‘Silicon Valley’ Review: ‘Hooli-Con’ Is Another Complicated Step Toward Mutually Assured Implosion


After the last few weeks, when the Pied Piper team spent most of each episode riding high, only to be brought down by the show’s patented combination of hubris and impossible luck, this week’s episode of “Silicon Valley” effectively flipped the script, leaving the team in better circumstances than when they started. It’s an odd change for Season 4, which has put its characters through repeated tests of commitment and resilience to test their mettle. “Hooli-con” showed a group of people on both sides of this tech-based feud who are having less and less to show for their efforts.

Mia, Chekov’s lovesick hacker, worked her way into the fold again, unwittingly helping the team with their newly hatched scheme to siphon off new users from Hooli-con attendees. Even though Dinesh was able to wrestle some technical assistance from her, something about their interaction points to idea that we haven’t seen the last of her attempts at revenge against who she thinks put her in prison.

READ MORE: ‘Silicon Valley’ Review: ‘The Keenan Vortex’ Shows Why These Guys Might Never Really Be Happy

With a plan in place and a very morally conflicted CFO in Jared, the gang goes to Hooli-con with a single goal, blinded by the potential for added attention from watchful Hooli eyes. Some of those other eyes also happen to belong to Keenan Feldspar, who spots Dinesh and Gilfoyle on the exhibit floor before the world’s most prolonged double-take. (Considering the pair had just spent the preceding minutes arguing over logistics of pouring molten liquid in an unpleasant orifice, Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s trepidation at seeing the object of their anger is understandable.)

When Gilfoyle runs into Keenan a second time, it gives him the rare chance to engage with someone from outside the Pied Piper inner circle. Often charged with playing the aloof, disapproving player in the Pied Piperverse, seeing Martin Starr get the chance to show some stronger emotion felt like another hint at possible developments to come. Given that the show has used Erlich and Richard as primary intermediaries between the boys from the incubator and the outside world, it’s refreshing to see one of the coders getting a chance to make their presence known in the wider world now that Erlich has departed, seemingly for good.

Kudos to “Silicon Valley” for being able to capture the twin banality and massive scope of a convention, a place where fans can seek out product launches and tech advancements (and as one of the banners shows, at least Seal is a keynote speaker). From the outside world, these giant expos often have a futuristic glow of hype surrounding them. Leave it to this series to again cut through a sensationalized view of the tech world and show that behind every giant product demo is a bunch of unseemly booth edges, ripe for someone to sneak in a pineapple or two.

Once again, though, all “Silicon Valley” roads lead back to Richard. Over the rocky Pied Piper journey, it’s been easy to characterize him as the level head, the ambitious idealistic one aiming the team towards a changing end goal. But between this recent Hooli-con impulsive ex-girlfriend-fueled feud and the “limp biscuit” disaster from a few weeks ago, it might finally be time for the rest of Pied Piper to question whether or not his momentary incompetencies are worth putting up with in the long run. The beginning of this season teased a Dinesh-led Pied Piper. Even though that was ultimately a disaster, it’s hard not to imagine a big discussion of a change in leadership — beyond Jared’s misgivings — as the show trudges toward its season finale.

“Silicon Valley”

Frank Masi

For someone who is willing to risk felonies and financial insolvency to see his New Internet idea succeed, the level of pettiness needed to sabotage his new rival’s setup seemed forced. Plus, this low-stakes battle for dating supremacy only underlines the episode’s biggest crime: underusing guest star Flula Borg.

Whether Richard’s latest misstep seemed motivated or not, it did prove once again that Richard is bad at being bad. Erlich can leave sweet gigs on a whim, Gilfoyle can reprogram a refrigerator for his own mischief, but anytime Richard’s devious plans spill over from the ambitious to the trivial, the whole team suffers. Whenever he strays from the path of sincerity, the Fate that Erlich mentioned at the outset comes back to slap him in the face.

Richard’s personal and professional roller coaster has gotten increasingly proportional amount of screen time and has become the focal point of the show’s frequent philosophical quandaries. It’s fortunate, then, that the rest of the ensemble has been able to do so much with a narrowing share of material. Stephen Tobolowsky delivering the dad-joke payoff to an episode-long Jamiroquai gag proves why he’s one of the best in the business. Each of Dinesh’s new realizations in the ongoing hacker saga has given Kumail Nanjiani the chance to show off some very funny and subtle character work.

READ MORE: ‘Silicon Valley’ and T.J. Miller Part Ways: How Season 5 Can Survive Without Him

And Jared. Poor Jared. The Jared Woo™ can’t possibly be topped in the pantheon of Season 4 moments, but Zach Woods’ oddly stirring “Poopfare…?” speech at the end of this episode shows that “Silicon Valley” can still mine some unexpected sincerity from its characters lowbrow impulses.

As if he heard Jared’s plaintive cries, Hoover grants the Pied Piper team a rare bit of leniency, effectively excusing their attempts at grabbing up Hooli-con attendees. It’s fascinating to see how, once again, Gavin Belson’s complicated legacy ends up working to Pied Piper’s favor. Hoover’s decision not to press charges is a key way for this episode to underline how loyalty is one of this world’s most valuable currencies.

For a show that often approaches its plot as a zero sum game, this is an episode that didn’t have a winner, aside from our central group of gate-crashers escaping the wrath of Jack Barker. The unholy alliance of Barker and Keenan Feldspar certainly won’t look good after their Samsung-ian PR disaster. As Gavin Belson’s new Tibetan retreat houseguest, it’s unlikely that this excursion into the Himalayas will fill the Aviato-sized hole in Erlich’s heart. And now the ongoing brotherhood of Richard and Jared, a foundational element of “Silicon Valley” is now torn asunder. It’s a quandary that no course correction will easily solve in one episode, so we could be looking at a very new normal for these folks when the dust settles.

Grade: B

“Silicon Valley” Season 4 releases new episodes Sundays at 10:00 p.m. on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO Go. 

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‘Twin Peaks’ Review: Part 7 Leaves More Clues Than We Can Count as David Lynch Digs Deep Into the Past


[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Twin Peaks” Season 3, Episode 7 (“Part 7”).]

Well, this week’s a case for the “Twin Peaks” historians.

Plenty of  “Twin Peaks” 2017 (as we’ve come to identify Season 3, “The Return”) has relied on its past for narrative weight and plot development, but “Part 7” saw more allusions to the original seasons (and “Fire Walk With Me”) than ever, and it started right from the top.

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Twin Peaks’ Review: The Person Everybody Has Been Waiting to See for Over 25 Years Doesn’t Disappoint

  • The letters Deputy Chief Hawk (Michael Horse) found last week were three of the four missing pages from Laura Palmer’s diary. They spoke of a dream she had in which Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham) told her about “Good Dale” (Kyle MacLachlan) being trapped in the Black Lodge long before it ever happened. Another page suggested Laura knew it was Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), not Bob (Frank Silva), who was coming after her.
  • Ding ding ding! One point for the “Twin Peaks” theorists who guessed the decapitated corpse belonged to Garland Briggs. Turns out the major’s floating head in Episode 3 was the right clue to follow. (Two points to anyone who can explain the 30-year gap between the presumed age of Briggs’ body and his actual age.)
  • Diane, Diane, Diane. Her meeting with Bad Cooper marked an emotional high for the episode, and her instinctual understanding that Bad Cooper wasn’t Good Cooper rewarded fans who’ve been invested in that relationship for 26 years (not to mention viewers who felt teased by an all-too-brief introduction last week).
  • Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) played a bigger role this week, even if we understand his significance less than ever. First, his brother (David Patrick Kelly) calls him lost from the woods. Then his assistant, Beverly (Ashley Judd), hears a “hum” in the hotel, and tells him they were sent the old key for the room where Cooper was shot. Something is up at the Great Northern Hotel.

Yet for each enlightening answer, there was an equally challenging question that went along with it — an ideal ratio for a mystery train that’s gaining speed but still has a long way to go. Hawk seems closer than ever to putting out an APB for Good Cooper, but how time functions in the Black Lodge (a.k.a. how Annie could have imparted these words to Laura in the first place) remains unknown. The same giant question mark hangs over Briggs’ younger-than-expected body, as well as Diane and Cooper’s suspicious rendezvous  at her house.

READ MORE: ‘Twin Peaks’: When David Lynch Killed Showtime’s Marketing Campaign, Here’s How The Network Improvised

When asked what happened the night they last saw each other, Diane told Director Cole, “You and I will have a talk sometime.” That’s as direct as signals get in Lynch’s world: He’s putting a pin in this story for now, but only because there was so much more to discuss in Part 7. Even with nearly three minutes dedicated to watching a bar-back sweep the floor, the latest hour of “Twin Peaks” was as efficient as it was exciting.

