“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” Bob Dylan sang. But these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture offerings is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what’s on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.
Big Release on March 16: Tomb Raider
Big Picture: Alicia Vikander is… Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. The acclaimed Swedish actress takes over the role from Angelina Jolie and the franchise is set to unearth new riches at the box office. It’s like when the Bond franchise moved from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig: Vikander’s Croft is darker, grittier and more believable — much less a video-game fantasy come to life. In this origin story, an aimless, 21-year-old Croft abandons her work as a bike courier to head into “the heart of the Devil’s Sea” in search of her missing adventurer father and his legacy. Not only does she discover her inner Indiana Jones, she learns her dad was trying to stop an evil organization called Trinity, which is bent on unleashing global genocide. Jumping is one of Lara’s main tactics at countering this threat: jumping off sinking ships into oceans, jumping off cliffs into river rapids, jumping into waterfalls, jumping across rocky gorges … jumping into gunfights with nothing but a bow and arrows. Miraculously, she does all this wearing the same tank grey, muddied tank top. And, yes, as the series’ name intones, the climax to the film plays out in a mythical, island tomb.
Forecast: “Her legend begins,” the film intones. Indeed. And Vikander needs a franchise to occupy her time in between Oscar-calibre dramas. (As of this writing, Disney doesn’t own Lara Croft. But give it time. It already owns Indiana Jones through its George Lucas deal. I predict an epic cross-over in the next decade.)
Big Events: For the People (March 13, ABC/CTV); Rise (March 13, NBC/Global); Instinct (March 18, CBS/Global)
Big Picture: First, a new legal drama from Shonda Rhimes —and Scandal writer Paul William Davies — promises “a new generation of justice.” It focuses on a young crop of district attorneys and defenders squaring of in a famous New York federal court. It’s been hyped as “Grey’s Anatomy in a court room.” And you know what that means. Rules will be broken, morals will be preached, moral lines will be crossed and pants will be removed. The ensemble cast includes Hope Davis and Britt Robertson.
Meanwhile, Rise is Glee meets Dangerous Minds (minus the danger) meets Friday Night Lights (minus most of the football). Producer Jason Katims was behind the acclaimed series Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. Based on an adaptation of Michael Sokolove’s book Drama High, Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) plays a high school teacher in a small U.S. town who launches a giant musical production in the middle of football country. The expected ragtag teenage group of misfits, lost souls and dreamers find themselves on stage — including the school’s star footballer. Rosie Perez also co-stars in a series about the power that the creative arts have to change lives.
Finally, Instinct is about a former, secret CIA agent turned academic (Alan Cumming) who is enticed back into the field after a serial killer is inspired by his famous criminal-theory book: Freaks. Dr. Dylan Reinhart is like Richard Castle with skills beyond typing and flirting. His new partner, naturally, is a non-nonsense female New York City cop (Bojana Novakovic). Naveen Andrews (Lost) and Whoopi Goldberg play strong supporting roles in this series adapted from a novel by James Patterson.
Forecast: Rise is one drama that will shine under the spotlight. As for Instinct and For the People, I have one question: When will we stop making series about doctors, cops and firemen and highlight some other professions? Where are the accountants, the fishermen, the seamstresses, the farmers, the cab drivers, the bakers and so on? (More important, which network will take a chance on my pilot script, Going Postal, about the canine-infested, competitive, rain-soaked world of a postal carrier who also happens to be in an exhausting love octagon with various woman in the same neighborhood — including the wife of a villainous courier service executive. Oh, and did I mention the postman is an ex-firefighter, ex-doctor and ex-CIA who just wanted to lead a quiet life delivering parcels?)
Big Releases on March 9: Snoop Dogg (Bible of Love); Stone Temple Pilots (Stone Temple Pilots); The Decemberists (I’ll Be Your Girl)
Big Picture: Snoop Dogg releases a gospel album. Enough said. Meanwhile, STP release its first album under newly crowned lead vocalist Jeff Gutt. Gutt is best known for his two-season stint on The X Factor. Speaking of ex factors, for most music fans the Stone Temple Pilots will always be the late Scott Weiland. It doesn’t matter how many new vocalists cycle through the roster. In a statement, the band said, “the best way for us to honour our past is to keep making new music.” Agreed. But under a new band name. (How about Stone Temple Conductors or Stone Temple Tugboat Captains?) Meanwhile, Portland indie-darling’s The Decemberists explore new soundscapes — from 1980s synth to punk — on their eighth studio effort. Colin Meloy’s eccentric, literary lyrics remain some of the best in the business no matter what the musical backdrop.
Forecast: Decemberists, along with Canadian indie outfit July Talk, will start a new trend of month-inspired bands. (Februarians or Octoberisms, anyone?) On a side note, I mentioned Snoop Dogg has gone gospel, right?