Monday, July 15, 2013

The Heat is Undeniably Cool

The Heat, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, is one of the coolest movies released by a major studio in quite some time. I am not a buddy cop kind of person, but with these two stars I was drawn to see The Heat, and am I so glad that I did.

Bullock plays straight-laced FBI agent Ashburn, who is sent to Boston where she must work on a case with a brash, foul-mouthed detective named Mullins, played by McCarthy. Bullock is a gifted comedian in her own right but she expertly plays the straight man to McCarthy's wild-eyed brazenness. Mullins nor Ashburn have any strong relationships, familial or otherwise, so working with each other presents quite a challenge. While some of the film's humor comes from Mullins' incredibly filthy language, the real humor lies in the stars' ability to play off of each other. Some of the biggest laughs come when Mullins aims a simple zinger directly at Ashburn . For instance, when Mullins learns that Ashburn was briefly married the first words out of her mouth are "Was he a hearing man?" McCarthy and Bullock are also wonderful physical comedians and the scenes in a night club and a seedy bar are ripe with  pratfalls, awkward dance moves, and hilarious facial expressions.

Since The Heat is a cop comedy, there is a secondary plot line involving taking down a drug lord. But the plot is surprisingly easy to follow and while there are a couple moments that feel a little too convenient, the cop storyline did not detract from the evolution of Ashburn and Mullins' relationship and did not leave me puzzled as to what the creators were trying to accomplish, a huge bonus in a buddy cop movie. Credit must be given to the film's writer Katie Dippold and its' director Paul Feig. The pair have created a movie that is well-paced and toes the line of shock humor without going over it.

Given that The Heat is a comedy starring two women, much has been written about its' success and the fact that it helps prove that female stars can carry a movie and female audiences will pay to see a movie in a theater. The same was said after Bridesmaids and many movies before that; the argument will be made again and again. However, focusing on the supposed surprise that women can carry a successful movie only gives the impression that The Heat is a flash in the pan, a fluke, so we will not discuss that here. Rather, watch the trailer and go to Fandango to buy your tickets to the next showing.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Singing and Dancing All Through the Night

Is there anything better than a good song and dance routine? I would argue that a song or a dance that pops up unexpectedly is the crème de la crème. If you’ve read any previous posts on this blog, and if you are reading this now then you probably have, it goes without saying that musicals and movie musicals are my favorite forms of entertainment. Even non-traditional types of musical movies are right in my wheelhouse. Here I am referring to the Pitch Perfect-type movies that are not musicals but rely heavily on song and dance as a part of the plot. Side note, if you have not seen Pitch Perfect, get on board, I haven’t actually watched it in weeks but I have one of the numbers stuck in my head right now.

But what’s even better than a movie revolving around music is when a musical number springs forth when you least expect it. The examples are numerous. Elf wouldn’t be the same without the residents of New York City gathering together and singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to spread Christmas cheer and power Santa’s sleigh. Another scene I can watch over and over is the Barry The Cuda's scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding. This is of course the scene in which Julia Roberts’ dining partners, and eventually the entire restaurant, break out into “I Say A Little Prayer.”  Both of these examples are cases in which joy is spread through song. Music does not exclusively express happiness. For example, take Steve Carell’s beautiful, if a touch off pitch, rendition of “Let My Love Open the Door” in Dan in Real Life. Carell radiates a contradictory mix of pent up sorrow and new-found bliss that is heartbreaking and life affirming at the same time.

When actors perform the songs it feels like a special treat, but song breaks that are paired with the endlessly popular montage sequence are also irresistible. Who doesn’t love the montage set to “Runaround Sue” in the family classic Little Big League? I love it, and if you haven’t seen it you will love it, too. The musical montage technique is popular for a dress shopping or a ‘show off the wardrobe’ scene, and numerous films have featured actors twirling in front of a mirror while a sidekick stands nearby giving an opinion that we all know will not matter in the end. 27 Dresses comes to mind, not a great movie, but the scene in which the main character shows off all of the bridesmaids dresses she has worn serves to illustrate my point.

Why are these types of scenes so appealing? Because music is universal. You do not need to speak the same language or even understand the lyrics, but when an up-tempo song starts playing, the average person reacts by tapping their feet or letting their lips curl into a smile.