Why You Shouldn’t Be Rewinding “Sex Tape” Anytime Soon

Jason Segal & Cameron Diaz have some chemistry going on, but you'll see a little of it in terms of both real raunchiness and romanticism when it comes to the new film Sex Tape.

Jason Segal & Cameron Diaz have some chemistry going on, but you’ll see a little of it in terms of both real raunchiness and romanticism when it comes to the new film Sex Tape.

 

Where Did All of the Raunchy Comedies Go This Year?

The recently released “Sex Tape” starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal who have reteamed with their “Bad Teacher” director Jake Kasdan had me wondering if Hollywood has run out of fresh ideas when coming up with adult comedies with mature themes. BuzzFeed journalist Alison Willmore wrote a great article that basically called out “Sex Tape” for making sex seem so “taboo” that it comes across as unnatural and therefore scandalous when it’s really not. The whole premise of the film, the actual “sex tape” in question that Diaz and Segal’s characters attempt to film on their mobile device comes across as banal and boring and quite frankly when the film does show bits and pieces of the video at the conclusion of the movie. You wonder what the big deal was when they lose said video.

Let’s Start From the Very Beginning…Such As It Is

But let’s get to the origins of this story and what it all means for the plot. As written by star Segal, Kate Angelo, and Nicolas Stoller, nothing in “Sex Tape” advances into a maturely thought out storyline. The movie actually gets more ludicrous and quite frankly boring as our couple Annie and Jay get to the actual goal of “retrieving” their sex tape from the iPads they have given out to colleagues. We meet Annie and Jay in college. I swear Cameron Diaz does not age, but giving her curly hair and sweatshirts doesn’t make her look any younger than she really is in reality. It just makes her and producers that thought of having them meet and get it on in college look pandering and unrealistic.  We see Annie and Jay screw each other, a lot. We get the picture guys, if this is raunchy, I will take the ludicrous fake antics of The Hangover over this any day of the week.

And the Movie Goes On & On and Gets Worse & Worse

Annie and Jay’s lives continue, they get pregnant, they get married, they stop getting romantic. Mind you Annie and Jay’s kids don’t look very young, so we’ve fast forwarded here, but then again Diaz and Segal don’t really age. So we are clearly in the present time, which leads to more continuity errors here and there. Annie and Jay’s relationship is stagnant with the kids and their busy lives, Annie runs a blog and Jay does something in the music industry the audience is not alerted to. So what do they do when they celebrate Annie’s potentially selling her blog? They decide to shoot a sex video on their new iPad carrying out various positions as suggested in the book “The Joy of Sex.” They actually lose the video they recorded on their iPad of them having a night of so called ribald sex when someone mysteriously threatens them that they are going to share the video with the public.

What’s not to love here now that we all know that hijinks are going to ensue as Annie and Jay try to find out who is threatening them and how they’re going to get their video back? Don’t we all know how this one’s going to turn out? “Sex Tape’s” premise becomes so muddled in ridiculousness that honestly you don’t really care about Diaz and Segal’s characters’ lack of romantic chemistry and whether or not they make it as a couple in the end.

In fact the only part of the movie where the audience’s eyebrows may be raised is when Annie decides to literally snort a line of cocaine with her potential new boss (played by a way too excited Rob Lowe) as Jay tries to retrieve the iPad in Lowe’s character’s mansion as even more unrealistic physical comedy ensues. That scene took the debauchery to an unexpected and in my opinion an unnecessary level because it served no purpose but to shock and titillate where this movie does none of that for the rest of the film.

We're supposed to think that Cameron Diaz's character is fresh out of college in Sex Tape, but I'm not buying it. And neither should you.

Cameron Diaz thinks she’s fresh out of college in Sex Tape, but I’m not buying it.

So, Should You See This Movie?

In a word, no. There’s nothing to see here folks and Annie and Jay as played by Diaz and Segal have very little chemistry going on so quite frankly you don’t care who’s threatening them or if they figure out how to get their video out of the cloud. And no matter how much makeup they Cameron Diaz puts on she still looks her age, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The fact the producers chose not to own it is disappointing. “Sex Tape” comes across as a schmaltzy message film which attempts to explain how our haggard lives interfere with our not only our “sex lives” but how we are supposed to maintain our lives as a romantic couple despite the lack of romance. But none of the plot points are realistic. From a “where has he been lately?” Jack Black popping up as a porn producer with inexplicable family issues of his own to Annie and Jay’s blackmailer conveniently giving back said “sex tape” to Annie and Jay for perhaps the most banal reason possible. This movie is filled with so much clichéd storytelling, ridiculous plotting and derivative characters that “Sex Tape” should be left back in its case and not “rewound” so to speak.

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Is “Think Like a Man” Franchise A Sign Of Things To Come?

Kevin Hart headlines the sequel to the hit comedy Think Like a Man Too. You may wish he didn't.

Kevin Hart headlines the sequel to the hit comedy Think Like a Man Too. You may wish he didn’t.

I was recently able to watch both Warner Brothers’ new musical Jersey Boys and Sony Picture’s new comedy sequel Think Like A Man Too starring comedian Kevin Hart on consecutive days. To my amazement I found myself liking the sequel directed by a relative unknown by the name of Tim Story than the adaptation of the Tony Award® winning Broadway hit musical directed by four time Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood.

Make no mistake neither film is going to win any Academy Awards® next February. But if found myself falling more for the wacky Vegas adventures on a wedding weekend among a diverse group of characters that made up another adaption based loosely on the premise of comedian’s Steve Harvey’s hit book “Think Like a Man.” Both movies certainly had their flaws. Jersey Boys was a too strictly by-the-book adaptation while Think Like a Man ironically veered too far away from the original source material. This version of “Think” came across like a poor man’s “The Hangover” with considerable less sex and debauchery, but more heart and sentimentality, clearly to appeal to the female viewers no doubt. And this is not a bad thing.

So What’s the Big Deal?

“Think” came across a funny take on sentimentality and heart when a couple enjoys dueling bachelor and bachelorette parties and an eventual wedding during a weekend in Vegas. Long story short, as usual with any Vegas movie, signals get crossed, hijinks occur, people get crude and nude and in the end the wedding actually takes place with a lot of aw shucks earnestness you would actually expect out of a Steve Harvey self-help book. Lots of happy endings abound and your left wondering how the story is supposed to advance for the inevitable third sequel of this comedy showcase which revolves around a group of predominately African American friends.

The one well intentioned caveat was the not so common story this movie was trying to tell. That of the wild adventures of a diverse group of friends who are upper middle class to upper class enjoying their lives. That’s it period. No other stereotypes were being exploited. Sure Kevin Hart laid out his traditional “if I’m loud enough, you’ll think I’m funny” routine. And since his star is on the rise since the original Think Like Man movie came out I was not surprised to see his character basically take the lead and help bring all of the other storylines together. Thanks to Think Like a Man Too I was reminded how rarely this kind of story is told. This point was especially brought home when I recently caught a showing of movie The Best Man Holiday on HBO.

The cast of "The Best Man Holiday" live up a life in luxury in their latest sequel. But why don't we see more of this in movies?

The cast of “The Best Man Holiday” live up a life in luxury in their latest sequel. But why don’t we see more of this in movies?

It Pays To Be Rich

One caveat I noticed in both “Think” and “Holiday” is that they both showcase financially well off African Americans. For example, Hart’s character Cedric spends a huge amount of money on a lavish suite a Caeser’s Palace, and Taraji P. Henson’s character of Lauren is promoted to the COO position of her company. Over at “Holiday” Morris Chestnut’s character is living in the lap of luxury thanks to his high profile football player Lance Sullivan enjoying success on the field. At the same time, all of the other characters in both films are enjoying their peak working professional lives successfully coexisting with their personal lives.

So What’s The Problem?

I began thinking why aren’t these stories told more often? Where financially well-off people of color are burning the candle, so to speak, at both ends. This is where our main source of story, at least in the two movies I just watched, come from. For one, I question why directors like Tim Story and “Holiday’s” Malcolm D. Lee aren’t given more opportunities to work with more actors of color and not just their niche African American repertoires they tend to work with? Why aren’t more screenwriters allowed to tell more stories about well off characters of color? Is it because studio heads aren’t of color and don’t think a majority of audiences will relate?

Fiction vs. Reality

The Best Man Holiday had a lot of hijinks this time around but it also had a considerable amount of sorrow. This rollercoaster of emotions allowed director Malcolm D. Lee to tell a fully realized story with actual characters with real emotions no matter how maudlin it really got towards the end of his film. On the other end of the spectrum, director Tim Story showcased through Think Like a Man Too as a wacky PG-13 rated adventure movie  while ending the movie with a romanticized story that left many of our couples with happy endings with fully accomplished dreams still to come.

These stories aren’t being told enough, and that’s a real shame. For once I’d love to see biracial couple’s experience life’s adventures beyond their race or ethnicity. Hopefully this can be possible with a more diverse group of writers, directors and producers in Hollywood. But in reality it will only happen if more open-minded studio heads will consider this a reliable option. Because in the end, if a movie makes money, sequel can’t be too far off. That’s not a bad thing for me it just needs to have purpose.

Why Re-Envisioning the Fairy Tale of Maleficent Was the Wrong Way To Go…

Angelina Jolie was perfectly cast, perhaps too perfectly, for the title role of the memorable Disney villainess. She was born to play this right?

Angelina Jolie was perfectly cast, perhaps too perfectly, for the title role of the memorable Disney villainess. She was born to play this right?

I was among the many fans who could not wait to see how Disney chose to re-imagine the backstory of one of their most dastardly villains of all time in the update of  “Sleeping Beauty” in their latest film Maleficent. With much trepidation, I am not afraid to admit I was woefully disappointed by this latest retcon of a classic fairy tale. Of course Disney has done this before to a lesser degree with live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Oz: Great and Powerful. But with this one, I was expecting more and what I got was somewhat less. Don’t get me wrong, Angelina Jolie was made for this role. With her dark and mysterious look and coloring not to mention the energy and aura she constantly gives off, I could not imagine anyone else taking on this challenging role. But the storyline and characterization did not sit right with me who has been a fan of this fairy tale for years. So why didn’t it deliver?

The Storyline

Spoiler Alert! Without giving too much away…unlike Sleeping Beauty…Maleficent focuses on (surprise!) our apparently not-as-evil-as-we-thought title character and her origins and the tale of how she came to shape young Sleeping Beauty’s (aka Princess Aurora’s) life. The movie is set up as it is something that takes place in the middle of J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle earth where we have warring kingdoms and fairies and goblins and huge tree creatures that somehow communicate with Maleficent, who try to defend their territory.

From this we get a backdrop of Romeo and Juliet, where Sleeping Beauty’s father King Stefan, as a boy, comes from the other kingdom but he is a poor orphan who as a child befriends Maleficent, who represents sort of larger scale fairy/sorceress with huge wings and horns manages to fall in love with this mere mortal. The kids grow up, and grow apart, wars continue to happen until Stefan’s predecessor insists that whomever kill the adult Maleficent (now played by Jolie) they will inherit his throne. Stefan (now played by a unbelievably miscast Sharlto Copley of District 9 fame) decides he wants the crown for himself and will kill his former true love himself in order to get to the throne. Instead of killing Maleficent, Stefan drugs her and cuts off her wings (in one of the most alarming scenes based on a fairy tale, trust me you will be hearing Jolie voice shrieking in your nightmares long after seeing this film) and returns, claiming to have killed her.

Long story short, Stefan becomes King, gets married, has a child named Princess Aurora. Eventually, driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect “the moors” kingdom over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the Stefan’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love (she comes across thinking it’s all some dream) and the human kingdom that holds her legacy (but of course she doesn’t know this). It is at this point where the movie gets even more choppier if it hasn’t already, Maleficent not only interacts with Aurora, throughout the rest of the film, she sort of become obsessed with the young girl. This is because we are lead to believe, Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and decides to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

Eventually more fighting occurs, including an unbelievable fight sequence with Maleficent and Stefan, and it all culminates with the most absurd rewrite of history of who really wakes up poor Sleeping Aurora.  Everyone winds up happy (well, sort of) in the end, but with a lot of burning questions still unanswered, but the screenwriters leave us to think who cares as long as we get a “happily ever after.”

Maleficent has got her smoke and special effects ready to roll. Jolie was ready to play ball but in the end the script writers were too pandering with their story. I ask, why does there have to be a happily ever after?

Maleficent has got her smoke and special effects ready to roll. Jolie was ready to play ball but in the end the script writers were too pandering with their story. I ask, why does there have to be a happily ever after?

But where is this story going?

Both of my problems with Maleficent clearly have to do with the film pandering to the intended audience, mainly young women and fantasy fans, instead of galvanizing the modern fairy tale by turning the concept on its head, the screenwriters John Lee Hancock and Linda Woolverton, gave us a young female empowerment tale with no purpose or center.

First, let’s start with the setup of warring factions between the mortals and the creatures in the night, which is ripped right out of a traditional fantasy playbook. My main issue with this storyline is that it shades it’s characters in too broadly painted strokes. Maleficent is portrayed as all knowing and kind, that is until she gets jilted by her misunderstood lover Stefan, who himself goes from rags to riches once he becomes an adult, and he decides to turn on Maleficent in order to get what he wants.

When this happens, Maleficent becomes the apparent victim and uses that victim card to become a villain herself, making sure she gets revenge on everyone who scorned her namely King Stefan. My question is why did we have to demonize Stefan in order to make Maleficent our hero? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to show different shades of characters and find out what motivates them to do the things that they do? Perhaps I’m reading too much into this fantasy, but when you have a story as legendary as Sleeping Beauty you have to deliver.

My second problem is with Maleficent’s apparent obsession with young Aurora from birth to when she grows into a teenager. She’s around her all of the time, and eventually becomes more of an advisory figure and best friend to young Aurora. Granted as Aurora, Elle Fanning wanders around like an woodland imp not realizing who she is as a person or the motives of others around her. I wanted her to get some sort of clue.

But for me the motives of our lead Maleficnet had the oddest and most abrupt change of characterization throughout the entire movie. First, Maleficent is hell bent on getting revenge, then later she’s mentally fallen in love with this young girl who supposed to represent everything she hates. Did she just grow a heart again all of a sudden? This climaxes with the pivotal moment of how young Aurora is awakened with the most ludicrous scene I have seen in some time. But I realized after everything that has previously happened in the movie’s storyline, it was actually quite predictable.

The sets and costumes were spot on. Too bad the dialogue and storyline couldn't keep up with them.

The sets and costumes were spot on. Too bad the dialogue and storyline couldn’t keep up with them.

The Bottom Line

Maleficent is director Robert Stromberg’s first feature film as a director. He actually delivers on the fast-paced action scenes and with his background as production designer on such films as Alice in Wonderland and Oz: Great and Powerful you can tell by the details he put into his film he was focused on creating a sumptuous display of sets, costumes, and makeup. Where Maleficent is involved, there is no higher peer on how this movie comes across visually. Obviously I had major issues with the storyline and the follow through.

Then again, if you and your family want to be entertained by a less-than-deep fairy tale told in a way that suits certain factions better than others then go out and see it. I personally take my fairy takes with a grain of salt and when they are “updated,” I still hold out hope they aren’t reaching too far in order to satisfy certain parties over others. This is where I think fairy tales are supposed to deliver, but Maleficent sadly does not.

 

Film Review: Oh What A Not So Great Night with the “Jersey Boys” Movie

Why the Adaptation of the Hit Tony Award Winning Musical Failed On So Many Levels

The film version of Jersey Boys had all the elements of a great movie. It just wasn't executed well enough to become a well respected hit which is a real shock for fans of Clint Eastwood's work.

The film version of Jersey Boys had all the elements of a great movie. It just wasn’t executed well enough to become a well respected hit which is a real shock for fans of Clint Eastwood’s work.

This past weekend, director Clint Eastwood’s version of the hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” finally made it to the big screen and if you read the reviews and looked at the disappointing weekend returns many have been taken aback on why the film resonates with audiences. I have to admit I am a Jersey Boys fan for life. I have seen it twice in San Francisco, once when they launched their national tour and Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio were in the audience themselves to approve. And a second time to commemorate the show being so successful that the producers had to send the original cast on the aforementioned national tour and they hired a whole new staff and ha them perform a hugely publicized tour as well. I also saw the musical on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre and like in San Francisco I was tapping my feet to “Oh What a Night” at the encore at the end of the two act play. So obviously I got really excited when I heard that none other than Clint Eastwood himself had been approached to direct the film version of Jersey Boys after many years of wrangling between directors, producer, and writers over the script and direction. Imagine my disappointment over what I thought had been a great stage musical and the makings of a great film musical turn out so disappointing, and judging by the first weekend box office receipts I wasn’t the only one who thought the film was lacking in a number of ways that made the film lackluster. So without further ado, here’s why Jersey Boys didn’t work for me:

Story Comes First

One thing it is hard to adapt a musical to the big screen no matter how many have succeeded with audiences before for every Chicago or Les Miserables there’s been failures like Rock of Ages and The Producers. So why did the Jersey Boys musical feel so stale? For one thing although the screenplay was written by the same two individuals (Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) who won a Tony® nomination for writing the book of the play, the film version of Jersey Boys looked and sounded virtually the same. And that’s not a good thing. The main caveats for the movie and the play is that it is told in first person by all four members of the musical group The Four Seasons during different times of the groups accession. As Tommy DeVito, actor Vincent Piazza explains how the group was formed in their native New Jersey. Then Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group and tells the tale of how the group made it big thanks to his keen songwriting abilities. Then division and rifts happen between members of the group and that’s where Michael Lomenda’s Nick Massi takes over. Finally heading out on a solo career once the band has called it quits, John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony® Award for the role on Broadway takes over narration as leading man Frankie Valli. The problem here is that the audience never grows with the characters as they tell their story. We never get to realize how far and how big The Four Seasons truly became and how their music defined them and their fans. For all we know the group was playing state fairs and small clubs because on film that’s all we saw them sang. Also, we never get the inventive “Seasons” part of the play. Every act is supposed to represent the seasons in a year. If the film was going to borrow so liberally from the musical I question why was this aspect dropped? As we see how things are done the Jersey way through loyalty and ties with the mob, we see how members of the group became so indebted to members of the mafia. One mob boss in particular, played by Christopher Walken is actually a much bigger role here than in the play. I can see why Walken was given a bigger role, he was after all the most noteworthy member of the cast, but his role had very little to do with the formation of the group and how they kept the hits rolling. Finally, there was odd placement of both storyline being told on a linear and non-linear timeline, which made things truly confusing, this was in addition to songs being sung by Valli to give meaning to the storyline but not making sense when you actually hear the lyrics of the songs. (see: “My Eyes Adore You” being randomly sung to Valli’s daughter).

John Lloyd Young won a well deserved Tony® for the role of Frankie Valli. But was he the best person for the job for the film this time around? Me thinks not.

John Lloyd Young won a well deserved Tony® for the role of Frankie Valli. But was he the best person for the job for the film this time around? Me thinks not.

Of His Element This Time Around?

The second thing that was problematic was Mr. Eastwood’s involvement with the film to begin with. He is a phenomenal director with two Best Director Academy® Awards to his credit and it should have showcased his talents as an auteur, but this movie version of the play comes up surprisingly flat. Granted, Mr. Eastwood had done a biopic on a musician before (Bird in 1988) but this was his first mainstream musical. The problem was this was more of a concert musical where the characters sing their songs in a more natural manner like when they are pitching a new song or singing on a concert stage so it really shouldn’t have been as challenging to direct traditional concert moments. There were no huge song and dance numbers that required huge casts and choreography. Until that is, the very end of the movie when Eastwood films the show’s encore of “Oh What a Night” and it becomes one of the most awkward last scenes I have seen in quite some time. That fact alone proves to me that Eastwood should never lens another movie musical again if it winds up like the end of Jersey Boys. Then there’s Eastwood’s decision to cast Young as Valli to begin with. I thought Young’s voice was amazing and the fact that he’s still touring with Jersey Boys after all these years is nothing but remarkable. But there in lies the problem, Young looks way too old to play a sixteen year old in some scenes and with the poorest makeup job I’ve seen in quite some time, Young as Valli at 60 years of age does not look any more realistic. This fact combined with some of the most unrealistic driving scenes I’ve seen on film this century make the film story come across as a more banal experience than magnum opus.

Director Clint Eastwood brought his star power to directing this popular story. But did he bring his "A" game this time out? Maybe he's just waiting to show off his work in American Sniper later this year.

Director Clint Eastwood brought his star power to directing this popular story. But did he bring his “A” game this time out? Maybe he’s just waiting to show off his work in American Sniper later this year.

Finally there was the remarkably odd release schedule of the film in general. If this film really had awards potential in it, then the producers and studio should have at very least waited until the fall to release this movie. Why in the middle of popcorn action films and comedies is this film being release it in June? Maybe producers thought it would be good counterprogramming to all of that madness at the box office. But this film had to be considered a flawless adaptation in order to play with some the biggest movies of the year, and Jersey Boys in this incarnation just isn’t it. Had producers waited until say late September early October maybe the film could have been a late bloomer with less competition. Granted movie musicals can be considered a pricey investment and this one was no exception (rumor has the cost at more than 40 million) so making a profit from this play was going to be a challenge no matter what month you released it.

Too many factors against Jersey Boys had the movie fighting a losing battle in a tough marketplace and time of year. Why didn't they wait until the fall season to release this film clearly geared toward older viewers?

Too many factors against Jersey Boys had the movie fighting a losing battle in a tough marketplace and tough time of year. Why didn’t they wait until the fall season to release this film clearly geared toward older viewers?

The Bottom Line

Although I don’t agree with the Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano in his saying that Clint Eastwood is the most overrated director in Hollywood. I do feel that Entertainment Weekly’s Jake Perlman was more succinct in suggesting that Eastwood was all wrong for this particular adaption. Romano suggested that Martin Scorsese would have done wonders and Perlman suggests Adam Shankman. I actually think a fresh voice would have been more appropriate for this movie. From the director to the screenwriters to some of the actors.  I would have recommended everyone involved in the adaptation still see the stage play to get a feeling for the musical and chose wisely in what direction in which they want to frame the story of how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons came to be. I actually think there is a poignant and fun and unique story to share with the musical genre loving world out there. I’m just not sure the one we got last weekend is the one we all deserved to see. If that’s possible one day, then we’ll all be singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” when we see a better version of this movie. As lovers of both musicals and movies, we can all still dream can’t we?

 

 

Movie Review: No Fault in Not Crying at “The Fault In Our Stars”

The Fault in Our Stars dominated this weekend's box office due to a successful book launch and a great social media marketing from author John Green and his followers.

The Fault in Our Stars dominated this weekend’s box office due to a successful book launch and a great social media marketing from author John Green and his followers.

The Lowdown

Over the weekend the box office was dominated by the new movie adaptation of author John Green’s young adult novel “The Fault in Our Stars.” The movie features actors Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (who oddly played siblings in their last movie together, Divergent) as two cancer survivors who meet in a youth cancer support group. They hang out, they bond and they understand each other’s others pain and suffering, they fall in love, they head out on a romantic wistful adventure in Amsterdam, and in the end (spoiler alert!) someone succumbs to their disease. Long story short I consider The Fault in Our Stars a teen light motion picture which deals with the powerful issues of cancer, dying, death, depression, solitude, all of which are serious and growing issues plaguing young people in increasing numbers so I can understand why the book and now the movie have been such a huge hit with young adults. My issue with the film is that I just didn’t feel emotionally invested enough to pull off tears of my own.

Why Am I Not Sobbing Too?

Clearly t the screening I attended I was one of the few in the audience who failed to turn on any waterworks . Everyone around was sobbing into their popcorn infused napkins. But then again, I wasn’t the only one to feel a lack of emotion while watching the movie. EW.com’s Erin Strecker wrote a great post about how she didn’t cry once during a watching of the movie and had to fake some tears in order to appear “normal” among her peers. That’s okay Erin I don’t want to feel normal and have no intention of feeling normal. My friend commented that she was shocked that I didn’t break out into tears or get emotional even once as we watched the movie. I told her I felt no reason to cry, I didn’t feel any need to express any emotions once because I didn’t have any from watching the movie. I asked her does this make me an unfeeling horrible human being because watching this intentional tear jerker of a movie elicited no tears myself? She said no she was just surprised. I have to admit I personally went through a near death experience near similar to the ones that our main characters were experiencing but I felt no attachment to any of the characters. Perhaps that was my biggest problem with The Fault in Our Stars is that I didn’t seem to bond with Hazel, Augustus and Isaac.

Actor Nat Wolff who plays "Isaac" in "A Fault In Our Stars." I found his character lacking a focus and purpose. I found myself asking why is he even there? That's not a good sign.

Actor Nat Wolff who plays “Isaac” in “A Fault In Our Stars.” I found his character lacking a focus and purpose. I found myself asking why is he even there? That’s not a good sign.

My Take

I found The Fault in Our Stars entertaining, and slightly maudlin due to the subject manner and their target audience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I found some of the story pandering and overly wistful. It’s nice to think when confronted with death we are all able to compartmentalize our experiences into living life to the fullest. But in reality we all know that tends not to happen. I had no issue with the movie’s leading lady & breakout star Shailene Woodley, she acts likes a sullen teenager who is going through a major life crisis at a very young age and seemly to give off a mature response to her character’s situation. She handles the role with grace and class. Ansel Elgort (now that’s a real stage name) handles the role of the love interest Augustus Waters (where do we get these names from people?) with panache but a little too much overreaching. Although the character was charming, he was also too good to be true despite being presented with a life filled with obstacles with an abundance of positive thinking and affirmation that never quite seemed to ring true for me. There were other issues with the movie for me as well, the sidekick character of Isaac (as played by Nat Wolff) served no useful purpose in the enhancement of the storyline. Apparently Augustus also had an older sister in the book, but was not displayed in the movie, so I really saw no use of Isaac in the movie but to simply give off witty one liners after another and apparently also to showcase someone else going through turmoil as they suffered through the ravages of cancer. Laura Dern displayed a nice maternal range as Hazel’s mom, but I felt Sam Trammell was not only way too young looking to pass as Hazel’s dad, but more importantly failed to equate a similar paternal range that Dern displayed on the maternal side.

Newcomer Ansel Elgort has nice chemistry with leading lady Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars. I found them on the cusp of annoying but never crossing the line thankfully.

Newcomer Ansel Elgort has nice chemistry with leading lady Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars. I found them on the cusp of annoying but never crossing the line thankfully.

Bottom Line

Clearly the biggest issues I had with The Fault in Our Stars concerned the storyline. Angst always happens in teens, I get that. Depression, fear and loneliness is especially conveyed in people with cancer. But I felt everything was wrapped much too neatly in a bow for this story. I felt I was telegraphing every event in Hazel’s life as it was occurring. I could have predicted what was going to go right and was wasn’t going to go well right before each occurrence happened. I’m sure that’s okay with the audience that The Fault in Our Stars was trying to reach but with so much hype around the story I was expecting more. The film was a solid piece of entertainment, but I kept waiting to be drawn into the story of Hazel Lancaster and how she dealt with life and love’s challenges and felt myself shrugging at the end. Go see it for yourself and tell me if you cried or felt indifferent. There’s nothing wrong with a little debate on how a movie makes you feel. That’s why we go to the cinema in the first place.

 

 

How Does One Handle A Terribly Awkward Situation?

Recently there has been a rash of incidents locally where people have not been handling awkward situations with even more hostility and impulsive anger. Last week, in two real-life situations in the San Francisco Bay Area two adults each handled a situation in their own unique way which brought forth dismissals and potential prosecution. In one corner, we have one woman who decided to deal with her daughter’s bully at her school in the only way that she apparently knew how…she allegedly threatened the alleged bully with physical force. In the other corner we have a city employee who leaves a bitter letter of resignation when being threatened with termination, or worse public ouster.

These unfortunate events lead me to think, is this the way we are now handling delicate personal situations in which we are so stunned that have no clue how to handle ourselves in the first place? Does our gut reaction of what we always wanted to do take over when given an unforeseen situation? Or is perhaps this what we have always wanted knowing full well we should be handling ourselves like mature individuals?  

In both situations there are extenuating circumstances that may construe your opinion. In the case of the bullied child and parent who fought back, there are accusations flying back and forth that the mother allegedly threatened the wrong child. Her attorney is also claiming that she never touched the child and the both child and any witnesses are lying about the physical threats. And in case of the clerk, she claimed she was doing her job by tweeting city council meetings instead of recording the minutes and the job was so miserable and the people she worked with were so horrible you’d do the same thing too.

A lot of people would do the same thing in both situations. They’d tell any person who was bullying their child that there are consequences to bullying and if they do it again they’re are going to be taught a lesson they’d never forget. And they were forced to resign from a public job in a very public way they’d make sure they’d tell everyone off on the way out. I have to admit I’ve sometimes dreamed of handling awkward situations in a similar fashion, but I thought the best of it. I think I would know better than ever threaten a child who was bullying my own child. You can’t out bully a bully especially when that bully is a child. You’re an adult and you should remember to act that way in any situation. And telling off your supervisors on the way out of a job seems childish as well. Consider leaving with what dignity you have left.

People are making a bad situation worse by handling them in impulsive ways. Am I right? Or perhaps I too should I be thinking outside of the box when it comes to awkward situations that are made public? This behavior might actually gets results, just not the results you necessarily want.    

      

Why I’m Both Anticipating & Dredding the New Television Season That’s Full of Diversity

This week was the annual week that every year the inner TV geek is always eagerly anticipating with both hope and anxiety. That’s right it’s the annual Up-Front presentations where the four big broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and smaller networks on both cable and broadcast (The CW, TNT, TBS, USA et. al.) all make their upcoming fall schedule announcements and their big pitches on their new shows for advertisers and in essence the viewing public.

What fascinated me about this year’s crop of new shows was not the umpteenth spinoff of either CSI or NCIS on CBS (or in this case this year we get both, uh yeah?!?) But it was the surprising amount of diversity being offered in this year’s new crop of shows that has me both hopeful and nervous with anticipation.

ABC's new midseason series "Fresh Off the Boat" is the first series to focus on an Asian American family since "All-American Girl" starred comedian Margaret Cho.

ABC’s new midseason series “Fresh Off the Boat” is the first series to focus on an Asian American family since “All-American Girl” starred comedian Margaret Cho.

Looking Back, It Wasn’t Too Long Ago…

Forget the cheese-tastic titles such as Black-ish and Fresh off the Boat. It’s the substance of the show of what’s behind those titles that both excites me and worries me. They have a lot to look up to. Could it have been already thirty years ago this year that The Cosby Show lit up our screens and introduced us to the way a whole new family managed to live their lives with humor and dignity? But Cosby and the Huxtables weren’t the first. In the seventies we got a wide variety of families of a multicultural and economic backgrounds. There was Sanford and SonGood Times and The Jeffersons, just to name a few. All of these shows including the Cosby Show are still being shown in repeats on cable which means to me they still have a long and successful following to this day.

So the question remains what happened since the Cosby Show went off the air in 1992? Why hasn’t there been a truly breakthrough successful sitcom to star a person of color? Sure there’s been multiple attempts and decent runs of shows featuring comedians Margaret Cho, Damon Wayons, Bernie Mac and George Lopez. Not to mention a variety of smaller shows that managed to survive on niche networks like UPN and the WB back in the day. One would probably need a sociologist to give detailed research into why sitcoms and dramas for that matter with people of color as leads have failed to truly catch fire these past two decades and counting.

Comedian Cristela Alonzo will star in her own eponymous sitcom on ABC this fall.

Comedian Cristela Alonzo will star in her own eponymous sitcom on ABC this fall.

What happened? We’re all of the shows attempted just not interesting or funny or popular with a broad spectrum of the American viewing audience? Or did real life just get in the way which forced us all to reexamine our lives and just not watch shows that were not about topics or people that were similar to us? In the early part of this century, I remember the television critics taking over various minority groups that collectively previously bemoaned why there wasn’t a more diversity in the broadcast network’s fall shows. Now the networks are taking the initiative to diversify their own programming without any prompting. It has helped that shows like Scandal and The Mindy Project are taking off both commercially and creatively with female leads of color.

Viola Davis stars in the upcoming drama "How to Get Away with Murder" on ABC.

Viola Davis stars in the upcoming drama “How to Get Away with Murder” on ABC.

Dramas Are a Step Ahead of the Curve

And it’s not just comedies that are taking shape of a more multicultural world. Sure for the past few decades we’ve seen a ton of diverse workplace dramas from L.A. Law to ER showcase a more accurate portrayal of a diverse workforce in America, but very few of the most successful dramas were actually driven by a person of color. That was until Scandal really broke out in its second season for ABC. Now the trend for network television is to feature a number of high profile women in lead roles that are driving storylines like the new drama How to Get Away with Murder featuring two time Oscar® nominee Viola Davis which will air right after Scandal on Thursday nights. Coincidentally Fox has new drama featuring Davis’s Oscar® winning costar in The Help, Octavia Spencer in Red Band Society. CW gets on board with Jane the Virgin starring newcomer Christina Rodriguez about a Latina women who gets accidentally artificially inseminated. I guess there really is a story for everyone. Don’t forget there’s also Fox’s midseason Empire starring Oscar® nominees Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson and CBS has Stalker in its bullpen starring Maggie Q.

"Grey's Anatomy" & "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes will have a third drama on ABC's Thursday night lineup. This one stars another African American actress, Viola Davis takes the lead in "How to Get Away with Murder."

“Grey’s Anatomy” & “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes will have a third drama on ABC’s Thursday night lineup. This one stars another African American actress, Viola Davis takes the lead in “How to Get Away with Murder.”

What I’m Hopeful For This Year

Maybe dramas just are able to easier reflect a broader spectrum of this country’s cultures than comedies can. Perhaps executives became so afraid of becoming too politically incorrect by exploiting our cultural biases and stereotypes when it comes to creating laughs for comedies. Nevertheless I am thankful that networks are putting out shows like Cristela starring Latina comedian Cristela Alzono and Selfie starring actor John Cho. I hope all of these shows succeed, but I fully realize that this is probably not going to happen. Now that the broadcast networks are taking a chance on more people of color in starring roles, I fully believe that there’s nowhere to go but up. I’m filled with anxiety because I fear that all of these shows either tank or actually be successful by following too many stereotypes. I sincerely hope that these shows are filled with plenty of laughs or a lot of high drama in which the actor’s cultural identities aren’t completely put aside but hopefully they can actually enhance the shows and storylines they happen to be in. Hey, when watching television one can live in a fantasy world, why can’t we dream while were there?

Kim & Kanye’s Wedding Is Imminent: Why I Personally Don’t Care

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Kim Kardashian & Kanye West’s “whirlwind” romance is about to come to its pinnacle with their upcoming nuptials to be apparently held as an intimate affair to occur either in France or Southern California or perhaps both. All I have to say is please “Kimye” say your “I do’s” as fast as you can. without incident or documentation. In fact, there’s no need to let the public know that you have in reality done the deed because quite frankly…nobody cares.

Let’s face it just because cameras are not present shooting the event for the Kardashian’s E! reality show, nothing of this wedding can be considered private. Once the nuptials are said and the party winds down, no matter where the event is held, we’ll all know about it and the details will be shared. The problem is hardly anyone will care who wore what who said what and who did what.

Kim and Kayne feel free to keep this one private even though we all know you both have the urge to overshare. Case in point I love Keeping Up With the Kardashians it’s a mindless time waster for sure but the episode in which the proposal was showcased in San Francisco that just so happened to be filmed for the cameras was one of the most disingenuous moments in reality history I have ever witnessed. You cannot claim to want privacy and then show something like that one the air. I personally think that that particular moment backfired as it felt so forced and hallow that the reality of the moment was lost on the audience and quite frankly it’s hung a pall over them as a couple ever since.

Then there is Kanye’s fashion makeover of Kim. As displayed by her new haute couture look on the red carpets or whenever she steps out in front of the paparazzi all of a sudden Kim’s now wearing high end designer duds. She’s hanging out at the Met Gala with Anna Wintour who once said she’d never be caught dead with a pseudo-celebrity like Kim Kardashian. And of they were on the cover to much consternation from the fashion elite. It’s all coming across as manufactured and unnatural of a relationship that supposedly started as a friendship and has escalated into something more.

The entire notion of Kimye is comes across as a business arrangement because that what Kanye West does and that’s what the Kardashians do. This just has no genuineness to this moment or sincerity to this coupling. Plus, we don’t have it shoved down our throats when we really don’t care.

So on behalf of your so called fans, nothing but the best to you Kimye and your small but intimate wedding and your continuing relationship. I just hope you’re expecting any gifts like caring from us fans in return.

Is Broadway Devoid of Original Ideas?

 

Why can't anyone come up with something original for the Great White Way? Is it familiarity or cluelessness or something else?

Why can’t anyone come up with something original for the Great White Way? Is it familiarity or cluelessness or something else?

The 68th Annual Tony® nominations were revealed last Wednesday and the only major surprises were the fact that some well known Hollywood thespians were snubbed in their respective categories. Not only were frontrunners for Best Actor in a play Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, and James Franco snubbed but other celebs such as Michelle Williams and Zach Braff were also left off of the Tony’s® nomination list in their own respective categories as well. All of this fun round of award show roulette got me thinking of the current state of Broadway.

It seems to me that Great White Way could use a little injection of creativity. I say this because this season alone there seems to be a void of original ideas for new musicals that have not been based on previously produced motion pictures. This season alone saw the debuts of Bullets Over Broadway, Aladdin, Rocky: The Musical, and The Bridges of Madison County all of which heard their names cited on Wednesday morning for a nomination or two. of the four musical nominated for Best Musical: the musical revue After Midnight, Disney produced Aladdin, Carole King biography revue Beautiful, and the favorite going into June 8th’s ceremony A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

I found out from another well written article analyzing Broadway’s obsession with Hollywood that Gentleman’s Guide is also based on a motion picture albeit one from 1949, Kind Hearts and Coronets starring Alec Guinness. Even shows that didn’t get that much critical acclaim such as If/Then are also loosely based on Hollywood product, ever heard of Sliding Doors? Yep it’s the same premise with songs! This year’s revivals are also tinged with Hollywood razzle dazzle. Although Hedwig and the angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris started as a musical off Broadway. John Cameron Mitchell’s successful independent movie of the same title and premise in 2001 surely helped get this musical back on Broadway where more people could enjoy this unique rock opera. This year also saw Big Fish: The Musical come and go earlier this year.

This is not the first year Broadway was overrun with musicals from the silver screen. Most recently we’ve seem shows based on Kinky Boots, Matilda, Once, Newsies, and Thoroughly Modern Millie , many of which were so acclaimed they went on to win Best Musical of the Year. In hindsight one has to give credit to producers of the Tony® winning musicals such as Spring Awakening, Memphis and The Book of Mormon some credit for at least thinking outside the box when conjuring up their “new” idea for the big stage.

My point is that why isn’t Broadway coming up with amazing character filled storylines on their own? Why do they keep having to go back to the well of tried and true with Broadway songs and staging? Look I’m all for the razzle dazzle of a show thinking outside the box in adapting it’s source material such a Rocky incorporating the audience in it’s final pivotal fight scene and the musical Aladdin broadening its previously staged show from Disney’s California Adventure theme park to a more accessible and knowledgeable theatrical audience. I’m just wondering why every Hollywood script that’s even moderately well reviewed needs to be turned into a Broadway musical.

Rumors persist that producers are working on everything from The Princess Bride to Twenty Feet From Stardom. Gee I cannot wait for Pretty Woman: The Musical to be fully realized. Please tell me they are joking with that one. The problem with all of these films being adapted for the stage is the surprise the newness that is supposed to accompany a Broadway show full of songs lights and pizzazz is all but gone. Since these are such beloved titles we all know where the script is headed and how these characters came to be. What is unique is that songs are now accompanying these titles but that’s not necessarily a good thing as humor comes to mind once Rocky and Adrian Balboa busting into a final chorus at the end of Rocky: The Musical. Gonna Fly Know indeed right out of the theatre that is. I just the creative people behind some of Broadway’s most successful productions to look in the mirror and analyze what’s around the corner. How about adapting a great novel like Wicked did back in the day? Or how about basing a show on another famous production or historical event like Rent did in the 1990s or 1776 did back in the 1970s? Is it too much to ask for Broadway to start trying harder?

Hey if I’m investing close to one hundred dollars per ticket at the TKTS ticket stand then I would like to think that Broadway is doing its part to invest in its future. Is that too much to ask?

Why Docu-Reality Series Like “Lindsay” & “True Tori” Hurt Their Own Cause

With the recent premiere of True Tori on Lifetime and the recent wrap of Lindsay on OWN we have entered a new era of reality television where the celebrity docuseries serves as a catharsis or insta image rehab for the subject matter being documented. In these series, what matters not is whether or not the drama that happens on screen is being amped up for the cameras either helping or hurting theses actresses’ psyches not to mention their careers. But it is the fact they are doing these so called “serious series” in which they claim to be giving a window into their true lives showcasing their true problems which documents reality in a whole new light.

Not even Oprah Winfrey could save Lindsay Lohan from herself. Even when she told her to cut the bull while taping her docuseries Lindsay on OWN, Miss Lohan did her own things, of course we all watched.

Not even Oprah Winfrey could save Lindsay Lohan from herself. Even when she told her to cut the bull while taping her docuseries Lindsay on OWN, Miss Lohan did her own things, of course we all watched.

Lindsay Lohan agreed to do an eight episode docuseries for the Oprah Winfrey led OWN network. With its run of Tyler Perry sitcoms with recorded laugh tracks and dramas with questionable writing, not to mention inspirational shows grouped together as “Super Soul Sunday” the OWN clearly remains looking for a singular voice where it is known as a television destination for something other than unmemorable self help reality shows and creatively lackluster productions. No doubt Ms. Winfrey was hoping for “Lindsay” so be that new force where her network is positioned to be a destination for quality documentaries that appeal to the masses by focusing on a well-known entity like a Hollywood celebrity in the midst of an attempted comeback. And who better to be the face of said comeback than that of Hollywood troubled poster child Lindsay Lohan? Lindsay was fronted by documentarian Amy Rice who gets Lindsay to agree to film her a mere days from being released from her sixth stay in rehab.

So what have we learned so far? Lindsay is a hoarder, in the most serious sense possible. The series is supposed to showcase making her big move from Los Angeles back to New York, and she has to move all of her possessions. So for the first three episodes or so we see Lindsay getting her life together by unpacking her accessories and trying to sell her used clothes. Lindsay also has time management issues as she is late for everything whether it be for work or something inconsequential. Clearly whether inebriated or sober some things never change for Lindsay. Lindsay also has issues with what the truth especially when it comes to her sobriety and what that exactly means to her. Cameras haven’t been allowed to shoot all of Lindsay questionable behavior, which makes me wonder how much all-access documentarian Rice and OWN executives we expecting to get versus what they were supposed to get. We only get a little of Lindsay interacting with her equally troubled family from her father to her mother, both of whom have issues, to her more supportive siblings and friends we actually get very little into what makes Lindsay personally tick and she’s supposed to be kept sane amongst all of the madness in her life right now.

We also see Lindsay deal with the aspects of getting her life back on track. If it doesn’t completely throw her off. Everyone around her seems to be questioning her sobriety from the director, to her sober coach, to her assistant, to her life coach, everyone is keeping tabs on her. And this notion is explained by the producers (for reality television at least) with the usage of Full Screen computer graphics to explain some of the action that isn’t happening on screen that the producers feel that need to be explained. Such as “Lindsay has been upstairs for the past two hours and refuses to let cameras into her apartment.” Followed by a moment of silence meant for viewers left to ponder.

Tori Spelling let's it all hang out on her new docuseries True Tori on Lifetime.

Tori Spelling let’s it all hang out on her new docuseries True Tori on Lifetime.

That’s a similar take the producers of Tori Spelling’s new reality series True Tori is employing on the Lifetime Network. Here the issues are focuses around actress Tori Spelling dealing with the cheating allegations with her husband Dean McDermott and how she’s handling her brood of four young children on her own. Here the drama lies in the fact that McDermott is still in live-in therapy for his sexual addiction and he and Tori record their therapy sessions on camera for the world to see. (But we aren’t allowed to see their therapist on camera, oookay…) We also get Tori giving her own very long emotional confessional in multiple one on one interviews to the camera where she gets to tell her side of the story with regards to her husband, as well as her getting the chance to explain how haggard her life has now become now that she’s on her own. In terms of action, we see Tori running around her house with her young children acting up, driving them in the car as her young children act up again, and then talking with friends on how Dean betrayed her and how she’s handling all of the drama. And that’s the gist of the story behind True Tori she rants she cries we suffer as we watch.

And that is the biggest problems between these new docuseries that claim to be true documentaries and not true reality series.  There’s too much emotion on display and all of the emotion focuses on crying and whining and the “woe is me” approach. Lindsay cries because people don’t believe she is sober. Tori is crying because her husband cheated on her and has now left her on her own. These women need to get their emotion in check and not display all of their feelings on camera. It’s self serving and makes me personally not root for them, as if I had any reason to root for Lindsay and Tori. But then again I wouldn’t be watching their respective shows if I didn’t have some rooting interest for these poor pathetic women. I’m just not sure if these women need to lay everything on the table for viewers to digest. Sure this supposed to be a real “documentary” where the viewer gets an inside view of what makes these women tick during troubled times, but I just don’t want it to feel forced. And sadly as is the case with Lindsay and Tori, I’m feeling too forced fed right now. Give me a vapid self involved reality show focused on rich people and their petty problems anything and I’d hang around to watch anytime!