Tag Archives: Drew Barrymore

Binge or No: Netflix’s The Santa Clarita Diet

(Will be cross-posted at Agony Booth.com)

Zombies are the new vampires, that’s for sure. So, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided to make them more physically attractive, grant them spacious homes in Suburbia, and give them white-collar jobs. The Santa Clarita Diet is about as pro-zombie as a television series can get . . . minus the gag-inducing scenes filled with vomit, and the occasional image of a limb grossly detaching itself from the human body . . .

The ten-episode thrill-omedy, which premiered on Netflix February 3rd, stars Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond, a West Coast suburban realtor, whose recent infection with a zombie virus has given her a renewed zest for life, and a passion for eating men’s balls off . . . literally. (This isn’t your mother’s “Mmmm, Braiiiiiinnnnnnns” type zombie. Sheila is way less wasteful, when it comes to munching on parts of the male anatomy. Oddly enough, no females were harmed in the making of the first season of the series. Is that sexist?)

Early promotional spots for the series actually skirted the whole “Sheila is a zombie” issue entirely, and instead cleverly featured the cast touting the benefits of a “new diet” that offers its participants “tons of energy,” and “makes them look great.” Sheila, herself, is a testament to this, as Drew begins the series looking rather frumpy (and with something disturbingly weird going on with her eyebrows), then subtly becomes more glamorous with each passing episode . . . until the last two, but that’s another story.

In fact, if it weren’t for (1) Sheila’s new zombie-like dependence on her id making her increasingly impulsive, hungry, and reckless; and (2) the whole “murdering people is wrong, and disposing of bodies is hard work” thing, zombie-ism, at least as it’s portrayed in the series, would seem like a pretty workable lifestyle.

As for Sheila’s supporting cast, we have Timothy Olyphant playing waaaaaay against type as Joel Hammond, Sheila’s mild-mannered nebbish of a realtor husband, who’s supportive faux cheeriness, as the body count piles up, borders on frenzied and manic. Basically, this is the kind of role you’d see Matthew Broderick playing, if this series came out about ten-years earlier.

Rounding out the main cast are: Liv Hewson as Abby, Sheila’s and Joel’s rebellious daughter (who is way cooler about the fact that her mother occasionally murders the neighbors, and feasts on human flesh in her spare time, than I would be); Sklyer Gisondo, as Abby’s nerdy and way too-loyal friend / paranormal enthusiast, Eric, and Dan Palmer and Richard T. Jones, as Sheila’s and Joel’s feuding cop neighbors, Rick and Dan.

The Santa Clarita Diet also features Nathan Fillion in a cameo that’s either truly thankless, or patently hilarious, depending on how you view it.

As for the series itself, I think it takes a few episodes to find its footing. The show seems to struggle early on, at least in my opinion, to strike the appropriate balance between comedy and horror. For example, in one scene, you might see Sheila and Joel bathed in blood and guts, as they try to bury the gnarly organs of body that the former just devoured in the woods, without being discovered by the cops.

And then, in the scene immediately following that, Sheila will be depicted, clad in a garbage bag, chasing after, and unsuccessfully attempting to wrestle, a rooster, like she’s a character in a Looney Tunes cartoon?

The series also takes its sweet time in finding the unique voices of its characters, in ways that go beyond them just spouting cheesy zombie and murder puns to one another for 25-minutes. The writing for Sheila, in particular, suffers in the early episodes, as we are told that the realtor mom’s personality has changed drastically, since she was infected, but have to take the rest of the cast’s word for it, as she begins showing signs of infection within the first five minutes of the series.

I was actually planning to discontinue the show after the first two episodes, but soldiered on, and found myself completely hooked around episode four. Around that time, the writing for the series becomes tighter, the jokes funnier, and the main characters become more consistent and relatable in their personalities.

In particular, I found the acting of the teen characters on the show, Abby and Eric, very strong. Their story line adds a sort of sweetness, and a touch of realism to the series, that I think would be lacking otherwise.

Another important point to note, before you venture into The Santa Clarita Diet is that it’s pretty friggin gross. As in, don’t watch it while you are eating . . . EVER! Maybe you folks who just love watching The Walking Dead, and really dig body horror, will be totally cool with this. But I found my eyes averting the screen pretty much any time one of the characters projectile vomits (soooooooo much vomit on this show), or a painted toenail pops off and rolls under the coffee table, or Drew’s Sheila is seen slowly and messily gorging on an arm, while looking much like a baby eating her first spaghetti and meatballs dish. These kinds of scenes amount to roughly a quarter of each episode’s run time, so be warned.

As for trademark zombie lore and the series’ central mystery, i.e. how Sheila came to be infected with the zombie virus in the first place, there isn’t really much there, at least in the first season, which focuses more on the inconveniences and unintentional hilarity of suburban zombie living than any sort of complex rules and/ or zombie origin stories. The mythos that is presented is rather vague and superficial, though I suspect that aspect of the show will be built upon, should The Santa Clarita Diet be picked up for a second season. Still, this might annoy some of you paranormal enthusiasts out there, who tend to like a bit more world-building with your blood, guts and gore.

In short, if you are someone who: (1) likes a good laugh, and a unique take on an old reliable horror movie stable, (2) doesn’t mind lots of gross shots of vomit and disemboweled corpses, (3) doesn’t care too much about origin stories, and (4) is patient enough to get through a rough first few episodes, The Santa Clarita Diet might be the lifestyle change you are seeking. And by “lifestyle change” I mean “five hours seated on your couch watching a show on Netflix, while not eating.” (Did I mention before that you shouldn’t be eating while watching this show?)

Verdict: BINGE IT . . . with discretion.

 

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Filed under netflix, The Santa Clarita Diet, tv series review, Uncategorized

Anatomy of a Trailer: Scream 4 (Contains Possible Spoilers)

I can’t believe it’s been 14 years since the first Scream movie came out in theaters!  It seems like only yesterday that I was sneaking into the movie theater to see it on opening night, having sneakily purchased tickets to some more “family friendly fare.”

That’s right!  Just like, I suspect, many of you, I wasn’t yet 17 when the first Scream came out in theaters . . .

(You know, I’ll never, for the life of me, understand why horror films, like this one, scrabble for the “Hard R” rating, when probably more than half of their movie viewing population has to be dropped off at the theater by their parents, because they don’t have their drivers licenses yet.  I mean, I get that it’s supposed to be this big “Status Symbol” to be “Rated R,” as a horror film.  Yet, all that Big Bad Letter really does is end up getting a lot of Movie Ticket Takers fired, for not properly ID-ing their patrons.)

“I swear, boss.  He totally looked 17 to me!”

But I digress.  There I was, underage, hanging with a bunch of my friends, and viewing Scream for the first time.  I remember when the movie started, seeing Drew Barrymore on the screen  (who was kind of a “big deal” at the time), and kind of rolling my eyes a bit.  “They aren’t going to kill Drew!”  I whispered to whoever was sitting next to me.  “Her face is on the movie poster.  And her name is one of ‘top billed.'”

 

And then they gutted her like a fish, in the first five minutes . . .

I was HORRIFIED . . . but, at the same time, very impressed.  I knew, right then, that I was witnessing the start of something pretty amazing.  As far as “horror movie cliches” were concerned, all bets were off!  We were all going to be in for quite a ride . . .

I saw the next two films in the trilogy on their opening nights as well.  And while neither had quite the shock value of the first installment  (The minute Jada Pinkett Smith walked into that movie theater at the beginning of Scream 2, I knew not to get too attached to her character . . .

 . . . ditto for Buffy the Vampire Slayer . . .)

 . . . I still found both films to be enjoyable, witty, and surprisingly well-written.

So, I was intrigued, when I started hearing buzz around the internet that the first film of a new Scream trilogy would be “stabbing” its way into theaters in 2011.  Like the first film, Scream 4 will be penned by Kevin Williamson (writer of none other than my current FAVORITE television show, The Vampire Diaries) . . .

 . . . and directed by, that denizen of horror himself, Wes Craven. 

As the poster for the film suggests, the new tagline for Scream 4 is “New Decade, New Rules.”  At this year’s Scream Awards, Wes Craven promised us a movie for  the “next generation” of horror fans.  Here, the same, now- tired, old rules, won’t necessarily apply.  You know what that means, don’t you?  Oh yeah . . . the Ghostface Killer is TOTALLY iPhone-ready.

