THE BOSS. That a sailor-tongued, female-centric comedy not fronted by Amazons should win the weekend over (I'm told) yet another not so super-hero tent-pole attempt is perhaps good news enough. That said comedy should find the right balance of sweet and coarse, remaining heartwarming but consistently funny — if a little predictable—is even better.
Michelle Darnelle, played in adulthood by Melissa McCarthy (who seems more and more of a muse for writer/director Paul Feig, from Bridesmaids to the upcoming Ghostbusters) is a by-the-bootstraps protagonist. In a funny but misplaced opening montage, we see Michelle as a child, being returned every few years to a Catholic orphanage. By her teen years, she's developed a hard shell and the notion that anything she receives in the world she'll have to take. We next see her as a fiery captain of industry, conducting an over-the-top get-rich seminar for a fevered crowd. This is just one of the many lucrative deals in her storied career as the 47th richest woman in America. By her side stands long-suffering personal assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), an underpaid and over-taxed single mom. And of course, there's the omni-present Tito (Cedric Yarbrough), a ridiculous yes-man. When Michelle makes a backdoor deal that shafts her rival and former lover Renault, née Ron (Peter Dinklage), he drops the dime to the SEC. Michelle spends a few months improving her tennis game in white collar prison, but emerges to find her empire in shambles, her assets seized and herself homeless. At the urging of Claire's daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson), Michelle bunks up with the pair, soon becoming an uncomfortable fixture on their couch. But as she becomes involved with Rachel's scout troop, she sees potential for a grand new scheme and next act in her professional life. They poach most of the girls from the troop, form a new, more progressive and feminist organization, and set about getting rich slinging brownies. This leads to street dust-ups, some personal exploration and, of course, a climactic showdown with Renaud.
It's been long enough since a riches-to-rags-to-riches story worked that the contrivance feels forgivable. And the cast, particularly the leads, give warm, compelling performances that make the story feel lived-in and welcoming. Sure, McCarthy can go a little too broad with her character, but her timing is so good, her sotto voce asides so gutting, that the overplayed moments recede quickly. Dinklage, always entertaining, is especially fun here as a wannabe samurai still in love with Michelle.
The script, co-written by McCarthy, Steve Mallory and McCarthy's husband, Ben Falcone, who also directed and makes a fun cameo, holds most of its surprises in its dialogue, rather than plot. It isn't the most inventive writing, but it's a sturdy platform for comedy. R. 99m. BROADWAY FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
HARDCORE HENRY surprises less for its inventiveness (more on that momentarily) than for the fact that no one has successfully attempted this form before. This is, after all, essentially a first-person shooter video game as feature-length movie. Based on the ever-narrowing scope of cinematic narrative, I half expected all movies would be like this by 2016. That's just cynical, though, and it ignores some of Henry's not insignificant creative achievements.
Our eponymous protagonist, through whose eyes we see the world, wakes up in mysterious lab, unable to speak. He's missing an arm and a leg, which are quickly replaced with robotic parts by a beautiful scientist named Estelle (Haley Bennett). She explains that the two of them are married, just before an albino madman with telekinesis and an army of thugs storms the facility. He, Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), wants access to the cybernetic tech that Estelle pioneered, with Henry as his running, jumping, mass-killing prototype. Henry escapes the attack, but Estelle is captured, so cherchez la femme, right? As Henry discovers the capabilities of his augmented body and super-soldier mind, he is aided by Jimmy (the brilliant Sharlto Copley) who pops up in an array of identities. Manifold violences, unrestrained by physical reality, ensue.
The reason more movies haven't pulled off this model, it seems, is that it is a lot harder than it looks. Henry required meticulous planning in the stunt choreography and coordination, not to mention the camera-work. I wonder what its long-term legacy will be — whether it will spark a trend or remain a singular novelty, and whether writer/director Ilya Naishuller (making his feature debut) has any other tricks up his sleeve. Mostly I am content to enjoy Hardcore Henry as an exercise in cinematic violence, a greatly satisfying guilty pleasure. R. 96m. BROADWAY FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT. Ice Cube returns as Calvin, trying to save his shop and his neighborhood with the world's chattiest employees. With Cedric the Entertainer and Eve. PG13. 112m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
CRIMINAL. The memories of a CIA spook (Ryan Reynolds) are dumped into the brain of an ex-con (Kevin Costner), who must now finish off a bad guy and save the world. R. 113m. BROADWAY.
EYE IN THE SKY. A remote operation gets morally, tactically and politically tricky when a child wanders into the line of fire. Don't worry: Helen Mirren is handling it. R. 102m. BROADWAY.
THE JUNGLE BOOK. Kipling's tale of the man-cub's (Neel Sethi) adventures with enormous CG animals and no singing. Listen for Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba and Lupita Nyong'o. PG. 106m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. This tight, paranoid, claustrophobic thriller of a monster movie is well-acted, compelling and enjoyable from first frame to last. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. PG13. 105m. BROADWAY.
BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Ben Affleck is surprisingly solid as the new Batman, but neither he nor Henry Cavill's sturdy jaw can save this high-production cacophony of collapsing buildings, baffling dream sequences, congressional hearings and rushed exposition. PG-13. 151m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, FORTUNA.
DEADPOOL. A bloody, clever, distinctly adult Marvel vehicle for Ryan Reynolds' weird charisma. A fun break from the steady flow of grim comic adaptations. R. 108m. BROADWAY.
DIVERGENT: ALLEGIANT. See it through if you must, but this chapter of the YA futuristic dystopian action series lacks narrative inspiration and compelling characters. PG13. 120m. BROADWAY.
GOD'S NOT DEAD 2. A Christian teacher (Melissa Joan Hart — hey, Sabrina) beset by civil liberties baddies goes to court for talking about Jesus. PG. 121m. BROADWAY.
MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN. Jennifer Garner stars as a woman on a mission for her ill daughter, whose recovery stumps doctors. PG. 109m. BROADWAY.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2. Sure, there's some rote predictability but there's also silly fun about what love can be at any age. Starring Nia Vardalos. PG. 94m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
ZOOTOPIA. An animated animal take on the odd-couple buddy movie with Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin and Idris Elba. PG. 108m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill