Friday, May 27, 2005

Next Fall (and midseason) in primetime:

Jabootu’s Bet

The Bedford Diaries (WB): This apparent update of The Harrid Experiment features the teacher of a college sexuality class (Matthew Modine), “as the students explore their own relationships.”

I Might Actually Watch This:

Prison Break (Fox): “A man robs a bank to purposely get in jail, all part of a scheme to help his brother escape.” This one has a bit of buzz.

The Apprentice (NBC): The new edition, with Martha Stewart instead of Donald Trump. Hey, why not. I expect that rather than The Boardroom, the contestants will meet in The Showers, and Martha will announce who the loser is that week by knifing them in the kidney and noting, “You’re shivved.”

High-Concept:

Commander-In-Chief (ABC): Geena Davis is the first woman President of the United States. It’s a drama. (I’ll say!) Co-stars Donald Sutherland.

Pepper Dennis (WB): Rebecca Romijn is a “beautiful film star [well, that’s half-right] becomes a local news reporter and has to unravel her personal life to get respect on the job.” This is no doubt inspired by that busty blonde chick who quit NYPD Blue and became a CNN news reader, or whatever it was.

Most Painful Sounding Premise:

Kitchen Confidential (Fox): Sitcom wherein “An upscale chef falls from grace and is asked to restaff the kitchen at a kitchy opera-themed restaurant.” Egads.

Cops of All Stripes:

The Evidence (ABC): “Pieces of evidence are revealed at the beginning of each episode and then an inspector must put the pieces together to solve the crime.” Another CSI knock-off, although Martin Landau is in it. Meanwhile, Dennis Hopper is starring in E-Ring, a show set in the Pentagon. (Dennis Hopper in the Pentagon?!) I expect this is the result of James Caan’s doing well with Vegas.

The Unit (CBS): Hee, hee…he said ‘unit.’ “Special forces operatives work undercover around the world while their families maintain their secrets.” Produced by David Mamet. Hmm.

The Gate (Fox): “A San Francisco detective investigates the city’s most deviant behaviors, with a fellow cop who might have an ulterior motive.”

It’s Derivative!

Doogie Howser, Attorney: Just Legal (WB): “A legal prodigy is too young to become a lawyer so he ends up working for a burnt-out lawyer (Don Johnson). The two help those unjustly accused.” Amazing how TV lawyers always know who’s ‘unjustly accused.’ Or, for that matter, only work for innocent people. And Don Johnson as an attorney?!

Numbers meets Crossing Jordan, etc. Bones (Fox): A forensic anthropoligist is able to read dead people’s bones to see how they died. He then works with an FBI agent (why is an FBI agent working homicides?) to solve their murders. Stars David Boreanaz.

Extreme Makeover makes a ‘House’ call (ABC): The Miracle Workers: Reality shows in which, “Using high-tech procedures, an elite team of doctors helps patients with serious medical conditions.”

Miss Match meets every other frickin’ show exactly like Miss Match: Love, Inc. (UPN): Shannon Doherty is “A female matchmaker has no problems helping others but can’t seem to find the right partner for herself.” [Ten minutes after I posted this, I read that the notoriously high-maintenance Doherty had been dropped from the show.]

It’s Paranormal!

Supernatural (WB): Route 66 meets the X-files (Route 666?) as two no-doubt hunky brothers travel the byways of America, while searching for their missing father—yeah, that’s fresh—and constantly come across, well, the titular sort of stuff.

Invasion (ABC): Producer Shaun “American Gothic” Cassidy returns with one of this season’s two ‘aliens among us’ shows.

Threshold (CBS): Charles Dutton stars in one of this season’s two sea-based paranormal shows. “A UFO has landed in the Atlantic Ocean and a team of top specialists try to figure out what it all means.” In other words, Sphere: The TV Show.

Fathom (NBC): “A bunch of new sea creatures mysteriously pop up all over the planet and their existence is something of a mystery.” As is the necessity of having to use two forms of the word ‘mystery’ in one sentence.

The Night Stalker (ABC): Fans will be pissed as Darren McGavin’s immortal Carl Kolchak becomes a hot young hunk reporter chasing down X-Files-esque cases with a Scully-like female partner. Then the show will quickly leave the air and we’ll never speak of it again.

Ghost Whisperer (CBS): Wow! A triple crown! This could have also gone under Shows with Lame Pun Titles or It’s Derivitive, as it’s Medium meets The Sixth Sense. Jennifer Love Hewitt (!!!!) is a newlywed who can hear the dead, “and helps comfort the friends and family left behind.”

Shows with Lame Pun Titles:

Misconceptions (WB): “A girl finds out her biological father is not a college-educated Olympic athlete, but a guy who prefers beer to wine and can’t hold a job.”

Inconceivable (NBC): Drama set in, three guesses, an fertility clinic.

In Justice (ABC): “A legendary attorney (Denny Crane?) helps those in jail who have been wrongly convicted to get out.” Hey, maybe he can team up with Don Johnson from that Doogie Howser lawyer show.

Other Stars You’ll See (if briefly, in many cases) on TV this year:

Benjamin Bratt, Orlando Jones, Seth Green, Freddie Prince Jr., Gail O’Grady, Sara Gilbert, Melanie Griffith, Chi McBride, Chris O’Donnell, Robert Patrick, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan, Philip Baker Hall, Jane Leeves, French Stewart, Denise Richards, Jenna Elfman, Dabney Coleman, Stockard Channing, Henry Winkler, Mandy Patinkin, Kyle MacLachlan, Alfre Woodard, Fred Savage, William Devane, Sharon Gless, Martin Mull, Heather Graham.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

That word... I do not think it means what you think it does...

From SciFi Wire:

Johnson Faithful To Ghost Rider

Mark Steven Johnson, director of the upcoming Marvel Comics adaptation Ghost Rider, told SCI FI Wire that he made changes to the original script by David S. Goyer to make the film more like the comic. "Its one of those things that there is no right or wrong to it," Johnson said in an interview on the set in Melbourne, Australia. "He just chose a different story, and I really liked it. It just isn't the story that I was going to tell. So they're really completely different screenplays. I really like David's writing a lot, though. [I'm a] big fan of him."

Ghost Rider is the story of Johnny Blaze (played by Nicolas Cage), a motorcycle stunt rider who made a deal with the devil in his youth and is now forced to do his bidding. Johnson said that he wanted to stay as true to the comic as possible, a difficult task given that the mythology changed often during the course of the series. Johnson, whose last film, Daredevil, was also based on a Marvel Comics character, combined elements from different eras of the comic to create an original story that retained the feel of the comic.

"The fact that the devil made a deal with Johnny and gave him all these powers, and Johnny took those powers to go fight the devil, never quite added up," Johnson said. "And so everybody over the years kept trying to solve that and change that. So it's kind of actually a faulty concept in a weird way. So that was odd. That's something that took me many, many months to finally crack it. And once I came up with the idea of the devil's bounty hunter, that there's rules in heaven and hell on Earth, [it made sense]. The idea is that Mephistopheles has to find the best rider in the world to become his Ghost Rider, that made sense to me. He has to give him this power, because he works for him. Then I got it. Then everything from there flowed. But at first it was tough." Ghost Rider is scheduled for release in August of 2006. "

So...he completely changed the story of Ghost Rider to make him "the devil's bounty hunter," something that never happened in the comics, and this in an efforts to...make the script more like the comics.

Huh?

Postscript: Actually it just hit me: This version turns GR into an exact rip-off of the Silver Surfer!

Jabootu lives on...

Per Rottentomatoes.com:

"It comes from Variety -- otherwise I probably wouldn't believe it: Sylvester Stallone will write and direct a biopic about legendary author, drug addict, poet, and madman Edgar Allan Poe. Sly's been sitting on his screenplay since 2002, but recently signed a deal with Nu Image/Millennium Films to get the project going.

No casting news has been announced just yet, but apparently Mr. Stallone wants Robert Downey Jr. to play the lead role. "Poe" is expected to begin production in Europe later this year. Probably best known for his roles in the "Rocky" and "Rambo" movies, Stallone was also the screenwriter on all eight of those films. As a director, Sly has given us "Staying Alive," "Paradise Alley," and the last three "Rocky" entries."

