Sunday, January 23, 2011

Worth the Commitment

No Strings Attached
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Cary Elwes, Kevin Kline
Director: Ivan Reitman

Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) are long-time friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning. In order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly "no strings attached." "No strings" means no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting, no flowers, no baby voices. It means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever public place they want, as long as they don't fall in love. The question becomes - who's going to fall first? And can their friendship survive?

No Strings Attached is another in a long line of romantic comedies that are all pretty much interchangeable, and if you don't know that the two leads will be together by the end of the movie then you haven't seen many movies. So what's the point in seeing this movie if you know how it's going to end even before you buy a ticket? One little twist on the genre that sets this film apart is that Portman's character is the one who wants to keep things strictly on a friends with benefits basis while Kutcher's character is the sensitive, relationship-oriented one. It's usually the guy in these movies that can't commit so it was nice to see this little flip-flop. Another reason to see No Strings Attached is simply for Kutcher and Portman. They have some great screen chemistry and you can really believe in the characters and you actually root for them to get together in the end (even when you already know they will). Portman shows that she can handle light comedy after her dramatic turn in Black Swan, and she really sells Emma's change from her commitment phobia to really loving Adam. Kutcher is basically playing the same character he always plays, but he still gives Adam a lot more charm because the character does have a heart and isn't just the overgrown college frat dude he is when we first meet him.

Beyond the two leads, the filmmakers have done what is probably one of the best jobs ever of casting the supporting characters, from Greta Gerwig as Emma's friend Patrice to Jake Johnson as Adam's friend Eli and all of the other peripheral characters in their lives. Each and every one of these actors is committed to their characters and they really bring them to life. These are people that you would actually want to spend time with, and when it comes to supporting characters that is not always something you can say. Kudos to the casting directors and the actors for doing such a great job.

The film is directed by veteran comedy director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop) and he manages to stay true to his style while bringing it up to date with the addition of more R-rated language, partial nudity (mostly Kutcher) and a lot of sex. In one real modern spin, Adam's friend Eli proudly tells anyone who will listen that he has two dads and that they're great people (he also quickly adds that he's totally heterosexual) and no one reacts negatively. In our current landscape, it was nice to have this moment however brief it was … and then Reitman goes and ruins it all by finally showing the dads during the film's end credits as two stereotypically, over-the-top flaming queens (think two Zaza's from La Cage Aux Folles). I know this is a comedy and this gets a huge laugh from most audiences, unfortunately this just reinforces the belief that all gay men are basically one step away from a drag queen. It was a very disappointing moment in an otherwise good film. That being said, No Strings Attached is a funny, charming romantic comedy worth seeing mainly for the stars and the supporting cast.

Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Miss America 2011

So the 2011 Miss America Pageant was held on January 15th, and I just had to make a few observations.

Seriously, girl, it's called a comb!

Graphics guy: "There's an L in Ashleigh? Well, no one will notice, right?"

Miss Arizona looks different on tape (left) than she does live (right).

And then someone let this demon spring forth from Hell.

Really, it's called a COMB!

Umm, is anyone actually directing this show?

What the?!?!

This is just nightmare inducing.

Not really sure what look Miss Arkansas was going for here.

And then they cut to a revival meeting. Hallelujah!