Friday, June 28, 2013


'THE HEAT' (R) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written by Katie Dippold
Directed by Paul Feig
Actors: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Tom Wilson, Michael McDonald.

You know that you are in the company of pure comedy acting genius when a formula cop movie that has no business being great becomes that way because of the acting. I have never seen a better pairing and comedy duo, male or female, in my life on screen till I saw the charming and hilarious "The Heat". Finally Melissa McCarthy gets a star vehicle that matches the talent she showed as a supporting actor in "Bridesmaids". She is not thrown around and treated like a punching bag like she was in the horrendously unfunny "Identity Thief". She takes charge of a movie with the help of a wonderful seasoned pro in Sandra Bullock. This is the best comedy duo in decades!

What surprised me the most was that the plot of "The Heat" is actually solid if formula and familiar. Though I didn't care about some of the plot's faults, I just sat back and watched McCarthy own the screen and Bullock complimenting her as the best straight man in the business. McCarthy is a scream, spouting "f" bombs brilliantly, a lesser actor would come off as a dullard swearing all the time but McCarthy is a treasure with her foul mouth here. She made me laugh harder than I have in a long time and Bullock is growing into an idol for me. She is perfect here, even better than she was in "The Blind Side" rubbing off McCarthy and providing solid back up.

Bullock plays an uptight, by the book FBI agent, Ashburn, who wants a promotion and thinks she is right all the time. She travels to Boston for a case and has to work with a tough, foul mouthed cop and from the first time we see McCarthy till the last frame she is totally in control equal to old Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, John Belushi and any comic genius on film you can mention. She caresses the profane language with great skill and makes us laugh long and hard. The plot might be old but I feel that there was a lot of improvisation here because there are gems of one liners throughout the whole movie that are classic and will be remembered by me for days.

I have had a crush on Sandra Bullock and now I am totally in love! I couldn't keep my eyes off of her because her acting choices fascinated me here. She can take a small throwaway line like she does several times and make me laugh out loud at small little comedy moments. This is her best work in a comedy to date and that is saying a lot! There are small moments that are my favorites in the movie and those are the ones I feel are improvised. That includes a wonderful, hilarious 15 minutes as the two women go to a bar to get drunk and what happens in this stretch is perfectly played, constantly funny and as classic a bit as Lucille Ball would have done and maybe even the Marx Brothers.

That got me to thinking that McCarthy and Bullock could become a classic comedy duo, one of the best ever, because their chemistry is so perfect. I also love that this movie is raunchy, violent and not afraid to go over the top without getting crazy. The two women are so good I didn't mind that Mullin's family is straight out of something like "The Fighter". I didn't mind the violent shootouts either, the family of Mullins is actually funny and the cop violence is invested in real, plausible situations instead of being played as a joke. I couldn't believe the great Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) could direct an action movie but he is better at it then Marc Forster was (World War Z).

There are priceless moments throughout this movie and moments (multiple)where I sat in awe of McCarthy's and Bullock's brilliance and comedy prowess. They have turned a formula cop comedy into something greater, probably this is now my favorite buddy cop movie of all time. They have turned this into a comedy classic, written by a promising new writer in Katie Dipold (TV's Parks and Recreation). This reminded me of "Beverly Hills Cop" where Eddie Murphy became a star acting in a movie that had a pretty lame, formula plot. "The Heat" has a better story thus it is a better film.

There is great supporting acting with a very talented cast that plays this straight. "The Heat" made me laugh continuously throughout and I mean laugh out loud and I rarely do that. There is an extra scene after the credits start rolling dealing with a cat and it is priceless! This movie even had me laughing after it was supposed to be over, don't leave early please!. I will now declare that I will watch this movie multiple times just for McCarthy and Bullock's acting which is Oscar caliber here and that is no joke.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013



Based on the Vanity Fair article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins"
Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola
Actors: Katie Chung, Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Claire Julian, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann, Gavin Rossdale.

Maybe it is because I am getting older but I am feeling a lot more of a disconnect with today's youth and definitely with the characters in Sofia Coppola's fast, funny and brilliant new movie "The Bling Ring". I can hang with my young co workers at work but I would feel like I was surrounded by aliens with the young people at the heart of this story. Nikki, Chloe, Rebecca, Sam and Marc are obsessed with pop culture and reality show celebrities and the lifestyle they have. They will band together to break into the homes of pseudo celebrities like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Audrina Partridge and steal mostly their clothes and shoes.

