RogerEbert.com — Sisters

Sisters Movie ReviewThe zippy, zingy chemistry of longtime collaborators and best friends Tina Fey and Amy Poehler keeps “Sisters” consistently entertaining, even when it grows a tad repetitive and overlong. My RogerEbert.com review.

Read the review here

5 Comments on “RogerEbert.com — Sisters

  1.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    The What the Flick panel’s review of this movie, was good I remember when I watched it a while ago. I always tend to appreciate the panels efforts to review, and discuss movies such as this one – which may not always enjoy the level of analysis and serious debate – that other ‘high brow’ movies, may attract from the ‘serious’ critics.

    However, I had just a couple of other random thoughts, about the work of the What the Flick panel.

    I’m trying to remember now, in what review I listened to the panel discuss some ‘block buster’ movies, that were ‘large’ in the moment of their release – but ultimately did not become, classic movies, over the longer run. I can’t remember if the panel expressed this view in a recent review, or one from a much earlier date. It may have been one of the panels discussions, about the Oscar nomination process, and movies from the past that have won awards.

    I can remember the panel discussed the movie, Forrest Gump. A movie from the 1990’s, which was huge in it’s day. Surprisingly enough, I discovered that the panel of experts had numerous criticisms about the Tom Hanks movie.

    It’s not so much a criticism that I have of the movie – but rather, the attempt sometimes of the ‘What the Flick’ panel – to discuss movies like Forrest Gump. And in any case, the Oscar awards season is encroaching upon us, and no doubt the panel will have some interesting conversation in that regards, quite shortly.

    For me, the thing that the panelist at What the Flick missed – in talking about a movie like Forrest Gump – were the smaller characters in that movie. Whilst the character of Forrest Gump himself may have been annoying, and perhaps the ‘sound track’ technique in that movie did spawn a lot of bad technique – in using sound, in other movies – the ‘supporting’ characters, and their place within the script of Forrest Gump – was that movie’s strength and depth.

    The movie hung off of the non-lead characters in the movie Forrest Gump – that were acted so brilliantly. I’m thinking about the character of Lieutenant Dan Taylor, played by Gary Sinise. The movie also has performances by Robin Wright, Sally Field etc. We tend to forgot the strength and depth of the cast in that movie now. And unfortunately, when I listened to the panel discuss the Forrest Gump movie, there was little credit paid to those ‘side characters’, that were such an integral part, of how the story in that movie was told and fleshed out.

    As a general point, it would be interesting if the panel could do ‘two reviews’ of certain movies. One review, in which the panel discusses the main plot, story, characters and so on. But have a second review – in which they discuss the supporting roles and the like.

    Normally in What the Flick reviews, the panel squeeze in some ‘name calling’ in their review – to let audiences know, the names of some of the supporting actors in a movie. This is not enough, and it was patently obvious in their review of Forrest Gump – that the panel had some very valid criticism of the movie itself – but didn’t pay enough attention to the supporting roles, and actors, actresses in those roles.

    For example, in the lead up to the Oscars – it would be useful, if What the Flick – were to do a second review of Spotlight. Mainly to discuss the roles played by the supporting actors in that movie.

    This is something that What the Flick is negligent in doing – almost across the board. But having said that, it is also nice, the sheer number of movies that the panel does manage to wade through, watch, review and debate on. It’s just that some movies, especially better movies, do require a ‘follow up’ review, to do them justice which they deserve. It simply can’t be or should not be wrapped up in one go.

    I would have expected a little bit more from a panel of experts such as What the Flick. But it sometimes shows, that even the expert critics, can sometimes ‘miss a beat’. In particular, the character of Lieutenant Dan Taylor. I don’t think I’ve come across a character as conflicted, as complex and as lovable as Lieutenant Dan, in quite some time. And those characters are not easy to paint, to describe, to breath life into – like actor Gary Sinise managed to do, on that occasion.

    Aside from all of this however, the panel’s criticism of the sound track to Forrest Gump, if I can be honest about it, is valid. At the time, it may have seemed like the use of music in Forrest Gump, was clever in some way. But maybe, not so much. The panel criticised the fact that music just appeared in the middle of the movie, and for no apparent reason.

    Certainly, I would love to hear more from the panel, in the lead up to the Oscar awards time in 2016, about this aspect of movie making. I got a chance to view one of David Mamet’s movies, Red Belt during the holidays. I appreciated the way that it used sound, and music in the development of the main character in that movie. And how the music in that movie, contributed to the sense of ending, conclusion, resolution – that is very powerful in the final moments of the film. The entire project, Red Belt, really was a credit to the craft of making good movies.

    Looking forward to hearing more debate and more critical analysis from the panel in 2016. Happy new year. B.

  2.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: The Stradivarius Thing

    Put this another way.

    In one of the series of Jack Irish, Australian movies starring Guy Pearce, a nice scene is where Pearce’s character puts on his overall’s and visits the workshop of an old friend of his who makes furniture. The Jack Irish character admires a piece of furniture created by the old cabinet maker. He remarked, wow, you’ve even done nice work where the furniture piece will stand against the wall. The old man’s comment was, would you put plywood on the back of a Stradivarius?

    It’s the same way with movies.

    A character like that of Lieutenant Dan, in a movie like Forrest Gump, could become a ‘piece of plywood’. And typically it does become, just that. Rarely do we come across actors or directors, who care enough, to continue the workmanship, right the way around.

    The real science in the supporting acting role, is to make it invisible. That is why good supporting role acting, rarely gets mentioned, gets noticed in reviews and in debate. It’s job is not to get in the way of the ‘flow’ of the movie, to borrow a phrase that Cenk Uygur recently used, in reviewing ‘The Big Short’.

    But it is one of the tasks that good movie reviewing does – is that it doesn’t bypass the good support role acting workmanship. Instead of bypassing it, it celebrates it. This is why, I think I was disappointed in general, when the panel discussed Forrest Gump – that no one managed to remember the things which did make the movie as good as it was. It was the fact, that someone cared enough, to breath life into something that might otherwise look like Formica, or wall boarding.

  3.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: Christy’s Latest Reviews, and Closing Out on Year 2015

    I was encouraged to listen to the panels ‘Point Break’ movie review. The panels talk about the new ‘Point Break’ movie, was useful in the context of discussing where cinema is at today. It is useful, in the context of looking at the old, decades old, Point Break – or even something like the old movie, Forrest Gump, for that matter.

    I hope that Christy will get around some time, in the new year perhaps, to talking about this new ‘Point Break’ movie, in her writing work. Like many movies which employ the device of multiple characters (and some ‘great ones’), the original ‘Point Break’, was a movie – that used this device, by building up strong character development – so much so, that we can now use the original ‘Point Break’, to benchmark the latest effort.

    There was a ’round table’ talk, hosted on a competitor’s internet channel, between five or six top movie industry directors on the 10th of December. As good and all, as the work that Christy and her panel do on their channel (and Ben’s hour length interview with Tarantino recently was awesome), I’ve a feeling that credit must go to an organisation, which can do something like host a round table, with so many great directors.

    And a lot of the unspoken discussion, which might otherwise happen on ‘What the Flick’, about the broader state of the film industry, happens in situations like the one, where five or six leading directors are asked to sit together, and talk.

    It’s great that ‘What the Flick’, for example, can do two great discussions about ‘The Big Short’. But it’s also great, that a competitor was able to host, all the leading actors, director and original book writer, in one conversation. In many ways, that round table on the ‘Big Short’ movie, was a great compliment to the talks given by ‘What the Flick’.

    But working with what we do have, on ‘What the Flick’, by itself, the following are some feedback comments, that might be worth making.

    Ben Mankiewicz, in his contributions to the panel’s review of the ‘Ridiculous 6’, mentioned the old movie, The Magnificent Seven. Unfortunately, in the case of ‘Point Break’, the new re-make of an original (perhaps less than successful) version – the new ‘Point Break’, instead of developing ‘seven’ or ‘eight’ decent characters – the movies tries to organize itself, around eight stunts, or eight dare devil feats of courage (or reckless abandonment).

    While building a movie around seven or eight well developed, and well explored characters – can be a really great way to organize any movie – the same cannot be said, for the process of building a movie around seven or eight stunts (because one needs some means, to give meaning to seven or eight stunts).

    It’s a perfect illustration of what has happened to cinema.

    Like this is a whole thing too, which I have heard directors such as Jim Sheridan here in Ireland discuss. The idea that in old Greek theaters (the ‘stone’ jobs, that were literally carved out of the sides of a mountain), in the past, many of the parts in theater were played by a single actor. It was only later in the development of Greek theater, that the idea to use multiple actors was explored, and it was a revolutionary thing in pre-history, and in early civilization.

    In this sense, old theater when it was first developed on a scale, which the Greek civilization took it to – still borrowed a lot, from the ancient concept – of one actor by a fire side, telling a story to the listeners (director Jim Sheridan’s explanation of this is more complex, and certainly deserves to be heard).

