Michael Griffin
  • How 'The Profit' and 'Shark Tank' Complement Each Other Perfectly
    By: Michael Griffin Apr 09, 2014
    CNBC Earlier this year, the CNBC series The Profit, starring entrepreneur and philanthropist Marcus Lemonis, started up its second season. Being a Shark Tank fan, I opted to check out the young program, and became quickly hooked. But it's not because Shark Tank and The Profit are identical — in fact, there are a few substantial differences that makes both shows essential viewing. At its core, Shark Tank is about the numbers. Sure, the entrepreneurs can showcase a product of viable promise or merit. But the Sharks weigh the numbers first, then whether they think it fits in a broader market and whether they would even want to devote their time to a particular company. It's a very, very delicate balancing act; even one component askew can send a deal down into the depths. And all of this is done in the Sharks' environment (their Tank). They control every step of the game. On The Profit, Lemonis does things differently. He meets his subjects in their own settings. He tours facilities to see how they day-to-day work is carried out. It's far from a snap judgment when Lemonis decides if he wants to invest his money or not. On top of this, in stark contrast to his rigid Shark counterparts, Lemonis seems very even-keeled — a "regular joe." He's not above uttering profanity (though it's never particularly gratuitous, always in the interest of driving home whatever point he needs to make). Plus, he's sharp. He's also exhibited a keen sense of whether or not he's being yanked around by the people vying for an investment. He analyzes everything going on around him — the inventory, the work environment, the work ethi,c and the aptitude of the people making up a business. When you watch Shark Tank, you see just what the title suggests. The hosts are constantly looking and probing for weaknesses in any potential product. When they do happen upon something they like, there can be a frenzy of bidding — though it's all very calculated. In contrast, on The Profit, you have Lemonis. You get the feeling that he's looking for ways to help a business succeed even before he lays any money down. It's entrepreneurship with a heart. Although different in style and approach to the subject matter, each offers its own valid form of entertainment and education, and we're glad to have both shows on our watch-list. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • Did 'Justified' Spend Too Long Setting Up This Season?
    By: Michael Griffin Apr 07, 2014
    FX The Justified season finale is fast approaching, and things are gearing up for an explosion. While Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) lies in intensive care, both Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) are dealing with crossing various lines of justice and morality. There's the question of how Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) is going to survive jail, and how the villainous Darryl Crowe (Michael Rapaport) will meet his end... that is, if he does. Finally, will Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and his eyebrows live long enough to make the sixth and final season? The thing is, the show seemed to take far too long to reach these meatier points — and this is a problem unique to Season 5. Over the course of this past set of episodes, the powers that be have taken way too long to set these integral pieces in motion, devoting all their time to foreplay. This obsessive pacing nearly felt like FX was producing a network show with the benefit of many more episodes (and the detriment of inevitable filler ones). But there's no room for fluff in a season that has 13 episodes. That's a maxim that Graham Yost and the others have heeded in the past, but there were signs that they were beginning to wander some in the fourth season. They meandered a touch too long with the Drew Thompson saga, unfortunately rangling the great Jim Beaver's into the mess. Now, Raylan, who has never had the strongest compass in or outside of work, is drifting even further from the center of the story. He's not seeing his newborn child in Florida and he's making more and more questionable decisions every episode. It seemed to finally come to roost in the form of those bullets that lodged their way in the body of Mullen, the closest thing he has to a father. As such, the season finale has a lot to tidy up, a few questions to answer, and a few characters (like Tim Gutterson and Rachel Brooks) to tribute properly in light of a short-changing this past year. Let's hope that Season 6 takes a lesson from Ellstin Limehouse, and cleavers off the extraneous bits that bogged down these past several weeks. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • A Few Words of Appreciation for 'The Middle'
    By: Michael Griffin Mar 24, 2014
    ABC Television Network The Middle has become one of the strongest sitcoms on TV and one of the main reasons is the likability of the Heck family. A lot of people probably see a good amount of themselves when watching the show. The Hecks are... well... in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to sitcom families. They are definitely not as perfect as the Cosbys but they are far from being as morally repugnant as the Bundys. Sure, they may often be at each other's throats, particularly the teenage siblings Axl and Sue, but you never seem to get the sense that there's any true malice behind their fights. Even when one of them goes too far, there's always something that happens to reel one or both of them back in. At first, Eden Sher might seem grating Sue, but her dorkiness becomes endearing. Charlie McDermott straddles the line of insufferable late-teen male brat, you know, the one who is totally self-absorbed but has glimmers of the good person he will grow to become. I've been a huge fan of Neil Flynn since his days as the Janitor on Scrubs. It's nice seeing him play counter to the surly maintenance man, portraying an introvert who is still (mostly) devoted to his family. There are some days he would rather park himself in front of the television and tune everyone else out. Sure, he's still a curmudgeon, but at least Mike Heck won't drive anyone out to the desert and leave him there like the psychotic Janitor did with J.D. Flynn also allows Mike to show genuine moments of insight to filter their way through his irascible persona. Patricia Heaton has been great as Frankie, a mother who is far from June Cleaver. she has admittedly ignored her kids and husband, though not to the point of where it is harmful. She is just overwhelmed by what life throws sometimes, but what makes me root for her is that she is self-aware and overall, she is a fantastic mother. She's a sublime comedy partner with Flynn. Last, but not least, is the diminutive Brick, played by Atticus Shaffer. Brick could just be a punchline, just a young, stunted version of Sheldon Cooper, since both characters exhibit the same amount of social awkwardness. Brick has shown that he can peer through his fog of cluelessness and neuroses (I love how he sometimes lowers his head and whispers the last word of a sentence a second time). He comes across as a real person. The guest stars are just right, with people like Jerry Van Dyke, Norm McDonald, and Kenneth Parcell lending their talents to the show without taking over. They feel like real relatives and bosses, not caricatures. Great casting all around. I'm glad to sit down during the middle of my week to devote a half hour to watching the Hecks. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @literateartist //
  • Does 'Person of Interest' Have Too Many Balls in the Air?
    By: Michael Griffin Mar 16, 2014
    CBS Television Network On a recent episode of Person of Interest, we saw a terrorist, whose plan was thwarted by Harold Finch, promise that he would get vengeance on the ingenious gero. Finch might as well have told him to "join the club," since an ever growing number of bad people want to end his life. As such, we wonder if the show is piling on too many of them to the point of it becoming way too convoluted. The most recent episode was actually a flashback that showed how the bespectacled billionaire operated before he recruited John Reese. It was a fascinating hour that actually had ties to many of the current people on the show, and didn't add a new bad guy to the list of people that would like to see the two vigilantes dead. In this way, it was a rarity among Person of Interest episodes of late.  Who are all the nefarious scoundrels who want Finch and Reese out of the picture? Well, there are the privacy zealots, Vigilance, members of the shadow government, and another reclusive rich man that seeks to destroy Finch and gain control of the Machine. While Jonathan Nolan has done a fantastic job of writing a fascinating world for his characters, it's not unfounded to wonder if too many balls may have been tossed in the air. A couple may break if they land too soon. Instead of weaving in new bad guys on top of new bad guys, Person of Interest needs to pay more focus to the ones already in play. Most fascinating among them: Root. Let's not forget, out of this whole rogues gallery, Root is the biggest wildcard of them all. Sure, she's been a huge asset to the team of late, rescuing them a couple of times with her dual-pistol-wielding entrances, but it's also very clear she has her own agenda. Her first interaction with them involved kidnapping Finch and subjecting him to watching her kill at least one person. She could very well switch back to being on the side of the devils. If Person of Interest can set aside its fixation on building up Finch's enemies list, it might be able to give better and more thorough stories to its existing baddies. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • Is 'Supernatural' Overdoing the Sam/Dean Angst?
