Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming Attractions Spring/Summer 2012

With all the movies I've been going to lately, I've gotten an unusually large dose of "coming attractions." Not that I mind--in some cases I find the trailers to be the most enjoyable part of the movie-going experience. In some cases, I'd almost prefer to watch two hours worth of trailers. In some cases, it FEELS like I have watched almost two hours worth of trailers.

But I digress...

Here are some of the trailers that have piqued my interest over the last couple of weeks/months:

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Who comes up with this stuff? Oh, that's right--this is from the twisted mind of Seth Graham-Smith and is a follow-up to his also twisted "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" which is also being made into a movie. (Has anyone seen a trailer for that? I'm dying to see how the stuffy manners and morality of the early 19th century is transformed by the undead...)

The thought of our 16th president not only as someone who abolished slavery, but was a kick-ass vampire slayer? Totally tickles the funny bone--although from the trailer it appears the movie totally plays it straight.

The Raven

When I first saw this trailer the other day, I thought it was for the Abe Lincoln vampire movie. Similar time periods (early 1800s) and same Gothic feel. But no, it's a movie about a serial killer who is inspired by the macabre work of Edgar Allen Poe, who is played here by John Cusack. Yup, Lloyd Dobler is playing the necrophilia-obsessed author. It's more mind-boggling than Lincoln as a 19th century Buffy in my opinion. Still, I'm a sucker for period pieces so I'll probably go see both (and cover my eyes at all the gory parts...).


I most definitely will NOT be seeing this based on the cliché-ridden trailer. "There's only one man who can get her out..." "He's the best there is...but he's a loose cannon." Ugh. The story: The president's daughter is caught up in a jailbreak that occurs in a maximum security prison orbiting off earth and an operative wrongfully convicted of conspiracy is tasked with rescuing her and earning his freedom. The stereotypical action hero-loner is played by Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace reprises her Taken role as the pretty damsel in distress. An IMDB previewer suggested it might have been a more intriguing story had the roles been reversed and I agree.

Neighborhood Watch

Post-George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin, it would appear that marketing this movie just got a bit problematic. According to the IMDB synopsis, however, the flick about a quartet of wannabe bad-asses turns into a Men In Black ripoff. With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill on tap, there will probably be laughs. Whether or not they'll be apparent in footage OTHER than the trailer remains to be seen...

(Update: Apparently Fox's marketing department isn't as quick on the draw as I am as they only just now pulled the teaser trailer for Neighborhood Watch in light of the Trayvon Martin shooting.)

That's My Boy

Okay, since it's an Adam Sandler movie, it's pretty much guaranteed to be stupid, silly, raunchy comedy which plays to the lowest common denominator. The set up is similar to Sandler's previous foray into "father figure" aka Big Daddy, but with the added ick factor twist of a little Mary Kay LeTourneau subplot. Although the trailer shows Sandler shamelessly mugging, Andy Samberg is sure to be funny--and what the hell, I love Adam. It's not The Wedding Singer but unless the reviews are Jack and Jill level horrific, I'll probably go see it.

The Five-Year Engagement

Jason Segel AND Emily Blunt? Say no more--I am so there. These two look adorable together in the trailer--I've no doubt the finished movie will be both sweet and funny.

Rock of Ages

Musicals tend not to be big winners on the big screen, but Rock of Ages boasts an all-star cast including Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Cruise. It could end up being a terrible cheese-fest, but two hours of 80s pop/metal might be worth the ticket price.

Dark Shadows

Speaking of cheesy, Tim Burton is back with his creative muse Johnny Depp as soap-vamp Barnabas Collins. Surprisingly, Helena Bonham Carter doesn't make an appearance in this flick (at least one that's credited currently on IMDB) but Seth Grahame-Smith of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) is credited as one of the writers. Unless the Lincoln does Buffy flick, this one appears to be capitalizing more on comedy than Gothic horror.

** ETA:  Actually Bonham Carter IS in Dark Shadows.  All is right with the world...

Premium Rush

Three words to describe why I'll being seeing this movie: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Any trailers pique your interest lately?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

21 Jump Street

This movie version of the once popular 80s TV show would have seemed to be another indication that Hollywood is indeed out of new ideas. But I could tell from the trailer, that instead of updating the original show (which itself was a ripoff of the 60s/70s The Mod Squad), the intention was to go the buddy comedy route and lampoon the very idea of actors in their late 20s/early 30s playing high school students ala Beverly Hills 90210 (**cough cough Luke Perry cough**).

