Television

"Hail Hydra." (HBO)

It’s October, and we’re a little more than six months past the Season Four premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and therefore less than half a year away from the Season Five premiere. We just have to make it through Winter. Which is coming, the Stark meteorologists have assured us. October is also the month terminated by the holiday of Halloween, with all the attendant ghosts stories, zombie hordes hunting brains (or candy – one of those), and the appearance of other undead creatures too ornery to quietly stay dead. A fine time to talk about Game of Thrones. And resurrection. Heads up, I’ll be talking Season Three details, so if you’re behind, Spoiler alert. Game of Thrones is a fantasy, but in general magic isn’t heavily emphasized. Sure, we’ve seen a magical assassination and some Penn and Tellerstyle shenanigans from the Warlocks of Qarth, but usually swords are more reliable than spells. That is, until Season Three, when the Hound’s sword only mostly killed Beric Dondarrion, who came back to life as he had six times before. Resurrected by badass priest Thoros of Myr. Critics were quick to complain that if resurrection in Game of Thrones is possible, then the dramatic stakes are lost. Death, where is thy sting? and all that. This was particularly relevant for a show that two seasons before had highlighted the deadly serious stakes when Ned Stark, the literal poster boy for the series, had his life cut short. But is the example of Beric Dondarrion’s resurrection really a negative game-changer for the story’s […]

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Gotham Spirit of the Goat

Week in and week out, Donal Logue has been fighting a frenzied competition with Robin Lord Taylor for ‘Most Compellingly Weird Gotham Character.’ Normally, he loses. Harvey Bullock’s great and all (with more streetwise detective backsass than Lennie Briscoe), but beating Taylor’s Penguin in a weird-off is just not feasible. Still, Penguin is regularly given large portions of each episode to himself, while Bullock is relegated to snide remarks and occasionally playing counterpoint to Jim Gordon’s achingly moral hero cop. Not this week, though. “Spirit of the Goat” is Bullock’s moment in the sun; a moment richly deserved, and perhaps even the first step towards the Hero Bullock we’re all assuming will happen at some point (“hero,” in this case, meaning “non-Mafia-affiliated”). We open on a much younger Bullock and his previous partner, Dix (Dan Hedaya, an always-reliable source of authority with a slight hint of wiseguy), and much to our surprise, Bullock’s the Gordon and Dix is the Bullock. That is, Bullock’s the idealist, ready to charge into battle (“a white knight,” as Dix puts it) while Dix is the voice of reason, always ready to squash young Bullock’s dreams with Gotham City’s golden rule: “no heroes.” And on the hunt for a particularly nasty serial killer who calls himself the Spirit of the Goat, Bullock acts the fool and rushes in, leaving Dix to come to the rescue, giving him a pair of busted gams in the process. But at least the Goat was put down for good.

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Doctor Who In the Forest of the Night

As much as I like the suggestion that the next Doctor Who companion should be an older woman, namely Emma Thompson, there’s something that I’ve always liked about small children on the series. And as this week’s wonder-filled fairytale of an episode, “In the Forest of the Night,” shows us, the younger may be the better for 56-year-old Peter Capaldi‘s Twelfth Doctor. It’s not just the increase in age difference but also the greater contrast in personality. Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor was rather kid-like himself, so when he first hung out with Amy Pond when she was only seven, eating fish sticks and custard, the two seemed like equals. Next to the more cantankerous Capaldi, though, little Maebh (Abigail Eames) is a bright antithesis to the Doctor. This season has already given us the show’s youngest companion ever (I think — if we consider that original sidekick Susan Foreman was a Time Lord and therefore not really a teen and that Angie and Artie Maitland were just one-time guests joining their nanny) with 15-year-old Courtney (Ellis George) hopping aboard the TARDIS for a couple adventures, one of them alone with just the Doctor (that qualifies her as an official companion, right?). So why not go ahead and bring little Maebh for a ride (or 20) next? Probably because it’s difficult to justify carting not just a minor but a very small child into harm’s way without a more proper guardian. It’d be more likely that we’d see her character become […]

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Viper Gotham

It had to happen sometime: “Viper” has brought superpowers to Gotham. A superhero show without superpowers is like a carrot cake without luscious cream cheese frosting, and when it comes to Gotham, we’ve been eating our cake dry for far too long. Here’s the deal. A guy by the name of Stan has been distributing a new wonderdrug among the homeless of Gotham. It comes in a cute little mini-bottle imprinted with the words “BREATHE ME.” Follow its advice, and you’ll gain a few hours of unbelievable super-strength. Do whatever you want with those few hours. Snap baseball bats in half like twigs. Hurl a pile of policemen off of you in dramatic fashion. Drink your weight in dairy products. Your choice. Then, when the allotted hours are up, your bones crumble apart and you die in agony. Naturally, Gordon, Bullock and the rest of GCPD would prefer a population with regular human strength and intact bones, so they spend most of “Viper” trying to get the stuff off the streets.

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Doctor Who Flatline

Last week’s episode of Doctor Who kept Clara (Jenna Coleman) mostly on the sidelines while the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) was front and center doing all that he does best. So, it’s interesting that the show follows it with an episode where he is mostly offscreen and she’s front and center doing all that he does best. Yes, he. In “Flatline,” Clara gets to play Doctor in a way that allows her to understand him a little better. That’s important for a season in which she is constantly on him about his methods and manners. She has to deal with situations where she too needs to lie for the better of the mission, to give people hope because those without it are more likely to die. But she also has to cope with the fact that some people may die while she’s in command. I’m a little surprised that she doesn’t have more of a reaction when one of the men does die under her leadership. In fact, I’m a little disappointed that there’s not more felt in the responsibility of her role in this episode. Outside of some dialogue in reference to what this experience of walking in the Doctor’s shoes means to their relationship, there isn’t a whole lot of substance here, neither for character development nor for the ongoing story and thematic developments of the show. Still, like last week’s episode, which was also written by Jamie Mathieson, the slightness of the story doesn’t take away from the fun. “Flatline” has a […]

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Sony Pictures / ScreenGems

As it has been decreed by the Ancient Ones, all that was once film must now be TV. So it should be no surprise that, as of Sunday, we’ve got two more film franchises to be thrown on Hollywood’s towering pile of movie-to-TV ventures: Resident Evil and Underworld. From Variety comes the news on Resident Evil- Constantin Films, the production company behind the franchise, told the publication they’re shifting Resident Evil to the small screen after the sixth film (tentatively titled Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) comes and goes. Then, over at IGN (which we picked up on via Digital Spy) came similar news from Underworld guru Len Wiseman- first a spin-off without Kate Beckinsale, then a main series film with Kate Beckinsale, then everyone packs up and moves to television. Wiseman also said the words “expanding” and “universe” in regards to all this new Underworld, but let’s slam that particular Pandora’s Box shut for now. With these two, we’re getting into hokey sitcom-level coincidence territory- two different studios revealing new TV shows, having done so on the exact same day with the exact same movie. Because Underworld and Resident Evil are practically twins- if you were to read the words, “Female hero in skintight leather blasts holes in horror movie monsters with dual-wielded pistols, then takes a break to marry her director who’s given the entire series a mild blue color filter,” you would have zero way of guessing which franchise we’re talking about.

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Gotham Arkham

Gotham‘s begun to develop an odd pattern. Just as “Selina Kyle” used Selina Kyle as a minor cog in a much larger machine, this week’s “Arkham” is only a little bit about comicdom’s most iconic loony bin. There was about as much actual Arkham Asylum in “Arkham” as there were women dressed as cats in “Selina Kyle” (really, just that one poor schmoe who ended up barbecued outside the gates), but to a lesser degree, a fair chunk of the episode was rooted in the Arkham landgrab. Politician killing (the Arkham vote machine) and shoring up mob cred still count. So in honor of “Arkham,” let’s dig into the history behind this most spookiest of mental institutions. This October, amazingly enough, is the 40th anniversary of Arkham Asylum. It was in October of 1974 that the jumbo, 100-page “Batman #258” hit the stands, an issue comprised mostly of old re-run stories from the ’50s, but also a new tale entitled “The Threat of the Two-Headed Coin.” Written by Denny O’Neil and with art by Irv Novick, the story introduced us to one Arkham Hospital (named after the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts, frequent monster spot in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft), where both Two-Face and some nobody named General Harris were being housed. Harris’s cronies break in and free him — at which point Harris demonstrates why he was a generic villain no one remembers, and invites the clearly insane Two-Face to be a part of his coup. Naturally, the coup […]

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The Mortal Instruments

Talk about immortality! (Sorry.) The Hollywood Reporter shares that The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare’s bestselling and beloved YA book franchise (that first started as Harry Potter fan fiction, lest we forget), is bound for the small screen. And, no, you’re not misremembering things here – the series has already made one attempt at adaptation, with last year’s underperforming feature film, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. The Lily Collins-starring feature was originally imagined as a franchise starter, but the film made less than $32m at the American box office (interestingly, the feature did make a grand total of $90.5m with worldwide receipts, but such a take still puts it in the bottom half of YA adaptations). Although there has been some chatter about lensing a second feature, it now appears that these Instruments are pointing in a different direction. Constantin Film, the rights-holding production company, will now revisit the series as a “high-end drama series,” with writer and producer Ed Decter on board as showrunner. 

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Doctor Who Mummy on the Orient Express

I didn’t buy that the first episode of this season of Doctor Who was entirely made of meta-text — only slightly — but it’s hard not to consider the eighth episode, “Mummy on the Orient Express,” as much more than a message to the audience. “Don’t Stop Me Now” is a song by Queen that lends itself well to extra meanings when included on a soundtrack (see Shaun of the Dead), and here the title lyrics seem to be saying “don’t quit me now.” In the context of the show, where it’s covered by the British pop singer Foxes, it connects mainly to Clara (Jenna Coleman), who has told the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) that she’s to stop being his companion. Of course, the song could be as much directed at him from her (“don’t try to stop me”) as her from him (“don’t leave me”), but at first I thought maybe he’d planted the musical number. As he’s telling Clara that everything on board the space train they’ve boarded is authentic to the real Orient Express, there’s a cut to Foxes, as if we’re supposed to realize that the 1979 song is anachronistic to the period that the rest of the scene is replicating. This also being the moment when they’re discussing how this ride aboard the ship should be a good one to end on. It is and it isn’t, for her and for us. If we quit now, it’d be on a high note, but who can quit an addiction when they’re so high?

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Uncle Buck

Did you like the movies of the eighties? Then you’re going to love the television series of the teens. Deadline reports that ABC is currently working on a half-hour sitcom based on John Hughes‘ 1989 “New Classic” (we use the TNT designations in this house) Uncle Buck, with Universal TV and producer Will Packer (the immensely successful producer behind both Ride Along and the Think Like a Man features) on board to turn the film into a weekly offering. The new Uncle Buck will be, well, pretty much just like the old Uncle Buck, as Deadline reports it “will center on a childish man, played in the film by [John] Candy, who learns how to be an adult by taking care of his brother’s kids in a very childish way.” Weirdly enough, this isn’t even the first time that Uncle Buck has been turned into a small screen offering — a CBS series based on the movie hit screens for one season back in 1990. One season. Big hit. Of course, Uncle Buck is not the only beloved eighties property to be getting the small screen treatment this pilot season, and it’s certainly not the most egregious. Let’s take a journey, back to a period of time when original entertainment wasn’t such a wholly foreign concept, to explore what else network television is so forcibly mining for new material.

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Say Anything

UPDATED: Victory is ours. Put down your boomboxes. Fold up your kickboxing trousers. Wait for the airplane to ding. This is not a drill, and frankly, it’s nearly impossible to believe that this is happening, but here it is: NBC is making a series based on Say Anything, Cameron Crowe‘s 1989 John Cusack- and Ione Skye-starring teen romance. It’s okay if this news is hard to swallow, because even with the recent rash of small screen revivals of beloved properties — think Real Genius, Problem Child and Big – word that Say Anything is getting a new television series seems almost too bizarre to be believed, too weird to be true. Let’s parse this.

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Gotham The Balloonman

Sometimes you see something on TV, and one tiny little thing — a name or a face — juts out. Then at some indeterminate point in the future, another indeterminate detail and another mind-jut. Synapses start firing, pieces come together an odd TV bloodlust sets in, and suddenly you’ve figured it all out. You know the twist that’s sure to come, thanks to the entirely crackpot theory that seems so very real when formed in the midst of conspiracy frenzy. I will admit that this was me last week. A character named Lazlo and a pig mask in a trailer, and I was sold — clearly, this week’s Gotham was bound to feature Professor Pyg, a Batman villain sporting a pink piggy face and the first name of Lazlo. A villain who, it turns out, has basically nothing to do with “The Balloonman.” My bad on that one, guys. Instead, this third hour of Gotham was all about… the Balloonman. Who’da thunk it?

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Hermione Norris in Doctor Who Kill the Moon

If you’ve ever wondered why the Doctor doesn’t ever just nip out and kill Hitler, maybe after some pudding, now you do thanks to “Kill the Moon,” this week’s likely-to-be controversial episode of Doctor Who. It’s not going to be at issue for its defense for letting alone one of the worst figures in history, though, partly because fans of time travel stories have always had to accept such excuse (here it’s that not all of the past, nor future, is that malleable). Far heavier is the notion that the show allegorically tackles the abortion debate in its 45-minute running time and comes to the conclusion that it’s womankind’s right to choose, but the correct choice is still in favor of life. That the plot of the episode entails the fate of the Moon — an entity given a feminine representation in various mythologies and one that’s been believed associated with menstruation — is so ridiculously perfect, but also for some people probably too silly to be used for such a touchy subject. But this is a ridiculous show and a particularly ridiculous episode altogether, one in which Earth’s single natural satellite is revealed to be not an orbiting mass of rock but an egg for some sort of enormous cosmic dragon. And that alien dragon lays another egg of the very same size immediately after it’s born — quick enough that there’s no effect on the nearby planet at all, not even on its tides. It’s an episode where an astronaut […]

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Fox

Calling the second episode of Gotham “Selina Kyle” is just a wee bit disingenuous. It’s not so much a Selina Kyle episode- for one thing, she refuses to be called Selina Kyle, and any attempt to say those words around her will cause an immediate correction with the proper nomenclature: “cat.” Expecting “Selina Kyle” to include any in-depth look at a young Catwoman’s psyche is a fool’s game. This one’s not about our future clawed criminal; it just happens to involve her, as a victim of our Batman villain of the week (even if it seemed like Gotham wouldn’t be doing that). Like last time, Gordon and Bullock take the lead, on the trail of the little-known, little-seen, probably-murderous Dollmaker. So yeah, kind of a misnomer with the “Selina Kyle” thing.

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Ben Affleck in Gone Girl

“She’s not above her material. She’s not making fun of these people, even the nosy neighbor. She’s not making fun of even those archetypes. And she’s interesting in that way. I kind of held my breath and waited to read her first draft and I was so emboldened by it. She was not only capable of slaughtering the darling, she took a peculiar pleasure in offing those extensions of her own imagination.”  Bestselling author Gillian Flynn didn’t pull any punches when it came to the script for David Fincher‘s Gone Girl — a script based on her own blockbuster book and her first produced attempt at working in that medium — slicing and dicing and cutting and crafting without prejudice. In fact, even Fincher was stunned by her ability to “off” bits and pieces (and even whole people) from her script, sharing with FilmComment the above quote about Flynn’s interest in keeping things neat for the sake of a good script. This is not a novelist beholden to her own material, and that might be why Fincher and Flynn are teaming up for yet another project — and why the duo is making a claim to be Hollywood’s next big dream team.

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Danny Pink in Doctor Who the Caretaker

Doctor Who has always been a writer’s show. The opening credit emphasizing the author of each episode is our constant reminder, but we still might take that for granted. There are a lot of names who’ve written adventures for the Doctor and his companions, and they’re not most of them household names, nor are all of them consistent in their quality or genre. The two most recent episodes, however, need to have their authors acknowledged for different reasons. Last week, it had to be said that Steve Thompson is always boring. This week, with “The Caretaker,” Gareth Roberts has to be recognized as being a wonderfully clever yet down-to-earth voice who has been greatly missed for the past few years. Maybe it’s because he’s been writing Doctor Who stories, originally in novel form, since the early 1990s, but he just seems to get it. There is a lot going on in “The Caretaker,” but this isn’t immediately apparent. Well, there’s a good deal of plot, what with the whole triangular rom-com situation going on between Clara (Jenna Coleman), Danny (Samuel Anderson) and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) while also there’s a threat to the planet occurring coincidentally near and then in the school where the former two work. But this is not a plot-centric episode. Even the relationship stuff is just a vehicle for deeper levels, giving us more to chew on regarding the Doctor and Danny than the Doctor and Clara. Actually, no, strike that, because the very end of the episode is very important, […]

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Rachel McAdams

See? We told you guys to just wait — and, yes, we had to take that advice to heart, too — because, no matter what the addition of Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn to the True Detective second season roster meant, it didn’t mean that casting was over. Now, well, casting still isn’t over, but it’s getting there, and it’s certainly moving in a very nice direction. Variety reports that, as has been rumored off and on for awhile now, Rachel McAdams has been offered one of four lead roles in the HBO series’ second season. The part will reportedly see McAdams playing “a Monterey sheriff with a troubled past that has led her to a gambling and alcohol addiction.” The part is one of three law enforcement types on the new season — Farrell is on board as one, Taylor Kitsch is still expected to play the other, and Vaughn is set to star as a “career criminal” — and it marks a very important step forward in the realm of complicated female characters on the small screen.

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Vince Vaughn

The latest news in the wacky world of True Detective may not have come to us care of the Colin Farrell Gazette (the paper of record, duh), but it’s still official enough to send fans (and foes) of the HBO series into a major tizzy. Everyone, calm down. Let’s talk about this. HBO (via ComingSoon) has announced that, yes, Farrell is on board to star in the series’ second season, as is Vince Vaughn, who has long been rumored to take on one of four leading roles in the next installment of the deep, dark detective drama. The breaking of this news has apparently sent literally thousands of Twitter users into a downward spiral of guilt, blame and fear (at least, by our count) — which is weird, because the series hasn’t even completed half of its casting. Put the towels down, guys, let’s not throw them in just yet.

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Gotham

There’s an age-old debate in the Batman mythos: Does Batman really stop crime? Or does the very presence of Batman, a man gallivanting around in bat ears and a cape, attract costumed criminals that wouldn’t have shown up in the first place, thus doing more harm than good? Gotham, Fox’s shiny new Batman prequel series, set in the grimy corruption of the Gotham City Police Department, throws all this good/evil Bat-debate in the trash. “Nope!” it proclaims, fancifully showing off a parade of before-they-were-villain villains, “Freaks were running around Gotham and committing meticulous theme-based crimes long before Batman ever started doing the same.” That’s already par for the course on Gotham, a prequel interested in a new take — a Batmanless take — on Batman. It will pursue that newness to any end, even if it means scrapping the subtlety and the blurred lines of good and evil that are present in just about every Batman story.

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Doctor Who Time Heist

One of the coolest things about the premise of Doctor Who is that it can dip into so many different genres. Sometimes, as in the case with this week’s episode, “Time Heist,” you get a mash-up of a few. Obviously we got a heist story here, and that was combined with the amnesiac thriller and the superhero team-up. Guest good guys Psi (Jonathan Bailey) and Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner), who join up with the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) on their latest adventure, are respectively reminiscent specifically of Marvel mutants Cable and Rogue. And who wouldn’t want a heroine called The Impossible Girl in a group tasked with such a mission: impossible as robbing the most secure bank in the universe? So how did “Time Heist” wind up being one of the least exciting and imaginative episodes in years? The set-up was great, not necessarily the part where again we’re having a trip disrupt date night for Clara and Danny (Samuel Anderson) but the mysterious phone call and the sudden loss of memory and introduction of the new super-friends. Even the Karabraxos bank manager, Ms. Delphox (Keeley Hawes), has a delicious cartoonish villainy about her, all the way through the end in fact. There were some decent scenes, too, like the one where Delphox and her alien “Teller” wipe the brain of an accused customer and the guy’s skull collapses like a basketball that’s been popped. But that’s actually one of the many moments in this episode that are directed poorly by […]

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published: 10.30.2014
B-
published: 10.29.2014
D+
published: 10.27.2014
C-
published: 10.24.2014
C-


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