They say it's the golden era of TV – what with dramas like Mad Men and Homeland on the air (not to mention the recently dearly departed Breaking Bad), it's hard to argue with fact. But even with stiff competition from more recent critical darlings, Slings and Arrows (off the air for almost ten years now) is still one of the best TV shows I've ever seen.
Helmed by unstable artistic director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross), ghost (yes, ghost) Oliver Wells (Stephen Ouimette), and resident diva Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns), the performances on this show are superb. Oh, and series writers Mark McKinney and Susan Coyne are equally blessed in acting gifts as they are in writing gifts (lucky bastards). You'll also want to look out for pre-fame Rachel McAdams taking her turn as Ophelia, Sarah Polley figuratively killin' it as Cordelia, and William Hutt literally killin' it as Lear.
Full of theater archetypes that you know and love/hate – the "ingénue" who chooses to play Ophelia as if she's stoned, the constantly harangued stage manager, and Darren Nichols, who perfectly embodies every pretentious douchebag director you ever saw (down to the ratty scarves and tinted, black-framed glasses) – Slings and Arrows is (probably literally) a laugh a minute.
And that's not even taking into account the way it deftly adapts some of Shakespeare's most loved plays: season one tackles Hamlet (cheer up, you melancholy Dane!), season two takes on the Scottish play, and the final season does King Lear (and no Lear is complete without a heroin-shooting lead actor, right?). The original tagline for the show was, "The real show is backstage," and it lives up that statement. The drama of the actors and production team mirrors, transforms – and dare I say, elevates? – Shakespeare's magic.
This show has an inherent beauty (not to mention a wonderful sense of humor) that everyone will be able to respond to. So queue up that Netflix Instant Watch!
There have been more rumors about Star Wars Episode VII than Jabba the Hutt has rolls of fat. But the fact is we still know next to nothing about J.J. Abrams' film. So to scratch our itch to see something — anything! — about the new movie we asked four of the most prominent Star Wars fans in all of Star Wars fandom to share how they'd like to see Episode VII open: James Floyd (@jamesjawa) of ClubJade.Net (@clubjade); Eric Geller (@ericgeller) of TheForce.Net (@TheForceNet) and Hollywood.com's Get Thee to the Geek Google Hangout series; William Devereux (@masterdevwi), Stephen Rice, & Tom Christopher of the We Talk Clones podcast (@WeTalkClones); and Tricia Barr (@fangirlcantina) of FanGirlBlog.com. We then got illustrator Terry Mack to render these suggested openings as four storyboard panels. Click on each of the photos to get a close-up, hi-res look at each of the images and check out what the fans had to say!
JAMES FLOYD Writer, ClubJade.Net & BigShinyRobot.com
After the scrolling text fades into the distance of the inky starfield, the camera pans down across the star-filled blackness of space to reveal an arc covering the bottom of the screen, a view of the top part of a large yellowish planet, shown in the day, lit from an offscreen sun.
The world has no pronounced surface features, though some patches are slightly darker than others, as if there was weather over the world. Other parts seem to shine, but overall, it's not quite in focus.
We hear a familiar cheerful beep-whistle, and the camera pulls back to reveal that the 'planet' is the back of Threepio's head as the droid floats in space. He slowly rotates around to face the camera, and as the camera continues to zoom out, Artoo and some debris also appear floating in space beside him. Both droids are intact, but are covered in patches of grime, dust and soot, explaining the 'weather' patterns on Threepio's less-than-shiny body.
Threepio, not liking weightlessness: "No, Artoo, THIS was not a good idea."
ERIC GELLERCo-host of The ForceCast, Social Media Director for TheForce.Net
We see the massive reconstructed chamber of the Galactic Senate on Coruscant. It is filled mostly with senators and their aides, but Luke Skywalker sits in one of the Senate's floating pods with several Jedi Knights from his academy.
A Senate official calls for silence in the room and announces the arrival of the Supreme Chancellor. Luke eyes the center of the chamber, where the Chancellor's platform will rise into position, looking anxious.
We cut to a lavishly decorated hallway under the Senate chamber and see a set of legs from the knees down as someone strides briskly across the carpeted floor. This person is followed by two armored guards. We see the trio from the back as they reach the end of the hallway and an open doorway that leads onto a platform.
The guards remain in the hallway as the third person (whose face we still have not seen) strides through the doorway and onto the platform. We then cut to a close-up of an electronic sign on the wall next to the doorway that reads "SENATE IN SESSION." As the platform begins to rise into the Senate chamber above, the sign illuminates.
We then see an overhead shot of the Supreme Chancellor's platform as it rises into place, with Leia Organa standing on it, looking determined and in control.
The scene ends with a medium shot of Supreme Chancellor Leia Organa standing on the raised platform in the center of the Senate chamber. She says, "Members of the Senate, I come before you to discuss a grave matter that threatens the stability of our fledgling new Republic."
WILLIAM DEVEREUX, STEPHEN RICE, & TOM CHRISTOPHERHosts, We Talk Clones
Panel 1: Binary suns rise over a jungle planet (Ossus). A lone Jedi boot enters the panel.
Panel 2: Three-quarter shot over the left shoulder of Ben Skywalker (Luke’s son) looking at the sunrise.
Panel 3: The camera zooms out and Luke Skywalker enters screen right. He places his hand on Ben’s shoulder.
Panel 4: Cut to a shot looking at Luke and Ben, with the morning sunrise shining on their faces. It’s the dawn of a new era. A Jedi Academy is visible in the background, with dozens of Jedi apprentices and younglings training in the courtyard (practicing with lightsabers, using the Force to lift objects, etc.) just out of earshot.
This scene is the passing of the torch – literally for Luke and Ben and symbolically for the viewers. It echoes the famous Binary Sunset scene in A New Hope while providing a launching-off point for the new trilogy, complete with a rebuilt and thriving Jedi Order.
TRICIA BARRAdministrator, FanGirlBlog.com
1. Han and Chewie in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. An overhead panel sprays out sparks while laser fire rips outside the front cockpit viewport. Han shouts, “Put your oxygen mask on, you big furball!” Chewie howls a protest. Han responds, “This old girl still has a few tricks left in her.”
2. A newer-model X-wing fighter swoops across the panel, firing on and blowing up the enemy starfighter tailing the Falcon. “Millennium Falcon, this trade lane is no longer safe. We'll escort you from here.”
3. The Falcon now parked in a hangar next to several of the X-wings. Han and Chewie walking away from the ship. Han says, “We need to find that hotshot who saved our tails and say thanks.” Chewie, arm raised, points across the hangar and growls something.
4. A female X-wing pilot hops down the ladder from the starfighter's cockpit, with Han and Chewie waiting for her at bottom. She pulls off her helmet and says, “All in a day’s work, Dad.”
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Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.