Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

Box Office: ‘Jump Street’ and ‘Dragon’ Sequels Fight for #1

Two extremely well reviewed sequels hit nearly every theatre in America Friday and both are expected to clear $50 million by Monday. Sony’s “22 Jump Street” sits at 89% fresh (4 points better than “21 Jump Street”). DreamWorks “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is enjoying a Pixar-level 93% fresh.

My reviews of both should be up in the morning, and I’m going to find out if you need to see the originals in order to enjoy the sequels, because I have not.

‘NCIS': Most-Watched Drama In the World (But Not Most Talked About)

Maybe because it’s a simple procedural, 57 million people worldwide watch “NCIS” (it was also the #1 show in America last year) but no one ever talks about it — including me.

Shows with much fewer viewers — “Mad Men,” “The Americans,” “Game of Thrones,” “Girls,” — are sliced, diced, examined, and obsessed over episode by episode in the cultural media, but the show most people care about gets zero play.

Big disconnect there. And in the case of television, I’m no better than the elites.

I have no excuse, just a reason: I burnt out on television procedurals and sitcoms a dozen years ago. There was a time I watched all that stuff: “CSI,” “Law & Order”… it just got too repetitive. I could see the wires. Movies were better, so I turned to those. Not new movies as much as my collection of older features and Turner Classic Movies.

Television only won me back after it changed and got better.

Speaking of…

Just Give Vera Farmiga Her ‘Bates Motel’ Emmy Already

We finished watching the second and latest season of “Bates Motel” last night. About 4 episodes in, we were about to give up (like we did with season two of Kevin Bacon’s “The Following”). Not much was happening. The only reason I decided to hang on was Vera Farmiga’s brilliant performance as Norma Bates. Acting at this level really is its own pleasure.

For reasons outside of Farmiga’s work, it’s a good thing we did stick. The season ultimately took off, but unless you’ve seen the show, it’s hard to describe just how good she is.

The whole cast is top-notch, especially Freddie Highmore as Norman and Nestor Carbonell as the sheriff whose motives never stop surprising. Farmiga, though, is a revelation. Somehow she is able to make the needy, willful, impulsive, childish, emotionally damaged, smothering Norma Bates sympathetic. It’s kind of a miracle, really, that that character is not the most annoying in television history.

Hopefully, Emmy voters will appreciate and award this one-of-a-kind performance.

Trailer – ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’

But why the August 22 release date? Anything after the 15th is considered the summer dumping ground. Big stars, franchise, sequel to a hit that has only grown in stature since its release in 2005….

I’ve never bought into the notion that the original “Sin City” is all about nihilism and rage; that there are no redeemable characters. If you look closely, in the midst of all the perversion, violence and depravity you’ll see anti-heroes willing to sacrifice themselves for others. That theme is papered over in pose, flash, and swagger, but the story is really about a terrible world where terrible people rise above, if only for a moment.

If nothing else, the sequel is more proof that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going through his 80’s Michael Caine and 90’s Gene Hackman phase where he appears in every movie made over an entire decade.  

‘Best of Forensic Files’ Available at Amazon Instant

There’s really no television genre I love more than true crime and there is no better true crime show than “Forensic Files,” a half-hour series that still runs on Headline News and is now available for free viewing if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber.

From 1996 thru 2011, “Forensic Files” ran for 14 glorious seasons and over 400 episodes. I have never seen a bad episode and will be in hog heaven when the whole series streams.

 For now, though, you can stream the “Best of” episodes from the first 11 seasons at Amazon.

What makes this particular series such a standout in a populated genre is a structure built for human drama as opposed to sensationalism. Even though each episode probably runs about 23-minutes without commercials, you still come to  care about the victim(s) and therefore become emotionally invested in  seeing the mystery solved. Each episode is compelling, interesting, and ultimately satisfying.

It also doesn’t hurt that Peter Thomas, the best there is, is our narrator and storyteller.

Reality is much more fascinating than fiction, and the people behind the longest-running show of its kind know that.

“Forensic Files” isn’t just the best true crime reality shows ever made, at the time, it was one of the best shows on television, period.

Quick Hits:

Bill Murray Crashes Couple’s Engagement Photo

10 laugh out loud moments from the original ‘Dumb and Dumber’

Grumpy Cat to Star in ‘Home Alone’ Meets ‘Die Hard’ Lifetime Flick

Rumor Patrol: ‘Boba Fett’ Movie to Be Written by Lawrence Kasdan

Seth Rogen & James Franco Attempt to Assassinate Kim Jong-Un

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