Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.
Hopefully by now your DVRs have recovered from all the use they got during the whirlwind of May finales, so now all that's left to do is sit back, and wait for fall (because, let's face it, summer TV shows really just can't compare). And while the next few months are sure to be somewhat grueling, dedicated TV junkies can take comfort in knowing we don't have to completely go cold turkey.
The big networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and CW) have graciously released several trailers for upcoming pilots, giving viewers a taste of what's to come next fall. So just in case you missed a few during the Upfronts craze a few weeks back, Hollywood.com has provided a variety of must-see clips from the various networks to help determine which shows you plan on tuning in for when fall premiere season comes around. So without further ado...
The series is an upcoming American musical drama, starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, who play two country singers looking to pursue their dreams in the music business.
The show follows the story of the crew of a rogue nuclear submarine and features an all-star cast that includes Andre Braugher, Bruce Davison, The OC's Autumn Reeser and Felicity's Scott Speedman.
666 Park Avenue
This show looks to be a supernatural freakout that stars Lost alum Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams as a devilish married couple.
Next: More ABC Fall Pilots.
The half-hour show will center on Reba McEntire's character, who moves from Nashville to Malibu, Calif. in an attempt to resurrect her music career, after discovering her rock-star husband was cheating on her.
In hopes of providing a better life for his wife and three kids, Marty (played by Lenny Venito) move out to a New Jersey gated community called Hidden Hills, where they realize that their neighbors are...well...a little different.
How to Life with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)
In case you couldn't tell by the title alone, this new comedy stars Sarah Chalke as a single mom who moves back in with mom and dad...possibly forever.
This show will follow the story of Jack Shea (Kyle Bornheimer) who puts his own dreams on hold in order to take over his family's handyman business from his father.
The series stars Radha Mitchell as Marta Walraven, a housewife from Northern California, who must continue her deceased husband's work in organized crime in order to protect her family.
This show will revolve around White Vincent (Michael Nyqvist), the editor of a skeptics magazine, as he's pulled into one of the most compelling conspiracies in human history.
Love has never been so complicated...
Next: NBC Fall Pilots.
The New Normal
Ryan Murphy serves up a brand new comedy that centers around two gay dads and a baby mama. Oh yeah, this one's a must-see.
Matthew Perry will star as a cheeky sportscaster who tries to move on from loss and finds comfort from the members of his mandatory group-therapy sessions. Could we BE anymore excited?
Justin Kirk stars as Dr. George Coleman, an animal-loving veterinarian who despises the pet owners.
The series picks up 15 years after the world loses all different forms of electricity (TVs, phones, lights, planes, what have you) and shows you how humans have adjusted. But the big question still remains: why did this happen?
Guys With Kids
This show, created by Jimmy Fallon, stars Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger as three thirty-something-year-old men who must deal with being fathers despite having not grown-up yet themselves.
Next: CBS Fall Pilots.
This show is a period drama which takes place in the 1960s and is based on the true story of Ralph Lamb — a rodeo cowboy-turned-longtime Sheriff of Las Vegas. Giddy-up!
The series follows the story of two best friends, Charlie (David Krumholtz) and Louis (Michael Urie), whose friendship seems to reflect that of a weird married couple. Plus, it comes from the creators of Will & Grace.
Made In Jersey
Starring Janet Montgomery, this legal drama centers around a working-class woman who uses her street smarts to compete with her colleagues at a top New York law firm.
This show is a contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes (played by Jonny Lee Miller) and his partner Watson, who's now a lady and played by Lucy Liu.
Next: FOX Fall Pilots.
The Mob Doctor
Former My Boys star Jordana Spiro is heading back to Chicago for this mob drama as a young thoracic surgeon who’s forced to juggle her career and her life-long debt to the South Chicago mob.
Kevin Bacon stars as an ex-FBI agent, Ryan Hardy, who’s hot on the trail of a master serial killer (James Purefoy), who has created a cult of serial killers which must also be stopped.
The Mindy Kaling Project
This show stars Mindy Kaling as an unlucky-in-love doctor, dealing with the daily work-life balance. It's probably no Office, but it might just be the next best thing.
Ben & Kate
The story mostly focuses on the relationship between two siblings: Ben (Nat Faxon) and Kate (Dakota Johnson), who happen to be polar opposites (think freewheeling brother meets uptight sister).
The Goodwin Games
The comedy stars Becki Newton (of Ugly Betty fame) and Scott Foley (of Felicity) as a brother and sister whose father left his fortune to them under some (presumably) steep terms.
Next: CW Fall Pilots.
The Carrie Diaries
AnnaSophia Robb will star as New York's most popular fictional style-icon, Carrie Bradshaw, who struggles with everyday teenage life in Connecticut -- until she meets her "first love", Manhattan.
Stephen Amell stars as Oliver Queen, who is just your average, everyday billionaire playboy until he survives a violent shipwreck and re-emerges as The Green Arrow.
Beauty and the Beast
This will be a contemporary reboot of the 1980s series, starring Smallville's Kristin Kreuck as Detective Catherine Chandler, and Jay Ryan as Vincent — a presumed-dead doctor who gets a little beastly when he's mad.
Former Vampire Diaries star Matt Davis will play an investigative reporter Jeff Sefton, who goes from a no-nonsense blogger to a full-out investigator when his brother mysteriously goes missing.
Mamie Gummer (you've probably heard of her mother, Meryl Streep) will star as Emily Barnes, a fresh out of med school intern at Denver Memorial Hospital, who soon learns that hospital life is remarkably similar to high school — where she was a certified nerd.
2012 Fall TV Pilots
Networks! Which Shows Are Canceled, Renewed, and Endangered?
The CW Says Goodbye To Ringer and Secret Circle, Hello To Carrie And More
Fox's 2012 Series Pickups: Kevin Bacon, Mindy Kaling, and the Mob
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.