Monthly Archives: February 2014

By Will Ashton || @thewillofash
| Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra | Rated PG-13

nonstop-posterEven though I have never stepped foot in one, I appear to have a soft spot for plane films.

There is something about its location that lends itself so well towards making a solid movie. Red Eye, in my opinion, is one of the most effective thrillers in the past decade, Airplane! has remained, to this day, one of my favorite comedies and, admittedly, I had some laid-back, tongue in cheek B-movie fun with Snakes on a Plane. As far as I remember, at least.

That said, my expectations for Non-Stop, the latest action film that features 60+-year-old action star Liam Neeson kicking and punching his way to answers, (this time in a plane!) were fairly low. Perhaps, then, that explains why, for at least the hour and a half that I sat down watching the film, I had a pretty good time with it.

Bill Marks (Neeson), a federal air marshal, has had a rough couple of years, ranging from problems in the workplace and at home, most of which come from his addictions. But they are nothing compared to what he must endure when he has to force the government to give a terrorist a $150 million unless they want a passenger on the plane to die every twenty minutes. But as details become more and more revealing in their unspecific nature, it becomes more apparent that Marks is becoming subject to an even bigger crime than he could possible imagine.

Although I remember the reviews being quite tepid when the film was released, I appear to be in the minority when I found Taken—the 2010 film that has propelled Neeson to his comfy lead action man status—to be a rather routine, mediocre vigilante film. And this is coming from someone who loves vigilante movies.  I considered Unknown similarly meh, and I believe Taken 2 to be even more lacking than its original. I don’t think I need to go into much detail about my feelings toward Battleship either. Though, I will say, I don’t hate it nearly as much as some of my peers do.

That said, however, The A-Team serves as one of the more enjoyably goofy big-budget action films of the new decade. Additionally, The Grey not only features one of Neeson’s best turns, but was a surprisingly thoughtful and well-made action-thriller that demonstrated, to me, why the public has being going crazy for Neeson these past couple years. But these two films had one thing in common: director Joe Carnahan, and his madcap directing style. Neither of which would be found within  Non-Stop.

Rather, Neeson finds himself returning with his Unknown helmer on this project. This said, however, director Jaume Collet-Serra has demonstrated himself a filmmaker that has the potential to make a solid film, but all of his features thus far, including 2005’s House of Wax remake, Orphan and the aforementioned Unknown, have fallen to the waist-side of mediocrity. However, each film showcased that Serra was making signs of improvement, and with Non-Stop, his fifth film, he finally makes his first solid film.

Granted, I said solid. Not necessarily good. Much like Serra’s past films, Non-Stop seems to fall apart when it reaches its third act. What makes this film work quite well in its first two acts is that it demonstrates a great understanding of pace, through competent camera staging and direction—particularly in its limited bottle environment—creating a solid bit of tension and interest.

But, at the heart of the film is Neeson. Much like The Grey, he is the driving force of the film. While his character isn’t nearly as deep or compelling as the one he played there, the intensity he gives to Marks is what sells this fairly silly plot into being taken seriously at all. No pun intended.

When reflecting back on the film, the movie that Non-Stop reminded me the most was Air Force One. Both films are fairly decent action thrillers that center themselves on a plane, a terrorist act, an older, veteran action star and a fairly goofy third act. While Non-Stop doesn’t quite have the benefit of having a villain as fun as Gary Oldman on board (again, no pun intended), or a line as dialogue as fun and quotable as “Get off my plane,” they are both fairly similar in the regard that they are both fun, if forgettable, films that happen to center on an aircraft.

While Serra may take his film a little too seriously in the beginning, and then, bewilderingly, not seriously enough towards the end, he demonstrates a stronger understanding of technical direction which makes for a surprisingly well-made thriller. In particular, there are several tracking long shots that demonstrate great things to come from Serra and D.P. Flavio Martinez Labiano.

It’s no slam dunk, but for a film that could have very well have been a dud, even with this same script in a hack filmmaker hands, this is surprisingly tight and entertaining night at the movies. I know the title is stupid, and Neeson hasn’t always made winners. But, coming from a skeptic, I can say that Non-Stop is a surprisingly fun piece of entertainment that keeps things moving and knows how to keep its cards close to its hand. Even if all it really has is a set of 6, 5, 4, J, and K instead of a full house.

