Hilary Duff is About to Get Played: And by Ashton Kutcher, no less! Duff will head to Two and a Half Men for the show's tenth season finale, where she'll play Stacey — a hottie who is dating Kutcher's character, Walden. Taxi‘s Marilu Henner will also guest as her grandmother, and if you've studied Walden's romantic history (or Kutcher's real life romantic history) it may not surprise you that Walden's eyes will start to wander... [TVLine]
Lorne Michaels Keeps it in the SNL Family: Current Saturday Night Live funnylady Nasim Pedrad is set to star alongside writer/creator John Mulaney in the SNL writer's upcoming NBC comedy pilot. Based loosely upon his own life, the pilot has cast Pedrad as Jane, a sweet but lazy grade school teacher looking to make changes in her life. The multi-camera comedy has also tapped (you guessed it!) yet another SNL alum, Martin Short, to star as well. Lorne Michaels, you really do run the funny business, don't you? [Hollywood Reporter]
Fringe Favorite Moves On: Lance Reddick, who played the beloved Broyles on Fringe and Cedric Daniels on The Wire, will try his luck in comedy with a guest stint on FX's quirky hit Wilfred. Reddick will guest star as Dr. Blum, Elijah Wood's character's "calm, no-nonsense therapist." The episode is slated to appear during the latter half of the show's third season. [Hollywood Reporter]
FX is Taking Over the World: FX already has a gaggle of critically acclaimed hits on its roster (Justified, American Horror Story, The Americans, and Sons of Anarchy, to name a few...), and now it's taking a journey to the distant past with Conquistadors, an event series based on Kim MacQuarrie's book Last Days of the Incas. The series will focus on both the Spanish Conquistadors who conquered the 10-million-strong Incan Empire, and rebellious Incan rebels who tried their best to save their people. [Hollywood Reporter]
The Walking Dead is Team Stark: No, unfortunately they don't get to watch Game of Thrones in the depressing post-apocalpytic wasteland on TWD. But it was confirmed that, for Season 4, the show has put out a casting call for a character named Roy Stark, "a former army medic who is deeply haunted by his past." Stark is going to be in his early 30s to mid 40s, leading many to speculate that he'll be the show's version of Abraham — who, in the comics, was an army sergeant of a similar age. [TVLine]
Twisted Role for Gilmore Girl: ABC Family's newest mystery series Twisted has just added Gilmore Girl's Keiko Agena as a guest star. Twisted centers on a charismatic 16-year-old (Avan Jogia) with a troubled past who spends five years in juvenile detention and then reconnects with his two female best friends from childhood (Maddie Hasson and Kylie Bunbury). Agena will play April Tanaka, a bohemian grief specialist who heads up a counseling session for the students at Green Grove High. Brittany Curran also joined the cast as Phoebe, an overly dramatic classmate who enjoys the limelight and tries to bond with Bunbury’s Lacey. Both characters will make their debut in Episode 2. [TVLine]
Degrassi to Lose a Student: Alex Steele will not be returning to TeenNick's drama Degrassi for the show's 13th season. "I'm very proud of my time on Degrassi and feel very lucky to have worked with such an amazing cast and crew," Steele - who plays fan-favorite Tori - said in a statement. "I've decided to take on a new focus pursuing film. I have a few opportunities already in the works and am excited to get started!" No word yet on how her character's exit will play out. [E!]
Austin and Ally Will Keep Singing: Disney Channel has renewed the musical show Austin and Ally for a third season. The upcoming slate of episodes “promises excitement for ‘Auslly’ fans as Austin’s music career kicks into full gear and Ally’s begins to take flight,” Adam Bonnett, senior vice president, original programming, Disney Channels Worldwide said in a statement. "This ensemble cast — Ross Lynch, Laura Marano, Raini Rodriguez and Calum Worthy — has incredible comedic chemistry and charm that continues to win audiences over." [TVLine]
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The coming-of-age movie is nothing new of course; it's just that so often their subjects are sulky teen boys or man-children. Movies like Thirteen Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains The Legend of Billie Jean and even Mean Girls are few and far between and even when they do appear like blips on a radar the casts are usually entirely white upper middle class teens. Girl in Progress is a lighter take on the adolescent turmoil and it's often heavy-handed and its characters seem flat but one thing it does with ease is put Latinas front and center without any sort of back-patting or race-related teachable moments. That's not to say Girl in Progress doesn't occasionally dip into Lifetime movie territory though.
Girl in Progress stars Cierra Ramirez as Ansiedad a budding teen who wants to be absolutely nothing like her irresponsible party girl mom Grace played by Eva Mendes. When Ansiedad's teacher Ms. Armstrong (Patricia Arquette) tells her class about coming-of-age rituals and how they're used to navigate between the world of childhood and adulthood she takes it as a literal guide to leaving her childhood — and her mother — behind.
Ansiedad is clever and a bit of a goody-two-shoes; she outlines a plan to go from being a regular girl to a woman as if it were a multimedia project for history. She explains in detail the different stages — acting out losing her virginity to a bad boy etc. — to her best friend Tavita (Raini Rodriguez) who looks on skeptically but agrees to help her friend even when part of the plan includes dumping her dorky BFF. Naturally the best-laid plans of teen girls often go awry and Ansiedad learns the hard way that these things are actually all pretty crappy ways to try become an adult. Unfortunately her dialogue is often reduced to exposition; she literally explains to the adults around her the steps she's at in her transformation. It undercuts Ramirez's performance and distances us from engaging with her emotionally.
Grace is Ansiedad's foil; she never finishes anything she moves them from town to town and she makes poor choices in men. Although this character could have really gone off the rails Mendes isn't vying for a dramatic Oscar bid; yes Grace likes to dance and drink and she's not a present mom but she's an overgrown teenager not a cruel parent. Unfortunately this is overemphasized with scenes of Grace getting ready to go out eating cereal sitting on the counter (and drinking the milk from the bowl of course) or falling asleep with her shoes on which Ansiedad carefully removes.
There's a subplot with Grace and two men but it doesn't do much to forward the story. One is her boyfriend a married gynecologist played by Matthew Modine and the other is a guy she works with at the crab shack whose nickname is Mission Impossible played by Eugenio Derbez.
This is actually one of the more confusing ways Girl in Progress deals with race. Grace needs money for the balance of Ansiedad's scholarship so while it makes sense that she'd take an extra job or two to make ends meet she's actually the housekeeper for Dr. Harford (Modine)'s family. Although Mission Impossible seems like he could be a good candidate for Grace there are some implausible plot developments that make him a rather unsuitable character.
Is the point here that it's more important for Grace to figure things out on her own? But then why when race isn't even spoken of in the movie would these odd details crop up? Girls can sniff out the most tender spot to attack in a weaker girl but the mean girls make fun of Ansiedad's clothes or Tavita's weight never their race. It doesn't quite add up and while I'd like to not make this a bigger deal than it is it seems odd that Girl in Progress would make race a non-issue in Ansiedad's world and then rely on tired clichés for Grace.
As for Mendes herself it's impossible to totally tone down her bombshell good looks but that also acts as a foil for Anseidad. The way Mendes is portrayed isn't particularly salacious or even shaming; she's just a damn good-looking woman with a young daughter who would prefer to be nothing like her. She's given more to do than in her usual roles but even when she's telling Ms. Armstrong all the reasons why she shouldn't judge her for her life choices it doesn't come across as particularly hard-hitting. The rote dialogue doesn't do anyone any favors.
Girl in Progress doesn't transgress or shock like Thirteen or other movies about the traumas of being a teen but that could be a good thing. Although it's not the hippest movie around town it is something that moms and daughters to watch together and talk about. It's also worth boosting a movie that doesn't rely on the same Hannah Montana clones to cast; the more that young girls can see themselves onscreen the better.
Blart (Kevin James) is a bumbling single dad with a precocious daughter (Raini Rodriguez) who is constantly urging him to get into internet dating and meet a woman. Instead he takes his job as a security officer at the local mall much too seriously to have time for romance. His routine is interrupted when a well-organized robbery empties the mall and among those taken hostage in the bank is a girl he has a secret crush on (Jayma Mays). With the SWAT team unable to take action Blart must use all his wiles to thwart the crooks free the hostages and save the day. James is a talented comic actor especially good in supporting roles like Hitch or his own sitcom The King of Queens. Here he just overdoes it. The pratfalls and cop imitations are funny but generally he’s just straining to make us laugh. And we don’t -- much. Mays as the would-be love interest has little to do other than look frightened most of the time but Rodriguez is quite winning. Also turning up in one-note roles are Stephen Rannazzisi as his rival for Amy’s affections Bobby Cannavale as the SWAT leader and the great Shirley Knight completely wasted as Paul’s mom. Director Steve Carr (Dr. Dolittle Daddy Day Care) has guided comic actors like Eddie Murphy Ice Cube Martin Lawrence and now James with varying degrees of success -- but subtlety is not his strong suit. Basically he turns Blart into an action comedy with the emphasis on over-the-top stunts. Somewhere buried in the non-stop mayhem is a sweet comic performance by James crying to get out but never really does. Ten year olds should eat it all up but parents will be looking at their watches.