The name might not mean much but you'd recognise her. Cast your mind back to a host of 'dorky best friend' roles (27 Dresses, 13 Going On 30, Elizabethtown) and that's Judy. A brilliantly talented actress for sure - but up against a Heigl or Garner, she'll always be the bezzy mate instead of the lead. The shame is, she'd nearly always be more interesting to watch than her big name co-star.
Now it's Jennifer Aniston she's out-acting in the winsome Love Happens; a film where, in essence, Not Much Happens.
Here's the plot. Janiston is a Seattle florist called Eloise (have I lost your already?) who meets self-help guru Burke (Aaron Eckhart) in the city hotel where he's staying and where she arranges the flowers. As he's still recovering from his wife's death in a car crash he's not much of a date but hey, they still hang out over the few days he's there, running courses in bereavement counselling.
That's it really.
Whilst the performers struggle with a script that can't decide if it's meant to be funny or not, we're sat there in the audience ticking off the cliches and twiddling our thumbs waiting for the obvious loose ends to be tied up so we can get home. Essentially, Burke just needs to get his head around his own loss. I never thought that the 109 mins it takes could feel so long.
Eckhart, we know, is a strong performer but his cool seriousness as an actor makes for hard viewing in a film that's supposed to be warmly melting hearts. Janiston is...well... the same as Janiston ALWAYS is. She's kooky in a way that only chick flick characters are:
1. She likes gardening in her chunky knits (see also Andie McDowell in Green Card).
2. She graffitis long intellectual words on hotel walls, then hides them under hanging pictures, for people to discover. KOOKY ALERT (and a watered-down version of Audrey Tatou's quirky Amelie).
3. Her life is soundtracked by weedy soft rock music, including 'This Time Around' by Helen Stellar that was also used in Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown. Which also featured Judy Greer. You'd be right in thinking at this point that Love Happens is a wannabe Crowe type of film, a laid back romance where plot is secondary to charm.
It fails. Why? Because Love Happens, like its bland title, is as beige and boring as its lead actress. It meanders around stereotypes and cliches for nearly two hours only to give us, as a payoff, ANOTHER of those scenes where everything is resolved in front of an audience (in this case, the audience for Burke's self-help seminar) who proceed to applaud when the leads have finally blurted out their true feelings in front of everyone.
In other words, like all the supposed 'new and exclusive' stories on Jansiston that mags around the world publish every week, this actually has nothing new. That's not the end of the world for a genre movie, I admit. But when it doesn't have a glint of sparkle to compensate either, well... At least this kind of film will always have one thing going for it.
The legacy of Fame is a bit of a joke. The original movie and TV show might have been groundbreaking at the time but their memory has been reduced to gags about legwarmers and impromptu street dancing in 'I Love The 80s' shows. I'm sure there must have been more to it than that.
The fact is, I bloomin' love the new Fame because it did have more.
The first thing you notice is the style - you can really wallow in its loose, documentary feel. It's exciting, even urgent, after the shiny Disney polish you get with those other stage-struck kids Troy and Gabriella. The music is punchy, vibrant, belted out, feeling more heartfelt than by-the-books-Broadway. The teen issues, whilst perhaps of least interest to the film-makers, also resonate a fair whack. When Kevin, a dancer, is told he's not gonna make it (in an awesome scene that uses Sam Sparro's 'Black & Gold'), his response hints at a gut-wrenching loneliness.
In case you didn't know, Fame is set at the New York School Of Performing Arts. Starting on Audition Day, we're introduced to a group of disparate wannabes - Jenny the actress, Marco the singer, Denise the pianist, amongst others. As they rise from freshmen to seniors, we watch them date, dance, act, rebel, try to work out just what their future holds - all in the space of 100 minutes. Film-wise, it might have been better to set this over one year, rather than four, so frenetic is the pace. But then of course, you wouldn't get graduation or the stress involved with moving on after college.
