2015 In Review: 16 Good Things I Saw On Television


Last night, as I was trying to write up my annual list of the good things that I saw on TV during the previous year, I realized that I was struggling a bit to come up with enough entries to justify doing a list.  The more I thought about it, the more apparent it became that I watched a lot less TV than usual last year.

(Though I did manage to watch a lot of Lifetime movies…)

Furthermore, when I do think about what I saw on television last year, a lot of my memories deal with being annoyed.  I find myself fixating on those terrible Liberty Mutual Insurance Commercials and that stupid advertisement where they wouldn’t stop saying, “The Tobin Stance…” and especially that Taco Bell commercial with those horrible hipsters, Mary and Dominic, talking about how much they love breakfast tacos.

BLEH!

But, that said, there were still a few things worth praising!  (Hope is never totally lost…)  And here they are in no particular order:

1) South Park Had One Of Its Greatest Seasons Ever!

Seriously, 2015 saw South Park have one of its greatest seasons ever.  Trey and Matt took on the excesses of PC Culture and ended up providing one of the most important and incisive critiques of 21st Century America ever.  At a time when political and cultural criticism is growing increasingly dreary and predictable, South Park delivered a much-needed jolt to the system and reminded of us why satire and humor are so important in the first place.  Perhaps the best part of this season was watching dreary PC-obsessed critics desperately trying to figure out how to praise this season without acknowledging that they were the ones being satirized.

2) UnReal

One of the best shows on television premiered on the Lifetime network.  UnReal took us behind the scenes of a Bachelor-type series and provided the ultimate take down of reality television.  I love reality TV but I loved UnReal even more.

Enjoy Jacksonville, Ash.

3) Ash vs. Evil Dead

Save us, Groovy Bruce!

4) Agent Carter

Agent Carter didn’t get as much attention as it deserved during its 8-episode short season.  I loved the show’s retro look, I loved the way it satirized 40s style sexism, I loved the dashing Dominic Cooper as Iron Man’s father, and most of all, I loved Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter!  The overrated Supergirl has been getting a lot of attention as an empowering comic book show but honestly, Agent Carter did it first, did it with style and wit, and did it a 100 times better.

5) Show Me A Hero

At times, this HBO miniseries was a bit too heavy-handed for my taste.  But overall, it was a fascinating look at municipal politics and racism up north.  (Yes, there are racists up north, as much as people refuse to admit it.)  Plus, Oscar Isaac gave a great performance as an initially idealistic politician who is literally destroyed by his attempt to do the right thing.

6) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

HBO pretty much fell apart this year (The Brink?  Ballers?) but, fortunately, Netflix was there to offer up some of the best original programming of the year.  Kimmy Schmidt is brilliantly hilarious and gives Elle Kemper a role that is finally worthy of her talents.

Jessica Jones

7) Jessica Jones

Again, who needs Supergirl when you’ve got Jessica Jones?

8) Glenn lived on The Walking Dead!

Actually, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  To be honest, having Glenn survive that zombie attack totally goes against everything that The Walking Dead previously stood for.  After all, this was the show where anyone could die.  It didn’t matter if you were likable or popular or if the sight of you being ripped into pieces would traumatize the viewers.  Under the previously established rules of the show, Glenn should have died.  And yet, he didn’t.  And I can’t complain because, seriously — was anyone really ready to see Glenn die?  That said, if Glenn somehow escapes certain death a second time, it’ll be a problem.

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9) Degrassi Was Picked Up By Netflix!

Oh my God, I was so upset when I heard that my beloved Degrassi would no longer be airing on TeenNick.  I’ve always said that the day when there were no more episodes of Degrassi would be the day that I would finally have to admit to being an adult.  Fortunately, Netflix picked up Degrassi so I got to put off adulthood for at least another year.

10) More Old People TV Networks

I’m a history nerd so I love all of these TV networks that only show reruns of old people TV shows.  I may never get to personally experience what it was like to be alive in the 1970s but I can a rerun on an Old People TV Network and get a taste.  And happily, it seems like there’s a new Old People TV network every day!  Seriously, I’m getting quite an education.

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11) Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci on TCM

Last year, they showed both Shock and The House By The Cemetery on TCM!  Finally, Bava and Fulci are getting the respect they deserve.  Now, if only TCM would show a Jean Rollin film…

12) Speaking of TCM…

Actually, I just love TCM in general.  It’s without a doubt the greatest thing in the world!

13) Debate Counter-Programming

Seriously, I am so happy that there is always something else for me to watch while everyone else in the world is watching a Presidential debate.  My main fear is that, in the future, all of the networks will decide to simultaneously air the debates (like they occasionally do with charity fund raisers) and there will be no escape from the droning emptiness of it all.

(Seriously, I could imagine them doing it.  “These debates are damn important…”  Whatever.)

14) One of my tweets appeared on TV!

Seriously that was pretty neat, even if I did turn out to be 100% incorrect in my prediction.

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15) I trashed The Leisure Class and sent at least one troll into a rage spiral!

Seriously, never underestimate how much some people love the unlovable!  My oddly controversial review of the Project Greenlight film really rubbed some people the wrong way.  That some people felt so strongly about it is both alarming and amusing.

16) Dancing Sharks at The Super Bowl!

That was in 2015, wasn’t it?

Dance, Shark, dance!

Dance, Shark, dance!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2015 with my ten favorite non-fiction books of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2015:

  1. Valerie Troutman’s 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw in 2015
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2015
  3. 2015 In Review: The Best of SyFy
  4. 2015 in Review: The Best of Lifetime
  5. 2015 In Review: Lisa’s Picks For The 16 Worst Films of 2015
  6. 2015 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2015

 

So, I watched The Leisure Class…


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Well, it had to happen sometime.

After 8 weeks of showing us how the film was made, HBO finally had to broadcast the latest Project Greenlight film.  Over the course of the series, we’ve watched the seemingly humorless director Jason Mann struggle to maintain his “artistic vision” while directing his first feature film, The Leisure Class.  We watched as he fought for and won the right to shoot on film.  We wondered if Jason would be able to pull off the film’s big stunt.  Even more importantly, we watched because we were hooked on the hostility between Jason and the film’s producer, Effie Brown.  Jason resented having to answer to Effie.  Effie resented having to work on something like The Leisure Class.  For 8 weeks, viewers were either Team Jason or Team Effie.

And through it all, we wondered — was The Leisure Class any good?

From the minute that Jason was named as The Leisure Class‘s director, I had my doubts.  A comedic sensibility is something that you either have or you don’t.  At first glance, there was nothing about Jason that suggested he even had a sense of humor.  Once filming started, nothing that we were shown looked all that promising.  The film’s trailer felt more frantic than anything else and I slowly found myself dreading the prospect of sitting through The Leisure Class.

But sit through it I did and … well, it was bad.  Unfortunately, it really wasn’t bad enough to be enjoyable.  Instead, it was just a bland misfire.  If the film was interesting, it was because I related each scene to what I had previously seen on Project Greenlight.  Wow, I thought, Effie sure was mad when they were shooting this scene.  A few minutes later: Is this the scene that Jason was worried would be underlit?  And then later: This is the scene where Bruce Davison wasn’t sure whether he should say pricks or dicks!  I’m glad they were able to make a final decision…

As for the film itself — well, how do you describe the plot of a film that really didn’t seem to have a storyline?  Charles (Ed Weeks) is actually William, a British con artist.  He is about to marry Fiona (Bridget Regan), the daughter of Sen. Langston (Bruce Davison).  At first, Charles was just planning on stealing Langston’s money but now he’s fallen in love with Fiona.  The day before the wedding, Charles’s alcoholic brother, Leonard (Tom Bell), shows up at the Langston estate.  He pretends to be Charles’s best friend.  And then, Leonard gets drunk and encourages a bunch of teenagers to skinny dip.  And then there’s the car accident.  (This is the big stunt that Jason was so concerned with.)  And then Sen. Langston gets drunk and there’s this amazingly ugly scene where he says a lot of nasty things to his wife and his daughters.  And then Langston nearly murders Charles and Leonard but Fiona ends up pulling a gun on him.  And then the next morning, Leonard draws on Langston’s face.  There’s also a prostitute, named Carla (Christina Lakin), who shows up for no reason but at least she gets a few funny lines.  The film doesn’t add up too much, with none of the characters or their actions making much sense.  The script feels like a first draft and, even at only 80 minutes, the movie seems to be way too long.

