Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Programming Information and More Movie Reviews

First, for those of you who prefer serious commentary over pop-culture musings, you'll enjoy tomorrow, but bear with me for another week. As this is the end of the TV season for the most part, and the beginning of the summer movie season, I'll be review-happy for a little while. Over the summer, we may find more cerebral topics of conversation.

This afternoon, and next week, we'll be talking about movies I've seen lately, more television finale stuff, and eventually a Spiderman review/autopsy. I'll certainly be talking "Heroes" on Monday before the big show, I'll have a "Smallville" recap for the probably none of you that care, and I'll try to also post about "The Black Donnellys" (which is now available in its entirety online, all 13 episodes!). We'll talk "Lost" on Wednesday. And I'll throw some links and other keen business in there too.

Tomorrow, however, we'll get serious. I'll goof on John Maxwell a little bit, and then address the issue of Jerry Falwell, his death, his legacy, and how I respond to it all. So that may get heavy.


But for now, a couple capsule movie reviews:

Music and Lyrics
(Rated PG-13 for language, pop-starlet booty shaking, and Hugh Grant's attempted pelvic thrusts)

You probably saw the adverts and groaned. "Not another lame romantic comedy with Hugh Grant being self-effacing and [Random female lead] being cute and playing hard to get!" Well, don't worry, kids. It's exactly as you thought, but not as bad as you feared. In this surprisingly charming film, Grant plays Alex, the keyboardist of a formerly popular 80's band, who's now stuck working class reunions and state fairs. He gets the opportunity to write a new song for the latest female pop star Cora ("bigger than Britney and Christina put together" he's told), which could jumpstart his career. Problem A: He writes music, not lyrics. That was his former singing partner's job. Problem B: Song's due by Friday. Through a clunky twist of serendipity, he meets Drew Barrymore's talkative Sophie, and they end up finding the perfect harmony of their talents. (Cheesy reviewer pun: CHECK!) Do they get the song done in time? Does the pop princess like it? Will the two leads find love?

Most movies of this variety stop there, but those questions only get you an hour into the film. The deeper issues explored here are about giving up on yourself vs. trusting yourself to step out creatively. The issue of artistic integrity in a commercial world is touched upon. But are serious themes why you'd watch this movie? Of course not. You watch it for cute chemistry between the leads, fun supporting characters, and good laughs.

Well, I'd never have put these two leads together, but by the end of the film, I believe the pairing. I always have a soft-spot for Drew, knowing fully that she'll never give you Oscar-worthy work. And Hugh turns his usual self-effacement into an acute and hilarious self-awareness, as a former pop star coping with the fact that his artistic peak may be 20 years behind him.

The supporting cast includes Kristen Johnston (of "3rd Rock from the Sun") and Brad Garrett ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), who both do fine with comic relief. Haley Bennett plays Cora as both hypersexualized and totally spaced-out, and you come to feel a little sorry for her as a product of the industry who can't find herself.

The script is quite clever, and the faux-80's music and videos are dead-on for the era. The cast chemistry is good, and the movie is just fun. The singing is not perfect, but that's because it's all the actors' actual singing voices, so I totally forgive that.

Music and Lyrics is not perfect, and it's a little predictable, but ultimately it's a sweet tune worth a listen. Totally recommended.


Catch and Release
(Rated "PG-13" for language, some drug use, and frequent references and implications of 'sexy time.')

The greatest fear of a bride-to-be is the death of her fiance, and that's exactly how the movie starts. (No, I'm not giving you anything you wouldn't see in the trailer.) Jennifer Garner plays Grey, an almost-widow whose fiance Grady died in a fishing accident a few days before the wedding. The film is about how Grey tries to pick up the pieces, with the support of Grady's family and friends, and how she finds out she really didn't know her fiance that well after all.

How in the world is such a maudlin concept marketed as a romantic dramedy, you ask? Two reasons. First, one of the friends becomes a little too comforting. (Yes, now I'm giving stuff away.) Pretty soon, too. Maybe it's a rebound for her, I don't know. The "comedic" part is mainly due to Grady's friends, and primary falls on Kevin Smith's character Sam, who is childish and funny and lights up most of the scenes he's in.

[Side note: I had two different people tell me that Sam reminded them of me. I can take that two ways. Sam was kind, sensitive to Grey, supportive, funny, and loyal, and he fell into the role of mentoring a young boy without a father. That's pretty cool. On the other hand, Sam was also lazy, undependable, suicidal, and totally unserious. A slovenly man-child, albeit with a heart of something close to gold. I'm torn as to how I feel about this.]

I won't give away the ending, but it involves secrets of the past unearthed, which introduce new characters into the story and into Grey's life.

Did I like this movie? A few scenes, I really enjoyed. I appreciated one character's struggle with being in love with someone else's girl. But I really didn't like how quickly Grey jumped into bed with someone who is clearly not always a nice guy. And if Sam and the others were real friends, they would have said something about it, instead of just letting it happen. That's not cool.

If you really like Jennifer Garner, Kevin Smith, Juliette Lewis and/or fly fishing, go ahead and catch this one for a couple bucks' rental. If not, just release it and let it swim away. Its heart is kinda tiny.

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