Friday, 15 August 2008

The Jennifer Lopez Spin-Off Showcase

It was revealed yesterday that ABC is working with Jennifer Lopez to create a TV adaption of her mediocre film Maid in Manhattan. This is one pitch you can’t help but wish had been killed in its early stages as a result of the writers strike this year. But it did give rise to an interesting question: what could possibly be a worse J-Lo film to adapt for TV:

The Wedding Planner – This movie had Jennifer Lopez as a wedding planner (the title isn’t exactly misleading) who “breaks the most important rule of all: she falls in love with the groom”. Let’s take this to the next level. Re-establish the premise as a reality show where Jennifer Lopez plans a wedding for a random lucky couple (read: desperate fame seeking morons whose marriage will likely last as long as their 15 minutes of fame) all the while secretly trying to steal the groom for herself. Jennifer Lopez is perfect at the actual planning of a wedding since at this point she has said “’til death do us part” at least as many times as Pete Doherty has stated he’s clean. The finale should feature the wedding and Lopez making a grand attempt to ruin it, steal the sap from his unsuspecting bride and score ratings success win her man and find true love. And of course, edit the show so that Lopez looks heartfelt and endearing throughout, not like the fickle, heartless whore that she is.

Anaconda – In this film Jennifer played a director (laughable in itself) caught up in an attempt to catch an anaconda. As a TV show, J-Lo and her crew travel around the world, finding rare and dangerous animals, especially anacondas, and wind up in a variety of perilous situations. An anaconda on a plane, for example, that’s not been done at all. Shoot it like a documentary, handheld camera, Cloverfield style. This way you stand a chance of hiding the dodgy CGI snake and also if the camera is shaky enough then it might disorient people so much they are so busy vomiting they are unable to change the channel. Instant ratings smash.

Gigli – Simple one this: find some contractual obligation that requires Ben Affleck to return and play out the movie on a weekly basis: the same flimsy plot, same awful dialogue and the same terrible acting. But with Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck having to perform love scenes together now as exes the awful onscreen chemistry would create a new apex of cringe comedy. It could even surpass the level of awkward Showgirls managed to create by having Jesse from Saved by the Bell flop around like a dying seal while having sex in a pool. People would tune in just to see how big a train wreck it turned out to be. Plus it could do us all some favours in the long-term, the film did. It destroyed Jennifer Lopez’ career, sent Ben Affleck into hiding and toward better prospects and added the term “it’s turkey time, gobble gobble to the lexicon of things to never, ever say when attempting to seduce someone.

The Cell – The film is about a child psychiatrist played by Lopez who has developed a technique that allows her to travel through the minds of her patients and uses it to go into the mind of a serial killer. The show could be a decent twist on the standard procedural. Each week simply unveil a new mystery and have Lopez enter the mind of a killer to find clues so that she can solve it. Each mind could be vastly different and the concept leaves huge room for creativity, to create amazing, imaginative sets and worlds ruled by clever conceits such as a mind ruled by OCD or an adult with the mind of a child. It could create some interesting drama and raise intelligent questions. What makes a man kill? What happens when you begin to understand the motive for murder or even begin to empathise with a murderer?

Okay, so the last one could actually work. But the overall point is clear: Jennifer Lopez makes bad, trashy movies; we really don’t need her to start making bad, trashy TV too. We have The CW for that.


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Simpler Times: from 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' to 'Charlie and Lola'

For god’s sake man! You’re dealing with people’s childhoods here! In celebration of the 40th anniversary of a truly great piece of literature, Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I would like to place any blame about the state of modern society on the current-day equivalents, as well as give the caterpillar some well-earned birthday cake. Our offering to future generations is now Charlie and Lola, who are cute up to a certain point (the first page).
The incessant growth of the Charlie and Lola collection is driven purely by parent's inexplicable attraction to hilariously ungrammatical titles such as ‘I’m Really Ever So Not Well’ or ‘I Completely Know About Guinea Pigs.’ That and a shameless television show based on these hilarious adventures. It seems kind of ironic that the humour and appeal of the cute picture books is lost on the target audience, who, in their impressionable state, are presented with bad grammar and giggling parents who probably indulge in it. Perhaps then credit is due to the author (yes, the title of authorship is definitely earned, because these books are supposed to take a lot of thought,) Lauren Child, for not continuing these bad examples inside the covers.
The Charlie and Lola books aren’t the end of humanity as we know it **cough** Angelina Ballerina **cough**, but their biggest crime is a simple lack of imagination. If you ever wanted to pick one up, as I did out of curiosity, this step-by-step should be a spoiler: Charlie usually wants to do something (the boy seems to have an anachronically active social life for someone his young age) and Lola, ever the contrarian, needs/wants to do something else. Charlie, with his infinite brotherly patience and wisdom, ends up spending his time with Lola, and all without any amount of resentment for the lessons he has to give to his little sister in the place of absent parents. A metaphor for the child-parent dynamic when actually reading a Charlie and Lola book, of course.

Eric Carle and his mastery of this fiction should make Lola just not very keen on not spiders, especially not the ‘Very Busy’ ones. The protagonists of Carle’s books are remnants of a Disney untainted by adult in-jokes and innocently touching on the child’s fascination with the unknown world. Always accompanied by beautiful illustrations, Carle’s characters play on the colourful imaginations of their audience and subtly teach them simple lessons. The Very Busy Spider, The Bad-Tempered Ladybird, The Mixed-Up Chameleon and The Very Quiet Cricket each hold their own moral problems and resolutions. This is all without the questions being blatantly asked by an annoying little girl whose condition many of us wished had worsened after she exclaimed I’m Really Ever So Not Well.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the perfect example of how modern children’s picturebooks lack the simplicity of a past time. He was just hungry.


Friday, 8 August 2008

Morgan Freeman is a HACK

I couldn’t be more bored of Morgan Freeman if I tried. The man has made a career off the back of one magnificent film in the mid 1990s, but what has he done since? Every appearance, whether it’s in a genuinely brilliant film like Million Dollar Baby, or utter dross like Evan Almighty, is exactly the same - wise, authoritative of voice, knowing, patriarchal. It doesn’t matter if the script calls for a different interpretation of the part, because he’ll deliver it in exactly the same manner every single time. It's patently obvious that he's a competent actor, it's just his refusal to deviate from the mind-numbingly safe performance he always delivers that I find irksome. This isn't a problem for actors like Sean Connery and Michael Caine who have that inherent charisma and congeniality that the post-Shawshank Freeman just doesn’t possess. Don’t agree with me? Think, for a moment, of the finest performances in Freeman’s best films since The Shawshank Redemption was released in 1994 - Million Dollar Baby (Hilary Swank), Gone Baby Gone (Casey Affleck), Se7en (Kevin Spacey), Batman Begins (Christian Bale), The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger) – not one of them is by Freeman. These films are great films in spite of Freeman, not because of him. Furthermore he has obviously has no barometer for the quality of the projects he takes on (by this I mean he’ll do anything if the money is right). For every Batman Begins there’s a Wanted, and for every Million Dollar Baby there’s a Sum of all Fears.

There are numerous other actors that could play the same roles he does, and deliver far more nuanced, interesting performances. So next time you exit the cinema and some slack-jawed moron turns to you and exclaims, “Morgan Freeman is such a legend,” please query it, because he clearly is not. He's a man who not only chooses to rest on his laurels, he’s set up camp there, fallen asleep and refuses to waken.