“Psycho Serial Killer?  There’s an app for that!”

Sure, Scream 4 may be ready for the “next generation of horror movie fans,” but, the question remains, is it ready for us?   After all, in this new culture, of leaked scripts, pirated films, screencapped trailers, and endless film analysis on message boards and blogs, it is REALLY hard to keep a secret, and even harder to genuinely surprise fans.  Because, now, not only are horror movie goers more savvy, as Craven, himself suggested, they are also more well-informed.

For example, we NOW know that when an actress boasts a “cameo” in a horror film, and her character doesn’t have a “name” on the movie’s IMDB page , we can probably expect her to show up in one scene, die a quick but gruesome death, and never be seen again . . .

Usually a lover of all things spoilery, I personally found myself a bit disappointed when, after merely viewing the film’s teaser trailer and perusing the message boards, I already pieced together what will probably be the opening murder sequence (including the “fakeout” that will likely come with it). 

And . . . well . . . why don’t I let you watch for yourself . . .

Now that’s a trailer chocked full of spoilery information, if I’ve ever seen one! 

I’m just going to share a few screencaps with you that I found particularly instructive.  However, you can find ALL the screencaps for this trailer here.  (Special thanks to CNE20, who was kind enough to post these!)

Oh, and for all you Spoilerphobes out there, this would be a good time to STOP READING!

:12 “Welcome home, Sydney!  You’re a survivor, aren’t you, Sydney?  What good is it being a survivor, if everyone around you is DEAD!”

Yes, boys and girls, Scream queen, Neve Campbell (now 37), will be reprising her role as the much-abused Sydney Prescott.  After all this poor woman has been through, you would think she would FINALLY suck it up, and cancel her landline.  Cell phones, Sydney!  They are all the rage these days . . . not to mention that having them makes it much easier to RUN AWAY from the Psycho Serial Killer who always seems to be INSIDE YOUR HOUSE!

:18 – “All you can do is WATCH!”

Anna Paquin (Soookeh! of  True Blood) and Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) have both publicly admitted to having “cameos” in this film.  (We all know what THAT means!)  Many “experts” have posited that the first “murder” of the film, will not be a “real” murder, but actually a scene from the fictional Scream-like series, Stab (featured prominently in Scream 2 and 3), which Anna’s and Kristen’s characters will be watching at home on DVD.  These same experts suggest that Anna and Kristen, like Drew Barrymore and Jada Pinkett Smith, before them, will be the new film’s first REAL victims.  This scene here, which features Anna, turning off a DVD, while a frightened Kristen looks on, would seem to suggest as much . . .

:19 – “Ahhhhhhhh!”

Golly gee!  For two girls credited as having “cameos” in the film, Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars) and Shenae Grimes (90210) sure got a lot of face time in the teaser trailer!  Many suspect that this is because these two will be stars of the Stab installment that Anna and Kristen are watching, in the film’s opening scene. 

(Note to Kevin Williamson:  It is not too late to CHANGE THIS!  In fact, if this is the actual concept for the opening sequence, and you want to REALLY shock fans, as you have done consistently in the past, you probably SHOULD!)

:21 – “Modern fans have become savvy to the rules of the originals.  I mean, there are still rules, but the rules have changed.”

OMG, Rory Culkin!  My, have you grown!  (I bet you’re taller than Macauley Culkin now . . . and Kieran Culkin, for that matter.)  It looks as though Rory will be inhabiting the “Horror Film Geek”  role, previously inhabited by Jamie Kennedy (who played “Randy Meeks”), in the first two films.

:50 – “Go ahead, if you have the guts!”

This highly controversial, and much discussed, screencap features Courtney Cox, seemingly about to get gutted by the Ghostface Killer.  Could the makers of this trailer be brave enough (or stupid enough, depending on how you look at it) to forecast the death of Gale Weathers –one of the three MAIN CHARACTERS from the original trilogy — so early in the film’s promotional campaign?  (Or will someone come to to her rescue, at the last minute, as is usually the case in these type of movie situations?)

:54 – “Well, it’s time for someone new to die.”

Here’s Rory Culkin again, along with Hayden Panettiere and Marielle Jaffe.  These three will likely function as the “Scooby Gang” to lead player, Emma Robert’s “Jill.”  Hayden will be playing Kirby Reed, “Jill’s” best friend.  The “best friend” moniker should keep her safe for at least the first half of the film.

Marielle will be playing “Olivia,” who, based on this  scene alone, looks and sounds like kind of a b*tch.  Since b*tches never fare particularly well in this genre, I’m guessing “Olivia” will be a goner, fairly early on . . .

:58 – “These aren’t just random killings.”

David Arquette (who I am liking SO MUCH LESS NOW, especially after his ridiculous drunken T.M.I. rant on Howard Stern) will be reprising his role as Deputy Dewey.  Also donning the dorky Rent-A-Cop uniform in this film, will be the adorable Adam Brody . . .

(Seth Cohen is a cop?)

 . . . and the very cuddly, Anthony Anderson . . .

1:00 – iPhone product placement alert!

I said it before, but it bears repeating.  Between the killer videotaping his murders, and the cast members running around with iPhones, it does seem that new technologies will play a major role in the new trilogy.

1:01 –  Emma Roberts alert!

Although she looks like she’s in a pretty tough spot right now, I’m thinking that Emma Roberts, who has been tauted by producers as “the NEW Sydney Prescott” (she plays Sydney’s cousin, in the film), will probably be around for a while.  In other words, if you happen to be watching the film, and really have to pee, the scenes where “Jill” is in “peril” are the best time to go . . .  At least, this way, you won’t risk missing a “cool death scene.”

1:16 – “I hear you like horror movies.”

              “It’s for you.”

I know I showed these two already.  However, this line was the only one in the trailer that actually made me giggle out loud.   It also seemed a bit cheesy, by Scream standards.  This only supports my hypothesis that all scenes featuring Shenae and Lucy are meant to come from the fictional Stab series.  Of course, I could be wrong . . . (I still kind of hope I am.)

Scream 4 scares into theaters April 15, 2011.  Will YOU see it?

[www.juliekushner.com]

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Filed under Movie Trailer Recaplets, Scream 4, Spoilers and Sneak Peaks

Are you feeling lucky? 67th Annual Golden Globes Predictions

It’s award season again!  The time has come for your favorite actors and actresses to get all gussied up in tuxedos, dresses, shoes, and jewels, all of which cost more than the Average American’s annual salary, and strut the Red Carpet.  It’s time for entertainment journalists and fashion pundits to gush over said actors’ and actresses’ appearances during interviews, only to badmouth and backstab them moments later behind the scenes.  The time has come for the nominees to prepare long-winded speeches, and practice reading them really fast so the orchestra doesn’t shoo them off stage before they get to thank their husbands and wives.   And just in case they lose, it’s also time for those same nominees to practice their fake smiles and golf claps for the camera when someone else wins, in order to avoid the awful fate that Faith Hill suffered a few years back at the Grammy’s.

For the rest of us, the time has come to fluff up the cushions on our couches, pour a glass of cheap wine, and plop in front of the tube for an evening of vicarious thrills and glamour.  And for some of us (myself included), an awards night like this would not be complete without a trusty homemade ballot sheet sitting nearby on the sofa, just waiting to be x’ed out with red pen . . .

So, with that in mind, this year, I am going to do something very brave — something that may adversely effect the little credibility I have built up as an “Expert Television Recapper.”  This, year, I have decided to share my 67th Annual Golden Globe Predictions with you, the reader. 

Just in case you feel like playing along, under my predictions, I have left a blank for “Your Pick.”  Feel free to print out and use this blog entry as a makeshift ballot.  This will give you the unique opportunity to join me in my embarrassment as I make apparent to the whole world the reason I don’t gamble . . .

So, without further adieu . . . THE BALLOT!

Film Awards:

*Best Drama Nominees: Up in the Air, Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Bastards, Precious

My Pick: Up in the Air

Your Pick?:

*Best Comedy or Musical Nominees: Nine, 500 Days of Summer, The Hangover, It’s Complicated, Julie and Julia

My Pick: 500 Days of Summer

Your Pick?:

*Best Drama Actor Nominees: George Clooney (Up in the Air), Jeff Bridges (Crazy at Heart), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Tobey Maguire (Brothers)

My Pick: George Clooney (Up in the Air)

Your Pick?:

*Best Drama Actress Nominees: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)

My Pick: Carey Mulligan (An Education)

Your Pick?:

*Best Comedy Actor Nominees: Matt Damon (The Informant), Daniel Day Lewis (Nine), Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Joseph Gordon Levitt (500 Days of Summer), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)

My Pick: Matt Damon (The Informant)

Your Pick?:

*Best Comedy Actress Nominees: Sandra Bullock (The Proposal), Marion Cotillard (Nine), Julia Roberts (Duplicity), Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia), Meryl Streep (It’s Complicated)

My Pick: Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)

Your Pick?:

*Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Waltz (Inglourious Bastards), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)

My Pick: Christopher Waltz (Inglourious Bastards)

Your Pick?:

*Supporting Actress Nominees: Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Mo’Nique (Precious), Julianne Moore (A Single Man)

My Pick: Mo’Nique (Precious)

Your Pick?:

*Best Director Nominees: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), James Cameron (Avatar), Clint Eastwood (Invictus), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Bastards)

My Pick: James Cameron (Avatar)

Your Pick: ?

*Best Foreign Language Film Nominees: Baarie, Broken Embraces, The Maid, A Prophet, The White Ribbon

My Pick: Broken Embraces

Your Pick?:

*Best Animated Film Nominees: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and The Frog, Up

My Pick: Up

Your Pick?:

*Best Screenplay Nominees: District 9, The Hurt Locker, It’s Complicated, Up in the Air, Inglourious Bastards

My Pick: Up in the Air

Your Pick?:

*Best Original Score Nominees: Up, The Informant, Avatar, The Single Man, Where the Wild Things Are

My Pick: Avatar

Your Pick?:

*Best Original Song Nominees: Cinema Italiano (Nine), I Want to Come Home (Everybody’s Fine), I Will See You (Avatar), The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart), Winter (Brothers)

My Pick: The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)

Your Pick?:

Television Awards

*Best Drama Nominees: Big Love, Mad Men, Dexter, House, True Blood

My Pick: Mad Men

Your Pick?:

Best Comedy or Musical Nominees: 30 Rock, Glee, Entourage, The Modern Family, The Office

My Pick: Glee

Your Pick?:

*Best Drama Actor Nominees:  Simon Baker (The Mentalist), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Lurie (House), Bill Paxton (Big Love)

My Pick: Jon Hamm (Mad Men)

Your Pick?:

*Best Actress Drama: Glenn Close (Damages), January Jones (Mad Men), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Anna Paquin (True Blood), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

My Pick: Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)

Your Pick?:

*Best Comedy Actor Nominees: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Steve Carell (The Office), David Duchovny (Californication), Thomas Jane (Hung), Matthew Morrison (Glee)

My Pick: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)

Your Pick?:

*Best Comedy Actress Nominees: Toni Collette (United States of Tara), Courtney Cox (Cougar Town), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Lea Michelle (Glee)

My Pick: Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)

Your Pick?:

*Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Michael Emerson (Lost), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), William Hurt (Damages), John Lithgow (Dexter), Jeremy Piven (Entourage)

My Pick: Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)

Your Pick?:

*Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Jane Adams (Hung), Rose Byrne (Damages), Jane Lynch (Glee), Janet McTeer (Into the Storm), Chloe Sevigny (Big Love)

My Pick: Jane Lynch (Glee)

Your Pick?:

*Best Miniseries Actor Nominees: Kevin Bacon (Taking Chances), Kenneth Branaugh (Wallender), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Endgame), Brendan Gleeson (Into the Storm), Jeremy Irons (Georgia O’Keefe)

My Pick: Kevin Bacon (Taking Chances)

Your Pick?:

*Best Miniseries Actress Nominees: Joan Allen (Georgia O’Keefe), Drew Barrymore (Grey Gardens), Jessica Lange (Grey Gardens), Anna Paquin (The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler), Sigourney Weaver (Prayers for Bobby)

My Pick: Drew Barrymore (Grey Gardens)

Your Pick?:

Best Miniseries Nominees: Grey Gardens, Little Dorrit, Taking Chances, Georgia O’Keefe, Into the Storm

My Pick: Grey Gardens

Your Pick?:

(Wow, my fingers sure are numb from typing all of this!  I wonder how many bloggers suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome . . .)

Best of luck on your ballots, and I will see YOU at the Awards!

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