — a poor excuse to give Scarlett Johansson more screen time.

Hawkeye Surprises (Good): To my surprise, Hawkeye had a lot of screen time and great material to work with. As one of the “normal” humans on the team, Hawkeye’s mortality and fragility help make him more interesting and easier to identify with. I enjoyed how Avengers Age of Ultron played on the fact that he’s just a guy with a bow that’s hanging out with Norse gods, gamma irradiated powerhouses, and dude’s with billion-dollar self-defense suits. Showing that Hawkeye has a normal family life in addition to his insane Avengers life, was a fun touch.

Captain America’s Mighty Magnets (Bad): I hated Cap’s magnetized gauntlets, even though they make his unbelievable shield-throwing somewhat more believable. This is a total fanboy complain and I’m well aware of this, but I love Cap’s ability to ricochet his shield at impossible angles, hitting multiple targets, always having it return to his arm. While magnetized gauntlets that help the shield return to his arm makes sense, I preferred Cap’s shield-throwing being one of his inexplicable abilities.

Whedon Witticisms (Good and Bad): Some of the early reviews of Avengers Age of Ultron said that Whedon’s dialogue seems tired and dated. I respect that opinion, but disagree with it. As a fan of dense and witty dialogue, I very much enjoyed the movie’s script. While some called the snappy dialogue tired, I found it familiar and entertaining.

Quicksilver (Bad): Seconds after Quicksilver was introduced I thought, “Wow. Kick-Ass got a crappy costume and an even crappier accent.” Although I enjoyed how Quicksilver’s storyline ended in Avengers Age of Ultron, I thought he was mostly lame until his resolution.

Elizabeth Olsen big

Scarlett Witch (Good): Sure, the movie version of Scarlett Witch basically had Phoenix’s powers — a combination of telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Given how vague and ridiculous her “hex” powers in the comics are, I understand the change, even though her powers were awfully convenient in several scenes. All that said, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Chase Olsen is beautiful and I’ve been ready for ascent for nearly two years. She made the Scarlett Witch how in Avengers Age of Ultron.

Vision (Good): I enjoyed the movie version of Vision. He was cool, calm, and collected character. His power’s special effects were fun to see. Vision had one of the most enjoyable “Wow!” moments of the movie when he handed Thor his hammer. A more subtle moment (that totally got me) was when he checked out Thor’s cape, admired it, and grew himself a cape. Out of all the new heroes introduced in Avengers Age of Ultron, Vision was my favorite. I’ve enjoyed Paul Bettany’s acting and the character’s special effects were slick.

Bottom Line: Aside from the banal and insipid romance between Black Widow and Hulk, I only had minor complaints about Avengers Age of Ultron. I very much enjoyed the movie, will see it again in theaters, and watch it dozens of times after it’s available digitally. It has everything I want from a summer movie — great action, snappy dialogue, and fantastic special effects. While I understand why some people won’t enjoy Avengers Age of Ultron, I think those people enjoy killing fun. If you’re any kind of comics nerd, go see this movie now!

For another take on Avengers Age of Ultron, check out the PaulSemel.com review.

Random Thoughts on The Newsroom Season 3, Episode 3

The third episode of The Newsroom season three (“Main Justice”) was clearly the worst one this year and one of the worst in the show’s history. It had several unbelievably ridiculous situations and an unpalatable dose of Aaron Sorkin’s disdain for newness. That said, it was also the sexiest episode in the show’s history, with a beautiful new addition to the cast and a scorching steam room scene. Here are some random thoughts on The Newsroom s3e3.

Anything Goes — The episode starts off with Atlantis Cable News producer Gary Cooper singing “Anything Goes” as he strolls into the office on a Saturday. After Gary turns the corner and sees the FBI raiding the office, “Anything Goes” quickly becomes, “What the f@ck is going on?!?”

I’ve always liked the Gary Cooper character and always been disappointed that he’s a background player. That’s true for this episode too, but the audience learns more about Gary this episode. He has a nice voice, he knows show tunes, and — thanks to a wonderfully awkward meeting with the new human resources VP — he’s the office lothario. Gary Cooper is cool.

News Night vs. the FBI — One of the most unbelievable scenes in The Newsroom’s entire run, the News Night gang engages the FBI in a game of chicken. Unhappy with the FBI’s search, ACN president Charlie Skinner pretends to call the Los Angeles studio with the intention of breaking in with a live report on the search of the New York office. The rest of the team follows his lead in an absurdly perfect way and the FBI falls for the ruse. I don’t believe for a second that a newsroom team could outsmart FBI agents through impressive improv skills. Come on now.

