Our monthly roundup of news and analysis that didn’t get a full post.
And the award for coldest winter ever goes to… Old Man Winter’s giving an Oscar-caliber performance this year for much of the United States, freezing millions in place and slowing life to a standstill. And just like us, we imagine plenty of those people are staying inside as much as possible and killing time by watching lots of movies.
With the awards season in full swing and the Academy Awards just around the corner, there’s plenty of movie and television news to go around just now, even there’s not enough time to capture all of it in blog form. Yet, despite and nevertheless, here’s some of it.
1. Speaking of the reliably unreliable Academy Awards, we were disappointed that the list of nominations announced this week failed to include Mark Wahlberg’s starring turn in The Fighter for Best Actor, especially considering all three of his principal cast mates – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo – secured nominations, as well as director David O. Russell and the film itself for Best Picture.
With all respect to his castmates, Wahlberg’s low-key, lived-in turn as hard-fighting boxer Mickey Ward isn’t the kind of performance that wins the Oscar. Like Kurt Russell or Dennis Quaid, his craftsmanlike acting style is the kind seldom appreciated mid-career but instead gets the lion’s share of its respect in retrospect. On the flip side, we hope The Fighter and The Other Guys (which has had us laughing our asses off for weeks) helps reverse the recent career doldrums of The Happening, Shooter, and Max Payne.
2. It won’t win any Oscars, but contrary to plenty of industry expectations it’s making plenty of money. Michael Gondry’s The Green Hornet, delayed for months while Sony reprogrammed its schedule and retrofitted 3D effects, has quietly made more than $100 million dollars in its first ten days of worldwide release, opening at number and falling the following week just behind the Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman sex drivel No Strings Attached.
Industry analysts expect the film to perform even better in Asian markets, where Jay Chou, who plays the Hornet’s partner Kato, is already a popular singer. It’s a reasonable bet: Asian fans of the 1960s television series co-starring Bruce Lee in the role reportedly called the program “The Kato Show.”
3. Possibly not a sound strategy to improve ratings, but you have to applaud the ballsiness: this week’s episode of TNT’s ratings-challenged Southland depicted the shocking, senseless beating death of (SPOILERS) gang task force detective Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) following an encounter with drunken gang members. We say shocking because Alejandro was probably the best looking member of the cast, and also one of the most charismatic. The scenes depicting the event and its aftermath were a series highlight.
The episode drew about 2.2 million viewers, about half the third season average of Alejandro’s other series True Blood. Meanwhile Southland remains one of the best shows on television, and it’s continuing failure to find an audience (despite dedicated support from adoptive parent TNT) remains a mysterious shame.
4. Another departure from Los Angeles based police procedural television was even more disappointing: longtime SBR favorite Skeet Ulrich is leaving the cast of Law & Order: Los Angeles as part of NBC and show creator Dick Wolf’s extensive reworking of the show’s cast and profile.
Ratings for the eight episodes aired last fall sagged following a strong premiere, but what’s wrong with the show – more specifically, how it might draw a larger audience – has nothing to do with Ulrich’s performance. As of this writing the show remains on indefinite hiatus.
5. Turning from departures to arrivals, we’re happy to see the return of the ridiculously sexy Judy Greer to live-action television with next month’s Mad Love, even if the show itself looks suspiciously like another rehash of Friends. Greer, Sarah Chalke, Tyler Labine and Jason Biggs star as a quartet of New Yorkers looking for love with the help of their pals; Chalke and Biggs’ characters are getting close while Greer and Labine’s singles despise one another. The preview below shows its additional resemblance to CBS’s How I Met Your Mother:
The show premieres February 14. (Aww…)
6. Similarly lovely, underrated star Sarah Shahi returned to television last week in USA’s new legal comedy/drama Fairly Legal. Shahi (Life) plays Kate Reed, an attorney turned legal mediator working at the law of her deceased father but now run by her stepmother (Virginia Willams). Also included in the regular cast are Battlestar Galactica‘s Michael Trucco as Reed’s prosecutor ex-husband and Baron Vaughn as her assistant.
The pilot episode was edgier than we expected, with more substance than some of USA Network’s fluffy promos (such as the one below) might suggest.
7. Casting announcements for the third and probable final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises brought a couple of surprises this month: Anne Hathaway is signed to play Selina Kyle, the jewel thief better known as the Catwoman, and Inception co-star Tom Hardy will play Bane, the steroid-powered muscleman that in the comics once broke Batman’s back.
We were slightly more intrigued by rumors appearing just previous to these announcements, rumors that included Eva Green (Casino Royale) playing the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and Naomi Watts appearing as reporter Vicki Vale (played long ago by Kim Basinger in Tim Burton’s Batman.) But as with Bale himself and then Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Hathaway and Hardy represent intriguing, unexpected choices for their roles that carry tremendous potential nonetheless.
8. The Dark Knight star Aaron Eckhart won’t return as Two-Face, but he’s busy elsewhere. March sees the release of Battle: Los Angeles, starring he and Bridget Moynahan in an action film that from the trailer below looks like a cross between Black Hawk Down and… well, pretty much every alien invasion film made. Yet if the film keeps the emphasis on realistic action dynamics – in other words, if it remembers the Black Hawk Down side of its hybrid – it could make for thrilling B-movie fun. We missed Eckhart the last couple of years and it’s good to see him back in this and last year’s Rabbit Hole (Love Happens kinda doesn’t count.) If only we could get him into Joss Whedon’s The Avengers as Dr. Hank “Giant-Man” Pym.
Battle: Los Angeles opens nationwide March 11.
We’ll be back next week. Thanks for reading.
- Michael Kabel