Month: July 2011

IMG Passes on “Top Model” Molly O’Connell…WTF?

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @joeynolfi

I’ve seen a lot in my days of bitchily covering ANTM happenings. Girls talking to plants. Runners-up gracing more than just a few extra covers than the winners of their respective cycle. Hell, an ent from ‘Lord of the Rings’ even won Cycle 14.

But IMG’s recent passing up of Molly O’Connell really has me scratching my head.

The fact that Brittani Kline (repping PA, holla!) won Cycle 16 is still as baffling to many as Jade’s decision to turn down an invite to All-Stars, airing in September. But the fact that Kline was given the leg-up over O’Connell was the real shocker. O’Connell’s portfolio is one of, if not the, best portfolio the show has ever seen. Her bitchy attitude was much in line with how Paulina Porizkova described the actual industry successes in her blog posting last week on the Huffington Post.

So why did IMG, a top international agency, pass? No one knows for sure.

“Yep, now I get to search for new agencies. How fun,” O’Connell’s twitter says after she posted an update about a meeting with the famed agency, “Whatever, Life goes on I guess.”

The life of this topic certainly does. At least for the countless hoardes (ok, all 10) of us who still obsess over this show like Camille McDonald to a fame whoring opportunity.

Perhaps Kline sprinkled some gremlin dust on O’Connell as she slept (they’re roommates now, living in Hoboken, New Jersey. Oh the places the limelight will take you) seeing as her position with the agency was sort of, well, bought.

IMG reps and guest judges alike seemed to adore O’Connell’s look, at least judging from what we were shown on television this past cycle. Perhaps it was Tyra’s way of “spicing things up” to give us a “dramatic” twist of events during the finale in crowning Kline the winner. Fans were certainly shocked, and lunches were unavoidably tossed from their containing stomachs.

The future is still bright for Ms. O’Connell. I have no doubt she’ll be joining the ranks of Mollie Sue, Elyse, and Fatima as a high fashion queen of foreign editorials and hipster fanboys wet dreams.

Best of Luck, Molly. Lord knows you’re not going to need it.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @joeynolfi

“Friends” Benefits From Its Stars Charisma

There’s usually a simple “something” about a good sex comedy.

Neither particularly sexy nor comical enough to inspire a knee-slap , “Friends with Benefits” plays up the personas of its charismatic stars instead of an all-out exploitation of their tanned and toned flesh.

I imagine if 1959’s “Pillow Talk” were made today, a film similar to “Friends with Benefits” might be the result, which certainly has “something”. But whether it possesses the same sort of playful mirth that made its sex comedy forefathers genre mainstays remains in question.

It’s now acceptable for a film to be as brash as its creators so choose. Maybe that’s why watching Doris Day and Rock Hudson dance around the realistic circus that is sexual courtship is so magical; a cinematic fantasy created behind a veil of censorship, if you will. “Friends with Benefits”, on the other hand, suffers for its overtness.

The premise is simple; Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis), two young professionals brought together through intersecting career paths, make an unusual agreement. The pair agrees to use each other for sex; they can still be friends during the day, however, as long as neither becomes emotionally invested after getting down and dirty at night.  

The resolution of the film is crystal clear. Partly because Ms. Kunis’ “Black Swan” costar Natalie Portman starred in practically the same film earlier this year (“No Strings Attached”, which initially shared this film’s title during pre-production), but also for the simple fact that “Friends with Benefits” is a romantic comedy. I mean, you have seen one of those before, right?

Writer-director Will Gluck certainly hopes so. “Friends with Benefits” is peppered with references to all sorts of popular rom-coms from the past, some that will come as immediately obvious while others will take a moment to register. Regardless, the intertextual knowledge and mockery of genre cliches on display functions as comically smug sarcasm at best. But therein also lies the problem; for every trope which is ridiculed by the protagonists another is endorsed along their journey to coupled bliss. You’d think Dylan and Jamie would be able to see what’s in store for them and bypass all the hoopla in their lives that’s so reminiscent of the romantic comedies they despise. We’ll settle for pot meeting kettle in this case, I guess.

Perhaps the satirical material would have functioned better in a more sophisticated film (think Woody Allen), then again perhaps it wouldn’t have worked as well if the films two leads didn’t have the best onscreen chemistry this side of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”.  Regardless, you came to see its two stars romping around under the sheets, not a Romantic Comedy 101 lesson. There is surprisingly much left to the imagination in that department, however, although the funniest sequence in the entire film does involve a certain oral activity but takes place entirely underneath a blanket. It’s cute, but lacks the delicate balance between comical raunch and satirical punch that “Friends with Benefits” desperately fancies but never quite attains.

That’s not to say the film isn’t enjoyable. It’s a film whose appeal depends largely on the charisma of its stars, not entirely unlike a Doris Day/Rock Hudson venture of years past. If for that reason alone it shows that as a whole, this genre hasn’t evolved much, if at all, since it’s humble beginnings.

Ms. Kunis has been compared to everyone from Lucille Ball to Meg Ryan. She certainly carries the better portion of the film’s comedic weight, possessing a smoky sophistication that sets her more in line with the likes of Marilyn Monroe. Mr. Timberlake is equally enjoyable in his first comedic lead, and the audience coasts through the film thanks to their dazzling chemistry, not caring if we know exactly what’s going to happen. 

“They just play a cheesy pop song over the credits to trick you into thinking you had fun watching a terrible movie” Dylan says as Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” plays over the credits of a romantic comedy he’s watching. As that very same song plays over the credits of “Friends with Benefits”, you’ll realize this is a film that truly almost gets it. Simply referencing a problem isn’t enough to free yourself from becoming a victim of the same thing. But for now I’ll take the cheesy pop song and its persuasive effects, but only because “Friends with Benefits” isn’t exactly terrible.

Help Alex Young Pick Her Next Single

Alex Young, NYC's finest rising pop diva

She’s at it again.

As many of you will remember, I interviewed rising NYC pop singer (and total sweetheart) Alex Young last summer for PopSmut. Her interview was candid, funny, and one definitely one of my favorite set of answers I’ve ever received. Click here to refresh your memory.

Since our interview, Young has had some radio success with her bass-banging club hit, “Government Name”.

Now, she needs your help.

Young is currently in the process of picking her next single, and she wants us to help her choose it. Click the link below and check out snippets of three potential hits, “Headphones” (my personal favorite), “Get Back”, and “Don’t Play With Me”.

Right now, it seems as though everyone is favoring the Kylie Minogue-esque throbber “Headphones”, and frankly that seems like the most logical choice to me as well. It’s definitely the strongest track out of the three, as well as the most in-tune with industry trends (while still maintaining Young’s individual sassy stylings).

Click hereto help her decide.

Follow her on twitter @AlexYoungMusic

Follw us on twitter @joeynolfi

Keep This One for the Kiddies; “Zookeeper” is For the Birds

Movie Review by Joey Nolfi originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/8/2011

The American film industry basically can be reduced to three or four primary categories. Franchise sequels, films that favor explosions instead of plot (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay), and family films with talking animals seem to dominate the local megaplex and national box office alike.

The latest effort from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company, “Zookeeper,” unsurprisingly contains enough furry, phonetically inclined little buggers to simultaneously place children into fits of comedic bliss while putting literary and cinematic adaptations of “Dr. Dolittle” to deep shame.

Populating the Franklin Park Zoo within “Zookeeper” is a host of critters with a long-standing code that prohibits them from talking to humans, who simply “wouldn’t understand” them. At this point it remains unclear whether this is meant literally or on a much more philosophical level of Avril Lavigne-esque teen rebellion.

Anyway, the animals (voiced by Sylvester Stallone, Cher and Mr. Sandler) observe their affectionate but romantically challenged caretaker Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) during the day and break out of their cages at night to meet, exchange witty one-liners for the camera and discuss how to help their beloved human companion woo a potential mate.

Apparently Keyes is unaware that copies of “Relationships for Dummies” exist, while the Franklin Park Zoo seemingly is the only such establishment in the world that doesn’t operate a night crew. Or install paddock alarms.

But such questioning of realistic ideals is hardly necessary for a film like this, seeing as a 3-year-old is fully willing to suspend disbelief for 104 minutes without a single gripe. “Zookeeper” is a lighthearted, harmless afternoon at the movies for the hordes of families that will be drawn to it like lions to a straggling zebra.

As a casual filmgoer, however, the film’s shortcomings will disappoint.

The film is not so much a “film” but rather a series of forced comedic vignettes. Compartmentalized sequences designed to make you laugh, loosely tied together by that bitch of a device called “editing”, which gives narratives a certain, you know, flow.  Let’s just say that flow is not a strength in “Zookeeper”.

Mr. James, who’s clearly being groomed as the next poster child for Happy Madison as Mr. Sandler finally outgrows these types of roles, lacks a proper balance between effective comedic punch and in-your-face ham. He’s annoying at times, as is watching Rosario Dawson bring spark to a wafer-thin role you’d think she would’ve laughed out of her script pile five years ago. My, how industry dynamics have changed.

The mix of slapstick high jinks and lowbrow potty humor, key ingredients in any family comedy, hits home in a few spots and saves the overall package — which also suffers odd pacing issues and all-too-familiar plot elements — from being completely for the birds.

“Zookeeper” won’t be fulfilling anyone’s expectations as critics’ indie darling. It is, however, a film that succeeds in doing what it aims to: keeping the kids entertained (and in one place) for the better part of an hour and a half.

And I guess sometimes (and only sometimes) is seeing a gorilla in a T-shirt still be funny.