The Predator (Final Trailer)


The Predator

The teaser trailer for this Shane Black production didn’t wow me, at all. Then the first trailer came out and a red band one at that. That one was an upgrade but I was still on the fence. They’ve released more teasers, international trailers and tv spot and, once again, I was still not fully sold on the film.

Today 20th Century Fox drops the final trailer for The Predator just two weeks from it’s release date of September 14. This just days after the studio confirmed that the film will be a very hard R-rating raised my interest level.

It is this final trailer (again another red band trailer) is what finally sold me on this film as a must-see. We still know only bits and pieces of what the film will be about but the trademark Shane Black quips and smartass attitude shows up much more clearly with this last trailer.

I actually enjoyed the last Predator film and I hope this one continues the trend and just entertains it’s audience.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #22: Ride Along 2 (dir by Tim Story)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Sunday, December 4th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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A friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook: “Name your vagina by using the last movie you watched!”  While everyone else was able to answer with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Christmas Vacation,” and “Zombeavers,” I was forced to answer “Ride Along 2,” because I watched it last night.  If only I had held off on watching Ride Along 2, I could have answered Moana.

Oh well…

ANYWAY — I recorded Ride Along 2 off of HBO on November 11th.  The main reason that I recorded it was because, at the time, I was panicking over the fact that the year is nearly over and there’s still a lot of 2016 releases that I haven’t seen.  You know me.  I’m a cinema completist and I like to see everything.  As a result, I’ve been recording every single 2016 movie that I come across on cable, even if the film in question is one that I really didn’t have much interest in actually watching.

Like this one for instance…

Ride Along 2 is the latest entry in the ever-growing Ken Jeong Gets Kidnapped genre of action comedies.  At some point in the future, film historians will wonder why Ken Jeong was always either getting abducted or arrested in violent comedies.  I imagine that they’ll devote most of their time to studying The Hangover films and Community but they’ll still find some time to consider Ride Along 2.

In Ride Along 2, Ken Jeong is abducted by two Atlanta detectives who have come to Miami to investigate his boss, murderous drug lord Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt).  The two detectives are James Payton (Ice Cube) and his future brother-in-law, Ben Barber (Kevin Hart).  Of course, it’s really not important that one of them is named Payton or that the other one is named Ben.  Ultimately, they are Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.  Payton is tough and no-nonsense.  Ben is short and outspoken and given to histrionics.  Needless to say, the plot is mostly just an excuse for Kevin Hart to get on Ice Cube’s nerves.

And it’s all pretty predictable.  There’s really nothing in Ride Along 2 that you haven’t already seen in a hundred other action comedies, including the first Ride Along.  So, how much you enjoy this film is going to depend on how much you like Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, and Ken Jeong.  (And I guess it might help if you’re a Benjamin Bratt fan as well.  Are there Benjamin Bratt fans?)  And, I will say this.  Nobody glowers with quite the skill of Ice Cube.  Ken Jeong may play the same role a hundred times but he knows what he’s doing.  And Kevin Hart is actually a good actor, even if his films rarely give him a chance to show the full depth of his ability.

Ride Along 2 is predictable and kinda forgettable.  It didn’t do much for me.  But, at the same time, it’s thoroughly nonpretentious and totally inoffensive.

I still think Moana is a better name, though…

It’s Better Than Last Stand: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016, directed by Bryan Singer)


X-Men_-_ApocalypseIt is easy to forget what a big deal the first X-Men movie was in 2000.  At a time when Joel Schumacher was still the industry’s go-to director for super hero films, X-Men announced that films based on comic books did not have to be campy, silly, stupid, or feature Alicia Silverstone.  When X-Men was first released, critics and audiences were surprised to see a comic book film that was intelligent, well-acted, and actually about something.

The only people who were not shocked were those of us who grew up reading the X-Men books.  We already knew that the X-Men was about more than just heroes with super powers and flashy costumes.  We knew that the battles within the pages of the X-books were always meant to serve as a metaphor for racism and real-world prejudice and, since many of us felt like outcasts and mutants ourselves, we related to the characters.  We already knew that Magneto was often a sympathetic villain while Prof. X was not always a likable hero.  We knew that almost every battle that the X-Men fought came down to the question of whether or not different types of people could peacefully co-exist.  Unlike the critics, we were not shocked by X-Men‘s subtext.  Instead, we were just happy that Bryan Singer did not fuck things up.

All of the comic books films that have followed have owed a debt to critical and commercial success the first X-Men movie.  Without that success, there would probably have never been a Dark Knight trilogy or even an MCU.

FallofmutantsThe success of X-Men has also led to a 16 year-old franchise of movies about mutants and their struggle to live in a world that fears them.  X-Men: Apocalypse is the 9th installment in that franchise and it is based on the Fall of the Mutants storyline, which ran through several Marvel comics in 1988.

Continuing the pattern set by X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, Apocalypse takes place in the past, back when Charles Xavier was still James McAvoy and Magneto was still Michael Fassbender.  (Unlike Days of Future Past, neither Patrick Strewart nor Ian McKellan makes an appearance.)  The year is 1983.  Ronald Reagan is President.  The Cold War still rages.  The music is better than it is today.  Xavier is running his school for gifted mutants youngsters.  Magneto is living, under an assumed name, in Poland.  Magneto is married and has a young daughter and as soon as I saw them, I knew they were going to die.  Magneto’s family never survives.

In Egypt, an ancient and powerful mutant named En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is awakened after being entombed for centuries.  Readers of the comic books will immediately recognize En Sabah Nur as Apocalypse.  Planning to destroy the world so that he can rebuild it in his own image, Apocalypse recruits his four horseman — Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto.  Apocalypse also wants to recruit Xavier to his side but Prof. X still believes that humans and mutants must learn to co-exist.

livingeraser1What’s interesting is that, even though Fassbender and McAvoy share a few scenes, this is the first X-Men film to not feature any sort of debate between Xavier and Magneto.  Magneto, one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, is actually a little boring here and, without those debates, Apocalypse lacks the subtext that distinguished the best of the previous X-Men films.  The emphasis is less on what it means to be an outsider and more on defeating Apocalypse.  Unfortunately, Apocalypse is a great character in the comic books but he does not translate well into film.  Unlike Magneto, who has several good and justifiable reasons for not trusting humanity, the film version of Apocalypse is portrayed as being pure evil and little else.  His plan to destroy the world never makes much sense and he is almost as bland as Dr. Doom in the latest Fantastic Four reboot.  Apocalypse could be any villain from any comic book movie that has been released over the past 16 years.  He could just as easily be the Living Eraser.

Apocalypse is also an origin story, showing how the modern incarnation of the X-Men first came to be.  We meet young versions of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler (played by Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) makes a brief appearance that feels like it was mostly included to set up the character’s third stand-alone film.  Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Evan Peters also return in the roles of Mystique, the Beast, and Quicksilver.  Peters is featured in the movie’s coolest scene, though that scene is basically just a redo of Days of Future Past‘s coolest scene.

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(There’s also a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Dazzler, which I guess means that Marvel’s disco queen will eventually be appearing on movie screens.)

X-Men: Apocalypse is not as good as either First Class or Days of Future Past but it’s still better than The Last Stand.  (Since Apocalypse takes place in 1983, Scott and Jean go to see Return of the Jedi and talk about how the third film of any franchise always sucks.)  It’s entertaining but, without an interesting villain or any sort of examination of what it really means to be an outcast,  Apocalypse is also forgettable in a way that X2 and Days of Future Past never were.  As a lifelong fan of the X-Men, I could not help but be disappointed.

Plus, this movie needed more Deadpool! (Note: Deadpool is not in X-Men: Apocalypse.)

Plus, this movie needed more Deadpool! (Note: Deadpool is not in X-Men: Apocalypse.)

One thing that especially bothered me is that Days of Future Past ended with Xavier promising to explain to Wolverine why he, Scott, and Jean were all still alive despite having been killed in The Last Stand.  If you were hoping Apocalypse would clear that up, don’t hold your breath.  I guess that question will remain unanswered until the 10th film.

Speaking of which, First Class was set in the 1960s and Days of Future Past largely took place in the 70s.  Apocalypse is an 80s movie so the next installment should be set in the early 90s.  Will Scott be listening to Nirvana or will he be playing air guitar to November Rain?  I guess we’ll have to wait to find out!