If that metaphor doesn’t make sense, by the way, it’s because I don’t know anything about cards. Perhaps I shouldn’t include a card metaphor if I don’t know anything about them? Fair enough, but I thought it would work. Don’t judge me.  I call.

Neeson is set to return with Serra for the upcoming Run All Night. This time, however, I’ll be looking forward to seeing what they produce.


By Meryl Gottlieb | | @buzzlightmeryl
The 68th annual Tony Awards will air on CBS on June 8


Everything is coming up Tonys!

The award show is garnering attention after Variety reported the Tony Awards administration committee met last month and voted to allow the number of nominees in the Best Musical, Best Play, Best Musical Revival and Best Play Revival categories increase to five, rather than four nominees, if there are nine or more eligible shows to choose between. They also said if there are less than nine possible shows in a category, the number of nominees could be reduced to three. 

The list for contenders for the Best Musical award is extensive; there are 12 musicals that opened or are set to open during or before the eligibility period for this year’s Tonys. Those musicals are First Date, Soul Doctor, Big Fish, A Night with Janis Joplin, After Midnight, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murdei, Beautiful, The Bridges of Madison County, Rocky, Aladdin, If/Then and Bullets Over Broadway. Plus, there are the off-Broadway shows that feature prominent Broadway artists: Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Neil Patrick Harris and Violet featuring Sutton Foster.

In other words, there is going to be one HOT contest for the award this year. If you know me, you know I’m gunning for First Date but that’s just because I’m obsessed with Zachary Levi. But in all seriousness, it is also a great musical.

The 2013-2014 season also saw about a dozen play revivals, meaning that category will most likely see the increase. Those plays are: Romeo and Juliet, The Winslow Boy, The Snow Geese, Betrayal, Twelfth Night/Richard III, 700 Sundays, Macbeth, No Man’s Land/Waiting for Godot, Machinal, A Raisin in the Sun and Of Mice and Men.

What’s interesting is that though the new rule is in place, Variety said it may not mean nominators will select five musicals or plays for the respective categories.

Just like when the Oscars expanded its Best Picture nominations from five to 10, the Tonys’ move is simply another tool to recognize more material while also giving more time for Broadway to shine on-air to millions of viewers. The Tonys do an excellent job of enticing viewers to see the Best Musical nominees as each nominated show gets to perform a number. Having an extra nominee in the category will simply mean one more show will profit from the accolade of being a “Tony nominee,” which actually means something in the theater world and to the theater audience.

The eligibility cutoff date for this year’s Tonys is April 24 and the nominees will be announced on April 29.

What’s your favorite show currently on Broadway? Which new show are you looking forward to the most? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl (I love to chat theater, so, seriously, let me know.)

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
How I Met Your Mother airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS
Rating: 5/5


How I Met Your Mother is back after a two-week hiatus and fixed the tiny slump it had after the last episode failed to impress. I’m still not over how weird it was that Robin (Cobie Smulders) floated away. It gives me the heebee-jeebees.

Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) got very drunk indeed and now has a killer hangover he can’t even awaken from. Oh but don’t worry it’s only 10 hours until the wedding!! That’s right. It’s wedding day, 8 a.m. and our beloved groom is out cold.

He needs the Stinson Hangover Fixer Elixir — from FDR’s “Too Many Manhattans Project,” a play on the real Manhattan Project — the magic potion Barney always gave to the gang when they had wicked hangovers. However, Barney is the only one who knows the secret ingredient, which is mixed with Tantrum (I wonder what our world would be like if this drink were real), Funyuns and grease. I’m confused as to how this would help a hangover instead of making it a lot worse. Nevertheless, the gang is set on figuring out how to make the elixir so Barney can be ready in time for wedding photos.

Now, a true HIMYM fan will ask why it matters if Barney is conscious for the photos because everyone knows his superpower is that he cannot take a bad picture, right? Wrong. He is actually drunk enough to take a “bad” photo. It’s in quotes because does Neil Patrick Harris ever really look bad? I didn’t think so.

