“The Boss” movie review

TheBossA truly diversified portfolio of comedic stock! Last year Melissa McCarthy was a spy; and this year, she’s the boss. Over and over again, McCarthy proves that she is a brilliantly talented funny lady. And whereas some may see this movie as a sloppy pandering comedy, I see it as a fantastically entertaining movie with a pretty good plot filled with well-developed characters. No story exists without conflict, and comedy is no different. The best comedies are those full of conflict that ignites the hilarity and irony. Very much in the vein of other McCarthy comedies, The Boss is over the top. But, that’s perfectly acceptable because the movie certainly opens with a larger than life scene, and the movie never pretends to be something that it’s not. This type of comedy knows exactly what it is, and it rocks it! I always have more respect for movies that do not pretend to be anything other than what they are. It’s designed to provide an escape from the doldrums and mildly depressive lives many of us have and provide us with the best medicine–laughter. Is this new comedy on par with Bridesmaids or Spy? No. But, is it funny, filled with fun characters, conflict, and satire/parody? YES.

Universal Pictures’ The Boss is a slapstick comedy about media and economy mogul Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) who has pulled herself up from the tragic and challenging roots of her childhood to become the CEO of multiple Fortune 500 companies. But, like with all good things…after inside information, Michelle is found guilty of insider trading after a tipoff from a former friend turned enemy of hers. Having all her assets frozen, personal property confiscated, and losing her house, Michelle has no where to go after her short four-month stint in a white collar correctional facility. She has to turn to her former executive assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) for help. After driving Claire and her daughter crazy, Michelle is forced to start pulling her weight, which means taking Rachel, Claire’s daughter, to her Dandelions meeting (totally a parody of the Girl Scouts). That proverbial meeting proves to be just the catalyst Michelle needs to return to the top. However, she will soon come face to face with all new challenges in her business and personal life as she rises back to her previous epic heights.

At first glance, this movie appears to be another zany comedy that only McCarthy can pull off. Much in the same way Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are often type casted. But, a closer look at The Boss reveals a surprisingly well-developed and executed plot that is incredibly well-paced and includes impeccable comedic timing. Like with Poehler and Fey’s Sisters, this movie too has a heart-warming message throughout the narrative. You’ll just have to watch it to find out what that is. Like with the opening scene at Chicago’s United Center with Darnell descending to the stage on a fiery phoenix alive with pyrotechnics, Michelle herself is larger than life. Interestingly, this opening parallels the career or acting-style of McCarthy. She is the type of actor that has yet to prove a wide range of characters; but with the characters she plays, she is often the most dominant character whether among the supporting or leading cast. We expect her to provide us with that which we are accustomed to watching and enjoying. And in that respect, she has yet to fail her audience.

The phoenix at the beginning also symbolizes, as many of us know, the rising from ashes of defeat to become even more resilient and powerful than before. The character of Michele Darnell is very much a phoenix in this story. But is she the only phoenix? No. Michelle’s former assistant Claire is also a type of phoenix. Granted, she was not on top of the world and fell from splendor, but she also takes a journey similar to the phoenix. As Michelle’s assistant, she had a good job (although not paid nearly as well as she should have been)–let’s just go with the fact that she was employed. When Michelle lost her assets, she was no longer able to pay Claire and she was forced to take employment elsewhere. From riding around with Michelle in Cadillac Escalades to working in a cubical in a administrative pool, Claire fell from the glamour she was associated with by extension. After several turning points in the movie, which you will just have to see for yourself, Claire begins to rise up to achieve goals she never thought she would–personal and professional triumphs.

