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‘AGENTS OF SHIELD’ Recap: “The Writing On The Wall”



Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been so on the ball this season, it’s almost hard to imagine a time when the show struggled to find its feet – and for that matter, an audience. While Captain America: The Winter Soldier helped elevate the show late last season, its been sustained by strong story arcs and interesting character development. And so far, every episode has more or less given us proof of an adage that seems to be forgotten in this day and age of television: give a fledgling show time to find its feet, and it will flourish.

We’ve spent the better half of the first batch of season two episodes establishing how Hydra has taken a hold in both S.H.I.E.L.D. and on the word, dealing with personal moments specifically important to characters such as Skye’s parentage and Fitz’s brain damage and Simmons’ undercover detail, and introducing fresh new blood in the likes of Bobbi Morse, Lance Hunter, and Mack. Tonight took us back to one of the biggest mysteries surrounding season one, and what is essentially almost the backbone of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Coulson’s resurrection, GH325, and those mysterious alien markings. And so that’s how we start off “The Writing On The Wall,” where we meet a man and a woman who are coming home slightly drunk from a bar, with the woman claiming the man seems familiar. Turns out she’s not wrong. They have met before, the man reveals, before opening his shirt to reveal the alien code tattooed on his body. Ah, it was such a promising night, too.

Coulson is carving his own alien code to some sweet music, and a worried Skye interrupts him. Naturally, Skye is a little wary of the fact that everything is seemingly connected – the information about her father, the Obelisk, the alien blood. Though Coulson is convinced the code is some sort of map, Skye thinks it’s a map to nowhere. Coulson, however, just can’t turn anything off, and he needs answers. When Skye shows him the picture of the woman who was murdered, with the markings carved into her back, Coulson recognizes her as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Coulson maintains “we’re the only ones who know what we’re looking for” and although Skye is doubtful, a quick trip to her house turns up a painting of the alien code with the words “a magical place,” on the bottom.

While Coulson and Skye begin their search for answers, May and co. are attempting to keep tabs on Ward. And again, here’s a dynamic I feel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really has been succeeding in each week – the fostering of group relationships. Strike Team May, Hunter, Morse and Tripp? Someone please give this to me all the time, every day. Hell, make it into a side show. It’s always tricky introducing new players into a show with an already large cast, but by splitting up the group, the show has smartly allowed us to invest in important relationships like Coulson and Skye, Mack and Fitz, and Bobbi and May and Hunter. When we were watching Coulson and Skye work together tonight, we didn’t feel like we were throwing other characters to the side, which might have been the case last season – and that’s a great strength to have in an ensemble show, especially one where the stories are presumably going to get more complicated as we move forward.

Simmons examines the woman’s body with help from Mack and Fitz, and did I mention I love the new Jemma Simmons? She’s confident, take charge, and more sure of herself than she ever was before, despite the fact you can tell she’s still upset about everything going on with her and Fitz. Her strength is impressive in a way that we had seen, but that she never had a chance to really embrace.

Turns out that both the killer and Stevens have GH blood, which marks them as T.A.H.I.T.I. patients, but since Coulson can’t remember enough to help, he makes the executive decision that they’re going to have to force the memories out of him by putting him in the memory machine. Skye is naturally worried but Coulson overrides him with his Director superiority – and, well, there’s not really a lot Skye can do but let him go under the knife.

Speaking of characters that are finally getting their due this season – whereas Grant Ward was previously little more than an undercover pawn, it seems that we’re finally getting more of an established storyline for his character. Ward is now free of authority, free of his prison, and he’s really on his own for the first time in forever. What does he do with his newfound freedom? He manages to use a pretend bus trip to alert Bobbi that he’s onto the fact she works for Coulson (but misses the fact that Hunter’s trailing him on a different bus, so we score one for S.H.I.E.L.D. in this segment), and then goes to a bar in Boston where he meets Bakshi. With “Strucker out of town” (nice nod to the man who will no doubt be instrumental in Age of Ultron, who, as we saw in the credits of Winter Soldier, is ready to deal with “an age of miracles”), Ward wants to know who Bakshi is reporting to. He also promises he can get him a “face-to-face” meeting with Coulson, which he does…by leaving Bakshi tied helplessly to a chair, knowing that eventually, Coulson and his team will bring him in for capture.

As Coulson goes into the memory machine, he experiences flashes from his time at the Guest House, where he interviewed Stevens and six patients total. Stevens tells him she was dying, which is why she volunteered to be part of the experience. There are more flashes, all of which involve the patients getting progressively crazier and more unstable as they start to write the alien code, to the point where Coulson recommends everything be shut down and the host destroyed. Apparently, that’s not possible, because according to one of the members involved in the project, the host – which is older than anything – is forcing its memory onto patients. Coulson manages to name the rest of the individuals, until he goes completely mental and Simmons and Skye decide to pull him out of the machine. He’s a little more than out of it when he wakes up but Skye gets that gun in his face and he calms down. As it stands, there are only two patients from the T.A.H.I.T.I. project that are still alive, but Coulson is unsure which one is actually the killer we saw at the beginning of the episode. At the request of May, he agrees to be locked up, and if it seems too easy, it is – he tricks Skye into being trapped into Ward’s old cell instead, and goes off to deal with the killer himself.

Mack and Fitz are playing video games and discussing the brain (or, more accurately, Fitz’s brain) and again, let me take a moment to say how much I adore this dynamic. These two have wonderful chemistry, and I really hope we see them grow more…even if it means less FitzSimmons time overall. Simmons sees Skye on the monitors and rescues her, and Skye alerts them of Coulson’s actions while Strike Team: Let’s All Kick Ass breaks in to take Ward down. Coulson, meanwhile, has found Mr. Thompson, who is playing with his son and toy trains, and tries to talk with him about the alien markings. But he’s technically too late – the killer has already been there, and takes Thompson and Coulson hostage.

Apparently, we learn that the reason the killer keeps cutting into his victims is because pain makes him remember the things that Coulson erased. He reveals the tattooed code on his body, and Coulson tries to reason with him based on the fact that he knows they’re connected. Thompson manages to get free and helps Coulson escape as well, and here’s our fight scene of the evening, which is actually pretty awesome. Go Director Coulson! Kick some butt!

As Mack and Skye (fresh off of a conversation about Tahiti) bust in to help, Coulson manages to get hold of the killer and forces him to look down at the train tracks, which he realizes are a two-dimensional pattern. The man calms down after looking at the model, and Coulson realizes that the alien writing is not a map like they previously thought but rather, a blueprint for a city.

Later, a now-calm Thompson thanks Coulson for helping him out, and Coulson reveals that the compulsion that had been eating away at him and everyone else is gone. Whatever was in their blood, it was driving them to go to that city, to go home, to a place they didn’t know how to find. While Skye goes off to hack Bakshi’s cell phone, Director Coulson faces the team and tells them that the pieces are coming together, fully opening up on how he’s been acting and what he’s learned. He shows them the blueprint, and also proves that he’s gotten really good at using those hologram things. Personally, it’s a little emotional for me to see such a nice, big team when at the end of last season, we had only a handful of agents after Hydra’s fall, ready to rebuild at Nick Fury’s request.

In other news, Ward is clearly over “no shave November” and shears off his beard as well as most of his hair, cleaning himself up for the first time last season – looks like the old Grant Ward is back, and in more ways than one. (By the way, did you all catch the really interesting easter egg of a framed Captain America print that says “Trust Cap to Lead The Way”? And my apologies, my original twitter said “war” because I couldn’t read it well in the dark. We know Marvel is heading into a Civil War storyline soon, and a large part of that conflict is going to be whether to follow Cap or Tony – might this be some random foreshadowing?)

Ward calls Bakshi’s cell phone and Skye answers (appropriately) with “Hail Hydra.” She doesn’t exactly expect Ward on the other end of the line, but manages to hold her own as he alerts her to the fact that he has Bakshi exactly where he wants him, and threatens the new recruits. Our parting shot is Ward packing up a bag with a paper that has his brother’s face on the front page. And we all know how Ward feels about his brother….


  • Mack: “Does he have alien blood, too? Imagine that…S.H.I.E.L.D. being run by a man that’s part alien.” / Skye: “Imagine that.”

What did you think of the episode?

Starz Orders ‘Evil Dead’ Series Starring Bruce Campbell


Starz’s newest original series is a continuation of The Evil Dead franchise, a low-budget horror/comedy trilogy with a massive cult following. The films’ original team is on board with director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell who will be reprising his role as unlikely hero Ash Williams.

According to the network:

The STARZ Original series officially titled “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” will be 10 half-hour episodes. Bruce Campbell will be reprising his role as Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons –personal and literal. Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its “Evil” grip…

The original film followed Ash and his friends into a cabin in the woods where they accidentally release demons who need to possess human flesh. The franchise has spawned two sequels, comic books, video games, and a 2013 remake. The film also launched the careers of Raimi and Campbell, with Raimi going on to direct Sony’s original Spider-Man trilogy (starring Tobey Maguire). Campbell has also had a prolific career, appearing on countless movies and television shows including USA’s Burn Notice from 2007-2013.

“I’m really excited to bring this series to the Evil Dead fans worldwide – it’s going to be everything they have been clamoring for: serious deadite ass-kicking and plenty of outrageous humor,” said Campbell.

The first episode is titled “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” and is written by Raimi (who will also direct), his brother Ivan Raimi (Darkman, Army of Darkness, Drag Me to Hell), and Tom Spezialy (Chuck, Desperate Housewives).

Evil Dead has always been a blast. Bruce, Rob, and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the next chapter in Ash’s lame, but heroic saga. With his chainsaw arm and his ‘boomstick,’ Ash is back to kick some monster butt. And brother, this time there’s a truckload of it,” Raimi said.

Speaking of his boomstick, who could ever forget this scene from Army of Darkness? YEEEEEEEES.


Image courtesy of Dino De Laurentiis Company via IMDB.

Showtime Renews ‘Homeland’ and ‘The Affair’


homeland header

Showtime has announced the renewal of their drama series Homeland and The Affair. Renewed for a fifth season, Homeland will return with a 12-episodes next year while The Affair will receive a 10-episode sophomore season.

“In its fourth season, Homeland has brilliantly reinvented itself.  It continues to capture the attention of a devoted fan base, and has provided an enviable platform for the successful launch of The Affair,” said David Nevins, President, Showtime Networks Inc. “With thought-provoking, relevant and addictive storylines, both series have been embraced, dissected and much debated week after week.  We’re excited to see more from these complex shows in 2015.”

‘The Walking Dead’ Review: Self Help



Season 5, Episode 5
“Self Help”

We finally receive some much needed characterization for Abraham and Eugene this week in The Walking Dead, as we follow their small group on their quest to reach Washington DC.  When their bus breaks down and the group is forced to once again proceed on foot, Abraham grows increasingly frustrated by their repeated setbacks and tensions mount to a startling revelation.  Proper characterization for Abraham’s small party has been sorely lacking ever since their appearance in last season’s “Inmates”, but a well written episode provides some welcome screentime for the underappreciated characters.

When we first met Abraham, his dogged insistence in getting Eugene to Washington made for superficial characters and a repetitive voice of dissent in all the group decisions.  After a while, his tunnel-vision and stubbornness bordered on delusional.  However, a series of flashbacks provides the crucial context that puts all of Abraham’s actions in perspective.  Having lost his family and with nothing else to live for, a grieving Abraham prepares to take his own life when Eugene shows up, in need of rescue and safe passage to Washington DC. It’s not terribly unique as backstories go, but it helps to humanize the otherwise comically stubborn and unreasonable man. His need to push forward is as much about escaping his past as it is about saving the human race, and casts his unwavering determination in a more sympathetic light.

Eugene’s personal journey was less dramatic than Abraham’s (at least until the end).  Rightfully dismissed as a socially stunted coward, the connections he forges with the others over the course of the episode were important developments for his character.  His fumbling attempts to overcome his own cowardice and prove his value to himself and others leads to a small but triumphant moment when he uses the fire truck’s water cannon against a horde of zombies.

Eventually, our group comes across a truly massive, sprawling sea of walkers, and the tension reaches a breaking point.  Abraham is at the limit of his patience, and the group struggles to reason with him.  As a fight nearly breaks out, Eugene suddenly confesses that he made everything up. Driven by his own guilt, he admits that he is not a scientist and doesn’t know how to stop the zombie apocalypse.

It’s not a particularly shocking revelation, but it’s one that is perhaps surprising to see so early in the season.  What will happen to Eugene, how will the rest of the group react, and will they still decide to go to Washington? This season has shown a great willingness to push the plot forward and embrace uncertainty instead of milking every plotline dry, and has been more compelling and focused as a result.  So although Eugene’s confession shattered both his nose and Abraham’s mission, the future of the season is brighter than ever.

‘Revenge’ Review: A reunion following an ‘Ambush’


Season 4, Episode 7

Besides the vaunted face-to-face meeting between Emily and her father, David, we’ve seen many characters making plans for the coming apocalyptic showdown between Emily and Victoria. They’re jockeying for position, taking shelter or making back alley deals to prevent being the victim of absolute collateral damage. For instance, last week’s episode saw Charlotte voluntarily going into rehab after seemingly making up with her sister. Before she did, you’ll recall that she told her brother, Daniel, the truth about Emily Thorne.

This week, we get one of those “ending is the beginning” type openers with mysterious images of sparks falling, culminating in Victoria waking from a dream and hearing squeaking floorboards downstairs. Because she’s suddenly unable to fully investigate anything larger than what’s in her immediate view, David simply tells her to come back to bed and Victoria dismisses it as “hearing things”. Of course, it was Emily the whole time! MWHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Also, Daniel confronted his Mom, repeating what Charlotte had said: he wanted no part of his Mom’s war and swore he’d make a deal with Emily, herself, if that’s what it took. That’s just what Daniel does. While stuck in an elevator with him, Emily basically proclaims that, yes, she did have feelings for him but those went away when he stuck by his late father, Conrad. Daniel mugs his way through the scene and tells Emily that he’s ready for bygones to be bygones. He’ll back off if her “blast radius” doesn’t include his personal space. Emily agrees to this as struggles to leave the elevator car via the top vent. David has the line of the night here:

“If I knew you were that flexible, things could have worked out between us.” He oozes.

Emily, in response, uses Danielle — literally, climbing on his shoulder to leave and says, “You want real? That was real,”

It was a nice little blow-off to a feud that’s been going on, unsettled, for months.

Meanwhile, Louise attempts to kill Margaux by locking her in a steam room at a local club. There’s nothing much to this plotline, except that Louise is obsessed with Daniel because they slept together once and now she wants to kill a woman that Daniel really isn’t all that fond of, except that she would help line his pockets. She did it because of her Mom’s urging. Her Ghost Mom, that is. That’s right: Louise is now being lead to murder by her hallucinatory Mom. Sounds like her and Dexter have a lot to talk about. The whole affair, of course, leads to Margaux throwing a drink in his face and storming out because that’s what all them louses deserve.

As for Nolan, he’s still smarting from his punch in the face from David, though his face still looks just fine. He’s been vilified, of course, by the press, (they care so much, they actually sent vans and news choppers) forcing him to move his self-proclaimed “Revenge Batcave” to another, more discreet location. So, what does Nolan do to cool things with the press? At the urging of Louise, he uses a million dollars of his money to buy the yacht club he so hates. Though, he does his good deed for the week to help Emily figure out the story behind her father’s sudden appearance. Emily brings Nolan a knife and a mysterious key that she swiped from the Clarke Malibu Dream House — coveted evidence that might be of help to Good Cop Ben in his quest to figure out who murdered Conrad Grayson. Nolan spends the episode, forgetting the stress of his life by ditching his cell phone and kicking back with a drink and a roaring fire.

Speaking of the good cops BenJack…or…JackBen or…Back. Or Jen. Wait, no…anyway, they bust the case wide the hell open by finding tattooed wrist guy in Charlotte’s former room — along with a knife similar to the one that ended Conrad’s life.

What Emily discovers with the key (which ends up being tied to a safe deposit box) is shocking: a series of photos tracking the fake “Amanda Clarke” and Jack as they go through their average day of running a bar and sailing. She can’t wait any longer and bursts into the beach house, furiously telling Victoria to leave — which she does at David’s insistence. Emily tearfully asks him why he didn’t just reveal to her that she was alive instead of skulking in the shadows and accuses him of being a coward. David has no idea what she’s talking about until she lunges at him…and he grabs her wrist…and sees the Double Infinity tattoo. David realizes that his daughter is alive and well — but their reunion is cut short when they hear a pop and an explosion.

Victoria’s on the ground, outside. She’s been electrocuted by a wire that was cut from a nearby pole and was in direct contact with her car.

Despite my mockery, I really enjoyed this episode. The big story, of course, was the big reveal and subsequent reunion of Amanda and her father. And not some Lindelof “technically, it was ‘Emily’ talking to David” bullshit. This episode delivered what many fans have wanted since the show started. Of course, the first reunion was the Lindelof tease and payoff and I guess that had to happen because we’ve all waited about three years and six episodes. What’s 40 more minutes?

The downside to this? We have more questions than answers and about 17 more episodes, at most, to figure out where this is all heading. At the very least, there seems to be a prevailing sense of finality hanging over the proceedings.

Review: A friggin’ awful ‘Christmas’


Directed by
Tristam Shapeero
Written by Michael Brown
Starring Joel McHale, Robin Williams, Pierce Gagnon, Lauren Graham, Bebe Wood, Candice Bergen, Clark Duke, Wendy McLendon-Covey, Matt Jones, Oliver Platt
Rated PG-13
no stars out of ****

The best thing about “A Merry Friggin’ Christmas” is that it’s in severely limited release and I didn’t have to leave my house to see it thanks to my cable company’s on-demand library. Unfortunately, I still paid to see it.

The movie stars Community‘s Joel McHale as Boyd Mitchler, a successful hedge fund manager living the dream: he has a beautiful home, a sexy, loving wife in Luann (Lauren Graham, playing nearly the exact same role she played in Bad Santa), and two kids, Vera (Bebe Wood) and Doug (Pierce Gagnon). Because he grew up with an alcoholic and verbally abusive father, Boyd is one of those parents who does his absolute best to provide a loving environment for his family and works, exhaustively, to shield them from the horrible, cynical outside world. This has mostly worked. While Vera is more world-wise than she should be for her age, Doug is still innocent and doe-eyed and, wouldn’t ya’ know it, he still believes in Santa Claus.

Out of nowhere, Boyd’s idiot brother Nelson (Clark Duke) phones him up in the middle of the night to divulge the fact that he’s now a father — and the baptism is taking place on Christmas Eve. Best laid plans be damned, this will eventually put Boyd face to face with his father Mitch (Robin Williams) who has grown even more abrasive than he was when Boyd was young. Reluctantly, Boyd packs his family in the car as they go home to Wisconsin. In record time, Mitch rubs his son the wrong way and Boyd is ready to go home. Seeing a potentially explosive situation, both Luann and Mitch’s long-suffering and enabling wife, Donna (Candice Bergen) do their best to smooth things over in order to get Boyd to stay which he does, much to his chagrin.

Unknowingly, Boyd’s problems are only beginning: he’s unwittingly left his son’s big gift back in Chicago and if he doesn’t have it under the Wisconsin family Christmas tree in the morning, Doug’s entire belief in Santa, which was in already in jeopardy after Doug bumped into a drunken, deadbeat Santa (Oliver Platt) at one of those cheesy “Christmas Village” places you see along the highway, will cease to exist. Or something like that. On top of that, Boyd’s SUV breaks down, forcing his father to pick him up and drive him to Chicago instead. Also, Nelson’s along for the trip because he hid in one of Mitch’s port-a-pottys (it’s Mitch’s trade) when he blacked out due to PTSD stemming from an argument at the family dinner table.

I know it shouldn’t be possible, but the movie gets even worse. How? I don’t really care to elaborate.

Oh, all right:

“Bourbon is where Santa gets his energy,” “Santa” explains to little Doug, who is horrified to see his childhood hero getting piss drunk in front of him without a care in the world. The scene is as disturbing, horrifying and unfunny as it sounds.

Did you want me to go on? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

If 1989’s “Christmas Vacation” is the ultimate portrayal of the American Family Christmas gone horribly awry, then this would be the movie that goes deep under its surface, exposing the dark familial baggage that the late John Hughes wisely decided not to subject his audience to. I realize, in typing that, I might have carelessly insinuated that Hughes was involved, in some manner, in the making of this train wreck. That’s patently false. I apologize. The mere association of Hughes to this crap is incredibly cheap of me and crass to boot. Still, he might be laughing at me right now. I can’t honestly be sure. Anyhow, I wish I could speak well of Robin Williams here. It really wouldn’t be fair of me to grade his performance as it’s just Robin Williams doing a half-assed imitation of a grizzled, small-town Conservative yokel and it mostly feels like he was probably only doing this for the paycheck up until his untimely death. I know all this is depressing as hell to think about but, honestly, the movie is so boring, insipid and unfunny, there’s really not much else to do but think of something other than this movie.

The movie is helmed by Tristam Shapeero who should be used to this kind of thing by now being that he’s worked with McHale on Community. Frustratingly, he’s been paired with first-time screenwriter, Michael Brown, who enters into the anti-Christmas movie sub-genre on the coattails of other, better films within that realm, with the idea that what he’s presenting is razor-sharp. Unfortunately, Brown brings a Spork to a gunfight and the movie suffers as a result, starting black as coal, continuing that way while blotting out any comic relief with terrible (and, at times, confusingly arbitrary) situations and characters which, in turn, gives us nobody to root for or sympathize with. It’s really sad, considering the level of talent involved.

‘Homeland’ Review: “Redux” of a Redux of a Redux


Last week, I was optimistic about Homeland. With six episodes remaining, there was still plenty of time to salvage the season. Sure, there have been some bad episodes in the mix, but the premise was there. The characters were…sometimes there. Repeatedly I defended Carrie Mathison and her behavior, claiming that she is a flawed, unreliable narrator, and that made her interesting.

But after the seventh episode, “Redux,” I can’t defend her or even the rest of the characters any longer.

Homeland seems intent on swimming with the fishes. With Brody gone at the end of the third season, everyone (I took a poll) thought hoped that Homeland would return focus to the CIA, politics, undercover work, spying, and all those bits that once made the show great. Instead, Carrie received another unlikely romantic partner. Sigh. Alright. “Recruiting.” Whatever. Then last week, the poor kid ate dirt, and lo! There was hope once more! (Sorry, Aayan.)

