Top Chef All-Stars: yikes

We figured that this season of “Top Chef,” being “Top Chef All-Stars” and all, there would be some ego clashes and shocking eliminations. Last night was mostly the latter.

The show began with Joe Jonas of The Jonas Brothers joining host Padma Lakshmi to announce the quick fire challenge. Helping to cater “A night at the museum” for a group of kids visiting the National Natural History Museum, the chef-testants would have to created a midnight snack geared toward kids that were apparently around 10-12 years old. Each snack would have to be served in a brown paper bag.
The least favorite snacks were by Tiffany D (coconut rice pudding), Mike Isabella (chocolate coconut bar with coconut horchata) and Stephen (snickerdoodle cookies). The favorites were Spike (homemade potato and carrot chips with dip) and Tiffani (Rice Krispie treat snowball).

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It’s box office preview time: Carrell and Fey to clash with “Titans”

Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, and Mark Wahlberg commisserate in

Commercially speaking, the premise of Fox’s PG-13 rated “‘Date Night” seems right on the money. NBC Thursday night comedy dream team Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are a married couple with children in a humdrum relationship rut who, through a case of mistaken identity, wind up fleeing from criminals and repeatedly running into a perpetually unshirted Mark Wahlberg and other dangerous obstacles to their peace of mind.

It’s been some time since a true wide appeal mainstream comedy aimed at adults and also possibly younger comedy fans of both genders has hit the theaters. “Hot Tub Time Machine” obviously skews more than a little male and more recent films, like “She’s Out of My League,” are clearly aimed at a somewhat younger demographic. On paper, the thing seems destined to do extremely well with a potential to elicit the three words sweetest to a studio suit’s ear “four quadrant picture.”

Still, not everyone is thriller. Our own Jamey Codding found the movie a lot more entertaining in principle than in reality. Director Shawn Levy of the “Night at the Museum” franchise is getting by far the best reviews of his career over in  Rotten Tomato land, but that is not as impressive as it could be given his rather rotten critical track record and many of the critics seem to be simply praising the considerable comic skills more than the movie as a whole. As for the box office gurus, a solid but not super-dramatic opening somewhere significantly south of $30 million but probably north of $20 million is predicted by the mysterious voices in Jolly Carl DiOrio‘s ear.

Sam Worthing girds his loins for battle in Of course, the comedy faces some fierce battles ahead with more grim-faced previously released films, most especially last weekend’s top picture, Warner’s “Clash of the Titans.” Like many poorly reviewed genre pictures, it’s expected to drop off by as much as 60%. Moreover, the catcalls from a geek-heavy audience made newly picky about 3-D thanks to James Cameron‘s innovations appear to be depressing turn-out at the pricey 3-D screens. Still, even with a really big sophomore drop off, it still has a very good shot a winning a second weekend in a row, though the win could well be as ugly as Medusa herself.

Also debuting this week is a Christian-themed heart-tugger, Vivendi’s  “Letters to God.” It’s somewhere between a large limited release and a very small major release as it will be in just under 900 theaters this weekend, according to the mighty Box Office Mojo theater count. No reviews are out yet to speak of, but I noticed even the Christian user reviews on IMDb are a bit muted, noting that the acting is in a bit better than on prior films from the same team and the movie is “professional.” High praise.

Not to be glib — which is a way of me preparing you for the glibness ahead — but with the usual church-based marketing push, this one should do okay preaching to the converted. I guess, as a secular Jew, I sort of feel like I see an awful lot of essentially Christian movies, they’re just not marketed that way or noticed because about 95% of Americans are actually Christian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Despite an atmospheric and a mega-creepy trailer that I love and strong trio of lead actors — Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, and Justin Long — the death-obsessed, R-rated horror thriller from Anchor Bay, “After.Life,” is leaving the large majority of critics as cold as the grave. With only 41 screens for a film which should have a wide appeal for horror fans, an early demise seems likely for this morbid but apparently non-gory tale. I personally hope Ricci, a terrific actress who I haven’t seen in a while in anything, has better luck soon.

afterlife585

  

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Loose ends

Carlito's Way -- Al Pacino and Sean Penn

I haven’t been paying quite as much attention to the cinephile end of the movie blogosphere as I should lately, so we’ll start there.

*  It’s never too late to check out the Brian DePalma blogathon that wrapped up yesterday at Tony Dayoub’s Cinema Viewfinder.  I’m actually not a member of the DePalma cult that includes everyone from the late uber-critic Pauline Kael to Quentin Tarantino and probably 70% of the male cinephile population. I dig a few of his movies a great deal and the oddball horror/suspense musical satire, “Phantom of the Paradise” has a special place in my heart. On the other hand, I have serious problems with even some of his most well-regarded films including, or perhaps especially, especially “Blow-Out.” There’s a cheapness to his films and tendency to wallow in despair that I can’t support.

Of course, that’s just me and Dayoub wrapped up yesterday in grand style with a fairly personal piece about “Scarface” (vastly overrated by many; I’ll take the Howard Hawks “Scarface” over it any day) and “Carlito’s Way” (which I think is underrated and overall just a solidly good movie). Anyhow, stroll around the site and you’ll see pieces by some of the true superstars of cinephilia.

* Speaking of great film lovers, you won’t find detailed appreciations of DePalma coming from The Self-Styled Siren — nor of Michael Mann or Sam Peckinpah.  Her bailiwick is classic era films (ending roughly around 1965) with an eye towards melodrama and comedy. Though her identity remains a secret, her fans are legion and definitely includes your humble host.

Her latest post is an attention grabber: “Ten Melos the Siren Would Watch Instead of Mad Men” which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a fascinating list that males who want to expand their minds beyond the usual guy movie obsessions should definitely contemplate. And, yes, there’s a vigorous debate over “Mad Men” in comments, as well as an unsolicited cocktail recipe from me. If you’ve been looking for the inevitable backlash over the acclaimed series, which I personally love as much as anyone, there’ll be no more enjoyable place to find it.

Some news after the flip….

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