Archive | May, 2010

Guilt Makes Her Give Back

30 May

In the movie Please Give, Catherine Keener stars as Kate, the owner of an antique furniture store in New York. Like a lawyer who hangs around a hospital hoping to score new clients, Kate and her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt), pounce when there’s a death, buying up the deceased’s furniture for cheap and selling it in the store for a significant profit. It’s not that easy, though. Kate is wracked with guilt about what she does, and she tries to balance out her lifestyle by giving money to homeless people and volunteering — a fruitless pursuit because it’s motivated more by pity than by compassion. And that’s not lost on Kate’s daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele), who is dealing with body image issues and could use some compassion from her mother.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (the excellent Friends with Money), Please Give is less story and more character study. The biggest plot point is that Kate and Alex are waiting for their elderly neighbor to die so they can buy her apartment and expand theirs. However, despite the morbid-sounding details mentioned here, the screenplay has more laughs than you might think — there’s a particularly funny scene involving Abby wearing underwear on her head to cover over a zit. Also, the acting is generally very good. Keener (a regular in Holofcener’s films) is especially great, and so is Steele. (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall round out the cast.) Please Give may not be a must-see on the big screen, but it’ll make a good rental. I’m giving it a B.

Faith Rewarded

21 May

At the start of every new TV season, viewers like me have important questions to answer.

For example, which new shows will be good enough to invest our time, energy, emotion, and precious DVR space in?

Which will be worth watching after a good (or bad) pilot, and sticking with for the (hopefully many) years to come?

In some cases, it’s a difficult choice between two shows on at the same time.

In other cases, there’s not really a choice to make.

The latter was the case with Lost in the fall of 2004. Continue reading

Summer Is Back

6 May

Iron Man 2 begins with a bang.

Or, perhaps more appropriately, with a zip, zoom, swish, and a bang — not to mention a rockin’ song by AC/DC playing over the action.

Those are the sounds we hear as our hero flies through the air amidst fireworks and then lands to wild applause. “Oh, it’s good to be back,” exclaims Tony Stark, after shedding his Iron Man costume.

The expression could go many ways.

In my world, it applies not just to Stark, but also to Robert Downey Jr., the Iron Man series, and summer movies in general. Yes, IM2 kicks off the summer season in high style; this movie is a great big ball of fun. Continue reading

Two Cute

4 May

Two years ago today I became an uncle, and it still qualifies as one of the happiest days of my life.

I say one of and not the happiest because since that day, as I have watched her grow up, Abby has brought me many other days of happiness.

There was the day I first saw her smile, the day she fell asleep on my chest, the days she came to visit me for the first time in Boston, the day I first saw her walking, the day I heard her say my name for the first time, and many others.

I’m sure being a parent has similar, if not greater, joys, but until then, I can’t think of anything in my life that I enjoy more than being than Abby’s uncle. Continue reading

Everybody Loves Kristin

3 May

Kristin Chenoweth — the original Glinda in Wicked, the boozy April Rhodes on Glee, the Tony-winning star of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and an Emmy winner for her role on Pushing Daisies — is one of those actresses who everybody knows and everybody loves. So when I got the chance to interview her recently for Continental magazine, it was definitely a thrill. Chenoweth was just as sweet and nice and fun and bubbly as I’d expected her to be, and she gave me “good quote,” which I used in the article I wrote about her, which is now live.

I interviewed Chenoweth because she’s back on Broadway in the first-ever revival of Promises, Promises. If you’ve never heard of this musical, it’s based on the Oscar-winning film The Apartment, which starred Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Chenoweth stars as Fran Kubelik (the MacLaine role), who is having an affair with an executive who will never commit to her. Sean Hayes, from Will & Grace, makes his Broadway debut as Chuck Baxter (the Lemmon role), a coworker of Kubelik’s who has a crush on her. Baxter rises up the corporate ladder because he’s gotten in with some horny executives, to whom he rents out his apartment each week so they can (individually) hook up with their mistresses. (Martin Lieberman fun fact: In high school, I was in a production of Promises, Promises, and I played one of those executives, a guy named Eichelberger.) Mix in a book by comedy God Neil Simon, great music from Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and an early 1960s Mad Men-esque setting, and you’ve got a fun, poignant, timeless and yet totally current musical.

As I learned during our chat, Chenoweth and I were both in productions of Promises, Promises when we were younger. “I was Fran, and I had a very limited understanding of what this girl was going through,” she told me. “Now, I know.” Regarding Fran, Chenoweth continued, “this is a woman who has spent a lot of time with the wrong man hoping it’s going to be different. And I don’t care who you are, I know just about every woman in my life has a story like that. It doesn’t even matter how old you are. You can be 19 or you can be 40. That’s something that stands the test of time.”

Of course, I also asked Chenoweth why she thought Wicked has touched such a chord in so many people. “There is in every one of us a little bit of Elphaba and a little bit of Glinda,” she explained. “Elphaba, who is green and is immediately outcast because of that, actually has quite a tough little exterior but is not so tough on the inside. Glinda is pretty on the outside, but what drives her? Insecurity. And then she grows into heartbreak. The show is about love and forgiveness and friendship, and those are the reasons why it has become a classic. Nothing makes me prouder than to have been a part of something like that.”

So that’s just a taste of what we discussed. If you’d like to read the whole article, go right ahead and click here. Enjoy!