    But what about nowadays?

    A theory could be expressed, that they have stopped teaching this stuff to kids in film school nowadays.

    It’s like when ‘sculpture’ went virtual, and moved away from sculpture studios, to becoming like a ‘media lab’ (long before, the ‘moving picture’ schools, became electronically oriented), a lot of things were lost in the transition. I’d have to re-acquaint myself with some of my buddies from the art school end of things – to converse with them – and ask, what exactly got lost in that transition. But in the world of the ‘movie’ art form, it seems clear what it is today, that kids aren’t able to do, coming out of film and acting schools – versus what they used to learn to do, in the past.

    Director David O. Russell, interviewed along with some other great movie directors, in a round table (with Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Boyle, Hopper and Inarritu), talked about soap operas, and soap opera actors. He made an interesting observation, about asking soap opera actors to do something, versus asking the same, of a movie actor, or actress. It seems that today, what could be said about those soap opera actors, actresses, can equally be deduced about ‘the crew’ around the project, which is referred to as a feature length drama, a film or a movie.

    It seems that modern crews, and project teams who do movies, are overly anxious about achieving ‘television’ kinds of levels of productivity. But they are no longer capable, of giving the project enough time and space, in which to grow and develop – which might be necessary – into transforming, the ‘something’, which might be fit for ‘television – into something beyond that, which is really fit to be projected in theatres, as the feature length big screen movie.

    Ridley Scott had some comments to make in that respect. He talked about doing a couple of thousand advertising commercials (sort of like the world in ‘Mad Men’ television series, where the transition happened in the 60’s and 70’s, between printed advertising, and television media advertising). Scott the director, talked a lot about story boarding, about not allowing the actors and actresses to try to work it out, on the set, whilst the camera is running.

    The question is, why a person like Ridley Scott, was able to come from a high productivity world of making television commercials, and turn his hand to making great movies – and somehow, modern generations of directors and writers – who work in television, are unable to do the same?

    Whilst Scott the director, was talking about achievement of productivity in movie making – one still feels, that the time that Scott saved in the ways he described – was transferred back into the project, in some way, that offered the director more TIME to develop a script, more time to develop a character, or a number of characters.

    Scott was asked, about how difficult it was to make ‘The Martian’ movie. He answered, that it was easy – much to the dismay of his fellow directors in the round table talk.

    When Inarritu spoke about film making on a project to re-create the epic story about ‘Hugh Glass’, a frontiersman – Inarritu spoke about the lack of snow in February – in a part of the world, which would otherwise have a lot of snow. How that affected the film shooting, and how that impacting in turn, on the post production, and in turn on the budget for the project. But again here, we’re hearing a lot from the modern generation of film maker about ‘productivity’ and benchmarking in film making – especially in a movie like ‘The Revenant’ – which, seems to be sorely lacking in character and in story.

    All that one can ask, is whether the modern day film maker, is really trying to solve the correct problem. Or if, what the modern day film maker, actually sees as ‘the problem’, is really the most important problem, they should attempt to solve.

  4.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: A couple of final Forrest Gump observations

    Thinking about Christy and the Panel, talk about Forrest Gump a long while ago (one of the advantages of a ‘YouTube’ channel, is that one episodes, old reviews don’t ‘go away’ as fast as they used to do, on MTV etc, old media streams). I don’t know if the panel of experts, knew exactly how to review a movie like Forrest Gump. Perhaps movie critics are too close to the experiments, which they are trying to be critical about.

    For example, in one review, the panel observed how movies for a decade following ‘The Matrix’, all tried to look like ‘The Matrix’. It may have been Matt or Alonso, who observed, that after ‘Gravity’ was made a couple of years back – it might be one of those movies, which define how movies will look – for another ten years. There was before ‘Gravity’, and there was after ‘Gravity’. Perhaps, that is what spoiled the movie Forrest Gump for critics. Many directors after that movie, seeing it win the Oscar, wanted to copy parts of Forrest Gump – and as the ‘What the Flick’ panel observed – there were some parts about Forrest Gump, which were weak.

    But even though, for movie critics who watch movies all the time, and over a lengthy period of time (the critics constantly refer back to movies that were significant in growing up, at summer time, in their youth), it is hard when one sees too many Forrest Gump imitations (or Matrix imitations, or Gravity look alikes) – the responsibility upon film critics – is still, to remember the aspects of an original movie, that still stand the test of time.

    In consideration about Forrest Gump, one has to go into it’s character development and definition, to find where the real strengths of that movie lay. Hence, my argument overhead, was in a sense, about laying down a context about these few final comments about Forrest Gump (and by extension, about things such as the re-make of ‘Point Break’).

    What we witness in a movie, such as Forrest Gump, is as follows. It is akin, to the ‘coalition governments’ that have become more a feature of European style democracy and politics in the modern era. Where a dominant political party is no longer dominant enough, to hold an ‘overall majority’. These coalition, power sharing arrangements are frequently entered into now, whereby a smaller party (in one example close to home, a ‘Green’ party), becomes the moral compass and conscience for the larger, more powerful country. Or simply described, in the Irish case, the smaller, weaker coalition partner ends up becoming a ‘mud guard’ for the larger one. The larger party grows stronger as the weaker one, grows weaker – because it catches all of the abuse and ridicule – which the larger party would otherwise have to suffer.

    In the process of character development, in the movie Forrest Gump, what we see is that Forrest is like a ‘force of nature’, who adapts an interface, with other characters in the narrative. The character of Forrest develops a relationship with the character of Lieutenant Dan – where the moral battle which is often fought out within the main character – instead is fought out, within the character of Lieutenant Dan. Forrest merely becomes an observer, of this moral conflict and character arc, that Lieutenant Dan, must go through, in order to find resolution.

    The same could be argued about the character played by Robin Wright. The character that Wright plays, has the chore of telling the story for an entire generation who grew up in 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

    There is an efficiency, in the way that story telling is carried out in Forrest Gump. Forrest is simply like an ‘adapter socket’, one of those things that one buys for traveling to foreign countries – where one is worried that one’s equipment won’t plug into the wall sockets somewhere else. Everyone else’s character, sort of plugs in and adapts to the character of Forrest played by Tom Hanks. And the ‘What the Flick’ panel doesn’t seem to mention this, when they review movies like Forrest Gump, coming up to the Oscar awards season.

    The mechanism of a movie like Forrest Gump, is such that, as the supporting roles are added, the movie’s main character (played by Tom Hanks), gets stronger because he has more to play off of. In the same way, many movies that try to copy or imitate are weak – because they attempt to copy the main character of the movie – and forget the strength of definition of this character is only achieved, by the successful development of the supporting roles.

    And in a way, it leads us back to the new ‘Point Break’ today.

    The main character, is someone who floats through space, engaging in all kinds of visually awesome stunts and challenges – but that ‘main character’, is ultimately left floating in space (again, a subtle nod, to the ‘Gravity’ movie and it’s conceptual and literal movie descendants) – because nothing around that central character, makes any sense, any longer.

    This is only a very long winded way, of explaining what ‘What the Flick’ panel had managed to say in much shorter, ten-minute type internet broadcasting time. But it’s a small credit to the panel, that they exist and remind audiences of what their aspirations should be, of the kinds of stories they anticipate they will enjoy in the movie theatre. And I’m not entirely sure, that there wasn’t a ‘What the Flick’ equivalent, somewhere down in the market place, the Agora space, in the ancient Greek culture. Some kind of regular review, which happened the morning after the play had been hosted in the nearby Greek theater, that was cut out of the mountain.

    Perhaps this whole ‘critic’ business, is something that is a lot older, than many of us may realize. What the Flick panel, in bed-sheet style, antique toga get-up? Yeah, I could almost see that. B.

  5.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Postscript: Tying the Theory back to the 2015 Favorite (Alonso and Christy)

    Re-reading the above, I might point out, in case other readers may not have suspected – the above does tie back into What the Flick’s panel talk about the ‘Best movies of 2015’. The clever thing, that ‘Mad Max’ did, was they made Max into a Forrest Gump kind of character. He is quite straightforward, he is written as a ‘neutral’ character (like Gump, the new Max, is a universal socket adapter, kind of guy, who adapts to everyone else in the ‘Fury Road’ story). But what is important, is all of the folk who surround Max, are developed to the extent, that the character of Max also begins to fill out.

    It’s kind of the missing piece of the puzzle, that many movies and many writers/directors for ages have lost – but somehow George Miller, and his small team of writers – managed to re-discover (and according to those who like this movie, did so to great effect). I think it was Alonso in the What the Flick panel, who most expressed his criticism for the movie Forrest Gump a while back. But when one carefully analyzes it, being a movie critic, and having had to sit through years worth of Gump imitations, and wanna-be’s – that when the critic Alonso really sits down and thinks about it – perhaps, he will admit, that the new best Gump around these days – is Max ! B.