24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Television series

Is the 'Arrested Development' movie real?

October 3, 2011 |  4:21 pm

Arrested Development

Is the "Arrested Development" movie really happening? The breathless reports over the weekend (we won't name names) suggest that plenty of news outlets believe the answer is yes: A movie uniting Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman and the rest of the cast from the beloved TV show will shoot next year, along with a batch of television episodes.

The reports originated from series' creator Mitchell Hurwitz, who told an audience at the New Yorker Festival on Sunday that he was, well, working on the script.

"We're 80% of the way to an answer. We don't completely own the property; there are business people involved and studios," he said of potential Bluthian adventures. "But just creatively, I have been working on the screenplay for a long time."

That doesn't sound like an emphatic statement, even from the man who's most invested in making a movie happen.

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Golly 'Glee': Can the TV hit succeed on the big screen?

August 10, 2011 |  6:02 pm


There are millions of "Glee" viewers out there, obsessing over every secret crush, cover song and guest star with the zeal of a, well, Gleek. But how many of them will pay 3-D ticket prices to see the musical numbers they see for free on TV every Tuesday night on a big screen?

That's the essential question facing "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie," the documentary featuring Rachel, Brittany, Finn and the rest of the fictional McKinley High crew. As we explore in a story in tomorrow's Times, Fox is hoping that the Ryan Murphy show translates to the multiplex when the movie opens this weekend.

The company will have its work cut out for it, though. Few network series have been able to transition successfully to the big screen, particularly so early in their life -- when "The Simpsons" did it, the series had been on the air nearly two decades.

And concert movies have a mixed track record at the box office. Even February’s Justin Bieber 3-D concert film “Never Say Never,” which grossed more than $73 million, featured plenty of biographical footage from its star's personal life, something that's absent here.

Instead, the "Glee" movie, directed by Kevin Tancharoen, is focused on the performances themselves along with, via cutaways, the fans who say their lives have changed as a result of loving the series. And if you think you can grasp some of the film's details if you're not a Gleek, you might want to reconsider: The movie thrusts you right into the dressing room and on the stage with little setup about the characters.


Marketing 'Glee' the concert movie

As it seeks a big-event feel, Glee 3-D adds advance screenings

Show Tracker: Complete 'Glee' coverage

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie" Credit: 20th Century Fox


A 'Father Knows Best' movie, by way of 'Baby Mama'

April 14, 2011 |  3:23 pm


EXCLUSIVE: "Father Knows Best" may seem like a paragon of 1950s Americana, but Fox-based production company New Regency believes there's an update to be found in the classic sitcom.

The firm has been developing a new version of the story for the big screen. Now producers are set to bring on Michael McCullers, director of "Baby Mama," to write a new draft and direct the updated version of the comedy, according to a person who was briefed on the production but not authorized to speak about it publicly. A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment.

When the project was first announced, news accounts described it as telling a multi-generational story about a father of a suburban family with a modern parenting approach who's thrown for a loop when his own father, with a different attitude, comes to live with them. (The debate, then, is over which father knows best.) The film is expected to look at the evolving nature of the American family the way the initial television series did with an emerging suburban middle class more than half a century ago.

McCullers' previous work, of course, deals with another parenting issue -- surrogate motherhood -- though it also engages in questions of modern parenthood. The director is also a "Saturday Night Live" veteran who wrote several of the "Austin Powers" movies.

The original "Father Knows Best" began as a radio program in 1949 and morphed into a television series that ran from 1954 to 1960, starring Robert Young and Jane Wyatt. It told of the Andersons, an idyllic family (two parents, three children) in which Dad, an insurance agent, patiently offers sage advice that nearly always helps his children.

The on-screen Midwestern family has been updated and updated over the years with families that are somewhat less than perfect, from "Roseanne" and "Married ... With Children" 20 years ago to ABC's current dysfunctional-family comedy "The Middle."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Father Knows Best." Credit: Screen Gems / Kobal Collection

A new 'Buffy: the Vampire Slayer' takes a small step toward the big screen

November 22, 2010 |  2:22 pm


"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" began as a film and then became a hugely successful TV show. Now it's returning to its roots.

The hit WB series, now off the air for seven years, is coming back as a movie courtesy of a young writer named Whit Anderson, who will write the movie for the producers of "The Dark Knight."

The original 1992 movie, which series creator Joss Whedon also wrote, was more of a spoof than the series and its more substantial vampire tales. As our colleague Geoff Boucher tells us in an exclusive story at our sister Hero Complex blog, Anderson was a fan of the show, so expect some of the darker themes — and humor — of the series to be present here.

There will be an interesting piece of timing in all this — the "Twilight" franchise is entering a heady homestretch, with the final movies scheduled for fall 2011 and 2012. "Buffy" in many ways laid the groundwork for that franchise but with a lot less of the doe-eyed romance that the Bella-Edward chornicles favor. So it will be interesting to see if "Buffy" can come back and thrive at a time when many younger filmgoers, at least, associate vampire movies with said romance.

It's worth noting that Joss Whedon, off working on all things "Avengers," won't be involved in the new film. And the project sounds a long ways away from casting, though the question of who will play Buffy will be an interesting one too. (Sarah Michelle Gellar, at 33, is probably a bit too past her slay-by date.)

If the movie does get made, it would complete a neat movie-TV-movie circle. And at a time when every classic and modern television series has been made, or could soon get made, into a movie, here's one fans would genuinely want — but would they want it without Whedon?

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Buffy: the Vampire Slayer.' Credit: Justin Lubin/20th Centiry Fox.


Meet the writer of the new 'Buffy: the Vampire Slayer'


Is there a 'Lone Star' curse?

September 27, 2010 |  9:45 am

It's tough being James Wolk.

This should have been the month of the young actor's life. His buzzed-about primetime show "Lone Star," in which he plays a boyishly charming Texas con man, debuted on Fox. And "You Again," in which the Michigan native plays the lead male character in a sea of female ones, got a big push from Disney.

A primetime debut and a major studio release in the same month would have been an achievement for any actor. For a 25-year-old who just two years ago was scrounging for parts on soap operas such as "As the World Turns," it was a milestone.

As it turns out, September might leave Wolk hankering for a daytime love triangle. In its debut last week,  "Lone Star" managed an un-Texas-like 4.1 million viewers. Despite an outpouring of media affection, the show is on the brink of cancellation.

At least "Lone Star" got good reviews. "You Again" landed an awful 13% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and struggled to gross $8.3 million this weekend -- which, based on the number of screens it played, means that an average of just a few dozen people went to any given showing. 

But Wolk shouldn't be too despondent. He's in good company on the "Lone Star" set....

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Is television really the new cinema? Or is that just something TV people like to say?

August 31, 2010 |  8:00 am

The telecast of the Emmys on Sunday -- and the "Mad Men" and "Modern Family" dominance thereof -- once more threw into relief the arguments about television beating film at its own game of character and narrative.

The idea that contemporary television does storytelling -- particularly drama -- better than its cinematic counterpart has been advanced for a while now, especially by those, well, working in television. It's been particularly present this summer. Writing about FX chief John Landgraf at the Television Critics Assn. Tour earlier this month, Forbes' Lacey Rose noted that "rather than lament the loss of the creatively ambitious, mid-priced drama that once brought multidimensional characters to the big screen, he, like ... many of his cable cohorts, has stepped up to fill the void."

Storytelling on the small screen is deeper and richer, the television camp maintains, than it is on the effects- and brand-obsessed big screen of the studio system -- or, for that matter, in an indie-film world that has gone stale. Which is why, the argument goes, the best actors now regularly choose cable. Or as Michael Tolkin, "The Player" scribe and unofficial avatar of the disenchanted-screenwriters movement, told us a few years ago: "Character has migrated to television."

Few would deny that cable has upped its game (and everyone else's in television) over the last decade, as the wave of "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under" and "The Shield" hit, followed soon after by "Damages," "Dexter" and "Mad Men," to name a few examples. And network comedies such as this year's Emmy-winning "Modern Family" and previous Emmy darling "30 Rock" can offer a sharp kick to the gut of contemporary life.

The movie industry, meanwhile, has hardly helped its own cause this summer, cynically churning out a series of forgettable big-budget brands wearing the clothes of a real movie.

But the TV First argument has holes aplenty. Those who advance it point to how much more story and character development television offers. But TV has an innate advantage in this department; that's how it goes when you have as many as 20 or 30 screen hours to develop a story instead of 1 1/2 or two. Unlike TV, movies are not designed to play over a long period or to follow the jagged EKG of characters' lives over the years. It's like asking an opera singer to rap and then wondering why she can't rhyme. The better question to ask of both film and television is not how much time each one takes but what it does with the time it has.

And here the film camp gets a big bump. The urgency and immersiveness of the medium still trump television when each is at the top of its game. For all the great TV series in recent years, are there three hours of television as ambitious or energized as, say,  "Avatar" or "The Dark Knight"? We're sure some readers will think there are plenty -- or find reasons to hate on those movies -- but we've racked our brains and can't come up with anything.

Films like those get to play with more money than television ever does, you say. Fair enough. Yet the situation isn't much different as one moves down the budget spectrum, right down to the low-mid range that cable ostensibly specializes in. Are there two hours of television in the last few years that achieved, on the screen and in our minds, what  "The Hurt Locker" or "Slumdog Millionaire" did? It's hard to see even TV Firsters like Landgraf not jumping at the chance to produce and premiere either of those movies over pretty much any couple hours-worth of material they currently have in development.

Film's detractors will say these are the exceptions, and cite the derivative action spectacles and litany of flat comedies that make up so many studio slates these days. But for every piece of two-bit lameness that finds its way to the multiplex there are also many analogues on the small screen, endlessly interchangeable procedurals and three-jokes-per-minute sitcoms. At least with movies they're gone after a weekend.

And much of the TV First argument ignores the material that really powers television: nonfiction programming. Film documentaries have become sophisticated, multiflowered things, serious and entertaining in equal measure -- anyone doubting that need only see movies such as "Catfish" and "Waiting for Superman" this fall. Television nonfiction is largely wife-swapping and karaoke.

Of course, skeptics will say that all quality is subjective. Perhaps. But then the best evidence for film's supremacy over television may lie with what people will sacrifice to watch their favorites. As with film, the biggest TV hits draw tens of millions of viewers. But how many of these people would pay ten dollars dollars to see a episodes?

Sure, this summer has been, on balance, dreadful for filmgoing. And plenty of studio development seems uninspired, done by committee, or worse. But that hardly means it's all on a downward spiral. Call it warm-weather optimism, but despite the movie industry's financial and creative crises, the fall is shaping up to be one of the most promising in years, dotted with potential gems such as "Never Let Me Go," "The Social Network," "The Town" and "Black Swan," among others.

There is, of course, room for great narrative in all mediums (well, except maybe Web video). To engage the film-versus-television question is not only to ask how many angels dance on the head of a pin, but  which pin they're more likely to dance on. Few outside Hollywood care where strong entertainment comes from, as long as it comes.

Still, if you're going to ask which system is more likely to give us -- and actually has given us -- the most memorable and enduring dramas and comedies, our feeling is that it's nice that television has (inspired by great cinema) upped its level of quality. But much of the strongest and richest entertainment is still where it's always been: at the movies.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Mad Men." Credit: Lionsgate Television


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