Monday, October 13, 2014

Forever



So there's this new show on FOX ABC set in New York called New Amsterdam  Forever. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Ioan Gruffudd, it's about an immortal cop medical examiner who wants more than anything to be normal. Each week, he solves crimes with the help of an impossibly beautiful but damaged, brunette cop. We often see flashbacks of his colorful past as they relate to the episode. Oh, our protagonist also has an unusually close bond with an elderly man. I've never seen anything quite like it...


Coincidences aside, Forever is more like Elementary (with a dash of fantasy) than New Amsterdam -- there was even a Sherlock Holmes reference in the second episode. When it comes to death, Dr. Henry Morgan is the smartest guy in the room. Two hundred years worth of wisdom often allows him to determine the  cause of puzzling deaths with just a cursory look at the body. Henry also happens to suffer from a rather peculiar condition, one that prevents him from staying dead. Any mortal injury causes him to instantly disappear and then reappear, good as new, in a body of water -- naked as a jaybird.

I like supernatural protagonists but they never seem to catch on in a big way with viewers. NBC's Dracula came and went last season without much fanfare, and we all know what happened to New Amsterdam. The procedural aspect here is okay, but Elementary and Sherlock already have the know-it-all-British-guy ground covered. The setting doesn't help matters either. You'd think an eternal being would take a more low profile job and reside in a nondescript small town. Honestly, I'm not sure if the fantasy element is that compelling. What's Henry's goal? Break the curse of immortality, grow old, and die. Yeah, because that whole living forever thing really gets old after a while...   

New Amsterdam's protagonist would become mortal when he found his true love, Highlander was about winning the prize, and Forever Knight was about a vampire struggling to regain his humanity. Even though it shares similar elements, Forever seems a little aimless compared to those shows. Obviously, things could become clearer as the season progresses, but I have my doubts. Ratings have been a little shaky, but ABC might stick with it a while longer and so will I...








Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Shorts: Spawn: The Recall

 

Impressive special effects for a fan film. According to writer/director Michael Paris, they were all done on one computer -- post production took two years though. Maybe Todd McFarlane's plans for a low-budget Spawn film aren't so crazy after all. Tension and atmosphere can go a really long way. You can read an informative interview with Mr. Paris here.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Shorts: DUST


Came across this fantastic short starring Alan Rickman and Jodie Whittaker (written and directed by Ben Ockrent & Jake Russell). Dust manages the difficult task of keeping the viewer in suspense throughout the story -- seven and a half minutes, but still. It's also an excellent example of how less is more when it comes to dialogue...



Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to Write a TV Pilot

Gray Jones (@GrayJones) hosted a panel on TV writing at Comic-Con and graciously posted it on youtube.


Lots of good information here--actually picked up some new things. Writing an original pilot used to be considered a fool's errand, but times have changed. I've been kicking around a few ideas that don't work as features, so why the heck not?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Guillermo Del Toro on Alfred Hitchcock




Stumbled across this great interview with Guillermo del Toro discussing Alfred Hitchcock. I didn't know he wrote a book about him -- probably because it's in Spanish.







Monday, July 28, 2014

Extant



We're about three episodes in and I still can't shake the feeling that Extant would work better as a feature film rather than a TV series. 

An astronaut returns to Earth from a lengthy solo mission and discovers she's pregnant.

Fantastic premise, but how is this supposed to work past 6-7 episodes? What happens in season three? Molly turns out to be a clone and the real Molly has been held captive on an alien spaceship the whole time? The writers have done an admirable job creating various subplots (android son Ethan, government conspiracy, shady billionaire, etc.) and some cool sci-fi worldbuilding, but nothing seems as compelling as Molly's bun in the oven.

Hey, I could be wrong -- wouldn't be the first time.

Extant is an intriguing mash-up of ideas: Rosemary's Baby, A.I, The Astronaut's Wife, Contact, and Gravity -- in case you didn't notice, all movies. I question its longevity but I'm still watching.  The script was apparently decent enough to get the attention of Z-Listers like Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry so there's that. If the ratings continue to hold up, we might get to see how it all plays out.

Check out this inspirational interview with show creator Mickey Fisher:












Monday, July 14, 2014

The Strain - Night Zero

A few quick thoughts...

This was loads of fun. I was glad to have finished the first book before the premiere so I could do a little compare and contrast. However, this is a NO SPOILER ZONE. I won’t be discussing plot points beyond the episode one.

The biggest departure from the book has to be the pacing. For instance, the book doesn’t tell us what happened on the plane before it landed. But the show introduces a few characters and immediately presents a tangible threat. While I might not agree with the change, I certainly understand....

Viewers have the attention span of gnats. If someone isn’t being disemboweled within the first five minutes there’s a strong possibility the channel will be changed. I thought the advertising was a reflection of this thinking as well. Now call me crazy, but this:


 Is a heck of a lot more compelling than this: 



But the conventional wisdom says that viewers prefer to know as much as possible rather than being teased. A parasitic vampire worm gets to the heart of the matter -- literally. I suspect it won't be long before The Master takes off the hood...


I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this 2007 TED talk with J.J. Abrams before but it’s worth repeating in here:



There are no right or wrong answers here, just storytelling choices. I prefer a suspenseful slow burn over the gotcha moments. The ‘dead’ plane on the tarmac and 8 foot coffin are excellent mystery boxes. Imagination is your best and cheapest special effect. The more you can prolong the mystery, the more invested they’ll become -- in theory anyway. There’s always the danger of the build up not living up to the payoff. I’m sure executive producer Carlton Cuse knows this all too well....




I haven't seen the ratings yet but the horror crowd should have been satisfied. Suspenseful moments, jump scares, and lots of disturbing imagery. There were some predictable tropes and cliches but they all seemed in good fun (splitting up, ignoring the crazy old guy, etc). Great job with the casting -- though I expected Setrakian to have a Jewish accent. Guillermo Del Toro's direction was masterful. Loved the cinematography, especially the scene where Ephraim and Nora are on the plane. Someone had a spot on tweet last night about the plane sequence being very reminiscent of the ill-fated Demeter in Dracula. My favorite scene was the grieving dad looking up to see his little girl standing in the doorway. The book did a great job of juggling multiple characters. It'll be interesting to see if the show follows the same course or makes a few tweaks. Looking forward to episode two.




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