ACN For Sale — On the Atlantis World Media level, CEO Leona Lansing and president Reese Lansing go to Charlie’s office with the unfortunate news that they have to sell off ACN in order to retain control of AWM. Leona looks genuinely disappointed and touches Charlie’s hand in a subtle, but meaningful way. The guy the Lansings intend to sell to, Silicon Valley millionaire Lucas Pruitt, has all sorts of ridiculous “new media” ideas for the network. He’s also an unlikable prick. It’s another example of Aaron Sorkin’s disdain for the modern world. While I agree that a lot of modern reporting is wretched, the writing here is way too preachy. It’s the “good and pure” old-fashioned way of reporting the news vs. the “crap and tainted” way that new media does it. Like I mentioned in my last recap, modern media has introduced many excellent things along with a lot of trash. Writing about a “people stalking Danny Glover channel” is preposterous and I can’t believe that a Silicon Valley millionaire would propose such a preposterous idea.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Venezuelan Vacation — The audience learns that Neal Sampat is hiding out in Venezuela (no extradition!) by way of Cuba by way of Calgary. His situation has gone from bad to worse. The News Night superpowers and their awesome lawyer have been summoned to Washington for a source shakedown. News Night anchor Will McAvoy believes that his star status will protect him from the worst. Unfortunately, he’s served a subpoena at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The law is coming down hard on Neal and the News Night staff. Apparently the government doesn’t like journalists assisting in espionage and (accidentally) coercing sources to uncover classified government documents.

The Source is…Hot — At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the source of the leaked documents revealed herself. She’s played by the lovely Clea DuVall. I’ve always been a fan of her and I was thrilled to see her on the show. She stole my heart in But I’m a Cheerleader and now she steals classified government documents in The Newsroom. Clea has come full circle (not really). While seeing sexy Clea DuVall was fantastic, she wasn’t the sexiest part of this episode. That distinction goes to the…

Sexy Cougar Steam RoomNews Night executive producer McKenzie MacHale had a clandestine meeting with her longtime friend, FBI special agent Molly Levy. The scene was…hot. Watching two beautiful cougars discussing serious matters in a steam room while wearing nothing but towels leaves a lot to the imagination. I can see the fan fiction now. “Special agent Levy searched Mac, caressing her in a commanding and sensual way that made sure that Mac knew that she must have her now.” Hold on. I’m going to go watch that scene again.

Jim Harper, Doormat — Senior producer Jim Harper had a lot more screen time this episode, but spent most of it getting his ass kicked by the women in his life. Associate producer Maggie Jordan treated him like dirt (more on that later) at the office, while his girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter) treated him like dirt at home.

The argument between Jim and Hallie touched a nerve with me. Hallie received a job offer from a website that awards its writers bonuses for traffic. That’s a common thing these days, but Jim was shocked by the practice. On one hand, it fits into Sorkin’s “I hate the Internet!” ramblings. On the other hand, traffic bonuses are responsible for millions of crappy articles. I hate the practice for lowering the standards for Internet writing and introducing the clickbait phenomenon, but I’ve also accepted that that’s how the Internet works these days.

New Competent Maggie — Oh Maggie…what have you become? Once the awkwardly charming girl in the office, Maggie has become a confident and successful woman. She has also become completely unlikable (at work, anyway). She’s belligerent, insubordinate, and violent in the office. I hate the message that sends. It’s as if you have to be an a-hole in order to be successful. While that’s true in many cases, there are plenty of nice people that have accomplished great things. Hopefully it doesn’t get to the point where the audience is thinking, “I wish you died in Uganda, Maggie!!!” With two episodes left, there might not be enough time to redeem her.

Human Resources Hates Love — The aforementioned new VP of human resources has it out for interoffice romance. While Will is too big of a star to go after, the HR guy takes aim at 10PM executive producer Don Keefer and his sometime replacement anchor Sloan Sabbith (played by the dreadful Olivia Munn, but you already knew that). This storyline seems like filler. It feels so unimportant with the FBI raiding the office and the team reporting on the end of the world. Speaking of which…

This is the End — The Environmental Protection Agency admin that Maggie met last episode was a guest on the Friday edition of News Night. On the show, he looked and sounded like an utterly defeated man that had given up all hope. He “shared” his hopelessness with News Night’s viewers, saying that the environment has been damaged beyond hope and that there are people alive today that will die because of what humans have done to the planet. While Don and Sloan dating is unimportant compared to the FBI vs. News Night, perhaps none of it matters if the world is coming to an end.

