Archive | July, 2011

Project Nim

31 Jul

Title: Project Nim
Year: 
2011
Director: 
James Marsh
Writer: 
Starring: 
Bob Angelini, Bern Cohen, Reagan Leonard
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, some strong language, drug content, thematic elements and disturbing images
Runtime: 
93 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
97%

 

Let me start this review by just saying that I really loved this film. I seriously did, and I knew there was a high chance of that happening because I loved the subject matter, about Nim, a chimpanzee who in the 70’s was the subject of an investigation that wanted to show that an ape that was raised as a human child could eventually communicate effectively as a human. I knew I was bound to be fascinated by the subject matter, not only because I personally really wanted to hear about it, but because the guy that was going to present it to us was James Marsh. He is the man that in 2008 brought us Man on Wire, the Oscar-winning documentary about Philippe Petit, that man who in 1974 performed an illegal tightrope walk between the World Trade Center’s twin towers. That film I ranked as the 21st best of that year, but in retrospect it should be even higher, because I’ve rewatched it quite a bit and every single time I’m spellbound by how nicely told it is. And I knew I could expect more of that genius storytelling in Project Nim, and I was right.

Because I really was just totally glued to screen while I watched Project Nim, and a lot of that really had to do with how terrific a director Mr. Marsh is, he really knows how to tie it all up together in the best of ways. And it also helps that, much like on Man on Wire, the people you learn about in this film are just super interesting and articulate and always entertaining, that makes the viewing of an hour-and-a-half docu like this something you can enjoy the hell out of because Mr. Marsh is just tremendous when it comes to taking all these interviews and archive videos and just cutting to the heart of the story, and him an Jinx Godfrey, his usual editor, are just fantastic at piecing it all together, because Mr. Marsh just knows really well the precise story he wants to tell, and knows what to give us and what maybe not to give us that much of because it doesn’t work in his vision. It’s just a tremendously well-constructed documentary.

This was just one hell of an absorbing experience for me, an irresistible ride to be on, as the story that started unfolding just eventually got to be more complex to really swallow and you got some really rich storytelling in it. Because this isn’t just a cute documentary about a chimp who started behaving like a human child, not at all, this is in many ways a tragic look at a scientific experiment, and there will be times during the film in which you’ll be left trying to figure out why the team of researchers did some of the stuff they did, and many times no real answer will occur to you. Because behind all of the fascinating stuff that getting a chimp to learn sign language in a human way may entail, there’s a deep human story here as well, as you start grasping all the missteps that were made in how it was all conducted, as Nim was taken from his mother at just two weeks old and thrust into a city existence with a family that had no experience whatsoever with the care of chimpanzees. There was just nothing about this experiment as it’s presented to us that indicated that it would turn out in a way other than failure.

And that’s really the approach Mr. Marsh smartly takes, not one in which he shows us the real results of the experiment, because the actual details of the experiment and the hypothesis and framework for it are actually just skimmed over rather briefly, but instead the approach elected is one much more focussed on the human side of it all, the part of it which deals more with the aftermath of the experiment, and Mr. Marsh expertly know which buttons to push when talking to those involved with the experiment in the present day and quickly enough some very revealing stuff comes to the surface. Because Mr. Marsh really does arrive at some pretty dark territory about human psychology here, about how we’ll do pretty much anything to prove a point, no matter how plain wrong the cost of that may be.

The cost of this specific experiment was, of course, cute little Nim, who had his entire existence thrown through a loophole and was basically forced to go against his very own nature to prove the point a scientist was trying to make. Don’t get me wrong, the people in this documentary aren’t mean to Nim, they genuinely seem to care about him, they just do stuff to him that make you think about how wrong they were in their thinking and that ultimately did no good to the chimp they apparently cared so much for. And Mr. Marsh is just so damn good at how he constructs all of this exploration, he takes a page out of Errol Morris (who also has a new documentary out which I really want to check out) in how the interviews are done, and how there are reenactments and title cards and footage, and he does that to great effect as he creates some spellbinding drama out just a series of interviews about an event that happened nearly three decades ago.

And it’s not as though he creates a sentimental and manipulative take on the story, not at all, I mean you may cry in it, for sure, but he actually doesn’t give his players all that much texture and in most cases it’s just as easy to feel sympathy towards them as it is to view them under a bad light. And that I found terrific, and it showed the power documentaries can so easily have. And it’s just a fantastic showing of human nature as viewed through the story of a chimp, we realize just how selfish we can be, how blindsided by our own egos we can become and how much harm all of that can cause, not only to us, and this is the best part of it all, but also to other species. Just a terrific watch that I cannot recommend enough, Mr. Marsh has done it again.

