Sisters

We are happy to announce that today will be our good friend Jen Gouchoe’s debut, providing her take on the new Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy Sisters. Directed by Jason Moore and starring Fey, Poehler and Maya Rudolph, it is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use.

From IMDB: Two sisters, Kate (Fey) and Maura Ellis (Poehler) decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home.

7 out of 10

I won’t lie, I had low expectations for this movie. Of course, I wanted my two main gals, Tina and Amy, to hit a home-run, but the plot seemed a little tiresome. Two sisters with two completely different personalities learn from each other and find themselves — by partying! Blah, blah, blah… But I have to hand it to them; they managed to take a seemingly cliche plotline and turn it into a smash comedy (and one that doesn’t just appeal to females, I might add).

When Kate and Maura Ellis (Fey and Amy Poehler) find out their parents have sold their cherished childhood home, they decide to go out with a bang and throw one last “Ellis Island” party. What could go wrong?

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As I mentioned before, the plot was nothing to write home about. The subplot with Kate’s precocious teenage daughter was a bit boring, but I suppose they needed to throw in some friction so the movie didn’t seem like one giant party (which, it mostly was). But what made the movie so great was Tina and Amy’s banter. They are an unstoppable duo, and they manage to produce the wittiest one-liners on the spot. There’s something to be said for on-screen chemistry, and the two of them sure have it.

The main event of this movie was the epic party scene. It was mesmerizing. I’m pretty sure every teenager, myself included, dreams of having a party this nicely decorated. While this movie may not be highly commended for its cinematography, I was impressed by the lighting and overall camerawork. From the fluorescent stringed lights to the aerial shots of the pool, the movie beautifully illustrated a party jacked up on steroids (or maybe Flintstones gummy vitamins, in this case) before the inevitable mess is to come.

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You would think you would get tired of watching a bunch of middle-aged people party for over an hour, but it was surprisingly enthralling. From the awkward beginning, where they perfectly capture the painful accuracies of middle-aged life, to the eventual demise, Tina and Amy take you through a journey of love, loss, and many #relatable moments (having to be the “Party Mom” deeply resonated with me).

While the development of Kate and Maura was the main focus, the ancillary characters were the hidden gems of this film. It was an SNL reunion in disguise, and it couldn’t have been executed better. Bobby Moynihan played the cringe-worthy comedian who takes his “Stevia”-fueled antics a little too far. Kate McKinnon was dressed in bermuda jorts, leading her brigade of lesbians. And Maya Rudolph… Oh, Maya Rudolph. Just her facial expressions alone won me over.

Though I was disappointed when the party scene finally concluded and the movie continued with its corny plot-line, I wasn’t bored at all towards the end. Despite the lack of partying in the final scenes, I was still interested in seeing how Kate and Maura would work out their sister issues. Sure, it may have all wrapped up in a perfect, predictable little bow, but the dynamic duo’s humor overpowered the lackluster plot. I have not laughed out loud during a movie in a long time, so thank you, Tina and Amy. Keep up the good work, ladies.
~Jen

6.5 out of 10

I usually shy away from picking the funny films to review since I find dissecting comedy to be rather dicey business but (after a slight, six-month, post-Trainwreck respite) I was actually quite glad I sprung for the latest Fey-Poehler powerhour, Sisters.

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Is it comedic genius? Certainly not. If you’re looking for some classy comedy, steer clear from here (Just not towards Daddy’s Home) because Sisters is unadulterated raunchfest. If I’m being particularly honest with the Anton Ego in me, there were dozens of parts that pulled a giggle or two out of me that really shouldn’t have but, hey, sometimes you just have to unleash that immature twelve year old inside to have to have a little fun at the theatre.

Yes, the jokes in here are far from grown-up (and some are definitely aching to keep up with the times) but they more often than not hit bullseyes, boosted from the sheer, real chemistry between our two leads who can naturally inject comedy into any situation with some pitch-perfect pacing and awkward acting. In fact, all of the actors in this are well-chosen, with those on the sidelines carrying their smaller scenes with especial hilarity. For example, John Cena (Need I link you to this clip?) pops in this one as a drug dealer and justifies his dive into acting once again, flexing both his comedic chops and actual muscles, of course. Maya Rudolph shows as the film’s antagonist and pleasantly surprises as she actually steals the show with some solid delivery.

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This one also achieves that beat of mean comedy well. The party that rages through a third of the movie (which actually boasts a killer, booming soundtrack) and (minor spoilers) gets pretty out of hand takes off in a fun way similar movies like Project X or The Hangover sequels couldn’t quite pull off in their stories and the selfishness of some of the characters is played deftly for laughs. None of the out-of-hand antics feel too contrived or overstay their welcome. In short, they go too far enough.

