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The Shield 7.5 – Game Face

It doesn’t happen very often, but tonight’s episode was a complete bore. The whole subplot involving Claudette’s run-in with Kleevon Gardner didn’t accomplish a single thing, other than to reemphasize the fact that her duties as captain are being affected by her systemic lupus. It was a clever twist to have Kleevon not only act as his own lawyer, but to be smart enough to secure an empty pill bottle from Claudette’s trash for evidence, but when all was said and done (including a plea bargain that wiped the proposed death penalty off the table for Kleevon’s impending trial), it seemed like an utter waste of time. Sure, Claudette’s bosses now know about her illness, but with Danny double-checking everything she does anyway, I can’t imagine it being a problem further down the road.

As for the Strike Team, they’re part in the Mexican/Armenian gang war took a back seat this week as they helped Agent Murray sort out a federal matter involving a dirty businessman whose case could be blown if they don’t recover his recently kidnapped daughter. It all happened as part of a routine carjacking by a group of Caribbean thugs, and after making the rounds (including getting into a car chase with a Japanese import tuner that they never would have caught in real life), the Strike Team tracks down the warehouse where the Caribbeans are hiding out.

The Shield 7.5

Because it would alert the businessman to his investigation if a bunch of cops just raided the place, Vic comes up with an ingenious plan that, while Claudette approves, she doesn’t particularly like. It involves recruiting a couple of gang members to go in with Julian and pretend like they’re robbing the place – only to let the kidnapped girl escape amidst all the chaos – and it goes off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the whole takedown was about one-fifth as exciting as last week’s preview made it out to be. In fact, the only thing really worth mentioning about the whole encounter is when one of the gang members asked Vic if they could be deputized beforehand. Vic tells them to raise their right hand, and when the thugs all do so in excitement, he has them pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time.


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Prison Break 4.6: “Blow Out”

The whole bit at the racetrack was kind of fun, but it was a house of cards stacked on a house of cards. So many things had to go right for them to successfully copy the data from Cardholder #4. What if Bellick’s teller had agreed immediately to change his bet? What if the Operations Manager sent someone else (like security) to deal with him? What if the Cardholder had insisted that the manager come out to the track to deal with the sticky gate problem? It wasn’t like the Cardholder had a ton of personal security. The gang should have just saddled up nearby and copied the card that way. Oh well, the house of cards plan was a lot more fun.

“Michael, why are all of your plans so unnecessarily difficult?”

Morpheus continues to dig deeper into the gang’s plan and the scene with Don in the parking garage was pretty intense. Self knew that Morpheus was a killer, and Morpheus knew that he knew, so while nothing overtly menacing was actually said, there was a feeling of menace between them. I’ve liked Michael Rapaport since he played Paul Kirkwood in “Beautiful Girls,” the guy who brought a brown diamond engagement ring for a girl he wasn’t even dating. Rapaport always seems to play characters that are equal parts smartass and lovable loser, and Don Self is no exception. I’m giving 2 to 1 to any brave bettors that his wife is dead and that he listens to that voicemail every so often to remember her.

This week’s You Must Suspend Belief Moment goes not to the house of cards plan at the racetrack, but to the fact that Mahone had a court date so quickly in the city of Los Angeles. That whole scene was pretty hard to swallow. Both Sara and Mahone were able to leave the courtroom without Morpheus seeing them and Sara acquired the file that (apparently) had the only copy of Mahone’s fingerprints. Yeah, right. However, I have to admit that the moment between Mahone and Morpheus outside the courthouse was pretty cool. Mahone’s desire for revenge is one of the most compelling parts of this season’s storyline.

Meanwhile, the jig is up for T-Bag and watching him scramble to escape his new life was pretty funny. I thought last week that Trish Ann and her ample bosom were this season’s eye candy, but with the way T-Bag left the Gate Corporation offices, I’m not so sure we’ll be seeing her again. Who knows, maybe she’ll try to track him down at his apartment.

Speaking of his apartment – Gretchen is back in the fold! She’s cleaned herself up, has herself a new identity and some cash, and when last we saw her, she was standing on Theodore’s neck. Oh yeah, and she’s a mother, only she gave her kid away because she couldn’t take care of her. Anyone want to bet that that comes back around by the end of the season?

I’m still predicting that the gang will have to place their trust in her at some point this season.

Card #5 is next on the docket. See you next week.

