“AND THERE SHALL COME AN ANT-MAN!” – Cadillac Jack Goes Mano-a-mano with his Inner Child Over the Merits of Marvel’s Latest Masterpiece, and the Verdict? Everybody Wins (Mostly)!
What’s the most telling indicator of what makes a great movie? The way you feel while you watch it; sitting there in the dark clutching your popcorn and jujubes as the film washes over you in all it’s IMAX 3D Technicolor glory, or later, when you lie awake in the night, watching the movie spool out again against the backs of your eyelids while you play armchair director in the quiet of your own head? That’s the dilemma I faced this past weekend as I weighed Marvel’s twelfth film, the final film in its Phase Two story-telling, Ant-Man and found it to be both perfect and wanting in equal measure.
As I emerged from the theatre and into the daylight this past Friday, I wrote the following text to your popGeezer, expressing my adolescent enthusiasm for what I had just seen:
Ant-Man is amazing! Really solid from beginning to end. As good asanything Marvel has ever made. I would put it right up there withAvengers one and Winter Soldier. You’re going to love it!
And as I continued walking to my car, still operating on the auto-pilot set by my inner twelve year old, I amended that statement to say Ant-Man was not only as good as The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but also Guardians of the Galaxy and the first Iron Man. Putting it mildly, I’d had a thoroughly wonderful time at the movies and was pumped up about it. Nothing wrong with that, and I’m certainly as entitled to my opinion as the next guy, right? But…what if my opinion doesn’t quite stay my opinion?
Before going any further, let me state categorically that I’m not one of those people whose enjoyment of a movie or TV show is slanted toward or influenced by the people around me. My opinions are my own and I take responsibility for them. That said, however, no man is an island and I like to think of myself as open-minded enough to accept that other people have a point and its okay to incorporate their insights into my own if I agree. I don’t usually read reviews of movies if I know I’m going to be writing about the same movie (although I did read a largely positive review of Ant-Man in Variety a couple of weeks ago-just being honest), but I do read a number of movie-related websites; io9.com, blastr.com, eonline.com, among many others and on those websites, I read articles and interviews and fanboy expectations of upcoming movies, so my headspace going into any film is hardly virginal. And as I went about the rest of my day, still chugging along on the adrenaline of Ant-Man and trying to decide what I would write about and how I would write it, a number kept coming to mind; a number that made my brow furrow in consternation and doubt fill my brain: 75%.
75% is the Freshness rating Ant-Man had on the Rotten Tomatoes website going into the weekend. That means that while three quarters of the reviews hailed the film, one quarter of them did not and since I had already grouped Ant-Man in with films whose Freshness ratings were in the nineties-often the high nineties-something didn’t make sense and like a dog with a new bone, my febrile mind just wouldn’t let it alone.
Part of the reason for the negativity, I rationalized, could just come from the fact that it’s Ant-Man. Hardly one of Marvel’s more marquee stars, Ant-Man is a hero that requires you to embrace it’s rather silly premise (he’s a guy who can shrink down to microscopic size, but still beat the crap out of people!) from the jump and maybe a lot of folks just couldn’t do that. Maybe their willing suspension of their disbelief just couldn’t be stretched that far. Still, Iron Man was hardly a household name when his first film debuted and the movie-going public embraced him whole-heartedly, so what was the difference?
The difference, I realized upon further thought, is that Iron Man was the first purely Marvel movie (yes, the X-Men and Spider-Man movies came before Iron Man, but Iron Man was the first movie Marvel had made itself) and Ant-Man is the twelfth. Maybe the film is just a victim of the over-saturation of the super hero market and the public is growing jaded about its costumed adventurers and what it takes to make them work. Could that be it? Both ideas had their merits and I’m sure factor in to one degree or another, but I felt I was still missing something. That there was something about the movie itself others were seeing that my inner adolescent and I had not. Normally, I don’t let these differences of opinion bother me, but this time I couldn’t let it go, so I got out my list.
That’s right, I have a list of what it takes to make a movie work. It’s a mental list that I keep tucked out of the way in a dark, unused corner of my brain, somewhere in between the phone numbers of old girlfriends and the answers to my Lost in Space trivia questions (How many times did the Robot actually say, “Danger, Will Robinson?”) and I use it to keep myself honest and judge all movies I review by the same basic rule of thumb. Currently it was folded up like the Origami Fortune Teller game used in the opening credits of Community, so I unfolded it, dusted off the crumbs and wiped away a left-over shmear of Nutella and took a look. It’s a broad, simple list really and not hard to answer:
- Is the movie well-written? Is its internal logic consistent and does it make sense? Yes. The story was clear and the characters’ goals were straight-forward and clearly stated. The Hero Arc was clean and uncluttered and moved at an appropriate, easy-to-understand pace. The good guys were obviously good guys and the bad guys were obviously bad (which is what you want for what is basically, Marvel’s first stab at a family movie). There were no noticeable discrepancies or inconsistencies between Edgar Wright’s original script and the additions made by Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd.
- Is the movie directed well? Do artsy angles and fancy camera moves or special effects interfere with the story? Yes to the first part and No to the second. The film, directed by Peyton Reed (Yes Man, The Break Up), is well directed, especially the scenes where Ant-Man is miniaturized and working against the much larger “real world.” The effects are top notch and, being a much smaller story than say, Avengers or Captain America: Winter Soldier, allows for a much less frenetic directing style that seems to suit Reed well.
- Is the movie well-cast and do the performances seem genuine? Yes and yes. Paul Rudd (Anchorman, Role Models) is an unlikely super-hero, but he is also the perfect choice to play a character like Ant-Man. With his charm and boyish twinkle, he brings a glee to the proceedings I don’t think many other actors could have managed. Like Iron Man before him with the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Marvel was smart enough to cast the perfect guy as Scott Lang and then not try to change him into something else. This is Rudd’s movie and a good 80% if its success is in his hands. As for the other casting, Michael Douglas (Fatal Attraction) makes for a grounded Hank Pym who makes the whole idea of “Pym Particles” and shrinking a man down to the size of an ant seem realistic and reasonable. Evangeline Lilley (Real Steel, Lost) is also effective as Pym’s daughter, Hope and will make a good Wasp in the next film should she be called to put on the helmet and Corey Stoll (House of Cards, The Strain) is good with what little he gets as Pym’s embittered mentee, Darren Cross, AKA Yellowjacket.
- Are the characters three-dimensional and do they go beyond their cookie-cutter stereotypes? Oops. Here it is. Here’s the reason for the 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and why the film came in at $58 million its opening weekend when everyone expected $60-65 million. Ant-Man, while fun and exciting and the best thing my inner child has seen in ages, comes up exceedingly short in the “heart department.”
From here on out, there be spoilers, matey…
You see, for all that Ant-Man is supposed to be a heist film masquerading as a comic book movie (or vice versa; I can never keep all that straight), it’s built on the back of the relationships between two fathers and their daughters. Rudd’s Scott Lang and his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and Hank Pym and his bitter daughter, Hope.
Scott and Cassie’s relationship is a bit better defined than Hank and Hope, but it’s still sketchy at best. You see, Scott was an employee (I think; its never made very clear) of a large corporate entity named Vista (or something like that) and Vista steals a bunch of money from it’s employees (the pension fund-it’s always the pension fund) and Scott takes it upon himself to steal it back. Apparently, Scott is a master hacker (we never see any evidence of this in the film, but okay) who broke through Vista’s supposedly impenetrable firewall and gave all the employees their money back. The only problem is, Scott gets caught and goes to jail, while his wife Maggie (Judy Greer, Jurassic World), who apparently doesn’t see the romance in Scott’s grand altruistic moment, dumps him, only to hook up with a cop, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale, Chef) and lose all faith in her ex. Cassie loves her daddy, which is strange since he’s been in jail for most of her life and how would she even know him, and wants him to be the Daddy she’s been dreaming of. Oh, and somehow Scott has all these crazy parkour skills even before becoming Ant-Man. Nobody tells us how, but the other impression you get from the film is that Scott was a Robin Hood-type villain who specialized in this sort of crime even before the Vista job, but that doesn’t match up with his home life or the story about him being a Vista employee, so I’m really confused. Either way, it was so poorly explained, I didn’t get it and I usually don’t miss stuff like that.
