ARCHER returns this a week for a new (4th) season on FX, and the cast tells us that they are going even farther than before – plus the new time travel drama, CONTINIUUM, debuts on SyFy tonight and we have the star, Rachel Nichols, giving us a sneak preview. Also, comics end the year with more big $$ales and the idea of a Wonder Woman TV pilot rises from the dead.
Also, check MORE of our exclusive interview with AISHA TYLER of ARCHER right here!
Getting a film like GANGSTER SQUAD into theaters has had it’s issues, and we bring in in actors Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling to talk about the challenges they faced, plus more on the new season of JUSTIFIED with Timothy Olyphant and goodbye to THE COMIC BUYERS GUIDE.
Tomorrow night, FX rolls out the start of season four of JUSTIFIED. Series star Tim Olyphant tells us about the changes in his role both on and off screen, plus PSYCHO gets a prequel on TV and The Batmobille gets pulled into court.
This is the time of year when all manner of people and media post their best/worst selections of the year. The main purpose is to elicit outrage or agreement or bewilderment regarding the selections. Anyone can play. So I guess I will with these caveats. I’m not saying that what follows is the best of any the categories. It’s simply what I most enjoyed. Some books, TV shows, music, movies I simply didn’t experience (e.g. Argo and The Hobbit) or didn’t enjoy as much as those listed (i.e. the latest Dresden book, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man). I’m only touching on what was new in 2012 – not those things I’ve enjoyed from other years and enjoyed again in 2012.
Caveats away. Let’s get down to it.
Doctor Who: The mid-season finale didn’t please me as much as I hoped. The departure of long time companions Amy and Rory had me scratching my head. However, the Christmas Special – The Snowmen – made up for it, introducing an intriguing new companion for the time and space faring Doctor and a tantalizing mystery. Steven Moffat – show runner and head writer – remains in fine form.
Justified: Big tough ass series based on an Elmore Leonard character. This season was even better than the one last season, which is saying a lot. Star performances made the season starting with Timothy Olyphant as Marshall Raylan Givens, along with Walter Goggins, Nick Searcy, Neal McDonough as a truly scary bad guy from Detroit, and Mykelti Williamson as an equally scary local bad guy. It’s violent, sexual, badass, and Raylan Givens is so damn cool he should be illegal.
Fringe: It’s now on its final episodes and taking a whole different tack from the previous seasons. I’m hoping it all ties up and makes sense by the end but this was created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci who also did Lost and the ending of that got a little bit away from them. Still, John Noble’s Walter Bishop is a delight to watch and is reason enough to tune in.
The Daily Show/The Colbert Report: This got me through the freakin’ election. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are both geniuses. Stewart does the faux news show and Colbert does a faux conservative commentator ala Bill O’Reilly. Colbert’s may be the more brilliant show but I have to admit that Jon Stewart makes me laugh more. However, Colbert did perhaps the last interview that famed children’s book writer Maurice Sendak ever gave and its hysterical and touching. Both shows are must-see TV for me.
Suits: I would not have bet you that a series set in a high powered law firm with people I don’t especially like would keep me riveted, but this one sure does. Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams and Rick Hoffman are superb but for me the best characters are two women – Gina Torres (who you might recognize from Firefly) as the really tough head of the firm and especially Sarah Rafferty as Macht’s tart tongued, all knowing secretary who steals the show. Morally complex, suspenseful, and witty.
Kate Bush: 50 Words For Snow: I’ve been a big Kate Bush fan for a long time and it becomes an event when she brings out a new CD. Kate Bush is one of the most influential female singer/songwriters in the music business. This is one of her best CDs in recent years and the duet she sings with Elton John, Snowed In At Wheeler Street, is haunting. I play it over and over again. It’s influencing a concept that I’m working on. I love this CD.
The Avengers: The most perfect cinema realization of the Marvel comics ethos. Joss Whedon (director and writer) rules. This made umpty gazillion dollars and you’ve probably seen it. One of the best moments: Hulk vs. Loki. ‘Nuff said.
Lincoln: I’ve talked about this in one of my other columns. Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the great movie performances of all time but he’s not the only one. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones. Hal Holbrick, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has had a very good year), James Spader and so many others make the film an acting delight.
Skyfall: James Bond’s 50th Anniversary in films and this one is a knockout. Bond is not simply an icon in this film; he’s a character with a deeper story. We see a seedy Bond, we see a Bond off his game, we see an aging Bond who may be outdated in the modern espionage world and knows it. This is right up there with my other two all-time favorite Bond movies, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger and it may be my favorite of the three. A key to the film’s success was hiring noted director Sam Mendes who delivered not only the action set pieces we expect from a Bond film but visual style, pacing, and performances. Daniel Craig gives his best outing yet as Bond, Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the scariest all time Bond villains and Judy Dench – ah, Judy Dench. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about and, if you haven’t, I won’t ruin it for you. It’s not just a good Bond film; Skyfall is a really good film – period.
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: One of the pleasures of series books is coming back and seeing characters that you’ve come to regard as friends in a setting, a world, that has become real to you. Alexander McCall Smith has done that for me with his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, a detective series set in Botswana, Africa, and starring his woman detective, Precious Ramotswe. This series is a long ways from a hardboiled noir detective. The stories are gentle and filled with characters I love. The challenge with series books is to give the reader everything they remember and want in the series while also covering new ground. It’s a tough trick to pull off; the books could become stale. This series progresses slightly with each book and stays fresh. I look forward to my next trip back to Botswana.
Favorite Person In the Whole Wide World: My Mary. Who else? Love you, cutie pie.
I’ll be back next year. Happy New Year to you all.
It’s interesting to watch different interpretations on a given character. Later this summer we’ll see Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/The Amazing Spider-Man and can compare/contrast it with Tobey Maguire’s version in the previous three Spider-Man movies.
For me, it’s even more interesting when you compare two different versions in two different media. You can do that with Spider-Man or any of a number of different superheroes recently. The upcoming Avengers movie will offer that in spades.
The one I’m focusing on here, however, is the character of U.S. Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens, created by Elmore Leonard in a number of short stories and books, the most recent being Raylan. He’s also the central character on FX’s Justified, which just wound up its third season recently.
For many, Elmore Leonard is the best crime novelist writing today and one of America’s best novelists – period. Lots of his stuff has been adapted to movies, including 3:10 to Yuma, twice, and Get Shorty, which resuscitated John Travolta’s career) He’s not always expressed pleasure with adaptations of his work but he’s pleased with Justified which is as should be seeing that he’s listed among the writers for the series and is among the executive producers.
The character of Raylan Givens is a throwback, a frontier type lawman in the modern world. He’s not above prompting the bad guy to draw on him, dispensing his own kind of justice in a way that works as justifiable homicide. Hence the title. He cuts it a little too close in Miami and gets sent back to Kentucky from whence he came and to which he’s not real keen to return.
The cowboy imagery is re-enforced by the cowboy hat that Raylan habitually wears. In the books and short story, he wears an open road Stetson hat, flat brimmed, similar (according to Leonard) to the hats worn by the Dallas Police at the time of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. In the TV series, it’s a hand-modified Stetson 4x beaver with a basket weave embossed leather hatband, with a three piece buckle set. Does it make a difference? It does to Elmore Leonard who does not care for the TV version. I’ve seen both hats and, well, Elmore Leonard is wrong. There, I said it. And it underscores what has to happen in adapting what works on the page to what works on the screen, big or little. The hat on Justified is a better visual.
Raylan Givens is laconic, iconic, and charismatic, especially as embodied by Timothy Olyphant for the TV series. Elmore Leonard has a great way with dialogue and the TV series stays true to that. It also keeps true to Leonard’s worldview and sense of character. I read somewhere that the producers of the TV series approach the writing by asking, “What Would Elmore Do?”
In watching the series and reading the prose, it’s interesting to see how plot elements in Raylan were taken and adapted to the series, some more successfully than others. There’s a plot involving illegal harvesting of human kidneys that plays better in the novel than in the series, mainly because on TV it gets squeezed in as a subplot and done in essentially one episode.
On the other hand, the TV series has made changes that were brilliant. Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins, dies at the end of the story Fire In the Hole. The TV series wisely let him survive and change and grow into a truly compelling character. Mags Bennett, played by Margo Martindale who won an Emmy for her portrayal, is new to the series, to the best of my knowledge, although her sons are in Raylan along with their father.
There’s a plot involving a coal company and the woman representing it to the community that it has poisoned and that’s about the same in both the book and the series. Elmore Leonard has used elements and characters that have appeared in the series just as the series has used characters and elements that have appeared in the stories.
It’s apples and oranges, I know, but if I had to pick, which would I prefer – the series or the novel? To be honest, I prefer the TV series. The novel, Raylan, is more like a series of linked short stories; each one has its own climax and then it’s on to the next one but there’s no overall climax. Each season of Justified has worked as an entity of its own and reaches a single climax to end a given season.
Both are worth the investment of your time and together they form a sort of alternate universe take on the main character, Raylan Givens. Same guy but slightly different incarnations. It’s a concept familiar to comic book readers or viewers of Fringe. Ah, Fringe. That’s another column at some point in the future.
It’s spring training for baseball, a time when even Cubs fans can be hopeful despite knowing that, sooner or later, this year’s team will break our hearts as every Cubs team has done for over a century. Truth is, if the Cubs ever won the World Series, their mystique would be gone. Their legend is based on being losers.
As baseball season is upon us, and tonight is the Academy Awards, I want to look back not only at the game but at my favorite baseball movies. For my taste, there is something better about baseball films than there is in films for any other sport. There’s a duality to it; baseball is played by teams but it comes down to individuals – batter versus pitcher.
So here, in no particular order, are my favorite baseball films. I’m not saying they’re the best but they are my faves and I think every one of them is watchable. These aren’t the only baseball films I like and the list may not include your faves but there’s only so much space.
Moneyball stars Bard Pitt in his Oscar nominated role; the nomination is well deserved although his pal, George Clooney, will probably beat him out for the award. The movie does not deal with the game per se but with the business behind the game, focusing on Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane as he attempted in 2002 to win the World Series despite having very little money to work with. At the same time, it has most of a baseball film’s tropes – a team that has little chance, a maverick at the center of the story, a shot of redemption and so on. It comes at everything from a different angle but very worthwhile.
The Natural. Okay, it’s pretentious, it’s overwrought in places, heavy on the symbolism, Robert Redford at the start of the film is too old to be playing a rookie phenom and maybe even the score is over the top. For me, it works. When Roy Cobb hits the light-shattering home run at the climax and the Randy Newman score comes to its symphonic heights, I get chills. I stumble on it on the tube, I watch it all the way through. Great cast, too.
Bull Durham. Great comedy, great romance, sexy as hell, and terrific performances. Focusing on a minor league team is a great idea – players on their way up, players on their way down, players who aren’t going to get any better than this. Human, humble, great baseball scenes, loopy as hell. Costner, whatever else you may think of him, is almost always good playing an athlete and especially a baseball player. He does another great job playing a baseball player in a supporting role in The Other Side Of Anger. This is my second fave baseball movie.
A League of Their Own. “There’s no crying in baseball!” Tom Hanks, that line, and that scene alone merits the film’s inclusion here. Incredible cast overall – Geena Davis, Hanks, David Strathairn (almost always a MVP no matter what movie he is in), Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Jon Lovitz in what may be the film role I most enjoy him in. Or enjoy him in at all. The movie also covers a story I didn’t know about – a women’s professional baseball league in the 1940s while World War II was on. A little sentimental here and there, but first class. Makes you wonder why there isn’t a womens’ professional baseball league today. Maybe we haven’t come a long ways, baby.
The Comrades of Summer. I’d be surprised if most of you knew this one. It was a made for TV movie in 1992. Personal bias – it stars Joe Mantegna who I knew back in my theater days in Chicago. Great guy and a wonderful actor. In this movie, he plays Sparky Smith, a resentful and recently fired baseball manager in the States who gets hired by the Soviet Union that wants to field a team for the upcoming Olympics where baseball will be a competitive sport for the first time. He’s resentful, the players are largely untrained and well nigh hopeless and the odds are long. Classic baseball film material. Aside: there’s a Russian street hustler, Voronov, in the movie who contributed more than a little to my creation of Vilmahr Grahrk in some of my Star Wars stories for Dark Horse.
Field of Dreams. My favorite, hands down. I came at it sideways. When it was first released, I had no interest in it. Then I heard the soundtrack playing in a friend’s car. I didn’t klnow what it was and my friend identified it for me. James Horners’ score for this film is one of my top five favorite scores of all times. Beautiful and haunting. The film hit one of the rerun movies houses in Chicago (the old Three Penny Cinema of fond memory; it’s now a rock joint called Lincoln Hall) and I wanted to see how the music worked with whatever the film was about. So Kim and I went.
Knocked. Me. Out. It has the element of mysticism that The Natural strived for but not so heavy handed. It has James Earl Jones playing a J.D. Salinger type character (in the book by W.P. Kinsella – it was called Shoeless Joe – from which the film was adapted, the character is J.D. Salinger) and Burt Lancaster in a warm and wise small part. Once again, Kevin Costner is the main character, Joe Kinsella, which he handles with humor and heart.
The film is about baseball, yes, and James Earl Jones has a terrific speech towards the end about the importance of baseball and the dreams it has. It’s about redemption and long odds and, most importantly, fathers and sons. The ending is perfect. “Want to have a catch?” I think every father-son relationship is imperfect (yes, probably every father-daughter one, too) and I tear up every time when that final scene plays out. It ends in hope and beauty – just as every baseball season begins in hope and perhaps some beauty.
There’s a few more I’ll mention in passing – the TV version of Bleacher Bums (not the movie version), performed by the original Organic Theater cast including the aforementioned Joe Mantegna. This is the definition of what it means to be a Cub’s fan. “No one ever went broke betting against the Cubs after the Fourth of July.” Soul of the Game about the Negro Leagues just as Jackie Robinson was about to break the color line. Delroy Lindo, Mykelti Williamson (currently seen in this season’s Justified) and Blair Underwood as the young Jackie Robinson. Great stuff. Dennis Quaid in The Rookie. Sort of The Natural without all the mystical hoohah. And the musical Damn Yankees for Gwen Verdon, Ray Walston, and the song (You Gotta Have) Heart. That’s baseball right there.
I think what unites all these films is a sense of redemption and of hope. You need hope to get through life, even if you know better, even if you know that, in the end, your heart will get broken. Again. That’s what you have at the start of spring training, that this might be the year. Miracles happen. The Cubs might do it. I like myself better when I hope.
As the fabled Cub Ernie Banks used to say, “Let’s play two!” Batter up!
One of the charms of being into comics is the joy of stumbling across an unexpected find. It could be a new comic that came in under the radar (in other words, I missed that page in the Diamond Catalog) or an oldie I hadn’t heard of. That used to be one of the real pleasures in attending comic book conventions, before they became the Cattle Calls of the Damned.
Yesterday I stumbled across a real interesting find. An emailed gift from a friend in need, and by “in need” I’m referring to me. I was staring at my blank computer screen, reciting the mantra “need… column… idea… need… column… idea…” The gift was a wonderful albeit sickening one-shot published by Dark Horse about five years ago, produced by Eric Powell of Goon fame.
For me, Powell’s work is irresistible. So is The Goon. But that doesn’t matter. It’s impossible for me to pass up a comic called Satan’s Sodomy Baby. That’s just how I roll. This one truly has it all: The Goon, bestiality, Satanic anal rape, multi-faith humor, dumb Tennesseans, pissing fire long before Ghost Rider did it, and truly gratuitous titties. Well, just two gratuitous titties, but you see ‘em a lot.
Did I mention this book isn’t for kiddies? Of course if you’re a parent that’s your decision; I ain’t trying to tell you how to raise your children up. But even Powell is on the same page: the false-cover consists of a blurb that says, and I quote,
WARNING: This comic contains material unsuitable for children. It’s filled with vile, morally reprehensible subject matter that is quite possibly illegal in some states, and if it’s not, it should be. Do not open this comic if you are under the age of 18. Do not open this comic if you have strong religious convictions or even the smallest hint of human decency. Do not open this comic if you love Satan. Do not open this comic if you have strong political beliefs. Do not open this comic if you are homophobic. Do not open this comic if you are racist. Do not open this comic if you love farm animals. In fact, unless you have no strong feelings about anything, THIS PROBABLY ISN’T THE COMIC FOR YOU. Unless you have a sense of humor.
Yow! Talk about your variant covers!
This book is hilarious. Pull the stick outta your ass – Satan probably put it there anyhow – and give it a read. I suggest doing so after an episode of Justified.
Last Tuesday night, two of my favorite series returned with new episodes – Justified on FX and White Collar on USA. Both in the same time slot, 10 PM EST. This is why TV recording equipment was created – so you no longer have to choose.
Mary and I recorded both but one we watched as it was on and the other we watched the next night. We’ll get to which one was watched “live” but first let’s talk about the shows themselves.
Is one show better than the other? Yes, but both are generally well-written, directed, and acted. And the premieres both were good examples of the two shows.
White Collar deals with a thief, con man, and rogue named Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) who has been sprung from prison by the FBI guy who caught him, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) to help solve crimes. Neal’s on parole so he (usually) has to wear an ankle bracelet that allows the FBI to monitor him. The two other principle characters are Neal’s buddy, Mozzie (Willie Garson) and Peter’s wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen). Neal is not quite reformed and keeps edging towards activities that could get his parole revoked and himself sent back to the slammer. He’s not helped in staying on the straight and narrow by his buddy, Mozzie.
The show owes a lot to the movie Catch Me If You Can which had Leonardo DiCaprio as a counterfeiter and conman chased by Tom Hanks’s FBI agent. DiCaprio is also caught and eventually turned into an FBI consultant.
The show’s main strength is the bromance between the rogue and the cop. All the main characters turn in good performances. Mozzie is a delightful character and Tim DeKay does really fine turns as the FBI agent. A big plus also is the relationship between the FBI guy and his wife – they really love each other and it’s nice to see a middle-aged couple being romantically in love.
The premiere of the season picked up where the cliffhanger left us off last time. A nasty baddie has kidnapped Burke’s wife because of shenanigans that Neal, the rogue, has been doing on the side with his pal, Mozzie. And Peter, the FBI guy, knows they are responsible. Peter’s anger, fear, and sense of betrayal drive the episode as Neal and Mozzie have to work to make things right. By the end, it was very satisfying. The best show on television? No, but consistently pleasurable.
Justified. Ah, where do I start? An Elmore Leonard inspired series about a U.S. Marshall, Raylan Givens (Timothy Oliphant) sent back to Eastern Kentucky where he grew up for shooting one or two many bad guys in Miami, even if the shootings were “justified”, and he’s not happy to be home. He has an ex-wife, Winona (Natalie Zea) who is a little less ex these days, a former girlfriend Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), a boss who’s not crazy about him (Nick Searcy) and a former co-worker in the mines, a sometimes friend and more often opponent, who has turned to the outlaw side, named Boyd Crowder played by the inimitable Walton Goggins, topping his work on The Shield.
This season also picks up after the end of the previous season which was remarkable. It had one of the best villains, male or female, I have seen on TV in the person of Mags Bennet. Margo Martindale won an Emmy for her work as she damn well should have. I was wondering if they could match that season but the first episode cleared that up for me right quick.
Raylan was shot at the end of last season and this one starts three weeks later and Raylan is still feeling the after effects. There’s a sinister crime boss from Detroit who has established himself in a memorable fashion and a sociopath for hire named Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) who has a sadistic little game that he likes to play with his victims involving an icepick.
I don’t want to spoil things but two of the highpoints for me were when Ava makes a point with a cast iron frying pan and Raylan turns the tables on Wynn Duffy at their climatic showdown. Deeply satisfying.
The show’s writers have said that, as they approach each episode, each scene, each line they ask themselves, ‘What would Elmore do?” It shows. Leonard himself is one of the Executive Producers of the show and likes the character well enough to have his latest novel, RAYLAN, be about him.
Raylan Givens is about as cool a character as I have ever seen on TV. He means what he says and if he says he will shoot you, you’d better believe him. Both he and Neal Caffrey are charming but Raylan is definitely more dangerous. The big difference between the two shows, I think, is that White Collar could have just as easily played on network TV. In fact, the networks should be looking to USA to see how this type of show is done – the cable network has a number of good shows, such as Suits and In Plan Site that would have done well by them.
Justified would not play on network TV. There’s sex, language, and violence and they got the warning labels to prove it. All are necessary ingredients in the show and all help make the show fly.
Both shows are eminently worth watching and, in case you haven’t guessed, we watched Justified first.