Tonight's Big Brother urged viewers to ponder some of Earth's greatest mysteries: Are we alone in the universe? (If we aren't, we better hope they don't discover Big Brother). What's the meaning of life? (Screw it, we'll let Shane answer that one). Is there a science to winning Big Brother? Now this one is tricky.
Some may argue that there is a method to winning Big Brother. That it's finding the delicate equation of brains, brawn, manipulation, keen strategy, making big power plays at crucial moments and staying under the radar when necessary. Others would argue it's just a random assortment of dumb luck and good timing. It's fitting that as Season 14 winds down that question is coming to the surface again, especially on such a science-friendly week. (Bill Nye would have been so proud. Or not.) Things kicked off where we left off on Thursday night, with the players orbiting in the "Soak Up the Sun" HoH competition. Joe fell first and received punishment from America, which was to hula hoop, at any given moment. Joe warned — sorry yelled at an entirely unreasonable volume — that if his kids watching at home were to make fun of him for falling off two minutes into the competition he would put his size 13 foot to use. Hey, you know what they say about guys with big feet. That they are loud, obnoxious, a**holes! Jenn quickly followed suit leaving Ian, Shane, Danielle, and Dan to compete in the high stakes HoH. It was a must-win for Ian if there ever was one. Not only did he acknowledge that his wishy-washy strategies ultimately cost Britney her place in the game, but with a disassembled Quack Pack he could very well be on his own. Frank, who is always in survival mode, was hanging on to that idea that if Dan hangs on he will keep their newfound alliance in tact if he becomes HoH. Now whether you're a man or woman of faith or science could ultimately determine how you think this season will pan out. Science will tell you that Ian's knowledge of the game and other bonus fun facts such as the laws of acceleration and the fact that comets are made of ice, yet the Big Brother comets are orange and fiery. Ya burnt, CBS! But faith will tell you that maybe Dan — who has earned his stripes as the most cunning player in Big Brother history — really is Judas. After all, what mere mortal who isn't a raging sociopath could reason that swearing on their loved one's lives isn't a bad thing because their intentions are for their mutual benefit. Back in the house Ian had previously said to Dan that he not only wanted to get the Quack Pack together, but that he was aiming to get Frank and Jenn on the block. Dan's "allegiance" to Frank was all but shattered, as he explained that the only loyalty he had in the house was to himself. Ultimately it wouldn't matter because both Dan and Danielle fell out of the HoH competition, leaving just Shane and Ian. It was no longer the intense faith vs. science match-up, but as Dan pointed out, "the prom king vs. the valedictorian." And who always emerges from that battle? That's right nerds, it's nerds! Shane tried with all his handsome might to stay on, but acceleration and all that other science crap Ian was blathering on about proved to be too much or him. While Shane was the "safe" bet for everyone else in the house, Ian's spritely physique and understanding of, you know, physics, made him the winner. But before Shane surrendered to Ian, he made him promise that neither he nor Danielle would be put on the block. Ian gave Shaners (?) his word that he wouldn't backdoor him or Danielle. And it's a good thing because without Danielle around, who would Shane have to whisper things to him while he's in the shower and couldn't possibly hear her from afar with running water pouring over him? Science! Shane assured Danielle that Ian would be gunning for Frank and Joe, not them, and Danielle gushed and batted her eyes that Shane is her "knight and shining armor" sent to protect her in the game. Somewhere, Zingbot and feminists everywhere were malfunctioning. It only got worse when Jenn told Danielle that Shane referred to her as his "girlfriend" which Danielle unconvincingly played off as annoyance that she doesn't "know what to do with this boy." Then Jenn spoke on behalf of everyone everywhere that's ever had to listen to a girl feign annoyance about a boy she's not so secretly crazy for: "You love it. " While paranoia ran high (Joe thought Ian would put Dan and Jenn on the block to avenge Britney, while Dan was certain the Quack Pack would realign), there was only room for one theory in the house: scientific theory! In Ian's HoH room, we find that not only does Ian know what's on the periodic table of elements (presumably a Big Brother first) but he has a favorite element. For the record, it's bismuth. You know, if Ian doesn't win Big Brother, there's another summer program he could do quite well on: Breaking Bad. Granted, he would be making Pepto Bismol instead of meth, but dammit if he wouldn't be the best Pepto Bismol maker on the market! Ian seemed stalwart in his allegiance to the Quack Pack and looked to put Frank and Jenn on the block, something Frank seemed to have a hunch about. During a heart-to-heart (well, carrot-to-heart) chat, Frank promised Ian that not only would he and Boogie have taken him to the end, but he's still willing to do that. Not only that, but with Frank's punishment and inability to play in any competitions he wasn't a real "threat" to Ian. (Of course, this being a double eviction week, anything goes.) Ian took Frank's words into consideration and opted backdooring Joe, the other lone non-Quack Pack member. Ian had a lot of thinking to do about who to put on the block, but Pandora's Box gave him something to think about. Now logic would tell Ian that the 50/50 odds of getting a "good" Pandora's Box is awfully risky this late in the game but faith will tell you...OHMYGODCHRISTMASPRESENTS! C'mon, it's Christmas presents every time. By Big Brother standards Ian would wind up on the good list rather than the naughty list. So if you believe in that kind of thing, that's exactly why he got a ton of awesome gifts (including a telescope, Legos, and an extra $1000) while his housemates got a visit from a pec-tacular elf in a thong in the form of Big Brother alum Jesse who didn't bring them presents, rather, took away all their glorious junk food. Young Ian clearly made the right decision when it came to Pandora's Box, but how would he fare in the nomination ceremony? Frank opted to play nice with Ian on the off chance he wouldn't be up for eviction and could try and restore his bond with him. Not to mention the fact that if Ian were to put anyone up to avenge Britney, it could literally be anyone else in the house as literally everyone else in the house voted her out. Still, Ian's mind was made up, he put Jenn and Frank (now out of his carrot costume) back on the block. Neither were terribly surprised. In fact, the only person that was surprised was Dan who was stunned at how easy it was to worm his way back into the Quack Pack despite stabbing them all in the back last week. If Frank wins PoV this week (which, let's face it, he probably will) he'll officially have nine lives. Of course, if anyone in this game has shown how coming back from the dead is done, it's Dan. Faith and science may keep you from believing in zombies, but damn if Big Brother hasn't proven us otherwise. Did Ian make the right choice in putting Frank up again? Should he have put his faith back in Frank or are his instincts about Dan taking him to the end right? Will Frank walk away from being a dead man walking again and send Jenn packing? Or will Dan put an end to Frank once and for all? Oh, life's unanswerable mysteries! Well, at least until Wednesday. In the meantime, share your theories in the comments section. [Photo credit: CBS] More: Big Brother Recap: Pleas and Carrots Big Brother Recap: Dan's the Man Big Brother Recap: Can We Speak Frankly?
Misery loves the Savages--always has. Ever since they were kids Wendy (Laura Linney) and Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman) have been plagued by the blasé blues. Even though they went their separate ways the siblings have remained somewhat close geographically--she lives in Manhattan he in Buffalo--and in their discontentment. But what made them this way in the first place their father (Philip Bosco) is about to reunite them. After losing his mind to dementia and his longtime girlfriend (Rosemary Murphy) to well death the old man officially needs to be looked after and that’s where Jon and Wendy reluctantly come in. Despite having not seen their estranged father in ages they fly out to his Arizona senior-citizen-friendly community immediately upon word of his downfall. What they didn’t plan on however is staying more than a couple days. Ultimately they take him back to Buffalo and place him in a nursing home about which Wendy constantly feels guilty. Now forced to live together and look in the metaphorical mirror the siblings Savage learn about self-discovery mortality each other and how to revive a decades-old rivalry as though it had never gone away. Given the way Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman constantly one-up each other in The Savages you’d think there was a real sibling rivalry at play. Of course it’s merely two of today’s very best actors giving par-for-the-course flawless performances. In so doing they create something beyond chemistry: a relationship so fractured and imperfectly perfect that it could only exist between an aging brother and sister. Whether the scene calls for fireworks or subtlety solo or together Linney and Hoffman are always up to the task. Linney is especially wide-ranging as Wendy still fights her midlife crisis. The veteran actress is often heartbreaking because Wendy is often heartbroken even when she tries to convince herself otherwise but Linney still manages to leave the window of hope cracked open--for us and her character. She truly encompasses everything in this her best performance to date. Hoffman is slightly more of a supporting player here but no less impactful. The Oscar winner is apathetic through much of the film but his terse outbursts of anger and/or sadness are stark reminders of his awe-inspiring range as an actor. Perhaps the most savage Savage is the patriarch played with grace by longtime actor Bosco. But instead of vilifying Lenny or making him worthy of all your pity Bosco makes him a rollercoaster of emotion as per Lenny's dementia. It’s been nine years since writer-director Tamara Jenkins’ last--and only other--feature-length film the twisted coming-of-age tale Slums of Beverly Hills which has given her plenty of time to think grow older and think about growing older. She philosophizes aloud in The Savages a movie that addresses everything you don’t want to but with a sardonic edge to it; in fact maybe this is as much a coping mechanism for her as it is an artistic endeavor. While the movie is primarily about the title siblings it essentially explores the human condition under their guise. But Jenkins does so in a way that is never preachy never obnoxious never sappy and always astutely observed. It’s her naturalistic approach to moviemaking that will turn what is ultimately a sharp dramedy into too much of a downer to please casual moviegoers looking for lighthearted fare in wintertime--this is NOT Little Miss Sunshine--but those who go in looking for a drama will be moved occasionally to laughter. Because The Savages is that rare deep movie: heavy on symbolism and meaning light on pretense and contrivance.
It’s Halloween Eve in suburbia and while most of the neighborhood kids are gearing up for a candy extravaganza two young‘uns--DJ (voiced by Mitchell Musso) and Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner)--are fretting and dreading. They’re convinced that the decrepit house across the street is in fact a monster house inhabited by an old hermit named Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi) that will lure kids in on Halloween night. But just as DJ’s parents who naturally don’t believe him to begin with leave for a vacation DJ inadvertently sends Nebbercracker to his death--or so he fears. Now DJ believes Nebbercracker’s monster house will seek revenge on him specifically and to make matters worse his negligent babysitter (voiced by Maggie Gyllenhaal) won’t hear of his yapping. After DJ and Chowder are forced to take action they along with a girl peddling candy (voiced by Spencer Locke) discover how the monster came to be and just how unforgiving she is. When it comes to animation acting the main goal is to make audiences forget that the actors are giving their performances in a studio possibly dressed in their PJs and sans makeup. That goal’s usually achieved but Monster House takes a gamble in supposing that child actors comprising the lead characters will be able to wrap their still-expanding brains around the concept. Somehow Lerner and Musso grasp this despite sounding like they haven’t even been in this world very long! The two are surrounded by a fail-proof supporting cast: it takes a while to recognize Buscemi’s voice as Nebbercracker but once it hits it fits and Gyllenhaal as the babysitter is great if unpredictable casting. Quasi-cameos from Jason Lee as Gyllenhaal’s punk boyfriend Jon Heder as a video-game god and Kevin James and Nick Cannon as slow-moving and -thinking cops garner the most laughs. Not only does it help a film’s box office performance to have Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis onboard as executive producers it helps a film’s director--in this case a rookie director named Gil Kenan. (Zemeckis directed ‘04’s somewhat similar-looking The Polar Express.) While the animation doesn’t quite stand up to say Pixar’s earth-shattering visuals Kenan makes up for it with a fun-filled story (from scripters Dan Harmon Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler) and an overall lively involved effort--and it’s not like the movie doesn’t still look gorgeous. Besides sometimes it’s refreshing to not be so entranced by the CGI that you lose sight of the actual movie at hand. Kenan’s film is one of the scarier animated movies in a while but that still doesn’t exclude many age groups. What the first-time director thrives on is stopping just shy of true horror moments at which point he reverts to feel-good mode without ever being sappy.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action revisits an age-old Tunes question: Why does the affable Bugs reap all the fame and glory while the egocentric Daffy gets shafted again and again? Our duck friend quite frankly has had it up to his skinny neck playing second fiddle to the carrot muncher. All Daffy wants is a little recognition from the studio but the brothers Warner (actual twin brothers as we come to find out) decide instead to let Daffy out of his contract on the advice of their no-nonsense VP of comedy Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). Bugs however knows they're making a mistake. Even though Daff bears the brunt of the abuse Looney Tunes would fail without him and Bugs convinces the powers that be they need the nutty mallard. If the plot had only followed this thread--perhaps showing Daffy on the skids--then maybe the film wouldn't have spiraled into Looneyville. Unfortunately Daffy ends up hooking up with the hunky D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) a studio security guard who finds out that his famous movie star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) is really a secret agent hunting for a mysterious diamond known as the Blue Monkey a supernatural gem that can turn the planet's population into monkeys. The evil head of the Acme Corporation Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) wants the diamond for his own diabolical plans and he's kidnapped D.J.'s dad in an effort to get it. Now the gang has to get the diamond save D.J.'s dad and of course save the world.
It might be a little hard to act subtly around cartoon characters but these aren't your ordinary cutesy Mickey Mouse types. Bugs Daffy Porky Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn are pros at comic timing able to spar with the best of them throw out zingers without a second thought and slay you with a droll glance at the camera. It isn't really necessary for the human actors to match their madcap-ness; just reacting would have sufficed. Fraser comes off the best of the human bunch; since he's had practice (Monkeybone) he easily interacts with his animated co-stars and deftly handles the doubletakes and jabs at pop culture. Elfman on the other hand sputters and goes bug-eyed every time she encounters silliness. She looks uncomfortable doing the green screen thing especially when she's trying to look natural when peeling a distraught duck from around her waist. Martin's highly anticipated turn as Mr. Chairman turns out to be the biggest disappointment. The over-the-top character is reminiscent of Martin's hysterically funny Rupert the Monkeyboy in 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but Martin turns Mr. Chairman--an angry schoolboy with knee socks and matted-down hair who never grew up--into a caricature of ridiculous proportions and unlike Rupert who came in small hilarious doses Mr. Chairman gets very tiresome very quickly.
Back in Action's animation is well done more engaging and ambitious than its 1996 predecessor Space Jam in which the action mostly took place in Looney Tunes land; here animated characters go the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? route and Bugs Daffy and the rest coexist harmoniously with humans in the real world. But despite its aspirations Back in Action leaves out vital elements that made Space Jam appealing. While the earlier film stuck to a simple plot Back in Action guided by director Joe Dante (Small Soldiers The 'Burbs) tries too hard to keep things wild and wacky while incorporating elements of '60s heist pics and action-adventure scenes and in the process loses sight of the most important ingredient in any kids movie: the story. Tykes may have limited attention spans but if the story's good they will watch. Granted some individual bits are laugh-out-loud funny particularly the scene in the Warner Bros. commissary where a stuttering Porky Pig complains about being politically incorrect with Speedy Gonzales while an animated Shaggy and Scooby-Doo berate actor Matthew Lillard for playing Shaggy as such a bonehead in the live-action Scooby-Doo. These scenes prove that if any cartoon characters could pass themselves off as real celebrities in the entertainment industry the gang from Looney Tunes could but moments like these simply can't overcome a contrived plot and juvenile antics.