Sunday, August 29, 2010

2010 Emmys Predictions

Property The Daily Gamecock

Best Comedy Series

This race will be generating plenty of buzz throughout the night as it pits a television dynasty against multiple breakout hits. NBC’s “30 Rock” has won this award for three consecutive years, but this year its crown is threatened from multiple angles.

Fox’s “Glee” has more nominations than any other show in this category, and comes into the race with a Golden Globe win against a very similar line-up. ABC’s “Modern Family” likewise burst out as one of last season’s most impressive new shows and has five acting nominations to back that up. It’s a thick playing field without even factoring in the other nominees, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Nurse Jackie” and “The Office,” and it looks like it may be “30 Rock’s” time to take a seat.

Our Pick To Win: “Glee”

Best Lead Actor, Comedy Series

Matthew Morrison may have had shining song and dance moments on “Glee’s” season one, but he probably won’t be much of a match for back-to-back winner Alec Baldwin, whose biggest pressure comes from Tony Shalhoub’s final season as “Monk,” and Jim Parsons as an under-the-radar favorite for “The Big Bang Theory.”

Our Pick To Win: Alec Baldwin

Best Lead Actress, Comedy Series

A handful of past winners — last year’s winner Toni Collette and the previous year’s winner Tina Fey, 2006’s winner Julia-Louis Dreyfus and three-time Emmy winner Edie Falco (for Dramatic Actress for “The

Sopranos”) — compete against three-time nominee Amy Poehler and newcomer Lea Michele. It’s a category with no runaway frontrunner, and any winner would seem a logical choice.

Our Pick To Win: Toni Collette

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy Series

With “Modern Family” cast members holding half the nomination slots, expect them to cancel each other out for a win. While “Glee’s” Chris Colfer could be a surprise upset, look for Neil Patrick Harris to ride the good vibrations of his diverse and high-profile year to a win over last year’s winner, “Two and a Half Men’s” Jon Cryer.

Our Pick To Win: Neil Patrick Harris

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy Series

It’s a pretty solid line-up, again featuring multiple members of the “Modern Family” team, but if “Glee” is going to scoop an acting award, it’s going to be here. As much as Kristen Wiig has made her mark on “SNL,” it’s hard to deny the sensational buzz surrounding Jane Lynch, who nearly steals the show every week without even singing.

Our Pick To Win: Jane Lynch

Best Drama Series

Like Best Comedy Series, back-to-back winner “Mad Men” will have to push through plenty of heavy competition to score a triple win from the Television Academy. ABC’s “Lost” may receive recognition for its series-ending year, book-ending its Best Drama Series win for its premiere season. Meanwhile, “True Blood” and “Dexter” can reap the benefits of their cult followings

and break out of their niche labels while scoring major wins for premium cable. Despite “Mad Men’s” continued run of success, “Lost” is in a very good position to receive star treatment for its final bow.

Our Pick To Win: “Lost”

Best Lead Actor, Drama Series

Back-to-back winner Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” will have to hold his own against a formidable Michael C. Hall, already Golden Globe-winning for his work on this past season’s “Dexter,” and “Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm, who has yet to win this award. With “Dexter” having one of the most buzzed-about seasons on television, look for Hall to scoop his first Emmy win.

Our Pick To Win: Michael C. Hall

Best Lead Actress, Drama Series

Back-to-back winner Glenn Close seems like a safe choice. Constant nominees Mariska Hargitay and Kyra Sedgwick are Emmy regulars, but neither of their shows have had a standout year. Look for Julianna Margulies to ride the high notices of CBS’s “The Good Wife” ­­­— and a Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe award earlier this year — to her second Emmy win.

Our Pick To Win: Julianna Margulies

Best Supporting Actor, Drama Series

With two of “Lost’s” most electric performers nominated, it’s easy to think they’d cancel each other out, but no one else on the list cries “potential winner” besides Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad.” Barring an upset, look for Terry O’Quinn to nab an award before “Lost” rakes in the big one.

Our Pick To Win: Terry O’Quinn

Best Supporting Actress, Drama Series

With “The Good Wife” and “Mad Men” taking up two-thirds of the slots, conventional wisdom says someone from one of those two shows will win. Although Rose Byrne or Sharon Gless could easily sneak a win for their roles on “Damages” and “Burn Notice,” respectively, we’re hedging our bets that the seductive Christina Hendricks finally breaks “Mad Men’s” curse of no acting wins and gives the show a major prize, even if it loses Best Drama Series.

