A buncha movie stuff….

When in doubt, lead with Disney, even if you’re not sure what the story actually means….

* Mark Zoradi, the Big D’s head of worldwide marketing and distribution for movies, is stepping down. This surely has something to do with the arrival of Rich Ross and the departure of Dick Cook some weeks back.

* As per Company Town, Lions Gate is doing better right now from TV than movies. Could “Mad Men” have been their biggest money maker the last quarter? I’d like to think so.

* Self-appointed protector of Catholicism from the scourge of Hollywood Bill Donoghue has found a new source of “anti-Catholic bigotry” (i.e., not conforming 100% to his highly particular and extremely reactionary view of how all things Catholic should be treated in the media): “2012.” Chris Kelly at the Huffington Post mocks accordingly and appropriately.

Here’s a fascinating quote from idiot boy Donoghue on his life’s work:

Every time I say Hollywood hates Christianity, especially Catholicism, my critics cringe. But they never offer evidence that I’m wrong.

I’m not cringing and I’ve got evidence. Skipping around the decades and off the top of the my head: “Going My Way,” “The Bells of Saint Mary’s,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Lilies of the Field,” “The Trouble with Angels,” “Dead Man Walking,” “The Sound of Music,” “Sister Act,” “Signs,” “Gran Torino,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “City of Angels,” “The Apostle,” “Tender Mercies,” “Ben Hur,” “Shadowlands,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Shoes of the Fishermen,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “King of Kings,” “The Exorcist,” (who saves the day there?) and on and an on and on. In fact, it’s much easier to find a pro-Christian or Catholic Hollywood film than to find one that even features an openly Jewish, Islamic, or, heaven forfend, openly atheist or agnostic, character. Even the movies Donoghue attacks, like “Dogma” or “Saved” or most especially “The Last Temptation of Christ” are actually highly pro-Christian films, though espousing a more liberal version of the religion than he personally cares for. If there is a bigger idiot on this planet than Donoghue, I doubt he has the brain function enough to breathe. Every time the guy opens his mouth, he makes a new atheist.

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“Leverage” seems to be getting better

In the interests of full disclosure, I would have cut “Leverage” from my playlist after a ridiculous second episode (“The Homecoming Job”) if not for the insistence of my wife, who liked the first two episodes a whole heck of a lot more than I did. The premiere was solid, even if it was a little rough around the edges. It’s understandable that a show that tries really hard to be cute (a la “Ocean’s Eleven”) might struggle at the start as the relatively unknown actors get used to playing their characters and working with each other. In “Ocean’s Eleven,” audiences already knew and liked Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and had seen them acting “cute” dozens of times before, so their act went over well.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. “Leverage” is a TNT drama, which (for me) has been a little hit or miss when it comes to original scripted series. I am hooked on “The Closer,” but was never able to get into “Saving Grace” and was too annoyed by Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s distractingly long hair in the promos for “Raising the Bar” to even bother with that show. (I did enjoy the paramedic drama, “Saved,” but it was canceled after only one season.) “Leverage” is about a group of thieves that decide to go the Robin Hood route by enacting their own brand of justice on those that would take advantage of others.

At the center of the show is Timothy Hutton, whom I’ve liked since the days of “Turk 182” and “Beautiful Girls.” He plays Nathan Ford, a former insurance investigator who recently lost his son when the company he worked for wouldn’t cover his son’s experimental procedure. He enlists the help of four criminals — a con artist, a cyberthief, a cat burglar and a martial arts expert — to, and I quote, “pick up where the law leaves off.”

“Leverage” tries very hard to be witty, and it often hits the mark. There was the aforementioned second episode, however. At one point, Ford and his beautiful con artist cohort had to create a distraction at the L.A. shipping docks. So they pose as an obnoxious couple on vacation, complete with Hawaiian shirts and awful attitudes. They were even dragging their luggage around the shipping docks of L.A. — in a post-9/11 world. It was simply ridiculous.

The good parts of “Leverage” actually remind me quite a bit of “Hustle,” a British television show that was also about a group of con artists. Their intentions weren’t as noble as Ford’s, and that’s one thing that bothers me about “Leverage” — they don’t seem to want to keep any of the money. For example, in the third episode, “The Two-Horse Job,” a trainer hires them to retrieve an injured horse from his nefarious owner after the owner set fire to the trainer’s stable. The gang does its thing and manages to get the horse back and steal $12 million from the greedy owner. Do they keep any of the dough? Nope. They give it all to the trainer. This just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

I’ve always been fascinated with the dark side of society which is why I’m often drawn to anti-hero stories like “The Shield,” “Rescue Me” and “The Sopranos.” “Leverage” doesn’t get nearly as dark as those series, but it does live in that grey area between right and wrong. I’d like to see the moral ambiguity get a little thicker, as the victims of the con jobs are often caricatures of villains (with no discernable positive qualities).

So for now, I’m going to keep watching. But if I see Timothy Hutton dressed in a Hawaiian shirt traipsing through the docks of Los Angeles again, I’m going to delete my season pass and not look back.

  

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