REVIEW: “THE KITCHEN” (2019) Warner Bros.

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This is not a comedy. Ordinarily a movie review would not begin by telling you what the movie is not, but when the theater marquee flashes “Starring Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish”, most anyone would assume they are in for a 2-hour laugh out loud romp with the promise of some outlandish one-liners to drop at the next party. Instead, the directorial debut from Andrea Berloff is a relatively violent mob movie.

Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) are left isolated when their mob-connected husbands are busted by the FBI, and sent to prison. Survival instincts kick in for the previously un-involved ladies, and they quickly realize that a bit of strategy would allow them to not only run the business their husbands left behind, but also build it into something better. Of course the mobsters left behind are none-too-pleased with the women outperforming them, and so we get a good old fashioned ‘brains vs. brawn’ battle.

The setting is the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. The year is 1978, so the Irish community still has a stronghold on the area. This is basically the same time frame and the same streets that serve as the setting for the classic film ‘TAXI DRIVER.’  We see what happens when a woman’s touch is applied to gangster activities: bonds are built, services are rendered, and payments are made. The illusion of power draws the three women in deeper, and the movie has us believe they are good at it. The issue is, as viewers, we never really buy into these three seizing this power. We are just supposed to sit back and accept that Kathy is an expert community organizer, Ruby gets things done behind the scenes, and timid Claire evolves. Actually, Claire’s transformation is the best part of the film. Seeing her discover new talents and her true persona is as exciting for us as it is for her. However, in total, the 3 characters are little more than caricatures of gritty mobsters.

In addition to the three stars, the cast is deep. The three husbands, Jimmy (Brian d’Arcy James), Kevin (James Badge Dale), and Rob (Jeremy Bobb),  all three are criminals and bad husbands who’ve been sent to serve three years in prison for their roles in a robbery.  Domhnall Gleeson as Gabriel,  resumes his chameleon ways in what could have been a more interesting role as he just literally randomly shows up in a scene without explanation and continues on from there, Common in a very small background role, plays a federal agent Gary Silvers, though he does give us the only plot twist ending of the movie.  Annabella Sciorra has a nice turn as the Italian mobster’s Alfonso Coretti’s (Bill Camp) wife Maria, and the great Margo Martindale complete with prop cane and wig, plays by far the best character of this entire film Helen O’Carroll, the only role that completely stands out in of all the respective gangster roles in the film.

The film does a nice job tying in historical elements of the era, including the construction plans for the Javitz Center, where they mention ‘some millionaires son is creating’ i.e., this is none other than Donald Trump.  There are more than a few moments of violence, but the shots aren’t nearly as dramatic as we’ve come to expect in mob movies. It’s simply not as gritty as it pretends to be.  The pretense of ‘just another day at the office’ after each murder committed by these women seems prevalent here.  There are some similarities to some mob movies of past, but if you’re expecting a female version of ‘Goodfellas,’ that’s not happening, though had this been done right, it could have been.   I expect it will be a crowd-pleaser for those along for the ride. Just remember – it’s not a comedy.

Grade: D+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: peggyatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Thursday, August 8, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. 

“THE KITCHEN” IS IN THEATERS IN THE U.S.A. ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 2019 // FOLLOWING WORLDWIDE LATE AUGUST/SEPT

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REVIEW: “SISTERS” (2015) Universal Pictures

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We’ve all heard the saying “Sisters from another mother”. Well that’s pretty much how Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) & Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) are here as they look nothing alike and yes, they play/are sisters in this funny at times, throwback to our party days, comedy. Here the parents are Deanna, the fantastic Dianne Wiest and the truly who-knew-he-could-be-funny James Brolin is dad Bucky.

In case I didn’t mention it .. the sister’s are polar opposites. Since her divorce two years ago the responsible straight arrow, Maura, who is beyond do-gooder even in her job as a nurse. On the other hand we have the irresponsible, unable to hold a job or keep a place to live, mess up Kate. She is game for anything yet so childish that her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), although still a teenager herself, seems to act much more mature than her own mother. But what the two sisters share in is going into complete and utter shock, to put it lightly, when going to visit their parents home they see a “SOLD” sign at the family house in Orlando. Seemingly by not informing or hinting at the fact they have sold it, their parents ask them now to clean out their former childhood rooms before the new owners come in.
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Reluctantly the sister dig through all their old stuff and while the two reminisce over their youth, Kate gets the idea to throw an for old times sake – “Ellis Island” –  one last party as they once were called and with that, one last party IS going down at the parent’s house.

The film definitely hits it’s high notes here as the invitations go out to all their former classmates – including as the scene stealer once again here as in Trainwreck, the how shall we say – robust – drug dealer Pazuzu (John Cena), to whom Kate has got her eye set on in some truly hilarious moments. As for Maura, well she’s got the charming nice guy love interest James (Ike Barinholtz), and they get themselves in the big ‘this-is-so-wrong moment’ of the film. Even high school mean-girl Brinda (Maya Rudolph) appears, although she is most definitely not on the guest list.
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As predicted, the party is soon out-of-control, so much so that the future homeowners might only be left with an entirely demolished home, sinkhole and all. There is mass destruction and a plowed-through dry wall. There’s also more token sad comedy bits than probably needed ending this.

