Tag Archives: John Leguizamo

Sibling Revelry

Poehler, Fey launch sweet, raunchy ‘Sisters’ into comedic orbit



Starring Tina Fey & Amy Poehler

Directed by Jason Moore


If you’re looking for a popcorn alternative to Star Wars, here’s something that will send you sailing into a different kind of movie orbit.

In Sisters, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play a pair of grownup siblings who try to recapture their younger days by staging one final raucous, riotous house party.

Poehler is Maura, the helpful, respectable, responsible younger-sis do-gooder nurse. Fey is Kate, a little older, a good deal wilder and much brassier—but “not a hothead!” as she continually reminds folks. When they find out their mom and dad (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) have decided to downsize, they return to their childhood home to do everything they can to ward off the potential buyers.

Kate’s teenage daughter (Madison Davenport) thinks her jobless-cosmetologist mom is an embarrassment, and she doesn’t want to live with her anymore. Can one night of abandon help Maura break free of her dull, nice-girl past—and a lifetime lived in the shadow of the more adventurous, more daring Kate? And will stopping the sale of their home solve their problems—or create bigger ones?

Fey and Poehler, of course, worked together on TV’s Saturday Night Live before going on to even greater heights in various other projects, including solo stardom in Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock. Sisters is their first full movie collaboration in seven years, since Baby Mama (2008), and once again they strike comedy gold.

Not only are they funny, they know that things get even funnier by surrounding themselves with funny people and letting them do their stuff. Working from a script by former SNL writer Paula Pell, and under the direction of Jason (Pitch Perfect) Moore, they generously fill the talent pool with current SNL players (Kate McKinnon, Bobby Monynihan), fellow alums (Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch), rising stars (Samantha Bee, whose new TBS show, Full Frontal, premiers in January) and a cavalcade of supporting players (John Leguizamo; WWE superstar John Cena; Matt Oberg).

James Brolin & Dianne Wiest

Even Brolin and Wiest, the two veterans of the cast, get plenty of opportunities to joist and jab with their funny bones.

But the movie belongs to its two co-stars, who rock, roll and rule with a crackerjack chemistry that fuels everything, firing on all cylinders from start to finish. Some of it is raunchy, although well within bounds of today’s R-rated comedy sandbox. And it’s all brisk, bright, some of it even quite sweet, and very, very funny. Somehow grownup jokes Christmas-gift-wrapped by these two smart, classy leading ladies make the dirty seem merely naughty.

There’s a giant phallus painted on the wall—and Tina Fey’s taking suggestive selfies with it! Haha! What are they pretending to do with those majorette batons? Teehee! Are they really talking so much about sex, drugs and private parts? Hardy-har-har!

The humor is rapid-fire, especially when the banter is zipping, zapping and zinging between Fey and Poehler, whose timing, sense of teamwork and ease around each other suggests that they really might be Sisters, after all. And they’re great dance partners, too—they bust a righteous move at their party to the 1993 rap-dance song “Informer” (“a licky boom-boom down”) and end the movie with a sweet slow-dance groove that becomes a joyously goofy send-off.

The (comedy) Force is definitely with them.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine





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Dazed and Conspired

Wild stoner spy comedy is a mashed-up head trip

American Ultra - Comic Con Poster crop

American Ultra

Starring Jesse Eisenberg & Kristen Stewart

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh


Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is an underachiever pothead, working the overnight shift at a mini-mart and doodling comics in his sketchbook. Mike doesn’t care much about anything, except Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), his his live-in girlfriend, who’s pining for the getaway trip to Hawaii that Mike’s airport panic attacks always seem to derail.

Nothing much happens in their sleepy little hamlet of Liman, W.Va. Nothing, that is, until Mike looks up into the sky one night and American Ultra kicks into to crazy high gear with deep government ops, lunatic hit men and two young lovers caught in the middle.

Everything revolves around Mike, who’s more complicated and skilled than he realizes—or remembers. And Phoebe turns out to have a surprise or two of her own, too.

Soon, we’re up to speed on what Mike pieces together slowly: He’s a high-level government “experiment” genetically programmed with deep, long-dormant classified intelligence and lethal self-defense abilities. And higher-ups in the program are worried that he might go rouge, or haywire—or, most problematic of all, expose their body-and-brain games.


It’s a weird, wacked-out, sometimes wonderful mash-up of stoner comedy, spy-conspiracy spoof and hyper-violent teen-romance fantasy—think of Eisenberg and Stewart’s characters several years down the road from their 2009 collaboration Adventureland, caught between The Bourne Conspiracy and Pineapple Express, and spattered with Oliver Stone’s bloody overspray from Natural Born Killers.

Connie Britton from TV’s Nashville plays a government operative determined to help Mike evade the efforts of her devious counterpart (Topher Grace), who has marked him for elimination. Walter Goggins from Justified is a cackling killer, Laugher, sent—along with an army of other exterminators—to take him out. The versatile John Leguizamo trades his shirt for a torso swathed in fake tattoos as a local lowlife. Bill Pullman is a Washington suit none too happy that one of his “lab rats” is making such a big, noisy mess in the white-trash hills of West Virginia.

John Leguizamo

Director Nima Nourizadeh, whose only previous movie was the teen-debauchery flop Planet X (2012), sets up the crazy story, but has a hard time getting it out of the grindhouse. He stages some sock-o action pieces, however, and one of the coolest things is watching Eisenberg, typically cast as an obsessive-compulsive nerd, break out his license to kill. He’s deadly with a spoon, a cup of instant noodles or a package of frozen hamburgers, even if he doesn’t realize exactly how, or why. The humor is dark, the body count high and the blood abundant. But there’s a tenderness and a love story behind the mayhem, too, and one final surprise—when Mike and his relentless stalker, Laugher, finally come to blows—will hit you hard in a soft place, in a way you won’t see coming.

“Do you feel sick?” Phoebe asks Mike at one point. “No, I feel kind of amazing,” he says, reveling in his newfound abilities. In the way-out American Ultra, those two extremes—sick and amazing—somehow don’t seem so very far apart.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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