Watch This: Trailer for This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You boasts an incredible cast. It looks hilarious. It’s based on a novel by Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. It’s scheduled for a September release.

Look at this cast: Rose Byrne, Abigail Spencer, Adam Driver, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Dax Shepard, Corey Stoll, Ben Schwartz, Aaron Lazar, and Debra Monk.

Really, Tina Fey alone would have been enough for me, but all those fabulous actors – oh, my, yes.

This is Where I Leave You
This is Where I Leave You

Here’s how Warner Bros. describes the film.

When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide-driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.

Take a look.

It sure looks good to me. What do you think?

Glee Goes Elder

Last week on Glee it was Shirley Maclaine singing along with Darren Criss. They sounded terrific together.

Shirley Maclaine and Darren Criss
Shirley Maclaine and Darren Criss

They sang of “Piece of My Heart.”

This week June Squibb was there, singing and dancing with Chris Colfer. The woman can belt! Not only was June Squibb there, but Tim Conway and Billy Dee Williams were also in the cast.

Image from Chris Colfer's Instagram account
Image from Chris Colfer’s Instagram account: http://instagram.com/p/nqyX5xtdYn/#

I cannot find a video of last night’s show, but you can give a listen to June and Chris singing “Memories.”

 

There are a lot more images Chris Colfer’s Instagram account, where he commented that Tim Conway was so funny it made him mess up hundreds of takes.

I don’t know how you feel when you see legendary elders like Shirley Maclaine and June Squibb singing along with the young folks on Glee, but it thrills me in many ways. They’re old, but they ain’t dead! The elders still have it, whatever it is. Age does not hold them back from being fabulous. It’s brilliant of Glee to honor the musical theater stars of yesterday and the traditions from which a show like Glee springs.

A hallmark of Glee‘s success is it’s ability to be inclusive. Gay, staight, trans, differently abled, young, and old – we all celebrate the joy of music and performance and everyone can be part of it. Thank you for going elder, Glee!

3 Reasons Hot in Cleveland is Fabulous

Hot in Cleveland is in its 5th season on TVLand. I don’t enjoy sitcoms as much as dramas, but this one is pure delight. What makes this sitcom stand out in the crowded landscape of 30 minute comedy shows? Here are 3 good reasons.

1. The cast projects pure fun

The central cast of Hot in Cleveland
The central cast of Hot in Cleveland, Wendy Malick, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Betty White.

The women who form the central cast of Hot in Cleveland are having such a romp with this show. Their enjoyment of the silly antics they are up to is infectious. It’s goofy and they know it, but they appear so delighted to be where they are, doing what they are doing that it spills out of the TV and into your living room.

Georgia Engel is around as a regular and she steals scenes with precision – and the cast loves it when she does.

2. Betty White

Betty White!

This show has Betty White.

Betty White
Betty White

There are benefits to having Betty White on your show. She’s funny. She can deliver a line like no one else. She brings all of TV history to the show with her and she’s not afraid to use it – which leads to reason number 3.

3. Fantastic guest stars

This show has Betty White. Everyone who has ever worked in TV is willing to be on a show with Betty White. On one episode you might see the entire cast from The Mary Tyler Show. Carl Reiner or Susan Lucci or Cedric the Entertainer or Pat Harrington, Jr. or Joan Rivers might show up at any moment, deliver a line or two and disappear.

When someone like Pat Harrington, Jr., who was on One Day at a Time with Valerie Bertanelli, shows up, there’s always some hilarious double take as the two look each other over.

If Carol Burnett guests, Tim Conway might come shuffling into the scene with that hilarious walk he did for years on The Carol Burnett Show. Tim Conway is willing to come to Hot in Cleveland, shuffle across the stage, say one silly thing to Carol Burnett, and be done. Name one other show that can entice actors to do something like that! You never know who will enter a scene on this show to get a well-deserved laugh.

Have some fun. Watch Hot in Cleveland.

Images from Hot in Cleveland © 2011 Viacom International Inc.

Your Reactions to Downton Abbey?

There was some football game or other on TV yesterday. Must have been big because the streets were void of traffic. It didn’t affect PBS, however. You could watch last week’s Downton Abbey and this week’s Downton Abbey in one session. How could television get better than that?

So what do you think about what’s happening on Downton Abbey this season? Will Anna and Mr. Bates make it through their crisis? Will the very conservative Mr. Carson and the equally conservative Earl of Grantham transition into the modern age with grace or by fighting all the way? What’s going on with Lady Sybil – what if she’s pregnant? Will Thomas Barrow’s evil machinations ever be caught out?

And how about Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton? Don’t those two have the most delicious parts and lines and arguments?

Review: August: Osage County

There are many films that can make you feel as if you’ve been assaulted by life, by pain, by damage and abuse, by hurt. August: Osage County is one of these. It peers into the way abuse and pain carries down, almost intact, from one generation to the next. In this particular story, the damage is inflicted by the women.

The drive to the funeral in August: Osage County
The drive to the funeral in August: Osage County

The story begins with a father’s death. Sam Shepard as the Oklahoma poet Beverly Weston dies. The family gathers. Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston, the not-exactly-grieving widow and mother to Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, and Juliette Lewis.

Violet Weston has cancer of the mouth, both physically and metaphorically. She’s addicted to about 11 different prescription drugs, which she pops with malicious intensity. The drugs do not have pleasant effect on her behavior.

Julianne Nicholson as Ivy is the daughter who stayed in Oklahoma, near her parents. Julianne Nicholson’s performance in this part is quiet and nuanced and complete perfection, especially when contrasted with the overblown emotionalism of some of the other characters. Okay, not some of the other characters; Meryl Streep’s character. She seemed too big somehow, too much.

I’m sure Meryl Streep intended her to be too big and too much. The woman doesn’t make mistakes. Violet Weston was too big and too much on purpose, I’m guessing.

Eating on the porch
Eating on the porch

Julia Roberts drives in with her husband, played by Ewan McGregor, a buttoned down kind of man, and her 14 year old daughter, played by Abigail Breslin. Her marriage is breaking up. Julia Roberts is simply wonderful in this part. She’s the eldest daughter – strong and bitter and angry. She’s the wronged wife with a cheating husband. She’s the protective mother whose 14 year old daughter attracts the attentions of her sister’s smarmy fiancé, played by Dermot Mulroney. She’s a wounded lioness, just like her mother, with sharp teeth and powerful claws.

Juliette Lewis has her own coping mechanisms for dealing with her family. Get as far away as possible, pin all sorts of unrealistic hopes and wishful thinking on a man, and pretend the realities of her upbringing never happened.

Add to this menagerie of family Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae, played expertly by Margo Martindale. She’s married to Chris Cooper. Like Violet’s husband, Mattie Fae’s husband is a kind and tender man. How did these two sisters manage to find such good men to marry? They have a mother-whipped cowering mess of a son played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Bring all these characters together for a funeral, make them stay together for several days, and all hell breaks loose.

I want to give a particular mention to Misty Upham, who plays a Native American woman hired by Beverly to cook and clean just before he goes missing. (Perhaps you remember her from Frozen River, where she had a bigger part.) Misty Upham needs to be pulled out of the Native American niche and put into other roles. She’s terrific and should be given parts that aren’t so bound by ethnicity. Hey, Jinji Kohan, how about giving her a part in Orange is the New Black where actresses are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their characters?

This story is brilliant in its specificity. It’s filled with outstanding performances. Any awards that go to August: Osage County are deserved. Like a lot of movies that deal with harsh reality, it’s hard to watch at times, even though it has moments of redemption and beauty.

I recommend August: Osage County wholeheartedly. It’s not the kind of movie you want to watch more than once, but it is the kind of movie that should be watched.

Watch This: Trailer for August: Osage County

August: Osage County opens in wide distribution today. Are you going to be there? I can’t wait!

BBC Announces a 3rd Series of Last Tango in Halifax

On Christmas Eve, the BBC announced that a series 3 of Last Tango in Halifax is a go. The announcement quotes writer Sally Wainwright.

Writer and executive producer Sally Wainwright says: “I’m so happy we’ve got a third series, it’s so exciting to be able to take these characters further and to find out loads more stuff about them. What’s so great about writing for characters like Celia and Alan is that there is a wealth of back story to explore. Series three will be a whole new emotional ball game.”

The characters Sally Wainwright created in Last Tango in Halifax are hugely popular in America as well.

The third series of the drama goes into production in 2014, and will be broadcast later in 2014.

Awards for the series include 2 British Academy Television Awards (Best Drama Series and Best Writer). BAFTA nominations included Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire in the Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. It’s received 3 Royal Television Society North West Awards. It’s been shortlisted for Best Drama Series at the Broadcast Awards 2014.

Review: The Hot Flashes

The Hot Flashes was directed by Susan Seidelman and stars a slew of women, chief among them Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen, Camryn Manheim and Wanda Sykes. That attracted me before I even had a clue what the film was about.

part of the hot flashes poster
Part of The Hot Flashes poster

It turns out The Hot Flashes is about the efforts of a group of Texas women who were once state high school champions in basketball to raise money to save a traveling mammogram truck. This was before Texas decided to close nearly all the clinics in the state where a woman could get a mammogram because they also offer birth control services. The mobile mammogram service was desperately needed even then.

The former champs are now a varied assortment of housewives, car salesmen, aspiring mayors, drug mavens, and oft married grocery store clerks. They’re old, out of shape, and have resentments remaining from years ago when they played together in high school.

Somehow Beth, the Brooke Shields character, manages to wrangle them into playing 3 games against the current high school women’s basketball team – which includes her daughter (played by Charlotte Graham) in an effort to raise $25,000 to save the traveling truck.

Mark Povinelli, a little person, is convinced to become the coach. The woman who works in the mammogram truck becomes the team manager. Eric Roberts is Brooke Shields husband – who is not a bit supportive of what she’s trying to do, by the way.

I’d give the film 3 out of 5 stars, meaning I liked it even if it isn’t Oscar material for best picture. It was fun to watch. It was inspiring. For a tale about overcoming all odds, it’s original and worthy of your time.

The Hot Flashes is available on DVD and from Netflix and Amazon. It was released in 2013.

Elders React to The Hunger Games

I went to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the first weekend it was out, unlike the elders they interviewed for this film. I was not the only person in the theater with gray hair, either.

It was very exciting, dramatic and suspenseful – as you would expect from a film like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Yes, there is gratuitous killing in the story. The deeper story is about revolution and change, about oppression and exploitation, about freedom and fairness. Katniss represents the power to energize people to make the world a better place. She symbolizes leadership and love and justice. She does it all while being female. It’s extraordinary. It’s important.

Season 2 of Last Tango in Halifax begins on BBC One

If you are in the U.K., you can see Last Tango in Halifax season 2 now. Here’s the trailer for season 2.

For those of us in the U.S., here are some nice resources for interviews, image galleries and other goodies related to season 2. It will have to be enough to get us through the waiting. Crossing my fingers that PBS brings Last Tango in Halifax to our side of the Atlantic very soon.