The Heat

Congratulations to Melissa McCarthy for making a hilarious movie! Congratulations to Sandra Bullock for giving McCarthy all the room she needs to do her funny business in The Heat.

Bullock follows in the tradition of TV’s Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano and Andy Griffith, all of who were title stars of their sitcoms, but depended on zany sidemen and women to bring the biggest laughs. Bullock brings her considerable charm and infinite likeability to the screen, but Melissa McCarthy as Boston cop Shannon Mullen is the reason to see The Heat.

McCarthy, whose other lead role this year in Identity Thief led to a healthy gross of $135 million, will sell lots of tickets to The Heat with her raunchy, f-bomb-laced riffs and shameless physical humor.

Melissa McCarthy’s agility for a woman of her size is amazing. And her delivery of scriptwriter Katie Dippold’s lines is natural and organic—I’d guess she was given freedom to ad-lib by director Paul Fieg. He also directed Bridesmaids.

By the way, I was told that Bullock claims there are 196 f-bombs in the film.

Bullock as FBI special agent Ashburn is a smug, tightly-wound type A detail person. McCarthy as Mullen is loose, spontaneous and wild. There’s instant animosity between the two. Both are territorial and neither wants to relinquish control.

Bonding takes a while. They share a mutual dislike for not only drug dealers, but also for a pair of DEA agents. As they learn each other’s personal backstories, there’s a bit of sympathy to be shared.

This action/comedy has some grit: people get tied up, shot, stabbed, etc. There’s a pretty good chase scene. It’s rated R and rightly so.

The opening title sequence has a 70’s graphic look and features the song Fight The Power by the Isley Brothers.

The studio (and, presumably, test audiences) liked this movie so much that its release was pushed back from April to late June—a more lucrative, but also more competitive time of year for film box office success. Also, it’s rumored that a sequel is already in the works.

The Heat will make you laugh. And if laughter is what you want and need, don’t miss it.



Monsters University

Happy news! Pixar has made an excellent movie. Monsters University reclaims the magic. After the messy Cars 2 and the merely passable Brave, MU does what the best Pixar movies have always done: tell a great story in an entertaining way.

Does Monsters University break new ground? No. (Well, there are a few new monsters.) But two of Pixar’s most likeable characters, Sulley and Mike, return to the screen in a prequel (or, if you prefer, “origin story”) to 2002’s Monsters, Inc. Voiced by John Goodman and Billy Crystal, respectively, the duo is revealed not to have been chums from the beginning. In fact, there were hard feelings and resentments between the two. But circumstances in the film dictate that they team up to reach a goal.

Both wash out of Scare School at the U (for different reasons) and seek redemption in the school’s annual Scare Games. They make a deal with the stern headmaster Miss Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) that if their team wins the Scare Games, they’ll get back into Scare School.

The Scare Games are clever and entertaining. Will these underdogs and their fellow MU misfits make it through to the finals? Will they find the redemption they seek? Think you can guess what happens? Maybe not.

MU is a cute and funny film that will make you happy. Whereas Monsters, Inc. was a bit more about Sulley, Monsters University leans more toward Mike and his challenges. MU has a final act that takes them from the University all the way to the story that is told in Monsters Inc.

Regarding Pixar, Disney and branding: 2012 was confusing. Brave, a Pixar branded film looked like a Disney branded film whereas Wreck-It Ralph (officially a Disney film) had the story, look, voice-acting virtuosity and whimsy that have been Pixar trademarks. That branding may be further muddied later this summer when a Pixar-looking movie called Planes appears as a Disney nameplate movie. Disney, of course, owns Pixar.

Regarding John Goodman’s distinctive voice: My daughter was working at a busy retail establishment during last holiday season here in St. Louis. She said she heard Sulley’s voice and looked around. There was John Goodman standing in her checkout line.

At the end of every Pixar film, a list of babies born to production staff during the making of the movie is evidence of the time and effort that goes into making such a film. Sadly, at the screening I attended the film cut off before getting that far into the credits. That’s one reason to see it again. Another is that Pixar movies, for me, tend to improve with repeat viewings. Monsters University is rated G.

The Bling Ring

Not much going on in The Bling Ring. It’s an hour and a half of high school kids in Los Angeles robbing stars’ homes, smoking dope, snorting coke, Facebooking and partying. Everything happens to the accompaniment of a contemporary, mostly hip-hop, soundtrack. And then they get caught. The End.

Their modus operandi is to monitor gossip websites, find out when famous stars are out of town, Google their addresses and break in. It’s all too easy. These stars apparently haven’t heard about security alarms and systems that summon police when tripped. Paris Hilton leaves a key under her front doormat. That’s hot! She also apparently leaves her dog and pet monkey at home alone. This movie is supposedly based on true events.

The clothes and the shoes and the bling and the stars homes are spectacular. Some of the cars, including a Porsche that gets taken for a joyride, are also nice.

The five kids pulling off these capers (four girls and a boy) are based in Calabasas, in the hills just west of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. They are little more than caricatures. The best-known star in the movie is Emma Watson, who stars as Nicki, a party girl. Rebecca (Katie Chang) is the ringleader. Marc (Israel Broussard), a young man who seems to be coming to grips with his sexual orientation, is the geek who follows stars activities online.

Director Sofia Coppola’s movie is mainly about settings and props. The capers and the loot are the focal points, not the characters. Among the movie’s best scenes is a long static shot that shows Rebecca and Marc running around inside Audrina Partidge’s home in the Hollywood Hills, up and down stairs, lights flashing on and off. It stands out in contrast to the film’s otherwise frenetic pace.

Coppola’s movie rubs up against real life by mentioning the stars names whose homes are robbed: Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, Orlando Bloom, among others.

But the action that drives the movie’s flimsy plot is repetitious. Home invasion after home invasion, looting after looting, party after party. As someone once said about a boring city, “There’s no there there.” There’s not much there here in The Bling Ring either.

Rated R.

World War Z

Brad Pitt made a zombie movie. Not a funny zombie movie like Zombieland or Warm Bodies, but a serious zombie movie. Why?

Maybe because Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, turns out to be the savior of humanity? Maybe because he’s the only well-known actor in the film, so he’ll be a real-life savior for his co-producers if it’s a hit? (Which it will likely be.) Maybe because it’s the time of the season for zombies and a zombie movie that doesn’t even snicker at the undead?

World War Z has some amazing effects. A teeming throng of zombies, looking like ants, climbs upon one another to scale a high wall. Another teeming throng of zombies runs through the streets of Philadelphia chasing a throng of non-zombies. An airplane… (No, wait, no spoiler here.) Rumors about production costs for the film go as high as $200 million.

Lane is a husband and father. After helping his family escape a tense situation in downtown Philly gridlock and more danger in Newark, they’re all ‘coptered to a carrier in the Atlantic which is serving as UN command center.

After Lane is convinced to help save the world, he and his crew go first to South Korea where gun battles in the dark beg the question, how can you tell the zombies from the normals? Then, he’s off to Jerusalem. As he eludes pursuing zombies with a female Jewish soldier in tow, he amputates her hand to prevent a zombie bite from infecting her. They escape by hailing a Belarus airliner on the runway and flying off to a World Health Organization facility somewhere in Europe.

Here’s where Lane offers one of those long shot “this just might work” ideas, reminiscent of an off-the-wall diagnosis on the House TV show. An intense cat-and-mouse game (actually zombie-and-normal game) ensues, providing the movie’s tense climax.

Here’s my main problem with World War Z: It’s a serious zombie movie. I’m not sure “serious” and “zombie” should go together. I know that zombies are hot stuff right now, but even as well made as TV’s The Walking Dead is, I have trouble buying into that show.

If you, however, are on the zombie bandwagon, you will, I think, want to zip and zoom and zero in on this zesty, zingy film, along with zillions more zombiphiles.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel is full of sound and fury. It takes Superman and his families (on Krypton and on Earth) to places that original creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never could have imagined.

Man of Steel is a prequel, the backstory of Kal-El/Clark Kent. Superman’s dad Jor-El (Russell Crowe, in a non-singing role) launches the infant Kal-El toward Earth as Krypton implodes. Amid the terror on Krypton, Jor-El gets impaled to death by Krypton nemesis General Zod (Michael Shannon). But, amazingly, he’s not out of the movie! Jor-El shows up in future events in the film, but don’t ask me to explain how. (No, he’s not a hologram.)

Meanwhile we see young Clark being raised in Smallville by the Kents, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane). They make him control his super powers while growing up, even when peril hits close to home. Young Clark does save a busload of schoolmates from drowning after an accident, but his strength remains undercover, for the most part.

Just as the adult Superman (Henry Cavill) begins to do his super thing, here come General Zod and more bad guys from Krypton. They’ve decided to colonize Earth! Smallville is going to need millions in urban renewal funds from the feds after Zod and Superman (+ personnel and machines from the US military) tear up the town in an epic, lengthy faceoff.

Speaking of epic, lengthy faceoffs, there’s another one—this time in Metropolis—between Zod and Superman. It does not take up the entire second half of the movie, it just seems that way.

Amy Adams is Lois Lane and unlike we’ve been led to believe in every comic book, TV show and movie of the past, in Man of Steel she’s hip to the fact that Clark Kent is Superman early on. She wants to tell the whole fantastic story via the Daily Planet but editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) nixes it because it’s too outrageous.

If you enjoyed the Christopher Reeve Superman movies or even the 2006 Superman Returns with Brandon Routh in the title role, take note that this new movie has a different feel. Zack Snyder, who directed 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch, has made a movie for those who like things that go boom. Sure, there’s a bit of humanity to go along with the sound and fury, but that’s not the reason most will buy tickets.

(And to answer the question, whatever happened to Brandon Routh? He recently played a vegan male nurse—true—on a CBS sitcom called Partners that was cancelled after six episodes last fall.)

Man of Steel is a bit longer than it needs to be. (It runs 2:20 or so.) My guess is that so much was spent on battles and effects that it made it hard to leave a multi-million dollar sequence on the cutting room floor.

Cavill is a solid Superman. He plays it straight with none of the campiness witnessed in the Iron Man movies or the last Trek flick.

As does the film have excessive length, so does this review. Therefore I’ll wrap it by saying that I like Man of Steel but I didn’t love it. My guess, however, is that audiences will. Love it, that is.

The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer is a good movie with one problem: Its R rating. I know younger teens who would love this movie, but who cannot legally see it.

And the R rating is totally unnecessary. Yes, some of Nick Offerman’s profane comments are hilarious. And, yes, unsupervised 15-year-old kids may be likely to drink beer. But The Kings of Summer, a light comedy, should’ve been tailored to be PG-13.

In TKOS, two 15-year-old buddies and their weird acquaintance run off into the woods and build a decent little shelter. They stay there for several weeks, enjoying their solitude but, particularly, the absence of their parents. Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Chesterfield’s own Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (Moises Arias) have a good thing going—until they invite some of their friends over.

Every person, around age 14 or 15, begins to resent/shun/despise his or her parents. I did it. My brother did it. Each of my three kids did it. You probably did it, even if you can’t remember. In most cases, it’s not personal, it’s just part of growing up. In the cases of Joe and Patrick though, maybe it is personal.

Offerman (of TV’s Parks and Recreation) is Joe’s widowed dad, a sad and bitter man, with a disarming smugness about him. Patrick’s sincere, but overbearing, parents are played by Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson. Biaggio’s parents are not seen, although his dad is heard in a brief, but funny, sequence near the film’s end.

The three Kings are talented young actors who each have big futures ahead. Robinson and Basso are nice looking young men. Arias has an Eastern European ethnic look and great facial takes that could lead to successful broad comedy roles.

The Kings of Summer calls to mind several films about young people dealing with adolescence, including Moonrise Kingdom, Stand By Me and Breaking Away. All of us who grew up near the woods and fantasized about building a tree house or cabin getaway with dad’s tools and scrap lumber from nearby construction sites can appreciate what these three characters actually pull off here.

Too bad TKOS is rated R and most teens can’t see it without their own smug, doting parents in tow. Maybe they could sneak in from somewhere else in the Cineplex? Maybe!