How big is the return of Mad Men? Well, after a 17-month hiatus, the proverbial red carpet has been rolled out for the two-hour season premiere. There has been non-stop media coverage of the arrival of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and the rest of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Everyone is seemingly in on the game, trying to pick off a piece of AMC’s flagship program and let the world know how aware they are of a program so innately self-aware.
Creator Matthew Weiner has offered almost nothing beyond an enigmatic image of Don Draper staring through a storefront window at a pair of mannequins, so it’s ironic that a show telling the story of ad men is effectively utilizing the media’s interest inthe secrecy of season 5 to sell the premiere.
At the onset of this season, we’re unsure just what will be waiting for us once the curtain is finally pulled back on ‘A Little Kiss,’ parts 1 & 2. Season 4 certainly left more than it’s fair share of questions that have gone unanswered long enough. Has Don gone through with his proposed marriage to Megan Calvet (Jessica Paré)? Did Joan (Christina Hendricks) have, or is she still carrying Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) child? And, most importantly, where does Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce stand after being dealt the blow of losing its primary moneymaker in Lucky Strike?
Perhaps that’s why there has been such a hubbub regarding season 5. Ruminating on season 4 (and earlier) has fans downright nostalgic for a show that often times revels in nostalgia. But it’s a realization born through the ease of watching time effortlessly float by. While Mad Men can take us back or, for some, introduce us to a time when things where different, it is careful to never be only about that time, or that place in history. It’s merely about people, who were like us now: in the moment, while time marched on.
And so with the start of season 5, we are brought into things as Don Draper is welcoming his 40th year – though Dick Whitman celebrated it months earlier. We see a Don that is content in his home life, in love with his new wife and, relatively, happy at work – a fact that has those who know him a little on edge.
Matthew Weiner does a fantastic job of setting up this new Don is such a way that leaves the audience waiting for the other shoe to drop. Don has been aimlessly wandering for so long – he’s a sham, literally living as another man’s life – that for him to display an air of contentment is like coaxing the Mississippi to run backwards. Even more shocking is the fact that Megan knows Don’s real name, and seems okay with it.
That’s what puts Don most at odds with the rest of the characters in ‘A Little Kiss’: he’s seems delighted by the change that has occurred in his home life, while most everyone else seems less accepting of what changes have befallen them.
This is most evident in Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) bemoaning how his wife has seemingly given up on presenting herself in a way befitting of his standards, or at least the way she used to be before they moved out of Manhattan, before having a child. Trudy (Alison Brie) misinterprets Pete’s frustration with home as a longing for something more at work, and tells him dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. But work’s fine for Pete, he’s successful; and aside from Roger attempting to poach the clients Pete is bringing in, and refusing to switch offices with him, work is where Pete’s joie de vivre comes from – and nearly everyone else’s, for that matter.
Many at SCDP have reached a point where life outside of work doesn’t hold for them the meaning their duties at the agency do. As Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) later says to Joan, “It’s home, but it’s not everything.”
In fact, like Lane and Pete, home is not a place Joan particularly wants to be despite the presence of her new baby. She comes to the office and things have changed; she’s neither recognized in the lobby, nor does she recognize the receptionist who (barely) greets her. This is probably the best way in which Weiner has shown the progression of time, both in between the seasons and in Mad Men overall. Young Kevin is passed around, his presence holding different meaning to everyone, and he eventually lands in the reluctant arms of Peggy (Elisabeth Olsen), who manages to get Pete to take him off her hands. And without a word, we are reminded of exactly where these two characters began their arc four seasons ago, and we are tempted to look back at how far everyone else has come in the process.
It’s in that progression that the sense of being unfulfilled is most pervasive in the episode, but it is also acutely felt during Don’s unwanted birthday celebration. At this point we’re still mostly unsure what to think of Megan’s role in Don’s life. She’s working with him now – something she had mentioned a desire to do during season 4 – and there is a general unease around her in the office, but she is treated with a certain measured respect (to her face, anyway) that seems born of Don’s influence more than it is any knack she has for the work.
The party offers up the first sign that despite the blissful nature of the newlyweds, there is a disparity between the two that no amount of truthfulness on Don’s part will be able to overcome. During the party, Megan puts on a performance that is more to show everyone what Don gets that they don’t, but it also puts Don in the passenger seat, with all eyes on him – something he later confesses displeases him very much.
More troublesome still, we catch a glimpse that time has begun to pass Don Draper by. Megan is entertaining a group of friends that Don doesn’t know, and doesn’t want to know. They are the sign of a changing generation, one that he’ll still be responsible to market products to, but they seem almost alien to him. For once, the world is moving forward and Don doesn’t seem to be on the verge of it.
That problem is seen again in large part because SCDP (mostly Don and Roger) take out an ad that’s intended to be poke fun at a racially charged incident involving a group of African-American protesters and some water bombs dropped by ad execs at Y&R. The joke is only funny to Don and Roger, and manages to stir up some panic in Joan that she’s being replaced, but more importantly, those protesting at Y&R see it as an invitation to apply for a job. Naturally, no one in the company has given much thought to the idea of civil rights – as evidenced by the ad having been run in the first place. And so, with that, the men of SCDP are forced to accept the changing era through the blunder of a misguided overindulgence. Whether they are aware of it or not, has yet to be seen, but the incident makes it clear where this season is headed.
As Don Draper finds himself on the wrong side of 40, seemingly content with his new wife and the children he had from his previous marriage, he is forced, or will be forced to confront the idea that, eventually, even his time will be over. And someday, a young ad exec will be clamoring for his office – much like Pete Campbell did while making a sensible plea for the office currently occupied by the aging, and increasingly ineffective Roger Sterling.
And this is when Mad Men truly excels, when it is about the observation of character. However much it may seem, Mad Men is not about history; it simply takes place in our history. Mad Men can do what it wants because it is not tied to the beginning or end of anything larger than the lives and experiences of its characters. Lives that, it quickly becomes clear, have already done most of their living.
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.
Katniss Everdeen may have demolished box office records with a massive opening for Lionsgate’s adaptation of The Hunger Games, but Bella Swan will have another chance to claim the young adult best-seller-turned-blockbuster crown this fall when the final installment in The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 opens in theaters.
Summit Entertainment (which recently merged with Lionsgate) premiered a teaser trailer for the second half of Breaking Dawn in front of The Hunger Games this past weekend, to take advantage of the millions of Twilight fans who also turned out for Katniss’ big screen debut – and start drumming up interest for Bella’s next cinematic outing.
Whereas the Breaking Dawn – Part 2 trailer preview merely teased Kristen Stewart as “the new Bella,” the full teaser trailer offers an actual look at the character – now that she has finally become a crimson-eyed, pale-skinned, blood-thirsty immortal, thanks to her vampiric husband Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). As with the trailers for any of the Twilight movies, your reaction to said footage will probably be either that of breathless anticipation – or eye-rolling aggravation. Consider yourself warned…
Check out the teaser trailer for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 below:
Rest assured, no matter what side of the fence you fall on, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 will be a massive hit at the box office. Much like the final Harry Potter movie, the Twilight Saga finale will undoubtedly bring out the series’ fans in full force; whether or not they will ultimately walk away satisfied by how director Bill Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg translate the (anti?) climax of Stephenie Meyer’s source material on the big screen, that’s a different matter. Either way, Lionsgate is already making tentative plans for additional Twilight films in the future.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
The Hunger Games is the hot-ticket item at the movies right now; It's already sold-out record numbers of advanced showings, and earned strong reviews from critics (click here for our official review). The film is looking like a big success for Lionsgate (a sequel, Catching Fire, is already on the way) - but that doesn't mean that everyone is sold on seeing it.
In fact, there is a considerable portion of the larger moviegoing public that hasn't read any of Suzanne Collins' novels and is wondering what all the hubbub is about this film and if it's worth a trip to the theater.
So, for those who have not yet been bitten by Hunger Gamesfever, we've compiled 5 things you should know to help you better make your decision about whether or not to see the film.
5. There is Action and Violence
Contrary to what The Hunger Games trailers would have you believe, this film is about more than just the drama surrounding protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) trying to save her sister, Prim. There is actually, you know, a brutal tournament that takes place.
Admittedly, the studio has taken a risky step by leaving footage of the deadly melee that is the actual "hunger games" out of any preview materials. Having read the book, trust us when we say that the film offers plenty of action (and some pretty horrific moments) once Katniss is on the playing field fighting for her life. Dangers include mutated beasts, video game-style traps - and oh, yeah, the 20+ other young combatants looking to murder one another.
If you're worried that this film looks boring and/or sappy - don't. There are plenty of thrills and chills to be had.
4. There's No Soapy 'Twilight' Romantic Stuff
Those unfamiliar with The Hunger Games have taken one look at the two male protagonists in the film trailers - Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) - and immediately leapt to the conclusion that the film would emulate the soapy teen love triangle of The Twilight Saga. While we can see the similarity, that assumption is still an erroneous one.
Katniss Everdeen is not the type of girl to get hung up on boys. Author Suzanne Collins created a unique heroine whose only focus is survival, period. The two boys in her life are only there because they help with that survival goal - whether at home in the forests hunting for food (Gale), or during the public relations campaign that precedes the games (Peeta).
No sappy love story to see here, folks. Once the games begin, Katniss' concern is keeping herself alive. Any love or affection she shows is all part of the game...
3. It's Not Just a Clone of That Film You Saw Before
Even as The Hunger Games nears its theatrical debut, there are snarky individuals who like to drop comments about how the film is a recycled version of earlier films like The Running Man, or Japenese cult-classic Battle Royale - or (to lesser extent) deathmatch films like The Condemned. However, these so-called "insights" lack, well, insight into what The Hunger Games is truly about.
Sure, there are obvious shades of influence all over Suzanne Collins' work, but the fact is that Collins succeeded in creating her own unique characters, narrative, and thematic angles - as well as a world and mythos that is all her own. While The Hunger Games does intersect with other, similar, stories at certain points, it is also more modern and topical than any of the aforementioned films it's being compared to.
Genre movies often share similar premises - it's all about the uniqueness of the story that's crafted within that premise. In the case of Hunger Games, that story is one worth exploring.
2. Director Gary Ross has Skills
Director Gary Ross may not be a director whose name you're immediately familiar with, but the man has definite skills.The Hunger Games is only the third feature film he's directed, but the other two entries on that list arePleasantville and Seabiscuit - both of which received multiple Oscar nominations and are loved by their respective fans.
Did we also mention that Ross is a screenwriter who has worked on the scripts for each of his films, including Hunger Games? Oh, and before directing his own work, Ross wrote scripts for little films like Big, Dave and Mr. Baseball. You may have heard of them.
That's all to say: The Hunger Games has been crafted by a man who very much knows how to make a film. And if early reports are any indication, Ross has taken the book and not only translated it to screen intact - he's improved upon it in some ways.
1. The Cast Has Skills Too
If you look at the cast of fresh young faces that are starring in The Hunger Games and assume that they aren't seasoned enough to deliver a compelling movie, you'd be wrong. The movie has celebrated veterans like Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci (Devil Wears Prada), Toby Jones, Elizabeth Banks (Zack and Mirir) and Woody Harrelson all elevating the material, and the young actors are just as talented.
Star Jennifer Lawrence broke into the mainstream with a 2011 Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in the indie drama Winter's Bone. Co-star Josh Hutcherson played a major role in The Kids Are All Right, which was also nominated for multiple 2011 Oscars. That combination alone should tell you what kind of talent Ross and the studio snagged for this film. Even the cast of supporting characters has some proven acting talent, including Orphan star Isabelle Fuhrman and rocker Lenny Kravitz, who earned respect for his role in Precious, and may be a case of pitch-perfect casting as Katniss' enigmatic stylist, Cinna.
In terms of acting talent, The Hunger Games cast is far from amateur hour.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
While we’re the first to admit that BENT may not be the type of genre-busting comedy akin to THE OFFICE or a MODERN FAMILY, NBC’s latest attempt to work themselves out of the ratings basement does have two very important things going for it. As a down-on-his-luck contractor and a newly divorced single mother, actors David Walton (Pete) and Amanda Peet (Alex) have the kind of crackling romantic chemistry money can’t buy. Add to that an immensely likeable supporting cast including Alex’s daughter (Joey King), Pete’s construction crew (J.B. Smoove, Jesse Plemons and Pasha Lychnikoff) and opinionated father (Jeffrey Tambor) — and what your left with is a solid foundation from which to build seasons and seasons of laughter off of. Assuming of course NBC handles it with care and decides to move the show away from the time-slot juggernaut that pits this charming little series against MODERN FAMILY, AMERICAN IDOL and CRIMINAL MINDS.
Still not convinced? As a public service to fans of quality scripted programming, theTVaddict.com has taken it upon itself to cull together some more positive thoughts from the country’s leading television critics. See for yourself, after the jump.
Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times
Sometimes it’s best not to think too hard and just embrace the idiocy. If you’re able to bring that mind-set to BENT, a screwy comedy NBC introduces on Wednesday night, you’ll have a pretty good time. Read the full review >>
Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News
The premise – boy meets girl, boy takes forever redoing girl’s kitchen – may not sound fresh, but there’s something cooking in BENT that’s worth hanging out for. Read the full review >>
Robert Lloyd, The Los Angeles Times
Formula does not always betoken a lack of imagination; sometimes it just betokens an active embrace of formula. And BENT (a bad title, I think, not sufficiently justified by one character’s description of himself as “bent, not bowed”) builds a nice little shelter in a classic style. Read the full review >>
Matt Roush, TV Guide Magazine
Watching NBC’s BENT is like sitcom speed dating, with all six episodes of this midseason tryout airing over three weeks of back-to-back episodes on Wednesdays. The scheduling is odd, but BENT is the sort of funky offbeat comedy that grows on you, so watching more than one episode at a sitting turns out to be a good thing. Read the full review >>Read the full review >>
Maureen Ryan, Huffington Post
BENT, a goofy romantic comedy about an amusingly irresponsible contractor and his uptight client, is a little stiff in its early outings, but it loosens up over its first half-dozen episodes. As is the case with contractor Pete Riggins (David Walton), BENT grows more shaggily endearing over time, and if you’re already a fan of the goofy/sharp vibes on display in HAPPY ENDINGS, COUGAR TOWN and SUBURGATORY, this new NBC ensemble comedy should be right up your alley. Read the full review >>
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
Creatively, BENT is actually in better shape than most of its characters. It is snappy, and funny enough when it needs to be. It is acutely aware of all the will-they/won’t-they clichés and enjoys letting Pete, Alex and Ben be aware of them, too. And it has absolutely terrific chemistry between Walton and Peet, the kind that can’t be manufactured — even though I’ve seen many, many unfortunate series try. It’s not perfect, but it’s also not particularly bent. (Wrinkled, maybe.) Read the full review >>
Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
Boo to NBC for essentially burning off six episodes of this charming sitcom (two a week) and putting it up against MODERN FAMILY. MODERN fans might be beguiled by the clever interplay between Amanda Peet as a single mom and the goofy but lovable guy she hires to renovate her home. He’s played by David Walton with mush-mouthed loucheness (Walton appeared on the underrated PERFECT COUPLES, of which BENT creator Tad Quill is also a graduate). Costarring Jeffrey Tambor as Walton’s dramatic dad, this eccentric romantic comedy deserves a chance to survive. Read the full review >>
The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.
The film adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel “The Hunger Games” doesn’t hit theaters until Friday. But the hype is wall-to-wall and many of the movie reviews by film critics are in. The verdict? The movie looks to be a winner whether you’ve read the book or not.
For most reviews, “Hunger Games,” which has currently sold more advance tickets than any non-sequel, scored ratings of at least four out of five stars, three out of four stars, and a few "A" grades. Critics particularly praised actress Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as heroine Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to replace her sister in the deadly Hunger Games run by a dystopian government.
“At its center is Jennifer Lawrence, an ideal choice to play this strong, independent young woman,” Associated Press reviewer Christy LeMire wrote of the film. “There’s a youthful energy and even a vulnerability that make her relatable to the core, target audience of female fans. Lawrence is endlessly watchable."
Chicago Tribune reviewer Michael Phillips said he would praise Lawrence as the best thing in the film if the rest wasn’t equally as good.
Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum agreed: “Jennifer Lawrence… is, in her gravity, her intensity, and her own unmannered beauty, about as impressive a Hollywood incarnation of Katniss as one could ever imagine,” Schwarzbaum wrote.
Reviewers also agreed that director Gary Ross’s film treatment of the source material keeps the societal commentary of author Suzanne Collins’ original trilogy.
“So-called reality TV is given a sharp, satirical kick as Tributes learn to play and pander to hidden cameras,” writes Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers.
Guardian critic Xan Brooks wrote that “[Ross] rustles up a film that is harsh and satisfying; a candy-coated entertainment with a chip of ice at the centre."
Also praised: the supporting cast, which includes stars like Elizabeth Banks as perky contestant escort Effie Trinket, Woody Harrelson as alcoholic mentor Haymitch Abernathy, and Stanley Tucci as unctuous TV host Caesar Flickerman, of whom Phillips writes, “Nothing in "The Hunger Games" is more frightening than Tucci's smile.”
The AP's LeMire, however, did complain that the less-attractive behavior of the character Haymitch, who spends much of the beginning of the novel intoxicated or suffering the after-effects of it, were toned down for the film. “The character’s rough edges have been buffed significantly and it’s not an improvement,” LeMire writes.
A different heroine than Twilight
The books and movies have been compared to the last boffo young adult series, Twilight, which centered on the teenager Bella Swan and the tortured love triangle made up of her, vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob. Many suggest that “Games” will appeal most to female teenagers.
“Teenage girls are going to love this film — so much so that I wouldn’t mind betting it will be the first in a very profitable franchise,” Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey wrote.
But many reviewers pointed out the positive (in their eyes) differences between “Games” and the vampire saga featuring mopey Bella Swan. “Katniss makes Twilight's Bella Swan look like the wimp she is,” Travers writes. Telegraph critic Robbie Collins noted that “both teenage heroines journey deep into the woods at dusk, but while Twilight's Bella returns flanked by bickering supernatural beefcake, Katniss emerges alone, smeared in blood and muck and gnawing on the charred remains of a spatchcocked squirrel.”
Some critics also had problems with the film’s ending, which apparently differs in some way from the novel. “Only at the end does the director falter, hindered by the demands of franchise film production (there are three books in the series) and bowing out with a whimper not a bang,” Brooks wrote of Ross.
But so far, response to the movie has been overwhelmingly positive. Fans can take a deep breath and buy their midnight tickets – if there are any left, that is.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
The Walking Dead season 2 finale has aired and our favorite group of survivors are now on to their next adventure. Since October is such a long time to wait for the next season of The Walking Dead, why not find out what’s in for season 3 now.
Following the shocking finale that brought about – among other things – the introduction of Michonne (Danai Gurira – who was NOT the actress in the shadowy cloak), as well as the reveal of next season’s setting: the prison. Now, fans are wondering what’s in store for Rick and Co. next season.
Speaking with TV Line, Kirkman talked about some of the things fans can expect to see in The Walking Dead season 3:
About ‘The Walking Dead’ season 3:
What I really like about the transition from Season 2 to Season 3 as opposed to Season 1 to Season 2 transition is that when we were moving into Season 2 there were so many unknowns. All of the questions were, “Are we going to see the farm? Are they going to follow the comic?” And now that we’re moving into Season 3, we’ve seen Michonne. We’ve seen the prison. We know that that the Governor has been cast. So the fans really have a clear indication of what kind of things to expect in the third season and where we’re going and some of the stories that we may be telling if they’re familiar with the comic book series.
Our third season is definitely going to be our best season yet. I’m really excited to get into it. It’s actually hard for me to do interviews about Season 2 because I’m like, “Oh my God, Season 3 blows this stuff out of the water. You just wait.” We’ve been working on Season 3 for a few months now. We’re wrapping up the first half and we’ve got everything nailed down. I can’t wait for people to see it.
There are still some surprises around the corner. We wouldn’t be revealing so much in our final episode of Season 2 if we didn’t have so much more to reveal in the marketing for Season 3 and also in the episodes when the season begins. There are a lot of surprises around the corner.
He’s forced into this leadership role and, at the end of the episode, we see that he is taking this on and it is affecting him. And he’s growing darker. And he is saying, “Hey, you want me to be the leader? That’s fine. I’m going to be the leader. You don’t like it? Fend for yourself. Let’s see how you do.” He’s growing harsher in this world. And the series is always going to be about whether or not he can retain his humanity, or whether or not he is going to become some kind of hardened monster that really exists only to provide survival for him and his family.
The original plan was to hold her for Season 3 and introduce her then.
…as far as her relationship with Andrea goes, she cut the head off of a zombie. She could easily stab Andrea next in the first minutes of Season 3, so who knows what that relationship will be like?
She will be very similar to her comic-book counterpart. Most of the characters as they’ve been translated into TV are pretty much exactly the same character. Andrea is Andrea, Rick is Rick and Michonne is going to be Michonne. Now, the stories that we’re going to tell with her are going to be somewhat different at times.
But the fans have expectations for Michonne, and I can say with full knowledge that their expectations are going to be met. They need not worry.
She is for all intents and purposes in the most danger out of anyone in the group by the end of the episode. And we’re going to be exploring that a little bit more in the third season. But really just putting her in the pressure-cooker situation and seeing how she fares and how she’s going to do and how she’s going to survive is going to be interesting thing to follow in the third season. We have some really cool stuff planned for Andrea.
About Hershel and the Greene family:
Hershel was very connected to the farm, and losing the farm and losing these people at the same time is going to mean a lot for him — as well as Maggie and Beth — in Season 3.
Who will die next:
One of the things that’s always been important to me with the Walking Dead comic book series is that you always be willing to get rid of every character at any moment if it serves the story. I’ve always tried not to grow any kind of attachment to any character. And also, there have been times where I’ve had big arcs plotted out for [someone] but at the moment it seemed like the right thing to do to completely get rid of the character. And now that we’re getting further and further into the show, and we’re able to tell the stories [with] high stakes, pretty much everything is on the table when we sit there in the writers room. There’s some pretty terrifying, crazy things discussed. And every character, at some point, we’ve talked about, “Now? Later? When are we going to do this?”
(This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the episode ‘Beside the Dying Fire’ and season 2 as a whole. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the entire season.)
What a difference a death makes. As occasionally entertaining as it was to have Shane (Jon Bernthal) around, watching him devolve into an ever-bigger threat toward Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his character was a lot like the walker Carl (Chandler Riggs) found at the edge of a creek: stuck. That metaphor of being stuck in the mud, and desperately trying to move on, pretty much sums up a great deal of The Walking Dead season 2.
Arguably, season 2 will be looked at as the swan song for Shane, whose downward spiral began with the killing of Otis, and perpetuated throughout the season with increasingly obsessive feelings toward Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl, as well as a need to best Rick at every turn.
But at a certain point the season will be scrutinized for how well it lived up to the expectations set forth by the first season, the continued success of creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, and the knowledge that Frank Darabont, the primary creative force behind the series, would be gone half-way through. More than the issue of expectation and Darabont’s shocking dismissal, however, The Walking Dead has it’s own internal concerns wherein the writers seemed to be struggling to find the essence and personalities of the characters experiencing the ongoing zombie apocalypse.
It was with the last half of season 2 – arguably the last four episodes – where the writers succeeded in unshackling themselves from the intermittent monotony brought about by the serial nature of the show. Case in point: the issue of Randall, wherein the show allowed time to pass that wasn’t necessarily accounted for. This was a major success for what has been described fairly often as a slow, drawn out season. By telling some compelling, full stories in the confines of a single episode, while also hinting at the future of the season and series, these “season 2.5” episodes have breathed new life into this undead series.
By in large, the events of the season’s finale, ‘Beside the Dying Fire,’ play into the idea of having a complete story arc contained within the runtime of a single episode. That’s not to say the episode didn’t leave plenty to speculate on, it certainly did, but those were glimpses of things to question and hold on to during the wait for season 3.
‘Beside the Dying Fire’ works primarily because it keeps the most unattractive part of the program, and its characters, on hold until after it has done the work needed to keep the audience enthralled and excited. To put it bluntly, a massive horde of walkers effectively keeps the survivors so busy they can’t spend an hour displaying how horrible or inconsistent (here’s looking at you Lori) their personalities can be. While the essence of any good story is conflict, a group of people actively working to irritate one another is not enough of a conflict to sustain a series that isn’t called Seinfeld. After taking the long way around, The Walking Dead seems to have realigned its priorities accordingly.
This is evidenced by the fact that Carl didn’t see his father kill Shane, and by Rick not feeling entirely compelled to come clean to his son. By not immediately addressing Shane’s death, and instead getting straight into the walker killing, it acts as a turning point for the series, one where there is a time and place for bickering and discussion, and one where there is not. By having the walkers storm Hershel’s farm, the series is forced to progress and, hopefully, begin to better understand the motivations and reactions of its characters.
The calamity of the situation is as compelling as anything The Walking Dead has so far put on screen, and with the back-to-back deaths of Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Shane, it’s nice to see the show hadn’t lost its stomach for further thinning of the proverbial herd. Jimmy (James Allen McCune) and Patricia (Jane McNeill) arguably had to depart, as their roles in the series were never really established, and the passing of any recurring character quickly translates into the possibility of T-Dog (IronE Singleton) having something more to do than stand idly by in the background.
With their numbers depleted, ammunition scarce and the safety and security of Hershel’s farm completely jeopardized, the group separates and flees. Rick, Hershel (Scott Green) and Carl are the first to arrive back where this storyline began: the crowded highway on which the group lost Sophia. There is a moment where Rick seriously considers making a run for it with just Carl by his side, and had we not been shown the survival of the others, the scene may have worked out to be more substantial than it really was, But in the end we settle for Glenn (Steven Yuen) taking charge of his relationship with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), which welcomes a stronger presence from Glenn in future.
For someone so willing to punch her own ticket at the end of last season, Andrea fights tooth-and-nail to survive, and although she is overwhelmed with exhaustion and nearly consumed by a single walker, she is saved during the heavily speculated appearance of Michonne. Though we don’t see her face, or hear her speak, Michonne’s cameo will likely serve to be the highlight of the episode.
Meanwhile, Rick’s revelation that the zombie infection is universal – you die, you become a zombie, regardless of being bit or scratched by the undead – quickly returns the group to normal and his leadership is once more called into question. Granted, with this group, Rick could have revealed that he was in possession of the Colonel’s Secret Recipe and they likely would have reacted the same way.
Just to kick him while he’s down, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) responds negatively to Rick’s account of Shane’s death – despite a statement to the contrary that Lori made in ‘Triggerfinger.’ It’s hard to tell if Lori’s wildly inconsistent behavior is a result of miscommunication amongst the writers, or if the urging for her husband to kill Shane was secretly intended to end with Rick’s death instead. For now, we’ll have to assume the latter.
The season finale ends as it began, with a solid tease. The helicopter seen in the beginning of the episode was as intriguing (if not more so) than the glimpse of the prison standing a short distance from where the group had stopped for the night. And with that tease comes a clearer indication of what can be expected from season 3 (and beyond), which certainly works to end season 2 on a positive note.
In many ways, The Walking Dead season 2 worked as two separate seasons, the latter half being remarkably faster paced than the first. As Glen Mazzara is now firmly entrenched as the series’ showrunner, it seems reasonable to assume that the last four episodes will serve as a template for Mazzara’s run – however long that may be.
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.
Children between the ages of 12 and 18 forced to kill each other in a large arena until only one of them is left standing.
It hardly sounds like an ideal story for pre-teens, or, depending on parental views, some early teens. But many parents may be making the choice soon whether to bring their children to the cineplex when “The Hunger Games,” the first installment of the dystopian young-adult trilogy about children taking part in a horrible reality show, arrives in theaters March 23. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins, which is the first of a trilogy.
The book’s violence, in which many children and teenagers are killed, has been a hot topic since it was released. Star Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the heroine Katniss Everdeen in the film, was asked about the controversy after seven seconds of the film was cut to earn the movie a 12A rating in the UK, a rating that would allow children 12 and older in the theater, with younger children requiring an accompanying adult to gain entrance. In America, the movie is rated PG-13 for “intense violent thematic material and disturbing images, all involving teens."
Lawrence told Reuters she thought the violence was acceptable.
“It's the violence and the brutality (which) is the heart of the film, because it's what gets the people angry to start an uprising and to start a revolution,” she said. In the “Games” trilogy, it’s a corrupt government that forces the children to compete in the deadly Hunger Games.
“I do think the violence and brutality is justified,” Lawrence said. “But I understand if everybody has a different standard for ratings.”
“I think kids are more mature than they have been over the years… It's not overly gruesome or brutal but it is part of the story in some way,” Hutcherson said.
The idea of kids being more mature is what seems to worry some parents, who think children will become desensitized to violence. In 2010, a New Hampshire mother, Tracy LaSalle, requested at a school board meeting that the first book be removed from her daughter’s seventh-grade classroom because she said her daughter had started having nightmares and that she worried the other children would become too used to the brutality described in the novel. The book was being read aloud in the classroom.
“Mrs. LaSalle stated there is no lesson in this book except if you are a teenager and kill twenty-three other teenagers, you win the game and your family wins,” the minutes from the meeting read, according to a School Library Journal article.
A school board member, Philip Pancoast, told the SLJ that he considers the book to be average young adult literature.
“A fair reading of ‘Old Yeller' would likely cause a child to have nightmares of the death of the dog,” Pancoast said.
If you’re a parent who’s wondering whether to take your child next weekend, a quick flip through the book may be the best bet. At the very least, know that the violent Games, in which children are encouraged to kill each other, is the center of the book (don’t read any further if you want to avoid spoilers)…
And all but two characters out of twenty-four die, some in very nasty ways. Many are killed immediately in the arena by others, and one character, who is 12 years old and whom the main character Katniss becomes attached to, dies after a spear is thrown into her abdomen. Others die from having their neck broken by a fellow teenager, having a rock smashed against their head by another teenager, and having a knife thrown at them by a competitor. One experiences a shudder-worthy fate when he’s attacked by wolves, unable to move after being shot by an arrow, and comes close to being eaten alive before the heroine shoots him out of pity. The heroine, Katniss, and her love interest each kill at least one person.
You may be sensing the word “Games” in the book is meant ironically.
On a discussion board on the website Goodreads, a user named Terrie who said she is a fourth-grade teacher wrote, “While I whipped through all three books in nothing flat, I was constantly aware of the extreme violence. I would even be hesitant to recommend these books to 5th graders, but maybe middle schoolers could handle them.”
Another user named Natalie said she read it to her sister when her sibling was nine years old and that there hadn’t been a problem.
“My brother (12) is reading Catching Fire now,” she wrote. “Certainly the child's maturity level comes into play, but I don't see why nine-year-olds wouldn't understand the novel.”
As for the film? A review by The Hollywood Reporter said, "It's also clear that the need for a PG-13 rating dictated moderation; a film accurately depicting the events of the book would certainly carry an R," seeming to imply that the events are at least a little toned down, though the review notes of the Games, "Quite a few [contestants] are butchered at the outset in the mad dash for weapons and supplies."
A Variety review seems to agree things are a little toned down, writing, "The PG-13 rating that ensures the film's suitability for its target audience also blunts the impact of the teen-on-teen bloodshed, most of it rendered in quick, oblique glimpses."
Check out a video of the stars of the movie discussing the violence below:
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
One thing that’s been an point of interest for fans of The Hunger Games books is how director Gary Ross will approach the issue of point of view. The entire trilogy of books is told from protagonist Katniss Everdeen’s point of view. A film is a different beast than a book, however, and if the recent “single-take” horror film Silent House proved anything, it’s that having an entire film that only focuses on one person is tricky proposition.
That said, The Hunger Games movie will have to feature scenes that don’t feature Katniss (played in the movie be Jennifer Lawrence), and now we’re getting a look at one with this latest clip from the film.
In The Hunger Games, 12 impoverished districts of what was once America are forced by a militant capital city to sacrifice a male and female contest (24 teens in total) for a battle to the death in a deadly arena. But the games actually live up to their name, as public relations, sponsorship, and video game-style traps are all part of the experience.
Well, every game needs a designer, and the Hunger Games have Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) for that task. In the clip below, the game master goes to meet with the tyrannical President Snow, who will be portrayed onscreen by Donald Sutherland (in a bit of pitch-perfect casting):
It’s clear that the screenwriters (Ross, series creator Suzanne Collins and State of Play screenwriter Billy Ray) are using the expanded viewpoint to begin sowing seeds for the sequel – specifically Snow’s words about “a spark” needing be contained – dialogue that not-so-subtly refers to the title of already-in-progress sequel film, Catching Fire.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
There is a fake war brewing between fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and fans of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and the fate of entire worlds, universes, random chat threads across the Internet hang in the balance. The fake war in question will be waged by Oscar-nominated director Gary Ross’ big screen adaptation of The Hunger Games, and Oscar-winning director Bill Condon’s two-part finale to the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn.
We now have early reconnoissance reports stating that Hunger Games has gained some tactical financial ground, as early projections are that the film will break…er, Breaking Dawn – Part 1‘s opening weekend numbers.
THR reports the so-called “shocker” that Hunger Games is currently tracking to have a bigger late March opening than Breaking Dawn – Part 1‘s $138.1 million debut back in November 2011. The Hunger Games started racking up opening weekend projections a few weeks back, when we reported that the film had sold more advanced tickets than Twilight Saga: Eclipse; since that time, the profit predictions have only gone upward – a rarity in the film business.
If predictions hold true, Hunger Games would blow the original Twilight‘s $69 million opening weekend out of the water, and could come close to, or even best, New Moon‘s $142 million debut. Of course, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn – Part 1 were all sequel films, while The Hunger Games is an untested film property – making these lofty predictions even more surprising. We here at Screen Rant were even skeptical about whether the Hunger Games marketing campaign had done enough to attract the wider audience who weren’t already fans of the books. Apparently that skepticism was misplaced.
Of course, this fake war between Twilight and Hunger Games is just what the term would imply: it’s fake. Lionsgate owns the rights to The Hunger Games movie(s) and Summit Entertainment owns the rights to the Twilight movies – and earlier this year, Lionsgate and Summit merged into one studio, ostensibly brining both HG and TS under one roof. All the money on these big franchises now flows the same way.
More to the point: these movies based on popular Young Adult novels tend to appeal to the same crowds – those who like stories about teens thrown into fantastical situations / love triangles with sensitive, brooding men. Both have strong(ish) female protagonists, familiar genre tropes, etc…
…Bottom line: their similarities are stronger than their differences, and both will be cash-cows for Summit/Lionsgate.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.