REVIEW: I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT

CAST

Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and The City)
Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day)
Kelsey Grammer (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Greg Kinnear (Mystery Men)
Christine Hendricks (Drive)
Seth Meyers (New Year’s Eve)
Olivia Munn (The Babymakers)
Jane Curtin (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Sarah Shahi (Alias)
Jessica Szohr (Pawn)

Kate Reddy (Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker) devotes her days to her job with a Boston-based financial management firm. At night she goes home to her adoring, recently-downsized architect husband Richard (Kinnear) and their two young children. It’s a non-stop balancing act, the same one that Kate’s acerbic best friend and fellow working mother Allison (Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks) performs on a daily basis, and that Kate’s super-brainy, child-phobic young junior associate Momo (Olivia Munn) fully intends to avoid. When Kate gets handed a major new account that will require frequent trips to New York, Richard also wins the new job he’s been hoping for–and both will be spreading themselves even thinner. Complicating matters is Kate’s charming new business associate Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), who begins to prove an unexpected source of temptation.This is just your run of the mill predictable chick flick comedy, and if you feel like wasting time on a lazy Sunday afternoon, then you can’t go wrong.

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REVIEW: MADE OF HONOUR

CAST

Patrick Demsey (Transformers 3)
Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Kevin McKidd (Dog Soldiers)
Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13)
Sydney Pollack (Eyes Wide Shut)
Chris Messina (Cake)
Kadeem Hardison (Biker Boyz)
Richmond Arquette (Fight Club)
Busy Philipps (He’s Just Not That Into You)
Whitney Cummings (The Wedding Ringer)
Kevin Sussman (The Big Bang Theory)
Kelly Carlson (Nip/Tuck)
Beau Garrett (Tron: Legacy)

On Halloween night, 1998, at Cornell University, Tom Bailey, Jr. (Patrick Dempsey), in costume as Bill Clinton, slips into bed with his pre-arranged date, Monica. It turns out to be the wrong woman, Monica’s roommate Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), and Tom likes her because she is so honest and does not fling herself at him. Ten years later, Hannah and Tom are best friends. Tom is very wealthy because of his creation of the “coffee collar” and gets a dime every time it is used. Tom is with a different girl every week, while Hannah focuses on her career in an art museum. He is very content with his life, suspecting that Hannah is too.After Tom takes Hannah to his father’s (Sydney Pollack) sixth wedding, Hannah tells Tom she must go to Scotland for work. While she’s gone, Tom discovers that without her, being with another woman week after week is not very fulfilling. He realizes that he loves Hannah and decides to tell her his feelings when she gets back. Upon returning, Hannah surprisingly announces she is engaged to a wealthy Scot named Colin (Kevin McKidd). Hannah asks Tom to be her maid of honor for her wedding. After discussing it with his friends, Tom decides to be her maid of honor, only to spend time with her and try to convince her she does not even know Colin, as well as making her realize that he loves her and she should be marrying him.After arriving in Scotland at Eilean Donan Castle for the wedding, Tom realizes he is running out of time to stop Hannah. He meets all of Colin’s family and must perform in a variant of the Highland Games, in which the groom must compete to prove himself worthy of his bride. Tom is also in the competition with Colin but loses in the last round. Tom takes Hannah out for a walk, hoping to tell her how he feels. The other bridesmaids interrupt for Hannah’s bachelorette party. On her Hen Night, Hannah parades around a pub and sells her kisses for change. As she goes around, Hannah then kisses Tom. Though it just started as a peck on the cheek, it turns into a passionate kiss.That night, Hannah confronts Tom to ask about the kiss. When she gets to his room, her drunk cousin is there, trying to have sex with him. Hannah leaves and Tom runs after her. He knocks on her door, pleading for her to let him in. She refuses and asks about the kiss. He tells her he knew he, not Colin, was the one for her. She refuses to say that she thinks so too and instead tells Tom that she still expects to marry Colin the next day. Tom cannot go through with watching Hannah and Colin get married so he decides to go home.When questioned about his sudden departure shortly before the wedding is to take place, Hannah informs Colin that Tom is just afraid of losing her. On the way home, Tom realizes that he must stop the wedding and goes back on horseback. Just when the priest asks for objections, Tom is sent flying off his horse and through the chapel doors. Seeing her best friend on the floor, Hannah rushes to him. As he struggles to stand up, he tells her that he loves her more than anything and that she should marry him. They then share a kiss. Hannah tells Colin that she is very sorry and that he is the perfect guy, just not the perfect guy for her. Colin’s grandmother then tells Colin, in Scots, to “deck” Tom, which he does without hesitation. Hannah and Tom eventually get married. Melissa catches the bouquet and then links arms with Tom’s dad, to which he says “Number 6?” and his lawyer says “7”. Hannah and Tom go on their honeymoon. Tom turns on the light just to see if he has got the right girl and Hannah replies “You do”. The two kiss and as Hannah turns off the light, Tom says “Oh, Monica” and Hannah replies “Oh, Bill.”For the most part Made of Honor is by the numbers romantic comedy. Sydney Pollack provides welcome comic relief and staid fatherly advice. Kathleen Quilan is great in the supporting role of Hannah’s mother Joan. Too bad she doesn’t have a bigger role. But she has a moving moment with Monaghan as Mom talks about Hannah’s late father. Made of Honor  is enjoyable for what it is: cookie cutter romantic comedy. We can suspend our disbelief, because Dempsey and Monaghan are great together.

REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 1 & 2

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MAIN CAST

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thomas Dekker (Heroes)
Summer Glau (Arrow)
Richard T. Jones (Godzilla)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games)
Garret Dillahunt (Winter’s Bone)
Shirley Manson (Knife Fight)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Owain Yeoman (Supergirl)
Sonya Walger (Flashforward)
Nick Wechsler (Roswell)
Dean Winters (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Charlayne Woodard (The Crucible)
Tony Amendola (Annabelle)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
Jonathan Sadowski (Friday the 13th)
Brendan Hines (Lie To Me)
Catherine Dent (Taken)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Tiya Sircar (The Vampire Diaries)
Andy Umberger (Angel)
Lee Thompson Young (Smallville)
Neil Hopkins (Lost)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Bruce Davison (High Crimes)
Karina Logue (Scream: The Series)
Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Jon Huertas (Sabrina: TTW)
Mackenzie Brooke Smith (Supergirl)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final Concflict)
Stephanie Jacobsen (Alex Cross)
Adam Busch (Buffy)
Richard Schiff (The Cape)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Rebecca Creskoff (Bates Motel)
Carlos Jacott (Firefly)
Samantha Krutzfeldt (A Mann’s World)
Connor Trinneer (Stargate: Atlantis)
Chad Lindberg (The Fast and The Furious)
Chad L. Coleman (Arrow)

When we first heard that FOX was making a Terminator series, we mostly groaned and rolled our eyes. It just sounded like a bad idea and a cynical ploy to capitalize on a flagging movie property. What’s more, when you think of Terminator, you think of big movies with huge effects and action sequences that set new standards. You don’t think of “Terminators of the Week” battling on smaller screens with tighter budgets.

