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10/10
A Standout Film of The McMartin Preschool Trial of the 80s and 90s.
20 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Let me begin by writing, one would hope not to be so close to many of the deemed sensational trials of the latter part of the 20th Century, - but I was one of those folks who got to be around two - The Menendez Brothers and this one, The McMartin Preschool Trial. One happened two blocks of where I was living at the time, the other a few blocks from where I worked. And this movie drama enactment was top notch for it's time.

There is no doubt about it, this was the most horrific thing I had ever heard of, and it was scary. It was scary because of the victims, the children and everything they were exposed to. I can write from first hand that this was a trying time in that area. No one was 100% in agreement with everything. Everyone had an opinion. People I was working with knew the accused and the accusers first hand. Those that lived in Manhattan Beach (and Hermosa and Redondo the adjacent beaches)absolutely had their views and you could NOT remove them from it. It was volatile. And the more the accusations came out, the more precarious it got. And this whole McMartin Preschool Trial...was almost a DECADE and 13 Million dollars of taxpayer of money (yep!) for acquittals ... and this HBO film hit the nail on the head.

This was well written, made your skin crawl, and that is how many were feeling. This did a great job of showing the jockeying between the children, the McMartins, the Attorneys, the child therapist, the teachers(!), the media (ugh!), the parents of the children. What I liked so much about this film --was it did NOT take sides, it presented it as it was, and the end still leaves you to...wonder. Make no mistake, this was real...this happened. And what happened...is more questions and accusations than answers.

HBO was starting to make its wonderful reputation of "HBO Films" diving into subject matter Networks were attempting to show but sugar-coated many because of Network Standards, HBO was being raw about their approaches. Actor Henry Thomas as Ray Buckey gives a standout performance. It is cold, chilling...scary. Actor Sada Thompson as the owner of the McMartin Preschool also takes you out of any comfortable place as you are wondering about the grandmother of Ray Buckey and her also as the mother of Peggy Buckey, Ray's mom portrayed by Actor Shirley Knight and it's a performance to behold). It was a family affair. James Woods gives another one of his best performances as Ray Buckey's Attorney Danny Davis against Mercedes Ruehl's spot-on performance as the Prosecuting Attorney Lael Rubin and this is something to watch --and keep in mind this is BEFORE the Menendez Trials and the OJ Simpson Trial in Los Angeles. This is how Los Angeles was...and this HBO film captures it's first case that (in my view) opens up a whole can of judicial worms to come).

The film shows also shows how the McMartin Preschool trial also became a web of mass hysteria and yes, 15 minutes of fame that ruined any real judicial hope of getting to the bottom of this. There were victims and they were the children (scared, abused, manipulated), and in this movie you will see that the child victims may have been victimized -- twice. This film does not display any easy answers (there really wasn't any) and you just can't leave it thinking there was a conclusion - the film is clear in stating there was not. Still isn't.

In 2017-2018 I am sure people notice that filmmakers are bringing these trials to cable/streaming/movies for this generation -- and they should because it is a not too distant past that no one has made a decent conclusion of. I know the McMartin Preschool Trial will be getting a re-do as well in the future. But before that, please watch this film first. Great performances, great writing, keeps you glued. Rent it, stream it -- as it is one of HBO's 10 best and as relevant today and it was in the 1980's. That is how good this is.
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White Famous (2017– )
7/10
Another...'this is how Hollywood Works' Show
23 October 2017
After watching the first episode, I was ready to put it into the "stop wasting my time file" as I didn't find the main character's situation at all interesting --only because the premise has been done over and over and over again. The other reason for me is that when I "look" at this program starring Jay Pharoah, I am taken back to a film I absolutely loved from Robert Townshend called "Hollywood Shuffle". There was a scene in the movie where there was a casting for a film, and they were seeking "an Eddie Murphy-Type". This was because "Eddie Murphy" was "80s hot" and "bankable" then, and so that was what they wanted from budding African-American actor/comedians. NOt their individuality. In the audition room were actors all dressed up, mimicking, "Eddie Murphy" waiting to audition for the role. This is what "White Famous" reminds me of. And that is not a bad thing entirely, but hard to grasp for the main character in 2017.

