Screen Junkies » Reviews http://www.screenjunkies.com Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:35:13 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/review-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/review-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 15:00:38 +0000 bgoldstein http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=263852 Despite all the fanboy hand-wringing, TMNT is not the childhood-defiling catastrophe that so many people predicted it would be. It’s also not a very good movie.

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By Dan Murrell

The Ninja Turtles franchise reminds me of my old high school: it’s very close to my heart and I had a lot of fun with it when I was young, but clinging to it would be a discouraging sign that I’m still living in the past.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seeks to update the franchise for a new generation, and it succeeds, in that it’s the same loud, dumb action film that we’ve come to expect from summer blockbusters. This film marks the first time that the Turtles have been on-screen in a live-action feature in over 20 years. While the three previous live-action films hold sentimental value to a generation of adults, the truth of the matter is that they aren’t very good. Some things never change.

I would say that the origin of the Ninja Turtles needs no explanation, but this film disagrees with me, as it spends a good chunk of its first hour retelling how our heroes came to be. I will give the movie credit for taking the story in a new direction. It’s a head-scratching new direction, but at least it’s original. It also adheres to Article 1 of the Modern Law of Reboots, which states that every character has to have known each other for their entire lives. At this point, I’m expecting Batman v Superman to open with a young Bruce Wayne cradling his dead parents’ bodies under the wreckage of baby Kal-El’s crashed spaceship.

The rest of the plot swings wildly between overly simplistic and needlessly complicated. I pine for the days when radioactive goo falling into a sewer grate passed as an acceptable superhero origin. It mainly boils down to the Turtles versus the Shredder, who may or may not be played by William Fichtner, who may or may not be a bad guy pretending to be good. The marketing has decided to be coy about it, so I’ll play along.

One plot point that does surface, for the second time this summer, is the villain’s quest for the heroes’ blood and the substances within. This is the third blockbuster movie in two years (after Star Trek Into Darkness and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) to use magic blood as a McGuffin, making it the strangest Hollywood trend since the rise of Liam Neeson as an action star. It does, however, lead to my favorite line in the movie: “I want you to drain every ounce of their blood. Even if it kills them.” I’m no molecular biologist, but I’ll go ahead and say that, yes, draining every ounce of any living being’s blood would definitely kill it.

Shockingly, the thing the film gets absolutely right is also the thing it has been most criticized for: the Turtles themselves. Despite the uproar over their new design (and they do still look slightly creepy), I bought these Ninja Turtles as a fun band of brothers out to do good. The voice work is solid, though Alan Ritchson’s Raphael sounds like a guy doing a bad Mark Wahlberg impression — much like Mark Wahlberg himself in Transformers: Age of Extinction. The biggest misstep is the casting of Tony Shalhoub as Splinter. Shalhoub is a fine actor, but his soft tones just don’t sound right coming out of a five-foot-tall anthropomorphized rat. When the action kicks in, though, the characters really shine and I felt some of that old magic kick back in.

The human side of the movie is more of a mixed bag. Megan Fox dominates the movie’s running time as April O’Neil, giving the exact performance that we’ve all come to expect from her. I think we’ve seen all the shades of Megan Fox that we’re going to see at this point. Will Arnett, as April’s cameraman Vern, is on-hand for comic relief, which succeeds mainly because Will Arnett is an inherently funny person. Abby Elliott gets a couple of nice moments as April’s roommate. William Fichtner does the best he can do with the character he’s given, though he often has to do the film’s heavy-lifting with a bunch of ridiculous exposition. And the rest of the actors, including Whoopi Goldberg and Taran Killam, are on-screen briefly in roles that could generously be described as thankless.

Despite all the fanboy hand-wringing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not the childhood-defiling catastrophe that so many people predicted it would be. It’s also not a very good movie. It’s too dumb, too underwritten and too uneven to call a success. It’s certainly not meant for the adults who grew up with the Turtles; even the callbacks to the original series seem forced and halfhearted. I’m also not sure it will land with kids, who might find the first hour too dark and tedious. But if the movie does succeed, it has laid the groundwork for what could be a fun series of movies with this group of Turtles. With the right story and the right balance of action and humor, I could see a sequel to this film being a lot of fun; and, much like my old high school, I might find myself dropping by for a little while to enjoy the memories.

Grade: C-

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Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/review-guardians-of-the-galaxy/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/review-guardians-of-the-galaxy/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:42:24 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=video&p=263643 Guardians of the Galaxy can best be described as a two-hour montage set to a 1970's Jock Jams mixtape (and that's a good thing).

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By Jared Jones

It’s rather fitting that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy would be the first film I’d review for Screen Junkies, as it’s a movie that seems damn near impossible to critique. Sure, Guardians adheres to many of the conventions we’ve come to expect from a comic book movie (dead parents, cryptically-introduced characters who speak entirely in exposition, etc.), and betrays most of its plot conventions before they are even established, but its absolute refusal to take itself seriously doesn’t exactly open the door for criticism.

Of course, then you see a wisecracking racoon unleash a barrage of machine gun fire while riding on the back of a talking treebeast, and you nearly pass out from the deluge of blood that rushes from your head to your nerd boner.

Guardians of the Galaxy can best be described as a two-hour montage set to a 1970′s Jock Jams mixtape, complete with some of the most intense and plain beautiful CGI your puny eyes may ever gaze upon. It’s the kind of movie Pete Hammond would describe as an “uproarious, fun-filled thrill ride!” while sucking on the taint of whatever PR firm had hired him to write it. For once, his blatant hyperbole would be accurate.

The story is a rather familiar one in terms of comic book adaptations: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted by a gang of intergalactic mercenaries (led by the always delightful Michael Rooker) after watching his mother succumb to cancer, and twenty some-odd years later, he is roaming the galaxy as a common, if wickedly inventive thief. That is, until he stumbles upon the Infinity Stone capable of destroying entire civilizations (DUN-DUN-DUN!) and is forced to band together with a crew of misfits and miscreants in order to save the galaxy. Yadda yadda yadda hijinks ensue.

But yes, back to the CGI. As someone who has always preferred his world-building to take place in our actual world, even I must admit that Guardians was able to create the kind of exceptionally detailed, fully realized CGI-scapes that make paying the extra $10 for 3D glasses worth it. Not that I have to, being a fancy film critic that I am now and all (*spins bow tie*). The post-opening credits scene, which sees Quill a.k.a “Star Lord” shimmy his way across a barren planet to steal the Casket of Ancient Winters/Tesseract/whatever, was the highlight for me in that regard. The whole sequence plays out like a steampunk take on the 1912 Utah opening from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and if you can’t get into that, the door is right over there.

That said, the inevitable success of Guardians will ultimately (and rightfully) be attributed to its cast and the witty repartee they develop. Marvel movies — and really, any comic book adaptation — only shine when they opt for the absurdist route, in my opinion, and director James Gunn‘s script never once pauses to talk about “destiny” or “fate” or whatever hackneyed cliches often punctuate comic book faire. A gravel-voiced Christian Bale speaking in platitudes about the moral weight that comes with being a cape-wearing crime fighter? I fart in your general direction, sir. A gravel-voiced Dave Bautista discussing his inability to understand metaphor? I’ll take two, please.

*Every* character in Guardians is the comic relief, Zoe Saldana‘s somewhat flat Gamora excluded, and that’s what makes the movie such a fun, effortless experience to watch. That, and the breakneck pace at which the film itself moves, because good God, does this flick hustle information past you like an irritated flight attendant on a frat bro-filled plane to Spring Break, Cancun. But on top of it all, Guardians of the Galaxy is just funny, plain and simple. Who would’ve guessed that a WWE star not named The Rock has legitimate comedic timing, or that Vin Diesel repeating the same line of dialogue over and over and over again would never not be hilarious? Spoiler alert: Bautista kills it, and I want a baby Groot-sized potted plant on my desk ASAP.

If I could lob one legitimate criticism at Guardians, it would be that of its villains. As I’ve noticed in more and more blockbuster action movies to come out in recent years, Guardians in the Galaxy would like you to believe that its bad guys — mainly, the Vader-esque Ronan — are all-powerful, menacing, genocidal killers, yet it never really commits to that narrative or establishes what exactly is motivating them (other than the classic standby of “world destruction”). Ronan and his cronies are merely blips on the radar who pop up when needed to cause a little mayhem, but they never really give the impression that they possess the destructive power that warrants the fear they instill.

Guardians’ PG-13 rating is most likely to blame for the movie’s lack of any real stakes or sense of impending doom, and I guess that’s forgivable. But just once, I’d like to see a quote unquote “popcorn flick” have the balls to actually commit to decisions it makes. If you’re going to kill off a character, kill off a character. If you’re going to have one character betray another, maybe establish a relationship between the two that last more than 30 seconds to give said betrayal some actual gravitas.

It’s a minor complaint in an otherwise glowing review, but something Marvel should maybe consider when developing Guardians of the Galaxy 2-8. Oh, did you not know that this movie is going to a box office juggernaut greenlit for a sequel by night’s end? Or that Chris Pratt is probably the next king of the box office? Because yeah, that’s all about to happen.

Grade: B+

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The Film Cult Presents: Crumb http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-crumb/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-crumb/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 16:58:12 +0000 Philip Harris http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=260214 WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! When I was a teenager, my neighbors let my parents borrow a bootleg VHS tape of Crumb, the documentary of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb. The cassette was...

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WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

When I was a teenager, my neighbors let my parents borrow a bootleg VHS tape of Crumb, the documentary of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb. The cassette was kept on the top shelf of the tallest bookshelf in our den because they thought it was far too adult for me or my younger brother. Maybe they’d forgotten I was over six feet tall. One afternoon, home alone from school, I popped the tape in our old VCR and was overwhelmed with sex: narrated sexual acts, graphic sexual drawings, and even a woman pornographer discussing the sexual appetite of the documentary’s subject. Thereafter, every afternoon I would fast-forward through the “boring” parts in order to get to the sex. I was in teenage boy heaven.

Eventually, my parents returned the tape, and I didn’t see Crumb again until last June when Turner Classic Movies showed it at eleven PM on a Saturday night. Jumping at the chance to revisit some of my old provocations, I decided to watch the film from beginning to end for the first time. I was astonished.  As a kid I’d relegated Crumb to the same category as the Hustler magazines I’d found in my uncles’ bathrooms. Childhood treasures rarely hold up once the veil of innocence is destroyed by forms, taxes, and Trader Joe’s, but this was not the case with Crumb. It didn’t take long to realize that Crumb wasn’t porn. It was an honest portrait of an artist and his dysfunctional family.

Robert Crumb is most famous for his 1968, one-page comic “Keep on Truckin’” which became a counterculture slogan in the late sixties and early seventies. He’s also famous for illustrating the cover art for Big Brother and the Holding Company’s album Cheap Thrills. After the fame of those two projects, he collaborated with such luminaries as writers Charles Bukowski and Harvey Pekar, illustrating many of Pekar’s American Splendor comics. Recently, Robert Crumb drew an unabridged depiction of the book of Genesis. He’s become so important to the world of comic illustration that for a cool thousand bucks you can purchase a six-volume, hardcover boxed set of his sketchbooks. By the time director Terry Swigoff convinced him to make the biographical documentary in the mid-nineties, Robert Crumb had already spent a lifetime trying to reconcile the tormented issues of his life through his art, providing Swigoff with an evocative wealth of material to (unapologetic pun incoming) draw upon. Crumb is relentless in its honesty, and it’s that honesty that both repels and endears us by the end of the film.

Early in the documentary, Robert Crumb admits to having been sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny. He obsessively draws women from his youth with whom he was infatuated. His depictions of sexual acts are uber-misogynist, turning women into sexual non-entities their pimply, deranged male counterparts use to act out various perversions. And yet, as evidenced in the film, women loved him. Throughout the movie, female fans are describing his large penis, offering to model for him, and defending his sexual fantasies. The conundrum is real for the viewer. Here is a strange man who uses his genius level talent to depict headless women in disgusting, racist, and nightmarish situations. Crumb pulls no punches in depicting the physiological foundation for his obsession with hardcore variances. The documentary’s message is clear: to understand what perverted the artist’s mind, one need look no further than his family.

Robert was one of five children: two brothers, who are featured in the film, and two sisters who decided not to participate. The familial portrait that emerges is one of parents constantly fighting, an abusive father who broke Robert’s collarbone as a child, and an amphetamine addicted mother. Charles, the oldest of the Crumb children, was also an artist, often taking after his tyrannical father by commanding Robert to draw for and with him. This fraternal overbearing affected Robert his whole life. In Crumb, now famous and wealthy, Robert confesses that he still thinks of Charles’ approval when he draws. Charles, who fought a physiological urge towards pedophelia his whole life, was also beaten regularly by their father, leaving such an indelible mark that in his adult life he never left his mother’s house, reread the stacks of novels in his room, and obsessively drew line designs in his notebooks. His depression is given the same raw treatment as Robert’s sexuality because the only way to portray Robert Crumb’s life is to go all the way in, to show Charles’ matted hair, his messy room, and the hatred in his face when he’s yelling at their mother. He’s the twisted, deranged heart of the documentary, and in tragic concordance, Charles committed suicide shortly after the documentary was released.

While Robert turned to sexual perversions and writing to save himself from insanity, his younger brother Max turned to painting and asceticism. Crumb shows him living in bleak circumstance, meditating on a bed of nails, eating near nothing, and devoting his life to sexual chastity after having molested female strangers on the subway in his youth. Due to his portrayal in the documentary, his paintings have taken on a life of their own, and he now supports himself through their sales. One of the film’s most harrowing moments is when Max demonstrates his ritual of swallowing and passing a 30-foot cloth ribbon through his body while seated atop his bed of nails. He is still alive and still lives in San Francisco.

Crumb‘s critical backbone is honesty. It’s a documentary that benefits from the participation of its still-living subject. By the end, we know who Robert Crumb is and the familial hell from which he came. That said, it’s easy to recognize his genius, to acknowledge the contribution he’s made to the world of comics, but it’s not as easy to forgive and accept his misogynist art. I would be remiss not to take I’m to task for it, to accept it as even remotely okay in terms of current gender-role representation. The questions I would ask are, why is the work famous? Why is it popular? Perhaps Robert Crumb has been one of the few talented and brave (re: crazy) enough artists to be honest about what’s on his mind, what haunts the recesses of his perversions. For an outcast kid from a family of depressed tyrants, maybe its all he had. Maybe, when he was being bullied and felt suicidal, his talent, dreams, and horny thoughts were all he had. At seventeen, Robert Crumb decided that becoming a great artist would be his greatest revenge, deciding to reject conforming when life rejected him. His art is complicated, but his story is crystal clear to anyone who’s ever hoped their art would save them.

Here’s the original extended trailer:

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Armond White Thought ‘Jack And Jill’ Was Just Great, Thank You http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/armond-white-thought-jack-and-jill-was-just-great-thank-you/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/armond-white-thought-jack-and-jill-was-just-great-thank-you/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2011 19:01:56 +0000 Penn Collins http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=236579 He also thought the war in Iraq was our nation's finest hour and P.F. Chang's has pretty authentic Chinese food.

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Not everyone hated Jack and Jill. Renowned critic (and equally renowned contrarian) Armond White of City Arts has published a review praising Adam Sandler’s new film in which he plays his own female twin. White opens up by claiming that Sandler’s films aren’t “dumb fun,” which I guess is technically true since they aren’t fun at all, and goes on to appreciate all the things that we never knew existed in a film whose biggest plot point is the fact that Adam Sandler is sometimes a girl.

Among the things Armond White think Jack and Jill addresses in his review:

  • Sibling Rivalry (eh, maybe)
  • A Style of Comedy (Through Embarrassment) That “Goes Back To The Greeks” (Ugh. Fine. Technically. I guess.)
  • Jack and Jill’s Strength Lying in the Fact That Sandler May Be The “Least Ethnically Abashed Jewish Film Comic outside the Borscht Belt.” (I don’t know where the Borscht Belt is, so I can’t weigh in here. I’m sorry.)
You get the idea. This guy is just operating on a different level of film criticism here (somewhat likely) and/or he’s a crazy asshole who wants people to write articles critiquing his critique (absolutely certain).
Either way, I guess someone liked Jack and Jill. Or claims to have, at least.

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Review: FX’s Wilfred http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-wilfred/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/review-fxs-wilfred/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2011 18:34:58 +0000 Reza F. http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=217102 “Wilfred” is off to a rough start.

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“Wilfred” takes aim at a subject seldom explored on cable television: Depression and existential ennui among America’s young, educated middle class. It’s an ambitious undertaking, a relevant topic, and an issue that’s plenty ripe for comedy. Unfortunately, “Wilfred” is off to a rough start, failing to deliver laughs or emotional depth, while offering a protagonist who’s simply too helpless to care about.

Man In Dog Suit Not Embarrassed To Be Seen With Elijah Wood

Interestingly enough, the first five minutes of the show are just about perfect. We meet Ryan (Elijah Wood), an anxious young man in a crisp suit who moves purposefully through his empty suburban home as he prepares to kill himself. He fails, of course, and the next day — through bleary eyes and a haze of self-disappointment — meets his hot young neighbor (Fiona Gubelmann) and her man-in-a-dog-suit (James Gann). Except to her, and to everyone else, it’s just a dog. A dog named Wilfred.

So there’s the story; Ryan sees a dog as a man. And they talk to one another. And Wilfred starts offering Ryan advice on how to live his life to the fullest. And Ryan begrudgingly accepts that advice, gradually breaking out of his straight-laced shell and learning to live for himself instead of others.

7 photosFiona Gubelmann

But what is Wilfred, exactly? A hallucination? A startling manifestation of Ryan’s apparent disconnect from the world around him? Hard to say, because there’s no real attempt to explain this development. Which is fine. We don’t need to know what Wilfred is; we’re content to assume he’s simply a byproduct of Ryan’s ongoing psychological ordeal — a coping mechanism, if you will. Or something.

In any case, he’s an asshole. As a dog, Wilfred appears to be just an ordinary mutt. As a man, he’s a gruff, pot-smoking slacker with no regard for rules, personal property, or social convention. He’s the perfect counterpoint to Ryan, who we learn was driven to suicide after years of passionless commitment to the pre-ordained yuppie lifestyle he never wanted, but couldn’t find the courage to reject.

So, yes, as you may have assumed by now, it’s essentially Fight Club, except Tyler Durden is a guy in a dog suit. The two basic elements are there: A down-on-life conformist seeking escape and a rough-and-ready rebel seeking little more than thrills. Which could make for great television, except for two major issues.

First, Ryan is frustratingly meek. He’s the Ben Stiller nice-guy archetype multiplied by a hundred — a scared protagonist who stutters and stumbles and shits his pants while people walk all over him. It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not. It’s annoying, and it sabotages any chance the audience might have had at relating to this character.

Secondly, the show is predictable. The first three episodes all follow the same basic plot structure, and that structure isn’t particularly interesting. “Wilfred” seems likely to meander, skipping from misadventure to misadventure while offering no real character development or story advancement, save for a few pre-determined milestones, which the viewer can instantly see on the horizon.

That said, I’m not willing to write off “Wilfred” completely. It has potential, if only in its core subject matter: The gradual rebirth of a jaded young man who just can’t take it anymore. That’s good stuff. That’s something people want to watch, but only if they care about the protagonist. Nobody cares about a guy who can’t even form a sentence without wringing his hands and shuffling his feet.

“Wilfred” premieres June 23 on FX.

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Screen Junkies DVD Rundown: May 31st http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/dvd/screen-junkies-dvd-rundown-may-31st/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/dvd/screen-junkies-dvd-rundown-may-31st/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2011 01:09:58 +0000 Jame Gumb http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=214196 DVD releases for May 31st, 2011

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It’s Tuesday, and you know what that means. Yes, it means you’re only five days away from your weekly sponge bath. But it also means new DVDs are hitting the shelves. Here’s the rundown of what’s available this week.

New Releases

Drive Angry Biutiful Passion Play Kaboom

 

Classics


Stanley Kubrick Collection Once Upon a Time in the West American Graffiti Legend

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What’s Playing This Weekend? http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/what%e2%80%99s-playing-this-weekend/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/what%e2%80%99s-playing-this-weekend/#comments Fri, 20 May 2011 23:23:38 +0000 Jame Gumb http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=213089 You look like you need to know what's playing! You also look a little jaundiced.

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It’s the weekend, and once again, the emails are pouring in, all of them asking the same question: “Hey, Screen Junkies! What’s playing this weekend?” What offends me most is the smug tone, as if you people are entitled to this information just because we’re a movie news site.
 
But alas, I’m just one man, a cog in the Break Media wheel. Who am I to stand in the way of the people’s will. No, it’s my job to give the masses what they want? And clearly, you want to know what’s playing this weekend. Well, buckle up, cause I’m about to tell you.
 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Jack Sparrow is back, and this time, it’s personal…or something like that.

Watch The New TV Spot For 'Pirates 4' Or "Die Trying"

It’s the forth friggen movie, so it’s hard to keep track. How does the latest installment hold up to its predecessors?
 
Best Review
The franchise is getting tired, but Penelope energizes it…
Richard Roeper – RichardRoeper.com
 
Worst Review
It’s never quite clear what the relationship between Jack and Angelica is. Sometimes it’s love, sometimes it’s hate; it probably depended on who was writing the script that day.
 
Tom Long – Detroit News
 
Our Recommendation
With a 36% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I have to think you’d be better off staying home and re-watching the first three. But if you’re a huge fan, you’re not going to listen to me anyway, so good luck.
 

Louder Than a Bomb

Louder Than a Bomb follows a group of Chicago high schoolers as they compete in a youth poetry slam.
 
Now that sounds like a film that was screaming to be made.
 
Best Review
Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel’s Louder Than a Bomb is an affecting and superbly paced celebration of American youth at their creative best.
 
Robert Koehler – Variety
 
Worst Review
Well, this is awkward. There are no negative reviews for this film. But I get paid by the word, so I’ll use this opportunity type a long and rambling sentence that serves no other purpose but to increase the size of my next paycheck.
 
Our Recommendation
Since the film is rocking a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, there’s no way I can tell you not to see this film. But I will tell you what my dad told me on my 18th birthday: “rhyming is for assholes.”
 

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris, a romantic comedy set in the city of lights, is the latest outing from director Woody Allen.

‘Midnight In Paris’ Trailer: Now It’s Owen Wilson’s Turn To Imitate Woody Allen

In all honesty, you should be able to determine whether or not you’ll love or hate the film based solely on that last sentence. There’s not a lot of wiggle room on this one.
 
Best Review
As a filmmaker, Allen has grappled with the temptations of repeating himself instead of forging a fresh path. You can feel that conflict here, and watching him work it out is exhilarating.
 
Peter Travers – Rolling Stone
 
Worst Review
Pure Woody Allen. Which is not to say great or even good Woody, but a distillation of the filmmaker’s passions and crotchets, and of his tendency to pass draconian judgment on characters the audience is not supposed to like.
 
Richard Corliss – TIME Magazine
 
Our Recommendation
The reviews for this film have been mostly positive. And like I said in the intro, if you enjoy Woody Allen’s films, you’ll love this movie. But if the thought of a romantic comedy set in Paris makes you sick to your stomach, then you’re probably better off staying home and having a nice romantic weekend with your adopted step daughter.

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Hey, What’s Playing This Weekend? http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/hey-whats-playing-this-weekend/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/hey-whats-playing-this-weekend/#comments Sat, 14 May 2011 00:48:29 +0000 Jame Gumb http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=212107 Below you will find a list of new films that are being released this weekend, along with the best and worst reviews we could find. I hope you're happy.

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Just about every Friday, at least one person emails us to say “Hey, Screen Junkies! What’s playing this weekend?” And every time, I’m forced to reply, “Mom, I’ve friggen told you before, just Google it instead of wasting my damn time I am not your secretary! See, this is exactly why dad left you for that guy who owned the antique store!”

