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Movie Review Monday: Bridesmaids

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Mike Finkelstein was the Best Man at his cousin’s wedding a few months back.  Everything was awesome and the bachelor party in Vegas was absolutely ridiculous (heh…).  Why on earth would anyone ever think doing all that would be hard?  And then he saw a little movie with Kristen Wiig and found out why.  Here is his review for “Bridesmaids”

PLOT: When Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, she is asked to be the Maid of Honor at the wedding.  However, with that comes the bonus of leading the Bridesmaids, including the desperate housewife (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the naïve newlywed (Ellie Kemper), the Groom’s crazy sister (Melissa McCarthy), and the Type-A perfect girl (Rose Byrne) who may steal Lillian away from her.  A load of hijinks ensue.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: People have been branding BRIDESMAIDS as the female HANGOVER.  From the previews, it seems like that’s a pretty legitimate take: a gross out comedy leading up to a wedding with an ensemble cast of women replacing the men.  But oh, no…it is not the female HANGOVER.  It is so much more than that…

Flat out, I’ll say right now: BRIDESMAIDS is hilarious.   And with the cast names involved and the previews, would you really expect any less?  Let’s count down the moments…Awkwardly meeting all the other bridesmaids?  Check.  Trying on dresses, only for everyone to get massive (and dirty) food poisoning?  Check. Getting high on an airplane off of your relaxation pills and a Scotch?  Check.  Montage of anything and everything you could do wrong in front of a roadside cop?  Check.  Those are only a few of the moments.  I kid you not.  This is one of those rare times where there are more laughs than what is just shown in the trailer.

Kristin Wiig plays Annie, a very down-on-her-luck girl looking for some structure and love in her life.  Her cake shop closed down in the recession, she’s treated horribly by both her boss/coworkers at a jewelry store and her very strange roommate and his sister, and the guy she keeps crawling back to (played by Jon Hamm) is a slimeball who only wants crazy sex.  And then, her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) wants her to be her Maid of Honor.  Oh, the breakdown to come…

There has been a plethora of female comediennes taking the comedy world by storm these past few years.  Kristin Wiig is going to be one of those names very, very soon.  The woman has brought very average episodes of “Saturday Night Live” to a completely different level, and has done the same in any film where she had a supporting role.  Now, she deservedly gets her first leading role, and knocks it out of the park.  Wiig (who also co-wrote the script) plays awkward so naturally, and she brings that uncomfortable reality to Annie.  You could feel her cracking under the pressure of life, so much that even when it gets to the big climaxes, nothing that happens seems forced or out of left field.  It is all a natural build up for her because of everything she has been going through, and we appreciate it so much more when it happens.

Helping her with that build up is the crazy group known as the Bridesmaids.  All of them had their moments to stand out and shine (they spent two weeks improvising together before filming, and the chemistry is definitely seen), and Maya Rudolph does a great job playing the straight-woman bride.  The two that took the movie, though, were Melissa McCarthy and Rose Bryne.  I would have never imagined from seeing “Mike and Molly” that McCarthy could be this rude and disgusting.  She steals every scene she is in, and yet, is still able to show how genuine Megan is at heart.  This woman needs to be in more comedies, and quick.  As for Rose Byrne, I know she’s been around for a while in dramas and “Damages”, but this is the first time I’ve seen her in an all out comedy, and she does a great job of being hated.  Oh, did I just want her to fall off a roof…

Switching from the women to the romance (because you got to have the romance), first, I’ll say that Jon Hamm has officially solidified his comic brilliance as Wiig’s wannabe f*** buddy.  Hamm has turned into the go-to funny/mature guy for SNL players, and you could see why.  He just has so much damn fun with everything he’s doing (maybe because it’s so against anything in “Mad Men”), and we love having fun with him.  But the real gold is Chris O’Dowd as Officer Rhodes.  Too many times in movies, you see a romantic couple that seems fake (Adam Sandler…I’m looking at you, dude).  Here, Rhodes and Annie are so damn cute together that you can’t help but root for them.  He may not be the most attractive guy, but with his genuine kindness and heartwarming gestures, I’d choose him over Hamm any day.

One thing that has to be mentioned as well is the late, great Jill Clayburgh as Annie’s mother.  Sadly, this was Ms. Clayburgh’s final movie before passing away.  As the crazy mother who goes to AA meeting to meet guys, she couldn’t have been funnier.  She had some of the best lines in the film, and it was sad when watching her scenes that we knew we wouldn’t get a chance to see her again.

People can see the poster or trailer for BRIDESMAIDS and think that it’s just a chick-flick or a girl’s movie.  But I guarantee you, everyone will enjoy.  It may have been compared to THE HANGOVER, but with all its heart at the core of the crude and gross laughs, I’d compare it more to a KNOCKED UP or THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (fitting, since Judd Apatow produced it).  Especially after the disaster that was THE HANGOVER PART II, BRIDESMAIDS is a welcome addition to this decade’s comedy classics.

GRADE: A

Mike’s LIKES:

1) KRISTEN WIIG: The woman takes “Saturday Night Live” and any movie she is in to a whole other level.  This is her first leading role, and it is about time.  I think we have another female comedic genius on our hands, and we’re going to see a lot of greatness to come from Ms. Wiig.

2) FOOD POISONING: I did not stop laughing this entire scene.  It’s disgusting, nauseating, crude, and absolutely hysterical.  And Maya Rudolph is the icing on the cake (you’ll see).

3) AIRPLANE: If I had to pick the two best scenes in the movie (trust me, it’s hard), it would be the FOOD POISONING and on the airplane.  Everyone has a moment here, especially Melissa McCarthy, who will have you in stitches (or tape) with her trying to seduce the “Air Marshall”.  Which brings me to:

4) MELISSA MCCARTHY: Holy crap!  I never would have imagined from “Mike and Molly” that McCarthy had this in her.  She steals every scene she is in.  This woman needs more comedic parts.

5) ROMANCE: A realistic, cute romance for Kristen Wiig.  The two are so cute together and have such a great dynamic, that you can’t help but go ‘aww’

6) JON HAMM: I think Jon Hamm has solidified his comic genius.  He may have come up through “Mad Men”, but through SNL, “30 Rock”, The Ambiguously Gay Duo Live-Action Short, and now this, he’s the go-to guy along with Justin Timberlake.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch his facial expressions in the first five minutes…

 

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) CAN’T THINK OF ONE: Seriously, this movie is absolutely hysterical from beginning to end.  I guess if I could change one thing, it would be the opening sex scene, which is the only reason why I’m not recommending this movie to my old fashioned grandmother.  But even that was too funny to cut!  Damn you, mixed emotions!

EXTRA FACTS:

1) This marks the final film of actress Jill Clayburgh, who passed away from leukemia in November 2010.

2) The cast spent about 2 weeks improvising with each other, much of which was added into the script.

 

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REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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