We’re entering hour 60 of the Real Housewives of Atlanta hostage crisis. Apparently, Andy Cohen intends to squeeze every drop of drama of the franchise. After the entire crazy fight from the first reunion episode, the ladies had to sit there for at least four more hours to film content for two more one-hour reunion segments and this episode that features unseen footage. It’s mostly B-roll material, including a few dropped storylines and what seems like contractual obligations to show certain moments. The one thing it does do is cement Kenya Moore’s place as the center of the show. She’s not the most forthcoming but she does seem to be the only one having fun at this point. She also continues to give some of the best lines on the show.
Kenya vs. Porsha: Revisited
Time flies in the realm of housewives. In the week since Porsha Williams (fmr Stewart) gave her on-one-one interview with Andy, footage has been released of her giving a sermon with homophobic remarks. Porsha has since apologized. That’s most likely because she’s releasing her single “Flatline.” The gay community is one of the few actual “audiences” for Housewife songs. Meanwhile, this episode features fun and kooky moments with Kenya. She gives the best lines on the show and her props may be provocative but they’re funny. For example, she and Miss Lawrence Washington gab about Phaedra Parks. Kenya decides to give her a tiara and Lawrence gives the best Phaedra impression.
The Best Parts
The best parts of these clip shows are usually funny slice of life moments that remind us that these are real people and not drama machines. Phaedra Parks and Apollo Nida celebrate their birth of their son. Phaedra says they should have a naming ceremony because they are very popular in Africa and Nigeria… and The Lion King. If only, Dwight Eubanks did a theme party where they held up Mr. President! Kenya has a bizarre photoshoot for her own calendar. It features mostly half nude photos including the shocking booty shot from the opening credits. Who was her artistic director? Cynthia Bailey and The Bailey Agency despite Kenya’s ban after her “coochie crack” comments. There’s also a scene of NeNe Leakes and Kenya gossiping about boys in the car. It’s nice to see NeNe as an actual person. She really evolved, or devolved, into this shell spouting trite wannabe catch phrases. She seems to have had a scowl on her face all season.
It seems like the bulk of the footage has to do with things that must appear in the season. For example, for no apparent reason, Naya Rivera of Glee stops by to have a conversation with NeNe Leakes. She flashes her engagement ring and they don’t say much of note and it feels pretty wooden like an acting exercise rather than a real lunch. It’s pretty clear she wouldn’t agree to be on the show and then have Bravo not air the footage. Also unnecessarily added is a segment about Porsha’s friendship with Kandi Burruss. It’s a pretty blatant plug for all the products Porsha’s working on including a hair line, teeth whitening treatment, and her music career.
Let It Die
This episode featured a few extra moments from some of the most dramatic and boring storylines on the show. Cynthia’s daughter Noelle has a birthday party and introduces her boyfriend, Arthur, to her father Leon Robinson. Did you fall asleep? Natalie Macklin confronts Cynthia after the pajama party that turned into a brawl with sleepwear. Natalie accuses Cynthia of starting trouble because she is the one who used the word opportunist. And with that, she joined the roster of forgotten potential housewives including Kim G from New Jersey and Jennifer Gilbert from New York City.
There is also extra footage from the now overwrought beef between various cast members. Momma Joyce gets a few more digs at Todd Tucker during their dinner and guilt trips her daughter during therapy. There are more misogynistic statements from Chuck Smith to Phaedra as about their past relationship. He had already said enough horrible things when he said she was “part of the team.” Then he manages to be smug and disparage Apollo’s character while also telling Phaedra that he was mentoring her. These scenes just feel like they’re just pouring salt on old wounds.
Kenya: Behind the Props
Kenya stops by for a one-on-one with Andy. She proves she’s eloquent and savvy about her presence on the show. She definitely seems cagey about her African prince and some aspects of her personal life, but given the number of people who have lost relationships on Bravo it may be for the best. She brings up some valid points about her fight with Porsha. Porsha was the first one to throw out threats, the first one to stand up, and generally unapologetic. Also, she was accused for starting the pajama brawl for standing up but Porsha did the same thing. Regardless of how annoying Kenya can be, Andy is as much an instigator as she is during the reunions. Also, no one deserves to be hit no matter how much they are provoked.
Real Houselines of Atlanta
"I never thought I was a lesbian but Kenya is looking oh so sexy." – Cynthia
"I’m trying to be nice. I am trying to buy some of this woman’s beads so she can afford a hotel room at the Holiday Inn." – Kenya after her fight with Malorie Massie
"When your man lives many continents away you have to learn how to keep it fresh. And you might have to open up your computer screen and uncross your legs sometimes." – Kenya on Skype
"I must remain a lady at all times and I do not kiss and tell. But what I can say? If I do kiss something, it is not small." – Kenya
"He’s gonna need a wax." – Phaedra on her baby’s hair
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite.
Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits.
And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.
But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either.
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Troubled by unfortunate event after unfortunate event The Watch sidesteps faux pas to come out on top as a consistently funny sci-fi comedy that doesn't let its high concept tangle up a bevy of one-liners. The script penned by Jared Stern Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assumes you've seen a few movies before entering the theater (mainly any sci-fi movie made in the 1980s). "Summer movie logic" is the foundation for The Watch's ridiculous plot which finds four adult nincompoops teaming up to form a Neighborhood Watch trying to solve the murder of a local Costco employee and eventually pursuing a killer extraterrestrial. Instead of making sense of it all The Watch wisely focuses on its four leads: Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade — a quartet whose bro banter goes a long way in spicing up the dust-covered material. There's nothing revelatory to be found in The Watch but the cast's knack for improv a poetry of the profane makes the adventure worth…viewing.
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) establishes his two-dimensional characters quickly and bluntly smashing together broad personality types like a Hadron Collider of cinematic comedy. Stiller's Evan is a micromanaging do-gooder who can't find time for his wife; Hill's Franklin is a mildly disturbed weapons enthusiast yearning to join the police; Ayoade is the quaint weirdo who joins the Watch to fill the void left by his divorce; Vince Vaughn is Vince Vaughn: a loud crass gent looking for a bit of male bonding. The ragtag team assembles to fight crime but they spend most of their time drinking beers in a minivan — an affair they dub "stakeouts." A perfect opportunity for banter.
For a movie about enforcing the law and alien invasions there's a surprising lack of action in The Watch. Long stretches of the film see the central players yapping back and forth about everything: Russian nesting dolls peeing in cans or the similar viscosities of alien goo and human excrement. Charisma goes a long way and Vaughn does much of the heavy lifting making up for lost time out of the spotlight (he's been virtually nonexistent since 2005's Wedding Crashers). The man spits out jokes like no other — the rest of the cast barely keeps up. Ayoade balances out Vaughn's bombardment with a tempered timed delivery that's uniquely British and rarely found on the American big screen. Even when nothing's happening in The Watch it's rarely boring.
The Watch is at its best when it goes a step further mixing the group in with outsiders and throwing them off their rhythm. Billy Crudup cuts loose as a creepy neighbor and its delightfully weird while the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan's wife Abby brings unexpected warmth to the couple's relationship. Sadly The Watch mishandles its greatest asset: the aliens. The film never finds a pitch perfect blend of comedy and science fiction (Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest this is not); a few scenes where the two come together hint at the best possible scenario but more often than not The Watch avoids its sci-fi roots. A moment in which the guys haul a dead alien back to their man cave plays like an E.T.-inspired version of The Hangover credits. It's lewd and ridiculous but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that energy.
Stiller Vaughn Hill and Ayoade have all proved themselves able funnymen capable of taking weak and tired material up a notch which they're forced to do in every moment of The Watch. Schaffer can handle his talent but his direction isn't adding anything to the mix. By the third slow-motion-set-to-gangster-rap scene The Lonely Island member's obsession with non-cool-coolness is officially just an attempt at being cool (which is not all that funny). The Watch has a greater opportunity than most comedy blockbusters to go absolutely bonkers: it's rated R. But instead of taking its twist and running with it the movie plays it safe. In this case safe is non-stop jokes about the many facets of human reproduction.
As with seemingly every other tentpole release to hit the multiplex this summer the action thriller Cowboys & Aliens is based on a comic book – albeit a lesser-known one. It’s directed by Jon Favreau whose previous comic-book adaptations Iron Man and Iron Man 2 proved how much better those films can be when they’re grounded in character. Unfortunately his latest effort is grounded not in character but a hook an alt-history scenario best expressed in the language of the average twelve-year-old: “Like wouldn’t it be awesome if like a bunch of 1870s cowboys had to fight a bunch of crazy aliens with exoskeletons and spaceships and super-advanced weapons?”
Like perhaps. The hook was compelling enough to get someone to pony up a reported $160 million to find out and the result is a film in which the western and science-fiction genres don’t so much blend as violently collide. After the wreckage is cleared both emerge worse for wear.
Daniel Craig stars as Jake Lonergan a stranger who awakens in the New Mexico Territory with a case of amnesia a wound in his side and a strange contraption strapped to his wrist. After dispatching a trio of bandits with Bourne-like efficiency he rides to the nearby town of Absolution where he stumbles on what appears to be an elaborate Western Iconography exhibit presented by the local historical preservation society. There’s the well-meaning town Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) struggling to enforce order amidst lawlessness; the greedy rancher Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who really runs things; his debaucherous cowardly son Percy (Paul Dano); the timid saloonkeeper Doc (Sam Rockwell) who’s going to stand up for himself one of these days; the humble preacher Meacham (Clancy Brown) dispensing homespun spiritual advice; et al.
Jake of course has his own part to play – the fugitive train-robber – as we discover when his face shows up on a wanted poster and a sneering Dolarhyde fingers him for the theft of his gold. The only character who doesn’t quite conform to type is Ella (Olivia Wilde) who as neither a prostitute nor some man’s wife – the traditional female occupations in westerns – immediately arouses suspicion.
Jake is arrested and ordered to stand trial in Federal court but before he can be shipped off a squadron of alien planes appears in the sky besieging Absolution and making off with several of its terrified citizenry. In the course of the melee Jake’s wrist contraption wherever it came from reveals itself to be quite useful in defense against the alien invaders. Thrown by circumstances into an uneasy alliance with Dolarhyde he helps organize a posse to counter the otherworldly threat – and bring back the abductees if possible.
Cowboys & Aliens has many of the ingredients of a solid summer blockbuster but none in sufficient amounts to rate in a summer season crowded with bigger-budget (and better-crafted) spectacle. For a film with five credited screenwriters Cowboys & Aliens’ script is sorely lacking for verve or imagination. And what happened to the Favreau of Iron Man? The playful cheekiness that made those films so much fun is all but absent in this film which takes itself much more seriously than any film called Cowboys & Aliens has a right to. Dude you’ve got men on horses with six-shooters battling laser-powered alien crab people. Lighten up.
Craig certainly looks the part of the western anti-hero – his only rival in the area of rugged handsomeness is Viggo Mortensen – but his character is reduced to little more than an angry glare. And Wilde the poor girl is burdened with loads of clunky exposition. The two show promising glimpses of a romantic spark but their relationship remains woefully underdeveloped. Faring far better is Ford who gets not only the bulk of the film’s choicest lines but also its only touching subplot in which his character’s adopted Indian son played by Adam Beach quietly coaxes the humanity out of the grizzled old man.