Of course, there has to be an emotional subplot and we’re definitely not spared here. Some of the drama is pretty shoehorned and, yes, you’re just waiting for them to get back to the comedy the whole time, you do know where it’s all going as it unfolds. That being said though, it’s relatively brisk and our colorful characters are likable enough to carry it out.

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So, in between trillion-ton heavy features like Spotlight and Big Short, Sisters was just the immature breather I needed. It’s fresh, fast fun amidst the glut of Academy Award epics rolling out right now (Don’t worry, we’ll get to those in a few days.) even if it’s not the highest brow brand of humor. If you want a non-lightsaber-laden cinematic escape in the coming weeks, give Sisters a shot and rediscover how nice it is to see Poehler and Fey team up on the silver screen.
~Zach

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Inside Out

Hey everyone! This week we take a look at Pixar’s latest feature film, Inside Out. Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Mindy Kaling, the film is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action.

Inside Out takes a look at Riley, a teenage girl growing up, and the emotions- Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness- that control her. Life is good for Riley until her family suddenly uproots and moves to San Francisco. Riley has to leave everything behind, and her emotions have to adjust to a new life.

9 out of 10

As gut-wrenching as it is to say, Pixar has slipped these past couple years. With mediocre releases such as Monsters University and Cars 2, they lost the innovation and quality that a Pixar feature film has always had. However, Inside Out has brought them back to the high level that we’re used to seeing. Not only was the animation excellent, per usual, but the film featured exceptionally strong characters and a moving, innovative story.

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Though it goes without saying that Pixar does a good job with the animation of their films, I was especially impressed here. The one thing that made this film so appealing was the incredibly intricate use of color, and the animation allowed that to pop. Not to mention, there was a scene in which the characters literally shifted to being two-dimensional, which was done really done. All the little details created by the animators were what allowed this movie to be so visually appealing. Props to them.

 If you want to get technical, then calling this film a road-trip would be appropriate. The two main characters, Joy and Sadness, played by Poehler and Smith respectively, find themselves miles away from their headquarters with a desperate need to get back. I found myself fighting for them to get back, probably with a greater sense of panic that they were. Every objective that they faced, I was as frustrated with. My point is, I was invested and along for the ride. Tears were indeed shed. The movie’s plot was unique like no other– I was astounded by the creativity of the entire thing. The premise was incredibly inventive; I mean, the emotions inside of our body actually being alive? Who comes up with that stuff?

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They did a very nice job on all the characters too. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from The Office!) were on point and had really great chemistry. The supporting cast of Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling were hilarious and provided great support. Even more so, the way that each of the emotions were personified was incredibly well done. The characters were probably the most well executed aspect of this film, end to end.

The most powerful thing about the film was its deeper meaning. The whole connotation surrounding love and family was perfectly executed, especially as this film was able to recognize its audience. Slightly more mature kids, but still younger children. And even more impressively, though this film was not intended for angsty 17 year olds, it still hit hard. It featured a universal message that appeals to all age groups, and did it with perfect execution.

Now Inside Out did have minor flaws- at times it felt like they were desperate to add another obstacle for Joy and Sadness to encounter, undoubtedly making it feel a bit stretched. I’d say 5-10 minutes could be cut out without any of the important substance being lost. That being said, this can be easily forgiven. While it could have been shorter, those 5-10 minutes were still entertaining and well worth my time.

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When it gets down to it, Inside Out is one of my favorite films of the year so far. It is moving, charming, and an incredibly innovative film. Inside Out is definitely a film that will ultimately rank among Pixar’s bests, not to mention one that puts the studio back on track after 3 years of (relative) duds.
~Vig

9.0 out of 10

Inside Out has been widely heralded as a return to form for Pixar following the studio’s misfires with Cars, Cars 2, and Monsters University. The studio has pledged a number of sequels, including Finding Dory, Cars 3 (yikes), The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4, all set to be released in the coming years. But with Inside Out, Pixar proves that it still has the glorious creativity and originality that has defined it for more than a decade.

And yes, Inside Out is as inventive as a film can get. Many have chided it for following the perceived Pixar formula – what if _____ had feelings? – but Inside Out manages to find its own niche even within its classic mold. It takes an inventive look inside the mind of a young girl nearing her teenage years and introduces us to the feelings that, for better and for worse, control her emotions.

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It has all the winning energy, animation, and gags necessary to keep the attention of its younger target audience. The emotions are all gorgeously animated, the vocal work is fantastic, and the scenery is bright and full of action and adventure. Sequences with Bing Bong, the protagonist’s childhood imaginary friend, are dazzling and fully entertaining. The story is easy enough to follow, with potentially confusing plot structures thoroughly explained at the beginning of the movie in a way that doesn’t feel forced. The movie’s relatively short runtime ensures that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and bore its potentially fidgety young audience members.

Beyond that, though, Inside Out has all the deeper meaning that has come to characterize the upper echelon of Pixar films. It has plenty of puns and subtle word play (Anger’s head lights on fire because he’s a hothead, Sadness is shaped like a teardrop) and references and situations that will hit home only for audiences who have been through the emotional development Riley is beginning to experience. Inside Out also makes a real inquiry into hour our brains function and how our actions can be dictated by our emotions. We take rides on the train of thought, see memories fade into blackness, and see the struggle for control our emotions wage within our minds.

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The only place Inside Out loses some points is in its middle stages. The beginning of the movie, where we are introduced to the emotions and each has its hilarious moment in the spotlight, is absolutely amazing. The ending, where each finds its new, more complex role within Riley’s mind, is again absolutely amazing. In the middle though, it seems almost as if the director was looking for a way to extend the running time, and we were met with a number of seemingly meaningless plot details which, while entirely entertaining, were ultimately unnecessary for the conclusion of the story and had the sense of prolonging the natural course of the story.

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These minor hitches cannot undermine the sheer brilliance of Inside Out. It is simultaneously uproariously funny and heartbreakingly sad, blissfully slapstick and pensively subtle. It is a win for audiences of all ages and all but a guarantee for Best Animated Feature of the Year. Maybe it can even score a Best Picture nomination.
~Will

 

Thoughts on… Golden Globes 2015

The 2015 Golden Globes have passed! While some criticize the Globes as the sloppier and more inappropriate cousins of the Oscars, they are actually enjoyable for these very reasons. They don’t have the stuffiness of the Oscars, and while the awards may not mean nearly as much, it’s always great fun to have hosts not afraid to poke fun at Hollywood, and something is bound to happen when there are so many famous and self-absorbed people in one room. So here’s our reaction to the 2015 Golden Globes.

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey go out in major style:
Globes monologues have always been rowdy and somewhat controversial, most notably with Ricky Gervais’ raucous openings in recent years, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have successfully continued that condition during their three years of hosting. This year, the duo’s last year, they tackled George Clooney’s marriage (which was absolutely hilarious), The Interview, and Bill Cosby’s rape allegations.

Jeremy Renner makes the best joke of the night:
While Renner and Jennifer Lopez were presenting, Lopez said that she had the envelope containing the result, to which Renner replied “and you’ve got the globes”. Queue the laughs.

How to Train Your Dragon upsets The Lego Movie:
I’ve gotten some major flak for my love of How to Train Your Dragon 2 and my insistence that it’s better than The Lego Movie. Vig says it doesn’t even compare and my other friend says its borderline terrible. Well, my friends, How to Train Your Dragon 2 took the win, and here’s to hoping that this trend continues in February at the Oscars.

No one was more surprised than Amy Adams:
That she took down Emily Blunt for actress musical or comedy. She looked absolutely shocked, (genuinely though, for often at these shows the actors fake surprise) and her speech was a little bit all over the place. Unfortunately for her, she’ll be denied the Oscar again in favor of Julianne Moore. She is definitely Leonardo DiCaprio’s counterpart.

Amazon wins multiple awards:
For it’s comedy show Transparent, a groundbreaking show about a transsexual parent. Poehler and Fey’s quip from a few years ago that Snapchat will soon be accepting Best Picture seems frighteningly relevant.

Neither Leonardo DiCaprio nor Jennifer Lawrence attend:
There were some great movies this year, some fantastic movies really, but you can’t help but feel a bit of a void without arguably the most popular actress and actor producing any cirtically lauded work this year. Next year both should make returns, Lawrence for Joy and DiCaprio for The Revenant.

The Grand Budapest Hotel upsets Birdman to take Best Picture Comedy or Musical:
Does this mean Birdman’s Oscar Hopes are out the window? The path certainly seems clear for Boyhood (or perhaps Selma) to take Best Picture in February, especially considering that it took Best Picture Drama. I’d say it’s the odds on favorite at this point.

Movies that nobody’s seen are nominated once again:
Julianne Moore won best actress drama for her performance in Still Alice. I’m sure it’s great, at least that’s what I’ve read, but damn it would be nice to actually be able to see it for myself. But it’s not out in theaters yet. Neither is Cake. So given that Moore was a lock for best actress and Aniston was one of the only ones with some upset potential, I essentially had no reason to watch or care about the best actress category, one of the most important of the night.