Sometimes movies slip through the cracks and, for better or worse, I catch up with them. Here's a handful, from the shirtless to the offensive to the gloriously ecstatic.
Mud, directed by Jeff Nichols
Ordinarily, two boys who happen upon Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in the same movie have probably gone to heaven — but in Nichols's latest, their starriness is just off. He's missing some of his front teeth, and one of her eyes is black. The situation is trouble. The movie is set in rural Arkansas on and near the Mississippi River, and tells of the hard times that have befallen the titular gentleman, a handsome, drawling drifter played by McConaughey. When we meet him, Mud has been sleeping in a boat that's stuck in a tree. Two teenage friends discover him and find themselves enlisted in abetting his attempt to stay hidden from the family of criminals seeking revenge for the man he killed. The boys also enable his reunion with Juniper, the woman in whose name he did the killing. She's played by Witherspoon as the sort of fallen angel who mopes through a Piggly Wiggly parking lot in a pair of short-shorts and espadrilles.
As in — the cast of The Avengers was just announced as presenters at this year's Oscars (Sunday! February 24! On ABC!) Why? Well, in the spirit of the continued MTV Movie Awards-ification of the Academy Awards, why not have the dudes from the third biggest movie of all time show up at your party? Also, Seth MacFarlane is hosting, which, roughly speaking, means the only way the Oscars could get under the impressively diminutive "low-brow mass-market appeal" bar they've set for themselves this year would be to open the show with Spuds MacKenzie simultaneously high-fiving Andrew Dice Clay and Vince ShamWow while, below them, the nerd from the Bar Refaeli Super Bowl ad sits on all fours sloppily munching down an XL plate of day-old nachos from Detroit Metro Airport's Chili's Express.
Prince Harry Is Out of Control: En route to Las Vegas the ginger prince "had two things in his sights: vodka and women." And I'm all out of bubble gum. "The trip was like The Hangover, only without the monkey." That's The Hangover II; The Hangover had a tiger. "He was naked for a long time at the party. He kept spilling his drinks and dancing. He didn't seem to care what he did." But after photos leaked online, the British monarchy expressed their extreme disapproval. "Harry was pressured to delete his secret Facebook account, on which 'Spike Wells' could post ginger jokes on himself and interact with pals." Spike Wells LOLs. The party binge started on Necker Island for Richard Branson's son Sam's 27th birthday. "The plan was just to sunbathe, swim and get drunk. With the booze flowing, Harry lived up to his wild kid-brother rep, doling out kisses and sloppy hugs." A friend says, "Harry's a funny drunk, but he always seems a bit vulnerable." Perhaps he's been thinking about his mother Princess Diana, as it comes up on her death's 15th anniversary. "Dirty Harry" has had a trail of scandals, including brawls with photographers, reports of using racist epithets, and his famous 2005 Nazi Halloween costume. Harry may have been trying to "force the queen's hand all along" with his recent nude billiards antics. "Harry has been making a case for a redeployment to Afghanistan, which he worried the palace would deem too dangerous. He's definitely going now. The royal family will want to redeem his image. This sort of move is very clever. Clever like a ginger fox."
Brad and Angelina Are Engaged: "Pitt skipped the tradition of getting down on one knee and merely presented the ring as a token of his unwavering love." Jolie debuted "the tablet-shaped diamond" a few days later at a "private viewing of Chinese antiquities" at LACMA. Jolie's dad, Jon Voight, says he is "very happy for them!" The pressure came courtesy of the kids. "Maddox wanted them to have a wedding. He was the most vocal in pushing for it." Brad was also vocal. "Brad pleaded and said that everything else in the kids' lives in not normal. They travel constantly, they are always in different houses and different schools. They needed to give the kids one thing in their life that is normal, and they are asking for this. He said they should do it for them." This was hardly Pitt's first attempt to propose. "He asked her to marry him when she was pregnant with Shiloh. And she said no." BURN. Angie knew Brad would stick around anyway. "I don't think she has ever worried about her ability to keep a man, but what she has with Brad is very strong. They can still be hot and heavy. There is a great attraction. And Pitt has what it takes intellectually and emotionally to keep Jolie interested for the long haul. Angie is deep and thoughtful and undeniably sure of herself. I don't think any man but Brad could really make it work." While their ceremonies to previous spouses involved theatrics like "a gospel choir and fireworks show" (Pitt/Aniston) and "a wardrobe of black rubber pants and a white shirt with his name written in her blood" (Jolie/Miller), this will be a much more low-key event at their French estate. "Angie's even learning how to cook!" Maybe she'll cook coq au vin with Brad's blood!
Ron Howard and producer Akiva Goldsman are teaming up on a Doc Holliday Western for HBO. Based on Mary Doria Russell's recent novel Doc, the series will be directed by Howard and co-produced by his father, actor Rance Howard. The project will move the dentist/gunfighter out of his traditional sidekick role and make him a protagonist, and will focus on a love triangle involving his prostitute wife Kate Elder and his pal Wyatt Earp. Until someone greenlights my pilot Killer Dentist Clown Monsters From Outer Space, this is going to be the best show involving dental care on T.V. Grade: A- [Deadline]
Marvel Studios is riding a nice groove heading into The Avengers, its big, ambitious, years-in-the-making, star-packed, crossover superhero flick. Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man was already a proven entity, and this summer saw the critical and box-office success for Chris Evans’ Captain America ($362 million worldwide) and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor ($448 million); all three figure prominently in the new, much-hyped trailer. Also present, though less accounted for: Iron Man 2's Scarlett Johansson, back in the Black Widow outfit; Jeremy Renner, who debuted as the archer Hawkeye in a three-second cameo in Thor; and Eric BanaEdward Norton Mark Ruffalo as Hulk. Most heartwarming of all: finally, Samuel L. Jackson, as S.H.I.E.L.D. team leader Nick Fury, gets to do more than pop up briefly in secret post-credits Easter-egg scenes. See, he’s bringing the crew together to fight an evil no one of them can handle alone, only they’re superheroes who are used to starring in their own movies, so of course they don’t trust each other. While Thor’s disgraced Norse god Loki is wreaking havoc, lots of snappy banter ensues. Cap America to Tony Stark: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that away, and what are you?” Tony Stark: “Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.” Thor: [hearty Viking laugh]. Anyway, this looks awesome.
Mindy Kaling's great "Flick Chicks" piece in this week's New Yorker (an excerpt from her forthcoming book) attacked common female-character cliches in romantic comedies (Sassy Best Friend, Love-Starved Type A, Sexy Klutz, etc.) But what of the menfolk and their tropes? Every romantic comedy needs a dude willing to do what women do in most movies: Stand around and wait for the main character to take some action and make all the crucial decisions that will ultimately determine their fate.
Like a femme High Fidelity, What's Your Number? takes the traditional romantic comedy suitor and multiplies him by thirteen. The whole movie seems like it might just be a ruse to find the next big male romantic-comedy lead. We divvied up the What's Your Number? harem of actors and assessed their chances at romantic comedy guydom. Since we can't cast Ryan Gosling in everything all the time, there will have to be some alternates.