Archive for February, 2007

Big Pussy drops the dance

Turns out Vincent Pastore is living up to his “Sopranos” moniker.

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The actor who played Big Pussy on the HBO hit has bowed out of the fourth season of “Dancing with the Stars” before the competition even began.

Pastore, 60, withdrew after one week of training. Pastore came to the decision that the physical demands of a ten-week season would be too difficult for him to undertake.

“When I initially committed to joining ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ I didn’t realize just how physically demanding it would be for me. Unable to put forth my best effort, I felt it appropriate to step aside and give someone else the opportunity,” Pastore says. “I’d like to thank ABC and the show’s producers for inviting me to participate. I wish my partner, Edyta, and the other dancers the best of luck.”

“We’re sad that Vincent felt he was unable to continue in the competition, as he would have been great on the show,” adds executive producer Conrad Green. “But we appreciate him standing aside now rather than having to withdraw later. ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is physically demanding and it pays to know your limits. We respect his decision.”

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Top Model Arrives!

OK, so it doesn’t actually arrive until Wednesday, but I’m excited about this new season already.

Tyra goes military in the beginning, and who can’t love Miss J in her short-shorts cammies. It’s a fun two-hour ride, although anyone who has been reading the blog will know the ID’s of the Final 13.

The initial contestants are whittled down to the final 13 by the end of the first hour.

In the second hour, we get to the challenges (thrift store fashion!) and the judges kick off the first wannabe.

Trust me, she deserved it just for the stupid answer she gave the judges.

And let me know what you think of the Russian.

Here’s some highlights:

And Tyra talks about the finalists:

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“Heroes” Best Ep Yet

How much do we love “Heroes”?

Last night, in an episode written by the wonderful Bryan Fuller (“Wonderfalls”), we had an episode that gave us answers, offered new questions and made us want to cry like a little baby.

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Bryan Fuller

Dad really did have Claire’s best interests at heart. This episode allowed us inside the dark heart of Mr. Bennett.

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Jack Coleman and Hayden Panettiere in burning house

He’s a company man who uses people, and discards them when they are no longer necessary. We saw how he tried to eliminate the Invisible Man, and more importantly, we discovered that they used to be partners.

But he does love his family, especially Claire – the little mutant he was supposed to turn over to his bosses at The Company if she ever showed signs of being “special.”

We also saw that Hiro’s dad may just own The Company. How much does sis know? And just how much does he love his own super child?

And did you notice that they were meeting at the top of the Devereaux building? Was Mr. Devereaux part of The Company?

And when the Haitian “went deep” to take away Mr. Bennett’s memories that might lead the bad guys to his beloved Claire, did he also take away what made him love her? Is he now a threat to Claire?

So many questions answered, and so many more raised.

And then the previews. Is Simone really alive? Is she another hero or just in some strange dream? And we finally get to meet the mysterious Linderman.

In next week’s episode, we’re introduced to yet another Hero: Missy Peregrym as Candice Wilmer.

God, I love this show.

Here’s the storyline for next week:

With the election and NYC’s destruction looming, Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) has a disturbing face-to-face meeting with the shadowy Linderman. Hiro’s (Golden Globe nominee Masi Oka) attempt to steal the sword steers him into a grim new direction. Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) makes a breakthrough on “the list” — at great cost. D.L. (Leonard Roberts) begins to suspect all is not well at home. Isaac (Santiago Cabrera) paints his most terrible painting yet. New “hero” Candice Wilmer (guest star Missy Peregrym) makes an illusive debut.

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Oscar Quotes

When you’re a TV critic, the only way to watch the Oscars is in front of the tube.

That’s why the lovely and talented Oakland Tribune freelancer Lana K. Wilson-Combs needed to be at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

But before we get to her quotes, I’d like to set the stage. The Kodak Theater is a a freakin’ MALL in Hollywood next to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Renaissance Hotel – which is actually just a dressed-up former Holiday Inn.

It’s tourist central, so I guess it makes sense. Anyway, heeerre’s Lana:

Forest Whitaker–After winning the “Best Actor” award for “The Last King of Scotland.”
“I had no idea that I’d be standing here tonight. So many people thought that this would be a lock and I never thought that. I was among some great actors. I’m so honored and so humbled. It’s a big achievement and I thank God for it.”

Leonardo DiCaprio–Before the Oscars.
“I’m in a very tough category with some extremely talented actors. So I’m not sure if this will be my night. I have a good feeling that the night will belong to Scorsese.”
(After The Oscars)
“See I told you so.”

Jack Nicholson–When asked if he and Britney Spears go to the same hairstylist. Laughs.
“It’s actually for a movie I’m doing with Morgan Freeman called “The Bucket List.“ It’s about a guy who is terminally ill with cancer.”

Djimon Hounsou–When asked about his chances to win “Best Supporting Actor.”
“I stopped predicting things I can’t control. I do have my fingers crossed and we’ll see what happens. Either way, I’m very proud of the movie (“Blood Diamond”) and the opportunity to work with Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Jennifer Lopez–Clutching tightly to her husband Marc Anthony and stopping for every photo op on the red carpet. When asked about her latest music plans.
“I have a new album coming out in June. It’s going to be hot.”
“She’s not lying either, chimed in Anthony. I’ve heard a few tracks and it’s sizzling.”

Daniel “007” Craig— Looking absolutely smashing in an Armani tuxedo. How he feels about resurrecting the iconic James Bond character and the success of “Casino Royale?”

“I did my best with the role and I’m happy that people latched on to the new Bond. (His upcoming “Bond 22”) “It continues from “Casino Royale.” It’s based on the Ian Fleming short story “Risico.” (The story also appeared in his book “For Your Eyes Only.”)

Louis Gossett Jr.–Academy Award winning actor who is currently starring in “Daddy’s Little Girls”).
“I’m just here taking in all the sights and sounds. I’m not presenting or anything. I would love to see Forest Whitaker win tonight.”

Jennifer Hudson— Before her win. “This is just too much. I don’t know how long this dream is going to last. It’s been non-stop excitement for me leading up to this big moment. I’m really trying to wrap myself around all of what’s going on.”

After her win for “Best Supporting Actress.”
“It’s a great feeling. I can’t describe it. I want this dream to last forever.”

On her co-star Eddie Murphy losing for “Best Supporting Actor.”
“I’m shocked. Stunned. He did such an amazing job in the film. I really wish he would have won.”

James Taylor–performed “Our Town” (“Cars”)–His upcoming projects.
“I’m probably not going to do another Christmas CD anytime soon but I am going into the studio and work on another pop album that I hope to complete by the end of summer.” I just finished my One Man Band Tour stop show at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. the turnout and the crowd was great. I love playing the Bay Area.”

Keith Robinson–Star of “Dreamgirls.”
“I can’t believe I’m here. Pinch me. Go ahead and pinch me. Am I supposed to be on the Red Carpet? This is unreal.”

Siedah Garrett–Co-wrote the song, “Love You I Do” from “Dreamgirls.”
“You know how people say they’re just happy to be nominated? We’ll I’m not, I would love to win. I’m thrilled to be nominated but a win would be icing on the cake.” (Garrett lost to Melissa Etheridge who won for the song “I need to Wake Up” from the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

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Oscar’s mild ride

Ellen Degeneres has come a long way from doing her standup act at Tommy T’s San Ramon more than a decade ago.

Sporting a red velvet pantsuit, Degeneres rocked never forgetting she wasn’t just there to entertain the home crowd, but also to tickle the audience at home. Too bad the producers didn’t think about the people at home watching. At three hours and 45 minutes, it was a bloated production that needed a good edit. Instead of being a sharp show that came in a little over budget, we were yawning by the time the final credits rolled.

Yet it started out so promising. Degeneres did her best to keep the ball rolling. She yucked it up with audience members like Clint Eastwood, and even got Steven Spielberg to snap their picture for her My Space. And earlier in the evening, she pointed out that America had voted Jennifer Hudson off “American Idol” and yet she was here. And that Al Gore had been voted in by the American public, and yet…

Hudson, who had the good luck to be voted off “American Idol” so she could be free to do “Dreamgirls,” picked up an Oscar for her best supporting actress role.

“I have to take a moment to take this in. Look what God can do,” says an obviously overwhelmed Hudson. “I didn’t think I was going to win. If my grandmother could only see me now. She was a singer with the passion, but not the chance.”

The dazed Hudson barely noticed when her presenter, George Clooney, handed her the envelope as a keepsake.

Talking about dazed, by 8:30 — the time the awards show was supposed to end — we still hadn’t gotten to several major awards. Which meant once again we leisurely go through the awards so only to rush through the awards most people tuning in wanted to see.

The major honors were handed out in breakneck fashion during the last 15 minutes of the show:

Best Actress to Helen Mirren for “The Queen” showed grace under pressure thanking her fellow nominees, filmmakers and even Elizabeth Winsor, the Queen.

Best Actor to Forest Whitaker in “the Last King of Scotland,” who wrote something down because he thought he would be overwhelmed.

“The only way I saw movies as a kid was in the backseat at a drive-in. It is possible for a kid from Texas and raised in South Central (L.A.) to happen,” Whitaker said in an emotional statement. “Thank my ancestors and God.”

Three Amigos — Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas, who joked about never having won an Oscar — giving the Best Directing Oscar to their pal Martin Scorsese for “The Departed” who was the only award winner to get a standing ovation.

“Could you double-check the envelope?” he joked.

And finally Jack Nicholson asked Diane Keaton to remind everyone the nominees for Best Picture. We needed the nudge.

The Oscar went to “The Departed, ‘’ with a speech by producer Graham King that made the show go out with a yawn.

Whitaker and Hudson was one of a handful of winners who took Degeneres’ advice early in the evening when she encouraged winners to lie if they had to in order to keep the broadcast interesting. She also provided a precarious moment during the production of the best song nominee from “Dreamgirls” when she almost popped out of her red dress.

Melissa Etheridge ended up winning best song for “An Inconvenient Truth,” the documentary who took home an Oscar and inspired the Oscars to “go green.”

“I have to thank Al Gore…caring about the earth is not Republican or Democrat. It’s not red or blue,” Etheridge said. “We’re all green. We can be the greatest generation. The generation that woke up and changed.”

Earlier in the evening, Alan Arkin blandly read from crib notes to accept his best supporting actor statue for his role in “Little Miss Sunshine.” A shot of his little co-star Abigail Breslin said it for us all when she was caught gazing off in obvious boredom.

In fact, if the Oscars just went with what the public wanted, then it would be cut to half the time with all the major awards like best acting, best writing and best pictures. And we would have cut Jerry Seinfeld altogether, although we still got a kick out of the shadow dancers, Celine Dion singing, and the bit by Will Ferrell and Jack Black way back at the beginning of the night.

So why do we keep coming back? We look for those spontaneous award-show moments like the one years ago when Dolly Parton ripped her dress when she got up to collect a music award and said her dad turned to her telling her that was what happened when you tried to put 20 pounds of mud in a 5 pound sack.

Sadly, we didn’t get very many of those moments at the Oscars. But then, it’s been years since there was an impulsive moment on the show. Which could explain the dwindling ratings even for a show that was one of the best productions in recent memory.

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New Hope for “Lost”

Funny you should mention hope, Dino-Ray, because right after I read your post I got next week’s episode of “Lost” in the mail.

Like Pavlov’s Dog, I jumped on it.

It’s all about hope and Hurley, with a nice little flashback to Hurley getting deserted by his dad played by Cheech Marin. (Hey, that’s not a spoiler).

Anyway, Sawyer’s back in fine form, tossing out a record-breaking number of nicknames. We’ve also got some sweet time with Jin and Sun, and good times with Charlie.

Finally, a feel-good “Lost.” And there’s even a nice bone for those of us always looking for a little mythology tidbit.

Check it out. We’ve found our “Lost” again.

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“Lost” is losing me

So what have we learned in the past two episodes?

We found out that turning the key is Desmond’s destiny, and that his girlfriend Penny’s sinister dad has a picture of a polar bear in his office.

Stop tweaking me, Lost writers.

Then last night we have sort of a Jack-centric episode that jerks us around about how Jack got his tats and what they mean. It was a like a bad SNL skit about Dancing with Wolves: Jack is man who walks with us but alone?

Get off the island, man.

Also, we find out that Alcatraz is just some island where The Others work and apparently, when they aren’t working, they live in some comfy suburb with regular backyards where teens gaze at the stars at night.

That is, when they aren’t being killed by the elders for crossing the line.

And the stewardess from Flight 815 likes looking at Jack caged up.

Get me back to my peeps on the island. I want Sayid, Hurley, Jin, Sun and Locke. And I want Sawyer, Kate and Jack back with them

And next week, could Charlie be the next character to move on to the next world?

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American idles

Not that you asked, but Death Valley was much more entertaining than the name would suggest.

Talk about a real Death Valley, let’s get down to the first day of “American Idol” competition. Most of the singers left me with the “THIS is all you could come up with after all those auditions????”

First off, put your shoes on Paul Kim. It’s not endearing, it’s annoying.

And how did you go from being from Saratoga to San Jose? We’re still thinking that pool technician from Saratoga just means you’re cleaning your parents’ pool while trying to hit the big time.

Still, we’re willing to give Paul another week to show us his stuff. The judges say he’s got the best voice in the competition. Maybe you have to be in the auditorium…

Who knew the guy we’d like the best would be Beat Box Blake? He really showed off the pipes. Our top five picks right now are Blake, Chris R., Jared, Phil and Chris S. because he’s got spunk and we like spunk.

We’ll give Brandon an honorable mention.

But it’s way past time for Sanjaya to go home. We’ll get it out now. He’s our No. 1 pick for exile island. It’s creepy the way he smiles nervously while his eyes dart around like a wildlife caught in the cross-hairs.

Second is Mr. Knights in White Satin. What the hell were you thinkin’ Sundance?

Now, it’s time to gear up for the girls tonight.

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Death Valley Days

OK, there’s so much I want to blog about:

There’s the bloodbath that’s going to happen on “Heroes.”

There’s the start of the real “American Idol.” (Please, all those auditions mean nothing. Some of the golden ticket winners have already been “uninvited,” which happens every year.)

There’s the action on “Lost” finally getting back to its core group and away from “Alcatraz Island.”

And then there’s Jack Bauer’s dad. Not since “Macbeth” has there been so much evil in one drama.

But even people who only watch TV for a living need to go on vacation. And where better to go to get away from phones and TVs than Death Valley.

So, as Simon says, off we go. And don’t worry. Everything is waiting for me on the DVR when I get back.

Chat with you all next week. And in the meantime, feel free to look over past blog items and comment at will.

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Kiefer admits to torching himself

Well, it wasn’t actually Kiefer Sutherland who got torched, but his little doll.

Oops. Make the “action figure.”

McFarlane Toys’ first “24” action figure based on Jack Bauer, Kiefer’s character on “24”, is expected to hit store shelves in August, with the second scheduled for holiday season 2007 release.

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It could have come out a year earlier if they hadn’t sent the figure to Kiefer to get his approval.

As Kiefer told us during a TV critics set tour, he was working on the film “The Sentinel” when the prototype for the doll was sent to him.

“So we decided to take him out one night for dinner and a couple of drinks and then we lit him on fire in the parking lot,” Kiefer says. “It was pretty cool.”

Until he got the phone call later from the company asking him how he liked the action figure.

“I told them I liked it, and then they asked me to send it back,” Kiefer says. “I told them `You need to leave me a note about returning things in advance.’ It took a gentleman in Japan a year just to make it, and we were just having some fun with it not knowing.”

So, I asked Kiefer how the gentleman in Japan took the news of his creation’s destruction.

“I didn’t have that conversation with him” Kiefer says. “But I can imagine that he wasn’t happy.”

So, does this stunt rank right up with the most embarrassing thing he’s ever done?

“No,” Kiefer says. “That would have to be the Christmas tree.”

Ah, the Christmas tree. That’s the time Kiefer spied a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby in England and did a flying tackle. Check it out:

In fairness, Jack Bauer would have been proud. Kiefer asked first and offered to pay for the tackled tree.

Still, not something he looks back on with any fondness.

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