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Gravity defies shtick

Space film a down-to-earth visual masterpiece

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"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.




BIG RELEASE: Gravity (Oct. 4)

BIG PICTURE: We've all dreamed about floating untethered in outer space with George Clooney -- subsisting on a rapidly dwindling oxygen supply AND his charisma -- and desperately trying to return to the Earth below as the minutes count down to our doom... No? What do you mean you haven't? Fine, I guess it's just me. Regardless, Sandra Bullock lives the dream in Gravity. She plays a medical engineer stranded with a veteran astronaut (Clooney) after an accident leaves them adrift in space 598 kilometres away from Earth. Alfonso Cuoron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) directs this out-of-this-world drama that had a near-perfect launch with critics at the Toronto International Film Festival.

FORECAST: There is no Armageddon-spawning asteroid or ham-fisted acting by Bruce Willis in sight -- and no aliens, androids, starships named Enterprise or Jedi Knights, either. Gravity proves trying to survive in space is frightening and dramatic enough without the gimmicks. Gravity is a heart-racing visual masterpiece that will leave you star-struck.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Runner Runner (Oct. 4). Coincidentally, this film title describes what Ben Affleck should have become the day he was offered the role of Batman. In Runner Runner, Justin Timberlake plays Richie, a grad student trying to pay his way through school via online gambling. Feeling cheated, he heads to Costa Rica to confront gambling magnate Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) — whose name makes him ideally suited for Bond villainy. Richie takes an unexpected job offer that promises exotic riches, but he soon finds himself under pressure from the FBI to bring his new boss down. Bribing, racketeering, murder, maniacal villain laughter -- Mr. Block does it all. (I want to make one thing clear. No matter what strange fantasies this film conjures in Hollywood, Justin Timberlake should never play Robin to Affleck's Batman).



BIG EVENT: Super Fun Night (Oct. 2, Citytv, ABC, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT), Ironside (Oct. 2, NBC, Global, 10 p.m. ET/PT), The Millers (Oct. 3, CBS, Global, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT)

BIG PICTURE: Every sitcom wants you to believe it's offering a Super Fun Night, but few live up to their titles. Super Fun Night stars Rebel Wilson as one of three socially awkward friends who decide to shake things up and embark on weekly Friday-night adventures. Debauchery, sarcasm and awkward moments ensue. Think of it as a nerdier, more-restrained Bridesmaids. (Canadian Lauren Ash co-stars as one of three lady funketeers). Meanwhile, The Millers hopes the third time's the charm for Will Arnett (Arrested Development) to carry his own sitcom. This time, as a recently divorced man looking forward to the bachelor life -- whose plan is interrupted when his parents separate and his mom moves in. (Making matters more complex, his father moves in with his sister). Meanwhile, Blair Underwood gets the wheels turning as a wheelchair-bound, tough-as-nails, rule-breaking New York detective charged with an elite squad.

FORECAST: The writers of Super Fun Night will need to be creative to keep this one "super" each week. Arnett really needs a G.O.B. Bluth Arrested Development spinoff. Ironside has the perfect spin for success. Audiences have proved they love an eccentric cop or doctor overcoming his own physical/mental limitations to solve cases. In fact, I'm writing a pilot right now about a skydiving cop/doctor, with a split personality, who can only solve crimes -- and perform cutting-edge surgery -- while in a free fall. I'm hoping Jon Hamm signs on next year when Mad Men wraps.

HONOURABLE MENTION: The Originals (Oct. 3, CW, 9 p.m. ET/PT), The Witches of East End (Oct. 6, Lifetime, 10 p.m. ET/PT). Witches are the new vampires. Before American Horror Story: Coven premières on Oct. 9, we get two witchy appetizers this week. On the soapy Witches of East End (imagine Revenge meets Charmed meets a 13-year-old goth girl's dream journal), the witchcraft is only half as scary as the script. Julia Ormond plays a spellbinding matriarch in a town shaped by dark magic, and her two daughters are about to learn the tricks of the family trade. Meanwhile, in The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals, fanged antagonist Klaus (Joseph Morgan) gets his own show (and antihero duties). He and his immortal family are lured back to their old haunt New Orleans at the behest of, you guessed it, witches.




BIG RELEASES ON OCT. 1: Deep Dark Woods (Jubilee), Moby (Innocents)

BIG PICTURE: Moby seems like he's been in the deep dark woods since his 2011 release Destroyed, but he's back with a collaborative album that finds the electronic artist and multi-instrumentalist working with everyone from Cold Specks' Al Spx and Mark Lanegan to the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. Meanwhile, Deep Dark Woods, one of our country's finest alt-country bands celebrates their ongoing success with a Jubilee. Recorded in a Rocky Mountain cabin, picture a bunch of guys from Saskatoon with giant beards experimenting with psychedelic and electric folk.

FORECAST: You'll get lost in these Deep Dark Woods or find your Innocents with Moby.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Elf Power (Sunlight on the Moon). The only thing this aptly named band is missing is a dwarf on drums and a centaur on bass (I heard it's hard for them to break through in the music business). This longtime lo-fi rock band from Athens, Ga., are true modern bards, creating complex musical tales that would make Chaucer proud. The best part? Even Miley Cyrus couldn't twerk to these tunes.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2013 ??65525

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