But this week, I’ve decided to take a different approach. Below you will find a list of new films that are being released this weekend, along with the best and worst reviews we could find. I hope you’re happy, mom.

Priest

Priest tells the story of a priest. That’s about it. Oh, wait! There’s more.

New ‘Priest’ Trailer A Work Of Vampire Alarmism

Unlike most priests who do nothing but hear confessions and watch Justin Bieber videos, this priest spends his days killing vampires in a post-apocalyptic hell hole. Insert Detroit joke here.

Best Review
A surprisingly effective piece of genre filmmaking, littered with flaws but none so glaring as to sink the film as a whole.

Thomas Leupp – Hollywood.com

Worst Review
Lately, it feels like there are two things you can count on in a Screen Gems movie. 1) It will suck. 2) It will feature Cam Gigandet. And he will suck.

Alonso Duralde – HitFix

Our Recommendation
With a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I recommend staying away from this priest like he was Father Geoghan.

bridesmaids

This week seems to be filled with rather obvious movie titles. Priest, Bridesmaids, etc.

Jon Hamm's Soup Is Done In 'Bridesmaids' Red-Band Trailer

In case you couldn’t figure it out, the film is about a group of bridesmaids. Go figure.

Best Review
Is this the female version of The Hangover? No – Bridesmaids is much funnier and way more heartfelt and human than that film.

Devin Faraci – CHUD

Worst Review
Cringe-inducing, uneven, juvenile, overlong and painfully unfunny. It’s a witless blend of crudeness, rudeness and lewdness which sets a new low for American comedy.

Avi Offer – NYC Movie Guru

Our Recommendation
After watching the trailer, I was skeptical. But I should have had more faith in producer Judd Apatow. And since it has an RT ratting of 90%, I’ve gotta say the critics who don’t like this film are definitely in the minority. No, really, I have to say that because 10% is by definition a minority.

Everything Must Go

When a drunken salesmen loses his job and his wife in the same day, he is forced to sell all of his belongings via yard sale to make ends meet.

Will Ferrell Is A Broken And Miserable Man In ‘Everything Must Go’

While this sounds like it could be the plot of your typical Will Ferrell film, it’s anything but.

Best Review
Will Ferrell delivers a performance of implosive intensity that rings true in every detail.

Peter Travers – Rolling Stone

Worst Review
It lives up to its title in ways its maker never intended.

Ty Burr – Boston Globe

Our Recommendation
From the look of it, Will Ferrell is trying to follow in the steps of Bill Murray by proving himself as a dramatic actor. His first outing, Stranger Than Fiction, got the ball rolling. And the mostly positive reviews for Everything Must Go give us no reason to doubt his potential. See for yourself.

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DVD Review: ‘Scrubs’ Season Nine http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/dvd-review-scrubs-season-nine/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/dvd-review-scrubs-season-nine/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I can’t believe they cancelled “Scrubs” after only nine seasons. I loved the show the whole way through, and I really liked what they were doing with the new medical...

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I can’t believe they cancelled “Scrubs” after only nine seasons. I loved the show the whole way through, and I really liked what they were doing with the new medical students. I could have seen it going on like a comedy “ER” with a rotating cast of stars. At least we have nine years of abstract hilarity and gut punching emotion in the archives.

The menu screen is a hilarious brochure video for Winston University. That might be one of the most scathing “Scrubs” spoofs they’ve ever done. The six minute “Scrubbing In” featurette is the basic behind the scenes short explaining the new direction of the season. A little late, but I still liked where they were going with it.

The deleted scenes offer more “Scrubs” jokes but Bill Lawrence introduces them all and talks through most of them. Although he says funny things slamming network sponsors or his own cast, it would be nice to just see the scenes. There were some high fives from the Todd and fantasy sequences in there.

“Live from the Golf Cart” features the two campus security guards, in character, but Robert Maschio joins them as The Todd so I’m always happy to see him in character. It’s only two minutes long so it doesn’t get old and it’s a nice extra for uberfans. A short bloopers reel shows the cast mugging and blubbering. No big deal but it’s fun and they kept it brief.
 

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DVD Review: ‘Community’ Season One http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/dvd-review-community-season-one/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/dvd-review-community-season-one/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Remember when we had to wait until a show was a perennial classic, and then they’d start putting out a season at a time on DVD? Heck, remember when they...

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Remember when we had to wait until a show was a perennial classic, and then they’d start putting out a season at a time on DVD? Heck, remember when they started doing TV on DVD? Now we can expect every new show in a ready to own package. “Community” is a good one because the creators can play with the DVD extras the same way they go meta with the sitcom format.

A feature called “Creative Compromises” is just a big fart joke, but it’s funny “Community” style because of how elaborate and meta it is. “Season One Cast Evaluations” is a promising original comedy piece where Dan Harmon evaluates the cast to figure out why the ratings dropped. It feels like improv and it’s not hilarious until Ken Jeong starts giving medical diagnoses on his costars. They intercut audition footage which is always curious to see and compare. I think most of the actors nailed it.

The extras to see are the deleted and alternate scenes because those are just more “Community” riffs. If they did a scene twice, you know Chevy Chase went crazy each time. There are different reels of outtakes on each of the four discs. That’s a lot of flubbed lines or misfired improvs. They say the F word when they mess up and on DVD they don’t bleep it. Joel McHale touches Gillian Jacobs inappropriately too.

3 mini-episodes are the “Study Break” shorts from NBC.com, but I don’t watch those online extras so I’m glad they’re included here. Two of them are pretty funny “Community” style riffs. Every character gets something to do in the 90 second short so it’s a good bonus.

There’s a commentary on every episode by some combination of the cast, creators and directors. The few I selected are pretty straight commentaries. They do analyze the show and refer to Twitter questions and critics’ reports. They keep it fun with some banter but “Community” die hard will appreciate the serious analysis.
 

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Review: ‘Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-family-guy-partial-terms-of-endearment/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-family-guy-partial-terms-of-endearment/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 “Partial Terms of Endearment” is “Family Guy’s” notorious abortion episode that Fox refused to air. If you’re a “Family Guy” fan, you’ll probably agree it’s just another case of overreacting. “Partial Terms” is just an average episode, not even as offensive as previous abortion references have been. Most of the episode isn’t even about abortion. It begins with Peter going to Lois’s college reunion and meeting Naomi, the one girl she experimented with. The first act is about Peter thinking he’s going to have a three way, which only entails typical porno cliché jokes. Of course, being “Family Guy” they still manage to get an SS reference in with the porno jokes. More after the jump...

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“Partial Terms of Endearment” is “Family Guy’s” notorious abortion episode that Fox refused to air. If you’re a “Family Guy” fan, you’ll probably agree it’s just another case of overreacting. “Partial Terms” is just an average episode, not even as offensive as previous abortion references have been.

Most of the episode isn’t even about abortion. It begins with Peter going to Lois’s college reunion and meeting Naomi, the one girl she experimented with. The first act is about Peter thinking he’s going to have a three way, which only entails typical porno cliché jokes. Of course, being “Family Guy” they still manage to get an SS reference in with the porno jokes.

More after the jump…

It turns out Naomi brings her husband Dale with her and they can’t conceive, so they ask Lois to be a surrogate. That leads to some pregnancy humor including Lois vomiting gratuitously, and a really random reference to the Hovitos from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s also a really mean riff on celebrity babies but still nothing about abortion.

When the issue of abortion finally comes up, the complication in the story is actually really profound, mature and complete. The satire is biting towards both sides, although pro-life probably gets it worse. Their arguments are portrayed as total nonsense where the pro-choice spoof is just about Peter being uninformed.

In the last five minutes of the show, every argument surrounding abortion is expressed and satirized, including a fourth-wall breaking self-referential reference to “Family Guy” itself. It’s also silly with references to the difference between ‘80s and ‘90s racial stereotypes and a Wile E. Coyote sequence. Peter says the F word and since it’s on DVD they don’t bleep it.

It’s a solid episode of “Family Guy” and since it wasn’t on TV, it’s a nice extra to see on DVD. Some of the cutaways are bizarre and metaphysical, and Stewie has a sharp line about Lois’s vagina. A B story with the Griffin siblings is totally abandoned but the abortion story actually asks all the right questions, before humorously dismissing the whole thing.

