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Hell’s Kitchen: Two Left Standing

It’s hard to believe the summer is almost over, and Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” is barreling toward the season finale. But it’s true. Last night the final three became the final two, and the show got a little better-looking. Let me ‘splain……

First of all, Rock and Jen had a bad dinner service the previous week, and the show began with them apologizing to each other and hugging. Awww. Also, Rock, Bonnie and Jen were all upset to see their pal Julia off the show. But on to business. Ramsay brought the three aspiring chefs into the kitchen for their challenge, which was to take an American classic and turn it into a gourmet dish. But they had to pick those dishes at random. Ramsay’s mom was on hand to help out too. Then, the contestants were thrown for a loop when their own moms came out to be the judges for the challenge.
Jen started crying in a way that made me want to throw things at the TV, and I’m not exaggerating.

Bonnie chose franks & beans, and oddly, since she is a nanny, had no idea what franks & beans were. Are you kidding me? Rock chose spaghetti & meatballs, and Jen chose fried chicken. Jen’s dish won hands down as she foo-ed up her chicken with goat cheese and herbs. Blech, but that’s just me. I want the real thing. Anyway, Jen won and got to spend the day with her mom, as well as Ramsay and his mom, then also got $1000 to spend in some cooking equipment store. She cried more, and I cried more because I had to watch her crying.

Meanwhile, Bonnie and Rock had to clean the dorms and while they both didn’t want to, made the best of things. Then at the dinner service, each contestant was given the chance to play the role of Chef Ramsay, calling out orders at the pass. Ramsay tested each of them individually beforehand, seeing how assertive they could be….then had the sous chefs throw them each for a loop by omitting key ingredients in certain dishes. Jen failed that part, and Bonnie and Rock didn’t. But each of them had their glitches too..Rock was a little slow and Bonnie was a bit scatterbrained calling in the orders.

Still, dinner went off pretty much flawlessly, and Ramsay admitted it was the best dinner service in Hell’s Kitchen, ever. But someone had to go home. In the morning he invited them all in, and uneventfully sent Jen home. I admit I had no idea who was going home, but leaned toward Bonnie just because of her lack of experience in a fine dining restaurant. Still, Ramsay did us all a favor by sending Jen home because she did tend to ugly up our TV screen….there, I said it!

Anyway, now that it’s down to the cute Nanny and the “Rock,” I’m totally expecting Rock to run away with this…if he keeps his cool there really is no good reason that he can’t take Bonnie down. Oh, but first, there was a surprise at the end…Bonnie’s parents and Rock’s wife showed up to congratulate the two….and Rock asked his wife he she thought they’d give them a “conjugal.” Funny stuff.

Next week is the final square-off, then I’m guessing there will be a finale the following week announcing the winner. See you next week!

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Showtime has it goin’ on

Over the last several years, Showtime has developed original programming in the same vein as HBO (edgy content in compact seasons), only the network doesn’t get nearly as much publicity.

I can heartily endorse three Showtime series that are now out on DVD, making them a great option for those waiting for the traditional fall season to start. “Weeds” stars the ever-sexy Mary Louise-Parker as Nancy, a suburban widow forced to sell marijuana in order to keep up her family’s lifestyle. Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins co-star as residents in her tract-housing neighborhood. The show is reminiscent of “American Beauty,” only funnier, and with a lot more cannabis. Justin Kirk is hilarious as Andy, Nancy’s irresponsible brother-in-law.

Dexter” is a cop show unlike any other. No procedures, just the title character (played by Michael C. Hall, formerly of “Six Feet Under”), who is – get this – a serial killer who only kills serial killers. Over the course of the first season, we learn about how Dexter was “born,” and dive deep into his past as he wrestles with his demons. It’s a compelling and unique take on the crime drama.

Fans of “The Wire” or “The Black Donnellys” should check out “Brotherhood,” the story of two Irish brothers on the opposite side of the law in Providence, Rhode Island. One is an influential state congressman, while the other is moving up in organized crime. As the first season wears on, their lives become more and more intertwined. Most of the members of the fine ensemble cast aren’t well known, but the lovely Annabeth Gish plays the unhappy and secretive wife of the congressman.

