Cristela Alonzo – Cristela (TV)

October 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Comedian Cristela Alonzo admits she’s been a bit surprised at how much control the ABC network has given her with her new semi-autobiographical sitcom “Cristela,” which debuts Friday, Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m. CST. Despite her initial disbelief, it’s a position as a decision maker she feels she needs to have if her new show is going to become a staple in the TV landscape.

On the show, Alonzo, who was born in San Juan, Texas, plays the title character, a Mexican American graduate student working as an unpaid intern in a prestigious law firm and hoping to reach her American Dream to become a lawyer and move out of her sister’s house. Before her big break with the ABC series, Alonzo wrote for the Comedy Central show “Mind of Mencia” and was a featured stand-up comedian on shows including “Last Comic Standing” and “Gabriel Iglesias’ Stand Up Revolution.”

During an interview with me, Alonzo, 35, talked about the type of TV shows that resonated with her the most growing up and what she thinks the key is to making “Cristela” a success on ABC.

Why do you think it has taken so long for a Latina stand-up comedian to get her own sitcom?

I think it took long because it’s hard to get a TV show on the air, period. I think you stand out more when you’re brown. I mean, the chances of anyone of any race getting their own show are like .001 percent. It’s a longshot either way. I think with Latinos, we are just at that time where we’re finally a big enough number that you can’t ignore that we’re here anymore. We’re such a big part of the country that you have to have something, someone [on TV] that represents who we are. That’s what I like the most about the ABC fall schedule – it’s so diverse. I think it’s the only network that does such a great job at representing what the country looks like.

Growing up, was there anyone on TV you could identify with yourself?

You know, because I grew up in McAllen, we would watch Televisa a lot. The comedy I liked was Roberto Gómez Bolaños – Chespirito. I liked how big the character was. I think from him I learned how to be big – to be silly and not be ashamed of it. I also connected with the show “Rosanne” because Rosanne’s family struggled. My family struggled. Even though she was white and I was Latino, our families had the same problems. That’s what makes a good show. It doesn’t target one group. It tells a story everyone gets. So, for me, when I saw the show I was like, “Oh, yeah, they can’t afford to buy Becky the dress she wants because it’s expensive.” I totally got that.

I love “Roseanne.” I have this rule with that show that the chubbier she is, the better the season. As the series continued, I think she got too…

Glamorous.

Yeah, and then the writing changed and the show jumped the shark when the family won the lottery.

Oh, I stopped watching it when they won the lottery. It was a different show. She had this appeal in the early seasons. She was like everybody. I understand a lot of celebrities lose weight because they have the opportunity to get in shape and become healthier, but when you get so polished, you can’t tell the story of a blue-collar family anymore. I’ve had people ask me, “Why would you do network TV if all the popular shows are on cable?” Well, this story is about a working-class family, so I wanted to be on a channel that working-class families can get. If they have to, they can get an antenna and watch the show. I can’t tell the story of a poor family on a premium channel that you have to pay $20 a month to watch.

We’ve had Latino-themed shows on network TV before. Some of them worked for a while like “The George Lopez Show” and some of them fell off the face of the earth like “Rob.” How do you think “Cristela” is going to change the current TV landscape?

Well, when this project was first announced, a lot of the feedback I got was from people who were afraid [the show] was going to be stereotypical or the network was going to make me change it somehow or they were going to make it into what they though a Latino show should be. But with this process, I have been surprised with how much power they have let me have, which is all of it. From the beginning, I told myself that in order to do this show right, you have to be honest. You can only tell stories you know and be authentic in that way. The moment you stop being authentic, people won’t want to watch it because they know you’re fake. Why does anybody want to watch something that’s not real? With this show, I have a say in everything. I even help decorate the set. I went around and took [props] off the set that I thought were too much. Everything that felt like home, I wanted to do. Even with storylines, something would get pitched and I would say, “Well, my family wouldn’t do that. Let me explain to you why.” What I loved is that the only thing they needed from me was an explanation to why not. The moment I gave them that explanation, they were fine with it, which shows how much faith they had in me. I think you need that to have a show like this succeed.

I’m assuming it’s a little easier to get exactly what you want when you’re one of the writers of the show.

I write on the show because I want to make sure the show is done right. I don’t want to give up that power because I know that the name of the show is my name. I have to represent it. I mean, whether this show fails or succeeds, I want to do it my way and make sure I did everything I could to keep it authentic.

Speaking of authentic, the scene in the pilot episode where someone mistakes you for a cleaning lady in the law office hit close to home for me. One time, I went to a black-tie affair and as I was walking to the restroom, this lady snapped her fingers at me and pointed to her plate. She thought I was one of the waiters. How should have I responded to that? I really had no idea what to say and didn’t want to embarrass her, so I just pointed to the kitchen and walked off.

It’s so funny because I’ve had people ask me why I had that scene in the pilot. The people that ask me are people that have never experienced that. Some of those people would tell me, “Oh, but that doesn’t happen anymore. We’re past that.” I’m like, “No, it still does happen and it happens quite a lot.” I wanted to have that scene in the show because I want people to know that it still happens. For me, what I find most important in those situations – and what the character does in the show – is that I don’t take it serious and I make everything lighthearted. Once I let it get to me, I give those words power. The moment that happens, then they win.

Would you have signed on to this show if, instead of playing this intern at a prestigious law firm, the producers wanted you to play a maid?

I wouldn’t have. If I had been offered a show to play a maid I would’ve turned it down because I feel like those stories have been told enough. I want to make sure I’m telling stories about other people we haven’t seen before.

Even a devious maid?

(Laughs) Even a devious maid. I just feel like that’s a project for other people. I just want to tell stories about everyday Latinos struggling to get by and trying to achieve the American Dream. I want to show audiences that we’re just like everyone else.

Hayley Orrantia – The Goldbergs (TV)

February 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

On “The Goldbergs,” an ABC comedy series set in the ’80s, actress Hayley Orrantia, 19, plays Erica, the family’s oldest child and only daughter and easily the best dressed of the Goldberg clan. The show, which is based on the real life of creator Adam F. Goldberg, also stars Chicago-born comedian Jeff Garlin (TV’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (“Bridesmaids”).

During an interview with Orrantia, whose father’s side of the family comes from Chihuahua, we talked about some of the things she’s enjoyed experiencing on the show, especially since she was not born until the ’90s, not to mention the one piece of fashion from the ’80s she’ll never put on in her lifetime.

“The Goldbergs” airs Tuesdays on ABC at 8 p.m. CT.

You were born in 1994. What was the most interesting part of going back to a decade like the 80s?

The fashion has definitely been a big thing for me and my character. I know the hair and makeup and wardrobe people on set really like working with me. They can have more fun with my character because she’s young and vibrant. Erica is a really popular and trendy girl, so that’s really been the most impactful thing for me on the show.

Is there an Erica Goldberg in creator Adam F. Goldberg’s real life and have you had the chance to meet her?

Actually, my character is based on Adam’s oldest brother, Eric Goldberg. They wanted to have more girls in [the cast], so he decided to make his older brother an older sister. Eric did come on set one week, but I, unfortunately, was not there. Hopefully, before the season is up, I’ll get a chance to meet him.

Was there something specific about the 80s that you found odd and can’t understand why it was ever popular?

For me, it comes back to fashion. I really don’t understand jelly shoes – those see-through, glittery, sandal-type things that girls wear. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why they were ever popular. But some of my friends have them because apparently they’re coming back in style, which I think is horrible. I like the music and everything, and the fashion isn’t that bad, but when it comes to those damn jelly shoes…

I read a blog the other day that said there were five fashion trends from the 1980s that apparently made a comeback in 2013. Jelly shoes, however, didn’t make the list, so we’ll have to look out for those now. Anyway, what I’d like to do is name those five fashion trends and have you tell me if you or your friends rocked any of these out last year, OK?

OK.

Shoulder pads?

(Laughs) No.

Long gym socks?

Sort of. I think they’ve started to make cooler patterns. Some of my friends have been wearing them a lot.

Mom jeans turned into shorts?

So, like those high-waist type shorts?

Yeah, exactly.

Absolutely. Those are very popular. All of my friends have them. I actually don’t have a pair, but I’ll probably be getting some soon. Those are definitely popular among me and my friends.

Anything neon?

This is so lame, but for me, growing up, especially in middle school, I always wanted to dress like a rainbow –colored gothic kid. (Laughs) So, when I was younger, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. So, I actually have a lot of neon stuff. I try not to wear as much anymore, but I still have it in my closet.

Leggings with over-sized shirts?

Yeah, those are popular, too. My friends wear them. I wear them.

What do you wear now that probably won’t go over too well with a younger generation in, say, the year 2040?

(Laughs) I feel because it’s so popular now, it’ll be the Bohemian, hippie-style clothing where everything is baggy. I’m sure when we look back on it in 30 years, we’re going to be like, “We looked like homeless people.”

Personally, I don’t get why young girls wear granny glasses.

I don’t either. I think, for some reason, my generation right now is very into vintage anything – the whole hipster phase. So, I think that goes along with it. They’re like, “Oh, look, these are my grandma’s original glasses from high school.” I don’t know.

I, myself, am a child of the ’80s, so I have a special place in my heart for 80s movies even though I know a lot of them are really cheesy. Is there a movie or TV show you grew up with in the ’90s that you might be a little embarrassed to admit you liked now?

Oh, absolutely. I watched a lot of TV shows and movies on the Disney Channel. I remember the movie “Life-Size” with Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan. I actually just heard they are doing a remake of that. I got excited about it because me and my friends loved that movie growing up.

In one of your recent tweets you say that you were meant to be born in the ’70s because of the music you like. So, if you could pick any decade to live in, would it be the ’70s?

I guess it would depend. I mean, ’70s music is so fun. Me and my mom have so much fun when we hear that music. We always have ’70s parties with friends back home in Texas.

The show is narrated by Patton Oswald. Have you gotten a chance to meet him yet?

I did! I met him at a table read for an early episode. I only met him for a brief moment, but he was a really cool guy. I think his voice is perfect for the role. I’ve seen his other stuff before and I think he’s a great actor. I’m happy to have him on the show.

Ricardo Chavira – Welcome to the Family (TV)

October 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the new comedy series “Welcome to the Family,” actor Ricardo Chavira (“Desperate Housewives”) plays Miguel Hernandez, a Latino father who finds out his very intelligent son (Joey Haro) has gotten his girlfriend Molly Yoder (Ella Rae Peck) pregnant and no longer plans to enroll at Stanford University. With the impending birth of a child, the Hernandez and Yoder families are forced to bond, despite their cultural differences and the fact that Miguel and Molly’s father Dan (Mike O’Malley) do not get along.

“Welcome to the Family” airs Thursday nights on NBC.

Fox News Latino recently reported that over 20 shows this fall will have at least one Latino as part of its cast. Do you feel like we’re seeing a change in the TV landscape when it comes to Latinos on TV?

Oh, a very minute change. [Latinos] know what our demographic is and how large our demographic is. We know the growth pattern of our demographic and where it’s going – nowhere but up. Any corporation, I don’t care if it is television or whatever, if they have any sense about themselves, they’re going to try and tap into that demographic. We still have a long road to go. If we’re going to represent [the Latino] demographic properly there needs to be a lot more than the number that you just mentioned. But I think we’re getting there. I think they’re dragging their feet about it, but I’d rather have them drag their feet and still be moving forward than doing nothing. But the Latino aspect of our show is just the texture. This script is the best writing I’ve ever seen for a Latino family since I’ve been in Hollywood auditioning for material.

Do you tend to just look at the number of Latinos working in the industry or are you also concerned with the way those 20 shows are going to represent the Latinos they’ve hired? Does it matter if they’ve included a Latino in their cast as just a filler character?

I don’t want that. I want there to be a wonderful storyline for every Latino character. That’s not always going to happen though. I mean, a part for a Latino in the industry is a good thing period. I wish we could stay away from stereotypes, but you can’t avoid them. They’re always going to be there. Like with my character on this show, for instance, there are some stereotypical situations he is a part of. But the stereotype does not completely define the character. It’s my job as an actor and our job as a show to be able to find a way to make it three-dimensional. My character has the tattoos and he was in prison. That’s an aspect of my back story for my character. My character also owns a small business and he’s raising a son that has graduated high school valedictorian and is showing the promise of possibly going to Stanford. It’s showing a multifaceted aspect of the male in a Latino family.