Unlike many comedies, this one has a dynamic range of dialog, physical antics, and high brow humor that is sure to keep you laughing during the movie. Furthermore, contrary to how many may perceive or expect of comedies, it is important that the audience not continuously laugh the entire time. If there is so much “funny” in the story structure, then the moments that should elicit the most laughter won’t succeed because they will just fall in line with the rest. It’s like Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco. Although I have never been, from others who have told me about their travels, the ceiling is not nearly as impressive as one may think it to be. Why is that? Because there are many painted ceilings throughout the chapel so Michelangelo’s masterpiece is fairly anti-climactic. Fortunately, The Boss strikes a pleasant balance and timing between the high comedic elements in plot and dialog. Another component of this movie that is sure to please the audience is the cameo by Kathy Bates! Thats right. Better known for her more serious roles, Kathy Bates is one of the most amazing actors because she can truly play a wide range of characters in film or television from the serious to the funny. It takes only the highest level of acting to be able to deliver brilliance in such a short amount of screen time. Plus, having Bates just classes up the film a little!

If you love Japanese katana fights, this movie has it! If you are a fan of McCarthy’s style of comedy? You won’t be disappointed. Having a bad week and just need to laugh for a while, then this movie is for you! There is little that I did not enjoy about this comedy. By no means to I argue that this is an amazing film–certainly that isn’t the case. But, is it s FUN movie that is actually well-produced, written, and acted? Yes it is.

“Sisters” movie review

SistersA comedy that only Tina Fey and Amy Poehler could pull off! Since I had already seen my “movie of the week” when I screened 13 Hours, I used my Thursday night, which is typically reserved for the movie I review, to just kick back and relax with a comedy starring two amazing comediennes who have been coming into our living rooms for nearly two decades. At first glance, Sisters may seem like another crass, brassy, stupid comedy; but, a closer examination reveals that it is actually quite brilliantly structured and directed–the acting speaks for itself. For those who have studied film or entertainment in general, you are well aware that a well-written and directed comedy is actually drama in disguise. No story exists without conflict, and comedy is often frocked with conflict because that is where the “funny” or comedic “irony” comes from. Whereas this film is certainly not one that is made to be added to the library of great films or one that is meant to typify the art of cinema, it IS produced to entertain and bring about immense laughter from the audience. Sisters is a great way to spend a couple of hours with your sister or close friends and enjoy the uplifting message with a massive dose of Fey-Poehler comedy.

When their parents sell the family house in Orlando, sisters Maura (Poehler) and Kate (Fey) are requested to head down to the sunshine state to clean out their childhood room–which may as well be a bottomless pit of 80s and 90s memorabilia. With only one weekend to accomplish the near impossible, Maura and Kate are overwhelmed and  quickly become distracted with a desire to have one more night of youthful, wreckless fun before they say goodbye to the house in which they grew up. Each dealing with a source of negative stress in their respective personal lives, these two sisters decide to invite old classmates and friends to the party of the century to recapture their glory days. When the party begins to spiral out of control, Maura and Kate soon realize that their parents may not have a house to sell.

As there really is not a whole lot to dissect, in terms of the plot or technical components, I do want to take a moment to further highlight why this was a well-produced and directed comedy that is probably a little too underrated. Going in with fairly low expectations, I was delightfully surprised at how well the comedy was put together. Ordinarily, comedies like this one do not receive December releases because of the blockbuster or “Oscar” movies. So, I was curious as to why Universal related the film then it did. After having watched the movie, it was clear why Universal was confident in the December release because, in addition to having a comedic duo in leading roles, it is definitely a great movie to watch with your own sister or brother. The movie has great acting, a heartwarming story, and however over-the-top excellently written comedy.

If you do not laugh during this movie, then you are not alive. I cannot imagine a better cast for the film. That is probably because this is a unique brand of drama in disguise that Fey and Poehler can bring to the big screen. Both Maura and Kate feel like real sisters and deal with many issues that real-life sisters may deal with as they get older. The earthiness and realness of the characters bring about fantastic candor from the parents as well as confessions that have been kept secret between the sisters. Within this “let’s recapture our glory days” comedy is a love story that fits perfectly into the plot and does not feel jammed in there just to have romantic subplot. There are even times that you may identify very closely with the sisters, parents, or even some of the classmates.

It isn’t often that I truly enjoy a comedy such as this one, but the chemistry between Poehler and Fey is memorable. Whether you have a sister (or brother) or not, this movie is one that will make you laugh and perhaps even cry just a little.

“Inside Out” movie review

InsideOutThis is what we get from the creators of the beloved Disney-Pixar masterpiece Up? Prepare for a journey that not even Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus could take you on. Finally get up close and personal with those little voices in your head. Only, despite the prolific amount of “joy” in the movie, you will likely exhibit a moderate ‘meh’ following the close at the denouement when all is better for Riley. Unlike the emotional rollercoaster in Up, this is a pretty well a straight forward ticking-time-bomb structured movie. Fairly predictable and lacks the magic of past Disney-Pixar films. Think Cars 2. The only redeeming quality of the movie is Amy Poehler’s character of Joy. If you loved Parks and Recreation, then you will love the character of Joy because she is pretty much the effervescent Leslie Knope. There are no extreme highs nor extreme lows…the movie fails to arouse a great deal of emotion from the audience. You will definitely not find yourself crying like you did in Up, and the characters of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust won’t find a place in your heart like the cast from Toy Story. 

Inside Out is the latest movie from Disney-Pixar and is about Riley, an 11 year-old, girl from Minnesota who moves with her family to San Francisco in order for her dad to pursue a career with a startup company. Deep inside the conscious of Riley, the personified and anthropomorphic voices in her head are busy managing her emotions during this dynamic transition in Riley’s life. Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black) all work together to see that Riley is feeling the way she needs to at any given moment while she is awake–or at least try to. Joy is the leader and attempts to see to it that Riley is joyous all the time. During a rough transitional period, emotions run haywire and Joy is unable to manage Riley’s feelings. Not meaning any harm, Sadness touches an otherwise happy core memory and the domino effect that leads to the destruction of feelings, memories, and emotions begins. After getting sucked from Headquarters into Riley’s longterm memory, Joy and Sadness must retrieve all the core memories and get them back to Headquarters before Riley retreats into a dark place and never returns.

This is Pixar’s big summer movie, but it feels more like a movie that should’ve been released during the spring or fall. It lacks that uniquely Pixar quality that we have come to love and expect from such masters of animated storytelling. The narrative struck me as something much closer to a DreamWorks film than a Pixar. Not that DreamWorks hasn’t had some hits–quite the contrary–they produced the Golden Globe winning film How to Train Your Dragon 2 last year and certainly had a major hit with Shrek and the first How to Train Your Dragon. But, typically Pixar movies stand as the epitome of the best in compelling animated storytelling. Visually, the film is quite colorful and personifies the voices in our head quite well. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from an inability to inspire the audience to fall in love with any of the respective characters; but the opposite is also true because there is not a deep dislike for the antagonist (which is essentially ‘time’) or opposition either. As most screenwriters will tell you, movies–even if time is truly the opposition or enemy–need the antagonist to have some type of physical representation. Simply stated, a movie needs a clearly defined external goal, and this film concentrates mostly on the internal goals.

Although not exemplary, we do have sufficient character development in Joy. She truly shows a great character arc that goes from someone who thinks she knows everything and how to keep Riley’s mind under control to knowing that all the various emotions need to work together in order to provide Riley with a healthy state of mind. The movie is definitely cute, and it has some great humor here and there. There are also many Easter Eggs from other Pixar movies as well. One of the funniest parts that most children will miss is the cliche imaginary boyfriend from Canada. In many ways, this movie feels like a filler movie to bridge the gap between movies until the highly anticipated Finding Dory and Toy Story 4. For those of you who really enjoy the Disney and Pixar shorts prior to the feature presentations, you will get a cute short film about two volcanos who fall in ‘lava.’ Although moderately entertaining, it was a cute way to begin Inside Out. The moderate cuteness and entertainment value in the short film is definitely indicative of the storytelling quality in the feature. It was a foreshadow of what was to be expected in Inside Out.

If you’re the parents of kids or you just love Disney-Pixar films, no matter the storytelling or entertainment value, then you will likely enjoy watching this movie. If you are looking for another Disney-Pixar movie to generate strong emotions and maybe even “joyous” tears, then this is may not be it. However, it has received high praise from other critics so far, so maybe there is something in this movie that I may have missed.

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