Life is good...

Wow, perhaps the only three shows I'd loved over the last ten years are all gaining renewed life. (No, not Family Guy.) Arrested Development, to my surprise, has been renewed for a third season, although I have to assume that will be it's last. Firefly is going to become a theatrical film, Serenity. And now there's word that Fox, following the impressive DVD sales of the season sets, is considering having a couple of direct-to-DVD Futurama movies made.

Sadly, Serenity, while appreciated, won't replace Firefly. Joss Whedon was obviously setting up character and story arcs that were meant to be examined and finally resolved are many years and dozens of hours of programming. A two-hour movie, even with a sequel or two, won't allow for that. This means that he'll have to truncate everything he wanted to do down to that limited amount of time.

Still, it's better than nothing.

Futurama, I expect, and although this is optimal either, should adapt better to single adventures of longer length. Whether these putative movies will parody some sci-fi films or series, or instead be built around some trope like time travel, remains to be seen. However, I am just giddy at the thought of new Futurama material. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will happen.

It Came from Netflix: Invitation to a Gunfighter

MGM has just released a bunch of mid-grade ‘60s Westerns to DVD. These aren’t going to make my home collection, but I’ve put them on my Netflix list. I’m not a gigantic Western buff, although there are some damn fine films in that genre, and I do own a goodly number of those. Still, even the middling ones tend to be good time killers, and it’s nice to see a gunfight from the days before everyone was ripping off John Woo.

Invitation to a Gunfighter proved exactly that; not a great movie by any means, but an adequate watch. I remember it playing on TV a lot when I was a kid—I remember commercials featuring a rampaging Yul Brynner smashing in storefront windows—but I never got around to seeing it.

One pleasing aspect of watching Westerns is to see all the familiar character actors that always popped up in these. Here these include the apparently legally mandated Pat Hingle and Strother Martin, a young William Hickey, as well as a brief appearance by Russell Johnson, aka the Professor on Gilligan’s Island.

The film is actually fairly ambitious, character-wise, coming during that late period of what might be called the Psychological Western. The film deals with racism (it was produced by social pic maven Stanley Kramer), but in a character-driven way that is a lot more interesting than if it involved a bunch of speechifying. The movie’s a bit too melodramatic and artificial (in that movie Western way) for it’s own good, but it’s really trying to be better than it ends up being.

After the War, ex-Johnny Reb George Segal (!!!) returns to his otherwise Union-supporting New Mexico hometown. (For some reason, I guess because he’s the only one to fight on the Confederate side, Segal’s the sole person in the movie to sport a thick Southern accent.) Once there, he learns that Hingle, the local Stock Corrupt Banker, has sold his farm out from under him. He kills the man who bought the farm, although we don’t know the circumstances, and barricades himself inside, waiting for the town to react.

Hingle maneuvers the town’s business community into hiring a gunfighter, who shows up in the excessively suave form of Brynner. From there it’s a character piece as we wonder who will end up killing who. Eventually, though, Brynner, who comes to hate the town and most of its populace, begins pushing his weight around in an extreme fashion.

I’d never heard this, but the film was obviously an inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s better known High Plains Drifter, although that film merged this one with Sergio Leone attitude and outsized violence, along with a note of the supernatural. Still, there are moments here that are directly mirrored, but then exaggerated, in Drifter. For instance, Brynner goes for a shave at one point. When he leaves the chair, we see that he’d been holding his pistol under his barber bib, just in case. In Drifter, Eastwood does the same, only uses it to kill a number of toughs who come into the barbershop to murder him.

Another interesting aspect of the film is that nobody in it is really likeable. Everyone is either corrupt, cowardly, a violent hothead or just plain damaged. The tragic parts of the ending, although heavily telegraphed, thus work a lot better than the seemingly mandated optimistic ending for the estranged romantic leads.

Three stars (of five) for Western fans, others can safely skip it.

New at Jabootu....

I team up with Andrew Borntreger at Badmovies.org to reveal the three hour hippy fest The Trial of Billy Jack.