It's the end of the world as we know it, but Roland Emmerich feels fine.
The 'Day After Tomorrow' and 'Independence Day' helm talks about disasters, religion and Shakespeare
And he should feel fine.
No filmmaker of his generation has made more money off of destroying the world, one internationally famous landmark at a time.
Between "Independence Day," "Godzilla" and "The Day After Tomorrow," Emmerich's disaster oeuvre has yielded more than $1.7 billion in worldwide box office (that doesn't take into account films like "Stargate," "10,000 B.C." and "The Patriot").
On Friday (Nov. 13), Emmerich's latest global destroyer hits theaters. Given the other names on his resume, it's hard to believe, but "2012" is Emmerich's largest film to date, at least in terms of scope. Yes, he destroys the White House (again), knocks California into the Pacific and sends a tidal wave cascading over the Himalayas, but those are only the epic moments Sony has seen fit to feature in trailers. There's another two-hours of chaos and survival you've yet to see.
HitFix caught up with Emmerich at the "2012" press junket in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just down the road (if you have a couple hours to drive) from Yellowstone Park (which "2012" teaches us is actually a vast, ready-to-blow super-volcano). As befits the scale of the movie, we held our conversation in a cavernous, empty lodge-style meeting room, with ceilings so high the echo is featured in our recording like another interview participant.
We talked about disaster, religion, making time to develop characters and also his upcoming movie "Anonymous," in which he leaves cataclysms behind for a thriller about William Shakespeare.
[Full interview after the break...]
Titled 'Balm,' Tuesday's episode is extra-long and extra-powerful
For the past few weeks, I've been struggling with "Sons of Anarchy." Not in a bad way. No, I've been struggling with the inevitability that "Sons of Anarchy," a show I actually quit watching for several episodes in ins first season due to what I was perceiving as needlessly Byzantine plotting, is going to find its way to a very high position on my Top 10 list for 2009. And that isn't something that usually happens.
I almost never quit on TV shows once I've committed to them. Heck, it took "One Tree Hill" six seasons before I admitted to myself that the guilty pleasure was only making me guilty. And once I'm out? That's usually it. But I can back for the "Sons of Anarchy" finale in the first season and I've been relishing a second season that keeps getting better. Every once in a while, a character mentions something that I can only guess happened in the two or three episodes I bailed on, but those gaps don't bother me.
"Sons of Anarchy" has, in fact, become a show so good that no matter how heavily serialized it is, the best episodes can stand mostly alone.
And Tuesday (Nov. 10) night's "Sons of Anarchy" is the show's best episode to date.
[More teasing of Tuesday's episode, but only minimal spoiling (VERY minimal) after the break...]
Jason Schwartzman and Ted Danson boxed and Don Draper kicked in a door on a busy finale Sunday
I don't know about you, dear readers, by my Sunday night TV viewing is about to become a good deal less enjoyable. Sure, we'll still have a few weeks of this top-notch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" season and a few weeks of another familiar-yet-intriguing "Dexter" season and we'll still have FOX's animated comedies and "Brothers & Sisters" until I can finally drop that one from my DVR.
But even with those shows, plus Sunday Night Football (and the start of the NBA and college hoops seasons), filling my time and clogging my DVR, they aren't going to take the place in my heart formerly occupied by "Mad Men" and (to a lesser degree) "Bored to Death."
One of my favorite new comedies of the fall and the undisputed champ of TV drama ended their seasons on Sunday (Nov. 8). Ryan McGee already did a terrific job of recapping the "Mad Men" finale, so I may concentrate on the "Bored to Death" finale after the break.
Oh, who am I kidding? I'm probably going to talk mostly about "Mad Men," which has had a night to marinate in my brain... After the break...
In her FOX late night premiere, Wanda Sykes made it clear that she isn't pulling punches
Allow me to begin my discussion of Saturday (Nov. 7) night's premiere of FOX's "The Wanda Sykes Show" with a caveat: It's completely unfair to critique a talk show on the basis of any one episode, especially its first episode. I know this fact, but in the past six months, I've provided this sort of initial evaluation (sometimes calling them reviews, sometimes not) for Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno, so if I didn't do the same for Wanda Sykes, I'm sure she'd be offended.
[Well, she probably wouldn't actually be offended. Not by me allowing her time to find the structure and voice of her show. In fact, she'd probably be appreciative. If she noticed at all. Which she wouldn't.]
So, that being said, my first reactions to "The Wanda Sykes Show" -- not quite a review, but more like a review than not like a review -- after after the break...
Wanda tackles late night with a new FOX series premiering on Saturday, Nov. 7
It's not just you. Wanda Sykes actually is everywhere.
She plays Barb on CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine." She pops up on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" whenever Larry David needs the perfect actress to play Wanda Sykes. She's the voice of a cow on Nickelodeon's "Back at the Barnyard." She's high on every talk show host's lists of favorite guests. And she just earned some of the best reviews of her career for the HBO comedy special "Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me," in which she discussed everything from Barack Obama to parenting to belly fat.
Naturally, what Wanda Sykes really needs is yet another television gig.
Starting on Saturday, Nov. 7, the versatile comedian (and Emmy-winning writer) will become the latest performer tasked with kick-starting FOX's late night programming. The creatively titled "The Wanda Sykes Show" will air in the 11 p.m. hour on Saturday nights, a slot where her major mandate will be "Generate more buzz than Spike Feresten." Somehow we think the "Wanda at Large" star won't have any trouble with that one.
Certainly Sykes has a flashier set than Feresten's low-frills digs, with a handsome stage on the CBS Television City lot festooned with a giant "W" (Sykes jokes that she got it at a Mo'Nique yard sale and flipped it) that doubles as a bar.
At a recent event introducing her show (and its set) to a few members of the Los Angeles-based press, HitFix snagged five minutes with Sykes to discuss why, exactly, she though she needed more work and why late night was the place for her.
[Full text of the interview after the break... Oh and if Wanda features the game "Jewish, Canadian or Dead" on an upcoming episode, we want full credit...]
ESPN doc series keeps tackling tragedies, focusing on Len Bias and Jimmy the Greek
Another week, another sporting tragedy courtesy of ESPN's exemplary "30 for 30" documentary franchise.
It turns out that giving 30 filmmakers carte blanche to tell the sporting stories of their choosing means a lot of sadness and a lot of attempted catharsis.
We've already had the tragic story of a boxer who fought for too long ("Muhammad and Larry"), the tragic story of a football league murdered by Donald Trump ("Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?") and the tragic story of a city that lost a hockey icon ("Kings Ransom"). Even "The Band That Wouldn't Die," a phoenix-from-the-ashes tale, begins with the tragic story of a city abandoned and betrayed by its NFL franchise.
And if you thought those "30 for 30" installments were tragic, wait till you get a load of the series' next two hours, "Without Bias" and "The Legend of Jimmy the Greek."
Looking ahead, "30 for 30" has more tragedies to come, but there also seem to be a couple purely inspirational tales on tap (mostly in 2010), but only Bill Simmons and company know for sure why we've led off with six consecutive weeks of "30 for 30" pathos.
I've already waxed sufficiently rhapsodic about the overall awesomeness of the "30 for 30" endeavor, but I've still got small-ish reviews of "Without Bias" and "The Legend of Jimmy the Greek" after the break...
Elizabeth Mitchell, Morena Baccarin and Scott Wolf are some of the familiar faces in ABC's spiffy 'V' update
ABC's reboot of "V" has probably the best pilot of any new network drama this fall.
I've seen the "V" pilot four times now and I've enjoyed it each time. It has tremendous pacing, likable actors and some solid special effects, at least for the small screen. It's an hour of pure entertainment going onto a night (Tuesdays) that's short on fun, if you aren't a fan of CBS' unstoppable "NCIS" block.
I wanted to get that out of the way.
I wanted to make sure that y'all know that I like the "V" pilot, before I start a review which may spend a lot of time dwelling on why I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about the show's prospects going forward. They're two different and conflicted reactions and it's necessary that both of them get acknowledged.
[Full review of "V" after the break...]
Edward Norton-produced doc had great access to the Obama campaign, but little perspective of its own
It's not popular to say, because it was one of the post-Aaron Sorkin years, but the sixth season of "The West Wing" is one of my favorites. Perhaps no season of "The West Wing" was more process-oriented, as the writers took us through the rise of young, untested Democrat Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and maverick, outspoken Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) as they went through the primaries to secure their parties' respective nominations for President. Just because the writing rarely sparkled as it did in the Sorkin years didn't mean that Season Six of "The West Wing" wasn't the savviest the show ever got about democracy in America.
A less pragmatic, less fictional, but no less fantastical version of a similar story plays out in Amy Rice and Alicia Sams' "By the People: The Election of Barack Obama," which premieres on HBO on Monday (Nov. 2) night. Knowing a good thing when they spied it, Rice and Sams began filming Barack Obama in November of 2006, when he was just another junior Senator monitoring midterm election results and barely being whispered about as a candidate for the presidency, at least not in 2008.
"By the People" begins in ernest the following year, as Obama went to Iowa as a decided underdog to seemingly pre-ordained Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The rest isn't just history, it's recent history. And it isn't just recent history, it's well-recorded and well-reported history, as the run-up to Obama's election last November has to be the most covered presidential campaign in American annals.
So what does "By the People" have to add to the discussion? What do we accomplish by looking back at the events of 2007 and 2008 through a prism of 2009?
[Full review after the break...]
Even an avid fantasy sports fan like The Fien Print couldn't find much to laugh at in FX's new comedy
Because of fantasy sports, I was a Red Sox fan rooting for Alex Rodriguez all season.
Because of fantasy sports, even though I couldn't care less about the Redskins, I died a little inside every time DeSean Jackson made it into the end zone this past Monday night.
Because of fantasy sports, I know that any chump can follow top-level minor league prospects, but only the true obsessives are scouring the high school or college ranks for catchers with line-drive power or corner infielders who might somehow have second base eligibility.
Because of fantasy sports, or at least my seasonal (April to January, mostly) dedication to them, I approached FX's new comedy "The League" with a tremendous amount of good will.
And, unexpectedly enough, "The League" doesn't fall flat due to its depiction of fantasy sports. When the show bothers to concentrate on the freaky, addictive, maniacal work of roto fanatics, it does so with a well-calibrated mixture of deserved mockery, condescending pity and bemused respect. However, by the second episode, fantasy football becomes only a background element of "The League" and it becomes clear that what the show isn't nearly as comfortable with, alas, is comedy.
[Full review of "The League" after the break...]
If you have DirecTV, Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and company return on Wednesday. If not? Sorry...
An odd confession: As big a supporter of "Friday Night Lights" as I've always been, this may have been the first time I was really eager to have the show return for a new season.
Allow me to explain.
The first season of "Friday Night Lights" was 22 episodes of near-prefection and although I didn't necessarily think the writers chose the correct result for Dillon Panthers' trip to State, the season ended with such a feeling of closure that I didn't need anything more. With ratings what they were, I didn't expect a second season and I was satisfied.
The second season of "Friday Night Lights" was a mess, riddled with poorly integrated characters, newly injected narrative cliches and a key storyarc so bad it caused one of my favorite shows to literally make me sad. Although "FNL" rebounded a bit toward the end, I was concerned enough by what happened in the second season that part of me wanted the show to be put out of its semi-misery before Landry had the opportunity to kill again.
The third season of "Friday Night Lights" began erratically, with stunning episodes like "Hello, Goodbye" running up against ridiculous storylines like Tyra's relationship with the rodeo pretty-boy. But the third season closed with a half-dozen episodes as good as anything in the show's past and the writers generated a finale, "Tomorrow Blues," that offered something resembling closure, but simultaneously seemed to push the story in a direction I wanted to follow.
"Friday Night Lights" returns for its fourth season on Wednesday (Oct. 28), but that's only if you happen to have DirecTV. The partnership was odd enough last season when NBC viewers had to wait for January, three months after the show's DirecTV window, but this year is even tougher, since NBC isn't expected to air "Friday Night Lights" until next summer. But hey, at least it got fans a fourth and fifth season of Texa
And that feels like a long wait for a the sports drama that immediately returns to its position as one of the small screen's finest hours.
[Review of the season's first two "Friday Night Lights" episodes, with only minor spoilers, after the break...]