For those of you who like me have in recent years come to regard “chick flick” as a purely pejorative term Bridesmaids directed by Paul Feig (Unaccompanied Minors) and starring Kristen Wiig (MacGruber) is nothing less than miraculous: A broad female-driven comedy that is both sharply observed and genuinely funny capable of inducing howls of laughter from both sexes in equal measure. What's more unlike other offerings from the genre it actually respects its audience’s basic intelligence. How refreshingly novel.
Wiig who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Annie Mumolo plays Annie 30-something and stranded. Since losing her business and subsequently her boyfriend to the Great Recession she’s resigned herself to mediocrity slogging through a dead-end job at a jewelry store where she labors vainly to conceal her cynicism from the bright-eyed folks shopping for engagement rings and BFF bracelets and clinging to a dead-end relationship with a handsome but solipsistic creep (Jon Hamm) who very plainly regards her as nothing more than a convenient booty call.
Annie’s lone source of relief from the drudgery and ennui is the close bond she shares with Lillian (Maya Rudolph) her lifelong best friend. When Lillian reveals that she’s gotten engaged and that she’s chosen Annie to be her maid of honor at the wedding Annie’s already shaky emotional footing threatens to give way entirely. Wiig is fairly brilliant here (and indeed throughout the film) subtly and humorously conveying both overt happiness for her friend’s milestone and internal terror over the sudden realization that the music has stopped and she’s the only one without a chair.
Lillian’s engagement sets up the film’s main comic conceit: the rivalry of passive-aggressive one-upsmanship that develops between Annie and blue-blooded Alpha bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne) a pretty prissy blue-blood who clearly covets Annie’s maid of honor role. Pressured to prove herself against the would-be usurper Annie leads the bridal party into one disaster after another starting with a Brazilian luncheon that results in a violent case of food poisoning in the middle of their gown-fitting.
As you might gather from the above example some of the film’s comic set-ups verge on the predictable but Wiig a comedienne equally adroit as the brunt of jokes or the source of them keeps things fresh and lively – and funny – throughout. I’d be remiss however if I didn’t recognize the scene-stealing efforts of Melissa McCarthy as Megan the mannish potty-mouthed sexually aggressive sister of the groom the bridal party’s oddest — and ultimately its most grounded — member.
At times Bridesmaids tries a little too hard to be an all-female version of The Hangover Wedding Crashers or any of the other films to which it has been copiously compared. The needless intestinal comedy of the wedding-gown dysentery scene in particular serves as little more than proof that women are just as capable of reaching for easy laughs via telegraphed gross-out jokes as men. (I suspect this as well as the film’s overlong running time stems in part from the creative influence Judd Apatow who produced the film.)
Bridesmaids is at its best when it’s not reaching or forcing matters but rather when it puts its trust in its talented cast. The relationship that blossoms in fits and starts between Annie and Rhodes an Irish-American traffic cop played by Chris O’Dowd is heartfelt and its evolution stunted at various points by Annie’s penchant for neurotic self-sabotage feels genuine. Wiig and O’Dowd establish an easy endearing chemistry devoid of the pat screwball give-and-take that so often characterizes rom-com courtships and it helps keep the movie aloft when its comic energy ebbs.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has released its list of nominees for the annual BAFTA Awards, also known as the British Oscars or the only big awards show with a category just for British only. Surprise, surprise, the Brits have come out on top; the historical drama, The King’s Speech swept the noms with 14 in total. Close behind is Darren Aronofsky’s surprising thriller, Black Swan with 12 total nominations. The British Film category that comes in addition to the BAFTA’s “Best Film” category gives a second chance to 127 Hours, which doesn’t make the top five in the overall category but has the chance to take the top Brits-only honor. Also of note, 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, who’s blowing audiences away in December’s True Grit, merits the grownup honor of a nomination for best lead actress for her role in the film (mini fist pump!).
While the awards will be broadcast exclusively on BBC One, sorry America, it’s still worth knowing which films made the cut.
And the nominees are:
• Black Swan - Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
• Inception - Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• The Social Network - Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Céan Chaffin
• True Grit - Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Outstanding British Film
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson
• Another Year - Mike Leigh, Georgina Lowe
• Four Lions - Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• Made in Dagenham - Nigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
• The Arbor - Director, Producer - Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
• Exit Through The Gift Shop - Director, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D’Cruz
• Four Lions - Director/Writer - Chris Morris
• Monsters - Director/Writer – Gareth Edwards
• Skeletons - Director/Writer – Nick Whitfield
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle
• Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper
• The Social Network - David Fincher
• Black Swan - Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin
• The Fighter - Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The Kids Are All Right - Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
• The King’s Speech - David Seidler
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
• The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin
• Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt
• True Grit - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Film Not In the English Language
• Biutiful - Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev
• I Am Love - Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante
• Of Gods And Men - Xavier Beauvois
• The Secrets In Their Eyes - Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella
• Despicable Me - Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
• How To Train Your Dragon - Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
• Toy Story 3 - Lee Unkrich
• Javier Bardem – Biutiful
• Jeff Bridges - True Grit
• Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
• Colin Firth - The King’s Speech
• James Franco - 127 Hours
• Annette Benning - The Kids Are All Right
• Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
• Natalie Portman - Black Swan
• Noomi Rapace - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
• Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
• Christian Bale - The Fighter
• Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
• Pete Postlethwaite - The Town
• Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
• Geoffrey Rush - The King’s Speech
• Amy Adams - The Fighter
• Helena Bonham Carter - The King’s Speech
• Barbara Hershey - Black Swan
• Lesley Manville - Another Year
• Miranda Richardson - Made in Dagenham
• 127 Hours - AR Rahman
• Alice In Wonderland - Danny Elfman
• How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
• Inception - Hans Zimmer
• The King’s Speech - Alexandre Desplat
• 127 Hours - Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
• Black Swan - Matthew Libatique
• Inception - Wally Pfister
• The King’s Speech - Danny Cohen
• True Grit - Roger Deakins
For the full list of nominees, visit the BAFTA site, here.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Julie & Julia melds the analogous stories of cooking legend Julia Child’s life in 1950s France with the modern-day tale of writer Julie Powell’s real-life quest to prepare all 524 recipes in Child’s classic tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The film neatly covers Child’s life in post-World War II Paris with her foreign diplomat husband Paul her foray into and eventual mastery of French cooking and the difficulties she encountered while trying to publish her groundbreaking cookbook. Intercut with Child's story is Powell’s decision to shake up her life as an unfulfilled government employee in post-9/11 New York by challenging herself to cook and blog. Her inevitable trials (she burns an important meal gets in trouble at work and pisses off her husband) and victories (a perfectly poached egg a write-up in the New York Times) are all included.
WHO’S IN IT?
Ever lovely Amy Adams plays endearingly bedraggled Julie with hopeful conviction and Chris Messina is cute and convincing as her sweetly supportive husband. It is of course Meryl Streep who steals the show with her joyful high-energy portrayal of the 6-foot-2 master chef. Streep as she is apt to do turns in a nuanced humanizing and wholly hilarious portrayal of a cultural icon many associate with Dan Akroyd's impressions on Saturday Night Live.
Stanley Tucci proves a savvy charismatic match for Streep as Paul Child Julia’s affectionate charming and unflinchingly supportive husband. Jane Lynch momentarily steals Streep’s spotlight as Julia’s equally tall equally whirling dervishy sister Dorothy.
Julie’s life in Queens is populated by Mary Lynn Rajskub who plays her pragmatic friend and Casey Wilson and Vanessa Ferlito who make memorable cameos as Julie’s condescending corporate ladder-climbing carb-avoiding frenemies.
All of it. Nora Ephron’s script elegantly weaves the story of Child in Paris and Powell in Queens portraying both locales as the prettiest freshest versions of themselves. The film is a joy to look at not only for the sumptuous shots of Powell’s many creations and Child’s rich French fare but also for the pristine recreation of the style and fashion of 1950s Paris. It will make you want to drink champagne cocktails wear chiffon and eat chocolate cake. And beef. And bruschetta. And anything else available.
The film is superbly acted and manages to be funny inspiring and poignant without falling into schlocky chick-flick territory. The story is refreshing in its depiction of two happy drama-free marriages. The true romance here is with all the gorgeous food which Streep Tucci Adams and especially Messina consume with joyful gusto.
At just over two hours the film runs a bit long especially for a comedy. Although it never slows or bores several scenes about publishing the cookbook could have been shortened or cut completely to pick up the pace. While the ending is lovely the film then wraps up a bit hastily.
Julia first learning her cookbook might be published and frenetically rushing into the house screaming “Paul! Paul Paul Paul!” while nearly tripping over herself has just a slight advantage over the scene in which Julie confronts her moral dilemma about killing lobsters and is subsequently traumatized while boiling them alive.
Finely crafted from start to finish Meryl and the food take the cake so to speak in terms of star power. The movie is lighthearted fare for anyone desiring inspiration in the kitchen — or any other life department for that matter.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name Fast Food Nation has three intertwined stories revolving around the fast food industry. Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear) is a corporate marketing guy assigned to put a positive spin on the bad news that fecal traces has been found in the meat. He goes to the meat factory to investigate and doesn’t like what he sees but no one offers him a viable solution. Then there’s Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) Mexican immigrants who cross the border illegally. The only job they can get is in the meat factory. She bears with demeaning sexual advances while he faces the unhealthy and dangerous conditions to try for the American Dream. Finally we meet Amber (Ashley Johnson) who works in a local franchise. She’s just a high school girl trying to pay for her car insurance. This isn’t her future but it dominates her present. The corporate story is a comedy about ineffective management and media spin. The immigrants’ story is a hard drama about a bad life. Amber’s story straddles both lines--a slacker teen comedy but also introspective about what the job is doing to her soul. It may be no secret these days but it’s still fascinating. There is plenty of juicy dialogue for actors to sink their teeth into (pun intended). Kinnear plays the corporate suit as lovably as possible. He’s the put-upon business cog similar to his characters in The Matador and Little Miss Sunshine but funnier because it’s the system that’s futile not his own dreams. Valderrama has a smaller part just supporting his wife going through a horrible life with noble determination. Moreno is as heartbreaking as she was in her Oscar-nominated performance in Maria Full of Grace. You sense so much potential in her and she’s stuck in the factory demeaned by sexual harassment and unable to save her sister from succumbing to it. She adds new colors of despair to the immigrant experience. Johnson is careful not to make her character too wise beyond her years. She really is just a normal kid. High school sucks so do counter jobs. It’s not about being unique just relatable. Cameos stand out too. Ethan Hawke plays the coolest uncle ever. He comes to town for two scenes spouts off his cool-uncle advice and then leaves. Even though he’s a self-confessed loser he’s convincing. And he buys her beer. Bruce Willis gives a speech on the meat industry with his David Addison smirk while chomping into a burger. We’re sold. Director Richard Linklater does a good job keeping the comedy and drama balanced. He cuts back and forth between stories at sensible intervals. Towards the end Greg Kinnear disappears for a long time but Ashley Johnson’s story beefs up to compensate. Showing the inner workings of the meat factory is pretty powerful. Cow guts falling out and bodies mangled by machinery are not fun things to watch but they are important to remember. It’s all up there on the screen but not gratuitous—and doesn’t have to ruin meat forever. Just think how all foods have processes that we don’t see and still taste good. There are plenty of scenes in which the characters are talking a real Linklater specialty (Before Sunset Before Sunrise for example). Whether they’re talking about meat or minimum wage jobs or life ambitions the conversations have a catchy flow. The satire of corporate America and slacker lifestyles juxtaposed against the drama of immigrant life makes Fast Food Nation both ridiculously funny and appropriately uncomfortable.
She's a hip-hoppin' be-boppin' mean ol' nanny who whips a mean stew and your butt for not doing your homework—and now she's back! Alas we don't speak of the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel but rather that of Big Momma a.k.a. FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence). Agent Warner has cut ties with the FBI at the behest of Sherry (Nia Long)—who as you no doubt recall is the granddaughter of the real Big Momma—since she's pregnant with Malcolm's baby. But wouldn't you know that he gets sucked back in after a former colleague is killed. Posing as Big Momma he's hired as a nanny to a suburban family the deadbeat dad of which is involved in the murder and a crime plot. She does it all—cooks cleans dances and even runs down bad guys but it's a race against time to stop the potential national security crisis. That is a race against the film's (mercifully) short running time. Although Lawrence's resume includes some of the dregs of comedy it's hard to argue that he is truly blessed when it comes to physical comedy and comedic timing. He continues both trends here this time without the help of the breakthrough actors of the past two years Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard who yes both starred in the first Big Momma's House. That means Lawrence's urban mania is truly on its own and absurd and juvenile as the film may be even film snobs can't hold back a few laughs at his Big Momma outlandishness. Longreturns for no more than a select few scenes and to provide a minor conflict in the story. The notable newcomer is CSI's Emily Procter as the sterile mother who hires Big Momma. She does a serviceable job as a suburban Petite Momma. Might she be the next Giamatti or Howard to bolt to bigger and better things in time for the next sequel? No.
Big Momma's House 2 is right up director John Whitesell's alley. He's the guy behind such misses—though not necessarily financially—as Malibu's Most Wanted and See Spot Run and he's right at home here. Whitesell doesn't hold back in (literally and figuratively) pulling the robe off Big Momma but he clearly knows that nothing is to interrupt Lawrence's antics not even the thin story line. Aside from that he knows quite well how to execute thinly veiled rip-offs of the aforementioned Mrs. Doubtfire as well as countless other hidden-motive comedies (i.e. Kindergarten Cop Houseguest et al). Because while the main guise is the Big Momma fat suit Whitesell parades the film about as a feel-good/family flick.
In a mechanized world an imaginative young inventor Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) wants to be as famous as his hero the greatest inventor of all time Mr. Bigweld (voiced by Mel Brooks). With his father's "follow your dreams and never give up" ringing in his ears Rodney leaves his small town and sets out to the big bad Robot City to meet his idol and show him his invention. Once there Rodney meets the Rusties a ragtag group of street-smart bots lead by the wacky Fender (voiced by Robin Williams) who know the ropes. Rodney finds out that Bigweld has gone into seclusion and Robot City is being taken over by an ambitious robot named Ratchet (voiced by Greg Kinnear) whose motto is "Why Be You When You Could Be New?" Ratchet soon halts production on parts for the older robots. If the bot folk can't afford the new stuff they are gathered up and sent to an underground chop shop where Rachet's hideous mother Madame Gasket (voiced by Jim Broadbent) melts them down and turns them into metal for new parts. But the evil duo's plan is soon spoiled when Rodney and the Rusties start fixing the older models and decide the must get the reclusive Bigweld back on track to fight back.
How can you go wrong with such a fabulous cast? They all do a great job including McGregor as the earnest Rodney Copperbottom; Brooks as the soft-hearted boss Big Weld; Kinnear as the vain and conniving Rachet; Broadbent as the repugnantly evil Gasket; Jennifer Coolidge as the hilarious and lovable big-booty bot Aunt Fanny; Halle Berry as the smart and seductive executive bot Cappy; and Amanda Bynes as the perky Piper determined to prove herself. But once again voice over veteran Robin Williams steals the show as the broke down and chaotic robot Fender. With his hundreds of voices and impersonations animated films fit the frenetic Williams to a tee making him the undisputed king.
Blue Sky Animation and Oscar-winning director Chris Wedge who brought us the delightful Ice Age are back turning in another stellar animated effort. Robots is rivet-ing transporting the audience into a world of mechanics electronics and robotics. The best scene is when Rodney gets to Robot City and goes on a roller coaster "cab" ride with Fender through a maze of whirligigs and gadgets. Good fun. Added into the mix is a groovin' soundtrack that makes you want to get up and dance with the characters while snickering at the songs' innuendos. Overall Robots incorporates vibrant colors above the ground with dark rusted images below to bring to life this lively world of metal folk.
November 22, 2002 5:27am EST
In the last Friday movie the Jones family won the million-dollar lotto jackpot and left the 'hood for Beverly Hills. But the money has run out in Friday After Next and the clock ticks down once again on another Friday in the 'hood. Craig (Ice Cube) wakes up in the wee hours of Christmas Eve to find a scrawny Santa stealing the contents of his and his cousin Day-Day's (Mike Epps) apartment including Christmas presents and the rent money. "The ghetto " Craig commiserates "is the only place where you can get fried by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve." To avoid getting evicted--and possibly roughed up by the landlady's newly paroled son Damon (Terry Crews)--the two get jobs as security guards at a local strip mall where their uncle Elroy runs Bros. Bar-B-Q restaurant with the slogan "Tastes so good makes you wanna slap yo' mama." Day-Day's rent-a-cop antics eventually land the duo in some hot water resulting in yet another action-packed Friday. Friday After Next has some great lines but it's mediocre compared to its predecessors. Don't expect the staple marijuana humor here either; it has been replaced with raunchy R-rated dialogue instead.
The best thing about Friday After Next is the terrific character acting by the cast. Ice Cube's Craig is still the most reasonable Jones of the clan and his character's levelheadedness strikes a nice balance between him and Epps' motor mouth character Day-Day. Epps made his first appearance as Day-Day in Next Friday after Chris Tucker who starred as Craig's original sidekick Smokey in Friday left. Together Epps and Ice Cube who also collaborated together on All About the Benjamins fit neatly like a sort of urban Laurel and Hardy. A hilarious new edition to Friday After Next is Katt Williams in the role of Money Mike who runs the Pimp N' Ho's clothing store. Williams' diminutive size doesn't hamper the stand-up comedian-turned-actor's performance as he prances around the strip mall like he's a big man on campus. While the film has some new faces it also has familiar ones like the return of John Witherspoon in the role of Craig's father. This time around Witherspoon has made his character Mr. Jones much more crass.
While all three installments of the Friday series were scripted and produced by Ice Cube Friday After Next marks video director Marcus Raboy's feature film directorial debut. So while the films have some common thematic elements such as having to come up with cash in 24 hours (usually followed by an "or else") or being terrorized by a neighborhood bully they differ in look and style. Raboy's style here is similar to a music video; that is fast paced bordering on frenetic. And while he achieves the campy '70 look he was aiming for you may leave the theater thinking too much happened between Thursday and Saturday. Craig and Day-Day for example spend too much time chasing after the ghetto Santa or being chased by hooligans and not enough smoking weed. Ice Cube and Epps have such a great rapport on screen that it would have been nice to see them sit back and exchange witty dialogue. Their was also too much focus on the older cast members including Witherspoon and Don "DC" Curry who spend the entire film being repulsively raunchy--which is disturbing in a hearing-your-parents-talk-about-sex kind of way.