“Armitage is Excellent” -Strike Back:Origins Review

Our worries that Strike Back: Origins would not be well received in the U.S. because of its more serious tone, turns out to be unfounded. The reviews have been from good to excellent. So far, anti-Americanism has not been much of an issue – but we should be mindful that this first episode and the second, isn’t as anti-American as the last two episodes which take place in Afghanistan. But by then, viewers will be hooked.

strike-back-porter-contact_optArmitage Agonistes investigative reporter KatharineD ferreted out this review by  Hot Extract , a website dedicated to commenting on films, TV and games in the military  genre with a focus on authenticity. The review doesn’t fall squarely into the goal of  Servetus’s  Me and Richard ( 2 posts) and my own  recent reports of reviews  – which is to see how Origins has been received here in the U.S. compared to the American version, because this review was issued in June based on the DVD and looks at the  entire series. Nevertheless,  it  is worth reading and has the added bonus of reviewing Richard Amitage’s performance, which the reviewer characterizes as expert.

Richard Armitage plays John Porter, and he does it expertly. He is the consummate broken operator: detached, reticent, a shell of his former self haunted by past decisions. His character is dynamic, going from this shell to somebody driven by revenge and then finally somebody seeking to clear his name and driven by redemption. Armitage is no Schwarzenegger, and in fact looks like a regular man, which helps to defeat the stereotype that all special operators are would-be NFL linebackers. We see a range of emotion from Armitage in the Porter role, from cold and detached to warm and compassionate, from broken and depressed to rage coursing through his veins. He is a celebrated actor in the UK (particularly for his stint on the show Spooks/MI-5) and while watching Strike Back, you’ll see why. 

83 thoughts on ““Armitage is Excellent” -Strike Back:Origins Review

  1. Lovely to hear of a good review that does RAs performance justice. But on one thing I respectfully have to disagree:
    *He looks like a regular man.*
    Errm, no sir.

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  2. I’m going to read this review now, but if it is ok on the military things, it squares with the things that the military discussants were saying around the premiere — that seen from a military standpoint, though not perfect, it was extremely credible. That was one of his goals — that someone who’d been there could see it and say, yeah, that’s plausible, so I’m happy to have that (re-)affirmation.

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  3. Interesting that he points to the fire issue — this is something Armitage said, too, that the British director wanted them to be as sparing as possible with fire while the American director wanted them to do more of it.

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  4. Yeah. Sorry to commentbomb you, but the more I read this review, the more I think Armitage would be absolutely delighted with it — affirmation from a credible source that he succeeded in his aims. Yes. Yes. Yes.

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    • It’s satisfying,isn’t it? This review was found by KatharineD on the Strike Back IMDb board.With the reblogs, it’s getting some good circulation now. HaHa, I can see that site administrator scratching his head when he looks at his stats. speaking of Stats, thanks for the reblog.

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      • I am just thankful y’all are keeping up with all this. My hands didn’t want to work yesterday (we’ve had a cold snap and neither my FMS nor my arthritis have been happy) and reblogging is soooo easy.

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  5. Yeah, I think this reviewer has “got it.” 😀 And no, RA doesn’t look like a “regular man” but I think the point was this: he doesn’t look like an overly muscled steroid head, but has a believable, credible amount of muscle mass as a soldier who kept in shape throughout his time away from the military. I, too, think RA would really like and appreciate this review. 😀

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        • I don’t know about taking up anyone’s slack. I’ve been following the arrival of Strike Back: Origins in the US since it was announced. But again, thanks for the reblog.

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          • In terms of slack, I just feel as if I have been out of the loop a lot, Perry, compared to, say, last year when all the stuff for AUJ was kicking in. But then again, I wasn’t so wrapped up with the humane society, rehearsing a play, video editing for PRP and other stuff this time last year, either. So I depend upon my fellow bloggers to keep on top of things and I just ride your coattails.

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    • Didn’t RA say in an interview that his goal was to look like a soldier who stayed in shape, and not more muscle-bound, and that he worked specifically to look that way? I think it was in one of the Lorraine interviews?
      No, he doesn’t look like any of the “regular men” I know! 🙂

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      • Yes, he did say something to that effect, Fabo—that wanted to look like someone who trained to be in shape for the rigors of his missions, and not like some vain gym rat type. As I recall, he still didn’t feel as if he looked “hard” enough, but I thought he got it right. And he is his toughest critic, I suspect. And if only more “regular men” looked (and behaved) like him!! Oh, what a glorious thought . . .

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  6. So happy for all the reasons Servetus pointed out. I hope RA read it so it can balance some bad reviews and many, many bad comments I read after the 1st episode of Strike Back Origins was on Cinemax. 😦

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      • yeah, I haven’t seen any terrible reviews. And iirc there were mocking reviews of the “new” SB, a la “boys toys,” “shootemup,” “bromance,” etc. — sort of “only idiots will watch this” reviews. You can’t really give Origins that kind of review, I think — you may not like that it is serious but in fact it *is* serious alongside the violence.

        Oh, and another thing about that Hot Extract review — the line that says “I can’t imagine this will ever be aired in the US.” I’m always thrilled by affirmation that I’m not crazy.

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        • I’m frustrated by not being able to find anything yet of what audiences are saying, beyond the Strike Back message board, which isn’t typical at all and which is exactly the audience we were discounting – and anyway- a majority of those posters have seen the original on DVD. Maybe during the weeks to come, with more episodes being aired, something will come up.

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      • There were some linked on FB and they were one worse than the other. But the worst thing were the comments of people. Generally they thought it was British c**p. Boring and without stunt and actions like the SB they love. Really a sad reading.

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        • Oh, and my hubby, who isn’t one for a lot of British drama “where they talk each other to death” as he puts it actually enjoyed RA’s Strike Back and has wanted to re-watch it. THAT is a huge compliment, believe you me. But then, I did marry a man of intelligence with great taste.

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          • Of course, since he married you 😉
            That’s a very good thing, I hope there are people that can do the same as your hubby even if it’s British drama 😀

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            • It’s so weird, how people are about “British drama” — I saw an article on Atlantic this week, I think, pointing out that PBS has two of the biggest shows on TV right now, Downton Abbey and Sherlock — and that it has them because they are British dramas and the US networks are leery because of that.

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              • oh dear, I’ll never understand that. How can a network not wanting to broadcast Sherlock is beyond me. It’s true they did Elementary and proud of it, but Sherlock is indeed a fantastic production.
                I also read that Fox will do the remake of Broadchurch, a great series produced by ITV this year and winner of many awards. That could be ok (even if I don’t understand why not using the product done yet) but the incredible thing is they will use the same British actor, David Tennant. What is the meaning of that?

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              • Micra 1, I knew they were planning to remake Broadchurch (which seems entirely unnecessary to me. I watched it on BBC America and loved it) but now to learn they are planning to use David Tennant again–I am truly confused. However, a nasty suspicion just crept into my mind. While Olivia Colman gave a fantastic performance as Tennant’s fellow police officer in this, are US producers thinking they need someone more “Hollywood pretty” in the role? Wouldn’t be surprised . . .

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              • That would be a real shame. She was fantastic and perfect for the part. But I know how little minds of tv and cinema producers work … 😦

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              • Something I’d like to read. I don’t know if the point was PBS is able to get British dramas, or PBS only wants British dramas, PBS has a long history with BBC, going back to the beginning of Masterpiece Theater and Mystery, and was the only way to see so many wonderful ( if you like that sort of thing)- Period Dramas, literary adaptations and book to script mysteries, like Poirot, Inspector Morse, and then, instead of making business deals to buy the rights to broadcast the British shows, U.S. networks feel it necessary to get the rights and then do American re-makes.
                Pressure from American cable providers is also the reason that BBC doesn’t import current shows to U.S.networks or BBC-A- There’s a worry that cable providers will refuse to air BBC-A.

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          • I was trying to find some link, but I don’t remember the FB group that posted them. One was a good review with very bad comments. I’m searching.

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            • I’m curious, too, because I think there’s a difference between an industry review that’s negative and comments in a comment section that are negative. Not that one is more important than the other but that they have radically different meanings.

              There are different segments of interest in this — Cinemax wants viewers b/c of Lincoln, potentially, and to have something to show its audiences until they can produce the next season of the show. It’s not entirely clear to me how Richard Armitage’s interests intersect with those. If the Cinemax audience for the “new” SB hates Armitage, in what sense, or for what powerbrokers, is that a negative for him? Especially considering that these days exposure, period, is almost always good exposure.

