Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Carnage - DVD Review

Starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.
Directed by Roman Polanski.


I imagine this is a very entertaining play to watch.  It's a variant of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, except both couples have their problems bubbling under the surface that may explode out once the alcohol gets pouring.

Foster and Reilly play one couple, she a liberal-cause writer and he a hardware store owner.  They've invited over another couple, Winslet and Waltz, she an investment broker and he a lawyer, because their boys got in a fight that resulted in one hitting the other in the face with a stick.  At first, the couples engage in the polite niceties of four adults trying to work out a problem, but Foster is the victim's mother and she keeps reaching for an apology that never quite comes.  As the day wears on, the politeness takes an edge, and eventually the happy public faces are stripped away.

It's a dark comedy about eroding manners, and while I liked it, I never forget it was based on a play.  The whole thing takes place in a claustrophobic apartment.  The four actors have a blast in their roles, and while the women having showier scenes, I thought Waltz stole the movie.  His shark-like smile and dark eyes make him predatory.  He'll be nice if he has to, but don't push his buttons.

It has a quick running time, which makes its lack of an ending more jolting.  I enjoyed it, but the studio made a mistake positioning this as a limited-release late-December Oscar-bait movie.  I would have made it a spring or fall release on at least 1000 screens.  As is, when the Oscar nominations didn't materialize, it fizzled out at $2.5 million.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 3/27/12

- Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo, Dark Shadows) has been offered the title role in MGM's remake of Carrie, based on the classic Stephen King novel about a shy girl with telekinetic powers who has the worst prom ever.  Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) will direct.

- Chloe Moretz has also joined the cast of The Drummer, a biopic about Beach boys drummer Dennis Wilson, who died in 1983.  It stars Aaron Eckhart, Vera Farmiga and Rupert Grint (Harry Potter).

- Kenneth Branagh (Thor) will direct the next Jack Ryan movie.  The reboot would star Chris Pine, who'd star after filming on Star Trek 2 is complete.  Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck have played Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan in movies past.

- Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis have been offered the leads in Jupiter Ascending, the next sci-fi movie from Andy & Lana Wachowski (The Matrix).

- Melissa Leo (The Fighter) has joined the cast of Oblivion, a sci-fi thriller from Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy).  It stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones).

- Greg Dean Schmitz's was one of my must-visit sites about 10 years ago.  Yahoo bought his site awhile back, and now he's the main news guy for, a site I currently can't go a week without visiting.  Here's some news tidbits from his Weekly Ketchup column, which gives his top ten movie stories of the week (be they fresh or rotten):

1.  Michael Bay's producing a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, now titled Ninja Turtles, as the plan to have them actually be aliens.
2.  Brett Ratner's name has been attached to direct Midnight Run 2, a sequel to the 1988 hit with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin.  DeNiro's expected to return but not Grodin.
3.  Jessica Biel will play Vera Miles in Alfred Hitchcock & the Making of Psycho, starring Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock), Helen Mirren (his wife), James D'Arcy (Anthony Perkins), Scarlett Johansson (Janet Leigh) and Michael Stuhlbarg (agent Lew Wasserman).
4.  Ron Howard's production company Imagine Entertainment is developing another big-screen treatment of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Daily Show on the Trayvon Martin shooting

Brilliant handling of the story.

AMC TV Shows

THE KILLING starts up again next week. Wasn't the season finale just six months ago? Regardless, I'm glad it's back soon enough. My wife watched season 1 with me but she decided she has no interest in season 2. I'll watch season 2, but I really hope it's not as morose as season 1. One can only take watching grieving parents for so long.

Still haven't watched the season finale of THE WALKING DEAD. I just hope the writers get a hold of themselves in season 3. Season 2 was full of bad dialogue and confusing character motivations. Still love the show; I just hope since we're getting the Governor in season 3 that it picks up. Was sad to see Dale go, but I liked how they had Shane exit. It had to be him or Rick.  I know they leave the farm and I assume a couple more characters get killed, but it'll be good for them to be on the road again.

I loved the season opener of MAD MEN. So nice to see Don Draper and company back. Now we're in 1966, and times are a-changing even as the characters wish they weren't. I liked the power struggle of SCDP, where Pete's exploring his powers as junior partner. He can pull in the unglamorous work, and now Roger Sterling finds himself trying to hide his uselessness. I like how Pete's a petty jerk except when he's around his wife. She brings out the best in him.

The underlying theme of Mad Men continues to be people looking for what they want, and when they get it, they're still not happy.  Don impulsively proposed to Megan at the end of last season.  Now they're a few months into their marriage and they already have cracks showing.  Roger and Lane are clearly unfulfilled in their marriages as well.

