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Claymore: Chapter Three

The third volume of the “Claymore” series is arguably more focused than previous installments, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Though it’s nice to have a batch of episodes that tells a contained story for once – in this case, Clare’s battle with a sadistic Claymore named Ophelia – none of them are especially memorable. After teaming up with four other Claymores in the second half of Chapter Two, Clare just doesn’t seem as interesting when she’s on her own. In fact, I was beginning to hope that the rest of the series would revolve around this newly formed group taking down the Organization that has targeted them as potential Awakened Beings. Those familiar with the manga would probably tell me to relax, because that’s exactly what happened in the original story, but with only 12 more episodes to go, here’s hoping the gals reunite sooner rather than later. After all, for as much fun as it is to watch Clare get chopped to pieces only to be resurrected Darth Vader style, the last thing we need is for the story to slow down just before it approaches the final stretch.

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Battlestar Galactica: The Oath

Man, after three and a half seasons of following this ragtag fleet around space, it’s sure hard to watch them tear themselves apart. Like most mutinies, this episode was brutal. The survival of the human race is already teetering on the edge of the abyss, but now there’s a civil war brewing and things are getting ugly.

At the center of the coup is Gaeta, and Alessandro Juliani really shined in this episode. It was fun to watch him orchestrate the uprising from the CIC, throwing a little comment in here and there in order to get the Admiral to do what he wanted. It wasn’t until Bill sent the private down to take a look that Gaeta had to make his move and overtake the command center. It was a brilliant (if devious) plan.

This episode felt like one from the first couple of seasons where the show would get bogged down in minutiae, but given the limited number of episodes remaining (7), there’s no guarantee that Bill and Roslin will emerge unscathed as the leadership of the fleet. In fact, both of their lives are in danger — Bill has to survive a grenade blast and Roslin has a viper on her tail. This brings me to one of my problems with this episode: I don’t like unnecessary sacrifice. Never have. There was no reason for Bill and Tigh to stay on Galactica other than to show how big their balls are. They didn’t do anything to delay the troops from entering the hanger and the raptor would have gotten away with or without Butch and Sundance on board. Now, it may work out in the end — i.e. Bill does something on Galactica to save Roslin’s life on the raptor — but it still doesn’t make Bill’s decision to stay the right one.

The other problem with this episode was Gaeta’s failure to account for the President. Lee and Starbuck were able to walk right up to her door — no marines — and take her to safety. Didn’t Gaeta have a plan to capture Roslin? Didn’t he and Zarek want to tie up that loose end so that she wouldn’t…um…I don’t know…escape and find a way to broadcast a speech to the entire fleet? You could see Gaeta’s frustration as he finally isolated her wireless signal and ended her speech. Given how smoothly his plan was executed, the failure to deal with Roslin feels more like a plot hole than a misstep by Felix.

Otherwise, the episode moved the plot forward quickly and was suspenseful throughout. It’s tough to watch members of the fleet kill each other off, but it makes sense that there’s a sub-section that is still harboring distrust and resentment towards the Cylons. After all, it wasn’t long ago that these same Cylons killed billions of humans back on Caprica and the other colonies.

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Killing Hitler: The True Story of the Valkyrie Plot

If you went into Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie” without knowing anything at all about the many plots to kill Hitler throughout his reign of power, then you probably enjoyed the film a hell of a lot more than those who were already familiar with the history of those events. Indeed, you may have walked out of the theater with an interest in learning more about what really happened…and that’s where “Killing Hitler: The True Story of the Valkyrie Plot” comes in. While it does flesh out the events prior to Claus Von Stauffenberg’s actions in a manner which “Valkyrie” fails to do (kids today don’t know nearly as much about World War II as you think they do), the proceedings are a bit dry. It does indeed serve the purpose of educating viewers in a less dramatized fashion…and, more importantly, without the distraction of having one of Hollywood’s top actors playing the part of a German officer…only WWII buffs will be left breathless. And possibly not even them.

Click to buy “Killing Hitler”

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Make ‘em Laugh: The Funny Business of America

Simply put, the three-DVD set of PBS’ six-part special on comedy in America is a must-have for any fan of comedy. Hosted by Billy Crystal and narrated by Amy Sedaris, “Make ‘em Laugh” traces the origins of the wiseguy, the oddball, the breadwinner, the satirist, the pratfaller, and the groundbreaker in incredible detail, combining footage of the masters at work (both movies and TV) with interviews of dozens of comedians, writers and producers. (Holy cow, was Jack Benny’s writing staff an All-Star lineup of funny.) It’s all very informative, but if the set has one flaw, it’s in each show’s tendency to stop the timeline around 1989, which results in the omission of several prominent modern-day comedians (Bill Hicks, Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman, to name a few). That will happen, of course, when trying to condense 80 years of comedy into six hours. Each disc also contains extended interviews with dozens of comedians, and a couple bits of guys telling their favorite jokes. Great stuff, across the board.

Click to buy Make ‘em Laugh: The Funny Business of America

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Bullz-Eye’s TV Girlfriends, Round One: Hot and Smart

Bullz-Eye TV Girlfriends: Hot and Smart

Our inspiration was innocuous enough: as fervent “24″ watchers – and occasional haters – the entire Bullz-Eye staff fell head over heels for one of the terror thriller’s female leads. Smart but challenging, tough but vulnerable, every minute that she wasn’t on screen – provided Jack wasn’t killing or maiming someone, of course – was just wasted time. Eventually, we declared her to be the official girlfriend of Bullz-Eye, because she was the only girl we could all agree on. We’re talking, of course, about…

Chloe O’Brian.

Chloe O'BrianWhat, you were thinking Michelle Dessler? Nina Myers? Kim Bauer? First Lady Sherry Palmer? Mandy the bisexual assassin? Good guesses all, but none of them hold a candle to Chloe and her delightfully quirky “personality disorder,” as her supervisor Bill Buchanan succinctly put it. Once we had christened her, though, we wanted more girlfriends. Eventually we went all “Big Love” on the boob tube (oh man, do we deserve to be slapped for that one) and started appropriating women from dozens of shows to join our burgeoning harem.

And now, our harem is having its debutante ball, its season premiere, if you will. We have hand-selected 100 women from the last 40 years of television and put them into ten categories, based on personality type, career, intelligence (or lack thereof) and even marital status. We’ll unveil a new list each month, and you, gentle reader, will tell us which ones you would most like to have as your girlfriend. Once we’ve whittled the list down to one girlfriend from each category, we’ll pit them against each other and get the hell out of the way.

With that in mind, it is our great pleasure to introduce the first group: Hot and Smart.

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey, “30 Rock”)
Liz Lemon With her quirky sense of humor, social ineptness and those sexy librarian glasses, Liz Lemon may be the only true-blue nerd on our list. That, of course, is anything but an insult. As the head writer for NBC’s “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” Liz doesn’t have a whole lot of free time to date, and even when she does go out, chances are she’ll figure out a way to sabotage the whole thing. But Liz’s foibles merely make her that much more endearing, even if the incessant “tick-tick-tick” of her internal clock understandably makes us a little nervous. Then again, there are worse things in life than settling down with an attractive, intelligent and successful woman who loves junk food, “Star Wars” and a good joke. Her boss, Jack Donaghy, still suspects that Liz may be a lesbian, but we’re not ashamed to admit that the mere possibility only heightens our interest in her. Plus, she kind of looks like the beautiful (if slightly crazy) Sarah Palin.

Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson, “The X-Files”)
Smart, tough, beautiful – Scully is an insecure man’s worst nightmare. She challenged and contradicted Mulder at every turn, and even though she was usually some version of wrong, it never deterred her. Always the skeptic, she somewhat grounded her partner by demanding some sort of logic and scientific proof. Wrangling Mulder was like herding cats, but Scully might have had a little feline in her as well – she avoided death on several occasions leading to the theory that she was, in fact, immortal. It’s more likely that she was just too stubborn to die. She stared down countless psychopaths, supernatural beings, aliens — you name it — and always came back for more. This quality — her fierce and undying loyalty — was her greatest trait. True, the woman could be a giant pain in the ass, but Fox always knew that she would have his back, and that’s why he eventually fell in love with her. And really, who can blame him?

To see the rest of Bullz-Eye’s Hot & Smart TV Girlfriends and vote for your favorite, click here. We will announce the winner – and the nominees for our next group, Pretty, Vacant – on Friday, February 27.

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Hell’s Kitchen returns with dysfunctional fun

Last night on FOX, Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” returned for Season 5. The winner of this season will earn $250K and the position of executive chef at Ramsay’s new restaurant at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City. After 300 hopeful chefs were brought to the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant to find out who the 16 finalists would be, restaurant manager Jean Phillippe announced the names of those selected, and we were off to the races. And I have to say, it’s pretty clear that the criteria is not all based on cooking skills. Though they boasted that this was maybe the best class of talent the show has seen so far, you know that the producers and probably Ramsay himself prefer to have a few crazy contestants who wil boost ratings. After all, it’s a freaking reality show.

