Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Fictional Characters I’d Invite to Christmas Dinner

books, Christmas, comic books, Disney, Eddie Redmayne, ghostbusters, Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter, Kate McKinnon, list, Marvel, Melissa McCarthy, superhero, Top 10, Will Ferrell

It’s so close to Christmas it’s unreal. In 10 days it’ll be Christmas Eve. I think I’ve just about got my presents all sorted but who really knows. I’m not a fan of last minute shopping but I tend to need little stocking fillers as I go through the month. Still, I’m mostly there. As it’s a time of celebration I’m adding a few additional posts this month. Each year I’ve released a Christmas top 10: My Essential Christmas films and My Least Favourite Christmas films. So I’m planning on keeping them as festive as possible but I’m likely to run out of ideas by next week. We’ll see how it goes. For now, I decided to delve into the world of fantasy dinner party and decide who I’d invite to my ultimate Christmas celebration.
Ten: Brienne of Tarth

My main reasoning for including Brienne on this list is simply because it’s kind of a habit to include her on all of fictional character based lists. It’s no secret that she’s my favourite character in both the book and the show. It’s also no secret that I adore Gwendoline Christie. If Brienne came to my Christmas dinner then I’d spend most of the time just starring at her the way Torumund did at Castle Black.

Nine: Belle

Now I’m not talking about the Belle from the upcoming, unnecessary live action Beauty and the Beast as played by the annoying Emma Watson. Nor am I talking about the Belle on the show I’ve tried so hard to enjoy Once Upon a Time. No, I’m talking classic, animated Belle. She’s always been my favourite Disney princess because she loves books as much as I do. There’s nothing I enjoy more than talking about books and it’s something I don’t really get to do too often. So, I’d love nothing more than sitting in a post-Turkey daze and discussing my favourite novels with Belle. Unlike friends, she might appreciate the Romantic era fiction that I recommend to her. Of course, being so fucking cynical, I’d find her hopeless romantic thing quite annoying but it would be something we could happily debate on.

Eight: Holtzmann

Another of my latest character obsessions. Jillian Holtzmann is the greatest thing to come out of the Ghostbusters reboot and Kate McKinnon is such a fantastic performer. I’d love the chance to meet the Holtz but worry that she would make dinner a little awkward. Not that I don’t love awkward moments but, as a perfect host, I’d have to think about my guests. Still, I love her so she’s coming.

 Seven: Rob Fleming (High Fidelity)

High Fidelity is one of my favourite books and films. I love it. You may remember Rob was featured on my list of Top 5 Fictional Husbands. As such, I’d love to invite Rob to my Christmas dinner. I mean we both a predilection for making Top 5/10 lists so we could definitely turn it into an amusing dinner table game. He’d also know the best tunes to play before, during, and after dinner to keep us all in the party mood.

 Six: Leslie Knope

Re-watching Parks and Rec recently gave me an all new appreciation of Leslie Knope and what a great person she is. She champions women, loves her friends, and won’t back down in an argument. She’s the kind of person I pretend to be but much nicer and much more successful. I’d love to sit next to her at Christmas dinner because, not only would we have a great in-depth discussion about all things, I think she’d share my childish love of the holiday.

Five: Thor

Thor is my favourite superhero. I love all of the Norse mythology and his Shakespearean qualities. He’s so dramatic and literal about everything. I have to admit it would be kind of cool to have him at my Christmas dinner just so I could say there was a real-life God there. Kinda cool, no? Plus, the arms are always a plus. He also seems that he’d be fun to have at a party. Asgardians are basically Vikings and they were kind of up for a good time. Also, how great an after dinner game would it be to try and lift Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir? You’ve had all the turkey so now let’s find out whose worthy.

Four: Buddy the Elf

I don’t know about you guys but I always feel that Christmas Day is kind of let down after the endless weeks of lead up. I’m not saying I’ve ever had a terrible Christmas Day but we’re always just so exhausted we end up eating and lounging for the entire day. What we really need is an injection of Christmas spirit. And who has the largest supply of that round here? Buddy’s love for the holiday is contagious and he’d have no trouble getting everyone up around the piano for a sing song. With Buddy at your house, every Christmas can be like the ones you see in every American sitcom’s Christmas special. Plus, you know, the candy.

Three: Tyrion Lannister

Despite everything the Bible tries to tell us, Christmas is basically about excess and over-indulgence. It’s about spending too much money, stuffing your face, drinking too much, and basically letting go. Who embraces these ideas more than anyone? Yes, the self-titled “God of tits and wine”. To re-appropriate Ke$ha for a second, the party don’t start til he walks in.

Two: Newt Scamander

Not only would the addition of Newt to the party mean guaranteed Eddie Redmayne but it would also mean some fantastic stories. Newt has travelled all over the wizarding world and met some of the most amazing creatures. He’d be able to fill the time with so many exciting tales. There’s always a boring lull on Christmas Day when you’re eaten too much but there’s a few hours before Doctor Who is on. Newt would be the perfect person to fill the silence. Hell, if we’re lucky he might even get his Niffler out… which, as I’m writing it down, definitely sounds like a euphemism you might come across in the wizard world. Hey, Newt, how’s about you let my play with your Niffler.

