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Review: Simon Pegg gets raw and real in 'Hector and the Search for Happiness'

Review: Simon Pegg gets raw and real in 'Hector and the Search for Happiness'

Not a mean moment in it

There is not a cynical or mean-spirited moment in Peter Chelsom's new film "Hector and the Search For Happiness," and the film's observations about life are in some ways so direct, so fundamental, that it would be easy to shrug it off and laugh at its sincerity.

Happiness is a subject I've been thinking about quite a bit this year. At 44, I find it elusive, temporary. I've upended my life this year, moving out of my house, negotiating a divorce, building a new life to share with my kids, and even exploring the notion of new love, and all of it has been life-altering and shattering and scary and exhilarating, and above all else, necessary. Completely and totally necessary.

When I was a young man, I saw happiness as something that landed on you, something that was simply a by-product of living life. I took happiness for granted, and I am well aware now as an older man that happiness is something you have to actively work towards, that you cannot expect it to simply land on you. I have had my fair share of luck over the years, moments of joy that were simply delivered to me, but for the most part, I've had to struggle for the happiness I've had, and I have learned to cherish it when it happens.

That process is different for everyone, and while it seems like a vaguely sappy idea in the broad description, Peter Chelsom is a guy who has managed to avoid sap with a certain amount of grace over the years. His films "Hear My Song," "Funny Bones," and "The Mighty" are all movies that have a great deal of heart, but that never give in to the easy or the cheap move. Here, he's working from a novel by Francois Lelord, and with his co-writers Maria von Heland and Tinker Lindsay, he's done his best to apply a light touch to the story of Hector (Simon Pegg), a psychiatrist who has a tidy, orderly life and who one day realizes that he's not qualified to talk to his patients about happiness because he's not entirely sure that he's happy himself.

This comes as rather unpleasant news for his girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike), who works hard to make Hector's life as orderly as possible, and when he tells her that he's taking an open-ended trip around the world in search of whatever it is he's missing, she puts on a smiling face, but it guts her. Hector sets off having planned for anything, and at first I expected something very broadly comic. From the start, though, the film steers towards something more emotional, and it starts to build a respectable head of steam. The lessons that Hector picks up as he meets various people are genuine, some of them very small, some of them more profound, and there were several of them that I made note of for myself.

The film is gorgeously photographed by Kolja Brandt, and there are certain sequences that serve as a reminder that Chelsom may have done his time in the Hollywood trenches with movies like "Shall We Dance?" and "The Hannah Montana Movie," but at heart, he's got a gentle, poetic eye. Simon Pegg seems to have really taken the material to heart, and I think it's kind of a break-through performance for him. As good as he's been in other films, I don't think I've ever seen him play something this raw or real, and there are several moments where he just kind of breaks. Hector isn't some perfect role model, and he makes some ugly mistakes, which only makes him seem more human.

Similarly, I think Pike is very good here, and she's got the trickier role. Most of the time, when you see a movie like this and the girlfriend is introduced at the beginning of the film as someone who is very fastidious and organized, it's a set-up for that character to be treated as a villain, and I braced myself for what I consider a really unpleasant trope. Instead, Clara is treated with empathy, and her efforts to make a very clean and ordered life for Hector are treated as an act of love, not a suffocating prison. It made me like the movie more, and the way they treat Clara in the film is an indicator of how the film treats all of its characters.

There's a big move towards the end of the film that is a little too on-the-nose, but even as I rolled my eyes a bit at the idea, Pegg's performance sells it, and he basically has his Ebenezer Scrooge moment, all the pieces falling into place as he realizes what he wants and what he has. I found it moving and simple, and while it may mark me as a sentimentalist, "Hector" worked on me. I respect the way the film delivers its ideas, and I'm always happy to see Chelsom deliver something that is both sincere and successful.

"Hector and the Search For Happiness" may not unlock all of the secrets of the universe, but it does offer a welcome glimpse at how important the search is for all of us.

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Well blow me down, Sony Animation has some 'Popeye' test footage for you

Well blow me down, Sony Animation has some 'Popeye' test footage for you

The film is set for release in 2016

We still need to tell you what's up with this year's Best Animated Feature Film Oscar race, which we'll get to in due time. But for now, here's a sneak peek at a probable contender for 2016's race: Sony Pictures Animation's "Popeye."

