Tag Archives: Kate McKinnon

“Leap!”

LOUISA: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The untapped young female audience is the driving force behind “Leap,” a lively animated version of “Flashdance” that’s aimed at the very specific target audience of tween girls who are wannabe ballerinas. It’s a formulaic underdog story that, while mostly tiresome and bland, could prove to inspire some of the budding dreamers who watch it.

Elle Fanning voices Félicie, a dance-loving orphan who escapes to Paris with her wannabe inventor best friend Victor (Nat Wolff) to pursue their dreams. The film is set in France in the 1800s, but why? Only two of the characters speak with an accent and the setting, save for a partially constructed Eiffel Tower and the absence of cell phones, do nothing to serve the story.

Félicie befriends a hobbling former dancer (Carly Rae Jepsen) who now scrubs floors for the wicked Régine (Kate McKinnon) and her equally nasty daughter Camille (Maddie Ziegler). When presented with the opportunity to pull one over on her bullying nemesis, our young heroine pretends to be from the rich family in order to secure a spot at the prestigious ballet academy.

You can probably guess what happens next. I will admit that it’s a little refreshing to see a female protagonist who shows that with hard work and determination, you can change your life and live your dream (even if she comes about it in a dishonest way). The plot may be uninspired and predictable, but at least it never sinks into the dreaded brainless, dopey territory that derails so many kid movies (that is, until the big chase scene finale where the filmmakers throw in a dated MC Hammer reference. Really). The blandness of the story is overshadowed only by its all-too-tidy, perfectly wrapped in a big, pink bow fairytale ending — because it would just be far too irresponsible of us as adults to deliver kids in the audience with a hard dose of reality, right?

Thanks to the technological advances in computer animation, the film at least looks marginally polished and professional, but combined with the lackluster vocal talent (including Mel Brooks as the orphanage’s caretaker) and the stiff visual design (giant heads on tiny bodies), the characters leave a muted, lifeless impression. The film’s strength comes from its nicely choreographed animated dance sequences (set to out of place modern pop music) that may motivate the middle school set to twirl their way out of the theater.

Although this movie smacks you in the face with its low-budget feel, it’s just good enough to warrant a theatrical release instead of being handed a direct to video sentence, destined for a lifetime of half-hearted viewing by your fidgety kids in the backseat of the minivan.

“Rough Night”

LOUISA: 1.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

If you thought “Bad Moms” was the highlight of your cinematic year, just you wait for “Rough Night,” the latest pathetic studio attempt to create a project that appeals to hip, modern women. I know the trailers have you convinced that you want to see it — they even worked on me — but ladies, you deserve better and you should demand better than this complete garbage.

In what has to be the most wasted cast of the year, the too talented Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnonJillian Bell, and Zoë Kravitz are crammed into this dreadfully unfunny and borderline offensive movie. It could’ve been a celebration of contemporary feminism but instead becomes a lazy and indifferent laundry list of missed opportunities. I can see the storyline being pitched as a “Weekend at Bernie’s” meets “The Hangover” rip-off for women, except this time a male stripper ends up dead and the gal pals must scheme to hide the body in plain view. The problem is that most female-heavy audiences have zero qualms about calling out bullshit when they see it, and this film is filled with so many incredibly nonsensical and outrageously ridiculous scenarios on the most basic level — the most obvious being that there’s no way these women would’ve ever been best friends in college and especially now — that it derails within its first 15 minutes and fails to regain its footing.

The film isn’t rowdy nor saucy enough to leave a mark, leaving its stamp as an excursion that’s wholly forgettable. Ditto for the performances. Even the usually fantastic Johannson and McKinnon, both seasoned comedic actors, can’t save this mess from sinking. This is some of the dumbest crap I have ever seen.

The plot is thin, the characters shallow and stereotypical, and the laughs nonexistent. See this one if you insist, but trust me when I tell you that your money would be better spent by flushing it down a public toilet.

“Office Christmas Party”

LOUISA: HALF STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

It’s easy to get suckered in by “Office Christmas Party,” a movie with a who’s who cast of accomplished comic actors and a fun sounding holiday theme. You’ll want to buy a ticket because you expect laugh-a-minute escape. Don’t. This dreadful, unfunny ‘comedy’ is one of the worst movies of the year.

When obnoxiously uptight tech company CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) decides to shut down the underperforming branch run by her flaky brother Clay (T.J.Miller), he rallies the troops to host the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties in an attempt to close a deal that will save everyone’s jobs. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that mayhem quickly ensues, and the epic party rapidly spirals totally out of hand. This movie feels like nothing more than a thinly veiled excuse for the filmmakers to set up shop and throw an epic party with a huge studio budget.

Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn, two actors who are obviously hell-bent on proving that they’ll do anything for a paycheck, play office lovebirds is the most completely awkward, ill-fitting way possible. I never once believed their romantic inclinations and instead saw two people who were super uncomfortable to even be in the same room together.

Rob Corddry and Vanessa Bayer are wasted and confined to irritating supporting roles, akin to being punished by being made to sit in the corner for trying too hard at making goofy faces. The usually amusing Jillian Bell is far off her game as a two-faced pimp and Courtney B. Vance would probably like to forget everything he is forced to do in this movie.

Kate McKinnon, god bless her, is the only saving grace in this film — but even she can’t make jokes about parrot secretions and HR handbook violations funny enough to warrant more than a few polite chuckles.

This movie is altogether dreadful, rotten, and is stuffed with lame, stale jokes that continuously fall flat. All you need to know about the quality of the jokes here is that the funniest bit is a one-liner about farting and cheese.

There’s absolutely zero reason for this movie to exist. It has no point, it’s grossly uninteresting, the actors have no chemistry, and the plot is paper thin. This party is one big, boring yawn, and I sure wish I had turned down my invitation before it was too late.

“Masterminds”

LOUISA: 5 STARS MATT: 5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I’m still laughing the day after seeing “Masterminds,” the latest wackadoodle comedy from director Jared Hess. This one is an audience divider for sure (our screening had a walkout), but if you enjoyed any of Hess’ previous work (“Nacho Libre,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Gentlemen Broncos“), you’ll probably like this one.

The bizarre humor is targeted to a very, very specific audience (during most of our busy screening, Matt and I were the only two people in the audience who were laughing), and those who are familiar with the Southern way of life will find an even deeper appreciation of the humor. I laughed heartily and consistently throughout the movie from beginning to end, and I have no qualms declaring “Masterminds” not only one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years but THE funniest movie of 2016.

This action / comedy is loosely based on the true story of David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), a regular Joe who works (well, used to work) for an armored transport company in North Carolina in the late 1990s. When David develops an unrequited crush on co-worker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), she and her white trash criminal friend Steve (Owen Wilson) lure him into robbing the company. Turns out, this robbery was one of the biggest in U.S. history with a record-breaking $17 million stolen by this one dude and his not-so-smart ‘masterminds’ behind the operation.

This is wacky niche comedy done correctly, and the film never hits a wrong note with its bumbling quirkiness. It’s loaded with very physical slapstick comedy and perfectly ridiculous deadpan humor. You have to pay attention to discover and appreciate the humor, it’s not spelled out for you.

Galifianakis is funny to look at anyway, but watching him prance around in a 60s cowboy outfit while strutting down the street in Mexico is campy gold. Add in the pedigreed supporting cast and you’ve got yourself the perfect comedy. There are reliably kooky turns from Jason Sudeikis as a slightly inept lunkheaded hitman, Leslie Jones as a sass-talking special agent, Kate McKinnon as a flatulent weirdo (seriously, this lady is a national comedy treasure), and an all too brief stint from Ken Marino as an FBI informant neighbor. With a cast like this, you can’t go wrong.

This movie is darkly funny and loaded with white trash jokes that are riotous because they are based in truth. (Just wait until you see Steve’s high-rise double wide). This movie reminds me so much of this year’s hysterical “The Bronze,” only without the vulgarity.

Without a doubt this is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen, and I will be quoting it for the rest of my life. I was laughing so hard that I had tears streaming down my face more than a handful of times (yes, really). I highly encourage you to see this one if you laugh at the absurd.

