News just hit that young starlet, AnnaSophia Robb, is stepping into some seriously fabulous shoes for the CW's most buzzworthy pilot: Sex and the City prequel, The Carrie Diaries. And with the star in place, the momentum for the could-be series is snowballing. Naturally, it's time to take a minute to add a little background and context about this prequel pilot and find out how it's set apart from its raunchy HBO predecessor.
1. Carrie Bradshaw Has A Lil' Sis
Well, if you read the Carrie Diaries books, you know Miss Bradshaw has two younger siblings, but as of right now, she actually has one cast for the CW pilot. Dorrit, is Carrie's youngest, more rebellious little sister and she'll be played by former Running Wilde trouble-maker Stefania Owen (Puddle). This pre-teen tomboy is about as far from Miss Manolo as you can get, so get ready for some sisterly fireworks.
2. Carrie in Real Life?
The woman who started a revolution, SATC and Carrie Diaries author Candace Bushnell, is actually pulling a bit from her own experience. Like Carrie, who comes from a small town, eventually following her big city dreams to New York, Bushnell hails from small town Connecticut and she moved to the Big Apple at age 19 in hopes of really "making it." As she struggled in her youth, so does Carrie, which adds a whole new layer of realism to the character's experience. And if writing the source material isn't enough, Bushnell's also an executive producer on the pilot.
3. The Puns Are Coming
For die-hard SATC fans worried that the original series' pith and wit will be miles away from this teen version of the Carrie Bradshaw saga, it's okay to breathe easy -- at least for now. Amy Harris, a writer and story editor on the HBO series from 2001 until 2004 (she originally started as a SATC production assistant), is penning the pilot and it's safe to say she's got a bit of a handle on that signature Carrie tone.
4. We Won't See the Fabulous Foursome For Quite Some Time
This is a pre-SATC tale, and as such our favorite New Yorkers haven't quite made their way into each other's lives. However, one of Carrie's best friends is the missing link: Samantha Jones is the older, cool, big city cousin of one of Carrie's teenage besties.
5. Fans of The Books: The Names, They Are a-Changin'
In the books the pilot is based on, one of Carrie's best friends, Roberta Castells, is the one who instigates Carrie's thoughts about virginity and sex -- a topic that very clearly eludes to the parent series -- but you won't find any Roberta on the CW version. But don't worry just yet; she's still around. Her name's just been changed to Jill Thompson.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
In the latest action drama from the World Wrestling Entertainment WWE wrestler John Cena (The Marine) is back this time as New Orleans police detective Danny Fisher who captures a brilliant criminal mastermind and foils an attempted heist in which the crook's girlfriend is accidentally killed by a passing van. One year later the guy breaks out of prison intent on getting revenge by kidnapping Fisher's fiancée and leading him on a lethal game of cat and mouse in which he must complete 12 rounds of near impossible tasks or risk the life of his bride-to-be.
WHO'S IN IT?
Cena is clearly out to become the next Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and physically he certainly fills the bill of an action hero. As a film star though he's capable but just not terribly compelling. Fortunately 12 Rounds isn't exactly the kind of movie that requires a lot of acting ability. Cena manages to deliver groaner lines like "I'm gonna find you hunt you down and kill you " with ease and he looks good racing through the streets in cop cars and hijacked fire engines. If he doesn't make it in movies he'd be a great contestant on The Amazing Race. As the key villain Irish actor Aidan Gillen is appropriately slimy and evil but mainly one-dimensional. Steve Harris is tough and determined as the FBI agent with a personal stake in the case while Ashley Scott as the fiancée and Brian White as Cena's partner are fine in their limited screen time.
Director Renny Harlin who cut his teeth on movies like Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger knows his way around the action genre and has crafted one heart-racing sequence after another. Technically this is a terrific looking genre film that ought to please hardcore action fans who are willing to check their brain at the box office (and we know who you are!).
Apparently one of the many guns in the film was used to shoot the script full of holes. Because the key action scenes — while exciting to watch — look like they were written by a committee and have no anchor in reality. A key plot point involving the prison break of the main villain also defies credibility and fails to pass the smell test.
