Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Is your hammer wilting? Are you suffering Norse god withdraw? Like Thor himself, do you throw the first movie on the ground and demand for another? With Thor: The Dark World not coming out until November 8, 2013, Thor fans have a long, frost giant of a wait. It should be worth it though, with Chris Hemsworth returning to lift the hammer once again, along with the talented Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings and (new to Thor but not to nerds) Zachary Levi. Of course, no Thor movie would be complete without the always sympathetic Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Because we have over a year to wait, the best way to ail any Thor pangs is to watch Conan O'brian's genius parody of the original Thor trailer. Even Thor himself (Hemsworth) approved. If only Thor really did have this voice! Watch and listen here. Enjoy!
|Matt Damon in Elysium|
According to Greek mythology, Elysium was a place of the afterlife reserved for the chosen few who were related to the gods, the heroes, and legends in humanity. This coming March, Elysium is the new sci-fi movie starring a rather bald Matt Damon as Max. Set in not so distant 2159, the movie boasts a unique and timely plot. In the future, the world is overpopulated and ruined. The wealthy and elite leave it to rot and escape onto the luxuries of Elysium, an elaborate space ship designed as a small world. The poor are left on earth, with little hope of escape. Matt Damon's Max is given the opportunity to shake up the two separate worlds, and perhaps be the kind of hero who earns the mythological Elysium. Hitting screens in March, the one hundred million dollar movie stands a chance at becoming a sci-fi legend of its own. Though I've got to say, for a movie about class conflict and the haves versus the have nots, the movie is certainly funded and created by the wealthy.
|Sam Claflin, Finnick?|
Arguably the best, most nuanced new character in Catching Fire, Finnick Odair is described as a Greek god, bronze hair and all. The former Hunger Games champion and mentor at first appears shallow and jaded, but later connects with The Hunger Games leading lady Katniss and reveals his brokenness. Casting rumors for Finnick spread fire faster than one of Cinna's dresses. Everyone's name from Armie Hammer (The Social Network) to Garret Hedlund (Tron) to Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) has been thrown into the casting gossip. Reports are surfacing that Claflin, who also appeared in the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie, is the forerunner, but the studio hasn't confirmed anything. As long as the fan-favorite Finnick is given the screen time he deserves, I won't complain either way. Be on the lookout for the official casting report for Finnick. May the odds be ever in Finnick's favor, or at least in the actor's who plays him.
|Ron as the Keeper|
2012's London Olympics has been massive. Lochte vs Phelps, the Queen versus James Bond, and of course, super weird looking Voldemort and Mary Poppins. There's a lot of excitement. Sports that usually spawn comments like "I didn't even know that was a sport," are shown on every NBC network imaginable when the best of the best compete for gold. Perhaps I am revealing my ignorance when I admit I really didn't know skeet shooting or trampolining were real Olympic sports.
This is the only time I will rave about how great debt is, and it is only because of the 2011 movie, The Debt. A movie about 3 Mossad agents, Rachel (Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren), Stephan (Marton Csokas, Tom Wilkinson), and David (Sam Worthington, Ciaran Hinds), who in 1965 go undercover to bring down a Nazi war criminal, it weaves an engrossing story. The always brilliant Helen Mirren plays the older Rachel looking back on the events of the supposed successful mission. In flashback, we see what truly happened, and the consequences of one fateful choice made by the young agents. Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain in particular do an excellent job of investing you in the characters and story, making you question what you would do if you were in their shoes. An intelligent thriller, The Debt is now on dvd and very worthy of a view. It's the rare kind of debt that won't cost you much.
The CW is gearing up for Arrow, it's new foray into the superhero world. Taking a cue from the darker tone of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, the show follows the story of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), a billionaire who is shipwrecked and marooned on an island for five years. When he finally returns, he decides to amend his former ways, becoming The Green Arrow, a hero whose weapon of choice is of course, the arrow. Footage of the first episode was revealed at Comic Con to mostly positive reviews. Fanboys and superhero lovers, go ahead and see if you like your arrows green this fall. Check out the trailer here.
Monday, July 30, 2012
|Mark Ruffalo as Hulk|
It took a few tries, but the Hulk finally truly succeeded on the screen in The Avengers, played by Mark Ruffalo with perfect controlled rage. Ruffalo played Bruce Banner and Hulk via motion capture, uttering many of the film's best lines. The pivotal "I'm always angry" and humbling "puny god" come to mind. Not only did he elicit sympathy from viewers while he worked as a doctor, but he also connected well with Rober Downey Junior's Iron Man. The crowd favorite, Ruffalo's Hulk deserves his only movie, or at the very least deserves to be showcased in another Marvel film. Iron Man 3 perhaps. I'd also like a Hawkeye and Black Widow film, but I'll keep my Christmas list small. Perhaps Jeremy Renner's new Bourne movie will be a catalyst to a new Hawkeye film anyhow. For now, I'm happy to just ask for a new Hulk movie. We can just pretend the other two don't exist. They just make fans angry.
|The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman|
Neil Gaiman is to books what Tim Burton is to movies. He is responsible for delighting and spooking his readers with his dark and original stories. The Graveyard Book, a winner of the Newbery Award, is a story just begging to be made into a movie. In fact, Disney has optioned it and it is in development now. Taking place in, of course, a graveyard, the book follows a boy named Nobody Owens. Nobody is raised by two elderly grave dwellers and cared for by Silas, who turns out to be a vampire. Nobody discovers the adventures of the past and present in his otherworldly home. A story of growing up, The Graveyard Book reveals that Nobody's real parents were killed long ago by the mysterious Jack. Jack wants Nobody dead too, and the only way he has managed to stay safe so far was by living among the dead. It will not do for Nobody not to live and grow up forever. It is a profoundly moving book with stunning dark visuals, and one that deserves a great film. In an interview, Gaiman described working on the books and writing in general. He said, "We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we ca. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story." The Graveyard Book may be set in a twisted fantasy, but it is authentic and true in it's story of a little boy learning what it means to grow up. What a great story for a film!
