Great News 2017-2018 ***

great news

Cheekily billed as Netflix original in the UK, Great News is an NBC/ Tina Fey-produced sitcom that plays like 30 Rock but in a newsroom. Briga Heelan plays Katie, a segment producer on a news show who struggles for sanity with vain newsreaders Chuck and Portia (John Michael Higgins and Nicole Richie), her mother Carol (Andrea Martin) and Greg (Adam Campbell) a British producer who is a rival and eventually her boyfriend. Fey herself turns up in the second series at Diana St John, a producer who threatens to take control of the station. Great News is a likeable trifle that, like 30 Rock, seems to be trying too hard to please everyone; but when the gags land, they are funny, like a recurring confusion about Gregg’s girlfriend Kat and his cat; ‘She won’t be able to make it, she’s in heat?’ ‘I thought you meant Kat the person?’ ‘I did, she’s in a Broadway musical based in the Michael Mann film….

Wine Country 2019 ***

Amy Poehler’s debut as director is a Netflix comedy drama that’s a female-driven Big Chill number as a group of women set out for a 50th birthday retreat in the luxurious environs of Napa, with Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph all trading on their Saturday Night Live fame, with support from Jason Schwartzmann as a paella-chef and Tina Fey agreeably playing against type as a caustic widow who rents out the property. Wine Country manages to get the right mixture between maudlin where-did-my-life-go sentiment and some amusingly comic business; a scene where Poehler and Dratch taste wine with a snooty host is exquisitely times. In fact is Dratch who makes the biggest impression; too often side-lined as a goofy extra, she shines here as the birthday girl who doesn’t feel she has much to celebrate. Poehler has fun as well as the over-organised creative behind the weekend, sending up her own Parks and Recreation image; Wine Country is a smart, sensitive comedy and a smart bit of business by Netflix.

Muppets Most Wanted 2014 ***


The Muppets themselves have always been old school;  even in the 70’s, their routines recalled music hall or vaudeville theatre. So it’s appropriate that the 2014 version still harks back to ancient routines; Kermit the frog and his Russian lookalike Constantine have a routine involving a mirror that was popular before cinema was invented.  The original; Muppet reboot focused not on the Muppets themselves, but on Amy Adams and Jason Segal; that’s corrected in this 2014 sequel, which opens with a cheerful song about how sequels are never as good as the original film.  Instead, the focus is Kermit, who is seduced by Dominic Badguy (an ill-at-ease Ricky Gervais) into a European tour which is merely the cover for an series of robberies, leading to a hidden treasure. Kermit is mistaken for Russian crime-boss Constantine (also Kermit), who takes over at the helm while Kermit languishes in a Gulag run by Tina Fey. Appearing in a Muppet Movie has considerable cultural cache, and Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett attest, and cameos from Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Tom Hiddlestone, James McAvoy and many more add to the jokey feel. While not the best Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted is amiable enough to be going on with, with another excellent set of songs to keep things on rails.

Baby Mama 2008 ***


Tina Fey’s 30 Rock was peppered with references to great 80’s movies like Tootsie; in terms of transferring her comic talents to cinema, it’s a shame these kind of comedies are no longer in vogue. Baby Mama is Fey’s most accomplished venture so far, with writer/director Michael McCullers bringing the same free-wheeling style he brought to the second and third Austin powers scripts. Fey plays Kate, a successful businesswoman who can’t conceive, and employs the splendidly random Angie (Amy Poehler) to do the business. Fey and Poehler have considerable chemistry, as their Emmy awards shows have demonstrated, and the girls combine to engaging effect in this featherweight, very enjoyable farce.