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.
MGM via Everett Collection
With Divergent is hitting theaters on March 21, the theme of teens fighting for survival on the big screen is at the forefront of our minds. It's one that has resonated through the decades in cinema, and we're taking a look at some of our favorite examples.
I'm talking about the 1984 original, not the forgettable reboot. As someone who was born in the 1970s and was growing into teenager-hood in the 1980s, the sight of those parachuting Russians in the film's opening made me want to crawl under my blankets and hide forever. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's steps toward Glasnot years later couldn't come fast enough. This was a bloody movie that featured many up-and-coming stars like Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and C. Thomas Howell. The film hit towards the end of the Cold War, allowing USSR to play an effective Hollywood villain. The film saw America become a Russian state; the band of teenagers who fought back against the Red Menace made all of us look like sad-sack couch potatoes. To this day, you can yell "Wolverines!" at any person over the age of 35 and you'll much more than likely get a knowing nod back... and not just on the campus of University of Michigan.
By now, nearly everyone in the world knows who Katniss Everdeen is. For the very few uninitiated, Everdeen is a teenager who has to go and hunt other teenagers in a dystopian future that takes its cues from The Running Man more than anything else. Everdeen is tough, resourceful, cunning, and also one hell of a shot with a bow an arrow. She shows people that teens can take matters by the horns and do what it takes to win, and still not entirely sacrifice their humanity. There are those why decry the things she does, but in the long run, she is a good role model for being a strong female lead, which is something the movies have been lacking quite often. Everdeeen isn't one to quake and let a male take over or win or make her compromise herself. Yes, this series of movies shows kids murdering other kids, but the underlying message beneath is one that can't be ignored either.
Released in Japan in 2000, the movie comes from a different culture and as such institutes different tropes into its school-aged characters. The film centers around the students of a ninth-grade class that are made to fight each other to the death. Even more brutal than the American films, it shows what people are capable of when they have their backs to the wall and are being forced to commit atrocities in the name of their own government. I'd be seriously scared to get a note from my son's school in the future about something like this.
What kid hasn't wondered about the true demonic motives of his or her teachers? This 1998 horror/thriller boasts a cast full of comedic powerhouses like Bebe Neuwirth and Jon Stewart, as well as heartthrobs like Josh Hartnett and Jordana Brewster... and, yes, Usher. Running on the theme of teens versus adults, The Faculty becomes an intense and interesting cinematic experience. Beyond its horror aspects, the uniqueness of the overall movie made it better than something like Halloween or Friday the 13th. If you haven't seen it, it'll make you look at the Daily Show host in a totally different light.
Lord of the Flies
The original teen survivor movie, adapted in 1963 from William Golding's award-winning novel. We meet a group of school kids who get stranded on a desert island, and initially band together to survive... before anarchy starts to take over as the veneer of civilization gets stripped further and further in the movie. It's quite harrowing, and a sobering reminder of what can happen when we let the rules of society slip away. And if you've somehow managed to get this far without reading the novel, we highly recommend it. I read it in seventh grade, and had this weird thing about conch shells for a while after that.
Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets here.
There's probably still someone somewhere that would fall for one of Sacha Baron Cohen's weird and wooly scenarios but let's face the facts: the days when Ali G. could snag an interview with Pat Buchanan or Gore Vidal are long gone. 2009's Bruno definitely let some steam out of Borat's tires not to mention the ensuing lawsuits. But it's refreshing to see Cohen and his Borat/Bruno cohort director Larry Charles flex their muscles in the fictional universe of The Dictator a vehicle that doesn't skimp on their signature cringe-worthy humor.
The world of The Dictator gives them the leeway to create crazy spectacles — at one point Cohen's General Aladeen rides down Fifth Avenue on a camel surrounded by a giant motorcade. Having a plot helps too; although part of the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick is how the viewer is made culpable by proxy by our amusement and horror at how he tricks and torments people who aren't in on the joke The Dictator continues the self-reflexive satirical bite. We're certainly not off the hook. Aladeen says and does truly outrageous things but they're also exaggerations of the world we live in. It might be a stretch to call Sacha Baron Cohen the British Lenny Bruce or George Carlin in a face merkin but rest assured that no topic is off limits. If you are offended by jokes about abortion rape feminists body hair race religion politics STDs war crimes ethnic cleansing necrophilia and/or bestiality don't even bother. However if you like the kind of comedy that makes you hide your face in your hands feeling like each laugh is being pried from you against your will you're in business.
Cohen eats up the screen as both General Aladeen and his incredibly dumb body double; the latter prefers the intimate company of one of his goats to a human while the former is a fairly stupid ruthless dictator whose own people are so disloyal to him that they actually ignore his commands to execute people. (He really likes to execute people.) When he arrives in New York City to attend a summit at the UN his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) has the two switched so he can easily manipulate the "General" into signing a treaty to make Wadiya a democracy and reap the financial benefits. Aladeen finds refuge with Zoe a hairy-pitted activist who thinks he's a political dissident and is excited to be able to give him a safe haven in her touchy-feely Brooklyn grocery co-op. Instead of being typecast as another blonde dummy Anna Faris is finally given room to play as the wide-eyed naïf who takes Aladeen's very serious statements as jokes or simple miscommunications. She's a great foil to Baron Cohen who is easily half a foot taller than she is and has a wolfish grin. Their banter is often the most politically incorrect of the bunch but also the funniest.
Alas the plot. It's a bare bones situation to get a very broad character from A to B. Aladeen is obviously an outlandish mishmash of modern dictators; he spouts racist misogynist rhetoric endlessly and after a while...yeah we get it. However like all of Sacha Baron Cohen's humor The Dictator also takes a direct shot at Western countries (specifically the United States) which would be all fine and dandy if he didn't wedge an expository speech in about it as well. The problem with making a traditional narrative movie is that with some exceptions you've got to play within the guidelines. The Dictator isn't trying to do anything fancy; all it needs a few big beats and a neat ending to wrap it all up. It doesn't quite manage to tie it all together in a way that makes The Dictator more than an hour and a half or so of laughing and cringing.
Besides Faris and Kingsley there are a number of cameos by a very wide variety of comics and actors. Megan Fox plays herself Kevin Corrigan appears as a creepy dude who works at the co-op John C. Reilly is a racist security guard and Fred Armisen runs an anti-Aladeen café in New York's Little Wadiya district. The very funny Jason Mantzoukas has a large role as Nadal the former head of rocket science who was supposedly executed for not making Aladeen's nuclear warhead pointy. It's a good ensemble and hopefully Sacha Baron Cohen's next feature-length film will build on The Dictator's weaknesses.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Based on the beloved children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs tells the tale of Flint Lockwood an eccentric young inventor who spends his days in a makeshift laboratory building monkey-thought translators spray-on shoes “hair unbalder” serums and other strange creations. Regarded as a troublemaker and a nuisance by the residents of the small town of Swallow Falls Flint dreams of one day making something that will win their respect and earn him a place alongside the Edisons and Da Vincis of the world.
Flint thinks his latest invention a machine that turns ordinary water into gourmet meals at the touch of a button just might do the trick. But his big unveiling goes predictably awry when his machine launches like a rocket through Swallow Falls laying waste to the town square before eventually disappearing into the stratosphere.
Just when it appears that the townsfolk have finally had enough of Flint’s antics salvation arrives in the form of cheeseburgers raining from the sky thrilling the throngs of hungry people below. Success! Flint’s machine actually works — albeit not quite in the manner he originally intended.
WHO’S IN IT?
Lending his voice to the character of Flint is Bill Hader a Saturday Night Live regular who’s appeared in small roles in a ton of high-profile comedies including Tropic Thunder Pineapple Express and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Anna Faris (The House Bunny) co-stars as Sam Sparks a weathergirl whose bubbly on-screen persona masks a keen intellect she’s terrified to reveal — lest she be branded a “nerd” and shunned by the community of shallow talking-head news correspondents.
Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell voices the sleazy manipulative Mayor Shelbourne a wildly ambitious politician who eyes Flint’s invention as his ticket to higher office. James Caan (The Godfather) plays Flint’s well-meaning but emotionally distant father Tim a blue-collar fisherman who can’t find a way to relate to his brainy offspring. And fans of A-Team and Rocky III will instantly recognize the voice of Mr. T as Earl Devereaux the tough-minded town cop whose job is devoted primarily to preventing Flint from inadvertently destroying the town. Rounding out the main cast is Neil Patrick Harris (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) as Flint’s trusted monkey assistant Steve.
The animation of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is truly a joy to behold. With each successive meal that falls from the sky comes a brilliant new array of patterns and colors all of which burst from the screening in dazzling 3-D. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller rightly recognize the visual potential of the source material with its endless variety of colorful food items and serve up a delicious buffet of brilliantly-rendered set pieces.
But the film isn’t just a bundle of digital eye candy. Perhaps most pleasantly surprising about the film is the script’s sharp wit and clever observations which help make the experience enjoyable on a cerebral as well as visceral level.
Lord and Miller who also co-wrote the adapted screenplay did a generally solid job expanding the relatively thin source material for the big screen but the story still feels weak at times. It’s just engaging enough to keep you interested but not quite enough to make a lasting impression.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is something of a culinary rollercoaster. As food first begins to fall from the sky you might find yourself feeling a bit hungry. But as the plot progresses and Flint’s machine starts to spin out of control bombarding the town with every kind of slop imaginable don’t be surprised if your stomach starts to get a little queasy!