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Thor: The Dark World – REVIEW

Thor: The Dark World

2 Stars

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I am not a comic book guy. I am not a big superhero fan, either. I am one those folks who still believes 1978’s SUPERMAN is and always be the best superhero movie ever made. The superhero genre made a resurgence with the release of 1989’s BATMAN. With the advance of special effects the films became larger in scope with story and characters taking a back seat to big action sequences. With the exception of THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, which took a real world approach to its story, the majority of the superhero films are style over substance.

The original THOR was released in 2011 as a part of the “Phase One: Avengers Assembled” group of films that consisted of IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, IRON MAN 2, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER and THE AVENGERS. Each film was a box office success given the loyal fan base that these characters have. I found the original THOR to be an average film—not as good as some of the previous films in Phase One. Thor just is not an interesting character to anchor a film; he does not have an alter-ego, he is not a part of the mortal world, and he can be, well, preachy. The audience can have a difficult time relating to him, leaving him to be dull and uninteresting. This film is no different.

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THE DARK WORLD picks up after the events in THE AVENGERS and the film reminds of us of this at least six times, referring to “the event in New York”. It seems that love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been unsuccessful at moving on and is still carrying a torch for Thor who is back on his home planet of Asgard. His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned by his adopted father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). There is talk of something called Aether but I honestly have no idea what it is and why it is important but it seems to be very bad stuff. From there things happen, stuff blows up, there is endless talk of the Nine Realms and all of it went over my head. As always I take notes but in this case I need notes for my notes.

My opinions on films are not based on the reactions of other people, but I saw this film with its target audience and they did not seem too excited by the film. The lukewarm reception could be due to some technical difficulties that caused the screening to start almost an hour late. The film just was not a lot of fun and with its convoluted plot at least for me I was unable to become engaged in the story. There are some good comic relief moments provided by Foster’s assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Erik Selvig. There is also a funny cameo by one of the Avengers that drew some cheers from the audience.

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The film will probably be a hit with its core audience but casual viewers should avoid this one. Once again the 3D format is gratuitous and should be avoided at all cost. As is true with most of the Marvel films, these films always have post-credit scenes; this film is no exception. There are two on this film, so be sure to stick around if interested. The credits also proudly proclaim that THOR WILL RETURN. I am sure he will. I just hope he returns in a much better film

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The Prince Podcast – Choices

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Impromptu show where we take a look at some of Princes career choices over the years. Should Prince have participated in the We Are The World recording, duet with Michael Jackson, and bring the Sign O' The Times tour to America?

12 Years A Slave-The Anti-Django

12 Years a Slave

4 Stars

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The cynic in me says that this film was only made to respond to DJANGO UNCHAINED. In my opinion that film was unfairly criticized for not accurately portraying the atrocities that took place during the era of slavery. I would argue that DJANGO was not about slavery, but a revenge film that is set during the era of slavery. Make no mistake 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a film about the atrocities of slavery. This film is also one of the most powerful pieces of filmmaking I have seen in quite some time.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York with his wife and two children, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South. After he determines there is no way to get anyone to believe his story, he decides that he has to try to survive rather than escaping. Based on a true story and book of the same name written by Northup and published in 1863, the film chronicles his 12 years struggling to keep his dignity while observing all the unjust treatment of not only himself but the other slaves as well. His first plantation owner, William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) recognizes that he is not like the other slaves and treats him reasonably well. On one occasion Northup stands up for himself and is nearly killed for his action. This leads Ford to sell Northup to a more sadistic owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) where his resolve to survive is put to the ultimate test.

This film is brutally honest in its portrayal of slavery. Since it is based on the real life story of Northup it cannot be accused of being over the top. Director Steve McQueen pulls no punches in showing the events that took place during this time. McQueen uses several unbroken shots to enhance the audiences experience in the horror of slavery. Early in the film when Northrup discovers that he has been kidnapped and is being bound by chains, he is beaten by one of his kidnappers on his back with a paddle. This is shown in real time without cuts so the audience is unable to divert their attention elsewhere. Another sequence of note is another early scene in which a mother and her two children are sold separately. This shows one of the biggest horrors of that time which is the complete separation of families from each other forever. The scene is heartbreaking to watch but this was an unfortunate fact of the times. After Northrup tries to defend himself and has a fight with one of the overseers he is tortured by being hung but with just enough room so he can barely stand on his toes. In another unbroken shot we are shown Northup hanging for several minutes. McQueen uses the ambient sounds with “normal” life going on around him. No one attempts to help and the audience is forced to sit and watch him suffer. Some may say the sequence goes on too long but I thought that it help emphasize the point of his helplessness and suffering. However, the most disturbing and brutal moment of the film involves the whipping of another slave. I will not reveal the details because it is important to the plot but it the most heart wrenching scene in recent memory. It is absolutely brutal in its realism and it was at this point that I could hear audible sobbing from several members of the audience.

While this is a great film it is by no means perfect. The film’s opening disjointed structure had me confused. It would have suited the film better had it been told in order. The biggest misstep in the film is the casting of Brad Pitt in a pivotal role late in the film. It is no coincidence that Pitt is one of the producers of the film and he is cast in a role that is not slave owner. I did not feel like I was watching an actor here but watching a movie star playing dress up and attempting to give the film credibility. The material is strong enough and his presence was not needed.

I hesitate to call this film entertaining because of the dark nature of the film but it is gripping and compelling. I do expect multiple Academy Award nominations for the acting for Ejiofor, Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. The film is the polar opposite of DJANGO UNCHAINED so if you are going in thinking that it is that kind of movie you will be in for a shock. This is an important film that should be seen by all. Hopefully it will open up meaningful dialogue about this country’s history so we are not doomed to repeat the past. Much like SCHINDLER’S LIST it is an important film that documents a tragic time in history but it is not always easy to sit thru. The film is an important history lesson for all people. See it.

12 years 3

Carrie – Review

CARRIE

2 Stars

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When I first received confirmation of the decision to remake Brian De Palma's classic 1976 film CARRIE, my first thought was, "Why remake a classic that, aside from the special effects and the 70’s clothing, is a pretty flawless film?” It is no secret that many popular film franchises that have run their course become fodder for, reboots, remakes and my personal favorite term: the reimagining. Some of the new versions ranged from the good (Friday the 13th) to the bad (My Bloody Valentine) to the downright ugly (Prom Night). Since most of these films fail to set the box office world on fire, I have to wonder why these movies keep getting remade. The cynical answer to both questions is simple: they are cheap to make and need very little advertising to get people in to the theater. They cast unknowns or TV actors in the roles, which aids in keeping the film’s budgets under control. They take shortcuts that make it possible for the studio to make a profit off of these remakes. The problem is that those shortcuts often sacrifice quality and creativity in the process. So as long as people go to see them, rent them or buy them they will continue to be made. Unfortunately, all of these horrors are true of the remake of Brian De Palma’s classic 1976 film CARRIE, which is another unnecessary remake in a long list of other unnecessary remakes.

I will admit I was more interested in this remake due to the decision to cast Chloë Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her overly-religious mother Margaret. Directing duties we assigned to Kimberly Peirce, the director of another awkward teen coming-of-age film BOYS DON’T CRY. Unfortunately that is where inspiration stopped. There is nothing new or fresh in this film. Lines of dialogue and entire scenes are lifted directly from the original film. Although the film is modernized with the use of cell phones and the Internet, even this update is mishandled. The technology is used to further torment Carrie but the opportunity to explore cyber-bulling of the story is more an afterthought in this film. The story’s climax which takes place at the prom-a possible upgrade to De Palma’s version- but the original maintains the edge due to the use of split-screen to show the mayhem that ensues. A car wreck and its aftermath on the occupants of vehicle in the remake is the best sequence in the entire film but it is not enough for me to recommend the film. The performances by Moretz and Moore are as good as you can expect but they are not enough to counter-balance the awful performances of the supporting actors in the film. Given the caliber of the director, I was surprised at the lack of quality in the performances.

I try view remakes in a vacuum and pretend any previous versions of the film do not exist: this is the only way I can fairly treat sequels, remakes, reboots, and "reimaginings". As I began to watch CARRIE I kept trying to convince myself that the original did not exist and enjoy this film on its own merits. Unfortunately, there were not many good merits to judge it by. Every time I saw something promising, there was a "but" that destroyed the effect. In short, I am disappointed with this film. It further cements my notion that Hollywood needs to stop with these remakes unless they truly have a new twist to the original material. The "twists" of this remake simply are not substantial enough to warrant the existence of this film. As I write this review, the original is streaming on Netflix: skip the remake and see the original instead.

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Prince Podcast – Who was Ratchet 1st?

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With all this talk about Mylie Cyrus and how she is so over the top. We look back at Prince when he had the nickname 'Rude Boy'.  During the 80's Prince was the poster boy for explicit lyrics. Prince created Vanity 6 and in the 90's introduced some could say, the 1st stripper rapper to the world; Carmen Electra.

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Also we talk about Who Stole the Soul, or did Black producers give it away. (Yes we go there)

Janelle Monae - Super talented, but is she over the heads of the masses.

What album today is a cross genre hit?

Intro music: [youtube id="Qcq6BFB9B3M" width="600" height="350"]

Podcast Juice – The Weave Upstairs Don’t Match Downstairs

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PodcastJuice is back! Hosted by Michael Dean and Toyia Taylor.

Topics:

Class Forced to Re-Enact Slavery

John Singleton: Can a White Director Make a Great Black Movie?

Why do Black women wear weaves?

BLACK MAN SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS AFTER “STANDING HIS GROUND” IN FLORIDA

Jay Z And Beyonce Highest-Earning Celebrity Couple

Geeked Out GTA5 and Breaking Bad reviews

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This week we take a look at GTA5, is it worth all the hype? Breaking Bad is coming to an end and the guys get into a discussion about the last remaining episodes. Plus is Paypal jacking money from Kickstarter campaigns?

A Place N This World – Changing Perspective

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A Place N This World podcast returns!

Today's topic: Changing Perspective

A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

3 things I explore to help you change your perspective;

1. Ask yourself why

2. Focus on the good things in your life

3. Does it really matter?

 

UPDATE:

Check this video of Beyonce. This just happened as this episode was published. Watch as a fan pulls her off stage, then watch her response 'after' she finishes her song. She said "Thank you" and kept it moving. Bey is living her Place N This World!

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Geeked Out – Movies of 2015 and Arsenio Hall review.

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We take a look at the upcoming flood of blockbuster films coming out in 2015. A look back at Star Trek Into Darkness, Michael thinks it's unwatchable.  Should HBO make there app HBOGO available to everybody and not just cable subscribers?

Other topics:

Orange is the New Black

Breaking Bad spinoff

Man of Steel 2,  Batman will be “tired and weary and seasoned.”

Disney is releasing a Star Wars movie every year after 2015

Iphone 5

A review of Arsenio Halls return to latenite tv.

Geeked Out Riddick Review

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Geeked Out Returns! This week Michael Dean, Q Storm and Bigsexy chop it up about the latest in pop culture news. We start the show with a review of Riddick. Review of the ROBOCOP reboot trailer. We give our take on the whole Batman Ben Affleck controversy. Breaking Bad, Comic book talk, The X-Men Battle of the Atom and the DC Comics event 'Forever Evil'. Will Smith in talks to return to Independence Day sequel.

Qstorm Reviews The Wolverine

In this corner...Edward Scissorhands!
In this corner...Edward Scissorhands!

I've always had a problem with the Wolverine character in comics and in the movies, particularly in the movies. My problem was that the nature of Wolverine's fighting ability, using six foot-long claws, meant that in order to defeat a foe, it would mean killing them. What else can you do with claws against an enemy? And that would always mean that in a Wolverine fight scene, he would have to get his ass kicked for a good five minutes before delivering a death blow, so as not to make the fight scenes ridiculously short. Witness the fight scene in the original X-Men with Mystique. Witness the fight scene in X2 with Lady Deathstrike. Witness the fight scene in Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine where...oh, hell, I don't remember much about either of those films.

