Thursday, March 10, 2011
It seems that horror films have changed drastically over the past few years. Where once there was a cycle that lasted about ten years between horror films being popular, they seem to be more mainstream now than ever. Not only that, the horror genre has kicked into gear crossing over into other areas as well. Books like THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE, zombie movies galore and finally the comic book series that has now made its way to TV and DVD: THE WALKING DEAD.
Based on the hit comic book series that continues to this day, this zombie outing is unlike any other in most ways. True the beginning of the series seems a bit like 28 DAY LATER, but once you get past that it’s one of the most original zombie tales ever filmed. And unlike most it doesn’t focus near as much on the zombies as it does on the survivors.
The series starts with officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) being shot and put into a coma. When he wakes, he discovers no one is left on his floor of the hospital and most rooms on the floor tossed and turned. As he slowly makes his way through the white corridors, he comes across a chained double door with a warning of what lies beyond spray painted.
Finding clothes and setting out to locate his family, Grimes sees nothing but devastation in any direction he looks. Crashed helicopters and cars are everywhere but no sign of people. Outside the hospital are row upon row of sheet covered corpses. What’s happened?
On Grimes trek to his home, he sees up close what has happened. Though unable to believe his eyes, a half rotted corpse drags itself across the grass. Grimes takes the bicycle that apparently belonged to the corpse and heads home only to be knocked unconscious by someone living there.
A man and his son are staying in a house nearby Grimes old home, since vacated by his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs). He explains what happened, though as with most zombie films we have no idea what caused it to happen. He shows Grimes how the zombies walk the streets, attracted by noise and searching for the living to feed off of.
It’s not long before Grimes helps the man and his son by taking them to the local police station and arming them heavily as well as providing them a place to shower. The station has its own emergency energy source giving them light and hot water. Grimes heads towards Atlanta in search of his family, sharing a walkie talkie with the man on the chance he makes it there later on.
But this is only a part of the story. As Grimes begins his search, we see his partner Shane (Jon Bernthal) among a group of survivors banded together. In this group are Grimes wife and son. And Shane and Grimes wife are now a couple. Eventually we know their paths will meet.
The best part of this show is that the story revolves around people, struggling to survive in a world gone mad. The depth of the show presents us with realistic scenarios of what people would do, how they might react, giving us the more human element of the story rather than focusing on the gore and zombies alone. It is this tale of emotions and the basic instinct for survival that separates this tale from most zombie movies.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of zombies to be seen and enough gore to keep those fans happy. KNB effects have done another outstanding job here. And scenes like a downtown street in Atlanta filled with zombies moving towards our hero truly make your skin crawl.
Tested with just a few episodes the show was a dynamite hit for AMC and was quickly renewed for a second season much longer than the first. Until that season airs, fans will have to be content with the DVD release of season one. Horror fans will find this a must have for their collection. Movie fans will enjoy the horror film done right. And those just curious will find more than they bargained for from a horror series. Well made, well acted, directed with style and featuring a story that unwraps slowly make this one well worth owning in your collection.
On occasion you’ll see a movie where you’re not quite sure what to expect or perhaps think you’ll see something only to be surprised. It may not be the best movie ever made, but it does offer a touch of entertainment, doesn’t bore you to tears and even puts a smile on your face. BURLESQUE is one of those movies.
Now by the name implied there are probably some who think that the movie involves non-stop strippers in various states of undress. Those folks will be disappointed. But fans of both Cher and Christina Aguilera and their singing abilities will find that the movie delivers all that they could hope for and more.
Aguilera stars as Ali, a young girl from a small town with dreams of something more. She wants to sing and dance and so one day heads to Los Angeles. She arrives and searches for a job only to be turned down time after time. She sees the sign for a club called Burlesque and enters just to find out what’s going on. Inside she sees a bevy of beauties dancing on stage in skimpy outfits lip synching some classic tunes. Desperate for a job, she’s directed to the club’s owner Tess (Cher) by bartender Jack (Can Gigandet).
Ali stumbles through her request, begging for the chance to be a dancer in the show, but Tess turns her down telling her to come back when they have auditions. Returning to the bar Ali sees an opportunity when a waitress offers terrible service. Putting her past skills to use, Ali takes on the role of waitress telling Jack if she doesn’t do better than his current staff, she’ll walk but if she does, she gets a job. Needless to say she gets the job.
Tess and show production co-coordinator/best friend Sean (Stanley Tucci) notice her working and let it pass. The shows star Nikki (Kristin Bell) notices her too and takes an instant disliking to Ali. Nikki is that typical bitchy star who thinks the world revolves around her and anyone who doesn’t treat her as such deserves to be gone. But Ali hangs in there, waiting for her big chance.
Months go by during which time Ali has her apartment broken into. Jack offers her a place to stay until she gets on her feet, but it’s a purely platonic relationship since Jack’s engaged (his girlfriend is in New York doing a play at the moment though). When audition time arrives, Ali takes to the stage but doesn’t give the performance Tess is looking for. When she asks Tess what she wants Tess tells her she doesn’t even know herself but that she has to take command of the stage and make it her own. Emboldened by this nugget of information, Ali gives an audition that floors Tess and Sean and is added to the line up of dancer, a move that doesn’t sit well with Nikki.
While this little drama is going on, Tess is fighting a losing battle to keep the club open. The club is and always has been her dream but her ex-husband and partner Vince (Peter Gallagher) sees it as nothing but a losing battle. Add to that a buzzard like businessman named Marcus (Eric Dane) who wants to buy the club to tear it down to build condos and you have problems. Ali suggests to Tess that they change it up and have the girls actually sing instead of lip synch but Tess won’t listen.
Nikki, always the trouble maker, always late and almost always drunk, fails to show for her set one night. Instead, Tess puts Ali in her place. As the girls begin their set, Nikki cuts the music track playing and Tess begins to bring down the curtain. All stops as soon as Ali begins to sing on her own with a voice that demands attention. The curtain rises, the band comes in and Ali takes control of the stage to a standing ovation.
Now the centerpiece of the show, crowds begin to come into the club. A shrewd businessman, Marcus sets his eye on Ali, just as he did before on Nikki when she was the big draw. And as he begins to woo Ali, Jack sees a missed opportunity set in. The entire time he and Ali have lived together in his apartment the attraction was there, he just never acted on it.
So the stage is set. Will Tess lose the club? Will Ali be a big enough draw to save it? Will Nikki find a way to stop it all from happening? Will Jack and Ali get together or will Marcus take her away and make her the star she always dreamed of? All answers are found before the movie ends.
Some have said that this movie is nothing more than a retelling of COYOTE UGLY with different music. In some ways that’s true but not entirely. The ingénue trying to make it in big city after leaving a small town behind is there. Dancing and singing is there. But this movie has a different vibe to it. It’s also been compared to SHOWGIRLS with a different setting and less skin. Once more, with the exception of the small town/big city story it offers something more. And is much less tacky.
This is a feel good movie. You enjoy the musical numbers that are more along the lines of CHICAGO than they are the old Gene Kelly movies of the past. Aguilera does a pretty good job for this being her first major role in a big time film. If you just thought of her as another pretty face you’ll be surprised. I’ve never been a big fan of her vocal styling but they fit the film perfectly. Cher is believable as the ex-dancer/singer with a dream of a place of her own. Bell does a great job as the catty star whose spotlight is taken away and Gigandet turns out to be not only a good actor but nice love interest for Aguilera to play off of.
The movie is cotton candy for the eyes and ears. It offers some good music and some dynamite dance sequences. It’s entertaining without going too deep. In essence it’s a movie that makes you feel good and have a good time, something that more movies should do. I don’t think this film ever intended to be an Oscar winner, but fans of musicals and of the cast will get their money’s worth with this one.
Not many movies have been made focusing on network shows being made, even fewer still about network news. Perhaps the most well known was BROADCAST NEWS, a stand out movie that makes many best of list time and time again. While that movie focused on network news, I don’t believe any film has chosen morning news programming until now. MORNING GLORY gives us a glimpse of that world in perhaps an off kilter way.
Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is an up and coming morning show producer in New Jersey just waiting for her big break. The day she thinks she’s getting a promotion her world turns upside down. Instead her position is being condensed into another and the budget doesn’t allow for two people. She’s lost her job.
With her mother recommending that she give up her dream, Becky sets out to prove her wrong. A number of ignored resumes later Becky gets a call from IBS and their morning show, Daybreak. The station is one of those small networks with no budgets and no hits. Daybreak falls behind every network competitor they have. Executive Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) gives Becky the chance to turn it all around and to make the show something different.
What Becky first discovers is that she’s inherited a complete mess. One reporter who seems a bit dim, a weatherman who wants to do a story on wind vanes, an ex-Miss Arizona past her prime named Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), an anchor with a foot fetish and a staff that tosses questions to her in rapid fire succession. Day one finds Becky taking the reins, answering all questions and firing the anchor. Now to get things rolling she simply has to find a new anchor. With no money and no budget. Better still would be using someone already under contract to IBS.
Becky finds her man in the form of famed news journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford). Pomeroy is a prize winning reporter currently doing bits for a news program that doesn’t appreciate his past. Idolized by Becky, she sees her chance when she examines his contract and discovers a loophole that will result in his joining her show. But he doesn’t go willingly.
Instead Pomeroy does everything in his power to disrupt the morning news program he’s been recruited for. Pomeroy is a bit pompous and feels the morning news show is below him. While Colleen is more than willing to do any story presented her, Pomeroy snubs any and all stories lobbed his way. Instead he simply reads the news in the most monotone voice possible and ignores the fluff pieces that Colleen does with relish.
When Becky gets the word from Jerry that she’s taken the show to the lowest ratings it’s ever had and the show will be canceled in 6 weeks, she tosses caution to the wind and presents a more forceful producer than she did in the past. Her first act is to take the weatherman who was simply reporting on a new roller coaster and strap him in with a camera sending out his reactions over the air. This results in one of the funniest items in the movie but also angers Pomeroy.
As Pomeroy and Becky go head to head, battling every step of the way, she gets coaching from her new boyfriend, one of the men behind the networks weekly news program. Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson) has a past with Pomeroy and a nickname I can’t repeat here. He informs her that Pomeroy is the third worst human being in the world. But through his remarks Becky just may find a way to get Pomeroy on board and save the show. She has just 6 weeks to take it from the bottom of the heap and increase the ratings by 1.5 %. Can she do it?
The movie moves along at a frantic pace and you may find yourself clutching the remote just to take it back a moment or two when you miss something. It does offer some hilarious moments along the way and you get the sense of family that develops among the staff of Daybreak. That’s one of the things that brings a certain amount of charm to the whole film.
The one troubling piece revolves around Ford as Pomeroy. Played incredibly straight faced and with more than enough bitterness to go around, Ford’s portrayal of the newsman reduced to the morning slot shows a reporter devoid of emotion, a man who’s lost himself in his work and never returned. At times this seems like the perfect way to portray this character. But at other times he just seems mean and nasty, the chances of him truly changing unlikely. Either this one of Ford’s best performances or one of his worst.
The movie doesn’t offer any real depth to its characters or its story, but it is an enjoyable way to spend an evening. Its one of those guilty pleasures you watch only to know that it has little new to offer and can’t be taken seriously. But its still fun. Its worth watching for the laughs and performances but won’t leave you seeking a sequel.
Once in a while you see a trailer for a movie that makes you think “hey this could be funny” only to discover afterwards that the best moments were all on display in that 3 minute trailer. Its sad when that happens, especially when the premise is a good one. I remember watching the trailer for LIFE AS WE KNOW IT and thinking it had potential. Katherine Heigl has starred on TV’s GREY’S ANATOMY and KNOCKED UP. Josh Duhamel was in TRANSFORMERS and the TV show LAS VEGAS. These are two attractive stars in a romantic comedy so what could go wrong? Unfortunately several things.
The story revolves around Holly Berenson (Heigl) and Eric Messer (Duhamel). Originally set up on a blind date that goes terribly wrong in mere minutes, the two see each other in passing when invited to their best friends family events. Each is so close to one or the other that their friends make them godparents of their daughter Sophie. Then tragedy occurs when the unthinkable happens. Their friends die in a car accident and suddenly Holly and Messer find themselves the custodian of Sophie. Unfortunately their friends never gave any details to either of them about this plan.
Now Holly and Messer find themselves in unknown territory. To begin with neither of them knows anything about raising a child.
They also discover that there are no family members who can take care of young Sophie with any caring. One cousin has nine children of his own to worry about and Sophie’s grandfather takes his oxygen with him as well as being able to do not much of anything.
Then there’s their careers to think of. Holly is in the early stages of a successful bakery/catering business about to add a restaurant to her building. Messer is a television technician who works the board for local sports events in Atlanta. But the two of them work out schedules on a board and do their best, both deeply caring about Sophie and what is good for her.
But the best laid plans have a tendency to find problems. Toss into the mix a gaggle of neighbors who seem to be in the know on most everything and flirtatious with Messer as well as a social worker who must approve of the pair with several surprise visits and the recipe for disaster is just around the corner.
The standard problems arrive in the form of typical TV sitcom fashion. Poop jokes are plentiful and jealousy develops between the two although they’re not the least bit romantically involved. Messer brings in one date after another and Holly seems to have found a love interest in Sophie’s pediatrician Sam (Josh Lucas), a man she’s seen at her bakery before. Even though they have their separate lives, you can still see the glimmer of a chance for them to get together eventually. Okay, so maybe the glimmer isn’t quite there but the standard script obviously calls for it and you know its coming. Even the eventual possible parting of the ways is pretty pat when you think about it.
Perhaps that’s what makes this movie fail more than succeed. You feel as if you’ve seen it before. Nothing seems fresh or new, as a matter of fact it feels forced throughout. And the two characters are so one sided. Holly is presented as a woman who wants to do what’s right but always seems to be walked on by men in her life. And Messer is such an insufferable jerk from beginning to end that there is no hope for redemption before the final reel rolls. You can’t watch a man be a jerk For 100 minutes and believe that in the last 14 he can suddenly become a caring, selfless individual. Those moments that should have come throughout the film (and sooner than near the end) would have made him a character you could care about. As a man even I wanted to see him hurt.
The movie is total fluff, lighter than marshmallow cream. The only good thing one can say about it is that both lead actors here do a great job and are both easy on the eye. Sadly both actors are also in a downward spiral when it comes to movies like this. Heigl has had several romantic comedies tank at the box office and Duhamel’s last WHEN IN ROME tanked as well. One can only hope that both of them can find the perfect vehicle to resurrect their careers before movies like this one turn them into actors that folks will one day say “Oh yeah, I think I remember them”. Both are far better than this movie would lead you to believe.