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There’s No Story

By Laura Leon

Morning Glory

Directed by Roger Michell

The ostensible love story embedded in Morning Glory involves workaholic producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) and hunky journalist Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson). Theirs has all the meet-cute credibility one would expect from a fluffy romantic comedy like this, and indeed, they look really cute together, especially as he visibly struggles to make heads or tails of her mile-a-minute banter and her adorable unease in nonwork situations. But the real dynamic relationship in the movie, which was directed by Roger Michell, is the one between Becky and the cantankerous news reporter Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), whom she hires to co-host the struggling morning news show Daybreak. Pomeroy has a distinguished and award-winning career plumbing the journalistic depths of places like Bosnia and Iraq, and bitterly resents having to stoop to AM banter and promos about Easter eggs and menopause tips. He’s all bile to Becky’s persistent sunshine, and highly unlikely to acquiesce to her pleas to help her turn the show around before it’s too late.

It’s a funny premise, especially when Ford plays Pomeroy with so little warmth, refusing to soften the curmudgeon even when this decision threatens to completely turn off the audience. His sparring, both on- and off-air, with co-host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) is delicious, if in too short supply. Indeed, Keaton’s acid-tongued former beauty queen is a hoot, but she’s given hardly any screen time. Colleen’s decision to do whatever necessary to support Becky’s attempts to bring the show out of the ratings cellar comes out of the blue, and while it could have provided rich fodder for more dissension between Peck and Pomeroy, it is instead wanly milked for sight gags like Keaton in a sumo wrestling fat suit.

The script, by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), tries to skewer the empty calories that make up much of the usual morning news show diet, but it also wants to prove that segments like Colleen’s on-air pap smear have a purpose. Instead of being deliciously wicked, it settles on cute and occasionally funny, relying almost exclusively on McAdams’ Mary Tyler Moore-style likeability in lieu of smart characterizations such as were on ample display in a better movie about the same business, Broadcast News.

The last 20 minutes feel really artificial, as if the filmmakers realized that they hadn’t accomplished what perhaps they had set out to do, and just have an overwhelming need for closure. Would the powers that be at NBC really interview Becky while her show is airing, with the TV on in the same room? Would the studiously professional Becky, whose lifelong goal has been to land a job at Today, actually be unable to focus on the prize at hand? All this, and a music video montage of Becky running through the city in pink heels, is a bit much to swallow for audiences who have gamely sat through an uneven, if sometimes very funny, storyline.

 

Monster Mash

Skyline

Directed by the Brothers Strause

Whether or not you enjoy the new alien invasion flick Skyline depends upon whether or not you’re a sci-fi masochist. Are you the kind of person who will cheerfully endure an awful plot or negligible acting for the sake of awesome special effects or a compelling story? Then Skyline will prove a mild diversion for your movie dollar.

Might as well detail the painful aspects of the movie first. The characters are unappealing. The only remotely sympathetic schmucks are killed off first. Most of the drama is built around graffiti artist Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his pregnant girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson); he’s a dipshit and she’s only marginally less stupid. Eventually, one longs to see them killed.

The setting is modern L.A. dull. That’s not completely fair; the use of the antiseptic, high-rise condo setting is dull. The fact that all the apartments and stairways look alike was an opportunity wasted on the filmmakers, unless they took the opportunity to be sloppy about the action; eventually the level of boredom engendered by the story served as a narcotic, and I found myself not caring about the actual geography of the building and how it related to the action.

The particulars of the alien invasion don’t make any sense, and there are too many details to ignore. Why does the aliens’ blue light, which attracts humans like cocaine attracts Hollywood producers, affect human physiology? Why are all the media outlets destroyed, while the military remains intact? Why do the alien crafts move like the squigglies in The Matrix, and look like mini-versions of the Cloverfield monster? (Wait, I know the answer to that last pair of questions.)

What’s fun about Skyline? The Brothers Strause know how to ratchet up suspense, at least for the first 50 minutes or so. They know how to build a sense of mystery, and creeping horror, as the characters—and audience—begin to figure out what the aliens are after. And the monsters themselves are ugly and impressive; the battles between the monsters and human military technology are well done.

The problem is that they just go too far with their sci-fi whimsies. Unfortunately, while it took another set of brothers—the Wachow-skis—three films to destroy their great sci-fi epic (The Matrix trilogy), the Strauses wreck everything in 95 minutes.

To get back to, and finish, my original point: If you are not a masochist of any kind, Skyline will bore the crap out of you and make you regret spending your time and money.

—Shawn Stone


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