Can you explain to me the sort of the culture clashes we’re going to see as the season goes on? I mean, we have this Caucasian family and this Latino family. Can you give me an example of how they’re going to get lost in translation?

Well, let’s not use that [term] “culture clash” necessarily. The fact that this family is Latino is one texture to the overall show. I think you could take the Latino out and make them Asian or black or even another Anglo family and that would just be a texture. What we’re really dealing with is the universal differences in family – like how people differ in their parenting skills, the way they show love and affection, the way that they talk and relate to family and the acceptance of outsiders into the inner circle of a family. These things are universal. But the Latino thing, we’re going to see it. There’s this white family having to deal with this crazy Puerto Rican wife who wants to enjoy cooking a Thanksgiving dinner and they just want to order it in.

Is your friend and former “Desperate Housewives” cast member Eva Longoria going to be making any guest appearances?

Eva actually is. She is in our second or third episode I believe. I made a call and I convinced her that she owed me and she need to come and do my show and she jumped at the chance. She’s a big supporter of mine. She has been for a long time. I didn’t realize how special of a relationship and a friendship I have there. I need to take better care of it. She is precious not just to me but to our entire Latino community. Whatever she’s trying to do, she’s trying to do it from the best place in her heart. Rita Moreno [will also be a guest star]. Right now, with regards to the Latino cameos, that’s it. But boy I would love Jimmy Smits in there or Alfonso Arau or Darius Lando or anybody. I’d love to see them come in and play around. I also want some new Latino faces coming in. I got a good friend of mine, Hugo Medina, who graduated in my grad program. He’s Mexicano. I’d love to have him come over and do [the show] because I think he could add something special, too.

Rudo y Cursi

May 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Jessica Mas
Directed by: Carlos Cuarón (debut)
Written by: Carlos Cuarón (“Y tu mama tambien”)

Reuniting for the first time since their sexually-expressive outing in 2001’s “Y tu mama tambien,” Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna play two soccer-playing brothers experiencing fits of sibling rivalry in “Rudo y Cursi.”

When Beto (Luna) and Tato (Bernal) are accidentally discovered by a professional soccer recruiter in their small Mexican village, the brothers begin to butt heads when they find out there is only room for one of them to join the pro ranks. Through some suspicious luck, Tato ends up moving to Mexico City to make a name for himself as a soccer player although his passion for singing is his real priority.

Beto, who needs to earn money so he can pay off a gambling debt with some dangerous bookies, earns his chance soon enough to play for another team in Mexico City, and the brothers find themselves on opposite teams for the first time in their lives. Despite the sporadic soccer moments, “Rudo y Cursi” is more about the relationship between brothers who are slowly growing apart and the changes each of them are going through as they become popular among fans.

In his feature directorial debut, Cuarón tackles some multi-layered topics and gives his dim-witted but generally likable characters enough subtle comedic material to play off one another well. Bernal and Luna’s chemistry, while not as essential as it was in “Y tu mama,” is lighthearted enough to overlook some of the film’s more formulaic scenes like the inevitable penalty kick between the brothers you could have predicted during the opening credits.

Next Day Air

May 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Mike Epps, Wood Harris, Donald Faison
Directed by: Benny Boom (debut)
Written by: Blair Cobbs (debut)

While its style may scream of director Benny Boom’s music-video background, which, at times, breaks up much of the clichéd narrative into ingestible doses, the new drug comedy “Next Day Air” packs some pretty light weight.

In the film, Mike Epps (“Soul Men”) and Wood Harris (“Remember the Titans”) play Brody and Gutch, two petty thieves living in Philadelphia whose lives change the moment they open the door to receive a package from a local courier service.

Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) plays Leo, a pot-smoking, laid-back delivery truck driver who works for his mother and never takes his job seriously. Even when his infuriated mother threatens to fire him, Leo still works half-heartedly, which leads to a major mistake during one of his routes.

Instead of dropping off a hefty load of cocaine sent by California drug dealer Bodega Diablo (Emilio Rivera) to his Puerto Rican contact in Philly, Leo leaves the bricks of blow in the hands of Brody and Gutch who begin to dream of a new life after they discover what’s inside the cardboard box.

