The Boss (2016)

Released: April 8, 2016. Directed by: Ben Falcone. Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage. Runtime: 1hr, 39 min.

R-rated comedienne Melissa McCarthy and hubby-and-director Ben Falcone take a second shot at co-writing a screenplay together with The Boss after their first botched attempt in 2014’s Tammy. The good thing is this is a much funnier collaboration.

The basic story follows Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), the (fictional) 47th wealthiest woman of America. The film glosses over how Darnell makes money, simply billing her as a CEO of three Fortune 500 companies. It’s a poor-to-rich story, as Darnell grew up in the foster home system.

Her life gets ruined after she’s imprisoned for insider training. All of her belongings are seized and her house foreclosed, she learns when she’s released. She then stays with her former assistant and single mother Claire (Kristen Bell), basically the only person on who will give her a place to stay because no one is answering Michelle’s calls.

The story feels like Darnell is on a path to make money again, rather than redeeming herself as a person – which just comes out naturally. Her new business venture is a brownie company called Darnell’s Darlings.

She gets the idea after knowing the demand of Dandelions girl guide cookies, after taking Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) to one of the meetings. Claire is the baker for the company because she has a good recipe – and her motivation for helping is to get Michelle off her couch.

Michelle gets more likable throughout. But that’s easy considering her obnoxious introduction at a sold-out arena show about telling people how to make money – where she comes down on a golden phoenix to sing “All I Do Is Win” with DJ Khaled.

TheBoss2

Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Bell in The Boss. (Source)

The Boss is great example of how the essential falling-out of characters can ruin a film’s momentum. The clichéd moment arises because of Michelle’s lack of a family and fear of getting close to people.

The poor narrative is the film’s worst aspect. It feels like the jokes were written first, and then a story was shaped around them. To the credit of Falcone, McCarthy and Steve Mallory, there are many clever jokes and laugh-out-loud moments. That’s the redeeming part that makes this an entertaining film.

A flaw of the film is the fact that Melissa McCarthy gets almost all of the funny jokes. The film suffers when she isn’t on-screen. The character who misses the most is Peter Dinklage’s Renault, an aspiring samurai, or something. He’s obsessed with ex-girlfriend Michelle, where revenge is mostly on his mind, but he still has the hots for her even after she screwed him over.

His banter with his assistant Stephan (Timothy Simons) is simply awkward, but sometimes so stupid it’s almost funny. The character’s so poorly written that Dinklage just has to do his best with the crappiness he is given.

Kristen Bell’s Claire is simply boring – she only has a few good laughs to offer. She’s the set-up for McCarthy’s Darnell, characterized as a single mom who works hard for her daughter. We’re supposed to see Darnell as a really mean boss, but she’s not as bad as any boss in the Horrible Bosses franchise. Maybe we caught her on a nice week?

But Claire just keeps getting stuck with bad bosses, getting stuck with Dana Dandridge (Cecily Strong) when Michelle goes to prison. She’s supposed to be mean, but she’s cringe-worthy and awkward, ribbing Claire for being three minutes late at one point. Tyler Labine as Claire’s love interest is supposed to add a layer in Claire, but all it does is set up a funny scene when Claire prepares for a date.

The characters don’t work, and McCarthy is the best part about this. That’s high praise from me – since I’m not a McCarthy fan. Since everyone else is lackluster, it should be blamed on bad writing and directing from Ben Falcone. It feels like the next time the couple write something together – they should just hire a competent director.

Despite my problems with The Boss, I enjoyed myself and laughed a lot. That’s what counts here. While it may be weaker than any of the three McCarthy and Paul Feig collaborations – Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy – it’s a lot better than Tammy or Identity Thief.

Score: 65/100

 

Advertisements

The Brothers Grimsby (2016)

The Brothers Grimsby, poster

Released: March 11, 2016. Directed by: Louis Leterrier. Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher. Runtime: 1hr, 23 min.

I’m a huge fan of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – the titular journalist character is rather brilliant. And his creation of the character Ali G was also quite funny.

His comedic work really makes him a unique figure, but he hasn’t made a great comedic character since Borat – as both the titular character in Brüno and Aladeen in The Dictator were hit-and-miss.

With Nobby Butcher in The Brothers Grimsby, he creates another hit-and-miss character – but at least gives him some stronger development. Nobby is a drunken football hooligan cheating the welfare system, living in the poverty-stricken town of Grimsby, cheering for his main team England.

