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Josh Reviews Paul Feig’s Rebooted Ghostbusters!

Let’s cut right to the chase: the original Ghostbusters is one of the all time great movies, definitely in my top ten.  Paul Feig’s rebooted Ghostbusters can’t hold a candle to the original.  But this new film is still a ton of fun, very funny and very enjoyable from start to finish.  Mr. Feig is one of the great comedy directors working today, and mixed with this tremendous cast he ‘s created a great movie that is funny and exciting.  Ignore the haters who were all bent out of shape at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters: this is a solid movie that is definitely worth seeing.

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The idea of rebooting/remaking one of the all-time great movies is a foolhardy one.  I have been saying that for years, ever since rumors of a new Ghostbusters began floating around.  Remake BAD movies that you can improve upon!  Why hobble yourself by forcing audiences to compare your new movie, at every turn, to one of the greatest movies of all time?  It just seems insane to me.

Equally insane?  The crazy, misogynistic anger that has been out there, across the internet, at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters.  What year is this??  Who cares whether the new Ghostbusters are male or female or whatever??  The questions should be: are they funny?  Does this new cast have a great dynamic together?  Do they create interesting new characters who you care about and root for?  Those are the questions that you should be asking.  And by the way, the answer to all three of those questions is YES, which is why this new Ghostbusters works as well as it does.

But getting back to my original point, I have been saying all along, and I still feel this way now after having seen the new Ghostbusters, that rather than remaking one of the all-time-great films, I’d have preferred had Paul Feig and this cast come together to make an original film.  That would have been more interesting to me, and in my opinion it would have given this project a better chance for greatness (rather than my constantly thinking about, while watching it, the ways in which it falls short of the original Ghostbusters).

However, that being said, this is probably as good a version of a rebooted Ghostbusters as I can imagine seeing.  I have a few quibbles, of course, but overall the movie works very, very well.  The cast is great.  The jokes work.  The visual effects are terrific.  The film successfully walks a fine line between telling the familiar type of story we expect from a rebooted Ghostbusters film while also finding some new twists and new spins to put on … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Spy!

At this rate, I want Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy to never stop making movies together.

Ms. McCarthy killed in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, and then she stepped up into a co-starring role in Mr. Feig’s follow-up film, The Heat.  In Spy, Ms. McCarthy and writer/director Feig reunite for a third film together, and once again the collaboration proves to be absolutely golden.

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Melissa McCarthy plays Susan Cooper.  She’s the CIA operative who, from her desk at Langley, serves as the voice in the ear of suave, handsome, James Bond-esque super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  But when Fine is killed on a mission to recover a rogue nuclear bomb, Susan finds herself thrust into the field, forced to go undercover to befriend the woman who killed Fine, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) in an attempt to locate the bomb before it can be sold to terrorists.

For a long time, Paul Feig (who created Freaks and Geeks and ran the show along with Judd Apatow) felt like something of a secret to comedy fans.  So it’s been a delight to see him achieve big-time success these past few years since Bridesmaids.  I hope this run continues for him for a long time!!!  (I am NOT excited by the idea of a Ghostbusters sequel/remake, but if anyone can make that interesting, it’s Paul Feig, so I am at least curious to see what he’s cooking up.)  There is some sort of magic when he collaborates with Melissa McCarthy.  Mr. Feig seems to know exactly how to use her, crafting characters for her that play right to her best comedic strengths.

What’s great about McCarthy in this role is that Susan Cooper isn’t a bumbling idiot.  She’s smart and loyal and tough.  This isn’t the story of a dour housewife transforming into a super-spy, which would have been the predictable route to go in a movie like this.  I was impressed that Paul Feig (who wrote the film in addition to directing) chose to tell a different story.  When we first meet Susan, we can already see her great qualities.  It’s Fine and her superiors at the CIA who don’t see them.  What happens in the film is that Susan is finally given an opportunity to show what she’s really capable of.  I love that.

Ms. McCarthy is so, so funny.  She’s equally as adept at physical comedy (there is a close-quarters fight in a dirty kitchen that is absolutely magnificent) and verbal comedy (in the early scenes when she’s just sitting at a desk and talking into Fine’s ear, she is still hilarious).  She and the film do fall back on a few familiar tricks — at one point, when … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Heat

August 22nd, 2013
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If I had just been considering it based on the plot description, The Heat is probably not a movie I would have gone to see.  But director Paul Feig’s projects always have my attention.  (Mr. Feig is the creator of the brilliant Freaks and Geeks, and most recently he directed the very funny Bridesmaids).  So I suspected that The Heat would be worth catching.  And, indeed, it was!  It is not as hilarious, nor as unique, as Bridesmaids was.  But it is still a very funny film, and a far cleverer one than it looked to me from the trailers.

The Heat is, basically, Lethal Weapon with two women instead of two men.  It’s a buddy cop movie, in which is straight-laced, by-the-book cop is paired up with an unpredictable, wild cop.  It’s a comedic film, but it’s not a spoof.  There is serious action and a real threat present for our heroes.  Like I said, it’s Lethal Weapon!  There is a simplicity to that idea — Lethal Weapon with chicks! — that might feel too easy to some (and, indeed, that is why I wrote above that The Heat didn’t feel to me as unique a film as Bridesmaids was), but I found it to be a surprisingly clever hook for the film, one that I don’t recall being done before.

And since I absolutely adored the Lethal Weapon films as a kid, I am happy to see a new Lethal Weapon style buddy cop flick. Starring men or women!

Sandra Bullock plays Ashburn, an extremely proficient FBI agent who is nevertheless disliked by all of her co-workers for her uptight, self-superior mannerisms.  She is on the trail of a drug lord, which brings her to Boston and the jurisdiction of Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who is Ashburn’s exact opposite: a slovenly, violent, seat-of-her-pants officer.  Though not immediately apparent on first glimpse, Mullins is, in her own way, just as proficient an officer as is Ashburn.  The two women, of course, take an immediate dislike to one another, but after being forced by circumstances to work together, eventually form a tight, unbeatable partnership.

It is not an original story, that is clear.  But that is sort of the point, I think.  Part of the fun of The Heat is seeing these familiar male buddy-cop movie tropes played out with two women.  And what makes The Heat work is that, on top of that, Mr. Feig (working from a script by Katie Dippold) has layered in a lot of the comic digressions and details that are his trademark.

Both Ms. Bullock and Ms. McCarthy do strong work.  Ms. Bullock is well-practiced at playing the “straight woman” and no one can … [continued]

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Josh Reviews This is 40

I’m an enormous Judd Apatow fan.  I’m proud to say that I watched and loved Freaks and Geeks (the criminally cancelled-before-its time TV show created by Paul Feig and executive-produced by Mr. Apatow) back when it originally aired.  Same goes with Undeclared, Mr. Apatow’s equally-great-but-nevertheless-also-painfully-cancelled follow-up show.  I think The 40 Year-Old Virgin is one of the funniest comedies I have ever seen in my life, and Knocked Up is almost as great.  I have mixed feelings about Funny People. (Click here for my original review.)  I love the ambition behind the film, and I love how personal a film it feels like it was for Mr. Apatow, even though I acknowledge that there is a lot about the film that doesn’t completely work.  When I wrote about Funny People, I commented that it felt like Mr. Apatow was aspiring to create a James L. Brooks film, one that is funny but also personal and emotional.  I think he succeeded — Funny People feels very much to me like a James L. Brooks film, and that is a huge compliment.  In the film’s emotional honesty, in its ability to land a screamer of a punch-line, and also in the shaggy nature of its narrative, Funny People has a lot in common with Mr. Brooks’ work.

I feel the same way about This is 40. The film is very funny and is filled with a ton of throw-away hysterical lines laced throughout the dialogue as well as complete comedic sequences (Pete and Debbie’s drugged-out weekend away; Pete’s confrontation with an angry school-mom played by Melissa McCarthy), both of which are a mark of Mr. Apatow’s strongest work.  But it’s also a film with a strong emotional through-line, and a difficult one at that.  Pete and Debbie are married with two kids, but as much as they seem to love one another they also are at in a point in their lives together when they drive each another crazy.  They each have personal issues they are wrestling with, they have financial problems, and they struggle to raise their kids well while still having some semblance of a life of their own.  They are often quick to snipe at one another and to put one another down.  There are still sparks between them, and they have a long history together, and two kids they are trying to bring up, but can their marriage survive the pressures (both external and self-imposed) that they put on it?

These are weighty issues for a comedy film to grapple with, and for the most part the film avoids easy answers.  The film also wisely avoids the simplistic emotional arc of most romantic comedies, instead taking … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Bridesmaids!

When you combine the two main creative forces behind Freaks and Geeks (one of the greatest television shows ever made) with some of the funniest actresses working today, is it any result that the resulting film is an uproariously funny, ferociously entertaining comedy from start to finish?

Kristen Wiig stars in Bridesmaids as Annie, a young woman whose life is on a bit of a downturn.  Her boyfriend left her, which would be painful enough if the withdrawal of his financial backing didn’t also cause her bakery business to go under.  Annie is at first happy to hear that her life-long best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), has gotten engaged, but soon that happy news turns bitter as Annie begins to feel that Lillian has found a new best friend in one of her bridesmaids, the wealthy, perky Helen (Rose Byrne).  As she feels Lillian slipping away from her, Annie tries ever-harder to plan perfect wedding-related events for her friend, but those efforts wind up exploding in increasingly spectacular fashion.

In addition to starring in the film, Kristen Wiig co-wrote Bridesmaids with Annie Mumolo.  No one could possibly survive and thrive on Saturday Night Live for as long as Ms. Wiig did without clearly having a strong comedic voice and some writing skills, but this film firmly establishes her as a powerhouse talent.  She and Ms. Mumolo have crafted a script that is screamingly funny but also endearingly human.  There is some exaggeration in the film, to be sure, and there are some characters who drift closer to comedic archetypes than they do to real people.  But the central story-line of the film is very real and very honest.  The description of the film’s plot in the above paragraph could just as easily be the plot for a somber, depressing drama.  Obviously, Bridesmaids is anything BUT a depressing drama!  But the idea of a life-change driving a wedge between long-time friends is a story that rings emotionally true, and that gives the film a weight that many other raunchy comedies don’t have.

Having a potent, real emotional story at the core of the craziest of comedies has been one of the reasons why the films directed by and produced by Judd Apatow over the last several years have been so terrific.  Mr. Apatow produced Bridesmaids, and I can see immediately why he responded to the script by Ms. Wiig and Ms. Mumolo.  It’s also easy to see why this story appealed to Mr. Apatow’s former Freaks and Geeks collaborator, the amazing Paul Feig.  (Mr. Feig created Freaks and Geeks, while Mr. Apatow served as the executive producer.  Mr. Feig directed Bridesmaids, which was produced by Mr. Apatow.)  You might not … [continued]