All posts by Sheldon Wiebe

TELEVISION NEWS: NBC ADDS 6 Series For Fall; Fate of Chuck Still Unknown!

According to reports, NBC has added four dramas and two comedies to their 2009 fall schedule – while the fate of spy comedy, Chuck, and paranormal family drama, Medium, remain to be revealed.

Parenthood

The new NBC dramas are:

Trauma: follows the loves of Emergency Medical Technicians [EMTs] as they deal with the intense medical cases in which they become involved. Trauma stars Anastasia Griffith [Damages], and is produced by Peter Berg [Friday Night Lights].

Parenthood: a contemporary take on the real family dynamic, and based on Ron Howard’s film of twenty years ago; Mercy, a soap built around a young nurse, recently returned from Iraq, and the people she works with now. Peter Krause [Six Feet Under], Craig T. Nelson [Coach] and Maura Tierney [E.R.] star, and the series is produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Jason Katims [Friday Night Lights].

Mercy: a “female-oriented soap” about a young nurse recently returned from Iraq, and her life and adventures. Mercy stars Taylor Schilling [Dark Matter] and co-stars Michelle Trachtenberg [Gossip girl]; the team of Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun [both former network heads] produce.

Day One: a post-apocalyptic drama about a small group of surivivors who survive and have survive while trying to find out what happened. Adam Campbell [Date Movie] and Julie Gonzalo [Eli Stone] star, while Jesse williams [Heroes] will produce.

The new comedies are:

Community: about a group of educational misfits at Greendale Community College who start a study group headed up by a disbarred lawyer. The Soup’s Joel McHale is the lawyer and Chevy Chase co-stars. Joe and Anthony Russo [Arrested Development] are Community’s creative team. Like other NBC comedies, Community will be a one camera show.

100 Questions: Some one may be taking compatibility quizzes a little too seriously in 100 Qyestions, in which a woman tries to find Mr. Right by answering the titular questions from said test. Sophie Winkleman [The British series, Peep Show] stars. The series was created by Christopher Moynihan [For Your Consideration] and the pilot was directed by James Burrows [Cheers, Friends].

MOVIE REVIEW: X-Men Origins: Wolverine Messes Up X-Men Continuity & Still Isn’t That Great!

When Bryan Singer’s creative team made changes to the continuity for the first two X-Men films, they made the story stronger. When Brett Ratner’s creative team tried to put things back they were supposed to be, the movie sucked rocks. Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine sits somewhere in the middle.

Logan vs. Sabretooth

As an X-Fan since 1964, and a Wolverine fan since his first appearance in 1974, I have to say it was an interesting experience to see how the David Benioff/Skip Woods script took the elements of Logan’s [Hugh Jackman] origin and the creation of William Stryker’s [Danny Huston]team and folded in an odd, but unfortunately not compelling, retcon of the continuity of major Marvel characters like Scott “Cyclops” Summers [Tom Pocock] and Emma Frost [Tahyna Tozzi] – which, in the case of Summers, also contradicts the previous X-films.

Sure, we learn about Logan’s backstory – at least to the point where he loses his memory [handled here in a ridiculously silly manner] – but there are so many other characters that even his big brother [in more ways than one], Victor [Liev Schreiber], only gets two dimensions to play with: vicious killing machine and “brothers look out for each other. Outside of Logan and Victor, though, when another character does hold our attention it’s because the actor manages to stand out in spite of the script – like Taylor Kitsch, the young Canadian [!] who makes Remy “Gambit” LeBeau very magnetic.

I’m not saying that Hood hasn’t produced an entertaining film. He did. It’s just that X-Men Origins: Wolverine deals with some characters and situations that are compelling in the Marvel Universe, but are, here, nothing more than a series of effects and fight choreography because there are so many characters, there’s no time to really tell the story. It’s like fat-free potato chips: there’s a similarity, taste-wise, to the real thing, but there’s also something missing. Even the segments that deal with Logan’s attempt at the idyllic life with Kayla [Lynn Collins] seem more like a perfunctory interlude to build to another scene of Logan screaming, that their impact is minimal.

In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, what’s missing, unfortunately, is the heart. It’s enjoyable but not essential. Color me disappointed.

Grade: C+

TELEVISION NEWS: Disney to Join NBC Universal, News Corporation and Providence Equity Partners as an Equity Owner of HULU!

Hulu and The Walt Disney Company announce that Disney, through a subsidiary of ABC Enterprises Inc., has agreed to join NBC Universal, News Corporation and Providence Equity Partners as a joint venture partner and equity owner of Hulu, a leading online aggregator of video content.

Lost, Season 5

Once the deal is completed, content available to Hulu users will include:

· Full-length episodes of ABC primetime programs like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Samantha Who?, Scrubs, Private Practice and popular late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live

· Full-length episodes of hit ABC Family series like The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Greek

· Popular series from ABC Daytime and SOAPnet like General Hospital and The View

· Classic series from ABC’s library like Hope & Faith, Less than Perfect, Commander in Chief, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and Dancing with the Stars

· Select hit programs from Disney Channel like Wizards of Waverly Place and Phineas and Ferb which can be easily accessed from a new DISNEY location in the Channel section of Hulu.com

· Popular library titles from The Walt Disney Studios

· Short-form content including webisodes, sneak peeks and episode recaps from ABC Entertainment, ABC Family and SOAPnet

MOVIES: Summer Movies Begin Opening Tomorrow: Five Must-See’s; Five To Avoid!

Today isn’t the last day of spring – at least, not according to the calendar. For movies, though, it’s another story. I’m not exactly certain when May became “spring” for movies, but it’s a fairly recent development. What marks the season is the first in an onslaught of blockbuster, tentpole movies that all the major studios have scheduled to make the most of their favored demographic’s spring break/summer vacations.

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Most movie writers/critics have already listed the films they especially want to see, or expect to do boffo box office – and last week, our own Michelle Alexandria went against the grain by listing the movies she was least desirous of screening. After much consideration, I’ve decided to split the difference and have compiled a list of the five films I am most looking forward to – and the five I most wish to avoid at all costs [not that I necessarily will – such is life for film writers…].

Continue reading MOVIES: Summer Movies Begin Opening Tomorrow: Five Must-See’s; Five To Avoid!

HOLLYWOOD INSIDER: Jeff Goldblum Talks Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s New Detective and More!

Yesterday, Jeff Goldblum took a half-hour out of his busy shooting day to talk with a number of bloggers/journalists about his role as Detective Zach Nichols on the new season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent [USA, Sundays, 9/8C]. Goldblum, it turns out, is as intelligent and intuitive as his character.

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Also taking part in the Q&Q session were: Jamie Ruby [Media Blvd], Jamie Steinberg [Starry Constellation], Julie Kissane [popculturemadness.com], Christine Nyholm [Examiner], Joshua Fulghum [totallyher.com], Troy Rogers [thedeadbolt.com], and Zach Oat [televisionwithoutpity.com].

Continue reading HOLLYWOOD INSIDER: Jeff Goldblum Talks Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s New Detective and More!

DVD REVIEW: JCVD Earns JCVD Some Genuine Respect!

For some reason, I can’t get this little bit of meta filmmaking out of my mind. Maybe it’s because Jean-Claude Van Damme comes across as a real person in this tale of a just-past-his-prime C-list martial arts star getting caught up in a hostage situation while tying to get the money to pay his lawyer in a custody battle. Not only does it turn out that Van Damme can act, it turns out that he’s not afraid to let himself look less than heroic.

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From the opening sequence, with Van Damme shooting a cheesy, low-budget thriller; to the ongoing problem of having to pay alimony and child support; to walking into a post office just as a robbery is taking place, Van Damme’s performance is both skilled and completely natural. [Maybe all it took for him to deliver a knockout performance was to be able to perform in his native language…]

Director Mabrouk El Mechrie shows great faith in Van Damme, using more close-ups than we’ve seen in any other of his films – and Van Damme responds beautifully. El Mechrie’s pacing is just a step ahead of being deliberate – not slow enough for the audience to get bored; not too fast to lose Van Damme’s finest work. Gast Waltzing’s score adds to film’s emotional impact without calling attention to itself.

The only part of this DVD release is the bonus features – two deleted scenes [though they are lengthy sequences]. I would have loved to hear a commentary track with Van Damme and Mabrouk El Mechri.

Grade: JCVD – A

Grade: Features – D

Final Grade: B+

HOLLYWOOD INSIDER: In Plain Sight’s Fred Weller Talks Marshal Marshall & Season Two!

A few days ago, I was able to take part in a Q&A session with Fred Weller, who plays Marshal Marshall Mann on the USA Network’s hit show, In Plain Sight [Sundays, 10-9C]. Marshall may be Mary Shannon’s partner, but he is an interesting character in his own right – as is the man who plays him. One thing that is almost immediately apparent, is that both share a dry sense of humor.

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Also taking part in the session were: Jamie Steniberg [Starry Constellation], Troy Rogers [thedeadbolt.com], Chandra Williams [TVJolts.com], Beth Ann Henderson [nicegirlstv.com], Jamie Ruby [Media Blvd], and Kendra White [no affiliation mentioned…].

Continue reading HOLLYWOOD INSIDER: In Plain Sight’s Fred Weller Talks Marshal Marshall & Season Two!

TELEVISION: Law & Order: Criminal Intent – Jeff Goldblum Makes an Instant Impression!

When Teeter, a talented musician, is found murdered after a night out with his friends [to take in a spelling bee!] – in a neighborhood composed of several different ethnicities, Captain Danny Ross [Eric Bogosian] assigns Detective Megan Wheeler [Julianne Nichols] to the case, along with her new partner, Detective Zach Nichols [Jeff Goldblum]. As their investigation begins, Rafe, another musician who lived in the same warehouse sized loft as Teeter falls down the building’s elevator shaft. Rock Star, this week’s episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent [USA, 9/8C] introduces Goldblum’s Detective Nichols in a way that allows Goldblum to make an indelible first impression – on his new partner, and on the show’s audience.

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Nichols arrives at his first crime scene [Teeter] marvelling about the variety of fine ethnic foods he was able to find on his way to work. Wheeler is not amused, but when she questions Ross about him, Ross informs her that, before he took a seven-year leave, he was, “…amazing. Brilliant cop. Very perceptive.” And notes that both Nichol’ parents were shrinks. Where did he go for those seven years? “He sent me a postcard from Cleveland, “says Ross.

Before long though, Nichols wins Wheeler over with his keen eye for detail and a knowledge of people that allows him to reassure a possible suspect that he’s not one by playing a cool jazz improvisation on the late Teeter’s keyboard. He also knows how to spin his questions when dealing with other suspects – like the musicians’ landlord, Philip, whose band played the third-longest set at Woodstock.

Rock Star showcases Goldblum’s character, but allows Nicholson and Bogosian plenty of room to perform as well – though it’s likely that Goldblum’s Nichols will assume the lead role on future investigations. The character may remind of Goldblum’s last series, the brilliant – of too hip for the room – Raines, though minus that character’s imagined conversations with the victims whose murders he was trying to solve. Nichols has that same intensity and ability to learn about people without actually appearing to be doing anything.

Where Vincent D’Onofrio’s Detective Goren is a riff on Sherlock Holmes, Goldblum’s Nichols might be analogous to Freud – Goren is a facts guy, while Nichols is all about motive. The one thing they have in common is that no detail escapes them. They differ in their method of using those details. I expect that Detective Wheeler’s primary concern, in future eps, will be grounding Nichols in much the same way that Detective Eames keeps Goren grounded – and like the Watson of Conan Doyle’s original stories, provide a certain toughness and resourcefulness that will keep Nichols on track.

If Rock star is any indication, Law & Order may be about to hit a creative peak. Not bad for a show in its eighth season!

Final Grade: A

MOVIE REVIEW: The Soloist Plays Brilliantly!

I don’t know who made the decision to back The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as Paramount’s most likely Oscar® candidate, and to shuffle The Soloist to the spring release schedule where it will undoubtedly get lost among the spring blockbusters, but they definitely backed the wrong metaphorical horse. The Soloist is a film of subtlety and intelligence and does not do something that most movies do: manufacture a happy ending.

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Even though changes have been made to make the film a better story, The Soloist shines like the music of Beethoven, the particular favorite of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr. [Jamie Foxx]. Ayers came to national prominence when he was discovered, by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez [Robert Downey Jr.], playing Beethoven’s music in the street. The column Mr. Lopez wrote garnered more attention than anything he’d ever written and sparked a huge amount of interest in Mr. Ayers, who had been a student at Julliard before succumbing to schizophrenia.

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: The Soloist Plays Brilliantly!

TELVISION NEWS: ABC Announces Early Pickups for Fall 2009 Schedule!

ABC today announced the early pickup of an even dozen series: six each of scripted and unscripted programs.

Lost- S5 Cast

Scripted series pickups go to: Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, Private Practice and Ugly Betty.

Unscripted series pickups include: America’s Funniest Home Videos, The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Supernanny and Wife Swap.

The 2009-10 season of Lost, its sixth, will mark the conclusion of one of the best television dramas of all time, while America’s Funniest Home Videos will be entering its 20th season.

MANGA: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit – Congratulations! You Have Been Randomly Selected By The Government… To DIE In 24 Hours!

The population was beginning a slow descent into decadence. No one seemed to care about the important things in life: honor, integrity, even life itself. So, the government began a new program to make life precious once more. When vaccinations were given to every child, a certain percentage was, instead, randomly injected with a capsule that would activate at a random time, resulting in that person’s death. Through a complex set of procedures, these capsules were tracked in such a way that, without anyone knowing the particulars, an Ikigami – a death paper – would be sent to each of those selected twenty-four hours before the capsule activated. The uncertainty this caused would make people value their lives more, and increase social productivity.

Ikigami 1

Volume One of Motoro Mase’s Ikigami contains two episodes – each dealing with different aspects of the process. Episode One, The End of Vengeance, is concerned with Fujimoto, a young man who gets work delivering Ikigami, and the story of one of the people to whom he delivers them – a bullied youth who uses his last day for actions both heroic and evil. Episode Two, The Last Song, deals with a young man in a busking duo who tries to achieve pop stardom even though it means deserting his partner.

Continue reading MANGA: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit – Congratulations! You Have Been Randomly Selected By The Government… To DIE In 24 Hours!