As for the Pyms, Hank worked for SHIELD back in the 80’s (hey, it’s Hayley Atwell everybody! Nobody told me Hayley Atwell was in this movie!) for whom he developed the Ant-Man technology in the first place, keeping the secret of those pesky “Pym Particles” to himself. Operating as the Ant-Man, Pym goes on secret missions with his wife Janet, aka The Wasp, who is lost on one such mission when she is forced to shrink down to the sub-atomic level and can’t come back. The official story is that she died in a plane crash, which daughter Hope never believes. When SHIELD tries to co-opt the Ant-Man tech away from Hank, he quits SHIELD and, according to Hope later in the movie, sends her off to boarding school, while he goes into seclusion to try to find a way to rescue his wife. Somewhere along the way, he also founds a billion dollar tech company, Pym Technologies, which, like Scott’s parkour abilities doesn’t make sense, but hey, we all grieve in different ways. Hope is so hurt and feels so betrayed by her father and his refusal to tell her what really happened to her mother (even after she knows about the Ant-Man tech, which doesn’t really make sense), that she helps Hank’s protégé, Darren Cross overthrow Hank and remove him from his own company. By the time the movie opens, however, she’s realized that her pal Darren is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and has enlisted her father in a plot to bring him down. Rather than heal their relationship, however, things only get more strained because Hank won’t let Hope wear the Ant-Man suit even though she’s much more proficient at using it than Scott is.
Of the two, the problems Scott/Cassie relationship are the easiest to recognize and the easiest to fix. Scott and Cassie simply don’t spend enough time together (in the movie) to make us invest in the bond they have with one another. Forgetting for a moment that he was in jail almost her entire life and that a mom like Maggie probably didn’t bring her on visiting day (hell, from the look of this, Maggie didn’t even come on visiting day), exactly what has Cassie been building this almost hero-like devotion to her dad on in the first place? And even if you accept that devotion sight unseen, as the film asks you to do, you only really get two Scott and Cassie scenes to get invested in and in one of those, Cassie is asleep! We are shown nothing of what Scott’s family life was like before he was arrested and most of what we’re told is vague and contradictory. We’re being asked to believe Scott is ready to change his whole life for his daughter, but that’s all we’re given; a thin plea on the part of the film-makers to buy into this relationship with very little evidence to support it.
The Hank/Hope dynamic is a lot more murky and hard to figure out. One assumes (again, we’re not shown and only barely told) that prior to Janet’s death, the Pym family was a haven of happiness and familial bliss. But once Janet dies and Hank won’t tell Hope how it happened (why she doesn’t believe the plane crash story is something else that wasn’t shared with us-just that she knew is wasn’t true), he retreats into his work and closes himself off to his daughter (and again, we only get Hope’s side of this; Hank never explains a damn thing) and ships her off to boarding school, their relationship hits the skids. Obviously, not completely, because Hope was sitting on the board of Pym Technologies when Darren Cross executed his take-over of the company (it was her vote that put her dad out of his own company!), but we’re told it’s pretty bad. And even though Hope has turned her back on Darren (a pattern with the men in her life, Dr. Freud? Hmmm, what do you think?) at the start of the film and joined forces with her father, she’s still not happy. She’s not happy about the cover-up over her mom’s death (and explain to me again, if Hope now knows about the Ant-Man tech, why is she still in the dark about how her mom died?), she’s not happy Hank turned his back on her, she’s not happy Darren went nutzo, she’s not happy that Scott gets to be Ant-Man…girl friend is just. Not. Happy.
Again, part of the problem is, we never get any look at what the Pyms were like before Janet’s death. Was it a happy family? Was it a happy marriage? We’re only left to assume and that makes it very difficult to root for reconciliation here. For me, the major problem with the Pym family storyline is that we never even get to see Janet! The only time she’s on-screen, she’s in The Wasp costume and that has a full helmet like the Ant-Man costume does. From a film-making standpoint, the reason for this is obvious; by the end of the film, Scott proves you can shrink down to a quantum level and return and the producers are planning to use that story thread to fuel Ant-Man 2 or 3 down the road and they don’t want to cast an actress yet, just in case something happens or they change their minds. I get it, but from a story-telling standpoint, it’s very difficult to invest in a suit and for us, that’s all Janet Van Dyne is; a suit. She never speaks, never emotes, nothing. Our total investment in her storyline is her sacrifice of herself to get the job done. That’s very admirable, but it doesn’t help us much. Investing in the Pym family dynamic as presented in Ant-Man is like the story of the blind men each trying to describe an elephant by only touching one part of it. You don’t get the whole picture.
And apparently, Hope is equally confused because once she finds out how her mother really died and why Hank doesn’t want her wearing the suit, she does a complete about-face character-wise and two seconds later gets caught kissing Scott behind a closed door, a development that was isn’t surprising but was never even hinted at!
Off the father/daughter thing for a second, but still on the subject of character development, you’ve got poor Darren Cross. Stoll does the best he can with a thinly-written character sketch of your basic stock comic book villain, but since they give us nothing to compare it to, his whole descent into madness thing just comes across as part and parcel of being the bad guy. Again, we’re told that Darren Cross was Hank’s protégé and that they had a very father and son relationship. We see nothing in the film to support that notion, but several people tell us it’s so, so it must be so. We’re told that Darren wants Hank to confirm the rumors about the Ant-Man project and the Pym Particles and is furious that Hank keeps it from him. Really? The guy has the run of a billion dollar company and gets pissed because his boss wants to keep one project for himself? ‘Sounds like ol’ Darren might have been a couple test tubes short of a lab from the get-go, doesn’t it? Like the character of Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, the Ant-Man team spends so much time building the rest of the movie that the villain almost seems like an after-thought; a piece of scenery instead of an actual, living person with their own goals and motivations.
Ultimately, the problem with Ant-Man is the same problem as any origin story. There’s just too much to accomplish to do justice to all of it. You have to introduce the hero and his back-story. You have to introduce the hero’s pre-origin challenge and show us how becoming a super hero will fix it. You have to introduce us to his friends and family and sidekicks and make us care and invest in each of them. You have to introduce the inevitable love interest and her story. THEN you have to have an origin; one that not only sets up our hero, but our villain and the ultimate conflict between them that will come to a head in Act Three as well. You also need to introduce the villain’s back-story and explain why he’s the bad guy and how his motivations differ from our hero’s. Oh, and in a Marvel movie, you have to make time for a couple of cameo appearances (Hi Hayley! Hi Falcon!) and to set up connections to other films in the shared universe. Whew! That’s a lot of housekeeping. It’s not hard to see why Edgar Wright bucked when Marvel came to him, several years into the writing and pre-production process, and asked him to hook his film up to the over-all MCU.
The long and the short of it is that if you sit back and let your inner twelve year-old drive, Ant-Man is a fast and funny thrill ride of a comic book movie with an appealing star and lots of great special effects and lots of Marvel Easter eggs. If you let the adult in you drive, then you’re going to enjoy the movie, but you’ll still get tangled up in some serious holes in the story and lack of character development that have made many of Marvel’s other heroes shine so brightly. To go back to my original text to your pG; instead of comparing Ant-Man to Avengers or Iron Man or Cap 2, you’d have to compare it to Thor or Cap 1 or Avengers 2. It’s still a really good movie, but it coulda’ been, shoulda’ been a great one.
“LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN!” Ah-nold is Back in a Brand New Terminator Film and the Best News is, This One Doesn’t Suck (Much)!
OK, to start off by answering the most important non-question of all, no, Terminator: Genysis isn’t anywhere near as good as the first Terminator movie or T2: Judgment Day. But it is worlds better than the absolutely disastrous T3: Rise of the Machines or the much-lamented Terminator: Salvation. However, keep foremost in your mind that it’s a popcorn movie; a big, chaotic cornucopia of blood and destruction and you need to let it just wash on over you and carry you away. If you spend too much time trying to pay attention to the intricacies of plot and story, you’ll find the whole thing has about as much substance as the emperor’s new clothes, which is to say, none at all. Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be), screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier realize you’re not going to get Das Boot out of an Ah-nold picture and duct tape the thing together just enough that you don’t hear it groaning under the weight of it’s own absurdity and just let it run.
To me, the best thing about Terminator: Genysis is it’s unwillingness to keep looking for new ways to wag the same dog. I watched the original Terminator just this morning for kicks and the one thing that struck me during the film was how that original sense of surprise is gone. In James Cameron’s film, we spent all of Act One and part of Act Two just trying to catch up with the story and figure out what the heck was going on. Who was Sarah Connor? Who was this Reese guy? Why was Arnold naked? Now, in 2015, the Terminator story is so embedded in our cultural consciousness that you could probably go to the lost jungles of Borneo or someplace, pop in on some old guy living in a grass hut, whip out a picture of Arnold with the metal cheekbones and the glowing red eye and still have to sit there for ten minutes while the old guy runs around yelling, “I’ll be back” at the top of his lungs. In Genysis, director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World, Game of Thrones) and crew don’t fall back on the same old same old. These guys are here to mix it up.
The movie starts off just as you’d expect. Judgment Day happened in 1997 and for the next forty-two years mankind has been embroiled in a hard-fought defense to save humanity from Skynet and the machines. The leader of the human rebellion is John Connor (Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) whose mother knew what was coming and trained him to fight the machines long before there were even machines around to fight. How did she know? See the first movie. Anyway, on the eve of human victory over the machines, Skynet sends a T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising the role that made him famous) back in time to kill a not even pregnant yet Sarah Connor (Emily Clarke, Game of Thrones) before John can ever be born. Quickly (even though he knew this was all going to happen for like, his whole life), John decides to send his right-hand man and future father (time travel, it’s crazy, right?), Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, A Good Day to Die Hard, the Divergent series) into the past after the Terminator to protect Sarah. So far, it’s just as we all remember…we are lulled…we are complacent…
Bam! Suddenly, something’s different. Just as Kyle is whisked away into the quantum mechanics of the time stream, Doctor Who’s Matt Smith (hey, everybody! The Doctor’s in a time travel movie!) wraps a burning hand around John Connor’s head, Connor screams and…fade out. But before we get to 1984 and the fun part of the movie, Kyle starts having memories of a past he hasn’t lived…a past where Judgment Day didn’t happen until 2017…oh my god, what does it mean?
Not much, at first. Arnold arrives back in 1984 in pretty much a shot-for-shot recreation of his arrival in the original film and Kyle comes in right behind him, again pretty much exactly like Michael Biehn did the first time around, but with slicker effects. I really hoped they were going to ask Bill Paxton (Titanic, Weird Science) to reprise his roles as the Juvenile Delinquent with the Mohawk, but no such luck. Still, the shot-for-shot tribute to the 1984 original continues as Arnie barters for clothes with his fists and Kyle breaks into a nameless department store to steal the exact same t-shirt and black Nike high tops with the Velcro strap he grabbed in the first film. Ah, serendipity…thy name is Alan Taylor. No wonder James Cameron loved this new movie so much! It’s exactly like the one he made!
Bam! Something’s different again! It’s a T-1000 with the liquid metal skin! How did he get here? Bam! Sarah’s here, but now she knows Kyle’s coming and what it means and Bam! She’s got her very own Arnold Terminator! Not the one that Kyle came back after, but another one that got sent back by somebody else to protect Sarah when she was nine, and dude is old! Holy crap! Sarah’s not even wearing Guess jeans! What is happening here??
Welcome to the conceit of Terminator: Genysis. That Matt Smith’s attacking John in the future somehow changed the past (don’t ask; you won’t like the answer) and everything that was old is new again! Old Arnold beat the crap out of Young Arnold before he ever even got his pants on and he’s out of it. The T-1000 vanishes pretty quickly as well (if they explained it, I don’t remember-sorry), Old Arnold is now called Pops and he’s a good guy and as for the villain of the piece…OK, I’m not going to tell. If you’ve seen the trailers, you already know what happens, but just in case you haven’t, we’ll leave that little tidbit for you to find out at the theatre.
The point of it is, I like the changes. Instead of trying to find new ways of re-hashing the same old story and fixing the same old timeline, T:Genysis just throws the baby out with the bathwater and re-sets from square one. The sequel (if there is a sequel) can go pretty much anywhere it wants to, which for a franchise as rode hard and hung up wet as the Terminator franchise is by now, that’s not a bad thing.
So, Cadillac…you like the changes in the story, but how about the changes in the cast? How did those work out for you? Not bad. Emily Clarke has a very Linda Hamilton vibe and with the fatigues and the machine gun (and without the awful 80’s shag haircut), she looks a lot like her too. She can pull off the action pretty well and is more than capable of rising to the few acting challenges a Terminator film has to offer. As for Jai Courtney as Kyle and Jason Clarke as John, I’ve never really been a big fan of either actor, but they do good work here (primarily running and jumping and shooting, but still). And a warm welcome to Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons (the first three Spider-Man movies, Whiplash) who gets shoe-horned into the story as a cop who survived the department store shoot-out with the T-1000 in 1984 to become the local cops’ version of a conspiracy nut in 2017. Thank god he’s signed for sequels; he will be back. As for Mr. Schwarzenegger, the O.G. Terminator himself, it seems the years and a couple of terms as the Governator of California have mellowed him a bit and he seems much more comfortable in his own skin. How weird is it that the most human performance in the whole friggin’ movie is coming from the guy who plays the freakin’ robot? I particularly like the bit where Arnie keeps asking Sarah if she’s mated with Kyle yet to insure John’s birth. Very cute. Very funny.
All in all, the whole thing runs pretty well til we get to Act Three and the whole thing just collapses into an endless loop of disaster porn. Unanswered questions: who sent Arnie back to Sarah when she was nine? How did a T-1000 get back to 1984? How come Arnie can build a time machine, but the guys at Cyberdine Systems can’t? With the upgrade he gets at the end of the movie, does Arnie also get a built-in cup holder? Some of these questions were certainly left for the sequels to deal with while other questions I’m sure will just be swept under the rug and forgotten about, because that’s the problem with action movies today. You start off trying to very carefully construct something that makes sense and has weight and consequence and as soon as $#!+ starts blowing up, it all goes out the window to make the twelve year olds happy. I love action, but whatever happened to those old wonderful, thoughtful SF movies full of big ideas and questions of morality, like 2001 or Silent Running? If you tried to make 2001 today, you’d never get it out of the pitch meeting unless you promised that all the monoliths were going to turn out to be bombs that were all going to go off in the middle of Act Three unless Bruce Willis somehow managed to save the day. Argh.
Anyway, like I said, Terminator: Genysis is a popcorn movie and in that sense it certainly succeeds. So far, it’s not doing as well over the Fourth of July weekend as expected, but after the underwhelming results of the last two installments it may take a couple of weeks of positive word of mouth to get the B.O. numbers up. T:Genysis is certainly a flawed film and there is more than enough room for improvement, but I hope they get a sequel. I’d really like to see where this story can go, now that the story can go, well…anywhere at all.
“Gloom, Despair And Agony On Me!” The 2015-16 TV Schedule is Announced, The Best Show on Broadcast TV Just Got the Axe, Sci-Fi Returns to SYFY and Did You Ever Stop to Think-Maybe Your Superhero is Just Not That Into You?
Well kids, it’s summer vacation and in between double-teaming some of the summer’s biggest movies with your popGeezer (it occurs to me that sentence may have come out wrong), it’s time once again to reach into the TV Grab Bag to see what bites back.
HANNIBAL GETS SERVED, BUT THE AUDIENCE GETS THE CHECK. I had planned to use this space to beg and plead with you all once again to watch Hannibal, the absolute best series now, or perhaps ever on a broadcast network, only to open my email yesterday to discover that they show has been cancelled three episodes into the third season (which began June 4th). The third season will continue to run it’s course. It is summer after all, what else are they going to do with the time slot-Celebrity Gardening? But there will be no fourth season. At least not on NBC.
Now, as much as I’d love to blame NBC for this travesty…I can’t. The Peacock has been extremely generous in giving wunderkind producer Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls) and Hannibal roughly two and a half more seasons than any other net would have given any other show, but despite that faith, coupled with a rabid fanbase, the Fannibals, if you will, the show just could never plug into that broad, generic TV audience that feeds the Broadcast Beast. On HBO or FX, Hannibal would run for years and years.
Maybe it will. In a statement released yesterday, The De Laurentiis Company, which produces Hannibal, said that they are “exploring other options for future seasons,” adding “others have expressed interest in partnering with us.”
God, I would love to see this show wind up on a cable net that would appreciate it and allow it to grow even beyond the loose boundaries imposed by NBC. It is so beautifully shot, so wonderfully staged and phenomenally written with performances from Hugh Dancy (Will), Laurence Fishburne (Jack), Caroline Dhavernas (Alanna), Gillian Anderson (Bedelia) and the incomparable Mads Mikkelson as Hannibal, that are so deep and insightful and just plain terrifying, that it feels like I’m actually in the room, sharing the danger of it all with them. Atmospheric and operatic; tragic and sublime, there is a moment coming in TV history this summer, folks. Hannibal is ending, and we shall not see its like again. [THIS JUST IN] In an interview this past weekend, Fuller said that the most likely winner in the Hannibal sweepstakes would be Amazon, since they have an already exclusive deal to run the three seasons of the show already produced. Netflix has apparently also expressed interest, but the Amazon deal is apparently going to keep that from being a possibility. No deals are in place yet (and may never be), but I’m definitely keeping my Amazon Prime account paid up.
YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW (SPOILERS!). OK, by now we all know that on the Game of Thrones season finale, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) was branded a traitor by his Night’s Watch brothers and stabbed repeatedly. And everyone is screaming at the top of his lungs that he can’t be dead. That he’s “my favorite character,” that he’s the only noble guy in the whole damn show, that he’s probably the son of a Targaryen and Ned Stark’s sister and the Ahor Azai of prophecy (and thus the reason for the whole damn show) or that we would forgive Melisandre for Shirren in a heartbeat if she’d just bring Jon back, but do you know I think is the best and most powerful argument for the fact that Game of Thrones is not finished with our tousle-headed Lord Commander? The fact that with Sam in Oldtown learning to be a Maester and with Jon (choke) gone, we no longer have anything that even vaguely resembles a POV character at the Wall. This is an important distinction to make because it’s been no real secret that while the rest of Westeros has fiddle-farted around trying to decide who would be King (or Queen-hi Dany), the real danger is the White Walkers invading the Seven Kingdoms from north of the Wall. Without a Point of View character like Jon Snow, who we care about and are invested in, how are we going to get that part of the story?
And lest you think the travails of the Night’s Watch may have ended, what do you think the Wildlings (who outnumber the Watch at least three to one) are gonna do once they realize the Crows killed the one guy who cared enough about them to try and save them? Yeah, I really want to see Tormen and Ser Allister hash that one out over tea and crumpets, don’t you?
Jon Snow lives. And even if he doesn’t, he should.
ALAS POOR DELPHINE, WE KNEW HER WELL. BUT WHAT WAS UP WITH THAT BUG? Well, if you saw the Orphan Black season finale (and if you didn’t, SPOILERS!), you know that the “sestras” found the original donor of both the Leda and Castor genomes and it turned out to be the same person. And that person turned out to be…Siobahn (Maria Doyle Kennedy)’s mother! Turns out mom ate her own twin in the womb (which they tell us happens more often than you’d think-Yech) and as such, has both a male and female strand of DNA, which the doctors Duncan used to build the original Leda and Castor programs from. And suddenly the Neolutionists showed by up, after laying low for a couple of seasons, to be the Big Bad after all, and Dyad (or at least Ferdinand-the always excellent James Frain) joined Team Clone to keep them from getting their hands on it.
We lost Paul (Dylan Bruce) this season and while the Castors (all played by Ari Millen) aren’t completely gone, they are certainly diminished at this point (did you SEE Helena take out Rudy? Priceless), but why did we have to lose Delphine (Evelyne Brochu)? Granted, she was getting more and more full-blown crazy pants every week, but she was a hell of a lot more interesting than the lovely Shay (Ksenia Solo), especially if Shay’s just a vanilla civilian and not some undercover spy for somebody somewhere. And then, of course, there’s pro-clone Rachel, who got a new eye, but is now being held prisoner by her foster mother, Susan Duncan and chumming around with her little “sestra” Charolette, a younger version of the Sarah/Cosima/ Allison/Rachel clone made from another batch by mysterious corporate dominatrix Miriam Bowles (Michelle Forbes). And what happened to Krystal, the new tenth clone (seriously, I thought there were only supposed to be nine)? And what the hell is up with that mouth worm thing Dr. Evil tried to force down Delphine’s throat? Talk about outta left field!
Just please…please tell me we get a scene next season where Krystal wakes up from wherever the hell she is to find five or six of her new “sestras” waiting to meet her. I can’t wait!
IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME. (Mild spoilers) Remember back in late April or early May when CBS announced they were greenlighting Greg Berlanti’s Supergirl series for the fall and debuted an extremely polished and well-made six minute trailer for the show? And do you remember how the internet fanboys freaked out to high heaven over the trailer saying that it looked like The Supervillain Wears Prada or some sort of ridiculous Kara Loves Jimmy rom-com, rather than a comic book show? Well, relax my children. Curl up in your favorite Super Friends blankie and ask Mom to deliver another tray of Cheetos and Root Beer down to the basement-ah, the Fortress of Solitude/Command Center (whatever)-and relax. The full HD pilot for the show leaked about a month ago and I’ve seen it and you have very little to worry about. Oh sure, there are lots of “girly” or rom-com-y frills added to the show, but 90% of them are in that trailer. The rest of the show is as straight up comic book/superhero action as Arrow or The Flash or Agents of SHIELD. In fact, it’s in those “comic book” moments that the show seems less sure of itself. Why did Superman dump his young cousin off on the Danvers and then never come around again (other than because WB won’t let Superman appear on TV anymore)? Why is he letting cousin Kara take on the entirety of the escaped Phantom Zone by herself without any more experienced help (see previous reason)? Supergirl has the same problem Smallville had; how do you have a Superman (or a Superman Family) show and not have Superman in it? An interesting question, and one surely worth talking about once the show premieres, but today, I want to talk about something else.
One of the main complaints I heard about the Supergirl trailer was how it wasn’t “comic book” enough for the fanboys. That the show couldn’t be a comedy or a rom com or whatever it was going to be and still be a super hero show. Really? Hasn’t Marvel proven almost the exact opposite of that to be the case? That a comic book movie can also be a buddy movie or a road movie or a 70’s spy movie or a heist movie? Is there any reason to believe that our comic book TV shows can’t be the same?
Listen, when I was a kid, there were maybe one or two sci-fi shows on TV every five years or so, and whenever one debuted, I watched it no matter how bad it was or how unbelievable, because it was a SCIENCE FICTION SHOW ON TV and I wanted to support it. And just as I watched the old George Reeves Superman show or the ’66 Batman carnival or Mr. Terrific with Wally Cox or The Greatest American Hero, I’ve made a concerted effort to watch all the superhero shows as well, since the Great Super Hero Resurgence began back in the 90’s with Lois and Clark and Heroes and dear old bloody Smallville, the show I love to hate to love. But then came The Cape and One Ordinary Family, super hero shows that were earnest, but just didn’t do it for me and suddenly, I realized that comic book shows had finally become just like sci-fi shows and cop shows and comedies and every other kind of show up and down the dial. Not every show is for everybody. Supergirl and Gotham and SHIELD (and poor old Constantine) are/were on major broadcast networks that live or die by the ratings. Not by the one and two million audience shares the CW trumpets, but the nine and ten and eleven million audience shares that network shows need to get by. HBO and Netflix don’t care as much how the audience fluctuates on Game of Thrones or Daredevil as long as subscriber numbers don’t fall, and on those premium channels, if you don’t like one show, chances are they have plenty of other shows and movies you do like, so one show is probably not going to cause someone to cancel their subscription. I don’t know if I’d call it a better model, but I’d certainly call it a stronger one, at least in terms of letting new programming grow and find an audience.
As I said, Supergirl is on CBS, perhaps the major network. As such, if it doesn’t pull an audience of around 8-10 million per week, it’s not going to stay on the air. In an effort to pull those numbers, Berlanti and company have broadened the scope of the show to include rom com or Devil Wears Prada-esque elements in an effort to have a little something for everybody. They may go too far. They may go too far for you. That’s OK. There are plenty of other comic books shows out there to watch.
I GUESS THE SPELLING DOESN’T MATTER, AFTER ALL. Once upon a time, we had a TV channel devoted to Science Fiction. It was even called The Sci-Fi Channel and even though Harlan Ellison and a number of other professionals complained that Sci-Fi was a belittling term for the genre and advocated (sometimes loudly) that they should change it, we all embraced our new TV friend and called it good. Well, it wasn’t all good. There were some pretty crappy shows in the early days of Sci-Fi, but it got better, so that finally, for every re-run of Lost in Space or Manimal, there was also Battlestar Galactica and Farscape.
Then they changed the name. Saying that Sci-Fi wasn’t available in every country or that it didn’t translate well into every language, Comcast, which owns NBC, which owns USA, which owns Sci-Fi, changed the name of the net to SYFY and started airing wrestling and reality shows. This was not good. Not at all.
Now, the winds of change blow once again. The net is still called SYFY, but slowly but surely, they are returning to their roots and are making science fiction shows again. Real science fiction, with space ships and time machines and serious moral questions of right and wrong and the gray area between the two. We can disagree about exactly where it began coming back, but with the disappointing Ascension and the excellent 12 Monkeys re-imaging and the adaptations of James S. A. Corey’s excellent Expanse series and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End on the way, it’s definitely a good time to be a science fiction fan again.
And that brings us to SYFY’s two newest series, Dark Matter and Killjoys. Both are fairly low budget, CGI’d to hell and back and filled with pretty, barely familiar or totally unfamiliar faces. Except for Aaron Ashmore. He’s in Killjoys. I’m constantly getting him and his twin brother Shawn confused, but ID tells me that Aaron is the one that was in Smallville and Warehouse 13, In Plain Sight, Lost Girl, Veronica Mars…well, you get the picture (by the way, it was Shawn who played Iceman in the X-Men movies). It is odd having TV journeyman actor Rob Stewart (Suits, Beauty & The Beast, Nikita) in a guest-starring/recurring role in both shows, however. Even though he’s obviously playing different characters, it seems to hint at a connection that isn’t there. Assuming the shows don’t run in tandem in Canada as they do here and have different production schedules, I’m sure it’s just one of those weird coincidences that keep guys like me up nights.
Speaking of the Great White North, both shows are produced in cooperation with Canada’s Space network and have production values equal to Lost Girl and the other shows the net imports from them. Both shows, while not Shakespeare (or even Joss Whedon), are reasonably well-written and make good use of the various tropes and stereotypes of their particular branch of the genre. Dark Matter seems to borrow heavily from the Firefly playbook in terms of characterization and plotting, while Killjoys seems to be looking to movies like The Expendables for its direction and style. Either way, it’s great to have the SYFY Channel back in space where it belongs and, at least until The Expanse and Childhood’s End come along, Dark Matter and Killjoys aren’t a bad way to get there at all.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG, FALL HAS FELL. It’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through the summer already and that the new TV season is right around the corner. Just this week E! Online released the definitive schedule for the major broadcast nets and because I can copy and paste with the best of them, we have it for you right here. As of this writing, every broadcast net except NBC has announced their premiere dates, so I have added those dates where possible. Enjoy. Oh, and all the new shows are in bold.
Dancing With the Stars (ABC) (two hours) Season premiere Sept. 14.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) (moves to Thurs after football). Season premiere Sept. 21.
Supergirl (CBS). (when BBT moves back to Thursday) Series premiere Oct. 26.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW) Series premiere Oct. 19.
Gotham (Fox) Season premiere Sept. 21.
The Voice (NBC) (two hours)
Life in Pieces (CBS) Series premiere Sept. 21.
Scorpion (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 21.
Jane the Virgin (CW) Season premiere Oct. 19.
Minority Report (Fox) Series premiere Sept. 21.
Castle (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 21.
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 21.
The Muppets (ABC) Series premiere Sept. 22.
NCIS (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 22.
The Flash (CW) Season premiere Oct. 6.
Grandfathered (Fox) Series premiere Sept. 29.
The Voice (NBC)
Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 22.
The Grinder (Fox) Series premiere Sept. 29.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 29.
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 22.
iZombie (CW) Season premiere Oct. 6.
Scream Queens (Fox) Series premiere September 22.
Beyond the Tank (ABC) Series premiere September 29.
Limitless (CBS) Series premiere Sept. 22.
Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (NBC)
Chicago Fire (NBC)
Chicago Med (NBC)
Wicked City (ABC) Series premiere Oct. 27.
The Middle (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 23.
Survivor (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 23.
Arrow (CW) Season premiere Oct. 7.
Rosewood (Fox) Series premiere Sept. 23.
The Mysteries of Laura (NBC)
The Goldbergs (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 23.
Modern Family (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 23.
Criminal Minds (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 30.
Supernatural (CW) Season premiere Oct. 7.
Empire (Fox) Season premiere Sept. 23.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Black-ish (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 23.
Nashville (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 23.
Code Black (CBS) Series premiere Sept. 30.
Chicago P.D. (NBC)
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 24.
Thursday Night Football (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 17. The Vampire Diaries (CW) Season premiere Oct. 8.
Bones (Fox) Season premiere Oct. 1.
Heroes Reborn (NBC)
Life in Pieces (CBS) Series premiere Nov. 5.
Mom (CBS) Season premiere Nov. 5
Scandal (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 24.
The Originals (CW) Season premiere Oct. 8.
Sleepy Hollow (Fox) Season premiere Oct. 1.
The Blacklist (NBC)
Angel From Hell (CBS) Series premiere Nov. 5.
How to Get Away With Murder (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 24.
Elementary (CBS) Season premiere Nov. 5.
The Player (NBC)
Last Man Standing (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 25.
The Amazing Race (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 25.
Reign (CW) Season premiere Oct. 9.
MasterChef Junior (Fox) Season premiere Nov. 6.
Dr. Ken (ABC) Series premiere Oct. 2.
People Are Talking (NBC)
Shark Tank (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 25.
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 25.
America’s Next Top Model (CW) Returns Oct. 9.
World’s Funniest (Fox) Season premiere Nov. 6.
20/20 (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 11.
Blue Bloods (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 25.
America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) Season premiere Oct. 11.
60 Minutes (CBS) Season premiere Sept. 27.
Once Upon a Time (ABC) Season premiere Sept. 27.
Madam Secretary (CBS) Season premiere Oct 4.
Sunday Night Football (NBC)
The Simpsons (Fox) Season premiere Sept. 27.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox) Season premiere Sept. 27.
Blood & Oil (ABC) Series premiere Sept. 27.
The Good Wife (CBS) Season premiere Oct 4.
Family Guy (Fox) Season premiere Sept. 27.
The Last Man on Earth (Fox) Season premiere Sept. 27.
Quantico (ABC). Series premiere Sept 27 before moving to Tuesdays at 8/9.
Of Kings and Prophets (ABC)
CSI: Cyber (CBS) Season premiere Oct 4.
WELL, AT LEAST HE’S GOT SOMETHING TO DO NOW THAT HANNIBAL’S OVER. American Gods, based on the terrific book by Neil Gaiman and produced by Michael Green and Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller , which long bounced around trying to find its way over at HBO, has now landed at STARZ, where it has been green-lighted for production to series.
“I am thrilled, scared, delighted, nervous and a ball of glorious anticipation,” said Gaiman in a statement. “The team that is going to bring the world of ‘American Gods’ to the screen has been assembled like the master criminals in a caper movie: I’m relieved and confident that my baby is in good hands. Now we finally move to the exciting business that fans have been doing for the last dozen years: casting our Shadow, our Wednesday, our Laura.”
No word yet on when STARZ expects the show to premiere, but I can’t wait.
IT’S ALIVE! Here are some oddly-timed show renewals you might not have heard about:
Mr. Robot (USA): Starring Christian Slater and Rami Malek and created and run by Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot was renewed for season two, just prior to its series debut, based solely on early response to the pilot, which was released a month early on Youtube.
Daredevil (Netflix): Starring Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio, Marvel’s Daredevil has been renewed for a second season with Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez serving as showrunners as season one boss Steven DeKnight exits,
Arrested Development (Netflix): Producer Brian Grazer has announced that the iconic comedy about the wholly dysfunctional Bluth family will return for binge-watching for another seventeen episodes.
Orange is the New Black (Netflix): The ground-breaking Netflix series will return for season four in 2016.
Celebrity Deathmatch lives again. The MTV series originally ran from 1998-2002 and was revived on MTV2 from 2006-2007. The new version will again live on MTV2.
Aquarius (NBC) The Peacock just announced that the period Charles Manson crime drama, starring David Duchovny will be back for season two.
Veep (HBO) The premium net has renewed the Julia Louis-Dreyfus vehicle for a fifth presidential season.
Silicon Valley (HBO) Not to be outdone, the “Valley Boys” will also return for season three.
The Simpsons (FOX) The Rupert Murdock network has renewed the seminal animated series for not one, but two more seasons, bringing the total (so far) up to twenty-eight.
Orphan Black (BBCA) The Canadian import has been renewed for a fourth season. Send in the clones!!
Penny Dreadful (SHO) John Logan’s tour de force of Victorian sense and supernatural sensibilities has been given the go-ahead for a third season.
Beauty & the Beast (CW) For reasons which defy understanding, the CW has renewed the show for a fourth season.
Power (Starz) The premium net has renewed its benchmark show for a second ten episode second season.
Bates Motel (A&E) The Psycho-prequel starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore has been renewed for two more seasons, bringing the total up to five.
Transparent (Amazon) The trail-blazing dramedy, starring Jeffrey Tambor has been renewed for season three. Rumor has it Caitlyn Jenner will guest-star (I’m not kidding).
I’LL BE BACK. Here are some shows you thought were over years ago…but weren’t.
Twin Peaks (SHO) The quirky murder mystery, which originally ran for two seasons on ABC will return in 2016, this time to the Showtime network. Original producer and film auteur David Lynch will be on board to make sure things stay sufficiently weird, along with co-creator Mark Frost. Actors Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee and Dana Ashbrook will return as well.
The Tick (FOX) No details available, but former series star Patrick Warburton, who starred in the short-lived superhero comedy based on the comic by Ben Edlund, which ran on FOX from 2001-2002, is still saying, as recently as the NBC Upfronts back in May that the cult series is coming back. Keep hope (and Big Blue Bugs) alive.
Prison Break (FOX) Again, no details yet, but E! News reports that FOX is following their recent revival of 24 and the just announced X-Files limited series with a limited series return to Prison Break. Stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, who are currently co-starring on the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, are expected to return.
Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix) OK, originally this was a movie, but it’s returning as a series to Netflix in a bizarre prequel that features the original cast in their original roles. I know Hollywood prides itself on being a Fountain of Youth, but this will be a bit of a trick. Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and an all-star cast of the best young comedic talent in the business will debut in binge-worthy form on July 31.
Fame (Lifetime). Oh, what a feeling! Lifetime is set to reboot the iconic 80’s series Fame, which was itself based on a hit 1980 film of the same name. They already adapted the film into a hit musical on Broadway in the nineties, but an attempt to remake the original film in 2009 was a bust. Good luck on the show, kids.
Full House (Netflix) The Tanner clan is back! Surely you’ve heard the news by now that Danny and Joey and Uncle Jesse and the gang are all coming back for a sequel show called Fuller House, centered around now-grown daughter D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure) sharing a house with her little sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and best friend Kimmie Gibbler (Andrea Barber). Rumor has it that John Stamos (Uncle Jesse) will produce and that the whole cast (which has stayed phenomenally close over the years) will be back, with the exception of the Olsen twins who once teamed up to play baby Michelle. I guess they’re just too busy being odd to be in a TV show again.
Coach (NBC) Now that Parenthood is over, no one knows what to do with Craig T. Nelson, so they’re rebooting Coach, the show that launched his TV career back in 1989. This time out, its Nelson’s son who’s the head coach of a fictitious college football team who calls his dad up from retirement to help out. Jerry Van Dyke is rolling in his grave over this one (I know Jerry’s not dead. But this news will kill him and then he’ll roll!)
Emerald City (NBC) After first taking a pass on it a year ago, The Peacock is now taking this series, about a 20 year old Dorothy Gale and her K9 police dog, Toto who are pulled into a fantasy realm of magic and danger after being caught up in a tornado. Sound familiar?
BATTER UP! New shows that have gotten the greenlight to series and are currently in production.
SYFY: The genre net has re-embraced its roots in a big way, giving the go-ahead, not only to the aforementioned adaptations of The Expanse and Childhood’s End, but also new series, limited series and movies based on:
- The Hyperion books by Dan Simmons
- The Magicians series by Lev Grossman
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and original series,
- Krypton from David S. Goyer
- Hunters from Gale Ann Hurd and
- Incorporated from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Netflix: The streaming service has optioned new series, The Ranch, a multi-camera comedy, starring That 70’s Show alums Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson.
FX: The prestige arm of the FOX empire has given a go order for Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter to make his gritty Middle Ages series, The Bastard Executioner, about a hardened and cynical warrior who gets sucked back into battle just as he’s trying to lay down his sword and find some peace. Sutter will also appear in the show along with wife Katey Sagal (Gemma in SoA). Lee Jones (TV’s Home and Away) plays Wilkin Brattle, the title character.
HBO: In an effort to create another True Detective-esque franchise, HBO has announced the limited series, Big Little Lies, produced by David E. Kelley and starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. The darkly comic drama centering on three mothers of kindergartners whose apparently perfect lives unravel to the point of murder. Kelley is adapting the series from the 2014 novel by Liane Moriarty.
TNT: The Turner net has given the go ahead to an adaptation of Caleb Carr’s sprawling novel, The Alienist, which revolves around the search for a serial killer by then-police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, a doctor and a reporter. The series will be spearheaded by True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga and screenwriters Eric Roth and Hossein Amini.
TBS has given a 10-episode order to ensemble comedy Wrecked, from writers Justin Shipley and Jordan Shipley and showrunner Moses Port. The series revolves around a group of strangers forced to adapt when they’re stranded on a remote island.
EPIX: The subscription service moves into original programming with Berlin Station, a ten episode espionage thriller and Graves, a comedy starring Nick Nolte as a former US president, who tries to fix the mistakes of his former administration.
