The Last Templar

There’s one major problem which infiltrates “The Last Templar” almost from the moment it begins: they’ve changed a lot of stuff from the original novel by Raymond Khoury. This obviously isn’t something that would be an issue for someone who’s never read the book, but for those who’ve been wondering how it made the transition from print to screen (and who didn’t catch the miniseries when it originally aired on NBC earlier this year), accept this assurance that you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. Everyone else, however, will probably enjoy the adventure well enough, provided their suspension of disbelief is fully charged. Archaeologist Tess Chaykin, played by Mira Sorvino, is essentially a female version of Indiana Jones, except one who now has a child and isn’t quite as ready to go globetrotting for ancient artifacts as she once was. When four people on horseback dressed as Templars storm New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art during its exhibition and swipe key artifacts, Tess muscles her way into the investigation, albeit against the desire of FBI Agent Sean Reilly (Scott Foley), and ends up traveling across the world in an attempt to discover the lost secret of…wait for it…The Last Templar.

Veteran producer Robert Halmi Sr. turns in another good-looking yarn, and the cast is certainly strong, with Victor Garber, Kenneth Welsh, and Omar Sharif also on hand. Sorvino and Foley have the kind of chemistry that makes you wish this was a better movie than it actually is. The big action scene at the beginning of the film, where Sorvino swipes a horse and goes jousting in Central Park, is ridiculous enough to lose a lot of viewers right off the bat, and there are more than a few moments where you’ll cringe at the dialogue. (How can anyone not groan when Sorvino punctuates an ass-kicking by snarling, “I’m nobody’s baby”?) Still, the aforementioned chemistry between the leads is generally enough to keep you watching, and those who want to get themselves pumped up for “Angels & Demons” will probably find “The Last Templar” an enjoyable diversion. And if you do, then you’ll also want to watch the making-of featurette on the DVD, which is about as entertaining as these things get.

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I was all ready to write a positive review of “The Last Templar”…

…but then I saw the last 15 minutes.

NBC’s four-hour miniseries based on Raymond Khoury’s novel of the same name starts out a bit rough, but eventually finds its groove once the two main characters — archeologist Tess Chaykin (Mira Sorvino) and FBI agent Sean Daley (Scott Foley) — get some real screen time together. The plot revolves around the lost Templar treasure and a series of related murders. At its best, “The Last Templar” resembles “Romancing the Stone” with Sorvino playing the unruly adventurer and Daley the unwitting passenger that’s along for the ride. At its worst, it reminded me of “The Librarian” movies on the USA Network.

When “The Last Templar” works, it is due to the chemistry between Chaykin and Daley. Their budding romance is cute and there are several laugh-out-loud lines. Given the heavily religious subject matter, the miniseries does a nice job of balancing between the faithful (Daley) and the skeptic (Chaykin). That is, until the last 15 minutes, when the story goes off its rails.

At this point, I should warn anyone that might want to watch “The Last Templar” that there are spoilers ahead. For those that think that they still might want to watch it, I would recommend the miniseries to religious types that are looking for a little Indiana Jones/Jack Colton-esque adventure.

Read the rest after the jump...

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2009 Winter Press Tour Recap

Wait, didn’t I just go to one of these press tours…?

Actually, that was back in July, when the networks were busy pimping their new fall schedules; this time, they were presenting us with an idea of what we can expect to see on our favorite broadcast and cable channels from now until they premiere their next fall schedule.

Going out to L.A. in January was a new thing for me, though. It was my first winter tour since becoming a member of the Television Critics Association in 2007 – last year’s was canceled due to the writers’ strike – and, if the rumblings throughout the ballrooms at the Universal Hilton were any indication, it may well prove to be my last January tour. I’m hopeful that this presumption turns out to be inaccurate, but given the current economic climate and an increasing tendency for newspapers and publications to only send their TV critics out for one tour per year, there’s every reason to suspect that the networks will join suit and only be willing to pamper those critics once per year.

Sorry, did I say “pamper”? Of course, I meant, “Treat with the utmost respect.”

It feels a bit odd to be doing a wrap-up of my experiences at the tour before I’ve even had a chance to write up all of the panels I attended while I was out there, but, hey, when you get a good spot on the calendar, you make it work however you can. So still keep your eyes open for my ongoing pieces on the various shows you can expect to find on the broadcast networks during the next few months, but in the meantime, here’s a look at some of the best and worst bits from the January ’09 tour as a whole.

Most enjoyable panel by a cable network: “Rescue Me,” FX.

I’ve been a big Denis Leary fan every since No Cure for Cancer, so I knew the guy was inevitably going to go off on a profanity-filled rant before the end of the panel. What I didn’t expect, however, was that Peter Tolan – who co-created the show with Leary – would start the proceedings by telling Leary to watch his mouth, adding, “If you were going to say ‘cunt,’ don’t.”

From there, the two of them seemingly battled each other in an attempt to offer up the most memorable line. Leary complained about his salary. (“I had a crazy idea of getting paid, like, $250,000 an episode. They put limits on that, let me tell you. That’s Kiefer Sutherland money right there.”) Then Tolan claimed that he was at fault for the show’s fourth-season slump, blaming it on a drug problem and that “I was heavy into a kazillion hookers that year.” Then Leary bitched about how Michael J. Fox was going to guest on “Rescue Me” and get the Emmy that Leary himself has yet to earn. (“Five fucking episodes, he comes in. God damn, $700 million from ‘Spin City.’ He never asked me to do the show. He’s going to walk away with the fucking Emmy. That son of a bitch.”) Then Tolan started mocking Hugh Laurie’s American accent by talking about how he could do a British accent. (“Aye, pip, pip, mate, aye! ‘Allo, Mary Poppins!”) And…well, as you can see, there was really no contest: this may well have been the greatest panel ever.

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It’s time to set your TiVos… (part 2)

A couple of weeks ago, we provided a list of shows that were debuting soon so that you’d have a chance to set your TiVos. Well, 14 days have past and, since that’s the amount of program data that TiVo can carry, it’s time to do it again.

Here is a list of the scripted shows that premiere in the next two weeks (through Feb. 2):

1/21/09 at 9:00 PM
Two-hour 5th season premiere

1/21/09 at 9:03 PM
(from FOX’s press release, September 2008) FOX has given a series commitment to LIE TO ME, a compelling new drama from Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television. Tim Roth (“The Incredible Hulk”) and Kelli Williams (“The Practice”) star in this fascinating character drama inspired by a real-life specialist who can read clues embedded in the human face, body and voice to expose the truth behind the lies in criminal investigations. LIE TO ME is scheduled to premiere midseason. When you scratch your chin, wring your hands, wrinkle your nose or swallow too much, Dr. Cal Lightman (Roth) knows you’re lying. He doesn’t just think so he knows so. As the foremost deception expert in the country, Dr. Lightman can uncover the deepest secrets and crack the hardest cases. More accurate than any polygraph, he knows whether those in front of him be they family, friends, criminals or complete strangers are honest or not. Dr. Lightman heads up The Lightman Group, a private agency contracted by the FBI, local police, law firms, corporations and private individuals when they hit roadblocks in their searches for the truth. Joining him at the agency are a variety of experts in the field of behavioral evaluation: Dr. Gillian Foster (Williams) is a gifted psychologist and Lightman’s professional partner, a woman whose guidance he needs whether he knows it or not; Will Loker (Brendan Hines) is Lightman’s lead researcher who practices “radical honesty” at all times; and Ria Torres (Monica Raymund) is the newest member of the team, selected for her innate ability to read body language and catch certain clues that her colleagues may miss.

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