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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Odd Couple’ Won’t Last

posted by jtotey
Felix Unger (Thomas Lennon)  plays the ying to Oscar Madison's (Matthew Perry) yang in "The Odd Couple." (CBS)

Felix Unger (Thomas Lennon) plays the ying to Oscar Madison’s (Matthew Perry) yang in “The Odd Couple.” (CBS)

Neil Simon’s original play, The Odd Couple is a comedy classic that no TV sitcom incarnation has given the story any justice. The 1970-1975 version with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman came the closest, but it pales in comparison to the wit of the original. In 1982, a new “black” version of the show dubbed, The New Odd Couple debuted for an extra short season. Apparently changing the race of the main characters didn’t make the show any funnier.

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Last night, CBS ran the pilot episode of yet a “new” Odd Couple that starred Matthew Perry as Oscar Madison, the messy sports radio commentator who “works” from home in his boxers. Thomas Lennon plays the ying to Oscar’s yang, the extremely tidy Felix Unger. The new show makes a valiant try of recreating the comedy borrowing the same theme song from the first TV show and storyline from the original play. But in the end, it is another flawed production for a variety of reasons.

First, the 22 minute show tries to cram in every aspect of the original two hour play which is tough to do. It tried to address about six different plot points. Second, last night, seven characters were introduced. This is a common mistake of many sitcoms as allows for virtually no time for character development. Third, the show immediately goes where all CBS comedies go these days – sex. In the pilot, Oscar meets an attractive women in his apartment complex who tells him that she really isn’t wanting a meaningful relationship – she’s just looking for someone to have sex with. Fourth, while Lennon is over-the-top in his role as Felix, (he could calm down the role a bit), Perry is all wrong for Oscar. Perhaps it is all of his years playing Chandler Bing on Friends that ruined him for this role. He just isn’t messy enough or have the right attitude, but he does have the sarcasm down pat. He would make a very good Felix though.

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I do believe that a television version of Neil Simon’s work can be successful, but must have him involved in the project for it to be successful. Simon has his own brand of humor that is hard to replicate and his pace is a lot slower than today’s sitcoms allow, but it still could be done. Last night’s pilot could have been broken up into five episodes alone.

I like Matthew Perry and I hope that he will eventually land a solid role in comedy again, but this isn’t it. The Odd Couple airs Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. on CBS.

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The Vampire Documentary You Have Been Waiting For

posted by jtotey
The cast of "What We Do in the Shadows" (Unison Films)

The cast of “What We Do in the Shadows” (Unison Films)

If you are a fan of vampire movies (not those like Twilight but more like the classic Dracula) and mock documentaries (like Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman), What We Do in the Shadows is for you. This mockumentary follows the lives of four vampires of various ages living together. Together, they face the same struggles most roommates do like who is going to do the dishes and who is going to sweep up the skeleton bones.

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Living in New Zealand, Viago (Taika Waititi) is the chatty spokesperson of the quartet. He doesn’t like getting blood on his antique couch. Petyr (Ben Fransham) is the oldest of the four and resembles Nosferatu. He doesn’t talk much and spends most of his time in the basement. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is a lady killer and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) has a human servant, (Ethel Robinson), who desperately wants to be turned into a vampire. Instead, she ends up ironing Deacon’s clothes.

The end result is a silly spoof that is very funny but a little off balance. Most of the jokes go over very well, but some fall flat. There are some funny bits with the vampires learning how to use a computer and watching footage of a sunrise for the first time. They talk about drinking blood of a virgin because it sounds cool. For fun, the crew venture into town, but they cannot come into any nightclub unless they are invited in. They also get in a little trouble with a pack of werewolves who are trying hard to control their own beastly natures.

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The comedy is similar in tone to The Munsters or The Adams Family TV shows, but with stronger language. Also, being a horror film, there is some blood and gore, but nothing more than what you might see in a Saturday Night Live skit (remember the one with Julia Child cutting her finger?). Is it offensive? Well, it’s not for everyone that is for sure. Nothing here is to be taken seriously though, but there is enough to sink your teeth into.

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‘McFarland, USA’ – Better than ‘Hoosiers’

posted by jtotey
McFARLAND, USA..L to R: Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) and Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) w/ Damacio Diaz (Michael Aguero) in background. (Walt Disney Pictures)

McFARLAND, USA..L to R: Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) and Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) w/ Damacio Diaz (Michael Aguero) in background. (Walt Disney Pictures)

I am always amazed when a movie that is “based on a true story” can change so many details. It’s as if the real story wasn’t good enough. In an interview with The Christian Chronicle, Jim and Cheryl White, the inspirational characters featured in Kevin Costner’s new film, McFarland, USA, explain some of the differences in the true story compared to the movie. Jim and Cheryl are the same age, whereas the Kevin Costner and Maria Bello couple are 15 years apart. The Whites have two daughters, but only two are mentioned in the film. And finally, the Whites are a Christian family which isn’t mentioned in the film. However, it’s not what Disney left out of the story that matters, but what they kept in. The pair have nothing but positive praise for the movie. “It’s a weird, unusual feeling to watch your own life unfold on the big screen,” says Jim. “We’ve seen it three times, and we know the story, and we’ve teared up all three times.”

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The story isn’t about a white man saving a group of hispanic kids – it’s about a community that embraces an outsider and his family and together, they make their corner of the world a better place. It is a story about accepting people where they are, help them see beyond their own viewpoint and supporting each other as a community. Many churches can learn a thing or two by watching this movie.

A realistic portrayal of living in McFarland, CA.

A realistic portrayal of living in McFarland, CA.

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After yet another incident where coach Jim White (Costner) gets fired for losing his temper with his students, he moves his family to the forgettable town of McFarland, California where the population is over 95% hispanic. The kids think that dad has driven all the way to Mexico. They are the minorities in this town and the last name of “White” doesn’t help. Many of the high school students refer to Jim as “Blanco,” which is Spanish for “white.” He soon learns that McFarland is not a place where anyone wants to move to and most want to get out of. Many of the school’s students work early mornings and afternoons at their parent’s farms. They are hard-workers, but unappreciated.

Jim is initially signed on as an assistant football coach for the high school, but after noticing how fast some of the kids run, he asks to become the school’s first cross country coach. Without any training or background in the sport, he and his team are equals and ultimately, he learns as much from them as they learn from him.

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Maria Bello and Kevin Costner star as Jim and Cheryl White in Disney's "McFarland, USA." (Disney)

Maria Bello and Kevin Costner star as Jim and Cheryl White in Disney’s “McFarland, USA.” (Disney)

I will go out on a limb here to say that McFarland, USA is one of best sports movies to come around in a long time and it is even better than the classic basketball movie Hoosiers. Unlike other sports movies, White doesn’t sacrifice his family for the success of his team. He is far from perfect, often feels like he let his family down and forgets some of his own children’s important milestones. But he learns from his mistakes and starts to inspire his runners to think bigger than just getting a high school diploma and encourages them to consider attending college. This doesn’t sit well with some of the locals who feel that they are born a “picker” and will die a picker.

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As the film opens, you relate with the White family and feel bad for their situation but by the end, you wish that you could pack up your stuff and move in next door to them. The movie only glamorizes true friendship, the importance of family and faith, and simple pleasures like a scene when the boys visit the ocean for the first time in their lives. The movie doesn’t shy away from the negatives about living in such a poor community either, but instead, shows how communities can come together to support each other after a tragedy strikes. At the end of the movie, members of the original track team are featured with short synopsis on what has happened in their lives after their first big win. Those stories are almost more inspiring than the movie itself.

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In the recent string of movies for Kevin Costner, this one is the best. Maria Bello plays more than the dutiful wife. She is strong, supportive and many times plays the role of cheerleader for her husband and her girls. She embraces the beauty of McFarland long before the others do. There really isn’t a weak actor in the bunch.

McFarland is not a tentpole movie and not much has been said about it. The theme of cross country runners is not as popular as a football movie. However, parents should really consider treating their children to this movie as an example of how other kids in America live which might make them appreciate their own lives.

 

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‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ – Lessons Learned

posted by jtotey
Geraldo Rivera and Leeza Gibbons wait to see their fate on "The Celebrity Apprentice." (NBC)

Geraldo Rivera and Leeza Gibbons wait to see their fate on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” (NBC)

For those of you who don’t watch such things, you may not have heard that Donald Trump crowned the latest winner of The Celebrity Apprentice last night on NBC. Starting with over a dozen celebrity Type-A personalities, it all came down to news correspondents Geraldo Rivera and TV show host, Leeza Gibbons. And the winner was…Leeza Gibbons, proving that sometimes “nice guys” do finish first.

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It really wasn’t much of a surprise that the show ended with the these two powerhouse people. Both are very well-known and well-connected with people of power who could give generously for each of their charities. But what was a bit of a surprise was the reason why Trump picked Gibbons over Geraldo.
The two personalities of the two couldn’t be more different.

Rivera’s ego is almost the same size as Trump’s. In just about every task that he was in, Geraldo made sure that somehow he was the center of it. Here are just a few of his antics:

  • He credited himself for being one of the first to create a “selfie” on Facebook which helped ignite the trend.
  • He created a team poster which featured his face larger than the others.
  • He stripped to his underwear in hopes of being featured in a task that featured professional models.
  • He proudly claimed, “I am Geraldo. I am not to be trifled with me.” (Anyone in 2015 who uses the phrase, “to be trifled with” will most definitely be trifled with.)
  • His final task in shooting a commercial for Universal Studios Florida was more about him than the vacation spot.

In steep contrast, Gibbons powered through every task as a team player rather than chase the limelight. Nobody on the show had a bad thing to say about Gibbons either. Instead of thinking that she knew everything, she chose to work with her team member’s strengths. But just because she was easy to get along with didn’t mean that she was a pushover. When necessary, Gibbons made the tough decisions. In the end, Gibbons made it clear that it is possible for someone to be an effective leader and not alienate those working beside you. Bravo Leeza, bravo.

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