Everyone on Survivor always says "it's a numbers game," which is true, but what no one ever considers is that it's also about even numbers and odd numbers. I've long held the believe that nothing dramatic can happen in a week with an even number of players, especially when the numbers get smaller. If you want to make a big move, the time to do it is around the seven or nine players left stage, and you have to do it on a day with odd numbers. Why? Well, most votes come down to two factions voting against each other. If you try to make a big move on an even week, you have to do even more work to get over the hurdle of a tie, since no one likes ties. For example. If there are nine people in the tribe, you need to get five votes to kick someone out. The next week, when there are eight people, you still need to get five people to vote someone out, but there is now one fewer person so there is even more scrambling and even fewer options. Now that I have explained this, I can explain how Blair messed everything up last week and why keeping Abi and voting that blonde lesbian who never said anything was really stupid.
First of all, Blair is now saying that she doesn't want to sit next to someone who deserves it in the finale, she wants to sit next to someone who she can beat. Wait, what? All game she's been talking about how her word is God's bond and how she can't go against her promises to people and now suddenly she's all, "I just want to win and screw the God nonsense." I think it has something to do with her hunky younger brother Justice coming to visit. Anyway, she should have realized this last week when there were seven players and she could have stayed with Penner and Carter and got rid of Denise to weaken Malcolm. Last week the only people left in the game who probably could have beaten her were Malcolm and Penner and only one of them stood a chance to keep winning immunity challenges (and it was not the doughy guy in the fedora). She should have tried to chip away at Malcolm's support to make him easier to send him home in the not-too-distant future. But she didn't. Now there are six people and she's screwed.
So, what does she and her alliance do? They get rid of Carter, a man who has not said one word, because they are afraid that he'll win immunity in the future. Know what? Good! Fine! Let Carter get to the end. Who cares? Carter has not played this game for one second so he has no case to make for why he should sound get a laughably large cardboard check on The CBS Morning Show. Also, even if he did have a case, all he can do is grunt and stammer so how is he even going to convince people to vote for him? He will not. Even in this episode, Abi comes up to him and is like, "Looks like there is a strong alliance of four that we aren't in." Carter replies, "I'm not even thinking about that right now." That's because he hasn't thought about the game since scrambling on the sandy shore in his board shorts. He has been a completely passive player, wandering around as if in a hypnotized fog. That man is not going to win Survivor. He couldn't even win a game of Tic-Tac-Toe in the sand. If you want someone you can beat in the end, you take Carter.
Know who you do not keep around? Abi! You do not let Abi stay in this game. Yes, she sucks at challenges, but she is a far more resilient player than Carter or Denise (who, after a strong run at the beginning of the game has faded into the background) and she will find a way to weasel her way into the finish. That is why you do not keep Abi. Aside from her being mega annoying, there are going to be people who the Big Four pissed off along the way who will vote for her thinking, "Yeah, she's awful, but she stayed in and played hard and got to the end even though people hate her." Unlike Carter or Denise, the coattail riders, Abi has a case. "I was hated and I still made it through." It's a crappy case, but it is still a case. Abi can beat you in the end.
And this brings me back to odds and evens. Next week there will be five players, which means it is the last time any of the Big Four can really shake things up before the finale. If you look at the alliance, it is really two alliances of two, Malnise and Blairpin. (That's Malcolm and Denise and Blair and Skupin mashed together. Us Weekly I am not.) And then there is Abi. If Abi was a smart player, and Abi isn't very smart, but she is a player (unlike Carter) she will go to one or both of the pairs and say, "You need to kick one of those other guys out if you want to make it to the end. You need me to do that." What she needs to do is go to Lisa and Michael and tell them Malcolm wins hands down if he makes it to the end, because that is the truth, and they need to vote him out. That is why you do not keep Abi if you are Malcolm and Denise. That is why you take Carter. Do you know how next week goes if Carter is around? Carter lies in the shelter and bats the flies out of his face and they all sit around and cry about how sad it is that they have to send Carter home and Carter gets so passive he doesn't even get up off his stump to go vote. He just accepts his fate with a sigh. That is why you keep Carter!
Now I have to circle back around to how Blair screwed everything up last week by not getting rid of Denise. If she had stuck with Penner and voted out Denise, Malcolm would have known he was in trouble and would have been forced to play the hidden immunity idol the next week (if he didn't win the immunity challenge). That makes him easier to eject. As it stands, he still has the idol and, even if he feels safe, he might play it just because it's the last time he can. That means for Blair and Skupin and Abi to get out the biggest threat in the game they have to...I don't know what...they have to do something that both gets enough votes and neutralizes his idol and keep him from winning immunity.
Those are this week's strategy tips. Here are some other things in the episode to make fun of.
–Malcolm told his brother, Miles, "I look so good with my shirt off now." Oh, Malcolm, do we ever know it.
–During the visit from the loved ones, Denise gets a visit from her...husband? Question Mark? Denise is straight? Question Mark? Well, good for her!
–Blair and her brother Justice and Michael Skupin squared pray to God that their plan to oust Malcolm will work. She tells God that, whoever he wants to win to make that his will. Guess what, God told me who he wants to win Survivor. Do you know what he said? "What is Survivor." Yes, God does not give a donkey's cart about the game of Survivor. And, if he did, he let Malcolm win individual immunity, so that means that God hates Lisa. Or God wants Malcolm to win. You guys are screwed.
–When talking about how Jesus would play Survivor Blair says that Jesus would "play like Carter, and that's even worse." Haha. It's funny cause it's true.
–Abi's mom is just as bad at challenges as her daughter. Doesn't fall far from the tree.
–Michael Skupin's son Michael 2: This Time It's Personal is on the show for about 15 minutes and already manages to injure himself dramatically. Even when falling from a tree, he does not fall far from the tree.
–Carter's one second of lobbying for himself was the saddest thing I have ever seen.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: CBS]
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The best way to go into Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is to think of it as the first film in a brand new franchise; a franchise in which mermaids love men zombies won’t eat you and a Fountain of Youth exists but all laws of logic reasoning and competent storytelling don’t. Although screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were smart enough to sever the narrative ties to the first two sequels in their franchise’s fourth outing the latest swashbuckling adventure in the series shares most of the same faults its predecessors faced.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) steps in for Gore Verbinski in On Stranger Tides but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his contributions to the already-flashy film that finds our hero Capt. Jack Sparrow (the inimitable Johnny Depp) on the hunt for the fore mentioned fountain. Of course he’s not the only one looking for eternal life: also in tow are nameless stereotypical Spaniards the English crown headed by a reformed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard a ruthless pirate who looks and sounds a lot like Ian McShane. Their paths cross on numerous occasions as the story scrambles across the map culminating in a splashy battle in a magical meadow where Ponce de Leon’s greatest discovery lies.
Less a cohesive story and more a collection of individual set pieces linked together by nonsensical dialogue and supernatural occurrences the film isn’t all that hard to follow if you don’t strain yourself doing so. The sequence of events collide so conveniently for the characters you can’t help but call the screenplay anything but the result of complacency while the film itself sails so swiftly from point to point it’s actually a waste of time to dwell on plot holes and motives. Disrupting its momentum (which is one of the few things the film has going for it) is an unwatchable romance between Sam Claflin’s missionary Philip and Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) one of a handful of murderous mermaids who do battle with Blackbeard’s crew. Their bland courtship will have you begging for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to return to the high seas and that’s saying something.
The all-female fish people are one of a few additions to the Pirates world but their effect on the film is negligible outside of being the impetus for the coolest action sequence in the picture and perhaps the most unnerving of the series. The others include Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s busty daughter Angelica and Stephen Graham as shipmate Scrum. The former feels out of place among the cartoony happenings but provides much needed sass while the latter fills in for Kevin McNally’s Gibbs for much of the film and is a pleasure to watch for some hammy comedic moments.
As always however this is Depp’s show and he continues to put a smile on my face with his charisma and theatrical presence. Even though he’s operating on autopilot throughout you can’t help but marvel at his energy and enthusiastic output as he literally fuels the fun in the film. The same can be said of Rush who’s given a meatier and more significant arc this time around. He trades quips with Depp as if they were a golden-age comedy duo and they remain the most appealing attraction in the franchise. Though he brings an undeniable sense of danger to the picture I was sadly underwhelmed by McShane’s Blackbeard a character with such a domineering reputation and imposing look he should’ve been stealing scenes left and right. Instead I felt he phoned his performance in though that could’ve been the result of Marshall’s indirection.
No better than the genre-bending original but a slight improvement over Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End On Stranger Tides suffers centrally from lack of a commanding captain. Marshall’s role is relegated to merely on-set facilitator or perhaps liaison between legions of talented craftspeople that make the movie look so good. Whatever vision he had for this venture if he had a unique take at all is chewed up and spit out by the engines of the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster factory rendering the film as mechanical as the ride from which it is based.
In adapting a rather flimsy children’s book into a full-fledged feature film one has to take some liberties. We first meet the lovable little monkey in the wild where his curious habits wreck havoc. Meanwhile in the big city Ted (voiced by Will Ferrell)--aka The Man with the Yellow Hat--is a highly enthusiastic guide at the soon-to-be-closed Bloomsberry Museum. In order to save the museum (here’s where they pad it) he is sent on a mission to Africa to retrieve a lost shrine. But when he gets there the only thing he finds is a miniature version of it--and George of course. The lonely monkey decides to follow Ted all the way back to the city where his mischievous tendencies get him into even more trouble. George nearly ruins everything for Ted but somehow the little feller eventually grows on him. How could he not? If I can borrow a line from Madagascar little George is so cute I just like to dunk him in my coffee. When you’re reading Curious George out loud to your kids you don’t get the impression The Man with the Yellow Hat is a good-natured but geeky fellow gangly clumsy and clueless about women. Thank goodness the film has Will Ferrell to clear it up for us! You basically know what you’re in for once you recognize his voice and his natural comic timing shines through lending for some funnier moments (“OK I’m looking directly into the sun. Staring right at it. I’ve got to be honest with you it stings…”). The other voices in the film also do a fine job including Drew Barrymore as a schoolteacher who has a crush on Ted; Eugene Levy as the mad museum scientist; Dick Van Dyke as the museum’s old-time curator; and David Cross as his weasly greedy son. Based on the books and illustrations by Margret and H.A. Rey Curious George embraces the essence of the timeless stories created 65 years ago. The film apparently took awhile to find its voice. Producer Ron Howard originally conceived it as live-action film but quickly realized they could never get a real monkey as cute and fuzzy as George. Then CGI was considered but ultimately the filmmakers kept returning to the source: the late H.A. Rey’s original painstakingly beautiful illustrations. Thankfully they stuck with that idea. Curious George is lush and vibrant with all of Rey’s best efforts fully realized in Technicolor. And much like what the Piglet’s Big Movie did with Carly Simon and The Wild Thornberrys with Paul Simon Curious George is also sprinkled with original songs by hot pop singer Jack Johnson to give it a modern feel. So what if the story gets a little overblown in parts it will still introduce one of literature’s most enduring icons to the young-un’s--while allowing the adults to reminisce.
Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) never aspires to become one of the youngest people ever to make the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List--it just kind of turns out that way. His adventures begin in 1967 when he runs away from home at 16 just as his parents are divorcing. He finds himself alone in the Big Apple unsuccessfully trying to cash fake $20 checks. One day Frank notices how much respect is given to two airline pilots and he decides impersonating a Pan Am co-pilot might be just the ticket so to speak. Thus begins his brilliant three-year run as a master of deception. After infiltrating Pan Am he changes careers--he's a pediatrician then a lawyer--all the while perfecting his forgery skills. Cashing fake checks all over the country Abagnale amasses millions and quite literally becomes a kid in a candy store buying sports cars and fancy suits losing his virginity and pretending he is James Bond. Still the fact remains Frank is just a kid. Even after all these adult experiences his main objective is to get his father Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) a down-on-his-luck store owner hounded by the IRS back together with his now-remarried mother (Nathalie Baye). Frank's nefarious activities eventually catch the authorities' attention and Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) a no-nonsense FBI agent in charge of the bank fraud division is soon hot on Frank's tail. But Frank doesn't mind. Part of him wants to get caught and he baits Hanratty to never give up the chase. Hanratty never does and finally brings his man to justice.
Catch Me's acting ensemble shines. Given the fact DiCaprio is in two high-profile movies this holiday season--this one and Gangs of New York--puts the actor back on the radar after a hiatus (perhaps he was licking his wounds after starring in the disastrous 2001 The Beach). Yet if you were to match the performances DiCaprio's stellar turn as Abagnale definitely stands out as the better of the two (the Golden Globes feel the same recently giving DiCaprio a nod for best actor in a drama). He fits the part like a glove--all at once charismatic childish vulnerable and deadly intelligent. DiCaprio easily shows how Frank isn't necessarily a sociopath but more a needy kid looking for acceptance. Say what you will about DiCaprio's movie star qualities he still has the acting chops to make it work. Walken as Frank Sr. also gives one of the better performances of his career playing a sad man who knows the apple doesn't fall from the tree but who is too proud to admit his mistakes--even to his son. Hanks is superb as well (is there anything this man can't do?) playing the by-the-book Hanratty completely devoid of emotion--but making us laugh anyway every time he comes on the screen. He doesn't mean to of course but to see Hanks play something so obviously straight somehow brings out the humor in the situation even more. Just don't ask Hanratty to tell you a joke. TV's Alias honey Jennifer Garner also makes a nice cameo as a prostitute--watch out folks she's heading for the big screen.
Based on the real-life memoirs of Frank W. Abagnale Jr. Catch Me If You Can is a fascinating study of a brilliant mind which isn't by nature criminal--just slightly misguided (ironically the real Abagnale now in his 50s is a legitimate businessman who also acts as an consultant for the FBI's bank fraud division). Under the skillful hands of director Steven Spielberg Catch Me has a great deal of fun going for a very '60s tongue-in-cheek Pink Panther feel from the opening credits to the ease at which Frank goes about his merry way conning everyone including himself. The motto of the film has to be "never deny." Frank accepts everything and things just fall into his lap. Even when Frank tries to tell the truth to the father (played by Martin Sheen) of a woman he wants to marry it works to his advantage. Yet the meat of the film is Frank's inner turmoil at the breakup of his parents of wanting his family back together again and of his need to come clean. Frank secretly wants to be disciplined told what to do and that's why Hanratty becomes so important almost a fatherly figure to him. The film probably plays about a half hour too long especially in explaining what happens to Abagnale after he gets caught but otherwise it totally engages you.