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.” 

‘Dark Shadows’ deserves an early grave

Normally, I am a fan of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton — after all, their alliance produced classics like “Edward Scissorhands,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Alice in Wonderland.” But although “Dark Shadows” held all the usual Tim Burton eccentricities (such as characters with papery pale skin and dark eye shadow and quirky personalities), the unrequited vampire love story is far from my favorite film.

“Dark Shadows,” which is a parody of the mid-1960s TV series by the same name, follows Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a 19th century Englishman who lost his one true love to another woman’s spite. The woman, Angelique (Eva Green), just happened to be a witch with an obsessive love towards Barnabas, cursing Barnabas with an allergy to both silver and sunlight as well as a plight of blood as sustenance. But alas, after being locked in a coffin for 196 years, Barnabas is back.

Once again, Johnny Depp plays a character a little out of touch with the modern world. But compared to his more whimsical roles as Mad Hatter or Willy Wonka, Depp as Barnabas feels ancient. His stiff mannerisms feel uncomfortable next to his laid-back, hippie, 1972 Vietnam War era counterparts. In one scene, Depp’s character is talking to Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz), his distant teenage relative, about courting a modern woman. It’s like watching your dad talk to you about the birds and the bees. You can’t help but cringe, feeling embarrassed and trying to tune out. Perhaps that’s why the film itself felt uncomfortable, ridiculous and shallow. I felt like Moretz’s character, watching her great great great great grandfather make a fool of himself. Sure, you love him no matter what, but ooooh, Johnny, did you have to do that?

Perhaps the problem is not with the acting but with the plot. When you have a.) a womanizing playboy who hooked up with the wrong woman, and b.) the wrong woman just happened to be obsessed with you that rather than kill you, she makes you a vampire so while everyone you love dies, she can still attempt to woo you, perhaps melodrama is to be expected. It’s petty conflicts like this that drive the movie. In one scene, Depp and Green have wild, passionate sex, breaking every piece of furniture in a room. In another exchange, Depp slaps Green across the face as she breaks like a china doll. But even if it’s melodrama that the movie is after, I don’t sympathize with many of characters.

Roger Collins (Johnny Lee Miller), one of Barnabas’ more recent descendants, is timid preferring to run away rather than raise his son. David Collins (Gulliver McGrath), Roger’s son, has such a minor role that despite being declared mentally unstable and able to see ghosts, he is hardly visible. Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), David’s psychiatrist, has her own mental infliction, seeking eternal youth and beauty. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) is the motherly figure that’s trying desperately to hold her family together, but that even feels one dimensional.

There are bright spots to the dark shadows of the film. Fifteen-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, known for recent roles such as the childhood friend of Hugo in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and the superhero Hit-Girl in Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick – Ass,” departs from her younger and more innocent kid roles and displays maturity as a young actress — slamming doors, slouching, listening to music and well, acting like a regular teenager.

Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), David’s nanny, seems like a spunky, innocent bystander with a tragic past in the beginning of the movie, but by the end, she pulls a Bella Swan, jumping off a cliff and asking her Edward Cullen to make her vampire.

The film does features a great, funny montage to the Carpenter’s “Top of the World” though, and Alice Cooper was recruited to give a private concert. Perhaps if the film featured more of this light-hearted comedy found in the earlier half of the film rather than the sickening stalker-ish love that is notorious in Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight,” the film come off as less trite and the shadows would actually have some depth.

“Dark Shadows” was written by Seth Grahame-Smith and John August; and directed by Tim Burton.

To view this post published in Imprint Magazine, click here. 

Jumping to the 21st Century: ’21 Jump Street’ is Comedic Genius

Two cops who pedal bicycles after a tough-looking biker gang of 1 percenters in the city park. Cops who don’t know how to recite the Miranda Rights word-for-word upon making their first arrest. Their only redeeming quality is that they look young, like they just got out of school (or in Channing Tatum’s character’s case, he looks like he might have flunked out a few years).

“21 Jump Street” is ridiculous, but that is part of the appeal. When reviving a classic late ’80s, early ’90s television series like “21 Jump Street” and adapting it to the silver screen in the twenty-first century, you have to update with the times. Sure, kids are still getting into booze, drugs, gangs and other shady business. But kids are also texting, YouTubing, Facebooking and plugging into the Twitterverse.

Michael Bacall’s screenplay adaption of Patrick Hasburg and Stephen J. Cannell’s television series canon features a new duo of awkward, bumbling cops going undercover in high schools: Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Tatum). Their challenges include blending into the new social hierarchy of modern day high school: one where the popular kids are gay, tolerable, accepting and environmentalists and the nerds are still the ones building rocket ships on the lawn.

Hill and Tatum have great chemistry and bromance together, striking an unlikely friendship. It’s comical watching Tatum cheerlead Hill’s character as he tries to overcome the physical obstacles of the police academy test while Hill tutors Tatum’s character on the written portion of the exam. In another scene the two are seen fingering each other’s mouths, trying to get each other to throw up in a bathroom stall.

Bacall’s script also does much to poke fun at the original TV series. The nondescript rundown chapel on Jump Street that was home base for the undercover program features a rather prominent Korean Jesus. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who runs the undercover camp, isn’t subtle about why the crew is there: “You are here because you some Justin Beaver, Miley Cirus lookin’ muthas.”

And the best parts: Undercover Officer Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) makes a cameo and the promise of a sequel.

“21 Jump Street” was produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The story was written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill.

If Grapes Stay in Bunches, Gilbert Grape is the Vine

Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) tending to his younger brother (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Blood is thicker than water and for Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), that is exactly the reason he cannot escape from the nowhere town of Endora in director Lasse Hallstrom’s 1993 film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Every family is dysfunctional, but perhaps Gilbert Grape’s family seems more dysfunctional than most. As the older brother to a mentally challenged eighteen-year-old (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a bratty adolescent teen sister (Mary Kate Schellhardt), the brother to a motherly older sister (Laura Harrington) and the son of an overweight mother (Darlene Cates), Gilbert finds himself adopting the role of the father, taking care of the house and family, ever since his dad disappeared.

Depp provides a resilient performance as the surrogate father, but with his tryst with a married woman (Mary Steenburgen) and puppy love with a worldly, beautiful girl passing through the town of Endora (Juliette Lewis), one quickly realizes that Depp’s character is still a kid at heart who never got the chance to be one. Taking on the responsibilities of hearth and home, Depp becomes a man who puts everyone else’s needs before him while his only wish for himself is to be a better person.

Yet, remaining good is hard to do when his mother weights 500 pounds and never gets out of the house and his brother Artie Grape climbs every tree or pole he can find and Gilbert finds that he keeps on messing up. But while Depp gave a strong performance as a kid who was forced to grow up — the glue to a dysfunctional family, young DiCaprio gives one of his best performances as the mentally ill younger brother. From his drooled-slurs and his much-too-loud laughter as he parrots the other’s around him to his childish mannerisms and interactions with those around him, DiCaprio becomes the mentally ill brother Artie Grape.

Despite how loud it can be in the Grape household, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a quiet film based on Peter Hedges’ novel. Similar to Hedges’ film Pieces of April, where a girl also discovers she cannot get rid of blood ties; What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a story about love and family.