THE CASTING COUCH (and other stories). TV tidbits that wouldn’t fit anywhere else.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (ABC). Luke Mitchell (The Tomorrow People) who has played the Inhuman Lincoln during season two on a recurring basis has been upped to a series regular as the show moves forward with the Secret Warriors storyline that features a team of powered SHIELD agents led by Skye/Quake (Chloe Bennett) against the forces of evil.
Preacher (AMC). Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark on Marvel’s Agent Carter) has been cast in the titular role of Jesse Custer, the Preacher. Still no word on when the show will air.
Marvel’s Daredevil (Netflix). Jon Berenthal (Shane on The Walking Dead) has been cast for a season two arc as Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, a former police officer who’s family were killed by criminals and has vowed to “punish” (which is Marvel-speak for killing the $#!+ out of them) all evil-doers. Word from Comic-Con is that the character will stick around all season and that the season two subtitle is Daredevil Vs The Punisher. While it has renewed Daredevil, Netflix has yet to announce a premiere date for the second season.
Heroes Reborn (NBC) According to EW, Greg Grunberg will return to the Heroes universe as Matt Parkman, the telepathic cop he played in the original incarnation of the show. He’ll reunite with Jack Coleman (HRG/Noah Bennett), Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura) and Jimmy Jean-Louis (the Haitian) as well as newcomer Zachary Levi (Chuck) when the show premieres as part of NBC’s new fall schedule. The new trailer didn’t suck, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
Secrets and Lies (ABC). According to E! News, Michael Ealy (The Following, Almost Human) will replace Ryan Phillipe as the lead character/main suspect opposite returning star Juliette Lewis in the second season of the hit mystery. I like Michael Ealy a LOT, but he’s still not enough to make me watch this show.
American Crime (ABC). Regina King (The Leftovers, Southland) has been upped to a series regular for the second season of the gritty crime drama. She will join returning co-stars Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman.
The Daily Show (Comedy Central) CC has named August 6 as long-time host Jon Stewart’s last day on the program and September 28 as Trevor Noah’s first day as his replacement.
The Mindy Project (HULU). The Mindy Project, starring Mindy Kaling (The Office) which ran for three critically adored but audience-challenged seasons on FOX is moving lock stock and barrel to Hulu, taking all three previously aired seasons and at least one brand new season with them.
Damien (Lifetime) Damien, the series sequel to 1976 horror hit The Omen, is decamping from Lifetime to A&E, which has ordered another four episodes of the drama steered by The Walking Dead alum Glen Mazzara. I don’t care where it airs, as long as it’s as scary as the ’76 original and nothing like the craptastic snoozefest of the ’06 reboot.
Eye Candy (MTV). After only one season, the music net has canceled this Victoria Justice vehicle.
Sirens (USA). This Denis Leary-produced comedy, the first-ever half hour comedy on USA, has been canceled after two seasons.
And that does it once again, kids. Seventy-eight pages of stories and notes crammed into a size small enough to fit in the backpack of an angel, dancing on the head of a pin. And not once did you ever see my hands leave my arms. If NBC ever gets around to announcing premiere dates or anything worthwhile happens, you know we’ll pass it along, but until then, I’ll see you all again in a week as your popGeezer and I review Terminator: Genisys. Ciao!
BOOM BOOM! ACKA LACKA LACKA BOOM! “Jurassic World” Walks The Dinosuar To Half A Billion Dollars Worldwide! [Double-Team B]
Second Time Director Colin Trevorrow (with a little help from Chris Pratt and Steven Spielberg) Resurrects an Extinct Movie Franchise-But Is It Any Good?
It was obvious to me Friday night that there was something going on with Jurassic World. I showed up for the 7 PM IMAX 3D show at my local theatre, and it was sold out. That’s right. Sold. Out.
In this day and age of multimegabiggerplex cinemas with forty screens and the same films playing at every movie house in town, when was the last time you can remember a show selling out? I can’t remember, and that’s the point. In fact, not only was the seven o’clock show sold out, but so was the ten o’clock show! And so were the shows on the smaller 2D screens! As hard to believe as it was, the first true blockbuster of the summer had arrived…and it wasn’t Avengers Age of Ultron. Not bad for a franchise that petered out at the box office over a decade ago.
Let’s face it, everybody loves dinosaurs. Unlike vampires (especially the sparkly kind), werewolves and space aliens, dinos are the universal (no pun intended) movie bad guy, all mad, bad and dangerous to know, primarily because they were real. Sixty-five million years ago (give or take an epoch), thunder lizards strode the Earth and ruled their domain with a will that was both red in tooth and claw. Even dragons, which were early man’s attempts at explaining those monstrous bones they found in the backyard, don’t capture our imagination like the Stegosaurus, Triceratops and the grand-daddy of them all, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
What Michael Crichton captured in the book and Steven Spielberg captured in the first two films (we don’t talk about the third one-we just don’t) was a lightning in a bottle movie-going experience; a moment when technology and art came together with what the movie-going public was waiting for and the result was pure Hollywood magic.
But could that magic come again? Could that Hollywood lightning strike twice and lift a venerable franchise from extinction (ok, that pun was totally on purpose)? Sort of. Mostly. But it tries really hard.
If Jurassic World doesn’t quite capture the depth of story and child-like wonder of the original (and it doesn’t, trust me), it does do two things right. First, it brings us dinosaurs, lots and lots of dinosaurs and second, it brings us Chris Pratt. Pratt, the latest Chris to grace our movie screens (after Evans and Pine, naturally) got his start on the tube with Parks and Recreation, but beefed up and took the summer movie sweepstakes by storm in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s funny, charming, talented, hugely modest and self-deprecating and because Jurassic World is his hugely successful follow-up to his first hugely successful film, he feels both warm and familiar and new and exciting at the same time. This is Pratt’s film to run with and run he does, for all he’s worth and then some.
Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help, The Village, Spider-Man 3), however, doesn’t fare quite as well. It’s not really her fault. Her character is barely a character at all, just a sketch of one; a two dimensional portrait of your stereotypical corporate drone who’s living life on the sidelines, just waiting for Tarzan to come and sweep her off her feet. Let’s face it, this character is so poorly realized that the internet trolls have had to invent a controversy about the character running through the jungle in three-inch heels, just to have anything to talk about at all. Howard’s there to play, however. Obviously somebody in her camp told her she needed to be in a summer tentpole to take her career to the next level and she wrangles every ounce of meat her part contains. But it still winds up being a largely vegan affair, which keeps getting sent back to the kitchen, because we’ve had it before.
It’s almost as if, with all the dinosaurs and the running and the chasing and over-all carnage, they only had time to fully realize one character, and Pratt’s was it. And what’s worse is, somebody’s going to talk about this movie in two or three years and someone will say, “Oh yeah, wasn’t that the one Jessica Chastain was in?” Sorry, Bryce. At least you’re not one of the kids.
Also appearing as one-note meat puppets in Jurassic World are the phenomenal Vincent D’Onofrio, who was so mesmerizing earlier this year as the Kingpin in Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, wasted here as the corporate a-hole who steps in as the bad guy once Howard’s Claire finds her heart of gold. Jake Johnson (TV’s New Girl) is the Computer Tech Nerd Guy, who’s not as slimy as Wayne Knight in the original, nor as despicable, and ultimately not as interesting, either. The Slimy Science Guy in Jurassic World is B.D. Wong, the only hold-over from the original film, as the genetic Bobby Flay that just wants the science to succeed…any way it can. He lives through this thing, so I’m sure he’ll be back. Again.
Even though they waste a largely exceptional cast, Jurassic World is a fun ride. There are plenty of shout outs to the original film, from the massive front gates and Visitors’ Center from the original, numerous mentions of InGen founder John Hammond, the night vision goggles from the first film, the original T Rex paddock, all easily identifiable and all lots of fun.
