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Culture Cafe

Movie, music, and television reviews from a select group of bloggers.

Valerie Harper was eliminated from 'Dancing with the Stars' on Oct. 7. (Charles Sykes/AP)

Valerie Harper inspires, exits 'Dancing with the Stars'

By Staff Writer / 10.08.13

“Mary Tyler Moore” star Valerie Harper was the latest contestant to be eliminated from “Dancing with the Stars,” leaving the show on Monday, Oct. 7.

Harper, who was recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, was paired with dancing pro Tristan MacManus for the competition and they performed a Viennese waltz for their last number, set to the song “Carry On” by the band fun.

[Editor's note: The original story incorrectly stated the nature of Valerie Harper's illness.]

When she received the news that she was leaving the show, according to USA Today, Harper said, “It has been absolutely wonderful. Completely unique. Like nothing else in the world that you would ever do. And it was an opportunity for me to carry a message to folks, not just with cancer, but with whatever challenge, like our song tonight – carry on, carry on.”

“I think maybe life’s a little bit better since I met Valerie Harper,” MacManus said of his partner.

Meanwhile, her fellow contestants praised Harper in interviews with Entertainment Weekly.

“I hope to God I can be half the inspiration she is,” Bill Engvall said. “I kind of wish they’d have just given her the trophy.”

Two contestants were eliminated before Harper, with NFL player Keyshawn Johnson leaving on Sept. 23 and TV science host Bill Nye departing on Sept. 30.

Before performing her routine, Harper said, “I am not at all ready to quit,” noting that she and MacManus had received low scores lately but saying she wanted to improve.

Former “DWTS” participant Julianne Hough returned for the show on Monday as a judge, subbing in for Len Goodman.

After Harper and MacManus did their routine, Hough called it "beautiful," but judge Carrie Ann Inaba said the dance had “some beautiful moments” but that the “mistakes stood out more” in the waltz, according to USA Today. Harper received scores of 6 from each of the judges.

“Dancing” is currently airing its 17th season.

Has 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' added Elizabeth Olsen to its cast? (Evan Agostini/AP)

'Avengers: Age of Ultron': Samuel L. Jackson says Elizabeth Olsen has joined the cast

By Rob KeyesScreen Rant / 10.04.13

With Thor: The Dark World releasing in theaters next month and Guardians of the Galaxy in its final stretch of principal photography, next on the production slate for Marvel Studios is the flagship title The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Joss Whedon written and directed sequel begins production early next year for a May 2015 release date.

And not unlike then next few chapters (post-Iron Man 3) of “Phase Two” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Avengers 2 aims to expand the franchise by adding a few new characters. The brutally villainous Ultron takes center stage as the antagonist for Earth’s Mightiest and on the hero side, the roster of The Avengers will grow with the additions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, a super-powered brother-sister act.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the mastermind behind the formation of The Avengers as a fighting force to protect Earth, made a cameo in Marvel Studios’ first foray into live-action television this week, in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The episode-saving guest appearance didn’t help the show against a ratings drop of 34% from its premiere, but it did give the Wall Street Journal a reason to chat with Jackson who in turn confirmed one of the expected Avengers 2 casting choices - something Marvel Studios and Disney have been waiting on making official.

Not unlike the announcements of Bradley Cooper joining Guardians of the Galaxy and James Spader playing the titular Ultron in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, an official confirmation of Olsen joining the franchise will likely be made through Marvel’s own website, it’s just a matter of timing to separate out announcements for their upcoming projects. In the meantime, Sam L is doing the work for them:

“I don’t think we begin shooting before March of next year. I know we’re shooting in London, that James Spader is Ultron and going to be the bad guy, and that we added Ms. [Elizabeth] Olsen [who will play the Scarlet Witch], but I don’t know what she’s doing, if she’s on the inside or the outside. I haven’t seen a script.”

We previously reported on Elizabeth Olsen being in talks with Marvel and her interest in working with Robert Downey Jr., but nothing on the casting front is official. Olsen told MTV at the Toronto International Film Festival last month that she’d love to sign up but played coy as to the rumors of her being talks for the part.

