April 22, 2014

Clark Gregg on His New Movie, Trust Me

April 22, 2014  

Clark Gregg retweeted this interview yesterday. It's probably my favorite of his so far and it's not specifically about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which most people would expect right now, but he still mentions S.H.I.E.L.D. because it's impossible not to ask this humble, funny guy about the greatest gig ever. If you've been following him on Twitter then you may have heard about Trust Me, a movie about a washed up agent finally finding the gifted child actor that could turn it all around. That child actor is Saxon Sharbino, who really is terrific, as the few of us who watched Touch can attest. But I can't wait to see this one mostly because of the talented Mr. Gregg, who we wrote, directed, and starred in the movie and is sure to have put all of his heart into it.

Here are highlights from the interview, some of which concern Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Don't forget to watch tonight. There are only three left this season after "The Only Light in the Darkness." If you don't watch this series then you are missing a performance with great emotional range, a perfect example of which comes in Providence. I doubt he has any trouble showing the emotions Trust Me seems to require, especially after reading this review. Gregg is one of those actors I'd always loved to see, and one day I realized he was one of the best. He absolutely deserves to be headlining a show and he's got the talent to be a multi-hyphenate.

After I finished the first draft, my partner, who's a wonderful casting director, Mary Vernieu...said, 'This is a role you have to play.' And I said, 'Because he's a big loser, is what you're saying.' And she's like, 'Yes, but he's your kind of loser.  Nobody can make a loser feel like he has some heart like you."

It never really felt like it was about show business, even though it absolutely is. And it just felt like it was about innocence.
I just wanted Sam [Rockwell] to be in anything I ever did. I had such a great time with him in Choke. We've known each other since we did plays together in New York. He's the kindest person I know and certainly one of the most talented people I've ever had the pleasure to work with.

On Coulson and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It's been such an amazing journey. You know, he was a little cameo that they expanded, and suddenly I was doing a scene at the end of Iron Man 1 where Pepper Potts was thanking me, and as a comic book fan, I nearly died on the spot. There's so many times when my heart's nearly stopped.
"I'm a very unlikely 52-year-old action star at the moment.
We finished the final episode two - three nights ago, at midnight. And I always have the dual roles: I get to do it, I get to perform it, and as a fanboy I'm sitting there going, 'I am so upset that I tell anyone what I just did... It's killing me.

An Evening With The Blacklist


So I just realized it's Monday (now Tuesday, because I didn't get to finish this yesterday), which means The Blacklist is finally back. I say "finally" even though the last new episode was only two weeks ago, because there have been an incredible amount of breaks for this show. The longest was six weeks in the winter, followed by just two or three new episodes, and then another three weeks off for the Olympics. It seems that most shows this season (at least the ones I love) have had more time off than usual, not including the Olympics. Or maybe it's just me noticing and caring more now in an unusual year where I fell crazy in love with multiple new series at the same time. That just never happens.

An Evening in New York With The Blacklist streamed live on April 2. It was at 8 PM, so I couldn't watch, but they made it available the next day. Annoyingly, I only got half way through before I had to do something else. Then I tried multiple other times over the following weeks and was always interrupted. I'm finishing it today no matter what before the next thing, likely Blacklist-related, grabs my attention.

Now for the one person out there that hasn't seen this or those who are just now bingeing on the show, here are the highlights of this panel. You can see the full panel at Emmys.com. It's much more fun hearing the words from the actors themselves rather than just reading them, and they have a lot more to say than just these few select quotes

I think that if you care and you breathe and you keep caring and you keep breathing, something happens.
—Megan Boone
I found out today I know a lot about architecture... In my head I was like, 'So when I was in graduate school studying tech and engineering, I had an architecture requirement course, and it's coming in handy to get this Blacklister this week.'
—Amir Arison

Any backstory with Aram is a great thing. Hopefully, the secondary characters will come to the fore a bit more when there is room for it, because I want to know more about Aram, Meera, and Dembe.

