Review: ‘The Card Counter,’ starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe

September 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish in “The Card Counter” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

The Card Counter”

Directed by Paul Schrader

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the U.S., as well as in Iraq in flashback scenes, the dramatic film “The Card Counter” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latinos, Arabs and African Americans) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: An ex-con, who has a dark past as a U.S. military officer, is now a gambling addict facing a moral dilemma on whether or not to get involved in a deadly revenge plot. 

Culture Audience: “The Card Counter” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in neo-noir dramas that explore issues of military PTSD and the fallout of extreme actions made in the name of anti-terrorism.

Oscar Isaac and Tye Sheridan in “The Card Counter” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“The Card Counter” (written and directed by Paul Schrader) is a raw and unflinching portrait of a man tortured by his past and using his gambling addiction as a way to cope. On a wider level, this neo-noir film is a scathing view of the “war on terror” and abuse of power. Oscar Isaac gives an absolutely gripping and fascinating performance as a protagonist struggling to find a sense of morality in a world where many people are rewarded for crimes and punished for trying to do the right thing.

It would be an understatement to say that William Tell (played by Isaac) is feeling spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Now in his 40s, William spent 10 years imprisoned as a dishonorably discharged ex-military officer in the U.S. federal penitentiary Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kansas. It’s eventually revealed in the movie’s several flashback scenes why William was imprisoned.

The main thing that viewers find out in the beginning of the movie, which has constant voiceover narration by William, is that he learned to count cards in prison. After he got out of prison, he became a professional gambler (mostly in poker and blackjack), who counts cards to have an advantage in the games. It’s a risky activity that could get him banned from casinos, but so far William hasn’t been caught.

The name William Tell is most associated with the early 14th century Swiss folk hero William Tell, who was a rebel and an expert marksman. It should come as no surprise that the gambler named William Tell in “The Card Counter” is using a partial alias. The William character in this movie changed his last name to Tell after he got out of prison. His real last name is also eventually revealed.

In “The Card Counter,” William is a never-married bachelor with no children and no family members who are in his life. William is currently based in New Jersey, where he spends more time in Atlantic City casinos than he does at home. It’s made apparent very early on in the movie that William is a gambling addict. And, just like most addicts, he uses his addiction as a way to deal with past traumas.

It’s mentioned several times in the movie that William’s past traumas have given him intimacy issues. He’s a loner who’s been celibate by choice for several years. He also has severe nightmares about things that happened in his past when he was a private first-class special ops solider during the Iraq War.

The flashback scenes of what William did as a solider and as a military police officer might be too difficult to watch for viewers who are very sensitive or squeamish. The production notes for “The Card Counter” have a very accurate description of how these disturbing flashback scenes were filmed: writer/director Schrader “wanted the nightmarish scenes to feel like immersive virtual reality—an effect in the movie that feels like descending first-hand into a Hieronymus Bosch-like hellscape. [“The Card Counter” cinematographer Alexander] Dynan employed VR technology to present a flattened, equirectangular version of the standard image.”

One day, while William is hanging out at an Atlantic City hotel/casino, he notices that there’s an industry convention called Global Security Conference that’s taking place at the hotel. One of the keynote speakers is John Gordo (played by Willem Dafoe), a retired U.S. Army major, who now owns a private and lucrative security consulting company that has the U.S. government as its biggest client. When William finds out that John is in the same building, it triggers William into a cascade of negative emotions that he tries to hide. However, William’s curiosity gets the best of him to see John’s speech.

There’s someone else who isn’t happy about John being a lauded speaker at this convention. Unbeknownst to William, there’s someone in the audience during John’s speech who has noticed that William is there and will soon seek out William for a face-to-face meeting. During his speech, John promotes a new product from his company called STABL, which is facial recognition software that’s supposed to be able to detect truth-telling. This technology is supposedly designed to help during interrogations.

After the speech, the person who observed William from afar finds William and introduces himself. His name is Cirk (pronounced “Kirk”) Balfort, a guy in his mid-20s whose deceased father had something in common with William, besides being dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military. While having drinks together at the casino, Cirk tells William how the troubles of Cirk’s father have affected Cirk. After his father’s disgraced military career, his father became an oxycodone addict who regularly abused Cirk and Cirk’s mother. His father eventually committed suicide.

Cirk believes that his father’s downward spiral was the direct result of something that John did. For reasons that are later revealed in the movie, Cirk also believes that William has a grudge against John, so Cirk proposes that he and William join forces to torture and murder John. William immediately says no to this proposition because he doesn’t want to do anything that would put him at risk of going back to prison.

However. William is emotionally touched by Cirk, who seems aimless and depressed about his life and in need of a father figure. Cirk makes it clear that he isn’t the type of person to want to go to college or work in a boring office job. And so, William offers Cirk an opportunity to let William mentor Cirk on how to be a professional gambler who goes on tour, with William paying all of Cirk’s expenses for this training.

How is William going to pay for this road trip? It just so happens that within the same 24-hour period of meeting Cirk, William met a gambling agent named La Linda (played by Tiffany Haddish), who works with a network of mysterious and wealthy people who like to invest in professional gamblers and get a cut of the winnings. Her job is to find talented gamblers to sign with her as their agent, so she can pass on some of the prize money to these rich investors, who fund the gambling tours for her clients.

La Linda has been observing William for a while and admires his talent. And when she approaches him to become his agent, it’s in a flirtatious but business-minded manner. At first, William turns down her offer to become his agent because he prefers to work alone. However, after William gets the idea to mentor Cirk, he tells La Linda that he’ll take her up on her offer because he needs the money for this mentoring road trip. (Although “The Card Counter” is supposed to take place in various states, the movie was actually filmed in Mississippi, mostly in Gulfport and Biloxi.)

Much of “The Card Counter” is about this road trip and the friendship that forms between William and Cirk. Eventually, William is hired to enter a major poker tournament. Viewers see that when William checks into a hotel room, he has a habit of covering all of the furniture with bedsheets and using gloves. It’s as if he’s paranoid about leaving any fingerprints and DNA behind in these hotel rooms. Is he trying to hide something or hide from someone?

Even though Cirk and William learn to trust each other, Cirk can’t let go of the idea of murdering John. Cirk repeatedly brings it up, as a way of trying to wear down William to get him to agree. It’s eventually shown if William caves in or not to Cirk’s persistence.

William’s life is also altered when he becomes closer to La Linda. Their sexual tension with each other is evident in their first meeting, but they keep things strictly professional during their first several meetings. One of the more visually stunning scenes in “The Card Counter” is when William and La Linda go on a platonic date to what looks like the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival, which is known for its elaborate lights displays that evoke a magical aura. It’s here that La Linda and William hold hands for the first time

Whether or not William and La Linda become lovers is revealed in the movie’s trailer, which unfortunately gives away a lot of moments that should be surprises to viewers. In other words, it’s best not to watch the trailer before seeing this movie. “The Card Counter” has a tone and pacing that are very reminiscent of noir films from the 1940s and 1950s, especially in William’s voiceover narrations, which are often taken from the journals that he meticulously keeps.

Some of the movie’s dialogue that doesn’t involve cursing sounds very much like it’s from the Golden Age of Hollywood, especially in the flirtatious banter between William and La Linda. That’s not the only old-fashioned aspect of the film. As well-crafted as the movie is overall, “The Card Counter” still perpetuates outdated stereotypes that movies like this often have: Only one woman has a significant speaking role in the film. And the main purpose of the woman is ultimately to be the love interest of the male protagonist. All the other women in the movie are essentially background characters or just have a few lines.

Haddish usually plays loud-mouthed, vulgar and unsophisticated characters in raunchy comedies, but with “The Card Counter,” she attempts to break out of that typecasting by portraying someone who is intelligent and is a combination of being upwardly mobile while still being street-smart. However, Haddish still seems a bit uncomfortable playing this type of serious character. It’s not a bad performance, but it’s not as believable as Isaac’s performance.

La Linda is someone who is from East St. Louis and is trying to make a better life for herself while becoming an empathetic friend to William. Unfortunately, Schrader did not develop La Linda’s character enough for her to have a backstory. The closest that viewers will find out about Linda’s past is that she drops several hints to William that she’s used to dating men with prison records. When they first meet, she correctly guesses that William spent time in prison. La Linda also tells William that she doesn’t care about anything bad that he did in his past.

However, William cares a lot about what he’s done in his past because he’s wracked with guilt over it. As much as he’s trying to move on to his new life as a professional gambler, he’s still haunted by his past sins. He reaches a point where he has to decide if participating in an act of revenge will bring him some relief. His fatherly relationship with Cirk is William’s way of trying to get some kind of redemption within himself.

Sheridan is perfectly fine but not outstanding in his role as the emotionally damaged Cirk, who’s hell-bent on carrying out a vendetta. Because the movie is told from William’s perspective, viewers aren’t really privy to a lot of Cirk’s thoughts, except his revenge plan. Cirk also has lingering resentment toward his mother, whom he hasn’t seen or spoken to in quite some time because Cirk thinks his mother should’ve protected him more from Cirk’s abusive father. It’s easy to see how William would want to take Cirk under his wing, because he’s trying to prevent Cirk from experiencing the same regrets that plague William.