And of course, there’s the action. While they unfortunately have to sacrifice some story-telling nuance to do it, Jurassic World definitely revs up the action to eleven, and the sight of Chris Pratt on a motorcycle, running with velociraptors made my inner eleven year old stand up and cheer. As one of the kids tells Claire at the time, “Your boyfriend is a badass.”
You bet he is.
On the downside, there are two things Jurassic World swings for and misses. They don’t recreate that sense of child-like wonder and awe we had when seeing Spielberg’s movie dinos the first time (and really, how could they, as jaded as we’ve become to the everyday wizardry of modern-day special effects). And, it doesn’t deliver the subtle, yet powerful theme of the first two films – that just because we can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. Jurassic World is not as smart a film as Jurassic Park, but then, that’s true of most movies these days, so I’m not really surprised.
All in all, however, Jurassic World is a fun, roller-coaster ride of a popcorn movie, and that’s all it is meant to be. It’s a bit more sterile, certainly without the heart of the original, but it is a worthy successor to those films who came before it. It is certainly far better than the god-awful third one, and is a very effective starting point for a new franchise.
However, if I might make a suggestion, Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Trevorrow…trim Jurassic World 2 down a bit? Bigger is not always better, even with dinosaurs. Put Chris Pratt (and you know Pratt’s gonna be back, right? Of course, you do) in a more intimate adventure against maybe just one dino. There’s a situation that could let us all discover something about ourselves, while Pratt’s Owen discovers something about himself. Then maybe, just maybe, while you’re rediscovering your franchise’s fortunes, you can also rediscover it’s heart. Now that would be a blockbuster.
“Dyno-Might!!” – “Jurassic World” Consumes The Box-Office & Recaptures The Spirit of Two Decades Ago! [Double-Team A!]
Steven Spielberg had a a banner year. In the Summer, he reinvented the summer tentpole he created with Jaws in 1975, by releasing Jurassic Park. This post-modern monster thriller fully made CGI a regular part of a filmmaker’s tool kit. Simultaneously brand new and old-school, this giant crowd -pleaser would go on to earn over $357M in the US, and spawn two sequels which would earn another $400M collectively.
Then, in December, he’d release his artistic masterwork, an art film about a legendary chapter of the Holocaust story, Schindler’s List. Winning seven out of twelve Oscars in 1994, Spielberg returned to his throne as the world’s entertainer and as a filmmaker of colossal artistic importance.
Now, back to the future – 2015.
The major films of the summer so far are a comic book sequel (Avengers: Age of Ultron, $1.3B worldwide), a teen-focused musical comedy sequel (Pitch Perfect 2, $256M worldwide), the latest sequel in a film series missing onscreen since 1985 (Mad Max: Fury Road, $320M worldwide), and an original disaster film – not an ironic post-modern one, but a straight up old school Irwin Allen clone, starring The Rock (San Andreas, $300M worldwide).
Into these waters sails a Mosasaur of a different color – Jurassic World is indeed the fourth film in the series. Resetting the record for a domestic opening weekend – over $204M – it may well out-earn Spielberg’s original by this summer’s end. And – just as importantly – on an artistic level, it is the first of the JP sequels to deserve to be favorably compared to the progentior. And remember that Spielberg himself directed the second one – JP: The Lost World.
I wont give you a beat-for-beat rundown of the plot – Cadillac Jack does that much better than me. What I’ll tell you is that for the third time this summer, including Fury Road and San Andreas, a summer popcorn movie has surprised me with its skilled execution, its uncommon ambition and its sheer entertainment value.
While this is not nearly as suspenseful as the 1993 original, Jurassic World is as much a popcorn masterpiece as our first trip to Isla Nublar.
Using the very “DNA” of the original, this bigger, faster, more dangerous version of the dinosaur-themed theme park follows many of the guidelines Spielberg, novelist Michael Crichton and screenwriter David Koepp established 23 years ago. Simultaneously, filling this park with all the digital conveniences and contrivances of the 21st Century doesn’t give the humans any kind of new edge over the timeless creatures who had dominion over pre-history.
But the biggest surprise here – even bigger than the Indominus Rex, the man-made genetic stew of a super-dinosaur who terrorizes our cast – is that all this wonder and spectacle is provided by a screenwriting and directing team, Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow (respectively), whose only prior produced motion picture is Safety Not Guaranteed. This semi-mumble-core tale of a possibly crazy guy looking for help with a time-travel experiment earned all of $4M at the box office in 2012. But somebody, somewhere decided they were the guys to make this movie.
Someone was pretty darn smart.
Nick Robinson & Ty Simpkins (the kid who stole Iron Man 3 from RDJ) do a fine job as our two kids in peril. Irrfan Khan (Life Of Pi), Bollywood mainstay, is very good as Simon Masrani, the billionaire who now owns InGen and Jurassic World. He starts out idealistic and rather sympathetic – though he’s no John Hammond – but his financial pragmatism and hands-off managerial style takes him down a less popular and darker path.
Vincent D’Onofrio – recently so magnificent in Netflix/Marvel’s Daredevil – plays Hoskins, the InGen project manager tasked with making Velociraptors into … something useful, as a version of his legendary Full Metal Jacket character “Gomer Pyle”, if he’d not gone nuts and become a homicidal maniac. He effectively morphs into the human every JP film needs us to hate, with that wonderful character flaw of always believing he’s right… until someone (something?) lets him know he’s not. Which leaves us with our leading players….
Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help, The Village, 50/50, Mrs. Seth Gabel and daughter of legend Ron Howard) plays Claire Dearing, the tightly-wound, type-A modern working woman who runs the Jurassic World park for Simon Masrani. First, I like the actress, and I like the character a lot. There is, to me, a very clear attempt to create a classic kind of combative chemistry between Claire and cowboy dinosaur whisperer Owen Grady. Most reminiscent of the characters in Romancing The Stone, it is a pretty old-fashioned approach to a relationship. Spielberg himself has used this approach in Raiders, Temple Of Doom and JP: Lost World, and I don’t recall those being blasted as anti-women or having a non-feminist agenda. (Now, Last Crusade certainly didn’t get any gold stars for its femme fatale who seduced both Dr. Jones-es.)
In JW, because Claire is feminine, well-appointed, opinionated, not necessarily maternal in nature and bossy, it has become a big target for a big anti-feminist cannon. Because of my weakness for the third act of giant popcorn flicks, and the fact that Claire devises the solution to the movie’s big threat, I say JW is pro-Claire and pro-woman. Just because she falls for that big lunk Owen and learns to appreciate her nephews during the collapse of her other love – Jurassic World – does’t make me see her as weak. But, I’m a boy, and don’t really know much about these things. But I do know this -
I fell for Chris Pratt (current King of Hollywood) and his 21st century cowboy, Owen Grady, and am not ashamed to admit it.
His first pro credit comes in 2001, on the USA series The Huntress. His first steady gig was on The CW’s Everwood, as cute doofus Bright Abbott. But in 2009, he was cast as Andy Dwyer on Parks And Recreation, and anyone who watched that show fell for Chris Pratt. He started out as a pretty unlikable lump on a couch, was impossible to really hate, and by season two – and his next big TV weight gain – became TV’s most adorable human puppy of a boy.
Now, in his second starring film role as a hunky hero, Pratt is less silly, an everyman hero in the Harrison Ford mold – though clearly missing a few of Ford’s IQ points – and an even better romantic lead than in last summer’s Guardians Of The Galaxy. And, most importantly, he’s at least 35% responsible for that record-breaking $200M+ / $500M worldwide box-office. I mean, CGI dinos still get 65% credit.
He and Howard are so wonderfully, chemically combative, that, if Pratt is going to be Indiana Jones 2.0, look no further than Ms. Howard as ingenue Marian Ravenwood.
I don’t have to convince you that Jurassic World is more than worth your money and your time. And, if Chris Pratt’s recent comment that he’s signed to “38 more” sequels is true, the thrill-ride reboot is just beginning.