Mornings have suddenly become the most interesting time slot on TV, and it's not because Hoda and Kathie Lee have discovered a new cocktail. With new celebrity feuds, gossip about anchors' contracts, and a major ratings upset, these days what's happening behind the scenes is far more interesting than what's on air.
The biggest news is that after 16 years and 852 weeks, the Today Show lost its top ratings spot to Good Morning America. Preliminary Nielsen data shows that GMA beat Today by 13,000 viewers for the week ending April 13.
Today executive producer Jim Bell wasn't bitter in his response, saying of his team, "we tip our caps to the team at Good Morning America," and adding, "While the streak has been wonderful affirmation of our work, it has never defined us, and we will continue to innovate, take chances and lead the way."
Though the Today staff can't be happy about GMA closing the ratings gap, the loss actually proves that anchor Matt Lauer is one of the most valuable assets in morning TV. NBC just signed a contract giving Lauer a reported $25 million annual salary for four more years, and it appears he's worth every penny.
The ratings shift is very bad news for Lauer's co-anchor, Ann Curry. For weeks rumors have been circulating that her days at Today are numbered, and apparently she wasn't enough of a draw to keep viewers from flipping to ABC.
Curry isn't the only one on thin ice at NBC. Kathy Griffin has been "re-banned" from the Today Show. Griffin explains, "Over the years since Suddenly Susan in 1996, I have been banned and re-banned from the Today Show by several people. Katie Couric at one point. Matt Lauer at one point. This time my camp heard that it was actually Natalie Morales — who is on the show, I don't even know if she's the co-host, I think she reads the news." Supposedly the feud started when Griffin snubbed Morales at the Golden Globes, but the comedian doesn't remember receiving an interview request. Griffin is launching a Bravo talk show, which like NBC is owned by Comcast, and she jokes that this is an example of "synergy in action."
As if that isn't enough drama for one perky morning show, Today is also battling Alec Baldwin. Last week he railed against the show on Twitter for camping out outside of his apartment to report on his alleged stalker's arrest. Baldwin declared that he's "leaving NBC just in time," but now he's clarified that he'll still be on the network's payroll for another year. Tina Fey hinted on The View that the "end is on the horizon" for 30 Rock, and on Monday Baldwin confirmed that he'll stay on the show for the seventh and final season.
[Hollywood Reporter, MetroMix, AP]
Matt Lauer Will Stay on 'Today Show'
Tina Fey Says '30 Rock' End is Nigh: The Series' Aging Timeline
Alec Baldwin Slams 'Today Show,' Says He's Leaving NBC
Rejoice, morning news fans: Your beloved Matt Lauer isn't going anywhere. Despite rumors that he would leave the Today Show when his contract ran out, Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, says Lauer has signed "a long-term deal" to stay on the program. “Matt is the franchise, and our franchise player has decided to keep leading our team,” said Capus. An official announcement will be made tomorrow.
The future of Lauer's co-host Ann Curry is still unclear. Curry's transition into the spot vacated by Meredith Viera has been rocky, and sources claim that she'll soon be replaced by Savannah Guthrie.
Ryan Seacrest's Big Announcement: Much Ado About Nothing?
'Today' and 'GMA' Showdown: Sarah Palin vs. Katie Couric
Charlie Sheen on 'Today': Stop Apologizing Already!
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Well, Today fans, the good news is that unlike his costar, Meredith Vieira, who could leave the morning show as early as September, Matt Lauer's contract won't be up until 2012. The bad news is that he's planning to chart a new path once his contract hits its expiration date in December 2012. The LA Times speculates that he might be hoping to reunite with former Today co-host Katie Couric on her new venture, but nothing's really certain at this point. With all this shuffling around, it looks like we may (MAY) still have Anne Curry, though her contract is coming up for negotiation as well, and good ol' Al "Here's what's happening in your neck of the woods" Roker will stick around. I'm guessing that strange guy who does the Smuckers Birthday announcements will continue to read those from various sunny locations in Florida, the lucky bastard. (Seriously, his job is to stand somewhere sunny and say happy birthday to adorable old people. Best gig ever.)
Now, don't panic. It will be okay. Remember when Couric left and everyone thought they'd never enjoy morning news again? Well, Today is the number one morning show, so I think we're okay.
Source: LA Times
S7:E:12: This week Top Chef proved that the weeks of gimmicks and puns and rerun challenges have not been leading up to a rewarding finale populated by worthy and talented chefs but instead to an extension of that tired, fossilized formula. Top Chef began in the style of reality television pioneered by shows like American Idol, Survivor, and The Bachelor. But unlike those decidedly more trashy franchises, which have evolved with changing tastes and kept up with the expectations of more psychological pornography and more entertaining characters and exploitative situations, Top Chef has staid the course with stuffy challenges, uninteresting contestants, lack of hysterics and hard bodies, and a disregard for dramatic narrative.
This is not necessarily a bad thing and has kept Top Chef from going off in the direction of its more flashy cousin, Hell's Kitchen. Top Chef remains classy and relatively high-brow, but has sacrificed basic reality show decency. Essential rights have been forsaken, like giving viewers a finale with engaging, attractive, interesting people. By this I mean that Tiffany is out. K. Sbrags and Mr. Ed and Kelly the wet blanket are still around. It doesn’t make sense, and probably never will.
This Quick Fire was all about wine pairings. A Dana Corwin from Food and Wine Magazine joined the chefs and babbled about how important wine is to the enjoyment of a meal etc. Some cheftestants were excited and all a-twitter – Angelo could barely contain himself as he sipped and swirled and danced about, pontificating to the others about the importance of understanding wine flavors. Others, such as Tiffany, were not as comfortable with the challenge (Tiffany explained she has a “wine guy” at her restaurant).
K. Sbrags messed up his braised pork late in the hour and had to switch to pigeon meat, and Ed made steak while Angelo made a foie-gras slab. Dana was appreciatively less obnoxiously snobby than expected, and handed Angelo the win and a trip to London for his slab of liver.
Padma then announced that the finale of Top Chef: D.C. would be held in Singapore! The chefs were skipping with glee, but none more than Angelo – “I’m Asian inside, 100%. I’m tingling. I’m tingling inside.” I think that says it all.
From wine pairings to space travel, this elimination challenge was the crown jewel of a season of themed challenges. They went all out for this one, traveling to a NASA command center, which was AWESOME. They teleconferenced with astronauts on the space station, which was also AWESOME. The female astronaut was hilariously camping it up for television, twirling around and making goofy faces. The challenge was to make a dish that could be freeze-dried and eaten in space! So good. I was disappointed they didn’t really get into how food is freeze-dried, what it looks like, and how they eat it, but no matter.
At the judging, the honorable Buzz Aldrin was presiding (who has had a funny turn in 30 Rock recently), joined several other food scientists and astronauts along with guest judge ANTHONY BOURDAIN. I love love love this man. Huge sloppy crush on him. I love No Reservations and watching him on Top Chef was like the The Jetsons meet the Flintstones. Eric Ripert and Tony are friends IRL and watching him get in a few digs to old “Ripper” was absolutely divine.
The dishes this time around seemed to all be very well executed. Angelo made a ginger-glazed short-rib, Ed whipped up a complicated Mediterranean dish with a croquette, Tiffany cooked a piece of halibut with curry rice while Kelly did halibut with a Provence sauce, and K. Sbrags made a sirloin steak and friend onions.
Tony Bourdain seemed to like most everything, he shat on Ripert for his “cynical jaded life view” and nitpicking. The astronauts had little to say except “yummm” and the unfortunate food scientist gurgled about the merits of freeze-drying: “you can’t have those sorts of excess fluids in space!”
The Judges this week were amicable and gabby. Tony and Eric bantered a bit, with Tom (a little intimidated by all the celebrity chef-ing) chiming in here and there. In the end, it was decided that Angelo’s glazed ribs, though too sweet for some of the judge’s tastes, were an elegant and delicious concoction destined for the far reaches of space!
Now to the terrible bad news. Tiffany was sent home. Yes. Arguably the most talented chef in the competition, she was sent home for a curry that tasted a tad too strongly of fish sauce and needed a pinch more acidity. The injustice was almost unbearable. Tiffany, usually so loud and jolly just burst into tears. She kept it classy and resigned. This is a sad dark day for us, Top Chef viewers. We are now staring down the barrel of a two-part finale with no Kenny, no Tiffany, half an Angelo, two boring white people, and a rotund guido. To infinity and beyond.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.