Sunday, June 30, 2013

July Movies to See and Skip!

June was an interesting month.  Man of Steel did better than Superman Returns, which will help launch  DC comic series, but the film was more Michael Bay than quality series reboot.

The most successful films of June have been This is the End, Monster's University, and I predict The Heat will fall into this group.  End is a success because of its cost and percentage drop off each week.  Monster's is outdoing other Pixar films.  Heat is an R rated film which out did a major Rolan Emmerich film (White House Down).

How does July look, pretty boring, beyond a few films that could be plain fun!

July 4th

The Long Ranger (July 2nd) which cost a lot of money, and is from the brain of Verbinski and Bay looks like it could top White House Down as a massive flop.  I have not heard anyone clamoring to see this film, and it just looks plain awful.

Despicable Me (July 2nd) is not going to re-invent the wheel, the story is going to be cute and hilarious I expect nothing less, and the minions are just great.

The Way Way Back (Limited) is a film I have already seen (Review here:  Jim Rash and Nat Faxon have constructed something beautiful, funny, and entertaining, go see it!

July 12th 

Pacific Rim comes from the brilliant mind of Guillermo Del Torro, and looks like it's massive visual effects could make other films look like child's play.  I am excited, but cautiously, as to to not build up the high too much.

Grown Ups 2 is missing Rob Schneider, which my friend John and I noticed while at the movies last evening.  This will not drastically alter the quality of the movie, but this movie could be in a lot of trouble these stars are losing steam, and I am shocked this got a sequel.

Fruitvale Station was a smash at Sundance, look out for writer/director Coogler to make a big splash, and Michael B. Jordan to impress many.  This could be a major competitor for the Oscars.

July 19th 

Red 2, was a surprising sequel, the first was well like by critics, but did not make a lot of money.  I thought the first was a bit boring, and did not laugh as much as I should have, Mirren was the star, not surprising.

R.I.P.D. looks like it could be fun, but is Ryan Reynolds a jinx for films like this?  This film looks like it could be a lot of fun, the premise is kind of cool.  Reynolds and Bridges look to be a great team, and this graphic novel turned film could be a success.

Turbo also stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of a snail turned motor racer?  I am not going to waste time on this cheap premise.  Animated films have been lazy this year, and this film is proof.

The Conjuring is another attempt at horror films trying to be a landmark, or the next Exorcist, or Amityville Horror.  This has a great cast, and comes from director James Wan (Saw), it could be good, but I am holding out that this is going to be too novelty.

Girl Most Likely stars Kristin Wiig, and looks like it could be fun, but the Icona Pop song over the trailer is just lame.  I think this is going to be a big miss, it looks too quirky for its own good.  I love Wiig, the cast, and the directors Sherri Springer Berman and Robert Pulcinni directed American Splendor, but they also did The Nanny Diaries, conundrum.

Only God Forgives bring Nicolas Winding Refn back together with Ryan Gosling for another go around, their first being Drive.  This was shown at Cannes and the film received a lot less love than Drive, in fact it got pretty awful reviews.  Refn style as a director is interesting, this could be one the critics are too harsh on, or they could be giving a "danger Will Robinson."

July 26th 

The Wolverine has the worst marketing, and a lot to live up to, in a bad way.  Origins was seen as a one of the worst Marvel films, even worse than Last Stand, this could smell trouble for Old Man Logan.  Back to the marketing, people are not even aware the film is being released, this is one of those films that just may be a failure without even getting a fighting chance.

The To Do List is this year's Easy A/Pitch Perfect.  This film looks hilarious, and stars the indie star on the rise, Aubrey Plaza.  Plaza is great on Parks and Recreation, and i have no doubt after Safety not Guaranteed she can carry this film.

Blue Jasmine, is Woody Allen's latest flick, and after his disastrous adventure in Rome Jasmine shows the darker humor, and could hearken back to more old school Woody.  Blanchett, and Hawkins are two great actresses, and I am excited to see what they can do within this film.

The Heat is an Entertaining Twist on the 'Buddy Cop' Genre

The Heat (3 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids)
Written by Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, and Demian Bichir

I enjoy the "buddy cop" films, it's the pairing of the opposites, who eventually mine through their differences in order to solve a case for the greater good.  The obviously become best friends in the end as well.  There's 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, Men in Black, Beverly Hills Cop, to name a few.  I am not sure I noticed, but most buddy cop films, pit together not only "opposites" but people of different races, interesting piece to unpack for another time and place.

The Heat follows uptight FBI Sarah Ashburn (Bullock), and off the rails Boston cop Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) as they are thrown together on a drug case.  The premise is that simple.  In this case of the "opposites" neither woman has ever had a partner because of their intense personalities on both sides of the spectrum.

The best way to look at this film, and the mark it makes in buddy cop franchise is to over look things, and just enjoy the ride.  The Heat is a lot funnier than the previews allude.  While in many movies the previews often signify the best lines this film has so many punches to pull, and there are a lot more jokes to be seen.  I am glad they did not water this down with a PG-13 rating.  McCarthy and Bullock's chemistry is what sells this film, they are great together, and two of the funniest women.  McCarthy continues with the off the wall odd personas, which flopped in Identity Thief but worked here. Director Paul Feig appears to have magical powers which make McCarthy's crass characters just off the charts funny; he directed her to her Oscar nomination in Bridesmaids. I also think this film worked better because of the great way in which Bullock pulled of the "straight person" and mannered comedy she had, great duo.

This duo saves this film, the plot is a little sloppy, and honestly I could have cared less about Larkin the drug kingpin.  This is Katie Dippold's first feature script; she did most of her writing for MadTV, and Parks and Recreation.  I can see the combination of the humor.  To Dippold's credit the film cleverly addresses each of the actresses strengths, and makes these characters even funnier than they could have been. Dippold's script has it flaws, but at the end there is more heart behind this than any buddy cop film. 

The "heart" within this film exists in large, because this is the first buddy cop film to star two women,  a refreshing change of pace.  In the male dominated world of film its surprising that combining two women in this type of premise so long.  The wait may not be worth it for some, but this film turns the genre on its head, providing a more laughs than I can remember in most of the other male driven buddy cop movies.  The Heat is by no mean an auteur's film, but its an entertaining twist on the buddy cop genre, and just plain funny.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Emmy Dream Ballot: Outstanding Drama Series (2012-2013)

Dramatic television has upped their game, to the level where film makers are saying many television series are better than films today.  You can look at this list and see that cable, pay cable and other providers are responsible for most of these changes.  Only one network series made this list, and it comes from CBS.  

My one recent critique would be with critics themselves.  Critics have turned into fan boys becoming far too harsh on some series (The Newsroom, Homeland).  I think being "critical" is important, but there is such a thing as being overly critical.  The show I have been the most critical of this season was Mad Men, the show just did not have enough oomph, like with past seasons.  This seemed to be a consensus from both fans, and critics.  I do not want to pat myself on the back, but this is one area where we agree.  There are other shows where this is not the case.  As many of this "year's" shows come to an end it will be interesting to see how Emmy rates these shows.

Breaking Bad (AMC)

This past week on twitter, Bryan Cranston tweeted, there would be no Walter White without Tony Soprano.  Cranston is correct, but in my opinion Breaking Bad has surpassed the greatness of The Sopranos.  This past season Walt took an even darker road, in a post Gus world.  As we moved toward the end of a one year experience, inching toward's Walt's 51st birthday, there was such an interesting analysis of what drives the characters within this series.  Skylar realized her greed/husband's evolution were the wrong path, her quiet jump into the pool, left me speechless as you watch these characters lose themselves in the darkness of this world.  The revelation at the end of the season (no spoilers) was one of the most intense yet subtle moments, proving throughout the many years of this shows history, they can still knock out the intense drama in the most spectacular ways.

Game of Thrones (HBO)

The best season in the shows history? The shows critiques have always been, too slow.  The way the novels are set up, never allow this to be a action packed always on the go show, but it does not need to be.  This seasons "red wedding" is reason enough to place this show in this category.  Watching the intensity of the last moments of this episode as Rob and his mother Catelyn Stark as they are faced with their darkest hours is one of the most emotional scenes in television history.  Then there is the journey of Jaime and Brienne as they head back to King's Landing.  Then of course there is the "mother of the dragons."  Each of these stories along with the other journeys provide some of the most intense and interesting character journeys.  Thrones is at the top of its game, no pun intended, and this series is must watch television.

The Good Wife (CBS)

There was pang of nervousness at the beginning of the fourth season of Wife, Kahlinda's husband Nick, who should have given things a jolt, was a drain.  Michelle and Robert King heard the outcry from fans, and Nick soon disappeared.  Beyond this small blip, Wife was one of the best shows of the year.  You will often hear that guest stars bog down a show, but the King's know how to integrate them well.  From the firm's financial woes, their always interesting cases, Cary and Alicia vying for partner (and eventually doing something more bold, to Peter's gubernatorial race, this show fired on all cylinders.  The show blends character development, and the procedural better than most shows I have ever seen.  This is one of the best ensembles on television, and while Marguiles is the titular character, each of the other actors contributes to the brilliance of this show. This year's drama led you further into getting to know who these people are, and keeps you invested in wondering where they are going next.

Homeland (Showtime)

Homeland received a lot of criticism for delving into the will they or won't they drama between Carrie and Brody.  People cried out that this show is not about a love story, but my argument is that isn't this show about an intense cat and mouse relationship between these two characters?  The answer is simply, yes, and the show delivered on the continued development of this relationship.  The episode entitled "Q&A" is one of the most intense confrontations between these two characters and put their relationship at a cross roads.  The show is a rip of the band-aid, let's mess with everything type series, and this season proved that this show is brave enough to tackle and to move story forward without getting bogged down in the difficult aspects of these characters.  The show explores domestic terrorism so well, and within the last episodes when an attack actually occurs you are left speechless wondering how things can be recovered.


House of Cards (Netflix)

Netflix has entered the game, in a big way.  House of Cards is the first original series from the rental system, and boy did they start things right.  While many will give most of the credit to the performance from Kevin Spacey, as Francis Underwood, the show is an interesting look at the complexity of the modern political system.  While Aaron Sorkin examined complex issues within The West Wing, this show from Beau Willimon (Ides of March) examines the modern politician, and the virtues and vices they confront within this modern era of politics.  Willimon wisely made Kate Mara's character, a journalist, a central character within this series, because as you will observe, the journalists drive the story, and politics as much as a the politicians do today.  Cards breaks the fourth wall, provides excellent deep characters like Peter (Corey Stoll) a conflicted Congressman, and at the end of the day makes you wonder how our system became as flawed as it is today, brilliant show.

The Newsroom (HBO)

This show had the most mixed reviews on this list, critics trashed many aspects of this series, but I thought this was an excellent analysis of the blending between quality journalism and the trying to deal with the style over substance method used today.  Will (Jeff Daniels) is a pompous arrogant asshole, he is not typically a like able guy.  Daniels is fantastic in the role, never letting you forget the passion Will has for this business.  The writing is always stellar, and is a great looking glass back in time on how news was covered, could be covered, and just how personal it can become.  The main critiques of this show were the hooky romance plot lines, and the way women were portrayed.  While some of these critiques were valid I do not think Sorkin and his writing time missed the mark on portraying a variety of different men and women within this series.  While the women are not always the strongest, the men are sometimes, or often assholes.  Sam Waterston's Charlie Skinner brings this group together, and helps focus most of this show's energy.  If for nothing this got Dan Rather's stamp of approval for realism, and that's enough for me.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tune In or Tune Out: Devious Maids (Lifetime)

Devious Maids 
Created by: Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives)
Starring: Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty), Judy Reyes (Scrubs), Roselyn Sanchez (Without a Trace), Dania Ramirez (Heroes), and Susan Lucci (All My Children)

When it was a Telenovela, Devious Maids had an all-Latino cast, even the employers. Not so in English, where only the maids are Latina now.

Stereotypical? Sure, the show Devious Maid premiered on Lifetime last night, and received a lot of critiques from the Latino/Hispanic community.  Executive Producer Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) has defended the series saying while there may be some stereotypes, the show represent a characterization of real Latino women, and the problems many of them face.

At the moment I have to agree with Longoria, especially since this show is based on the Mexican television series Ellas alegría de.  Although in this telenovela, Latinos played all the characters, the rich people and the maids.  In defense of the show  the women who are Latina or Hispanic are the sympathetic characters within the series, while their white employers are monsters. 

On the other hand the show does continue the imperialistic nature of North American dominance. Alicia Valdes spoke with many Latinos and here was a quote from someone she interviewed "It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid, but there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be." Professor Charles Ramirez Berg explains that Hollywood’s stereotypical “construction of Latinos in this country [is done] to justify the United States’ imperialistic goals. U.S. imperialism was based on the notion that the nation should control the entire hemisphere and was willing to fight anyone who disagreed."  North American imperialism within US television series has pushed Latina women to the side. If you look at this cast its full of many talented Latina actresses who need/deserve more work!

Looking at both these arguments I agree with both, this is trying to be pure entertainment showing "the struggle."  Valdes article has valid arguments, but as more and more Latinos/Hispanics become part of this culture, I have a feeling this trend will swing within her favor.  American television has become slow on the upswing with many levels, from ethnic, racial, and LGBT representation.  Valdes has one thing right Latina women should not be just portrayed as maid.  

On to the show itself, because I could analyze the representation of Latinos in the media for an entire book.  Cherry's premise is formulaic, and similar to Desperate Housewives.  If you were a fan of his previous work then you will enjoy this series, because the premise plot etc are almost too similar.  Cherry needs to come up with a new formula.  This is the problem with American television, they see a formula, and its lather, rinse, repeat.  When people complain about the lack originality its because of this this re-tread.  I am proud of ABC for passing on this series.

The only reason I watched this series was because of Ana Ortiz, Judy Reyes, and my girl Susan Lucci.  All of these three women were great, and the show had its moments.  I will watch one more episode of this show, and see if it picks up any steam, but this is not worth it.

Tune Out!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Travels with Kevin Part 15: Visiting one of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, St. Paul was Busy)

Last week I made my first adventure, to "the city of the lakes," Minneapolis, for a conference, the Association for Campus Housing Officers International (ACUHO-I). I work at Northeastern University as a Residence Director, which entails living on campus, and running a residence hall, or "dorm" as other people call student housing.  Note, please use residence hall.

