Tag Archives: Melissa McCarthy

Return of the bad-ass ladies of summer

It’s become an annual tradition on this blog to celebrate the bad-ass ladies of summer — those women blazing trails of awesomeness into the male dominated territory of Hollywood action movies.

The summer movie season is winding down and, looking back on it, it wasn’t exactly bad-ass, what with flops like “Warcraft,” “The BFG” and “The Legend of Tarzan” casting a depressing shadow over the box office, which was dominated by uninspired remakes.

Despite this, there were female-centric performances to admire as many actors followed in the pioneering footsteps of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and Daisy Ridley’s Rey to give us the strong, nuanced, wildly entertaining, butt-kicking performances we should be seeing more of. We do, after all, live in the 21st century.

Without further ado, here are the bad-ass ladies who led the way this summer. They deserve a 21 proton gun salute.

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The Cast of ‘Ghostbusters’

Who knew rebooting the beloved 1984 action-comedy classic with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon taking on roles loosely based on those originally played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson would be such a subversive act?

When director Paul Feig announced his plan, he broke the Internet as wounded, mostly male fans took to Twitter to decry a “Ghostbusters” populated by women and declare it was ruining their childhood. This despite the approval of producer and original director Ivan Reitman.

Things only got weirder and uglier after the film’s release as online tirades directed at the cast continued and Jones became the target of a nasty trolling campaign that smacked of racism and misogyny. The incident prompted Jones to briefly shut down her account and Twitter to tighten up its regulations, but all ended well with Jones returning to Tweet another day and living happily ever after as a sidesplitting Olympic commentator.

Whatever your opinion of “Ghostbusters” — and it definitely has its flaws — the significance of its arrival on the cinematic horizon cannot be overstated. This is an action-comedy headlined not by one women, but by four, and none of them are sexualized or condescended to by the filmmakers or their male co-stars.

Whatever the movie’s failures, whether weak story or a lack of originality, the cast has nothing to do with them. “Ghostbusters” is a lovingly crafted showcase for a quartet of consummate comedians who are squarely on their game, hilarious, and in total control. (Kudos to Chris Hemsworth for good-naturedly going along with the film’s funniest gender reversal.)

This is empowerment of a kind that is extremely rare in Hollywood and done with a tone so light and playful, it’s easy to dismiss how important the film is. Because of “Ghostbusters,” women took to social media to ponder what their childhoods might have been like if this film had existed when they were growing up. And little girls donned the team’s trademark beige jumpsuits and proton packs with gusto.

We can only hope more filmmakers will join in the spirit of “Ghostbusters” and its delightful feminist subversion. Is it too soon for a female James Bond?

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Sofia Boutella as Jaylah in “Star Trek: Beyond”

The rebooted “Star Trek” franchise has always featured a strong heroine in the form of Zoe Saldana’s intelligent, fiercely loyal Lt. Uhura.

At the same time, it’s hard to shake the feeling that J.J. Abrams and company never know quite what to do with the miniskirt-wearing communications officer. Uhura tends to linger on the sidelines while Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and even Simon Pegg’s Scotty get all the action. That’s why the introduction of Jaylah in “Beyond” is so refreshing.

Boutella previously made an impression as Samuel L. Jackson’s blade-legged righthand henchwoman in “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” As Jaylah, the strikingly marked alien who becomes an unlikely ally to the crew of the Enterprise, she more than holds her own beside Pine and Pegg.

Jaylah is a loner, survivor, formidable fighter and technical genius who savvily makes her home inside a crashed Federation starship and protects it with a dazzling array of sophisticated booby traps. She also has excellent taste in vintage rap.

“I like the beats and shouting,” she declares.

Boutella graces this tenacious extraterrestrial heroine with stubbornness, humor and heart and, in the process, elevates “Beyond.”

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Comic Book Movie Heroes

Although Hollywood’s comic book franchises have lagged in embracing compelling, three-dimensional female characters to match their heroic male counterparts, this summer saw some encouraging strides in the right direction.

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has long been the woman of substance in Marvel’s often feeble female lineup. While she’s enjoyed her fair share of butt-kicking action, “Captain America: Civil War” gives her an unprecedented opportunity to flex her fighting muscles, throwing punches as aggressively as The Cap, thanks to directors Anthony and Joe Russo.

The “X-Men” franchise has treated its superheroines admirably, providing them with meaty emotional arcs and equal opportunity action moments. This summer’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” is no exception. The crux of the plot turns on the evolution of Sophie Turner’s young Jean Grey, whose climactic wielding of power is something to behold.

The season’s most entertaining comic book movie performance, however, belongs to Margot Robbie as one of the few rays of light in DC’s messy “Suicide Squad,” starring as infamous villain and the Joker’s wannabe girlfriend, Harley Quinn.

With her inordinate, self-destructive love for the Joker, Harley Quinn has always been a problematic character. She’s insanely likable, but also a bit of a feminist nightmare.

Although I wish director David Ayer didn’t spend so much time allowing the camera to leer at Harley’s short shorts, Robbie succeeds effortlessly in creating one of the film’s only fully realized characters.