I think the bad guys are good.
—Hisham Tawfiq
I never like the questions of good or bad. Just about everyone has the capability to be both at any time depending on circumstances. Whether Dembe is good or bad doesn't matter much to me unless he does something irredeemable, say killing an innocent for no reason and without regret. I don't see that happening unless the writers want us to turn against him. What matters is that Dembe and Red are loyal to each other; there is good in that.
I remember the first thing you said to me after I read the other side was, 'Wow, man. You're a dick.'
—Ryan Eggold to John Fox about reading as Ranko Zamani
Some of my best friends are ruthless killers.
—James Spader
As we all do when we're in love, sometimes we're blinded to things.
—John Fox about Liz
And this is why I was always on her side. A criminal comes into your life and tells you to be careful of your husband, of course you're not going to believe him until you have some evidence. As Megan said, and I always wonder how people don't realize, she has a history with Tom that we as the audience do not. Why would she be mistrutful of her husband? We're on the outside and get to see what she doesn't. It always amazes me when people say a character is being written stupidly when it's really that they are being written as human, not omniscient. There are great manipulators in this world that even the keenest of us don't see for what they are until it's too late.
We try to peel back the layers on Red. We try to expose his vulnerability as much as we can, and you've seen it; you've seen it in series. And James is absolutely incredible at playing that, at playing those moments, and that's what humanizes the character.
—John Fox

I'm sure I'm repeating myself from all my other posts about The Blacklist, but that vulnerability is mesmerizing, and James was the right choice to expose the profound damage of Red's heart and soul.

April 19, 2014

Can I Please See Winter Soldier?

April 19, 2014  

Week 1

We almost never go to any movie on week 1. Damn both the crowds and our inability to find time to get together.

Week 2

People "needed" to eat out. My brother was late. The restaurant was crowded. Finished in time to miss at least the first 15 minutes, so we went back to my brother's house, sat around the fire pit, comforted his wimpy, sweetie pie pitbull because she was afraid of the fire but wanted to be with us, and talked and laughed for the next few hours.

Week 3

My other brother has pink eye now and doesn't feel like going, and decided 10 minutes before we were to leave, after I scarfed down a pathetic dinner of a cheese wrap and a few chips.

Week 4

The apocalypse will not keep me away! Fucking hell!

So that's twice now in sadness I take off my Visit Tahiti It's a Magical Place shirt with the Coulson ukulele player. I was wearing it in honor of He Who Must Always Be Named (played by the wonderful, amazing, stupendous @clarkgregg) and seeing his favorite hero on the big screen again. I guess I'll just have to content myself with the trailer another dozen or so times. And the brother who currently watches Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will now be three episodes behind, because I warned him about the spoilers.

Oh, and I'm also the only one in my immediate family without an eye problem right now - *loudest knock on wood you ever heard* - so we're going to miss the Easter party tomorrow with the extended family. Not going by myself. I guess I'll go color the eggs since I apparently have nothing better to do. No, nevermind. We're going to watch Frozen.

April 17, 2014

The Only Light in the Darkness ~ Art of Level 7

April 17, 2014  

Thought I was done for the day, but there's one more thing. Don't forget to get the third poster in the Art of Level 7 series. It's on sale tonight in the Marvel Store. You have to stay up until 1:00 AM PST Friday morning (4.18.14) for it, or just set your alarm to wake up for a few minutes and then fall back into a fitful sleep, dreaming of what will happen next. I love this because it's sort of similar to what I've had in mind since Coulson died in The Avengers: a lone cellist playing in the dark with a spot of light on her. My version had her facing forward and I imagined a sort of ghostly Coulson just behind her, not knowing how he would return, only knowing that he should. One day I may have a chance to actually draw it. Anyway, I have to buy strategically since I can't afford all of these and I already ordered "Providence." I have to wait and see what the next ones will be. Judging by the last two episodes and knowing how Coulson feels about Audrey, this will be another emotional roller coaster. Still I have to wait to see what's in store for the final three episodes, because I'm sure those will have no less of an impact.

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The Weight of Providence


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"There’s gotta be something here. This means something. This has to mean something. The world needs us. Hydra is out there. We cannot let them win. We cannot let them define us. Do you understand that? We are not agents of nothing. We are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that still carries weight. It – it has to carry weight. After everything we’ve been through, that carries weight!"

Every episode has a moment that defines it. This is that moment in "Providence." In fact, it defines Coulson and the entire show and brings tears to those caught off gaurd. It's said with conviction and passion at a time of sheer desperation. It's poignantly written and acted and assures me that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will remain a favorite for years to come. To those who got off this Bus early, you're missing an intricate story weaved of past threads that has exceptional moments of growth between the characters and unexpected betrayal that actually stings. You're missing terrific performances from a talented cast, no one member of which is weak in any way. You're missing an experience connected with a wider universe, which is self-contained enough for the emotional impact to resonate independently of that universe. You're missing the humor that disarms and the darkness that humanizes. You're just missing a beautifully-crafted series.

*If GIFs are not syncing, please clear your cache. So, yeah, I meant to split up "everything" to be more centered, but I forgot and then work came in. Now I'm busy. :(

April 10, 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Limited Art for Providence

April 10, 2014  

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I skipped out on the poster for "Turn, Turn, Turn." I didn't know how incredible and game-changing that episode would be. Since there are to be six posters and I can't possibly buy them all, I was going to wait, thinking that the later episodes would be more important. But Ward's actions last week were such a shock. No wonder they started with that one. "Providence" will be an emotionally trying one for the remaining agents now without a member they had come to rely on, who was part of their family, and with S.H.I.E.L.D. gutted and useless.

The more I look at this poster the more I love it. I first noticed how beautifully the characters came out. As the episode tease shows, our beloved agents are literally out in the cold. This poster, capturing just an expression of each one of them, lends the weight of being compromised and broken. Then I noticed that the now Hydra shield is actually a brilliant mix of both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. I was going to attempt something like that, but this one is better than anything I could have come up with. That sealed the deal. I think I need to set my alarm for this. For more details about the meaning behind the artist's choices, please read the interview with executive producer Jeffrey Bell at 'Agents of SHIELD': New initiative art teases team divide -- EXCLUSIVE.

Available in a limited edition of 100 at the Marvel Store on April 11 at 1:00 AM PST. Soooo...I'm getting up at 4. Yay for being on the East coast.

April 9, 2014

Tune, Tune, Tune in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

April 9, 2014  

 photo Endscene874_zps26b74b71.jpgNo time to finish my gif today, so a still will have to do. Screenshot belongs to ABC and Marvel.

*** Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen "Turn, Turn, Turn." ***

They hide in plain sight. They earn our trust, our sympathy. They make us like them. And when you hesitate, they strike.

"Must write about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." That was the note I wrote myself just minutes after watching "Turn, Turn, Turn." I was going to do it some time later this week, but immediately the words came flooding out. I haven't written a lot about AoS lately because another new favorite show, The Blacklist, wouldn't let me stop thinking about it, writing about it, or making GIFs during my free time. I would always plan on doing something for AoS, but then something always got in the way. By the next time I had a moment, usually taking the entire week, I would be writing about The Blacklist again, because I was so taken aback by how incredible it was, and I was and still am completely caught up in the what-the-hell are they to each other relationship of Red and Liz. But I regret that I lost all this time that I could have also been praising Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I need to better balance my time between these shows in their second seasons.

For existing in a world of superheroes, AoS lives firmly in a beliveable reality precisely because it infuses spot-on emotion, great action, and fun dialogue in the face of the more out there aspects, which is what so many shows with fantastical elements don't seem to grasp. My favorite series tend to start with episodic elements and introduce an undercurrent of a larger story, and I adore how this series has slowly but consistently teased out a number of mysteries and is now bringing those threads together in a frantic end run to the season finale. It made us quickly fall in love with all these multifaceted characters, showed us who they are through their actions and relationships, and ties into a larger world, the way the excellent Marvel movies have been. Unlike those gotta-have-every-answer-now people who prematurely abandoned the show because it didn't regularly feature recognizable comic characters and completely self-contained, mind-numbingly simple to follow storylines, I've known from the beginning that #ItsAllConnected. It needed to establish itself and stand on its own. I always trusted Joss Whedon and the terrific people in his 'verse, especially now Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, to deliver on a promise of excellence and imagination, and I trusted the actors to provide the humor and heart that they have done in spades.

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to go to Captain America: The Winter Soldier before this episode aired. I was busy and I was going to see it this weekend. I knew something would be spoiled if I watched "Turn, Turn, Turn," maybe the best episode of the season so far, and certainly the most devastating. I wasn't wrong, but that won't ruin the movie for me and only enhanced the episode by being far-reaching. I never imagined how far they would really go and so soon. So much has already happened to these characters in the first 17 episodes. Just as a reminder, they had to learn to work as a team; Coulson came back from the dead and was physically and mentally tortured; Simmons and Skye both nearly died; Ward revealed an unspeakable part of his childhood; Ward and Fitz were sent on a suicide mission without an extraction plan; Skye was revealed as an 0-8-4 (object of unknown origin), who people had died to protect; Mike Peterson, the first person they saved, was turned into Deathlok, fighting against S.H.I.E.L.D because he has no choice; T.A.H.I.T.I. turned out to be a not so magical place; GH325, a powerful regenerative drug synthesized from an alien (Kree?), saved Coulson and Skye; and May became someone Coulson no longer trusts or considers a friend.

After everything, the biggest reveal was still yet to come in the final scenes of "Turn, Turn, Turn." I can't imagine how it can get more devastating before the season's end. Ward's is the kind of story decision I both hate and love. It's a beautifully done show, and a choice like must be a hard one. It takes a character we trust and completely changes everything we thought we knew. At least that's what it looks like. In the end, after he did what he did, staring at the blood, hardly hearing "The Clairvoyant's" words, he seemed sad, lost in the sudden betrayal and brutality of what he had done. Could it be because he had to, not because he wanted to? I will keep hoping that's the case until I see the next episode.

The series has always conveyed the feeling that these are good people in a very dangerous world. It's hard to accept for the moment that there was a deadly traitor in the ranks. It's a very disconcerting development since Dalton was always playing it as the good guy, as a cold-blooded, sociopathic Hydra agent would have to do while biding his time. Now I will rewatch these first episodes and see every action and word as having an ulterior motive. Everything is spinning out of control. This is a great decision to keep the story fresh and interesting. If things didn't happen to test the team's loyalty to each other and our loyalty to the show, then what would be the point? This is the kind of writing that keeps me coming back for more. It makes it more difficult to watch but unveils pieces of a deeper story that those of us who stuck with the show were certain was there all along. "Turn, Turn, Turn" is the kind of episode that makes or breaks a series and it's not even a finale. It absolutely made it. It was executed perfectly and with all the emotion of everything that's happened and the possibilities of more mystery, adventure, and poignant loss and revelations to come.

Don't forget, you can get the AoS poster for Providence at 1:00 AM PST on Friday, April 11, in the Marvel Store. I'm now sad I missed the Turn, Turn, Turn poster. Even though I didn't have the money to get them all and I thought the following ones might be more my taste, this was an episode well worth commemorating.

April 4, 2014

Almost Human Deserves a Second Chance

April 4, 2014  


It's April already and the fate of Almost Human still hasn't been decided. I had no idea what I was going to say about that. I've been keeping quiet because I've been so busy with various deadlines, and I sincerely thought I was out of words. I've been getting tired of not knowing, tired of most shows I love getting the axe before proving themselves. But I read the latest Almost Human Task Force post about having a tweet out this Saturday at 8:00 PM EST, during what was supposed to be a repeat of "Straw Man," urging Fox to tell us so that we can either finally breathe a sigh of relief or say goodbye to this intriguing series that didn't get a full season to prove itself. Suddenly I had thoughts pouring out. I barely had to edit it, they came out so perfectly. This only happens when I'm trying to get to sleep, she says grumpily. At least now I know how I want the beginning to end, with a polite plea...

Dear Fox Executives,

Fringe may not have been the huge hit Fox had hoped for in the beginning, but there is no denying that, when it was given the chance, it was a brilliantly done piece of sci-fi drama that was emotionally deeper than almost any series. Being from the same passionate people, specifically Joel Wyman, I'm positive Almost Human can reach similar heights. Just like most genre shows, which admittedly appeal to a much smaller group than the mediocre, easy to follow formula that pervades television, Almost Human needs time to grow, to develop its back story, which already introduced a few intriguing mysteries. Certainly not every series can be a hit out of the gate. There are a lot of factors at play, and true quality should count for a lot more and be praised.

Of course, I don't have knowledge of what happens behind the scenes. I'm sure you get flak all the time, because even the worst show has fans, so I wouldn't want to add stress or presume that your only consideration is money. But it didn't seem like Almost Human had very much support. Like Fringe, I never felt it had a fair shot or the advertising behind it. Like Firefly, the episodes seemed disjointed because they were aired out of order, which I'm sure put off those who didn't know what was happening, only that it didn't make sense in terms of continuity. And starting so late in the season, after everyone's TV schedules are filled to capacity, could not have helped. This instills no confidence in viewers, who then decide to wait and see if a show will be picked up for a second season before spending their time and tears on it.

Almost Human is one of those shows that people should get a chance to discover. There is no shortage of memorable moments, and Michael Ealy and Keith Urban were really made to play opposite each other, their characters so funny and charming in their own ways and each possessing a good deal of the ever important heart that a good show uses to become great. There is so much untapped potential here, so many stories to tell, so many funny lines to deepen our bond. This show inspired action by its fans before it even existed and we have been let down too many times in the past. We know what you did for us with Fringe, taking on a monetary burden to finish a story that a small but enthusiastic audience was yearning for. Please prove that wasn't a one-time fluke. If Almost Human is given the chance it deserves then we will know Fox is committed to cultivating loyalty and excellent television, and the current fans will redouble our efforts to bring in new blood.

Erin Bates