Using the formula so many unsuccessful romantic comedies have employed before it (looking at you Valentine's Day) What to Expect When You're Expecting wrangles a cast of big name stars but drops them in roles perfectly aligned with their sensibilities. Paired with a relatable central concept — one way or another we've all seen a side of pregnancy — director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) pulls off a comedy that's sweet poignant and most importantly funny. The experience of having a baby presented in the film isn't glorified or glamorized nor is it a one-person job resting on the women's shoulders making What to Expect a blockbuster comedy that delivers a little something for everyone.
Taking place primarily in Atlanta What to Expect bounces back and forth between a handful of couples with babies on the brain: Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and Gary (Ben Falcone) are desperately trying to get pregnant while Gary's NASCAR legend father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) is (frustratingly) having no problem with his trophy wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker); Weight loss TV personality Jules (Cameron Diaz) takes home the top prize at a celeb dance-off at the same time she discovers she's carrying her dance partner Evan's (Matthew Morrison) child; Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) are finally ready to take the plunge into the world of adoption but the actual process turns out to be an uphill battle; and Rosie (Anna Kendrick) a food truck owner has a wild night out with her competition (and former flame) Marco (Chace Crawford) that puts them both in a difficult situation. If you guessed she's pregnant you'd be correct.
What to Expect's DNA is a closer to match Woody Allen's Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask than anything out of the generic rom-com playbook. The screenplay from Heather Hach and Shauna Crossm is sharp with even the silliest and most expected gags landing thanks to the comedic talents of Banks Diaz Kendrick and the wicked rapport of the "Dude's Group " sporting Chris Rock Thomas Lennon Rob Huebel Amir Talai and Joe Manganiello. Even Decker who outshines her costars in Battleship holds her own taking the bubbly blonde to a whole other level
The movie makes a bold move to mix the less shiny moments of pregnancy in with the broad comedy and the results are mixed. Rosie and Marco's struggle with their accidental pregnancy takes a dramatic turn that doesn't feel earned in the grand scheme of things. Kendrick handles it with grace but pregnancy in its darkest moments require breathing room and with so many stories to juggle What to Expect can't afford it. Jennifer Lopez is the movie's biggest weakness a thread that never digs deep (or illicit laughs) from the roller coaster ride of adoption. The couple's predicament forces J.Lo to stick mostly to pouting and is completely overshadowed by the movie's highlights.
Thankfully those highlights are plentiful. Whether Diaz is spoofing Biggest Loser with her satirical take on TV personalities Banks is having a meltdown during her keynote at a baby expo or Rock is delivering a profanity-laden soliloquy on why dads need to man up What to Expect keeps laughs coming. Hollywood rarely gives birth to a comedy that's both hilarious and honest. What to Expect hits both chords defying expectations.
In the vein of Field of Dreams Astronaut Farmer is about building the seemingly impossible. Thankfully in this case it’s simply a rocket in the barn not a ballpark in a cornfield where ghosts of baseball heroes past can play the game. That is a bit far-fetched. Instead we meet Charles Farmer (Thornton) a man who was once on track to be an astronaut but was forced to leave NASA to save his family farm. He still wants to go into space however and so sets out to build a rocket inside his barn. By the time the movie starts the rocket is pretty much put together so we aren’t burdened with how he gets his supplies. All Charles needs now is 10 000 pounds of fuel which shoots up a big red flag with the government--a government that now considers Charles a threat--while the media look at him as a big story. But no matter the odds nothing can deter Charles from his dream to break through the atmosphere and orbit the earth. It’s refreshing to see Thornton as a loving father who wants to inspire his kids rather than make them go get him another beer. Of course Charles Farmer isn’t all sweetness and light—he’s an obvious eccentric whose obsession to launch into space effects the entire family—and it’s definitely a role right up Thornton’s alley. Virginia Madsen does an admirable job as the loving and supportive wife who nonetheless puts her foot down when things get out of hand while Bruce Dern plays the grizzled but equally supportive father-in-law. There’s also a supportive lawyer played by Tim Blake Nelson. In fact besides the big evil NASA chief (J.K. Simmons) and two bungling FBI agents (Mark Polish and Jon Gries) everyone supports Charles in his crazy dream. How could he fail? From the writing-directing team of Michael and Mark Polish (Northfork) Astronaut Farmer is pure old-school—an unassuming throwback to those feel-good movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s. In fact Thornton told Hollywood.com he considers this his “Jimmy Stewart” movie. While the Polish brothers based Charles Farmer on their own eccentric father and obviously harbor their own boyhood dreams of being an astronaut the guys still follow a nice and simple formula finding some good actors to carry it out and adding cool visual effects when they can. Yes the more cynical moviegoer may look at Astronaut Farmer as completely improbable and trite. But those willing to be taken back to a simpler time--when movies were about walking out triumphant--should find watching Astronaut Farmer a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Tom Hanks stars as the charming but fiendishly eccentric Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III Ph.D.--a Southern gentleman and expert thief who masterminds a casino heist with a motley crew of goofy crooks. Setting up operations at the boarding house of the widowed Baptist-loving sassy Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall) Dorr convinces the older lady that he requires her cellar for his Renaissance-period music ensemble to practice. The band is in actuality his criminal team which plans to use the space to dig a tunnel into a riverboat casino and rob its safe. But with this oddball crew comprised of the hip-hop stylin' Gawain (Marlon Wayans) a janitor at the casino; ex-hippie and Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferer Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons); The General (Tzi Ma) a stoic chain smoking tunneling pro; and Lump (Ryan Hurst) an ex-football player whose brains are in short order problems are bound to arise. God-fearing Southern woman Mrs. Munson is initially charmed (after all they're not playing that "hippity-hoppity" music as she calls it) but once she catches wind of their scheme the dastardly characters must find a way to dispose of her. But how?
Stepping in the shoes of the great Guinness who played an almost Phantom of the Opera version of the English gallant Hanks creates an over-the-top Southerner who's part William Faulkner part Colonel Sanders. An eloquent Edgar Allen Poe-quoting dandy Hanks wears antebellum all-white and speaks with antiquated turns of phrase that are supposed to be alternately appealing and anachronistically funny. Supposed to be. Though under the direction of Joel Coen who can wring an effortless inspired verbose Kentucky character out of George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou? Hanks' oddities are obvious at every turn. The performance is strained--right down to his goofy laugh--and unlike Guinness we never feel Dorr's underlying evil the element that made the original character so deliciously funny. This is a darkly comic character Hanks manages to make cute. The rest of the crew fares little better with the talented Wayans resting on easy "bust a cap in yo' ass" ghetto humor and Simmons' suffering one too many unfunny times from a bout with IBS (since when did the Coens resort to bathroom humor?). Hall is the saving grace here from back-talking her charges with gusto to giving a hilarious speech about the depraved elements of "hippity-hoppity music" to mistaking Dorr's dubious title of Ph.D. as "like Elmer Fudd?" she's a terrific comic foil. Too bad the cast didn't have enough stimulating material to bounce off her.
The Coen brothers usually work expertly with caricatures carefully balancing cartoonish madcap with people we actually care about. From Nicolas Cage's brilliant Hy in Raising Arizona to Jeff Bridges's pot-smoking The Dude in The Big Lebowski to Clooney in the aforementioned O Brother they're the masters of broad. Here however they make a misstep in both casting Hanks (Billy Bob Thornton would have been more appropriate) and to a larger extent messing with a movie that didn't need messing. The original 1955 version (directed by Alexander Mackendrick and also starring Peter Sellers) is darker than the Coens' take which relies more on slapstick and lunacy. Nevertheless the picture is technically gorgeous with cinematographer Roger Deakins creating a perfectly sunny Southern town mixed with a gothic underbelly of doom and tuned to an enlivened Gospel music score. And there are funny bits for sure played out in that precise unique Coen rhythm but given their past and potential genius the Coens are certainly capable of better. The Ladykillers lacks what we've come to know them for--a killer comic instinct.
Top Story: Angelina and Billy Bob Make It Official
Time to throw away those blood-filled amulets. Yes, the passionate but brief marriage between Oscar-winning Angelina Jolie, 27, and Billy Bob Thornton, 47, is officially a done deal. Reuters reports court documents were filed Tuesday by Jolie on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences" and uncontested. It was Thornton's fifth marriage and Jolie's second. Jolie's lawyers told Reuters the couple had reached an agreement over support and visitation rights for their adopted Cambodian son Maddox but she declined to reveal details.
Garner Takes a Break
In coping with her recent split with husband Scott Foley, Alias star Jennifer Garner took a much-needed hiatus in Hawaii and also visited her parents in West Virginia. In an interview to air Thursday on Access Hollywood, The Associated Press reports Garner told Pat O'Brien, "I have such great girlfriends, and I was able to go away with them to Hawaii for almost a week and I went home to my parents in West Virginia for a week, so I had a nice time away."
Harrison Ford Gets a Walk of Fame Star…Again
Harrison Ford will get a star on the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame Friday, even though he thought he had already received one. It turns out the other star belongs to a silent screen actor of the same name, who got the star in 1960. Ford was selected in 1984 to get a star but never responded. "Sometimes that happens with the nominations,'' Ana Martinez-Holler of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce told City News. "They'll change publicists, they'll change management, and aren't aware they had already been approved.'' The mistake came when Ford took the word of someone who informed him--incorrectly--that the other Ford's star was his, Martinez-Holler said. Whew. Glad they got it all straightened out.
Reeves Set to Make Millions Off Matrix Sequels
Exactly how much will Matrix star Keanu Reeves be making with the two Matrix sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions? Good question. Variety reports the intricate back-end deal Reeves made in 1999 when he agreed to do the sequels--which included not only box office sales but DVD, video game, TV sales and ancillaries--could net the actor anywhere from $90 million to near $200 million, depending on the final estimates. His friends must be saying, "Dinner's on Keanu!"
More on Jackson's Legal Woes
The latest suit to enter the courtroom against Michael Jackson could be the singer's most costly, as details of his personal life may be revealed. Reuters reports a lawsuit brought by Jackson's former financial advisor, Myung-Ho Lee, and his firm Union Finance and Investment Corp., claims the onetime King of Pop is broke, having squandered his fortune in "bizarre" ways while egged on by a string of "charlatans." They are seeking $12 million for alleged breach of contract and fraud. Jackson has counter-sued, claiming that his trusted advisor--whom he called "Lawyer Lee"--and Union Finance stole millions from him and destroyed records to cover up their misdeeds, Reuters reports.
P. Diddy Joins Fight Against NY Drug Law
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs stood up with rap mogul Russell Simmons and U.S. housing secretary Andrew Cuomo to call for a repeal of New York's strict Rockefeller drug laws, AP reports. The laws, passed in the 1970s, can subject first-time offenders to 15 years to life in prison if convicted of selling as little as 2 ounces or possessing as little as 4 ounces of a controlled substance. Gov. George Pataki and the state Legislature have been unable to agree on how to reform or repeal them, AP reports.
Kelly Will Join Ozzy Onstage
Kelly Osbourne will team up with dad Ozzy later this year on a U.K. concert tour, Ozzy's first British gig in eight years, AP reports. "I couldn't be happier about doing my own dates in the UK and having Kelly on the bill with me," Ozzy said on the Web Site, www.ozzynet.com. "I decided that this would be a great opportunity to bring my full stage show over to rock the UK."
Role Call: Jovovich's Ultraviolet
Milla Jovovich has signed with Screen Gems to reprise her role in the Resident Evil sequel as well as to play the title character in Ultraviolet, a futuristic vampire tale. Variety reports the film is about a tough woman who finds herself the protector of a 9-year-old boy targeted for death. Backdrop is a civil war in the late 21st century between humans and a subculture turned into vampires.