Coming off his success directing Bridesmaids — a huge surprise of a huge hit, since it belongs to the fairly small category of R-rated, female-driven comedies — Paul Feig could have sought out a look-alike script, about another pair of longtime friends at a crossroads in their relationship who, maybe along the way, experience gastric distress in an incongruously fancy location and/or behave badly enough to get kicked off a plane. (Lord knows someone has probably written those.) Instead, Feig stayed in the R-rated, female-driven milieu, but made a left turn into buddy-cop comedy.
The Heat revolves around lonely, straitlaced FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock), who's sent from New York to Boston to work on a case involving an elusive drug kingpin. Once she arrives, she has an extremely unfortunate first meeting with her BPD counterpart, Detective Shannon Mullins, who's as rough and ragged as Ashburn is tight-assed and rigid. Through a series of comedic set pieces, the two figure out how to work together — and, more importantly, learn to like each other.
There's not a whole lot to the plot, but you probably won't care: Bullock and McCarthy commit 100 percent to their performances, including physical comedy and extreme salty language (the latter only from McCarthy) that would trip up lesser actors. This isn't particularly cerebral material, but it's funny and definitely the most risk-free VOD bet this week.
Wesley Morris: "My skepticism going in had to do with The Heat being a movie with two female characters that easily could have been played by a pair of men. But these two are like workplace sexism's toxic side effects. Ashburn is the ambitious professional who lives only for promotions. Mullins is the anti-feminine ballbuster. Nobody likes either of them. And they don't like each other until they do. This is generic genre stuff with a realish female friendship at its center: It's a bra-mance."
New and Notable
As I Lay Dying
Director James Franco — seen in this space last week upon the on-demand release of his Sal — returns with As I Lay Dying, his adaptation of William Faulkner's classic novel. Compared to Sal, this one probably has fewer gay hookups.
Franco also stars in the film as Darl, son to the dying Addie (Beth Grant, currently of The Mindy Project). You would expect to see an actor of Tim Blake Nelson's health and Southern heritage in a movie like this — and he does appear, as Anse, Addie's husband. What you may not expect in a film adaptation of one of the densest literary novels in the American pantheon is Kenny Powers, but there he is. Huh.
While the recent Rock of Ages uses the real, original music of the hair-metal era to tell the fictionalized story of a Sunset Strip club, CBGB uses the real, original music of the late punk era to tell the story of a legendary New York club that is now a John Varvatos store.
Alan Rickman stars as Hilly Kristal, owner of the club; surrounding him is a raft of current character actors playing the musical artists of the day. Taylor Hawkins as Iggy Pop? Joel David Moore as Joey Ramone? Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry? Check, check, and check. And unlike Rock of Ages: not a musical.
Most girls spend their teenage years desperate to grow up and get away from their moms. But what if you were stuck with your mother forever, because you're never going to be older than 16, because you're a vampire, and so is she?
Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) directs Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) and Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as the vampire mother and daughter who've kept their horrible secret through decades. But now they've arrived in an English seaside town, where the daughter has met a nice boy and wants to tell him the truth, despite the risks.
Out in the Dark
If the vampire/human pairing in Byzantium seems doomed to horrible failure, wait until you find out the premise of Out in the Dark: An Israeli lawyer meets a Palestinian student and the two fall in love. What complicates matters even more than their national and religious differences is the fact that they're both men.
Roy, the lawyer, is out to his supportive-seeming parents, happy and comfortable in Tel Aviv. Nimr, the student, is not so lucky.
"In Theaters"/Early Release Picks
The Last Days on Mars
If reports of Gravity whetted your appetite for space-based disaster but you'd rather not spend any time in a theater, I might have a solution.
Available on demand before it's in theaters, The Last Days on Mars opens with the crew of a space station getting ready to leave Mars on the last day of their mission — so you know nothing good is about to ensue. Sure enough, people start getting horribly killed.