The conference itself provided a jolt to my professional energy, providing great context for research, assessment, living learning community programming, ethical questions and answers, and opportunity to network with entry level, mid level, and upper level administrators in my profession.  Many thanks to Larry Long who convinced me to attend this conference, it provided me with an energy needed to continue, and infuse my passion even further into my work.

Passion is an interesting concept, and pardon the reach with the connection, but as the hockey season comes to a close, I am amazed at the enthusiasm both Boston and Chicago fans have for their teams battling it out for the Stanley Cup.  The connection between hockey, passion, and Minnesota came from my childhood memories of the young kids in Mighty Ducks, which was set in the state.  I never have been a hockey fan, but these fans love the sport, and its great to see fans champion their teams.  My only connection to the sport comes in the form of the film Mighty Ducks and D-2, I never liked the third film.

All I can think of is Gordon saying the phrase "ducks fly together."  This phrase rings true in the sense that when things come up, you lose your professional energy, and you need a jolt you can reach out to other professionals in your field help remind you "what is your why?"  This past week people from all over the country reminded me of "why" I do what I do, and gave me an incredible boost in my professional energy.  It was refreshing, and takes me back to that phrase "ducks fly together."  Student affairs professional fly together, when the road gets tough you have thousands of colleagues you can reach out to,  and you should remember that there is inspiration, and drive abound.  This was a great conference, which help me to grow on many levels as a professional.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Travels with Kevin Part 14: The City of Brotherly Love (from SCOTUS to Canceled Television Shows)

These past few weeks, I have been outside of the world of popular culture traveling to visit friends, and going to a work conference.  I have not had as much time to go to the movies, and had to catch up on any of my summer shows through my TiVo.

A a few weekends ago I went to visit my friend Dominic in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.  The slogan of the city resonated even more because it was Pride.  Philly was a blast, and Dominic is a great friend.  I watched his softball team play, we drank a lot, ate a lot, everything a vacation should be and more.  Visiting Philly helped continue my tradition of going to a different city for Pride every year. My first Pride was in New York City, then Columbus, then Boston and St. Louis, and finally Philly this year.  My goal is either DC or Chicago next year. As I look back at the fun times in Philadelphia, and Pride itself it has made me me think about what is going on in the country at the moment, and a bit of popular culture.

Any day now the Supreme Court will be ruling on two major cases for LGBT folks, one pertaining to a challenge of Proposition 8 in California, and one pertaining to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Both of these rulings will have an impact on marriage equality, but in an era when more and more states are passing legislation allowing gay marriage, could striking down either of these challenges be seen as antiquated?  I think so, but no matter which way the court rules I have faith that this country has come along way, and I believe more than ever that my nation is willing to step up to bat to protect me.  Look at Russia and the way they are treating their citizens, and many other countries in Africa, which are proposing laws called "Kill the Gays."  LGBT folks are more vocal and visible than ever before, and the United States is moving in the right direction.

In an ironic twist of fate many shows with lesbian and gay characters were cancelled this May.  This list of shows shows include the following: The New Normal, Go On, Smash, The Office, 1600 Penn, Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B___ in Apartment 23, 90210, Emily Owens, M.D., The L.A. Complex, Partners, and Southland. 

These shows on many levels tackled issues and stories, which highlighted a diverse array of characterizations. Happy Endings did a great story in one episode where Max (Adam Pally) searched for identity within the gay community showing how fitting, or having someone to connect with matters on all levels.  The New Normal tackled gay fatherhood well, and the struggles parents face.  Go On tackled the subject of loss of a partner, and how important this can be to anyone.

With all of these shows off the air, the battle for representation continues, does LGBT representation matter?  It sure does, especially on network television where the majority of folks can access this material.  In a day when people still need role models, popular culture is an important medium to help spread the word.  I hope television can challenge themselves to work harder to keep quality programming.  I am alright with them canceling 1600 Penn and Partners (they were terrible).

Emmy Dream Ballot: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (2012-2013)

I feel as though I say this every year (but I don't), the roles for women in television have only gotten better.  If you look at these six women, they represent a wide variety of women, and represent different character distinctions along with having their own journeys.  Some of these women are working mothers, bad ass CIA agents, spies for other governments, or fixers.  

Kerri Washington is the first lead African American actress to be a part of this category in all of the years I have watched dramas (or should be a part of this category.)  Washington's Olivia Pope is one of the few strong lead African American or black actresses to be a major lead on any television series cable, basic or pay.  This is odd considering the way television has grown, but I think this is a great advancement, and should be recognized.   Take note television it's time for more representation, and not just the supporting characters!

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland 

Danes performance was made fun of mercilessly by Ann Hathaway on SNL this past year.  While the dig was funny, I think one thing is true, Danes intensity has created on of the most fantastic characters on the air. Watching Carrie grapple with her suspension, and then get sucked right back into the CIA game.  There is no greater performance than watching her go after Brody, attack him using her more together prowess then interrogate him and use him as an agent of the agency.  The episode Q&A proves just how great Danes is within this role, and beyond the romantic connections, she plays every movement, tick, anxiety ridden instance with ease.

Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bate's Motel

I have to say from the first time I saw previews of this show, and heard they were doing a modern take on Psycho, I was against it from the start.  I watched the show, and caught up on most of it, and while I still am not a fan, Farmiga makes me want to tune in, week after week.  Farmiga's dark motherly ways make this one twisted relationship, and give an interesting context to the Psycho story.  Was it needed, no, but Farmiga gives one of the best performances of the year, making a so-so show even better with her strong performance. While Highmoore is great as Norman, it's Farmiga and Norma who week after week make this show something of a great character study.

Julianna Marguiles as Alicia Florick in The Good Wife 

After four years not many characters stay relevant, or as fresh as when they started, but Alicia is one of those characters who continues to develop.  While Robert and Michelle King have a lot to do with that development, Alicia would be nothing without Marguiles.  Alicia fighting for partner, dealing with her mother, her growing children, her husband's gubernatorial election, betrayal of a new friend, her love for Will, and striking out on her own in a new firm with Carrie.  What a year!  Marguiles has created one of the most dynamic female characters in television history; she is so complex, and does a fantastic job with this role.  Marguiles is a pro, and she is fantastic as Alicia! 

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning (and many more) in Orphan Black

What can I say about this performance, that critics, bloggers have not said.  Maslany plays Sarah Manning and many girls who are said to be clones.  Maslany kicks ass, is a soccer mom, a cop, and many more roles; she is a true chameleon within each of these of these different roles, none of them feel the same, and that's an incredibly hard accomplishment to achieve.  While the show is solid it's Maslany's performance which keeps you hooked; she takes each of these roles with ease, and looks like is having a blast doing this.  I burned through an entire season of this show because I was enthralled by Maslany, and I can't wait to see what she does with this role, when the show returns.

Kerri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings in The Americans

Watching Russell play the other half of the married couple pretending to US citizens while really being Soviet Spies is impressive.  Russell is incredibly stoic, while being vulnerable as she deals with the trials and tribulations of finding the balance in being a mother and spy.  While Rhys has gotten more credit (I agree during the evolution of the show he is better), Russell battling the thought of her rape, and dealing with this as she approaches the man who took advantage of her was one of the most intense scenes.  Russell is dynamic in this role, proving she can stretch her acting muscle to newer levels.

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal

I know I may get shit for this one because of the "soapy" nature of this show, but Washington is a force to be reckoned with, and after a roller coaster year dealing with her married lover's assassination attempt (yea he is the President too), and being forced to admit her own fault in helping rig the election; she is was off the charts great.  Washington is no victim, and even though most of her emotional choices may be driven by her love for Fitz she is one strong woman, and fights back in some of the most realistic ways.  Washington's performance is real, and that's one of the major reasons people tune into this show week after week!

Runner Ups: Elisabeth Moss as Peggy in Mad Men, and Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher in Shameless

Friday, June 21, 2013

Is DC Back in the Movie Game?

Over the last few years Marvel has dominated the movie game.  Marvel films have succeeded even though they are produced through three different film companies 20th Century Fox (X-Men), Disney (Iron Man, Avengers), and Sony (Spider-Man).  Over the last decade or more films from the comic book company have been the mainstays.  Batman is the only DC hero, which has cashed in for DC within the last decade.  In 2006, they attempted a reboot/reinvention, of Superman, but it failed.  Cut to seven years later with the release of Man of Steel, as DC attempts to get back in the Superman game it looks like they also want to get back in the film game and challenge the Marvel dominated comic book film bastion.

Let's start by doing a cross comparison between Superman Returns (2006) and this year's Man of Steel (although just going into the film's second weekend).

In 2006 Superman Returns opened to with a modestly high opening weekend of 52 million.  Superman had the 6th biggest opening weekend with 52 million dollars (domestic), grossed 200 million domestically, and 191 million in foreign markets, amounting to 391 million dollars.  For a film about the most infamous super hero of all time the combined gross was a weak number, for even 2006.  The reviews were not bad, but in a world post Batman Begins, and a growing darkness in super hero flicks Superman Returns felt out of place.  People hated Brandon Routh, but that should not have kept people away.

In an interview with, Superman Returns director Bryan Singer stated "I think that Superman Returns was a bit nostalgic and romantic, and I don't think that was what people were expecting, especially in the summer.  What I had noticed is that there weren't a lot of women lining up to see a comic book movie, but they were going to line up to see The Devil Wears Prada, which may have been something I wanted to address. But when you're making a movie, you're not thinking about that stuff, you're thinking, 'Wow, I want to make a romantic movie that harkens back to the Richard Donner movie that I loved so much.' And that's what I did."

Is Bryan Singer right?  In a day and age where folks worship nostalgia this movie should have done great, and Brandon Routh's terribly wooden performance could not have ruined this film that much.  At the end of the interview Singer stated he would make a film that was more "balls to the wall."  That's what Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan did!