    By: Michael Griffin Mar 15, 2014
    The CW This current season of Supernatural is centering on the animosity between the Winchester brothers, Jensen Ackles' Dean and Jared Padalecki's Sam. I'm going to try to sum this up in a way that even non-viewers of the show can understand it and not feel like they just read something while on a strong drug: Sam was dying after trying to complete some trials that would enable the brothers to close the Gates of Hell. Dean secretly tricked Sam into allowing an angel to take residence in his body. Once Sam found out, the foundation of their relationship collapsed. Now they only maintain a professional rapport - not even the ghost of one of their friends could convince Sam to forgive his brother again. Got it? It just seems like the angst between these two has been going on for way too long through the run of the show. Yes, I know that there has to be some kind of drama that propels the plots along and that it would be absolutely mind-numbingly boring if everything was hunky-dory all the time. That said, there is such a thing as overkill. The thing is, this whole issue of Dean keeping secrets from Sam has been played over and over. Every time that it's happened, Sam's been spitting mad, relinquishing their brotherly bonds. Then, after a while, he starts trusting Dean again. And then... well, you can see the direction that I'm going in here.  Sam's obstinate behavior here is reaching supremely annoying levels. Dean's not off the hook by any means; he just keeps repeating mistake after mistake after mistake. There's also only so many times I can see Padalecki scrunch up his face after a foul up or Ackles just stare off into the distance, brooding. I'm just surprised Misha Collins' angel Castiel hasn't slapped him across the head into another dimension by now. With such great world building, a spin-off (Supernatural: Tribes) on the way, and the fun inherent in the offing of demons, it's a shame that the series has adhered itself to constant close-up shots of the two sulking in silence. I'd rather be watching a standalone Ghostfacers adventure than rolling my eyes and saying, "C'mon... GET OVER IT ALREADY!" I'll still watch it, of course, but I just don't want to think that it could have ended so very differently.    Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • Can The CW Get 'The Flash' Right?
    By: Michael Griffin Mar 02, 2014
    Warner Bros. Television Following on the heels of the success of Arrow, there's going to be a TV show centered around The Flash. What The CW's youthful demographic might not recall is that there was a Flash on the air before, but was off before people could even blink. So now there's going to be a second go at the DC hero, and the producers are going to have to watch out for the traps that befell its previous iteration. The thing that is going to help it now is that there's a huge boom on comic book properties: beyond all the Marvel movies, television has the likes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  and Arrow. It seems the right time for a Flash show, but it's a tricky situation. With so many properties, we're already running the risk of oversaturation, making the Flash a very quick casualty. What the first show did was sink a huge amount of budget in costumes and special effects. The Flash costume itself for star John Wesley Shipp cost about $25,000. More support from the industry, which has exploded since the popularity of the first Iron Man movie, will help the budget this time around. Couple that with the technology being quantum leaps higher in terms of special effects, and things are looking up. But more important is the telling of good stories. That seems like just common sense, but look at Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is hurt even more by its slow, plodding narrative than it is by its lack of superhero characters. The Flash has got to get off to a really fast start in terms of grabbing people's interest (and yes, all these speed analogies are intentional). Otherwise this is a show that could join its predecessor as an occasional one season programming pick-up on the Syfy Channel. We're pretty sure that this show is at least going to get off to a good start, since Grant Gustin's Barry Allen was already introduced on Arrow. As such, the fans of that program will be able to transition to this one without any kind of problem, and it ensures that we're not going to have to get too bogged down in the whole origin story. Backstory is inevitable, but The Flash has the opportunity to start in the middle and then work from there in all directions. And finally: The Flash must also stay true to its original tone. A fatal flaw of the first show is that it didn't know if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama.  The Flash has a chance to help DC get off the mat in its fight against Marvel and Disney, a pair of Goliaths ready to stomp on this David of a show while ago. There can be no missteps, though, or the fall down will be too fast for even a man as quick as the Flash to avoid. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • A Thank You Note to Harold Ramis
    By: Michael Griffin Feb 28, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection For many of us who grew up in the 1980s, hearing that Harold Ramis died was a hard one. We'd seen so many of those movies that he'd either had a hand in writing, directing, or acting in: Meatballs, Caddyshack, Animal House, Stripes and Ghostbusters, just to name a few. It was one hell of a run right there, added to the fact that he also helmed the '90s classic Groundhog Day. Ramis was the perfect foil for the more blustering types that appeared in his films: Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray were the big four. They were the ones who had all the wild and wacky things happen to them, while the nebbish Ramis hung in the background, or even sometimes stood in for a prop: Remember when he was a human buffer in the fight in the barracks in Stripes? Having to hold back a violent John Candy should earn anyone some hazard pay, acting or not. Alongside these alphas, Ramis conveyed a kind of genial warmth in whatever project he was in. His turn as the laid-back father of Seth Rogen in Knocked Up was a bit of an existential moment: Egon was a dad now, ready to become a grandfather. Just like a good majority of us '80s kids who were having children of our own. What made all of the aforementioned movies so great was not only their endearing zaniness, but the intelligence in the humor as well. There was never the feeling that Ramis was pandering to the lowest common denominator to mine some laughs. Sure, there were goofy moments, like Belushi's Bluto Blutarski starting a food fight in a college cafeteria, but the set-ups were exquisite. Additionally, Ramis projected an everyman persona on the screen — he wasn't terribly photogenic, with his Frankensteinian hair, glasses, and gap-tooth smile. He looked like any of us on the street (especially if you were high school valedictorian). His movies just always made you feel like you were sitting with an old friend who could always make crack you up. Many years later, that feeling persists. The magic of Ramis' films is that I'm able to become young again when I rewatch Ghostbusters or Animal House for like the 40th time. And although we may have lost him, I like to imagine Ramis is talking somewhere with other great filmmakers who died too young — say, Jim Henson and John Hughes — and coming up with one heck of a movie. The Muppets Take Groundhog Day? It's one I'm sure that I would watch over and over. Rest in peace, Harold. Thank you for everything. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • The Teen Survival Movies That Led Up to 'Divergent'
    By: Michael Griffin Feb 27, 2014
    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. Red Dawn 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. Hunger Games 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. Battle Royale 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. The Faculty 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. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • Can Hollywood Treat Dean Koontz Right with 'Odd Thomas'?
    By: Michael Griffin Feb 26, 2014
    Image Entertainment via Everett Collection Dean Koontz has really struck a gold mine with the character of Odd Thomas: a young out-of-work fry cook in the fictional Californian town of Pico Mundo who has the ability to see and communicate with the dead. Koontz has written seven novels starring Thomas (using the character more than any other protagonist) as well as a graphic novel. And now, Odd Thomas is setting up to hit the big screen. The film will be based the eponymous first novel to feature Odd Thomas, with Anton Yelchin playing the character and Willem Dafoe playing his friend Chief Wyatt Porter. 50 Cent is listed as a cast member too, which should make it interesting. What makes Thomas so different from the other heroes from Koontz's books is his humility and willingness to poke fun at himself, and we're hoping this, more than anything, carries through in the film. Read any of the Odd Thomas novels and you'll pick up a definite sense of self-deprecation. He freely admits that he's just an ordinary person trying not to get killed by bad guys while he also tries to better understand his ability. This is why people have really latched onto the character and his girlfriend Stormy (though Koontz still has the trouble of picking good names for the people in his books), and it's an element that needs to be present for a screen adaptation to work. Another favorite feature of the books: dead celebrities. In the stories, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Alfred Hitchcock show up to see if the young man can discern exactly what it is that killed them and how they can cross over to the other side. I didn't see anybody listed on the cast page for roles like that, so I'm hoping for an uncredited appearance. Not having these people show up would be as bad as leaving the gods out of Troy... and we all know how THAT went. There have been several stabs at Koontz novels: Phantoms with Rose McGowan, Ben Affleck, and Liev Schreiber. Hideaway with Jeff Goldblum. Sole Survivor with Billy Zane. Something just seemed off with these adaptations on the big screen, though; the spirit of the novels weren't really captured. The characters in those books never seemed to leap off the page the way Thomas does. In fairness, there was a good TV movie adaptation of Intensity, which had a pre-Dr. Cox John C. McGinley as a homicidal murderer who also happened to be a police chief. But we're hoping for "great" with Odd Thomas. Koontz has not had as much luck in the celluloid world as the person he's most compared to, Stephen King. It hasn't seemed to bother him as he continues to write what seems like two books or more a year. After several years in limbo thanks to dueling production companies, we'd like to see Odd Thomas really take proper form on the big screen. Odd Thomas hits theaters on February 28. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //
  • Can Raylan Givens Deviate From This Dark Path He's On?
    By: Michael Griffin Feb 22, 2014
    FX Networks Warning: Major Justified spoilers lie ahead! We're in the fifth season of Justified, and this is possibly the darkest that we've seen Raylan Givens descend. The most recent episode saw him get slugged by Art Mullen, his own Chief Marshal, for his implicitness in the death of Nicky Augustine (Mike O'Malley). He's really been walking the line of lawlessness and hiding behind his shield. On top of that, he's been a terrible father to his recently born daughter, not even going to visit her in person, instead relying on video chat with his ex-wife Winona to see the baby on camera. It's a terribly complicated situation (of course, "complicated" is the word that people often use to describe him), made worse by the fact that Raylan seems to also live by a code of drawing a gun first and asking questions later. I think that's what we call a dichotomy, folks. The problem is that Givens has authority issues that stem from the fact that his own father, the late and unlamented Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), was a real rat bastard. He was a conniving man who would have probably sold his own son into slavery if he could have. Now, the only anchor of any kind for Givens is Mullen, who is this close to retiring. In TV or movieland, mention of retirement from the field of law enforcement is pretty much foreshadowing for possible impending and grisly death. If Mullen were to die, Givens, who is not the most tethered man to begin with, might just completely become unmoored. Add the fact that Givens has been thinking about dying in Harlan for a long time... think way back to the second season when he was at his stepmother Helen's funeral and he saw his own gravestone on the family plot of land. He's seemingly resigned to the fact that he'll "never leave Harlan alive." The whole abuse of authority is really coming a head this season. Raylan was in a showdown with Hot Rod Dunham (Mickey Jones), a Dixie Mafia head and he said that he'd shoot him and his cronies... and then to cement his threat, he held up his Marshals Star and said, "This will make it all legal." The deputy marshal has been making his own rules for a very long time, from the first day that we met him in Miami in the first episode of the first season. Remember that? He sat across from Tommy Bucks, a drug cartel runner and a man whom Givens had given 24 hours to vacate the city, in an outdoor cafe. Obviously, Bucks had chosen to ignore that edict (and Givens made him pay... mortally) right then and there in the cafe. The Marshals office has given him as much leeway as possible, but how much rope can the man get around his neck before he actually starts gagging and choking? Raylan hasn't been lucky at all in the love department, having seen his wife leave him not once but twice. She also called him "the angriest man I've ever seen." Add this to the fact that Ava Crowder is now engaged to his frenemy Boyd, and that another potential romantic partnerwound up being a grifter who stole a lot of his money. Now, Raylan is in a somewhat shaky relationship with a social worker named Alison Brander (Amy Smart), who has a penchant for pot and could be another case of trouble for Givens. The funny thing is that Brander is the one who summed up Givens quite well: "You're the bravest person I know. You'd go running into a burning building to save someone. I also think you're the one setting the building on fire." We're waiting to see how right she is. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @literateartist //