The 4400 succeeds where shows like Heroes, No Ordinary Family, and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have failed. It puts a human face to super powers. This innovative series has such a mind-blowing take on what would happen if people developed superhuman abilities. It also uses other science-fiction conventions, plot twists and great actors to create a binge-worthy series.
Over the course of 50 years, 4400 people are abducted. On one day, they all return seemingly unchanged, but different. A government task force is created to manage their assimilation back into society. An FBI agent, Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch), and a CDC agent, Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie), head up this task force to deal with their developing abilities and discover the reason they’ve returned. What follows is a shocking reveal that they were not abducted by aliens but by humans from the future. They have been given abilities to help save humanity’s future.
The series doesn’t rely too much on super powers and flashy special effects. Instead, it creates an X-Files style procedural with rich characters and an engrossing plot. Each episode, Tom and Diana must help one of the 4400 with their abilities and discover their benefit to society’s future. Meanwhile, various members of the 4400 must adjust to how life has changed since their disappearance. Baldwin’s nephew Shawn Farrell (Patrick Flueger) comes back with the power to heal and his family having adjusted to life without him. Conchita Campbell plays Maya Rutledge, an 8 year old abducted in 1938, and brought back with the ability to see the future. The characters are sympathetic and this adds heart to the series.
The 4400 has some pretty great acting talent. Billy Campbell (The Killing, Enough) plays Jordan Collier, a successful businessman who creates a Scientology-style religion around The 4400. The series also features appearances by Summer Glau (Serenity), Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) and Garret Dillahunt (Raising Hope).
Fans of superheroes and science fiction will love The 4400. It also adds enough plot twists and dynamic relationships that non-geeks will love it too. All four seasons of the series are available on Netflix.
Our favorite upstairs-downstairs drama is back! Well, almost.
On Tuesday, several Downton Abbey castmembers and executive producers took the stage at the TCA press tour to talk about the emotional whirlwind that was the third season and to give a few hints of what's to come in the new episodes. Here are some small spoilers:
Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson's relationship will remain strictly professional.
When asked about a potential romance between the two Downton staff members, actress Phyllis Logan, who plays Mrs. Hughes, was quick to put an end to those rumors. "No. No. We still have a very nice working relationship. We still have occasional spats here and there. We still have a lot of respect for one another. We occasionally get to drink a glass of sherry together…not as often as I would like.”
Lady Mary won't be in mourning the whole time.
Mary actress Michelle Dockery noted that the widow will have "more than one" love interest in the new season, including Lord Gillingham, a new character played by Irish actor Tom Cullen. “He is an old family friend who she’s known since the girls were children, and they haven’t seen him since she was tiny," she explained. "She’s kind of slowly throughout the series coming back to real life and of course it’s important for her to eventually move on, so he is a potential love interest.”
Edith's bad luck may take a turn for the better.
Laura Carmichael, who plays Edith, said that “[Creator] Julian [Fellowes] has this take that some people in life are lucky. And some people aren’t. And Edith is definitely one of those unlucky people. I love the Gregson and Edith relationship because he’s so different from any of the other men in Downton. He’s kind of a working, modern man. A self-made man. And exists in a different universe in London. Their relationship is interesting and I think different.” Producer Gareth Neame added: “I think what we can say is it is a very different season for Edith this year. Really different stories. Very exciting.”
But, Edith's career and relationship with her editor will become more "complicated."
In response to questions about Edith's future, Carmichael remarked, “She is still involved with her editor and it is a lot more complicated than that, which I’ll just have to let you see without giving too much away." She also added, "She’s still sort of turning in some articles and we know that she’s been writing about the cause of the soldier, but it’s the kind of modern woman thing. I like to think of her as the Carrie Bradshaw of the 20s.”
There will be a 5th season, hopefully without any more major cast departures.
“What’s wonderful about the show is that it’s opened doors for all of us,” said Dockery. “As far as we know we’re all doing series five next year, and beyond that we really don’t know. That’s in the hands of Julian and our producers so we’ll see. So long as the core cast remain…I think if other actors start leaving that would be a worry.”
The departure of Dan Stevens will open up a lot of new material.
Michelle Dockery talked about her thoughts on the loss of Matthew Crawley. “My first reaction was, ‘Oh, crap. What is going to happen?’ Because I thought, ‘Where can this story go now?’ We spent all this time on this will-they-or-won’t they relationships and then suddenly it was coming to an end. So initially I was concerned.” She quickly added, "But as much as it was sad to see Dan go, same as it was sad to see Jessica go, it opens it up for Julian to write a new chapter.”
Widowed Mary won't be hooking up with her widowed brother-in-law.
“They are very much friends. And he is her brother-in-law still. I think they become close because of what they’ve both been through, having lost a partner. And also Mary becomes far more involved in the running of the estate with Tom, so we do have a lot of scenes together,” said Dockery. “But romantically, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I hope not.”
Daisy has grown up, but only a bit.
When asked about Daisy's evolution, actress Sophie McShera responded, “Someone asked me how old she was when we began and how old she is now. And that couldn’t work out…she must have been about 10 when we started.” McShera added, “She’s had such a journey and even during her terrible teens, you know that bratty teenage stage which she’s still in a bit. She’s being a bit of a jealous girl with Ivy and everything. She’s had an amazing journey. I’ve really loved it. I like that we get such a long time because you can grow up on screen, which is always exciting.”
Thomas is due for some drama.
Actor Rob James-Collier wasn’t present to talk about Thomas Barrow, but Neame gave us a few hints about the insensitive valet's future. “He is a complete outsider. Of course it’s going to be a complex world for him going forward. I’ve heard rumors that O’Brien may be heading for the hills. There’s going to be a bit of a shakeup to what happens to his story.” He added: “He’s always going to have that core thing of wanting to be in control, wanting to find out what’s going on, wanting to make sure he can dictate things, that rivalry with Carson. He remains a very compelling character."
Downton won't go to World War II.
We've watched Downton span a decade, but how far will it progress through modern history? This season picks up in 1922, a full ten years after it started, in the wake of the Titanic disaster, but Gareth Neame doesn't anticipate the show moving into any additional major historical events. "I don't think we'll go on to the Second World War," he said.
Downton Abbey Season 4 is set to premiere on January 5 in the U.S. (but we know that all of you true fans will be illegally streaming it come fall when it airs in the U.K.). Until then, we'll be counting down the days until we can hear Laura Linney tell us "this is Masterpiece Classic."
Follow Caroline On Twitter @Carolinesb | Follow Hollywood.Com On Twitter @Hollywood_com
More:Diddy's 'Downton Abbey' Parody is Dreadfully Unfunny Dear PBS, Dealaying 'Downton Abbey' is Crazy Is Dan Stevens Leaving 'Downton Abbey'? How to Deal
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
Looks like the cast of Downton Abbey (or at least Rob James-Collier, Hugh Bonneville, Sophie McShera, Joanne Froggatt, and Brendan Coyle) finally realized why Americans are so confused by the name of their show. While in New York City, the adorable Brits covered up the "w" on a Downtown subway sign in a moment of divine pundom. Bonneville, who apparently knows how to use the Internet despite spending most of his time in the early 20th century, tweeted the shot. Oh my tea and crumpets, they are best mates!
PS: They totally stole my joke/Halloween costume.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: Twitter]
'Downton Abbey' Renewed For a Fourth Season
'Downton Abbey' Creator Julian Fellowes to Produce 'The Gilded Age' Period Drama for NBC
'Downton Abbey' Sets Ratings Records, Gives Us Reason to Celebrate
From Our Partners:
Tom Cruise, Church of Scientology To Be Focus of Tell-All Documentary (EXCLUSIVE)
Kim Kardashians Best Bikini Moments (PHOTOS)
In the dialogue-free opening sequence of Shame director Steve McQueen introduces us to Brandon (Michael Fassbender) a handsome New Yorker who goes through a morning routine tackles the responsibilities of his high profile day job socializes with co-workers and all the while struggles with an insatiable desire for sexual pleasure. As the strings of composer Harry Escott's score swell we see Brandon in two scenarios: holding back from advancing on a beautiful young subway-rider and succumbing to carnal instinct with the help of a prostitute. It's a powerful setup for Fassbender's breathtaking performance which ranks among the best of the year.
Shame forcefully declares that sex addiction is just as tangible devastating and perplexing as any drug or alcohol problem but does so without didactic lessons or over-the-top indulgences. Fassbender's Brandon is on the other end of the spectrum from Nicolas Cage's crazed alcoholic character in Leaving Las Vegas with McQueen breaking long stretches of repression with harrowing moments of emotionless lust. The film works as a character portrait following Brandon as he finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole and witnessing the effects of his descent on the people around him. Picking up women isn't a problem for the dashing gent—he does so with ease on many an occasion—but when he tries dating the one woman he has feelings for he's void of sexual stamina. Unfortunately even in the sprawling city of New York there's no outlet for Brandon to confide in—his work buddies are all looking for an easy lay and his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) who shows up at his door one inopportune day has a heap of her own problems.
