A Regal Blunt Is Perfect As ‘Young Victoria’

29 01 2010

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent

Release Date: Dec. 18, 2009 (limited release)

26-year-old Emily Blunt may not seem like the best actress to portray Queen Victoria as a princess and through her first few years of reign from the ages of 18-22 in the 1830s. While not completely out of her age range, the maturity reflected in Blunt’s face could seem out of place on Victoria, who lived a sheltered life under the “Kensington System” devised by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Sir John Conroy (her mother’s ever-present companion and supposed lover). However, from the first moment Blunt utters the line reminding us that “even a palace can be a prison” in Jean-Marc Vallee’s The Young Victoria it’s more than apparent that she will do this role justice and make Victoria sparkle.

The film, as the title suggest, follows the life of Victoria as she navigates her way through life towards the throne and love and attempts to leave the rules and regulations placed upon her by the Kensington System behind.

The system, which was supposedly put in place to protect the heir-apparent to the English throne, forbid Victoria from ever being apart from her mother, her governess or her tutor. She was not allowed to walk down steps unless she held one of her keeper’s hands and she was kept isolated from anyone whom the Duchess or Sir John felt could be influencial against their will.

Not surprisingly, when King William died and Victoria ascended to the throne she did away with the Kensington System by requesting an hour to herself and demanding that her bed be removed from her mother’s room. And, upon moving into Buckingham Palace – she was the first royal to live there – she subsequently had Sir John banned from her apartments.

But The Young Victoria is not primarily a story about the rebellion Victoria led against the system,  her mother or Sir John to become her own person. Instead, it is a coming of age story and features a brilliant love story between Victoria and her cousin Albert.

When Victoria first meets Albert, it is apparent that these two are destined for greatness – whether that be solely a part of the movie or how it truly happened in history is an unnecessary question as Hollywood is not known for it’s strictly factual historical pieces but rather for entertaining the audience. And entertaining it is. Rupert Friend looks as though he stepped out of a portrait of Prince Albert and walked on set. He imbues his character with a warmness and strength that beautifully compliments Blunt’s Victoria who is innocent and intellectual. It’s impossible not to smile as the two discuss the microscopic life she leads in terms of chess, especially when Albert suggests that she find a husband who can navigate her life with her instead of for her. They might has well have put a neon sign above his head with an arrow saying “Choose Him!,” but that doesn’t make the scene any less tender.

However, their love wouldn’t be easy as Albert was not easily accessible as he lived in Germany and Victoria needed guidance upon her ascension to Queen so she turned to Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany). Again the writer and director seemed to flash the neon sign of “This guy is bad news!” above Lord M.’s head, but that didn’t stop Victoria’s infatuation and complete dependence on the man for a time. Albert began to feel slighted as Lord M. began to play a large factor in Victoria’s letters causing him to plan a return trip to England. He offered his services to Victoria, but she rebuked him by stating that she wasn’t ready to accept his help in her reign.

Soon after Albert offered his help, Victoria’s court was imbued in a political scandal caused indirectly by Lord M. but furthered through Victoria’s own stubbornness. Melbourne had resigned as Prime Minister and his successor wanted Victoria to dismiss some of her ladies of the bedchamber as they were all wives of Melbourne’s friends. Victoria refused as she believed the ladies to be her friends and confidants more than political advocates. Public opinion turned against her however and found her crying out to Albert for help.

The two married in 1840, three years into her reign, and Albert became her constant companion until his death in 1861.

Blunt’s Victoria and Friend’s Albert are so compelling that their love is touching. The brief glimpse into Victoria’s early life and the life she shared with Albert is frivolous at times, romantic at others and altogether enjoyable to watch for an hour and a half.

Final Grade: Good


Jersey Shore Finale & Reunion Leaves Too Much Left Unanswered

22 01 2010

Photo courtesy of Life & Style

Anyone thinking that the MTV hit reality show Jersey Shore was going to go out with a bang might have been disappointed in its finale last night. Afterall, this is the show that habitually showed the cast partying, creepin, fist pumping and hooking up so what less could the last episode of the season bring? Unfortunately, the hard partying ways were put aside in favor of a more emotional goodbye.

