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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Susan Granger at the Movies: ‘Entourage,’ ‘Poltergeist,’ and ‘Aloha’

By Susan Granger

If you were enthralled by all eight seasons of the HBO’s “Entourage,” you won’t want to miss the movie.

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If you’re a newbie, you’ll have an all-access pass to glitz and glam, a hedonistic fantasy of Hollywood, parodying the decadence and outrageous excesses of the entertainment industry.

But who really cares about movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), his clueless half-brother, actor Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), and their buddies: glib superagent Ari (Jeremy Piven), pizza boy-turned-manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) and driver-turned-tequila mogul Turtle (Jerry Ferrara)?

The movie picks up where the series ended, as the ‘guys’ join Vince and a bevy of bikini-clad babes aboard his luxury yacht off the coast of Spain after his five-day marriage went kaput. Newly appointed head-of-production at a major studio, Ari wants Vince to star in “Hyde”—but Vince also wants to direct.

Six months and $15 million over budget, Vince still hasn’t finished the film. Begging for more money brings them to Texas oil billionaire Larsen McCreadle (Billy Bob Thornton) and his spoiled son, Travis (Haley Joel Osment), who’s eager to visit Hollywood and bed actress Emily Ratajkowsi.
Meanwhile, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is pregnant with Eric’s baby, Ari and his wife (Perrey Reeves) are in therapy, Turtle has become involved with MMA/UFC champion Ronda Rousey, and Drama’s in crisis because his X-rated home video has been leaked online.

The slick 30-minute TV episodes zipped by, but this two-hour movie, written and directed by “Entourage” creator Doug Ellin drags - despite 50+ cameos, including Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Alba, Kelsey Grammer, Armie Hammer, Liam Neeson, David Spade, Matt Lauer, Pharrell Williams Gary Busey, Bob Saget, Richard Schiff, Warren Buffett, Jon Favreau, Common, and Piers Morgan, along with New England Patriots Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews and Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson.

Since 2004, the movie business has changed; top talent agencies are now controlled by powerful private equity firms that focus on the bottomline so “Sadly, all good parties must come to an end.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Entourage” is a phony 5 - bromance is a bust.

Back in1982, director Tobe Hooper teamed up with screenwriter Steven Spielberg to make the iconic supernatural thriller “Poltergeist.” Now Gil Kenan has created an updated version with iPhones, iPads, GPS devices and an ominous, hi-definition, flat-screen TV.

After John Deere employee Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) is laid off, he and his writer wife, Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), move to an affordable fixer-upper on the outskirts of an Illinois college town.

Their youngest daughter, Madison (Kennedi Clements), is enthusiastic, quickly making new, invisible friends—“the lost people”—with whom she converses through her closet and the flickering TV. But their middle child, Griffin (Kyle Catlett), is uneasy in his attic bedroom. Not surprisingly, teenage Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is unhappy being separated from her school pals.

When Eric and Amy learn from neighbors about their house’s spooky, paranormal past, they rush home, only to find that Maddy has disappeared, leaving Griffin and Kendra traumatized. Seeking help, they consult parapsychologist Dr. Claire Powell (Jane Adams).

After thermal monitoring equipment and a drone camera are set up, a reality-TV ghost-hunter, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) concludes that Maddy has been abducted by vengeful spirits—i.e. poltergeists—who are holding her captive in a shadowy, sinister netherworld.

Screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire updated the characters’ names but deleted individual personality traits that allowed us to identify with them. The key elements have been retained:  the demented clown dolls, the closet doors and the usual scary scenes, augmented by slick, far-too-revealing CGI.

On the Granger Gauge, “Poltergeist” is a creepy, contrived 4, a nostalgic yet unnecessary remake.

Just how bad is Cameron Crowe’s jumbled romantic dramedy “Aloha”? Let me count the ways…

Air Force veteran Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is an inscrutable military contractor working for a shady billionaire industrialist (Bill Murray) who is launching a privately-funded space satellite.

After a 13-year absence, Gilcrest returns to Honolulu’s Hickam Air Force Base to convince King Kamehameha’s descendant, sovereign activist Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, to bless a strategic ceremonial gate in return for “two mountains and better cellphone reception.”

Studded with indigenous Hawaiian spiritualism, there’s a love quadrangle involving Gilcrest, his former girlfriend (Rachel McAdams), her unintelligible husband (John Krasinski) and perky Capt. Allison Ng (Emma Stone), the fighter pilot assigned to accompany Gilcrest.

Blond, green-eyed Capt. Ng explains her Pacific Island heritage as one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Hawaiian and one-quarter Swedish; as for the fourth quarter, that’s anyone’s guess.

To quote former Sony co-president Amy Pascal, whose private e-mails about “Aloha” were hacked: “It never, not even once, ever works.”

Writer/director/producer Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire,” “Almost Famous”), whose frothy dialogue is always inventive, goes nowhere with the plot. Every ‘surprise’ is telegraphed in advance.

Bradley Cooper’s “Silver Linings Playbook” charm has gone AOL. Rachel McAdams’ angst is more annoying than intriguing, since her ‘secret’ is obvious from the get-go, while John Krasinski’s taciturn silence is not as amusing as Crowe makes it seem; Bill Murray’s growly General is just that.

Which leaves the entire burden on enchanting Emma Stone; even as “Hillary Clinton’s favorite,” she cannot save this picture singlehandedly.

On the Granger Gauge, “Aloha” is a frustrating, tepid 3. Avoid this soggy, celluloid pu-pu platter.


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( Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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Posted 06/04/15 at 08:50 PM  Permalink



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