That would be funny if he was an intentionally crappy guest just to get back at Maggie. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be. It would annoy the hell out of me if Maggie gets depressed over the dramatically dire story she produced and jumps lovingly into Jim’s waiting arms. Ugh.

Random Thoughts on The Newsroom Season 3, Episode 2

The second episode of The Newsroom season three had more of what fans love and what critics hate about Aaron Sorkin’s show. It also had an ending that felt incongruous with the rest of the episode. The show had a pair of triumphant returns (Leona! Rebecca!), a pair of lovely new additions, and an ending that felt like The Fugitive. Here are some random thoughts on The Newsroom s3e2.

Return of the Awesome Old Ladies — Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) and Rebecca Halladay (Marcia Gay Harden) are two of the best characters in The Newsroom. As the CEO of Atlantis World Media (AWM) and the company’s legal counsel, respectively, they’re a pair of powerful women that are proud of their power. Fonda and Harden deliver their lines sharply, but in different ways. Fonda’s Lansing is an in-your-face tigress, while Harden delivers Halladay’s lines softly, but the impact is just as hard. They’re immensely entertaining characters and it’s wonderful to have them in the mix again.

A Douche on the Side of the Angels — For me, the show’s MVP continues to be Reese Lansing. Aaron Sorkin writes a lot of great lines for a lot of characters in every episode, but so far Chris Messina has been doing the best job of owning scenes. As the president of AWM, Reese is dealing with a hostile takeover from his half-siblings, Randy and Blair. The incredibly sexy Kat Dennings is a fantastic antagonist as Blair, while Christopher Nicholas Smith plays a delightfully vapid Randy Lansing. While Dennings is easier to pay attention to due to her gorgeous looks and harsh lines, I was impressed with Smith’s portrayal of a slow trust-fund kid. He reminded me of several people I’ve met in Los Angeles.

Getting back to Reese Lansing, Messina has crushed the first two episodes of The Newsroom. Other actors on the show have had lines written for them that are on par with Messina’s, but nobody has been as consistent with their delivery.

Don and Sloan Get Testy — On the romantic front, an unfortunate situation with insider trading has gotten Don and Sloan to label their relationship. There’s some great banter between the two, starting with buffet trickery and ending with an awesome “I love you” test. The chemistry between these two characters is great and I have to give it up to Olivia Munn. She might be a wretched human being, but she’s highly entertaining in The Newsroom. Between the seriousness of the AWM hostile takeover and Neal’s accidental espionage, Don and Sloan provide a fun and frivolous distraction from the weighty issues.

Scenes From a Train — Heading back from her television debut in Boston, producer Maggie Jordan in on a train heading back to New York. I’m not sure why 10PM anchor Elliot Hirsch isn’t with her, but I’m guessing he stayed behind with his family in Boston or talent was entitled to a more advanced form of transportation. Whatever the case, Maggie makes the most out of her AmTrak ride. She overhears a rep from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing his (off-the-record) disgust with the Obama administration, confronts the EPA agent over his comments, feels guilty about slouching in a chair to spy on the EPA guy’s conversation, decides not to do anything with the info she overheard, and is rewarded by the EPA guy with an exclusive story. Oh yeah, she also catches the eye of a strapping young Fordham Law professor.

On paper, Maggie’s AmTrak adventure is way to preachy and unrealistic. She got the information fair and square, and I can’t imagine a producer just dropping it. The Newsroom’s pundits will point to this situation as another naive and dreamy Sorkin parable that shows that people will be rewarded for doing the right thing. She snagged an exclusive and a handsome man by being a just person! While I understand people hating this storyline, Alison Pill was really cute in it.

[Side Note: The handsome Fordham Law professor was played by Jimmi Simpson. He and Thomas Sadoski acted together in the Jason Biggs’ classic Loser.]

Superflous Jim — Atlantis Cable News senior producer is still a background player after two episodes. This time around, he was featured in a superfluous storyline with his girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter!). For reasons that defy logic, Hallie sends out a tweet on the ACN account — the kind of tweet that would never be typed by an experienced reporter. Naturally, the tweet gets picked up by every Internet outlet imaginable and Hallie gets fired. Aside from Sorkin reinforcing his disdain for Twitter and the Internet in general, these scenes were useless filler.

