We've seen the Real Housewives get dirty before. We've seen them get messy. We've seen them crawling through dirt and mud and slime and all sorts of other unfriendly substances. But last night was the first time that the mud slinging was actually literal. "Lit-rally," as a Housewife would say, they were crawling through the filth, dragging each other down, down, deeper into the murk and laughing about it the whole time.
Yes, this wasn't the first time that Tamra and Gretchen slimed each other, like some sort of bulbous incandescent creature from Ghostbusters, but it was the first that the filth was a real actual thing. It was mud, it was soil, it was the great goodness of the earth from which all bounty springs, and they were just rolling around in it like, well, like pigs in s**t.
This was for some sort of Mud Run, so it was intentional — it's always intentional with these women. Tamra and her honeybear Eddie (I don't call him that because they're dating, I call him that because he looks like that plastic bear full of honey that you buy at the supermarket) invited couples Tamra and Slade and Heather and Terry to this charity event where everyone dresses up like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and then runs around some sort of race track occasionally dipping themselves into giant pits full of mud. It's like a steeplechase for the fallen. Oh, that reminds me: Tamra's oldest son Ryan, the one with the tattoo on his gums or his tongue or the inside of his cheek or some nonsense, was there too. Yay, family togetherness.
All of these smug, fit(ish) people are trotting around the course when Gretchen Rossi, ever fleet of foot and shrill of tongue, somehow falls and twists her ankle. Her ever chivalrous beau Slade Smiley laid down his jacket over the mud puddle, because he saw that in a Goofus and Gallant cartoon in Highlights: For Children while he was waiting for Gretchen in a doctor's waiting room. "Honey. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Gretchen intoned in a whine only the dogs in the neighborhood could hear as she made a grasping motion for Slade to lift her up. She had sprained her ankle and was so upset because she was going to the Big Bad Pussy Cat Jamboree in two weeks and she had to be prancing dancing and posing, not limping around like a fat girl with braces trying to not fail gym class.
Gretchen is out for the count and then on a later obstacle, Honeybear Eddie broke his finger. How the hell do you break your finger in mud? That's like getting a concussion by headbutting a plate full of Jell-O. It just doesn't make no sense. But luckily, Terry, Heather's plastic surgeon husband was there. Eddie thinks it's broken but Terry looks at it and twist it a bit and pops it back into place. "No, it was just dislocated. Make a fist." Eddie makes a fist and it wasn't broken. It was dislocated. How the hell do you dislocate a finger in mud? It's like having to get stitches after catching a Nerf football. But Terry was funny about the whole thing. He was all, "You should still get it X-rayed. I mean, if you needed more Botox, I could help. But real medical emergencies, I'm kind of useless." Ha! "More Botox." That is a serious insult, Honeybear. Good thing his fist was broken.
After everyone is collected from the first aid tent and hosed off and deloused, they all go out to dinner. Alright, I have to say that Heather is officially my favorite OC Housewife (sorry, Tamra, we had a good run). She's just so simple and classy and fun and above it all, but not in a way where she's like snooty and uppity or trying to show off the giant cave of marble where she lives. She's just like, "Yeah, whatever. I'm fancy and rich. So effing what?" She changes in the car and puts on this chic little dress and cardigan number and she's still got mud in her hair but she is dressed. Miss Heather does not leave the house looking mussy. Oh hell no! Meanwhile Tamra's in a baseball cap looking like a Minnesotan at the airport and Gretchen has her dirty hair in braids like she's Swiss Miss and she just lost a beach volleyball tournament. Not Miss Heather. Miss Heather does not stand for any mess or impropriety. Oh hell no! At dinner the conversation, as it does, turns to cycling. Eddie starts talking about how he loves to ride his bicycle. Gretchen says, "Oh yeah, Slade rides a bike too," and off in the distance two Shih Tzus perk up their ears and start to yip. Slade says, "Yeah, I like to ride too. Back in high school, I was the cycling world champion. I almost didn't graduate high school because I was so busy riding my bike and breaking the world speed record for bicycling. I even had my own brand of biking shorts called SLADE (all caps) and they were known for their support in the crotch, because I need a real lot of it, you know. Anyway, SLADE was my sponsor at the Tour duh France in '93. And that was the toughest year of the competition ever. Lance Armstrong still had both his nuts and Henri Sacrement-Bisentine had finally kicked his Absinthe habit and, man could he cruise. He could really cruise. After shooting the cover of Cycle & Tire magazine, I had been training for months at the OTC, and... Oh, that's the "Olympic Training Center" in Colorado Springs. I was training at the OTC and I really had my time down and I could go up hills and down hills and I could just ride my bike for hours and hours and everything would just fall away. It was just me and the pedals and the wheels and the pavement and it was like I was in church. No, it was like the world was church and I was god. Well, on the last day of the Tour — that's what we called the Tour duh France — I was out of fresh pairs of SLADE biking shorts and I had to wear something else and it just ... it didn't have the support and my junk got in my way so bad that I blew my considerable lead and ended up in last place, all because of this monster. I mean, it is quite a curse to bear. But after that, I just had to give up my professional biking aspirations. It was, I was just too good. They couldn't handle me. And now, here I am." Slade looked down at himself covered in filth, sitting at a picnic table, "Here I am." "Oh, that's such a nice story," Miss Heather said, with an amused rictus spreading across her face. "Yeah it was," said Tamra. "But '93, that was almost..." "20 years ago," she and Slade said at the same time before he said it again, still looking down, mumbling into his soiled crotch. "Almost 20 years ago." Oh, let us forget all about the Tragic Tale of Slade Smiley and let's talk about better things, shall we? Let's talk about Briana, Vicki's daughter. I have always loved Briana and I would love to watch a reality show all about her, but it would be dreadfully boring. It would be about a normal, sweet, likable girl trying to make it in the world as a nurse. Snoresville. But what if the girl has a screeching death harpy for a mother? Well, that would be mildly interesting, but we'd rather watch the death harpy mom, now wouldn't we? Wouldn't we? This season has been tragic for Briana, whose protracted battle with tumors on her thyroid gland has been a recurring storyline. If this were a sitcom, we wouldn't worry, because in the final act, after everyone had a good scare and a good laugh, the doctor would call and say, "Don't worry, it's not cancer. There was a mix up at the lab. You're fine and healthy!" But this is reality. You can't script something like cancer. You can't produce it or set it up or feed it lines. It is either there or it is not, and so we are all very scared for Briana. Finally the call comes and Vicki answers it on her phone that has a Louis Vuitton LV pattern sticker on the back of it so that her phone looks like a $3,000 purse. What a phone to get a serious call on. What an asshole you would feel like if you got a call in the middle of the night that your son died in a car crash and you're answering it on an LV blinged out lady phone. But when the call comes from Briana, it is good news. Somehow, she does not have cancer. She is fine. Life is just like a sitcom after all. Oh, thank god Briana is fine because if she really had cancer and had to suffer through chemo and radiation and losing her hair and having to comfort Vicki as she cries about how unfair it is that this happened to her and how she had to miss work to cry on her dying daughter's shoulder, well, I just would have given up on this whole hullaballoo and never looked back. I would have gone all the way to the County of Oranges and fed Briana Popsicles in the hospital while she sat in a padded chair with her arms full of tubes. And all these women, with their petty snipes and gripes and elective surgeries would be whirlpooling around in their egoism, like they have it bad or something while Briana, a real human being with an actual disease, is possibly dying. It would have been too much to take. Meanwhile there was another lady in the hospital, and this time it was Alexis, who had a tampon removed from her face after it got lodged there when she was trying to play a joke on a her friends in middle school. It was just up there, stuck way up there. Being religious, Alexis prayed and prayed to her great lord Jesus Christ to take it out, to remove that O.B. from her sinus so that she could breathe again and that the string would stop tickling her tonsils. She prayed and prayed every day, and nothing happened. Finally she had to go get the tampon taken out and, you know, while they were in there, they might as well fix her nose to remove anything interesting about it. Alexis wanted her face to look like a McMansion: big, fancy, expensive, and completely indiscernible from everything else around it. Her face now looks like 74 Shady Cedars Lane. Congrats. The final sad sad scene of our rather dirty evening is courtesy of Tamra Barney, who signed her divorce