Although the “The Card Counter” has several scenes of William gambling, this movie isn’t about who wins or how much the prize money is in these casino games or tournaments. What the movie shows so well is that William has learned the hard way that people’s souls and self-respect can be destroyed not just by abusers but by people doing damage to themselves. In that sense, William is taking the biggest gamble of his life in facing his fears and regrets, because he doesn’t quite know if he should bet on forgiving himself.

Focus Features will release “The Card Counter” in U.S. cinemas on September 10, 2021.

Review: ‘Here Today,’ starring Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish

May 9, 2021

by Carla Hay

Tiffany Haddish and Billy Crystal in “Here Today” (Photo by Cara Howe/Stage 6 Films)

“Here Today”

Directed by Billy Crystal

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in New York City, the comedy/drama film “Here Today” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A widowed senior citizen, who works as a TV comedy writer, has early stages of dementia and is afraid to tell anyone until he meets a feisty female singer who becomes his unexpected friend.

Culture Audience: “Here Today” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching old-fashioned movies with flat comedy and overly formulaic drama.

Laura Benanti, Penn Badgley, Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish and Audrey Hsieh in “Here Today” (Photo by Cara Howe/Stage 6 Films)

There used to be a time when a tedious cornball movie like “Here Today” would have been lapped up by movie audiences like hungry pets happy to get stale, leftover scraps. But in this day and age, when viewers have so many more and much better entertainment options, “Here Today” is the equivalent of food that’s years past its expiration date that the filmmakers are trying pass off as appealing and fresh. The movie is filled with outdated stereotypes and terrible jokes, clumsily paired with heavy-handed melodrama that’s too manipulative to come across as believable.

Billy Crystal is the star, director and co-writer of “Here Today,” which was co-written by Alan Zweibel. Crystal has been in many better-quality movies, some of which are considered classics. But maybe Crystal was just too close to the material of “Here Today” to take a more constructively critical look at how out-of-touch and embarrassing this movie is for today’s audiences. And with a total running time of nearly two hours, “Here Today” suffers from overly indulgent editing, since some scenes definitely did not need to be in the movie.

It’s not a completely terrible film, but “Here Today” should have been so much better, considering the level of talent and experience that the main cast members have. Some of the cast members of “Here Today” put in valiant efforts to bring authenticity to their roles, while other cast members just coast by and recite their lines, with no seeming emotional connection to their characters. Crystal and “Here Today” co-star Tiffany Haddish are two of the movie’s producers, so they bear much of the responsibility for how disappointing this movie is.

It’s obvious that Crystal called in favors to some of his celebrity friends to make cameos in the movie. Sharon Stone, Kevin Kline, Barry Levinson and Bob Costas have small roles portraying themselves doing a live audience Q&A about a fictional movie. Itzhak Perlman appears briefly in an unrealistic scene where he’s shown playing violin outside a window because he happens to be a neighbor of Crystal’s “Here Today” character. But this type of stunt casting can’t save the film from being a mostly cringeworthy story that uses dementia as a way to make Crystal’s main character look more sympathetic.

In “Here Today,” Crystal plays widower Charlie Burnz, a longtime, successful entertainment writer in New York City. Charlie currently works for a cable TV sketch comedy series called “This Just In,” which is supposed to be a lot like “Saturday Night Live.” Charlie has been working for “This Just In” for years and has previously been a Broadway playwright and a movie screenwriter. He’s won several of the entertainment industry’s highest accolades (including an Emmy Award and a Tony Award), but he’s been having writer’s block on a memoir that he wants to dedicate to his late wife, who died about 25 years ago.

Charlie is the oldest person on the “This Just In” writing team, which consists of people in their 20s and 30s, mostly white males. However, the stiff and unfunny jokes that these staff writers come up with sound exactly like what they are—pathetic attempts to be “hip” and written by people old enough to be these staff writers’ parents and grandparents. This movie has no self-awareness at how bad these jokes are, because there are several unrealistic scenes of people laughing and clapping at boring and dumb jokes that wouldn’t even pass muster on a no-budget, amateur comedy channel on YouTube.

Even though Charlie is at an age when most people are retired, Charlie’s age isn’t what bothers him. He’s got a health problem that he’s very ashamed of having: early stages of dementia. And he’s hiding his dementia from everyone he knows, except for his trusted therapist Dr. Vidor (played by Anna Deavere Smith), who gently advises Charlie to eventually tell his family about his dementia.

In the beginning of the movie, Charlie follows his usual routine of getting up and going to work. But there are signs that he forgets everyday things (such as, the show’s writers have their meetings on Mondays), and he’s haunted by memories of a tragedy from his past. These memories come back in bits and pieces throughout the story until the entire truth is eventually revealed.

As soon as viewers find out that Charlie has a strained relationship with his two adult children (who are both supposed to be in their mid-30s) and that his kids don’t talk about their mother to Charlie, it’s easy to figure out that the death of Charlie’s wife has a lot to do with the hard feelings that Charlie’s children have toward him. The movie has several flashbacks depicting Charlie’s memories of the relationship that he had with his wife Carrie (played by Louisa Krause), a painter artist whom Charlie met on a beach in 1986, when he was in his late 30s and she was in her 20s. Carrie died when the children were about 8 to 11 years old.

Charlie’s first child is a mild-mannered architect named Rex (played by Penn Badgley), who longs for Charlie’s approval, but doesn’t often get the praise and attention from Charlie that Rex is seeking. Rex is married to a woman named Sophie, and they have a son named Harry (played by Grayson Eddey), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Sophie and Harry are barely in the movie, they don’t have any significant lines, and these two characters aren’t even listed in the movie’s end credits.

Charlie’s second child is uptight and judgmental Francine (played by Laura Benanti), who is a middle school teacher. Francine has an even more fractured relationship with Charlie than her brother Rex does. She avoids speaking with and visiting Charlie as much as she can.

Francine and her husband Larry (played by Charlie Pollock) have an adopted daughter named Lindsay (played by Audrey Hsieh), who’s about 12 or 13 years old. Lindsay adores Charlie and is aware that her mother’s feelings toward him aren’t as warm. Francine can no longer avoid Charlie in the near future, because he’s been invited to Lindsay’s upcoming bat mitzvah.

Francine’s hard feelings toward her father go beyond the fact that she feels he let his career take priority over being a good parent. Francine is particularly wary of the women who might come into Charlie’s life. As Charlie eventually reveals in later in the story, Francine has difficulty accepting any possible stepmother, because after Carrie died, Charlie had meaningless flings with several younger women. And workaholic widower Charlie also left much of the child rearing to a series of nannies.

And so, when Charlie starts hanging out with a boisterous, free-spirited aspiring singer named Emma Payge (played by Haddish), who’s young enough to be Charlie’s daughter, it doesn’t sit too well with Francine. Emma and Charlie met on a blind “date” because Charlie donated a lunch date with himself as part of a charity auction. Emma is predictably supposed to be the opposite of Charlie. She plays the role of someone who gets Charlie to see his life differently and helps him out of his emotional rut.

One of the biggest problems with “Here Today” is its subtle and not-so-subtle tone of racial condescension. For example, this charity auction (which is never seen in the movie) is mentioned as a fundraising event for “inner city libraries.” Of course, “inner city” is code in Hollywood movies for a place populated mostly by low-income people of color. And as soon as the words “inner city” are mentioned in this movie, you just know that the person who’s meeting Charlie for this lunch date is going have the negative stereotypes of being a crude and unsophisticated person of color.

Playing crude and unsophisticated characters is Haddish’s specialty, since she keeps perpetuating racially demeaning depictions of how a lot of racist people think African American women are supposed to be. The filmmakers show this racial condescension from the first moments that Emma appears on screen for this lunch date. It’s basically a scene where Emma is ignorant and so happy to be in a nice restaurant that she orders several of the more high-priced items on the menu.

The movie keeps portraying Emma as having a “from the ‘hood” mentality, with a lower intelligence level than the white people whom she interacts with in this story. It’s why the movie keeps showing Emma shoveling food in her mouth and giving constant “mmm-hmm” remarks when she’s eating, as if she can’t possibly know what it’s like to have good meals on a regular basis.

Emma performs cabaret-styled rock and pop tunes with her band. They’re struggling because they mostly perform in subways for money. And Emma doesn’t seem to have a day job. But just because she’s an aspiring entertainer doesn’t mean she’s taken the time to be knowledgeable about the entertainment business.

When Emma first meets Charlie for the lunch date, she says, “I don’t even know who the hell you are,” and she says that she’s never heard of “This Just In” or any of his award-winning work. Keep in mind that Emma is supposed to be in the entertainment business, albeit as a struggling singer. Her ignorance about a long-running comedy TV show that’s filmed in New York City is just one of many examples of how the movie makes Emma look less than smart.

Emma says that the only reason she’s on this lunch date is because her actor ex-boyfriend, who’s a big fan of Charlie’s, actually paid for it in the auction. And because this ex-boyfriend cheated on Emma, she “stole” the lunch date, out of revenge and spite. Charlie’s ego gets bruised a little bit when Emma tells him that the final auction price for this date was only $22, not $2,200 as Charlie assumed it was.

And just so viewers know early on that Emma has no sexual interest in Charlie, she rudely tells him during the lunch date how he wouldn’t be able to handle her if she were his lover: “I’d break your back, old man,” Emma smugly says. “I’d have you laid out dead, with a smile on your face.” Emma constantly calls Charlie “old man” throughout the movie, to the point where it gets very annoying.

And because “Here Today” has to have some ridiculous slapstick, Emma finds out too late during the luncheon that she’s allergic to the seafood that she ate. And so, there’s a scene with some very tacky visual effects of Emma with puffed-up lips and a swollen face. And because she has to be the stereotype of a loud-mouthed black woman, Emma’s freakout at the restaurant and her trip to the hospital emergency room are filled with her wailing and other hysterics.

In case it isn’t made clear that Emma is supposed to have a “ghetto” mentality, the movie makes a point of mentioning that she doesn’t have health insurance and she pulls a con game so Charlie will pay her hospital bill. A concerned Charlie accompanied Emma to the hospital. But he’s in for a shock when a hospital employee tells Charlie that Emma said that Charlie adopted her from Kenya and that Charlie would pay her hospital bill. And so, Charlie is now stuck paying the bill, which totals about $1,700.

Emma feels bad about the lie and later tells Charlie that she’ll pay him back for the entire bill, but Charlie says that she doesn’t have to do that. Since this movie is filled with racial condescension, Charlie accepts Emma excuse for why she lied to get him to pay her hospital bill. Emma tells Charlie: “I thought it would be cool to have a white dad.” Somewhere, Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis are cringing.

Emma’s buffoonery continues when, after she checks out of the hospital, Emma ends up in Charlie’s home, with her trousers pulled down low enough for her butt to be partially exposed. It’s because Charlie is giving Emma an injection of the epinephrine that she was prescribed to treat her allergic reaction. Predictably, Emma does more hollering in this scene too. The filmmakers want viewers to believe that Emma has no one else in her life who could give her this injection but an old man she barely knows and who got scammed into paying her hospital bill.

Some people might think this butt injection scene is hilarious, but Haddish just looks like a foolish participant in this “shuck and jive” setup, which seems to be the filmmakers’ intention. Believe this: No one was asking for a movie showing Billy Crystal giving a butt injection to Tiffany Haddish. No one. Except for people who want to see Haddish literally be the butt of the joke.

And so, it should come as no surprise that Emma has a large tattoo on one of her butt cheeks that reads “Slippery When Wet.” The tattoo and Charlie’s reaction to it also reek of the deliberate way that the filmmakers want to make Emma look “trashy” compared to the more “sophisticated” Charlie. It’s all just lazy and loathsome stereotyping.

The next time that Charlie sees Emma, she has shown up unannounced outside his apartment. Emma tells Charlie that, even though he said he didn’t have to pay him back, she wants to repay him for the hospital bill. And she’s brought the first installment of her payment.

This redemption of Emma is so that she can show up in Charlie’s life with another payment installment. And eventually, she and Charlie become friends and start going on platonic dates together. Emma notices how forgetful Charlie is and tells him that he can confide in her about what’s going on with him.

And so, Charlie eventually tells Emma about his dementia. He also makes it clear to Emma that he’s not ready to tell his family or co-workers about his dementia. But since the movie wants Emma to be a “big mouth,” it’s easy to predict if she will be able to keep Charlie’s dementia a secret or not.

It seems that one of the main reasons why Haddish took this movie role was so that she could showcase her mediocre singing. She has some scenes where Emma performs cover songs in a way that’s not like, “Wow, this person should be a superstar singer,” but more like, “It’s easy to see why this singer is stuck performing in subways, dive bars and on sidewalks.”

At Lindsay’s bat mitzvah, Emma has to make the party about herself. Emma says the party has gotten too boring for her, so she gets up on stage and tries to be like Janis Joplin by leading a sing-along of “Piece of My Heart.” It’s a racially stereotypical scene meant to show how a black person with rhythm has to teach awkwardly dancing white people how to have a good time.

And since the movie can’t get enough of showing how petty and immature Emma can be, at one point in the movie, Emma randomly sees her most recent ex-boyfriend, whose name is Dwayne St. John (played by Nyambi Nyambi), and she decides to get revenge on him. This encounter happens after Emma and her band have performed near a pier, with Charlie in the small crowd watching the performance.

When Emma sees Dwayne, she puts Charlie in an awkward situation by making Charlie pretend that he’s her lover, just so Emma can make Dwayne jealous. Dwayne is star-struck by Charlie, and Emma offers to take a photo of Dwayne with Charlie, using Dwayne’s phone. But instead of taking a photo of Dwayne and Charlie together, Emma takes photos of herself. As she hands the phone back to Dwayne, she laughs and give him the middle finger.

Charlie isn’t above being a selfish boor either. There’s a very problematic scene in the movie where Charlie gets annoyed with one of the “This Just In” stars named Roger (played by Matthew Broussard), who has a habit of pronouncing the wrong inflections when saying certain words. It’s a habit that irritates Charlie because he doesn’t like to hear the words that he’s written pronounced incorrectly.

Instead of talking to Roger about it privately, which most respectful and emotionally mature adults would do, Charlie has a meltdown over it on live TV. Charlie goes on an epic rant and interrupts Roger on the soundstage, on camera, while Roger is doing a sketch similar to “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live.” During this rant, where Charlie lectures Roger on how to pronounce words, Charlie calls Roger a “dumb turd,” and then gets the entire studio audience to loudly chant “dumb turd” with him. It’s absolutely cruel and humiliating bullying.

The scene is played for laughs, with Charlie’s granddaughter Lindsay even laughing about it while she watches this nauseating spectacle on TV in her home. At first, Charlie’s co-workers backstage are shocked by his on-camera outburst, but then they start guffawing about it as if it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. And Charlie’s unprofessional meltdown gets their approval even more when they find out that it’s gone viral on social media.

This blanket approval of Charlie’s obnoxious bullying of a co-worker is one of the many ways that “Here Today” looks out of touch with today’s reality. This type of public belittling of a co-worker might have been acceptable in Crystal’s heyday, but it’s not acceptable today. In reality, Charlie would be rightfully dragged on social media for it and would probably be suspended or fired.

Charlie’s toxic bullying, which has no justification, is even more loathsome because it’s over something very petty. Maybe Charlie would’ve gotten away with this degradation of a co-worker if it hadn’t been so public. But he did it on live TV, with millions of people watching. In real life, there’s no way someone in Charlie’s position would be largely celebrated by the public for this type of bullying.

And that’s why it rings hollow that the movie has an unnecessary subplot of Charlie being a mentor to a shy, young staff writer named Darrell (played by Andrew Durand), whose skit ideas are almost never used on the show. There are a few scenes in the movie where Charlie gives Darrell some pep talks to boost Darrell’s confidence. It’s meant to make Charlie look like a caring person, but observant viewers will notice that Charlie bonds with Darrell only because Charlie thinks they’re both underappreciated in their jobs.

“Here Today” is such a rambling and frequently unfocused movie that the tone is all over the place. At times, it wants to be a slapstick comedy, while other times it wants to be a comedy propelled by verbal jokes. It’s too bad that many of the jokes are dull and absolutely horrible. And in an attempt to liven up the film with some drama, the last 15 minutes of the movie get very heavy-handed to contrive a situation that you just know is supposed to bring everyone together.

Emma is never depicted as a whole person with a life independent of Charlie. Her home life is never shown because her character was written to be Charlie’s subservient sidekick. The most that viewers will find out about Emma’s background is in a scene where she tells Charlie that her parents were both singers and are currently living in Durham, North Carolina.

Emma describes her parents as what Ashford & Simpson would be like if Ashford & Simpson weren’t rich and famous. The movie makes it look like Emma’s dream is to become a famous singer, and she gets an opportunity that would be a big career boost for her. But then, she makes a decision that fits this movie’s racially condescending narrative.

Crystal’s acting in “Here Today” is much better than his direction or screenwriting. Still, he’s not doing anything new in this movie, because he’s played selfish and sarcastic characters many times before. Haddish is doing another version of the crass characters she always plays in movies and TV. Badgley doesn’t have much to work with in this movie, since his Rex character is blandly written.

Benanti is the cast member who does the best in making her Francine character look the most authentic. Francine might not be the most likable character in the story, but viewers can understand why she acts in the way that she does. Most people would be bitter too if they had a self-absorbed parent like Charlie.

To its credit, “Here Today” has some good cinematography when showing scenic parts of New York City, such as the Manhattan skyline and Hudson Yards. But good cinematography is wasted when the story is so faulty. One of the ways that “Here Today” is unbalanced is how it shows that because Charlie feels guilty about being an emotionally absent father, he tries to make up for it by being a devoted grandfather to Lindsay. However, there’s no explanation for why Charlie is not shown spending any time with his other grandchild Harry, who is Rex’s son.

Why even bother having this grandson character at all when this child is barely seen in the movie and isn’t even in the narrative of Charlie trying to redeem himself with his family? The impression that viewers will get is that Charlie heavily favors one grandchild over another, which defeats the redemption narrative that he’s supposed to be a good grandfather. And the overall impression that “Here Today” leaves is that this misguided movie isn’t too concerned about giving supporting characters much depth because this movie is ultimately Crystal’s vanity project.

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Stage 6 Films released “Here Today” in U.S. cinemas on May 7, 2021.

Review: ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,’ starring the voices of Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Matt Berry, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence

March 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise, from left to right: Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence), Patrick Star (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), Plankton (voiced by Doug Lawrence), SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny), Gary (on top of SpongeBob’s head) and Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) in “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” (Image courtesy of Paramount Animation)

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run”

Directed by Tim Hill

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional, underwater places of Bikini Bottom and the Lost City of Atlantic City, the live-action/animated film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” features a predominantly white voice cast (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) in a comedic adventure story that’s part of the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise.

Culture Clash: SpongeBob SquarePants and his neighbor Patrick Star go on a mission to rescue SpongeBob’s best friend/pet snail Gary, which is being held captive by an egotistical overlord named King Poseidon.

Culture Audience: “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise and people who like family-friendly animation that can be enjoyed by various generations.

King Poseidon (voiced by Matt Berry) in “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” (Image courtesy of Paramount Animation

As the first computer-generated imagery (CGI) animated movie in the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is an exuberant and eye-catching adventure that makes up for some predictable moments with just enough unexpected zaniness to make it worth watching for anyone who appreciates earnestly goofy animation. It’s not necessary to see any episodes of the long-running Nickelodeon animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” or its spinoff movies (“Sponge on the Run” is the third one in the film series) to enjoy the movie, although it certainly provides some better context for some of the relationships in the movie.

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” has several scenes that are flashbacks to some of the characters’ childhoods. It’s an obvious promotion for “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years,” the prequel spinoff “SpongeBob” TV series that launches on Paramount+ (formerly known as CBS All Access) on the same day that “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is available on the streaming service. “Kamp Koral” focuses on what some of the main characters did as children at Kamp Koral, and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” gives a sense of what people can get expect from this spinoff TV series.

Written and directed by Tim Hill, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is the first “SpongeBob” movie to be released since the 2018 death of SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 57. The movie has a dedication to Hillenburg before the end credits. Compared to 2004’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” and 2015’s “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” there’s a slightly wackier vibe to “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” thanks in large part to an amusing featured role from Keanu Reeves.

Things in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom are what SpongeBob fans can expect: SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny), the cheerfully upbeat sponge protagonist, is still working as a fry cook at a fast-food restaurant called the Krusty Krab, which is owned by his cranky Scottish boss Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown). The pessimistic Squidward Tentacles (voiced by Rodger Bumpass) also works at the Krusty Krab. The tiny green copepod named Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) and his computer wife Karen (played by Jill Talley) are still scheming to get the secret recipe formula for the Kristy Krab’s Krabby Patty burgers, in order to boost Plankton and Karen’s failing rival restaurant the Chum Bucket.

This time, there’s a new challenge: SpongeBob’s best friend/pet snail Gary (also voiced by Kenny, who makes Gary sound like a cat) is stolen by Plankton, who gives Gary to the vain and tyrannical King Poseidon (voiced by Matt Berry) because the king uses snail slime to keep his face looking youthful. King Poseidon ran out of snails and offered a reward to anyone who could provide him with a useful snail. Plankton sees that offer as an opportunity to try to get in the king’s good graces and get revenge on SpongeBob. King Poseidon lives at Poseidon Palace, which is located in the Lost City of Atlantic City.

What follows is a madcap trek that involves SpongeBob and his amiable starfish neighbor Patrick Star (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) going on a mission to find and rescue Gary. Along the way, they end up in a Western ghost town, where they have some off-the-wall encounters with flesh-eating zombie pirates (portrayed by live actors), a rapping gambler (played by Snoop Dogg) and a villainous zombie cowboy called El Diablo (played by Danny Trejo). But some of the funniest scenes in the movie are with a giant, advice-giving tumbleweed named Sage that rolls into SpongeBob and Patrick’s lives when they first arrive in the ghost town. Sage is a tumbleweed with a talking head of Reeves inside the center.

Also part of these antics is a new automated computer robot named Otto (voiced by Awkwafina), which the brainy squirrel Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence) has given as a gift to Mr. Krabs. However, Mr. Krabs quickly gets annoyed with Otto and throws the robot away. Otto ends up becoming a crucial part of how the story develops.

The movie also has some cameos of celebrities playing a version of themselves as underwater animated characters that work at a nightclub in the Lost City of Atlantic City. Tiffany Haddish appears briefly on stage as a wisecracking fish that’s a stand-up comedian named Tiffany Haddock. Jazz saxophonist Kenny G plays a plant called Kelpy G, which does a smooth jazz version of “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme from the 1997 movie “Titanic.” It’s a somewhat subversive song choice, considering “Titanic” is a disaster movie where most of the characters end up drowning in the ocean.

There are some other endearingly oddball and unexpected choices in the movie, such as a criminal trial that takes place at the nightclub. The King Poseidon character plays with masculine and feminine stereotypes, by blurring the lines between obsessions with machismo and obsessions with beauty products. It’s why King Poseidon is not a typical villain in an animated film.

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” clearly knows its audience well, since it’s made for kids as well as adults. “SpongeBob SquarePants” has been on the air since 1999; therefore, many of the kids who grew up watching the show now have children of their own. It explains the inclusion of Reeves, Snoop Dogg, Kenny G and Danny Trejo as cameos, since these stars’ pop culture significance have a different meaning to people who are old enough remember the 1990s and early 2000s.

The movie’s very retro music soundtrack is definitely geared more to adults, with rock and pop tunes from the late 20th century, such as Foghat’s “Slow Ride,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Weezer has two songs on the soundtrack: “It’s Always Summer in Bikini Bottom” and a cover version of a-ha’s “Take on Me” and the original song Also on the soundtrack is the Flaming Lips’ “Snail: I’m Avail.”

Mikros did the movie’s vivid CGI and animation, which is not as outstanding as a Pixar movie, but it’s better than most CGI animated films. Writer/director Hill moves things along at a brisk-enough pace, even though it’s very easy to know how the movie is going to end. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” imparts a lot of positive messages of self-acceptance, but the characters have enough foibles and flaws to make the jokes relatable to viewers. Watch this movie if you like animated films and you’re up for an energetic diversion that might make you want more “SpongeBob” movies, regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar you might be with the franchise.

Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies will release “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” on Paramount+ on March 4, 2021, the same date that Paramount Home Entertainment releases the movie on VOD. The movie was released in Canada in 2020.

Review: ‘This Is Stand-Up,’ starring Jerry Seinfeld, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, Sebastian Maniscalco and D.L. Hughley

April 13, 2020

by Carla Hay

D.L. Hughley in “This Is Stand-Up” (Photo courtesy of Comedy Central)

“This Is Stand-Up”

Directed by Paul Toogood and Lloyd Stanton

Culture Representation: This documentary is a compilation of interviews, performances and off-stage footage of a racially diverse group (white, African American, Latino and Asian) of well-known, mostly American stand-up comedians.

Culture Clash: The general consensus in the documentary is that being a professional stand-up comedian goes against what most people consider as having a “normal life.”

Culture Audience: “This Is Stand-Up” will appeal primarily to people who are stand-up comedy fans, even though the documentary ignores many problems (such as sexism, joke stealing and monetary rip-offs) in the business side of stand-up comedy.

Garry Shandling in “This Is Stand-Up” (Photo courtesy of Comedy Central)

“This Is Stand-Up” is kind of like the documentary equivalent of speed-dating. The movie packs in many famous stand-up comedians, who deliver a lot of personality soundbites, but ultimately there’s not a lot of depth or anything new that’s revealed for people who already know about the stand-up comedy world. Although a few of the comedians talk about their personal struggles, most just share anecdotes and advice, and the documentary doesn’t acknowledge the sexist and cutthroat side of the business.

Filmed over five years, “This Is Stand-Up” (directed by Paul Toogood and Lloyd Stanton) has a “who’s who” of stand-up comedians (almost all American) who are interviewed in the documentary. They include Judd Apatow, David A. Arnold, Dave Attell, Maria Bamford, Bill Bellamy, Gina Brillon, Cocoa Brown, Cedric The Entertainer, Tommy Davidson, Mike Epps, Jamie Foxx, Gilbert Gottfried, Eddie Griffin, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, D. L. Hughley, Mia Jackson, Jim Jefferies, Jessica Kirson, Bert Kreischer, Bobby Lee, Carol Leifer, George Lopez, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jay Mohr, Jim Norton, Rick Overton, Paul Provenza, Chris Rock, Bob Saget, Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Sarah Silverman, Owen Smith, Kira Soltanovich, Beth Stelling, Taylor Tomlinson, Theo Von and Keenen Ivory Wayans. (Noticeably missing: Dave Chappelle.)

Toogood and Lloyd are Brits who previously directed the documentary “Dying Laughing,” which had a limited theatrical release in 2017. “Dying Laughing” was an interview-only film about stand-up comedians, and featured many of the same people as in “This Is Stand-Up,” such as Seinfeld, Hart, Silverman, Rock, Shandling, Schumer and Cedric The Entertainer. “Dying Laughing” also had more international representation, since it included comedians from Canada (such as Russell Peters), the United Kingdom (Billy Connolly) and Australia (Jim Jeffries).  In “This Is Stand-Up,” Jeffries is the only non-American comedian interviewed in the movie. British comedian Ricky Gervais is shown as a guest on Norton’s SiriusXM radio show, but he’s not interviewed specifically for this movie.

Although it’s important for the documentary to include on-stage footage of the comedians, the best parts of the movie are when the comedians are shown off-stage. Stand-up comedy routines on stage can easily be accessed on the Internet, so “This Is Stand-Up” shines when it has exclusive footage of what the comedians are like in their homes or backstage. Mohr, Tomlinson and Kresicher are among those interviewed in their homes, while some of the memorable tour footage includes Maniscalco and  the “Kings of Comedy” team of Hughley, Lopez, Cedric The Entertainer and Eddie Griffin.

“This Is Stand-Up” is also a good introduction to hear some origin stories from famous comedians if you’ve never heard before how they got interested in doing stand-up comedy. (Die-hard fans of these comedians probably know these stories already, but the documentary assumes not everyone will know about these comedians’ backgrounds.) Silverman says, “When I was 3 years old, my dad taught me to swear, and he thought that was hilarious. I got crazy with power over that. I got addicted to that feeling.”

Schumer says her first introduction to performing in front of an audience and getting laughs was when she was in school plays—but she was getting laughed at for the wrong reasons. It made her angry until a teacher pointed out to her that people laughing at her performance is a good thing because laughter makes people happy.

Foxx remembers being the type of kid who was always mouthing off in class. Instead of sending him to the principal’s office, one of his teachers set aside time in class for Foxx to tell stories. According to Foxx, it was such a hit that other teachers would visit the classroom to watch him perform.

Maniscalco says that he was the opposite of the class clown. He describes himself as a shy and quiet kid who preferred to observe people. And for Rock, his first inclination to perform on stage was inspired by his grandfather, who was a reverend for their family’s church. Rock says that he saw how his grandfather was the center of attention, and it was the kind of attention that Rock wanted too.

In fact, almost all of the comedians in the documentary say in one way or another that being the center of attention is their main motivation for doing stand-up comedy, despite it being a very emotionally demanding way to make a living. Lopez comments, “What I like about comedy is that it’s given me a great life. And now, I know I’m important.”

However, it’s not a revelation that comedians are very insecure in their real lives. Most have openly admitted to being insecure and/or emotionally damaged. And many have even used their insecurities as the basis of their on-stage personas. It’s also clear from watching this documentary that most of the comedians use comedy as a way to fill a deep emotional void to make themselves feel wanted in this world.

Von (who first came to national prominence in the 2000s as a star of the MTV reality show “Road Rules”) is one of the comedians in the documentary who is followed on tour, instead of just doing an in-studio interview. He talks about his financially deprived background and unhappy childhood, which are the foundation for much of the material in his stand-up act. But he also opens up by saying that part of his motivation for doing stand-up comedy is so his mother will approve, since he says he’s never seen her laugh.

The problem with how the filmmakers deal with these stories and anecdotes is that there’s no outside verification. The documentary does not interview anyone who knew these comedians “way back when” or even people who helped give these comedians their big breaks. Everything in the film exists in the vacuum of what the comedians want to say, without including hardly any other perspectives.

One of the exceptions is when the documentary goes to the home of Kreischer and shows some of his life with his wife and two young daughters, who are all interviewed on camera. He gets visibly uncomfortable when his daughters admit that they don’t like it when he’s away on tour. Family members of the other comedians are not interviewed in this documentary.

The nature of stand-up comedy is for comedians to often exaggerate about their lives in order to be funny. “This Is Stand-Up” takes everything that these comedians say at face value and doesn’t dig much deeper. For example, several of the comedians, such as Hart and Bellamy, talk about the importance for comedians to find their unique voices and identities, but the movie doesn’t give examples of how these comedians have evolved.

Hart says, “It takes a little time to develop who develop who you are or who you want to be. I was definitely guilty of that in the beginning of my career. I didn’t have a voice. I didn’t know I could be myself.” That’s all well and good, but if we’re being honest, that’s pretty generic and vague advice.

The comedians talk a lot about how honing the craft of stand-up comedy involves a lot of practice at open-mic nights for little to no money. And getting to the level of headlining a show can sometimes take years. Comedians such as Seinfeld don’t believe there should be any shortcuts to stand-up comedy fame—people have to pay their dues on stage in front of live audiences, not in front of a mirror or on a YouTube channel.

There’s also an entire segment of the documentary devoted to how to deal with heckling and bombing on stage. Shandling talks about once being so paralyzed with humiliation after bombing from a show that he stayed in a car and couldn’t move for about 15 minutes. Rock’s advice for comedians is to resist the inclination to talk faster when being heckled and instead to slow down and take back control.

However, there’s no mention in the documentary about all the sleazy things that comedians encounter on the way to the top—the rip-offs, the unscrupulous managers/agents, or even the difficulty in getting managers or agents in the first place. And because there’s a limited number of comedy clubs in any given big city, it’s a very insular network where the venue owners and concert promoters have a lot of control.

The documentary includes a diverse mix of comedians, yet doesn’t mention a big problem in stand-up comedy: sexism against women. And the movie has an unrealistic portrayal of stand-up comedians as this “we all support each other” community. (The movie uses “The Kings of Comedy” tour as an example.)

Although there can sometimes be camaraderie among comedians, the reality is that stand-up comedy is and can be very cutthroat. This documentary doesn’t even mention the widespread problem of comedians stealing each other’s jokes. And this documentary completely ignores the bitter rivalries that happen in stand-up comedy.

Seinfeld, one of the highest-paid stand-up comedians of all time, echoes what many of the comedians say in the film: Preparing a stand-up comedy show is a lot harder than people think it is. He says, “I adore the rigorous difficulty of creating and preparing a joke.”

He also says that there are four levels of comedy: (1) Making your friends laugh; (2) Making strangers laugh; (3) Making strangers laugh and getting paid for it; and (4) Making strangers laugh, getting paid for it, and then having them talk like you after seeing your show.

The documentary also covers the issues of social commentary in stand-up comedy and “how far is too far.” When asked if any topic is off-limits in stand-up comedy, there’s a montage of comedians who say “no.” Hughley says, “I’ll never apologize for telling a joke.”

Griffin adds, “It’s always comedy’s job to speak knowledge to power about what people are upset about, because comedy has always been about the people.” He compares stand-up comedians to being the modern equivalents of court jesters.

Silverman (who’s no stranger to controversy) comments on how smartphones and social media have impacted stand-up comedy: “It’s especially daunting now, because people are recording with their stupid phones and posting stuff. There’s more at stake to failing than just in the safe walls of a comedy club. That said, you have to not care.”

Although “This Is Stand-Up” fails to address the predatory side of the business (maybe that’s why managers, agents, promoters and venue owners weren’t interviewed), at least the documentary does include the reality that stand-up comedy takes a toll on comedians’ personal lives. Depression, divorce and substance abuse are common with stand-up comedians, as these problems are in many professions that require frequent traveling. But they’re especially toxic for comedians, who are more inclined to be insecure than most other people.

Brillon comments on what stand-up comedians experience in their personal lives: “Relationships suffer—not just romantic relationships, but family relationships, because stand-up becomes the longest relationship in your life—and the most abusive. And you still love it and go back to it.”

Mohr, who’s been very open about his struggles with mental illness and drug addiction, says that for him, stand-up comedy is his greatest love and biggest addiction. Even if he wanted to stop, he says, he’s compelled to keep going: “To be a stand-up comic, you have to be completely unreasonable, unwell and unhinged.”

Haddish explains why stand-up comedians are driven to do what they do: “When you’re on stage, it’s like being next to God … Comedy is the most fantastic medicine you can imagine, not just for the audience, but for the comedian.”

“This Is Stand-Up” might not be very revealing about a lot of showbiz realities, since documentaries and biographies about several famous comedians have already uncovered the dark sides to stand-up comedy. This documentary is, as Toogood describes it in a Comedy Central press release, “a love letter” to stand-up comedians—at least the ones who are famous enough to be in this film. If you want some in-depth insight into on all the sleaze and heartaches these comedians had to go through to get to where they are now, then you’ll have to look elsewhere for those real stories.

Comedy Central premiered “This Is Stand-Up” on April 12, 2020.

