Friday, July 20, 2007

'HIMYM' Co-Creator Talks 'Method & Red'

On this blog, I do many things. I review TV shows, review movies, rant about the entertainment industry and periodically mention the Red Sox. One thing I've never been accused of using this blog for before is actual reportage. I save that stuff for the Zap2it blog, where I can delve into the serious journalistic business of interviewing Adrian Pasdar about whether or not he conditions his beard.

But at CBS' Press Tour party last night, I (along with my Zap2it colleague Rick) conducted an interview that dealt, at least partially, with subject matter that's utterly useless for Zap2it, but completely on-topic for this blog... A little show I like to call "Method & Red." I like to call it that, because that's its name.

In any case, follow through after the bump for my discussion with "How I Met Your Mother" co-creator Carter Bays about "Method & Red" and this blog's ongoing campaign to get the show released on DVD [Sign the petition!]...

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At Zap2it, we have a great collective love for "HIMYM," and therefore a respect for Bays and cohort Craig Thomas. That respect only grew when Rick pointed out to me that before "HIMYM," Thomas and Bays' credits included "Method & Red," but not just "Method & Red," the episode titled "The Article," which featured not only music critic Keith Debeetham, but also self-explanatory childrens' entertainer Downtown Clowny Brown.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), Bays was initially unconfused when we approached him at the party about Keith Debeetham.

As he explained, "Keith Debeetham was the editor we worked for at the 'Late Show.' He was the guy, day in and day out, we'd be putting together skits for the show and he was the guy we'd be editing it with, so it was shout-out to him."

Ooops. Poor research on our part. When we explained that we meant "Method & Red," he remained largely enthusiastic.

"It feels like a dream," he laughed. "I'm not sure I actually worked there. It was a very surreal dream."

Thomas and Bays arrived on "Method & Red" after they'd put in their time writing for "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Oliver Beene."

"It was funny, because they'd just signed Craig and I to a deal at Fox," Bays recalls. "We were freshly on a deal and they looked down their roster of shows and they're like 'What show do you put these two white guys from the suburbs on? Oh wait! We have a deal with the Wu Tang Clan! OK. Yeah. Let's get them together. Yeah. That'll work.'"

Did they spend any wacky times with Method Man and Redman?

"I think I met them both once, but yeah, I didn't really work close with them," he laughs. "We just wrote the script and then left. I feel bad, what a journeyman kind of experience it was."

I mention this blog's ongoing campaign to get "Method & Red" released on DVD, asking if he wanted to join the plea.

"Of course I do! Well, no. Here's my plea -- My plea is wait until after the writers' strike, when the writers actually get paid for the DVDs and then release it. That's my plea. Don't buy it until I'm getting a cut of it, America."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My 2007 Emmy Nominations Rambling

Here's a fun little game if you want to know why I can't bring myself to care about the Emmys: I want you to go to the official nomination page and do a word search for either "The Wire" and "Wire."

See? Wasn't that fun? So much for the Emmys, eh?

If, of course, you still care about an organization that last year lauded Ellen Burstyn for 20 seconds of screentime and a bad accent, follow through after the bump for a typical amount of ranting and raving...

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I'm Happy About...

Hugh Laurie's failure to secure a best actor nomination last season was one of the more peculiar gaffes in recent Emmy memory. Even if "House" occasionally stumbled this year, particularly in the arc featuring David Morse (somehow Emmy nominated for that work), Laurie's work never faltered and in addition to playing his usual cycles of drug addition and misanthropy, he had fantastic arcs of internal conflict as well.

I'm glad to see the Academy finally understanding that Steve Carell's work on the office isn't being done in a vacuum. Rainn Wilson was an obvious and deserving supporting nominee -- yes he plays his part to the back of the auditorium, but that's exactly what a supporting performance is supposed to be. And Jenna Fischer deserves to win purely for her five second reaction shot at the end of the finale. Maybe next year John Krasinski and Melora Hardin can get their nominations?

