Tag Archives: Mila Kunis

Extract

Chances are, every pantry has a little bottle of pricey vanilla extract on its shelves. It’s practically ubiquitous in baking. Just try to make a cookie without it. But have you ever wondered where it comes from? No. And neither have I. But that’s not going to stop Jason Bateman from trying to tell us.

Joel (Bateman) is one of those classically sad, back-boneless middle aged men who aren’t particularly effective at home or at work. He owns the extract company, but it’s barely profitable and the employees bully him. At home, his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) dons her sweatpants in a nightly ritual to thwart his bedtime advances. They’re going through a dry spell. So when Cindy (Mila Kunis), an alluring young woman, comes looking for a job at the factory, can we blame Joel for wanting to give her something else? I mean, yes. We absolutely can. And even Joel is a bit wishy-washy on the whole thing, so it takes the bad influence of his best friend (Ben extract-02.jpgAffleck) to come up with this convoluted plan: they’ll hire a teenage gigolo to seduce Suzie, leaving Joel free to have an affair guilt-free. That’s a legit loophole in the vows, right?

Anyway, turns out Cindy’s a conwoman who’s trying to influence a former employee (Clifton Collins Jr.) to sue Joel for the loss of his testicle. So who, exactly is going to get a happily ever after?

From the mind of writer-director Mike Judge, I expected a lot better from Extract, and I probably shouldn’t have. I mean, it’s funny. And there are a lot of great cast members really selling their parts (David Koechner is a scene-stealer in a part that will infuriate you). None of these things add up to anything significant, but if you can live with some ridiculous, and often ridiculously funny, bits and pieces, you might be able to make this work for you. It’s no Office Space; like the extract itself, a little goes a long way, but if you’ve got a hankering for some ethical flavouring, Extract has the essence.

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The Spy Who Dumped Me

As its title would suggest, The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t exactly the most original, or, frankly, funny. The jokes, like the bullets, are hit or miss. They don’t all hit their targets. Director and co-writer Susanna Fogel is perhaps too inexperienced to spin this uninventive fare with a twist of creativity, but she gets at least one thing absolutely right: Kate McKinnon.

Kate McKinnon is a luminescent show pony who just trots across the screen pooping comedy gold. Even her facial contortions are helping to sell mediocre material. She’s worth the price of admission. She works harder here than I wish she had to, but on MV5BYjkzNWZmMDgtODM2NS00MTM4LThlMTgtMGM4Yjg3OTc3YTE5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1442,1000_AL_the whole the movie still worked for me, as a light and breezy r-rated comedy. I came to laugh and I did – mostly at her, granted, but she’s so fantastic and so talented and if the movie doesn’t quite measure up, I think this is her best role to date. I could have watcher her and her cat earrings fangirl over Gillian Anderson for hours.

The movie probably doesn’t need a lot of illumination in terms of plot: Audrey (Mila Kunis) was recently dumped via text by bad boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). Best friend and roommate Morgan (McKinnon) is nursing through heartache when they’re rudely interrupted by men claiming to be CIA – they’re after Drew, who turns out to be a spy and not just a podcaster as Audrey had always believed. This immediately turns into raging gunfire and a dead ex-boyfriend whose dying wish is for Audrey to deliver a “package” to Vienna. And being very obliging girls, Audrey and Morgan jet off to Europe and are immediately in wayyyy over their heads.

The sweet thing about this movie is the friendship between Audrey and Morgan. Morgan is the kind of supportive cheerleader we all deserve to have in our lives. She thinks Audrey is kicking ass as an amateur spy, and she’s not wrong. It’s completely implausible that they survive even the first 10 seconds of this adventure (the movie’s got surprisingly intense action sequences), but if Daniel Craig can do it, so can they. I just wish the friendship felt as good as it was described; the chemistry just wasn’t there. I love McKinnon and have no particular objection to Kunis (though I think she probably over-relies on those big doe eyes of hers), but all the glowy, wonderful vibes seemed to flow in one direction. Kunis is a very pretty receptacle for other people’s good acting, but I’m not sure she gives back very much as a costar. The CIA guys (Sam Heughan, Hasan Minhaj) are a bit on the bland side too (Heughan is Tom Brady with a British accent, if that helps) but there are lots of other supporting cast that I was quite pleased with – not least of all Jane Curtin (!!!) and Paul Reiser as Morgan’s incredibly understanding parents (I would watch a sequel involving just this family), and the aforementioned Gillian Anderson as the big boss lady. Being a Lady Dynamite fan (that’s Maria Bamford’s amazing show), I was particularly glad to see both Fred Melamed and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson pop up. I was less enthusiastic about Ivanna Sakhno as the Ukrainian model\gymnast assassin. The first glimpse we get of her is half nude and totally emaciated, which just felt off in a movie that’s got two fantastic, strong female leads and is directed and co-written by a woman. We can do better. 