MATT SAYS:

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. They also say that “Masterminds,” the new movie from director Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite“, “Gentleman Broncos“) is based on a true story. How much of it is true and how much of it is fiction I don’t know, but what I do know is this: “Masterminds” is one wild, hilariously funny movie. And boy is it ever strange.

Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a southern boy with very low ambitions who works for an armored car company. David becomes infatuated with sometime coworker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), who on behalf of her friend Steve (Owen Wilson) talks David in to stealing money from the company vault. $17 million worth, to be exact, making it one of the largest cash robberies ever on American soil. The actual theft goes off unusually well; it’s what happens after, when the co-conspirators must face the reality of having suddenly become obscenely wealthy, that things start to get really crazy.

And I do mean crazy. Masterfully madcap crazy. These good ol’ boys and girls from North Carolina, having spent most of their lives in trailer parks (including a “high rise double wide”), have absolutely no self-control. David gets shipped off to Mexico by the crew with a very small cut of the money while the others live the high life, the kind of which these formerly poor rednecks could only dream about. As the southern folks would say, they are “country come to town.” They spend extravagantly, buy expensive toys, and wear “fancy” clothes. When they become worried that Ghantt is going to finger them for their participation in the robbery, they hire the services of an insane and inept hit man to take him out of the picture. Put simply, they can’t cope with being rich and act like fools.

I’m not from the South but Louisa is. Having lived with her for a long time, I think I have a better idea than most about Southern culture. Having this perspective is probably essential to appreciating “Masterminds,” which has a bit of a Foxworthian sense of humor. Not that all of the jokes are cultural, necessarily; there are quite a few bits that are funny all on their own, without reference to background.

As a comedy, “Masterminds” is incredibly well-constructed. The characters are not one-dimensional and the film expertly walks the line between playing to stereotypes and devolving into caricature. Scenes are set up and people act according to type and personality, and the comedy flows naturally from it. Galifianakis is perfectly cast as Ghantt, playing the part with a pitch-perfect sense of timing and delivery. Wiig is reliably strong but is easily outshined by her “Ghostbusters” costar Kate McKinnon. Jason Sudeikis is hilarious as the hitman, and Ken Marino is given very little to do but has one of the best side-splitting scenes in the movie.

I realize humor is subjective. Many people are going to scratch their heads at “Masterminds,” and lots of people won’t enjoy it (our screening featured only one outright walkout but Louisa and I were mostly the only ones laughing). Having given you that warning, I will say with confidence: “Masterminds” not only tops “The Bronze” as the funniest movie of 2016, it is one of the funniest movies of this decade.

“Ghostbusters”

LOUISA:  4 STARS  MATT:  3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

There’s an arbitrary sense of nostalgia that unfairly permeates audience perceptions of the new female-centric “Ghostbusters” reboot. I love the original 1984 film too; I wore out my VHS cassette when I was a kid and I’ve probably seen the movie dozens of times, including special theatrical re-releases and anniversary screenings. It’s almost as if all of this animosity is seen as a badge of honor for ‘serious movie fans.’

All of this badmouthing is truly unwarranted, especially if you actually go back and rewatch the original. Sure, the movie has comedy legend Bill Murray, the hilarious Rick Moranis, and memorable performances from Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver and Dan Aykroyd. It introduced us to the characters we all still love decades later, and made lines like “tell him about the Twinkie” a permanent part of movie nerd vocabulary. But to all the haters I say this: you are being very, very unfair. The 1980s era film has a lot of boring sequences and lags quite a bit, and as is the case with many movies, sometimes our nostalgia creates pretty thick rose colored glasses. We tend to only remember the good in our childhood favorites.

Put aside your bias: the new “Ghostbusters” honors the legacy of the original, is a fun retelling of the classic story, and it does not disappoint. THIS MOVIE IS FUNNY! THIS MOVIE IS ACTUALLY GOOD!

There are a couple of minor hiccups along the way (as with most comedies, not every joke sticks, and the ghastly Missy Elliott / Fall Out Boy remake of the already awful Ray Parker Jr. song “Ghostbusters” makes an unwelcome appearance), but overall the movie is a success. At first it may feel weird to see women Ghostbusters but any skepticism will quickly fade (there’s a new generation of young girls who will undoubtedly be inspired by these characters).

When estranged childhood friends and paranormal enthusiasts Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Abby (Melissa McCarthy) reunite, sparks are rekindled and they decide to get back to their ghost chasing roots. The smartypants duo is joined by weirdo nuclear engineer Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and subway worker Patty (Leslie Jones). When Manhattan starts to experience boatloads of specter activity, the friends get started on some good old fashioned poltergeist hunting.

A big part of why this movie works is the comedic talent of these women; their chemistry is evident and they play well off each other, and the positive themes of loyalty and friendship never once feel fake. All of the actors are proficient at physical comedy and all have impeccable timing. This movie is very funny and the jokes had (and kept) me laughing from the beginning (there’s a particularly hilarious sequence at a heavy metal concert that’s worth the price of admission).

Rounding out the amusing performances is Chris Hemsworth as Kevin, a completely clueless stud muffin who is hired as the women’s receptionist solely based on his beefcake good looks. This feminist spin on the dumb secretary stereotype is exactly the type of lampoon I was hoping for here. In fact, the film doesn’t shy away from all of the lady haters either: there are lots of self-referential bits that directly address all of the critics (my favorite being Holtzmann’s ‘One of the Boys‘ t-shirt). Girl power!

Fans of the original will also appreciate several in-jokes and references, and there’s a long line of fun cameos (which I won’t spoil here: just keep your eyes open and be sure to stay through the end credits)! The special effects have been given a serious upgrade as well: these ghosts look real, feel real, and are appropriately scary-yet-funny. When the ladies first fired up their proton packs, I began cheering internally.

“Ghostbusters” is exactly what a summer movie is supposed to be. It’s big in scope, it’s full of hearty laughs, it’s filled with terrific performances from all of the leads, it’s stuffed with stunning special effects, and it’s something the entire family can enjoy. All of you naysayers really need to lighten up because this is a really, really fun movie.

MATT SAYS:

Much ado has been made about the “female Ghostbusters.” Frankly, I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal what gender the busters of ghosts are. It’s a good and fun concept that has stood the test of time. As long as they don’t completely F it up (like the terrible “Poltergeist” remake last year), then why not reboot and update it?

And this reboot doesn’t F it up. It may not be as good as the original, but it’s certainly not trampling all over the goodwill created by the franchise (unlike the abysmal “Independence Day: Resurgence“).

These new Ghostbusters – SNL alums all, except for Melissa McCarthy – all do a good job with the material. They are clearly having fun and all do what they do well: Erin (Kristen Wiig) is the low-key one that wants to be taken seriously as a scientist; Abby (Melissa McCarthy) is the gregarious and outgoing one who wants to make a name for herself in the paranormal world; Patty (Leslie Jones) is the no-nonsense, practical one; and Jillian (Kate McKinnon) is the weird techno-geeky one who loves to create new gadgets. Together, they play off of one another well and create some solid personality-driven laughs. The star of the show, however, is neither Wiig nor McCarthy; it’s McKinnon, who is clearly having tons of fun with the role, creating a character that is neither Spengler nor Stantz, but something completely new.

Special effects have come a long way in the last 30 years, and those technical advancements show. The creeps are more creepy, and the ghosts generally more fun to look at. The EFX department clearly had a ball creating some new, different, and slightly (but not too) scary new ghouls that are an upgrade from the original.

The story is decent. It starts out with some really inventive bits that are laugh-out-loud funny (including a great sequence at a death metal concert). It maintains this momentum until a little after the midway point, when the Ghostbusters are confronted by the Mayor’s office. As it builds to its climax, it continues to deflate as the personalities and interactions between the characters take a backseat to a special effects extravaganza. Yes, impressive visuals are in abundance during the final sequence (with more amazing ghosts to look at), but the story just kind of peters out. The scope of the story gets too big and the emotional weight that we had in the original movie (where Venkman is fighting to save Dana as well as the city) is completely lost. In other words, they fall into the Transformers / Avengers / Superman trap where big battles to save the world lack the resonance of a smaller, more personal story.

There are plenty of Easter eggs and nods to the first movie for fans, and they are all as enjoyable as they should be. If you like the movie, it’s worth sticking around for the post-credit sequence.