January 24, 2013 4:55pm EST
Lifetime Adds a Leading Lady: TV icon Brooke Shields is joining Lifetime’s lady drama Army Wives. According to a press release, Shields will join the cast as “brash and brilliant” Air Force Colonel Katherine “Kat” Young. Kat is a guy’s girl who can definitely hold her own in the boys' club atmosphere of the military, but it won't take long before she’s butting heads with Army General Michael Holden (Brian McNamara). Army Wives fans can look forward to seeing Shields' character in a full-fledged power struggle with Holden to see who’s top dog on the base. But of course it wouldn’t be a Lifetime show unless Kat was holding onto a deep dark secret. “Only after their initial skirmishes does Holden learn of Kat’s tragic past, discovering they have more in common than he thought.” Shields is just one of the new additions to join the drama this season — Ashanti and Torrey DeVitto are also set to join the cast. Fans can catch the Season 7 premiere of Army Wives on Sunday, March 10 at 9 PM. [Lifetime]
A Witchcraft Reunion: Grab your spell books and wands because Disney Channel is reuniting the cast of Wizards of Waverly Place! Selena Gomez is back as Alex — the snarky best friend you’ve always wanted — in a one-hour special airing Friday, March 15 at 8 PM. The Russo family will travel to Tuscany, Italy for a family reunion, but in a attempt to show her serious magical skills, Alex accidently splits her personality in two: good Alex and bad Alex. (Side note: Didn’t they already do an episode like this? I'm pretty sure I've seen this already...) In a totally believable twist, the two Alexes battle for the fate of their family and the world atop the Tower of Pisa. [TV Guide]
Going Through The Gates... Again: Ken Marino and Aasif Mandvi have joined the NBC comedy pilot The Gates. Based on the British series, The Gates is an adult ensemble comedy set at the front gates of an elementary school drop-off and revolves around the parents, school staff and 15-minute social minefield they navigate at the beginning and end of each school day. (Side note: We're getting another case of deja vu here. Wasn't there already a TV series The Gates? On ABC? In the summer of 2010? Yes, yes there was...) This new incarnation centers on type-A Helen (Kathleen Rose Perkins), who just moved to town with her husband Mark (Marino) and their 8-year-old daughter for Helen’s big new job. Mark is described as a loveable, sweet, well-meaning, puppy-dog of a guy, a type B, or C, maybe even D to his wife’s type-A personality. Since he owns a construction business, he’s got a more flexible schedule than Helen and is at their daughter’s school more than his wife. Mandvi will play another dad at the school, a super-driven, competitive Yale-educated lawyer who’s one of these comedically intense guys who pushes his kids way too hard. [Deadline]
Party Down Parties On: This reunion is definitely one worth noting. On Feb. 9, San Francisco’s Sketchfest will reunite the cast of Starz’s brilliant-but-canceled catering comedy Party Down. Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, and Ryan Hansen are already locked in as attendees and it has just been revealed that Lizzy Caplan will join the group at this sold-out event as well. [EW]
It's Still Pilot Season, Y'all: NBC greenlighted a single-camera comedy from The Office developer/executive producer Greg Daniels starring Craig Robinson. The untitled project is about a talented musician with rough edges who adjusts to his new life as a music teacher in a big-city middle school, where he encounters teacher politics and the temptations of single moms. CBS has handed two more pilot orders to comedy Bad Teacher and drama The Advocates. Bad Teacher, a single-camera comedy series adaptation of the hit 2011 movie of the same name, is about a sexy, foul-mouthed divorcee who becomes a teacher to find her next husband. The Advocates, which had a pilot production commitment, centers on a female lawyer and a male ex-con who team up as “victim advocates,” going to the edge of the law to right wrongs and fight for the underdog. [Deadline, Deadline]
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July 25, 2012 9:51am EST
"You can make her do anything you want… For men everywhere tell me you're not going to let that go to waste."
