CBS announced its fall television lineup today, and the network seems to be charting very familiar territory. While the other broadcast players scramble for the next big thing, CBS is firmly in cruise control. It would be easy to say that the the channel is just going through the motions, but the folks at CBS know what works and know their audience even better, which is why they're still the reigning champs of broadcast television. This year, the channel that brought you NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, brings you their next surefire hit, NCIS: Somewhere Else, plus another half dozen police procedurals and two new comedies... one of which is actually a really old comedy. In these hardscrabble times, it may be difficult to decide which NCIS to watch, so we've rounded up all the new shows in CBS's 2014-2015 lineup.
Scorpion What It Is: Drama.What's It About: Eccentric genius and his team of misfits battle against high tech threats of the modern age, but the socially awkward group needs a translator of sorts, to help them communicate to the world around them.Who's In It: Elyes Gabel, Robert Patrick, Katharine McPhee.What It Sounds Like: The Big Bang Theory meets Criminal Minds. How Good Will It Be: It looks like This show looks like it might try to mine the same kinds of humor as The Big Bang Theory, which often nosedives into silly stereotyping of nerd culture without being actually funny or insightful. This one isn’t looking good at all. How Long Will It Last: CBS might be trying to find a bridge between the faux-geeky comedy in Big Bang and the litany of cop procedurals on the network. Perhaps the network’s audience will pick up on that. Airs: Mondays at 10 PM this fall.
NCIS: New Orleans What It Is: Police procedural.What's It About: The local field office investigates criminal cases involving military personnel. Who's In It: Scott Bakula, Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan.What It Sounds Like: It’s going to be NCIS, but everyones going to be talking about gumbo. How Good Will It Be: As good as an NCIS spin-off can be. Scott Bakula is great, but we doubt he's going to flourish in this.How Long Will It Last: Forever.Airs: Tuesdays at 9 PM this fall.
Stalker What It Is: Police procedural. What's It About: Det. Jack Larsen and his new boss, Lt. Beth Davis, investigate dangerous stalker incidents. Who's In It: Maggie Q, Dylan McDermott.What It Sounds Like: The inevitable Catfish episode of Law and Order: SVU. How Good Will It Be: CBS already has about 90 other cop shows, and this one isn’t doing much to stand out. There’s a new wrinkle (hey, we’re only going after stalkers in this on) but that’s no enough to separate it from the herd. How Long Will It Last: McDermott’s last show on CBS, Hostages, was a big misfire for the network. Plus, there are already so many procedurals clogging up the network’s schedule. We’re thinking some cop drama fatigue might be creeping in. Airs: Wednesday at 10 PM this fall.
Madame Secretary What It Is: Political drama.What's It About: Elizabeth Cord, the newly appointed Secretary of State, balances work and family life while trying to serve the President. Who's In It: Téa Leoni, Bebe Neuwirth, Geoffrey Arend, Patina Miller.What It Sounds Like: House of Cards without all the murder by train.How Good Will It Be: It looks a little staid compared to the wilder political action available from other dramas of its ilk. Still, maybe a slower drama depicting Washington is a move in the right direction.How Long Will It Last: House of Cards and Scandal has shown that political shows can survive and thrive on TV as long as they’re soapy and ridiculous. Madame Secretary looks a bit tamer than those two efforts so thrillseekers might not be interested. We’ll give it a season or two. Airs: Sundays at 8 PM this fall.
The McCarthys What It Is: Multi-camera sitcom. What's It About: The gay son of a brash Boston family wants to leave the city, but decides to stay when his outspoken and politically incorrect father gives him a position as an assistant coach on the local basketball team. Who's In It: Laurie Metcalf, Tyler Ritter, Jack McGee. What It Sounds Like: That one episode of All in the Family where meathead comes out to Archie. How Good Will It Be: We’re excited to see Laurie Metcalf return to TV, but the story itself doesn’t sound all that original or exciting. How Long Will It Last: Since Fox’s Dads failed to deliver ratings, it seems that we might be a bit tired of the whole "outspoken fathers annoying their sons thing" on TV. This one might not get a back nine. Airs: Thursdays at 9:30 PM this fall.
CSI: CyberWhat It Is: Police procedural.What's It About: Special Agent Avery Ryan is in charge of the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI, a team that solves crimes centered on the Internet.Who's In It: Patricia Arquette.What It Sounds Like: CSI meets the Internet.How Good Will It Be: It depends which The Who song they chose for the theme song. How Long Will It Last: Forever, or at least a handful of years.Airs: Midseason.
Battle Creek What It Is: Police procedural.What's It About: Two bickering detectives with polar opposite world views work together to clean up the mean streets of Battle Creek, Michigan. Who's In It: Josh Duhmel, Dean Winters.What It Sounds Like: A more straightforward version of True Detective How Good Will It Be: Dean Winters is always great, and television heavyweights Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and David Shore (House) are producing. This could be something special.How Long Will It Last: This series seems darker and grittier than the average CBS procedural, which might not click with regular viewers of CBS’ breezier cop dramas. We’ll be surprised if this gets a second year. Airs: Midseason.
The Odd Couple What It Is: Multi-camera sitcom. What's It About: Charming slob Oscar Madison and buttoned-up neat freak Felix Unger become unlikely roommates after the demise of their marriages. Who's In It: Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon.What It Sounds Like: Well… The Odd Couple.How Good Will It Be: We can’t imagine what new spin this new show could put on the Odd Couple formula since every other sitcom is basically a pastiche of the Odd Couple anyway. Been there, done that. How Long Will It Last: Matthew Perry has been on a serious losing streak so he may be a bad omen for The Odd Couple. we'll give it a season.Airs: Midseason.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
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.