Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: The Year in Review

Cutting it close this year, aren’t I?

I usually earmark the last Friday of the year to share with y’all what it was that I liked, didn’t care for so much, and plain ol’ thought was kinda like, huh?

In 2010 I find myself in an interesting predicament. There are some movies I haven’t seen yet, so I can’t know whether I should include them in my traditional list, which starts out funny and irreverent and ends with my more serious top picks. So this year, I’m starting at the end, with my Top 10 films of the year only.

Stay tuned for the rest, my pretties.

10 Best Films of the Year (in alphabetical order):

127 Hours

Black Swan
Blue Valentine
The Ghost Writer
How to Train Your Dragon
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3

Honorable Mention (tie): The Other Guys and The Town

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3

Best Directors: Darren Aronoksky (Black Swan), Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), David Fincher (The Social Network), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), Christopher Nolan (Inception)

Best Body: David Lyons (Eat Pray Love)

Should’ve Done Better: Jennifer Aniston

Should’ve Gotten Better: Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love)

Best Comeback: Gwyneth Paltrow (for her expanded role in Iron Man 2 and her expertly executed media blitz on behalf of Country Strong)

Best Dress: Tina Fey’s multi-purpose blue dress in Date Night

Best Supporting Actors: Vincent Cassel (Black Swan), Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Best Use of Kim Cattrall: The Ghost Writer

Worst Use of Kim Cattrall (and Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon): Sex and the City 2

Can’t Wait to See More of – Female: Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right)

Can’t Wait to See More of – Male: Garrett Hedlund (Country Strong)

Most Welcome to the A-List: Emma Stone

Most Underappreciated: Knight & Day

Most Oh, No They Did Moment: When they brought back Aidan for that in Sex and the City 2

Best Supporting Actresses: Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), Marion Cotillard (Inception), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan), Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer)

Breakthrough Performance – Female: Mila Kunis (Black Swan)

Breakthrough Performance – Male: Jaden Smith (The Karate Kid)

Best Hair: Reese Witherspoon in How Do You Know

Best Look: Chris Pine in Unstoppable

Best Prop: Cam Gigandet’s box of Famous Amos Cookies in Burlesque

Best Trailer: Inception

Sexiest Mofo: Jake Gyllenhaall (buff in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, sensitive in Love & Other Drugs)

Best Actors: Jim Carrey (I Love You Phillip Morris), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)

Best Actresses: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Gwyneth Paltrow (Country Strong), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Photo: DreamWorks Animation (How to Train Your Dragon); SuperHeroFan.net (Eat Pray Love); Sony Pictures (Easy A); The Weinstein Company (The King’s Speech).

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Top Stories of the Year

Television and I, we’re BFF.

This season alone I’ve been watching an average of 25 hours a week of TV, which is kinda sick. Especially when you consider I TiVo some of it at home, FauxVo quite a bit of it at a BFF’s (my TiVo can’t handle all my needs), and I OnDemand and watch shows online, too.

It’s a full-time hobby, and so for the first time I want to recognize that which brings me so much please on such a consistent way.

So here’s to what I thought was the best of the tube in 2010

Community: The NBC Thursday night comedy may be ensemble piece, but everyone, from the group’s leader Joel McHale – and his guns – to MVPs like Alison Brie and Danny Pudi to the recurring players, has a chance to school other people in other so-called-funny shows. And how could it not after a season that went totally meta and delivered to insta-classic, clever, hilarious holiday treats (i.e., the Halloween ep, with its school of zombie, and the Christmas one, with its stop-motion brilliance). I hope these folks never graduate.

Friday Night Lights: Season 4 of this TV gem was more of the same. And by that I mean all kinds of amazing, with standout episodes like the one that should have scored Zach Gilford an Emmy nod and season-long arcs that built toward new beginnings for everyone in Dillon, Texas. Plus, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton continued delivering some of the best performances on TV, period, and making us wish we had people like them in our lives.

