Review: ‘Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank,’ starring the voices of Michael Cera, Ricky Gervais, George Takei, Aasif Mandvi, Michelle Yeoh and Samuel L. Jackson

July 13, 2022

by Carla Hay

Hank (voiced by Michael Cera) and and Jimbo (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) in “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies, Align and Aniventure)

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank”

Directed by Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier and Chris Bailey

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the fictional town of Kakamucho, the animated film “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” features a racially diverse cast (white, black, Asian and Latino) portraying talking animals.

Culture Clash: Inspired by the 1974 comedy film “Blazing Saddles,” a dog named Hank is chosen to be a samurai to save a town of cats, but Hank doesn’t know not he’s been set up by villain who wants to rid the town of the cats and wants Hank to be killed.

Culture Audience: “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” will appeal primarily to fans of “Blazing Saddles” and people who enjoy family-oriented films with positive messages of self-confidence and not judging people by physical appearances.

Ika Chu (voiced by Ricky Gervais) and Ohga (voiced by George Takei) in “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” (Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies, Align and Aniventure)

No one should expect “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” to be award-worthy. But as family entertainment with positive messages, memorable characters and an action-filled story (that sometimes gets jumbled), the movie delivers on a satisfactory level. Although “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” was inspired by the classic 1974 film “Blazing Saddles,” anyone expecting the dark comedy of “Blazing Saddles” will be sorely disappointed.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is an animated film geared to people of various ages (mostly underage kids), so the tone of the movie is lighthearted and lightweight. Because it’s an animated movie with talking animals and a theme of an underestimated animal training to be a protective fighter, “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” might also get some comparisons to the 2008 animated film “Kung Fu Panda.” “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” isn’t as good as “Kung Fu Panda” and is unlikely to have as large of a fan base that the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise has, but not all movies aspire to be classics.

Directed by Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier and Chris Bailey, “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” has the benefit of very talented voice cast members who give the movie’s characters unique personalities. This is not the type of animated film where it’s hard to tell the characters apart from each other. Ed Stone and Nate Hopper wrote the adapted screenplay for “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank,” which also gives screenwriting credit to “Blazing Saddles” screenwriters Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor and Alan Uger.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” begins with showing a town called Kakamucho, which is populated entirely by cats. Although the town could exist anywhere, the Kakamucho residents follow ancient Japanese military traditions of shoguns and samurai. The town has recently been plagued by bandits. The shogun of Kakamucho will be arriving soon and will be asked by find samurai who can protect the town. “Blazing Saddles” director/co-writer Brooks is the voice of Shogun, a British shorthair cat.

However, the story’s villain wants to get rid of the residents of Kakamucho, so that he can use the land for greedy redevelopment purposes. The villain is a scheming Somali cat named Ika Chu (voiced by Ricky Gervais), a character that people might or might not enjoy watching, depending on how they feel about Gervais and his cutting British comedy that he brings to this cat’s personality. In movies like this, every villain has a sidekick. Ika Chu’s sidekick is Ohga (voiced by George Takei), a burly Manx cat who leads Ika Chu’s army.

Ika Chu has concocted a plan where he decides to fool a dog into thinking that the dog has been selected as a samurai to protect Kakamucho. Because cats and dogs have been enemies, Ika Chu is counting on the dog to be killed by the Kakamucho residents. Because it’s against the law to kill a samurai, Ika Chu will then have the entire town arrested, and then have the land to himself.

The dog who becomes the unwitting target of Ika Chu’s dastardly plan is Hank (voiced by Michael Cera), a socially awkward beagle who has recently been released from prison. It’s implied that Hank might have been unjustly imprisoned simply because he’s a dog in a cat’s town. Iku Chu summons Hank and lies to him by saying that Hank has been chosen as the samurai to protect Kakamucho. When Hank expresses skepticism, Ika Chu spontaneously scratches the word “samurai” on a coffee mug and gives it to Hank as an “official” memento that Hank is now an appointed samurai.

Hank has no idea how to be a samurai, so he enlists the help of tuxedo cat Jimbo (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), a washed-up and cranky samurai, who spends a lot of time getting drunk on catnip. Jimbo is very reluctant to become a sensei mentor to Hank, but he eventually agrees. Jimbo isn’t entirely convinced that a dog will be accepted by the cats of Kakamucho.

Hank and Jimbo do a lot of arguing during this training, but they have somewhat of a emotional breakthrough when Hank finds out that he’s met Jimbo before. Hank tells Jimbo about a time several years earlier when an unidentified samurai cat rescued Hank from being bullied by some bad dogs. Jimbo reveals that he was that cat.

Jimbo eventually opens up to Hank about something painful from his past too. Years ago, Jimbo was head of security at the birthday party for his employer, an elite feline named Toshi. However, Jimbo accidentally caused a major disaster at the party. The accident resulted in Toshi’s in-laws to become sterile. This mishap embarrassed Jimbo so much, he quit being a samurai and became a bitter recluse.

Although this is a fictional animated film, “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” has a lot to say about prejudices that can negatively divide individuals. It’s a message that’s explicitly stated in the film, but one that’s still meaningful. The bigotry between the cats and dogs in “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is obvious symbolism for bigotry in hate groups that teach people to hate others based on their identities or physical appearances.

Observant viewers will also notice how “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” shows something that often happens in real life: opinions and thoughts from young females are often dismissed just because they’re young females. In the movie, a young female Persian cat named Emiko (voiced by Kylie Kuioka), who wants to be a samurai, is intelligent and observant. However, her smart ideas are often ignored, or an older male in the community takes credit for her ideas. The way that Emiko handles this disrespect and what happens to her in the end are good lessons for people of any age.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” gets a little messy with a tad too many subplots. One of these subplots involves a giant ginger cat named Sumo (voiced by Djimon Hounsou), who is at various times feared and adored. Sumo arrives in Kakamucho as a fighting enemy to Hank, but will Sumo ends up as a friend?

In “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank,” the female cats are often the calm voices of reason amid the chaos. Yuki (voiced by Michelle Yeoh) is a cheerful Persian cat who is Emiko’s mother. Little Mama (voiced by Cathy Shim) is a wise matriarch of Kakamucho. There’s also a clownish duo of friends: klutzy calico cat Chuck (voiced by Gabriel Iglesias) and tuxedo cat Ichiro (voiced by Aasif Mandvi), who are like the Laurel & Hardy of Kakamucho.

The movie has no shortage of action, with some scenes working better than others. The last third of the movie consists of a flurry of battles and chase sequences that should hold viewers’ interest, despite predictable outcomes. The visuals in “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” are good but not outstanding. The most striking visuals are the outdoor scenic shots and many of the action scenes.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” makes some sarcastic self-referential comments on movie clichés that can be found in “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.” When Hank begins training under Jimbo’s tutelage, Hank says, “This is the training montage.” Jimbo replies, “This is my favorite part—the part where you suffer.” A movie that can laugh at itself in this way can’t be taken too seriously.

Paramount Pictures will release “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” in U.S. cinemas on July 15, 2022.

Review: ‘Human Capital,’ starring Liev Schreiber, Marisa Tomei, Peter Sarsgaard, Maya Hawke, Alex Wolff and Fred Hechinger

March 25, 2020

by Carla Hay

Liev Schreiber in “Human Capital” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Human Capital”

Directed by Marc Meyers

Culture Representation: Taking place in upstate New York, the dramatic film “Human Capital” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the middle-class and the upper-class.

Culture Clash: A hit-and-run car accident and financial pressures affect the lives of two families from different socioeconomic classes.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal primarily to people who like suspenseful dramas and who won’t mind that the story is told in a non-chronological manner.

Alex Wolff and Maya Hawke in “Human Capital” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

The tightly wound dramatic film “Human Capital” shows what happens when desperate people do desperate things and how they deal with the ethical dilemmas they face in the process. Based on Stephen Amidon’s 2004 novel “Human Capital” (which was adapted into the 2014 Italian film “Il Capitale Umano”), this American movie version begins with the incident that is at the center of the turmoil in the movie, which takes place in an unnamed suburb in upstate New York.

While riding his bicycle home from work one night, a restaurant waiter is suddenly stuck by a speeding Jeep Wrangler in a hit-and-run-accident. The Jeep Wrangler briefly stops and the unseen driver does not get out of the car before speeding off. Observant viewers can immediately notice some clues (including the make and model of the car), but even then it’s best not to assume that these clues are proof of who the perpetrator really is.

The mystery unfolds in layers, as the three acts in the story are each told from the perspective of three of the main characters: financially desperate real-estate broker Drew Hagel (played by Liev Schreiber), rich housewife Carrie Manning (played by Marisa Tomei) and high-school student Shannon Dark (played by Maya Hakwe), who is Drew’s daughter from his first marriage. (Shannon took her mother’s maiden name after her parents got divorced.) All of them are or will be connected to the hit-and-run accident in some way.

Drew’s perspective is told first. He’s first seen on screen with Shannon, as he drives her to the home of her new boyfriend Jamie Manning (played by Fred Hechinger), who is the son of a wealthy hedge-fund mogul named Quint Manning (played by Peter Sarsgaard). While Drew marvels at the Manning family’s large estate, Shannon acts like she’s not impressed by the family’s wealth and she looks like she just hopes that her father doesn’t embarrass her when he drops her off at the home.

Drew first meets Quint’s wife Carrie. In the space of a few minutes, Drew tells Carrie that he owns his own real-estate company, he and his first wife (Shannon’s mother) did not have friendly divorce, and he’s now married to a woman whom Drew calls “his trophy wife.” These are indications that Drew wants to give the impression that he’s a rich and successful businessman.

As Drew is getting ready to leave, he meets Quint, when Quint asks Drew to join him in a game of doubles tennis on the mansion’s tennis court. After the game, Drew asks Quint if he’s taking any more investors in his hedge fund WNV. Quint tells Drew that the only new investors he’ll accept are family and friends. But since they’ve gotten along so well in their short time together, Quint tells Drew that the minimum investment is $300,000.

Drew can get the money, but only through borrowing via home equity at a fairly high interest rate. Drew discusses the matter with his business manager Andy (played by James Waterston), who advises him against the deal. It’s a risky move because Drew’s real-estate business (he’s the only employee) hasn’t been doing well, but he’s too embarrassed to admit his financial problems to anyone other than Andy. Drew seems determined to impress Quint, with the hopes of making a profit from the investment, so Drew ignores Andy’s advice and goes through with the investment deal by doing something illegal.

Drew doesn’t tell his current wife Ronnie (played by Betty Gabriel) about this deal. But she’s got news for him: After having multiple miscarriages in the past, she’s now pregnant with twins. Ronnie is a therapist, but her salary wouldn’t be enough to cover the financial losses if Drew’s investment turns out to be a bad decision. Needless to say, the impending birth of the children puts even more financial pressure on Drew.

Meanwhile, the movie’s second act focuses on the perspective of Quint’s wife Carrie. Viewers find out that she’s interested in buying a run-down performing-arts theater in the area and turning it into a cultural center for movie screenings, stage performances and other events. But first, she needs her husband Quint’s money, and she convinces him to buy the theater for their nonprofit foundation.

One of the people on the foundation board is a professor (played by Paul Sparks), who recognizes Carrie as a former actress who used to do horror movies. When he’s alone with Carrie, he flirts with her and confesses that he’s a fan of her work. He also mentions that if the theater needs an artistic director, he’d like to be considered for the position.

During a lunch appointment with him, Carrie confesses that her marriage has had some problems, including Quint having “three affairs in 20 years.” When the professor asks Carrie if she’s ever cheated on Quint, her response is that she’s thought about it many times, but never actually did it. When Quint finds out about the lunch, he tells Carrie about a decision he made about the theater. You can see where this is headed, so it comes no surprise at what happens next.

The third and final act of the story is told from Shannon’s perspective. Viewers find out that she’s a lot more angst-ridden than she first appeared in the other parts of the story. She’s desperate for love and attention outside of her family, but hides that desperation behind a façade of appearing emotionally distant and insolent. While visiting her stepmother Ronnie at Ronnie’s job, Shannon is in the waiting area and meets another teenager named Ian, who is one Ronnie’s patients. They exchange some sarcastic banter, but it’s obvious that they’re attracted to one another.

There’s too much spoiler information to talk about what happens during other parts of the movie, but it’s enough to say that there are several flashbacks that revolve around what happened the night of a gala event where Jamie’s elite private school gave a prestigious award to one of its students. Seated at the same table at the event were Quint, Carrie, Jamie, Quint’s obnoxious lawyer Godeep (played by Aasif Mandvi), Godeep’s wife (played by Christiane Seidel), Shannon, Ronnie and Drew.

The American version of “Human Capital” (directed by  Marc Meyers) is not as stylishly filmed as director Paolo Virzì’s Italian version. While the Italian version had a sleek, minimalistic look to its production design and cinematography, the American version opts for a grittier, more cluttered look. The American version of the movie is a straightforward mystery thriller, while the Italian version seemed to have more to say about the dark sides of ambitious social climbing.

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Oren Moverman (2009’s “The Messenger”) does a capable job with the American version of the “Human Capital” screenplay, which certainly ramps up the “whodunit” tension throughout the film. However, the film’s middle section that’s shown from Carrie’s perspective really doesn’t add much to the story, compared to the beginning and ending to the film.

One character in particular has a backstory that is mentioned but never seen in the movie. It would have been interesting to explore more of this person’s history. However, enough of this person’s background is revealed to explain why this person does an extreme act toward the end of the film. All of the actors do a very good job with their roles, but Hawke’s Shannon character is probably the hardest one to pull off because her character is the least predictable.

For people who want to know who committed the hit-and-run, the movie does end up showing the entire set of circumstances that led up to the hit-and-run, who was responsible, and what happened afterward. However, the American version of “Human Capital” doesn’t fully address some of the illegal acts that certain characters committed in the movie that might or might nor be related to the hit-and-run crime. In other words, some loose ends are tied up, but not all.

Vertical Entertainment released “Human Capital” on DirecTV on February 20, 2020, and on VOD on March 20, 2020.

2019 Tribeca TV Festival: recap and reviews

September 16, 2019

by Carla Hay

The third annual Tribeca TV Festival (which took place September 12 to September 15 in New York City) once again offered a diverse mix of programming representing various TV genres. This year, the entire festival took place at the Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City. In most cases, a new episode of a show premiered at the festival, and there was a post-screening Q&A with stars from the show and at least one executive producer. The event also featured a 25th anniversary reunion of “Friends” executive producers who curated two episodes from the classic sitcom. There were also “Tribeca Talks” celebrity conversations with Emmy-winning actor James Spader (who was interviewed by Whoopi Goldberg) and comedian Hisan Minhaj.

At the festival, I saw the first-episode premieres of two new series: The comedy “First Wives Club” (which launches on the  BET+  streaming service on September 19) and the crime-drama “Evil,” which debuts on CBS on September 26, 2019.

“First Wives Club” Review

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

The “First Wives Club” show is the TV version of the 1996 comedy film that starred Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler as three wives getting revenge on their ex-husbands, who dumped them for other women. The movie was rated PG, and the TV series (whose showrunner is “Girls Trip” co-writer Tracy Oliver) is definitely for mature audiences, since the show has nudity and explicit language that can be seen in R-rated movies. People will inevitably compare the TV show to the movie (which are both set in New York City), so here’s a helpful summary of the similarities and the differences:

Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton in “The First Wives Club” movie (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

In the movie, the three women (who have known each other since their college days) are reunited in the beginning of the story because of the suicide of their college pal Cynthia Swann Griffin (played by Stockard Channing), who’s been depressed that her ex-husband married a much-younger woman. Keaton played Annie MacDuggan Paradis, an intellectual, super-organized type who likes to pretend that things are going better in her life than they really are. Midler played Brenda Morelli Cushman, the loud-mouthed humorous friend who’s still very bitter over her divorce. Hawn played Elise Eliot Atchison, an Oscar-winning actress who drinks heavily and has become so insecure about her looks that she’s addicted to plastic surgery.

From the beginning of the movie, Brenda is already divorced from her sleazy ex-husband Morton Cushman (played by Dan Hedaya), an electronics-retail businessman who’s gotten engaged to his gold-digger mistress Shelly Stewart (played Sarah Jessica Parker). Brenda and Morton have a teenage son, who’s often embarrassed by Brenda’s blunt attitude. Annie has a better relationship with her own child: She and Aaron have a young, adult lesbian daughter named Chris (played by Jennifer Dundas), who helps Annie get revenge on Aaron.

The movie shows the breakup of Annie’s and Elise’s marriages. Annie’s ad-executive husband Aaron (played by Stephen Collins) leaves her for Annie’s therapist Leslie Rosen (played by Marcia Gay Harden). Elise’s movie-producer husband Bill (played by Victor Garber) has been cheating on her with ditzy actress Phoebe LaVelle (played by Elizabeth Berkley), who’s young enough to be his daughter. Annie and Brenda gave up their careers to become housewives and stay-at-home mothers, so their divorces have a different type of identity crisis than Elise’s divorce, since Elise has no children and still maintained her career throughout her marriage.

Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

In the TV show, Ryan Michelle Bathe is Ari Montgomery, the counterpart to Keaton’s Annie MacDuggan Paradis. Ari is an attorney who has given up her law practice to become the campaign manager for her senator husband David (played by Mark Tallman). In the first episode of the series, Ari and David are having problems in their marriage (he’s become bored and uninterested in her), but Ari is still projecting an image to the world that her life is perfect. Although Ari and David’s kids are mentioned, they are not seen in this episode. However, in the Q&A after the screening, it was revealed that Ari and David have a lesbian daughter (whom Buteau called “gender-bending”) who first appears in the show’s third episode. The daughter’s name is Versace, and she’s played by Tara Pacheco. At the Q&A, Oliver declined to elaborate on what Versace’s storyline is in the show.

Michelle Buteau of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET

Michelle Buteau plays Bree Washington, an orthopedic surgeon who is the counterpart to Midler’s Brenda Morelli Cushman. In the first episode, viewers see that Bree is separated from her businessman husband Gary (played by RonReaco Lee) because she found out that he cheated on her. (The other woman, who is described as a one-night stand, is not seen in this episode.) Buteau, who’s also a stand-up comedian in real life, seems to have some of the best lines in the show. In one scene that has the three friends on a high-rise window-washing platform (in a nod to a similar scene in the movie), Bree yells, “Bitch, you got us out here like brown-tittied Spider-Men!”

Jill Scott of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

Jill Scott plays Hazel Rachelle, a fading R&B star who is the counterpart to Hawn’s Elise Eliot Atchison. Hazel isn’t as obsessed with her looks as Elise is, but Hazel is worried about her career and getting older in an industry that prefers young artists. Just like Elise, Hazel works closely with her husband, so when their marriage ends messily, her career is also in jeopardy. Hazel’s cheating husband is Derek Ellsworth (played by Malik Yoba), the head of her record company, and he’s been having a not-so-secret affair with a sultry young diva named Stella Bentley (played by Tasie Lawrence), whom he’s been grooming to replace Hazel as his next big hitmaker. The episode’s first big emotional meltdown scene comes when Hazel finds out about his infidelity, and storms into a recording studio to confront Derek. And yes, things get thrown, and things get broken.

Jill Scott in”First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

The main difference in the comedy styles of the movie and the TV show is that the comedy in the TV show is less broad and more rooted in reality, which is why there’s so much adult humor in the show. And in a switch from how most adult-oriented TV shows portray sex scenes, in “First Wives Club,” the men, not the women, are the ones who are shown naked (backsides, not full frontal), at least in the first episode. That might be because “First Wives Club” show has a female gaze, since the majority of the show’s writers and directors are women.

In one hilarious bedroom scene, Ari and David have unsatisfying sex, but David thinks he’s an amazing lover. In the episode’s other sex scene, Bree takes home a hunky bartender named Jesus (played by Angel Garet) after he flirts with her at the nightclub where he works. Showing the sexual needs of the three main characters in the TV series is a big contrast from the movie, where the three main characters do not have any sex scenes, and only one of them (Elise) seems interested in dating again after her marriage ends.

Ryan Michelle Bathe, Michelle Buteau, RonReaco Lee, Mark Tallman and Tracy Oliver at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

At the Q&A, Bathe said she can’t watch her sex scene in the first episode: “I still haven’t seen it. I closed my eyes!” Tallman replied, “You’re really good in it. I’m just embarrassing.” Buteau said she was happy to represent for “thick” women: “My husband could not be more proud. As a size 18 broad, no one [on a TV show] is like, ‘Oh, go make out and open your legs.’ You’re usually [cast as] the best friend. Body positivity, all the motherfuckin’ way! Let’s go!”

Oliver also talked about how the show breaks convention by casting two “thick” women in leading roles: “I remember on day one of shooting the pilot [episode], Jill [Scott] came up to me and said, “Thank you for having two thick girls in your cast. I’ve never actually had that happen’ … Let’s expand the definition of what beauty is, and not just make this all about skinny women, and really diversify what everyone looks like.”

Ryan Michelle Bathe and Jill Scott in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

A previous attempt to make a TV version of “The First Wives Club” for the TV Land network fizzled in 2016. Vanessa Lachey, Megan Hilty and Alyson Hannigan had been cast as the stars of the show, which was going to be set in San Francisco. After the blockbuster success of 2017’s “Girls Trip,” Oliver was asked to do the TV version of “The First Wives Club,” which was going to be on the Paramount Network before the show moved to the BET+ streaming service.

Oliver said at the Q&A that in an industry where people have to beg for work and have to deal with constant rejections, being given this opportunity as a first-time showrunner “almost never happens.” She added that she was just as surprised when she faced no objections to her requirement that people of color would be the stars of the show: “That was the one opportunity I’ve had where I said what my parameters were up front, and they agreed to it.”

Michelle Buteau and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

Another big change from the movie to the TV show is that there is no fourth friend who commits suicide in the beginning of the story. During the post-screening Q&A, Oliver explained: “With movies, you have the luxury of time. With a half-hour pilot [episode], if we’re laughing after a death within 10 minutes, it’s a little weird.” Instead, what brings the three friends back together is Hazel’s scandal-plagued and very messy divorce.

As for scenes from the movie that made it into the TV show, there are two memorable scenes that were mentioned in the Q&A. In the movie, Donald Trump’s first ex-wife Ivana has a cameo playing herself, and she gives this divorce advice: “Don’t get mad. Get everything.” (That became the tag line for the movie.) In the TV show, the famous ex-wife who delivers that line is Shaunie O’Neal, ex-wife of basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. The movie also has a memorable scene with the three women, dressed all in white, singing Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” Oliver said that the TV show also has a “You Don’t Own Me” scene, but she didn’t want to spill any more details:  “I can’t say anything about that, but what I will say is that we do our own White Party and a version of that [song] in the show.”

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

One of the best things about the show is that the chemistry between the three main characters seems very natural, not forced. And if the camaraderie looks genuine on screen, that’s because the three women have become friends in real life. Oliver says it was a stroke of luck, because before the show began filming, “They never actually did a chemistry read together, which is a disastrous way to ever do a show about friends … I don’t know how it happened, but they loved each other immediately.”

Buteau said of the trio: “We’re all fire signs. We’re all only children. We all have so much in common. We’ve all had to fight for our place in whatever Hollywood was giving us. For this all-inclusive experience, it was like showing up to work with smiles every day. Also, working with boss-ass bitches who are moms and get stuff done, I follow you!”

BET+ will premiere “First Wives Club” on September 19, 2019.

“Evil” Review

Mike Colter and Katja Herbers in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

Husband-and-wife TV showrunners Robert King and Michelle King, who created the Emmy-winning hit “The Good Wife” (as well as the spinoff “The Good Fight”), have another potential hit with the crime drama “Evil.” Just like most of the Kings’ recent TV series, “Evil” features a complex woman in the lead role, and the series explores themes that have to do with ethics, ambition, and gray areas of morality.

In “Evil,” Katja Herbers plays Kristen Bouchard, a skeptical female psychologist who teams up with priest-in-training David Acosta (played by Mike Colter) and carpenter Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) to investigate the unexplained mysteries uncovered by the Catholic Church. Kristen and David naturally clash in the way they investigate—she doesn’t believe in the supernatural, and he does (which might remind people of the male/female investigator relationship in “The X-Files”)—and it wouldn’t be a King show without sexual tension. It’s revealed in the first episode that Kristen, who’s married with four young daughters, is sexually attracted to David, who has a colorful background as a world traveler and former war photographer. Kristen’s husband is frequently away from home, which explains why she’s feeling lonely. Because David is studying to become a priest (in other words, he’s preparing to lead a celibate life), it obviously adds a layer of tension to the “will they or won’t they hook up” subplot that the show is clearly setting up as an ongoing issue between Kristen and David.

Mike Colter, Katja Herbers and Aasif Mandvi (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS)

The first episode of “Evil” is a little overstuffed with villains, and rushes through several things in order to pack in numerous plot developments, but the good news for crime-thriller fans is that this show definitely has plenty of scares and suspense. Without giving away any spoilers, the three villains introduced in the first episode are:

  • A demon named George (played by Marti Matulis), who looks like something out of the “Insidious” movie series, and who taunts Kristen in what she believes are her nightmares.
  • A suspected serial killer named Orson LeRoux , who is in jail while on trial and is repeatedly interviewed by Kristen and David. (Shades of “The Silence of the Lambs.”)
  • A mysterious creep named Leland Townsend (played by Michael Emerson, the former “Lost” and “Person of Interest” actor who’s made a career out of playing mysterious creeps), who gleefully commits all sorts of mayhem.

Somehow, these villains are all tied in to an enigmatic group of evildoers called The 60.

Katja Herbers and Michael Emerson in “Evil” (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS)

Kristen’s therapist, Dr. Boggs (played by Kurt Fuller), is also introduced in the first episode. Fans of these types of shows can speculate that this character probably isn’t what he first appears to be. In other words, can Dr. Boggs really be trusted? We’ll have to wait and see. At the post-screening Q&A, “Evil” executive producer Robert King hinted at Boggs’ dark side, by saying that Boggs has “problems.”

There’s no shortage of real-life supernatural investigations to inspire stories for this show, so if “Evil” is a hit, it could go for years without running out of ideas. Expect to see many scenes of “possessed” people in this show, but Robert King also said don’t expect the show to be “all exorcisms, all the time.” “Evil” will also push some emotional buttons when it comes to debates over religion and spirituality.

Overall, “Evil” is one of the better-quality new shows being offered on broadcast TV this year. Some of the scenes are so terrifying, that “Evil” looks like it could also be on a cable network such as AMC (home of “The Walking Dead”) or FX (home of “American Horror Story”).

Katja Herbers and Mike Colter in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

At the post-screening Q&A, Michelle King said that, just like the female and male lead characters in “Evil,” she and husband Robert have very different beliefs when it comes to evil: “We don’t see the roots of evil in the same way. Robert typically thinks it comes through something religious, something demonic. I’m much more likely to jump to the psychological or the scientific.”

Robert King added, “When you look around and see some of the evil going on in politics or whatever, you kind of think there’s something going beyond …. what science can explain. When you see what’s going on with racism in this country, there’s something that holds people [to racism], and I don’t think it’s all in genes.”

“Evil” executive producers Robert King and Michelle King at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Robert King said that “Evil” will include a lot of timely social topics. For example, in the show’s sixth episode, Leland grooms a male incel loner to possibly become a mass murderer. “If you’re not writing about that today,” said Robert King,”I don’t know if you’re awake, because you’re watching what’s going on with lone gunmen [who commit mass murders], how people are creating communities around anger, frustration, bitterness, racism.”

Herbers shared how she develops the character of Kristen Bouchard: “I work on intuition, and I go with what’s on the page. The scripts are absolutely incredible.” She also added that she works off of the flow of her fellow actors, but she’s not a Method actor: “I’m not one of those people who needs to go into solitary confinement … I did have to study psychology for about a year. I have very little knowledge of the Catholic Church.”

“Evil” co-stars Mike Colter and Katja Herbers at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Colter commented on his David Acosta character: “I think he is a work in progress. He’s trying to achieve something that few people can, and be happy in that world.”  Colter added that what attracted him to the role was that David was described as “the most interesting man in the world.”

When asked if Leland Townsend is “evil,” Emerson replied: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘evil.’ I think he’s playful. He’s a kind of a gamesman, maybe. He likes stirring things up. It delights him to watch things spin out of control. The wreckage appeals to him.”

“Evil” co-stars Aasif Mandvi and Christine Lahti at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Mandvi said that he’s had “many” supernatural experiences, so he’s almost the opposite of his Ben Shakir character: “Ben is a guy who really believes only in the things you can touch, taste, feel, smell, hear. He lives in a world of pragmatism and empirical truth. David needs that in his life as well.”

Christine Lahti, who is not in the first episode of “Evil,” was nevertheless at the Q&A. She plays Kristen’s divorced mother Sheryl, whom Lahti described as a “free spirit” and former rock groupie. “I’m the surrogate babysitter,” Lahti said, “My character is a little more comic relief than anything.” She added that Sheryl is “hungry for a relationship,” because she “got rid of [her] husband, who was very controlling, about 15 years ago.” Lahti teased that Sheryl does find love on the show, “but I’m not going to tell you who it’s with.” Robert King dropped a hint though: “She ends up dating somebody on this stage.”

“Evil” co-stars Michael Emerson and Kurt Fuller at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Fuller said his Dr. Boggs character is “the person in this show that Kristen is actually honest with. She trusts [Dr. Boggs] and tells [him] everything that’s going on with her. If it wasn’t for her sessions with [], she would spin out of control.”

Robert King said that members of The 60 will definitely be in the show. “Some may be in the White House, some may be in ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” he teased.

Here’s a photo recap of the festival:

Day 1

Tribeca Talks: James Spader and Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg and James Spader at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem”                           HBO’s “Room 104”

(Series premiere: Sept. 29, 2019)                     (Season 3 premiere: Sept. 13, 2019)

“Godfather of Harlem” co-stars Forest Whitaker and Ilfenesh Hadera at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

“Room 104” star/executive producer Mark Duplass at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

BET+’s “First Wives Club”

(Series premiere: September 19, 2019)

Mark Tallman, Ryan Michelle Bathe, executive producer Tracy Oliver, Michelle Buteau and RonReaco Lee at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 2

“Friends” 25th Anniversary Reunion

“Friends” executive producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Goliath”

(Season 3 premiere: October 4, 2019)

“Goliath” co-stars Lawrence Trilling, Amy Brenneman, Billy Bob Thornton, Shamier Anderson, Nina Arianda and Tania Raymonde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

AMC’s “Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America”

(Series premiere: October 13, 2019)

“Hip Hop: Songs That Shook America” executive producer Amir “Questlove” Thompson, panel moderator Lola Ogunnaike and  executive producer Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 3

The CW’s “Katy Keene”

(Series premiere: Sometime in  2020)

“Katy Keene” co-stars Ashleigh Murray, Katherine LaNasa, Julia Chan, Lucy Hale, Jonny Beauchamp and Camille Hyde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Freeform’s “Party of Five”

(Series premiere: January 8, 2020)

“Party of Five” co-stars Niko Guardado, Emily Tosta, Elle Paris Legaspi and Brandon Larracuente at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

CBS’s “Evil”                                                                                       ABC’s “Bless This Mess”

(Series premiere: Sept. 26, 2019)                     (Season 2 premiere: Sept. 24, 2019)

“Bless This Mess” co-stars Dax Shepard, Pam Grier and Lake Bell at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

“Evil” co-star Mike Colter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

Day 4

Starz’s “Leavenworth”

(Series premiere: October 20, 2019)

“Leavenworth” panel: New York Times national correspondent David Philipps, executive producer David Check, Mike McGuiness, executive producer Steven Soderbergh, Sarah Girgis, executive producer Paul Pawlowski and attorney John Maher attend the “Leavenworth” screening at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Hulu’s “Looking for Alaska”

(Series premiere: October 18, 2019)

“Looking for Alaska” co-stars Jay Lee, Kristine Froseth, Charlie Plummer and Denny Love at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Tribeca Talks: Hisan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Apple TV +’s “Dickinson”

(Series premiere: November 1, 2019)

“Dickinson” panel: Adrian Enscoe, Ella Hunt, Hailee Steinfeld, Alena Smith, Anna Baryshnikov, Toby Huss and Jane Krakowski at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Transparent”

(Series finale: September 27, 2019)

“Transparent” panel: Jill Soloway, Jay Duplass, Alexandra Billings, Shakina Nayfack, Judith Light, Faith Soloway, a guest and Jude Dry at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

2019 Tony Awards: performers and presenters announced

June 3, 2019

The following is a press release from the Tony Awards:

Some of the world’s biggest stars from stage and screen will appear at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards. The list of names announced includes Darren Criss, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, Laura Linney, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Michael Shannon. More presenters will be announced soon.

The Tony Awards telecast will feature an incredible line up of celebrity presenters and musical performances for Broadway’s biggest night.
James Corden will return to host the American Theatre Wing’s 2019 Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on CBS. The three-hour program will air on Sunday, June 9th 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. (ET/PT time delay). The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

You can also watch the Tony Awards online with CBS All Access. More info at cbs.com/all-access.

June 5, 2019 UPDATE: A second round of artists has been added to appear at THE 73rd ANNUAL TONY AWARDS(R), live from the historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Sunday, June 9 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network. The star-studded lineup includes Sara Bareilles, Laura Benanti, Abigail Breslin, Danny Burstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Groban, Danai Gurira, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Jackson, Shirley Jones, Jane Krakowski, Judith Light, Lucy Liu, Aasif Mandvi, Sienna Miller, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Catherine O’Hara, Kelli O’Hara, Karen Olivo, Anthony Ramos, Marisa Tomei, Aaron Tveit, Samira Wiley and BeBe Winans.

Emmy and Tony Award winner James Corden will host the 2019 Tony Awards for the second time. As previously announced, Darren Criss, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Regina King, Laura Linney, Audra McDonald, Ben Platt, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells and Michael Shannon will also take part in Broadway’s biggest night.

The TONY Awards, which honors theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the TONY Awards, which were first held on April 6, 1947 at the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom. The ceremony is presented by Tony Award Productions, which is a joint venture of the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, which founded the Tonys.

Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment will return as executive producers. Weiss will also serve as director for the 20th consecutive year. Ben Winston is a producer.

June 6, 2019 UPDATE:

Cynthia Erivo (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)

The Tony Awards telecast will feature performances by the casts of “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations”; “Beetlejuice”; “The Cher Show”; “Choir Boy”; “Hadestown”; “Kiss Me, Kate”; “Oklahoma!”; “The Prom” and “Tootsie.” The evening will also feature a special performance by Tony Award winning-actress Cynthia Erivo.

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