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Action films reign during the summer heat, but audiences can choose a couple of comedies instead. Whether you’re in the mood for something crass or high class, you’re better off laughing than escaping into certain other mindless action films (I’m talking to you “White House Down”).
Director Paul Feig follows his success with the female-lead raunch-comedy “Bridesmaids” by taking on another male-dominated genre — the buddy cop flick — and proving it’s even more vibrant with two leading ladies. Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is one of the FBI’s finest, but she isn’t a team player. Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) is Boston P.D.’s toughest, but she’s mean — really mean. Arguing through their differences, these polar opposites team up to take down an unknown drug lord.
I’m sure plenty of people will consider “Bridesmaids” a better film — cleaner editing, better character development, a more memorable meaning and a diverse group of quirky characters (many of which are far too underused) — but “The Heat” is twice as funny with far less characters. Very few moments pass without a gut-busting moment. And unlike an episode of “Whitney” or anything starring Dane Cook, no courtesy laughs will leave your mouth.
Sure, the writing and directing are rather uneven, but the chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy is incredible. No stranger to the socially awkward, Bullock adds some new (rather terrible) dance moves to her palette. This is all old news if you’ve seen “Miss Congeniality”, but at least they don’t go “Armed and Fabulous” here. Bullock’s Ashburn is completely by the book, but as her “womance” with Mullins blooms, she lets loose in some truly comical ways. And then there’s McCarthy’s Mullins. Like Bullock, this is all familiar territory for an actress known for being loud, slovenly, foul mouthed and incredibly sexual (I know, an odd combination), but juxtaposing her to Bullock adds some new dimensions. She’s clearly Riggs to Bullock’s Murtaugh.
“The Heat” is no action film, and that’s the best part. It leaves more room for better one-liners, humorous tropes and slapstick gags. In many ways, it might be a conventional buddy cop film, but in place of a boring shootout at the climax, we get something far more hilarious.
“Much Ado About Nothing”
Director Joss Whedon decided to follow up his incredible success directing “The Avengers” with a modern-day Shakespearean comedy set in his home in Santa Monica. Filmed in 12 days and entirely in black and white, this “Much Ado About Nothing” might sound unadventurous in comparison, but it’s the most memorable remake of the classic story thus far. Whedon might be known for his witty banter, but relying completely on the words of the master playwright, with few revisions, proves he can do just as much visually as he does with his own dialogue.
This adaptation is almost page for page Shakespeare’s story of a weekend with royalty, as Prince Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) plans to win a bet by coupling the stubborn Beatrice (Amy Acker), niece of Leonoto (Clark Gregg), and the self-proclaimed bachelor for life, Benedick (Alexis Denisof), one of the prince’s friends. Meanwhile, the prince also graciously helps another companion, Claudio (Fran Kranz), marry Leonoto’s only direct heir, Hero (Jillian Morgese). But this is all unacceptable for the prince’s bastard brother, Don Jon (Sean Maher), who must undo this brewing affection to secure his position.
Whatever the project, Whedon loves to use many of the same performers, and rightfully so, since they’re all spectacular. Acker and Benedick have adequate romantic chemistry, but they shine separately in their monologues and physical comedy. Gregg (Agent Coulson from “The Avengers”) is especially enjoyably to watch in a far more animated role. But Nathan Fillion (“Castle”) provides one of the most memorable performances as Dogberry, a dim-witted constable who continually reminds people that he’s an “ass.”
Whedon is quite an anomaly. He made a name for himself by creating “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”, and became a web sensation with “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”. He also writes comic books, and now he’s Marvel’s golden boy, setting the stage for the “Avengers” films. Creating a Shakespearean film might appear out of place, but for a storyteller who loves various genres and creates great characters, The Bard is the fountain of life. Mistaken identity, everyone getting married by film’s end, large casts of characters: Shakespeare does it all.
“Much Ado” is an indie film through and through, but it still set some impressive records, premiering in only five theatres nationwide. Trust me and see this one while you still can. Shakespeare never felt so refreshing for a modern viewer.
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