For moviegoers who are still unfamiliar with author (now screenwriter) Seth Grahame-Smith, the idea of an undead-slaying Honest Abe might seem especially ridiculous – but that’s only because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter beat Grahame-Smith’s other well known horror mashup novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, to the big screen. While Pride and Prejudice and Zombies continues to languish in preproduction hell, director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) managed to bring Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to fruition, barely two years after the source material book was first published (in March 2010).
However, despite an intriguing (and purposefully absurd) premise, moviegoers have a plethora of vampire films to choose from, these days. Do Grahame-Smith and Bekmambetov manage to deliver a film adaptation that successfully juggles the campy setup and over-the-top action with intriguing alt-history tie-ins and enjoyable character/Presidential drama?
Fortunately, the answer is yes, assuming that moviegoers can suspend enough disbelief and lock into Grahame-Smith’s eccentric retelling of Abraham Lincoln’s secret monster-slaying nightlife. Certainly, anyone expecting a straightforward and grounded take on the life of Honest Abe should pass on the film (and look to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis), as Vampire Hunter is full of one-note characters, sometimes laughable attempts at tying the supernatural plot to real life events, and several over-the-top set pieces. That said, the mashup film is exactly what viewers should have expected from a Bekmambetov film about an axe-wielding President who fights to free America from slavery and undead bloodsuckers, alike.
For anyone unfamiliar with the alternate historical account depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the film (and source material novel) are centered around Abe’s secret diary, which includes the account of both his political – as well as supernatural – encounters, starting with the death of his mother at the hands of Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), a local businessman/vampire. After years of patiently waiting, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) sets out to avenge his mother and encounters Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) – who trains Abe in the art of vampire hunting and impressively choreographed axe wielding. Despite Henry’s instruction to avoid making friends or starting a family, Lincoln befriends a local shopkeep, Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), courts Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and reconnects with childhood friend/free African-American, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie). Though, when vampire chief Adam (Rufus Sewell) forms an alliance with confederate separatists, Lincoln’s loved ones (as well as the country itself) are threatened – forcing the 16th President to take action in and outside of the political arena.
As mentioned, the basic plot of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter can be pretty convoluted – especially in its attempts to marry historical events and real-life personalities with supernatural elements. At times, history and fiction are stitched together in a way that makes both sides of the mashup more interesting, such as Lincoln’s time spent running a general store and a flatboat trip to New Orleans; unfortunately, other moments are too on-the-nose – relying on thin (and overly convenient) supernatural explanations for real events.
Similarly, characters are exceptionally one-dimensional – which is, by far, the biggest missed opportunity in the entire film (considering the story utilizes a number of historical figures within a supernatural conspiracy plot). While audiences may be surprised to find that one of history’s most iconic leaders (who, in this case, also happens to fight vampires at night) isn’t all that interesting, it’s hardly the fault of actor Benjamin Walker – who manages to keep what could have otherwise been a goofy portrayal of the 16th President (both old and young) grounded and believable during even the most outrageous monster slaying escapades. Both Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Mary Todd and Anthony Mackie’s William Johnson are equally competent but underutilized – mostly reacting to increasingly crazy revelations without room to actually flesh out their characters as anything more than Lincoln’s loved ones. However, the biggest character misfire is the flat-out boring implementation of the primary vampires – the aforementioned Adam, and his lady Vadoma (Erin Wasson), who are nothing more than soulless faces in a convoluted attempt by Grahame-Smith to marry a vampire rebellion with anti-abolitionist confederates.
In spite of its shortcomings, the core premise rarely fails to entertain (even if there are a number of eye roll-worthy moments), since the vampire hunting elements successfully up-the-ante with each encounter. Early on, Lincoln forgoes his mentor’s preferred means of dispatching vampires, i.e. silver bullets – in favor of some slick axe work. While some audience members may find the axe versus vampire flesh sequences to be a little too flashy (and hard to follow), Bekmambetov utilizes some effective slow motion camerawork to showcase Lincoln’s stylish and acrobatic slaying techniques. In a genre that is overwrought with gun battles and throwing knives, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter thankfully presents a number of entertaining close quarters combat sequences that, despite our obvious real-world knowledge of Lincoln, make it easy to believe that the President could go toe-to-toe with similarly gifted monster slayers like Blade and Van Helsing.
Despite some high-octane action moments in the film’s trailer, Vampire Hunter is actually pretty intimate – as most of the epic moments are still pretty confined (narratively speaking). Few of the set pieces are given much time to build tension and many of the encounters offer little more than flashy hack and slash choreography. This isn’t to say that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter can’t deliver on excitement – since a number of the vampire hand-to-Honest Axe combats benefit from Bekmambetov’s trademark fast and furious action beats.
Additionally, while many theaters will be pushing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in 3D, the film would be just as enjoyable without the premium upgrade. There are a few moments where the slow-motion axe combat looks especially slick (as vampire blood spews into the air) and several larger shots (such as a trip on the Mississippi river as well as Civil War battlefields) are definitely enhanced by the added dimension; but only those few moments are must see in 3D. As a result, the 3D up charge isn’t a waste, but it’s hardly required viewing.
Moviegoers expecting a gritty “Lincoln kills vampires” character drama will likely be disappointed by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; although, as a tongue-in-cheek action mashup, Grahame-Smith and Bekmambetov have, for the most part, delivered an entertaining (albeit campy) historical retelling. The film doesn’t quite deliver a fully-formed combination of history and supernatural horror (if that’s even possible), but for anyone who can accept the experience on its own terms, there are plenty of entertaining moments of vampire hunting to keep your appetite for blood a fun time at the theater sated.
Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.
While we all wait to see if The Twilight Saga is getting a reboot, there is still the old business of closing out this first version of the story, which will be done when Breaking Dawn – Part 2 hits theaters this winter. Today, we have the first full trailer for the film, which was once again directed by Oscar-winner Bill Condon (Dream Girls).
The teaser trailer focused on Bella (Kristen Stewart) as she enjoyed the super speed, strength, and ruby eyes that come as perks with being transformed into a vampire. In the full-length theatrical promo for the film, Mrs. Cullen also clarifies that she was, in fact, born to be a blood-thirsty immortal creature (take THAT as you will).
However, there are far more important events in motion in Breaking Dawn – Part 2, beyond Bella’s coming of (vampire) age. The powerful Volturi clan has gotten wind of the fact that Bella and Edward (Robert Pattinson) have procreated, giving rise to their human/vampire hybrid daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) – and are misled to believe that the Cullen child represents a serious threat to the very existence of their kind.
Determined to protect Renesmee at all costs, Bella and Edward gather allies from around the globe, including, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who remains fiercely loyal to Bella and her daugher, having “imprinted” on the latter – and other vampire clans, hailing from areas as exotic and foreign as the Amazon. Together, they form a small army, in order to prepare for the impending battle against the Volturi and their forces.rMuch like the trailers for previous Twilight films, there’s many a noteworthy moment and scene teased in the Breaking Dawn – Part 2 footage shown here – which is enough to send die-hard fans running up the wall in excitement – similar to how trailers for The Avengers left superhero fans ecstatic. Of course, those who fall on the opposite side of the Twilight fence (does that even exist?) will have little in the way of new material to bring to the conversation, other than the usual complaints about the quality of the collective cast’s acting, CGI werewolf effects, or a joke about just how tight Lautner’s shirts are.
To be fair, though, not every Twilight fan was blown away by what director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg did with the first half of Breaking Dawn (read out review). In fact, a minority are probably envious of how other young adult series (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games) have managed to offer solid entertainment value for their fans, beyond the chance to see their favorite characters brought to life on the big screen. For that reason, we hope Breaking Dawn – Part 2 does, in fact, end up being a satisfying finale for Twilight‘s followers.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
Next stop for Woody Allen on his European tour de force? Rome.
The film, featuring four vignettes of different characters in a style typical for Allen films, stars a slew of celebrities, including Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Alec Balden, Jesse Eisenberg, and Allen himself. Check out the trailer below and come back for Peter Rainer's review on Friday.
Duran Duran is still keeping fans enthralled.
After more than 30 years in the music business, the 1980s pin-up boys have long graduated from the covers of Tiger Beat and Bop. But the British band still has the golden touch in connecting with their millions of fans through vast channels of social media, contests, and the much desired meet-and-greet.
Take today, for example. It's bassist John Taylor's birthday, and he posted a handwritten birthday message for one lucky Duranie to win. Earlier this month, keyboardist Nick Rhodes sent a video birthday message along with a playlist of some of his favorite songs.
Tonight, Duran Duran makes a special appearance in New York City at a private show with DJ Steve Aoki. The band gave away tickets to the event, billed as a mystery gig, to fan community members. (Yes, Duran Duran still has a rabid fan club.)
Maya Garcia, a Duranie since 1982, received two tickets to the show. She paid for airfare from Chicago to the Big Apple on short notice in order to attend. It's super special for her because it's John's birthday - although Nick is her favorite.
"I am expecting a bit more interaction with the band than during a normal show, since the crowd will be comprised of mostly Duran Duran fans, most of whom are fan club members, the 'hardcore' contingent," she says. "I expect to hear rarities or tracks never performed live before. And I also hope to see the band members sing 'Happy Birthday' to John Taylor. That should be both entertaining and amusing to watch."
It's no surprise that Duran Duran has intensely engaged 21st century technology. The band was one of the first to shoot glossy music videos in the 1980s. Lead singer Simon Le Bon running through the jungle in "Hungry Like The Wolf" has become an iconic image of the decade. In 1997, Duran Duran touted that it was the first band to sell a single on the Internet.
The band's social media goddess, Katy Krassner, manages the popular Duran Duran website and various streams of social media, including Pinterest, the most recent Duranie addiction.
"I've been working with Duran Duran for over a decade, and the evolution of their social communities has truly been amazing," Krassner says.
Krassner snaps candid pictures of the band at rehearsals and tweets them to nearly 70,000 Twitter followers and 860,000 Facebook fans. She sends reminders about upcoming media appearances and interacts with fans about the band. She also creates content across media platforms.
Now is a busy time for Krassner. That's because Duran Duran is releasing its first live DVD and CD, "A Diamond in the Mind," in nearly a decade in July. They are also preparing for more dates on their current world tour and will headline a major concert on the opening night of the Olympic Games in London.
Krassner is currently overseeing a Facebook giveaway that asks fans to change their profile pictures to one of three featuring the Diamond project. Daily winners receive a CD and a shout-out on the band's Facebook page. In a move reminiscent of the '80s when Duranies waited breathlessly for MTV world premiere videos, the band will debut the live concert on Facebook on July 8. For $4.99, fans can watch the concert online, and then participate in a live Q&A session with the band after they play a show in Istanbul.
So much interaction has reignited Duranies who have never stopped loving their teen idols.
"The band's fans have been so supportive, and have literally followed them off magazine pages onto the Internet," Krassner says.
Suzi Parker is a Monitor contributor.
Many fans have been waiting to see a trailer for The Dark Knight Rises which effectively encapsulates the epic thematic nature of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy finale, showcases its majestic action sequences and set pieces – and, even throws in some light-hearted moments, meant to offer viewers a chance to catch their breath (without feeling forced or out of place). Suffice it to say: that day has come.
Nokia has released a trailer for Dark Knight Rises, and it really is the best of both worlds. Everything fans loved about the third theatrical promo and the first TV spots for the film, are mixed together here. Put frankly: if this preview doesn’t get you pumped to see Nolan’s last Batman movie, nothing will.
The latest promo for Dark Knight Rises offer the most alluring taste of Bane’s (Tom Hardy) blitzkrieg campaign against the citizens of Gotham City – including, its shadowy guardian, Batman (Christian Bale), who’s been semi-retired for nearly eight years, following his defeat of The Joker. Under-prepared and overwhelmed by the sheer might of Bane and his forces, our hero finds himself exiled from his homeland.
With the assistance of old comrades like Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) – plus, a shaky alliance struck with the mysterious crook Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) – Bruce Wayne attempts to fully resurrect his identity as the Caped Crusader… and stage a last-ditch effort to take Bane down, once and for all.
Avengers proved to offer loads of unmitigated fun, while next month’s Amazing Spider-Man has potential to also be a great addition to the superhero pantheon. However, there’s a weightiness to everything in Dark Knight Rises that its comic book peers simply do not possess. Perhaps that’s due to the unmatched grittiness of the street battles staged in Nolan’s film – or the emotional-resonance inherent to a climactic chapter in the grim legend of Bruce Wayne. Either way, TDKR is poised to pack quite the emotional punch, while delivering all the awe-inspiring spectacle we’ve been anticipating for several months (years?) now.
The Dark Knight Rises stars Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard. It is of course directed by Christopher Nolan, based on a screenplay he co-penned with Jonathan Nolan (working from a story co-conceived by Davis S. Goyer).
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
FALLING SKIES debuted last summer to record breaking numbers as fans across the globe avidly tuned into see the mesmerizing aliens and to figure out how humans were going to reclaim their planet. During a recent press conference at Zoic Studios, executive producers Remi Aubuchon, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank provided some insight on how they approached the second season of the alien occupation series that has the whole world buzzing.
The first season finale was clearly a game-changer? What were you thinking ending it with Tom Mason walking onto the alien ship?
REMI: Well, I wasn’t involved then.
DARRYL: When we hired him, he was like, “Thanks a lot guys. Now I’ve got to write my way out this one!” ‘Cause he wasn’t involved in the first season. He was only involved in the 2nd season.
REMI: I only got involved when we started talking about possibly me coming and running the 2nd season. I was literally thrown in a room on a Saturday and I watched all of the episodes, and as I was watching I was going, “This is cool. This is cool.” Then it got to the end and I went, “Oh my god, what am I going to do?!” So someone else painted me into that corner. But the truth is that I love a challenge. It was really fun to figure out: why did he go there? I called up the writers of the first season and they all said, “I don’t know.” But the truth is we came up with an awesome way to move forward from that; and actually in many ways, that final sequence ended up informing much of the energy, thrust and engine of the second season.
DARRYL: We had ideas. I mean, we had ideas of where we would go — possible different directions — but we sort of left it up to Remi and the writers. We have some writers from the first season that stayed on and some new writers who sort of come up with what they wanted, and we’re really happy with where it ended up.
What’s the balance like? For example, in the first season there was a good balance between the sci-fi elements and the relationships and the more homosapien drama.
REMI: I think we follow basically the same balance. The one thing that I’ll say is that the stakes are upped on both sides of that equation. I think we have incorporated a lot more of what I’d call science fiction elements into the second season. But at the same time, I think the emotional stakes for our human drama has also risen a lot. People are more comfortable with each other. They were just thrown together literally in the first season. They were trying to figure out who they are and what their roles were. Those roles are a little more defined in the second season, and so the consequences in that with familiarity comes actually increased conflict a lot of the time; or certainly more interaction between characters. The one thing I’ll say is that most of the writers — we all come from genre backgrounds and we’re all basically science fiction geeks and we love that sort of stuff — but we always forced ourselves to have the center of the story be emotionally based from our characters. We surround them with a lot of fun science fiction elements, which I think makes it cool, but ultimately it’s about our own characters’ needs, wants and conflicts.
DARRYL: I’ll concede that the dual franchise was critical from the get-go. It was important for Steven [Spielberg] and certainly our partners at TNT — and it is something we never want to lose sight of. There’s certainly more mythology in the second season, and, as Remi said, as we’ve gotten to know these characters, it all of that moves along at a brisk pace — a really satisfying one at that, I think.
Is there more pressure on you after a successful season and the bar has been raised really high to try to keep the bar that high?
DARRYL: The first thing that Steven [Spielberg] said to us about Season 2 was: “We have to deliver on the promise of the first season.” I remember when we first brought Remi in, it was no real pressure. We’ve need we had the first 2 episodes since we were talking about doing a 2-hour premiere. But Steven’s like, “It’s got to be bigger and badder than the first season ’cause we’ve delivered at such a high level in the first season that if you don’t reach that in the second season, you’re going to let the audience down.” Steven was very clear that we need to take it up a notch – to amp it up. These were all the words he used; and I think we totally delivered.
JUSTIN: I’m already anxious about the third season! But the 2nd season is mostly attributable to [Remi]. It’s fantastic. I mean it really does deliver in a meaningful way. It’s going to be fun.
Can you talk about how you upped the ante in the second season?
REMI: I think that the first thing is that the 2nd Mass, which is the group that we’re following, have decided to take the fight to the enemy; and the enemy has responded to that by taking the fight back to us. I think that makes us more mobile and on the move. I think that as relationships have developed — specifically, I’m thinking of the relationship between Captain Weaver and Tom and then Tom and Pope, and other factions in the group — that those stakes have been raised also. It’s questions of: “Who’s direction do we follow? Where do we go? What are we going to do?” Those have also helped amp it up. I think largely what we are doing is we’re more mobile; we’re going to learn more about the aliens; and during the course, we’re going to have more interaction with the aliens — and that immediately amps things up. It is one thing to see them from a distance. It’s another thing to see them face-to-face and to have to deal with them. So a lot of that is involved.
DARRYL: It’s also: “What’s the motive of the aliens? What’s the mythology behind the harness and how that has repercussions on some of the folks that have had those put on them?” All of those things are answered in a really satisfying and interesting way.
Speaking of the harness, Ben seems to be at the forefront of this season. Can you talk about the evolution of his character?
DARRYL: It was interesting. Connor came back as an actor and had really blossomed physically. He was a boy who became a man over the course of our hiatus and it really worked well into that character and the changes he is undergoing, without giving much away.
REMI: We had a nut of an idea with what we wanted to do with Ben and, in early discussions with Greg Beeman who is our director/producer, he said, “You know, Connor is a really smart kid and even though he’s not as experienced an actor as others in the cast, I think he can handle this.” So we had several discussions with him. He goes through quite a journey this season and I think all of that has been set up in the first season — what ends up happening to him and the rest of the 2nd Mass, it has repercussions for everybody.
DARRYL: His character really breaks out. Every member of the Mason family is critical, but he really steps up in a meaningful way. Not only as a character on the page, but in the maturity of the actor, Connor, himself in a satisfying way.
Where is this season going? Last season it was about discovering that they could fight back. What’s this season really about?
REMI: I think this season is about finding a way for humans to establish a hold on their home. The reason that sounds more vague than I mean it to be is just because there’s so many twists and turns that I really don’t want to give away because it will be fun. But I think that a lot of what we are exploring in the 2nd season is: “How much do we want to survive?” Which I think is a relevant question. “How much do we really want to make this our place and our home? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to make sure that we prevail over some species that has decided, without asking permission, that they want what we have?” We’re not putting that on big billboards, but I think that is the underlying engine that is driving the motivations of our characters. I am fascinated by the human ability to survive the most horrible things and out of that comes usually amazing stuff.
Now that House, M.D. has concluded an eight-season run, star Hugh Laurie is once again available for more than the occasional onscreen appearance (Street Kings) or voiceover job (Arthur Christmas). Besides a leading role in the upcoming Mister Pip adaptation, it looks like Laurie’s next significant live-action role will be a part in the RoboCop remake/reboot.
Laurie is currently in negotiations for the new RoboCop; assuming a deal is struck, he’ll portray the villainous CEO of Omnicorp (known as Omni Consumer Products, in the original film), the organization responsible for resurrecting near-dead Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) as the titular super-human cyborg.
Credit for the scoop on Laurie circling RoboCop goes to Heat Vision; as is also mentioned in their report, the actor could join a cast that already includes such noteworthy people as Abbie Cornish (Bright Star), Gary Oldman, and Samuel L. Jackson in supporting roles. That’s a different collection of talent than the buzz-worthy acting crew MGM/Sony was supposedly eying originally (including, Edward Norton and Rebecca Hall), but it’s equally impressive. Certainly, part of the appeal of the RoboCop do-over (for the actors) is the opportunity to appear in the first Hollywood vehicle helmed by acclaimed Brazilian filmmaker, José Padilha (Elite Squad).
Few concrete details are currently available for the RoboCop reboot script, which Nick Schenk (Gran Torino), James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man), and promising newcomer Joshua Zetumer share screenwriting credits on. Padilha previously indicated that his take on the story will explore the process (physical and psychological) that Murphy undergoes to become a half-machine; moreover, Murphy’s (ex-)wife (Cornish) is expected to play a much more significant role in the proceedings. Those elements alone could help to distinguish Padilha’s RoboCop from Verhoeven’s, considering Murphy’s wife was only featured via flashbacks in his version – and the title character’s transformation was covered over the course of a brief montage (shown entirely from Murphy’s POV).
Padilha’s RoboCop will also cover social themes similar to those in Verhoeven’s movie (in particular, the influence of corporate America), in addition to exploring ideas about the increased prevalence of technology in our everyday lives. There’s certainly a risk that the satire in RoboCop could fall on the preachy side – or (worse?) retread the exact same territory as Verhoeven did – but Padilha has already demonstrated a knack for mixing social commentary with gritty violence, which bodes well for the remake. Having people like Laurie and Oldman around to humanize the film’s “evil businessmen” should also help, in that regard.
RoboCop is scheduled to begin production later this summer, in order to make an August 9th, 2013 U.S. theatrical release date.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
There seem to be two questions asked by two different sets of people when it comes to tonight’s return to the infamous Southfork ranch of DALLAS fame. Folks who loved the iconic original want to know if the reboot is worthy of the original, and those too young to have watched the classic wonder if they’ll be able to dive into TNT’s version (launching with a two-hour premiere tonight at 9 p.m. ET) without feeling lost.
Happily, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes.
As someone who spent the seemingly endless summer of 1980 wondering who shot J.R. — along with the estimated 83 million people who tuned in on November 21, 1980 to learn that the triggerman had actually been his sister-in-law, Kristen — the thought of a network attempting to reboot DALLAS sent shivers down my spine. It wouldn’t — couldn’t — be the same.
And in some regards, that proved to be true.
After all, it’s been over two decades since CBS struck ratings gold by introducing us to the oil-loving Ewing family. We’ve changed and so, as it turns out, have they. Interestingly, it is the fact that TNT opted not to reboot the show so much as simply rejoin the family we know so well as if their lives have continued in our absence.
For longtime fans, it’s a bit jarring to see just how old our pals have gotten over the past 20 years, if only because it means we, too, have seen a lot of sand go through the hourglass. Like attending a 20-year high school reunion, our first impulse is to find out how everyone held up. But instead of hearing about the kids, jobs, wives and lives of those we’re catching up with, we get to see it all first hand. While getting over the initial shock of finding out that former football star Bobby Ewing is suffering from more than just the normal aches and pains associated with aging and his brother, J.R., is literally a shell of his former self, we are introduced to their respective sons. Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Bobby’s adopted son Christopher is an upstanding young man while J.R. and Sue Ellen’s boy, John Ross, is clearly a conniver.
Connecting the two generations is something Gone With The Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara and her dad would appreciate: the land. Southfork, the beloved cattle ranch on which Ellie and Jock raised their family. And while the family’s beloved “mama” and her hubby are long gone, one thing remains: Her orders that no oil would ever be drilled on the sprawling property.
Thus, as with their father’s before them, battle lines are drawn between the younger Ewing siblings. And just for good measure, Christopher and John Ross also find themselves fighting over the one thing their dad’s never did: the love of a woman.
The cast is just about pitch-perfect. Larry Hagman (J.R.) and Patrick Duffy (Bobby) slip into their familiar parts like a comfortable pair of jeans. Linda Gray’s Sue Ellen isn’t given a whole lot to do (her character seems not to have learned a whole lot from her many, many past mistakes, especially where the men in her life are concerned) and Bobby’s new wife, Ann (Brenda Strong) has the thankless task of not being Pam, but both are somehow comforting presences. There are moments when Ann manages to evoke the spirit, if not the sometimes hidden fire, of Miss Ellie.
As for the younger cast, Josh Henderson (John Ross) is, simply put, a star. He steals every single scene he’s in, and that’s not an easy task given how often he’s paired with Hagman. Jesse Metcalfe’s Christopher does the seemingly impossible by, within minutes, erasing from the mind any and all memories of the actor’s most memorable stint, that of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES’ underaged, oversexed gardner, John. And Jordana Brewster gives Elena, the housekeeper’s daughter both guys love, a fascinating combination of earthiness, intelligence and spunk that allows the character to be completely different — and totally genuine — with each of her love interests.
If there’s a weak spot in the cast, it is Julie Gonzalo’s Rebecca, who comes across as bland compared to the vibrant characters populating the rest of the scene. One does, however, get a hint by pilot’s end that there’s more to Christopher’s bride-to-be than meets the eye.
Much like the character’s, the plot feels like a completely natural progression of the story we left back in 1991, especially once J.R. comes back to life, as it were, once a scheme is waved beneath his nose like smelling salts. Before long, secrets are revealed, lies are told, alliances are forged, backs are stabbed and it’s like our old pals never left.
Richard M. Simms blogs at The TV Addict.
BUNHEADS is the story of what happens when life takes a Vegas show dancer in an unexpected direction when she accepts an unusual proposal. Leaving the bright lights of Las Vegas and finding herself in a cozy small town teaching at a ballet dance studio, the life of Michelle Simms will never be the same. Fortunately the young dancers provide Michelle with a unique opportunity to explore a new life and rediscover her love of dance. Taking a few minutes to chat with press in a recent conference call, star Sutton Foster explains what drew her to this remarkable, heart-warming series and what exactly is a “Bunhead!”
Could you run through some of the things in BUNHEADS that we’re going to see that you bring to a larger television audience that people may know about from seeing you on stage?
SUTTON: There are a couple reasons I was drawn to BUNHEADS. One was Amy Sherman-Palladino being one of my favorite writers, but also that the show is based around dance, and it’s affording me a lot of opportunities to do some pretty cool stuff. I’ve already done one song and dance routine, and I know there’s more down the pike. But the thing that I’m most excited about is really the character and the writing and being able to really showcase my comedic stuff and delving into it. She’s just a really awesome character who’s a dancer. So I’m sure as the series grows they’ll be throwing lots and lots of stuff at me, and I always say I’ll try anything once. They’ve already thrown a bunch of stuff my way, so I’m sure that a lot more will be coming. But I don’t think theater fans will be disappointed.
What is something that you get to do in BUNHEADS or that you’d like to do in BUNHEADS that most people would probably be surprised to see you do?
SUTTON: Well, there’s some cool stuff coming. I don’t want to give too much away. I started dancing when I was four years old and then was in class until I was about 20 years old or so, and then primarily was dancing just in shows that I was doing, but not really studying and training. But the one thing that I’ve done because my character is she’s a ballet dancer trained at ABT. Although, when you discover her, you find out that she’s a showgirl in Vegas. So she kind of loses her ballet way. But the one thing that I’ve done is I take ballet every day. So I have this incredible teacher, and she comes to the studio, and I have a ballet barre in my dressing room and it kicks my butt. So I’m studying ballet everyday and really training so people will see me as a ballet dancer, which no one’s seen before. Even I haven’t seen that, so I’m really excited.
What exactly is a “bunhead”?
SUTTON: A “bunhead” is someone who spends a lot of their life with their hair in a bun, meaning it would be someone who has dedicated their life and their time to the art of ballet. Ballet is an incredibly difficult, beautiful art form that takes a lot of training, a lot of time, and a lot of hard work. And so when someone is deemed a bunhead, that’s what it means. I live near Alvin Ailey Dance Studio and I’ll see a bunch of girls walking down the street with their hair in their buns, and I’m like, “Oh, they’re ballet dancers.” It’s like a symbol. You can go, “Ah,” and say, “I know what they are.” That’s a bunhead.
Did you watch GILMORE GIRLS, and if so, why should GILMORE GIRLS fans tune into BUNHEADS?
SUTTON: I did watch GILMORE GIRLS. GILMORE GIRLS was my favorite. This is before I even met Amy or worked on BUNHEADS. But it was my favorite show of all time, and I own all the DVDs. I think Amy Sherman-Palladino has a very specific voice; it’s unlike anyone else on television. And BUNHEADS has her voice again. You have a whole new set of characters, a whole new town, a whole new base, but you’ve got the rapid-fire dialogue and that wit and the humor that GILMORE had. So it’s exciting. And it’s exciting to hear Amy’s writing again on TV. I think GILMORE fans are going to love it.
Amy writes a lot of pop culture references. Have any popped up in the script yet that you’ve been stumped by and you’ve been like, “I’m going to Google that; I don’t know what that is?”
SUTTON: Yes! What’s so great is that a lot of them I’ll get, and then there’s some I’m like, “I don’t know what that means.” And when I read the script for the first time, I just — anything I don’t know, I just look up, and then I’m like, “Oh, okay. Okay.” A lot of them I know, but some of them are just so crazy. But then once you read it, you’re like, “Oh, got it. Got it.” But yeah, I think she’s just a genius.
The long, gold earrings you’re wearing in the pilot look really cool. Can you tell us a little bit about your character’s sense of style and how she dresses?
SUTTON: Sure. The thing about a dancer’s life is usually it’s about comfort, and because as dancers you’re wearing tights and you’re in like tight costumes or your feet are shoved into weird shoes — so when I was talking with Brenda — who’s our wardrobe supervisor — and we were like, “Michelle should be comfortable.” But yet, she’s a Vegas girl. She’s living in Vegas, and so those gold earrings were Vegas. So she always had a little bit of Vegas with her. But I wear a lot of flowy, comfortable tops, cute jeans. I rock a lot of TOMS. She’s pretty natural and laid back, very easy-going, but really natural.
You worked with Kelly Bishop in ANYTHING GOES and now again on BUNHEADS. Could you talk a little bit about the relationship that the two of you have?
SUTTON: Well, when she came into ANYTHING GOES, I freaked out because I’m such a fan of hers, and she’s just such an awesome lady. She’s Sheila from “A Chorus Line.” She’s awesome. Our relationship on the show is very specific, and we’re like sparring partners. But off-set, she’s very motherly, actually, and is always making sure I’m okay, and taking care of me. She’s just a wonderful woman. I’ll do a scene, and I’m like, “I can’t believe I’m acting with Kelly!”
Do you see yourself in the young actresses that you’re working with, both in their fictional roles and as young actresses as well, as young dancers?
SUTTON: I do actually. The girls are in their teens, 16 and 17, and as the character definitely and in my life too. I go back to when I was 17 years old and when I was just sort of starting out, but they are far better dancers than I ever was. They are the most beautiful, beautiful ballet dancers. They’re extraordinary. And they’re doing things on a show that are so exciting. And it’s them doing it, you know? There’s no body-doubles coming in to dance for them. They’re, like, the real deal, and they’re really great young women. It’s exciting. It’s exciting to see them have this opportunity, and I think it’s going to be a great thing for them in their lives. Michelle, my character, I think she sees in them and wants to impart to them ways to do things better than she did because I think Michelle lost her way. When you meet my character, she’s very lost, and so she wants to impart some better judgment and wisdom into the young kids so that maybe they don’t make the same mistakes she did.
You’ve done a lot of TV work here and there, but here it’s really your first really big lead role. How are you feeling taking this step? It could be a huge shift I’m sure.
SUTTON: Yeah, I have to say that I’m loving it; I really am. I am having the time of my life, and I think it’s because it just feels like the right role, the right writer, the right project, and the right timing. I’ve been living in New York for about 15 years. I absolutely love the theater. It’s my home. It’s what I always wanted to do. But I was coming to a point where I just wanted a new challenge and something new, and this came across my path, and already it’s just been an incredible experience. And I’m learning every single day something new, and it’s exciting. It’s exciting that I’m 37 years old and I’m learning so much. And it’s really cool. It’s a whole new challenge, a whole new chapter of my life.
I know the theater community is a really tight community, and a lot of those before you have made this move. Have any of them like Matthew Morrison, Cheyenne Jackson, Kristin Chenoweth, or Megan Hilty – any of them given you advice about making this sort of a transition to from the big stage to the small screen?
SUTTON: You know who gave me advice? It’s so funny because my ex-husband, Christian Borle, is on SMASH, and we actually talked about it. We’re very good friends, and he’s the one that gave me probably the most advice — which is so weird. But he was saying — because I was asking him how SMASH was going and he was saying like, “You just got to keep moving forward because there’s so much material, and as soon as you finish a scene, you have to let it go and move on to the next one. You can’t keep holding onto it.” Like with the theater, you get a scene and you do it over and over and over and over and over again for years sometimes. And with TV, everything moves so quickly. So you might spend three hours on a scene and then it has to go away because you have to make room for a whole new scene, a whole new moment. And in many ways, it’s a blessing because you can’t get in your own way. You have to, like, act fast, and you have to go, and there’s 40 people in a room staring at you with cameras. So you can’t get scared, and you can’t go, “Oh, I don’t know; I don’t know if I can do it.” You have to just do it. And in a way, that’s been a real blessing for me just as, like, an actress because I’m like, “Okay, I’m just going to dive in and do it.” And it’s been scary and fun at the same time.
You memorize a script for a Broadway show, and you repeat the same lines every week, eight times a week, over and over for a year, and Amy is famous for her rapid-fire, just constant dialogue. I’m curious as to if it’s intimidating and if it’s been a huge adjustment to try and grasp the new pages of the script every day?
SUTTON: It’s definitely a whole new challenge, and it was the thing that I was probably the most scared about because I thought, “How am I going to do it? How am I going to it?” Because I also want to do her writing justice as well, so that means you need to know it. You can’t just look at it that morning; it’s impossible. So whenever we get a new script, I’m daunted. I go, “Oh gosh. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. How am I going to do it?” But it’s just about work. It’s my job. I’m just constantly working, and I love to work. So I’m a bit of a workaholic so I’m always working on the script, working on memorizing. I grab anybody I can when I’m off-set and run lines. And my best friend lives here in L.A., and she has eight-week-old twins and so I spend a lot of time here with her and the babies, and she runs lines with me. And it’s just part of it. I want to do the best I can at really honoring the writing, and honoring Amy, and honoring everybody in the show, so I just work, work, work, work.
Did it take much persuading when Amy offered you the role? Did you need to be convinced, or were you just kind of like, “Yes, I’ll do it,” and, “I’m ready,” or was it more of a process?
SUTTON: Amy and I met at the end of the summer last year, and I was, like, a superfan. But I didn’t know that she had a project in mind, because at that time I don’t think the pilot had been picked up by ABC Family. But she wanted to meet me because she had me in mind for the show, but she didn’t mention it because she couldn’t. But I was like, “Oh my gosh, GILMORE GIRLS!” I was just, like, freak of a fan. She probably thought I was this weirdo. And it was right before I was doing a performance of ANYTHING GOES, and I hadn’t eaten, and she was meeting someone for dinner. So she just sat there and watched me eat. I was eating chicken fingers, and we laughed because she was like, “I just sat across from you and watched you eat chicken fingers, and I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to meet you.” But then two weeks later, my agent called and said, “Amy has written this pilot, and she wants you to star in it.” And I was like, “What is it? I’ll do it.” And he’s like, “Well, read the script first.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay, alright. Sure. Send me the script.” And I had already made up my mind before I even read the script. It could’ve been about — I don’t know — it could’ve been about anything and I would’ve been like, “Yes, I want to work with this woman.” But then I read it, and I was like, “Oh my gosh.” And then it just seemed like a no-brainer. So it really didn’t take much convincing.
How have you had to change your physical routine from doing Broadway to doing television?
SUTTON: Well, and I will say from going from ANYTHING GOES to the show, I was like, “Uh-oh, I’m going to get fat,” because in ANYTHING GOES I was moving so much. I was walking in New York and everything. And that’s another reason I’m taking ballet every day, and I’m trying to stay super in shape and healthy because I’m like, “I’m a dancer. I have to look like a dancer.” But the biggest change in my life is probably the hours because I wake up at, like 4:30 am. We shoot on location about half of the week. We work on a studio lot for about three days a week, and then we work up in a location spot that’s about a 45-minute drive away. And they’re like, “Okay, your pickup is at 5:45.” So that’s just different, waking up at 4:30 a.m. and being awake while it’s dark. Last night I went to bed at 8:30 because I was just tired. We’re in production for roughly three months, and my life right now is this. It’s intense, and the hours are intense, and I work 12-14 hours a day. It’s hard but different, obviously, than doing a Broadway show. A lot of people are asking me, “What’s the difference between a Broadway show and doing TV?” And I say, “Well, the hours.” It’s just when you do a show, it’s two-and-a-half hours of bam, intense. And then with this, you still work, but you have a lot of lag time where you’re waiting for them to do setups, and then it’s like you have to be on. I’ve become addicted to Coke Zero and coffee. I drink a lot of coffee. It’s just different. I have a totally different lifestyle, but it’s fun.
Psychologically as an actress is there anything that’s similar or is it just a totally different world for you working with a giant green ogre versus these cute ballet girls?
SUTTON: Oh, it’s just a totally different world. In BUNHEADS, all of our main cast, it’s all women, which is very exciting and it is fun too. The girls — they’re awesome. They are awesome, and they are so talented and so sweet but they’re also youthful and full of energy, and they are so excited about — and it’s different. I’m getting older, and I’m tired, and it’s just different energy. But they’re really, really great, great kids. They’re not even kids; they’re young women. How about that? It’s totally a different vibe, but a welcome vibe.
What type of preparation did you do to get ready for your role of Michelle on BUNHEADS that was maybe different than how you would prepare for your other roles?
SUTTON: It’s all very similar. I mean, the process is just faster, so preparation for different characters and stuff because with different roles I’ve done different things. But with this role, a lot of it was just really, really getting the script and the words in my body and in my brain so that Sutton and her were one and the same. And I’m still discovering more and more about her every day. What’s exciting about playing a character like this is that you sort of discover her at a real crossroads in her life. She’s really letting go of one life and beginning at a whole other one, and as audiences are discovering her, so am I. So a lot of it’s just about remaining really open and bringing as much of my sensibility and sense of humor to her as I can, and then just really getting inside the words.
How was it working with Alan Ruck? Were you a “Ferris Bueller” fan, and what was that like?
SUTTON: He’s awesome. He’s awesome and I am so lucky to be able to work with him. And he made my life very easy on-set, and he was just a lot of fun to play with, and we had a really, really good time. Yeah, he was a joy. “Ferris Bueller” is still one of the greatest movies of all time, and now I have a t-shirt with his face on it that says, “Save Ferris.” So I walk around, yeah, so he’s with me all the time now.
What would it have meant to you as a young performer if a show like GLEE or SMASH that were on TV?
SUTTON: When I was growing up, we didn’t have stuff like that. I was trying to think of what I used to watch as a kid. I used to watch Carol Burnett Show, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Show, you know. I guess it was sort of different. Those were more like variety shows. Well, I think it’s exciting because, you know, things like sports and law shows, doctor shows, all those type of shows get a lot of attention, but then there’s this whole other area of kids and adults that center around the arts — dancing, singing, painting, more artistic things — and to have scripted shows that are showing the lives of people who dedicate their life to dancing, singing, theater, it’s exciting. And I think it’s exciting for young people to go, “Oh wow. Look. I could do that too.” And to have that in their living rooms every week, I think it’s important. And especially as more schools and more programs get cut — art programs get cut — it’s just I think it’s more and more important to have outlets like this. Oh gosh, if I had had YouTube when I was a kid to look up stuff, oh my gosh, I would’ve been videoing myself every day and putting myself all over the video. I would’ve been obsessed. But it’s such an incredible outlet for people, and it’s exciting. It’s bringing theater — people who maybe can’t travel to New York — it’s bringing all of that stuff into the living rooms of people all over the world. It’s exciting.
What do you think about the relationship that you have with these young female fans who really look up to you as a role model, and the responsibility that you feel towards them?
SUTTON: It’s really important to me. And that was another huge factor of why this show just seemed right. I’m an adjunct faculty at Ball State University. I’ve worked with kids at NYU in New York. I’ve done a ton of master-class work with various schools and camps and programs, and it’s just really important to me, especially young women. And I do realize the responsibility of a lot of young fans and young women who look up to me. I had that when I was growing up, I looked up to actresses and people, and I always want to impart a sense of humility and a sense of dedication and responsibility and integrity and kindness. That’s really important to me to say, “Hey, look. You can have an awesome career. You can be really happy, and you don’t have to be a jerk. You can get very far and be well respected. Keep learning.” That’s so important to me. And be a real person and have real priorities and perspective, and don’t get caught up in some sense of fame or success or celebrity — or whatever any of that is — because it’s not about any of that. It’s about artistry and creativity and challenging yourself. So with BUNHEADS with the element of Michelle being sort of a mentor to young people and them sort of looking to her, that’s something that I believe in, that Sutton believes in. It’s so important to me. So it was just another factor of why this show seemed like the right fit and the right time.
What is it about BUNHEADS that you think will appeal to a fan base for MAKE IT OR BREAK IT if they want to come over to the show?
SUTTON: Well, I don’t know MAKE IT OR BREAK IT very well. The thing that I think will appeal to audiences — beyond those that tuned into MAKE IT OR BREAK IT — is that I think this show is very witty. I think it’s smart. I think it has incredible characters. I think it says something. It has a point of view, and I think it has some really great storylines that are going to make people want to tune in week after week. It also has a lot of heart, so I think viewers and audiences are going to tune in. I hope.
Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.
An often action-packed thrill ride through the repercussions of the previous season, the True Blood season 5 premiere presents a thoroughly entertaining, though flawed, first installment for the series’ new year.
Picking up where the chaotic True Blood season 4 finale left, much of the premiere follows Sookie (Anna Paquin) and friends through the aftermath of their murderous escapades. Certainly a necessity given the numerous cliffhangers and unfinished stories that were left from last season, a noticeable divide presents itself in the premiere, where tying up loose ends with some characters is juxtaposed with new, compelling stories for others.
As Sookie and Lafayette “take care” of Tara and Debbie, Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) “take care” of Nan Flanagan and the Vampire Authority, and Sam (Sam Trammell) and Alcide (Joe Manganiello) “take care” of Marcus and the pack, while Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is kicking things off with Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian) and Jessica is trying to “find” herself. Oh, and Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare) is back.
While separate and concurrent storylines aren’t inherently a poor trait, True Blood once began as a single story with many parts. Now many stories with their own individual elements muddle the narrative – each scene represents its own story with its own characters (which rarely overlap).
Aside from this trait making True Blood a truly active viewing experience (if you want to keep up with what’s going on), the lack of fluidity amongst the series’ many storylines makes it difficult to get an overall sense of what’s actually occurring in Bon Temps.
That being said, for those able to completely grasp hold of True Blood’s transition from its initial narrative to its current structuring, the season 5 premiere is a mixed bag of thoroughly enjoyable scenes and intriguing character moments.
With many of the best character moments coming from the likes of Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) and Terry (Todd Lowe), many of the other storylines present a more heightened emotional front, which can often become goofy or silly – while still remaining enjoyable.
Though teases of Russel Edgington and other impending challenges were interspersed throughout the premiere, there isn’t really a clear sense of where True Blood is heading as the season progresses. Having screened episodes beyond the premiere, it’s fair to say that some will be surprised to see what occurs by episode four. Of course, by now, this should be no surprise for fans of True Blood.
Having experienced previous seasons of Gods and witches, fans of the series should be up to speed with how the series reacts to outside entities trying to enter the story. Fortunately, True Blood season 5 appears to be trying to tell inclusive tales using many of the series’ familiar faces. While several new characters are added throughout, their inclusion feels more natural and overall advances the characters’ story nicely.
By turning Terra (Rutina Wesley) into a vampire, it certainly provides the series with a way to keep her around. More importantly, it allows the writers to tap into another side of the character. Giving the powers of a vampire to a woman who has largely been abused by the world, it’ll be interesting to see how she takes to her new affinity for the night time.
Finally touching upon Terry Bellefleur’s military past, the return of former platoon leader Patrick Devins (Scott Foley) presents an intriguing storyline for the typically quiet character. Though Devins’ introduction was masked by a confusing introduction that didn’t even make sense to Terry (let alone the audience), the overall intent of Devins wasn’t made as clear as it probably should have been.
Trying to incorporate so many individual storylines into a 60-minute television series is extremely difficult – something True Blood hopefully learned from last season. So while the True Blood season 5 premiere is an enjoyable collection of new and concluding story-arcs that, for those willing to give way to its quickened pace of storytelling, represents that beginning of what very well could be a completely entertaining season, that sentiment could unfortunately change at any moment.
Until the true intent of True Blood season 5 is revealed, the safest bet is to take it one episode at a time, because who knows when the next 10-minutes epic fairy war will break out.
Anthony Ocasio blogs at Screen Rant.