At the moment Man of Steels opened to a 116 million dollar opening weekend, including about 12 million on Thursday, amassing 128 million dollars, almost triple Superman Returns.  At the end of the first week Steel gained 40 million dollars more, bringing the domestic total to 168 million.  The film has not opened up in all foreign markets, and has total box office of 73 million overseas.  With an estimated haul of 50 million dollars this upcoming weekend, Man of Steel looks to have 218 domestically, more than Superman Returns had in it's entire domestic run, and still going.  My prediction is that this film will easily top 800 million, or more world wide, almost double Superman Returns.  Did going Michael Bay or balls to the wall bring DC comic book films back, or is DC stuck in a constant cycle of just making Superman and Batman films?

In a year where DC (the comics) have re-branded with "The New 52" one would think its time to for the films to step out on a ledge.  Sure Catwoman with Halle Berry was fail, and Green Lantern was an abysmal bomb, but it's time for DC to lick their wounds and move forward.  According to the DC films in the works include Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, a reboot, or sequel to Green Lantern, and a Justice League film, which would be smart to include the character from the successful television series Arrow, the Green Arrow.

With the Man of Steel doing well, finally getting Superman back on top,  time to strike while the iron is hot.  DC needs to enter the game.  Super hero flicks are hotter than ever, especially a dark origin story, which sets up the game.  While I am not sure the most recent chapter in the Superman film cannon is worthy of getting this reboot going, things are in motion, and I would say DC is back in the movie business.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Man of Steel Attempts a Batman-Like Reboot with Christopher Nolan as a Producer but Fails to Provide Joy to the Franchise

Man of Steel (2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen)
Written by David Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins)
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, and Russell Crowe.

It's a bird, it' a plane, no it's reinvention man.  I swear, Superman has been reinvented more than Madonna, and the two have one thing in common most of their new material just can't hold up.  Back in 1938 with the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics; he was just man a who could leap tall buildings, and had super strength.  Eventually Superman could fly, and his origin story from Krypton was explored.  In 1978 Superman hit the the big screen for the first time (in live action form) with newcomer Christopher Reeve.  In the 1990s and 2000s Superman came back to television, with one incarnation being teenage Clark Kent battling his development as Superman along with his teenage years.

In 2006 director Bryan Singer attempted the first reboot/continuation of the old comic book film starring Brandon Routh.  Singer's interpretation was much more in line with classic Superman blending humor, and action to tell the tale.  While Kevin Spacey was great, and the direction nothing which reinvented the wheel, critics were mildly approving, but fans felt that this version no longer fit within this era of comic book films.  Enter producer Christopher Nolan, screen writer David Goyer, and director Zack Snyder.

Man of Steel is a clear reboot, starting with the birth or Kal-El.  As the planet Krypton faces destruction Jor-El (Crowe) goes before the elders of the planet begging them to try and change the way things are run.  Soon after Zod storms in, and the beginning of the end for Krypton ensues.  Before the planet is destroyed by internal planetary forces Jor-El and his wife Laura send their baby boy to planet Earth where he must navigate the uncertainty of his own existence, does he reveal himself, save humans, fight back, protect loved ones, and embrace both his human, and alien nature?

Without giving the plot away there is not much plot to this film, other than the beginning, which is the destruction of Krypton, and the continuing flashbacks, which help Superman (Cavill) or Clark explore the evolution of him finding himself within this hero.  The other thing missing from this film is character development, this falls flat on that level never letting you feel a part of the world of anyone.  I want to know more about these people, Lois, Zod, Martha.  Goyer's script wanted everyone to know these people, but in a reboot (even Superman) shouldn't audiences get the opportunity to know these characters once again, and if they are going to change thing around, in new context?  Goyer's misses the mark, he does let some heart and emotion out, but misses the added whimsy.  There is one joke where Lois and Clark are sitting talking about the "S" on his chest, but this is one of the few light moments of this film.  This is a Nolan produced DC film after all.

Christopher helped write the story (different from the screenplay), and produced Man of Steel, and it's honestly pretty obvious.  One of the few successful aspects of the film, was the flash backs, which showed Clark as a young boy harnassing his powers, saving children on a bus, and working through what it meant to be a super hero.  Powerful stuff, considering the past films and television series rarely explored this character on such a deep level.  The other problem with this film, and the Superman character today is that he is not Batman, and giving him a Bourne like bad ass make over does not work in the same context it did for Nolan's Batman franchise.  Enter the constant action sequences.

Put screenwriter Goyer with famed 300 and Watchmen director Zack Snyder together, and what do you get a film so action packed you often wonder where is the dialogue?  Snyder's direction style is interesting, one which values style over substance.  Look at 300 and Watchmen, they are shiny objects meant to distract and entertain, and never delve deeper into their subject matter.  This was a shame for Watchmen, especially since the graphic novel is one of the best books I have ever read.  I will applaud Snyder for growing within his direction, this is better directed than both 300 and Watchmen; he does delve somewhat deeper into the context of the back story, and made me care about Superman, a super hero I have never followed, or enjoyed.  I think that's where this film succeeds, it tugs on emotional heart strings, making you mourn the challenge this outsider, or well alien faces.

