Deadline reports that Sony’s Steve Jobs project has been put into turnaround at the studio. Films that have long development cycles are no strangers to getting thrust into turnaround, but this is extremely rare for such a high profile picture like this one.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin spent several years working on the script, which was immediately fast-tracked and saw it in the hands of director David Fincher before finding a home with another Oscar winner, Danny Boyle. Christian Bale was set to play Jobs until he backed out at the zero hour, which is probably a large contributing factor to Sony’s sudden cold-shoulder. The weighty script, which contains only three 30-minute scenes with Jobs back stage before three product launches puts an incredible amount of responsibility on the actor, aside from the fact that they are playing one of the most important innovators of the 20th century; it’s no surprise that the project is having trouble nailing down its star.
Films that normally go into turnaround wither away and die, but this pic is looking likely to quickly find a second home at Universal, with a deal likely to go down later in the week. Michael Fassbender is rumored to be circling the role.
I’m starting to fear that Revenge has no real idea where it’s headed.
David Clarke came back at the end of Season 3, providing a swerve that was both welcome by fans hungry for a wrench in the works and maligned by fans who thought it rendered everything Emily had done throughout the series completely pointless. We do know that the surprise was against the wishes of former series head, Mike Kelley.
Last night, I watched the show go deliberately vague for no good reason:
David can’t tell Emily who held him captive or be her father for some reason.
Emily accepts this for some reason.
Nolan, to his credit, cannot understand this at all and, in what I hope is the real-life actor starting to question the huge logical holes in the script, asks what the point of Emily’s behavior is.
Seriously, it’s getting harder and harder to watch this show.
Last week, the show gave us Hallucinatory Mom a’la Dexter. This week, Dexter‘s Courtney Ford joins the show as FBI agent “Kate Taylor”. In four seconds, Taylor not only manages to put two and two together to figure out that the man who may have murdered Conrad Grayson is the same guy who tried to run down David Clarke outside a hotel, she ends up on a date with Jack for no other reason other than Jack isn’t getting any tail and needed something to do. You know, other than moping or warning his partner to “back off of the Grayson case”. Did I mention that happened again this week? Only, this time, they were at a bar, Officer Ben was drunk and the bar had no bouncers as Jack shoved Ben against the bar and yelled, in front of everyone, that Ben was gonna “lose his badge” if he didn’t back off the case.
Meanwhile, Ghost Mom convinces Louise to get preggers with Daniel’s kid by, essentially, raping him in the shower. I actually just typed that and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds, even now. How did this happen, you ask? Daniel totally falls for her scheme to get him that shower because she left a sexy, anonymous note for him, using the same stationary his ex, Margaux, used. Seriously, I cannot make that up. Oh, this, after Margaux dumps Daniel in the most emotional way possible: she admits that she was “in love with him”. Yeah, I wasn’t buying that either. I still don’t. There’s more chemistry in an episode of Mr. Wizard.
Margaux gets over it pretty quick and tries to work her charms on Nolan, telling him that she wants him to dig up dirt on Louise by hacking into her criminal record. At first, Nolan tells her to go to hell because he likes her — but, then, Nolan discovers that Louise has Photoshopped herself into photos with Victoria and realizes that Margaux is right about his new-found buddy. He decides to play ball with Margaux — but at a price: after being humiliated at the hands of David Clarke on live television, he wants her to manipulate public opinion so that he looks like an angel instead of a demon.
As for the Battleship Victoria, she’s recovering from electrocution (PLOT DEVICE) and still manages to manipulate the shit out of David by screwing with his reunion with Emily. As David tells Emily that he wasn’t the one who took the photos she showed him, Victoria subtly disconnects herself from her heart monitor, sending in one of those television nurse teams that immediately calls for charge paddles. My Grandmother may not be as important as Victoria Grayson but she was on death watch a few months ago and when her heart monitor accidentally disconnected, it took Kaiser four minutes to send one nurse in and she wasn’t yelling “CODE BLUE” or saying “I NEED CHARGE PADDLES, STAT!”
Anyhow, David learns that Victoria knows Emily’s true identity. She only hid it from David because her and Emily hate one another. David’s reaction? He still loves Victoria. So, that’s cool. It’s not cool with Emily who’s furious with her father for continuing to placate Victoria and allowing her to manipulate him. She tells him that she spent all her time getting even with the Grayson’s for what they did to him. David goes cold and tells his daughter that he doesn’t need her help, leaving Emily in tears.
This leads to, yet, ANOTHER impromptu meeting between Daniel and Emily, who’s sulking on her front porch. Daniel can’t believe that Emily has given up on her Dad, telling her that even he feels guilty for not visiting his Mom in the hospital. Emily calls Daniel a Mama’s Boy and tells him to leave. Daniel tells her not to give up because “the hell she put him through will have been a waste.”
Meanwhile, in the hospital, two men, posing as nurses, attack David. He fights back the best he can but quits the fight when one of the men threatens to inject Victoria’s IV with a presumably dangerous substance. That’s when Emily injects herself into the fray: she was hiding under Victoria’s bed the entire time, I kid you not. After fighting both men off, she tends to her father, who tells her that he can’t be Emily’s father because it’s “too dangerous”. This, of course, brings us back to where we started: Emily telling Nolan that her father’s right and she should mind her own business, much to Nolan’s dismay.
Of course…Emily neglected to mention that she captured one of the dudes who attacked her Dad…and she’s ready to use torture to get answers…
So…that’s about where we’re at here. Revenge will take a small hiatus and resume in two weeks. Hopefully, the writers will have started to breathe a bit and utilize their brains to give a us a nice mid-season cliffhanger going into the Christmas break. Otherwise, this show offered nothing new this week.
Welcome to The Playback! In this little slice of cyberspace, you’ll find us getting prepared for a new sequel/spin-off/prequel/remake/redux/reducks (?) by looking at what came before it! This week marks the premiere of ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One’, so we are taking a look back at the two films which preceded it, starting with 2012’s ‘The Hunger Games’.
So here’s the thing: I did not like ‘The Hunger Games’. There I said it. I didn’t care that it was recycling old concepts like ‘The Running Man’. I didn’t care that it was a blatant rip-off of ‘Battle Royale’. I didn’t care that it was rehashing well-tread themes like Discovering Who You Really Are and Fight The Power, both mainstay tenets in Young Adult fiction. What bothered me was the large-sized kid gloves used to handle material that could have- and should have- been elevated past its YA roots and into something more of a four-quadrant picture for all.
You could certainly argue that ‘The Hunger Games’ did hit all quadrants, what with it’s massive near-$700 million take worldwide, but I chalk that up to never underestimating the power of the tween and teen demographic. They have always been undermined and will continue to be, but that’s a whole other article. Let us return to the dystopia of Panem, shall we?
One of the big problems I have with YA novels and narratives is its consistent short-sightedness with the worlds that each novel creates. A story’s world is perhaps the most important thing to “sell” in a narrative because it is the key component which allows all the insane ideas to make some sort of logical sense; if it makes sense in the world, it is believable, not matter how far-out the concept. This is what the ‘Harry Potter’ series does so well. But with most other YA novels, and thus their adaptations, there is a certain naiveté that each book possesses about its world that affects the believability of the rest of the material. Be it ‘The Maze Runner’, ‘Divergent’, or even ‘The Hunger Games’, if you really start to look at the world of each book, the seams begin to show in the narrative.
In ‘The Hunger Games’, the world lacks a cohesiveness to it. I obviously understand the social differences between the Capitol and all of the Districts, but the visual style is too wildly different. Characters like Caesar and Seneca and Effie have bizarre ‘Fifth Element’-esuqe hair, makeup, and wardrobe. It looks like something pulled from a galaxy far, far away. But the problem is that the story doesn’t want us to think it’s a galaxy far, far away. This is a mirror image of Earth. The geology and ecology is the same. When Katniss and Gale are hunting, they don’t hunt strange, other-wordly game with wild feathering or fur patterns– they hunt the same turkeys we all know and love. Technology -old and new- is a reflection of our own, so why then are aspects of the society so wildly “out there”? It’s an inconsistency that many not find too important, but it pulled me out of the story.
And what is the backstory of the world? How did we get here? They speak of a class war and there are echoes of a Fascist state and how it would look if it really took hold over a society, but, at least in the film, it is never really explained.
But really, the execution of the movie was far too even-handed and lacked any sort of edge, which is really the problem for ‘The Hunger Games’. It’s a problem which was quickly rectified when Francis Lawrence took the reins from Gary Ross for ‘Catching Fire’ to great effect, but this movie suffered from a constant regiment of Playing-It-Safe. The threats just don’t seem that threatening. The most harrowing sequence of the movie is Katniss vs. a hive of ‘Tracker Jackers’ – glorified wasps – and the way in which it is executed is all a little silly.
But perhaps the moment in which the movie really lost me was when Katniss discovers Peeta, camouflaged as a rock. Or is it a tree log? Who the hell knows. (And by the way, what the fuck kind of name is Peeta, anyway? ‘Peeta’ isn’t a name. ‘Peeta’ is when someone misspells the thing I enjoy eating with Hummus…) I buy that Peeta can use his existing skills to figure out how to blend in with the environment. I buy that he would be able to use the resources around him to create that subterfuge. What is totally fucking ridiculous is how it looks in the movie- with his face sticking out of some kind of rock out-cropping. It was an unintentionally hilarious moment that I could not have fully prepared for. Poor Peeta was supposed to look smart and cunning, but instead he ended up looking like a mascot for the worst sports team ever. “Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s welcome to the field, the mascot of the Panem Rocks- the Panem Boulder Thing!” This moment is the summation of everything wrong with ‘The Hunger Games’; interesting ideas which are poorly executed, one after another.
‘The Hunger Games’ ended up being a misstep. Not a massive one, but a misstep nonetheless. Happily, that mostly changes full-stop with the second installment, ‘Catching Fire’…
Check back later in the week with The Playback looks at ‘The Hunger Games – Catching Fire’.
With only handful of episodes to go before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. launches into its mid-season break, we’re pushing the envelope on characters, mythology and stakes. (Uh, anyone else worry about Trip tonight?) I’ve repeatedly praised this show for its immense improvement from a year ago, and I continue to sing its praises as it keeps finding solid footing with each passing week.
Like most episodes this season, “The Things We Bury” was explored in a way that was both literal (Ward and Christian and the family well) and metaphorical (Whitehall’s de-aging, Coulson’s decision to not tell Skye about meeting her father.) In that same sense, many things finally came to a head — The Doctor confronted Coulson, we got more information about the 0-8-4 mystery, and (assuming that this is really the end of the Christian Ward storyline) we finally got Grant Ward back in a position of power. For the first time in a long time, it seems that Ward is exactly where he wants to be — only now, he’s not being controlled by anyone. He’s doing his own bidding, and in case you couldn’t tell, he really likes it.
The episode spent a large chunk of time toggling between present day and flashbacks to 1945, which is where we started, with Whitehall interrogating a man who was presumably searching for the Obelisk. Whitehall tricks the man into touching it and when he dies, they bring in the next woman — a young Asian girl (Dollhouse‘s Dichen Lachman) who, though terrified, is smarter than her previous prisoner, as she refuses to touch the Obelisk at all. Whitehall eventually forces her to, but instead of getting horribly burned, the Obelisk reacts. (Like, really reacts. It gets all glowy and everything.) This intrigues Whitehall greatly. He wants to study her, to find out everything about her that makes her “special.” We’re interrupted here by news of Red Skull’s death, and you can thank Captain America for that one.
Back in the present day, Whitehall is getting annoyed with the slow progress of his team’s study of the Obelisk. He brings in The Doctor, who claims that it has properties and powers Whitehall doesn’t understand. It’s a key. It can kill, but it’s only doing so to protect itself. He calls it “The Diviner” and then tries to persuade him that if you take it to a really special place, it’ll do something even cooler. Obviously.
Speaking of really special places, Coulson is headed to Hawaii with Skye, Fitz and Trip, while May is holding down the fort with Simmons, Bobbi and Hunter. Did I mention that despite the growth of the cast, the split team dynamics are really working for me? Because they really are. Bobbi interrogates Bakshi and manages to not only work her way into my heart, but also wear him down (though he’s still holding out on giving them any real information). But Bobbi is good at this — like, really good — and thanks to Bakshi’s wording, manages to figure out that he may have a connection to Red Skull. Though it seems almost impossible, Simmons and May attempt to investigate further. Meanwhile, Christian Ward is on his way to his family’s summer home (aka a conveniently secluded cabin) when his brother pays a very surprise visit.
Coulson enlists Skye and Trip to run some strange errands in Hawaii, which involves handing off a watch and a coin to specific people. Fitz’s job is to activate a device that will be used in the field, though he’s only got one good hand, and Coulson needs him to be able to active the device in a certain amount of minutes. This is the Director Coulson I love and know, by the way — the one that believes in his team and pushes them to do things that they think are beyond their capabilities.
Back on the Bus, Bobbi is stick-twirling and ruminating over Hydra theories with Hunter, while Simmons and May are continuing their search for Bakshi’s connections. Simmons comes across a report from the one and only Peggy Carter, about the original 0-8-4. (And that should be a big deal, but she’s too busy appropriately fangirling over Peggy’s work the same way I would, if I held something from such an awesome lady hero.) Also interestingly, we get a hint dropped that Agent Carter was May’s mentor, and now I just want all the backstory on that relationship. Simmons finds that the file mentions a man named Werner Reinhart and we flash back to 1945 again — and to Whitehall, who at this point, is actually Reinhart, being interrogated by Peggy. He’s promising her secrets to all the items her and her team have recovered, and information on how to save humanity, but Peggy is clearly having none of his bribes.
Meanwhile, at Site of Brotherly Bonding, Ward is leading brother through the woods as they argue about their past mistakes, including the house fire and the well accident. He eventually forces his brother to dig up the well that his parents have covered up, and you can just tell this isn’t going to end well for one of the parties involved (ahem, Christian.)
May and the team are going through Peggy’s S.S.R. files, which conveniently never made their way into the S.H.I.E.L.D. database and therefore were never seen by Hydra. Simmons finds Whitehall’s picture, looking the exact same as he does now, and deduces that his very personal connection to Red Skull isn’t unwarranted — he was the same man who was once known as Reinhart. May pieces together that he aged in a prison called “The Rat,” but clearly must have found some way to reverse the aging process. A look at “The Rat” in 1945 does indeed show Reinhart wasting away in the cell that Peggy’s left him in, until 1989, when he’s rescued by a man sent by none other than Alexander Pierce (who we all know from a little film called Winter Soldier.) “Hail Hydra,” the agent says before wheeling him away, and I really love how S.H.I.E.L.D. is integrating all these small building blocks of their narrative/mythology with the specifics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is indeed All Connected, and I look forward to seeing how much more connected it is once we start getting closer to Age of Ultron next year.
Whitehall is brought to Austria and told that the woman he had interrogated earlier is still alive. Not only that, when she’s brought to him she looks exactly the same as she did in 1945. He experiments on her in a pretty gory and graphic fashion (that admittedly made me uncomfortable) until he’s pretty much left her for dead. When Bobbi goes back to interrogating Bakshi again, she claims she knows Whitehall’s secret — how he changed his name once he de-aged, and though Bakshi tries to bait her with tales of how she acted when she was undercover at Hydra, Bobbi doesn’t budge. Bakshi takes matters into his own hands, and smashes a cyanide capsule inside his cheek in a suicide attempt.
In the woods, Ward is trying to get his brother to admit that he pushed Thomas into the well. When another argument breaks out, Ward ends up threatening to throw his brother down the same well they just uncovered, and the near-death experience causes Christian to finally admit that he wanted Thomas dead, because he was the only one their mother didn’t torture. Gotta love those screwed up Ward family dynamics. The two seemingly make up, though we all know there can’t really be any happy endings, and so we’re left wondering when the other shoe is going to drop on this storyline.
Coulson’s team has now made it to Australia, where they plan to infiltrate a satellite system, aided by the connection of the objects that Coulson has set up in Hawaii for just this purpose. (They’ll cut the feed in Hawaii, which will allow Skye to hack the network and Fitz to active the transceiver.) Naturally, that’s not going to go as smoothly as they think, and both Coulson and Trip end up getting ambushed by Hydra, with Trip getting critically wounded while trying to protect Coulson. While I pray to my TV that they won’t kill off one of my favorite characters this early, The Doctor arrives to help. Uh, I mean “help.”
The Doctor essentially uses Trip as a bargaining chip for Coulson, and with Trip’s life in peril, Coulson and Fitz have no choice but to disarm and obey. The Doctor drops some vague hints about “the city” and references the fact that whatever happens, Skye will be in the center of it. He tells Coulson how to save Trip’s life so that he can have the opportunity to escape, but not before insisting that “Skye” is not her name — and also further reiterating that Coulson is not her father.
We see Whitehall talking to someone who is eventually revealed as Grant Ward, discussing second chances. He shows Ward a report of a murder-suicide with Christian and his parents, with Christian’s confession from earlier being broadcasted, and remember when I said this wasn’t going to end well? The Ward family has really had a rough go of it lately. Hunter and Bobbi watch Bakshi stabilize, which turns into them arguing (of course) about Hunter’s inability to trust Bobbi. Bobbi’s already on edge, upset that she miscalculated in her interrogration, and naturally this all leads to what we’ve been hoping to see from a few episodes ago: hot, angry van sex. Am I into it? Let me just say that I am a Clint Barton/Bobbi Morse stan until the day I die, but oh yes, I am so into it, and so I will let the show go here if it wants to. Mostly because Nick Blood and Adrianne Palicki have such amazing chemistry, it’s impossible not to want them to be together all the time.
While Skye shows Coulson a map of the city, Coulson debates on whether to tell her about his run-in with her father. Fortunately, the conversation is cut short before he can decide what to do, but we know that the confrontation is coming, and when it does (perhaps before the mid-season finale?) I can’t imagine that this surrogate father-daughter relationship won’t undergo a healthy amount of strain.
At the end of the episode, The Doctor comes in to meet with Whitehall and Ward, who tells The Doctor he knows Coulson’s team so well, they’re like family. Meanwhile, in flashbacks, we see a much younger doctor finding the body of the dead Asian woman who Whitehall had experimented on. He cries while he holds her, vowing to do to “him” what he did to her, and we soon realize that this magically-powered-non-aging woman who can touch an alien object is none other than Skye’s mother (and kudos to the casting department for picking up on the uncanny resemblance between Chloe Bennet and Dichen Lachman.
So we’ve known for awhile that Skye is an 0-8-4, and also that her mother was an 0-8-4 and now we at least see a little of what that means — she apparently has powers that can work the Obelisk, and she has the de-aging secrets locked within her. Obviously, there’s much, much more to be discovered, but drop your theories now — do we think Skye is an Inhuman? (It seems that every new piece of information is steadily getting set up to lead to this…)
Quoteables: “He [Fury] could only see five steps ahead, which, for a one eyed man is impressive.” – Coulson
Fans of smash FX anthology American Horror Story are used to the series introducing one eccentric story component after another. For star Angela Bassett, however, it wasn’t the killer clown or traveling circus that caught her most off guard when preparing for the current season, Freak Show. While the Oscar nominee had already portrayed iconic voodoo queen Marie Laveau on last year’s AHS cycle, Coven, this time around it was her character’s physical description, not supernatural powers, that initially presented the biggest shock.
“I think it was about two weeks before I was scheduled to come down to start shooting that I got the, you know, the hot off the press script. I sat down to read it to see and I remember wondering, ‘Now, how am I going to know who I am?’” Bassett began, talking with The Workprint and other media outlets during a recent conference interview. “Then you read the stage direction: African-American woman in her 40s, hermaphrodite, three breasts, and a ding-a-ling. You’re like, ‘oh, my gosh!’ You immediately close the pages, and have to walk around and process that for a minute. You’re thinking, ‘What does that mean? If they thought I was crazy demonic last year, what are they going to think this year?’”
So far, Bassett’s performance as the free-spirited but emotionally stifled Desiree Dupree has already gone much further than skin deep. The character’s sexual ambiguity might have conjured a backstory of lifelong internal conflict, but when it was discovered in the Nov. 5 episode that Desiree is actually 100 percent female, her narrative arc opened up a whole new host of possibilities for the future.
However, Bassett explained why this revelation won’t ultimately affect either her artistic method or perception of Desiree, and how the character’s real journey actually has little to do with gender.
“I just knew that it was absolutely going to be something that I had never done before. What does an actor crave, but new challenges? This certainly was going to be one of those,” Bassett said of her preliminary reaction to the character. “But I don’t think it’ll change how I approach or how she acts. I think she’s comfortable. I think she’s comfortable with who she is, by and large. I think she’s just had to find a way to work and survive in a world that she’s always been reaching for, what she calls normalcy — to have a family, a real family, and children of her own. I don’t think it’s going to change and make her more feminine or whatever it might be … I’m open, but I don’t anticipate it’ll change the way that she behaves. I think what influences that is how she’s treated, how she’s treated by others.”
Bassett’s fellow “freaks” include American Horror Story alums Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson, among others, as well as series newcomer Michael Chiklis as Desiree’s husband, Dell. It’s this relationship that illustrates the real core of Desiree’s identity and subsequent growing process, and Bassett discussed how their disintegrating marriage will ultimately give Desiree the platform she needs to embark upon true self-discovery.
“There was a time when he was kind and good to her, and believed in her, and made her feel valuable and special … [but] there has come a point where he crossed the line of no return,” Bassett said, referring to Dell’s persistent abuse and deception. “She thought she knew who he was, but she found out she was living with the enemy. There’s something about him that was dishonest and disloyal. They were there for each other. They told each other their painful truth. I think he crossed the line. Sometimes that happens and you can’t go back.”
When asked if she considers Freak Show as more inherently “dark” than Coven or other American Horror Story chapters, Bassett chuckled and again referenced Dell’s contribution to the season’s thematic depth.
“You know, that’s what Chiklis says! I say, ‘Wait a minute, based on the type of show you’ve done, you consider this dark and strange?!’” she exclaimed. “But it’s a little dark. It’s dealing with how so-called ‘normal’ folks deal with those who are atypical or different. So that can get a little bit dark … what’s [really] dark is the secrets in men’s hearts.”
Working closely with Chiklis is but one professional perk Bassett noted. She agreed enthusiastically with the idea the AHS actors are, like the Freak Show itself, their own traveling performance troupe of sorts. For Bassett, the familial structure on set, in addition to the impressive pedigree, was a major selling point.
“That was one of the prevailing reasons for me joining the cast. I couldn’t believe I’d get an opportunity to work with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates in a lifetime, especially at the same time. It’s wonderful,” Bassett gushed. “Everyone is just an ultimate professional. We have a good time. We have a good time with it. We all have an appreciation for this crazy world and the things that we’re asked to do. It stretches us and grows us. The fact that we get to come back year after year and they fashion some completely new insanity for us to play out is a plus. It’s thrilling.”
Although American Horror Story presents each new installment with a fresh setting, storyline and colorful cast of characters, the recent revelation that creator Ryan Murphy plans to connect each season has fans clamoring for clues. It seems understandable to assume the AHS actors would do the same, but Bassett discussed why she plans to keep her personal speculation to a minimum.
“I didn’t have a clue whatsoever what the part might be, what it might encompass when I signed on. I just knew I had a great time the previous year, and if that was any indication, it was going to be a wild ride,” Bassett said of her decision to return for Freak Show. As for whether or not she has any idea how Desiree Dupree or Marie Laveau could be potentially linked, Bassett cited blissful ignorance at first but couldn’t help divulging a glimmer of curiosity.
“Not one, nor have I considered it. That [does] give me something to think about … Sounds like a great college term paper to me,” she laughed.
American Horror Story airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. EST on FX
I would like to thank the writers, editors, actors, and everyone else involved with the eighth episode of Homeland for giving us a fantastic show. I know I was harsh last week, but that’s only because I KNOW this show can be fantastic. When it’s on, it’s on. Despite the ridiculous title of the episode, I’m happy with where things are headed.
I mean, I’m not happy happy because Saul is recreating Fifty Shades of Grey with terrorists who refuse to tell him the safeword. And he’s only accustomed to walking two blocks to the deli, so what do you mean he has to walk twenty miles to town and then play Frogger with men who want to tie him up in the least sexy way possible? Like Saul, I had hopes that Carrie in her saner state would be able to save him. It’s their relationship that has held the show together, but after watching the preview for next week’s episode, I can’t imagine him making it out alive. And I can’t imagine Carrie doing well in his absence.
By convincing Saul to live and then directing him back into the arms of the enemy, Carrie shatters their remaining trust. Saul’s heartbreaking screams were reminiscent of Carrie’s own emotional low point from last season, when he used her mental issues as a pawn in the CIA game. (“Fuck you, Saul.”) No matter how resourceful Saul was during the first escape, I think we can be sure there won’t be a second. Saul doesn’t have it in him to try, and Haqqani’s men are certainly going to up the bondage ante. Besides, it’s not like the CIA made it difficult to track the ex-director. Saul didn’t help his case by barreling down city streets, eyes frantic, shouting on a cell phone, but didn’t someone in that station think, “Maybe flying a drone directly over the city isn’t the best idea?”
In other news, Carrie has made a new ally in Colonel Khan, who is so attractive it’s distracting. Maybe it’s the accent. Or both. Or I’m just shallow. Anyway, Khan’s always come across as trustworthy (to me), if only defensive when it comes to someone insulting 1. his country and 2. how good he is at his job. Hey, we’ve all been there. Besides, Khan knows Tasleem is working against the Americans. His standoffish behavior and inability to be rattled may prove useful to Carrie and the rest of the station.
Speaking of the station (you liking these transitions?), I find it insanely hard to believe that once Carrie and Co. deduced there has been a breach in the station that the ambassador would IMMEDIATELY tell her husband. That’s like, Intelligence 101. (And he has a history of plagiarism!) It’s not all Ambassador Boyd’s fault though. Someone dropped the ball by not putting any cameras in Carrie’s building, ESPECIALLY after the murder of the previous station chief. Communication kind of broke down a bit; final grade: D-.
Maybe they should have let Carrie set up the cameras, since she did such a fantastic job with Brody’s house.
(An aside: if Tasleem wanted Carrie shipped back to the U.S., she’s going to have to do a lot more than make Carrie shoot people with her “hand” guns. Carrie’s all, “Giiirrrllll, I was having sex with the marine-turned-terrorist-turned-asset and I still managed to get a job as a station chief. Pew pewing is tame comparatively.”)
CARRIE! Oh, hi Carrie! It’s wonderful watching Carrie in the driver’s seat again, taking command of a dire situation where there are no right answers. Despite the desperate predicament, Carrie still took the lead and the responsibility of making a choice about Saul’s life. These are the moments where Homeland succeeds, when there is no good way out and the characters have to make difficult decisions. Twice now Carrie has let Saul live when she knows he doesn’t want to be a bargaining chip; he doesn’t want to be responsible for the return of Haqqani’s entire command. She knows Saul better than anyone (sorry, Mira), but twice now something has stopped Carrie from pulling the trigger. I think Quinn’s issues from the first two episodes may come back around once Saul leaves the picture for good and Carrie can no longer handle watching those she loves die.
But this episode wasn’t all sadness and screaming. Lockhart, yet again, has wormed his evil, cynical way into my heart. I love when characters show another side that makes you reconsider your original opinion.
To sum up: Saul can hang himself with chains and not die; also, he should probably get a tetanus shot after stabbing himself with that nail; Fara is still missing, someone please call the police; Carrie is back, rejoice; Lockhart wins.
Season 4, Episode 8: “Halfway to a Donut” Homeland airs Sundays on Showtime at 8pm EST.
Fans of the YA bestseller The Duff rejoice! Today CBS Films released the first trailer to their adaptation of the Kody Keplinger novel that centers on high school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman), who discovers that she is the designated ugly fat friend (hence the DUFF) in her group of girlfriends. She enlists jock Wesley (Robbie Amell) to help her reinvent herself in exchange for helping him with school.
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a teen movie that has the chops to become a classic like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Can’t Buy Me Love, Heathers, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Say Anything, but The Duffcertainly looks promising. The film is directed by Ari Sandel and also stars Allison Janney, Ken Jeong, Bella Thorne, Skyler Samuels, and Bianca Santos.
The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 6 “Consumed” Grade: B+
In one of the relatively quieter episodes this season, we catch up with Carol and Daryl, who are on the trail of a car similar to that of Beth’s abductors. Their pursuit leads them into the heart of Atlanta where they encounter Noah, the escaped indentured servant of Grady Memorial Hospital and friend of Beth. It’s a well rounded episode of television that ably balances the plot, characterization, and action.
The episode focuses primarily on Carol; we get a good hard look at the person she’s become, and everything she’s had taken away from her. While the other characters on the show become defeated, lash out, or merely die, Carol has always been the character who has shown the most genuine and dramatic growth throughout the series. When we first met her, she was an abused wife and soon, a grieving mother. The strong, confident Carol we know today is hardly recognizable; through a series of flashbacks, we see the various events that have both forged and hardened her. These are highlighted nicely by the common but effective motif of fire and smoke–it’s featured prominently in every flashback, and recurs throughout the current story.
Fire is both a cleansing and destructive force–we see not the steely hero that singlehandedly assaulted Terminus, but a weary woman on the verge of defeat. When everything else is burned away, there isn’t much that remains but ashes. The best we can do is keep trying and hope that the flames don’t consume us. Like Rick in the beginning of the season, Carol has developed a certain cold ruthlessness; it’s up to Daryl to remind her to keep trying, and he stops her from shooting a fleeing Noah in the back.
Carol and Daryl are frequently paired together, and make a great match. Both keep mostly to themselves and are reluctant to show vulnerabilities, but share a deep connection between each other as a result. Their reserved, stoic natures may have proved challenging to write for in the past (and haven’t necessarily paired well with others), but the chemistry between the two provides a rich well to draw from. Their friendship feels genuine and natural; the understanding the two share allows for a lot of characterization to remain unspoken, much to the show’s benefit. Daryl dispatching and burning the bodies of the the zombie mother and child so that Carol wouldn’t have to was a particularly nice touch.
As they catch up to Noah and he explains that Beth is still being held at the hospital, Carol is struck by the arriving hospital patrol vehicle. Daryl and Noah make an escape as the guards lift Carol onto a stretcher, and head back to the church to gather the rest of the group. It’s a comparatively small advance in the plot of a season that has otherwise been barreling forward, but the strong characterization and acting this episode prove just as compelling.
The episode is sprinkled with references to the early days of the series: from the shot of the two driving on the empty highway inbound to Atlanta, to a glimpse of a tank in the middle of the street (I’m not sure whether it’s the same tank from the series premiere).
The non-flashback fires didn’t seem to carry any clear thematic significance beyond tying the scenes together (they were mostly distraction fires), though the fact that Daryl’s the only one who lit any of them is probably intentional.
That must’ve been one hell of a camping trip on that skyway–everyone died still zipped up in their bags and tents.
Jane the Virgin is a charming new CW sitcom based on a Venezuelan telenovela, Juana la Virgen. Jane is an early 20’s girl whose faith and family take preference in her life over everything else. However, after a mix-up at the doctor’s office, Jane (the virgin) becomes pregnant through an accidental artificial insemination, and chaos ensues between Jane’s family, the baby daddy playboy and his crazy wife, and Jane’s long-term boyfriend.
So, get to watching. You can find the show on The CW or Hulu and catch up before tonight’s episode at 9pm EST.
You need more than that? FINE. Can’t just trust me and go watch the show. Way to stick a fork in our otherwise perfect relationship.
5. It’s different from anything else on television
Because the show is based on a telenovela, it plays out like one, with a cheesy narrator who talks far too much and cute animations. If you haven’t seen a telenovela, well, you’re missing out. You think Game of Thrones has shocking twists? HAHA. Telenovelas have more insane deaths in ten minutes than in an entire season in Westoros. (Except wedding season.)
Jane the Virgin follows that same trend, though, thankfully toning down some of the crazier aspects of Spanish soap operas. The show never takes itself too seriously (and does humor very well), but not at the expense of story. Sure, the plot is ridiculous and the characters, at times, campy and far over the top, but they’re still real people, with genuine dialogue and interactions. There’s an honesty to them, and once you think you understand one of them and have decided to hate them, they go and surprise you. (Looking at you, PETRA.)
It’s not even fair how attractive he is as baby daddy Rafael. I’m not a guy (*checks*), but even I’m intimidated by his good looks. Pictures don’t do this man justice; wait until he smiles on screen and your heart will go thump, thump, too. Sure, his acting only varies on a scale from “irritated” to “charming” but that kind of pretty boy naivete adds to his appeal. And I’m shallow. But hey, if this gets one more person to watch the show, then I’ve succeeded. Besides, his character can be sweet, especially when it comes to discussion about the baby.
(Editor’s Note: I’m a guy and it’s not even fair how ridiculously good looking he is. – Bilal)
3. The unborn child is referred to as a “milkshake”
I KNOW. ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS?
2. It has a lot of heart
For a show centered around an improbable premise, with so much cheese I need to see a doctor about the gas, you wouldn’t think it’d tug at your heartstrings, but it does. Of course it has its humor, that’s to be expected, but it’s the little moments–like when Jane and Rafael hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time–that shine the brightest.
Each episode I find myself torn between Team Michael or Team Rafael. (Mostly I’m just Team Jane.) Even more, the relationship between Jane and her mother, Xiomara, is reminiscent of Rory and Lorelai Gilmore: funny, unflinching, and full of secrets. Their respective history with Jane’s pious abuela only adds to the strange but lovable family dynamic. Let’s face it, we could all use something to fill that Stars Hollow-shaped hole in our hearts.
1. Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez is a damn treasure. After the first episode, I was so in love with her and Jane Villanueva that I filed a restraining order against myself. It’s fantastic to have not just a female protagonist, but one who is honest to a fault and kind, while not being a meek pushover. As she puts it, “I may be a virgin, but I’m not a saint.” And that’s true. Jane’s faith guides her, she believes in it, but it never becomes a caricature for who she is. Push comes to shove, she’s going to defend herself and what she feels is the right choice.
At first glance, Jane the Virgin appears to be yet another “oops, I’m pregnant” story, and while the pregnancy is the main plot for now, it’s more of a show about a young woman relinquishing the hold others have over her and finding out who she really is and wants to be.
THERE. I’ve given you reasons to watch the show. Now, get outta here and go watch the first five episodes IMMEDIATELY. If you need an excuse for why you didn’t show up to work/school/dentist appointment/etc., leave me a comment and I’ll have one handy for you. OR if you have watched the show, tell me how much you love it.
‘Dumb and Dumber To’ certainly delivers on its premise in spades; it’s certainly Dumb, and sometimes even Dumber. To.
The Farrelly Brothers, with the help of a gaggle of writers, have doubled down on the dumb for this twenty-years-in-the-making sequel which yields a mixed bag of funny.
‘To’ follows its 1994 mainstay original and picks up for the most part right where that film left off. Mentally, these characters haven’t changed a bit and it really shouldn’t be any different. It’s established quickly when we bare witness to the tail end of a 20 year-long joke set forth by Lloyd (Jim Carrey), who has been committed to an asylum -catheter and all- for the mother of all “Gotcha!”‘s. Upon returning back from the mental hospital, Harry (Jeff Daniels) reveals to Lloyd that he needs a kidney transplant and also finds a postcard from an old flame revealing that he has a child that he never knew about. And so begins yet another road trip, in which Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber set off to track down Harry’s spawn in the hopes that she can donate a kidney for her wayward father.
The jokes in ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ come fast and furious, but end up misfiring more often than not, but those scenes end up being saved by its two stars. Take that opening mental hospital sequence. On the page it just lays there flatly, maybe a chuckle or two spring forth, but what makes the whole thing put a smile on your face is the dynamic between Carrey and Daniels. They slip back into their roles so smoothly that the past twenty years doesn’t even seem that long ago.
That feeling becomes status quo throughout the film as a familiar crime-plot unfolds unbeknownst to Harry and Lloyd in which Harry’s daughter’s (Rachel Melvin) adopted step-mother and lover (Rob Riggle) plots to kill her husband for his fortune. But we’re not here for the machinations of plot, are we? We’re here to laugh at a bunch of stupid gags, which continue their onslaught once Riggle tags along with Harry and Lloyd on their epic road trip. There are fart gags. There are slurpees down pants crotches. There are absurd dream sequences. There are catch-phrases.
Carrey and Daniels make it hard to truly dislike this movie despite knowing that it’s really not comedic gold. The story is transparent and the scenes are ham-fisted, even for a movie with this type of tone, but like Harry and Lloyd themselves, it’s hard not to love it. Carrey and Daniels are having just a shit-load of fun and that vibe pops off the screen and keeps the whole thing from sinking under the weight of its frequent unfunniness.
‘Dumb and Dumber To’ is a sequel that didn’t ever need to happen, but if it did, this was really the best-case scenario. Harry and Lloyd are back, and while we may not really need them, it’s nice to know that they’re around, even if they’re forcing us to hear the most annoying sound in the world.
Directed By: Bennett Miller Written By: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo Rated: R Grade: B
Wrestling is more than just a sport in director Bennett Miller’s newest film Foxcatcher, a bleak and harrowing true crime saga focused on the strained relationship between two Olympian brothers and the eccentric tyrant who vows to fund their glory. It’s also an apt metaphor, rife with possibility for a story seeping with admirable thematic ambition. As the reluctant hero grapples with a sometimes exhilarating, often devastating personal journey, it makes sense to align his psychological plight with his physical one. Unfortunately, a consistently desolate tone and lurching pace mount tension so unevenly that when narrative gut punches are finally struck, they don’t land as deep as they should. While an arguably just resolution does help cushion the heartbreaking climax, Foxcatcher is often far too dreary to rouse genuine cheers. But its haunting depiction of ruthless desperation and maniacal greed will leave you undoubtedly pinned.
Channing Tatum turns in dedicated and fascinating work as Mark Schultz, a 1984 gold medalist determined to perpetuate his athletic momentum but painfully unable to resolve or even acknowledge his gaping emotional and social deficiencies. Mark’s charismatic and gregarious older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), by comparison, is an equally decorated wrestler but also able to maneuver cultural expectations and personal relationships with an ease Mark finds simply foreign. Despite boasting nearly identical prowess on the mat, Mark finds himself constantly fighting to escape Dave’s shadow in every other aspect of life.
The film opens as the1988 Seoul Games loom near, but while Dave feels fulfilled as an invested husband, father and coach, Mark yearns to continue his career and strive for further Olympic success. His brooding persistence makes sense. Watching Mark silently gulp instant noodles at his barren kitchen table, we learn quickly that wrestling is all he’s ever really had, or known.
When multimillionaire wrestling enthusiast and certifiable weirdo John du Pont (Steve Carell, every bit as creepy and unrecognizable as you’ve heard) sends the brothers an unexpected invitation to live and train full-time at his estate, well, it’s an offer the younger Schultz simply can’t refuse. Dave is understandably dubious and unwilling to uproot his family, but Mark happily packs his meager belongings and sets forth for Foxcatcher Farms, a sprawling property near Valley Forge teeming with the kind of musty, old money glut the du Ponts display proudly as self-perceived pillars of exceptionalism. This hushed but powerful commentary on class warfare and elitism weaves ribbons of historical insight throughout Foxcatcher, as the relationship between Mark and his new benefactor bobs and weaves across a multitude of questionable boundaries before reaching levels both disturbing and sadly irrevocable.
Mark is initially wooed by du Pont’s declarations of loyalty and patriotism, and especially his inexplicably dogged desire to position Mark as the key to achieving his twisted American dream. “What is he getting out of this?” Dave asks Mark incredulously, after Mark relays du Pont’s promises of more material security than either Schultz has ever seen, all in exchange for victory in Seoul and the upcoming 1987 World Wrestling Championships. “Winning,” a stupefied Mark scoffs. “America. Winning.”
Du Pont’s pitch about the country’s “failure to honor” athletes like Mark drips with delusional, nearly seething entitlement to an objective listener, but the vulnerable Mark is awestruck at the notion of being truly understood for perhaps the first time in his life. Foxcatcher is at its core a bizarre love triangle of sorts, particularly once du Pont does finally convince the pragmatic, genial Dave to join Team Foxcatcher after all. “You can’t buy Dave,” Mark had first told him, leaving du Pont quizzically agape. As far as he’s concerned, everyone has their price. What he fails to grasp is the importance of value that isn’t measured in dollars, and Dave’s concern for his brother is a gold mine of sentimental worth even du Pont money can’t reach.
Dave provides the trio’s, and the movie’s, sole example of an honest, rational existence, and both his brother and boss resent him for it. Neither Mark nor du Pont possess anything resembling the instinctive knack for finding true contentment beyond a trophy case or bank statement that Dave does, and watching both men overcompensate their shortcomings with increasingly unhinged behavior pits Foxcatcher in an unwinnable match. It’s the strange, dual-ego dichotomy between Mark and du Pont that drives the story forward, despite a laboriously illustrative script (from E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman) that leaves at least one crucial confrontation curiously missing from both the page and screen. These two misfits are of few words, and even fewer means of expressing themselves. It’s not surprising to witness either Mark or du Pont devolve into raging id, but when one’s explosive self-hatred eventually claims a victim other than himself, Foxcatcher is left floating aimlessly in its own aftermath.
While Mark and du Pont’s wildly different backgrounds represent their conflicting social extremes, it’s what they have in common that ignites their initial camaraderie and functional, if unnerving, working relationship. Mark’s stated goal “to be the best in the world” aligns congruently with du Pont’s maniacal diatribes, in which he truly fancies himself a gifted wrestling coach, mentor and role model. Although he coerces Mark to refer to him as a father figure in public speeches, Mark’s lumbering, dead-eyed presence makes it clear du Pont had found himself an ideally moldable protégé. Poor Dave has no choice but to helplessly watch the dysfunction unfold. The audience will likely relate.
Foxcatcher is a cold, stifling experience that somehow still enraptures in light of its aching unpleasantness. The effect is intentional. Miller demonstrates a spellbound fervor with the real story of the Schultz brothers and John du Pont that elicits comparison to his vision of Truman Capote’s work researching In Cold Blood in 2005’s Capote. The director’s deliberate, nuanced attention to detail produces results not unlike a powerful headlock, but what will keep viewers most fixated are the altogether magnificent performances from Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo. The actors have rooted these characters so deeply they defy the impressive physical transformations and achieve something truly transcendent. Their work, especially Carell’s, will almost certainly summon visceral repugnance, but it’s these strong reactions that will carry viewers across the film’s otherwise meandering objectives. Nonetheless, Foxcatcher stays with you. Its primary motive may, in fact, align best with that of a wrestler’s: it knocks you down first, but what it does best is keep you from getting back up.
Images courtesy of Scott Garfield and Sony Pictures Classics
Full disclosure: Jon Stewart is one of my idols and I’m naturally favored to enjoy anything he has his hand on. His brilliant work on The Daily Show for the past 15 years cannot be understated as he has regularly been more on-point about national and world affairs than most members of the “official” news media. So when I heard he would be writing and directing his first feature film, how could I not be excited?
It was only when I learned the subject matter of said film that I was taken aback a little bit. Jon Stewart directing a serious drama about a reporter being imprisoned in Iran? This didn’t sound like the satire-packed fare that I might have expected from him, but I had faith. It was only when I learned more of the story that it began to make more sense.
Back in 2009, The Daily Show filmed a series of segments in Iran featuring correspondent Jason Jones. As part of this filming, Jones conducted an interview with an Iranian-Canadian reporter for Newsweek named Maziar Bahari. In said interview Jones jokingly referred to himself as a spy. Now, anyone who has seen The Daily Show knows that 90% of the things that come out of the correspondents’ mouths are ridiculous and meant for comedic affect, but this particular joke had grave consequences.
After filming and releasing footage of the government violently repelling protesters following the fraudulent Iranian election of 2009, Bahari was arrested for being a spy and the main piece of evidence used against him was the clip from The Daily Show in which he gives information to “the spy”, Jason Jones. Bahari then spent the next 118 days in solitary confinement with daily and sometimes violent interrogations by a man who smelled of rosewater.
It is therefore easy to see why Stewart would feel so connected to Bahari’s plight and want to share that story further through the medium of film. And in both screenplay and direction, Stewart does a loving job of it. You can tell he treats the story delicately as if he genuinely feels responsible for the 118 horrible days that Bahari had to spend away from his family. This is a touching sentiment and a rare dynamic between a film director and the subject of his film and because of that there is no doubt in my mind that this would be a completely different film if it were in the hands of any other director.
But that also raises the question: would this even be considered as fodder for a film by anyone else? The answer to that is tricky. Bahari’s situation is no doubt a horrific one but in the wide world of stories about people being wrongfully accused and tortured, this feels a little light on the dramatics. It pains me to write those worlds because I can’t imagine having to go through what Bahari went through BUT in the full context of stories like this it could have been so much more tragic. One only has to look at current headlines about reporters being executed by ISIS for proof that there are reporters out there braving far more intense, horrific, and poignant scenarios that demonstrate the power of the press in a more inspiring light.
And although I don’t want to knock Stewart for selecting a story that is near and dear to his heart, I think he could have made his points about journalistic freedom and the oppression of the Iranian government more powerfully with a different story or even a slightly fictionalized one.
Subject matter selection aside, Stewart proves himself adept behind the camera with some really beautiful choices throughout the film and a strong adherence to realism. He brilliantly mixes in elements of documentary-style footage in a way that had me unsure about what was real and what was fabricated for the film. His only real stumbling blocks appear in a few graphic-heavy montages used to depict the use of social media during the protests and the media response to Bahari’s imprisonment. These particular elements don’t really gel with the grounded realism of the rest of the film and felt more suitable for a documentary.
Acting-wise, Gael García Bernal makes a fantastic anchor to the film as Bahari. He is likable, relateable, and instantly puts you on Bahari’s side. He is aided in his acting effort by a well-chosen supporting cast that makes you believe what you are watching is real and accurate. If only all movies were this well cast and acted.
In short, Stewart proves that he has the chops to write and direct something more than just sharp satire. There are hints of that scattered throughout his screenplay here but by and large this is a sober affair that makes pains to show the sacrifice and determination of the world’s journalists. I personally think there are more poignant stories out there to make that case but based solely on what we have here Rosewater is solid effort from this first time director and I eagerly anticipate what he chooses to film next.
Happy Friday, Weekend Wisdom readers. I come at you this week with a truly horrific film in our midst. No, it isn’t a leftover horror flick that somehow missed the Halloween release window…it’s worse. It’s a cheap, money grab excuse for a sequel that is coming out roughly 15 years too late for us to be genuinely excited for.
The film in question is Dumb and Dumber To (the “2” is spelled wrong – get it?) and boy does it look terrible. Not a single trailer, commercial, or poster has made this film look even remotely appealing thanks to an over-reliance on immature gross out gags and a rehashing of jokes from the first film, which collectively cracked us up exactly 20 years ago. But let’s be honest: if that the filmmakers or actors had something truly interesting or hilarious for these characters to do again, it would have happened well before now. Instead, this feels like a sad attempt by the faltering Jim Carrey and Farrelly Brothers to cash in on one last (hoped for) hit. Poor Jeff Daniels should have just backed away gracefully and maintained his more classy status quo.
The film currently reeks with a 27% score on the Tomatometer but look for that to drop as the weekend goes on. So can we all just collectively agree to pretend this movie never happened and let it slip away with as little fanfare as possible? Thank you.
What Else Is New?
Luckily, this weekend does offer some smarter alternatives to Dumb and Dumber To if you feel like preserving or using a few braincells.
Opening in the most theaters behind that sad attempt at comedy is Beyond the Lights, a drama about a pop star and her romantic relationship with a cop assigned to her security detail. I haven’t seen this yet but it sounds like comparison to The Bodyguard end there. The film has been earning stellar reviews (87% on the Tomatometer) and high acclaim for star Gugu Mbatha-Raw who previously wowed the movie world with her performance in Belle. It sounds very much like a star is born.
But when it comes to already established stars the big movie this weekend is definitely Foxcatcher. With Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo all working under the typically fantastic direction of Bennett Miller (Capote and Moneyball) this one is earning heaps of Oscar buzz with its chilling true story backdrop. We’ll have a full review up for you later this weekend but be warned that the movie is only playing in 6 theaters this weekend. I’ll be sure to let you know when it expands further.
And finally, this weekend is bringing Rosewater to 371 theaters across the country for the true life telling of reporter Maziar Bahari’s imprisonment and torture in Iran. But what makes Rosewater so special is that it heralds the directorial debut of political comedian Jon Stewart who happens to be one of my personal heroes. I’ll be posting a full review of this one later this weekend but don’t just wait for my verdict – go check it out!
Have you been hearing raves about a film called Whiplash but didn’t know where or how to see it? If the answer to that is yes, then this weekend you’re in luck. After earning rave reviews (97% on the Tomatometer) in very limited release, this critical darling is finally getting something close to a national berth by expanding into 419 theaters this weekend. And if you’re not quite sold on the idea of a film about a music teacher and his student, just read Keith Kuramoto’s review by clicking HERE and I think you’ll be changing your mind immediately.
Don’t Feel Like Leaving the Couch?
Okay. Here’s where I geek out.
As much as I’m excited about some of the new movies listed above, the thing that has REALLY had my blood pumping all week is actually 48 years old. And although I am not nearly that old myself, this particular thing was a staple of my childhood and routinely something I have always turned to for a laugh.
If I were more clever I’d make you figure out what it is with a riddle but instead I’ll just geek out and scream, “IT’S THE 1960s BATMAN SERIES!!”
Oh yes. After years of Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox battling it out over who owns the rights to this particular series cooler heads prevailed and an agreement was reached to bring us Batman: The Complete TV Series on Blu-Ray and DVD just in time for the caped crusader’s 75th anniversary.
This glorious boxed set includes all 120 episodes of the series that ran from 1966 – 1968, 3 hours worth of bonus features, and some sweet swag including a mini Batmobile, a pack of trading cards, and a book of memories from star Adam West.
To be fair, you have to be a mega fan to shell out for this kind of boxed set so for those of you only interested in a smaller sampling of POW! BAM! ZAP!, there is also an option to purchase just the first season (the best of the three) or individual episodes via iTunes.
This series will definitely prove jarring to those Batman fans who have only experienced his more recent, “dark and gritty” outings on the big screen, so its important to remember that this particular series was produced as a comedy and was successfully nominated for a Best Comedy Emmy in 1966 along with a Supporting Actor nod for Frank Gorshin’s portrayal of The Riddler.
This is the kind of show that begs to be viewed with a group of your goofiest friends who just ready to have an unpretentious good time. Throw in a few cocktails and you have a hilarious night of TV in front of you. I promise.
As Julie Newmar’s Catwoman would say, “It’s PURRRRRRRRfect.”
Yesterday The Daily Mail reported that Christoph Waltz is joining the cast of James Bond 24. According to writer Baz Bomigboye, Waltz will be playing a significant character who is extremely cunning and some kind of nemesis to Bond.
This isn’t the first villainous role for the two-time Oscar winning actor, who first became known to worldwide audiences as the evil Col. Hans Linda in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He went on to play other dastardly characters like Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet, August in Water for Elephants and Cardinal Richelieu in the 2011 Three Musketeers remake.
Bond 24 will be directed by Sam Mendes with Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Whishaw all returning to reprise their roles. Filming is set to start in early December.
Waltz will next be seen in Horrible Bosses 2 which comes out on November 26.
Whatever shall I say about a film like The Imitation Game? On one hand its a fascinating story told exceptionally well. On the other hand its one of those films that feels patently built for the sole purpose of winning awards. And even though it well may deserve some of those awards (like i said, it’s exceptionally well made) the piece as a whole feels just like every other true story set during World War II that gets thrown at us every awards season. Is it too much to ask for something more unique?
This is an especially pertinent question when you consider the subject matter of this particular story. Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was not only the man who ended up cracking Nazi Germany’s impenetrable code and thus ending the war much sooner than possible. He was also a sort of godfather of computers. And on top of those two achievements he also happened to be gay in a time when it was illegal and harshly punished by the law.
This was no ordinary man and to see his story told in such a straightforward and uninspired way is kind of a letdown.
The Imitation Game tells Turing’s story through three different periods of his life all cut together in a manner that at first seems intriguing but ends up being your pretty standard set of flashbacks and flash-forwards. A vast majority of the film is spent during World War II where we meet Turing as a genius mathematician volunteering his services to his country during wartime by promising to break the code for the Nazi’s impressive Enigma decoding machine.
In many ways, Turing is reminiscent of one of Britain’s war heroes from World War I, T. E. Lawrence, who is more commonly referred to as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence, like Turing, was gay and often had a hard time playing nicely with others – especially those who happened to be in positions of authority. But where Lawrence was considered somewhat playfully difficult, Turing was apparently more of a dick. As written and played in The Imitation Game he was a man who knew his own strengths and didn’t particularly have the time nor the patience to deal with anyone else. Luckily, he was able to back that gusto up with results.
Some of the people forced to deal with his self-assured demeanor during wartime included his superior officer, Commander Denniston (Charles Dance); the original head of the code-cracking team, Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode); a spy named Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong); and the rest of the young team of decoders which happens to include Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech.
But Turing also had to prove himself to those that he recruited to the team. The most important of these characters is Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a brilliant young woman who must lie to her parents and say she is merely being a secretary at the military base so as not to be thought of as living and working indecently surrounded by all men. As the story plays on, she becomes one of the few confidants that Turing has and they strike up an unconventional love that leads to an even more unconventional engagement.
But as the World War II-centric story of cracking the Enigma machine by building their own code breaking computer goes on we are treated to flashbacks of Turing as a young student (Alex Lawther) falling desperately in love with one of his classmates. These scenes are counterbalanced by flash-forwards to the early 1950s where Turing is being investigated by police for homosexual acts. These particular scenes are heartbreakingly sad and lead to an even sadder conclusion for the film as a whole but don’t really add a lot until the very end, making their inclusion throughout the film feel a bit tedious at times.
But if anything is true about The Imitation Game its that Cumberbatch carries it all with a tremendous performance that is a joy to watch even as he is breaking your heart. As a character who is hated by a majority of all other characters for most of the film, Cumberbatch manages to immediately put the audience on his side and keep us there for the entirety of the film even at moments when his prickly demeanor would have us abandon him in the hands of a less capable actor. By the end of it you really just want to squeeze him in a bear hug and tell him how great he was and how many lives he saved. In short, don’t be surprised to see Cumberbatch being named as an Oscar nominee a few months from now.
The rest of the cast gamely keeps up with Cumberbatch in a supportive nature that is generally strong but no one else is given the individual dramatic goods to stand at his level. Knightley has a few strong scenes but this feels so similar to much of her previous period drama work that I don’t expect to see too many accolades being thrown her way when all is said and done.
I think the same can be said for the film as a whole. It looks nice, has a lovely score, and is put together in a clean and competent way, but it genuinely feels like we’ve been there and seen this before. I wanted to love this due to the brilliant lead performance and compelling subject matter but I just can’t make myself get enthusiastic about it. There is no doubt an audience out there who will eat this up but in retrospect I find myself wishing that the secret code of an Alan Turing biopic had been cracked by a more inventive filmmaker. In the meantime, The Imitation Game can only stand as an honorable first attempt.
Earlier this year, Princeton boldly declared Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule- in which said hours is the amount of time one must devote to a skill to fully master it- to be dead. But don’t tell that to Terence Fletcher, J.K. Simmons’s intensely inspired Jazz Band professor in the completely electric indie ‘Whiplash’.
Both Master (Simmons) and Apprentice (Miles Teller) radiate off the screen with the energy and tension of snare coils buzzing against drum head. The fundamental nature of a percussion instrument is that it’s, well, percussive; an explosive sound triggered by fierce impact. This is the relationship between Fletcher and Andrew Nyman (Teller), who makes the cut after Fletcher eavesdrops on one of his grinding, sweatbox practice sessions. At the Schaffer Conservatory of Music, such obsession is not abnormal, but acceptance into Fletcher’s class is.
First impressions of that class have the hallmarks of any animal obedience school; there is casual cross-talk and chatter until Fletcher enters the room, sucking all the air out of it and everyone immediately sits with perfect posture. On that day, Andrew is first-hand party to Fletcher’s unique teaching style when his finely tuned ear detects that someone in the band is ever-so-slightly out of tune. What follows makes McCarthyism seem like ‘The Newlywed Game’ as the vice tightens on that poor, slightly sharp son of a bitch. What looks to be a blessing soon warps into a curse as Andrew is sucked into Fletcher’s unforgiving sadism, which fuels his potboiling teaching style. Chairs are thrown. Tears are shed. And Fletcher couldn’t give one shit. As the film unfolds, it’s difficult to know if or how Andrew is going to survive this particular meat grinder, making it impossible to look away.
That meat grinder, constructed ever so carefully by writer/director Damien Chazelle, is more than a bit autobiographical. “I wanted to write what the fear was like in that situation,” explains Chazelle at a post-screening Q&A. He recounts his time at an unnamed music school where he studied rock drumming under the thumb of a none-too-different Fletcher-in-the-Flesh. That tenuous relationship crippled his want to study music, but that formative experience stayed with Chazelle so impressively that he was compelled to dramatize it in the form of a screenplay, which made the industry Black List in 2012.
Simmons’ devotion to the project dates back to when Chazelle whittled his script down to the length of a short film which would test the waters for a feature. This successful process in which a veteran actor backs a fresh-voiced writer/director echoes P.T. Anderson’s success in turning his short ‘Cigarettes and Coffee’ into ‘Hard Eight’, both starring Phillip Baker Hall. While the jury is still out on Chazelle’s longevity as a filmmaker, his debut is auspicious to say the least. J.K. Simmons attributes Chazelle’s life experience to the richness of the characters and is not shy in giving credit to the written word: “The characters were so fully realized– all we had to do was not screw it up.”
Don’t worry– they didn’t. Across the board, the performances in ‘Whiplash’ are uncompromising and layered, pushing through some of the script’s weaker moments (A big moment that kicks off the film’s third act, for example, feels inherently silly in its high-drama execution, but ends up playing out nice enough).
But once the final sequence starts to unspool in double-time, any narrative disbelief or over-the-top shot choices stop mattering because the only thing that does matter is that moment in which both Andrew and Fletcher give each other one final shot.
‘Whiplash’ is not a movie for everyone, but it is tailor-made for anyone who has ever wanted something so much, that they will claw their way out of the screaming maw of hell to get it. Some people turn tail and run, while others stand to face the demon- even if he happens to be conducting the country’s best Jazz band.
If any modern film genre needs a shot in the arm, it is certainly the Video Game Adaptation, and late yesterday it got just that when Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal signed on to lend a hand to the screenplay for Sony’s adaptation of the hit video game series ‘Uncharted’.
Boal is just the next in a long line of writers who have worked on the long-gestating film, but he is certainly the most prominent and comes with the most accolades. While such a development cycle is normally the kiss of death for most films, it feels like Sony and developer Naughty Dog are simply taking their time to get this one right.
After the adaptation of ‘Halo’ fell apart, ‘Uncharted’ has taken the dubious mantle of Adaptation-To-Best-Legitimize-Video-Game-Movies. Boal won an Oscar in 2010 for ‘The Hurt Locker’ and was nominated again in 2013 for ‘Zero Dark Thirty’. ‘Uncharted’ is slated for release in 2016.
James Spader gives a spine tingling performance in this newest Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer. The tone is dark and sinister as we get a haunting rendition of Pinocchio’s “I’ve Got No Strings” (ahem Disney!) with Ultron ending the song saying, “But now I’m free, there are no strings on me!” Fans also get a to see more scenes from the upcoming film including close ups on all our heroes.
Spader may join the ranks of James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Irons (Scar) for voicing iconic and unforgettable villains. Watch now and let us know what you think!
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.”
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 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, Homelandhas 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 Season 5, Episode 5 “Self Help” GRADE: B+
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.
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.
“A MERRY FRIGGIN’ 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.
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.)
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.
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.
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox
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.
As 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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.