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Kitchen Nightmares: Returns Thanks to a 5 Game World Series

Last night Fox had to scramble for extra coverage when the World Series abruptly ended after a two-day rain delay in Game 5. Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” returned in its usual slot at 9pm ET, with a bonus re-run episode at 8pm. In the new episode, Ramsay visited South Bend, Indiana….his second venture to the middle of America after doing most of these shows in New York and Los Angeles. The establishment here, a few miles from Notre Dame University, was J. Willy’s, a bar/restaurant focusing on barbecue cuisine.

The restaurant was owned by three people–married couple Rich and Tricia, who owned another restaurant three hours away and were rarely at J. Willy’s, and J. Willy himself, a.k.a. John William. Dave the manager and Steve the chef as well as the rest of the staff were just pawns doing what John made them do, which was to use more and more processed, cheap food and cutting corners everywhere. As a result, this restaurant was $1.2 million in the hole. Yes, you read that correctly.

So Ramsay arrived and noticed the ratty decor and then proceeded to order from the menu….potato pizza (blech), beef ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. He was grossed out by all of the items and I was too watching it. At the dinner serivce that night, Ramsay also noticed that the poor food quality was scaring customers away. So he brought the three owners to a nearby church and posed as a priest at confession, asking them to share their feelings about why the restaurant was failing. The general verdict was that John had lost his passion and it was all his fault. Ramsay convinced him that if he freshened up the menu and got his staff on board, things could quickly change. They went back to the kitchen and started throwing out all of the processed and spoiling food.

Then Ramsay taught the kitchen staff how to make homemade BBQ sauce, and they served it that night along with fresh hamburgers and fresh cut fries. Everything was a hit until they ran out of food and started using frozen stuff again that had somehow been saved from the purge, angering Ramsay. So before he gave them a re-design of the restaurant, Ramsay made sure the owners were all committed to making changes. They agreed, he made it beautiful and brought in four of his own chefs to help re-design the menu further. The kitchen got behind and was making mistakes again, but manager Dave, and the three owners were able to rally their staff and have a great dinner service.

Ah, success. And they showed the restaurant months later still enjoying success and winning BBQ sauce competitions. Good for them, and hopefully they are climbing out of that big financial hole. Ramsay, you bugger, you’ve done it again.

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Le Plaisir

This one’s for you, Criterion fans. It’s a French-language black and white extravaganza from the German-born master of subtle romance and outlandish tracking shots, Max Ophüls. Following up on the director’s previous international smash, the episodic “La Ronde,” “Le Plaisir” is an adaptation of three tales by France’s master of the short story, Guy de Maupassant, all on the theme of pleasure. Story #1 concerns the identity a strange masked dancer; Story #2 features French superstars Danielle Darrieux and Jean Gabin (“Pepe Le Moko,” “Grand Illusion”) and deals with the attractive staff of a cozy, midline brothel attending a first communion; and Story #3 features Simone Simon (1942′s “Cat People”) as a woman who takes precipitous action when her boyfriend wants to end their relationship.

His propensity for elaborate long-takes aside, Max Ophüls remains hugely respected for his work on four terrific Hollywood melodramas made in the late forties, followed by four ambitious and widely acclaimed French works completed in the following decade, including the recently restored cinephile sensation, “The Earrings of Madame de….” Still, on the level of story, “Le Plaisir,” which was cowritten with Jacques Natanson, may not be among his absolute best. The middle segment, which takes up the bulk of the running time, is a beautifully wrought low-impact comedy, but it’s almost too gentle and threatens to wear out its welcome at various points. Even so, the closing segment, about the cataclysmic resolution of an failed romance, feels like an anticlimax – until we get to the actual climax, which includes one of the most unbelievable single shots in film history, outdoing even some similar moments from Alfred Hithcock’s “Vertigo.” What that guy could have done with a Steadicam….

