Joel McHale

25 Must-See Movies For the Fall

Hey there reader, been to the movies lately? If the box office reports are any indication, I’m guessing not — and who can blame you? We’re currently in the weird dead zone between the tentpole blockbusters of the summer and the prestige, Oscar-friendly pictures (and, increasingly, tentpole blockbusters) of the fall. But relief will be here soon enough, so in the interest of helping you mark up your movie-going calendar, we’re looking ahead to the fall films we’re anticipating most. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Finale Recap: “Basic Sandwich”

“You moved dirt around Greendale’s grave!” roars school board villain Carl (“That’s right, we’ve got names!”) at the conclusion of Community’s fifth season finale, “Basic Sandwich.” “Your school is still bankrupt! It is still unmarketable! And it is still on the permanent chopping block of anyone who has any say in its future!” You don’t often hear schools called “unmarketable,” nor that they’re on the “chopping block,” but those are terms thrown around in the world of television—and thus they were appropriate to end an episode where the most meta show on television continued to out-meta itself. Frankly, I haven’t heard a television show comment more explicitly on its own shaky future than the second season (and, unfortunately, series) finale of Sports Night, which included the line, “Anybody who can’t make money off Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.” … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 12 Review: “Basic Story”

It’s not often that you get to see a major network television show arguing with itself. But that’s one of the surprises, and pleasures, of “Basic Story,” the first installment in Community’s two-part fifth season finale, which spends much of its first half suspiciously tiptoeing around the idea that, for once, Greendale Community College is free of chaos, its staff and students utterly content. “Usually a lot more than this happens in 30 minutes,” notes Abed, at the end of a half-hour of study group playing-on-their-phones time, and that denomination of time isn’t accidental. For a show that spends plenty of time playing in the meta sandbox, this week’s episode represents a continuation (after last week’s “G.I. Jeff”) of the idea of pushing beyond inside jokes and self-awareness, and genuinely exploring (and exploding) the very nature of fiction. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 11 Recap: “G.I. Jeff”

The important fact about Community’s gimmick episodes is that the good ones are never just about the gimmick. The paintball episodes, the Ken Burns spoof, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”—when the show trots out its tricks, it’s like a particularly good magic show, where the illusionist uses the tool of diversion to smuggle in some of the heftiest intellectual and emotional content of the series. This week’s episode, “G.I. Jeff,” replicates the look and feel of the old G.I. Joe syndicated cartoon show flawlessly: the little specs on the image, the choppiness of the cheap-o animation, the stilted dialogue. The recreations of those ‘80s live-action toy commercials are likewise perfect. And while we’re marveling over the perfection of the nostalgia, we can easily miss that this not only of the most ambitiously melancholy Communitys to date, but one that questions the very essence of reality. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 8 Recap: “App Development and Condiments”

When we take the long view of Community, what may be most interesting—and riskiest—about the show is its total inconsistency with regards to “realism.” The word is worth putting in quotes, since it’s such a loaded term when you’re talking about television or film or any of the performing arts; it’s all fake, even the works praised most highly for their naturalism. But there are shows whose proximity to a recognizable reality are closer than others; The Wire is more realistic than, say, The Blacklist. Yet Community won’t let you find your footing; they change up their reality on an almost weekly basis. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 7 Recap: “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”

The question of how Community would get over the loss of Donald Glover has proven as all-consuming, for fans, as how it would function without Dan Harmon—though with much happier results. After an interminable month off the air for the Olympics, Community returned last night with the provocatively titled “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality,” with… Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking”

Community’s fifth season has, thus far, spent much of its time taking care of old business. First order of said business was jump-starting the show in light of Dan Harmon’s return as show-runner; we had to tie up the loose ends, explain the speed-bumps of the “gas leak year,” and most importantly, establish that the show could be great again. Once that was done, there was the matter of departures: first a proper send-off for the already-absent Chevy Chase, and then last week’s epic farewell to Donald Glover. Now that all of that is out of the way, this week’s episode, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking,” merely has the job of being a good, solid episode of Community—and our first real look at what that show will be from here on out. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 5 Recap: “Geothermal Escapism”

There are two types of episodes that Community does particularly well, though they seem direct contradictions of each other. The first is tightly focused, character-and-dialogue driven stories—bottle episodes, a bit of television terminology that the show itself made common knowledge in season two’s “Collective Calligraphy.” For all their narrative complexity, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” and “Paradigms of Human Memory” would also fall into that category, as would last week’s excellent “Cooperative Polygraphy.” And at the other end of the spectrum are the big, high concept, gimmick episodes, wherein character and emotion are smuggled in underneath spoofs of genre tropes. The multiple paintball episodes are the most obvious examples; the Ken Burns-influenced “Pillows and Blankets” and Law & Order-styled “Basic Lupine Urology” also leap to mind. But no stunt episode had as heavy an emotional burden as last night’s farewell to Troy Barnes, “Geothermal Escapism,” which makes the show’s dual success as comedy and drama all the more remarkable. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 4 Recap: “Cooperative Polygraphy”

Those lucky enough to get screeners for last night’s Community had been hyping it in a big, albeit spoiler-free, way for weeks before it aired. So going into “Cooperative Polygraphy,” I was expecting something big: yet another paintball free-for-all, maybe, or one of the hyper-specific parodies that’s become one of the show’s specialties. But this episode is the perfect counterpoint to last week’s showy take on the David Fincher crime flick. Where “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” completely altered the look of the show to fit another filmmaker’s aesthetic, “Cooperative Polygraphy” strips Community down to its bare minimum, leaving a group dynamic that’s unmistakably the brainchild of Dan Harmon. Despite taking place entirely in the study room, “Cooperative Polygraphy” never feels claustrophobic. The tangled relationships between these characters and their near-infinite comic potential are all Community needs to land its funniest, most effective installment yet of Harmon 2.0. … Read More

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