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What Doesn’t Kill You

Some people may wonder why “What Doesn’t Kill You” didn’t receive a proper theatrical release, and to be completely honest, it all comes down to luck. Over the last few years, there have been a number of gritty crime dramas released in the same vein as Brian Goodman’s directorial debut, and though a majority of them weren’t any better or worse, they had the good fortune of being made first. That’s really the only thing standing in the way of the film, a based-on-a-true-story tale about two lifelong friends (Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke) making a living as soldiers for the local crime boss in Boston. When a job gone wrong lands the pair in prison, however, one struggles to make the most of his second chance under the haze of drugs and money.

If there’s one thing going for “What Doesn’t Kill You” that some of the other likeminded films didn’t have, it’s a strong performance from its lead actor. Mark Ruffalo has been on the brink of breaking out for what seems like a decade now, and yet he continues to hammer away with quality roles where he really gets to flex his dramatic muscle. Ethan Hawke isn’t quite as memorable in what could easily be viewed as a copycat of his character in 2007’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” but he still does his best work in films destined for the festival circuit. Unfortunately, though “What Doesn’t Kill You” may claim to be based on a true story, it’s simply too far-fetched to be believed. Goodman should have had the good sense to ignore that aspect of the tale and just focus on crafting a movie that we haven’t already seen countless times before. Maybe then it would have never gotten lost in the shuffle.

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American Idol: Simon can stick it

Last night on FOX’s “American Idol” results show, we learned that Simon Cowell may truly be on crack, as I wrote yesterday, or he may just not know what he’s talking about. Or as he said last night, he had an off night. Either way, he was wrong, and America was right, and I couldn’t feel better about that.

The show began with Ryan Seacrest asking Simon what he thought about Tuesday night’s performances, and Simon said that he watched it back at home and everyone was good, and that it was an open competition. Funny, Simon thought Kris and Allison were pretty awful and he feared that one of them would be going home.

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Lost 5.14 – The Variable

It’s not very often that we welcome back a character the same night we say farewell, but if the end of tonight’s episode is to be believed, Daniel Faraday is no more. To which I say, fuck you Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Killing Charlie was bad enough, but if this death sticks, I’m going to be pretty pissed. Okay, maybe not. It’s kind of hard to stay mad at you when you continue to deliver top-notch episodes like this, but that doesn’t mean I’m not upset. Nevertheless, just like Charlie’s last few episodes at the end of Season Three, Faraday’s last hurrah was one for the ages.

First, we find out that Eloise is Faraday’s mother, and then we find out that Widmore is his father, but honestly, anyone that didn’t see that one coming hasn’t been paying attention these last few years. Still, Faraday’s connection to the island certainly has to be the most interesting of all the characters, and the fact that Eloise willingly sent her son back knowing exactly what was going to happen takes serious guts. Of course, if the Others were able to save Ben Linus from a gunshot wound, what’s to say they won’t be able to do the same for Faraday? It seems plausible, and wouldn’t it explain Faraday’s memory loss in the future/present?

Speaking of which, Faraday’s flashbacks weren’t quite as revelatory as some might have hoped, but it was fun to revisit key moments (like his reaction to the Oceanic 815 recovery footage) knowing more about his journey after those events. The same goes for the opening scene from the season premiere, where we saw Faraday passing Marvin Candle/Dr. Chang in the Swan station, but nothing more. Now we know that Faraday not only spoke with Candle about evacuating the island, but also broke several of his own time travel rules by telling Candle that he’s from the future and that Miles is his son. Candle didn’t seem to buy into either claim, but how could he not? The only Chinese guy on the island with the name Miles? Yeah, it seems like a pretty airtight argument to me too.

Whatever Faraday was expecting Candle to do, he seemed to believe that he was going to do it after their little talk, and let’s hope that he does, because Faraday’s ultimate plan is explosive to say the least. Some of the commenters on this blog were insistent that ‘ol Jughead would rear its head again in the future and, well, they were right. Personally, I completely forgot about the hydrogen bomb between all the time jumping during the middle of the season, but once Faraday mentioned blowing up the Swan’s mysterious power source using the bomb, it suddenly made a lot of sense. Of course, Faraday’s plan doesn’t exactly work under his initial theory that “whatever happens, happens,” but since the Losties currently are experiencing their present, they still have the power to change their future. It’s a pretty cool theory for sure, and it’s really the only way the writers could have gotten out of the hole they conceivably dug themselves into.

Now that Faraday’s dead, though, who will carry out the plan? Jack and Kate are probably stuck in Others territory, Sawyer and Juliet have been outed by Radzinsky, and Hurley and Miles are stuck in the middle of it all. Plus, with three more hours left to go, there’s still more than enough time for a couple of wild cards to be thrown into the mix – namely Locke, Sun and Ben, who will no doubt play a role in all of this before the season is over. Oh yeah, and there’s no way the Losties erase the past by blowing up the Swan. At least, not with an entire season still to go. Can this show really get any better? God I hope so.

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How TiVo revolutionized the way we watch TV

The idea was pure genius. Provide customers with a set-top box that could record analog video from any source onto a hard drive for easy access and instant viewing. Prior to DVRs, the main way to record television was a little thing called the Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) which used VHS tapes. (I’m mentioning this for any of the tweens out there who may not know life without TiVo.) Recording to tape was nice in the mid-80′s, but once huge hard drives came down in price, it became feasible to turn a computer into a recording device. No more hunting around for that certain show, no more (usually, anyway) missing episodes when the network changes the schedule, and no more fast-forwarding through the commercials and being faced with the decision of whether or not to rewind back to the end of the commercial break so as not to miss first 30 seconds or a minute of the show.

I bought my first TiVo sometime in 2000 or 2001, but the company had been in existence since 1998. My first box worked with my cable box. It wasn’t the most elegant option, but it got the job done. Changing channels was a bitch, but I never did much channel surfing anyway. I would miss the occasional episode because my TiVo’s infrared commander didn’t properly change the channel on the cable box, but with TiVo’s “season pass” feature, I caught a lot of episodes that I might have otherwise missed. I loved it so much, I even bought a second TiVo so that I could record two things at once.

With the advent of HD, TiVo ran into something of a roadblock. Once I went HD, I pretty much had to go with the cable company’s version of the DVR, nicknamed the “MOXI.” The TiVo HD was just too pricey at the time. The MOXI had an okay setup, but I loathed cable company’s advertisements that made it seemed like they invented the DVR. (Give me a break.) Anyway, with the MOXI, I could record two HD shows at once, but I still kept a TiVo so that I could record a third show at the same time if need be.

Once the TiVo HD became affordable — again, we’re talking about huge capacity hard drives falling in price — I got rid of Time Warner’s DVR (no longer the MOXI, I was forced to switch), which had a ridiculously poor interface. I had a couple of cable cards installed by Time Warner, and bang — I had a box that could record two HD programs at once.

As time continues to wear on, TiVo has added more and more features to its software. I can now use my TiVo to listen to the music library on my computer (granted, not in a very elegant way), watch video that I downloaded from the internet, stream (older or indie) movies from my Netflix queue and rent new release movies (in HD!) from Amazon Video.

By zipping through the commercials and being able to easily and instantly queue up the show I want to watch, I’m able to watch more television in less time. And, ultimately, that’s what TiVo is all about.

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The Biggest Loser: An “Evil Empire” final four

One thing is for sure with this season of “The Biggest Loser” on NBC….every time I decide to pull for someone, they wind up below the yellow line and get voted off. Every time! So we went from five down to four last night, and next week will be extremely interesting….but more on that in a few paragraphs.

At the start, they showed the remaining five after Kristin was eliminated, with Filipe clearly keeping his mouth shut but clearly pissed at Ron’s “Godfather” gameplay. Mikey correctly said his dad was “playing chess while everyone else was playing checkers.” Then trainer Bob Harper asked Ron point blank if he talked Mikey into voting Kristin off, and Ron flat-out lied to Bob’s face the way he lied to Alison’s face after Kristin was sent packing. Bob was pissed.

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American Idol: Is Simon on crack?

Never before on “American Idol” have I seen more of an example of Simon Cowell trying to will America to vote a certain way, and last night he was making a case to oust either Kris Allen or Allison Iraheta, while draping unnecessary praise on Matt Giraud and expected praise on Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert. So no, I don’t think he’s on crack, but this big-headed music exec has intentions, and honestly I don’t think they are good or fair intentions. But more on that in a bit. We’re down to the final 5, and the competition is fierce and heated at this stage. Last night the remaining contestants sang crooner type standards, and while having Jamie Foxx be their mentor was sort of an oxymoron, the dude gave everyone excellent advice, something you can’t say for, you know, the Q-man a few weeks ago (yeah, telling Anoop to growl when singing sappy Bryan Adams ballads….that’s money!).

I don’t usually comment on what the judges are wearing, but Paula was wearing this red dress that looked like the man-eating plant from “The Flintstones.” Adam Lambert, you’ve been warned. So here we go, and we’re just going to do this in order since almost everyone was good or very good:

Kris Allen went first, something that is always risky to begin with, and sang a near-flawless version of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Jamie Foxx was blown away in the mentoring session and seems to be pulling for Kris. Okay, this is my boy regardless….but I want to say Kris knocked this thing out of the park. Randy said it was Kris’ best performance to date, Kara said Kris set the bar very high for the other four, Paula said he’s made an amazing transition to a handsome, sophisticated singer, and then Simon burst the bubble by saying Kris wasn’t as good as the other three guys, that he sounded like a well-trained spaniel, that the performance was “wet,” (What????? Even Ryan Seacrest laughed at that), and that it wasn’t incredible and Kris can’t win based on this performance. Damn….could it be any clearer that Simon is trying to push Kris out? I was so pissed that I did something I haven’t done yet this season…I voted.

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TV Roundup: Chuck/Heroes finale ratings, more on Scrubs and Privileged

- Ratings for the season finales of “Chuck” and “Heroes” failed to impress. This is especially bad news for “Chuck,” which is definitely on the bubble to get a pickup.

- TV.COM reports that talks between ABC and the producers of “Scrubs” are heating up. The ratings haven’t been great, but ad sales have been solid due to the upscale nature of the show’s audience. This season has been up and down, and has suffered some with portions of the cast missing significant time (as a planned, cost-cutting measure). But when everyone’s accounted for, the show still has its moments.

- EW.COM is reporting that the CW is planning to run repeats of “Privileged” this summer, which could be taken as a good sign as far as the show’s future is concerned.

- VARIETY discusses the still-a-ways-off-series-finale of “Lost,” and how the producers are approaching it.

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Blu Tuesday: Star Trek, JCVD and The Reader

It’s been quite some time since so many major titles were released on one day, and while most of them (even the ones I’m covering in more detail) aren’t exactly the kind of films you would consider must-see, there’s still something for everyone. From Oscar nominees and indies to a re-issue of an old favorite, let’s not waste any time in getting to my picks of the week.

“Star Trek: The Original Series: Season One” (Paramount)

With the exception of the feature films, I’ve never really been a fan of “Star Trek” (especially “The Original Series,” as it’s now being dubbed), so when the first season arrived on my doorstep a few weeks before JJ Abrams’ big screen reboot, I decided to give the series another shot. As it turns out, I feel the same way about the sci-fi classic now as I did before, but Paramount has done such a good job with the Blur-ray release that I’m actually considering holding on to it. For starters, both the original broadcast version and a new remastered version (with updated visual effects) of all 29 episodes are available in high definition, and though purists may want to stick with the former, the remastered episodes are almost too gorgeous to pass up. The DTS 7.1 audio track is equally impressive, while nearly all of the extras from the HD-DVD release (like the Starfleet Access video commentary tracks) has also been included. Though diehard fans likely already have the series in several different formats, it’s hard to deny that the Blu-ray release is the best version on the market. Here’s hoping it sells well, because if there’s one thing that would benefit from the HD treatment more than classic movies, it’s classic TV shows.

“JCVD” (Peace Arch)

There are a few things you should know before going into “JCVD.” First, it’s not like most Jean-Claude Van Damme movies in that it’s a low-budget drama – which means that with the exception of a cool tracking shot that opens the film, there’s very little action. Second, while Van Damme’s performance has been acclaimed as award-worthy (TIME Magazine is even quoted on the cover), it’s not. With that said, however, “JCVD” is one of the best surprises of the year. Van Damme stars as a fictional version of himself, a direct-to-DVD action star who’s caught up in the middle of a bank heist that the cops think he planned. Though he’s essentially just playing himself, Van Damme proves here that he isn’t just the Muscles from Brussels, but a regular guy who lucked his way into Hollywood. In a scene towards the end of the film (where Van Damme truly breaks the fourth wall in order to deliver a heartfelt speech), the actor proves that he’s just that – an actor. That likely won’t impress loyal fans that would rather just see him kick ass, but for everyone else, it has to be seen to be believed.

