Author

Brendon McCullin
  • Where Did 'Nashville' Go Wrong?
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 12, 2014
    ABC Television Network Nashville, the brainchild of Academy Award-winning writer Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise), started off with a ton of promise. The pilot was heavily promoted and the audience that tuned in was treated to an inside look at the clashing generations within the country music industry... a real life storyline that has been repeating ever since the advent of rock-and-roll. Connie Britton seemed to take her Friday Night Lights character and make her a successful music icon along the lines of Reba McEntire, while Hayden Panettiere schemed convincingly as the up-and-coming singer who's part Taylor Swift, part ice princess. Early on, the show focused on the yin and the yang of Britton and Panettiere's relationship, with the former's Rayna Jaymes stuck in a career rut and Panettiere's Juliette Barnes more interested in kicking the established Queen of Country while she's down than helping her get back up. Throw in Charles Esten's caught-in-the-middle guitarist and there was plenty of drama to go around. Certainly, there were some soap opera elements — the parentage of Rayna's older daughter and the political machinations of her husband and powerful father among them — but as long as Britton and Panettiere were at the center the show stayed fairly even keel. Then came the back half of the first season and things started to go off track. After initially steering clear of cameos, despite shooting on-location in Nashville, suddenly every member of the Grand Ole Opry started popping up to squeeze in a line or two. Juliette's mother appeared and brought a little too much crazy, while Rayna's husband became the mayor and left her for Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Season 2 became even more scattered as the focus shifted to ancillary characters like Clare Bowen's Scarlett and Sam Palladio's Gunnar. Next thing you know, there are assassination plots and a murder-suicide, Juliette is ostracized for questioning the existence of God, and Rayna finds her Tim McGraw in Will Chase's Luke. Enough! While it's fine that the show has some soap opera elements — so do Scandal and Grey's Anatomy — Nashville has gone so far off-course that some fans have already abandoned it. It's not completely a lost cause, though. With the second season winding down, there are still ways to fix it. For starters, keep the cameos to a minimum. Just because Rascal Flatts or some NASCAR driver is available doesn't mean that you need to put them on the show. Once and a while is fine, but not every episode... and not when there really isn't any purpose to their being around. Next, lose the political intrigue. No offense to Eric Close, but we don't really care about Mayor Teddy. Most importantly, put the focus back on Rayna and Juliette. Britton and Panettiere aren't just capable actresses, at their best they are both mesmerizing. Preventing them from engaging with each other — whether in conflict or in country congeniality — is like moving Scandal's Olivia Pope out of D.C.; the whole reason for the show would be lost. Keeping Juliette down too long is a mistake, just as it would be to tone down her ego or her conniving. We don't need her in a happy relationship with Jonathan Jackson's Avery... we need her using all of her assets to get back to the top. Similarly, Britton needs a good, juicy storyline to sink her teeth into. Having a happy and contented Rayna is not in the best interest of the show. She should be scraping and clawing to maintain her career, not chit-chatting with other country music royalty about her fledgling record label. The show is teetering on the brink of oblivion — or, worse, irrelevance — and needs to act fast to bring back into focus the stories that drew us in at first. Otherwise, it will be a tough sell to get viewers to come back for season three… if there even is one. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • Can Guy Ritchie's 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' Be Cool?
