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Entertainment: Discussions and News about Entertainment

'Z Nation': lightweight zombie contender for the 'Walking Dead' championship belt

Sep 14, 2014 11:19 AM PT

This weekend SyFy launched their entry into the zombie apocalypse genre, "Z Nation."  It's from the people who made "Sharknado."  It's trying to ride the coattails of the biggest show on television, "The Walking Dead," which is only a few weeks away from kicking off its new season on AMC.  The crazy thing is, it just might work, because this lightweight contender for the zombie championship belt is surprisingly good.

Sure, it doesn't have the production values of "The Walking Dead," and the cast is not playing in the same league as the heavyweight champeen.  I'm afraid to ask what the budget for "Z Nation" is, but I'll bet it's only a little more than what "The Walking Dead" spends on catering.  The zombie makeup is decent, but most of the other special effects are pretty lame, especially the gun blasts.  There's been more convincing gun animation in Nintendo Wii games.

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TV networks prep the cultural battlespace for the Hillary 2016 campaign

Sep 12, 2014 9:35 AM PT

Myra Adams at National Review notices the rather large number of Hillary Clintonesque characters popping up on TV shows this year, just in time for Madame Hillary's expected announcement of her 2016 presidential campaign:

On November 17, 2014, NBC, the unofficial propaganda arm of both the White House and the Democratic party, is scheduled to premiere its new weekly drama, State of Affairs. One of the show’s main characters is the president of the United States, who, “for some reason” (a reason that ignores the first-season cancellation of the last woman-president series, ABC’s Geena Davis vehicle Commander in Chief), just happens to be a woman.

[...] Another new Hillary imprint, titled Madam Secretary and portraying a “take-charge” secretary of state, premiers on CBS September 21. It could also be running when a former embattled secretary of state declares her presidential intentions in January.

State of Affairs features show-business stalwart Alfre Woodard as the president (and serial box-office bomber Katherine Heigl as the CIA heroine), but it still feels like a consolation prize. Last year, NBC announced plans to produce a miniseries about the real Hillary Clinton, but the project was shelved after the Republican National Committee complained.

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Joan, You Had Me at First Joke

Sep 7, 2014 5:40 PM PT

I was ten years old the first time I paid attention to Joan Rivers. I was sitting in my grandparents' apartment stuffing my face with pasta marinara at the kitchen table. I heard a woman's voice on the television behind me say something absolutely hilarious. I turned around and there was Joan.

I don't remember what she said, but I know it was filled with inappropriate madness and about as many curses as my Aunt Ana would spit out during any given dinner. I instantly loved her.

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ICYMI: Joan Rivers 2010 on Death Tax: 'Well I can't wait until [Obama] Decides to Tax Me Some More on my Deathbed'

Sep 4, 2014 12:16 PM PT

Joan Rivers died on Thursday at Mt. Sinai Hospital, her daughter Melissa Rivers told media outlets.   The 81-year old was rushed to the hospital after she stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest during elective surgery for her vocal cords last week.

Doctors at Mt. Sinai eventually removed Rivers from a medically induced coma and placed her on life support until Thursday afternoon.  The Brooklyn born television personality and comedian shot to stardom after her first appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1965.

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Why a TV Network Would Cancel Its Highest-Rated Drama

Aug 30, 2014 9:05 AM PT

A&E's "Longmire," which recently wrapped up its third season, is the second highest-rated program on the network (second only to "Duck Dynasty") and the most popular original dramatic production the network has ever aired.  It's an unassuming police procedural that breathes new life into cop and mystery cliches with a unique setting, the big sky country of Wyoming, and a terrific lead character, gruff old cowboy sheriff Walt Longmire.  Indian characters and the local reservation add some interesting twists as well.  The cast has an easy chemistry that makes watching the show like catching up with old friends at a weekly poker game.

So of course, A&E just canceled "Longmire," after a cliffhanger season ending that teased big reveals in the stories of the main characters, and left the survival of one in doubt.

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Bummer of the summer: HBO's "The Leftovers"

Aug 27, 2014 11:58 AM PT

Aficionados of horror fiction must occasionally deal with the inherent flaw of the genre: a horror film or book can succeed so well at being frightening, disturbing, or repulsive that it fails as entertainment.  The audience response is, "Wow, that sure was scary as hell, and incredibly unsettling... so why did I just watch it?  Why would anyone make something like that?"

A similar problem afflicts HBO's "The Leftovers," which is taking a break before its first-season finale, so potential new fans can use replay-on-demand to catch up with it over the holiday weekend.  The question is whether you'll regret doing so, because this series is very good at what it does... and what it does is wallow in depression, misery, and grief.  It's basically existential pornography.

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Movie review: 'Boyhood'

Aug 24, 2014 5:51 PM PT

Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" is a coming-of-age story about ordinary people, filmed using a remarkable technique: it took 12 years to complete the movie, with a few scenes filmed every year using the same cast.  The main character, a boy named Mason played by Ellar Coltrane, is six years old at the beginning of the film.  He's an eighteen-year-old college student at the end, but it's still the same actor.  His sister Samantha, played by the director's daughter Lorelei, ages the same way.

It's a powerful technique, far more than a mere gimmick.  It's not likely to be repeated any time soon, since it was a huge risk for the studio to gamble on contracting the same actors (including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke playing their divorced parents) over such an enormous period of time, the production kept secret for years.  Time slips by in surprising bursts as the movie progresses, without any title cards, fades to black, swelling music, or other cues.  One minute you're watching teenage Mason's first magical evening with the girl who has become the love of his life; then you're seeing their final painful conversation a year later, months after they broke up.  Once the kids have aged enough to make the passage of time between scenes less obvious, it really keeps the audience on their toes.

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In high-strung America, not even Taylor Swift gets to be playful any more

Aug 20, 2014 10:13 AM PT

This morning John Nolte brought us the remarkable news that some significant number of people - significant enough to generate some Salon click-bait, at any rate - think Taylor Swift's new music video is racially insensitive.  It would make a fun party game to show the "Shake It Off" video to different people and ask them to guess which part of it was supposedly offensive:

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Constant apology and the oppression of 'precise language'

Aug 18, 2014 11:57 AM PT

I appreciate what the new movie (and 20-year-old book upon which it is based) "The Giver" was trying to say enough to feel bad about giving the film a tepid review, but I've got to call 'em like I see 'em.  For counterpoints, John Nolte here at Breitbart loved the movie, as did my old friend Ed Morrissey at Hot Air (who had almost exactly the opposite take as mine, comparing "The Giver" to other young-adult movies created after the book was published) and Emily Schultheis at The Federalist.  I like to read varying takes on movies and books, so perhaps the connoisseur of criticism will find some value in comparing what each of us had to say, pro and con.

I would like to highlight and praise a couple of things about the setting of "The Giver" that I found particularly clever: the constant "apology" rituals, and the admonition to use "precise language."  In the dystopian future society of the film, it is common for people - including the Elders who control everything - to formally declare "I apologize" after even the slightest error, and for the listener to reply "I accept your apology" in the same manner that a church congregation might say "Amen" during a service.  In an early scene, when Meryl Streep's chief Elder breezily apologizes for being unable to attend a ceremony in person, the entire audience chants "I accept your apology" in unison.

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Movie review: 'The Giver'

Aug 16, 2014 9:28 PM PT

When I first saw a trailer for "The Giver" earlier this summer, I thought it looked like "Equilibrium" for the "Hunger Games" set.  That 2002 Christian Bale film has long been a guilty pleasure of mine.  As it turns  out, the book upon which "The Giver" is based predates "Equilibrium" by a decade, and is in many ways considered the grandpappy of the current Young Adult sci-fi dystopia craze.  Unfortunately, Grandpa is showing his age.

"The Giver" is getting a lot of respect in conservative circles for its message and morality.  Its heart is unquestionably in the right place.  Made in the mid-90s, it would have seemed revolutionary.  But it reminds me of Disney's expensive, ill-fated effort to make a "John Carter of Mars" movie after the character had been around for a century, and his story had already been strip-mined by numerous works known better to modern audiences.  Devotees of classic science fiction who heard younger audience members grumble that John Carter's green Tharks were just like the blue Navi from "Avatar" must have been grinding their teeth.  Likewise for any lifelong fan of "The Giver" who heard half the audience whisper that the "totalitarian rulers assign kids to their vocations" scene was already done better in "Divergent."

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