Except now we’re back to the “psychotic” Carrie episodes. Why, oh, why do the writers insist on destroying Carrie this way? Remember when she was fierce and a bit off-kilter but still loyal and insanely intelligent? WE LOVED THAT CARRIE. Sure, the bipolar episodes threw a wrench into the mix, but after last season’s hearing about her mental state, it seemed the door had been closed on that particular issue. But okay, say we do revisit Carrie’s mental health–I can understand that, it’s always a battle–and say, Dennis Boyd, that sniveling weasel whom I love to hate does manage to switch her pills. That’s fine! Except Carrie KNEW something was wrong. We all know Carrie’s stubborn, but dammit, she isn’t stupid. Instead of the hallucinations, her mind should have deduced she’d been drugged and then she and Quinn could have searched for that pesky mole. It’s not like she just became bipolar and doesn’t understand how it works with her personality. SHE KNOWS. HER FATHER HAS THE DISORDER.

An aside: do you think the writers were being cheeky by titling the episode, “Redux?” Are they toying with us?

After pew-pewing her kidnappers, Carrie is then whisked away to a generic torture cell and then again to a mansion that I’m going to guess is not owned by Oprah. Because that girl needs some Oprah right about now and she’s never gonna get what she needs. Look, I understood Carrie’s feelings for Brody in the first season. I didn’t care for their relationship after that because it never felt genuine to me, but hey, I can appreciate it for what it was. And then Brody died. Except last night, I thought I was almost as crazy as Carrie. Wait. COULD he be back? How did he die again? Could he have survived a hanging? Was this entire season a lie and did Brody never die? And then the camera pans out and we realize she’s in the arms of the I.S.I. agent, Khan, and in Carrie’s fragile mental state, she is still grieving for Brody . Something I imagine she never did. Toying with my sanity is not cool, Showtime. I wasn’t scared that I might actually be crazy, but more afraid that Homeland is just crazy enough to bring Brody back. (DO NOT.)

homeland WHY

I appreciate letting Carrie grieve. After Brody, Sandy Bachman, leaving Frannie, watching Aayan’s death, and then Saul’s capture, there is no sane way for Carrie to feel even close to normal. But you know what you don’t need to get that across? Drugs. Hallucinations. BRODY. Bringing Brody back was a gimmick and nothing more. It was meant to shock and draw in more viewers because they know the show is floundering.

But it’s not just Carrie who’s having issues lately. For the first three seasons, Saul was the glue that held the show together. Even in its worst state, Saul was there to reel in Carrie and Brody and all the absurd plotlines and remind them, “Hey, this is supposed to be a spy show. Stop having cabin sex and pissing off Brody’s family.” And now, it’s like Saul was never in the CIA. It’s like he never threw Carrie in a mental institution for the sake of mission and understands how the game works. (Still bitter about that, Saul.) Saul Berenson waltzed into that airport bathroom to do…what? Apprehend Ghazi himself? Sorry, Saul. Quinn, you are not.

ALRIGHT FINE. He didn’t want to lose the lead. One mistake. Except last night he was like a deer on the highway, zig-zagging in front of cars that just want to slam on the gas and push him aside. Was he trying to get killed? It didn’t look that way with all his confused stares and sullen pleas of “I’m not important!” (Brody storyline 2.0?) If Saul wants to live then why, oh why, is he slapping around the cobra? You’re at the dinner table of a man who fully admitted to using you as a meat shield, after watching him unflinchingly murder his own nephew, and you blame him for 9/11? That’s not ballsy, Saul. It’s just asinine.

douchebag Lockhart

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the best part of the episode was CIA director, Andrew Lockhart, if only because he’s been the most consistent character thus far. (Listening to Dennis Boyd, A PROFESSOR, struggle to count to ten was also pretty hilarious.) Lockhart is a master of the Douchebag Technique, and fortunately for Ambassador Martha Boyd, I think his threat about taking away foreign aid worked. But we’ll have to see next week how things pan out. Maybe he’ll go on a hallucination trip and see Brody as well. At this point, anything could happen on Homeland. And that’s not a good thing.

To sum up: Saul goes “Waaah.” Carrie goes “pew pew.” Lockhart goes “Hehe, I’m so good at directoring.” And Khan goes “Mwhaha,” but I bet he smells good; Repeat.

Season 4, Episode 7: “Redux”
Homeland airs Sundays on Showtime at 8pm EST.

‘The Theory of Everything’ is…well…Everything



The Theory of Everything

Directed By: James Marsh

Written By: Anthony McCarten

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox

Grade: A-

A film as classy and delicate as The Theory of Everything very much deserves descriptions beyond basic, modern-day slang but it really is true that this film is “everything.” With remarkable performances and a screenplay that is both witty and touching you’ll find yourself holding back tears at this real life love story of a scientific icon and the woman who stood by him through the most difficult of health challenges.

Stephen Hawking is one of those rare academics in the modern era that has actually risen to a level of celebrity. One might be tempted to chalk this up to the fact that he’s achieved everything he has while also combating the ravages of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but health problems or not, Hawking is one of the most exceptional minds in scientific history and the theories he has put forth will likely stand the test of time longer than most elements of pop culture.

But in many ways Theory of Everything, a biopic of Hawking, isn’t about those scientific achievements at all. Those speak for themselves. Instead, the film is about the immeasurable love between him and his first love, Jane, who stood beside him and raised a family that would become a completely unconventional yet beautiful and honest one.

x950As played by the spectacular Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, we follow Hawking and Jane from the moment they meet at university through his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and on to their marriage with three children. As the years go on and Hawking’s body continues to deteriorate, Jane becomes friendly with her church’s choir director, Jonathan (Charlie Cox), who out of his own loneliness and desire to help becomes a sort of new member of the family. Jonathan is there to help do things like lift Stephen in and out of his wheelchair, help him use the toilet, and getting him up and down stairs. But he is also there for things like family outings to the beach and finds himself completely integrated into the family. It is only when people start whispering about the nature of Jane and Jonathan’s relationship that they are forced to address it themselves and what transpires is both incredibly mature, understandable, and fascinating.

By really delving into these complicated relationships the film happily avoids many of the tropes that a biopic attempting to cover the subject’s entire life usually succumbs to. And luckily, the entire cast is completely game for this difficult task in a way that makes the movie soar. Redmayne is nothing short of spectacular by believably conveying a man with a brilliant mind trapped inside a failing body. His physical transformation is heartbreakingly realistic and will make you break down to just see him struggle with the simplest of tasks. One scene where we see him fight to get up some stairs while his young son watches from above absolutely ripped me into pieces.


And although Jones doesn’t have to convey any big physical changes in her character, her performance is equally impressive as Redmayne’s. Her warmth, charm, and unconditional love all come across beautifully clear in a performance that absolutely clicks from the first moment she’s on screen. If Jones doesn’t become a significantly bigger star from this movie, there is no justice in the world.

If the film has a downside though its a lack of visual flair on the part of director James Marsh. The cinematography is flat as if its unnecessarily reminding us that we’re watching a period piece and there are definitely some missed opportunities to do something visually bold with Hawking’s theories and thought processes. Had the visual aspect of the film been a bit more impressive or notable this might very well be a perfect movie.

But visual flair or not, The Theory of Everything is still a remarkable piece of work that examines science, love, and relationships in an extremely beautiful and memorable way. Look for it to definitely get some love on Oscar night.


‘Big Hero 6’ Review: For Your Health


Big Hero 6

Directed By: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Written By: Jordan Roberts (screenplay), Don Hall (story)
Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, Daniel Henney, James Cromwell
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Grade: A-

At the end of the weekend, Big Hero 6 ended up on top of the box office, even beating out Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and I think it’s totally justified. I know that some are tired of the superhero genre, especially the origin story gimmick, but I, for one, couldn’t be more glad to see these stories becoming mainstream. Origin stories inspire greatness, with heroes stepping into their respective roles from all walks of life. Disney’s foray into the money-making Marvel-verse, Big Hero 6, is an origin story based on a Marvel comic book series of the same name; and while some of the looks and names are similar, Disney has watered down the story for younger audiences. And the result is a resounding success.

Big Hero 6 takes place in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, a world of rolling hills, dumpling emporiums, trolley cars, and pagoda-topped buildings. Here, we met Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a 14-year-old child prodigy who uses his gift for robotics to hustle the bot-fighting underworld. A kid after my own heart. But Hiro’s sweeter and more sensible older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), wants more for his little law-breaking sibling, so he takes him to–wait for it–Robot College Without Rules. Okay, it’s actually just the robotics lab at his university, but Robot College sounds way cooler. At RCWR, Hiro meets a group of awkward but lovable nerds and after seeing his brother’s medical project, Baymax, he begins to respect what Tadashi does with his also ridiculously over-sized brain. As often happens in real life, a music montage plays and Hiro crafts the innovative micro-bots, his application for entrance to the RCWR. At the demonstration, the micro-bots are a success, even impressing Professor Callaghan so much that he is accepted into the school. The happiness is short-lived, however, as a fire breaks out at the university with Callaghan and Tadashi inside. Soon after, a creepy man in a Kabuki-mask appears, and with Hiro’s thought-to-have-been-destroyed micro-bots. The rest of the film follows Hiro and crew as they try to find out the villain’s identity and stop him before he hurts anyone else.

Like most Disney/Pixar movies, the above growth and tragedy occurs within the first twenty minutes of the film. It’s sad, of course, but it’s not exactly new material. The movie doesn’t take off until Baymax enters the story permanently, and when he does, the story becomes infinitely more engrossing. Until that point, the most exciting part of the movie is the setting, the city of San Fransokyo, and the unique mix of Asian and Western culture. Baymax is kind of like a talking Wall-E, if Wall-E were an inflatable marshmallow capable of what, I can only assume, are the best hugs. He’s naive, honest, and his entire purpose is to act as a caregiver to those around him, appearing anytime someone utters the word, “Ow.”

Big Hero 6

The bond between angsty Hiro and empathic Baymax is what drives the entire movie: their ADORABLE fist bump (Bodolololooo), the silent exchange at the police station, the gorgeous flight over San Fransokyo, and of course, Hiro’s unwillingness (but need) to be Baymax’s patient. Without these moments, the movie would flounder almost as bad as Wolverine: Origins. The plot unfolds predictably and the supporting cast are convenient and good for a chuckle, at best. Okay, that was harsh. I retract that statement about being worse than Wolverine: Origins. But let’s be honest: Big Hero 6 is not The Incredibles.

BUT! (Put away the pitchforks.) That doesn’t mean Big Hero 6 isn’t a fantastic movie. When it comes to children’s movies, I don’t expect earth-shattering storytelling. In fact, I’m an advocate for seeing children’s movies with children. As I looked around the theatre, every kid was on the edge of their seat, rapt with joy. They didn’t care about exciting plot twists or realistic supporting character development. To them, the movie was about a boy and his robot, a robot who was endearing, silly, supportive, comforting. I can guarantee to you that after seeing the movie, one of the kids in that theatre will go home and want to build a robot. Not learn karate. Not beat up the bad guys with violent gadgets. Instead, they’ll have to use their mind, their creativity, school and those around them in order to save the world. It’s a message that doesn’t come across in any of the other superhero movies, and so for that, thank you, Disney.