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 11, 2014
    Everett Collection Turning a '60s television show into a major motion picture is a risky proposition. While it has worked on occasion, like in the cases of The Fugitive or Mission: Impossible, far more often the end result has been a disaster. Bewitched, Dark Shadows, The Green Hornet, Lost in Space, Get Smart… the list goes on and on. Even one of the successes — The Brady Bunch Movie — had to resort to parody to make it work. The spotty track record hasn't stopped studios from developing properties that they already own, mostly because it's a cheap way to get source material. This is how Guy Ritchie's latest movie ended up being a reworking of the nearly forgotten '60s spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In the original, Robert Vaughn starred as Napoleon Solo (one of the coolest TV character names ever), with NCIS's David McCallum as Illya Kuryakinm, his Russian partner in spying for the international United Network Command for Law Enforcement. At the height of the Cold War, it was a sensational prospect to have agents from the United States and Soviet Union working together to thwart a secret evil organization called THRUST. Ritchie, however, has experience with making material that could easily be antiquated into something more in tune with a modern audience. After all, he turned Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law into a pair of bare-knuckle brawlers in his Sherlock Holmes films. Who's to say that the British director can't turn Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) into a badass version of Solo and Kuryakin? Sure, the fact that both Cavill and Hammer have failed to engage audiences when they've headlined big budget fare should be a concern, but Ritchie was married to Madonna and once had Brad Pitt go an entire movie talking in an unintelligible Irish accent… he's not above taking on a challenge. The main thing that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has going for it — much like Mission: Impossible — is that espionage really never goes out of style. Deceit, disguises and gadgets make for some handy story building blocks no matter what the set-up is. The trick is almost to ignore much of what came before in the original television show and start from scratch. Reportedly, Ritchie is keeping the story set in the '60s, but hopefully that won't steer his story too rigidly. The best movies based on TV shows, like The Fugitive, make people almost entirely forget where the story came from. The worst mistake that Ritchie could make would be to try to be too jokey with the material. What comes out of a lot of the television-to-movie projects is that the participants are embarrassed to be doing them and almost feel the need to make fun of their source. Ritchie has proven himself adept at adding touches of humor to his films, usually amidst a steady stream of fights and explosions. For U.N.C.L.E., any jokes need to naturally flow out of the story and action… try to force anything and suddenly the film's either a parody or a pale imitation of the original. It's an uphill battle to get audiences to care about something that their grandparents watched on television, but Ritchie has more of a chance to pull it off than most. If he can make the 1870s look cool, just think what he can do with London at the beginning of the swinging '60s. Even if Cavill and Hammer haven't yet earned the benefit of the doubt, their director has. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • Can Kristen Wiig Just Be in Everything?
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 06, 2014
    NBC It isn't every comedian that can get away with doing an entire interview on The Tonight Show doing an imitation of someone else. Yet, when Kristen Wiig did exactly that — taking a seat next to buddy Jimmy Fallon dressed like One Direction's Harry Styles during his first week as host — it was completely charming. The same goes for when Wiig pops in on her old Saturday Night Live stomping grounds, as when she showed up in a cold open this season reprising her highly inappropriate, small-handed Dooneese character during a parody of NBC's The Sound of Music. Quite simply, the Bridesmaids star makes every TV show that she comes in contact with better just by her presence, so why should that be limited to just late night? There are plenty of primetime offerings that could use some of Wiig's charm. Parks and RecreationFellow SNL alum Amy Poehler's show has a strong history of funny guest stars (Louis CK, Parker Posey, Megan Mullally) so the writers would know what to do with Wiig. With Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones having departed, there's also plenty of available screen time. Even if it's just for a single episode, the show could use the boost. We've already met two of Nick Offerman's ex-wives both named Tammy (same as his domineering mother). What could it hurt to have a just as crazy Tammy III? Downtown AbbeyWiig was just in Will Ferrell's period piece parody miniseries The Spoils of Babylon on IFC, so she should be good with the costumes. Elizabeth McGovern's Cora Crawley is from the States… she has to have a cousin someplace, right? Wiig is just the person to turn up as an ugly American full of dating advice and some "just get over it already" tips for Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). The Vampire DiariesWe get it… hot vampires. After five seasons of watching pretty people fall in and out of love, biting each other's necks just isn't enough anymore. Let's say that Paul Wesley's Salvatore has an undead aunt that wants to pal around with Nina Dobrev's Elena… or Katherine or Amara or whatever other doppelgangers she has. Wiig seems perfectly capable of turning from funny to scary in a heartbeat… or, you know, whatever vampires have. Game of ThronesWiig's pal Ferrell had a spoof on his Funny or Die website that turned GoT into a reality show. The producers of HBO's smash probably wouldn't want to go full-on comedy, but we could see Wiig doing a guest turn as a woman that befriends Peter Dinklage's Tyrion, only to be killed in some horribly graphic way just as he's starting to feel a little bit better about life. The BlacklistNBC has a hit in the freshman James Spader thriller, but the struggling Peacock network can't afford to take any chances. It's always far better to keep the audience entertained while they're still watching a show than to have to lure them back later after they're already watching whatever's on CBS at the time. The show hasn't done much in the way of name guest stars so far, but Isabella Rossellini did make an appearance so it's not like they're completely averse to it. Maybe the next name on Spader's list could be a woman who controls foreign leaders from behind the scenes using her looks and charm… and maybe, just maybe, she has really, really tiny hands. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • What Can 'Girls' Tell Us About Adam Driver as the 'Star Wars' Villain?
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 05, 2014
     HBO Girls' Adam Driver is getting the opportunity of a lifetime after reportedly landing the role of the primary bad guy in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII. Driver's character on Lena Dunham's HBO show, Adam Sackler, isn't the greatest guy in the world, and most definitely not the best boyfriend in the world, but he isn't necessarily a villain (even if an ex-girlfriend did call him a "Neanderthal sociopath"). He does, however, have plenty of evil-leaning characteristics that can potentially provide a clue into what kind of bad guy Driver will make in a galaxy far, far away. He's Selfish Being selfish is the hallmark of almost every great villain. Even the ultimate Star Wars baddie, Darth Vader — who's about as conflicted as they come — really turned to the Dark Side because he thought being good was holding him back. Driver's Adam is quite possibly the most selfish character ever on television (rivaled perhaps only by his on-screen girlfriend, Dunham's Hannah). Until recently, when he got a role in a Broadway production, Adam mostly lived off of the money that his grandmother gives him and mooched off friends as he pursued his "art." The guy stole a dog just because he wanted to, and sex is always an individual act for him even if someone else is involved. Better still, he's passive-aggressive: at the end of Season 1, we saw Adam complaining about Hannah chasing after him one moment and then complaining that she didn't want to live with him the next, and basically manipulating her into taking care of him after he was hit by a truck in Season 2. He's Creepy Adam might legitimately love Hannah, but his definition of the word might be a little bit different than the norm. He can scare his girlfriend in the shower with just a bar of soap. He broke into her apartment in the middle of the night, causing her to call the cops. He once asked her to pretend to be an 11-year-old during a sexual encounter. Besides his relationship with Hannah, he says really inappropriate things to his sister (Gaby Hoffman) and walks around mostly naked no matter the company. The word that you're looking for is "ick." He's Not What You'd Call Respectful Early on in the series, Driver's character caused a stir when he urinated on Hannah in the shower and didn't see what the big deal was. That was nothing compared to the infamous "On All Fours" episode, where debate still rages about whether Adam raped Natalia, the girl he was dating. At the very least, the encounter was something on the other side of consensual, adding to his overall creepiness (he made her crawl to the bedroom) and Adam's reaction was to walk away from the whole situation as though he got what he wanted and was done. Great bad guys have to be disconnected from people and feelings (think Hannibal Lecter). Besides calling him a sociopath, Natalia also pointed out that Adam acts "like he doesn't even love his own mother." He Can Be a Little Bit Heroic It might seem counterintuitive, but if you think about it, the best villains aren't weak. They're just as willing to put themselves in harm's way as a good guy, just for different, more self-serving reasons. Adam might be a jerk most of the time on Girls, but every once and a while he's willing to come to the rescue… whether that's picking Hannah up (literally) and taking her away from an OCD meltdown or telling her dying grandmother that they're getting married so that she's left with a happy thought. A really great villain can make the audience think that he's not really that bad… right before, you know, destroying an entire planet or something.
