Last night's episode of Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23 was absolutely perfect. That's not because it featured tranquilizer guns, moral depravity, and jokes about gay hookup app Grindr. (But then, really, when doesn't it?) No, it was because it finally took television and the entertainment press to task for it's unhealthy obsession with "reunions." Ugh, if I have to hear one more thing about "reunions" I'm going to reunite my feet with a bridge and then disunite them when I jump the hell off of it.
Last night James Van Der Beek, who plays a version of himself on the show, was talked into doing a Dawson's Creek reunion to disastrous results. The whole thing was a play on the disturbing trend that is taking over TV when it casts people from one of its stars' old shows to try to get a little boost in the ratings. If the old gang is back together, everyone will come flocking, right? Recently we heard about the Heroes reunion on Hawaii Five-0 because George Takei and Masi Oka will both be on (this is after the same show capitalized on Terry O'Quinn and Daniel Dae Kim's Lost reunion). Then there's the Will & Grace reunion on Smash because Sean Hayes will be stopping by to sing a few bars with Debra Messing. Oh, and let us not forget about the Franklin & Bash reunion that is happening because Mark-Paul Gosselaar is going to guest-star on a show produced by his current costar Breckin Meyer.
OK, we all need to calm down with this nonsense. First of all, Gosselaar and Meyer are currently starring on a show together which has only been on for two seasons! That's like having a reunion of the cast of New Girl when you can see them already united each Tuesday on Fox for free. That is ridiculous. As for the Will & Grace reunion, do you know what that is missing? Will! And Karen! The same thing goes for Heroes, especially considering that Takei (though excellent) was never even a series regular. Where are the rest of the damn heroes? These aren't reunions, these are just popular actors appearing on the show together once again. Do you know what that is called? Acting! It is called acting on a show with someone who you have acted with in the past. It is called the way that television has always worked since the dawn of time.
You don't see The Good Wife calling it a Birdcage reunion because Christine Baranski and Nathan Lane have been cast together. You don't see the same show calling it a "Fire Island Hot Tub Party" reunion because Alan Cumming and John Benjamin Hickey are back together. You don't see TBS calling the season one episode of Law & Order featuring Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth a Sex and the City pre-union because it happened before the later show was cast. No, some people don't want the cheap publicity from having two actors that worked together sharing craft services once again.
But some shows (Cougar Town and their several Friends reunions) or certain groups of fans (there have been more phony Lost reunions than we care to count) just won't let it go. And neither can the press, which gets plenty of clicks on the internet from the nostalgia of people wanting to reengage with their favorite old shows. Red carpet interviewers are the worst, asking anyone who has ever been on a popular show when we can expect a reunion as they walk past the wall of flash bulbs. They all say they'd love to do it, but it never quite happens. Hmm. I sarcastically wonder why? Because it's an awful idea, that's why!
As far as I can tell, this recent "reunited and it feels so good" obsession started with Jimmy Fallon trying to reassemble the cast of Saved by the Bell, which got his fledgling show plenty of attention and wasn't a horrible idea. That was around the same time when Seinfeld did a real/fake reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Also a good idea. So is Entertainment Weekly's annual "reunions" issue because it actually delves into where the people have been, has them reminisce about the show/movie that made them famous, and puts them into interesting photos. Also, in all of these cases, the entire cast gets together (minus Screech, who is still reuniting with a porn movie). A reunion is not made of two people. You don't call dinner with your mom a family reunion. It's just life. It's just the way things are.
That is what was perfect about Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23. (We really need a shorter name for this show. Don't Trust? The B? Apt. 23?) It was a little bit of a reunion – Busy Phillipps stopped by as did Frankie Muniz and our old reunion friend Gosselaar all playing versions of themselves – but without falling into the old nostalgia trap of having them relive their old roles. It took our old favorites and made them into something new and interesting. It also poked fun at the ridiculousness of the proposition to begin with: the fans who can't move past the moment in time when they were obsessed with one particular program, actors not wanting to appear ungrateful about their success but not wanting to go back into a role they're trying to outshine, and our collective obsession with nostalgia. It ended with some good advice: to walk away from the past in slow motion as it explodes like in a John Woo movie. It's time we do that to the whole concept of reunions in general. There are more shows out there than any human being can watch, tune in to one of those and just hope two people from The Wire pop up on any given episode. It happens more often than you'd even know or most people care to make a big stink out of.