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Review: ‘Running Wilde’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-running-wilde/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-running-wilde/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I was the only person who liked “Running Wilde” when they sent the original pilot out over the summer. I thought it was very Mitch Hurwitz-y, it made me laugh and I could see where it was going for a series. Of course, I like things no one else likes so they’re not going to cater a show to me. I like the reshot version of the show a little less, but maybe this is what the general public will like. Will Arnett plays Steven Wilde, a rich trust fund baby who’s somewhat Gob-y, although he was more Gob-y in the original version so maybe one of the notes was “less Gob-y.” He’s somewhat self-centered and oblivious to the world around him. That’s not to say that Arnett is rehashing his character, it’s just funny to base a show around that type of main character and then take him somewhere he couldn’t go as part of an ensemble. More after the jump...

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I was the only person who liked “Running Wilde” when they sent the original pilot out over the summer. I thought it was very Mitch Hurwitz-y, it made me laugh and I could see where it was going for a series. Of course, I like things no one else likes so they’re not going to cater a show to me. I like the reshot version of the show a little less, but maybe this is what the general public will like.

Will Arnett plays Steven Wilde, a rich trust fund baby who’s somewhat Gob-y, although he was more Gob-y in the original version so maybe one of the notes was “less Gob-y.” He’s somewhat self-centered and oblivious to the world around him. That’s not to say that Arnett is rehashing his character, it’s just funny to base a show around that type of main character and then take him somewhere he couldn’t go as part of an ensemble.

More after the jump…

Already in the new scenes it seems like they’re trying to make Steven nicer, which is just plain impatient. He already starts learning a lesson by the end of the episode. Can you give him at least the first act to be an A-hole who needs to be redeemed? He’s getting a humanitarian award from his father’s oil company and he knows that looks bad, but his concern is that a girl won’t like him, not that he’s a fraud.

Steven’s childhood sweetheart Emmy (Keri Russell) lives in the jungle trying to save an endangered tribe from Wilde Oil. The show treats the environmental movement with the same irreverence as the wealthy community, having fun with clichés like chaining yourself to a tree. Her fiancé Andy (David Cross) is the same as in the pilot only played by David Cross now. That character doesn’t suffer in the new version. Her daughter Puddle (Stefania Owen) doesn’t speak because she hates it in the jungle and is trying to get her mother’s attention. I’d be pretty pissed too if my name was Puddle.

All of the characters are well defined in their roles. I really liked a character that was removed from the original pilot. Steven had a maid who was kind of like his nanny with a whole system for dealing with his needs. I don’t think the new butler Mr. Lunt (Robert Michael Morris) is as endearing or funny. Nothing against Morris, I just think the other character was more defined.

The best elements of the humor are the weirdly surreal ones. Steven is in constant competition with his friendly rival Fa’ad (Peter Serafinowicz), and they find obscure ways to compete that are probably real but just out of our world enough to be funny. It’s got a sort of “Arrested Development” format with narration and cutaway gags, and they mess with that very device in the first episode. Even the background music they play is a joke. The humor is layered and fast-paced.

The parts that worked for me are still there, mainly in the scenes that weren’t reshot. Emmy and Puddle go to Steven’s award ceremony to try to get his help with the tribe. What Steven does for them is brilliantly misguided and outrageous. I could see this show moving forward where every week, Steven tries to do something good but his ideas are even worse than the problem. It would probably take five years to fix his bad behavior.

“Running Wilde” was great comedy material where people try to be good but they’re so bad at it that it’s funny. I’m concerned now that they’re already too self-conscious, too worried about people liking them and that’s the death of edgy comedy. Hopefully now that they’ve tinkered with the pilot enough, they can just move on and tell stories with these characters and the network, viewers and critics will give them a chance.

"Running Wilde" premieres Tuesday at 9:30/8:30c.

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Review: ‘Raising Hope’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-raising-hope/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-raising-hope/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 “Raising Hope” is the kind of edgy comedy I want to see on TV. I don’t want to spoil anything because you should experience it fresh like I did, but I could not believe what I was watching. They’re putting this on TV?! And they should. It’s the same half hour whether they go crazy or play it safe, so just go crazy. The setup it takes to make Jimmy (Lucas Neff) a single dad is outrageous. By about 10 minutes in, I couldn’t believe how far they took it. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to do this every week, but I hope so. Aside from the shocking dark comedy, the humor is just joyfully immature. They say “wiener” and that makes me smile. The characters’ behaviors are so outrageous and politically incorrect, only Fox would put this show on.

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Raising Hope” is the kind of edgy comedy I want to see on TV. I don’t want to spoil anything because you should experience it fresh like I did, but I could not believe what I was watching. They’re putting this on TV?! And they should. It’s the same half hour whether they go crazy or play it safe, so just go crazy.

The setup it takes to make Jimmy (Lucas Neff) a single dad is outrageous. By about 10 minutes in, I couldn’t believe how far they took it. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to do this every week, but I hope so. Aside from the shocking dark comedy, the humor is just joyfully immature. They say “wiener” and that makes me smile. The characters’ behaviors are so outrageous and politically incorrect, only Fox would put this show on.

Jimmy is a well meaning goofball. He’s clearly not going anywhere, still living at home in his 20s and working for his dad, Burt (Garret Dillahunt). Burt is so immature I didn’t realize he was the dad at first. They’re introduced doing landscaping work and Burt messes with his sons like an alpha male older brother.

His mom, Virginia (Martha Plimpton), mispronounces words because she’s not been educated to how you say things correctly. They live in Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman)’s house, and Maw Maw is senile except for a moment of clarity that passes and she goes back to being a funny senile old lady.

The show offers a more creative view on raising a baby than the Hollywood movies on the subject. This family is aggressively doing it poorly. They endanger the baby and that’s good comedy. They are honest about what a pain in the ass a newborn is, none of that Nine Months/Three Men and a Baby adorable propaganda.

Even the characters we’ve seen before, like the Alzheimer’s grandma and the harassing father figure, have the edge that makes those archetypes funny. They’re not trying to play nice so everyone still likes them. Mike (Skyler Stone), the party animal brother, and Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) the sarcastic Jons checkout girl, don’t do much yet but they get a few laughs each.

What really works though is how sweet the show is. As silly and unredeeming as the characters are, they ultimately have moments of real humanity. And it’s sincere humanity, not that very special moment at the end of a sitcom after everyone’s been insulting each other for a half hour. They do something real and you see that someone can be compassionate 1% of the time. It’s almost like even the heart is sort of wrong, and that’s all part of the Fox comedy edge.
 

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Review: ‘Bones’ Season 6 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-bones-season-6-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-bones-season-6-premiere/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I know from previous writing experience that “Bones” fans hate spoilers, yet they love to read about “Bones.” I respect that. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but I know you want to know about the season premiere, so I’ll be as vague as possible and just try to tell you what’s good so you can look forward to it. Seeing some different settings in the opening of the show is cool. Fans probably know where the characters have gone off to, but just in case I’ll leave that up to the imagination. Wherever they are, it adds a little epic feel, even if it was shot locally. It adds some action and a chance for characters to bring their unique qualities to a different world. The ladies get a chance to be sexy too. More after the jump...

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I know from previous writing experience that “Bones” fans hate spoilers, yet they love to read about “Bones.” I respect that. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but I know you want to know about the season premiere, so I’ll be as vague as possible and just try to tell you what’s good so you can look forward to it.

Seeing some different settings in the opening of the show is cool. Fans probably know where the characters have gone off to, but just in case I’ll leave that up to the imagination. Wherever they are, it adds a little epic feel, even if it was shot locally. It adds some action and a chance for characters to bring their unique qualities to a different world. The ladies get a chance to be sexy too.

More after the jump…

It’s still a different sort of “Bones” episode. There’s a case but it’s more about the team. The team is in a different place now and not everyone agrees on where they should be. That creates some good drama and challenges characters to think about their decisions. It’s very equal to everyone on the team so any storyline you’re following gets attention. There’s some stuff you’re really going to like. It goes there, but I won’t spoil who goes there or for where there is.

The dialogue is sharp as ever. The characters don’t avoid the issues left dangling before, and their conversations are whimsical and ironic. I’m always glad when someone takes a cliché literally and thus points out that the clichés we use in common speech are actually not descriptive at all. Thanks for improving the language skills of America, “Bones.” (I mean that seriously. I don’t like the expression “serious as a heart attack” so they should absolutely have intelligent characters point out its absurdity.)

The case itself could be especially upsetting. I mean, if you’ve been watching different carcasses every week for five years, I still think the body on this slab would be more disturbing. The details of it are fascinating. The team is back in top form and they quickly disprove assumptions that professionals made. This mystery kept me guessing, with two parallel questions both of which are surprising. Hour long shows tend to keep investigations simple, but “Bones” can still misdirect and pay it off.

I’d love to talk about more specifics, but if you watch “Bones” you probably already know the general level of quality. This is just to assure you that the season premiere delivers the goods and goes where you’d want it to. I even liked the staging of scenes on the backlot, just little details that make it feel more populated. We’ll talk more after Thursday night.
 

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Review: ‘Hawaii Five-0′ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-hawaii-five-0/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-hawaii-five-0/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 When screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote the new Star Trek movie for J.J. Abrams, Trek fans were like, “How can you build the Enterprise on earth? That makes no sense. And Capt. Kirk in a bar fight? Come on.” Then it came out and fans pretty much unanimously agreed, “Thank you for bringing back Star Trek. You did it right. Now what’s the next one about?” Now the duo is rebooting “Hawaii Five-O,” a TV series everyone’s probably heard of, that ran for much longer than Star Trek, but people probably don’t remember as well. We know the theme song and “Book him, Danno” but there’s not the attachment. The new version plays pretty much like a straight modern action show, but there are enough references and Easter eggs to make it feel special. If you know the original you’ll feel like they got it. If you don’t know the original, you’ll feel like they’re letting you in on a secret. More after the jump...

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When screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote the new Star Trek movie for J.J. Abrams, Trek fans were like, “How can you build the Enterprise on earth? That makes no sense. And Capt. Kirk in a bar fight? Come on.” Then it came out and fans pretty much unanimously agreed, “Thank you for bringing back Star Trek. You did it right. Now what’s the next one about?”

Now the duo is rebooting “Hawaii Five-O,” a TV series everyone’s probably heard of, that ran for much longer than Star Trek, but people probably don’t remember as well. We know the theme song and “Book him, Danno” but there’s not the attachment. The new version plays pretty much like a straight modern action show, but there are enough references and Easter eggs to make it feel special. If you know the original you’ll feel like they got it. If you don’t know the original, you’ll feel like they’re letting you in on a secret.

More after the jump…

It starts with Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) on a military convoy with a prisoner. He talks to Victor Hesse (James Marsters) on the phone, who’s got his father hostage. They threaten each other and it leads to a big action scene with a helicopter and explosions and trucks flipping over. It’s funny, 20 years ago that would be a summer movie sequence, now it’s on television.

After that, Governer Jameson (Jean Smart) asks McGarrett to lead a task force on the island. He doesn’t want to at first because he works alone, man. He doesn’t go for these government structures, man. But investigating a crime scene on his own, he runs into Danny Williams (Scott Caan), and the only way he can take over the crime scene is to head the task force and make Williams his partner.

A show like this lives and dies on its characters. They’re not going to reinvent the buddy cop genre, and we probably wouldn’t want them too. It works for a reason, and as long as we can see cool new buddies, we’ll keep watching them. O’Loughlin and Caan establish a great dynamic right away. That’s saying a lot because decades ago we’d give a show weeks to build that up, and now we demand it in the first episode.

McGarrett is a Jack Bauer type, doing things his own way, playing by his own rules. O’Loughlin certainly pulls that off. Williams is a little more by the book, or at least he’s got a longer term plan than just blaze in there and shoot everybody. The point is he’s McGarrett’s foil and they have some funny banter and they hit each other, because that’s what it takes to become friends eventually. You have to hate each other violently and then learn to respect each other.

The task force also lines up Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) and his cousin, Kona Kalakaua (Grace Park). Chin Ho was in the original series but I don’t know what Kim’s character has in common. Probably nothing more than living in Hawaii. This Chin Ho is a disgraced cop who gets a second chance on McGarrett’s team. Kim gets to speak fluent English and have a good sense of humor. Kono, a hulking dude in the original, is now a surfer babe who’s got her tough girl cred a la “Alias” and gets to wear a bikini a lot.

There are several more big action scenes in the pilot. I’m sure weekly episodes will be limited to one climactic battle, or maybe two, but if you’re looking for exciting cop drama, “Hawaii Five-O” makes a good case for itself. The Hesse case sort of wraps up in the first episode but there’s a chance it’ll come back, so that’s where I see Orci and Kurtzman maybe trying to spin a larger web. There’s also McGarrett’s military past to delve into.

Hawaii looks good. They definitely use it to show exotic locations for busts and interrogations that could only occur on the island. They’ve got the theme song. It’s a little fast so it can fit into a 30 second sequence. They create a new origin story for “Book him, Danno” which is both a spoof and a reinvention. I think “Hawaii Five-O” pretty much got it right.

"Hawaii Five-0" premieres Monday at 10/9c on CBS.
 

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Review: ‘The Event’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-the-event/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-the-event/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Maybe I’m being unfair, but it really felt like “The Event” was just blatantly trying to be “Lost 2.0.” I know some shows take a few episodes to get going, but that wasn’t it. The very device of the show is contrived to build mystery artificially, meaning if they just told the story in order, it would be a silly sci-fi show, but they expect it to be more mysterious in flashbacks. More after the jump...

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Maybe I’m being unfair, but it really felt like “The Event” was just blatantly trying to be “Lost 2.0.” I know some shows take a few episodes to get going, but that wasn’t it. The very device of the show is contrived to build mystery artificially, meaning if they just told the story in order, it would be a silly sci-fi show, but they expect it to be more mysterious in flashbacks.

More after the jump…

Each sort of ac break focuses on one of the ensemble characters, and jumps back in time to explain what led them to the point where we meet them. Now, that’s not exactly the same as each episode focusing on a character and flashing back to a backstory that’s relevant to their present story, but come on. It’s flashbacks and it’s asking you to believe that the further back you go, the more significant the character will be, when they didn’t really sell it in the present.

The elements of  “The Event” are: everyman Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) seeming to hijack a plane after a vacation with Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer); President Martinez (Blair Underwood) with his policy of releasing foreign detainees against his advisers’ wishes; criminal mastermind conspirator type Sophia Maguire (Laura Innes) and her government contact Blake Sterling (Zeljko Ivanek); Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale) is the panicked agent with ties to Sophia, trying to stop Sean while screaming into a cell phone like Jack Bauer; and Leila’s father Michael (Scott Patterson), who if I tell you more about might be too much of a spoiler. Those may not be official character profiles, but that’s all that I got out of watching the pilot.

So by starting with Sean frantically holding a plane hostage then going back to see him on vacation with Leila and then back further to see him asking Michael for his blessing, then seeing the family conflict from Leila’s perspective… that’s supposed to make us understand how Sean got involved in a desperate situation. It’s no better out of order. Either way it’s a cliché and just a boring way to start a new series. You find out who’s connected to whom but that doesn’t make what they do any cooler. The scenes between Sean and Leila do well establishing the young relationship, but everyone else is so cliché.

Skipping around the story so fast is not suspense. It’s fake. Create suspense where you can tell us exactly what’s going on and it still works. I suppose it’s creepy when Sean’s on his cruise ship and everyone suddenly acts like they don’t know who he is and he hasn’t been going to the buffet all week. That’s standard techno-conspiracy though. Remember in The Net when they erased Sandra Bullock’s identity? Now it’s happening to Sean Walker.

Something does happen at the end that’s supposed to compel you to keep watching week after week, but it doesn’t seem to carry any stakes. What happens in the end is weird, but it doesn’t impact the rest of the world like flashforward or alien invasion. I’m not saying I want a bigger special effect, but the consequences have to be bigger than just “something crazy happened. Isn’t that craaaazzzzyyyyy???” By the way, I don’t think that’s “the event” either, it’s just some buildup to the even bigger event.

Actually, what this is is "Vantage Point: The Series." Remember that Dennis Quaid movie where they showed the same event from all the different perspectives? Only all they did was obscure different parts of the plot from certain characters’ vision. So it wasn’t really a mystery, it was a withholding of information. These stories and subplots could be told in order, only then you’d realize it’s not much of a story.

When Sophia and Simon or Sophia and Blake talk about the conspiracy, they refer to “the event.” I’ll buy that professional suits speak in vague terms, but if the only reason the event is a mystery is because you call it “the event” instead of specifically what it is, that’s going to be a letdown. When you reveal what “the event” is, we’ll just go, “Ohhhhhh. So it was that, but you called it the event to make it sound like a big deal.”

You know, we’ll all end up watching “The Event” for a few weeks just hoping it turns into something. I’m just calling it now. If “The Event” ends up not gripping the nation and becoming a phenomenon, I saw it coming.

"The Event" premieres Monday at 9/8c on NBC.

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Review: ‘The Cleveland Show’ Season 2 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-the-cleveland-show-season-2-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-the-cleveland-show-season-2-premiere/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 If minor spoilers frighten you, turn back now. “The Cleveland Show” season premiere opens with Cleveland behaving really inappropriately with children. Donna even joins him. Probably the best development of Cleveland’s character in his spinoff is that he’ll get really angry and swear. He’s not the harmless neighbor anymore, but his anger is really only personal frustration. This is another Kanye West episode. You may remember, or you may be hearing for the first time right now, that he plays local rap artist Kenny West. He seems to have a good sense of humor, giving voice to Kenny’s self-referential comment on the women in his videos, and dissing Rock of Love. More after the jump...

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If minor spoilers frighten you, turn back now. “The Cleveland Show” season premiere opens with Cleveland behaving really inappropriately with children. Donna even joins him. Probably the best development of Cleveland’s character in his spinoff is that he’ll get really angry and swear. He’s not the harmless neighbor anymore, but his anger is really only personal frustration.

This is another Kanye West episode. You may remember, or you may be hearing for the first time right now, that he plays local rap artist Kenny West. He seems to have a good sense of humor, giving voice to Kenny’s self-referential comment on the women in his videos, and dissing Rock of Love.

More after the jump…

He actually still makes a joke about Beyonce not winning the VMA. Cleveland does the “So and So doesn’t care about black people” joke. Sorry, did I need to say spoiler alert? You knew they were going to go there.

You get a full Kenny West song, which means an original Kanye West song, even if it is a spoof performed in character. There’s also a bit of Cleveland doing a good song spoof, which I wish they would have let go on longer but I get it, they have to move on.

A subplot of the episode is Cleveland’s obsession with Barack Obama. It’s a silly reference but it gets some comedy mileage out of the running gag, and there’s a really sly political dig in the first riff. The Obama impersonator who ultimately does the voice doesn’t really sound like him. They couldn’t get Fred Armisen?

There are no cutaway gags. Have they given that up on this spinoff? They were always “Family Guy” light, but at least it gave it more edge than “American Dad.” They make references within the show, but there’s no “This is worse than the time that so and so did such and such.”

This episode does have an ‘80s style montage, a Twitter reference in irreverent “Family Guy” style, a mainstream hip hop Planet Hollywood-esque restaurant and a mistaken appearance by a “Family Guy” B-player. Freeze frame the Billboard charts to see the real jokes.

There are also some real reaches setting up extended sequences that aren’t as funny as they think they are. Cleveland acts the opposite of the way he should given the information he received. That’s just trying to make a joke out of something that’s not a joke.

I’m not really as into the spinoffs at I am the original “Family Guy” so I’d say if you’re like me, there’s nothing really amazing in this episode. I’d imagine if you are a “Cleveland” fan, the Kenny West stuff would be gold, and Rallo gets a good subplot too.
 

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Review: ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Season 6 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-how-i-met-your-mother-season-6-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-how-i-met-your-mother-season-6-premiere/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 “How I Met Your Mother” is a comedy with as many secrets as “Lost.” I can’t really spoil anything that happens in the season premiere, so I’ll just try to talk about the comedy and tease the cool stuff that develops in the plot. It opens with something that a new viewer to the show might think is a big reveal. Of course we know they never get right to the point. They like to set up some future event and then go back and slowly lead back up to it until we realize what we thought we were seeing wasn’t actually what we were seeing. More after the jump...

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“How I Met Your Mother” is a comedy with as many secrets as “Lost.” I can’t really spoil anything that happens in the season premiere, so I’ll just try to talk about the comedy and tease the cool stuff that develops in the plot.

It opens with something that a new viewer to the show might think is a big reveal. Of course we know they never get right to the point. They like to set up some future event and then go back and slowly lead back up to it until we realize what we thought we were seeing wasn’t actually what we were seeing.

More after the jump…

Then we immediately go to a Barney scene, ranting about something a little sexist but something we can all agree on. The main body of the show is about another group phenomenon that’s immature, yet everyone abides by it. I love how “HIMYM” analyzes those rules we all follow.

Ted has a relationship dilemma to face at MacLaren’s. Marshall and Lily have an issue with boundaries and agreements. Robin’s in a bad place this episode and Cobie Smulders goes at it with full confidence.

Each of the three storylines has a bunch of shenanigans attached to it. They flash forward, have a fantasy or have a real celebration that’s inappropriate in the real world but hilarious on a sitcom.

Barney has a heartfelt moment, poignant and of course followed by a Barneyism. The boys come up with some new schticks and reactions to them that truly feel like lifelong friends’ interaction. Even the one-off jokes about someone in the bar or a character’s reaction are pretty observant about people in general.

So stuff happens in the return of “How I Met Your Mother” and it’s a solid episode for the show. They’ve got some heart, some basic humor and a little surrealism to elevate it above the usual sitcom.

"How I Met Your Mother" returns September 20th at 8/7c on CBS.

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Review: ‘Outsourced’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-outsourced/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-outsourced/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I had an interesting experience with “Outsourced.” I watched it over the summer and wasn’t impressed. It just didn’t make me laugh. I didn’t care if it was offensive or not, it just wasn’t funny. Then I saw it again with an audience at a public screening and it got more laughs, and was endearing. I had the same experience with “Community” last year, although “Outsourced” isn’t as good as “Community” even the second time around. It’s a weird conundrum. What good is playing well to a crowd on TV? Most of the time we’re going to watch it by ourselves. I guess it can give you a quicker sense of the elements that might grow on you in repeat viewings. It won’t take several episodes to realize Abed and Troy are the funny ones if you see people laughing at them right away. That’s “Community” though. “Outsourced” still doesn’t have an Abed and Troy. More after the jump...

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I had an interesting experience with “Outsourced.” I watched it over the summer and wasn’t impressed. It just didn’t make me laugh. I didn’t care if it was offensive or not, it just wasn’t funny. Then I saw it again with an audience at a public screening and it got more laughs, and was endearing. I had the same experience with “Community” last year, although “Outsourced” isn’t as good as “Community” even the second time around.

It’s a weird conundrum. What good is playing well to a crowd on TV? Most of the time we’re going to watch it by ourselves. I guess it can give you a quicker sense of the elements that might grow on you in repeat viewings. It won’t take several episodes to realize Abed and Troy are the funny ones if you see people laughing at them right away. That’s “Community” though. “Outsourced” still doesn’t have an Abed and Troy.

More after the jump…

The premise is an American gets sent to Mumbai to run a call center for an American catalog. It could be “the office” in India, but instead it’s a really cheap high concept stereotypical comedy. I have hope for it though. How many of the great comedies had good pilots? Maybe the pilot got all the easy gags out of the way and now they’ll move on to the good stuff.

Of course the Indians don’t understan the American products they’re going to have to sell. It doesn’t help that they’re stupid. They work for a novelty catalog. So they’ve got dancing boobs and mistletoe belts and mugs and cheese hats because that’s funny, right? Cheese hats are funny. Mistletoe belts mean he has to explain a sex joke in primetime. What a knee-slapper!

It might be too late already to change the catalog. They kind of committed to that. But maybe we won’t have to hear about products anymore and it can just be about the universal experience of phone operators reading from a script that doesn’t apply to 99% of the actual calls they receive.

There are other Americans in the office too. There’s a hot Aussie sexpot and a bitter American who hates Indian food. Because Indian food makes you poop. That’s why there are no Indian restaurants in America. Or wait, are there? I live a sheltered life.

I’m not so concerned with the Indian characters. They’re more generic stereotypes than racial stereotypes. Sure, there’s the assistant manager who’s so excited about work he either wants his boss to do well, so he gets promoted, or do badly so he gets fired. Otherwise, the operators include a shy girl, a ladies man, an annoying guy… same as Dunder Mifflin.

I think there’s potential here. I think this suffers from pilotitis. Instead of getting to know their characters, they’re trying so hard to be funny, they’ve come up with things that won’t sustain and aren’t even funny the first time. Think about it, “The Office” is a paper company but the characters do hilarious things each week.

Hopefully the writers will have a chance to get to know the characters, move away from the Indian/American differences and just tell stories. Look, if “Parks and Recreation” took a season to build up with Amy Poehler in the lead, we can cut “Outsourced” a few more weeks of slack. But they better have a very special episode real soon.

“Outsourced” premieres September 23rd at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.

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Review: ‘The Simpsons’ Season 22 Premiere http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-the-simpsons-season-22-premiere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-the-simpsons-season-22-premiere/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I’m always happy when I get an episode of “The Simpsons” early. I haven’t missed one in 22 years. It was appointment viewing and VCR taping long before there was DVR. Now getting a screener just gives me a bonus treat, since I’m so up to date I’m jonesing for the newest one. This season’s premiere is really guest star centric and the best jokes are courtesy of the guests. That’s unusual because usually guest stars play minor roles, or at least they’re in on the “Simpsons” joke. This one really depends on them. More after the jump..

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I’m always happy when I get an episode of “The Simpsons” early. I haven’t missed one in 22 years. It was appointment viewing and VCR taping long before there was DVR. Now getting a screener just gives me a bonus treat, since I’m so up to date I’m jonesing for the newest one.

This season’s premiere is really guest star centric and the best jokes are courtesy of the guests. That’s unusual because usually guest stars play minor roles, or at least they’re in on the “Simpsons” joke. This one really depends on them.

More after the jump..

The best “Simpsons” specific joke is in the chalkboard gag. It’s a recent movie reference that demonstrates how the “Simpsons” team pays attention to what’s culturally popular, and they’re smarter than that cultural phenomenon. Kent Brockman has a good nod to modern newscasts when he introduces himself at a press conference too.

The first act centers around Krusty winning the Nobel peace prize. That’s not a spoiler. It pays off differently. As always, the first act that has nothing to do with the rest of the show is the funniest part with the fun they have with ceremonial celebratory music, and poop and sex jokes.

The real story is that while Bart and Homer accompany Krusty to get his prize, Lisa spends a week at performing arts camp. It’s “Elementary School Musical.” That’s introduced by a song parody cover. It’s not quite “Glee” because they change the words and it’s definitely not a “High School Musical” original.

The real stars of this episode are Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. They have big roles as the camp counselors and they do thei Flight of the Conchords thing. They have Flight of the Conchords banter and some original folk riffs for a line each, all referencing the arts but still in that innocent, irreverent tone.

Sometimes they get to do a whole mini-song, not quite as long as a full song on their own show would be, but a full song by “Simpsons” standards. They do sort of spoofs of their own songs so it’s spoofs of homages. There are plenty of tunes for the next “Simpsons” soundtrack and a lot of banter. It’s the last “Flight of the Conchords” episode we’ll never get.

Otherwise there isn’t a whole lot of music for a music themed episode. I think they had more songs in “Sherry Bobbins.” I didn’t even realize this was the episode with “Glee” kids. They could have been anyone. It makes sense. “Glee” has only been on for a year so they were already working on this when it started. Luckily they had SOMETHING they could put musical kids in but they weren’t going to write a whole episode for them.

It’s a good looking episode. There’s a beautiful rear silhouette shot with the Simpsons ladies in the airport. Other than the Conchords, it’s not some of the strongest writing. I mean, their perspective on the arts world isn’t that original. A lot of the jokes are obvious. Even with highbrow references, it’s predictable. There’s a DVD region joke some of the techies might appreciate.

I know some people reference the golden age of “The Simpsons” and think it’s passed. I’ll give you the golden age and a rough patch but I think we’ve moved through the new renaissance and into the postmodern period of “The Simpsons.” It’s still the best thing ever, so they try new things. They made great use of Flight of the Conchords and didn’t connect on some other things, so watch the season premiere and see which parts you like.

"The Simpsons" returns September 26th at 8/7c on Fox.

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Review: ‘Boardwalk Empire’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-boardwalk-empire/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/tv-news/review-boardwalk-empire/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Where the roaring 1920s lights of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel meet with the violent crime sagas of a Scorsese classic, this what you can find in the fast-paced and explosive new gangster series “Boardwalk Empire.” On the eve of 1920 with his pockets full of cash and liquor in a high demand due to prohibition, Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson (played with tough talk and weak posture by Steve Buscemi) is at the top of his game as the Treasurer over the swinging and swindling lights of Atlantic City. Thompson has everything in place to create Atlantic City as the speakeasy capital of the world but as high stakes prove he has a lot more coming this way as the infamous decade will come of age in gangster warfare, political upheaval, and a crash and burn economy. More after the jump...

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Where the roaring 1920s lights of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel meet with the violent crime sagas of a Scorsese classic, this what you can find in the fast-paced and explosive new gangster series “Boardwalk Empire.”

On the eve of 1920 with his pockets full of cash and liquor in a high demand due to prohibition, Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (played with tough talk and weak posture by Steve Buscemi) is at the top of his game as the Treasurer over the swinging and swindling lights of Atlantic City. Thompson has everything in place to create Atlantic City as the speakeasy capital of the world but as high stakes prove he has a lot more coming this way as the infamous decade will come of age in gangster warfare, political upheaval, and a crash and burn economy.

More after the jump…

Yet that all comes about in several years time, so let’s relish in the atmosphere and the gleaming red hot allusion to infamous characters that director Martin Scorsese and “The Sopranos” writer Terence Winter paint for this series that blurs the lines between television narrative and feature films like never before.

The canvass presented here is full of Scorsese moments from long and majestic tracking shots through the gin joints, back rooms, and vaudevillian sidewalk entertainment to the freeze frames, smash cuts, and explosive moments of violence. Additional to these auteur signatures, Scorsese seems to be quite at home at being able to play with homages to his musical ragtime library and iconic screen images of the Keystone cops and Fatty Arbuckle shorts from the 20s, something that feature film Scorsese is limited to do.

While TV’s series pilots are difficult to pull all together, “Empire” has a canvass that can’t contain every character in one episode. The few characters we get to meet during the pilot besides Nucky are your standard characters in the gangster movie encyclopedia. From Nucky’s questionably loyal right hand man Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt in his best and most likable performance to date), gangster rivals Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg from A Serious Man) and a young Al Capone (Stephen Graham), abused Irish wife and possible love interest, Margret Schroeder (Kelly MacDonald, the saintly angel of Trainspotting and No Country For Old Men) and FBI spooks hiding in their fedoras (Michael Shannon with his signature stiff neck and twisted grin).

The rest of the all-star character actor cast that will be coming in the following episodes are seen only in passing. For example, Michael K. Williams of “The Wire” is given only one brief look as Chalky White, a man left waiting for a long time in Nucky’s office to discuss some certain business.

If anything, this pilot episode suffers from the sense of crime movie déjà vu. The climax has your typical juxtaposition of several mob hits going on at once, which is there to set up the 12 episode season, but takes away from the combustible color of lights and flurry that has been built in motion for this epic.

All of these elements mixed together go down with a bite, and turn “Boardwalk Empire” into one series that is primed to explode on your TV this coming fall season.

Grade: A-

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