I have seldom seen the stars of a movie look as thoroughly uncomfortable as Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant in this drearily low-concept would-be comedy, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” Parker plays Meryl Morgan, a Manhattan real estate broker so high-powered she is featured on the cover of New York Magazine, who has recently left her husband, Paul (Grant) because he cheated on her. Paul, a high-powered lawyer, has been trying to win her back with gifts and entreaties, but she is resisting.
And then they end up stuck together, unplugged from all of their various electronic devices and their supremely efficient assistants (wasting the talented Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men”), and about as far away from Manhattan as you can get. They are sent to the small town of Ray, Wyoming by law enforcement authorities after they witness a murder to protect them from being the professional killer’s next victims. And so we’re in the land of city slickers vs the hicks as a form of extreme marital therapy. It’s all sit-, no com.
The jokes were old when “Green Acres” was new. New Yorkers can’t sleep out west because there are no sirens and car horns and they can’t breathe because the air is too clean! Isn’t it cute that people play bingo and shoot guns! (“Oh, my God, it’s Sarah Palin!” Meryl says when she sees Mary Steenburgen as a rifle-toting U.S. Marshall.) One lame stereotype after another (Meryl learns to shoot a gun and milk a cow! Paul squirts his own eyes with bear repellent! Hicks are all Republican and carnivores! Let’s bring everyone together for a dance and a rodeo!) only underscores how self-absorbed, annoying, and entirely unattractive the characters are and how much contempt the film has for its audience. Our primary motivation for wanting them to stay together is that it’s the best way to punish them for creating this awful film. Let them torture each other the way they tortured us.
Enjoy these romantic highlights in honor of the DVD release today of Disney’s latest, “The Princess and the Frog.”
“You’re good with weird,” a character tells Bella mid-way through “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” That’s an understatement. In the first Twilight movie, as in the first of the series by Stephanie Meyer, high school student Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moved to the rainiest town in the US, Forks, Washington and fell deeply in love with Edward (Robert Pattinson), who looked like a teenager but was in fact a vampire who was more than 100 years old. He and his “family,” the Cullens, are sort of vampire vegetarians, living on animal blood. But there are other vampires who continue to prey on humans, and they almost killed Bella before Edward rescued her. And then they lived happily ever after until it was time for another book/movie, and that is where we begin.
Edward, convinced that their relationship will always put Bella in danger, leaves, telling her he will never see her again. She is devastated and isolates herself from everyone. She discovers that Edward appears to her when she is in danger, so she takes some foolish risks, just to feel close to him. But then the quiet support and gentle teasing of her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) begin to make her feel that she is able to be a part of the world again.
Like Edward, Jacob loves Bella and would do anything to protect her. And like Edward, Jacob has a secret. He is part of a tribe of wolf-people. Like “The Hulk,” his anger manifests itself in a powerful transformation. And Bella finds herself at the center of a centuries-old war between the vampires and the wolves.
The wildly popular Twilight Saga has the core elements of girl-friendly romances from “Wuthering Heights” to “Titanic:” a boyfriend who is not approved by parents who is utterly undone by the appeal of the female lead, and something to make sure that their relationship is about longing, not satisfaction. Just in case you aren’t paying close attention, we see Bella sleeping with a copy of “Romeo and Juliet” on her pillow, and her English class watching a video of the play. The teacher calls on Edward to recite one of Romeo’s speeches. And later, Edward, like Romeo, believes that his love is dead and decides he cannot live without her.
There is a lot of longing. Characters exchange meaningful looks and take an extra beat before responding to allow for some strategic intakes of breath and swelling of the score. There are moments that are more perfume commercial than movie. And as in the book, this big love Bella and Edward feel is expressed mostly in talking about the big love they feel. In a way, this is wise; we never see them doing or seeing anything that would interfere with our ability to project onto them whatever the specifics of our own fantasies of love look like. All we know or need to know is that Bella and Edward have the big, total, all-encompassing, would do anything for each other love. Just like Romeo and Juliet.
And we have Lautner’s excellent abs, which play such a significant role they should have their own billing. Lautner also has an easy confidence and sincerity on screen that nicely leavens the intensity and drama of the Bella-Edward connection. The screenplay is seasoned with some humor and a reference to self-referential cleverness that is almost meta.
New director Chris Weitz does not have Catherine Hardwicke’s feel for the rhythms of teenage interactions and the intensity of teen romance. And he does not have her ability to tell the story through the settings; we miss the lush natural world of the first chapter. Weitz and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg also have to grapple with a transitional story that translates less well to screen than the first one. But the film benefits from his greater experience with special effects and a bigger budget. He catches the spirit of the story and allows the natural chemistry between his leads do the rest. And that is enough to make this movie enormously enjoyable and keep us looking forward to the next one.
Entertainment Weekly movie critic Owen Gleiberman takes another look at 1990’s House Party and finds it both a relic of a lost era and as completely winning as ever.
It takes place in a world so wildly removed from our own that there are moments when the whole film seems to be crying out for its own mockingly jaw-dropped and affectionate VH1 nostalgia special. Look, there’s the young Martin Lawrence, hording a DJ record collection and cutting up in a pork-pie hat. (“You’re so warm and comfy,” he tells the girl he’s snuggling, “like my Hush Puppies!”) There’s Robin Harris, as the grouchy father, dropping ancient references to Dolemite. And check out the movie’s villain, a high school “thug” who looks like Mr. T impersonating an L.A. hairdresser in a ripped Flashdance T- shirt.
[Reginald and Warrington Hudlin] made a boogie-all-night comedy that was also, in spirit, a joyfully shrewd rap musical….House Party is that now-incongruous thing, a rap movie that’s honestly devoid of nihilism. Even when Public Enemy blares during the big party sequence, the film uses the group not for its militancy but for the pure jolt of its electro-ecstatic groove. Here, though, is something that doesn’t date — or, at least, looks just about as impressive now as it did then. When Kid ‘N Play launch into their big middle-of-the-living-room rap duel, the rhymes may be a tad corny, but they’re also right in the volatile tradition of hypnotic urban improv twistiness that would mark the two most seismic rap artists to come, Jay-Z and Eminem.