Of course Jonah Hill who has become a staple in movie comedies over the last couple of years (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Get Him to the Greek, etc.) is a shoo-in as the dorky, choke-in-a-clutch Schmidt and Channing Tatum certainly fits the bill as the pretty-but-dim Jenko--but did you know that Tatum is actually FUNNY? So much so that you'd actually forgive him for being in not one but TWO Nicholas Sparks movies as well Step Up 1 & 2.

The movie is filled with great comic actors like Nick Offerman and Ellie Kemper, but it's the great chemistry between Hill and Tatum which turns the story from a standard action adventure into more of a "bro-mantic" comedy. That's not to say there isn't plenty of action--there are car chases, explosions and gun violence, but given the overall tone of the movie even the climatic bloody shoot-out at the end of the film is played for laughs.

Fans of the original TV series (I never watched it...) might be disappointed at the irreverent take on their beloved show, but there are at least four former Jump Streeters making cameos in the film--including Johnny Depp. The movie is a mess of silliness and mayhem, but is definitely a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Here's to hoping that Hill and Tatum re-team for future comedic efforts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

"High concept" is Hollywood-ese for movies that can be summed up in a single sentence. It's usually reserved for blockbusters like Die Hard which became its own shorthand for high concept with the numerous copycats that followed it being described as "Die Hard on a Bus," "Die Hard on a Plane"--you get the idea. Ironically, the indie flick Jeff, Who Lives at Home manages to convey its concept with less than a sentence in its title.

The "Jeff" is question is played by Jason Segel who's made a career out of playing the overgrown man-child. His enormous size and hangdog expressions really contribute to the character of the basement-dwelling, pot smoking, 30 year-old with a severe case of arrested development due to the untimely death of his father when he was young.

His brother, Pat (played by Ed Helms) suffers a similar case of stunted growth--lacking a role model for becoming a man although he is employed and married, unlike Jeff.

But back to Jeff, whose belief system is built upon the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs as he approaches commonplace occurrences like wrong numbers as messages from the universe as to his destiny. After experiencing said wrong number while smoking a bong and watching an infomercial on TV, Jeff sets out on a fatalistic journey that is the basis of action for the rest of the movie. His journey has him crossing paths with his estranged brother Pat (twice) which only furthers his interpretation of meaning.

As Jeff's journey becomes subsumed by Pat's marital difficulties, the film starts to resemble the 1996 indie flick, The Daytrippers. Written and directed by brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, the film does explore the relationship between the two brothers--as well as Pat's relationship with his long-suffering wife Linda (Judy Greer) and the tension between the sons and their uptight mother (Susan Sarandon)--but mostly it's Jeff's journey to discover his destiny which he does in a big way in the climatic ending.

As such, the film is highly dependent on Segel's ability to walk the fine line between adorable and annoyance, which he manages with ease. Although a fairly lightweight piece of whimsy, the Duplass brothers along with their talented cast manage to make this day-in-a-life film "the best day in the history of the whole world."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Friends with Kids

In Friends with Kids, Jennifer Westfeldt's adorably neurotic Jessica Stein-esque character is still single with loudly ticking biological clock. So, she and BFF Jason Fryman (Adam Scott) decide to forgo the unhappily ever after route taken by their friends (Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd and Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig) and have a kid together.

While what follows in pretty predictable in a Harry Met Sally had a baby kind of way, it still is an engaging little flick. While it doesn't quite live up to the charm of Kissing Jessica Stein, Westfeldt and Scott have great chemistry and are completely adorable together. Sure, it's got a lifestyle porn gloss to it, but as with KJS it perfectly dramatizes the fact that life and relationships can be messy and that the unconventional these days is becoming the norm.

As a post on Gawker points out, the supporting cast is fairly peripheral to the movie--so if you were expecting Rudolph and Wiig to delight you with their SNL comic chops, you're bound to be disappointed. Well, not so much disappointed--the tangled relationship between Westfeldt's Julie Keller and Scott's Jason Fryman provides enough interest. The characters are not altogether three-dimensional: Jason is superficial serial monogamist and Jules has an obsession with pondering various death scenarios--but that's about the limit of the depth of portraits. Still, Westfeldt and Scott manage to draw you in with their performances.

Even with its flaws, I enjoyed the film much more than many I've seen lately. It brought me to tears at points (and I forgot tissues AGAIN!) and left me satisfied with the resolution--even though it was pretty much a given (see ending of "Harry Met Sally"). If you liked Kissing Jessica Stein, you'll enjoy Friends with Kids. And if you have seen KJS, rent it!

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Given a choice between a serious Oscar-worthy drama and a mindless comedy, I'll generally choose the comedy. I've seen enough dark and depressing fare to last a lifetime. After catching the trailer for the Paul Rudd/Jennifer Aniston vehicle Wanderlust, I thought it might just do the trick.

Rudd, especially, is known for his comic chops and has appeared in a number of funny movies in the last couple of years: 40 year-old Virgin, Role Models, I Love You, Man, etc. Aniston has comic cred as well--although her film roles haven't quite lived up to her Friends pedigree.

Wanderlust is fitfully funny--lampooning both the lifestyle of the urban yuppie as well as the neo-hippie. The latter undergoes a skewering that is over the top with the commune-dwelling residents of Elysium are portrayed as free love-living, yoga practicing, organic farming, vegan nudists.

Along with Rudd, whose gorgeous complexion never seems to age, and Aniston, who manages to look stylish even wearing an array of ponchos, peasant blouses and Ugg boots, the film features Justin Theroux, Malin Ackerman, Lauren Ambrose, Linda Lavin and Alan Alda. (Did Alda recently get a new agent? He's really popping up a lot these days: Tower Heist, The Big C and now Wanderlust.)

Wanderlust has its moments of funniness--but it's fairly uneven. There are cringe-worthy (especially if you're not a 17 year-old male--or are female in general...) moments as well. If your taste runs towards the vulgar and ridiculous, catch a matinee showing of Wanderlust. Otherwise, wait until it hits Netflix.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Salute to Sidekicks

A common trope in TV shows is that of the plucky hero/heroine and their intrepid sidekick. There's Batman and Robin, Ralph and Ed, Lucy and Ethel. In most cases, the sidekick is willing to dwell faithfully in the shadow of their confederate. But sometimes the sidekick proves to be more engaging than the so-called lead that they are supporting.

Take for example Rhoda Morgenstern. As a sassy counterpoint to the sincerity of Mary Richards. To be fair, Mary Tyler Moore's character acted as more of a "straight man" to the general wackiness of the friends and coworkers around her--and Rhoda was no exception. Of course when Rhoda's character was spun off into her own show, her sister Brenda (Julie Kavner) became the sidekick who often eclipsed Rhoda.

Here are some examples of my favorite scene-stealing sidekicks:

Jack and Karen

The show may have been called "Will & Grace," but the true stars were Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally as Jack and Karen. I never quite got why GLAAD showered the show which perpetuated broad stereotypes with so many awards, but Jack and Karen never failed to amuse.

Sam Axe

Burn Notice is a show about a burned spy named Michael Westen who is trying to find out who betrayed him and regain his status with the CIA. I'm sure many people watch the show to see how Jeffrey Donovan's character employs his super spy skills to save the day, but I'm more engaged by the comic relief provided by Bruce Campbell who plays Michael's friend, Sam Axe. Sam is a beer-swilling, wise-cracking, ex-military turned gigolo-type--but he's also completely loyal and dependable.

If I needed someone to lay down cover fire while I surreptitiously advance upon my target, it'd be Sam Axe.


Matt Bomer is indisputably one of the most beautiful people I have ever--and man, can he wear the @#$% out of a suit! But the reason I keep tuning into White Collar each week is not for Neal Caffrey, the dapper grifter or even the stoic and steadfast Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). It's for Willie Garson's paranoid thief and Neal's cohort, Mozzie.

Garson was adorable as Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City, but he gets more screen time on White Collar. And thank goodness because his character is the most fun on this show.


While Edie Falco is always watchable in whatever role she plays, she is surrounded by talent with the cast of Nurse Jackie. I love each and every character! But Merritt Wever as Jackie's acolyte, Zoey Barkow is definitely a scene stealer. Zoey idolizes Jackie, but still manages to stand on her own among an exceptional ensemble.


As a physicist nerd afflicted by selective mutism around women, Kunal Nayyar as Rajesh Koothrappali on The Big Bang Theory doesn't have a lot of lines. But when he does, he absolutely crushes them.

Penny: We should have never slept together. It's what ruins friendships.

Raj Koothrappali: You can't ruin a friendship with sex. That's like trying to ruin ice cream with chocolate sprinkles.

Plus he's really adorable...


Grimm is one of two fairy tale-inspired series this season. It's pretty much a police procedural with supernatural type characters (wolves, bears, spiders and more). One of these anthropomorphic beings is played by Silas Weir Mitchell. His character of Monroe has turned out to be a true blue (or more accurately, "Blutbad") friend to Grimm descendant, Nick Burkhardt. Nick is a somewhat bland, boring character (although easy on the eyes) so it's pretty easy for Monroe to capture the spotlight.

Any TV sidekicks that make your must-watch list?