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Hidden Netflix Gems – Goon

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

I am not particularly interested in professional sports, generally ignoring all games except the occasional Olympics or Super Bowl viewing, but every year or so there is a sports movie that comes along and deeply and unexpectedly resonates with me. Four years ago, there was Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler, a beautiful, heartbreaking film that was easily among my favorite films of 2008; the following year, there was Big Fan, written and directed by The Wrestler writer, Robert D. Siegel. This year, the unexpected sports movie that finds a place in my heart is Michael Dowse‘s Goon, a movie about hockey that mostly ignores the game itself in favor of the fights that so often break out on the ice.

Seann William Scott delivers his best performance yet as Doug Glatt, a sweet, lovable Canadian bar bouncer who is troubled by the fact that he doesn’t have a “thing” that defines him. His father (Eugene Levy) and brother, Ira (David Paetkau), are both doctors, and his best friend, Pat (Jay Baruchel, who co-wrote the film with frequent Seth Rogen collaborator Evan Goldberg), has a public access show about hockey, but Doug feels aimless, searching for his life’s real purpose. That changes one night at a hockey game, when he knocks out a player who climbs into the stands to beat up Pat, who has instigated the fight by being his usual loudmouth self. The fight in the stands garners more attention and applause than the game itself, and Doug soon finds himself recruited as an enforcer for a local minor league hockey team.

As an enforcer, Doug’s job is to injure successful players from other teams, as well as to protect his own teammates by beating up the other teams’ enforcers. It is the sense of being a protector of his team that resonates with Doug and makes him feel like he’s found his calling. It also helps him to earn the love of Eva (Alison Pill), a woman he meets one night in a bar when he knocks out an obnoxious drunk who is hitting on her, and the friendship of his team’s star player, Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin). Ultimately, though, what the film is building to is a showdown between Doug and his idol, Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a brutal enforcer from the majors who has been demoted for his unsportsmanlike conduct. Though Goon follows the expected beats of a classic sports movie, its formulaic nature does not detract from its quality, and by the time Doug “The Thug” Glatt inevitably faces off against his rival, Scott’s charismatic performance and the film’s surprising likability should have even the most ambivalent viewer ready to cheer.

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The Biggest Loser: returns with typical controversy

After a three-week hiatus due to NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics, “The Biggest Loser” returned with a bang last night, with lots of controversy. First, you may remember that they left us hanging three weeks ago with Cheryl and Darrell hanging on in squat position balancing an Olympic torch replica. Darrell’s knees finally gave out, and he went home, with Cheryl remaining on campus.

Then, host Alison Sweeney announced that the teams would no longer be couples but would be broken up into blue vs. black. They do this every season and it doesn’t get any less annoying. Really, do they have to keep confusing us and messing with the show’s format? Alison then announced the initial challenge, which would give one person control in the game. But first, before they agreed to play a game of Memory, they had to agree to the fact that with the game came the possibility of eating a lot of calories, mostly in the form of chocolate chip cookies that were worth 100 calories each. Behind each memory card were food items, and behind two of them were golden tickets that would determine the game’s winner. The only two that stepped forward to play were Michael and Andrea. After the game went back and forth, and after both consumed way more calories than they wanted to, Michael won…despite eating 2310 calories worth of cookies and other junk. He was then given the right to choose the teams, and he also would have the power to give immunity this week to either himself or to one other player.

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The Biggest Loser: red line blues

Last night’s episode of “The Biggest Loser” was a cliffhanger, and purposely set up that way because we’ll now have a three week hiatus due to the Winter Olympics. But it also had a few more twists and turns. First of all, at the weigh in, there would be a red line, and the person who fell below that with the lowest percentage of weight loss would be going home. Then, there would be the standard yellow line, which two more contestants would fall under and one of them would be going home.

Also, this week the contestants would be training in Colorado with the Olympic hopefuls. The first Olympic-related thing they did was to carry a torch replica along with para-Olympic contestant Allison Jones. Then they learned how the Olympic athletes ate, with all of their food having a “fuel” purpose. Then Koli from the gray team whined for about five minutes about feeling guilty that John went home last week and not him, that John deserved to be there more. Easy, dude!

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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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Top Chef Las Vegas: final four revealed

You don’t realize how long the season is of any reality show until they roll the intro showing all of the contestants, including the ones who were eliminated in the first few episodes. Then you think to yourself, “Self, this has been going on forever!” And so it is with Bravo’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” which is essentially the sixth season of the extremely popular show. It’s also, at this stage, maybe the most competitive yet.

Last night they began with host Padma Lakshmi and Gavin Kaysen, who competed in a global cooking competition known as Bocuse d’Or, which they say is the Olympics of the culinary world. Kaysen made something for his entry in the competition called a “ballantine,” which was in essence putting a protein inside of a protein inside of a protein. So Padma asked them all to make their own version of a ballantine for the quick fire challenge. Jen joked that she was going to make a turducken…but the thing is, that’s sort of exactly what they had to do…the catch was, they only had 90 minutes to do it.

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