Grade: A-

Zookeeper

30 Jul

Title: Zookeeper
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Frank Coraci
Writers: Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick and David Ronn, based on a story by Mr. Scherick and Mr. Ronn
Starring: 
Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Donnie Whalberg, Ken Jeong, Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Cher, Jon Favreau, Maya Rudolph, Don Rickles
MPAA Rating: 
PG, some rude and suggestive humor, and language
Runtime: 
102 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
3.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
13%

 

Today I caught a 3 p.m. showing of Zookeeper because I’m on the fourth week of a six-week holiday and I really have nothing better to do with a Friday afternoon. I wasn’t expecting any sort of cinematic masterpiece, of course, because this is after all an $80 million budgeted PG-rated film with talking animals, but I like Kevin James a whole lot so I thought he would at least make it bearable. But, as fate would have, not even Mr. James could make the most out of this whole thing, the script is just seriously bad and it totally squanders whatever latent likability our lead actor here might have in favor of some mildly rude jokes that don’t work even in the simplest of levels.

Mr. James, who was awesome in TV’s The King of Queens and followed that up with a nice transition into movies with some charismatic performances in films like Hitch and even Paul Blart: Mall Cop, plays our titular zookeeper in this film who’s in the middle of two women. One is his icy ex-girlfriend who he still likes and wants to win back with the help of the very cute talking animals he works with, and the other is a co-worker of his who obviously would appreciate him much more for who he is than his ex ever would, but he doesn’t really notice that from the get-go because that’s just how these films go.

But please don’t think that Zookeeper has anything to do with the human story of it all, oh no, c’mon, it’s a high-budget summer movie for kids, of course human emotions aren’t the center of attention here, the talking animals are. And that’s when it fails, because the talking animals are just really poorly done, the mouths are just badly animated and the voices of the famous actors paid to lend their pipes sound as though they were recorded without any sort of footage to time their tone and delivery to which just makes this whole thing seem oddly disconnected and makes you realize that sometime voice-over work should be left to voice-over actors, as appealing as having this A-list roster of stars may sound at first. The whole thing is just bad, it relies too much on jokes to make Mr. James seem clumsy, it has some odd machism undertones and helluva lot of shameless product placement.

I get that this is really a well-meaning comedy about a nice guy who loves what he does and eventually wins the girl. I get it because Kevin James really is a nice guy, a likable everyday man who people usually connect to, and he plays this sweet guy who starts listening to the animals he tends after for love advice but even though on paper making a film like this as a money-grab may seem to make sense, you just have to believe that two separate and better films could have been made with the budget for this one, which with less than $95 million in the three weeks since it has been released hasn’t even been the money-grabbing move it was clearly designed as.

And I just have to take some time to again put forward a theory that regular readers of this blog may be familiar with, and that’s that nine times out of ten, whenever you have a script credited to more than three people it probably means the film will be quite bad. And that theory holds its own here, as a script worked on by five people, including Mr. James, fails to deliver in any way imaginable. And the direction here isn’t much better, as Frank Coraci, a long-time member of the Happy Madison clique formed by Adam Sandler, who here does a horrible job voicing a monkey, apparently had no control over his scenes and players and just had a huge amount of moments take a life of their own and run wild, some of them playing too big for their own and some of them not playing at all, just a bad job overall.

I will however, say one thing for Zookeeper, and this is the only reason why I will give the film a passing grade, and that’s that kids will have a ball with it. We are a time in which so many kiddie movies appeal greatly to adults as well though, so the “it’s a film aimed at kids so it only matters if they like it” excuse won’t fly here. But yeah, kids will love the story about the good guy who loved his job but that after losing the woman of his dreams starts pondering leaving his job unti, voilá, the animals start talking to him and telling him how to win her back. But adults will have issues with the badly-animated and badly-voiced animals, and with Mr. James being given such a bland starring role. So yeah, if it’s a particularly hot summer day and you’re AC system has broken down and you need the cool comfort of a theater then take the kids to see this one. If not, then you’re better off just popping Dr. Doolittle on the DVD and dozing off to that in the comfort of your own home.