Big Hero 6 is a movie chock-full of humor and even more heart. I’ll have you know I only cried three times in the span of two hours. Four if you count the sobs after watching Disney’s short, “Feast,” that aired before the movie. Whether or not you have children, you should take the time to see Big Hero 6. It’s a wholesome superhero experience that eschews the dark hero comic book trope. Besides, Baymax only wants us all to be healthy, and you wouldn’t want to make him sad, would you?

Streaming on Netflix: Snowpiercer



Couldn’t get tickets to Interstellar in IMAX? No room in your cold, jaded heart for Big Hero 6?  Why not stay in this weekend with Snowpiercer, a gritty post-apocalyptic action film about a class revolution on a giant train?

Snowpiercer is the first English language film from Korean director Bong Joon-ho (best known for 2006’s The Host), and takes place seventeen years after an experiment to counteract global warming backfires disastrously and plunges the earth into a bitter ice age. The last remnants of humanity board the eponymous Snowpiercer, a massive train that perpetually travails the frozen wasteland.

The logistics of maintaining a human population on a gigantic train is about as problematic as one would imagine; limited space and resources have stratified the population, with the more privileged elite in the front and the oppressed lower class in the rear. Chris Evans (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s very own Captain America) stars as Curtis Everett, a member of the underclass who leads a revolt to reach the inventor and caretaker of the eternal engine at the front of the train.

The universe of the film is wonderfully realized; the train provides a rich but claustrophobic backdrop for the story and action. As the revolt works its way to the front, each car reveals another unique function of the train or aspect of life for its many inhabitants. The cramped and squalid rear cars give way to utilities such as water recycling and food growing. As the revolt presses forward, they also proceed linearly across the socioeconomic spectrum, passing classrooms and salons, and eventually to the extravagant luxuries of saunas and nightclubs towards the front. Each car is a small tableau with a discrete character; the film proceeds smoothly through each like a carefully crafted slideshow.

The action is swift and brutal in the narrow confines of the train, and the story provides a few delightful twists and turns that provide considerable depth to its microcosmic class war premise. A great supporting cast rounds out Chris Evans’s strong but sensitive heroism–John Hurt lends his sagely gravitas as the mentor to Curtis, Song Kang-Ho provides just the right touch of crazy as a drug addicted security expert, and Tilda Swinton revels in her role as the tyrannical minister of the train.

Snowpiercer stands out amongst the usual sci-fi films with a unique premise and solid action that’s guided smoothly by Bong Joon-ho’s skillful direction. Much like its eponymous train, the film is filled to bursting with character and detail as it barrels relentlessly forward to its thrilling conclusion.

ABC Cancels ‘Selfie’



ABC has canceled Selfie.

The network has decided not to order any additional episodes of their freshman comedy. Unlike their cancellation of Manhattan Love Story, ABC has not pulled Selfie from the schedule. There is still a chance the network will air out the remaining episodes.

Selfie starred Karen Gillan and John Cho.

Weekend Wisdom: November 7-9


Hiro_Baymax_Belly_02Hello, readers! We’ve made it to November and for the first time in this column’s history we have a true battle between two gigantic films going down at the box office this weekend. In one corner we have a space epic from one of the most renowned directors working today. In the other corner we have a Disney animated feature based on a Marvel Comics property. This is a true battle of the titans if there ever was one.

Actually, strike that. I don’t actually want to pit these two films against each other.

Let’s instead look at it as being given the gift of two films worth being excited about and not care which one ends up making more money. But here are the details if you only have time this weekend to see one of them:

Boldly going to Mardi Gras 2005.

I was able to see Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s wildly ambitious sci-fi adventure, earlier this week on an immense IMAX screen in 70mm and if you’re at all interested in science fiction that is the way to see this movie. My full review of the film can be read by clicking HERE but in short its a visual marvel that will leave you with a lot to chew over when the final credits start to roll. As you’ll see in my review, I wasn’t instantly enamored by every aspect of the movie but I think its one that will grow richer with subsequent viewings and the passage of time.

“Oh, hey.”

On the flip side of that we have Disney’s Big Hero 6, a bright and colorful action comedy that gets to bear the Marvel stamp. Disney’s animation team is still riding high from the success of last year’s phenomenon, Frozen, and they would no doubt like to repeat that success with Big Hero 6. It somewhat hard to believe that they’ll reach the same box office heights as Frozen but so far the reviews are pointing to lots of love coming its way thanks to an 89% score on the Tomatometer.

We’ll have a proper review of Big Hero 6 up later this weekend so stay tuned for that!

What Else Is New?

This weekend also sees the release of two notable films in limited release. One of them is generating Oscar buzz. The other one…isn’t.

How about those glasses?

On the positive side is The Theory of Everything, a biopic about probably the world’s smartest man, Steven Hawking and his working relationship with his wife who has been at his side through all of his health troubles. Playing Hawking is Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn) who seems almost destined for a Best Actor nomination based on word of mouth from early screenings. I’ll be seeing the film tomorrow and will let you know The Workprint Verdict as soon as possible after the fact, but based on its 78% Tomatometer score, I’m in for a likely positive reaction.

Missing this guy. 🙁

On the other side of the spectrum is A Merry Friggin’ Christmas, the first blatantly holiday-themed film to come out now that Halloween is in our past. The film isn’t getting a wide release (its also available OnDemand) and the reviews thus far haven’t been particularly strong but what makes it worth mentioning here is that it represents one of the last works by the late, great Robin Williams. I don’t need to tell anyone that Williams was a national treasure and any remaining work of his left behind is probably worth taking a peek at. We’ll have a full review up later this weekend to confirm how high you should place it on your priority list.

Don’t Feel Like Leaving the Couch?

What’s that I smell? An even longer Hobbit movie?!

Out on Blu-Ray and DVD this week is Peter Jackson’s Extended Edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which adds 27 minutes to the film that was released in theaters last December. When it came to the Lord of the Rings trilogy the Extended Editions really were the preferred versions of the films thanks to their added characters, content, and context enriching them to whole new level. The extended edition of the first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, didn’t exactly live up to that legacy since these Hobbit films are probably already a bit longer than they need to be BUT what makes these extended editions worth checking out is the completely immersive behind-the-scenes content available. The documentaries that are put together on the making of these films are absolutely brilliant and give us such an invested perspective on the work that went into them by the cast and crew. I’m not even ashamed to admit that they’ve made me cry on numerous occasions.

Well…maybe I’m a little bit ashamed.

“This just in: My show is amazing.”

Hobbits, dragons, and dwarves not your thing? In that case I recommend picking up the Complete Second Season of HBO’s The Newsroom which was also released for home entertainment this week. If you’ve yet to see it I highly suggest marathoning through as fast as you can so you can dig in to the third and final season which premieres on Sunday night at 9. I’ve got your review of that episode right HERE.

Everyone needs Valeria Cherish in their lives.

And then stay tuned for the return of Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback (review of the first five new episodes HERE) and the hilarious Getting On.

In a nutshell it’ll be a great night for watching HBO. But then again, when isn’t it?

‘Interstellar’: A Film Review Odyssey



Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

Full disclosure: I’ve almost never been so unsure about what to say in a movie review as I am right now. I saw Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar last night at Hollywood’s gorgeous Chinese Theater in eye-popping 70mm IMAX and as the film went on my reactions to it were all over the place. I tried my best not to let that distract me or pull me too far out of the movie so I just kept saying to myself: “Worry about what to say after its over.”

I tried that.

It didn’t work. And I’ve been worried ever since.

For every mind-blowing visual or interesting scientific concept there was a moment where I found myself wondering, “Where in the film’s nearly 3-hour run-time are we? Is it almost over?” And that’s not to say I wanted it to be over. Far from it! I just literally lost all sense of time in a way that was borderline frustrating.

But what makes feeling that way about it so interesting is that this is a movie about time. In it, characters are dealing with the passage of time, the theoretical relations of time, and quite possibly the end of time as we know it. I’m quite sure Nolan had no intention of making me wanting to check my watch but its an interesting idea regardless.

Either way, what Nolan has assembled here is a big film with even bigger ideas and for that reason alone he is to be commended. In a time when the major studios almost never give a green light to a big budget film not based on some kind of existing property, Nolan continues to push the envelope with original storytelling unlike any other director working today. One only has to look at his Inception to get a taste for the kind of original tales kicking around in his head. They’re brilliant and I want to see more of them. Period.

But even the most masterful filmmaker can’t make EVERYTHING turn into pure gold. Nolan proves that with this film but he gets major points for effort.

If you didn’t already know, Interstellar introduces us to a not-too-distant future where the Earth is slowly succumbing to another dust bowl and the prospects for future human life are dim. In this dire setting we meet a former NASA pilot/current farmer named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who, along with his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), discovers a mysterious set of coordinates that leads them to a top secret government base.

It is at this base where they meet Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway) who reveal that they are secretly working for the once-thought-to-be-defunct NASA on a mission that will take a group of explorers through a wormhole to another galaxy in hope of finding a planet where life is possible for humans. maxresdefaultOne group of scientists has already made the journey to scout out the best planets so this next trip will be responsible for making that final decision and then returning to Earth with the good news.

And because these scientists take cryptic messages very seriously, they believe Cooper was sent to them for a reason and insist that he be the one to pilot the vessel to this other galaxy. And after initially dismissing the idea in favor of staying behind to care for his two children, he reluctantly agrees in hopes of saving not only his own children but the children of everyone else on Earth.

Murph quickly resents her father for agreeing to leave and refuses to bid him farewell when the time comes to launch into the cosmos. What follows is an epic journey through space and time that will take your breath away from the sheer scope of it all. We are right there with Cooper, Amelia, and fellow NASA scientists Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) as they rocket through wormholes, dare to fly near a black hole, visit a water-covered planet with waves the size of mountains, and land on an icy planet where even the clouds are frozen. These moments and many more are a visual feast that are only more mesmerizing if you see the film on an immense IMAX screen in the 70mm format. No matter how you feel about everything else in the film – characters, plot, dialogue, etc. – these images will absolutely leave you reeling from their pure beauty, wonder, and believability. On this front alone the film is a masterpiece.

la_ca_1023_interstellarBut the reason that a lot of these images are so powerful is that they are anchored very nicely to Cooper’s almost single-minded quest to return to Earth and be reunited with his children. And what makes this film an almost sci-fi answer to Boyhood is that the passage of time happens differently for those left back on Earth and as a result we get to see his children grow into adults in the form of Casey Affleck and the great Jessica Chastain.

Chastain, who takes on the more prominent role of adult Murph, convincingly pulls our heartstrings as a child who feels abandoned and betrayed by a father who appears to have little chance of actually returning to her after a 20+ year absence. Their relationship is a complex and interesting one that only gets more complex as the film goes on.

And I think therein lies the problem with Interstellar. In some ways it feels like a film that doesn’t know where to end. There are scenes and moments scattered throughout the last act that I personally think could have been sufficient and satisfying end points. That’s not to say that everything that comes after these points is terrible (far from it) – they just seem to exist to answer every remaining question and tie up every loose end. Some viewers may appreciate this but for me, a movie so operatic, mystical, and full of wonder would have left more of an impression by leaving a little bit left to the imagination.

interstellar_aSo where does that leave us?

Even though I didn’t walk out of the theater wanting to sing Interstellar‘s praises from the rooftops, I still highly recommend seeing it for the experience that it is. See it in the best theater, on the biggest screen, and with the biggest crowd you can find. What Nolan has assembled here is GARGANTUAN and I cringe at the thought of anyone ever watching it on their phone or laptop. This is a movie in the biggest sense of the word and it deserves to be seen that way.

It may not have a perfect script and probably runs far too much longer than it needs to but it made me marvel at space again in a way I hadn’t felt since I was a little boy. And sometimes that’s all a movie needs to do.


Pixar Announces ‘Toy Story 4’ for 2017



I really didn’t think we would need another Toy Story movie after the third one. Everything wrapped up nicely and I walked out of the theater feeling like the series had given me closure I didn’t know I needed.

What I never expected Pixar to do was announce another movie. Shockingly, that’s exactly what they have done.

That’s right, Pixar is making Toy Story 4 with John Lasseter, the director of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, returning to direct the film. Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, the storytellers behind all three Toy Story films, have collaborated once more to dream up the new entry.

“We love these characters so much; they are like family to us,” said Lasseter. “We don’t want to do anything with them unless it lives up to or surpasses what’s gone before. Toy Story 3 ended Woody and Buzz’s story with Andy so perfectly that for a long time, we never even talked about doing another Toy Story movie. But when Andrew, Pete, Lee and I came up with this new idea, I just could not stop thinking about it. It was so exciting to me, I knew we had to make this movie—and I wanted to direct it myself.”

The new chapter in the lives of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the Toy Story gang will be written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (Celeste and Jesse Forever) and produced by Pixar veteran Galyn Susman (ABC’s Toy Story OF TERROR! and Toy Story that Time Forgot). The story was dreamt up by Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, the storytellers who have been the driving force behind all three Toy Story films.

Toy Story 4 is slated for release on June 16, 2017.

New ‘Into the Woods’ trailer: Meryl Streep’s Witch Looks Crazy Buts Sings Nicely


Musical fans, rejoice! We have been granted a second trailer for Into the Woods!

Into the Woods combines several well-known fairy tales into one plot, taking characters from Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Jack & the Beanstalk, all the while examining the repercussions of each character getting what they wished for. It’s not intended to be a “happily ever after” tale, but it’s expected that Disney has watered down some of the darker aspects of the original story, in order to be more family-friendly and maintain that PG-rating.

Disney has assembled an all-star cast for the film, including: Meryl Streep (The Witch), Emily Blunt (The Baker’s Wife), James Corden (The Baker), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine (Cinderella’s Prince), Johnny Depp (The Wolf), Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood), Mackenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel), and Daniel Huttlestone (Jack).

Let’s hope that come December 25th we aren’t regretting our wishes when it comes to the film. I’m hopelessly optimistic the movie will do well and have been pleasantly surprised with what I’ve seen thus far. (Except for Johnny Depp’s ridiculous Wolf costume. I have a theory that Tim Burton made the costume and Depp refused to take it off, so the director had to make do.)

Into the Woods is set to release in theaters on Christmas Day, 2014.

‘Star Wars’ Episode VII Gets a Title


The next film in the Star Wars mega franchise gets a title at last: The Force Awakens. Does this mean a resurgence in the Jedi order? Little baby Jedis via Han and Leia? Or perhaps still unknown future padawans that the original trilogy characters will meet along the way? Likely the latter.

Today the official Star Wars twitter account released a new image with Episode VII’s title:

Principal photography also finished up last week and a wrap party was thrown at London’s Science Museum. Actor John Boyega gave fans a little peak of the night’s celebration:

A photo posted by @jboyega on

The film is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi  and features the original cast of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, and Warwick Davis as well as newcomers Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Max Von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie, and John Boyega. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is expected to be released on December 18, 2015.

Dawn of the First Day: Nintendo Releases a Trailer for ‘Majora’s Mask 3DS’


Oh, what’s that music, you ask? It’s the “Song of Time” and we’re going back to the year 2000, a time when all you nerds were indoors NOT PLAYING Majora’s Mask on the N64. Seriously, there are too many of you who have this game on your “Not-Yet-Played” lists and I, for one, am appalled. But there’s no need to weep faerie tears and embarrass all your Goron friends. Nintendo has your back, finally releasing Majora’s Mask on the 3DS and 2DS.

Here’s the trailer, slackers:

As you can tell from the trailer, Majora’s Mask isn’t all gemstones and pony rides like its predecessor, Ocarina of Time. Termina is a darker world, darker than Hyrule under Ganondorf’s rule (that emo-poser), and it’s your job as Link to stop the moon from falling on Termina and destroying everything you love. Including Epona. So, grab your masks, your ocarina, and get to slayin’.

Well, not quite yet. Majora’s Mask doesn’t release on the 3DS/2DS until Spring 2015. But you’re excited now, right?

You’re welcome.

To the beautiful bastard who made this image: I love you.
To the beautiful bastard who made this image: I love you.

‘The Newsroom’ Kicks Off Final Season with Triumphant Premiere



The Newsroom

Season 3, Episode 1


Grade: A

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “I. LOVE. THE NEWSROOM.”

But from the very night that this brainchild from word wizard Aaron Sorkin premiered on HBO in 2012, its been almost routinely shat upon and picked apart to death by a very vocal online mob. To be fair, some of their points have some validity but more often than not they are overblown to the point where you can honestly hear the joy in their voices at the chance to rip it apart. Does it make them feel good to knock down a show that speaks so confidently in its message? Or is it just fun to pick on a guy like Sorkin who rarely turns in anything less than stellar? And more importantly, why do these people keep watching a show that they claim to hate so much?

We’ll likely never have an answer to those questions so ya know what? Fuck them. This is a review for those of us who love the series or at least have an open mind about its potential. And to those of you reading this from the non-hating camp I say rejoice: The season premiere of this upcoming final season is nothing less than perfect.

Titled simply ‘Boston’, the episode begins on April 15, 2013 when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing 3 people and injuring more than 250. Like any group of journalists, the team at Newsnight springs into action to figure out exactly what happened but the difference between them and every other network is that they refuse to go on air until they know exactly what they’re reporting about.

Still reeling from their humiliating experience reporting the Genoa story in season two, the team is bound and determined to get the story correct even if it means they’re the last ones on the air. This naturally occurs much to the chagrin of network President Reese Lansing (Chris Messina) who still laments Newsnight’s weak ratings and weaker reputation in addition to fretting about the parent company’s overall economic performance.

But enough about him. Let’s discuss our main characters.

The-NewsroomWill (Jeff Daniels still crushing it after his Emmy win for Season 1) and MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) are busy planning their upcoming wedding. Charlie (Sam Waterston) is still a hot head. Sloan (Olivia Munn) is fascinated by a new economics mega-computer that she has installed in her office and intends to use it to solve a mystery about their corporation’s stock price. Neal (Dev Patel) is in contact with a source willing to hand over thousands of classified government documents. Maggie (Alison Pill) is sent on assignment to help Elliot (David Harbour) cover the marathon bombing story in Boston. Don (Thomas Sadoski) has to get out of jury duty. And Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) and Hallie (Grace Gummer) are on hand in the studio to help cover the bombing despite Hallie’s annoyance at MacKenzie’s refusal to use eyewitness reports from Twitter.

In other words, this season premiere is stuffed full of content but never in a way that feels OVERstuffed. The teleplay by Sorkin keeps things moving briskly and weaves everything together in a way that is economical, fresh, and often very, very funny. And no doubt some of this humor comes courtesy of producer Paul Lieberstein who joined the show for this last season after many successful years as the producer and actor on NBC’s The Office. The Newsroom has always been funny but now it plays closer to straight-up comedy without sacrificing its dramatic heft or sharp media criticism. What more could you ask for?

But what makes this a truly great season premiere is how all of these storylines come to a head by the end of the episode and beautifully set the stage for things to come. newsroom13_11I don’t want to spoil anything here but what unfolds offers an amazing collection of wonderfully intriguing obstacles for these lovable characters to grapple with over the remaining five episodes. In fact, Jeff Daniel’s episode-ending line is filled with so much exuberance and potential that you’ll find yourself desperate to see the next episode immediately.

At this point I’m not sure what’s worse – that there are only five episodes left after this or that we have to wait a full week in between each one. All I really know is that if those remaining five episodes are as strong as this one, we’re absolutely in for a treat every Sunday night. And who knows – maybe even the haters will finally come around.

Season 3 of The Newsroom premieres on Sunday November 9 at 9 PM.


Netflix to Adapt “A Series of Unfortunate Events” as Series

A Series of Unfortunate Events


The Baudelaire children are headed to Netflix!

The streaming giant has announced a series adaption of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

“On the search for fantastic material that appeals to both parents and kids, the first stop for generations of readers is A Series of Unfortunate Events, “ said Cindy Holland, VP, Original Content for Netflix. “The world created by Lemony Snicket is unique, darkly funny, and relatable. We can’t wait to bring it to life for Netflix members.”

“I can’t believe it,” Snicket said, from an undisclosed location. “After years of providing top-quality entertainment on demand, Netflix is risking its reputation and its success by associating itself with my dismaying and upsetting books.”

A Series of Unfortunate Events  was originally adapted as movie in 2004. Starring Jim Carrey, the adaptation covered the first three books, but never saw the big screen after its first romp at the box office.

The books follow the tale orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire as they try to escape their evil uncle and uncover the mystery of their parent’s death.

Source: Deadline

USA Renews ‘Royal Pains’ for Season 7 and 8



The doctor is in for two more seasons!

USA has renewed their medical drama Royal Pains for a seventh and eight season. Both seasons will run eight episodes, with the eighth season celebrating the series’ 100th episode.

Royal Pains remains a staple for fun summer TV viewing, and we are pleased to bring back the series for two additional seasons,” said Chris McCumber, President USA Network in a statement.  “We’re extremely proud of both the talent and creative team, who, season after season, have brought to life to these relatable and multifaceted stories, which continue to attract a loyal fan base.”

Royal Pains was a breakout hit from its first episode and continues to deliver for USA and our studio,” said Jeff Wachtel, President and Chief Content Officer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “It’s no easy feat to maintain a real connection with your audience season after season, but Andrew, Michael, Mark, Paulo, Reshma and the rest of team have done that and more.”

Season 6 of Royal Pains averaged 3.36M total viewers a night.

Marvel Releases New ‘Agent Carter’ Footage Plus ‘Ant-Man’ and ‘Ultron’


Lots of new Marvel footage was released last night and we know you’ll be watching it at least a few dozen times.

First check out this Agent Carter scene that was originally shown at New York Comic-Con this past October. It aired nationwide last night during ABC’s Marvel: 75 Years, From Pulp to Pop! special. We meet the original Jarvis, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy).

Agent Carter will air January 2015.

Secondly, take a look at new behind the scenes footage for Ant-Man featuring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron. We see the two Ant-Mans together, Scott Lang (Rudd) looking at his suit, the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and her wind blown hair, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in a cold wintry forest, Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) in a suit, Cap (Chris Evans) avoiding cars on a freeway, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) chatting with Joss Whedon, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Cap laughing.


Images courtesy of Marvel.

