Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview

==Sunday==

ABC
Once Upon A Time
Resurrection
Revenge

CBS
Madam Secretary
The Good Wife
CSI

FOX
The Simpsons
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Family Guy
Mulaney

NBC
Sunday Night Football

Outlook:

I like the move of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Sundays, a quality show hammocked between two ratings-getters. ABC and CBS have some nice counter-programming offerings for those who don't watch football or just watched six hours and could watch something else.

Do people still watch live TV that isn't a sporting event or awards show?

New Shows:

MADAM SECRETARY - Tea Leoni gets to play the Secretary of State, the powerful Cabinet post more often held by women than men as of late. It's getting good reviews and it has a plumb spot between Emmy magnets 60 Minutes and The Good Wife. Co-stars Tim Daly, Zeljko Ivanec and Bebe Neuwirth.

MULANEY - Comedian John Mulaney tries the Seinfeld thing, playing a thinly-veiled version of himself, with wacky co-stars like Martin Short, Nasim Pedrad and Elliott Gould. My prediction is it loses too big a percentage of the Family Guy audience and doesn't get a season 2.

==Monday==

ABC
Dancing with the Stars
Castle

CBS
The Big Bang Theory
Mom
Scorpion
NCIS: Los Angeles

FOX
Gotham
Sleepy Hollow

NBC
The Voice
The Blacklist
State of Affairs

CW
The Originals
Jane the Virgin

Outlook:

Big Bang Theory moves back to Mondays to reanchor things there. Interesting that BBT and Mom are the only CBS sitcoms on the schedule in September, but 2 Broke Girls, The Millers, and Mike & Molly will premiere down the road, as will new show The McCarthys.

Gotham has its work cut out for it, but then, no one thought Sleepy Hollow could succeed here last year.

New Shows:

SCORPION - Based on the life of Walter O'Brien, the child genius who hacked into NASA and grew up to help the FBI catch the Boston bombers, this series features a rag-tag group of prodigies and whiz-kids whose brains solve crimes that regular agents can't figure out. Robert Patrick presides as their handler. Decent premise.

GOTHAM - This Batman prequel has set itself up for the long-haul, since Bruce Wayne's a young boy. Ben McKenzie (The O.C.) stars as Jim Gordon, young detective working with the more corrupt Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). The show promises to show Gotham City's slow descent into madness and villainy that eventually requires a Caped Crusader to come clean things up, and in the first season we see younger versions of the people who will eventually become the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman and Poison Ivy.

STATE OF AFFAIRS - Katherine Heigl returns to TV as a CIA analyst for the first female US president (Alfre Woodard). I hear it's a watered-down version of Homeland and that it's terrible.

JANE THE VIRGIN - Based on a Venezuelan hit, this is about a young woman accidentally inseminated during an ob-gyn check-up. Hijinks ensue.  It'll be a hit (by CW standards).

==Tuesday==

ABC
Selfie
Manhattan Love Story
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
Forever

CBS
NCIS
NCIS: New Orleans
Person of Interest

FOX
Utopia
New Girl
The Mindy Project

NBC
The Voice (results)
Marry Me
About A Boy
Chicago Fire

CW
The Flash
Supernatural

Outlook:

More new shows are debuting on Tuesday than any other night, so everything's up in the air. I think CBS will continue to rule the total viwers, while 18-49 demo is anyone's game.

New Shows:

SELFIE - Karen Gillan and John Cho come together for this My Fair Lady-like update. (Her name is Eliza Dooley and his name is Henry, if the plot's not obvious enough.) Henry tries to help Eliza remake herself and rebrand her image. I like Gillan, but not sure about the premise.

MANHATTAN LOVE STORY - Boy meets girl, audience hears everything boy and girl are thinking. Sounds like it'd get old really fast.

FOREVER - Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) plays a detective who happens to be 200-years-old and cannot die.

NCIS: NEW ORLEANS - Guaranteed hit. Scott Bakula's the lead, and the most dependable franchise on TV until Walking Dead: West Coast debuts.

UTOPIA - Reality show with a cross-section of people building their own civilization. Ratings are already low. This experiment won't get a second season.

MARRY ME - Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) and Ken Marino (Party Down) do the Mike & Molly thing.

THE FLASH - Based on the DC hero.

==Wednesday==

ABC
The Middle
The Goldbergs
Modern Family
Black-ish
Nashville

CBS
Survivor
Criminal Minds
Stalker

FOX
Hell's Kitchen
Red Band Society

NBC
The Mysteries of Laura
Law & Order: SVU
Chicago P.D.

CW
Arrow
The 100

Outlook:

I think Survivor will appreciate the lack of good competition.

New Shows:

BLACK-ISH - Anthony Anderson, king of the one-season series, gets another chance as the head of an affluent African-American family who's worried the rest of his clan aren't in touch enough with their roots. It gets the coveted post-Modern Family slot, but that doesn't always guarantee ratings.

STALKER - Dylan McDermott would like us to forget Hostages and focus onthis new series, about stalkers and the police who try to stop them before they do something really dangerous. Maggie Q (Nikita) co-stars. I don't have much faith in it, but maybe Criminal Minds fans will give it a shot.

THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA - Debra Messing (Will & Grace) balances motherhood and her job as a police detective, and reviews have been atrocious.

==Thursday==

ABC
Grey's Anatomy
Scandal
How to Get Away with Murder

CBS
Thursday Night Football

FOX
Bones
Gracepoint

NBC
The Biggest Loser
Bad Judge
A to Z
Parenthood

CW
The Vampire Diaries
Reign

Outlook:

Football will rule, but then what? Either Big Bang moves back here, or CBS puts some of its other sitcoms that are on hold here. (Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls, the new McCarthys etc.) I like ABC's lineup as the most solid counter-programming.

New Shows:

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - Viola Davis (The Help) is a criminalogy professor, where she and her students get involved in a murder mystery. Sounds like the perfect soapy whodunit show to follow Scandal.

GRACEPOINT - This remake of Broadchurch makes David Tennant use an American accent, and it's supposed to follow the UK version closely, although producers have hinted that the killer is going to be someone different. Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) co-stars.

BAD JUDGE - Bad Teacher flopped so now they're trying Bad Judge. Kate Walsh (Fargo) stars.

A TO Z - Rom-com.

==Friday==

ABC
Last Man Standing
Cristela
Shark Tank
20/20

CBS
The Amazing Race
Hawaii Five-0
Blue Bloods

FOX
MasterChef Junior
Gotham (reruns)

NBC
Dateline NBC
Grimm
Constantine

New Shows:

CRISTELA - Sitcom centered around a Latino family. It follows Tim Allen's Last Man Standing, and how many people are aware that's still on the air? Or that it ever happened?

CONSTANTINE - Based on the comic book (you might remember a Keanu Reeves movie). It should do a little better than Dracula, but not much.

Last year, there were 25 new shows. 10 of them are back for a second season.
This year, there are 23 new shows. I'm going to say 9 of them get a season two. (Gotham, Jane the Virgin, The Flash, Madame Secretary, Cristela, Gracepoint, How to Get Away with Murder, Red Band Society, NCIS: New Orleans).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Maleficent - Movie Review

My review at FlickSided.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Movie Review

My review from FlickSided.

Neighbors - Movie Review

My review at Flicksided.

Godzilla - Movie Review

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elisabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Straithairn, Richard T. Jones and Victor Rasuk.
Directed by Gareth Edwards.

★★½

Tone is an important element in a movie that introduces fantastical elements. This film wisely eschews the campy dumb fun the 1998 movie tried to have and plays it straight and serious. I liked that, and if anything it would have helped this movie to have a moment or two of levity.

Normally I wouldn't mind that it takes a while for Godzilla to show up. It gives us a chance to get to know the human characters and raise the stakes when people start dying and cities start getting destroyed. Unfortunately I didn't care about most of the characters.

The marketing campaign makes it look like Bryan Cranston is going to be one of the central characters, so I don't think I'm giving away too much by saying the movies should have focussed more on him and less on his soldier son played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Anna Karenina, Kick-Ass).  Johnson's a blank slate, and it just felt like another big-budget action movie putting Generic Young Guy as the hero. Was Taylor Kitsch too busy?

I know. You don't go to a Godzilla movie for good acting. But you do hope it'll be there.

You also go to a Godzilla movie for thrilling visuals, and on that front, the movie delivers. I felt that little-kid surge of excitement when halfway through the movie, we see that first sign of a giant monster on the loose. ("Mayhem's about to start!")  Godzilla isn't in the movie as much as you'd think, but I liked his design, I liked the effects, I just liked the character. If a sequel is greenlit, I'll be excited for him to return, even if (or especially if) a whole different cast is assembled to watch stuff get smashed.

Don't get me wrong. All of these actors have been excellent in something else, but Watanabe spends the whole movie slack-jawed, Straithairn carries the air of authority while the script makes him a woefully inept leader, and Olsen is there to be the wife that Taylor-Johnson calls from time to time.

It's much better than the 1998 film. The ride of the second half is quite fun.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rio 2 - Movie Review

My FlickSided review.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Movie Review

Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell and Toby Jones.
Directed by Joe & Anthony Russo.
★★★½
I'm continually impressed with the Marvel universe and how they're able to get it right, at least for those characters owned by Disney. I long for the Spider-Man and X-Men rights to eventually join their comrades under one studio banner. Even then, most of those movies were good too.
I'm particularly enjoying what they're doing with Captain America. He's a potentially boring goody two-shoes character, but thanks to Chris Evans and the writers, they're getting him exactly right. They are managing to pull off what Superman hasn't been able to do since Christopher Reeve's heyday.
Cap is still in present day, and the after-effects of The Avengers still ripples through his story. He's getting more and more concerned with Nick Fury and SHIELD, and how they operate. SHIELD has unlimited resources and weapons to battle terrorism, but are they getting too big?
He uncovers a conspiracy within SHIELD, but that makes him a fugitive from them. He gets some help from Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and new friend the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), but he also has to face a new enemy - the Winter Soldier, who looks like he went through the same transformation Steve Rogers did.
You veteran-actor villain is Sen. Alexander Pierce, played by Robert Redford. He was actually the weakest part of the movie, and if Redford's the weakest part of your movie, you're doing something right.
Disney's positioned Captain America 3 to open the first weekend of May in 2016, opposite Batman v. Superman. One of them has to blink, but based the reception of Man of Steel, and the fact that Zack Snyder's directing again, I think the DC crew should be the ones who find a new date.

Inside Llewyn Davis - DVD Review

Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, Adam Driver, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett and Max Casella.
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen.

★★½

The Coen brothers can go big or small, farcical or serious, Oscar-winning or Ladykillers, but every movie they've made has had that distinct Coen flavor, one of my favorites. This one reminded me most of A Serious Man.

Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn Davis, a folk singer in the early 60's who keeps barely missing success. He's not really a nice man or a sympathetic man. Whatever talent he has can't seem to overcome his ego. It has an addicting soundtrack. There was a lot to admire about the movie, I respect the movie, I could recommend it to others, but I can't say I liked it. Most Coen flicks I can watch every few years and be happy. (Arizona, Miller's, Fargo, O Brother, No Country, etc.) But this one won't enter that eschelon.

It's most notable now for containing two future cast-members of Star Wars Episode VII.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Summer 2014 Box-Office Predictions

This summer will be a test on how many superheroes one season can handle. (First posted this here.)

1. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (6/13) - $310 million - The sequel to one of DreamWorks Animation's best movies should be the runaway hit of summer. It's also the only major animated release, as Disney moved its live-action Maleficent to summer after The Good Dinosaur was delayed.

2. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (5/23) - $285 million - Marvel's all the rage, and the chance to see Hugh Jackman walk between the old and new generations looks irresistible. Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender have since had their stars shine brighter.

3. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (5/2) - $275 million - I don't think this will be the unstoppable juggernaut Iron Man 3 was in this slot last year. Early word's been mostly positive, but it looks awfully crowded with three villains.

4. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (6/27) - $250 million - Out: Shia LaBeouf. In: Mark Wahlberg. Wise choice by Michael Bay.

5. GODZILLA (5/16) - $220 million - This reboot looks like it takes it seriously, and it's in prime release position to make a big splash upon arrival.

6. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (7/11) - $205 million - The quality looks like it'll still be there, and Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still the main character. This is a good thing.

7. MALEFICENT (5/30) - $195 million - These reboot/reimaginings have been fairly successful, and I don't think this'll be much different.

8. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (8/1) - $180 million - Really hope the movie is as fun as the trailer hints. It's the biggest gamble Marvel's taken since the original Iron Man.

9. 22 JUMP STREET (6/13) - $145 million - Two-time Academy-Award nominee Jonah Hill lets Channing Tatum tag along for another go-around. If they can just be as funny as the first one, then this should be a hit.

10. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (8/8) - $135 million - I think this'll be the last blockbuster opening of summer, and then it'll coast while lesser titles open throughout the month.

11. HERCULES (7/25) - $130 million - I could just as easily see this bombing, but it does have the slot where The Wolverine found success last year.

12. NEIGHBORS (5/9) - $128 million - The Seth Rogen/Zac Efron banter looks funny, and early word-of-mouth has been positive.

13. TAMMY (7/2) - $115 million - Melissa McCarthy finally gets top billing after delivering hits with co-stars like Kristen Wiig, Sandra Bullock and Jason Bateman. Susan Sarandon's been aged up to play her grandmother. I'm going to assume marketing doesn't screw this up.

14. A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (5/30) - $105 million - Ted was a big hit, but now let's see if people can stand Seth MacFarland's face for a whole movie. It helps that he's recruited actors like Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson to be around.

15. THINK LIKE A MAN TOO (6/20) - $100 million - Kevin Hart is now a star, so he should boost this ensemble comedy.

16. EDGE OF TOMORROW (6/6) - $95 million - Tom Cruise's star is fading, and the final trailer didn't quite have that hook that will launch it to a smash, but it's really made more for the overseas audiences.

17. GET ON UP (8/1) - $90 million - Chadwick Boseman (42) in another bio-pic, this one of music icon James Brown, and I think this'll be the long-legged success story of August.

18. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (6/6) - $85 million - Based on the best-selling book, buzz seems to be growing for this as it gets closer. It'll be a test if Shailene Woodley can parlay her Divergent success into legitimate stardom.

19. BLENDED (8/15) - $84 million - Adam Sandler made Grown Ups 2 a hit, so as long as it's not rated R (looking at you, That's My Boy), it'll crack the top 20 of summer, even if it sucks.

20. JUPITER ASCENDING (7/18) - $82 million - I love the risks the Wachowskis took with Cloud Atlas, but it bombed. Here comes another wholly original-looking tale, but I don't know how much of a chance audiences are willing to give it. Channing Tatum's been made up to look like Dominic Monaghan, so this could be a John Carter-sized bomb.


The next ten, probably in the $50-$80 million range:

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (5/16)
JERSEY BOYS (6/20)
DELIVER US FROM EVIL (7/2)
THE PURGE: ANARCHY (7/18)
PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE (7/18)
INTO THE STORM (8/8)
LUCY (8/8)
THE GIVER (8/15)
EXPENDABLES 3 (8/15)
SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (8/22)

Other wide releases:

MOM'S NIGHT OUT (5/9)
LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY's RETURN (5/9)
EARTH TO ECHO (7/2)
SEX TAPE (7/25)
STEP UP ALL IN (7/25)
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (8/8)
LET'S BE COPS (8/15)
IF I STAY (8/22)
WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (8/22)
JANE GOT A GUN (8/29)
JESSABELLE (8/29)
THE LOFT (8/29)

Notable limited releases:

BELLE (5/2)
THE SACRAMENT (5/2)
CHEF (5/9)
THE DOUBLE (5/9)
THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN (5/23)
NIGHT MOVES (5/30)
LULLABY (6/13)
THE ROVER (6/13)
SNOWPIERCER (6/27)
BEGIN AGAIN (7/2)
AND SO IT GOES (7/11)
THE FLUFFY MOVIE (7/11)
WISH I WAS HERE (7/18)
A MOST WANTED MAN (7/25)
GRACE OF MONACO (8/29)
ONE CHANCE (8/29)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Noah - Movie Review


ByCommonConsent.com


Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth. Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

★★½

My first impressions were what they were, but I was inspired to do a little more research into the story of Noah. I've always known the Bible's version, but I also read the Torah and Midrash, which has subtle differences and theories.

Noah is a hybrid tale. It has some adventure and some thrills and some psychosexual drama that you'd expect from the director of Black Swan.

