Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone!
I think I’m starting to come around on Tron Legacy. Even though I didn’t like the first one that much when I saw it when I was like 8, it’s impossible to say the trailers for the new one don’t look incredibly cool. While I don’t necessarily like Disney’s tactic of straight copying off Avatar and screening about a half-hour of the movie to fans, it sure seemed to work the first time. The questions are still there about the box office potential of the movie because the people who were fans of the first one now all probably have carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms from being 50-year-old computer dorks, but it’s starting to get me interested. And maybe it’s time for me to see my first 3-D movie. Hey, at least it’s this and not Avatar, right?
Every network on the TV dial seems to be in the business recently of making a big, sweeping documentary series that’s in their wheelhouse on the heels of the success of the amazing Planet Earth series on the Discovery Channel. It even launched a sister series Life, and likely led the very, very good America: The Story of Us on the History Channel. You could even argue that ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is an offshoot of those kinds of things, even though it had been in the works before those other series premiered. So we’ve got sports, history and biology covered — now we’re about to enter the entertainment business when Turner Classic Movies launches Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood starting Monday. It seems like a comprehensive look at the history of the entertainment business from 1890 to 1970. But why are they stopping at 1970, just because it’s TCM and the channel only plays old movies? It’s stupid to stop there since the time from about 1985 to now is when Hollywood has gone through its biggest changes. Yeah, 1970 is probably when “old Hollywood” just about died and the next generation took over, but still. Since 1970, we’ve seen the rise and legitimacy of independent movies, cable TV, the first major salary increases of actors, YouTube, piracy … the list doesn’t end. Maybe they’re saving that for a second installment, but it just seems weird to stop there. Maybe E! should pick up where TCM leaves off or something.
There won’t be a true PopRox column in Sunday’s paper, because the whole Leisure page will be taken over by a holiday movie season preview I wrote (shameless plug!). But there’s only room for so many movies when you’re working with the print product, and some of the movies I wrote something about didn’t make the cut. We only had room for the ones I thought were the most important and pressing to make sure you knew about. One of the ones that didn’t make the cut — Skyline (opens Nov. 12). My take was that it’s going to be the biggest bomb of the season because the trailer makes it look like an Independence Day reboot and there isn’t anything that even closely resembles a recognizable face. Star Eric Balfour is only familiar to the staunchest of TV junkies. But after reading a little bit more about it, I’m glad that prediction didn’t make the cut because it doesn’t need to make that much money, and a second one already is in the works. Plus, it chased the big-budget (but similar) studio disaster film Battle: Los Angeles to a March release date after it seemed like both would come out this season. Actually, maybe they’re a little too similar.
Enough with the holiday movie season — one of the busiest comic book summer movie schedules is coming in 2011. The biggest of that bunch of origin stories is probably Captain America, I’ll take Cap over Thor and Green Lantern any day. It’s going to have to be a big promotion push though because even though Captain America is one of the five or six most important and influential comic characters ever, he’s stuck taking a back seat right now to inferior titles like Daredevil, Blade, Hellboy and the Punisher just because they’ve already had movies made of them (twice for Punisher). If you haven’t already established yourself in the comic-book-movie market by now, you’re behind in the game. We’ve reached the saturation point, and now there is a perception that if there hasn’t been a movie made about a character yet, that character probably isn’t that important. It’s not right, but that’s how it is. They probably wanted to make a bigger casting splash than Chris Evans, but that’s where they are now and it’s up to Marvel to make sure people remember how important and cool Captain America is.
That’s the movie market — not the TV market, which is wide open and welcoming for comic adaptations, and the market hasn’t been used enough for it. What’s the last major TV network to bring a live-action comic book hero to the small screen? The Flash? I can’t think of anything else. For comics-to-TV, the more obscure, the better, as evidenced by the hype around the zombie show The Walking Dead. It’s going to premiere on AMC Sunday to record numbers, even though most of the people watching it (me included) never read the comic book source material. But in this age of vampires and werewolves, the next generation almost has to be zombies. It looks like the perfect time (a rabid cult base of zombie fans), on the perfect network (AMC has established itself as a place for great TV) with the perfect team (Frank Darabont is a reliable name to movie snobs like me) for this show to premiere.
So long, Caprica. The Battlestar Galactica prequel never got much traction as a series and is being pulled from Syfy immediately. No marriage counseling, no trial separation, it’s getting effing pulled. It was a good idea that was executed pretty poorly. The marketing for the show was all wrong, and the fact that it was billed as a standalone, something you didn’t need to be a fan of BSG to watch, was complete and utter BS. G. It didn’t seem to have much direction in the story either, since one minute it was about a dead girl trapped in a robot, the next it was about a blatant and accepted racism and the next it was a thesis paper on organized, monotheistic religion. Any one of those might have have been interesting by itself, but when they were constantly mishmashed together, it just didn’t make for good TV.
Big Love is on the way out too, although at least it’s going out on its own terms. This isn’t complicated math here. when two of the most important leads leave the show to start their movie careers (Amanda Seyfried and Ginnifer Goodwin), you’re not going to be around much longer. Not that anyone blames them, cable TV pay doesn’t exactly buy you LA mansions. We shouldn’t blame Jon Hamm if he decides to leave Mad Men either — we just hope he won’t. Maybe Bill Paxton will have time now to make the Avatar prequels.
Speaking of Mad Men, the fake book has become the real book. Sterling’s Gold, which almost immediately became the name of one of my fantasy football teams after the episode aired this month, is now going to be an actual book, out this holiday season. If anyone is putting me on their Christmas list, you now have suggestion #1.
Kenny Powers will return, as Eastbound and Down will be back for another season. It took about 18 months to get a second season on the air, hopefully it won’t be as long next year. Bored to Death also was renewed, and Boardwalk Empire already is set for a second year, so maybe HBO is starting to establish a little more of a foothold. When Entourage ends next year, the last remaining show from its glory years of the mid-2000s (Sopranos, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Extras, Sex and the City), will be gone, and it will be in complete overhaul mode. In Treatment ain’t gonna cut it, the network needs buzzier shows to compete with Showtime’s more interesting lineup.
There are very few things I want to do in life. I’m a pretty content guy, happy playing with my daughter and watching TV after she goes to bed. I’ve had my fair share of mindless fun, so there isn’t really much I want to do in that realm anymore. But there is one thing I want — nay, need — to do. If Conan O’Brien has to go to court with NBC over property rights on the hysterical and inventive bits and characters he developed, I want to be in that courtroom when Masturbating Bear is introduced as evidence. I don’t ask for much. But I’m asking for that. And if you haven’t noticed the ridiculously huge (and mostly funny) marketing push, Conan starts on TBS on Nov. 8.
I’m not a horror movie guy, my idea of a scary movie is Runaway Bride, not Friday the 13th. But if anyone is going to give a list of the scariest movies ever, IFC is probably the people I would trust to do it. Enjoy.