Which is perhaps a good way to sum up this review: we can do better. And with Kate McKinnon on board, there really is no excuse.

Blood Ties

I’m flipping through what Amazon Prime has deemed “top movies,” most of which I’ve seen before, many of which I’d disagree are “top” (some vehemently!), some I’d even disagree are “movies” but there are a couple I haven’t seen, so I take a gamble and click And Did They Listen? The truth is: I myself could not quite bring myself to listen. It’s a documentary that, in THEIR words mind you, is about “history’s only scientifically verified encounter with alien life.” Although the world alien may be misleading – although they appear to have visited in one of those tin-can UFOs that little boys in the 1950s might have dreamed up, they are actually human beings simply from another star universe. And for some reason, though they are touted as highly intelligent beings, they’ve decided to make sole contact with earth through a little boy, who grows up to be quite a crackpot with lots of vague predictions, some of which can’t help but come true. The documentary was so shoddily made and contained so much horseshit I gave up within minutes (and you know what kind of crap I’ll sit through in the name of a review!) – I think you might be better served just looking him up on Wikipedia and calling it a day.

So my second choice was Blood Ties, a 2013 film featuring the likes of Clive Owen, MV5BMjExNzk2OTUxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODMyNzA4MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Marion Cotillard, Zoe Saladana, Billy Crudup, and James Caan, that I’d somehow never seen. In it, Chris (Owen) is newly released from prison, and goes to live with his brother Frank (Crudup), a cop in 1970s Brooklyn. They did not live happily ever after. Instead, they draw lines, one on each side of the law, and they pull whomever they can down with them. But the whole family thing is just too hard to shake, and like it or not, their fates are pretty much intertwined. Which is a nice way of saying they’re fucked.

Ultimately, Blood Ties is good because it boasts a strong cast. But it flails almost everywhere else. The downward spiral is predicable, and while a movie like this should be about the descent, and not the outcome, the descent is hard to keep track of because there are a few too many subplots to keep score of, and not enough help with our scorecards. In other words: it becomes a chore. And like most chores, it keeps going until well past the point you’d want it to. But it was still preferable to the crazy man who invented a religion based on the spaceships he made out of trash can lids. So there’s that.

A Bad Moms Christmas

Bad Moms gets one thing right: moms get saddled with making the holidays perfect. The cooking, the cleaning, the gift buying and gift wrapping. Christmas, or whatever you celebrate, wouldn’t happen without the women in your life pulling it together. And making the holidays wonderful for everyone else makes it less wonderful for yourself.

They’re called boundaries, people, and they’ll go a long way in making not only the holidays more tolerable, but your relationship with your mother more healthy. Boundaries are a gift you give yourself. For your own sanity, I suggest they be plentiful underneath your tree this year.

Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) are back and they’re “taking back Christmas.” Apparently what we grown women have secretly been missing from the holiday season: dry-humping Santa and getting drunk at the mall. Um, nope. Yet a-bad-moms-christmas-1920x1080-christine-baranski-mila-kunis-susan-10345again, this movie misses its mark with me. I think it’s pandering and condescending and incredibly obvious that was written and directed by MEN. But I’m not a Bad Mom, I’m a Good Aunt. And the role of Good Aunt is really easy: you buy lots of presents, you let them get away with everything three notches above murder, and you give them 100% of your time and attention once or twice a month. Being a mom, bad or not, is infinitely harder because parenting is about the details. So if carving out 104 minutes to sneak away to one of those fancy movie theatres that serve wine is all you can muster for yourself this holiday season, have at it.