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<p>Tyrant</p>

Tyrant

Credit: FX

FX renews 'Tyrant' for season 2

Middle Eastern political drama ran into many problems, but FX ordered more

FX entered this summer with more programming inventory than it's ever had in a compressed period: "The Strain" on Sundays (the first time FX has had to put one of its dramas there), "Partners" on Mondays, "Tyrant" on Tuesdays, "The Bridge" on Wednesdays and "Married" and "You're the Worst" on Thursdays. Though "The Strain" has been a success and got renewed weeks ago, it's been a rough go for almost everything else.

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<p>Tom Mison of &quot;Sleepy Hollow&quot;</p>

Tom Mison of "Sleepy Hollow"

Credit: FOX

Interview: Tom Mison on 'Sleepy Hollow' Season 2 and an odd 'Silence of the Lambs' comparison

Costume comfort, Ichabod-Katrina and John Noble's trickiness also come up

WILMINGTON, NC. Tom Mison doesn't roll with a posse, but Ichabod Crane's Revolutionary War attire does.

The last time I'd talked with Mison, he and co-star Nicole Beharie had dropped by the HitFix video studio and he was in civilian garb, which was at least a wee bit confusing. Oddly, the lack of wig/hair extensions on the 32-year-old Brit were less confusing at the time. Mison and Crane are closely interwoven at this moment and with Crane, nothing has proven to be more interwoven than the military uniform he wore for almost all of the first season of "Sleepy Hollow."

So it's reassuring that Mison strolls into the make-shift press holding area above a Wilmington bar wearing both the newest incarnation of Ichabod's costume and his familiar flowing locks. Before he can sit down, though, Mison's jacket has to be passed along to professional who surely has other chores for different occasions, but is only available for this one purpose now.

There are things I can tell you about where Ichabod Crane finds himself in the second season and things I cannot reveal, largely because I don't know them. When we left Ichabod, he was in what we could delicately call "a predicament." While visiting the set, I appeared as an extra in a scene from what will be the eighth "Sleepy Hollow" and I can tell you that the scene didn't take place in the confined space in which we last saw Ichabod. No, it was a confined space resembling a slightly hipster-y bar, but more on that as we get closer to the episode that I'm reasonably confident I briefly ruined.

How Ichabod extricates himself from the predicament and when Ichabod extricates himself from the predicament remain mysteries to me and Mison didn't share. If you want, however, to assume that there's a possibility he could spend the entire season in that predicament, you probably don't want to read any further.

Since our conversation began with the partial disrobing, Mison and I talked a bit about Ichabod's attire, before discussing how this season impacts Ichabod's dynamics with Katrina, Henry and other core characters.

How is the Abbie-Ichabod dynamic like that of Clarice and Hannibal in "Silence of the Lambs"? Mison explains that as well.

And what quality or characteristic is most central to playing Ichabod? Mison's answer is amusing.

The interview spoils nothing about Monday's (September 22) second season premiere of "Sleepy Hollow," but it does say things about the second season, albeit mostly thematic things rather than plot things. Tread accordingly...

Check out the full Q&A...

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Zach Braff plans to reunite with 'Scrubs' creator for a new sitcom
Credit: NBC

Zach Braff plans to reunite with 'Scrubs' creator for a new sitcom

'Red Band Society' disappoints, 'The Mysteries of Laura' gets a big “America’s Got Talent” boost

Zach Braff plans to reunite with “Scrubs” creator for a new sitcom
“I’ve been talking about a new idea with Bill Lawrence who created ‘Scrubs,’” Braff tells UK’s Independent. "I don’t know if it will be this year or next. I like the idea of cable because I don’t want to do 22 episodes, but I like the idea of this new wave that you can do 12 episodes or eight episodes maybe for cable or Netflix or wherever. There are so many more options now. It's an exciting time.”


“Red Band Society” disappoints, “The Mysteries of Laura” gets a big “America’s Got Talent” boost
The Fox teen hospital drama debuted to four million, while 10.4 million checked out Debra Messing in “Laura.”


Laverne Cox to host and produce “The T Word” documentary for MTV
The “Orange is the New Black” star will focus on seven transgender youths in "Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word.”


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FX renews 'Tyrant'
Credit: FX

FX renews 'Tyrant'

FX renews "Tyrant"
The Middle East political drama will return for a 2nd season after averaging 5.1 million viewers during its 10-episode 1st season.

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AnnaLynne McCord to be stalked on 'Stalker'
Credit: TNT

AnnaLynne McCord to be stalked on 'Stalker'

TV Guide Network is getting a new name: 'Pop'

AnnaLynne McCord to be stalked on “Stalker”
The “90210” alum on the CBS series as a famous TV star who needs help dealing with an obsessed fan who’s threatened her life.


