Monthly Archives

November 2010


Morning Glory (opening Nov. 10) stars Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton; was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada; and directed by Roger Michell, who helmed Venus and Notting Hill. One of the producers is J.J. Abrams. It’s a complete mystery to me, then, why a movie this full of talent can be so inferior.

McAdams stars as Becky Fuller, the super ambitious producer of a last-place morning talk show who’s determined to keep it from cancellation by hiring respected newsman Mike Pomeroy (Ford) to co-host with former beauty queen Colleen Peck (Keaton). Trouble is, the two can barely stand each other. Pomeroy doesn’t want to be there—the gig is a contractual obligation—while Colleen resents his arrogance. Becky pulls out all the stops for ratings, including putting her hapless weatherman through death-defying stunts so viewers can laugh at his screams. Meanwhile, another producer (Patrick Wilson) is mooning over her but Becky wonders if she can commit to the relationship and her job, especially since the cranky Pomeroy requires around-the-clock maintenance. It’s the veteran newsman, though, who finally teaches her a few lessons about life and love.

One of the most annoying things about this movie is how poor McAdams, an extremely charismatic actress, has to crank Becky’s neurotic, hyper energy up to eleven in every scene. She’s running, running, running everywhere and talks so fast, it’s exhausting to watch her. It doesn’t really make sense why she runs so much. Becky comes across as a type-A personality, someone who’s detail-oriented and organized, at least in her professional life. And yet the harried running implies she’s always late for appointments (including an important job interview), like a slacker who overslept or an assistant who forgot to fetch the coffee. Maybe the thinking was if McAdams just kept moving, no one would notice the plot holes.

The actress should be given credit, though, for still managing to infuse Becky with charm; it’s impossible to bear her ill will when she flashes her warm eyes and disarming smile. If this role had been played by, say, Katherine Heigl, I would’ve chugged Drano to end my misery.

Less successful than McAdams are Keaton and Ford as the bickering anchors, though it’s hardly their fault. Colleen isn’t developed enough as a character for viewers to care much about (though Keaton does look like she was enjoying herself) while Pomeroy seems to deserve his reputation as “the third worst person in the world.” Ford probably wanted a departure from his dramatic, heroic personas when he agreed to play a jerk in a comedy but ironically, he’s much funnier as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Though I could sympathize with Pomeroy’s reason for disgruntlement and his disdain for “fluffy” segments after a long career in hard news, the character’s meanness sucked joy out of many scenes, and not in an amusing way like Miranda’s bitchiness in Prada. It’s a little meta that Ford seemed to be doing weighty dramatic acting while everyone else was putting on lighter fare.

Morning Glory doesn’t quite work as a romantic comedy, either. Wilson, a Tony-nominated actor, is reduced to little more than beefcake as Becky’s ultra-patient boyfriend. Their scenes feel contrived and we’re not sure why Adam took a liking to Becky in the first place; their initial encounter involves her having an embarrassing fangirl moment when she runs into Pomeroy in an elevator. In fact, McAdams has more chemistry with Ford, though in a strictly platonic way. We root more for Pomeroy and Becky’s relationship to work out because it has a better chance at making her happy in the long run.

Nerd verdict: Morning not so glorious

Photos: Paramount Pictures


Winners of Joseph Wambaugh’s HOLLYWOOD HILLS

My three randomly selected winners are:

  1. Elizabeth Duncan
  2. Naomi Johnson
  3. karenk

Congratulations! Please hit the “contact” tab at the top of the page or the red envelope button in the sidebar to send me your address, which I’ll forward to Hachette. If I don’t hear from you by midnight PST Wednesday Nov. 10, alternate winner(s) will be chosen.

Thanks to all who entered. I have several exciting giveaways planned for the rest of the year so check back to see what goodies you can win!


Movie Review: DUE DATE

Due Date left me flummoxed, much like how Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Peter, feels towards Zach Galifianakis’s Ethan in the movie. While I didn’t think it was a complete wreck, I did find it chaotic and not very funny, a small problem for a comedy. It’s more mature—if only slightly—than director and co-writer Todd Phillips’s previous endeavor, The Hangover, but that’s not saying much since I thought that movie was a laughter-free showcase of men behaving like morons.

Peter is an architect trying to make it home from a business trip to his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) who’s about to give birth. After a couple of disruptive encounters with Ethan at the airport, the two end up on the no-fly list so the only option is to drive from Atlanta to Los Angeles together. They encounter all sorts of outrageousness along the way, mostly because of Ethan (surprise!), but in the end come to a better understanding of each other.

Wow, I got bored just now writing that synopsis. It sounds tired because it resembles the basic plot of all the road movies that have come before—much better ones. Though Galifianakis seems to be a favorite of Phillips’s, Date‘s one saving grace is undoubtedly Downey. His Peter is our link to sanity as we travel through the Crazytown in which Ethan lives. Without Downey’s grounding presence, I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate Ethan, who is imbecilic, annoying and strange for strange’s sake. Galifianakis is not a bad actor; he handles Ethan’s few quiet moments well. I’ve just never been amused by the actor’s schlubby shtick. The best comedy is rooted in reality, with an ounce of truth viewers can relate to, but Galifianakis’s characters might as well be aliens considering how weird they are. His act is predictable and he’ll be typed as a one-trick pony if he doesn’t re-invent himself soon.

