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Movie Review: The Other Woman

TheOtherWoman_2PosterTitle: The Other Woman
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate UptonNikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Kinney and Don Johnson
Writer: Melissa Stack
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 109 minutes
Philippine Release Date: 7 May 2014

Official Movie Synopsis:
After discovering her boyfriend is married, a woman (Cameron Diaz) tries to get her ruined life back on track. But when she accidentally meets the wife he’s been cheating on (Leslie Mann), she realizes they have much in common, and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another affair is discovered (Kate Upton), all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on their cheating, lying, three-timing SOB.

Official Movie Trailer:

Review In A Nutshell:
I liked The Other Woman; it had all the elements of a fun, light Hollywood fare. I just wished the unnecessary bits were not included. Doing so would have made it the perfect film to watch on a weekend date with your girlfriends to escape from this blistering Metro Manila heat.

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Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

From The Mourning Bride by William Congreve

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WARNING: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

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Most of my friends know that I love rom-coms; it’s my quick, fun escape from the daily grind of my stress-filled worklife where I can laugh out loud to my heart’s content.  Whenever I see one that gets me interested, I find time to watch it even if there’s something else in the cinemas that would probably be worth the 200+ pesos I would pay for a ticket (clue: think webs).  Such is the case of The Other Woman which hit Philippine cinemas about four days ago and it stars Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton.

As the movie featured three gorgeous ladies, I will start off this review by sharing the three things I loved the most about The Other Woman starting with…

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LOVE: Leslie Mann

I have nothing but words of praise for this woman. Her portrayal of a clueless wife went way beyond my expectations. Her performance was both refreshing and effortless. She breathed a lovable kind of vulnerability to Kate, a character that can be seen as a wallflower compared to Carly and Amber. I cannot see any actress portray Kate better than Leslie so two-thumbs up to her.

I’m not saying that the other ladies are not good; it was really nice seeing Cameron Diaz again in a rom-com and newcomer Kate Upton was adorable. However, Leslie Man stood out for me more so props to her.

the other woman

Amber, Carly and Kate plotting their next move.

LOVE: Fashion & Music

As I was doing a bit of research for this review, I learned that Patricia Field (of Sex and The City fame) was the costume designer and I loved how she dressed her actresses in tune to their characters — it matched very well that you get a good sense of their personalities just by the way they were dressed.

And since I’m a soundtrack junkie, I shazamed the music featured in the movie, which was a great mix of contemporary (Lorde, Raining Jane) and classic (Etta James, Cyndi Lauper) tunes. However, the one song that stood out for me was The Sun Is Rising by Britt Nicole: it felt very appropriate for that scene when Kate threw her engagement and wedding rings, finally accepting the truth about her husband and that it was time to move on.

Scouting The Latest Victim

Amber, Carly and Kate scouting the latest victim.

LOVE: Oddest Girlfriends Ever

Cheating is perhaps one of the easiest (and probably the most overused) conflict in every Hollywood offering that features love and romance as one of its main themes. I have seen far too many rom-coms in my lifetime to say that.  However, what made The Other Woman stand out for me is that it nearly echoed the plot points of The Feng Shui Junkie by Brian Gallagher, one of my favorite and frequently re-read books. The book features a lawyer who discovered her husband was cheating on her with a woman who was a Feng Shui junkie.  As she tries to get back at her husband and the other woman, she eventually gets to know the latter, realizes that they were both victims and befriends her.

When I read it the first time, I wished someone working in Hollywood would pick it up and make a movie out of it.  The Other Woman became sort of like a wish fulfilled for me. There was beauty in the oddness of the relationship that formed among Kate, Carly and Amber… so much so that I missed my girlfriends while I was watching. I liked the idea that something as positive as friendship can come out from something hurtful such as cheating. And it seems that the three ladies became good friends after the production wrapped which was clearly seen during their promotional activities.


 
And since the ladies ultimately scheme against one guy, I will share the one thing I hated the most which is…

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Kate and Lydia were not laughing here. So was I.

HATE: Unnecessary Slapstick

The Other Woman’s plot was good enough and it was served well with witty, truthful dialogue. I was expecting that the movie would have a Nancy Meyers-esque feel to it thus you can imagine my surprise at the slapstick scenes that were completely unnecessary. I know the movie is a romatic-comedy so some form of slapstick can be expected, but seeing that much stuff getting broken is over the top and completely unrealistic; case in point, an entire glass conference room explodes when someone walks through it. Yep, you read me right: a regular philandering Joe has the power to break not one but four glass panels.  There’s even blood involved (ew). Save for some scenes which all included Leslie Mann, the slapstick injected into the movie was generally ridiculous, too in-your-face and annoyingly distracting. I am aware that I am watching a romantic-comedy; I do not need to be reminded of it every 15-20 minutes.

Two of my favorite lines from the movie.

Two of my favorite lines from the movie.

I liked The Other Woman; it had all the elements of a fun, light Hollywood fare. I just wished the unnecessary bits were not included. Doing so would have made it the perfect film to watch on a weekend date with your girlfriends to escape from this blistering Metro Manila heat.

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My Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

My Two-Cents:
If you like slapstick comedy, go ahead and check it out. If you do not but you can ignore it because the plot is interesting enough, watch it.  Skip it entirely if slapstick comedy is absolutely not your thing.

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COPYRIGHT NOTE:
All the images featured on this blog post can be seen on The Other Woman’s official movie website and Facebook page.

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Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Title:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Cast:
Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd
Writer & Director: Stephen Chbosky
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Running Time: 103 minutes
Philippine Release Date:
26 September 2012

 
Official Movie Synopsis:
A funny and touching coming-of-age story based on the beloved best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern classic that captures the dizzying highs and crushing lows of growing up. Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a moving tale of love, loss, fear and hope – and the unforgettable friends that help us through life.

Official Movie Trailer

Review In A Nutshell:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower succeeds at providing an up-to-date insight of what it is like to grow up in the 21st century, with less – if not none – of the “emo” factor that often plagues the teens of this generation.

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So this is what you meant when you said that you were spent?
And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit
Right to the top
Don’t hold back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check

I don’t ever want to let you down
I don’t ever want to leave this town
‘Cause after all
This city never sleeps at night

It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger, but then
I’ll admit, I’m just the same as I was
Now, don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am?

An excerpt from It’s Time by Imagining Dragons,
as featured in the movie’s official trailer

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DISCLAIMER:
This review may contain spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie or read the book, I plead guilty to my sporadic fits of fangirling and maybe even the infinite use of superlatives along the way. 🙂

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As I continue my blog post onslaught (I’m really serious about this), I will pinch myself if I do not share my thoughts about the adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, one of my most anticipated movies in 2012. The book was one of my highest rated books in my 2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge at 4 out of 5 stars thus my eagerness to watch it was just expected.  However, when I saw its trailer, I developed some apprehensions but I still decided to see it in the cinema. I saw it the night before I left for Singapore on a business trip with Meann, who also read the book and is a fan of Logan Lerman. Unfortunately, she also shared similar apprehensions as we entered the cinema. After almost two hours and several fat tears escaping both our eyes, suffice to say the movie won us over enough to suspend our apprehensions, even for a little while.

Charlie & Co. contemplating on what lies ahead
Image courtesy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower Facebook Page

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based from the largely popular epistolary novel of the same name. It is told from the perspective of Charlie and begins with him writing about his fears on his transition to high school given a fairly recent traumatic experience wherein he lost his best friend. He felt that the best way for him to survive high school was not to get noticed, which he did, being merely content at the sidelines…. until a student named Patrick, a Senior in his school who was taking his class in order to graduate, started to notice and befriend him. Soon after, Charlie would be introduced into Patrick’s world (of misfit toys) which includes Sam, his lovely but complicated stepsister, among others. As he slowly veers away from the sidelines, Charlie learns the joys and perils of romantic love, rediscovers the value of friendship and strengthens his ties with his family despite having a hard time letting go of a dark, painful past that creeps up in his life every now and then.

Stephen Chbosky with Emma Watson & Logan Lerman
Image courtesy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower Facebook Page

Going into the cinema, I had a couple of apprehensions after seeing the promotional materials for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m not surprised really; I often find myself in this position when it comes to movie adaptations of books that I love. One of which, although now relatively minor in hindsight, is that the author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, was also the writer and director of the movie adaptation. If there’s anything I’ve learned from movie adaptations of popular book series, authors would naturally be very protective of their work and sometimes would have a creative tug-of-war with the movie production team. However, if the tables were turned and the production was left to the author’s own defenses, it is possible that the finished product may turn out to be just one big fan service to the book’s loyal readers and possibly lose its cinematic potential. To ensure that the adaptation would be successful, it will take a healthy amount of measured restraint on the part of the author-writer-director’s creative juices and I can definitely say Stephen Chbosky doesn’t get a C- in my book. The finished product is not below average; in fact, I’d give it an E or Exceeds Expectations (pardon the Harry Potter reference).

The movie is visually arresting and beautifully written; Stephen Chbosky breathed more life into the book. It was great to see my favorite scenes (feather boas anyone?) and hear its most quotable passages (“We are infinite!”). In addition to this, what I loved the most is that the movie offered answers to some questions that lingered in my head after I read the book. Perhaps the most important for me was that Charlie was sexually abused as a child by his Aunt Helen. Everything fell into place after learning that key detail.

Emma Watson as Sam in the Rocky Horror Picture Show sequence
Image courtesy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower Facebook Page

My other apprehension, which bore more weight than the previous one, was the casting of Emma Watson as Sam. I had a clear vision in my head as to who Sam was, despite being characterized from Charlie’s perspective. She somewhat reminds me of Margo Roth Spiegelman (Paper Towns by John Green): the cool girl-next-door who can be as complex and multi-faceted as a roadmap yet can knock any guy off his feet with her quiet but powerful charm.  I was envisioning an actress who evokes that young Winona Ryder vibe filling in those shoes so you can imagine my surprise when she was cast. I like Emma Watson, make no mistake, but I always have a problem with how she acts: it feels plain, bland. I have watched all of her non-Potter roles, from Ballet Shoes to My Weekend With Marilyn, and I get the same thing. In the movie’s production notes, however, Stephen offered his thoughts on why he felt Emma was the perfect Sam:

“To me, Sam is the perfect girl. Emma is absolutely luminous in the role. She took it very seriously. It took about five minutes for me to realize that she was the perfect person for the character and the movie. She grew up in the middle of a hurricane, and she did it with such grace and such class, but there is this loneliness about her. I knew when I met her that this was a part of her that was just dying to come out. She just needed permission.”

Well, that was some permission granted. While her British accent would sneak at certain times in the movie, this would probably be Emma’s best performance in my book even if you include all eight (8) Harry Potter movies and that one music video she also starred in. It was refreshing to see her uninhibited, completely devoid of restraint. It took a character like Sam, somebody who was her complete opposite, to make her shine and surprisingly she did. I think it also helped that her castmates were outstanding in their portrayal of their roles; Emma raised her game and met them head on. Although there were still some flat moments, it was hardly noticeable and can be easily ignored. I hope that whatever she learned in this movie, she’ll take it in her future roles. I’d like to see more of this from Emma as she forges her career past the Harry Potter franchise.

So, which clock would it be for you? Charlie’s or Patrick’s?
Image courtesy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower Facebook Page

Speaking of Emma’s fellow castmates, I don’t know what to say about them without sounding like a giddy fangirl. But one thing’s for sure: Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller were bloody brilliant as Charlie and Patrick respectively. Their performances were outstanding, on point and absolutely palpable. I attribute all the tears I shed in the cinema to those two. I don’t think I’ll ever read the book again without visualizing them in my head. They were that fantastic. I was also equally surprised with the secondary actors, most specifically Nina Dobrev and Mae Whitman; while it was hard for me to separate them from their other roles, I loved that they were able to portray Candace and Mary Elizabeth well. And is it just me, or I find Charlie’s mom and dad (played by Kate Walsh and Dylan McDermott) a tad too gorgeous for my liking? Not that I’m complaining. And Paul Rudd as Charlie’s English teacher is equally awesome.

Patrick & Sam owning the dance floor
Image courtesy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower Facebook Page

What also made the book special is how music was such an influence in Charlie’s life and I loved that Alexandra Patsavas was the movie’s music supervisor. She has such a good sense of which songs feel appropriate for the movie and it showed in the finished product.  The soundtrack has a rock/indie/alternative vibe and it definitely speaks of the musical preference of the three main characters. The movie’s soundtrack is definitely a must-buy.

The back cover art of the movie’s soundtrack
Image courtesy of Hip Hop Vinyl Online Store

I have seen a lot of coming-of-age movies for as long as I can remember and each had its own take on the subject; some succeeded, some failed. The Perks of Being a Wallflower succeeds at providing an up-to-date insight of what it is like to grow up in the 21st century, with less – if not none – of the “emo” factor that often plagues the teens of this generation.

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My Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars

My Two-Cents:
Read the book. Watch the movie. Then re-read the book and get a DVD when it’s released. Never forget to pull it out once in a while if you need to be reminded of the good (and bad) times you have shared with your friends and family, and remember that there’s a lot of love beneath all of it.

Movie Review: Snow White and The Huntsman

Title:
Snow  White and The Huntsman
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Sam Spruell, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writing Credits: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 127 minutes
Philippine Release Date: 1 June 2012

Movie Synopsis:
In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart (Twilight) plays the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen (Oscar® winner Charlize Theron) who is out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) who was dispatched to kill her. Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) joins the cast as the prince long enchanted by Snow White’s beauty and power.

Official Movie Trailer:

Review In A Nutshell:
Between the two Snow White movie remakes to be released this year, I looked forward to Snow White and the Huntsman the most for several reasons. I drowned myself in its world, eagerly anticipating seeing it on the big screen. The first time, I came out of the cinema with my feelings torn and my mind ablaze with images that warmed my fangirl heart. It didn’t make sense to me why I felt that way that I gave it a second go. And with it came a full understanding of what I loved, and not, about the movie.

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DISCLAIMER:
This review contains mild spoilers. If you know the fairy tale and don’t mind having your mind pre-blown before seeing the movie, then go ahead and read along. 😉

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Among all the fairy tale princesses I’ve come across, Snow White is actually my least favorite. Hers was a journey that didn’t tickle my fancy as there wasn’t much of a struggle or sacrifice. Sure, there was loss — being orphaned by both parents at a young age. But what irks me is that her beauty is somewhat her source of redemption and is the one that’s most sought after by the Evil Queen. So you can probably imagine my surprise last year that there will be two movies showcasing a remake/re-telling of her story, all to be shown in 2012, just months apart. The first quarter of the year saw the release of Mirror, Mirror; this quarter, it was Snow White and the Huntsman. However, between the two, I looked forward to Snow White and the Huntsman the most for several reasons. And looked forward to it I did. I drowned myself in its world, eagerly anticipating seeing it on the big screen. And saw it, I did. The first time, I came out of the cinema with my feelings torn and my mind ablaze with images that warmed my fangirl heart. It didn’t make sense to me why I felt that way that I gave it a second go. And with it came a full understanding of what I loved, and not, about the movie.

A snow-filled opening sequence
Image c/o Universal Pictures

Snow White and the Huntsman begins with a familiar yet soothing opening, of a childless Queen wishing for a daughter with lips red as blood, hair black as night and skin as white as snow. The wish came as it should, for the kingdom was gifted with a girl of rare beauty and a heart of gold. Snow White charmed everyone she came across her path and the kingdom was happy. However, one day, the Queen fell ill and she died leaving Snow White and her father, King Magnus, inconsolable. A threat to the kingdom lured King Magnus out of his misery and after winning the battle, he found a prisoner named Ravenna, whose beauty made his heart beat again and prompting him to marry her. Unknown to him, his marriage to Ravenna was all a part of her scheme to take over his kingdom. He died by Ravenna’s hand and with it came hardship across the land. Perhaps because of sympathy, Queen Ravenna kept Snow White imprisoned for several years until she came of age and realized that she needed her heart to sustain her youth and beauty. Snow White escaped into the Dark Forest where she eventually meets a Huntsman who agrees to help her to reach the Duke Hammond’s castle to convince them to go into war. In her journey, she encounters many people – a village full of scarred women and children, a band of dwarves – all whom were affected by Queen Ravenna’s reign. Snow White was also reunited with her childhood love, Prince William. It was in this journey, Snow White discovered her mission and her duty to the people who suffered after her father died.

It’s funny that I was able to write that previous paragraph and it came with a somewhat hefty price, a second screening of the movie. I do not think that I would have been able to pen it down if I did not watch the movie again. I attribute it to the fact that my anticipation was too high and it left me with nothing to fathom when I was done with my first screening. Well, except for those two frames of Chris Hemsworth during the coronation and Sam Claflin in the snow that sent my fangirl heart screaming for a freeze button inside the cinema.

Sam Claflin (Prince William) & Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman) in their OMGorgeous moments in the film.

I guess that’s a problem with anticipation and expectation; sometimes it can only carry you so far enough to buy a ticket. Having said that, it may suggest that I did not like the movie but I actually did, enough for me to ignore the fact that its original inspiration came from a fairy tale that I least liked. Now, you may be wondering, if I had any beef with the movie. Yes, I had and I can sum it up in one word: inspiration. And a whole lot of it.

Inspirations from other movies, if incorporated and executed well, can work to a movie’s advantage. Snow White and the Huntsman was riddled with a mishmash of inspirations in its bid to be the grander, darker version of the fairy tale remake. And it obviously was, but to some extent, it fell flat and I even questioned its necessity. There was a lot of stuff in the movie inspired by The Lord of the Rings franchise: the sweeping landscapes, Snow White riding an unbridled white horse that look eerily like Shadowfax, the King’s shield with a symbol that looks like the White Tree of Gondor, etc. The mythical white hart felt like a non-speaking reincarnation of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia. Snow White being hailed as “The One” by Muir, who leads the not-so-merry band of dwarves, reminds me of Neo from The Matrix. And a lot more. Even so, for some reason, I couldn’t find myself blaming the first-time director, Rupert Sanders, for these. If anything, I feel I should be blaming the studio and the producers for putting too much pressure on this particular movie by investing a huge budget that any crew would kill for. Sometimes, when you have a seemingly unlimited resource, anyone’s imagination can run wild because there is so much room to move around. I guess for this particular case, a slightly smaller budget would’ve helped everyone to streamline the vision and thereby produce a more cohesive product.

Director Rupert Sanders with Charlize Theron (Queen Ravenna)
Image c/o Universal Pictures

Aside from having to deal with so many inspirations, what also derailed the movie’s epic grace is its editing. After having read the novel version of the movie, of which I’ll review separately, I felt the editing process may have removed some key aspects that would’ve made Snow White and the Huntsman flow better. There was so much substance in the novelization that got lost in translation in the actual movie. One good example is that random bit of self-defense lesson given by the Huntsman to Snow White while journeying in the Dark Forest. The Huntsman had a very valid reason for teaching her that but it wasn’t apparent in the movie. It proved useful in the end as it was the self-defense move that killed Queen Ravenna. But having that lesson in the forest, without so much of a reason for doing it, was very odd to see.

Other than those two things that I mentioned, there were a lot of aspects from Snow White and the Huntsman that I loved: the beautifully detailed and intricate costumes created by two-time Academy Award winner, Colleen Atwood; the score created by the critically-acclaimed James Newton Howard; the theme song sung by the lovely and ethereal, Florence Welch, etc. As for the actors, Charlize Theron scared the daylights out of me with her performance as Queen Ravenna. Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman had a very commanding presence on screen. Sam Claflin as Prince William was both charming and courageous. Kristen Stewart – although often argued by some critics and observers as miscast for the role given that her physical beauty doesn’t really stack up against the model-esque Theron – did a fairly good job in embodying this movie’s Snow White. The biggest surprise for me in this film was Sam Spruell, who plays Finn, Queen Ravenna’s brother. He had a very eerie, frightening quality that made him an effective match with Charlize Theron and his fight sequences with Chris Hemsworth were fascinating to watch. And I have to mention that it was delightful to see the ensemble of really awesome British actors who comprised the band of dwarves in the movie: Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson.

From L-R: Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna, Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, Sam Claflin as Prince William

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman makes for a good visual experience, one that is best enjoyed inside the cinema. It does have its share of twists from the original fairy tale but don’t expect much as it hardly strayed away. If anything, empty your mind and open your heart before entering the cinema so that you can enjoy a simple but not-so-much a family-friendly movie.

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My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

My Two-Cents:
If you can afford it, watch it twice. It’s that kind of movie that is best appreciated by a second screening. Also, it never hurts to see two actors who look really gorgeous, even with full beard and all, on screen.  Pardon my silly fangirl mode. If you can’t afford it though, lower your expectations and just enjoy the movie for what it is.

Other Fun Stuff:
– The official music video for Breath of Life sung by Florence + The Machine

– Fans visit Snow White and The Huntsman (I want to be in this group hug!)

– Best promotional circuit interview: The cast reading Fifty Shades of Grey

– MTV After Hours with Josh Horowitz: The Yes/No Show