By the way, I tried about half an episode of COMIC BOOK MEN, the new reality show from Kevin Smith. I lasted about half an episode. Picture all the friends you had in college. Now picture the four geekiest who never grew up. Now picture them with their own show. What you are now picturing is more engaging than the reality of the actual show.

[Update: I watched the finale of The Walking Dead tonight.  I like how the group's on the run now.  I would have guessed that Patricia and Jimmy would have become zombie-food; they were the least developed characters on the show.  The show is at its best in action-mode.  When it got into dialogue, it entered shaky ground, and some actors are better at making it work than others.  I also like that Andrea is separated from the group, and now we have this cool hooded sword-lady with armless walkers as pets.]

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hunger Games breaks box-office records

1.  The Hunger Games - $155 million - 1 wk (LG)
 . . . 4137 screens / $37,467 per screen
2.  21 Jump Street - $21.3 ($71.05) - 2 wks (Sony) -41.3%
 . . . 3121 / $6825
3.  The Lorax - $13.1 ($177.3) - 4 wks (U) -42.5%
 . . . 3677 / $3563
4.  John Carter - $5.01 ($62.35) - 3 wks (BV) -63.1%
 . . . 3212 / $1561
5.  Act of Valor - $2.06 ($65.94) - 5 wks (Rel) -44.8%
 . . . 2216 / $931
6.  Project X - $1.95 ($51.75) - 4 wks (WB) -51.8%
 . . . 2065 / $944
7.  A Thousand Words - $1.93 ($14.93) - 3 wks (DW) -47%
 . . . 1787 / $1077
8.  October Baby - $1.72 - 1 wk (Gold)
 . . . 390 / $4405
9.  Safe House - $1.4 ($122.6) - 7 wks (U) -48.5%
 . . . 1330 / $1053
10. Journey 2 The Mysterious Island - $1.37 ($97.16) - 7 wks (WB) -42.5%
 . . . 1340 / $1025
11. Casa De Mi Padre - $1.1 ($3.95) - 2 wks (LG) -51.9%
 . . . 475 / $2316

The Hunger Games had the third highest opening weekend of all time, and its the highest non-sequel debut of all time. (It's behind only Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight).  Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen should now have her pick of any script she wants.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

NBC's Bent - TV Review

I think someday David Walton will find a decent sitcom to land on.  He showed some comedic abilities on 100 Questions and Perfect Couples, and here again he's in what could have been a decent show about a laidback contractor slowly seducing the uptight single mother (Amanda Peet) whose house he's redoing.  But the ratings are so bad, it's going to be gone in about four episodes.  Had it debuted in the fall, it might have been had a chance.

Beneath the Darkness - DVD Review

Starring Dennis Quaid, Aimee Teagarden, Tony Oller, Stephen Lunsford and Brett Cullen.  Directed by Martin Guigui.

Too forgettable to be loathed, this little thriller stars Dennis Quaid as small-town mortician Vaughn Ely with deadly proclivities, and Quaid is amusing to watch in the role, but the movie is more interested in following a group of boring teens who suspect him.

Some low points:

- The cop just assumes that one kid dies by accidentally falling down the stairs even though another kid is a witness that he was deliberately pushed, and that Ely then stomped on his neck. No one anywhere wants to even look at the body to see if they wounds are consistant with that story?

- The kids are having a tense conversation at the funeral about Ely and then suddenly he appears out from behind the tree they were standing next to. He was hiding behind that tree the whole time?

Picture intense mystery violins as the soundtrack to a daytime soap opera, and that's how most of the scenes go.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Week with Marilyn - DVD Review

Starring Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson, Judi Dench, Toby Jones, Julia Ormond, Jim Carter, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper, Derek Jacobi and Zoe Wanamaker. Directed by Simon Curtis.


Never saw The Prince & the Showgirl, and I think my enjoyment would have been enhanced if I had. This movie is about the experience of filming that movie through the eyes of the third assistant director (Eddie Redmayne), a young man who enjoyed a week of a flirty relationship with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) on the set.

Monroe had a rough time on the shoot, clashing with co-star/director Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Olivier was king of the non-Method, and Monroe had to feel and believe her character's motivations for her star power to shine through.

The reasons to see this movie are Williams and Branagh. Williams captures the vulnerability and allure of Marilyn. Branagh was born to play Olivier and doesn't disappoint. The supporting cast have fun in their roles too, like Julia Ormond as Vivian Leigh. I was a little disappointed that Emma Watson (Harry Potter) didn't have much more to do than play the plain girl that our protagonist neglects.

Williams and Branagh were both nominated for this movie and deservedly so. It just happened to be in the year that Meryl Streep and Christopher Plummer were in the mix.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

John Carter - Movie Review

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Dominic West, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, Thomas Haden Church, Bryan Cranston and Daryl Sabara.  Directed by Andrew Stanton.


"Of Mars! Say it!"

After Mars Needs Moms bombed, Disney changed the original title John Carter of Mars to the much blander John Carter.

If you forget all the surrounding noise about how expensive it was to make, and how much money it will lose, it's actually a pretty decent sci-fi adventure with one central flaw. Taylor Kitsch is not that interesting.

It's all about John Carter, a Confederate Civil War vet forced back into active service by the United States of We Yankees Kickedyerbutt. While Kitsch's line-reads rarely stray from the obvious choice, I enjoyed watching Bryan Cranston dig into his expository officer character. I wish his character had been zapped to Mars too.

So yeah, about 20 minutes in, John Carter's on what the natives call Barsoom. The ensuing plot goes through several familiar tropes of the genres. Star Wars, Avatar, Dune, etc. owe a debt to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

This is the live-action directorial debut of Andrew Stanton (WALL-E), and all the money is up there on the screen. The cities and ships and landscapes are all great. I really felt transported to another place. There was an air-battle that got confusing and that made me think of how I appreciate George Lucas the choreographer.

And for me, Kitsch is a notch below Chris Hemsworth's Thor. Maybe after a couple more movies he'll figure it out.  I still would have enjoyed a sequel, as this is essentially an origin story, but we know that won't happen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 3/20/12

- Seth Rogen (50/50) and Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man) will star in a period cop comedy. They'll play "the original buddy cops", the first ever pairing of a black cop and white cop in the late 1940's.

- Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat is going to be turned into a 3-D animated movie. (Let's all pretend that live-action Mike Myers 2003 fiasco never happened.)

- Sony Pictures is already planning on a sequel to 21 Jump Street. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are both expected to return.

- Josh Trank (Chronicle) will direct The Red Star, based on the graphic novel about an alternate-reality Russia where magic and technology collide. Trank's name has also been in the mix to helm either the Fantastic Four reboot, or the Spider-Man spinoff Venom.

- No details yet, but SNL co-stars Chevy Chase & Dan Aykroyd (Spies Like Us) are going to reteam for a movie.

I find myself shocked there's not a CG-animated movie of Pippi Longstocking in the works.

And here's the Dark Shadows trailer, starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton.

Prom - DVD Review

Starring Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, DeVaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell, Cameron Monaghan, Yin Chang and Nicholas Braun.
Directed by Joe Nussbaum.


Disney is trying to add a little more John Hughes to the High School Musical formula, and maybe tweens will fall in love with this, but Hughes always found a way to find the soul within the cliches.  This movie makes sure the safe choice is always made, and so the ensemble must ride and fall on the skills of their actors, and their skills range from charismatic to Disney Channel sitcom.

It's actually a stark contrast to Myth of the American Sleepover.  That movie had less plot, but the kids felt real enough that it could have been a documentary.  Here we have several characters who are assigned their personality traits and they never stray from them.

The whole thing is pleasant enough, and like I said, I'm sure it'll score with its targeted demo, but there's nothing in here to help it trascend to any other age group.  But I'd rather sit through this than, say, a Suite Life of Zack & Cody movie.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend Box Office - 3/18/12

1.  21 Jump Street - $35 million - 1 wk (Sony)
 . . . 3121 screens / $11,214 per screen
2.  The Lorax - $22.8 ($158.4) - 3 wks (U) -41.3%
 . . . 3769 / $6049
3.  John Carter - $13.52 ($53.17) - 2 wks (BV) -55.2%
 . . . 3749 / $3605
4.  Project X - $4 ($48.13) - 3 wks (WB) -64.1%
 . . . 2922 / $1371
5.  A Thousand Words - $3.75 ($12.1) - 2 wks (Par) -39.3%
 . . . 1895 / $1979
6.  Act of Valor - $3.68 ($62.4) - 4 wks (Rel) -47.4%
 . . . 2765 / $1330
7.  Safe House - $2.8 ($120.2) - 6 wks (U) -41.7%
 . . . 1920 / $1458
8.  Journey 2 The Mysterious Island - $2.46 ($95.07) - 6 wks (WB) -32%
 . . . 1935 / $1271
9.  Casa De Mi Padre - $2.2 - 1 wk (LG)
 . . . 382 / $5759
10. This Means War - $2.13 ($50.53) - 5 wks (Fox) -43.4%
 . . . 1660 / $1280

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Random Television Stuff - 3/17/12

- NBC has renewed Grimm for a second season.

- HBO has halted production of the second season of Luck and cancelled the series after a third horse was injured and has to be euthenized during filming.  The Dustin Hoffman racehorse drama didn't have good ratings, but HBO had hoped buzz could build for the second season.

- Did you know Rosie O'Donnell had a talk show on OWN?  Well, it's been cancelled.

- Keri Russell (Felicity) and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters) will star in FX's The Americans.  They'd play two KGB agents who've been undercover in the USA for years in the 1980's.  Noah Emmerich (Super 8) is in talks to play their neighbor.

