Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Charlie Cox (Daredevil), and Zawe Ashton will make their Broadway debuts tonight in a new revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal at the Jacobs Theater.
In a direct transfer from London’s West End, Tom Hiddleston will star in Betrayal alongside Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox. The Harold Pinter play begins performances August 14 and will officially open September 5 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where the show will run for a strictly limited 17-week engagement.
It’s probably a good thing that I’m not in charge of which movies get made and which ones don’t. While we would certainly get fewer third-rate horror movies and lazy animated movies (and like three more Crank movies, what happened to that franchise?) there’s just so many movies that must sound terrible at the log line phrase that end up being good movies. For example, if I had been in charge when someone came and said, “Hey, we want to make a new King Kong movie but it’s going to be what if King Kong met Apocalypse Now!” I probably would have passed. But someone at Legendary Pictures said yes, and we got Kong: Skull Island—a delightful, odd, horrific monster movie. It’s a better movie than I expected, a better movie than it probably should be, and a worthy opening salvo in the 2017 action movie wars.
The second act of Kong: Skull Island was the whole movie for me. The first act is an endless parade of set-up that I did not need, made only barely tolerable by the frequent use of John Goodman. I don’t particularly care how or why anyone ends up on Skull Island, just that it happens— and while I appreciate that different sets of characters need to be briefed on the nature and the history of the island, I don’t need to hear everything three times. I just need them to get to the part of the movie where there’s a giant monkey. Similarly, the end doesn’t feel like it’s the end result of the build of the movie, more like the movie needs to wrap up— and so a bigger, badder, version of the kind of fight we’ve already seen is whipped together and done in full view of all the remaining characters. It didn’t work for me. The middle of the movie is where I got my money’s worth. The characters are all split up, and each scene is them uncovering some new horror or another as the color temperature shifts on a dime. It’s stressful, terrifying, and relentless just like Mad Max: Fury Road. It puts you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next giant spider or terrible bird or whatever and Kong himself is a rare, seemingly random, participant in the action. When he appear on screen he’s riveting (he’s King Kong— he’s been doing this since 1933) but he doesn’t drive the action per se. It’s a wonderful segment, some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen in years… they just couldn’t keep it up.
I understand that everything needs to be a franchise these days and that shared universes are the new hotness, but we might be expending too much effort to lead up to a crossover movie with Kong and Godzilla. We don’t need six years and four films to connect the rebooted Godzilla with the rebooted Kong. Either audiences are smart enough to not need their hands held the whole way to get them interested in the monster showdown, or they’re so dumb you risk losing their attention entirely. I refuse to believe that people fall in to the narrow band of needing all this exposition to understand that they what to watch two giant creatures level a city.
You can never quite tell what’s going to work in a movie. The B plot of Kong: Skull Island is essentially Moby Dick retold with Samuel L. Jackson playing Captain Ahab (and with Kong playing the whale, of course) and it’s ludicrous and a bit predictable and it steals shots from a dozen other movies and it’s delightful. One of the reasons the third act didn’t work for me is that this plot has run its course and we’re given a less satisfying antagonist for the finale. I might have just been in an uncommonly good mood, or maybe I was blinded by the spectacle of an IMAX screen but I found all the ridiculousness in Kong totally charming. I also liked the 2005 Kong Kong more than my peer group at the time, so maybe I have a soft spot for giant apes. Kong: Skull Island is, at its best, an oppressive, horrifying film and it’s a triumph.
I’m all about organizations with heart. Places that make you feel at home. And while the San Diego Comic Con is phenomenal and offers many amazing experiences, it can also be overwhelming and make you feel a bit like you’re just one of many ants in the ant farm, toiling slowly along towards your next goal.
That’s why I’ve said before and I’ll say again that Nerd HQ is a great alternative place to go and get your geek on when you’re feeling a little burnt out on the crowds of SDCC. Not only that, but the fact that its creators, Zachary Levi and Dave Coleman, built it from scratch and maintain a hands-on approach to running it as it grows(among other things, Zac hosts almost every Conversation and Dave keeps things running behind the scenes); and that all proceeds go to the charity of Operation Smile, give Nerd HQ a great cozy, almost familial vibe. And, of course, it’s a plain fact (that I can confirm, having had the pleasure of interviewing him on a couple of occasions) that Zac Levi is just a really solidly nice dude with a lot of heart. And I think that intangible quality can be felt in everything he’s built.
Last year, I was a big fan of the change in venue of Nerd HQ to The New Children’s Museum. The layout and fun backdrop complemented Nerd HQ’s offerings and all of the various interactive activities they provided, as well as the Conversations for a Cause. This year, with the addition, as Dave Coleman had noted in our Nerd HQ preview interview, of e.g. risers and extra air conditioning in the panel rooms, the venue was even better; and although there were many things to see, Nerd HQ still managed not to feel overcrowded.
Some of the cool things on offer this year were:
Gaming – Nerd HQ always offers the opportunity to hang out and play upcoming cool video games, which this year included Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4, and Titanfall 2. And although I didn’t have much time to spare for a session, every time I was over at the HQ, the consoles were all taken and the gaming crowd looked like they were having a blast.
On top of being able to play games, Nerd HQ provides cool gaming-related stuff to do. One of my favorites was the Xbox green-screen pictures you could take, which put you into scenes from games like Dead Rising, ReCore, and Titanfall 2. Another was the Xbox wall of custom controllers, with computers set up to allow you to design your own controllers right there. Sure, you can also do this from home; but it was weirdly addictively fun to design them while hanging out at HQ. (I personally designed a Deadpool and Bob set and a Little Prince and his rose set before I stopped.)
The photo booths! One fun part of these, of course, is that during the Smiles for Smiles sessions you could get your photo with celebrities by donating to Operation Smile (and I was very happy to get a picture with Joss Whedon. Yay!) But you could also just take pictures with your friends (or yourself and props) – and that was really fun as well. Plus, the tech-savvy setup automatically emailed you a photo if you scanned your RFID bracelet, as well as printing one on the spot. And this year, if you downloaded the Johnson & Johnson Donate a Photo app and used it to post a photo, not only does J&J give a dollar to Operation Smile (or whatever charity you choose from among those listed) for each day you post a photo; but at Nerd HQ you were also given a box of Avengers-themed Band-aids for posting. And boy, was I glad about that – because they saved my feet from some terrible, terrible blisters.
Free foooooood! This year, Kellogg’s was one of the sponsors for Nerd HQ, which was cool for two reasons. 1) They brought in comics artist Francis Manapul to do themed paintings with Kellogg’s Krave. They were all pretty rad and it was fun to watch them being created; and I got a picture of my favorite, this excellent warrior woman. 2) They also had a cereal bar set up with regular, double chocolate, and mixed Krave cereal and several different choices of milk. Let me tell you, that cereal is gooooood; and being able to easily sit down nearby and have a bowl saved me from fainting from hunger due to being generally too busy at cons to stop for food. (Nerd HQ saved me from a lot of things this year. Nerd HQ, you’re my heeeero!) And on top of all of that, they were giving away entire free boxes of cereal. Kellogg’s, I approve! (Note: at various times Nerd HQ was also passing out free lemonade and coconut water from different sponsors. Also awesome!)
Chill space. Sometimes, it’s nice just to have a place to sit and breathe. Along with the little outdoor area where I had a nice bowl of Krave cereal (and made a new table friend who let me share her table), Nerd HQ also has an indoor chill area and an outdoor patio; and nobody bothering you or telling you to move along. Sometimes when taking a break from all the madness, that’s just what we need.
The fan parties! Okay, so I actually missed the Nerd HQ parties this year, alas – but I heard from several friends that they rocked as hard as last year’s, which I did make it to. And as with last year, all you needed to get in was your HQ wristband. Rock on with your inclusive parties, Nerd HQ!
Of course, along with all of these excellent things, one of the best parts of Nerd HQ is the Conversations – smaller panels of about 200-250 which generally feature a chat between Zac Levi and the featured guest(s). They had a slew of fantastic guests this year, and I personally got to see some really neat panels.
The Con Man cast, who I saw first, were great, and shared funny stories about filming (particularly hilarious were the stories about working with Alan Tudyk, who wasn’t at the panel, and faces he makes while directing) and about what we can expect from the new season. On top of that, Nathan Fillion, as usual, had brought some weird, random, but ultimately still cool stuff to auction off for charity. My favorite was a small Swiss Army knife that his parents had given him for high school graduation (!). And how he kept emphasizing that it had a little loop so you could put it on your keychain, “or if you’re a girl, wear it around your neck!” Way to know your female fanbase, Nathan.
The Scott Bakula panel was pretty much My Favorite Thing Ever, because Scott Bakula and Quantum Leap have been, since childhood, among my Favorite Things Ever. I had not previously gotten to see him on a panel (although I did see him in Shenandoah at Ford’s Theatre ten years ago, which was amazing). So this was really cool; and even better was the fact that Zac Levi, hosting, is also good friends with Scott via their work together on Chuck, where Scott played Zac’s dad. The panel was hilarious, with Scott making running jokes at his own expense, but also heartfelt, with Zac talking about how Scott helped him through the stresses of playing a lead role in a TV show. In conclusion: Scott Bakula.
The Orphan Black panel was rad, and I especially enjoyed hearing about how Tatiana Maslany has dealt with playing so many different clones (and it was cool that her stunt double was featured on the panel, as well. An important job that most people probably don’t think about while watching the show). I also loved that an audience member gave Kristian Bruun a “Free Donnie” t-shirt, which he put on right there.
The Tom Hiddleston panel started with a hilarious little dance by Tom and Zac as Tom came onstage. This was a cool panel where Tom talked a good bit about his acting process. Meanwhile, I was trying to reconcile his friendly red-haired self with the sly and frequently evil Loki. It’s a credit to his acting ability that I was having a hard time of it!
The Joss Whedon panel was, as usual with a Joss Q&A, a thoughtful, insightful panel. He was up there by himself because Zac was having a much-needed rest (by Saturday Zac’s voice was fading, and I heard he was pretty exhausted by Sunday, although you couldn’t tell from his enthusiastic hosting). But Joss Whedon doesn’t really need a host to keep the conversation going, and pretty much the whole panel was quotable.
I’d quote some of it for you, but I don’t have to! Because along with livestreaming all of the Conversations for the people at home so they could feel like they were right there with us (very cool!) you can now watch all of them on YouTube as well; an experience I highly recommend.
Monday is Leap Year Day, an otherwise insignificant marker of the passage of time except that our calendar is weird. Because time, its measurements and our perception of it have always fascinated me, I am enthralled by the way we react to this “extra” day.
As we established a few weeks ago, I’m old. I’m so old that, when I was a kid, there was no feminist movement – at least not one that extended to Youngstown, Ohio. So I learned that girls didn’t ask boys out on dates, or propose, or do anything but wait to be noticed. The ideal woman, I was told, was beautiful, thin, blonde, busty, demure, sexy and, perhaps most of all, quiet and undemanding.
The only exception was on Leap Year Day. On the day, girls could propose marriage.
(By the way, for a look at these ideas that show how completely screwed up they are, you can’t beat the movie musical Li’l Abner, based on the Broadway show that was based on the Al Capp newspaper strip. Really, the family relationships and social contracts portrayed in it are completely fucked up, but as a film, I have fun every time I see it.)
In any case, this thinking, which assumes that our only function as women is to love a man and have “his” children, is, thankfully, a dying remnant of a doomed mindset. Still, I hate to lose a perfectly good holiday, especially one that gives me “special rights” (i.e. I get to do the same things that straight white men expect to be able to do every single day).
Especially for women in comics.
Here are a few things I suggest we all do on Monday.
Go to our local comic book store, the one with the semi-nude brokeback posed statues in the window, and question to sincerity of the guys looking through the books. Ask them how long they’ve been reading comics, or if they just come to the store to meet girls.
Grab the ass of male con-goers dressed as their favorite superhero. When they complain, ask them what they expected if they walk around like that.
Organize a “Men in Comics” panel for the local comic convention. Put only one man on it, the husband of an established female creator. Explain that you couldn’t have any more than that because you asked Scott Snyder to come, but he was busy.
After the convention shuts down for the day, go to the bar at the host hotel and explain that the male creator of that hot new book only got the job because he slept with the editor. And the new artist on the best-selling series was only hired because the publisher has to be “politically correct.”
Relax and read a comic book where the main character looks like you, shares your assumptions about reality and generally makes you feel like you are an active player in the universe. Since that could actually happen, please make your suggestions in the comments.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to propose to Tom Hiddleston.
In almost four years of reviewing movies the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in a movie theater was watching Mama, the 2013 horror movie produced by Guillermo del Toro. I remember very few of the particulars of that movie but what I remember quite viscerally was scene after scene of being transfixed by the action on the screen and wanting nothing more than for it to be over. Crimson Peak is the first movie since then to recreate that feeling so precisely, when the movie wanted to scare me I was consistently scared to what I believe to be the maximum level I can be scared while watching a movie. No matter what else I thought about the movie, it was completely successful at its objective and that’s worth a lot.
Guillermo del Toro seems as if he was put on this earth to make a movie set in a decaying Victorian manor house full of ghosts. It takes a little while to get to the titular setting, but once we’re there the movie is consistently breathtakingly beautiful. The house is falling apart, the roof is barely present in the main hall, the pipes run with blood red water, and the house is sinking in to a foundation of soft red clay and every little detail is the perfect visual metaphor for the story at hand. Crimson Peak has the perfect gothic look and it seems so effortless; like what Tim Burton would do if he could let go of being quite so precious.
I suppose if we keep the Burton metaphor alive, then Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain feel more than a little like a redux version of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, but that’s not giving either actor enough credit. Neither makes me feel quite as weary playing well-worn gothic archetypes, although between this and Only Lovers Left Alive, Hiddleston should probably watch his step. Chastain is especially good in this and is playing so far against her normal type that she becomes almost completely enveloped in the role of Lucile. Lucile is a magnetic character that demands attention whenever she’s on screen, and while she never has to share the screen with one of the film’s grotesque ghosts I would say she’s even more arresting in the frame.
I’ve said that this movie is terrifying, beautiful, and has standout acting, but unfortunately the story is a little thin. The actual plot is very straightforward, and anyone who has regularly consumed any media at all in their life will know all the twists and turns of the plot in the first half hour or so. All roads lead in one direction and the film happily chugs along that path with no real diversion and a handful of pit stops to show off some horrifying ghost effects. It doesn’t make the movie less enjoyable to watch, it’s always the journey more than the destination with any piece of narrative, but it would have been nice to be surprised by something that wasn’t a specter bursting through a wall or floor.
I’m deeply impressed by Crimson Peak, and I sincerely hope that del Toro goes and does a few more things before returning to horror. I would love to see a Pacific Rim sequel or another Hellboy movie or if he still has the desire to do an endless fantasy epic after his adaptation of The Hobbit fell through I would gladly watch that. I could use another 30-month break before I have to squirm through a collection of scenes as scary as I was given in Crimson Peak or that he influenced in his work on Mama. I’m delighted to get to watch a master work the way del Toro makes horror movies but I’m afraid I just don’t have the constitution— and more than that, I’m afraid to see what he’ll do to scare me next time.
Sure he does all sorts of bad stuff as Loki in Marvel’s AVENGERS and THOR films, and now in theaters he is even creepier in Guillermo del Toro’s new horror outing, CRIMSON PEAK. But why is it we still find him so damn charming? In our exclusive talk with Tom, you find out just how deep the charm runs.
Even though this month has brought The Tweeks sickness, they are still super excited about November.You won’t find Maddy & Anya pushing an early Christmas (Snowflake red cups on Halloween, seriously, Starbucks?) but you will find them celebrating what is currently making them happy— stuff like the new Marvel movies announcement, the spoiler about Tom Hiddleston in Avengers: Age of Ultron, new movies on Netflix, Halloween candy, and the graphic novel, Fragile— which may have cured the girls of their aversion to Manga!
Only Lovers Left Alive is such a waste of a film. Two hours of nothing happening but Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton looking very attractive and exchanging meaningful glances as they struggle to tolerate the presence of any other characters. If the main characters can’t seem to care about the people around them or the events happening it’s going to be very hard for me to do it in their stead. They’re also vampires who do almost zero vampire things, Hiddleston’s Adam moves really fast twice and Swinton’s Eve seems to be able to tell how old a thing is by touching it. These are not the big moments I expect when I sit down for a movie about vampires. No one even drinks blood out of a person on camera. Nosferatu had more action than this movie when it came out 92 years ago.
There’s one of the most flagrant and direct violation of the Chekhov’s gun principle I’ve ever seen. The whole first section of the movie is devoted to Adam obtaining a wooden bullet, the kind that could kill a vampire, and once he has it that gun never gets fired. It’s the impetus for a short exchange about how tired Adam is of the actions of humans but that conversation had already happened by that point and is really the entire plot anyway. The bullet serves to kind of underline his despair but it isn’t good storytelling to show a gun that never gets fired. I could perhaps forgive it if I was satisfied with the rest of the story, but there was just no satisfaction to be had.
The dialogue is aggressively not clever. They’re vampires you see so they frequently talk about how old they are. They talk about all the famous events they were at and how many great things they’ve done. One of the peripheral vampires wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays. I expect vampire movies to have enough self-awareness to not feel like they can trot out tropes that were widely mocked in Buffy the Vampire Slayer over a decade ago.
Much like the vampires who inhabit the film Only Lovers Left Alive feels like a movie trapped out of time. I was struck while watching that the movie reminded me profoundly of movies like Suburbia or Clerks where rather than have a tight plot the movie was more like a loose character study. If this movie also came out in the mid-90s maybe I would be prepared to feel more generous about it. As it is, it just feels like an antique. Also, none of those movies had anything nearly as shiny as vampires to dangle in front of me but never explore.