 It was the first regular episode after the pilot that I feel the show really came into its own. That’s when the tone of the series was established, the more deliberate and introspective pace. Summer Glau’s performance as Cameron changed a bit.
 It’s the mark of a good show when, one by one, all of your issues are accounted for. In the episode Heavy Metal John does what he has to do despite Sarah’s overprotection. He’s becoming the leader he needs to become, and when Sarah says it’s too soon, Cameron says something to the effect of “Is it? The world ends in 4 years…” At the same time, Sarah came to value Cameron’s strategic value. She might not trust her (and should she?), but she no longer denies her the tactical advantage they have when using her.
As for the missing Terminator parts, the show picked up the ball there and ran with it. Agent Ellison finds the missing hand, and destroying the Terminator Cameron disabled becomes a great scene and establishes the use of thermite. When a show proves to you that it’s got the bases covered, and that it isn’t being sloppy with its storytelling – it gains your confidence and makes tuning in each week that much more satisfying. Terminator pulled this off in just nine episodes – which is remarkable considering they had only so much time and never planned on having such a short season because of the writers strike. There were a number of stylistic flourishes throughout the show that demonstrated how the series was different from the movies, and that this wasn’t going to be a show that was afraid to strike out on its own. Sarah’s dream where she assassinates the creators of the atomic bomb was particularly inspired. Bruce Davison (as Dr. Silberman) describing in awed rapture the events from T2 was a terrific bridge between this series and one of the most famous sequences of the entire franchise. The series ended on a high note, with Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” playing while a Terminator does what Terminators do. Only this time it’s done in a stylistically original way. It’s another scene that serves as an example of how the show stepped out on its own. It shows a level of creative maturity not usually found in franchised properties.
Then there’s the introduction of Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese. This was a decision that had us – and other fans – concerned that the show was making a big mistake. Why Green? It seems there could have been dozens, if not hundreds of other actors to take on this role. Actors who didn’t play the keyboard wielding dweeb on Beverly Hills 90210. Yet, again, the show proved worthy of our confidence and trust. Green did an excellent job, and played Reese not as your standard badass, but instead a man of emotional depth who had been turned into a soldier because the world around him fell apart.
Green’s best moments came in the finale. First, he uses a little girl to creatively settle a hostage situation. Then, he takes John to the park to celebrate his birthday. Without getting specific, there’s a touching moment, playing on the time travel device. “Happy Birthday,” Derek says, and leaves it at that. It’s an emotional note that was never quite achieved in the movies – and proof that the episodic format allows for greater complexity and character development than we’ve seen in the franchise. It’s also encouraging that the characters had become so resonant in these early episodes – and bodes well for the future.
No one likes to see a good show go under, especially just as it’s approaching new heights, and the recent cancellation of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009) proved almost equally disheartening. At least the latter had a fighting chance, though: the mid-season replacement pulled down great numbers at first, but its popularity rapidly declined during the initial nine-episode run. Higher production costs didn’t help matters, either…yet Chronicles was renewed for a full-sized second season, where it expanded the series’ mythology and tossed in a few stand-alone episodes. Featuring plenty of terrific characters, tense action and special effects on par with Hollywood blockbusters, there was plenty to like…but roughly a month after the season finale aired, it was confirmed that the series wouldn’t return.
Nonetheless, this second and final season stands as one of the better stretches of television in recent memory. In an accompanying behind-the-scenes featurette, creator Josh Friedman admits that the cast and crew had no idea that Season 1 would end where it did—but you’d never know from watching, since the series stops and re-starts so seamlessly. Opening adventure “Samson and Delilah” kicks things off in a major way, punctuated by a gripping slow-motion sequence set to a musical cover by Shirley Manson of Garbage fame. Speaking of Manson, she’s front and center this season as Catherine Weaver, the mysterious leader of ZeiraCorp, a growing corporation with an interest in advanced technology. She’s eventually joined by former FBI agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones); Ellison acts as her head of security and a mentor to ZeiraCorp’s experimental computer, who’s known as “John Henry”. Though more intelligent and efficient than the world’s greatest minds put together, this powerful entity is still a child learning about the the world and the humans in it.
Naturally, such a vague company—especially one with its hands in high-tech gadgetry—soon ends up on the radar of Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), who continues to forge onward with her son John (Thomas Dekkar), John’s uncle Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green) and Cameron, a Terminator sent from the future to aid them. New to the crowd are Jesse Flores (Stephanie Jacobsen) and Riley Dawson (Leven Rambin); both serve as love interests to Derek and John respectively…but like Catherine Weaver, they seem to have somewhat questionable pasts. Far more than the typical good-versus-evil formula that typically dominates modern sci-fi, The Sarah Connor Chronicles takes a decidedly different approach: it focuses on human existence and emotion as much as firefights and chase sequences. The formula works amazingly well during this season of 22 episodes.
 After the blistering “Samson and Delilah”, things don’t let up for a while. “Automatic for the People” introduces Riley and takes our heroes inside a nuclear power plant—but a major clue is unearthed, as Sarah discovers a list of events, places and other clues about Skynet, the company that Sarah believes will bring about Judgment Day. “Mousetrap” is a standout episode for a number of reasons: not only does it push the story further onward, but it’s one of the more suspenseful and exciting episodes in the bunch. “Allison from Palmdale” stands tall as a solid origin story for Cameron, while the extended “Goodbye to All That” sends John and Derek on a field trip with a Terminator model 888 in hot pursuit. These episodes—and several others, of course—show how much Season 2 has expanded the story’s scope. Well over half the episodes are shot on location in various parts of California and beyond—and with the vague threat of ZeiraCorp looming overhead, tension remains high throughout the first half of the season.
As the season’s second half approaches, things start to get a little cloudy…both for the narrative itself and the show’s ratings, which gradually slid as the season progressed. “Self-Made Man” and “Alpine Fields” are two stand-alone episodes designed to draw in new fans, as the creative team felt that a continuous thrust forward would hurt the series’ chances of survival. Unfortunately, these two episodes are some of the least impressive: while decent enough on their own terms, they feel completely out of context and arrive at the wrong time. These may have added a few viewers, but I imagine they probably confused and frustrated those expecting the series to continue its steady pace forward. Nonetheless, “Earthlings Welcome Here” gets things back on track…but within the context of the series’ original broadcast dates, it may have come too late. This would be the last episode before the holiday break, with Chronicles returning two months later in the dreaded Friday night timeslot…which television fans refer to as “the kiss of death”.
It’s sad, really, because The Sarah Connor Chronicles really got back on its feet from that point onward. “The Good Wound” was much better suited to draw in new fans than a stand-alone episode: taking several cues from Terminator 2, this Sarah-centered adventure re-acquaints us with an important figure from her past. The next several episodes flesh out story elements introduced earlier in the season, as Sarah, John, Derek and Cameron set out to solve a mysterious factory explosion in the desert. After “Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep”, Chronicles sprints to the finish line: Jesse and Riley’s pasts begin to unravel, John Henry and ZeiraCorp’s true intentions are revealed, Sarah and company head off into unfamiliar territory and several major characters meet their doom. It all culminates with “Born to Run”, which ends the series on a high note, tying up several loose ends but leaving others to the imagination. Poignant, clever and almost hopeful, it’s a fitting farewell to a series that was killed off too early.

Regardless, Warner Bros. has given The Sarah Connor Chronicles a strong send-off on DVD, as this second season arrives in a fully-loaded six-disc collection. The series’ crisp cinematography and ambitious sound mix—both of which feel more like big-screen efforts than typical TV fare—are supported by a solid technical presentation, while fans can also look forward to a collection of entertaining and informative bonus features. Though Friedman’s excellent series now joins the gone-too-early ranks

REVIEW: THE GIFT (2015)

CAST

Jason Bateman (Identity Thief)
Rebecca Hall (Everything Must Go)
Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Tim Griffin (Cloverfield)
Allison Tolman (Fargo)
Beau Knapp (Run All Night)
P. J. Byrne (Final Destination 5)
David Denman (Power Rangers)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Wendell Pierce (Hackers)
Katie Aselton (Creep)

A married couple, Simon and Robyn Callem, relocate from Chicago to a Los Angeles suburb after Simon takes a new job. While out shopping, they run into Gordon “Gordo” Moseley, Simon’s former high school classmate. Gordo begins dropping in unannounced and delivering gifts including koi for their pond. He makes Simon uncomfortable, but Robyn sees no problem.Gordo invites the couple to his large and elegant home. He receives a phone call and leaves abruptly, making Simon more suspicious. When he returns, Simon tells him to stay away from his family. The next day, Robyn finds the koi dead and their dog missing. Simon drives to Gordo’s house to confront him, but discovers it is not actually his home. In the days following, Robyn suspects she is not alone in the house while Simon is at work. Unable to sleep, she steals prescription pills from her neighbor and one morning faints.The dog returns and Robyn receives a letter of apology from Gordo. She is puzzled by his writing that he was “willing to let bygones be bygones”. Simon says he does not know what it refers to and refuses to make peace with Gordo, telling Robyn that her pills are making her paranoid.Robyn becomes pregnant. At her baby shower, Simon’s sister tells her that, at school, Simon and his friend Greg reported that Gordo was being molested. Gordo was bullied afterwards and had to transfer. Robyn finds Greg, who reveals that the molestation story was fabricated by Simon, who was a bully in school. As a result of the story, Gordo’s father thought he was homosexual and nearly killed him. Robyn searches Simon’s home office and discovers that he has run background checks on Gordo and someone named Danny McDonald.Robyn learns Simon has beaten Danny for a promotion after troubling information was revealed from Danny’s previous job. Robyn confronts Simon about Gordo, but he denies responsibility. Simon angrily blames Robyn’s suggestions of reconciliation on her own past traumas of being bullied at school. At Robyn’s behest, Simon tracks down Gordo and half-heartedly apologizes, but Gordo does not accept his apology. Furious, Simon attacks him. Simon’s promotion party is interrupted by Danny, who says Simon fabricated the information that ruined his career. Robyn goes into labor and gives birth to a boy. The next morning, Simon receives a call from his boss telling him that his fraud has been discovered and he will be fired. Robyn tells him that she wants to separate.Simon goes home and finds another gift box, containing footage of Gordo preparing to sexually assault Robyn after she fainted months earlier. Meanwhile, Gordo visits Robyn in the hospital to congratulate her, wearing his arm in a sling; he tells her Simon injured him. Simon rushes to the hospital but misses Gordo. Gordo calls him soon after, taunting him, refusing to confirm whether he raped Robyn, and admonishing him for his lies. Robyn, furious, refuses to let Simon see the baby. With his life and marriage destroyed, Simon breaks down. Gordo watches through a window and walks away, removing his arm sling.The Gift is an excellent film. A dark, brooding, suspenseful thriller without jump scares or blood and gore, this is a good old fashioned psychological thriller with no gimmicks, just excellent storytelling

REVIEW: HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU

CAST

Ben Aflfeck (Batman v Superman)
Jennifer Aniston (Leprechaun)
Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels)
Jennifer Connolly (Hulk)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Justin Long (Waiting…)
Kris Kristofferson (Blade)
Hedy Burress (Swing Vote)
Busy Phillips (The Smokers)
John Ross Bowie (The Big Bang Theory)
Luis Guzmán (Boogie Nights)
Kevin Connolly (The Notebook)
Annie Ilonzeh (Arrow)
Cristine Rose (Heroes)

Nine people in Baltimore deal with their respective romantic problems, usually thwarted by the differing ideals and desires of their chosen partner. At the center of this is Gigi Phillips (Ginnifer Goodwin), a young woman who repeatedly misinterprets the behavior of her romantic partners.

Gigi and Alex

Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a single woman who repeatedly misreads mundane actions and comments from her dates as indications that they are romantically interested in her, and frets when the guy does not call her.In attempting to meet Conor Barry (Kevin Connolly), a real estate agent, at a bar, she befriends the bar owner Alex (Justin Long), who reveals the strategies men use to avoid a woman. He explains that if a man is interested in a woman, he will overcome any obstacles to ensure they date again, and that Gigi has been misinterpreting and obsessing over imagined “signs” that she receives. Their friendship continues, and Gigi interprets his eagerness to always assist (such as taking Gigi’s call while he is on a date) as a sign that he is interested in her. She makes a move, but Alex claims he is not romantically interested in her and chastises her for ignoring his advice. She angrily replies that at least she has not let herself become cynical and bitter like him. Gigi eventually moves on from Alex, however, in a role reversal, Alex begins falling for Gigi. After leaving several unanswered messages, Alex arrives at Gigi’s apartment to declare his love. Gigi thinks that she is the rule, but after Alex suddenly kisses her passionately, he says that she is his exception.

Janine, Ben, and Anna

Gigi’s friend and co-worker Janine Gunders (Jennifer Connelly) is having difficulties in her marriage to Ben (Bradley Cooper). As Janine obsesses on their home renovations, Ben becomes attracted to Anna Marks (Scarlett Johansson), a yoga instructor and aspiring singer, and the feeling is mutual. Ben and Anna pursue a flirtatious friendship under the pretense of him helping her establish a singing career. Ben reveals to Anna that Janine once gave him an ultimatum by threatening to leave him if he did not propose. Ben agrees to be friends with Anna, and in order to flirt with him she strips and jumps naked into a swimming pool. She invites him to join, but he decides against it.Fervently anti-smoking (due to her father’s death from lung cancer), Janine pointedly asks Ben if he has been smoking and later is perturbed to find cigarette butts hidden in their back yard. Ben insists that they are not his, and their contractor, Javier (Luis Guzman), says none of his workers smoke at the house. During a tense shopping trip, Ben reveals to Janine that he has cheated on her. Janine is devastated but rationalizes Ben’s behavior, blaming herself for being too cold in the relationship, and decides she wants to save their marriage.After a positive meeting about her singing career, Anna begins to have sex with Ben in his office. They are interrupted by Janine who, hoping to spice up their marriage, has arrived unexpectedly. Anna hides in a closet, and Ben attempts to send Janine away who then makes a heartfelt plea to save their marriage, and there are indications she succeeds in seducing him. After Janine leaves, Anna angrily departs vowing to cut ties with Ben. As Janine tidies up Ben’s clothes back at their completed house, she discovers a fresh pack of cigarettes in a pocket, and she explodes in anger. When Ben returns home, he finds his clothes neatly folded with a carton of cigarettes and a note attached from Janine asking for a divorce. Janine moves into a new apartment by herself to start a new life, and Anna is later seen performing at an upscale nightclub. Ben is alone, purchasing the same beer at the same supermarket where he met Anna.

Conor, Anna, and Mary

Meanwhile, Anna enjoys a close friendship with Alex’s friend, Conor. He is romantically interested in her, but Anna is only interested in a casual relationship. Conor misinterprets her hugs and cute nicknames for potential romantic interest. Anna’s friend, Mary Harris (Drew Barrymore), works in advertising for a local newspaper, and helps Conor promote his real estate business in a series of print ads. Like Gigi, she meets many men (mostly online), but despite constantly monitoring emails, pager, phone, and Myspace messages, her dates go nowhere. While Conor attempts to cultivate a gay clientele, two gay men tell him how he is going wrong with Anna. Taking their advice, Conor decides to declare his love to Anna. Vulnerable after falling out with Ben, Anna agrees to start a serious relationship with him. But when Conor proposes buying a house and moving in together, Anna admits she doesn’t want to, and they break up.Mary later runs into Conor, recognizing him from his ad photo, and introduces herself, since they have only spoken over the phone. They hit it off, and start dating.

Beth and Neil

Gigi’s other co-worker, Beth Murphy (Jennifer Aniston), is living with her boyfriend, Neil (Ben Affleck), who is also friends with Ben. After seven years of dating, Beth wants to get married, but Neil does not believe in marriage. With Gigi’s newfound pragmatic stance on relationships after advice from Alex, she announces she will no longer misinterpret vague gestures from men as more than they really are. This spurs Beth to confront Neil about their relationship. When he still doesn’t want to get married, she breaks up with him.Later, the preparations for her younger sister’s wedding brings the issue into sharper focus for Beth after hearing many back-handed comments from various family members. During the reception, her father Rod (Kris Kristofferson) suffers a heart attack. Beth looks after him as he recuperates while her sisters wallow, and their husbands remain glued to the television playing video games and watching football with constant takeout as the household falls into chaos. As Beth reaches the end of her patience looking after her siblings and in-laws as well as her recovering father, Neil arrives with groceries and helps with the chores. The two reconcile, with Beth saying that Neil is more of a husband to her than her sisters’ spouses are to them, and she will not insist they be married. Neil later proposes to her, and they marry in an intimate ceremony aboard his sailboat.I thoroughly enjoyed this film, The performances of the actors/actresses were first rate, even Ben Affleck (often critisised for the quality of his performances) has pulled it out of the bag. Drew Barrymore’s character had more of a back bench than the others, but she did it well. For me, Scarlet Johansson and Ginnifer Goodwin completely made the film.

REVIEW: AMERICAN DAD – VOLUME 1-3

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)
Wendy Schaal (Small Soldiers)
Scott Grimes (Robin Hood)
Rachael MacFarlane (The Batman)
Dee Bradley Baker (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Curtis Armstrong (New Girl)
Carmen Electra (Scary Movie)
Mike Henry (The Cleveland Show)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Daisuke Suzuki (I Am Gangster)
Stephen Root (King of The Hill)
Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Nat Faxon (Weeds)
Jeff Fischer (Happy Feet)
Sarah Silverman (Evolution)
Tori Spelling (Smallville)
Patrick Stewart (X-Men)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)
Abraham Benrubi (Dark Angel)
William Fichtner (Mom)
Gina Gershon (Bound)
Seth Green (Austin Powers)
Richard Kind (Gotham)
Elias Koteas (Fallen)
Matthew Lillard (Scream)
Ron Livingston (The Conjuring)
Megyn Price (Rules of Engagement)
Molly Shannon (Bad Teacher)
Marley Shelton (Planet Terror)
Stephen Colbert (The Venture Bros.)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Oded Fehr (V)
Forest Whitaker (Panic Room)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Grant Heslov (True Lies)
Jill Talley (Little Miss Sunshine)
Beau Bridges (My Name Is Earl)
Bryan Cranston (Total Recall)
Leslie Jordan (Ugly Betty)
Sandra Oh (Sideways)
Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror)
Jason Lee (Dogma)
Andy Richter (Chuck)
David Herman (Angel)
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Jeremy Sisto (Wrong Turn)
Peter Facinelli (Supergirl)
Jennie Garth (Beverly Hills, 90210)
Alex Borstein (Family Guy)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
John Cho (Star Trek)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Alexandra Breckenridge (She’s The Man)
Chris Klein (American Pie)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5)
Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels)
Romany Malco (No Ordinary Family)
Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Seth Rogen (Bad Neighbours)
Christine Taylor (Zoolander)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Azura Skye (28 Days)
Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Stark Sands (Minority Report TV)
Elijah Wood (Lord of The Rings)
Ivana Milicevic (Banshee)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
John Krasinski (License To Wed)
Rusty Schwimmer (Highlander II)
Lisa Kudrow (Easy A)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Peter Graves (Airplane)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Eleven)
Becki Newton (Ugly Betty)
Harve Presnell (Lois & Clark)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Richard Gant (Godzilla)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Eartha Kitt (60s Batman)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men)

A worthy successor to parent show Family Guy, this show tells the misadventures of an ultra right wing CIA Agent and his long suffering family.The characters are great. Stan Smith, the dad of the title is more capable than Family Guy’s Peter Griffin, but just as blinkered. He calls “French toast” smelly and ungrateful and prefers it to be known as “American toast”, has a questionable attraction to his gun and a fear of liberals.Wife Francine is a housewife who lacks ambition but every so often strikes out on her own. Their children are the geeky Steve and ultra left wing Hayley. Completing teh family are a German athlete who’s mind has been put in a fish Klaus (watch the pilot for the back story) and needy, TV and celebrity obsessed gender bending alien Roger. There are some great set ups e.g. Stan having Francine’s memory erased when he forgets a wedding anniversary, Roger apparently dying and the CIA hunting him as the area 51 alien who previously escaped and Stan being sent to Arabia as a punishment and finding it’s to his taste.The jokes fly thick and fast e.g. Roger telling Stan “Oh by the way your skin cream did wonders for my ‘roids, well if you won’t let me out of the house to buy my own I guess we’re ointment buddies!”, Stan saying “Should, well we don’t live in Shouldland. Ah Shouldland, what a wonderful place!” and Roger’s retort “yes I’m an alien and I have claws. You’re awfully fat. See? Kitty can scratch!”There are also some great turns from Patrick Stewart voicing CIA Deputy Director Bullock. Great commentaries and featurettes make a superb package!

The “Laugh Alert” level is elevated with the release of this second volume of episodes that chronologically span seasons 1 and 2. You know the “there” that people talk about when they say, “Don’t go ‘there’?” Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad leaves “there” in the dust.Take the holiday–excuse me, Christmas–episode, “The Best Christmas Story Never,” which somehow melds Charles Dickens with a Ray Bradbury-esque cautionary tale of tampering with the past.CIA Agent and true patriot act Stan Smith (voiced by MacFarlane) loses the spirit of the season in a blizzard of PC secularism in which even the fugitive “Christmas rapist” must be referred to as “the holiday rapist.” In the “is nothing sacred” world of American Dad, Christmas can only be saved by Stan accompanying the Ghost of Christmas Past (Lisa Kudrow) back in time to (don’t ask) kill Jane Fonda (or Donald Sutherland), take over the direction of Taxi Driver from a drug-free Martin Scorsese, and shoot Ronald Reagan.

The Smith family–wife Francine, geeky son Steve, and “peace-pusher” daughter Hayley–is still not as vividly drawn as the Griffins on MacFarlane’s Family Guy (even Klaus, the talking German-accented goldfish admits in one episode that his “fish shtick” is getting thin), but one can’t help salute the audacity of the oft-inspired writing. In “Stannie, Get Your Gun,” Stan becomes a National Gun Association spokesperson after being accidentally paralyzed by his anti-gun daughter. “The American Dad After School Special” has an A Brilliant Mind-like twist as Stan battles an eating disorder brought about by Steve’s new overweight girlfriend. In “Helping Handis,” Steve becomes the big man on campus after he develops steroid-enhanced breasts.Two episodes are standouts for their animation. “Dungeons and Wagons,” as did South Park with “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” creates a video game universe in which Steve rules. Near the end of “Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option,” the screen adjusts to widescreen format, and the saga of the golden turd, begun in the first season episode, “Homeland Insecurity” compellingly continues with the jewel-encrusted oddity becoming the last temptation of an honest cop (Beau Bridges). American Dad is, as should be apparent, not for all tastes (or more sensitive viewers–the episode “Tears of a Clooney” drops some unbleeped F-bombs), but fans of the series are rewarded with this three disc-set’s prodigious extra features, including rowdy, chaotic commentaries for all the episodes, a wealth of hit and miss deleted scenes, and a segment devoted to the production of “Dungeons and Wagons.”

“I’m not beloved,” CIA Agent Stan Smith is shocked to discover after eavesdropping on his mocking neighbours in the episode, “I Can’t Stan You”. With all the resolve this “pig-headed” Red State poster boy and George “The Dub” Bush devotee can muster, he vows, “I will make these people like me.” For those still on the fence about American Dad, this collection of 18 episodes ought to do the trick.These characters may not be as indelible as the Family Guy clan, but these episodes rarely flag. If the outrageous storylines don’t grab you, the rapid-fire random gags will. Like King of the Hill’s Hank Hill , Stan (voiced by series co-creator Seth McFarlane) is oft confounded by a world seemingly gone mad. Unlike Hank, he is the voice of un-reason. In “Surro-Gate,” Stan’s dizzy wife, Francine (Wendy Schaal) agrees to be the surrogate for the Smith’s gay neighbors, prompting the disapproving Stan to kidnap the infant, as well as the brood of a lesbian couple.In “Black Mystery Month,” Stan reveals a Da Vinci Code-like conspiracy involving George Washington Carver that’s plain nuts. In another episode, “Bush Comes to Dinner” for a night of drunken debauchery; some easy-target Bush-bashing is redeemed when the President makes peace between Stan and his “lost cause” liberal daughter, Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane). Some of the best episodes focus more on the Smith family than politics. In “The Vacation Goo”, Francine demands a real family getaway after discovering that all previous vacations were artificially created memories. In “Haylias,” it is revealed that the unwitting Hayley is a brainwashed sleeper agent, who is activated by Stan to stop her from moving to France. “The 42-Year-Old Virgin” reveals another shocker: trigger-happy Stan has never actually killed anyone!American Dad revels in guy humour. As Stan tells an unamused Hayley at one point, “You don’t get a willy, you don’t get the silly.” American Dad brings the silly, but while the series is not above (or beneath) moth fart jokes, it is also smart enough to reference, say, “Equus” or the touching “When Somebody Loved Me” number from Toy Story 2. Stan’s geeky son, Steve (Scott Grimes), bitchy alien Roger (MacFarlane), and talking fish Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker) are no Chris, Brian, or Stewie, but this set contains some of their more memorable outings. In “Frannie 911,” it turns out that it actually would kill Roger to be nice. In “Surro-Gate,” Klaus vows revenge on Roger and Stan following a waterslide prank. American Dad fans will salute this three-disc set’s generous features, including a riotous Comic-Con cast table read of the episode, “The 42 Year-Old Virgin,” nearly a half hour of deleted scenes (deleted jokes would be more accurate), unrated versions (with unbleeped profanities) of certain episodes, and freewheeling audio commentaries (“Hey, aren’t we supposed to talk about the episode?” one participant tries to steer one digressive conversation

REVIEW: THE SMOKERS

CAST

Dominique Swain (Lolita)
Busy Philipps (White Chicks)
Keri Lynn Pratt (Cruel Intentions 2)
Oliver Hudson (Scream Queens)
Thora Birch (The Hole)
Nick Loeb (Precious Cargo)
Ryan Browning (Bounty Hunters)

Three rebellious teenage girls decide to even the score in the battle of the sexes. Looking back a few years after the events depicted, Jefferson Roth (who, along with her sisters are named after former presidents) tells the story of the last few months of her senior year at a Wisconsin boarding school when she and two girl friends, the naive Lisa and the outrageous Karen, conspire to use a pistol to turn the tables on males after a wealthy older man, with whom Karen had a one night stand, refuses to give her his home phone number.Image result for the smokers (2000)They stage a sexual assault on David, Lisa’s on-and-off boyfriend, in an effort to try to be more like their male counterparts. But, it backfires, as all three girls learn they are not able to have sex the way they feel a man can. Their unfaithfulness to their own objective is summed up in Karen’s words, just prior to her tragic ending, “I wish I had a boyfriend.”Image result for the smokers (2000)I really liked this film and have a hard time understanding why so many hated it. The cinematography was a bit amateurish, but the writing, directing and acting was superb. It has great insight into the young female American psyche. Male and female characters alike were portrayed with realism and complexity. Busy Philipps in particular takes on the role of incest survivor with bravery and compassion,and an understanding of the way the cycle of abuse repeats itself, left unchecked. Dominique Swain complements her performance in “Lolita” with a heightened level of understanding of the many facets of young female sexuality. I can’t help but think that most who dislike this film vehemently don’t understand young contemporary women, and don’t want to, even if they’re women themselves.Image result for the smokers (2000)