TV Guide Network is getting a new name: “Pop”
TVGN, as TV Guide Network is currently called, is being rebranded next year to “Pop” to celebrate “fandom” in TV and pop-culture. The new cable network will take "a fun, enthusiastic and celebratory approach to fandom, and won't be mean-spirited or snarky,” according to the new network’s president, who adds that keeping the TV Guide name didn’t make sense anymore.


“The Voice” champ is headed to Broadway in the title role of “Pippin”
Josh Kaufman will make his Broadway debut, kicking off a two-month run on Nov. 4.


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12 Years a Slave
Credit: Fox Searchlight

Despite MPAA's 'R' rating, '12 Years a Slave' to become a high school learning tool

A new initiative will send the Best Picture winner to the educational realm

If the National School Boards Association is to be believed, we're in a golden age of education Oscar movies.

Fox Searchlight announced today that a partnership with the NSBA, New Regency and Penguin Books will make copies of the 2014 Best Picture winner "12 Years a Slave" and Solomon Northup's autobiographical source material available to America’s public high schools. This follows Participant Media's own educational campaign for "Lincoln," which put DVD copies of Steven Spielberg's historical film and the necessary projection technology in a number of underserved communities.

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Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain will weather 'A Most Violent Year' on New Year's Eve
Credit: A24

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain will weather 'A Most Violent Year' on New Year's Eve

J.C. Chandor's 'All is Lost' follow-up is primed to crash the party this season

Lots of questions have been surrounding J.C. Chandor's "All is Lost" follow-up "A Most Violent Year" this season, but we've been telling you to chill out, it's coming, etc. The sound mix has been moving along this month and it's being primed for a big winter bow. Now it has a date: Dec. 31. A platform release in January is expected to follow.

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Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Emma Watson Among 2014 Britannia Awards Recipients

Mike Leigh and Dame Judi Dench join 'The Avengers' winners.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles (BAFTA Los Angeles) has announced that Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Emma Watson, Mike Leigh and Dame Judi Dench are among the first honorees of this year’s Jaguar Britannia Awards ceremony. Each year, BAFTA Los Angeles honors "individuals who have dedicated their careers to advancing the art forms of the moving image in the U.S., U.K. and beyond."

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<p>The cast of FOX&#39;s &quot;Gotham.&quot;</p>

The cast of FOX's "Gotham."

Credit: FOX

Review: FOX's 'Gotham' gives us a Batman show without Batman

An excellent pilot for the prequel series, but can it sustain this dark worldview?

A man who decides the best way to fight crime in his native city is to dress up as a giant bat has to be a severely damaged individual on some level. But think about how damaged the city itself has to be for the man to think that the bat costume is necessary.

FOX's new drama series "Gotham" (it debuts Monday at 8) wants to dramatize the crumbling infrastructure of Gotham City, which would eventually lead to Batman patrolling its streets. And it wants to play with the many wonderful toys available in that corner of the DC Universe, even if Batman himself can't be one of them, since the series begins with a 12-year-old Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) witnessing his parents' murder in a dark downtown alley.

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<p>&quot;The Mysteries of Laura&quot;</p>

"The Mysteries of Laura"

Credit: NBC

TV Ratings: 'Mysteries of Laura' debut, 'America's Got Talent' finale lead NBC Wednesday

'Red Band Society' draws a young, female, small audience for FOX

Fast National ratings for Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

How can you be a mom *and* draw big ratings? Debra Messing knows!

Despite aggressively negative reviews, "Mysterious of Laura" had a solid debut on Wednesday night, airing following the finale of "America's Got Talent." NBC dominated primetime in all measures.

The "Talent" finale airing in the earlier two-hour block than last year's finale and delivered lower key demo numbers, but a bigger audience.

Although the "Laura" debut posted a decent drop at the half-hour, it still did strong enough numbers for NBC to be optimistic heading into next week's Wednesday 8 p.m. premiere.

On the other side of the equation, FOX can't be overjoyed with the early returns for "Red Band Society." But despite soft figures, "Red Band Society" grew from its "Hell's Kitchen" lead-in overall and didn't drop in the half-hour, staving off panic. Still, "Red Band Society" finished tied with ABC comedy repeats among young viewers, which isn't great.

The night's other semi-notables were on CBS, where "Big Brother" beat "AGT" in the key demo in their head-to-head hour and "Extant" rose week-to-week in its season [series?] finale.

More analysis coming later with Finals, but on to the Fast National numbers...

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