In what world could Breaking Bad's Walter White nab a vixen like Mad Men's Joan Harris? Well, it could happen in a world that only Jason Reitman could dream up. The Up In the Air and Young Adult director just released the full cast of his Toronto Live Read of the now-classic film American Beauty to EW and he's got Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks in the lead roles as Lester and Carolyn Burnham — roles originated by Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.
The event comes on the heels of a series of live reads in Los Angeles of films like The Breakfast Club, The Big Lebowski starring Seth Rogen, and Reservoir Dogs starring Terrance Howard and Common. Hollywood.com was on-hand for Reitman's only New York reading in April, during which Emma Stone and Paul Rudd delivered The Apartment to an anticipatory crowd at the New York Times Center.
Reitman's reads have gone from the director's pet project to a bit of a cult sensation, so this American Beauty cast announcement is an exciting one. Can this cast handle the material? Bryan Cranston as Lester Burnham (Originally played by Kevin Spacey) Christina Hendricks as Carolyn Burnham (Originally played by Annette Bening) Sarah Gadon as Angela Hayes (Originally played by Mena Suvari) Woody Harrelson as Col. Frank Fitts (Originally played by Chris Cooper) Mae Whitman as Jane Burnham (Originally played by Thora Birch) Adam Driver as Ricky Fitts (Originally played by Wes Bentley) Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credits: AMC (2), WENN.com (8), Dreamworks Pictures (8)] More: 'The Apartment' Live Read With Emma Stone and Paul Rudd Brings the Classic to New Life TIFF 2012 Trailer Gallery: First Looks at the Year's Most Prestigious Films
Ready for today's rapid-fire casting round-up? Here are Hollywood's latest TV deals.
Happy Endings: A-mah-zing! Rob Corddry will appear in at least two episodes in the third season of ABC's sitcom, playing a legendary car dealership owner who encounters Jane and Penny (the one looking to buy a car). I'll just go on record right now and say that Jane at a car dealership just sounds all sorts of hilarious. [TVLine]
Golden Boy: House's Odette Annable will recur on CBS' midseason cop drama, playing an assistant district attorney who takes cases brought by the show's central police force to court. [Deadline]
Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous: MTV's new Bo Burnham-led comedy series will feature The Secret Circle alum Shelley Hennig as a "girl next door type" who gets romanced by the titular Zach Stone. [Deadline]
Arrow: Byron Mann joins the CW's superhero series as "an enigmatic man who has a complex connection to Oliver Queen" (Stephen Amell) Something tells me that just about everyone on this show will have a complex connection to the Green Arrow... [Deadline]
Hawaii Five-0: Ving Rhames will guest on the island procedural as a man from Danno's (Scott Caan) past, which will be explored in flashbacks focusing on his stint as a New Jersey policeman. [TVLine]
Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker
[Photo Credit: David Herman/DailyCeleb.com]
TV Tidbits: Rachael Harris Gets 'Happy Endings,' Matt Lucas Schools 'Community'
TV Tidbits: 'Revenge' Goes 'Greek,' Busy Philipps Checks Into 'Apartment 23'
TV Tidbits: Frankie Muniz, Mark-Paul Gosselaar Move Into 'Apartment 23'
Things are funnier in twos. Two farts in a row is a blessing and then oh yeah, there's the winning combination of two boobs. My point = proven. So by my esteemed logic, if you take a British person (themselves purveyors of the highest quality of witty repartee) and give them another Brit, the combination will be magical. Take, for example, the amazing Paul, which comes out in theaters this week. It was written by two very funny Brits, as you shall learn soon enough, and they're not the only funny duos that tiny little island has produced (sure we could tell you who we are talking about but then you wouldn't have to read the next part, you lazy ass). Here are five examples that prove I'm right. I love being right.
Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost Wait, how can three people be on a list about duos? Shut up, it's my list. Anyway, only two of them collaborate at once most of the time so it works out if you just bend the rules this one tiny bit. Oh, why am I even justifying myself to you anyway? It works, deal with it. So Wright and Pegg teamed up and wrote Spaced (and Jessica Stevenson helped, but cut me some slack), then they did the two amazing films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Frost starred in those as well, but he then stepped in and wrote Paul with Pegg when Wright couldn’t direct the flick. Ok, so you see how they work: pop culture gags with a sharp eye towards homages and parodies that borders on obsessive. They’re pretty much a duo with three members. Besides, they’re funny enough that we’ll count them anyway.
A Bit of Fry and Laurie What? Dr. House is British? And funny? And he worked with that strange man? You'd better believe it. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were pretty fucking funny when their show, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, was on the air from 1989 to 1995 and they incorporated word play, music, and innuendos into their sketches. It's such a shame two terribly gifted comedic actors haven’t worked together since, not that it's their fault. They just got incredibly busy being more famous. After all, Laurie is busy doing House and all that. While House is pretty damn funny at times, like when he's poppin' pills and pretending to be Julius, it doesn’t beat the Hippy Protest song.
Laurel and Hardy Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they were primarily an American act but Stan Laurel was born in Britain and that’s good enough for me (Oliver Hardy was a good ole American). Besides, it shows how much British humor was influencing American comedy right from the beginning. Laurel and Hardy were staples of the silent film era that managed to make the difficult transition to the talkies. But when most of your material is slapstick, the transition isn’t too difficult.
The Mighty Boosh It's like Tim and Eric meets Flight of the Concords. It’s always a shame how the most creative people seem to be the most insane, but the humor of the Boosh (Neil Fielding and Julian Barrett) is fairly acceptable considering how surreal the visuals are. Maybe the good music helps. Seriously, these guys know how to rock out. Like most things British, it definitely helps to be under the influence when watching it, but that’s not necessary. Just sit back, relax, and if you don’t understand that’s fine; just enjoy the music and pretty pictures and laugh. After all, it's pretty much a grown-up's Saturday morning cartoon.
Amateur Transplants These egghead Brits are what you would get if Bo Burnham went to medical school. And there were two of him. Also, throw in a few Weird Al parodies in for good measure. Mix it all up and you get some pent-up nerd rage created with a musician's ear. The duo consists of two practicing doctors: Adam Kay and Suman Biswas. They do more to prove that a higher education does not automatically make you mature than a fart machine set to the tune of Mozart’s 5th. While they burst onto the scene with their anti-London Underground song "London Underground" that will have any victim of public transportation nodding in approval and then belting right along with them, my personal favorite has to be the simple tune, "Nothing At All" (featured above). Absolutely delightful.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Eddie Murphy is terrific in Imagine That as Evan Danielson an overworked financial advisor who is so immersed in his job he’s forgotten about Olivia his daughter from an estranged marriage. When he is given custody for a week and he gets too busy with work she retreats into her fantasy world imagining a group of princesses who as it turns out really know their way around big business. When Dad figures out his daughter’s special blanket and otherworldly friends have the magic touch for investment advice he becomes an instant superstar in his firm. But his newfound success soon sets up a confrontation with his chief rival Johnny Whitefeather whose presentations are often full of (Red) bull.
WHO’S IN IT?
From Dr. Dolittle to Daddy Day Care Murphy has carved out a solid alternate career as a star of family-friendly movies. But none of those previous works play to his overall talents as a comedian better than Imagine That in which he gets to merge his kid’s fantasy world with office politics for optimum laughs. The purely delightful premise in which Murphy faces off with skeptical business partners is perfectly toned to his talents and allows him to be widely appealing for both kids and their parents. As daughter Olivia newcomer Yara Shahidi won out over 3000 girls and is wonderful a real charmer who goes toe to toe with Eddie. Thomas Haden Church provides the perfect foil for Murphy as Whitefeather a guy who plays off a phony Native American heritage and spouts nonsensical advice like he’s E.F. Hutton. As bosses vying for Murphy’s newfound talents both Ronny Cox and Martin Sheen play it straight lending the appropriate gravitas to their roles. Nicole Ari Parker is winning in her few scenes as Olivia’s mom.
Murphy’s comedic tendency to go way over the top (i.e. Norbit) is kept in check with great results. He’s totally believable as a stressed-out businessman and his trip into his daughter’s imagination is handled realistically mined for the optimum number of laughs without sacrificing credibility. Credit for this goes to Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge) an animation director making his live-action debut for keeping cartoonish antics to a minimum and emphasizing heart and the father/daughter bond instead.
The scenes between Murphy and Shahidi are so effortlessly charming and real that you wish there were more of them. (One highlight is when father teaches daughter to sing Beatles songs which are heard throughout the film.) It’s the kind of thing Bill Cosby did so well on TV but could never pull off in movies. Murphy does.
Murphy is in top comic form all the way and is never better than when he berates Littlefeather’s hokey presentation then comes up with one based on his daughter’s doodlings that shows off the comic genius we haven’t seen in this actor’s comedy vehicles in quite a while.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Imagine That is a family film in the truest form and ripe for an outing with your kids. If you don’t have any rent one and go.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Adapted by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero The Rules of Attraction American Psycho) from his own 1994 novel about the excesses of the rich and not-so-lucky in Hollywood circa 1983 this shallow film seems out of touch now in a time of economic turmoil — even if it is disguised as a period piece. Presented as a multi-story look at L.A. at its sordid best The Informers introduces us to a sleazy movie executive his estranged wife her poolboy lover a coked-out British punk rock star a fading newscaster a voyeuristic doorman a slimy ex-con and any number of beautiful vapid sexed-up twentysomethings who seem to spend their days either partying or snorting immune to any kind of social consciousness in an era marked by the dawn of the AIDS epidemic.
WHO’S IN IT?
The ensemble cast is split between older stars who’ve seen better days and a promising group of new talent unfortunately caught up in this mess. Billy Bob Thornton sleepwalks through the studio exec role while a pre-Wrestler Mickey Rourke (in a glorified cameo) shows us the kind of dreck he’s been stuck in the last few years as a tough ex-con who seems obsessed with someone called “the Indian.” Kim Basinger survives intact as a long-suffering Hollywood wife looking for a human connection from anyone who crosses her path while Winona Ryder projects just a shadow of her once-promising career as the aging newscaster. The late Brad Renfro who himself apparently fell victim to a drug-induced lifestyle is oddly touching as the peeping-tom doorman. Filling in the lost youth part of the equation are Jon Foster Amber Heard Austin Nichols Lou Taylor Pucci and amusing British star Mel Raido who do the best they can with their clothes on and off. Chris Isaak and Rhys Ifans also turn up in minor roles.
For what it’s worth The Informers has been handsomely shot and does capture emotional deadness well but unfortunately there’s nothing behind the façade of a group of characters we just don’t care about.
Ellis covered this all in Less Than Zero — same era same losers — so did we really need a LESS THAN Less Than Zero in 2009? It’s also a shame to see a fine group of actors so completely wasted both on screen and off.
BEST STONED-OUT LOSER SCENE:
The tenor of the whole film is summed up in the ice cube-filled bathtub sequence where a drunken almost catatonic British rocker proceeds to nearly kill himself trying to light a cigarette and answer a phone that NEVER stops ringing.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX:
This movie may already be available on DVD before you finish reading this review.
Cooked up in the head of Oscar-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) comes the movie in which he makes his directorial debut. Without Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze sifting through the maze this time Kaufman himself weaves this crazy quilt with consummate skill. In other words Synecdoche New York is just as successfully quirky humane and head scratching as all the others in the Kaufman ouerve. To sum up the plot succinctly is impossible but it centers on a stage director and hypochondriac Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who trades in his suburban life with wife Adele (Catherine Keener) daughter Olive (Sadie Goldstein) and regional theatrical work in Schenectady for a chance at Broadway. He puts together a cast (resembling those in his own dream world) and brings them to a Manhattan warehouse being designed as a replica of the city outside. As the world he is creating inside these walls expands so does the focus of his own life and relationships. As the years literally fly by he gets deeper into his theatrical self which soon starts to merge with his own increasingly pathetic reality. Whatever you make of the tale Kaufman is telling here the casting could not be better or more suited to the quirky material. Philip Seymour Hoffman offers up a tour-de-force and is simply superb playing all the tics and foibles of the deeply disturbed Caden. His early scenes in his “normal” home are wonderfully alive with all his phobias and hypochondria in view. Later we literally watch this man disintegrate as his master creation overwhelms him. Hoffman seems to fully understand the mental trauma of a man running as far from his own realities as he possibly can. Catherine Keener as always is right on target as his wife Adele. She has a knack for taking what seems like tiny moments and making them define exactly who this woman is. Jennifer Jason Leigh as a mentor to Caden’s daughter is always fascinating to watch and plays Maria with an ounce of irony. Tom Noonan playing the actor portraying Caden in the play is the perfect doppelganger and delightfully adds to Caden’s confused state. The all-pro trio of Michelle Williams as Caden’s new wife Claire; Samantha Morton as the irresistible assistant Hazel; and Hope Davis as Caden’s self-absorbed therapist add greatly to the merry mix. It’s nice to watch Charlie Kaufman seize control of his own work. In this instance he’s really the only one who can deliver us his Fellini-esque vision. Centering it all on the theatrical director’s weird universe Synecdoche does seem like it might be Kaufman’s own take on Fellini’s 8 ½ or even Woody Allen’s paean to that film Stardust Memories. Let’s just say we know most of it must exist somewhere inside Kaufman. Early domestic scenes could have been played flat but the novice director moves the camera around skillfully enough to make us immediately engaged in Caden’s world. Second half of the film set in the phantasmagoric warehouse is a stunning tapestry of scenes from Kaufman’s singularly fertile imagination. It’s nice to note he’s well equipped with the basic tools a director needs for this type of challenging material. Overall his film is a surprising confounding visual feast -- a dream/nightmare come to life and then spinning out of control.
In other words The Holiday probably falls under the “guilty pleasure” category. Its not a classic romantic comedy by any standards but darn it it still makes you smile more often than you want to admit. The story centers on two women: Iris (Kate Winslet) a British newspaper columnist hopelessly in love with a man about to marry someone else and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) a highly successful L.A. career woman who just broke up with her latest cheating boyfriend. Being at the right place at the right time these two gals meet online at a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Shortly after arriving at their destinations both women find the last thing either wants or expects: A new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris' handsome brother Graham (Jude Law) and Iris with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach) mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles (Jack Black). Oh just go ahead and take a big gooey bite. It’s good for the soul. The biggest problem in The Holiday is unfortunately the casting—which is real shame because you really want the chemistry to zing. They get it right with Winslet and Law who are both trying something a little different as romantic leads. Winslet in fact admitted to Reuters this was one of the more nerve-wracking parts she’s ever played because she couldn’t hide behind an American accent or a costume playing someone closer to well herself. But you would think these two Oscar-nominees had been making these type movies all along especially the insanely gorgeous Law who should have every woman swooning with his sensitivity. Where they get it wrong is with the Americans as the Brits just act giant circles around them. Black is clearly out of place. Although being very charming and funny looking like he made Winslet laugh a LOT (and who wouldn’t with that guy around?) their connection on screen is somewhat amiss. Diaz comes off looking even worse. Even though she’s the veteran of the romantic comedy (There's Something About Mary My Best Friend's Wedding) her screechy neurotic klutzy Amanda is in no way appealing. You have to scratch your head wondering why Law’s Graham would fall so hard for her. What does make The Holiday work however is writer/director Nancy Meyers. She’s proven herself quite adept at the genre with films such as What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give under her belt. With The Holiday Meyers skillfully crafts individual moments of refreshing comedy as well as heartening scenes of blossoming romance. The initial seduction scene between Amanda and Graham is particularly sweet and quirky with the crisp dialogue flying at a nice clip. And isn’t it comforting to see a holiday movie minus feuding neighbors commerciality or any sort of mean-spiritedness? But Meyers has the tendency to go more for the superficial rather than dig deep with her characters. The Holiday has a one of those glossy rosy glows whose only aim is to make you feel good. True the film will mostly speak volumes to the women in the audience (that’s a polite way of saying its a “chick flick”) but oh well. It’s fluff may be a nice reprieve during the hustle and bustle of the season.
Attempting to delve into one of Tinseltown’s most curious scandals--the mysterious suicide (or was it?) of the original TV Superman actor George Reeves--the story begins after Reeves (Ben Affleck) is found dead of a seemingly self-inflicted gunshot wound during a late night party in his Benedict Canyon home. The case then unfolds through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) a street-smart publicity hungry private dick hired by Reeves’ grieving mother. As Simo slowly peels back the layers of Reeves’ seemingly glamorous life he discovers an actor of charm talent and sophistication whose every opportunity for a big break fizzled forcing him to lead a frustrated existence slumming in the superhero show he deemed beneath him. Gradually identifying with Reeves’ failed expectations for himself Simo discovers a host of candidates who may have actually pulled the trigger on the actor including his young party girl paramour (Robin Tunney) his longtime lover and patron (Diane Lane) and his lover’s husband a powerfully connected studio “fixer” (Bob Hoskins). It is Brody not Affleck who carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders and the Oscar winner delivers a finely etched turn as Simo who’s fractured potential mirrors Reeves’ but quite simply Simo’s story isn’t nearly as dark or engaging as Reeves’ life or the mystery surrounding his death. Affleck an actor who has had his share of ups downs duds and disappointments in Hollywood delivers one of his most charming and fully realized performances to date even if his spot-on recreation of Reeves’ speech pattern is a bit distracting. The luminous Lane’s acting talents remain in full blossom in a character she’s well-suited to play—the aging beauty fearing the road ahead—and she commands every scene she’s in. Unfortunately there should have been many many more of them. She’s almost criminally underused. Hoskins more menacing then ever and the reliable stable of supporting players like Joe Spano are all top-notch as well; only Tunney apparently trying to channel both Betty Boop and Bette Davis simultaneously seems a bit off her game as the wannabe femme fatale. Best known for his strong turns helming many of the best episodes of television series such as The Sopranos Sex and the City and Six Feet Under first time feature director Allen Coulter’s cool assured hand and meticulous recreation of Cold War Los Angeles are major bonuses here. Even when Simo’s story sags in comparison to Reeves’ Coulter keeps us interested particularly when staging the Rashomon-like sequences depicting the various theories behind Reeves’ demise. But by skimping on Reeves’ story in favor of a less compelling fictional framework built around a private detective investigating the case we never see one key suspect’s possible murder scenario enacted visually and it comes off as a glaring omission.