One: Sookie St. James

This is the second time this month that Sookie has been in the number 1 spot of my top 10 list. Maybe she’ll be the new Brienne? Anyway, I think Sookie would be a great person to invite to dinner. Not only would she definitely bring something scrumptious to eat but she’s just such lovely human being. Why would you want to spend this holiday with people who were anything but nice? My only doubt would be the fact that she would clearly be silently judging everything that was being cooked for her. It would take about five seconds of her being in the house before she was “fixing” everything that was being made in the kitchen. Still, what a meal we’d get in the end.


book haul, books, currently reading, Gilmore Girls, Melissa McCarthy, Netflix, recently watched, Roald Dahl, Steven Spielberg

This week saw the return of everyone’s favourite time for violently trying to track down the greatest shopping bargains. Yes, Black Friday has come and gone once again. I still don’t really understand why this American tradition has made it over to the UK but it has. It always gets out of hand and this year in Leeds, where I’m from, a man was actually stabbed whilst trying to stop someone shoplifting. It’s fucking crazy. I’m not one of these people that like to take the day off to try and grab a bargain. Although, I can’t say that I’m immune to the whole thing. As much as I’m annoyed by the constant stream of discount emails I receive in the run up to this weekend I did succumb to a few bargains myself. It’s a great time to get Christmas presents after all. As you may know from previous rundowns I lack a lot of self-control when it comes to spending. I’m trying to get better and I think it’s working. It’s only going to be when I finally stop checking ASOS all day that I know I’m over it, of course. But for now, I’ll embrace my bad habits and wait until the new year to fix myself. It’s nearly Christmas and that is a well-known time for excess.

Currently Reading

  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Still not really reading this as much because my other books are much easier to read and I’m in a bit of a lazy literary mood at the moment. As soon as I heard about this book I really wanted to read it but I’m finding it a bit tricky. I’m sure I’ll get there.

  • Not Working by Lisa Owens
Since buying this last week I have been focusing solely on this. It’s a quick and easy read. It’s also interesting to read about someone in a similar position to me.

Recently Purchased
  • Assorted books by Michael Chabon
I’ve had Telegraph Avenue sitting in the “save it for later” section of my Amazon cart for what feels like years. So, after seeing a review of the book on Instagram recently, I decided it was a time to really get to grips with Michael Chabon. So I bought a whole host of his books. It may have got a little out of hand and I’m not going to get round to reading any of thee for years anyway. The titles I added to my collection of unread novels are: Telegraph Avenue; The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man; Wonder Boys; The Yiddish Policemen’s Union; and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. They all sound fantastic in their own way and I’m excited to read them. 

Recently Watched
  • Gilmore Girls
So the new episodes of Gilmore Girls finally arrived on Netflix on Friday and I watched them as soon as I got home from work. I finished them in no time and am still not recovering from it. I have plans to further discuss this in the week. Although, I will say, it was all too brief and I really wish Melissa McCarthy hadn’t been so fucking busy. It’s not the same without Sookie.
  • The BFG (2016 and 1989)
To honour the release of Steven Spielberg’s The BFG this week I reviewed both the new film and the animated film from the 80s. They’re very different films but lovely in their own ways.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Ghostbusters (2016)

films, future potential., ghostbusters, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Paul Feig, reboot, review, women

It’s fair to say that the Ghostbusters reboot has had a lot to contend with before its release this month. As you may remember from way back in March I have been defending this film from people who dismissed it immediately. I wanted to see this film from the minute I saw the first trailer. It looked fun and I wasn’t melodramatic enough to believe that it was going to destroy the original just by existing. Although I can’t exactly describe what I was expecting to feel when I left the cinema but I certainly didn’t expect to end up having to question my sexuality solely thanks to Kate McKinnon. I mean I knew I loved the character from the trailers alone but that action sequence got me a little more hot and bothered than I would have thought. Holtzman is my everything at the moment. But getting away from my new found love/obsession for a moment, because it’s the healthy thing to do, I have to be honest that I didn’t come out of the film as happy as I assured the doubters that I would be.

