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Armored

Most people will take one look at Nimród Antal’s “Armored” and be immediately tempted to write it off as the kind of B-movie action thriller that you’d only watch if you were stuck home alone on a weekend. It really isn’t that bad, but with all the talent that’s involved, it should have been a whole lot better. Columbus Short stars as Ty Hackett, a decorated war hero who returns home to take care of his younger brother after their parents pass away. Although his godfather, Mike (Matt Dillon), gets him a job working alongside him as a security guard for an armored truck service, Ty still struggles to make ends meet. Desperate to get some quick cash before he loses his house to the bank, Ty begrudgingly agrees to join Mike and their co-workers in a plot to steal the $42 million they’re transporting and make it look like a robbery.

After all, it’s a foolproof plan with no “bad guys.” At least, that’s what everyone thinks until a nosey bum is accidentally killed in the process and Ty locks himself inside the truck with half of the payload. With the clock ticking down to their scheduled check-in with headquarters, Mike and his team get to work on removing the door, only for a meddlesome cop (Milo Ventimiglia) to get in the way. The further along the movie gets, the more ridiculous it becomes, with a series of preventable plot holes riddling the story like a piece of Swiss cheese. The film’s biggest crime, however, is its misuse of the cast. You’d think Antal would want to make the most of actors like Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, and even Skeet Ulrich, and yet each one is barely given more than a few lines. Had they played a bigger role in the movie, “Armored” might have been more entertaining, but as it stands, it’s something you’ll likely forget the minute it’s over.

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The League of Quality Superhero Animation plugs “Crisis on Two Earths” at Paley Center

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It’s an old story. You’re a superhero minding your own business and then you bump into someone who looks very familiar but, well, something’s just not right. Gee whiz but this person looks a lot like you and is even wearing similar clothes, but then you notice your new acquaintance looks like he or she is made from rocks, uses terrible grammar and does everything the opposite of you. (“Me want to not save world!”) Or the newcomer looks like one of your deadliest enemies, but turns out to be no Bizaaro, but as heroic as you are. What’s a superhero to do?

It’s an old superhero comic story that has yet to find its way into a big-time costumed-hero flicks — but at least it’s finally been used in a solidly entertaining and often slyly funny direct-to-DVD animated production. Rated a mild PG-13 for non-deadly “action violence,” Warner Home Video’s “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” shows us the fall-out of an alternate universe where the equivalents of our most famed superheros are essentially costumed Mafioso, while a bald guy named Luthor and a joker named the Jester vainly fight the power of organized caped crime.

When the alternate Luthor (Chris Noth) manages a reality jump into the original DC Comics Universe, he enlists the aid of  most of the Justice League. And so, Superman (Mark Harmon), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), and a less than cooperative Batman (William Baldwin), become involved in a desperate quest to free Good Luthor’s universe from super-powered criminal domination by the vicious Crime Syndicate and it’s Jersey-thug-like leader, Ultraman (Brian Bloom) — and also to stave off the possible destruction of all existence by an off-his-evil meds Dark Knight of the Soul, Owlman (James Woods), and his only slightly more sane GF, Super Woman (Gina Torres).

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The 72 minute direct-to-video feature was premiered at both of the coastal outlets of the Paley Center, and I attended the one located on Earth Prime’s Beverly Hills. Us members of the local geek press were allowed to commune with members of the cast and crew and, in my case, that started with the extremely busy animation casting and voice director, Andrea Romano. The loquacious performer and voice director, whose work includes everything from “Animaniacs” to “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Ben Ten,” is held in as high esteem by super-animation fans as any actor, writer, or director. Her work on DC superhero projects goes back to the early nineties and “Batman: The Animated Series,” which revolutionized superhero cartoons with quality writing from creators like Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, animation, and, thanks to her efforts, acting.

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TCA Press Tour: CBS Executive Session

Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, favored us with her presence this morning at the TCA tour, sitting down for an executive session which provided us with the following quotes and tidbits:

* Regarding the decision to place the new reality series “Undercover Boss” in the plum spot following the Super Bowl, she said that it was a combination of good timing and a good series. “We’re very high on the show, but we spent a lot of time talking about what the right strategy would be,” she said. “We’ve seen five or six episodes of ‘Undercover Boss’ by now, and there is a tone and a quality to the show that we felt was a great fit after the Super Bowl. It is aspirational. It is a feel-good program.
Everybody who is sitting and watching the Super Bowl, be you 8 or 80, can stay right there and enjoy the program. I think 15 years ago, that spot was used to launch new programming. Obviously, in the last 10, 15 years it’s been used more as a platform to get greater exposure for existing shows. But we thought, ‘You know what? We have a great project, we’re very high on it, and we think we’re going to launch another big-branded reality show.’”

* Obviously, NBC’s continued fall from grace via the great failure that was “The Jay Leno Show” was a topic of conversation that everyone wanted Tassler to weigh in on. “Through it all, we have to realize that ABC, CBS and FOX…we’ve all fared, I think, very well during this experimental phase for NBC,” she said. “But if we can harken back to when there was that grand proclamation about 8 o’clock at NBC…? Remember? We all wrote about that: 8 o’clock was over at NBC. They were going to have a whole different strategy developing for 8 o’clock. And then along came 10 o’clock, and they were going to have a whole different strategy for 10 o’clock. You know, I think ultimately, there is no substitute for developing great shows, working with great talent, and getting your program on the air.”