The first episode means one thing…the contestants each have to make their personal signature dish for Ramsay to taste. Carol went first, and made a roulade of veal that Ramsay said was “delicious.” This girl is already a contender. Wil, a 26 year old dude, was wearing a pride pin, something Ramsay asked about but I’m not sure quite understood. Anyway, Ramsay said Wil’s dish tasted better than it looked. Ji, a 33 year old who grew up in her dad’s restaurant, made a Miso Chilean sea bass, which Gordon loved. Robert, a 29 year old very large dude from New York City, also made Chilean sea bass, but wrapped it in some sort of potato thingy Read the rest of this entry »

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American Idol: Say hello to Hollywood

Mercifully, the audition rounds of “American Idol” Season 8 are in the books. We have endured eight stops and seven episodes in the last few weeks, and now the scene is shifting to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood next Tuesday. Last night they lumped two audition stops into one, and those were New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The back and forth during the episode was a little confusing, but the talent was as bad and as good in both places as it had been in Kansas City or Salt Lake or Phoenix or wherever else. Here were the good and bad of the ones who had the most airtime on Thursday night….

THE BAD

Adeola, who had quit her job because she was so sure she was going to Hollywood, sang a Jennifer Hudson song and was just awful, and I mean every note was off-key. Lucky for her, Simon Cowell was nice enough to call her former employer and get Adeola her job back. Who said Simon was a tool? That was classy…..Jessica Byers, a 20 year old who sang Celine Dion, was so loud and emotive that she made the audition uncomfortable for everyone. She claimed she was just nervous, but no, she just wasn’t good….Joel Contreras was a crazy rocker dude from San Juan who called himself the “human iPod” and was more talented at being nuts than at singing…Alexis, who auditioned last season and was also a bit of a wack job, returned to the New York City auditions and claimed to have toned down her act through stuff like yoga. Yeah, okay. Alexis attempted Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and let’s just say she can also go back to being nuts, because she is better at that than at singing. Also true to form, she gave the judges the finger on the way out. Nice.

THE GOOD

Jorge Nunez, a 20 year old from Puerto Rico, sang “My Way” and had a nice Latin flair about him. The judges started saying he may have trouble singing in English, but Simon correctly pointed out that they came to San Juan to find Puerto Rican natives with talent, otherwise they would have gone to Omaha…..Melinda Camille, who admitted she likes to dance naked in her bedroom while singing, sang “Feeling Good” and had a really great voice. No confirmation on whether or not she will bring her clothes to Hollywood….Jackie Tom, who sang Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours,” picked an odd song but had a nice tone to her voice and got through….Nick Mitchell, who goes under the moniker “Norman Gentle,” had this cabaret thing going on, and tried to inject humor into everything he did. This pissed off Simon to no end, but even he laughed when “Norman” made a crude joke about Simon and Ryan Seacrest. Anyway, when dude stopped joking and sang “Amazing Grace,” I think I speak for all of America when I say it was a pleasant surprise. Norm is off to Cali, and he will no doubt be polarizing to everyone there….after a medley of good auditions and yellow tickets, things were winding down. Next up was Monique, a 16 year old who brought along her 9 year old brother, Christopher. The kid was like a used car salesman to the judges, and since Monique was above average but not great, an assist goes to young Chris for sending his sis to Hollywood….finally there was Patricia, a 20 year old who took on Whitney Houston. That’s never a good idea, because artists like Whitney or Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin are just so hard to live up to vocally for an amateur. Anyway, Patricia did earn her ticket, but barely.

So our initial auditions are over, and now we head to Hollywood for the next round. Soon we will have our Top 24 and a clearer picture of who some of the contenders will be. See you all next week!

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Which “Heroes” star wants off the show?

Is it Ali Larter or Hayden Panettiere?

Michael Ausiello of EW.com has confirmed an earlier report that one of the two actresses asked out of her contract with NBC.

TV.com goes on to speculate about who it might be.

The actress’ discontent allegedly stems from a lack of camera time, and writers have acquiesced and written in a death scene for the actor’s character should she fly the coop. However, if negotiations don’t work and the actor is retained, writers also have a plan to easily bring back the actress through one of Heroes’ death loopholes (in this case, Claire Bennett’s regeneration abilities and Tracy Strauss’ wonder twin powers).

One would assume that the actress in question would be Larter, who has seen her character be little more than a throw-in this season (ice powers? Boooooring!). On the other hand, red-hot Hayden would stand to gain the most from moving on given her popularity.

