“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.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (or WTF)” movie review

WTFQuite the unexpected surprise from comedienne Tina Fey! Paramount Pictures’ Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is one part self-reflexive film on television news production and one part self-discovery. Unlike the feel of the previews, WTF is not really a comedy–not in the traditional sense anyway. There certainly are moments throughout the film that are funny and will cause you to chuckle, but it is definitely more of a drama. The brilliance of Fey’s acting in this movie is truly showcased by her ability to display that she can do serious just as well as funny. Most of the funny parts are given away in the previews, so don’t think you’re going to get more laughs during the movie. Based on actual events, WTF takes you behind the camera and behind enemy lines to depict what it is like for television news foreign correspondents in a war zone. Although the movie was not what I expected at all, I am very pleased with the story, all be it, slow burning. Beyond the self-reflexive subplot in the movie is the foreground story of self-discovery. Fey represents so many of us who just feel like we are spinning our wheels, treading water,  or even moving backwards. The inspirational elements of the movie come from her willingness to take chances, make mistakes, and get dirty (as the Magic School Bus‘s Miss Frizzle would say).

What would you do? You’re dissatisfied with your job as a television news writer/producer, have a mildly depressive boyfriend, small apartment, and just need to get away. If you’re Kim Barker (Tina Fey), then you head off to Kabul, Afghanistan to become a foreign correspondent during the early days of the War on Terror. After an expedited visa and passport, Barker embarks on her journey as a representative of the U.S. press in one of the most dangerous places on earth. Armed with her laptop, camera, notepad, and two staff members, she sets out to discover the real stories in Kabul and the surrounding areas. Thinking that she is the only girl in a military barracks, Barker is relieved to meet Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) who takes Barker under her wings to show her the ropes of reporting the news amidst a war and hundreds of “thirsty” journalists and military personnel. While covering the stories of the war, Barker concurrently takes a journey of self-discovery that is filled with mountains and valleys.

Let’s be real here. Even if you analyze movies on a regular basis like me, you too were probably thinking that this would be a dramedy (drama/comedy). And yes, comedy is really drama in disguise; but I digress. The previews are certainly cut together in such a way that it looks like a very Fey-esque wartime comedy. I am not going so far as to saying that Paramount pulled a bait ‘n switch–because the movie is of a good quality and enjoyable–but the is no doubt that I went in expecting classic Fey and was presented with her more serious side. Still, through her witty quips and non-verbal dialog, she infuses conventional comedy and self-deprecating humor throughout the narrative. Like many dialog-driven dramas, even ones during a war, this movie has a very slow pace especially in the first act. Some additional comedy probably would have helped in the beginning to hook the audience. Speaking of the hook, that is probably what’s missing from the first few minutes of the movie. I think the studio sacrificed a traditional hook because the hook was Tina Fey herself. Fortunately, the film wastes no times in getting Kim Barker to Afghanistan, and that is definitely a good move. Although we are introduced to several chief characters in the movie, the focus is definitely on the character development of Barker with some minor development and introspect on the other principle players.

There are really two stories here: the foreground story of self-discovery and the background self-reflexive plot. Both are seamlessly married together in order to accurately tell both without sacrificing the other. Although we all know that there are foreign correspondents in war zones, we don’t always get to see what it’s really like to uncover stories, pitch to executives back in the states, and maintain sanity and safety; but through this film, we witness just how hard it really is to be a foreign television news correspondent. From networking, to interviewing, to shooting B-roll and stand-ups, Barker takes us on the journey from concept to delivery of producing news int he middle of a battle zone. Beyond the battle field, Barker is coping with her own personal and professional battles. If it isn’t the cheating boyfriend, it is the network who put her on the hourly plan and gives her no screen time. But, through it all, Barker never gives up and refuses to sit idly by and allow herself to be walked over. Fortunately, Barker does get her big break during the climax of the movie, but you’ll have to watch the movie to see what that is.

If you plan to see just one movie this weekend, I definitely encourage you to see this one. It’s gritty, funny, and inspirational. This is also a great opportunity to watch Fey in a more serious role and decide for yourself if she convinces you that she can play serious just as well as the comedy we all know and love her for. You may have seen other wartime movie, but this one plays out differently in that the focus is truly on the character development of the protagonist with the war merely being the backdrop and conduit through which we see her story of summits and pitfalls.

“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.