A pre-party moment that stands out for me is a flat out hysterical nail salon visit with Hae-Won (Greta Lee), that had me rolling in my seat. Along with John Leguizamo’s character Dave, who’s never quite let go of his high-school party ways, the notable SNL cast members who do their bits are fun. There’s Bobby Moynihan playing an always “on” never-funny aspiring comedian Alex, who accidentally hoovers up some futuristic combo of blow and heroin and literally goes bananas.
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“Sisters” has a hard time stopping once the party has ended, but when it’s moving as an out-of-control party stacked with people worrying about getting old, it knows how to move. When it’s not, the story becomes a bit lackluster.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, December 18, 2015

REVIEW: “SPOTLIGHT” (2015) Q & A w/Producers (Open Road Pictures)

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“Spotlight” boldly brings back into the spotlight (pun intended) and tells the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking up not only us the public, but the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Michael Keaton plays Walter Robinson who leads the Globe’s investigative unit “Spotlight” along with Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). At a time when the internet started undercutting actual newspapers & staffs of some of the biggest papers in town were being cut in half, the Globe brought in new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), and the team begins to unfold a horrific pattern of child sexual abuse by the church that was muted and covered up by high priced lawyers and payoffs to victim’s families. As Walter probes further and further into the events (the setting is just prior to, but mostly after the events of 9/11) the investigation reveals layers and layers of injustice of Catholic Priests that were aided by the highest powers of the church in an effort to keep the story muted.spotlight 1

It all starts with a featured column about Catholic priest John Geoghan who was accused of abusing over 100 boys. A civil suit is filed but the details of the abuse were ordered sealed by the courts. As newly installed editor and the first Jewish one at that, Baron puts the team of reporters on the case and within days the evil that lurked with the sacred rooms of local churches begins to reveal it’s despicable face.
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The investigation goes on for months as the team hits roadblock upon roadblock taking one step forward for every two steps back. But the story eventually breaks and the emotionally exhausted team is eventually able to bring to light one of the more depressing and important stories to hit us in the new century.

The performances are mostly good. Schreiber as Baron, the first Jewish editor is quiet, yet speaks volumes. Ruffalo with some oddly thrown in facial & body tics/expressions that are reminiscent of a bad Jimmy Olsen type reporter is almost annoying to a point, McAdams is her usual bland generic self. Keaton & Tucci both are good, though for Keaton, it’s not Birdman type good. There are more roles to be recognized in Billy Cruddup, Jamey Sheridan & notable is John Slattery. It’s truly an ensemble film as there are no specific leads. spotlight 5
And of course nods to All the President’s Men will be inevitable. The film itself is fresh and invigorating in its painfully frustrating subject matter. It is at times painful to watch. Trusted bonds between people, children, parents and the institution that promotes the opposite to what it sometimes preaches are disgusting revelations that are brought to the screen with sizzling effect. You won’t forget this movie or what happened any time soon after you see it, and truthfully, we never should.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, November 2, 2015 ~ Courtesy of the Producers Guild of America
Nationwide release: Friday, November 6, 2015

POST Q & A w/Producers: Michael Sugar, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust, Steve Golin ~ It’s always nice when the Producers, Director and Cast take the time out to do a post-screening Q & A. They talk about their passion for the projects and usually give great insight to their films. That’s why it surprised me so much that there was a huge exodus of people after this film. Usually you always get a few, but I would say 1/2 the audience emptied out. Not sure why, maybe they were disturbed by it, maybe they were Catholics upset by the fact that it happened, and maybe some still just don’t want to believe it. I found it sad because as a film-goer, you should have the decency to show respect to the people that again, took the time to come talk to you about a project. Moving on… All producers listed took the time to speak about the films budget, which at 20 million, but they still got good stars to come aboard even though there was no specific lead role, as it was a complete ensemble type film. Mark Ruffalo was the first to come aboard and they appreciated that because it brought others to the table. They also had to clear schedules because they wanted to shoot in the specific time of year of late fall, early winter as that’s when it all actually happened. The Boston Globe also let them shoot in their actual offices where everything took place.
They also had to work closely to get all the legal aspects & clearances done correctly as you would be assuming correctly if you thought the Catholic Church was less than thrilled to be having this all brought up again in a film. The only reaction from the church has been the few apologies you’ve already seen.
Since the piece first ran in Jan 2002, over 600 more articles were published by the Boston Globe unearthing more and more atrocities. The most moving moment was when a survivor was in the audience and thanked the producers for making this film and making sure we never forget and hopefully work harder to prevent this from happening again, as it still is going on all over the world..and not just in the catholic religion to be sure.