Grade: C-

Horrible Bosses

28 Jul

Title: Horrible Bosses
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Seth Gordon
Writers: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, based on a story by Mr. Markowitz
Starring: 
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx
MPAA Rating: 
R, crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material
Runtime: 
98 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
69%

 

I saw this one on Monday and just thought it was one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen all year. I mean, it’s a very hard R-rated film, with just all sorts of nasty and inappropriate jokes, and even though it may be a bit uneven at times, you just can’t be really bothered to notice because of the perfectly-cast and supremely talented bunch of actors you’re watching. Seriously, this is one fantastic ensemble in this comedy, everyone just having fun with their roles and making the most out of a premise that maybe isn’t the most original conceit, but is certainly still tremendously solid and provided some terrific moments.

It stars three of the funniest men around: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis. And what’s awesome is that they’re not necessarily the biggest draws for most people, but to those who know who they are, their names are as big a sell as any. Mr. Bateman is of course the best-known of the trio, known to most probably from his roles in films like Juno or Hancock, but known to those who love him the most from his starring role in Arrested Development, one of the finest comedies in television history which has certainly now achieved some sort of cult status. Mr. Day suffers a similar fate even though he’s the least known of the three, some will know him from his scene-stealing supporting role in last year’s Going the Distance, but those who really love him know him from his hilarious turn on FX’s It’s Always Sunny on Philadelphia. As for Mr. Sudeikis, same ol’ same ol’, he’s been in movies, even got a starring role in this year’s underwhelming Hall Pass (which I gave a C to) but is most dearly known from his work on Saturday Night Live. So yeah, these are all comedic actors with fervent fanbases from their work on TV, and there’s just this latent sense of camaraderie when between them when you watch the film, and that’s really the movie’s greatest strength.

Now, good as those three may be, they don’t necessarily carry the starpower you’d think for a summer blockbuster (this one is nearing in on $100 million box office gross from a budget around $35 million). And that when the supporting cast comes around. You have Jennifer Aniston playing a role she’s never even come close to playing before, that of a nymphomaniac dentist. You have two-time Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey playing a corporate asshole. You have Colin Farrell playing a coke-fiend going bald who’s a whole other sort of asshole. And then you have Jamie Foxx playing a guy just released from prison called Motherfucker Jones. So yeah, that fills up your starpower quota for sure.

And it’s really a tremendous comedy, it has a lot of raunch to it to make it stand up right up there with The Hangover and Bridesmaids as a true new millenium comedy and it’s also really smart, so that you don’t knock it off as some sort of cheap reenactment of those great ones. As for the plot, it’s about the three guys I mentioned, a trio of best friends, who happen to be loathing their jobs because they have, as the title aptly puts it, horrible bosses. Mr. Bateman’s character, Nick, has been at a desk job for years and years, doing every ridiculous thing asked of him, getting in on time, all to get a promotion that he definitely deserves only to then find out that his boss, Mr. Spacey’s character, screws him out of it. Then we have Dale, the character played by Mr. Day, who’s a dental assistant to Ms. Aniston’s character, the sex-crazed dentist who harasses him not-stop at work. And finally we have Kurt, the character who actually loved his job and his boss, until this one dies from a sudden heart attack and his son, the cokehead played by Mr. Farrell, inherits the business and gives him a hard time.

They can’t quit their jobs, and they each have a particular and specific reason for that, but all of them also realize they can’t do it because finding a new one in this economic climate won’t be such an easy thing to do, a very timely theme the film touches upon in a funny way with a recently-unemployed friend of the group. And so they device a plan to kill of their bosses, aided by the criminal played by Mr. Foxx. And after that it’s just a showcase for this awesome group of actors to do their things and have us laughing like crazy. Yes, there may be things that maybe didn’t really hit the money, I personally though Mr. Bateman and Mr. Spacey didn’t really have the right sort of chemistry, and there were obviously jokes that you’ve heard before, but for the most part, this is a very successful comedy.

Go see Horrible Bosses, it has a subject we can all pretty much relate to in one way or another, and it has a cast led by a trio of incredibly funny guys who have awesome chemistry with one another and are fantastic at their jobs. And for every scene or joke you think you’ve heard before, there’s one you really haven’t seen before and they’re all terrific as directed by Seth Gordon, who did the awesome The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters documentary, a guy who just embeds a lot of high-strung energy in this film, and you’ll laugh your ass off watching the bits that include Charlie Day acting all coked up. And then there’s Jennifer Aniston, who lately hasn’t really been great in anything, and yet here goes for a role so unlike her usual stuff and just nails it, showing tremendous comic timing as a sexual predator.

Grade: B+

The Perfect Host

28 Jul

Title: The Perfect Host
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Nick Tomnay
Writer: Nick Tomnay
Starring: 
David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker
MPAA Rating: 
R, language, some violent content and brief sexual material
Runtime: 
93 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 
38%

 

This is Nick Tomnay’s debut feature film, and even though it’s a very uneven film, there were a couple of glimpses that showed some real promise, especially with how Mr. Tomnay handled his limited surroundings and characters, nicely introducing some surprising elements even though he didn’t have much to do it with. And you really get that that was pretty much all he was trying hard to do, to create that sort of thriller in which you really get the sense that anything can happen and that sort of feeling is what drives the whole movie. And it’s neat in the sense that really every turn the movie takes there a twist and a surprise. And while those elements are pretty damn satisfying at times, the predator in this film becomes the prey so many times that in the end you just can’t deal with it anymore because even as nicely executed as the twists may be, it all gets a bit too monotonous.

We have John, the character played by Clayne Crawford, a guy who has just made over a quarter of a million dollars in a bank robbery and seems to have gotten away with it. He needs a safehouse though, so that police don’t catch him, and so he talks his way into the home of Warwick Wilson, the character of David Hyde Pierce, alleging to having been mugged and having lost his luggage at the airport. The title of the movie comes from the fact that Warwick, a character at first not really that different from the awesome Niles Crane of Frasier which we all know Mr. Hyde Pierce from, is expecting dinner guests shortly and is putting the finishing touches on a certifiable feast. But then, once John has gotten into the house, comes a police report that alerts Warwick as to the real identity of his unexpected guest, and that’s when things turn ugly, with John holding a knife to Warwick’s throat and threatening to kill him.

I say that Warwick isn’t really that different than Niles because they both seem super mild-mannered and are gracious hosts. But then there’s the one big difference between Warwick and Niles, and that’s the fact that Warwick sometimes hallucinates and has all these underlying psychopathic tendencies. And so, quickly enough, the prey becomes the predator, as Warwick takes control of the situation and John ends up tied up and being witness to the dinner party Warwick was preparing for, one with guests that exist only in his head. And after that the movie just goes wild, with more twists and turns than you’ll be able to count by yourself.

The movie isn’t a straight thriller by the way, it has a lot of dark comedy, which I think is where it works best as Mr. Hyde Pierce, who gives it his all during the whole film, can really excel in these situations and it just elevates the whole product, how he can mix it up between the deranged treatment Warwick gives John to the more comic exchanges between him and his delusions, that stuff is all pretty darn fun to watch. The thing is that those are the funnest moments, the ones in which we get Warwick interacting with his hallucinations, but as good as Mr. Hyde Pierce is at playing that, I just though that Mr. Tomnay could have done so much more with what his lead actor was giving him, because if you’re gonna make Warwick be this sort of crazy guy, you should amp it up, and I don’t think Mr. Tomnay made that character seem as crazy as he potentially could have been.

Another thing that I don’t think Mr. Tomnay successfully pulled off, and on which a lot of the film’s success was relying upon, was making John a sympathetic character. Because this is a character that starts the film as a rather cruel character which we assume we must root against, but then once we realize the role reversal that just occurred Mr. Tomany quickly has to embed sympathetic traits to him, and it kind of works via some flashbacks that tells us more about him and as we realize that he’s just an ignorant criminal who wants to get back on a straight life, but I don’t know, it just never really clicked for me to connect to his story. I mean the film is based on a short Mr. Tomnay did a decade ago, and you get the impression that it probably should have remained that way, as you get a writer-director that just starts filling time with a lot twists and hunter-and-hunted role reversals probably just because he was given a whole extra hour to fill and he didn’t know what to do with it.

I’ll give The Perfect Host a grade that reflects I don’t really recommend it. Not because it’s bad, because it really isn’t, but it just really isn’t much of anything. It starts off fine, during the middle it starts getting shaky, and then we get that horrible third act that’s just simply all over the place and that deals with John’s backstory and the bank robbery, and that bit of the film had just so little logical connective tissue to everything we had watched before it that it totally lost me. I applaud a director that certainly was devoted in a more classic style of thriller construction, because the first few twists work well, but once we realize that there’ll be a new one every couple of scenes we can see them coming from miles away, and that’s what in the end made The Perfect Host seem like an unwanted guest who stayed too long.

Grade: C+

Terri

26 Jul

Title: Terri
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Azazel Jacobs
Writer: Patrick DeWitt, from a story by himself and Azazel Jacobs
Starring: 
John C. Reilly, Jacob Wysocki, Bridger Zadina, Creed Bratton, Olivia Crocicchia, Melanie Abramoff, Jenna Gavigan
MPAA Rating: 
R, sexual content, language and some drug and alcohol use – all involving teens
Runtime: 
105 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
86%

 

What a sensational little surprise Terri turned out to be. I seriously cannot say enough about how much I loved this film, especially because I went into it knowing very little about it, and even moreso because I only knew the briefest and vaguest of plot outlines: “It’s about a fat kid who gets bullied around at school and then this offbeat professor strikes a connection with him”, I was told, and yes, it’s about that, like so many movies before it have been, but it’s also so much more. And the reason why Terri is so much more than your usual film about a guy that doesn’t fit in at his school and gets a hard time because of it is Jacob Wysocki. This is Mr. Wysocki’s feature-length film debut, after appearing in a supporting capacity on ABC Family’s cancelled Huge, and boy does he make the most out of it, he feels incredibly natural as Terri, embedding in him gentle and smart traits that make him an easy candidate for any sort of Breakout Star of the Year award.

The film takes place during a few weeks in Terri’s life during which he goes through some important moments, you get to know that his parents aren’t really in the picture, and instead get to meet the uncle he has been living with, played by The Office‘s Creed Bratton, a man who is now becoming senile and so we see Terri caring of him, in the most subtle and perfect of ways as played out by Mr. Wysocki. We also get to meet Assistant Principal Fitzgerald, the character played by John C. Reilly, who calls Terri in after he starts cutting too many classes, and a relationship between the two begins to blossom, as Fitzgerald has a few lessons of his own life to impart on Terri. And how director Azazel Jacobs chooses to build this relationship, ever so subtly and carefully, is one of the pleasures of watching Terri, there’s not one step that shouldn’t have been taken, not one step that was taken too fast, it’s just seriously well done.

And that’s really the greatest thing I can say about Terri, and it truly is something great, the fact that it’s just told in the most perfect of ways, feeling perfectly human all along, it never once feels like its pretentiously taking its time prodding at a theme, nor does it seem like its rushing through one either, it takes just the right amount of time doing its thing, and it’s all the much better for it, the level of absorption this film achieves because of that is truly a thing to behold. It’s that incredible balance of sympathy and human connection that sets Terri apart from many films with familiar themes and gets you really thinking about it.

The film isn’t all about Terri and his uncle and Assistant Principal Fitzgerald. We also meet two other kids, Chad and Heather. Chad is another kid Fitzgerald has to deal with, another outcast, problem child, call him what you might. And Heather is this pretty little girl who Terri has some very tender moments with. And what’s terrific is that even though on paper these characters, and one particular situation in which all three kids are involved that includes pills and booze, might all sound very commonplace in these sort of films, but they’re nothing like what you might think you’ve seen in other movies, they’re all incredibly original creations, not tied down by any sort of conventions you might imagine, just wonderfully observed by Mr. Jacobs who gives his actors and characters as much room as they desire to be their own entities.

Watch Terri, tell pretty much everyone you know to watch Terri, you’ll be surprised by just how neat this little film can be. From the poster and trailer you might gather that it’ll be a quirky indie film with some fine performances by terrific character actors and a breakout turn by Mr. Wysocki, and yes, it’s all that, and that’s very good, but Terri finds this magical way to ground its quirkiness in some very real emotions, in some very human revelations and subtle amazing moments. And in Mr. Wysocki it found the perfect unknown actor to convey such quiet confidence in the role that it was infectious to watch, and the scenes between himself and Mr. Reilly, who’s one of the most versatile actors alive, are truly a thing of awe, watching an unknown go head-to-head with such a masterful Oscar-nominated actor in moments that call for actual communication between characters, a thing easier said than done in today’s film world, it’s just beautiful stuff.

And that’s really what Terri is all about, character exploration, all done really well by Mr. Jacobs, a director I haven’t seen anything else from, but who knows just how much leeway to give his actors to explore their characters. And then you have these performances, which I just have to talk about yet again, Mr. Bratton, who you know from his quiet but hilarious job in The Office is very touching here, and Mr. Reilly shows why he’s amongst the very best at that wonderful brand of sad comedy, showing a tremendous amount of emotion, and Mr. Wysocki is just phenomenal, never stooping to the stereotype of the kid who just needs someone to believe in him, but being so much more than just that. Again, watch Terri, I cannot insist more on that, trust me when I say you won’t regret it.

Grade: A-

Monte Carlo

24 Jul

Title: Monte Carlo
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Thomas Bezucha
Writers: Thomas Bezucha, April Blair and Maria Maggenti, based on the screen story by Kelly Bowe, based on the novel by Jules Bass
Starring: 
Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Pierre Boulanger, Catherine Tate, Luke Bracey, Cory Monteith, Andie MacDowell
MPAA Rating: 
PG, brief mild language
Runtime: 
109 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
39%

 

Monte Carlo is by no means a good film. It is, however, one that was actually better than I imagined it would be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the film is undeniably an exercise in predictability and silly moments that never once even attempts to derive from its well-worn formulaic approach, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that in the midst of all that fluff this was a movie that had a few genuinely charming moments in it. And it’s not as though you’d watch a film like Monte Carlo expecting some sort of cinematic masterpiece, you know it’ll be a tween-aimed, harmless film featuring some nice locations, some handsome faces, and a whole lot of stuff going on so that you don’t catch on to the fact that this really is about nothing that quickly.

Let it be said, however, that just how much you’ll fall into the whole cutesy act put on by Monte Carlo relies quite a bit on just how much you like Selena Gomez, our current Disney tween princess. I personally don’t really like Ms. Gomez all that much, I mean she has the charm and is cute, but for some reason she just doesn’t do it for me, it may be the fact that she’s dating Justin Bieber, I don’t know, I just don’t really like her all that much, but that’s just me and the fact is that she’s actually pretty damn likable to most people. So that makes her playing the lead here, a high school graduate called Grace, a smart move because she has the energy for it and she’s cute and the target audience of this film will totally buy her as this doe-eyed girl who had been saving up for years to get a graduation trip to Paris.

And of course, once Grace eventually finds herself going on that trip there’ll be a guy who’ll fall in love with her, there will be mistaken identities that get Grace to experience a lavish life, and it’s all fun but there’s really nothing going on plotwise for you to really connect. However, even though I don’t really like Ms. Gomez which disabled me from really loving this movie, I do really like Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester, the two other young actresses that join her in the adventure. Ms. Cassidy, who was terrific in the otherwise crappy CW reboot of Melrose Place and was equally good in her arc on Gossip Girl, plays Emma, Grace’s best friend who tags along, while Ms. Meester, a star of the aforementioned Gossip Girl, plays Meg, Grace’s stepsister, who, much to Grace’s dismay, it’s been arranged will be joining the two in the trip.

The incident of the mistaken identity has Ms. Gomez playing two characters, the ordinary and plain Grace as well as Cordelia Winthrop Scott, a British girl who has the obnoxious name that obviously indicates she’s the heir to a huge fortune. And you know what’ll come next, because you’ve seen it before in a lot of movies, there will be hugely luxurious hotels, handsome young men, private jets and pricey clothes, it’s like a Sex and the City film without the sex part and aimed at girls a decade shy from a quarter-life crisis instead of at women in the midst of a mid-life one, and considering the line-up includes marquee names of the Disney and CW empires, not to mention Cory Monteith from Glee, you can bet that the target audience will fall for it handily enough.

Another thing that prevented me from really liking Monte Carlo at all was the fact that Ms. Gomez just doesn’t seem like a high school graduate. I know the girl is 19, the same age as me, but her whole Disney cred makes her seem more like 14 more often than not, and that made her performance as Cordelia totally horrible to watch, as though this was an ordinary teenager playing dress-up, and being challenged by the prospect of high heels, instead of an actress tackling a role more serious in its tonality and showing she has some range. Thankfully, Ms. Cassidy is solid, and Ms. Meester is actually good, which in a movie of this type is something worth congratulating.

But I was left wholly unimpressed by this film, the actresses are solid enough for this sort of entertainment, and I reckon that if I was a fan of Ms. Gomez, like the target of this film presumably is, I would probably like this film much better, and the locations are pretty damn cool, even though the opportunities provided by them were squandered by some totally underwhelming photography. And as the modern fairytale about a girl who finds herself by being someone else, Monte Carlo manages to nab a couple of charming moments that made me hold up some hope for its entirety, but it’s just too inconsequential and contrived a movie for there to be any sort of real meaning to it, though to be honest, this is summer time, and this is a film that’s breezy enough and as entertainment for tween girls it’s probably good enough. And I’ll give it a strong C instead of a C- for two reasons: One is that Catherine Tate makes an appearance and she alone merits a whole grade bump, and the other is that Michael Giacchino did the score, even though, considering this is the sort of film it is, it’s more often than not cut short in favor of silly pop songs.

Grade: C

Emmy Nominations

14 Jul

Melissa McCarthy and Joshua Jackson announced the Emmy nominations bright and early this morning, and there were quite a few interesting nominations to say the least, as well as your usual group of horribly snubbed actors and shows, but then again it wouldn’t be the Emmy nominations if you weren’t cheering uncontrollably for someone while you were weeping over the exclusion of someone else. I did four EmmyWatch posts last month, tackling the major categories in the Drama, Comedy, TV Movie/Miniseries and Reality/Variety races, so now I’ll list the full set of nominations, and a brief reaction to it, including how I did with my predictions.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Dexter
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Good Wife
  • Mad Men
Reaction: I went 5-for-6 in this one, I predicted Justified over Game of Thrones. However, Game of Thrones was amongst my 6 dream nominees so I’m happy about it. Still this one is still probably a Boardwalk Empire vs. Mad Men race to the finish line, and I’m just happy that my beloved Friday Night Lights was finally given a shot to compete in the big race.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
  • Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
Reaction: Also went 5-for-6 in this category, predicting a William H. Macy nod over that of Timothy Olyphant. That said, Olyphant was actually my #3 dream nominee, and hearing his name called out was one of the happiest moments of the nominations for me, so I’m seriously glad he’s in there. Much like in the Outstanding Drama category, though, this is a Boardwalk Empire vs. Mad Men battle.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
  • Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law)
  • Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
  • Mireille Enos (The Killing)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU)
  • Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Reaction: I went 4-for-6 here. I predicted Katey Sagal and Kyra Sedgwick instead of Bates and Hargitay. And those misses are weird to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Sagal won the Globe and I can’t believe she got snubbed again by the Emmy’s. Sedgwick actually won this last year and her total omission from this year’s race was bizarre. And Kathy Bates may be great, but Harry’s Law really isn’t, this just goes to prove how Emmy voters sometimes just vote for the name.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
  • Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
  • Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
  • Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
  • Walton Goggins (Justified)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)
  • Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
Reaction: A strong 5-for-6 showing again in this category. And, again, the one prediction I missed was one I was still incredibly happy to hear. I had Michael Pitt of Boardwalk Empire getting a nod because I reckoned the voters wanted to go deep for their love of the HBO crime saga, but Goggins got in there, and he was actually my #2 dream nominee, so I was damn happy about his inclusion. Still pissed about the lack of John Noble, though.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
  • Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
  • Christine Baranksi (The Good Wife)
  • Margo Martindale (Justified)
  • Michelle Forbes (The Killing)
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Reaction: Another 5-for-6 here. Missed Forbes’ nomination in favor of Sharon Gless. However, Forbes was #4 dream nominee and I don’t even watch Burn Notice so I was seriously glad to miss out on a perfect prediction score here.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Glee
  • Modern Family
  • The Office
  • Parks and Recreation
  • 30 Rock
Reaction: 5-for-6 again here, but I was SO happy about that, because that miss of mine in this category meant that Parks and Rec, my #2 dream nominee, got in instead of Nurse Jackie which I had predicted to get a nod. The Big Bang Theory also finally broke through to the big race. Still, the thing that pissed me off the most about today’s nominations was the overall lack of love for Community.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Louis C.K. (Louie)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
  • Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Reaction: 4-for-6 in this one. I had Joel McHale and Matthew Morrison instead of Louis and Galecki. And while I was ecstatic to hear Louis C.K. named this morning (he was #5 in my dream ballot), and I loved that he got in instead of Morrison, I don’t really care much for Galecki and the fact that he probably meant McHale wasn’t nominated ticks me off.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Laura Linney (The Big C)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
  • Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope)
  • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Reaction: 5-for-6 again, I had Toni Collette instead of McCarthy in this one. Still, it was awesome to see Poehler and Plimpton get in, and I actually quite liked the fact that they realized this was a comedy category and Lea Michele got snubbed.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Chris Colfer (Glee)
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
  • Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
  • Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
  • Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
  • Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Reaction: 4-for-6 here, I predicted Nick Offerman (who was my #1 dream nominee) and Neil Patrick Harris over Cryer and Ferguson. But I guess the Modern Family party prevailed (and I’m actually very happy about that) and the voters wanted to give Cryer the nod for having to put up with Sheen’s antics, which is good too, I guess. I just wanted to see Ron Swanson in there.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Jane Lynch (Glee)
  • Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
  • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
  • Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
  • Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Reaction: Finally, my first 6-for-6! Though I was still holding out for a surprise Alison Brie or Aubrey Plaza nod.
OUTSTANDING REALITY SHOW COMPETITION
  • The Amazing Race
  • American Idol
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Project Runway
  • So You Think You Can Dance
  • Top Chef
Reaction: 5-for-6. I was hoping The Voice would get in there instead of So You Think You Can Dance, but here’s hoping it’ll make the shortlist next season!
OUTSTANDING REALITY SERIES
  • Hoarders
  • Antiques Roadshow
  • Deadliest Catch
  • MythBusters
  • Undercover  Boss
  • Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Reaction: 4-for-6, not bad considering this was the category I randomly guessed because I only watch Mythbusters out of the contenders.
OUTSTANDING REALITY HOST
  • Jeff Probst (Survivor)
  • Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance)
  • Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race)
  • Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars)
  • Ryan Seacrest (American Idol)
Reaction: 4-for-5. I was thinking Padma Lakshmi over Deeley here.
OUTSTANDING VARIETY SERIES
  • The Colbert Report
  • Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
  • Saturday Night Live
  • Conan
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Reaction: 5-for-6 here, I went with Letterman over Fallon in my predictions, but I’m damn glad Fallon got in, he keeps getting better and better.
OUTSTANDING TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Mildred Pierce
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Kennedys
  • Cinema Verite
  • Too Big to Fail
  • The Pillars of the Earth
Reaction: 4-for-6 here, and I’m really pissed that Carlos (my far-and-out #1 dream nominee) wasn’t nominated. I also predicted Luther would get in but it didn’t.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Greg Kinnear (The Kennedys)
  • Barry Pepper (The Kennedys)
  • Édgar Ramírez (Carlos)
  • William Hurt (Too Big to Fail)
  • Idris Elba (Luther)
  • Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood)
Reaction: 4-for-6 again in this one, I had Hugh Bonneville and Samuel L. Jackson over Kinnear and Pepper, because I really didn’t think The Kennedys was going to get this ridiculous amount of love. Still, Ramírez and Elba got in here, and that’s really all I cared about.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)
  • Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey)
  • Diane Lane (Cinema Verite)
  • Taraji P. Henson (Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story)
  • Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs)
Reaction: 4-for-5 here, even though I did 6 predictions and Henson was in there but at #6 so I’m not going to count her. I had Haley Atwell over her. Still, this Emmy probably already has Winslet’s name engraved on it.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce)
  • Brian F. O’Byrne (Mildred Pierce)
  • Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys)
  • Paul Giamatti (Too Big to Fail)
  • James Woods (Too Big to Fail)
Reaction: 4-for-5, I had Tim Robbins over Wilkinson, even though Wilkinson was my #6 in the predictions. I just didn’t anticipate The Kennedys getting this much love.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Evan Rachel Wood (Mildred Pierce)
  • Melissa Leo (Mildred Pierce)
  • Mare Winningham (Mildred Pierce)
  • Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
  • Eileen Atkins (Upstairs Downstairs)
Reaction: 4-for-5 again here, I had Cynthia Nixon over Winningham, but apparently Mildred Pierce just dominated the category.
So there they are, the Emmy nominations for the categories I had predicted and commented on in my EmmyWatch posts. As the ceremony grows nearer I’ll make similar posts detailing the state of the race and my final prediction for who will actually win it, but for now let’s just let these nods simmer. There were plenty to be happy about (The Justified love, the Friday Night Lights love, Ed O’Neill finally getting in) but there were also a fair share of misses (like the shut-outs for Community and Fringe), but all for all it was a solid pack of nominees. As for my predictions, I went an overall 86-for-110, which I think is pretty damn solid, and hopefully my accuracy won’t fall when predicting the actual winners!