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              • I’ve seen plenty of negative comments, as opposed to reviews – most that I recall were comments to the articles originally announcing the airing. And some were of the same ilk as on the Strike Back message boards -Hard Core fans of the current series who were never going to love this, some of whom can be very crass, insulting and unreasonable.
                I think it’s good – or anyway, not bad- for Richard Armitage and his career that this is being shown here, because he fared well – it’s more exposure, and the criticisms, such as they are, are directed at the show and not him.
                A question I don’t yet – or even whether it is measured, is whether Strike Back captured more viewership for Cinemax from what it had before, because I think even hard core fans of the original are likely to watch, and then bitch about, Origins.
                For new viewers who have never seen it and watched the first episode it, pays to note that although there are three separate adventures, the story arc of what happened in the stairwell, plays out over the entire season, with each episode revealing a little more. There were sufficient hints in the first episode that there was more to the story in the stairwell- for one thing- we never saw the soldiers get shot and Collinson’s suspicious facial expressions, when he recognizes the terrorist photo and says nothing, and a few other times.

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      • I admittedly haven’t read a lot of reviews, but I didn’t read anything that said RA stank or the original show was awful . . . I figured any bad comments were from current fans of the show who were missing the excessive amount of bullets, blood, things blowing up and, oh, yeah, bare flesh and constant bonking. They don’t call it “Skinemax” for no reason . . .

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  7. Ahhhhh–much, MUCH better. thank God someone else saw what we’ve known all along–the show would have been much better had they followed the original lines. What can I say, I really wonder about a large sector of the American viewership at times.

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  8. And yet we love Downton Abbey here so go figure. That is a fantastic review for Richard by the way. He definitely gets it and I understand what he means by a regular man. Most action shows use men who are built up looking like some muscle bound super hero and they don’t look as real. Richard looks like a soldier. They don’t overdo everything with theatrics. The other review I read made it clearer I think. The new SB has one character whose wife was murdered and that was sad right but he got over it and now they sort of joke about his not having a love life or being a monk. See that is an American thing. It is black humor as we call it. Doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there but it is covered up by joking and they move right on to all the blowing up and killing. Apparently that is well liked here more than having an actual story or delving into what damage this sort of thing might cause. We have so many soldiers coming home now damaged emotionally as well as physically beyond belief. In a sense Origins is actually “dealing” with some of that in John Porter’s story but apparently we still don’t want to do that in a TV series. Guess it is too much of a “downer”. I am really pleased that reviewers at least get it and they understand how well Richard puts it out there. The funny thing is that American men do like drama and they will watch it but when it is action they tend to just want the fun as they see it.

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    • Yes, but I think we need to keep in mind that Cinemax is one particular network that caters to a particular audience. Their other original shows include something called “The Girl’s Guide to Depravity” and some “educational show, about how to get multiple orgasms, hosted by a naked young woman.
      I don’t think all American viewers as a whole reject good stories with human conflict and angst. There’s been so much talk about Origins vs.SB and how DB was aimed at “American audiences,” but I think it’s more accurate to say that it was aimed at the Cinemax audience, which isn’t representative of the American Audience that looks forward to Homeland, Dexter, Mad Men, The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Weeds, or in the past, The Sopranos, The Pacific, Band of Brothers. There’s more schlock on TV than good stuff, it’s true,

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      • My problem is so much of what I want to watch on TV comes on Sunday nights—Masterpiece and other shows on PBS, and then shows like “Homeland” on the premium channels . . . sometimes it seems like feast or famine.

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        • All those shows can be DVRd and for those that can’t, there’s On demand if you have it, and even if not, they are all shown more than once in the week – and in the case of Homeland, it is shown immediately after the first viewing.
          Certain times of the year I go through this – when Mad Men and something on HBO and Masterpiece is shown at the same time as The Good Wife, – I need a Matrix to figure it out.
          Currently, Sunday night is a little deader than usual, which is one of the reasons why experts said The Walking Dead is doing so well.

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          • Yeah, but I don’t want to wait until 3 am on Wed. to watch “Masterpiece” which airs here at same time as “Homeland” and “The Walking Dead.” So Benny is DVRing TWD for us each Sunday night, and I am having to skip the current run of “Amazing Race” because I am watching shows back-to-back on PBS right now. I DVR “Homeland” at 10. And yes, it is even worse at certain times of the year, but it’s still the night giving me the most conflicts in terms of what I really want to watch.

            Sent: Sunday, October 27, 2013 1:51 PM To: angie.long@centurytel.net Subject: [New comment] “Armitage is Excellent” -Strike Back:Origins Review

            Perry commented: “All those shows can be DVRd and for those that can’t, there’s On demand if you have it, and even if not, they are all shown more than once in the week – and in the case of Homeland, it is shown immediately after the first viewing. Certain times of the ye”

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              • And for us, unfortunately, there is no “on demand” option because of what we like to call our Country DSL—i.e. pace is on the slow side. Still, whenever I start to grouse, spouse reminds me it wasn’t so many years ago that we had only dial-up and once upon a time, my family was lucky to have a big antenna and be able to watch ALL the networks—NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS—on a COLOR console. How times have changed . . .

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              • Giggles. I remember living in MO and the only terrestrial station that could be gotten was NBC. I got addicted to ER — but it also seems to have put me mostly off of tv in general. I got out of the habit of watching and have never really gotten back in, except when I’m at home and stressed out (cue obsessive HGTV watching).

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              • Since we rarely go to the movies or eat out and aren’t “party people” (my idea of happy hour really IS a nap) our main entertainment source is the satellite. That being said, at times I flip through the gazillion channels we now have and feel as if I am caught in a vast wasteland. I watch Turner Classic movies a LOT.

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  9. I loved this review. Well-informed analysis and it was complimentary as well. Can’t ask for more than that. As for FB reviews, I have not followed them. Aren’t they just average watchers’ opinions? As such, how do you know the writer is knowledgeable about the material or television criticism? Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion,but aren’t some opinions expressed more rationally than others? In other words, wouldn’t “consider the source” apply? I agree with Serv that industry reviews and comments are very different.
    .

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    • It all comes down to potential revenue, I think. Fans are getting more important, but the people who leave a comment on FB are only ever the most exposed fans, not the rank and file who are watching or not watching …

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        • OK, going out on a limb here — I think that this is *why* fan attention at the beginning of the project is getting so much exposure at the moment. *After* something is made is not that important. But if all the superfans insist they are going to boycott something ahead of time (50 Shades) that makes a big impression. Afterwards, they can say what they want, the money is spent and it’s been successful or not. A superfan can’t make something that doesn’t generate audiences and revenues into a success after the fact. (Tho’ it strikes me that Star Trek could be an exception to that pattern).

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          • I don’t think you are out on a limb. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is box office numbers. Fan outcry over Batfleck didn’t change a thing in casting. I would also like to add the Hobbit (all films) are considered “bulletproof” by the industry. That is to say that tepid or negative reviews will have minimum impact on box office numbers. Other examples of this would be the J. Depp pirate movies (in particular the last two), any Star Wars product and the Hunger Games.

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  10. I think Serv was saying something a little different, Kathy, that fan outcry before the decision is made and the money spent ,may have an effect ( though i’m not about that -i.e.The Batfleck situation – but then, i.e.the 50 shades situation) – after the fact, when it’s grousing or reviews, there’s nothing to be done. But, while I don’t think a “superfan” can make something a success, I think, and we saw it with TH and other films, that the paying, viewing audience can turn it around if they go to theater.

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      • That’s what I was trying to say Profit is the final judge of a film’s success, regardless of the reviews or a fandom’s opinion. If you are judging a film as the product of a business and not as an art form, (which have different criteria) money is the yardstick by which success is measured.

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    • I’m wondering if the difference between 50 Shades and Batfleck is the extent of the intersection of fans with total audience. For Batman, rabid Batman fans make up a segment of the potential audience. For 50 Shades, right now anyway, 50 Shades fans are the *total* audience. That problem is likely accentuated by the controversial quality of the material, i.e., there is a big segment of the moviegoing public that just doesn’t want to see that kind of thing on a normal screen in public.

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      • I don’t know, but if you’re suggesting what I think, that Batman fans ( or even the wider group Comic Book Hero fans) are going to see it no matter what, while 50 Shades audience, an unknown, may skip 50 Shades if they don’t like the lead, but be more motivating if it’s someone they especially like, then I agree – that might have been a factor. I think you’d have to drop the highest and the lowest, that is – those who loved the book – they’ll go – and those who hated it or wouldn’t read it because of the content – they’re not going. A normal screen, OMG, let’s hope it’s not 3 D.

