With the holidays, Christmas cards to design, and a variety of other projects keeping me busy we are again way overdue for an entertainment blog entry.
Of course the biggest story since our last installment is the release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. We saw at approximately a week after it opened. Keep in mind that I never had any problems with Episode I Phantom Menace or any of the other reviled episodes of Star Wars. So my endorsement of the new episode probably isn’t very weighty. But a number of other people who did not like episodes I through III have given big thumbs up to VII so even if you are picky about which Star Wars you do or don’t like, this one is probably a good one for you as well.
As you know this blog is 90% spoilers anyway but I will give you the obligatory spoiler warning for this particular review. Consider the following…
A young person who lives on a desert planet encounters a cute robot. They go off on an adventure with a bunch of resistance fighters to fight an evil empire. Along the way they had exciting battles in spaceships, meet an evil guy in a black suit and helmet, hang out in a cantina full of aliens, encounter an elderly mentor who (I told you spoilers) ends up getting killed. In the end they go on to seek a master of the force to train them for future adventures. Quiz time: did I describe Star Wars IV: A New Hope or Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens… Answer: Yes both. Basically it’s the same plot with different characters but despite the fact that we see that all before, it still works very well. To quote the mythology of Battle Star Galactica “All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again”. The basic story is that Luke Skywalker has gone missing and we are looking for the pieces of a map to figure out where he is. We end up encountering Hon Solo and his fuzzy sidekick and their iconic spacecraft The Millennium Falcon. Harrison Ford beautifully re-creates his character. He’s exactly as you would expect that character to be after aging all these years. His brief scenes with Carrie Fisher actually show more chemistry between them than it did in the original series. They look exactly like you would expect an old grumpy couple who had gone their separate ways to behave. The seam between bad guy Kylo Ren and our new hero Rey where they are using mind Force games against one another is probably the best bit of acting you will find in any Star Wars film ever. Luke Skywalker does not appear until the very final scene of the film. The camera dwells on his face to let you soak it in there is plenty to soak. He looks AWESOME. He looks like an old Jedi ought to look. He still is the somewhat boyish looking Luke yet wrinkled with Obi-Wan style beard. It was definitely worth waiting for. One disappointing aspect of the film. Some of the more iconic images from the trailer were actually from a Force Dream hallucination that Rey has. And the voiceover narration from Skywalker about “The force was strong in my family… My father had it, I had it…” etc. appears nowhere in the movie. That is one of my biggest pet peeves is when something that appears in a trailer appears nowhere in the film itself. If you’re looking for space battles, there aren’t any. All of the ship to ship and ship to ground battles take place in the atmosphere of the planet’s. It gives a whole new look and feel to the aerial battles which is new and refreshing. I saw it in IMAX 3-D I do recommend seeing it in 3-D if you can’t get to IMAX 3-D go for normal 3-D vs. IMAX non-3-D. The plot leaves plenty of unanswered questions. Some of them have fairly obvious answers while others are a total mystery. The upcoming two sequels have been set up beautifully. We can’t wait.
On the TV side of things we want to recommend the new USA series Colony. It’s the story of a family lives in Los Angeles in the near future. The world has been invaded by aliens and they had divided LA up into three or four occupations zones separated by a 300 foot tall wall. The husband, a former police officer is refuted by the local human governor who has been put in place by the aliens. His job is to infiltrate the resistance and bring them to justice. He doesn’t realize his wife is one of the leaders of the resistance. I’ve only seen one episode but it looks pretty good.
Also check out Billions a new series on Showtime. Damien Lewis (the red haired guy from Homeland) plays a billionaire Donald Trump like character. Paul Giamatti is the federal prosecutor trying to catch him in illegal dealings. His wife is a psychologist consultant who works for the billionaire creating an interesting conflict of interest. Again we’ve only seen one episode but it looks good so far.
The jury is still out on NBC’s Shades of Blue sky Jennifer Lopez as a dirty cop who is recruited by internal affairs to rat out her fellow dirty cops. It takes a while to think of like Lopez who you would think would play a good guy to be such a crooked cop. It remains to be seen if he can pull off the role credibly or not. Again we only have one episode under our belts.
Next we had a new series on SyFy Channel called “The Expanse”. It bills itself as “Game of Thrones in outer space”. While I’m not sure quite rises to that level, it is an interesting space sci-fi story with lots of complicated political back stories driving the whole thing along. There’s plenty of action and the special effects are of exceptional quality for a TV series. Also on SyFy Channel “The Magicians”. I’m calling it Harry Potter meets The Breakfast Club with a touch of Chronicles of Narnia thrown in. A young graduate student who is socially inept and withdrawn Andrew is obsessed with a series of fantasy novels that are a ripoff of Narnia suddenly finds himself recruited into a Hogwarts like school for magicians along with a female friend of his. She gets rejected by the school and was supposed to get her memory wiped the event but somehow she retain the memories. He goes on to enter the school where he meets a bunch of other equally socially maladjusted misfits. Of course there’s some big evil force out there and it’s his destiny to fight it. The instructors at the school no more than they are saying. You will have to decide if it’s of your liking or not.
Finally we had the six episode return of The X-Files. I never watched the original series for some reason. I guess I just didn’t care for UFO plot lines. I did see the feature film and liked it okay. I will stick with these 6 episodes but I’m not very impressed. I realize that our two heroes basically very laid-back low-key characters but I thought the acting in the first new episode was horrible. Mulder was supposed off the rails obsessed with his latest conspiracy theory and Agent Scully was trying to calm him down but neither one of them seemed to have any passion in their right set of. She was trying to calm down a guy who wasn’t at all manic. It almost seemed like they were just cold reading their lines off a few cards. I also expected with just six episodes that it would be one big story spread over the entire season but as we got to the second episode it seemed as though the events of the first episode never occurred. It’s still going to be week by week. Presumably they will get back to main plot line at some point but it was much more episodic than I expected for such a short season. That tells me that the purpose behind it was to create a one-off miniseries but to perhaps test the waters for a longer come back. I will probably watch them all but I can’t call myself a big fan. At this point no regrets for missing the original series.
If you are a fan of fantasy adventure such as Lord of the Rings suggest you check out MTV’s New Fantasy Series The Shannara Chronicles. Is a 10 episode series based on the books by Terry Brooks. Pretty good stuff.
One last item… The comic book TV series currently showing are all maintaining exceptionally high quality. Arrow and The Flash are at their usual high standards. Gotham consistently amazes me. And even the new Supergirl has much to recommend. Of course the big problem with Superman or Supergirl has always been how can you really disguise yourself with just a pair of glasses at a different hairdo. But much to my surprise Melissa Benoist does an amazing job of changing her personality between the mild-mannered Kara Danvers and the powerful sophisticated Supergirl. That times it almost looks like a different actress playing the part. The stories go well beyond the typical monster of the week and have a lot of heart and depth to them. Her boss played by Calista Flockhart initially appears to be a very shallow one-dimensional character but of course in the series they flash her out to be someone really interesting, complex, and nuanced. One more comic book hero to discuss. Netflix’s Jessica Jones is every bit as good or even better than Daredevil. We are only a couple of episodes into it but it is well worth checking out. If you’ve not seen it yet, I’m going to give you one spoiler that will help your understanding of the early episodes. The bad guy played by David Tennant as the ability to mind control people. Had not known that going into the series it might’ve been a little bit difficult to follow the first episode. So that’s not so much of a spoiler as a helper to set up series. Highly recommend all of these comic book shows. We’ve not yet seen the new DC series Legends of Tomorrow but we will cover it next time.
When more or less last item. There seem to be a lot of death notices in this installment of my blog but 2 of them definitely deserve broken out into this lead paragraph section. I have to admit I was never a big fan of David Bowie but I did like Space Oddity and a couple of other of his hit songs. I know he was a great talent but I’m sorry to say I doubt I will miss him. Alan Rickman on the other hand will be very sadly missed. As many others who had eulogized him, I can’t imagine any other actor being able to pull off Professor Snape as brilliantly as he did. It wasn’t until we got to the final episodes that we really got to see the depth of that amazing character and thus to appreciate the brilliance of his performance throughout the 8 Harry Potter films. His other performances which have been eulogized I have to admit I had forgotten about but in retrospect do recall that they were brilliant. A great voice has been silenced. Be sure to check out the first of our links listing other memorable Alan Rickman performances.
Now onto the news bits…
In the links below read…
10 Alan Rickman movies to watch besides Harry Potter as recommended by USA Today
Doctor Who show runner Stephen Moffat stepping down after season 10
Read about the new “Dark Knight III” series of graphic novels from Frank Miller
Interview with Scott Gimpel EP producer of The Walking Dead about the rest of the season
Interview with producer of Gotham about the midseason finale and what’s coming next
Article describes the struggle to find 70 mm theaters to show 70 mm film version of Quentin Tarantino’s “Hateful 8”
Interview with “The Leftovers” EP about season 2 finale and season 3 preview
Spoilers (such as they are) from Michael Ausiello dated December 8. A little bit out of date aren’t they 🙂
Interview with EP of Quantico about midseason finale
Spoilers from Inside Line dated December 15
Interview with EP of Fargo after season 2 and looking forward at season 3
Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated December 17
Interview with cast of Netflix series Jessica Jones
Spoilers from Inside Line dated January 19
Not in the links below but also of interest…
In addition to the news that Stephen Moffat is leaving Doctor Who, we also learn there will be no new episodes in 2016 except for the Christmas special. Season 10 will be in the spring of 2017
Sonia Braga has joined the cast of the upcoming Marvel’s Luke Cage series from Netflix. She will play Soledad Temple mother to Claire Temple (played by Rosariro Dawson as she was in Daredevil). The series will drop sometime later this year.
Kevin Bacon is trying to develop his or film series Tremors into a TV show. No network attached yet.
ABC has renewed Dancing with the Stars to premier March 21st. Curmudgeon head judge Len Goodman will return.
RIP soap opera actor David Canary 77 who played on All My Children
Wanda Sykes has joined the cast of blackish
So far the only appearance of Superman on Supergirl has been a silhouette however may have a casting call out for someone to play Kal-el. However it will be at age 13. Will explore the relationship between him and Kara.
Amazon’s series Man in the High Castle is an alternate history series speculating if the Nazis had won World War II. Promotional posters featuring swastikas were pulled from New York City subways after people complained.
RIP Al Markim age 88. Played Astro in the nineteen fifties TV series Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
In case you missed it Gotham has added a new classic Batman villain. Mister Freeze has arrived.
ABC Family Channel has renewed “the Fosters” for season 4
Journalist Linda Ellerbe who was the inspiration for the character Murphy Brown is retiring after 44 years of broadcasting. I first fell in love with her on her late late night show NBC News Overnight but for the past 20+ years she has been doing a news program for kids on Nickelodeon.
RIP John “Cha-Cha” Ciarca at 69. Played Albie Cianflone on the Sopranos
“The Wiz Live” was the first live TV program to include an audio track on the SAP channel describing the program for visually impaired viewers. Several scripted programs especially those on USA Network such as Suits have been featuring description tracks. If you see a big letter D))) symbol in the upper right corner that indicates audio narration for visually impaired. Of course even though this was a live program, it was totally scripted so it was easy to create the descriptive track in advance.
David E Kelly is producing a new legal drama for Amazon prime streaming. In most Billy Bob Thorton, William Hurt, and Molly Parker among others. It was ordered straight to series without a pilot and will drop sometime this year.
FXX has renewed “You’re the Worst” for season 3
Former Superman from Smallville Tom Welling will starting a new series for CBS titled Section 13. It is an action spy drama.
Jay Leno’s Garage has been renewed for a second season on CNBC
After season 2 of Fargo went back to the 70s it has been announced that season 3 will be set in present-day.
RIP Oscar nominated actor Robert Loggia age 85. Known for dancing with Tom Hanks on a giant keyboard in “Big”. Also had memorable roles in Scarface and Independence Day
NBC announced The Blacklist has been renewed for season 4
Showtime has announced it is renewing Homeland and The Affair for an additional season
Although billed as a one time 10 episode event series, “Wayward Pines” has been renewed for season 2. Options on all the actors have run out so it will probably have a new cast but will pick up approximately where the first series left off.
HBO has renewed “The Leftovers” for a third and final season despite the fact that me and three or four other people the only ones watching.
RIP Donna Douglas played Ellie Mae Clampett of the Beverly hillbillies. She was 81.
Chicago Med has an order of 5 new episodes brings the total to 18.
RIP actress Rose Siggins. She lost both legs at age 2 and played Legless Suzi on American Horror Story: Freak Show. Died of complications of kidney surgery at age 43.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 has raised $6.3 million on Kickstarter for a 14 episode revival
Mike and Molly is not being renewed by CBS after the end of the current season.
Kiefer Sutherland has been cast as president United States for the upcoming series for ABC titled “Designated Survivor”.
TNT announced it is canceling Legends, Agent X, and Public Morals.
TNT announced it is renewing Major Crimes for season 5 and The Librarians for season 3.
NBC has canceled Neil Patrick Harris’s “Best Time Ever”. It most definitely did not live up to its name. I couldn’t get through half an episode.
Natalie Portman will play Jacqueline Kennedy in the upcoming movie titled “Jackie” about her life shortly after the JFK assassination
Fox is interested in starting a Latino drama series that is described as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. duh didn’t we already have West Side Story?
Vin Diesel is working on a development deal to bring his Riddick character to TV
“Fuller House” the Full House reunion show for Netflix will premiere 13 episode on February 26. The show picks up 21 years after the original but this time without the Olsen twins.
Sean Penn is scheduled to play Andrew Jackson in the upcoming HBO miniseries American Lion.
History Channel’s “Vikings” season 4 opens February 18 for a whopping 20 episodes.
Amazon series “Hand of God” has been renewed for season 2
Clint Eastwood will direct Tom Hanks in “Sully” about airline pilot Sully Sullenberger who landed an airplane in the Hudson River. Set to premiere September this year.
Sometime before season ends, Supergirl will battle her crazy doppelgänger Bizarro-Girl
RIP soap opera actress Patricia Elliott 877 played in One Life to Live.
RIP actor Brooke McCarter who played a vampire in the eighties movie “The Lost Boys”. He had a genetic liver condition and was 52.
From the “Did I already report this?” Department… ABC Family Channel is changing its name to Freeform.
Forbes magazine named Leonardo DiCaprio the most overpaid actor of the year.
RIP screenwriter George Clayton Johnson at 86. Cowrote Logan’s Run and the first episode of Star Trek
SyFy Channel has renewed “The Expanse” for season 2 and we are well pleased.
Un-aired episodes of ABC’s canceled after two weeks 80s crime drama “Wicked City” are now available online.
RIP actor Wayne Rogers 82. Played Trapper John on the TV series MASH.
RIP character actor Jason Wingreen age 95. He auditioned to play the voice of Yoda but ended up dubbing the voice of bounty hunter Boba Fete instead. He also played at bartender friend of Archie Bunker in All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place.
Michael Bay will direct Transformers 5 but says it will be his last time to direct the franchise.
No more DiNozzo . Michael Weatherly is leaving NCIS at the end of the season.
Inside Amy Schumer has been renewed for season 5 at Comedy Central
HBO series Girls premieres it’s fifth season. Announced season 6 will be at the last.
Hugh Laurie a.k.a. House M.D. will star in a 2 season 20 episode drama for Hulu Streaming. The show is titled “Chance” he plays the title character a forensic neuropsychiatrist.
Neil Degrasse Tyson talkshow “Star Talk” has been renewed for season 3 by National Geographic Channel
Daredevil season 2 will be released to Netflix on March 18
RIP actor Pat Harrington Jr. played handyman Dwayne Schneider on “One Day at a Time”
TNT announced Rizzoli and Isles will end after season 7
Gerald McCranie will join the cast of Castle for a multi-episode arc
The new season of Game of Thrones will premiere April 24. Talks are underway with HBO for season 7 & 8.
BBC America will have a Doctor Who Related six part series called Prey. It will be a pair of three episodes stories.
BBC America will be new series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Defense Agency based on the comic by Douglas Adams.
AMC announced that Fear The Walking Dead will premiere April 10 with a half season of seven episodes. The remaining 8 episodes will air later in 2016. AMC series “Turn: Washington Spies” and miniseries “Night Manager” a spy thriller will also premiere in April.
As if Michael Stranahan didn’t have enough to do on TV, he will host a reboot of $100,000 Pyramid game show for ABC
Hulu says that 11.22.63 based on Stephen King’s novel will have significant but authentic changes from that novel.
BBC America will air “Adele: Live in London” on Valentine’s Day.
Supergirl to appear on Supergirl. Laura Vandervoort who played Kara Zor-el in Smallville will play DC character Indigo in episode 15 of the CBS series Supergirl.
Showtime announced Shameless has been renewed for season 7.
Showtime series Penny dreadful season 3 will premiere May 1 and run nine episodes.
Showtime comedy” Episodes” season 5 will probably be its last
RIP character actor David Margulies at 78. You will remember him as the mayor of New York in Ghostbusters but he had a distinguished career in film and on Broadway as well.
Showtime’s Homeland season 6 will be set in New York City
Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival has been narrowed down to “early 2017”. Sherlyn Fenn is officially on board to reprise her character. Also one of David Lynch’s favorite actresses Laura Dern has joined the cast.
Simon Cowell is replacing Howard Stern for season 11 Of America’s Got Talent. Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Nick Cannon will return. The show is moving back to LA.
Jimmy Fallon will have a Tonight Show Valentines Day special in prime time and then he show will be in LA from February 15-19.
NBC announced Seth Myers contract for Late-Night with Seth Myers has been extended through February 2021
NBC is considering yet another Chicago spinoff series this time Chicago Law. We already have Police, Fire, and Med. Perhaps after that garbageman or meter maids.
USA Network announced Playing House is being renewed for season 3. I’ve never heard of it.
Fox has renewed “Empire” for a 3rd season and “Scream Queens” for a 2nd season.
RIP actor Dan Haggerty who played Grizzly Adams on TV. Age 74
Season 4 of “the Americans” will premiere March 16. Actress Keri Russell is pregnant in real life and will have to hide her baby bump in the latter part of the season.
After Jon Bernthal plays The Punisher in season 2 of Daredevil he may have more work to do. A Punisher spinoff series is under development at Netflix.
Netflix has announced season 2 of Unbreakable Kimimy Schmidt will arrive April 15. Season 3 has been approved.
Fox’s developing a new round of the TV series “24” which will not feature Jack Bauer/Kiefer Sutherland
RIP Rutledge and Glenn Frey one of the founders of the Eagles age 67.
After Playboy announced recently there would be no more nude photo spreads or centerfolds, Penthouse has also announced it’s getting out of the print magazine business altogether and going strictly digital.
Fox Frankenstein themed series Second Chance has been moved to the rating doldrums Friday night after just two episodes. Friday is where bad shows go to die.
We can expect more Bernie Sanders sketches on SNL. Larry David will be hosting the February 6 show
For Doctor Who Matt Smith will play controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe with Girls star Zosnia Mamet to plate Patti Smith
RIP veteran actor Abe Vigoda who played Lieutenant Fish on Bernie Miller
Netflix announced House of Cards has been renewed for season 5. Season 4 will premiere in March.