The Bad Moms are confronted not just with the Mount-Everest-sized expectations of a season hallmarked by extravagance and perfectionism, but by the presence of their mothers, who are of course overbearing shrews (Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, and Christine Baranksi). I don’t really relate to that because a) my mother dotes on her grandkids but is actually respectful of people’s space – my sisters will literally fight over whose house she’ll be waking up in come Christmas morning, and b) I am, again, a Good Aunt, and not a Bad Mom, which means my mother wouldn’t even notice me over the holidays unless I deliberately walk between her and one of her grandkids. Good Aunts are persona non grata during the holidays; you’ll notice the film never once cuts to a Good Aunt who is relaxing on her all-white couch, sipping spiked hot chocolate, surrounded by very fragile and carefully curated gold ornaments. Holiday movies will have you believe that children are the only reason for the season. And that harried single mothers who, as recently as 6 days ago, have “taken back Christmas” must still provide a home that looks as though Pinterest has tastefully regurgitated Christmas all over it for her darling kiddos.

The magic of Christmas is a hard thing to define and impossible to bottle. So whatever you do to make the holidays special, thank you. And whatever you do to cut corners, good for you. And if you’re desperate enough to make this movie be part of your celebrations, that can be our little secret.

 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Heartbroken over a breakup with his TV star girlfriend, Peter takes his tears on vacation to Hawaii only to find that his ex is there too – with her new boyfriend!

You’ll find a theme here over the next 2 weeks: Hawaii. And that’s because Sean and I are Hawaiing it up ourselves. I made up that word, but I couldn’t have made up the great state of Hawaii because it’s just too beautiful and magical for normal people to process. That’s why they put it way out in the middle of nowhere, so that you’d have to really want it, you’d have to earn it in the getting there. The travel is so arduous that by the time you debark, you’re in deep need of a vacation, and as luck would have it, you’re in paradise.

forgetting-sarah-marshallForgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed on Oahu, which is the island we happen to be flying into today, and from which we will embark on our cruise in a few days (near the beach where the plane’s fuselage from Lost was filmed, which I like to believe is not an omen).

It’s a romantic comedy for guys. Peter (Jason Segel) is messed up and fsm-pinavbewildered, but why not be bewildered with an orchid in your hair, right? Segel wrote the movie based on many of his real-life breakups, like from his own TV-star (ex)girlfriend, Linda Cardellini (they starred in Freaks and Geeks together). He wrote the part of Aldous Snow with  his Undeclared costar, Charlie Hunnam, in mind but it was Russell Brand who brought Aldous to life and then kept the character alive in Get Him To the Greek.

I wonder if the movie theatre on our ship will be playing Hawaiian selections. I also wonder if, on one of our multi-island destinations, we’ll find out whether or not the rumour Sarah Marshall shares is true: is one of them really filled with lepers? Stay tuned to find out!

 

Third Person

960Liam Neeson is a writer doing writerly things in Paris, estranged from his wife (Kim Basinger) after a family tragedy, and making up for lost time with his damaged young mistress (Olivia Wilde).

Mila Kunis is recently a NY hotel maid, the latest in a string of terrible jobs she can’t hold onto. Her lawyer (Maria Bello) is losing patience with her flimsy excuses for constantly missing court – should the custody battle she’s locked in with her ex (James Franco) be her first priority?

Adrien Brody is in Italy to track down designs he can knock-off when he runs into a beautiful woman in a bar (Moran Atias) with a sob story about stolen money and the smuggler who’s holding her daughter ransom.

Three couples, three cities, three stories, 1 movie, by the king of interwoven story lines himself, Paul Haggis. What do they have in common? Kids? Rocky relationships? Trust issues? Wonky coincidences? Unreliable narrators? A third-personweird triangle with an awkward “third person”? Or something a little more…literary? I found this flick on Netflix and wondered how such a monstrously recognizable cast had flown under the radar.

There are definitely small details scattered throughout Third Person that deliberately do not make sense, yet are major hinges to the plot. The stories are vaguely interconnected, but shouldn’t be. They should be divided by the rules of time and space which our universe obeys, but aren’t. It’s damn subtle though, ambitious in its reach. The kind of thing that’ll itch your brain, make you squint at the TV, make your constantly third-person-adrien-brody-and-moran-atiasask your partner “Okay, what?” Haggis’s gimmick overwhelms the movie, and the cracking chemistry between stars just isn’t enough to make up for it.

As frustrating as the film’s structure is, there’s also an underlying message that to me was even more disturbing. The men are all pricks and the women are all passive victims. In one vignette, a character actually says “Women have the gift of being able to deny any reality” but you know what, Paul Haggis? This woman is staring reality in the balls and calling it what it is: a waste of talented actors, pretentious without being smart, and a bit of a bore.

 

Bad Moms

Maybe it’s because I’m tired of hearing Moms complain. Motherhood is a choice and, apparently, a blessing, but an alien life form perusing Facebook and Mommy blogs would never guess it. Every single day my news feeds are clogged with “open letters” from Moms who cry and complain about never having enough time to “do it all” – and yet, they’ve always got the time to let us know about it. Here’s a secret: nobody gets to do it all. Every single person struggles with work-life balance. Everyone! imagesJ7LLG4KCBut the craziest thing is not that mothers believe themselves to be uniquely challenged (you and every other breeder on the planet anyway) but that the #1 thing they complain about is judgement from other Moms. Which is crazy. Motherhood IS tough. And there’s no one right way to do it. But if you have time to be peeping into someone else’s minivan, then I guess maybe it’s not as all-consuming as you thought. Here’s another secret: nobody gives a fuck. Everyone’s pretty busy living their own lives. Just live yours. If you have guilt, deal with it. Don’t project it into someone else’s judgement.

I’m super glad to say that most of the Moms I know don’t need a self-congratulatory shit-shows like Bad Moms to make themselves feel better. This movie feels like the opposite of feminism. It implies that women aren’t very good at multi-tasking and are susceptible to nervous break downs if they have more than one thing on the go at once. How many mothers do I know who have literally eaten spaghetti while driving? None. It’s dangerous and stupid. The mothers I know all have tiny portions of dry cereal handy to keep kids entertained and fed in the car, and backseats that smell like sour milk, but they don’t twirl pasta and drive.

Most if not all of the mothers I know work full-time or go to school, or both.  The reality is that mothers need to be caregivers and providers both. Sometimes even exclusively. Yes, it’s hard to leave the kids. Almost 2016-05-04T12-34-47-833Z--1280x720_today-inline-vid-featured-desktopeveryone can think of something they’d rather be doing than going to work. But if you’re lucky enough in this economy to only work part-time, or from home, or not at all, have the good grace not to complain about it. And if the hours you have with your kids are few, make the most of them. Kids remember quality time, not quantity. Maybe don’t spend that time writing passive-aggressive tweets about how tough your life is.

I think the worst thing Bad Moms does is that it infantalizes women. Motherhood is reduced to a competition, and all the Moms start acting like middle school girls. They openly bully each other. They form cliques. They ostracize and criticize the ones who aren’t like them. Bad Moms feels like middle-aged Mean Girls, only not as funny, not as mordant. When the screenwriter, who is a man by the way, decides to indulge the mothers in “letting loose”, what they do is throw a tantrum and make a mess in a grocery store. Like their toddlers. He doesn’t seem to think much of mothers, and I find that insulting.

It’s 2016. Women can handle their shit. But if they don’t like the kind of lifestyle that comes with having kids, here’s another secret: you don’t have to have them. Ladies have options! Living childfree is one of them. But if you do have kids, embrace it. You don’t have to love it all the time and good god, you don’t have to be with them all the time. I think mothers need to gift themselves with time apart way more often. Happy mothers are better mothers. Stop with the guilt. And stop with movies like this, that only exacerbate guilt and perpetuate the very concept of “good moms” and “bad moms” that it nominally pokes fun at. Children’s Aid can assess the bad moms. The rest are just moms doing their best, and that’s good enough.