After rumbling and rumors, Peter Jackson has finally made it official. The Hobbit will be a trilogy. Jackson will use extensive notes from Tolkien to add to the story, diving deeper into the admittedly slim book. I am curious how it will change the second movie, and where the story will go with new characters and information. Will it be a journey LOTR and Hobbit fans want to take? Three more trips to Middle Earth may be just fine with me. We'll just get breakfast, second breakfast and elevenses. Eat breakfast (the first film) this December.
I'll admit, I wasn't familiar with Marvel's Ant-Man, a superhero whose power is in his ability to change size. He can go from microscopic to large in a snap, a concept that at first doesn't sound that promising or exciting. However, test footage was revealed at San Diego's comic con, panning on Ant-Man in an air vent. He grows and then shrinks once again, avoiding a gun by running across the barrel before knocking out several men around him. Fanboys have raved about the footage, which has yet to be released to the general public. The footage is not actual movie footage, but it was enough to spark a huge reaction, and stir excitement for the movie that has yet to cast a lead. After so many successful and well-made hero movies, Marvel can afford to take a chance on Ant-Man. He could be huge.
Right after seeing The Dark Knight Rises, my brother and I debated which superhero movie wins the title of Best Hero Movie of 2012. As much as I love Spiderman, I didn't even consider The Amazing Spiderman, mostly because it just isn't on the level of The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises. With frenzied anticipation, fanboys and casual movie goers alike flocked to both movies, revved up by the first two Batman movies and the many Marvel movies.
Marvel's Avengers takes a lighter approach to its heroes and battles, pitting Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Hulk against the always entertaining but never truly terrifying Loki. While the movie does kill Agent Coulson, giving its avengers something to avenge, it still maintains a comic and light tone for most of the film. Captain America doesn't understand modern references, Hulk and Iron Man become besties, and Iron Man refers to Loki and Thor as "Shakespeare in the park." The movie isn't meant to echo reality, its meant to be better than it. That doesn't mean it wasn't one of the best movies of the year, period, and that it didn't offer a great theme of sacrifice among all of the action. That, and the movie is just a lot of fun.
The Dark Knight Rises, in contrast, presents its DC hero in a corrupt and often realistic Gotham. The film is not afraid to hurt and possibly kill its Batman. It makes the audience feel despair and awe with equal force, focusing on both action and humanity. If The Avengers is an event movie, than The Dark Knight Rises is the event movie. There is as much focus on characters and the human condition as there is on the action sequences and fancy technology. The third movie echoed the first, when Bruce's father asks him why we fall. So that we can get back up again. It was the payoff for following the trilogy to see Batman conclude.
There is one weakness in Dark Knight Rises that was not in the Avengers. In the Dark Knight Rises, some of the characters and story had to be rushed, like when Catwoman suddenly kisses Bruce, without really explaining when their relationship suddenly snapped into romantic. It sometimes created development whiplash. The Avengers, on the other hand, at the hands of the excellent Joss Whedon (Creator of Firefly, Buffy), was able to balance its heavy roster of characters remarkably well. Rises, like Avengers, focuses on the theme of sacrifice.
Which movie then, is the better movie? They are so different, it is almost impossible to say. The Avengers was a fantastic, fun adventure and one of my favorite movies of the year. The Dark Knight Rises was hero-poetry, beautiful and sprawling, heartbreaking and restoring. It is then a matter of taste. Do you like your heroes bright and shining, or dark and rising? I have to give it to The Dark Knight Rises, mainly because I think that it defies genres, and is not only the best hero movie of the year, but also one of the best movies of 2012 in any genre. The real winner though, is the movie goer, who has so many options in fantastic superhero stories.
Band of Brothers, the ten part mini-series depicting the war as seen through the eyes of the men of Easy Company, debuted in 2001, quickly gaining commercial success and critical acclaim. Attached to big named producers like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the series brought the European theater of WWII to life. Eleven years later, many of its small role actors have gone on to become major stars, including James McAvoy (Wanted), Michael Fassbender (X-Men First Class), Damien Lewis (Homeland), and Tom Hardy (Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) to name a few. The Pacific, a 2010 HBO mini-series, was created to show the Pacific theater in the tradition of Band of Brothers. While still very good, it did not have the same resonance as Band of Brothers. I have found that people are often surprised that women love the Band of Brothers, but don't understand why. The show depicts humanity in the best and worst of lights with heart and soul. I defy anyone who doesn't respect the steady bravery and humility of Major Winter's (Damien Lewis) leadership or cry as the soldiers stumble upon an abandoned concentration camp. When the openings song and images plays, I am always somberly reminded of the sacrifices the military make and how much they deserve our respect and support. If anything, Band of Brothers shined a light on their service. You don't have to be a guy to love a good story, and Band of Brothers is one of the best. Even though I own it on dvd, I still find myself watching it when it replays on History Channel, and shocker, I am a girl.
|Winston and His Mad Hand Bell Skills|
New Girl started as a showcase for the dorky cute antics of Zooey Deschanel's Jess. However, as it grew popularity, it also grew in its development of its other characters. Schmidt (Max Greenfield) has become the not so secret scene stealer playing an obsessive, overall jerk with a heart of mushy gold. Nick Miller's (Jake Johnson) stubborn grumpy man persona plays brilliantly with Jess's eternal optimism. Winston (Lamorne Morris) plays the most normal of the bunch, observing and commenting on the crazy around him. That is, except for one special episode, entitled "Bells." Next to "The Landlord," "Bells" is my absolute favorite example of New Girl's ability to grow into a truly funny comedy that showcases ALL of its characters. In the episode, Winston helps Jess with a group of kids performing with hand bells. There is simply something inadvertently funny about hand bells and the need to done gloves to perform with them. Add that immediate humor to Winston's sudden and obsessive need to put on the best hand bell show (hilarious thought), and you get one of the best episodes of New Girl. I am excited about the new season, ready for more Winston, Jess, Schmidt, and Nick, knowing that New Girl gives a chance for each character to let their freak flags fly high and proud. Ring that bell Winston. Ring it.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
|Dame Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall|
Most people in my generation know and love Maggie Smith for her dead-on portrayal of Professor McGonagall in all eight Harry Potter movies. Maggie Smith, who is in fact a Dame, boasts a huge career on the screen and on the stage. In her seventies, Smith recently admitted that she battled breast cancer while filming the Potter films, all the more reason to respect and love her. Dame Smith currently stars as Violet Crawley, the old school grandmother of old school money in the monstrous hit Downton Abbey. Smith delivers the most quotable lines of the show including: "What is a weekend?", "No Englishmen would dream of dying in someone else's house," and "We can't have him assassinated...I suppose." She is a runaway favorite who steals any scene she's in, chewing every line with wit and fire. In my mind, she is the Englishman's Betty White. A little more refined perhaps, but just as deliciously snarky. Now, if only she could host an episode of SNL.
Comic Con 2012 buzzed with news of Guillermo del Toro's new movie Pacific Rim. Del Toro is the acclaimed director behind movies like Hellboy and the haunting and beautiful Pan's Labyrinth. His new feature Pacific Rim follows a battle between aliens from the ocean and human-controlled robots, and is said to be a homage to monster films, with its own human twists. Guillermo describes it as "a beautiful poem to giant monsters." If you have seen any of his movies in the past, you know not to expect a typical, brainless and heartless monster and robot movie in the tradition of Battleship or Transformers. Del Toro is always out to stun and impact, and from the reviews of the footage he showed at Comic Con, it sounds like the movie will not disappoint. Pacific Rim is due in theaters July 12, 2013.
|Liam Neeson on The Graham Norton Show|
There is only one late night show that has Will Smith lead an entire audience in a rendition of his most beloved song: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song of course. Watch the fun here. This same show asks Liam Neeson (aka Aslan) to leave a voice message for a very big fan, saying he didn't know who he was talking to, but whoever it was, he knew they took his daughter, and he would find them, and kill them. Neeson gamely obliges, as you can watch here. What fantastic and odd show is this? Why it's The Graham Norton Show on bbc America. Norton , the snarky and risky host also makes sure to have all his celebrity guests on his couch at the same time, making for hilarious, kooky interactions between musicians, comedians, and actors. On a recent show, Will-i-am was told "I got a feeling" needed to be changed to "I've got a feeling" by an older actor. On another episode, Niki Minaj explained her unique brand of lingo to the very confused Norton and Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), rapping with Ruffalo as her background dancer. The very best part of the strange show is saved for the last few minutes, when regular people are put in THE RED CHAIR. Whoever is in the red chair must tell the best story of their lives, or else risk being flipped in it by the week's celebrity guests. I wish all conversations could had red chairs! We could avoid a lot of small talk if people feared being flipped if they were boring. Check out Norton and all his shenanigans on Saturdays at 11 on bbc America. It's a fresh breath in a very crowded talk show arena.
|Glee Project Season 2|
When Glee debuted in 2009, it was an underdog show about an underdog group of high school singers. Since then, it has been over-hyped and stuffed with so many stars, songs, and story lines, making it more than a little bloated. When the fourth season, which features the regular cast (including members who have graduated) and guests stars like Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson, starts, I probably won't watching. Instead, I'll continue watching the small yet much loved The Glee Project on Oxygen. Now in its second season, the show is the best reality show competition, period. It features Glee hopefuls competing in song, dance, and acting for a spot on Glee. The show and its contestants are often underdogs with a lot of heart and passion, causing the viewers to root for them and become invested in their success. The drama and drive of the contestants is better than the average Glee episode. If Glee could go back to its roots , and learn a lesson in humility from The Glee Project, I may actually tune in to see the winners of The Glee Project on Glee. Otherwise, I'd rather just watch The Glee Project.
James Cameron can do whatever he wants. The man behind the biggest blockbusters, well, ever has recently set 2015 as the general release date for the sequel to 2009's insanely successful Avatar. Cameron is still working on the script, but plans to create a third and perhaps even fourth Avatar movie. While few would argue that the movies were not visually spectacular, fans are left to wonder what sort of plot and story can be created for so many sequels. Then again, Avatar ushered in the creation of the new world Pandora. Perhaps Cameron has many of that world's secrets yet to be revealed. We will just have to wait a few years to see if he'll be the king of the box office once again.
How I Met Your Mother is a great show in terms of post-Friends friend comedies. Its characters are the right balance of over-the-top and endearingly familiar and it's premise is unique. Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor,and Bob Saget as the older narrator Ted) tells his children the story of how he met their mother. Surrounded by friends like the almost too perfectly married Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan), the Canadian and loving it Robin (Colbie Smulders) and Barney wait for it....legendary Stinson, Ted proves to be rather unlucky in love for a total of 7 seasons. He has yet to meet his wife and the future mother of his child, though he still desperately wants to find his soul mate in some fateful moment. The show could be renamed, All the Stuff That Went Down Before I Met Your Mother (Some of which is Inappropriate to Tell You, but Oh Well). HIMYM is renewed for its 8th season, and there are talks for a 9th. As much as I initially enjoyed the show, it seems long overdue for the premise to finally be met and for the show to reach a satisfying end. I'm ready for Ted to meet his children's mom (preferably Keri Russell). After all, Lily and Marshall have already had a baby, and from the looks of it Robin and the notorious bachelor Barney may be settling together as well. As great as the show is, it needs to end before it wears out its welcome. Those poor children have listened to an 7 year story. They need to be saved!
