I have a proposal that I think will make Philosophy 101 more palatable for all college freshman: replace the course with a binge watch of The Good Place. Now, I do understand that there are people who enjoy deep philosophical arguments. I do get that. But, by and large, those people are already collegiate philosophy professors and are, in this context, the problem. Michael Schur, the brilliant creator of both Parks & Recreation and The Good Place, is the rare example of a person who finds philosophy fascinating and not terribly serious. The Good Place disguises is with humor and an afterlife landscape that seems like the sort of thing Douglas Adams would come up with after drinking a lot of off-label cough syrup, but the show is sneakily giving its viewers a more effective philosophical education than they’re likely to find anywhere in higher education. A perfect example of this is season two’s exploration of the trolley problem.
You see a runaway trolley moving toward five tied-up (or otherwise incapacitated) people lying on the tracks. You are standing next to a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be redirected onto a side track, and the five people on the main track will be saved. However, there is a single person lying on the side track. You have two options:
Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
Which is the more ethical option?
One of the pillars of The Good Place’s own philosophy is that anyone can change for the better. Season two, in large part, follows the journey of demon Michael (Ted Danson) as he learns more about what makes humans tick. The most hysterical example of this is when Michael plops the terminally indecisive Chidi into the middle of a real-life trolley problem and…ups the stakes. The Good Place isn’t just a good time. As it nears the end of its third season, The Good Place has become the best comedy of the decade and arguably the best show on television.
I have rarely, if ever, been more wrong about a TV show than I was with The Good Place. Honestly, it’s not entirely my fault. The show’s advertising looked awful. I couldn’t imagine how anyone was going to be able to sustain a show about the afterlife, but then I didn’t know how much of a genius Michael Shur was. Not only did he manage to create a genius sitcom that takes place in religion-neutral Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, but he’s written most of the episodes. The show isn’t just funny, it’s seriously addictive. I watched each of the first two seasons in two annual sittings. Ted Danson is taking a victory tour as one of the best comedic actors in TV history as Michael, the architect of The Good Place. In the show’s pilot, Michael gives an orientation to the recently deceased as to how their life’s actions have gained the entry to this elite post-death paradise. As good as the orientation is, you need to pause and read all the hundreds of scoring criterion that pop up during his speech. If you’re in a show hole during the summer TV doldrums, this is one you definitely need to catch up on.
If you watch enough movies and TV (and I watch way, way, way too much), over time you start to notice certain names. Sometimes it’s a writer, sometimes an actor or actress, sometimes a director, even a cinematographer or composer that always seems stuck to something you enjoy. Drew Goddard is one of my favorite names to see pop up on a project. Pretty much everything Goddard is attached to is stellar from his TV work as a writer/producer on Buffy, Angel, Alias, Lost and The Good Place to his film work on the Cloverfield series, The Martian, and his last directorial turn in 2012’s The Cabin in the Woods. Chris Hemsworth’s best non-MCU film is probably still Cabin and he could badly use a non-MCU hit at this stage in his career. Goddard has an intriguing premise and a really strong ensemble for Bad Times at the El Royale, and his past successes are more than enough to get me to give it a shot when it opens on October 12, 2018 (even though it’s likely to get squashed by First Man).
Paramount Home Media Distribution has announced the Blu-ray release of producer J.J. Abrams and up-and-coming director Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, which stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher, Jr. The spiritual sequel/spin-off to Cloverfield (2008) arrives on Blu-ray combo pack on June 14th.
After a catastrophic car crash, a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) wakes up in a survivalist’s (John Goodman, Argo) underground bunker. He claims to have saved her from an apocalyptic attack that has left the outside world uninhabitable. His theories are supported by a mysterious stranger who is in the bunker with them (John Gallagher, Jr., The Newsroom), but as his increasingly suspicious actions lead her to question his motives, she’ll have to escape in order to discover the truth.
10 Cloverfield Lane is presented in 1080p with Dolby Atmos surround. For a limited time only, fans will receive a bonus Digital HD copy of the original Cloverfield with their purchase of the 10 Cloverfield Lane Blu-ray Combo Pack. Special features include:
Commentary by director Dan Trachtenberg and producer J.J. Abrams
Over 30 minutes of Behind-The-Scenes Footage: Take an extensive look behind-the-scenes with Abrams and the cast as they revisit the legacy of 2008’s Cloverfield, and discuss how 10 Cloverfield Lane went from script to production. Continue with a tour of the ominous bunker, see how the costume designer was challenged to create a homemade Hazmat suit, follow the production team and sound designers as they work on the movie’s epic finale, and hear the unique scores composed for each character.
2016 is off to a surprisingly awesome start, continuing the quality bounty we reaped at the end of last year. Two months ago, I didn’t know 10 Cloverfield Lane existed, and I would have thought the idea of a sequel (though it’s more of a spin-off) would be eye-rollingly stupid. Having just experienced it, the best analogy I can give you as to what 10 Cloverfield Lane is without ruining it, is to say it’s the closest to a big-screen classic Twilight Zone episode I’ve ever seen. It’s fantastic. Not only is it light-years better than Cloverfield (which I liked), it makes me happy that Cloverfield is apparently now a franchise. I can’t wait for the next installment. Continue reading Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) *Tense, Brilliant, Must-See Thriller*→