Our Pick To Win: Christina Hendricks

Best Made for Television Movie: “You Don’t Know Jack”

Best Miniseries: “The Pacific”

Best Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: Al Pacino

Best Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Joan Allen

Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: John Goodman

Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Susan Sarandon

Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series: “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

Best Reality Competition Program: “The Amazing Race”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

'The Kids Are All Right' full review

Property The Daily Gamecock

miserably. While the action is certainly over-the-top, if only intermittently campy, it never exhibits the kind of care Stallone invests in those three minutes in the church with Willis and Schwarzenegger.

While it could have been a dream-team ensemble movie, a true throwback to “Rambo,” “Commando,” “Predator” and the rest of that dearly loved company, “Expendables” feels more like a shadow, a compromised project that has to shove its real attractions into cameos.

It’s like a high-concept project without its central concept. Even though it picks up significantly in its final act, everything before feels so arthritic, so creaky, it can never rebound from how insignificant an exercise it inevitably feels like.

earnestness, there’s a whole other element of the film that feels wholly calculated and cold.

Its evocation of the melodrama genre, specifically the kind of “middle-age couple in sexual crisis” and “teen child forced to mature through self-actualization” plot lines it hones in on, are beat-for-beat recognizable. The only difference, of course, is the kind of sexual politics underlying the use of the genre.

Now instead of fighting for the stability of the heterosexual couple, the film is questioning how heterosexuality comes into play in a homosexual relationship. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s a bold way to emulate progressive politics.

The real problem lies in how stale it all feels after a while. The characters may remain fresh and interesting, but the plot is anything but — its turns toward despair and redemption, to heartbreak and forgiveness, are plot points that feel so obligatory it makes the film feel less unique.

Perhaps that’s director/co-writer Lisa Cholodenko’s point: A film about homosexuals can look an awful lot like a film about heterosexuals. This kind of mirroring is evidently on her mind, as the film often repeats events like sexual intercourse, dinner meals and family arguments at different points in the narrative with different motives and effects for the various characters.

While it’s a heartwarming and funny movie, “The Kids Are All Right” makes its machinations all too apparent. Its soul is nearly compromised by its gender switch setup.

The naturalness of the performances and interactions is so often undercut by the film’s sharp cries for the spectator to think about family and sexuality in ways that draw so heavily on constructed convention that by the end it feels almost more tiresome than refreshing.

'Expendables' full review

Property The Daily Gamecock

Early on in director/co-writer/star Sylvester Stallone’s testosterone overload “The Expendables,” Arnold Schwarzenegger enters a church through almost impossible brightness, creating the impression that a saint is descending to converse with mortals.

In the ensuing conversation, the “Terminator,” “Rocky” and Bruce Willis trade quips about a new mission. Schwarzenegger refuses and leaves in the same bright halo of light and Willis never makes a return for the rest of the film.

This is perhaps the only sequence that really reveals what Stallone had in mind when he set out to make “The Expendables,” which has been billed from the time it was announced as a rollicking reunion of ’80s action stars. In this brief scene, there is actual care with the camera, light and conversation ­— a kind of meta-wit to the proceedings.

Sadly, this playfulness is missing from nearly every other minute of “The Expendables,” a movie so awkward in nearly every element that it becomes almost impossible to enjoy once it finally gives over to nonstop madcap action and blood.

The most conspicuous problem lies in Stallone’s choice of casting. While it’s often fun to watch Stallone and Jason Statham bounce verbal folly off each other — the unstoppable action hero of the ’80s colliding with the unstoppable action hero of the ’00s — co-stars Randy Couture and Terry Crews are lifeless additions to the team.

On the “villainous” side of things, Eric Roberts (“The Dark Knight”) does great over-the-top work, but he’s a head-and-shoulders

standout over the unintelligible Dolph Lundgren and Steve Austin, who says every one of his few lines like he’s standing inside a wrestling ring with a microphone.

Stallone and co-writer Dave Callaham want to make every conversation scene memorable, full of jokes about masculinity, weapons, women and old age. Unfortunately, no one seems to figure out how to deliver the leaden, obvious dialogue, and almost every moment comes off either forced or blandly overplayed.

Even Stallone seems to suffer under the burden of his own words, as the 64-year-old looks more dazed than anything when the action isn’t a-blazing. The only member of the cast who actually breathes some soul into the proceedings is Mickey Rourke as a tattoo artist, but he is again shafted to a sideline role — a wasted asset.

But what of the action, which is really the only reason anyone would want to suffer through the awkward community of truly expendable co-stars? To Stallone’s credit, he stages several massive explosions and some staggering gore. Following on his blood-drenched “Rambo” (2008), the film loves to kill off as many extras in as many gory ways as Stallone can devise.

But this action is not necessarily a pleasure to look at. The editing is grossly inconsistent and imprecise, shots rarely feel framed to their maximum potential and cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball makes the nighttime climax a struggle to see. There’s nary a sense of rhythm or pulse.

