Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's Official: Season 3 of "Chuck"!

In news that can only be properly classified as "awesome," the most entertaining series on TV today, "Chuck," has been picked up by NBC for a third season. Keep making decisions like this guys and I may eventually forgive you for cancelling "Freaks and Geeks." Okay, well I won't do that, but still. Good on you, NBC. Thanks to the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan for the news:

Awesome news: 'Chuck' to return for a third season

It's official: "Chuck" is coming back for a 13-episode third season.

This. Is. Awesome.

Here are various stories/blog posts on the renewal news:

* The Hollywood Reporter
* Variety
* The Televisionary
* TV Guide
* The Los Angeles Times
* Entertainment Weekly
* TV Week

Keep checking with those sources and here Monday and Tuesday for updates on "Chuck's" renewal. If further details emerge, I'll post them on this site. (For previous "Chuck" reviews and interviews, go here.)

Now, first of all, I just want to reiterate that I"m happy about the fact that "Chuck" is coming back. Look at this video clip -- it captures how happy I feel.

But as you've seen as you read all the stories above, there's a catch to the "Chuck" renewal. To ensure another season, "Chuck" will have to cut its budget (as is apparently the case with "Dollhouse," which is also coming back). The show will have to let go a couple of writers, and some actors who were series regulars in Season 2 may only be recurring guest stars in Season 3.

I absolutely don't want to lose the Buy More mayhem from the show (and I've not seen any reports that that will necessarily be the case). And the writing on the show was so good in Season 2 that the thought of losing any ace "Chuck" scribes is a tough development to ponder.

But critic Alan Sepinwall is optimistic about "Chuck's" potential Season 3 awesomeness: "I have faith that Fedak, Schwartz and company can make the show work on a tighter budget, and maybe, if the ratings are decent enough (and compared to some of what NBC has aired since the 'Chuck' finale, 'Chuck' looks like a world-beater for them), that 13-episode order becomes 22."

Amen! Preach on, brother!

All in all, I'll take a world in which "Dollhouse" and "Chuck" both get renewed. Time's James Poniewozik makes the argument that "smaller audiences and more creative—unfortunately for the talent, cheaper—budget arrangements can mean that shows survive that a few years ago would have been to tiny for broadcast. If 'Firefly' had debuted in 2009 instead of 2002, we'd be celebrating its second-season pickup today."

As I noted in this post on the renewal of "Dollhouse," we may be entering an age in which audiences, which now have far more ways to watch programs, also have far more say over which shows stay and go. In this case, the fan campaign to save "Chuck" is widely credited with helping the show get a third season. It's far better for a network to have a collection of passionate fan bases than to assume that throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall and hoping some of it will stick is a reasonable and rational business model.

In other words: "Chuck" fans are awesome. Well done, folks.

But this is no time for complacency. Give Me My Remote, one of the originators of the fan campaign, had this to say: "I think the worst thing we could do right now would be to let up on our 'Chuck' chatter. Let’s continue to do what we can to try to get new fans for next season. Lend out your DVDs and keep talking up the show."

Oh, and one more thing. When it comes to how I feel about NBC's decision, let me quote John Casey:

"You've done good work here."

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek

The term "reboot" has been a popular one with many film franchises in recent years. "Batman Begins" and "Casino Royale" were both outstanding rejuvenations of what had been struggling franchises. Now "Star Trek" is giving it a try with its latest entry, a film simply called, "Star Trek," or as I like to call it, "Star Trek: The First Film of This Series Without a Colon In the Title...You Know, Except For The One Indicating That There's No Colon."
J.J. Abrams's film takes us back to the beginning. In fact, James Tiberius Kirk isn't even born until the end of a spectacular opening sequence in which his father gives his life to save nearly a thousand from the vengeful Romulan, Nero (Eric Bana). Nero's on the trail of Spock even though he is also unborn. That's right kids. Time travel is a plot device in "Star Trek." (I'm sure when they decide to reboot "Three's Company" the story will revolve around some sort of misunderstanding.) What's noteworthy is the clever use of time travel in this film. It allows for some subtle (and some not so subtle) changes in characters, motivations, and "Star Trek" canon, which I won't spoil for you here.
The childhoods of Kirk and Spock are briefly touched on before we catch up with the reckless teenage Kirk (Chris Pine), as he hits on Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and picks a fight with four large members of Starfleet Academy. He's headstrong and brash, but Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) sees something in the young man and invites him to come to the Academy. "In four years you could be an officer. In eight you could have your own ship," Pike tells him. And so begins the journey of James T. Kirk.
Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("Transformers"), "Trek" introduces us to the characters we all know and love while constantly keeping things moving. Abrams never slows down as we meet Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), and quite far into the film, Scotty (Simon Pegg). Only Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), and to a lesser extent, Uhura, are allowed much time for character development. However when you consider how fully Kirk and Spock are developed, particularly the dynamics of their legendary friendship, it's an acceptable sacrifice. Quinto does a fine job as Spock, but Pine is really fantastic. He never makes the mistake of trying to ape William Shatner. He fearlessly and unapologetically makes the character his own. The scene in which we see Kirk take the Kobayashi-Maru Test (much discussed in "The Wrath of Khan," the best "Trek" movie) is an instant classic. Most of the supporting cast give terrific performances as well, most notably Saldana, Cho, and Pegg. I had some trouble with Urban's Bones as it felt like he was doing an impression of DeForest Kelley, but in the 48 hours or so since I saw the movie, I've come to like his work here. As for Yelchin, he seems to be doing a caricature of Walter Koenig's Chekhov, making him the cast's weakest link.
So all in all, some minor flaws aside, "Star Trek" is an absolute blast and the most fun a "Trek" film has been since James Doohan beamed up some whales. I can't speak for the fanboys, but as a casual "Star Trek" fan I was highly entertained. I get the feeling I'll enjoy this even more the second time around. Bob out. 8/10.

Monday, May 04, 2009

"The Soloist," "Crank: High Voltage," and some TV goodness

I've been to a couple of movies the last few weeks, "Wolverine" not being one of them. I just can't get excited for it, I'm sorry. I am however VERY excited for "Star Trek." Already have my ticket for Thursday night at 7. If it were the standard midnight screening there's no way I'd be able to go so it's nice to have a pre-opening day showing I can go to for a change.
I don't really have a heck of a lot to say about either "The Soloist" or "Crank: High Voltage" except I enjoyed both of them, but I'll give you just a little more than that.

The Soloist - Robert Downey, Jr. is outstanding (as always) as Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez, the real life journalist who discovered troubled musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) and saved him from the dangerous streets. Director Joe Wright injects a bit more heart into this one than his previous effort, "Atonement." It's a moving story and a must for any fan of Downey. 7.5/10.

Crank: High Voltage - Remember how insane "Crank" seemed when you first saw it? Well, the return of the seemingly unkillable Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is even more out of control. It's as if someone had a fever dream, then woke up and said to himself, "Hey! That'd be a sweet movie!" Nevertheless, I was entertained. While not as consistently enjoyable or clever as its predecessor, it's still quite a bit of fun. 7/10.

In TV news, if you have Starz and you're not watching "Party Down," slap yourself in the face. I'll give you a moment. ...Good. Now that you've done that select the first episode from your On Demand menu and get watchin'. All seven episodes are there. It's the story of struggling actors (and a writer) in Los Angeles, scraping by as caterers. Each episode takes place at a different party. The best one so far features J.K. Simmons as an angry father at his daughter's Sweet 16 party. The main cast includes Adam Scott (easily the funniest part of "Step Brothers"), Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan (Janis Ian from "Mean Girls"), and Martin Starr ("Freaks and Geeks" and "Adventureland"). It's a very very funny show from the minds that gave us the late, great "Veronica Mars."
Then there's "Chuck." Any executive at NBC considering dumping it in favor of another hour of Howie Mandel, Jay Leno, or Donald Trump must now slap themselves in the face. You have the most entertaining show in some time on your hands. Don't let this one get away. Jeffster alone should be reason enough to give "Chuck" a third season.