Oct 16

"Blazing Saddles" screens tonight in San Luis Obispo

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Mel Brooks’s off-color comedy “Blazing Saddles” is best in the West

Note: If this post about “Blazing Saddles” seems familiar, it’s because I originally ran it in 2011. However, the facts are still pertinent.

Mel Brooks, the delightfully crass filmmaker behind “The Producers,” “Spaceballs” and “Young Frankenstein,” has never worried about being politically correct.

Unlike other movie mavens, who tiptoe around sensitive topics and prefer philosophizing to fart jokes, Mel loves to celebrate the outrageous and the obscene.

Yes, his humor can come across as juvenile, but it’s so gleefully crude, so exuberantly rude, and that even the most serious, cynical critic is more inclined to chuckle than scowl.

“Blazing Saddles,” Brooks’ 1974 magnum opus, is at once a groundbreaking Western spoof with a valuable social message and an off-color comedy of the foulest, filthiest kind. After all, the movie features enough racial slurs, sexual innuendos and other questionable material to make the cast of “South Park” blush.

In “Blazing Saddles,” the frontier town of Rock Ridge is the only thing standing in the way of a new railroad line.  Seeking to purchase the land for cheap, conniving State Attorney Hedley Lamar (Harvey Korman) engineers a plot guaranteed to drive the townspeople out.

He convinces the dim-witted governor (Brooks) to appoint a black railroad worker named Bart (the handsome and hilarious Cleavon Little) as sheriff.

Unfortunately, the ignorant townspeople don’t take kindly the idea of a black sheriff.

As the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) explains to his friend, “What did you expect? ‘Welcome, sonny?’ ‘Make yourself at home?’ ‘Marry my daughter?’ You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

The hapless residents of Rock Ridge aren’t the only people to earn Brooks’ scorn.

Over the course of the movie, he insults women, horses, the handicapped, Hollywood types, Native Americans, Jews, the Chinese and the Irish. There’s even a dig at screen siren Marlene Dietrich.

Brooks, it must be said, is an “equal opportunity offender.”

“Blazing Saddles” screens at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Fremont movie theater, 1025 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo. Come a half-hour early for trivia and prizes.

Tickets are $8 apiece.

Oct 12

Tim Burton returns to his roots with "Frankenweenie"

Young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) brings his pet dog back from the dead in "Frankenweenie."

Tim Burton’s latest film will fill viewers with warm, fuzzy feelings

Victor Frankenstein, the youthful protagonist of “Frankenweenie,” is kind of a weird kid.

Obsessed with filmmaking and monster movies, Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is intelligent yet introverted — a shy genius whose constant companion is his pet dog, Sparky.

“A boy needs to spend time with his friends,” Victor’s father (Martin Short) protests. “I don’t think he has any friends,” his mother (Catherine O’Hara) replies, “other than Sparky.”

Yes, with the possible exception of gentle Goth girl Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder) and science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), Sparky is Victor’s only ally in the straight-jacketed suburbs of New Holland. So when the playful pooch is hit by a car, Victor takes it particularly hard.

If only he could save Sparky. If only he could bend the laws of nature and bring his beloved pet back from the dead.

Inspired by a classroom science experiment, Victor stitches together Sparky’s corpse, attaches bolts to its neck, and hoists his ironing board/operating table to the heavens. A lightning storm does the rest.

Victor tries to keep his Franken-fido under wraps. But when his classmate Edgar (Atticus Shaffer), a hunchbacked kid who sounds an awful lot like Peter Lorre, spots the undead dog rooting through the trash, he’s forced to share his secrets.

Soon every kid in town — including cerebral Asian student Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao), Blob-like Bob (Robert Capron) and Boris Karloff lookalike Nassor (Short) — is clamoring to create their own monster. What could possibly go wrong?

Tim Burton has experienced a bit of a creative dry patch in the last few years, churning out commercial blockbusters such as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Dark Shadows” that were long on style and short on substance.

Fortunately, “Frankenweenie” represents a true return to his roots. Based on the 1984 live-action short Burton crafted as a Disney animator, this black-and-white beauty is at once a quirky supernatural comedy in the vein of “Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and a tribute to his influences: Japanese monster movies, Universal creature features and other ghoulish horror flicks.

It’s a marvelously macabre family film — one that references everything from “Gremlins” to “Gamera.” Heck, Victor’s cookie-cutter neighborhood is straight out of “Edward Scissorhands”

“Frankenweenie” isn’t quite perfect. (The ending, for instance, is rather abrupt.) But it’s such a charming movie, packed with cute and creepy moments, that it’s easy to overlook any flaws.

Oct 10

Tune in tonight for TV drama

Stephen Amell stars as the title crimefighter in "Arrow," premiering tonight on The CW. .

“Arrow,” “Nashville” are among new dramas premiering tonight

This is a big week for televised drama.

Tonight, television viewers can choose from a comic-book drama (“Arrow”), a predictable procedural about hunky firefighters (“Chicago Fire”) and a bold, ambitious soap set in the world of country music (“Nashville”). Tomorrow, it’s the premiere of “Beauty and the Beast,” a glossy reboot of the 1980s cult favorite.

Read on for my take on the new shows making their debuts this week.

***

“Arrow” (CW)
Premieres: 8 p.m. tonight

Call it “Revenge” for the comic-book set. After surviving the boating accident that killed his father, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) spent five years on a renote island honing his archery skills. Now he’s returned to civilization to clear his family’s name as the costumed crimefighter known as the Green Arrow. “Smallville” fans are the perfect audience for this show, which is equal parts gritty and goofy.

“Chicago Fire” (NBC)
Premieres: 10 p.m. tonight

Another year, another Dick Wolf procedural. This one focuses on the men and women of Chicago’s Firehouse 51, putting a special emphasis on their personal lives. If you love “Law & Order,” life-or-death drama and those hunky fireman calendars, you’ll enjoy this formulaic show.

“Nashville” (ABC)
Premieres: 10 p.m. tonight

Much like “Country Strong,” “Nashville” centers on the power struggle between an aging country star and her younger, hotter rival. In this case, country singer Rayna James (Connie Britton) is struggling to remain relevant in an industry where conniving cuties like teen sensation Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) reign supreme. To make matters more complicated, she’s torn between her former flame (Charles Esten) and her husband (Eric Close), who’s running for mayor with the help of her manipulative father (Powers Booth). Good soapy fun.

“Beauty and the Beast” (CW)
Premieres: Thursday, Oct 11 at 9/8c

Don’t let the title of this drama mislead you. Kristin Kreuk is definitely a beauty, but Jay Ryan? He’s far from beastly. Most of the time, in fact, he resembles a slightly scarred male model who misplaced his razor. This remake might share a general premise with the hit CBS series starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman — Kreuk plays a homicide detective, while Hamilton portrayed an assistant D.A. — but it lacks that show’s soulful sense of romance.

***

“Arrow” photo by Michael Courtney, courtesy of The CW Network.

Oct 02

An intimate evening with Elvis Costello

Audience bonds with English rocker Elvis Costello at San Luis Obispo concert

Note: Brittany Hensley, sales manager at The Tribune, attended Elvis Costello’s Sept. 29 concert at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo. Below is her review.

On the night of September 29, 2012, Elvis Costello took the stage at the Performing Arts Center. The tickets were nearly sold out and the audience was dotted with middle-aged die-hard fans.

Elvis took to the stage in a three-piece suit and straw hat, with a lineup of guitars that would have made any musician envy.

Outfit changes were replaced with guitar changes as he played a variety of his hits along with versions of songs from Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Costello stunned the audience with his mastery of the effects pedal, and a white police siren also made its presence known.

Old songs and new were accompanied by short stories of how they came about. “Every Day I Write the Book,” for instance, was written in less than 10 minutes and achieved fame for less than 10 minutes.

Costello also talked about family history, mentioning that his grandfather was his musical inspiration, and his upbringing in the industry.

Costello’s easy banter with the crowd reminded the audience of the humility behind the man.

The audience bonded with Costello, who performed four encore songs, ultimately playing for two and half hours. I was taken back by the legend standing in front of me, and other members in my party had a fond remembrance of Costello.

A lot of performers will jam through a concert and sing their goodbyes to move onto the next show, but Costello seemed genuinely happy to be playing in San Luis Obispo — which shone through in his performance.

Costello’s final encore was his hit “Alison.” Costello unplugged his guitar and microphone and stood at the edge of the stage and played.

This obviously touched the crowd and will be remembered by all of those where lucky enough to have attended. Old fans were pleased and new fans were awed.

Here’s a partial play list:
“Alison”
“Radio Radio”
“Watching the Detectives”
“Veronica”
“Oliver’s Army”

Sep 26

Food Network host Ted Allen savors his job

“Chopped” host Ted Allen dishes about life on the Food Network show

Your average foodie has a lot of reasons to envy Ted Allen.

For starters, he’s the James Beard Award-winning host of the Food Network’s fabulously addictive reality competition, “Chopped.” He’s the author of two cookbooks, “The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes” and “In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks.”

Ted Allen is the James Beard Award-winning host of the hit Food Network reality competition "Chopped."

And, if that weren’t enough, Allen and his partner, interior designer Barry Rice, live in a Brooklyn neighborhood populated by upscale food and wine shops designed with the gourmand in mind — from an artisanal butcher shop specializing in homemade sausage and heritage cuts of beef, lamb and pork to a French bakery “the size of a shoebox” that sells macarons “as good as in Paris.”

“A mile from me, there’s a store that sells nothing but artisinal mayonnaise,” boasted Allen, who goes grocery shopping every day with a backpack.

I recently chatted with the “Chopped” host about television, food and fame. (Here’s the complete article about Ted Allen, which ran in our Vintages section.) Below are a few interesting tidbits that didn’t make it to the printed page.

***

How would you describe your home cooking style?

I’m pretty eclectic. I’m probably still a little more meat-centric than I should be. That usually is the first decision I make. I really love grilling, braising and the long cooking of tough cuts, that’s usually the thing that gets me the most excited … Except this time of year. Then tomatoes are driving the bus, for sure.

Has “Chopped” changed the way you cook?

Every competition show teaches you a lot about cooking and ingredients. Listen to enough shows where someone says “This dish needs acidity” and you begin to apply that at home when you’re making chili or vinaigrette.

What about the way America cooks?

At a book signing in Milwaukee, a woman told me “My son now asks when we serve dinner, ‘Did you taste this before you sent it out?’” Kids love (the show)…. If you raise a kid to love cooking and food, you’re giving them a lifelong gift.

What are some of your earliest culinary memories?

Growing up, our mother always encouraged sister and me to cook, garden variety stuff like pizza and burgers. The first time a friend cooked any sort of serious gourmet food for me was in college … (He made) individual Beef Wellingtons. I can still remember it. I’d never had food like that before.

You started out as “the food and wine guy” on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” then transitioned to hosting “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef America.” Did you fall easily into the role of the “expert”?

It’s just my natural instinct to try to explain food in a way that’s digestible for a mass audience. That’s important in broadcasting. I think I would rather open doors than shut them.

What’s your shooting schedule like on “Chopped”?

Our last run was 44 episodes over three-and-a-half months…. It just turns into this blur of tattoos and chunky glasses and clogs and baggy pants with chili peppers on them …

Are those judges as mean as they look?

This show needs to preserve an atmosphere of tension. We want the chefs to be nervous, scared, apprehensive. If I act like a human, I get yelled at. They (edit) me to be this stiff, straightforward macho guy…. All of the meanest, most cutting remarks get left in, and all the kind words get cut.

Our judges are kind people … They get it. They’re all competed, everyone of them, and they know how hard it is.

***

“Chopped” host Ted Allen appears Sunday at Sunset Savor the Central Coast, a food, wine and lifestyle festival sponsored by Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitor and Conference Bureau. For more details, call (800) 634-1414 or visit www.savorcentralcoast.com.

Sep 25

Comedy, drama, supernatural scares: Fall TV has it all

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Fall television season heats up with “Ben and Kate,” “The Mindy Project”

If Sunday’s Emmy Awards proved anything, it’s that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences favors the familiar.

Aside from a few fresh offerings, including “Homeland” and “Louie,” the list of winners was replete with past winners, such as “The Amazing Race” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Jon Cryer, who previously won a supporting actor Emmy for “Two and a Half Men,” picked up a lead actor award. Meanwhile, “Veep” star Julia Louis Dreyfus snagged her third acting Emmy, and “Breaking Bad” actor Aaron Paul and “Modern Family” co-stars Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet scored their second statuettes.

It just goes to show that television is a tricky business, one ruled by the fickle fancies of television viewers. With that in mind, here are the new television shows premiering this week.

***

“Partners” (CBS)
Premieres: 8:30 p.m. tonight

From the creators of “Will & Grace” comes this sweet-but-sassy sitcom about best friends and business partners Louis (Michael Urie) and Joe (David Krumholtz). Their bromance is put to the test when Joe proposes to his longtime girlfriend (Sophia Bush) and Louis starts dating a gorgeous male nurse (Brandon Routh). Yes, it’s all very fun but rather familiar.

“Ben and Kate” (Fox)
Premieres: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

She’s an uptight single mom whose life revolves her five-year-old daughter, Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth). He’s an irresponsible slacker with a heart of gold. Together, they’re Ben (Nat Faxon) and Kate (Dakota Johnson), the kookiest pair of siblings to hit the small screen since “Modern Family.” Based on a real-life relationship, this sitcom has a cute, goofy vibe.

“Elementary” (CBS)
Premieres: 10 p.m. Tuesday

I’m getting a little sick of Sherlock Holmes. Don’t get me wrong — I love Benedict Cumberbatch’s brilliant television series “Sherlock” and Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes” films are a lot of fun. But do we really need another take on the storied sleuth? In “Elementary,” Jonny Lee Miller is Sherlock, a recovering English addict every bit as brilliant and acerbic as the title misanthrope on “House.” His sidekick is Joan Watson, Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), a former surgeon turned “sober companion.” Unfortunately, their sparkling chemistry can’t save this oh-so-tired premise.

“The Mindy Project” (Fox)
Premieres: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday

“The Office” cutie Mindy Kaling is back as a smart, successful OBGYN whose personal life is a mess. An unabashed romantic who loves sequins, champagne and “When Harry Met Sally,” Mindy resolves to give up her party girl ways and get her life back on track. Now, if only she can keep from sleeping with every cute coworker who comes her way. Utterly charming.

“Vegas” (CBS)
Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 10/9c

Not to be confused with casino dramedy “Las Vegas,” this period drama stars Dennis Quaid as Las Vegas Sheriff Ralph Lamb, a hard-nosed rancher who goes up against a powerful gangster (Michael Chiklis) in 1960s Sin City. If “Vegas” is a cross between “The Godfather” and “Rio Bravo,” as one executive producer puts it, wouldn’t this subject matter be better suited for the big screen?

“Animal Practice” (NBC)
Premieres: 8 p.m. Wednesday

When Dorothy Crane (Joanna Garcia-Swisher) takes over the title hospital, she clashes immediately with her ex-boyfriend, Dr. George Cole (“Weeds” star Justin Kirk),an irascible veterinarian who prefers the company of animals to that of their owners. “Animal Practice” has problems with pacing and tone — Does it want to be a medical drama? A quirky comedy? — but it’s difficult to deny the charm of Dr. Rizzo, aka Crystal the monkey.

“Guys With Kids” (NBC)
Premieres: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday

Late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon developed this sitcom about three pals (Jesse Bradford, Anthony Anderson and Zach Cregger) learning the ropes of parenting together. Depending on your tolerance for daddy jokes, I predict that “Guys with Kids” — much like previous bro shows “Last Man Standing” and “Man Up!” — will get pretty old, pretty fast.

“The Neighbors” (ABC)
Premieres: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday

When an ordinary New Jersey family (Lenny Venito, Jami Gertz, Isabella Cramp, Clara Mamet and Max Charles) moves into an affluent gated community, they notice something odd. Their new neighborhood is populated by extra-terrestrials. This science fiction-flavored sitcom may share some of the sillier aspects of “Third Rock From the Sun,” but it appears to lack that show’s subversive sense of humor.

“Last Resort” (ABC)
Premieres: 8 p.m. Thursday

After refusing an order to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan, submarine Capt. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and his crew (Scott Speedman, Autumn Reeser, Daisy Betts and Robert Patrick) are forced to go on the run — eventually finding sanctuary at a NATO base. In short, this is a deep-sea thriller for the Tom Clancy crowd.

“Made in Jersey” (CBS)
Premieres: 9 p.m. Friday

If you’re mourning the demise of “Jersey Shore,” don’t fret. There’s a new Jersey girl in town. When New Jersey attorney Martina Garretti (Brit Janet Montgomery) snags a job at a prestigious New York City law firm, she puts her street smarts to the test. Like Snooki, this chick’s got sass to spare.

“666 Park Avenue” (ABC)
Premieres: 10 p.m. Sunday

Remember the spooky apartment building in “Rosemary’s Baby?” It has a lot in common with the title high rise. Henry (Dave Annable) and Jane (Rachael Taylor) have been hired as resident managers of The Drake, an Upper East Side apartment building owned by Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn) and his wife (Vanessa Williams). There’s only one catch: All of the residents have all made deals with The Devil. This sexy supernatural drama” could become a new guilty pleasure.

Sep 21

This soundtrack rocks!

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Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood shows off his composing chops in “The Master”

Will all the controversy surrounding “The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s drama about a charismatic intellectual (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who becomes a cult leader, you might have missed the discussion about the movie’s superb soundtrack.

Jonathan “Jonny” Greenwood, best known as Radiohead’s lead guitarist, wrote the avant-garde music for “The Master.” He previously composed the Grammy Award-nominated soundtrack to 2007′s “There Will Be Blood,” Anderson’s chilling exploration of greed and ambition in the oilfields of California, as well as two 2010 dramas, “Norwegian Wood” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Of course, Greenwood isn’t the only musician to successfully make the transition from rock star to movie composer.

Take eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard, who toured with Elton John and Crosby, Stills & Nash before becoming the movie composer behind “The Fugitive,” “Pretty Woman,” “The Prince of Tides” and “The Sixth Sense.” What about Howard’s sometime collaborator, former New Wave rocker Hans Zimmer, whose soundtrack credits include “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Gladiator” and “The Lion King”?

Below is a sampling of the many pop and rock musicians who have found fame as film composers.

***

Stewart Copeland

Only a few years after founding English rock band The Police with Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland launched his film composition career with 1984′s “Rumble Fish.” His soundtrack credits over the past few decades include “Wall Street,” “She’s Having a Baby” and “Very Bad Things.”

Danny Elfman

Aside from Johnny Depp, the former Oingo Boingo frontman might be director Tim Burton’s most frequent collaborator. He’s worked on nearly every movie Burton has done, from classics including “Batman,” “Beetlejuice” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” to more recent projects such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows” and “Frankenweenie.”

Elfman’s former Oingo Boingo bandmates have also had success as film and television composers. Keyboardist Richard Gibbs scored “Fatal Instinct” and “Queen of the Damned,” as well more family-friendly fare such as “Dr. Doolittle,” “Like Mike” and “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.” Meanwhile, lead guitarist Steve Bartek had supplemented his soundtrack work (“Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion,” “Snow Day”) by working with Elfman as an orchestrator.

Clint Mansell

Speaking of dream teams, Clint Mansell — the former lead singer and guitarist of alternative rock band Pop Will Eat Itself– is mostly closely associated with his work with director Darren Aronofsky.

Mansell made his film composing debut in 1998′s “Pi,” following up that effort with “Requiem For A Dream,” “The Fountain,” “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan.” His music can also be heard on the soundtracks for “Moon” and “Smokin’ Aces.”

Mark Mothersbaugh

No doubt about it, Mark Mothersbaugh loves composing for the movies.

Best known for his sparkling scores for the films of Wes Anderson, including “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” the multitalented co-founder of Devo has worked everything from “Dumb and Dumber” to “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” His most recent projects include “21 Jump Street,” “Hotel Transylvania” and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

Randy Newman

Who would have guessed that the acerbic singer-songwriter had a heart of gold?

Although Randy Newman’s pop songs often have a satirical edge, his film scores ring with sincerity. The Oscar winner’s heartwarming work for Pixar includes “A Bug’s Life,” “Cars,” the “Monsters Inc.” movies and the “Toy Story” trilogy.

Trevor Rabin

After spending roughly a decade as a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter with progressive rock band Yes, Trevor Rabin started a new career as a Hollywood composer — working on such high-profile blockbusters as “Con Air,” “Armageddon” and “Enemy of the State” in the late 1990s.

More recently, he composed the music for “Race to Witch Mountain,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “I Am Number Four.”

Trent Reznor

The first time director David Fincher approached Trent Reznor with the idea of composing the soundtrack for “The Social Network,” the Nine Inch Nails frontman balked. Then he read the script.

Fincher, Reznor and Reznor’s frequent collaborator, Atticus Ross, followed up their well=received “Facebook movie” with a remake of Sweden’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Honorable mention:

  • Brian Eno: Once a member of glam rock band Roxy Music, Eno’s ambient sound was a perfect fit for the fantasy-tinged drama “The Lovely Bones.”
  • Phil Collins: The Genesis drummer composed the soundtracks for two cute kids’ movies, “Brother Bear” and “Tarzan.”
  • Peter Gabriel: Another Genesis member, the popular pop singer composed the soundtracks for “Birdy,” “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence.”
  • Karen O: The lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O lent her unique voice to “Where the Wild Things Are,” directed by then-boyfriend Spike Jonze.
  • Eddie Vedder: The Pearl Jam frontman composed the soundtrack for “Into the Wild.”
  • Sep 18

    SLO Rewind screening series starts tonight with “Reservoir Dogs”

    Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut is still one of his best

    Picture this.

    A police officer sits in the center of an abandoned warehouse, tied to a folding chair.

    His mouth covered with duct tape, the captive cop watches nervously as another man, clad in black trousers, a black tie and a pristine white button-up shirt, saunters over the radio.

    “You ever listen to K-Billy’s Supersounds of the ’70s weekend?” Mr. Blonde asks as he pulls a straight razor out of his cowboy boot. “It’s my personal favorite.”

    As the opening strains of “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealer’s Wheel swell in the background, Mr. Blonde launches into an impromptu dance …

    Thus begins one of the most memorable sequences in independent cinema — the infamous “ear scene” in “Reservoir Dogs.”

    Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 directorial debut centers around six crooks hired by Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) to pull off a jewel heist.

    The thieves are known only by their colorful code names: Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Brown (Tarantino), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) and the sadistic Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen). They quickly turn on each other when the robbery goes awry.

    Known for its stunning violence, retro soundtrack, razor-sharp pop culture quips and hip anti-heroes dressed in sleek black suits, “Reservoir Dogs” launched Tarantino’s career as auteur — setting him up as the patron saint of scores of young moviemmakers to come. What modern-day crime movie doesn’t strive for the same effortless cool?

    See “Reservoir Dogs” at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Fremont movie theater, 1025 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo. Come a half-hour early for trivia and prizes. Admission is $8.

    The SLO Rewind screening series continues next month with:

  • Oct. 2: “The Big Lebowski”
  • Oct. 16: “Blazing Saddles”
  • Oct. 30: “The Shining”
  • Nov. 13: “Clerks”
  • Nov. 27: “Gladiator”
  • Dec. 11: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
  • Sep 17

    TV networks try to recapture the magic of hit shows

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    Fall season preview continues with “The Mob Doctor,” “Revolution”

    Fall television is far from a sure thing.

    Some shows fail. Some grow stale. And others succeed beyond the showrunners’ wildest expectations.

    This week, the networks try to recapture the magic of two of the 21st century’s most successful series, the misanthropic medical drama “House” and the science fiction-flavored thriller “Lost.”

    Will “The Mob Doctor” and “Revolution” attract the same loyal audiences as their popular predecessors? Only time and advertising dollars will tell.

    ***

    “The Mob Doctor” (Fox)
    Premieres: 9 p.m. tonight

    By day, Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) works as a thoracic surgeon at a high-profile hospital. By night, she moonlights as a mob doctor, carrying out clandestine medical procedures for Constantine (William Forsythe), head of the South Chicago Mafia. Much like the title physician, this overblown drama spreads itself way too thin — attempting to pack everything from moral dilemmas to medical mysteries into every frame while stinting on story and character development.

    “Revolution” (NBC)
    Premieres: 10 p.m. tonight

    The latest show from “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams has a great premise: A giant electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electrical devices, leaving millions without transportation, communication or medical technology. Fifteen years later, a ragtag group of survivors must make their way through a world that’s a strikingly similar to Civil War-era America. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly wowed by the show’s premiere, a mess of hackneyed acting, corny plot twists, and loads of laughable coincidences.

    Sep 12

    “Cosmopolis” takes viewers on a long, strange trip

    Robert Pattison embarks on a journey through the streets of New York City in David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis."

    David Cronenberg’s latest film is a philosophical Odyssey through New York City

    “A specter is haunting the world — the specter of capitalism.”
    “Cosmopolis”

    Billionaire Eric Packer wants a haircut.

    Never mind that every hair on his sleek dark head is already impeccably coiffed — as elegant as the tailored designer suit that hangs off his lean hungry frame, as immaculate as his spotless white limousine.

    Packer wants a haircut, and he’s willing to risk everything — including his personal safety and, possibly, sanity — to get it.

    David Cronenberg’s new psychological drama, “Cosmopolis,” centers on Packer (Robert Pattison), a self-absorbed, sex-obsessed 28-year-old desperate for new sensations in a deadened world.

    Recently wed to a airy heiress (Sarah Gadon), Packer has more money than he literally knows what to do with. He buys a military-grade plane, then leaves it rotting in a hangar — makes a bid for a priceless Mark Rothko painting, then pouts when the owners don’t want to sell the private chapel it hangs in.

    This is a man who owns two elevators to ensure that the music always matches his mood.

    So it comes as no surprise when Packer tells his security chief (Kevin Durand) and driver (Abdul Ayoola) that he intends to travel across town to visit his favorite barbershop, despite the fact that the president is in town and there’s a “credible threat” on his life.

    “Barriers will be set up. Entire streets will be off the map,” the security chief warns. They’ll be moving through Manhattan in “quarter-inches,” not miles.

    Packer, hermetically sealed in his stretch limo, doesn’t care. He’s more concerned about the fluctuating fate of the yuan than the activists flinging dead rats at coffee house patrons or the funeral procession winding through the streets.

    Cronenberg presents Packer’s deliberate, dream-like journey through the streets of New York City as a sort of philosophical Odyssey — a dialogue-packed pilgrimage set against an increasingly chaotic backdrop.

    It’s easy to lose track and even space as Packer entertains an endless parade of co-workers, confidants and seers in his sleek, cozy cocoon — slowly sipping vodka as the apocalypse rages outside.

    Blink, and he’s engaged in sexual congress with an art dealer (Juliette Binoche). Blink again, and he’s listening to a coworker (Samantha Morton) muse about the nature of capitalism as screaming anarchists shake, spray-paint and pummel his car.

    In one striking scene, he submits to a prostate exam in plain view of a sweat-drenched coworker (Emily Hampshire) who seems oddly aroused by that invasive act. In another, he’s attacked by a merry pie-wielding maniac (Mathieu Amalric) who claims to have “quiched the Sultan of Brunei in his bath.”

    It’s all eerie and more than a little absurd.

    With its stream-of-consciousness approach, “Cosmopolis” doesn’t have the immediacy of some of Cronenberg’s other work. Although the script is packed with interesting moments and fascinating performances — Paul Giamatti’s entrance late in the film is predictably riveting — the message, such as it is, seems rather muted.

    What exactly is the director trying to say with his “limo as lifeboat” metaphor? How does Packer’s journey into the abyss mirror our own?

    To quote one of Packer’s employees, a nervous security whiz (Jay Baruchel), “Do you ever get the feeling sometimes that you don’t know what’s going on?

    ***

    “Cosmopolis” image courtesy of MovieWeb.com.

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