“I’ve been rumored about lots of things [so] I don’t know… To be part of [The Avengers]? Sure. I grew up loving comic books and sci-fi… I think those movies are great. I would love to do something like that.”

Not only does the (magically powered) Scarlet Witch character need to be cast, but so does her (super fast) brother Quicksilver, who Aaron Taylor-Johnson has long been in talks for. Guardians of the Galaxy still needs to cast its Groot as well, a role Vin Diesel has been talking up since Comic-Con. Last but not least, director Edgar Wright revealed yesterday that he’s returning to Los Angeles after finishing his press tour for The World’s End to being pre-production on his long-in-development Ant-Man movie for Marvel, another project that will need to be cast in the coming months.

Rob Keyes blogs at Screen Rant.

Sal Mineo's life story is told in the new movie 'Sal,' directed by James Franco (pictured). (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Sal Mineo is the subject of a biopic by James Franco

By H. Shaw-WilliamsScreen Rant / 10.02.13

Nicholas Ray’s 1955 drama Rebel Without a Cause may well have launched a lengthy and successful film career for its star James Dean, had Dean not been tragically killed in a car accident a mere month before the release of the movie. It was a death that was felt around the world, but perhaps less well-known is the story of Dean’s co-star, Sal Mineo, who played John “Plato” Crawford in the film and received an Oscar nomination for the role.

Actor/director James Franco played Dean in a 2001 TV movie and returned to similar grounds when he directed his recent biopic Sal, which stars Val Lauren in the title role and tells the story of Mineo’s success in the wake of Rebel Without a Cause, followed by the downturn of his career in the 1960s – around the time that he became one of the first actors to openly acknowledge his homosexuality. In 1976, at the age of 37, Mineo was stabbed to death outside his apartment in West Hollywood.

Sal was screened at a couple of film festivals in 2011 and is finally getting a limited US release this fall, and the trailer (above) is very much about Lauren’s central performance as Mineo.

It looks very much like a low-budget movie shot in a short amount of time (the production was reportedly just nine days long) by a director fresh out of film school, which is exactly what it is, but that doesn’t mean that Sal isn’t worth watching. For those with an interest in the actor’s life and death, even a sketched-out biopic is likely to be an enjoyable watch.

Mineo may well end up being portrayed on the big screen again within the next few years, as another biopic of Dean is currently in development, to be directed by Anton Corbijn (The American). This film will star Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) as Dean and Robert Pattinson (Twilight) as his friend and photographer Dennis Stock. Since Stock and Dean met in 1955, after filming on Rebel Without a Cause was already complete, the biopic may not cover the film’s production but could nonetheless feature actors playing Dean’s co-stars, including Mineo.

Between this trailer for Sal and the recently released trailer for Franco’s other upcoming feature, As I Lay Dying, do you have have confidence in his abilities as a director or would you prefer to see him focus on acting?

H. Shaw-Williams blogs at Screen Rant.

Harry Potter spinoff movie: 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'

By H. Shaw-WilliamsScreen Rant / 10.01.13

The Harry Potter movies have altogether grossed over $7.7 billion at the box office alone, so it was always hard to imagine that Warner Bros. would keep such a lucrative franchise on the shelf for long. Sure enough, it only took two years from the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 for the studio to announce that J.K. Rowling is writing a spin-off movie based on the series’ spin-off book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and its author Newt Scamander.

“Fantastic Beasts” is mentioned in the main novels as one of the textbooks that Harry and his friends study at Hogwarts, but in 2001, Rowling published a 42-page version of it in aid of the charity Comic Relief. The movie will feature Newt as the protagonist and will presumably be all about his adventures in the field of magizoology.

Newt Scamander is more than just the next big hero of the onscreen wizarding world, however; he’s also a registered trademark. Bleeding Cool reports that Warner Bros. has been covering a number of trademark bases, not only for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them but also for other spin-off books within the Harry Potter franchise. Newt Scamander himself and the book’s title are naturally on the list of freshly registered trademarks, but they’re not alone.

