Monday, August 31, 2015

New release round-up for August '15

Um... I got nuthin'. What can I say, there was little that captured my interest this month. I thought about seeing Meryl Streep's new one, Ricki and the Flash, but the reviews weren't quite as good as I had hoped. It's okay; I know she has another movie coming out this fall. I'll tell you what I did see, though...

I had the opportunity (thanks, Aurora) to sit in on an advance screening of the first two episodes of a new TV show from indie filmmaker Edward Burns, of Woodside, Queens, called Public Morals. TNT will air ten episodes of this series about vice cops in 60s New York. Burns not only stars, but he's the executive producer, and he wrote and directed the pilot episode on top of that. If this sounds like a huge burden to take on, it's actually not that unusual, given that he handled similar roles in some of his indie films. I remember watching his debut film, The Brothers McMullen, when I was working video retail. He has a great ear for dialogue, and he's a pretty good actor as well - perhaps you saw him in Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg is an executive producer on Morals, in fact. 

The show looks good, but the action moves pretty fast, so you need to really pay attention to remember who's who and to follow the multiple storylines. I was surprised to see profanity and partial nudity; I thought shows like that were more the purview of AMC, but the impression I get is that TNT wants to attract more of that kind of audience. Burns, in the Q-and-A afterwards, called Morals a 10-hour movie, and praised the network for giving him the creative freedom (and the bigger budget) to make this show his way. It should be on the air by the time you read this.

Also: you're probably aware that Star Trek's 50th anniversary is next year. (Yes, I'm making blog-related plans.) What you might not be aware of is the current surge in independent Trek productions. Calling them fan films isn't entirely accurate because a growing number of them look almost as polished as a licensed Trek TV show or movie. This is due to the experienced professionals from the film and TV industry involved in making them, including quite a few Trek actors.

One of these new "indie Trek" productions made its Internet debut this month. Called Star Trek: Renegades, it's a crowd-funded feature-length film designed to serve as a pitch to CBS for a possible TV series. Walter Koenig from The Original Series and Tim Russ from Voyager lead a cast of Trek alumni, genre stars and new faces in a Trek-flavored version of The Dirty Dozen. As you might expect from the title alone, it's darker and grimmer than the Trek you're used to. Either you'll dig this sort of thing or you won't. 

I found it underwhelming, mainly because it didn't feel like a pilot. It assumes that its audience will automatically know the characters from previous Trek shows, for one thing. For another, it's not as character driven as one would expect. There's very little humor and I can't say the stakes involved mattered to me much (the survival of the Federation - how original!). Still, as I said, this is only one of many new indie Trek productions. Next year, I'll go into more detail about this and others.

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