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Battlestar Galactica: “Sine Qua Non”

All right, in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t a huge fan of this episode. It sort of dragged and not a whole lot happened with respect to the big picture. After last week’s cliffhanger, we didn’t get any new information about what happened to Roslin, but just like the rest of the fleet, they wanted to keep us in the dark.

Sandy Blonde Number Six died on the operating table, and Athena’s assault on her fueled all sorts of speculation about why the basestar jumped away. With the President gone, the quorum was all in a tizzy, and since Admiral Adama won’t recognize the VP’s authority, Lee decides to call on Romo Lampkin and his dead cat to sift through possible interim replacements for Roslin. I knew something was up with the cat when it got so much screen time; it’s strange how so many people in the fleet see friends, relatives and pets after they die.

Anyway, was anyone really surprised when Romo identified Lee as the only possible replacement for Roslin? We’ve been talking about that probability here for weeks.

However, I am intrigued by the whole Tigh-knocking-up-Platinum-Blonde-Number-Six storyline since both parties are Cylons and they are not supposed to be able to reproduce. Maybe the final five can reproduce… hmmm. Anyway, I find it quite disturbing when they switch between PB Number Six and Ellen. Tigh’s wife always bothered me, so when she pops up it gives me a bit of a jolt.

So Lee is the new President and his dad gives up his command so that he can… sit in a raptor in the middle of nowhere? I guess that the idea is that the fleet moves on while he waits for the basestar to return. I’ll admit that I’m touched by the affection that he has for Roslin, though I question the wisdom of this course of action. He usually makes good decisions, so I’m sure he’ll stumble upon the missing basestar somehow.

But where does the fleet have to go? Last I heard, the plan was to form a truce with the Cylons so that the final five could lead the fleet to Earth. So did the fleet just jump to some random coordinates to protect themselves in case the truce is off?


I typically don’t watch the “scenes from next week,” but I’ve started to lately since a reader generally comments on them. This week’s scenes contained a (possible) doozy of a spoiler, so stop reading now if you don’t want to ruin the surprise.

The Cylons will apparently revive D’Anna next week, and in a preview clip she tells Roslin, “You know about the five remaining Cylons. But do you know that you’re one of them?”

Now, truth be told, I don’t believe that Roslin is the fifth and even if she were, I don’t think the creators would drop that bomb in the “next week” preview. But the clip seemingly revealed the identity of the fifth, so I wanted to be very careful with that information so as to not ruin the surprise for anyone.

(By the way, I think the fact that they showed that clip – or edited that way – pretty much confirms that she is not the fifth. But, then again, they could be doing some super-devious reverse psychology on me.)

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Multiplex Mayhem: The Pre-Coital Edition

With the passing of Sydney Pollack and Harvey Korman, it’s been a sad few days in movie land, but the weekend comes whether we live or die….

*This time, expect an unusually severe case of gender apartheid as the biggest new release to compete with all the action fare on tap is the much ballyhoed festival of contemporary femininity, “Sex and the City” — the further adventures of a bunch of characters I don’t know much of anything about, apparently because I’m an ungay guy and, yes, we critics and movie writers are now expected to divulge our our sexual orientations before discussing certain movies. (I’m actually sort of renowned in some circles for liking a great many things that some would consider girly, particularly musicals…but whatever entertainment-preference testosterone I have in my system seemed to go into overdrive the minute I caught even one second of this particular series, forcing me to change channels — and, yes, I like “Entourage” a great deal. I guess biology really is destiny when it comes to HBO comedies.)

In any event, the reviews are mixed, including that of our own Jason Zingale, who was man enough to admit to respecting the television series and critic enough to say the movie had some story problems. And both Jason and Roger Ebert, who was man enough to admit that this movie was not made for him, were charmed by “Sex” newcomer Jennifer Hudson, who really does seem to be one the positive by-product that I’ve noticed so far from this whole “American Idol” business. Female critics seem to skew a bit more positive, but as the WaPo’s Ann Hornaday honestly opines:

…the question isn’t whether it’s good. The question is whether it delivers the goods — the goods being shoes, romance, ribald humor, shoes, sex, shoes, pithy observations about single life in New York and more shoes.

And the general consensus is that the raunchy rom-com+ will provide roughly $30 million worth of goods from the domestic box office from those rarest of creatures at the American multiplex — post-college-age women. At least that’s what the usual experts say, noting that it’s already done well abroad.

Overall, “Sex” should put in a very respectable second place after the “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” juggernaut, which is expected to pull in a solid $50 million. I see no reason to disagree.

