There are some movies that are so startlingly bad that you have to wonder if the stars involved were being blackmailed. It's hard to believe that Parental Guidance was someone's baby just like it's hard to believe that Bette Midler and Billy Crystal could be a couple or Marisa Tomei would be their daughter. You know you're in for a dud when the movie kicks off with jokes about Facebook — poking! — Angry Birds and hashtags. We get it. This old dude named Artie (Crystal) is being fired from his job as a minor league baseball announcer because he's old. He's "dead wood." And so is the movie he's in.
Artie and his wife Diane (Midler) rarely get a chance to see their daughter Alice (Tomei) or her family mostly because Artie is a self-centered jerk who refuses to honor his daughter and son-in-law's child-coddling ways. No one comes out of this looking good; writers Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse never miss an opportunity to poke fun of Alice and husband Phil's (Tom Everett Scott) tofu/sugar-free/computer-automated life while Artie is subject to countless scatological humiliations and testicle injuries. The only person who manages to come off okay is Midler as a saucy former weathergirl who deeply craves a loving relationship with her daughter and granddaughter.
People coming to see Parental Guidance expecting an iota of the humor or intelligence that Midler or Tomei have shown in previous film performances will be sorely disappointed. Obviously a PG-rated family movie is not the place for Midler's bawdier side — let's never forget she got her start singing in gay bathhouses God bless her — but she's done fine in family fare like Hocus Pocus. Still she fights the good fight against the flatness of her role and she and Crystal share a sort of sweet scene where they do a little song and dance to "Who Wrote the Book of Love?" Tomei brings a touch of warmth to her role and has a kind of sweet but bland connection with Everett Scott; their secret naughty joke where he pretends to be a British rock star named Nigel and she presumably is a groupie is one of the only colorful details here.
Crystal is still trying to dine out on movies like Analyze That and his voice acting work. (The less said about his Oscar hosting duties the better.) His humor hasn't aged well — it's subpar Borscht Belt — and he's not quite sharp enough to be a curmudgeon. It doesn't help that he's paired with a red-haired gremlin of a child who at one point climbs onto a half pipe and urinates down so that Tony Hawk's skateboard flies out from under him and lands the skater in a puddle of pee. (Seriously didn't those video games earn about a bazillion dollars? Why Tony why?) Ongoing jabs at parents today and their crazy "use your words!" methods aren't particularly insightful or relevant and even though Artie comes to realize that his methods weren't so hot either you just want to shake them all and tell him they really have nothing to complain about.
There is nothing to make you believe these people give a rat's ass about each other or more to the point why they should. Diane accuses Artie of making everything about himself but in essence the entire movie is about Artie and his learning curve which is a lot to ask of a character based on a shtick. None of the actors are really allowed to tap into what makes them successful performers and instead they're all stuck with being called Fartie Artie and a randomly appearing restaurateur whose specialty is pan-Asian health food and being really great friends with one of the kids' invisible kangaroo. He is played by and I am not kidding you Gedde Watanabe of Long Duk Dong infamy a character that remains one of the bigger smudges on John Hughes's legacy. It's good to know that Watanabe hasn't abandoned his wheelhouse of playing offensive Asian characters though.
There is almost nothing likable in Parental Guidance. You would be better off watching the fake fireplace channel for 12 hours straight than spending a minute with these people. Life is too short.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
G.I. Joe is a top-secret multi-national special forces unit comprised of highly-trained physically attractive military personnel from around the world. Equipped with the latest in superawesome vehicles and weaponry and guided by the tough but fair General Hawk they take on the baddest of the bad guys the kind of terrorists that scoff at conventional organizations. As the General himself so aptly states “When all else fails we don’t.”
That credo is put to the test however when a shadowy terrorist group armed with even awesomer vehicles and weaponry like crazy-ass laser guns and computer-guided zombie troopers infiltrates the Joes’ compound and makes off with a cache of four WMDs each of which is capable of leveling an entire city. Do the men and women of G.I. Joe have what it takes to defeat these menacing new adversaries before they mount their next devastating attack?
WHO’S IN IT?
It takes an elite group of actors to play an elite group of soldiers and the cast of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is stocked with an abundance of Hollywood’s most talented performers all adorned in various types of leather fetish apparel. White Chicks star Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord a flight specialist who can pilot any type of airplane even enemy crafts that respond only to voice commands uttered in Celtic. Channing Tatum star of Step Up and Step Up 2: The Streets plays his best pal Duke a badass infantryman who knows no fear. Preeminent ginger chick Rachel Nichols showcases her fiery crimson locks as Scarlett a shrewd intel expert whose stoic exterior hides a growing attraction to Ripcord. Barking out the orders as General Hawk is Enemy Mine star Dennis Quaid.
On the side of the bad guys is the Baroness played by Factory Girl star Sienna Miller in a push-up bra dirty librarian glasses and a raven-colored dye job. She’s the point woman for McMullen a shady Scottish weapons magnate played by Christopher Eccleston. But McMullen is no ordinary shady Scottish weapons magnate; he’s covertly amassed a huge terrorist empire headquartered beneath the polar ice caps. It’s there that “The Doctor ” a horribly disfigured mad scientist played by (500) Days of Summer star Joseph Gordon-Levitt concocts all sorts of diabolical new weapons and gadgets to unleash on the innocent.
Oh and there are ninjas too. Good guy Snake Eyes played by Ray Park wears sleek black body armor while the evil Storm Shadow played by Byung-hun Lee runs around in a updated version of Elvis Presley’s classic all-white jumpsuit.
Loaded with scene after scene of high-tech action-movie eye candy G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra assaults the senses with such a relentless barrage of over-the-top stunts eye-popping visual effects and stylized fight sequences that only the most coldly cynical of viewers will be able to resist submitting to its visceral charms.
As with most sugary indulgences the sweet dizzying high is followed almost immediately by a painful crash. Feelings of guilt and shame start to simmer as you kick yourself for yielding to such soulless gluttony. The next morning you awake with a throbbing headache and a heart filled with regret. The following day a doctor informs you that you have adult-onset diabetes. So in a nutshell G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the cinematic equivalent of adult-onset diabetes.
The scene where they have the big fight with all the advanced weapons and a whole bunch of stuff blows up. Oh wait that’s EVERY scene.
For the bulk of his performance Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face is obscured by a bulky breathing apparatus and his voice is altered to sound like the computerized movie trailer's narrator. Which makes one wonder why they bothered to hire a name actor for the role in the first place.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Proving that everything “old” can be new again 17 Again opens in 1989 where star basketball player Mike O’Donnell turns his back on a college scholarship deciding instead to marry his girlfriend Scarlet when she reveals they are suddenly expecting a baby. Cut to 20 years later Mike’s marriage and job are floundering when he is physically transformed back into his 17-year-old self although his mind and sensibilities still remain that of a decidedly square thirtysomething dude. With the help of his nerdy-turned-billionaire best childhood buddy Ned he gets himself enrolled in the same school his own teenage kids now attend. Can he help them avert the same kinds of mistakes now that he (sorta) has a second chance to change?
WHO’S IN IT?
Zac Efron (High School Musical) shoots and scores in a breakout starring role. He shows he’s got the comic chops to believably pull off the way-out-there premise of being a 37-year-old trapped in a 17-year-old’s body. Matthew Perry (Friends) does a nice job bookending the movie as the older Mike but it’s Efron’s show all the way. Thomas Lennon follows up his hilarious supporting antics as the spurned man-date in I Love You Man with some equally amusing work as Mike’s friend Ned while Leslie Mann plays the estranged wife in style. As Mike’s kids who unknowingly become high school buds with their own father newcomer Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg get enough screen time to shine. Melora Hardin (The Office) is also quite funny as the school principal that lovelorn Ned keeps stalking.
Although the premise of the adult/kid switcheroo has been done to death director Burr Steers and writer Jason Filardi take it one step further a la It's a Wonderful Life or Damn Yankees by letting their main character regain his youth for the chance to see what his life would be like if he could live it another way. This fanciful premise makes this “teen” comedy one that adults will probably enjoy even more.
The filmmakers sometimes have a tendency to go over the top particularly in the "Star Wars fight sequence" when the newly transformed Mike confronts old friend Ned with the news and a laser battle erupts (!). Another scene where 17-year-old Mike is seduced by his own unwitting daughter may be funny but it veers a little too far into creepy territory.
DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
If you like 17 Again try renting 18 Again in which 81-year-old George Burns switches places with his grandson. Or how about Big Vice Versa Like Father Like Son or either version of Freaky Friday? And who said there are no original ideas in Hollywood ...
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
A no-brainer — the "Zac Pack" will be out in force on opening day.
In the summer of 1977 disgraced former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) sat down with British TV talk show host and interviewer David Frost (Michael Sheen) for a series of interviews that Nixon hoped would resuscitate his Watergate-tarnished image and Frost hoped would lift his own career to another level. While it made for good TV at the time it certainly didn’t seem likely fodder for a hit Broadway play and now a major motion picture. Peter Morgan (The Queen) wrote the play and adapted it for the screen turning it into a riveting cat-and-mouse game between these two made-for-television adversaries. Director Ron Howard emphasizes the behind the scenes machinations and all the negotiations between both camps. The off-camera material is priceless based in large part on speculative research. Whatever the final truth of the story the film gains its real power from it’s the telling. Ron Howard turns to the two original stage stars of Frost/Nixon -- a wise casting decision that almost never happens in Hollywood. It’s true everyone including Warren Beatty reportedly wanted to play Nixon but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Langella in recreating his Tony-winning interpretation of the infamous Tricky Dick. He has all of Nixon’s mannerisms vulnerabilities and caginess down pat. Sheen certainly captures the confident nature of Frost but also his insecurities and the realization that this whole enterprise is one big roll of the dice. And two actors work in perfect concert with one another. Supporting roles are well played including standouts Kevin Bacon as Nixon’s trusted Chief of Staff Jack Brennan and a hilarious Toby Jones aping the inimitable book agent Swifty Lazar. As key Frost aides and researchers Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell do a nice job as kind of the Greek chorus to the situation. On the surface Ron Howard -- better known for his large scale Hollywood productions like The Da Vinci Code and Apollo 13 -- doesn’t seem the right fit for this smaller scale drama but his approach transfers what could have been a flat Broadway screen into a highly cinematic and stimulating two hours. He captures the rhythms of this chess match perfectly and chooses camera angles that catch the sweat behind the cool facades of his two principals. Special mention should go to the beautiful nuanced work of his cinematographer Salvatore Totino. Howard is such a gifted filmmaker he makes it all seem effortless easily coaxing two equally superb performances from Langella and Sheen. Frost/Nixon is a first class achievement.
First in "Order"
Despite a strong showing by NBC's Law and Order, which topped the Nielsen ratings list for the first time last week with its season finale, CBS remained the top-rated network last week as such reliable standbys as JAG and Everybody Loves Raymond performed above expectations. The network wound up with an average 7.4 for the week with a 13 share. NBC was close behind with a 7.3/13, while ABC finished with a 6.4/11. Fox remained in last place among the Big 4 networks with an average 2.5/5 for the week.
The top 10 shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Law and Order, NBC, 14.2/23; 2. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 13.3/20; 3. Law and Order (special), NBC, 12.2/19; 4. Frasier, NBC, 12.1/19; 5. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Tuesday), ABC, 10.9/18; 6. Judging Amy, CBS, 10.8/18; 7. Millionaire (Monday), ABC, 10.7/17; 7. NYPD Blue, ABC, 10.7/18; 9. JAG, CBS, 10.5/17; 10. ABC Monday Night Movie: Anne Frank Pt. 2, ABC, 9.5/15; 10. Dharma & Greg, ABC, 9.5/15.0.
ABC's Brown to become new face of CNN
ABC News veteran Aaron Brown, familiar to many as the anchor of the Saturday edition of World News Tonight, has been nabbed by CNN, which is expected to feature him in an hour-long evening newscast beginning next fall, according to published reports. Thursday's New York Times said that CNN was hoping to use Brown to replace the recently retired Bernard Shaw as the news network's "defining face."
Ousted BET host Smiley to land at ABC
Former BET talk-show host Tavis Smiley, who was fired by the black cable network last March after he sold an interview to ABC's PrimeTime Thursday, is close to a deal that would see him hosting a daytime talk show on ABC as well as contributing to its magazine shows -- including PrimeTime Thursday -- on a regular basis, published reports said Wednesday.
No backlash to "Survivor" revelations, says CBS
Following the release of a deposition by Survivor contestant Dirk Been in which he acknowledged being influenced by producer Mark Burnett to change a key vote during the production of the show, CBS has received no letters and only two email messages about the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing a CBS spokesman. Both email messages supported the network, the newspaper said. Analysts contacted by the WSJ expressed doubt that an audience backlash would materialize as a result of the lawsuit brought by another contestant, Stacey Stillman, against CBS and the Survivor producers. "This is no quiz-show scandal," Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television, told the WSJ.
Porn site pays Anderson and beau "seven figures"
The Internet porn site Internet Entertainment Group has settled a lawsuit brought against it by former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Bret Michaels, the lead singer of Poison, for "a seven-figure sum" for attempting to sell video of the couple having sex. Previously IEG had settled a case with Anderson over another sex tape that it distributed showing her having sex with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. According to published reports, unlike the Anderson-Lee video, the Anderson-Michaels tape was never widely distributed because Anderson's attorneys took prompt legal action against IEG to block it.
"Big Brother" is Britain's "most censored" show
The live daily telecasts of the hit reality show Big Brother on the U.K.'s digital channel E4 have easily become the most censored shows in TV history, the London Daily Mirror reported Thursday. Broadcast on a 10-minute delay to allow the station to screen conversations between the contestants in a house where TV cameras are trained on them throughout the day, the telecasts frequently include long segments in which no sound is heard at all. During one hour sampled by the Mirror, only 27 minutes was broadcast uncensored, with the sound cutting out more than 30 times. A spokesman for the British Broadcasting Standards Commission, an official watchdog, told the newspaper: "There is nothing in living memory as heavily bleeped as Big Brother." Meanwhile, contestant Penny Ellis, whose employer, a private school, has threatened to fire her after she appeared briefly in the nude during a Big Brother telecast, said Wednesday that she will be probably quit. "I would be a lunatic [to return]," she said. "I wouldn't get any work done. It's best not to go back for the safety of the kids and the structure of the school."
R-rated movies walloped by enforcement
Ticket sales for R-rated films have plummeted since movie theaters, bowing to political pressure, began tightening their enforcement of age restrictions, the Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a study by research group MarketCast. The study concluded that "significant numbers" of children under 17, especially girls, were being deterred from seeing R-rated movies. The theaters' policies, the study said, caused the recent releases The Mexican, starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, and Angel Eyes, starring Jennifer Lopez, to lose a major share of the audience that ordinarily would have been attracted to them, the study said. It estimated that the movie Tomcats, from Joe Roth's Revolution Studios lost 30 percent of its potential audience because of theater enforcement of age restrictions. "I think the implications are that studios will take a hard look at movies that could be cut to be PG-13," Michael Schwartz, research director at MarketCast, told the Post. "They'll ask whether the R-rated scenes will gain them enough appeal to offset the losses, especially where there is strong teen interest." Indeed, Roth told the newspaper that he would never make a movie like Tomcats again. "This is material that's mostly innately appealing to 12- to 16-year-olds, so you're really stuck."
"The Star offers Blake $100,000 to take lie test
Supermarket tabloid The Star has offered actor Robert Blake $100,000 to take a lie detector test in connection with the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Neither Blake nor his attorneys have responded to the offer. In an interview with Thursday's New York Post, Star editor-in-chief Tony Frost commented: "If Mr. Blake has nothing to hide, what better way is there of removing the umbrella of suspicion? ... The results of a polygraph are not admissible in a court of law, but they do go a long way to convincing the court of public opinion."
Cahners pink slips "Variety," "Broadcasting" employees
Cahners Publishing, whose trade publications include Variety and Broadcasting & Cable, said Wednesday that it is pink-slipping 140 employees, representing about 3 percent of its work force. The company also eliminated an honor-system policy of allowing employees to leave at 1: p.m. on Fridays, provided that they make up the missed time during the rest of the week. The company said that it was reacting to current economic conditions.
Wanna buy a Muppet?
EM.TV, the troubled German media company that paid $680 million for The Muppets just two years ago, may only get about $200 million if is able to unload the characters, who include Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, the New York Post observed Thursday, citing industry analysts. Chris Bryne, editor of Toy Report, told the newspaper: "The problem is that the Muppets aren't hot the way they once were. ... Any new owner will face the difficulty of trying to make all these characters relevant again." Among the possible buyers, the Post said, are Disney, Viacom and Jim Henson Productions, the Muppets' creators.
News spoof says Disney planning "enhanced edition" of "Pearl Harbor"
Newsweek magazine, in an apparent spoof of itself, began running a "Web Exclusive" on its Internet site Wednesday, saying that the Walt Disney Co. is planning to spend an additional $145 million on an "enhanced edition" of Pearl Harbor that will be "longer, louder and dumber" than the original and will be the "most historically inaccurate" movie ever made. The article said that a number of big stars will be added to the film, including the musical groups 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys "who will appear together in an exciting 'battle of the bands' sequence during which they will be struck by Japanese bombs and perish. "The sequence 'tested through the roof,'" according to the satirical piece, which Newsweek credited to "The Borowitz Report."
In Wednesday's edition of Studio Briefing, we quoted FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman as saying that Town & Country has emerged as the biggest box-office flop in history. A reader responded that 1995's Cutthroat Island, which cost $92 million to make and earned only $11 million (and, in the process, wrecked Carolco, the indie studio that made it), may rightfully claim that dubious distinction.