Tagged: HBO

The Point Radio: Ashley Williams TV Wife With Spice

Ashley Williams is teaming up with comedian Jim Gaffigan to bring his home life to sit com life. She talks about the challenge and the fun she has had usually being a “good girl”. Plus more on JUSTICE LEAGUE GODS AND MONSTERS as actress Paget Brewster explains just how different her Lois Lane really is.

More in a few days with our look at Comedy Central’s DRUNK HISTORY and ANOTHER PERIOD. Be sure and follow us on Twitter now here.

REVIEW: True Detective

True DetectiveYears ago, there was a CBS miniseries, Chiefs, based on the Stuart Woods novel and featured a murder mystery that spanned the years, embroiling three different police chiefs. In 1983, it ran for three nights and I was captivated. When HBO debuted True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in January, I was immediately reminded of that event. Here, both men were involved in a 1995 murder and now, 17 years later, they get drawn back to the case.

The excellent serial killer serial ran eight episodes and maintained a nourish mood and style that set it apart from all the other serial killer serials that are currently running or recently ended. On the off-chance you missed it, HBO Home Entertainment is releasing a box set this week and it’s well recommended. A lot of the credit and perhaps the reason I was reminded of the earlier series may be that this too comes from a novelist, Nic Pizzolatto. Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), members of Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are interviewed regarding the ’95 case where a woman’s body was found, the corpse artistically arranged. Since they stopped talking in 2002, the men are interviewed separately by detectives Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) and Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) allowing for varying perspectives, points of view and slightly varying details.

Over the course of the episodes, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, another reason the series is consistently excellent, we learn about the initial investigation and the two deeply flawed men who were haunted by its gruesomeness. Hart has been cheating on his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), with court reporter Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario), while Cohle is battling a drug dependency and is grieving over his dead daughter. Neither man is a saint and is far from perfect, so when a second body turns up, it makes them question the man they arrested nearly two decades earlier and is still in jail. Of course, stirring up the dark past is never good although it allows the actors a chance to shine time and again.

Pizzolatto and Fukunaga deftly intertwine the two timelines as we see the previous and current investigations unfold, each step rippling across the tortured psyches of the two detectives. And then comes the finale which, like so many before it, infuriated and tantalized its fan base.  We wanted Rust to find the Yellow King but found physics instead, which left many scratching their heads n confusion. There remain threads and questions for season two although some felt more should have been resolved to make the first eight episodes more satisfying.

The eps are neatly transferred to the three Blu-ray discs tucked within a nice slipcase. The show’s art direction is well replicated on the packaging giving it the same dank, creepy feel. Visually, the three discs are superb matched with excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. They are accompanied by some very nice bonus features starting with commentaries on episodes four (with Pizzolatto and Burnett) and five (Pizzolatto, Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens). These are interesting (I wish there was one for the finale) although the chatter is not wall to wall as we’ve come to expect these days. HBO’s patented Inside the Episode featurettes are included followed by two deleted scenes from episodes three and eight. There is also “Making True Detective“, a fifteen minute overview which emphasizes the production design; an eight-minute chat with McConaughey and Harrelson; and, a fourteen minute dialogue between Pizzolatto and Burnett. The box set comes complete with a digital copy of the season.

Martha Thomases: Rape Is the New Black

The front page of a newspaper is usually reserved for the most important news. So you can imagine my surprise when, on Saturday (admittedly, often a slow news day) the New York Times featured a front page story on HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones.

As you’ll see if you click on the link, this wasn’t a business story about how successful the pay-cable series is. Instead, the article discusses the many times rape is used as a plot point. Amazingly, the writer for Times, along with a bunch of other people, thinks rape is a bad thing.

You kids might be too young to remember this, but there was a time when rape wasn’t considered to be a serious crime. Too often, the law decided women and other victims deserved to be raped, that they “asked for it” because of their style of dress or previous behavior. Or else a man was so overcome with lust/love that he couldn’t control himself.

Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Third Wave feminists started to question this perspective, most famously, Susan Brownmiller. Brownmiller, along with others, redefined rape as a crime of dominance, not lust, a way for men and others to brutally assert their power.

(Her book is important, really good and, while I disagree with some of her conclusions, I very much admire her research and analysis. You could do worse with your time than read it.)

I think that is the perspective the producers and writers and actors et al. have on Game of Thrones. Rape is definitely portrayed as something barbaric. I’ve never once thought, “Hey, that looks like something cool to do. Those must be the good guys.”

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who continue to believe in the old view of rape. This isn’t limited to those we generally define as uneducated idiots, but includes people in power, such as ministers and judges.

And, unfortunately, a lot of people in comics.

I’ve already written too much about a situation that happens way too often in our industry. A woman becomes noticed, whether it’s because she walks into a comic book store or writes comics or draws comics or dresses as a comic book character or writes about comics. Some men, boys and others who feel threatened strike back, metaphorically (and sometimes literally) with their threatened little dicks.

Think I’m being paranoid? Well, if I am, so is Jonah Weiland, the owner of Comic Book Resources. He was so appalled by the threats on his site that he changed the policy on what could run on his message boards. Good for him. It’s his site, and he is taking responsibility for the tone he sets.

I’m urging all of us to be responsible for the tone our industry sets. Others do. Just the other day, the Feminist Majority Foundation staged a demonstration with Jay Leno and others against the Beverly Hills Hotel because it is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, a country that treats women and LGBTQ people like animals. Maybe we can get them to show up the next time a convention fails to protect cosplayers against similar idiots.

In the meantime, I leave you with the example of cartoonist Donna Barr. She’s fed up with the demeaning comments, the threats of rape and other physical assault, and she’s treating the latter like the criminal activities they are. She’s leaving a paper trail with local police departments. Like a lot of old, radical hippies, I don’t always think to trust the police to protect me.

She did, and I can’t wait for some moron to call her bluff.

Dennis O’Neil: What the World Would Be Like if “Noah” Didn’t Exist

Okay, let’s begin by looking at today’s Times.  Bad news, there above the fold: A U.N. panel says climate change is getting worse.  Melting ice caps, acidic coastal waters, sea life migration – all negatives caused by ecological woes that we noble humans are causing.

And did you see last week’s Vice on HBO, the story about how Greenland is literally melting?

As Bill Maher observed, in other nations conservatives and liberals disagree about how to deal with global warming, but neither side denies that the problem exists.  Not true for us.

Seen Noah yet?  Me either, but apparently some religious folk are upset because the filmmakers have taken liberties with the source material.  Maybe somebody in a film seminar someplace will tell us how one could avoid taking liberties with that particular source material.  I mean, there’s not a whole lot of source material to take liberties with and… hey, I’m not going to enter the debate about the literal truth of scripture — I’m old and I don’t need anyone else hating me — but two of every living creature?  Every one?  In one boat? At the very least, that needs some explaining, and since no such explanation is given in the source material, any such explanation would be taking liberties and… you can see the problem.

Why did Darren Aronofsky,  who does not deny being an atheist, decide to direct this particular flick?  Maybe if I see it, I’ll have a clue.

I wonder: could it have something to do with our American monomyth?

(more…)

New Muppets Promo Tweaks Twitter

New Muppets Promo Tweaks Twitter

Disney has released a hysterical new clip on support of Muppets Most Wanted, coming in March.

Genre:                         Family Comedy
Rating:                        TBD
Release Date:           March 21, 2014
Cast:                            Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Animal, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey
Director:                   James Bobin
Producers:               David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Executive Producers:    Nicholas Stoller, John G. Scotti
Screenplay by:              James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller

Disney’s Muppets Most Wantedtakes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine—the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit—and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, aka Number Two, portrayed by Ricky Gervais. The film stars Tina Fey as Nadya, a feisty prison guard, and Ty Burrell as Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon.

Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted is directed by James Bobin and produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman. Bobin co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller, who is also executive producer with John G. Scotti. Featuring music from Academy Award®-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie, Muppets Most Wanted hits the big screen March 21, 2014.

Starring Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey, Disney’sMuppets Most Wanted takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour where they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper.

NOTES:

  • Director James Bobin returns to Muppets mania. For his work as Disney’sThe Muppets director, Bobin was nominated for BAFTA (Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer). He co-created HBO’sFlight of the Conchords, which he wrote, directed and exec produced.
  • Bret McKenzie, who won an Oscar® for best original song for “Man or Muppet,” returns to the Muppets stage as music supervisor. McKenzie created, co-wrote, executive produced and starred in the hit HBO television series Flight of the Conchords,”
  • Ricky Gervais is the creator of Derek and the Golden Globe®- and Emmy®-winning series The Office and Extras.
  • Ty Burrell is an Emmy® Award winner for his role in TV’s Modern Family.
  • Tina Fey is a Golden Globe®-, Emmy®- and SAG Award®-winning actress and writer Tina Fey (30 Rock, Mean Girls, Date Night).

Martha Thomases: News Fantasy

Thomases Art 130920This past Sunday saw the Season 2 finale of the HBO series The Newsroom. When it was over, I was really happy with the season.

Apparently, other people? Not so much.

There are a lot of reasons to criticize The Newsroom. It’s not very realistic. The people who work for the cable news network, especially those with off-camera jobs, are much too attractive. Even the slobs are put together by stylists. Because it is an Aaron Sorkin show, characters will frequently speak in paragraphs, something hardly anyone does in the real world, and certainly not at work in a fast-paced newsroom, where anything more than a grunt or a nod takes too much time.

It’s a world where we know a character has been emotionally damaged because she is female and she cuts and dyes her long blonde hair into a cute red pixie cut. This is so shocking that the network’s lawyer doesn’t want her to testify at a lawsuit. It’s a world where women wear phenomenally high heels to work, and keep them on all day, even when they are at the office for 16 hours or more.

It’s a world in which a major news decision, which we are supposed to consider to be courageous, involves reading the AP wire and seeing that one story might be more important than another.

In other words, it’s a fantasy. I enjoy fantasy. I enjoy HBO fantasy. True Blood and Game of Thrones are my idea of fun times. Why shouldn’t I like The Newsroom?

If you don’t like it, I understand. It’s a series pitched to big city media junkies, even more than The West Wing. It’s easy to claim it’s a liberal fantasy, but if it was truly progressive, the women would be more than caricatures. The Jane Fonda character (a joy!) is the only woman not defined by her relationship to a man (unless we count her son). And she is played for comic relief.

The big pay-off at the end of the last show (SPOILERS! if you’re squeamish) was when the lead anchor, played by Jeff Daniels, proposed to his executive producer (and former fiancée) Emily Mortimer. It was a surprise because they hadn’t been dating, because they hadn’t been flirting, and they certainly hadn’t been sleeping together – at least not recently. He realized he loved her because of who she is and how she lives.

It’s as shocking as the Red Wedding, and way more romantically satisfying.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

REVIEW: The Newsroom

NEWSROOM_S1_3D_BD_SLIPCASE_SKEW_COMP1Even at his worst, Aaron Sorkin’s television work is at least trying to say something. He may have crashed with Studio 60 after soaring to heights unimagined with Sports Night and The West Wing, but his first series for premium cable, The Newsroom, hews closer to success than failure regardless of its unevenness.

The series debuted on HBO last summer to mixed reviews and is coming to home video in a handsome box set on Tuesday. Lacking the blood, nudity, and shock value of True Blood and Game of Thrones, it nonetheless makes for compelling watching because these are idealized journalists trying to honor the traditions of journalism they were raised on. The series is set in the recent past, allowing the viewers watch as these reporters cover already familiar events, which lets you invest a little more in the characters and not the story.

There’s little doubt that this is a biased newscast and an equally biased production out to skewer the Tea Party and the radical right as seen through the prism of the disillusioned news anchor Will McAvoy. He and the other reporters on News Night ask all the tough questions that viewers realize all too often do not get asked in the real world. Pundits and politicians all too often get away with making outrageous statements on the air because few challenge them and fewer fact-check the claims. Thanks to hindsight, Sorkin does just that, exposing the Republican party and others for the feckless, thoughtless hacks they are, forgetting entirely about American exceptionalism or the fact that they were elected to lead.

newsroom01So yeah, I like the show. Will McAvoy’s opening monologue about why the USA is not the greatest power in the world is a brilliant info dump that clearly tells you in the pilot’s first ten minutes that there’s an agenda informing the series. But, like Sorkin’s other shows, it’s also a work place dramedy with rich characters and unrequited romance. Led by Jeff Daniels’ McAvoy, who has been floundering until the new executive producer is introduced, who just happens to be his former lover MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), who cheated on him and broke his heart. He still loves her and has been carrying an engagement ring ever since but can’t bring himself to forgive her. But there’s also Alison Pill and John Gallagher Jr. as staffers who are romantically linked yet drawn to others. Even socially awkward financial journalist Sloan (Olivia Munn) reveals herself to have a heart.

Their trials and triumphs are overshadowed by the ratings chase with corporate, represented by an imperious Jane Fonda, looking for profits. Defending McAvoy from the “suits” is Charlie (Sam Waterston), the old school journalist who brought McHale in to jumpstart thigns and sits back to enjoy the ride, glass of scotch always in his grip.

newsroom15The ten episode box set comes complete with five Blu-ray discs chock full of episodes, commentaries, and special features. There’s an additional sleeve with double-sided DVD editions of the first season and there’s also an Ultraviolet option. They look and sound as one would expect and make for good viewing.

The five commentaries highlight Sorkin but also include various cast and crew. They’re worth a listen as you learn about how the production works and how the actors view their characters down to whether or not the necklaces worn by Mortimer work with her bust. The recaps and previews that accompanied the broadcast versions are included along with the brief Inside the Story segments. You also get treated to five deleted scenes from four different episodes which are said to have been cut for time, which is odd on premium cable, but it’s nice to have them here. You also get Mission Control (5:17) providing you with a look at the amazing newsroom set that just needed a console by console tour to explain what they do. Better is the roundtable conversation with Sorkin, Daniels, Mortimer, Waterston, director Greg Mottola, and executive producer Alan Poul where they reflect on the first season with some funny anecdotes.

Season two is coming in July so this is a good opportunity to introduce yourself to the show or refresh your memories so you know who is entangled with who when the cameras go live once more. For those who don’t like smart writing and smarter reflections on the state of American politics, there are other options.

REVIEW: True Blood Season Five

TB_S5_BD_3D_nostickerIf True Blood Season Five could be easily summed up – and really, it can’t – the theme was about the consequences of one’s actions. Unlike the previous season, this one seemed determined to tidy things up and thin out the herd a bit. During the course of the season, Alan Ball let it be known this would be his final outing as showrunner and clearly, he was determined to be the one to say farewell to a few friends and foes. The season therefore zipped along at a wild, frenetic pace that saw more fangs, blood, and naked bodies than before.

Since Charlaine Harris’ novels began being adapted for HBO, the supporting cast has grown and interestingly, they’re the ones who appear to be the most interesting, getting the deepest development. The triangle of protagonist/antagonist/lover of Sookie, Bill, and Eric sees them getting the least depth this time around as the focus moves with regularity.

trueblood12_16_thSookie (Anna Paquin) is a telepathic human/fairy who can’t decide who will make her happiest: long-suffering Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), now King of Louisiana; long-lived Viking Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård), or Alcide (Joe Manganiello), a werewolf for variety. She bounces from man to man, scheme to scheme and during the season never seems to take charge of her destiny, making her appear weak.

trueblood12_18The series’ mix of characters, themes, and setting in Bon Temps has made True Blood addictive viewing and Ball gets the credit for finding ways of taking the novels and enhancing them for premium cable, highlighting the more visual character traits and dosing the series with plenty of sex and nudity. Its compelling television as pure entertainment and the fourth season left us panting for more. Similarly, by resetting the stage, season five left us ready for some new directions which arrive in June. Meantime, HBO has released season five in a combination Blu-ray/DVD boxset complete with excellent extras and Ultraviolet digital copies.

After a season resting under tons of concrete, Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare) is back and seeking revenge against Bill and Eric. With Marnie the witch dispatched, they can concentrate on dealing with him, largely adapting Dead as a Doornail. Ball, unlike previous outings, knowing this was his last chance, as well as liberally lifting from subsequent novels in The Southern Vampire Mysteries.

trueblood12_15As has become custom, the new season picks up immediately where we left our fangbangers with Lafayette and Sookie standing over the bodies of Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Debbie. In short order, Pam turns up and agrees to turn Tara, a warped way of preserving her life and continuing to torture the strong character. Sookie agrees to help Pam (Kristin Bauer) fix things up with Eric, which is easier said than done, especially with the sexy blond, and Bill, arrested by the Vampire Authority, led by Roman (Christopher Meloni), for Nan Flanigan’s murder. Rev. Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian) is back, declaring himself a “Proud Gay American Vampire” while Jason (Ryan Kwanten), his former acolyte, deals with his new relationship with Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), realizing the hookup now means his lifelong friendship with Hoyt (Jim Parrack) is done. Tara is finally resurrected and furious at being a vampire and her arc this season is coming to grips with her new reality, which also shows us another side to Pam.

Tara and PamSee? Consequences.

There’s plenty of Council political intrigue as they hunt Russell and deal with the rebellious Sanguinistas and Alcide has contend with the wolf pack that still disapproves of him. Meantime, the humans are tired of seeing their own kind become victims in the fighting and before the season is over, become a new threat. Meanwhile, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) has had enough brujo magic and finds his spiritual roots in signs from Jesus or is it his lover Jesús (Kevin Alejandro)? Jason, meantime, has his own spiritual journey as he learns what really happened to his and Sookie’s parents. Jessica, one of my favorite characters, finally grows up this season, playing a more pivotal role in the action.

The plot thickens, boils, spills over the pot and makes an attractive mess all across the south. There are the usual flashbacks to deepen some of the characters such as Pam’s first encounter with Eric. We even get ghostly visits from Godric (Allan Hyde) and a surprise, sinister return of Sheriff Bud (William Sanderson).

Bill-Eric-et-NoraThen there are the side stories that enrich the world of True Blood without blunting the main events. This season there was a stirring sub-plot for Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe), exploring his military past with the return of former platoon leader Patrick Devins (Scott Foley).

And how could not love a tool called the iStake?

Just when you think things are bad, Bill gets corrupted and as the season – and Ball’s involvement – comes to an end, he turns out to be the biggest, baddest vamp of them suddenly becoming the threat for the forthcoming season.

It’s got the usual assortment of over-the-top moments, moving emotional beats, and plenty of atmosphere thanks to great writing and cinematography. Moyer made his directorial debut, seamlessly blending in with the strong helmers that keep things running at a fever pitch.

As usual with HBO releases, the transfer to high definition is superb with excellent sound so these stand up to repeated watchings. And in keeping with the first four sets, this one comes with plenty of Blu-ray exclusive features. The episode-by-episode enhanced viewing is present as are the interesting audio commentaries. We get, as part of the enhancements, Character Bios, Vampire Histories and Hints/FYIs; Flashback/Flash Forward, and, True Blood Lines, a guide. The usual post-broadcast Inside the Episodes is included.

Of particular interest is the Episode Six: Autopsy, with the cast and crew discussing how this particular installment was crafted which is pivotal to the series and a good glimpse into what goes into making any episodic television

There are Authority Confessionals, short snippets with the characters Nora, Kibwe, Rosalyn, Salome, Steve and Russell all talking vampires, blood, and politics. Amusing.

Those buying the five disc DVD will get only Inside the Episodes, the five commentaries and the previews/recaps.

Game of Thrones Poster Series Announced by Mondo

GOT image001Austin, TX— Monday, February 25, 2013 — Mondo, the collectible art division of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, is partnering with HBO’s Game of Thrones for a poster series and gallery event running March 8 – March 14, 2013.  The gallery will be open to the public on March 8 from 7:00 – 10:00pm with regular hours to follow for the show’s duration.  The Mondo Gallery is located at 4115 Guadalupe St. in Austin, TX.

Last year, Mondo and HBO’s Game of Thrones collaboration at San Diego Comic-Con was a huge success and this series takes that partnership to the next level with a wide range of spectacular original works and poster art from dozens of Mondo’s world renowned artists including Craig Drake, Daniel Danger, Jason Edmiston, Horkey, Jock, Phantom City Creative, JC Richard, and Ken Taylor. This special gallery event will also launch a Mondo poster series for the acclaimed HBO series, with 8 limited edition screen prints that will be available for purchase.  The exhibit will feature the first two posters in the series along with original fine art. Following the gallery exhibit, two posters will be released digitally each week leading up to the Game of Thrones Season 3 premiere on March 31, 2013.

Game of Thrones is a favorite of ours at Mondo.  The gallery event is intended to honor the show’s attention to visual detail and the beautiful world that George R.R. Martin has imagined and series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have brought to life. After the success of our San Diego Comic-Con initiative with HBO in 2012, we thought this was a perfect fit.  We hope the fans feel our work has done justice to the show,” says Mondo CEO Justin Ishmael.

The gallery event will also see the premiere of Brewery Ommegang’s new Game of Thrones beer where attendees, 21 and older, will be the first to taste the new beer.  Launching in tandem with the season three debut on March 31, Iron Throne, a Blonde Ale, is the inaugural beer in the series and the result of a creative partnership between Ommegang and HBO.  The collaboration is focused on developing unique beers that tie into themes and nuances of the medieval-like fantasy realm of Westeros. Iron Throne is a delicate, but piercing Golden Blonde Ale with Noble hops, a nod to having a Lannister currently on the Throne.  The beer will be nationally available on draft and in 750ml bottles, for the suggested retail price of $8.50 per bottle, beginning in mid to late March and will be followed by the launch of additional beers.