As a kid watching reruns of THE BRADY BUNCH, the one episode I was happy to watch over and over was the one in which the whole gang went to Kings Island amusement park. Other people wanted to see the mixed family hit the beach to watch Greg hang 10, but I was all about seeing them break every rule of theme park etiquette in their mad dash to get Mike’s sketches to the manager’s office before his butt could be fired.
Over the years, I’ve tuned into shows I’d never watch under other circumstances just to catch glimpses of parks I’ve been to, hope to go to or know I’ll only ever experience vicariously. For seven seasons, I checked out the opening credits of STEP BY STEP just to watch the Lambert-Foster clan (headed by Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers) frolic at Valencia, California’s Magic Mountain. Heck, I even suffered through a painfully unfunny episode of DINOSAURS in which the prehistoric family were forced to vacation at WeSaySoLand… a park so lame even I wouldn’t wanna go there.
Not surprisingly, ABC’s shows have a long history of visiting their corporate overlord, aka Mickey Mouse, at his various vacation homes. Long before last night’s MODERN FAMILY had Gloria teetering around Disneyland in high heels, we got ROSEANNE joking that an old man sitting on a bench at Disney World was clearly a robot (told they haven’t been called “robots” for years, she quipped, “Sorry. Animatronic Americans.”) and FULL HOUSE’s Danny proposing to the world’s most clueless would-be fiancé, Vicky via fireworks above Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom.
Even soaps have gotten in on the act, with both SANTA BARBARA and ALL MY CHILDREN among the sudsers to have storylines unfold at Walt Disney World.
Without fail, these vacation-themed jaunts wind up happening during sweeps, and to be honest, I get far more excited about them than I do about the more typical weddings, births and deaths that tend to take place in record high numbers during the months of February, May and November. And the ones which unfold at Disney’s parks are almost without fail not-so-well-disguised advertorials for the House of Mouse… and yet, when done right, they’re a hit not only with me, but regular viewers as well.
Why? Because it’s something we can all relate to. What typical family doesn’t plan a vacation to Disney or some other amusement park at some point? Doing so is as normal as many of the other things we never see TV families do… like use the bathroom or… well, watch television. So is it any wonder that watching MODERN FAMILY’s Dunphy/Pritchett clan — the very picture of upper-middle class America — taking the type of vacation we all dream of hits home? We see ourselves in them and think, hopefully, that even if we can’t take that trip this year, maybe we’ll do it next year.
And unlike Gloria, we’ll be sure to wear sensible shoes.
Richard M. Simms blogs at The TV Addict.
It’s safe to say that the expectations for the upcoming third season of AMC’s The Walking Dead are fairly high, given the tease at the end of season 2 featuring not only the debut of fan-favorite Michonne (Danai Gurira), but the new season will also take the survivors off Hershel’s farm and have them set up camp in a rather ominous-looking prison.
In an an on-set interview with AMC, Kirkman offered a description of the prison set and spoke briefly on the subject of Michonne’s sword-handling skills. He also spoke about fan expectations with the inclusion of the villainous Governor (David Morrissey) and how he will play into the larger, more dangerous world that is expected to be unveiled during season 3.
According to Kirkman, the prison set is one of the most remarkable pieces of construction for a television series, and it largely works because of its faithfulness to the source material.
“The big change this season is we’ve got this amazing prison that we’re filming in. It’s absolutely stunning, and I never get used to being on set. They’ve taken a lot of what you see in the comic book series and brought it to life in ways that I didn’t think possible. This is going to be one of the most impressive looking things that’s ever been put together for a show.”
So far, The Walking Dead has been about small band of characters surviving together against the threat of the undead walkers, but in season 2, a potentially greater menace was revealed in the form of other survivors, hell bent on making the most out of the inherent lawlessness of a society in ruins. With that added danger, season 3 begins a new chapter where humans step up to the top of the food chain and once more become the primary hazard to the living.
“The plan was always to evolve naturally into a place were the zombies essentially become a manageable threat. You know the rules. You know how to deal with them. To a certain extent they become something to not really be scared of unless you mess up. Humans, however, do not follow any rules and will always do something that surprises you and are capable of doing things far worse than trying to eat you… We’re definitely going to be seeing a lot of horrible things.”
Of course, for fans of the comic, the prison storyline features horrible things done to and by the two newest members of the cast: Michonne and the Governor. To hear Kirkman say it, the adaptation of the key prison elements to television will set the standard for The Walking Dead series in terms of the scale and spectacle of the storytelling.
“When you think about The Walking Dead comic series, you think about oh, the stuff they with did the Governor, the stuff they did with the prison and Woodbury and Michonne. And that’s really a lot of the stuff that people remember the story for and that’s stuff we haven’t even gotten to in the TV show yet. So as much as people love the show, and as high as the ratings are, and as cool as the show is, I feel like we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet. This season is absolutely going to blow people away.”
Although she was only teased at the end of the second season, Michonne quickly became one of the most talked about aspects of the finale and since then everyone seems to be fascinated with the sword-weilding mystery woman and her undead traveling companions. Although Kirkman confirms Michonne will be hacking some zombies, the show won’t lose its focus on the human drama.
“There’s been quite a bit of sword training going on and [Danai] is doing an amazing job. She’s going to do all of the hard character stuff and drama that The Walking Dead is known for, but she has tremendous physical capability and the sword training that I’ve seen is absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to see her hack up some zombies. She’s using a sword that we specially designed for the show…The origins of the sword will be revealed on the show.”
One thing fans can expect is more zombie madness when season 3 rolls around; mainly because the season has increased the episode count of season 2 - bringing the total number of episodes to 16. That’s 10 more episodes than the entirety of season 1.
“The actors and the crew and a lot of the producers would not be thrilled to hear me saying this, but I love doing 16 episodes a year. I think the more the better, and I think it’s a lot of fun. We are going to get to tell bigger stories, and tell more stories, and get into the characters a lot more. So the more the merrier.”
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.
Montclair, New Jersey, is a town in which I fondly spent some time working for a public relations firm a few years back. On Saturday, I returned to the happy hamlet to watch some extraordinary nonfiction films at the 1st annual Montclair Film Festival (MFF), which in full disclosure, is directed by my DOC NYC colleagues and dynamic duo Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen. According to the MFF’s Mission, it exists to nurture and showcase the talents of filmmakers from around the world, creating a cultural focal point in the Township of Montclair that unites, empowers, educates and celebrates the region’s diverse community and robust artistic heritage. MFF also has the distinction of being advised by one of its own residents, notable Comedy Central host, Stephen Colbert.
The Audience Award winner at DOC NYC, First Position, which coincidentally opened this past weekend in theaters in New York and Los Angeles via Sundance Selects, chronicles a diverse group of student dancers as they compete for scholarships at the Youth America Grand Prix. First time director Bess Kargman follows six students from varied backgrounds (including a Sierra Leone war orphan adopted by a New Jersey family) as they strive to achieve their dreams.
Festival co-director Raphaela Neihausen began the discussion after the sold-out screening by asking Kargman how the story came about. Kargman, a dancer when she was a child herself, said this was a film she knew hadn’t existed, and she doesn’t mean a “competition” film. What she means is a film that shows amazing things beyond the stage and the studio. She wanted to show how that this diverse groups of kids lead such fascinating lives when they’re not dancing, showing their relationships with their friends and their parents, and their hobbies, shattering stereotypes – not all ballet dancers are white or rich, not all male ballet dancers are gay, not all ballet parents are psycho. The parents are fulfilling their dreams for their kids, it’s really the kids’ dreams. Kargman said she kind of made this film for the haters of ballet to show them there is much more to ballet, calling it “half sport, half art.” One needs to have such strength and artistry, and can never show exertion. And it’s her hope that audiences feel that she has captured not only what it’s like to be a dancer, but also how it is to be young and to have this dream, and to be inspired by it even if you’re not a kid anymore. The audience applauded Kargman for that, and then the floor was open to questions from the audience.
Kargman was asked if she had determined from the get go which of the kids she would highlight as characters in the film, and if there were any others who didn’t make the final cut. She said she’s been asked this question before, and also how she could predict how well these kids would do in the competition. When she was casting the film, what she wanted besides incredible personalities and diversity were kids who step out on the stage and really do become different human beings. It is innate when a child possesses this level of artistry, grace and talent, which cannot be taught. She didn’t set out to choose winners and sort out the losers. It would not have been a problem if one of the kids did terribly and not made it to the final round, because it shows real life.
In terms of getting access to these kids and their families, Kargman said that when she was on her lunch break one day in Manhattan, she saw a banner for the Youth America Grand Prix. She snuck into the theater getting the last seat. She saw the most unbelievable dancer she had seen for that age. She was so taken aback, and determined that this would have to be her first film. She didn’t know who this girl was and couldn’t remember her name when they announced it. She went through the name of the hundreds of competitors that year. She eventually found the girl’s name, and saw that she also had a brother in the competition. They were the first two kids she knew she wanted to be in the film. In order for her to make the film, she needed to prove to the competition that it would be worth their while. They didn’t need the publicity, and wanted to know what would be in it for them. They wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to make them look bad like a reality-type show. She needed to earn their trust. She created a proposal and what her vision of the film would be. Particularly, she told them how she wanted the bodies of these dancers to be shot. They don’t like when reality dance competitions show just a close-up of the heads of the dancer, cutting off the rest of their bodies. It was always her intention to capture their full bodies, and they loved that.
After seeing the wonderful First Position at the Bellevue Theater in Montclair, I pliéd onto a trolley that gracefully rode me to the Clairidge Cinema where I saw two films with entirely different subject matter that was quite a bit more provocative and adult in nature. If First Position was a film about having dreams, no matter what age you are, these other two films were more cautionary tales about how your actions and behavior as an adult on what you either say or do can have serious ramifications on the rest of your life. It’s also ironic that last week I went to my first taping of a television talk show, The Anderson Cooper Show (airing Tuesday, May , which brings to mind these next two films. The show I went to, the guest was the husband of a woman who basically conned her whole town into thinking she had cancer so that they’d donate items to her for her wedding such as a wedding dress, and all the works totally about $13,000. The woman never had cancer, she deceived everyone, and is now in jail paying for her crime. This may seem like child’s play to Marc Dreier, prominent attorney who committed a Bernie Madoff-like crime by defrauding hundreds of millions of dollars from hedge funds.
Dreier is the subject of Marc H. Simon’s documentary, Unraveled. Simon, not only a filmmaker, but also a practicing attorney himself, who once worked at Dreier’s firm, intimately captures Dreier with unprecedented access in his last few months of house arrest awaiting his trial. How did he bridge the gap from being an attorney to making films, the moderator asked? Simon said in law school, he worked for The Innocence Project, which exonerates the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing. This was a project he was passionate about, and he wanted to bring attention to the issues. This first film, After Innocence, was about wrongful conviction, and Unraveled, his third film, is about actual guilt.
Simon said he had worked for Dreier’s law firm for six years when the implosion occurred. Before then, he would have called Dreier a mentor, someone he looked up to, he was loyal and supportive of Simon building his entertainment practice and allowing him to make his other films on the side, appreciating his entrepreneurial spirit. But when this happened, it was an ultimate betrayal. Despite losing out on deferred bonuses, Simon said he stayed on with the firm a few months longer, and during this time, he did not want to make a film about Dreier. It wasn’t until Stick Figure Productions approached Simon about making the film. At the time his film Nursery University was premiering. He said to himself, “if I don’t explore the opportunity to make a film about this, I’ll be kicking myself.” His friend as Stick Figure knew Dreier’s attorney, with whom he spoke and he in turn spoke with Dreier. Within 20 minutes of that call, Simon received a response that Dreier was interested in exploring the possibility of the film. They had one preliminary meeting, and the next time Simon saw Dreier after that, he began filming.
There were no ground rules as to what Simon could ask. Dreier had no say over the edit of the film. Dreier was very open in terms of Simon allowing him to ask him whatever he wanted, but he didn’t know how Simon would edit the film. Simon said he used a process in the film that he calls the “unreliable narrator” by not relying on other talking heads to talk about him. It was just Dreier, who Simon said we know is a thief, a liar, and a fraud, and he’s challenging the audience to make up its own mind and decisions about Dreier. He didn’t know Simon was going to do it that way, but Dreier did have the ability to control his own story through this process, because he had the ability to say he didn’t want to answer something if he didn’t want to answer it, such was the case when Simon asked Dreier about his mother, which is included in the film to show that there are areas that Dreier wasn’t willing to reveal.
The moderator of the discussion said that Simon gave Dreier a platform to tell his side of the story, which seems to show that Dreier was showed remorse for himself and his family, but not so much for his victims, asking Simon if he felt that Dreier was being remorseful. Simon said that of the audiences who have seen the film who are challenged by that question, approximately one-third believe that Dreier is not remorseful at all. One-third of audiences catch themselves feeling some empathy for Dreier. And there’s a third who think that he is remorseful. Simon’s answer is that Dreier is not 100% a sociopath, because he does think Dreier has feelings for his family and that he is intellectually remorseful that he got caught, but not necessarily viscerally remorseful. Dreier is on the record for having remorse for his employees, and he never expresses remorse for the victims of the hedge funds. Simon said it would be interesting to see over time if that changes.
Going back to the irony of my first TV talk show taping, Anderson Cooper, a journalist for CNN, is as tame as a lamb compared to the original évocateur, Morton Downey, Jr., whose bite was as mighty as a lion. Dubbed the “Father of Trash Television,” Morton Downey Jr. pushed the boundaries of controversy and confrontation from his New Jersey studio and became a media sensation in the late 1980s. Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie, shows never-before-seen footage and takes us behind Downey’s cult of personality while charting his rise and fall. Interviewees include Pat Buchanan, Sally Jesse Raphael, Alan Dershowitz, as well as Downey’s former colleagues, critics and fans. Their testimony brings new insight to a bizarre chapter of TV history. A segment of the film also reveals the behind the scenes of what happened when the Reverend Al Sharpton appeared on the show during the time of Tawana Brawley’s infamous false rape scandal. And the film later reveals Morton Downey Jr.’s own downfall after he made up a story that skinheads attacked him in an airport bathroom. Whether you loved or hated the right-leaning, cigarette smoking, in-your-face antics of Morton Downey Jr., the film is quite good, and is a provocative look at the making of a media machine, which has influenced much of television today.
Steve Adubato, a New Jersey broadcaster who worked at WOR Channel 9 in Secaucus, NJ, around the time The Morton Downey, Jr. Show began airing, moderated a discussion after the Montclair screening with directors Seth Kramer and Daniel A. Miller, starting by asking them why they made a film about MDJ. Kramer said he and Miller were fans of the show when they were teenagers in the late 1980s. They never went to see a taping of the show, and were just viewers, but had friends who went that are in the film.
Adubato asked the directing duo why they felt the original producers of the MDJ Show were so willing to share everything about Downey Jr. Miller said Downey Jr. sort of fell off the map in 1989 after the fake incident. Those producers had a lot of fun working on the show, but they didn’t get a lot of closure. This film was an opportunity for them to open up about who he was and what he meant to them. Kramer added that MDJ had a dynamic personality, but he had let them down. Also, Lori, MDJ’s final wife and widow, didn’t want to be interviewed in the film. She lived the experience, and didn’t want to relive it again, and she hasn’t seen the film.
Adubato was curious to know from the fellas if they tried to speak at all with Al Sharpton. Kramer jokingly responded that they tried to speak to The Reverend Al Sharpton, and also Al Sharpton. “We have the distinction of being the only media opportunity that man has ever turned down,” Kramer said. He didn’t say, “no.” He said, “yes,” and when the date on the calendar came by, he had something else to do.
When looking at some of the loud, more obnoxious television of today with similar ideological points of view, Rush Limbaugh for example, how much of what MDJ did was a pre-cursor to today’s landscape, Adubato asked?Kramer said people were doing the MDJ act on the radio for many years, but he was one of the first people, not just to bring that act to TV, but to also to bring in younger people and male viewers. A lot of the people who were into Right wing talk before MDJ were old people playing cards. He said the most incredible passionate narrative in the world is the American story. People on the right talk about their politics constantly weaving in the American story. Downey opened the floor.
Brian Geldin blogs at The Film Panel Notetaker.
Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is a “first” for Marvel movies in more than one way. For example, it’s the first major motion picture to feature so many significant superheroes. It’s also Marvel’s longest film, clocking in at two hours and fifteen minutes.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t include all the hallmarks of the previous Marvel superhero films, like the obligatory Stan Lee cameo and another (scene stealing?) turn by Clark Gregg as fan-favorite Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Recently, Stan Lee discussed his forthcoming cameos in The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Iron Man 3, while Clark Gregg talked about his reaction to seeing The Avengers for the very first time.
Here’s Stan Lee talking about his upcoming cameos, courtesy of Collider:
“’The Avengers’ cameo that you will see, when that movie opens up, is possibly one of my best. And you know how good mine have been, but [‘The Avengers] cameo] is so funny. I can’t tell you what it is because they’d kill me, but it’s funny. So is the ‘[Amazing] Spider-Man’ one, by the way. They’re deciding to make my cameos a little funnier. They know that’s what brings the audiences in, of course, so they’ve gotta play them up.”
In regards to a cameo in Iron Man 3, Lee said:
“I haven’t done that cameo yet. It’s almost scary because they just give me a date. They’ll say, ‘Stan, come over next Thursday for your cameo,’ but they don’t tell me what it is. So, I show up and they say, ‘Go to wardrobe.’ In wardrobe, they say, ‘We want to get you a white shirt and a green sweater and a black zippered jacket,’ and I’ll say, ‘Don’t bother, I’m wearing one.’ And then, they say, ‘But, you can’t wear yours!,’ and they look around and get me the exact same thing, but I’m not allowed to wear my own. And I still don’t know what my role will be. I go on the set and one minute before we’re gonna shoot, the director says, ‘Okay, Stan, this is what I want you to do.’ So, I don’t know what is expected of me, until I get there, but of course, I do it magnificently.”
Honestly – and I’m probably in the minority here – but I’ve gotten to the point where I find these Stan Lee cameos to be more trouble than they’re worth. Sure, it was vaguely funny at first, but now every time he shows up, I’m just ripped straight out of the film. How many ways can one man make a cameo in these superhero films?
Obviously, the cameos aren’t intrusive or annoying enough to irrevocably alter the quality of the films, but the point still stands.
Meanwhile, actor Clark Gregg – who has co-starred in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man TV – has seen The Avengers. He shared his impressions of the film with Collider, saying:
“I’m very excited for people to see this movie. I think the fans, like me, will be as excited as I was, when I saw it. From the minute I read Joss Whedon’s script, I thought, ‘Oh, man, this is going to be fun to do!’ The hardest thing to get right is to figure out how to bring all those characters together, and to fulfill the promise of The Avengers. They really set a very high bar for themselves because you’ve been setting this coalition up, for these five movies, and they better deliver. And in my opinion, they thoroughly deliver.”
It goes without saying that Gregg is a paid representative of Marvel and The Avengers, so the film could be terrible and he’s still not likely to badmouth it. Having said that, it’s worth noting how obviously enthusiastic the guy is with regard to the material. This man seems to genuinely care about these properties, about his role as Agent Coulson, and about the effect all of it has had on the fans — both children and adults alike — and his career.
Ben Moore blogs at Screen Rant.
Not about to be outdone by the theatrical release of Marvel’s The Avengers (read our review) – with Warner Bros.’ third Dark Knight Rises trailer tagging along – Sony has gone ahead and unveiled a third (and final?) trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, a controversial revamping of the webslinger movie franchise.
The latest theatrical promo for Andrew Garfield’s debut as Peter Parker will also be attached to Avengers prints. But even armed with some fantastic 3D effects, plus a potpourri of classic and modernized elements from the comics, can this Spider-Man reboot really go toe-to-toe with this summer’s superhero movie juggernauts?
Judging by this latest trailer: Amazing Spider-Man should at least put up a pretty dang good fight, as far as justifying Sony’s decision to reboot the franchise goes.
The darker color palette and 3D visuals shown here look overall quite crisp, even without the benefit of the big screen – though, much like the latest Dark Knight Rises trailer, this Amazing Spider-Man footage will clearly benefit from being viewed in a theater (especially in 3D). Much of that also holds true for the film’s version of The Lizard, who comes off as a pretty solid CGI/motion-capture creation.
Similarly, it’s fun to see Garfield playing a version of Peter Parker that feels truer to the character so many comic book readers have fallen in love with over the years – be it his mad science skills, trash-talking his foes when he dons the Spidey costume, or seeming more like a genuine modern-day teenager when spending time with his girl Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and her family.
What new hints are provided of the film’s “untold story” (re: the disappearance of Pete’s biological parents and their connection to Oscorp) are not only intriguing, but also allude to a greater mythology than can be covered in one movie.
Considering that Sony already has an Amazing Spider-Man sequel in the works, that could be read as a sign of confidence in the final product – though, admittedly, previous superhero movies have suffered by getting ahead of themselves like that (Green Lantern, looking at you).
Overall, this new footage continues to give us reason to think that Amazing Spider-Man could actually be a pretty great addition to the superhero movie pantheon, on its own. Whether or not it will suffer from being sandwiched between two comic book movie “events” this summer, that’s another matter…
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
It seems tough enough for a well-regarded film to make the successful transition from screen to stage. If you need evidence, take a look at the legendary flop musical version of “Gone with the Wind,” or the currently running Broadway production of “Ghost,” which has received less-than-positive reviews.
So the odds of a movie that was a flop being turned into a Broadway success? Many would say slim to none.
But the newsies – the young boys that sold newspapers back in the day – beat the odds once when they got newspaper titans to buy back their unsold papers in 1899, and it seems to be happening again with their musical on Broadway, “Newsies,” which is based off the 1992 critically savaged movie and which was nominated for 8 Tony Awards yesterday.
I’d seen the movie and, while I admit that some aspects of it are less than great, loved many of the songs in the film. (The movie also features Christian “Batman” Bale as teenage strike leader Jack Kelly, dancing and singing with a Brooklyn accent.) So I was glad to hear that it was making its way to the stage, happy when it got good reviews, and even more excited when I got to go see it at the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway.
Anyone who’s been to a stage show knows the etiquette. People sometimes applaud after the overture, applaud quietly after songs and dance numbers, and, if they’re really thrilled, stand up for a standing ovation at the end of the show.
So I was completely unprepared for the “Newsies” audience when I saw the show this weekend. I was sitting in the balcony, with people of various ages and genders around me, and with the clock having struck 8 p.m., the lights went down in the theater, as they will do when the show’s about to start.
And people started to scream. Nothing had happened yet, mind you. No one was on stage. People were THAT excited to see this show that the mere suggestion it was about to start prompted yells like we were at a Jonas Brothers concert.
It continued, too, throughout the show, which follows the teenage – and younger – newsboys who work for Joseph Pulitzer (John Dossett) who are aghast to find one morning that big bad Joe has raised the prices they have to pay to buy papers to sell to customers. Charismatic Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan), a newsie with a mysterious past who dreams of going to live in Santa Fe, manages to rally them together to stand up against some of the most powerful men in the city. The events are based on a real strike.
And in the show, after almost every number -- certainly every one that involved the ensemble of newsboys -- the screaming and applauding would go on for so long that after a while, the orchestra would start up, because I’m sure there was a tech crew backstage freaking out over the run time.
Not that the show didn’t justify some of the screaming. The stage adaptation (the book for which was written by Broadway vet Harvey Fierstein) drops the less useful subplots and characters, like newsie David’s sister, and adds in a firecracker of a character in intrepid female reporter Katherine, who replaces Bill Pullman’s role in the film version as the journalist who stumbles on the David and Goliath story of children taking on the newspaper titans. And the show keeps the movie’s strongest songs, including Jack Kelly’s song about his dream, “Santa Fe,” and the rallying strike songs, including “The World Will Know” and “Once And For All.”
And the dancing was phenomenal. The newsboys ensemble – and sometimes reporter Katherine – all participated in multiple large dance numbers with flips, other gymnastic moves, and one great trick involving dancing on newspapers.
Actor Jeremy Jordan was recently seen onscreen in the Queen Latifah-Dolly Parton movie “Joyful Noise,” about a choir entering a national competition, and he knocks it out of the park as Jack, with a great voice that justified “Santa Fe” being the act-one closer.
There were a couple of unnecessary numbers – “The Bottom Line,” Pulitzer’s villain song, could have been cut for a scene that’s already a little too long. And the subplot of Jack’s singer friend Medda Larkin, who gets a song of her own, still doesn’t seem to figure much into the main plot. But a new song added for Katherine, “Watch What Happens,” was pretty and gave her something to do as the female lead, and “Watch” blended seamlessly with the rest of the songs.
The screaming at curtain call, by the way, was even louder than before.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
One of the most surprising developments in The Avengers, based on early reviews and reactions, is that the Incredible Hulk is finally awesome on the big screen. In fact, it has been said on more than one occasion that the Hulk steals the entire show.
Perhaps as a result of that success, Marvel’s President of Consumer Products, Paul Glitter, recently talked about Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming television adaptation of The Hulk and spinning it off as a major motion picture in 2015. Scroll down for details.
According to Paul Glitter, courtesy of Forbes:
“[After spinning 'Hulk'] off to a stand-alone [television] program next year, [Marvel will support said program with a big-budget feature film in 2015].”
Aside from the character being well-received in The Avengers, why has Marvel decided to move forward with a third Hulk film when the last two were tepid successes at best – and when Kevin Feige recently claimed they had no plans to do so?
“His sales are up in a major way. We repositioned him from where he was always misunderstood to now depicting him in a more heroic and aspirational manner.”
Buh? His sales are up in a “major” way? What sales are those exactly? If he’s referring to the comic books, The Incredible Hulk and The Hulk placed 37th and 87th, respectively, in March direct market sales. Now, direct sales are admittedly not the be-all, end-all in terms of comic book $$$, but they are indicative of demand for a title.
Sure, it’s fair to say that both those books are up from where they were last year (marginally, in The Hulk‘s case), but if you compare them to where they were two years ago, they’re down. Three years ago? Way down. Four years ago? Way, way, way down.
Perhaps the most telling statement from Glitter was one to do with branding:
“There are many opportunities for brands to align with the big commercial in the sky [Glitter’s term for blockbuster movies], but we want to develop sustainable relationships [with our promotional partners].”
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making as much money as possible on these films, but I think it’s fair to say that we’re lucky Marvel chose Joss Whedon to bring The Avengers to the big screen – that is, someone who cares as much about the characters he’s developing as he does the money he’s receiving. Hopefully, the next Hulk film will be just as fortunate.
Ben Moore blogs at Screen Rant.
A hundred and eight years after the boy who wouldn’t grow up first appeared onstage, the play “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the story of how Peter Pan came to be the figure we know today, earned 9 Tony nominations yesterday – and no one was more excited than me.
By a quirk of timing, I’d gone this past weekend to New York to do a mini-Broadway tour, part of which included heading to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre to check out the “Peter” production. I was excited, having read the books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson on which the play is based. (The first book, titled “Peter and the Starcatchers,” was the source of most of the play’s story.) The books, by the way, are great – there are currently four, a trilogy that takes place before the events of “Peter Pan” and then a book afterwards that involves a girl named Wendy. Barry and Pearson’s series is written for kids but could be enjoyed by anyone, and their increasingly inventive explanations for why Peter can fly, how he met his famous pirate nemesis, and how Tinkerbell came to be at his side, among others, keep you glued to the page.
So I had an idea of what I was about to see when I went to see the play, but even if you don’t, the story has an accessible hook. It’s Peter Pan before “Peter Pan.” For a Broadway where “Wicked” is still running, this is pretty easy to grasp.
In the show, a ship is about to leave from London for the mysterious land of Rundoon. Aboard is a girl named Molly (Celia Keenan-Bolger), who has been trusted by her father with a very special mission, and three orphan boys (Adam Chanler-Berat, Carson Elrod, and David Rossmer), who are to be sold as slaves to Rundoon’s king. However, a ship commanded by the villainous pirate Black Stache (Christian Borle) is in hot pursuit, because Black Stache believes there’s treasure aboard the other ship.
Learn that a naval battle is involved in the play, and you may be thinking the show’s budget went prohibitively high. But the show’s set is deceptively spare. Enough ropes and rigging hang down to give the appearance of being on a ship, and there are a few trunks, chairs and other small props, but other than that, the stage is practically empty, and changes in scenery are accomplished by the entire 12-person ensemble. When a nanny and a sailor are crouched in a tiny cabin, the room is represented by two other cast members holding a length of rope in the shape of a square around them.
My personal favorite: when Molly the intrepid young girl is exploring a hallway lined with doors, her fellow cast members stood with their backs to her. When she “opened” a door, she’d take hold of one of them and swing them out, and suddenly every other cast member would leap in front of her to act out what was happening in the room. When she “closed” the door, everyone would jump, with split-second timing, back into their spots as “doors,” suddenly eerily silent.
Every show probably bills itself as fun for all ages, but this one really was. There are enough goofy moments to keep kids giggling, but the pop culture references will get chuckles from the adults, as well as a few fourth-wall-breaking moments, as when the pirate Black Stache is interrogating a stubborn prisoner. “People are paying for nannies and parking!” Black Stache chastised when the prisoner continued to delay.
The entire cast was fantastic – and no player had too big a part to hold move scenery during the show – but special mentions have to go to a few cast members, including Chanler-Berat, who portrayed the mysterious Boy and was by turns petulant and endearing at the beginning of the show before completely winning you over. Keenan-Bolger as the headstrong Molly excelled at portraying a stiff British young girl who had to be melted by degrees. And Borle as Black Stache, who’s currently starring on the NBC show “Smash,” made my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. Rattling off a mile-a-minute patter, he chews on the scenery like he hasn’t eaten for days and, especially in his early scenes, flings himself off trunks and into other cast members in deliriously silly slapstick routines.
Oh, and there’s a great musical number at the beginning of act 2 that comes with a surprise – but I won’t spoil it.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
The Dark Knight Rises trailer 3 is here! The Avengers is the belle of the ball in theaters right now, but Chris Nolan’s finale to the Batman trilogy is far from forgotten – and will surely be in the forefront again (for better or worse) after people get a look at the new footage.
After three trailers we have some of the answers that fans have been wondering and/or worrying about – plus new questions to wonder and/or worry about. Scroll down to the comments for the discussion.
The best word to describe this third Dark Knight Rises trailer would probably be “crescendo.” Starting from Selina Kyle’s (Anne Hathaway) ominous whispered threat to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) about coming storms – to the final shot of The Bat hovercraft soaring and barrel-rolling across the skies of Gotham, this trailer attempts to showcase just how epic this third and final film is going to be.
Admittedly, however, this is clearly a trailer that is meant for a big screen – the final scene of The Bat hovercraft seemingly taking advantage of the film’s impressive IMAX format (along with many other scenes glimpsed in the trailer).
Here are a couple of things of note, in terms of questions that have been answered:
- Catwoman seems like a cynical crook-for-hire, but one who eventually takes up Batman’s cause. I have a feeling the new footage will assuage a lot of doubt about Anne Hathaway getting the role.
- The audio on Bane’s (Tom Hardy) vocals has definitely been cleaned up and clarified. While it’ll be easier to understand, there is something lost in the effect the ravaged, scratchy version had.
- The movie seems to be a combination of the Batman comic book storylines “Knightfall“, “Knightquest“, and “No Man’s Land“. Click any of those titles to learn more about the respective stories.
As for new questions and worries:
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard’s characters – for the moment – seem to be no more than what they are: a local Gotham cop and Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, respectively. Rumors have long been flying about one or both of them having secret identities of their own – but Nolan is playing that close to the vest for now (or, scary thought, not playing that game at all).
- Looking at the story structure, it seems like there will be a significant portion of this film in which there is no Batman, just Bruce Wayne. Don’t know how fans will feel about that.
- Side characters like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cop character and other supporting players like Commissioner Gordon, Miranda Tate and Catwoman may not serve as suitable substitutions for Batman in a “Batman movie.”
As we discuss on this week’s Screen Rant Podcast, Dark Knight Rises in some ways has it harder than, say, The Amazing Spider-Man. Nolan and Co. have HUGE expectations to live up to – critically, financially, publicly – and even if he does a really good job, anything short of goosebump-inducing awe will be considered a disappointment. By contrast, if Spider-Man is even marginally entertaining, it’ll be deemed a pleasant surprise.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
The nominations were announced by “Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons, who will headline a Broadway production of “Harvey” in June, and “GCB” actress Kristin Chenoweth, who rose to Broadway fame when she originated the role of Galinda in the musical “Wicked” and most recently starred in another musical, “Promises, Promises.”
“The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess,” a revival of the classic musical that also drew controversy for changing some aspects of the show, received 10 nominations, second only to "Once," which received 11. The Peter Pan origin story “Peter and the Starcatcher,” based on the children’s book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, earned the most nominations for a play, with 9.
Four shows are each nominated for the biggest awards for the Tonys, Best Play and Best Musical. In addition to “Peter,” the plays “Clybourne Park,” “Other Desert Cities,” and “Venus in Fur” received nods for Best Play, while “Leap of Faith,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Newsies,” and “Once” made the cut for Best Musical.
The two nominations for the famously troubled musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” for costume design and set design, were viewed as a disappointing awards haul by some. “Spider-Man” didn’t garner a nomination for Best Musical or one for its original score.
The Tonys separately recognize plays and musicals that were produced as revivals, and four of each made the cut this year. Best Revival of a Play nominees are “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman,” “Master Class,” “Wit,” and “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” while “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Follies,” and “Evita” earned nods for Best Revival of a Musical.
Those nominated for their acting work in a play include actor James Corden for “One Man, Two Guvnors” as well as James Earl Jones for “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” John Lithgow for “The Columnist,” Frank Langella for “Man and Boy,” and Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.”
Actress Linda Lavin earned the only nod for the play “The Lyons” through her nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, along with Cynthia Nixon for “Wit,” Nina Arianda for “Venus in Fur,” Stockard Channing for “Other Desert Cities,” and Tracie Bennett for “End of the Rainbow.”
For the Tony Awards, the categories of best “featured” actors and actresses are roughly the equivalent of the Oscars’ best supporting actor and actress categories. For plays, “Spider-Man” star Andrew Garfield earned a nod for his work in “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman,” joining fellow nominees Michael Cumpsty for “End of the Rainbow,” Christian Borle for “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Jeremy Shamos for “Clybourne Park,” and Tom Edden for “One Man, Two Guvnors.”
“Death of a Salesman” earned another nod with actress Linda Emond’s nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play. Also nominated were Judith Light for “Other Desert Cities,” Celia Keenan-Bolger for “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Condola Rashad for “Stick Fly,” and Spencer Kayden for “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
For musicals, acting nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical were Jeremy Jordan for “Newsies,” Danny Burstein for “Follies,” Norm Lewis for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” Ron Raines for “Follies” and Steve Kazee for “Once.” Actresses who earned a nod for their leading performance in a musical were Cristin Milioti for “Once,” Kelli O’Hara for “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Laura Osnes for “Bonnie & Clyde,” Audra McDonald for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” and Jan Maxwell for “Follies.”
The actors in a musical who were nominated in the featured category were Michael Cerveris for “Evita,” David Alan Grier for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” Michael McGrath in “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Josh Young in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and Phillip Boykin for his show “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” Actresses who received a featured nod for a musical were Jayne Houdyshell for “Follies,” Judy Kaye for “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Jessie Mueller for “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever,” Da’Vine Joy Randolph in “Ghost: The Musical,” and Elizabeth A. Davis for “Once.”
Four musicals were nominated for the category of Best Book of a Musical, which recognizes the portions of a musical that are not sung. “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Lysistrata Jones,” “Newsies,” and “Once” received nods this year.
The shows honored in the Best Original Score (Music And/Or Lyrics) category were two plays which included music and two musicals – “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “One Man, Two Guvnors,” and “Newsies” took the four slots.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.