Box Office Preview: Blasphemy, Pre-apocalyptic Comedy, and Pixar

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I hate to use the same reference twice, but the situation calls for it. So, it has come to this. As if “The Raven” wasn’t enough, a film about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires is fully produced and coming to a theater near you. Before you ask, yes, it’s that Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, it’s not a coincidence that the titular character has the same name as the sixteenth president of these United States. This may lend credence to the popular theory that Douglas Adams is not actually dead, but has gone into seclusion with a magic typewriter which allows him to write the script of reality. Mr. Adams, if you’re out there, “Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”

Those of you who remember the brilliant but short-lived Showtime comedy “Party Down” might think the idea for “Vampire Hunter” arose from a joke in the episode “Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen.” Breckin Meyer wants to get Adam Scott back into acting by landing him the role of young Lincoln in a film in which Meyer’s character plays Edgar Allan Poe. The two steal an amulet from the Smithsonian, and, of course, fight vampires. As far as evidence, some Google searching shows claims that at one point, the Wikipedia page for the book on which the film is based said Seth Grahame-Smith did in fact get the idea from “Party Down.” It’s no longer there, and it’s Wikipedia, so who knows? Another question, “are we having fun yet?” No. No we are not.

I beg of you, do not see this movie, lest you lead us to such films as “George Washington: Werewolf,” “Anne Boelyn: Intergalactic Pilot,” and indeed, the end of the world. As if my pleas weren’t enough (I know how much you all love me), “AL: VH” currently sits at a 30 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s gone down every time I’ve refreshed whilst writing this post.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Speaking of the end of the world, Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley star in a genre bending comedy about just that. What we have here is not just a pre-apocalypse film (don’t see too many of those), but a comedy(ish) to boot. The official synopsis tells us this: “Set in a too-near future, the movie explores what people will do when humanity’s last days are at hand. As the respective journeys of Dodge and Penny converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.” Before the end of their lives, Penny wants to see her family one last time and Dodge wants to find the one that got away. Is anyone taking bets that he ends up with Penny instead?

So far reviews are mixed. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” has earned a rating of 58 on the Tomatometer. Based on the trailer, (perhaps too) much of the film’s humor derives from the idea that certain people, like cops and T.G.I. Fridays employees, would not change their lives in any way if they knew the end of days was at hand. But with it’s star-studded (sort of) cast, which includes Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, and Martin Sheen alongside stars Carell and Knightley, perhaps that number will spike and “End of the World” will surprise us all. I doubt it, but all this apocalypse talk and the mere existence of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has me in a foul mood.

Brave

Pixar has set some lofty standards for itself, so although “Brave” currently sits at a 79 on the Tomatometer, I don’t entertain any fantasies about it being the studio’s best work. In fact, it might not even be the studio’s best work in a fantasy setting with a redheaded female lead. I’m talking about Shrek people. Well the first two Shreks. Anyway, let’s turn to the synopsis:

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

What I can surmise from the trailer is that the age old custom is marriage to the eldest son of one of those “uproarious lords,” and the ill-fated wish, ironically enough, is to “change her fate.” Come on now, Merida. Everyone knows you don’t say something that vague to a witch. That’s how we end up with things like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” OK, OK, I’m done.

  

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2010 Year End TV Review: Scott Malchus

2010 was another great year of television, despite the fact that most of the new fall network shows were forgettable. While the big four seem to have a handle on coming up with new comedies, they still can’t develop innovative dramas to compete with the cable channels. Fox made an attempt with their excellent “Lone Star,” but viewers stayed away and the series was quickly cancelled (despite support from the network president). With Lost leaving the airwaves, it seems that if you want to watch something other than a procedural, you’ll have to tune to AMC, FX or HBO. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great cop, lawyer or medical shows (“The Good Wife” immediately jumps to mind), but the TV landscape is wide open enough that stories about all walks of life should be able to survive.

Best Drama: Friday Night Lights (Direct TV/NBC)

There was a lot of great drama on television this year (“Southland” was exceptional, “Lost” went out in glorious fashion, “Men of a Certain Age” was moving and effective), but I would be remiss if I didn’t place “FNL” at the top of my list, just where it has been since the show premiered in 2006. It’s hard to believe that this will be its last season. No other show has me cheering and laughing and crying week in and week out. Even during the cringe worthy moments (Julie’s affair with the TA) I can’t bring myself to raise the remote and fast forward through them. I’ve stated time and again on Popdose that this show is the most realistic portrayal of small town life I’ve ever seen on television, with beautifully written and acted characters, smart direction, and perfect music selections to create the mood of each scene (not to mention W.G. Snuffy’s poignant score). I love the Taylors; I love the community of Dillon, Texas; and I love Friday Night Lights.

Best Comedy: Modern Family (ABC)

A tough category. There are so many strong comedies on television right now, including NBC’s Thursday night lineup and ABC’s Wednesday shows. Of all of them, “Modern Family” makes me laugh the hardest; so hard that my wife and I have to rewind to hear the second and third jokes of each scene. With a great cast and insightful writing, “Modern Family” is a modern classic.

Best Reality: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

I generally hate reality shows on network television, however there is something truly inspiring about “The Biggest Loser” that grabs me every week. Here is a series about people seriously having to take back their lives otherwise they could die. The money at the end never seems to be as important as the health benefits they receive. Unlike most of the reality competitions shows, the inspiration that comes from watching “The Biggest Loser” occurs from watching every contestant, not just a select few. Obesity has overtaken our country and the men and women of “The Biggest Loser” prove that you can take back your life and that you are in control of it.

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If you don’t watch the premiere of “Community” tonight on NBC…

…then you’ll be missing the best new show of the fall season.

You may recall from my Fall TV Preview that I said of the pilot for “Community,” “When I watched it, I was convinced that I was watching the funniest sitcom of the new season. I was not wrong.” Now, granted, I was predisposed to like the series before I’d even put the screener of the pilot into the DVD player – I’m a fan of Joel McHale’s work (I’ve got a TiVo season pass for “The Soup”) and Chevy Chase’s work in virtually every film that he made during the ’70s and ’80s (though, to be honest, the only film he’s done since then that I still enjoy revisiting is “Memoirs of an Invisible Man”) – but it certainly didn’t hurt seeing “Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver turn up in a meaty guest role within the first few minutes, and it didn’t take long for me to fall for the ensemble as a whole.

Here’s a rundown of the characters:

* Jeff (McHale), a fast-talkin’ lawyer whose degree has been revoked
* Pierce (Chase), a man whose life experience has brought him infinite wisdom
* Abed (Danny Pudi), a pop culture junkie
* Britta (Gillian Jacobs), a 28-year-old dropout with something to prove
* Troy (Donald Glover, a former high school football star trying to find his way
* Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), a sassy middle-aged divorcée
* Annie (Alison Brie), a high-strung perfectionist
* Señor Chang (Ken Jeong), a slightly unhinged Spanish professor

When I arrived at the TCA summer press tour, I was a man on a mission: to interview as many members of the cast of “Community” as I possibly could, so that I might do my damndest to get people to watch the series. Not that it necessarily needs my help, given the incredible promotional push that the network is putting behind the show, but, still, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a sitcom that’s this funny and has this strong an ensemble from the word “go” (seriously, I think I’d have to go back to “NewsRadio”), and I wanted to do whatever I could to get the word out. In the end, I ended up chatting with five of show’s regulars during the tour (McHale, Pudi, Brown, Glover, and Jeong), catching up with two more by phone after making back (Jacobs and Brie).

Sadly, Chevy Chase was surrounded by hordes of my peers through his time at the tour, and attempts to secure a phoner with him prior to the run date of this piece were unsuccessful. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to talk to Chevy sometime in the near future…and, y’know, don’t be afraid to drop NBC an E-mail and ask them to try and make it happen for us…but in the meantime, click here (or on the above graphic), then sit back and enjoy these conversations with the rest of the cast.

When you finish, I’ll be very surprised if you don’t run straight to your TiVo and order yourself up a season pass for “Community.” It’s that good. I swear. And if you don’t believe me, here’s proof:

Finally, check out Chopard, one of the most recognized watch and jewelry brands in the world.

  

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NBC: What’s New for Fall 2009

The Jay Leno Show (Mon., Sept. 14 @ 10:00 PM, NBC)

The competition:
Monday: “Castle” (ABC), “CSI: Miami” (CBS)
Tuesday: “The Forgotten” (ABC), “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Wednesday: “Eastwick” (ABC), “CSI: New York” (CBS)
Thursday: “Private Practice” (ABC), “The Mentalist” (CBS)
Friday: “20/20” (ABC), “Numb3rs” (CBS)

Starring: Jay Leno
Producers: Debbie Vickers, Larry Goitia, Jay Leno, Jack Coen, Stephanie Ross (“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”)
Network’s Description: Marking a new era in television, Jay Leno, recently named America’s Favorite TV Personality by the 2009 Harris Poll, moves from late night to primetime on September 14 when his series becomes the first-ever entertainment program to be stripped across primetime on broadcast network television. The series promises more comedy in the 10 o’clock hour and will showcase many of the features that have made Leno America’s late-night leader for more than a dozen years.
The Buzz: About as mixed as buzz can be. This is the most controversial maneuver in the past several decades of television history, a Hail Mary by the people at the Peacock. It’s highly possible that the people who’ve abandoned “The Tonight Show” since the tall, skinny Irish kid took over have just decided to go to bed early for a change and are fully prepared to start watching their old buddy, Jay, in his new locale. Then again, maybe they won’t. It’s a crazy crap shoot, this series, and all that us critics can do is sit back and see what the viewers decide to do.
Pilot Highlight: None, obviously, due to the live nature of the show.
Bottom Line: If you like Jay Leno, you’ll like the show. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s really as simple as that. But will you watch the show? Leno has the right attitude by acknowledging outright that he doesn’t expect to beat original programming, only anticipating that they’ll probably start to take home the ratings gold once the reruns start. I like Leno as much as the next guy, but I like scripted dramatic programming better. For that alone, I’m not exactly rooting for him to succeed. But with that said, I’m mostly just curious to see what’s going to happen.

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