Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: No Quotes from Day 6? (Well, not many, anyway…)

The greatest mystery surrounding ABC’s day of the TCA press tour is why they chose to make so little of it. Given that they had ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, DisneyXD, the outgoing SOAPNet, and the incoming Disney Junior to work with, it’s absolutely unforgivable that there were only five panels the entire damned day.

Day 6 began on a decidedly solemn note, as the giant screens in the ballroom aired the national moment of silence to commemorate the tragedy in Tucson, and, perhaps appropriately, things shifted directly into the introduction of new ABC News president Ben Sherwood. Next up, Paul Lee, the president of ABC Entertainment, took the stage for his executive session. After that, we had a “Winter Wipeout”-themed cocoa break, then came back into the ballroom for two more panels: one for the return of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” the next for the new ABC medical drama, “Off the Map.” Then came lunch revolving around the new Disney Junior animated series “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” followed by a panel for the new Disney Channel movie, “Lemonade Mouth,” which – beyond the music playing during the trailer – only held my interest when the very cute and very British actress Naomi Scott opened her mouth.

And that’s it.

Well, it wasn’t quite it. We had a cocktail party at 5 PM which was ostensibly “Off the Map”-themed (they offered a trio of tropical cocktails, but I am hard pressed to recall any hors d’oeuvres that had any particular South American flair), but it only featured stars from ABC’s mid-season shows, and even then there were several notable names missing from the guest list, the two most notable being Matthew Perry from “Mr. Sunshine” and Dana Delaney from “Body of Evidence.” Now, admittedly, my experiences with Mr. Perry during the summer tour make his absence neither surprising nor overly upsetting, but it was kind of a bummer that Ms. Delaney wasn’t there, as she’s always been a real sweetheart.

What I want to know is, why didn’t ABC offer panels for one or two of their existing shows, like CBS and NBC are doing with “The Good Wife” and “Community,” respectively?

I’ll give us them credit for setting up a “Cougar Town” set visit for us – that’s happening on the 12th – but I would’ve loved a panel for “Castle,” “The Middle,” or any number of current ABC series.

And why not have an evening function featuring folks from all of their series rather than just their midseason material? I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the fleeting chance to speak with Allison Janney about “Mr. Sunshine.” I’m just saying that the whole day felt like one big missed opportunity.

You know, I was originally going to try and offer up the top 6 quotes from Day 6’s panels, but it would feel forced, so I’m not going to waste your time or mine. I will, however, offer at least one which made me laugh…

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A chat with Gale Anne Hurd, producer of “The Walking Dead”

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of There aren’t many producers around these days whose name can help sell a movie or TV show, but Gale Anne Hurd is the rare exception. Probably best known as one of the co-creators of “The Terminator” franchise, Hurd has been an important player in numerous mega- or merely major productions, including both “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Abyss,” “Armageddon,” “The Punisher,” and the underrated 1999 comedy “Dick,” which starred Dan Hedaya as Richard Milhous Nixon and a young Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of teenagers who wind up bringing down a presidency.

Clearly one of the more hands-on producers around, Hurd is pleasant and businesslike when talking to a member of the show-biz press, but clearly has the gumption to deal with the biggest and most difficult of personalities, which is how I segue into the obligatory mention of the fact that she spent the part of the late eighties and early nineties being married to first James Cameron and then Brian De Palma. Moreover, she began her career working for one the most fascinating and effective producers in the history of the medium, Roger Corman, but more of that in the interview.

Still, nothing she’s done is quite like her current project, the zombie horror drama and comic book adaptation, “The Walking Dead.” The AMC television series, adapted from a series of acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman primarily by writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist”) is currently receiving maximum exposure on the web. The publicity train was only just getting started when I spoke to Ms. Hurd at a mammoth new San Diego hotel adjacent to the Comic-Con festivities last summer.

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I had typed my questions on my laptop, which I was afraid might be a little off-putting. So, after a quick greeting, I tried to explain why.

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Movies news on a Monday night

Direct from the Starbucks at Pico & Robertson…

Jon Hamm in * Rumors have been circulating for at least a week that Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” and now “The Town” is being considered to play Superman. I’m a huge fan of the guy, but count me among those who think he’s a bit old to play an eternally youthful superguy, if there’s going to be more than one movie anyhow. Kal-El is not Tony Stark. In any case, apparently someone else who it appears did turn down the role of Superman director was Guillermo del Toro. Actually, if they ever make a movie set in the Bizarro world, del Toro would be the guy. Otherwise, I don’t see it at all and, it seems, neither did del Toro.

* In terms of film biz transactions, the Toronto International Film Festival surprised everyone and did rather well with numerous indie films being purchased for release. What doe it mean? Mike Fleming sees a modified return of the indie market, though with a thriftier than ever edge.

* The first casting news has come for the J.J. Abrams’ science fiction Steven Spielberg homage/collaboration, “Super 8.” Naturally, one of the stars is a young person — Elle Fanning. The other is closer to my age and is best known for his TV work. No, it’s not Abe Vigoda, but Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights.”

* Speaking of people in my general age cohort who can’t escape their youth, Keanu Reeves is apparently getting colleauges like Alex Winter ready to do a middle-aged edition of the “Bill & Ted” epic. As actors go, Reeves may not be a Philip Seymour Hoffman-level thespian, but he really excels at certain kinds of comedy and I’m board for this. He does a pretty good Werner Herzog, besides.

* Tim Burton is going back to where he started as a director with a stop-motion version of his career-starting live-action short, “Frankenweenie.” The voice cast has just been announced and it will include Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, and SCTV alums Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.

* Did anybody out there ask for a “Timecop” reboot? Simon Brew is game.

* Re: l’affaire du Hulk back in July, Edward Norton continues to kill Marvel’s Kevin Feige with perhaps not kindness, but civility. Ouch.

* I beg to differ with Sarah Silverman, her “full frontal” nude scene will be pretty. Very pretty.

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* I’ve seen movies in some mighty small “shoebox” multiplex theaters and screening rooms, but if you’re wondering how small a movie theater can be, this promotion for “Buried” answers the question.

* As I write this I’m getting ready to watch the multi-director documentary “Freakonomics” for free. You however, may pay as little as a penny and as much as a $100 to see it this Wednesday. It’s your choice. Still, we know there’ s no such thing as a truly free, or almost free, anything and, as with writers like myself, some effort is expected in return. Details here.

  

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Planet Hulk

For as much as Marvel utilizes him in their animated films, you’d think that the Hulk was the company’s flagship character. “Planet Hulk” marks the fifth appearance of the Not So Jolly Green Giant (including all three Avengers films and last year’s double feature, “Hulk Vs.”), and quite frankly, it’s starting to get a bit out of hand. While the Hulk deserves his share of the spotlight just as much as the next Marvel superhero, the decision to follow up one Hulk-centric feature with another only risks alienating those who aren’t fans of his comics. Based on the miniseries of the same name, the story begins with the Hulk awakening to discover that he’s been shipped to an uninhabited planet by the Illuminati after being deemed too dangerous for Earth. When Hulk causes the shuttle to malfunction and crash land on the planet of Sakaar, however, he’s forced to partake in the gladiatorial games by the planet’s leader, the Red King.

What follows is essentially “Gladiator” lite, with the Hulk teaming up with his fellow contestants to overthrow the Red King and earn their freedom. The problem with this formula is that the Hulk isn’t exactly leading man material, and although the writers try to remedy that by giving him more to say than just “Hulk smash!,” it feels terribly out of character. The story itself is plagued with flashbacks for supporting characters that draw attention away from the titular hero, while the action scenes are fairly bland when compared to the far superior “Hulk Vs.” Fans of the Hulk will still enjoy seeing one of Marvel’s most recent mini-events come to life, but next time around, they’d be better off choosing a bigger crossover event that appeals to a larger audience like “Civil War” or “Secret Invasion.”

Click to buy “Planet Hulk”

  

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One born every minute

Let’s face it, the movie business is all about roping in the suckers, but I mean that in the nicest possible way.

* Several Comic-Cons ago, a rumor was about that Marvel was going to stop publishing comic books entirely and concentrate strictly on making movies and generally just marketing the hell out of their characters. This struck me as patently absurd because, even if the tail is wagging the dog, you still need the dog. Nevertheless, fiscally speaking at least, Marvel’s waggable rear is definitely stronger than its canine according to Variety‘s Marc Graser:

….Licensing is expected to generate the most coin for the company during the year, with up to $215 million, followed by movies and TV shows at up to $150 million, and comic books with $120 million.

* “G.I Joe” is a chicken-hearted pantywaist when it comes to critics. It’s kind of funny because “Team America” got really good reviews overall and from all appearances this is pretty much exactly the same movie.

* Why is Anne Thompson so much cooler than other film journos? We’ll, she’ll go to see Bollywood movies in unfashionable Artesia, relatively close to my highly uncool zip code, for starters. She also has three great trailers, including one for the Coen Brother’s next film. “The rabbi is busy.”

* Apparently piggybacking somewhat on his Oscar night success, Hugh Jackman is going to star in “an original contemporary musical” for Fox based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the circus impresario perhaps most famous today for opining that a sucker is born every minute. (I’d go for each second, myself.) I’m not sure what they mean by “contemporary” given that Phineas T. Barnum died in 1891, but I take it that “original” is meant to differentiate the film from the 1980 Broadway musical which starred Jim Dale and Glenn Close. Apparently Anne Hathaway, who had also had a bit of success in the Oscar’s opening number, will be joining him as singer Jenny Lind (and there’s talk of a new version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel” also to pair Jackman with Hathaway).

The music will be by some guy named Mika, who I had never heard of until just now but whose opera background and overall approach reminds me of a more classic R&B/funk and T-Rex/Bowie influenced Rupert Wainwright. After watching the video below, I’m largely sold though I hope he tries to avoid anything too obviously anachronistic. (I’m not sure Barnum should be getting funky on us, though I love the funk.) The high quality of the music and Mika’s way around various types of retro sounds makes me think he might be just right for the project. Also, naming your song “Grace Kelly” won’t ever hurt your standing with me.


Mika – Grace Kelly
by SamFisher037
  

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