Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto
Director Fede Alvarez’s previous film, the 2013 remake of “Evil Dead,” is considered the bloodiest movie of all time. (I prefer the word ‘sinewy,’ as it was needlessly, almost laughably gory, but oh well.) His latest film “Don’t Breathe” appears to be an attempt at karmic payback of sorts, because he’s downright stingy with the corn syrup this time around, and the film is better because of it. It’s a claustrophobic thriller; it doesn’t need to be bloody. Indeed, Alvarez has multiple opportunities to shed blood on screen (if Mel Gibson is directing, you’re seeing that blood) but resists. This is a good thing.
Alex (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (Jane Levy) and Rocky’s boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) are low-rent Detroit kids who commit petty theft on the houses protected by the security company that employs Alex’s father, careful to avoid anything that would make them guilty of grand larceny. Money gets word of a potential robbery target, an older man (Stephen Lang) with no family, living on an abandoned block and sitting on $300,000. The man uses the same security company, so the three scout the house and learn two valuable things: the man is blind, and he has a Rottweiler.
Alex wants no part of this job but is guilted into taking part by Rocky, who wants to take the money and run, making a better life for her and her daughter. The house has more locks than they’re used to, making the job infinitely riskier, but they break in anyway. It is at this point that the three discover, once it’s much too late to back out, that the blind man is a war veteran. Needless to say, the job goes poorly.
Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez,
Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
It’s hard to watch “Evil Dead” after seeing “The Cabin in the Woods,” and not just because the movie takes place in a cabin in the woods. On the one hand, it’s admirable that director Fede Alvarez went to great lengths to keep this, a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 game-changing original, grounded in a style similar to the source material. (Case in point: there isn’t a single piece of technology used in this movie that didn’t already exist in 1981.) On the other hand, this type of movie has either been borrowed or parodied approximately six million times in the 32 years since its release, and as a result, the story structure seems less retro than it does arcane. No amount of blood can wash that away, though God knows they tried.
David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) meet up at his family’s desolate, run-down cabin with David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) and old friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) for the purposes of helping Mia quit heroin cold turkey. Mia swears the house smells horrendous, though no one else seems to notice but the dog (yes, the dog), and after some prodding, the group uncovers some ghastly atrocities in the cellar, along with a book wrapped in barbed wire. Eric pries the book open and, despite the fact that there are warnings etched into the pages advising the reader not to write, read, or say any of the words the previous owners tried to hide, proceeds to do all three of those things, which unleashes an unspeakable demon that possesses Mia, and then spends the rest of the evening toying with the others while slowly plotting to kill them all.
The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW) Starring: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Kaitlyn Dever, Molly Ephraim, Alexandra Krosney, Christoph Sanders, Hector Elizondo
Executive producers: JackBurditt, Tim Allen, Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Shawn Levy, Richard Baker and Rick Messina
What the network says: “You can’t get manlier than Mike Baxter. He loves to have adventures while he’s traveling for work and, of course, he drives a pick-up truck. But Mike is about to find out that it’s not a man’s world anymore. While he might be king of the hill at work at an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, he’s the odd man out in a home dominated by his wife and three daughters. Today it’s a woman’s world, and this man’s man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Mike’s wife, Vanessa, recently returned to the workplace and was quickly promoted — much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers. Now that Vanessa’s work load has increased, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before. With things turned upside down at home, Mike’s last bastion of sanity – work – gets hit by change as well; his long-time boss and friend, Ed, announces that he’s grounding Mike from their catalogue’s international photo shoots and putting him in charge of the company’s webpage. But while adjusting to this new role, Mike discovers that the Internet might actually provide him just the outlet he needs, a platform that gives him a voice to appeal to those who agree that manliness is under assault, and a pulpit for his opinions about feeling like the last real man in a woman’s world. After all, men built civilizations, invented the locomotive and created ESPN, and Mike Baxter is determined to do what he must to reclaim his manly place in his home and at his job.”
What we say: It’s kind of hard to criticize “Last Man Standing” for having almost exactly the same mainstream manly-man tone as “Home Improvement” when Tim Allen freely admits that it’s something he’s making a conscious effort to re-stake his old territory. You can, however, criticize the series for not being very funny. Sure, it’s funny in a Tim Allen kind of way, but…oh, this way lies madness, so let’s just cut to the chase: basically, if you like broad comedy about a guy’s guy who’s annoyed with the fact that his brand of man is a dying breed, then you’ll like this show. I laughed a couple of times, but as I am not now nor have I ever been a guy’s guy, I walked away with little or no interest in ever watching another episode…which, come to think of it, is almost exactly the way I’ve always felt about “Home Improvement.” Based on this info, you can probably make your own judgement call as to whether or not you’ll have any interest in tuning in.
(8:30 – 9 PM, Oct. 18)
The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)
Starring: Mather Zickel, Dan Fogler, Christopher Moynihan, Teri Polo, Amanda Detmer, Henry Simmons, Jake Johnson, Charlotte Labadie
Executive producers: Christopher Moynihan, Victor Fresco (“Better Off Ted”), and Ron West and Kelly Kulchak
What the network says: “Three modern male archetypes struggle as they search for their identities and try to prove that ‘real men’ really can use hazelnut creamer. Meet Will. Will’s grandfather fought in WWII. Will’s father fought in Vietnam. Will plays Call of Duty on his PS3 and drinks non-dairy hazelnut creamer. So what happened to all the real men? They’re still here — they just smell like pomegranate body wash now. Will’s evolved, sensitive nature is why his awesome wife, Theresa, married him. But he and his friends find themselves wondering… In a world of Axe ads and manscaping, what does it really mean to be a guy anymore? Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny clamps down on his anger and asks himself, ‘What would Tobey Maguire do?,’ when his ex, Bridgette, starts seeing a guy who is everything he’s not and much better looking. After Craig crashes Lisa’s wedding to try to win her back, all three are faced with an opportunity to ‘man up’ and be like their forefathers.”
What we say: I swear it’s not because the lead character’s name is Will, but…I actually like this better than “Last Man Standing,” even though it’s ultimately covering a certain amount of the same ground. I think you can probably attribute that to executive producer Victor Fresco, whose presence always guarantees that the series won’t be 100% commercial. Speaking of ground that’s already been trod upon, there’s also an undeniable similarity between “Man Up” and Fox’s late, lamented mid-season series “Traffic Light.” (That’s not a bad thing for me, though, as I loved the series.) As for the cast, there are really only two matinee names: Teri Polo, of the “Meet the Parents” franchise, and Dan Fogler, who’s one of those guys who can take things so far over the top that he presents a major love-him-or-hate-him vibe. It must be said, though, that he pulls the majority of the biggest laughs in the pilot. As far as putting this alongside “Last Man Standing,” I don’t know if that’s a great move or not, since the similar premises will likely viewers to suspect that if they don’t like one, then they won’t like the other, but it’s not true: “Man Up” may not be spectacular, but it’s ten times funnier than its lead-in.