Sisters

For F*** Magazine

SISTERS

Director : Jason Moore
Cast : Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Ike Barinholtz, Maya Rudolph, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, John Cena, Madison Davenport, Greta Lee, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan
Genre : Comedy
Run Time : 118 mins
Opens : 17 March 2016
Rating : NC-16 (Sexual Humour And Drug Use)

“All kinds of weather, we stick together/The same in the rain and sun” – so crooned Rosemary Clooney in the song Sisters from White Christmas. In this movie, comedy duo Amy Poehler and Tina Fey play Maura and Kate Ellis respectively, sisters who return to their childhood home in Orlando after many years. The sisters’ parents (Wiest and Brolin) have decided to sell the house, much to both daughters’ chagrin. The freewheeling Kate coaxes Maura into helping her throw one last blowout party at their house, affectionately nicknamed “Ellis Island”. The many guests who show up include James (Barinholtz), a handyman whom Maura has developed a crush on; slacker Dave (Leguizamo) and his drug dealer Pazuzu (Cena), socially-awkward jokester Alex (Moynihan) and Kate’s high school nemesis Brinda (Rudolph). As the bash spirals out of control, Kate’s teenage daughter Haley (Davenport) learns of her mother’s irresponsible behaviour and with her grandparents, attempts to intervene.

            The mechanics of Poehler and Fey’s double act are well-oiled to the point where they could rival Crosby and Hope in their heyday. From Weekend Update and the Sarah Palin vs. Hillary Clinton sketches on Saturday Night Live (SNL) to Baby Mama and their stints hosting the Golden Globes, the comediennes have repeatedly brought the funny. Sisters is directed by Pitch Perfect’s Jason Moore, from a screenplay by Paula Pell, whose credits include SNL, 30 Rock and Bridesmaids. The supporting cast consists mostly of actors who are SNL alums or are part of the wider circle of comedians Poehler and Fey know. A good portion of the jokes hit their target, but there’s the hard-to-shake sense that the film leans too heavily on Poehler and Fey’s pre-existing rapport, instead of actually generating funny scenarios for their characters to participate in.

            Sisters is an entry in the “I don’t want to grow up (I’m a Toys “R” Us kid)” comedy subgenre. There’s a reason characters who are unwilling to move on from their teen years are referred to as “man-children”, because that’s mostly the dudes’ domain. It does riff on the Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly two-hander Step-Brothers, without the over-the-top rivalry. There are multiple points in Sisterswhere it feels like the film is flailing about, yelling “hey, girls can do stupid stuff too!” The vulgarity and gleefully reckless behaviour plus the mix of sentimentality and sweetness come off as very sub-Bridesmaids. The climactic comedic set piece is unexpectedly ambitious and there’s a gag involving a ballerina music box that will make audiences cringe, chuckle and clench, but there are significant portions of the film during which it’s spinning its wheels.

            If asked to categorise the two per an old buddy movie archetype, most audiences would pick Fey as the strait-laced one and Poehler as the party animal. Sisters flips the script and Fey gets multiple opportunities to make a scene and blurt out strings of cuss words. Poehler’s Maura does exhibit the “chipper to an annoying extent” trait she’s brought to her roles in Parks and Recreation and Inside Out. Barinholtz’s character is sweet, funny, capable and is very much a “dream guy” archetype but points for not casting an Abercrombie model in the part. Wiest and Brolin are also entertaining as the Ellis sisters’ parents, in part because they’re not necessarily actors one would expect to show up in an over-the-top comedy.

The partygoers are all one-dimensional, playing it up for laughs. Greta Lee shows up as nail salon technician Hae-Won, a character who’s supposed to deconstruct racist Korean stereotypes but ends up reinforcing them, depending on how sensitive one is to the issue. The character’s broken English further makes things uncomfortable and clumsy. Similarly, a group of lesbian women who show up to the party are portrayed as stereotypically masculine, dressed in denim and plaid and wielding power tools. It’s a disappointing lack of sophistication, especially since writer Pell is an openly gay woman herself. John Cena has wisely capitalised on his status as an internet meme and is proving that he has a knack for comedy, perhaps not unlike Mark Wahlberg and Channing Tatum.


