COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

THE HOT ROCK, CINDERELLA LIBERTY, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL and DISTANT VOICES STILL LIVES

Monday, September 29, 2014

BLENDED: BACK TOGETHER AGAIN

There have been a number of screen couples over the years that have successfully made fans happy with their frequent appearances together. Who could not love Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn or William Powell and Myrna Loy? If those names are too distant for you to remember how about Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler? It's hard to believe they've only done two movies together before adding their newest BLENDED. Forget the pans the critics hoisted on this film this past summer, this is one hilarious movie. So much so that I saw it twice in the theaters and once so far on DVD.

Barrymore plays Lauren, a divorced mother with two young rambunctious boys who goes on perhaps the worst first date with Jim, a single father raising three young girls. How bad a date? Jim chooses Hooters for their first time out. Things go terribly wrong from their.

As Lauren relates this to her co-worker and best friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) (the pair own a closet organizing business), it was the worst night possible. Unfortunately Jen is having much better luck in the romance department since her newest beau wants to take her on a trip to Africa. A few days later things take a turn for the worse when Jen tells Lauren she turned down the trip and is thinking of breaking up with her new boyfriend because he wanted to take along all of his kids as well. Of course Lauren thinks this may be just what she and her boys need, a vacation away from it all, so she asks Jen if she can go in their place.

As this is going on, Jim is relaying the same description of the date to his co-worker Doug (Shaquille O'Neal). The two of them work at Dick's Sporting Goods with Jim being one of the best workers in the company. We get a glimpse of his oldest daughter when she stops by, mistaken by a customer as a boy since Jim tends to dress his daughters that way and pushing them to be in more male dominated sports. When Jim learns of his boss's canceling his trip to Africa (yes, he's Jen's new boyfriend), he calls Dick up to see if he can take over the trip while paying what he can. Of course both parties tell their respective friends no problem.

When both sets of families turn up at the high class resort in Africa, their surprised to see one another their. While the families don't know each other Lauren and Jim definitely do. But rather than argue over who stays, they decided to make the best of things and pretend to be the happy family booked for the vacation. Now if they can just stand one another for that amount of time.

We're presented with a mother with two sons lacking a male figure, a father with three daughters missing their mother and lacking a female to influence them in the ways of being a girl. There you have the set up for what is to come. Sure we know up front that this is a chance for all parties to find a nice mix. It's the fulfillment of the potential here that will either make this movie work or fall flat on its face. For myself I thought they did an excellent job, making me laugh, cry and be touched before the end of the film.

I've said before that the best way to tell an actor is good is when you believe them in the role they are playing. I believed that of everyone involved here. And while the leads might take center stage the person who steals the show is Terry Crews as Nickens, the host and entertainment figure at the resort. There wasn't a time when he appeared on screen that I didn't find myself laughing out loud.

There were two reasons I think this movie took such a beating from critics. The first was that it got lost in the shuffle of the summer movies coming out, appearing against some major blockbuster titles, and didn't make as much as expected. Sure it did well but when figures don't reach astronomical highs they consider it a flop. It doesn't matter if it made its money back or not. The second was that this movie isn't high drama or explosive action. It's a simple romantic movie that the entire family can enjoy. I find critics tend to slam those sorts of films unless the name Disney is attached or an animal is the center focus of the film.

There are tons of moments in this movie that had me roaring. As I said I enjoyed it enough that four days after seeing it the first time I was back again. And I enjoyed it as much then as I did the first. The same was true when watching it on DVD. If you're a fan of either actor, if you enjoy family comedies, then please give this one a watch. I'm betting you'll do as I did and add it to your collection. I know when I'm down it will be one to pull off the shelf and watch again.

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CINDERELLA 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION: MUSIC FROM THE PAST


The most difficult thing to do when writing this column is to choose a single title to write about when so many good ones are being released that week. For instance this week. Do I write about season 4 of THE WALKING DEAD? Or what about the blu-ray release of the classic THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE? Then again season 2 or ELEMENTARY is just out as well. Fortunately you can read reviews of those releases online at the Digital Views blog. That's because I've chosen something nostalgic being released to write about this week.

RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA first aired on CBS over 50 years ago. That's hard to believe. But a new DVD 50th anniversary edition has comes out this week and will bring back many fond memories for those who remember it. I remember it because in all honesty it was the first glimpse I had of Lesley Anne Warren who became my 6 year old crush. But that's not the reason this new DVD is worth picking up.

Certainly you all know the story of Cinderella already. The young girl who was treated poorly by her step-mother and step-sisters, forced to do the cleaning and cooking while they thought only of themselves. Who was given the chance by her fairy godmother to go to the ball, dance and romance the prince and later found to be the woman he was looking for when only her foot would fit the glass slipper he took across the country to find his one true love. Okay maybe I should have said spoiler alert but honestly if you don't know this story already something is wrong.

There had been various versions of the story produced, most famously the animated version done by the Disney Studios. In looking into this version I found that it had been done already for television back in 1957 with Julie Andrews starring. At the time shows were broadcast live so there is no copy of that version. That prompted CBS to remake the program in 1964, starring the then unknown Lesley Ann Warren in the lead role. This is the version just released on DVD.

Looking back it's amazing when you realize that at the time Broadway musicals were fairly common to be seen in television versions. While this was written specifically for television and not taken from Broadway, it still has that live performance feel to it as well as the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein music and lyrics. Today most kids have no idea who these two were but at the time they had the biggest set of Broadway hits ever found. For those of us who grew up with them we still remember their music and my guess would be you've hummed one tune or another by them in the past year if you're over 40.

The fantastic combination of what these two gentlemen brought together and were able to convey to videotape here is what makes this musical special. There is no overabundant amount of detail in everything from scenery to props to costumes. Everything seems so simple. There is no major league dramatic or political statement being made here. It's just a plain old love story with music to match. And yet it works on every level. It features fantastic music that you'll find yourself singing long after the DVD stops playing. While watching it I was amazed that after all these years I still remembered some of the lyrics to these songs, songs I hadn't heard in decades.

Today's kids face a jaded life filled with instant gratification in the forms of movies and music via things like downloads and Netflix. They have no concept of waiting to see a special or movie that only showed once a year or maybe one time only on TV. This show played yearly up until 1974. Now that it's on DVD it means those of us who enjoyed it can watch it every year we want if not more often. I know my plans are to have my great niece and nephew sit and watch it with me. That's the beauty of these classics being made available this way. It also gives me the chance to let them know about how we used to wait.

Major kudos goes to Shout Factory for releasing this version complete with a short retrospective from the past remaining casts filmed several years back. The quality of the DVD is fantastic and is sure to provide countless hours of entertainment for all who buy a copy. Once again they've outdone themselves with a release that might have been forgotten otherwise. Instead we now have the chance to enjoy it once more. With any luck a new generation will be exposed to it's beauty and consider looking into the other classics from Rodgers and Hammerstein. One can only hope.

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THINK LIKE A MAN TOO: WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS...

There are good and bad sequels being made all the time. It seems that Hollywood is unwilling to bank on something new and more prone to take on remakes and sequels more and more. So if you choose to go see a sequel my guess is your hoping that it's good. I can say now that THINK LIKE A MAN TOO is indeed a good sequel.

The men and women from the first film are brought back again, this time to celebrate the wedding of two of their own. Michael (Terrence Jenkins) and Candace (Regina Hall) are about to tie the knot and with Cedric (Kevin Hart) as his best man you know things won't turn out as planned. The first problem they encounter is Michael's interfering mother Loretta (Jenifer Lewis), a woman who is controlling all aspects of the wedding from start to finish. Vegas may not have been her first choice for location but she's making it this wedding as un-Vegas as she can.

But this group of friends has other plans in mind for the night before. While the tried and true plot device of a bachelor party gone wild has been used over and over again, this movie at least puts a new spin on it that works. Rather than just have the fellas out and about visiting strip club after strip club, we end up with two groups setting out to outdo one another. Narrating it from start to finish is Cedric.

The men start out in the lead doing the things they planned in the hotel at one of the most expensive suites available. Of course when Cedric booked it he thought the cost was only $4,000. What he failed to notice is that the ad he read said it was $4,000 off. With that discount the costs is a mere $40,000 per night. As the night progresses things only continue this way.

The women are having a tough time getting off the ground as well. It seems that Loretta has the entire evening planned on her own, starting with dinner at a fancy restaurant and then on to seeing Dionne Warwick in concert. To the rescue comes the bride's uncle Eddie (Dennis Haysbert), someone that Michael's mom took a liking to once before. With her out of the way the race is on.

A mix up results in the girls getting the bus that Cedric booked for the evening leaving the guys with a limo painted with male strippers on the side. Rather than take that ride, they walk instead. As they walk they talk with one another about the various problems each one is facing. That's one of the things that makes this movie work more than most. It's not just the raunch that this evening is about, it's about friendship and the affection they have for their significant others as well as one another.

One couple is facing possible career changes that may take them to opposite sides of the country. Another is facing the daunting task of trying to get pregnant and worried about what that entails. A third faces the problems of dealing with the guy's party animal past and his girlfriend's confusion as to whether this is a man she wants to spend her life with. All of these difficulties come to a solution before the end of the film, a lot like the old romantic comedies of the 50s and 60s. The thing that makes it stand out is the journey they take along the way there.

At this time Hart is perhaps the biggest name in the cast. So many stand up comedians always start to make movies and take over the whole thing while at the same time just doing the same character they do in their stand up. Hart does the smart thing though and shares the screen with the entire cast here. Not only that while he may portray a character that's a bit shallow and misguided, that may go off on the rest from time to time, he never makes the movie about himself. It's about the entire group. That's a nice change to see.

There are plenty of laughs as the movie progresses from start to finish with the best held in check till the final third of the film. But that works here. Prior to that we have to set up exactly what is going on with these people. It makes the rest of the film that much more special by the end. While they might end up in some crazy situations, it makes you wish that you had a group of friends around you as close as this group is. Now to wait and see if a third film in the series comes along. With babies being discussed it would be the next step and could make it a wonderful trilogy to watch.

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