Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
The Mad Men season five premiere revealed that Don Draper has gone through a lot of changes in the previous year. He's married Megan, traded in his suburban home for a mod 60s apartment, and acquired yet another Bobby. The episode featured actor Mason Vale Cotton as Don's son, making him the fourth actor to play the role. Maxwell Huxabee and Aaron Hart played Bobby in season one, then Jared S. Gilmore managed to remain on the show for two whole seasons. However, during Mad Men's long hiatus, Gilmore left to take a role in the series Once Upon a Time, bringing back the Drapers' middle child mayhem.
Outside of soap operas, Bobby Draper may be the most re-cast TV role in history, but the practice actually dates back to the Mad Men era. The most infamous re-cast is that of Darrin Stephens in Bewitched. The role was originated by Dick York, but when a back injury forced him out of the show, Darrin magically reappeared as Dick Sargent. Some complained the show was never the same, just as when The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air swapped Janet Hubert-Whitten for Daphne Maxwell Reid as Aunt Viv. While the character was originally an outspoken career woman, she was reincarnated as an easygoing stay-at-home mom and started making fewer appearances on the show. Most recently, the twins Jaden and Ella Hiller, who played Lily in the first two seasons of Modern Family,were pulled from the show because they didn't enjoy acting. Four-year-old Aubrey Anderson-Emmons took over the role.
Often, shows play re-casts for laughs. Sarah Chalke replaced Lecy Goranson as Becky Connor on Roseanne, but Goranson returned to the role occasionally. Asking Becky "Where the hell have you been?" became a running gag, and both actresses made an appearance in the show's finale. That '70s Show followed suit after Lisa Robin Kelly left the role of Eric's sister Laurie and was replaced by Christina Moore. Eventually the character was phased out entirely and characters started giving excuses for why she never appeared on screen. Having two Martas and two Anns in Arrested Development actually made sense thanks to the show's use of meta comedy. Marta starred in Spanish language soaps, in which actors are frequently re-cast, and Ann's replacement underscored how forgettable she was.
Frequent re-casting definitely isn't the worst fate to befall a TV character. In fact, Bobby Draper should consider himself lucky, since so far he's avoided another danger for TV kids. After being re-cast, Richie's older brother Chuck on Happy Days was sent off to college and never spoken of again. If Bobby doesn't watch, it Sally might literally make her little brother disappear.
[Paper Mag, People]
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Because I Said So could be as a public service announcement to all those meddling mothers out there—but also to their complaining daughters. See Daphne Wilder (Diane Keaton) has raised her three daughters—Maggie (Lauren Graham) Mae (Piper Perabo) and Milly (Mandy Moore)—by herself so it’s only natural for her to butt in especially when she fears her youngest Milly will never find Mr. Right. Taking matters into her own hands Daphne runs an Internet ad to meet and evaluate potential suitors for Milly. The results are positively disastrous except for two possible matches: a guitarist Johnny (Gabriel Macht) in the band playing background music during the matchmaking session and a well-off architect named Jason (Tom Everett Scott). Daphne however only deems Jason “long-term” enough for her daughter writing off the tattooed Johnny as more of a fling. Luckily Johnny manages to get Milly’s phone number and before long Milly is forced to choose between the two men after being single for the longest time. But what she doesn’t know is that her mom is responsible—well at least for one of the guys. Okay it may be time for a chick-flick intervention for Keaton. The Oprah of romantic comedies Keaton has the talent and everything else necessary to steal some of Meryl Streep’s meaty dramatic roles but she seems to prefer the safe stuff. Her performance here is no different than those in her last two movies (The Family Stone Something's Gotta Give) and the movies are all somewhat similar too. Point is nice job yet again Diane—now give us an effin’ feel-bad movie! Keaton’s interplay with Moore is genuinely heartfelt even if it’s not physically or biologically credible. The latter is neither actress’s fault though and Moore trying to shed her teenybopper past actually displays the most growth of the two. But despite solid crying scenes and overall cutesiness Moore also should make this her last rom-com role—unless a halfway decent script happens to come along. The supporting gals (Perabo and Gilmore Girls’ Graham) fare better than the guys in the acting department but the likely all-female audience will fall hard for Macht (A Love Song for Bobby Long). Scott (TV's Saved) is badly miscast as an affluent Romeo only to be outdone by Arrested Development’s Tony Hale who would’ve lost less cred if his tiny role were reduced to a mere cameo. You have to start to think that director Michael Lehmann’s 1989 cult classic Heathers might have been a fluke because his career has been on a decline ever since culminating with Said So. This time around Lehmann should’ve stuck solely with the tender cheesy feel-good theme which is at times at least effective. But when the director tries to switch to comedy covering everything from female orgasms to Asian-masseuse gags fit for a Cedric the Entertainer movie the film goes so far south that it never recovers (and the masseuse bit comes early on). Unfortunately it’s not just the comedy that misfires. The male characters are barely there or even necessary making it seem like writers Karen Leigh Hopkins (Stepmom) and Jessie Nelson (the upcoming Fred Claus co-writer of Stepmom) merely exploited them to get to the predictable conclusion. Of course this is a by-the-book chick flick we’re talking about but the writers and director apparently didn’t want to push the envelope when it came to the supporting characters—or the main characters. Or any aspect of the movie whatsoever!