“God sent that,” Brody emphatically states. “I’m getting a new Escalade.”

Unfortunately for the duo, Bodega finds out the package never made it to its rightful owner when his dealer Jesus (Cisco Reyes) and his girlfriend Chita (Yasmin Deliz) nervously let him know it went missing.

The comedy caper (filled with a lifetime supply of stereotypes) all leads to a showdown between Bodega and his crew and Brody’s drug-dealing cousin who’s interested in buying the merchandise. Mos Def does his part as a couriering co-worker of Leo’s, but Boom and company miss out on any chance to build on his character for more than a couple of scenes.

While Epps is able to hold most of his comedic scenes together without much help from anyone else, “Next Day Air” decelerates after a quick start and completely stalls when debut screenwriter Blair Cobbs decides he wants to throw an awkward life lesson into the story followed by a psychotic ending that comes out of nowhere. A drug dealer pretending to be in “Reservoir Dogs” I can scoff at, but a drug dealer with a heart of gold is a bit too much to believe even in something as bipolar as “Next Day Air.”

17 Again

April 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Zach Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon
Directed by: Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down”)
Written by: Jason Filardi (“Bringing Down the House”)

Even when out-of-body fantasies were a groundbreaking movie genre back in the 80s, there wasn’t much creative storytelling behind any of the projects with the exception of “Big” starring Tom Hanks. (Even then, “Big” wasn’t necessarily that type of movie since there wasn’t any switching of bodies between characters).

From “Vice Versa” to “Like Father Like Son” to “18 Again!,” the films told the same coming-of-age tale either about an adult wanting less responsibility or a kid wanting to experience freedom as an adult. While director Penny Marshall was able to capture all the sweet-natured and awkward moments of a boy wanting to become a man before his time in “Big,” (the role gave Tom Hanks his first Oscar nomination of his career) the others simply fell by the wayside as conventional comedies.

The same can be said about Zach Efron’s new film “17 Again.” Despite the similar title, this is not a prequel of the George Burns 1998 movie where he switches bodies with his comatose grandson. Instead, the Efron vehicle is set up like the opposite version of “Big” or more recently “13 Going on 30.” It begins with Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a down-on-his-luck, underappreciated sales manager in the middle of a divorce, who wishes he could turn back the hands of time and become a teenager again so he can revisit some of the questionable choices he made when he was young and dumb.

After meeting his “spirit guide,” who is working as a janitor in the hallways of his old high school, Mike is given the chance to live his teenage years over again when he is magically swept into a watery wormhole. Once out, he discovers he has transformed back into a 17-year-old. While it really isn’t necessary to explain how exactly this happens in these types of films (remember Voltron in “Big,” the oriental skull in “Vice Versa,” and the Najavo elixir in “Like Father Like Son?”), “17 Again” stands extraordinarily idle by making this portion of the script so open ended.

As a high school senior again, Mike (now played by Efron), returns to his old stomping grounds to play a personal game of “what if” all while keeping an eye on his teenage kids (Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg) and trying to find out why his wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has filed for divorce. Actor Thomas Lennon is an annoying thorn in the screenplay as Mike’s rich, grown-up best friend Ned, who pretends to be his father so he can enroll him back into high school.

Now back in school, we return to Mike’s glory days as he rejoins his old basketball team and attempts to find out where his life went wrong. It starts off wrong for screenwriter Jason Filardi when he puts too much emphasis on paying homage to films of the past like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future.” While most Efron fans probably haven’t seen any of the aforementioned movies, there’s still a familiar aftertaste once “17 Again” is all said and done. Sure, it might be made for an entirely different generation, but even Efron can’t squeeze out enough charisma and charm to get past the lazy script, tween dialogue and references, and unoriginality of it all.

Observe and Report

April 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta
Directed by: Jody Hill (“The Foot Fist Way”)
Written by: Jody Hill (“The Foot Fist Way”)

Take it for what it’s worth: the new comedy “Observe and Report” is the best mall-cop movie of the year.

That doesn’t say much since the only other film under that category this year is the terrible “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” where we were able to witness actor Kevin James hamming it up on a Segway against skateboarding ninja wannabes. After that, who wouldn’t want another mall-cop movie, right?

In “Observe and Report,” Seth Rogen is our anti-hero and he’s got a lot more punch behind the silver badge he wears so proudly than James has in his porn-stache. As Ronny Barnhart, a bipolar security cop working at the local mall, serving and protecting the establishment’s patrons is everything he cares about.

His pride takes a hit, however, when a streaker in the mall starts showing off what’s under his trenchcoat to shoppers. When the pervert, as he is referred to in the movie, flashes himself to Ronnie’s love interest, cosmetics girl Brandi (Anna Faris), the shriveled-up exhibitionist becomes Ronnie’s only link to her life and therefore the only way he can win her over.

With that, Ronnie sets forth to catch the perv with help from his curly sidekick Dennis (Michel Peña) and a few other uninteresting secondary characters that rely on their physical awkwardness and not their actual personality to make them memorable additions to a sometimes hilarious script. Ray Liotta (“Wild Hogs”) as a city police officer befuddled by Ronnie’s acute stupidity is the only saving grace in this aspect.

While the narrative pushes the breaks one too many times, Rogen, Liotta, and especially actress Celia Weston (“In the Bedroom”) as Ronnie’s drunk mother, are enough reasons to tip the scales of justice toward favorable. And if you do find yourself less than entertained by another mall-cop movie in 2009, stay for the third act, which pushes the humor onto a level very few comedies dare to tread.

Miss March

March 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore, Raquel Alessi
Directed by: Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore (TV’s “The Whitest Kids U Know”)
Written by: Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore (TV’s “The Whitest Kids U Know”)

“Miss March” may start off like a sharp and dirty-minded coming-of-age tale about two young boys who find their sexuality through a Playboy subscription, but that’s just what directors/writers/stars Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore want you to believe before they pull the poop-covered rug from under your feet.

While the stars of IFC’s “The Whitest Kids U Know,” are fairly edgy and smart in the first 20 or so minutes of “Miss March,” the comedic pacing takes a detour and becomes a set of infantile and second-rate jokes that revolve around human excrement, a bestial nickname, and the oh-so hilarious topic of (tee-hee) virginity.

The movie follows Eugene Bell (Cregger), a straight-laced high school student who falls into a coma the night he’s supposed to have sex for the first time with Cindi (Raquel Alessi), his girlfriend of over two years. When Eugene finally wakes up four years later, everyone who was important to him, including Cindi, has moved on with their lives. The only one still at his bedside is his best friend Tucker (Moore, doing his best impression of Ace Ventura), who had a hand in reviving Eugene from his deep sleep.

After four years in a hospital bed, there is only one thing Eugene wants to know: Where is Cindi? The duo is surprised to learn that she lives in L.A. and has become a model for Playboy. With little planning, Tucker and Eugene head out on a road trip to California where they attempt to get into an anniversary party at the Playboy Mansion so Eugene can see Cindi again.

Although it seems to want to be a raunchier version of “Dumb and Dumber,” Cregger and Moore bottom out from the beginning when they try to pass off Tucker and Eugene’s spontaneous road trip as an asset to the script. The story, however, shouldn’t flow like the Cregger-Moore team is writing just as impulsively, and it does.

If Cregger and Moore were to come out and admit they used “Miss March” not as a window into the film world, but as a device to meet beautiful girls, there might be some respect to offer for the effort. But why release it to a wide audience? Why not imitate National Lampoon and toss it on a DVD with a few deleted scenes and a blooper reel? Or even better, why not premiere it right after “The Whitest Kids U Know?” That’s one way to guarantee no one will see “Miss March,” a movie that’s just as cringe-inducing as the idea of Hugh Hefner in bed with 19-year-old twins.

Fired Up!

February 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicholas D’Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen, Sarah Roemer
Directed by: Will Gluck (debut)
Written by: Freedom Jones (debut)

If debut screenwriter Freedom Jones didn’t seem so vigilant to create the next big movie catchphrase or T-shirt slogan in “Fired Up!,” there might have been more to the teenage-cheerleading-buddy comedy than goofball one-liners and catty shenanigans.

While its touting itself as the anti-cheerleading movie, “Fired Up!,” when stripped down (and we’re not talking about the unexciting skinny-dipping scene) is exactly that. The only difference between it and something like “Bring It On” and its two pointless sequels is that “FU!” plays out more like a parody of something awful instead of just something that’s truly awful.

