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Culture Cafe

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

'The Avengers' is a movie that 'thoroughly deliver[s],' says actor Clark Gregg, who plays Agent Coulson. (Zade Rosenthal/Disney/AP)

'The Avengers' actor Clark Gregg and Stan Lee talk about the new film

By Ben MooreScreen Rant / 05.07.12

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.

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In the new 'Amazing Spider-Man' trailer, Peter Parker seems like more of a modern-day, average teenager than the portrayal actor Tobey Maguire brought to the superhero in the first trilogy of films. (Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Sony Pictures/AP)

'Amazing Spider-Man' trailer shows a dark story

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 05.04.12

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.

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Tony Awards will include nominees from the musical 'Newsies'

By Contributor / 05.02.12

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.

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Marvel's president of consumer products didn't mention whether the planned movie would include the return of Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk. (Reuters)

The Incredible Hulk getting his own movie – again?

By Ben MooreScreen Rant / 05.02.12

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?

Says Glitter:

“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.

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'Peter and the Starcatcher' stars Adam Chanler-Berat (fourth from left) as the mysterious Boy and 'Smash' star Christian Borle (fifth from left) as the pirate Black Stache. (The O & M Co./AP)

Tony nominations honor inventive 'Peter and the Starcatcher'

By Contributor / 05.02.12

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.

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'The Dark Knight Rises' trailer shows more of menacing villain Bane, and he's easier to understand in the new clip. (Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube screenshot)

'The Dark Knight Rises' trailer gives more hints about the trilogy's finale

By Kofi OutlawScreen Rant / 05.01.12

 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.

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'Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman' actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield both earned nominations for their work in the play. (Charles Sykes/AP)

Tony nominations: 'Once,' 'Porgy and Bess' lead the pack

By / 05.01.12

The musical “Once,” based on the 2006 Oscar-winning movie, led both musicals and plays with the most overall Tony nominations on Tuesday morning.

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.

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Scott Bakula says that the entire 'Housewives' cast seems to be sad to bid goodbye to the series. 'I’ve been around shows at the end where people are dying to get out of there and this isn’t that case,' he said. (ABC)

Scott Bakula discusses arriving for end of 'Desperate Housewives'

By The TV Addict / 04.30.12

One of the few positives to knowing well in advance that a show such as DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is coming to a close is that it affords a creator like Marc Cherry ample time to check off his bucket list. Case in point, the recent addition of Scott Bakula to Wisteria Lane as Bree’s defence attorney Trip Weston is a guest spot eight seasons in the making. At least according to Bakula, the affable actor who was only too happy to take some time during the show’s final week of shooting to tease what’s in store for his character’s relationship with Bree both in and outside the courtroom, what it’s like to be a part of such an iconic show’s closing chapter and what fans can expect from the upcoming series finale. See for yourself, after the jump.

Is an offer to guest star on the final five episodes of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES an automatic yes for an actor, or is it something you had to think about?
Scott Bakula: In this case it was easy because I’m a fan of the show. My wife and I got hooked from the beginning and have pretty much watched for eight years. I’ve bumped into Marc Cherry periodically over the years and he would say, “We gotta get you on the show,” and I would say, “You’re right!” yet it just never happened. And basically I had written off that it would ever happen so when they called and asked if I wanted to do the last five, it just sounded perfect. Plus, it was working with Marcia, who I had worked with when she was a baby, twenty years ago on QUANTUM LEAP, so it all seemed like it was meant to be.

If there is one thing we’ve learned having spent the better part of eight seasons watching DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is that everyone who comes to the show brings with them a secret or two!
 I think what’s fun about him [Bakula referring to his character of Trip] is that we don’t really know what his motives are and we’re not sure what he’s up to, so I kind of played that a little closer to the vest and hopefully some secrets will be revealed as we go along. I can tease that there’s going to be a relationship with Bree, but I don’t want to talk about what form it’s going to take. Rest assured, things get interesting there.

It has been said that guest starring on any show is the hardest job in Hollywood, very much akin to being the new kid at a new school. What was it like on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES?
 It can be a challenge and it really depends on what the set is like and who you’re working with. I’ve had good experiences and not so good experiences and this one was just a joy because the set is a great set to work on. They’ve got a great crew there, there’s a great energy on the set and Marcia [Cross] was completely wide open and available to working with me. Either she was happy that I was there or she’s a good liar because we hit it off right from the beginning and that just makes all the difference in the world.

Was the tone on the set that much more special knowing that this was the end of the series?
 The longest show I’ve ever done was four and a half years so I can only imagine what ending an eight year show is like. That family there, that group that they’ve lived with for almost more time than their real family for 8 years, there’s a huge history. Just with Marcia alone, what she has gone through, the explosion of her career, the fame of the show, her marriage, twins, just in her own private world… then multiply that by a couple of 100 people and it’s a huge deal. It’s just special to be a part of and to be around. It’s very emotional, and in this instance it’s in a good way. I’ve been around shows at the end where people are dying to get out of there and this isn’t that case.

Having been involved in quite a few series finales yourself, what do you think makes a good one and do you think DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES fans will be happy with how this one ends?
 The end of shows are a nightmare for everybody because there is so much pressure to satisfy everyone which of course you can’t do. So I think what Marc has done, and I believe successfully, is that he has kind of gone back to his own inner muse and he’s writing what I think is going to be delightful to him. And since it’s his show and people loved it from the beginning, hopefully it will be delightful to a lot of people. Look, they’ve got five big storylines that they’re trying to wrap up, and five big storylines that they carry every week and that in and of itself is a huge challenge, but they’ve been up to the task or they would have been gone a long time ago.

The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.

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'The Raven' actor Luke Evans (l.) manages to make scenes of exposition interesting that otherwise would have prompted eye rolls. (Larry Horricks/Relativity Media/AP)

'The Raven' is a strange mishmash of history and action

By Ben KendrickScreen Rant / 04.27.12

The titling of director James McTeigue’s Edgar Allan Poe thriller, The Raven, has no doubt confused plenty of would-be moviegoers ever since the film was first announced back in 2009. Instead of a retelling of Poe’s most famous poem, The Raven is actually a fictionalized narrative centered around the final days of the writer’s life – recasting Poe as a reluctant but brave hero that, along with a determined Baltimore detective, attempts to solve a string of grisly murders.

The re-imagined historical figures genre has become a new testing ground for Hollywood, most notably with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on the horizon (FYI: Edgar Allan Poe makes a guest appearance in the novel), where writers can take household names – and put a new, and in theory more exciting, twist on what would otherwise result in stuffier true-life drama (i.e. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic). As a result, does McTeigue’s The Raven offer both a fun spin on the last days of Edgar Allan Poe – while also delivering an exciting mystery story?

Unfortunately, the misleading confusing titling of The Raven is hardly the project’s biggest problem – as, despite a mostly competent (albeit sometimes campy) effort from both John Cusack (Poe) and Luke Evans (Detective Fields), the mystery narrative elements, as well as the respective kills, are surprisingly underwhelming. Many expectant moviegoers had been describing McTeigue’s Poe film as Se7en in 19th Century Baltimore but, sadly, The Raven lacks nearly all the aspects that made David Fincher’s serial killer film so captivating – i.e. jaw-dropping reveals, smart twists, and – despite loads of Poe stories to pull from – intriguing murder scenes are all in short supply.

As mentioned, The Raven follows the final days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life – presenting the tortured author as a self-absorbed and desperate social outcast whose work was still, at the time, mostly under-appreciated. The only glimmer of light in Poe’s impertinent existence is his furtive lover Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), the daughter of a retired Colonel and rich Baltimore socialite. However, when a brutal serial killer begins to dispatch victims, by recreating famous murders from Poe’s published stories, including “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” as well as “The Pit and the Pendulum,” the author is thrown into a malicious battle of wits – with life and death hanging in the balance.

Given how many of Poe’s “horror” mysteries have remained iconic staples of literary history, it’s shocking how quickly the film glosses over the few kill sequences that are included in The Raven. Only “The Pit and the Pendulum” delivers truly impactful, and grisly, on-screen action – with the rest of the murders rattling off one after another with hardly any build-up and uninspired on-site drama. However, even the “Pendulum” murder is void of compelling aftermath – since Poe (and the audience) is merely given the next “clue” as if it was an afterthought not an integral part of the current scene. Instead of presenting Poe and Fields as actual investigators on the trail of a serial killer (who walk into a room and actually deconstruct the scene) The Raven quickly devolves into watching the two chase after a shadowy murderer without stopping to let the audience enjoy the mystery as it unfolds piece by piece.

While moviegoers were initially skeptical of Cusack in the role of Poe – especially after Jeremy Renner, Ewan McGregor, and Joaquin Phoenix, had all been in talks at one point during pre-production – the Being John Malkovich (and 2012) star isn’t ultimately at fault for the film’s shortcomings. At first, Cusack over-does the tortured genius angle and actually makes the Poe “character” pretty unlikable (especially compared to a similar schtick from Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes); however, as the film’s murder plot takes hold, the actor backs-off from showcasing his practiced version of Poe and locks into a less ambitious, but more likable, approach – simply reacting to the various in-moment happenings. As a result, while the portrayal is campy and, at times, melodramatic, most audience members will likely be rooting for Poe as the film stumbles into the closing act.

Performances from the supporting cast is, similarly, a mixed bag – Eve as well as familiar faces that include Brendan Gleeson and Kevin McNally are competent enough and don’t distract from the core storyline. That said, none of their characters are nuanced or particularly interesting to watch – and only serve as mouths for exposition or goals/obstacles that Poe and Fields are expected to navigate. Only Evans manages to pull any above surface level emotion out of his character (which should be familiar territory for the actor given his solid work in The Immortals – which also featured a cast full of one-note characters). While Fields is still held hostage by the underwhelming story progression and boring scene work in The Raven, Evans emits just enough charisma in the role to successfully keep things going during a number of dialogue heavy scenes that would have otherwise been cause for eye rolling.

Ultimately, The Raven is just about what most pre-release cynics had been anticipating – a bizarre mishmash of historical elements and subpar on-screen drama capped off with an underwhelming but serviceable performance from John Cusack in the leading role. The project fails to impress at nearly every turn and, for a film with such a rich source material, offers very few surprises, intriguing twists, or interesting murder mayhem. While it’s easy to imagine some movie-lovers could enjoy the film when it hits cable, The Raven is never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting, And my soul from out that shadow that lies bored on the floor, Shall be interested – nevermore!

Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Awake' stars Jason Isaacs and Wilmer Valderrama may be looking for new shows this fall (Joel Ryan/AP)

NBC shows: Which will be canceled?

By The TV Addict / 04.26.12

With the Network’s traditional May UpFronts just around the corner, thought now might be as good a time as any to take a closer look at the potential fates of your favorite shows.

 You Take the Good: Tina Fey is America’s Sweetheart.
 You Take the Bad: “America’s Sweetheart” isn’t what it used to be. Hence, 30 ROCK’s measly 3 million viewers per week.
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: A thirteen episode seventh and final season to placate the New York Times.

 You Take the Good: Ummm…
 You Take the Bad: Writing… ratings… a semi-autobiographic show about Chelsea Handler that stars Laura Prepon… need we go on?
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: Come September, CHELSEA’s 3 million remaining fans will be the ones asking “Are you there, Chelsea?”

 You Take the Good: Thanks to some incredibly sharp storytelling and ridiculously stellar acting, AWAKE gets serious credit for reinvigorating our interest in the run-of-the-mill police procedural.
 You Take the Bad: Judging by the twenty million or so viewers that tune into the likes of NCIS on any given Tuesday, reinventing the wheel does not a hit show make.
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: For his next project, can Kyle Killen’s agent puh-lease point him towards a cable network?

 You Take the Good: The recent feud between creator Dan Harmon and star Chevy Chase has generated more headlines for this show than three seasons worth of creatively ambitious genre-busting storytelling.
 You Take the Bad: Much to our chagrin, our Twitter feed’s infatuation with this series does not translate into real-life ratings.
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: Thanks to producing partner Sony Pictures Television powers of persuasion (See: 6 seasons and counting for RULES OF ENGAGEMENT), we’re fairly confident in saying that the Greendale gang will live to study another day.

 You Take the Good: With an average viewership of 7-8 million viewers per week, it may surprise you to discover that the Kathy Bates’ vehicle ranks as NBC’s most popular hour long drama.
 You Take the Bad: Only 1 of those 7-8 million viewers fall within the much sought after 18-49 demographic.
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: NBC will bring HARRY’S LAW off the bench following football season in an effort to fill the inevitable holes left by whatever new drama doesn’t find an audience come Fall (See: THE PLAYBOY CLUB)

 You Take the Good: Beautifully written and acted, PARENTHOOD continues to rank as one of the best shows you’re not watching.
 You Take the Bad: We also have a feeling that PARENTHOOD continues to be one of the Networks’ priciest shows you’re not watching thanks to an ensemble top-lined by the likes of Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Monica Potter and Erika Christensen.
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: Based solely on the fact that no Network can afford to both launch and promote and entirely fresh slate of multi-million dollar shows, PARENTHOOD will get a pick-up with a possible move to Friday nights.

 You Take the Good: After a shaky start WHITNEY found its creative footing and delivered a genuinely funny latter half of the season punctuated with a super sweet finale that most definitely warrants a second season.
 You Take the Bad: Currently in NBC’s very crowded development pipeline are pilots featuring big name female comedians such as Sarah Silverman, Roseanne Barr, Rachel Dratch, among others.
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: Expect NBC to renew WHITNEY so that it has a launch pad from which to build a solid hour of traditional multi-camera comedy from come Fall.

 You Take the Good: We love stars Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett and Christina Applegate.
 You Take the Bad: Just not in this poorly contrived series that had the writers awkwardly juggling Rudolph and Applegate’s work life with Arnett’s home life as stay-at-home father.
 You Take Them Both and There You Have… Our Prediction: Netflix will very soon be able to thank NBC for making ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT’s shooting schedule that much less complicated.

The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.

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