It's a chilling turn of phrase that Chris Messina's character Henry utters when he meets the woman that his brother Calvin wrote into being. Calvin played by Paul Dano is a frustrated writer but more than that a writer who published to great acclaim at a young age who has yet to do anything since. He begins writing a character named Ruby Sparks and as he falls in love with his creation he can't stop writing. It's exhilarating and addictive. Played by Dano's real-life girlfriend Zoe Kazan Ruby Sparks is a one-dimensional male fantasy a cutesy young woman on roller skates… until she appears in his kitchen one morning. Calvin quickly learns that even though he can control her with a few taps on his typewriter Ruby has an ever-changing will of her own.
Ruby Sparks is written by Kazan with the sort of bite that a trailer can't be tied up with a neat little bow. There is gorgeous California sunshine an airy house in a hip part of Los Angeles the trendy Figaro café where Calvin finds out that other people can see Ruby and a delightful interlude with Calvin's hippie mother and stepfather played by Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas. As gorgeous and gleeful and wide-eyed as Ruby is and as much as Calvin adores her the relationship develops and changes even as he succumbs to the temptation to rewrite her. Calvin an essentially insecure man unravels and becomes more and more of a controlling jerk until he's faced with the truth of how far he's willing to go to keep Ruby from leaving him. It becomes sad and frankly disturbing with an admirably raw performance by Kazan that lingers.
While Ruby Sparks serves as an interesting commentary on wish fulfillment in fiction writing its juicy subtext is far more important. Under the surface the film delves into how we're culpable for the way we see our lovers and how we want to change them or make them something they're not. Eventually Calvin has to decide whether or not he wants to continue editing Ruby to fit his specifications; he has to face that that means about him as a person and as a man. It's Pygmalion with a feminist twist. We see plenty of dumb romantic comedies about women tricking men into changing but it seems like there's an endless parade of indie films written by men about loveably girly women whose only reason for being is to act as a catalyst for the man's emotional growth. While this is absolutely true in some ways for Ruby and Calvin there's a meat to the script and Kazan's performance that makes "Ruby" rise to the top. There are plenty of words (or that overused phrase) we can use to describe Ruby but in the end Calvin wrote those traits into her and these are details that Ruby shucks off as she grows. Similarly as women grow up we learn we can (and have to) stop performing tricks to become the person our significant other wants or sees in us.
Without revealing too much the end of Ruby Sparks could be read a number of ways. On one hand it is a bit of a misstep that undermines the general thrust of the story but it could also be seen as simply a happier more hopeful ending. Romantics will find it satisfying but those hoping for Ruby's full emancipation might find it lacking.
This is the first film for directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris since 2006's Little Miss Sunshine and although they have much in common — including Dano — Ruby is a darker unrulier movie. The idea of movie-goers being led in to see Ruby because of Faris and Dayton's names or because of the trailer is delightful because they're going to get a little bit of a different experience than they're prepared for.
[Full disclosure: I interviewed Zoe Kazan for a profile in the August/September issue of BUST magazine.]
May 11, 2012 5:40am EST
There's probably still someone somewhere that would fall for one of Sacha Baron Cohen's weird and wooly scenarios but let's face the facts: the days when Ali G. could snag an interview with Pat Buchanan or Gore Vidal are long gone. 2009's Bruno definitely let some steam out of Borat's tires not to mention the ensuing lawsuits. But it's refreshing to see Cohen and his Borat/Bruno cohort director Larry Charles flex their muscles in the fictional universe of The Dictator a vehicle that doesn't skimp on their signature cringe-worthy humor.
The world of The Dictator gives them the leeway to create crazy spectacles — at one point Cohen's General Aladeen rides down Fifth Avenue on a camel surrounded by a giant motorcade. Having a plot helps too; although part of the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick is how the viewer is made culpable by proxy by our amusement and horror at how he tricks and torments people who aren't in on the joke The Dictator continues the self-reflexive satirical bite. We're certainly not off the hook. Aladeen says and does truly outrageous things but they're also exaggerations of the world we live in. It might be a stretch to call Sacha Baron Cohen the British Lenny Bruce or George Carlin in a face merkin but rest assured that no topic is off limits. If you are offended by jokes about abortion rape feminists body hair race religion politics STDs war crimes ethnic cleansing necrophilia and/or bestiality don't even bother. However if you like the kind of comedy that makes you hide your face in your hands feeling like each laugh is being pried from you against your will you're in business.
Cohen eats up the screen as both General Aladeen and his incredibly dumb body double; the latter prefers the intimate company of one of his goats to a human while the former is a fairly stupid ruthless dictator whose own people are so disloyal to him that they actually ignore his commands to execute people. (He really likes to execute people.) When he arrives in New York City to attend a summit at the UN his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) has the two switched so he can easily manipulate the "General" into signing a treaty to make Wadiya a democracy and reap the financial benefits. Aladeen finds refuge with Zoe a hairy-pitted activist who thinks he's a political dissident and is excited to be able to give him a safe haven in her touchy-feely Brooklyn grocery co-op. Instead of being typecast as another blonde dummy Anna Faris is finally given room to play as the wide-eyed naïf who takes Aladeen's very serious statements as jokes or simple miscommunications. She's a great foil to Baron Cohen who is easily half a foot taller than she is and has a wolfish grin. Their banter is often the most politically incorrect of the bunch but also the funniest.
Alas the plot. It's a bare bones situation to get a very broad character from A to B. Aladeen is obviously an outlandish mishmash of modern dictators; he spouts racist misogynist rhetoric endlessly and after a while...yeah we get it. However like all of Sacha Baron Cohen's humor The Dictator also takes a direct shot at Western countries (specifically the United States) which would be all fine and dandy if he didn't wedge an expository speech in about it as well. The problem with making a traditional narrative movie is that with some exceptions you've got to play within the guidelines. The Dictator isn't trying to do anything fancy; all it needs a few big beats and a neat ending to wrap it all up. It doesn't quite manage to tie it all together in a way that makes The Dictator more than an hour and a half or so of laughing and cringing.
Besides Faris and Kingsley there are a number of cameos by a very wide variety of comics and actors. Megan Fox plays herself Kevin Corrigan appears as a creepy dude who works at the co-op John C. Reilly is a racist security guard and Fred Armisen runs an anti-Aladeen café in New York's Little Wadiya district. The very funny Jason Mantzoukas has a large role as Nadal the former head of rocket science who was supposedly executed for not making Aladeen's nuclear warhead pointy. It's a good ensemble and hopefully Sacha Baron Cohen's next feature-length film will build on The Dictator's weaknesses.
July 13, 2011 7:34am EST
The directors of Little Miss Sunshine are redelivering cinematic glory with the upcoming He Loves Me, about the most despicably relatable frenzy for people in my line of work: writer’s block. Aside from an already compelling theme and winning directorial team of Valeria Faris and Jonathan Dayton, this movie has brought in a pretty impressive cast:
Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine’s silent nihilist will lead the way, along with Annette Bening (last year’s Best Actress contender for The Kids Are All Right), Elliott Gould (for the older crowd: M*A*S*H; for the younger: Monica’s and Ross’ dad), Zoe Kazan (It's Complicated), Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge), Chris Messina (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Antonio Banderas (you know who that is). Word has it that The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi is in consideration for a part as well.
So, this movie seems to have something for everyone: the old, the young, the hip, the romantic, the nihilistic, the vampirious, the British... and with the duo that cranked out the shockingly good Little Miss Sunshine at the wheel, I'd call this a project with incredible promise.
October 29, 2010 5:55am EST
Because Americans butcher the French language, Celine Dion named her two new twins Eddy and Nelson. Since she’s busy trying to explain why they’ve been given domesticated cat names, she’s no longer performing in Las Vegas. So Will Ferrell has taken her place on the stage, and he gave David Letterman a sample of his rendition of “The Power of Love.”
Denzel Washington told Jay Leno what it was like to see Will Smith’s son, Jaden, at the Lakers game while he was hanging out with Justin Bieber. It’s peculiar, you know, to think that Denzel Washington spends his time identifying teenagers rather than how he can use his hand without his pinky looking like it was electrocuted by the Jurassic Park fence.
Right. So some ghost hunters were on Jimmy Fallon last night, but I’d rather show you this thing with puppies he did instead.
Jon Stewart ran an extensive compilation of all the negative campaigns that have been running right now, including one particular ad talked that said Harry Reid used tax dollars to help convicted child molesters buy their Viagra. Jon had Larry Whitmore and Aasif Mandvi show how the ads could be taken to the next level.
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And Stephen Colbert talked to a bunch of people who scare the crap out of him in order to psych himself up for the rallies. He talked to the editor of Out magazine, a Mexican man, a Muslim man, a guy who’s one with the grizzly bears, and a guy who researches and creates robots. Noticeably absent was all of Taco Bell’s cheese and sheep shearers.
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October 15, 2010 6:27am EST
Let me grab your attention with one thing that everyone always loves to hear: Christopher Walken is starring in a new movie.
Yes, that's right. The man who, like the rest of us, puts his pants on one leg at a time -- but when he does, makes gold records -- will be in the upcoming Todd Solondz indie-drama Dark Horse.
Walken joins with Mia Farrow and Selma Blair. The film will be produced by Solondz's Double Hope Films.
Dark Horse follows a thirtysomething man, played by Jordan Gelber, who lives with his parents (Walken and Farrow). Gelber's character is stuck in a world of his own, unwillingly working for his father while pursuing his real passion: collecting toys. After a bit, he realizes he needs to figure himself out, so he seeks out help from a woman (Blair) to rid himself of the "dark horse" status in the family and actually accomplish something in his life.
The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi, who also starred in one of the worst films ever made (The Last Airbender), is also part of the cast, playing Blair's ex-boyfriend.
This is good news for Walken, an actor known to take nearly every role he's offered. Solondz, who's responsible for cult classics like Happiness and Storytelling, is very talented at directing thought-provoking satire of family life, and specifically, American suburbia. He could not have found anyone better for a father role than Walken, and hopefully, with the rest of the talented cast, they produce a quality film -- without needing more cowbell.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
September 29, 2010 5:49am EST
Arianna Huffington told Jon Stewart how she’s willing to pay for busses to shuffle people to the rally to restore sanity. Jon was kind of shocked because he thought we’d all be carpooling, but we stopped doing that when we stopped wearing “blouses.”
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Aasif Mandvi reminded us that we’re treating the earth worse than we’d treat the coyote who ate our Christmas kitten. Apparently, we’re running out of helium. So to start conserving it, USE LESS MAGNETIC POETRY, PLEASE.
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Stephen Colbert talked about how Republican John Boehner (he’s gotta be kidding us with that) pledged to make things different while keeping them totally the same if Republicans won the midterm elections in November. Meanwhile, Democrats don’t get it.
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Christopher Meloni from Law and Order (not the failed one, SVU!) talked to Jimmy Fallon about his summer trip to France, that he seemed to have spent killing mosquitoes, listening for packs of dogs, and helping his six year old son through an identity crisis.
Patrick Dempsey told Jay Leno about the $200 million budget for Transformers 3, and how his stint on Grey’s Anatomy as a surgeon has allowed him to help other doctors treat his daughter when she’s cracked her chin open in Texas.
And Mindy Kaling talked about how she and her parents think Halloween is weird, the new season of The Office and her efforts to write a romantic comedy, where she’ll play the beautiful white woman’s “plucky” best friend who sits her down and reminds her of her age and tells her how important it is that she choose the right guy out of the two that she’s dating because she’s 32 and at 33, the best thing she’ll be able to do with herself is learn German.
July 06, 2010 5:01am EST
A few weeks ago I was explaining how, against all sensible judgement, I was looking forward to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender. Even though I wasn’t a fan of the show (I don’t dislike it, I just haven’t watched it), the trailers had won me over to the point where I was willing to entertain the idea that The Happening was a fluke and that this once buzz-worthy director was back on track. Then I actually watched The Last Airbender and everything changed.
Well, “watched” isn’t even the right word. You don’t simply “watch” The Last Airbender, after all; it’s so damned lifeless that you exhume its corpse for 103 minutes. After walking out of my local megaplex-turned-mausoleum, my initial reaction was that Shyamalan’s latest movie was worthless. Absolutely worthless. Utterly devoid of any net-positive contributions to the world.
Now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, though, I realize it is not a worthless film. At its core are a handful of fundamental lessons to be learned. Sure, most of them revolve around why Shyamalan should never be allowed near a camera phone yet alone a movie camera, but they’re lessons all the same.
1. Do not trust post-production 3D conversions.
When Clash of the Titans came out, the post-production 3D conversion on it was so gaudy that everyone with two eyeballs declared it to be garbage. However, even though we all knew it was crap, most of us (myself included) wanted to believe Hollywood when they collectively said, “Hey we know Clash looked like a clumsy pop-up book, but that’s just because its post-production 3D was rushed and done on the cheap. [Insert Upcoming Movie Name Here] will be totally different! We don’t come out for months, so we’ve got plenty of time to actually do it right!”
Well, now we know that is all bull. The amount of time means nothing; it’s never going to make a difference. If a film wasn’t planned for 3D, it’s 2D can only be exploited so much. There will inevitably be a ton of scenes that don’t even look like they have any 3D to them because the original 2D scenes were too shallow to add depth to. That’s just the way it is.
Now, that’s not to say that all post-production 3D films will be as atrocious as Airbender’s. If a director plans for 3D ahead of time and shoots the film with a great sense of depth to begin with (as it looks like Michele Gondry has with The Green Hornet), then it could look pretty decent. If they don’t, however, it simply won’t.
2. Do not judge an actor by their performance in an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
Technically this was a lesson first learned on The Happening, where actors who have proven their talent in the past walked through the entire film like they had to come in for rehearsals on their day off, but it’s worth modifying for Airbender. A lot is being said of how emotionless of a performance Noah Ringer (who plays Aang in the movie) gives and that we’re basically seeing Jake Lloyd all over again, but knowing how bad Shyamalan has become with actors, I’m not willing to write him off just yet.
Even several of the side characters have proven more talented elsewhere. Aasif Mandvi, who plays the villainous firebender uncle, is hilarious as a correspondent on the Daily Show; here he’s just completely out of his element, a stranger in a strange land. Yes, pretty much everyone in The Last Airbender is dreadful, but this is a case where I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt of having a bad director instead of simply being bad actors.
3. Fireballs, giant lizards and magical tsunamis can be boring.
For me this is the most surprising lesson learned from The Last Airbender. It’s like the old saying: there’s no such thing as a bad BJ. Some are certainly going to be better than others, but the ingredients are so basic that even if they’re not used together exceptionally, it’s still not actually bad. At the very least, what I was expecting from Shyamalan was to deliver a cool movie for kids that would have enough well-done fantasy elements to entertain anyone who likes the genre. I didn’t think it was possible to make battling with fireballs and water tentacles this boring.
Obviously I was wrong.
I don’t want to crap all over the film’s special effects because I haven’t seen them in 2D yet (in 3D they’re often incomprehensible), but even if the tech behind them is top-notch, Shyamalan still doesn’t know how to use it. Fight scenes are often in slow motion without any discernible reason to be in slow motion; no stylistic flourishes, no slowing of the speed so as to appreciate the finer details. Even during a few moments where the fight choreography is quite good, Shyamalan often finds a way to cripple his own good luck, either by editing away from the action or by needlessly prolonging the film with the aforementioned slooooow motion.
There comes a point in Airbender where you’re so bored by these talking exoskeletons (and my God how they talk!) that no amount of digital wizardry can temporarily jolt the mess back to life. This is something other bad fantasy movies, like this year’s Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, are capable of, but the fact that freezing people, setting them on fire, or threatening to crush them with a wall made of water can be this mundane, this...unfantastical...it genuinely shocks me. But at least now I know for certain that if Shyamalan is the director, everything that can be ruined, will be ruined.
June 08, 2010 9:05am EST
Colbert Takes Out BP (Literally): Late Last Night
Stephen Colbert was on fire last night on The Colbert Report, with a riff on the gulf oil spill. Colbert partnered with search engine Bing, who offered to donate $2500 to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation every time he said the name of their company. I generally hate product placement, but Colbert raised a ton of money for a good cause, and gave Google one hell of a name drop in the process.
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Colbert continued the segment on the spill with an extended skit in which he hulks-out and goes to town on BP CEO Tony Hayward. While he does take a shot at the Knicks in the process, (Hey! We’ve got some...good...uniforms.) Colbert’s animal-assisted smack-down is pure wish-fulfillment. I really hope that whenever we end up charging the real BP execs it involves trial by combat with a shirtless Obama and some pissed-off dolphin sidekicks.
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The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi traveled to Hacienda Heights to investigate the controversy around a program that teaches Mandarin Chinese to middle school students. The fear, of one pointy-haired lady at least, is that children would be indoctrinated with Communism from a young age. Or possibly be turned into Manchurian Candidate-esque sleeper agents. I don’t know how this woman's language classes went, but when I took Spanish in middle school we didn’t do anything more complex than “where is the library”, never mind “from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs”. That has passive voice and everything. Besides, I took a year of Chinese in high school, and the only side-effect is that I occasionally feel the urge to stand in front of tanks and invent the decimal system.
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Jimmy Fallon's Late Night guest was Glee's Chris Colfer, who proved to be adorably awkward for a boy who can handle dancing in ten-inch heels. Colfer admitted to accidentally breaking an antique NBC lamp in Jimmy’s dressing room and seemed nervous, but I think NBC would only care if the lamp belonged to Jay Leno.
Chris Colfer also did some promotion for tonight’s finale of Glee, and let slip that the gang will be adding another Journey song to their repertoire. The gang’s rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” went gold in digital sales, so it looks like Fox is looking to cash in with a new power ballad from the rock group. You know whatever it is that they pick is going to be all over the radio for the rest of the summer, so I really, really hope that they don’t try to replicate the music video for "Separate Ways". I don’t think I can deal with that much 80’s.
September 18, 2008 10:21pm EST
Don’t get me wrong--Gervais’ acerbic socially reclusive dentist Bertram Pincus isn’t really the catch of the century. On the contrary. He’d rather drink battery acid then have to speak to anyone directly including his attractive new neighbor Gwen (Tea Leoni). But Bertram gets a severe attitude adjustment when he accidentally dies--for seven minutes--during a routine colonoscopy. When he comes back from the dead so to speak he can suddenly SEE the dead--ghosts with unfinished business who follow Bertram around and try to get him to help them. This includes Frank (Greg Kinnear) who wants Bertram to break up the impending marriage of his widow the very same lovely Gwen. At first Bertram tries to very hard to ignore the request--until he gets a good look at Gwen and decides it might be worth it after all. Now Bertram just has to convince her he isn’t really the total twit he seems to be. Good luck with that. When Gervais won the Golden Globe in 2001for his achingly funny BBC series The Office most of us Yanks were like “Who is that?” Then he came up and gave one of the more hilarious acceptance speeches--and well a star was born. He certainly hasn’t disappointed since turning in another hit comedy show Extras for HBO--and now movies. Whether he’d admit it or not Gervais has leading man qualities in that very offbeat British way master of the miscommunication and half-finished sentences. And playing off veteran comic actors such as Kinnear and Leoni in Ghost Town only make Gervais look even better. Leoni is especially fetching in her breezy role as Gwen an Egyptologist who could be a total nerd if not for her charm and sense of humor. The chemistry with Gervais is odd at best but they make it work AND seem believable. There are a few scenes she does with Gervais where you just know it took a lot of takes because she couldn’t quit laughing. I know I certainly wouldn’t have been able to. Ghost Town’s head honcho David Koepp is definitely known more for his writing than directing having penned such scripts as Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull War of the Worlds and Spider-Man thus the reason Ghost Town shines as it does. The premise isn’t anything groundbreaking but the dialogue is spot-on. Co-writing with John Kamps Koepp manages to mix both screwball comedy with poignancy without it seeming too silly or too syrupy while the plot moves along at a nice pace. And Ghost Town has one of those feel-good endings (a rom-com must have) you don’t really expect to feel as good about as you do. Koepp’s other directorial efforts included Secret Window and Stir of Echoes but it seems romantic comedies are now and should always be his forte.