“Going All Kanye On You”: New Year’s Eve (dir by Garry Marshall)

“New Year’s Eve is the worst, people who don’t drink or party all year suddenly going all Kanye on you.”

That line was delivered by Ashton Kutcher in the 2011 film, New Year’s Eve.  Seven years ago, when the film was first released, I thought it was an awkward line, partially because Ashton Kutcher sounded like he was drowning in self-loathing when he said it and partially because the sudden reference to Kanye West felt like something that would be considered clever by 60-something screenwriter who had just spent a few hours scanning twitter to see “what the kids are into nowadays.”

(Of course, hearing the line in 2018 was an even stranger experience.  People who don’t drink or party all year suddenly going all Kanye on you?  So, they’re putting on red MAGA caps and spending New Year’s Eve tweeting about prison reform?  True, that’s the way a lot of people celebrated in my part of the world but I’m not sure how exactly that would play out in Times Square.)

In New Year’s Eve, Kutcher plays a character named Randy.  Randy is a comic book artist, which means that he’s snarky and cynical and doesn’t really see the point of celebrating anything.  Fortunately, he gets trapped in an elevator with Elise (Lea Michele) and, with her help, he comes to learn that New Year’s Eve is not the worst.  Instead, it’s the most important holiday ever created and, if you don’t think so, you’re worse than the devil.

Fortunately, Hillary Swank is present to make sure that we all get the point.  Swank plays Claire Morgan, who is in charge of making sure that the ball drops at exactly the right moment at Times Square and who gets a monologue where she explains that the purpose of the ball is to make you think about both the past and the future.  As she explains it, the world comes together one night a year, all so everyone can watch that ball drop.  Apparently, if the ball doesn’t drop, the new year doesn’t actually start and everyone is trapped in a timeless limbo, kind of like Iron Man at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

Of course, there’s more going on in New Year’s Eve than just Randy taking Kanye’s name in vain and Claire refusing the accept that Times Square is not the center of the universe.  There’s also an old man (Robert De Niro) who wants to time his death so he passes right at the start of the new year.  Sarah Jessica Parker plays the mother of frustrated teenager Abigail Breslin and gets to make a “girls gone wild” joke.  (A Kanye reference and a girls gone wild joke in the same film?  It’s like a pop culture tsunami!)  Michelle Pfeiffer tries to accomplish all of her new year’s resolutions with the help of Zac Efron.  Halle Berry worries about her husband (Common) , who is serving overseas.  Josh Duhamel searches for a woman who once told him that his heart was more important than his business.  Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel compete with Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson to see who can be the family of the first child born in the new year.  Jon Bon Jovi thinks about the woman that he nearly married and Katherine Heigl wonders if she’s ever going to have a career again.  In other words, New Year’s Eve is an ensemble piece, one in which a bunch of slumming Oscar winners and overachieving TV actors step into small roles.  It leads to some odd pairings.  De Niro, for instance, shares scenes with Alyssa Milano while Sofia Vergara and Ludacris are both relegated to playing sidekicks.  Michael Bloomberg, New York’s then-mayor and general threat to civil liberties everywhere, also shows up, playing himself with the type of smarminess that already has many people dreading the prospect of his 2020 presidential campaign.  This is one of those films where everyone has a familiar face but no one makes much of an impression.

New Year’s Eve was directed by the late Garry Marshall and it’s the second film in his so-called holiday trilogy, sitting right between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  By most accounts, Garry Marshall was a nice guy and popular in the industry, which perhaps explains why so many familiar faces were willing to sign up to appear in New Year’s Eve.  Though the film is ruthlessly mediocre, it’s actually the best of the holiday trilogy.  For all the schmaltz and forced sentiment, one gets the feeling that the film actually is sincere in its belief in the importance of that ball dropping in Times Square.

I remember that, when New Year’s Eve was first released, a lot of people joked that Marshall was going to make an ensemble romantic comedy about every single holiday, all with the hope that at least one of them would eventually become a television perennial in the style of It’s A Wonderful Life or The Ten Commandments.  Interestingly, that’s exactly what happened with New Year’s Eve.  Yesterday, E! aired New Year’s Eve three times, back-to-back!  For better or worse, this film is probably going to outlive us all, ensuring that, in the far future, viewers will spend New Year’s Eve asking themselves, “What’s a kanye?”

Here Are the Reliably Boring Razzie Nominations!