This is based on a true story and I wasn't really shocked by their actions when a lot of young adults like them are so fascinated by cheap fame and the riches it bathes you in. I was surprised though by how fascinating and funny this movie was. Then again no one captures young adult women or young adults better than Sofia Coppola. Coppola displayed that keen observation with the haunting, beautiful and magnificent "The Virgin Suicides". Coppola is a huge talent, a smart writer and a great director and this is a really well shot movie. We don't like these people we are following but Coppola almost makes us like them with some very smart, funny writing.

Chicago's own Katie Chung is a great find as ringleader Rebecca who finds shy and withdrawn Marc, who doesn't fit in with others at school, and seduces him into breaking into the home of Paris Hilton to steal clothes and shoes. The group grows larger with Nikki played by Emma Watson, who has grown into a great actress, joining in. Nikki is a very shallow and air headed young woman who lives with her equally airheaded mother who home schools her. The group will then grow bigger by two as the brave but dumb young adults break into multiple star's homes to steal jewelry, clothes and even cars. They are either brave or stupid or maybe both but they want to live the lavish lifestyles of these pseudo celebrities.

You would think that this movie would sound tedious but that would is not true what with the sharp and very funny writing by Coppola. This is more of a satire on star culture, pop culture and the vanity of youth than a crime procedural. I love how the movie writes the character of Marc, very well played by Israel Broussard. He just wants to fit in with some kind of group, even a group of vain, criminals but I don't blame him, these women are hot. The movie fascinated me because these kids don't see themselves as criminals, they see themselves as part of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan's life. I don't know why you would want to be part of their culture but some young adults only see beautiful jewelry and great clothes and fame.

I loved the writing, direction and acting of this movie starting with the beautiful cinematography by the late Harry Salvides. Coppola also knows how to move the camera making all the different break ins unique and different. Emma Watson is a delightful scream as Nikki and the character that fascinated me the most thanks to Watson. This beautiful young actress gives a winning and very funny performance and now with "Perks of Being a Wallflower" say goodbye to Hermione! Katie Chung and Israel Broussard are also great and special new talents in acting, their performances are captivating and solid. I also love the under rated and very funny Leslie Mann as Nikki's daffy mother.

"The Bling Ring" surprised me with it's sharp writing, humor and great acting because of the subject matter but I was not surprised at Coppola's talents. She is one of our best and brightest young writers and film makers. She knows how to shoot a movie and is great at working with young talent, especially women and she is very smart and careful in her choices. She has made another great movie with "The Bling Ring". It is a fast movie, funny, sharp with great satire and beautifully shot and just the right length. It made me think this thought, has our society become so jaded that our celebrities we worship now are reality show simpletons? Are young adults these days so obsessed with these pseudo celebrities that they want to become them by any means neccesary? Very sad indeed.



Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof
Directed by Marc Forster
Actors: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Matthew Fox.

In the first 15 minutes of the umpteenth Zombie movie "World War Z" I was thrilled and on the edge of my seat for a bravura scene set in Philadelphia. Former United Nations employee Gerry Lane and his family are driving through rush hour traffic when something strange happens. People are running like crazy, the police are out of control running wildly and there are explosions all over the city. It is a wonderful start and very well directed and I was happily surprised, this movie will be great! I don't know what happened but that first 15 minutes is all we will get that makes us sit up and take notice.

The rest of "World War Z" gets tedious and very dull and it can't decide if it wants to be a sprawling war epic but with zombies or a small shocker. Well if your budget is 200 million I expect a big, action packed war film and something special. There have been a lot of zombie movies and shows and you have to go the extra mile to make your zombie entertainment different than the others but this movie is weaker and surprisingly smaller in it's thinking. Director Marc Forster can't direct an action movie and there is not one shot after the first 15 minutes that is unique or special, it is too ordinary of a movie.

"World War Z" tells the story of a huge zombie and virus outbreak trapping ex United Nations employee Gerry Lane and his family in the middle. Gerry will leave the family and abandon the wife and mother played by Mireille Enos, the typical Hollywood move, giving a woman a shallow role. He will try to find out what caused the outbreak and how to get a cure but by the last half hour I didn't care. Gerry and no other character has any personality traits that stand out. I think Brad Pitt shouldn't be an action star, he is not really cut out for it. I also was shocked that you bring in a great character actor like David Morse to play a crazy ex C.I.A agent and give him 3 nonsensical minutes and then drop your best character. Huh?

Now we get to the zombies and I have not read the book but there is an outcry from the readers and fans that the zombies are faster in the movie than in the book. I really don't care how fast the zombies are and I didn't read the book. Though I can see why zombies have gotten faster over the years since 1968's "Night of the Living Dead". With technology getting advanced and every thing in our society is getting faster and more urgent doesn't it make sense that the zombies would want to be faster to catch up with modern society? Now that would make a compelling point of view for this movie to give but this movie is a weakly written head scratcher.

Rumor has it that this movie was delayed in production and the writers had to come up with a new ending and the new ending can't be better than the first one. I was totally confused by the end of this movie, the climax seems like it was made up in 5 minutes, it has no logic and it bored me. The ending is laughably bad and forced and since I didn't care about any character I wanted the end credits to roll as soon as they could. "World War Z" is a huge disappointment, tedious, unimaginative and a drag. Brad Pitt is miscast and the female characters are either paper thin or don't exist in this world. When you have the great AMC series "Walking Dead" and an original zombie movie like "Warm Bodies" out there before you, maybe you should make your movie smarter, huge and more cinematic. This movie is all CGI and no heart.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013



Written and Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Actors playing themselves: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Rihanna.

There are iconic summer comedies at the movies that we grew up with from every decade that have surprised us, made us laugh out loud a lot and then have become our favorites that we revisit every so often. I think we can all agree that these comedies include "Animal House, "Ghostbusters", "National Lampoon's Vacation", "Caddyshack", "Superbad" and one of my personal favorites "Kingpin". These are comedies that have stayed with us because they have continuous great jokes throughout the whole movie, characters we care about and love and an actual story. You can now add "This Is The End", a gut busting, hilarious, raunchy, brilliant and continuously funny movie. The proof of a great comedy is one that makes you laugh till you cry several times and one that never lets up on the laughs or never loses focus and that is this soon to be summer classic.

This brilliant comedy was written by the same writers as "Superbad", Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and "Superbad" was definitely no fluke. Their movies have a lot of great raunch and big laughs but also heart and a story here that is not too long, is just the right length and made me laugh harder and longer than any other comedy since "Bridesmaids". Seth Rogen and his real life friends play themselves attacking their own vanities as they go to a star studded party and then confront the apocalypse together. The movie starts out on a high as Seth Rogen picks up his friend, actor Jay Baruchel, to stay at his apartment and spend the weekend together. Their back and forth dialogue in the car is brilliantly improvised and had me laughing for a continuous 10 minutes. They then attend James Franco's party at his lavish estate like house where they encounter Rihanna who is involved in the first hilarious scene.

That scene will also involve a Michael Cera (Superbad) that you have never seen like you will see him here. That is the second time I laughed till I cried. Then you have James Franco making fun of himself and coming off as great and hilarious as he was in "Spring Breakers". All the actors will make fun of themselves including a very funny Craig Robinson and Danny McBride (also the funniest he has ever been). This movie is just not non stop jokes though I wouldn't have minded if it was just jokes. It actually has a very creative end of the world story that is focused and very smartly written with huge laughs that mostly come off the actors playing an exaggerated form of themselves and it is brilliantly executed. That includes hilarious and wonderful, twisted special effects used as brilliantly as they were used in "Ghostbusters".

"This Is The End" is now one of my all time favorite comedies not only because I haven' laughed this hard and long during a movie hardly ever. It is also because like most comedies, it doesn't lose steam, focus or become old and lame. The jokes keep coming, the brilliant execution of special effects are always on high and the writers and actors keep making fun of themselves in new and refreshing ways. The movie has huge, brilliant laughs literally from the first frame to the last. This could have been a hit and miss comedy that missed a lot but it actually scores on 98% of it's laughs and I am serious. I promise you that you will laugh more than you have laughed in one single comedy in your lifetime. This is a brilliant and hilarious comedy that shows that actors can make fun of themselves and that the audience will find it charming and as funny as anything you will ever see on screen in a big budget comedy. I can't wait to see it again and again and I am sure it will hold up every time I see it.

Friday, June 14, 2013



Written by David S. Goyer
Directed by Zack Snyder
Actors: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishbourne, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe.

"Superman" is my favorite superhero because he personifies what is good, decent and noble in a man and a hero who also happens to have super powers. "Batman" is too tormented and "Spiderman" has no real personality characteristics that really grab me, he seems like a lighter, less tormented Batman. My favorite superhero movies are still the original "Superman" movies because they had the right touch of humor, darkness, drama and a love that had obstacles that no other love on screen has had in front of it. The director's cut of "Superman II" is actually as dark, just the right amount, and as powerful, thrilling and haunting as "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Dark Knight" but it also had a lot of humor. The rebooted Superman epic "Man of Steel" directed by Zack Snyder needed less dark, dreary gloom and more humor but I really liked a lot of it and if there is a sequel I am there!

"Man of Steel" is really all origin story to whet our appetite for a sequel and that is okay. The original 1978 "Superman" was a great movie but it was mostly origin story and "Superman II" was better because it got right into the action and romance. "Man of Steel" is beautifully filmed and the effects are amazing, seeing Superman fly looks better than it ever has. We first get a long enough beginning as we see Jor El send his only son to Earth as his planet Krypton is being destroyed. He also imprisons General Zod after Zod tries to kill Jor El. We then see Superman as his alter ego Clark Kent as he is found working on a ship and then is discovered by "Daily Planet" reporter Lois Lane who wants to find out who this man really is and where did he come from. We then get flashbacks scattered throughout the movie at how the son became Clark and how his adopted parents raised Clark telling him that his powers carry great weight and whether he should use them when needed.

The way this information is given is just how the original "Superman" did it and I wanted that movie to be tighter when it came to depicting how the son of Jor El became Superman. "Man of Steel" also needed to go faster and cut some exposition out, this movie is 2 1/2 hours and it should have been cut down to 2 hours. The original "Superman" had more magic and humor in it's opening hour but "Man of Steel" is produced by "The Dark Knight's" Christopher Nolan and it seems sometimes too dark for a "Superman" movie. It doesn't always fit the spirit of "Superman" to me and comes off too much like a "Batman" movie and that doesn't jibe with me. The flashbacks of Clark growing into Superman do include some beautiful moments and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark's parents are great. The movie always looks beautiful even though it is dark looking a lot of the times. This review so far might seem heading towards the negative but I did have moments where I got goose bumps.

First of all I could not have imagined a better choice than Henry Cavill as Superman. He is not only beautiful to look at, he has that heroic, commanding screen presence that makes women swoon and men admire him. It is a perfectly measured performance, anguished but not too dark, charming when he needs to be and full of charisma. Amy Adams is also the perfect choice to play Lois Lane, tough but beautiful and vulnerable. She knows when to be tough and determined in the scenes where Lois is at work and when to show signs of vulnerability, especially when she finds she has interest and then feelings for Superman. I love the scene where Superman is captured by the Army and Lois asks Superman what the "S" on his chest is for. The sexual tension is thick, sexy and wonderful in this scene though too short and when Lois and Superman embraced in the end I felt the sexual tension burning again.

I was also very excited to find out that my favorite actor right now, Michael Shannon, was picked to play General Zod and I was not dissapointed. Shannon can be very intense and that intensity can burn on the screen as it does here. Zod is a very enraged man in this movie and Shannon is perfect playing the role as written. I just wished the character had more depth and the fault is in the writing. I also love a lot of the action but I wish the last half hour wasn't so over stuffed and I had problems with all the spaceships and explosions, there are too many of them, cut those scenes and you have a tighter 2 hour movie. I expect all these explosions and science fiction mumbo jumbo in lighter fluff like "Thor" and "Transformers". "Superman" is better than this and sometimes I wish Zack Snyder wasn't trying to make a "300" type movie and more like a "Superman" movie. The original movies were sweeter and simpler and easier to follow than this reboot.

That being said, "Man of Steel" is ten times better than the weird and trashy "Superman Returns" in 2006, that movie had a bad, effeminate Lex Luthor and a very dumb and weird story line. Cavill blows away Brandon Routh as does Amy Adams compared to Kate Bosworth but I like my original Superman better in Christopher Reeve. That does not diminish how great and forceful Cavill is as Superman because Cavill is the perfect Superman to me. I did have reservations on some of the action scenes but there is a wonderful one on one fight between Superman and Zod through Chicago buildings that was masterful and beautifully shot and choreographed.

The big problem I really had with "Man of Steel" was that we don't get to see Superman claim his alter ego Clark Kent till the end. The original "Superman" had the origin and the Clark Kent story and fully satisfying, climatic scenes. Though I do love Cavill and Adams and a lot of the action and drama of this Superman reboot. I just think that the really masterful "Superman" movie will be this movie's sequel. I can't wait to see Clark Kent trying to disguise who he really is and see that sexual tension develop between the hot and wonderful Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in a sequel and I bet it will have more humor than this original. "Man of Steel" is not as fantastic and powerful as I wanted it to be but I know at the end of the movie that I wanted a sequel and I can't wait to get it!