Ghostbusters is not exactly a carbon copy of the 1984 original but the plot does owe a great deal to its predecessor. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is an uptight physics professor at Columbia University. Her track to tenure is put into jeopardy when an embarrassing book about the paranormal that she co-authored in her youth resurfaces on Amazon. She gets in contact with her old friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), to get the book removed before her bosses see it. Ultimately, both women lose their jobs in education, along with Abby’s co-worker Gillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). but they quickly find themselves involved in a real-life ghost hunt at a nearby haunted mansion. Erin is left having to admit that ghosts are real and the three women set-up shop above a Chinese takeaway. 
After another ghost sighting in the Subway, they are joined by subway worker and New York history buff Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Whilst undertaking their research into the ghostly goings on in the city, the foursome decide that they should also use their knowledge to protect the citizens from the growing number of apparitions that are terrorising their lives. Of course, the group eventually realise that the increased activity is down to a bigger plot to unleash the dead on the world to crate havoc. Despite being branded as fakes, only the Ghostbusters can save the day and stop the end of the world. 
So, yeah, it’s a pretty familiar plot with a few modern and gender updates. I’m going to be honest, there was plenty that I liked about the film and there are jokes a plenty here. I mean the gags come thick and fast but that’s mainly because the narrative is so unimaginative. The villain of the piece barely registers here and, despite the fact a connection is attempted between him and our heroic team, he is never explored in any real detail. The whole end of the world thing is just a bit of a throw away here. With so much riding on this reboot, it deserved a better plot and a more in-depth villain. 
Although, that’s not to say that I hated everything about the plot. I think this film, more than the original (boy, is that a risky thing to say), properly introduces us the world of ghost-hunting. I enjoyed the scenes where Holtzmann introduced the team to their various proton-weaponry and helped them test it. Ultimately, these scenes were let down by shitty editing but it was certainly something I would have loved more of. Although, that might just be because it would have guaranteed more Holtzmann. Still, the plot is so reminiscent of the original that it carries the weight of that film on it’s already laden shoulders. 
Which is the major problem I find with the film. I realise that as a reboot of such a beloved film Paul Feig and co. wanted to show their respect to it. However, there is too much of a connection with the original Ghostbusters that you just couldn’t escape the feeling that you might as well watch that instead. The cameos and in-jokes, whilst fun in a certain way, just felt cheap and cheesy in the long run. They didn’t always work and I would have preferred the film without them. 
Still, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed the film and am keen to see it again. A lot of the cringey jokes from the trailers seemed to work in their original context and the four female leads work really well together. I think all characters need more development but there is an undeniable group chemistry that works well on screen. From my completely unbiased view (ahem), it is McKinnon who steals the show as the whacky and hilarious Holtzmann but Leslie Jones’ Patty is nowhere near as annoying and redundant as the trailers suggested. I would have loved more for McCarthy and Wiig, who seem destined to forever be stuck playing the same characters but in different outfits. However, there is definite potential there. 
The women are all funny and have a great sense of comic timing, which is good because the film is jam packed with jokes. Not all of them work completely but there is enough to keep everyone happy. I mean Andy Garcia’s Jaws mayor joke may just be one of the funniest things I have ever heard. So, if only for that, it’s worth a watch. The problem is, the film feels rushed and unfinished. It suffered from an identity crisis whilst it tried to cater to the kid crowd and still pleasing the, now grown-up, fans of the original. The script isn’t always very tight, the editing seems choppy in a lot of places and the CGI is much more Haunted Mansion than it should be. Even though I wanted to admit to loving this film I can’t deny that it’s not perfect. To be honest, it really should have been considering who was making it. 
However, I’m still an optimist at heart and I have to say that it’s got something about. It’s charming and silly. There is plenty of potential there for future films. Something which I definitely would like to see happen. Much like the American Office only really got watchable after it stopped trying to copy the English version, I think this reboot will really get off the ground when it gets out from the original’s shadow. No offence to Parks and Rec writer, Katie Dippold, but get a better writer in there and have a think about what tone is needed and we could be onto a winner. Ghostbusters wasn’t a good enough film to destroy the backlash the trailer received online but it was almost there. 
This film didn’t necessarily back-up my many arguments with coworkers about how good it looked. What it did, was show me how good it could be if it got the chance. It also told me that that there’s very little Kate McKinnon could ask me to do that I would say no to. I’m fucking hooked. 

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Boss (2016)

bullshit, films, fucking awful, Melissa McCarthy, review, women

You know what I’m getting bored of? Watching Melissa McCarthy movies and cringing. As a huge Gilmore Girls fan I’ve loved her from way before Bridesmaids propelled her into the big time. She’s an adorable, funny, intelligent and beautiful performer. It’s just a shame she never gets the chance/gives herself the chance to show it. To be fair, she has surprised me with the likes of The Heat, which I found funnier than I thought I would. However, for every jewel in the crown there are at least 3 stones with massive flaws. Unlike most of the internet, I’m still hopeful about Ghostbusters and have faith that McCarthy will one day get the roles she deserves. Until then I’m stuck watching shit like The Boss.

Although, there is obviously a demand for films in which McCarthy demonstrates her now standard practice of shouting, punching people, pratfalling and swearing. It’s what she’s been doing ever since she left Stars Hollow behind her and is clearly a tactic that she isn’t willing to drop any time soon. I’m not saying it isn’t something that she doesn’t do well but I do think she’s pushing herself into a hole she soon won’t be able to crawl out of. I the right hands, mainly those of Paul Fieg, she can and has done remarkably funny things. Left to her own and, in this case, her husband’s devices McCarthy never quite manages to reach perfection.

In the boss, much like in the dismal Identity Thief, McCarthy plays a lonely sociopath who has great skills in one area but is otherwise shit at life. Her character here, Michelle Darnell, is a tycoon of the business world and attempts to teach people to go out and get what they want. She heads massive seminars that look more like stadium tours and makes massive business deals between helicopter rides. When she is caught doing some dodgy deals by her rival Reanult (Peter Dinklage), Darnell is sent to prison for four months.