McQueen shoots Shame with precision that never feels staged each scene camera angle and directorial choice amplifying Brandon's dizzying situation Whether Brandon's entranced by Sissy's passionate rendition of "New York New York " working off his own sexual frustration with a quick jog or seducing a barfly's girlfriend at a hole-in-the-wall joint Fassbender and McQueen work in perfect tandem to bring the audience into the struggle. You will feel the raw power of Brandon unleashing his sex drive and you will feel the sadness behind Fassbender's face as he drifts alone through the city streets. Both moods are powerful moving and true.
Shame doesn't have an easy-to-swallow narrative a real beginning or an end. When you expect things to align into a traditional structure McQueen and screenwriter Abi Morgan subvert expectations—as life often does. What keeps us engrossed is Fassbender who can pull off the balancing act of suave and broken without tipping us off that he's acting at all. Shame received an NC-17 rating because of its racy imagery but the real maturity on display in the film is the bare bones depiction of human behavior.
Finally a brilliantly told fractured fairy tale for children and adults alike that does not feature a grouchy green orge anywhere. Once upon a time a young man sneaks into the mysterious magic kingdom of Stormhold that’s walled off from his quiet English village. He soon meets a lovely young lady who just so happens to be a princess enslaved by a not-so-wicked witch. Nine months later a basket is dropped on his doorstep. Yes this baby boy is the unexpected result of his one-night liasion with the royal lass. The boy grows up blissfully unaware of his regal roots so when he reaches manhood Tristan (Charlie Cox) doesn’t understand why he so drawn to the land on the other side of the Wall. He finally hops over the Wall when a star falls out of the sky and lands deep in the heart of Stormhold. His goal: to bring back the star as proof of his love for Victoria (Sienna Miller). Too bad this scheming temptress doesn’t think too much of the penniless and mild-mannered workingclass stiff. This being a fairy tale the star isn’t just a star. The star’s actually a beautiful celestial being named Yvaine (Claire Danes). And she fell to earth as part of a devious plan by Stormhold’s dying king (Peter O'Toole) to determine his successor. But the king’s scheming sons (Jason Flemying and Mark Strong) are not the only ones seeking Yvaine. The oh-so-wicked witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) needs Yvaine to help her restore her youth. So that means Tristan must become the hero he’s destined to become—and take on witches princes airbourne pirates (Robert De Niro’s Capt. Shakespeare) and shady black marketeers (The Office’s Ricky Gervais)—so he can return home to Victoria. But Cupid has other plans for Tristran and it’s not hard to guess what those are. If all stars took on the human form of Claire Danes many more of us would probably pursue a career in astronomy. But it doesn’t take a working knowledge of the Hubble telescope to see how relaxed and luminous Danes is when she’s not carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. And sparks definitely fly between Danes and Charlie Cox even when they’re at hurling hilarious insults at each other. Newcomer Cox makes a smooth transition from ill-at-ease lovesick puppy to swashbuckling hero. He also doesn’t seem to be intimidated at the prospect of staring down Robert De Niro. There’s always concern whenever De Niro takes on a comedic role for a big paycheck. He usually gets by with pure talent and nothing more. And when De Niro’s pirate crosses paths with Cox and Danes you immediately fear that he’s going to offer yet another variation on his tough gruff Alpha males from Analyze This and Meet the Parents. But he blindsides us by instead going all Jack Sparrow on us—that is if the old sea dog had no interest in the ladies—to deliriously campy effect. What with Hairspray and now Stardust Michelle Pfeiffer’s comeback seems to be predicated on getting in touch with her inner bitch. She’s splendidly nasty and scary as Lamia. And the uglier and older she gets the meaner and funnier she gets. Equally cruel—though more cheerfully so—is Sienna Miller. Providing small but amusing cameos are Gervais once again revealing an unparallel mastery of toadying and Peter O'Toole who kicks the bucket quicker than John Cleese’s King Harold does in Shrek the Third. There’s legitimate reason to question whether Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn has what it takes to direct a big-budget effects-driven summer blockbuster. Remember after making his name producing or directing relatively inexpensive British crime capers Vaughn walked away from X-Men: The Last Stand. Judging by Stardust though Vaughn would have done a masterful job leading those misunderstood mutants into battle. Then again he couldn’t have done worse than Brett Ratner. Based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess Stardust possesses both a big heart and an uncommon adventurous streak. Unlike the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which was too long and too cumbersome for its own good Stardust moves nimbly and confidently through a strange and wonderful land populated with noble heroes to cheer for fiendish villains to boo at and gorgeous damsels in distress to sigh over. Vaughn keeps us on the edge of our seats whenever Tristan must think or fight his way out of danger. But he invests as much time in making believe that Tristan and Yvaine are made for each other. He also strikes a fine balance between honoring the sword-and-sorcery genre while playfully sending up its many cliches. The humor’s a lot more risqué than the bedtime story that was The Princess Bride but most of the sexual innuendoes will zoom over the heads of those still too young to pick up on many of Shrek’s pop-cultural references. Clearly Stardust cannot escape all other comparisons to The Princess Bride but Stardust boasts more than enough magic and daring-do to win over those who remained enthralled to this day by Cary Elwes’ brave efforts to rescue a kidnapped Robin Wright Penn. So this is one fairy tale that richly deserves its happily ever after--and for that matter so does Vaughn.
If there’s one positive thing about Delta Farce is that is actually follows a tried and true comedy formula-- namely the fish-out-of-water scenario—with moderate success. Down on his luck after losing his job and his girlfriend on the same day Larry (of the Cable Guy variety) decides to join his neighbor Bill (Bill Engvall) and his combat-happy buddy Everett (DJ Qualls) for a relaxing weekend of playing army. But when the three unlucky guys are mistaken for Army Reservists they’re loaded onto an army plane headed for Iraq--and mistakenly ejected in a Humvee somewhere over Mexico. Don’t ask. Convinced they’re actually in the Middle East the clueless wannabe soldiers turn into Magnificent Seven meets the Three Amigos and save a rural village from a siege of bandits proving to be real heroes after all. If you need to laugh at the war on terror you might as well do it with Larry the Cable Guy. He serves up his particular brand of comedy making light of a bad situation. In fact not only does he come off somewhat sympathetically as the hapless boob with a heart of gold he also gets the hot chick at the end of the movie. Go Larry! As his accomplice fellow stand-up Bill Engvall follows his own comic routine playing a hen-pecked trailer trash denizen who views this adventure as a great way to escape his overbearing wife and snotty kids. As the third doofus DJ Qualls (Hustle & Flow) plays a trigger-happy wannabe jarhead who sees this opportunity as a way to gain some street cred. And in a supporting role Danny Trejo a Robert Rodriguez regular pokes fun at his scary looks as the leader of the marauding bandits aptly named Carlos Santana. Yes the jokes are plenty. Director C.B.Harding is obviously a Larry the Cable Guy crony since his only other feature film credit is the Blue Collar Comedy Tour movie. Honestly all that’s really required of him is to point and shoot with maybe a few action sequences to coordinate here and there. But while the formula works as a cohesive movie having to sit through Delta Farce’s comic stylings is the tricky part. What it really boils down to is whether you’re a fan of Larry the Cable Guy. If so you’ll (I would hope) realize you’re watching a pretty stupid comedy but will laugh in the appropriate parts. If not I would really wonder what the heck you are doing sitting in the theater.
Once respected NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs literally and figuratively. He drinks is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning after a long shift he’s corralled into transporting a petty criminal Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn’t know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy Jack’s former partner Frank (David Morse) basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify to just go ahead and hand him over but Frank underestimates Jack’s desire to finally do something good. So Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh no there’s nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks not at all. In a film as predictable as this the only thing that’ll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he’s played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack the actor does a nice job trying out some new things namely playing fat bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack’s breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def who usually brightens any film he’s in also tries his hand at something different but his choices aren’t as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie Mos comes up with one of the more annoying nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time you desperately want him to stop and say “Just kidding! I don’t really talk like this.” But he doesn’t. It’s too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance. Old-school director Richard Donner best known for his Lethal Weapons is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean 16 blocks doesn’t seem that far to go so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries alleyways rooftops subways. And yes even a city bus which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up so you can’t really see what’s going on. Even if you’re addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie no less--16 Blocks just doesn’t deliver the goods.