Thursday, September 25, 2008

Simon Pegg: Leading Man

The Times of London has an interesting profile of Simon Pegg, the man who invited the zom-rom-com and who's been romping around Hollywood ever since.

The story calls Pegg "the world's unlikeliest rom-com hero" (even less likely than Ricky Gervais?) and attempts to explain his appeal:

He doesn’t have Brad Pitt’s abs, Daniel Craig’s jaw or Johnny Depp’s smoulder. He is an everyman with dreams - letting men think that they, too, might kiss Kirsten Dunst while allowing their girlfriends to believe the slob beside them might yet shape up.

The whole thing is worth a read. Pegg's latest, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, hits theaters this weekend.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The 60th Primetime Emmys... In Real Time

Before we head into the real awards season, I figured I ought to work on my live-blogging skills. Consider this an experiment. Here goes!

8:02pm - Am I the only one who caught Susan Sarandon rolling her eyes when Oprah was introduced?

8:14pm - I had forgotten that the five nominees for "Best Reality TV Show Host" would be co-hosting the show. I wish the Emmys had forgotten, too. Was their intro designed to prove that they don't, in fact, belong at the big show?

8:22pm - You know it's bad when the winners are coming up with the best jokes of the night. Thank you, Jeremy Piven. The television writers aren't still on strike, are they?

8:39pm - Ricky Gervais and Steve Carell just made this show worth watching. Give them both awards - for Most Awkward Man In History, and Best Poker Face On Prime Time.

8:58pm - Nice to see the Colbert Report's writers get their due. (Also nice to see Conan O'Brien's Heigl bit!) Is it me, or is the writer crowd getting an unusual level of attention in this year's show? Post-strike fall-out, I guess.

9:00pm - I wonder what Steve Martin thinks of Howie Mandel and Ryan Seacrest. It must be tough to craft a show that has room for the likes of both. Steve Martin, in my mind, stands for everything that's right about TV - Jeff Probst, on the other hand...

9:04pm - Two questions spring to mind: First, are Heidi Klum's constant outfit changes designed to mask her inability to read a teleprompter? And second, has Josh Groban secretly been voicing Cartman all these years?

9:08pm - First "community organizer" line of the night goes to... Laura Linney!

9:27pm - Television is so lucky that they have someone like Tina Fey on their side: talented, articulate, and a bona fide hottie to boot. But is it just me, or are the Emmys turning somewhat Oscar-like in terms of honouring shows that hardly anyone watches?

9:40pm - That was probably the least boring message from an Academy president that I've ever witnessed. That's not saying much, though.

9:49pm - Stephen Colbert just induced my first real guffaw of the night, with his "dried up old prune" bit. "You can never have too much... What could possibly go wrong?"

In other news... 9 minutes since the last commercial break? Weak.

9:54pm - Sandra Oh had a favourite line for the night: "My parents are here with me tonight, and they could not be prouder... Unless I actually was a doctor."

10:01pm - Don Rickles should henceforth host all award shows and present all awards. The man made my night - and I'm pretty sure most of the audience felt the same way!

Also - did anyone else notice that NO ONE clapped for the Amazing Race when they won Best Reality TV Series? I guess it's a room full of writers and actors - neither of whom reality tv bothers to employ..

10:03pm - Whoever was in charge of the teasers before each commercial break is under the mistaken impression that we care about the winner of the reality TV awards. Memo To Whomever It May Concern: We don't.

10:33pm - Yup, it's a regular writer love-fest at the Emmys tonight. Alec Baldwin called Tina Fey "the Elaine May of her generation" - I'm going to have to google that.

In the meantime, all the writer love is re-kindling my occasional fantasies of somehow writing something, someday, that qualifies for nomination at a fancy televised red-carpet event, wearing a designer gown, and giving a Hollywood hottie a kiss on the cheek before gracefully accepting my award...

10:36pm - Elaine May

10:46pm - Ahhh... Now I understand! They included an award for Best Reality TV Host so they could trot out Jimmy Kimmel to mock the nominees. Almost makes it worth it. Almost.

10:59pm - That's all, folks!

The Buzz On 'Ghost Town'

The reviews are in on Ricky Gervais' rom-com debut - and the results are...mixed.

In a mostly-glowing review, the Globe's Liam Lacey calls Ghost Town an "innovative romantic comedy that is a mixture of British spice and American sugar." (Lacey also notes that Gervais is part-Canadian... File that away for future cocktail party trivia!)

Meanwhile, over at the CBC, Martin Morrow calls the flick a "tepid supernatural rom-com" and "a largely uninspired parody of Ghost." He praises Gervais, though, and here's a bang-on excerpt from that bit of the review:

Like some of the great comedians (Peter Sellers springs to mind), Gervais seems to possess an inner core of melancholy. At his best, he walks the knife-edge between laughter and pathos beautifully. Think of that funny/mortifying scene in Extras when David Bowie made up a nasty song mocking Andy Millman — Andy sat there, listening politely, his ego crumbling like a biscuit in hot tea. Ghost Town doesn’t give Gervais the same opportunity for subtlety.

