Take Me Home Tonight directed by Michael Dowse is a comedy about the ‘80s but its futility is timeless: In just about any decade it would be considered generic and unfunny. Set in 1988 it stars the likable and witty Topher Grace as Matt a recent MIT grad with a crippling case of post-college career-indecision. Working as a lowly clerk at a video store he has a chance encounter with his high-school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) who to his (and our) surprise actually displays faint interest in him. But Matt fails to pull the trigger and so he resolves to make up for his lack of cojones when he sees her later that evening at a party hosted by the preppy douchebag boyfriend (Chris Pratt) of his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris).
This sets the stage for an eventual romantic union between Matt and Tori; until then there is insecurity to overcome and wacky adventures to be had. Many of the latter stem from the increasingly unhinged behavior of Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler). The film turns on a bag of cocaine Barry finds in the glove compartment of a Mercedes stolen from the dealership that fired him earlier in the day. Cocaine is renowned for its ability to induce euphoria in even the most mundane of settings but it has arguably the opposite effect on Take Me Home Tonight. I consider Fogler to be a legitimately funny guy but he has the irritating tendency to compensate for underwritten material by wildly overacting. Throw in a bag of blow and that tendency is amplified ten-fold.
A happy standout in the film is Palmer who brings a liveliness and dignity to the stereotypical rom-com role of the Otherworldly Hottie Who Inexplicably Falls for the Stammering Schlub. (It also helps that she's the only member of the main cast who is young enough to realistically portray a recent college graduate.) She is one of the more talented young Australian exports to arrive on our shores in quite some time and has the potential to become a saucier version of fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman. That is if she finds material better than Take Me Home Tonight.
Remember the 1996 adventure flick The Phantom? Because of it's stale acting, sub-par direction and absolutely irrelevant and idiotic tag line (Slam Evil!), you probably don't - and I don't blame you. The animated series Phantom 2040 did little to wash the sour taste of the Simon Wincer directed flop from my palette, but at least it took itself a bit more seriously. Syfy is now looking finally do The Ghost Who Walks justice with a new mini-series that will air as a two night, four hour event starting on June 20th at 7PM.
Starring Ryan Carnes as the titular vigilante, The Phantom is described as follows: The legendary superhero returns in this modern-day and action packed miniseries event. When Kit Walker learns of his father’s death, the adventurous young man inherits the mantle of his superhero father. As the new Phantom, the 21st in the Walker line, Kit vows to uphold and honor his ancestors’ creed-to fight crime and injustice throughout the world.
Whether or not The Phantom lives up to the characters 70 year history of comic greatness remains to be seen. There's certainly a booming market for costumed heroes on the big and small screen, so I believe that the interest is there, but if the quality isn't, this will be forgotten quicker than the Michael Phelps pot-smoking scandal.
To get prepared for the big night, we've got a handful of photos from the new take, courtesy of Screen Rant. Have a look at them below, and please, reserve judgment until Monday morning:
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
When a strong-willed business woman is suddenly told she might lose her job and be deported to her native Canada she impulsively forces her ever-loyal executive assistant into a shotgun engagement in order to get a green card and stay in the country. The plan gets complicated when the mismatched twosome must go to meet his family in Alaska and convince everyone including a pesky government investigator that their impending marriage is the real thing.
WHO’S IN IT?
Sandra Bullock has never been more appealing in the kind of “tough boss” role normally associated with male actors. The Proposal turns the usual romantic comedy tables around giving Bullock lots to play with — and she certainly makes the most of it painting a hilarious picture of an attractive and surprisingly vulnerable business exec caught in a situation spiraling out of control. Ryan Reynolds’ sitcom expertise is put to good use in the role of her willingly unwilling assistant who must join her charade or risk losing his job. This is Reynolds’ best outing as a rom-com lead yet and he shows he could own the genre if provided the right material. Stealing the movie from both of them however is the irrepressible Betty White who plays Reynolds’ saucy Grammy. Once again the Golden Girls alum proves she has comic timing second to none.
Knowing the standard romantic comedy setup just isn’t going to cut it anymore director Anne Fletcher (Step Up 27 Dresses) turns The Proposal into more of a screwball farce letting the laughs fly without forcing them on us. She’s helped by two game lead players who really know their way around this well-worn genre and provide just the right balance to keep this merry soufflé from falling apart. The breathtaking remote locations (Massachusetts oddly enough substitutes for Alaska) don’t hurt.
No matter how inventive the script it’s pretty obvious where things are going to wind up in any romantic comedy. But The Proposal despite following the standard blueprint still manages to keep us guessing until the very end and that accounts for most of the fun.
A scene in which Bullock and Reynolds accidentally run into each other sans clothing is hilarious worthy of the best farceurs. A close second is a sequence involving a little dog a menacing eagle and a cell phone. Classic stuff.
BEST REASON TO PLOP DOWN 10 BUCKS?
After 60 — count ‘em 60 — years in show business with six Emmys and numerous TV series to show for it Betty White at age 87 still proves there can be second third and even fourth acts in life. She gives a movie star turn here that shows everyone how it’s done.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
As an alternative to big summer action flicks and gross-out comedies The Proposal is definitely the date movie du jour.
Walt Disney animation’s first foray into 3D ‘toon making isn’t just a technical triumph it thankfully also tells the clever story of Bolt (John Travolta). He’s a superstar TV canine who believes the superpowers he displays weekly on his series are for real --especially when it comes to the protection of his master and co-star Penny (Miley Cyrus). One day however the dog is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City. Lost alone and confused on the streets of the Big Apple Bolt is still living the show vowing to get to Penny who he believes has been kidnapped by the “green-eyed man.” And so he embarks on a cross-country journey to L.A. to save Penny. Along the way he is joined by an abandoned wily housecat Mittens (Susie Essman) and a TV-loving hamster Rhino (Mark Walton) who believes everything he sees on the tube is ALSO real. Of course Bolt is in for rude awakening when he finds out he is just a regular dog but he still needs to get to Penny -- even if it means she might not be there for him when he returns. Disney is not a studio that generally depends on superstar voices for their animated films but in casting Travolta and tween queen Cyrus they have scored a bullseye. Travolta’s Bolt is a delightful cross between the self-assured superstar and a pooch in denial. The actor doesn’t phone it in but instead creates an original and loveable dog that stands proudly in Disney’s large canon of canine greats. The action scenes created for Bolt’s TV series are lots of fun and the interactions with his traveling companions are choice. As Penny Cyrus is sympathetic sincere and she even gets to sing a duet with Travolta “I Thought I Lost You ” which she co-wrote. The show is nearly stolen though by comedian Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Mittens -- a smart determined and emotionally wounded pet cat abandoned by her owners and forced to wander the streets alone. And by Mark Walton as the hilarious Rhino the obsessive fanboy hamster who rolls around in his ball. Walton is actually an animator in real life who happened to be so good at voicing Rhino during tests they just gave him the job. Disney vets Chris Williams and Byron Howard capably usher the venerable Disney label into the brave new world of 3D animation and the results are promising -- putting the audience right in the center of Bolt’s universe. The TV series action set pieces are particularly effective in using the technology. It’s not even necessary to see the film in 3D because the whole CG process has come a long way in a few short years and Bolt is one of the best looking most accomplished animated films in memory -- glasses or no glasses. Williams and Howard expertly blend humor pathos and blockbuster-style action scenes effortlessly giving “Bolt” an appeal beyond just the target kid demo.
Of course 21 isn’t just about blackjack. It’s more about Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) a shy but brilliant M.I.T. student who--needing to pay Harvard medical school tuition--finds the answers in the cards so to speak. After dazzling his unorthodox math professor and stats genius Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) with some mathematical prowess Ben is quickly indoctrinated into Rosa’s group of “gifted” students who head to Las Vegas every weekend with the know-how to count cards and beat the casino at the blackjack tables. And win big they do. Ben is soon seduced by the allure of this luxurious lifestyle including his sexy teammate Jill (Kate Bosworth) but begins rebelling against the well-oiled machine Rosa has built. Apparently you don’t want to cross this particular math professor--nor the old-school casino security consultant (Laurence Fishburne) who has set his sights on Ben as a master card counter. It’s not illegal to do that but the casinos don’t much like it when they catch you doing it. Hey what happens in Vegas…oh you know the rest. The most well-rounded performance comes from the British Sturgess best known for singing Beatles’ songs in Across the Universe. His Ben starts out as a naive math whiz/nerd whose biggest thrill is designing the perfect science project for an M.I.T. contest but then becomes the smooth Vegas dude with the nice clothes and hot girlfriend and finally turns into the guy who eventually loses it all. It’s not hard to see just how much Ben is going to change once he gets involved in the moneymaking scheme but Sturgess handles the transition with aplomb. The stiff Bosworth isn’t nearly as effective as his love interest but she has her moments. Also good for comic relief is Aaron Yoo (Disturbia) as one of the blackjack players who oddly enough is also a kleptomaniac. The performance drawbacks in 21 come from the more veteran players. Spacey and Fishburne seem to be going through the motions utilizing techniques they’ve used many times before. Spacey can whither whoever it is with that look of his while Fishburne postures as he always does. It’s too bad they couldn’t have put in more effort. As with any movie in which the action is inherently stagnant (i.e. sitting at a blackjack table) the question is how to keep things visually stimulating. That’s where director Robert Luketic--who up to this point has only done broad comedies such as Legally Blonde and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton--comes in. Luketic does a fine job maneuvering the camera around the tables creating slo-mo close-ups of the cards and incorporating a cool soundtrack. A good montage or four usually can also work well in a situation like this and Luketic fully utilizes that technique--from the kids winning to them spending their money in gloriously obscene ways. Based on the book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions 21 has the extra advantage of being a somewhat true story as well. But the script from Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb basically copies from other sources and never really distinguishes itself.
Whereas most kids have a pushy thorn-in-your-side gym teacher growing up John Farley (Seann William Scott) was taught by the devil incarnate Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton) whose whistle might as well have been his pitchfork. As a teenager Farley was Woodcock's prime target an honor that routinely led to (over)weight jokes and dodgeball beanings but 13 years later Farley seems to have gotten the last laugh. He is now a best-selling self-help author--thanks to his book inspired more than a little by his former P.E. tormenter--and returns home to Nebraska a full-blown celebrity. Things have come full circle--almost. Full circle comes when Farley learns that his mom Beverly (Susan Sarandon) is now dating Woodcock and class is once again in session. After a few botched attempts by Farley and his childhood friend/co-victim Needleman (Ethan Suplee) to dig up dirt on Woodcock Farley goes straight to his mom to prevent her from marrying his archenemy. And before long teacher and student return to their old stomping grounds the school gymnasium to duel over Beverly. Once upon a time--2003 to be exact--Billy Bob Thornton was a fresh bit of casting as a miserable crotchety Santa Claus; he has since appeared as a nuanced Bad Santa no less than twice and the third time as Mr. Woodcock is anything but a charm. As his latest grumpy old-ish man Billy Bob seldom imparts humor that doesn’t involve chucking a ball at an unsuspecting teenager’s head. At times in the movie it seems as though even he is tired of the same character. Speaking of playing the same character Frat Pack wannabe Scott doesn’t fare any better. He and Thornton have their moments of chemistry but when Scott is without proper assistance from a co-star or a pratfall his acting is exposed—as rather unfunny. He again appears unable to succeed at well under-the-top comedy. Luckily the supporting cast picks up some of the leads’ slack to balance it all out. Sarandon her days as a leading lady sadly a thing of the past adds desperately needed warmth to an otherwise inane farce. And in a too-small role SNL’s Amy Poehler as Farley’s heavily sarcastic publicist manages to score Woodcock’s biggest laughs. Not that that’s a particularly tall order in this case. Mr. Woodcock is the first of director Craig Gillespie’s two movies in two months--October’s Lars and the Real Girl is next--and he essentially has nowhere to go but up. The newcomer shows some comedic talent but certainly not in any way we haven’t seen a million times--in 2007 alone. Heavy on notions of comedy but light on execution thereof Woodcock succumbs to the same conventionalism that claims almost every other non-Apatow-affiliated mainstream comedy (yes it is necessary to continuously reference the genre’s gold standard). But it’s not all Gillespie’s fault. Writers Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert would’ve been on to something had they made Woodcock the quirky Freudian dramedy it probably wanted to be on paper but they tried instead for the ol’ crowd pleaser. As a result audiences will anticipate each attempted joke the direction of the story and the ending. They may even laugh too but only out of sheer habit.