Seeing Barney in this terrible state prompted the gang to vow to never get that drunk again. Of course then Bob Saget narrates the stories on how everyone broke that vow.

Marshall (Jason Segel) promised he would never get that drunk again as long as he had a full head of hair. In 2020, he has a terrible combover and is likely to lose the race for a position on the New York Supreme Court as the polls are coming in. Four hours later, it’s found he actually won the race and now has to give an acceptance speech drunk. I really hope he tries to implement Batman in some way; New York would be a better place if it had a little more Batman.

I really loved this flash forward. We get to see what happens to Marshall and Lily, but how unfortunate is it that in six years Marshall is going to lose his hair like that?!

Lily (Alyson Hannigan) cracks after she takes Marvin to Wesleyan University for his first day in college in 2030. As soon as they leave him, Marshall and Lily head to the bar, only to find that Marvin had the same plans. This wasn’t as funny as the other flash forwards, but I will never forgo an opportunity for Lily to say, “You son of a me.”

Robin’s vow only lasts two years, for she wakes up with Barney in Argentina in 2016. The two can’t remember a thing but seem to act normal when they hear the BABY cry. Yes, BABY. I freaked. However, I had to take a chill pill because it’s not their baby. They were just too drunk to realize where they were. I got so enthused that we would see that future for Barney and Robin, only to find it ripped from my fingertips.

I cannot take the anticipation to see whether or not Barney and Robin will actually say, “I do.” Their future is so uncertain, and it’s killing me. I don’t want to rush to the finale because I’m going to be a wreck when it comes, but I need to find out what happens soon.

tumblr_n1j5r4KBxq1rgl5e0o1_r2_500Ted and Marshall collected the known ingredients and only had grease left to get. Unfortunately, the Farhampton Inn’s kitchen is all-organic and the only grease would be from the bacon they made for breakfast. The chef refuses to make more unless all the bacon he just made goes in 10 minutes. Challenge accepted — though not from Marshall as one may expect. It is our lovelorn hero Ted who steps up to the plate, literally, after figuring out his mother had been lying to him about his bacon allergy just so he would eat healthy. Can you imagine a world without bacon? That’s one sad life. After one bite, Ted is addicted. But how much bacon can one person eat in one sitting? My answer may be different than the rest of humanity’s so I’m going to go with not an infinite amount. Right? I mean, who would eat that much bacon? I wouldn’t. That’s crazy. Anyway, Ted becomes sick shortly after. And that, kids, is the first and last time he ever ate bacon.

Now, can you just imagine hearing similar words, but about the Mother, in a month? Folks, I really don’t want the show to go.

While Ted and Marshall have their project, Robin and Lily try to wake Barney up to get the last ingredient. Throwing him down the stairs, putting his face in a bucket of cold water and threatening to cut his tie didn’t work, so naturally the only thing left to do is to kiss. It’s Lily’s dream come true! I never thought we’d see this day. I have always loved Lily’s unsubtle, unrequited sexual advances toward Robin; Hannigan has always played them so perfectly.

Barney does wake up after their kiss and reveals the elixir is really just a lie — it’s a “place-bro” — but he only lied because he loves them all. Every time he gave one of them a glass of the elixir, it was at one of their worst moments. Marshall thought he failed the bar exam, Robin was afraid to go back on-air, Ted was just left at the altar and Lily had a kindergarten field trip — wow, really drastic in comparison to everyone else’s worst moments. Barney loves his friends, and I love him. No, this is not a joke about the purple dinosaur; I have real feelings for these characters! Don’t judge!

berniesSo just as Barney lied to his friends, they lied to him and told him they did the “Weekend at Barney’s” play for the wedding photos because it was a play he’d always wanted to do. “It’s the dream!”

Tonight’s episode was simply great for comedy. The gang’s chemistry was as flawless as ever and the story was quite funny. It’s always great for the show when they mix in a lot of time elements and have the cast interacting as much as they did.

You probably think I forgot to mention when Ted (Josh Radnor) broke his vow, but I had to save the best for last, and the best scenes always include the Mother (Cristin Milioti). It’s New Year’s Eve/ Day 2022 and the adorable couple is traveling to a party to celebrate the Mother’s book, which Ted thinks will change the world. (This is something I’d like more information on, please!) They both have a bit too much champagne, and Ted makes the Stinson Hangover Fixer Elixir for the Mother in the morning to boost her spirits. She’s only able to have a sip of it before their two kids run in to say good morning.

Every little glimpse into their life brings tears of joy to my eyes. Each scene with Ted and the Mother is like a little piece of the puzzle we’ve been trying to put together for nine years. Thirty seconds can be so rewarding and so well received. I want more of them. I want to see their happiness forever.

The last clip of the episode shows how the roles of unwanted sexual advances have been switched. Robin is now the one who wants to kiss Lily more while Lily is fine with it being a one-time thing. I just love this gag.

How much do you love bacon? What’s your magical way to cure a hangover? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

Well hello there, Bradley Cooper.

It’s a pleasure getting to write this love letter to you. Is it too brash to say I love you? Meh. Whatever, that’s the point of an open love letter. You’re great, really great. And for a variety of reasons, so I’ll just start with the basics.

Your face. Yup, that flawless face looks good with or without scruff. You’ve got the bluest eyes that make me feel like I’m swimming in an ocean when I stare into them. Too cliché? Whatever. It’s true. I’ve seen them in person, so I feel like I can say that. Your hair is kind of flawless too. It’s always perfectly styled. Well, not always, you have had some questionable looks for your locks, but that’s okay. And then there is your perfect smile. Swoon.

You are a very talented actor, as well. To be nominated for Oscars is an incredible feat, so congratulations on your Oscar noms. Best of luck, can’t wait to see your other films and all that jazz.

You are so funny to boot! Your game of charades with Jimmy, Tim and Emma (Thompson is my queen!!!) had me rolling with laughter. Nice try with “Walk Like an Egyptian.” You were close….kind of. And your Between Two Ferns appearances are always perfect.

YOU SPEAK FRENCH AND SOUND SO GOOD WHEN YOU DO. IS SEXY TOO MUCH? WELL THAT’S WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE. (Sorry. I just really appreciate a man that can speak more than one language.)

I’m not much of a drinker either, so we can do some other activities. You studied English at Georgetown and have talked about your love of literature, so I think we should get coffee, read books and chat about em—eh? What do you say?

I think it’s adorable that you still live with your mom (sorry, she lives with you). When you talked with Ellen about it, I couldn’t help but smile. And taking your mom to the Golden Globes/potentially these Oscars is even better. A man that treats him mom well is a great one, so you must be one of the best.

Don’t ever change for anybody,
Anjelica Oswald

This is one of my favorite videos ever

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
The 39 Steps directed by Dennis Delaney
8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 8 p.m. Feb. 25-27
Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater, Kantner Hall

Abraham Adams plays Richard Hannay who has just discovered the woman — played by Alycia Kunkle — he just met has been murdered. (Kaitlin Owens | Staff Photographer)

Abraham Adams plays Richard Hannay who has just discovered the woman — played by Alycia Kunkle — he just met has been murdered. (Kaitlin Owens | Staff Photographer)

Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense. He directed more than 50 films in six decades and is simply one of the most well known directors of Hollywood’s golden age.

But when you see the Division of Theater’s production of The 39 Steps, it isn’t like Hitchcock’s film. In fact, it is a farce of his work. There is still the mystery at its heart but the focus is on the comedy.

The 39 Steps follows Richard Hannay — played by Abraham Adams — a man who lives a very boring life until he meets a woman who is a spy. Hannay is then accused of murdering the woman and goes on the run to figure out the secret of “The 39 Steps.”

The show has dozens of characters but only a cast of four actors. Adams is the only one who plays the same role throughout the play, and he is certainly at home in the character. Alycia Kunkle plays all three female roles and exceeds more so in certain scenes than others but that’s more to the fault of the fact that women aren’t exactly as well developed characters in older films. Greg Atkin and Andy Danford then play everyone else, literally. They are called the “clowns” and play between 20 to 30 roles each.

These two actors are the source for the majority of the comedy in the play; they are a great comedic duo. Atkin dresses in drag to play several women, and it always lends itself to big laughs. Atkin’s great sense of comedic timing is often highlighted and is a great actor to follow throughout the play. Danford is a master of the outlandish characters with big personalities. “#BestActorEver,” yes, they even incorporate today’s latest Twitter trends into the 1930s set play.

Greg Atkin and Andy Danford, the clowns, are police officers in their "police car." (Kaitlin Owens | Staff Photographer)

Greg Atkin and Andy Danford, the clowns, are police officers in their “police car.” (Kaitlin Owens | Staff Photographer)

It’s important to remember the play is an adaptation by Patrick Barlow of the Hitchcock film, which is based off the book by John Buchan. Many times throughout the play, it felt like a film. There are some 30 scenes that all zip by, a feat that is much easier to tackle and more natural in a film than a play. It often felt more like a play trying to be a film than a solid adaptation for the stage.

The play is also essentially a cut-and-paste version of the film, which is featured in its entirety on YouTube. The only main difference is, obviously, the nature of each media: the film, a dramatic thriller, treats the mystery as serious while the play, a comedy, pokes fun at the situation.

The show is quite minimalist, which is exemplified best in its costumes and scenery. Three trunks can represent the train cars while a simple switch of a hat transforms an actor from a salesman to a paperboy. Much of the play is left up to the audience’s imagination.

Oftentimes, the minimalist nature is the source for the play’s comedy. It is simply the “magic” of live theater that is the only explanation for how this works. These techniques would never work in any other medium than theater.

Throughout the show, there were certain moments in which I couldn’t tell if the people attending media night were laughing because of a calculated decision for a sound cue or because it was a mistake they hadn’t anticipated. Media night does not count as an official show and some kinks are still being worked out, but a few sound and lighting cues were missed and distracted from the show. Due to the play’s farcical nature, I couldn’t tell if they were actual mess-ups or a comedic tool that broke the fourth wall but didn’t translate well. It didn’t happen a lot, but when it did, it was distracting. Even with the mistakes, the actors kept running and tied them into the show. Thus, their great sense for going with the flow is what caused my confusion about whether or not certain aspects were mistakes or not.

Overall, I enjoyed the play. I was continually laughing and was entertained for the two and a half hour show — includes intermission. I would definitely recommend seeing it if not only for the Rear Window joke which had me on the floor.

What better way to celebrate the week of Valentine’s Day than by writing a letter to the one true love of my life, Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

My dearest Joseph,

Where do I begin? I guess we can start with your face. Your flawless face, impeccable smile, perfect hair—which all combined together make me melt like snow under the sun. You look good in a suit, sweater-vest, winter jacket, t-shirt, glasses…everything and anything, really.

You are a man of many talents. Whether you are encouraging artists through film, music, writing, spoken word or what have you, you’ve created a place for them at hitREcord. You are hilarious—has everyone seen the Lip Sync Off? Because if not, WATCH IT HERE. You wrote and directed your own movie (fabulous by the way), and you are a terrific actor in all you do. You can sing… for real, and that makes me all sorts of happy.

Then there is the fact that you consider yourself a feminist. HOLD IT RIGHT THERE YOU PERFECT GENTLEMAN, YOU. You tell people the best way to get a girl is to listen because it’s common human courtesy. When you were on Ellen, you described your objection to female objectification and gender norms because we can be anything we want to be. And you’re a gentleman in your own right anyway, such as when you helped Ann Hathaway fix her dress. You are also so respectable and just so caring. You love your mom, and you aren’t afraid to show it! HALLELUJAH!

Once upon a time you said The Catcher in the Rye was your favorite book. Well, it’s mine, so we can just sit and chat about Holden and why the book is so good. You have such a wonderful insight to the world, and I really want to just have a conversation so I can try to understand how one person can be so wonderful.

I’ve loved you since I saw 10 Things I Hate About You and will continue to love you. Please continue taking selfies and being the best person on the planet. The world is better for having you in it.

All my love,
Anjelica Oswald

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
How I Met Your Mother airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS

Coming Back

I’m cringing with anxiety for the return of How I Met Your Mother on Feb. 24. A two-week hiatus is simply much too much. In the mean time, let’s discuss all the new info in the HIMYM world that I’ve obsessively consumed in my longing for the return. It’s OK; I’m fine.

It doesn’t look like Cristin Milioti, our beloved Mother, will return to the Broadway stage anytime soon. It has been confirmed the actress will star in Rashida Jones’ upcoming pilot for NBC. Milioti will play one of two leads in A to Z, a single-camera comedy. She will play Zelda, a lawyer at a small public-advocacy firm, who is known for her “realist” outlook on life. According to a casting description: “Alternately serious and hilarious, Zelda loves being a grown-up and doesn’t understand why anyone over 20 would go see an animated movie or eat ice cream sundaes. Destiny and fate are not in her vocabulary; she believes she controls her own destiny.” The show will focus on the relationship of a young couple, Zelda and Andrew, from meeting to breakup.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this comedy could do very well. I’m falling ever more in love with Milioti as I see her in more things. Her small role in the Oscar nominated The Wolf of Wall Street was an excellent surprise to me and she performed just as well as Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m so excited to see her career blossom into something amazing.

The HIMYM spinoff, How I Met Your Dad, has finally got its star: Greta Gerwig. The indie film star made a name for herself in Frances Ha, in which she starred and co-wrote. Gerwig will play Sally, “a female Peter Pan who has never grown up and has no idea of where she’s going in life and is thinking of getting a divorce from her husband of a year, Gavin.” Gerwig will not only star in the spinoff, but she will also be co-producing AND writing. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, the creators of HIMYM, are geniuses, but I think having main writers and producers of the opposite gender is going to help them tremendously, especially since this show’s main character is a woman.

Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig

I’m still quite iffy about the mere fact that a spinoff is happening. I love HIMYM and honestly I don’t see how replicating it is going to be good. I can admit there are points in the show when it lagged and I just don’t see how re-doing the show will be good for its overall legacy. Sometimes it’s good to leave well enough alone.

Despite many mixed emotions, I’m still interested in following it along, so I was intrigued to see the other roles they are casting for the show.

  • Juliet: Sally’s sexy, flamboyant, energetic, party-girl BFF. She runs a successful fashion blog. She’s delighted to learn Sally is ending things with the terminally boring Gavin.
  • Danny: Sally’s older gay brother, a Type A, overachieving lawyer whom she shares little in common with. They nonetheless share a tight bond, although Sally’s decision to move in with Danny after her split with Gavin promises to test that bond.
  • Todd: Danny’s warm, outgoing husband and one of Sally’s closest friends from college. Unlike Danny, Todd welcomes Sally into their home.
  • Frank: The head of IT for Juliet’s fashion blog. He’s a hot nerd. He has genuine feelings for Sally, but it’s a one-sided flirtation. At least for the moment.
  • Narrator: It’s Sally from the future. She’s reliving the events of her past to her kids.

It’s hard to see how this isn’t going to be a stereotypical, poor spinoff but let’s try to think positively. I’m now off to research Gerwig and watch Frances Ha so that I can finally garner some excitement for this project.

On the day the latest episode (“Sunrise“) aired, Bays and Thomas went on Reddit for an “Ask Me Anything” and a lot of fun facts were revealed. Most notably, Jennifer Love Hewitt ended up doing The Ghost Whisperer instead of HIMYM, and Scandal‘s Scott Foley was originally asked to play Ted. That would have been one weird show.

The pair even confirmed they “have not changed the very end of series at all.” They even filmed part of it back in 2006, before the actors who play Ted’s kids got any older.

“We just looked at that footage, which will factor into the end of the series—it totally worked and was kind of haunting to watch,” Thomas said. “Shot eight years ago and it will now help end our series on March 31st.”

I still don’t think I’ll ever be prepared for the show to end. It probably won’t hit me until I go to turn it on next season.

How are you coping? Have any HIMYM fun facts I should know about? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl