Annie

December 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Quevenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne
Directed by: Will Gluck (“Easy A,” “Friends With Benefits”)
Written by: Will Gluck (“Friends With Benefits”) and Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”)

My memories of the original big screen adaptation of “Annie” are fuzzy, mixed up with the McDonald’s commercials that interspersed the movie which my mom had recorded off of a TV broadcast in the mid-’80s for my sister and me. Sure, I know the songs “Tomorrow” and “Hard Knock Life” like the back of my hand, but they also seem strangely related to that commercial where the girl has a piano recital and sings along to “Fur Elise” by talking about how much she loves McDonald’s cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes just the same. I guess what I’m saying is that, while that version of “Annie” was a big part of my childhood, it wasn’t important enough that my mind immediately turned to rage when I was made aware of director Will Gluck’s (“Easy A”) modern take on the venerable Broadway musical.

Swapping out the source material’s Depression-era setting for present-day New York, we find Annie (Quevenzhane Wallis) as an agreeably pleasant foster kid living with a quartet of other girls with Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz, lost from the get-go as a broadly-drawn cartoon), a mean, drunken wannabe superstar who was kicked out of ’90s band C+C Music Factory just before their appearance on Arsenio Hall’s late night talk show. Meanwhile germaphobic cell phone billionaire Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is running a losing campaign for mayor of New York City. With his trusty assistant Grace (Rose Byrne) and slimy campaign manager Guy (Bobby Cannavale) by his side, he runs into disaster after disaster on the campaign trail, sending his polling numbers lower and lower. It isn’t until a chance meeting where Stacks saves Annie from getting hit by a car that his fortunes turn around, thanks to a bystander catching his heroism on camera and uploading it to YouTube. Seeing how things start going his way after Annie arrived on the scene, Guy suggest Stacks take Annie in to live with him for the duration of the campaign, a scenario that Stacks isn’t 100 percent on board with.

While the modern-day setting makes sense for a film that wants to sell (and wink at) blatant product placement for contemporary things like Target, removing the story from the original ’30s setting causes problems almost immediately. Wallis is fine as Annie, but lacks the plucky, gee-whiz spirit the material really needs. Instead of a fire plug of energy who would turn a distant plutocrat’s world upside down with her shenanigans, this Annie is a sweet, caring, low-key little girl who seems like she would be a dream to have around (the only strange thing about her being that she prefers to sleep on the floor instead of the giant bed she’s given). As Stacks, Foxx is called upon to play a strange mix of bumbling dad, fussy weirdo, and smooth R&B singer, never finding a groove to carry him through the film. And while the signature songs like “Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” are given relatively straightforward arrangements, the rest of the tunes are adapted into strange, stuttering hip-hop beats that all but destroy any entertainment value, especially anything requiring Cameron Diaz to sing. Yikes.

The most enjoyable moments in the film, sadly, come from a Gluck signature: a movie within the movie, this time a bombastic “Twilight” knock off called “MoonQuake Lake” starring Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and Rihanna, directed by Hollywood golden boys Chris Miller and Phil Lord. The fact that I’d much rather watch that movie says a lot about “Annie.”

Morning Glory

November 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton
Directed by: Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”)
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”)

If “Morning Glory” were an actual segment on a news program it would be the equivalent of the fluff piece that comes somewhere during the show when the anchor replays a YouTube video of a parakeet whistling old TV show theme songs. It pointless, harmless, and sometimes even a little funny, but is also usually always forgettable.

What saves “Morning Glory” from becoming totally unmemorable after leaving the theater are the charming performances it features from most of the cast. It starts with Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”) who plays Becky Fuller, a New Jersey morning show senior producer who is dealt a heavy blow when she is let go from her position after some restructuring.

Her unemployment, however, doesn’t last long when a struggling news station in New York City calls upon her lead their understaffed and underfunded morning show back into contention. It’s no “Today Show,” but Becky accepts the job and commits to it. Although most people don’t think she’ll last, including longtime co-anchor Colleen Peck (an underutilized Diane Keaton), there’s no denying her tenacity.

When Becky is left with an empty co-anchor seat, she seeks out veteran newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to bring in some journalistic integrity onto the set. But when Mike’s arrogance begins to get in the way of the show (he refuses to cover news stories he feel are beneath him and uses words like “aggregated” on air), Becky must try to find a way to make everyone happy before their show gets cancelled in favor of game show reruns.

Directed by Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”), “Morning Glory” doesn’t try to be something it’s not. While there are hints the film will examine how the media industry is evolving in this new century, this isn’t’ a film like “All the President’s Men” or even last year’s underappreciated “State of Play” (another media-based movie McAdams stars in).

Instead, “Morning Glory” is a peppy movie that follows the same blueprint as a film like “The Devil Wears Prada,” both of which are written by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna who, like in “Prada,” trips up the flow of the narrative with an cliché love story that benefits no one.

What “Morning Glory” needed to do was stay within the confines of the newsroom and make those relationships feel more authentic. It would have been nice to see more of a give and take between Harrison and Keaton, who butt heads whenever they share the spotlight. It would have been nice to know a little more about Becky aside from her failed attempts at dating and gluttony for work.

But McKenna and Michell take the easy way to the finish line. While the cast manages to stay likeable (even Ford’s unlikeable anchorman is fascinating in a pompous, Meryl Streep in “Devil Wears Prada” sort of way), the script comes together sporadically and without paying much attention to the multi-dimensional value of any of its characters. It all adds up to lighthearted entertainment that isn’t as newsworthy as it should have been.

27 Dresses

January 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Edward Burns
Directed by: Anne Fletcher (“Step Up”)
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”)

It’s almost shocking to see that the same screenwriter who was responsible for “The Devil Wears Prada,” a polished and classy female-free-for-all, wrote “27 Dresses.” As much as “Devil” was scathing and enjoyable, “Dresses” is really nothing more than chick-flick leftovers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some estrogen-filled entertainment, but not when it’s pre-packaged like the new Katherine Heigl vehicle. Heigl definitely has the comedic chops to keep up in the genre. She proved that last year in the wildly funny “Knocked Up.” She has a panache (almost like a Julia Roberts but without the overbearing glut) and manages to carry a few scenes on her own despite her limited feature film career (anyone remember her in “Under Siege 2”?)

In “Dresses,” Heigl hams it up again as Jane, a woman so obsessed with weddings that she has an entire closet in her apartment dedicated to the 27 of the happiest days of other women’s lives. In each of them, Jane has been a bridesmaid. Okay, let’s get the “always a bridesmaid never a bride” cliché out of the way before we continue.

Never able to say no to a friend who asks her to be a part of her ceremony, Jane has known since she was a little girl that weddings were her true calling. She thinks she might even want to have one of her own if her boss George (Burns) would sweep her off her feet the way all girls dream to be courted in movie land.

When Jane finally gets the nerve to confront George and tell him how she feels, she is undercut by her drop-dead-gorgeous sister Tess (Malin Akerman), who immediately catches George’s attention with a few flirtatious exchanges and fabrications.

Before you know it, Jane is planning her sister’s wedding to the man she wants to marry (or at least go out on a date with). She is so caught up in her love triangle, she blatantly ignores Kevin (Marsden), a persistent lifestyle and style reporter who is interested in her as the subject for his next puffy newspaper article.

As a romantic comedy, there’s not too many hearts fluttering to keep anyone’s interest for long and most of the jokes stay with the safe confines of rehearsal dinners and bouquets. You’ve seen it before in all its formulaic glory, so instead, go out and rent “My Best Friend’s Wedding” again and save yourself from a wasted night. If you do decide you want to see it “Dresses,” consider yourself warned and marked as a born sucker for anything that resembles a sassy rom-com.