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In the television world, a season is officially underway when all of the actors join together for a table read of the script. They will sit there, all present, and read together what their writers have devised for their new (or first) season. This allows the actors to get an idea of how they may act the scene, seeing how dialogue bounces off one another. The director and writers are typically also present to make any notes or to dictate any changes necessary to make the best overall product. This process comes to screeching halt, however, when the actors are not present, or in more extreme cases, not even actually signed on for the coming season. Occasionally, one or two actors or actresses may be unable to make a table read due to some illness of scheduling conflict so the director or a writer or someone will read their lines so the other actors can continue. This little plan B doesn’t really work when it is the entire cast missing.

Such is the situation that the eighth season of “The Big Bang Theory” finds itself in. The actors have been negotiating for higher paychecks and the network doesn’t want to pay up. Because an agreement couldn’t be reached, the table read scheduled for earlier this week didn’t happen. As such, production is officially delayed on CBS’ #1 comedy. The stars, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Johnny Galecki, and Emmy-winner Jim Parsons, are seeking a raise from their current $300,000 per episode to a “Friends” final season caliber $1,000,000 per episode. Their co-stars Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar are also looking for an increase from their current $75,000 - $125,000 per episode to something much higher, though those figures remain undisclosed. 

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“Guardians Of The Galaxy” is an unabashed entertainment that isn’t afraid to get a little silly amidst all its end-of-the-universe drama. Chris Pratt is an action hero, Zoe Saldana is green, Vin Diesel voices a tree and Bradley Cooper voices a psychotic raccoon. Conventional it certainly is not. That’s part of its charm.

The characters are a deadly, quirky lot who fall backward into saving the universe. It’s all about an orb. Peter Quill (Pratt), who calls himself “Star-Lord,” steals it, Gamora (Saldana) steals it from him, and the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace) can’t wait to get it (a college drinking game based on who has the orb is in the near future). In prison after publicly battling for the orb, Quill and Gamora team with Drax the Destroyer (pro wrestler Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Cooper) and Groot (Diesel) to escape. Their plan is to sell the orb to The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) and split the money, but when they realize the danger Ronan and his boss Thanos (voice of Josh Brolin) present, plans change.

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When Woody Allen doesn’t star in a film he directs there’s often a character who takes on the paranoid, cynical worldview Allen’s screen persona often features. In the funny but predictable “Magic in the Moonlight” that character is Stanley, a world-renowned magician who’s also an unctuous grump. To him the world is a forum for disappointment in which little goes right and what does is bound to be ruined, somehow.

Stanley (Colin Firth) is arrogant, pessimistic, smarmy, obnoxious and sarcastic. He’s the guy you want nearby when the world is treating you unfairly, because he’ll happily chime in with all the things that are wrong with life. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in happiness so much as he doesn’t think it’s possible, and he certainly doesn’t think spirituality should make anyone feel better. “There’s of course no spirit world,” Stanley insists.

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The documentary "Code Black" takes a holistic approach to stories of chaos and unity in the American healthcare crisis and in a venerated trauma center (nicknamed "C-booth") at the old L.A. County Hospital. First-time feature director Ryan McGarry intertwines the freewheeling, "git 'er done" culture of "the birthplace of emergency room medicine" with the adrenaline-seeking of the young doctors who suffered the closing of C-booth. He also loops in the insidious bureaucracy that crept in when the physicians were transferred to a sparkling new facility (with a whole new culture) next door.

A collage of several issues that affect doctors and patients, "Code Black" is structured around in-depth looks at the contrasting cultures of the two workplaces. C-booth was a hive of intense activity, seemingly disorganized, with many dozens of junior residents, nurses, and "cowboy" senior residents hovering over all manner of patients in a patently non-private, wide-open room. The new ER at County Hospital is squeaky clean, with lots of walls for privacy--and heaps of new regulatory procedures that one resident doc describes as "a bucket of paperwork that kills the passion of saving someone's life." 

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It was another one of those typical summer Florida days (raining, of course), when I embarked on a southbound trip from my Tampa home to a galaxy far away… better known as Miami. This was an amazing opportunity to finally meet a great alien warrior who’s Hell bent on revenge, and no, I didn’t drop acid and watch Star Wars. I actually enjoyed one of the first screenings of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and had the pleasure of interviewing Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) himself!

After settling into my posh hotel room at the Hard Rock (you have to go in style), I made my way to the local Cineplex for the press screening. While I can’t reveal anything about the movie yet (due to waivers and legal stuff), it was freakin’ awesome! This film was an excellent blend of Sci-fi and Comic Book movie mayhem. For more movie details, make sure you check out Dan Hudak’s review on Friday. It was because of him that I got to take this incredible adventure.

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I’m open minded enough to be all for different interpretations of the Bible, but turning one of the most beloved figures of the old testament into a foul-mooded, bloodthirsty, homicidal psychopath is not the way to go. Sure, the title character in the film “Noah,” played by Russell Crowe, starts off as the benign figure we know from scripture--the only one worthy enough of God’s love to be saved and to save all species of animals in existence from the great flood. This is what prompts him to enlist the help of fallen angels, who look like giant rock monsters out of a 1950s fantasy adventure, to build the ark.

The problem with the world, as Noah sees it, is the wickedness of mankind, including his own family. This does not sit well with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), or sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo Carroll), and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson). They each have their reasons for resenting Noah, and he in turn doesn’t seem to be too broken up about wanting them dead. Even after the ark finds land, Noah turns some grapes that he finds into wine, and essentially becomes an alcoholic hermit, isolated from his family. Noah was probably written this way in an attempt to ground him in reality and provide real, human motivations for his actions. The actual outcome is that this turns him into a despicable wretch with little going for him to gain sympathy or support. In the scenario of “Noah,” the family would have been better off killing him and living their lives peacefully. Thank goodness for him that they aren’t the raging nutjobs that he is. Skip It.

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Reality, the book, the play, and the film--where does one end and the other begin? Director/co-writer Roman Polanski has almost endless fun with this concept in his "Venus In Fur." The good news is that you'll enjoy it nearly as much as the famous (and infamous) filmmaker obviously did.

An actress, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner [2013's "In The House”]), is aggressive in her pursuit of the lead role in a play titled "Venus In Fur," while Thomas, the playwright/director, is jaded, fed up with the immature actresses he's auditioned thus far. It's late at night, and Thomas (Mathieu Amalric, previously paired with Seigner in 2007's tour-de-force "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly") is headed out the door of the theater. (Not coincidentally, Amalric looks a lot like Polanski in his forties.) Bit by bit, Vanda begins to break down his considerable defenses and, soon, the after-hours audition is on.

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In spite of its tired, formulaic story, stereotypical characters and overall “blah” execution, “And So It Goes” is tolerable thanks to Michael Douglas’ sharp wit and his chemistry with Diane Keaton. What is indisputably awful is this: the title. Just hearing it makes me think of old people preaching their way through old-timey stories.

Douglas is widower Oren Little, a realtor looking to sell his former home for $8.6 million so he can retire and move to Vermont (Really? Vermont? During the summer, sure. But when it’s two degrees in the midst of a whiteout blizzard in January, no thanks.).

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