The overriding theme of Project Greenlight‘s fourth season has been that Jason has gotten nearly everything that he wanted while shooting his film.  Personally, it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that this season was pretty much edited to cast Jason in as negative a light as possible.  (Otherwise, the HBO execs would have to take responsibility of the train wreck that is The Leisure Class.)  Still, it’s impossible to deny that Jason fought a lot of battles and that none of them seem to have made much difference as far as the end product is concerned.

Jason fought to shoot The Leisure Class on film, as opposed to going digital.  He even turned down extra shooting days so that he could get film.  But visually, The Leisure Class is flat and boring.  It may have been shot on film but it still looks like a single camera sitcom.  (In fact, it’s hard not to feel that the film could have been improved if it had taken an Office or Modern Family mockumentary approach.  At least that way, the characters could have explained their often confusing motivation.)

Jason got the cast that he wanted but that cast is let down by a poorly conceived script.  All of the characters are so one-dimensional that it’s doubtful that there’s much anyone in the cast could have done to make them interesting.  I like both Ed Weeks and Tom Bell but the film let both of them down.  Meanwhile, Bruce Davison is reduced to bellowing out his lines.

Jason fought to find the perfect location and spent a lot of time talking about how the Langston estate was almost as important as the characters.  The house looks gorgeous but the film is directed in such a haphazard manner that you never really get to appreciate it.  For a director who spent so much time obsessing over minutiae, Jason’s film is unique for its total lack of interesting detail.

Let’s not forget — when the season began, Jason was selected to direct a broad comedy called Not Another Pretty Woman.  Jason is the one who suggested making The Leisure Class instead.  That said, I have a hard time believing, as some have suggested on twitter, that Not Another Pretty Woman would have been much of an improvement.

Ultimately, Jason seems to be an okay technical director.  He knows how to light a scene.  He understands the importance of moving the camera.  I imagine he could probably spend hours explaining why he chose to use a certain type of lens.  Unfortunately, there’s not a single scene in The Leisure Class that feels spontaneous.  There’s no humanity to the characters.  It’s a cold movie that feels more like a student film than anything else.

From what I’ve read, it appears that there will be at least one more season of Project Greenlight.  And I’m happy to hear that because the show makes for good drama.  I just wish that it would occasionally make for a good movie.

Guilty Pleasure No. 26: Project Greenlight


ProjectGreenlight640

Project Greenlight may be the most guiltiest pleasure to be found on television right now.

The show, which is currently airing its fourth season on HBO, was one of the earliest reality shows.  The concept behind the show is deceptively simple.  Every season, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have held an online competition for aspiring filmmakers.  The winner of the contest gets to direct a feature film, with the understanding that there will be TV cameras present to record every decision, argument, and screw up.  At the end of the season, the film is released and hopefully, a major new filmmaker is discovered.

The pleasure part is obvious.  If you’re like me and you love movies, there’s no way you can’t be fascinated by the chance to go behind-the-scenes of an actual production.  It’s always fun to watch as the director struggles to maintain his (so far, all of the directors have been male) vision against the whims of studio execs who, often time, seem to be annoyed by the director’s very existence.

As for me, I’ve always been fascinated by the casting process.  (Don’t believe me?  Check out this post that I wrote about The Godfather.  And then check out this one too!)  My favorite part of Project Greenlight is always the episode that deals with the casting.  I love seeing who auditions, who gets turned down, and who decides that they want nothing to do with the film.  It’s a lot of fun!

As for the guilty part of this guilty pleasure, it comes from knowing that a show like this thrives on conflict.  As much as Ben and Matt may say that they are only interested in selecting the most talented director, it’s also obvious that the director they pick has to make for good television.  If production on the film goes smoothly, that’s good for the film but it’s not necessarily good for the show.  That’s just the truth when it comes to reality television.

