ABC Television Network
Every network has a tent pole series, but ABC has a tent pole show runner: Shonda Rhimes. So when the network unveiled their fall 2014-2015 schedule on Tuesday, nobody was surprised to see that Thursday nights are now all Rhimes, all the time. But one person can only develop so many shows, and luckily ABC has several other series lined up to fill in the hours that aren't produced by the woman behind Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, series that include a superhero spinoff, an immortal medical examiner who solves crime, and a sitcom about how kids these days are too obsessed with technology.
With so many new shows arriving this fall, it can be hard to figure out which ones are going to be worth your time, so we've rounded up all of ABC's upcoming shows and some clips from their first episodes to save you the hassle. Although, this batch features a next seasons' Trophy Wife and a replacement for Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, so fans of those shows might want to tread carefully to avoid further heartbreak.
Selfie What It Is: Sitcom What It's About: After a 20-something woman finds herself the subject of an embarrassing viral video, she hires an image consultant to help her rebrand herself in the real world. Who's In It: Karen Gillan and John Cho What It Sounds Like: Pygmalion for the Internet age. How Good Will It Be: The premise (and title) are pretty ridiculous, but both Gillan and Cho are charming and talented, so they might just be enough to keep the show afloat. How Long It Will Last: Like Cougar Town and Trophy Wife before it, the terrible title will be its downfall. We’ll be surprised if it gets two seasons.Airs: Mondays at 8 pm
Manhattan Love Story What It Is: Sitcom What It's About: A romantic comedy about a couple in the beginning stages of their relationship that reveals their inner thoughts as well as their actions. Who's In It: Analeigh Tipton, Jake McDorman, Jade Catta-Preta and Nicholas Wright What It Sounds Like: Peep Show meets How I Met Your Mother How Good Will It Be: McDormand has been playing the loveable jerk for years now, and Tipton is charmingly awkward, but the inner monologue shtick seems like it will get annoying very quickly. How Long It Will Last: One and done.Airs: Mondays at 8:30 pm
Forever What It Is: Drama What It's About: A medical examiner who just happens to be immortal. Who's In It: Ioan Gruffudd, Alana De La Garza and Judd Hirsch What It Sounds Like: Remember New Amsterdam? No? Well, it’s basically the same thing. How Good Will It Be: It depends on how well the show is able to integrate the issue of him immortality, but there are so many “cop with a mysterious secret” procedurals on the air right now that this one does How Long It Will Last: Unlike New Amsterdam, it will probably get a full season. Airs: Mondays at 10 pm
Black-ish What It Is: Sitcom What It's About: An upper-middle class black man struggles to raise his assimilated, color-blind kids with a sense of cultural identity. Who's In It: Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis-Ross and Laurence Fishburne What It Sounds Like: The early episodes of The Fresh Prince that were actually about something How Good Will It Be: It’s got a cast full of TV vets and Larry Wilmore behind it, but it looks a little too generic to really stand out. How Long It Will Last: Even with Wilmore leaving for the Minority Report in October, the cast should be enough to earn it a second season. Airs: Wednesdays at 9:30 pm
Christela What It Is: Sitcom What It's About: An ambitious law student is torn between her dream job and her traditional Mexican-American family. Who's In It: Christela Alonzo, Carlos Ponce, Terri Hoyos, Andrew Leeds and Sam McMurray What It Sounds Like: If Leslie Knope were a character on George Lopez How Good Will It Be: Alonzo is an accomplished comedian, which will help the show in the long run, but thus far we haven’t seen anything that’s worth getting excited over. How Long It Will Last: Probably a yearAirs: Fridays at 8:30 pm
How to Get Away With Murder What It Is: Drama What It's About: A group of law school students find themselves entangled in a real-life murder mystery. Who's In It: Viola Davis, Alfie Enoch, Liza Weil, Matt McGorry, Aja Naomi King and Michael Gaston What It Sounds Like: Legally Blonde, minus the light-hearted goofiness, plus Scandal How Good Will It Be: Like Shonda Rhimes’ other shows, it will probably be campy and over-the-top, but completely addicting nonetheless. How Long It Will Last: Again, it’s Shonda Rhimes, so at least 7 seasons.Airs: Thursdays at 10 pm, after Grey's Anatomy and Scandal
Agent Carter What It Is: Drama What It's About: A female secret agent helps to establish S.H.I.E.L.D. in the days following World War II Who's In It: Hayley Atwell What It Sounds Like: It’s an extended version of the Agent Carter short film. How Good Will It Be: Marvel’s last TV show floundered, but Peggy Carter is an established character, a fan-favorite and is played by the very talented Atwell, so things should go a lot more smoothly this time around. How Long It Will Last: Thanks to the Marvel brand, it’s guaranteed at least two seasons.Airs: Between the winter finale and spring premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
ABC Television Network
Galavant What It Is: Comedy What It's About: A musical fairy tale that follow a prince’s quest for revenge on the king who stole his true love. Who's In It: Vinnie Jones, Joshua Sasse, Timothy Omundson, Mallory Jansen, Karen David and Luke Youngblood What It Sounds Like: Once Upon a Time: The Musical! How Good Will It Be: If it doesn’t get bogged down in mythology and plot complications like Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, it could be entertaining in its ridiculousness. How Long It Will Last: Well, Once Upon a Time has been on for three years and Glee has been on for five, so four seasons sounds about right. Airs: Between the winter finale and spring premiere of Once Upon a Time
Fresh Off the Boat What It Is: Sitcom What It's About: Based on the memoir by chef Eddie Huang, it follows as 12-year-old boy as he and his immigrant family adjust to life in suburban Florida. Who's In It: Randall Park, Paul Sheer, Constance Wu, and Aubrey K. Miller What It Sounds Like: Aliens in America meets The Goldbergs, but set in the 1990s How Good Will It Be: It’s written by Nahnatchka Khan, who ran Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23, so it will probably be quirkily funny. How Long It Will Last: Like Don’t Trust the B, it will squeak its way to a second season.Airs: Midseason
Secrets and Lies What It Is: Drama What It's About: A man discovers the body of his neighbor’s son in the woods, sending the town into a tailspin that will reveal everyone’s hidden secrets. Who's In It: Ryan Phillipe, KaDee Strickland, Natalie Martinez, Clifton Collins Jr. and Juliette Lewis What It Sounds Like: Broadchurch, minus David Tennant, with a touch of Revenge. How Good Will It Be: It’s a pretty generic premise, but the cast is good, so like most of ABC’s dramas, you will become addicted to it but you won’t tell anybody about it. How Long It Will Last: It will either be cancelled in the middle of the first season, like Hostages, or it will run for at least four seasons. Airs: Midseason
American Crime What It Is: Drama What It's About: After a couple are attacked in their home, racial tensions are stirred up in a small California community. Who's In It: Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, W. Earl Brown, Richard Cabral, Benito Martinez and Penelope Anne Miller What It Sounds Like: Crash: The TV Series How Good Will It Be: It’s a bit of a complicated topic for ABC's brand of soap-y drama, so we don't see things working out. How Long It Will Last: Cancelled after one season.Airs: Midseason
The Whispers What It Is: Drama What It's About: Aliens have invaded the earth by inhabiting the bodies of children. Who's In It: Lily Rabe, Barry Sloane and Milo Ventimiglia What It Sounds Like: The exact plot of Torchwood: Children of Earth, minus both Peter Capaldi and John Barrowman How Good Will It Be: It’s got a solid cast behind it, but the premise has been done before – and done really well – so we don’t have high hopes. How Long It Will Last: Well, Resurection got a second season, so this probably will too.Airs: Midseason
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.