Yes, there is such thing as “gritty action,” but if in-your-face verisimilitude was something Stallone was aiming for in “The Expendables,” he fails

miserably. While the action is certainly over-the-top, if only intermittently campy, it never exhibits the kind of care Stallone invests in those three minutes in the church with Willis and Schwarzenegger.

While it could have been a dream-team ensemble movie, a true throwback to “Rambo,” “Commando,” “Predator” and the rest of that dearly loved company, “Expendables” feels more like a shadow, a compromised project that has to shove its real attractions into cameos.

It’s like a high-concept project without its central concept. Even though it picks up significantly in its final act, everything before feels so arthritic, so creaky, it can never rebound from how insignificant an exercise it inevitably feels like.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs the World review

Property The Daily Gamecock

Director Edgar Wright knows movies. His breakout hit, “Shaun of the Dead,” slyly melded zombies and romantic comedies with unassuming grace, while his follow-up hit, “Hot Fuzz,” was fully immersed in the conventions of buddy cop movies, Michael Bay action films and dozens more thrillers.

His latest film, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” is a totally different kind of monster.
Adapted from the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, “Scott Pilgrim” oozes coolness. It’s an exhilarating, breathless and hysterical blend of comic books, video games, music and movies. It’s a mediated film for a mediated world.
Michael Cera continues to hone his deadpan skills as the titular bassist, whose crush on the literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (a seductively enigmatic Mary Elizabeth Winstead), ignites the League of Seven Evil Exes. In order to date Ramona, Scott must fight his way through Ramona’s evil exes, played deliciously by the likes of Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman.
While “Scott Pilgrim” swirls in a sea of cultural references, rattling them off like combo moves in a video game, it’s Wright’s understanding of how to visually communicate the language and syntax of these different mediums into one package that really makes the film work.
Sounds on screen are often accompanied by text like “Ring” coming off a phone, as if to echo a graphic novel, while in other moments his split-screen and intercutting editing strategies feel strongly reminiscent of a comic panel.
Beyond that, classic video game themes often play under the soundtrack, characters use weapons that are pixilated to look like something on an old Sega and Scott is awarded “points” and “one-ups” for defeating his foes.
Not to mention the chronically cheeky dialogue always tries to incorporate video game language. Phrases such as “fight,” “finish him,” “continue” and “try again” are constantly recycled by characters in various circumstances.
Added to that, Scott and his friends are trying to get their band signed to a record deal, so the film often dips into loud performance moments or structures certain sequences like music videos.
“Scott Pilgrim” is pure stylistic excess, a movie whose barrage of images and sounds from a multiplicity of texts should threaten to make the movie rupture in its core. It regularly dips in and out of its “reality” in even the most simple conversation scenes, but Edgar Wright and his technical team know how to make each moment seem like a different riff that builds on the one before it.
Few filmmakers have the ability to create a world that draws so heavily on popular culture without seeming cloying or obvious. Wright’s film constantly surprises with the sheer earnestness of its players and the borderline experimental nature of its narrative.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is probably the best video game movie ever made. But to reduce it to that label wouldn’t do justice to how vast the myriad of texts Wright has chosen to draw on actually is. It’s a wonderful, playful concoction that takes the kind of “learning valuable lesson to get from adolescence to adulthood” narrative Michael Cera has centered his career around and blows it up with grand metaphors for emotional baggage and aching hearts.
It’s a movie that wants to give us a different way to think about movies, and its sealed-off whirlpool of media bombardment is a lavish treat for the eyes, the ears and any other sense that can possibly derive pleasure in something this gleefully unhinged.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm Still Here Trailer

If you didn't know, this is on the Top 10 movies I'm most excited about this fall.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks review

Property The Daily Gamecock

“Dinner for Schmucks” assembles an all-star cast of outlandish comedians portraying an all-star team of outlandish characters. Though it plays close to the vest for most of the film, only spilling into the unhinged for the final dinner game, it’s a self-assured and consistently charming piece of awkward, life-going-off-the-rails comedy.

Paul Rudd stars as Tim, a businessman dying to get ahead. In order to secure a favorable position with his boss and colleagues, Tim is asked to attend a dinner where each guest brings the “most extraordinary” person they can find. By extraordinary, they mean idiotic.
Enter Steve Carell as Barry, a loner who Tim serendipitously hits with his car. Barry is a ringer, a man so out of touch with reality he all but guarantees Tim a victory at the dinner.
That is, of course, until Barry gets the dates for the dinner confused and shows up at Tim’s apartment the night before, threatening to spiral every part of his life desperately out of control.

As director of all three “Austin Powers” films and both “Meet the Parents” films, director Jay Roach is no stranger to using established comedic talent to provoke laughs. His direction of “Dinner” may not feel as precise or as loopy as some of his previous efforts, but he does know how to bring the best out of his players, letting them burst open in sometimes surprising and effective touches.

This is especially true of Carell, who is nothing but inspired as Barry, certainly the most complicated role in the production. As the central “schmuck,” Carell bears being the butt of most of the movie’s jokes, yet the shamelessly innocent way he plays Barry creates a sympathetic (and eventually empathetic) buffer: he’s a fool we can admire for his detachment, as opposed to ridicule.

With a dopey grin that jets his front teeth over his lower lip and a series of facial contortions and speech patterns that should be frustrating but always feel effortless, it’s a real showcase for Carell’s instinctive ability to burrow inside insecure characters.

Paul Rudd plays the kind of tight-laced man he so perfectly embodied in 2009’s “I Love You Man.” Rudd and Carell, opposites before in “Anchorman” and “40-Year-Old Virgin,” have a tangible rapport that lets the awkwardness of their interactions feel organic, creating plenty of room for subtle flourishes to slide in.

The film is best in its first hour, when the comedy stays squarely between Rudd and Carell, turning them into an odd couple trying to sort through Tim’s relationship problems. This may be due to the fact that this half strongly borrows from French film “Le diner de cons,” which served as inspiration to screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman.

The final hour turns into an ensemble piece, as the dinner party makes room for supporting actors like Zach Galifianakis as a man who claims he has mind control power,Ron Livingston and Larry Wilmore as Tim’s business associates. There’s also a delicious performance from “Flight of the Conchords” star Jemaine Clement as a contemporary artist. Clement sends a bolt of eccentricity through every scene he’s featured in.

“Dinner for Schmucks” is a breezy, three-course affair that satisfies without stuffing theappetite. While far from innovating the “night of chaos” template many recent comedies have chosen, it still offers plenty of awkward space for its giddy ensemble to turn themselves into schmucks.

Mad Men review

Property The Daily Gamecock

“Who is Don Draper?” a reporter somewhat rhetorically asks the powerful and enigmatic advertising agent, played by Golden Globe-winning Jon Hamm, at the very start of “Mad Men’s” fourth season.

The AMC drama has stealthily tracked a group of decadent and psychologically troubled advertising personnel in and around the history and culture early ‘60s – through Kennedy’s campaign and election, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy’s assassination towards the end of last season – all while racking up major awards left and right (it’s won the Emmy for Best Drama Series two years in a row and the Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama three years in a row).

From its opening seconds and through every minute of the first two episodes of its fourth season, creator Matthew Weiner’s astonishingly sleek rumination on a major political, social and cultural turning point in American society astounds in all regards.

Its gorgeous production design leaves no stone unturned. Offices are fully furnished with beautiful décor down to the bottles of whiskey in the corner, while the costumes continually put both men and women in elegant, sharp ensembles. Not to mention the color-tinted and shadow-heavy cinematography that drapes all of the proceedings in rich tones.

The season three finale was a bit of a downer, with Betty Draper(January Jones) finally summoning the nerve to ask Don for a divorce, and Don’s decision to join Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) and Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) in a split from their British-controlled agency and forge ahead as a new company.

Season four starts almost a year later, with the first two episodes featuring Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1964, sliding in bits of information regarding now-President Johnson’s social platforms and the escalating war in Vietnam.

To accompany a United States that is beginning to come face-to-face with radical changes, “Mad Men” has begun to introduce more cracks in the Don Draper façade. Now struggling to retain his irresistible charm and forced to adapt to a world without his family, Jon Hamm and the show’s team of writers are turning Draper into an artifact of a waning era.

Resigned to a tower of mod furniture, the executives of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce sip expensive whiskey and make attempts at womanizing just as they had in the show’s previous seasons, but never before have their actions felt so vain, so driven out of desperation.

Part of the consummate skill of “Mad Men” is its ability to refract the conditions of history through its characters, making them embody a myriad of complex social and political voices.

In that regard, some have labeled “Mad Men” as more of a dissertation in images than pure drama, a show that’s content to simmer beneath the surface and intellectualize every moment. The fact that it does ooze this riveting style makes it a unique feast for television.
“Mad Men” remains head and shoulders above anything else on basic cable, maybe on any television station. It presents its audience with constantly complex and invigorating protagonists whose actions are simultaneously both deplorable and fascinating.

Matthew Weiner has said “Mad Men” will not go beyond six seasons. If that’s true, the show has begun its second half. By touring the 1960s through the eyes of the upper crust who so desperately want to resist its changes while simultaneously exploiting them through advertising, it chronically provides radically new insights in mining one of the most fantastic eras of America’s last century.