Tag Archives: Tina Fey


Joe (Jamie Foxx) has jazz music in his soul and zero dollars in his bank account. His mother likes to brutally remind him of this little fact, and push him toward accepting a permanent position as a middle school music teacher. Just as he’s about to capitulate, an old student calls to offer him a wildly exciting opportunity to play with the wonderful Dorothea Williams. Ms. Williams (Angela Bassett) is impressed with his jazzing, and he’s engaged to play with her later that evening. But he doesn’t make it to later that evening; he dies on his way home.

Understandably, his soul panics on the way to heaven, and he decides to buck the system, running away from heaven or the great beyond or whatever you want to call it, but unable to get back to Earth/life. He hides out in a mentorship program instead, posing as a mentor soul assigned to help new souls find their spark. Soul #22 (Tina Fey) has been mentored by the very best for eons but has yet to find her spark. In fact, she expects that life is kind of a buzzkill, and she’s actively resisting it. Joe runs through all the obvious things like music and food, but it’s not until they sneak back down to Earth that things really start to gel for her. Of course, it probably helps that she can finally experience things in a human body, one that moves to music and tastes food and is delighted by the strange wonders of the human world. One small hiccup: in the melee, 22 took over Joe’s body, and Joe’s soul…ended up in a cat. Joe is desperate to make the Dorothea gig, but what use is it if he’s a cat? And 22 is deeply distracted by pretty much every single thing she encounters. She’s finally found her spark, but the problem is, she kind of promised it to Joe. You need a spark to get to Earth permanently, and taking 22’s is Joe’s only option. And until very recently, 22 had no use for a spark and no interest in life. She promised it freely. But now…well, what if 22 wants it too?

This movie is beautiful and tragic because life is beautiful and tragic. It is everything you want from a movie and nothing you expect from a cartoon – except it’s Pixar, so you dare to hope. They’ve done it before. They’ve done it again.

In talking about death, Soul is actually discussing how to live. Joe believes that his life will be fulfilled by achieving his dream of performing jazz, but 22 teaches him there’s plenty of pleasure and wonder to be found in simply living, in taking the time to look, listen, and learn. 22’s naivety and newness to the world inspires Joe to slow down and take a look around as well.

Directors Pete Docter and Kemp Powers are not afraid to embrace the surreal and the intangible when examining the life well-lived, or to ask children to engage in a little introspection. A simple premise allows for a wonderful complexity of ideas embodying Joe’s existential crisis – which may be putting it mildly considering he’s dead and doesn’t want to be. But this spiritual scrutiny is able to include both the joy and the sadness, the fear, regret, obsession, insecurity, and the inspiration, ambition, passion, and life-affirming facets of personal philosophy because Pixar’s trademark playfulness makes it all feel non-threatening and really rather fun.

The voices are well-cast, the entities are well-designed, the movie looks amazing, but most important, it just feels good. It feels right, it feels warm, it feels like a hug from your past self to your future self, and I can’t think of a more perfect (cinematic) way to end the year.

Wine Country

Six women, all former pizza waitresses, super longtime friends, head to wine country to celebrate a birthday: Rebecca is turning 50.

Rebecca (Rachel Dratch) is not so into this 50 thing. She’s a therapist who’s got great “feedback” for everyone else but has neglected the problems in her marriage.

Catherine (Ana Gasteyer) is a successful workaholic who’s having trouble disconnecting…and connecting, for that matter.

Naomi (Maya Rudolph) is a stressed-out mom of 4 who needs this time away so badly she’s bringing a weird intensity to the trip.

Val (Paula Pell) has a brand new set of knees and is hoping to find a new girlfriend to match.

Jenny (Emily Spivey) rarely leaves her house and has a super tepid reaction to literally everything.

Abby (Amy Poehler) has over-scheduled them all to within an inch of their lives. They’re having fun! (it’s on the itinerary in 20 minute increments).

These women are clearly tremendous friends, but their friendship is also so storied and MV5BMTJiMDEyYmMtNzVlOS00NTRhLTllNjEtNjdmZGRjYTQwODI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_complicated. And a tarot reading only brings up their internal conflicts – then they add all the wine! Oooh, shit’s about to become unglued.

Amy Poehler directs for the first time, and assembles her own Avengers (mostly SNL veterans) and she brings such an amazing energy to the thing. Instead of non-stop laughs, Poehler trusts that we’re in the right company, and enjoying our time with the ladies will be enough. She’s right. It’s like being among your own friends. They randomly burst into pieces of song. They openly roll eyes at over-eager sommeliers. And they’re mostly just supportive of each other, sometimes in abrasive ways that only comes with true intimacy, but it’s nice that it’s so assured. It feels right.

I’ve been to Napa for a birthday too, with my 2 favourite assholes, Matt and Sean. And it seems like we did a lot of the same things: wine tunnels and short buses and organic wineries. These ladies probably went  home with the exact same high-end olive oil as souvenirs. So there’s room in this script for you to project your own shit, which I always think is nice.


Monsters Vs Aliens Vs Megamind

Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is a blushing bride-to-be until she’s struck down by a meteorite on her wedding day and mutates into a “monster” – a giant who’ll be called Ginormica. She’s transferred to a government “hotel,” the kind with bars on the windows, where she’ll be kept locked away along with other monsters like her – namely, BOB, a gelatinous type who eats\absorbs everything in his path (voiced by Seth Rogen); Doctor Cockroach, now an actual cockroach after unfortunate experimentation (voiced by Hugh Laurie); The Missing Link (Will Arnett); and Insectosaurus, who’s, yes, a giant bug.

Susan is adamant that she will get better and return home, to her “normal” life, but it seems like life has already moved on without her (I of course refer to her scuzzy, self-sMonsters-vs-alienserving prick of a fiance, Paul Rudd). So the monsters basically sit around playing cards until Doom arrives. Planet Earth is threatened by an evil alien by the name of Gallaxahr (Rainn Wilson), so the government reluctantly calls on the very monsters they’ve imprisoned to save them from certain death. This being a kids’ movie, you can be pretty sure that Good will triumph over Evil, and even better, Susan will start to feel empowered in Ginormica’s skin. It’s colourful and rapid-fire so kids will  be entertained. For adults, though this Dreamworks effort lacks the depth of better animated movies of late, it’s got some great satirical references and a stellar voice cast, including Stephen Colbert, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Kiefer Sutherland, Julie White, Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Poehler, and Renee Zellweger, in addition to those already named.

If the monsters feel familiar to you, they are indeed inspired by classic monster movies: Ginormica and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman; BOB and The Blob; The Missing Link and Creature From The Black Lagoon; Dr. Cockroach and The Fly; Insectosaurus and… Godzilla? Mothra? The T-rex from Jurassic Park? Some delicious hybrid, is my guess.

Megamind is another Dreamworks animated film with its own references, this time to Superman. The whole movie seems predicated on the question: what would happen if Lex Luthor defeated Superman? Not stepping on any toes, the hero in question is here called Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt), and he’s been keeping Metro City safe from inept villain 960MegaMind (Will Ferrell) since they were kids. With an undeniably familiar origin story and a beautiful ace reporter on the scene (Roxanne Richie, voiced by Tina Fey) and a bumbling camera guy (Jonah Hill), you’ll find a whole new appreciate for Superman and his plight.

On a day when the entirety of Metro City is gathered in adulation of Metro Man, Megamind is finally (surprisingly) victorious. Metro Man is dead. The city belongs to Megamind! Everything goes to hell – Metro City is in ruins, but so is, curiously, Megamind’s mental health. Why? Because a villain isn’t a villain without a hero as his counterpoint. In his infinite wisdom, Megamind thus decides to take awkward camera guy and turn him into Metro City’s new superhero, Tighten.

There is no new ground tread in this film, and it’s not as funny as the excellent voice cast will have you believe – Ben Stiller, David Cross, Justin Theroux, and JK Simmons included. Benignly diverting is the best I can say about it – supposedly Guillermo del Toro lent a hand in editing to make it more exciting, and it is that, but for most, I think it will end up being a little forgettable.


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Based on a memoir, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the “true story” of Kim Baker, an American journalist sent to Afghanistan to be a war reporter despite having absolutely no experience (being unmarried and childless was short straw enough). In Afghanistan she is immediately confronted with the concept ftf-11806r_2_wide-54dfd259b4cfc0e148859666f964e90321c3fd1b-s900-c85of “Kabul cute” – women who were a 4 back home in New York are suddenly 10s. Tina Fey plays the 4. Margot Robbie plays a 15.

Afghanistan is windy and gritty, basically a forgotten war now that Iraq is a better news story, but the more she sticks with it, the more Kim elicits candid remarks from her subjects. Billy Bob Thornton plays the guy who finds her nothing but a nuisance, admonishing her not to sleep with his marines.

It’s actually not a bad movie, considering it bombed at the box office. What went wrong? Possibly people didn’t like to see one of their favourite comediennes amid such a serious backdrop – it’s hard to laugh at limbs being blown off. And the very same war fatigue mentioned in the movie may contribute not wanting to hear about it in theatres, either. Bill Murray’s Rock the Kasbah suffered the same fate. And maybe Tina Fey’s just not ready to cross over genres, or to headline her own movie alone. Martin Freeman was great support in the movie but didn’t get any screen time in the trailers. And Whiskey_Tango_Foxtrot_reviewthe trailer, for that matter, played up the movie’s comic aspect even though the movie’s a dramedy at best, lobbing one-liners like hand grenades into a pretty grim war zone.

But Fey actually does well, if you give her the chance. I thought she and Freeman were great together. The movie just doesn’t have a lot to say. It’s not a commentary on the war so much as one woman’s less glamorous version of Eat, Pray, Love. The real Kim Barker never broke any major news stories so there’s not a lot of insight and not much authenticity. I think the script had some great pieces but suffered from abrupt lurches in tone. Overall though, I’m glad I gave it my time, even if I didn’t Lima Mike Foxtrot Alpha Oscar.



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.

Monkey Kingdom

There is so much luscious photography here, a real gluttony of beautiful images that intimately capture a tribe of macaque monkeys in Sri Lanka that I’d like to look the other way, I really would. But Disney Nature isn’t just making nature documentaries. It’s telling stories. Feel good stories. And if the monkeys don’t provide enough drama, or a convenient narrative arc, then one will be provided for them.

The monkeys live in an abandoned ancient city reclaimed by the jungles of Sri Lanka. It’s a mayastriking if haunting place to film monkeys being their monkey selves. The movie focuses on one in particular – Maya, a “low-born” lady monkey with a bowl cut a la Jim Carrey in Dumb And Dumber. Poor Maya gets the last and worst of everything. Even though it’s Tina Fey doing the narrating, you can almost hear Rodney Dangerfield going into his “I get no respect, no respect at all” routine.

Then the soap opera unfolds. Maya gets a boyfriend, but then he gets exiled by the possessive head of household, who normally doesn’t give her the time of day but instead hangs out with the three ugly step sisters who taunt our poor Maya and don’t let her join in any reindeer games. So of course when the boyfriend is run off we find out Maya’s pregnant and she has to be a single Mom, scavenging children’s birthday parties to put frosting and cheesies on the table. And then an enemy tribe shows up to do battle because they want to live on Castle Rock and so far Maya’s tribe only shares reluctantly with an antisocial mongoose. It feels a little like castlerockan episode of The Walking Dead – two bands fighting for survival, wanting the best and safest territory for themselves. Maya’s tribe loses, and must leave. Her band of macaques ends up going into the city where they literally monkey around – stealing food from carts, shop lifting from stalls, gorging on people’s dinners while their backs are turned. AND THEIR BACKS ARE ALWAYS TURNED!

There’s a lot to commend and recommend, but let’s face it: Disney is staging its documentaries. These stories don’t just happen in the wild. If you watch, say, Planet Earth, David Attenborough will narrate what is happening so that you can fully appreciate what you see. Tina Fey, wonderful as she is, and I did love the jokey, conversational tone of her narration, is often telling us what the monkeys are thinking. And just how does Tina Fey know what the monkeys are thinking? Did the monkeys provide a script? Is Disney just filming an elaborate play put on by very clever monkeys? Since when does a nature documentary have plot?

monkey_kingdomI should have known. I should have known that a film studio who banks on sympathetic, singing lions, and little birds who braid hair, and apes who adopt humans, and sharks who won’t eat fish, and dogs who plan elaborate, romantic dates, well, they’re probably not going to be able to shake that tendency in a hurry, are they? So do they give in to their singing-animal desires and use The Monkees as a soundtrack? Sure they do. And throw in Salt N Pepa’s Whatta Man for good measure. I know it sounds like I’m knocking it and I guess I kind of am. I’m a bit of a purist. But the truth is, this is eminently watchable, and friendly, and does a good job of bridging the gap between cartoon and nature show. It will engage children, and it’s not a bad place to start for a young, curious mind – hopefully curious enough to look beyond the silliness and think about what life in the jungle really means.


This is Where I Leave You

When Judd (Jason Bateman) comes home to find his wife fucking his boss, he moves out and is blind-sided by another piece of good news: his dad’s dead. So he and his 3 grown siblings return to their childhood home and are manipulated by their mother, the fabulous Jane Fonda, to stay for a week under the same roof to sit Shiva.  306995id1b_TIWILY_INTL_27x40_1Sheet.indd

It’s been a long time since these people were all gathered together with nothing better to do than nit-pick each other’s lives and observe each other’s failures, and what with other mourners randomly dropping in with secrets and casseroles, there’s a whole mess of drama that unfolds.

I wanted to like this movie more than I did. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and it definitely has its moments, but you just expect more from such an all-star cast. Why assemble so much talent only to waste it? The source material is pretty strong, and if this movie (now on DVD!) catches you at the right moment, you may find yourself identifying with it. Not that your family is this crazy, because it’s not. But maybe because when you go home to grieve your father, you also find yourself grieving the dreams you’ve given up on, the person you never became, the opportunities you left behind. Unfortunately, director Shawn Levy doesn’t show a lot of maturity with what he chooses to present on film. If he’s this afraid to scratch beneath the surface, then maybe he should stick to soulless movies like Night at the Museum and let someone else helm movies about grownups.

You won’t hate this movie, but you’ll probably forget quicker than Jane Fonda can shake her big, plastic boobs.