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Archive for Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Locked Up Abroad’ mimics ‘Goodfellas’ saga

June 8, 2011

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When in doubt, make a movie based on another movie. Movie remakes, movies based on TV shows and sequels make up a depressing percentage of summer fare. Over the years, we've even seen movies based on old documentaries. The 2003 drama "Seabiscuit" comes to mind.

And lately the highly addictive series "Locked Up Abroad" (9 p.m., National Geographic) has begun to base hour-long episodes on famous movies. Last season, it explored some of the untold avenues of the tale of drug smuggling in Turkey that was turned into one of the most harrowing prison pictures ever made. And "Locked Up Abroad: Midnight Express" (8 p.m., National Geographic) repeats tonight.

But that's just an appetizer for "Locked Up Abroad: The Real Goodfella" (9 p.m., National Geographic), based on the twisted tale of mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill.

Hill appears here in many interview scenes and promises to fill us in on some of the details that didn't make it into Martin Scorsese's acclaimed 1990 gangster picture "Goodfellas." But at least 80 percent of this "Locked Up Abroad" unfolds like a reenactment of Scorsese's movie. At least it never tries to imitate the famous tracking shot through the Copa's kitchen!

In striving so obviously to recreate scenes from a classic movie, "Locked Up Abroad" forgot one rather important thing. Not one second of this "Locked Up Abroad" takes place abroad.

• For better or worse, the series "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman" (Science) tackles rather complex scientific concepts and invites viewers to tag along. It's challenging stuff and never sugarcoated or dumbed-down for those with straying attention spans. While watching this show I was reminded that when you take out time for commercials, an hour-long "Wormhole" runs roughly as long as a high school science class. I have to admit I watched the clock a few times.

On tonight's new "Wormhole" (9 p.m.), scientists examine brain activity to ponder questions about life after death. Repeats question the nature of matter (7 p.m.) and examine theories about just what preceded the Big Bang (8 p.m.).

• If "Wormhole" is aimed at the smart kids, "MythBusters" (8 p.m., Discovery) makes science fun for the rest of us. Tonight's new installment examines the belief — extolled on screen and in cartoons — that a fishing reel can catch fire if unspooled at sufficient speed by a fast-escaping fish. Another holy grail explored: the quest to change a flat tire without using a spare.

Tonight’s other highlights

• "So You Think You Can Dance" (7 p.m., Fox) offers two hours of competition.

• "How the States Got Their Shapes" (7 p.m., History) explains Idaho's curious border with Montana.

• Gay and transgender folks from all walks of life discuss their stories on "Out in America" (7 p.m., PBS).

• On two episodes of "Modern Family" (ABC), speeding in a residential zone (8 p.m.), musical theater madness (8:30 p.m.).

• A bomber targets schools on "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior" (9 p.m., CBS).

• "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) mulls reality television.

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