Sisters

 

Amy Poehler was acclaimed for voicing the role of Joy in the beloved Inside Out this summer. But, as winter beckons, there is no Joy in Mudville. Amy Poehler has struck out.

Tina Fey was one of the brains behind the Netflix hit The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, released in March. But, come December, Kimmy may want to go back underground after seeing Tina’s latest film Sisters.

The setup for this comedy is pure gold. The sisters, Maura (Poehler) and Kate (Fey), are heading back to their childhood home to visit mom and dad (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin). But when they arrive, they find that mom and dad have sold the house and moved into a condo.

The house is empty and ready for final inspection before closing. Okay, empty except for everything that remains in the girls’ rooms. Kate and Maura find their old diaries and other memorabilia. That scene should have made for some solid laughs. It did not.

They decide to throw one final big party before the home is passed along to the new owners. Here comes a problem: too many Saturday Night Live cast members who fail to deliver the goods. Their names: Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph. (SNL alum Chris Parnell appears near the film’s open.) Despite raucous behavior galore, the party fails to generate commensurate guffaws. Even Samantha Bee, who regularly kills on The Daily Show, fails to connect in Sisters.

Amy and Tina are to be applauded for their efforts. They both try their damnedest to make Sisters work. But teen sex comedy style debauchery is not their forte.

I did like wrestler John Cena as a stoic drug dealer whose menu of intoxicants is ridiculously long. Also, I wonder about Bryan James D’Arcy. He’s in the cast, is seen a time or two but contributes little to the film.

Sisters looks great on paper: Two funny, likable ladies in a situation that portends strong comedy potential. Sadly, it doesn’t look so good onscreen.

Everest

Everest is big. Appropriately so. It’s a big story with a big cast of characters and, of course, a big mountain. The biggest mountain, actually. The film is best viewed on a big screen.

In 1996, Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) led expeditions to Mount Everest. Other groups were also at base camp, all set to make a final ascent on May 10. Everest shows Hall to be a conscientious, detail-oriented leader, a “hand holder” as Fischer calls him. Fischer is a more casual leader with his climbers.

Among those in Hall’s group are Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a big, boisterous Texan; Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a mailman of more modest means than most climbers; Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a quiet Japanese woman; and Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), a journalist who plans to do a cover story on the trek for Outside magazine.

Emily Watson and Elizabeth Debicki are Hall’s base camp support team. Hall’s pregnant wife Jan (Kiera Knightley), who had climbed Everest with him in ‘93, is at home in New Zealand where she communicates with him by phone. Robin Wright plays Weathers’ wife, back home in Texas.

If you are unfamiliar with the story you may want to avoid plot synopses and remain unaware of the challenges the climbers encountered on May 10, 1996.

Though the story of the May 1996 expedition to Everest has been told before, most notably in Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, this new movie provides thrilling visuals and recreates the real-life peril of an Everest climb. Director Baltasar Kormakur brings the tale to life with realistic location shots in hazardous weather conditions. The cast and crew are to be congratulated for what one would presume to have been a tough shoot.

For those who have read Krakauer’s book (which I, incidentally, consider to be the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read), there are slight differences in the story told in the film. Most significantly, the logjam that occurs at the Hillary Step just below the summit plays a bigger role in the book than in the movie.

Last year’s Wild has led to more traffic on the Pacific Crest Trail this year and the recent A Walk In The Woods is expected to send more hikers to the Appalachian Trail in 2016. Will Everest result in even more climbers attempting to ascend to the top of the world? Probably, even though the danger of an Everest climb far outweighs than that of a trail hike. The difficulties chronicled in Everest will, for many, likely be outweighed by the lust for adventure and the glory of reaching the summit.

If you prefer to experience an Everest climb vicariously (as do I) and enjoy a good story about people who climb, the best way is to see Everest. And remember, this is one to see on a big movie screen.