Ready for even more zombies? Oh... no? Well, too bad.
AMC, after probably realizing that no one is going to sit through Low Winter Sun no matter how many Breaking Bad sneak peeks you cram inside each episode, has decided to make a new show by doing what has worked best for them over the few years, creating original ideas for engaging television shows forcing more zombies on us.
Variety reports that the network is developing a new companion series based off of their monster hit The Walking Dead. The new series will come from Robert Kirkman, original creator of The Walking Dead comics, and executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and Dave Alpert. The show would take place in the same universe as The Walking Dead, but would feature an all-new cast of characters.
In a statement about the new companion series, Kirkman said, "After 10 years of writing the comic book series and being so close to the debut of our fourth, and in my opinion, best season of the TV series, I couldn't be more thrilled about getting the chance to create a new corner of The Walking Dead universe. The opportunity to make a show that isn’t tethered by the events of the comic book, and is truly a blank page, has set my creativity racing."
AMC seems to be looking towards old successes for its newest properties. Along with this new Walking Dead spin-off, the network is also developing a series based on Breaking Bad. The Breaking Bad spin-off would feature the adventures of sleazy bus bench lawyer Saul Goodman before he meets Walter White. While the Saul Goodman spin-off idea seems to have come from a place of genuine creativity and desire to make something artful, the announcement of this Walking Dead companion piece feels like nothing short of a ratings grab. AMC president Charlie Collier even alludes to that fact in a recent release, saying, "Building on the success of the most popular show on television for adults 18-49 is literally a no-brainer."
AMC originally made it's prestigious name in the televison drama market by creating the kinds of programs that have challenged the way we precieve television, and the types of stories that the medium can depict. Shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and even The Walking Dead were daring moves that paid off because they presented viewers with something different and exciting. We hope that this new series can deliver the same crowd-pleasing blood splatter that the original show is known for, but this is certainly television production at its most cold and clinical.
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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.
The Coen brothers could be adding a third Writers Guild of America Award to their impressive trophy case next month if they can nab best original screenplay for their quirky comedy Burn After Reading. The WGA, who announced their nominees today, presented Joel and Ethan Coen with best adapted screenplay last year for No Country for Old Men and best original screenplay in 1997 for Fargo.
Rounding out the contenders this year are Dustin Lance Black for Milk, Woody Allen for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Tom McCarthy for The Visitor and Robert Siegel for The Wrestler.
The WGA’s best adapted screenplay noms include Eric Roth for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with story by Roth and Robin Swicord; Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight with story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer; John Patrick Shanley for Doubt, based on the stage play; Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon, based on his stage play; and Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire.
WGA members will meet simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles for the award ceremony on Feb. 7.
Burn After Reading, Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Focus Features
Milk, Written by Dustin Lance Black, Focus Features
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Written by Woody Allen, The Weinstein Company
The Visitor, Written by Tom McCarthy, Overture Films
The Wrestler, Written by Robert Siegel, Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord; Based on the Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures
The Dark Knight, Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan; Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer; Based on Characters Appearing in Comic Books Published by DC Comics; Batman Created by Bob Kane, Warner Bros. Pictures
Doubt, Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, Based on his Stage Play, Miramax Films
Frost/Nixon, Screenplay by Peter Morgan, Based on his Stage Play, Universal Pictures
Slumdog Millionaire, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Based on the Novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, Written by Stefan Forbes and Noland Walker, InterPositive Media
Chicago 10, Written by Brett Morgen, Roadside Attractions
Fuel, Written by Johnny O'Hara, Greenlight Theatrical / Intention Media
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Screenplay by Alex Gibney, From the Words of Hunter S. Thompson, Magnolia Pictures
Waltz with Bashir, Written by Ari Folman, Sony Pictures Classics
Dramatic Series Dexter, Written by Scott Buck, Daniel Cerone, Charles H. Eglee, Adam E. Fierro, Lauren Gussis, Clyde Phillips, Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, Tim Schlattmann; Showtime
Friday Night Lights, Written by Bridget Carpenter, Kerry Ehrin, Brent Fletcher, Jason Gavin, Carter Harris, Elizabeth Heldens, David Hudgins, Jason Katims, Patrick Massett, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, John Zinman; NBC
Lost, Written by Carlton Cuse, Drew Goddard, Adam Horowitz, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Damon L. Lindelof, Greggory Nations, Kyle Pennington, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Brian K. Vaughan; ABC
Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Jane Anderson, Rick Cleveland, Kater Gordon, David Isaacs, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Marti Noxon, Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner; AMC
The Wire, Written by Ed Burns, Chris Collins, David Mills, David Simon, William F. Zorzi, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos; HBO
30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Donald Glover, Andrew Guest, Matt Hubbard, Jon Pollack, John Riggi, Tami Sagher, Ron Weiner; NBC
Entourage, Written by Doug Ellin, Jeremy Miller, Ally Musika, Steve Pink, Rob Weiss; HBO
The Office, Written by Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Anthony Farrell, Brent Forrester, Dan Goor, Charlie Grandy, Mindy Kaling, Ryan Koh, Lester Lewis, Paul Lieberstein, Warren Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Aaron Shure, Justin Spitzer, Gene Stupnitsky, Halsted Sullivan; NBC
The Simpsons, Written by J. Stewart Burns, Daniel Chun, Joel H. Cohen, Kevin Curran, John Frink, Tom Gammill, Valentina Garza, Stephanie Gillis, Dan Greaney, Reid Harrison, Ron Hauge, Al Jean, Brian Kelly, Billy Kimball, Rob LaZebnik, Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, David Mirkin, Bill Odenkirk, Carolyn Omine, Don Payne, Michael Price, Max Pross, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, Matt Warburton, Jeff Westbrook, Marc Wilmore, William Wright; Fox
Weeds, Written by Roberto Benabib, Mark A. Burley, Ron Fitzgerald, David Holstein, Rolin Jones, Brendan Kelly, Jenji Kohan, Victoria Morrow, Matthew Salsberg; Showtime
Breaking Bad, Written by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Patty Lin, George Mastras, J Roberts; AMC
Fringe, Written by JJ Abrams, Jason Cahill, Julia Cho, David H. Goodman, Felicia Henderson, Brad Caleb Kane, Alex Kurtzman, Darin Morgan, J.R. Orci, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Zack Whedon; Fox
In Treatment, Written by Rodrigo Garcia, Bryan Goluboff, Davey Holmes, William Meritt Johnson, Amy Lippman, Sarah Treem; HBO
Life on Mars, Written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Becky Hartman Edwards, David Wilcox, Adele Lim, Bryan Oh, Tracy McMillan, Sonny Postiglione, Phil M. Rosenberg, Meredith Averill; ABC
True Blood, Written by Alan Ball, Brian Buckner, Raelle Tucker, Alexander Woo, Nancy Oliver, Chris Offutt; HBO
Episodic Drama - any length - one airing time
“Don’t Ever Change” (House), Written by Doris Egan & Leonard Dick; Fox
“Double Booked” (Burn Notice), Written by Craig O’Neill & Jason Tracey; USA
“Gray Matter” (Breaking Bad), Written by Patty Lin; AMC
“Pilot” (Breaking Bad), Written by Vince Gilligan; AMC
“Pilot” (Eli Stone), Written by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim; ABC
“There’s Something About Harry” (Dexter), Written by Scott Reynolds; Showtime
Episodic Comedy - any length - one airing time
“Believe in the Stars” (30 Rock), Written by Robert Carlock; NBC
“Cooter” (30 Rock), Written by Tina Fey; NBC
“Crime Aid” (The Office), Written by Charlie Grandy; NBC
“Crush’d” (Ugly Betty), Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally; ABC
“Succession” (30 Rock), Written by Andrew Guest & John Riggi; NBC
“Vote for This and I Promise to Do Something Crazy at the Emmys” (My Name is Earl), Written by Greg Garcia; NBC
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Muggles are wild about Harry Potter.
So magic could happen this weekend at the box office.
The first of seven anticipated films based on the books by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will hit a record 3,672 theaters on Friday on the heels of great reviews and stunning advance ticket sales. Factor in a terrific $9.6 million taken at previews last weekend in the United Kingdom and the stage is set for Harry Potter … to challenge The Lost World: Jurassic Park's record $72.1 million opening weekend take in 1997.
The budding wizard does have what it takes to overcome several big hurdles ahead of him. The film's two-and-a-half-hour running time will result in fewer showings per screen. Still, the three-hour Pearl Harbor managed to post a $59 million opening in its first three days this past Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The Lost World enjoyed its three-day opening during the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend as well, but debuting on a non-holiday weekend can yield big bucks, too. Monsters, Inc. paved the way this month for a huge Harry Potter … opening by earning $62.5 million in its first weekend. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Chirstmas debuted during last year's pre-Thanksgiving holiday weekend with $55.1 million. The Grinch … overcame competition in the form of fellow newcomers Rugrats In Paris, The 6th Day and Bounce. The only other new film to debut wide this weekend is The Wash, but the comedy opened Wednesday to avoid clashing with Harry Potter …. Anticipation is very high for Harry Potter …, given the books' loyal following among children and adults, so a debut better than either Monsters, Inc. or The Grinch … seems guaranteed.
Even if Harry Potter … doesn't break The Lost World's record, the movie may still thrive in the long term.
Unlike Pearl Harbor and Godzilla, which both failed to shatter opening records and faded fast in the face of lousy reviews, the Chris Columbus-directed fantasy is conjuring up fabulous word of mouth and will likely dominate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Think Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace, which opened on the pre-Memorial Day weekend in 1999 to a less-than-anticipated $64.8 million weekend but ended up as the third-highest grossing film of all time with $431 million.
With the arrival of Harry Potter …, Monsters, Inc. will scare a lot less kids this weekend. The Disney/Pixar animated yarn--with Billy Crystal and John Goodman providing voices--should still live large thanks to spillover business from Harry Potter …. Monsters, Inc. dropped a mere 27 percent in its second weekend, to $45.5 million, and crossed the $100 million mark in nine days. That's a record for an animated film, beating Toy Story 2 and Shrek by one day. Its $132 million total through Wednesday puts it ahead of both of the aforementioned. If it holds its own against Harry Potter …, Monsters, Inc. will likely surpass Toy Story 2's $245.8 million total and may even challenge Shrek's $267.3 million to reign as the year's highest-grossing animated offering. For the record, the top animated title is The Lion King, with $312.9 million.
It may be hard to believe, but there are other films showing this weekend at your local multiplex, and some will likely reap the benefits of screening alongside Harry Potter … and Monsters, Inc.
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg deserve a hand for daring to take on Harry Potter …. The pair made cameos--separately--in Training Day, but The Wash isn't likely to be as big a hit as the rogue cop thriller. The rap-driven comedy hit 759 theaters Wednesday and earned $468,000. That's about on par with Snoop Dogg's Bones, which opened on Oct. 24 and scared up a so-so $3.6 million in its first five days at 847 theaters. Expect the same from The Wash.
Bobby and Peter Farrelly can breathe again now that Shallow Hal looks like it will reverse the brothers' recent run of bad luck at the box office. The film's $22.5 million opening is more than the combined totals of Osmosis Jones ($13.5 million) and Say It Isn't So ($5.5 million), the latter of which they produced. With $27.5 million in the piggy bank through Wednesday, Shallow Hal has already stomped past Kingpin poor $25 million total in 1996.
Shallow Hal debuted almost as well as last year's Me, Myself & Irene, but its $24.2 million opening was something of a disappointment for a comedy that reunited the brothers with Dumb and Dumber cohort Jim Carrey. Shallow Hal did beat the $13.7 million that There's Something about Mary earned in 1998. Then again, good reviews and great word of mouth helped Mary earn $176 million. A fat Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't have the same legs--however padded--as a semen-bedecked Cameron Diaz.