When she gets out of the clink, Michelle embarks on a scheme to regain her wealth with the help of her ex-assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel. Inspired by a girl scouts-esque group selling thousands of dollars worth of cookies, Michelle starts her own troupe selling Claire’s delicious homemade brownies. Obviously, things don’t run smoothly and the gang encounter turf warfare, backstabbing and dirty play. All the while being careful to prevent Renault destroying her once more.

There is nothing unsurprising about The Boss and the plot meanders along as you would guess. I say meanders because it seems to take a fucking age to get there. This is a pretty short film but everything seems to take way longer than it should. I don’t really understand how scenes can drag whilst the end result still feels so full of holes. To be fair to the script, the plot is focused and sticks to what it wants to achieve. Unfortunately, it never seems sure of what that is. The tone flip flops depending on where the comedy is coming from and Michelle’s character goes from an utter imbecile to a calculating genius in the blink of an eye. The Boss is never sure if she’s a cold, cut-off figure or an emotional and caring agony aunt.

Basically, this is a film that was written to allow Melissa McCarthy to be as vile as humanly possible to a group of teenage girls. The characters or the concepts don’t really come into play. The script just manufactures situations in which she can call young girls lesbians as an insult and threaten their mothers. When the sheer volume of violence and swearing fails to draw a laugh then we fall back onto the old faithful physical comedy. If there’s a dip in the action then god knows Melissa is willing to fall down a fucking flight of stairs. What a trooper.

None of the this really makes sense and nobody’s motivations are ever really clear. Michelle wants to make money yet she’s more than willing to give most of the money raised to other people. She is a ruthless tycoon who hates family but she readily bonds with Claire’s daughter without any trouble. Then there is Peter Dinklage’s Renault who hates Michelle and plots her downfall. Although, there is never really enough justification for the level of super evil to which he aspires. I say aspires because Renault is the shittest villain imaginable and even more of an embarrassing role for Dinklage than the one he played in fucking Pixels.

That’s the thing about The Boss. Every one who played a part in it could and should have done better. Nobody comes out of this looking good. McCarthy gives it her all but with the lousy script and terrible premise, she never gets the material to really shine. You can’t fault her energy or passion but it’s not enough. Under the direction of her husband, Ben Falcone, she just flounders. It made me uncomfortable to watch this film and it had nothing to do with the vulgarity. I’m tired of seeing actors I love and respect doing such utter shit. It has to stop.

Monday’s are for moaning – Ghostbusters 3: the curse of nostalgia

ghostbusters, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, nostalgia, rant, women

So those of you who haven’t been living under a rock for the past week will no doubt be aware that the new Ghostbusters trailer was released. I have to say, it’s fucking awesome. I’ve had my doubts about a third film being released since Dan Aykroyd first starting blathering on about it years ago but as soon as Paul Feig, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig signed on I was all for it. And that was before I saw Chris Hemsworth in glasses. Obviously, I have huge love for the original film and have been in love with Ray Stanz for a really long time. Just like everyone else, I wanted this film to be good but not shit all over the original. Unlike a lot of the people on the internet, however, I fucking loved the trailer. Yeah, it was as silly and light-hearted as you’d expect from this group of people but, ultimately, it made me smile. Something the original always manages to do.

Now in this rant I don’t want to focus on the people out there complaining about the fact that four men have been replaced by four women. To be honest, I don’t want to acknowledge those fucking idiots any more than they already have been. The arguments are all baseless and I don’t have the time to deal with that many stubborn and brain-dead morons. No, I want to talk about the more worrying set of people who are suggesting that the new film will in some way ruin the original for all of its fans.

In a film industry polluted by dozens of reboots and unnecessary sequels, we hear the phrase “ruined my childhood” far too often. There is an idea that every modern interpretation of something will become the definitive version of that franchise. It’s something we see time and time again with fans who are too melodramatic for their own good. Take the prequels for the major example. All those people bemoaning the fact that George Lucas had “ruined their childhood” with his modern trilogy were just being whiny little bitched. Yes, the prequels weren’t as good as the originals but does that mean, in turn, the original films became worse? Associating something good with something shit doesn’t make it as shit.

Yes Transformers wasn’t a great film but that doesn’t mean you can say it completely destroyed everything that came before it. It’s still a very successful toy franchise and cartoon. Yes, Battleships was the most ridiculous excuse for a cash-in in history but does that make the original game any worse? Okay, I’m not going to pretend I’m a big enough fan of the board game to actually give a shit but people surely didn’t stop playing just because Rihanna was in a terrible film. Jurassic Park 3 certainly didn’t ruin the idea of the first one enough to prevent the amazing Jurassic World being made.

I recently watched a reaction to the new trailer where the guy in question was nearly in tears because he felt the new film wasn’t respecting the legacy enough. I thought he was fucking kidding until he went on and on about it. Not respecting the legacy? It’s got ghosts and people who want to bust those ghosts. What’s not being respected? What people really mean when they say it’s ruining the original is “it’s not got Billy Murray” in it. And I can understand that. Bill Murray is a fucking legend. However, 2016 Bill Murray is not 1984 Billy Murray. Having any of the original cast reprise their roles now could possibly have destroyed the original. Nobody wants the memory of those youngish men valiantly saving New York to be replaced with balding, grey and chubby old men rushing to the aid of their city using a fucking zimmer frame.

Nostalgia is a fucking bitch really. People get so caught up in wanting to relive the past that they romanticise and glorify the films of their childhood. It’s understandable but it shouldn’t lead to the kind of stubbornness that can’t even accept that a re-imagining of something could possibly be good. We know Paul Feig is more than capable of creating funny films, even when they seem completely dire – I’m looking at you The Heat. Give him such a fantastic cast of funny women and a premise based on one of the funniest films of the 80s and it seems you’d have a home-run on your hands. Except to the fucking idiots who are still living in the 80s it seems.

Whatever your view on the new trailer may be, we all have to agree that it at least looks like an improvement on the sequel. I mean that was a fucking travesty. How can anyone say that Melissa McCarthy and co aren’t taking the Ghostbusters ethos seriously when just a few years after the first film a badly animated statue of liberty danced through Manhattan to the song ‘Higher and Higher’? You want to complain that something in the Ghostbusters franchise is too silly then you need look no further. Silliness has always been a part of the franchise and anyone who looks back now and claims it was trying to do something more serious is too pretentious for words.

Ghostbusters always has and always will be a comedy. It came from a silly idea Dan Aykroyd had for himself and John Belushi and only became sillier when Bill Murray and Harold Ramis came on board. Yes, maybe the new film isn’t quite as subtle and has a screaming Leslie Jones slapping Melissa McCarthy in the face. Is that so wrong? It looks like it’s going to be fun and the four women have great chemistry. I’ve watched the trailer countless times and it’s mostly because of Kate McKinnon. I mean this film will probably be worth it for her facial expressions alone.

So shut the fuck up about your ruined childhood. We’re all invested in this but some of us are mature enough to realise that change isn’t always a bad thing. New often is as good as the original. Let’s at least give the damn thing a chance before we start condemning it to reboot hell. I doubt that this will replace the first film in my heart but I am positive that I’ll come out of it feeling happy. And isn’t that the point?

TBT – Bridesmaids (2011)

comedy, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, review, TBT, women
In any interview, review or article concerning Melissa McCarthy will inevitably mention her breakout performance in Kirsten Wiig‘s 2011 female comedy Bridesmaids. Like it’s the only fucking role she’s ever had. Part of me is sick of Bridesmaids, it just won’t go away. When it came out, the critics and the public were falling over themselves to praise this revolutionary comedy that showed women can be as funny as men. Despite every fibre of my being telling me not to, I’m going to ignore all of the problems associated with that fucking phrase and admit that I wasn’t exactly in a rush to see it. I’m all for women getting the limelight but there was nothing about it that screamed ‘see me immediately’. I guess it didn’t help that I wasn’t quite as shocked as the rest of the world to discover that women are gross: having stepped in as a cleaner at work I know first hand how fucking disgusting women can be. Really, I just didn’t relish the idea of this Judd Apatow meets Sex and the Citycomedy all about weddings. I’m not that kind of gal.

That’s not to say that Bridesmaidsisn’t a decent film: it is funny and there are some genuinely touching moments. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo have written a great script and brought together a fantastic selection of comic performers. Wiig herself went even further in this film to prove that not only is her understanding of humour spot on but that she can hold her own as an actor in general. Her writing and her performance are charming, impressive and delicate, even during her loudest moments.
As someone who stopped giving much of a shit about weddings once she reached double figures, I could empathise with Wiig’s Annie, a very single, thirty-something who finds herself unprepared for dealing with her best friend’s engagement. Lillian (Maya Rudolph) obviously asks Annie to be her maid of honour, which forces her to question her own romantic lifestyle and her role in Lillian’s life. Coming face-to-face with Helen (Rose Byrne), a rival for position of best friend, Annie can’t help but think that she just doesn’t cut it.
Stuck in a dead-end job after her bakery went out of business, living with oddball British siblings (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson), having a shitty car, and enjoying adult sleepovers with a man that sums up the definition of dickhead (Jon Hamm), Annie just can’t compare to the rich and confident Helen. Of course, her rival is all too aware of this too and takes every opportunity to push Annie towards failure.
The three main women are great characters and all three actors do fantastically. Alongside Wiig’s wackiness, Rose Byrne excels as the calculating and jealous Helen. The tension between the two is palpable but neither actor pushes it outside the realms of realism. Maya Rudolph, like Wiig, shows once again that she is a performer to be reckoned with. She flies within her one-on-one scenes with Wiig and shines as she reacts to Annie’s continuing breakdown. Their friendship is the true heart of the film and the actors work fantastically to establish the relationship before showing it in turmoil.
The rest of the bridal party fair less well in terms of characterisation but it can’t be said that it prevented Melissa McCarthy making herself known. Kirsten Wiig’s slapstick moments are some of the films finest moments (the plane scene in particular is the brand of nostalgic comedy that you can’t help but laugh yourself silly at) but McCarthy blows her out of the water every time. She is the most outrageous but refreshing character in the entire thing but I still wish there was more to her. The character does feel a little thin and, I suspect, in the hands of another actor she would have proved less successful.
Then you have the final two bridesmaids who really make no impression at all. It gets to the point that, in order to make use of Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey, the pair are given an unnecessary brush with sexual experimentation. I don’t see the point of the these women and it feels like they’ve been given the worst of Hollywood’s clichés so they aren’t wasted entirely. The only person less important to proceedings is Lillian’s groom who is basically non-existent.
After all, Bridesmaids isn’t about men so they don’t get much screen-time. Well other than Chris O’Dowd as Annie’s adorable love interest, Officer Rhodes. This is the role that caused Hollywood to really fall in love with the actor we’ve all been obsessed with since The IT Crowd. Their romance isn’t exactly outstanding and it’s such a traditional Hollywood love story that it could be annoying. However, the pair have great chemistry and are both so utterly charming that it’s impossible not to support it.
That’s what Bridesmaids is more than anything: a comedy full of heart and charm. You like the main characters despite anything. You believe the friendship between Annie and Lillian and can’t help but get angry when Helen threatens to scupper it. A lot of the jokes are crude, in the manner of a Judd Apatow stoner film, but there is something more than just shock value there. It feels real. Bridesmaids goes against the idea of what it is to be a woman in a Hollywood film. No longer do we have the awful schmultzy, touchy-feely films about sisterhood, the desperate cougars of Sex and the City, or the one-dimensional, take noprisoners psycho bitch