In the film, actors Nicholas D’Agosto (“Election”) and Eric Christian Olsen (“Dumb and Dumberer”) play best buds Shawn Colfax and Nick Brady, two popular high school football jocks who forgo summer football camp in El Paso, Texas to join up with their less-than-formidable cheerleading squad and attend cheer camp so they can scam on girls.

With over 300 girls and only one straight guy (whose actually there to get earn a cheerleading scholarship) in attendance, Shawn and Nick don’t have much trouble adding notches to their belts as they “leave no girl unturned” during their horny tramping through cheer camp.

While “Fired Up!” could have easily been rated R if Jones were to have done what most teenage comedies do and replace actual dialogue with expletives for shock value, she pulls back and leave the F-bombs behind to get a generous PG-13 designation. Despite the rating, there’s plenty of sexual innuendo and lowbrow humor for those moviegoers who are into the most recent National Lampoon straight-to-DVD flicks that are plaguing your local video store by the dozens.

Still, “Fired Up!” – no matter how admirable it becomes by taking itself less and less serious with each exaggerate scene – is too smart-alecky for its own good. After Shawn says, “You’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit” for the fourth time, it’s evident that Jones and first-time director Will Gluck have heard the jokes far too many times and still considered them just as funny as the first time they read the script. Unfortunately for “Fired Up!” they’re not.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

February 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Kristen Scott Thomas
Directed by: P.J. Hogan (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”)
Written by: Tracey Jackson (“The Guru”), Tim Firth (“Kinky Boots”), and Kayla Alpert (debut)

Give credit to screenwriters Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert. No, not for their dopey adaptation of author Sophie Kinsella’s work, but for figuring out a way to incorporate both her books (“Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan”) into only one movie. Now, we don’t have to sit through a second one.

In “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” rising star Isla Fisher (“Wedding Crashers) stars as Rebecca Bloomwood, a Manhattan reporter who spends her days drooling over Gucci bags and dodging credit collectors because of her unhealthy addiction to shopping. (“They said I was a valued customer, now they send me hate mail” is the funniest line Fisher delivers in the entire movie).

With 12 credit cards maxed out, Rebecca finds herself over $9,000 in debt just when the magazine she writes for goes bankrupt. Setting her sights to work at one of the most prominent fashion magazines in the city (who better to write about clothes than someone who has so many?), Rebecca, instead, ends up landing a job at a financial publication when she impresses the editor (Hugh Dancy) with her out-of-the-box ideas on topics most people would find tedious.

After only one column, Rebecca becomes a star journalist and everyone wants to meet her. While she manages to rub elbows with publishers and work her way to the top, Rebecca lives in fear that someone will find out she is giving financial advice to her readers when she, too, is living in debt.

While Fisher has proven she can hold her own in comedies like “Wedding Crashers,” there simply isn’t enough material in this faux “Sexy and the City” episode for her to perform to that level. Fisher is better than exaggerated slapstick, but there’s nothing here to showcase her natural talent. In one of the funnier scenes of “Shopaholic,” Fisher reacts to how ugly a bridesmaid’s dress looks on her. With a few squeals and some hilarious facial expressions, she makes the scene work.

But those occasions are too few and far between in “Shopaholic.” It’s disappointing since the film is directed by P.J. Hogan, who helmed one of the best rom coms of the 90s in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” It’s less surprising when you find out producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s name is attached. Just when you thought he couldn’t possibly ruin anymore film genres, Bruckheimer manages to aimlessly wander into no man’s land and will definitely wander out a few dollars richer. Somebody stop him before he figures out what a musical comedy is.

The Pink Panther 2

February 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Steve Martin, Emily Mortimer, Jean Reno
Directed by: Harald Zwart (“Agent Cody Banks”)
Written by: Steve Martin (“The Jerk”), Scott Neustadter (debut), Michael H. Weber (debut)

It’s so dispiriting to remember when Steve Martin was actually funny.

The eccentric things he did during his stand-up act with just a pair of Groucho glasses and a few balloons; sulking through his mansion collecting his essential belongings (e.g. a paddleball) in “The Jerk”; prancing around with Martin Short to “My Little Buttercup” in “¡Three Amigos!”; spooning with the late John Candy in “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”; coming up with “20 something betters” during a dart game in “Roxanne.”

There are so many hilarious scenes Martin has taken part in over the years (most of them in the ’80s), it’s difficult not to wince when you watch him devote his entire self to something as cushy as “The Pink Panther 2,” see it implode, and wonder why no one bothered to tell him how lousy the first one was.

As he did in the film’s 2006 predecessor — a pointless remake of the Blake Edwards 1963 comedy — Martin plays Inspector Jacques Clouseau like a shoddy carbon copy of Peter Sellers’ original French detective. Where Sellers embodied the character, Martin seems to clock in just long enough to trip over police tape and mispronounce the word “hamburger” for the umpteenth time.

In this predictable addition to the franchise, Clouseau is promoted from his “top-level” post as a meter maid to the leader of an “international dream team” of detectives on the trail of a globetrotting thief known as the Tornado who has stolen precious artifacts from around the world, including the Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin, and the Imperial Sword. Summoned moments before the Pink Panther diamond is pocketed from Paris, Clouseau teams up with fellow gumshoes (played by Garcia, Molina, Bachchan, and Yuki Matsuzaki) to track the Tornado to Rome.

Considering the first movie earned an unimpressive $82 million at the box office, one can only speculate why any of these series newcomers (not to mention Lily Tomlin, John Cleese, and Jeremy friggin’ Irons!) decided to sign on. It’s fairly evident Clouseau isn’t the only one who’s clueless here.

Whatever the reason, their enlistment can’t possibly be for the humorless material — written by Martin and first-time screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber — which confuses dry comedy with witless banter. A scene in which Clouseau’s right-hand-man, Ponton (Jean Reno), spends an evening washing his friend’s hair in the sink falls flat from the onset, but director Harald Zwart (“Agent Cody Banks”) gives Martin free reign to do just about anything he wants for as long as he sees fit. The excessively infantile sketch turns into a joke about the pronunciation of “jojoba shampoo” while the duo dance a conga in the kitchen.

The only real evidence of Sellers’ earlier films is, of course, Henry Mancini’s timeless theme song, which only dulls the pain for so long. Then you’ll be paralyzed by dull slapstick and forced to suffer alongside a wasted secondary cast and an unimaginative leading man who, at this point, no punch line could save.

Bride Wars

January 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen
Directed by: Gary Winick (“13 Going on 30”)
Written by: Greg DePaul (“Saving Silverman”), Casey Wilson (debut), June Diane Raphael (debut)

A guy would have to be completely insane to break up with someone like Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway. What would have to possess him to actually end a relationship with two of the most beautiful and talented women working in Hollywood today?

Despite the incomprehensibility of the act, that’s where I am right now after watching the ladies’ new movie “Bride Wars.” Stop printing the invitations, put the ice sculpture in a big freezer, and cancel the stringed quartet. With Hudson and Hathaway hamming it up as Bridezillas, the bachelor pad is looking a lot more comfortable from this side of the aisle.

As best friends, Liv (Hudson) and Emma (Hathaway) have been dreaming of the perfect white wedding since they were little girls. It was at an early age when they knew a June wedding at the Plaza Hotel was what they’ve always wanted.

But when an employee working for Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), the iconic wedding coordinator at the Plaza, accidentally books Liv and Emma’s wedding on the same day, the women’s claws come out as both refuse to be flexible with their arrangements.

Instead, in an array of misguided and cheaply-written jokes, Liv and Emma set out to sabotage each others weddings. In one instance, Emma pretends she is Liv’s fiancé and sends her desserts knowing she will eat them because she was once overweight. Liv goes as far as ruining the hue of Emma’s spray tan causing her skin turn the color of a pumpkin.

The childish and mostly unfunny attempts at humor continue back and forth until the big day when Liv and Emma have to realize their friendship means more to them than Vera Wang dresses and five-tier cakes. But by the time the lethargic characters are settled and everyone is back to their lovely selves, all you really want to do is throw back a couple more glasses of champagne and call it a night. Give me a “chick flick” about weddings any day of the week (I love “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Father of the Bride”), but don’t lose the wit while doing it.