When he was a kid, he was separated from his younger brother Sebastian through Grimsby’s orphanage system. Sebastian (Mark Strong) is now the top agent of MI6, on assignment to prevent the assassination of philanthropist Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz), and to uncover a huge terrorism plot by a group called Maelstrom.

When Nobby is able to get tickets to the charity ball and reunite with his brother after 28 years, he hugs him which causes Sebastian to miss his shot on an assassin (Scott Adkins) and hit a spokesperson instead. This mistake causes the other MI6 agents to think he has gone rogue – and Nobby and Sebastian are forced on the run.

The Brothers Grimsby - Hug it out

Grimsby is another addition to the cannon of unlikely people finding themselves in bigger-than-themselves spy missions as a spy, like Johnny English and Spy. While the world created here is a good base for Nobby’s hijinks, he is nowhere near as amusing as Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English or as hilarious as Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper in Spy.

The story is a bit heartwarming with the brother dynamic but the really raunchy and often gross-out humour rarely hits. The action set pieces are pretty good, well-filmed with Louis Leterrier’s style of direction.

The film is at its most effective in terms of comedy when Nobby is making awful decisions – but humour is ineffective when they hide away from government assassins inside of an elephant, and get stuck in there during mating hour. Yuck.

One masterwork of Grimsby is the casting of Mark Strong. It feels like he could be cast as an actual MI6 agent in a spy franchise so that’s what helps create a believable world. He does his job as the straight man for Nobby’s jokes, even though Nobby’s humour never really hit for me.

At least the film doesn’t stick around for very long. The only part worth rooting about is Donald Trump being the butt of a joke. He’s horrendously rendered via CGI, and there’s a really bad stand-in Daniel Radcliffe as well, but those are really the only jokes that hit for me. And the fact that Nobby’s look is based off of Liam Gallagher’s look is amusing.

Score: 40/100

Let Me In – Quite the remake of a great Swedish film.

Let Me In

Release Date: October 1, 2010

Director: Matt Reeves

Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins

Runtime: 116 min

Tagline: Innocence dies. Abby doesn’t.

 Let Me In is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, and is based on the Swedish novel, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a lonely twelve-year old boy, with a wicked sense of voyeurism, and has been constantly bullied at school. When a mysterious girl, Abby (Chloë Moretz), and her father (Richard Jenkins) move in next door to him, he hopes he has the chance to find a companion in her. Abby’s no ordinary girl, though; the cold doesn’t seem to phase her, and she even walks around in the snow in her bare feet. Also, coinciding with the sudden appearance of this young and mysterious supposed twelve-year old girl, are a string of mysterious murders that are believed to be a cult thing, where the victim’s blood is drained and taken. Owen may find courage he’s been looking for in this small, but ever-so strong, girl. All the while, a police investigator (Elias Koteas) is getting close on the case, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s actually hunting a savage young vampire.

This remake is a worthy substitute for a great foreign horror film. While it does seem to lack some of the emotional appeal as the original, it is fairly well done – and the wintery Sweden location is well relocated to a winter in New Mexico.

Rather than the original, it seems like it tried much harder to be a horror film, rather than a more emotional ride with many horrific elements.

Chloë Grace Moretz really does deliver a great performance, especially for such a young actress. I did prefer it [her performance] rather than that of the young girl from the original film. The film lacks the same great atmospheric style as the original, unfortunately. It isn’t nearly as well directed, but a comparison between Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) isn’t exactly fair. This remake does jump into the story much quicker than the original though, and I liked it for that.

Comparisons aside: Standing alone, it offers a fairly good experience that is one of my favourite vampire flicks. The cast does a great job and the film can be quite twisted and some of the themes are pretty interesting.

Both Owen and Abby are monsters on their own terms, but Owen is too weak to stand up for himself – and must learn lessons from Abby.

The climactic scene is pretty good, but not amazing. The atmosphere is pretty stylish, and can offer a unique experience for those of you [strictly] mainstreamers. It is a film worth checking out.

This film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz as the real show stealer Abby, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas as the Policeman (and as the voice of Owen’s Father) and the voice and some body of (I say that because the woman’s face is actually never shown) of Cara Buono as Owen’s Mother.

Let Me In is a worthy substitution of a great Swedish film. It lacks the same great atmosphere and emotional appeal as the original, and goes more for the scares, but is an interesting and well-paced film that offers a good and memorable experience.  

75/100

– Daniel Prinn