Movie Review: “Ghostbusters”

Starring
Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey
Director
Paul Feig

Want a surefire way to piss someone off? Tell them that Hollywood is remaking their favorite film. That seemed to do the trick for the millions of “Ghostbusters” fans when it was announced that Sony was not only rebooting Ivan Reitman’s 1984 comedy classic but that director Paul Feig would be gender swapping all the roles. Though the news had the unfortunate effect of spawning a small but vocal group of misogynistic internet trolls, even the most level-headed moviegoers had reason to be concerned due to the uninspired cast and disappointing early trailers. Thankfully, the 2016 reboot isn’t as bad as many predicted, but it’s not very good either. The film is merely okay, and while that may be enough to silence its detractors, for a franchise with as much potential as “Ghostbusters,” it should have been better.

Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) used to be a firm believer in the paranormal, even writing a book on the subject with childhood friend/fellow scientist Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) before leaving it all behind to focus on a legitimate career teaching at Columbia University. But when Erin and Abby experience an actual paranormal sighting after a chance encounter reunites them, they team up with oddball nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) and street-smart MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) to capture a ghost as proof that they exist. Meanwhile, a bullied hotel janitor named Rowan (Neil Casey) has begun planting devices around the city that attract and amplify paranormal activity with the intention of opening a portal to a ghostly dimension and wreaking havoc on the world as payback. The only ones capable of stopping Rowan and his army of undead are the newly formed Ghostbusters, but first, they need to convince people that it isn’t a hoax.

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Movie Review: “The Boss”

Starring
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Ella Anderson, Peter Dinklage, Kathy Bates, Tyler Labine, Kristen Schaal
Director
Ben Falcone

“The Boss” is pitifully lacking in self-awareness. It’s a film that wants to live in Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s universe, where there are real-life news anchor gang wars that end in people losing limbs. To be fair, it’s easy to see why they thought the audience might view the films the same way. “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights” both feature pompous shells of a human being who are humbled on a grand scale, much like Melissa McCarthy’s character here, but that is where the similarities end. What “The Boss” gets wrong is the meanness factor. Will Ferrell’s characters in the aforementioned films are dim and shallow, but harmless, while McCarthy’s character is an unrepentant, hostile sociopath from birth. Worse, the film treats this as a virtue.

Michelle Darnelle (McCarthy) is, by the audience’s viewpoint, a thrice-abandoned orphan who grows up to become a ruthless, filthy-rich business executive. Renault (Peter Dinklage), a former lover-turned rival, gets her indicted on insider trading, whereupon she is sent to prison and loses everything. Upon her release, she arrives at the door of her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) because she has nowhere else to go. Claire resents the way Michelle treated her, but because she’s a decent human being, Claire allows Michelle to stay, and as Michelle ingratiates herself in Claire’s life, she sees a business opportunity when she attends a Daffodils meeting with Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson), and they discuss cookie sales. Shortly afterward, Michelle tastes one of Claire’s family recipe brownies. Darnelle’s Darlings is born, the brownies are their cash cow, and Michelle is back in the game.

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Movie Review: “Spy”

Starring
Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Peter Serafinowicz
Director
Paul Feig

Director Paul Feig makes refreshingly nice comedies. There’s not a mean-spirited bone in his body. Not for a second does he ever poke fun at his characters. The creator behind one of the greatest and sweetest shows ever to grace television, “Freaks & Geeks,” loves all his characters – the screw-ups, the underdogs and even the bullies. That empathy has carried over to his feature film work. Although the laughs and appealing spirit of “Bridesmaids” was missing in “The Heat,” he’s quickly rebounded with “Spy,” a ferociously funny Melissa McCarthy star vehicle.

Susan Cooper (McCarthy) once dreamed of life as a CIA field agent. She imagined action, romance and intrigue. Instead of trotting the globe and saving the world, Susan performs her heroics behind a desk. The CIA analyst is super-spy Bradley Fine’s (Jude Law) eyes and ears. When the CIA’s top agents’ identities are exposed, though, Susan gets her chance to get out into the field. But putting the fate of the world into her hands doesn’t sit well with everybody – most notably, Rick Ford (Jason Statham), a spy who doesn’t believe he has any weaknesses. Ford and Cooper butt heads as she tracks down Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who plans on selling a miniature nuclear weapon to the highest bidder.

As expected, Feig’s script is sharp. Never does “Spy” become parody or satire. The writer/director manages to poke fun at some genre conventions – Ford is James Bond and Jason Bourne combined, with some steroids thrown in for good measure – but never to the point where they overwhelm the emotional core and broad stakes of the film. Yes, “Spy” is a comedy, but Feig makes the action scenes have a real sense of danger. The violence is surprisingly and often comically brutal. Feig not only takes advantage of the R-rating in the language department, but also with bloodshed.

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Movie Review: “Tammy”

Starring
Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Kathy Bates
Director
Ben Falcone

Like pretty much anything that Melissa McCarthy does these days, your enjoyment of “Tammy” will depend entirely on how you feel about the actress as a performer. Those who can’t get enough of watching her play the same sloppy and obnoxious character over and over again will probably think that it’s the funniest comedy of the year. But for those who were already sick of her tedious, one-trick pony act after “Bridesmaids” launched the actress into superstardom, sitting through McCarthy’s latest movie is about as pleasant as a punch to the face. “Tammy” is so groan-inducingly dumb that it rivals some of Adam Sandler’s worst comedies, placing so much faith in its leading lady’s raucous, over-the-top antics that it doesn’t even consider it might not be funny.

McCarthy stars as the title character, a slovenly loser who wrecks her beat-up car, gets fired from her job at the local fast food joint, and discovers that her husband (Nat Faxon) has been cheating with their neighbor (Toni Collette), all within the same day. Desperate to get out of town for a while, she agrees to let her alcoholic grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon) – who has the two things that Tammy needs most: a working car and some cash – tag along with her on a road trip to Niagara Falls. But when they end up driving the wrong way, the two women decide to make the most of the mishap in an attempt to patch up their troubled past.

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Movie Review: “The Heat”

Starring
Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Michael McDonald
Director
Paul Feig

With the exception of the 1988 comedy “Feds” (and to a certain degree, the “Charlie’s Angels” films), the buddy cop movie has been an exclusively male-dominated genre. It’s only a matter of time before Hollywood finally gets its act together and delivers a great female-centric action comedy, but “The Heat” is not that film. Though fans of Paul Feig’s “Bridesmaids” will likely enjoy his latest R-rated romp with Melissa McCarthy, anyone that wasn’t already sick and tired of the actress definitely will be after sitting through two hours of her annoyingly boorish and over-the-top brand of humor. “Identity Thief” should have been the final nail in the coffin of America’s love affair with McCarthy, but if her irritating performance in “The Heat” doesn’t put an end to that reign, then the moviegoing public deserves more lowbrow comedies just like it.

Sandra Bullock stars as FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, an arrogant overachiever who’s up for a big promotion in her department. But while she’s the perfect candidate on paper, Sarah still hasn’t earned the respect of her peers, whom she frequently humiliates during busts. To prove that she’s a team player and the right person for the job, Sarah’s boss (Demian Bichir) sends her to Boston, where she must partner up with local detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) to bring down a ruthless drug lord. Unfortunately, no one actually knows what the guy looks like, but Sarah has much bigger problems in the form of the uncouth Mullins, whose sloppy demeanor and unconventional methods clash with her straight-laced, by-the-books personality.

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