Tag Archives: Amy Poehler

Are You Here

Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis) is a bipolar man-child who dabbles in the consumption and dissemination of weed. His friend, Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), a moderately successful local weather reporter, is outwardly more put together but his womanizing makes for a pretty superficial life. It’s hard to say why these two are still friends, but their shared childhood has clearly bonded them, and when Ben learns his estranged father has died, Steve makes the trip home with him.

There are two problems with waiting for Ben at home: 1. his ambitious, uptight sister Terri (Amy Poehler) and 2. his hippie “step-mom” Angela (Laura Ramsey) who’s the same age they are. Terri and Angela don’t get along and Ben hasn’t seen either of them in quite some time. So yeah, it’s a bit of a problem when the will is read and almost everything, including the family business, is left to him, a known loser and eternal fuck up.

MV5BMTY0OTE2ODg2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjUxMDI0MjE@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_First off, I sort of hate this title. Actually, I definitely hate this title. It’s too vague and it doesn’t mean anything, and without a question mark, it’s a question that doesn’t even ask itself let alone demand an answer.

I don’t know what this movie was really about, and I am confident that writer-director Matthew Weiner doesn’t either. I’m not 100% sure this movie wasn’t accidentally made from 2 or more disparate scripts. It kind of feels like a few rough-draft ideas were quilted into a half-baked script that never should have seen the light of day. And though there are a few good moments, mostly thanks to a talented cast, Are You Here is a forgettable mess. So I guess in that way, the title is actually quite representative of the film – and it should have been enough to warn me the hell away.

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The House

I’m feeling uninspired. I’m not sure I can identify the exact problem with this movie. It has a talented cast and a promising premise – and truth be told, it did make me laugh, sporadically. But its squandering of potential deflated my enjoyment of the film.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play parents who love their kid to death and are deeply embarrassed that they can’t afford to send her to her dream college when a town scholarship falls through. Instead of coming clean they decide to open an underground casino with their shadiest friend, who has just been left by his wife in large part due to his gambling addiction.

TELEMMGLPICT000133626218-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqrpfQw2hJyG_yckwxPAr0ggGNY_A2dHyghdflyNWj5P8When The House has the strongest pulse, it’s cutting close to satire: the tragic middle class, the American dream, the panic of empty nesters. But unfortunately it relies too heavily on its stars to do “bits” rather than writing actual characters who could stand up on their own. I don’t know who Ferrell and Poehler were supposed to be as people, and it’s possible they didn’t know either. They just pop up, unformed, clown around, and never even stumble into an arc.

The comedy pinballs from farce to the strangely violent; yes, it’s uneven, but it’s also way darker than it needs to be. It’s trying to be wild and crazy, and adding Jason Mantzoukas to the mix is definitely the right choice as he electrifies every scene he’s in. But it’s not enough. The movie falls flat every time they step away from him, the Ferrell and Poehler characters seeming lost and sending out mixed signals. They seem content within their little bubble, then they rail against, then they profit from it. They pay for their mistakes by taking from their friends and neighbours. It feels unseemly, and it’s hard to root for them. Hectic editing tries to cover for plotting that’s just plain absurd. And the writing’s just lazy. I wasn’t even allowed to turn in a first draft of a seventh grade composition, yet this whole $40M budget movie got made based on a rough draft. A very rough draft.

It feels like we’re overdue for a genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy, but this isn’t it. It cracked me up in a few places, but never without letting me see how hard the actors were working to land the sub-par material. It’s a meh of a movie and easily forgotten.

The Ex

Is this movie worth watching for Paul Rudd’s douchey earring?

Jason Bateman plays a dick very well. Unfortunately, Zach Braff plays a dick very naturally himself. Like, even when he’s not supposed to. Even when he’s supposed to be the sympathetic character. Does anyone actually like Zach Braff?

Tom (Braff) is a NYC cook who loses his job on the very day his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) gives birth. As punishment, they move to Ohio where Tom mv5bmtkyodq0njk4of5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzc2ndywna__v1_cr025266150_al_ux477_cr00477268_al_will work with Sofia’s dad at some new-agey ad agency while she stays home to care for the baby. Tom is mentored at work by Chip, the son his father in law never had, and incidentally Sofia’s ex-boyfriend. Chip (Jason Bateman) is a grade A ass but for some reason only Tom (and we) see it, possibly because Chip is in a wheelchair and kind of milks that for all it’s worth. But as hard as Bateman tries to steal the scenes with smug, smarmy schtick, he just can’t keep this stinker afloat.

The Ex has been disowned by nearly everyone who made it. The credited screenwriters, David Guion and Michael Handelman, insist that most of what you see isn’t really their material, nor the director’s, come to think of it. “It was unfortunate because the director, Jesse Peretz, is great and very talented, but the movie was ultimately taken out of his hands.” I’m not sure if that’s true – certainly there’s not a lot of evidence of capable direction in the film. It feels half-cooked, sitcomy, and oddly truncated, like someone was just washing their hands of it rather than actually finishing it. And yet it’s been presented to audiences like it’s a real film that you should watch. And it just isn’t (despite the fact that I’ve seen it twice now). Viewer beware.

Sisters

Sisters-Tina-Fey-Amy-PoehlerThis is not technically a movie that needs to be reviewed. You’ve seen the trailers? You’ve seen the movie. Two people who look nothing alike with their wildly different heights and eye colours still manage to play sisters convincingly. Why? Because Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are real-life sistahs.

The movie’s okay. There are laughs to be had. The script is not what you would call original, and what starts out as a story about two grown women who regress when their parents decide to sell the old family home quickly degenerates into just another party movie (although this one populated by people old enough to know better).

What saves the movie is the remarkable chemistry between its two leads, Tina Fey and Amy feypoehlerPoehler. These women have worked together far longer than we’ve been watching them, harkening back to Chicago’s Second City in the early to mid 90s where they were the only two women in the troupe. A former member of Second City named Adam McKay (who you may remember as the writer\director of MANY of Will Ferrell’s ridiculousest movies) was the head writer of Saturday Night Live in 1997 when he first encouraged Tina to submit scripts. Of course she was hired, and the very sketch she wrote for the show (that made it on air) was a Chris Farley satire of Sally Jessy Raphael – genius, of course. When McKay left in 1999, Lorne Michaels made Tina Fey SNL’s first female head writer.

Fey soon appeared on-camera and became co-anchor of Weekend Update in 2000. Amy Poehler would join her on the sweekend-update-tina-feyhow just a year later, Poehler’s first episode being the first one produced after 9\11. Amy was promoted from featured player to full cast member during her inaugural season, making her only the third person to earn that distinction (joining Harry Shearer and Eddie Murphy).

Fey and Poehler became co-anchors on the Weekend Update desk in 2004, marking the first time that two women held the position. Fey left the next year as her new show 30 Rock began to take off though her tenure would hardly be forgotten; she’s been ranked as the third most important SNL cast member ever, just behind comedy gods John Belushi and Eddie Murphy. This left Poehler in a position to earn an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – the first SNL cast member to ever be recognized in the category. Then she reg_600_GGlobes_Amy_Tina_mh_010213too left SNL to star in her own show, Parks and Recreation. Both women met with tonnes of success, 30 Rock garnering a staggering 112 Emmy nominations over its run, and Parks and Rec giving Amy the opportunity to write and direct as well. Both women won Golden Globes for Best Actress in a television series, musical or comedy, and then went on to host the awards ceremony itself together for 3 of the roastiest, juiciest years running.

They’ve both also written books about their experiences as wives, mothers, and being the funniest people on the planet. Amy Poehler also helped launch Smart Girls at the Party with a couple of her friends, a show that  “aims to help girls find confidence in their own aspirations and talents.” In each episode, Poehler interviews a girl with a “unique talent, community interest or point of view” and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you probably should.

These awesome, barrier-breaking ladies have a long history together, and even if they’re not tumblr_mgjv3h7q6e1qz9qooo2_1280blood, they call each other “chosen sisters” and that’s good enough for me. Screenwriter Paula Pell wrote Sisters with these two in mind, though she may have been imagining them cast in the opposite roles – which is what I liked about Sisters, actually. For once we get to see Tina Fey be all crazy. There’s a heaping helping of vulgarity too, but man does it almost sound sweet coming from the likes of Fey and Poehler. Paula Pell has a process for coming up with altnerative jokes, which the director would pass to the actors on post-it notes so nobody else would know what’s coming. Fey, Poehler, and the rest of the cast, including SNL alums Maya Rudolph, Bobby Moynehan, and Rachel Dratch, are all masters of improv, and that spontenaety was well-used. Paula Pell, mind you, was also an SNL writer, and has appeared on – you guessed it – both 30 Rock AND Parks and Recreation. Smart ladies stick together, and funny ladies keep us coming back.

A Very Murray Christmas

AVeryMurrayChristmas_posterLet’s get one thing straight: this isn’t Scrooged, the redux. It’s a plotless variety show without a lot of variety, but it’s got Bill Goddamned Fucking Murray, so what else do you want?

It’s Christmas Eve and Murray is contractually obligated to put on a Christmas special live from the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. He’s in no position to be doing such a thing and the show is doomed to hell, but so what? His piano accompanist is Paul Shaffer, for crying out loud. How bad could it be?

Well, as Amy Poehler and Julie White come bustling into his room to assuage his pre-show jitters\brow-beat him into meeting his obligations, it would seem that they are worried too. There’s a blizzard blanketing NYC, and none of the celebrity guests have shown up. No guests at all, actually, except for Michael Cera, playing a slimy talent agent desperate to sign Murray (who is famous in real life from being unrepresented).

Murray starts off singing dejectedly but can’t even finish his first song. NEN1NCNECeZIRU_1_bThe special’s a disaster! But wait! Who’s that sight for sore eyes revolving through the door? Why it’s none other than Chris Rock, here mistakenly, but here nonetheless, and despite his vehement refusals, he gets emotionally manipulating into joining the live broadcast. Singing ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ as a duet, Murray and Rock are one of the highlights of the show. In a special that’s not even an hour long, Chris Rock proves he may not be a singer but he is indeed an actor; the reluctance to join in spackled across his slowly turns into Christmas cheer as the joy of the song spreads to his heart…until the power goes out, and he takes the opportunity to make his escape.

“Force Majeure!” cry his cheeky producers. The contract taken care of by an act of god, White and Poehler hoof it out of there too, leaving Murray to mope around a nearly-deserted hotel where he comes across a sobbing bride (Rashida Jones) and her wobbly wedding cake. Dream wedding ruined, no guests in sight, no preacher to marry them, and a 90bunch of lobsters going bad, she and her groom (Jason Schwartzman) have fought.

Never fear: when not hosting Christmas specials, Bill Murray also proffers marital counselling, and so in he goes to save the day, and spark up some more “impromptu” holiday tunes. Jenny Lewis playing a waitress is on hand to do the lady part of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, everyone’s favourite date-rape carol, and the band Phoenix is conveniently on hand pretending to be kitchen staff to back up several more ditties, so that Jason Schwartzman can prove there is a worse singer in this thing than Chris Rock.

And then Maya Rudolph shows up playing a washed up lounge singer, and holy hell, she just puts them all to shame. She belts out a ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ so good that even Darlene Love would approve (she sang that song on Letterman every Christmas since 1986 except for the writer’s strike in 2007 – this will be her first year without, since Dave is retired). It’s not surprising that Rudolph is amazing: she is, after all, daughter to soul singer Minnie Riperton and composer-songwriter Richard Rudolph. Oh, and granddaughter of Teena Marie. She’s got chops, plus extra credentials for often impersonating Beyonce on SNL, and for playing in a Prince cover band called Princess. And I’ve got a huge crush on her.

Then the action mysteriously leaves the Carlyle Hotel for a decked-out maxresdefaultsoundstage in New Jersey, where two new guest stars join the festivities: Miley Cyrus, cheating on her own cameo in The Night Before, and George Clooney to mix the martinis. An unlikely pair? If you say so!

I wish I could find something to be grumpy about with Miley’s performance, but the truth is, she sounds good. Perched atop Shaffer’s bill-murray-miley-cyrus-george-clooney-netflix-christmas-specialpiano, Silent Night is rendered faithfully, although there’s probably a little too much leg for the holy parts. The real surprise, and delight, is when Clooney pipes up during ‘Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin.’ Is the world ready for this side of George Clooney? Unfortunately he flashes a lot less leg, but he does look awfully dapper in his suit.

Anyway, director Sofia Coppola did quite a job of rounding up a slew of stars and dipping them in Christmas coating. You can play a real game of celebrity bingo, as you’ll see in the comments. There’s no plot, no story, no moral: just a lot of the ever-charming Bill Murray. It’s available on Netflix and it’s the kind of thing you can easily just put on in the background while you do some holiday baking or cleaning or wrapping, or better yet – some imbibing.

Cheers.

 

 

 

Inside Out

Inside Out is a return to form for Pixar, a brand that hasn’t been quite as synonymous with quality and originality over the last five years as it used to be.

The general story, of five walking talking emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust) controlliinsdie out 2ng a young girl’s emotional life and decision-making from inside her head seemed just plain silly to me when the trailers for Inside Out were first released. What I couldn’t have possibly anticipated was how much insight we’ get through what seems to be such a simplistic concept into the way these five emotions interact as we grow up.

Inside Out works for two reasons. First, the voice-casting couldn’t have been better, especially for Riley’s emotions. Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Hader- all very funny people- are the perfect companions for this wild ride through Core Memories, The Train of Thought, The Subconscious, and Abstract Thought (look out for that last one). There’s a lot of fun to be had with this idea and the good people at Pixar don’t miss a chinside outance.

Second, with all the insanity and cartoony visuals in Riley’s inner life, the creative team never forget the importance of keeping her real life believable. It doesn’t hurt that the animation of Riley, her parents, and her surroundings are so real they’re scary. It’s more than that though. Her memories and the mini-crisis she faces when she moves to San Francisco are handled just right, making this Pixars’ most moving film since Toy Story 3.

They Came Together

Okay…. Whaaatttt???

they came together 1

A lot of funny people came together to make an all-out spoof of Hollywood date movies and, mostly because of the cast, it works better than it really deserves to.

I can’t decide if they weren’t trying hard enough or if they were trying way too hard but the jokes are constant and usually way too obvious, with rom com cliches being called attention to as directly as possible. (The waiter literally has a pole up his ass). There’s a lot here that really doesn’t work. Some jokes go on way too long practically daring you to yell at the screen. But at the rate that they’re spitting out jokes and gags, some are bound to stick and the ones that did had me laughing through the ones that didn’t.

they came together 2

Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler play the two leads and they’re likeability go a long way in selling some pretty lazy writing, a lot of which would probably not make it past dress on an average week at Saturday Night Live. Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas, Cobie Smulders, and New York City are just the tip of the iceberg in a supporting cast that should really know better. Too many funny people worked on this movie for it not to be funnier and I’m almost embarassed that I laughed at all.

I blame Jay a little. I watched it with her and when she laughs I laugh. Don’t watch it alone.