Sexy Thick Mary McCormack — Early in the episode, ACN executive producer MacKenzie McHale goes shooting with her FBI agent friend Molly Levy. Mac isn’t really there to sharpen her skills as a marksman. Instead, she asks Agent Levy how much trouble Neal Sampat is really in and if he will get nailed for espionage. Levy says that Neal will probably get slapped with a contempt charge and likely spend 10 days in jail. Happenstance being what it is, Agent Levy just happens to be in charge of the FBI raid on ACN. That was way too convenient.

When I first saw Agent Levy, she looked familiar to me. Then I figured it out — she played Howard Stern’s wife in Private Parts! Actress Mary McCormack has gotten quite a bit thicker since Private Parts, but I found her to be very sexy. Her face is still beautiful, I like the idea of a hot FBI agent having her way with me, and chicks with guns are hot.

Slumdog Fugitive — Neal Sampat spent most of this episode in a conference room, reviewing his legal situation with Rebecca and, eventually, most of the ACN senior staff. He adamantly wants to report on the leaked documents he received and is prepared to deal with the consequences. The Newsroom hero and News Night anchor Will McAvoy doesn’t want to see one of his charges go to jail. After several rounds of intense debate, Will notices that Neal’s expression has changed. Neal appears content, which Will immediately picks up on and knows that the FBI will hit the office shortly. The two have a very cute big brother/little brother moment…

…and then the episode got weird. Instead of the comedic drama that usually fills The Newsroom, the episode jarringly shifts to a spy thriller. Will makes creative use of menus to send secret messages. Neal destroys his phone and goes on the run. While the drama definitely hit a new level, Neal becoming “The Fugitive” felt strange. Oh well, let’s see where it ends up next week.

Random Thoughts on The Newsroom Season 3, Episode 1

The boys and girls of Atlantis Cable News are back! Everyone’s (not everyone’s) favorite dramatization of not-quite current events, Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, has returned and my world feels a whole lot better. While I understand why some people hate-watch the show, I’m a sucker for Sorkin’s witty, dense, and rapid-fire writing. Here are some random thoughts and reflections on “Boston,” the first episode of The Newsroom season three.

Still dealing with the fallout of the Operation Genoa story, the News Night gang is trying to gain back the trust of the public. The crew is understandably skittish and gun shy. Thankfully, that didn’t get in the way of two important questions being asked:

Why did Greek yogurt suddenly become a thing? — Will MacAvoy

When did walnuts start going into chicken salad?!? — Elliot Hirsch

Bridesmaids to Bombings — The episode starts in Will McAvoy’s office, where our hero and his bride-to-be (and executive producer) MacKenzie McHale are discussing the amount of bridesmaids for their upcoming nuptials. Mac has nine bridesmaids pegged, but Will doesn’t have nine male friends to match up with them. Suddenly, Mac catches an explosion on a monitor. It’s the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, which serves as the real-news backdrop of the episode.

Don Still Rules — Meanwhile, the coolest cat in the newsroom — Don Keefer — is stuck in jury duty. He gets a text about the bombing and awesomely talks his way out of his civic duties. Don is far from the antagonistic prick he was in the first few episodes of season one, but his wit is still (entertainingly) razor sharp. I really enjoyed Don playfully taking jabs at Sloan’s “investigation” (more on that later) and Neal’s crackpot Internet sources. While this was a good Don episode, he wasn’t my MVP this show. That award goes to…

A Kindler, Gentler Reese — Speaking of no longer being an antagonistic prick, Atlantis World Media president Reese Lansing has done a total 180. Formerly a corporate overlord that only cared about the bottom line, Reese now onboard with News Night’s mission to do the news “right.” He supports the newsies, while also challenging them with the realities of business. In addition to dealing with the ACN crew, Reese has to deal with running all of AWM, his party-happy siblings, potentially disastrous quarterly earnings, and a bomb dropped by Sloan (again, more on that later). Chris Messina is fantastic in this role. His character is juggling a bunch of plots and he deftly delivers memorable lines concerning each of them.

Aaron Sorkin Hates the Internet: While it permeated several episodes of the first two seasons, The Newsroom writer’s disdain for the Internet is the loudest it has ever been in this episode. He rails on all the Internet writers that spreaded bad information on the Boston Marathon bombing. Innocent people were incorrectly identified as suspects by Internet writers and the Internet being what it is, the misinformation spread like wildfire. While Sorkin has a point in this particular case and there’s certainly a ton of crap Internet reporting, his preachiness comes off as antiquated. There are a lot of great resources on the Internet and there’s also a lot of crap reporting in old media. In fact, I’d say that it’s easier to find credible reporting on the Internet than it is on television. Still…love the dude’s writing.

