What We’re Watching: Wednesday & Thursday

As it turns out, our Wednesdays and Thursdays are mixed between longtime favorites and brand new shows that are tickling our fancies these days. This batch includes mostly half hour comedies as well as my personal favorite comic book TV show Arrow. My wife also enjoyed this season of Cover Affairs, but I usually read or watching the other TV when it’s on because it just never quite grabbed me. If you’re interested, I covered Mondays and Tuesdays in a post last week.

WEDNESDAY

Arrow (8:00 PM, The CW)

arrow season 2 banner

Arrow is one of my favorite shows on TV and probably one of the ones I look forward to the most in any given week. I was cautiously optimistic when it kicked off last season, but got sucked in with the story of spoiled rich kid Oliver Queen trying to make things right in his city while also flashing back to his time on a crazy island. Sure there’s a ton of melodrama involved in the proceedings (it is a CW show after all), but I love the solid mix of action, fun stories and deep cuts when it comes to comic book references. I couldn’t help but compare Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Arrow and in nearly every way, Arrow came off better.

Modern Family (9:00 PM, ABC)Modern Family - Season 5

I’m not really sure what to say about Modern Family that hasn’t been said a million times. It’s so intricately written and perfectly acted that it’s impossible not to fall in love. We’ve been watching the reruns on Fox at 7:30 every day after Jeopardy and even though there aren’t a ton of episodes, it’s a welcome addition to the syndication rotation.

Super Fun Night (9:30 PM, ABC)super fun night

I wanted to like Super Fun Night, but the first episode just killed all the excitement I had going in. The basic concept of the show is cool: three 30 somethings put a bunch of ideas for ladies night in a hat, pull one out and that’s what they do that evening. The problem? Star Rebel Wilson puts on a terrible American accent throughout the entire thing. There are pretty much three things everyone knows about Wilson after watching Pitch Perfect: she’s not America, she’s super funny and she can sing incredibly well. The first episode of this series tried to get you to forget two of these things as her character is nervous about karaoke. I was pretty much done at that point and tend to flip around or read during this time slot. I really think I would be back in if they just had her speak in her regular voice.

THURSDAY

The Big Bang Theory (8:00 PM, CBS)big bang theory season 7

We’re still big Big Bang Theory fans. I love how they’ve expanded the group to fully include Bernadette and Amy. It does kind of seem like the writers aren’t quite sure what to do with Penny lately. She and Sheldon work so well together, but they seem to be writing her a bit dumber than before. It’s a minor problem and I think they’re probably ramping up for something big at the end of the season, but we’ll see.

The Millers (8:30 PM, CBS)the millers

The Millers was a big surprise for me. We’ve liked previous Greg Garcia shows like My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope, but got burned out on the latter. I also didn’t much like Will Arnett’s two previous shows, Running Wilde and Up All Night. But I think this is enough of a departure for Garcia — it’s not about dumdums in a mysterious western town — and it allows Arnett to play awkward and put-upon in a way we haven’t quite seen before. I think it’s funny that last season saw all kinds of “adult kids moving back in with their parents” shows and this seasons has the reverse. Even though it’s not super original, I’m still enjoying two shows like that this season between Millers and Dads. As a nice bonus, the show features Jayma Mays who deserves a show better than Glee and Nelson Franklin who I’ve enjoyed on Traffic Light and his brief stint on New Girl. I hope the show succeeds just so I can keep seeing them all!

The Crazy Ones (9:00 PM, CBS)?????????????????????????

I’ll be honest, I wish Parks & Rec was on at 9:00 PM on Thursdays. I love that show and really miss it, but since we’re full-on into BBT, that’s the show we watch. Plus, it sounds like the schedule’s going to be all over the place. Anyway, since NBC doesn’t have much to offer, we’re watching The Crazy Ones, an ad agency comedy starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as well as the guy who played Bob Benson on Mad Men and the former secretary from The Mindy Project. The dynamics on this show are a ton of fun and really carry it through. This is one of two shows that I could probably just watch the outtakes of and have a great time. New Girl is the other for what it’s worth. Still, as enjoyable as the show has been, I’d drop it in a heartbeat if it meant I could watch Parks & Rec.

The Michael J. Fox Show (9:30 PM, NBC)MichaelJFoxShow1

I think The Michael J. Fox Show is the only show we watch on NBC these days which is crazy because it used to one of the main stops for us, especially on Thursdays. As a dyed in the wool child of the 80s, I have an almost inborn love for all things Fox going back to the days of Family Ties on through Spin City. The fact that the show puts his Parkinsons right on front street and just deals with it as part of the ongoing story is an ingenious move that brings everyone in on what’s going on and deals with it honestly.

Trade Post: Exiles Ultimate Collection Book 1 (Marvel)

exiles ultimate collection vol 1 Exiles Ultimate Collection Book 1 (Marvel)
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Mike McKone & Jim Calafiore
Collects Exiles #1-19

Sometimes a book comes along and just fits so perfectly in your wheelhouse that you wonder why you haven’t already mainlined the whole thing already. Exiles is that book for me. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the X-Men, but didn’t feel up to the challenge of diving into that incredibly dense continuity. I also love alternate world stories, so when Judd Winick — a writer I love — came along and combined the two in Exiles, I was on board. Well, not really because I didn’t read the book as it started coming out because I was graduating high school and heading into college at that point, but I was intrigued and kept it on my trade-watch radar. At this year’s New York Comic Con I scored the first, second, third and fifth volumes of the Exiles Ultimate Collection books for $5 each which was huge for me. I’m pretty excited about getting my hands on the two I’m missing, though maybe not the very last one which is all Chris Claremont. Still, I’ll have fun with the volumes I have (I hope) and see if I want to keep reading the rest.

The idea here is that a group of X-Men have been plucked from their alternate dimensions to work for an entity called the Time Broker who sends them on missions in other dimensions to help get the time stream back on track. If they fail, their own realities will suffer great changes that threaten their own lives. The great thing about this book is that it’s so completely in and of itself while also playing off of many of the themes and ideas presented in the main X-books as well as the Marvel Universe as a whole. Since Winick is working with a team of characters who “don’t matter” in the grand scheme of things at Marvel, he can do a lot more with them than you might expect. These first 19 issues are packed with character deaths, pregnancies, jokes, budding relationships, ridiculously difficult decisions, honest conversations and heaping helpings of ass kickery and explosions.

While building his own team, Winick also does a great job of building an interesting world within a world that explores all kinds of other worlds. There’s clearly a system at play with the Time Broker, but as the series progresses, we learn that the Exiles aren’t the only team of displaced heroes popping around dimensions. It’s one of the intriguing overarching elements that makes me want to keep reading all six volumes of the Ultimate Collection except for maybe that Claremont stuff.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that Winick didn’t work in the typical six issue arc format. If a story needed one issue, he gave it one issue. If it needed three, it got three. This not only keeps the book moving at a good clip — something that’s much appreciated when reading nearly 20 issues of a comic in one collection — but also gives artists Mike McKone and Jim Calafiore the opportunity to do their own things with their own stories before trading off with one another. While McKone’s style is a lot smoother than Calafiore’s more angular one, they both excel at balancing the action scenes with the comedy gags Winick throws in via Morph, so they still feel like they’re working on the same coherent series.

This kind of book does something that not many Corporate Comics can: play with all the pieces of an existing universe and really have fun with it. By going the alternate universe route Winick was able to build his own team, while also creating a myriad of worlds worth their own miniseries’ in many cases. Since those worlds and these characters weren’t connected the main Marvel U, the stakes were much higher. Is Morph going to die in this issue? Are they going to actually save the world from Galactus? These are questions that not only get raised, but worried about because Winick didn’t have to play it safe. You feel pretty safe assuming those bad things won’t happen in a regular universe book, but pretty much anything can happen here.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Marvel Big Time Action Heroes

I discovered this little gem while looking for a completely different commercial and just had to post it. I vaguely remember seeing these Rock Em Sock Em Robot type Big Time Action Heroes in the 90s on toy shelves, but never really got into them. I love how 90s this commercial comes off with the pointlessly black and white town and the EVERYTHING IS AWESOME voiceover. But the best part? Wolverine would be straight up murdering Spider-Man in this fight. His claws are out! One punch to Spidey’s face and his shish kabob. That’s not even fair. Not cool Toy Biz, not cool.

Audiobook Review: Jaws by Peter Benchley, Read by Erik Steele (1974)

jawes audiobookAlfred Hitchcock once said that you shouldn’t make a movie out of a good book. That’s what he supposedly did with The Birds and that worked out pretty well, right? Well, apparently Steven Spielberg did the same thing with Peter Benchley’s Jaws. The book, much like the movie, finds a resort town terrorized by a great white shark. Sheriff Brody, shark scientist Matt Hooper and grizzled fisherman Quint are the only three people willing to go out and put a stop to all this.

I spent most of the day listening to this book while doing work and watching our daughter and have to say, I was pretty bored. Things start off interesting, with Brody trying to figure out how to handle this unusual problem. While, in general, I think the movie is all around better than the book, I will say that the complexities of keeping the beaches open are more deeply explored in the book and make more sense than “the mayor’s a jerk.”

Speaking of the mayor, he’s a far more detailed character in the book, but I’m not sure if that’s such a great thing. The overall problem with the book is that it spends far too much time away from the shark. As you may or may not know, there’s an entire subplot the finds Brody’s wife having an affair with Hooper, whose older brother she dated in high school. There’s a whole dinner party scene and then one where they go to dinner. All of this took about an hour in audiobook form. AN HOUR! Even worse? It didn’t really have much to do with the story other than to make us feel a little better when SPOILER Hooper dies in his shark cage (something Spielberg was supposedly going to keep in the film version, but changed for a bit of a happier ending). At the end of the day, when you’re writing a book about sharks, write about sharks.

I know I shouldn’t be comparing the book to the film as much as I am, but it’s nearly impossible because I’m so familiar with the movie and it’s one of the best films ever made. Still, there are some interesting meta elements that I noticed while listening to the book. First and foremost, the movie kicked off huge interest in sharks that we’re still experiencing today. In a roundabout way, that makes the shark action in the book much easier to picture. In fact, with the ending, I was basically watching a slightly edited version of the film in my head while it was going on.

I don’t think Jaws is necessarily a bad book — it sold like gangbusters when it came out in 1974 — but I do think it’s a less focused version of this story than Spielberg’s. In fact, had the affair subplot been excised or shortened, I would have liked it a lot more. I even enjoyed some of the characters who aren’t in the movie like Hendricks and Meadows, though completely understand why the nicer version of Hooper in the film was able to carry a lot of their weight. At the end of the day, if you’re interested in both the book and the movie, I’d read the book first and then watch the movie, which is the exact opposite thing I would suggest if you’re interested in The Shining.

Finally, I absolutely loved Brody’s line, “I’ll never be as old as I feel today.” I feel like that at least three times a week.

Indie Double Feature: The Lifeguard (2013) & Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

the-lifeguard-poster I’d like to tell you that I wasn’t drawn to The Lifeguard because of the obvious reason: the shot of star Kristen Bell sporting a Baywatch-esque red bathing suit on the cover/poster. But, to be honest it was. Not so much because of the image’s intended sex appeal, but because it featured an actress I’m fairly familiar with doing what seemed like an indie movie. That tends to imply a more serious or personal story because why else would a somewhat big deal actress get involved?

As it turns out the movie, written and directed by Liz W. Garcia, stars Bell as Leigh, a 29 year old working as a reporter in New York City who gets fed up with her gig and heads back home to a small, yet beautiful town in Connecticut. While there she moves back in with her parents, reunites with her high school pals Todd (Martin Starr) and Mel (Mamie Gummer), takes a job as a condo lifeguard and meets some high school skaters who want nothing more to do with school.

At this point it seemed like somewhat standard 30-something drama. It’s the kind of thing any of us who follow our passions think about: is it better back home? In Leigh’s case, she figured the answer was yes and went back, but things get way more complicated than you might have thought after she starts hooking up with one of the high school guys, Little Jason (David Lambert). It’s a crazy, passionate, dangerous, morally complicated relationship that seems to be the exact right thing for both of them at that moment.

But, nothing that glitters is gold, of course and things don’t stay so sunny. Things happens between friends, people lie about what’s going on and desperation takes over for more than one character. It’s the kind of film that has a few moments that seem like they have to happen and others that genuinely surprised me, but you knew from the beginning that these two people couldn’t stay together. 

I really enjoyed this movie, as much as something so sad can be enjoyed, but like I said, I think that Leigh and Little Jason gave each other what they needed when they needed it even if it wasn’t the most legal thing in the world. Both Bell and Lambert give incredibly strong, powerful performances and they have a kind of animal magnetism that makes them an obvious couple. In fact, I thought everyone in this movie really brought their A games and delivered killer performances.

The more I watch movies and think about stories, the more I realize that I enjoy ones that focus on relationships that society might deem inappropriate. I don’t necessarily mean sexual relationships, but combinations that might seem odd to outsiders. Even if Leigh and Little Jason weren’t hooking up, their groups hanging out with one another, drinking and smoking weed in the forrest would be considered wrong or weird by many people. I like seeing those kinds of relationships on film. There’s actually a bit more of that in the next movie as well!

safety not guaranteed

I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s about a guy named Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who places an add in the paper asking for someone to go back in time with him. Jeff (Jake Johnson), a reporter for a nearby magazine pitches the idea for a story and his editor sends him off with a pair of interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni). Darius winds up talking to Kenneth and getting drawn into his wildly intense plan to go back in time to see an old girlfriend.

Things get intense for all the characters as the film progresses. Turns out Jeff just wanted to do this story because it’s close to an old flame of his he wants to rekindle things with. Meanwhile, Darius gets really involved with Kenneth to the point where she helps him steal for the mission. Finally, Arnau, the shy bookworm type, has some new life experiences with Jeff after Jeff’s plan doesn’t quite go the way he wanted.

The big question that courses through the entire film is whether Kenneth is a mad genius or just crazy. Darius runs the gamut, going from skeptic to believer and then confused after talking to some agents who really are following him. Even so, up to the very end, it still feels like there might be the possibility of time travel and that makes for a really intense, complicated story.

The Derek Connolly script laid some awesome groundwork while Trevorrow’s directing added greatness to the proceedings, but the performances by everyone involved — including a small part by Kristen Bell as it turns out — were just fantastic. Plaza and Duplass both play against the roles you know from Parks & Rec and The League respectively, both coming off as very complicated, emotional and ultimately likable characters trying to change their lives albeit in a way that doesn’t seem to make much sense as far as science goes. I love Johnson on New Girl and while Jeff shares a few traits with Nick, this part is also a departure for him. Even though all three leads get to explore more emotional depths than their TV characters, they also feel familiar in a way that pleased me as a fan of those originals hows.

There were a few interesting similarities between these two films. Tone-wise, they’re both pretty serious with funny moments throughout. They’re about people trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives. Like I talked about with The Lifeguard, this movie also features two characters you wouldn’t normally find hanging out together. Finally, they  both take place in pretty gorgeous locales which makes for some awesome scenery to pan across. All of those elements reminded me of another recent indie favorite, True Adolescents which I’d love to watch again, but isn’t on Netflix Instant anymore.

Casting Internets

Every morning I go through my RSS feeds for my day job. My main goal is to figure out what will make for good stories over on Spinoff, but I also keep an eye on toy news and look for fun stories to read later. I have a ridiculous backlog right now that I’m slowly going through, so you’ll see a few older interviews and news bites here, but I’m still jazzed about them.raid-2_42098472

The Raid 2 is getting a US release! We don’t know when yet, but that’s awesome! (via Variety)

how i met your mother season 9

TVLine put together a list of 15 questions they’d like to see How I Met Your Mother answer before ending this year. I agree with about 10 of them, but still a fun rundown.

I’m a big fan of the Ramones anthology that Rhino put out several years back, but I’ve got to say, this box set that Rolling Stone talks about bringing their first six records into one package for under $40 is awfully appealing.

I’m a big fan of the National Treasure movies, so when I read this brief interview on Collider with director Jon Turteltaub about one filming in the next few years, I got pretty stoked.led zeppelin

New Led Zeppelin tracks? That’s not enough for me to re-buy all the records, but I’m definitely intrigued by this Rolling Stone story about songs with John Paul Jones vocals.duplassbros-group

I’ve become a big fan of the Duplass Bros. in the past few years, so I enjoyed this interview with them about what they’re up to these days over on Variety.

It would have been pretty cool to be at that small, career-spanning Blink-182 concert they talked about in this Rolling Stone interview.bootlegsupes1

I’ve always enjoyed reading about wacky bootleg action figures like the one I found above. The Fwoosh contributor TheManInTheAntHill did a pretty great one recently that’s worth a look.

Dave Grohl opened up to Rolling Stone about the waning days of Nirvana. I’m alway up for a Nirvana interview, you guys.Halloween blu-ray

Halloween is one of those movies where you’re never quite sure which version to buy, so I’m glad that HMAD got around to not only reviewing the latest offering, but saying that it’s the one to buy. Much appreciated!mister-rogers

Little Ms. Sunshine was a really emotionally honest film, so I think it’s directors are great choices to make a Mister Rogers biopic. (via TheWrap)

I discovered this old Mental Floss article about the 10 coolest Disney park attractions that never got made while doing some research for a story. Fun stuff!foreverly

Whoa, Rolling Stone is reporting that Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day have joined forces to cover an Everly Brothers record. It’s called Foreverly and I’m incredibly intrigued.beach party

The CW sounds like the perfect place to set a drama revolving around California’s emerging surf scene in the 60s. Scheduling conflicts aside, I’m…on board. (via Deadline)

What We’re Watching: Mondays & Tuesdays

It’s been a crazy-long time since I’ve talked about TV here on UM, but that doesn’t mean we’re not watching. It’s an interesting season because there are a good deal of shows I’m really into, but also a lot of slots in the schedule that are left open. For what it’s worth, we’re still in the dark ages when it comes to cable and don’t have DVR, so all of our viewings are done the old fashion way, “live.”  Continue reading What We’re Watching: Mondays & Tuesdays