“The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” which was also written and published as a spin-off book by Rowling, is another name that has been trademarked. One of the stories from the book, “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and the animation for it was highly praised by many critics. Perhaps Warner Bros. might commission further animations of the other tales, either for independent release or inclusion in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Or how about a sports movie based around the noble pastime of Quidditch? The final names to become registered trademarks are all related to another Rowling spin-off book: “Quidditch Through the Ages,” by Kennilworthy Whisp. Whisp himself is now a trademark, along with the book’s title and Quidditch team names Wimbourne Wasps, Chudley Cannons and Kenmare Kestrels.

It’s important to note that Warner Bros.’ registration of these trademarks is by no means a guarantee that they will end up becoming full moves like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The trademark covers everything from movies to TV series to video games and comic books, but there’s no telling if or when Warner Bros. will decide to adapt these specific spin-off titles. It’s likely that nothing major will be greenlit until Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has been released to test the waters of spin-off popularity.

Based on what we know so far, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them could end up being the Hobbit of the Harry Potter franchise: a story in the same universe without the fate of the entire free world having to rest upon the shoulders of the protagonist, so that there can be a greater focus on simple adventure. According to the books, Newt is only 21 when he publishes his famous book, meaning that the film would most likely follow the character in the very early stages of his career. It was apparently around this time that he managed to beat a magical creature away with a kettle, which would probably make for quite an interesting climax to his movie.

We’ll keep you updated on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as this story develops.

Source: Bleeding Cool

H. Shaw-Williams blogs at Screen Rant

Blake Shelton performs at the 2013 CMA Music Festival. (Wade Payne/Invision/AP)

Blake Shelton discusses new season of 'The Voice'

By Staff writer / 09.25.13

“The Voice” judge Blake Shelton has had his contestant win the past three seasons of the reality singing competition, but that’s not the only thing he likes about participating in the show. He also enjoys needling his fellow judge, Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine, he said recently on the “Today” show.

“[It] makes me happy," the singer said. "I live to make him feel bad about himself.”

Shelton and Levine are the only two “Voice” judges to have participated in all five seasons, with original judges Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green having exited for season four. Aguilera and Green have both returned for the current iteration, which debuted on Sept. 23.

In his “Today” interview, Shelton addressed those who may be ready for another judge’s contestant to triumph.

“[My winning streak] may be boring to you, but it's very exciting to me," he said. "That's my competition. I don't care if they like it or not.”

The singer said he was especially excited about singer Cher serving as a mentor to his team on the show.

“I love her," he said. "Looking back on all the movies and things she's been in — she's just playing herself... She doesn't take herself that seriously... she’s a very strong woman.” 

Cher recently told E! that she became more attached to the team than she had expected to.

“I wanted everyone to be good and everyone to win and of course, that's not possible," she said. "But there were some people that I thought, 'Boy, these kids are really talented – really, really talented.”

But will viewers stop watching if Shelton’s contestants keep coming out on top? Today Entertainment writer Craig Berman jokingly called “The Voice” “The Blake Shelton Show” but said he doesn’t think the show will suffer if Shelton triumphs again.

“Dynasties can be dull,” he wrote. “If fans already know who’s going to win a competition before it begins, there isn’t much reason to watch. That would be a problem if ‘The Voice’ was all about who wins... It’s not about the singers — it’s about the coaches, four successful singers who look like they’re having fun out there and encourage everyone watching to have fun right along with them.”

'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' stars Clark Gregg. (Justin Lubin/ABC/AP)

'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' premiere: Humor and a Joss Whedon ensemble cast should appeal

By Andrew DyceScreen Rant / 09.25.13

Marketing was an after-thought when Marvel made the simple announcement that the studio’s Avengers universe would be coming to television in the form of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. under writer/director Joss Whedon’s guidance. With a billion-dollar team-up in the bag and a host of ‘Phase Two’ films in production, the TV series would turn its gaze upon the men and women of S.H.I.E.L.D. with newly-resurrected Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in the leading role.

Creating an ABC series based on Marvel’s movie universe was never going to be flawless, even with creators Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen at the helm, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. certainly looks to be heading somewhere worthwhile.

