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State of Affairs (Monday, Nov. 17, NBC), series debut: Katherine Heigl was great in Grey's Anatomy, and then Knocked Up. Let’s pretend she joined the Peace Corps in 2007 and is just now returning to acting, OK? In State of Affairs, she plays a CIA analyst/adviser with a special relationship with the president (Alfre Woodard): She was engaged to POTUS’ son before he was killed in a terrorist attack (as depicted in the pilot’s intense, straight-outta-Zero Dark Thirty cold opening). Now she drowns her pain in booze and random hookups by night, and helps set foreign policy by day. Of course, as we’ve seen with Madam Secretary’s middling ratings, this couldn’t be just a straight-up political drama, so there's some Blacklist-y conspiratorial intrigue about the fiancé not being what he seemed (or seems—yeah, it’s like that). As long as Heigl isn’t called upon to “banter” with her co-workers, as she is in a particularly awkward first-episode scene (set to Skynyrd, no less), State of Affairs could stick.

The Hollywood Film Awards (Friday, Nov. 14, CBS), special: Is this really necessary? Another excuse to hand out trophies to celebrities for doing their damned jobs, after harassing them about “who they’re wearing” on the obligatory red carpet? Apparently, the imaginatively titled Hollywood Film Awards was launched in 1997 by a marketing “genius” who’s so good that it took him 17 years to get it televised … on a Friday night. Now, I’m not against recognizing quality work in movies—although I do oppose it for music, because none is being produced in the mainstream anymore—but after the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards and, hell, the AVN Awards, there’s no need for another dress-up dog and pony show. And 22 Jump Street is just gonna get snubbed, anyway.

Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B (Saturday, Nov. 15, Lifetime), movie: While you’d be right to suspect anything co-produced by Wendy Williams, at least biopic (or telefilm, depending which TV-fabricated word you prefer) Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B has some solid biographical roots in best-seller More Than a Woman, by ex-Time music editor Christopher John Farley. In other words, The Princess of R&B has more in common with VH1’s fun and lively CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story than recent Lifetime hackjobs like The Brittany Murphy Story, Anna Nicole, Prosecuting Casey Anthony and, probably by next weekend, The Life and Death of Brittany Maynard. “Street but sweet” Aaliyah was only 22 when she was killed in a plane crash in 2001, but she racked up a staggering number of hits that still hold up today—most of which star Alexandra Shipp delivers with eerie accuracy and verve. Remember “hits” and platinum records? Those were the days …

Country Buck$ (Wednesday, Nov. 19, A&E), series debut: Do we have the space for me to go off on another rant about A&E’s creative shortsightedness and their gawdawful, over-scripted redneck-reality shows? Or at least how Country Buck$ is just a shameless, beardless clone of Duck Dynasty? No? OK, here’s this: #SaveLongmire.

Lucha Underground (Wednesdays, El Rey), new series: TNA Impact attempted to do it, but eventually just became a pale imitation of the WWE enemy itself—thankfully, Lucha Underground has arrived to show ’Merica what a bloated corporate bore into which gringo pro-wrestling has devolved. Part backstage infotainment, part telenovela and all high-flying ring action, Lucha Underground feels and looks (it’s filmed, not videotaped) like no other ’rassling show north of the border; the emphasis is squarely on the sport, and male and female wrestlers often face off as equals. They’re coming for your jobs, American beefcake.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR NOV. 18!

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Screw the critics: The only dame who kills the sequel to 2005’s Sin City is Jessica Alba; her storyline (and “acting”) is the only weak link in this solid follow-up carried by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin and, especially, Eva Green. Don’t miss it again. (Photo below; Anchor Bay)

22 Jump Street

Cops Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) go back undercover—this time in college, to take down a drug dealer named Ghost (Peter Stormare); bromance, a thousand inside jokes about sequels and even some spring-break antics ensue. Boom! (Sony)

Isis Rising: Curse of the Lady Mummy

A group of college archeology students accidentally awaken the spirit of Isis (porn star Priya Rai), who then resumes her ancient quest to raise her husband Osiris from the dead to rule the world with their zombie army. Upside: Course passed. (MVD)

Northpole

Santa and Mrs. Claus’ (Robert Wagner and Jill St. John!) magical city of Northpole, powered by holiday cheer, is in seasonal-stress trouble, and only a boy and his journalist mom (Tiffani Thiessen) can save it! A very co-dependent cycle. (ANConnect)

Rise of the Black Bat

When a city DA (Jody Haucke) is blinded with acid by a local crime boss, he gains the power to see in the dark and thus becomes superhero The Black Bat, because “Justice is blind … no more!” Any similarity to Batman or Daredevil is purely obvious. (MVD)

More New DVD/VOD Releases (Nov. 18)

And So It Goes, Automata, Collar, Everywhen, A Free Bird, Housebound, If I Stay, Into the Storm, Not Another Celebrity Movie, Rangarok, Reclaim, Robot Chicken: Christmas Specials, The Turnpike Killer.

Published in TV

It feels like writer-director Robert Rodriguez delivered the first Sin City a million years ago.

However, it was just nine years ago, back in 2005. Rodriguez was reaching the apex of his creative strengths, making good movies for relatively small budgets and doing much of the work himself. Sin City was truly groundbreaking; it was preceded by fine films like Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the first three Spy Kids movies (two of which were really good) and, my personal favorite, From Dusk Till Dawn.

Since Sin City, a lot of people have been making good-looking films on reasonable budgets. Rodriguez, in the meantime, has been losing steam, with misfires like The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lavagirl 3-D, Shorts, the fourth (and truly awful) Spy Kids film and Machete Kills. Yes, he did good work with his Grindhouse segment, Planet Terror and the first Machete—but the bad has far outweighed the good.

Now comes Rodriguez’s long-in-development Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. It’s a batch of shorts based on the musings of Frank Miller—and not one of them offers anything better than the original film. It’s a tedious, worthless film from a director who seems to be running out of original ideas.

Much of the cast returns, including Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, even though their characters died in the first movie. In the case of Rourke, his Marv segments are prequels, based on graphic novels that took place before his character got the electric chair. As for Willis … think The Sixth Sense.

Jessica Alba returns to dance provocatively (although she keeps her clothes on) as stripper Nancy, and Powers Boothe is back as the evil Senator Roark. Dennis Haysbert replaces the late Michael Clarke Duncan, and Josh Brolin steps in for Clive Owen as Dwight. Also new to the cast are Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny, and Eva Green as Ava.

There are a whole lot of people driving around in black-and-white, doing those deliberately paced, film-noir voiceovers. What was once visually breathtaking has become visually blah, and none of the stories in A Dame to Kill For merit interest. The film plays like a batch of outtakes from the first movie that were slapped together and put on display.

It’s also the second time this year that Eva Green has given a spectacular, villainous performance in a film adapted from a Miller graphic novel that sucks around her (the first one being 300: Rise of an Empire). Green is the only reason to see this movie; her Ava is far more terrifying than Boothe’s deranged senator.

Gordon-Levitt seems out of place in this film; he’s way too cool and popular to be hanging around such a subpar undertaking. It’s sort of like when Bill Murray lent his voice to the Garfield movies, or Tom Hanks took a paycheck for The Da Vinci Code. It just feels wrong. Gordon-Levitt was in the running for Guardians of the Galaxy and Godzilla … and he winds up in this? The agent firings must commence.

For the first time in a long time, Rodriguez doesn’t have any films listed in development. Perhaps this is a good thing; maybe he needs a break. He’s better than Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill for is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews