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Reel Critics: A little McCarthy goes a long way

MoviesRoger EbertMelissa McCarthyWars and InterventionsJohn HurtHoop Dreams (movie)Sandra Oh

The oversized comedy of Melissa McCarthy is best served as a side dish in a cinematic meal.

"Bridesmaids" had just the right amount of her unfettered antics. That film's recipe called for her to share the spotlight with several other women. But now playing the lead role in "Tammy," she is clearly meant to be the appetizer, the main course and the sappy sweet dessert.

The movie is directed by her husband, Ben Falcone. He turns every aspect of this story into a vanity project for his wife. She is the total centerpiece of the plot, appearing in virtually every scene. The constant exposure reveals the obvious limits of McCarthy's acting range.

Tammy is a fast-food worker who gets fired after a day full of bad events. Circumstances lead her on a strange road trip with her alcoholic grandmother, played with zest by Susan Sarandon. Their trek turns into a comedy version of "Thelma & Louise."

Along the way, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh and Dan Aykroyd do a good job in small supporting roles. But McCarthy's persona takes over the movie with a mix of silliness and sentimentality that is way too much of both.

—John Depko

*

All aboard the last train

In a doomed attempt at arresting global warming, Earth has frozen over and the surviving population survives in the "Snowpiercer," the name of the movie and also a bullet train to nowhere.

Passengers in the cramped, filthy tail section are subject to martial law, so a small faction decides to try to reach the front cars. If they can control the sources of water and power, they might control the train and their fate.

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (who directed 2006's terrific "The Host") has created something unique and exciting. With a fine cast that includes an unrecognizable Chris Evans ("Captain America" films), Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell and John Hurt as the rebels, this is a grisly thriller full of surprises.

This microcosm of society is led by Mason (Tilda Swinton, insanely scary and yet funny) and the unseen genius Mr. Wilton. As the rebellion makes its way toward the front car, there is much to chill one's blood.

You may not hear much about it now, but I predict "Snowpiercer" will become a cult favorite.

—Susanne Perez

*

It's a wonderful 'Life'

"Life Itself" is an affectionate documentary about the late movie critic Roger Ebert based on his book. It's as funny, fascinating and honest as the man himself.

Neither Ebert nor director Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") knew at the time that they would be filming the man's final months. Be prepared to see a cancer-ravaged Ebert in the hospital right from the start. Unable to eat, drink or speak, he still had a smile in his eyes, a positive outlook and an ever-present thumbs up.

We learn of Ebert's passion for writing from an early age, how he ultimately become a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, his drinking, his ego and his on-air clashes of opinion with Gene Siskel (heated but hilarious).

Most of all, "Life Itself" is about Ebert's marriage to the beautiful, remarkable Chaz and a love that transformed him. Just like a movie, only the loss is much more profound.

—Susanne Perez

*

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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