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles 2.4 – Let my Cameron go

Sure, it was another episode light on action and logic – but heavy on nicely realized post-apocalyptic green screens – but at long last, the show’s creators delve into Cameron’s origins, and they are interesting, indeed. Cameron, it turns out, is modeled after Allison Young, one of John’s favorite resistance fighters in the future. She’s caught by the machines and interrogated at length and in depth. After a failed escape attempt – she’s lucky she survived the jump off the aircraft carrier deck, never mind actually getting away from the machines – she discovers that her interrogator is an infiltrator Terminator that…wait for it…looks just like her. The machine was just picking Allison’s brain so she could do a convincing job of being Allison when she hit their camp and took them out.

What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, it looks as though Cameron’s chip is getting a little twitchy again, because after looking at a helium balloon, she goes blank – with no idea who she is and no ID to confirm her identity. She does, though, have a lot of cash, which attracts the eye of a opportunistic leech named Jody, who takes Allison – Cameron hasn’t yet remembered that she’s a machine – under her wing. The two check into a shelter for a couple days, though the catch is that they must submit to therapy. Allison is a virtual tabula rasa in her first meeting, but before long remembers what she is and vows to put John Connor’s head on a stake. The shrink, as she conveniently pointed out in their first session, must contact the authorities when someone speaks of harming another, but more on that later.


“Scout’s honor, if I had any idea you were a killing machine from the future, I totally wouldn’t have lied to you like that.”

Catherine T-1000 Weaver, meanwhile, is slowly luring Agent Ellison into her web, though the endgame on this one seems a bit fuzzy. Since she’s already a more advanced model of Terminator than the one she’s recruiting Ellison to hunt down, why would she care about Cromartie? Is there an edge that the machines would get by replacing Catherine Weaver with not just any old Terminator but a liquid metal badass? I’m still unsure how Catherine was able to convince Ellison to sign on, especially after her clumsy speech about the death of the original Catherine’s husband, and Machine Catherine’s clear hatred for all things human, but maybe it’s one of those Austin Powers things where Basil Exposition just tells us to go along with it, so we do. Ugh. Read the rest of this entry »

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Heroes 3.3 – You Can Dress Him Up, But You Can’t Take Him Out

I know I made this comment at the tail end of last week’s blog, but after watching the “previously on” segment at the beginning of this week’s episode, I found myself saying to myself yet again, “Thank God we’re back to just one hour of ‘Heroes’ this week.” After this week, though, it seems that the producers are trying to pack that much storytelling into every episode this season. This is going to be a very exhausting year…

The evilest Petrelli – I’m referring to Sylar, of course – is on the slab and still trying to reconcile himself with this new information about his parentage. Enter Bridget, with her awesome ability to see the history of anything she touches, and…whoops! Bye-bye, Bridget! The relationship between Mama Petrelli and her little Gabriel is a little creepy, but whether it’s true that she’s Sylar’s mother or not, he clearly believes in the possibility enough to be off-balance. Advantage: Mama.

I’m really enjoying the way HRG is playing both sides of the fence, serving as Mama Petrelli’s right-hand man even though he’s clearly got his own agenda. Granted, you know she knows he’s got his own agenda…just as surely as she knows how he’s going to react when she tells him who his new partner is. But she knows she’s got HRG over a barrel, and when he’s presented with the choice to team up with Sylar or let the psychotic run amuck without supervision, his options are limited. And, thus, Sylar puts on a spiffy new suit and enters society. Nice line from Sylar about whether or not Mama is playing them: “Maybe…but aren’t you curious to see how it all plays out?” It looks promising for a few minutes or so, with Sylar taking on the role of authority figure with ease, but despite his success at getting free coffee, things ultimately played out about like I expected they would, with Sylar succumbing to his dark urges, with the only surprise being that HRG seemed legitimately horrified about it. (I figured he’d just shrug and say, “I knew this was gonna happen.”)

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Bush gets Stoned in new GQ interview

Admit it: you were too busy drooling over Megan Fox on the cover of the October issue of GQ that you completely forgot to check out director Oliver Stone’s candid interview about his new film, “W.” It’s all right if you haven’t, because the brief chat can also be found online, and let me tell you, it’s well worth reading. Though it may seem like Stone is gunning for the incumbent president with his self-proclaimed political satire, the veteran director actually appears to have a good understanding of the man. In the article, Stone admits he’s cut from the same cloth as Bush, and if it weren’t for the fact that he took a completely different route growing up, he may have turned out the same way. Oh yeah, and “Vietnam drove out whatever arrogance [he] carried.”

The rest of the interview covers everything from the difficulties of making such a film to his long-running problems working within the studio system. Posted below are some excerpts, but to read it in full, click here.

On his first choice for the lead role:

“Originally I went for Christian Bale. We did some rigorous prosthetic tests and spent a lot of dough—thousands and thousands of dollars—and then Christian said, “I just don’t feel like I can do it.” I met Josh and liked him. He was more rural Americana. But man, he was scared shitless.”

On why “W” could be considered a comedy:

“Well, it has to be done with an ebullience and a certain fun, because the guy is goofy. He’s a goofball! And I think he endeared himself to people because he couldn’t get anything right. Kubrick was an idol of mine. I grew up on “Strangelove” and movies like “Network,” and they made a big impact on me. So yeah, W. is a satire.”

On the state of his Mai Lai massacre project, “Pinkville”:

It can probably only come back if UA would give us the movie without paying them the money they’ve already spent. We started to make the movie. I mean, we built a whole village in Thailand! We have tons of stuff sitting in crates! There’s $6 million against the movie. And I don’t have that kind of money. They didn’t even pay all the bills. They stuck us with a bunch of them.

First they kept cutting our budget. We had our locations, we had our actors, we had everything picked out, and it was a very reasonable plan. Then Bruce Willis walked, and they were thrilled, because that gave them the final excuse to call it, even though we got Nicholas Cage. That was three weeks before shooting and right before Christmas. Let me remind you, that’s 120 Americans and 500 Thais put out of work right before Christmas. It was a cruel, heartless decision, and it was probably made because “Lions for Lambs” was perceived as a mess, a failure, and we were linked to these Iraq movies that weren’t working.

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How I Met…Regis Philbin?

If you can tear yourself away from the season premiere of “Chuck” or new episodes of “Gossip Girl” or “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” then you might want to consider checking out this week’s “How I Met Your Mother,” which features a guest appearance by the one and only REGIS!

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When product placement goes too far…

Movies and television have been using product placement for years. For a kickback from the manufacturer, the product appears onscreen and usually fits within the context of the scene. For example, someone might be working in an office, and there’s a FedEx envelope or a can of Coke sitting on his desk. This type of product placement makes sense and can even add to the realism of the scene. (It’s less distracting to have a can of “Coke” than a can of “Cola” that is made to look like a can of “Coke.”)

Anyway, with DVRs creeping into more and more households, advertisers (and television producers) are getting more and more aggressive with their product placement since they know many of their viewers are simply skipping the commercials. It’s a fine line between having reasonable and distracting product placement. If the CSI unit pulls up in a Toyota truck, that’s okay, but what the folks on “Eureka” are doing is ridiculous.

This season, “Eureka” started a joint campaign with Degree deodorant to shoehorn its logo into (seemingly) every episode. Most recently, there was the episode where Sheriff Carter kept living the same day over and over and, you guessed it, he kept pulling a stick of Degree out of his medicine cabinet. And it’s not like the stick is just sitting there in the background. The first time he pulled it out, we were treated to a two- or three-second closeup… of a stick of deodorant! Then there was the episode where Zane was working in his lab and Fargo came to him with a favor. Mysteriously, there was a stick of Degree sitting on Zane’s desk. Once again, we were treated to an inexplicable closeup. Later in the same episode, there was a scene in a larger room and in the background there were metal crates with the Degree logo on the side.

When does it stop? The shoehorning of the Degree logo into every episode has become a joke between me and my wife, and we’re seriously considering dropping the show from our watchlist because the product placement is so cheesy and distracting. Moreover, I’m actually less likely to buy Degree deodorant because the product is ruining a good show.

And I’m not alone in this. TV Guide’s website posted a jeer from one of its readers.

Jeer to Eureka, one of my favorite shows, for indulging in product placement. This season, the producers apparently came to an agreement with the makers of Degree deodorant to display their logo at every opportunity. Not only is it disappointing, but it is annoying, and distracting to deal with in an otherwise quality show.

In the associated poll, 45% agreed with the jeer, 15% disagreed, while 40% said it was a “Jump the Shark” moment.

In total, 85% of respondents find the product placement distracting. So is it worth those extra advertising dollars if you’re irritating 85% of your audience?

Doubtful.

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Entourage 5.4 – Fire Sale

Can anyone say “déjà vu”? Maybe it’s just me, but with the on-again-off-again bidding war that dominated most of tonight’s episode, it sure felt a lot like last year’s Cannes-based season finale. Thankfully, it wasn’t as much of a letdown, and though not a whole lot was actually accomplished, it did bring up some very interesting story developments that will not only play a major role in the rest of this season, but next season as well.

For starters, Eric’s relationship with JB and Nick isn’t going quite as smoothly as you’d expect. The amateur screenwriters may have the hottest script in town, but at the end of the day, they’re still amateurs, and acting like a bunch of egomaniacal assholes isn’t going to help jumpstart their careers one bit. If anyone other than Eric was managing them, they probably would have already dropped them as clients. It isn’t enough that he’s gotten them a great deal ($100,000 with a $200,000 bonus if the movie is made) – Nick thinks they can get more money, and he’s not afraid to make his opinions be heard. As it turns out, he’s right, but nobody in town is willing to make the movie with Vince starring other than Amanda.

Entourage 5.4

When Vince graciously removes himself from the project and gives Eric the chance to sell the movie for more, however, Amanda flips out at the suggestion that Edward Norton get into a bidding war with every other studio in town. Ari is quick to jump at the chance of making the sale, and he comes back with an offer that any other first-time writer would kill for: $500,000 and Vinnie Chase in a supporting role. Unfortunately, Nick is not like every writer, and when he hears about Edward Norton no longer being part of the film, he’s disappointed. How cool was it, then, to have Eric take charge of the call by not only telling Nick that he plans on accepting the deal, but that he needs to say “thank you”? Eric may make mistakes every once and a while, but you gotta hand it to him – he’s doing a pretty good job for someone that still doesn’t know all the ins and outs of Hollywood.


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The Rebel

Earning the title of highest-grossing Vietnamese movie of all-time is sort of like a Vietnamese chef who’s renowned for the best American hamburger in his country – true, but not exactly as amazing as it sounds. Credit the makers of “The Rebel,” then, for not only delivering the first true Vietnamese actioneer, but actually making it good enough to compete with China and Hong Kong’s nonstop supply of martial arts films. “The Rebel” takes place in 1922 Vietnam where French colonial rule is being challenged by a group of resistance fighters. In response to the rebel activity, the French government has hired Vietnamese agents to track down and kill them, but when one agent (Johnny Tri Nguyen) becomes tired of spilling the blood of his own countrymen, he teams up with the daughter (Tranh Van Ngo) of the rebel leader and incurs the wrath of his boss, Sy (Dustin Nguyen, of “21 Jump Street” fame), who’s been promised a promotion if he can capture the traitors. Directed by Charlie Nguyen, “The Rebel” is just as much of a historical drama as it is a martial arts film, and as such, it has a pretty decent story to tell when its characters aren’t busy kicking ass. Of course, as with most Dragon Dynasty films, the main draw of “The Rebel” is the action, and believe it or not, there’s some really great stuff here. Johnny Tri Nguyen, whose biggest role to date is as Tobey Maguire’s costumed stunt double in the first two “Spider-Man” films, isn’t the greatest actor in the world, but he’s got moves that most action fans have never seen before, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

Click to buy “The Rebel”

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Paul Newman dead at 83

Paul Newman, one of the classiest men in Hollywood, died today at the age of 83 after a battle with cancer.

He was one of only five actors ever nominated for an Oscar in five different decades, finally winning the best actor award for which he was nominated seven times for his reprise of “Fast” Eddie Felson in “The Color of Money,” Martin Scorsese’s overlit, over-directed 1986 sequel to “The Hustler.” The belated Oscar may have been a make-up award for Newman’s performance in the original 1961 production, when he played Fast Eddie as a morally feral lone wolf.

“When I’m goin’, I mean, when I’m really goin’, I feel like a jockey must feel,” Eddie says. “He’s sittin’ on his horse, he’s got all that speed and that power underneath him…and he knows…just feels…when to let it go and how much….It’s a great feeling, boy, it’s a real great feeling when you’re right and you know you’re right.”

hat Newman also made two of Hollywood’s most successful buddy pictures should come as no surprise. Whether the likability of the criminals, cads and con men he often played was the residue of the method acting he learned at the Actors Studio in New York, or the effortless projection of his own personality, audiences recognized something distinctly human. And they adored him for it.

He was Hollywood’s top box office star in 1969 and ’70. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” remains the highest-grossing Western of all time, and “The Sting” made Newman and Robert Redford nearly as popular as Astaire and Rogers. Buddy pictures quickly became a genre unto themselves, although the crucial ingredient all other screen pairings lacked was the one actor audiences actually seemed to consider their buddy: Paul Newman.

And yet Newman just as often played loners, outsiders and heels. In an admiring review of the 1977 comedy “Slap Shot,” New Yorker critic Pauline Kael said of Newman’s skein of charming rogues, “Even when he plays a bastard, he’s not a big bastard — only a callow, selfish one, like Hud….His likableness is infectious; nobody should ever be asked not to like Paul Newman.”

He lacked the range, or the temerity, to attempt the classics like fellow method man Marlon Brando, but Newman had a good instinct for where the sweet spot of his talent lay. He was part of the generation of stars that succeeded Hollywood contract legends such as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant, though he actually missed his first turn as a matinee idol following a screen test for the 1955 film “East of Eden.”

Newman was married for 50 years to Joanne Woodward. When asked how his marriage lasted despite all the temptations in Hollywood, Newman responded with a classic line – “Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?”

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