Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
"You've all seen the play?" I can imagine Clint Eastwood saying to his cast and crew on the first day of shooting Jersey Boys."Yeah," they respond."Good," he'd then smile. "Do that." And they'd never see him again.
Aside from dropping by three quarters of the way through production to insist on a visual reference to his golden years, Eastwood doesn't seem to have a ton to say about how his film adaptation of the Frankie Valli story should take form. Scenes throughout the movie seem to have been set and blocked in the fabric of Jackson Pollock, with actors scattered about the stage, backs to the camera, faces overlapping in a horribly distracting fashion.
Such scenes are woven together so tenuously, banking with desperation on the hope that everybody watching cares about anything that might happen to the four boys in question, because there's really no contextual throughline. Plot turns, conflicts, and whole characters are introduced abjectly; each serves less as an emotional beat than it does as a segue into the next musical number. But while these musical numbers might be able to carry a haphazard story on the Broadway stage, the magic is far from our grasp in Eastwood's movie.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
Despite an R rating for a few "f**k"s here and there, the film is as squeaky clean as the tunes of the Four Seasons. Even the mobsters with whom Frankie and Tommy associate — a riotous Christopher Walken plays their own personal godfather — are of the family friendly variety: the only drop of blood spilled in the film is the result of a botched shave, and the only act of larceny an episode of comical ineptitude. The sugar is coated so heavily that when the movie does attempt to get deep and dark, we're obscenely confused. And the music sure as hell doesn't help matters in the drama department.
Still, Jersey Boys manages an inscrutable tolerability, plodding by on the charms of half of its starring team — Vincent Piazza is often jarring but frequently enchanting as undiagnosed psychopath Tommy DeVito, and Erich Bergen is a lot of fun as straight-laced Bob Gaudio (we can accredit his comic timing here to his preadolescent screen debut on The Dana Carvey Show) — and an everpresent Muppety ambiance surrounding these wannabe crooks (of the Frankie and Mugsy variety) turned wannabe stars (of the Frankie and Dean variety).
So, we're left with more of a smile than a frown. The film lacks any definitive structure or interesting style, but it manages an affable energy nonetheless. Not unlike the music of the Four Seasons, actually.
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Fox began in 1986 as an attempt to establish a fourth network. It succeeded by taking gambles to distinguish itself from NBC, CBS, and ABC. Series like Married…with Children, 21 Jump Street, and The Tracy Ullman Show not only brought commercial success to the network but also defined television. The network continues to buck the system to this day. It’s gearing up for major changes that seem to be paying off.
Fox has always explored more risqué humor and often focuses on working class families. This began with Married…with Children, which opened the door to future critically acclaimed series like Malcolm in the Middle and Raising Hope. This eventually led to the success of ABC’s The Middle. 21 Jump Street led to the eventual development of the teen drama and nighttime soap with shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. The entire line-up of The CW can thank Fox.
Ullman’s comedy series was a sketch series centered around a comedian. Doesn’t that sound like a ton of Comedy Central series? It also spawned The Simpsons, one of the longest running series on television. Fox was also a driving force in creating animated series for adults. It has had major success with Family Guy, Futurama, and Bob’s Burgers.
Fox was also at the forefront of the reality television craze. It was probably one of the most overzealous with a ton of bizarre reality shows. Cops and When Animals Attack gave way to the ratings behemoth American Idol. There were also the low points of Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? But let’s be honest, is that show much different from The Bachelor? The network has prudently reined in their reality television in favor or more scripted series which is working.
The network’s current line-up of shows definitely breaks barriers. The network has not shied away from being diverse. The casts of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Sleepy Hollow are full of people of color playing against stereotype. Both shows have been wins for the network. Brooklyn Nine-Nine won a Golden Globe and Sleepy Hollow is boosting the network’s ratings. The network also gave Mindy Kaling her own sitcom. It’s is a big deal considering an Asian woman hasn’t headlined her own series since Margaret Cho, and TMP is the first American network sitcom to have an Indian-American woman as the series lead.
The network isn’t afraid to play with unique premises. On paper, Sleep Hollow seems like Ichabod Crane meets a sassy cop. But it’s so much more. Series lead Nicole Beharie plays an intelligent, sympathetic, female action hero and is in no way a sassy stereotype. Almost Human tackles the complicated premise of a procedural crime drama set in the future. Shows about the future have so much trouble. And yet, this series smartly blends its premise with the popular 1970s buddy cop genre to make a show that works.
Network chairman Kevin Reilly made headlines when he said the network would be opting out of pilot season. This is a pretty controversial move considering so much of Hollywood production and casting is built around pilot season. However, with original programming getting produced for cable networks and streaming sites like Amazon and Netflix, there’s an added pressure to make groundbreaking and entertaining television. So Fox is putting on their competition pants.
Fox’s upcoming series are no less risky. The network is planning a sitcom about stand-up comic John Mulaney. Gotham is a drama series about the characters from the Batman franchise, but features Bruce Wayne as a child. There is an American version of David Tennant’s detective series Broadchurch. There’s even Hieroglyph, a drama series about Ancient Egypt!? Talk about a wide net.
It seems like the network has no intentions of changing its penchant for taking chances. No network can guarantee a stronghold on ratings and Fox’s gambles do not always pay off (re: Dads). But the network’s many crazy chances have resulted in some major shifts in television and made Fox a major player in the ratings game.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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FilmMagicOriginally scheduled to hit the shelves last week, Morrissey's autobiography was pulled at the last minute following a content disagreement between the former The Smiths frontman and Penguin Books. Considering the vitriol that has spewed from the gladioli-swinger's mouth since he arrived on the mid-80s indie-rock scene, it's little surprise that the publishers may have got cold feet over the offence such a memoir would undoubtedly have caused. While we wait for both parties to clear up their differences, here's a look at some of Mozza’s previous most shocking statements."The sorrow of the IRA Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unscathed."Morrissey didn't take long to establish himself as rock's biggest troll. Just nine months after The Smiths released their self-titled debut, he made his feelings towards The Iron Lady very clear following her near-death experience in 1984."Bob Geldof is a nauseating character. Band Aid was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music."Despite raising $14 million for famine relief in Africa, Morrissey still didn't think much of the Boomtown Rat's efforts to bring the cream of the 1984 pop scene together for number one single, "Do They Know It’s Christmas?""I wish that Prince Charles had been shot. I think it would have made the world a more interesting place."After having murderous thoughts about the Prime Minister, Morrissey then switched his attention to the future King after a student fired two blank shots at Prince Charles in a protest over Australia's treatment of Cambodian boat people in 1994.
"The smell of burning animals is making me sick. I can smell burning flesh . . . and I hope to God it's human."A militant vegetarian, Morrissey also became slightly cannibalistic when he briefly walked off stage during his set at Coachella in 2009."You can't help but feel that the Chinese people are a subspecies."Morrissey was understandably accused of 'crude racism' after attacking China's animal welfare record in a typically politically incorrect manner in 2010."That is nothing compared to what happens in McDonalds and Kentucky Fried s**t every day."Morrissey took his lack of sympathy to new levels in 2011 after claiming the Norwegian massacre which left 77 people dead paled in comparison to the production methods of various fast food chains."The spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain."Spectacularly misjudging the triumphant mood of the nation, Morrissey compared the buzz surrounding the London Olympics to that of Hitler's regime."There's no blame placed at Kate Middleton, who was in the hospital for, as far as I can see, absolutely no reason . . . She feels no shame about the death of this woman. The arrogance of the British royals is staggering, absolutely staggering."After getting his backing band to wear 'We Hate William and Kate' t-shirts on stage, Morrissey continued on his anti-monarchist march in 2012 after implying that the Duchess of Cambridge should take some of the responsibility for the tragic suicide of the phone hoax nurse who worked at the hospital she was receiving treatment at.
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Top Story: Farrelly Brothers Take on Stooges
Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the filmmaking duo behind the comedies Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Osmosis Jones, have been tapped to helm The Three Stooges for Warner Bros. According to Variety, the adventure pic will revolve around the Stooges characters originated by Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Jerome "Curly" Howard. The Farrelly siblings spent last winter and spring writing an updated script with Me, Myself and Irene scribe Mike Cerrone. The Three Stooges will provide Warners with a high-profile comedy-something that the studio hasn't had in several years. The comedy is expected to start shooting early next year for a summer 2005 release.
TBS To Air Sex Reruns Next Summer
HBO has sold reruns of its hit series Sex and the City to TBS for a licensing fee of $450,000 for each of the 94 half-hours. TBS will get the show in June 2004--15 months before it is kicked off in syndication on the Tribune-owned TV stations. TBS plans to air episodes four times a week in primetime, probably one hour a night over two nights in mid-week, Variety reports. But since the show will run in primetime rather than in the early evening, the network will be able to run episodes that are less edited than for TV syndication
Woman Pleads Guilty To Stalking Jennifer Love Hewitt
A 47-year-old woman from the San Diego, Calif., suburb of La Mesa, pleaded guilty Monday to stalking Party of Five actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, Reuters reports. Diana Napolis, who was diagnosed as delusional but was found competent to stand trial, pleaded guilty to felony stalking in exchange for the dismissal of five other charges. Napolis first threatened Hewitt, 24, outside a San Diego radio station, then continued trying to contact the actress in Los Angeles and via e-mail between July 29 and Nov. 3 of last year. She faces up to three years in prison when she is sentenced next month.
Jennifer Aniston's Dress Fetches $4,100 on eBay
The midnight blue, knee-length dress that Jennifer Aniston wore to the 55th annual Primetime Emmy Awards last Sunday attracted bids of more than $4,100 in a charity auction Monday, Reuters reports. Aniston's dress was the top-priced item in eBay's online auction, which closes Wednesday. Proceeds from the "Clothes Off Our Back" benefit, co-created by Malcolm in the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek, will go to Cure Autism Now and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Last year, the "Clothes Off Our Back" project auctioned off Emmy outfits from about 20 celebrities and raised more than $87,000.
Hope Inducted Into Officer Hall of Fame
Bob Hope, who died July 28 of pneumonia at his Toluca Lake, Calif., home at the age of 100, was inducted posthumously into the Reserve Officers Association Minuteman Hall of Fame for his 50 years of entertaining military troops overseas, the AP reports. His son Kelly accepted the award at Saturday's ceremony, saying his father took his show on the road to thank the troops for their efforts in defending freedom. Hope's traditional Christmas tours began in 1948, when he went to Berlin to entertain soldiers, and lasted through 1990, when he visited the troops during Operation Desert Shield. Other famous honorees include President George W. Bush and former presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman.
"Dr. Feelgood" Pleads No Contest
A doctor who allegedly overprescribed narcotics to celebrity clients such as Winona Ryder pleaded no contest Monday to charges of grand theft and practicing medicine without a license, The Associated Press reports. Dr. Jules Lusman, who had his license revoked last year by California's medical board, entered the plea to two charges in exchange for the dismissal of six others by prosecutors. The charges stem from a complaint by a woman who said she went to Lusman in March for a cosmetic procedure similar to a Botox injection. She claims Lusman refused to help her or return her $600 fee after large bumps developed around her eyes. Ryder, who according to her probation report had who had 37 prescriptions filled by 20 doctors from 1996 to 1998, was one of the celebs medical investigators found to be connected to Lusman.
Cirque du Soleil Strips Down ... to G-Strings
Cirque du Soleil has launched a new erotic act in Las Vegas titled "Zumanity," in which troupes strip down to G-strings, caress each other as they swim in a fish bowl and indulge in lingering kisses while a drag queen cabaret singer croons, "Sex is beautiful." Billed as "another side of Cirque du Soleil, the act must compete with two other Cirque du Soleil shows and a third one in the works, but audiences are pouring in nonetheless. According to Reuters, the two nightly performances over the last month have helped raise casino revenue by 30 to 40 percent.
Role Call: Sandler's Happy Madison Gets Fat
Columbia Pictures is shelling out a $675,000 guarantee against potential seven figures for Fat Man, a spec script by Simpsons scribe Mike Reiss about an 800-pound man who drops 600 pounds with the help of a nurse he finds more appealing than a Happy Meal, Variety reports. Adam Sandler's Happy Madison banner will produce but reps for the comedian say the odds are slim that the he will do anything more than produce.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.