The chemistry that Poehler and Fey share is the foundation on which the movie is built; it’s a shame the rest of the construction materials aren’t quite up to snuff. It certainly could have been tighter, sharper and more focused, but it is ultimately difficult not to be swayed by Poehler and Fey’s performances even if they aren’t working with the best material.

Summary: It’s far from the best use of Poehler and Fey’s talents and it tends to go for the obvious, easy jokes, but Sisters narrowly passes muster thanks to the duo’s irresistible chemistry.

RATING: 3out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Inside Out

For F*** Magazine

INSIDE OUT

Director : Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen
Cast : Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan
Genre : Animation
Run Time : 102 mins
Opens : 27 August 2015
Rating : PG
Pixar takes viewers on the ultimate head trip in this animated comedy set in the mind of an 11 year-old-girl. Riley Andersen (Dias) is a typical kid, with loving parents and a penchant for ice hockey. She begins to experience mood swings when her family relocates from Minnesota to San Francisco, and we get an inside look at why things are going bumpier than usual. The personifications of five emotions – Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), Fear (Hader), Disgust (Kaling) and Anger (Black) – live and work in Riley’s mind, operating out of “headquarters”. Joy runs a tight ship and comes into conflict with Sadness, whose purpose in Riley’s mind is not apparent. When Joy and Sadness get stranded outside headquarters, they must overcome their inherent differences and find their way home to ensure Riley can be well-adjusted and happy. 
Pixar has built a reputation as a studio with a particular knack for effective, moving storytelling, and Inside Out is their strongest effort in recent memory. Many have pointed out that the premise isn’t exactly original, with 90s sitcom Herman’s Head and animated adventure flick Osmosis Jones cited as having similar premises. However, directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, along with the Pixar story crew they assembled, ensure Inside Out is anything but derivative. Many Hollywood animated films are made for the express purpose of selling toys. Pixar has set itself apart by prioritizing storytelling, with the toy sales following naturally. They’ve even made a series of films all about toys that packed a surprising amount of emotional resonance. Everything about Inside Out just works, from the concept up, and the effort and attention to detail invested at every step of the way is all onscreen. 
Docter has said the primary inspiration for Inside Out came from his pre-teen daughter Elie and wondered what it would be like if her emotions had personalities of their own. This starting point ensures the film is easy to relate to from the get-go, since everyone knows what it’s like to struggle with their feelings at some point or another. The film was made with the input of psychologists Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner, and Inside Out strikes that vital balance of portraying the inner workings of the mind with sensitivity and deftness while retaining the accessibility and entertainment value the film requires. The screenwriters gamely tackle the unique challenge of creating fleshed-out characters who are explicitly defined by a singular trait, which must have taken a great deal of figuring out. The bulk of the story is reminiscent of a buddy road trip film, with Joy and Sadness traversing the labyrinth of Riley’s long-term memory, meeting various other characters in Riley’s mind along the way. The character dynamics all click right into place and there is a laudable amount of depth in these ostensible caricatures. 
Many animated films cast big-name movie stars to draw in the parents, the fact that they might not be competent voice actors be damned. Pixar has generally avoided this pitfall and Inside Out features one of the best voice casts they’ve ever wrangled. The ensemble comprises many established comedians, including several Saturday Night Live alums. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith play off each other remarkably well – typically, voice actors record their parts separately with the tracks assembled later, but Poehler and Smith got to record together and their chemistry benefits the story immensely. Lewis Black, well-known for his grumpy stand-up comedy persona, is the logical choice for Anger. Naturally, it would have been easy to deliver a one-note performance, but all the voice actors are able to find wiggle room within their character’s defined personalities, not unlike how Scott Adsit was able to imbue Baymax with enough warmth while still sounding like a robot in last year’s Big Hero 6. Richard Kind, voicing Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong, brings whimsy and heart to the character who aids Joy and Sadness in their odyssey. 
Inside Out is also expectedly gorgeous to look at, presenting a dazzling array of landscapes for the story to unfold against. Headquarters is reminiscent of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and there is an amusingly inventive sequence set in the realm of abstract thought. The character designs are obvious but apt and the colour-coding is visual storytelling at its simplest and most effective. The skin of each of the emotions is like an effervescent plush toy and it’s a tiny design flourish that goes a long way. 
One of the most cogent and evocative explorations of mental health ever committed to the screen, Inside Out is the ideal jumping-off point for many a meaningful post-movie family discussion. It will certainly prove very helpful to children and parents struggling to understand and cope with emotional changes and conditions like depression and anxiety. It’s also a film that bears revisiting; an 8-year-old will enjoy it on one level but discover totally new facets of the film at 13. Inside Out makes a compelling case for the necessity of sadness and other emotions that are generally perceived as negative, conveying this message through a visually-arresting adventure story. It’s also very humorous and while the term “emotional roller coaster” is thrown about a lot, it is as apt a description of Inside Out as any. Lava, the short film attached to the front of the feature presentation, has proved divisive, but this reviewer was quickly moved to tears by its charming volcano love story spanning millions of years. 