  • Anna Kendrick vs. Lea Michele: Who Would You Cast in Your Musical?
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 04, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection/FOX  Both Anna Kendrick and Lea Michele began their careers as child stars on Broadway, each earning acclaim for their stage work before they hit puberty. Kendrick originally found success on film in movies like the Twilight saga before wowing audiences with her voice in Pitch Perfect. Michele won fame on television as the uber-ambitious Rachel Berry on Glee. Kendrick was nominated for an Academy Award for Up in the Air. Michele has a mantel full of People's Choice awards and has been nominated for an Emmy. Kendrick had a Top 10 hit with "Cups (When I'm Gone)" from Pitch Perfect. Michele just released her first solo album and has made numerous chart appearances thanks to the various Glee soundtracks. Recently, it was announced that Kendrick has been cast as the lead in the film adaption of Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years, on the heels of playing Cinderella in the movie version of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods and reprising her character in Pitch Perfect 2. Michele, on the other hand, is still hard at work on Glee, promoting her album and fending off rumors that — in a storyline straight out of her TV show — she'll appear on Broadway in a revival of Funny Girl. If you were casting a musical, however, and had to choose one or the other, which would you pick? The Case for Anna KendrickMost performers spend a career trying to build a resume as accomplished as the one that Kendrick has already compiled at 28. Trying to find someone that doesn't like Kendrick is next to impossible and she's proven that she can play sweet or snarky equally well. Her voice caught moviegoers off guard in Pitch Perfect, but now that everyone knows about it, she's got an audience eager for more. Sondheim fans might cringe at the thought of Johnny Depp as the Wolf or Meryl Streep as the Witch in Into the Woods, but Kendrick's casting was met with sighs of relief. There was a genuine buzz among musical lovers when Kendrick signed on to The Last Five Years, with people eager to see what she'll do with the Off-Broadway story of a novelist and actresses' failed relationship. Perhaps just as importantly, Kendrick comes across as someone that you would want to be friends with… not a bad thing with audiences or the people that have to work with her. The Case for Lea MicheleSince the beginning of Glee, one of the dangers for Michele has been audiences associating her too closely with her on-screen alter ego, Rachel, who can belt with the best of them, but can also come across as demanding, needy and annoying. Part of the reason that Michele, 27, does so well with the role is that there are similarities between real life and fiction. Michele really does idolize Barbra Streisand, and it wouldn't be a stretch to see Rachel in a production of Les Miserables, just as Michele was as a youngster. What sets Michele apart is that she doesn't appear to have an issue with not being liked. She doesn't shy away from being a diva and doesn't seem to care who has an issue with it. There are a lot of roles that require that kind of chutzpah, particularly in musicals and especially when you have a voice as big as Michele's. VerdictThere's a reason why Kendrick is the hot name for movie musicals right now and that status is completely deserved. Her presence alone would make a mediocre musical at least watchable. If you want someone that's going to be brassy and in-your-face, however, that's more Michele's forte. Perhaps audiences will get lucky and the two will pair up — as Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel did on stage — in a film version of Wicked. There's a movie we'd pay to see.  Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • The Most Surprising Actors Never Nominated for an Oscar
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 01, 2014
    Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection Sylvester Stallone and Eddie Murphy have. So have Ryan Gosling, Anna Paquin, Kate Hudson, and Anna Kendrick. Anne Hathaway and Jonah Hill have … twice. What are we referring to? Oscar nominations. Each of these actors has had his or her name called at one time or another as a nominee for an Academy Award for acting. While there are a number of famous actors that have never won an Oscar, seemingly every performer of note has at least scored a nomination. That sounds right, doesn't it? Not quite. While it is certain that there are plenty of actors of varying skill levels that have been nominated for an Academy Award during their career, there remains some very surprising omissions. From long-time movie veterans to great character actors to funnymen that dabble in drama, these 15 performers have amazingly never been nominated for an Oscar. GALLERY: 15 Surprising Actors to Never Get an Oscar Nomination