‘Revenge’ Review: ‘Damage’ sees David exacting revenge


Season 4, Episode 6

I can stand a lot of crap on this show. Let’s face it: it’s a soap opera made from the Dynasty/Knot’s Landing factory of cheap melodrama. I grew up with those shows and I shrug off a lot of what I see because it’s relatively minor…but now, Revenge is straying into Lost territory, withholding answers for the sake of withholding answers. Delaying for the sake of delaying. I’m well aware that if Emily/Amanda marches next door and says, “David, I’m Amanda Clarke, your daughter”, then this show is pretty much over. Since we have 18 more episodes to fill (at the very least), we’re probably not seeing a reunion any time soon.

What we did see was aggravating:

Remember the dude who tried to flatten David Clarke outside his hotel last episode? The one that kidnapped Charlotte Grayson after the nightclub date? He’s dead. Charlotte killed him. By him, I mean “Vince”. But, honestly, who cares? He was around all of two minutes before Charlotte managed to take him out. Between this and setting fire to The Stowaway, nearly killing Emily, Charlotte might have a future in the CIA. And who does she call for help? Emily, the girl she almost killed by burning down the Stow–you know what? I already said that. Anyhow, Emily inexplicably cleans up after her mess, lies about the guy’s affiliation and then drops a bomb on Charlotte: her Mom, Victoria, killed Aidan. This is the final straw for Charlotte (because Victoria and Conrad’s lies about Emily just weren’t enough) and she decides to give the finger to her Mom and check into a rehab facility. The last person she sees is her brother, Daniel, to tell him all about Emily…speaking of Emily, she decides to follow the tracks of the now-deceased Vince and finds the place where her father was supposedly kept all these years.

Nolan wants to join her but he’s a bit busy with David, “the father he never had” as he does a major interview for Margaux’s news company with a nervous Victoria watching it all from behind the cameras and floodlights. At first, everything goes according to plan, with David talking about his imprisonment and his inspiration for staying alive. Then, surprisingly, he asks Nolan to join him, on camera, so that he can thank him for all his hard work in helping his daughter while incarcerated. Nolan is shy and remains humble — until David asks where all of the money he allocated for Amanda went. He accuses Nolan of stealing it, letting Amanda die and then buying himself an expensive house, cars and other items. Since Nolan can’t reveal that Emily is really Amanda (and there’s still no real reason why not except to stall for time), Nolan remains silent and walks away from the interview. Not quite satisfied, David confronts Nolan in private and lectures him for what he did. Nolan fights himself, trying hard not to reveal Emily’s secret. David punches him in the face, which gives us this nice exchange:

Nolan: “I thought I was the son you never had.”

David: “If I were your father, I would have done that a long time ago.”

Nolan: “Well, you’re just like him then.”

It isn’t until right after that moment that Emily walks in, fresh from her trip to Camp Clarke, that she sees the damage her father’s done to Nolan. The writers even make sure to hit the Don’t Show the Smoke Monster button by showing Emily’s face as she watches her father walking back home, just a few torturous feet away. When Emily asks Nolan what happened, Nolan’s only response is, “Your lies have finally caught up with me.” He begs Emily to tell David who she really is. And Emily still says no. Why? She discovered that her father lied about being held captive. And if her father’s lying about that…THEN WHAT ELSE IS HE LYING ABOUT??? *GASP* That last part is supposed to make the viewer go, “Awwwwsyeah, it’s on like Donkey Kong”. Unless you don’t say that. Or think about what Emily just said. Because that still makes no sense and can’t possibly stop Emily from revealing anything.

Jack Porter is still a cop this week but has a bit of a partner’s quarrel with Ben who wants to re-open the Conrad Grayson murder case despite Jack’s insistence that he should Leave it Alone (do a shot – this is a weekly thing now) and move on. But Ben can’t do that. You see, he found out that the cop who beat up Conrad in prison is now dead. After interviewing the cop’s daughter, Ben runs into Jack and, after a brief argument, they discover the “Double Infinity” symbol etched into a wood post. And, ruh-roh, it’s on like Donkey Kong, Jr.! Right?

In any case, the rest of the episode deals with Louise and her weird obsession with Victoria. First, she gets her tabloid article which, apparently, means nothing at all to anyone — including Margaux who I thought liked Daniel but nothing makes sense anymore and I’m starting to think that everyone’s really in purgatory and headed for a giant church. Anyhow, Louise confronts Victoria and just wants a mother figure back in her life. Victoria brushes her off like the nutcase she is and this story is just going nowhere. Even if they’re trying for “Louise is really Victoria’s secret daughter”, that’ll come off as cliched. Even for this show.

Lastly, David’s obviously started some shit with his expose of Nolan and the beginning of his revenge plot. He sits on the beach until Victoria approaches him. He tells her that with Amanda dead and gone and Nolan out of his life, Victoria’s the only one he can trust — and he wants to move in with her.

After six episodes, we’ve seen virtually the same episode told different ways. Louise wants Victoria, Emily won’t tell David who she is and neither will anyone else. Ben thinks there’s something janky going on about something some place and Daniel can’t keep it in his pants and acts like a giant douchebag. The only thing different was Vince and he was dead by the time I was done nuking my Instant Ramen Noodles. I’m really hoping for a little more velocity in the coming weeks or else we’re heading for a crash landing instead of a happy homecoming.

The ‘Minions’ Get a Trailer


The minions from Despicable Me finally get a trailer!

The animated film won’t be out until summer 2015, but we get a look at the long history of the minions before they were with Gru. Their early masters include a T-rex and Dracula, though we see they have a penchant for killing said masters, whoops. We also meet Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, three unlikely heroes who quest to find their brethren the most evil master that ever lived.

Minions is directed by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin and features the voices of Sandra Bullock, Steve Carell, and Jon Hamm.



‘The Walking Dead’ Review: Slabtown



The Walking Dead
Season 5, Episode 4
Grade: B-

Beth makes her return to the series after being abducted by a mysterious car in last season’s “Alone”.  Judith’s favorite doe-eyed babysitter (though as I’m writing this, I realize that Tyreese has a pretty soulful puppydog gaze himself) wakes up in a room of the Grady Memorial Hospital, deep in the heart of Atlanta.  Officer Dawn Lerner is soon there to greet her along with Dr. Steven Edwards, and any notions that Beth is safe are quickly dispelled after Dawn ominously states, “You owe us.”

As it turns out, Dawn and the other guards at the Grady Memorial Hospital “rescue” survivors and press them into indentured servitude as a form of repayment.  It’s a system borne out of pragmatism and limited resources, but the corrupting influence of power soon sets in. Dawn can barely rein in the abuses of power from her officers, who in turn make a habit of only abducting those they perceive as weak, to make their tenuous authority easier to maintain. It’s another variation in the long line of twisted social microcosms our heroes encounter on this show, but beyond learning about the new rules and the idiots who enforce them, the underlying components are usually the same.

Dawn needlessly explains that everything is for the greater good, while the sympathetic Dr. Edwards finds some time to have another rousing discussion with Beth about living versus merely surviving. Rounding out the cast is the menacing and rapey Officer Gorman, Noah as the friendly face who shows Beth the ropes, and the failed escapee Joan. The characters embodying these various character tropes stands out even more due to how sparse the cast is this episode–we never get a sense of how large the community is because we only ever see a handful of people.


Despite not being particularly unique or engaging, this episode does offer a few interesting moments that stood out. Following her failed escape attempt, Joan decides that the only recourse left to her is hiding and committing suicide in Dawn’s office, in hopes of ambushing Dawn after she turns. It’s an impactful moment for a character who doesn’t get many lines or screentime. Meanwhile, Dr. Edwards is the hospital’s only doctor and is protective of Beth, but he’s also a coward whose influence extends only as far as his utility. So when another doctor and former colleague of his is brought in by the guards, Edwards manipulates Beth into giving him the wrong injection, causing him to seize and die. Despite using her to secure his own position, he neither turns against her nor apologizes–he’s merely a coward trying to survive.

Beth isn’t nearly as understanding of his betrayal, but as she prepares to kill Dr. Edwards with a pair of surgical scissors, the sudden sight of Carol being rolled in on a stretcher gives her pause. Between Morgan’s reveal from the premiere and Daryl’s unseen companions from last week, the diminishing returns of these abrupt cliffhangers are beginning to show. The recent episodes have provided more focused narratives, but given the divergent paths character are taking, juggling between the multiple storylines can prove problematic. Left dangling too long, these cliffhangers begin to work against the show; we still don’t know who Daryl brought back to the church, and it could be a couple more episodes before we learn the fate of Beth and Carol.

It’s uncertain that we’ll soon hear about either, since judging from the preview, next week’s episode will largely focus on the group heading to DC. It’s a minor structural issue that the season will have to resolve if it wants to remain cohesive and keep its sense of momentum, since suspense can easily sour into frustration over too long a timeframe.

Review: ‘Nightcrawler’ is a satire gone awry


Written and Directed by
Dan Gilroy
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Ann Cusack, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed, Kevin Rahm, Michael Hyatt, Kent Shocknek, Sharon Tay, Bill Seward
Rated R
**1/4 out of ****

“Now I like you, Nina. I look forward to our time together, but you have to understand that $25,000 isn’t all that I want. From here on, starting now, I want my work to be credited by the anchors and on a burn. The name of my company is Video News Productions, a professional news gathering service. That’s how it should read and that’s how it should be said. I also want to go to the next rung and meet your team and the anchors and the director and the station manager, to begin developing my own personal relationships. I’d like to start meeting them this morning. You’ll take me around and you’ll introduce me as the owner and president of Video News and remind them of some of my many other stories. I’m not done. I also want to stop our discussions over prices. This will save time. So when I say a particular number is my lowest price, that is my lowest price and you can be sure I’ve arrived at whatever that number is very carefully. Now when I say I want these things I mean that I want them and I don’t want to have to ask again. And the last thing that I want, Nina, is for you to do the things I ask you to do when we’re alone together at your apartment, not like the last time.”

Jake Gyllenhaal channels his inner misanthrope for “Nightcrawler”, a satirical thriller that longs to be Network for the social media age but ultimately falls victim to its own awkward indecisiveness.

Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, a dishonest man who lives and breathes honest advice from self-help books and online business studies in a futile attempt to properly live in and adapt to a wholly dishonest world. By day, he stitches the holes in his limited wardrobe and watches endless hours of daytime television. By night, he carelessly pawns what ever he can pilfer or con just to survive. This isn’t something Bloom wants for himself. He simply has no choice. He longs for an honest job but his prospective employers see right through him and know exactly what he is: a sadistic mutation of the American Dream warped by the fallout of the recent economic downturn.

On the way home from a semi-successful pawn job, he happens upon the scene of a flaming car wreck where he meets Joe (Bill Paxton), a man whose career consists of callously filming the worst crime scenes Los Angeles has to offer and selling the footage to the news channel with the fattest wallet. Bloom, who has no moral code to begin with, is intrigued and immediately acquires a digital video camera, a police scanner and a partner in Rick (Riz Ahmed), a kid who shares the same financial woes that have befallen Louis but who has weathered the storm with his conscience still intact.

After a rough start which sees Joe mocking him for his lack of punctuality, skill, and decent equipment, Louis begins to truly learn the business of being a “nightcrawler”. He studies police codes, teaches Rick how to properly navigate the city and actually begins manipulating crime scenes, going so far as to move the mutilated bodies he films for dramatic effect. Louis also builds an exclusive relationship with L.A.’s lowest-rated television station headed by Nina (Rene Russo), a station director who’s seen better days. At first, Louis’s go-get-’em attitude appeals to Nina who, as thanks for raising the station’s ratings, defends his increasing irregular methods while Joe, who quickly realizes that Louis’s tactics are going to drive him out of a job, offers Louis a job as one of his people. It’s here that we get a hint of the rage that lurks underneath Louis’s otherwise calm exterior.

“I feel like grabbing you by the ears and screaming in your face that I’m not interested,” He explains. “but I’m going home to do some accounting instead.”

Story after story, body after body, Louis builds his career and reputation and uses this new-found capital to impose his will on everyone and anyone. Frank (Kevin Rahm) attempts to warn his colleague about Louis but Nina is more concerned with providing ratings to the station. Plus it’s a moot point: Louis has already managed to corrupt and sexually bribe the hapless Nina who only gives up her body because she’s desperate to re-live the glory days.

Even as a satire of journalistic integrity and morals, the film fails due to a severe lack of subtlety. Except for Gyllenhaal, everyone in this fictional world seems to revert to being a stereotype or exists for the sole purpose of spouting some deeply-held belief that runs contrary to Bloom’s madness and Nina’s acquiescence to that madness. “If it bleeds, it leads!”, Bill Paxton proclaims! “We’re crossing a line here!” says Kevin Rahm, adding that Bloom’s ghastly home invasion footage “violates ethical journalistic boundaries!” “You’re really fucked in the head!” Riz Ahmed tells Gyllenhaal, several times, in reference to his horrifying filming tactics. One of the unspoken rules of satire is that you’re not supposed to spell out the overall message.

On a visual level, the film succeeds a great deal. Los Angeles looks pretty with its trademark grainy neon-and-halogen haze, which successfully replicates the alien, neo-noir L.A. Dion Beebe showed us in Collateral. First-time director Dan Gilroy (brother of the more-seasoned Tony Gilroy) wrote the screenplay and really doesn’t do a bad job. But haven’t we seen this sort of thing already?

Even James Newton Howard’s musical score can’t agree with what’s being presented on screen. Nearly every horrifying scene has some leftover queue from Michael Mann’s Heat playing over it and it’s very off-putting.

The saving grace of this film is the performances. This is the part where I’m supposed to lavish undue praise onto Jake Gyllenhaal. I’ve never thought much of him. He was decent in Fincher’s Zodiac (the irony here is that he’s playing the same character, only without scruples) and, maybe Brokeback Mountain. Aside from that, every other thing he’s been in has been forgettable, at best. To me, he’s an actor not unlike that one pitcher in every baseball team’s roster: frustrating and inconsistent, but who also gives you one or two dazzling performances out of nowhere that makes you say, “Ok, this guy’s not so bad.” Critics, in their advance screening reviews, have practically dubbed Gyllenhaal the Best Actor Oscar winner this year. We’ll see. This is, most certainly, Gyllenhaal’s best performance to date — yet, he’s the main reason the movie kept me at an arm’s length.

His Louis Bloom is Norman Bates after three Triple Shot Macchiatos and reading every book written by Dr. Phil. Everything he does is inspired by a statistic, an inspirational quote, or a simple, basic logical reason. The problem is that everything he does is beyond deplorable: attacking a security guard for his watch, threatening his partner with bodily harm after admitting that he’s pretty much psychotic and practically raping Nina. No, we don’t actually see it happen, mind you. All we get is the lead up but Louis’ sick seduction made me squirm just as much as if I were watching the ultimate outcome.

There are anti-heroes in films like these and I’m sure that Gilroy wants to sell Bloom as such. The problem is that an anti-hero has redeeming qualities — and Louis Bloom has none.

It’s reasons like this that I find myself really unable to recommend this movie. Despite having nearly everything going for it, the film is derivative and exhaustively unpleasant.

‘Homeland’ Review: “From A to B and Back Again”


We’re halfway through the fourth season, so naturally, there are spoilers abound in this review. If you haven’t seen through the sixth episode, GET OUT OF HERE. It’s not me, it’s you. Scram. 

“Holy fuck.”

You said it, Quinn. After the sixth episode, “From A to B and Back Again”, that is exactly my reaction. If I’ve learned anything from TV, it’s that if an episode starts with a sweet, optimistic conversation between a couple, it certainly is not going to end as such. No matter how much I dislike Carrie’s actions in using Aayan, his unflinching faith in her is nothing short of endearing, so to see that ripped from him was disheartening. I never believed he’d make it London–I don’t think anyone did–except Aayan, and that belief spurned him forward into action, even after his protector was kidnapped. “He’s resourceful,” Carried urged at Redmond, echoing Aayan’s earlier proclamation. Resourceful may have been overstating his abilities a bit, but it was nice to see that Carrie actually cared about him as more than a pawn. At least a teeny bit.

Despite all the comparisons, Aayan is not Brody. Aayan is more trusting, only escaping dangerous situations because of his honest fear. No matter what he wants Carrie to think, he is still very young, and that much becomes abundantly clear when he approaches his uncle, Haqqani, for help in getting to London. Being followed and threatened about his passport scared him, but Carrie’s promised freedom promised and the help from his uncle propelled him into misguided happiness. It was that state that led him to calling Carrie and telling her the one thing that would catch her off-guard: “I love you.”

Maybe Carrie meant it when she told him, “I love you, too.” Or maybe she was trying to give him one last shred of hope to hold on to because she knew that soon he would join the rest of his family at her command. Either way, the entire station learned of her affair with the boy in nightmarish fashion.

homeland well this is awkward

I know I said last week that I thought Aayan may have been working with his uncle in what would have been an insane turn of events, but what actually happened was even more shocking. Aayan’s love for his uncle is apparent. He’s the only family he has left, after all. Love and family mean something to him and in those seconds before Haqqani pulled the trigger, both beliefs shattered before his eyes. Those he trusted weren’t real and his hope in the world was less than a lie; it never was to begin with. What a depressing end.

Yet, it’s in those moments that Homeland succeeds. Upon seeing Aayan murdered, Carrie loses it, screaming to drop the bombs, even though it’s revealed that Saul Berenson is right there with Haqqani. Saul, Carrie. Carrie is at her most volatile when her target gets the better of her. We’ve seen her obsessive nature become downright deadly in her actions with both Abu Nazir and Brody. Now, it’s Haqqani’s turn, and he has Saul. I don’t imagine Carrie is going to exactly be calm in the second half of the season.

And O. M. G. I’m so excited to watch it unfold.

Homeland-From A to B and Back Again-Aayan
No more silly romance. No more ridiculous, petty fights with Fara. (What the shit, Carrie??) And hopefully, no more hatred between Carrie and Quinn. After the slow build up, Homeland, hopefully, is back on track.

But back to Quinn, because I have a hard time believing after his anger over losing the cleric last week, that he’d be completely calm about not hearing from Saul. ESPECIALLY after learning Farhad Ghazi didn’t go to South Africa. Quinn isn’t stupid. Wouldn’t he have put two and two together MUCH sooner than ten minutes before the end of the episode? Instead, Quinn sat in his office and brooded. BROODED. Who is he, Harry Potter a la Order of the Phoenix? NO! He’s Peter Quinn! Get it together, guys. And Fara, honey, sweetie. Dennis Boyd didn’t exactly clean up his mess after he stole your trash. You know you taped up that cardboard and wrapped up that bag. What, the wind knocked it over? I know Fara is new to the CIA, but like Quinn, she ain’t dumb. What the episode made up for in Carrie-isms, it lacked in character continuity for our other heroes. I can’t imagine Carrie is going to react calmly to the repercussions of both situations. (But then they’ll be all, “Hey remember when you were having sex and ignored us? DoyourememberCarrie?)

But hey, Redmond is turning into an interesting character. I like his apathetic nature.

To sum up: If Carrie fucked a child then Haqqani murdered one; Saul has definitely looked better; Fara missed the LITERAL ALARMS about shit going down in the safe house; Redmond is the master of Monotonous Voice.

Season 4, Episode 6: “From A to B and Back Again”
Homeland airs Sundays on Showtime at 8pm EST.

HBO’s ‘The Comeback’ Returns With More Laughs and Awkwardness



The Comeback

Season 2, Episodes 1-5


When HBO’s The Comeback ended its first season back in 2005 it looked like the end. The series, built from the “raw footage” of a reality show about a former sitcom star trying to make her big comeback, received lukewarm reviews and low ratings and thus never went beyond those initial 13 episodes…until now.

Thanks to a cult classic status and a reputation that only seems to glow brighter with each passing year, The Comeback is finally coming back for a second season on HBO starting November 9th.

I admittedly never saw a single episode on the show’s initial run so before digging into press screeners of the second season’s first five episodes I went back and watched the entire series and am happy to say that it lived up the reputation that has been built up around it for the past nine years. The situations and foibles of Valerie Cherish’s (Lisa Kudrow) struggle for stardom are so painfully awkward that all you can do is laugh…hysterically. In fact, probably only Ricky Gervais and Steve Carell in their respective versions of The Office can compete with the level cringe-worthy moments brought about by Ms. Cherish.

So how does the new season hold up?

Pretty. Damn. Well.

Picking up nine years after we left Valerie, we quickly learn that things haven’t improved much in her lackluster career. Her comeback vehicle sitcom, Room and Bored, was cancelled during it’s first season and as a result so was her reality show depicting said comeback. Since then, Valerie has been stuck doing bit roles on CSI-type shows as well as acting in numerous “independent films” AKA student films.

We also learn that in 2008 she auditioned to be on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills but couldn’t quite grasp the concept of completely ignoring the cameras filming her life and just letting things play out without a care. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the first season of the show and remembers her constant speaking to the producer, Jane (Laura Silverman), about what should or should not be included in the final product.

You might be asking yourself though how the show picks back up again without Valerie being the subject of a new reality series. Well, it turns out that Valerie is taking that problem into her own hands by hiring a crew of film students (including her nephew who actually isn’t even interested in film or TV) to film her life and create a pilot that she can pitch to BRAVO’s Andy Cohen. Valerie sees this as a legitimate opportunity after an incredibly innocuous exchange with him on Twitter, which makes her assume that they’re great friends. You can probably imagine how wrong she is on that assessment.

But in the process of making this pilot, Valerie learns that her former producer/nemesis on the set of Room and Bored, Paulie G. (Lance Barber), is fresh out of rehab and writing/directing a new show for HBO called Seeing Red, which happens to be a fictionalized telling of his experience working with Valerie on the set of Room and Bored.

At first, Valerie and her husband (Damian Young) think they should file a lawsuit for character defamation but when Valerie goes to HBO headquarters to make her initial complaint she is mistakenly brought in to audition for the role that is essentially her and magically nails it. She is then cast in the series and granted permission to have cameras follow her around to be used as behind the scenes web content, and thus Season 2 of The Comeback (for us) is born.


Everything listed above is depicted in the season’s first episode, which despite all of the content is actually quite slow to get going. The pacing of the scenes catching us up on Valerie’s life over the last nine years is slow and feels uneasy in both writing and execution, but as soon as the plot starts kicking in you can feel the whole series settle into its groove and really start to fire on all cylinders.

Lisa Kudrow is still brilliant as Valerie and creates that wonderful balance where you want to slap, hug, and flee from her all at the same time. The way she portrays this woman as being so painfully out of touch is shocking but works because she makes it so believable AND endearing. It’s hard to imagine many other actresses being able to pull off the extreme balancing act needed for this role and so its a real treat that we get to see Kudrow do it again for eight more episodes.

But in addition to Kudrow’s triumphant return, fans of the first season will also be treated to numerous other familiar faces like Valerie’s maid, Esperanza (Lillian Hurst), her fussy publicist, Billy (Dan Bucatinsky), and of course her lovable stylist, Mickey (Robert Michael Morris) who is now comfortably out of the closet but still as oblivious to the world around him as Valerie.

140926-ep01-mickey-laughing-1024As this new season goes along we get to see Valerie attend the Golden Globes, get a stinky trailer on the studio lot, film a scene on a completely green screen set, and volunteer her home as a shooting location when budget cuts threaten removing scenes set at her character’s house from the scripts. All of the above lead to some truly brilliant bits of humor mixed with anguish that I won’t dare spoil here.

My favorite mini storyline of the new season thus far though crops up during the third and fourth episodes when Valerie shares her first scenes with Seth Rogen (as himself naturally) who is playing the character based on Paulie G. in Seeing Red. In the scene, Rogen casually improvises new lines and tosses in a fair amount of vulgarity much to the delight of everyone on set. This naturally throws Valerie off of her very rehearsed game but later inspires her to try throwing out her own vulgar lines on set (to disastrous results) and to take an improv class at the famous Groundlings. Needless to say, Valerie is the worst possible candidate for improv success in the world. Hands down.

In truth, I could go on and on about the many hilarious things scattered throughout these very funny first five episodes but awkward humor deserves to experienced as fresh and unexpected as possible so I will say no more and avoid spoiling anything more.

In short, this is a welcome return for The Comeback in an age when most pop culture revivals fall flat on their face. These new episodes are wonderfully acted, endlessly funny and I personally can’t wait to see the remaining three episodes of this revival season. In the slightly re-purposed words of Aunt Sassy’s catchphrase from Room and Bored: “I DO want to see that!”

The Comeback: Season 2 premieres on November 9, 2014 at 10 PM

‘Furious 7’ Trailer Brings a Whole New Crazy to the ‘Fast & Furious’ series


The Fast & Furious franchise has always been known for its outrageous car stunts and action sequences, but things are getting even more ridiculous (and awesome) in the trailer for Furious 7, the latest iteration in the series.

Sky diving with cars? Check!
Breaking your cast with the strength of your muscles? Check!
Running up the side of a bus that is about to take a plunge of a cliff? Triple Check!

The trailer also gives us our first look at how the studio is handling the CGI nature of Paul Walker after his death last November.

Continuing the global exploits in the unstoppable franchise built on speed, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the returning cast of Fast & Furious 7. James Wan directs this chapter of the hugely successful series that also welcomes back favorites Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky and Lucas Black. They are joined by international action stars new to the franchise including Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey and Kurt Russell. Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell return to produce the film written by Chris Morgan.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Don’t Miss SHOWRUNNERS, a New Documentary Film


I’ve been excited about Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show since I met one of the producers a few years ago at San Diego Comic Con. Ryan Patrick McGuffey was excited to be a part of them team intent on bringing one of televisions most mysterious jobs into the bright, on camera lights. The project was in the beginning stages but every word out of his mouth bred more and more excitement – and now it’s finally here!


Des Doyle directs a documentary that follows the work and lives of some of the biggest names in the business–JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, Jane Espensen, Hart Hanson, Damon Lindelof, Steven McKnight, JH Wyman and SO many more. It’s a behind the scenes look at some of the greatest television shows of all time you won’t get anywhere else!


“Showrunners” is the first ever feature length documentary film to explore the fascinating world of US television showrunners and the creative forces aligned around them. These are the people responsible for creating, writing and overseeing every element of production on one of the United States’ biggest exports – television drama and comedy series. Often described as the most complex job in the entertainment business, a showrunner is the chief writer / producer on a TV series and, in most instances, the show’s creator. Battling daily between art and commerce, showrunners manage every aspect of a TV show’s development and production: creative, financial and logistical. Featuring interviews with the showrunners behind Lost, Boardwalk Empire, Bing Bang Theory, The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy, Spartacus, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Person of Interest and Firefly.

Catch Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show in theaters (if you’re lucky enough to live where it’s being released) or download it on iTunes and watch from the comfort of your home!

Weekend Wisdom: Halloween Edition



Happy Halloween, Workprint Readers! It’s the most wonderful time of year for those of us who love binging on candy, spending way too much money on a costume we’ll probably only wear once, and getting the bejeezus scared out of us by monsters and killers in all forms of mass media. In honor of this occasion, I’ll be giving you the lowdown on all of this week’s notable new releases in theaters but then I’m going to honor the holiday by ranking the films of my favorite horror series…which happens to share a name with this spooky day we love so much.

If you can’t figure out which one that is you should probably just stop while you’re behind.

The Newbies

“Thanks a lot, Firth. This is our 2nd movie together this year that no one cares about.”

It’s not often that Halloween lands on a Friday so you’d expect Hollywood to be unleashing a plethora of horror films to the masses but this year you would to be wrong. With Annabelle and Ouija still scaring up decent business in theaters the only brand new entries to the genre this weekend come in the form of Before I Go to Sleep – a completely under the radar thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth – and Horns starring former wizard Daniel Radcliffe as a young man growing devil-like horns while developing powers that may help him try to solve the murder of his girlfriend.

Unfortunately, Before I Go to Sleep currently sits with a rather unremarkable Tomatometer score of 39% which probably won’t convince anyone to take a chance on a movie that has otherwise been completely devoid of buzz or marketing power.

Snakes make Radcliffe horny.

Horns doesn’t fair much better though with a current Tomatometer score of 45% but our own critic, Nicole C., give the film a solid B and praises Radcliffe’s performance as one of depth and range. You can read her full review by clicking HERE. And if you don’t feel like giving the film the full cost of a theater ticket, its also available on all Video On Demand venues as well as iTunes.

Both of these minor releases are inevitably going to be overshadowed though and one of the films to do the overshadowing is actually ten years old. Oh yes, the piece of torture porn known as Saw is back in theaters to celebrate its 10th anniversary and make you feel really old at the exact same time.

“As you wish?”

Normally I’m the world’s biggest advocate for checking out a classic film on the big screen with a theater full of people. I’m just not sure if Saw can be counted as a classic film. I know it has it’s fans out there though so I hope they take advantage of this big screen revival and then avoid putting me in some of the situations depicted in the film.

Mostly that second part though.

This may or may not be from the wrong movie.

But for those of us looking for something a little more promising there’s Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal about a man getting sucked into the seedy world of crime journalism in Los Angeles. The film has been getting rave reviews to the tune of a 96% score on the Tomatometer and is getting Oscar buzz for Gyllenhaal as well as costar Rene Russo who is long overdue for some award recognition.

All in all, I think your choice is clear if you decide to visit the movie theater this weekend.

Don’t Feel Like Leaving the Couch?

What better way to spend a Halloween weekend on the couch than with a marathon of my personal favorite horror franchise?

The answer is simply NOTHING.

halloween-movie-logo-wallpaper,1366x768,60885 (1)

36 years ago (thankfully older than me) director John Carpenter introduced us to the horrifying character known as Michael Myers who has successfully creeped me out for as long as I can remember. The original Halloween, released in 1978, spawned 7 sequels of varying quality as well as a 2007 remake which also had a sequel of its own.

Throughout the years all ten of these films have been spread out between multiple studios and home video distributors making the prospect of a complete DVD or Blu-Ray collection impossible but last month the fine folks at Anchor Bay and Scream Factory teamed up to release Halloween: The Complete Collection. This extensive set includes just about everything you could possibly want as a fan of the series including a plethora of behind the scenes content, deleted scenes, and alternate versions of several of the films themselves.

Now I know there’s probably some of you out there who don’t want to devote enough time to watch ALL of the films in question (and that’s TOTALLY fair) so I’ve crafted here a handy ranking of the films from worst to best and will leave it up to you how far down the list you want to check out.

But before we get started it’s important to note that I’m going to leave Rob Zombie’s two remake films off of the list and focus on the original series of eight films instead. Anyone who has seen them probably knows why.

But anyway, let’s kick things off at the bottom of the barrel:

8. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) This weakest link of the original series manages to undo everything that went right in the surprisingly enjoyable 4th film by replacing a likeable lead character with Tina, one of the most obnoxious in movie history; stripping the young Danielle Harris of her voice; and throwing in a few idiot police officers who come accompanied by the ever classy music of the kazoo. Take it from me – this one is for diehard fans only.

7. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) This sixth film in the series might easily take the bottom spot if it weren’t for the intriguing Producer’s Cut that finally made its official debut in the Complete Collection. 92ad00b1081542ec8e24c71dd3909095You can’t really polish a turd but this wildly different version of the film gives it a slight leg up over a film that is otherwise only notable for giving us the gift of a young Paul Rudd in his film debut.

6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Most people ignore this film because it doesn’t actually have anything to do with Michael Myers or any other character introduced in the first two films. Carpenter originally conceived the series to tell a completely different story set on Halloween with each successive film. This one dealt with an evil costume company plotting to kill millions of children using tainted Halloween masks. No, really. It’s an interesting oddity if you can live without Michael’s pretty white face, but be warned: you never get THIS out of your head.

5. Halloween: Resurrection (2002) This film SHOULD be placed a little lower in the rankings but I hate to think that any of you might miss out on the acting prowess of Ms. Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes yelling my all-time favorite line: “TRICK OR TREAT, MUTHA FUCKA!”

4. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) After the box office failure of Halloween III trying something new, the producers decided to bring Michael Myers back for more scares and the result is pure, late-80s horror gold! The rules of Scream apply here in a big way and if you can’t have a good time watching this with a room full of friends you’re doing it all wrong.

Deleted scene where Michael stalks Laurie through the porthole of a boat.

3. Halloween: H20 (1998) This 20th anniversary film brought Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold and what I actually like most about this film is how it deals with her character’s many understandable issues as a result of what she experienced 20 years prior. There are scenes of genuinely well-acted drama on Curtis’ part and that ending is a stunner. The series should have definitely ended there.

2. Halloween II (1981) What makes this first sequel so enjoyable is the incredibly rare plot device of picking up the story IMMEDIATELY after the events of the first film and expanding it into one epically-long, scary night. On top of the innovative time placement the film also reveals significantly more backstory to Micheal’s motivations. Some argue that this takes away from his air of pure evil depicted so menacingly in the first film, but its a logical step that ultimately pays off well in H20. Oh, and the creepy hospital setting has pretty much ruined health care for me.

Reenactment of anytime I’m on an elevator and can see someone else running to get on.

1. Halloween (1978) Let’s face it, you knew there was no chance that the classic original wasn’t going to get the top spot here. Halloween is far and away my favorite horror film of all time simply because it is the only film that successfully scares the hell out of me no matter how many times I watch it. Carpenter has a masterful control over tone in this film and it lingers in the air of wherever you’re watching it like a chill you can’t shake. The slow camera moves, spine-tingling music, terrifying warnings of Donald Pleasence‘s Dr. Loomis, and the ever-looming presence of Michael Myers will leave you afraid of the dark and double-checking your door locks. And all of this is done without resorting to the slightest bit of gore. This is cinematic horror at it’s most simple yet effective. All in all a masterpiece.

So what are you waiting for? Start watching!