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24 7.20: Synchronize your watches, there’s still time to kill

Hi everyone, I’m back. So, what did I miss? (*thinks about using emoticon, decides to move on*)

Thanks to the many people that sent in quotes for the captions. They were all quite entertaining, though the one of Jack and Senator Dumbass supposedly looking at a woman with a horse was easily my favorite. It was crude, yes, but smartly written. Nicely done, Jay. And now, back to the blog…

The people that write Entertainment Weekly’s “In the Bullseye” section love Sprague Grayden and her Hillary Clinton character. I want whatever drugs they’re taking, because she makes me craaaaaaaaaaazy. When is someone going to finally grab her by the scruff of her neck and say, “This isn’t about you, Olivia”? Nothing about her character rings true to me. She’s a clock killer, a device the writers have installed when they need to manufacture a little conflict. Jonas Brother may be a sociopath, but he’s a hell of a lot more fun to watch. She’s both a pain and a bore. Kill her now, please.

On the plus side, we get Chloe back, and not a moment too soon. Not even Janis’ own people seem thrilled to have her on staff at this point, as she took verbal dress-downs from both Bauers Jack and Jacqueline (Chloe resorted to her usual passive-aggressive snide remark). I pictured GiantGary waving his arms in the air like he was at a Sunday revival in the deep south when Jack laid into Janis. Even though he said David Palmer instead of Allison Taylor, he still PWND her. I guess I don’t understand Janis’ reluctance to use CTU’s server. It’s a government database, and they need to find a bioweapon. What’s the problem?

“Can I count on you to do the right thing?” “If by that you mean completely fuck up everything you put in motion for my own selfish interests, then I’m your girl, Mom.”

Lastly, we must discuss Tony Almeida’s sudden transformation into Woody Harrelson from “Natural Born Killers.” Dude popped three people this week alone, which has to be a record for him. With his official Dead Feds count at three (*pours out a 40 for Dudley Do-Right*), I think it’s safe to say that there is no way that Tony is still undercover as the dude playing the dude disguised as a bad dude, if that makes any sense. He has to be bad and nothing but bad. Otherwise, he would have wounded those agents tonight and only knocked Larry out. The only question is just how far Jack shoves his foot up Tony’s ass in the final minutes. After Kim saves Jack from the Howard Hughes bioweapon, of course. “It’s the way of the future, the way of the future…”

All right, one more thought. I found it very curious that that shots were fired in Tony’s Sleaz-E Motel room, and yet that did not arouse the suspicion of management. You have to think that at least one guest at that hotel is not a wanted fugitive and would be spooked, right? Maybe they’re all sound sleepers. It is three in the morning, after all.

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Heroes 3.25 – Lives Come Together, They Fade Apart

Here are now, at the finale of another season of “Heroes.” Entertain us…or, at the very least, leave us happy ’til the beginning of the next season, right? With the return of Bryan Fuller to the fold, the show has been working its way slowly but surely out of the creative doledrums in which it had found itself, but does anyone even care anymore?

It’s a fair question, particularly when you look back at how few people are commenting on this blog nowadays. Once upon a time, we actually used to get a discussion going about the episode of the week, but if you look back over the course of the past several weeks, we’ve been averaging no more than 2 or 3 comments per ep, with one week receiving absolutely no comments! I figured Fuller’s return would kickstart the blog, but has it really reached a point where even the return of one of the show’s seminal writers (if, indeed, a show only in its third season can be said to have such a thing) can’t stir much in the way of conversation? I’m not even taking it personally anymore. I’m really just surprised.

Frankly, I feel like the show’s been relatively strong in recent weeks. Are there really so few people who feel the same way?

Last week ended with Zeljko looking darned surprised about Sylar surviving a knife blade to the back of the skull, but given the amount of shapeshifting Sylar had been doing, I wasn’t terribly shocked. Since he’s now able to move his size and shape around in a rather dramatic fashion, I figured his Achilles’ heel might not be where we last left it. I was, however, wondering whether we’d see Sylar slaughter Zeljko immediately or if he’d toy with him for awhile first. Nice touch, taking on his form to discredit him, ruin his reputation, and get him thrown into prison with…HRG?

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