  • The Academy Awards Still Aren't Diverse Enough
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 01, 2014
    AFP/Getty Images Once regularly under fire for their lack of diversity, the Academy Awards have gained a reprieve in recent years as people of various ethnic backgrounds have received nominations and scored wins. This year, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o both earned acting nominations for 12 Years a Slave, while the film's  director Steve McQueen was nominated as both a director and producer. Gravity's director Alfonso Cuaron was nominated in the same categories as McQueen, and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) notched a nom for Best Supporting Actor. In recent years, there have been wins in supporting categories for Octavia Spencer and Mo'Nique, and in directing for Asian filmmaker Ang Lee. Compared to the the majority of the Academy Awards history, where wins for actors like Sidney Poitier, Rita Moreno, and Jose Ferrer were very much the exception and not the rule, the Oscars are far more diverse. Of course, that's like saying that there have been strides made to curb global warming... any progress is great, but that doesn't mean that there isn't more work to do. Publisher Lee & Low recently analyzed the first 85 years of Oscars to spotlight issues such as there being only one minority winner (Halle Berry) in the Best Actress Category, that only one woman (Kathryn Bigelow) has ever won for directing and that only six minority performers have won for Best Actor... and that's including Ben Kingsley, who is of Indian descent. The Los Angeles Times originally published a look at the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2012 and updated it in 2013 to show that 93-percent of those casting votes were white and about three quarters are male. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is a black female, helped spearhead a movement to add new members to the voting pool, but the Times found that the changes have had only a minimal impact on the percentages. The makeup of the Academy's voting blocks are only partially to blame, however. While there are some women and minorities in top decision-making roles at studios, like Sony Picture's Amy Pascal and Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara, the majority of studio executives are still white males. The movies made by Hollywood, while perhaps more diverse than in the past, still feature casts and crews that are predominantly white and, particularly behind the camera, largely male. Adding to the problem, UCLA's 2014 Diversity Report showed that only a small group of talent agencies represent an overwhelming majority of the actors, directors and writers making movies for studios, but that their rosters were less diverse compared to all other agencies combined. While there has been progress in films featuring black actors, there is still a gap when it comes to representing other minority groups like Asians and Hispanics. The last Asian actor to be nominated for a leading role was Kingsley in 2003. Not counting European-born actors like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, or Joaquin Phoenix, who was born while his parents were living in Puerto Rico, only one Latino actor (Demian Bichir for A Better Life in 2011) has been nominated for a lead role in the last 10 years. Until Hollywood starts telling stories that are as diverse as the nation as a whole, and employing casts and crews that represent that diversity, there will continue to be only minimal gains realized at the Academy Awards. After all, the prerequisite for earning an Oscar nomination is having the opportunity to do the work in the first place. There might come an award season where an actual mix of nominees in all categories adequately represents women and minority groups, but it hasn't happened yet. Just being better isn't good enough. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • Why You Should Get to Know Greta Gerwig
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 01, 2014
     Warner Bros via Everett Collection A great hue and cry went up in certain quarters when indie darling Greta Gerwig was cast in the "female Ted" role for the How I Met Your Mother spinoff, How I Met Your Dad. She was soon being called a "sell out" by fans on social media, prompting Forbes, of all places, to post an article defending her right to cash in on her low-budget success. Largely left unasked, however, was the basic question of how well does Gerwig's persona translate into the established HIMYM format. If mainstream audiences are aware of Gerwig at all, it's most likely as the flighty tour guide that steals Russell Brand's heart in his Arthur remake. Independent film aficionados know her far better for her work in mumblecore films by directors like Joe Swanberg and Noah Baumbach (who is also her boyfriend), as well as indie film god Whit Stillman. It seems safe to say that her profile will jump considerably with a role in a much publicized television project. While it's easy to think that her work in the big budget studio-produced Arthur provides the clearest insight into how she'll come across in a network sitcom, the fact that Gerwig has a measure of creative power as one of the new show's producers means that her indie work should come into play as well. After all, Gerwig co-wrote four of the films that she starred in, including the acclaimed Frances Ha, and co-directed another (Nights and Weekends). She's established that she knows what works for her as an actress. In HIMYM, Josh Radnor's Ted continually longed for the simpler days of college when he could sit around and discuss arcane topics to his heart's content. While there are sure to be clear differences with Gerwig's character, her film roles often have a collegial bent, whether she is playing a recent graduate in Hannah Takes the Stairs or as the Type-A clique leader in Stillman's Damsels in Distress. Making the new character hyper literate seems like a safe way to appease both Gerwig and HIMYM fans. Of course, the main thrust of the sitcom just by definition has to be the love life of the lead character, since if she were adept at picking a mate there would be no show. In her film career, Gerwig has shown that she can play to any romantic situation just fine. In Frances Ha, she is largely unattached, focusing more on her career and finding someplace to live. In Damsels, she has rules for the type of men that she'll date. In Hannah, she's in a love triangle, and in Nights and Weekends it's a long-distance relationship. In Greenberg, she falls in love with a self-involved jerk. If any of these scenarios sound familiar to HIMYM fans, it's because the show has explored almost every one of thems. It's still a long way until How I Met Your Dad could hit the airwaves, which should give the uninitiated plenty of time to catch up on Gerwig's film catalog and learn why indie audiences grew to love the actress. It will be at least as much fun as trying to figure out if the new show will have a female Barney. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • 'Divergent' vs. 'The Hunger Games'
    By: Brendon McCullin Mar 01, 2014
     Summit Entertainment It's impossible not to notice the similarities between Divergent and The Hunger Games. Both feature dystopian futures and strong female protagonists. Both are based on best-selling young adult book series and are the creation of female authors. Each features young people in very real danger where things don't always work out for them. While The Hunger Games has become a phenomenon in both publishing and films, helping to catapult Jennifer Lawrence to superstardom, Divergent is closer to the beginning of the process. The movie's star, Shailene Woodley, can only hope that her film enjoys the same level of success. The Hunger Games might be the veteran and Divergent the newcomer, but which is better? The Heroines Katniss Everdeen, the hero of The Hunger Games and Lawrence's alter ego, has quickly become one of the most recognizable characters in film and literature. A reluctant hero if ever there was one, Katniss uses the skills that her father taught her to provide food and protect her family, and to become The Girl on Fire who galvanizes a repressed nation. Beatrice "Tris" Prior has no immediate skills, but she is smart, resourceful and, you know, divergent. Unlike Katniss, Tris chooses her path to some extent… even if she doesn't fully realize what that means for her future. Advantage: The Hunger Games. The Boys Katniss has two boys that would die for her in Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). While they are both allies to the female lead, and provide help along the way, they can also get in her way… or at least her mixed feelings about them can. Divergent's Tris finds her true love in Tobias "Four" Eaton (Theo James), who trains her and helps her lead the resistance against their oppressors. Four is far more likely to kill for Tris than to die for her. Advantage: Divergent. The Villains Donald Sutherland's President Snow is a megalomaniac dictator who uses threats and violence to keep an entire nation subservient to him and the ruling class of the Capitol. He pits young people against one another in death matches to remind his citizenship what will happen if they step out of line. In the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay films, Julianne Moore joins the cast as President Alma Coin, who on the surface appears more concerned for the needs of the people but in reality might be even more unfeeling than Snow. Divergent's Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) is a dangerous genius, who's willing to drug the population and start a war to consolidate her power. Still, she's just trying to control