Fringe: The Fox sleeper dared to be even more, well...daring, and capable, and astute in the first half of its third season than most shows try to be in their entire run, or than anyone could hope for, and executed it all pretty much flawlessly. Anna Torv excelled at pulling double duty playing the role we’ve come to learn to love her in...and her (say, evil) alternate-universe counterpart, while Joshua Jackson continued showing enormous restraint, and John Noble reminded us, ep after ep, that he must get an Emmy nod this year, unless the Academy wants fans to cover its headquarters in amber.

The Good Wife: Because in its second season the Julianna Margulies vehicle demonstrated it is as layered as an onion. And because of Archie Panaji, whose investigator Kalinda, is one of the most intriguing characters I have ever seen on TV. And, most importantly, because it always leaves me wanting more.

Modern Family: The laughs and the quotables never stop when you’re in the company of these three families.

Nikita: It’s all about the Q Factor with this one, as in Maggie Q. The actress brings an unstoppable amount of sexy to the role of the assassin dead-set on revenge. The show may get shtick-y from time to time, but I’m too afraid of Q’s moves to say anything. Oh. Oops.

Parenthood: The Bravermans rock. End o’ story. Alright, it’s because as heightened as their love and support and care for one another is, it still rings real. Plus, Lauren Graham. Hello!

The Vampire Diaries: The guilty please may be on The CW, but it is by far one of the most satisfying, action- and drama- and dark-humor-packed hours of TV anywhere. Nina Dobrev blossomed this year and kicked butt and took numbers in her dual role as Elena and her deliciously bitching vamp-doppelgänger Katherine. And Ian Somerhalder got even more likeable as Damon, the bad vampire we’re meant to hate but can’t help but love.

The Walking Dead: Six episodes was enough for me to get hooked on zombies. And Andrew Lincoln. I would like next fall to get here, already, please.

10: This spot could have gone to a number of shows, like the still-has-it 30 Rock, or Cougar Town, or Damages. Don’t make me choose.

Photo: NBC.com (Parenthood).
The Arc(adia) Is Back

Billy Crudup is going back to familiar ground with familiar material.

The Tony winner is on board for the Broadway revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, which played on the Great White Way in 1995 and is returning in the spring.

The show, which had a sold-out run in London, features an ensemble cast that includes Margaret Colin (TV’s Gossip Girl), Raúl Esparza (Speed-the-Plow), and Crudup, who starred in the ’95 production as Septimus Hodge then (he will play Bernard Nightingale in 2011).

The plot of Arcadia crosscuts between a Derbyshire home in 1809 and a modern-day academic setting.

Previews will begin on Feb. 25 for a March 17 opening.

Photo: FilmSchoolRejects.com.
New Year, New Britney, Bitch

Britney Spears made her fans get there a little earlier today when she announced she’ll be dropping a new single, “Hold It Against Me,” next week.

The track was produced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin (who was responsible for several of the pop tart’s most iconic hits) and is said to have “this infectious bass beat beneath the song” and an “amazing” hook.

The single will debut on Jan. 7 in ancticipation of Spears’ seventh studio album, which is coming out in March.

Photo: LiveIndia.tv.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

He Can Speak Clearly Now

Of course The King’s Speech is a frontrunner this awards season – the film has all the makings of a masterful piece of cinema.

The cast is led by Colin Firth (Oscar-nominated last year for his turn in A Single Man), who’s having one of those...longer moments, if you will, during which an actor is in the good graces of both the public and the critics

Firth plays Englands Prince Albert, the man who would become King George VI, albeit much to his royal chagrin.

Known as “Bertie” to those closest and dearest, which include his devoted wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, stealing scenes as the woman who would become the beloved Queen Mother), the prince was a commanding presence, but also very much done in by a debilitating stammer.

He was thus quite happy to stay in the shadow of his father, George V (Michael Gambon), who, as it happens in this kind of story, was monarch first and father second.

The king did recognize his son Albert’s considerable strengths, chief among among them his better suitability to succeed, but that job was always to be his eldest’s, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), a man more concerned with affairs of the heart than with matters of state.

Bertie, The King’s Speech suggests, always knew he would eventually would have to step and clean up any mess Edward made of the English mornarchy, and that is, perhaps, part of the reason for his speech impediment, which gave him great cause for concern...for pause.

