Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2011 Winter Press Tour Wrap-Up: Kneel Before Oprah!

The TCA Winter Press Tour is an event which never quite seems to live up to the TCA Summer Press Tour…but, then, that stands to reason, as the mid-season series rarely match the ones which hit the airwaves in the fall, right? Still, the experience never fails to be one which I enjoy, mostly because you never know what’s going to be around the corner, and Day 1 really set the stage for that: during the course of 12 hours, I interviewed Betty White, Henry Rollins, and Bruce Jenner, and, thanks to National Geographic, I wore a giant snake around my neck. Not a bad way to begin things…

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 2

The first half of the second day of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour belonged solely to the Turner networks, who had been notably MIA from the summer tour. Although there were unconfirmed reports that they were not entirely thrilled with the dates that had been set for that tour, as most of their summer programming had already premiered by the time the tour kicked off, but during the opening remarks, we were assured that “we ask for time on the critics tour schedule when we can make it worth your while.” Fair enough, then.

After an “Adventure Time”-themed breakfast from Cartoon Network, Adult Swim brought on a plethora of panelists for “Childrens Hospital” (everyone in the above photo was in attendance, plus executive producers Jonathan Stern and David Wain), TNT followed with “Franklin & Bash,” “Falling Skies,” and “Men of a Certain Age,” then HLN and CNN wrapped things up by getting real and presenting the new talk shows from Dr. Drew Pinsky and Piers Morgan, respectively. Given that I ended up pulling one-on-one interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Breckin Meyer, Garcelle Beauvais, Ray Romano (and Jon Manfrellotti), Scott Bakula, and Henry Winkler, I am hard pressed to have an unkind word to say about the Turner experience…except, that is, the fact that I diligently and politely contacted publicists for both networks and studios in an effort to nail down interviews in advance but was still ultimately left to fly by the seat of my pants and spend the morning in catch-as-catch-can mode.

Our working lunch was brought to us by the unlikely tag-team of BET (“The Game,” “Let’s Stay Together”) and Playboy TV (“Brooklyn Kinda Love,” “Swing”), and from there it was on to the Discovery family of networks: Animal Planet (“Taking on Tyson,” a look into Mike Tyson’s love of pigeons…yes, seriously), Science Channel (“An Idiot Abroad,” with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and title character Karl Pilkington), Investigation Discovery (“The Injustice Files”), and the mothership, the Discovery Channel (“Gold Rush – Alaska” and “Kidnap & Rescue”).

By then, the excitement / cynicism in the room was palpable: it was time for the OWN Network presentations. We’d been promised a welcome from Oprah, but we didn’t get one. Instead, we got an introduction from network CEO Christina Norman. She’s a very nice lady, but it wasn’t quite the same, and she admitted as much when she came onstage after a lengthy series of clips featuring Ms. Winfrey, saying, “I know: after all that Oprah, I am a massive disappointment to all of you.” Her Majesty did indeed deign to participate in a Q&A with us, but not until after we sat through panels for “Your OWN Show” (10 finalists compete to get their own series on the network), “The Gayle King Show,” and “Our America with Lisa Ling.” After Oprah held court, using what my esteemed colleague Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun referred to as the George W. Bush Technique, which involved offering incredibly lengthy answers in order to minimize the number of questions actually asked.

After the Q&A came to a close (and you can believe that it only ended when Oprah wanted it to end), we were all invited to attend the evening event which, although it was ostensibly brought to us by the OWN Network, nonetheless featured attendees from shows throughout the Discovery family of networks. This resulted in my having close encounters with Mike Tyson, author James Ellroy, and…well, I didn’t actually get to talk to Oprah, but I did stand very close to her (along with Carson Kressley and Nancy O’Dell, hosts of “Your OWN Show”) and breathe the same air as Oprah, so my understanding is that I will now never get cancer…which is nice, of course, but, damn, I really could’ve used a new car.

I know, you wish I’d gotten a new car, too. Don’t be sad, though, as I’m already sad enough for both of us. Besides, I’d much rather you read my selections for the top 10 quotes of Day 2 and leave me wallowing in my own car-less misery. No, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine…just as long as you don’t forget to come back for my coverage of Day 3.

1. “The one note we did get (for ‘Children’s Hospital’), it was from Warner Brothers…I hesitate to even tell you this, but when we turned in our first script for the web series, Warner Brothers called us up and said, ‘Um, do you think you could cut the shot where we actually see the Twin Towers burning?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, do you know what? That’s a great note.’” – Rob Corddry, “Children’s Hospital” (Adult Swim)

2. “I actually improvise all my own parts. I don’t know why they hire writers. I enjoy ad-libbing greatly, because I…basically, I can’t remember what the hell I’m doing. What’s the show called?” – Malcolm McDowell, “Franklin & Bash” (TNT)

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Hurried and harried midweek movie news

I’m blogging tonight from the Gower Gulch Starbucks, right in the heart of deepest darkest Hollywood, and as I said in the post right below this, seriously pressed for time tonight. A bunch of work still to be done ,a studio screening, plus a bunch of other stuff that won’t interest you. Also, there’s a guy behind me conducting an impromptu revival service for an audience of none, which is a little distracting.

So, that Comic-Con thumb-sucker will just have to wait as I present only a few selected items of movie news to nourish your spirits.

* Speaking of Comic-Con, in terms of innovation, influence, and ability to tell a simple story very well, Will Eisner was pretty much the D.W. Griffith, John Ford, and Billy Wilder of comic books all rolled into one, but few people who aren’t serious comics fans even know his name. 2008’s despicable “The Spirit” most certainly did not help with his memory or in terms of encouraging a younger generation to check out his work. (I’m glad the movie did horribly because if kids had liked the hyperviolent and mean-spirited film, they would have had no time for the humanistic original.).

Now, via /Film’s Russ Fischer, we hear that an appropriately low budget/indie film version of Eisner’s groundbreaking non-genre comic, “A Contract with God,” is in the works. Among other points of interest, it was the book that caused Eisner to come up with the term “graphic novel” when he was led to believe the publisher wouldn’t want to be involved with a mere “comic book.” Ironically enough, it’s actually a collection of related short stories and the term “graphic novel” actually may predate the incident, so Fischer isn’t  wrong when he says it’s not the first graphic novel. I truly hope this turns out well and makes everyone forget that other movie. It was nice that this was announced at the awards named for Eisner, who died in 2005, at Comic-Con.

eisner

* In the here-we-go-again file, it looks like Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is being delayed for the millionth time, says the Playlist. And check out that graphic making Gilliam look a bit like a certain Mr. Orson Welles, who also struggled for years to make his vision of Cervantes’ classic delusional non-knight-errant.

* Another Deadline story: Kudos to writer Phil Johnston and Zack Galifianakis for taking on the deadly scourge that is the “Reply All” button. The children must be warned.

* The Jack Sparrow comparison will come easily to many with news of Russell Brand’s possible swashbuckling debut, but any excuse for swordfighting comedies that might actually be good works for me. (Actually, the character as described reminds me more than a bit of George MacDonald Fraser’s “Royal Flash,” portrayed by a young Malcolm McDowell. Never read the book(s) or saw the movie, but since it was directed by the great Richard Lester, I really need to.)

  

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SXSW 2010: BARRY MUNDAY

Patrick Wilson hasn’t had the greatest of luck when it comes to movies and his manhood. He was castrated by a diabolical Ellen Page in “Hard Candy” and had trouble getting it up in Zack Snyder’s big screen adaptation of “Watchmen.” His third go-around with this particularly emasculating complication is Chris D’Arienzo’s “BARRY MUNDAY,” a movie that manages to be both funny and touching when it doesn’t seem capable of either. Though the film is obviously targeted towards a certain audience (namely, the kind of adult males who frequent this site), the fact that it plays like “Knocked Up” for grown-ups pretty much guarantees it will cast a larger net upon release.

Wilson plays the title character, a thirtysomething slacker with one thing on his mind: women. But when an embarrassing incident involving an underage girl, her father, and a trumpet results in him losing both of his testicles, Barry’s confidence plummets. To make matters worse, he returns from the hospital to discover that Ginger Farley (Judy Greer), a woman he doesn’t even remember having sex with, is carrying his illegitimate child. Faced with the prospect of his family name dying with him, Barry decides to embrace the pregnancy and his duties as the father – a decision that leads to the realization that it may have taken losing his manhood for him to finally become a man.

barry_munday

Based on the Frank Turner Hollon novel, “Life is a Strange Place,” D’Arienzo’s film is an indie-sized production with a Hollywood-sized cast. Though the first-time director doesn’t bring much visually to the project, the screenplay (which he also wrote) is loaded with big laughs and even bigger heart. It may come off as a little weird that Barry Munday is able to transform from a wannabe ladies man into a responsible father so quickly, but when you take into account the fact that he’ll never be able to reproduce again, it actually makes a lot of sense. Most men think about the future of their legacy at some point in their lives, and though Barry can come across like an immature jerk at times, his journey to parenthood is engaging enough that you still root for him.

Still, it would be a pretty hard sell without someone like Patrick Wilson in the lead role, as the success of the film hinges on his performance. Wilson has been delivering solid work for years, but he’s still a relative unknown to most moviegoers. “BARRY MUNDAY” isn’t going to change that, but it’s a great venue for his talent, especially considering the role is so different from previous work. Judy Greer is also great as the homely mother-to-be, and Chloe Sevigny and Malcolm McDowell (as Ginger’s younger sister and father, respectively) bring life to otherwise paper-thin characters, but this is Wilson’s show. And when you’re playing the title character of a movie that proudly presents his name in all caps, that’s the way it should be.

  

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Heroes 3.8 – Another Villain on the Cover of Every Major Magazine

Even with the major media outlets gleefully listing off the reasons to be less than enthusiastic about a new episode of “Heroes,” it’s hard not to excited about any show which offers up an episode with a cast that features Robert Forster, Malcolm McDowell, and Eric Roberts.

Fortunately, the series did not disappoint.

Oh, sure, when one looks back at this episode in the grand scheme of the season, it will be one that can be easily skipped, since all it really does is fill in a few blanks that didn’t really need to be filled in. But this was an episode for the longtime fans, those folks who have watched the evolution of the characters over the course of the show’s run and have had various little plot details gnawing at them.

Given my past praise of Robert Forster, it will come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him get the opportunity to dive into the role of Papa Petrelli during all of the key moments from the past that we’d heard about but never seen. He’s clearly having fun playing the villain, as seen during his scenes with McDowell and his declaration that having his own son knocked off would be just another day at the office. Then again, it seemed like Cristine Rose was having a ball herself, particularly during the sequence where we got the skinny on how Papa Petrelli came to be paralyzed in the first place. (It’s not nice to fool Mama Petrelli…)

It was also a lot of fun to see Eric Roberts return to his role as Thompson, watching him smirk as he treated Meredith and Flint – hey, who knew they were siblings? – like his playthings, trying to train Meredith while keeping Flint under lock and key with assurances that he, too, would become a field agent one day. Roberts has been known to have a little too much fun with his roles, but he plays Thompson perfectly, with the moment when he gave Meredith the opportunity to reconnect with Claire a particular highlight of his performance.

There was, however, at least one real bummer to the episode, and that was the storyline where Sylar and Elle became best buds. It felt like someone said, “Hey, the good news is that we’ve got Kristen Bell for another week, but the bad news is that it’s for the week that we’re filming the flashback episode. Heads we shoehorn her into the Sylar story, tails she’s working with Thompson.” The Elle / HRG scenes were fun, but the show died a slow death every time it went back to Sylar and Elle. Maybe it’s because there was no suspense whatsoever, since we knew that every word that came out of Elle’s mouth was a lie and that Sylar was going to snap eventually.

There were some great one-liners scattered throughout the episode, such as Peter’s bemusement that his father couldn’t bring himself to describe his son as a nurse, or Meredith’s comment to Flint that “God didn’t give you a brain, he gave you an older sister.” As far as flashback episodes go, it certainly didn’t live up to the standards of Season 1’s “Company Man,” which delved into HRG’s back history, but it was nonetheless enjoyable to finally have Papa Petrelli’s role in the recent pasts of Nathan and Peter fleshed out. Those guys have an evil, evil father…and if you didn’t feel that way during the course of the flashbacks, then you sure as hell felt that way in the last two minutes of the proceedings.

Yikes.

  

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