Who better to play a couple that the entire viewing public will root for than the uncommonly adorable and blue-eyed Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel? That's their job in the upcoming Fox series Us & Them: to make us fall in love with them enough that we understand why their family and friends uproot their lives to bring the long-distance pair together. At a special New York Television Festival screening event on Tuesday night, Ritter (Gavin) and Bledel (Stacey) were joined by executive producer David Rosen and their castmates Ashlie Atkinson (Nessa), Kurt Fuller (Michael), and Dustin Ybarra (Archie) to air the pilot and talk about this American adaptation of hit British sitcom Gavin & Stacey.
The pilot recreates a few classic moments from the first series created by James Corden and Ruth Jones, but deviates widely in places. The arc of the developing long-distance relationship of our title characters, for example, won't move as quickly as the British six-episode season format demanded. The city/country action has moved from Essex and Wales to New York and the very real Dillsburg, PA, respectively. ("I have their weather on my phone!" Atkinson said.) The cast talked about the meshing of their ensemble (Fuller: "We would sit at the table and just laugh and tell jokes and before we knew it, an hour was up and we were doing the scene again.") which also includes a mini-reunion of The State with Michael Ian Black as Stacey's Uncle Brian (perhaps the fan favorite of Gavin & Stacey) and Kerri Kenny as her mom Gwen, plus Malcolm in the Middle super-mom Jane Kaczmarek as Gavin's mother Pam; the pressure of playing an existing character ("I started to watch [Gavin & Stacey] when we were shooting, but then freaked out and had to stop," Ritter said); and high hopes for the future of the show. Atkinson bet one of the producers that if the series is picked up for a full season, she'll get a real version of Nessa's bacon tattoo.
The future of the show looks murky at the moment — Fox halted production with only six episodes finished. Those will air early next year. We hope it gets another chance. Us & Them is the rare adaptation that has its own vision, voice, and a sparkling cast chemistry. The panel encouraged those who want to see that develop to tweet, Facebook, and email Fox to demand more.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's The Hangover successfully translated the "one crazy night" into an absurdist thriller and, more importantly for the writing duo, a mega-hit. For their directorial debut, 21 & Over, the two adapt their manchild mystery for the college crowd nearly beat for beat, substituting laughably idiotic adults for the saddest trio of bros ever brought to screen. The characters in the film spew profanity, race jokes, anti-women ideology, and pop culture non sequiturs (who doesn't love a Shrek joke?) all in the name of "having a great time." This can work — Superbad stands as proof. Instead, the script for 21 & Over scrapes the bottom of the barrel then shotguns it into our faces, amounting to a cesspool of unfunny that will likely breed a new generation of douchebags if (when?) it's taken in by impressionable youngsters.
RELATED: Watch the Debaucherous '21 and Over' Trailer
A college senior with high aspirations of chugging beers and getting laid, Miller (Miles Teller) arrives to town to meet his two best high school pals, Casey (Skylar Astin) and Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), for the latter's 21st birthday. Jeff insists they stay in — the next morning is his big medical school interview — but no, Miller insists that friends don't let friends go uncelebrated. "I am going to f**k you with alcohol," Miller proclaims with terrifying authority. And so the adventure begins: what starts as a round of beers explodes into a rampage through the college campus bar scene. When Jeff slow-motion vomits while riding a mechanical bull (an expulsion repeated four times over), the friends decide it's finally time to go home. Except, they have no idea where home is.
With Jeff blacked out, Miller and Casey set off to find someone who has a clue. All of the answers have a road block; hoping to find their friend Nicole (Sarah Wright), the men sneak into a Hispanic sorority. Focus becomes their biggest dilemma after Miller and Casey stumble upon two new pledges waiting to be "punished" by their "Pledgemistress." Who can resist spanking two co-eds under the guise of hazing? These two can't. When they're discovered, they run to their next insane scenario, Lucas and Moore turning the Hispanic sorority girls into 21 & Over's version of the Hangover gangsters. It wouldn't feel as offensive as it does if the reasoning and execution wasn't clunkier than drunk Jeff Chang walking on two feet.
21 & Over's great offense is its complete misuse of two great young actors. Since Rabbit Hole, Teller has honed a keen sense of timing in both drama and comedy, while Astin impressed with charm and wit in Pitch Perfect. Here, Lucas and Moore fill their leads' mouths with cheap dialogue, a type of lowbrow insight that makes Tucker Max look like Henry David Thoreau. Beyond their cookie cutter characters (Miller can't stop clinging to high school; Casey doesn't know how to cut loose and have fun), the two bark quips at one another that would immediately drive any normal human beings apart. Miller digs at Casey for not recalling Nicole's sorority letters because they were on her shirt, and clearly, if he was a man, he should be staring at her chest. Nicole even belittles Casey for his inability to party — apparently his passion for NPR and dream of a job after college are misguided. Dude, take a shot! That's what life is about.
RELATED: '21 And Over': Even Miles Teller Is Surprised At How Naked He Got
Teller and Astin do make the whirlwind of hate palatable, but never funny. The only laughs come from a pack of male cheerleaders, whose conception as another angry group chasing Miller and Casey seems to be an excuse to crack a Karate Kid joke. Late in the game, 21 & Over reveals its dramatic undertones and that's when it crosses the line from inane to morally irresponsible. Lucas and Moore want to challenge their 21-year-old protagonists. Instead, they let them off the hook. There are no consequences for the people in this movie. There are no rude awakenings. Our heroes threaten people with guns, decimate a college quad while outdriving the cops, and eventually punch Jeff Chang's dad in the face, but they're in the right. If we were laughing at them as they destroyed their lives, that might be entertaining. Instead, 21 & Over is just a boring lesson in why beer pong and one-night stands should be the number one priority in life.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
[Photo Credit: Relativity Media]
John Leguizamo will reportedly take on the character of lovable conman Del Boy in the revamp, while Dustin Ybarra will portray Rodney - the roles played by David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst in the beloved, long-running British comedy.
And now Deadline.com reports Lloyd will play their ageing grandfather.
We Bought a Zoo opens with the voice of Dylan Mee (Colin Ford) narrating glimpses of his journalist father Benjamin's (Matt Damon) worldly adventures. Ben's been embedded with violent dictators covered with killer bees and flown through the eye of a hurricane but as Dylan explicitly states "nothing prepared him for this one"—the "this one" being the titular purchasing of a zoo on the brink of closure. Director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire Almost Famous) has never been one for subtly but that's never been the goal. We Bought a Zoo drops the cynicism wears its heart on its sleeve and doesn't mind laying it on thick in an effort to move you which it does—whether you like it or not.
Six months after his wife's death Ben still doesn't have a grasp on how to be a good parent. He struggles to throw together bagged lunches for his daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) watches Dylan downward spiral into school expulsion reluctantly accepts lasagnas from the sympathetic family friends and grieves over iPhoto montages of a life that once was. Every corner of his home conjures up familial memories prompting Ben to hightail it out of town. After a desperate house hunt Ben sets his sights on a stunning country home that comes with one twist: it's the home to lions and tiger and bears (oh my!).
Along with its diverse collection of fauna Ben's new zoo sports a colorful cast of staff members including Peter MacCready the temperamental Scottish maintenance man Robin the laid-back handyman with a monkey on his shoulder and Kelly the young committed animal handler (Scarlett Johansson). Ben inspires his team with motivational speeches (and signed checks) and together they work to rebuild and reopen the park.
We Bought a Zoo explores its themes of loss and renewal on the surface with cartoony characters hammy dialogue and a score by Jónsi of Sigur Rós that steers you towards an emotional destination. But it all works thanks in large part to Matt Damon's charm and a general air of niceness to the whole package. Damon is one of the few stars capable of playing a Regular Joe. Watching him have his butt kicked by zoo chores is delightful while he adds true gravity to the dramatic moments. Whether he's butting heads with his morose son in a screaming match or tearing up over his inescapable past Damon digs deeper than Crowe and Aline Brosh McKenna's (The Devil Wears Prada 27 Dresses) screenplay. The rest of the cast manages to elevate the material too—Johansson keeps herself down to Earth; Thomas Haden Church as Ben's skeptical brother Duncan knocks every joke out of the park; And the young Elle Fanning inspires once again as Kelly's bubbly tween cousin who falls for the disgruntled Dylan (although no one seems to have a problem with a 12-year-old spending her days working/living at a zoo; her parents are completely out of the picture).
The movie doesn't take unexpected turns or make profound statements but it succeeds in its goal of tugging the audience's heartstrings. The world of We Bought a Zoo is one where everything works out if you persevere have hope and open yourself up to love. That's not reality but rather inspirational thinking. Perfect for the holiday season.
Not to be confused with the 1979 ghost story The Changeling this Changeling is a horror story of a very different stripe. Based on a long forgotten case buried deep in the L.A. crime files this true tale revolves around the mysterious 1928 disappearance of 9-year-old Walter Collins. Set in an election year and with heavy political pressure on city officials and a corrupt LAPD they find a child five months later who they claim is Walter and arrange to reunite him with his mother Christine (Angelina Jolie). Only problem is she says this is not her kid. When she asks the police to continue trying to find her son she finds herself victimized and accused of being insane and unfit for not going along with the PR campaign informing the public that the police have solved the case. With the help of a community activist Reverend Briegleb (John Malkovich) she begins to fight the city and the police who try in every way to silence her even committing her to a mental institution. The film details not only her valiant quest to right a wrong and find her real son but serves as a probing indictment of the police state 1920’s Los Angeles had become. As in her searing portrayal of the pregnant Marianne Pearl in last year’s A Mighty Heart Angelina Jolie once again connects with her maternal side. In another challenging role she must exhibit a wide emotional range going from fear to anguish to anger to pure resolve in an effort to uncover the mystery of her son’s abduction. Splendidly outfitted in ‘20s garb Jolie delves deep into the soul of a woman who dared to go against the grain and challenge a corrupt police department in Prohibition-era L.A. She’s simply remarkable in the most intense determined and heartbreaking role of her career. As the man who helps out in her cause Malkovich is perfectly matched to Jolie. As the merciless Captain Jones who heads the investigation to find Walter Jeffrey Donovan (TV’s Burn Notice) is properly frustrating and imposing while Colm Feore gets the evil side of his LAPD police chief down pat. Nailing her few scenes Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) plays a fellow psycho-ward inmate who helps Christine when she is institutionalized. Particularly impressive is Eddie Alderson as the 15-year-old nephew of the serial killer who leads police to a grisly crime scene and his uncle played a bit over the top by Jason Butler Harner. And filling out their juvenile roles nicely are Gattlin Griffith as Walter and eerie Devon Conti as the young man impersonating him. Clint Eastwood knows his way around ominous foreboding material so it’s no wonder he was instantly attracted to J. Michael Stracynski’s immaculately researched script. After Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River Eastwood exhibits a strong understanding of the dark side of human nature. Changeling fits right in with his oeuvre and he delivers yet another superbly crafted and acted film -- one that exists on two separate levels as a look at the corruption that crept into the LAPD of the era and as an impassioned journey of a woman trying to find a happy ending for herself and her son. Shot with the director’s usual ease Eastwood seems comfortable letting the almost unbelievable facts of the story speak for themselves and remarkably didn’t change a word of Stracynski’s fascinating screenplay. He doesn’t have to. The fact that it’s a true story that all really happened is simply incredible by itself. This is an unforgettable triumph for everyone involved.
Think Mean Girls meets High School Musical meets whatever other high school teen scenario you can think of. Here four teenage girls make up the Bratz contingency each come from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds—just like the dolls they are based on. There’s Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos) a quiet Latina beauty with a great voice; Sasha (Logan Browning) the outgoing black cheerleader who loves to dance; Jade (Janel Parrish) a lovely Asian fashionista who also a wiz in chemistry; and Cloe (Skyler Shayne) the tall Caucasian blonde who despite being a klutz is a star on the soccer field. They’ve been best friends forever (or BFF as they lovingly refer to it) but once they hit high school they drift apart and into respective cliques organized by the narcissistic class president Meredith (Cheslea Staub). Still these BFF’s—who live for clothes make-up and hair products—won’t be pushed down. They’re gonna shake things up and prove it’s always best to just be yourself and stick together. You can’t really blame the unknown girls—each very cute in their own way—for wanting to bring the Bratz dolls to life. It’s a big deal! They get to sing and dance and wear all these cool clothes! They get to throw food in a cafeteria lunch fight! They get to serve sweets at Meredith’s Sweet 16 party dressed as clowns and still look fabulous! All the young girls in the audience will idolize them and wish they were a Brat too (perhaps to their parents’ chagrin). No it’s the adults in the movie you have to scratch your head about and ask “Do they really need the money that bad?” Character actors such as Lainie Kazan who plays Yasmin’s wise grandmother and Jon Voight as the inept high school principal and Meredith’s father just embarrass themselves over and over again—especially Voight who along with his mediocre appearance in Transformers has become the go-to guy to star in movies based on toys. And what’s with this latest trend to make live-action flicks based on toys? You can understand Transformers because they already had their own cartoon show and you know the movie would at least be action-packed full of cool visual effects. But a Bratz movie is a little too much. Even though it tries really hard to send positive messages there’s really nothing redeeming about turning little dolls—who frankly dress a little on the trashy side—into flesh-and-blood teenagers obsessed with how they look and dealing with high school politics. Bratz really only distinguishes itself from other Mean Girls-type movies because of the toy franchise. It would have been easier to take had it aired on the Disney Channel.