This comedian wants to show how it would be to be "White Famous" defined as to be known and respected across the board (a cross-over artist) and get paid equally for it. This program, "White Famous" is not just for this African American comedian, but also 'the wish' for the people in his orbit trying to get him there, no matter what their racial background. It's the 'tag description' for ANYONE wishing to 'make it in Hollywood', and this show is letting the viewer know that's the "in-phase".

For this struggling comedian getting into acting in Hollywood, has his ideas, and they have theirs but the bottom line is both are seeking the fame and money in making this work. Is this a new premise? No. However to make it appealing to audiences will be the "likeability" of the characters. Jay Pharoah is at the decision-pinnacle of such a career, as we are all getting to know him, and are on the same journey as he juggles career, being a single dad, relationship whoa's and more.

For programs like this, the ultimate test of whether it works or not is if the viewer cares and roots for the subject to succeed. Currently, I am not getting a feeling either way. He's not very likable, but he isn't a horror either. His agent(s) aren't very interesting as they are stereotypical of Hollywood Agents and Manager and the Hollywood scene has been done over and over -- so I am not picking anything too interesting out of it above the norm in this show about them. I do somewhat like the "crazy-movie" producer/director played by Michael Rappaport as that character combines Hollywood's craziness into one ball as he too is looking to be "white famous". The fear is that this character needs to be taken in dribs-and-drabs as it is. More of a character like this would be overkill.

The relationship between his 'baby-mama' (and BTW, I dislike that phrase so much, it's a big turn off for me)and he isn't interesting beyond what is already established, and his comedy isn't making me stand up and cheer. As it has been said many times by other comedians -- 'stringing a bunch of curse words together for a laugh, isn't always funny'. I'm not familiar with his stand up, and this show doesn't quite move me to want to see it with any urgency -- meaning -- if I see it in passing, I may or may not stop to look.

There's some potential here, but I don't know if it will bring in enough viewer interest for people to want to witness it develop before it is canceled.
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Inhumans (2017– )
7/10
For Free TV...it's Okay
14 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I had no idea who "The Inhumans" are, what MARVEL Comic series it came from, etc., etc...so this is just someone reviewing this with only the knowledge that it was from a comic book of MARVEL characters. The episodes I've seen so far is doing what it needs to: introducing you to the characters and conflict of these ..."Inhumans". It's not horribly bad as I expected from many of these posts I read on IMDb. But I think the advantage I had with it was to "binge watch" the episodes so far, and that helped.

In 'binge-watching' The Inhumans, it got my curiosity, and I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know the players and of course, "The Inhumans" and the conflicts, where they fit, and there are questions I am left with such as I don't think the King (Black Bolt) and Queen (Medusa) of Attilan had such a great Kingdom up there on the Moon. You do get early on that there are class struggles (people working in the mines who don't have any special powers, etc., etc.), entitlements of the Royal Family of Inhumans and those who want to pretend to be inhuman and that is before the conflicts of debating (or escaping, or...?) to Earth to be with 'humans'. Round and round it goes. However, this is very much to be related to the "times" (as I did have a hard time watching the street scene where Black Bolt was captured on Earth by the human police. Yikes).

And then there's the character of Ramsay Bolton...errr...Maximus. Well, therein lies another distraction in this series for me so far, The wonderful actor Iwan Rheon and yes, 'that character' has many similarities here. Maybe the casting people wanted that 'vibe', but every time Maximus sits on that Iron Throne..oh, darn there I go again! This could be a good thing or a bad thing, and I want to stick with this to find out.

My review (and criticisms) of The Inhumans also have a tad to do with...TV comic book series nostalgia. This series reminds me of the initial TV 'Batman' series of the 1960s. I am sure if it were done today, in the same way, there would be an uproar! I get it but get this: I was 'that audience' that TV series of the Caped Crusader was made for.

My older, very knowledgeable comic book weaned brothers? They were so angry at how Batman was developed for TV as they were the comic book, DC die-hard fans. They hated the "silly" portrayals of The Joker, The Penguin...etc., and absolutely hated the "wall climbing", the "made up villains" and a host of things.

Again, I knew nothing of those and was a child (okay, I was 4) who just enjoyed the weekly fun (yeah, and the merchandise that came with it I had to have!). The Inhumans kinda reminds me of another broadcast TV attempt to "walk the line" towards an updated updated comic book series made for TV, watered down but not so watered down to add in current relevance (well -- the 1960's Batman TV series did too with music and dance any even psychedelics of its time, it was the 60s...!). Although I wouldn't recommend this for 4,5 and 6-year-olds as it isn't as corny as the 60's Batman. Yes, the Inhumans had some corny in the pilot. But...it is broadcast TV, not cable, not streaming, etc., but 2017 broadcast TV with budgets getting lighter and lighter so the CGI and choreography aren't too polished --and the series shouldn't be deemed "horrible" because of it. However, by the 3rd installment, things got better. And that corny can either get more -- or fade away as the series continues. THe point is...I'll just stick around a bit more to find out.
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Sssssss (1973)
5/10
Frankensteinish for Snakes
24 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this on regular TV in the 80s, and then recently saw it on one of the cable channels uncut. This is one of those 70s horror films that came out that experimented with the way out genre. I think if there was some idea to experiment with mixing this with that kinda thing, they tried it and made a movie out of it in the 70s with small budgets. Come on, it's too much to take seriously - but for some, it can be scary because of the theme of snakes and especially towards the end.

Strother Martin plays the 'mad scientist' that has lost his mind in his ambition to make people into snakes. He gets a new research assistant after the other one 'goes missing', played by Dirk Benedict and proceeds to turn him into a snake. The 'mad scientist's' daughter, played by Heather Menzies, falls in love with the new research assistant, of course.

The thing about these low-budget 70s movies is that they do not have a happy ending. This one doesn't either. The town seems to be populated with people who are very dense, and films like this defy folks realizing the worst is happening until the worst has happened. And the police? Always arriving at the last minute--unable to 'save the day' but scratch their heads and wonder what has been going on right under their noses. So yeah, this film is formulaic in that sense. It could be a thrill for those who like all kinds of snakes, as this film shows them. I'm not a lover of snakes, however, I could not help but cheer for the Cobra near the end, and feel really, really bad for the mongoose.

The acting is 70s overacting - and you find yourself thinking how different this film would have been with more money and a script where people would have at least a gun or garden hoe to save themselves - but that's how these films went. Not very bad, but not very good either, looks more like a 70s movie of the week instead of a 70s feature film, but its just enough to keep some interest and a good entry for those reviewing the 70s history of inexpensive, "what were they thinking' horror films. Don't take it too seriously.
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8/10
A Prequel to a Prequel
21 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'll admit, I watched the film a few times before rendering a vote, but I found it to be a decent entry in the "world" of Harry Potter. I am one that hasn't read the books but saw every movie and became a decent fan of it that way. If you've seen the films and paid attention to little details, "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them" actually ties in pretty well. The problem is, many will miss that.

This movie has a big cast, and several stories running through it. Some I liked, some I didn't. The story I could do without was the election one (with Jon Voight), it seemed to weigh the story down. I understand it was meant to expose an element, but it wasn't that necessary to do so in such a convoluted way. If they just nixed this all and took a few sentences to explain it instead, it would have saved 20 minutes of the film.

I liked the story of Jacob (the aspiring baker) and how he happened upon Newt (played by Eddie Redmayne) and Porpentina (played by Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (played by Alison Sudol) and those 'Fantastic Beasts' - and 'where to find them'. The 'beasts' were okay, some very colorful, some not really fully realized as I would have liked to see them.

Creedence (played by Ezra Miller) was a bit of a letdown for me -- maybe because of the unveiling wasn't "dark" enough of a creature for me, but a CGI puff of smoke and even before that, I was trying to get a feel for the character and was all over the place on it. I've seen scarier more threatening ones in PG movies and I think this movie needed a better one. And Creedence's story overall needed to be better fleshed out.

The story that confuses folks the most is the one of Percival (played by Collin Farrell). This is why I watched the film a few times before it dawned on me that this is what will connect it to the franchise. When I finally 'got it' was when I thought this was a good prequel to a prequel.

The 'Percival' story just got really bogged down and drawn out to get to the point - and I would think the die-hard Harry Potter fans got it immediately --in the end, and that was the unfortunate part. I would have liked more clues THROUGHOUT the film leading to the reveal at the end. Why? Because of those somewhat Harry Potter fans like me, it took a minute to 'get' -- but after I realized what was going on, I am looking forward to the next installment. What is it, I think..? Well (And warning -- here maybe a BIG SPOILER!!!)'Percival' wasn't really 'Percival' but ... the dark arts master Gilbert Grindenwald! Wow!!! If you're now still wondering who Grindenwald is, then I can understand why the whole thing is still confusing. However, what is important to know is that Grindenwald and eventual Hogwarts Professor Dumbledore have a huge...and I mean HUGE ... history before Harry Potter. This is an exciting prospect.

I think this was an attempt to bring the Grindenwald/Dumbledore story into the Harry Potter franchise/world. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them", introduced you to those that will be important to Harry Potter's world, but this now is their World. Don't discount this film. There are so many hints to what is to come. But ya gotta go through this first. And don't miss the'subtle' but interesting barb of the two competing best Wizardry Schools, one in North America, Ilvermorny and Hogwarts! Two Wizardry Schools?!?!? Wow! For me, this film is getting to some very excellent upcoming stories was longer and got convoluted than need be to get to (or understand for some) and made what could have been a really great film entry into the next side of the Harry Potter world, a longer one than need be.
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The Deuce (2017– )
8/10
So Far, It's Exactly As it Was in the 70s but it needs to get to the point quicker
19 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In reviewing "The Duece" at this point, I have a slight advantage in looking at it and that is, I can easily spot the influences of real people some of the work is based on. On that alone, they are doing a great job in setting up New York porn/hustling in the early 70s. I just wonder how much they are throwing at the audience at once, and if it is something that will keep their interest as the story unfolds.

The 'obvious' part of "The Duece" is that it is about the streets in the early 70s --the women who 'walk it' and the pimps who profit off of it, and the OTHERS that are not as obvious who profit from NY porn as well. It is already established that it is not pretty for these women, not glamorous - as neither are the women walking those streets and the men they service to make that living - and it is a gritty, abusive living that these pimps are exploiting. For those tuning in for the "sex" and "nudity" - they will miss the point. None of this is to titillate, it is to make the viewer feel uncomfortable, and that it does. And that it should.

What may be bogging the series down is introducing important arcs that I am sure later on will come together for many of the viewers. I already know how this will play, but for those who don't, it will make the show slow and boring if not confusing at points. But it is a good story, I'm just concerned as to how long it will take to get to it! For example, the show has introduced the male twins, to whom this story will actually revolve around (and there is much material there). James Franco plays both characters, and it is interesting to watch him bring the bar owner and gambler/hustler to life. It's just slow getting' there.

We have had a taste of the crooked police, the mob, the gay bar scene, the ladies (from all diverse backgrounds of being highly educated (this is very important for one of the classic porn films in 1972) to those who were FORCED to do it (this is important for the other classic porn film of 1972), being mothers/duel life and co-eds all hitting the streets for their various reasons), the pimps, the investigative journalist, the underground sex reels, and the cash generated for...whom? That's going to be important as the series moves on -- all coming together to tell a tale of (lucrative) underground porn that will become very commercial in America in a very short time (1972, with two porn films that break this whole thing wide open).

What I hope this will get to (quickly) is when this porno-phase hits, the rising popularity of New York porno films beyond the loops, how it will first hurt those street pimps and then, help them to become "rock-stars", how the police got their slice (and their involvement with helping to place these women in these films), how the mob got their slice, the rise of underground gay films (as the men who are in the hetero-films are also being exploited with gay-themed films by the same folks!), the women it hurt to the women who had absolutely no problem in doing this -- and the ONE woman -- yes it's Candy (played by the brave and very talented Maggie Gyllenhaal) -- that will first star --- and then be the first to direct and produce her own successful porn films. Candy's entry into what was a male-dominated industry of porn films will have a different view, then the films the women who were forced into it (by pimps, boyfriends, and police). It won't be easy getting there, a that is a story in and of itself. And really, I hope this is where it's going.

There is much drama to cover here. Many turns, many surprises, but as I mentioned earlier, I know how this series 'can'/'should' turnout. It can be interesting and historical. It's not "Boogie Nights" as the San Fernando porn scene (1977-1983) was different than the grittier New York porn scene (the early 70s before the porno films-commercialism) this is focused on and then, there is San Francisco porn scene that will become popular thanks to two brothers and a 'green door' (1972), but -- oops, maybe TMI and possible spoilers. At least, maybe --I hope to be spoilers as it will make the series even more interesting on the subject. If...it can if it get to the point quickly. Fingers crossed for upcoming episodes to unveil the point(s) and if anyone can attempt to tell the tale it's HBO.
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Buying Hawaii (2013– )
1/10
Scary Hawaii Real Estate
17 September 2017
I just found this program and watched 6 episodes and if I did not have any experience of Hawaii and its islands at all, I found myself not wanting to buy Hawaii Real Estate or visiting Hawaii at all. Wild boars, termites, centipedes, lava, earthquakes, rail, tsunamis, little food, outhouses, sumps, banks that will not FUND a mortgage in certain areas (pssst, the areas they are showing!) ...and folks willing to risk life, family, children to buy a home there. Really?!?! I know people with families who have owned property for decades in various places in Hawaii and never have I heard of such disasters! Make no mistake, no matter where one chooses to live there are going to be "natures" problems -- and Hawaii has Islands and land that is still developing. It is not the mainland so yeah, things are going to be exported to it and it will take time to get it, but this program gives you the creepy-crawlies/itchy-witchies and turns one completely off of Hawaii as a place to settle in. And not just that, those who buy any of these showings, you wonder -- "what the HECK are you thinking?!?!" I cannot speak about the 'mispronunciations' of Hawaii destinations claimed as I was too busy wondering what the heck --just what is the program trying to show? It's not positive and sometimes it's good to "see the other side", but this has been downright negative and Hawaii and it's island real estate offerings, good and bad, deserve much better.
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La La Land (I) (2016)
2/10
LA LA LAND is a lullaby
16 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I am a big fan of Hollywood Musicals (From Busby Berkley ones to Hedwig and the Angry Inch from the Directors, Choreographers and Dancers like Astaire, Kelly, Caron, Fosse, Dandridge, Charisse, Rivera, Nicolas Brothers, Tune, Moreno, etc... even little Shirley Temple) the ones done "back in the day" and some of the more recent ones, which is why I cannot express my disappointment in watching LA LA LAND. So much so, turned to another premium channel that showed the late artist's Prince's "Sign O' The Times" (which hadn't been shown in 20 years) and found that more on track for a "tip to stage musicals" than LA LA LAND (and let me add I was not a big Prince fan, and I know this was a 'concert' stage film of one of his recordings more than a 'musical' so this is making a point).

LA LA LAND tells the old tale of a struggling (jazz) musician and budding actress in Los Angeles trying to make it. Yes, you've seen it over 100 times, and this is just one more telling. They run into each other at 'meaningless but hoping to get discovered while making ends meet' Hollywood functions they are at. They're dreamers in the land where dreams can or may not come true, Los Angeles - or a reasonable facsimile thereof. One of the biggest problems is that I found the leads, 'eh' - no spark for me between the two, no real 'heart' for me between the two, no reason to make me want to root for their success OR failure whether they were in Los Angeles or anyplace else.

The production numbers are -'eh'. The music is - 'eh'. The dancing is 'eh'. The story is - 'eh'. And 'eh' seems perfect for this 'eh' generation that seems to want to like anything that is a way-watered down or blatantly copied (oops, 'sampled' now called 'homage') version of something that was done infinitely better before.

The emphasis on colors throughout this film are like the colors on products from "The Price is Right" - bright, attention-grabbing and staged to where you want to buy them where you can find them. But I didn't buy into this. Want to see good musicals with bright colors, bright music, boy meets girl and dancing..? Bollywood has done it better, much, much, MUCH better and I am as American as apple-pie mind you! I just love musicals.(For example, Bollywood films like 'Jab We Met' or 'Bajirao Mastani' or even 'Cocktail' are done much better).

I would never compare LA LA LAND to ANY the musicals of its past - they are classics and you root for the subjects, tape your feet, get transported to their world, watch amazing choreography and whimsy - even in the more tragic of musical tales. So is LA LA LAND a homage to the old musicals? Tries to be, however just didn't work for me.
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5/10
Whitney: One Perspective
9 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Let me be clear -- 'Whitney: Can I Be Me' is one documentary that I am sure will be one of many, and future movies and films that are all going to come out and present the perspectives of those who participate in them. For example, I have seen the Michael Jackson documentaries, etc., and they all keep coming because there were so many people around him that have different tales to tell, and were exposed to his life in different ways (from family to body guards to ticket sellers, etc.) that they feel their perspectives needed to be told. This documentary on Whiney Houston is similar to just one of those.

In that, Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal have put together a very sad perspective on Whitney Houston told through those they interviewed and archival footage. Right there, it lets the viewer know it will not be complete nor told from those who need to be a part of this. It is not a concert film to celebrate Whitney's talent, but just a micro-one-sided telling of a world wide talent that met with tragedy. Some will feel that is exploitative because it doesn't fully address what it should, just the 'tragic parts' and I will agree that is a fair assessment.

Whitney's fans will like the never-before-seen footage of Whitney in concert in Europe 13 years before her death, the backstage footage of seeing how much of a toll that can take on a performer as popular as Whitney, and getting glimpses of when she was happy being a friend, a mom, and wife. And with the interviews of the few that did speak, we see how that was all a heavy load and much to cope. That's the area it touches on about Whitney being Whitney.

Then it veers into her trials, drug use, questions about her sexuality and how this all contributed towards her demise. In documentaries like this, many Whitney fans will feel as if the documentarian(s) are after the tabloidism of the subject, to kick the subject down after they are gone, get something cheap and tawdry released for ratings. Her fans know she had problems (She had a reality show which was never mentioned, for example). Is there a need for this documentary, then? Not a need, but a perspective that needs to be told, and they told it.

Whitney was huge in the 80s and 90s, and I appreciated her talent very much. I do not think this is the "official documentary" that will be/should be done on Whitney Houston from those who were very close to her and would agree to sit down, look into a camera and discuss Whiney's life in their lives, and I would recommend that die-hard fans stay away from this since the focus is on her downfall and does feel heavy handed on that at times -- they should wait for the 'true'documentary to be done. I expect that it will. But this one is a 'blip' of her life, a very sad tragic telling that actually leaves more questions for fans and non-fans alike who may be interested than it answers.
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8/10
A Hollywood Romcom relationship tale that isn't so bad
9 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It took me years to 'sneak' up on this film. I am not a fan of Judd Apatow films, and that is what kept me away from this one. But I found it by coincidence on cable TV and it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

Jason Segel as Peter Bretter does make the film. It is the story of a musician who scores the mood soundtrack for the show his 5-year girlfriend, Sarah Marshall stars in. Kristin Bell does a wonderful job as Sarah, who isn't as 'wonderful' as she appears. She is a real piece of work. She dumps longtime steady Peter for a current popular rock musician Aldous Snow, played by Russell Brand, who she had been seeing for quite some time. Peter has a rough time with the break-up and to try to forget, he ends up in Hawaii where Sarah and Aldous are also 'vacationing'.

The film has some neat funny moments overall, especially with the all supporting cast members like of Bill Hader as the stepbrother, and I even liked Johna Hill's little bits in the film as the die-hard fan of Aldous Snow. But the work of Mila Kunis as Rachel, the Hotel customer-service rep, glues the situations that occur together. I also did like Russell Brand as the famous-rock musician as every time I watch it, it's a natural role for him not unlike who he might be in such a situation. Aldous Snow is so fair, so even-keeled in his portrayal, it's sickening and Russel has it down-pat. Sarah, on the other hand, is a not--for both men in her atmosphere so that when what happens to her happens, it's a wonderful payback moment of the film.

What I could have done without was the bed scenes of the newly married couple played by Maria Thayer and Jack MacBrayer--even though I like both of the actors. I just saw little need for those scenes but really enjoyed Jack talking about it more than seeing it, as those scenes were much more funnier.

This came out to be better than I expected, kinda falls a bit towards the end with the Peter-Sarah-Rachel triangle summary. I find this better to see uncut rather than on regular TV, and the funny moments with some serious ones made me overlook some of the parts I thought dragged it down a bit.
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