Tag: robert de niro

“For Justice” (CBS) pilot preview: “Scandal” at the Deparment of Justice, with a “Cold Case” feel

forjustice

Written & produced by René Balcer (Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Jo). Based on James Patterson’s novel The Thomas Berryman Number. Co-produced by Robert De Niro (NYC 22), James Patterson, Jane Rosenthal, Leopoldo Gout, Berry Welsh & Bill Robins. Directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma). For CBS Television Studios, James Patterson Entertainment & Tribeca Productions. 64 pages.

Description: Natalia Chappel, an FBI agent who works in the Criminal Section of the Department of Civil Rights Division investigating crimes based on civil rights violations across the country, finds herself caught between the radical family she was born into and the professional family she has chosen…

With Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The Good Wife, Private PracticeN°1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), Shawn Hatosy (SouthLAnd, Reckless), Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show, Cosby, Do No Harm), Tim Blake Nelson (Lincoln, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, O’Brother), Rachel Boston (American Dreams, Witches of East End), Leonardo NamMario Van Peebles as guest star.

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No other pilot this season resonates more with what’s happening right now in the United States than For Justice. The Ferguson scandal, the riots in Baltimore… you have inevitably heard of them in the news. Television has the responsibilty and even the duty to reflect the society we live in, not only entertain. For Justice manages to do both, somehow. I wish it were less academical, more serialized too, funnier maybe because it’s deadly serious for the most part, but for what it brings to the table in terms of debate and diversity, without being too sanctimonious, it has to go to series. CBS would be crazy to pass on the opportunity to be that relevant and it’s not like it was that different from what they are used to. It’s just smarter.

In a way, it reminded me a lot of Cold Case. It was a beautiful and important show which already dealt with some of the same subjects For Justice is tackling with great depth. Though our heroes are from the Department of Justice, the show is more a detective drama than a legal one. It’s no surprise it comes from René Balcer, used to handle this type of “two shows in one” situation, working on the Law & Order franchise over two decades. Then he did the horrible terrible disgraceful french series Jo with Jean Reno. But let’s just forget it. We all make mistakes. And we all need to eat. At the helm, Ava DuVernay was the most obvious choice since she was nominated for an Oscar this year for her movie Selma which chronicled Mathin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march starting in the city of Selma. Then, Anika Noni Rose as the lead is just the perfect choice. I always thought Shonda Rhimes would give her a show after her guest stint on Private Practice. Maybe she was offered How To Get Away With Murder? Anyway, you probably don’t know her but she’s just fantastic. If the show goes to series, I wouln’t be surprised she gets a nomatination at the next Emmy Awards & Golden Globes. That’s how good she is.

It’s through her character that there’s a Scandal feel to the show. Natalia Chappel is like Olivia Pope: she’s a hard-working woman, smarter than everybody she encounters, who always finds the right words to express whatever she wanna say to whoever she wants to convince. Her personal story is not that different either. Her relationship with her father is highly complicated: she haven’t seen him for decades, since he left for Cuba after being an active member in a Ku Kux Klan-like organization. And he’s back in the pilot! So, of course, it means something for her to be part of the Civil Rights Division of the Government. And her colleagues all have their very own personal reasons too, especially her new partner Jess Kearney (Shawn Hatosy). In terms of rhythm, it has nothing to do with Scandal, though. The first investigation tells the story of a small town’s police officer who is suspected to have killed the new -Black- mayor and covered it as a hate crime. It’s totally inspired by Ferguson. The exciting stuff is coming from the serialized part of the show, linked to Natalie Chappel. She is the target of terrorist threats and someone they’re not able to locate sends her menacing texts. A game of cat and mouse is starting and it probably has everything to do with her father and the Klan…

With its strong female perspective, For Justice would be the perfect bridge between political Madam Secretary and legal The Good Wife on “prestige Sunday nights”, without forgetting cult news magazine 60 Minutes is broadcasted earlier in the evening. It’s old-skewing but it doesn’t seem to be that big of a problem for CBS, at least there. I don’t know how many seasons they can make out of it but civil rights violations can be of all sorts. Give it a series order CBS, for justice.

“Limitless”: Will Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro appear in the CBS pilot?

Limitless-DVD-Cover1

Have Bradley Cooper & Robert de Niro quietly shot scenes for the “Limitless” pilot in contention for a series order at CBS? It seems so. At least, their characters are part of the script written by Craig Sweeny…

The project is centered on Brian Sinclair (played by American Sniper‘s Jake McDorman) -a character that was not part of the 2011 movie- as he discovers the power of the mysterious drug NZT and is coerced into using his newfound drug enhanced abilities for good, helping the FBI (represented by Agent Rebecca Tate, played by Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter). That’s the official description of the Limitless TV series, as announced by CBS when the pilot was ordered back in January. What it doesn’t say is that Eddie Mora, Bradley Cooper’s character in the movie, is still part of the story. A huge part actually.

As soon as in the first scene of the pilot, Cooper appears via a poster. It says: “Re-Elect Senator Edward Mora. A voice for New York, a voice for the World”. Later on, he’s back again, this time on TV with a brief image of a 60 Minutes style interview he’s giving. Then, he finally makes a real entrance at the end of the fourth act, saying to Brian: “It’s time for you and me to talk.” I won’t spoil the long scene that follows right after that, but it explains with more or less clarity why he’s here and what he has to do with all of this. But it does not end here. He appears one last time in the final scene -compared to the “post credits sequence in a Marvel movie“-  and he’s not alone: he’s with Carl! Remember Carl? It’s the character played by Robert de Niro himself in the movie.

So the question is, will Cooper and De Niro reprise their respective roles in the pilot directed by Marc Webb? Why wouldn’t they? Cooper is credited as an executive producer on the pilot and let’s not forget he started his career on TV (Alias, Nip/Tuck…) while De Niro has a close relationship with CBS since he is producing one of their pilots this year (For Justice) and produced others the previous years, with one going to series: NYC 22. It gives Limitless an extra chance to be picked up to series and it will probably be a huge draw for international buyers at the screenings next June. Limitless is produced by CBS Television Studios.

FULL PILOT PREVIEW HERE.

“Limitless” (CBS) pilot preview: a high octane thriller for action junkies!

LIMITLESS

Written & produced by Craig Sweeny (Elementary, Medium, The 4400). Co-produced by Bradley Cooper, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Fringe, Hawaii 5-0, Scorpion, Stark Trek, Alias), Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergente, The Illusionnist) and many others. Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, Lone Star). For CBS, CBS Television Studios, Relativity Television, Yet To Be Named Company & K/O. 63 pages.

Description: Brian Sinclair discovers the power of the mysterious drug NZT and is coerced into using his newfound drug-enhanced abilities to solve weekly cases for the FBI, alongside FBI Agent Rebecca Tate…

With Jake McDorman (American Sniper, Greek), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Hill Harper (CSI New York, Covert Affairs), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantiono (Scarface, Abyss, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)…

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CBS has three high profile pilots this year: Rush Hour (Read the preview here), DC Comics’ top secret Supergirl and Limitless, adapted from the 2011 movie with Bradley Cooper. Probably two of them will go to series. Limitless as a TV series sounds a little… limited but hey, it’s for CBS: it’s a police procedural in the end, but with a greater mythology and a science-fiction twist that helps making it special. Yes, I think it’s special even though it reminded me a little bit of Person of Interest and another pilot in contention this year but at FOX: Minority Report. The three gives you the same high voltage of action scenes and twists and turns. You can’t fall asleep watching that and it’s hard looking the other way. But falling in love is another thing…

I didn’t fall in love with Limitless but I recognize the script has great qualities and there’s an evident potential here. It may even be a better TV show than a movie. That’s probably one of the arguments the producers gave to CBS while trying to convince them to take a look at this adaptation of a movie that didn’t really work and didn’t become the franchise it was meant to be. Another argument is the one I exposed in an article: the presence of the characters of Eddie Mora, played by Bradley Cooper himself, and Carl, played by the great Robert de Niro (Read the article here). It definitely helps and it’s not just cameos, at least for Cooper. As for the lead role, they chose Jake McDorman, just coming out of successful Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, where he shared scenes with Bradley Cooper. This man’s everywhere! Finally, Jennifer Carpenter tries to find her next adventure since the end of Dexter. It takes time. After two pilots (Sea Of Fire for ABC and Stanistan for USA Network) and right in the middle of a pregnancy, she’s back at work in a role that doesn’t seem very different from her Debra Morgan but people will be happy to see her again. So, Limitless has a lot going on for it.

The first scene and even the first act (the whole pilot ?) is action and action, again and again. And special effects everywhere, ‘cos Brian Sinclair is multiplying in his mind and on our screens thanks to the drug he takes. He can imagine what would happen if he does this or that, so he can observe, for example, that he might be hit by a bus if he chooses to turn right instead of left. Everything that happens in his brain is transcribed with images or his inner voice for us to hear. It’s a lot to take in but it works, on the page. Then it’s the director’s job -and Marc Webb is a good one- and his team to make the most of it in budget. Of course, they will have to relax for the next episodes but it’s doable I guess. What I’m less fond of is the characters’ personal stories. Saying it’s easy would be an understatement. Brian’s father is ill, that’s what motivates him to do all these crazy things and taking so many risks, while Agent Rebecca Tate’s father died of addiction so, of course, this drug and the person who dies because of it feels like her problem too. Lazy writing…

Limitless is the perfect show for CBS: not too risky -a procedural- but a little bit different than what they already have -science-fiction- that can attract the young demo they are desperately looking for. Moreover, it’s a potential companion for Scorpion (they share the same producers!), it’s in-house produced and it has a great international appeal. If the race was not that tight at the network, I’d say it’s a no-brainer…