But I’m getting ahead of myself and our story.

When we first meet Albert, he’s once again doing one of his least favorite things to do: delivering an address in public. He’s not having an easy go at it. As much as he wants to, he cannot deliver that which is expected of him, and Firth with a quivering, yet firm upper lip that, by golly, says plenty even when he doesn’t is rather heartbreaking as the extraordinary gentle man caught in one of the most ordinary of circumstances of all: the struggle to communicate.

Defeated (the guy has seen everyone he could have seen for his problem), Albert is resigned. He cannot try any more methods. This is who he is, and he’s both relieved by that and troubled. He mustn’t fear anything any longer (that he’ll be called to task), but he shan’t forget he might.

It is Elizabeth ever warm, ever doting, ever confident in her husband Elizabeth – who seeks out someone else to help cure Albert. She finds that person in Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush, tremendous as ever), an Australian actor and speech therapist who is more (and less) than he seems, and the man who helps Bertie, in the most unexpected, unorthodox manner, overcome his stammer and, many years after they first met somewhat reluctant, deliver the faithful speech that lends the film part of its meaning (that would be George VI’s declaration of war on Germany).

The friendship that develops between Bertie and Logue is most extraordinary and, really, one of The King’s Speech’s most enjoyable parts of its oft-didactic, thoroughly enjoyable running time. Firth is extraordinary, and I gotta say I’ve hardly ever enjoyed Rush more, not to mention Bonham Carter, who simply should star in a young-Queen Mother biopic ASAP.

The film may be fairly standard (director Tom Hooper is a vet of TV miniseries he most recently delivered HBOs John Adams), but it is elevated by the three spectacular performances that are the thing awards buzz is made of, and deservedly so, no less.

My Rating ***

Photo: The Weinstein Company.
Reese’s Piece

Getting engaged is the new thing to do it seems.

A friend of mine got proposed to over the weekend – she accepted, natch! – and yesterday, Natalie Portman announced that she will be marrying her French beau Benjamin Millepied (and starting a family with the monsieur sometime next year).

And now today came the news that, after a few weeks of rumors, Reese Witherspoon will walk down the aisle again with Hollywood agent (and cutie patootie) Jim Toth, after all.

There must be something in the water. Something nice.

Photo: WhyFame.com.
Off the Market

The Hammer-wielder has gotten himself a ball and chain.

Chris Hemsworth, the hotstastic star of the upcoming Thor, and Elsa Pataky have gone and gotten
hitched.

The couple was married over the holiday.

Photo: News.com.au.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Tiny Dancer All Their Own

Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish have become parents.

The couple welcomed a son, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, on Christmas in California. The baby arrived via surrogate.

“We are overwhelmed with happiness and joy at this very special moment,” they said. “Zachary is healthy and doing really well, and we are very proud and happy parents.”

Congratulations, you two!

Photo: UsMagazine.com.
A Beautiful Girl (or Boy) on the Way

Mazel Tov, Natalie Portman!

The actress’ camp
confirmed today that the Black Swan star and her boyfriend, French ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied – whom she met on the set of the ballerina thriller – are engaged and expecting a baby.

Portman
revealed after the news broke that she’s “indescribably happy and feel[s] very grateful to have this experience.”

Photo: Stylebrity.co.uk.

Update: On a note that is sorta related, Alanis Morrissette welcomed a son named Ever Imre on Christmas.

Just thought you oughta know....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lies the Man Told

Its a Christmas miracle: I Love You Phillip Morris is out in theaters at last.

The movie, a black comedy from the writers of Bad Santa, had been in release-date limbo for quite some time (more than a year, actually), and not necessarily because of its so-called controversially gay subject matter – Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor play lovers, and get pretty graphic with it – but because of funding troubles (the powers that be behind the project ran out of money for a proper stateside release but managed foreign showings).

In any case, the movie proves that it was well worth the wait and resisting the temptation to watch it in pieces online.

As a man whose identity...heck, whose life literally crashes into him, Carrey’s pretty spectacular and (his go-for-broke comic persona adeptly juxtaposed with dramatic layers), you’d think, worthy of some awards buzz. Alas, it seems the delay in getting I Love You Phillip Morris to screens did take a toll, and that would have to be its chances at any gold this season. Oh, well...he knows he did good, and now we all can, too.

Carrey plays this guy named Steven Russell. He’s a family man, an organ player at his church, and a freaking law enforcement officer who, after a car crash (coming home from a secret thrist with – gasp! another man) becomes this liberated (wait until you hear his coming-out speech), high-living gay man and all-around white-collar scoundrel.

The real Russell, btw, is currently serving a somewhat-harsh-considering 144-year sentence in a maximum-security facility in Texas. That’s because not only did he run many a credit-card scam, he also, during one of his more ambitious schemes, became CFO for this big company, right, borrowing money from its accounts to invest it and pay himself big commissions. Not to mention, he had this too-unbelievable-to-be-true-but-nevertheless-true penchant for breaking out of prison, embarrassing officials along the way and more than once.

Anyway, as it plays in I Love You Phillip Morris, Steve isn’t a bad guy. He’s a cheat and a liar, and the title character (McGregor, never more mild or more charmingly vulnerable) will grow to wish he’d never laid eyes on him, but Steve truly believes everything he does he does for love.

Up until the moment he meets Phillip, Steve has been happy to discover himself. After leaving his God-worshipping wife Debbie (Leslie Mann, about whom I can never gush enough), he moves to South Beach, shacking up with a fetching Latin lover (Rodrigo Santoro), trying his hand at a respectable job but ultimately realizing that to live the gay lifestyle he has to result to frauds. Being gay, he says, ain’t cheap.

For his crimes he lands in prison, where he sees Phillip – who’s in the clink for a petty offense. He pursues him immediately...and, proving that old habits die hard, he feeds him a lie right away, too.

In any case, the attraction is a two-way street, and, after courting/writing to each other for a bit, Steve works his magic so they can cell together. It’s sweet. No, really, it is, and also funny (the movie is at its most outrageous during its first half, switching gears ever so slightly later on to show us the cost of Steve’s choices).

When one of his dirty tricks backfires and they are torn asunder, Steve promises to find a way to get back to Phillip, and he does. He springs himself from the big house, and he does the same for his lover. It’s come what may for this guy.

But and there’s always a but with guys like Steve he cannot keep away from trouble. He makes a nice life for himself and Phillip, but it’s one built on a throne of lies. Eventually, it all catches up to him, as it would, and he pays the ultimate prices by losing it all, including the love of his life.

Was it worth it? The answer, the movie tells us is really irrelevant. Steve is damaged goods, and no matter how much he tries, he’ll never be any more than he is. To know him is to love him. But that doesn’t mean neither Phillip nor us have to like him.

We can enjoy him and his story, though, which is more than likely what you’ll do. And that’s a good thing because this movie offers plenty of reasons to. More than anything, it depicts an honest love story between two men that is raw and honest and complicated just like it would be.

It’s a rare sight, but it’s a welcome one.

My Rating ***1/2

Photo: Roadside Attractions.

Friday, December 24, 2010

That Girl Is a Menace

Saoirse Ronan, the Oscar-nominated troublemaker from Atonement, is going all badass on us.

The young actress has reunited with director Joe Wright for
Hanna, the pretty kick-butt story of a very special girl…who lived in the woods…where she was groomed by her father (Eric Bana) to kill a CIA agent played by Cate Blanchett.

Ooohh….



I cannot wait to find out just how lethal this little bird is…and what exactly Blanchett means when she says she turned out “better” than she’d hoped.

2011, can you get here already so we can be that much closer to Hanna?
Off to the East

Christian Bale is going on a little cinematic trip before The Dark Knight Rises.

The actor, who’s currently at the center of Best Supporting Actor Oscar chatter for his buzzed-about turn in The Fighter, is set
to star in Zhang Yimou’s upcoming Nanjing Heroes.

Bale will play a sympathetic American priest during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, when invading Japanese troops slaughtered thousands of Chinese citizens.

The Chinese director is looking to start shooting next month. The project will be 40 percent English, and the rest in Mandarin.

Photo: GQ.com.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sleeper?

Could Damian Lewis be plotting an attack on American television?

Well, the Brit is certainly planning...som’in’, or so Claire Danes will think now that he’s been cast as her male counterpart on Homeland, a Showtime pilot about a Marine sergeant under CIA investigation after spending eight years as a prisoner of war in Baghdad.

The drama, co-starring Mandy Patinkin, Laura Fraser, and David Harewood, is set to go into production next month.

Photo: Telegraph.co.uk.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Robyn Ruled 2010, But Hardly Anyone Noticed

Every once in a while, a truly one-of-a-kind act pops on the music scene, and they are so fantastic, so f---ing original, so tremendous it almost goes without saying they will go unnoticed.

2010 was supposed to be Robyn’s year.

The Swedish import was supposed to explode – I mean, girlfriend put out not one, not two, but three albums and toured her little heart out.

Alas, as much as she connected with critics she failed to do the same with audiences (not to mention radio), at least, to any tangible degree, in the United States.

Which is a shame because the music she put out had substance, rhythm, and beat. It was contagious, amazing, and instantaneously addictive.

Those are some of the reasons The Guardian has named her “Dancing on My Own,” the lead single off her Body Talk Pt. 1, the best track of the year.

Listen – and see – for yourself why:



Heartbreak never sounded better, did it?
Sizing Up the Ring

Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam has his eye on a role as boxer in the indie thriller KIN.

The cutie-patootie is in talks – as is Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy) and Eric Bana – to star in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s (The Counterfeiters) next project.

Wilde and Bana would play fugitive siblings who encounter an ex-boxer (Hunnam) coming home for the holidays.

Production is set to begin in Canada in March.

Photo: TheLoveUMake.com.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Little Bit of Sunshine

Country Strong is a-comin’ – and you know I can’t wait for it, alright, and that I just heart Gwyneth Paltrow in it, sight unseen.

Leighton Meester co-stars in the movie opening wide on Jan. 7, playing the young upstart giving G.P.’s character a run for her country-comeback money.

The Gossip Girl MVP also does some singin’ in the movie, tackling a couple of songs. One, titled “Words I Couldn’t Say,” about which I already gushed, is more of a slow jam, but on the other, the sunnier, flirtier “Summer Girl,” gal pal gets all girly girl on us with.

And I likey. Check it out:


Bouncy, huh?
Mama’s Ex

We’re getting a glimpse of Claire’s handsome past on TV’s hilarious Modern Family.

Matt Dillon has signed on to guest on the comedy when its sophomore season returns in the new year. He will play the (hot) ex-boyfriend of Julie Bowen’s character.

And to make everything even funner for us and for Claire (not!), the guy’s gonna bring his new gal pal along for the ride – Shelley Long, a.k.a. her mom.

I’m laughing already.

Photo: Details.com.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You Don’t Have to Ask, But We Can Tell Now

Ding, dong, the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has come to an end

Yesterday, the Senate
voted to strike down – at long last! – the 17-year ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.

Welcome to the future, America.

The 65-31 decision – “the right thing to do” – was mostly Democrat-driven, but included eight Republican votes.

Sen. John McCain wasn’t among those in favor of the repeal, btw, saying it would cause “great damage” to the United States’ armed forces.

To which I say: Suck it, John McCain.

Your choice of running mate a couple of years ago didn’t show the soundest judgment, so go discriminate in your own house and let the country and its fine people move into a new era of inclusiveness, you ol’ bat.

President Obama, btw, hailed the action, saying it was “time to close this chapter in our history.”

Ditto, of course, a lot of
celebs.

Now, can we do something about marriage equality and equal rights of all kind (including those that’d make it possible for binational gay couples to tie the knot) a reality, please?

Photo: Newsweek.com.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Presidential Slayer

Eric Bana is in talks to play the lead in the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie.

That’s a book that’s being adapted for the big screen, right?

His Lincoln would sure have some sex appeal to him....

Photo: KayteEllisAgency.com.
The Estranged MILF

Parenthood, the still-undercelebrated-for-my-taste NBC drama, just got more must-watch-y.

John Corbett will appear on the show in the new year, on several episodes, as Seth, Sarah’s (Lauren Graham) recovering alcoholic-musician ex. (He’s taking over the role that Sons of Anarchy’s Darin Heames originated the role in the pilot.)

Now, from what we’ve always heard about Seth, the dude’s a bit of a douche, but since he’ll be trying to reconnect with his family, I guess we’re for a debunking of what we know about him.

Which I’m half-fine with – I wouldn’t mind seeing Corbett play a role that doesn’t require that he be super-charming like Aidan Shaw on Sex and the City.

In any case, you can expect to see the actor when Parenthood moves to Mondays in March.

Photo: Life.com.
The Ballerina Identity

Director Darren Aronofsky has a knack for presence, for intrigue, for drama, and his latest, the psychological thriller Black Swan, sure brings it all in precise spades-y ways.

To echo the praise that has been lavished upon the film is to gush about its star, Natalie Portman, who embodies the aforementioned three elements beautifully. She adds layers of vulnerability and fierceness when her role as a featured New York City Ballet dancer on the verge of a mental breakdown calls for them during some of the moodiest, most intense 143 minutes committed to the big screen this fall. She is a mesmerize.

Portman’s Nina is this not-a-girl-doesnt-yet-knows-she’s-a-woman-to-be-reckon-with-type of individual.

Her breed of ballerina is most controlled. Of everyone in the company, she’s always striving for a perfection that proves elusive to her even when it’s so close and evident to all she can almost touch it but not reach it. The competition she faces is stiff: She has to live up to her mother’s (Barbara Hershey) broken dreams, beware of the other girls, and fulfill her own ambition.

She can’t let go, though...give into her impulses – she speaks in what sounds like a whisper, if not a whimper for most of the film, seldom allowing herself to let the beast within loose – for she doesn’t know what could happen if she did.

When her director, Thomas (Vincent Cassell, in a slithery turn that I’m surprised hasn’t garnered him more attention this awards season), dangles the coveted role of the Swan Queen in his season-opening production of “Swan Lake” in front of her (after casting aside his former prima ballerina, the bombastic Beth played by Winona Ryder), Nina is both excited and afraid. She – and Thomas – knows that she can dance the heck out of the White Swan, but the most seductive Black Swan is less of a sure bet. She has to attack the role, as he puts it, but she struggles.

Thomas doubts Nina has the fire the role requires, that his would-be star can open up and blossom in time for opening night. The arrival of Lily (Mila Kunis, in a breakthrough showing), a shiny, more effortlessly confident new dancer from the West Coast only compounds Nina’s worries. Life begins to imitate the art (Lily mostly dons darker hues, while Nina is often clad in lighter ones).

Little by little, Lily catches people’s attention, threatening Nina’s standing and eventually becoming her understudy. Is she pulling an Eve Carrington? Is Lily, by freeing Nina’s innermost desires, playing her and setting her up for a fall...or is Nina imagining it all under the pressure of her most high-profile role yet?

Black Swan, in many ways, parallels the story of “Swan Lake,” and raises the question of how far would one go for their art.

The film delves into this noir fantasy in keys moments, blurring the lines between what is and what isn’t. It is a technique that Aronofsky mastered in previous films (like Requiem for a Dream), one that he puts to good use here. Without the committed performances of Portman & Co., though, this very easily could have descended into shtick or, worse, camp.

A character study of obsession, Black Swan, however, soars as an unlikely meditation on the cost of success.

My Rating ****

Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
It’s...Complicated

I’d been looking forward to James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know, if anything because I’d seen on-set photos that suggested the movie would be cute and how could it not be with a cast that includes the irresistible Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, the charmer of all trades Paul Rudd, and Jack freakin’ Nicholson.

Alas, what can I say...the movie is, surprisingly, not all that.

Witherspoon looks beyond-lovely in it, though, her hair so sunny and wavy and just the right length o’ sexy.

It’s actually a bit puzzling that How Do You Know doesn’t work. It follows a pretty standard rom-com-ish story – girl torn between boys, with a few bigger-picture conflicts tacked on for good measure – but it does so in such a messtastic way. The movie opens and we’re like, thrown into these people’s situations pretty quickly, almost without rhyme or reason.

There’s a disconnect between what the characters say, what we’re led to believe they’re essentially all about and moving toward, and what they seem to be doing on screen.

Take Lisa (Witherspoon), for instance. She’s this fantastic softball player, right, but we never see her playing the sport she’s been cut from the 2011 Team USA. The presumption would be she’ll be trying to figure out her next step, but she’s instead happy to go through the motions.

Huh?

Alright, I can understand her ambivalence, but because we’re also told and shown that this is a woman who has a laser-sharp focus, who knows how to do battle on and off the field (her bathroom mirror is covered with feel-strong affirmations), it just seems odd that she goes down the road she does.

To see her in the throes of non-passion with Matty (Wilson), a vain big-time baseball player who’s fun and good in bed but completely dysfunctional in a grown-up relationship, it rings so against her nature it’ll make you wonder how she doesn’t realize she belongs with this other guy, George (Rudd), a legally embattled businessman with early onset neurosis facing a jail sentence for the sins of his boss/undeserving father (the underwritten Nicholson).

He’s really quite perfect – except for the federal inquiry that’s the thorn at his side, about which Lisa knows nothing. His outstanding nature is blemished by this unsatisfactorily explained wrongdoing, which has made him doubt himself so he doesn’t think he deserves Lisa. How he doesn’t realize she’s already his, that she just has to get there, immediately and do something to spare us the next 40 minutes of who will she pick? is a plot device that would work had Brooks written a story that captured his idea better.

That’s the central conflict of How Do You Know: how these folks don’t realize where they’ll end up when the audience already knows it...and how the movie’s writer-director didn’t service his actors the way they and we deserved.

My Rating **

Photo: Sony Pictures.
A Quite Sexy Orbit

Downey Jr. out.

Robert Downey Jr. is no longer feeling the Gravity.

The actor, who was supposed to star opposite Sandra Bullock in Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi thriller, has been replaced by none other than George Clooney.

Cuarón could do worse, right?

Not!

Photo: Examiner.com.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bening vs. Swank at the SAGs! Plus, Betty White!

Nominations for the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards cemented the frontrunner status of films like The Social Network and The King’s Speech.

Among the surprises of this morning’s announcement, however, was the unexpected redux in the Best Actress category, which sees surprise nominee Hilary Swank (Conviction) pitted against The Kids Are All Right’s Annette Bening.

Which means Swank
may squeeze into the Oscars’ final five and put a damper, yet again, in Bening’s chances. Which is amusing in many ways, I guess.

Click
here for the complete film categories.

On the
TV front, it all came down to two words: Betty. White.

The It Lady received her first career nomination for her work on TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland. She and her cast mates also got an Ensemble nod.

The casts of some of my fave – 30 Rock! The Closer! Glee! The Good Wife! Modern Family! – are also vying for an Actor, so I’m happy.

Photo: TVLand.com (Hot in Cleveland).


Update: The Social Network’s streak continued on Dec. 20 when it received best dramatic movie, best director, and best adapted screenplay kudos at the Satellite Awards.

Colin Firth took home Best Actor in a Drama for his work in The King’s Speech, while Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) won best dramatic actress.

Click here for a full list of winners.

And go ahead and make the Facebook movie your No. 1 at the office pool.
The Ultimate NYC Girl to Do NYE

Sarah Jessica Parker is ready to party.

The actress has joined the star-studded cast of Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve. She will play Abigail Breslin’s mom in the sure-to-be-a-hit follow-up (but not sequel) to the director’s Valentine’s Day.

On a related note, Halle Berry and Zac Efron are in talks to come on board as well. The former would play a caterer, and the latter a bike messenger.

Photo: Elle.com.
The World Is His Stage

Matthew Morrison knows exactly what he’s doing while he’s on break from Glee during Christmas break and his summer hiatus: He’s going to rehearse and then on tour.

The artist a.k.a. Mr. Schuester is hoping to release his debut solo album in May, and eyeing a stint on the road once his hit TV show wraps up its second season.

“I’m gonna go all over the world,” he
said. “I start band rehearsal in two weeks when we go on our little Christmas break.

“We’re almost done [recording. I’m really, really happy with it, and I can’t wait for people to hear it as well.”

Bring it, handsome. But leave the shirts at home. (Right?)

Photo: Details.com.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making Home Sound Good

Yes, we all know I’m obsessed with Gwyneth Paltrow these days, alright, but, hey, with good reason.

I love how impeccable – and sexy! – she looked in her white Emilio Pucci dress at the Country Strong premiere last night.

And I love, love, love this other song she has on the movie’s soundtrack, the
Golden Globe-nominatedComing Home,” which I can’t stop listening to.

She sounds really frakkin’ amazing on it.

Photo: People.com.

Update: Oh, and guess who’s totally “interested” in starring in the movie version of Broadway’s Rock of Ages.

Yep – G.P.

“It sounds cool,” she
said at the premiere. “I just got the script and I will read it on the plane home tomorrow. But it sounds like it could be fun.”

The musical, which tells the story of a young L.A. couple whose story through ’80s rock hits, has a couple of other big names attached to it: Tom Cruise and Mary J. Blige.

Do it, Gwyn!
The Cuddly Type

Mila Kunis, who’s gone from stealing scenes on TV’s That ’70s Show to earning major awards buzz (deservedly so) for her supporting turn in Black Swan, is not slowing down her big-screen takeover.

The actress recently wrapped the comedy Friends with Benefits opposite Justin Timberlake and is negotiating a role in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.

Kunis, who does the voice of Meg on MacFarlane’s Family Guy, would play the girlfriend of a man (quite possibly to be played by Mark Wahlberg) who, as a young boy, wished his teddy bear could come to life. His wish comes true, and hilarity ensues.

Photo: Zimbio.com.
Time for a Risk

King’s Speech star Colin Firth is ready for a (remake of) Gambit.

The actor is in talks to star as a burglar planning to rob a billionaire with the help of a woman who looks just like the rich man’s dead wife in the revisit of the 1966 British Michael Caine-Shirley MacLaine vehicle.

Joel and Ethan Coen are behind the pens of the project.

Photo: FanPop.com.
The Ultimate Pirates Booty

Capt. Jack Sparrow (double-Golden Globe nominee Johnny Depp) is back, boys and girls, and he’ll be looking for the hard-to-find Fountain of Youth on next summer’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Won’t you join him on his new adventure?

After all, Penélope Cruz is, as is Ian McShane, Keith Richards, and Depp’s fellow franchise vet Geoffrey Rush, among others. Check it out:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Perhaps They Know Something We Don’t

The Hollywood Foreign Press announced its nominations for the upcoming Golden Globes, and the Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp critically panned, underperfoming starrer The Tourist did quite well, snagging Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) and acting mentions.

I guess the movie is better than they say....

Nah, the Foreign Press just couldn’t resist inviting those two to their party.

Among the other surprises: Emma Stone was singled out for Easy A! Yay!

Photo: Sony Pictures (The Tourist).

Update: On the TV front, what do Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, and The Vampire Diaries gotta do to get some awards love? That show delivered the thrills, the drama, and the sexy week after week this fall, and Dobrev in particular did an extraordinary job pulling off two very distinct roles.
Are You F---in’ Kiddin’, Oprah?

Oprah has gone and gotten Hugh Jackman hurt!

Alright, alright – it’s not like she did anything to him. The Aussie of my dreams agreed to make a spectacular entrance into the rechristened Oprah House while the talk-show hostess with the mostest did her thing Down Under…and the stunt went awry:



Aw, Hugh, are you OK? Can I get you anything? A rub? A “
tissue”? A kiss?