papers, finally. Simon, her ex, was such a jerkface, he really really was. It's best that he not be involved with any women, and Tamra knows this. But still, endings are sad. They always are. Even with the hope of new beginnings there is something about the finality of an ending, that steep wall that is erected between you and the past. There is no going back, you are trapped in the uncertain future. Tamra, being Tamra, goes in there all cocky and sure of herself and setting up her big celebration with the Honeybear later that night, but as soon as she sits down in the glass coffin of a conference room at her lawyer's office, the tears start up and she tries to push the buttons, directly below the eyes, that all Housewives have installed to stop the crying. Those buttons never work. She's trembling with sorry and her lawyer is concerned as she shakes a tissue and damns those tear buttons for not working. She finally reclaims her strength, however, when the lawyer asks her that she's sure she wants to waive her rights to spousal support. She says she's sure, she wants to find her independence from Simon, both spiritual and financial. Good for Tamra. Don't take that jerkface's money. You don't owe him anything. She signs the papers and heads off into the parking lot to call Vicki and her phone has the Louis Vuitton LV on the back too, but in rainbow. There they are, having a heart to heart and an LV to LV and Tamra starts to cry again. Vicki is supportive and offers the usual platitudes, but Tamra finally says, "Ok, I gotta go." Tamra gets into her car, with her sunglasses still on, her LV phone tucked away in her purse and she just sits there, enjoying the warmth your car gets when its been sitting in the sun a little bit. It lets her feel something, something other than sad. She thinks about all her kids - well, not Ryan, but the little ones. The ones she had with Simon, the ones she could be hurting now that she is dissolving this thing once and for all. Maybe she can go back. Maybe she can start over. Maybe she can try again and get it right this time. Maybe she learned her lesson. Maybe she'll have him back. Maybe, one day, when all the kids are grown and functional and out in the world and she and Simon are still together they'll be happy, not for the kids, but for themselves, happy that they worked through it all and finally got to this place, old together somewhere in a condo overlooking the sea which the sun always seems to be setting into. That's what she's thinking in the warmth of the car, stewing in a vat of maybe. She digs for that LV phone and holds it in her hand. She pushes the button at the bottom, navigates her thumb to the brown, square contacts icon. S-I-M and there it pops up. Simon's number. Right there on her screen. Just a tap away. Just one tap and she can get it all back: the kids, the family, the eternal sunset. Her hand starts shaking again, holding the phone. She's trembling there in the warm interior of her car and she tries to touch the screen, she tries to tap it, but with the shaking, she just can't hit her target. Again Tamra tried to connect with Simon and has failed. She has already failed and there's no going back. She puts her fingers up to her eyes and pushes those tear buttons again, dragging her fingertips across them, blotting out the wet. "Screw it," she says, tossing her phone back at her purse in the passenger seat. "Screw him," she says, plopping her sunglasses back on her face and turning the key in the ignition. More:'Real Housewives of OC' Recap: Vicki and Gretchen Throw Down'Real Housewives of OC' Recap: Surgeries Galore and Helicopter Rush Hour'Real Housewives of OC' Recap: Tamra's 80s Party Gets Ugly
In true straightforward comic-book style TMNT starts with a brief backstory (without the laborious explanation on why four turtles and a rat become human-like in the first place) and then launches into the heart of the movie. After the defeat of their old arch nemesis The Shredder the Turtles—fun-lovin’ Michelangelo (Mikey Kelly) tech guru Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) hotheaded Raphael (Nolan North) and pragmatic leader Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor)--have grown apart as a family. While Leo is off honing his craft the turtles no longer fight crime--except Raphael who still fights crime under the pseudonym Nightwatcher. Struggling to keep them together is their rat sensei Master Splinter (the late Mako). But strange things are brewing. Tech-industrialist Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) is amassing an army of ancient monsters to apparently take over the world. With the help of old allies April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Casey Jones (Chris Evans) the Turtles finally come together as brothers to fight the good fight and once again face the mysterious Foot Clan who have put their own ninja skills behind Winters' endeavors. As opposed to hiring just A-list actors TMNT is a nice eclectic mix of veteran voice-over artists who give the Turtles their voices and regular actors such as Gellar Stewart and Evans. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’s Ziyi Zhang also gets in on the action providing the voice of the Foot Clan leader Karai who was once an enemy of the Turtles but now sees the value in what they do. Of course there isn’t a Robin Williams or Ben Stiller to laugh with but Kelly is pretty funny as Michelangelo who has had to resort to entertaining kids at birthday parties as “Cowabunga Carl ” a clown-for-hire in a “fake” turtle suit. It will all depend on whether those ninja-fightin’ pizza-eatin’ giant turtles still have a monetary appeal but methinks a new TMNT movie franchise has been born. The comic book was created in 1984 by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman as a spoof to the superhero stories and quickly took off into merchandising heaven with a toy license and then a television series. The original 1990 live-action movie used state-of-the-art animatronics but somehow felt static and fake. Since the last TMNT movie in 1993 the whole Turtle phenomenon has sort of fallen off the radar at least in the U.S. so the time was ripe for a renovation. Using the innovative CGI we know and love this new TMNT--created by a team of animators from California and Hong Kong under the watchful direction of Kevin Munroe--gives the Turtles not to mention all the otherworldly monsters they have to fight a realistic look and feel. With this kind of freedom the film can focus on the action which is the best part of the TMNT lore. Though the demographics may skew male ages 8-11 (as well as those 8-to-11-year-old boys who loved it back in the day and are now grown men) TMNT is just your basic supercharged animated fun.
For the uninitiated Firefly's 26th-century final frontier resembled the wild wild West with gunslingers shooting up mining towns on far-flung worlds. The show playfully chronicled the criminal endeavors of Serenity's motley crew of smugglers captained by the glib but principled Mal (Nathan Fillion). The ship also serves as home to passengers Simon (Sean Maher) and his sister River (Summer Glau). Serenity swiftly but awkwardly recounts how Simon risked his promising career as a doctor to rescue River from scientists working for the nefarious Alliance the victors in a cruel war against freedom fighters known as Browncoats (yes our good captain was a Browncoat). The Alliance turned River a young psychic into a killing machine. Now the siblings are on the run. Serenity opens with the Alliance dispatching its harshest operative known only as--yes--the Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to capture River. So Mal must put on hold his illicit dealings to protect the increasingly violent River. And that means putting Serenity--and the crew Mal regards as family--in harms way. So does it help if you have partaken of Firefly's 14 episodes? It certainly does. Whedon makes few concessions to those unfamiliar with Firefly or its crew and passengers. But if you can grasp the gist of Firefly's intricate political machinations then the flight's somewhat enjoyable.
Serenity's crew and passengers are all present and accounted for led as always by Fillion's captain of the ship. Imagine Jason Bateman playing Han Solo--that's Mal and he's one of the reasons why Firefly was such a exuberant romp across the universe. Fillion's deliciously sarcastic but he never allows Mal's sharp tongue to overshadow his wily ways and noble intentions. As Serenity adopts a more serious tone than Firefly Fillion heightens the tension by employing Mal's brashness as an unstoppable force of vengeance. Of course Mal's a pussycat compared to River. Sure she's a one-woman army but Glau doesn't allow River to devolve into a lethal weapon. With a face wracked with pain and eyes filled with sorrow Glau heartbreakingly presents a teen at odds with herself and fearful of what she may do to those willing to risk their lives for her. That includes her brother Simon who's played with little more backbone by Maher than he was in Firefly. Otherwise Serenity's remaining crew and passengers--including the brawny Adam Baldwin the steadfast Gina Torres and the righteous Ron Glass--serve the same functions as they did in Firefly. Only Alan Tudyk stands out from the crowd as Serenity's pilot and the source of much-needed comic relief. But it is Four Brothers' Ejiofor who steals Serenity. He's clever articulate and devout with a quiet and calm demeanor that hides his cruelty. How merciless is this self-described "monster" of a man? He kills children in his crusade to create a world without sin or so Ejiofor chillingly reveals. Ejiofor had better be careful that he's not typecasting himself as a brute but there's no denying he's fulfilling the promise he showed in Dirty Pretty Things.
Whedon's not one to abandon his children. He transformed the bloodless Buffy the Vampire Slayer into a cult TV series. Now he's salvaged his beloved Firefly which Fox unceremoniously canceled in 1992 after airing 11 episodes--mostly in the wrong order. But Firefly thrived on DVD so Universal's sank $40 million into a film that skillfully ties up most of the show's loose ends. The reason behind the Alliance's desperate attempt to recapture its science project gone awry is finally revealed and the answer isn't pretty. The dreaded Reavers--self-mutilating cannibals who prefer their meals alive and kicking--play a pivotal role in the proceedings. And at least one of Serenity's budding romances is consummated. The bad news though is that Serenity will make little sense to anyone who isn't a Browncoat. Serenity unfolds like Firefly's series finale and by the time you figure out what's what the day's on the verge of being saved. Worse Whedon is so intent on wrapping up everything that he neglects to retain Firefly's roguish charm. The mischievousness is gone replaced with a dark and brooding mood rarely hinted at in the TV show. It also doesn't help that Serenity makes little effort to reintroduce the crew and passengers. Whedon does a poor job of making anyone but Browncoats care about the people aboard Serenity. And that's a huge problem when death strikes Serenity. In the case of one influential Firefly character whose presence is rarely felt in Serenity a non-Browncoat just won't appreciate the enormity of this sad loss. Browncoats though will be stunned that Whedon can be so bloodthirsty. Still they will feel satisfied Whedon made these sacrifices so that Serenity would prove doggedly true to the Firefly mythology.
Love means never having to say you're sorry; it's a many splendored thing; it's all you need. But in tennis love means zero; it means you lose. Or does it? For Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) a British pro tennis player seeded near the bottom of the world tennis ranks love actually inspires him. After scoring a wild card to play in the prestigious Wimbledon tournament he meets and falls for the rising and highly competitive American tennis star Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) fueling a winning streak he hasn't had since he began his career. For Lizzie however the love thing doesn't necessarily work out as well. Her feelings for Peter become a distraction throwing her off her game. Hmmm. Can these two crazy kids keep it together long enough so Peter can fulfill his lifelong dream of winning the men's singles title even if it means his muse might have to sacrifice her first Wimbledon title?
Kirsten Dunst may be what draws you in but Paul Bettany is the reason you don't walk out. The British actor who made an impression with American audiences playing the oh-so-witty Chaucer in A Knight's Tale and then wowed them in Oscar winners such as A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander doesn't disappoint in his first lead role. Bettany's Peter embodies all that charm we've come to love and expect in our British actors--although thankfully not as floppy as Hugh Grant--he stumbles about and apologizes profusely. It's so cute. And he makes a pretty darn believable tennis player to boot (one would hope so after the intense training session the actors apparently had to go through to prepare for the movie). Unfortunately Dunst does not fare as well. Her Lizzie is appealing and she adequately handles the tennis stuff--but she ultimately fails to connect with her male lead making their relationship seem forced. Their beginning sparks are fun but when there's suppose to be a real flame igniting between them you're left scratching your head wondering just when where and why they fell in love so hard so fast. Yep that's a big red flag.
I've said sports movies usually work (see the Mr. 3000 review). To clarify: That is team sports. Sport movies where the action revolves around a single competitor are harder to pull off. It's just not as exciting watching an underdog struggle with himself in order to win. Luckily director Richard Loncraine (HBO's My House in Umbria) seems to know this fact. Even though Peter takes Centre Court (that's the British way of spelling it) Loncraine tries to at least create a more complete picture giving us a glimpse into the world of tennis as well as delving into the traditions of Wimbledon and how the Brits feel about the prestigious tournament where British champions are few and far between. Loncraine also utilizes real-life tennis pros such as John McEnroe and Chris Evert who appear as announcers to liven up the proceedings. Even the action on the court with close-up shots of the ball whizzing over the net gets the blood pumping a little--wish there was a lot more of that. But then of course one could just turn on the TV and watch the real Wimbledon instead watching a silly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy set there.