There’s another movie that perhaps skews to a younger female demographic, and that is “The Strangers,” a chiller about a couple being menaced at home starring beautiful Liv Tyler and himboish Scott Speedman. This one seems to deliver a certain amount of chills, even if many critics turn up their noses, while others, like Bullz-Eye’s Dave Medsker, see both good and bad. Regardless, it’s nice to hear this one isn’t another (physical) torture fest. Considering the scary commercials and the sex appeal to their respective audiences of the two stars, I’d expect this relatively low budget film to have much better prospects for a decent and long life than its characters might. Still, it will likely be bested by the waning, but still mass audience friendly, powers of “Prince Caspian.”

Meanwhile in Indiewood
….There are a number of new films coming out in limited release this week, but it’s late, I’ve been fighting some kind of mini-micro-bug all week, and some lovely baked chicken is waiting for me downstairs. I will, however, mention two that should be interest to our audience.

First, there is the amazingly well reviewed (100% Fresh, RT-meter) documentary, “Bigger, Faster, Stronger*” about the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in athletics. Considering the doc’s newsworthy subject matter and the fact that it’s about sports, and not politics or war, it sounds to me to have the makings of yet another break-out nonfiction hit.

Also getting mostly good reviews (though some are simply a bit appalled) is “Stuck” in which more than two decades after his gruesome horror-comedy, “Re-Animator,” director Stuart Gordon goes to a horrendous real life incident for some extra-extra-extra black grisly humor and chills. This time with Stephen Rea as a hapless man who finds himself in self-involved Mena Suvari’s windshield. As someone who had to knock back a few drinks to finally see Gordon’s signature horrorfest not long ago, but had a good time with it once I did, I’m not sure if I want to see this one or not. I am fairly sure it’s not dull.

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Lost 4.13 – There’s No Place Like Home (Part Two)

If there’s one thing “Lost” has always been good for, it’s an explosive season finale, but while tonight’s two-hour cliffhanger was definitely explosive, it was for completely different reasons. Don’t get me wrong, the finale had me salivating over the possibilities of the show’s future, but it just wasn’t as spectacular as past years.

For starters, let’s address that silly spy report I linked to at the end of my last post. I had a feeling that Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof would film some decoy endings to keep people guessing, and my suspicions were confirmed on three separate occasions. The first occurred during Jack and Locke’s discussion about the island’s potential powers. As soon as Locke made a point of asking Jack to stay, it was pretty clear that the reason Jack is so upset over the death of Jeremy Bentham in the future is because he considered him his best chance to get back to the island. The second clue happened right after, during Walt’s visit to Hurley in the mental institution, when Walt mentioned that Bentham was the only person to visit him in New York. Finally, the third is probably the most obvious (ABC’s commercial about the alternate endings on tomorrow’s episode of “Good Morning America”), but if you hadn’t already figured out that Bentham was Locke by then, well, you’re just not paying close enough attention.

Now, we don’t know why Locke changed his name or how he got off the island, but we do know that in order for Jack to return, he needs every member of the Oceanic Six (including Locke’s dead body, and possibly even Ben) to do so. We also know that some very bad stuff went down following their departure and, along with Jack’s crusade to get back to the island, this will likely play a major role in the final two seasons.

Read the rest after the jump.

Read the rest after the jump...

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Gentlemen, in memory of Harvey Korman, please rest your sphincters.

Harvey Korman has died…and, man, am I bummed.

If the guy had never done anything other than “The Carol Burnett Show,” he’d still be a comedy legend, but his resume was filled with plenty of reasons for you to mourn his passing. Heck, the realization that the Great Gazoo will never again call Fred Flintstone “dum-dum” in quite the same way is getting me misty enough that I can forgive him for those appearances he made on “Mama’s Family.” Besides, even if I didn’t like the show, it’s not like I can blame the guy for taking the opportunity to play with Vicki Lawrence again. Plus, he survived the experience of playing no less than three roles in “The Star Wars Holiday Special” – Krelman, Chef Gormaand, and the Amorphian instructor – and that’s the Hollywood equivalent of earning half a dozen Purple Hearts and a couple of Bronze Stars.

Korman was great at playing the too-stern-for-his-own-good authority figure who always got his comeuppance and, when he did, you were laughing all the way. Mel Brooks knew this and took advantage of it, providing him with classic roles like Dr. Charles Montague in “High Anxiety” and Hedy…sorry, Hedley Lamarr…in “Blazing Saddles.” Okay, so his role in “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” might not have been on the same level, but it was still nice to see him on the big screen again.

Over at, Mark Evanier has promised to provide some of his favorite anecdotes about Korman, but he’s already declared him “one of the funniest people I ever encountered…and easily the best audience.” I can absolutely believe that, based on the way he used to explode with laughter at Tim Conway; those two together will likely always be remembered as one of the best comedy duos in the history of TV sketch comedy, and rightfully so.

I suppose it’s only appropriate that, even in the process of researching to write this piece, Korman is still making me laugh, courtesy of the names of the characters he’s played over the years:

Prof. Fagenspahen (“The Munsters”)
Col. Heindreich von Zeppel (“F-Troop”)
Baron Hinterstoisser (“The Wild, Wild West”)

And let us not forget his recurring role in the “Pink Panther” saga: Prof. Auguste Balls.

I’m really gonna miss that guy. Hasta la vista, Harvey.

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Hell’s Kitchen: Words of Wisdom

Last night’s “Hell’s Kitchen” featured some words of wisdom that were really enlightening, but more on that later. They started off with a challenge, and that was a tag team kitchen relay. Each team had to cook three dishes , and each chef had just six minutes for their part. It was close, but once again the red team won the challenge, and their prize was a day of swimming and surfing lessons. The blue team, meanwhile, had to clean Hell’s Kitchen. And a subplot was beginning….that of Jen and Bobby bickering.

For the dinner service, the teams were able to create their own menus and present them to Ramsay. The red team Read the rest of this entry »

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After directing some of the worst films of the past decade (“The Covenant,” “Exorcist: The Beginning,” “Mindhunters”), Renny Harlin delivers a welcome return from the basement with “Cleaner,” a by-the-numbers thriller that, while totally predictable, succeeds thanks to a solid cast. Samuel L. Jackson stars as Tom Carver, a former cop who now makes a living cleaning up crime scenes. When Tom is called in to sterilize a home following a suburban shooting, however, he’s surprised to discover that in erasing crucial evidence, he’s unknowingly become an accomplice to the much-publicized murder of a wealthy community leader. Though Jackson is more timid in this film than usual, it’s exactly what’s required of the role. The veteran actor has a pretty good track record when working with Harlin, and while the final product isn’t always a slam dunk (see: “Deep Blue Sea”), it’s usually at least fun to watch. The rest of the cast (including Eva Mendes and Luis Guzman) also deliver safe performances, with the exception of Ed Harris, whose onscreen relapse into his “Gone Baby Gone” character fails to retain even an ounce of surprise in the film’s ending. It’s not like you won’t see it coming on your own, but had the journey there been a little less predictable and “Cleaner” could have been even better than the average thriller it seems so comfortable being.

Click to buy “Cleaner”

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Cassandra’s Dream

Over the past three decades, Woody Allen has written and directed a new full-length feature almost every year. If you don’t think that excuses a poor outing every once in a while, you clearly have no idea how hard it is to make one good film. Unfortunately, Allen has been in a rut for some time, and though “Cassandra’s Dream” marks his third consecutive film to take place in London, it lacks the focus of his first (“Match Point”). The film stars Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell as a pair of brothers with ambitious plans for the future. Ian (McGregor) dreams of becoming a big shot real estate investor, while Terry (Farrell) just wants to make a better life for him and his girlfriend. When both run into money problems, however, they look to their successful uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) for help. He’s more than willing to loan them the money, but first, they have to do him a favor: murder a fellow associate who plans to rat Howard out for his questionable business ethics. Much like “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” Allen’s latest film is a second-rate thriller disguised as a masterpiece. Though McGregor and Farrell both deliver solid performances, the story goes nowhere due to Allen’s inability to develop his characters beyond their one-dimensional relationships. It’s too bad, because while “Cassandra’s Dream” definitely has potential as a film, it would have worked better on the stage.

Click to buy “Cassandra’s Dream”

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Multiplex Mayhem: Before the Faces Melt

As I write, the weekend still has another couple of nights left in it, at least on the west coast, and the numbers are murkier than usual — complicated not only by the long holiday weekend and one-day early opening of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” but also by recent ticket price increases in some theaters. (The culprit, as Nikki Finke and many others have discussed, appears to be — wait for it — the ethanol clusterfrak. Yes, it’s not just causing food riots, but forcing you to spend another buck for the privilege of enduring a poorly projected flick with talkative teens and sticky floors.) Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that the fourth adventure of swashbuckling Professor Indiana Jones is making enough to keep the money people whistling a happy little John Williams tune for some time.

In any case, Finke, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter‘s Carl DiOrio are reporting an estimated five-day take in the neighborhood of $151 million, with the current tally being somewhere around 126 million smackers. Box Office Mojo, however, reminds us however that, strictly speaking the weekend gross (minus Thursday) is so far a mere $101 million. Sticklers.