It was no surprise when a TV series became part of Whedon’s appointment as head of the Marvel movie universe, trading cancelled shows like Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse for a heavily-marketed tie-in to The Avengers fiction. But for fans hoping to see some of Whedon’s risk-taking, or the darker themes set to appear in Marvel’s ‘Phase Two’ films, neither will be found here.

What audiences will get is a look at S.H.I.E.L.D. in the wake of the Battle of New York, working to track down unidentified superhumans, and cleaning up the fallout from the feature films. A still very-much-alive Agent Coulson joins forces with Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to welcome the chip-on-his-shoulder Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) onto the agency’s upper echelon. Rounding out the team is Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) along with tech experts Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jenna Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) known collectively as ‘Fitzsimmons.’

The team’s investigations bring them face to face with a world now aware of their existence, embodied in the Internet sleuth/blogger/activist Skye (Chloe Bennet). Fighting to prove that human beings can still matter in a world populated with god-like heroes and super-soldiers, the team work to keep super-humans on the side of good – or stop before they can do any harm. At least, that’s the pitch; the first episode has enough on its plate without having to show how an alien invasion would actually affect people, avoiding the issue for now.

Although the show’s filming style is almost indiscernible from any of ABC’s higher-budget programming, and many of the characters fall cleanly into generic stereotypes to begin with, the actors bring enough to their roles to get by. There are some exceptions that might pull fans out of the story – Cobie Smulders seems more at home as Nick Fury’s second-in-command than an administrator – but with the plot driving events for the most part, more development is needed to see how the pieces fit together.

In hindsight, bringing viewers into the inner working of S.H.I.E.L.D. through the eyes of a new recruit could have allowed Coulson to retain his usual position in the story, but with Ward far too generic a caricature to pull off that responsibility (thus far), no character truly sets themselves apart as the ‘lead.’ Fan sentiment would imply Coulson will step up, but it seems the cast will be righting themselves on one massive see-saw in the show’s first episodes.

The core issue that diehard fans of Marvel’s Avengers universe will be unable to overlook is the fact that, to this point, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been depicted as the most secretive, most elite (and potentially morally ambiguous) government organization around. As Coulson explains in the first episode, even the Avengers aren’t granted access to ‘Level 7′ information; a clever means of removing them from the show, but implying that the no-nonsense team will be dealing with threats too explosive for outside assistance.

Yet in the first episode, that isn’t what audiences get. Instead of stone-faced, elite secret agents whom viewers would trust to do the Avengers’ legwork, the cast is filled with quirky, quippy, and shockingly youthful agents. The cast still proves their value in their respective fields – with Ming Na and Brett Dalton’s characters promising seriousness in future proceedings – but the overall tone (and the show’s closing moments in particular) oscillates as much as any Marvel film so far.

It’s not hard to understand that decision, since the chuckle-per-scene humor and levity is a clear move to target Disney and Marvel’s family audience. The downside is that the lighter tone makes the brief instances of violence – one of which comes early in the episode – may be jarring to younger viewers, with widespread humor diminishing the singular humor that made Agent Coulson a hit in the first place.

As we’ve reiterated, the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had more foundation to lay than most feature films, so it’s not surprising that the overall product is somewhat uneven. Still, Joss Whedon’s talent for constructing ensemble casts out of distinct personalities is here in full force, promising a worthwhile story in each character’s future. At the end of the day, there’s enough comic book mythology to pique Marvel fans’ curiosity; enough of Coulson’s humor to keep his (and Firefly) fans happy; enough scientific quirk and minutia to give elements of Dollhouse a second life, and an overall Disney feeling that will send the show to the top of any family’s weekly viewing.

Andrew Dyce blogs at Screen Rant.

Filmmaker Andrew Thomas (l.) has created a documentary which chronicles the life of Malcolm Boyd (r.), an Episcopal priest who was one of the first to come out as gay and who has become well-known for his views that the church is too separated from the everyday lives of Americans. (By Gary G. Yerkey)

Episcopal priest, Malcolm Boyd, is star of a new documentary

By Gary G. Yerkey / 09.21.13

Los Angeles filmmaker Andrew Thomas has turned his attention from the secular to the religious by directing a feature-length documentary on the life and times of the Rev. Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest who says the church needs to be more relevant to the everyday person and has worked to improve that issue.

Thomas, who has created, produced and written series for A&E and the Discovery Channel, said he plans to release a preview of the film, “Disturber of the Peace,” at the Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in California on Sept. 21 and expects to release the film at selected theaters across the country early next year.

He said the film will contain extensive past and present-day exclusive footage of Boyd, who turned 90 years old on June 8, along with interviews with those who knew and and worked with him during his long career, including political activist Tom Hayden and actress Lily Tomlin.

Boyd, who is writer-in-residence at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, said he has worked closely with Thomas on the film, which will highlight his years on the front lines of the civil rights movement and the struggle to obtain equal rights for gays and lesbians as well as his ongoing efforts to revitalize the modern-day church. Before becoming a priest, Boyd founded a production company with actress Mary Pickford and was one of the Freedom Riders.

Dubbed the “Espresso Priest” because he spoke in so many coffee shops, Boyd, who became one of the first Episcopal priests to come out publicly as gay in 1977, predicted at the opening of a month-long speaking stint at the hungry i nightclub in San Francisco in 1966 that the church as an institution would be dead in two generations unless it “comes down to earth.” Today, he says he remains concerned about the viability of the church, finding it is too often aloof from the everyday concerns of ordinary people.

South African Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has said that Boyd's "genius" has been to show that God is everywhere, "even for those who say they do not believe in God, as reported in The Christian Science Monitor.

"He was ahead of his time, being a white civil rights prophet on behalf of people of color, protesting against tyranny and war, asserting God's inclusivity for all people, including gays, and offering prayer in actions as well as words," Archbishop Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has said. Today, Boyd shares a place with Tutu as an "elder" – a "North Star" guiding younger generations "beyond treacherous waters," Tutu says.

Over the years, Boyd has written more than 30 books, including the unorthodox book of prayers entitled "Are You Running With Me, Jesus?," which became a bestseller upon its publication in 1965. His other books have included "As I Live and Breathe: Stages of an Autobiography," "Gay Priest: An Inner Journey," and "Simple Grace:  A Mentor’s Guide to Growing Older." Today, he continues to speak out on various social issues and writes a regular column on religion for the Huffington Post.   

Thomas has written, produced and/or directed episodes of several TV series, including “COPS,” for which he was nominated for an Emmy, and “Modern Marvels.” His 2009 film “The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi” garnered five film festival Best Documentary awards.

As Thomas told the Episcopal News Service, it was the film on Guaraldi that lend him to do the Boyd documentary.

“Guaraldi composed ‘Cast Your Fate to the Wind’ and the music for ‘Peanuts’ and I realized that Malcolm worked with Vince twice in his life,” Thomas recalled. “[Vince] composed all the music for the very first jazz mass at Grace Cathedral and Malcolm did the sermon and then a month later, Malcolm did a series of performances at the hungry i [a café in San Francisco],” he recalled.

After some initial checking, Thomas discovered Boyd was alive and well and “living about two miles from me,” the filmmaker recalled. “It was a wonderful, serendipitous moment to know that one of your heroes is still alive.”

He has also written, produced and co-edited two two-hour TV specials – one on Marilyn Monroe and the other on Shirley Temple – for A&E’s Emmy Award-winning "Biography" television series.

Natalie Portman recently hinted a Marvel movie with a female superhero at its center may be on the way. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Natalie Portman hints at a future Marvel female superhero movie

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 09.20.13

We have echoed the thoughts of many other comic book fans, when it comes to our stance towards the issue of diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; in short, the MCU needs more of it. The upcoming installments in Phase 2 will make progress on that front by introducing characters like Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and then Scarlet Witch in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but as right now there’s been no official confirmation that a Marvel superhero movie featuring a non-white and/or non-male protagonist will be made in the near future.

However, there has been the off-hand statement made by Marvel executives here and there in recent months, suggesting that the studio is taking steps to change that. First, Marvel Studios producer Louis D’Esposito acknowledged that there’s “a drumbeat that is getting louder and louder” for a female superhero mainstay in the MCU. And now, it appears that Marvel could be developing a TV series based around Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell in the Captain America movies) – one that builds on the foundation laid by Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (assuming the latter is a success when it premieres on ABC next week).

We can add Natalie Portman – who reprises as astrophysicist Jane Foster in Thor: The Dark World this fall – to the list of Marvel folk who’ve hinted that a female superhero move is in the works. Here is what the Oscar-winning actress said, during her interview with SciFiNow:

“There are definitely many strong women [in the MCU], but it will be exciting when there is a central female character which I think is coming – I have heard is coming – and, of course, also a central non-white character will also be exciting. Title characters.”

Comic book legend and Marvel executive producer Stan Lee has continually name-dropped Black Panther as a comic book character who is going to get their own solo vehicle in the foreseeable future, but as of right now there doesn’t seem to be much (if any) room for the Prince of Wakanda to be included in Phase 3 of the MCU (given the momentum that properties like Inhumans and Doctor Strange have on their sides, anyway). That’s not to say a Marvel Studio release featuring a central non-white lead isn’t part of the studio’s plan leading up to Avengers 4 in 2021, but (as Portman implies) there seems to be a more likely chance that a female superhero standalone vehicle will hit the big screen first.

There’s been talk over the years about Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow getting her own solo vehicle, but that seems unlikely to happen. In part, that’s because it would appear that Natasha Romanoff is going to be (essentially) a central player alongside Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in the Captain America sequel – leading up to her playing an important role in Avengers: Age of Ultron thereafter.

Beyond that, the most obvious choice for a female Marvel superhero flick is Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel, with regard to the list of female comic book characters that Marvel Studios can actually include in the MCU (due to Fox and Sony owning the rights to many of the popular female Marvel superheroes). Fan-favorite Katee Sackhoff (Riddick) has expressed her interest in playing a couple of different comic book characters – including Typhoid Mary from Daredevil (the movie rights for which now belong to Marvel Studios) – and recently let it be known that Marvel has expressed an interest in collaborating with her… but almost certainly not on a new Daredevil movie, to prevent any confusion.

Would Katee Sackhoff be a good choice to play Ms./Captain Marvel in the MCU, or should the actress be cast as someone else? Better yet, forget which female characters are more likely to get their own standalone vehicle – who do you want to see featured as the lead in an upcoming Marvel female superhero film (be it a Phase 3 or Phase 4 installment)?

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

'Ozymandias,' the newest 'Breaking Bad' episode, stars Bryan Cranston. (Ursula Coyote/AMC/AP)

'Ozymandias' recap: The newest 'Breaking Bad' episode finds many main characters in trouble

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 09.17.13

When people seem more concerned with interpreting the increasingly cryptic previews for the next episode of any show, it’s a pretty good indication that the prior installment ended with some kind of incredible cliffhanger. Of course, when it comes to Breaking Bad, that has to do with last week’s superb ‘To’hajiilee,’ which ended midway through a gunfight that found Hank and Gomez horrendously outgunned, and definitely outnumbered in the psychopath department.

There’s a moment after the inevitable happens with Hank that finds Walt looking back in his rearview mirror and he sees nothing; there’s no evidence of what just transpired. It’s reflective of the way that director Rian Johnson composed ‘Ozymandias’ around Moira Walley-Beckett’s superb script, in how so much of the brutality that’s perpetrated throughout the episode, from the deaths of Hank and Gomez, to Jesse’s torture, to Skyler pulling Walt Jr. into her office to confess her crimes and the crimes of his father, occurs off-screen.

All the truly gruesome and visceral violence is ostensibly left on the cutting room floor; major scenes, like the episode itself, begin in medias res, a tactic that constantly leaves the audience gasping for breath and trying to keep pace, rather than waiting for events to play out. In essence, Vince Gilligan and his Breaking Bad crew have already set up all their shots, and now it’s time to take them.