Did he take artistic liberties? Sure. Which ones are the most egregious?

I don't have a problem with the rock monsters. The Bible refers to "giants" walking the land in those days, and the Torah and Midrash refer to the Nephilim - fallen angels - and combine these two, so sure, now the Nephilim are giants, encased in rock bodies unable to return to heaven. I'll give it that.

I don't have a problem with Noah's environmentalism, which he takes a weird extreme. But I can also see why there would be confusion. In this story, mankind's only been on the Earth a handful of generations, and after the fall of Adam and Eve, and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, man's figuring out how to make it on his own in this dreary world. Noah still sees tending the Earth, respecting the plants and animals, as part of his righteous duty.

God (almost always referred to as The Creator here) doesn't speak to Noah so much as send him visions. Noah then interprets these visions as to what he must do. And the visions aren't vague. Noah sees the evil of mankind in the way they... eat animals and mine for minerals.  (Not so much the robbery, rape and murder.) In this respect, the Creator/Noah motives reminded me too much of Keanu Reeves in that lame Day the Earth Stood Still remake.

I didn't even mind the villainous Tubal-cain secretly stowing away on the ark.

My biggest problem was Noah's insistance that Ham and Japeth don't get wives. The Bible's pretty clear that all three sons had wives. When the rains started coming, and only Shem has a wife, and Noah's not collecting any women for his other two sons... um, wait a minute. It's a pretty big part of the story that Earth was populated through the generations of Noah's three sons.

Noah believes part of The Creator's plan is for mankind to go extinct. He thinks the Creator called him to save the plants and animals, and then he, his wife, Shem and his wife, and Ham and Japeth will be the last humans on Earth.

Now in the Midrash it says that Noah and his sons entered separately from Noah's wife and his sons' wives, and there's a theory that the animals were separated by gender, and there was therefore no sex by anyone/anything on the ark until after the flood.

In the end, the very very end, Noah does the right thing, and it's implied the Earth will get repopulated when Shem's daughters are old enough for Ham and Japeth to marry, but that whole second half of the movie, I just couldn't get past that change.  Rock monsters? Fine. Stowaway? Fine. Noah wants to make mankind go extinct? No.

Side-notes of praise: The entire flood sequence was great. Aronofsky has proven he can handle a budget. And the acting is great. Crowe, Connelly, Watson, Hopkins, Winstone, even Lerman as Ham. Poor lonely horny Ham.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Flicksided Updates

Walking Dead's Norman Reedus has joined the cast of Triple Nine, the new movie from John Hillcoat, who also directed the post-apocalyptic drama The Road. I'm saying Reedus and Hillcoat will have notes to compare.

My weekend box-office report is here.

My review of Sabotage is here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Stanley Tucci, Allison Janney and Patrick Warburton.
Directed by Rob Minkoff.

★★½

I watched Rocky & Bullwinkle as a kid, so I remember the other Jay Ward characters that would parade through - Dudley Do-Right, Commander McBragg, Aesop & Son, and of course Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

This update didn't quite hit the mark for me. For one thing, there was a distracting amount of potty humor. When your main character is a very intelligent dog with a weakness for puns, it just seems like potty humor would be beneath him. But this is DreamWorks, and because Shrek was a hit, I guess they figure they have to have potty humor in everything. In fact, the poster's slogan is "He's leaving his mark on history." How do dogs mark things? See what I mean?

Also, as someone who's about to adopt kids, it gives an alarming protrayal of just how easily kids can be ripped from their home. When Sherman gets in trouble at school, a social worker who is a cross between Dolores Umbridge and the Queen of Hearts arrives, ready to find the slightest excuse to yank him away from Peabody.

The animation is quality, and it's not the worst movie from DreamWorks Animation, but there's a reason they don't have the reputation of Pixar to be consistently good.

The Good Wife - TV Review

Sometimes a show will advertise something shocking will happen. I get numb to those ads. I'm glad I do. For instance, the season 4 finale of Dexter they kept advertising something shocking at the end, so well before it happened, I could guess what it was. (Still impactful, but I wish I didn't have that pounded in my head leading up to it.)  This episode, I'd seen a couple ads mention but I didn't really anticipate just how shocking the event would be that happens. Not only did I not see it coming, but it's one of those twists that will send reverberations through the rest of the series run, in a way bigger than when Alicia and Cary decided to leave Lockhart/Gardner and start their own firm.

The series kept its track record alive for the Best Guest Stars on television. It never feels stunty, and you know no matter how big or small the name, they'll fit right into this universe. Not only are we treated to Eric Bogosian in a recurring role as an investigator trying to nail Gov. Peter Florick for election fraud, but this week we got Matthew Goode (Watchmen, Stoker) as the prosecutor combatting against Will Gardner.

Part of the genius of The Good Wife is that each episode has ongoing plotlines, but there's also usually a case-of-the-week that tends to get introduced and wrap up. Occasionally that case-of-the-week by come back, but by and large, they're contained.

What keeps me hooked on The Good Wife is the ongoing stories. I am well past being able to watch a show where every episode is self-contained.

Top 10 Worst Written Female Characters in Film History

This doesn't necessarily mean worst acted. Sofia Coppola was terrible in The Godfather Part III, for example, but had the original actress - Winona Ryder - not dropped out, that part wouldn't seem so bad. Some very good actresses made the list (in fact four of them are Oscar winners), but their characters deserve dubious distinction.

*Dishonorable mentions to half the female parts from the Twilight Saga and any movie that starred Elvis Presley or Freddie Prinze Jr.

*Also, Demi Moore's Hester from THE SCARLET LETTER. Completely changed the ending and therefore the point of the story.

10. Bronte (Andie MacDowell), GREEN CARD - An uptight woman really, really wants her greenhouse. And at the last second, for no reason, she says "I don't care about the greenhouse" because she's fallen for the cave troll played by Gerard Depardieu. Probably the least convincing "okay they really love each other" moment in rom-com history.

9. Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet/Gloria Stuart), TITANIC - Kate's a great actress. She and Leo and most of the rest of the cast really had to work to make James Cameron's one-dimensional characters come to life. Rose is a spoiled rich girl engaged to a cartoon villain, but she falls for the lower-class dude on the ship. All of that's fine. But when the ship starts sinking, does she stay on her lifeboat? No! She gets back on the sinking ship. If she'd stayed in her lifeboat, Jack would've been alone on the driftwood and would have lived! Then eighty-five years later, old Rose reveals to the audience that she had this giant expensive jewel in her possession which could have made her kids' and grandkids' lives easier, but instead she just throws it in the ocean. Boooo!

8. Lucy (Emily Browning), SLEEPING BEAUTY - Nothing much to a character who makes her living by taking knockout drugs and letting creepy rich men do whatever they want to her body while she's out cold.

7. Mrs. Cooper (Mercedes Reuhl), LEADER OF THE BAND - This was a "star" vehicle for Barney Miller's Steve Landesberg, and all there was to Reuhl's character is that she had extreme lust for him the second she laid eyes on him.

6. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), SUPERMAN RETURNS - They destroyed Lois by making her a mopey single mom who acts like a corporate lawyer at work.

5. Jennifer (Camille Keaton), I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE - The ultimate exploitation film (which inexplicably got a remake) about a woman who gets raped by a group of young men, and then raped again, and then again, and then it tries to redeem itself by her getting bloody revenge at the end.

4. Abby (Katherine Heigl), THE UGLY TRUTH - Maybe Heigl thought she was going to get some Apatow karma in this "farce" on romance. In truth, no actress could have made this work, paired opposite a chauvanistic Gerard Butler making her go through a series of humiliating romantic "tests."

3. Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman), STAR WARS I-III - So let me get this straight. She lives in a society where they elect 14-year-olds to be queen, and those queens have actual power. Ah, but when her term is up, she later gets elected to the more responsible role of senator, but she's too busy going on picnics to fulfill most of her duties, so she lets the single stupidest creature in the galaxy vote on her behalf. Then when she gives birth to her twins, instead of having mama-bear maternal instinct kick in, she dies "of a broken heart."

2. Kate (Eva Longoria), OVER HER DEAD BODY - A woman dies on her wedding day before she can actually exchange vows. She follows her mopey fiance Henry around until he consults a medium named Ashley. Ashley is a fraud, except she can actually see and hear Kate. Ah, but when Ashley starts to fall for Henry, Kate does whatever she can to sabotage it. Like making giant fart noises. She has no curiosity about anything else in the universe or eternity, and no actress on Earth could have saved it.

1. Miranda Hillard (Sally Field), MRS. DOUBTFIRE - This movie needed a situation where a loving father resorts to a drag disguise to be near his kids, but in order to set that up, that had to split up the parents. Robin Williams' Daniel Hillard is obviously a loving father; maybe he could make safer career choices, but his shrewish wife decides she wants a divorce after Daniel throws a party that's too big. She isn't exactly honest in court at the beginning, but then at the end, she lets the judge get everything wrong when he decides Daniel only gets supervised visitation. This movie had its laughs but it was a terrible message to kids. Divorce is really, really easy, and it's all Mom's fault.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Divergent wins box-office weekend

After the flops of Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments, and Vampire Academy, it looked like Hollywood was having a tough time finding the next YA franchise in the wake of Twilight and The Hunger Games. The next hit is here in Divergent. Based on the first book in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, it's about a dystopian future where citizens must choose a faction to side with, and Shailene Woodley (The Descendents, The Spectacular Now) is the young women who doesn't quite fit in with any, making her a Divergent.  I wonder if the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are going to quickly find a way to edit her as Mary Jane Watson back into their movie. Maybe a cameo? (She'll be prominent in Spidey 3.)

Muppets Most Wanted wasn't a flop, but you couldn't call it a hit either. Modest budgets are the way to proceed with this group.

The indie film God's Not Dead struck a chord with viewers of faith. Maybe Hollywood's going to be warmer to the idea of main characters having religion (and maybe get bigger stars than Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain to play them). The big budgets given to Darren Aronofksy's Noah (opening Friday) and Ridley Scott's Exodus (opening in December) are a good sign they already have. (Let's see what the Wachowskis or Mel Gibson would do with Joseph in Egypt. Who's with me?)

Mr. Peabody & Sherman has made $100 million overseas, and Fox will need that overseas money to make a profit, as the domestic well looks like it'll be drying soon.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is still a juggernaut on the small screen. Veronica Mars fell 75% in its second week. Fans of the cult show saw the movie, and no one else.  Bad Words, the directorial debut of Jason Bateman, is losing momentum and probably won't open as wide as intended a couple weeks ago.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing - DVD Review

Starring Amy Acker, Alex Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher and Spencer Treat Clark.
Directed by Joss Whedon.

★★★

This was filmed over 12 days at Whedon's house. He's gathered his friends from his TV shows and turned Shakespeare's play into one long dinner party.  The performances are light and fun, and while it won't make you forget Kenneth Branagh's version anytime soon, it has its own rewards.

My central issue with it was giving the role of Benedick to Denisof. He speeds through his lines without much thought, leaving him an unworthy verbal sparring partner for Amy Acker's cynical Beatrice. But Reed Diamond's light on his toes and with his tongue as Don Pedro, Sean Maher outglowers Keanu Reeves as Don John, and Nathan Fillion steals the show as the constable Dogberry.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

After Earth - DVD Review

Starring Jaden Smith and Will Smith.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

★½

M. Night Shyamalan has had a baffling career. If we pretend The Sixth Sense was his debut, then every movie he's made has been a little bit worse than the one before, until we get to the twin terribles of The Happening and The Last Airbender. While The Happening was silly, and The Last Airbender derivative, After Earth is just dull.  There's no sense of wonder involved. It feels more like Obstacle #3 before you can meet Lord Xenu.

Will & Jaden Smith play father and son Cypher and Kitai Rage, the former being a world-famous ranger, the younger living in his shadow. They are sent on a mission to Earth, a planet humans abandoned 1000 years ago. Their ship crashes, and Cypher's legs are broken, so Kitai must travel from point A to point B to retrieve a beacon so they can be rescued.

Some animals have evolved over those thousand years. They're more predatory. Most of the movie is Jaden Smith running through the jungle avoiding such animals. It made me think of the superior jungle scenes in Avatar or Apocalypto, movies made by much better directors than Shyamalan.

The film's central theme is about overcoming fear. Danger is real but fear is a choice. It leads to a fairly anticlimactic conclusion.