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        • More that there are many people who would see a Batman movie who are not “fans” in the narrow sense of being someone who is constantly occupied with Batman to the point that they have a strong opinion about who should be cast and are willing to sign a petition about it. Like, say, the group of people who just like superhero films or those who like action films or those who always go to the see the latest blockbuster, no matter what. I’m sort of floating the idea that those people don’t exist for 50 Shades, at least not YET. Everyone who is positively disposed toward 50 Shades at present is someone who knows the story well and probably ahs read the books and so on. It’s going to havea virtual unknown cast, it has had a lot of press as being “porny,” which may be a draw for a certain kind of moviegoer but a turnoff for another. I wonder how many of the traditional audience for the superhero blockbuster (late adolescent males) will want to see 50 Shades even knowing that it’s a film about practical BDSM if it’s clear to them that it’s also supposed to be a romance.

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          • I agree that the certain audience for the Batman film isn’t there for the 50 Shades audience. But I think the Batman ( or Superhero/ComicBook) audience these days is far wider than the adolescent male. Like TH and AUJ, these days it includes a wider range of fan. Still- they are a built in- seeing it no matter what- group.
            I haven’t read 50 Shades.

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              • Well, millions of people bought it, read it, and didn’t stop talking about it and it spawned what, two sequels? And, unless I’m wrong, I read your review of it a while back, isn’t it more than just sex- isn’t it dominance?

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              • Yes, I read it all (I think she wrote the entire thing and then split it up into three heavily padded books to make more money)–because I read a positive review of the first book at EW. Well, as it turned out, I didn’t agree with their reviewer’s assessment of the film “Battleship” OR these books.

                I did not want to review something I hadn’t completely read and given a fair shake (I personally dislike it when people review something they didn’t bother to actually read or watch), and I hoped things improved writing-wise as the books progressed.

                Alas, such was NOT the case. BTW, this started out as a Twilight fanfic published online and the author then decided to change sparkly vampire to kinky dominant along with a few other things and self-published and the enormous Twilight fanbase helped push these books into being worldwide bestsellers. But bestsellers aren’t necessarily well-written books. And I explained in my post why I couldn’t recommend it.

                The hero is 27, a billionaire, gorgeous and totally screwed up when it comes to sex after being seduced by his mother’s best friend and becoming her submissived when he was a kid. His adopted mother, because his crackhead whore mom was killed in front of him, as I recall.
                I don’t remember a lot of details . . . he is a stalker, a control freak and I see it as an emotionally manipulative relationship, not a great romance.
                Real SMBD participants told me they hated it, and people with histories of physical/sexual/emotional abuse told me they hated it.

                One passage, where he is beating his “love interest” savagely with a belt and she is crying because she doesn’t understand why he is doing it made me feel all kinds of unhappy. Are some scenes hot? Yes, I will give James that, but as I have said, I’ve read better. Hell, I’ve written better.

                And then there’s the girl’s highly irritating Inner Goddess. There is an amateurish quality that pervades the entire trilogy. But it is beloved “mommy porn” for some. A lot of used copies have also ended up in bargain bins, at flea markets, etc. or so I hear. 😉

                Will the movie be a hit? Maybe more so on PPV and DVD . . .

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            • Don’t disagree re: Batman audience and adolescent males — but that’s kind of my point in a nutshell. Batman audience = many more than intense fans willing to sign a petition against Affleck, hence fans less important. 50 Shades fans = heavily, predominantly? composed of fans willing to sign petition against Hunnam.

              I realize that last sentence was confusing. I was trying incompetently to speculate on something separate, the question to which people who don’t already love 50 Shades will want to see it in theaters …

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          • Sex sells. Although NC-17 (if it goes that route, which it almost would HAVE to do if it stays faithful to those wretchedly overhyped books, due not just to sex but the violent nature of the interaction) doesn’t have a good track record in theatres, does it? I always figured they would end up going with relative unknowns, following the example of the Twilight movies. For one thing, I don’t think most A-list actors really wanted to attach their name to the project . . . no matter what was reported.

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          • Yeah, the word “fan” has the old meaning to me, likes and admires someone/something – the person who likes a sports team and watched it on TV, but doesn’t have to have season’s tickets, or watched a TV show regularly – not like us, who spend time on or in the fandom.
            And let’s face it, fans like us, or hard core fans of Batman/Superhero, are not enough of an audience to make a film a success.

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  11. Facinating to read an ex military perspective on SB, thanks for tracking it down KatherineD! And Perry for publishing. Have come late to this conversation, but have enjoyed the thread.

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  12. Now comes the announcement that they are going to end the current SB with season 5 or season 4 (if you only count the U.S.) One assumes that this was already planned of course. They do say the only reason they put Origins in at all on Cinemax is because the channel needed filler. Well thank goodness for that or we’d never have got the chance to see Richard’s John Porter here now would we?

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