But this technique is significant in another way, too. Because for all the carnage that’s perpetrated against major characters in the episode, there’s perhaps none more horrific or lasting than what transpires between Walt and his family. Knife fights are one thing; there’s a good chance the cut on Walter’s hand will heal with time, perhaps forming a scar as a lasting reminder. The difference between Skyler’s attack on Walt is that it isn’t coming from a place of outright aggression, but rather one of self-defense (whatever her complicity in the past); it’s a violent response visited upon an assailant who has inflicted wounds upon his family that will surely never heal.

At this point, the scope of Walt’s storyline has been reduced from the souless pursuit of building an empire, to simply providing for his family, to mere self-preservation. Twice during ‘Ozymandias’ Walt tries to sell the magic and the wonder of a bright, shiny new life – “Any future you want” – that all his money will be able to buy, to those who are past the point of listening to him. Walt tries to buy Hank’s life from Jack, as though there’s something he has to offer the Nazi that the guy can’t simply take. Despite the promise of 80 million dollars and the sort of freedom from the toils of meth making that amount of money can buy, Walt winds up on the losing end of the bargain when Jack takes nearly all of his cash and the life of his brother-in-law.

In one final act, Walt buries any hope of ever returning under a torrent of words designed to paint him as the mastermind, and his family – and Skyler in particular – as the unwitting victims in his dreadful scheme. There is no future for Walter White anymore, and he knows it. In fact, there’s no Walter White from this point on either; there’s just a man who used to be him, and will soon be Mr. Lambert.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

'The Walking Dead' stars Andrew Lincoln (l.), Danai Gurira (center), and Melissa Ponzio (r.). (Gene Page/AMC/AP)

'Walking Dead' spinoff: AMC announces the program will debut in 2015

By Kofi OutlawScreen Rant / 09.17.13

Entertainment brands are no longer being built lengthwise – they’re being built widthwise. In a post-Avengers world, extending a franchise through sequels, prequels, interquels or other time-bending techniques isn’t sufficient; audiences of today want unique worlds to fully immerse themselves in – the bigger, the better.

Marvel superheroes and their universe have given rise to expansion plans for the DC SuperheroStar Wars and Harry Potter universes – even television has been following the strategy, with AMC widening their Breaking Bad franchise into the Better Call Saul spinoff series; and now more world will be added to the network’s flagship series, The Walking Dead

AMC made the announcement that it will produce a Walking Dead companion series with a 2015 air date in mind; serving on the show as executive producers are Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and show producers Glae Anne Hurd and David Alpert.

Kirkman had the following to say about the new show (of which details are scant at the moment):

“After 10 years of writing the comic book series and being so close to the debut of our fourth, and in my opinion, best season of the TV series, I couldn’t be more thrilled about getting the chance to create a new corner of ‘The Walking Dead’ universe,” said Kirkman. “The opportunity to make a show that isn’t tethered by the events of the comic book, and is truly a blank page, has set my creativity racing.”

Along with the rise of the “franchise universe” model has come the inevitable cynicism that “universe building” is actually just a euphemism for “cash-grabbing.” In the case of a Breaking Bad spinoff it’s easy to see why someone might feel sour about such a focused and self-contained character drama being transformed into a franchise universe; however, Walking Dead is a different creature, entirely.

The goal of Robert Kirkman was always to create a zombpocalypse saga that is long-lasting and widespread, so really the comic series (and subsequently the show) comes with inherent potential for a much larger universe to be explored. There are infinite number of characters, storylines and perspectives that could be configured into a marketable show; the caveat being that the showrunners will have to be able to find a distinctly new thematic and character drama hook, other than survivors trying to deal with the toll of survival on a zombified earth. We’ve seen that before. Judging from Kirkman’s words, however, something new and fresh is indeed the intention.

Personally speaking, I was one of those viewers who was wholly engrossed when Lost ran its “Tailies” mini-arc in the second season. The switch in perspective and introduction of new characters – different and intriguing characters – set within a familiar world, was an overall fun experience. (In fact, I still consider it a misstep that the showrunners ultimately negated the entire “Tailies Saga” by systematically killing those characters off.)

That’s all to say: There is plenty of potential for the zombpocalypse to offer us more compelling TV drama – at least in my opinion.

Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.

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