Monday, March 28, 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice - Movie Review


Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Harry Lennix and Scoot McNairy.
Written by Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer.
Directed by Zack Snyder.

★★

How to explain the most controversial movie of the year? It's not that bad, but it's not that good either.

For my money, the best Zack Snyder movie is Watchmen. Watchmen was a dense graphic novel, and Snyder was as faithful to it as about anyone possibly could be. I liked his artistry with that, and the darkness of the characters lent itself to Snyder's style. I also liked Dawn of the Dead. I also liked 300. I thought his Owls of Ga'Hoole movie was challenging.

But when he had his chance to make something wholly original, he came up with Sucker Punch, which exposed every flaw that better material had managed to hide.

Now I thought Man of Steel was okay the first time I saw it. The second time around, I hated it. The moroseness, the resurrection of Zod rather than going somewhere new, the destructo-porn finale.

Snyder, in ways, is trying to make up for the sins of Man of Steel, but it's as though he learned the wrong lessons. He's trying to bend the beginning of the Justice League into another Watchmen.

BvS has a lot in common with Amazing Spider-Man 2, a movie stuffed with characters and dense with Easter eggs alluding to futher movies, but by being so stuffed with franchise fillers, it forgets to be its own movie.

The movie picks up 18 months after the climactic events of Man of Steel, when thousands of people were killed in the final battle in Metropolis. Bruce Wayne blames Superman for what happened, as one of his buildings was destroyed in that battle, killing some of his employees. From afar, he's trying to find a way to defeat Superman and any other Kryptonians that will inevitably show up.

Superman (Henry Cavill) meanwhile, is trying to remain a good guy while his actions keep resulting in unintended consequences.

Throw into this mix Alexander "Lex" Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a chirpy Millennial tech genius who's moving some chess pieces to keep Bats and Supes at odds without their noticing.

Eisenberg's Luthor is a quirky, twitchy guy. It's a different take on the character, and his first scene is one where you have to decide if you're going to go with it or not. My expectations were low coming into this movie, and I chose to go with it. I knew what I was getting into. I actually liked his Luthor.

In fact, most of the cast is pretty good with what they're given. I liked Affleck's Wayne. I continue to be okay with Cavill's Superman. I thought Amy Adams was better this time around as Lois Lane. The jury's still out on Gal Gadot as Diana Prince (I had a hard time understanding some of her dialogue with whatever accent that was), but her arrival as Wonder Woman is the highlight of the movie. Jeremy Irons doesn't get to do anything as Alfred.

The movie feels like it has too boxes to check. The action grinds to a halt so one character can spend two minutes watching security footage of Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg. Sure, those characters look like they'll be interesting in future movies, but there's no justification for the scene other than to advertise future movies. Can we focus on the one we're watching now?

It may be too late to pull Snyder from the director's chair of Justice League Part 1, but I would think the reviews will underline to Warner Bros. that they're going in the wrong direction and they should get different eyes on JL2. They already have a great director in the cast in Ben Affleck. I would love him to be able to take over.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane - Movie Review

Starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.
Written by Josh Campbell & Matthew Stueken and Damien Chazelle.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg.

★★★

First, I wish they'd called this movie something else. It doesn't really have anything to do with 2008's Cloverfield movie. But, I had a lot of fun watching this.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Live Free or Die Hard) plays Michelle, a young woman who has decided to leave her fiance. She gets hit by a truck and wakes up in a brick room, chained to a pipe, and with an IV connected to her arm. Her abductor Howard (John Goodman) lets her know that there was a nuclear attack and they are now safe in his bomb shelter. But Howard is clearly not mentally stable, so how safe can she feel? Was there really an attack or is she just kidnapped?

She soon meets Emmett (Newsroom's John Gallagher Jr.) who confirms that he saw an attack and he had to fight just to be let in before everything went down. So the three of them form this little unit, with Howard the imbalanced one who carries a pistol on his hip at all times, and Michelle who keeps trying to find a way out, just to get confirmation something really happened outside.

It's a tightly wound survival thriller. I think it's only about 99 minutes long. Loved the intense climax too. I'm glad that JJ Abrams has the clout to make these original mid-range movies.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Guesses for the Oscars

BEST PICTURE - The Revenant
BEST ACTOR - Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
BEST ACTRESS - Brie Larson, Room
BEST SUPP. ACTOR - Sylvester Stallone, Creed
BEST SUPP. ACTRESS - Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
BEST DIRECTOR - George Miller, Mad Max Fury Road
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - The Big Short
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - Spotlight
BEST ANIMATED FILM - Inside Out
BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM - Amy
BEST FOREIGN FILM - Son of Saul
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - Sicario
BEST ORIGINAL SONG - "Til It Happens to You" The Hunting Ground
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY - The Revenant
BEST FILM EDITING - Mad Max Fury Road
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN - The Martian
BEST MAKEUP - Mad Max Fury Road
BEST COSTUME DESIGN - Cinderella
BEST ANIMATED SHORT - World of Tomorrow
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
BEST SOUND EDITING - Mad Max Fury Road
BEST SOUND MIXING - Mad Max Fury Road
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT - A Girl in the River
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT - Day One

Saturday, January 23, 2016

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi - Movie Review

Starring John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Alexia Barlier, David Costabile, Toby Stephens, Matt Letscher, Peyman Moaadi, Demetrius Grosse, David Guintoli and Christopher Dingli.
Written by Chuck Hogan.
Directed by Michael Bay.

★★★

When Black Hawk Down came out, it wasn't hyped as a movie that would harm Bill Clinton's legacy, nor should this movie be hyped as one that will harm Hillary Clinton's legacy, even though the events themselves do. This is a straightforward movie about heroes, soldiers who want to go in and save lives when there's no one else coming. It isn't really a political movie, even though certain politicians and critics want to make it as such (left and right).

The Office's John Krasinski plays Jack Silva (not the real man's name), one of the ground operatives stationed in Benghazi, Libya, after Gaddhafi's death. (How come we never settled on a spelling for that name? I've seen it spelled with a K and Q too. Anyway...) The U.S. embassy has been dowgraded to a "diplomatic station", even though U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens is still stationed there. Surveying the layout with his brothers-in-arms, it's clear that if an incident ever happened, the station was sorely lacking in security measures. (Insert politics here.)

On September 11, 2012, everyone at the base stayed indoors and hoped for a peaceful night, but an organized group of terrorists descend on the base. Outgunned and outmanned, the diplomatic station quickly collapses, and the six CIA soldiers a mile away are the only chance to keep those people alive until backup can come, and backup comes several hours too late.

This is one of Michael Bay's better movies. It's based on a true story, and he uses his action chops to bring excitement to an ultimate tragedy. I'm not saying it's as good as a movie as Black Hawk Down (Bay has a way of having the sun go up and down minute by minute so he can have a lot of cool sunrise/sunset shots), but it's a satisfying action thriller from beginning to end. We feel the loss of the comrades, and while Benghazi is remembered as the city where four Americans were killed, this movie shows it was a miracle that the death toll wasn't much, much higher.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Hateful Eight - Movie Review

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (R) Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, James Parks and Channing Tatum.
Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino.

★★★

This is boldly advertised as the 8th film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino. For that to work, we're considering the two volumes of Kill Bill as one movie so we can count the extended version of Death Proof. I only saw the Grindhouse cut of Death Proof so I don't feel like a QT completist. Someday I'll get there.

This movie is a polarizing experience. It features the worst and best tendencies he has. I have no problem with the long running time or the cartoonish violence. QT seems to be challenging the audience by not providing anyone likeable to side with.

While QT had extended to operatic heights with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, he's shrunken his canvas here to be more like Reservoir Dogs: The Western. Filmed in 70mm, it's gorgeous to look at. We can enjoy the broad, snowy landscapes of Wyoming as a stagecoach tries to outrun an oncoming blizzard. We first meet Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a Union soldier turned bounty hunter, who has put himself and three dead bounties in the path of the stagecoach. He first meets the driver O.B. (James Parks) and then the passengers - fellow bounty hunter and Union veteran John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner, a murderer named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Both men want to get to Red Rock to collect their bounties, Ruth on his live one and Warren on his dead ones.

Further down the road, they come across the equally stranded Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Confederate vet who's on his way to Red Rock to be the new sheriff. The blizzard comes too quickly so they hole up at Minnie's Haberdashery, essentially a large cabin store being run by Bob the Mexican (Demian Bichir) while Minnie's away. Also present are cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Confederate general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), and British hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), employed at Red Rock. These hateful eight (plus nice guy O.B.) are trapped under one roof to wait out the storm, and as Ruth surveys the place, he quickly assumes that one of these men is lying about his identity, and that he's really in cahoots with Daisy to save her.

John Ruth might be the one we could root for, with his John Wayne inflection and clear-eyed sense of justice, except he beats on the helpless Daisy under the slightest provocations.

Major Warren could be the one, but when he spins a tale of what he did to a helpless prisoner of his own, it's easy for sympathies to fade.

Daisy? She copes by wearing her broken-toothed smile as a feral mask, but it might have helped if the movie ever explained exactly who she'd killed and why. I actually felt bad for her at the end, and I don't know if that was QT's intention.

Minnie's Haberdashery serves as a microcosm of American society then and now. Then, it's the 1870's, and you have north and south, black and white, male and female trying to figure out what next. I also really admired QT's directing job here. We're aware at (almost) all times where everyone is in the cabin, even as the story needs to hop from this conversation to that. The tension increases and mounts, and it starts to feel more like John Carpenter's The Thing than anything else before it explodes in its gory, nasty finale.

This is one where I think I might like it more on a second viewing, but I can't say it's in my top half of favorites from the director. I think deep down he knows it'll be this way for most people. There's no cheer-worthy scene like Nazis getting killed in Basterds, slavers getting killed in Django, Butch saving Marcellus in Pulp Fiction, or even Mr. Orange shooting Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs. These are all brutish sorts, and I didn't feel like the ending had the payoff he might have been going for.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Movie Review


STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (PG-13) Starring Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Greg Grunberg and Max von Sydow.
Written by Lawrence Kasdan, JJ Abrams & Michael Arndt.
Directed by JJ Abrams.

★★★½

Rewatching the first six movies reminded me of something - the cognative dissonance required to enjoy the prequels. I have to ignore the stilted dialogue, stiff performances, over-reliance on CGI to get to the parts I like. None of that is required here. This movie is a pleasure from beginning to end, reimursing us in the original Star Wars galaxy.

One of the joys of the movie was seeing everything I didn't know was going to happen. We've gathered certain scenes and characters in general - i.e. the Millenium Falcon will fly again!  This one dives right into the action from the opening scrawl. (And yes, there were cheers when the Star Wars logo hit the screen.) We may start with some of the new characters, but we know we'll eventually see all of our old friends.

Of the new characters, there is Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger on Jakku, a junkyard planet that makes Tattooine look like a luxury resort. There is Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who grows a conscience. There is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a cocky but skilled pilot. And there's BB-8, a roller-droid that kids will love as much as they did R2-D2.

Every scene builds on the next. It hits a lot of familiar beats but it also managed to build a lot of suspense as to what direction it was going to ultimately go. I can't wait to watch it a second time to look for things I missed.

I hope this movie makes enough money that they'll decide to make Episode VIII.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Spotlight - Movie Review

SPOTLIGHT (R) Starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian D'Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan, Neal Huff and Len Cariou.
Written by Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer.
Directed by Tom McCarthy.

★★★★

Spotlight is a tightly directed, straightforward journalism mystery in the spirit of All the President's Men, when a small group of journalists decided to take on a giant institution.

This is about the "Spotlight" team at the Boston Globe, which refers to the team that does long-form investigation. This is back when print still mattered more than the internet, in 2001. When Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) took over the Globe, he was seen as an outsider, and it took an outsider to focus the spotlight team, led by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), on the recent stories of Catholic priests molesting children in Boston. At first it seemed like two or three cases, but Baron wanted them to look at the system that was enabling these priests.

It's a great example of when a thoroughly-researched story can make a difference, and how much work actually went into said research. In the internet age, this may be becoming a lost art. There is not a wasted scene, and each one builds the next. It's a precisely crafted procedural that manages to build suspense even as we know what the outcome is.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice - New trailer

Trailer 1
Trailer 2

Even though Man of Steel was not a good movie, and this sequel looks like it's going to make many of the same mistakes, I was still hyped by the second trailer in spite of myself. Hyped for parts of it. Overall, my guess is still that this movie won't be that good. Here's 5 thoughts on the new trailer.

1. I really like Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne; it looks very interesting. We've had Bruce in his 30's with Christian Bale, but now Bruce is in his 40's, and he looks a little more weary and angry. He looks like the Bruce that would be sick of dealing with the Suicide Squad. I like the way he stares through Clark Kent. He knows he can crush anyone physically or with his wealth and power, and he constantly has to stay the good guy. After all the destruction from Man of Steel, he's a Bruce who deeply resents the existence of Superman. This is a Bruce you really hope doesn't develop a drinking problem.

2. I'm not sure what Jesse Eisenberg is doing quite yet as Lex Luthor but I'm willing to go with it. I've never pictured Luthor as a squirrely guy, but Eisenberg seems to be going for evil-geek-genius. He looks like he'll be the main source of humor from the movie, which is fine. Gene Hackman was hilarious as Lex in the first film. There's still a great chance that this Lex is a wild misfire.

3. The film still looks too much like a Zack Snyder film. I've liked some of Zack's films in the past (Watchmen, 300, Dawn of the Dead), but after Man of Steel, I thought it was pretty clear he shouldn't be the one in charge of Superman. Therefore this movie looks like it's going to repeat many of the mistakes MoS made. Way too dark, self-conscious action sequences that go too long, and general black-red sheen that depresses the viewer the longer they're trapped in this world. That sheen's great for dark movies like Watchmen, but for Superman and the Justice League, can't we lightnen up a little?

4. Turning General Zod into Doomsday might have sounded like a good idea on paper to someone somewhere, but he looked like a cave troll from Middle Earth. Doomsday has a brain; he's not some randomly-roaring monster.

5. I'm a little worried about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Her acting hasn't jumped out to me in the Fast & Furious movies, and here all we've seen so far is her posing. She looks great in the part, but is there going to be more to it?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is #1 at box office


For the weekend of November 27-29, 2015, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 held on to the top spot despite the latest Pixar title coming to town. THG:M2 is still trending behind the other three films domestically, but as it's already at $440 million wordlwide, I can't imagine studio executives are too upset about it.

The Good Dinosaur hasn't had much of a ramp-up compared to most Pixar fare, but it's been able to enjoy the long Thanksgiving weekend, and it should stay the #2 movie in America until the new Star Wars gets here.

Creed has the reviews to back up it up as its own movie and not just Rocky VII.

Victor Frankenstein was a spectacular bomb. Not even having Professor X (James McAvoy) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) could save it.

Thanksgiving weekend is usually good for box office overall, and titles that were already open had small declines.

Award-hopefuls like Spotlight, Brooklyn, and Trumbo could really use some actual nominations for something to use in their marketing.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Beasts of No Nation - Netflix Review

BEASTS OF NO NATION (R) Starring Abraham Attah and Idris Elba.
Written & directed by Cary Joji Fukunaka.

★★★★

The country may be fictitious, but you can tell it borrows heavily from the quagmire of war-torn Congo. The story centers on Agu (Abraham Attah), a 12-year-old boy who sees his family slaughtered by government guards. He flees into the jungle, barely escaping his own execution, before he runs into Commandante (Idris Elba), a rebel leader with an army of young killers.

At first, Agu and his new brothers seem like they're fighting for a just cause, overthrowing the corrupt and murderous government. But soon enough, Commandante's true nature is revealed, and the boys are whipped into frenzies to commit worse and worse atrocities. There are no heroes; there are no good guys.

We witness the horrors of civil war through the eyes of Agu, and innocence is lost on a devastating scale. Newcomer Attah does an amazing job, which is significant since he has to share the screen with Elba, who might be doing his own career-best work.

This is all directed masterfully by Cary Joji Fukunaka (True Detective), and his camera work is on par with anything from Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket. There's almost a poetry to the carnage.

This movie manages to sink into the bones of its audience. It makes the mentality of mass murder comprehensible, and therefore all the more disturbing. It goes to some dark, dark places; I don't think I can exaggerate how dark it gets.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is #1 at box-office


For the weekend of November 20-22, 2015, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 had the fifth-highest opening of the year. It's the lowest opening of the series, but if your lowest opening is still $100 million, you've had a good franchise.

The Night Before was a disappointment for Seth Rogen and crew, but they kept the budget relatively low. Secret in Their Eyes bombed, surprisingly. This movie should have opened in March or September, and even if he has the biggest part, I would not have top-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor over Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. But the reviews are bad, so maybe marketing did the best they could.

Spectre has passed $675 million worldwide. If I was Daniel Craig, I'd make sure to get in a fifth Bond movie to pass Brosnan. Maybe even a sixth to tie Connery. Roger Moore has the most at seven, but keep in mind those seven films came out in a 12-year span. Craig now has four Bond films down in a 9-year span.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Spectre - Movie Review

SPECTRE (PG-13) Starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Andrew Scott and Rory Kinnear.
Written by John Logan & Neal Purvis & Robert Wade & Jez Butterworth.
Directed by Sam Mendes.
★★½
It’s not quite Quantum of Solace bad, but it’s not Skyfallgood either. Here’s where I first thought we might be in trouble. The movie opens with an impression opening scene in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead. A giant parade of thousands going down the street. James Bond (Daniel Craig) sees his target and shoots. Somehow the building blows up. I couldn’t tell if Bond had some sort of mini-rocket or if some villains blew up the building. Anyway, after the explosion, he sees his main target still alive and he chases him.
About two blocks later, the parade is still going as if no one heard that building explode. The celebration continues. The movie seems to forget that it just blew up a building. When Bond catches his guy trying to escape by helicopter, the shots of the city somehow don’t include a burning pile of rubble. “You just blew up a building two blocks away. How comes no one’s noticed?”
Spectre feels like an assembly of cool set pieces and stunts, but they never really strung them together with a compelling plot. I think that’s why it feels empty when we get to our showdown between Bond and Franz (Christoph Waltz). What is Franz’s ultimate goal? Why is he doing what he’s doing? Why doesn’t he just kill Bond?
Don’t get me wrong. The set pieces, the stunt-work, the locations, etc., are all top-notch. I also liked how Bond’s supporting characters are given more to do than be in the office and the beginning and end of the story. M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) all actually go on the road to help Bond with his latest, off-the-books mission.
Really, a few of the Bond films have suffered over the years from not having villains with clear motives. So this seems to follow in that tradition.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview

==Sunday==

ABC
Once Upon A Time
Resurrection
Revenge

CBS
Madam Secretary
The Good Wife
CSI

FOX
The Simpsons
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Family Guy
Mulaney

NBC
Sunday Night Football

Outlook:

I like the move of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Sundays, a quality show hammocked between two ratings-getters. ABC and CBS have some nice counter-programming offerings for those who don't watch football or just watched six hours and could watch something else.

Do people still watch live TV that isn't a sporting event or awards show?

New Shows:

MADAM SECRETARY - Tea Leoni gets to play the Secretary of State, the powerful Cabinet post more often held by women than men as of late. It's getting good reviews and it has a plumb spot between Emmy magnets 60 Minutes and The Good Wife. Co-stars Tim Daly, Zeljko Ivanec and Bebe Neuwirth.

MULANEY - Comedian John Mulaney tries the Seinfeld thing, playing a thinly-veiled version of himself, with wacky co-stars like Martin Short, Nasim Pedrad and Elliott Gould. My prediction is it loses too big a percentage of the Family Guy audience and doesn't get a season 2.

==Monday==

ABC
Dancing with the Stars
Castle

CBS
The Big Bang Theory
Mom
Scorpion
NCIS: Los Angeles

FOX
Gotham
Sleepy Hollow

NBC
The Voice
The Blacklist
State of Affairs

CW
The Originals
Jane the Virgin

Outlook:

Big Bang Theory moves back to Mondays to reanchor things there. Interesting that BBT and Mom are the only CBS sitcoms on the schedule in September, but 2 Broke Girls, The Millers, and Mike & Molly will premiere down the road, as will new show The McCarthys.

Gotham has its work cut out for it, but then, no one thought Sleepy Hollow could succeed here last year.

New Shows:

SCORPION - Based on the life of Walter O'Brien, the child genius who hacked into NASA and grew up to help the FBI catch the Boston bombers, this series features a rag-tag group of prodigies and whiz-kids whose brains solve crimes that regular agents can't figure out. Robert Patrick presides as their handler. Decent premise.

GOTHAM - This Batman prequel has set itself up for the long-haul, since Bruce Wayne's a young boy. Ben McKenzie (The O.C.) stars as Jim Gordon, young detective working with the more corrupt Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). The show promises to show Gotham City's slow descent into madness and villainy that eventually requires a Caped Crusader to come clean things up, and in the first season we see younger versions of the people who will eventually become the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman and Poison Ivy.

STATE OF AFFAIRS - Katherine Heigl returns to TV as a CIA analyst for the first female US president (Alfre Woodard). I hear it's a watered-down version of Homeland and that it's terrible.

JANE THE VIRGIN - Based on a Venezuelan hit, this is about a young woman accidentally inseminated during an ob-gyn check-up. Hijinks ensue.  It'll be a hit (by CW standards).

==Tuesday==

ABC
Selfie
Manhattan Love Story
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
Forever

CBS
NCIS
NCIS: New Orleans
Person of Interest

FOX
Utopia
New Girl
The Mindy Project

NBC
The Voice (results)
Marry Me
About A Boy
Chicago Fire

CW
The Flash
Supernatural

Outlook:

More new shows are debuting on Tuesday than any other night, so everything's up in the air. I think CBS will continue to rule the total viwers, while 18-49 demo is anyone's game.

New Shows:

SELFIE - Karen Gillan and John Cho come together for this My Fair Lady-like update. (Her name is Eliza Dooley and his name is Henry, if the plot's not obvious enough.) Henry tries to help Eliza remake herself and rebrand her image. I like Gillan, but not sure about the premise.

MANHATTAN LOVE STORY - Boy meets girl, audience hears everything boy and girl are thinking. Sounds like it'd get old really fast.

FOREVER - Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) plays a detective who happens to be 200-years-old and cannot die.

NCIS: NEW ORLEANS - Guaranteed hit. Scott Bakula's the lead, and the most dependable franchise on TV until Walking Dead: West Coast debuts.

UTOPIA - Reality show with a cross-section of people building their own civilization. Ratings are already low. This experiment won't get a second season.

MARRY ME - Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) and Ken Marino (Party Down) do the Mike & Molly thing.

THE FLASH - Based on the DC hero.

==Wednesday==

ABC
The Middle
The Goldbergs
Modern Family
Black-ish
Nashville

CBS
Survivor
Criminal Minds
Stalker

FOX
Hell's Kitchen
Red Band Society

NBC
The Mysteries of Laura
Law & Order: SVU
Chicago P.D.

CW
Arrow
The 100

Outlook:

I think Survivor will appreciate the lack of good competition.

New Shows:

BLACK-ISH - Anthony Anderson, king of the one-season series, gets another chance as the head of an affluent African-American family who's worried the rest of his clan aren't in touch enough with their roots. It gets the coveted post-Modern Family slot, but that doesn't always guarantee ratings.

STALKER - Dylan McDermott would like us to forget Hostages and focus onthis new series, about stalkers and the police who try to stop them before they do something really dangerous. Maggie Q (Nikita) co-stars. I don't have much faith in it, but maybe Criminal Minds fans will give it a shot.

THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA - Debra Messing (Will & Grace) balances motherhood and her job as a police detective, and reviews have been atrocious.

==Thursday==

ABC
Grey's Anatomy
Scandal
How to Get Away with Murder

CBS
Thursday Night Football

FOX
Bones
Gracepoint

NBC
The Biggest Loser
Bad Judge
A to Z
Parenthood

CW
The Vampire Diaries
Reign

Outlook:

Football will rule, but then what? Either Big Bang moves back here, or CBS puts some of its other sitcoms that are on hold here. (Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls, the new McCarthys etc.) I like ABC's lineup as the most solid counter-programming.

New Shows:

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - Viola Davis (The Help) is a criminalogy professor, where she and her students get involved in a murder mystery. Sounds like the perfect soapy whodunit show to follow Scandal.

GRACEPOINT - This remake of Broadchurch makes David Tennant use an American accent, and it's supposed to follow the UK version closely, although producers have hinted that the killer is going to be someone different. Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) co-stars.

BAD JUDGE - Bad Teacher flopped so now they're trying Bad Judge. Kate Walsh (Fargo) stars.

A TO Z - Rom-com.

==Friday==

ABC
Last Man Standing
Cristela
Shark Tank
20/20

CBS
The Amazing Race
Hawaii Five-0
Blue Bloods

FOX
MasterChef Junior
Gotham (reruns)

NBC
Dateline NBC
Grimm
Constantine

New Shows:

CRISTELA - Sitcom centered around a Latino family. It follows Tim Allen's Last Man Standing, and how many people are aware that's still on the air? Or that it ever happened?

CONSTANTINE - Based on the comic book (you might remember a Keanu Reeves movie). It should do a little better than Dracula, but not much.

Last year, there were 25 new shows. 10 of them are back for a second season.
This year, there are 23 new shows. I'm going to say 9 of them get a season two. (Gotham, Jane the Virgin, The Flash, Madame Secretary, Cristela, Gracepoint, How to Get Away with Murder, Red Band Society, NCIS: New Orleans).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Maleficent - Movie Review

My review at FlickSided.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Movie Review

My review from FlickSided.

Neighbors - Movie Review

My review at Flicksided.

Godzilla - Movie Review

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elisabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Straithairn, Richard T. Jones and Victor Rasuk.
Directed by Gareth Edwards.

★★½

Tone is an important element in a movie that introduces fantastical elements. This film wisely eschews the campy dumb fun the 1998 movie tried to have and plays it straight and serious. I liked that, and if anything it would have helped this movie to have a moment or two of levity.

Normally I wouldn't mind that it takes a while for Godzilla to show up. It gives us a chance to get to know the human characters and raise the stakes when people start dying and cities start getting destroyed. Unfortunately I didn't care about most of the characters.

The marketing campaign makes it look like Bryan Cranston is going to be one of the central characters, so I don't think I'm giving away too much by saying the movies should have focussed more on him and less on his soldier son played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Anna Karenina, Kick-Ass).  Johnson's a blank slate, and it just felt like another big-budget action movie putting Generic Young Guy as the hero. Was Taylor Kitsch too busy?

I know. You don't go to a Godzilla movie for good acting. But you do hope it'll be there.

You also go to a Godzilla movie for thrilling visuals, and on that front, the movie delivers. I felt that little-kid surge of excitement when halfway through the movie, we see that first sign of a giant monster on the loose. ("Mayhem's about to start!")  Godzilla isn't in the movie as much as you'd think, but I liked his design, I liked the effects, I just liked the character. If a sequel is greenlit, I'll be excited for him to return, even if (or especially if) a whole different cast is assembled to watch stuff get smashed.

Don't get me wrong. All of these actors have been excellent in something else, but Watanabe spends the whole movie slack-jawed, Straithairn carries the air of authority while the script makes him a woefully inept leader, and Olsen is there to be the wife that Taylor-Johnson calls from time to time.

It's much better than the 1998 film. The ride of the second half is quite fun.