Trailer: Magic Mike XXL (Teaser)


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I will be the first to admit that Soderbergh’s journey into the world of male strippers wasn’t on my radar when it was first announced and even when it finally premiered. Then again I don’t think I was the core audience.

Now, Lisa Marie did go see Magic Mike and to say that she enjoyed it would be an understatement. Her brief (no pun intended) but succinct review of the film could be summed up by it’s introduction:

“After me and my BFF Evelyn saw Magic Mike, I hopped on twitter and I tweeted, “Memo to single guys.  Go hang out around the theater when Magic Mike gets out.  You will get laid!”  Yes, Magic Mike is that type of film…”

So, we’re now three years removed from Soderbergh’s film. A sequel has been filmed and ready to be unleashed on the millions out there waiting to get back to the world of Magic Mike. While Soderbergh doesn’t return as director (he does go behind the camera as the sequel’s cinematographer and editor) the sequel does get Gregory Jacobs in the director’s chair. He was first asst. director during the first film and a frequent collaborator with Soderbergh (he pretty much has been Soderbergh’s asst. director in all his films).

Will Lisa Marie enjoy this sequel or will she return with a reaction of “seen it before” ennui? We’ll find out in a couple months.

Magic Mike XXL unveils for all this July 1, 2015.

And here are the NAACP Image Award Nominations!


Dear White People

And continuing our awards wrap-up, here are the 2014 NAACP Image Award nominations!

(h/t to awardswatch)

MOTION PICTURE
Outstanding Motion Picture
• “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
• Chadwick Boseman – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• David Oyelowo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Denzel Washington – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)
• Idris Elba – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)
• Nate Parker – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
• Gugu Mbatha-Raw – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Quvenzhané Wallis – “Annie” (Columbia Pictures)
• Taraji P. Henson – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)
• Tessa Thompson – “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• Viola Davis – “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
• André Holland – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Cedric the Entertainer – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)
• Common – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Danny Glover – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• Wendell Pierce – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
• Carmen Ejogo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Jill Scott – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• Octavia Spencer – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• Oprah Winfrey – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Viola Davis – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture
• “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• “Half of a Yellow Sun” (monterey media inc.)
• “JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)
• “Life of a King” (Animus Films/Serena Films)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture
• Chris Rock – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)
• Justin Simien – “Dear White People” (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)
• Margaret Nagle – “The Good Lie” (Alcon Entertainment)
• Misan Sagay – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Richard Wenk – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture
• Amma Asante – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Antoine Fuqua – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)
• Ava DuVernay – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Gina Prince-Bythewood – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• John Ridley – “JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)

TELEVISION
Outstanding Comedy Series
• “Black-ish” (ABC)
• “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
• “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
• Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)
• Anthony Anderson – “‘Black-ish” (ABC)
• Don Cheadle – “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• Keegan-Michael Key – “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
• Kevin Hart – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
• Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” (FOX)
• Niecy Nash – “The Soul Man” (TV Land)
• Tracee Ellis Ross – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Uzo Aduba – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Wendy Raquel Robinson – “The Game” (BET)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
• Boris Kodjoe – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)
• Glynn Turman – “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• Laurence Fishburne – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Marcus Scribner – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Terry Crews – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
• Adrienne C. Moore – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Laverne Cox – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Lorraine Toussaint – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Sofia Vergara – “Modern Family” (ABC)
• Yara Shahidi – “black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Drama Series
• “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
• “House of Cards” (Netflix)
• “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
• LL Cool J – “NCIS: LA” (CBS)
• Omar Epps – “Resurrection” (ABC)
• Omari Hardwick – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• Shemar Moore – “Criminal Minds” (CBS)
• Taye Diggs – “Murder in the First” (TNT)

