THE HEAT Review

Lethal Weapon with Grrrrl Power.

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The Heat cashes the raunchy, feminist comedy check that Bridesmaids wrote two years ago. Instead of throwing a few poop jokes out as misdirection for a conventional woman-saved-by-a-man story like Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock bond over profanity and punching dudes to form a friendship. Men are around, usually messing up things for the ladies to fix, they are just window-dressing here. Which is totally fine. The movie is a throwback/homage to the Eighties buddy cop movies (Lethal Weapon, 48 HRS, Running Scared). Like those films, The Heat pulls off just the right blend of shoot-em-up action with comedy. Director Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks) also directed the aforementioned Bridesmaids, so what’s different this time? My theory – Mr. Judd Apatow’s meaty paws are not all over this one. Your humble reviewer has more than a few issues with Mr. Apatow’s reductive brand of hate/ridicule comedy. His absence is a positive here.

Sara Ashburn (Bullock) is an uptight FBI special agent whose odd, Asperger’s behavior has alienated her from, well, most of society. She has no friends and is not liked by her colleagues, so she jumps at the chance to head up a detail in Boston to track down a drug smuggler. In Beantown she gets introduced to Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) a reckless, f-bomb drooping Boston cop who loves to threaten criminals. Mullins’ s aggressive, in-your-face style is 180 degrees away from the boring, by-the-book style of Ashburn. The two are polar opposites, the proverbial odd-couple, which as we all know when paired together they will should produce hilarity. Which they do in their many awkward scenes together. Ashburn, the workaholic nerd, and Mullins, the crass workaholic, eventually bond after their separate battles against the clueless men, cops and robbers, throws them together. The plot isn’t necessary to recap as it’s pretty standard, this movie is about the ladies and the ladies kicking ass.

As the body count starts to pile up, the Mullins family gets drawn into the fun. Mullins’s family is a gathering of Bahstan-stereotypes with Mom (Jane Curtain in a painfully small role) being the only fun standout. Mullins’s brother Jason (Michael Rapaport) gets targeted and eventually shot and thrown into a coma. This only serves to ramp up the violence which almost always is at the expense of men in the movie. Grrrrl power. As Ahsburn and Mullins work their way through the case, they of course become friends. They bond over the length of the film despite Ashburn’s painfully awkward weirdness. The movie focuses heavily on this relationship as the selling point for the film and it works as Bullock and McCarthy conjure up a good rapport.

For Bullock, doing an R-rated comedy is a good call right now in her career as it was teetering close to TomHanksification – going after Oscar-porn bait films like her massive hit The Blind Side. She’s done cops before (Zach Galifianakis favorite Miss Congeniality 2)  and she’s done comedy before, in The Heat she shows she still has decent comedy chops. McCarthy is flat-out hilarious in most of her one-liners, nicknames and put-downs. Unlike the woefully Identity Thief, the script by Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation writer) delivers plenty of action, gags and yes an extended getting drunk and dancing with strangers scene. America loves to see their movie-stars dance in movies. Vince Vaughn’s motormouth would get a serious challenge from McCarthy who honed her craft for many years in sitcom land (Mike & Molly).

In the end, what do we have? We have a standard buddy cop premise with women instead of men as the cops. We’ve got plenty of action and violence without it being gratuitous and over-the-top like most current Hollywood action fare. There’s good chemistry between the two leading ladies, a sequel is already in the works. Basically, The Heat is a good throwback to Eighties action-comedies that were made by adults and for adults. Another great recent example of this is The Other Guys with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Maybe if The Heat 2 is a huge hit they can pair up both sets of cops for a combined movie. Hollywood, you’re welcome for the idea, now just don’t mess it up.

As my mother would call it, The Heat is “good, mindless entertainment.” Spot on Mom.

FILL THE VOID review

Fill the Void is the Das Boot of Orthodox Hassidic family dramas.

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“Claustrophobic” would be a suitable one-word review of writer/director Rama Burshtein’s brilliant debut movie Fill the Void. The movie is an look into a unseen world on the big screen – the world of an ultra-religious community. “Fill the Void has nothing whatsoever to do with the religious-secular dialogue,” said Burshtein, “it opens a peephole into a tiny story taken from a very special and complex world.” The movie doesn’t concern itself with any of the religious/secular debate, instead it focuses on telling a good story. Which it does very effectively.

Shira (Hadas Yaron) is the eighteen-year old daughter of the family of devout Orthodox Hassidic faith. She is almost all grown up, about the become a woman. When we meet her at the beginning of the movie she is knee-deep in the emotional turmoil of being married off in an arranged marriage to a promising young man. She has been waiting a long-time for her turn,  growing up in the shadow of her twenty-eight year old sister Esther (Renana Raz). Esther and her husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein – an eery doppelganger of legendary comedian Sasha Baron Cohen) are expecting their first child any day now. Excitement runs through the family’s with these two events.

Read the rest of the review at DONNYBROOK WRITING ACADEMY

THE BLING RING Review

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Sofia Coppola’s new film, The Bling Ring, focuses on the true-story of the California teens who burglarized a veritable who’s-who’s of young celebs of the Paris Hilton/Lohan ilk. These teens were not your average criminals looking for jewelry to fence. No, the Bling Ring want to steal the celebrity’s fame, their aura, and, yes, their clothes and jewelry too. You see, these teens have been raised completely in the all-encompassing world of social media, reality television & lurid celebrity pop culture. These teens turn on the television (ha!) or their iPhone to see the glamorous lives of these pseudo-celebs which they want too. Every teenager wants to be accepted.

Read the rest of the review @ DONNYBROOK WRITING ACADEMY

WORLD WAR Z Review

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“Bwwaaaains!” – that familiar zombie cry that is never uttered once in World War Z, the big new action spectacle starring Brad Pitt. The zombies are not really zombies in WWZ, they are called zekes by the military. Unlike almost every single onscreen zombie before them, the zekes move with lightning speed, bite & release live humans and then move. Really move. They can also jump really high and form massive human ladders. Zekes never seem to run out of energy either. This is easily one of the fastest spreading pandemics ever seen on screen without any clear way to stop them. Thankfully, World War Z doesn’t waste a lot of screen time on origin stuff. We get swept up, right away, into the panic that has engulfed the world.

Read the rest of the review @ DONNYBROOK WRITING ACADEMY

BEFORE MIDNIGHT review

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Before Midnight is the third installment in writer/director Richard Linklater’s Before series featuring co-stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Before Sunrise (95) introduced Jesse (Hawke), a struggling young twentysomething wanna-be writer from America, who meets Celine (Delpy), a young twentysomething Frenchwoman, on the train. He persuades her to spend the day with him before he returns to America the next day. They spend the day walking and talking while a love spark kindles between them. They make a pact to meet six months later after they sort out their lives back home. Before Sunset (04) reunites them nine years later as Jesse visits Paris on his book tour where he meets Celine again. They spend the afternoon together catching up before Jesse flies back to America where a bad marriage and a young son Hank await. The film ends with Jesse in Celine’s apartment in danger of missing his flight.

Read the rest of the review @ DONNYBROOK WRITING ACADEMY

MUD Movie Review

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Mud is a first-rate slice of Southern noir nestled along the muddy banks of the Mississippi. It is a fresh, 21st century slant on Huck Finn set in the recession days of ObamAmerica. The film examines the role of declining masculinity and how that impacts deteriorating relationship dynamics. This is writer/director Jeff Nichols’s third feature after Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011). It continues his swift ascent to the ranks of the best working directors in the country right now.

Read the rest of the review @ Donnybrook Writing Academy

FRANCES HA Movie Review

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Frances Ha is the first LOL movie of the year. No, srsly – LOLs, for reals. Isn’t that how the Millennials talk these days? Frances and her best-friend Sophie speak in a hypertext short-hand promulgated by those under thirty reared under the narcissistic auspices of the internet. They’re wired 24/7 with their iPhones as virtual umbilical cords to their friends/support groups. This is the first generation to grow up under the watchful eyes (“Gatsby’s” Doctor T. J. Eckleburg glasses = Facebook profiles) of social media. One wonders what this is doing to their ego-creation. Does all of this “attention” make them feel like they are the stars of their own private movie? Is that what these damn kids, these Millennials, are all about? Fame? Attention? Well, if that HBO-Show-That-Will-Not-Be-Named turned you off the Touch-Screen generation, “Frances Ha” will now make you hate them a little less, less than even the Baby Boomers. You might even like them.

Read the rest of the review @ Donnybrook Writing Academy