The Heat

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Profanity: Constant strong and crude language, use of bad language as an expression of freedom
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drunkenness (as an expression of freedom), scenes in bars, drug dealing and some drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Law enforcement violence, chases, explosions, murder, torture, characters in peril, injured, and killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie, but a number of insults of a character with albinism
Date Released to Theaters: June 28, 2013
Date Released to DVD: October 14, 2013
Amazon.com ASIN: B00BEIYJ8G

the-heat-bullock-mccarthy_510x317By my count, I have seen some sixty jillion buddy cop movies, and they follow a format as rigid as a sonnet.  One cop is by-the-book.  One is free-wheeling and impulsive.  There is a frustrated superior officer.  There is a scene in a nightclub.  There is a bad guy with access to some inside information.  One is catnip to the opposite sex; one is romantically challenged or solidly married. And our heroes, initially antagonistic, learn to respect, trust, and like each other.  Some buddy cop movies have more comedy, some have more action.  Some buddy cop movies are PG-13, some are R.  There are always many wisecracks.  Quite often, we get to meet the family of one or both.  Sometimes the leads are white, sometimes they’re black, sometimes it is one of each.  But all of them, all of them, all of them have one more thing in common.  They’re both guys.  Until now.

So thoroughly conforming to the conventions of the genre that the opening credits could have been lifted from a 70’s movie, “The Heat,” is not interested in breaking any new ground except for the considerable change of a gender switch.  For the first time in decades, there is an action comedy with two female leads.  It even passes the Bechdel rule.  That is a major breakthrough.  Everything else is, well, by the book.

Sandra Bullock, basically carrying over her “Miss Congeniality” role, is the by-the-book FBI agent named Ashburn.  According to her supervisor, she has inspired “countless complaints of arrogance, competitiveness, and showmanship.”  She is assigned to a new case and has to work with a tough, brash, impulsive, profane local cop named Mullins (Melissa McCarthy, basically carrying over her last three roles).  “If you’re not in trouble, you’re not doing your job,” she explains. She also has an exasperated boss (Thomas F. Wilson, Biff the bully in “Back to the Future”).

Pretty soon they are battling over jurisdiction and getting caught as they both try to go through the doorway at the same time.

Cue the wisecracks.  “What is this, ‘Training Day?'” asks Ashburn.  And there are some bonding moments, including a makeover in a nightclub ladies’ room, a joint appreciation of an impressive arsenal, and a drunken dance to “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite with Lady Miss Kier.  But it feels like putting women in the lead roles was such a stretch they did not want to take any other chances with the genre.

They visit Mullins’ family, who appear to be visiting from “The Fighter.”  (Nice to see Jane Curtin, Nathan Corddry, and NKotB-er Joey McIntyre, though.)  Her brother’s girlfriend has breasts so significant to the character they deserve their own credit.  Wait, they do.  The girlfriend, Gina, is played by Jessica Chaffin, and the credits helpfully note that Gina’s boobs are played by “Jessica Chaffin’s boobs.”  So, not quite the step forward for gender equality we might have hoped.  And the Yale-educated Ashburn’s acid critique of a bad guy’s poor grammar loses some of its punch when she immediately follows it with a sentence that begins, with “me and her.”  Not quite the step forward for literacy, then, either.

Bullock and McCarthy are both terrifically appealing and talented actresses and they have such evident pleasure in playing these roles that they are fun to watch.  Maybe next time, though, they could put some more effort into the script.

Parents should know that this movie has non-stop strong, profane, and crude language with sexual references (and strong language is an expression of being free), drinking and drunkenness (including drinking as an expression of being free and open-minded and drunkenness as humorous), law enforcement violence with shooting, stabbing and explosions, murder, characters injured and killed, dead bodies, and drug dealing.

Family discussion:  How are Mullins and Ashburn different from each other? How are they similar?  Who is right, Mullins or her family?

If you like this, try: “The Other Guys” and “48 Hours”

 

 

 

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Comedy Crime Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week

Two Great Documentaries Take You Behind the Scenes of Classic Rock, Pop, and Soul

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Summer is a time of raunchy comedies, superheroes, and explosions, but you can find movies for grown-ups, too.  I highly recommend two outstanding documentaries that take the audience behind the scenes of some of the greatest music ever recorded.

20 Feet from Stardom is the story of the back-up singers, the ones who sing “da doo ron ron” and “toot toot beep beep” and all those extras that make the songs so rich and powerful.  This is the story of the singers, mostly women, with powerhouse voices, who appear over and over on hit after hit.  The stories are fascinating, like the late-night call that had Merry Clayton racing to the studio with curlers in her hair and a mink coat over her pajamas to sing “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away” on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” and Darlene Love working as a house cleaner and hearing her own voice on the radio.  It kicks up a gear into existential  consideration of the way all of us find ourselves in one way or another supporting players.

Here is Lisa Fischer, also featured in the film, performing “Gimme Shelter” with the Rolling Stones in concert.

Muscle Shoals, directed by Greg “Freddy” Camalier, is the equally enthralling story of a small Alabama town with two recording studios that produced some of the greatest music of all time from performers like Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Allman Brothers.  Intimate archival footage and present-day recollections from the performers and the studio musicians and engineer/producer Rick Hall are fascinating and the music can’t be beat.  “I’ll Take You There”, “Brown Sugar”, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You”, “Mustang Sally”, “Tell Mama”, “Kodachrome”, and “Freebird” are just a few of the tens of thousands of tracks created there.

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After the kids go to bed Documentary Music

Civil War Movies to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

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This week is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, still the greatest loss of life in American history, the turning point of the war, and the inspiration for one of the greatest speeches in history, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, three simple paragraphs that connected our future to the visions that fueled our past.

The struggles of that era continue to resonate through today’s debates about the essence of the American character. Many movies that focus on the Civil War, and of course Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary series for PBS is a masterpiece. These are also especially worthwhile:

Gettysburg Michael Shaara’s award-winning book The Killer Angel is the basis for this two-part saga produced by Ted Turner and starring Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, and Richard Jordan.

The Blue and the Gray This 1982 miniseries starring Gregory Peck, Stacy Keach, Kathleen Beller, Lloyd Bridges, Geraldine Page and Colleen Dewhurst is based on the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning Bruce Catton.

The Red Badge of Courage Real-life WWII hero Audie Murphy stars in this story of a frightened young soldier, based on the classic book by Stephen Crane published in 1895. (Remade in 1974 with Richard Thomas)

The General Buster Keaton loves Annabelle and he loves his train engine, called The General. When both are captured by the Union,he must come to the rescue in a masterpiece of exciting action and comic genius.

Lincoln Daniel Day-Lewis won a much-deserved Oscar for his performance in this outstanding Steven Spielberg film about the last days of the life of the 16th President.

 

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Based on a true story Drama Epic/Historical Lists War

Ten Facts About the Lone Ranger

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Be sure to check out my gallery about the history of the Lone Ranger (Did you know he’s the Green Hornet’s uncle? Can you name Tonto’s horse? How did he get his name? Why does he use silver bullets?) as the new movie version with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer opens this week.

We can all learn from the Lone Ranger’s creed.

“I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one. That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world. That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself. In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right. That a man should make the most of what equipment he has. That ‘This government, of the people, by the people and for the people’ shall live always. That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number. That sooner or later… somewhere…somehow… we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken. That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever. In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.”

And don’t forget the annual David Letterman tradition of the Jay Thomas story about the Lone Ranger.

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