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
• Gabrielle Union – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• Kerry Washington – “Scandal” (ABC)
• Nicole Beharie – “Sleepy Hollow” (FOX)
• Octavia Spencer – “Red Band Society” (FOX)
• Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
• Alfred Enoch – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• Courtney B. Vance – “Masters of Sex” (Showtime)
• Guillermo Diaz – “Scandal” (ABC)
• Jeffrey Wright – “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)
• Joe Morton – “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
• Aja Naomi King – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• Alfre Woodard – “State of Affairs” (NBC)
• Chandra Wilson – “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
• Jada Pinkett Smith – “Gotham” (FOX)
• Khandi Alexander – “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
• Aisha Muharrar – “Parks and Recreation” – Ann & Chris (NBC)
• Brigette Munoz-Liebowitz – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – Road Trip (FOX)
• Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” – Danny and Mindy (FOX)
• Regina Hicks – “Instant Mom” – A Kids’s Choice (Nickelodeon and Nick@Nite)
• Sara Hess – “Orange is the New Black” – It Was the Change (Netflix)

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
• Erika Green Swafford – “How to Get Away with Murder” – Let’s Get To Scooping
(ABC)
• Mara Brock Akil – “Being Mary Jane” – Uber Love (BET)
• Warren Leight, Julie Martin – “Law & Order: SVU” – American Disgrace (NBC)
• Zahir McGhee – “Scandal” – Mama Said Knock You Out (ABC)
• Zoanne Clack – “Grey’s Anatomy” – You Be Illin’ (ABC)

Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)
• “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
• “Drumline: A New Beat” (VH1)
• “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)
• “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• Blair Underwood – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Charles S. Dutton – “Comeback Dad” (UP Entertainment)
• Larenz Tate – “Gun Hill” (BET)
• Mekhi Phifer – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)
• Ving Rhames – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)

Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• Angela Bassett – “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
• Cicely Tyson – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Keke Palmer – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Regina King – “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)
• Vanessa Williams – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Key & Peele

Review: Gotham S1E02 “Selina Kyle”


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Tonight’s Gotham picked up where the “Pilot” left off and that’s the fallout from the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. We find out during the episode that the Wayne family was considered one of the two pillars of the Gotham community which kept the city’s order and status quo. The other pillar being Don Carmine Falcone was a nice touch by the writers. It was this little piece of world-building information that is gradually selling me into this series even this early in it’s freshman season.

The history of Batman, the Wayne family and the underworld which permeates Gotham has been told and retold so many times that it’s hard to imagine that anything new could be added to keep things fresh to hardcore fans of the character and the world. It’s actually been a major problem for comic book and film screenwriters when it’s time to come up with something new and not have it become such a major deviation from the character canon to alienate fans.

Showrunner Bruce Heller must’ve seen something within the backstory and history of some of Batman’s adversaries because he looks to be setting up Carmine Falcone and Fish Mooney as the two main antagonists for season 1. In the comics and in the films we don’t really get to explore these two characters very closely. They’re described as underworld mob bosses and, at times, seen as brutish thugs who just happen to be the heads of their criminal enterprises.

“Selina Kyle” is the title of tonight’s episode though we don’t really see the title character until much later in the episode. The episode itself dealt with a new case for the Gordon and Bullock duo who are still feeling their way around each other. It doesn’t help that Bullock seems to be getting tired of Gordon’s “holier-than-thou” attitude towards him and the rest of the force considering he and many in the force think Gordon killed Cobblepot in the previous episode. We, the audience, know better, but Gordon knows he has to continue to sell that assumption made by everyone.

While tonight’s episode wasn’t as overly busy with cramming as many Batman characters and locations it was still quite packed. In addition to building on the Gordon and Bullock relationship, we also have the episode’s main story about teen runaways being grabbed off the streets by unknown parties. Then there’s still the Wayne murders which the pilot episode showed wasn’t really solved. Will the murders of Bruce’s parents take up the bulk of the first season (I sure hope it doesn’t) or will it get a good enough resolution to help move the season’s narrative towards other more interesting storylines.

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It’s in the last twenty or so minutes of the episode that we finally get to see Selina Kyle. Camren Bicondova has such a unique look that it’s a bit jarring seeing her, at first. Yet, it’s the actress’ very exotic-look that hints at Bruce Wayne and Batman’s one true love turning into quite the seductive beauty. Yet, tonight’s episode just portrayed Selina Kyle as a tough, street-savvy runaway whose major role this season is the fact that she knows who really killed the Waynes.

Now, what really made tonight’s episode keep the series on an upward trend would be the two characters mentioned in the beginning: Carmine Falcone and Fish Mooney.

These two characters have become more interesting in just two episodes than throughout all the thousands of stories told about Batman through the comics, films and cartoons. As played by John Doman and Jada Pinkett Smith respectively, Falcone and Mooney make the show really interesting. These are not costume wearing villains or mentally-scarred antagonists. They’re hardcore criminals, but who have learned how to work within the system that is Gotham’s elite society. Where the show pushes forward that the Wayne family has been and continues to be a longstanding pillar of Gotham community, the show also seems to intimate that it does so with a sort of tacit acknowledgement of the seedier side of Gotham.

John Doman’s performance as Carmine Falcone continues to impress. There’s an almost paternal quality to the character but one that never tries to hide the brutality that’s made him the boss of all of Gotham’s criminal underworld. There was such a nice transition from polite businessman to sociopath mob boss in a space of a heartbeat during Falcone’s impromptu meeting with Mooney that one had to rewatch the scene more than once to pick it up.

Of course, many will point out that Jada Pinkett Smith as Mooney was just as good, but in a much more showier fashion. No disagreement in this corner. Smith’s performance is the opposite of Doman’s and it will be interesting how the power play between the two bosses will develop and how it’ll affect the rest of the cast of characters on Gotham.

This show still has growing pains to go through, but tonight’s episode was a good way in working through it while still trying to tell a compelling story. One thing Heller seems to have gotten right (whether by accident or deliberately) with this show’s writing is that he’s made the villains more interesting than it’s supposed heroes. That’s always been the case with Batman outside the comics and this show just continues to perpetuate it.

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Trash TV Guru — “Gotham” Episode 1, “Pilot”


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Okay, fair enough, I’m kinda late to the party here since Arleigh has already chimed in with his thoughts on the rather unimaginatively-titled first episode of Fox’s new Gotham TV series, Pilot, but as  the closest thing to a “Bat-fanatic” here at TTSL, I thought I’d go ahead and offer a second opinion — even if it’s not terribly different from the first one you fine folks have read here.

Let’s start by stating the obvious — between Year OneEarth OneZero Year, and Batman Begins, the origins of the Dark Knight detective have been done to death on the printed page and the silver screen over the last couple of decades, so only the venue is really “new” here, the basic outlines of the story this show is going to present are already well-known — aren’t they?

Well, yes and no. We all know how the series “ends,” whenever that happens to be — Bruce Wayne dons the cape and cowl and becomes Batman. Similarly, we all know how the story begins — wealthy socialites Thomas and Martha Wayne are gunned down in the notorious “Crime Alley” neighborhood of Gotham City in front of their young-at-the-time son, (here played by David Mazouz) and his life is, obviously, forever changed.

It’s what happens in between those well-established “bookends” that  events in Gotham will be playing out, and there does seem to be ample room for either whole-cloth invention, or creative re-interpretation, within the confines of that territory, and this pilot episode shows that, as was done with Smallville over the course, of — what,  ten seasons? — the principal creative minds at work here, most notably executive producer (and writer of this opening salvo) Bruno Heller, will be doing a little of both.

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Apparently the main plot thread, at least running through the first season, will see clean-cut rookie detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his crooked partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), investigating the Wayne murders, and this initial episode largely focuses on them chasing a red herring in the form of a small-time hood named Mario Pepper (Daniel Stewart Sherman) , who they end up killing while he’s trying to escape, to the equal parts relief and despair of his wife and young plant-loving daughter, Ivy (Clare Foley). There’s some painfully strained dialogue that will probably make long-time Bat-fans cringe interspersed here and there, and a couple of scenes that are downright painful to watch, but by and large the story moves along at a reasonable enough little clip, the twists and turns our two protagonists encounter are generally involving, and the stage seems to be set for at least a modestly entertaining yarn as things progress.

Was the episode a great intro to the series? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Was it good enough? Sure, what the hell — I’ll be back next week for more, at any rate, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

So, how about a rundown of what Heller and director Danny Cannon get right, and what they get wrong, shall we? First, the good stuff : Mazouz is excellent as the pre-pubescent Bruce Wayne, and shows  pretty remarkable acting range for a kid. He’s by turns heartbroken, sullen, withdrawn, and determined. Good show all around. McKenzie displays a requisite amount of “regular-guy charm” as the show’s ostensible lead. Logue is a magnificent casting choice for a gruff and cynical veteran detective who’s definitely on the take — probably from more than one source — but may not be completely beyond redemption. Camren Bicondova largely lurks behind the scenes as a young Selina Kyle, but she exudes mysterious charisma to spare and you’ll definitely want to see more of her. John Doman seems intent on giving crime boss Carmine Falcome a whole new layer of depth and a set of complex motivations that really have me interested in finding out just what makes him tick. Cory Michael Smith is the perfect blend of genius and creepy in his role as police scientist Edward Nygma, who will “grow up” to become, of course, The Riddler. And Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot delivers his lines — and performs his physical actions — with a kind of just-beneath-the-surface insanity that shows that if and when he does become The Penguin, he’ll probably be more of the Danny DeVito ilk than the Burgess Meredith one.

The real show-stealer, though, is Jada Pinkett Smith as new character Fish Mooney, a second-tier — for now — player in the local mob scene who has brains, ambition, cunning, and sex appeal to spare. She seems to be having the time of her life sinking her teeth into the role, and it certainly shows. And if she’s not enjoying herself, well then — guess her acting is even better than I’m giving it credit for.

Oh, and just as a quick aside : does anyone else think the scene where she’s auditioning a struggling young stand-up comic for her club might be the first appearance in this series of, well — you-know-who? Maybe I’m over-thinking things, but I had to put it out there regardless.

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It’s not as if Heller isn’t prone to offering other subtle hints in this episode’s script, either — one of Gordon’s superior officers just happens to be named Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara), and folks who have read Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman : Year One know that name well. Likewise, fans of the Gotham Central comics series will already be well familiar with the names Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya (played by Andrew Stewart-Jones and Victoria Cartagena, respectively), who pop up here as GCPD internal affairs agents. They’re not given much to do, admittedly, but a word of warning to Heller and all other series writers as far as this subject goes : Renee Montoya, in particular, is someone with a lot of hard-core fans, being that she represents one of the few positive portrayals of strong, independent, lesbian women of color anywhere in mainstream comics. Treat her right, or ignore her altogether, but don’t get this one wrong. There are some lurid hints dropped that she has “a past” with Gordon’s fiancee, Barbara (Erin Richards), but I wouldn’t suggest playing Montoya for pure soap opera value — it would be tremendously disrespectful to a character that was truly groundbreaking on the printed page.

Which brings us to what Gotham, at least so far, seems to be getting wrong (apart from some occasionally dodgy set design and CGI work and the script flaws previously mentioned) : Sean Pertwee (son of my second-favorite Doctor to Tom Baker) is a good casting choice as Alfred, and his protectiveness of his young charge certainly shows through, but Heller writes him as a semi-militaristic hard-ass in a move that seems to be a direct nod to the risible work of writer Geoff Johns in his limp Batman :Earth One graphic novel (please note I’m only singling out Johns’ script for criticism, as Gary Frank’s art on that book was superb). I hope they don’t go too far down that road with the world’s most famous fictional butler. Poison Ivy appears to be the victim of a radically different “re-imagining” that, so far, looks a lot less than promising. The overall tone of the proceedings appear overly concerned with shoe-horning in too many specific Bat-elements and not doing enough to establish the city as an entity separate from its most famous vigilante crime-fighter. And having Barbara be a well-heeled, glamorous socialite is a bit of a betrayal of the working-class roots of Jim Gordon and his family that we’ve all come to know — he just doesn’t look right lounging around in her fashionable penthouse apartment.

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All in all, then, what we’ve got  is a case of “some good, some bad.” By the time the episode was over I was reasonably optimistic that, despite the “mix n, match” approach to re-invention and outright invention that I mentioned earlier,  we’re not looking at another Smallville clone here — i.e. a show that amounts to little more than Beverly Hills, 90210 with super-powers. The jury is still out, though,  on whether or not this show’s creators have enough of a different spin to add to the Bat-mythos to make this a worthwhile project. They’re borrowing influences from a wide range of sources, some of which I would’ve preferred having them ignore altogether, but it’s probably safe to assume that only some of those things will prove to be major factors in the series going forward. How far forward I go along with it remains to be seen, as there was nothing in the pilot episode to make me say “alright, awesome, I’m all in!” — nor was there enough to make me throw up my hands and walk away in disgust. We’ll call how I feel about things “cautious optimism” for now, with the greater emphasis being on “cautious.” Heller and co. have me interested — not it’s time to impress me.

Review: Gotham S1E01 “Pilot”


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“Gotham stands on a knife’s edge” — Carmine Falcone

It’s one of 2014’s most-anticipated new series. The world is superhero crazy right now and it was only time before DC dipped back into the Batman well to base a live-action tv series on their most-successful property.

Gotham doesn’t actually take the usual tack and bring in Batman himself as it’s main character. The show uses one of Batman’s most important allies as the focal point of the show. Jim Gordon has always been one of Batman’s staunchest friends throughout every story ever told about the Dark Knight. This show looks to explore Jim Gordon’s early years as part of the Gotham City Police Department. We still get to see Bruce Wayne as a child and his character and who he will become still loom large over the pilot and, I suspect, the series in general.

The pilot episode was written by the show’s executive producer Bruno Heller and it’s actually too paint-by-the-numbers. It literally tries to introduce as many of the Batman rogues gallery in it’s less-than-an-hour running time. We get a quick intro to not just the Riddler and the Joker, but we also get the early beginnings of the Penguin, Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Don’t even get me started on Batman’s more traditional adversaries in Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone.

It’s difficult to judge a series on it’s pilot episode since the show is still trying to find it’s identity. We saw this with last year’s other comic book series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and how it took literally 2/3’s of it’s first season to finally find it’s stable footing before it could even figure out what show it wanted to be. Gotham may just have an easier time to find its way in the superhero entertainment landscape since DC has confirmed that the series will not tie-in with it’s cinematic universe the way Marvel did with it’s own series. This should give Bruno Heller and his writers a much more free hand in molding the show into what they want. Yet, there’s a danger in that freedom in that too much of a drastic deviation from the Batman source will rile up the character’s rabid fanbase.

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The first episode does arrive with some very good performances from it’s leads. Ben McKenzie as Det. Jim Gordon commands the stage whenever he’s on the screen. He’s able to convey not just the man of integrity we know Jim Gordon to be, but also inject a bit of a darkness to the character that we rarely saw in the films and cartoons, but comic book fans are very well aware of. McKenzie’s Jim Gordon definitely a bit more rougher around the edges but still idealistic than the Gary Oldman take on Jim Gordon who was more seasoned, but also more cynical about the best way to combat crime in Gotham.

Donal Logue as his veteran partner Harvey Bullock does a good job in becoming the bridge for the audience between the principled Gordon and the more corrupt, underbelly of law and order that is Gotham. We’re not sure if he’s a corrupt cop or just one who has learned how to navigate the dangerous waters of the criminal underworld as one of Gotham’s protectors. Time will tell if this version of Harvey Bullock becomes more of the Batman Begins analogue Arnold Flass or the cynical, but loyal cop of the cartoons.

Now, a show about Batman’s hometown wouldn’t be able to call itself by that city’s name if I didn’t mention the rogues gallery that will end becoming Batman’s (and to an extent, Jim Gordon) reason for being. We don’t see colorful costumes or even the recognizable look of Batman’s villains in this pilot episode, but as stated earlier they do try to cram as many of them in this series premiere as they could. It’s almost like a convoy designed to remind audiences that the show will explore not just Jim Gordon’s early days before Batman rises from the shadows, but also the time of the villains before he arrives.

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Of all the bad guys the show tries to push at the audience in this pilot it’s Fish Mooney as portrayed by Jada Pinkett Smith that stands out most. Her crimelord brings a certain amount of flair to the episode that hints at the over-the-top villainy that will come about once Bruce is all grown up and takes up the mantle of the bat. There’s hints of a past relationship between her and Logue’s Bullock that could turn out to be interesting. Robin Lord Taylor as a young Oswald Cobblepot aka the Penguin is ok, but something in his performance looks like someone trying too hard to bring out in this series the Penguin’s quirky mannerisms that the character looks to be the most cartoony of all introduced in the episode.

Gotham had a good and interesting introductory episode that laid enough stones on the series’ foundation as it moves forward. With only 16 episodes instead of the usual 24 most full-length tv series get Bruno Heller and the show’s writers has less time to create this version of the  Gotham and Batman world we’ve come to expect. Will they manage to inject some new blood into a world that’s been adapted and reimagined through decades of comics, tv and film work or will the series just try to appease the hardcore comic book fanbase thus alienating the wider general audience.

We shall see and future review installments will tell if this site buys into the series with wholeheartedly or end up getting off the ride before it’s over.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “After Earth”


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Given that the always-on-the-ball Lisa Marie Bowman already beat me to the punch with this one on these virtual “pages,” I won’t waste too much of your time, dear reader, on my post-mortem analysis of the decidedly dull, wannabe-mystical-and-“empowering” mess that is Will Smith’s latest vanity project, After Earth, and instead merely remark upon some — -well, remarkable facts.

The first being that precisely two scribes here at TTSL actually saw this thing, and my best guess is that we both saw it in empty theaters because, according to box office receipts from the past weekend, nobody else went. So Sony/Columbia owes us a debt of thanks. And maybe some free passes to some future release of theirs.

Secondly, I’d like to state for the record that this film actually isn’t the abysmal and abject failure so many have quickly taken to labeling it as being so much as it’s just thoroughly predictable and almost relentlessly dull. 1,000 years after the evacuation of the planet due to largely unspecified but apparently quite serious environmental devastation,  emotionally distant military bad-ass-with-focus-group-tested -name Cypher Raige (Smith) and his son, Kitai (Smith’s kid Jaden) crash-land on the supposedly uninhabitable rock and must find a way to — yawn — survive while also learning to — yawn again — finally form the deep bonds of trust that all parents and their offspring are, y’know, supposed  to have.

There’s a bog-standard “warrior monk” mentality that runs through this picture that confuses stoicism for honor and nonchalance for dignity, and while Smith seems to be ill at ease with the material, he’s really got no one to blame but himself given that the film’s plot was apparently hatched in his own mind and the whole thing’s a family affair, with the former “Fresh Prince” not only starring in it, supposedly having a hand in scripting it, and casting his son to appear alongside him, but with his wife,  Jada Pinkett Smith, grabbing a producer’s credit, as well. And while it might be tempting to lay a pretty fair share of the blame for this overwrought snoozer on M. Night Shyamalan’s doorstep, as well — especially given his thoroughly uninspiring track record over the past decade or so —  the fact is that he’s pretty much acting as a director/co-writer-for-hire here, his fifteen minutes as Hollywood’s “next big thing” having apparently — finally! — run their course.

And weird as it sounds considering my disdain for pretty much anything he’s ever had his name attached to in the past, Shyamalan actually acquits himself reasonably well here. His direction doesn’t especially stand out in any respect, mind you, but you know what they say about how tough it is to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. All in all, I got the distinct impression that he was at least trying to inject some life into some pretty goddamn listless proceedings.

His efforts certainly aren’t enough, though. LMB’s right that the film’s environmental message feels both heavy-handed and tacked on — shit, at least Birdemic was so hilariously inept at doing more or less the same thing that you couldn’t help but love it —but its New Agey emotional subtext is even more clumsy and ham-handed than its ecological one,  and to me that’s where the film’s most egregious sermonizing is to be found.

Parents should love their kids and be nice to them? Wow, ya don’t say.

Anyway, there’s probably not much point belaboring the obvious any further here — I’ve never been a big fan of piling on, and as I said, I don’t find  this flick so much actively bad as it is just dull, preachy, and without purpose apart from demonstrating to the world what an awesome, caring, understanding bunch the Smith/Pinkett clan is (after all, they’d never treat their kids like this in real life, right?). So there ya go —  and there it goes, since all indications are that After Earth will probably “enjoy” a well-deserved short-lived run on our nation’s movie screens before slowly dying on the home video and cable TV vine. Hang onto your cash and catch it on TNT or TBS some Saturday afternoon a year from now.