Twin Peaks 2017 Season 3 Kyle MacLachlan Part 7 Episode 7

It’s important to note that for all the nostalgic ties affecting the new “Twin Peaks,” none of the above allusions to the ’90s felt tired, easy, or inserted solely to appeal to our want for the familiar. Sure, Cole saying, “That’s damn good coffee” felt a tad forced, but even Lynch’s tossed off delivery indicated his dismissal of anything associated to fan service.

Consider how technology was incorporated into the episode: Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) calling Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) on Skype and Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) holding his iPhone out in front of his face while high as a kite were peculiar for a purpose. Each moment invited you into a world once frozen in time, but now unearthed and given new life. Much like Frank punching those keys one at a time, Lynch is deliberately striking nostalgic notes and usurping them. He’s fueling a new mystery with the ashes of an old one, but there’s enough original content to keep the story churning forward.

Take, for instance, Good Cooper. We didn’t even see the man uncontrollably posing as Dougie Jones for more than half an hour, but his arrival felt perfectly timed; almost as if Lynch could hear us thinking, “Huh. I wonder what’s going on with Cooper,” and then bam: There he is, grinding a pen into his leather desk topper and letting Janey-E do his talking for him. During his discussion with the cops, Cooper appeared as regressed as ever. His progress has been debated over the last few weeks, but it seemed to have ground to a halt… until he swiftly disarmed Ike “The Spike” Stadtler (Christophe Zajac-Denek).

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’ and ‘Twin Peaks’: How Faith Can Color Your Opinion of a TV Show

In that brief moment, only foreshadowed by the events of the weeks prior, Lynch showed us just how much of the Old Cooper is left inside of Good Cooper’s mumbling, bumbling body. Moreover, he gave the theorists one more event to anticipate: What with all the news coverage given to “Dougie’s” heroics, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if someone in Twin Peaks saw his face and made a few phone calls. Perhaps this is how Good Cooper will be found.

And herein lies the beauty of Part 7: We know better than to start guessing what happens next on “Twin Peaks.” For every guess that comes true (like the unidentified corpse turning out to be Briggs’ body) there’s a scene of inexplicable wonder (like three minutes of sweeping). It’s a tough balance to strike, especially to keep such an eclectic fan base happy, but Lynch is inviting us to speculate and giving us more to examine than anticipated. He’s, dare I say it, plotting a masterful mystery. Scholars, it’s time to dig in.

Grade: A-

“Twin Peaks” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

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‘Orphan Black’ Co-Creator on That Horrifying Scene and the Possibility of a Spinoff


[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Orphan Black” Season 5, Episode 2 “Clutch of Greed.”]

Our worst fears from watching the Season 5 trailer came true in Saturday’s episode of “Orphan Black”: One of the Leda clones died.

“We’re really going to hear it from the fans,” series co-creator Graeme Manson said about killing off a beloved character. “I think if you watch five seasons of the show, you’ll realize that this isn’t the clone of the week show. We want to care deeply about them. We want to invest in them. It comes down to the decision of whose going to make it out alive because the bottom line is nobody is safe.”

READ MORE: ‘Orphan Black’ Review: Final Season Gets the Fun, Frightening and Feminist Farewell It Deserves

The death happens as a result of Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) being pursued by Ferdinand (James Frain). She insists on retrieving MK (Maslany), who is suffering from the debilitating disease that has hit so many of the Leda clones, from her hideout, but MK refuses and instead offers to masquerade in the Rachel (Maslany) outfit that Sarah had been wearing. Once Ferdinand arrives, then MK would buy Sarah some time to escape with her daughter Kira (Skylar Wexler).

Unfortunately, once Ferdinand discovers that ruse, that MK is in the Rachel disguise and not Sarah, he snaps. Not only did MK lose him a lot of money when he botched the Helsinki job in which she was supposed to die in a fire, but she also stole money from his accounts in a previous season. Add to this his obsession with Rachel who had recently dismissed him as a sexual partner, and he spirals into a vengeful, senseless rage in which he conflates his hatred for the two women and brutally stomps on MK’s chest repeatedly until she dies.

Saying Goodbye to MK

Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

BBC America

Manson explained why MK, one of the newer clones introduced on the show, was chosen. “There’s not one clone on the show or one supporting cast who couldn’t, in a twist of plot, wind up in the same boat as MK, having to put down their life and sacrifice themselves to another, for a greater cause of the sisters, which is what MK does,” he said. “I think we wanted to lessen this blow a little bit by very early on saying, ‘Okay let’s make sure that MK is sick.” Her way of hiding in the shadows and having so much difficulty reaching out, part of this has to do with her own decision. She is the one who can sacrifice herself because she believes her life is about to be cut short by the clone disease.”

In order to give her more time on the screen before her death, the show crafted the technically challenging scene in which Maslany as both MK and Sarah would switch clothes as part of the disguise.

READ MORE: Summer TV Preview: 20 New and Returning Dramas That You Need to Watch

“We really thought that MK might bite it at the finale of last season,” said Manson. “We don’t kill clones lightly, so we wanted to make it very memorable. We were looking for a way to do it that’s both arresting and that gives value to that clone that’s helped us. It was a technical challenge for us to do a long shot showing sort of behind the scenes of these switcheroos that we do. I don’t think since Sarah played Rachel in Season 3 have we gone behind the scenes and watched one clone turn into another. All the while that they are in the same frame, they’re changing clothes and handing things to one another.”

Unfortunately, MK’s death was one of the most personal and brutal ones we’ve seen on the show so far. Being a Leda clone comes with many dangers, but before, the clones that we’ve seen die were usually ones we didn’t know very well or their deaths were fairly quick, such as Beth Childs (Maslany) stepping in front of a train or Katja Obinger (Maslany) dying from a sniper rifle shot to the head.

Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

BBC America

“We’re not going to pull any punches,” said Manson. “If we’re going to give her clone her due, and she’s going to sacrifice herself, we’re going to challenge the audience while we’re doing it. James Frain is a wonderful actor. He can be deliciously evil. It was a conscious construction of a strange scenario that we wanted to play out and that would be horribly violent, that it would have this moment of recognition in it for Ferdinand. Right now, all his frustrations with Rachel would play out right in front of his eyes because at this moment, MK is dressed as Rachel. So there’s this deliciously perverse level of things playing out for Ferdinand. Perhaps he even loses control because he is now countermanded an order from Rachel. That can’t go well even though Rachel seems to be wielding the velvet crowbar these days.”

Manson was on hand that day while co-creator John Fawcett directed the scene. “It was a hard scene to watch,” said Manson. “In that violent moment when Ferdinand loses himself and he stomps her, Tat had this big, hard, fiberglass body cage that fit her whole upper torso [on]. It doesn’t look pleasant when you’re sitting on set either.”

In the Wake of MK’s Death

James Frain, "Orphan Black"

James Frain, “Orphan Black”

BBC America

MK’s death has almost immediate repercussions as well. Although Rachel and Ferdinand had made their association strictly business now, in killing MK he’s disobeyed her.

“She’s been anointed on high by P.T. Westmorland, [the founder of Neolution],” he said. “And P.T. Westmorland seems to have a legitimate desire to keep these other clones alive. Rachel’s not supposed to lose any of them and she makes that clear. We’ll see what’s in store for Ferdinand for countermanding that action. Rachel is trying to look at this in a different light because of her new position at the head of Neolution. She’s trying to exercise restraint and look good for her new big boss. Ferdinand put a wrench in that.”

Continue to next page for Alison’s journey and spinoff talks >>

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‘Doctor Who’ Review: Bill’s Lesson in Ancient Roman Sexual Stereotyping Is a Highlight in an Uneven Episode


[Editor’s Note: The following review of “Doctor Who” Season 10, Episode 10, “The Eaters of the Light” contains spoilers.]

The Rundown

“Doctor Who” gives us whiffs of “Outlander” with this jaunt back to 2nd century Aberdeen, Scotland, adjacent to cairns of standing stones that looks like it could transport a British lady back in time. Instead, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and friends are here instead to figure out what happened to the Spanish Ninth Legion (Legio IX Hispana), which disappeared from records around 43 AD. Naturally, an alien is to blame, but the Doctor sorts it all out in the end after whipping some whiny Roman soldiers and tribal Picts into shape. Although “The Eaters of the Light” was a wildly uneven episode, strong on messaging but weak on sense, it served to test its characters in revealing ways. Sadly, Auton replicant Rory (Arthur Darvill) did not make a cameo as the Last Centurion, although we suppose at this point he might be busy over at Stonehenge or guarding the Pandorica.

READ MORE: ‘Doctor Who’: The Next Doctor Rumored to Be ‘Chewing Gum’s’ Black Female Star — Report

Here Be Monsters

These are far more traditional aliens who look pretty cool with their striped light tentacles. The Eaters of the Light appear to have devastating powers that could have endangered the whole world, but of course they were handily defeated by a group of kids with moxie and teamwork.

The Companion Who Smiled

A few times now on the show we’ve seen how Bill’s (Pearl Mackie) sexuality has been brought up, sometimes to make a joke (her landlady was worried about her bringing home a boy), sometimes to show how cool others can be when they find out she’s gay (one guy felt relieved he wasn’t being rejected specifically). This time it almost feels like a retread of the latter, except with a crucial difference.

When Bill breaks it to the Roman soldier Lucius (Brian Vernel) that she’s only interested in women, he puts her sexuality into a different context since to him, being bisexual is the default and only preferring one gender is limiting. He’s also somewhat condescending about it. Watch how the scene plays out below:


This season, “Doctor Who” has been trying to explore the topic of sexuality through Bill. Here though, it’s also challenging our modern perceptions of what the dominant views of sexuality are in different cultures and times. Bill looks as if she’s entertained by this sort of turnabout, the implication being that she’s the one who’s a bit conservative. It’s an intriguing one-off scene that sends a message of tolerance that’s echoed later in a different context.

It should be noted though that while it’s true that ancient Romans saw men having sex with both men and women as normal, which men they were with was determined by class and rank. Also, in such a patriarchal society, women were not afforded that same open-minded status, and the idea of homosexuality or bisexuality among women wasn’t as acknowledged by the men who documented history. Therefore in this instance, a point is being made for acceptance all around, but it’s more likely that Bill coming out as gay would’ve been met with skepticism or judgment.

The Spin Doctor

Peter Capaldi, "Doctor Who"

Peter Capaldi, “Doctor Who”

Simon Ridgway/BBC America

The Doctor comes off as more off a gruff Lou Grant-type here, somewhat paternal but mainly blunt and with little patience for the children of Earth’s hand-wringing. More than once he scolded the Picts and the Romans about needing to grow up (in our eyes they’re children, but back then, they would’ve had to assume responsibilities early in life) and the need for tolerance.

But it comes from a sense of his own responsibility for humanity, which he had taken on millennia ago and therefore explains his exasperation about the fighting between the Picts and Romans. Perhaps unintentionally, his words echo the images from the Monks episode: “I’ve been standing by the gates of your world, keeping you all safe since you crawled out of the slime.” He’s giving them all tough love, but that’s because he does in fact feel love for them as a species. That said, he doesn’t give them enough credit (much like parents may not trust their kids even if they are adults) to make their own decisions about their fate, until they force him to.

We’re not sure exactly what to make of the Doctor constantly ignoring the terms of his agreement to keep Missy (Michelle Gomez) in the vault and watch over her. Once again he jaunts off on adventure through time, and later, it’s revealed that he’s allowed her to leave the vault and take up residence in the TARDIS. It’s as if in this episode, he wants to prove in all ways that he is not subject to ordinary rules and guidelines.

Straight From the Two Hearts

As Missy’s jailor, the Doctor also takes on a lecturing tone with her even as she’s developing a conscience for all the death and destruction she had done previously. “That’s what I’m trying to teach you, Missy,” he says. “You understand the universe. You see it, you grasp it, but you never learn to hear the music.”

One of our biggest quibbles with this season, and there are quite a few, is that so little time has been spent on Missy that it’s difficult to take her evolution seriously. This is not the fault of Gomez, who acts the hell out of every minute she’s on screen. Instead, because of the time limitations, we’re being told how to feel about her.

In this episode, we see tears run down her face again, and yet again she’s bewildered by them. “I don’t even know why I’m crying,” she says. “Why do I keep doing that now?” She appears unsure and such a shadow of her vivid, scheming self, but are these pangs of conscience genuine or manufactured? We’re not sure, and the Doctor is similarly wary after she asks to be friends again.

“I don’t know,” he says. “That’s the trouble with hope; it’s hard to resist.” With only two more episodes to go in the season, we’ll see if any trust on his part has been well-founded or foolish.


Peter Capaldi and Matt Lucas, "Doctor Who"

Peter Capaldi and Matt Lucas, “Doctor Who”

Simon Ridgway/BBC America

What is with these cairns and how they bend time? In this case, a few seconds spent inside translates to days outside, which explains why only one Pict per generation had to sacrifice their life to fight off the Eaters of the Light. The ultimate sacrifice at the end of the band of Picts and Romans joining together to fight the creatures on their own turf breaks the portal. It’s not entirely clear why this happens, but hey, at a least those tentacles are gone for good (we assume).

Whoniversity Degree

There weren’t any obvious references this episode, but the writer Rona Munro has the distinction of being the only person who has written for the original classic “Doctor Who” and the current continuation. She had written the final episode, “Survival,” before it went off the air in 1989 before coming back for “The Eaters of the Light.”


Rebecca Benson, "Doctor Who"

Rebecca Benson, “Doctor Who”

Simon Ridgway/BBC America

The Doctor: “Speaking as a former vestal virgin second class — “

Nardole (Matt Lucas), upon hearing that a person died due to lack of sunlight: “Death by Scotland.”

Nardole: “I’m ingratiating myself. “
The Doctor: “It’s nauseating.”
Nardole: “It’s called charm.”
The Doctor: “I’m against it. I’m against charm.”

Kar (Rebecca Benson): “Let me tell you about the Romans. They are robbers of the world; When they’ve thieved everything on land, they’ll rob the sea. If their enemies are rich, they’ll take all they have. If their enemies are poor, they’ll make slaves of them. Their work is robbery, slaughter, plunder. They do this work and they call it empire. They make deserts and they call it peace. They’re not conquerors; they’re cowards.”

Nardole: “Sir, I must protest in the strongest, most upset tones possible. Don’t make me go squeaky-voiced.”


Watch a sneak peek of next week’s episode below:


“Doctor Who” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America.

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Sylvester Stallone Pays Tribute to ‘Rocky’ Director John G. Avildsen: ‘You Will Soon Be Directing Hits in Heaven’


Following John G. Avildsen’s death yesterday, one of the director’s best-known collaborators has paid tribute to the departed filmmaker. Sylvester Stallone honored the “Rocky” director the way everyone does these days, with an Instagram post: “The great director John G. Avildsen Who won the Oscar for directing Rocky!” he wrote alongside a photo of the two. “R. I. P. I’m sure you will soon be directing Hits in Heaven- Thank you , Sly”

READ MORE: Ben Affleck Pays Tribute to Adam West: ‘Thank You for Showing Us All How It’s Done’

“Rocky” also won Best Picture and Best Editing at the Academy Awards, with Stallone earning nods for both his screenplay and his performance in the title role. Avildsen, who went on to direct “The Karate Kid” and its first two sequels as well as “Rocky V” and “Save the Tiger,” died of pancreatic cancer yesterday at age 81. His last film was 1999’s “Inferno,” which starred Jean-Claude Van Damme alongside Pat Morita, who received an Academy Award nomination for playing Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid.”

READ MORE: Indian ‘Rambo’ Remake Director Q&A: He’s ‘Happy to Have Sylvester Stallone’s Blessing’ — Cannes 2017

Gary Barber, chairman and CEO of MGM, released a statement of his own yesterday: “We mourn the loss of John G. Avildsen, one of America’s treasured filmmakers,” he said. “Everyone remembers the first time when they saw Rocky. For over 40 years, the enduring classic underdog story about an every man overcoming all odds defined generations of moviegoers. He will always be remembered by his MGM family.”


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‘Julius Caesar’ Isn’t Enough: Why Tasteless Art Will Never Defeat Donald Trump


The media tempest surrounding the Public Theater’s production of “Julius Caesar” in Central Park has filled fat column inches for days. In case you’ve been consumed by more weighty matters filling the headlines – I don’t need to remind you, I trust? — two of the theater’s corporate sponsors, Delta Airlines and Bank of America, withdrew their support of the company when it was learned that in Oskar Eustis’s production, the title character was depicted, none too subtly, as a simulacrum of Donald Trump. (The production was barely into its first week when an alt-right protestor rushed the stage.)

In the play, you will recall, things don’t go well for Caesar, as he is betrayed by his intimates and stabbed to death in one of the more famous onstage murders in Shakespeare – of which there are plenty. While this arts-funding scandal naturally raised a dark hue and cry in cultural spheres, it receded from the national discussion when a gunman opened fired on Republican congressman practicing for a baseball game.

These events were of course unrelated, despite an appalling retweet from Trump’s son Donald Jr. intimating a connection between the two – like father, like son. And yet occurring back to back, they did seem to underscore that the tide of virulence, paranoia and anxiety sweeping the country continues to mount as the days of an unruly and unsettling presidency tick by.

I attended a small rally supporting the Public Theater at Astor Place on Thursday, and then headed uptown to see the production about which so much digital ink has been spilled. I left in a state of some dejection. As many critics and Eustis himself have naturally pointed out, “Julius Caesar” is hardly a play that advocates the assassination of overweening political leaders. In turning to violent means, the assassins destroy themselves, and Rome’s already endangered democracy. Blood begets blood, and, as in many Shakespeare plays, the stage ends up littered with corpses of Romans noble and otherwise.

But there is a bit of sophistry involved in critics’ defending the production on the basis of the complexity of Shakespeare’s play and the ideas about rulership and politics it embodies. For as it is presented by Eustis, it would be difficult for most in the audience to see beyond the gaudily presented parallels between Caesar and Trump. The actor portraying Caesar, Gregg Henry, wears crotch-skimming brightly hued ties, and is married to a svelte younger beauty who speaks in a Slavic accent. Accompanying the production throughout is the vague, slightly distracting sound of someone outside the theater, or on its periphery, bellowing angrily. A pink knit pussy hat makes an appearance.

It was these ham-handed signifiers that the audience I saw the play with responded to with knowing laughter. No surprise there, of course: the overlap between Shakespeare in the Park regulars and Trump supporters is presumably infinitesimal. But as someone whose disdain for Trump probably equals anyone’s, I still came away feeling that, whatever Eustis’s larger aims — “ ‘Julius Caesar’ is about how fragile democracy is,” he writes, correctly, in a program note — the production was essentially exploiting Shakespeare’s play as a blunt instrument, inevitably inviting audiences to smirk at the cheeky parallels rather than engage with the play’s ideas on any deeper level.

Oscar Eustis'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' Play Opening Night, New York, America - 13 Oct 2010

Oscar Eustis


Coming on the heels of the controversy surrounding the comic Kathy Griffin’s faux-beheading photo, for which she was publicly pilloried and immediately dumped by CNN as New Year’s Eve host, and the similar fracas that erupted when Stephen Colbert used a vulgar (and yes, homophobic) phrase to describe the relationship between Trump and Putin, the Public Theater’s production left me with the dispiriting sense that artists and performers, in their natural desire to call out the president and his policies for their inhumanity and their recklessness, are taking a page from his own puerile playbook.

Trump, after all, has flooded the Twittersphere with intemperate outbursts, unfounded attacks, vitriolic flights of character assassination. He is currently a potential defendant in a lawsuit accusing him of inciting violence during his campaign rallies. At those rallies, the atmosphere of brutality and hostility toward Americans who opposed his campaign practically seared your hand as you reached for the remote control to change the channel.

And it’s understandable, I suppose, that when a politician and his followers engage in this kind of brutal combat – and succeed in winning the presidency through it – it is natural for his opponents to attempt similarly hard-charging tactics. But for artists and performers to allow their own work to be tainted by the vulgarity spewing so regularly from the capital is dismaying to watch, and I’m afraid I would have to classify Eustis’s blunt-edged production as an exercise in obvious vulgarity.

To be clear, artists of course have a right to express themselves any way they choose. Tastelessness is sometimes a necessary tactic, a way of shocking the audience into awareness; goodness knows we are all guilty of becoming lulled into indifference by the endless onslaught of entertainment options blinking from all of our screens. But it’s also a cheap one, and it doesn’t supply the kind of stimulation and nourishment that resides in more restrained, ambiguous and subtle forms of art.

I am, of course, dismayed by the craven behavior of the corporations who pulled funding from the Public Theater. Most disturbing is the potentially chilling effect their decision could have on smaller regional theaters across the country, whose commitment to politically engaged works may now be endangered. As Jeremy Gerard reported in Deadline, theaters that happen to have Shakespeare in their name – and, naturally, there are plenty – have been assailed by vitriolic and even violent threats once the right-wing press began covering the Public Theater’s production. And speaking of craven, it is a thorough disgrace, although perhaps not a surprise, that the National Endowment for the Arts put out a statement, protesting rather much, that it had in no way given support to the Public Theater for the production. (Who even knows who’s running the NEA these days? Has Ryan Seacrest added it to his broad portfolio? I’m sure his nomination would sail through Congress.)

It is alarming that the corporate arts funding that is so necessary for art to thrive in America – given the puny budget of the NEA – may be in danger. Timidity on the part of corporations has become much more pronounced as the political sphere has become so radically polarized. But I worry just as much about the pollution of artists’ sensitivities by the juvenility and thoughtlessness that seems to be holding greater sway in the culture in the Trump era. None of us lives in a vacuum, after all, and we are all susceptible to influences that we absorb from the media. Those influences are fairly toxic these days. Some fine art has arisen from angry impulses and a virulent reaction against an oppressive political atmosphere. But most good art, and maybe all great art, has not.

Trump swept into Washington promising to “drain the swamp.” That immediately became a risible notion. What I fear is happening instead is that the toxicity of Washington is spreading into the culture, and the world of the arts, in ways that will ultimately be damaging. It is practically impossible, after all, to swim in a swamp and not get a bacterial infection or two.

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Lindsay Lohan Is Returning to TV, and This Could Be the Low-Key Comeback Vehicle She Needs


Lindsay Lohan is heading back to television, but she’s doing it across the pond.

The “Mean Girls” star has landed a role on “Sick Note,” a British comedy series that will air on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW TV sometime this year. The show has already been renewed for a second season, which is when Lohan is slated to show up.

READ MORE: ‘Mean Girls 2’: Lindsay Lohan Has Written a Treatment and Hopes Tina Fey Can make Time for It

“Sick Note” stars Rupert Grint as Daniel Glass, whose life hasn’t been going so well lately. He’s struggling to care about his dead-end job with his demanding boss Kenny West (Don Johnson) and is also in failing relationship. It all comes to a head when he’s diagnosed with esophageal cancer, supposedly a fatal case. Upon learning the news, everyone begins to treat Daniel better, and as a result he becomes far more invested in his life.

Unfortunately, Daniel discovers that he was misdiagnosed by the incompetent Dr. Ian Glennis (Nick Frost). On the advice of the oncologist, Daniel decides to keep the truth a secret and perpetuate the charade. What could possibly go wrong when you’re lying about having a fatal disease?

Lohan will play Katerina West, the daughter of Daniel’s boss. According to IMDb, she’ll appear in at least the first three episodes of the second season. Lohan posted the news on her Instagram and Twitter accounts a few days ago, accompanied with a picture of her costars Grint and Frost.


“Sick Note” is co-created by Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz. Jo Sargent is an executive producer, while Sarah Fraser is a producer and David Jargowsky and Scott Aukerman are consulting producers.

Lohan has had far more misses than hits in her career. After a promising start in soaps and then films like “The Parent Trap,” “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls,” her life started to spiral out of control due to alcohol abuse, family and behavioral issues, and even a DUI. Although she continued to land jobs, the work was inconsistent and later, her issues interfered sometimes with her ability to perform her duties. Some of her most recent critical failures were starring as Elizabeth Taylor in the Lifetime movie “Liz & Dick” and the indie erotic thriller “The Canyons.”

READ MORE: Paul Schrader Reminds Facebook He Is Still Disappointed in Lindsay Lohan

Despite all of her problems though, Lohan’s abilities as a performer often shine through. They’ve set her apart from contemporaries like Hilary Duff, who is charming and entertaining but hasn’t delivered the nuanced performances that Lohan has. She’s been shown to have an instinct for hitting the right emotional notes and great comic sensibilities. Even Meryl Streep, who co-starred with Lohan in “A Prairie Home Companion” once said, “She’s in command of the art form. Whatever acting is — I don’t know what it is — she’s in command of it. I think she could do anything she puts her mind to.”

This is all to say that Lohan has the ability if only she keeps the rest of her life under control. That’s a big “if,” judging by how much of her career has been derailed before. Nevertheless, “Sick Note” could be the comeback vehicle to get her back on her acting feet. It’s not big enough to require that she carry the weight of a leading role, but it’s not an insubstantial cameo either. Plus, she can do humor. A quirky, somewhat dark British comedy is low-key enough to not put on the pressure, but just interesting enough to let her show off her ability. At only 30 years old, Lohan could still have a strong acting career ahead of her if she fights for it.

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