Lastly, “The Tudors” (which just wrapped the first season and is not yet out on DVD) stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a young King Henry VIII who tries to extract himself from his marriage (in order to be with his love, Anne Boleyn). Not unike HBO’s “Rome,” the first season shows how the personal lives of royalty and politicians can affect the course of a country. The ensemble cast is anchored by Sam Neill, who portrays the powerful and ambitious Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. By the end of the season, I was scouring Wikipedia for information about the characters; it’s not a bad way to learn a bit of history.

August 13th is the premiere of the promising “Californication,” a dramedy that stars David Duchovny as a single writer who must balance his career with his daughter, his ex-wife and his appetite for beautiful women.

They say you can’t outfox a fox, but with HBO staples “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “Deadwood” and “Rome” going off the air, and “The Wire” soon to follow, Showtime just might be out-HBO’ing HBO.

It’s not TV. It’s Showtime.

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Comic-Con: Day Three – Marvel Studios

The Marvel Studios panel wasn’t only one of the weekend’s final movie-related panels, but it was also perhaps the most anticipated panel of all of Comic-Con. After word spread on Thursday afternoon about the killer footage that director Jon Favreau showed during the presentation, fanboys were so adamant about seeing it again (or for the first time), that many sat through six hours of panels just to guarantee that they’d see it again. It also helps when you have the best star-to-minute ratio of all the panels thus far, because though the presentation only lasted for one hour, attendees were treated to appearances by Ed Norton, Liv Tyler, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard. Not exactly the kind of cast you’d expect would be involved in two comic book movies, but then again, that’s what makes these movies so amazing.

“The Incredible Hulk” (guests: Ed Norton, Liv Tyler, Louis Leterrier, Avi Arad and Kevin Feige)

Since there wasn’t any footage to show (production began only two weeks), the panel jumped right into taking questions from the audience, and the first question was a little too obvious – “Why another big screen Hulk?” – to which producer Kevin Feige replied, “Because it’s the Hulk.” The panel when on to expose a few things people may not know about the new film:

* First things first: this is not a sequel to the Ang Lee “Hulk” from a few years ago. This is part one in what they hope to be a trilogy and the big green machine will remain one size throughout the course of the movie.

* Ed Norton is writing the script. That may come as a bit of a surprise to many, but it definitely shows that Marvel means business. Not only is Norton a great actor/director, but he’s a massive fan (referring to playing the Hulk both “an honor” and “hilarious”), and so I’m sure his rewrite of the Zak Penn script will be great.

Read the rest after the jump.

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Comic-Con: Day Three – Rogue/Focus

One of my favorite up-and-coming studios in the business, Rogue/Focus is directly responsible for importing “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” to American theaters, and as such, I’m willing to listen to anything they have to say about projects in the works. And over the course of the next year, they’ve got some pretty cool stuff coming out, including the often-rescheduled “Balls of Fury” (more on why later), the new Liv Tyler thriller “The Strangers,” and Neil Marshall’s latest.

“Coraline” (guests: Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick)

I can’t remember if anything related to this movie was originally scheduled for presentation during the panel, but Neil Gaiman made a quick visit to announce that his graphic novel is indeed receiving the big screen treatment, it’s going to all be done in stop-motion (and by the guy who did “Nightmare Before Christmas,” no less), and that the soundtrack will feature They Might Be Giants. Sounds pretty cool to me, and I’ll be sure to add this to my radar. No release date was announce, but I’m thinking it will be ready no later than Christmas 2008.

“Balls of Fury” (guests: Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Dan Fogler and James Hong)

“Iron Man” may have had the most exciting presentation, and “Midnight Meat Train” the most fucked up on, but it was the guys from “Balls of Fury” who provided the most entertaining panel of the weekend. Here to show off some footage from their new film were “Reno 911″ and “The State” alum Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (in full costume and makeup), and star Dan Fogler. But before I get to any specifics on the panel, it’s probably important to address the film’s constant rescheduling issues. Apparently, the CGI effects for the film took longer than anticipated (seven months), but now that they’ve finally finished, the movie is coming out… for real.

Read the rest after the jump.

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Comic-Con: Roundtable with Ed Burns

While waiting to speak with director Zack Snyder during the series of Warner Bros. roundtables on Friday, my table was given a bonus: a brief chat with Ed Burns. Of course, unlike our incredibly limited time with Snyder, Mr. Burns was more than happy to answer our questions about, among other things, his return to acting in “One Missed Call” and the future of filmmaking.

