Monday, May 11th will mark the return of "Celebrity Jeopardy!", with TV, film, stage and fashion stars competing on one of America's most popular game shows, to win money for charities. This year's week-long event, the first since 2010, is packed with a strong, pop culture heavy line-up of contestants:
Among those ready to test their knowledge are "Frozen" and "Book of Mormon" star Josh Gad, "Star Trek"'s Zachary Quinto, "Will & Grace" Emmy-winner Debra Messing, "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan and "Shark Tank"'s Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O'Leary. Representing the world of Sports is Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, and from the world of Fashion is designer Cynthia Rowley.
Magician Penn Jilette, astronaut Mark Kelly (the husband of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords), CNN anchor John Berman, and "CBS Sunday Morning" and "Innovation Nation"'s Mo Rocca will also take part. Rounding-out the list are four ABC stars: Neil Flynn ("The Middle"), Wendi McLendon-Covey ("The Goldbergs"), Bellamy Young ("Scandal") and "Good Morning America" meteorologist Ginger Zee.
Unlike in previous years, this group of "Celebrity Jeopardy!" contestants is filled with recognizable names and faces, meaning, for five consecutive nights, the entertainment aspects of "Jeopardy!" should meet or even exceed the information level, making this must-watch TV.
Just as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" explored the unusual concept of someone aging in reverse, a new cinematic fable, "The Age of Adaline", centers around another unique variation of the aging process - or more specifically - the non-aging process.
Blake Lively, in her first film in nearly three years, delivers a standout performance as Adaline Bowman. Born in San Francisco on New Year's Day, 1908, Adaline lives a normal life until, in 1935, while driving on a rare cold night, she's involved in a car accident and ends-up underwater in a river. Unconscious and close to death, a bolt of lightnight strikes the car, bringing Adaline back to life.
But the incident also gives her an amazing power: from that moment on she would never age another day. And she spends her life avoiding the police, hospitals, and having her photo taken, so that her identity won't be discovered and she won't become a medical test subject. After spending the next eight decades traveling the world, constantly changing her name and avoiding relationships, she returns to San Fran to be near her daughter, who's now a senior citizen. But on New Year's Eve, Adaline meets a man who will change the course of her life once again.
"The Age of Adaline" is a delicate film with an effective story. The pacing is purposely slow - but at no time do you lose interest. I was invested in this character and her complicated and quite sad situation from the start. And there are some emotional scenes involving Lively and her latest in a long line of cocker spaniels, her daughter (played by Ellen Burstyn), new boyfriend (Michiel Huisman) and his father (the incomparable Harrison Ford).
Some scientific reasoning for Adaline's immortal existence is presented to us through on-again, off-again narration, though not in a loud or distracting way. And while all of the plot elements don't make perfect sense, this is one of those films where it's best to just go with it and enjoy the results.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, "The Age of Adaline" gets a B.
"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" was one of the first and funniest films of 2009. As a New Jersey mall security guard who had one epic Black Friday, Kevin James proved to be an unlikely likable hero and established a modern classic comedy character. It took James more than six years to get back into the uniform and on the Segway for "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2". Clearly he didn't spend much of that time coming-up with a script, as this sequel is as bland and basic as you can get - with the clever and unpredictable mall setting of the original being replaced by tired and overdone Las Vegas.
Halfway through "PB:MC2", while my mind was wandering, I realized that this has become the family film franchise version of the "Taken" series, with James as the comedic Liam Neeson - who, once again, has to get back his kidnapped daughter. If only those behind this film realized the potential of a "Taken" parody, the result would've been a lot more interesting.
Blart and his daughter are staying at Vegas' Wynn hotel for a Security Officers Training Association convention. And it just so happens a group of art thieves are planning to steal all of the hotel's priceless paintings and sculptures. (Same weekend - what are the odds?) Once Blart finds-out what's going on (and it does take a while), he springs - sort of - into action, because as he states, "Safety is a mission - not an intermission."
The charm of the original, which most critics ignored, though it did well at the box office, is nowhere to be found in this sequel - in favor of a dumbed-down, utterly predictable script. There are three or four funny situations, and a few good jokes, including a hilarious one during Blart's convention speech (a rare highlight of the film). But I can "safely" state, overall, this is a missed opportunity.
But we can't be too surprised. If James and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison team really cared about creating a hit, they would've put more effort into this production and made it a lot sooner (a 2011 release). Instead, this is simply an attempted money grab, and that probably won't work, either.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" gets a D+.
“The Longest Ride” is the tenth film adapted from a novel written by romance king Nicholas Sparks. His previous movies have been called sappy, simple and full of coincidences. The same can be said for half of “The Longest Ride”, which lives-up to its title in that, for more than two hours, you basically sit through two movies for the price of one.
The more appealing storyline, commercially, is about two young lovers in present day trying to make their relationship work. Sophia (played by Britt Robertson) is a college senior at a North Carolina university who’s looking forward to her art world internship in NYC beginning in just two months. She meets professional bull rider Luke (played by Scott Eastwood, who does have some resemblance to his famous father, Clint) at a competition, and there's an immediate attraction.
At the end of their first date, Sophia and Luke rescue an older man from his burning car and take him to the hospital. Alan Alda, the biggest name in the cast, plays Ira, who asks Sophia to read him old letters he keeps with him, which he wrote to his wife, Ruth, decades ago.
This flashback device allows us to learn the story of young Ira and Ruth as they were falling in love in the 1940s. Their relationship quickly became complicated, and unlike the story of Luke and Sophia, Ira and Ruth’s journey together is genuinely interesting and emotional, with several powerful moments. Oona Chaplin, as Ruth, gives a deep and convincing performance, with some of the best dialogue and standout scenes.
“The Longest Ride” follows these two parallel stories, with the intersection being Alda, who, at nearly 80, is still as good as ever. Robertson and Eastwood aren’t very strong here, and their scenes are packed with clichés, tons of facial-expression-acting and clumsy circumstances that move this typical Sparks story along. It’s the older and more meaningful romance that saves this film from being a sentimental disaster.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Longest Ride” gets a C. If the final five minutes weren’t so flat-out ridiculous, that grade might've been higher.
"Furious 7" is not nearly as much fun as 2013's "Fast & Furious 6". And star Vin Diesel's prediction of a Best Picture Oscar win will not be coming true. However, it's still good enough, and a fitting farewell to the late Paul Walker.
This seventh edition in the blockbuster franchise is surprisingly serious, with the cloud Walker's November 2013 death as only one of the reasons. The main villain this time is the mysterious man who appeared at the end of "6", Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham). He's the brother of Owen Shaw, who was killed by the F&F gang last time. Deckard is out for revenge.
His first target is Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson's screen time is cut in half, but he still brings some much-needed humor). They duke it out in an office, and afterwards, Deckard escapes and Hobbs goes to the hospital. It's there that Hobbs tells Dom (Diesel) about the new Shaw, who is targeting the entire crew.
New to the cast is Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody, who's looking to help Dom, Brian (Walker) and the others track and take down Shaw in exchange for assistance in finding a computer hacker and her ultimate GPS device. This is only Russell's third movie in eight years and he gives a solid performance as a genuinely interesting character.
"Furious 7" is relentless with the action. There are twenty-minute chunks of shootings, car chases and fist fights. The only two scenes that feature "wow" moments were unfortunately showcased in the trailers, but they still provide some thrills. The story really takes a backseat, though two elements still shine through. They are the evolving relationship between Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Brian trying to adjust to family life with his wife and young son.
Walker's passing hit the cast and crew of "Furious 7" quite hard, particularly longtime friend Diesel, who just named his new daughter, Pauline. I do question director James Wan's decision of leaving-in a brief scene in which Roman (Tyrese Gibson) talks directly to Walker's Brian and says "No more funerals." However, the final five minutes of the film are handled quite well, with a moving tribute to their colleague and friend.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Furious 7" gets a B-.