Monday, November 17, 2014

Betty White on AHS

From an offhand comment by a Facebook friend (Hi, Michelle!), came my latest 'thing.' Now hear me out on this one.

The incomparable Jessica Lange has already announced her departure from "American Horror Story," the anthology/repertory genre series that won her two Emmy Awards, after this season. 

America's Favorite Dirty Old Lady/Sweetheart has just learned that TVLand has cancelled her often quite hilarious sitcom "Hot In Cleveland." Yes, Lange has been the show's 'star,' but other company members (Sarah Paulson; Frances Conroy; Evan Peters; Lily Rabe) have been the backbones of many episodes and seasons. Who better to be the next Grand Dame of whatever nastiness Ryan Murphy and company have cooking for Season Five. It certainly wouldn't be her first foray into genre work. Remember her hilarious turn as a foul-mouthed farm widow in Lake Placid?

She'd fit right in with newer company members Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. I can see them as some sort malevolent troika of evil... deliciously camp and sickly twisted! 

And don't forget, a similar campaign got her a particularly hilarious gig hosting "Saturday Night Live:"

She's even hosted her own (rather lame) hidden camera show, "Off Their Rockers." Think 'Punk'd" meets Cocoon.

Surely Ryan Murphy knows the value of good publicity and ratings. So I am asking you to take to Twitter and Facebook and make the hashtag #BettyWhiteOnAHS trend hard! Let's get Betty another outrageous gig!

More, anon.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mini Reviews - "X-Men: Days of Future Past;" "Horns;" "Magic in the Moonlight."

One of the many benefits of traveling for my day job is the opportunity to catch up on films I missed in theaters at no additional expense to me. This past weekend's jaunt to San Francisco was no exception and I was able to see two newish movies while flying and a current release in my hotel room. 

First up, Alexandre Aja's take on Joe Hill's second novel, Horns. I read 'Horns' over a few nights while staying at my sister's a few years ago, and while I liked it a lot, I thought his first novel, 'Heart-Shaped Box' was better. (Hill, if you don't know, is the son of prolific genre novelist Stephen King, writing under his mother's maiden name). Ig Parrtish (Daniel Radcliffe) is accused of murdering his long-time love Merrin (Juno Temple). When he suddenly sprouts what appear to be demonic horns on his forehead, Ig finds those he encounters incapable of telling him anything but the worst secrets about themselves. Determined to find Merrin's true killer, Ig tears through his Pacific Northwest hometown, exposing the worst among it's residents, including his own family. Aja (High Tension; The Hills Have Eyes) displays his distinctive look in full, giving Horns a very in-your-face style. Radcliffe is impressive in the role, though some may find Harry Potter swearing and having sex a little off-putting. Supporting performances from James Remar; Kathleen Quinlan; Heather Grahame and David Morse are excellent, across the board, though Temple seemed a little flat in a role which consisted entirely of flashbacks. While some critics truly disliked Horns, I thought it a fairly faithful adaptation with some interesting FX and an hilarious comment on the secrets we all try to keep from one another. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Horns is rated 'R' for "sexual content, some graphic nudity, disturbing violence including a sexual assault, language and drug use." 

Next was director Bryan Singer's newest entry in the franchise he created, X-Men: Days of Future Past. While I've always had issues with time-travel story lines, Singer manages to almost seamlessly combine the casts of both timelines in the series in a story revolving around a group of genetically-altered robots used to root out and destroy mutants. With a plot too convoluted to go into in a mini-review and Hugh Jackman's obviously aging Wolverine as a character who doesn't age, Days of Future Past somehow works, despite minimal appearances from the franchise's most famous members. "American Horror Story" cutie Evan Peters and "Game of  Thrones" alum Peter Dinklage join the growing number of terrific actors to appear in the franchise. Great FX and some complex performances from James McAvoy; Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence help make Days... one of the better entries in the franchise. *** 1/2 (Three and a Half Stars Out of Four). Rated 'PG-13' for "sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language."

Finally, comes prolific director Woody Allen's latest period piece, Magic in the Moonlight. Set mostly in the south of France in 1928, Magic... is the story of a magician and psychic debunker (Colin Firth) who is pressed by a friend and fellow magician (Simon McBurney) to reveal the fakery of an American medium (Emma Stone). What follows is a rather dull and predictable story in which Firth's character is fooled by and eventually falls in love with Stone's. Allen's oft-studied themes of religion and atheism are at the core, but it's nothing we haven't seen from him before. Supporting performances from Hamish Linklater; Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver and some lovely period costumes and set-pieces make the movie a bit more palatable, but I haven't seen an Allen film I've loved in a long time. There is really nothing new or interesting about Magic in the Moonlight and I think it may finally signal the call for the once-hilariously brilliant filmmaker to retire.  ** (Two Out of Four Stars) Magic in the Moonlight is rated PG-13 for " a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout."

More, anon.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Retro Review: "The World's End"

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg round out their "Cornetto* Trilogy" (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are the first two) with their take on Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, The World's End.

Desperate to reconnect to his youthful adventures, Gary (Pegg) talks four old mates into recreating and actually finishing the "Golden Mile" pub-crawl they attempted 23 years ago. 12 pubs in one night, ending at The World's End. But when they return to the town they grew up in, something is... off. None of the regular pub owners seem to recognize them and it looks as if they keep passing the same people on the street over and over again. Joined by pals Peter (Eddie Marsan); Steven (Paddy Considine); Oliver (Martin Freeman); Andy (Nick Frost) and eventually Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), Gary is determined to relive the best night of his life, despite the decidedly weird goings on in their home town. And as difficult as dredging up the past may be for all of them, what's happening in their small village is much worse.

Pegg's and Wright's script spends the first act on somewhat slow but amusing (and important) exposition before it's gets to the meat of the story, (SPOILER ALERT) which ultimately involves an alien plot to pacify the citizens of Earth so they might join an inter-galactic coalition of some kind. The performances across the board are excellent (who knew Frost could move like that?) and the FX are terrific. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and even more moments of quiet humor. Pierce Brosnan (Goldeneye) and "The Strain" alum David Bradley both lend their talents in supporting roles and the ubiquitous Bill Nighy is on hand for some very funny voice-over work at the end.

While certainly better than Hot Fuzz, The World's End still can't hold a candle to the brilliantly funny first film, Shaun of the Dead, though it echoes many of the same themes and locales while completing the triumvirate of Horror, Action and Sci-Fi in a mostly satisfying way (and including a rather hilarious fence joke which appears in all three films).

*** (Three Out of Four Stars). The World's End is rated 'R' for "for pervasive language including sexual references." 

*BTW - Cornetto is a British Ice Cream cone brand, featured in all three movies.

And here are the trailers for the first two films in the trilogy:

I hope to watch all three in a row, some day...

More, anon.