1. Meet Catwoman, the Riddler, and more in the new Gotham teaser

    Batman’s villains are so varied and complex that they’re arguably more interesting than Batman himself

     


  2. Your weekly streaming recommendation: Hannibal

    Amazon recently added a number of HBO TV shows to its Instant Streaming service, giving subscribers who haven’t seen The Sopranos or The Wire a chance to see what they’ve been missing out on. But what about the TV shows that were already exclusive to Amazon Prime? All month, we’ll be counting down some of Amazon Prime’s non-HBO exclusives. This week: NBC’s  Hannibal.

    There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical of NBC’s Hannibal — a police procedural chronicling the relationship between FBI agent Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The series premiered more than 20 years after Hannibal’s heyday, when The Silence of the Lambs swept the Oscars in 1992. Each subsequent entry in the Hannibal franchise had been significantly weaker than the last, culminating in 2007’s laughably toothless prequel Hannibal Rising. And the gruesome murders on which the series is built seemed like they would probably need to be neutered for cable — let alone a Big Four network like NBC.

    Due to the superlative work of a creative team led by Bryan Fuller, all those concerns turned out to be entirely unfounded. Hannibal isn’t just a competent translation of the Hannibal Lecter story for the small screen; it’s the darkest, sharpest, and most gripping Hannibal Lecter story ever told on page or screen.

    The brilliance of Hannibal begins with the time period it chronicles: the years before anyone has figured out that Dr. Lecter is a cannibalistic serial killer, when he serves as a key consultant for the FBI’s homicide team. As the series begins, the FBI is attempting to solve a string of murders committed by a man known only as the Minnesota Shrike — and Dr. Lecter delights in pretending to be a friend and ally while doing everything in his power to throw them off the trail.

    Despite Hannibal's title, the show rests just as heavily on the shoulders of Hugh Dancy, who plays Will Graham. In 2002's Red Dragon, Edward Norton turned in an utterly forgettable performance as Will Graham (though the bland script didn’t do him any favors). But Dancy’s take on Will Graham is a fundamentally different animal: a man whose almost supernatural ability to solve murders lies in his ability to empathize with the motivations of psychopaths, which continually threatens to push him over the edge of insanity. 

    Hannibal is a textbook example of how to adapt a beloved piece of material while cutting or changing all the things you don’t need anymore. Mads Mikkelsen’s chilling, occasionally feral performance as Hannibal easily distinguishes itself from Anthony Hopkins’ more genteel take. Major Red Dragon characters like Jack Crawford, Dr. Alan Bloom, and Freddy Lounds are reinterpreted into deeper, darker, contemporary versions of their literary counterparts. And the series’ warped, inventive crime scenes — corpses turned into a mushroom garden, or molded into a kind of tower — allows for a lush, unsettlingly gorgeous visual style that’s sure to keep viewers on edge.

    Best of all, Hannibal's story is tweaked just as much as it needs to be — enough that the core of author Thomas Harris’ original narrative remains intact, but full of surprises for those who have read the books and think they know where the story is going.

    Hannibal's second season concluded last week, and despite middling ratings, NBC picked it up for a third. Fortunately, the entire first season is currently available for Amazon Prime members to stream, so you'll have plenty of time to catch up before season three premieres next year.

     


  3. Like last week’s “The Strategy,” Mad Men’s midseason finale “Waterloo” was so rich and satisfying that it could have been the series finale….With its ultimate end in sight, Mad Men has been firing on all cylinders, and “Waterloo” is a textbook example of this show at its very best.
    — 
    A sad loss also marks a new beginning for both Don Draper and Sterling Cooper
     


  4. Your weekly streaming recommendation: Drunk History

    Amazon recently added a number of HBO TV shows to its Instant Streaming service, giving subscribers who haven’t seen The Sopranos or The Wire a chance to see what they’ve been missing out on. But what about the TV shows that were already exclusive to Amazon Prime? All month, we’ll be counting down some of Amazon Prime’s non-HBO exclusives. This week: Drunk History.

    Drunk History's concept is so simple and so endearing that it's amazing that it took so long for someone to invent it. After consuming large quantities of the tipple of their choice, the narrator attempts to coherently recount the story of a major historical event. The audio is then recreated by a wide range of talented comedic actors — including Kristen Wiig, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzmann, and dozens of others — who don costumes and act the entire story out, word-for-word, down to every boozy digression. 

    Though the actors remain completely straight-faced in their recreations, the goal is less “let’s learn something about history” than “let’s have a wacky time telling stories” — so any facts you end up “learning” should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

    Drunk History began life as a web series on Funny or Die, where entries were usually around five minutes long — but the concepts works perfectly in the 30-minute chunks of a Comedy Central series. Each episode features three drunken narrators who work under a consistent theme. One episode might tackle notable events in Atlanta’s history, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s meeting with J. Edgar Hoover or the invention of Coca-Cola; another might focus on highlights from the peak of the Wild West era, including the exploits of Billy the Kid or the legendary battle at the Alamo.

    By the time you’ve seen a few segments, the fun of Drunk History is so infectious that you’ll probably want to join in — so grab a couple bottles of wine, invite some of your funniest friends over, and use the series as an entry point to your own evening of boozy storytelling.

     


  5. Your weekly streaming recommendation: Batman: The Animated Series

    Later this month, Amazon will be adding a number of HBO TV shows to its Instant Streaming service, giving subscribers who haven’t seen The Sopranos or The Wire a chance to see what they’ve been missing out on. But what about the TV shows that are already exclusive to Amazon Prime? All month, we’ll be counting down TV shows you should binge-watch while you wait for HBO to arrive. This week: Batman: The Animated Series.

    Earlier this week, director Zack Snyder revealed the first picture of Ben Affleck in costume as Batman for his upcoming sequel to the Man of Steel. He has an uphill climb ahead of him: Man of Steel wasn’t particularly well-received, Affleck’s casting was met without widespread scorn, and it’s going to be difficult to convince even the most open-minded moviegoers that they need another Batman story so soon after Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

    But while Nolan’s blockbuster take might feel like the definitive take on the character to modern audiences, Batman has an older history in both film and television that’s well worth exploring. While the campy 60s series and the dark Tim Burton movies have plenty to recommend them, many of the most influential Batman stories can be traced to another source: a mid-90s cartoon called Batman: The Animated Series.

    Though it originally aired as a part of Fox’s after-school cartoon lineup, Batman: The Animated Series is the rare Batman story that walks a perfect line by remaining kid-friendly without sacrificing any of the character’s inherent darkness. Series creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski designed a beautifully animated, film noir-inspired version of Gotham City that they populated with characters far more complex than the average cartoons of the era. 

    Many of those strengths came as the series beefed up Batman’s rogues gallery. Mr. Freeze went from a campy, one-note mad scientist to a tragic villain. Two-Face’s gimmicky obsession with crimes involving the number two was swapped for a fascinatingly adult depiction of duality. The series even introduced a new villain who quickly became an icon in her own right: Harley Quinn, a onetime psychiatrist for the Joker who he successfully remodeled in his own deranged image.

    All those compelling stories were brought to life by a first-rate voice cast that included Kevin Conroy as Batman, Ron Perlman as Clayface, and Mark Hammill as the Joker, in what many Batman fans still argue is the definitive take on the character.

    There have been many new Batman cartoons since Batman: The Animated Series went off the air in 1995, but none that has come close to equalling its intelligence and dramatic power. Fortunately, all four volumes of the series are available on Amazon’s instant streaming service, so you don’t even need to wait for the right bat-time on the right bat-channel.

     

  6. Relive the ’90s with a new Arsenio Hall-Shannen Doherty interview about 90210

    There was a definite feeling of déjà vu on Thursday night’s Arsenio, when Hall interviewed Shannen Doherty. He asked her about Spelling and Priestly, alluding to their high-profile fights in the ’90s.

     

  7. Jennifer Lawrence tests her acting skills by lying to Jimmy Fallon

    "If that’s not the truth, you’re a sociopath," Lawrence told him during his turn — but Lawrence is, after all, a professional actor.

     

  8. Dave Grohl to host HBO show on recording studios

    Grohl will produce and host a yet-to-be-named documentary show that will premiere at the end of 2014.

     


  9. Actors, sometimes, they look for a character and they just want to play one thing. But human beings are so multifaceted, you know? We carry with us our good and our evil.
     

  10. This brutally honest scene from last night’s Louie tackles what it’s like to be a fat girl

    Louis C.K.’s show on FX, Louie, has never been one to mince words. Last night’s episode, “So Did the Fat Lady,” had quite a lot to say about dating while overweight.

     


  11. Your weekly streaming recommendation: Justified

    Later this month, Amazon will be adding a number of HBO TV shows to its Instant Streaming service, giving subscribers who haven’t seen The Sopranos or The Wire a chance to see what they’ve been missing out on. But what about the TV shows that are already exclusive to Amazon Prime? All month, we’ll be counting down TV shows you should binge-watch while you wait for HBO to arrive. This week: the FX crime drama Justified.

    Though his novels are specifically famous for their accessibility and readability, the writings of Elmore Leonard haven’t always translated well to the screen. There have been some hits, likeJackie Brown and Out of Sight, but quite a few more misses. Leonard himself thought the 1969 adaptation of his novel The Big Bounce was the worst movie he’d ever seen — until he saw the 2004 adaptation of The Big Bounce.

    It’s fortunate, then, that Leonard lived long enough to see a few seasons of Justified, a TV adaptation of his short story “Fire in the Hole” that is also the purest filmed distillation of his writing to date. Justified stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a federal marshal who moves back to crime-ridden Harlan County, Kentucky, where he grew up, to dispense justice and face his own inner demons.

    You should watch all four of the seasons available on Amazon, but many of Justified's finest moments come in seasons two and three, which expand and complicate the show's depiction of Harlan County. Season two hinges on a long-running feud between two families that's anchored by Margo Martindale's chilling Emmy-winning performance as Harlan crime lord Mags Bennett; season three introduces a sadistic carpetbagger from Detroit, played by Neal McDonough, who aims to edge out the locals and corner the county's drug trade.

    But for all the strength of Justfied's ever-expanding roster of supporting characters, the series' most compelling story comes in the complicated bond that Raylan shares with Walton Goggins' Boyd Crowder, who grew up alongside Raylan in the coal mines. Boyd is a fascinating mess of contradictions; a lowlife criminal who delivers powerful, grandiose speeches and thrives on the fact that everyone underestimates him. At times, he's almost a second hero — but Justified never totally lets you forget the danger he represents.

    There are plenty of cop shows on television, but none quite like Justified, which has distinguished itself with a twisty narrative, a deep stable of characters, a unique rural setting, and an unmistakably original tone and voice. Check it out now, and revel in one of the sharpest crime dramas on television.

     

  12. Jimmy Fallon unearths some cringeworthy ‘MomQuotes’ for Mother’s Day

    Moms — they say the darnedest things. That’s the premise, and the payoff, of Jimmy Fallon’s annual Mother’s Day celebration: #MomQuotes

     

  13. James Franco reveals he doesn’t get (or care) how the internet works

    James Franco has turned his celebrity into something of a spectator sport — both wittingly and (probably) without meaning to. So he couldn’t have been too surprised when David Letterman chose to broach the topic of his Instagram account on The Late Show Thursday night.