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“Shut up, Katherine Heigl,” says our heroine, as she passes by a wall of posters for another fungible romantic comedy that should be sued for deceptive advertising.  Jamie (Mila Kunis) is an executive recruiter who wants to believe in love but has had a series of relationships with guys who took her heart and stomped that sucker flat. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is the hotshot design guy she recruited to move from a web job in California to GQ in New York.  While Jamie wants intimacy too much, Dylan wants to avoid it.

And while we all want a good, old-fashioned (but not too old-fashioned) date movie romantic comedy, we don’t want the same old Jennifers and Jessicas getting into the same old situations.  The problem is that it is harder and harder to find reasons for keeping the couple that the audience knows is destined to be together from having sex for a whole 100 minutes.  And so we get the second movie in seven months that tries to turn the usual story upside down.  Let’s let them have sex right away but then learn how much they love each other.  It works better here than in No Strings Attached because it has a cleverer script and better chemistry.  There’s a terrific beginning as we see Jamie and Dylan on the phone with her waiting in front of a theater and him explaining that he isn’t really late.  We think they’re talking to each other when it turns out they’re on opposite sides of the country and both about to be dumped (great cameos by Andy Samberg and Emma Stone).  So Dylan is recruited by Jamie for the GQ job and as she sells him on New York, complete with a flash mob in Times Square, they have the rhythms of a couple who are destined to be together.  But in the immutable laws of movie romance, both must learn important lessons (and look gorgeous while doing so) before they figure that out.  So they decide to have sex as friends without becoming boyfriend and girlfriend.

It’s a movie with a couple of references to “Seinfeld,” but apparently everyone missed the 1991 episode called “The Deal,” in which long-time exes-turned friends Elaine and Jerry decide they can have sex without an emotional attachment or romance.   It doesn’t work, and there is something a bit off-putting about characters who think it can.  Elaine and Jerry were famously “no learning, no hugging” people who were hilariously superficial and self-involved.  But Jamie and Dylan are supposed to get us on their side and talking and behaving like people for whom sex does not mean anything creates a hurdle we have difficulty getting over.  While the film avoids some of the pitfalls of the romantic comedy formula, it falls into others, with sketchily-drawn back-stories and distracting detours like an un-funny part for Shaun White and a silly repeated joke about whether pilots are important in landing a plane.  Kunis and Timberlake are as great on screen as individuals and as a team and there are some funny and entertaining moments, especially when Dylan explains his childhood affection for Kris Kross.  Ultimately, though, it is as formulaic as the movie-within-a-movie they watch together.  That one stars Jason Segal and Rashida Jones and has a sly dig to the fake NY locations filmed in LA and some outtakes over the end credits.  It — or something just like it — should be in theaters soon.

Any day I get to talk to Guy Pearce, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, get to hear the latest on “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1,” and get to hang out with Power Rangers and the Madagascar Penguins is a very fine day indeed.

In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, I love Comic-Con.  Last night, we got to preview the Exhibition Hall and watch episodes of some upcoming television shows, including a story of a community of witches from Kevin Williamson (the “Scream” movies)  called “The Secret Circle” and a thriller with echoes of “Quantum Leap” and “The Bourne Identity” called “Person of Interest,” starring Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Hensen, and James Caviezel.  Today I attended a press conference for the cast of “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1.”  Fans who had lined up for days to get into the panel discussion in Comic-Con’s largest room, the 6000-person capacity Hall H, hit the jackpot when some of the cast stopped by to say hello.

Elizabeth Reaser (Esme) spoke about the satisfaction of exploring a character over a series of films, and Ashley Greene (Alice) mentioned she had grown up playing her character.  They all said that they enjoyed filming the wedding scene, though it was a challenge due to the level of security necessary to keep the details a secret from the fans.  Kristen Stewart (Bella) said they had “Secret Service-style” protection and that she ended up wearing a Volturi cloak to cover her wedding dress.  They joked about finding an extra in Brazil who looked so much like Lautner they had to move him to the back so that the audience would not get confused and think that Jacob had somehow shown up to spy on Bella and Edward (Robert Pattinson).

When asked about their biggest challenges in this film, Stewart said it was mothering an animatronic baby and Lautner said it was the scene where he had to “walk into the room intent on killing this baby, stop, twist, and imprint, whatever that means.” He said he spent a lot of time talking to author Stephanie Meyer about what she had in mind.  And Pattinson said his biggest challenge was having to take his shirt off.  “In the book, Edward’s body is there every three pages, but I’ve managed to avoid it until this one.”

Ron Perlman and Carey Mulligan spoke to a small group of reporters about their stylish upcoming thriller “Drive,” along with director Nicolas Winding Refn.  Ryan Gosling plays a stunt driver who gets pulled into intrigue and violence to protect a young mother.  Perlman told us that like his character, he is a Jew who always wanted to be an Italian.  Perlman is drawn to the culture and food of Italy, but his character wants to be a powerful criminal.  The character in the original script was not fully described.  Perlman liked the way Refn worked with the actors on “unearthing the world and what our value and function was in the story.”  Mulligan described her relationship with Gosling in the film as the “calm center with chaos all around.”  They are surrounded by “witty, intelligent, terrifying characters” while they are almost silent.  Refn told us that “It came out of my not liking talking.  Silence is the greatest word.”  He also said, “Music gets me going.”  In the film he used 70’s electronic music to match the main character’s vintage car.

More coming soon — stay tuned.

 

 

I’m on my way to Comic-Con 2011, this year featuring the first glimpses of Twilight’s “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” along with Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” the Colin Farrell remake of “Total Recall” and “In Time,” a thriller with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.  You haven’t heard about some of these?  That’s the fun of it; Comic-Con is where it all begins.  It’s not just movies.  “True Blood,” “Lost,” and “Glee” got the word out via Comic-Con and this year we will see get updates on longtime fan favorites like “Buffy” and hear about the new projects from some Comic-Con regulars like Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon.

Entertainment Weekly points out in the current issue that back in 1976 a film no one had ever heard up sent a rep with a card table to sell the Con’s first promotional posters for a movie whose release was still a year away.  Those posters are now sold (if you can find one) for $3000 and this year, that same film will be saluted with an elaborate booth in support of its six-movie Blu-Ray release with never-before-seen footage: Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI). What will this year’s attendees know about before anyone else?  Stay tuned for my reports — and of course my always-popular pictures of the attendees in costume.

I love this silly number from Easter Parade!

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