Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll premiered on July 16. FX gave the green light to five episodes. Hope there will be more.

Denis Leary stars as the broke, burned-out, coked-out, former 90s lead singer of The Heathens, with the prosaic rock star name Johnny Rock. Leary is making fun of himself and his leftover bad hairdo, because he created the show, writes it, directs it, stars in it and writes all the songs.

He opens the first show by doing lines of powdered laundry detergent, getting it mixed up with the pile of cocaine sitting next to it. “Best blow I’ve ever done. It’s got little green flakes in it, man.”

The band was the Heathens, a great stage success in the late 80s and early 90s. Their lead guitarist was Flash (John Corbett), drummer Bam Bam (Robert Kelly), bass player Rehab (John Ales) and backup singer Ava (Elaine Hendrix). They had to struggle for the spotlight (literally) https://www.youtube.com/embed/PiW-2XvnruU“>shining on Johnny at all times. They’ve all left the drugs behind, except Johnny. Flash is now Lady Gaga’s guitarist. Rehab and Bam Bam are doing fine in other bands.

They broke up because of infighting, all because of Johnny and his ego. Oh yes, and because he slept with everyone’s wife and girlfriend. (SO much he doesn’t remember!) And the timing wasn’t the best – the band broke up the day their record was released.

Right now Johnny’s agent has nothing for him. How is he supposed to work, 9 to 5?

Ava and Bam Bam have stuck with Johnny. They’re all out in a bar when Johnny sees a young woman coming on to him. After he trips on his way over to her – smooth – her greeting is not a smile, but a well-placed knee.

She’s his daughter he never knew he had. (It can happen. Remember Liv Tyler and Steven Tyler?)

Her name is Gigi. She’s a singer. She wants Flash and Johnny to write songs for her. His eye-rolling stops with her one statement – “I’m rich.”

Now Johnny’s determined to make this happen. But Flash hates him. Their conversation goes nowhere until he shows Flash her picture. Suddenly he’s in. Time to get the whole band – who hate Johnny—together.

Here’s where Denis Leary lets loose as caustic, pathetic Johnny about how bad it is for rockers to be sober:
About John Lennon: “He’d gotten so boring that if Mark David Chapman hadn’t shot him, Yoko probably would have.”

About bands in general: “Name one great band or rock star that doesn’t get high,” he asks the band in a mini-intervention. They respond: “Coldplay, Morrissey, Radiohead …” Johnny: “I rest my case.”

Enter Gigi, (Elizabeth Gillies, from “Victorious” and “iCarli” on Nickelodeon), not looking shy, not acting shy, in the recording studio. Johnny cringes when she declares she’d sleep with Flash. Then he (and everybody else) are amazed. The kid can sing.

That’s why there should be more than five episodes.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

It’s not too often that I photocopy certain pages of a book before I return it to the shelf. But this book contained magic tricks and cocktail recipes. So I did.

Neil Patrick Harris enjoyed the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books of his childhood, so his autobiography was written by you … entirely in the second person. There are choices at the end of chapters to skip ahead to a new favorite page. (But you don’t want to.)

From his description, you will get your big break at acting camp, decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D., spend years struggling with your sexuality, and decide what kind of caviar you want to eat onboard Elton John’s yacht.

But it was Harris, not you, who was a successful child actor who didn’t mess up his life, continued working in TV, movies and stage, and dealt with the confusion of dating women and why he was unhappy with that.

“You” grow up in show business, eventually winning 19 various awards among 41 nominations. You star in 10 seasons of TV’s “How I Met Your Mother” as the womanizing Barney Stinson. You host the Tony Awards four times. In 2011, your opening number, “It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BHyfYiBt5) wins an Emmy! You’re the host of the Emmys twice. (The book was written too early to say that you’d host the Oscars in 2015.)

You share some pages with friends who write about you – Kelly Ripa, Nathan Fillion, and Sarah Silverman. Fun. The most fun, and the most touching, is the evolution of your relationship with your husband, David Burtka, and the birth of your twins. You’re the luckiest person in the world. That’s clear.

Have you shared everything? All the ups and downs? We’re not sure. After all, there is some magic involved.

The Book of Joan by Melissa Rivers

We lost Joan Rivers on September 4, 2014, following a minor throat procedure at an outpatient clinic in Manhattan leading to serious complications, further leading to a medically induced coma from which she never awakened. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said she died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen, and the details of her surgery would be investigated by officials. On January 26, 2015, Melissa Rivers filed a malpractice lawsuit against the clinic and doctors performing surgery on her mother.

I miss Joan Rivers. I want Melissa Rivers to own that clinic – or to shut it down. But that’s just how I feel. That’s not in the book.

Know what else is not in the book? Did you know that Joan earned a Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College? No, she never bragged about that. Let’s talk about what was in the book. Melissa’s words are a lot better than mine.

How about the dedication:

For my Mother,

Whom I think about every day,

And for my Father,

Who, as of this past September,

Is no longer resting in peace

Melissa preceded some chapters with stories or quotes from Joan, which are irresistible.

“Missy, I don’t understand why celebrities think it’s okay to make out in restaurants and theaters. It’s a public place. Who else behaves like this? Did you ever see a chiropractor sucking his wife’s toes in a Taco Bell? I think not.”

“Realize how lucky you are. Fame is not a burden.”

“Your father didn’t care if I went to bed mad. He cared if I went to Bergdorf mad.”

“When it came to my boyfriends my mother had no middle ground; she either liked them or hated them. The ones I liked the most she liked the least. Oddly, she seemed to prefer the rich ones.”

Joan Rivers was fearless. She surprised plenty – by saying what they were thinking but wouldn’t dare say. At age 81 she was coming out with comments on “Fashion Police” that would land others in court. Too bad. She was Joan Rivers.

She got away with it.

We miss her. Melissa brings her back to us, a little bit.

Nightingale

The elegant David Oyelowo, who showed us Martin Luther King as a tragic hero in “Selma,” breaks our hearts once again in a completely different way.

“Nightingale” debuted on May 29 on HBO and is showing until June 22.

Peter Snowden is an army veteran with a hated job bagging groceries. We don’t see him in the market. We don’t see him outside at all. He’s inside his house. Alone. Talking to himself, therefore to us.

“Nightingale” is a one-man show, until we realize Peter is wildly disturbed and has been left with several personalities.

He goes to the porch to receive a delivery, and remarks on Mother’s vanity. Why did she order a three-part mirror?

He gives us a hint that his mother nagged him just a bit too much, “and I just snapped…and there was so much blood.” But we see nothing, until he looks around for his glasses and has to wipe blood off them.

Calling Norman Bates.

Peter is obsessed with arranging a dinner with his army buddy Edward. He is using a video camera to record these important plans – just the right menu, fixing up the place, oh what to wear. He’s nervous. He’s positively giddy.

Before calling, Peter holds the phone and rehearses his conversation with Edward. This is obviously an important event and an important invitation. He’s determined.

He leaves a voicemail for Edward, happily describing a “change in circumstances.” Yes, there’s been a change, all right.

He keeps on calling, and he repeatedly gets Edward’s wife Gloria on the phone. He’s as frustrated as Gloria is. She just won’t put him on. “How are you and how are the children” changes in tone as the calls multiply.

There are also concerned calls for Mother. Peter lies. She’s lying down. She’s stepped out. She’s never available. He lies to her friends. He lies to his sister. He screams at his sister. His mood changes by the second. He snaps. He’s wildly angry.

All that matters is Edward, and that’s not working out.

You’re in that house with Peter, it’s claustrophobic, he’s painted himself into a smaller and smaller corner, and you can’t take your eyes off him. He’s left looking into that mirror, just hopelessly staring. What’s staring back? He shows us madness. Words aren’t necessary anymore.

Grace of Monaco: From Cannes to Lifetime TV

Nicole Kidman starred as Princess Grace of Monaco in a biopic that opened the Cannes Film Festival. It was a failure. Then it failed again in European theaters. The royal family of Monaco hated the film. The American producer Harvey Weinstein and the French director Olivier Dahan fought in public and had two different visions of the film. It never appeared on American screens and ended up on the Lifetime TV network.

Let’s see, it started out as Oscar bait and ended up on a Sunday night on cable. And – thank you – not costing $12.

To say this was a waste of Nicole Kidman is an understatement. She is 20 times the actor Grace Kelly ever was, so she could do (in her sleep) Kelly’s supposed speech to French President Charles deGaulle at the end of the film imploring him to spare tiny Monaco his taxation scheme.

U.S. stargazers had gone crazy in 1955 when Oscar winner Grace Kelly left Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier and become Princess of Monaco, a tiny principality on the French Riviera smaller than New York’s Central Park. The movie doesn’t touch on what biographers have told us – that the prince needed a wife; that the marriage was a wonderful arrangement; and that they each had several affairs over the years.   

Six years into her marriage, Princess Grace is approached by Alfred Hitchcock to star in “Marnie.” She would love the opportunity, but the prince (the wonderful but wasted Tim Roth) would never allow a kissing scene and doesn’t trust Hitchcock or Hollywood. The princess is feeling stifled in the palace. The prince is in political crisis.

French president Charles deGaulle (Andre Penvern) wants to tax French citizens and French businesses enjoying the famous tax-free environment of Monaco. The film goes far beyond the 1962 reality, with deGaulle sending in tanks and setting up a blockade.

Grace doesn’t go to Hollywood, and she persuades deGaulle that tiny Monaco should continue without exploitation or heavy taxation.

And they didn’t live happily ever after.

Cake

Jennifer Aniston has moved a long way from a decade on TV’s “Friends” and a seemingly unending string of bad romantic comedies.

In “Cake” she shows some serious acting chops. She wanted to be considered for an Oscar, but she wasn’t ready yet. Not the same year as Julianne Moore in “Still Alice.” However, as Claire, suffering from chronic pain, she’s asked to leave her support group in the first scene of the movie when she gives some wry support of her own to the suicide of a group member, Nina.

Aniston has scars on her face, greasy hair, no makeup, and doesn’t care what she’s wearing. She’s in pain, dammit. And she makes us feel it a bit too. There are soft groans instead of screams. There are grimaces. She lies down in a car because she can’t sit up.

She’s aided by her housekeeper Silvana (Adriana Barrazza), who knows the road trip to Tijuana isn’t aboveboard but takes her there anyway. She also knows she’s told to leave early one afternoon so Claire can have sex with the gardener. Silvana’s also the one saying the rosary at Claire’s hospital bed after she’s taken a fistful of painkillers.

Claire has nightmares and hallucinations involving dead Nina (Anna Kendrick), inducing her to join her in suicide. She finds Nina’s husband Roy (Sam Worthington) and befriends him and his 5-year-old son, maybe as a lifeline not to do the deed.

We find out gradually that a horrible accident left Claire in constant pain and killed her little boy, also destroying her marriage to Jason (Chris Messina) and her law career. Do we blame her for entertaining the end?

Aniston turns a corner in her career and does the best with a not-the-best script by Patrick Tobin. The cake idea comes from a wish from ghost Nina to be capable of baking a birthday cake for her little boy. So Claire has somebody bake one. Big deal. It led to a dumb title.

Jennifer Aniston, keep at it. Find better scripts and do this kind of acting. You’ve shown us something good.

Unbroken: Read The Book. See The Movie.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is a 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, author of the best-selling book Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001).

Unbroken is a biography of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash in the Pacific theater, spent 47 days drifting on a raft, and then survived more than two and a half years in three brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.

Louie as a child was a bit of a wise guy and a shoplifter. His older brother Pete decided to straighten him out by following in his track team footsteps. Soon Louie was beating his brother’s records and won a college scholarship, having set a world interscholastic record for the mile.

Not thinking he had a chance, the 19-year-old entered the 1936 Olympics in the 5000-meter race against a world record holder. He finished eighth, but his 56-second final lap caught Adolf Hitler’s attention, and he requested a meeting. Zamperini remembers that he shook his hand and said, “Ah, you’re the boy with the fast finish.”

After the Olympics, Louie enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he set a national collegiate mile record of 4:08 minutes, becoming the “Torrance Tornado,” after his hometown.

Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and became a bombardier. In May 1943 he was part of a search mission in a “lemon” of a plane that crashed into the ocean south of Oahu, killing eight of the eleven men aboard. The three survivors spent an unbelievable 47 days on two rubber rafts with no water and little food, capturing rainwater and small fish eaten raw. One of the three died after 33 days. On the 47th day they reached land in the Marshall Islands and were captured by the Japanese Navy.

They spent more than two more years, until August 1945, in three Japanese prisoner of war camps, severely beaten and mistreated. Zamperini was particularly singled out by prison guard Mutsuhiro “Bird” Watanabe, a sadist who never ceased thinking up new punishments.

By definition, a movie cannot include as much background detail as a book. The author, Laura Hillenbrand, included an amazing amount of backstory in the book “Unbroken.” In the movie, directed by Angelina Jolie and written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, we don’t experience the story of Louie’s extended family (who received a mistaken Killed in Action message during the war), the love of the girls back home, the postwar challenges in the soldiers’ lives, and (thankfully) the details of what the prisoners experienced in the camps. So, as always, read the book first.

The movie was a success and received standing ovations at the New York Film Festival and from several movie audiences. It earned three Oscar nominations and grossed $15.59 million on its opening day (including previews), which is the third-biggest Christmas Day debut ever, and the fifth-biggest Christmas Day gross ever. It was voted one of the Top Ten Films of the Year by The American Film Institute.