Saturday, July 28, 2012
After seeing The Dark Knight Rises (don't read this is you have not), I was left dwelling on the major twist in the story. The first hefty portion of the movie sets up Bane as the arch-enemy of Batman, bent on destroying the 1% and sup posedly giving power to the 99 with violence and false justice. The motivation of Bane is unclear, leaving the audience to assume he just has a thing for destroying the wealthy. However, when the big twist is revealed, and it is made known that Bruce's new girl Miranda (Marion Cotillard) is a member of the League of Shadows and the true villain, Bane's motivation is made clear. He did what he did out of twisted love and loyalty for her. While I don't really understand why Miranda would suddenly want to finish the work of the father she hated, I appreciate that the twist that helped explain Bane as a villain. Did it weaken and deflate Bane as a villain? Of course, but after the chilling and Oscar winning potrayal of the Joker, it was best not to even attempt a villain of that calliber. Miranda and Bane were not the true point of the third movie anyhow. The movie was a story of the fall and rise of a man, just a man, who inspired an ideal in a city full of enemies. Happy to see Batman end his reign, I was left with the strong desire to see the fantastic Joseph Gordon-Levitt take on the role of Robin/Batman in a new series, taking on enemies with a fresh sense of justice and mercy.
The Mindy Project, a new Fox show coming this Fall and starring Mindy Kaling (The Office) as a doctor and generally quicky gal with a slew of unique friends and relationships can't seem to avoid comparisons to New Girl. Zooey Deschanel has her own brand of awkward adorable comedy, which wouldn't survive without the comedy of the boys she lives with New Girl. While it's a compliment for The Mindy Project to be compared to a successful and often hilarious show, I'd argue that after watching the trailer for The Mindy Project, the characters and tones of the shows couldn't be further apart. Just because both protagonists are "quirky" and starring on Fox shows doesn't mean they are dopplegangers. The Mindy Project looks more like a romantic comedy of the Bridget Jones meets a much less drama-filled Grey's Anatomy. New Girl has morphed into a buddy comedy full of outrageous and silly moments. It's wonderful that more than one show features a memorable female lead, but lets not be idiots and say that means they are the same. I'll check out The Mindy Project, but I'll do it without immediatey trying to diagram the similaries to New Girl.
|Captain J.J. Abrams and his Star Trek Crew|
We live in an age where nothing is kept secret for long. Footage of movies gets leaks out online, that annoying kid in Barnes and Noble screams the ending of Harry Potter, and sites are dedicated to sharing spoilers for shows, movies, books, and any other form of media you can imagine. I'll admit that sometimes I like knowing things ahead. It's a powerful and addictive thing, but it often robs me of the fun of being surprised. That is why, for now, I'm alright with not knowing very much about Star Trek 2, the answer to J.J. Abram's phenomenal deep space adventure. Abrams is big on the old school notion of not revealing all of his story's secrets. His secretive tactive made Super 8 much more powerful and unique, sending the audience to a simplified, less over-stimulated and informed experience. When watching the first Star Trek, I didn't know what to expect and was utterly impressed. The movie reaffirmed my geeky love of Abram's works, making me trust his stories and enjoy not knowing how they would end. I am excited about fresh blood like Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) coming to play in the new movie, but for now, I'll simply accept that he may or may not play the main villain of the movie. Okay fine, I am not promising I won't spoil secrets eventually, for now, I trust that Star Trek 2 will be a great experience, and made even better by not knowing. Here's hoping I can make it until May 2013.
While we can only hope no one names their child Katniss because of The Hunger Games phenomenon, The Guardian claims that archery is cool again because of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire whose deadly aim empowers and protects her in the deadly games. According to the article, young people, especially girls, are expressing interest in the sport, inspired by Katniss. I think it is a great surge for the sometimes overlooked sport, however, I'd say Katniss isn't the only one contributing to the trend. The Avengers brought us Hawkeye, Brave starred Merida, and who can deny the incredible skills and ultimate cool of Legolas in Lord of the Rings. Katniss may be a leader in the archery trend, but she's flanked with other bows and arrows. At this rate, archery may be the new vampires, penguins, and zombies, all of which have appeared all over pop culture. There's room for more than one arrow after all.
A year after Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan and his writing partner Jonathan Nolan brought us another movie from their bag of tricks. The Prestige, a film about dueling magicians striving to out wit and out trick the other, never received the attention of Nolan's Batman movies or Inception, but it deserved every bit as much notice. Starring Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier, a great showman who blames his former friend and fellow magician Alfred Bordan (Batman himself Christian Bale) for the death of his wife, the movie plays like an elaborate magic trick. It wouldn't be a Nolan movie if the great Michael Cane didn't appear as a wise sage providing wisdom to the obsessive and crazed. In the movie, Bordan hones the perfect trick, spurring Angier to furiously seek the root of the trick and to do it better. Angier and Bordan go on to fight a vicious and often deadly battle for near immortal power, both sacrificing their lives to their craft and to each other. Of course, the movie has a handful of heady twists that Nolan fans have come to know and love. For Batman and Nolan lovers, what is most interesting about The Prestige is how echoes how Nolan works. As The Prestige says, when an audience watches a magic trick, they look to see how its done, but they don't really want to know. That would ruin the magic of it. The same could be said of all of Nolan's movies. We go to them, knowing they will baffle and amaze, surprise and stump, but we don't really want to know everything. It is better not to, so we can appreciate the magician and his tricks. If you havn't seen the trick of The Prestige, prepare to be amazed, and watch very closely.
Friday, July 27, 2012
John Carter was not the horrible movie it was painted to be. Period. It had a huge 250 million dollar budget, and barely broke even. In this sense, it failed to be the big blockbuster it aspired to. However, if you ignore the failure loving media and just watch the movie, you may just find you enjoy the very ambitious space adventure. The story originated from the author of Tarzan, and has been said to inspire many famous sci-fi works since its creation. Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) takes on the role of the hardened Civil War veteran who suddenly finds himself flung into a war on Mars, complete with new, otherworldly powers. Kitsch plays the role with confident southern swagger, and though the story is occasionally a little cheesy and odd, it is entertaining. Isn't that the point? For a movie to entertain. I say, give Carter a chance on dvd/bluray. You may find you enjoy it more than the media let you believe.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
|That's one Happy Ginger|
The Olympics just got more ginger. Rupert Grint, of Harry Potter fame donned his running shoes in Middlesex University, and jogged with the Olympic torch in hand. Grint admitted he wasn't exactly a running enthusiast, but would you be, if you were used to floo powder travel? While I'd rather have a wand than an Olympic torch, it is still a pretty cool honor for a mere muggle. Anyhow, it was a great day for gingers. Isn't the torchfire ginger anyways? Way to be the Chosen One for the day Ron! Carry that torch high and proud.
Community, starring Joel McHale. I wish I could shrink and carry McHale in my pocket to tell me snarky jokes about pop culture. Even so, I never really got into the show. Then again, I didn't give it much of a chance. When Community debuted in 2009, I watched the first episode. Pilots for great dramas are usually the show at their best (see Alias, Lost...). Pilots for comedies however, are usually less surefooted and have yet to perfect their comedic tone and characters. The pilot for Community introduced McHale as the slightly unlikable Jeff, a lawyer whose education is called to question, forcing him to return to community college, where he meets and befriends a unique group of fellow students. I wasn't sold on the first episode, and as I was actually in college at the time, I didn't give the show another chance. I will now admit I think I made a mistake. According to reviews and critics, Community has morphed into a hilarious off-hilter show which breaks comedy molds and delivers fresh humor every week. Community may not have a huge audience, and was recently moved to the dreaded showkiller Friday timeslot, but it's followers are loyal. It wins save a show awards as it riffs/celebrates everything from Doctor Who to Batman. With three seasons on his show diploma and a shortened fourth season on the way, Community had a few changes this year when the show creator left and the fourth season was shortened. I may still have to put in some time and serve my community by giving Community a second chance before the fourth season debuts.
|Sherlock: The Clear Winner|
Sherlock has made a comeback in a big way. Then again, to have a comeback, you have to have left, and Sherlock Holmes has never really been off the minds of his fans since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first created the crime solving agent for good. The man has inspired countless movies, shows, and books. With a new show cleverly titled Elementary and set in modern day New York City in the works for the new television season, Sherlock has also dominated the big screen with Robert Downey Junior's sleuth. Elementary stars Johnny Lee Miller as the famed detective and Lucy Liu (an egad female!) as Joan Watson. It isn't the first time the stories and characters of Sherlock Holmes' world have been changed. House, which recently closed its curtains, focused on the Sherlock-like relationship between House and his best and arguably only friend Wilson. The real question is, is there room for Elementary, when a truly masterful Sherlock is on bbc and pbs? Benedict Cumberbatch plays Holmes with acidic power in the Steven Moffat run and aptly named Sherlock, with Martin Freeman (Bilbo in the upcoming Hobbit movies) playing his war veteran best friend Watson. The show is set in modern London, and has become an international hit with its two short, three episode seasons. The show honors traditions and arch-enemies like Moriaty while adding new flavor and hightened humor and danger. In short, it is my favorite of the giant Sherlock empire. I appreciate the Sherlock movies, and can get sucked into an occasional episode of House, but Sherlock sticks and stands out above the rest. Perhaps Elementary's saving grace will be that it will be a normal, multi-episode show, whereas Sherlock runs more as a mini-series. I, like others who love Sherlock Holmes, will at least give it a good objective chance. Like a parent who has another kid, Sherlock fans will just have to let their hearts make room for another version of their favorite detective. Unlike a parent with another kid, if Elementary stinks, the fans can say goodbye.
A new Bourne movie seems about due. It is one of those rare premises that actually merits a reboot. It makes sense that there would be more agents like Matt Damon's Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner of The Hurt Locker and Avengers fame seems like the perfect fit for a new story, playing the almost comically cool Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy. It's hard to imagine being mocked on the playground for that name. The always great Rachel Weiss and Edward Norton round out the players in the new game. Coming out in 14 days, the movie is set to continue the Bourne success. The marketing for the movie has been good except for one little detail. One of the characters explains Cross as another part of the Bourne legacy by saying that "Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceburg." I don't know about you, but I can't help but laugh at the cheesy, overused cliche just a little. It calls to mind school posters and James Cameron movies. It could have been better and clearer for them to just say that he was just the beginning. Hopefully the rest of the writing will be worthy of Jason Bourne action. It be a shame for The Bourne Legacy to hit an iceburg when it has such promise. Check out the trailer here:
When I saw a trailer for the movie Safety Not Guaranteed, my two immediate thoughts were: I'd like to see that, and I'll have to wait. The movies premise is based on an actual (albeit prank) newspaper wanted ad asking for a person to travel time with. In the movie Darius (Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation) is a young reporter sent to investigate (mock) Kenneth, the writer of the time travel ad played by Mark Duplass. After befriending him, Darius becomes less convinced Kenneth is crazy and more convinced he may truly be a time traveler after all. The movie seems to possess a quirky heart, but unfortunately, unless you live in a large city, the movie has yet to come your way. I will happily rent the movie when released on dvd/bluray, but would have paid for a ticket if it had ever come out in my town. Today with gorilla campain marketing, there has got to be a way to get more first run indie movies into smaller towns. Until then, some movies simply aren't guaranteed. Independent film lovers need to rally together, or wait it out patiently.
There is buzz of The Hobbit, the highly anticipated companion to Lord of the Rings, being turned into three movies instead of two. According to reports, Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit has access to J.R.R. Tolkien's notes, though the extent of new story content is unclear. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is due in theaters December of 2012, with the sequel, There and Back Again, coming 2013. Viewers are quick to smell a cash grab and are protective of their favorite stories, but may be more accepting of the creator of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson has afterall, already taken liberties in adding characters and information to Tolkien's immense fantasy world. For now, The Hobbit is still a two movie event. Would you be interested in a third movie?
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Steven Moffat is the man behind the curtain of the beloved Doctor Who and Sherlock, both as a writer and show runner. Fans of either show know he is willing to kill characters, twist stories with Nolan flair, and terrify and devastate viewers in a single episode. Anytime he writes an episode of Doctor Who, viewers know they are in for a wild and dangerous ride. Many of facebook and pinterest memes curse Moffat for killing characters and scaring viewers. Go on Moffat's twitter and he says he is weary of negative mean people posting comments. I say, stop bullying Steven Moffat for taking risks for the sake of storytelling and character development. Just ask J.R.R. Martin if characters sometimes need to die for the sake of the story. Moffat, go on Moffating. Doctor Who and Sherlock are bolder and better because of you.
Everyone and their grandmother are watching Downton Abbey, the Brit import that plays in ad-free bliss on PBS. The first season follows the drama of the enormous Grantham Estate, run by the Earl and Countess. Their three daughter, Lady Mary the eldest and savviest, Lady Edith the underappreciated middle girl, and Lady Sybil, the rebellious class-breaker, all contribute to the drama and intrigue as the rights to the estate are called to question after the rightful heir dies in the Titanic. Matthew Crawley, a distant cousin, suddenly gains the right to everything once the Earl dies. The always fantastic Maggie Smith adds hilarious quips on wealth, class, and changing times along the way as the clan's fiesty grandmother. The drama follow the romances and estate fights of the elite while also depicting the drama and adventures of the staff of Grantham. Though the first season was a riveting escapist journey, the second season raised the stakes, setting the Crawleys in WWI chaos. Matthew fought in the wet trenches as Mary suffered from her growing love for him. Sybil learns what she wants from life and goes for it, and the servants find themselves in the middle of a murder scandal.
As the third season is set in the aftermath of the war, I cannot help but wonder if it will live up to the drama and emotional power of the second season. New characters, including Shirley Maclaine will add new blood to the show. If the third season is half as moving as the second season, it stands to be must see Brit television that Americans can really get behind. Watch the absolutely beautiful trailer for season 2 here.
It was recently announced that NBC ordered several episodes of Dracula, set in the 1800's and flanked with producers of Downton Abbey. With The Tudor's Jonathan Rhys Meyers set to play the notorious and ancient vampire, the show is bent on going back to the root of the vampire phenomenon. I'm interested to see the tone and focus of the show, considering it is the ultimate vampire story. Will it take on the dark twisted humor of True Blood, the dramatic mystery and peril of Vampire Diaries, or will it create and original origin tale. Meyers, who played Henry the Eighth with dangerous charisma, is certainly equipped to take on a new legend. I may not stick around forever, but I'd like to taste a bit of Dracula's new story when he comes out to play.
The best shows are not always the shows with the most attention, advertisement, and hype. Instead, sometimes shows grow in popularity from good old fashioned word of mouth. Happy Endings, an abc comedy that debut in 2011 is such a show. The first episode set the show around a group of six friends in Chicago dealing with the aftermath of a failed wedding between two of them (played by Elisha Cuthbert and Zachary Knighton). After a few episodes of awkwardness, the show evolved into a more modern Friends comedy. Fresher and zanier than most of its comedy competition, Happy Endings is made of true characters, each one with their own set of quirks and flaws. This past May, the second season ended with the characters come together amidst a male Madonna tribute band. In one memorable first season episode, Penny (Casey Wilson), a hilarious serial dater tries her very best to date a man with the unfortunate name of a former dictator and all around evil man. The characters and craziness of the show make you want to be a part of their lives, which is all any good comedy in a post-Friends T.V. world should do. Still a bit of an underdog compared to the Modern Family and Big Bang Theory television comedies, Happy Endings may be an underdog, but it's no purse dog. It's an underdog with a lot of bite.
. Go into any Walmart store and you can pick up J.R.R. Martin's brick sized paperbacks for his A Song of Ice and Fire series line the small bookshelves. With HBO now finished with its second successful season of Game of Thrones, named for A Song of Ice and Fire's first novel, Game of Thrones has grown in success. With five published books in the medieval and mystical drama of warlords and dragon queens jockeying for their seat on the iron throne, the series shortest novel is around 800 pages, with each book growing in size and character number. Martin does an excellent job developing morally ambiguous characters with both good and evil in them and successfully mixes fiction and fantasy with realism in his very adult series. Why even Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly) jokingly bullies Martin for the next books in the series.
I began reading the series just after the first season of the show was released on dvd/bluray and was quickly engrossed. However, after reading the first novel and watching the first series, I found myself floundering in the second book. Knowing that I had four more long books to finish and that two more have yet to come out, I started to feel over-committed to the series. I had to take a break from the world of Game of Thrones. In a generation of too much stimulation, it is hard for even the most committed readers to stick to a long series. I'm sure I'll return to the world of Daenerys Taragaryen and Tyrion Lanniester (played on the show with flair by the award winning Peter Dinklage). I just hope I can weather the long read, and that its worth it. What popular books/shows have you tried to stick to but never fully managed?
