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
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
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The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
After making a sparkling debut in 2004 with his first feature film the slacker comedy Napoleon Dynamite offbeat writer-director Jared Hess seemed poised for a fruitful career as an earnest more accessible alternative to hipster auteur Wes Anderson. But he stumbled a bit with his sophomore effort the uneven Mexican wrestling flick Nacho Libre despite Jack Black’s desperate mugging for laughs. And he falls apart completely with his latest comedy the crude maddeningly insipid Gentlemen Broncos.
It’s a shame too because Gentlemen Broncos held so much potential. Its trailers promised a lively battle of wits between a pompous sci-fi author played by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and the teenage protege (Michael Angarano) from whom he plagiarized his latest bestselling novel. It could have been Hess’s Rushmore. But what the trailers don’t tell you is that Clement plays merely a supporting role in Gentlemen Broncos and that his character Dr. Ronald Chevalier virtually disappears after the film’s splendid setup. Clement is by far the best part of the film and when he isn’t on the screen the story devolves into an increasingly irksome blend of manufactured quirk and lame sight gags. Hess’s sense of humor has regressed to sub-adolescent levels with Gentlemen Broncos. Defecating snakes breast-puncturing blowdarts and jars of human testicles are just a few of the lowbrow delights that await the brave soul who attempts to make it through a viewing. When Clement returns at the end of the film and mounts a quixotic attempt to rescue it from the mire his heroic effort is sadly for naught: The disastrous fate of Gentleman Broncos was sealed long before.