Mike Tyson Olivia Munn Mysteries — The most unbelievable part of this episode was our dear friend Olivia Munn’s storyline. As you know, her character Sloan Sabbith has two PhDs in economics. Olivia Munn playing a character with dual doctorates is difficult to believe, but since her character’s social awkwardness often overshadows her intellect, it’s easy to forget that she’s supposed to be a financial genius. In this episode, Sloan is using her $24,000 Bloomberg Terminal to uncover a mysterious media buy. Yeah…right. Watching Olivia look at a Bloomberg Terminal, pretending to extract essential information was hilarious. It reminded me of Denise Richards pretending to be a nuclear physicist that uses her vast scientific knowledge to bail out James Bond. Suspension of disbelief is impossible.

Tag Team Promos — My favorite scene in this episode was ACN president Charlie Skinner and Will chastising the staff for cheering about a CNN retraction. Sam Waterston was brilliant, as always, while Jeff Daniels hilariously played the stooge. It reminded me of this Vince McMahon and Steve Austin locker room sketch. Charlie lead the speech, while Will comedically reinforced everything Charlie said.

Slumdog SnowdenThe Newsroom’s Internet nerd, Neal Sampat, gets a beefy plot this season, as he received more than 27,000 stolen government documents. Neal mentioned Wikileaks in a previous episode and is the only character equipped to handle an Edward Snowden-like situation. Unfortunately, he asked for a few more documents from his mysterious source. Will points out that this constitutes espionage. I’ve been a fan Dev Patel since Slumdog Millionaire and I’m happy that his character has more to work with this season. I also love that he’ll be heavily interacting with AWM’s hired legal gun Rebecca Halliday, awesomely portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden.

Where’s Waldo Jim?News Night’s senior producer is a background player in this episode, but I have a feeling that he’ll get more play on the romantic front in future shows. For reasons that don’t make sense to me, Jim’s girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter!) now works as Neal’s minion at News Night instead of running her own political website. You know, because the office needs another romantic coupling on top of the Will/Mac and Don/Sloan pairings. Jim recommends the former object of his affection, Maggie Jordan, to serve as Elliot Hirsch’s field producer in Boston. Will and Mac are skeptical, but Maggie comes through. After her triumphant moment, Jim gets a little twinkle in his eye. I’m hoping that Jim will have a Betty/Veronica situation, but don’t really expect one to get fleshed out since this season is only six episodes long.

Our Little Maggie is All Growns Up — Still traumatized by the tragedy she experienced in Africa, Maggie has exchanged bad haircuts for hellish stomach crunches. Working on the Boston story with 10PM anchor Elliot Hirsch, Maggie has to shift from field producer to on-air talent after she mistakenly gives Elliot some chicken salad with walnuts. Elliot is allergic to walnuts and his tongue starts swelling, rendering him incapable of coherent speech. After Maggie nails her television debut, Elliot gives her a tender, fatherly hug. I’m kind of meh on Maggie right now. She was adorably awkward in season one and annoyingly angry in season two. That said, I’ll always give her a chance. The character reminds me so much of my dear Zoe (Alison Pill’s awkward hand gestures are eerily similar to my Best Best’s).

McAvoy Rises — Will had a strange outing this episode. As expected, he was gruff and shouty throughout the show, but he started on a weak note. He absolutely failed at giving a pep talk, meant to invigorate the crew as they pursued the Boston Marathon story. Later, he served as Charlie’s John Oates during a dress-down speech. He closed out the show with a confidently angry soliloquy that we expect from him. While he’s the center of The Newsroom, I enjoyed that he wasn’t the center of this particular episode.

Coming Next — As a fan of The Newsroom since day one, I enjoyed this episode. It wasn’t the best, but I didn’t expect it to be. Since the final run is only six episodes long, there were a lot of plots to establish. This episode got them all running, while serving up the rapid-fire dialogue that Sorkin fans love. More importantly, it got me excited about the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to some Neal and Rebecca legal powwows. I can’t wait for Jane Fonda’s triumphant return as AWM CEO Leona Lansing. Most of all, I’m terribly excited to see Kat Dennings’ debut on the show. That woman is pretty close to perfection.

If you have a chance, let me know what you thought of the “Boston” episode of The Newsroom.