It’s hard for me to judge a movie like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island too harshly because I am not representative of its intended audience. A pre-teen or fifth-grader may not be dissuaded as I was by the blindingly hurried pace plot discrepancies or absence of any character development while watching Brad Peyton’s (Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) attempt at reliving the success of Eric Brevig’s original Journey. And you know what? That’s okay because as a family film it adheres to a formula laid out by far superior fantasy adventures and runs its course quickly without ever leaving a moment to reflect on how ridiculous it is.
Essentially a series of set pieces tied together by a thinly drawn father-son story Journey 2 picks up a few years after the first film and finds Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) searching for the titular location where he believes his long-absent grandfather has been stranded. Upon retrieving a coded message from a satellite tower just outside of town he enlists the help of his new ex-Navy stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson) to get to the bottom of the mystery. Together they travel to a tropical paradise and hitch a helicopter ride with Gabato (Luis Guzman) and Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) before crash landing on the Mysterious Island where an action-packed escapade awaits them.
The above description reads like a standard adventure template and that’s exactly what Journey 2 is. With a bare bones script from the writers of Bring it On Again neither director nor actors had significant material to work with but they run jump duck and dive through sets that resemble the jungle-gym from Legends of the Hidden Temple and various theme-park attractions as if they were cast in Peter Jackson’s King Kong giving every scene everything they’ve got. It’s a good thing that the ensemble was so enthusiastic about the picture; though there isn’t much chemistry between them they collectively draw your attention from the gratuitous gimmicky 3D videogame-inspired digital environments and outdated creature design.
Every role has a designated responsibility in this by-the-numbers production: Hutcherson is the brains spitting out expository literary facts to keep the story going throughout while Johnson is clearly the brawn. Guzman with his incessant infantile comedy is the mouth while Hudgens – quite frankly – is the eye candy. Only as a unit can they come close to making Journey 2 entertaining but even when working in relative harmony it’s hard to find much qualitative value in the film. As previously stated Journey 2: The Mysterious Island wasn’t made for all audiences. It will provide a few moments of underage humor and three-dimensional thrills for the kids but everyone else will be wondering why they had to watch The Rock sing “What a Wonderful World” in an adaptation of a Jules Verne novel.
Introductions first. Welcome to our new, bi-weekly television column, Couch Potatoes Anonymous. It's a place where we, the lovers of television, can converge to gripe, groan, praise, muse and contemplate all things small screen. For his first entry, our columnist takes on the enigma that is How I Met Your Mother.
ABC’s Lost was a series about a group of plane crash survivors, learning to live together and trying to survive living on a mystical, magical island.
CBS’ How I Met Your Mother is a series about a group of friends living and loving on the real-life mystical, magical island of Manhattan.
Whether you’re a fan of one or both shows, you may not notice, but both shows share some rather prominent characteristics. But how can a science fiction series about a group of stranded plane crash survivors and a romantic comedy series about a group of friends in New York be so similar?
First are the easy similarities – like both shows take place on an island. For Lost is it an island forever traveling through time and space (if you never saw the show, it would take about seventeen more columns to explain that; however fans know exactly what I mean). How I Met Your Mother (or HIMYM) mostly takes place on the island of Manhattan. Both shows feature all kinds of callbacks to earlier episodes, future events, and alternate versions of the characters. Both shows require repeated viewings if you want to catch every single Easter egg. Luckily for HIMYM, it differs in that it is a sitcom, which means even with the show’s interweaving narrative, you can enjoy episodes without seeing every single season.
It’s All About the Flashbacks
One of Lost’s hallmarks was its use of an important storytelling tool: the flashback. For the majority of the series, each episode delivered flashes of an individual character’s backstory where we’d learn about some point in that person’s life before Oceanic 815 crashed. As the series progressed, we’d see the character’s stories told in flash-forwards, and even alternate reality flash-sideways, as they would come to be called. The series was akin to a giant jigsaw puzzle; pieces randomly fell into place along the Lost timeline as the series progressed.
HIMYM uses all of these storytelling conventions as well. First, the entire series is one giant flashback. The main character, Ted (whose future voice is that of Bob Saget) is in the year 2030 telling his teenage children the story of how he met their mother; which makes every episode a flashback in and of itself. Within the framework of each show there are mini–flashbacks which show Ted, Marshalll, and Lily in college; Barney before he suited-up; Robin as a Canadian teenage pop star; or whatever the story calls for. We catch glimpses of characters as children and teenagers, and as future and even alternate versions of themselves like Mustache Marshalll or Lesbian Robin.
Gotta Love Those Sad Sack Ringleaders
Don’t let the title fool you. I happen to like both Jack Shephard (Lost) and Ted Mosby (HIMYM). But both characters are lovelorn guys with hero complexes. Both characters are presented to the fans as the “main” character of the ensemble, the one we should be rooting for, but they both become slightly grating and whiny: Jack constantly insist on going back to save people; Ted is on a constant search to find the future Mrs. Mosby and thinks he can salvage every relationship he’s ever been in with some cheesy “tailormade-television” act of romance. Most importantly, both ringleaders get lost in the shuffle when it comes to their respective series’ supporting characters.
The Ballads of Jin and Sun and Marshalll and Lily
When we first meet Jin on Lost, he’s a real piece of garbage who lives by the old world culture, demeans his wife, and refuses to be a part of the group. It’s only when Sun shames him that he starts to realize the error of his ways and moves forward on his path to redemption. Jin and Sun might not have been Lost’s hottest couple, but they were definitely one of its most intriguing ones. From the reveal that Sun could speak English, to the couple reconciling as Jin leaves the Island during the Season One finale (which is still the best season finale I’ve ever seen), to the amazing double-twist flashback for Jin and flashforward for Sun, to Jin’s tear-jerking sacrifice to not leave his wife and die by her side in a watery grave, we found weight in their story. The Kwons might have seemed meek at first, but they became some of the best characters on the show.
In HIMYM’s pilot, Marshall proposes to Lily, who of course says yes. Luckily for her, Marshmellow is the anti-Jin right from the start; there’s not a damn thing he won’t do for his little Lilypad. Well, sadly for Vanilla Thunder, his would-be bride-to-be had to go on her own redemptive quest. While her departure wasn’t as terrible as Jin’s, she did leave the guy at the end of the show’s first season finale in her own exodus, leaving a distraught Marshall sitting on the steps, heartbroken in the rain. They would rekindle their relationship early on in Season Two and be married by its end. Like Jin and Sun, Marshall and Lily have the ability to steal the spotlight whenever they’re in the scene, which they regularly do. In fact, since Ted’s quest to find the mother fell to the wayside in recent seasons, it’s been Marshall and Lily’s married life that has dominated the series and become the heart of the show. Luckily, Lily and Marshall are sitcom characters so I think it’s safe to assume we won’t see them wind up at the bottom of the East River.
Oh, The Loveable Scoundrels
They both love catchphrases and nicknames; each one has a thing for Star Wars and hard-edged women; and most importantly, they’re both loveable confidence men. James “Sawyer” Ford conned to scratch out a living before boarding the doomed Oceanic 815 and Barney Stinson will con any girl into bed and he’ll con his own friends just to prove a point. Both Sawyer and Stinson are on redemptive quests that will allow them to be with their would-be women. For Sawyer, it was Kate. Barney had Robin. However by Lost’s end, Sawyer would realize that Juliet was really the gal for him. If the connections between the shows continue, then the true girl of Barney’s dreams (and the one who we will find out he is marrying by season’s end) would be Nora.
Speaking of Kate and Robin… They’re both fiercely independent, in love with bad boys, and they’re running away from their pasts. Kate served as an unofficial second-in-command for the Losties whenever Jack was nowhere to be found or off on his own foolhardy mission. She came to the Island as a fugitive who’d been running from U.S. Marshalls for years because she murdered her step-father and committed insurance fraud to set her ailing mother up for life. During the first few seasons, there was love triangle brewing between Kate, Sawyer, and Jack. But by the time she and Sawyer were locked up together on Hydra Island, they finally consummated their affections for one another.
Robin – as Ted pointed out negatively and Barney pointed out as a positive trait – does not need anyone to help her in life. She is the quintessential career woman, putting her journalism career ahead of being a wife and mother. She came to Manhattan island to realize her newswoman dreams while running away from her former life as a ‘90s teen pop star in Canada – anyone else want to see a Robin Sparkles spin–off? While she finally let herself fall for Ted at the end of the first season, the couple realized they were on borrowed time and called it quits at the end of Season Two. However, from the first moment she became Barney’s wing-woman in Season One’s “Zip, Zip, Zip” episode, it was clear that she and the Barnacle had chemistry. That chemistry isn’t realized until Season Five, and when they dance together at Punchy’s wedding during this season’s premiere, their connection flares up again. Unfortunately, if my theory of connection between the two shows is correct, then Robin could be devastated by season’s end by Barney marrying Nora.
Bad Luck, Thy Name is Jorge
The heart and soul of Lost was also the eventual ruler of the Island: the forever jinxed, Hurley (Jorge Garcia). The poor guy played a set of numbers – 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 – to win the lottery and thought he was cursed ever since. His Uncle Tito suffered a heart attack; a meteor struck his burgeoning chicken franchise; a dock he was standing on collapsed, killing several people. Oh, and he was in a mental asylum. And all of this happened before he boarded 815. The poor guy then went nuts when he started seeing dead Island inhabitants like Charlie and Mr. Eko. For his troubles though, Weezer named their last album after him, so I guess that’s something.
The bad luck continued to haunt Hurley portrayer Jorge Garcia when he guest-starred on HIMYM. While this tale is not as tragic as Hurley’s, in an inspired meta bit of casting, Garcia played Steve Henry, Ted, Lily, and Marshall’s college buddy in Season Six. Garcia’s episode, “The Blitz,” refers to a curse Steve’s curse: he always leaves the room right before something amazing happens, effectively causing him to miss out on some great memories and to be a bit steamed that he missed it. Plus, when the gang bet Marshall to text a random stranger, Steve offered up the random numbers -- you guessed it, 481-516-2342 -- and throughout the episode when the blitz is transferred the Lost hum cues and smoke is visible.
Finally, Remember the Rabid Fans and Their Ever-present Theories
Maybe I should be committed to Santa Rosa like Hurley, but there are all kinds of interesting similarities between How I Met Your Mother and Lost, here’s hoping that HIMYM ends on a better note than the polarizing one on which Lost left us. But somehow I doubt it; shows like this are loved by far too many people to actually please every fan, who by the finale may have had about hundreds of different ideas running through their heads about how the series should end – or in the case of Lost have actual websites dedicated to those theories. For me, I’d like HIMYM to let us meet the mother and deliver an episode or three focusing on Ted’s courtship. With my luck though, Ted will just see Mrs. Mosby from afar and say “and kids, that’s how I met your mother.” But the “How Should How I Met Your Mother End?” column is a column for another day. One thing’s for sure, both series have extremely devout fan bases that keep track of the series' timelines and constantly debate every last facet of their favorite show. Fans of Lost debated just about every possible thing they could about the series, except maybe the blades of grass found on the Island. They debated who is a better fit for Kate -- Jack or Sawyer. They debated the way in which paraplegic Locke was suddenly able to walk; the origins of Smoke Monster and the Others; where the heck our heroes actually crash-landed; and many other minutiae of details that ultimately meant nothing at the show’s conclusion. The polarizing finale was more about character moments than answers; and while the above mentioned topics more or less received answers during the show’s run, many facets of the show (like Waaaaaallllltt!!) did not.
In recent years, HIMYM has been able to add mini-mysteries as well. Who will Barney marry at the end of this season? Now that she’s preggers, when will Lily give birth? When will the fifth slap occur? Considering how unreliable future-Ted is as a narrator, how true is each story being told?
How I Met Your Mother's great mystery is still, “Who is the mother?” After all, it’s in the name of the show. We know that it’s not Robin, Stella, Cindy, or Zoey. On the sixth season DVD, there is a special feature that runs the gamut of which females we know isn’t the mom and what we do know about the future Mrs. Mosby. We’ve seen her foot and her umbrella, and we know that she was in the classroom that Ted mistakenly walked into. The feature also says that it’s not Victoria, the baker, and it teases her surprise return at the beginning of this season. It’s a question that is as layered as any great mystery of Lost. Is it the girl who bumped into Ted in the third season’s “No Tomorrow,” since it was a random throwaway scene and screenwriting 101 dictates that you don’t show anything without it meaning something (e.g. a gun seen in act one must be used by act three)? Is it the girl that Ted almost met in season one’s “Milk?” As long as the writers don’t pull something screwy and somehow make “Aunt Robin” into “Momma Robin,” they will have succeeded in my opinion.
One thing’s for sure, a show that has run for as long as HIMYM has a tremendous audience who loves spending time with these characters and share in their joy (Lily and Marshall’s wedding), laughs (just about every bit of an episode’s 22 minutes), and their pain (Marshall losing his father); and we all want our friends to succeed and live happily ever after. Luckily, as we’ve seen glimpses of our heroes in the future, we know that they do – so the greatness of this series lies in seeing how they get there.
Playing second fiddle to a more famous sibling can be rough. Just ask Fred Claus (Vaughn) a regular guy who has had to grow up under the shadow of his little brother Nicholas Claus (Paul Giamatti) aka Santa. That’s a big shadow to say the least both figuratively and literally. As an adult Fred has pretty much steered clear of his family but when he finds himself in dire need of some fast cash he calls his brother. Pleased as punch to hear from him Nicholas nonetheless makes him a deal: If he comes up to the North Pole for a visit and to help out the few days before Christmas then Fred can have the money. Fred reluctantly agrees and soon he’s being whisked off in Santa’s sleigh by head elf Willie (John Michael Higgins). But once Fred gets to the North Pole nothing seems to go right and soon he is the cause of much chaos--which unbeknownst to Fred causes Nicholas even more stress since his North Pole operation is one step away from being shut down by a cold-hearted efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey). Can Fred quit being bitter in time to save his brother’s livelihood? Of course he can. Hmmm Vince Vaughn minus the R-rated Wedding Crashers/Old School irreverence? It’s a stretch. Seeing the comic actor playing it PG is a little weird but you might enjoy how Vaughn infuses his unique energy into Fred Claus. From getting all the elves to boogie down in Santa’s workshop to going on one rant after another (on his brother: “He’s a clown a megalomaniac a fame junkie!”) to pilfering money on the street and then being chased by Salvation Army Santas it’s all good. Giamatti too seems a little out of his comfort zone as the saintly St. Nick. The actor who usually plays such endearing sad sacks has already played against type to great effect this year as the maniacal bad guy in Shoot ‘Em Up but he isn't nearly as successful in doing the flipside of that in Fred Claus. And what the hell is Kevin Spacey doing in this? As the villain of the film he fills the shoes nicely but he is almost too good at it (natch) for such a feel-good family film. Even Higgins--a character actor who is usually so hilarious in films such as The Break Up and all of Christopher Guest’s movies—has to shed the cheekiness and sugar himself up for Fred Claus. There’s also Rachel Weisz as Fred’s beleaguered girlfriend (you heard right) and Kathy Bates as the Claus boys’ mother who always sees Fred as inferior to her other son to fill out a cast of big names doing family fare. Director David Dobkin is a Vince Vaughn favorite having directed him in Wedding Crashers and Clay Pigeons but like his muse Dobkin seems a little out of place guiding this material. Granted Dobkin creates a pretty magical North Pole complete with an entire city of little dwellings a Frosty Tavern and a huge domed Santa’s Workshop. The montage of Fred delivering presents on Christmas Eve—falling down chimneys stuffing cookies in his face zooming around in the sleigh—is also well done. But overall Fred Claus is a Vaughn vehicle—even as sugary sweet and family-friendly as it is--and all Dobkin really does is turn the camera on and let the man do his stuff. Dan Fogelman's script is also so very bland full of any number of holes and only picks up once Vaughn starts to improvise. Bottom line: If you’re looking to take the kids to a sweet Christmas movie and are a Vince Vaughn fan then Fred Claus is for you.
Three years since relieving ruthless Las Vegas hotel owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) of a large chunk of cash Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew--including detail man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and novice pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon)--have tried to live modest legit lives. Sure it's hard to go straight but hey at least they got away with the heist of the century. Right? Not quite. Seems a mysterious someone has ratted the gang out to Benedict who demands his $160 million back or else. Strapped of most of their cash and too hot in the United States to pull off a job Ocean and company decide Europe would be the best place to score much to the chagrin of Danny's wife Tess (Julia Roberts). Once in Europe however they find out it isn't as easy as it used to be. They run up against the tough-as-nails Europol agent Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who once had a fling with Rusty and Europe's premier master thief the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel) who seems to be one step ahead of Ocean's crew. Let the games begin.
Ocean's Twelve's crop of A-listers have way too much fun making these movies as they recapture that freewheeling spirit and good-ole-boy camaraderie from Ocean's Eleven. Even though sometimes it seems like they are a bunch of frat boys hazing each other the actors clearly are enjoying themselves tremendously--and so do we. Clooney and Pitt continue to be the suave ringleaders speaking to each other in code while Pitt's Rusty gets the love interest this time around. As Rusty's former flame Zeta-Jones holds her own with the boys but doesn't have nearly the chemistry with Pitt that Roberts and Clooney exude as marrieds Danny and Tess. Actually Roberts almost steals Twelve away from the guys: she gets to show off her comedic abilities in one of the film's most hysterical sequences which involves real-life movie stars and Fabergé eggs. As far as the rest of the gang they all are back and raring to go including Damon who comes off as even more green and eager as Linus and the hilarious bickering Malloy brothers played brilliantly by Scott Caan and Casey Affleck. As for the villains Garcia's Benedict has very little do leaving most of the malevolent posturing and stylish good looks to French actor Cassel (Birthday Girl) as the crafty Night Fox.
With one of the keenest eyes in the business director Steven Soderbergh is a pro at letting audiences experience what seem to be very personal moments in his films. Ocean's Twelve is no exception as we become privy to the locker-room antics of our favorite band of thieves. This makes you as much a part of the boys club as its rowdy stars. Soderbergh describes Twelve as a "movie in which everything goes wrong from the get-go " whereas everything went right in Eleven. This allows for some wonderful comic scenes such as Roberts' escapade and the quick-witted exchanges between the boys. Upon finding out that the gang is now called "Ocean's Eleven" safecracker Frank (Bernie Mac) exclaims "Who decided that? I'm a private contractor!" The film's inherent problems come from George Nolfi's screenplay which tries to incorporate the whole "greatest thief in America meets the greatest thief in Europe" idea. Suddenly Twelve becomes less about planning a heist and watching things go wrong than about a cock fight to see which thief can outdo the other thief. At the end when all the convoluted twists are revealed you're left wishing for simpler times.