Her Harley practically leaps off the comic book page — completely unhinged, an unabashed romantic, scary but sweetly vulnerable, and 100% capable of taking care of herself. It’s kind of a miracle, actually, that Robbie is able to pull off this crazy balancing act. Give her a spin-off already, DC.

It’s been a long time coming, but it appears the makers of comic book movies are finally at least attempting to give female caped crusaders their day in the sun.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the most tantalizing element of “Batman v Superman,” however brief her appearance. Her stand-alone film, due next year, looks amazing from what we’ve seen so far. And Marvel has a “Captain Marvel” movie in the works, starring the astonishingly talented Brie Larson.

In short, things are looking up for bad-ass ladies everywhere. Here’s hoping next summer is even more epic for them.

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Photos: http://www.youtube.com, ghostbusters.com, yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer of Bad-Ass Ladies: The Sequel!

Last year, around this time, we saluted the women who breathed fresh air into a moviegoing season that typically reeks of testosterone.

Many of 2014’s summer blockbusters were headlined by women, including Angelina Jolie, Emily Blunt, and Scarlett Johansson — cause for celebration. There was so much awesomeness going on that we declared it the “Summer of Bad-Ass Ladies.”

Now it appears summer 2014 wasn’t a blip on Hollywood’s radar, but the beginning of a promising trend. The films of summer 2015 were packed with substantial roles for women, who effortlessly stole scenes –and, in some cases, entire movies — from their male co-stars.

(That said, annoying female stereotypes persist. Did “Jurassic World” really need to punish Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire for loving her job too much and not being into kids?)

As we close the books on the year’s most explosive moviegoing season, it is with great delight that we dub it “Summer of Bad-Ass Ladies: The Sequel.”

Below, we revisit the baddest of these pioneering bad-asses. We hope we’ll be seeing them next summer, too.

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Charlize Theron in “Mad Max: Fury Road”: For the sake of its promotional campaign, Warner Bros. pretended that Tom Hardy’s Max is the star of “Fury Road.” But if you’ve seen the film, you know it is Theron who owns virtually every frame of this magnificently bleak and beautiful post-apocalyptic action flick. With a shaved head, oily face paint and one arm, tough-as-nails truck driver Furiosa is the heart and sinew of director George Miller’s female-centric road movie, with Hardy’s Max mostly along for the ride. When it comes to sci-fi heroines, she’s right up there with Ripley and Sarah Connor.

What’s even more impressive? There isn’t a single damsel in distress to be found in “Fury Road.” The cast’s menagerie of bizarre supporting characters includes strong, resourceful women of all ages and personalities. Why should this be such a rare thing? Hollywood execs should use Miller’s forward-thinking epic as a template for all summer blockbusters to come.

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Alicia Vikander in “Ex Machina”: There are so many wonderful, eerie and astonishing things to discover in writer-director Alex Garland’s artificial intelligence thriller. Chief among them is Swedish performer Vikander, also delightful in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” who brings to life the strikingly beautiful, eerily lifelike humanoid at the center of the film. With her cherubic face and curvaceous CGI body, Vikander’s Ava is alluring and dismaying, uncannily perfect, and completely believable. Is Ava the perfect object of male fantasies or a master manipulator? Is she a girl waiting to be rescued or a skilled self preservationist? In a film where nothing is quite what you expect it to be, Vikander is the biggest surprise of them all.

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Rebecca Ferguson in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”: Last summer, Tom Cruise starred in “Edge of Tomorrow” but willingly took a back seat to the incredibly bad-ass Emily Blunt, who dominated the clever sci-fi thriller. Weird rumors about Katie Holmes aside, maybe this guy deserves some feminist cred. This summer, he did it again, basically ceding his role as headliner of “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” to intriguing newcomer Rebecca Ferguson.

As enigmatic triple agent Ilsa Faust, Ferguson matches Cruise step for step and blow for blow in executing her own stunts and when it comes to intrigue, she’s a lot more interesting than the one-dimensionally heroic Ethan Hunt. The film’s most electrifying sequence, an attempted assassination in a Vienna opera house, is almost entirely Ferguson’s show. Coolly shimmying up the rigging in the sleekest, and most practical, of silk gowns, she’s practically auditioning to take over the franchise.

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Melissa McCarthy in “Spy”: McCarthy has always been brilliant at satirizing social convention, but she’s so likable and so good at what she does, we hardly notice the sly statements she makes. In “Spy,” she reunites with “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig and tackles the male-dominated genre made famous by James Bond and Jason Bourne, playing a timid CIA analyst lured out from behind her desk and into the dangerous field.

McCarthy may be may be sending up the exotic, over-the-top world of Hollywood espionage, but she also has a lot of fun and gets to do everything 007 does — a moped chase in Budapest, a killer knife fight — only she’s way more hilarious.

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Elizabeth Olsen in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”: When it comes to creating memorable on-screen superheroines, Marvel has been a bit slow to evolve. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is a formidable force but is seriously outnumbered by her male colleagues, who don’t have to stuff themselves into a slinky, black catsuit before saving the world. So it was a welcome moment when Olsen’s otherworldly Scarlet Witch made the scene in “Age of Ultron,” wielding some very cool telekinetic abilities. You can see just see the neighborhood kids mimicking her witchy powers of mind control while playing superhero. That’s something long overdue.