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X-Men: Apocalypse Drops In With It’s Final Trailer


X-Men Apocalypse

20th Century Fox have to be feeling quite giddy and confident with their slate of blockbusters this summer. Deadpool slayed everyone that went up against it during it’s February release and has climbed the box-office charts to the levels I think even Fox executives couldn’t imagine.

Now comes it’s main comic book film property returning this summer with it’s biggest story, yet. X-Men: Apocalypse has been a storyline fans of the Marvel Mutants (not part of the MCU) have been clamoring for ever since the first X-Men film surprised everyone all the way back in 2000.

Bryan Singer returns for his 4th go-round with these new band of Merry Mutants (Hugh Jackman as Wolverine the only holdover from his original cast) with the immortal and first mutant En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse up to no good. We get a bit more of the plot in this final trailer and even more city-wide destruction (I’ll give it a pass considering it’s being committed by someone called Apocalypse and not Superman).

X-Men: Apocalypse will bring the war on May 27, 2016

X-Men Apocalypse Super Bowl TV Spot


X-Men Apocalypse

The X-Men film franchise helped usher in the this golden age of comic book films. Looking back at those early films makes for a love them or hate them reaction. The first two helped establish the beloved characters onto the bigscreen while successive sequels and spinoffs did much to try and tear down the goodwill created by the former.

Matthew Vaughn helped in the franchise course correction with the surprisingly good X-Men: First Class. Bryan Singer’s return with that film’s follow-up with X-Men: Days of Future Past was another step in the right direction. It even marked the beginning of Fox’s attempt to replicate Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe building.

X-Men: Apocalypse is suppose to help build on the foundation laid down by the last film. It also looks to be a sort of reboot of the core characters to their much younger versions. The doomsday vibe of the film really comes off well in the trailer and it shows enough action to excite fans.

Then they show a great looking Psylocke using her psy-blade in a way it was never meant to be as. Just embrace books Fox. Just embrace it instead of mucking it up.

X-Men: Apocalypse will bring the war on May 27, 2016

Film Review: Deliver Us From Evil (dir by Scott Derrickson)


Deliver_Us_from_Evil_(2014_film)_posterI had high hopes for Deliver Us From Evil, largely because it was directed by Scott Derrickson who, in 2012, gave us the wonderfully atmospheric and disturbing Sinister.  Unfortunately, having now seen Deliver Us From Evil, I can only call it the anti-Sinister.  Whereas Sinister took the viewers by surprise, Deliver Us From Evil is predictable.  Whereas Sinister was full of genuinely disturbing moments, Deliver Us From Evil is full of jump scenes that are scary for a few seconds but then swiftly vanish from the memory.  Whereas Sinister was fascinating for featuring a morally ambiguous hero, Deliver Us From Evil features a hero who is so mundanely heroic that you find yourself hoping that he’ll fail just as punishment for his smug hubris.

Perhaps the only way that Deliver Us From Evil tops Sinisteris that it features none other than the King of Television Snark, Joel McHale.  As someone who loves both The Soup and Community, I’m always happy to see Joel but he’s oddly cast here, playing a muscle-bound, adrenaline junkie cop.  It’s not that Joel does a bad job.  In fact, he’s probably the most likable and compelling character in the entire film.  It’s just that you can’t look at him on screen without asking, “Joel, why are you here!?”

Anyway, Deliver Us From Evil is pretty much your standard demonic possession/cop thriller hybrid.  Mysterious murders are being committed.  The murderers speak in a weird language and, it soon turns out, all of them are linked both to the discovery of ancient tomb in Iraq and to a painting company that was started by a group of returning veterans.  It’s up to cops Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and Parker (Joel McHale – why, Joel, why!?) to solve the crime.  Helping them along the way is a former drug addict priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez).  If you’re guessing that the whole thing leads to a violent exorcism on a stormy night – well, you’re definitely on the right track.

Scott Derrickson does the best that he can with the material but he’s hampered by the fact that the film is based on a book that was written by the real-life Ralph Sarchie.  Perhaps as a result, the film’s Ralph is such an upright and moral hero (though he does yell at his daughter in one unpleasant moment but even that is excused as simply being evidence of how personally Ralph takes his job) that he’s also not that interesting of a character.  Eric Bana, who is actually a pretty good comedic actor, struggles to find some sort of depth to Ralph but ultimately, it’s just not there.  And since 90% of horror is psychological, Deliver Us From Evil cannot recover from revolving around such a flat protagonist.

As a result, Derrickson has little option but to fill the film with standard horror movie scenes.  The scenes, as themselves, work well enough but the story is so predictable that they don’t make much of an impact.  The end result is a film that you’ve seen a hundred times before.

The only difference, of course, is that this version features Joel McHale dancing around with a knife.

Dying Is Easy, Comedy is Hard: Freeloaders (dir by Dan Rosen)


Supposedly, the great comedic character actor Edmund Gwenn once said, “Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard.”

I have to agree because I’ve seen a lot of comedies in 2013.  A few of them — like This Is The End and The World’s End — have worked.  However, the majority of them have not only been bad but they’ve been so bad that they’ve invited audiences to wonder if comedy is a dying art form.  For every genuinely clever comedy, it seems like we’ve had to sit through a dozen Movie 43s.  These are movies where genuinely funny people get together and proceed to prove that they can be just as unfunny as the obnoxious cousin that everyone avoids at the family reunion.

Case in point: Freeloaders.

Even Movie 43 made me laugh once.  That’s one laugh more than I got out of Freeloaders.  Freeloaders is quite possibly the least funny comedy that I’ve ever seen.  Freeloaders almost feels like a social experiment, a test to see what would happen if an audience, expecting to see a silly and crude comedy, instead found themselves trapped in a laugh-repellent environment for 80 minutes.

Freeloaders tells the story of a group of stereotypes who have spent the last six years living in a mansion owned by “rock star” Adam Duritz.  It turns out that one of them is a childhood friend of Duritz’s and, since Duritz has been out touring for the past decade, he’s allowed his friends to occupy his home rent-free.  However, Duritz is getting married and planning on moving to New York City and, as a result, he’s selling his mansion.  The freeloaders are told that they have a week to get out of the mansion.  Well, since everyone in this film is basically a total and complete dumbass, nobody can figure out how to rent an apartment.  So, instead, they come up with some painfully wacky schemes to raise the money to buy the mansion themselves.  Standing in their way is Adam’s real estate agent who …. well, it’s never really all that clear why she’s standing in their way.  Presumably, it’s because there wouldn’t be a film unless she was standing in their way and then we would have all missed out on the chance to watch Freeloaders.

Why doesn’t Freeloaders work?

Well, let’s start by considering the fact that Adam Duritz plays himself.  I actually had to go on Wikipedia to remind myself who Adam Duritz is and I discovered that he’ was apparently a big deal back in the 90s and that he’s responsible for that painfully annoying cover of Big Yellow Taxi that was playing everywhere back in the summer of 2003.   Unfortunately, as both an actor and as a “fictional” character, Adam Duritz is so bland that his character serves mostly as a distraction.  The use of a real celebrity (if Adam Duritz can legitimately be called a celebrity) should have provided the filmmakers with a lot of comedic opportunity but that opportunity is pretty much wasted because Freeloaders seems to be obsessed with letting us know that Adam Duritz is a really great guy.

(That might be because Adam Duritz was one of the film’s producers.)

While I doubt that Adam Duritz has ever been a funny guy, Freeloaders is filled with other actors who have proven themselves to be funny in the past.  I, for one, was excited to see the name Nat Faxon in the opening credits because, while he might not be a household name, anyone who has ever seen Nat Faxon in a movie knows just how funny he can be.  However, both Mr. Faxon and the rest of cast struggle with the fact that they’re playing a collection of one-dimensional stereotypes.  Everyone has one overly defining, predictable trait to help us keep them straight.  There’s the nice guy, the stoner, the womanizer, the nice girl, the hoodlum, and the girl who will inspire some in the audience to say, “Is that Olivia Munn?,” largely because she is Olivia Munn.  Since they’re never allowed to become individual characters, all of their attempts at humor fall painfully flat.  It doesn’t help that director Dan Rosen directs without any hint of timing or originality.

Freeloaders was produced by Broken Lizard, the comedy troupe that’s developed a large cult following as the result of films like Super Troopers and Club Dread.  However, the members of Broken Lizard did not write or direct the film and they only appear in a rather brief cameo where they parody Boogie Nights.

The Boogie Nights parody is actually fairly clever but it also highlights this film’s biggest problem.  Freeloaders was originally filmed in 2009 and then sat on the shelf until it finally got a very limited theatrical release earlier this year.  (Perhaps that’s why one of the film’s characters worries about getting sent to Iraq if he joins the army.)  However, the script feels like it was written back in the 90s.  Everything from the premise of slacker stoners being forced to raise money to Adam Duritz being described as a world-famous star to Broken Lizard parodying a film that came out in 1997 serves to make this film feel as if it was made about 14 years too late.

I love a good comedy but, by that same regard, there’s nothing a i hate more than a really bad comedy.  However, as a film lover, I will always be willing to take chance on comedy.  Comedy may be hard but the rewards are great.

Sometimes, you end up with something really special.

Sometimes, you just end up with Freeloaders.

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Review: The Newsroom S1:E4 – “I’ll Try to Fix You”


The key to Episode 4 of The Newsroom’s season really comes down to the last 10 to 15 minutes. The episode seems light and even and then by the end everyone is moving in a mad scramble to get the news out. Very nice to see that, honestly.

This episode, entitled “I’ll Try to Fix You” has the News Night 2.0 team closing out 2010 and celebrating the impending New Year. It’s more or less a lighthearted, fun episode. Mac approaches Will in his office, letting him know that her boyfriend Wade wants to speak with him on something. Wade informs Mac that he’s missing a major headline.

Neal appears to have this weird obsession over Bigfoot, which becomes a running theme in this episode. It’s cute in that it comes up a number of times here, very similar to the story about the Chicken in The Social Network. Maggie finds Jim still working to find any major stories they may have missed. After a little light flirting (well, it seemed that way), Don shows up and Maggie has to go. A lightly inebriated Don decides to set up Maggie’s roommate, Lisa, with Jim for New Year’s. In the middle of selling Jim, Lisa’s phone goes off with a Rod Stewart song. After what happened with the email fiasco, I found myself recalling that because sooner or later, that ringtone would need to come back into this episode. Maggie appears to have something of an issue with Lisa and Jim, but again, she’s with Don. I kind of wish she’d make up her mind already.

Wade tells Will that the House cut 80% of the DOJ budget, and the three go over whether this is a story to run with. When Wade leaves, Mac and Will have a slight argument over Wade. Mac’s a line in particular that made me laugh, “How do you introduce the Netflix queue of crazy divorced women with digitally remastered breasts you spend your nights with?”, which works in the argument between the two.

Will heads out to the party, and finds Sloan Sabbith. Eyeing the group, they have a short exchange on whether he should mingle and who he should mingle with. He heads out and speaks to Nina Howard and finds out she’s a Gossip Columnist. Rather than going with the New Year kiss, Will starts to lecture her on what she does, stating she “knows right from wrong” and that it’s “it’s a form of pollution.” The attempt to civilize Nina ends up with a drink in his face. Poor guy has no luck whatsoever.

Charlie and Will reconvene the following morning to find that he’s on Page Six of the New York Post. Will clears the air with Charlie on this and moves on to the morning meeting. Of the topics that weren’t discussed, they decide to run with both the notion that the Republicans believe that Obama is out to take away their guns or gun rights. The broadcast goes on to show that there really hasn’t been any kind of legislation to show that this is the current plan.

Maggie and Lisa have a brief discussion on Jim, and Maggie comes to Jim’s defense when Lisa points out that he’d think she’s dumb. Again, this is going to come to a head later on.

Mac, along with a woman named Carrie (played by Kathryn Hahn, who I haven’t seen since Step Brothers), head to his apartment. When she goes to change her clothes and informs him she has a joint in her purse, he discovers a pistol and they have words. I’m not sure if Hahn’s going to come back, but it would be interesting to have her come back as a foil to Mac.

As Will and Sloan go over the next broadcast, she beams and asks him how the night went. Will informs her that her friend was packing heat. Sloan tells him he has to stick with her because she’s a little obsessive. Olivia Munn has some great moments back and forth between Jeff Daniels in this episode, and so far her character still seems to be the only one without any romantic issues.

With Will’s chances in the dating scene spiraling downward and making headlines, Don proves how much of an ass he is by giving Maggie a news blip that causes her to call Jim. While she has Jim on the phone, Don calls Lisa, who’s phone rings in the background with the Rod Stewart song. I personally can’t wait for Don to get punched outright in the face. That will be the highlight of the season for me.

After being called in on Saturday, Will finds everyone in the office going over the particulars of the Bigfoot story. Will meets with Charlie and Mac over Will being in the newspapers when it comes to light that AWM (their parent company) has been flaming him the entire time. Charlie admits about the meeting with Leona and Mac blows up because the only way that the 3 Year no work clause could have taken effect would have been if it were changed in the contract. The contact that Will changed to allow him to fire Mac also allows AWM to keep him from working anywhere else.

Just when you think it’s going to keep going on, the story explodes into high gear with the iNews blip on the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. All hands are on deck as they race to get the story together and everyone prepped. It shines as easily the biggest highlight of the episode and smacked the complaining, “Not This relationship stuff again” sigh I had right off my face. During the broadcast, it comes out that CNN and NPR are going with the story that Giffords died that day. Ironically enough, CNN had the very same problem just a week or two ago, incorrectly reporting that the “Obamacare” Heath Reform vote didn’t pass before Justice Roberts’ vote came through.

When Reese shows up onto the floor and calls Will out to declare Giffords dead just as everyone else does, who shows up to actually save the day but Don of all people. Talk about jaw drop!! He’s the last person I would have expected to have come in to help this group. Will calls in Mac and Charlie to thank them in a cursing tirade, and gives Neal a chance on his Bigfoot story. With all of this done to Coldplay’s “Fix You”, it plays out so damn well that you may almost forget all of the other scenes you were watching beforehand. It’s a fantastic final few minutes that showcases what the Newsroom is about.

My only worry is that they’re moving so fast with these news reports that by the time the season is over, they could conceivably end up in the Present Time. How they’re going to come up with news after doing that is going to require a few rabbits and hats. Overall, a well done episode.

Review: The Newsroom S1:E3 – “The 112th Congress”


Though I’m a registered Democrat (which I did before realizing I could be Independent) and my family’s mostly Republican, Politics tend to make my eyes glaze over and a lot of it goes over my head. My reasoning is that no matter who you have in office, neither side has everything right and you’ll find corruption and/or underhanded deals no matter what side is chosen. It’s because of this that makes The Newsroom a little difficult for me to write about from a political standpoint, but on an entertainment standpoint, I’m having fun. This show is getting a little tighter with every episode.

This episode, titled “The 112th Congress”, opens with a statement taken from the 9/11 Commission back in 2004. Will makes an apology to the American viewing public on the way News Night has been, stating that they failed to give the right news – “A leader in an industry that miscalled election results, miscalled hyped up terror scares, ginned up controversy, and failed to report on tectonic shifts in our country”. Will stresses that they will be concentrating on giving the news, and opinions that also contrast his own. I liked the way this scene moved, jumping back and forth through the events of writing out the speech, getting everyone up for their morning meeting, cleaning it all up and providing it to Charlie before the actual broadcast. This is all while the speech is given. The opening editorial lays down the template to the News Night viewers on where it’s headed.

The following scene is a conference room with Charlie, Reese, another associate and Leona (Jane Fonda) in a debriefing meeting on the News Night changes. This takes place on November 3rd, 2010. The show moves to this location, the Bigwig Conference, a number of times as we go over the months since NN2.0’s inception. I have to admit I really liked the movement of the scenes back and forth here. Don approaches Jim and gives him a little flak on why he wasn’t in the loop on Will’s speech, given that his own show that comes afterward is also trying to be the one to move up to that treasured 8pm slot. Don also has something of an issue with Maggie on this as well, but it only lasts for a moment.

Reese goes on to mention that since the News Night change, Will’s lost about a good 7% of his audience. Though they’re doing what they feel is the right thing, it is costing them from a viewer’s standpoint. I liked how Leona really doesn’t speak up until the middle of the episode, her character just kind of taking in all of the information that’s given.

There’s a very interesting conversation between Will and Charlie, talking about the changes in the Tea Party’s progression. Granted, this all requires first level research for stronger opinions & statements to be formed, but from the way The Newsroom presents it (and my interpretation of it), the Tea Party kind of swooped in and changed the Republican landscape (or was at least trying to at the time) for their own pursuits. That Will, being a Republican himself, decides to make this the top story felt like it added to the “all the facts” angle the NN2.0 was shooting for. For the record, were he a Democrat, I’m pretty sure that they could have done the same thing for that party, using a story on gun control or something like that.

Getting back to the story, it’s revealed in the Bigwig conference that Will is treating his interview subjects like members in a courtroom and that at one point in his life, he was a prosecutor. I liked this, but the information seemed sudden to me, as if Sorkin and crew were in their writing room and the question came of “Well, how is Will so good at this?”, and they came up with the lawyer angle. Then again, to counter that, we learned 4 episodes into Mad Men that Don Draper’s name wasn’t his and his past wasn’t his either. I suppose it makes sense here too.

Mac meets one of Will’s new dates and overreacts a little with the compliments, inquiring on who she is. Turns out that the lady works for the New York Jets as a choreographer. Mac and Will move to Will’s office, where she berates him on his dating choice for the evening. There’s a bit of cute back and forth banter before she nearly storms out and Charlie catches her, telling them both the keep up what they’re doing with the Tea Party pressure. Will asks how the 44th floor (The Bigwig Conference) is handling this, and Charlie lies to him about it. Undoubtedly, this will end up being a problem later on in the season. The relationship angles still appear a little blurry. We learn that Maggie’s issues are attributed to Panic Attacks, which opens a nice scene between she and Jim on the terrace of the building. I already touched on the Sorkin Girls in the last episode. I’ll let it go here, but it does kind of show why she’s been the way she’s been. The problem here is that with the forward momentum the scene made, it takes two steps back in having her with Don still by the end of the episode. I’m not saying they should be in each other arms by now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing thing forward just a little more.

The story moves ahead to June 18, 2010, where Will goes after a senator regarding statements made on AIDS and it’s spread. The Bigwigs are not pleased at all on this. After the broadcast, Mac finds another date waiting for Will, who Will points out is an actual brain surgeon. That was actually worth a chuckle, indeed.

At the Bigwig Conference, Reese points out that there was a party every year he and his mother were invited to at Telluride that they didn’t receive an invite for this time around. Reese points out that Will’s broadcasts has cost them Koch Industries, which happens to be close to the Lansing’s (Reese and Leona).

Near the end of the Bigwig Meeting, Leona finally speaks up, letting Charlie know that Will needs to back off as the parent company, AWM has special interests with of the parties that Will has been attacking. Leona threatens to fire Will, which of course would be a problem due to a special clause in his contact that prevents him from working for 3 years. That was kind of cool, reminding me of what happened with Conan O’Brien when he left NBC. So now, the stakes are raised. Do they continue doing what they’ve planned and face being fired or revert back to the old format?

While I still have the same complaints as before (Sharpen up the girls, etc.), the episode ramped up things with some of the actual broadcasts that were done. The Bigwig Conference scenes were some of the strongest parts there, I felt. We’ll see where this all goes.

Review: The Newsroom S1:E2 – “News Night 2.0”


After seeing the second episode of The Newsroom, which is my first Aaron Sorkin show experience, I’ve learned four things:

1.) In the Sorkin Universe, guys may be asses, but girls seem to make all the huge mistakes.

2.) Everyone is just one moment away from emotionally exploding.

3.) The “Walk and Talk” gets things done.

4.) There are very few moments of silence.

Okay, here we are with the second episode for The Newsroom. This one appears to be tighter compared to the pilot episode and an overall improvement from that, though it still has it’s problems. The episode overall is about the construction of News Night 2.0, the revised version of the broadcast that will concentrate on giving the news and not letting the ratings control the content. It’s a great plan, but issues do arise. Charlie (Sam Waterston) has to warn one of Will’s colleagues, Reese (Chris Messina) about giving Will the numbers on the ratings. As Will is a big fan of the ratings, Charlie fears that this will sway him from following the new broadcast process. Reese explains that he’s not the bad guy, but is only giving Will what he wants. Despite the warning, he still speaks with Will in a later scene.

That I liked, the notion that Will is still laboring under the belief that he should shoot for the news that people want to hear versus the news they should. This episode was partially supposed to show how going against that process didn’t work out for him and should ground him going forward. In some ways, I think it succeeded. The News Night Team is trying something different, but in order for that to work, everyone has to be on board. By the end of the episode, you come to find out who’s with Mac on this, and who’s against it. I’m loving where the show is going on that front.

We now have our antagonists in Reese, who wants Will to keep the old format going and we have Don. Don is staying with the NewsNigh Team to make sure the transition goes well, but at the same time, is rooting for Will to fail because it puts his new show in that prized time slot. I’m under the impression that later on, we’ll see both of these individuals trying to sabotage things.

Here’s what worked for me:

The Introduction of both Reese and Sloan. Both Chris Messina and Olivia Munn had some good scenes in the episode. They both appeared to be even keeled for the most part. Reese’s “walk and talk” with Will was nice, though in doing a bit of research, I’ve discovered it’s bit of a Sorkin staple.  Olivia Munn’s character, Sloan Sabbith is introduced when Mackenzie hires her to perform the Financial News segment to start before Will’s broadcast. I’m hoping her character gets some more time in. Of course, I’ve been a fan of Olivia’s for years, so there’s some bias there, admittedly. It’s cool seeing how far she’s come. Sabbith also happens to be one of the only girls who hasn’t had some kind of serious emotional crash, yet (and that’s still questionable).

More pop and zip. Overall the episode moved very well. I didn’t get the feeling of slowdown from the pilot, with it’s empty areas and all the time spent trying to figure out who was what. It was basically, “What’s our show?”, “Who do we need to get it going?”, “Oh damn, we messed up!”, “The Broadcast”, “The Aftermath”. I wouldn’t mind seeing that template keep going. By the time we reached Will’s actual broadcast, I was all smiles. It’s quick, to the point and there’s just never a quiet moment. Everyone has something to say to fill in the space, all the time. I wish I could write the dialog in my fiction like that.

And then there’s the one glaring problem:

Women are Always the Source of the Issue in a World Where Men Seemingly Do No Wrong. During last year’s Oscars, Lisa Marie and I got into a debate over her hatred of Sorkin and my love for The Social Network. We agreed to disagree that he can do dialog and that he kinda, sorta, maybe has a problem with writing women. I was pretty sure I won that argument when Sorkin accepted his Oscar – I was rooting for him to win. This episode, however had me face palming myself, like a PR agent watching their star client mess up with everyone watching.

Again, where Sorkin excels in dialog and moving that forward, the girls get the short end of the stick. Every mistake and problem that occurs in this episode is the direct result of something a girl should have done or didn’t do or blew out of proportion. The flow moves in this pattern:

1.) Girl makes big mistake. As her Superior Male supervisor is going to blow up because of it, she loses her mind in a theatrical fashion. (Both Maggie and Mac do this to great effect, it’s like they haven’t had tea or something.).

2.) Girl gets verbally chewed out by Superior Male. This also seems to happen publicly where people can see it.

3.) Girl apologizes, kowtows and hopes the Male she works for doesn’t look bad because of her actions.

It may sound a little exaggerated, but it’s there. Now you may say, “Len, that’s not right. The girls are on equal footing with the guys. And you’re a guy, it shouldn’t matter, should it?” Perhaps it shouldn’t, but as someone who prefers seeing women in media that don’t complain about broken fingernails, The Newsroom still needs improvement on this level. I can’t claim to understand women in the slightest, but I’ve seen and have known tons of them that just aren’t this…submissive, for want of a better word. Case in point – It’s stated that Mackenzie McHale was a journalist in war-torn areas for a long time. Yet, in the Newsroom, she comes across as being particularly clumsy and high-strung. I would have expected a calmer person, kind of a like a Kathryn Bigelow. Could you imagine Mac, the way she is in the Newsroom, being as effective in a warlike environment? That bothered me a bit, honestly. If Sorkin could fix that one part, he’d be downright perfect. It has me wondering what the first show he doesn’t write will be like. That this has become the only problem for me says a lot for how much better the show’s done in these two episodes.

So basically, I’m loving where the show is going, but it needs to up the girl factor. I’m hoping Sloan may be that factor. For the next episode, I’ll try not to be issue like a dead horse, but if they keep giving me the ammo, I’m be tempted to fire off a round or two.