The Kitchen review

For inSing

THE KITCHEN

Director: Andrea Berloff
Cast : Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Camp, Margo Martindale, Common, Brian d’Arcy James, James Badge Dale, Jeremy Bobb
Genre : Action/Adventure
Run Time : 1 h 43 mins
Opens : 8 August 2019
Rating : NC16

It is 1978, and the New York underworld will come to know and fear three women.

Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby O’Caroll (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) are the wives of three Irish mobsters who get caught by the FBI and are shipped off to prison. Seeing an opening and left with little choice, they decide to step in, running their own protection racket. This causes them to run afoul of their husbands’ compatriots like Little Jackie (Myk Watford) and Ruby’s mother-in-law, the mob matriarch Helen O’Caroll (Margo Martindale).

Further complicating matters is the return of Gabriel O’Malley (Domhnall Gleeson), an enforcer who escaped to lie low and is now back in town. Claire finds herself falling for Gabriel, while Kathy and Ruby butt heads over how the business is to be run. The ladies eventually find themselves dealing with powerful Italian mafia don Alfonso Coretti (Bill Camp), based out of Brooklyn. While they find success with their burgeoning criminal empire, the bodies start piling up and the women realise they may have bitten off more than they can chew.

The Kitchen is based on the DC/Vertigo graphic novel of the same name, written by Ollie Masters and illustrated by Ming Doyle. The film marks the directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, who was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Straight Outta Compton. The Kitchen is a brash, stylish film that plays on audiences’ familiarity with gritty gangster movies. The 70s New York portrayed in The Kitchen looks authentically grimy at first but leans into the “I’m walking here!” stereotypes and the movie is beholden to expectations of mob-centric media.

The film lulls viewers into a false sense of security in knowing where everything’s headed, before a final act packed with explosive twists. This is an appropriately bloody, violent movie, but there is some levity sprinkled throughout. The Kitchen seems to face the dilemma of wanting to give us three-dimensional characters while delivering as many recognisable mafia movie elements as possible.

Another dilemma is that the film is presented as being empowering and is fronted by three women, but at the end of the day, they are committing crimes and it can be a bit uncomfortable to find oneself cheering as bodies get sawn up.  It is possible to say “it was a different time” and go along with that, to a point. Perhaps it is a way of reclaiming how movies like The Godfather, Scarface or Goodfellas seemed to model masculinity, but The Kitchen does not dig into its moral greyness as deeply as it could’ve.

A big part of what makes this work as well as it does is the cast, led by Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy’s Kathy is likeable, non-violent and innately decent, but is also ambitious and resourceful. Even though the characters are engaging in criminal activity, McCarthy’s sympathetic performance is often just enough to keep audiences in the protagonists’ corner. She knows there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed, but the women keep barrelling towards – and past – said line.

One of the major changes from the source material is the Ruby O’Carroll character, who is depicted here as a black woman who has married into an Irish mob family and resents her status as an outsider. Haddish brings a fire to the role but can’t quite evince the same depths that McCarthy can and seems ever so slightly more limited as a performer.

Elisabeth Moss’ Claire has the arc of going from the victim of domestic abuse to revelling in practicing violence on anyone who stands in her way. Moss is entertaining when Claire is unhinged, but the character is overall less interesting than the other two, who also have more control of the narrative.

Domhnall Gleeson’s quietly, disconcertingly detached Vietnam veteran hitman character provides some of the film’s more memorable moments, but Gabriel’s romance with Claire seems played more for laughs than for drama.

The film’s supporting cast includes excellent character actors like Margo Martindale and Bill Camp doing fine work, with Common getting not a lot to do as an FBI agent who watches things go down from afar.

If you don’t watch many mob movies, there’s enough to like about The Kitchen, with director Berloff showing plenty of panache. The cast seem to enjoy making the film, and McCarthy is especially outstanding. However, the film doesn’t attain the level of complexity it seems to be shooting for and is sometimes torn between serving up visceral thrills and shocks and being a compelling character study. Still, it is a good change of pace from the typically male-driven 70s mob movie.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Ghostbusters

For F*** Magazine

GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

Director : Paul Feig
Cast : Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Andy García, Charles Dance
Genre : Action/Comedy
Run Time : 1 hr 56 mins
Opens : 14 July 2016
Rating : PG (Some Frightening Scenes)

Ghostbusters posterA new gang dons the jumpsuits and the proton packs in this reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise. Dr. Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is a particle physics professor at Columbia University who had a falling out with Abby Yates (McCarthy), a paranormal researcher who co-authored a book with Erin. Abby is now working with nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), and an unexplained occurrence at New York’s historical Aldridge Mansion forces Erin and Abby to make amends. After witnessing a ghost on the train tracks, Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker Patty Tolan (Jones) volunteers to join the trio, rendering in-depth knowledge of New York’s history and geography. The dim-witted but handsome Kevin Beckman (Hemsworth) is hired as the crew’s receptionist, and they come to be known as the ‘Ghostbusters’. The team traces the recent spate of paranormal activity back to Rowan (Casey), an unhinged hotel bellhop bent on unleashing hell on earth. The Ghostbusters take on both malevolent spectres and repeated attempts to discredit them as the city is brought to its knees by the ghastly apparitions.

Ghostbusters Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones

It’s impossible to talk about the Ghostbusters reboot without bringing up the spectre of negativity that has clung to it from the moment the idea was mooted. Across the internet, there were innumerable cries of childhoods being ruined, and dismay that the four members of the classic team had been replaced by women. Vitriol including death threats was spewed at all involved. The cast and filmmakers hit back, with McCarthy opining that all opposed to the Ghostbusters remake were man-children living in their mothers’ basements. It just kept getting uglier, on all sides. The original cast endorsed the reboot and several of them have cameos, but leaked emails revealed that Sony was threatening “aggressive litigation” against Bill Murray if he didn’t promote the film. Murray was famously reticent to appear in 1989’s Ghostbusters II and his refusal to co-operate with Dan Aykroyd was what put the nail in the coffin of a third film in the original series.

Ghostbusters Chris Hemsworth, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy

Sure, some of the arguments against the Ghostbusters reboot have merit, and this is yet another demonstration of how heavily Hollywood banks on recognisable, marketable franchises. It’s not so much that there are no new ideas, but that studio executives largely refuse to put faith in said ideas because they aren’t proven. There’s a lot to strip away, but when one gets down to it, this can’t help but feel like a storm in a teacup – or an ectoplasmic vortex in a ghost trap, if you will. Stop the presses: Ghostbusters ’16 is nowhere near as disastrous as its detractors have been hoping it would be.

Ghostbusters Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon suited up

Director Feig and his cast have a proven track record of bringing the funny, which they do in spades here. The style of humour is brash and in-your-face compared to the more sardonic jokes in the original Ghostbusters films, but a good amount of jokes land. Not all of them, to be sure, but enough of them. Abby, Erin, Jillian and Patty are not merely gender-swapped versions of Ray, Peter, Egon and Winston. An adequate balance has been struck between respectful tips of the hat to Ghostbusters movies past and comedic stylings that are unmistakably Feig’s, with Feig’s and co-writer Katie Dippold’s affection for the source material readily apparent. As such, it is a bit of an ironic shame that so many die-hard fans have long decided to boycott this reboot when more than a few morsels of fan-service are tossed their way. The cameos are generally pretty fun and had this reviewer wanting to see more, but they’re brief enough so as not to be wholly gratuitous.

Ghostbusters Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones on the train tracks

This reviewer thinks McCarthy is funnier when she’s more understated, so it’s great to see her ably take on the position of team leader. This is a cast that absolutely clicks, and we never thought we’d say it, but their camaraderie does rival that of Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and Hudson in places. Jones’ Patty is plenty loud and sassy and might come off as a racist stereotype, but her character actually feels more like she’s a part of the team than Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore did. And hey, a regular everywoman who’s not a scientist is a Ghostbuster; that’s absolutely fine. It is McKinnon who handily steals the show, getting some of the best lines as the team’s resident wacky wild card. McKinnon’s spot-on impressions of Ellen DeGeneres, Hillary Clinton and Justin Bieber amongst others on Saturday Night Live have garnered her considerable attention, but Ghostbusters just might be what rockets her up the comedy actor A-list, where she belongs.

Ghostbusters Chris Hemsworth

Hemsworth is game and entertaining as the receptionist who’s practically too dumb to function, slightly reminiscent of Jason Statham’s sendup of his action hero persona in Feig’s previous film Spy. The characterisation does seem like it comes from some place of resentment though, seeing as Annie Potts’ memorable Janine from the original films wasn’t an airhead at all. The film’s villain is obviously not where the focus lies, but while Casey’s Rowan is creepy, he doesn’t cross over into being legitimately threatening and amounts to a regrettably forgettable foe. It’s also less than ideal that the film’s climax is pretty much a bog-standard big ole CGI-infused melee in Times Square, the likes of which we’ve seen many times before. It doesn’t hold a candle to the iconic Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man rampage of the first film, or even the Statue of Liberty marching through New York in the second.

Ghostbusters climactic battle

Is the Ghostbusters reboot the best idea to come out of Hollywood? No. But thanks to the efforts of Feig and his talented, watchable cast, it succeeds where many reboots haven’t, as just enough of its own thing. Feig, Dippold and the other filmmakers have been given enough free rein such that this doesn’t come off as just a studio-mandated cash grab. There’s also no indication that there was any desire to supplant the original films or deny their legacy exists. Stick around for extra clips interspersed through the end credits, plus a post-credits stinger to cap it all off.

Summary: It’s not too hot to handle nor is it too cold to hold, but Ghostbusters is largely funny and well-made. Despite being stuck in the shadow of the towering original, it’s pretty enjoyable.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Heeding the Call: Ghostbusters Singapore red carpet

For F*** Magazine

HEEDING THE CALL

Ghostbusters star Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig grace the red carpet as fans set a world record
By Jedd Jong

Inclement weather threatened the Ghostbusters red carpet and fan event at the Event Plaza at Marina Bay Sands on Sunday night, but the skies cleared up just in time and fans’ spirits remained undampened. A group of 263 people clad in white hoodies, trousers and masks set a new Guinness World Records title for the Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Ghosts in a Single Venue. Radio deejays Justin Ang, Vernon A, Joakim Gomez and Gerald Koh served as emcees, dressed in Ghostbusters uniforms with inflatable proton packs.

The event was organized by Sony Pictures Entertainment to promote the new Ghostbustersreboot film starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth, and directed by Paul Feig. Both McCarthy and Feig were in attendance, greeting fans and signing autographs on the red carpet. The female-led reboot has been met with harsh criticism from long-time Ghostbusters fans, but one wouldn’t be able to tell based on the warm reception McCarthy and Feig received.

Commenting on this record, Feig said, “Seeing this many people get their ghost on and set a Guinness World Records title is a true testament to this amazing franchise that Dan [Aykroyd], Harold [Ramis] and Ivan [Reitman] created 32 years ago.  Fortunately, I ain’t afraid of no ghosts because we were up to our armpits in them.  Ghostbusters of the world, gear up!” Feig was accompanied by his wife Laurie on the red carpet.


Rishi Nath, the Guinness World Records Adjudicator who presented McCarthy and Feig with an official certificate, added, “We are incredibly impressed the fans’ dedication to Ghostbusters as well as their sense of adventure and fun.  It’s official – this is a fantastic achievement!”



The event kicks off several days of Hollywood glamour as the Sony Summit continues apace in Singapore, with Inferno stars Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan and director Ron Howard as well as The Magnificent Seven director Antoine Fuqua set to grace the red carpet this week.


Ghostbusters opens July 14 2016.

The Boss

For F*** Magazine

THE BOSS 

Director : Ben Falcone
Cast : Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Tyler Labine, Kathy Bates, Annie Mumulo, Kristen Schaal, Kathy Bates
Genre : Comedy
Run Time : 99 mins
Opens : 21 April 2016
Rating : M18 (Sexual References and Coarse Language)

Melissa McCarthy has become one of the most in-demand comedic actors in Hollywood, and her latest starring vehicle sees her in a position of power as the 47th wealthiest woman in the United States. McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a business mogul and popular financial guru who gets knocked down a few pegs when she’s convicted of insider trading. Starting from scratch after her release from prison, she has nowhere to stay except with her former assistant Claire Rawlins (Bell). The long-suffering Claire has moved on to a new job, trying to provide for her daughter Rachel (Anderson). Michelle hatches a business plan to create a brownie empire off Claire’s secret family recipe. Michelle’s long-time nemesis and former lover Renault (Dinklage) is bent on preventing Michelle from getting back on her feet. Michelle has to learn to become equal partners with Claire, the woman she used to boss around, if her plan is going to succeed.

            The Boss is directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, who also makes a cameo appearance as a lawyer. Falcone previously directed McCarthy in Tammy, and the couple also co-wrote The Boss with Steve Mallory. Mallory is a friend of theirs from the comedy troupe Groundlings, and Michelle Darnell is based on a character McCarthy developed during her time at the Groundlings. This sounds like a bunch of friends having a laugh – while there’s no rule saying that a bunch of friends having a laugh cannot produce a solid movie, The Boss comes off as flimsy and self-indulgent. There must be hundreds of smarter, sharper comedy scripts floating around Hollywood, but this gets made because of the clout McCarthy has garnered, and due to the influence of producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

            While McCarthy is undeniably talented, like every actor out there, she has certain strengths and weaknesses. She’s at her best as the scrappy, brash underdog who musters up the gumption when it counts the most. The Michelle Darnell character is obnoxious, confrontational and generally unpleasant. Her sappy backstory – that she bounced around foster homes living a childhood of rejection – is intended to mitigate Michelle’s repulsive behaviour to those around her, especially those trying to help her. It comes off as lazy writing and there’s the promise that the character will be forced to eat her humble pie and change her ways, but any redemption is half-hearted at best. Around half the jokes consist of Michelle blurting out something grossly inappropriate in the presence of children, while the adults gasp and the kids ask “what’s ‘girl-on-girl’?” Rachel seems to get along with Michelle almost immediately, overcoming her initial suspicions of her mother’s former boss with convenient ease. Again, pretty lazy writing.

            Bell is a charming performer whose sunny disposition has served her well in other comedic roles. She does get a few scenes in which the chemistry she shares with McCarthy approaches funny – there’s an extended gag in which Michelle is giving Claire advice about what bra she should wear out for a date where some passable physical comedy is on display from both actors. However, it’s all too clear that this is McCarthy’s show and she’s not going to let anyone steal it from her.

Dinklage, a consummate scene-stealer if ever there was one, is criminally underused as the main antagonist. He is entertaining with the little screen time he gets, but the character is little more than Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, complete with a Smithers in the form of his lackey Stephan (Timothy Simons). The actors who were considered for the role which would become Dinklage’s include names as varied as Oprah Winfrey, Jon Hamm and Sandra Bullock. This indicates there wasn’t really a strong idea for who the villain would be, other than a name actor. Bates gets even shorter shrift, appearing as Michelle’s spurned mentor Ida Marquette in two scenes. Dave Bautista showed up in the teaser trailer, but has apparently been cut from the finished film.  

            The Boss has a very sitcom-esque premise: powerful woman used to having things her way has to move in with her beleaguered assistant and shenanigans ensue. Because the germ of the idea feels so much like something you’d see on network TV (that would get cancelled after one season), the swearing and brazen sexual humour feel like they’ve been shoehorned in to make this an edgy, R-rated comedy – and edgy, The Boss absolutely is not. McCarthy’s numerous detractors are highly unlikely to be swayed by her latest starring vehicle, which comes off as little more than a flat, cynical exercise.

Summary:Playing a noxious, unlikeable character whose actions are given the flimsiest excuse, Melissa McCarthy’s comedic skills are largely wasted in The Boss.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong