• "Last Vegas" is funny but unoriginal

    “Last Vegas” could be seen as a milder, older-skewing remake of “The Hangover.” The film is funny, but it doesn’t try to do anything new or original. “Last Vegas” is aware that it won’t deliver much more than an onslaught of old-person gags. The film’s formula comes down to bringing together great, aging stars and throwing them into a variety of situations that have been covered in films and sitcoms before. There is a small, dramatic side plot, but the real focus is kept on the punch lines.

    When Billy (Michael Douglas) is about to get hitched to a woman half his age, his three old friends Paddy (Robert De Niro), Sam (Kevin Kline) and Archie (Morgan Freeman) decide to throw him a bachelor party in Las Vegas. To no one’s surprise, hijinks ensue and the men must work to maintain friendships that have faded in the passage of time.

    “Last Vegas” is all puns and gags about aging. Fortunately, most of them are actually pretty witty, but the comedy relies a bit too much on elderly jokes. The premise of the story is how old people react to a modern, hipper Las Vegas, but only stale and obvious jokes result from the plotline. 

    Even though all four leads are Academy Award winning actors, they play these roles knowing that they won’t see any awards coming their way. But all four are having a good time and are refreshingly self-aware of their elderly status and are willing to poke fun at it. Freeman gives the liveliest performance of the lead quartet, acting out most of the physical comedy in the movie. Kline, who is the lesser known of the quartet, is also noticeably and hilariously witty. 

    “Last Vegas” knows that it only serves to just make people laugh for a little bit. While it isn’t gut-bustingly funny, it packs some brilliant one-liners. It doesn’t try too hard to be anything new or noteworthy, but is content to entertain in its rehash of a well-worn narrative. Its distracting dramatic story diminishes its effect, but it packs in so many jokes that it hardly even matters. 

  • Austin Film Fest: Will Ferrell headlines "Breaking Bad" creator's unproduced script reading

    Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Austin Film Festival attendees lined up at Seventh and Congress streets, not for a big film premiere at the Paramount, but for a live reading of an unproduced screenplay at the theater’s smaller counterpart, the State. Why all the fuss? Well, for one, that screenplay, “2-Face,” was written by “Breaking Bad” mastermind Vince Gilligan, its reading was directed by “Looper” director Rian Johnson and its lead character was played by Will Ferrell. 

    Ferrell was joined onstage by a sprawling cast including Johnson, — reading the stage directions — Thomas Haden Church, Linda Cardellini, Billy Burke and, in a surprise that got the biggest applause of the entire event, Giancarlo Esposito — “Breaking Bad's” Gus.

    In Gilligan’s modern Jekyll and Hyde tale, Ferrell read the part of Earl, a repugnant Civil War re-enactor with a brutal racist streak. When the sun went down, he turned into Rodeo Bob, a gentle, sophisticated alter ego who claimed to be visiting from the future, where he lived in a dome on the moon. Haden Church played Boots, Earl’s equally bigoted comrade-in-arms, and Cardellini read the part of Holly, Earl’s long-suffering wife.

    But “2-Face's” secret protagonist is a young, African-American doctor named Malcolm, portrayed on stage by “Treme's” Rob Brown. Seated to the far side of the stage despite his prominence in the script, Brown gave a charismatic performance, clearly hungry to snag the spotlight with Ferrell from several seats away. Just as entertaining as Brown’s performance was watching him and Esposito — hilarious and physical in his own right — react to some of the script’s racially charged material with mock outrage.

    Ferrell certainly knows how to deliver a joke, and Gilligan’s tactile, moody screenplay gives him loads to work with, with plenty of sharp dialogue and memorably funny moments throughout the script. “2-Face” becomes increasingly dramatic as it goes on, but never loses its sense of humor, even as the characters are faced with dramatic, complex conflicts, and closes on a hopeful, dramatically satisfying note. The script shares a few thematic concerns with “Breaking Bad,” especially man’s capacity to deny his true nature and the duality of identity.

    Before the reading, Gilligan revealed to the audience that he’s been working on “2-Face” for 23 years. Even so, the racially themed comedy remains sharp and relevant today, and the Austin Film Fest assembled quite a cast to honor the work of one of its most esteemed guests.

  • Lorde vs. Miley

    There are two female pop stars who are currently reaching the peaks of their fame – Lorde and Miley Cyrus.

    On one end of the spectrum is the New Zealand teen who began hypnotizing our ears this year, and on the other is everyone’s favorite good-girl-turned-crazy. Both artists are at pivotal points of their careers, and even though they share the same radio space, they project almost polar opposite ideals in pop music. 

    Lorde seems to be the more serious artist of the two. With her young, tired voice, she breezes across deep bass and dreary synths, creating a fresh melancholic feel that is rare on top-40 stations. The resulting sound is very chill, and features mature and meditative lyrics. Her breakout hit “Royals” is about a generation accepting that it won’t party luxuriously, as is described on the radio, — #Miley — and being fine with that. On “Ribs,” she reflects on growing old, saying “I want them back / The minds we had / It’s not enough to feel the lack.” Most 16-year-olds aren’t concerned with such things, but Lorde is happy to ponder them. Her heightened maturity is also displayed in the image she gives off, as she commonly wears dark conservative clothing that compliments her colossal hair. Lorde is a serious artist, and she wants us to know. 

    Then we have the twerktastic Miley with her thumping party anthems. Her powerful vocal chops might actually surpass those of Lorde, but — save for her ballads — Miley’s music is best listened to within a field of red solo cups. Her music and lyrics are less about the listener reflecting on himself, and more about promoting #IDGAF ideals. “We Can’t Stop” perfects this to a tee, as she assures us, “It’s our party we can do what we want /say what we want /love who we want.” The comfortable partying of “Royals” is thrown out the window — Miley just wants to pop molly and go crazy. Her revealing attire only pushes the YOLO principles further, creating the image of our modern pop queen as we see her today.

    Even though these two artists seem completely disconnected from one another, they accentuate human facets we all desire. Lorde provokes us to reflect on what is going on around us, whereas Miley tells us to forget it and just have a great time. As Miley once said while wearing a blonde wig on the Disney channel – “Life is hard or it’s a party / The choice is up to you.” 

  • Gifts Adrian Peterson should have given his offensive line

    After Adrian Peterson’s nearly record-shattering 2012 rushing campaign, one can’t help but feel a little disappointed about his effort so far this year. While he has put together a solid showing so far, his numbers pale in comparison to last year’s.

    It’s hard to complain with a player like Peterson — even his slightly disappointing numbers this year would be a dream for most other running backs in the NFL. But yet, here we are — after last season’s incredible performance coming off an ACL tear, we were hoping for a little bit more.

    Maybe it’s not all Peterson’s fault. The Vikings have only a single win on the season, and he has very little help on the offensive side of the ball. It has come to the point where Peterson is nearly the only threat coming out of the Minnesota offense. 

    But Peterson is a loving, generous person, so despite the team’s struggles this far — and despite his 13 carries for 28 yards in his last game against the lowly New York Giants — Peterson got his entire offensive line snowmobiles as a thank-you for their help during last year’s campaign.

    With the O-line’s struggles so far this year (how hard is it to clear a path for a human rushing machine like Peterson?), here are some other gifts that might have suited them better.


    •    New cleats. Maybe lack of traction is the reason the O-line can’t plug holes for Peterson.

    •    Peterson’s own ACL rehab regimen. Whatever it was that turned Peterson into the NFL’s version of the Incredible Hulk would probably be helpful for anybody.

    •    The ability to walk on water. Who cares about football?  Give the game up and show off this trick taught to you by the man who is adoringly called “Purple Jesus” by his fans.

    •    A new razor blade. I mean, look at these guys.

    You know what? Better yet, stop giving them gifts altogether. Who in the world has a better job than Peterson’s offensive line? The fact that Peterson is always behind them making them look good is a greater gift than anyone could ever need.

  • Jonas Brothers are over

    The Jonas Brothers are officially broken up. 
    The Jonas Brothers are officially broken up. 

    It looks like The Jonas Brothers have sent out their final S.O.S.

    Less than three weeks after canceling their tour due to “a deep rift within the band” and deleting their official Twitter account, The Jonas Brothers have officially broken up.

    According to People magazine the group called it quits on October 3 after the youngest brother in the band, Nick Jonas, shared concerns about the band's future.

    "I was feeling kind of trapped," Nick Jonas told People. "I needed to share my heart with my brothers."

    Despite friction in the band, the singing siblings were on the same page when it came to announcing their split to People.

    “It’s really hard to say ‘forever’; we’re closing a chapter for sure,” Nick Jonas said.

    Middle brother Joe Jonas told People magazine that Nick voiced concerns that everyone in the band had; "it was a unanimous decision," Joe Jonas said.

    Speculation about what went wrong between the trio has circulated for weeks once the boy-band pulled the plug on their fall tour.  

    On October 29, the brothers made it official in a statement to People. So what does the future look like for the brothers?

    Questions about their newest album, Five, which was scheduled for release later this year have emerged. Will the album still be released? Most likely the release date will be pushed back, if it is released at all.  

    The Jonas Brothers signed with Columbia Records in 2005 and then Hollywood Records in 2007 and quickly became a pop sensation. After selling over 20 million albums worldwide, they took their musical talents to television, starring in two “Camp Rock” installments and their own Disney Channel show “Jonas.” After their show, the boy band dissolved as each brother explored their own avenues. Nick Jonas released a solo album Nick Jonas and the Administration and Joe Jonas released Fastlife. Kevin Jonas, the oldest Jo Bro, married and currently stars in a reality show on E! with his wife Danielle in “Married to Jonas.”

    Although the band of brothers are no more, perhaps we can count on seeing more solo projects from the Jonas family.