Monday, July 23, 2012
The It Crowd, a British import about the misadventures of Moss (Richard Ayoade of The Watch), Roy (Chris O'Dowd of Bridesmaids), and their relations manager Jen (Katherine Parkinson) who all work in the lowly It department of a large company. Moss and Roy are fantastic at telling people to turn their computers off and on again, but not so good with anything else. Jen, on the other hand, thinks the internet is a giant brick but knows her way around a party. The show creates hilarious caricatures of people and situations in the British office. Mocking everything from musicals to Windows Vista, The It Crowd was almost Americanized. The U.S. tried and failed to remake it for a U.S. audience with Joel McHale as Roy. As much as I love McHale, it is an insult to the American audience to think we can't appreciate the original version. It is remarkably and absurdly hilarious, particularly because of Moss, a character with as much awkwardness as The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon and a lot of heart. His delivery of every single line is a lesson in comedic timing. Watch a few episodes on Instant Netflix, and I dare you to not end up marathoning the series and wishing for a cross over with Moss and Sheldon.
With a tremulous voice, Anne Hathaway announces the return of Les Miserables to the screen, this time in an adaptation that includes the music of the insanely popular musical. Singing I Dreamed a Dream, a song recently popularized by Britain's Got Talent's Susan Boyle, Hathaway plays the tragic and brief Fantine, who gives her child to Jean Valjean, a former criminal played by the always entertaining Hugh Jackman. Les Mis is set in the French Revolution and encompasses the story of Valjean's redemption and his rivalry between Javert (Russell Crowe), the police inspector who tracks him down in his new life. Tragic and beautiful, it is a powerful story made even richer with haunting music.
Hathaway's character is arguably not a huge part of the story, though her desperate act sets the stage for Jackman's story. It is a fitting and emotional introductory trailer and song, with just enough despair and hope. Directed by Tom Hooper, whose movie The King's Speech won best picture, Les Mis is on track to be a fantastic movie. If it is half as good as the trailer suggests, I say, bring on the misery, for we may just enjoy it!
Today Daniel Radcliffe, also known as The Boy Who Lived, turns 23. In Harry Potter's world, this is practically middle-aged. Harry had already defeated Voldemort many times and finally does him in by the time he is 17. It makes graduating from high school by 17 and college by 21 look downright lazy. Harry's parents were 21 when they died, and had already been a part of the Order of the Phoenix and had Harry. Granted, the actors who play Harry's parents look 45, which makes me feel a bit better about myself. According to the timeline of the books, Snape and Lupin should both be significantly younger than the actors who play them, but I will NEVER say that anyone but Alan Rickman should be Snape. I guess then, age isn't what matters in Harry Potter. Dumbledore squandered his youth but redeemed himself as an old man. Harry lived when he was just a baby. The point isn't age, but what you do with the days you are given. I do however, wish the Boy Who Will Always Be Harry Potter a happy birthday.
There are some books that have an almost mythical power to bring you to another world. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is such a tale. The story is set in a chilly November on an island with strange and untamed water horses. Every year, men compete in the Scorpio Races, a horse race around the beach. The catch is, if the horses touch the water, they turn into beasts and may just drag their rider into the water to die. Kate "Puck" Connolly becomes the first girl to compete in the races, and on an ordinary horse no less. She must fight for her place on the beach and for her life among the water horses. Along the way, she befriends Sean Kendrick, a fellow rider whose heart is with the horses and the sea as much as Puck's is.
The book was staggeringly original and fresh amid the deluge of urban fantasy novels and rich with setting, characters, and island lore. In movie form, it's dangerous tone and mythical atmosphere would translate brilliantly. If you are a fan of The Hunger Games, or any of Kristen Cashore's books, you will revel in discovering this chilly story that makes legend real. When The Scorpio Races is made into a movie, I'll race you there.
I pre-ordered the first Hunger Games book before it was released in 2008. I heard the premise and was immediately sold on the concept of a dystopian America where the Capital echoed Rome of the past, colossal human battles included. Every year after, I devoured the books, loving the first two, and liking the third. Before the release of the first movie, I was excited to the point where I bought the soundtrack before it was released. Jennifer Lawrence seemed like a good fit for Katniss, as did Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. Watching the movie, I enjoyed the behind the scenes of the game and appreciated Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Bank's chemistry as Haymitch and Effie. Along with everyone and their mother, I cried with Katniss as she honored Rue and I bit my nails as they battled tributes. Still, I wasn't as emotionally connected to the movie as I was to the book. It didn't stick with me as much. I am not in the camp that always thinks the book is better than the movie. I will admit I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies more than the books in a heartbeat. Why then is The Hunger Games less meaningful to me in movie form, even when all of the actors did well and the story was told well? The only reasonable explanation I can come to is that The Hunger Games book was told completely in the immediate mind of Katniss. It buried the reader in her fight for her life and for the lives of those she so readily loved. The movie could never achieve this level of first person narrative. It wasn't meant to. All of the hype around the movie somehow made be anticipate the same experience I had reading the book in the theater, but they are two very different arenas. Jennifer Lawrence did an absolutely wonderful job in a very high pressure role, carrying the movie and inhabiting Katniss with the grace, kindness, and fierceness we've come to expect from her.
The movie was good, the book was great, and I am still excited for the future of Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the future. We can all celebrate the books and movies as a part of the utterly riveting story Suzanne Collins created.
Doctor Who was not a love at first watching for me. I watched the 2005 season's first few episodes, and was left confused and not overly committed to it. However, BBC-America played a more recent episode featuring Matt Smith as the Doctor, and I found myself utterly hooked. It featured Weeping Angels, creatures who were frozen whenever looked on by a living thing, but deadly killers if you even blinked your eyes. With renewed interest, I set to watching the reboot of 2005 featuring Chris Eccleston as the Doctor, a powerful and ancient timelord who travels through time and space to help the humanity he so desperately wants to be a part of, befriended humans and fighting off creatures along the way. It is both big and epic and simple and silly all at once.
Children and adults love Doctor Who in Great Britain. The love has grown in America as well, with thousands flocking to Comic Con to catch a glimpse of Matt Smith and his human companions. If you are a Doctor Who newbie, I'd recommend starting with Season 5 of the reboot, which is when Matt Smith takes over as the Doctor. It is rather self-contained and easy to pick up from there. If you become hooked, go back to Eccleston and Tennant, or even further back. The Doctor travels through space and time in the Tardis, a spaceship shaped like an old-school police box. It is, as the show loves to point out, "bigger on the inside." I'd argue that the show itself is much, much bigger on the inside.
Check out the trailer for Season 5 here.
To say that Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy was huge is an understatement. Lord of the Rings took over the world, making moviegoers into Gollums caressing their movie stubs. I was eleven when The Fellowship of the Rings came out, and can to this day remember regaling the details of the movie to my friends on the playground. It took over for several years, until it ended with an Oscar winning Return of the King.
This December, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey offers LOTR lovers the story of Bilbo's adventures before Frodo ever touched the Ring of Power. Martin Freeman, known by anglophiles as Dr. Watson in BBC's brilliant Sherlock re-imagining fills the rather large shoes of Bilbo. I never latched onto The Hobbit book like I did to LOTR, but I will take whatever I can get. My only concern comes from the scale and scope of the story. Whereas Lord of the Rings raised the stakes, endangering all of its characters and putting all of Middle Earth in mortal peril, the Hobbit is a lighter adventure with lesser stakes. On Jackson's video diaries, he said as much, though he did not act as though it would lessen the movies. It will be wonderful to be back in Middle Earth, and to reunite with Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, and of course Gollum, as well as new characters played by actors like Richard Armitage of North and South and Aiden Turner of the BBC's Being Human fame. Watch either on Instant Netflix and get excited about the fresh blood.
Peter Jackson created a masterful trilogy from Tolkien's works. I have faith that he can meet the high standard he set and create another journey in The Hobbit, which is split into two movies. After controversy and long delays, The Hobbit is coming soon, and I can think of no better leader than Jackson to bring it with a bang worthy of Middle Earth. He may be only a man, but I'd say he'd got honorary hobbit feet.
"I don't care, I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me."-Firefly Song IntroIt was a random day on Netflix when I stumbled across Firefly. Firefly is the kind of show that should have lasted ten seasons. It should have gone through a creative slump somewhere in season three or four only to turn around and become genius once gain. It got one season and a movie instead. Created by the geek-approved Joss Whedon, Firefly follows Captain Mal, played by Castle's Nathan Fillion, in the aftermath of a war with a universe alliance. Mal takes odd jobs in even stranger places and planets, taking his spaceship Serenity with him. A runaway girl stows away on the ship, causing all kinds of chaos for Mal and the crew on Serenity. When I set out to watch Firefly, I meant to watch one episode. Instead, I was sucked into the space western, which draws from classic John Wayne and Star Trek equally, throwing in comedy for good measure.
From the opening, when Jack faced the devastation of Oceanic Flight 815's crash to the final moments when Jack's eyes closed on the island, Lost was an absolute experience. Even in its weaker moments (I'm looking at you season 2), it combined intricate storytelling with complex characters and a mythology of its own. Just as you thought one mystery was uncovered, a new one emerged, and just as one "ultimate" villain was revealed, a new one bigger and badder crept into Lost. Just as you pegged someone one way, they were revealed in a new and clearer light. Just as you thought you were in the present, you were in the past,you were in the future, you were in another world.
Using Jack's "live together, die alone," motto, Lost was about flawed characters and love above all else. Just try not to cry thinking of Charlie's sacrifice, or Jin and Sun's evolving love, or of Jack's final moments with Vincent the dog. Everyone had favorite characters. I couldn't help but love the creepy/intriguing Ben Linus and the jumbled/genius of Daniel Faraday. Everyone had...not so favorite characters. Ana Lucia anyone? Lost didn't always make its fans happy. The finale shook its fan base, splitting opinions. Even still, none can deny its lasting impact.
No other show that I can think of turned a single prolonged piano note into the scariest sound on television. No other show required almost religious viewing to even hope to understand what was going on. Not only does it stay on the minds of its collective fans, but it also stands tall and ominous as the standard for new high concept television shows. Thus far, no show has been able to handle the pressure.
FlashFoward, a show about the world seeing glimpses of the future, crashed and burned despite initial excitement. Jericho only lasted a few seasons, which is better than The Event, Terra Nova, and The River, which each only survived a season. The shows ranged in quality in both storytelling and character development, but none stood well next to Lost. It can be argued that the standards and expectations are too high for these high concept stories, but shouldn't it be? Truly profound landmark shows are rarities. Sadly however, many of these shows could have developed into almost Lost worthy stories if they were given the chance. Many shows were squashed very early if they didn't maintain high ratings for the high concept. Lovers of Lost, including myself, are given a whiplash as viewers and are hesitant to commit to any of the new attempts at Lost-like grandeur, fearing they'll be canceled before any mysteries are solved. No one wants to love something that will get snatched away so quickly.
Even so, I have the Lost hope that a great and epic show is out there to fill a the hole left in Lost's wake. I keep giving shows a chance, especially if J.J. Abrams, the MAN behind Lost, Alias, Super 8, and of course the reboot of Star Trek, is attached. I keep getting burned by cancelled shows, but I can't help myself. I have hope that there is a show like Lost, somewhere out there, probably in the mind of Abrams.
The newest hope can be found in Revolution, a show about all power shutting down in the world, leading to a brave new world order. The trailer looks promising, with wild explorers meets the future themes.Watch it here: Revolution I think, even knowing the fear of a high concept/high anticipation, I can't resist the hope. After all Lost lovers, if we don't watch together, the shows will die alone.