Everyone (except for Pauly D, unfortunately) seemed to get their time to shine during the finale. Vinny finally got The Situation back for the cottage cheese/smelly room incident, albeit not in as nasty a fashion with his “Situation’s best girl” joke; The Situation proved just how big of a man-whore he was by creepin it on a girl who may or may not have been legal; JWoww got to chase her gorillas; Snooki brought the only glimpse of a party by living it up on the boardwalk as she talked to guys; and Sammi and Ronnie dealt with being apart for the first night since they got together due to Ronnie’s stupid actions.

Seeing the aftermath of Ronnie’s arrest at the beginning of the episode was interesting, if not a little out of place. I’ve heard from other viewers that they thought last week’s episode was running long so they changed the channel. It’s understandable that MTV would want to leave Ronnie’s arrest as a cliffhanger, it didn’t make sense to use it as a lead in to the season finale — viewers were going to be watching last night no matter what.

While I’m disappointed that the cast didn’t party it up on their last night, it was nice to see them all together at the house. If they had been at a club they would have been all over the place, but them sitting down and reminiscing about the summer was a good change of pace no matter how staged or scripted it was. Ithelps that I swear the chair Vinny was sitting in was the one I picked up from St. Vincent dePaul for my old dorm room. And here’s to hoping that The Situation’s dreams of a second season,  no matter how stale the material may become over the next few months, becomes a reality.

The cast exit was also a little awkward and stilted. Did anyone else notice that Sammi didn’t actually ever leave the house? Each person was shown hugging everyone else and peacing out, but Sammi hugged Ronnie as viewers were treated to a nauseauting vignette of their short relationship in Seaside and then he leaves, but she was never shown exiting the house, though Snooki was apparently the last one there.

And then, viewers were treated to the reunion show, which begged so many questions. Why was Angelina there? What caused Sammi’s emotional breakdown? Did Ronnie and Sammi really break up?Does the cast really hate each other? They sure seemed to last night.

Angelina left on the third episode of the show. Everyone in the house seemed happy to see her leave, and viewers at home were given a lot of time to forget she even existed. Yet, yesterday she showed up on both Rachel Ray and the reunion show. Get it through your heads MTV, no one wants her at events like that. Please don’t invite her back for a second season.

And thankfully, a quick google search led to the information that Ronnie and Sammi did NOT break up for good last night, Fox411 is reporting that they’re giving it another shot here. The information isn’t suprising as Ronnie and Sammi had a pretty volatile relationship on the shore as well. They seemed to break up more times than any healthy couple should, but as they explained last night, most people don’t start living together before they start dating. Hopefully the fact that they aren’t around each other 24/7 has led to some normalcy in the relationship.

The reunion show provided some great fist pumping memories, and the unseen footage at the end only endeared me to Snooki more. I hope that we can see her Snookin’ for Love, maybe sister-station VH1 can pick that show up….

I guess all that’s left to do is wait and see what happens to our favorite Shore friends next summer, or, if you’re lucky enough to live near a club that is being graced with their presence, to hit up the club and try to get a picture with them. Anything more than a picture would probably scare me…

Series Finale of ‘Jersey Shore’ Brings Questions About Future of Show

21 01 2010

With tonight being the season finale of Jersey Shore, the so-bad-it’s-good MTV reality series phenomenon that swept the nation, it begs the question of what happens next.

Jersey Shore fever seemed to reach its peak just after Christmas and into the New Year. Its target audience was on Winter Break and could devote hours and hours to watching reruns and introducing friends to the sensation.

And then, they all went back to school or work and real life took precedence over the reality life Pauly D, The Situation, Snooki, JWoww, Vinny, Ronnie and Sammi were leading.

Sure, last week’s two episodes were enjoyable, but it seemed as though MTV had jumped the shark a bit with their previews as the most memorable moments – The Situation’s “rolls” insult and getting hit by JWoww – were well-known well before they were broadcast.

It could be considered the downside of fame. As the cast became more famous and the show picked up steam everyone seemed to want to know what they were all about. Events that happened in August and September were dredged up before they had time to air on episodes and things stopped being new.

Over the course of four episodes, the show went from ridiculously entertaining to ridiculously redundant due to fights.

Maybe I’m jaded, but the Snooki punch was a startling beginning to the violence on the show, Ronnie’s fight on the boardwalk in the next episode elevated the tension, Snooki fighting with the “hippo” and the “grenade” was hilarious, JWoww going after the Situation seemed unnecessary and Ronnie knocking a guy out in one punch was disturbing.

It’s still enjoyable watching the cast party, which seems to be about all they do other than fight, but can this style of show last past one season?

There is no inherent conflict on Jersey Shore, no reason for being. The Real World at least puts their cast members to work – which Jersey Shore did too, or at least they say they work at a t-shirt shop even though it’s been noticeably absent in the past few episodes – and Road Rules always had a task driving an episode. Even MTV’s new show The Buried Life sets a goal for each episode.

I enjoy Jersey Shore’s escape from reality as much as the next person. I’ll definitely be watching tonight and cheering the cast members on as they beat up the beat and creep it on the residents of Seaside Heights. I would love to go to a club with them and fist pump. And I’d love to see more of the cast, but what more can they do? As much as I want to see them all again, I’m worried a second season may seem stale.

Only time will tell what will happen with our favorite guidos and guidettes, though. Until then, we’ll have to enjoy the reruns MTV seems to run constantly.

And maybe we can all make it through the separation anxiety sure to be left in the wake of season one with some of the parodies people have made – Like the Little Jersey Shore.

Family Drama Keeps ‘Addams Family Musical’ Afloat

20 01 2010

Music and Lyrics: Andrew Lippa

Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice

Based on: Charles Addams’ comic strip The Addams Family

Starring: Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Krysta Rodriguez, Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, Kevin Chamberlin

Opens: April 8, 2010 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, and not particular musical – The Addams Family. Duh duh duh duh *snap, snap*

The Broadway-bound The Addams Family Musical, recently closed its curtain at the Oriental Theater in Chicago after a 2-month tryout.

Based on the cartoons by Charles Addams, the musical follows the lives of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and Pugsley as they celebrate the coming of age of daughter Wednesday and all the family drama that entails.

The house, while it still may be a museum where people come to see them, has been transported to the middle of Central Park, which provides the rich backdrop of twinkling lights from the city during outdoor scenes and a clever way to get long dead family members involved in the action – they’re buried outside.

Led by the venerable patriarch of modern Broadway – Nathan Lane playing the sultry, tango-loving Gomez – the cast is comprised of seasoned veterans like Bebe Neuwirth (“Cheers,” “Fosse”) as the lithe and dangerously gorgeous Morticia, and fabulous new-comers who seem to have a long career ahead of them like  Krysta Rodriguez, who plays Wednesday. There’s even an appearance by Thing, the disembodied hand from the cartoon.

The drama of the play comes when the newly de-pigtailed Wednesday brings her boyfriend Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor) and his decidedly un-creepy and kooky parents home for dinner. As can be expected of any 18-year-old in the same position, Wednesday is worried that her family will do something to embarrass her, especially as her family finds joy in the dark and dismal. She begs for one night of normalcy, but with the Addams’ family life is anything but as Pugsly begins to feel left out, Morticia worries her youth is slipping away, Gomez wants his little girl back and Wednesday herself is conflicted with the new emotion of love.

The play opens with a bang as the entire family dances the “Clandango” while Wednesday goes through her transition from girl to woman, but quickly falls flat as it is explained that Wednesday has met Lucas and Uncle Fester (Kevin Chamberlin) states his desire for the evening – “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love.”

The Addams Family as television viewers will remember is resurrected for a brief time in the next few numbers as Wednesday deals with her frustrations at the conflicting feelings of love and the macabre by torturing an ecstatic Pugsly, and Gomez can’t keep his hands off his seductive wife. The tempo of the entire play and the emotions of the audience are peaked when the iconic theme song is introduced all to briefly as a way to transition to the dinner party.

Once the Beineke’s are introduced, however, the Addams Family as we know it disappears for some time as the physical interactions between the characters is put on hold for a number of perfectly delivered one-liners by Gomez.

It’s enjoyable to see Wednesday and Lucas sneak around the house – masterfully recreated in a movable, staggering set which adds volumes to the ambiance of the show – as love-struck teenagers, but the meat of the script comes from Gomez’s interactions with Mal Beineke and Morticia’s with his wife, Alice. If Gomez and Morticia have their way, there will be more than one set of lovebirds leaving the house at the end of the night as they try to rekindle the passion in the Beineke’s marriage.

