The Light from the TV Shows: TV Comfort Food for Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving Eve ’round Bullz-Eye HQ as I write this piece, which means that anyone here who’s still working wants to be doing it about as little as I do. In fact, the biggest reason I’ve waited this long into the evening to get moving on the piece is because I’ve spent way too much of my day watching a marathon of a certain series on the USA Network…which brings me to the premise of this week’s column. Lord knows it’s become a small-screen staple for networks to offer programming which provides the one-two punch of 1) allowing the employees of these networks to do as little work as possible, and 2) inspiring all those TV viewers with Tryptophan surging through their veins to set down their remotes and bask in as many episodes of their favorite show as their holiday weekend downtime will allow.

Now you’re wondering what marathons you can catch this weekend, right? Well, there are a few good ones out there, to be sure:

Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America (Travel Channel, 9am-3pm Thursday)
ALF (The Hub, 3pm Thursday – 3am Friday)
The Andy Griffith Show (TV Land 4pm-9pm Thursday & Friday)
Behind the Music (VH1, 2pm-10pm Friday)
Beverly Hills, 90210 (SOAPNet, 8pm Friday – 1am Saturday)
Breaking Amish (TLC, 11am-9pm Saturday)
Castle (TNT, 10am-11pm Thursday)
Chef Race: UK vs. US (BBC America, 8am-5pm Sunday)
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10 Under-appreciated Roles from Johnny Depp

Unfortunately, the new “Dark Shadows” film is terrible, but Johnny Depp shines as usual.

And then, there but for the grace of God, is Johnny Depp, who commits to the role of Barnabas in a way that redefines Method acting. He had to know before they had finished shooting that “Dark Shadows” wasn’t working, but Depp refuses to give in to the material’s inherently campy nature and plays Barnabas bone-straight and dead serious from beginning to end.

It’s too bad Depp’s talents are wasted here, but there are plenty of old gems you can rent or stream to appreciate his talent. Several years ago we listed 10 under-appreciated roles from Depp. One of my favorites was “Blow.”

It would take a hell of a film to wrest away the title of “Best Use of Cocaine in a Motion Picture” from “Scarface.” Frankly, “Blow” – Ted Demme’s final directorial effort – isn’t that film. But while it may not offer any lines as instantly memorable as “say hello to my little friend,” it is a well-made drama that flows along nicely, finding Depp wearing a variety of wigs as he plays real-like cocaine smuggler George Jung over the course of several years and hairstyles. The supporting cast is also particularly strong, with Ray Liotta and Emma Griffiths portraying Jung’s parents, Penelope Cruz and Franka Potente as his love interests, and Ethan Suplee, Paul Reubens and Bobcat Goldthwait turning up as some of Jung’s associates (i.e., fellow dealers). What keeps the film from standing alongside its higher-profile coke-centric brethren, however, is that, as Jung, Depp comes across as pretty lethargic. Maybe that’s what the real Jung was actually like (given Depp’s tendency to lose himself in his roles, we’re willing to bet that it was), but the end result is a film with a character who manages to experience countless outrageous moments in his lifetime without coming across as all that exciting himself.

So don’t bother with “Dark Shadows.” Check out this list and rent a much better film.

  

Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

I remember a simpler time when May was still considered part of spring, but these days, the studios are so eager to beat the competition to the punch with the first big blockbuster of the season that it’s now widely accepted as the start of summer. That’s all fine and well, but by extending the season by an additional month, it also increases the chance of disappointment, which is looking pretty likely based on the May release schedule, despite the fact that a certain superhero film will be kicking off the festivities.

“THE AVENGERS”

Who: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson
What: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers in order to save the Earth from Loki and his invading army.
When: May 4th
Why: The idea of an Avengers movie may not sound like much of a gamble today as it did four years ago when Marvel first announced its ambitious master plan, but it’s a risk that certainly seems to have paid off. Anyone that considers themselves a fan of comics or the recent Marvel solo films has undoubtedly placed this movie at the top of their must-see list. After all, the prospect of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers sharing the screen is simply too awesome to ignore, and the decision to bring back Loki as the main villain (hands down the most interesting of the Marvel film baddies) only makes things that much more exciting. Sure, Joss Whedon has never taken on a project of this scale before, but as a self-professed geek with a great track record of managing ensemble casts, there’s no one more qualified for the job than him.

“THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL”

Who: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel
What: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel, only to find that it’s less luxurious than its advertisements.
When: May 4th
Why: It’s hard to imagine a better piece of counterprogramming to “The Avengers” than this John Madden dramedy, because although studios have typically put a chick flick up against a surefire blockbuster to lure female moviegoers in the past, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a film that both sexes can enjoy. And the best part is that it actually looks pretty good, although that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the cast includes four of the most respected British actors working today. While the movie could have easily come across as being too schmaltzy in the hands of another director, Madden appears to have struck the right balance between comedy and sentimentality.

“DARK SHADOWS”

Who: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter
What: An imprisoned vampire is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
When: May 11th
Why: I’ve never seen the late ‘60s TV show that serves as the inspiration for this big screen adaptation, but based solely on the early reaction to the trailer, it’s not exactly what anyone was expecting. Though it may seem strange that director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp, both of whom claim they were massive fans of the gothic drama as kids, would re-imagine it as a comedy, their version seems to be less about damaging the show’s memory and more about embracing its campiness. While they admittedly might have taken it a little too far (cue Alice Cooper cameo), the cast is simply too good for “Dark Shadows” to be a complete disaster. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

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