Slate's Dana Stevens agrees that Ghost Town "doesn't do justice to the manifold gifts of Ricky Gervais" - but she's willing to give the film some credit. It does, she writes, have "inspired casting, a few memorable scenes, and enough laughs that mainstream U.S. audiences may finally get the point of that doughy English guy with the pointy canine teeth and the high-pitched giggle."

As for me, I'm still planning to catch this one in theaters. I said above that Martin Morrow's comment was bang on - but that's exactly my problem with Ricky Gervais. That "core of melancholy" throws this cheesy-ending-loving gal right off: too much of 'The Office' and I've been known to sink into a deep funk.

If Ghost Town is vintage Gervais with some syrup mixed in, that sounds just sweet enough for me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Screening Log - The Holiday

Ah, the power of low expectations.

I went into 'The Holiday' with vague memories of the dismemberment the flick underwent at the hands of reviewers a couple years back, and I was braced for the worst.

What I got instead was... a mixed bag.

Jack Black as Mr. Nice Guy, a devoted softie who always gets the shaft? Come on. The man has evil (or at least, mischief) in his eyes at all times. Call me narrow minded, but I couldn't see it. But on the other hand, Jude Law as Hot Dad? I've never been a Jude woman (or, for that matter, a Hot Dad woman) but damn, the scene with the girls slayed me. Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet did their things, I guess, but both characters were so extreme - Extremely Emotionally Repressed, and Extreme Doormat, respectively - that they were hard to relate to, or take seriously at key moments. (Really? She can't cry? Really??)

Still, with those rock-bottom expectations as my starting point, I enjoyed the movie a lot. The ode to Hollywood's Golden Age was inexplicably tangential, but the relationship between Winslet's Iris and Eli Wallach's Arthur was, for me, more interesting than any of the romances beginning and ending on the main stage.

Plus, for once, it was a flick about women seizing control of their problems and (pardon the Oprah moment) making positive change in their lives. Sure, sure, the men come along for the ride, but really this was all about Iris and Amanda being pro-active - for maybe the first time ever? - about their own happiness.

And that's worth raising a glass to, during this rapidly-approaching holiday season. Am I right?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Screening Log - Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

I'd be lying if I said Sisterhood 2 was everything I hoped it would be.

But then again, with this kind of movie, sometimes you have to blame the hopes, not the flick.

Though I didn't know it at the time, Sisterhood 1 set an impossible task for its sequel. (Yep, even more so than usual.) It messed with a couple of key plot lines from the first book, thus leaving any future films based on the other books to either, a) attempt some serious plotting acrobatics, or b) diverge entirely.

Either would have been tricky. But the producers of the sequel, instead, opted to land somewhere in the middle: mashing together plots from all three remaining books (hence the acrobatics) while also omitting generously, and even making a few things up where it suited them. (Funny, didn't one of the characters have a quasi-affair with a married man in the print version? Yeah, I thought so too. But that wouldn't fly with the under-12 set, would it?)

I know, I know. Comparisons to "the book version" are tiresome - but in this case, where some plot lines have been entirely altered or omitted (and not all that adeptly), they're hard to avoid. To my eye, as someone who's read the books, the narrative felt rushed and awkward. I'd guess even film-only Sisterhood fans would feel the same way. (Carmen's mom got married? What about her father and stepfamily? Brian and Tibby are together, and Lena and Kostos aren't? Wha...?)

Okay, enough about the plotting. The gals were great - Amber Tamblyn in particular impressed me - and still had that natural, fun, "BFFs 4eva!" vibe. The eye candy on display was man-tastic throughout. (Who knew Leonardo "The Perfect Score" Nam was hiding those goodies under his ironic t-shirts?) And, of course, the flick provided that gooey, feel-good Sisterhood message that we all (okay, some of us) know and love.

Sure, they dropped some of my favorite sub-plots. I can always re-read the books the next time I hit a beach, and in the meantime, I'm going to bed smiling.

Just a reminder: Here's what I thought of the first installment.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ricky Gervais Does Rom-Com?

Yep, Britain's own Most Cringe-Inducing Man (beating out Steve Coogan and, uh, dozens of other "awkward is funny" comedians in a tight race) is playing a romantic lead in his next film.

It's called Ghost Town. Here's what CBC had to say:

In the film, Gervais portrays a cranky ex-pat British dentist who is suddenly able to see ghosts. They, naturally, want to use him to liaise with the world of the living, especially Kinnear, who seeks to disrupt the romantic life of his widow.

"I just thought 'I can do this. This is me … I don't need to be George Clooney or Brad Pitt,'" Gervais said, also dubbing the film funny, sweet and perfect.

Admitting to being generally intimidated by the experience of co-stars like Greg Kinnear, one thing that did concern Gervais was avoiding the trappings of a typical romance.

"My fear was people thinking I was taking myself too seriously," he said. "I didn't [want] that thing where the music swells up and I get the girl and that's just the way because it'd be nauseating."

But you DO get the girl, right, Ricky??

The flick opens September 19. Here's the trailer: