I'm always behind in popular trends, it seems, like starting to watch and really enjoy a show when its in danger of being cancelled. (Hi, Firefly!) The day that I actually get a verified check mark on Twitter is when its death knell will ring as a relevant social media portal. (Seriously though, it's @literateartist, if you're one of those people tasked with doing this.) I'm hoping to beat the odds with The Neighbors. It's a fantastically funny show, but I keep hearing that it may be on the chopping block.
What makes it so hilarious? The fact that the aliens all use the names of sports figures -- Larry Bird, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, etc. -- tickles my funny bone because I 'm a huge sports addict. But you knew that after reading my MLB Network piece, right? The second is that Toks Olagundoye is such a great comedic find and Simon Templeman is perfect as her husband. Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito are the perfect foils as the human neighbors.
The show seems to be hitting its stride comedically. The Shark Tank crossover episode was fantastic and the ones after it, including the cameos by Reginald VelJohnson and Meredith Baxter (I still keep mentally adding 'Birney' to the end of that - I think it's because I'm seeing a ton of Family Ties reruns) was great too. There seem to be at least five or more quotable lines each episode. In terms of wit, I'd compare it to the freshman sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
So what's causing the problem with the ratings? Well, the main bad thing was having ABC put it in the Friday night slot. Sure, it was a lead-in to its strongest Friday show, Shark Tank, but not even that can dissuade the people that are going to go out for weekend fun. There's also the DVR factor; apparently not enough people are programming it to record. If these poor numbers continue, the show may be axed, which would make me sad.
I know that TV history is littered with smart, funny shows that just couldn't garner a wide enough audience base to keep going for more than one or two seasons. It's the nature of a medium that tries to appeal to a broad base of people and each network needs enough eyeballs on it. But if ABC does let it go, I hope that a cable channel like TBS or maybe even Netflix would grab it and keep the momentum going by producing more new episodes. Hey, if it could happen to Cougar Town, it could happen here.
In the meantime, I'm just going to keep waiting for that blue Twitter check mark.
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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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.
Teen queen Lindsay Lohan collected a leading four awards Sunday night at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards, The Associated Press reports.
Lohan won awards for best movie actress in a comedy, best movie hissy fit and best movie blush for her part in the hit film Mean Girls. She also collected the award for movie breakout star actress for her work in both Mean Girls" and Freaky Friday.
The awards show was hosted by Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, while musical guests included Blink-182, Ashlee Simpson, Lenny Kravitz and JoJo. The show will be broadcast Wednesday on Fox.
A complete list of winners of the 2004 Teen Choice Awards:
Date Movie: 50 First Dates
Movie, Comedy: Shrek 2
Movie Actor, Comedy: Adam Sandler, 50 First Dates
Movie Thriller: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Movie Actress, Comedy: Lindsay Lohan
Movie Actress, Drama/Adventure: Halle Berry, Gothika
Movie Hissy Fit: Lindsay Lohan, Mean Girls
Movie Blush: Lindsay Lohan, Mean Girls
Movie Sleazebag: Seann William Scott, American Wedding
Movie Breakout Star Actress: Lindsay Lohan, Mean Girls, Freaky Friday
Movie Your Parents Didn't Want You to See: American Wedding
TV Show, Drama/Action Adventure: The O.C
TV, Reality/Variety: Punk'd
TV Show, Late Night: Saturday Night Live
TV Breakout Show: The O.C.
TV Actress, Drama/Adventure: Jennifer Garner, Alias
TV Actor, Drama/Adventure: Adam Brody, The O.C.
TV Sidekick: Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
TV Personality: Ashton Kutcher
TV Breakout Star, Female: Mischa Barton, The O.C.
TV Breakout Star, Male: Chad Michael Murray, One Tree Hill.
Reality/Variety TV Star: Ashton Kutcher, Punk'd
Reality/Variety Jackass: Simon Cowell, American Idol
Single: "Toxic," Britney Spears
Album: Confessions, Usher
R&B Artist: Usher
R&B Track: "Yeah," Usher with Ludacris and Lil Jon
Love Song: "I Miss You," Blink-182
Hook Up: "Yeah," Usher with Ludacris and Lil Jon
Tour of the Year: No Doubt and Blink-182
Song of the Summer: "Pieces of Me," Ashlee Simpson
Ultimate Choice Award: Mike Myers
Courage Award: Bethany Hamilton
Male Athlete: Tony Hawk.
Female Athlete: Mia Hamm
Comedian: Adam Sandler
Fresh Face: Ashlee Simpson
Top Story: James Garner Becomes 8 Simple Rules Regular
Touchstone TV, the producers of ABC's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, has signed veteran actor James Garner as a regular to its sophomore comedy. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Garner will appear in all remaining episodes of the season as Grandpa Jim, the father of Katey Sagal's character, the widowed Cate Hennessy. He has guest-starred in all episodes of the show to date, starting with the emotional Nov. 4 one-hour segment, the first episode without star John Ritter, who died of a heart ailment in September. His character came to support Cate and three teenage grandchildren as they dealt with the realities of becoming a single-parent family. The 75-year-old Garner, who took a fall on the set of the show last week and bruised his hip, is set to return to 8 Simple Rules Jan. 5 in an episode guest-starring David Spade, who signed on to do a multiple-episode arc.
Maverick Films Launches Screenwriting Competition
Madonna and Guy Oseary's Maverick Films has teamed with online script scouting service ScriptShark--a division of Baseline/Filmtracker, which is owned by Hollywood Media Corp., Hollywood.com's parent company--to launch the Maverick Blueprint Screenwriting Competition. According to Variety, the grand prizewinner will receive $10,000 and a 12-month option with Maverick. The second place winner will receive $5,000 while third place will get $2,000. All three winners will also receive the opportunity to sign for management representation with Concept Entertainment. The deadline to enter the contest is Feb. 29.
CBS May Air Jackson Special
Michael Jackson Number Ones, CBS' Michael Jackson music special that was scrapped last month when child molestation allegations against the singer surfaced, may air after all. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter Tuesday that the network is considering a January airdate for the hour-long retrospective, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 26 in conjunction with the release of Jackson's greatest hits album, Michael Jackson Number Ones. TV news circles were also abuzz yesterday about Jackson possibly sitting down for an interview with Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes next month.
Bruckheimer Shows Dominate Primetime Ratings
CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Trace and CSI: Miami-- three different shows produced by Jerry Bruckheimer--were the three most-watched programs on prime-time television last week, giving the network a win in the week's ratings race. Cold Case, a fourth Bruckheimer show, was ranked ninth in last week's prime-time numbers, compiled by Nielsen Media Research. The top shows for the week of Dec. 15-21 were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 24.7 million; Without a Trace, CBS, 19.4 million; CSI: Miami, 19.2 million; NFL Monday Night Football: Philadelphia at Miami, ABC, 18.8 million; Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 18.1 million; Two and a Half Men, CBS, 14.8 million; NFL Monday Showcase, ABC, 14.3 million; Cold Case, CBS, 14 million; Primetime Special Edition, ABC, 13.9 million.
Recording Academy Chooses Lifetime Award Recipients
Recording artists Van Cliburn, the Funk Brothers, Ella Jenkins, Sonny Rollins, Artie Shaw and Doc Watson will receive lifetime achievement awards at next year's Grammy Awards ceremony, The Associated Press reports. Jazz producer Orrin Keepnews, songwriting duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and pianist/radio host Marian McPartland will receive Trustees Awards. Both recipients of the special merit awards will be officially acknowledged in a ceremony during a weeklong celebration leading up to the 46th annual Grammy Awards ceremony, set to take place Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The show will be telecast live on CBS.
Springsteen Top Concert Earner of 2003
Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band ruled the concert business in 2003, raking in a whopping $115.9 million for 47 concerts, including 13 stadium shows in the New York area, the AP reports. The numbers, released by the concert industry trade publication Pollstar, aren't final yet, but editor Gary Bongiovanni predicts 2003 will be the fourth record-setting year in a row with around $2.4 billion in concert business. Bongiovanni said that's largely because fans have accepted higher ticket prices for big-name acts, particularly veterans. Rounding out the Top Five earners for the year were Celine Dion, the Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel and the Billy Joel-Elton John double bill, all of which charged more than $100 per ticket on average.
Academy Award Winning Animator Dies
Academy Award winning animator Wah Ming Chang died Monday in Carmel, Calif., at the age of 86, the AP reports. Born in Honolulu, Chang moved to San Francisco in the early 1920s. Chang was instrumental in creating a stop-motion animation production of The Three Bears, and he also designed costumes for the film The King and I, created masks for Planet of the Apes and made Elizabeth Taylor's headdress in Cleopatra. But it was his work on the 1960 feature The Time Machine that earned him an Oscar for special effects. Chang married Glenella Taylor in 1941 in Texas, since California law at the time did not allow marriage between a Chinese and a Caucasian. Taylor, his wife of nearly 60 years, died in 1997. Chang is survived by a half-sister and several nieces and nephews.
Comedian Lenny Bruce Gets Posthumous Pardon
Comedian Lenny Bruce, who died of a drug overdose in 1966 at the age of 39, was pardoned Tuesday for a 1964 obscenity conviction over a raunchy, irreverent monologue at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York, Reuters reports. New York Gov. George Pataki issued what his office said was the first posthumous pardon in the state's history: "Freedom of speech is one of the greatest American liberties and I hope this pardon serves as a reminder of the precious freedoms we are fighting to preserve." A group of lawyers and comedians, including Robin Williams and The Smothers Brothers, petitioned Pataki earlier this year, saying the posthumous pardon would help set the record straight on the career of a man who helped transform comedy.
Role Call: Stormare To Play Satan in Constantine