Friday, November 29

November 24, 2013 1:07 PM

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Friday, November 29

This is the final episode of this highly popular ABC/HBO Asia-produced detective series. Set in 1960s Singapore, it is a murder mystery that takes place against the backdrop of the end of rule by the British empire and the early days of the war in Vietnam. Shot mostly in Indonesia, this is a high-quality drama, with a stellar cast led by Joan Chen and Don Hany. The feeling of humidity is almost tangible and just watching it makes me want to reach for a moist towelette. For those who have stuck through all 10 episodes, tonight you'll find out if the questions you have had will finally be answered. I'm not saying anything.

Ireland is more than the Emerald Isle and arguably the location of the world's most raucous pubs. It is also home to one of the planet's most unique landscapes. In this 3-part series, Irish TV and radio personality Derek Mooney follows in the footsteps of Irish scientist Robert Lloyd Praegar to discover why the Irish landscape is the way it is, who or what formed it and how. We learn that while much of Europe was settled 100,000 years ago, Ireland was devoid of people until 9000 years ago. Why? It can't just have been because they hadn't invented Guinness back then.

Kate (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson), is a single mom who fell pregnant at college and had to drop out. She shares a house with her potty brother, Ben, who has moved in to help Kate care for her six-year-old daughter, Maddie. Along for the ride are her friends Tommy and BJ. Even without seeing any other episodes of this show, I really liked it. It has fast, funny dialogue, no canned laughter and Dakota has twice the acting chops of either of her parents. In tonight's episode, Kate meets Will, who is rich enough to pull out his credit card when she breaks a $700 lamp in a shop and who doesn't mind forking out big bucks for a new loft bed for her daughter. Ben is suspicious and insists on coming along on a romantic cabin trip Will plans. When Ben and Maddie camp in the cabin's garden, he is attacked by bats and the evening ends in disaster. But will Kate choose Will over her nutty brother and friends? Of course she won't, but it's still a fun ride getting there.

An interesting doco about the comet ISON, which right about now should be near its most visible and possibly headed for destruction by the Sun. Here scientists provide plenty of info about the comet's origin, composition and unusual trajectory, as well as about comets in general.

It's hard not to feel for the women wrestlers of the WWE. They've put in years of hard work to get where they are but they get precious few opportunities to perform in the male-dominated circus. And at any moment their careers can be ended by injury or by executives who decide that it's time for different faces and storylines. The atmosphere of insecurity and jealousy is oppressive. Tonight, newcomer Eva Marie gets invited to do a photo shoot for a men's magazine. It's a coup for her, but it sends real fear through everyone else. As the more established Ariane explains: "You never know about the newbies because in the blink of an eye - boom! - they could be a face of the company. I could be replaced." Elsewhere, Nikki suffers a stress fracture that puts two careers on the line: hers and that of her twin sister, with whom she performs as a double act. Total Divas might be nearly as scripted as the action in the ring, but the underlying reality is plain to see.

Zodiac was a sparser, more methodical film than David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) had previously made. "The collecting of slaves for the afterlife" is the reason the anonymous killer who claims the name Zodiac gives in his letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, beginning in 1969, to explain an attack on a couple parked in a lover's lane (the woman died, the man lived). A monster with a taste for notoriety, the killer shoots a taxi driver and, in a scene shot with chilling, stark minimalism, butchers a couple picnicking by a lake. The case is taken up by crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) and his unofficial sidekick, cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal). Their efforts are mirrored by the two police detectives leading the investigation, Inspectors Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards). An immaculately recreated period piece, this masterful movie is a procedural where the trail goes cold. After public hysteria and live-to-air calls broadcast on television, Zodiac stops killing and communicating, but those who've gazed on the crime scenes and read the letters keep going. Avery burns out, Armstrong retires, and Graysmith and Toschi grow more obsessive. They're all victims of Zodiac.

In Quentin Tarantino's unimpressive Kill Bill Vol. 2 the conversations move in rhetorical circles. It's as if there's so much mythic weight backdated into these characters that their merest utterance is freighted with a frankly portentous load. There's no snap, the lines sail into a void. Perhaps it's a reflection of David Carradine's Bill, unseen in Vol. 1 where Uma Thurman's wronged assassin awoke from a coma (her wedding day was a massacre) and went looking for his subordinates. Here, with his leathery face and raspy voice, he slows the film's very pulse rate. Certainly the vibrant pop-art aesthetic of Vol. 1 has dissipated and cinematographer Robert Richardson holds little sway on proceedings.


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