June 28, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man

The problem with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) is Spider-Man 1, 2, and 3. Their existences render this reboot superfluous. But, if we must sit through another introduction to this comic book hero, we could do much worse than Andrew Garfield suited up and Emma Stone at his side. Their fizzy chemistry, marked by sweetly uncomfortable long silences and interrupted sentences, is reason enough to see this film. The director, Marc Webb, is especially competent at these scenes. (He directed 500 Years of Summer before this.) But he's not especially competent when it comes to the action sequences. They are visually incoherent, and that this problem--which is so woefully commonplace among our action movies, particularly the ones that spawn from the various comic book series--is overlooked by so many kind (or perhaps indifferent) viewers is indeed depressing. Not long after Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man, he gets into a brawl on the Subway. But the punches and kicks are so poorly put together that we cannot tell what's going on, who's getting hit where, and the structure of that scene simply falls apart, pushing the viewer away.

There are other disappointments too. Chiefly, Sally Field. It's frustrating to see such a talented and dare I say beloved actress playing such a dull role. All she gets to do is look concerned. She plays the loving aunt of Peter Parker, and she mostly just worries about him as he traipses into the house late, forgetting to pick her up from work or get eggs from the grocery store. Martin Sheen gets a little more speechifying, but he's so obviously set up as a kind of philosophical mentor--a Yoda figure if you will--that he doesn't really resonate. You may end up thinking of the previous Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) intoning, "With great power comes great responsibility." (And for some reason I kept picturing Glenn Ford, from Superman.)

The villain in this Spider-Man entry is a scientist named Dr. Connors (played by Rhys Ifans). His research in genetic mutation is the catalyst for Peter Parker's transformation into Spider-Man. But unlike Peter, whose physicality is enhanced by a bio-magical spider bite, Dr. Connors turns into something hideous and terrifying when he injects himself with a serum that's supposed to regenerate his missing arm. He turns into a giant lizard, thus enabling Marc Webb to play a little Godzilla. Fortunately The Amazing Spider-Man has more finesse than a Godzilla picture.

Andrew Garfield--the gangly suburban punk with brains and charm to spare--is truly a wonderful casting choice. He has a magnetism that Tobey Maguire--so gauche and awkward--lacked. He's also funny, but the film doesn't spend enough time letting him show off his comic chops. Perhaps someone was afraid of making Spider-Man too jokey. And Emma Stone has spunk where Kirsten Dunst was too adorable. This combination of qualities saves the film from being just another superhero movie. Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent (who also wrote Spider-Man 2), and Steve Kloves.

Palo Alto

James Franco has seemingly done it all. He's acted in giant blockbusters and indie films (both good and not so good), soap operas, the cult hit sitcom Freaks and Geaks, and an episode of 30 Rock in which he played himself. He's directed a documentary imagining the lost (X-rated) content of William Friedkin's 1982 thriller Cruising, gone for a PhD in English at Yale, and recently, written a book of short fiction called Palo Alto Stories. From that collection, which I have not read, filmmaker Gia Coppola has fashioned a stunningly beautiful work called Palo Alto. It's about a group of teenagers in Palo Alto, California.

The film left me feeling a bit disturbed and heartbroken for the lives of young people, not just today but any day, because so much of being young is a kind of aimless search for meaning and identity. And really, that search doesn't necessarily go away once a person reaches adulthood. Sometimes it intensifies. Sometimes it makes you cynical. Sometimes it makes you afraid. In superficial ways, the kids in Palo Alto are pros at being teenagers. That is, they party hard and have no qualms about partaking in the expected teenagery vices. Their parents are generally out of the picture or too self-involved to notice what their kids are up to. The few adults we get to know are actually just as irresponsible as their kids.

On the other hand, that's not all there is to being young. And I suppose it would be easy to watch a movie like Palo Alto and jump to that conclusion. One of the problems with films about youth is that they tend to be stuck in stereotypes. We get a certain kind of cinematic teenage type that rarely changes. Little novelty or variety is offered up. Most kids are painted as searching and confused. Surely there must be some who aren't so self-serious? So self-important? Palo Alto reaches into the troubled teenager vacuum and plucks out a few that are desperately in need of saving, and then lets us watch them tread water. There's a kind of beauty in the film's impartiality to human tragedy. One boy--spinning out of control because of some repressed anger--gets drunk and then speeds down the wrong way of the interstate. We brace ourselves for a collision that is never revealed. It was a powerful moment. I wondered why Gia Coppola chose not to let us see if he did in fact crash.

The cast is headed by Emma Roberts and Jack Kilmer (whose father, Val Kilmer, has a small part also). Roberts plays April, a somewhat shy, smart, curious, playful girl who partakes, albeit reluctantly, in the incessant partying, but doesn't know if she really enjoys it. (She does enjoy cigarettes.) April is searching for something, but she doesn't know what it is, and she's also being pursued by her soccer coach, who's played by none other than James Franco himself. He keeps telling April he loves her, and it's not clear if he's telling the truth or just manipulating her. Regardless, his involvement with a teenager is a manipulation, because she's too young to know how to respond to his advances. She kind of likes them--what self-conscious young person doesn't want to hear someone say "I love you"?--and yet there's fear in her eyes. Is he a wolf on the prowl or just emotionally confused himself?

Ultimately Palo Alto left me feeling slightly indifferent. It has a lilting, fleeting quality to it. I think it captures some of the confusing emotions that afflict young people. But the characters aren't particularly strong, at least not the leads, although the cast is indeed talented. They don't leave much of an impression, except Nat Wolff, the douchey one with anger issues. He's the guy I loved hating, although I did feel sorry for him later in the film. And Zoe Levin--as the high school "slut" who's a bit pathetic, a bit sympathetic--also registers, especially when Coppola turns her into a kind of comic freak when she's pushed into a swimming pool by a rebuffed beau, after which she attacks him with a wine bottle. Perhaps James Franco isn't the best storyteller to be published and than have his work adapted into film, but Coppola turns it into a competent-looking piece.

June 18, 2014


It's the most conveniently worked out movie I've seen in a long time, and yet Chef is the most fun movie I've seen this year (so far). It's an utterly joyous, unashamed foodie road trip movie about a once celebrated chef named Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) whose public meltdown (when he confronts a food critic who trashed him) goes viral and ends up completely uprooting his life. Casper was once the darling of the culinary world, but now he's old hat. For the past decade he's seemingly been in an ideal position as head chef at a well-known restaurant in California, but secretly it's confined him, made him unhappy and forced him to settle for a routine. Moreover, things are not great between him and his 10-year-old son Percy (played with delightful matter-of-factness by Emjay Anthony). Percy hasn't adjusted to his parents' divorce, even though they have the most amicable broken marriage in history.

But then, Carl gives in to his ex-wife's suggestion that he purchase a food truck and start making the recipes he's good at and wants to make. This suggestion--which Carl predictably balks at initially--proves to be a winner, and provides a framework for a new bond between father and son. They all go to Miami to grab the truck, and then Carl, his son, and Carl's long-time colleague (John Leguizamo) who also conveniently shows up to join in their grand foodventure, trek across country making Cubans, beignets, and assorted other delicious delicacies as they head back to California.

Jon Favreau wrote and directed Chef, and he captures the zeal of a foodie in this movie: We get to see the mouth-watering recipes that Carl cooks up, and the delight that appears on his face when he discovers a new, delicious dish, and the art that food can conjure up. It's perhaps the most accessible art form there is.

But I can already hear the critical voices in my head. I heard them last night in the theater about an hour into the movie. I looked at one of the friends with whom I was sitting and both of us were thinking, "something has to go wrong, right?" We were waiting and waiting for a problem to arrive. Granted, the film did have an initial problem, that being Carl Casper's embarrassing viral video fiasco and the subsequent destruction of his career. But things pick up very fast, and everything is all the more convenient for Carl because his ex-wife is supportive in a way that seems totally unrealistic. My inner-critic and my movie-watching past had primed me for some other contrived conflict to be inserted into the narrative. That moment, that conflict, never came. And we were left thinking, should we be okay with this? Is Chef too easy on its characters? Does everything work out too conveniently?

Oh right. It's a movie. And thank you Chef for giving us a movie that is a freaking movie. It's just so rare these days to find one that doesn't want to throw millions of contrived obstacles in its characters' paths. Yes, the events in Chef, the people in Chef, are perhaps unrealistic. The ex-wife (played with verve by Sofia Vergara) is so obviously still in love with Carl (and he with her) that you just know they're going to get back together. It's like The Parent Trap. And the son so desperately longs to be a part of Carl's world, that Carl's myopic inability to get to know his son (at first) seems to be the only real contrivance here. In fact, it was Jon Favreau's character that threatened to be the one annoying thing about this movie. For the first twenty minutes, as we watch him self-destruct, he's very obviously his own worst enemy. And that did get on my nerves. But things quickly change for the better, and this movie won me over thoroughly. And at least there were big things at stake in this movie: Carl's career, his relationship with his son, his own belief in himself.

There's another side to Chef that makes it culturally very relevant, or maybe just culturally amusing, actually. The film taps into the way the internet has revolutionized how we live and interact with each other. Favreau paints himself as the typically technologically-inept grown-up, whose son runs rings around him with a smart phone and uses Twitter (a website which Carl often amusingly fails to understand) to advertise the whereabouts of their food truck. In fact, it is Carl's ineptitude that triggers the whole movie: what he imagines to be a private message (via Twitter) to the food critic who slammed him, is actually seen by all and eventually passed on to thousands and thousands of people. Perhaps this movie was funded by Twitter? It can be difficult to distinguish between a movie that plugs a giant social media site and one that shows us how it has affected us. Chef falls into the second category.

For some time now I've wondered how movies would change as a result of the cell phone age and the internet age, and how movies would depict characters interacting with their gadgets, and I think Chef does a fine job of this. It makes use of these new things that seem to be taking over more and more parts of our lives, and manages to show us the best and the worst about them with a sense of humor. Perhaps the best example of a movie critiquing our gadget addiction is Don Jon, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt comedy in which his character's sister is always glued to her phone, and barely speaks a word through the entire film.

Finally, I once again feel the need to defend Chef. Yes, yes, yes, it is too damned easy. Everything just works out so nicely. But it was such a pleasure to watch, such a happy, energetic, likable movie, that I don't care. I hope people will give this movie a chance and not resort to picking its story apart because we're all so used to something more cynical in our entertainment, even when it comes to our comedies. With Scarlet Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Amy Sedaris (in a very funny cameo as Carl's ex-wife's publicist), Robert Downey, Jr., Bobby Cannavale, and Oliver Platt (as the food critic).

June 17, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Initially, I did not want to see The Fault in Our Stars. It was obvious from all the hype that the book (written by John Green) and the movie (directed by Josh Boone) were intended to pull at our heartstrings in a very calculated way. But then I listened to the Village Voice film podcast, in which critics Stephanie Zacharek and Alan Scherstuhl discuss Ruth Graham's article denouncing adults who read young adult fiction. Graham hits YA (Young Adult) fiction pretty hard, insisting that adults who read it ought to be embarrassed. She makes a convincing point. There are a lot more adults reading young adult fiction nowadays at the expense of the more "grown-up" stuff they're expected to read. Actually, Graham argues that it's their privilege to read the grown-up stuff, remembering the time in her life when she "graduated" to reading grown-up novels and how thrilling it was to finally reach that threshold. I've heard it over and over again from my friends who are in some cases 10 and 20 years older than I am: "I just prefer YA fiction." "It's really getting more and more complex." "I like not having to think too much." (Those last two are contradictory but I have heard versions of them both.)

I suppose that reading YA fiction exclusively would be like me watching only 80s teen comedies. When I was a teenager, I found The Breakfast Club compelling, poignant, achingly honest, heartfelt, and powerful. It spoke to teenagers who thought their parents were the worst. As an adult, I no longer live in that bubble. Perhaps Ally Sheedy's prophecy in The Breakfast Club was true: that "when you get older your heart dies" and because all our hearts are dead, we think nothing of it. But if we could stand face-to-face with our teenage selves, they'd be screaming a warning to us (or rather, themselves) not to let it happen. But in any case, I see teenagery movies differently than I did when I was a teenager, and I'm only 28. Heaven knows I'll see them even more differently when I'm 38 and when I'm 50. 

Although Ruth Graham is right in calling upon adults to fill their minds with more adult literature, she doesn't really do The Fault in Our Stars justice. Yes, it's a gushy melodrama to a large extent (we knew that going in), but it also deals with death in a rather grown-up and complex way. Perhaps it's too easy to vest the main character Hazel (played by Shailene Woodley) with such nuanced views on mortality, and yet, she's a girl who's had to face what most people her age (and older) have not, at least in the Western world. Living with death (in this case a terminal cancer diagnosis) changes you. One of my best friends was born with cystic fibrosis, and all his life he knew he was going to die. The rest of us know this, deep down, about ourselves, but spend most of our lives wishing it away, pretending we're immortal. My friend Ben lived with his own impending death every day doing breathing treatments and spending sometimes weeks in the hospital, which was a normal part of his life. Likewise, Hazel knows much more about death than most of us because she's staring it in the face: every time she walks up a flight of stairs and gets winded, every time she wakes up in the middle of the night unable to breathe, every time she sees that look in her mother's eyes that says "I'm going to outlive you." She is forced to make peace at the age of 15 what many people refuse to acknowledge at 75.

There is one side of Hazel that is a bit childishly needy when it comes to life. Her favorite novel--which she's read over and over again--ends mid-sentence. And this abrupt, ambiguous finale deeply troubles her. When she gets her new friend Augustus Waters to read the book, he too is frustrated, and contacts the author, who's now living a reclusive, Salinger-esque life in Amsterdam. The author's unexpected reply initiates a trip to the Netherlands to meet him, which goes about as successfully as throwing a glass of water on a burning building.

So the big moment--meeting the famous, reclusive author--fails to give Hazel and Augustus any closure about their favorite book. But really, the film uses this to grow them up even more. Life ends in mid-sentence. What little there was remaining of their childhood (Augustus too has dealt with cancer, which led to the amputation of one of his legs) was wrapped up in getting a cushy ending to that novel, and it's shattered into shards of glass, with which they are left to deal.

I think The Fault in Our Stars marvelously shows us the tragedy and the beauty of human existence, and even if it's a melodrama full of moments crafted to squeeze the moisture from our eyes and noses, it's a heartfelt film, one that doesn't shy away from the painfully unanswered questions of life. Furthermore, this movie has a sense of humor about death that everyone seems to conveniently forget. Sometimes it's a big relief when we can laugh at our own mortality. And, as Stephanie Zacharek and Alan Scherstuhl point out, it's one of the few movies aimed at young people (or any people) this summer that doesn't involve explosions. For that I am eternally grateful. My only fear is that this film's success will open the door to a new terminal-teenager-melodrama sub-genre, and that the quality of such films will exponentially diminish over time. I guess we can only hope. (Also, I hope that the young stars of this film, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, are given more opportunities to show us what they're made of as actors. They're both passionate and exciting young performers.)

With Laura Dern as Hazel's mother, Sam Trammell as Hazel's father, Willem Dafoe as the grumpy novelist, and Nat Wolff, as a friend of Augustus who's also dealing with cancer. The novel was adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber.

June 15, 2014


Neighbors calls into question the legitimacy of being a grown-up by showing us two grown-ups who aren't all that mature. They fancy themselves to be hip adults. Despite the fact that they've just had a baby, they're marijuana-friendly and have tried hard to keep in touch with their own identities, pre-parenthood, pre-marriage. Seth Rogen, King of the Man-Children, plays Mac, and Rose Byrne, an Australian pixie who's layered with a touch of insanity and a disarmingly sweet personality, plays Kelly. Their happy suburban-hipster-sitcom life is turned upside down by the arrival of a rowdy fraternity next door, which is headed by Zac Efron and James Franco's brother (Dave Franco).

Mac and Kelly make a concerted effort to win over the frat boys by going over to their house and introducing themselves and offering them a blunt. This fails to keep the frats from throwing a loud party into the wee hours of the night, and when, out of desperation, Mac and Kelly phone the police, Efron and his band of testosterony, party-animal frat brothers, embark on a campaign of sorts, to get their revenge. And that's about all there is to it.

Neighbors has a few things going for it. It has a playful spirit that lifts the movie out of its somewhat contrived, studio-raunch-comedy trappings. The script (credited to Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien) doesn't take its characters too seriously. This is a huge help to the movie, given the fact that it has such an anemic storyline. These are just adults who don't want to admit that their time to be irresponsible is over. So they engage in a cartoonishly violent sparring match that never ends. (And there are some very funny moments that involve Seth Rogen being physically injured in a myriad of ways.)

Another point in the movie's favor: Zac Efron. His acting talent surprised me. I didn't expect bad acting, but I sure as hell wasn't expecting this either. He has the comic chops of a ham and the power of a much bolder, stronger performer wells up from inside him on frequent occasions. I was shocked. He also plays off the charmingly goofy Dave Franco very well. They have a good buddy-movie charisma, and theirs is the only friendship that the film explores (other than that of the married couple) with any depth or success. There are a number of other characters who are barely introduced, and who sometimes take on bigger roles than their characters have been prepared to handle.

As is to be expected, the level of raunchy humor is pretty high here. Lots of vulgarity, lots of profanity, a disturbing obsession with sex that may make you want to not invite your parents to see this movie. (Although it's likely they won't want to see it anyway, if they've viewed the trailer.) There's also not that big of a discrepancy between the college students and our two put-upon heroes. Mac and Kelly are rather immature themselves, and ultimately, Neighbors pokes fun at this. These people are hiply square. Or squarely hip. However you want to size it up. And in the final few minutes, they embrace the beauty of the mundane that is normal life. Neighbors is really just a long episode of Workaholics (albeit not as smart as that show) mixed with The King of Queens. (Incidentally, the guys from Workaholics have a fun cameo appearance.)

Directed by Nicholas Stoller. With Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Carla Gallo, Lisa Kudrow (who's funny as an unsympathetic dean of students), Craig Roberts, and Ike Barinholtz.

June 10, 2014

Don't Vamp Out on Me, Bro

Dear regular readers (all five of you), who have probably noticed the dust collecting on the Panned Review over the last month-and-a-half,

I am sorry it's been so long. I feel as though I have abandoned you to the Pete Hammonds and the A.O. Scotts of the world, with their exuberant love of everything and their excessive use of adjectives, respectively. And now I'm back and you will probably see this sudden new post--leading with a review of a 27-year-old movie which I've already written about--as a cop-out. I haven't been to the movies since APRIL. Except for Mother's Day, when I took my mom and grandmother and my great aunt to see The Sound of Music at good old Sunray Cinema. But other than that, no movies. Not that I don't want to see Neighbors, or A Million Ways to Die in the West, or The Fault in Our Stars, or Chef. I'm going to do my best to get back in the saddle soon. Unfortunately, work became insane in May. And now here I am, a bumming-it temporarily out-of-work teacher sitting back for summer vacation thinking, "Didn't I used to write movie reviews for fun?"

Why would I bother to re-review a movie? Well, first, because I didn't remember that I had written a review of it already until I was finished with this one. And second because, it afforded me the opportunity to write oh-so-briefly about cinematic experience as memoir, which is something I find very interesting.

Last night I watched The Lost Boys (1987) for probably the 50th time. I don't normally enjoy watching movies I love and have seen multiple times with other people. It's as if I've invited an acquaintance over for coffee when it was just going to be me and my best friend. Suddenly, I'll start seeing all the flaws in my best friend as I examine him through my acquaintance's eyes. I end up not enjoying the movie or the company, and then I start questioning: Am I really as film fanatical as I think I am? Can I trust ANY of my old opinions about movies? Will re-watching them as an adult--with other people--ruin ALL of my old memories?

But this time was different, probably because one of my friends was a devoted Lost Boys fan herself, having gone to see it in theaters when she was a kid. Is there anything better than seeing an R-rated movie when you're too young? Admittedly, on the subject of the film's MPAA rating, we were all scratching our heads. The Lost Boys has no nudity, only one very brief scene of heavy kissing (but all the actual sex is just implied), mild profanity but nothing too excessive, and even the gore is exhibited in fleeting shots. The camera cuts away as quickly as possible, always before you see more than a second's worth of blood and gore oozing out of the vampire victims' necks. Granted, the finale--which features multiple vampire death scenes--is full of typically gratuitous 80s horror movie footage: corporeal explosion and implosion scenes designed to gross out even the most decorated horror veteran. But really, it just made me laugh and think, "Oh how I love the 80s. So over-the-top. So excessive. So what it is."

Movies today aren't what they are. They're too self-aware, too hip and ironic to be fun. The Lost Boys is a slick piece of Hollywood product, to be sure, featuring some of the hottest young stars of the time--Jason Patric (making his film debut), Corey Haim (rest in peace), Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jamie Gertz. It's set in the fictitious town of Santa Carla, California (it was filmed in Santa Cruz), which the director (Joel Schumacher) and the writers (Jeffrey Boam, Janice Fischer, and James Jeremias) paint as a kind of refuge for rejects: it's right on the Pacific and its main attraction is a Strangers on a Train-esque fairground, which is one of the primary hangouts for the band of bloodsuckers, a quartet of punk-rock, ACDC-looking teenagers headed by the dynamic Kiefer Sutherland, who's quite believable as their self-appointed cult leader.

The vampires live in a cave right on the edge of the ocean, the site of a hotel that collapsed during the great quake of 1906 because it was built right on the faultline. This subterranean inverted resort is quite a showpiece for the production designer, Bo Welch. We see a chandelier resting snugly on the ground where it fell, and the rock walls are decorated with carpets and lights and the the broken knick knacks of the hotel, all of it forming a vague, shapeless style: colorful, glittering, excessive, monstrous. It's as though the original hotel had been decorated by gypsies right before it collapsed into itself. Right at the center of the main room of the cave is a huge poster of Jim Morrison, whom it's hinted at represents a kind of cult figure for the vampires. Unfortunately, the film never does anything with this idea. That's one of the primary flaws of The Lost Boys. It's brimming with ideas that are never shaped into anything.

But it's still one hell of a fun movie. And the film makes fairly clever use of all the tropes of the genre, sometimes conveniently breaking them in order to salvage a semblance of credibility. One of my friends was criticizing the movie's special effects which are, of course, now dated. I'd like to remind everyone--as I reminded him--not to feel too superior to old movies. To blame them for not being as technologically advanced as a movie from 2014 is anachronistic criticism and therefore invalid. Besides, I don't give a shit if the movie has a few dated effects. It's still pretty impressive. The filmmakers of The Lost Boys were able to do a lot with what they had, and the movie holds up quite nicely. More importantly, this movie has attitude and spunk and heart, and the actors are such fun to watch. Corey Haim has most of the best lines (like threatening to tell his mom that his older brother is a vampire, such a flacid piece of leverage in light of the circumstances). Although Barnard Hughes--as the drunk, quippy grandpa who's not used nearly enough in the film--gets a fantastic line at the very end of the movie, securing this film's status as one of the great 80s horror classics: "One thing I never could stomach about living in Santa Carla: All the damn vampires."


The Sound of Music (1965) is another movie I've watched like 50 times. It had been probably a decade since my last viewing, and I was a little bit apprehensive going into the theater. For one thing, one of my film critic idols (Pauline Kael) was allegedly fired from McCall's magazine for panning the movie back in 1965. (She re-titled it "The Sound of Money.") This was mostly legend. She was fired because she had been panning everything that was popular, and the people at McCall's were a little too mainstream for Kael's taste. Would Pauline come back from the grave and haunt me if I liked The Sound of Music? Would my new faux-hip self be too cool to enjoy the movie, or even worse, be unable even to secretly admit that I still liked it? After all, as a child I would watch it and sing along with the music, knowing every line from memory. I once drove one of my childhood friend's family crazy by singing the entire soundtrack during a very long drive to Washington D.C. (It's their own damn fault: I didn't force them to put the tape in.)

Despite laughing at a few moments (when the kids sing "So Long, Farewell" and the entire party waves back at them, singing, "Goodbye," I nearly lost it), I did enjoy The Sound of Music. It brought back some nostalgic feelings and made me want to visit Austria and learn more about World War II. Also, when the Von Trapps are hiding in the Abbey and the youngest Von Trapp imp asks Maria, "would this be a good time to sing about our favorite things?" I desperately wanted Julie Andrews to say, "Why the hell not?", break into song, and get them all arrested by the Nazis.

Also, I never realized as a child how sexy Eleanor Parker and Christopher Plummer were. They belonged in a different movie almost. And it's hard to understand why the Captain was attracted to Julie Andrews except as a potential mom for his kids. She's extremely feminine and good, but somehow sexless.


Finally, a plug for HBO's hilarious comedy Veep, starring the wonderful Julia Louis Dreyfus. If you're like me and don't have HBO, you'll have to wait until it comes out on DVD. Luckily for you, the first two seasons ARE out. So you're actually NOT like me because you can go get them right now. If you don't mind excessive profanity and lots of pretty vulgar insults, you'll enjoy the sharpness of this frighteningly real show. It's as if someone has captured the day-to-day inner-workings of DC through hidden video. When you see how much of what they do is image control, it will make you giggle, and then probably feel real disgust that our leaders in Washington do very little of substance. It's all spin all the time. But the cast of Veep, which also includes Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development), Matt Walsh, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Sufe Bradshaw, and Kevin Dunn, makes this show crackle. The show is somehow completely un-redeemable and completely lovable at the same time.