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'The Hobbit' Comic-Con panel is now online: The top 5 highlights

The Comic-Con panel for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies went online today, making this Monday especially delightful for those unable to attend the madness in San Diego over the weekend. “Huzzah!” Tolkien fans everywhere shouted.

The panel saw numerous cast and crew—including Peter Jackson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis—dole out trivia, make shocking confessions, and laugh with a costumed Stephen Colbert (seriously). Here are the highlights:

1. Stephen Colbert as moderator: Colbert is a J.R.R. Tolkien super-fan (see: the full Hobbit costume he wore during the panel). The late-night host admitted having reservations about Peter Jackson & Co. tackling The Lord of the Rings series, the original works in the franchise, but he ultimately loved the films. Still, he did find a flaw: “The only problem I saw was at a total of 11 1/2 hours, they were too damn short.” Throughout the panel, Colbert popped in and out, offering humorous commentary on the actors, the films, and most importantly, the narrative, which he is extremely knowledgable about, bringing us to…

2. Philippa Boyens admitting she lost a trivia contest to Colbert: Boyens, one of the writers of the series, knows her material backward and forward. Hell, she adapted the books. In a fateful trivia contest, however, she was no match for Colbert. Boyens recalled Colbert’s wife approaching her after the match, saying, “I think this is the greatest night of his life.” Colbert likened his Tolkien aptitude to being “an athlete who’s been training his entire life for a race he never knew was coming.” Jackson joked that Colbert isn’t a modest winner.

3. Peter Jackson updating fans on the Hobbit finale: Jackson began working on the first LOTR movie around 1995, meaning he’s dedicated about 20 years of his life to adapting Tolkien’s work for the screen. “It’s a commitment I’ve really enjoyed taking,” Jackson explained. That being said, the work isn’t over yet. To offer an update, the director said they’re still shooting, and are currently in the middle of filming the Battle of Five Armies. The film will hit theaters December 17.

4. Elijah Wood admitting he never read LOTR (again): Wood was met by boos from the crowd when he confessed, again, that he has never read the LOTR books. A shocked Colbert asked Wood if he knows how to read. In Wood’s defense, he had a pretty convincing explanation: “I read The Hobbit when I was a child and it was a big, big book for me. I had The Lord of the Rings on my shelf and it was one of those things that was very daunting and was kind of always there. I thought, ‘I’ll get to that one day,’ and then these movies came about. I felt like I was living it and experiencing it in such a profoundly deep way that I never really consulted the books. I imagine it’s something that I will go back to but it was such an experience over the course of such a long period of time.”

5. Andy Serkis discussing his process, progress: Serkis is one of the most versatile screen actors around, capable of manipulating technology to bring various forms to the screen. “As an actor, [technology] breaks down barriers,” Serkis explained. “Whatever you are, it doesn’t matter. You can play anything.” After playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Serkis found the lead role as King Kong. “I thought my life was going to go back to normality to play normal films in a normal traditional way. The idea hit me overnight: ‘Hold on a minute: I’ve just played this three-and-a-half foot ring junkie. Now I’m going to play a 25-foot gorilla. This means typecasting is not more.'” Today, Serkis can be seen onscreen as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in theaters now. One more bonus: Serkis treated a delighted audience to his Gollum voice.

For the Tolkien-obsessed, check out the full panel here:

I'm Still Not Over... House and Cuddy's terrible relationship

Some television characters just shouldn’t be together. I don’t care how much unresolved sexual tension there is or how funny the witty banter is or how much chemistry the two characters have. There are just some “will-they or won’t-they” couples who should absolutely won’t—because once you take away that conflict, the show and the two characters’ interactions become uninteresting. And this is no more truer than for Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) and Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), whose relationship I’m still not over. Not only was it unnecessary, it ruined House by becoming the central focus of the show. READ FULL STORY

One set, two actors, all dialogue: TV's best 'bottle' episodes

Sunday night’s episode of Masters of Sex, titled “Fight,” was one of the series’ best. It stuck the show’s two main characters, Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and his assistant/lover Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), in a single hotel room and then let them batter out their anxieties and anger through flirtation, role play, and sex, all while an actual boxing match rages on TV.

In TV parlance, episodes like “Fight,” where characters are restricted to a few sets, are often called “bottle episodes”—they’re cheaper to make (you don’t have to build new sets or cast guest stars) but they succeed or fail depending on the quality of the writing and the actors’ performances. In other terms, “Fight” was also nearly a “two-hander,” a term borrowed from stage performance that refers to a play in which only two actors appear. READ FULL STORY

Ira Glass isn't so sure he can defend his 'Shakespeare sucks' comments (Updated)

UPDATE: We asked Ira Glass if he does indeed believe Shakespeare sucks, and this is what he said: “That was kind of an off-the-cuff thing to say that in the cold light of day, I’m not sure I can defend at all.”

Don’t worry, high school kids choking down Hamlet and Macbeth before school starts. You’re not alone: Famed radio host Ira Glass also hates Shakespeare.

READ FULL STORY

Bert from 'Sesame Street' reveals he's an 'Entourage' fan at Comic-Con

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Here’s a pleasant surprise: Bert, Cookie Monster, and Murray came to the EW Hideout at San Diego Comic-Con all the way from Sesame Street. They were pretty excited to be there, and really, really like comic books. Except for Bert. He’s into bottle caps.

Unfortunately, there’s no booth for that at the convention, but that’s okay—wait ’til you see how excited they all get when they find out there’s a Justice League movie.

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EW's Brave New Warriors Comic-Con panel: Stars share the complications of playing leading men

You have to be a pretty brave guy to battle a headless horsemen, or a bike gang, or Nazi Germany and the crazy crowds at Comic-Con. But on Friday afternoon at EW‘s Brave New Warriors panel, hosted by our very own Darren Franich, actors Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel), Jon Bernthal (Fury), Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow), Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy) and Brenton Thwaites (The Giver) showed how tough it can be to be the tough guy in the spotlight. Here are the highlights:

• Highmore, Mison, and Thwaites are all playing characters with a storied history already documented in previous movies, TV and books, but had different opinions about how to approach the men they play. Thwaites, who took on the iconic role of Jonas in the film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, had never read the book when he first received the script. As for the significant age difference between Thwaites himself and Jonas as written in the book: “I have to explain to people why I’m 25 and the kid is 12 and I can’t, I don’t know why!” Mison originally thought adapting the American literary classic Sleepy Hollow in a modern TV world was a terrible idea, while Highmore’s only concern was not messing up the Norman Bates legacy left by Anthony Perkins’ original performance in Psycho. 

• Though they are all new warriors, the five actors have all shared their time with some real screen legends. Bernthal confessed that it was always his dream to work with Robert De Niro, which came true when he played his son in Grudge Match. On the last day of filming, Bernthal tried to get up the nerve to tell De Niro how influential he was to him as an actor, and now as a man. De Niro’s response? “We do these things… and then they’re over.” Thwaites said that Jeff Bridges was just as nervous when filming for The Giver started, and Highmore said when he worked with Johnny Depp on Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he was too young to even realize he was working alongside anyone special outside of those fantasy worlds.

• As for the much darker world he plays in now on Bates Motel, Highmore joked that he was happy he knew his character couldn’t get killed off the show and that he had a stable future. Conversely, he’s the one responsible for getting rid of other characters each week. “I don’t do it with glee though, they are all very lovely people,” he said, referring to his former cast mates.

• Mison must have been trying to prove his range as he consistently brought down the Comic-Con crowd with his jokes and English charm. “It’s nice after 10 years to finally be new,” Mison said, referring to working in America after years of success in the U.K. However, his anonymity has also given him a few laughs, like when in North Carolina (where Sleepy Hollow films), he overheard a couple of guys at a bar talking about the show, oblivious to the fact that the lead actor was sitting nearby listening. Luckily, they were saying positive things about the show. It wasn’t until Mison ordered a gin that they recognized his accent… and naturally paid for the drink. He also shared a story about getting cast in a French film after lying to the director, saying he was a fluent speaker. The sound guy quickly figured out the truth once filming started, and would whisper lines to Mison while pretending to fix his mic to help him out.

• Bernthal got to punch Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street, and though he would like the chance to sock him again, he doesn’t feel the need to fight anyone else onscreen. Maybe the fact that he has broken his nose 14 times in his career has something to do with it.

• Rossi said that Ron Perlman was the most intimidating person on set for Sons of Anarchy because “that’s Hellboy! No one else in the world looks like Ron Perlman.” Perlman was cast after the first pilot was shot and filmed, but once he and Rossi realized that they had similar upbringings in New York, the two became good friends.

For the first time, Thwaites talked about his upcoming film with Ewan McGregor, called Son of a Gun, about “a guy who goes to jail and meets this mentor [there]. My character gets out and runs a bunch of illegal errands for this guy and breaks him out for a gold heist.” Thwaites was cast exactly one year after he had watched McGregor in The Beginners and told a friend that he wanted to work with the actor within the next year.

• All of the men on the panel admitted their love for Game of Thrones, another Comic-Con staple that unfortunately had its panel going on at the same time. Mison jokingly apologized to the audience for attending their panel because they weren’t able to get into the other. Other TV loves? If Bernthal could be any other TV character, he’s choose Clare Danes in Homeland.

Stay tuned for EW’s all-access coverage of Comic-Con at EW.com/ComicCon.

Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch's 1999 stage show is as great as it sounds

One one side of Chicago’s Second City stage, Rachel Dratch performs a one-woman show about the 19th-century woman’s rights activist Edwina Garth Burnahm. On the other, Tina Fey monologues about her vagina. This might sound like a fever dream you had after binging on Cheesy Blasters, but it actually happened.

A 1999 video of the the pair recently surfaced online, and if that description of the first sketch isn’t enough to get you hooked, then you have no soul. They performed Dratch and Fey at Second City as well as the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City. The show was directed by Jeff Richmond, who later married Fey. He also composed the music for 30 Rock.

READ FULL STORY

This map of the DC Comics multiverse will blow your mind

Grant Morrison has spent much of his career in comic books sketching out the farthest reaches of the comic cosmos, taking iconic characters like Batman and Superman far beyond our fragile borders of space and time. And the upcoming Multiversity takes Morrison’s fascination with alternate realities to its logical apex. Comprising six adventures set in different parallel universes—along with a two-part framing story and a guidebook to the DC Multiverse—it’s a trippy saga that features iconic variations on the major DC characters: a vampire Justice League, a fascist Superman, and (naturally) Dino-Cop. READ FULL STORY

'Fifty Shades' star Jamie Dornan was a better ladykiller in 'The Fall'

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So, you like to watch a handsome, shirtless Jamie Dornan do the whole torture thing? Well, then, we’ve got the perfect drama for you—and it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey.

If you want to see Dornan gag women, tie them up, bathe them by candlelight, and cause them grievous bodily harm, you’re better off watching the first season of the BBC’s gripping thriller The Fall. (Catch up on Netflix before season two airs. The trailer premiered yesterday, just in time for 50 Shades madness.) The Fall is a suspenseful and scary thriller, and, unlike Fifty Shades, it’s honest about the slippery entertainment appeal of violence against women.

Dornan plays Paul Spector, a doting father and loving husband who also happens to be a really hot serial killer. Where the 50 Shades trailer makes sadism look aspirational—just let him hurt you, ladies, and you can have it all, the Nicholas Sparks romance, the fashion-mag clothes, and rides in fancy, phallus-shaped planes!—The Fall shows that glamorizing male sexual power over women can also be dangerous. “I was at pains from the start to make sure that there was nothing gratuitous or exploitative in the drama,” its creator, Alan Cubitt, told the Guardian last year. “Sexual killers eroticize violence, power and death, so it’s a challenging line to walk.”

Half of The Fall‘s story is told from Paul’s point of view (we’ll get to the other half in a second), and he’s definitely a voyeur. (His last name, Spector, even hints that he likes to watch.) So it’s necessary that there’s an element of voyeurism in the way the show frames his murders: The victims are young, beautiful, and often left naked on their beds. Their deaths are gorgeously shot, with romantic lighting and tasteful make-up. Paul even bathes his victims and paints their nails before he leaves them. But this isn’t the straight-forward S&M glamor that 50 Shades trades in. It’s all part of the drama’s plan to implicate its viewers in the same objectification of women that excites Paul. And that’s a fair thing to do: Viewers are tuning in to watch a show about a literal lady-killer, aren’t they? READ FULL STORY

Adam West explains Batman's little-known connection to Josh Brolin

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While Batman’s future is on everyone’s mind at this year’s Comic-Con International, his past is getting its fair share of attention too. With the November 11th release date of the classic 1966 Batman television series on home video announced at this year’s convention, former Batman and current Mayor of Quahog Adam West came by the EW hideout to reminisce about the show, his co-workers, and Batman’s little-known connection to actor Josh Brolin. READ FULL STORY

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