December 6, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
BIG RELEASE: The Host (March 29)
BIG PICTURE: It's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Twilight meets Terminator: Rise of the Machines. Aliens have conquered Earth, enslaved humanity and colonized our bodies (hence the title). A small, rag-tag human resistance remains free and in hiding. (If their group is any indication, "attractive young people with flawless hair" and "grizzled old guys with beards" stand the best chance of surviving any future apocalypse.) When a human rebel named Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is co-opted by the aliens, the "human" side of her struggles with her implanted alien host. When E.T.-injected Mel finds her way home to the rebels, everyone is suspicious: Whose side is she really on? Of course, her hunky boyfriend Jared gives her the benefit of the doubt. (After all, what young man in his right mind wouldn't want to make out with a hot alien). This one is based on Stephenie Meyers post-Twilight novel: Whether that is seen as a welcome or a warning is up to you.
FORECAST: I'm sold. In the 200-second trailer, Ronan displays a wider range of emotion than Kristen Stewart did in the entire Twilight series. Ronan doesn't just look sulky or vacant. She looks sulky and vacant AND... pensive. For the record, the humans live in caves and dress like hobos. The aliens wear white head-to-toe and all drive silver-gold sports cars. Earth's new slogan: Come for our bodies, stay for our wheels.
HONOURABLE MENTION: G.I. Joe Retaliation. Cobra infiltrates the U.S. government in the blink of an eye and replaces the president with a look-alike (Note to Hollywood: Did we really need to give the American right a new Obama conspiracy theory?). After suffering a deadly surprise attack, the few remaining Joes are left to take a page from Return of the Jedi and get some payback. Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson star in this cinematic cockfight. As The Rock says, "the world ain't saving itself." My favourite touch: Willis plays the original super soldier -- the guy who literally put the "Joe" in G.I. Joe.
BIG EVENT: Game of Thrones (March 30, HBO, 9 p.m.
BIG PICTURE: It's like the Ken Burns documentary series Civil War -- only the North always loses (those poor Starks just can't catch a break)... and there are dragons. This epic fantasy series is based on the books of author George R.R. Martin. (But given the penchant for random sex scenes, topless women and wanton substance abuse, I've always assumed that Charlie Sheen is Martin's ghostwriter). What's new in Season 3? For starters, those baby dragons aren't so cute and cuddly anymore. They're in their terrible twos -- which in dragon years, is a few short steps away from "burning villages to the ground and eating human beings like they're popcorn shrimp." While the ever-enchanting exile Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) tries to control her scaly pets (not to mention build an army) the homeland she longs to return to is beset by civil war -- though I'm sure they'll still find time for the occasional mead-fuelled orgy.
FORECAST: This is one of TV's finest. I say let the Games begin! The North and the South, islanders and wildlings, magicians and con artists -- practically everyone wants a piece of the Iron Throne. Given those who sit on it don't tend to live very long, they'd be better off fighting to keep off the damn thing. It's a killer game of hot potato.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Orphan Black (SPACE, March 30, 9 p.m. A troubled young woman swaps identities with her dead, successful twin? Plus hints of a secret genetic experiment coming unhinged?! It's Ringer meets Dollhouse. I know, I know. Two shows that failed to live up to their potential. But unlike its predecessors, Orphan Black is anchored by a magnetic lead performance: Regina-born Tatiana Maslany plays Sarah, a street hustler and orphan who gets pulled down a rabbit hole filled with lookalikes, double identities and dangerous conspiracies. Strong writing and a stellar supporting cast add to Orphan Black's appeal. This is one orphan to adopt into your TV schedule.
BIG RELEASE ON MARCH 26: Strokes (Comedown Machine)
BIG PICTURE: If an album title has ever demonstrated a clear case of wishful thinking, this is it (the last time it was so blatant was Madonna's Like A Virgin). The New York garage rockers aren't high enough to come down from anything -- in the two years since their last album, Angles, they've been overshadowed by multiple new heroes on the indie rock scene -- especially in their hometown. With Comedown, they look to revisit the irreverent swagger, hedonistic charm and frenzied guitar work that made them indie musical darlings after releasing This Is It, their 2001 debut.
FORECAST: Don't call it a comeback. This time the garage rock doors have been opened up to elements of funk, punk, New Wave and even a touch of electronica. But the appealing raspy drawl of lead singer Julian Casablancas remains the same.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Depeche Mode (Delta Machine). The English electronic group also offers a new album featuring the word "machine" -- their first full-length effort since 2009. Only time will tell which machine has more power.
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture offerings is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2013 ??65525