Friday, June 28, 2013

Sandra Bullock Talks Dirty

Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock hang Spoken Reasons out to dry

“The Heat” is Hilarious in an R-Rated Fashion

By Skip Sheffield

“Cagney and Lacey” was never like this.
Sure, “The Heat’ has two mismatched female buddy cops like the popular 1981-1988 TV series, but Cagney and Lacey never talked or misbehaved so outrageously as this crude contemporary comedy by director Paul Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold.
Paul Feig established his reputation with the raunchy R-rated comedies “Knocked Up” and “Bridesmaids,” which launched the career of plus-sized actress Melissa McCarthy.
“The Heat” ups the raunch factor because it stars Melissa McCarthy as slovenly, rude, foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins, paired with prim, arrogant and proper FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, played by top-billed Sandra Bullock.
Bullock has been down this road before as the icy beauty queen of “Miss Congeniality,” but under Feig’s direction she really lets loose by trampling on her goody two-shoes screen image.
Feig lets us know from the outset this will not be a serious cop caper, with an opening montage of images reminiscent of 1970s and 1980s cop shows.
Bullock’s character is established first as an insufferable, tightly-wound, know-it-all FBI agent in New York City who can’t understand why she is not a shoo-in for a promotion when one of her superiors leaves.
“I don’t know if you are the right person for the job,” suggests her boss, Hale (Mexican actor Demian Bichir) tactfully.
Hale offers a test. There is a ruthless drug lord wreaking havoc in Boston. If Ashburn can bring him down, the gig is hers. Easier said than done.
In order to get closer to the street, Ashburn is paired with Shannon Mullins, a feisty Irish cop who knows the mean streets of South Boston only too well.
Officer Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) drives a rusty, battered 1960s AMC sedan and she drives it like Dale Earnhardt, junior and senior.
McCarthy is a brilliant and fearless physical comedian who uses her bulky body to best advantage. She is also proud and unapologetic as Officer Mullins, and so by-the-book she put away her own brother Jason (Michael Rappaport) when he got mixed up with drugs.
“The Heat” is very predictable. Of course Ashburn and Mullins have hate at first sight. Of course over a series of misadventures and close-calls they will begin to bond as sisters-in-arms. And naturally there will be a bar scene where they both get embarrassingly drunk.
Yes, the plot is a big bag of hooey with a last-minute reveal of the unexpected real bad guy. What makes it so enjoyable is the perfect casting of Bullock and McCarthy as polar opposites who don’t seem to be acting at all. Unexpected pleasures include Marlon Wayans as a handsome FBI guy with an eye for Bullock; Florida-born comedian Spoken Reasons as a jive-talking punk; Dan Bakkedahl as a screwy albino DEA agent with a big grudge, and a large and unruly gang who play Mullins’ family and friends, headed by Jane Curtin as the matriarch. My how she has aged since “Saturday Night Live,” but haven’t we all?

If you just want to laugh and you don’t mind crude humor, “The Heat” may just be your bag of hooey- and it is all done without CG special effects.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do You Ever Really Know the One You Love?


“The Attack” Puts a Face on Terrorism

By Skip Sheffield

“The Attack” puts a face on terrorism: that of lovely Israeli actress Reymond Amsalem.
She plays Siham Jafaari, wife of Amin Jafaari (Arab Israeli actor Ari Suliman), a much-respected Arab-born surgeon working at a hospital in Tel Aviv.
“The Attack” is written and directed by Lebanese-born Ziad Doueiri and based on the best-selling 2005 novel by Algerian-born Yasmina Khadra. As the film opens, Amin Jaafari is being presented an award by the Israeli Society of Surgeons. It is the first time an Arab has won the prestigious award. Dr. Jafaari thanks his fellow physicians profusely and expresses gratitude to the State of Israel for allowing him to live and practice medicine there.
There is only one thing marring Dr. Jafaari’s triumphant moment. His wife is not there.
The reason becomes apparent soon enough. An explosion goes off in another part of town and Dr. Jafaari is called into the emergency room to treat survivors of a terrorist’s bomb. Adding to the tragedy, most of the 17 victims are children. There is a mutilated adult corpse that Dr. Jafaari does not notice as it is wheeled in. Later that night when officers of Israel’s Shin Bet security force show up at his apartment, Dr. Jafaari receives the shocking news that the suicide bomber was his wife.
“Do you ever really know the one you love?” is the ad campaign slogan and the central question of “The Attack.” Through flashbacks we see the loving and warmly sensual relationship between Amin and Siham Jafaari. We also see clues that Dr. Jafaari missed.
While Dr. Jafaari is able to convince the Shin Bet he had no prior knowledge of his Christian-raised wife’s radical Islamic conversion, he must learn for his own sake how he could have missed such an obvious transformation.
“The Attack” becomes a mystery tale as Amin Jafaari travels to his wife’s Palestinian home town to find clues to her radical transformation. The locals are not very cooperative.
“The Attack” has been banned by the Arab League as being too sympathetic to Israel. Some Jews have condemned it as being too sympathetic to Palestine and radical Islam.
To me that indicates a pretty fair balance. You won’t find any definitive answers to the nature of terrorism in “The Attack,” but you will find a reasonably suspenseful and deeply sorrowful tale of a man who no longer has a country he can call his own.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Just a Singer in a Rock 'n' Roll Wedding Band


Everyone Loves a “Wedding Singer”

By Skip Sheffield

Low-budget magic continues through this Sunday, June 30 at West Boca Raton High School with the Slow Burn Theatre production of “Wedding Singer The Musical.”
“The Wedding Singer” was the slightest piffle of a 1996 Adam Sandler movie comedy.
“Wedding Singer the Musical’ is no deeper or more profound, but as performed by Slow Burn it has heart, chutzpah, and it is a heck of a lot of fun.
Robbie Hart (versatile Clay Cartland) is the wedding singer of the title.
No one sets out to be part of a “wedding band.” It’s one of those things that happens to young, struggling bands. Wedding receptions pay big bucks. In theory you take advantage of the opportunity to earn money attain more lofty goals, such as recording original music. In practice this rarely happens. Few things are as sad as an aging wedding band made up of middle-aged guys and girls who have given up on their dreams.
But as I stated, “Wedding Singer” is not profound or even poignant. It’s a comedy pure and simple, set in Ridgefield, NJ in 1985 at the peak of the big-hair boy-band era.
What makes “Wedding Singer” shine is its young, enthusiastic cast directed and choreographed by young, enthusiastic Patrick Fitzwater and backed by a note-perfect musical combo that is not too loud, not too soft.
The book of “Wedding Singer” by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy with music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, reminds me for all the world of an updated Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney romantic comedy.
Clay Cartland is the Mickey Rooney-type striving but under-achieving young man Robbie Hart and winsome Courtney Poston is the downtrodden Judy Garland heroine, Julia Sullivan.
Julia is engaged to be married to the vain, greedy, unfaithful Wall Street shark Glen Gulia (Rick Hvizdak) but really she is destined to be with poor but true-blue Robbie Hart. It just takes two acts and a little under two hours for destiny to happen.
Playing Robbie’s band mates are Conor Walton as the flamboyant, way out of the closet George and Dominic Servidio as the mullet-haired bassist Sammy. The live onstage band led by music director Manny Schvartzman consists of Nick Trotogott, Rupert Ziawinski and Freg Chance.
Stand-out players include Nicole Piro as Robbie’s shallow, insincere fiancĂ©e Linda, Penny Mandel as Robbie’s rocking Grandma Rosie, Jerel Brown as a hilariously huge Tina Turner lookalike and Erica Mendez as the sexy, hot-to-trot Holly, who spurns the affections of sincere Sammy.
The musical score is so forgettable it is unlikely you will be humming a recognizable tune as you exit, but it sure is fun while it is happening.
Perhaps I am biased in favor of this merry romp, for I have played many a wedding reception and I know firsthand the pitfalls of performance. But it seemed like everyone in the audience got into the brash, goofy spirit of this show whether or not they have ever been part of this business called show.
Tickets are $20 students, $30 seniors and $35 general admission. Call 866-811-4111 or go to

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Funny, Poignant "Kings of Summer"


“The Kings of Summer” a Funny and Poignant Coming-of-Age

By Skip Sheffield

Have you ever watched a movie and thought, “This is my story. This could have been me.”
I’ll wager a lot of grownup boys and girls will feel that way about “The Kings of Summer.”
“Kings” was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I can see why. It is fresh yet timeless; funny yet poignant- and pretty much universal.
“Kings’ is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who is mostly known for TV work such as “Mash Up” and “Funny or Die.” The screenplay is by Chris Galletta, who has been a staff writer for David Letterman.
The story is a coming-of-age fable set in northeastern Ohio, but it could be anywhere.
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) has a crabby, unreasonable and sarcastic father Frank (Nick Offerman), who has not gotten over the death of his wife.
Patrick (Gabriel Basso) has a mother and father who are pushing him in directions he does not want to go.
Biaggio (Moises Arias) is a strange little guy who attaches himself to Joe and Patrick when they decide to make the bold move of running away and building a fort out in the woods to live by their wits, free of parental interference. It is summertime and the boys are all around 15. It is a precarious age between childhood and adulthood when hormones are raging and goals are uncertain.
Many kids build forts and create their own myths. The forts may just be in the back yard, but they are away to get away from the “oppression” of parents. When individuals grow up and become parents themselves they begin to understand why mom and dad were so “mean” and unreasonable.
But it is impossible for a 15-year-old to understand this when he or she is in the moment. That’s why ages 12-16 are the most dangerous in a child’s life. Emotions are felt immediately and more deeply than in a mature adult.
Often these emotions are stirred by the opposite sex. In this case it is a very pretty girl named Kelly (Erin Moriarty). It is not her fault that two guys fall for her and she has to choose one over the other.
If you are still plugged into the angst of adolescence the recollection of pain is inevitable. You win some, you lose some, and it is all part of gaining wisdom and maturity.
Director Vogt-Roberts brilliantly cast virtual unknowns to fill these volatile, fragile but plucky roles. Nick Robinson’s Joe is an everyman: a good guy, good-looking and loyal to his friends. Gabriel Basso is a lucky guy blessed with even better looks and natural athletic ability.
Moises Arias’ Biaggio is an unpredictable goofball who is equal parts hilarious and profound in an out-there kind of way.
Put all this together and you have an irresistible summer treat devoid of car crashes, explosions, wanton sex or aliens. If you made it through adolescence sadder but wiser and grateful, this is a film for you. I know it was for me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Serious But Hunky Superman

Why So Serious Supe?

By Skip Sheffield
Henry Cavill is easily the hunkiest, most buff Superman there has ever been. He is also the gravest, most humorless Man of Steel since Richard Donner brought the series to the big screen in 1978, with the late Christopher Reeve as a friendly, wisecracking Superman and Margot Kidder as his sexy, sardonic reporter-girlfriend Lois Lane.
British actor Cavill is the star of the massively expensive reboot “Man of Steel,” directed by Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchman”).
The movie, with screenplay by David S. Goyer and executive producer Christopher Nolan (“Dark Knight Rises”) begins promisingly on the distant planet Krypton with the birth of the baby who will be come to known as Superman on planet Earth.
The baby’s father Jor-El (Australian actor Russell Crowe) has big plans for his son, called Kal-El. Planet Krypton is doomed and rebellious General Zod (a glowering Michael Shannon) is organizing a coup to seize power.
Jor-El recovers a codex that contains all of Krypton’s knowledge and packs it in a space ship with his infant son, bound for Earth. Gen. Zod is banished to a Phantom Zone, which is the equivalent of a black hole.
So far, so good, but only about 20 minutes have elapsed in a 148-minute film.
Suddenly we splash down to the present with a bearded, glistening Kal-El (Cavill) working as a deckhand on a fishing vessel. When an oil rig catches fire and an explosion seems inevitable, Kal springs into action, propping up the rig, enabling the workers to escape.
Then we flash back to Kal’s childhood somewhere in the heartland in the town of Smallville. The baby has been adopted by Jonathan (well-played by Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (always reliable Diane Lane).
Little Clark Kent is different. His father acknowledges this and tells him he has a great responsibility to use his special powers for the good of mankind. We see Clark confront then befriend a bully, Pete Ross, who recurs in the story. Clark is played at age 9 by Cooper Timberline and age 13 by Dylan Sprayberry. Ditto Pete by Joseph Crawford and Jack Foley.
This is all well and good, providing needed back story and demonstrating Clark’s great reluctance to use his super powers.
When we jump into the present again it is up in the Arctic and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is investigating mysterious goings-on at a NORAD base. Conveniently, Clark is there working. He discovers a spaceship frozen in the ice. Wouldn’t you know it’s from Krypton, and there is a hologram there with further instructions from Jor-El.
When Lois files a report on a suspected UFO frozen in the ice, her skeptical Daily Planet editor Perry White (Laurence Fishbourne) refuses to print it. In a nod to the modern media, Lois goes to an Internet geek who starts blabbing the story all over.
This is where all heck proceeds to break loose as Clark Kent’s cover is in danger of being blown and as Gen. Zod, out for vengeance, comes to Earth with a 24-hour doomsday ultimatum. Instead of flirty fun between Lois and Clark, who is not yet a mild-mannered newspaperman, we have fight after fight between Zod and Superman, who is only called that name behind his back.
“It’s not an S,” Kal insists of the symbol on his manly chest. “It’s a symbol of hope.”
“Man of Steel” is one of those movies you think is over, only to be confounded when the combatants pick up and start fighting all over again. The CG destruction of vehicles and high-rise after high-rise becomes numbing, even boring.
Another installment in this never-ending story is already in the works. Let’s hope it becomes more involving as Clark Kent becomes a reporter and Lois warms to his as yet unleashed charms.

A Slightly Stoopid "End"


Frat Boy Frolics in “This is the End”

By Skip Sheffield

It was a choice of “The Internship” down at Aventura or “This is the End’ at Cinemark Palace right here in Boca Raton.
I took the easy way out, but from what I am told I missed the better film.
“Tell them it’s retarded,” a guy remarked to me on the way out of the theater. He pretty much hit the nail on the head. Opening June 12, “This is the End” is the very definition of sophomoric: foolish, self-assured and opinionated, though immature.
“This is the End” is the brainchild, if that is the right word, of Seth Rogen, who like a bunch of other young Hollywood actors, plays himself, and Evan Goldberg, who co-wrote and co-directs with Rogen.
The movie is a remake and expansion of a 2007 short film called “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse.” Jay is Canadian actor Jay Baruchel (“Knocked Up) who co-stars as Seth Rogen’s best friend.
Jay’s character doesn’t much like Los Angeles. Jay dislikes the whole Hollywood scene, and who could blame him? Despite this, Seth convinces Jay to tag along with him to a big, dopey, boozy blowout party at James Franco’s mansion.
Franco and Rogen were in a hit 2008 stoner film called “Pineapple Express.” So was Danny McBride, who plays the world’s most obnoxious party guest. So was Craig Robinson, who plays a one-hit wonder rapper whose hit tune is advertised prominently on his T-shirt.
Playing against type of nerdy nice guy is another Canadian, Michael Cera, who parodies himself as an obnoxious, sex-crazed coke freak.
Obnoxious is the byword for this can-you-top-this gross-out flick. When the advertised apocalypse comes with all its CG flames, monsters and pits of Hell, it’s every man (or in the case of Harry Potter cutie Emma Watson, woman) for himself. Giving the doomsday scenario the slightest veneer of respectability is Jay’s character, who is familiar with the Bible and the Book of Revelations.
“This is the End” is aimed squarely at the party-til-you-puke Generation Y, with all kinds of self-referential inside jokes for those who think “Pineapple Express” a masterpiece. Admittedly it has a lot of laughs, but you will feel slightly soiled afterward. Or perhaps retarded.