One member of the Doctor Who family has replaced another in director Guillermo del Toro's new U.S. TV drama The Strain. David Bradley, who recently portrayed William Hartnell - TV's first Doctor - in An Adventure in Space and Time, has signed up to play Professor Abraham Setrakian in the upcoming series after John Hurt, who is currently playing the War Doctor in the sci-fi franchise stepped down.
Bradley's new TV character is an enigmatic Holocaust survivor, who is called upon to help disease experts contain the outbreak of a mysterious viral outbreak in New York City.
The Strain, which is scheduled to hit U.S. TV screens next summer (14), will also feature Mia Maestro, Sean Astin and Corey Stoll.
It's hard to become famous as a writer these days, especially as a good writer. Somehow David Sedaris has managed to do it (even if it is his sister Amy who appears on Letterman) with his books like and his essays in such respected periodicals as The New Yorker. However none of been made into a movie. Well, at least until now. C.O.G. which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival shows us why. Stories don't always make the best movies.
Based on one of his stories from the book Naked, this is the first time Sedaris has given permission to a filmmaker, in this case Kyle Patrick Alvarex to turn a story into a feature film. This essay shows David (played by Glee's Jonathan Groff) going to Oregon to work in an apple orchard to see how the other half lives. He changes his name to Samuel (of course, like a gay person, he is David and not Dave, Samuel and not Sam) and sleeps with the Mexican apple pickers. He eventually gets a promotion to the apple factory where he gets promoted again thanks to his new friend Curly (Corey Stoll). When David won't have sex with Curly he flees into the arms of unbalanced evangelist John (the always wonderful Dennis O'Hare) where he has to denounce his homosexuality and embrace god into his atheist heart.
The reason that many people read Sedaris is for the crazy situations he puts himself in, the humor that he gets out of them, and his off-kilter persona. Those are all present in the movie, and Groff does a wonderful job as a prissy Yale alum in this blue collar world. But there are other reasons to read Sedaris, like the insight he takes from his crazy situations. That is not in this movie at all. A long slog that should be a light series of events, David/Samuel never learns a lesson and we don't learn anything about him or about ourselves from start to finish. There is a lot of moving, but there is no journey.
My biggest problem though is that the central incident of the story, a night where Curly tries to have sex with David and he refuses thus putting him into peril is not believable at all. First of all, David has been flirting with Curly since before they even met. Secondly, Curly is crazy hot. He is the kind of butch factory trade that gay men from Broadway to West Hollywood dream about coming on to them in one of these situations. Why does David change his mind? Since that doesn't make sense, neither does anything that comes after.
But the main reason why people read Sedaris, of course, is the writing itself. He is a masterful craftsman of language. While some of the patter we can imagine he had in real life is evident in the movie (particularly the more engaging first half) his words are, of course, missing. Without that, the center does not hold. When the thing that made Sedaris famous is gone what we're left with is just another tale of a spoiled kid who never learns, and that isn't enough to get our attention.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
The Starz series Boss is adding two names to its regular cast for an upcoming second season: Jonathan Groff—most recognizable as the unforgivable Jesse St. James on Glee—and Sanaa Lathan, of Love and Basketball, Alien vs. Predator and Contagion. Groff will take on the role of a young staffer in the mayoral office of Tom Kane (series star Kelsey Grammer), replacing Martin Donovan’s character. Lathan will play a new chief of staff who, unlike her boss, has a staunch sense of ethics. It is suggested that the presence and patterns of Lathan’s character Mona will stir up a good deal of trouble between her and Kane. -Deadline
Glenn Howerton is known best as the selfish, vain and manipulative Dennis Reynolds—one of the main characters of an FX favorite, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Following in the footsteps of his onscreen father Danny DeVito, who stars in the upcoming animated feature The Lorax, Howerton will try out voice acting on the new series Unsupervised. FX’s animated comedy, created and produced by Howerton and several other Always Sunny figures, will feature the actor playing five different characters spread out over two upcoming episodes. It should be something worth checking out—Howerton can definitely put his vocal chords to good use. Unsupervised stars Justin Long and Kristen Bell, and airs Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
Netflix’s original political intrigue series House of Cards already has some big names attached to it: Kevin Spacey is in the starring role as the vengeful Rep. Frank Underwood, and David Fincher is directing and producing. The series is now bringing Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Salt) to play Congressman Patrick Russo: a vice-ridden politician with a weakness for drinking and women; he employs the services of Underwood to escape fiasco after he is apprehended with a prostitute. House of Cards is based on the 1990 British series of the same name. - Deadline
Of course 21 isn’t just about blackjack. It’s more about Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) a shy but brilliant M.I.T. student who--needing to pay Harvard medical school tuition--finds the answers in the cards so to speak. After dazzling his unorthodox math professor and stats genius Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) with some mathematical prowess Ben is quickly indoctrinated into Rosa’s group of “gifted” students who head to Las Vegas every weekend with the know-how to count cards and beat the casino at the blackjack tables. And win big they do. Ben is soon seduced by the allure of this luxurious lifestyle including his sexy teammate Jill (Kate Bosworth) but begins rebelling against the well-oiled machine Rosa has built. Apparently you don’t want to cross this particular math professor--nor the old-school casino security consultant (Laurence Fishburne) who has set his sights on Ben as a master card counter. It’s not illegal to do that but the casinos don’t much like it when they catch you doing it. Hey what happens in Vegas…oh you know the rest. The most well-rounded performance comes from the British Sturgess best known for singing Beatles’ songs in Across the Universe. His Ben starts out as a naive math whiz/nerd whose biggest thrill is designing the perfect science project for an M.I.T. contest but then becomes the smooth Vegas dude with the nice clothes and hot girlfriend and finally turns into the guy who eventually loses it all. It’s not hard to see just how much Ben is going to change once he gets involved in the moneymaking scheme but Sturgess handles the transition with aplomb. The stiff Bosworth isn’t nearly as effective as his love interest but she has her moments. Also good for comic relief is Aaron Yoo (Disturbia) as one of the blackjack players who oddly enough is also a kleptomaniac. The performance drawbacks in 21 come from the more veteran players. Spacey and Fishburne seem to be going through the motions utilizing techniques they’ve used many times before. Spacey can whither whoever it is with that look of his while Fishburne postures as he always does. It’s too bad they couldn’t have put in more effort. As with any movie in which the action is inherently stagnant (i.e. sitting at a blackjack table) the question is how to keep things visually stimulating. That’s where director Robert Luketic--who up to this point has only done broad comedies such as Legally Blonde and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton--comes in. Luketic does a fine job maneuvering the camera around the tables creating slo-mo close-ups of the cards and incorporating a cool soundtrack. A good montage or four usually can also work well in a situation like this and Luketic fully utilizes that technique--from the kids winning to them spending their money in gloriously obscene ways. Based on the book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions 21 has the extra advantage of being a somewhat true story as well. But the script from Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb basically copies from other sources and never really distinguishes itself.
Set in 1984 Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) returns to her ice-cold hometown in Northern Minnesota after fleeing from an abusive husband. In order to care for her two young kids she needs a job--and for most of the townsfolk including her distant dad (Richard Jenkins) that means working in the local iron mines. Problem is not too many women work there and those who do are subjected to continual harassment by their male coworkers. Josey lands a job anyway and starts to get her fair share of sexual innuendos. One day her former high-school sweetheart also a mine employee takes it way too far with her. Although met with strong resistance of course a lawsuit ensues that results in a groundbreaking decision for women’s rights in the workplace. Ah what an Oscar can do for a career. It wasn't that long ago Theron wouldn’t even have been considered for such a dramatic role. But with deserved recognition she gets to strut her stuff in North Country. She's no Monster but she's no supermodel either--and while it's impossible to erase her beauty its glare has been reduced. A second-consecutive Oscar win? Maybe not but a nomination wouldn't be out of the place. Co-star Frances McDormand might also be in line for a nod of her own. She plays Glory a woman who gets Josey the job and encourages her to fight the good fight something that seems visceral for McDormand. Woody Harrelson is also solid as Josey's attorney though his Midwest-stoner drawl gets in the way of the northern accent he's supposed to be selling. New Zealand director Niki Caro mightily impressed us with Whale Rider a poignant mixture of grief and vigor and with North Country she continues to impress. As more an observer than anything else Caro lets the true story tell itself--of what happened in this small town with its frigid denizens and sexist behavior. And the film is definitely a period piece á la Norma Rae in that it's from a specific period albeit a recent one and pertains to a specific region. But it's kind of slow going. There’s a lot of weeping and dramatic speeches. Still Caro makes up for it by including several Bob Dylan songs who rarely grants the use of his songs in films. Perhaps he felt a certain a kinship to this film since it takes place in the desolate cold Northern Minnesota where he comes from--and so resents.