Well, all that's out the window with The Wolverine. This movie, whose story is loosely based on the defining Wolverine comic mini-series of the early 80s, is easily the best portrayal of Wolverine in any of the X-Men films. This is Wolverine doing what he's supposed to do, mainly slash, gut and eviscerate anyone who steps to him. Granted, most of the people he goes up against are secondary characters, but as there are technically no true supervillains in this film, we finally finally finally get to see Logan square off against his adversaries in true "let's get it poppin'" badass form. The fight scenes are excitingly choreographed, although they suffer from the PG-13 rating, which means when Wolverine uses his unique weaponry against a bad guy, we see the bad guy crumple over and we hear a sound effect akin to a heavy boot stepping into a pile of thick mud. If only this were an R-rated movie, so we the audience could see Logan engage in his bloody handiwork unfettered. The fact that you don't see the blood doesn't make it any less violent, in my opinion. So why not go all out? If I'm allowed to see zombie heads being severed on AMC, why not a little blood splatter in a movie about, um, the Wolverine, hello? But no matter, this is Wolverine at his fighting best. In full disclosure, I'll also say that I never really took to Jackman in the role, not because he was too tall (the comic character reportedly stands at 5' 3") but because he was too much of a pretty boy. I always pictured Gary Sinise in the role, an excellent actor with the right stature and a natural scowl. But after reading about 44 year old Jackman's training regimen and insanely rigid diet of seven chicken breasts a day around the clock, and seeing him acting every bit the part (for the first time, in my opinion), Jackman definitely earns his stripes in this one. Or his claws, if you prefer.

The underlying story is simple. Dying Japanese billionaire industrialist Yashida summons Logan to thank him for saving his life during the bombing of Nagasaki (Logan's healing factor renders him veritably ageless) and offers him a proposition: the chance for Logan to transfer his mutant healing ability into Yashida's body, thus saving Yashida's life and ending Wolverine's curse of virtual immortality. Things get hectic when it becomes known that Yashida has willed all his holdings to his daughter Mariko; everyone from the Japanese mob to the mutant Viper set their sights on Mariko to gain control of the industrial empire, or so it seems. Wolverine, for reasons not completely clear, becomes Mariko's protector and these initial scenes grab a tight hold and don't let up. The first act of the film culminates in a stunning fight scene aboard (literally) a 300 mph bullet train. This is a scene to rival the Air Force One midair rescue acrobatics in Iron Man 3. As the film convenes its second act, it become a little muddled and slows significantly. While there are still some really kick-ass fight scenes, characters and motivations become hard to follow. However, by this time, I was completely enthralled by the noirish aspects of the film (who doesn't like being a little confused by a good whodunit?) and the Japanese mise en scene.

I'm hearing that the third act is where the film falls apart for most people. Whereas the beginning and middle of the movie takes itself seriously, and justifiably so, the third act devolves into a trite comic book film. It becomes rather silly. I completely understand why these criticisms are leveled at the last half hour of the film, but I say that if we were able to accept that in the first X-Men movie, Magneto was able to build a machine that would turn regular humans into mutants by hooking Anna Paquin up to it, there's really no ground to criticize the third act of this film whatsoever. It requires about the same amount of suspension of disbelief. That is to say, it does become a bit of a head-scratcher, but I would say the same for some of the previous X-Men installments as well. I will say that once you exit the theater, if you stop to analyze it a bit, you will pause and ask yourself, "Well, why did this/these character(s) go through all THAT when they could've just done THIS?" I engaged in that for about three hours afterwards. I will say that I was less bothered by this last act than by the numerous dream sequences that hit us over the head with the fact that this movie picks up where X3: The Last Stand ended.