I would say that's where the successes begin, but also diminish.  I re-watched Singer's 2006 Superman Returns in preparation for this film, and while I think that film has flaws, it still captures the essence of Superman much better.  The flaws within that film resonate in Man of Steel as well, namely some of the casting.  Brandon Routh was probably the most miscast Superman, cast mainly for a resemblance to the former Man of Steel Christopher Reeves.  Cavill has no opportunity to convince me he is Superman because there is little or no joyless dialogue does not allow him to convince movie goers.  I think Cavill has the magnetism, and if given a better script could pull this off.

In the 2006 version Kate Bosworth attempts to be tough, but boy does that fall flat, even Teri Hatcher was a better Lois Lane.  In this version Lois has evolved into much more than a "Girl Friday" she is a hard hitting tough as nail journalist who is along for some of the action herself.  Progress.  Yet with progress always comes some regression.  Adams looks uncomfortable in the role, never giving off enough charisma, or chemistry with her leading man.  Adams is a great actress, but this is a case of too much action, and not enough for her to sink her teeth into.

The rest of of the cast feels as though they are along for the ride.  I love Michael Shannon, but Snyder's villains always feel too close to moustache twirling caricatures rather than well developed characters.  Lane is wasted, Costner does the best with what he is given, and Crowe looks bored; he needs to amp up his energy.  Everyone looks and feels so serious, and while I like the darker emotional exploration, there needed to be some joy and levity, to make this film series ring true.  The only joy I got was seeing the tanker which said LexCorps explode proving that Luthor will be next villain.

Oh and if you were wondering, what other companies were sponsors of this film than look no further than Sears, 7-11, Nikon, I-Hop, and many more.  This film's fight scenes were blatant ads for these companies, hosting more product placement that I have noticed in a long time.

I can get past the product placement, but when I walked out of this film, I just did not know how to feel.  There were moments where I was moved, the visual effects were cool, the flashbacks were neat, but there was something missing from this film experience which did not leave me wanting more.  Sure the ending was cute, and made sense, anyone could have seen that happening.    There are things to respect about the films ambitions, but the film does do enough to help re-energize the franchise.  Superman has not returned (again), this film feels like its just trying to fit within a canon of darker comic book films, rather than be true to roots of the hero himself, and adapt accordingly.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why the 2013 Daytime Emmy Awards were a Massive Fail

Celebrating 40 years of the Daytime Emmy Awards was like watching a parent try to use social media or fit in within their children, in the worst way ever. Robin Meade from the host of the HLN show Morning Express,  Sam Champion the weatherman for Good Morning America, and the HLN host of Showbiz Tonight AJ Hammond were the hosts and boy were they painful trying to hard, with singing, awkward interviews on couches after acting winners gave their speeches, and these moments were only the tip of the iceberg.

I know I am a bit behind on my analysis of this show, but that's because I was away for the weekend, and I am trying to play catch up.  The daytime community is trying to play catch up, but is it too late?  As All My Children and One Life to Live head to Hulu, and the mediums with which consumers watch television evolve can this genre maintain the same nature.  The answer is no, and there is this unwillingness of award shows to break format.  This show used cheap HLN tactics like the couch interview and bad hosts to make this into "something special."  This did not work, the best part of the evening was when the late Corbin Bernson paid tribute to his mother the late Jeanne Cooper, swore and made fun of the show itself.

Daytime television and these awards need to figure out a way to be current with paying tribute to the genre, and maybe a new network is in order.  HLN may be one of the worst networks out there.

How do you fix these awards?

1-Cut categories out that do not matter, and make this a 2 hour award show.  What matters?  Sure seeing George Lucas win his first Emmy or any award is cool, but this award did not need to be on the show.

2-People like cooking, and legal shows, and more, but boy did they lack of enthusiasm and this hurt.  Kick it up a notch!

3-Lose the couches/singing hosts, even the audience looked embarrassed to be there!  Maybe keep Sam Champion, keep the hosts to mainstays in Daytime.

4-Involve fans/social media to keep yourself relevant.  This will only help your award show proving people still watch and interact with your genre.  This is the most important thing to do/remember when, and if you get to plan a show for next year!

What I did enjoy most about the night was getting to watch Doug Davdison win his first Emmy, and Days of Our Lives win only their second award for Outstanding Drama Series, proving the award show is moving away from rubber stamping (more than usual.)

Beyond these few moments this award show was a train wreck and needs some TLC ASAP, that's a lot of abbrevs as penny Hart's would say, but truer words have never been spoken.  While a similar number of viewers watched, 912, 000 (last year 943,000) the key demographic for this show 25-54 was down 25%.  That is a big drop, and they need to think how they can do more to not only get themselve out there, but remain relevant.