Another set of brothers--Joel and Ethan Coen--also should look forward to the weekend. The Man Who Wasn't There continues to expand, having garnered $1.9 million in two weeks in limited release. The black-and-white thriller, with Billy Bob Thornton as a barber who blackmails his wife's lover, is running neck and neck in its second weekend with last year's O Brother, Where Art Thou. That screwball comedy, which amazingly played in theaters for eight months, eventually grossed $45.5 million to become the brothers' biggest hit.
The Man Who Wasn't There isn't likely to enjoy such a long and profitable run. Unlike the goofy but good-natured Depression-era take on Homer's The Odyssey, this serious-minded chiller sees the brothers return to the film-noir sensibilities of Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing. It isn't as accessible or likeable as Fargo, and thus will fail to appeal beyond many Coen Bros. purists.
Another film noir, Novocaine, arrives Friday in limited release. That's obviously a sign of little faith in this extremely dark comedy marking Steve Martin's first film since 1999's Bowfinger. Those who found the Father of the Bride films so lovely and endearing aren't really going to enjoy the sight of dentist Martin pulling out his own teeth.
After coming to the United States to direct Alien Resurrection, Jean-Pierre Jeunet returned to his native France to concoct Amelie. Already a smash in France, this enchanting romance looks set to become the biggest foreign-language hit since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Amelie has made $1 million in a two-week limited run. With great reviews likely to translate into countless awards and nominations, Amelie could go through arthouse roofs to challenge the $14.5 million taken by the year's current foreign-language champ, Iron Monkey.
Expanding from 88 theaters to 1288 theaters last weekend didn't prove bountiful for Life as a House. Kevin Kline's midlife crisis earned just $3.8 million, for a total of $6 million through Wednesday. Life as a House doesn't have the rock solid critical and audience support it needs to become the next American Beauty, as it is being touted by distributor New Line.
After enjoying a personal best opening with The One, Jet Li endured a tough second weekend that saw his sci-fi epic plummet by 52 percent from $19.1 million to $9.1 million. With $33.7 million through Wednesday, The One is close to surpassing the $36.8 million that Kiss of the Dragon crawled its way to this summer. But The One is lagging behind Romeo Must Die, which amassed $38.8 million in 12 days on its way to $55 million.
John Travolta fared somewhat better with Domestic Disturbance. His son-in-peril thriller dropped a respectable 38 percent, from $14 million to $8.6 million, in its second weekend. Domestic Disturbance has accumulated $27.8 million through Wednesday, almost more than the combined totals of Travolta's 2000 bombs Battlefield Earth ($21.4 million) and Lucky Numbers ($10 million).
Heist's $7.8 million opening--$9.8 million through Wednesday--represents a best for a David Mamet-directed film. That's no doubt because this crackerjack thriller, reuniting Get Shorty stars Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito and Delroy Lindo, is the first of the acclaimed playwright's films to receive such a wide release. Heist has already surpassed the $6.9 million made by last year's State and Main and by the end of its first full week is bound to surpass the $10.1 million that The Spanish Prisoner ran off with in limited release in 1998. Heist's future seems as uncertain as a life of crime, considering that this older-skewing offering faces direct competition from Domestic Disturbance, K-PAX, Life as a House and next week's Spy Game.
Having made $41.8 million through Wednesday, the alien-on-vacation melodrama K-PAX is poised to become Jeff Bridges' best outing since 1991's The Fisher King. Co-starring Robin Williams, The Fisher King ended its run with $41.7 million. Bridges clearly benefits when paired with an equally famous co-star, in this case Kevin Spacey.
The end is nigh for Thirteen Ghosts ($35.3 million), From Hell ($29.8 million) and Riding in Cars with Boys ($28.1 million). Expect these, plus Training Day ($72.6 million), Serendipity ($45.8 million) and the underachieving Bandits ($38.5 million), to quickly make way for this month's Spy Game, Black Knight, Behind Enemy Lines and Texas Rangers. The holiday gold rush is about to begin.