Click to buy “Le Plaisir”

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Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil

Lewis Black is a very funny guy, Patton Oswalt has been known to elicit a chortle or two, and Greg Giraldo…well, it really depends on who’s being roasted. Why then is “Root of All Evil” such an embarrassingly unfunny program? The concept of the series revolves around taking two subjects that may be considered social cancers and pitting them against one another in a mock courtroom setting. Black is judge, jury and prosecutor, while a revolving guest cast of two comedians per episode mount the cases for defense. (It goes without saying that anything even remotely resembling a legal reality is left at the door.) Of the eight episodes showcased here, titles include such mind-numbingly stupid topics as “Weed vs. Beer,” “Oprah vs. Catholic Church” and “Paris Hilton vs. Dick Cheney.” The half hour episodes are sleep-inducing affairs and you’ll be doing well if you mildly chuckle even once an installment. The defense attorneys occasionally present material from outside of the courtroom – these pre-taped bits that appear to at least have had some thought put into them are episode highlights (if one was searching for such bright spots), but the painful courtroom antics that dominate the screen amount to little more than bad improvisation. If this series were to return for a second season, it either needs to seriously rethink its game, or put the show itself on trial in an episode titled “Root of All Evil vs. The Moment of Truth.” Now that might be funny.

Click to buy “Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil”

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The Biggest Loser: It’s All About the Game

NBC’s “The Biggest Loser: Families” reached epic gameplay proportions last week when Phil told Brady they should band together to oust Heba. I thought it was B.S. personally, but it turns out Phil really did say that, but not with any kind of vicious intent. Well, he should have known better, becuase Brady and wife Vicky are all about the gameplay and earning an edge to win the grand prizes totaling $350K. So when the blue team lost last week and ousted Phil’s wife Amy, Phil was broken up about it for days. He also was broken up when the blue team confronted him in front of his teammates on the black team, who did show their support to Phil.

But first, blue team trainer Bob Harper was absolutely livid about his team sending Amy home and sensing some serious gameplay. He basically accused Vicky and Brady of it, saying that Brady’s 3 pound weight loss was “unheard of” and that something was afoot. Brady admitted he wasn’t eating every four hours like he was supposed to because he “wasn’t hungry.” Um, have you had a look at that dude? Guys that big are ALWAYS HUNGRY Read the rest of this entry »

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The Shield 7.9 – Moving Day

To call this week’s episode of “The Shield” a disappointment would be to admit that the cast/crew did something wrong, and, well, that’s just not the case. Nevertheless, I found it to be less eventful than most shows, and that probably has something to do with the fact that with four episodes to go, Shawn Ryan and Co. seem to be holding off on playing their final hand. This is something that I warned against a few weeks back, and though it isn’t so bad that it feels like the characters are just standing around waiting for the end to come, this week’s episode felt like it was stretching out the story a little more than usual.

The spotlight was shifted to Shane this week now that he’s on the run from the cops, and though his initial check-in with Corrine doesn’t go as planned (he knows Vic is there coaching her the minute she asks too much), Shane really seems to have a handle on how to properly evade capture. For starters, he’s not planning on leaving LA anytime soon, since he knows the entire police department is out searching for him, and he’s quick to trade in his flashy Lexus for another car with clean papers. The wrench in his plans, however, is that Mara forgot to bring Jackson’s medicine with her before leaving, and the kid’s whooping cough could escalate into pneumonia at any minute. This forces to Shane to head to a nearby pharmacy to pick up new medicine, and when that causes some bad reaction, Mara begs him to take Jackson to the hospital. It’s there that Vic finally catches up with him, but when he pulls out his gun to take Shane down, a squad car pulls up and the cops arrest Vic instead.

The Shield 7.9

Now, I find it hard to believe that every cop within the city limits wasn’t shown a picture of Shane before heading out on patrol, but even if they didn’t recognize him in the dark, don’t you think one of the officers would have at least pulled Shane and Mara aside to take down a statement? It seems like a pretty sorry excuse for Shane to get away, especially considering the circumstances. Still, he’s free for the time being, and though he suggests that Mara go turn herself in so that she may properly take care of Jackson, she refuses, claiming that family sticks together. And for all the trouble that Mara has caused over the last few years, you’ve got to respect that she’s still standing by Shane’s side.


Read the rest after the jump...

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