Category Archives: kevin bacon

Following Not So Much

I think this one is the last one. I might watch “The Following” a couple more times, but I doubt I’ll be writing about it. Even Fox has tired of hyping it as much as they had been. Ratings have slipped even though Fox insists they will catch up through other pathways like DVR and streaming to other devices.

There was a Marvel Comics event a few years back called “Secret Invasion.” The premise followed (pardon the pun) that shape-changing aliens had infiltrated the human race. These Skrull, as they were called, looked like us, they acted like us. Anyone could be a Skrull. No one could be trusted. After a while, it became cliche. Any bad plot element could be resolved by that person or persons being a Skrull. If you couldn’t trust anyone, you couldn’t care about anyone. Epic character writing fail.

That’s the problem here. Anyone could be a serial killer under Joe Carroll’s influence. The known serial killers are unlikable, and the known good guys, even Kevin Bacon, are unlikable or ineffective. Who to root for at this point? Only James Purefoy, as the main big bad, has any charisma, and we barely see him.

As I stated early in my reviews of this series, the story was better suited as a movie or mini-series with a clear ending. I suspect “The Following” will now have an ending similar to that of “Alcatraz” – eventual cancellation.

The Following: The Poet’s Fire

Most fiction (in any medium, be it books, television, or film) works on the premise of suspension of disbelief. The target, in this case, the viewer has to believe what they are seeing. It’s very important in science fiction and fantasy, because in stuff like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, the boundaries of reality are being stretched. But in a way, it’s easier in those realms.

In something like “The Following,” which is essentially based in the ‘real’ world, albeit a larger than life version, it’s even more important. The viewer has to not just believe it can happen, but they have to believe it could really happen, if you get my understanding.

This episode, “The Poet’s Fire,” opens with a nutjob in an Edgar Allan Poe mask (after just two weeks, an already old and tired gimmick for this EAP fan) sets a man on fire on a crowded city street with witnesses with cellphones and security cameras overhead. Seriously, if such a thing happened in the ‘real’ world, the media would go batshit crazy. I know it, you know it, and quite honestly, showrunner Kevin Williamson should know it too. Here, no one but the Feds and the cops that seem to blink at all.

And that’s just the beginning. The rest of the episode is spent flashbacking and overexplaining motivations we have already guessed. And then there’s the obligatory serial killer follower of the week, whose plot twist I guessed from jump street. The blind followers are getting a bit too convenient as well. Perhaps it’s Williamson’s comment on reality television and sheeple. Or just lazy writing.

“The Following” has ceased to be clever, to be unique, and even – and I’m counting the cast members I like in this statement – be interesting.

The Following: Chapter Two

Okay, the hype is over, for the moment at least, and now “The Following” has to sink or swim as a series as opposed to an event. I had expressed in my review of the pilot that I didn’t think it had the legs to be a series. I guess this is where we find out. It has the bad potential to become a freak of the week show like early “Smallville” or “X-Files,” and I hope that’s not where we’re headed.

In the pilot, or rather the setup, multi-flawed FBI agent Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is pulled out of retirement to deal with the escaped serial killer Carroll (James Purefoy) that he had put away. He’s recaptured, but it turns out he’s built a cult of serial killers through social media, and they’ll do whatever he wants. This cult has kidnapped Carroll’s son to lure Hardy into a game of cat and mouse with the baddies.

Again written by creator Kevin Williamson, the subtext is very literate, and I am enjoying the writing theme and the Poe obsession. But I’m a writer. I wonder if other folks are digging this particular vibe or not. It works this way – Carroll was a writer, his crimes made Hardy a writer, and now this whole crazy game is built on the idea of a new book – one written by the followers in which Hardy and Carroll are the protagonist and antagonist.

Bacon and Purefoy continue to dominate the small screen whenever they are on it. Waste of an amazing cast, as I said last time. I just wish that the two of them would give us something edgier than the Clarice/Hannibal and/or Batman/Joker dynamic. I want more Shawn Ashmore, Billy Brown, and especially Li Jun Li.

Much of the episode is taken up by the good guys playing catch up to Carroll’s cultish followers and their shenanigans. I smell the stink of “Alcatraz,” “Revolution,” and “Flash Forward” on this one, as if we’re being played with like a fish on a hook. All we want is the confrontation(s) between Bacon and Purefoy, and the boy found, but you know we’ll only get dribs and drabs, while each episode has its own little underling serial killer story. Just give us what we want.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll be around next time. I think I can see the future, and I’m not sure it has enough fuel to entice me further. We’ll see.

The Following

I was wary of this one. Usually when Fox gives a lot of hype to a new TV series, it’s either a big hit, or a big disaster. Excuse me while I wash the taste of “Touch” and “Alcatraz” out of my mouth. But then again, there was also “24.” Fox has been pushing “The Following” very hard, but because I like Kevin Bacon (well, bacon in general), and I’m just sheeple like that, I gave it a shot.

Bacon is former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, reactivated because a violent serial killer he put away has escaped prison. The charismatic James Purefoy is the killer Joe Carroll. Purefoy is a favorite of mine. You might know him from HBO’s “Rome,” and you should also know him from the excellent John Carter and the even lesser known Solomon Kane. The dude is awesome.

The catch here in “The Following” is that all the time Carroll has been in prison, he’s been online building a very particular social network. They’re not just followers, mind you, they’re also copycats and wannabes. Yeah, a serial killer social network, hanging on his every word.

Now the star power is not all in front of the camera, there’s some behind it as well. The pilot is written by creator and showrunner Kevin Williamson. You probably know his work, new spins in the worlds of horror and drama like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Vampire Diaries.” However, like Fox, he’s had his share of dogs as well. Anyone remember “Hidden Palms”?

Also in the cast, but too far in the background for my tastes, are Shawn Ashmore and Billy Brown, both terrific actors. I also like relative newcomer Li Jun Li. It’s a great cast, but vastly overshadowed and overwhelmed by Bacon and Purefoy, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

What is wrong however is a little thing and a big thing. The little thing is Williamson needs to brush up on his knowledge of pacemakers. The big thing is this premise is more miniseries than series. Viewers will only be able to take so much of this, before they start asking, “Is it time for the good guys to win yet?” The monotony can only be saved by new twists, and I wonder if Kevin Williamson has enough of them.

For another opinion on “The Following,” check out Amanda Reynolds‘ terrific review at Biff Bam Pop! here.

X-Men First Class

After the fiasco that was the third X-Men film, appropriately called The Last Stand, I really wanted nothing to do with seeing another X-film. Even my seeing the Wolverine movie was at great protest even though I quite enjoyed parts of it. However, the teasers and previews for X-Men First Class were just too enticing, what with the concept of a period piece matched with a reboot of the series, as well as an exploration of the relationship between the young Xavier and Magneto. I was in, for better or for worse.  

The beginning is a bit disturbing, replaying the opening of the first X-Men flick with young Erik Lehnsherr being pulled from his parents at a Nazi concentration camp and his magnetic power beginning to manifest against a metal gate between them. Things become much worse after that, as Kevin Bacon playing the sinister Sebastian Shaw of the Hellfire Club, shows a bit of his background as a Nazi scientist who tortures the boy to gain his secrets.

In parallel, we see the pampered young Charles Xavier gain a new sister and mutant confidant in Raven Darkholme, later to be known as Mystique. It goes on like that, with Charles finding success (except it seems picking up women in bars) and Erik hunting down Nazi war criminals, until their paths cross in the real plot of the movie.

Between the Second World War and now (now being 1962) Sebastian Shaw has changed his Nazi name and formed (or joined, it’s not clear, but he is its leader) the Hellfire Club, and they plan to manipulate the US and Russia into a nuclear war that will destroy the human race and make everyone mutants – the next step in evolution. CIA agent (yeah, I know, it’s a bizarre departure from her role in the comics) Moira MacTaggert suspects this and recruits Xavier to help the government.

Soon, with Cerebro’s help, a preliminary X-Men team is formed – including Magneto, the Beast, Banshee, Darwin, Angel Salvatore, Havok and Mystique – and they go to war with the Hellfire Club. Look for a wonderful one-line cameo from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine during the recruitment sequence. The final battle between the teams has moments like the end of The Return of the King where you think it’s never going to end, but it never sinks to the lows of X-Men: The Last Stand.

There are terrific performances here. Kevin Bacon, a name I never would have considered when thinking of Sebastian Shaw, is perfectly evil and never goes over the top as he did in other such roles like in The River Wild or The Hollow Man. January Jones is also the perfect Emma Frost, and is nowhere near as wooden as she usually is in “Mad Men.” She looks the part, but frankly I was worried because I hate her work on the show so much. It is notable that she’s the only thing I dislike about “Mad Men.”

I liked this a lot, so much more than I ever would have suspected. If you told me I’d like an X-Men film, much less one about the X-Men vs. the Hellfire Club in the shadows of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I probably would have laughed at you. And I would have been wrong. Fans of the comics, fans of the movies, and you other folks too – you should check this out. First Class is the X-Men movie we have all been waiting for.

Bookmark and Share