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Kate Mara in “Fantastic Four”: Comic book movie reboot “Fantastic Four” took a critical and fiscal bruising when it debuted earlier this month. The film is widely considered a disaster but it contains at least one overlooked element: Mara’s thoughtful portrayal of invisible woman Sue Storm. Watching the actor at work, it’s hard to believe that only 10 years ago, Jessica Alba’s Sue was largely celebrated for the way she filled out her skintight suit. In sharp contrast, Mara’s performance emphasizes Sue’s brains over her body. She is arguably the first female superhero whose intellect is more important than her sex appeal.

Photos: http://www.techinsider.io; http://www.youtube.com; marvel.com; tribecafilm.com, http://www.zimbio.com.

Melissa McCarthy: The ‘Spy’ Who Loved (To Make) Me (Laugh)

Spy
Two and a half stars (out of four)
R (language, violence, sexual content, brief graphic nudity)
120 minutes

In just five years, writer-director Paul Feig and leading lady Melissa McCarthy have become an unstoppable force in the world of R-rated comedy, conspiring to create sly, ribald girl-power laugh fests audiences can’t resist.

In 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” they blissfully upended the tired tradition of the wedding rom-com. Two years later, they put a fresh, feminist twist on the buddy-cop comedy with “The Heat.”
Their latest joint effort, “Spy,” tackles another male-dominated genre, the ripe-for-mockery field made famous by James Bond and Jason Bourne, not to mention the Pink Panther and Austin Powers.

“Spy” doesn’t achieve the gut-busting excellence of Feig and McCarthy’s hilariously sublime first outing but it’s almost certainly funnier than “The Heat” and it blossoms into an entertaining approximation of the very espionage flicks it parodies.

This is Feig’s most complicated project so far. “Spy” has a large cast, a goofily convoluted plot, exotic locations and stunts that could pass in a straight-up action blockbuster.
However, the main attraction, as always, is McCarthy, whose appeal mingles shameless self-deprecation with a strange and admirable dignity. Melissa may be taking most of the pratfalls, but she’s never the butt of the joke.

In “Spy,” she plays Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who has never set foot out from behind a desk, content instead to function as the reliable voice in the ear of flashy agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law, spoofing Bondian buffoonery with suavely silly style).

In the movie’s fantastic opening sequence, we see Susan expertly guide the preening Agent Fine through one perilous scenario after another as he infiltrates a fancy dinner party at the lakeside home of notorious arms dealer Boyanov (Raad Rawi).

Fine has been sent to retrieve an alarmingly compact nuclear bomb, but ends up bungling the assignment at the last minute. Susan may be blind in her sweet, decidedly-more-than-just-professional devotion to Fine, but she’s not stupid and, as we later discover, isn’t necessarily as meek or inexperienced as everyone assumes.

When Fine’s mission takes a lethal turn and the identities of the Agency’s top operatives are compromised, Susan volunteers to finish what her partner started, following Boyanov’s daughter, Rayna (McCarthy’s “Bridesmaids” star, Rose Byrne), to Paris on an assignment that’s strictly “track and report.”

Susan’s illusions of cool spy names, sexy gadgets and slinky disguises are shattered when her boss (Allison Janney) forces her to embody a series of frumpy, new identities — housewives, cat ladies and Mary Kay saleswomen, instead of vixens with enigmatic names like Amber Valentine.

It takes awhile for mild-mannered Susan to hit her stride as a spy, and it takes the movie awhile to find its comedic stride as well. If I have one complaint about Feig’s films, it’s that they always seem to last a good half-hour too long, the humor decreasing in proportion to the running time.

I also wish there weren’t so many gags in “Spy” that revolve around McCarthy or other women being groped. And is it just me or are the obligatory projectile vomiting and penis jokes getting stale?

McCarthy is always right on target, though. Few comedians bother to work this hard, and manage to make it look this fun. She’s especially entertaining when one of the script’s more outrageous plot twists gives her the opportunity to trade quick-witted, foul-mouthed barbs with Byrne’s pampered villainess, who has the hair of a Disney princess and the vocabulary of a bitter, old hag.

When it comes to parodying Bond and other cloak-and-dagger classics, Feig goes all out, from a cheesy 007-style animated opening credits sequence that could almost be the real thing, to a moped chase through the streets of Budapest, to an impressively choreographed kitchen knife fight. McCarthy gets to do all the things James Bond does, albeit with a lot less grace.

The director contrives to pair her with many unlikely but amusing co-stars, including Peter Serafinowicz as a lecherous Italian contact, and Jason Statham, sending up his tough-guy reputation as a grizzled veteran agent who’s a bit off his rocker.

Best of all is a generous appearance by cheery, inhumanly tall British comedian Miranda Hart (she plays Chummy on the BBC’s “Call the Midwife”).

In her American film debut, Hart cheekily steals scenes as Susan’s awkward but loyal office mate. Here’s hoping we see more of her on the big screen.

Perhaps in “Spy 2”?

Photo: uk.yahoo.com