REVIEW: The Boss

6 04 2016

Picture this: a highly successful businessperson, who augments the public’s perception of their wealth by doubling as a skilled entertainer, needs to bounce back after suffering some public humiliation.

This person enters a field knowing little about the profession but finds a way to prosper by exploiting complacency, deriding rivals with unwarranted personal attacks and even inciting violence.

The captain of industry boasts about cruel implementation of shrewd business tactics and remains unfazed when compared to totalitarian rulers.

(Oh, and this individual’s distinctively styled hair never gets dented.)

Did I just describe Donald Trump or Michelle Darnell, the lead character of the new film “The Boss” played by Melissa McCarthy?

The two larger-than-life figures share quite a few similarities, though McCarthy (along with co-writers Ben Falcone and Steve Mallory) could not possibly have known that her burlesqued portrayal of a corporate mogul would hit the marketplace at the same time as an equal ludicrous figure marched towards the nomination of a major political party. Literally, production ended on “The Boss” two weeks before Trump made the infamous escalator announcement. The ill-fated timing of its release makes it play like an inverse of “Zootopia,” this year’s most fortuitous arrival.

The odd parallel here and there between the fictional and the absurd business tycoon is not necessarily bothersome. And, in the interest of fairness, Donald Trump did not spend five months in jail for insider trading like Michelle Darnell. But a line feels crossed when she declares, “We’re participating in the American Dream!”

Out of context, this might seem harmless. However, Darnell utters it right before an all-out brawl takes place between her group of entrepreneurial thugs and the Girl Scout-like troop from which they disaffiliated. How can one find humor in the perversion of the American Dream on screen when a demagogue is ushering in a national nightmare in reality? Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dicator” showed that comedy had a definite place in a time of bullying leaders, though it ought to contain some confrontational element if it is to be anything more than a diversion. “The Boss” comes across as oblivious in regards to the implications of its dull satire.

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REVIEW: A Walk in the Woods

5 02 2016

In this media-saturated age, most of us go out of our way to avoid watching commercials. So it says something that during “A Walk in the Woods,” I found myself wishing I was watching a commercial. Specifically the Nick Offerman REI one slyly embedded into the film as “plot” but is merely product placement.

Otherwise, the film is as rough and unpleasant a slog as I imagine walking the Appalachian Trail would be. “A Walk in the Woods” repurposes “Wild” for the AARP crowd, giving the aging Baby Boomers played by Robert Redford and Nick Nolte a chance to hit the trails for one big mettle-proving hurrah. Redford’s Bill Bryson is a travel writer yet to explore his home country, while Nolte’s Stephen Katz is the one acquaintance he could snag to tag along.

Neither the estranged quasi-friends nor the difficulty of nature angle prove exciting in the film. In fact, their toughest battle with nature is so blatantly shot against a green-screen that it throws the authenticity of the entire film into question. It’s all predictable banter, predictable challenges and predictable outcomes. If people criticize actors like Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino for taking bad comedy roles to pay the bills in their twilight years, “A Walk in the Woods” demonstrates that they ought to include Redford and Nolte when casting stones. C2stars