REVIEW: “LIFE OF THE PARTY” (2018) New Line/Warner Bros.

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‘LIFE OF THE PARTY’ is comedy about a recently divorced mother Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) who decides to go back to college to finish getting her degree after dropping out for motherhood in her junior year. She then ends up in her daughter Maddies’ (Molly Gordon) class and while Maddie isn’t so super thrilled about this fact, much to her surprise, her sorority sisters actually love it. Written and Directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s real life husband (who of course has a bit part), along with Melissa also contributing to the writing portion. The movie is definitely a mixed bag – with only a few highlights and the rest of it to be almost painfully uneven, with hit-and-miss laughs along the way.

The high points of the film are definitely made and taken by McCarthy and her ‘going back to college’ adventure. Her character feels liberated for the first time in her life and truly sets out to find herself. Problem is, she begins partying with Maddie’s friends and sleeping with frat boy Jack (Luke Benward) who is half her age. She of course finds happiness, and her true self in the process.

The film is really funny in places, and when McCarthy plays off an 80’s dance contest and a hysterical dining scene, she is ON!!! – and there isn’t a lot of people who are better at pulling those moments off. Sadly, there isn’t enough of them and the film is completely not funny at all in other places. The odd turns it takes at times being even painful to watch, and then moments later it’s hilarious again. The supporting cast of Maya Rudolph as her best friend Christine and Stephen Root & Jacki Weaver as Deanna’s parents Sandy & Mike, add so much. But it’s the young supporting cast here of Maddie’s friends Helen aka ‘Coma Girl‘ (Gillian Jacobs), Jennifer (Debby Ryan), Amanda (Adria Arjona) & Debbie (Jessie Enis), that give some much needed spark with Jacobs leading the pack. And yes, there is a cameo performance by..(drum roll) Xtina – I mean..

I’ve seen a lot of comedies like this, and of course they’re hard to overly recommend, or discourage people from seeing as you’ve seen worse and you’ve seen better. It’s definitely good for at least some laughs, and a bit of feel good/positive vibes too.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Thursday, May 10, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
‘LIFE OF THE PARTY’ IS OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE ON FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2018

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REVIEW: “BATTLE OF THE SEXES” (2017) FOX SEARCHLIGHT

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“Battle of the Sexes” is the true life story of the behind-the-scenes of the now-famous exhibition tennis match between Women’s tennis star Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and now has-been Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

The film goes into some major detail here and takes us through the paces of what lead up to this now famous match, but has some serious pacing problems throughout the first half and some overly drawn out scenes tend to make it drag in places. Surprising to me was the film being billed as a “comedy”, as it’s not funny in the typical comedic sense at all except for maybe the fact that you can laugh at how things were back then. With Riggs, once a successful tennis play, now a habitual gambler-schemer of bad business deals, who is lucky enough to have married into money with wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue), they smoothly slide over the actual first ‘Battle of the Sexes’ match between Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) and Riggs, to which she then lost. In goes Billie Jean, whom at that point was leading the way in not only tennis, but fighting the good fight women’s rights and equal pay in tennis along with a great cast of supporting women’s players at the time who risked it all for equal pay.

Thankfully, things start to come together once King and Riggs agree to and start promoting the match and, which we see all the crazy fan-fare that was done at the time. By the end of all it and watching the match, even though you know the outcome, everyone in the theatre (men included) are cheering cfor Billie Jean as we watch her take control and realize what she truly accomplished, can get you a bit emotional to say the least. Stone and Carell are well-cast and do right by their characters. With Stone even going so far as to getting right the slighest things of say, getting the tennis stances of King & Riggs, something as a tennis fan, I notice. In particular, she nails King’s conflict with her own sexuality and the scenes between her and lover Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) are eye-opening especially when you think of all it entailed at the time.

So the script and direction might be a bit uneven, but it’s good enough to make all of us cheer for King by the end and maybe even have a bit of a laugh as it regals us with truly how out of touch the sexism of the early 70’s now seems to us. Sure, there might be some slight deviations from the real events however, Carell does a fine job of recreating the 1-man flying circus that was Bobby Riggs with Stone providing a fine performance as one of the most influential Americans of the last century. Also we can note that when Bobby passed, Billie Jean noted they had become good friends after all in life and she was one of the last people he spoke with.

The history of it all whether you were there or not, is well worth seeing again.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening: Friday, September 22, 2017 ~ Courtesy of LACMA/Film Independent
“BATTLE OF THE SEXES” is now playing at select theaters

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