Lifetime Adds a Leading Lady: TV icon Brooke Shields is joining Lifetime’s lady drama Army Wives. According to a press release, Shields will join the cast as “brash and brilliant” Air Force Colonel Katherine “Kat” Young. Kat is a guy’s girl who can definitely hold her own in the boys' club atmosphere of the military, but it won't take long before she’s butting heads with Army General Michael Holden (Brian McNamara). Army Wives fans can look forward to seeing Shields' character in a full-fledged power struggle with Holden to see who’s top dog on the base. But of course it wouldn’t be a Lifetime show unless Kat was holding onto a deep dark secret. “Only after their initial skirmishes does Holden learn of Kat’s tragic past, discovering they have more in common than he thought.” Shields is just one of the new additions to join the drama this season — Ashanti and Torrey DeVitto are also set to join the cast. Fans can catch the Season 7 premiere of Army Wives on Sunday, March 10 at 9 PM. [Lifetime]
A Witchcraft Reunion: Grab your spell books and wands because Disney Channel is reuniting the cast of Wizards of Waverly Place! Selena Gomez is back as Alex — the snarky best friend you’ve always wanted — in a one-hour special airing Friday, March 15 at 8 PM. The Russo family will travel to Tuscany, Italy for a family reunion, but in a attempt to show her serious magical skills, Alex accidently splits her personality in two: good Alex and bad Alex. (Side note: Didn’t they already do an episode like this? I'm pretty sure I've seen this already...) In a totally believable twist, the two Alexes battle for the fate of their family and the world atop the Tower of Pisa. [TV Guide]
Going Through The Gates... Again: Ken Marino and Aasif Mandvi have joined the NBC comedy pilot The Gates. Based on the British series, The Gates is an adult ensemble comedy set at the front gates of an elementary school drop-off and revolves around the parents, school staff and 15-minute social minefield they navigate at the beginning and end of each school day. (Side note: We're getting another case of deja vu here. Wasn't there already a TV series The Gates? On ABC? In the summer of 2010? Yes, yes there was...) This new incarnation centers on type-A Helen (Kathleen Rose Perkins), who just moved to town with her husband Mark (Marino) and their 8-year-old daughter for Helen’s big new job. Mark is described as a loveable, sweet, well-meaning, puppy-dog of a guy, a type B, or C, maybe even D to his wife’s type-A personality. Since he owns a construction business, he’s got a more flexible schedule than Helen and is at their daughter’s school more than his wife. Mandvi will play another dad at the school, a super-driven, competitive Yale-educated lawyer who’s one of these comedically intense guys who pushes his kids way too hard. [Deadline]
Party Down Parties On: This reunion is definitely one worth noting. On Feb. 9, San Francisco’s Sketchfest will reunite the cast of Starz’s brilliant-but-canceled catering comedy Party Down. Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, and Ryan Hansen are already locked in as attendees and it has just been revealed that Lizzy Caplan will join the group at this sold-out event as well. [EW]
It's Still Pilot Season, Y'all: NBC greenlighted a single-camera comedy from The Office developer/executive producer Greg Daniels starring Craig Robinson. The untitled project is about a talented musician with rough edges who adjusts to his new life as a music teacher in a big-city middle school, where he encounters teacher politics and the temptations of single moms. CBS has handed two more pilot orders to comedy Bad Teacher and drama The Advocates. Bad Teacher, a single-camera comedy series adaptation of the hit 2011 movie of the same name, is about a sexy, foul-mouthed divorcee who becomes a teacher to find her next husband. The Advocates, which had a pilot production commitment, centers on a female lawyer and a male ex-con who team up as “victim advocates,” going to the edge of the law to right wrongs and fight for the underdog. [Deadline, Deadline]
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Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Did Hollywood have anything to do with the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement? The whole thing seems a little bit convenient. Last month saw the behind-the-meltdown docudrama Margin Call and the sci-fi metaphor In Time. Now we have Tower Heist a comedy that pits the blue collar staff of the Trump Tower against a thieving Bernie Madoff-esque tenant. The movie's an Ocean's 11 for the 99% with a sense of timeliness that makes the simple plotting and wisecracking that much more effective.
Ben Stiller stars as Josh Kovacs overseer of all the goings-on at the Tower. He wakes up before dawn and heads home after sunset spending his day catering to the occupants of the ritzy apartment complex and managing his eclectic crew—including former Burger King cook Enrique (Michael Peña) Jamaican maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) and his slacker brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck). The crew's greatest concern is multi-billionaire Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) the penthouse resident Tower board member and thanks to attention paid trusted friend of Josh.
Trusted...until the FBI busts Shaw for stealing millions including the Tower employees' pensions.
Like all good tower heists Josh's titular harebrained scheme is prompted by a drunken night out with lead investigator Claire (Téa Leoni) who tips the irked manager off to Shaw's hidden stash: a possible eight-figure sum hidden somewhere in his apartment. In pursuing the American dream of revenge Josh recruits his slighted co-workers along with distraught former-millionaire Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and Josh's childhood friend-turned-thief Slide (Eddie Murphy). Together the motley crew concocts a plan to retrieve what's rightfully theirs—all while sinking Shaw in the process.
Tower Heist isn't as slick or intricate as the Ocean movies but its straightforward take on the crime genre is strengthened by Stiller Murphy and the rest of the cast's ability to inject ridiculous humor into sympathetic characters. When Josh realizes his decade spent commanding the operations of the Tower were for naught he wigs out marching up to the top floor to beat the crap out of Shaw's priceless convertible (it was owned by Steve McQueen in case you were wondering why anyone would keep an antique car on the top floor of a building). Not entirely realistic but relatable which sums up every over-the-top satisfying scenario these characters find themselves throughout the film.
Most importantly Tower Heist delivers on the funny. Playing the straight man is an art and Stiller's one of the masters (although you'd never know it from his Night at the Museum shtick or wackier roles like Zoolander) riffing off his co-stars while giving them ample time to be complete weirdos. The movie is being touted as a comeback for Murphy but he wisely steps into a supporting role delivering on his character's manic charm while never trying to steal the spotlight. The one who really steals the show is Broderick whose clueless neurotic Fitzhugh can't help relapsing mid-heist into memories of luxurious trips to Greece.
Credit goes to director Brett Ratner who cranked out three Rush Hour movies and an X-Men threequel while never really nailing down what it takes to make a group dynamic work. Here he pulls it off finding the right beats to make Tower Heist funny and thrilling. There are moments during the actual heist scene set during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade that cause quite a stir—a rarity in today's run-of-the-mill thrill rides.
Tower Heist is the definition of a cinematic softball avoiding risky choices and utilizing each actor to their previously known (and successful) traits without feeling lazy. As the holidays roll in and families look for something they all can enjoy Tower Heist delivers a little something for everyone. Except maybe Bernie Madoff.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Thomas Haden Church and Claire Forlani have exited Showtime's upcoming comedy Episodes.
The show, which is in preproduction, reportedly replaced Forlani with UK actress Tamsin Greig after the table read. Church, who is said to have had scheduling conflicts with an independent film he is working on, has yet to be replaced.
The show stars Matt LeBlanc playing a parody of himself. When a successful British husband-and-wife comedy team heads to Hollywood to adapt their show for the US, they find that network execs have Americanized it to the point of replacing the lead Brit actor with LeBlanc. The pair (Stephen Mangan and Grieg in for Forlani) find the show and their marriage begin to unravel.
Church was to have played a larger-than-life network exec. No official reason was given for Forlani's departure. Co-starring on the series are Kathleen Rose Perkins and Mircea Monroe.
David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik created the series which is a co-production between Showtime and the BBC. They will exec produce with Jimmy Mulville through his Hat Trick shingle.
Showtime has ordered seven episodes. There is no premiere date yet set.