“The unfortunate thing is that our creative community was to some degree somewhat bruised by this,” she continued. “I think that the talent as this was taking place, a lot of people were put out of work. A lot of people really saw this as having a pretty negative impact on our business. But I think right now for us, it just allowed us to get a bigger piece of the ad revenue pie at 10 o’clock, and again, what I have the most trouble with is for their company, their decision to do what they did, to sort of turn that and say that his is a reflection on the whole network business, I think is misguided. Our business is thriving right now. We are enjoying success with new hit shows, as is ABC, as is FOX. So I think at the end of the day, it was an experiment that obviously did not work, but for us, like I said, there’s no substitute for just developing and producing and launching great shows.”

There’s certainly no question that a couple of CBS earned some additional success from viewers’ indifference to “The Jay Leno Show.” As Tassler observed, “We moved ‘The Mentalist’ to 10 o’clock on Thursday night and launched ‘The Good Wife,’ so 10 o’clock has been good business for us.”

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“New Moon” and “The Blind Side” to have repeat box office bout

With a number of mostly rather underwhelming looking new films debuting this post-Thanksgiving/pre full-Christmas insanity week in medium-to-wide-release, box office pros like jolly Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter and Variety‘s Pamela McClintock appear to agree pretty strongly that the battle this week will once again be between the romantic monsters of Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” and the football loving Red State good Samaritans of Warners’ “The Blind Side.” Considering that, as I wrote about last Sunday, “New Moon” dropped by 70% in its second last week while “The Blind Side” actually grew without the benefit of a major expansion — something I’ve never seen in the entire time I’ve been writing these posts — my money’s on the Sandra Bullock feel-good drama.

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Of the four new releases said to be appearing in 1,000 to 2,000+ theaters this weekend, the most promising, both artistically and commercially, is “Brothers,”  a remake of a widely acclaimed Afghanistan war-themed 2005 drama from Denmark. Distributed by Lionsgate, the movie is an intense love triangle involving the not-actually-dead young Afghanistan war vet played by Tobey Maguire, his not-actually-a-widow played by Natalie Portman, and his black sheep brother, Jake Gyllenhaal — who looks so much like a brother to Maguire that he once is supposed to have nearly replaced him in one of the “Spiderman” sequels.  (If they worked Elijah Wood into the cast, they would have achieved the baby-faced, raspy-voiced star trifecta.)

Director Jim Sheridan of “My Left Foot,” “In the Name of the Father,” and “In America” has a real flair for intense tales that dance around the edges of melodrama and then sometimes dive right in. The one-two-three punch of the very well known youngish stars would make you think this should come in with a decent amount of money — at least in the double digits. However, considering the growing news and controversy around the Afghanistan war, the topic might be a bit too timely for audience tastes. Also, a film like this should probably should at least crack 70% on the Tomatometer, especially, but hitting it of with something  in the neighborhood of 50-60% of critics will have to do. Worse reviewed films have received Oscar nominations, however.

Robert De Niro in Next up is another remake of a foreign language hit, this time of an Italian comedy-drama/tearjerker from 1990 that starred the great Marcello Mastroianni and was directed by Giuseppe Tornatore of “Cinema Paradiso.” (Not at all a favorite of mine, by the way.) Disney’s PG-13 “Everybody’s Fine” brings us Robert De Niro as a widower trying to reconnect with his children and grandchildren and costars Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell. A sentimental tale for the holidays with this kind of star power should have some wattage in theory, though  apparently the “tracking” is kind of stinking for this film which isn’t really wowing the critics either. Our own Jason Zingale liked it mainly on the strength of DeNiro’s performance but this one feels like the movie you settle for if grandma, or maybe great-grandma, wants to see something nice and you can’t get into the “The Blind Side.”

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TCA Tour: CBS Executive Session

Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, has honored us with her presence this morning at CBS’s TCA day, and during her executive session, she provided us with the following tidbits:

* When word leaked out – that’s hardly the right phrase, since it was actually included in a network-provided schedule, but we’ll go with it, anyway – that there would be a “Mystery Panel” today, hopeful (perhaps overly optimistic) critics began theorizing that it would be for “The Late Show with David Letterman.” As it turns out, it’s actually for CBS’s upcoming revival of “Let’s Make A Deal,” which Nina briefly detailed for us. It’ll be hosted by Wayne Brady and will premiere on October 5th. And, yes, Monty Hall is involved, but only as an executive producer. Come on, though: an old pro like that surely won’t be able to resist rearing his head onscreen once in awhile. I think we can count on him to show up during Sweeps Week, at the very least.

* Of NBC’s great Jay Leno experiment, she says, “Whatever ratings they get, they’re going to declare victory, so it really doesn’t matter.” As far as CBS goes, however, they’re going to stick with the successes of their 10 PM dramas. (Good plan.) She also got a laugh when she admitted that she thought that NBC’s announcement that Conan O’Brien was the new king of late night “seemed premature.”

* Rocky Carroll will be a recurring character on the new “NCIS: Los Angeles,” but Pauley Perrette will be guesting in the show’s second episode.

* There are nine more “Flashpoint” episodes yet to be aired, and they’re still happy with the way the arrangement of airing a Canadian-produced series on American TV. As such, “The Bridge” will be turning up on CBS in the near future as well. But there are no plans yet to produce any further “Flashpoint” episode, although she says they reserve the right to do so.

* As far as “Harper’s Island” goes, it had some online traction and appealed to a niche audience. “The challenge is to find something that can appeal to niche but that has a broader appeal as well,” she said. She was happy with the series, but “it just didn’t grab on to a bigger audience.”

* Apparently, “CSI” fans’ biggest issue with Laurence Fishburne was that he needed to look “more comfortable in his clothes.” You will be pleased to learn that this is being taken care of.

* No plans for any more “Million Dollar Password” at the moment.

* Her one-liner about Ben Silverman’s departure from NBC: “”I’m really just a D girl, so I wouldn’t comment.”

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