What will happen when four becomes none? That's the sad inevitability that will occur when Betty White passes, since she is the last surviving Golden Girl following the deaths of Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty. Of course, Hollywood, which is known for being such a sentimental place, may have a schmaltzy tribute for the life of White. She'll certainly get a good long remembrance at the Emmys - I'm thinking that at least one of the Hot In Cleveland cast would go up and talk, or maybe even Mary Tyler Moore. Then they might go about doing a reboot of The Golden Girls.
Hey, it's not out of the realm of possibility. Please put down your Sophia Petrillo coffee mug. It wouldn't be instantaneous, Maybe a few years or so down the road. They'd be thinking about how a more modern version of the show might play...see how Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia handle a new world with smartphones and the Internet. They might even make a movie. Look at 21 Jump Street. They made a movie of that and all the principal actors from the TV show are alive! Of course, they changed some of the premise and basically had a whole different type of plot and vibe with the name 21 Jump Street plastered on it.
It could be decades, actually, since older shows always seem to get a re-imagining. Look at The Transformers, Garfield, and The Smurfs now. Those were hit shows in the '80s and they have all had the movie treatment fairly recently. Once Lifetime and all the other channels finally stop showing Golden Girls re-runs in syndication and the show fades from people's minds, maybe my son will take a date to see this Golden Girls movie (he's 3 now, so you imagine the time frame here).
I'd love for the faces of Arthur, McClanahan, Getty and White to be associated with this show forever, but it wouldn't surprise me to see a film version with the four women somehow wackily becoming drug mules for Walter White or something like that.
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
Golden Girls is not a show you select as your in-flight entertainment as a means of falling asleep so you’ll arrive in Italy rested. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s a show you watch religiously and take notes on, in hopes of one day breaking Ken Jennings’ record on Jeopardy! with the answer to who the fourth roommate in the house was before Estelle Getty joined the cast (it was gay chef, Coco). And with the release of the 25th anniversary COMPLETE collection – that comes with playing cards, a DVD trivia game, montages of each of the girls’ funniest moments and commentaries with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White – it’s clear the girls have left little room for us to enjoy any other television show.
But, why? Why did Golden Girls impact our lives so tremendously? On paper, it doesn’t look like something that would appeal to everyone – it was about four women who were old and living in Florida. They had thick glasses and jackets with shoulder pads and plastic coverings for their furniture. They had grown up kids, were done with staying out all night at clubs, and were fans of that device for people that make TVs louder without being too loud for the people with good hearing. Some people probably skipped over Golden Girls entirely because they thought the ages of the Rose, Blanche, Sophia and Dorothy meant they wouldn’t be able to identify with the ins and outs of their lives. Others probably couldn’t conceive of Golden Girls being more entertaining than a show that was blatantly and directly targeted to their demographic, like 90210. But everyone who watched the show knows their addiction to it was actually rooted in the women’s ages! The show functioned around the idea that these women were older than everyone but still suffered from young people problems, like finding sex and having sex. In other words, they were just like us! They too had nothing to wear to the Senior Dance and were totally sick of men cheating on them. Fans found themselves hoping that they’d grow up to have Rose’s innocence, Blanche’s insatiability, Dorothy’s wit and Sophia’s bluntness.
Though the sitcom was billed as and won awards as a comedy, it wasn’t afraid of depicting topics heftier than how to fix the runs in a pair of control top hose. Among the tough issues broached were infidelity, HIV scares, drug addictions, estrangements from children, gangsters, the FBI, cross-dressing family members, sexism, domestic violence and artificial insemination. The decision to darken an inherently light comedy series about sweet old ladies with these issues was risky, but it was ultimately a beneficial one – the heavier moments were the realism that rounded out the show, and made it more than just a program that glorified the bonds of friendship and living with your friend’s mom in a warm climate.
But possibly the main reason we loved Golden Girls so much was because the actresses’ love for each other was so obvious. Over the course of the seven seasons, the characters bonded in such a way that the only explanation for its believability was to assume that Betty White, Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan had grown extremely close, too. This is not an uncommon phenomenon when a series consists of 180 episodes (especially when the actresses had to share their characters’ embarrassment of going to a drug store for condoms and having the checkout person make an announcement asking for the price of Rose’s desired black condoms – that’s the beginning of a bond). But more generally, their camaraderie brought texture to a great series that was already structurally worthy of recognition. As a group, they were truly unforgettable, and their contribution to the entertainment industry will never be forgotten.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Eddie Murphy is terrific in Imagine That as Evan Danielson an overworked financial advisor who is so immersed in his job he’s forgotten about Olivia his daughter from an estranged marriage. When he is given custody for a week and he gets too busy with work she retreats into her fantasy world imagining a group of princesses who as it turns out really know their way around big business. When Dad figures out his daughter’s special blanket and otherworldly friends have the magic touch for investment advice he becomes an instant superstar in his firm. But his newfound success soon sets up a confrontation with his chief rival Johnny Whitefeather whose presentations are often full of (Red) bull.
WHO’S IN IT?
From Dr. Dolittle to Daddy Day Care Murphy has carved out a solid alternate career as a star of family-friendly movies. But none of those previous works play to his overall talents as a comedian better than Imagine That in which he gets to merge his kid’s fantasy world with office politics for optimum laughs. The purely delightful premise in which Murphy faces off with skeptical business partners is perfectly toned to his talents and allows him to be widely appealing for both kids and their parents. As daughter Olivia newcomer Yara Shahidi won out over 3000 girls and is wonderful a real charmer who goes toe to toe with Eddie. Thomas Haden Church provides the perfect foil for Murphy as Whitefeather a guy who plays off a phony Native American heritage and spouts nonsensical advice like he’s E.F. Hutton. As bosses vying for Murphy’s newfound talents both Ronny Cox and Martin Sheen play it straight lending the appropriate gravitas to their roles. Nicole Ari Parker is winning in her few scenes as Olivia’s mom.
Murphy’s comedic tendency to go way over the top (i.e. Norbit) is kept in check with great results. He’s totally believable as a stressed-out businessman and his trip into his daughter’s imagination is handled realistically mined for the optimum number of laughs without sacrificing credibility. Credit for this goes to Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge) an animation director making his live-action debut for keeping cartoonish antics to a minimum and emphasizing heart and the father/daughter bond instead.
The scenes between Murphy and Shahidi are so effortlessly charming and real that you wish there were more of them. (One highlight is when father teaches daughter to sing Beatles songs which are heard throughout the film.) It’s the kind of thing Bill Cosby did so well on TV but could never pull off in movies. Murphy does.
Murphy is in top comic form all the way and is never better than when he berates Littlefeather’s hokey presentation then comes up with one based on his daughter’s doodlings that shows off the comic genius we haven’t seen in this actor’s comedy vehicles in quite a while.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Imagine That is a family film in the truest form and ripe for an outing with your kids. If you don’t have any rent one and go.
Spanning from WWI to the 21st century Eric Roth’s screenplay (based loosely on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) tells the unique story of a man named Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). He is born in New Orleans as a very old baby the equivalent of a man in his 80s who then ages backward into youth over the better part of a century. The film is told in flashback by a very old dying woman Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who recounts her tale to her daughter (Julia Ormond) from a hospital bed during Hurricane Katrina. Left on the doorstep of a retirement home one night by his father (Jason Flemyng) Benjamin is brought up by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) who runs the place. While there he meets a young girl Daisy who will become a key figure -- romantically and otherwise -- in his life. Ben does have some grand adventures: He goes to work on a boat sees sea battles during WWII finds love with an older married woman (Tilda Swinton) -- and gets progressively younger as the decades fly by. It all manages to be alternately haunting romantic funny epic emotional and incredibly moving and will likely to stay with you a lifetime. Brad Pitt manages to deliver a thoughtful and subtle performance through all the special effects makeup and CGI. He does so much just by using his eyes. Cate Blanchett is equally fine as she plays Daisy from a teenager to an old woman and matches Pitt in bringing an entire lifetime skillfully to light. Her aging makeup is completely natural and she’s very moving in the hospital scenes opposite Ormond. Henson is just marvelous as Queenie a warm and understanding soul. Swinton is elegant and memorable in her few crucial encounters with Ben and plays beautifully off Pitt. Jared Harris (TV’s The Riches) as the colorful Captain Mike who hires Ben on his tug boat and Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) as Ben’s father are also effective in their brief screen time. Interestingly Benjamin Button has been gestating for decades in the Hollywood firmament but needed time for the proper technology to catch up to it. Director David Fincher (Zodiac Fight Club) with his early background at George Lucas’ ILM proves to be the perfect choice to marry a compelling story with spectacular visual effects achievement. He did not want to do the film unless the technology allowed one actor to play the role throughout the course of the film. Remarkably they were able to achieve this superimposing Brad Pitt’s face and eyes into all the incarnations of Ben Button. In one sequence Pitt looks just like he did in Thelma and Louise. It’s an amazing feat. He has seamlessly created a unique universe without ever bringing attention to it advancing the art of screen storytelling leaps and bounds ahead of everything else that has come before. Benjamin Button is a plaintive and provocative meditation of life death and what we do while we are here. It’s the stuff of dreams.
Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector opens with a man scratching his plumber’s-crack re-using a cotton swab to clean his ear and wearing the sleeveless shirt he uses as a towel. Naturally this is Larry (the Cable Guy) a health inspector. Halfheartedly inspecting the local food joints he’s leading the life that suits him well. But when his boss (Thomas F. Wilson) assigns him a serious-minded female partner (Iris Bahr) his world is turned upside down--or at least made less comfy. Larry’s called in to investigate “some fartin’ Jewish folks” at a swankier restaurant and learns that it’s not an isolated incident. While Larry’s unorthodox methods manage to arouse the interest of a waitress (Megyn Price) with bowel habits that he adores his tactics arouse the ire of the restaurateurs he investigates and it costs him his job. Now he’s forced to do whatever it takes to prove his innocence. Even the D-listers here must’ve gone straight to confession upon accepting these roles to help cushion their bank accounts. Let’s start with Larry the Cable Guy (of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour “Git-R-Done” fame) who is one of the most successful stand-up comics today. He’s right in his element seemingly with fart blanche on toilet humor but to the unconverted he’s a little more than grating. Speaking of grating the (hopefully) affected voice of Bahr makes the movie mostly unlistenable in addition to being unwatchable. But take pity on her for this is no way to jumpstart a movie career. Tony Hale clearly still reeling from the potential cancellation of TV’s Arrested Development (on which he plays Buster) also lowers his star and integrity with an ambiguous character here. And Joe Pantoliano shows his face. The once great character actor reaches a new low with this one even if his performance isn’t all bad. Health Inspector masters the art of the fart. But more disgusting than the settings with which the farts are juxtaposed is the ad nauseam (pun intended) level of over-usage. So congratulations go to along with fart Yoda Larry the Cable Guy director Trent Cooper who makes his feature directorial debut. And might we add what a fart-tastic debut it is! But it’s not all farts ladies and gentleman--all forms of gross-out humor are exploited unlike ever before. On the er serious side the collection of running jokes adds to a few legit laughs. Cooper helms a story that naturally doesn’t work deferring instead to Larry’s natural um charisma. The script offers no segue into Larry’s stand-up persona but anyone who sees this here flick ain’t lookin’ for no dang Oscar winner. Clearly Health Inspector will appeal to Larry’s following but is not meant for those of sound mind.