Hence, watching Project Greenlight always leads to conflicting emotions.  On the one hand, you want the movie to turn out to be a good movie.  You want the director to be up to the task.  On the other hand, you’re specifically watching this show to watch the director screw up and make mistakes and piss people off and get into fights.  Gossip lovers that we are, we love the behind the scenes drama but it’s rare that drama actually leads to a good film.

Check out Project Greenlight‘s track record.

Season 1 started way back in 2001!  (Both this season and season 2 are available on DVD and I recommend checking out both of them.)  The winner was Pete Jones, a friendly nonentity who went on to direct the extremely forgettable Stolen Summer.  There was a lot of behind-the-scenes conflict, mostly due to a clash of personality between certain members of the crew.  From the minute the season started, it was obvious that Pete was a nice guy but essentially in over his head.  And, in many ways, Season 1 taught viewers an important lesson: when it comes to the film industry, nice guys get screwed.

However, as chaotic as season 1 may have been, it was nothing compared to what happened in 2003 when season 2 aired!  Whenever anyone wants to make the argument that Ben and Matt purposefully pick directors who are totally wrong for whatever film is being made, they usually point to season 2.  Season 2 featured the directing team of Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle directing The Battle of Shaker Heights.  The Battle of Shaker Heights was supposed to be a quirky coming-of-age dramedy and a character study, so, of course, Ben and Matt selected two directors who were apparently incapable of human emotion.  And the end result was pure chaos!

Now, I will say a few things in Kyle and Efram’s defense.  When you watch season 2, the overriding theme is that these two directors totally ruined a great script.  Just in case we missed that, the show even featured screenwriter Erica Beeney complaining that these two directors were totally ruining her great script.  Well, sorry — the script for Battle of Shaker Heights was never that good to begin with.  (“It’s about this kid — Kelly — who is really pissed off,” Erica would tell us at the beginning of every episode, as if she was the first person to ever write about a kid who was really pissed off.)  I doubt anyone could have made a good movie out of that script.  Picking two directors who were so totally wrong for the material only served to compound the inherent suckiness of the material.

Season 2 has got a true train wreck appeal to it.  It’s one of those things that you watch with horrified fascination.  (Incidentally, Shia LaBeouf is heavily featured in season 2 and I have to say that he fits right in.)

The third season of Project Greenlight aired in 2005.  It was broadcast on Bravo and it’s unique in that it actually featured a good director (John Gulager) making a reasonably successful film (Feast).  As such, it doesn’t quite work as a guilty pleasure because, from the minute Gulager starts directing, you don’t feel any guilt about watching him.  Instead, the most interesting part of the third season comes early on when a bitchy casting director continually tries (and succeeds) at sabotaging Gulager’s attempts to get a cast with whom he feels comfortable.

(Season 3 has never been released on DVD but, the last time I checked, it was available on YouTube.)

After that third season, Project Greenlight went away for a while but now, 10 years later, it’s back!  It has returned to HBO and, after three episodes, it’s starting to look like this season may be the guiltiest and most pleasurable of all!  Ben and Matt were producing a comedy called Not Another Pretty Woman this time around.  (Pete Jones even returned to write the script.)  Not Another Pretty Woman has been described as being a broad comedy.  So, of course, they selected Jason Mann, an extremely intense elitist film snob.  One of the first things that Jason Mann did was try to fire Pete Jones and replace him with the screenwriter of that well-known comedy, Boys Don’t Cry.  When that didn’t work, Mann abandoned Not Another Pretty Woman and instead requested to make a film called The Leisure Class instead.  And, amazingly enough, he got HBO Films to agree, which means that either nobody had any faith in Pete Jones or everyone has total faith in Jason Mann!

Will that faith be rewarded or will The Leisure Class be another Battle of Shaker Heights?  Will Jason Mann be another John Gulager or will he fade into the same obscurity in which Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin currently reside?

As of right now, I don’t know.

But I can’t wait to find out!

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Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly

Back to School #61: The Battle of Shaker Heights (dir by Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin)


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“When you’re 17, every day is war.” — Tagline of The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003)

Anyone here remember Project Greenlight?  It’s a show that used to be on HBO and Bravo, in which Matt Damon and Ben Affleck would arrange for a director and screenwriter to get a chance to make their low budget feature film debuts.  The catch, of course, is that a camera crew would then follow the director as he (and all of the Greenlight “winners” were male) struggled to get the film made.  Mistakes would be made.  Money would be wasted.  Producer Chris Moore would randomly show up on set and start yelling.  In short, it was typical reality show drama with the catch being that the film itself would then be released in a theater or two.

Well, after being consigned to footnote status for the past nine years. Project Greenlight is coming back for a fourth season and a lot of people are pretty excited about it.  And why not?  I own the first two seasons of Project Greenlight on DVD and I’ve watched the third season on YouTube.  It’s a lot of fun, mostly because all of the directors, with the exception of season 3 winner John Gulager, turned out to be so incredibly inept.  (Gulager is one of the few Project Greenlight success stories — not only did his movie, Feast, come across as being made by a professional but he’s actually had a career post-Greenlight.)  It all makes for good televised drama.

However, it doesn’t necessarily make for a good movie.

Case in point: 2003’s The Battle of Shaker Heights.

The Battle of Shaker Heights is about a creepy 17 year-old named Kelly (played by the reliably creepy Shia LaBeouf).  His mother (Kathleen Quinlan) is an artist.  His father (William Sadler) is a former drug addict who, despite having been clean for 6 years, still has to deal with his son’s constant resentment.  Kelly is a high school outcast who spends all of his spare time thinking and talking about war.  Every weekend, he takes part in war reenactments.  At night, he works in a 24-hour grocery store where he doesn’t realize that he’s the object of Sarah’s (Shiri Appleby) affection.

(Why Sarah has so much affection for Kelly is a good question.  Maybe it’s the scene where he throws cans of cat food at her…)

At a reenactment of the Battle of the Bulge, Kelly meets and befriends Bart (Elden Hansen), which leads to him meeting Bart’s older sister, Tabby (Amy Smart).  Tabby is an artist, because the film isn’t imaginative enough to make her anything else.  (We’re also told that she’s a talented artist and it’s a good thing that we’re told this because otherwise, we might notice that her paintings are the type of uninspired stuff that you can buy at any county art fair.)  Kelly decides that he’s in love with Tabby but — uh oh! — Tabby’s getting married.  Naturally, she’s marrying a guy named Minor (Anson Mount).  Imagine how the film would have been different if his name had been Major.

As a film, the Battle of Shaker Heights is a bit of a mess.  It never establishes a consistent tone, the dialogue and the direction are all way too heavy-handed and on the nose, and Shia LaBeouf … well, he remains Shia LaBeouf.  In some ways, Shia is actually pretty well cast in this film.  He’s an off-putting actor playing an off-putting characters but the end of result is an off-putting film.

Of course, if you’ve seen the second season of Project Greenlight, then you know that The Battle of Shaker Heights had an incredibly troubled production.  Neither one of the film’s two directors were particularly comfortable with dealing with the more low-key human aspects of the story.  Screenwriter Erica Beeney was not happy with who was selected to direct her script and basically spent the entire production whining about it to anyone who would listen.  (Sorry, Erica — your script was one of the film’s biggest problems.  When you actually give a character a name like Minor Webber, it means you’re not trying hard enough.)  Finally, Miramax took the completed film away from the directors and re-edited it, removing all of the dramatic scenes and basically leaving a 79-minute comedic cartoon.

So, in the end, Battle of Shaker Heights is not a very good film.  But season two of Project Greenlight is a lot of fun!

6 More Quickies With Lisa Marie: Beginners, Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses, Paul, Prom, and Terri


When I swore to myself that I would write a review of every new film I saw in 2011, I failed to take into consideration that 1) I see a lot of films, 2) I have a day job, and 3) I’m like Ms. ADHD.  So, as part of my effort to catch up, here’s 6 quickie reviews. 

Beginners (directed by Mike Mills)

Beginners opened with a lot of critical hype earlier this year and, though it’s not quite as great as it’s being made out to be, it still deserved the majority of that praise.  At the very least, I retain better memories of Beginners than I do this summer’s other similarly hyped film, A Better Life.  Ewan McGregor is an artist who struggles to come terms with the death of his gay father (Christopher Plummer) while falling in love with a French actress (Melanie Laurent).  The autobiographical film effortlessly shifts from flashbacks to Plummer’s life in-and-out of the closet to McGregor’s relationship with Laurent and the end result is a meditation on love, secrets, and life.  Most of the pre-release buzz dealt with Plummer’s performance but, honestly, Plummer is good but you never forget you’re watching Christopher Plummer and Goran Visnjic, who plays Plummer’s boyfriend, overacts.  The film really belongs to Ewan McGregor who gives one of his best performances in this film.  Seriously, does any actor fall in love as wonderfully as Ewan McGregor?

Hall Pass (directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly)

Best friends Owen Wilson and Jason Sudekis are given a “hall pass” (i.e., permission to cheat) by their spouses (Jenna Fischer and Cristina Applegate).  The film’s forgettable but seriously, guys, don’t go asking us for a hall pass, okay?  One interesting point is that this film was co-written by the guy who won the first season of Project Greenlight.  Remember that show? 

Horrible Bosses (directed by Set Gordon)

Jason Sudekis also appeared in another comedy this year and if Hall Pass is one of the year’s most forgettable comedies, than Horrible Bosses is one of the best.  Basically Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Sudekis are stuck working for horrible bosses (played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston) and they decide that the only way to handle the situation is to commit mass murder.  There’s a lot I could say about this film but chances are, you’ve already seen it.  Therefore, you already know that this is a rare dark comedy that actually has the guts to be truly dark.  You also know that the entire cast brings an almost heroic sincerity to their often bizarre roles with Charlie Day’s misunderstood sex offender as an obvious stand-out.  Probably the best advice that I can give in this review is to enjoy and appreciate this film while you can before the inevitable sequel comes out and screws up all these good memories.

Paul (directed by Greg Mottola)

I didn’t see Paul when it was first released in theaters because the trailer really made it look kinda awful.  However, I did eventually give it a shot OnDemand and I was pleasantly surprised.  Two English sci-fi fanboys (played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are taking a road trip to visit all of the major UFO sites in the U.S.  This leads to them meeting an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is being pursued by the typical guys in black suits.  Anyway, this is a predictable film and the balance between the serious and comedic is often a bit awkward.  However, it’s still a likable film and how can’t you enjoy watching Pegg and Frost?  They can make even the lamest of jokes hilarious.  Kristen Wiig steals the film as a fundamentalist who, upon being enlightened about the nature of the universe by Paul, embraces blasphemy with endearing enthusiasm.

Prom (directed by Joe Nussbaum)

No, I did not force Jeff to take me to see this when it was first released in theaters back in April.  I tried, mostly be saying things like, “Wow, Prom looks like it would be a funny movie to see and spend the whole time making mean jokes about and making all the little tweens in the audience cry…” but he saw through my ruse and, if memory serves me correct, I ended up seeing the second worst film of 2011 (a.k.a. The Conspirator) instead.  Anyway, I ended up seeing Prom OnDemand last month and it’s not really that bad.  It’s not good either.  It’s just kinda there.  In other words, Prom is incredibly meh and that’s one thing prom night should never be.  (I loved my proms, by the way, and, whenever things seem overwhelming, I often think to myself, “If only every night could be Prom Night…”)  Prom is forgettable and inoffensive but come on, tweens deserve better films.  They are the future, after all.

Terri (directed by Azazel Jacobs)

Terri made me cry and cry and was one of my favorite movies of the summer.  It’s a surprisingly poignant film that worked wonders with material that, at first glance, seemed awfully conventional.  Terri (played by Jacob Wysocki) is a sensitive, obese teenager who is taken under the wing of an unconventional assistant principal (John C. Reilly).  It’s a familiar story but director Azazel Jacobs tells this story with care and sensitivity and Wysocki and Reilly bring their characters to life with such skill that you can’t help but get caught up in their story.  Terri’s loving but senile uncle is played by Creed Bratton, who proves here that he’s capable of doing a lot more than just parodying himself on The Office.  When I went to this movie, two old women sitting behind me went, “Awwww!” at a scene where Wysocki spontaneously hugs Reilly.  The film earns the sentiment.

Most of these films are available via OnDemand or are currently available on DVD.  Horrible Bosses and Terri are scheduled to be released in October while Beginners will come out in November.