For those of you keeping track, this is not quite big enough for a true record breaker. Over a similar five-day weekend run the low expectations/high interest megasuccess of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” managed more than $20 million above the “Indiana Jones” estimate — at lower ticket prices (though back before the housing market began its free-fall). But, as I mentioned in the pre-weekend post, that film was perhaps more of a “must see” cultural event. In any event, the international numbers look pretty outstanding as well, with $143 million earned (and how does the week dollar play into this?). In any event, at this point it looks as Harrison has the option of going into his golden years as the world’s most macho archeologist, if he desires. Way to act like a baby boomer.

In other news….there is no others, really. The second place runner-up at the box was last weekend’s below-expectations winner, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” grabbed on to the no. 2 spot and managed to make up some of its ground by being — yes — big in Japan…and Mexico and Russia and….. Meanwhile, “Iron Man” has turned out to be made of strong stuff indeed. It’s holding on nicely weeks into its run with about $20 million this week, adding to its cumulative take of over $252 million so far. Not bad for a second-tier superhero adaptation starring an acclaimed character actor nevertheless more famous for his personal problems than for his film roles, and directed by a guy, Jon Favreau, who in his acting days was once famously almost cast as a character named Fat Ass.

Meanwhile, those looking for a kid’s movie (which some folks actually like) where there won’t be too many noisey kids to be annoyed by are directed toward “Speed Racer,” which once again had its hindquarters handed to it by the advertising slogan/movie “What Happens in Vegas,” which made $9 million compared to the $120 million anime-adaptation’s very sad $4 million. On the other end of the budget telescope, the low-key, small-scale indie drama “The Visitor” continues to surprise by building steam and hanging out in the top 10 with increasing Oscar buzz for its sixty-something star, Richard Jenkins, and netting $4.4 million so far (perhaps already either matching or a multiple of its budget). The critically beloved, spunky-sexy-stylish (well, that’s what I’m hearing) first film from Norway’s Joachim Trier, “Reprise,” is also looking strong with an average of $6,648 on fourteen screens so far.

As for Uwe Boll’s “Postal” (discussed probably in way too much depth in my prior post)…well, it’s no success du scandal so far, it appears, not even making B.O.Mojo’s top twenty-five. And people thought “Snakes on a Plane” was a let down.

But there was somewhat encouraging news for John Cusack’s poorly reviewed (but not by us) “War, Inc.,” which did a very healthy $36,500 on two screens on either coast. (As it happened, I was actually at one of those theaters, West L.A.’s tony, intimate, Landmark multiplex, last night where it’s likely half the audience knew John personally, over the weekend. Since it was my own money, I saw this instead. Still, I didn’t hear anything horrible about Mr. Cusack’s film while I was there.)

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A Chat with Roy Thinnes (“The Invaders”)

As architect David Vincent, Roy Thinnes spent a couple of years during the ’60s feeling as though a significant percentage of the population was out to get him…but as the old saying goes, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you, and “The Invaders” most certainly were out to get David Vincent. It’s been quite some time since the series went off the air, however, and it’s gotten precious little airplay in the States in recent years. (Although the 1995 revival is best forgotten, in the absence of the original, we did at least get a series that resembled it at various times: “The X-Files.”) At long last, CBS-Paramount has made the decision to release “The Invaders: Season 1” on DVD, and the set – released on May 27th – features new episode introductions by Mr. Thinnes and a new interview with him. As it happens, we had an opportunity to interview him as well, and in addition to his work on the classic sci-fi series, we also asked him about some of the upstanding films on his resume. Stay tuned for…

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Grace Is Gone

We’ve all seen John Cusack play the sad sap before, but in the Iraq War-influenced “Grace Is Gone,” it’s a different breed of his trademark character. In the film, Cusack plays Stanley Philips, the down-to-earth manager of a retail store who’s just learned of his soldier wife’s death overseas. Unable to tell his two daughters the truth, he packs up the car and takes them on a road trip, hoping that by the time they return home, he’ll have healed enough to break the news. Written and directed by James C. Strouse, “Grace Is Gone” is an incredibly light drama that, despite its subject matter, doesn’t really have a political agenda. Instead, it just uses the situation as a means of telling a simplistic, yet effective story about one man’s emotional journey.

Though the film garnered two Golden Globe nominations for Clint Eastwood’s work on the soundtrack, Cusack’s phenomenal performance was completely overlooked. Much of this has to do with the fact that very few people were given the opportunity to see it, and while I’m not exactly sure why “Grace Is Gone” never received a wider theatrical release, it’s safe to assume that it had something to do with the Weinsteins’ poor marketing skills. This isn’t the first time the brotherly duo have screwed the pooch on a great film, and while I commend them for having the balls to invest millions of dollars into risky projects (*cough* “Grindhouse” *cough*), it means absolutely nothing if you can’t market it correctly.

Click to buy “Grace Is Gone”

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