Some Early Thoughts on Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

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Thanksgiving has passed, which means we’re officially in Christmas territory. Don’t hold it against me, but I’ve already dipped my toes into some Christmas movies, though in my defense, not many. We’re talking one or two from Hallmark (which I won’t name here — they weren’t worth seeing, even if one was a new premiere this year). And, I did go ahead and check out the screener for Lifetime’s upcoming movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, which premieres tomorrow night at 8/7c.

You may remember Grumpy Cat from her (yes, her) internet fame. If not, just take a look at this rather straightforward Google image search. Well, this very “famous” cat has moved from meme to merchandise to movie.

In the movie, Grumpy Cat (voiced by Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Rec fame) lives in a pet store, sarcastic and bitter from having one too many families return her. Or just because she wants to be sarcastic and bitter. It’s your guess as to which is the right reason. But Grumpy is surprised to find a friend a young girl named Chrystal, who can suddenly hear Grumpy speak. Together, they must stop some big bads from stealing a very important object in the mall: a million-dollar dog.

Naturally, this description would make you believe this is a kid’s movie, right? Well, it is — kind-of. Sure, the heroine is a young girl and there are talking animals. In addition, there’s some rather Home Alone slapstickish antics. That being said, it all takes place in a mall, and they knowingly call their mall Santa “Rodney,” so if you’re like to have your kids watch the movie, you better set them straight about why this particular mall might not have a real Santa. (Sure, you may discover that there’s some magic in the air, but I’d imagine there might be some level of complication there.)

So let’s put aside the idea that this could be considered a kids movie. How about the adults? Well, in its defense, it does make fun of itself. You know how I mentioned that Grumpy has progressed from meme to merchandise to movie? That’s literally a joke in the movie itself. Not only that, but it introduces its own commercial breaks, and Aubrey Plaza even appears in the movie in a soundstage at one point. It’s very meta.

Unfortunately, what happens is that all of these quirks adds up to a rather disjointed movie, which is probably why even Aubrey Plaza said that this movie is best watched drunk.

In addition, this movie has its own definition of grumpy. Sadly, Plaza fails to come across as grumpy — just sarcastic. In fact, the same tone of voice she uses comedically in Parks and Rec when she’s trying to be over the top is the voice used throughout the entire movie. I’ve seen enough Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street and even dwarves in Snow White to understand what it means to be grumpy; sarcastic is not the same. And in the end, it comes across more as annoying narrative than anything else.

Overall, I can’t specify who this movie is supposed to be for or who would necessarily enjoy it. If you can get over the “mall Santa” thing, perhaps it’s a nice family film. But even then, I think you’ll discover that the way it’s spliced together will be too distracting and quite frankly puzzling to enjoy.

My recommendation? Pass on this movie and look for the next Christmas family film. I’m sure ABC Family is counting down to one even as we speak.

Disclaimer: As a side note, I did receive a rather entertaining Grumpy Cat calendar to go along with the screener. My 1.5 year old son truly enjoys it. Given his love of cats, he’d probably highly recommend the movie. Take that as you need to.

*Photo by Joseph Viles/Lifetime

The 100: Reapercussions

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THE 100: 2.03 “Reapercussions” (Get it?)

Well, this episode was a doozy. I want to jump right in and say how happy I am that Dichen Lachman is back on the show. Since Anya was presumed dead at the end of last season, it was a shock to see her alive and caged in last week’s episode. And she’s certainly not lost any of her anger and determination this week.

My last review, which was about the season opener, was all about power. This week, though, it’s less about power and more about morality. From the get-go, we’ve always been rooting for The 100. We ultimately wanted them to survive, even if they were a rambunctious group of criminal teenagers.

In the start of the series, we certainly didn’t trust their moral code. After all, Bellamy was automatically against the Chancellor, telling everyone to take their bracelets off to fool them. And that was the least they did. A child slit Wells’ throat, and Murphy was strung up from a tree.

But over the season, they seem to have found a moral code. Suddenly, they’re who we’re basing everything off of. The Grounders wanted to kill them. Grounders are bad. The Reapers wanted to kill them worse. The Reapers are worse.

So where are we now? Suddenly, The 100 are faced with those that imprisoned them, the law-abiding citizens that launched them to the ground in the first place. Instead of floating, we now see Camp Jaha using electric whips on their law breakers — even if they’re in such high places as Abby. Sure, Kane clearly felt lousy after the fact (though, honestly, it makes no sense to put the person you just publicly tortured in the Chancellor seat), but nonetheless, harshness rules. Right and wrong fall along a pretty violent line.

Then we have Mt. Weather, who we just discovered is MUCH less than than moral. Not only are they draining Grounders of their blood to save their own skin (literally, it saves their radiation-mutilated skin), but they’re handing off the bodies to the Reapers, who, in turn, hand over fresh bodies to Mt. Weather. While, certainly, these folks have realized how to survive in a rather cruel world, it’s brutality at its worst.

So clearly, The 100 have the moral high ground here. They kill, but only in extreme circumstances: when hundreds of Grounders are coming to kill them, or in self-defense, like Octavia (who suddenly became badass in this episode, by the way). But is that all?

Let’s look at Finn, who has suddenly gone off the deep end in his search for Clarke. Sure, love is guiding his actions, but he killed a Grounder execution-style — a Grounder we know had nothing to do with Clarke’s disappearance. Where is the moral line now?

Oddly enough, it may be that the Grounders have the most defined lines of right and wrong. Now that we know the connection between Mt. Weather and the Reapers, it’s suddenly clear the abuse these Grounders have been dealing with. No wonder they’ve been so easy to defend themselves. Any strike against them is just another clean-faced human working against their people. They’re already in a war. The 100 just happened to come down in the middle of it, already looking like some of the enemy.

It’s a brutal, “trust no one” world. And with Clarke and Anya in a enemy/ally situation, it can only make the lines between good and evil that much more blurry — and interesting.

*Photos by the CW/Cate Cameron

Gotham: The Balloonman

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GOTHAM: 1.03 “The Balloonman”

The first moment a corrupt businessman flew up into the sky, JC turned to me and said, “What a DC Comics way to kill someone. They always come up with the most horrifying ways to do so.”

And really, it was. Not only was the idea of helplessly floating up into the sky to die absolutely horrifying (raise your hand if you had nightmares — or if you wanted to look up whether such a crime was feasibly possible from a physics standpoint), but on top of that, the body that gets splattered into the ground when it comes back down.

That being said, the episode could have used a little work in tracking the mastermind behind the weather balloon crime. While the method was unique, it was easily forgotten in the first half hour as we followed up with Bruce Wayne, Selina, Cobblepot, Fish, and Montoya. Perhaps the most glaring error in Gotham thus far is not realizing when a character needs to disappear (in a non-murder sense) so that something else can shine. While Fish might have her own story arc, it was so unrelated to the rest of the events that it really had no place in last night’s episode. That would have been better served later, in an episode that had a little more room to breathe.

The same goes for Bruce Wayne. While I did enjoy seeing him realize that vigilantes that kill are criminals and vigilantes that don’t may be welcome, we didn’t need to see multiple scenes with Alfred to get his development across. By minimizing some of these roles now, we can develop everything around them and give them a bigger space to play in later — and a bigger role in the process.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the episode. I think I could spend day after day watching Bullock and Gordon interact. While I know many of you are still adoring Donal Logue in the show (as am I), I’m still constantly impressed by Ben McKenzie, probably because in comparison, they’ve actually given Gordon depth of character. Don’t worry, I think Bullock will get there, he’s just not there yet — and that’s a writing flaw, not an acting one.

I don’t have much more to say about this week’s Gotham. It looks like Cobblepot is going to be an interesting one to watch in the future. My guess is that he’ll be some sort of informant for Gordon, now that he’s working for another mobster. And actually, I didn’t mind that storyline, despite my past complaints about him. So for now, I’ll just look forward to next week.

Gotham: The Pilot

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GOTHAM: 1.01 “The Pilot”

It’s premiere time! And believe it or not, I’ve actually found a show that I’m interested in and want to watch again. That show? FOX’s Gotham.

It’s actually no surprise that I was impressed with this pilot. The promos alone revealed great quality, and I’m a huge fan of Ben McKenzie (remember Southland? Impressed then, impressed now).

McKenzie shined again in this show, but he was supported by a great cast of characters, both familiar and new from the Batman mythology. While I hesitated, worried that I would only see Donal Logue as Sean Finnerty from Grounded for Life instead of Harvey Bullock (clearly, I’m behind on some of his more recent roles, but Grounded is so vastly different from Gotham that it made an impression), I was pleased to see that within minutes I was seeing a brand-new face and character.

I also quickly found myself drawn in my Fish and her gang of thugs, as well as the rest of the building story arc. I was skeptical that we’d really find out the Wayne killer in the first episode — in fact, if we did, I’d be disappointed. And I must say that the scene where the Waynes were slain was moving and effective, a truly tragic and attention-grabbing beginning for the series.

That being said, I do wonder where we go from here. Can we really continue to have Bruce and Alfred appear in every episode? We’ve introduced such future characters of Ivy, the Riddler, and Catwoman, but what do you do with them beyond that? When the series was first introduced, though, I wondered the same thing. How do you make something as iconic as Gotham work without just making it another procedural? Are we just waiting for villains to become villains? Are we just waiting for Bruce to become Batman?

I hope not. And honestly, with this beginning, I find myself more enthralled with the city itself than those side characters and future villains. Sure, I’m interested to see how Edward Nygma, in particular, turns from a helpful friend of the fuzz to a enigmatic Riddler, but that can take time. In fact, I must say that Gotham the city became its own character with its fully developed city scapes, buildings, and sets, and I want to see that develop around the show (and Gordon within it) more than anything else.

My main complaint? The Penguin. Not only was his iconic walk not established before the “penguin” nickname was referenced, but I would have much preferred a few episodes before he became a true villain. Slitting a throat for a sandwich at the end suddenly became out of character. We hadn’t yet seen him as a threat, merely a wannabe weasel, so I would’ve wanted to see that edge develop a little more slowly, seen him as a victim of his life of crime gone wrong, seen him react to the fact that he lost everything as he tried to climb the ranks to overthrow Fish.

Yes, a slower development of such a psychological mastermind would’ve had a better treatment. But honestly, there’s a lot more for the Penguin to do and many more episodes to go. Pilots always have some sort of weakness. And there was just too much good going for it for me to really get bogged down by one character.

After all, with the weight of Batman on its shoulders, I’m impressed its standing so tall already. Let’s hope it can handle the pressure.

In advance of Lifetime’s movie, I read Dustin Diamond’s ‘Behind the Bell’

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We’re less than a week away from Lifetime’s new movie, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. The movie delves into the lives behind the stars of the well-known series, “exposing the challenges of growing up under public scrutiny while trying to maintain the squeaky clean image of their popular characters both on and off-screen.”

Lifetime isn’t the first to reveal the story. Years ago, SBTB‘s own Dustin Diamond (aka “Screech”) reveals the “truth” behind the series in his book. From what I understand, the movie will not be based completely on Diamond’s book, but if you watch the first five minutes of the movie, you’ll soon discover that it is Diamond’s young doppelganger who is the narrator, so I’m sure a good bit will be pulled from it. In advance of the movie, I thought I’d dive into the book for a taste of what’s to come.

behind the bellA long while ago, I bought Diamond’s book for my Kindle for 99 cents. I’m not much of a memoir reader or one to delve into “true Hollywood stories.” But I was a fan of SBTB and I saw Diamond’s stand-up over a decade ago while he was on the college tour (he references his quick time on college campuses briefly near the end of his story), so I figured, What the hell? It’s only a dollar.

Let’s just say, I’m glad I didn’t spend any more than that. A hardcover for $23+ on Amazon? Are you kidding me? Not worth it. That being said, I read the entire thing on my iPhone in two days, so it’s an easy, quick read. So it’s got that going for it. (Update: I see the book is now no longer available new on Amazon. It’s also no longer available on Kindle, but you can get it on your Nook.)

The book promises to share the behind-the-scenes stories of SBTB, and from the bits and pieces that I read over the internet over the years, it hinted at sharing all the dirty details of his costars. While, yes, I suppose Diamond does “out” some ugly behavior — Mark Paul Gosselaar’s public urination and Tiffani Thiessan’s affairs with cast members — what was offered as a salacious tell-all was really a has-been actor’s bitter, self-centered, disgusting tale of…geez, I don’t even know what.

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Chelsea Kane Talks Lifetime’s New Movie, #PopFan

One of the benefits of summertime is that it gives me the opportunity to catch up on some guilty pleasures. While you all may know my guilty pleasure for bride shows, I do have another that takes up a good portion of my time, particularly on Saturday nights. And that’s TV movies.

Lifetime has a new one premiering on Sunday at 8/7c, a psychological thriller called #PopFan, where a young pop star is rescued by a kind fellow in rural Maine, only to discover that her hero might not be as valiant as he claims.

I was lucky to be part of a conference call with one of the stars of the movie, Chelsea Kane. Chelsea plays Ava, our troubled pop star, who escapes to Maine to clear her mind and reassess some life choices. You might recognize Chelsea from recent roles on One Tree Hill and Jonas L.A., and she currently plays Riley Perrin on the ABC Family series Baby Daddy.

In the call, Chelsea discussed what it was like to be part of a creepy thriller, her time with costar Nolan Funk, and even singing and dancing.

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On working on a psycho thriller. Chelsea had a blast working on the movie, but she admits that it was taxing: “Some of the scenes toward the end of the film…there is a lot of crying. At least for me, I really had to dig deep for some of that stuff. So at the end of certain workdays, I was just emotionally drained after sobbing for hours on end.” But Chelsea admits that it was good challenge for her, and commends the people around her. “Our director Vanessa [Parise] had so many great tricks and so many great methods for pulling a good performance out of me. And Nolan was amazing. He was so good in the movie and so good to me on set,” she said. “I usually am the happy-go-lucky comedy girl, so it was good to take on this role.”

On her character: Chelsea really wanted to make sure that her character was likable (despite some early scenes where Chelsea admits that she was a brat!). “I still wanted her to be a likable girl,” she said. “You want to find some way to root for her at some point. It was finding those moments where this girl has a heart, she’s just a little lost right now, as opposed to being a complete turnoff through the whole film.”

On preparing for the role. Chelsea had a great relationship with the director of the movie, which included, of all things, letter writing! “I wrote her several letters that had my deepest, darkest secrets in them or hard times that I’d had in my life so that she could see where to draw from when she needed me to be scared or hurt or sad…who I would kill for just to get out these different emotions,” she explained. “That was a part of preparation that I had never done before… To dig into the harder times in life and relive those and open up to Vanessa about them, that was definitely a challenge. It was a different way of getting the results. I’m glad I did it, but there were a couple days on set where she’d ask me a question about something personal and I’d fall apart.” Continue reading

I haven’t given up on ‘Falling Skies’…yet.

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At the end of last season of Falling Skies, I had no idea where it was headed. We had an odd season with two different groups of aliens, only to end with a war between aliens and the humans walking away to their inevitable deaths. Given that this is a TV series, “inevitable” could really mean anything, but ultimately, it was ominous.

Fast forward, and we have this season. At first, I was absolutely thrilled with the direction. Seeing the group torn apart by the electric fences was startling and dramatic. It really set a great tone for a new series. Then, we see that months in the future, everyone’s in separate groups. Ben, Lexi, and Mags are in one (peaceful) camp. Hal, Weaver, Tom, and Pope are in a ghetto camp. Anne and soldiers are on the road. And Matt’s by himself at what we discover to be an education camp for children.

Interesting, right? Until…things become nonsensical and you discover that everyone’s basically back to their old tricks. Ok, perhaps that’s too black and white. Let me get more specific.

I’m really frustrated. Separating everyone and having them work with people they don’t generally share scenes with really shakes up the cast for a new seasons. I liked the idea.  But the individual situations are falling flat for me.

We’ll start with Anne. Her story is the one most like what came before, out on the road fighting monsters while on their way somewhere. This story is fine (though who knows where it goes from here, now that they found Lexi’s camp). In fact, what I like about it is that Anthony (Mpho Koaho) is getting his moment to shine. But Anne is too one-dimensional in her pursuit to find Lexi. I find shows that lean on the “I must find my baby” — and do nothing else — as lacking dimension and power. Yes, she’s pushing her troops really hard. And that’s about it. It just needs something more.

Then there’s Matt. Matt’s development in the series has always been something that I’ve enjoyed watching. So seeing that he was stuck all alone on one side of the electric fence was really interesting. However, I would have really enjoyed seeing how he survived instead of jumping right into this education camp. And while I am mildly invested in seeing how he brings down the camp from the inside, his supporting characters are really bugging me. For one thing, when an entire room is sitting like statues staring ahead, seeing the girl beside Matt rolling her eyes and turning her head to look at him is obvious. It could just be done better.

That bring us to Lexi and her camp, which, sigh, is another I care little about. I’m not much of a Ben fan; he’s fine. He’s a good enough character. I just don’t tend to want to spend a lot of time with him. And he and Mags just don’t have the chemistry that she and Hal have. And Lourdes in her worshippy state (odd, since she was such a devout Christian before) is annoying as all hell (pardon my language). Lexi isn’t all that much of a mystery to me — at least not one that I care about. Perhaps it’s because we don’t really know her yet, but I don’t care much about her magical powers or Anne’s alien pregnancy. And they haven’t given me much to like about her.

So while all that is bugging me, I’m pushing through it. And it must go somewhere. So I’m watching to see where it goes.

But then there’s the ghetto camp. Or the group that used to be the ghetto camp. What’s the problem here? This is the same thing we’ve been watching season after season after season. We’re seeing the same righteous, know-it-all Tom. We’re seeing the same Pope. We’re barely even seeing Hal. It’s almost like taking all the supporting faces from around these people we’re forced to focus on the same things we’ve been watching episode after episode after episode.

I just want Tom to shut up for a while. I wanted to see people stand up to him instead of blindly following him and another one of his plans. For example, these people, who have been running from aliens and death for years, have finally found somewhere where they can stay in one place, be provided for, and live. Yes, it’s in terrible means. But for people who have been living for survival for so long, wouldn’t they just want to do that finally? Especially the old couple in the last episode. They wouldn’t be the adults that get harnessed; why not live their final years in as close to peace as they can?

I would have loved to see Tom offer the plan and everyone just say no. Go against him. And just go from there. Now that would have been interesting. But instead, we’re outside the fence, back where we started. It’s just frustrating. There’s no development and these characters are just stalled.

In addition, it just makes no sense. Why did I spend a season watching two alien factions fight it out with human alliances if one of the species was going to leave Earth within months of their “win”? Do we really care about adult harnesses? Or education camps? Or Lexi’s powers? There’s a lot going on, and I think the writers are so desperately trying to keep mystery building instead of filling in holes so storylines make sense. It’s frustrating and without having faith in the characters to take me there, there’s not much keeping me going.

That being said, it’s Falling Skies. I’ve stuck with this series for three years so far. I care about this bunch. So I want to know what happens. So I’ll keep watching…for now. But don’t let me down Falling Skies. Or I’m siding with the Espheni.

*image courtesy of TNT