24 Blog 9.8: Wembley

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Hands up: who was mad as fuck when the final clock ticked…and you actually heard the clock tick? Big Dick Heller is up there with David Palmer, Old Yeller, and Big Balls Bill Buchanan in terms of the most faithful and lovable characters in the show’s history. Dude gets blown to pieces on “the pitch” in Wembley Stadium – where, curiously, the lights were on, suggesting the staff were in on the hit – and he doesn’t merit a silent clock tick? Fuck, that.

I might be amenable to attributing this to a change of direction, and the show trying to stay fresh by handing the directorial reins to someone young and possibly unfamiliar with the show’s history. But no, tonight’s episode was directed by Jon Cassar, who has directed 65 episodes of “24,” including 12 from this season alone. Simply put, he knows better than to show such a lack of respect. Jon, you have some ‘splaining to do.

Unless…

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Sinbad

IF you grew up in the ’90s, then your first frame of reference to “Sinbad” is almost certainly not that of a sailor. Between his work on the small screen with A Different World, his feature film work in Houseguest and Jingle All the Way, and his stand-up comedy, the man born as David Adkins is surely the first and foremost Sinbad in your mind. As such, you’ll no doubt be thrilled to learn that he’s back with a new stand-up special, Make Me Wanna Holla, which premieres tonight on Comedy Central. We had a chance to chat with Sinbad recently about his new comedy effort, his back catalog of films and TV series, and how our next look at him is likely to be on YouTube.

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Bullz-Eye: Being that pop culture has such a short-term memory problem, it’s got to drive you crazy that you’ve never really gone away, and yet this new special is causing people to say, “Sinbad’s back?”

Sinbad: You know, it’s funny, man. This is the thing with pop culture: I guess you’d say the difference is… Well, there’s always been old school and new school, but when I was coming up, you knew who the old cats were, and it wasn’t like they had less value. I look at Quincy Jones and cats like that, and to me they just got better and better, and you wanted to be like them. Now, if you’re not in the public eye on a daily basis, you’re just gone. I mean, like, gone gone. Like, “I think he’s dead!” [Laughs.]

BE: Have you had to endure any false death claims on social media?

S: Oh, I was one of the first ones the internet killed. [Laughs.] They killed me twice! But I keep coming back!

BE: For those who haven’t been following your stand-up, you’re still following the same general format, as far as the type of material you do, right?

S: Well, the material always changes. I don’t know what the format is, though. To me, the only format is that it’s got to be funny.

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Blu Tuesday: True Detective, Non-Stop and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“True Detective: The Complete First Season”

WHAT: In 1995, Louisiana detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) track down the disturbed murderer of a young woman while dealing with personal issues that threaten to interfere with the case. 17 years later, a similar murder brings the two cops back together when their original case is reopened for investigation.

WHY: Few shows have had such a spellbinding effect on its audience like HBO’s “True Detective,” the gritty crime drama that feels more like an eight-hour movie than a limited TV series. That’s because everything about the show is incredibly cinematic, from the smart writing by creator Nic Pizzolatto, to the brilliant direction by Cary Fukunaga, to Adam Arkapaw’s gorgeous cinematography. This is the kind of show that requires absolute patience and trust in the storytellers, opting for a slow-burning pace that allows the characters to evolve naturally over the course of its time-jumping narrative. Unlike most crime dramas, the mystery surrounding the killer’s identity is never as important as Rust and Marty’s respective arcs, and that’s what makes it such rich and gripping television. Well, that and two knockout performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who deliver some of the best work of their careers as the strikingly different partners. They elevate “True Detective” from a damn good drama to one that will be remembered as one of the greatest shows of its time, and while that kind of praise only heaps even more pressure on Pizzolatto for Season Two, if the first season is anything to go by, he’s definitely up for the challenge.

EXTRAS: In addition to a pair of audio commentaries with creator Nic Pizzolatto, composer T Bone Burnett and executive producer Scott Stephens, there’s a making-of featurette, interviews with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, deleted scenes and more.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Non-Stop”

WHAT: While on a transatlantic flight from New York to London, air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) receives a series of text messages threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into an off-shore account. But when it’s made to look like Marks is the one hijacking the plane, he must find the real culprit before it’s too late.

WHY: Liam Neeson has certainly made a go of this whole action star phase over the last few years, but even he must be growing tired of playing what’s essentially the same character over and over again. Granted, “Non-Stop” doesn’t have nearly as much action as its trailers would lead you to believe, but just like “Unknown,” Jaume Collet-Serra’s previous collaboration with Neeson, it’s a disappointing attempt to cash in on the success of the “Taken” franchise. For as ridiculous as the premise may be (and it becomes even more so as the story progresses), “Non-Stop” does a good job of building suspension by throwing an almost endless barrage of red herrings at the audience. The bad guy could pretty much be anyone on the plane – from Julianne Moore’s chatty passenger, to Michelle Dockery’s meek stewardess, to Corey Stoll’s no-nonsense NYPD cop – and Collet-Serra makes the most of that paranoia. Where “Non-Stop” fails, however, is in its last-ditch effort to suddenly become an action movie in the final act, letting out all the mounting tension like air from a balloon.

EXTRAS: There’s a pair of short featurettes covering various aspects of production, but sadly, that’s the extent of the bonus material.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”

WHAT: When CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack, he’s sent into the field for his very first mission. But after his fiancée (Kiera Knightley) arrives in Moscow unannounced, Jack must keep her out of harm’s way as he attempts to defuse the threat against the country he swore to protect.

WHY: Unlike James Bond or Batman, it’s hard to imagine that a Jack Ryan reboot (especially one packaged as an origin story) was in very high demand, but that didn’t stop Paramount from making it anyway. After all, franchises are a hot commodity these days, and the studio apparently has so much faith in Chris Pine that they’ve entrusted him with yet another iconic character despite already playing Captain Kirk in the new “Star Trek” films. It’s not that the actor is necessarily bad for the role – he can be extremely charming at times and has proven himself adept at action – but the casting is uninspired to say the least. However, Kevin Costner (as Ryan’s mentor) and Kenneth Branagh (pulling double duty as the film’s villain) are both enjoyable in supporting roles, while Keira Knightley does the best she can with an underwritten character. The only reason the actress likely even bothered with such a rote action thriller was the chance to work with Branagh, and although the director isn’t exactly in top form here, he makes “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” a lot more entertaining than it deserved to be.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with director Kenneth Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, six deleted scenes, a retrospective on the Jack Ryan franchise, a profile on Branagh and more.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

  

24 Blog 9.7: Bombs Away

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Tonight’s episode of “24” made up for the last couple of weeks in terms of Bullz-Eye’s “24” drinking game, which revolves around three lines of dialogue: “Dammit,” “We’re running out of time,” and “Put down / Lower your weapon.” (Yes, there are other, more in-depth drinking games for this show out there on the web, but Jesus, it’s Monday night, people.) By our count, there were at least three “Dammits” and one “We’re running out of time,” the latter of which is making its season debut, if I’m not mistaken. Either way, the show gave me a bit of a workout, as it were, so what follows might be a bit more incoherent than in previous weeks.

I’ll pause while you come up with your own joke here.

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2014 Father’s Day Gift Guide: Entertainment

Everyone loves watching a great movie or TV series, so we’ve compiled some of our favorite releases from the past year that just about guy will enjoy. And for more gift ideas, be sure to check out the other categories in our Father’s Day gift guide.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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It’s been a while since Martin Scorsese’s last truly great film, but the director has rebounded in style with “The Wolf of Wall Street,” highlighted by Terrence Winter’s hilarious script and Leonard DiCaprio’s brilliant turn as Jordan Belfort. You’ve never seen the actor quite like this before, and he’s in top form as the notorious stockbroker, delivering what is arguably his best performance with Scorsese yet. The rest of the cast is great as well, especially Jonah Hill in another award-worthy turn, up-and-comer Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey in a short but memorable cameo. Loud, flashy and totally obscene, the movie is like a private tour through Belfort’s excessive, hard-partying lifestyle, including easily one of the greatest sequences of the year. (Hint: it involves a highly potent strain of Quaaludes.) Though it’s a little too long for its own good, the characters are so magnetic and the dialogue so fast and funny that “The Wolf of Wall Street” is hard not to enjoy. It’s Scorsese’s best film in years, and one that will only get better with time.

Gravity

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It’s been six years since Alfonso Cuarón’s last feature film – the criminally underrated “Children of Men” – but his outer space survival thriller was well worth the wait. “Gravity” is the kind of movie that will likely change the way films are made in the future. From the stunning, single-take opening sequence that lasts more than 12 minutes, to the numerous set pieces throughout, “Gravity” is such a technical marvel that it looks like Cuarón shot the whole damn thing in space. Though the story is ridiculously simple, not a single second of its 91-minute runtime is wasted, extracting so much suspense from the film’s terrifying setup that the brief injections of comedy (courtesy of George Clooney’s easygoing astronaut) are a welcome reprieve from the almost unrelenting intensity. Sandra Bullock delivers one of the best performances of her career as the rookie astronaut caught up in a seemingly impossible situation, but the real star of “Gravity” is Cuarón himself, and he deserves every bit of praise for creating what can only be described as pure movie magic.

Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season

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Creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss have stated numerous times that they set Season Three as the unofficial benchmark as to whether or not the show would be a success, and it’s easy to see why, because it showcases the full complexity and richness of the universe that they inherited from George R.R. Martin. The third season expands its scope even further than the previous year, with several new characters quickly making their mark, and old ones (like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jamie Lannister, one of the season’s MVPs) continuing to evolve within that moral gray area where “Game of Thrones” thrives. It also featured some of the most shocking story developments to date, perhaps none more so than Episode 9’s infamous Red Wedding, which made Ned Stark’s beheading look like child’s play in comparison and was without a doubt one of the biggest television events of last year. The audience reaction to that episode is very telling of the show’s pop cultural footprint, and when the writing and acting is this good, it’s no surprise why its popularity continues to grow.

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