Reporter: So is this your first Comic-Con?

Ed Burns: It is, yeah.

Reporter: And was it everything that it had been hyped up to be?

EB: I thought it was a lukewarm reaction, honestly. But I’m not really the guy who, you know, we just had a little clip reel, I’ve never done a horror film or sci-fi, so, I don’t know how many “[Brothers] McMullen” fans were in the audience. They really weren’t giving it up for the Irish guys from Queens.

Reporter: What do you think it is about Japanese horror that – because the torture porn thing has kind of come and gone – but for whatever reason Japanese horror has continued to hold a major interest internationally. Why do you think that is?

EB: Quite honestly, I don’t know. I think the reason the genre is popular in the States for so long is, you know, there are so many different options people have now in terms of their entertainment. You know, theatergoing has changed in a big way. You talk about “McMullen,” like, people use to go see small movies at small theaters, and that’s basically over, and I think the reason like comedies to such big business and power and, you know, big special effects movies is… you can watch a small drama on your flatscreen and it’s a similar experience. Sitting in a theater with 400 people and getting the shit scared out of you is a fun experience. That’s why I go, and it’s like, there are certain films that you wanna see in a theater to have the community type of experience with a certain genre of film.

Bullz-Eye: Is this the first horror movie that was pitched to you, or the first one that you’ve wanted to do?

EB: The first one that was pitched. It’s kinda weird. My career periodically, I go through these stages were I don’t wanna act anymore, I’m just gonna focus on making a few small movies, and then after I do two or three of those, like I did with this, I don’t wanna make another small movie, I wanna go act, so this was – I had just finished shooting something – and this was the first script that came up and I was like ‘You know, I like the genre, I’ve never done one, let me give it a shot and see. The director was an interesting guy. His whole thing was that he wanted to make it more suspenseful and atmospheric, more like a “Rosemary’s Baby” or – remember that Donald Sutherland film…

Reporter: “Don’t Look Now.”

EB: “Don’t Look Now,” okay. “Don’t Look Now” was the other film that he referenced a lot, so, and I think it is, it’s just a little bit more keeping with that style than it is sort of more traditional, sort of blood and guts horror movie.

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Oh, the things you’ll do

Every now and again, there’s an episode like the one that aired tonight. Sometimes it’s because the show is contracted for so many episodes, but the main story arc requires fewer than the agreed amount, and other times it’s the writers just having fun. Unfortunately, tonight’s filler came at the most inopportune time, as the fourth season has begun showing signs of wear. Then again, perhaps this was a much-needed break from all the Eric-Walsh drama, because it looks like things are going to pick back up again next week with Eric trying to take over as Vince’s agent.

There wasn’t any connection to the main story arc in this week’s episode, but when the guys begin to tease Eric for his inability to have a non-emotional relationship, Drama ups the ante by making a little bet with his kid brother: Turtle can bed a girl (without paying) before Eric can (without calling her the next day), with 5,000 bucks going to the winner. Vince takes Eric under his wing and hits up all the poolside hot spots. It doesn’t take too long to find a couple girls who want to party, but while Vince is upstairs getting a little workout, Eric stays downstairs chatting up a hot British girl about his last girlfriend Sloan, who he unfortunately runs into during the middle of his conversation.

Meanwhile, Drama shops around Craigslist to find a girl desperate enough to sleep with Turtle, but when they reply to an ad and discover the girl is drop dead sexy (and horny), the bet is practically won. The only thing Turtle needs to do is pick up her dry cleaning and meet her later that night, but when the duo arrive at the dry cleaners to pick up her item, it turns out to be a pink bunny suit. Drama knows right away what Turtle’s gotten himself into – the girl is a furry, or a person who likes to dress up in furry animal costumes and have sex. Turtle looks downright ridiculous in the outfit, but he agrees to follow through with it in order to win the bet. That is, until Eric comes back with pictures of Sloan dancing through his head, and the bet is determined a forfeit. Turtle is happy and so is Drama, but when Eric learns that Sloan is with someone else, he quickly changes his mind (and his clothes) and heads back to the hotel to “fuck that British girl.”

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Comic-Con: Day Three – Disney/Pixar

I’m not really sure why I dreaded this presentation so much (perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I just sat through four hours of entertaining panels knowing this one would be a snoozefest in comparison), but the Disney/Pixar panel just wasn’t up to par. They didn’t have a whole lot to show, and of the three films represented, there wasn’t a single one that interested me in the way projects from every other panel have this weekend.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” (guests: Andrew Adamson – via satellite)

This was a split panel, in a sense, because many of the film’s crewmembers appeared in person to discuss their work on the second installment, but director Andrew Adamson was unable to get away from the set long enough to pop in. He was, however, able to appear via satellite video (along with a two second delay, ugh) so that he could intro a never-before-seen trailer for the new film and show off the Boy That Would Be Caspian, Ben Barnes (who’ll also appear in the fantasy film “Stardust” this August). Though he didn’t stay for very long, Adamson was the only interesting thing about the presentation.

The rest of the panel knew so little about the production as a whole (they’re experts in one field and one field only), that I felt a bit shortchanged. They showed off some pre-viz animation, finished creature effects and armor that was created especially for the film, and also fielded questions from the audience, but once Adamson and Barnes went to bed (no, seriously), the panel pretty much died right along with them. Nevertheless, while the first movie was a huge success, the second installment promises to be even bigger. Just think about how much better “The Two Towers” was than “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and you’ll get a good idea of what direction the film is going. Here’s a hint: It rhymes with “lots of schmaction.”

Read the rest after the jump.

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Comic-Con: Day Three – “The Simpsons”

Though “The Simpsons Movie” is already out in theaters, that didn’t stop Matt Groening and Co. from stopping by to share some news about the upcoming season, shamelessly plugging franchise tie-ins, and even answering a few questions from the audience. Because I’m not a diehard fan like others on the BE staff, it’s a bit difficult to elaborate on all the details of the panel without a solid background of the show, but I will offer up some nuggets of info that were discussed throughout the course of the presentation.

Groening started the panel off in grand fashion by introducing a never-before-seen deleted scene from the aforementioned “Simpsons” movie. The clip in question features Homer as he treks back to Springfield by way of a sausage truck. After letting Homer off at his stop, the driver (voiced by Hank Azaria) heads back to check on his sausages (and singing “checking my sausages”) only to discover that they’re all gone.

Later in the presentation, we were also treated to the opening few minutes of this season’s “Treehouse of Horror” episode, and while I’d really like to talk about it here, I’d rather not spoil it for anyone who may be reading this. Well, I’ll say just one thing: it has to do with those annoying advertisements that pop up on the corner of your TV screen while you’re watching a show, and it’s very, very funny.

The highlight of the panel? When an attendee requested that Groening sing the Spider-pig song and the entire cast/crew joined him in the jingle.

Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to hear any details about the new season of the show, stop reading now.

* In this year’s new season, a rival comic book shop will open in Springfield, and the owner will be voiced by Jack Black. Comic book legend Alan Moore will also cameo as himself.

* Another episode will feature Ralph Wiggum running for a major political position when the people of Springfield write him onto the ballot, unknowingly causing a domino effect that makes him the election front-runner.

* Spider-pig will return in the season premiere, but only briefly.

* “The Simpsons” theme park ride is still in its early stages, but voice acting has already been recorded (Yeardley Smith even accidentally leaked some news about Sideshow Bob appearing), and will be replacing the “Back to the Future” ride at Universal Studios.

* The script for “The Simpsons Movie” went through 166 drafts (and four years) before finally arriving at the final product. So if you’’e wondering why the movie was so darn good (and maybe it isn’t, but I haven’t had the chance to see it yet), that’s why.

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Comic-Con: Roundtable with Zack Snyder

Following the Warner Bros. panel on Friday afternoon, a select group of press were invited to take part in a series of roundtable discussions with various panelists from the presentation. Director Zack Snyder (of the upcoming “Watchmen” film) was kind enough to give me and seven other writers a few minutes of his time to discuss the film in a much more controlled environment. Unfortunately, Zack likes to talk an awful lot and we didn’t have much time to begin with (five minutes), so I was unable to ask any of the questions I had lined up (like whether Gerard Butler will be cast as Hooded Justice, or if he’s got any ideas on how to shoot the “Black Freighter” sequence). Of course, there’s a lot of people out there who’d like to know everything they possibly can about the production on this movie, and so I’ve posted the following tidbit for the pleasure of anyone who may be interested…

Zack Snyder: (continuing his conversation from the previous roundtable) One of the things that I think is important about “Watchmen” is that it have resonances of cinematic pop culture, as well as superhero culture, because I believe there’s a relationship between Rorschach and Travis Bickle in “”Taxi Driver.” I believe that there’s a relationship between the war room in “Doctor Strangelove” and NORAD. There are cinematic relationships in the graphic novel, and I really think that the movie, this movie, “Watchmen,” is able to comment on both things in a way that other movies can’t, because it really does observe pop culture all the time while it’s telling the story. And I think that part of the influence on the characters themselves is the culture that they’re in. And for that part it’s something hugely fun to explore and, just from a visual standpoint, is hugely fun to say ‘Well, what does that mean?.’ Like, when you’re in the war room, how do you make it “Doctor Strangelove,” without making it “Doctor Strangelove”?

Reporter: It’ll pull you too far out of the story…

ZS: Yeah, I mean, let’s be realistic. Probably 99.999% of the population has not seen “Doctor Strangelove,” so there’ll be minimal impact on them, but, you know, for those of us that have, you want it to have those kind of broad implications that that has about the Cold War, and about like satire, and all those things, so Alex and I have been having a lot of fun, I think, in trying to… because I always say, treat the graphic novel like it was written 2,000 years old and it is like an illuminated text, and that we are disciples of this religion and we have to make sure that it is somehow, you know… we won’t be burned at the stake, for heresy, after the movie comes out. I think that’s the fun we also have, like for instance even just the smallest things like when Rorschach burns the SWAT cops with the hairspray. We’re sitting around and they showed me some hairsprays – you know, cool ratty hairspray cans – and I was like ‘Oh, they’re cool, but the labels are wrong.’ And they’re like, ‘What do you mean?’ And I go ‘That’s Veidt for Men, it should be, hairspray.’ And I was like ‘See?’ (mocks opening a copy of “Watchmen”), and they’re like ‘Oh, fuck, okay, sorry.’ But it’s like that. You could do that with pretty much everything in the movie.

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Comic-Con: A Night with Kevin Smith

An annual tradition for the Comic-Con crowd, Kevin Smith’s appearance on Friday night offered something a little different for fans of the writer/director. After a monologue that casually poked fun at the fact that Fox had pulled out of the weekend event, Smith also briefly talked about other Comic-Con staples, including Stan Lee, for who he made the following comment about: “If Stan Lee’s semen had a tenth of the creative genius he has, I’d let him fuck me in the mouth.”

Not exactly a family-friendly event, but that didn’t stop the flocks of under aged attendees from sticking around. In the words of an especially young attendee when asked by Smith about his very first Comic-Con: “This is fucking mind-blowing.”

Though many were there to see Smith do his thing for all 90 minutes, the writer/director had a little surprise for those in attendance: the pilot episode of The CW’s “Reaper.” The show, which is a mix between “Ghost Rider” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (and possibly “Ghostbusters,” but I can’t make that assessment based on one episode), is the perfect replacement for those still mourning the cancellation of “Buffy,” “Angel” and other fantasy-based programs. For more on the show, be sure to check out our very own Will Harris’ report from the TCA Press Tour.

As is common with panels like this, many of the questions were incredibly stupid. Okay, most of them were stupid, including a particular anti-Smith advocate who asked him whether he would ever make a movie that didn’t reuse characters from past films, and didn’t suck. Smith’s response was classic, declaring that he had two projects in the work, and that he would start production on both as soon as he “took his cock out of your mother’s ass.” Here are some other highlights from the event:

*On Steven Spielberg’s holier-than-thou satellite feed during the Thursday panel: “Fuck you, Schindler. Get in line bitch.”

*On his disappointment with “Transformers” being too long, and wasting time on things like robots peeing on humans: “I just wanted to see shit turn into other shit.”

*On what he would do if he weren’t making movies: “I’d work in a deli, because I make a really good sandwich.”

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