Movie Review: “Star Trek Into Darkness”

Starring
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin
Director
J.J. Abrams

To look back on the controversy circling around J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise is like trying to remember a distant dream: you vaguely recall that the fans of the long-running sci-fi franchise were freaking out about the idea of new actors slipping on the uniforms of James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, but so many Trekkies came to embrace Abrams’ “Star Trek” so quickly that it’s almost like the controversy never happened. Y’know, like pretty much everything that ever happened in the original “Star Trek” series and movies. Or have you forgotten how Nero (Eric Bana), the villain in the 2009 film, went back in time on a mission of vengeance and proceeded to change the course of history?

Of course you haven’t forgotten. And you can be damned sure the Trekkies haven’t, either. Ever since Abrams’ film effectively wiped the slate clean on “Trek” history, theories have been flying by at warp speed about whether the next film would find Kirk and company on an all-new voyage or if the storyline might feature new takes on more classic characters. The answer? A little from Column A and a little from Column B. Thing is, we can’t really tell you much about the bits from Column B. Or, rather, we could, but we don’t want to spoil the fun…even if at least one of those fun bits has been bandied about as a plot possibility for the sequel from the very beginning.

Like its predecessor, “Star Trek Into Darkness” more or less starts off at full throttle, with the crew of the Enterprise in the midst of a mission to a strange new world which hasn’t yet reached the level of technology as the worlds within the United Federation of Planets, putting it under protection of the so-called Prime Directive. If you’re unfamiliar with the “Trek” mythos, this basically means that the planet is supposed to be left alone to develop at its own pace, but even if you barely know “Trek” at all, you still probably know that Kirk’s never been a big fan of following the rules, and as a comparative youngster in Starfleet, he’s still learning that there are significant consequences when the rules are broken. What he’s also learning is that not every officer is cut from the same cloth as Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood); some tend toward the hard-ass method of command, like Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller).

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Giancarlo Esposito (“Revolution”)

It’s a matter of public record that I’ve interviewed a huge-ass number of people over the years, but given that most of those interviews tend to be on the phone, it never fails to give me a warm feeling inside when someone actually remembers me from an in-person encounter. Then again, one presumes that the cast of “Breaking Bad” doesn’t sit down and break bread with journalists on their home turf of Albuquerque all that often, so maybe that makes it a little easier to remember such an occasion.

Either way, it was still nice to see the warm glow of recognition in Giancarlo Esposito’s eyes when I came up to him at the Television Critics Association press tour this summer. I mean, it’s certainly better to see that than the steely anger we came to expect from him in his final appearances as Gustavo Fring, right? Sadly, it was a short chat, so we didn’t even get a chance to talk about Gus’s last days (except in passing reference) or even his Best Supporting Actor Emmy nod, but you can still look back at the far lengthier conversation we had a few years ago to get a bit more insight into his feelings about Gus and his career as it stood prior to “Breaking Bad.” For now, though, Esposito is all about looking forward…really, really intensely.

Giancarlo Esposito: Hi, Will! Oh, my goodness, I remember that evening in Albuquerque. I totally remember that evening!

Bullz-Eye: I’m glad I’m not the only one!

GE: How are you? It’s good to see you again.

BE: It’s mutual, of course. So I’m curious: with “Revolution,” you’ve taken on another supporting role. Not that you don’t do them well, but do you have an active desire to kick it up to leading-man status, or do you just enjoy the challenge of making the most out of a smaller part.

GE: You know what? I always have a desire to make it to the big time. [Laughs.] But the more I’m able to put my heart and soul into a role and the fuller that character that is, then the more screen time it has, and for me that’s a plus. But I love doing what I do as a character actor, and I think that’s also important, because that enables me to strengthen my craft. And in this case, that supporting role is with some of the best folks in television. So to me, it’s a journey. I feel like there is a moment in time when there’ll be that moment to step up into films where I’m doing the lead and carrying everything, but right now I think that all is well.

I’m coming off this time with “Breaking Bad” and that’s been very special for me, and it’s a nice way to decompress and play a character that’s a heavy but probably a little more of a loose cannon, a little more psychotic. He’d love to think he’s always in control, but he does lose it. And he’s a guy who’s a little bit different than the last guy, but…audiences just love the bad guy! [Laughs.] And they love the character actor that can play him in a fuller way. So I’m all in. I’m all in with this “Revolution.” I think the show itself is about evolution of human beings, and on a grand scale. I mean, this is an epic show. I don’t know what people expect, but some seem to think that they may be seeing something they’ve seen before. They’re not. It’s a big show to do, a big show to produce…it’s a big, wide canvas of a show, but I think it’s not only a grand action/adventure series but it’s also a very dramatic, character-driven show as well.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Live from the Summer 2012 TCA Press Tour

Yep, that’s right: much as I’ve done every summer since 2007, I’m coming to you straight from the Television Critics Association press tour. Unlike previous years, however, I’ve got my daughter with me this time around, since her birthday fell smack dab in the middle of the trip. As you can imagine, this is keeping me pretty busy, but I wanted to bring you at least a little bit of the TCA experience while I’m out there…and, rest assured, next week’s column will provide much of the same, since I’ll still be here then.

At this point, we’ve had panels for PBS, Fox, NBC, NBC’s subsidiary networks (Oxygen, E!, etc.), and a few locations on the web (Yahoo!, YouTube). I’m not in a position to go into great detail about everything I’ve seen and heard – I’ve got a little girls birthday to celebrate, after all – but you can find some key moments via my Twitter feed. I’ve had a few enjoyable close encounters here and there, talking to Sir Kenneth Branagh (PBS’s “Wallander”), William Forsythe and Zeljko Ivanek (Fox’s “Mob Doctor”), and Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito (NBC’s “Revolution”), and I’m looking forward to chatting with Lily Tomlin on ABC’s day and Kyle MacLachlan when CBS’s panels roll around. For the time being, however, I’ve pulled together some of the highlights from Fox’s panels. Hope you enjoy!


Nigel Lythgoe on why there’s never been a proper “So You Think You Can Dance” best-of DVD: “We’ve looked at doing it. It’s the music clearance is just really difficult, as well you know, in this country. There are no blanket agreements like there are in Europe. You can’t just use anything that’s been out there. If you want to use an Eagles track, you have to ask the publisher, the writer, every single Eagle. It just, at the end of the day, doesn’t make money because you’re laying so much money out on that early stage.”


Mindy Kaling on headlining her own show, “The Mindy Project”: “It’s awesome. Even more (than I imagined it would be). I mean, like, every day I wake up and I’m, like, ‘Oh, I’m the star of my own show that has my name in it and I get to write it and hire people, actors that I’ve loved for such a long time.’ It’s amazing. I’m going to turn into a monster. Like, I can’t handle it.”


Zach Gilford on his lack of job security on “The Mob Doctor”: “I think on a show like this, if someone wants to get back at (Jordana Spiro’s character), they could take out one of us. So you’ve got to not be an asshole on set and say the lines just right, because we’re all expendable.”

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The Light from the TV Shows: 12 Shows to Look Forward to in 2012

Just as 2011 is sure to end in a few days, 2012 is equally likely to follow on its heels, which means that the January TCA tour is right around the corner. As such, yours truly is about to be bombarded with the best and worst that the midseason has to offer…and, fortunately, there’s a lot more of the former than the latter. Indeed, there are a couple of shows that the broadcast networks have been unjustly sitting on for almost six months, even though they’re a damned sight better than most of the dreck we got back in September. (Stand up, please, “The Playboy Club.” Or, you know, pick the program of your choice. That one’s just easiest ’cause it was the first to go.) Much as last week found me offering up 11 shows, give or take, that I was sorry to bid adieu to in 2011, this week I’ve pulled together a list of 12 shows that I’m looking forward to checking out in 2012. Keep in mind, however, that I’m basing my excitement either on a rough cut of a pilot or, in some cases, merely on the hopefulness I get when I read about the show. Yes, this does often come back to bite me in the ass, but such is the life of a TV critic. If I’m wrong, I’ll roll with the punches. In the meantime, though, these are my personal picks for what’s looking good in the new year…

The Firm (NBC)

So sayeth the network: Based on the best-selling novel by world-renowned author John Grisham, “The Firm” is a new drama series that continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere (Josh Lucas), who, as a young associate 10 years earlier, had brought down the prestigious Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke, which had been operating as a front for the Chicago mob. After a difficult decade, which included a stay in the Federal Witness Protection Program, McDeere and his family now emerge from isolation to reclaim their lives and their future — only to find that past dangers are still lurking and new threats are everywhere. Abby McDeere (Molly Parker), Mitch’s supportive, smart and resourceful wife, who had helped her husband expose Bendini, Lambert & Locke, is excited to start a new life in Washington, D.C., as a school teacher and mom to their daughter, Claire (Natasha Calis). Ray McDeere (Callum Keith Rennie) is Mitch’s charming, yet volatile, older brother whose work as an investigator in Mitch’s office is uniquely informed by his past stretch in prison for manslaughter. Despite a gritty past that stands in stark contrast to that of his Harvard-grad brother, Ray shares one key quality with Mitch – a loyalty that is unbreakable. Tammy Hemphill (Juliette Lewis) is Mitch’s feisty, sexy receptionist whose work life is made all the more tumultuous by her on-again, off-again relationship with Ray. With a personality as arresting as her ever-changing hair color, Tammy is leery when Mitch accepts a deal to partner with a top law practice, as she’s not cut out for the conservative culture of a white-shoe firm.

My take: I literally only just got the pilot episode this morning, so I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but the combination of Lucas, Parker, and Lewis has me very intrigued, and the fact that Grisham himself is part of the mix makes me hopeful about the possibilities of where this series could go if it’s given the chance. That’s a big “if,” though, because this isn’t the first time a Grisham novel has made the jump to the small screen. Anyone remember “The Client,” with JoBeth Williams and John Heard? It’s become so obscure that there’s neither a Wikipedia page for it nor even a clip from it on YouTube. Let’s hope “The Firm” gets a better go of it than that.

(Premiere date: January 8, 9 PM; regular 10 PM timeslot begins January 12)

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Fall TV Preview: What’s New for CBS

Monday

2 Broke Girls

(8:30 – 9 PM, Sept. 26, with special preview on Sept. 19 at 9:30 PM)

The competition: Dancing with the Stars (ABC), The Sing-Off (NBC), Terra Nova (Fox), Gossip Girl (The CW)

Starring: Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Garrett Morris, Matthew Moy, Jonathan Kite, Brooke Lyons

Executive producers: Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings

What the network says: “A comedy about two young women waitressing at a greasy spoon diner who strike up an unlikely friendship in the hopes of launching a successful business – if only they can raise the cash. Sassy, streetwise Max Black works two jobs just to get by, one of which is waiting tables during the night shift at the retro-hip Williamsburg Diner. Sophisticated Caroline Channing is an uptown trust fund princess who’s having a run of bad luck that forces her to reluctantly give waitressing a shot. At first, Max sees Caroline as yet another in a long line of inept servers she must cover for, but she’s surprised to find that Caroline has as much substance as she does style. When Caroline discovers Max’s knack for baking amazing cupcakes, she sees a lucrative future for them, but they first need to raise the start-up money. While they save their tips, they’ll stay at the restaurant, working with Oleg, an overly flirtatious Russian cook; Earl, a 75-year-old kool-kat cashier; and Han Lee, the new, eager-to-please owner of the diner. Working together, these two broke girls living in one expensive city might just find the perfect recipe for their big break.”

What we say: What’s this? A new sitcom in CBS’s Monday night lineup that isn’t a Chuck Lorre production? Will wonders never cease! Better yet, it’s a relatively strong one, though like so many other sitcom entries this season, it’s one where the leads are strong but the ensemble surrounding them is hit or miss…and, unfortunately, that includes Garrett Morris, who deserves so much better than hackneyed one-liners. (There’s a Duke University locker room joke, for God’s sake. Uh, zing?) Dennings, however, is the sarcastic version of Zooey Deschanel, which is to say that she’s cute, funny, and she could take you down a peg without even blinking, and Beth Behr is, for lack of a more elaborate phrase, sweet and pretty. The two of them also have instant chemistry together. If a cast as strong as “Mad Love” couldn’t make it more than a season, we probably shouldn’t pin any major hopes on “2 Broke Girls,” but it’s a certainly a show that we wouldn’t mind seeing succeed.

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