- Rapper-actor Tip "T.I." Harris (Takers) has joined the cast of Starz's Boss.  He'll play a former gangbanger who wants a career at Chicago's City Hall.

Friday, March 16, 2012

21 Jump Street - Movie Review

Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube, Rob Riggle, Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson, Chris Parnell and Nick Offerman.  Directed by Phil Lord & Chris Miller.


When I first saw the trailer a few months ago I thought it looked terrible, like a candidate for worst movie of the year.  And yet, it's the funniest movie I've seen in several months.

Let me first speak to Channing Tatum.  With his body, he has to do action pics, but in such movies like GI Joe and The Eagle, I don't find him that compelling.  He's had success in chick flicks (Dear John, The Vow), but after being the funniest part about The Dilemma, and now this, I'm convinced Tatum's strength is comedy.

He and Jonah Hill make a great team.  We start in 2005, when the two were in high school.  Hill plays Schmidt, the insecure nerdy outcast, and Tatum is Jenko, the dumb bullying jock.  They meet again in police academy and decide to be friends.  Schmidt helps Jenko with studying, Jenko helps Schmidt with physical training.

Flash-forward to 2012, and the two are enlisted in the recently resurrected Jump Street program, where young-looking cops infiltrate high school as narcs.  Thos who remember the show will recognize in-jokes here and there, but those who haven't seen it will never feel lost.

The movie plays on stereotypes and expectations and subverts them over and over.  Directors Lord & Miller, of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs fame, have no problem transitioning their chaotic sense of humor to live-action.  There's also several fun small roles for TV comedy vets like Ellie Kemper (The Office), Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation), Jake Johnson (New Girl), Chris Parnell (Suburgatory), and so forth.

NBC's The Office - TV Review

We have to talk about The Office.

It's been one of my favorite comedies for years, but I haven't been able to say that is still true.  The show has not recovered from the departure of Steve Carell's Michael Scott.

James Spader's Robert California was great for a couple episodes, but the possibilities with him never really manifested.  And now that we know he's leaving, I can't say those are the big shoes to fill.  Carell's comedic void remains.  Ed Helms's Andy is a good character, but as the boss, he's this earnest guy that everyone is rooting for.  They want him to succeed.  He lacks that self-absorbtion that Michael had that unwittingly made his co-workers miserable.  I caught a rerun of when Jim and Andy were working the New York office.  Anger-management Andy had a lot more edge to him.  I'd like to see a little more of that guy come back.  Maybe we will now that he's been ousted.

Also, we know that not only is Spader leaving, but Rainn Wilson (Dwight) is getting his own Schrute Farms spin-off, and Mindy Kaling (Kelly) will be leaving as well for her own show on Fox.  Does NBC cancel Harry's Law and bring back Kathy Bates's Jo?  May be no need since Catherine Tate's Nelly is joining the cast full-time.  I'm pretty sure that had been the plan last year but there was so much buzz about the job Spader did in the season finale that they brought him on board for a full season.

So I still watch every week, and there are still things that happen that make me smile.  I'll watch it to the series finale and will miss it when it's gone.  It just ain't what it used to be.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

J. Edgar - DVD Review

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, Stephen Root, Denis O'Hare, Damon Herriman and David Clennon.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.


While I consider every directorial effort by Clint Eastwood a must-see, that doesn't mean he hits in out of the park each time, and this is an uneven effort, a meandering biopic about J. Edgar Hoover that spans sixty years, and Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hoover for all of those sixty years. And this is a problem.

Someday they'll digitally age actors instead of trying the old pancake make-up routine. I don't mind brief scenes with younger actors aged to make a point, but since DiCaprio spends a third of the movie buried in the stuff, I couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough. I'd rather Eastwood had gone with three 77-year-old actors to play Hoover, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), and secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts).

My other problem with this is the whole thing is so morose and dour. The lighting is saturated of any color that could be mistaken for warmth.

Now buried in all of this is a great central performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. His Hoover is steely, maybe a little shady, more than a little paranoid. By the end I wasn't sure if I should view Hoover as a hero or a villain. I was just ready for ti to be over.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie remake

They're making another Garbage Pail Kids Movie!  I kid you not.

Now I loved the Garbage Pail Kids cards when I was in middle school in 1985-1986.  I collected hundreds. I owned every card from the first eight series, and many in the ninth.   If my dad and stepmom hadn't made me throw them away, I'm sure they'd be worth thousands of dollars now. (I remember she called them "demonic.")

Now I'd always meant to see the 1987 Garbage Pail Kids movie.  I just never got around to it.  I'd heard it was awful, but morbid curiosity kept bringing it back in my mind.  I also remember at one an animated series was being developed for it, and when the studio head saw the pilot, he balked and cancelled the whole project.  Would love to see that pilot.

Anyway, everything 1980's is cool again, and so the Kids are getting another shot at the big-screen. I don't know if this'll be live-action or animated.  I'm sure it'll be terrible.  And yet, I'm looking forward to... renting it.

Here's the original trailer in all its Anthony Newley/Mackenzie Astin/leftover thugs from Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video glory:

Ishtar was actually kinda funny

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Anonymous - DVD Review

Starring Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson, Edward Hogg, Xavier Samuel, Jamie Campbell Bower and Derek Jacobi.
Directed by Roland Emmerich.


Roland Emmerich may be known for big-budget disaster flicks (The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) but when given the chance to tell a smaller story, he's actually pretty good.  This is no trashing of a genre, like, say, Paul WS Anderson's Three Musketeers, but an interesting "What if?" mystery.

This movie posits that Shakespeare didn't write a single word, that all of the plays were written by the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans).  The Earl is a poet at heart, but his station doesn't permit him to be open about his works.  The plan had been for Ben Jonsen (Sebastian Armesto) to claim authorship, but the ambitious actor William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) seizes the opportunity, and the rest is alternate history.

One of my favorite touches was having Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth, and Joely Richardson (her real-life daughter) play her in flashbacks.  I must also give credit to Ifans.  He's usually comic relief (Notting Hill, Little Nicky) or creepy villain (Hannibal), but his Earl has depth and soul.

The movie's careful not to take it itself too seriously.  It is, after all, play fast and loose with history.  At times it's like one of those paperback romance novels, but the settings and costumes are lush, and it's engaging from beginning to end.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday's Box Office - 3/9/12

For March 9.

1. John Carter - $9.82 million - 1 day
2. The Lorax - $9.6 ($92.48) - 8 days
3. Project X - $3.99 ($32.56) - 8 days
4. Silent House - $2.63 - 1 day
5. Act of Valor - $2 ($51.1) - 15 days
6. A Thousand Words - $1.92 - 1 day
7. Safe House - $1.3 ($112.1) - 29 days
8. The Vow - $1.27 ($114.88) - 29 days
9. This Means War - $1.22 ($44.35) - 22 days
10. Journey 2 The Mysterious Island - $.85 ($87.88) - 29 days

The Lorax will ultimately win the weekend. It's expected to get around $40 million while John Carter will more likely end up around $28 million. It will make The Lorax the highest-grossing movie thus far of 2012. And there will be weeping and wailing over John Carter, since between producton and marketing, it cost around $300 million. Disney will rrrreally need it to do well overseas.

Silent House is doing okay for what it is, but the marketing could have been better.

Eddie Murphy's A Thousand Words has been sitting on the shelf for years and was finally dumped into theaters yesterday.

Movie Release Date Changes

- Some release-date updates
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D has been pulled from Lionsgate's release schedule. In repsonse, Summit has moved their horror flick Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke, to October 5.

Les Miserables will now open December 14 opposite The Hobbit.   Based on the Broadway smash, Les Miz will star Hugh Jackman as Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmaybe as Marius, and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers.

Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, will open May 10, 2013.

The RoboCop reboot will open August 9, 2013. It stars Joel Kinnaman (The Killing).

Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers (sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) will open December 20, 2013.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, Week 3 - TV Review

So with Victoria Gotti gone, can the women pull together? This week's task is about doing a window display, modeling Ivanka Trump's clothesline. It's tailor-made for the women's team to win. Ivanka's going to be the sole judge! The fix is in.

So even though the men had a better-looking display and were more creative, the women won. So how did the men's team do otherwise? Penn continued to show himself as a statesman; Adam Carolla, Paul Teutel are good workers. Dee Snyder, broken finger and all, was a trooper. Lou Ferrigno kept bristling at the notion he's giving anything less than 110%. Since neither George Takei or Clay Aiken fell into the stereotype of gay men having an eye for women's fashion, it fell to Arsenio Hall to dress the women, and Ivanka didn't like his style choices as much as the ladies. Or so she claims!

But really, it came down to project manage George. He could easily get confused before he finished a sentence and never really seemed to get the confidence of his team. Once the men lost the task, I knew George was toast.

And I suspect as soon as America's Next Top Model gets cancelled, one of the "J"s will be on the very next season of Celebrity Apprentice.

Mr. Popper's Penguins - DVD Review

Starring Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Madeline Carroll, Clark Gregg, Philip Baker Hall, David Krumholtz, Jeffrey Tambor, Maxwell Perry Cotton and Dominic Chianese.  Directed by Mark Waters.


It's Jim Carrey in family-film mode. This harmless, fluffy lil comedy is about a man who inherits six penguins. Somehow they get delivered to his high-rise apartment, and he can't figure out how to get rid of them. But just when he thinks he has a solution, his ex-wife and two kids find out about them, and the kids love them. So he decides to keep them to help bring him closer to his kids.

I don't believe a real penguin was ever used. They looked CGI the whole time. In fact I could picture how they'd do the animated scene if Mary Poppins were ever rebooted.

Mark Waters (Freaky Friday) has some decent touches, and the supporting cast is a little better than usual for something like this.  It bares very little resemblance to the book on which it's based, but it's a decent rental, even if you don't plan on being in the room with your kids when they watch it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Silent House - Trailer

The Walking Dead - TV Review

Before I say anything, let me assert this is still one of my favorite shows on TV right now.  It may not make my Top Ten, but the conceit's compelling, and it can surprise with some really good scenes.

I am hoping that this week's episode does not turn out to be a shark-jumping moment.  Season 2's been uneven since AMC fired producer Frank Darabont after he delivered their highest-rated series in history.  Season 2 has been all about Herschel's farm, and it could get tedious at times, but any problem I had with the first of the season was wiped away by that very powerful climactic scene where they open the barn and out stumbles Sophie the Walker.

The second half of the season has been well-plotted in my book.  The dialogue's been pretty amateurish.  It lurches back and forth like a screenwriter just trying to get us from Point A to Point B, like it was written the night before they filmed.  I like Lori going all Lady Macbeth in her support of Rick, but her confrontation with Andrea was stilted and forced.  But that's last week.

This week, the group has to decide what to do with Randall, and while it starts with Daryl torturing Randall, Norman Reedus did terrific work with his eyes absorbing Randall's story about the father and two girls.  Shane keeps insisting Randall needs to just be killed, but Rick wanted to sleep on it.  Well, he slept on it, and he agrees there's no way out.  They need to kill Randall.

That doesn't sit well with Dale, the voice of reason in the group.  He goes to each person to plead with them, to decide not to kill Randall.  Jeffrey DeMunn's another acting MVP on this show, but the arguments Dale had weren't very persuasive, and most of the characters didn't go as deep as I would hope.  Episodes like this are ones where the actors can really show off what they can do, if the writers give them the words.

The best scene in the episode had Carl.  Yeah, he's getting more annoying, but when he goes down by the river and finds the zombie stuck in the bank...  Just that scene of the zombie reaching and Carl sitting and watching, that was a nice scene.

If I ranked all the characters in order from the ones I want to live most to the least, Daryl and Dale would be my top two, and much of that goes to Reedus and DeMunn.  After that, I'd say Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), then Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Carol (Melissa McBride), but many of the others are zombie-fodder waiting to happen.  I keep forgetting that Patricia and Jimmy are even part of the show.  T-Dog's barely there, so he's stuck in the limbo of "we don't want to kill off the black guy" and "we don't know what to write for him."

Then there's Shane (Jon Bernthal). I think Shane could be a really cool character, but it's irritating me how Bernthal plays him.  Some scenes his accent's so thick, I expect him to start looking for a pig to make squeal.  He has these actings crutches he can't seem to get rid of, like never looking at who he's talking to until he's finished his sentence.  Part of me hopes Shane dies in the season finale, but part of me fears that with Shane gone, they'll ruin Daryl's character to fill that void of antagonist in the group.

Anyway, Dale can't seem to convince anyone in the group to side with him and spare Randall, until at the last moment Andrea agrees.  And yet, I didn't believe Andrea was swayed.  I loved how Dale's heart was breaking over what the world had become, and so he had to trot off alone.

So Rick, Shane and Daryl escort Randall to the barn to kill him, but as Rick holds the gun to Randall's head, Carl walks in. (Doesn't anyone watch that kid?  He's the only kid left on the whole farm!)  When Carl tells his dad to do it, that winds up being a more stinging rebuke than if Carl had asked Dad not to do it.  Rick can't do it.  Daryl's frustrated with Rick's lack of conviction, but he's not going to do it himself.

But remember that walker stuck in the bank that Carl watched?  It got free and made its way to the farm, and it attacks Dale.  The groups runs to him too late, with Dale's guts ripped out.  Even if Herschel could put him back together, he'd surely just turn into a walker.  Rick holds the gun to Dale's head, the second time today he's held a gun to a man's head.  But Daryl takes the gun, and with a "Sorry, brother", fades us to black with a gunshot.

The show will miss Dale, miss that point-of-view, miss that veteran actor who can make others better.  But now is the time for their world to get a whole lot worse.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hobo with a Shotgun - DVD Review

Starring Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey and Nick Bateman.  Directed by Jason Eisener.

I loved the opening credits.  Total late-1970's vibe.  I know Quentin Tarantino does the same thing, but it didn't feel like a ripoff.  It felt like its own thing.  "This is the movie we're doing; this is the mood we want to establish."  Most of it involved following Hobo (Rutger Hauer) on a train.

But about five minutes later, the villains show up, and now we're in the section of the 1970's I don't want to relive.  Over-the-top, cackling, bad-acting villains begging to get killed, the kind that the MST3K crowd would have a party with.  Whereever Hobo lives, it's some sort of Escape From New York meets A Clockwork Orange meets RoboCop 2 meets Repo Men hellhole where evil people can torture and kill whoever they want and no one will stand up to them.  Judging by the soundtrack and the prolific use of VHS tapes by the citizenry, I'm going to guess it was supposed to take place in 1983.

Anyway, when Hobo goes to the police, they reveal themselves to be complicit and corrupt. Laughing maniacally while revelling in their corruption, those wacky coppers they.

The movie wallows in filth with no redeeming social value.  After a while I just fast-forwarded to the end to see how it concludes, and that was enough for me.  Anyone upset I didn't watch the whole thing?  You'll be upset with yourself if you watch it at all.

ABC's GCB - TV Review

The acronym is for Good Christian B*tches, and it's the network's latest effort to replace the sudsy comic Desperate Housewives. It's all about Amanda (Leslie Bibb), a wife and mother living the rich life in California when her cheating husband dies in a car crash with his mistress. Turns out his wealth from running a Ponzi scheme, and so she takes her two children back to her hometown of Dallas and moves in with her mother (Annie Potts).

Now Amanda was quite the mean girl in high school. She's a decent person now, but all the girls she picked on still live in Dallas and have not forgiven or forgotten. Oh, they'll smile to her face, but they seek to undermine her at every turn. To a degree the cattiness might have been fun, and some of it is thanks to cast-memebers like Kristen Chenoweth and Miriam Shor, but the show has to rub in our faces that all of these "Christians" are back-biting hypocrites.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lorax wins weekend

For the weekend of March 2-4.

1.  The Lorax - $70.7 million - 1 wk (U)
 . . . 3729 screens / $18,960 per screen
2.  Project X - $20.78 - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 3055 / $6800
3.  Act of Valor - $13.7 ($45.24) - 2 wks (Rel) -44%
 . . . 3053 / $4487
4.  Safe House - $7.2 ($108.2) - 4 wks (U) -34.1%
 . . . 2553 / $2820
5.  Tyler Perry's Good Deeds - $7 ($25.75) - 2 wks (LG) -55%
 . . . 2132 / $3283
6.  Journey 2 - $6.93 ($85.61) - 4 wks (WB) -48.3%
 . . . 3060 / $2263
7.  The Vow - $6.1 ($111.71) - 4 wks (SG) -38.5%
 . . . 2826 / $2159
8.  This Means War - $5.63 ($41.46) - 3 wks (Fox) -33.2%
 . . . 2342 / $2402
9.  Ghost Rider 2 - $4.7 ($44.88) - 3 wks (Sony) -47.8%
 . . . 2487 / $1890
10. The Artist - $3.9 ($37.09) - 15 wks (Wein) +34.2%
 . . . 1756 / $2221
11. Wanderlust - $3.8 ($12.4) - 2 wks (U) -41.8%
 . . . 2002 / $1898

Random Movie Stuff - 3/4/12

- Mary Birdsong (The Descendants), Yvette Nicole Brown (NBC's Community), and Missi Pyle (The Artist) will play the Three Fates in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.  Logan Lerman, Alexandria Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson are all returning from the first Percy Jackson film.

- Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, AMC's The Killing) will star in MGM's remake of RoboCop.  Jose Padilha (Elite Squad) will direct.

- Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense) has joined the cast of The Seventh Son, based on Joseph Delaney's book The Spook's Apprentice, about the seventh son of a seventh son in the 1700's who has supernatural abilities.  Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes (Prince Caspain), and Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) co-star.

- Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) has joined the cast of Stand-Up Guys, about two aging hitmen who enjoy one last weekend together before one of them kills the other. It stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin.

And in television...

- Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe will all be back for season 2 of FX's American Horror Story, but they'll all be playing different characters.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Artist - Movie Review

Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell, Joel Murray and Ken Davitian.
Directed by Michel Hazanivicius.


Finally, finally, finally got to see the Best Picture winner. I wish I'd seen it early, maybe at a film festival. Some movies can't live up to the hype. I thought Slumdog Millionaire did, as I saw after many sites were calling it the front-runner to win best picture. This one, well, of the nine Best Picture nominees, I've now seen eight. And I think The Artist is probably fourth or fifth best of them. It's in good company; it's worth seeing.

It's a throwback formulaic plot, harkening back to the really old days of silent movies. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the king of movies in 1927. Ah, but this novelty called "sound" is coming along. George skoffs it as a fad and is content to keep making silent movies, but the world's about to pass him by. While we see his fall, we also see the rise of Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a spunky gal who thrives in talkies.

The movie is basically a silent movie. Beyond the score, there are some times when sound is used to clever effect. It also succeeds to a large degree based on Dujardin's charm. He has a 10,000-watt smile and the movie hinges on his ability to act with his face. He's great, as is Bejo.

So don't expect the Best Movie of 2011, but it is a good movie worth hunting down.

Lindsay Lohan flatlines on Saturday Night Live

Cold Open - The opening skit was Shepard Smith (Bill Hader) interviewing Mitt & Ann Romney and their five sons. I kinda liked the Psycho spin with Shep, but it was otherwise forgettable.

Opening Monologue - At first I have to overcome my shock of seeing what Lindsay Lohan looks like these days.  Why oh why did she get plastic surgery on her cheeks?  But the premise of the monologue was good, with Kenan Thompson and Kristen Wiig wishing her well while casually checking her for drugs.  We also got surprise appearances from Jimmy Fallon and Jon Hamm.

The Real Housewives of Disney - Belle (Abby Elliott), Snow White (Vanessa Bayer), Jasmine (Nasim Pedrad), Rapunzel (Lohan), and Cinderella (Wiig) exude typical Bravo behavior. A couple half-smirks in there, but it should have been better than it was.

Scared Straight - Wow, this sketch again?  The one laugh is when Thompson comes out as Lorenzo and Lohan comes out as... herself.  She speeds through her lines with zero conviction.  Awful.  Although I do want to know whatever made Jason Sudeikis crack, thus sending Hader, Andy Samberg and Bobby Moynihan into giggle fits.

I also fast-forward the musical guest.  In this case it was Jack White as Johnny Depp as Jack White.

Weekend Update - Meh. Hader shows up as James Carville and Moynihan as pregnant Snooki.

The 2012 Psychic Awards - Samberg and Lohan act as hosts in this award-show parody. I liked how their In Memorium was for fellow psychics they knew were going to die later this year.  Lohan's also not asked to do much in this one.  Good.

Deliquent Girl Teen Gang - I didn't get what they were going for here.  The main joke was Fred Armisen in drag repeatedly getting hit by a car.

Digital Short - Wiig and Samberg with a giant, giant afro sing a song. This one will not go viral.

B108 FM Morning Radio - Taran Killam, Moynihan and Lohan as morning DJs with a lot of "what what" enthusiasm and no intelligence.  Bayer shows up as a nerdy news announcer who's not on their vibe.  #Yawn

Housesitter - Lohan (in a red wig!) shows up to housesit for Wiig, in a neckbrace, who dramatically answers the phone like one of those 1970's women-in-trouble chicks. The joke is she's butt-dialing herself.  Heh.

Commercial pardoies of Chantix and Verizon, both repeats, but both good.

Musical number.

Rude Buddha - Samberg as Buddha, who gives wisdom to people's faces, then talks smack about them when they leave. Pretty lame.

Songs from the 1970s - Sudeikis acts like he's going to do one of those commercials for song collections on CD, but it quickly goes to a silly place. It was a a throwaway that I actually found one of the funniest things they did tonight.

And that's the show.  Kinda lame overall.  I know calling SNL lame has been as fashionable forever, but sometimes they do have good stuff. I actually miss Paul Brittain and wish I knew why he left the show so abruptly. Lohan as host wasn't January Jones terrible, but she wasn't great either.  I guess it's progress to show she can still walk and talk at the same time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

NBC's Celebrity Apprentice - TV Review

The first episode was Paul Teutel Sr. vs. Patricia Velasquez in a challenge that was really all about rich friends answering favors. Paul had an anonymous donor give him $305,000 so nothing else mattered in the challenge, and Cheryl Tiegs was the sacrificial lamb.

The second episode is more even, as the winning task is determined by the audience. It's putting on a show at Medieval Times. Penn Jillette vs. Lisa Lampinelli.

Penn shows that he's a good leader, assigning tasks toward people's strengths, diplomatic in his approach to others. Lisa' okay, but she has a shorter temper and gets snippy when she feels interrupted.

When it came to the actual shows, I thought they were close. Penn's seemed to go a little smoother, and I would have guessed Lisa would have been docked for the poor technical work and the ladies flashing a little too much to a family crowd.

It turned out that yes, the ladies' show was too narrow. Scantily-clad babes for the men, but what's for the women and children?

In the end, the women have lost the first two tasks and now Victoria Gotti has been sent packing.

By the way, if I was a project manager, and Trump asked me which two I felt were weakest in the task in case I lost, I'd say if we lose, I'll tell you.

So Celebrity Apprentice remains its guilty-pleasure self.  Trump's still a boorish one-percenter, charities are still being helped, and where else can you see George Takei steal some glimpses of Lou Ferrigno's chest?