Bullock and McCarthy bring ‘The Heat’

A year after Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) emerged as the undercover cop duo in Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s film “21 Jump Street,” they have two female counterparts: Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Boston Deputy Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy).

And they know it too. “Are you a narc?” one of Mullins’ meathead brothers asks SA Ashburn.

“What?” she answers.

“A narc,” he replies. “You know, like fucking Johnny Depp in ’21 fucking Jump Street.'”

Directed by Paul Feig, known for “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” pairs know-it-all FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn with potty-mouthed undercover Boston cop Shannon Mullins (her undercover uniform consists of a T-shirt, vest and sweatpants, making her look like more of a bum). The problem is… they’re both territorial alpha females.

“Wow, lady, you’re on a real fucking roll,” Mullins says after she finds out that Ashburn has not only taken her parking spot, but also her interrogation. “Get it up, and get it the fuck out of here, cause this is my room.”

But SA Ashburn isn’t intimiated by the cussing or the attitude. Her insults come off nonchalantly — as if she doesn’t realize she’s being insulting, which in turn, makes it all the more insulting.

“Were you about to be, uh, questioned by a detective?” Ashburn asks.

“I am a detective and this is my perp!”

Get ready to watch 117 minutes of this: swearing, bitch slapping and insults. Yes, it’s longer than a “Maury” episode, and the words aren’t bleeped out ‘cuz it’s not on television, but there’s physical humor too!

McCarthy and Bullock get progressively drunk at a dive bar, downing shots with snout-like noses, dancing with old grandpas and spending the morning. No donuts or coffee for these gals!

What else? In once scene, McCarthy pretends to shoot out some guys privates; in another scene, Bullock actually does it!

And who could forget McCarthy’s smouldering smooch with her real-life hubby, Ben Falcone?

Remember him? He was the air marshall she made out with in “Bridesmaids.” This time around, he’s Melissa’s lovesick stalker who can’t take a hint (Who would? McCarthy’s hot and cold — one minute she’s having a one night stand with him, and the next, she’s pretending he doesn’t exist. Not to mention, they’re married in real life!).

And Officer Mullins can be a vicious maneater too.

“Hey, if anyone’s seen the captain’s balls, let me know,” she says about her boss, shouting these words to the entire office. “They’re about this big… But a lot tinier. They’re like a pea, or like a…like a ball bearing, or like, if you’ve ever seen a mouse ball, about half that size. Incredibly tiny, they’re like really, really tiny little girl balls, if little girls had balls.”

Over the top, much? Maybe.

There’s a saying that if a stand-up comedian has to rely on swear words for laughs, he or she must not be that funny.

Funny-girl McCarthy swears every other sentence, using it like a crutch.

But like “Bridesmaids,” there are some serious laugh-out-loud moments,  or at least chuckles — not as many of those deep, belly laughs of “Bridemaids” that left you winded, crying and gasping for breath though.

Feig has a knack for showing people at their most pathetic. After all, who could forget a scene that featured pooping in your wedding dress? Or in this case, slitting a dude’s throat while giving the Heimlich. Not the same? Didn’t think so…

But while “The Heat” doesn’t have as many memorable personalities as “Bridesmaids,” McCarthy and Bullock carry the buddy-buddy cop flick.

They’re Cagney & Lacey, Thema and Louise, Lorelai and Sookie — and “where you lead, I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to…”

A classic friendship that begins with name calling and ends with: “Nerd, you have a sister!”

Don’t worry: they’re not going anyway. “The Heat 2” is in the works (unlike “Gilmore Girls”). Let’s hope their next stand-up routine has a little less swearing, a little more substance and a lot more belly laughs written in.

“The Heat” was directed by Paul Feig and written by Kate Dippold, whose writing credits include “Parks and Recreation” and “MADtv.” 

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‘Pacific Rim’ contains faint pulse


What’s it like to watch when you know a man’s gonna die? What about to share his brain and the feelings inside?

Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother, Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff), were once as close as could be. Before Yancy was killed and swept away in the sea. You see, the brothers were a drifter pair, the modern rock stars in a not-so-future society: one where gigantic alien beasts called Kaiju can take down entire cities.

The first attack occurred in San Fran. And six days, 35 miles later, there was not one man — alive or standing in six nearby cities. But don’t you civvies worry: Jaegars got your back. That’s what they call Guillermo del Toro’s ginormous robotic hacks.

These soldiers are slick, modeled like transformers, but powered by men like double-A batteries. Which is why you need drifter pairs: two people working completely in sync, sharing a brain, to power even one of these enormous tin cans. There are several problems with this, but one of them is that humans have a pretty short shelf life — and the humans in “Pacific Rim” have less personality than… say, shape-shifting cars.

After Hunnam’s lulling voice narrates del Toro’s apocalyptic future and his brother’s grisly death (don’t worry, he doesn’t do it in either rhyme or iambic meter, although it doesn’t make it any less cheesy), he disappears for five years, becoming this world’s version of George R. R. Martin’s Night Watch — assigned to build an endless wall in the far north of Alaska that’s supposed to keep the aliens out. But it doesn’t. And as humanity sits on the losing side of the Kaiju War, his old boss, General Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), reenlists him into the fight.

Becket’s pretty useless without his brother, so they pair him up with new girl Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to man his old Jaeger, Gipsy. And you might be able to guess what happens next. After all, drifter pairs share a brain and all.

While (the plot of) “Pacific Rim” may sound like another mindless summer blockbuster billed for its action and formulaic structure (remember “Battleship”?), composer Ramin Djawadi (you may know him as the orchestral composer to TV series like “Game of Thrones” and “Prison Break”) gives the movie a pulse. His music mirrors the loud thumping noises of a heartbeat in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “A Tell-Tale Heart,” containing the steady, rhythmic beats of Shakespearean poetic meter. Or the thump-thump-thumps of a Kaiju’s or Jaeger’s footsteps; neither alien nor robot can move without creating earthquakes.

At times it’s like electronic dance music, keeping the party going. At other times, it’s much softer — weak, but kicking. But not even Djawadi’s music can keep the movie from submerging.

The screenplay, written by del Toro and Travis Beacham based on Beacham’s story, is so predictable that you can guess who’s going to die minutes before they do so. Del Toro and Beacham throw you plenty of clues, of course.

“The water’s getting higher,” says one drifter pair.

But this futuristic apocalypse doesn’t hold as much depth as del Toro’s WWII-era films. For one, despite their sheer size, aliens and robots are disappointing compared to the personalities of the freaks in “Hellboy” and the faun and Pale Male in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” At least those monsters could be scary. In contrast, the Kaiju/aliens in “Pacific Rim” look like watered-down Spielberg monsters; no, not E.T., but rather the shark in “Jaws” and the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park.” There’s nothing wrong with that, per say, but we can’t help thinking we’ve seen this before.

And for the most part, we have. Like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” del Toro shows another little girl lost in a maze — only this maze is in her head: her traumatic memories.

But at least “Pacific Rim’s” entertaining if you don’t take it seriously. One of the film’s gags involves black marketer Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman, known for his stint as “Hellboy”) and his gold-tipped shoes. And other humorous fun involves “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Charlie Day as the overly enthusiastic Kaiju scientist, Dr. Newton Geiszler.

“Pacific Rim” may be another mindless summer blockbuster, but at least this one’s got a pulse, however faint it may be.

“Pacific Rim” was directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Travis Beacham.

Fun & clouds in Skylar Grey’s ‘Don’t Look Down’

Chances are that you’ve heard her before. She sang the opening refrain in Fort Minor’s “Where’d you Go” (2006), in Diddy’s “Coming Home” (2010) and in Eminem and Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” (2011). 

And she wrote the hook in Eminem and Rhianna’s “Love the Way You Lie” (2010) while she was living alone in an Oregon cabin.

“This is where all the inspiration came from,” Skylar Grey said. “Just being here by myself and thinking a lot and reflecting a lot.”

Grey has written harmonies since she was 2 years old — which landed her a handful of Grammy nominations including those for her work on “I Need a Doctor,” “Love the Way you Lie” and Kaskade’s album “Fire & Ice” — so it seems like it’s about time that she has a major label studio album; “Don’t Look Down” — which was released today, July 9, under KidinaKorner and Interscope Records after three years of production — is her debut album as Skylar Grey. (Her first album, “Like Blood Like Honey,” was released in 2006 under Holly Brook, her given first and middle name.)

And her new album even features some of the artists that lauded her work and launched it into national prominence. Eminem raps in Grey’s single, “C’mon Let Me Ride,” a catchy pop song loaded with sexual innuendos.

Meanwhile, Big Sean’s rapping and Travis Barker’s drumming accompany her vocals in the album’s first track, “Back from the Dead,” an electro-pop song reminiscent of Kaskade’s “Room for Happiness.” The whirling noises and drumming beat make her sound tinny and robotic, even as she sings about her emotions: “I’m so confused I don’t know what to feel.”

Perhaps those lines explain her eclectic range. Whereas “C’mon Let Me Ride” is about as catchy and subtle as Brittney Spears’ “If You Seek Amy” and “Back from the Dead” sounds so mechanic and recycled, it’s easily forgettable, darker tracks like “Final Warning” are vindictive and deliciously thrilling.

“Someone’s going to get hurt,” she sing-songs sweetly. “And it’s not going to be me.”

She has a knack for writing about abusive relationships — even though she claims the only one she’s been in is with the music industry. “Good afternoon, dear/ How does the rope feel around your neck?” she sings in “Final Warning.” No doubt this is the reprise to “Love the Way You Lie.”

The tracks change from the potential Top 40 hit to the lyrical and melancholy. Quieter tracks like “Love the Way You Lie Part III” and “White Suburban” — whose only embellishments are her voice and the piano — are beautiful, showcasing her impressive vocal range and storytelling capabilities. She sounds reflective, and a bit like Regina Spektor at times.

Which couldn’t be more different than the hip-hop beats in “Shit, Man!” or the pop-rock feel in tracks like “Wear Me Out,” “Clear Blue Sky” and “Religion.” (The guitar chords in “Religion” sound familiar — a bit like those in the beginning of Clay Aiken’s “Invisible”?)

But if she hadn’t already gotten accolades for her singing/song-writing abilities, or received recognition from artists like Eminem (who signed on as the album’s executive producer), it would be hard to market Grey; she masters a potpourri of genres and her album’s tracks seem as capricious and unpredictable as the weather. But whereas her first album has a more folksy piano/guitar singer/songwriter feel, “Don’t Look Down” is clearly directed at pop audiences with wide-ranging musical tastes.

‘Magic Mike’: the modern ‘Rocky Horror Picture’

“You don’t need to talk,” psychologist Joanna (Olivia Munn) says to Channing Tatum’s character, Mike. “Just look pretty.”

Right, “look pretty”: the premise of Steven Soderbergh’s 110-minute film, “Magic Mike” — a film whose main attraction includes objectifying athletic, naked, flexible and muscular men with tantalizing butts and abs, grinding under the dirty limelight of dollar bills.

There’s a loose plot to this strip show — one which involves Mike, a six-year veteran stripper for Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Xquisite strip club’s M.C. and owner. As Mike bypasses the bouncers of the Tampa nightclubs on one of his nightly gigs, he brings Adam (Alex Pettyfer) — a 19-year-old Ashton Kutcher look-alike begging to join the ranks of the 21-and-plus partying crowd. Adam trades his body for admission, finding his strip tease the last act of an all-male strip show. By the end of the night, Adam inherits a new nickname (“The Kid”) and a permanent place on Dallas’ roster.

Tatum exudes confidence as the film’s titular character, but perhaps that’s to be expected. This isn’t the first time Tatum’s a stripper. Before he made it big as a dancer/actor on Anne Fletcher’s “Step Up,” Tatum was an 18-year-0ld stripper in Tampa. “It was the atmosphere and energy of it I wanted to capture,” Tatum said, “and that feeling of being at a time in your life when you’re trying things out, and up for anything.”

Soderbergh creates that atmosphere with coma-inducing images of seductive naked men. As you watch with half-lidded eyes, you realize that these men are up for anything — from shaving their legs, sporting red-white-and-blue thongs and cross-dressing (in one scene, Tatum prances around in a white Marilyn Monroe dress and a blond wig) to sleazing themselves for money (a frisky female extra reportedly ripped off McConaughey’s G-string during the shoot).

But the gaudiness mask an act: “I’m not what I do,” Magic Mike, who describes himself as an entrepreneur, tries to explain. Mike’s an honest man pursuing the American dream: he wants to open his own custom-design furniture business — but the capitalism gods won’t allow someone with his laughable credit score to take out a business loan. And as Adam succumbs to the girls/drugs/sex lifestyle of the stripper underworld, Mike finds himself as Richard O’Brien’s Dr. Frank N. Furter — the creator of Rocky, a sculpted hedonistic adonis clad in only a pair of snug gold briefs.

“Magic Mike” is what you paid for: pelvic thrusts from scantly-clad eye candy, dancing in an array of uniforms (including police officers, sailors and soldiers) and personas (ranging from Uncle Sam, G.I. Joe to Tarzan and a real-life Ken doll). “You’re not just stripping. You are fulfilling every woman’s wildest fantasies,” Dallas explains. “You are the husband that they never had. You are that dreamboat guy that never came along. You are the one-night stand: that free fling of a fuck that they get to have tonight, with you on stage, and still go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you, baby, you made it legal.”

To paraphrase: you’re “Rocky Horror Picture Show’s” Janet, singing “touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch me/ I want to be dirty…” But your silhouette doesn’t get to make love to Rocky’s behind a thinly veiled screen. Even being a “Magic Mike virgin” won’t promise you lap dances with either Tatum, Pettyfer or McConaughey on your lap. As Dallas says, “The law says you cannot touch.” And so far, reaching through the silver screen is only science fiction. 

“Magic Mike’s” visually enjoyable and it doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to understand why. With men holding umbrellas and sparklers in rather suggestive places, it’s the Freudian promise of sex that keeps you watching and returning through the time warp — long after midnight.

“Magic Mike” was directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Reid Carolyn. 

‘World War Z’: prouder, stronger, better?

It begins like one of President Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” ads — an idyllic house featuring the nuclear family: Dad’s flipping pancakes, Mom’s helping out with math homework, the girls are begging for a puppy — everyday ordinary scenes edited over swelling music. You know, it’s morning again in America.

But unlike Reagan’s presidential ad, the TV montage and narration in “World War Z” are ones of increasing urgency: dolphins stranded, travel restrictions, rabies in Taiwan, CO2 rising, the looting of grocery stores, trucks bulldozing cars like they’re Matchbox toys, people jumping off roofs of skyscrapers and martial law.

These frightening scenes of chaos prove that the world’s neither prouder, stronger nor better. But rather, it shows an apocalyptic turmoil that’s becoming as routine as — say pancakes for breakfast.

While a zombie apocalypse may sound as far-fetched as martians landing on Earth, Marc Forster’s “World War Z” contains a sense of realism that makes a zombie infestation look plausible (or at least sound as realistic as Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio drama).

The everyman in this story is Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a retired UN employee who reluctantly travels to find patient zero after a zombie virus spreads worldwide. In exchange for his service, his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), and daughters, Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins), are promised refuge.

Forster’s zombie movie, based on a novel by Max Brooks (author of “War World Z” and “The Zombie Survival Guide”), differs from zombie movies of the past. Unlike “28 Days Later” where Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed alone or “I Am Legend” where Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last man on earth, “World War Z” opens with a father and his wife and kids. Gerry Lane is never alone while raiding abandoned supermarkets or hunting deer. He has his wife and girls in tow. And when he doesn’t — only because his UN mission requires it — he’s with soldiers and scientists who have guns guarding his back.

But that’s not the only thing that separates “World War Z.” Forster’s film deals with the zombie epidemic on a much more modern and global scale. Sure, “Shaun of the Dead” — the 2004 British zom-com featuring a bloke named Shaun (Simon Pegg) trying to survive a zombie apocalypse — is good and fun and all, but the action is mostly isolated to traveling to and from a pub. And Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead” centers around a shopping mall. There’s no such thing as isolated pubs or shopping malls anymore — not with globalization.

“World War Z” takes the viewer from the city traffic in Philadelphia to a Naval ship off the coast of New York City to a military base in South Korea, a mecca in Jerusalem and a World Health Organization research facility in Wales. You know that 400-mile wall separating Israel from Palestine? That, it turns out, is the world’s greatest zombie blockade. So you’re saying that an infectious virus would solve the more than 60-year conflict between the Israelites and the Palestinians? Well, that’s one way to achieve world peace… And oh look, it’s morning again in America.

“World War Z” was directed by Marc Forster and written by Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard, Matthew Michael Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski, based on the novel by Max Brooks. 

The undead never die: a sample of recent zombie flicks