Get Adobe Flash player

Last week I outlined the slew of new shows coming to ABC and CBS and, overall, it was a ho-hum offering of all things we have seen before: More political, medical, and crime dramas and a couple stale comedies. Looking at the roster for NBC and Fox, we can see the trends continuing. Failed attempts at high concept shows like “Terra Nova,” “FlashForward,” and “Revolution” seems to have scared studio heads away from trying something new and exciting.

Fox

“Utopia” (Premieres Sunday, Sept. 7 at 8:00)

Fifteen contestants are thrown together in the wilderness with the purpose of creating their own community. Will they decide on leadership – dictatorship or democracy? Will they grow their food or hunt? The series will follow the contestants for a full year and document the rise of their new community.

Read more...

 

Get Adobe Flash player

Is it worth $10? No

“Frank Miller’s Sin City” (2005) was an explosion of artistic bravura and graphic novel extravagance. In the it’s-been-too-long prequel and sequel “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For,” the same artistry is here – not improved, just the same – but the originality is not. Couple brash visual stylings with disjointed vignettes and you get a movie that limps when it’s trying to leap.

Storylines come and go and start and stop at a moment’s notice, but directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller seem particularly enamored with Marv (Mickey Rourke), an amnesiac brute with a thirst for blood and protective streak over exotic dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba). In the opening segment, Marv goes on a killing spree. Next, gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt) wins too much from corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), which gets Johnny into trouble. In the longest sequence, a femme fatale named Ava (Eva Green) visits Dwight (Josh Brolin), but her bodyguard Manute (Dennis Haysbert) gives them a hard time until Dwight asks Marv for help. A trip to old town to visit Dwight’s old flame Gail (Rosario Dawson) also helps. And finally, in a segment that feels anti-climactic and tacked on, the finale acts as a sequel to the first film as Nancy uses the ghost of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) to inspire, with the help of Marv, an attack on Roark.

Read more...

 

Get Adobe Flash player

Is it worth $10? No

French writer/director Catherine Breillat ("Bluebeard" [2009]) created "Abuse of Weakness" inspired by a true story--her own. In 2007, after suffering a stroke, Breillat attempted to recruit an ostensibly reformed conman to act in her next film. She fell victim to his charms, and was consequently fleeced for over 600,000 euros.

The conman/would-be star is named Vilko Piran (Kool Shen, "The Dope" [2003]). The Breillat character, called Maud Shainberg (Isabelle Huppert, "The Piano Teacher" [2001]), sees Vilko on television promoting his memoir. She decides then and there that she "must have him" for her upcoming project. Shainberg makes a call to a producer, and events leading to their meeting are set in motion.

Read more...

 

Get Adobe Flash player

Is it worth $10? Yes

Sicilian co-writers/co-directors Fabiano Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, in their first feature, tell the story of the stoic, titular mafia enforcer (played by Saleh Bakri, "The Band's Visit" [2007]) who takes a young woman, Rita, prisoner. He chooses not to kill her at her home during a hit on her brother and then struggles with the responsibility of keeping her alive and healthy.

For a film of such great artistic finesse, it doesn't shy away from the gun violence that's so much a part of crime syndicates around the world. But it does refuse to partake of boilerplate visual language common in standard gangster films. "Salvo" is a much more detailed portrait. It deals intensively with the inner struggles of the people involved; criminals and victims.

Read more...

 

Get Adobe Flash player

Is it worth $10? No

“If I Stay” is a movie for easily manipulated tween girls who are too young to know what love is and too stubborn to realize they don’t know. Not for a second does this film feel anything but pandering and contrived, which means not for a second can it be taken seriously.

Based on the young adult novel of the same name by Gayle Forman, the story is a somber conceit: A happy family is in a horrific car accident, and the daughter, a 17 year-old cello prodigy named Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz), has an out-of-body experience while she is in a coma. Which is to say, Mia in ghost form walks around the hospital and other locales as she reflects back on important moments and people in her life, all the while making a decision to live or die. 

Read more...

 

Get Adobe Flash player

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone reprise their roles as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy in the sequel/cash grab “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” This time they’re joined by Jamie Fox as nerdy scientist Max Dillon/electric supervillain Electro, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborne/Green Goblin and, in spite of how the trailer made it look, two brief appearances by Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino. If it all seems like too much, you’re probably right. And at this point, I think it’s safe to skip the plot summary of bad guys do bad things and hero needs to save girl from mortal danger and get down to the nitty gritty.

I am of two minds about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” The first mind is the one that is, for the most part, shut off. I enjoyed the dangerous, high flying (or high webbing) situations our stalwart hero is thrust into. The film had all of the whiz-bang action that we’ve come to expect from a Spider-Man movie, and Electro and Goblin are colorful and entertaining villains. On a very superficial level, this film is a very fun must watch.

Read more...

 

Get Adobe Flash player

Days grow shorter, nights grow longer. You know what that means? It means that we’re moving toward the winter solstice, which occurs when the Earth is tilted on its axis away from the sun, causing the phenomenon of less hours of sunlight. Or, more to the point, it means that it’s time for new fall primetime shows! This year, surprise, surprise, we have more of the same: legal thrillers, medical dramas, and crime procedurals. This week I highlight what will be joining returning shows like “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “The Goldbergs” on ABC and “The Big Bang Theory” and “Person of Interest” on CBS. Check back next time to see what new offerings Fox and NBC are bringing to the table.

ABC

“Forever” (Premieres Monday, Sept. 22 at 10:00)

Here is another medical procedural where our medical examiner protagonist simply cannot die. He studies the dead to try to learn the secret of his immortality. As far as medical shows go, it doesn’t seem like the biggest of hooks. It is clear that they are scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with new ways to keep medical shows alive, pun intended.

Read more...

 

Get Adobe Flash player

Is it worth $10? No

"What If" begins with a series of shots of downtown Toronto. The camera then goes indoors, showing several individuals in their twenties enjoying an evening party. Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) is screwing around with a word puzzle on the refrigerator, when Chantry (Zoe Kazan, "Revolutionary Road" [2008]), stumbles upon him.

Later, you find out Zoe has a boyfriend (Rafe Spall, "I Give It A Year" [2013]), and Wallace is mismatched with his alpha male roommate (Adam Driver, "Frances Ha" [2013]). Zoe and Wallace kind of like each other, but they each have to deal with the obnoxious others in their lives first. What if there's little else to this movie?

Read more...