John Travolta … a villain? Nah, not Grease's Danny Zucco! Not Saturday Night Fever's boogie-boy Tony Manero! Not that alien whacko from Battlefield Earth! (Okay, maybe that character. But the dreadlocks still make us giggle.) • Yes, Travolta is back and bad on the big screen. His latest movie, The Taking of Pelham 123, a remake of a 1974 thriller about a hijacked subway train, opens Friday. Travolta plays the villain, a really nasty role tackled by Robert Shaw in the original. • Can the Hollywood nice guy pull it off? After several pleasant encounters with the actor over the years, Times film critic Steve Persall says he just can't buy Travolta as a movie meanie. • "Travolta is one of the nicest celebrities I've ever dealt with, the kind of person who makes you believe you're the only other person in the room when he's talking to you, even if it's crowded," Persall writes in his Reeling in the Years blog (blogs.tampabay.com/movies). "He can be a bad guy with irresistible charm and a thin streak of decency (Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, Mad City, Michael, Primary Colors) but when he goes full-blown evil, there's a definite dropoff in audience appeal. • Still, Persall does a list of favorite villainous roles by his BFF. Here they are, along with his comments.
Steve Spears, Times Staff Writer
Top 5 villain roles by John Travolta:
1 Castor Troy (Face/Off): "One of Travolta's best performances ever, doing a knockout impersonation of Nicolas Cage while in 'disguise.' Or was that the other way around?"
2 Billy Nolan (Carrie): "Yes, it was a hit, but that wasn't Travolta's doing. Stephen King's brand and an Oscar-nominated title performance by Sissy Spacek took care of that. But, oooh, that was nasty, dumping pig's blood on the poor girl."
3 Maj. Vic "Deak" Deakins (Broken Arrow): "You know a villain is weak when Christian Slater kicks his butt."
4 Howard Saint (The Punisher): "Maybe this one hit too close to home, since the movie was set in Tampa. One of the few Marvel Comics adaptations that didn't draw moviegoers like flies."
5 Gabriel Shear (Swordfish): "Come to think of it, a counterterrorist attempting to steal billions of dirty government dollars might be a hero today, but not in June 2001."
Ready for more smoke signals?
The fifth season of Showtime's popular Weeds cable series starts tonight. Will the life of Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker, right) continue going to pot?
Yes, a cheap pun, but don't bogart our fun. Despite the legal stigma, marijuana has been good for a laugh for decades now on TV and film. Here are some good doobies.
Top 5 comedies about marijuana
1. Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke (1978)
2. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
3. Dazed and Confused (1993)
4. Half Baked (1998)
5. Reefer Madness (1936)
Top 5 weekend movies
1. Up ($44.2 million)
2. The Hangover ($43.3 million)
3. Land of the Lost ( $19.5 million)
4. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian ($14.7 million)
5. Star Trek ($8.4 million)
Source: Associated Press
Top 5 prime-time TV shows (week ending May 31)
1. NCIS (CBS)
2. The Mentalist (CBS)
3. George Strait: ACM Artist of the Decade (CBS)
4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS)
5. Without a Trace (CBS)
Source: Nielsen Media Research
Top 5 songs on iTunes Music Store
1. Boom Boom Pow — Black Eyed Peas
2. Fire Burning — Sean Kingston
3. LoveGame — Lady GaGa
4. I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) — Pitbull
5. Birthday Sex — Jeremih
Top 5 search terms on Yahoo
1. Heidi Montag
2. Miley Cyrus
3. Airline Safety
4. Gas Grill
5. Rodney Harrison
Top 5 DVD rentals on Netflix:
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop
3. New in Town
5. Slumdog Millionaire
Source: Netflix, for week ending May 30
Top 5 TiVo WishList Actors
1. Johnny Depp
2. John Wayne
3. Julia Roberts
4. Clint Eastwood
5. Cary Grant
Source: TiVo; WishList feature allows subscribers to record all films starring a specific actor.