Summary: At once heart-rending and euphoric, Pixar’s odyssey of the mind is a triumph in every regard, from its story to its design to its excellent voice cast.
RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars 
Jedd Jong 

72nd Golden Globe Awards

For F*** Magazine

THE 72NDGOLDEN GLOBES

By Jedd Jong
The 72nd Golden Globe Awards took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in L.A. on 11th January, with Boyhood taking three wins and The Theory of Everything and Birdman bagging two. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the proceedings for the third and final time, delivering a gut-busting opening monologue that established a tone of not taking things too seriously and taking as many jabs as possible while stopping a safe distance from being confrontational or offensive – saving their sharpest barbs for scandal-plagued comedian Bill Cosby.
Putting things into perspective, Fey let fly with this zinger regarding Cecil B. Demille Award recipient George Clooney and his better half: “George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin this year. Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria and was selected for a three-person UN commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza strip. So tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”
While naturally not nominated at all, The Interview and the attendant controversy certainly made its presence felt. Fey greeted the A-list crowd with “Welcome you bunch of despicable, spoiled, minimally talented brats,” referencing producer Scott Rudin’s labelling of Angelina Jolie in that infamous leaked Sony Pictures email.
“The biggest story in Hollywood this year was when North Korea threatened an attack if Sony released The Interview, forcing us all to pretend we wanted to see it,” Poehler added. The entire show was almost stolen by comedienne Margaret Cho, in character as a North Korean general and the editor-in-chief of “Movies Wow” magazine. Unsmiling and clad in full military uniform, this “member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association” demanded to have her photo taken with Meryl Streep, a request Michael Keaton obliged. Benedict Cumberbatch performed his signatured photo-bomb, leaping up into frame. In the hours since the ceremony aired, the jokes have attracted their share of controversy, seeing as the human rights crisis in North Korea is a very real one.
We watch live TV for the gaffes and hiccups, and while there were no major ones for this telecast, those that happened were still amusing. Lily Tomlin mistakenly said “House of Cards” when she meant “House of Lies” and Kevin Spacey dropped a precision F-Bomb when accepting his award for House of Cards. A visibly tipsy Ricky Gervais, glass of red wine in hand, sheepishly tried to avoid offending anyone, bringing his scathing Golden Globes hosting stints to mind. It was also pretty endearing to see Benedict Cumberbatch star struck as he presented the Best Supporting Actor award alongside Jennifer Aniston. The Purple One himself, Prince, made a surprise appearance to present the Best Original Song award, toting a cane.
On a more serious note, the tragic terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo loomed large over the ceremony. Helen Mirren walked the red carpet in a Dolce & Gabbana gown embellished with a blue fountain pen as a brooch. The attendees rose to their feet for Dutch journalist and HFPA President Theo Kingma, who saluted the slain journalists and cartoonists during his speech. Both Jared Leto and George Clooney uttered the phrase “Je Suis Charlie”, French for “I Am Charlie”. The phrase has become a rallying cry in the wake of the attack.
Another emotional moment came during Michael Keaton’s acceptance speech after he was named Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Birdman. After expressing his profuse gratitude to director Alejandro González Iñárritu, he recounted his upbringing in Pennsylvania as one of seven children and fought back tears as he acknowledged his son Sean, whom he described as his “closest friend”. Also overcome with emotion was Gina Rodriguez, who beat out seasoned TV actresses such as Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Edie Falco to take home the Best Actress in a Comedy Series award for Jane The Virgin.

The full list of winners and nominees follows:
FILM:

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Boyhood – WINNER
Foxcatcher
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
The Grand Budapest Hotel – WINNER
Birdman
Into the Woods
Pride
St Vincent

Best Director
Richard Linklater (Boyhood) – WINNER
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Ava DuVernay (Selma)
David Fincher (Gone Girl)
Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)

Best Actress – Drama
Julianne Moore (Still Alice) – WINNER
Jennifer Aniston (Cake)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Best Actor – Drama
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) – WINNER
Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
David Oyelowo (Selma)

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams (Big Eyes) – WINNER
Emily Blunt (Into The Woods)
Helen Mirren (The Hundred-Foot Journey)
Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Annie)

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy
Michael Keaton (Birdman) – WINNER
Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Bill Murray (St. Vincent)
Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice)
Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes)

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) – WINNER
Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)

Best Supporting Actor
JK Simmons (Whiplash) – WINNER
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

Best Screenplay
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo (Birdman) – WINNER
Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)
Best Foreign Language Film
Leviathan (Russia) – WINNER
Force Majeure (Sweden)
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem (Israel)
Ida (Poland/Denmark)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – WINNER
Big Hero Six
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
The LEGO Movie
Best Original Score
Jóhann Jóhannsson (Theory of Everything) – WINNER
Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game)
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (Gone Girl)
Antonio Sanchez (Birdman)
Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)
Best Original Song
Glory (Selma) – WINNER
Big Eyes (Big Eyes)
Mercy Is (Noah)
Opportunity (Annie)
Yellow Flicker Beat (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1)
TV:

Best Drama Series
The Affair – WINNER
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Best Comedy Series
Transparent – WINNER
Girls
Jane the Virgin
Orange is the New Black
Silicon Valley
Best Miniseries or TV Movie
Fargo – WINNER
True Detective
The Normal Heart
Olive Kitteridge
The Missing
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Ruth Wilson (The Affair) – WINNER
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder)
Julianna Marguiles (The Good Wife)
Robin Wright (House Of Cards)
Best Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) – WINNER            
Clive Owen (The Knick)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
James Spader (The Blacklist)
Dominic West (The Affair)
Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) – WINNER
Lena Dunham (Girls)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)
Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) – WINNER
Louis CK (Louie)
Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Ricky Gervais (Derek)
William H. Macy (Shameless)

Best Actor in a Limited Series
B
illy Bob Thornton (Fargo) – WINNER
Martin Freeman (Fargo)
Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
Best Actress in a Limited Series
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honorable Woman) – WINNER
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)
Frances O’Connor (The Missing)
Allison Tolman (Fargo)
Best Supporting Actress
Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) – WINNER
Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black)
Kathy Bates (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Michelle Monaghan (True Detective)
Best Supporting Actor
Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart) – WINNER
Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
Colin Hanks (Fargo)
Bill Murray (Oliver Kitteridge)
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)
Photo Credit: HFPA