Chicago; Snow and Coin have the whole country under their thumbs. Advantage: The Hunger Games. The Setting In The Hunger Games, the United States has been divided up into 12 Districts, each obedient to the Captiol and forced to pay penance for a failed rebellion that wiped out a 13th district. The citizens in Katniss' District 12 — which is basically present day Appalachia — are even poorer than the rest of the country. The Hunger Games are the government's way of keeping the populace in fear by making two youngsters from each District fight to the death until just one remains. Katniss volunteers for the Games only as a way to save her younger sister. Divergent focuses solely on what was once Chicago, with the city divided into five "factions," each with a distinctive personality type. At 16, teenagers have to decide whether to stay with the faction that they were born to or to move to the one that matches their personality. Tris elects to leave the selfless Abnegation and join the more aggressive Dauntless, unaware of a building war that will bring her directly into conflict with her family. While Chicago has changed, in both Veronica Roth's books and the movie, several Windy City icons (Willis Tower, Navy Pier, etc.) are used as locations for the action. There's something fun about having something recognizable in the dystopian future. Advantage: Divergent. There is plenty to like about both stories and there's nothing wrong with having more movies that feature strong-willed female protagonists. It remains to be seen if Divergent can reach the heights that The Hunger Games has already reached, but we have hope. Part of what makes Tris an effective hero in Divergent is the fact that people always underestimate her... so don't make that mistake. Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets at Movietickets.com. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • Liam Neeson Needs to Step Away from the Action Genre
    By: Brendon McCullin Feb 28, 2014
    20th Century Fox via Everett Collection There was a time in the early '90s when Liam Neeson had developed into an actor of great repute. Roles in films like Schindler's List, Nell, Michael Collins, and Rob Roy showed him to be a powerful performer, capable of infusing characters with tenderness without sacrificing their manly characteristics. As all actors do, Neeson branched out and diversified his roles, going from the fantastical in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace to comedy in Love, Actually to comic books in Batman Begins. But then there was the surprising success of Taken, a film with only modest expectations that ended up grossing $145 million in the U.S. alone. Since then, Neeson has reprised his Taken role as Bryan Mills, retired CIA agent who is a bad guy's worst nightmare, in one sequel and presently filming another. Now he's starring in another action yarn: Non-Stop, in which he plays an air marshall on a quest to stop a killer on a plane. Neeson has found a groove and new level of fame playing tough guys that kick butt and take names… but the Irish actor should consider dialing back the action hero bit. In simplest terms, there doesn't need to be a Taken 4. It isn't as though Neeson was ever too far from a fight scene; even in some of his Oscar-worthy work his characters were fighters. Neeson is a big guy so it's not hard to imagine casting him in roles that let him put his physical attributes to good use. But, we also don't want Neeson turn into Bruce Willis either. Willis can be a capable actor if he wants to be, but too often he smirks his way through a role as though his inner-John McClane might spring out at any moment. That's exactly what Neeson has to guard against: playing every role with just a twinge of Taken's Bryan Mills in it. Not one to be completely pigeonholed, Neeson has continued doing a variety of roles, including lending his voice to the Bad Cop/Good Cop character in the blockbuster The Lego Movie and playing a Western bad guy in Seth MacFarlane's upcoming comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West, as well as reportedly filming a cameo in the Entourage movie. Taking diverse parts is one way to keep from getting stuck in an action rut, but it's not everything. The actor recently signed on to reteam with his Gangs of New York director Martin Scorsese in Silence, where he'll play a Jesuit priest trying to bring Christianity to feudal Japan… and that's a good start. Continuing to work with A-List directors in challenging roles should always be a regular part of Neeson's career. Neeson is such a likable actor and person that we're willing to forgive him missteps like Battleship and The A-Team, but we also want to see more of him being the actor that was nominated for an Academy Award for playing Oskar Schindler. He doesn't owe that to his audience; he owes that to himself. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //