Last week, Michael J. Fox returned to television with his new show, The Michael J. Fox Show. It was his starring role in over a decade. Based on the first two episodes, it looks like it will be a good run. At least it seemed like it to me.
When it comes to watching this show, what helps put us all at ease is that fact that he's up front about the fact that he has Parkinson's -- heck, his character on the show also has it. In an amazing coincidence, his character is also returning to television after a hiatus -- his character is a news anchor, though. Fox puts his charms to early use. In one scene, he purposely drops something in his boss' lap...and then says with a wry grin in what is like one of those reality TV confessional moments: "Oops! Parkinson's!"
There are already plenty of meta-in-jokes for those who have been following Fox's struggles and who know what the symptoms of his disease can be. In the pilot episode, his legs were spasming so badly while he was sitting behind the news desk that his chair rolled out of the view of the camera during his farewell speech. He can still handle times of physical comedy, but his ability to turn extremely awkward moments -- like when he's meeting an extremely attractive upstairs neighbor (who happens to be played by his real-life wife Tracy Pollan), he speaks for all of us who turn to fumbling, stammering idiots. It's also nice to see Betsy Brandt, who plays Fox's wife on the show, do comedy after that barrel of laughs we knew as Breaking Bad.
It's going to have a heavy competition, though, because it's sliding into a Thursday night slot at 9PM ET, which is kind of occupied by a ratings juggernaut known as Two and a Half Men. Can Fox draw viewers away from Ashton Kutcher? It's going to be a fight, but I find myself pulling for Fox, not just for what he has gone though, but he just seems to radiate a sense of general likability. Sure, I know that he's an actor and that's what they generally DO, but I glean that in both interviews he has given and his books as well. This is a dude that just seems to realize how good his life is despite what he's going through. He just seems like that short, funny person who doesn't put on airs.
Ever since he burst on the scene in Family Ties, he's always been fun to follow in the theaters or in shows like Spin City. He's also an awesome guest star -- his turn in shows like Scrubs and The Good Wife have always been classics.
Here's hoping that he succeeds. The little guy deserves a win.
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Ready to dig into the tasty, tasty Thanksgiving episode of The Mindy Project? This week we see the return of perfect potential boyfriend Dennis (played by the too-adorable-for-words Ed Helms) and a meal for the ages. Well, two, really.
First, Mindy's boyfriend Josh comes over (with his sweet, sweet panini press set-up) to cook Mindy a romantic, energy-drink laced meal. Jazzed on Red Bull, he admits he's not ready to be exclusive, therefore bursting Mindy's boyfriend bubble. Then, there was—of course, this is a Thanksgiving episode, you guys—the big turkey day, complete with a turkey carcass and Murse Extraordinaire, Morgan. And who's there, but Dennis...and his new, Mindy 2.0 girlfriend, Gita. Reeling from the admission that her boyfriend doesn't want to be exclusive, Mindy tailspins out of control and into one of Gwen's dresses to try and seduce Dennis. The plan, of course, backfires and best friends become ultimate fighters. (But don't worry, this sort of fight happens once every 8 years.)
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Meanwhile, Dr. Castellano is spending his holiday with the little mouse in the office, learning how to really nail those Billy Joel songs on his keyboard. Aww, poor little Danny Castellano: forever alone (just kidding totally not forever alone because one day he and Mindy will fall madly in love, because duh). Betsy takes Jeremy with her to her family's Thanksgiving festivities to experience a Real America.
So what did we learn from Mindy and Co. this week? Tons! Check out the dos and don'ts of dating from tonight's The Mindy Project!
1.) Do let him cook you dinner: but stay away from that Red Bull Glaze.
2.) Don't let him avoid the 'exclusive' conversation: You need to know before he comes back riddled with STDs and you don't want him anymore!
3.) Don't let him chain you to his basement wall: Because that's creepy. Even if the sentiment is sweet, Morgan.
4.) Do let him take a lean: Dudes love a strong lady who can hold them up after they've cheated death (in a really, really hilarious way).
5.) Don't let being a mess get you down: And if you are a mess, at least be a hot mess.
6.) Do flirt up a storm in retaliation: When your boyfriend doesn't want to be exclusive and your best friend trades you in for a newer model, you hereby have my official permission: slut it up!
7.) Do be more like the weather: Wild, crazy, unpredictable. She's like the wind, you guys.
8.) Don't be afraid to throw down: Whether it's with your best friend or your best man, sometimes you have to get down and dirty.
9.) Do let your best friend kick your ass: Because every time she does, something good happens.
10.) Don't forget to spend the holidays with someone you love: Family (adopted, related, or otherwise) is important.
What did you think of this week's The Mindy Project? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: FOX]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
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Everyone on the nightly news, the Internet, and, most importantly, your Twitter and Facebook accounts is talking about the Republican National Convention in Tampa. And after that, the Democrats do their dog and donkey show in Charlotte and the media takeover will start anew. It's all that's happening right now — but, still, it is boring. There, I said it. It's boring. It's worse than a lecture on oral hygiene that you had to sit through in fifth grade. Dull dull dull dull dull. And, even worse, we're going to have to relive some of these moments ad nauseum... and they won't get any more exciting.
Let's consider political conventions for a minute. They last for several days, create huge news, are full of thousands of rabid fans, and are relentlessly covered by the media, despite the fact that only a select portion of the population caring about them deeply. Looking at that description, it seems political conventions have their own entertainment-fueled cousin: Comic-Con! Both of these conventions share notable similarities with the one difference being that I care about one and not the other. So, what can the political conventions learn from Comic-Con to jazz things up a little? We're here to help, politics.
More Costumes: During the first few days of Comic-Con, entertainment websites across the Internet launch galleries of the crazy cos play people in their extremely elaborate Slave Princess Leia and Batman get-ups. Those fans definitely garner attention, so why not dress up a little bit, delegates? (And I'm not talking dress shirts and pantsuits.) May we suggest that each delegate wear a costume based on where they're from? A farmer costume from Kansas, cowboy duds from Texas, a prep school uniform from Connecticut. (Just like Drop Dead Gorgeous!) Or maybe they should dress up like their favorite characters: George Washington, Betsy Ross, or every GOPers favorite, Ronald Reagan. C'mon, the tea party has embraced this — why can't every other party follow (bat)suit?
Celebrities: Yes, famous commentators from Rush Limbaugh to Rachel Maddow will be attending the conventions, as will the politically outspoken Clooneys and the Kelsey Grammers. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to get invited too and then blew it all with a scandal. ("I'll be back," apparently also applies to his attending future Republican conventions.) But let's get some other ones there just to glitz up the show. Just random ones. Oh look, there is Megan Fox talking policy with Dick Cheney. Can you believe that Tom Cruise and Jennifer Lopez are posing for pictures with Michelle Obama? Who knew that Ashton Kutcher is as tall as Mitt Romney? See how much fun that was, and it was fake!
Question and Answer Period: The one thing that separates Comic-Con panels from the conventions is that, when it comes to the former, the fans get the opportunity to converse with the big names. Fans get to grill writers, directors, producers, and actors about just how they're going to handle their favorite fictional properties. Why shouldn't the delegates be allowed the chance to ask Mitt Romney and Barack Obama some questions? Won't that add some spontaneity? These are going to be very hospitable audiences. If there was a time for the "town hall" format to flourish, this is it.
More Exciting Footage: At Comic-Con this year, fans were rewarded with footage of the new Hobbit movie. That's awesome. What are we going to get at the convention this year? A skit of Donald Trump telling Barack Obama, "You're fired." Snoozeville. If you're going to make some clips, at least make them as inventive and exciting as the shows at the Con.
Booth Babes: You know how on the floor of the convention there are all those little signs announcing each state? Why can't those be held up by girls or guys in skimpy outfits? Seriously, let's finally give back, candidates.
Endless Swag: The best part about Comic-Con? Free stuff! Attendees can pick up figurines, posters, autographs, and, of course, comic books for no charge. What do you get at the political conventions? A "Barack Obama Hope" pin? A foam Mitt Romney #1 Mitten with a finger pointing in the air? An American flag lapel pins? Sorry, conventions: We would prefer more creative swag like "Cabinet Trading Cards" or "Speaker of the House Masks."
Make Your Promises Come True: When producers announce they're prepping a remake at Comic-Con, fans will see said remake in theaters. When a director announces the star of a picture, said actor actually stars in the movie. When we see early footage from a TV show, said footage eventually ends up in the pilot. When we get promises of change, new programs, or promised bipartisanship at a political convention, it never really happens. Sure, release dates can change, but the movie eventually comes out. Maybe if we thought that the things we heard at this big shindig would actually come true, we'd be a little bit more invested in the outcome.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: AP Photo]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Let's give a big hand to the two newest members of the Mile High Club. Yes total strangers Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily (Amanda Peet) hook up during an otherwise quiet flight from L.A. to New York City. Heck the two don't say a word until they bump into each other at the baggage claim. "Blah blah it's ruined " Emily moans the second Oliver opens his big mouth. How sweet. How could they not be soul mates? So what if they share nothing in common aside from a mutual attraction? The bashful Oliver's an aspiring Internet entrepreneur eager to marry the perfect woman live in a beautiful house and drive the flashiest car. The outgoing Emily's an actress with less talent than Paris Hilton and a thing for lousy musicians and writers. So why do director Nigel Cole and screenwriter Colin Patrick Lynch insist on making this lousy love match? They even drag this dead-end romance from the late 1990s to today as Oliver bets Emily $50 that he will have the life he desires in just seven years. Predictably absence makes the heart grow fonder and whenever they cross paths--from a day in New York City or a night in L.A.--they fall more in love with each other. Of course there's always something preventing them from making a commitment. Yawn. By the time Oliver and Emily decide it's now or never they've grown so whiny and wearisome you won't care whether they spend the rest of their lives together or apart.
Kutcher promises to slip on his tighty whities and model again for Calvin Klein if A Lot Like Love reigns supreme at the box office. Sorry girls that won't happen. But Kutcher does flash a little flesh when he drops his drawers for Peet. Otherwise he doesn't display much of anything else in his most wretched offering since My Boss's Daughter. If ever Kutcher wanted to prove he can inject a little charisma or personality into an underwritten role A Lot Like Love offers him his greatest opportunity. But he blows it. Or maybe he's not capable of doing anything other than getting so flustered he can barely spit out his words as he does in all his witless comedies. Kutcher's Oliver Martin is as bland as his name and as dull as his line of business. This makes it tough to believe Emily--in the form of the spunky Peet--would even think twice about pursuing a relationship with this drip. Then again the relentlessly grating Emily isn't exactly a prize catch negating Peet's efforts to give A Lot Like Love a little pungency. You have to pity Peet: she so willingly participates in one farcical flop after another--from Whipped to Saving Silverman to The Whole Ten Yards--that she's dangerously close to ruining what was never really a particularly promising career.
Ever cleaned out the back of your car and found a soundtrack CD you forgot you bought? Those CDs always boast great pop songs that you never hear on the radio anymore. But no matter how many times you listen to the songs you can't remember the film that accompanied the soundtrack. That's A Lot Like Love: terrific soundtrack lousy movie. To lazily evoke a sense of time and place director Nigel Cole leans heavily on well-worn hits from the late 1990s and early 2000s by Smash Mouth and Third Eye Blind. That would be all well and dandy if Cole at least injected A Lot Like Love with some comic pizzazz. For a film told over the course of seven years A Lot Like Love moves slowly awkwardly and uneventfully. Perhaps Cole left his sense of humor back in England where he directed the screwy Saving Grace and the plucky Calendar Girls. Or maybe he's more comfortable chronicling the misadventures of middle-aged women than the bed-hopping antics of self-involved twentysomethings. He gets so desperate for laughs that he makes Kutcher and Peet spit water at each other during a dinner eaten in silence. But the most grating moment sadly recalls Say Anything's sweet and touching climax: rather than blast Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes from a boom box a guitar-strumming Kutcher instead serenades Peet with an unfunny off-key rendition of Bon Jovi's "I'll be There For You." OK so maybe not every song on the soundtrack deserves another spin.