Lots of great action throughout but the sheer audacity of the grand helicopter finale is not to be believed — or missed.
Don’t let the previews fool you—Terabithia isn’t anything like Chronicles of Narnia. Based on the Newbery-Award winning children’s novel by Katharine Paterson the story is more about childhood friendships and the way imagination can quite literally open new worlds. Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) sees himself as an outsider at school—and at home. He really only feels himself when he’s drawing. Then he meets the new kid Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) who has just moved from the big city. Despite their differences—she’s rich he’s poor—they become fast friends. Leslie who likes to spin magical stories opens Jess’ eyes to the possibilities and together they create the secret kingdom of Terabithia a mystical place accessible by swinging on an old rope over a stream in the woods near their homes. Interacting with the Terabithian denizens they’ve imagined both evil and good Jess and Leslie learn to deal with the pressures of their young pre-adolescent lives—and learn what the power of real friendship truly means. The young fresh cast really make Bridge to Terabithia work. Robb and Hutcherson are already veteran kid actors: Robb is best known for stealing hearts in Because of Winn-Dixie (another kid novel adaptation) and popping chewing gum as Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while Hutcherson played the tough older brother in Zathura as well as Robin Williams’ kid in R.V. Their acting experience clearly shows as they make the friendship between Jess and Leslie both genuine and heartfelt. There isn’t a false moment in their performances especially from Hutcherson who at first sends off an I-could-care-less vibe but through his soulful eyes becomes more attached to Leslie and their secret place. And as Jess’ little sister 7 year-old Bailee Madison plays the moppet without any cutesy affectations. As far as the adults are concerned stand outs include Robert Patrick as Jess’ stern dad just trying to make ends meet for his family and Zooey Deschanel as the kids’ music teacher who Jess has a crush on. In 1978 author Katharine Paterson wrote Bridge to Terabithia for her then 11 year-old son David Paterson about a special friendship he had. It was an instant hit. Now David all grown up is able to bring his mom’s touching story to life as one of the writers. Talk about a family effort backed by Walden Media--the geniuses behind Holes and Chronicles of Narnia. Directed by Rugrats creator Gabor Csupo Terabithia truly captures the essence of childhood imagination even I dare say more so than Narnia. Maybe it’s because the idea of Terabithia comes from the minds’ of very real children who are going through very real emotions as they enter into adolescence. Csupo keeps the imagery simple allowing audiences to create a fantasy world filled with mythical creatures right along with the film’s main characters. And if you haven’t read the book you might be surprised by the story’s poignancy. In a saturated field of animated duds and kid films better suited as after-school TV specials Bridge to Terabithia stands out as a one of the better family movies to come around in a long time.
Even if you’re one of the 19 other people in a competitive internship at Dean Witter with Chris Gardner (Will Smith) you gotta root for the guy. Life’s beaten him up but not got him down. He lugs his computer-monitor-sized bone density scanner all over San Francisco hoping to sell just one to make ends meet for his family—but nobody’s buying. As his wife’s (Thandie Newton) discontentment nears a boiling point Chris accepts an internship at financial institution Dean Witter—six months without pay and only one of the 20 applicants will ultimately get a job out of it. This sends her packing. She leaves Chris and their son Christopher (Jaden Smith) to fend for themselves at which point they get evicted. It’s the tip of the iceberg because over the course of Chris’ penniless pursuit of the Dean Witter job (and “happyness”) he and Christopher will get by sleeping in homeless shelter--and even in train-station bathrooms. Chris had always vowed to never leave his son and he keeps his promise but there’s no guarantee that his perseverance will pay off. Except for the fact that Happyness is “INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY”! Will Smith is getting all the awards buzz but it’s his real-life son Jaden who transcends all expectations in Happyness. Jaden’s never acted in a movie before and it’s safe to assume that because of his father's long-running movie stardom he could not have grown up in a more different environment than that of his character. Which makes it all the more amazing for this 8-year-old Hollywood tyke to grasp even if coincidentally the plight of a nomadic urban child. The best part about little Jaden is that his performance doesn’t seem robotic like so many child actors who are already too "seasoned" for their own good. Aside from the expected cutesy laughs there’s genuine spontaneity in Jaden’s performance obviously thanks to the fact that he’s acting opposite his dad. Papa Smith gives what’s probably his best performance to date although he's had a career of primarily action roles that weren't exactly conducive to a skills showcase. He delivers the goods here—as seen in the tear-rific trailer—as a man whose whole life is his child but frankly the tears evoked might be too few for Oscar’s liking. Newton (Crash) in a small role is terribly miscast but Mr. and Mr. Smith dominate the screen anyway. Even with the studio flaunting the movie’s "Inspired by a true story..." tagline like a badge of honor—as studios tend to do—and this being the holiday season and all Italian director Gabriele Muccino expends way too much effort into the crowd-pleasing/feel-good aspects of Happyness. The happy ending everyone already knows about should be saccharine enough. Granted this is why a studio loves true stories—one that begins on a low note ends on a really high note and fluctuates all over the radar in between—and it may make the film more pleasing to its targeted mainstream audiences but Muccino and writer Steve Conrad (The Weather Man) really take the gloss factor much too far. In this case they essentially try to tell us a mostly sad story but will not let us feel sad. For instance during what could be very dark reflective scenes potentially connecting with viewers who have struggled through similar problems music befitting a children’s tale overtakes the would-be drama so we don’t ever feel too badly for Chris. It’s nice that the director cares so much for us but oftentimes the best directors are the ones who show an audience tough love.
Seven years earlier after a friend's wedding a group of guy pals vow to stay single for life. To sweeten the deal they put some money into a stock portfolio with the last remaining bachelor taking home the accumulated jackpot which has since grown to a whopping half a million dollars (the 90s market remember?) The competition comes down to two remaining tomcats Michael (Jerry O'Connell) and Kyle (Jake Busey) but the stakes are raised when Michael a struggling cartoonist becomes indebted to a casino owner for $51 000. Facing a certain and painful death if he fails to repay the debt within 30 days Michael plots to get Kyle to the alter with Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth) a former one-night stand who will do the deed for half of the prize money. Problem is Kyle is a sexist jerk and the future bride is a smart and beautiful cop who has her eyes on Michael.
While this film doesn't have too many redeeming qualities Jerry O'Connell is one of them. His character Michael Delaney is one of the few characters in the movie with a conscience. Working from a script that consists mostly of one boner joke after another O'Connell fares quite well considering the lines he has to deliver. He even becomes the underdog you end up rooting for. Jake Busey is a different story altogether: his character Kyle does not evoke the slightest shred of sympathy even as he lies on a hospital bed battling testicular cancer. Kyle is crass vulgar and chauvinistic. He treats women like dirt spewing lines like "I don't want a feminist bitch who'll keep her own name when you marry her." Natalie Parker who plays O'Connell's love interest gives a fair but slightly lackluster performance as an unrealistically bright sharp-shooting cop with a bone to pick. In one scene she casually discusses her love life with her partner during a shoot out in a crack house. Bill Maher (best known for hosting the late-night talk show "Politically Incorrect") makes a cameo appearance as the casino owner. The rest of the cast consists of a lot of blondes who all resemble one another.
Gregory Poirier (See Spot Run) who wrote and directed Tomcats knows his audience and gets right to the point. The film does not try to be clever and it may actually alienate anyone who is not a hormone-laden frat boy. The story is lame and predictable and most of the characters are obnoxious and detestable. There is no outstanding cinematography to speak of and there are no special effects. But let's face it Tomcats' target audience is not going for great visuals. They want their jokes Porky's style and Tomcats definitely delivers those. In a film that features librarian-by-day-dominatrix-by-night story lines lesbian fantasies and Viagra jokes Poirier is too busy catering to teenage boys to worry about being offensive to everyone else.