In Memoriam: James Gandolfini

The man best known for playing mob boss Tony Soprano on one of the biggest dramas of all time passed away today.  Gandolfini died of a massive heart attack at the age of 51, in Italy.  Gandolfini's role as the manic mafia boss who saw a shrink is one of the most indelible television characters of all time. The role earned him many accolades including the Golden Globe 3 Primetime Emmy Awards, the Screen Actor's Guild Award, the Television Critics Award (and many more).  Yet Gandolfini was more than Tony Soprano.

Gandolfini was one of the most talented character actors who worked in not just television, but film, and theatre.  Gandolfini wore many roles from the dark comedic kind in The Mexican (2001) or In the Loop (2009).  Gandolfini also was great in doing a lot with a little like in this past year's Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty.  Gandolfini was also spectacular in the Broadway play Gods of Carnage which blended his strengths of humor and darkness.

Gandolfini was not Tony Soprano, just to clear up any confusion; he was a shy quieter man who never really liked the spotlight, or so it seemed from interviews he gave.  Interestingly enough this man became a phenomenon through just one role, and while he had great range and did much more, Tony Soprano will remain one of the greatest television characters ever.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Emmy Dream Ballot: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2012-2013)

The men of drama caused quite a stir this year, ranging from a man battling a zombie apocalypse and losing his wife to man posing to a regular everyday American, but is actually Soviet spy in an arranged marriage.  This year's list is filled with many new comers ousting out some old favorites.  These men while complex and flawed prove that there are still great roles for men out there....wait, that's always been true.  What's most important about the evolution of this category is the wide range of men who have filled these five or six spots over the last decade have become more and more interesting.  Please note not one of these men is from a network television series.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Cranston is the only veteran returning for a fifth time; he has the most nominations, and has not missed a year in my own personal awards.  Cranston took Walt to new levels with Gus dead, and him in charge.  Walt took to new levels of darkness while trying to cling to being a part of his family.  As Skylar zoned out, Walt turned into a darker more intense man who is starting to get hooked into the game.  Watching him with that look in his eyes as he took control, and even killed was one of the most intense experiences of the last season of Breaking Bad.  Cranston takes Walt to new levels and is one of the best working in actors in all of television and film today.

Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in The Newsroom

While some called Will one note, I think he is one of the most interesting characters of the 2012-2013 television season.  Daniels has become a force to reckoned with on stage and screen, and he has developed one great character within this show.  Will's rant alone in the first episode about the collapse of our society and journalism is reason enough for him to score a nomination, it is one of my favorite monologues from a television series.  Daniels is great in this show, and I love the way he flexes his pen is mightier than the sword wit on the camera it is truly a work of art.
the newsroom news night 2.0

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead

Wow, is all I can say.  While Walking Dead started to lose me with all of that Andrea/Mayor stuff, Lincoln kept me engrossed in the show.  Andrew Lincoln was the reason to watch this past season of Dead, his performance when he lost his wife Laurie was heart wrenching, and the after math even more.  Watching Rick struggle through not only the loss of his wife, but the battle with "the Mayor" was also worth the watch.Lincoln is one of the most underrated actors working on television, and this past season is proof that people need to take him more seriously.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in "The Walking Dead" Season 3 episode, "Clear."

Damien Lewis as Nicholas Brody in Homeland

The episode "Q&A," nuff' said.  While many folks complained that Homeland was soapier than season one, and that is namely because of the back and forth romance between Carrie and Brody, but the performances took things beyond that level.  Lewis was the all star of season one, and that level performance continued this season as he tried to not only play a double agent but stay true to his mission.  During the interrogation the intensity in Brody was some of the best acting Lewis has ever done, and watching him slip as he lost everything, or was about to lose everything including his family was some great acting.

Matthew Rhys as Phillip Jennings in The Americans

Kevin Walker, is that you? What a transformation.  While the show itself had growing pains in my opinion, the acting was top notch and Rhys himself was one of the best performers of the year.  Watching him fight to keep his family together, and avoid being found out as a Communist spy was some of the most intense television of the year.  One of Rhys best scenes was where he confronts the man who raped his wife, and kills him.  The intensity in Phillip's face as he kills the man proves that there is more this than an arranged marriage.  Rhys proves his acting chops here, and makes this show even better with his performance.

Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood in House of Cards

Who said you can't break the fourth wall?  This works so well in this show, and Spacey is a master of the theatrical.  Franics Underwood is representative of what I assume most politicians in DC to be like, sneaky, manipulative, and mainly out for themselves.  There is honestly nothing redeeming about this character; he uses people and spits them out, all on his way to getting what he wants.  Yet over the course of the season Spacey creates one of the most layered anti-heroes on television (well Netflix) proving like with Don Draper being a "good guy" or having redeeming qualities can be over rated.  Spacey hits every note and action with grace making you remember why he has two Academy Awards.

Runner Ups: Hugh Dancy as Will Graham in Hannibal, Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens,