The end of another month means our monthly roundup of news and analysis miscellany.
Well, that was May 2010, and as far as films go it was distinctly underwhelming, with the television landscape not looking an awful lot better. The biggest releases of the month both disappointed, with neither Iron Man 2 or Robin Hood meeting the promise that their predecessors or creative talent suggested. With three new large-scale films - Prince of Persia, George Romero’s Survival of the Dead, and the already dated-looking Sex And The City 2 slamming into multiplexes this week there’s no doubt the summer season is upon us. (We remember when the Memorial Day weekend was the starter. Like the holiday season, summer comes a little earlier every year now.)
At the end of every month we roundup some news, information, and analysis that we never got around to giving our complete blogging attention. They’re listed below, in no particular order of importance.
1. What exactly was so disappointing about Iron Man 2, or for that matter Robin Hood? Both films look superb “on paper,” and the spectacles inherent in their concepts alone promised at least diversionary thrills. In retrospect, now that the buzz around both films has dissipated, we think Iron Man 2 suffered from a surplus of corporate enthusiasm. With too many new characters – the film desperately wants audiences to demand Black Widow and War Machine spinoffs – too many storylines and too little time for character development, the whole effort feels in retrospect like clanging, top-heavy overkill.
Robin Hood, meanwhile, seemed entirely the answer to a question nobody asked. Glum, excessively violent, and sometimes almost misanthropic, it was a new look at a character that most audiences possibly weren’t thinking needed a gritty treatment. On the other hand, it may age better than Iron Man 2, growing a respecting fan base with DVD and cable showings.
2. The ratings deathmatch between FlashForward and V, ABC’s two sci-fi franchise hopes once touted as the heirs apparent to Lost, came to an end with V getting the second season greenlight and FlashForward airing its season finale May 27. Ratings analysts had speculated that the network would renew one – and only one – series, and a modest late season bump in V‘s ratings let it edge ahead. We’re not going to armchair showrun either series, but FlashForward had potential it deferred too long; V needs to turn the heat up on most of its plotlines and jettison at least two characters if it has a chance of growing a larger audience. Now comes news that ABC may revive Alias, which seems like a knee-jerk reaction to losing Lost.
3. On the far other end of the television series lifespan graph, Law & Order is also cancelled after a mere twenty – count ‘em, twenty – seasons. By way of perspective, the people born the year it debuted are in college now. (Unfortunately, it falls just a single season short of the longest-running drama series record still held by Gunsmoke.) Its cancellation might be something else to blame on the Jay Leno debacle: had NBC not shuffled everything to accommodate Leno’s 10 PM time slot, Law & Order might have held on to a larger audience as more people could actually find it on the schedule. All is not lost, however. Franchise mastermind Dick Wolf plans to explore other avenues for the show to continue, including a two-hour TV movie as a last resort. Meanwhile NBC plans to trot out Law & Order: Los Angeles this fall.
4. Quentin Tarantino’s most accomplished but least appreciated film is on track for the prequel treatment. Writer-director Daniel Schechter (Goodbye Baby) has adapted Elmore Leonard’s novel The Switch, which featured several of the characters that later appeared in Rum Punch, the novel Tarantino reworked into Jackie Brown. Specifically, The Switch relates an early crime adventure of Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, the roles played in Jackie Brown by, respectively, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert DeNiro. Tarantino reportedly won’t be involved in the project, which is tentatively scheduled for a 2011 release. The search for a director and cast is currently underway.
5. We’ve eagerly, obsessively collected and even suggested ways to build your own, and this July 13 Warner Bros resumes their Film Noir Classics box set collection with a new four-disc set. Volume 5 includes eight films, a slight downgrade from Volume 4, which boasted ten, but also showcases lesser-known works from noir auteurs including Anthony Mann and Robert Fleischer. The charmingly noirish titles include Cornered, Desperate, Backfire, and Crime In The Streets.
Continuing the noiry excitement, two weeks later Paramount Pictures releases its own trio of offerings, including the William Holden-Barry Fitzgerald noirish thriller Union Station, the Charlton Heston-starring Dark City, and the Alan Ladd vehicle Appointment With Danger.
6. At the risk of jumping to conclusions, Criterion may release their edition of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line if a bare-bones preorder page at Amazon.com proves to be correct. Based on the novel by James Jones, author of From Here To Eternity (and featuring many of the same characters, albeit renamed), the film structured the events of World War II’s Guadalcanal campaign into a series of vignettes about the men fighting it, taking in every human emotion and failing along the grueling way.
Upon its 1998 release the film was unfairly ignored by a public that preferred the more simplistic jingoism of Saving Private Ryan (released earlier that year) or felt leery of its sorrowful, meditative tone. Nevertheless, Malick’s eye for arresting imagery didn’t dull one bit after an almost twenty year hiatus; the trailer alone is more picturesque than most films.
7. Finally, we want to invite you to post your feedback. In a weird inverse ratio, the number of comments posted to our site has dropped off even while our traffic has steadily grown. Discussion being the root of understanding, we’d like to hear your own ideas, especially about some of the more obscure material we blog about. If you’re just posting a comment to build links, however, don’t waste your time. We delete those immediately, without approval.
Next week we’ll be back with a review of Prince of Persia. Have a good Memorial Day weekend and remember to stay safe on the roads.
- Michael Kabel