Lara Croft is the tough and independent daughter of a wealthy adventurer who disappeared 7 years ago and is presumed dead. So when she learns his secret obsession with an ancient Japanese myth, she pursues him to the unknown island that seems to have swallowed him whole. It seems like a really bad decision to follow in the footsteps of a dead man, but Lara (Alicia Vikander) doesn’t just put her life on the line, she involves an innocent stranger too (Daniel Wu), just as her father did. So if you’re wondering who the Croft family is, they appear to be in it solely for themselves, and fuck every body else.
So Lara makes her way to this evil island where she meets up with a bad man named Mathias (Walter Goggins) and things go from merely murdery to a whole shit tonne of worse. And even though she’s been violently shipwrecked and then hunted, actually hunted on an island that seems intent on killing her, she somehow maintains a perfectly shaped brow and stubble-free armpits, which are constantly on display thanks to a skimpy outfit that seems particularly ill-advised when visiting malaria-infested countries. So while Lara may be about to out-box me, I’ll still take the victory because I packed the DEET. Though I suppose I should concede that the Vikander version of Lara is slightly more grounded and slightly less lustily rendered on the screen than was Angelina Jolie.
Tomb Raider is fine, I guess, except for some painful green screen moments that are ENTIRELY unconvincing. And the fact that it’s boring as shit to watch someone solve a puzzle when the puzzle is never shown or known to us. It’s just a lot of knob twisting. Vikander is tough as balls but the story is uninspired and makes no arguments for its own existence. This franchise didn’t need a reboot and it got a rather lacklustre one, despite Vikander’s charm.
The Light Between Oceans is a film for the literary sort. It’s poetically paced, languid in its development. It’s about a man (Michael Fassbender) who, having survived the war, is keen on some isolation and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a lonely island. He doesn’t count on falling in love, and is delighted to double the population of his rock when he takes a wife (Alicia Vikander). Now all they need is a baby and they’ll have a real population boom on their hands.
But wait. The babies aren’t coming so easily for this young couple. In fact, the only baby that comes is one that washes ashore, screaming in her dead father’s arms. It’s the lighthouse keeper’s duty to report orphaned baby to the mainland, no matter how much his distraught, infertile, grieving wife may want to keep her. Right?
The Light Between Oceans is beautifully shot by DP Adam Arkapaw; you’ll be sick of the postcard-perfect scenery by the end of the movie. We get it, it’s gorgeous. Fassbender and Vikander fit right in (once she shaves off his mustache anyway), pantomiming love so well they actually fell in love themselves, and are a couple to this day. They’re committed in their roles and aren’t to be blamed when this film ultimately falters.
What makes it stumble? The pace may be a deterrent. While I was okay with the unhurried pace, I worried that Sean was bored. Or asleep. He assured me he was neither, and I nearly believe him. Second, and hugely, is the contrived plot which forces the characters to behave rather stupidly. As much as you want to like them, and have liked them, you will grow frustrated. And emotional: director Derek Cianfrance is adamant that you cry. He will not be satisfied, or leave well enough alone, until you do.
See Alicia Vikander before she was famous, Dominic West in his authentic accent, and Emily Watson being stellar as always in increasingly diminished roles.
Vera Brittain was a real-life independent spirit. She vied for and won a spot at Oxford and vowed “never to marry”, even if those sounded like famous last word when uttered just as a very cute boy enters the picture. Turns out, he has a thing for sharp and feisty young women, and the two are a love match and plan to be at Oxford at the same time (unchaperoned, even). But every great love story needs an obstacle and feminism wasn’t enough, so along came The Great War to shake things up.
Tag line: Divided by war. United by love. Did you just puke a little in your mouth?
Luckily the tagline writer was an aberration and the film itself is quite good. Vera’s mind expands and excels at Oxford, and no one is less grateful for her education than she. Women still have to prove themselves worthy of degrees and now she’s feeling left behind again, when her brother, her friends, and her love are all leaving for the front. But Vera’s not one to take a back seat – soon she’s giving up her beloved school to become a nurse.
Vikander (who replaced Saoirse Ronan) is every bit the revelation that Ex Machina proved she was. She’s poised and luminous, and while the movie doesn’t contribute much that is new to the war genre, Vikander makes it more than worth a look.
Her The Danish Girl co-star, Eddie Redmayne, also starred in his own WW1 epic, called Birdsong (based on the Faulks of the same name). He plays a young man who goes off to war remembering the affair he had with his French (married) sweetheart. Clemence Poesy is beautiful as ever, but this one may leave you feeling faintly unsatisfied.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Guy Ritchie wanted to make a spy movie that was “sexy, fun, and frivolous”, harkening back to the Roger Moore era of James Bond. He got the frivolous part right. This movie doesn’t mean much. It’s got some very charismatic stars, none of whom are served well by the material, and none of whom can pull off an accent as well as they think they can (Alicia Vikander sounds Irish more than German). It tends toward flippant rather than funny. It is very stylish (and stylized), I’ll give it that, but that’s a lot of money to put on a retro fashion show. However, if you’re one of those people who love a vacuous spy movie with no action or suspense, then boy has your time come.
Max – We never would have seen this movie on purpose but it was the second movie in a double-bill at the drive-in, so that explains why we were there, though not why we stayed. We stayed mostly for the people-watching, as it turned out, since the couple in the car beside us were topless, the better for him to expunge the blackheads from her back, while their interior lights are on, for all the world to see. It really made me reflect on how I might multi-task while at the drive-in. Suggestions? My only suggestion to you is to skip this movie. Lauren Graham and Thomas Haden Church play a good old flag-waving, down home American couple who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Their eldest son dies in Iraq, and his service dog gets decommissioned from the army (sorry, marines) and comes to stay with them, to be loved and trained (and healed!) by the angry younger son. The army honours its strong tradition of turning its back on veterans with PTSD, even when that vet is a dog who just wants to serve his country and retire in peace and kibble. Convoluted plot devices ensue to really bring this family together in their grief, with heavy doses of patriotic piety that I found hard to swallow. Makes you proud to be Murican I guess. A country song plays over a memorial to dead wartime dogs at the end.
Mortdecai – I think this movie was a bet. I think someone just decided to see how much weird they could cram into a movie, as long as that weird was uninteresting and unremarkable. I was embarrassed for the simpering Johnny Depp, and for his mustache.
So last week, the Assholes enjoyed a late lunch on a sunny patio, some margaritas as we planned a future trip to California, and a movie that we all admitted to thoroughly enjoying.
Ex-Machina is a damn fine piece of cinema that we all came away from chittering about like we’d been starved of good film-making for centuries (and it being Avenger week, I guess it did kind of feel that way). And then we all promptly avoided writing about it.
Now why is that? Probably because I’m not interested in rehashing plot. I am, however, frothing to talk about what happens, really happens. So I’m writing two posts. This one, spoiler-free, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet: Go see it. It’s about a beautiful robot who’s (artificially?) intelligent and has a sporting vagina. How can you resist that? Answer: you can’t. See it immediately, and then come back to discuss.
And for those of you who have seen it, please follow this link to the real meat and potatoes, where we can finally get all those glorious WHAT THE FUCKS off our chests. Sound good? See you there.