My money is on Panettiere. Larter is 32 and has been around the block a few times, at least enough to know that steady, high-profile gigs like “Heroes” don’t grow on trees. Panettiere is just 19 and probably thinks that she’s destined to be the next Reese Witherspoon. TV.com speculated that it might be Larter because she hasn’t gotten very much screen time lately, but the cheerleader’s screen time is down as well from the first two seasons as the show has added more characters and delved into many different storylines. The show is no longer “save the cheerleader, save the world,” is it?

And given the way she treated fellow Premium Hollywood writer Will Harris at a press event, it wouldn’t be any surprise that she’d be acting like a diva.

What I want to know is why is Ausiello playing coy? Why doesn’t he just break the news?

Hmm…maybe he doesn’t know.

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Will Nimoy appear on “Big Bang”? Highly improbable, Captain.

Given that “The Big Bang Theory” has expanded the game of Rock Paper Scissors (the full name is now Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock) and had Penny give Sheldon a stroke for Christmas by providing him with a napkin autographed by everyone’s favorite Vulcan, can a guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy be far behind?

Unfortunately, according to creator Chuck Lorre, such an appearance doesn’t seem too likely.

“I would love that,” said Lorre, “but I think Mr. Nimoy is now in retirement. He did actually sign the napkin, though. ‘To Sheldon, Leonard Nimoy.’ He was very nice about that. He got a kick out of the idea that that was the gift that she gave him that brought Sheldon to his knees. He was really tickled by that, and our deal with him was, ‘For your efforts, maybe we can make some money for the charity of your choice.’”

The charity in question was The Beit T’Shuvah, a residential treatment center in Los Angeles for Jewish alcoholics and addicts, and the napkin went up for auction on Sunday evening during the center’s Steps to Recovery Gala at the Beverly Hilton, where it earned a final bid of $1,100.

But the big question is, is Nimoy a fan of the show?

“I don’t know,” admitted Lorre. “But I do know that he got a kick out of the storyline.”

I still say to keep your fingers crossed…and, c’mon, Chuck, it can’t hurt to ask. The new “Trek” movie will be coming out around the same general time frame as the season finale for “The Big Bang Theory,” and given that Nimoy clearly has a good sense of humor about his place in the pop culture pantheon (see his appearances on “The Simpsons” for proof), it seems like the stars are aligned perfectly for such a cameo.

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What Else Ya Got? “RocknRolla”

After considerably scaling back the U.S. release of “RocknRolla” to a mere 826 screens (most wide releases get 2500+) because it was deemed to be “too British,” Warner Bros. has reasserted its indifference with the film with a single-disc Blu-ray that isn’t necessarily terrible, but could have been much better.

“Audio Commentary”
Guy Ritchie and Mark Strong aren’t exactly two of the most outspoken guys in the business, but I respect them for their individual contributions to cinema. Their discussion on the film might not be as riveting as some had hoped, but it’s still a solid commentary with nary a quiet moment. Strong is very enamored with Ritchie’s latest film, while the writer/director plays the humble card most of the way through.

RocknRolla

“Will You Put the Cigarette Out?”
A single deleted scene featuring One Two (Gerard Butler) running on a treadmill while some old guy smokes in his face and Mumbles (Idris Elba) runs his mouth. Not exactly exhilarating stuff, but we’ll take what we can get.

“Blokes, Birds and Backhands”
Some reviewers have called out this making-of featurette for leaning more towards the EPK side, but though it’s mostly promotional fluff about the characters and the story, the interviews with are still enjoyable. Plus, a few tidbits are dropped along the way, the most interesting of which is that the “sex scene” between Butler and Thandie Newton was completely improvised on the day. Originally intended to be a passionate kissing scene between the two actors, Newton begged Ritchie to change it when Butler arrived on set with a nasty cold. Oddly enough, the scene actually works better than it would have as a boring kissing scene, so kudos to bacteria.

“Guy’s Town”
A location featurette about all of the different London hotspots used during filming (including a yet-to-be-opened Wembley Stadium), this 8-minute extra also skews a little towards the promotional side, but it’s still a nice addition to the set.

All in all, this will probably be a bit of a disappointment for fans of Ritchie’s films. With only a couple of extras to choose from and a digital copy to load on to your mobile entertainment player of choice, “RocknRolla” is just begging for a much-improved double dip in the future. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are about as good as Guy Ritchie becoming the next Prime Minister, so don’t hold your breath.

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