Weekly Roundup is a feature posted each weekend on I Wonder if You Wonder. It gives me a chance to react to the week’s industry news and to provide some quick thoughts about the films and TV shows I’ve been watching. (Plus it’ll give you some idea of the sheer amount of stuff I watch!) Let’s dive right in.
Some interesting stuff this week, so let’s get to it.
Topher Grace: Editing Prodigy?: First off, a story of the strange-but-awesome variety. Actor Topher Grace, best known for his roles in That 70’s Show and Spider-Man 3, wanted to learn how to use non-linear editing software, so he set himself an unusual goal: edit the Star Wars prequels into a single cohesive film. Apparently things went well for Topher, because he recently screened the film for friends and some in the audience suggested that he’d actually managed to make a decent movie out of the less-than-stellar material he chose to work with. Check out this article from /film written by one of the people in attendance; thanks to various copyright restrictions, it’s probably the closest you’ll ever get to seeing Topher’s edit.
Anchorman 2: This news already seems old even though it was only announced on Wednesday, but yes, there will be an Anchorman 2, with star Will Ferrell, writer/director Adam McKay, and producer Judd Apatow apparently all returning. Here’s hoping that the Human Torch won’t be denied a bank loan this time around.
SAG-AFTRA: Folks, say hello to the new union that represents all of your favorite actors. After months of negotiation and literally decades of speculation, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have merged, with the resulting union to be called SAG-AFTRA. (Though I’m guessing that within days people are just going to start calling it “SAG” as if nothing happened). The merger was voted through with overwhelming support from the membership of both unions and in spite of the vocal disapproval of several major stars, including Martin Sheen and Ed Harris; the major disagreements seemed to stem from differing medical plans in the two unions.
Viewings & Reactions:
The Captains: Set phasers to STUNNED, because this one surprised the hell out of me. Written and directed by William Shatner (Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek, though you knew that already), this documentary follows Shatner as he sits down with the actors who have played the Captain in each of the Star Trek series and movies: Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and several movies), Avery Brooks (Captain Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space 9), Kate Mulgrew (Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager), Scott Bakula (Captain Jonathan Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise), and Chris Pine (Kirk in the recent Star Trek movie reboot). The interviews run the gamut from profound to humorous – Shatner arm-wrestling Pine is a particular highlight – but several interesting themes do emerge: the theatrical background of many of the actors, the toll that Star Trek has taken on their lives and families, and the reality that the first line in each of their obituaries is likely to be “so-and-so, who played Captain so-and-so on Star Trek, passed away today…” I never would have expected such a thoughtful film from Shatner, and while there are occasional moments of his trademark egoism and bravado, they are far outweighed by fascinating discussions about acting, music, the arts, family, legacy, and a dozen other subjects. It’s well worth going out of your time to see, especially if you’re a Trek fan like me. (And as a side note, the film probably would have wound up in my Top 5 list of 2011 documentaries if I had seen it before I had written that article.)
Mad Men Premiere: The show that never ceases to amaze … like a crack addict, I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s taste and can’t wait for my next fix. This season begins with a look at what a happy Don Draper is like, and the results are downright strange: a curious sexual relationship with his new bride Megan, a fledgling business that he doesn’t seem to care too much about (a departure for the usually work-obsessed Don), and a new-found comfort with his own personal history. All of the other characters are going through their own changes, and I expect that show creator Matthew Weiner and the writing staff are going to have their hands full juggling everything for the duration of the season. Don’t worry, though – they’ll pull it all together. They always do.
Whitney Finale: This week, Whitney became one of the first network shows to finish up its season, and I couldn’t help but feel satisfied with the growth the show has shown in its first year. Simply put, Whitney’s pilot was a train wreck, as pure an example as I’ve ever seen of a witty and edgy comedienne being shoehorned into the tired multi-camera sitcom mode. Since then, though, the show has started to find itself, and though it’s still largely confined to its outdated style, it has proven willing to think a bit outside of the box with its humor and storylines. It’s far from perfect, but I hope it gets picked up for another year. (At this point, it’s very much on the bubble. Stay tuned.)
30 Rock: A brief moment to show some appreciation for 30 Rock. For the last couple of seasons, I’ve felt that the show has been getting a bit stale, relying too often on the same types of gags: Jenna (Jane Krakowski) saying something outlandish, Tracy (Tracy Morgan) doing something ridiculous, Jack (Alec Baldwin) deadpanning a joke about rich people, Liz (Tina Fey) making a reference to something geeky, and so on. Not only has this season been a marked improvement, though, but this week’s episode tackled the problem head on, with Liz realizing that the events of a particular day are playing out exactly the same way they played out on the same day the year before. It was both a meta-commentary on the show’s patterns and a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that the show was getting a bit too repetitive, and the results were hilarious. Well done.
Previewing features and articles I’m working on for I Wonder if You Wonder, some of which will be posted this week, some in weeks ahead, and others that’ll be abandoned due to laziness or frustration. (Hey, at least I’m up front about it.)
- Starting TODAY: “30 Days of…” It’s my month-long series in which I’ll be exploring 30 different aspects of the same film, with a new article every day for the entire month of April. Check out the site on Sunday, April 1 and throughout the month to see which film I’ll be writing about. (I swear this is not an April Fools joke.)