Bridesmaidsunderstands the importance of female friendships whilst still being honest about the neuroses that bubble under the surface. It shows the subtle way that women can dig away at each other and undermine their rivals. It also does it in a completely non-judgemental way. Even the bitchiest of characters is shown to be vulnerable and self-conscious rather than wholly malicious.
So obviously, Bridesmaidsis a step in the right direction for women in Hollywood but, despite enjoying some of the grotesque humour, I still have that niggling feeling that it still isn’t getting to the heart of the matter. Whilst not being completely safe in terms of a major film, there is something less dangerous about making a film about women that feels like a man’s comedy. Rather than creating the ‘female Hangover‘ I would have preferred a female focused film that didn’t require comparison to something made by men and for men.

Spy (2015)

comedy, film, Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, review, women
Melissa McCarthy doesn’t get offered the kind of roles that she deserves. She’s been faced with plenty of utter shit and several hit-and-miss roles since her breakout performance in 2001’s Bridesmaids. As someone who has loved her since I first watched The Gilmore Girls, I’ve been disappointed with the amount of her roles that just rely on her size to get laughs. Although, she and Paul Fieg are proving to be a pretty great double-act. Bridesmaidsis still celebrated for its female-centric comedy and I was surprised to find that, despite my misgivings, The Heatwas actually pretty good. The problem with the duo’s films is the way they are marketed. They have to appeal to the male film audience as well so I’m never wowed by the trailers. I was devastated when I first saw the trailer for Spybut I knew I’d still end up seeing it. Such is my love of McCarthy.

Paul Fieg isn’t exactly treading new ground with his spoof of spy thrillers but he is using his latest film to bely the genre’s sexist history by continuing to showcase funny women. Joining Melissa McCarthy are Rose Byrne (her Bridesmaids co-star), Allison Janney and Miranda Hart. Whilst the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, was criticised for the use of female characters, Spy makes a point of taking its Miss Moneypenny figure and turns her into a profanity-spewing, kick-ass spy.
Susan Cooper is a CIA agent who has been relegated to a desk job where she provides technological backup for superstar agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) who she is hopelessly in love with. Fine has been attempting to track down a bomb and, when he is killed on duty, Susan offers to enter the field to finish his task. Of course, her bosses and co-workers aren’t exactly thrilled a the idea as Susan has the general air of a tragic, crazy cat lady type. She falls to pieces in front of a younger and more successful female spy and can’t help saying and doing the wrong thing.
Although, Spy isn’t an American Johnny English where the bumbling Susan accidentally finds victory whilst fucking everything up. Susan, it turns out, is a fucking brilliant spy who is actually a pretty terrifying opponent. Melissa McCarthy does a great job of playing each facet of Susan’s character. Although, there is still a sense within the plot that the comedy arises from the fact that female spies are an unlikely thing. At her funniest, Susan is heard spouting endless streams of insults and profanity as if to prove that females must push-aside their femininity in order to succeed at both the spy thriller and comedy.
Although, McCarthy’s comic timing is as sharp as ever and gets plenty of opportunity whilst reacting to the fancy gadgets and disguises her boss (Allison Janney) creates for her. Instead of fancy cars, pens and mobile phones that James Bond and co get to play with, Susan is left with her own special kit of rape whistle/poison dart, stool softener/antidote, and a large pack of haemorrhoid wipes that can melt a guys face off or something. McCarthy does a great job considering most of the humour is derived from her age and frumpy look. At least it makes it more satisfying when she gets her real-spy make-over.
She certainly makes a more memorable spy-figure than Jude Law as the traditional Bond figure. He does everything he should to portray the smarmy agent – pouting, flirting with pretty young things during a getaway, unflinching self-esteem, and witty quips – but nothing more. Law just coasts in his role and is never really given the chance to prove he is anything more than a face in a suit. Unlike Jason Statham who plays an angry, meat-head agent who disagrees with Susan’s methods. Statham reels off complicated soliloquies about how tough his time as an agent has been and just how many tricky situations he’s got himself out of. It’s a parody of the roles he has become known for so can’t have been much of a stretch for Statham but it is much more pleasurable to watch.
As Fieg has proved time and again, there is something that works so well when women bounce off other women. Rose Byrne has a great deal of screen time as villain, Rayna Boyanov, where she is both disgusted by and impressed with Susan. Bryne doesn’t exactly have the role of her career but she does provide some laughs as the fairly incompetent but deadly Rayna. Of course, the real friendship that works throughout the film is the relationship between Susan and her fellow analyst Miranda Hart, in her Hollywood debut. Hart tags along as the clumsy and awkward sidekick in a way that isn’t too different from her sitcom character. It’s not necessarily the strongest comic debut in movie history but Hart does enough to suggest she’ll be back for much more. Especially her work alongside rapper 50 Cent.
Spyis something of a mixed-bag really. There are enough laughs to keep audiences amused and most of its stars to flourish. It’s refreshing to watch a film of this genre give all of its best lines to women and allow them to take centre-stage. It’s something Fieg and McCarthy have become known for and it is comforting in prior to his all female Ghostbusters reboot. However, the plot isn’t exactly ground-breaking and some of the humour just fizzles out. The problem lies with the long-line of spy spoofs that we have been subjected to over the years. The plot is the same kind of silly, nonsensical narrative that simply facilitates the many action scenes. It’s just a shame that Spycomes across as more tired and pathetic than the CIA’s view of Susan.

The Heat (2013)

buddy comedy, comedy, cops, Melissa McCarthy, review, Sandra Bullock, women

It was the Bridesmaidscombo of Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig that really put the former on Hollywood’s radar. She is slowly making a name for herself as a reliably funny performer despite not always receiving the type of material she deserves (see IdentityThief). Here the two reunite for the film that was, for a long time, known as ‘The Untitled Female Buddy Cop Comedy’. In Snakes on a Plane style part of me wishes they had kept this at the title but alas, The Heat is what we were left with. As with his last film, Feig was on a mission to make a female-centric comedy that both men and women would enjoy. To prove that women are just as funny and downright silly as men. It worked with his first film, which was incredibly popular with both critics and audiences alike. Can he and McCarthy work their female-centric magic in the world of cops and robbers? 

The Heat doesn’t exactly break any boundaries in terms of plot and the script, written by Katie Dippold of Parks and Recreation, sets out a pretty simple premise in order to introduce the pair. At its bare bones it’s the standard buddy cop narrative but with more jokes about vaginas and spinsterhood. Sandra Bullock plays the career-driven FBI agent, Sarah Ashburn, whose desire to succeed is alienating her from her colleagues. Much like the career-driven and socially awkward FBI agent that Bullock played in the Miss Congeniality films in fact. With the promise of a prestigious promotion, Ashburn finds herself investigating a drugs baron working out of Boston. It doesn’t take long before she is stepping on the toes of local detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) and her never-ending mission to clean up her streets. Unsurprisingly, the pair soon discovers that their only chance of cracking the case is to combine their individual skills.

It’s really not difficult to see how this will pan out from here. The by-the-book Ashburn and the anything goes Mullins clash throughout the investigation. Whether that’s about how they dress, how they deal with suspects or their romantic lives. It is their differences that keep the plot plodding along until the inevitable turning point in their relationship occurs. This happens, unsurprisingly, during a night of heavy drinking when they ladies discover that under the surface the two are just passionate about their jobs. It is a scene which only goes to highlight the wonderful chemistry between the pair which gives their banter a pleasingly natural and improvised feel to it.
I think it’s safe to say that in the hands of different actresses this film would have flopped instantly. Both Bullock and McCarthy are capable of being incredibly funny and have no concerns about looking too silly. They throw themselves into every aspect of their parts and are incredibly successful. It would be easy to dismiss this as an ‘it’s all been done’ situation but, thanks to Feig and his two leads, you end up caring about the main characters. This is even more of a testament to the actresses when you consider that, at their core, the pair of law enforcers are essentially just dicks. It’s easy to see why they are so alienated from their co-workers. Ashburn brags about her superior skills and delights in humiliating her colleagues at any opportunity. Likewise, Mullins is loud, brash and turns to threats and profanity if she ever feels cornered. In lesser hands it would be easy to end up turning against these characters but, thanks to the incredibly likeable leads and Feig’s direction, the audience are with them every step of the way.
Feig may believe in his characters but he has some problems with keeping the film going. Just as he did in Bridesmaids, the director has a slight problem with pacing; some scenes keep going for much longer than they need to, some jokes are stretched out to beyond their limit, and there are moments which just distract from the main action. For example, the stand-out bar scene where Mullins and Ashburn drink themselves into a mutual understanding may be one of the funnier scenes but it is hard to escape the idea that it sort of outstays its welcome. At the same time, Dippold’s script often attempts to turn its simply narrative into something grander and attempts to pull off the kind of twist ending expected by a much better film. As it happens, the final reveal of the identity of the drugs lord is just unnecessarily confusing and feels sillier than any of McCarthy’s physical comedy… which, now I think about it, is probably a fitting revelation.
After all, at its heart, The Heat is an incredibly funny film. In fact, if it ain’t funny it’s more than likely that The Heat just isn’t interested. Every scene, even the weakest ones, contains something that will get you chuckling. Despite an arguably weak narrative, Dippold’s script if full of fantastic jokes and amazing physical comedy perfectly tailored to the women at its centre. It is impossible not to get caught up in the sheer energy and heart that everyone is bringing to the production. 

Identity Thief (2013)

comedy, fucking awful, Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, review, terrible
Jason Bateman is another one those frustrating actors who will agree to appear in any old piece of shit despite being incredibly good. It’s finally getting to the point where the high points don’t mean as much and might as well be flukes. Watching him in films like Horrible Bosses (2011), The Change-Up (2011) and The Switch (2010) it is hard to believe it is the same man who excelled in the likes of Juno (2007) and Arrested Development. The major problem with his latest film, Identity Theft is that it appears good on paper thanks to Bateman’s presence and that of his co-star Melissa McCarthy. After her scene stealing role in Bridesmaids (2012) McCarthy is pretty hot Hollywood property and any film starring this much comic potential sounds as though it can’t fail.

As those shrewd few out there may be able to tell, Identity Thief concerns itself with the slightly au fait topic of identity theft. McCarthy plays a trashy con artist who lives the life of luxury in Florida thanks to the naive victims she manages to dupe. The opening scene sees her easily gain access to the personal information of Bateman’s accountant Sandy Bigelow who enjoys a simple existence in Denver with his wife (Amanda Peet) and his two daughters. A happy life that is troubled by his selfish boss (Jon Favreau).

After finally having enough of their awful situation, Sandy’s colleagues take matters into their own hands and start their own company. Being drawn in by the promise of a better salary and a better title, Sandy’s life finally seems perfect. Until, that is, he begins to find himself in financial trouble and fighting criminal charges for skipping a court date. Of course, it takes the police no time at all to discover that they have the wrong man but apparently that is all the help they can offer.

For that is the major flaw of Identity Thief. Whilst normal people would turn to the proper authorities to help them solve this type of problem, Sandy instead takes the vigilante route and chases the woman who is ruining his life to Florida. Buoyed on by his new boss’ unwillingness to sympathise with his situation, his plan is to track her down and somehow convince her to come back with him to unwittingly give the police a taped confession of her crime. Now you mention it, that does sound much easier than waiting for the police to do what they’re supposed to.

Written by Craig Mazin, who has two Scary Movie sequels, two sequels to the infuriatingly popular The Hangover, and Superhero Movie as evidence of his credentials, Identity Thief‘s script is one of the stupidest, laziest and most confused film plots to come out of Hollywood recently. Playing out as a weird mash-up of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Midnight Run, we must follow the predictable plot of an odd couple trying to make their way across America whilst dealing with all of the obstacles that get in their way.

Mazin was clearly a little out of control during his writing process as he never really knows when enough is enough. He keeps breaking off from the already dull and totally flawed main plot to add unnecessary and unfinished subplots to bring up his running time. It wasn’t enough that he shoves two polar opposites in a car to see what mayhem ensues but we have to introduce grieving yet kinky cowboys, sadistic bounty hunters and dangerous gangsters out for revenge at the behest of their incarcerated mob boss. This slows down the narrative and adds nothing in terms of drama, action or laughs.

In fact, laughs is one of the majors things that this comedy is missing. Any attempts to find the humour in this awful scenario are painful and clumsy. There’s nothing clever here and everything just falls back to childish name-calling and digs about weight and appearance. I don’t know if Mazin thought hearing people mock Sandy for having a ‘girl’s name’ repeatedly would somehow make it funny but it just made me feel as though comedy had stepped back a few decades. I’m pretty easy to please on the old comedy front and can never resist a chuckle when someone falls over in front of me. However, I spent most of this film stoney faced and incredibly bored. Had it not been for the energetic and committed performances of the two leads Identity Thief would have nothing going for it.

McCarthy and Bateman do the best that they can but the characters they are given leave much to be desired. Bateman plays his typical dry, straight man but with the added bonus of being a pretty awful guy on top. It’s hard to put yourself on Sandy’s side when he’s just a fairly arrogant and mean accountant that’s just bent out of shape that his own stupidity lead to this situation.

To her credit, McCarthy throws herself into the role and brings life to an underdeveloped character. She is the only potential source of comedy and on no less than three occasions brought a slight smirk to my face. However, it is hard to understand what we are supposed to think about Diana, as she wishes to be known for most of the film. She flits between obscene, unrepentant criminal and emotionally scarred orphan who we are supposed to care about because she’s lonely. You don’t care for either of the two and there is never an opportunity where you know who to cheer for. Although, the two are both experts at their particular brand of comedy (and more often than is necessary drama) and work pretty well together. Had they been offered a better script and a tighter concept this could have been an altogether better film.