If the play continued as written, it would have been masterful, but those pesky musical numbers which always seemed to fall flat began to pop up once again. The show-stopper, “Full Disclosure,” was hum-worthy as the show went to intermission, but the second act, with the exception of Morticia’s longing “Second Banana” at the beginning, lacks a centerpiece song to hook the audience and Gomez and Morticia’s tango, meant to be a pivotal moment in the play, interrupts the flow of the act and leaves the audience wondering when it will be over.

The true beauty of the play is the script, filled with one-liners based on pop culture and innuendo. Lane’s comedic timing is spot on as he delivers punchlines, and Carolee Carmello, who plays Alice, proves to be a great drunk.

The most classic one-liner from the New Years’ Eve show came from the underutilized Grandmama (Jackie Hoffman) who’s role in the rest of the play seems to be unclear. She had the audience – and the cast – rolling in the aisles as with an delectably inappropriate reference to “Dick…….Clark” and his Rockin’ New Year’s Eve special.

Also notable about the Dec. 31 show, was the unexplained absence of Ms. Neuwirth. Her understudy, Rachel De Benedet, performed wonderfully for being thrown into the spot light at the last second (as Nathan Lane announced at the end of the show as he heaped praise upon her). She hit all of her marks, had a strong voice and a killer pair of legs, and seemed to embody Morticia as she glided across the stage.

There are quite a few kinks to work out of the production before its previews at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on March 8 and its opening night on April 8 – most notably the music, clarifying character personalities and strengthening the second act – but its outstanding ensemble cast and their relationships is the true reason to see the show.

Final grade: The Addams Family is a very good play, but a bad musical

Secrets of Pauly D’s Hair Care Revealed

15 01 2010

In the last post, I wondered how Pauly D, of MTV’s Jersey Shore, managed to get his hair so epically perfect each and every day.

Apparently the New York Daily News was wondering as well and Pauly D gave them an inside look at his hair care regimen. I’m not sure if this confirms the rumors that he uses $60 of product a week, but he is using quite a bit. His hair has more product in it in one day than mine does in an entire year!

Check it out!

Jersey Shore Proves a Delicious Dose of Entertainment

12 01 2010

The Jersey Shore Cast, L to R The Situation, Pauly D, Ronnie and Vinny; JWoww, Sammi, Snooki and the firecracker Image courtesy of Hollywoodgossip.com

Another first for The Good, the Bad and the Really Crappy– A television review!

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the new MTV reality show “Jersey Shore.” Whether it’s Italian Americans claiming that the show demeans them, residents of the Jersey Shore claiming the cast members misrepresent what goes on at the shore or advocates crying foul over MTV’s decision to air – and then not air – the violent punch that Snooki takes in the Third episode it seems everyone has at least heard of the phenomenon.

I have to admit, I’m not normally a fan of reality tv, but I have a soft spot when it comes to MTV. I love Road Rules (which needs to come back soon, please) and the Real World/Road Rules Challenges is pure brain candy, so when I heard about Jersey Shore I had high hopes. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined. It’s fantastic, amazing, crazy, delicious and a ‘fist-pumping’ good time.

The seven cast members – which started as eight but I don’t count Angelina (as Mike “the Situation” said, she was a “half-a**ed fire cracker who fizzled out real fast and made a loud noise”) – are crazy, obnoxious and entirely too loveable. Each has an exaggerated personality that, when mixed with the others, becomes a hot mess.

Whether they’re “beatin’ up the beat” (which I so want to do with them someday!) at Karma, starting fights on the boardwalk, working their jobs at the t-shirt store, or coming together for epic family meals, this is one show that definitely gets a fist pump and a rating of so bad it’s deliciously GOOD!

If you’ve never seen the show or the cast, here’s a quick rundown of everyone:

Mike “The Situation” – is the classic “creeper” as the Jersey Shore kids call it. He’s at the shore to get ladies, and more often than not succeeds when he flashes his washboard abs. If I were to encounter this man in real life I’d probably run screaming in the other direction (prior to seeing him on the show, of course, now I’m trying to find out if he’s making appearances at clubs near me). He’s intense, as witnessed by his quotes that “it’s not a matter of if I hook up with [her], but when I decide,” but he’s loveable nonetheless as he teaches viewers about his lifestyle of GTL – Gym, Tanning, Laundry.

Nicole “Snooki” – the most likeable of the women on the show, Snooki has a deranged innocence about her. She may make a habit out of not wearing pants to a club, flashing more of her underwear than the world wants to see, and hooking up with her roommates in the hot tub, but she also shows her vulnerable side when her mom comes to visit. And then there’s the infamous punch heard round the internet when a man took a pop at Snooki in a bar one night causing her to cut her mouth and which the cast members credit as bringing them together as a family.

Pauly D – The Situation’s go-to wing man, and vice versa, as the two creep it on the ladies of Seaside Heights, NJ. He subscribes to the GTL lifestyle as well, but his hair is truly of note. It’s been rumored that he uses $60 of haircare products on it daily and it is magnificent. As he said himself, “My hair’s windproof, waterproof, soccerproof, motocycleproof. I’m not sure if my hair’s bulletproof, I’m not willin’ to try that.” How does he get to so high? What does it feel like to touch? Is it greasy? Stiff? Hard as a rock? All questions I ask myself whenever he comes on screen.

JWoww – at times her chest seems to overpower anything she says, does or wears, and she spent two episodes actively cheating on her boyfriend with Pauly D, but JWoww is fantastic. She has no qualms to telling it like it is and she becomes the go-to person for advice as Ronnie searches for guidance in his relationship with Sammi and Snooki tries to deal with the aftermath of getting punched in the face.

Ronnie – the biggest meat head of them all, Ronnie proved himself to be a juiced dude with anger management issues in the sixth episode of the season. He’s a fighter, but he’s also a lover as he and Sammi “Sweetheart” are enamored with each other. And take note when he dances, his unique style is both amazing and a little crazy. He also got one of the best quotes of the season off while he joked around with his girlfriend saying, “your Flinestone big toe,” which caused Sammi to flip out.

Sammi “Sweetheart” – Ronnie’s girlfriend, Sammi proves to be a bit nuts. When the switch flips on her personality, it flips hard, as witnessed by her unnaturally emphatic freak out to Ronnie saying she had a Flinstone toe because she “Can’t help the way her body looks!” When she’s not in all out crazy mode, Sammi has a sweetness about her that’s hard to come by from the other girls. Unlike Snooki, her sweetness isn’t due to vulnerability, though that may be because people are walking on egg shells around her so as not to flip the switch.

And finally,

Vinny – For the first four episodes I had no idea Vinny was even a cast member. I thought he was a friend who would happen to pass through a few scenes, but didn’t pay him much attention. Once I learned he was actually living in the house though, I started to take note, and apparently so did the cameras as we’ve seen a lot more of him lately. Unlike Pauly D and The Situation, Vinny doesn’t perscribe to the guido lifestyle of GTL, instead, his would go something like BPB – “basketball, pool, beach.” He’s not as awesomely crazy as the other cast members, but he provides a subdued unity to the house. He’s also apparently brilliant as he just took his LSAT and is debating going to law school.

I can see the spin-off now….Jersey Shore Crashes Harvard! I know I’d watch…would you?

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass (featuring the Notre Dame marching band)

12 01 2010

I have to take a moment to pimp out the best University Marching Band in the country. I may be a little biased as I’m somewhat of an honorary member, but this is awesome.

Three years ago, the Band of the Fighting Irish at the University of Notre Dame had an awesome halftime performance at the November 10 football game against Air Force. If anyone keeps up with ND football, they’ll remember that the band was the highlight of the 2007 season as students didn’t see a home game win until the team played Duke the next weekend. The band didn’t disappoint with shows featuring music from the movie Top Gun, the play Jersey Boys, the band Chicago and a Super Mario Brothers Medley – and the highlight of the Air Force halftime, OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again,” complete with the leprechaun on a treadmill.

The next year, when the full band traveled to USC for the first time, they knew they needed to put together a killer halftime show (which was only reinforced when the team abysmally failed to get a first down until seconds before the fourth quarter) so they brought out “Here It Goes Again” which won over the entire crowd.

OK Go saw that performance and hatched the idea of including members of the ND marching band in their most recent video for the new single “This Too Shall Pass,” which was released today!

The “The Too Shall Pass” video can’t be embedded, but can be viewed on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJKythlXAIY

The song is decent, but the first appearance of the marching band is awesome, and Aaron Hernandez, the drum major, gets a prominent feature of himself.

The most amazing part of this video, though, is the fact that it’s one continuous take – as most of OK Go’s videos are. It’s impressive that they were able to get so many people in just the right places to make this video a masterpiece.

Take a look for yourself and Congrats to all my friends still in band!