However, my bottom line is that this is the Wolverine that I've been wanting to see since the year 2000, when the X-Men debuted onscreen. The supporting characters; Yukio, Mariko Yashida, Shingen, Harada and Viper are all on point. I loved the noir mystery tone the film sets once Logan arrives in Japan. I loved the fact that the movie is set in Japan and that Japanese dialogue is subtitled, adding realism and an international dynamism to the film (as well as increasing its chances to make a mint overseas). I loved the Silver Samurai. But most of all, I love being able to say finally that Hugh Jackman killed (again, literally) as The Wolverine. 4/5 reels

P.S. I'd heard that the bonus scene, which appears soon after the credits begin to roll, was as good as the entire movie. I guess I'm in the minority there. If you've read the X-Men story arc entitled "Days Of Future Past," which by now, should be no spoiler to say is the basis of the next X-Men film, then I'm not sure why you'd be more than just mildly entertained by this scene. What it did for me was show how the great Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan have aged since X3.

More reviews at Lightning Strikes!

 

Qstorm Reviews The Heat

"No, Paul, I'm not undoing any more buttons. I'm an Oscar winner, dammit!"
              "No, Paul, I'm not undoing any more buttons. I'm an Oscar winner, dammit!"

 

As I sat down to write a review for this film, I found myself struggling with what angle to take. See, I think movie reviewers take a position on whether or not they like a film, whether or not they would recommend a film, then they find a clever or witty angle to present their position. Granted, I'm not a professional reviewer, although I'd love to be, but for now, I just do this for fun and I have an opinion on just about everything. But, be that as it may, there are a few ways to approach this and I'm not sure which is best. So let's just get the basics out of the way:

I didn't like this movie.

OK, having said that, now I need to find the ice breaker, the witty way of presenting my reasons why I didn't like it. I could go with:

Comedy is more and more a difficult sell, particularly in movies. In my opinion, the last really funny movie (outside of Bridesmaids, which lost me in the last act) was 2010's The Other Guys. Before that, off the top of my head, I gotta go with Meet The Parents, yes, all the way back in 2000 (note to self: rent Ted). Unlike drama, which reliably has a protagonist who is beset with any number of obstacles he or she must overcome and there is usually an antagonist, be it a person or an event, that is meant to undermine the protagonist, comedy is very subjective. I don't think anyone in comedy could honestly tell you why something is funny, let alone why something is funny to one person and not another. Comedy is more intimate; I believe comedy usually plays better on the small screen in small doses. Plus, comedy is subject to the changing times, the changing mores of society. What passes for mainstream comedy today most often consists of raunch, filth, shock and so on. Not saying I have a problem with that, but many comedies take the approach that the raunchier and filthier it is, the funnier it is. Not so. Something funny, with the right amount of raunch and filth, can be hilarious. But this movie is far from hilarious.

The Heat stars Sandra Bullock as the straight-laced by the book FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, the Stan Laurel to Melissa McCarthy's Oliver Hardy; the foul and obnoxious Det. Shannon Mullins. It's the mismatched cop story you've seen a million times except for the absence of Y chromosomes in the two leads. While Melissa McCarthy provides a few laughs, she is proof of what I said earlier: comedy, or rather what passes for comedy today, plays better in small doses. Putting aside the few and far between laughs McCarthy provides, this movie clocks in at 117 minutes, an eternity for a comedy, and McCarthy becomes so over the top obnoxious, I wanted to plug my ears at a certain point. Some of the funny moments are in scenes where she resorts to ad-libs; the funniest scene of the movie involves McCarthy's character arresting a john, played by Tony Hale (superb on Arrested Development and Veep). What makes it funny (as I attempt to explain humor after saying it can't be done) is that McCarthy approaches the perp with a charming smile and does her shtick to entrap the guy, but we the audience are in on the joke and we laugh at the poor schmuck who doesn't realize she's a cop. Because Hale is so brilliant, the two of them make the scene very funny. But unfortunately, that scene occurs at the very beginning of the movie and it's the only scene in which Hale appears. And as mentioned, McCarthy's shtick becomes grating fast, as in a joke that goes on WAY too long about her looking for her precinct captain's balls.

Inevitably, through an improbable series of events, Ashburn and Mullins team up to take down a Boston drug lord. Sandra Bullock, bless her heart, does her best to move mountains in order to make this movie work. It's not that she's not funny, she has sharp comedic timing, but I just couldn't help feeling bad for her, as the Oscar winner is made to strip off clothing, dance badly and shove a guy's head in her cleavage (as you watch this scene, remember the filmmakers want you to believe her character is a top notch agent). As she's made to wrestle the plus size McCarthy through a door. As she's made to wrestle McCarthy over a cell phone. Are you getting the pattern here? Then there's the inevitable montage sequence of drunken revelry, where we smash cut between vignettes of the two leads in various supposedly funny activities with the locals at a dive bar. But I give them credit for one thing: the montage doesn't take place in a kitchen while cooking and dancing as a 60s Motown song plays in the background.

But as I said, one of the secrets of comedy is to know when to get off the stage. Hell, Seinfeld devoted a whole plotline to this concept with the Costanza character, and we all agree that Seinfeld knows a little about comedy, right? 117 minutes, jokes and bits that go way too long, setups and scenes that become repetitive, etc. I mean, how many different times can we see one guy with a gun get the drop on another guy with a gun before it gets boring? And there are really big missed opportunities as well. Take for instance the scene where Mullins introduces Ashburn to her family. Of course, the family members are as loud and obnoxious as she is; but unfortunately, characters that could've been funny are grating from jump because we've already been subjected to McCarthy for nearly an hour. They do wring some small laughs out of the Bah-ston accent, but at this point in the film, it's just more annoying characters. Take another scene where the movie decides to take a grisly turn and we get to see an emergency tracheotomy performed. Could've been funny, but as this movie does all too often, it goes for forced shock value as opposed to coaxing a laugh. Take yet another scene where Ashburn is stabbed in the leg not once, not twice, but three times. Laughing yet?

You want more unfunny repetition? OK, well, there's a scene which follows a needless subplot about Mullins's evidently numerous flings as guys plead with her to take them back. See, it's supposed to be funny because she's so fat, yet all these guys want her so bad! Get it? Yeah, maybe the first time, but twice? However, it was cool to see the reunion of McCarthy and real-life husband Ben Falcone (the air marshal from Bridesmaids). But much like the ridiculous subplot, the scene kind of goes nowhere. And then there's the subplot about a black street dealer who gets arrested not once, but twice, and gets a watermelon thrown at him. Seriously. No, I didn't make that up.

I haven't really delved into the plot. There's a reason for that. It's because it makes little sense and it really doesn't matter. Even if the movie were good, it wouldn't matter because the point of this film is to laugh at the two mismatched characters. But there's the rub: IF the movie were good. And it's not.

OK, I could take that angle. Or, in keeping with the spirit of the film, I could take a ruder, raunchier angle:

What the hell is going on with Sandra Bullock? Why does she keep appearing in lame comedies? Jesus f**king Christ, didn't she learn ANYTHING from All About Steve? I mean, she's a f**king Oscar winner! Is she aware that the Oscar clique consisting of Halle Berry and Cube Gooding, Jr. is one that she DOESN'T want to join?

And what the f**k's going on with her face? In certain lighting and in some camera angles, she looks like f**king Joan Rivers. Not that I would kick her out of bed for eating crackers, she's still got a smokin' body, just check out the scene where director Paul Feig makes her debase herself by ripping off her clothes! Man, I've got some swollen goods she could take into evidence! I'm just disappointed they didn't make her do a striptease since that's the "thing" now. Just ask Jennifer Aniston or Gwyneth Paltrow. And THANK--GOD they actually wrote dialogue into the script as to why McCarthy is not required to strip. That would've been a tragedy. The filmmakers make it clear that McCarthy's girth is meant to make us laugh by putting her in weird situations where her size is a detriment. And she seems all too eager to please in that endeavor.

This movie just ain't that f**king funny. 2/5 reels

P.S. I don't know if it was the speaker system in the theater where I saw this, but even the sound was off. There's a club scene where the music is mixed way low and the crowd walla is non-existent. It literally sounds like it was shot on a soundstage and they forgot to foley the scene. This happens in a few other scenes. And the rap background music seems unnaturally loud, further amplifying the unnecessarily crude lyrics. It seems forced and out of place, particularly when they go into a Boston Southie bar. Rap music in a Boston corner bar, really?