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Culture Cafe

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

The third book in George R.R. Martin's series 'A Storm of Swords' will be adapted into multiple seasons because of its length and complicated plotlines. (Helen Sloan/HBO/AP)

'Game of Thrones' is renewed for a third season

By Anthony OcasioScreen Rant / 04.11.12

George R. R. Martin’s epic tale about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros will be continuing on HBO, as the network announced today that it has picked up Game of Thrones for season 3.

Coming hot off the heels of the Game of Thrones season 2 premiere, which garnered record ratings for the series, HBO took no time re-securing David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ adaptation of one of the literature’s most epic novels.

Here’s what Michael Lombardo had to say about Game of Thrones season 3:

Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss raised our expectations for the second season – and then surpassed them. We are thrilled by all the viewer and media support we’ve received for the series, and can’t wait to see what Dan and David have in store for next season.

After Game of Thrones season 2 premiered to 3.86 million viewers (which is 1.64 million viewers more than the series premiere), fans of the show knew that a season 3 renewal was just around the corner. And with Game of Thrones producers already planning out season 3, 4 and beyond, it’s likely that they felt the same impending renewal as the fans.

While the second season will cover the majority of the novel “A Clash of Kings”, the next in the series, “A Storm of Swords,” is too large to be adapted into a single 10-episode season. With the intent to split the books across Game of Thrones season 3 and 4, series creators Benioff and Weiss are attempting to figure out the best way to present George R. R. Martin’s goliath novels to television audiences.

And if the past is any sign of what’s to come, it looks like the fantastical tales of the characters of Westeros will continue to be faithfully adapted for the television screen for many years to come.

…Of course, a 50% bump in ratings for the season 2 premiere doesn’t hurt their odds, either.

Anthony Ocasio blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Die Hard 5' may be the second-to-last 'Die Hard' film for Bruce Willis, according to the actor. (Frank Masi/20th Century Fox)

'Die Hard 5' gets two new villains

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 04.10.12

Production is about to begin on the fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise, bearing the punny title A Good Day to Die Hard. Bruce Willis   will reprise his career-defining role as loose cannon, Irish-American cop John McClane – who’s really a fish out of water this time around, as he ends up battling baddies overseas in Russia while also reuniting with his son Jack (Spartacus Jai Courtney).

While there were rumors circulating a year ago that a member of the Gruber clan could be featured as the antagonist in Die Hard 5, that was long before any official plot details had been announced. Judging by today’s casting update – which concerns what are believed to be the two primary villain roles in the movie – McClane and Son will be facing much more generic foes on their crazy trip overseas.

The most recent Good Day to Die Hard script draft penned by Skip Woods (Swordfish, Hitman) reportedly sees McClane travel to Moscow in order to get his trouble-making son out of prison. However, it turns out John and Jack are both being used as pawns in a global terrorist scheme – thus, forcing the estranged duo to (as Variety puts it) “team up to keep each other alive and protect the world from imminent disaster.”

Parts for two sinister Russian characters named Komorov and Irina - who are almost certainly involved with the aforementioned terrorist plot in Good Day to Die Hard – have now been filled. The former role will be occupied by award-winning German actor Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others, Unknown), while Komorov’s villainous female counterpart will be bought to life by Russian model-turned-actress Yulia Snigir.

As indicated before, Koch and Snigir’s parts in Die Hard 5 read as being very basic villain archetypes, ie. a two-dimensional baddie and his lovely assistant, respectively. Combine that with John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Max Payne) sitting in the director’s chair and it’s all the more apparent: A Good Day to Die Hard could easily end up feeling like a pretty underwhelming addition to the franchise.

On the other hand: if Willis and Courtney’s onscreen chemistry proves as entertaining as that between Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, that could help to elevate the series’ fifth chapter above the level of being a throwaway action movie followup. Such a turn of events would also help ensure that we get to see Willis saddle up as McClane for a sixth (and, according to the actor, final) time.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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'The Hunger Games' has already broken box office records, and 'Slumdog Millionaire' scribe Simon Beaufoy has been hired for the 'Catching Fire' script. (Murray Close/Lionsgate/AP)

'Hunger Games': Will director Gary Ross return for the sequel?

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 04.09.12

It came as somewhat of a surprise when, earlier this week, word leaked out that Hunger Games co-writer/director Gary Ross had not yet been locked down for the sequel, Catching Fire – not only because of the widespread positive response to (and massive box office returns for) the first HG movie adaptation, but also because Ross had already begun to discuss his tentative plans for shooting the followup.

Reports are now in that Ross has selected to not be involved with Catching Fire after all. That puts Lionsgate in somewhat of a precarious position, as the studio wants production on the sequel to get underway by this upcoming September – meaning that the search for a replacement helmer will have to be a relatively quick one.

The Playlist says that Ross’ decision to pass on Catching Fire stems from a desire to press ahead with a different, original project that he’s more passionate about – one which, ironically, is expected to snag him a bigger payday than what Ross might’ve fetched for directing the second Hunger Games flick. Still, by all accounts, money was not the primary motivating factor for Ross’ departure.

[UPDATE: Deadline's source are reporting that Ross has not yet "formally withdrawn" from Catching Fire. The filmmaker is currently on vacation, so there presumably won't be an official confirmation either way until he returns to work.]

Truth be told, Lionsgate had already taken precautions for an event like this. The studio recruited Oscar-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours fame) to start working on the Catching Fire script, back when Ross was still busy working the promotional circuit for Hunger Games. Hence, the ball’s already off and rolling on this tentpole production.

Couple that with Fox’s newly announced 2013 start date for filming on X-Men: First Class 2 - which will free up Jennifer Lawrence to reprise her role as Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire this fall – and (for now) it doesn’t appear that Ross leaving the Hunger Games sequel will trip up the film too much on its way down the production pipeline.

Fan reaction to the news concerning Ross’ vacating the director’s chair on Catching Fire will probably be somewhat mixed, as far the immediate response goes. On the one hand, most people seem to agree that he did an admirable job of translating Suzanne Collins’ popular dystopian sci-fi thriller into cinematic form; on the other hand, some of Ross’ stylistic choices with Hunger Games (specifically, the disorienting shaky cam/editing approach) left many viewers feeling disgruntled.

That said: a directorial switch-up can be very tricky when it comes to franchise fare – especially when studios trade in a respectable filmmaker who leaves a recognizable artistic fingerprint on the series (see: David Slade with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse or Bryan Singer with X2) for someone who delivers more of a generic take on the property (see: Bill Condon with Breaking Dawn or Brett Ratner with X-Men: The Last Stand). Suffice it to say, Lionsgate is gambling that it can avoid making a similar mistake with the Hunger Games franchise, by letting Ross go.

We’ll be sure to let you know when a replacement director for Ross on Catching Fire has been found. In the meantime, be sure to check out our Catching Fire: 5 Things The Hunger Games Sequel Needs To Do post, for our own suggestions on what the sequel’s director ought to do in order to improve on Ross’ first HG film.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Dancing with the Stars' contestants Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya were voted off during Tuesday's elimination show. (Adam Taylor/ABC/AP)

'Dancing with the Stars' elimination: Jack Wagner exits, a rule change enters (+video)

By Contributor / 04.04.12

The “Dancing With the Stars” elimination round Tuesday night ended with a surprising elimination and an announcement from host Tom Bergeron that the procedure for voting off contestants would be changing starting next week.

Jack Wagner and his partner Anna Trebunskaya were sent home at the end of Tuesday night’s show after performing a samba to the song “Lighting Up the Night,” a song released on the album of the same name by Wagner, a soap opera actor and musician. For Monday’s show, contestants were asked to choose the most memorable year of their lives. Wagner selected 2011, he said, because it was the year a girl approached him at a concert and told him he was her father. Wagner’s daughter, Kerry, was present at the show Monday to watch the dance.

Wagner appeared surprised when told he was eliminated during the results show. “It was a great time,” he said when asked about whether he was taken aback. “It was fun to test myself. Thanks to the judges.”

Bergeron announced during the elimination show that a new voting-off methodology would begin next week, embracing a procedure that is reminiscent of the “American Idol” judges’ save option. Beginning next week, whichever dancing pairs land in the bottom two will dance at the same time at the end of the broadcast, then the final elimination will be decided afterwards by the judges’ panel. The move would allow contestants to stay even if viewers voted to send them home.

The bottom two couples will continue to be determined by the scores given by the judging panel and votes from the general public.

The show began with musician Seal delivering a rendition of the 1972 Bill Withers standard “Lean on Me.” Later in the broadcast, Trebunskaya and fellow “Dancing” pro and husband Jonathan Roberts performed a waltz in honor of their friend Julia Ivleva, a dancer who was diagnosed with cancer. 

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'Dumb and Dumber' stars Jim Carrey (l.) and Jeff Daniels (r., seen in a scene from 'The Lookout') will both be returning for the sequel, according to directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly. (L: Rose Prouser/CNN/AP R: Allen Fraser/Courtesy of Miramax Films)

'Dumb and Dumber 2' will start shooting this fall

By Matt KeithKiller Film / 04.03.12

We’ve been hearing talk of a sequel to Dumb and Dumber, and it seems that will finally happen. Coming Soon interviewed Directors Bobby and Peter Farelly, who revealed that production on the sequel will begin this Fall. Not only that, but both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are returning!

Of course, some are skeptical after the last time studio tried to follow-up the classic film with a prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. And it’s safe to say that wasn’t met well at all. But Peter Farrelly stresses this won’t be a repeat of that. That was a studio thing. So we’ve always wanted to do a sequel and finally Jim called up. Jeff always wanted to do it. We always wanted to do it. Jim was busy, but he called and said, ‘We’ve got to do this thing again.’ He had just watched ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and he said, ‘This is the perfect sequel. Let’s do it,” he said.

Matt Keith blogs at Killer Film.

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'Game of Thrones' character Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is taking his job as the man behind the throne seriously as season 2 begins. (Paul Schiraldi/HBO/AP)

'Game of Thrones': Season 2 premiere has clever twists and dialogue

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 04.02.12

Omens, visions and rituals combine to herald the next chapter of HBO’s obsession-worthy fantasy series, Game of Thrones. After leaving the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in the hands of a despotic boy-king, the series roars back to television, picking up right where it left off like a book opened to a dog-eared page.

From the start, it’s clear that, as much as season 1 followed the reluctant exploits of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) and his ruinous turn as the Hand of the King, season 2 immediately begins gathering steam from the performance of Peter Dinklage. Yes, he was the break out star of season 1, but this season, awards and accolades aside, Game of Thrones feels very much like Dinklage’s program to carry. With his wit, charm and wry sensibilities, Tyrion easily handles the task.

At our first sight of Tyrion, it’s clear he is not taking the role of Hand of the King lightly, and knows that his family – particularly his sister and her son – are also the unscrupulous kind that, if they are to remain in charge, will require the guidance of one who – despite having many vices – is not ruled by them. That is to say: Tyrion has the mettle, and the smarts, to make the rule of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) a long one. 

And so we are introduced to the kingdom as ruled by a young tyrant – one beset by the unnervingly casual nature of extreme violence. The violence and utter disregard for human life serves a potent reminder that though the audience may favor one character over another, Game of Thrones refuses to guarantee anyone’s term on the program – especially now that war has broken out between Eddard’s eldest son Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and the Lannisters.

When last we saw them, the Lannisters seemed on top of the world, but now they’re faced with the real possibility that retribution for the beheading of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) may be coming to the south more swiftly than winter. There is an air of resentment and disgust about King’s Landing regarding the unsubstantiated (but totally true) rumors of King Joffrey being the bastard son of his uncle Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). It seems as soon as they took power, the knowledge of the Lannister twins’ indiscretion was poised to be their undoing. As Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) demonstrates, though, knowledge may be a powerful tool, but only if it is used by those with a captive audience – which, at the moment, King’s Landing is short on. But power comes in many forms, and right now, Cersei and her family still wield the kind that could end a dissenter’s life.

Meanwhile, Jamie is still held captive by Robb, who has made a rather auspicious debut by handing the wealthy and immense Lannister army three consecutive defeats. While Jamie plays mind games with the young leader, Robb reminds him without a hint of subtlety that, for the moment, control – including that of the incestuous Lannister’s life – rests in Robb’s seemingly capable hands.

For Robb to be able to take King’s Landing, however, he must be able to broker some kind of alliance with the father of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) – an alliance Robb’s mother Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) warns him against. But this is a time of war and uncertainty, a fact Robb makes clear to his mother by reasoning the conflict may have been born of his father’s execution, but it has now grown into a fight for independence for the northern people – and that may mean adding unstable elements like the elder Greyjoy to an already tenuous and risky undertaking.

Through this conflict, the world of Game of Thrones is instantly more vast and complex than the already elaborate world detailed in season 1. Not only has the issue become the North rebelling against a fraudulent king, but the turmoil resulting from who sits upon the iron throne has set into motion many other men laying claim to such a perch. The ongoing dispute and expanse of the world is made evident through the journey of dragon-hatcher Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and the small group of Dothraki that still travel with her across the desolate expanse of the Red Waste. As her counselor, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) elucidates the plight of the group by informing the Khaleesi that, given the hostile forces surrounding them, crossing the Red Waste is their only hope for survival. But in a fitting metaphor for the realm of Westeros, the unforgiving heath may spell doom for the small caravan, regardless what people lie beyond its breadth.

In regards to the expanded scope, it would only be fitting to mention the addition of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), the oft-mentioned but unseen brother of the late king Robert (Mark Addy). He becomes an important player in the game, as he actually has a legitimate claim to the throne. However important, Stannis’ introduction is one that also cautions a certain amount of unease considering the company he keeps in Melisandre (Carice van Houten). Her unwillingness to fall victim to a poisoned drink is yet another portent that season 2 will be filled with all sorts of unnatural (read: supernatural) occurrences.

It is a lot to take in, but writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss artfully point the audience in the right direction, even when being introduced to a character for the first time. This is why when Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and his other wall-watchers come across the hatefully possessive northerner who marries his daughters, we feel a notable amount of disgust and need for retribution on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. It may, in some small fashion, help make up for all the wrongs that have gone without retribution since the series began.

But that is how Game of Thrones works: the just are often punished while the wicked find delight in the gratification of nearly every whim. This concept is not modern, but still feels very resonant in today’s society; a testament to why this series is so easily accessible and consumed with such ferocity by its legion of fans.

Throw in some truly quote-worthy lines of dialogue, clever twists, and the scattering of hints and nods to events that will later leave the audience reeling as they did in season 1, and you have a mindful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s books that dares build upon the world he has crafted, rather than be a shallow, visualized mimic to the printed word.

Game of Thrones gets off to a fantastic start with its second season premiere. Though it will take some time to regain the kind of velocity felt at the end of season 1, the seeds of an epic season have certainly been planted.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Wrath of the Titans' actor Sam Worthington struggles with emoting in the follow-up to 'Clash of the Titans.' (Warner Bros./AP)

'Wrath of the Titans' has good CGI but a weak script

By Kofi OutlawScreen Rant / 03.30.12

Wrath of the Titans picks up about a decade after Clash of the Titans, where we find Kraken-slaying demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) having traded his sword for the mundane life of a fisherman and father to his son, Helius. (Sadly his wife Io passed away – likely because the actress playing her didn’t return for this sequel).

One night, Perseus’ father Zeus (Liam Neeson) appears to tell him of an ominous prophecy: Mankind has moved away from the gods, causing the gods to lose their powers. This loss has consequently weakened the walls of Tartarus, the underworld prison where the Olympians banished the monstrous Titans – including Kronos, the father of Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Zeus needs help to hold Tartarus together, but Perseus is reluctant to return to battle – that is, until Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus’ other son Ares (Édgar Ramírez) capture the god of lightning and begin to transfer his life force into the dormant Kronos.

With the fate of the world in the balance, Perseus recruits allies in the form of his old friend Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and Poseidon’s demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell). The trio sets out on a dangerous quest into the underworld to free Zeus, and stop the Titans from breaking free and wreaking havoc upon the world.

Clash of the Titans was a somewhat underwhelming affair (read our review), with its wooden acting, formulaic, video game-style progression, poor 3D conversion and action sequences that were more lackluster than thrilling. Wrath of the Titans is indeed an improvement upon its predecessor – but not by much.

Battle Los Angeles director Jonathan Liebesman steps into the director’s chair in place of Clash helmer, Louis Leterrier. The two ultimately prove to be on the same skill level (average), but are slightly different in terms of their shortcomings.

Where Leterrier’s signature was stiff and contrived action choreography shot at medium range using wires harnesses and such, Liebesman opts for the same kind of shooting style he used in Battle LA - namely a claustrophobic, over-the-shoulder shaky cam perspective –  which will immediately turn off a certain contingent of moviegoers. The action sequences in the first film felt like overly-contrived dance routines, but in Wraththe action (especially in the first half) is a mix of blurry up-close movement and wider tracking shots that put the human actor in the foreground, running toward or away from some CGI creature in a green screen background. Stylistically speaking it’s not very sophisticated, or believable.

Thankfully Liebesman’s guerrilla shooting style relaxes as the film moves into some of the bigger set pieces in the second and third acts, and Wrath of the Titans ultimately manages to end on a much stronger note than it begins, with some epic blockbuster sequences that make smart use of the film’s much-improved 3D format. Sure, seeing Perseus riding Pegasus towards a giant molten lava Titan is almost a carbon-copy of the first film, but Liebesman makes it look good. War simulation is definitely his strong suit.

The acting in the film is slightly better this time – though the script is still pretty formulaic, with dialogue that is wooden at best, cringe-worthy at worst. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are thankfully given more to work with, as one of the subplots has to do with Zeus and Hades confronting their sibling issues as the time of the gods nears its end. Édgar Ramírez also gets a more Shakespearean (and I use that term veryloosely) story arc, playing the god of war as a wounded, rage-fueled man-child with deep-seated daddy issues. Rosamund Pike and Toby Kebbell are good sidekicks, and character actor Bill Nighy (UnderworldPirates of the Caribbean) shows up for a scenery-chewing cameo alongside a very special guest, which fans of the 1981 originalClash will delight in seeing.

Sam Worthington, on the other hand, is still as wooden and uninteresting as ever. There must’ve been a lot of CGI required to create the actor’s facial expressions in his Avatar alien body, because in every live-action role since then (see: The DebtMan on a Ledge) Worthington has pretty much proven that his range extends between blank face and feral growl. Wrath of the Titans tries to give Perseus some deeper emotional motivations (family, duty), but the scenes requiring emoting just look flat and even comical set against Worthington’s blank stare. Even Pegasus manages to display more personality – and he’s a flying horse. 

The Titans (and all the mystical beasts that come with them) are all well-designed and appropriately menacing – except for the Minotaur in the labyrinth sequence. Thanks to excess shaky-cam, we barely get to see what ol’ horn head looks like. But Kronos, the Chimera, the double-torso demon soldiers – all well done.

If you were a fan of the first installment then Wrath of the Titans is going to be a welcome improvement; if you didn’t like the first film, this sequel is not going to reverse your negative opinion. If you’re wondering whether to shill out for the 3D ticket: the last half-hour is worth it, and overall the format is better-utilized, but for most of the runtime it isn’t a necessity.

Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Terra Nova' won't be picked up by Netflix

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 03.28.12

After weeks of discussions with 20th Century Fox, Netflix has had a change of heart and is no longer seeking to rescue Terra Nova from cancellation, leaving the studio free to shop the expensive sci-fi series to other possible suitors.

Despite the news that Terra Nova‘s best chance for survival has ceased being interested, 20th century Fox is not remanding the series to the dust bin just yet. For now, as a modicum of hope still lingers that some network will take a shine to the thought of Stephen Lang and a horde of CGI dinosaurs gracing its airwaves, the studio has kept all the actors’ contracts in place.

After a certain point, though, the cost of keeping everything and everyone on standby, while the last glimmer of hope slowly fades, will become prohibitive to doing actual business; so if Terra Nova can’t successfully woo another network, it’s going to be lights out for any more prehistoric shenanigans.

Meanwhile, perhaps as an indication of their faith in the show’s chances, many in the cast have already signed on to appear in other upcoming pilots. Most notably, series lead Jason O’Mara (Jim Shannon) has joined the impressive cast for CBS’ period drama based on real-life Las Vegas lawman Ralph Lamb. The series touts Dennis Quaid, Carrie-Anne Moss and Michael Chiklis amongst its cast and comes from screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas). Meanwhile, Christine Adams (Mira) has signed on to appear in ABC’s fashion-centric drama Americana, alongside Emilie de Ravin (Lost) and Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace).

So why did Netflix pass? For one, Terra Nova cost around $4 million per episode, which may have been seen as too risky, especially since the company is seeking to define it’s brand with content created solely for its subscribers. And with word that Netflix and Media Rights Capital – the studio behind the upcoming House of Cards -are currently battling director and executive producer David Fincher on matters of that series’ budget, one can see why avoiding another series where dollars are certain to add up was part of Netflix’s decision.

Meanwhile, in addition to House of Cards, Netflix has Hemlock Grove from Eli Roth in the works, as well as a new series from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. To catch a glimpse of Netflix’s first original offering, subscribers can currently tune into the complete first season of Lilyhammer.

Whether this announcement will play into Netflix’s interest in The River is not clear, as the found-footage series’ fate on ABC has not yet been determined.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Mad Men' protagonist Don Draper (Jon Hamm) finds himself confronting the time when a younger crowd will be in charge. (Ron Jaffe/HONS/AMC/AP)

'Mad Men': Season premiere excels with studies of each character

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 03.26.12

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.

REVIEW

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.

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'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2' will feature the aftermath of the effort to transform protagonist Bella Swan into a vampire. (Andrew Cooper/HONS/Summit Entertainment/AP)

'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' trailer shows Bella as a vampire

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 03.26.12

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 SagaBreaking 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.

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