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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You may know of ABC's new fall drama Last Resort as "That Submarine Show" or "The One With Ben from Felicity," but once you see the pilot episode, your notions of whittling it down to such a narrow scope will be squashed. This show has a whole lotta plot. And to help clear a bit of it up, we chatted with executive producers Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek when they hopped on a conference call, and they shared a few enlightening tidbits about the intriguing new series, including just how much it resembles Lost and what sorts of romantic trouble we'll find star and general TV hunk Scott Speedman getting into. Ryan, who's friends with both Lost showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, is adamant that while elements like the crew and the island may lend the series to Lost comparisons, he works very hard to make sure it's a completely different show. "I’m kind of the Lost police in the writers room. When an idea comes up, I’ll sort of be the first one to say well they did something kind of similar on Lost so we can’t do it," he says. But, the island. Aren't they stuck on some island that looks oddly like Hawaii (because Last Resort also films in Hawaii, where Lost filmed)? Yes. But it's different. "They do want to get off the island but only on the right terms, the terms being that their actions from the pilot are cleared and so in that respect I think they use this place very differently than the characters on Lost did," he adds. Ryan clarifies that for the characters on J.J. Abrams' beloved sci-fi drama were in purgatory on their island, whereas the crew of the U.S.S. Colorado is using their island as an asylum "not unlike the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock." So the series is trying to make its own way. But it can't get through a season without some sort of romance, and fans of series star Speedman (especially those who knew him as Ben Covington on J.J. Abrams' Felicity) will undoubtedly be looking for his character Sam's romantic entanglements. There's just one slight issue: Sam is a married man. Ryan assures viewers, however, that a wedding band won't stop the series from exploring temptation and drama that comes with being taken away from one's spouse and plopped onto an island. Ryan reminds us of the tale of Odysseus, who was separated from his wife Penelope by war and adventure; he eventually makes it back, but not without a few temptations along the way. Now, that's not to say we can be sure of Sam's fate, but rather the temptation he'll encounter while he's at such a distance from his Penelope. "Scott Speedman alone on an island with beautiful women all around might be too easy. For us, this problem is at the heart of what’s best about the sort of sexy side of our show, which is that, it’s unfulfilled very often. It’s a moral problem, it’s a yearning for what you can’t have," says Ryan. But there's also someone — who neither EP dared to name — who's going to make things a lot more difficult for the currently faithful husband. "[He gets] pressed together with strange bedfellows and there are characters that all the sudden he can’t not be around, attractive characters he can’t not be around. That could lead him to the edge of temptation and we sort of think that’s probably the best situation to play those sorts of stories in," he adds. So far, the pieces all seem pretty interesting. Of course, we'll have to see what the episodes beyond the pilot may hold before we can really make a call. Last Resort premieres Sept. 27 at 8 PM on ABC. Will you be tuning in? Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: ABC] More: ABC Fall Premiere Dates 'Revolution' Baddie Giancarlo Esposito On Life as a Post-Apocalyptic Villain Leanne's Spoiler List: Will Finchel Get Back Together? Lea Michele Answers!
This review was originally printed as part of Hollywood.com's Comic-Con 2012 coverage
A reimagining of the 2000 AD label comic book that inspired Judge Dredd the 1994 Sylvester Stallone action flick that took sci-fi wackiness to new heights Dredd scales back on the futuristic elements and puts an emphasis on the brutality in store for the Judge's criminal victims. In this not-so-distant world a Judge has the power to decide your fate right upon capture — and usually the sentence involves some type of ammunition being fired into the offender's skull. Dredd is a grimy smoldering relentless 90 minutes that manages to inject its in-your-face fight scenes with an unexpected bit of humanity. Shocking considering the buckets of blood spilled during Judge Dredd's warpath which begins from his very first appearance.
This time around Dredd is played by Karl Urban a chiseled beast of a dude who balances the machismo with a healthy dose of one-liner comedy. A great central hero. To investigate a series of murders connected to one of Mega City 1's most notorious crime figureheads Dredd is partnered with an exact opposite: Cassandra (Olivia Thirlby) a new recruit who makes up for her lack of killer instinct with a mutant psychic power. She may not have the throat-ripping capabilities of Dredd but once this girl gets in a baddie's head it's over. Dredd is wary of his new sidekick potential — even more so when the challenge they face reveals itself. Cooped up at the top of a 120+ story building is Ma-Ma (Lena Hedley) whose operation will soon put a new drug — dubbed "Slo-Mo" — in the hands of every Mega City 1 citizen. To stop her Dredd and Cassandra must slay her goons as they ascend the skyscraper. Simple premise lots of bloodshed.
Unlike this year's The Raid which took a similar approach to the non-stop antics of a martial arts film Dredd opts for the slow burn approach. Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) wants us to take a big whiff of every musky apartment in Ma-Ma's "Peach Trees" tower; he wants us to feel every drip of sweat that trickles down Dredd's stubble while the law enforcer waits patiently to attack; he wants us to feel the complete stop of time when the Slo-Mo drug kicks in and even droplets of suddy bath water hang in the air from a splash; and he wants us to feel like we're in the front seat of a Gallagher show when Dredd fires an explosive bullet into the mouth of a henchman and watches the head explode into bits (all in clear and crisp 3D). Dredd is near-fetishistic in its approach to gore – I found myself mouth agape making audible "EEEEEEEEAAAAH" sounds throughout the film — but plays well to the lead character's ferocious nature.
The hyper-style doesn't end with Dredd's unique array of finishing moves either; Cassandra's telepathy is a weapon of the senses that Travis mines for every flashy montage sequence he can squeeze out of it. In one sequence Cassandra uncovers an important clue by subjecting one of Ma-Ma's assailants to mental torture a terrifying whirlwind of imagery of saturated nightmares (if you've ever watched Saw after scarfing down an undercooked burrito you know what I mean). Travis amps "MTV editing" in these sequences an assault to the senses that's just as purposefully grating as the gritty fight sequences.
What makes the whole thing worth watching are the film's two leads. Urban has the thankless task of playing Dredd under the Judge's signature mask — someone obviously forgot to tell the police force of the future that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Urban makes up for it with a spectrum of snarls and a voice that sends chills down the spine. He also knows his way around comedy timing (as evidenced by his equally-impressive performance as Bones in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek) delivering kitschy zingers that click with Dredd's rough and tough world. The yin to his yang Cassandra could have been another helpless female costar who steps in with magical powers when the time is right but Thirlby is the real heart and soul of Dredd breathing compassion into a dimly lit situation and reflecting the grey morality of the entire Judge program. Why are people cool with cops coming in and blowing them away when they see fit? Why is that the new definition of heroism? The script by Alex Garland (28 Days Later Never Let Me Go) is smart to ask those questions and Cassandra is the perfect proxy. Thirlby as adorable as she is plays the gal fierce a sensible kind of Judge that can live side by side with Dredd.
There are a lot of people who won't be able to stomach Dredd partly for the level of violence partly for the consistency and pace of how that violence is unleashed. The small scale and singular location of the action don't allow Dredd to keep the surprises coming. After awhile watching human heads splatter like water balloons becomes taxing and unenjoyable (which some psychologists may say should have been the case in the first place). Hedley does a decent job of making her psychotic Ma-Ma into a wicked villain who deserves her due but without a fleshed out cause and bigger picture implications it's hard to care. Her squad of faceless men are more like punching bags then characters. But over-the-top mayhem has its place and when accompanied by a badass like Dredd and a pumping electronica score it's hard not to cheer when the Judge lays down the gruesome law. Dredd isn't a great film but it's a great Comic-Con film — one worth catching at midnight and screaming your lungs out all in good absurd fun.
Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible franchise is a rare phenomenon. Few film series based on properties as old as it is have retained such relevance in the modern movie market and few take as long a break in between installments making each new entry a highly anticipated event. Such is the case with Ghost Protocol the fourth in fifteen years starring Tom Cruise as super-agent Ethan Hunt. Adding to the hoopla surrounding the holiday release is the fact that it marks the live-action directorial debut of Brad Bird the Pixar wunderkind responsible for Oscar-winning hits The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Unfortunately I feel that the animation auteur had too much to prove in his first physical outing and tried a bit too hard to thrill resulting in a film that plays more like John Woo’s over-the-top M:I:II than Brian de Palma’s suspenseful original.
The plot essentially kicks off when a bomb blasts a hole the size of a football field in the Kremlin (Russia’s most important government facility) while Hunt and his team of IMF agents (Paula Patton and Simon Pegg) attempt to extract a nuclear detonation device from the fortress before a mysterious figure known only as Cobalt can get to it first. The problem: Cobalt has gotten to it first and frames Hunt and company for the bombing causing the U.S. President to enact "Ghost Protocol " which disbands the IMF and disavows its soldiers. Knowing that the theft of the device and a batch of codes that enable it to be used prior to this event means that Cobalt surely intends to start World War III the agents go rogue to retrieve the components and bring the terrorist to justice.
Like the fore mentioned bomb blast Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec’s script is devastating leaving scattered pieces of information all over the place and making it hard for the story to truly find its footing. Expository plot points are dropped in way after they’re needed or wanted messing with the pace of the movie on more than one occasion. Perhaps their biggest crime is crafting a lame villain with little presence in the picture. After the intensity that Phillip Seymour Hoffman brought to his antagonist in M:I:III Michael Nyqvist’s quiet and composed Hendricks just isn’t convincing enough as a true threat. On the other hand Bird’s direction is anything but composed.
While his use of IMAX cameras is quite breathtaking when filming the much-publicized Burj Khalifa climb and other notable set pieces as stated before his approach to the material seemed to be “let’s make every action sequence as ludicrous as we can.” I realize that MIGP is a holiday blockbuster designed to get audiences blood pumping but I’ve always found that action films work best when they operate (mostly) within the confines of reality. That’s clearly not the case here where Hunt drives perfectly through a blinding sandstorm without causing much collateral damage and nosedives a Volkswagen off of a 30-foot drop and lives to save the day.
Still it’s all in the name of fun and he does manage to create an entertaining dynamic between his IMF agents. Patton is totally passable as Jane Carter an agent seeking revenge for the murder of her cohort and apparent beau Hanaway (Josh Holloway) while Pegg returning as Benji the tech-geek from the preceding film has been promoted to field agent and is without question the movie’s saving grace. Though his comic relief is relied heavily upon it’s absolutely welcomed. The biggest surprise is Jeremy Renner who was supposedly brought in to take the reigns of the franchise but is pretty stale as Brandt. He never elevates his character to the level of coolness that Cruise has maintained throughout the years and doesn’t provide anything significant other than assistance. Given the talent that we all know he possesses his negligible contribution was a bigger let down than the film itself.