I'm even happier to see Neil Patrick Harris get his due for his "How I Met Your Mother" work. This feels like a gateway nomination to perhaps get overall acceptance of the show next year? It's still a shame that Kourtney Kang couldn't get a nomination for "Slap Bet," the season's best overall piece of traditional comedy writing.

Somehow Mary-Louise Parker wasn't on the board last year for "Weeds." Very odd. Glad to see that rectified this season and glad to see the series get a well-deserved outstanding comedy nomination. I'd have thought Justin Kirk was a worthy comedy supporting actor candidate, but I guess we need to keep recognize Jeremy Piven for doing the exact same thing over and over again on "Entourage."

Speaking of "Entourage," that's good nomination for Kevin Dillon, even though the Johnny Drama character has had a really spotty assortment of episodes this season. Actually, I don't think "Entourage" was really deserving of that comedy series nomination for last season and I'd have gladly replaced it with "HIMYM."

But good for "30 Rock" and all of its various nominations! I thought the pilot was mediocre, salvaged mostly by Alec Baldwin's performance, but as the season wore on, I began to appreciate everything else about the show, particularly Tina Fey's subtle work -- since when does the Academy honor SUBTLE? -- in the lead.

Oh and I'm also relieved that the Academy punished "24" for a season that went beyond self-parody at certain points. Kiefer Sutherland's work never faltered, though, so I can't entirely begrudge that grandfathered nomination. But Jean Smart? Yeah, she got nominated last year, but her performance this season was one hammy episode in which she committed an act of violence that FOX promised would be the most shocking moment in "24" history and yet was never mentioned again for the entire season. Weird.

I'm Unhappy About...

The first observation, the one that all of my critical peers will probably also be making today, is that "Friday Night Lights" got jobbed. From what I can see, network TV's best drama received exactly two nominations, including one for Peter Berg's work on the pilot. While that's two more nominations that "The Wire," that's still pathetic. Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and the writing staff deserve better. I think the absence of technical nominations is rather stunning, honestly. Cinematography? Editing? Sound design? We're talking location shooting with sports action here. Give it up from "Friday Night Lights," kids. It's well-established that Emmy nominations don't mean a darned thing to viewers, but giving the show its due couldn't have hurt NBC's promotional cause.

Really, there's nothing to be said about "The Wire." Michael K. Williams, I'm feelin' you, man. But "The Wire" was always ignored. Why did the Academy forget about "Deadwood"? Actually, they didn't. The show earned six technical nominations. But where's previous nominee Ian McShane? Where is the always deserving Robin Weigert? And where, most criminally, is Gerald McRaney, whose villainous George Hearst was a career-revitalizing revelation?

I was glad to see "Dexter" get a nomination for its main title design. Well deserved. But where did the rest of the show's nominations go? Where, mostly, did Michael C. Hall's lead actor nomination go?

Lots of second tier and mid-tier nominations for the ever-erratic "My Name Is Earl." And good to see a nomination for Jaime Pressly as supporting actor. But did anybody see the episode where the cat-allergic Randy dated a cat woman? If you saw that episode, tell me how Ethan Supplee gets left off the final ballot. Seriously.

Lorraine Bracco? Really? I know this was the last season for "The Sopranos" and we want to do our part to send that show off to heaven with a bang, but what did Dr. Melfi do this season? And what did Lorraine Bracco do? It's not that she hasn't deserved nominations in the past, but this year I'd make pleas for Weigert, Adrianne Palicki, Aimee Teegarden, Lisa Edelstein, the gal who played Snoop on "The Wire," Elizabeth Mitchell, Sarah Paulson, C.C.H. Pounder, et al.

There are also shows that you just can't expect Emmy voters to remember. It's good to see a visual effects nomination for the first episode of "Drive," but what about some editing nods? And how about tech nods for the pilot for "The Nine"?

And thus, Kristen Bell ends her three seasons on "Veronica Mars" without an Emmy nomination. That's not surprising, but it isn't right. That's still better than Lauren Graham ending her seven season run on "Gilmore Girls" without an Emmy nomination.

In its first season of operation, The CW picked up a single Emmy nomination for sound editing on "Smallville." Huzzah.

If You're Betting: Yeah, you could put a few bucks on "The Sopranos" in just about every category, but if I were wagering my own personal fortune, I'd put ever cent on Helen Mirren in the lead actress, miniseries movie category. I love that her competition there includes Queen Latifah.

Monday, July 09, 2007

MoviesWatch: "Rescue Dawn"

"Rescue Dawn"
Director: Werner Herzog
Fien Print Rating: 79
In a Nutshell: [Before getting into my thoughts on what is probably the best movie of the summer, let me clarify something from my review of "Transformers." Several people have made it clear to me that they didn't buy my contention, made early on, that "I like people, I guess." It's well established that I prefer talking pigs, cooking rats and monkeys of any form to people. I guess what I was trying to say is that if I have to choose between watching "Michael Bay's Rock-em-Sock-em Robots: The Movie" and watching, well, anything in which somebody exhibits any sort of human characteristics whatsoever, I'm going to take the latter. Now "Steven Spielberg's Rock-em-Sock-em Robots: The Movie" versus next summer's Happy Madison Joint "Rob Schneider Talks With a Funny Accent and Poops Himself"? Well, the jury's still out.]

Follow through after the bump for my thoughts on "Rescue Dawn."

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Werner Herzog almost never makes movies that aren't Werner Herzog Films and "Rescue Dawn" is such a Werner Herzog Film that he's had to tell the same story twice in less than a decade. I caught 1997's documentary "Little Dieter Needs to Fly" via Netflix and enjoyed its Herzogian tale of one man's single-minded determination to first fly and then to remain alive in the face of great inhumanity and all manner of natural obstacles. The decision to make "Little Dieter" into a narrative film didn't seem necessary, but the casting of Christian Bale was too perfect to resist.

In Bale, Herzog may have finally found a perfect replacement for the late Klaus Kinski, an actor willing to absolutely cripple himself to commit to a role, only without Kinski's trademark instabilities. Of course, Kinski's instabilities played off Herzog's own instabilities and certainly yielded moments of genius. Perhaps it's that lack of creative friction that keeps "Rescue Dawn" from reaching the heights of a "Fitzcarraldo" or "Aguirre, Wrath of God." Or maybe Herzog was respectful of the fact that he was making a true studio film here and kept himself emotionally in check. Or maybe, and this is my personal favorite theory, the reliable 20 point/10 rebound stability of first-time producer and power forward Elton Brand kept things under control.

Bale gives exactly the kind of "My cheek bones will terrify you, but my eyes will still burn with life" performance that you'd expect. He remains a criminally neglected actor by the various award-giving bodies and I fear that he's going to keep doing projects like this and "The Machinists," films were the lines between acting and actual malnutrition becomes unrecognizable. I think that if the Academy would just throw an Oscar nomination he way, he might be inclined to eat again.

"Rescue Dawn" is a straight-forward POW film shot without excessive Hollywood plot points and traditional dramatic beats almost until the very end. It's about survival, but not in a way that requires any sort of story arc, which is a huge relief. Thanks to Herzog's dedication to the film's environment, the tension is organic (pun sort of intended) rather than contrived. The stagnant streams, overgrown jungle and harsh cliffs are more carefully and humanely depicted than any of the Laotian or Vietnamese soldiers, to be sure. Herzog doesn't build the movie to key places like Capture, Escape, etc, because survival is just more complicated than that, so the viewer is never lulled into believing that the next obstacle Bale's Dieter faces will be his last. This hell could go on forever. That's not what viewers are necessarily looking for in the summer movie season, so "Rescue Dawn" is a tough sell.

In addition to Bale, the film features several other strong performances, though the supporting work is mostly one-note. Steve Zahn's emaciated Duane showcases the most dramatic work yet from the comedic character actor, but this isn't necessarily the kind of thing you'd want to encourage him to keep doing. On the other hand, I would gladly suggest that Jeremy Davies keep doing his Charlie Manson impression over and over and over again for as long as people will pay him. That sucker is pure gold.

Oh and in a piece of casting that will amuse me and maybe 5 other people, I loved seeing Toby Huss as Spook, one of Dieter's fellow pilots. You see, they were bombing Laos and Huss is perhaps best known as the voice of Kahn on "King of the Hill," surely TV's most familiar Laotian.

"Rescue Dawn" has been on the shelf for a long time, largely because MGM never had a clue how to make anybody see it. A slow roll-out as alternative programming in the summer isn't a bad choice, though I wonder if the failure to give the film a November/December berth will cost it Oscar attention and a place on critics' Top 10 lists. That might be a shame.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

MovieWatch: "Transformers"

Director: Michael Bay
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 45
In a Nutshell: I've already been asked, so you needn't bother: Given that "Transformers" is a Michael Bay movie based on a Hasbro toy line, how could I possibly have felt like I deserved anything more than I got out of it? Put more simply still: What the heck did I think I was plunking down my 12 bucks to see? They're robots in freakin' disguise. What more is there to it than that?

Sigh. I like people, I guess. Michael Bay doesn't need people and doesn't care about humans in his movies. So it's no surprise that Bay can't humanize man or robot in "Transformers." Thus, it's a 135-minute movie that's supposed to have global ramifications, but builds to a loud, bruising 45-minute conflict that takes place on two blocks of downtown Los Angeles (going by an alternative name for no good reason). In that conflict, CGI blurs bounce off each other accompanied by a fantastic and hard-working sound design.

I'm going to continue to ramble after the bump, OK?

Click through...

I don't have to understand or be interested in the plot of a movie like this. And I didn't and wasn't. But there have to be human stakes, somewhere. Characters we recognize and empathize with have to be put in jeopardy and possibly even die, assuming they weren't played by top-billed actors. The audience has to develop sufficient hatred for the villains that we root for their death in the most bloodthirsty, vigilante sort of way. It has to be us or them.

As dazzled as I often was by the visual effects in "Transformers," I never cared if the heroes succeeded (and, since they were only facing CGI blobs that never felt real for a second, I never felt that any of them were in danger). What's worse is that I never cared if the Decepticons were defeated.

In order to root against a villain, at least so far as I understand it, the villain's opposition to good or moral action has to be clearly understood. If a villain is out to kill humanity, you have to both understand why the villain wants to do away with humanity and feel that the desire is based on an actual hatred. For my money, "Transformers" don't work in large part because the Decepticons don't really care about humans. They don't care about global destruction. They care about an inanimate cube. Humans are collateral damage, but they lack the requisite reason for destroying Earth and its inhabitants. They don't hate us, so we don't fear them. I know that they were going to bring all of our machines to life or enslave us, but the movie gives less than a minute's time to illustrating that potentiality.

Oh no! Our Mountain Dew machines would come to life?!?!? That's the last straw. Damn those Decepticons.

Damn Megatron! And damn... that other Decepticon. And the other one. And that little nasty one! If I hadn't played with Transformers a bit as a kid, I wouldn't have even remembered any of the names of the miscellaneous Decepticons, but even remembering their names is pointless, because few of them have any noticeable characteristics or individual personalities. The Autobots aren't much better, though it's made clearer which GMC automobiles they're affiliated with and they're given repeated names. When Optimus Prime introduces them, he also explains their individual roles within the Autobot army -- munitions, medic, etc -- and then none of them perform any of those specialized roles within the movie. That's annoying. Despite the Autobots each having jobs and voices, one of them died and I both didn't feel a thing at the time and then didn't remember his death when it was mentioned later. Again, zero impact.

I guess it's not like the humans were making any impact either. Shia is fine, though his character spends the first half of the movie as a stammering and annoying dweeb and the second half of the movie staring at things in awe. His romantic foil, played by Megan Fox, looked phenomenal, but I kept wondering where she found time to sneak away to reapply her skank make-up. Josh Duhamel makes a bland but pretty action lead. The only actor who seems to be having any fun is John Turturro, who comes out of left field around the half-way point, seemingly out of a different movie entirely. Also in a different movie entirely? Bernie Mac.

But the coolest thing about the cast is that it has my two favorite government agents in recent TV history, with both Glenn Morshower (Agent Pierce on "24") and Michael O'Neill (Agent Ron Butterfield on "The West Wing").

Yes, the Transformers are a marvel to behold as realized by the various different effects houses. But when I played with Transformers, there was a connection between form and function -- different Autobots and Decepticons took different finite forms and the form they took impacted the powers they were able to utilize. In Michael Bay's "Transformers," the robots are much more malleable and the ones that don't transform into airplanes and helicopters seem perfectly capable of coming darned close to flying, etc. Also, with the original Transformers toys, it was always cool that that fighting robot fit perfectly into that sporty car, with no extra pieces and no additional size. In the movie, I didn't believe that Bumblebee had once been the size of a Camaro. He suddenly become vastly larger and more complicated when he went from car to fighting robot. That annoyed me.

I was also irked by how shiny the Transformers were, even at night when there were no light sources to create that reflection. They also seemed a bit weightless, like I never got a sense of how loud they were or how strong. They were able to wander around chatting on Shia TheBeef's lawn and not only did it take a while before they messed with the grass, but at no point did Shia TheBeef's parents hear them. That also annoyed me.

Perhaps the biggest way that the movie could have been fixed for me is if the humans had had any active agency in bringing about the climax of the plot.

[I'm going into spoilers here for the last act, so stop reading please if you haven't seen the movie or figure to see it some day.]

Our plucky and resourceful humans do, indeed, help bring about the end of the movie, but not through any learned behavior or particularly admirable skills or discoveries. At no point do the humans learn the weaknesses of the Decepticons, allowing them to take advantage of said weaknesses for victory. No, at some point Josh Duhamel's character hops on a motorcycle, rides under one and shoots it in the crotch and it goes down. Ummm... OK. I guess that's fine. It was dumb luck, but whatever. And Shia TheBeef brings about the final climax of the movie by jabbing the cube in Megatron's chest, an action that was never even suggested to him as a possibility (Optimus Prime volunteered his own sacrifice, but never explained anything about why it would work to the kid, much less that a similar course of action would work on a different Transformer... Again, dumb luck). And nearly 1/3rd of the movie's plot was built around Rachael Taylor and Anthony Anderson's techno-savvy characters, but descript their centrality to the narrative, they play no purpose in the plot. The characters meander around for a while, allow for exposition and then call in an air strike which, from what I recall, didn't lead to the demise of a single Decepticon. Then, in minimal aftermath to the excitement, those characters don't even appear. They just vanished. That's bad writing and a waste of time. Why couldn't those characters have been there for a reason?

[Spoilers done.]

And, in fact, review done. Sure, I could ramble on, but what's the point?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Chestnut-Kobayashi is the new Balboa-Drago

Two worlds collide, rival nations
It's a primitive clash, venting years of frustrations
Bravely we hope against all hope, there is so much at stake
Seems our freedom's up against the ropes
Does the crowd understand?
Is it a East vs. West, or man against man
Can any nation stand alone?

Oh Survivor! Once again you've perfectly articulated and anticipated one of history's great events. They were singing, of course, about the classic exhibition boxing match between Rocky "The Italian Stallion" Balboa and Ivan "Captain Ivan" Drago, a showdown that managed to singlehandedly avenge the tragic demise of Apollo Creed, but also to end Communism as we know it. I've always been frustrated hearing conservatives rave about how Ronald Reagan was responsible for the fall of socialism across Europe, but he never faced off against a Soviet-designed Russian killing machine like Drago. But it turned out that Drago wasn't, in fact, a machine. He was just a man. And Drago discovered that Rocky wasn't just a man. He was made of iron. Rocky may have won the fight, but the world won the war.

As the Stallion put it, "During this fight, I've seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that's better than twenty million. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!"

Follow through after the bump if you're still confused about what I'm blathering about.

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The great thing about the Drago-Balboa bout was that the Russian crowd and the TV audience at home got their money's worth. Some of the pundits had figured that Balboa would go down early, that the long the fight lasted the more likely it would be that Balboa would leave the USSR in a body bag. Years later, of course, we learned that the brain damage Rocky sustained in the fight would effectively end his boxing career, but in that moment, two great warriors from two rival nations learned an important lesson about mutual respect.

I felt the same way on Wednesday (July 4) watching the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN.

Remember back in the early '90s when the Japanese were about to take over America? They were buying our businesses and our golf courses. Pundits were saying that in no time at all, we'd all have to learn to speak Japanese to talk to our new overlords, which was going to be extra-complicated, since everybody knows that Americans can barely speak English, much less any other foreign language. The discourse was so heated that Michael Crichton could write a disgustingly bigoted and fetishistic novel like "Rising Sun" and sell millions. Ah, the reign of King George I. Good times.

Those doomsday predictions didn't come true, which was the only thing that drained drama from Wednesday's hot dog showdown between Joey Chestnut and six-time defending champ Takeru Kobayashi, a match-up that couldn't have been better scripted if Sylvester Stallone wrote the darned thing himself. First Chestnut broke Kobayashi's storied mark last month at a qualifier, eating 59.5 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Then, in the weeks leading up the the 4th of July, Kobayashi complained of jaw problems and threatened to back out. First his complaint was a broken jaw, then painful wisdom teeth, then arthritis of the jaw. Was he ducking Chestnut or just raising the stakes, lulling his rival into a false sense of security. Then, at this morning's event, while Chestnut arrived on a bus with the other gurgitators, Kobayashi showed up in his own limo, surrounded by bodyguards. Boo! Boo!

Like Balboa and Drago, though, Kobayashi and Chestnut weren't just about the pre-fight drama, about the build-up and the competition lived up to all advance billing.

Chestnut, whose eating style is characterized by making big balls of his food, like a toddler, and ramming it down his throat while jiggling and bumping his stomach to clear space, got off to a fast start and it looked like Kobayashi was truly out of shape. For a while it looked like another competitor -- possibly mohawked Pat Bertoletti or the face-painted Eater X -- might sneak up and steal second. But as Survivor also sang, "In the warrior's code, there's no surrender/ Though his body says stop, his spirit cries 'Never!'" They were singing of Kobayashi. Although he was three or four or even five wieners down through the first three minutes, as the clock counted down, he pulled close. First Chestnut smashed the old meet (meat?) record of 53-plus dogs. Then, with Kobayashi breathing his hot doggy breath down his neck, Chestnut passed 60 and shattered the world mark. At 61 and 62, the two eaters were basically tied. At 63, though, as Chestnut plowed on, Kobayashi suffered the ultimate indignity -- a partially reversal of fortune. From his mouth and nose spewed a slurry of half-eaten franks, a feat caught in tummy-churning slow motion, very much like a slo-mo shot of Balboa's glove displacing Drago's cheeks, sending a spray of spit and sweat into the Russian air.


When the hot dog detritus had cleared, Chestnut's achievement was evident. With 66 dogs devoured, he'd set a new world mark. Despite the reversal of fortune, Kobayashi was still credited with 63 dogs, a personal best. The next closest competitor, was well-back with 40-something.

Yes, the hot dog eating crown and its mustard-yellow victor jacket are back in American hands, just like so many of our golf courses. Michael Crichton isn't likely to write a "Rising Sun 2" any time soon. But should we learn a lesson of American superiority from this gustatory delight? No. Alone, neither Chestnut nor Kobayashi could ever have reached such great heights.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if Joey Chestnut can eat and Kobayashi can eat, everybody can eat!

Happy Fourth of July!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

This Blog Has Been Rated "R"

I've never thought that any of my blogging activities were particularly mature or particularly directed at adults only, but you know who does think that? The automatic blog-rating generators over at Mingle2.

Like my own life, this blog is fairly lacking in graphic sex or nudity. I've intentionally softened my own occasionally coarse language so that I'm certainly no more foul than a PG-13 Adam Sandler movie. I don't smoke personally and I make sure that only the villains in my blog smoke and that when they do smoke, they're sure to cough excessively and say things like, "Damn, these things are killing me."

So why, then, does Mingle2 think my blog isn't suitable for folks under the age of 17? It appears to have something to do with excessive use of several ever keywords, particularly "murder" and "death." I think Mingle2 is taking exception to my noting of the passing of Peter Boyle, which feels harsh.

I apologize to impressionable readers for my seemingly excessive morbidity in these manners. In the future, I intend to deny the existence of death, treating the world with pre-"Bambi" innocence.

Thankfully, we remain PG-rated over at Zap2it's From Inside the Box blog. Whew.

Monday, July 02, 2007

MovieWatch: "License to Wed"

"License to Wed"
Director: Ken Kwapis
Fien Print Rating: 23
In a Nutshell: One of the movies that most disappointed me last spring was "The Sentinel." It wasn't an awful movie, but I felt sad that after spending most of his year doing a top-notch thriller on TV that Kiefer Sutherland had to use his hiatus to make a far inferior thriller on the big screen. I felt the same way watching "License to Wed," knowing that John Krasinski spends most of his year doing one of the best written and directed comedies on television, so naturally he spent his last hiatus doing one of the worst romantic comedies imaginable. Now I expect stupid people will say things like "John Krasinski is just another TV actor who isn't ready for the movies," as if he were a minor league baseball player called up to The Show before he could hit a curveball. He's more like a minor league pitcher who gets called up to a last place team, watches the defense behind him lead to dozens of unearned runs but picks up the loss anyway.

For the rest of my rambling on this less-than-worthy bit of summer counter-programming, follow through after the bump.

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Put objectively, Krasinski isn't very good in "License to Wed," but I don't blame him. As if sensing that there isn't a single real laugh in the entire film, Krasinski mugs up a storm. It's odd, because much of his performance on "The Office" is made up of subtle glances and fleeting facial expressions, which he either underplays beautifully, or which appear to be underplayed because of the show's documentary-style aesthetic. You'd think "License" director Ken Kwapis would know Krasinski's strengths, since his TV credits include some of the finest "Office" episodes, including "Casino Night" and "Booze Cruise." Instead, though, he keeps shooting Krasinski in tight, over-lit close-ups, shots that make the actor look hammy and insincere. Krasinski's upcoming films include the George Clooney-directed "Leatherheads" and his own adaptation of David Foster Wallace's "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men," so he'll probably recover.

I'm a bit more skeptical about Mandy Moore, whose other 2007 release, "Because I Said So," is already guaranteed a place on my Worst of the Year list. Her taste in projects is so foul that I've totally lost any sense of whether she's dragging down the material she's opting to do or whether she keeps picking movies that couldn't be saved even if Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren were the leads.

Regardless, Krasinski and Moore have negligible chemistry and this was one of those romantic comedies were I would have been content to have the two leads meet at the end, shake hands and go their own separate ways. As it stands, they're such a poor match that the conclusion is some sort of Deus ex Jamaica.

And as for Robin Williams? He's just become inexcusably awful. This is him at his very worst, all voices and shouting without even a hint that his character is a real human occupying the real world. We've reached the point at which I'll see a movie that has Williams in a dramatic role, but I'm done watching him try to do comedies. And here's the worst part: Without Robin Williams, "License to Wed" probably couldn't have gotten made. I can't imagine a studio bankrolling this with any other actor playing the obnoxious Reverend Frank, so the script just would have gone into turnaround.

As bad as Williams is, he's even worse when mixed with Josh Flitter's character, a seemingly parentless Reverend Frank Jr. Should we be pleased that we've reached the point, culturally, where a movie can show a man of the cloth spending an unnaturally long period unaccompanied with a pre-teen boy and we aren't supposed to get skeeved out? Check that. I got skeeved out, but not because of anything sexual I inferred.

The supporting cast of "License to Wed" is peopled by talented actors collecting their paychecks. You'd think Mindy Kaling, Angela Kinsey, Brian Baumgartner and Rachael Harris would feel a bit of shame going from "The Office" or "The Daily Show" to something so weak, but they all got paid and there's no shame in that.

You know those creepy babies in the trailer? The nasty robotic creatures that pee in poor John Krasinski's mouth? They're ghoulish and narsty, but they were the funniest part of the movie.