Tag: The Last Templar

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.

Click to buy “The Last Templar”

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.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

So the Templar treasure is supposed to be the Gospel of Jesus, which would, according to Chaykin’s mentor/adversary, Bill Vance, prove that Jesus was in fact mortal and debunk Christianity as a whole. The only problem is that the treasure is at the bottom of the sea, where the Templar ship went down back in the 13th century.

After bringing up the figurehead from the Templar ship, Chaykin, Daley and Vance do battle on the deck of the boat during a storm and the ship is capsized. Tess washes ashore on a Greek isle and awakens to find Sean in the next room in a coma. She goes back to the beach to pray (for the first time, apparently) for Sean’s life and conveniently finds the figurehead, which also washed ashore. Inside, she finds the supposed Gospel of Jesus. So then she, an experienced archeologist, decides to open this priceless treasure on top of a windy cliff in the open air. As she’s examining the scrolls (which are literally blowing around in her hand because it’s so windy), Vance (who also apparently washed ashore the same island) manages to sneak up on her. Mind you, the two are on top of the cliff with no cover whatsoever. In the real world, Tess would have seen Vance coming from a mile away. (Of course, in the real world, Tess would have taken the scrolls back to safety before examining them.) But there they are, on a windy cliff, arguing over what they should do with the scrolls when the menacing Vance continues to approach Tess. She’s afraid of him and the scrolls slip out of her hands. Vance goes over the edge of the cliff and dies. The supposed Gospel of Jesus is lost forever.

That scene was bad enough, but it was followed up by a flashback to ancient times where we learn that the Gospel of Jesus wasn’t written by Jesus after all. It was written by the Templars to (I guess) dispel the notion that Jesus was the Son of God. Instead of just leaving the “was Jesus for real?” question unanswered, “The Last Templar” decided to hit us over the head with the fact that the Gospel was a fake. That, coupled with Tess’ prayers being answered with Sean’s awakening, made for a very heavy-handed conclusion to the story.

In the end, it appears that the miniseries stayed pretty faithful (pun intended) to the conclusion of Khoury’s book, at least based on The Last Templar wikipedia page, so maybe my beef is with Khoury and not with the miniseries. Vance’s appearance on the cliff was ridiculous, and after 3 hours and 45 minutes of doing a pretty good job of balancing faith and science, the miniseries abandoned that to have a feel-good ending for the religious folks.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t religious, don’t bother with “The Last Templar.”

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):

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

LIE TO ME (FOX)
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.

BURN NOTICE (USA)
1/22/09 at 10:00 PM
2nd season winter premiere

THE LAST TEMPLAR (NBC)
1/25/09 at 9:00 PM
(from NBC’s press release) In this four-hour miniseries, Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite”) stars in an epic action-adventure tale about the greatest mystery of our time. At the New york Metropolitan Museum, four horsemen dressed as 12th century knights storm the gala opening of an exhibition of Vatican treasures and steal an arcane medieval decoder. For archaeologist Tess Chaykin (Sorvino) and FBI agent Sean Daly (Scott Foley, “The Unit”), this is just the start of a suspenseful game of cat and mouse as they race across three continents in search of the enemy — and the lost secret of the Knights Templar. The miniseries is produced by MUSE Entertainment Enterprises. Victor Garber (“Alias”) and Omar Sharif (“Doctor Zhivago”) also star. Emmy Award-winning television impresario Robert Halmi Sr. (“Tin Man,” “Gulliver’s Travels”), Robert Halmi, Jr. (“The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Christmas Card”), and Michael Prupas (“Human Trafficking”) will executive-produce the miniseries.

LOVING LEAH (CBS)
1/25/09 at 9:00 PM
(from CBS’s press release) Emmy Award nominee Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”) and Adam Kaufman (“Without a Trace”) star in LOVING LEAH, a new “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentation to be broadcast Sunday, Jan. 25 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. This quirky love story revolves around the unexpected wedding and unconventional married life of a 26-year-old widow and her late husband’s brother, a handsome 30-year-old cardiologist. Susie Essman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Ricki Lake (“Hairspray,” “China Beach”), Natasha Lyonne (“American Pie”) and Academy Award and Golden Globe Award winner Mercedes Ruehl (“The Fisher King”) also star. Jake Lever (Kaufman), a successful, 30-year-old Washington, D.C. doctor who seems to be living his dream, is stunned to learn of the death of his older brother, Benjamin. Jake and his mother, Janice (Ruehl), who are not religious, drifted apart from Benjamin after he moved away to become a rabbi and chose to devote nearly all of his time to his rabbinical duties and his faith. As a result, Jake and Janice are virtual strangers to Benjamin’s young widow, Leah (Ambrose), and the other mourners in Benjamin’s close-knit Hasidic community in Brooklyn, N.Y. Already ill-at-ease in Benjamin’s world, Jake is shocked when he is asked to honor an ancient Levirate marriage law. As a single man, he’s expected to marry the childless Leah to carry on Benjamin’s name…or else deny his brother’s existence in a ceremony that will release them from this generally un-enforced Jewish law. Despite his serious relationship with a beautiful surgeon, Carol (Christy Pusz), Jake finds it unthinkable to deny his brother’s existence and impulsively suggests he and Leah marry and maintain a secretly platonic relationship in Washington, D.C. Leah gladly accepts as a means of finally pursuing her own dreams without offending her very traditional and domineering mother, Malka (Essman). Jake and Leah’s oversimplified plan to live separate lives out of Jake’s two-bedroom apartment proves to be more challenging than anticipated, especially when Leah’s suspicious mother shows up unexpectedly. The harder they work to disguise their “pretend” marriage, the more their real love for each other grows. Ricki Lake portrays Gerry, the first female rabbi Leah has ever met, who invites Leah to join her temple in Washington, D.C. Natasha Lyonne plays Leah’s sister, Esther.

THE CLOSER (TNT)
1/26/09 at 9:00 PM
4th season winter premiere

TRUST ME (TNT)
1/26/09 at 10:00 PM
(from TNT’s press release, April 2008) TNT has greenlit TRUTH IN ADVERTISING, a new drama series starring Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed) and executive-produced by the creators of ad-supported cable’s #1 series of all time, The Closer. The drama centers on two highly creative ad executives whose professional partnership and friendship are put to the test when one is named creative director of their firm. Monica Potter (Boston Legal), Griffin Dunne (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Sarah Clarke (24), Mike Damus (Lost in Yonkers) and Geoffrey Arend (Garden State) also star in the series, which comes to TNT from Warner Horizon Television. Greer Shephard and Michael M. Robin (The Closer) serve as executive producers, along with The Closer writers Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny. Robin also directed the pilot. TNT has ordered 13 episodes of the series, which is slated to premiere on the network in 2009. “TRUTH IN ADVERTISING takes place in the high-pressure world of advertising, but it’s really a story of friendship and values and how those things are strained by the often conflicting demands of work and family,” said Michael Wright, senior vice president in charge of the Content Creation Group for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies. “Eric and Tom play two fascinating, compelling and always interesting men whose unique friendship and working relationship is the core of the show. We are thrilled to be working on this superb drama with the creative talents who brought us The Closer. And we are especially happy to have such a stellar cast, led by Eric and Tom.” TRUTH IN ADVERTISING takes place in the offices of multi-million dollar Chicago advertising agency Rothman, Greene & Mohr, where Mason McGuire (McCormack) and Conner (Cavanagh) are the top creatives. Family man Mason is a nice guy navigating the politics of an increasingly competitive corporate world. When he is promoted to creative director, he must learn to cultivate his inner shark in order to survive. Conner, on the other hand, is highly emotional from the get-go. As Mason’s partner, friend and copywriter, he gets that advertising is a business, but he’s always looking for ways to mix in plenty of pleasure on the way. Meanwhile, RG&M is on the verge of its IPO and huge advertising accounts are on the line, creating internecine battles among the company’s creative teams and additional pressures on Mason and Conner’s working relationship and friendship. As they desperately try to keep things in check, they risk having the rug upon which they park their Prada-covered feet pulled out from under them. In the take-no-prisoners world of advertising, the order of the day includes pressure, selling, fear, envy, competition and big, big money. But for Mason and Conner, it’s the friendship and loyalty of the people behind the scenes that spell the difference between success and failure.

BALDWIN HILLS (BET)
1/27/09 at 10:00 PM
3rd season premiere

LISA LAMPANELLI: LONG LIVE THE QUEEN (HBO)
1/31/09 at 10:00 PM

MEDIUM (NBC)
2/2/09 at 10:00 PM
5th season premiere

Geez, y’think some of these press release descriptions are long enough?

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