The bittiness of the many storylines is tough at first but everything soon comes into focus. From then on, it's a home-run. Sure there are cheesy moments - and we love films like this because of them - but it's still surprisingly un-glamorous. This is New York through and through; brassy, ballsy and blunt. You can almost smell the pretzels on the street and feel the heat from the steamy sidewalks. It's a crucial element to the film, reminding us that this is a tough city and a tough industry. Showbiz isn't all smiles and jazz hands.
Performances are all fine enough and Kay Panabaker (Jenny) and Asher Brook (Marco) do make a ridiculously cute couple. Teachers, including Kelsey Grammar, Charles S Dutton and Megan Mullally are likeably brash too.
Who knows if, in a post-Step Up world (which basically re-did Fame 4 years ago), there's still an appetite? With Bandslam tanking only weeks ago, maybe not. But the way director Kevin Tancharoen has captured that unscratchable itch to see your name in lights, an itch that never goes way, is done with a fresh looseness that shows some real flair.
Christopher Smith knows about progress. His debut feature, Creep, was a cute calling card but the follow-up, Severance, mixed some genius gags into the horror genre to really up the ante. Now with his third flick, Triangle, he's moved on yet again. Sure, it's another horror but this time it's all in the mood rather than the slashing.
Triangle tells the tale of Jess (Melissa George), a stressed single-mum who's off for a day out with her new boyfriend and his mates on his yacht. When they hit an electric storm, tidal waves get the better of them, but they soon jump on board a passing ocean liner in the hope of sailing back to civilisation.
Woops. That'll be a mistake then.
On board, things are eerily quiet apart from a shadowy figure. And Jess can't work out why she keeps getting a feeling of deja vu...
Imagine Donnie Darko meets The Shining meets...er...Titanic and you'll get the idea. Smith shoots the endless corridors of the giant boat with glaring bluntness rather than spooky shadows, frequently playing with mirrors to hint that all is not simple. But it's all refreshingly light on OTT atmos. The fact that this giant hunk of metal feels so normal - apart from its lack of crew - is what makes it so chilling when the refugees start going screwy.
Melissa George is also awesome, playing peril without too many histrionics and some considerable depth at the same time as looking hot in denim shorts. As she learns more about her fate on board the 'ghost ship' - and beyond - you see how the horror comes from within her, her emotions, rather than from a simple killer on the loose. What goes on in people's heads is far more scary than a bloke in a leather mask running around with a chainsaw.
Attempts to convince us that the actors really are in the middle of the sea are occasionally a little too green screen clumsy whilst I'm sure the time-loop scenario, like so many before it, will be successfully picked to pieces by some punter with too much time on their hands. I just prefer to let it joyfully play with my brain.
Ultimately, though, this is a strong thriller from an ever-maturing British writer/director. He knows his horror heritage yet infuses his work with emotional personality. It's a cool mix.
If you can get past the annoying woman introducing it, this trailer for the Coen Bros new pic A Serious Man has plenty to like. The movie itself is a joy. Think Philip Roth, The Graduate and classic Woody Allen.
Michael Stahlberg is great in the lead role as Larry, a nebbish Physics prof whose life slips from his grip. The fact that he's not a star only helps his helplessness (although box-office glory might be a tough call without a big name).
Once again, the Coens play on the randomness of life's events, with Larry fighting a sudden battle to hold on to his family, home and career, That blend of big laughs and existentialism is intoxicating. 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' springs to mind watching this - it's amazing how much pleasure we can get from seeing someone basically having a breakdown. It may be a very time (1967) and race (Jewish) specific film but as the pic unfurls there's plenty of universal humour on offer to let you in.
So it is actually happening then. Sony Pictures really are putting out a movie - A MOVIE! - of Michael Jackson's rehearsal footage - REHEARSAL FOOTAGE! ('Ok. Enough capitals to express outrage.'Ed)
Now Jacko was one of the great show people of the last 30 years, fact. But it seems odd that such a fastidious, perfectionist performer should now be remembered in footage that will clearly show him not at 100%, either physically (presumably) or professionally. Had the actual O2 gigs gone ahead, polished and preened to perfection, then a movie of the show would be obvious (3-D would've been good too). But to cobble something together from material that was never intended to be used as a movie seems nothing more than... surprise surprise... an attempt to fill the coffers.
It's intriguing of course. But I prefer to save 'intriguing' for 4 minute packages on The One Show, not rushed cinema cash-ins.
As with anything Jacko, the excuse that it's 'for the fans' can always be wheeled out. No-one has more dedicated fans the King Of Pop (TM). But surely the fans who really care for his legacy wouldn't want him to be remembered as anything but the slickest star of his generation. Something this hasty can't ever be that slick, surely?
Drew Barrymore is one of my favourite actors from my 'youth' (Never Been Kissed = her greatest performance). Ellen Page is one of my favourite current stars. Put them together and you have Whip It, Drew's directing debut and Ellen's chance to show off her rollerblading skills.
1. It's very much in director Terry Gilliam's signature style i.e hugely overblown flights of fancy at the expense of anything approaching rigorous storytelling.
2. It's about an ancient guru (Christopher Plummer) who tours contemporary London with his travelling show - and the secrets he is hiding. Heath Ledger co-stars as a disgraced ex-charity worker who latches on to Dr P.
3. Heath died before filming was completed, so the not-entirely-unknown trio of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell stood in for his character in three fantasy sequences (the fantasy bit allows them to look different to Heath).
4. The three fantasy sequences are, to be honest, a little bit pointless. Admittedly the film couldn't have got finished without them - but having some massive names in fairly brief, CGI-heavy scenes seems a little bit of a waste.
5. Heath Ledger's character is a bit 'unfocused' (ie. not really much of anything).
6. The best thing in the movie is actually Lily Cole, the model/actress who stars as Plummer's daughter. Her cherubic face and red locks give her an other worldly look that perfectly complements the pic's antique feel, whilst she's also pretty good at playing it appealingly naive. She's the emotional heart.
7. The film is REALLY hard to follow.
8. It's out in October.
9. You can't help but admire the movie for the awesome way it looks (especially the non-CGI stuff of Dr P's ramshackle coach and horses that trots through night-time London) - but its computerized dream sequences look a bit Spy Kids. There'll be a flurry of interest in this one because of the Heath factor but it's little more than a colourful curio.
10. It's not a sequel to Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium.
I don't sleep much. Frankly, there are too many films on ITV2 that I've recorded that I want to watch (normally Total Recall or Love, Actually) for me to sleep.
This week it was The Bodyguard.
Now, this is not a film that I know well. I do know, however, that 'back in the day' it was absolutely blimmin' massive (we're talking 1992). The soundtrack, depending on which report you read, is often said to be the biggest ever.
So my 3am viewing was ripe for surprises. And surprises I got.
1. Whitney Houston, playing a bitchy but hugely successful singer in need of a bodyguard, is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME. I mean really gutsy. It's she who seduces Kevin Costner and she who plays him. She's a real broad.
2. Kevin Costner - who let's not forget, was the biggest male star in Hollywood back then - is astoundingly bad. I've seen more animation in a kitchen table. Yes, he's meant to be a tough, regimented military man but he is also THE MOST TEDIOUS MAN IN THE WORLD. There's zero chemistry between him and Whitney. In fact, they just look like they want to stab each other.
3. There's really not that much snoggage. Despite everyone knowing the weepy track 'I Will Always Love You', that's only right at the end in a shortened form and it feels stuck in. The two leads never really have much of a relationship. It's actually more of a crime drama (psycho fan stalking a celeb). It's also so overstyled in a 90s erotic thriller way (shadows, mansions, outfits etc) that it's hard for any warm romance to filter through.
4. Summary - it's really genuinely odd. The kind of film that now would have critics laughing hysterically in the aisles as it's so cheesy. But this film was HUGE. It had them blubbing in the aisles. I'm lost, readers, I really am. The Bodyguard now feels like a curiously heartless slice of 'B' movie cheese.
That said, I'm now off to download the soundtrack.