Nerdy Girl Goes to the Movies: The Heat

The Heat poster

Title: The Heat

Rating: R

Cast: Sandra Bullock (Sarah Ashburn), Melissa McCarthy (Shannon Mullins), Marlon Wayans (Levy), Demian Bichir (Hale), Michael Rapaport (Jason Mullins), Taran Killam (Adam)

Director: Paul Feig

The Basics: The Heat is a classic buddy-cop comedy about an uptight, conceited FBI agent who’s forced to work with a gruff and unorthodox detective from Boston in order to bring down a drug kingpin and murderer. The unique thing about this film is that both the FBI agent and Boston detective are women. Although it’s probably not the greatest cop film anyone will ever see, this film should be remembered for its dedication to focusing solely on the relationship between these two female characters—and what great characters they are. Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock both bring such different but equally fantastic comedic energies to this film, proving once again that a film driven by women can be just as funny as (if not funnier than) a male-centric comedy.

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Performer): There’s no way to separate McCarthy and Bullock when talking about this film, especially not when trying to judge who was better. They were a true team, bringing different comedic styles to the table and bouncing those styles off each other to create something genuinely entertaining. Both actors played variations on roles we’re familiar with (McCarthy’s Mullins was in many ways similar to her role in Bridesmaids, and Bullock’s Ashburn had notes of her performances in both Miss Congeniality and The Proposal.), but the combination of the two of them together was lightning in a bottle. They’re each skilled in so many different ways to be funny—from physical comedy to deadpan delivery to the perfect time to drop an f-bomb (or 10). When I first heard that McCarthy and Bullock were making a buddy-cop comedy together, I knew they would be a dream team, but they exceeded even my high expectations. They seemed to bring out the best and funniest in each other, creating a kind of comedic chemistry that can’t be forced. Actors either have it or they wish they did, and these two have it in spades.

Scene Stealer: The movie really belonged to Bullock and McCarthy—to the point where it was hard to pick someone who diverted any attention away from them. The closest this movie came to having any scene stealers was Mullins’s family. From Joey McIntyre as one of her loudmouthed brothers to Jane Curtin as her constantly disapproving mother, the casting of this family was excellent. The scene where Mullins and Ashburn cram the whole family into a van to get them out of their neighborhood was absolutely hilarious.

Bring the Tissues? Only if you have a tendency to cry when you laugh really hard.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Stay in your seat during the credits for an extra scene featuring Ashburn, Mullins, and the cat Ashburn likes to borrow from her neighbor. It’s worth sticking around for a little bit to get one last laugh in before you leave.

Most Memorable Scene: There were a lot of memorable, hilarious scenes in The Heat, but the funniest scene—the one that combines all of Bullock and McCarthy’s comedic strengths—is the scene where Mullins and Ashburn follow a suspect into a club and attempt to get close to him to bug his phone. Yes, one of the biggest laughs was spoiled in the trailers and commercials for the film (Mullins asking “What’s gonna come popping out?” when she learns what Spanx are for). However, that scene is so much more than just one punch line. When Mullins tells Ashburn to ventilate the area usually covered by her Spanx, I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard. It’s a kind of humor that appeals to women because we can relate and I’d think appeals to men as well because McCarthy and Bullock’s delivery is just so good. And once the women leave the bathroom and go back into the club, it’s physical comedy gold. Watching Bullock try to seduce the suspect while McCarthy yells out encouragement (“Use your boobs!”) was hilarious, and I loved watching them try to get rid of one woman who kept trying to get herself in the middle of their seduction attempt.

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Nerdy Girl Goes to the Movies: Much Ado About Nothing

Much ado poster

Title: Much Ado About Nothing

Rating: PG-13

Cast: Amy Acker (Beatrice), Alexis Denisof (Benedick), Clark Gregg (Leonato), Jillian Morgese (Hero), Fran Kranz (Claudio), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Sean Maher (Don John), Nathan Fillion (Dogberry)

Director: Joss Whedon

The Basics: This most recent cinematic version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy tells the story of two relationships: the love-at-first sight romance between Hero and Claudio and the bickering buildup of love and passion between Beatrice and Benedick. A game of matchmaking initially draws the latter couple closer together, but it’s only when Benedick sides with Beatrice after her cousin Hero is wrongly shamed by Claudio that the two fall in love in earnest. Set in modern times but told using all of Shakespeare’s dialogue (though it has been slightly condensed), Joss Whedon’s take on this story heightens all of its comedy as well as all of its tragic undertones. This film is already the stuff of legend for being shot in only 12 days in Whedon’s own home, and it deserves all the praise that can be sent its way. The cast is brilliant, the direction is smart, and the cinematography is gorgeous. In a movie season usually filled with explosions and animated characters, Much Ado About Nothing is a welcome bit of culture and substance—while still being a whole lot of fun.

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Performer): I didn’t know much about Amy Acker going into this movie: I knew her from her small roles on Alias and Once Upon a Time, and I knew she was a popular Whedonverse actress—but that was it. It took only a few minutes for me to be completely bowled over by her talents and her charm, and now I want to see everything she’s ever been in (and I want her to be the lead in many more films after this one). Acker was truly the perfect Beatrice. Shakespearean English doesn’t sound great coming out of everyone’s mouth, but each line of dialogue rolled off her tongue like she was born to play this role. She brought such a compelling mixture of poise and spunk to her performance, deftly balancing both the comedy of the part and its dramatic moments. Acker proved to be great at both physical comedy (falling down the stairs upon hearing of Benedick’s affection for her) and verbal sparring matches (with her well-matched partner, Alexis Denisof). However, I found her to be most compelling in Beatrice’s darker and quieter moments. Her delivery of Beatrice’s “Oh that I were a man!” monologue was incredibly powerful; I felt all of her pain, anger, and helplessness. And I bought every step along the way in her relationship with Benedick. Acker positively glowed in her softer moments with Denisof, creating a Beatrice who is a gorgeously multifaceted character in life and in love.

Scene Stealer: Much Ado About Nothing is first and foremost a comedy, and the funniest thing about thing about this film was Nathan Fillion’s performance as the pompous-yet-inept officer of the law, Dogberry. He played the part with a shocking amount of subtlety, considering how easy it could be to go overboard with this kind of role. And that decision made every moment he was on screen all the funnier. Fillion, like Acker, delivered each line like he came out of the womb reading Shakespeare, his smooth voice and great comedic timing working their magic to full effect. His gift for physical comedy was also on display, and those small moments—from trying to get on a suit jacket that’s far too small to locking himself out of his car at the end of the film—were just perfect. As a huge fan of Fillion’s work on Castle, it was fun to see the role reversal of him playing a cop, even if Dogberry might be the most ridiculous (and yet ultimately effective) cop in literary history.

Bring the Tissues: While there are some very powerful emotional moments, this is still a Shakespearean comedy, which means you can probably leave the tissues at home for this one.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? There’s nothing hidden after the credits for this film.

Most Memorable Scene: This film felt like a string of one memorable scene after another: the first party scene (which I found more fun and more entertaining than the first party in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby), all of the matchmaking exploits (Denisof’s attemps to eavesdrop made me cry with laughter), Hero and Caludio’s dramatic wedding, every scene featuring Dogberry, the joyous party at the end…

But if I had to pick just one scene, I think my selection would be surprisingly dramatic for a Shakespearean comedy. The scene where Beatrice and Benedick confess their love after Hero’s wedding disaster was incredibly powerful. Acker and Denisof both brought such a sense of total commitment to that scene and to each other as scene partners—it was a beautiful thing to behold. Acker’s grief was painfully palpable; I believed every tear that ran down her face. And Denisof was equally convincing in his dedication to her and his desire to do whatever it takes to make her pain end. This scene jumps back and forth so sharply between tragedy and romance that it calls for two actors who are strong as individuals but even stronger together, and that’s exactly what Acker and Denisof were in this film. This scene was the best showcase for their chemistry. Yes, I loved their bantering scenes, but this scene—with its sweeping undercurrent of passion and devotion—made me truly believe the love between Beatrice and Benedick in a way I don’t normally believe most Shakespearean love stories.

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This Is a Mistake: An Evening With Judd Apatow

My good friend Ryan (who also happens to be a fantastic writer) recently saw This is 40 and had so many feelings about it that he needed a place to get them out. Luckily for us at NGN, he turned to me for a place to share his thoughts and is now the first official Nerdy Guy to join our great group of writers!

Many things conspired to get me into a theater to see This is 40 on a Friday night. Gift cards, mainly, but also a late dinner and the poor scheduling of a Regal Cinemas that only offered showtimes after 8:20 for the Judd Apatow movie and a Texas Chainsaw reboot. I’d still pick This is 40 out of those options–if only because of Freaks and Geeks–but, for the record, Texas Chainsaw 3D was sold out. The evening was doomed from the start.

I don’t have 40 reasons why This is 40 was terrible. That would be all too convenient. My mix of reasons gets lost in a sea of anger over losing $20 in a transaction that gave me back a movie which was 45 minutes too long. I lost money and time I will never get back. Ever. Judd Apatow is trying to kill me.

Sitting through This is 40 made me uncomfortable. It showed on my face. I squirmed and shifted my weight in my seat. I felt trapped. A couple behind me left midway through the movie. They are better people than I and, perhaps, value their time and money with slightly different ratios. Neither of them had a blog post to write, I suppose.

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Nerdy Girl Goes to the Movies: Silver Linings Playbook

Title: Silver Linings Playbook

Rating: R

Cast: Bradley Cooper (Pat), Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany), Robert De Niro (Pat Sr.), Jacki Weaver (Dolores), Chris Tucker (Danny)

Director: David O. Russell

The Basics: This unconventional romantic dramadey tells the story of Pat Solitano, a Philadelphia native (and Eagles fan by birth) adjusting to life with his parents after spending eight months in treatment for bipolar disorder. Though Pat was hospitalized following the discovery of his wife’s affair and his subsequent attack on man she was cheating with, Pat still hopes to win her back (despite her restraining order against him). But along the way, Pat meets his match in Tiffany, a young widow facing her own struggles with mental illness who shows him that life is a lot like dance—all you need is the right partner. Featuring brilliant performances, an unflinching directorial style, and a script filled with humor and heart, Silver Linings Playbook is the kind of movie Hollywood doesn’t make nearly enough—a genuinely feel-good story about love in all of its forms and all of its messy glory.

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Performer): In order for this film to work, both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence had to turn in strong performances, and, lucky for us as viewers, they delivered the best performances I’ve seen from either of their careers in Silver Linings Playbook. Cooper was the one I was most worried about, having only known him as the lovable best friend on Alias and the arrogant pretty boy in movies like Wedding Crashers and The Hangover. Needless to say, he exceeded my expectations tenfold here. There was something so vulnerable in his portrayal of Pat, a fear of himself and his illness that only a brave actor could bring to the surface. Cooper captured every nuance with detail and care; we believe that Pat is a man who could brutally beat another man, but we also believe that Pat is a man who is capable of immense amounts of goodness as well. Pat could have been an obnoxious caricature of a bipolar man obsessed with a wife who clearly doesn’t love him. But thanks to Cooper’s depth and fearless emotional honesty, Pat is instead a character that we care about and care for immensely, the broken but beautiful soul of this movie.

Cooper needed a true match in order to bring out the best in his performance, and the filmmakers found that in Lawrence, who should find herself at the top of the Best Actress Oscar race for the excellent work she did in this film. The maturity she brings to her scenes is astounding. She’s by turns laugh-out-loud funny, radiantly charming, and brutally sad, and she balances every facet of this complex woman with a dexterity that I’ve rarely seen even in the most seasoned actresses. In order for this film to succeed, we have to believe that there is something inherently lovable in these two characters, and we have to see them recognize that something in each other. Cooper and Lawrence are resoundingly successful at achieving both of those aims.

Scene Stealer: Robert De Niro shines at Pat Solitano Sr., a man plagued by his own demons but trying his best to help the son he clearly loves. De Niro gives a warmth to this character that adds another layer of authenticity to the film. Pat Sr. is a complex bundle of neuroses, anger issues, and helplessness in the face of his son’s bipolar disorder, and De Niro finds the humanity in that bundle and brings it to life with a captivatingly understated kind of power.

Bring the Tissues? If you aren’t made of stone, then the answer is a resounding yes. I found myself getting intensely choked up on many occasions throughout the film. I was especially moved by any scene in which Lawrence showed the cracks in Tiffany’s bristly exterior. And the beautiful release of emotions I felt at the conclusion of the movie was itself worth the price of the ticket.

Most Memorable Scene: I’m not sure it gets better than Lawrence going head-to-toe with De Niro as Tiffany rattles off all of the Philly sports victories that have occurred since she and Pat started spending time together. That scene is only made better by watching Pat’s face as it starts to dawn on him just how special this woman really is.

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