Jenni Miller
Jenni Miller has been writing for fun and profit since the age of six. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College several years later, she dove into the wild world of online media — just before the dot com crash. She's interviewed everyone from Mike Leigh to The Lizardman, traversed the tundra of Park City, visited movie sets, and reviewed too many movies, books, and video games to count. Jenni was the senior editor of and has contributed to a variety of outlets, from classy joints like and to, well, other sites. She is planning to write a book (or at least a short story) about the weirdos who go to see movies on opening day, herself included.
  • Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /media/www/hollywood/Web/releases/20150325105258/vendor/doctrine/common/lib/Doctrine/Common/Annotations/FileCacheReader.php on line 202 Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /media/www/hollywood/Web/releases/20150325105258/vendor/doctrine/common/lib/Doctrine/Common/Annotations/FileCacheReader.php on line 202 Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /media/www/hollywood/Web/releases/20150325105258/vendor/doctrine/common/lib/Doctrine/Common/Annotations/FileCacheReader.php on line 202 'The Big Wedding' Review: A Big, Messy Family Equals a Big, Messy Comedy
    By: Jenni Miller Apr 25, 2013
    It's impossible to write about The Big Wedding without damning it with faint praise. It has the sort of cast that once would have once been a selling point but is now cause for skepticism, and its sprawling plot is haphazard at best. It's worth a chuckle or two, but nothing happens that you couldn't guess from sitting through the first half hour. It's probably better than writer/director Justin Zackham's script for The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, but you'd have to find someone who actually saw that saccharine mess to know. Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro star as Ellie and Don Griffin, a divorced couple whose adopted son is getting married. Don is shacked up with Ellie's former best friend Bebe, played by Susan Sarandon, who's become a close mother figure to the grown Griffin brood. Unfortunately for Bebe, the groom-to-be Alejandro (Ben Barnes, wearing a lot of bronzer) never told his Catholic mother back in Colombia that his parents are divorced, and since she's on her way to the nuptials, he asks Ellie and Don to pretend to still be married. Why anyone goes along with this is beyond logic — but logic isn't important here. What is important is that there are plenty of awkward sexual situations (De Niro listing euphuisms for cunnilingus!), bodily functions (De Niro getting vomited on!), and slapstick (De Niro being punched in the face!). The rest of the plot is rather exhausting to get into and plays on all sorts of icky cultural stereotypes. Alejandro's biological sister Nuria (Ana Ayora) is a gorgeous, hypersexual Latina who doesn't realize she should make men work for it until Ellie tells her about American woman's mores and some sort of possibly feminist jibber-jabber. (If Zackham read any of the hand-wringing essays or books on hook-up culture, he'd realize this is complete BS.) Alejandro's mom doesn't speak English and mostly clutches her rosary while looking on disapprovingly. Topher Grace appears as Alejandro's brother, a doctor who decided at 15 that he'd stay a virgin until he fell in love, an idea that he tosses out as soon as Nuria sheds her clothes to go for a dip in their pond. Katherine Heigl is yet another sibling with problems; she left her husband because they couldn't get pregnant, but now she's upset because he hasn't tried to get in touch with her even though she left him. Amanda Seyfried is Alejandro's fiancée; her parents are WASP-y racists who are apparently horrified that their daughter is marrying someone wearing a lot of bronzer. There's some kerfuffle about Catholicism, so they've hauled in Robin Williams to appear as a priest; he actually plays it pretty straight, which is probably for the best. The themes are: double standards, fear of revealing our true selves to the ones we love, and uproarious revelations. Except not that uproarious. Based on the French film Mon frère se marie, The Big Wedding is ultimately as forgettable as its generic title. Zackham relies on 360 degree pans and treacly music to try and rouse the audience to care, but that's no replacement for a decent script. The only thing that sticks is De Niro's saucy satyr, which is a refreshing change from his more recent films. Keaton and Sarandon are a pleasing pair, and they deserve not only much better than this, but their own movie about cool female friends in their fifties. In fact, if everything about the wedding was scrapped and this was rewritten as a dramedy about the complicated relationship between these three, you might have an interesting movie. More: What Is Robin Williams' Best Movie?You're Cordially Invited to a Rom-Com From Our Partners:Eva Longoria Bikinis on Spring Break (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • 'At Any Price' Review: Zac Efron Is All Grown Up
    By: Jenni Miller Apr 18, 2013
    At Any Price is a movie that desperately wants to be taken seriously, but it fails to leave a mark. Writer/director Ramin Bahrani's fifth feature film is a family drama that combines the desperation of the middle class businessman trying to stay afloat with the hot button issue of genetically modified crops, then throws in a chafing father/son relationship and the everyday disappointments of growing up. Somehow, it's both too much and not enough. The Whipple family and their problems encapsulates the predicament of Midwestern famers who are driven to desperate measures to stay afloat. This isn't the same homestead that the ancestors of Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) once farmed; it's big biz agriculture, which means Henry's out hustling genetically modified seeds and snatching up land from graveside families of freshly dead farmers. His Glengarry Glen Ross-style exhortations to "Always Be Closing" is emphasized by a sort of sweaty and pathetic performance from Quaid, who manages to be both charming and loathsome. Naturally, Henry has a favorite son, the athletic and handsome Grant (Patrick Stevens), whom Henry and his wife Irene (Kim Dickens) actually roll out a red carpet for in anticipation of his return. (Surprise: He's more interested in traveling the world than returning to Henry's clutching embrace.) That leaves Dean (Zac Efron) to take over the family business, even though he'd much rather hang out with his sh*tkicker friends and race cars and make out with his hot girlfriend Cadence (Maika Monroe). The cinematography is sweeping and beautiful; those amber waves of grain sway hypnotically, lulling us into the sort of complacency that makes it perfectly acceptable to eat food that was tweaked out in a lab. Efron and Quaid are a perfect father and son pair: the Type A aging golden boy versus the fiery-tempered teen who eventually trades his sleeveless T-shirts for a nicely pressed button-up. Of course, dressing like your dad and actually having an affair with his mistress (Heather Graham, in a role as thankless as Dickens') is another. T The core idea of At Any Price is to put a human face on the changing nature of agriculture, and not just how it affects the food on our shelves but the farmers who've had to change the nature of their livelihood to keep pace. Trying to build a drama around an idea is difficult, especially such a big and political one. The dynamics between Henry and Dean are nothing new or interesting; the only time you really feel the pain of intergenerational disappointment is when Henry meets with his father and you see that it's all a game of trying to live up to a father figure that will never be satisfied. At Any Price also deals with the shadier nature of the corn business, but it's a dramatic development that lacks the sort of urgency that the title of the movie implies. Although on paper it would seem the stakes are high in At Any Price, documentaries about subsidized farming or GMO crops are far more alarming. 2.5/5 More: Zac Efron Surrounded By Dildos and More Bizarre NewsTribeca 2013: 15 Movies That Belong On Your Radar From Our Partners:Eva Longoria Bikinis on Spring Break (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • Review: 'Antiviral' Is a Creepy, Promising Debut for David Cronenberg's Son
    By: Jenni Miller Apr 13, 2013
    Brandon Cronenberg's first feature film, Antiviral, is a creepy enough tale of our society's celebrity obsession taken to a whole new level. In the nearish future, people are no longer satisfied with paparazzi upskirt shots or leaked sex tapes, but are driven to infect themselves with viruses culled from the very bodies of the rich and famous. They even eat meat grown from cells harvested from their favorite celebrity. Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class, Friday Night Lights) puts in an effective performance as Syd March, an employee of the Lucas Clinic, which is one of many companies that harvests and sells precious diseases from celebrities. The clinic's most famous resource is gorgeous Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), a superstar whose genesis isn't clear and doesn't matter. All that matters is that people will pay top dollar to get close to her, even if that means a shot of Herpes simplex in the lip to mimic a kiss from her. Syd has a side business smuggling diseases out of the clinic the most surreptitious way possible — using his own body. Whatever disease Geist had last killed her, so he's got to find the cure before succumbing to the mystery illness, all while avoiding the various parties that are interested in the precious cargo he's carrying in his bloodstream. When Syd's healthy, he's precise and detached, with a touch of languid sensuality; once he starts getting sick, he's red-faced and sweaty, and he flops around a lot. That's pretty much it for Landry, and even so, his performance is really the only one worth noting. Gadon, who appeared in Brandon's father David Cronenberg's films A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis, is gorgeous, and that's all that's asked of her. It's difficult to complain about underdeveloped characters in a movie about a shallow society, but varying the film's visual style would made up a little for the thin plot and characters. Most of the sets are slick and white with splashes of red, and Landry Jones is either front and center or otherwise dominating every scene. There are plenty of long tracking shots where we're left to focus on Landry Jones' red ponytail, which grows increasingly disheveled as he gets sicker and sicker. There are tantalizing shifts in tone when Syd travels outside of the Lucas Clinic or his own sterile apartment, but things never get quite as down and dirty as one would hope. There are hints at something really nasty, something worse or more disturbing than eating a delicious Geist steak, but it doesn't surface. Cronenberg shows promise in Antiviral, while leaning a bit too heavily on the plot's central premise. Making society's obsession with consumerism and celebrity grossly literal is interesting at first, but Cronenberg doesn't go far enough in developing these ideas of celebrities as "group hallucinations" or the infections as "biological communion," as one character describes it. The customers come across as pathetic uber-fans, but that judgment seems to come from the filmmaker and not necessarily the other characters; after all, it's a booming business with its own seedy underground of collectors, traders, and smugglers. There's just not the same frisson of dread and arousal found in the best body horror. The movie tosses around many ideas about consumption and celebrity, but it's not very meaty (if you'll excuse the term). For all the close-ups of needles puncturing skin, slimy meat, and gobs of dark red blood, Antiviralis a little too clinical. Cronenberg even tosses in some half-baked gender theory at the end, about penetration and self-penetration and mutation, but it doesn't gel. Still, it's a promising stab at feature film for the young filmmaker, who is definitely one to watch. 3/5 More:Jackie Robinson's Iconic Career Deserves Better Than '42''Scary Movie V' Is Not About Scary Movies'Disconnect' Is Very Serious About, Very Scared Of The Internet  From Our Partners:Eva Longoria Bikinis on Spring Break (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • 'Disconnect' is Very Serious About, Very Scared of The Internet
    By: Jenni Miller Apr 11, 2013
    Disconnect is the Crash of the Internet age. Like the Best Picture-winner the stories are somewhat interconnected. It also takes itself very, very seriously. Although it has some salient points about how the Internet has affected our relationships, Disconnect comes off more like a sort of 21st century Reefer Madness about technology. The phrase "concern-trolling" comes to mind. One of its many definitions is when someone appears to empathize with a troubling situation, but that concern is really condescending or, worse yet, barely masked schadenfreude and derision. Although I don't actually think that writer Andrew Stern and director Henry-Alex Rubin (Murderball) are enjoying the paces they put these characters through, the overall effect is one of insincerity. Although the Internet can be a hazardous place for people of all ages, these characters' stories come across as Lifetime movie fodder. The kid who's humiliated via Facebook by two male peers isn't just withdrawn, he pouts at the world from beneath the most impressive bangs this side of Thrasher Magazine. One of his bullies is, of course, bullied himself by his resentful dad, a former cop who had to become a PI to support them after his wife died. In another subplot, a hot teen makes money getting his kit off for strangers with webcams and lives in a sort of flophouse owned by the sleazy pseudo-pimp who runs the cam site. When a journalist sniffs out this webcam ring as a great story, the line between professional and personal get blurry. For a grieving mother and wife, the succor of an online support group inadvertently gets her sucked into a phishing scam that almost ruins her and her husband's lives. Maybe if Disconnect focused on just one of these stories, or even two interconnected ones, it wouldn't come off so overwhelmingly maudlin. Some of the concerns are terribly dated or simply ludicrous; I can't get over the fact that the term "sexcam" is used, as well as the weirdly hysterical idea of a sweatshop of possibly underage teens lured into the world of web-camming with a hot meal and a place to crash. The movie can be effective in parts, though. The Facebook bullying plotline is painfully relevant, even though it's played for high melodrama. It gives us all a disturbing look at how easy social media has made bullying, and how hard it is to escape it. Disconnect gives some underused actors a chance to gnaw some scenery. Jason Bateman's role of the grieving and angry dad allows him to explore his darker, more sensitive side — some of his scenes are the most affecting. Andrea Riseborough is a wonderful chameleon who dons sensible suits and French-tipped manicures for her performance as a news anchor hoping to bring her career to the next level. Alexander Skarsgard is oddly effective as an emotionally stunted husband, even though it's hard to take him really seriously as an office drone. The rest of the cast — Max Thieriot, Paula Patton, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Michael Nyqvist, and Colin Ford — are decent enough, given what they have to work with. Fashion designer Mark Jacobs, who plays Harvey the webcam pimp, is an amazing bit of stunt casting, though he shouldn't quit his day job. Disconnect is oddly dark and murky, but luckily cinematographer Ken Seng left his Project X shaky handheld style at home. Max Richter is an incredible composer, but in conjunction with the overripe dramatics onscreen, it all becomes a bit much. We get it, people are disconnected from each other, their feelings, and their sexuality, but isn't there some room for happiness and joy that isn't tinged with pain amid all this tragedy? 2/5 MORE:Alexander Skarsgard Uncovers Horrible Truths in 'Disconnect' Exclusive Clip'Disconnect': See the Bigger Picture From Our Partners:Eva Longoria Bikinis on Spring Break (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • 'The Company You Keep' Review: Shia LaBeouf Can't Match Robert Redford's Gravitas
    By: Jenni Miller Apr 03, 2013
    What happens when '60s radicals go underground, take on new identities, and resurface to live downright suburban lives? So many of us can look back at different eras of our lives and say that we were different people, but for some members of groups like the Weather Underground, it's quite literally true. The Company You Keep takes its cues from those members of the Underground who left the group and remained fugitives, whether literally on the run or figuratively, with new names and lives. What's especially interesting is that these radical leftists, who some have called terrorists, are now our parents and grandparents, our lawyers and professors, living normal — one might even say bourgeois — lives. That's the case with Jim Grant (Robert Redford), an upstanding citizen, father, and lawyer who takes on the sort of do-gooder cases that are usually the bread and butter of avowed bleeding hearts and not well-to-do widowers. When a former Weather Underground member named Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in, the story falls in the lap of Ben Shepard, a hungry young reporter played by a bespectacled and smarmy Shia LaBeouf. Once Ben starts sniffing around, Jim's guard goes up, which only makes the journalist more curious. What unfurls is a network of former Weathermen, some of whom still live under the radar and on the run, and others that left the group before things got too hairy. None of them are particularly thrilled to see their former comrade come calling, either. Ben's trying his damndest to stay on top of the story even as the trail takes him across the country, but Jim's one step ahead of him. The question is what he's running away from or, as Ben suspects, towards. RELATED: What Do You Think of Shia LaBeouf's Journalist Impression? The Company You Keep gives up its secrets too readily. Sharon Solarz is more than happy to grant her only jailhouse interview to Ben so she can expound on her radical values, though it's not clear why she was planning to give herself up or how the FBI managed to catch her beforehand. The FBI agents are just a tad too cartoonish, like Terrence Howard's suspicious Agent Cornelius and Anna Kendrick's Diana, who helps Ben out a little simply because he's the kind of jackass who would ask a former flame for such a favor. Other flourishes get lost in the mix; there are nods to the changing landscape of journalism, like Ben's harried boss played by Stanley Tucci, and a truncated subplot that gives you the feeling something was left on the cutting room floor, to the detriment to the story. It's hard to deny the gravitas of Robert Redford, whether as a patron of the arts, a director, or an actor. His strength of character lends The Company You Keep an air of seriousness that benefits this promising thriller, but neither he nor the impressive cast can keep this film moving. Some of the scenes are wonderfully tense, but the energy lags when the focus shifts to Ben's storyline. He does get journalism points for using a microfiche reader, though. The movie already clocks in at 125 minutes, so some of Jim's cross-country travels could have been trimmed. The quality of the filmmaking, from cinematography to the music by Cliff Martinez, is hard to find fault with, but The Company You Keep doesn't linger after the credits roll. 3/5 [Photo Credit: Sony Classics] From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • Review: Tyler Perry's 'Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor' Left Us Speechless
    By: Jenni Miller Mar 29, 2013
    Minor spoilers to follow. Tyler Perry's Temptation is the kind of over-the-top drama that leaves you speechless as the credits abruptly begin to roll. Perry doesn't bother trying to cloak his morality tale with details like fully developed characters or insightful dialogue or logic. The heartbreaking story of Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is introduced by her marriage counselor sister as a warning to all young married woman who have their eyes on someone else. Judith was once a happily married woman who was led into temptation by an intense, rich man who promised to appreciate her in all the ways her husband didn't. Sounds fairly standard, right? Well… no. Judith works as a therapist for a matchmaking service owned by Janice (Vanessa Williams), a glamorous older woman with a French accent who may or may not be running escorts on the side. Her coworker Ava is played by Kim Kardashian, a true feat of stunt casting that's only made all the more impressive by her inability to inject the slightest bit of emotion into her steady stream of insults. Judith has designs on starting her own practice as a marriage counselor but her husband Brice (Lance Gross) wants to wait until they get more settled. Her frustration comes into full flower soon after a young social media exec comes in to the office to strike up a deal with Janice. Harley (Robbie Jones) begins coming on to Judith almost immediately. At first, she finds it easy to resist. Brice is the only man she's ever been with — a detail that Harley finds amazing — and he's a good man, a sensible guy, and it probably doesn't hurt that he looks like a finely chiseled Greek god. But those perfect oblique muscles will only get him so far: after Brice forgets her birthday for the second year in a row and rejects her advances one night when she wants to get frisky in the kitchen, Harley starts looking a whole lot better. A large chunk of the movie is spent on a somewhat boring back-and-forth between Harley and Judith, with some extraordinarily strange asides tossed in. For instance, singer and actress Brandy plays Brice's coworker Karen, a haunted young woman who's on the run from an abusive ex. (Did I mention Brice is an incredibly handsome pharmacist?) Their other coworker is an older woman who can be counted on to say something crazy about Valium or lesbians at any given time. You could get whiplash from how quickly the tone goes from comedy to high drama, but at some point the drama transmogrifies into sheer absurdity with a very nasty undertone. RELATED: Can Tyler Perry Break Out of Tyler Perry? As you'd guess from the title, religion is a strong theme here, which is par for the course in Perry's films. It's very much a tale of good versus evil, and Perry is an Old Testament-style deity raining hellfire and brimstone down on his characters. It's not enough that they might be unhappy or heartbroken or full of regret, but they must pay dearly and cruelly. At the same time, religion is subject to the movie's tonal whims as well. Judith's mother Sarah (Ella Joyce) is a religious woman who raised her daughter in the church, but by the end of the movie, I wouldn't have been totally surprised to see her try to perform a full-on exorcism. Besides the rather sadistic treatment of its characters, Temptation has an incredibly troubling scene that kicks off the last third of the movie, when things get really dark and mean. Judith and Harley are returning from a business trip to New Orleans on Harley's private jet. Judith got a makeover before she left (with help from Ava, naturally) and has been partaking of the many adult beverages NOLA has to offer. The flirting gets pretty steamy between them, but when Harley goes to touch and kiss her, she tries to stop him. She tells him no repeatedly and loudly and physically tries to defend herself. "Now you can say you resisted," he tells her, and the scene fades into some sort of embrace. Later, Judith is shell-shocked and tells Harley she never wants to see him again. She goes to take a shower but stops to stare into the foggy mirror. She reflects back on the scene on the plane, but it's… a love scene? Really? I don't even know how to untangle this. There are so many ways to interpret this chain of events, and none of them are acceptable. Any sort of goodwill or patience I'd had for Temptation and its bizarro world disappeared with a poof. Temptation is worth watching in the same way a movie like Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven is worth watching: it's such an audaciously ridiculous movie that you have to see it for yourself. 1.5/5 [Photo Credit: KC Bailey/Lionsgate] You Might Also Like:15 Oscar-Winning Nude Scenes10 Insane 'Star Wars' Moments You Didn't Notice
  • Review: 'The Croods' Works, But It Isn't Reinventing the Wheel
    By: Jenni Miller Mar 21, 2013
    The Croods will entertain smaller children with its bright colors and funky animal creations, but anyone looking for more than that will be sorely disappointed. The plot is, shall we say, crudely simple: A family of cave-dwellers must abandon their way of life when the tectonic plates shift, causing a ripple effect of natural disasters that threaten not just their cave but their lives. The future beckons, and the Croods' guide is Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a slightly more evolved human who knows about things like fire, shoes, and belts — specifically, a sloth named Belt who holds his pants up and acts as adorable comic relief. Guy also serves as a romantic interest for our heroine Eep (Emma Stone) and the burr in Daddy Crood's backside, an old school Neanderthal type with a low-hanging brow and a fiercely overprotective nature. The push/pull dynamic of the Croods' fear of the future and desire to learn more about Guy's world (and also not die) is a decent foil to the more personal tension between our heroine Eep and her dad Grug (Nicolas Cage). In this world, sneaking out at night could lead to certain death, and the family has only survived so far because Grug is strong and cautious. "Fear keeps us alive. Never not be afraid," he tells his family, just in case we didn't get the point. RELATED: 'The Croods' Star Emma Stone Teaches Ryan Reynolds What a Gif Is — Video Eep is at that shaky time in a teen girl's life where she's still her daddy's baby but also longs for sunshine and adventure and love. Guy's the one who urges them towards a mystical place called Tomorrow, and eventually Grug's gotta decide if he wants to keep up with the times or stay behind. The majority of the movie consists of the Croods mock-fighting with each other and chasing or being chased by large animals, strung together by hollow emotional interactions between the characters. The story itself has promise, but its execution is lacking. The strangest thing about The Croods is that its talented voice cast is so bland as to be unrecognizable. The charming Stone is lost behind her character's muddy identity, which switches between a present-day teen and a Neanderthal with overpowering strength and the ability to walk and run on her hands and feet. Keener's character Ugga, Eep's mom, is nearly invisible, and mostly serves as a body to transport the obnoxious toddler Sandy. Cloris Leachman voices Gran, a character that allows writers/directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders (Space Chimps) to flex their Catskill-era comedy skills when it comes to jokes about mother-in-laws that are too mean or stubborn to die. Thankfully, The Croods does offer viewers something to look at while the characters go on their interminable trip. Although the Croods and Guy themselves leave something to be desired in terms of design, the environments they travel through are inventive, wildly colorful, and fun. Granted, we're not talking about a ParaNorman-like attention to detail, but it's something to look at while you're biding your time. The animals they encounter are strangely cute, too, like the weird Corgi/alligator that Thunk Crood (Clark Duke) adopts and named Douglas. The 3D is fine and doesn't feel like too much of a rip-off, but it's not necessarily going to blow your mind. Still, there's something missing if the most interesting and memorable thing in your movie is a pink sloth that doubles as a belt. Hopefully, parents are ready to hear their little ones imitate Belt's "Dun dun DUNNNN!" and buy all the Belt-branded merchandise sure to follow. 2.5/5 You Might Also Like:15 Oscar-Winning Nude ScenesYoung Jack Black Is Totally Unrecognizable
  • 'Admission' Review: Tina Fey and Paul Rudd Avert Cute Overload, Deliver Charm
    By: Jenni Miller Mar 14, 2013
    Admission is an altogether pleasing entry in the romantic comedy genre, with genial, three-dimensional performances from stars Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Lily Tomlin, and Nat Wolff. It's a no-brainer to finally have two of the most likable comic talents in Hollywood appear opposite each other in a smallish and smart comedy, and although it would be easy for Fey and Rudd to skate by on their respective charms, Admission isn't quite as fluffy as the trailers would have you believe. The film is bit like director Paul Weitz's 2002 film About A Boy, in that a grown-up is forced by a precocious child to reassess his/her life. In the film, Fey's character Portia Nathan has already been facing some major life changes when she meets an incredibly smart young Princeton hopeful named Jeremiah Balakian (Wolff) whose life she has the power to change. Portia is an admissions officer for Princeton who's spent her whole life trying to be the opposite of her mom Susannah (Tomlin), a first-wave feminist who is as quick to chop her own wood as to wield a shotgun at an unwelcome houseguest. Portia has a passionless relationship with a Princeton professional (Michael Sheen) who awkwardly pats her on the head when she's feeling amorous, but she sucks it up and is happy, more or less. Their Ivory Tower lifestyle of cocktail parties and conferences isn't conducive to having children, something she thought they agreed on until Mark leaves her for his pregnant mistress. Portia is left to find out what she wants for herself, and begins to realize what her dreams don't look anything like she thought. RELATED: 'Admission' Star Tina Fey on Paul Rudd and What She and Amy Poehler Will Host Next Like its title, Admission works on several levels. There is plenty here about motherhood and the many forms it takes, from the interest the admissions officers take in their own applicants to Portia's relationship with Jeremiah. Portia and Susannah's relationship could have been explored more, especially in light of the generation gap between first wave feminists and the women who enjoy the fruits of their labor; it's loaded and bristling with resentment and pain that speaks to the greater political dynamic as much as it does the mother/daughter relationship. There's a slightly mean subplot about workplace politics among women with Portia, her competitive coworker Corinne (Gloria Reuben), and their boss Clarence (Wallace Shawn), and it would have been interesting to explore that dynamic as well, especially since Corinne goes out of her way to point out she's a working mom, which means Portia is saddled with extra work because she has all that extra time what with not being a mother. Paul Rudd is one of the most charming actors in Hollywood. Pairing him with Fey is a genius move, but a dangerous one. They could have easily fallen into a broad slapstick, but they're actually complimentary, bringing out a warmth and depth that could have easily been overlooked or underplayed. There's even a little touch of About a Boy in Rudd's John Pressman, a former classmate of Portia's who spends his time running around the world to fix other people's problems instead of facing his own. John adopted a kid on his travels, the adorable and, yes, precocious Nelson (Travaris Spears), a relationship that's funny but also quite tender. It's no secret that the yin and yang of John and Portia are meant to balance each other out over the course of the movie, and although things get a bit rushed near the end, it's still sweet to watch it unfurl. Wolff, who used to appear on the kids' show The Naked Brothers Band, is invigorating to watch as an autodidact whom John has taken under wing. Admission is intricately constructed from the inside out, by which I mean if it had a weaker script or flatter direction or a less talented cast, it would be filed away and forgotten like so many other dusty rom-coms. Luckily, the end product is richer and more nuanced. It's not fair to compare Tina Fey's character Liz Lemon on 30 Rock to Portia, especially since Fey didn't write the script for Admission. The parallels are hard to miss, though, especially given each character's marital status and decidedly ambivalent attitude towards children. (Coincidentally, Sheen also played a Liz Lemon love interest on 30 Rock.) At some point, Liz Lemon became less of an ally to brainy single women and more of a caricature; it didn't feel like she was laughing with the Liz Lemons of the world but more at them. It's hard not to feel a little bitter about it. RELATED: Tina Fey Is 'Struggling' Now That '30 Rock' Is Done Although Portia is more sympathetic, Fey brings the baggage of Lemon with her to future endeavors, or at least to those roles where she plays brainy single women questioning their childless lives. (Let's not forget that Lemon was married and mommy'd up by the end of the show, either.) At the same time, these questions are relevant to many women's lives. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't; similarly, filmmakers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. At the very least, it's refreshing to see a romantic lead in her thirties treated like an attractive, sexual being instead of a punch line. Susannah is also portrayed as a sexy, beautiful woman that men still flock to, too. Despite these misgivings, I was won over by Admission, which, frankly, left me a little verklempt by the end. 3/5 You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! Stars Who Have Lost Roles For Being Too Hot (Celebuzz)
  • Review: 'The Last Exorcism Part II' Outstays its Welcome
    By: Jenni Miller Mar 01, 2013
    The Last Exorcism Part II begins by questioning the nature of identity and how it relates to our past. Are we defined by the events that have scarred us? How much power do we have in changing our natures and, in turn, our fate? These are the questions that our incredibly bendy friend Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is facing after she escapes from the events of the first film. The Last Exorcism Part II picks up where the first left off, with clips that quickly illustrate the events of The Last Exorcism for those who are just tuning in. That first film was a documentary-style flick about a preacher named (Cotton Marcus) Patrick Fabian who brings along a camera crew to film his last ever exorcism, a ritual that the preacher no longer believes in until he meets Nell, her father Louis (Louis Herthum) and her brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones, once again playing the creepy ginger card). It's not clear whether Nell is exhibiting symptoms of a mental breakdown, perhaps the result of sexual trauma, or if she's actually possessed. RELATED: 'The Last Exorcism Part II' Exclusive Clip: He's Still Out There What was successful about the first, an interesting take on the tired exorcism trope, was that it was really an examination of faith. It wasn't particularly important whether or not Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) was actuallypossessed, just that it caused Cotton to rethink his faith. A similar ambiguity, this time about identity and self-actualization and even sexuality, is played with in the sequel until about two-thirds of the way through, when screenwriters Damien Chazelle and Ed Gass-Donnelly throw any sort of mystery out the window and turn it into some freaky fake voodoo will-to-power nonsense. After a brief stint at a New Orleans institution, where a nurse secretly snipped a chunk of Nell's hair for her gris-gris bag, Nell is hustled off to a halfway house for girls even though her grasp on reality is still a bit shaky. This house looks more like a really nice old house turned into a dorm, and the supposedly streetwise young girls are just PG-13 racy. With help from the guy who runs the halfway house — is he a therapist? A social worker? — Nell decides she's more than her past, more than a damaged girl who is controlled by the small-minded fears instilled in her by her father. She stops wearing her cross and starts hanging out with the other girls in the house; she even gets a job as a housekeeper at a hotel and begins an awkward romance. The demon inside her — call it Abalam or PTSD or a psychosexual freakout — begins to play tricks on her again. Is she crazy? Is there a cult after her? Is Abalam on the loose? What is the devil inside her? Although it lingers a little too long on the build-up, this is the most enjoyable part of the movie. Bell is interesting to watch, beyond her ability to contort her body, and it's sweet to see Nell bloom. She's equally talented at portraying someone who's losing her grip. Chazelle and Gass-Donnelly, who also directed, try a mishmash of answers that take us through a meeting with the aforementioned nurse, Cecile (Tarra Riggs), and other followers of what Cecile calls "The Right Hand Path." What happens is a sort of grab bag of religious and occult symbols, from voodoo veves and other magical symbols that are painted on walls (and catch fire!) to mysterious talk of some sort of end-of-days stuff. They even name-check Baron Samedi. That's cool and all, but it doesn't make a lot of sense in context except as a parallel to the Christian rituals in the first film. It looks like the screenwriters did some research, but the bulk of it seems to have come from movies like The Believers and the New Age section of their local bookstore, and it only serves to exoticize these belief systems. That's a nitpicky detail compared to the bigger issue, which is that the audience is bludgeoned with daft answers to Nell's problem. They do raise some interesting questions about identity, destiny and perhaps religion itself that are impossible to discuss without giving away the ending. Still, it's unwieldy at best. RELATED: 'Last Exorcism Part II': 6 Do's And Don'ts For Horror Sequels One small bone we're thrown is that Gass-Donnelly doesn't use the same shaky-cam technique that Daniel Stamm favored in the first film. Although it worked to the movie's favor, it can be rough for those prone to motion sickness. It should also be noted that Chazelle and Ed Gass-Donnelly weren't involved in the first movie; screenwriters Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland didn't return for sequel duty. It will be interesting to see who turns up for the third Last Exorcism. The third? Sure, it hasn't been announced yet, but it would take an act of God (or perhaps Abalam) to put an end to this story. 2.5/5 [Photo Credit: CBS Films]
  • 'Dark Skies' is Scarier Than Felicity's Short Haircut
    By: Jenni Miller Feb 22, 2013
    No one is more surprised than I am that I liked Dark Skies, only because when the trailers are inscrutable and studios keep it away from critics, well, we can connect the dots. This isn't the case. Dark Skies is well written and executed, with effective sound design, good performances from the cast, and eerie creatures that are left mostly to our imagination. Frankly, it's baffling. Keri Russell (The Americans) and Josh Hamilton (The House of Yes, Kicking and Screaming) play the believable, likable Barretts, a couple that's hit a rough patch in their marriage. Daniel lost his job, Lacy's struggling as a real estate agent, and the marriage bed is a little chilly. Their two kids Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sammy (Kadan Rockett) are smart, sweet kids who are the first witnesses to the weirdness happening at their house. Jesse and Sammy have a cute bedtime ritual where Jesse reads Sammy scary stories before they fall asleep using walkie-talkies. Their latest scary story is about the Sandman, whom Sammy blames for the pranks that the Barretts begin finding in the morning. As these occurrences escalate, it's clear there's no way that Sammy could be the perp. Like most good supernatural thrillers, the weird things happening can be ascribed to stress or nightmares or overactive imaginations. The Barretts become increasingly isolated from their friends and neighbors, which only adds to their stress. The way the Barretts experience this internal/external strife can be read as an interesting bit of social commentary; the family unit that stays together and remains strong is the only thing that can defeat whatever threatens them. Daniel is upset and ashamed he can't take care of his family, either financially or from whatever is stalking them. Jesse is mad at his parents for fighting and acting weird and making being a teen even more awkward than usual. Lacy thinks something out of this world is terrorizing them — or maybe it's her husband. This theory about the strength of the family unit is made even clearer later in the film when they meet with a sort of specialist in extraterrestrial phenomena. RELATED: 'Dark Skies': Keri Russell 'Would Kick The S**t Out' Of Aliens If They Invaded 'The Americans' This specialist, Edwin Pollard, is played by J.K. Simmons, who brings a gentle intelligence and mellow resignation that works really well. He could be a wild-eyed kook who wears X-Files shirts and "wants to believe," but he's not. He's just a bachelor with a bunch of cats who has given up fighting. (He has cats because dogs can sense, yes, aliens, and the barking used to keep Edwin up at night.) His performance is a good example of what makes Dark Skies a surprisingly solid sci-fi film. The premise is straightforward and simple, even though we're trained to expect all sorts of twists. It's not that the Barretts are dumb or exasperating, it's that they don't want to believe it's possible for aliens to exist or be interested in them. They don't want to be those people, the kind of people like Edwin who have totally isolated themselves from society because of what they've seen and experienced, even though they are quickly becoming exactly that. The weakest character is Jesse's putzy friend Ratner, the kind of obnoxious teen boy who talks about "bitches" and encourages his shy friend to be a little bit naughtier, but he has his place in the story as well. If the performances had been a little more exaggerated or the music a touch more dramatic, Dark Skies could have easily tipped into silly territory, but it very carefully walks that line. It takes these possibilities seriously and earnestly, which convinces the audience to do the same. There's a groundedness to the whole enterprise that's satisfying. There are one or two scenes that are simply jump scares or perhaps a little silly, but they're not so egregious that they take you out of the movie. (And, I'll be honest, jump scares work on me.) In the end, Dark Skies is a wholly enjoyable film that genre fans will enjoy. 3.5/5 From Our Partners:Miley & Liam’s Beach PDA: PICS (Celebuzz)25 Most Scandalous Celeb Twitpics (Vh1)