It’s a happy 38th birthday to erstwhile “Rollergirl” Heather Graham, who — side salad of crazy or not — has one of those fantastic smiles that makes a guy feel like he’s really got it. It’s a 40th birthday shrug, meanwhile, to Edward Burns, the recent 27 Dresses costar who has somehow graduated to the Daniel Cleaver role in movies despite coming off as a raspy, one-note drip, and having negative charismatic pull. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if Burns and Luke Wilson were to costar in a buddy cop flick together, the world would likely implode from an audience’s collective yawn. If not, that film would be like The Ring: pay-it-forward deadly.
Following in the tradition of its spoof predecessors from 20th Century Fox, Date Movie and Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, a send-up of 300 and other recent hits, claimed the top box office spot this past weekend, pulling in $18.5 million. Running second, Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo somehow tricked $18.2 million out of wallets, perhaps fooling some into thinking its unremitting brutality was some sort of profound statement on violence in today’s world. Or maybe that’s just the going exchange rate for monosyllabic entertainment featuring bayoneted babies. Fellow weekend newcomer Untraceable meanwhile, starring Diane Lane and Colin Hanks, placed fifth overall, with $11.3 million in receipts.
After its $41 million debut, Cloverfield dropped 68 percent $12.7 million; it’s now grossed $64.3 million in total. Outpacing it for third place was Katherine Heigl’s 27 Dresses, which earned $13.3 million, and has now raked in just over $45 in total. Still strong in long-play release were Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s pairing, The Bucket List, which added $10.5 million to its coffers in its fifth week of release, and indie darling Juno, which crossed the $100 million mark with an additional $10.1 million.
Rounding out the top 10, Nicolas Cage’s sequel to National Treasure placed eighth with $4.9 million, while writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, previously in extremely limited release, added just under 500 screens and pulled in $4.8 million. Finally, in its second week, Mad Money nipped Alvin and the Chipmunks for the final spot, pulling in $4.6 million (now for a total of $15.2 million) to the latter’s $4.5 million. Still, don’t cry for 20th Century Fox — they’ve somehow now wrung $204 million domestically and over $300 million worldwide from that movie, despite the presence of Cameron Richardson and the depressingly inevitable scene of rodent flatulence.
Looking forward, it’ll be interesting to see how all the top-shelf Oscar nominations for Michael Clayton impact its box office fortunes; despite the fact that its DVD release looms on the horizon (it’s currently slated for February 19), the film is reopening in theaters for a few more weeks, cleansing audience palettes leading up to the (planned) Oscar ceremonies on Sunday, February 24.
There’s seemingly a new reality show every week, often exploring in competitive fashion some bizarre, mash-up niche we didn’t even know actually existed (did VH-1 really consent to something called Celebra-cadabra?). The simple genius of The Girls Next Door, then, is the manner in which it taps into the aspirational admiration for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. Just as the famous “Dick in a Box” sketch from Saturday Night Live was brilliant in large part because it shined a light on the secret desire of men to actually put that little thought into gift shopping, the breezy, lighthearted The Girls Next Door, which centers around Hefner’s three live-in girlfriends, succeeds because it just opens a window into the life of a guy who most men would consider to have led one of the more charmed lives of the past half-century. No bullshit competitions or vote-offs, very little back-stabbing drama or anything of that sort, just flirty lounging, dinner parties and hot chicks padding around in their pajamas.
The three women in question are the now-22-year-old Kendra Wilkinson, Holly Madison, 28, and Bridget Marquardt, a 34-year-old who’s technically still married, but lives apart from her separated husband. Hefner is of course famous for his many parties, so a lot of the episodes are loosely grouped around some of those themed gatherings. Of course, there’s still time for lots of pillow-fighting.
Now three seasons into the show, it’s worth noting that Holly (above right, sporting the black trunks) is really the sympathetic star of the series, however unnervingly shrewd her motivations sometimes seem. Kendra (above center) totally lives up (or is that down?) to all the stereotypes of the bubble-headed beach blonde, and her stuttering, toker’s laugh is probably telling about such matters. She’s so vapid that it’s frequently painful, kind of like staring directly at the sun. Bridget (above left), on the other hand, is quite nice, but seems kind of shruggingly along for the ride, maybe just a bit addicted to the pampering she receives. The episodes in this third season find the girls building holiday snowmen in 70-degree heat, horseback riding in the Hollywood Hills and taking part in the Toyota Celebrity Grand Prix, where tomboy Kendra plants her car into the railing. Since there’s also another photo shoot involving them, Holly starts to exercise her opinion more, and get involved in some editorial planning for the magazine. Of the three women, she seems the most intelligent and proactive, so it’s easiest to see her striking out on her own when her time with Hefner invariably comes to a conclusion, whenever that is.
Housed in three slimline cases in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover with an aerial shot of the girls (and their pets), The Girls Next Door features 14 episodes presented in the full screen format, with optional English and Spanish subtitles. Accompanied by the normal clutch of deleted scenes, the set does feature some unblurred nudity, so it’s certainly good for that. Mainly, though, it’s just a giggly look behind the scenes at the Playboy Mansion; there isn’t much insight or exploration into the specifics of the relationships between Hefner and the woman, so it all boils down to whether you like them and/or are fascinated by their semi-communal, libidinous lifestyle. Also included is a one-hour special entitled “Bedtime Stories,” a sort of best-of clip show spectacular, in which Hef and the girls relive some of their favorite moments of the past three years. Finally, there are also audio commentary tracks on all the episodes with the ladies, but as you might gather, these offerings become rather tedious rather quickly. To purchase the set via Amazon, click here. C+ (Show) B+ (Disc)
The trailer for What Happens in Vegas, Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher’s new comedy which hits theaters May 16, is now online, and essentially tells us what a big, ha-ha, middle-of-the-road laffer it’s going to be.
The story centers on two strangers with recent trauma wounds (one’s been dumped, one fired… by his dad) who head to Sin City, party hearty, and then awaken to discover they’ve gotten married. Naturally, as they’re about to split, one wins a
huge jackpot after playing a slot machine with the other’s quarter; a battle for the $3 million payout ensues, with the newlyweds — egged on by their respective best friends, Lake Bell (Over Her Dead Body) and Rob Corddry (The Heartbreak Kid) — devising
ever-escalating schemes to undermine each other and get their hands on
The pairing of these two stars seems a natural idea, and their sense of timing and the respective comfort levels that they convey will help make things bearable, I suspect. Still, I can’t help but feel that What Happens in Vegas would be a much more interesting (and potentially funny) movie if it weren’t full of the sort of posed comedy (e.g., Kutcher holding up the toilet lid at trailer’s end) we’ve come to expect from such mainstream releases, and didn’t have the pair eventually falling for one another. The psychological temperature of the country is ripe for a ruthless, War of the Roses-type battle of the sexes — something which the ending of The Heartbreak Kid reached for, but didn’t pull off.
Twin witches Alex Fielding and Camryn Barnes (Sister, Sister pair Tia and Tamera Mowry) are back for double the fun, double the magic and double the suspense (sans Doublemint gum, strangely) in Twitches Too, which streets on DVD today from Disney.
The follow-up to the popular Disney Channel original movie based in turn on H.B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld’s supernatural book series, Twitches Too finds young witches Alex (Tia) and Camryn (Tamera), having been raised by adoptive families and kept unaware of both each other and their magical gifts until their first meeting on their 21st birthday, deciding what to make of their magical powers. Alex at first wants to focus on college and just having a semi-normal life, while Camryn is all about the “princessing” that such powers afford — glamor, gowns and tiaras. But their dreams must be set aside when destiny again calls (the story of my life, really), and the survival of their birthplace — the magical land of Coventry — is in peril. After having vanquished the evil warlock who threatened them in Twitches, the girls now focus on reuniting with their birth mother, a powerful witch named Miranda (Kristen Wilson). Using telepathy, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance and other powers, Alex and Camryn then work to spurn a shadowy underworld presence that seeks to destroy them, their family and their world.
The set-up, dialogue and stagings here are all pitched benevolently downward, in softball fashion, as one might readily expect. But the Mowry sisters are an appealing tandem, and their easygoing nature goes a long way toward making this bearable not only for the “tween” girl set for which it’s designed, but also their parents as well. Presented in 1.33:1 full screen, Twitches Too comes with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track and a couple supplemental bonus features — an alternate scene that has some looking-glass fun with Miranda and her evil twin sister, as well as a brief making-of featurette. Cutely positing that the Mowrys have discovered “real” magical powers, this behind-the-scenes clip-fest includes a few interviews but also then plays around with time and space, jumping back and forth through various scenes and set-ups with the two bubbly gals as our guides. C+ (Movie) C+ (Disc)
Hey, remember that Justin Guarini kid, from American Idol? The one who looked like Sideshow Bob, from The Simpsons? Well apparently, confirming that America is indeed a land of second chances, he’s booked another movie gig, this time in a straight-to-video, family-friendly flick entitled Fast Girl.
Cleanly shorn, Guarini plays second fiddle in the movie, which tells the story of orphaned Alex Johnstone (Mircea Monroe), a young girl with racing in her blood. Under the guidance of her Uncle Bill (Dwier Brown), the owner of a local speedway, Alex sets out to prove to the testosterone-fueled racing world that she has what it takes to be the best in the traditionally male-dominated sport. When she encounters handsome professional driver Darryl (Guarini), though, the stakes are “raised even higher,” according to the film’s press release. So will Alex crash and burn — metaphorically or literally — or will she pull through, and be able to make her dreams come true, and carry on her father’s legacy? Gee, I wonder. Caroline Rhea and Jack Weber also star; Daniel Zirill (The Champagne Gang) directs. For more information, click here.