Yawn!  The Razzies are always so boring!  Here are this year’s predictable nominations.  Talk about them on twitter and impress your friends.

Worst Picture
Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jupiter Ascending
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2

Worst Director
Andy Fickman, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tom Six, Human Centipede 3
Sam Taylor-Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actor
Johnny Depp, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler, The Cobbler and Pixels
Channing Tatum, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actress
Katherine Heigl, Home Sweet Hell
Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending
Jennifer Lopez, The Boy Next Door
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mortdecai

Worst Supporting Actor
Chevy Chase, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Vacation
Josh Gad, Pixels and The Wedding Ringer
Kevin James, Pixels
Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip
Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Supporting Actress
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip and The Wedding Ringer
Rooney Mara, Pan
Michelle Monaghan, Pixels
Julianne Moore, Seventh Son
Amanda Seyfried, Love the Coopers and Pan

Worst Screenplay
Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Kelly Marcel, Fifty Shades of Grey
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending
Kevin James and Nick Bakay, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, Pixels

Worst Remake or Sequel
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Fantastic Four
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Human Centipede 3
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2

Worst Screen Combo
Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, Fantastic Four
Johnny Depp and his glued-on mustache, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James and either his Segway or glued-on mustache, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler and any pair of shoes, The Cobbler

Razzies Redeemer Award
Elizabeth Banks
M. Night Shyamalan
Will Smith
Sylvester Stallone

Playing Catch-Up: Jenny’s Wedding (dir by Mary Agnes Donoghue)

There’s an early scene in Jenny’s Wedding in which Jenny (Katherine Heigl) is talking to her roommate, Kitty (Alexis Biedel) about how difficult it is to spend time with her family.  They all want to know when Jenny is going to get married.  After all, her younger sister, Anne (Grace Gummer), is married.  Jenny tells Kitty that she does want to get married and start a family and she wants to do it soon.

Kitty replies with something like: “I guess you’re going to have to tell them about us.”

And WOW!  THAT WOULD BE SUCH A MIND-BLOWING MOMENT … if not for the fact that it’s 2015.  Jenny’s Wedding seems to take place in an alternative universe where Glee was never a hit TV show,  thousands of people never changed their Facebook avatar to a rainbow flag, Milk was never a box office hit, nobody’s ever watched a program on Bravo or seen that Ikea commercial, and the majority of Americans continue to believe that gays are some exotic group of people who exclusively live in New York, San Francisco, and Oak Lawn.  Maybe in 2002, Jenny’s Wedding‘s approach to LGBT issues would have felt brave and groundbreaking but in 2015, it just feels heavy-handed and trite.

“Nothing will ever be the same again!”  Jenny’s mom (Linda Emond) wails when Jenny comes out of the closet.

“I mean, we’re ordinary people…” Jenny’s dad (Tom Wilkinson) laments when Jenny tells him that she’s a lesbian and she’s going to marry Kitty.

“They must’ve done something wrong,” one of the neighbors is overhead gossiping after it becomes common knowledge that Jenny is getting married to a *GASP* woman.

Especially when compared to the many truly groundbreaking, touching, and thought-provoking LGBT-films that have been released over the past few years, Jenny’s Wedding is heavy-handed and utterly lacking in either nuance or insight.  Watching it, I wondered who could be responsible for making such an old-fashioned film that seemed to be so totally out-of-touch with the modern world.  Then I checked with Wikipedia and discovered that the film’s director is 72 years old and straight and that explained a lot.

I think the idea was for the viewers to be stunned that Katherine Heigl was playing a lesbian and I guess the viewers are all supposed to think, “If Katherine Heigl can be a lesbian, then anyone can be a lesbian!”  And I guess that could have happened in 2002, though it still seems to be based on a massive misreading of the popularity of a performer who has, several times, literally been described as being “box office poison.”  But this is 2015 and anyone who still believes that a character played by Katherine Heigl could never be a lesbian probably is not going to be watching a movie about a lesbian wedding.

As well, it doesn’t help that Katherine Heigl gives a performance that is brittle even by the standards of Katherine Heigl.  Watching Jenny’s Wedding, I couldn’t help but feel that Kitty could do so much better.

What Lisa Watched This Morning: One For The Money (dir. by Julie Anne Robinson)

This morning, as it stormed outside, I watched One For The Money, the Katherine Heigl film that quickly came and went earlier this year.

Why Was I Watching It?

 How did I end up watching One For The Money this morning?  I blame the toadsuckers out there who insist on mowing their lawns every chance they get.  By constantly mowing their lawns, these people are releasing particles of grass into the air where they turn into pollen and they make life difficult for sweet, innocent girls like me who happen to have fairly severe asthma.  Because of everyone mowing their lawns, my asthma started to act up last night and I ended up calling in to work today.

So, there I was: curled up on the couch, clutching my inhaler and listening to the thunder rumbling and the rain falling outside.  Our cat Doc walked over to the couch and stared up at me for a few minutes before going, “Meh.”  I took that to mean: “Let’s watch a movie On Demand.”  So, I checked to see what was available and, after I realized that I had no interest in Red Tails, I decided to go with One For The Money.

What’s It About?

So, Stephanie Plum (Katherine Hiegl) lives in New Jersey and has no job but she does have a kinda creepy cousin named Vinny (Patrick Fischler, who looks like he would be a creepy cousin named Vinny) who owns a place called Vinny’s Bail Bonds.  Stephanie reminds Vinny of a time that he attempted to get all incestous-like with her so Vinny hires her as a bail enforcement agent (otherwise known as a bounty hunter).  Stephanie’s first assignment is to catch Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a former cop who is wanted for murder.  Stephanie is happy to accept this assignment because, back in high school, she lost her virginity to Joe and then attempted to run him over with her car after he dumped her.

However, it quickly turns out that 1) Joe isn’t that easy to catch and 2) he might be innocent.  In between getting bounty hunting lessons from Ranger (Daniel Sunjata) and catching other assorted bail jumpers, Stephanie tries to help Morelli prove his innocence and also finds herself falling in love with him, despite the fact that he’s kind of a jerk.

What Worked?

This film has gotten some of the worst reviews I’ve ever seen and not just from the usual gang of overpaid film critics who always hate on films starring Katherine Heigl.  Even the reviews left on the imdb are amazingly negative, a lot of them being left by fans of the series of books that this film is based on.  I have to admit that I haven’t read any of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels and maybe that’s why I didn’t think this film was that bad.

This film was essentially a big budget Lifetime film and it was at its best when it accepted that fact.  It had a few cute moments and there’s a moment, where the inexperienced Stephanie Plum goes, “Oh, I forgot I had a gun!” that made me laugh out loud because I know that’s exactly the sort of thing that I’d end up saying if I ever took up bounty hunting for a living.  While I agree with those who have said that Heigl was miscast as Stephanie, I could still relate enough to the character that the film (for the most part) managed to hold my attention.

Jason O’Mara and Daniel Sunjata are both easy on the eyes.  Stephanie’s not the only one to have fantasies about being handcuffed by Jason O’Mara while naked.

A lot of the negative comments that I’ve read about this film centered on just how bad Heigl’s New Jersey accent was.  As a Texan who speaks with a twang in her voice, all I can say to that is “Welcome to my world, bitches.”  If nothing else, maybe this film will let Yankees know how it feels to have their accent butchered by someone who grew up in Connecticut.

What Did Not Work?

 Just because the film wasn’t that bad doesn’t mean that it was all that good.  It’s a fun film to watch when you’re sick and it’s raining outside because it’s so lightweight and insubstantial that it doesn’t require you to think about what’s happening on-screen or really to even pay that much attention.  If you do pay attention, you’ll quickly realize that Heigl (who I, as opposed to lot of people, usually like) isn’t believable as a member of the working class, the film’s story is predictable, and that John Leguizamo plays essentially the same annoying character that John Leguizamo always plays in films like this.

I’m also assuming that Heigl’s voice-over narration was an attempt to capture Evanovich’s authorial voice on-screen but, honestly, it just came across as being heavy-handed and unnecessary.

“Oh my God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

There were a few.  To be honest, I get the feeling that if I ever became a bounty hunter, I would probably be kind of a klutzy one like Stephanie Plum is in this film.  Add to that, Stephanie has to spend a lot of time listening to people complain about her driving and I can certainly relate to that.  Seriously, you get a few tickets for running a red light and then you jump a few medians and suddenly, everyone’s making you out to be some sort of menace.

Lessons Learned:

What might be annoying on the big screen is perfectly acceptable when you’re curled up on the couch and watching TV.