LATE NIGHT REVIEW

As Mindy Kaling ventures into her first feature film, her character, Molly, discovers what it’s like to work for Late Night TV.

One thing that Mindy Kaling knows by now- its how TV works. And writers’ rooms. The writers room she depicts in Late Night is that of a boys club, JUST funny enough, usually assholes, and one thing is abundantly clear: they are lazy.

Her character Molly, on the other hand, is new to the TV world. She doesn’t know any of those things yet. We experience the discovery alongside Molly and empathize with her newness, her work taken for granted, and her efforts to fit in.

When she first walks in, everybody asks her to get coffee not thinking she could be a writer. And then she literally doesn’t have anywhere to sit for her first writer’s meeting (she comically ends up using a trash can). These jokes would’ve fell flat if not for Mindy Kaling’s performance. Another example of a cliched instanced is when Molly comes to work at the studio for the first time, all starry eyed, starting to relish in her new life.. only to be hit with trash a second later. But, Kaling’s execution makes this joke work.

After having her own two-person show and writing on The Office and then creating and writing The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling has proven she can write just as well as she acts. Never ending with ideas and possessing the tenacity of having her voice heard, she is much like her character in this movie. Which brings us to all the other…

CHARACTERS

Katherine Newbury: Molly’s boss and the late night talk show host. Emma Thompson is a brilliant actor. She brings the words to life and goes back and forth between cruelty and vulnerability with such ease. Unfortunately, some things go over rather quickly for this character (her depression isn’t much explored, neither the reason behind her part-time cruelty).

Walter : John Lithgow plays Katherine’s husband and seems like her rock. It appears he was a piano player of once great fame who now has Parkinson’s and stays indoors at all times. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the most likable characters in the whole movie (certainly THE most likable man), brimming with insight and support.

Tom: Some of the character arcs for the fellow writers are a bit small, see: inexistent. The biggest arc seems to come from Tom, the head monologue writer (pictured below). He starts off not accepting Molly as an actual writer, then he starts to see some of her jokes may have value or insight and by the end he’s pushing her to stay in TV writing.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

There is a brief romantic interest with Charlie (played by Hugh Dancy in an American accent.) He is one of the writers that doesn’t seem to have much of an arc – instead taking on the role of the workplace playboy. He flirts with Molly which leads to a confusing conclusion (did they sleep together? will this affect their professional relationship? etc..) and we find out later he had an affair with the show host.

AGEISM, SEXISM & DIVERSITY

This film must take place in an alternate universe, because a WOMAN is a late night tv host who’s been on the air for 30 years. A lifelong late night host, also a woman. Crazy, I know. Which is why this is a work of fiction, sadly.

Within this world, however, it seems there’s still instances of ageism, sexism and lack of diversity. The studio exec (played by fellow The Office alum, Amy Ryan) wants to give Mrs. Newberry the boot, claiming low ratings to make way for a young brash comedian- in touch with the kids.

There was one part of the movie that had an interesting take on the sexism that comes from an extra-marital affair. The secret that Katherine Newberry had an affair leaks out which means she is en-route to losing her show. In contrast, in David Letterman’s similar real life experience, it seemed his show was never in jeopardy. This part of the movie raises the question about our society’s different faithfulness standards and if it seems to be more understanding towards men in that regard.

Otherwise, the sexism and diversity issue are mostly highlighted through Molly’s experience. Not only is she the only female writer but also the only writer who’s a POC.

“I’d rather be a diversity hire than a nepotism hire.”

Finally, the message of this film is that diversity is good for everyone, a win-win that can only cast a wider net of audience members. This is shown with the filmed segments “Katherine Newbury: White Savior” that boost the show’s ratings, and in the final scene where we see the writers room full of faces of different race and color.

Though Late Night takes on more serious topics for a comedy, it does so in a straightforward and pleasing way. Making it a very watchable comedy with some reality check behind it.

Worth it for: Emma Thompson, John Lithgow’s sweet character, and of course, Mindy Kaling.

This movie, although predictable, has charming moments and actors. – ⭐⭐⭐

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MIB INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

I SO wanted to love this movie. It was a reboot that was not unwelcome from a franchise that was so entertaining and easy to like, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the movie we all hoped for.

BEST PARTS IN THE TRAILER

It was one of those movies where all the best parts get used for the trailer and the rest seems like plot devices to get from one scene shown in the trailer to another. But props to whoever put their trailer together. I have to say, the trailer was REALLY well developed. Credit where credit is due. Fast-paced, fresh, funny and showing off the lead actors’ charisma. Backed with Missy Elliot’s upbeat: “WTF”- what’s not to like?

The lead duo’s chemistry was undeniable in “Thor: Ragnarok” (incidentally, one of my favorites of the Marvel Universe) but in this one, it kind of fell flat.

CHARACTER COMPARISON

What worked in the first series was how the characters played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were at odds with each other. K’s stone cold faced always provided a laugh and K’s confidence met with his alien learning-curve gave us that audience insight. We were learning the world with him.

In MIB: International, it is less stark of a contrast. M and H seems to operate *slightly* differently. M is prepared, H is go-with-the-flow. But deep down, they like each other. Even awkwardly hinting at a romantic interest, which was confusing. Either make it a strictly professional relationship or make it a love story about a badass couple saving the world. The in-between did not work and came out of nowhere. Which begs the question: why? and: who was this for?

As for the audience perspective, I believe they tried to fit Tessa Thompson’s M into the role J once had, allowing us to see the world through her eyes. M is a noobie (sure) but knows SO much more than J ever did about the alien world going in, so a lot of the comedy about the novelty of the alien world is lost. Even though her “zero chill” attitude was funny at times.

“We are the Men in Black… the men AND women in black”

There were A FEW MOMENTS of laughs. Kumail Nanjiani’s “Pawny” brings about some genuine laughs but not enough to justify him as a character. Agent C seems like a useless character as well, a plot device for us not to be sure who to trust. There just to make things harder for our hero, without much of a personality apart from “stickler nerd”.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

CONFUSING NOT INTRIGUING

The whole movie we are led to believe The Hive is back, a supposedly defeated enemy that can take on other people’s appearance, much like the Lara Flynn Boyle character in MIB II. We get hints that Chris Hemsworth’s character is probably part of The Hive. Everyone says he “acts differently” and is “not the same” since his battle to defeat The Hive a couple years earlier. Then, at arguably the crux of the whole movie, we found out that Chris Hemsworth’s character, H, has been neuralyzed. Thus the logical conclusion being that that’s why he’s not his former self, and that his British mentor (pun-supreme-named “High-T”) and head of MIB London had to be the one to neuralyze him, therefore making High-T the villain, as they two were the only ones who fought The Hive. This was not an ending I particularly cared about because I didn’t care much for H and High-T’s relationship to begin with.

RUSHED, RUSHED, RUSHED

With that said, they build up this epiphanous moment up for the whole movie and then gloss over it in two seconds. The realization happens as a new action sequence starts. H discovers he’s been neuralyzed, that his mentor was the villain all along and then.. the scene immediately cuts to an action sequence. There is no time to breathe or connect, no time to realize the depth of just what that realization entails, no time to care.

And then that fight scene with Liam Neeson’s High-T didn’t make much sense either. H proclaims halfway through seeing the face of his once-mentor change into an aggressively monster-looking creature that “I believe he’s still in there” as if the alien was a poltergeist demon inhabiting High-T’s body, which only confused me even more about the mechanics of The Hive and made me question what little I knew.

Seemed to rely too much on the cast and not enough on the script. A disappointment, sure, but one I probably will be made to forget when SONY and COLUMBIA PICTURES neuralyze me.

Confused and rushed. The best part was the trailer. – ⭐ ½

THE CHICAGO DINER REVIEW

Meat Free since ’83.

The Chicago Diner is a Chicago institution. A classic (almost) vegan diner and a Lakeview and Boystown must that I always come back to.

Not only is it vegetarian, they have a gluten free menu which offers a lot of GF options. Sometimes items share a cooking space – so make sure you check before you order (if GF)! Everything is vegan by default, though they have dairy cheese options as well. Accommodating to those with food restrictions but not limited in choice. A healthy balance of menu options.

I’ve only been to the Halsted location, so cannot speak about the Logan Square one. BUT! GET THERE EARLY! They do not take reservations and are packed on the weekends. Up to an hour wait on a Friday night during peak time. My advice would be to go on a weekday if possible.

STAND OUTS:

  • Sauces (If I remember correctly, a divine seasonal non dairy-ranch dressing)
  • Handcrafted Drinks (Rosemary Citrus and Lavender Lemonade).
  • The seasonal specials are always creative and tasty.

Not a big fan of tofu, but for those who enjoy it, I hear their seitan dishes are ok. Where the taste starts to go, it’s with dishes like the gyro, the soul bowl and the stir-fry.

For breakfast people, I suggest getting their cinnamon roll. For lunch dinner folks, their sandwiches.

On a personal note, I always appreciate how Chicago Diner serves water with no ice. Most restaurants serve 1/3 water with 2/3 ice year-round, which I find is a waste of a glass.

And finally, the grand finale- their award winning shakes. My God! I have not tasted a better shake in my life (dairy or non-dairy). Even though I’m not typically a sweet tooth, I always make it a point to order one while I’m there.

Recommendation:

  • S.U.V. (Straight Up Veggie) sandwich with Waffle Fries
  • and a Chocolate Cookie Dough Shake

A delight to have so many things on the menu and still eat healthy, and the best shakes in town. -⭐⭐⭐⭐

Find out more here: http://www.veggiediner.com/ and their cookbook.

ROCKETMAN REVIEW

This fast-paced ode to Elton John’s life and career till the 80s (roughly) is a rollercoaster of a good time.

First off, this movie had laughs, electric musical numbers, the songs we know and love and some new/ lesser know ones.

This movie focuses somewhat on Elton John’s drug life. The over the top parties, coping with newfound fame and dealing with the absence of love, which left a hole Sir Elton Hercules needed to fill, and alas, found his solace in drugs.

Fittingly, this movie is just as crazy. From the fast pace splicing and experimental camera work on musical numbers to the beautiful recreations of Sir Elton’s stage wear, this movie felt like it was on drugs. Fantasy moments arose, like when he took the stage at the Troubadour to the eyes of his first, unsuspecting, American audience and floats in the air with the audience for a slowed-down, surreal amount of time. These kind of scenes work in Rocketman because they ring true emotionally and feel like we are getting a glimpse of how it feels like from the performer’s perspective, which is one thing Rocketman in good at portraying. Slowed down we could feel the magic of being onstage, the thrill of performing to people who love your music, dancing along. The over-the-top-ness and the fast and loose take on reality don’t matter much because we care about the character and all his quirks. The way he comes out to his mother, just before a show, the suicide attempt days before his famous Dodgers stadium concert, blowing up at his co-writer, Bernie Taupin, and immediately apologizing. We see the veneer behind the performer and can connect to those moments. To him as a child replaying exactly what his piano teacher was performing, to being too embarrassed to play in front of “America’s greatest” rock & rollers (aka Beach Boys) Rocketman paints the man as a humble, endearing – albeit cheeky -personality.

And my god the costumes! If the costume department doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for this film I will be surprised. Some famous looks were recreated while others invented for Rocketman. As for the songs, the story behind “Your Song” and “Tiny Dancer” is close to what actually happened. Legend has it they Elton and Bernie wrote “Your Song” in a few hours one morning, over breakfast. “I Want Love” however, takes on a different context – but it makes sense in the story!

People don’t pay to see Reg Dwight! They pay to see ELTON JOHN!

Elton, before going onstage

Though I paid to see the Elton John’s story, I was just as delighted to see the Reg Dwight story. By the end of Rocketman, you’ll fall in love with both.

You gotta kill the person you were born to be in order to become the person you want to be.” –Rocketman (uttered by Murphy)

Also, what a villain! Wow! I’ll be surprised if anyone will ever have anything nice to say about John’s manager (John Reid) after watching this movie. A cruel character and if an ounce of it is true, seems like Elton got his revenge on him by showing him as such despicable person in this film.

There were some emotional moments, in fact I teared up 3 times. This film doesn’t shy away from his issues coming to terms with his own sexuality. Which makes this movie so easy to feel for. Seeing how he is rejected by his father and his mother to some degree- though she at least stays in his life and makes an effort to follow his career- make for poignant scenes. His grandmother seems to have been the only supportive presence in his life and is always a delight to see in the movie.

Other emotional moments are when fantasy meets reality. When Reg the kid imagines conducting an orchestra, when Elton the adult sees his kid self at the bottom of the pool in a spacesuit, indicating he needs to jet back to the surface where he can breath. These touches of magic are made possible because of believable relationships and honest dialogue.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!

The final emotional moment was the card at the end. I read in an article than when Elton John was at the height of his bingeing days, he did cocaine once every 4 minutes. Which means if he sat in his own film with us, he would’ve done 30 lines of coke in that timeframe. To go from that to 28 years sober is TRULY an inspiration.

Watch it for: Taron Egerton’ s show stopping performance, the ever-so-sweet grandmother character, the music.

This film is as glam, camp and iconic as the man himself. I felt truly connected to it and felt re-invigorated in the artist in addition to the man. – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½

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