 

Review: ‘Like a Boss,’ starring Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek

January 10, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek in "Like a Boss"
Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek in “Like a Boss” (Photo by Eli Joshua Ade/Paramount Pictures)

“Like a Boss”

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Culture Representation: Taking place in Atlanta and centered on the beauty industry, the comedy “Like a Boss” has a racially diverse cast that includes representation of white people, African Americans, Latinos and Asians in the middle and upper classes.

Culture Clash: Pandering to the worst stereotypes of women, the plot of “Like a Boss” is basically about a corporate catfight.

Culture Audience: “Like a Boss” will appeal primarily to people who like mindless comedies that sink to low and crude levels.

Tiffany Haddish, Salma Hayek and Rose Byrne in “Like a Boss” (Photo by Eli Joshua Ade/Paramount Pictures)

If you were someone who sat through the excruciatingly dumb trailer of “Like a Boss” as it played during previews of a movie you saw in a theater, you might have seen from the repulsed reactions of people in the audience that this movie was not only a turn-off but it was also going to be a flop. “Like a Boss” tries to pass itself off as a raunchy feminist film, but in the end, the movie (written and directed by men) treats women like trash by presenting them as clueless about business and being at their cruelest to other women. “Like a Boss” director Miguel Arteta and screenwriters Adam Cole-Kelly and Sam Pitman should be embarrassed about putting this crap into the world, because it shows how inept they are at making a female-centric comedy.

The plot centers on entrepreneurs Mel Paige (played by Rose Byrne) and Mia Carter (played by Tiffany Haddish), two best friends since childhood who have an Atlanta store that sells their own brand of beauty products called M&M. Mel handles the financial matters of the business, while Mia handles the creative aspects. On the surface, things seem to be going well, but Mel is hiding a secret that she eventually confesses to Mia: their company is $493,000 in debt. (This isn’t a spoiler, since the confession is in the movie’s trailers. And if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve basically seen what could be called the best parts of this bad movie.) It doesn’t help the company’s finances that Mia likes to give deep discounts to customers for random reasons.

However, M&M is making enough sales to attract the attention of corporate shark Claire Luna (played by Salma Hayek), the owner of the successful  beauty corporation Ovieda that’s supposed to be a market leader. The writers of this movie clearly don’t know that the biggest U.S.-based beauty companies in America are actually headquartered in New York or Los Angeles, but maybe the filmmakers got financial incentives from Atlanta to have this cheap-looking movie take place there.

Claire swoops in to make an offer to buy 51% of M&M and pay off all the company’s debts. Mel wants to do the deal, but Mia is reluctant because it would break Mel and Mia’s pact to never sell the business. Mia, who is more street-smart than Mel, also senses that Claire can’t be trusted. However, Mel is desperate to erase the company’s debts, and argues with Mia that the sale would be good for the company.

After Claire observes the tension that the proposed deal is causing between the two longtime friends, Claire offers to buy 49% of the company on the condition that if either Mel or Mia leaves the company, Claire will get 51% ownership of the business. Of course, in a movie as stupid and unrealistic as this one, not only do Mel and Mia cave in to Claire’s demands that they make their decision in one day, but they also sign the deal in Claire’s office without any attorneys involved.

As a further insult to women, the screenwriters came up with the catty motivation that Claire targeted Mel and Mia for a takeover because she’s jealous of their close friendship and wants the deal to break up Mel and Mia. It turns out that Claire started Ovieda with her longtime best friend, whom Claire ended up firing because Claire is basically a greedy you-know-what. Claire wants to split up Mel and Mia because Claire failed at working with her best friend, so Claire can’t stand to see two female best friends work well together as business partners. In other words, Claire isn’t thinking like a real business person but is thinking like a petty high schooler. If this corporate raider were a man, there’s no way the filmmakers would come up with this moronic motivation to take over a company.

But the cattiness doesn’t stop there in “Like a Boss.” Mel and Mia have a circle of bourgeois “frenemies”—Kim, Jill and Angela (played by Jessica St. Clair, Natasha Rothwell and Ari Graynor)—mostly married mothers who apparently look down on the unmarried and childless Mel and Mia, who still live like college students. Mel and Mia are roommates who regularly smoke pot and have meaningless flings with boy toys. Meanwhile, Mel and Mia are convinced that their own lifestyles are better than their domesticated friends because Mel and Mia don’t have the responsibilities of husbands and children. Mel and Mia and their “Real Housewives”-type friends spend almost all of their scenes together trying to outdo and impress each other instead of genuinely having fun together as real friends do.

There’s also an unnecessary subplot where Claire pits Mia and Mel against two sexist men named Greg (played by Ryan Hansen) and Ron (played by Jimmy O. Yang), who have their own beauty company that’s competing with M&M for the millions being offered by Claire in the acquisition deal. Greg and Ron are portrayed as dorks who think they’re “woke,” but they’re really dismissive of their customers’ needs. They see beauty products as a way to exploit customers’ insecurities about their looks instead of enhancing natural beauty, and so their company uses a lot of cringeworthy marketing techniques that reflect this condescending attitude.

“Like a Boss” is polluted with some not-very-funny slapstick moments and an annoying fixation on telling jokes about women’s private parts every 10 minutes. There are cheesy Lifetime movies that are better than “Like a Boss,” which certainly isn’t worth spending any money to see. Byrne is capable of doing better work in comedies (as evidenced by “Bridesmaids” and “Neighbors”), but in “Like a Boss,” her Mel character is such a one-dimensional, uptight neurotic that there’s no room for any nuanced complexities.

Haddish continues to put herself in Typecast Hell as the foul-mouthed, quick-tempered, loud caricature that she keeps doing in every movie she’s done since her breakout in 2017’s “Girls Trip,” which is still her best film. Even though her Mia character in “Like a Boss” is college-educated, Mia is an unsophisticated mess. Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who have little or no contact with black women, and they get their ideas and stereotypes of black women from what they see on screen. Fortunately, we have versatile and intelligent actresses like Viola Davis, Regina King and Lupita Nyong’o to offset the damaging, negative stereotypes of black women that Haddish continues to perpetuate in her choice of roles.

“Like a Boss” also has some Hispanic racial stereotyping, since Claire makes Mel and Mia do some salsa-like dance moves with her in the office while Mexican music suddenly plays in the background. (Hayek is Mexican, in case you didn’t know.) There’s also a running gag that Claire can’t speak proper English because she’s constantly mispronouncing and fabricating English words. The not-so-subtle message the filmmakers are conveying is that Latino immigrants who are successful in American business still aren’t smart enough to master the English language. Just because “Like a Boss” director Arteta is also Latino doesn’t excuse this awful stereotyping.

Meanwhile, Hayek and Billy Porter (who plays the sassy Barrett, an openly gay employee of Mel and Mia) have the talent to be doing Oscar-caliber work. Instead, they are slumming it in this garbage movie. Supporting characters that could have been interesting are instead poorly written knock-offs that have been seen countless times before in other movies. Jennifer Coolidge plays the ditzy blonde (Sydney, an employee of Mel and Mia), while Karan Soni plays the villain’s smarmy lackey (Josh, who is Claire’s assistant).

“Like a Boss” is supposed to be a comedy about female empowerment in corporate America, but instead this movie has a very ghetto, misogynistic mindset that belongs in the same trash pile as a bunch of toxic and outdated cosmetics products.

Paramount Pictures released “Like a Boss” in U.S. cinemas on January 10, 2020.

2020 Golden Globe Awards: presenters announced

January 3, 2020

by Carla Hay

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organization the votes for the Golden Globe Awards) and Dick Clark Productions (which co-produces the Golden Globes telecast) have announced the presenters of the 2020 Golden Globe Awards ceremony, which takes place January 5 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills California. NBC will have the U.S. telecast of the show, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time/5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Here are the presenters in alphabetical order:

  • Tim Allen
  • Jennifer Aniston*
  • Christian Bale*
  • Antonio Banderas*
  • Jason Bateman
  • Annette Bening*
  • Cate Blanchett*
  • Matt Bomer
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Glenn Close
  • Daniel Craig*
  • Ted Danson
  • Ana de Armas*
  • Leonardo DiCaprio*
  • Ansel Elgort
  • Chris Evans
  • Dakota Fanning
  • Will Ferrell
  • Lauren Graham
  • Tiffany Haddish
  • Kit Harington*
  • Salma Hayek
  • Scarlett Johansson*
  • Elton John*
  • Nick Jonas
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Zoe Kravitz
  • Jennifer Lopez*
  • Rami Malek*
  • Kate McKinnon
  • Helen Mirren
  • Jason Momoa
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Amy Poehler
  • Brad Pitt*
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph
  • Margot Robbie*
  • Paul Rudd*
  • Wesley Snipes
  • Octavia Spencer
  • Bernie Taupin*
  • Charlize Theron*
  • Sofia Vergara
  • Kerry Washington
  • Naomi Watts
  • Rachel Weisz
  • Reese Witherspoon*

*2020 Golden Globe Awards nominee

Ricky Gervais is hosting the show. Tom Hanks will be receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement, while Ellen DeGeneres will be getting the Carol Burnett Award, which is given to people who have excelled in comedy. The Carol Burnett Award debuted at the Golden Globes in 2019, and Burnett was the first recipient of the prize. Dylan and Paris Brosnan (sons of Pierce Brosnan) will serve as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors.

Click here for a complete list of nominations for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards.

Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong are wacky birds of a feather in ‘Tuca & Bertie’

May 1, 2019

by Carla Hay

Tiffany Haddish, Lisa Hanawalt and Ali Wong
Tiffany Haddish, Lisa Hanawalt and Ali Wong at the world premiere of “Tuca & Bertie” at the during 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in new York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Netflix’s “Tuca & Bertie” is an animated comedy series, which the streaming service describes as being about the friendship between two bird women in their 30s who live in the same apartment building in Birdtown, a fictional place that is clearly inspired by New York City. Tuca (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) is “a cocky, care-free toucan” and Bertie (voiced by Ali Wong) is “an anxious, daydreaming songbird.”Among Tuca and Bertie’s friends, colleagues and neighbors are other animal creatures with human-like qualities. They include Speckles (voiced by Steven Yeun), a robin who is Bertie’s loving boyfriend; Pastry Pete (voiced by Reggie Watts), a baker penguin; Dapper T. Dog, a prissy neighbor; and Dirk (voiced by John Early), an arrogant rooster who works with Bertie at their job at a media company called Conde Nest—an obvious nod to Condé Nast.

“Tuca & Bertie” has several of the same executive producers as Netflix’s Emmy-winning animated series “BoJack Horseman,” including Lisa Hanawalt (who created “Tuca & Bertie), Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Noel Bright and Steven A. Cohen. Haddish and Wong are also executive producers of “Tuca & Bertie,” whose 10-episode first season premieres on Netflix on May 3, 2019. The first two episodes of “Tuca & Bertie” had their world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, where Haddish, Wong and Hanawalt did a Q&A after the screening. Here is what they said:

“Tuca & Bertie” (Image courtesy of Netflix)

Lisa, how long were Tuca and Bertie in your head, and when did you realize they needed a TV show?

Hanawalt: I started making comics about Tuca about four years ago, and then I started making comics about Bertie a little bit later. When I was thinking of TV show ideas, they just seemed like two of my favorite characters I ever made up. They just basically write themselves. They know exactly who they are.

I just wanted to make a show about female friendship. I thought the two of them would go well together. They’re kind of opposites, but Bertie has Tuca qualities and Tuca has Bertie qualities. And you can kind of see why they’ve been friends for so long.

Tiffany and Ali, what did you first think when you heard about “Tuca & Bertie”?

Haddish: When first I heard about it, I was like, “OK, two friends. That’s what’s up. I’ve got friends. This is funny … Where do I sign up? Do I get an executive producer credit?”

Wong: I didn’t know much about it. The only things I had heard that Lisa Hanawalt created a show about two birds that were best friends, and that Tiffany Haddish, who I’ve known for a long time and hadn’t worked on anything yet, was attached to it. That’s all I needed to know. “Yes, I’ll do it right now!”

Ali and Tiffany have executive producer credits on the show, right?

Wong: We do, but we didn’t do that much to deserve it.

Hanawalt: Yeah, you did.

Haddish: Yes, we did. I don’t know about you, but my feet hurt. I deserve it.

“Tuca & Bertie” (Image courtesy of Netflix)

How are you like your Tuca and Bertie characters in real life?

Wong: I suffer from crushing anxiety, like everybody else.

Hanawalt: You hide it well. You’re fearless.

Wong: I try. Yeah. I didn’t even know what you guys were looking for. I just went in [for the audition], and it was really short. I was like, “Oh, I didn’t get [the role], because they kicked me out so fast.”

Haddish: I was like, “Y‘all better get my homegirl, or I ain’t playing with y’all.” And ta-dah! We’re working together! That’s how you do it. I’ve been watching Hollywood. I see what y’all do.

Wong: I met Tiffany 10 years ago in San Francisco. She was so positive and so sweet then, even though it was the shittiest time. We were struggling and everything.

And then I saw her the next time in New York, when she had auditioned for “SNL” [“Saturday Night Live”]. Everybody around town knew she killed it. She knew she killed it, and she was like, “If they don’t give it to me, it’s fucked up.”

Haddish: No, I said, “If they don’t give it to me, fuck them!” That’s what I said.

Wong: “Fuck them, until I host for them!

Haddish: Yep. I said, “Next time, I’ll be hosting.”

Wong: And she did it in that white dress she’s worn a million times to maximize the value out.

Haddish: That part. It’s about saving our dollars, girl.

Wong: And then after I saw her after she auditioned for “SNL,” she had just booked a role for this movie with Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith [2017’s “Girls Trip”].

Haddish: And then boo-yah. I told you we were going to do it, girl.

Tiffany and Ali, what qualities do each of you have that bring out the best in each other?

Haddish: We balance each other out. I can be really over-the-top sometimes. And I look in her eyes and I’m reminded that I can bring it back down a little bit. It just depends. [She says to Wong] I really value you a lot.

Wong: Thank you.

Haddish: I like having her around. I wish we could be in the studio together more often, like when we made that song.

Wong: Oh my God. That was so fun. Tiffany is a good singer. I had to some training in the studio.

Hanawalt: You’re both really good.

Wong: Please don’t make me sing. I’m an executive producer. I command you to not make me sing. Please don’t make me sing!

Hanawalt: Ali has a whole musical number in Episode 4. She sings about having an anxiety attack.

Wong: We [Haddish and I] have duet that’s very catchy. I wish I wrote it so I could get residuals for it. It’s amazing. Tiffany’s really busy, if you’ve noticed. She’s doing five movies a year, all the time.

Haddish: You’re really busy too. You’re raising human beings.

Wong: That is true. When we got to see each other and work together, it was great. I hope we get to work together again.

Haddish: Yeah, more often. Season 2! Let’s go!

[Haddish and Wong then led an audience chant saying, “Season 2! Let’s go!” Wong also got up on her chair and twerked to the chant.]

“Tuca & Bertie” (Image courtesy of Netflix)

“Tuca & Bertie” is one of the few adult animated series that was created by a woman. What did you want to do differently in this show that you don’t see in other animated shows?

Hanawalt: I just wanted to make a show that I’d want to watch. I love watching adult cartoons. I’ve always loved watching animation. I wanted to see one about women and female relationships and women in the world, with stupid jokes I would laugh at and spicy chips for lunch and the kind of stuff that I want to watch.

And a lot of animated shows don’t have characters in their 30s. The characters either under 30 or over 40, right?

Hanawalt: I wanted to make a show about me and my friends and what we’re going through and right now … When you’re in your 30s, people really start to split off in drastically different directions.

Suddenly, your friends have a bunch of kids, and they own their own home and they have a husband and they seem super-stable, but inside they’re still like, “Do I really want this? I don’t know. Am I doing the right thing?” Meanwhile, I still feel like a big, sloppy baby, but I’m sure I look like I might have my shit together on the outside.

“Tuca & Bertie” tackles some serious topics, like sexual harassment and Tuca’s struggle to stay sober. Tiffany and Ali, how much of this did you know in advance before signing on for the show?

Wong: I honestly knew nothing. Lisa and the [other] writers were breaking the stories on as we were coming in to read the script. We’d just show up at the table read, and that’s when I would find out what the story was. Some of the twists and turns—you’ll see in the season—they shocked me in a really cool way. It’s serialized. That’s something you don’t usually see a lot in animation.

Hanawalt:  It starts out light and fun, but there’s definitely some darker stuff that happens. I think overall though, the show is very optimistic and feels like safe place, but we go into some darker things.  I didn’t want to tell them, because I didn’t want to scare them away.

Haddish: Yeah. I was like reading it, and I was like, “What just happened? Oh, hell no! For real? Okay, then. Continue.”

Hanawalt: There were definitely things I wanted to tackle. I like shows that are really silly and surreal and then also have some very real, relatable moments and darker themes.

What were some of the things you were most excited about in the look and design of “Tuca & Bertie”?

Hanawalt: I was thinking about things I’m not allowed to do on “BoJack.” There’s going to make talking plants. Fuck it!

Haddish: I was most excited about Tuca’s ass. In Season 2, let’s see if she can get some titties! Just putting it out there, boss lady.

Wong: I was excited to see the scenes with Tuca and me together. Also, the scenes with Steven Yeun, who plays Speckles, my boyfriend.

What do you want people to get from watching “Tuca & Bertie?”

Hanawalt: I hope people find it funny and relatable. I hope women see themselves in these characters.

 

2018 CinemaCon: What to expect at this year’s event

April 23, 2018

by Carla Hay

CinemaCon

CinemaCon, the annual convention for the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), will be held April 23 to April 26, 2018, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. About 5,000 people attend the event, which gives movie studios the chance to showcase what they expect to be their biggest hits of the year.

Movie studios scheduled to give their presentations at the event are Sony Pictures Entertainment on April 23; Walt Disney Studios, STX Films and Warner Bros. Pictures on April 24; Entertainment Studios, Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Paramount Pictures on April 25; and 20th Century Fox, Amazon Studios and Lionsgate on April 26.

One of the highlights of CinemaCon 2018 will be the 2018 Pioneer of the Year Award Dinner on April 25. The event will honor Tom Cruise, the first actor to ever receive the award. Tony-and-Grammy-Award-winning “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. will perform at the event, which will include a special presentation from Cruise’s “Jack Reacher” director Christopher McQuarrie, who also directed Cruise in 2015’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and 2018’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

CinemaCon culminates with the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards ceremony, which will take place April 26.

Here are the announced winners of the awards:

CinemaCon Lifetime Award
Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Jodie Foster has been one of the most critically acclaimed actors in movies since made her big-screen debut in 1972’s “Napoleon and Samantha.” Her most famous movies include 1976’s “Taxi Driver,” 1997’s “Contact” and 2002’s “Panic Room.” She has two Oscars for Best Actress: for  1988’s “The Accused” and 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs.” In 2018, her thriller film “Hotel Artemis” is set for release. Foster has also become a respected director and producer, having helmed several feature films, including 1991’s “Little Man Tate,” 1995’s “Home for the Holidays,” 2011’s “The Beaver” and 2016’s “Money Monster.”

CinemaCon Icon Award
Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

In a career spanning more than 45 years, Oscar-nominated Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in more blockbusters than any other actor. His hit films include 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” 1994’s “Pulp Fiction,” “Star Wars” Episodes I II and III, 2004’s “The Incredibles,” 2012’s “Django Unchained” and several Marvel Studios films, such 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” 2011’s “Captain America; The First Avenger,”  2012’s “The Avengers,” 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” 2015’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The prolific Jackson has several movies scheduled for release. In 2018, his movies include “The Last Full Measure,” “Incredibles 2” and “Life Itself.” In 2019, he has three movies that are predicted to be big hits: “Glass” (the hybrid sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split”), “Captain Marvel” and a remake of “Shaft.”

CinemaCon Visionary Award
Jack Black

CinemaCon Vanguard Award
Jonah Hil

Jack Black and Jonah Hill (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Grey Goose Vodka)

Jack Black and Jonah Hill are co-stars in 2018’s “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.” Although they have appeared in dramas, they are mostly known for their comedic roles. Black’s biggest hits include 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” the “Kung Fu Panda” movies, 2003’s “School of Rock” and 2005’s “King Kong.” His other 2018 movie is “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.”

Hill, who received Oscar nominations for supporting roles in 2011’s “Moneyball” and 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” has appeared in a number of hit movies, including 2007’s “Superbad,” 2012’s “21 Jump Street,” 2013’s “This Is the End,” 2014’s “22 Jump Street” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies. He’s also reunited with his “Superbad” co-star Emma Stone in the Netflix series “Maniac.”  In 2019, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is due out in cinemas.

CinemaCon Award of Excellence in Acting
Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones (Photo by Christopher Polk)

Felicity Jones had carved out a niche in independent films (usually dramas) before she was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything.” Since then, her career has grown by leaps in bounds, including starring roles in 2016’s biggest blockbuster, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and 2016’s “Inferno.” In 2017, she starred in the critically acclaimed “Breathe.” She plays U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2018’s “On the Basis of Sex.”

CinemaCon Male Star of the Year
Benicio Del Toro

Benicio Del Toro (Photo by Richard Foreman Jr.)

Benicio Del Toro won an Oscar for his supporting role in 2000’s “Traffic.” He has developed a reputation for playing brooding, often mysterious characters in critically acclaimed movies that range from ,ow-budget independent films to major blockbusters. Del Toro’s best-known movies include 1995’s “The Usual Suspects,” 2013’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and 2015’s “Sicario” and 2016’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”  His movies set for release in 2018 are “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” which is expected to the biggest box-office hit of the year.

CinemaCon Female Star of the Year
Dakota Johnson

Dakota Johnson (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Coming from from a family of famous actors (her parents are Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith; her maternal grandmother is Tippi Hedren; and her former stepfather is Antonio Banderas), Dakota Johnson has forged her most recognizable identity in movies as the star of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. She has four very different movies in 2018: S&M-themed romantic drama “Fifty Shades Freed,” the horror movie “Suspiria” and the thriller “Bad Times at the El Royale.”

CinemaCon Director of the Year
Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images)

After directing just three feature films (2014’s “Fruitvale Station,” “2015’s “Creed” and 2018’s “Black Panther”), Ryan Coogler has become one of the hottest filmmakers in Hollywood, thanks to the blockbuster success of “Black Panther,” which broke the record for the highest-grossing film to open in February. The movie also earned rave reviews from critics, and “Black Panther” is set to be in the Top 5 of the highest-grossing movies of 2018.

CinemaCon Breakthrough Producer of the Year
Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union (Photo courtesy of BET)

Gabrielle Union is not new to making movies (she’s starred in 2000’s “Bring It On” and 2012’s “Think Like a Man, among other films), but she is relatively new to producing movies. Union was an executive producer of her 2016 comedy film “Almost Christmas,” and she’s a producer of her 2018 thriller “Breaking In.”

CinemaCon Action Star of the Year
Taron Egerton

Taron Egerton (Photo by Larry Horricks)

Taron Egerton is best known to movie audiences as the star of the “Kingsman” movies: 2014’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and 2017’s “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” His 2018 movies are the big-screen version of the true-crime drama “The Billionaire Boys Club” and as the iconic title character in “Robin Hood.” Egerton is also set to star as Elton John in the biopic “Rocketman,” whose release date is to be announced.

Cinema Spotlight Award
Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Anna Kendrick is best known for starring in the “Pitch Perfect” comedy/musical movies, but she is equally adept at doing dramas, such as her Oscar-nominated turn for her supporting role in 2009’s “Up in the Air.” Her 2018 movie is “A Simple Favor,” a mystery thriller

CinemaCon Female Star of Tomorrow Award
Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish (Photo by Michele K. Short)

Tiffany Haddish is a longtime stand-up comedian, but she had a major breakthrough in movies with her much-talked-about role in the 2017 comedy smash “Girls Trip.” Since then, her career has been on a hot streak, with starring role in TV and movies, including four films due out in 2018: “Uncle Drew,” “Night School,” “The Oath” and “Nobody’s Fool.”

CinemaCon Breakthrough Performer of the Year
LilRel Howery

LilRel Howery (Photo by Jason Lubin)

LilRel Howery made movie audiences stand up and take notice as the wise-cracking TSA worker in the 2017 horror blockbuster “Get Out.” It was a small but memorable role for the actor who was previously known on screen for starring as Bobby Carmichael in “The Carmichael Show.” Howery’s 2018 movies are the comedy “Uncle Drew” and the sci-fi thriller “Birdbox.”

CinemaCon Comedy Star of the Year
Kate McKinnon

Kate McKinnon (Photo by Adam Rose/ABC)

Kate McKinnon has already won multiple Emmys for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” but she has also made her mark on the big screen, with scene-stealing roles in 2016’s “Ghostbusters” remake, 2017’s “Rough Night” and 2017’s “Ferdinand.” In 2018, her comedy movies set for release are “Irreplaceable You” and “The Spy Who Dumped Me.”

Other awards that will be given at the ceremony:

  • CinemaCon International Filmmaker of the Year Award: J.A. Bayona, director of 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
  • CinemaCon Passpartout Award: Kurt Rieder,  20th  Century Fox International executive VP for theatrical in the Asia Pacific region
  • NATO Marquee Award: Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, Cinépolis CEO/general director
  • Career Achievement in Exhibition Award: Robert Carrady, Caribbean Cinemas president

2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards: Tiffany Haddish announced as host

February 22, 2018

Tiffany Haddish
Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip” (Photo by Michele K. Short)

MTV today announced that actress, comedian and New York Times bestselling author Tiffany Haddish will host the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards on Monday, June 18 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.  The 2018 categories and nominees will be announced at a later date.

Tiffany Haddish is quickly establishing herself as one of the most sought-after actresses and comedic talents in television and film. She exploded onto the scene after her breakout performance in the blockbuster hit “Girls Trip;” recently released a New York Times bestselling book The Last Black Unicorn; and late last year became the first black female stand-up comedian to host “Saturday Night Live.” Haddish’s viral appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” led her to become the face of Groupon and appear in the company’s 2018 Super Bowl commercial.

Haddish is set to star opposite Tracy Morgan in the TBS sitcom “The Last OG” and alongside Kevin Hart in Universal’s “Night School,” premiering later this year.

Official sponsors of the “2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards” include MTN DEW®, Taco Bell®, Toyota and truth®.

For additional information visit MTVAwards.mtv.com and follow @MTVAwards and @MTV on social media. #MTVAwards

About MTV: MTV is a global youth culture brand inspired by music.  For more information, check out mtvpress.com.  MTV is a unit of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA).