Watching with Nathan Fillion & Clark Gregg

Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion at the Seattle International Film Festival

Back in May, as the Seattle International Film Festival launched with the opening night gala screening of Joss Whedon’s modern-dress Shakespeare take Much Ado About Nothing, I had the pleasure of talking with two of the film’s stars, Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg.

Fillion, of course, is best known as Richard Castle on Castle and as Captain Mal on Whedon’s short-lived but much-loved Firefly, while Whedon decided to spin Gregg’s supporting role in the Marvel Universe movies into a leading part in the new TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Which meant the conversation was ready to go in all directions, and did, thanks to their playful sense of fun. They met on the set of Much Ado and you could still see that they were getting to know each other, but it was also apparent that they were fast friends the way they bounced off one another, tossing quips back and forth, lobbing tongue-in-cheek insults and self-effacing rejoinders, and diving into pop-culture trivia like boys on the first day of school. Boys will be boys indeed.

Sean Axmaker: Let me begin by asking you: what have you been watching?

Nathan Fillion: I just saw Iron Man 3. I had a great time. (to Clark) You haven’t seen it yet?

Clark Gregg: (laughs) I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been promoting the new S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. I have to watch it.

NF: For your thing that you do? You’re killing that whole thing.

CG: Until they bring me back to life, I’m not going to watch any of the movies.

NF: You can’t watch it!

CG: I’m gonna watch it. I actually tried to get back to New York last night but I had one last appearance to do.

NF: You should read the file on it. Then your character will be right on track with that.

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TV on Disc: ‘Castle’ Storms the Barricades

Castle: The Complete Fourth Season” (ABC) opens with Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) recovering from an assassin’s bullet and apparent amnesia and mystery author and freelance NYPD “consultant” Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) dancing around the declaration of love that she can’t remember (or can she?).

The lighthearted procedural has always scored stronger on character and banter and ensemble chemistry than on writing and this season is no different, even with the addition of a new Captain (Penny Johnson) who is a stickler for procedure. And it’s not just the boyish enthusiasm that Fillion brings to every case (as well as his unconventional flirtations with Stanic) that carries the show. He has his own just-us-guys style with Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever (who really click as Beckett’s team) and his family scenes (with Susan Sullivan as his theatrical mom and Molly C. Quinn as his smart and centered daughter) have only gotten better. Even the scripts improve this season. Either that or I’m simply giving in to the formula. They’re no less cute and just as gimmicky as ever, but somehow the self-awareness works. I just hope that the dark threads of conspiracy and shell shock (not to mention the danger of finally breaking the defining sexual tensions) don’t get in the way of the show’s fun with murder.

23 episodes on five discs, with commentary on three episodes, two episodes performed as radio shows by Nathan Fillion and friends, three featurettes, and the usual deleted scenes and blooper reel. DVD only.

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TV on DVD 09/21/10 – Community, Family and Castle

Modern Family: The Complete First Season (Fox) – In yet another Emmy year dominated by cable, Modern Family was the big network winner with five awards (including “Outstanding Comedy Series”). TV vets Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd update the classic American family sitcom with an extended family that is nothing of not diverse and contemporary.

Modern Family Portrait

Patriarch Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), by his own admission “not the world’s greatest father,” is on his second marriage, this time to a younger woman (Sofía Vergara) with an adolescent son and proud (and often comic) Colombian heritage. His daughter (Julie Bowen) is a suburban stay-at-home mom playing parent to her three kids and her husband Phil (Ty Burrell), his son (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a self-conscious, anxiety-ridden gay man who has adopted a child with his far more flamboyant partner (Eric Stonestreet). It’s classic sitcom stuff, with episodes revolving around birthdays, anniversaries, the shooting of a family portrait and that old standby, a family vacation to Hawaii, and the stories even somewhat conventional, but they’re no Brady Bunch. Sure, the episodes end in a heartwarming reflection on family life, but their stresses are definitely that of the modern family.

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TV on DVD for 9/22/09 – Terminated!

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – The Complete Second Season (Warner) – The TV spin-off of the Terminator films turned out to be both smart science fiction and gritty, spectacular action for the small screen, which already makes it more compelling and rewarding than the last two films in the series. It earned the show a loyal following and solid ratings, though unfortunately not quite solid enough. In the show’s second (and ultimately final) season, the fractured family unit – tough, battle-hardened mom Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), petite hellcat of a robot bodyguard Cameron (Summer Glau), brooding, suspicious uncle Derek from the future (Brian Austin Green, turning out to be quite the TV action hero in a real career revival role) and John Connor (Thomas Dekker), the teenage boy destined to be the savior of the human race – begins to unravel in divisive secrets and splintering suspicions. John’s troubled girlfriend (Leven Rambin) and Derek’s enigmatic lover from the future (Stephanie Jacobsen), who has inexplicably followed him back in time, complicate their lives with their own hidden agendas and the shadowy corporate conspiracy behind the machine apocalypse just gets more intriguing and ambiguous. But most riveting is the evolution of the growing cast of robots, making them both more “human” and less predictable.

Fight the future, you sexy cast you
Fight the future, you sexy cast you

Garret Dillahunt is back as the Terminator that hunted John through the first season, now playing the body inhabited by a supercomputer that creepy corporate schemer Catherine Weaver (pop star Shirley Manson, who brings a weird, unemotional disconnection to the role that is both unnerving and distracting) seems to be trying to turn into Skynet. And why not? She turns out to be a Terminator herself, the cool T-1000 liquid metal version from the second movie, and she hires Richard T. Jones, the FBI agent who dogs the Connors through the first season, to teach this new being what it is to be human (she picks up a few tips herself along the way). They are brawny episodes in a visceral action series, one of the most expensive on TV, and it shows in each dynamic scene. The gritty writing, vivid characters and dynamic visual style did not, however, attract a big enough audience to justify the show’s high budget and it was cancelled after the superb season.

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