Elsewhere, Monaghan doesn’t have much to do besides talking to Downey on the phone and Jamie Foxx shows up in a small role as Downey’s friend. Perhaps the movie would have been much more enjoyable if Phillips had given these charismatic actors more screen time instead of spending so much of it on Ethan’s antics.

Nerd verdict: Let’s hope there’s no second Date

Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon


Tyrus Books: An Appreciation

One of the free books I received from Tyrus

In a time when the economy is weak and many businesses are tightening their belts, Ben LeRoy, publisher of Tyrus Books, has been going in the opposite direction. He’s been giving free books to anyone who asks. He’d pick an hour or two out of a random day and announce on Twitter (follow here if you don’t already) that he’d take requests during that time for anything from Tyrus’s catalogue of dark crime fiction. If he has copies available (finished books, not ARCs), he’ll send them to you for free. Yes, that’s plural because you can ask for more than one.

Why is LeRoy doing this? He asks for nothing in return, no reviews, no please-tell-your-friends-about-us, nothing. A recent tweet said, “Just read. That’s all I care about.” That moved me deeply and is why I felt the need to write this.

There were no libraries in Vietnam during my childhood. I remember how I’d walk to a nearby store that rented books by asking customers for a deposit. If patrons returned the book in good condition, the store would refund their money, minus a small rental fee.

This may sound fair except I was a small child with no money of my own. I’d try to barter with the store owner—can I leave my shoes as collateral? How about my school bag? The shop owner would laugh at me but there were few things I wouldn’t have swapped for the chance to read.

More than 30 years and 10,000 miles removed, that feeling hasn’t changed. So, for me to get free books from Tyrus with no questions asked and no strings attached? It’s like receiving…I’m not sure I have the right words. Insert gold, money, food, water, life—whatever’s most precious to you—and you’ll get the idea. I don’t understand such generosity but I don’t have to. I can just be thankful there are people like LeRoy keeping literacy alive while allowing that long-ago girl to keep her shoes.


Book Giveaway: Joseph Wambaugh’s HOLLYWOOD HILLS

Little, Brown is releasing Joseph Wambaugh‘s Hollywood Hills on November 16 but generously letting me throw three copies out into the crowd now. This is the latest in the author’s Hollywood series which started with Hollywood Station and it features characters from the previous novels.

The product description:

The legendary Hollywood Hills are home to wealth, fame, and power–passing through the neighborhood, it’s hard not to get a little greedy.

LAPD veteran “Hollywood Nate” Weiss could take or leave the opulence, but he wouldn’t say no to onscreen fame. He may get his shot when he catches the appreciative eye of B-list director Rudy Ressler, and his troublemaking fiancée, Leona Brueger, the older-but-still-foxy widow of a processed-meat tycoon. Nate tries to elude her crafty seductions, but consents to keep an eye on their estate in the Hollywood Hills while they’re away.

Also minding the mansion is Raleigh Dibble, a hapless ex-con trying to put the past behind him. Raleigh is all too happy to be set up for the job–as butler-cum-watchdog–by Nigel Wickland, Leona’s impeccably dressed art dealer. What Raleigh doesn’t realize is that under the natty clothes and posh accent, Nigel has a nefarious plan: two paintings hanging on the mansion’s walls will guarantee them more money than they’ve ever seen.

Everyone’s dreams are just within reach–the only problem is, this is Hollywood. A circle of teenage burglars that the media has dubbed The Bling Ring has taken to pillaging the homes of Hollywood celebutants like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, and when a pair of drug-addled young copycats stumbles upon Nigel’s heist, that’s just the beginning of the disaster to come. Soon Hollywood Nate, surfer cops Flotsam and Jetsam, and the rest of the team at Hollywood Station have a deadly situation on their hands.

Hollywood Hills is a raucous and dangerous roller coaster ride that showcases Joseph Wambaugh in vintage form.

Want a copy? To enter, leave a comment telling me which Hollywood home you’d like to, ah, sneak into if you were a member of the Bling Ring. Me, I’d like to see the inside of Spielberg’s home because he might have cool memorabilia from his movies. If the Ark of the Covenant is just sitting around in the den, I’m taking it for sure.

To be eligible, you also have to:

  • be a subscriber or Twitter follower (tell me which)
  • have U.S./Canada address (no P.O. boxes)

Giveaway ends next Monday, Nov. 8, 5 p.m. PST. Winners will be randomly selected then announced here and on Twitter. I won’t be e-mailing you so please check back to see if you win. Alternate winner(s) will be chosen for any prize(s) not claimed within 48 hours.

Now, let’s hear your thieving hypotheticals!