Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two great movie tidbits and my belated thoughts on "Chuck"

Before I get into my thoughts about the present and possible future of "Chuck," there's some great news out there today about easily two of my favorite people in film.

First and most importantly, according to the always informative, director Kasi Lemmons is solidly at work on an adaptation of the Langston Hughes gospel musical "Black Nativity," which as the title makes clear is a retelling of the nativity story with an all-black cast and featuring traditional carols sung in gospel style. Doesn't sound much like my kind of thing at all, but Ms. Lemmons has yet to steer me wrong, so I'm in (if you somehow haven't seen her first flick, "Eve's Bayou," rent it immediately.)

Fox Searchlight is apparently fasttracking this for, appropriately enough, a possible Christmas release this year.

And for fans of "short, fat, sweaty" people everywhere, there's big news about Ricky Gervais. Unbeknownst to me, he's apparently penned a series of children's books titled "Flanimals," and now they're being turned into a 3-D animated feature.

Now, I fully realize I have no power to stop the 3-D express, but I have to say my experiences with it so far have been mixed at best. It brought nothing at all to Henry Selick's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and I also thought it was thoroughly wasted on "Monsters Vs. Aliens" (though, to be fair, I was so bored by that one that even fantastic 3-D effects wouldn't have been enough to suck me back in.) On the other hand, I thought it was mesmerizing with Selick's "Coraline," easily one of my favorite flicks so far of 2009, and I can't wait to see what Pixar does with the technology for "Up."

But getting back to the Gervais flick, it unfortunately won't be penned by Gervais himself, but instead by "The Simpsons" scribe Matt Selman ("The Simpsons" hasn't been funny for many years now, so that can't be a good sign.) The book series, according to Variety, is about "a world inhabited by 50 species of creatures so ugly and misshapen they become cute and endearing." And Gervais, who will voice a "pudgy, perspiring, purple creature," described the project with his signature self-deprecation.

"It will be great to play a short, fat, sweaty loser for a change," Gervais said. "A real stretch."

To that I can only say bring it on, but getting to easily the most important matter of the week (since I can't think of anything even remotely enlightening to say about the fact that people now have something actually called "pig flu"), a belated assessment of the season two finale (and hopefully not series finale!) of "Chuck." In a word, to quote one of our heroes, it was simply "awesome."

The "game-changing" punch that creator Josh Schwartz promised was certainly that, but I have to admit it wasn't what I was expecting. I was hoping that Chuck would have bitten on Gen. Beckman's offer early in the finale and become a real spy (she said analyst, but we knew he wouldn't simply be that) and he and Sarah could travel the world as partners and just kick all kinds of ass.

What Schwartz and co. came up with instead, however, promises to be at least as much fun for next season, which damn well better come to fruition. Chuck as a Kung Fu badass, as I at first understood it, would have been fun enough, but according to Schwartz in this interview with TV, the new and improved intersect in his head could lead to a whole new level of awesome: These new flashes that give Chuck an ability, how long will each one last? Like, could he "forget" kung fu in the middle of a fight?
Schwartz: What I will say is that people who are concerned that these new powers will somehow change the tone of the show or of our guy, don't be. There is a plan in place, and the tone of the show and Chuck's underdog quality will remain intact. Will he flash on, like, a foreign language one week? And then safe cracking skills the next? That kind of a thing?
Schwartz: There are a lot of options, a lot of opportunities for us to go down different paths.

That indeed just sounds radically cool. And I know there should be a lot more important things in life, and even in mine there certainly are, but I haven't gotten attached to a TV show so quickly in a very, very long time. I was admittedly a latecomer, only jumping on the ship early in season two at the urging of several of my entertainment-savvy co-workers, but now it's easily my favorite show that's still running original shows this year (which gives me an out to leave room for the only current shows I like more than "Chuck," coincidentally enough another little NBC offering known as "Friday Night Lights" and, of course, AMC's "Mad Men.")

But what about the most important question hovering around "Chuck"? I tried to find some ratings numbers for the finale or, even more importantly, info on when NBC might make up its mind about next season, but couldn't find anything solid. Here's what Schwartz had to say in the TV Guide interview, the rest of which you can read here: But what is NBC thinking these days?
Schwartz: Well, NBC has always really loved the show. They have been very supportive of the show, and they really do love and support the show. It's not lost on them, the fan reaction, the critical support, and this grassroots movement that's taken hold. All of that is very significant in indicating momentum for the show, growth for the show, and a really loyal and fervent fan base for the show. So you feel like it's a genuinely difficult decision NBC is facing?
Schwartz: They have a very tight schedule this year, so...

Really not much to go on there at all, so I guess we'll just have to wait. At the urging of fellow "Chuck" devotee Stephanie Hartley I did buy a footlong Subway sub recently, though I'm not sure what good that did beyond giving me a rather satisfying supper.

My good friend Kaori Sekine-Pettite sent me a link via Facebook (which I'm somehow on, though I still don't even have a cell phone) that lets you make your own Buy More Nerd Herd badge, which I of course just couldn't resist. I certainly hope Chuck, Casey and even Morgan somehow end up working there next year, and in spirit I can too. If you want to enjoy this perfectly blissful little time-waster, click here, and keep hope very much alive for the future of "Chuck." Peace out.

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