Tag Archives: Anthony Mackie

IO

Sam is a young scientist, writing to her boyfriend Elon who is worlds away, on a space station called IO, along with nearly all remaining humans. People fled Earth as it became uninhabitable. Now the IO colony has turned its sights toward another planet near Alpha Centauri, and they’re cutting ties with Earth in order to dedicate all resources to this new plan. Any humans still surviving on Earth have 4 days to catch the last of the shuttles, or forever be left behind.

mv5bmgzlyjc4yjutnjnhni00ytvhlwi3ztqtota1ody2ntkwngi0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq@._v1_sy1000_cr0,0,1364,1000_al_Sam (Margaret Qualley) has no way of making those shuttles until Micah (Anthony Mackie) shows up in a helium balloon. He’s heard the broadcasts from Sam’s father, a famous scientist who steadfastly remained behind in order to study Earth’s atmosphere and gauge whether life may once again be tenable on Earth. Micah is their only chance at escape, but he’s finding the last Earthlings to be pretty ambivalent about leaving rather than grateful for rescue.

IO is not breaking any new ground in terms of the apocalypse, or science fiction. Qualley and Mackie are totally lovely as the last people on Earth, but a story that keeps reminding us that human connection is the most important thing should remember that showing our heroes affectionately bonking gas masks is a little short on intimacy.

Truthfully, it’s a little short on story too. It’s retreading a very familiar path without engendering a single original idea. It was uninspiring enough that I felt myself embracing the apocalypse and actually wondering what the others were doing up on IO. It can’t possibly be as dull or as dusty as life on Earth.

The good news is, it’s on Netflix, streaming for “free” since you already have a subscription. So even a mild or passing interest can be indulged with no harm done. Temper those hot-air-balloon-sized expectations and instead anticipate something more akin to a birthday balloon, three days after the party.

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TIFF18: The Hate U Give

It’s a sad sign of the times that police shooting an unarmed black man seem to be one of the unofficial themes of TIFF’s 2018 program much like tennis was last year.

Starr Carter (a sensational Amandla Stenberg) lives in a poor black neighbourhood but goes to school in an affluent white part of town. Starr Version Two- the censored version of herself that her friends see- can’t quote hip hop lyrics like her white friends do all the time because “when they do it, they sound cool. When I do it, I sound ghetto”. Moments after reconnecting with a black childhood friend at a party in her neighbourhood, the two are pulled over by a white police officer which quickly and tragically ends with her friend getting shot and killed.

Not only does Starr now have a lot of grief and trauma to work through. Her once compartmentalized life has suddenly gotten a lot more complicated as she- the only witness to the shotting- starts getting pulled in every direction. Everyone, from the kids at school to the local gang leader (Anthony Mackie) to Starr’s cop uncle (Common), has an opinion that they’re not shy to share and some are all too happy to resort to threats and even violence.

Whereas Reinaldo Marcus Green’s excellent Monsters and Men was a thoughtful and nuanced indie, The Hate U Give works a lot harder at being accessible to a more mainstream audience. Our introduction to Starr’s life and the world around here is often funny and Starr and her family are immediately easy to like and root for. The soundtrack doesn’t hurt one bit either. Things are obviously a lot less fun once shots are fired and Starr’s friend is killed but The Hate U Give is still the kind of movie that seeks to entertain while it makes us think and feel.

The Hate U Give hooked me much quicker than Monsters and Men did. Monsters and Men needs time to sink in. It doesn’t aim for big dramatic scenes and speeches like The Hate U Give does. The Hate U Give pays a bit of a price for its more mainstream approach. Because it always feels like a movie albeit an extremely effective one. Some parts seem a little too contrived while others are a little over-simplified.

There’s a place for both movies. Monsters and Men was a great conversation starter is a mostly satisfying and cathartic emotional experience. It’s just that I fell in love with this movie over the first half or so and somewhere along the way I lost some enthusiasm for it.

Detroit

Detroit, 1967: a veritable race riot is boiling over the streets of the inner city. Buildings are on fire, stores are looted. Cops are on edge and are arresting any black person they see. The force is 93% white; 45% of those working in black neighbourhoods were considered to be “extremely anti-Negro” and an additional 34% were “prejudiced.” Charges of police brutality are abundant. Precincts overflow with black bodies.

On the night of July 25, police converge on the Algiers motel, allegedly because a sniper might be in or around the building. The motel’s 12 occupants are rounded up, interrogated, badly beaten, and humiliated by Detroit PD, Michigan State police, and the National Guard. At the end of the night, three black teenagers are left dead, killed by police.

Why? How?

Director Kathryn Bigelow presents a harrowing, claustrophobic rendition of these events, so tense and brutal that people walked out of the screening we attended. Other than Detroit being extremely difficult to watch, there are some problems with the film: 636345219515288776-detroit-3-rgb-2-Bigelow’s treatment of the subject is at a pretty cold remove, for example. And I for one felt it was just too long. The film could have ended when the last person leaves the motel, but instead it follows the white police officers who were charged with felonious assault, conspiracy, murder, and conspiracy to commit civil rights abuse. The courtroom scenes are a long, drawn-out denouement that don’t quite jibe with the first two thirds of the film. That said, I still feel like Detroit is an extremely effective film.

First, because it’s so timely. Watching those cops get off scot-free despite confessions, and then be congratulated for beating murder charges that were well-deserved, is infuriating, and familiar. This is not “history,” not when there are unarmed black children being gunned down by the people paid to protect them to this very day. It’s an uncomfortable reminder that in the past 50 years, we’ve done nothing to address the problem. Second, and maybe more importantly, is the way the movie made me feel. I’ve already said it was maybe a little void of emotion and that’s true; what I mean is how it made me evaluate my own filters. As sympathetic to the cause as I am, I’m still a white lady, and I experienced the film and the events depicted within it as a white person with all the privilege inherent in those words. The motel scenes are grueling and I had visceral reactions to them. Occasionally I caught myself frustrated with how the characters were responding to the cops, and I’d have to check myself. This is the fundamental takeaway of the film: my experience with police officers is essentially just very, very different. I wasn’t born with a historical fear of cops. My parents and grandparents didn’t raise me to be afraid of them. The colour of my skin protects me from the worst. My entitlement trusts in my human rights. My privilege demands that people in positions of authority will respect my unalienable civil liberties. The last interaction with a police officer I had was the guy directing pedestrians leaving a Cirque du Soleil show. The last time we were pulled over for speeding, there wasn’t so much as an apology uttered for being caught red-handed. These things don’t feel like privilege because they’re things we believe we’re owed, but it is privilege because not everyone gets to feel the same way.

Maybe it’s not perfect, but Detroit asks some difficult questions, which makes it an important film. It’s excruciating because it needs to be, and you need to watch it.

Captain America: Civil War

captain-america-civil-war-teamSpider-Man. Ant-Man. Falcon. Black Panther. These are the top four characters, in order, in Captain America: Civil War. You might think it’s a bad sign that neither Captain America nor Iron Man is on that list, but you’d be wrong!  Although you would be right in thinking I wish this had been a Spider-Man movie with a Captain America/Iron Man cameo, rather than the other way around.

The downside to all of this is we’ve seen it all before. Not only in the sense that it’s roughly the six hundredth comic book movie that came out this year, but also because DC’s eulogy to the millions of fictional civilians killed every year by superheroes came out just six weeks ago.

One big difference between the two movies: Marvel’s is far better. Though like Batman v. Superman, Civil War is too long.  With that said, I’m willing to forgive Marvel since that extra run time was used to shoehorn in Spider-Man. Who, as mentioned at the start, was AWESOME.

Another big difference: Marvel’s movie is way funnier. Civil War would have won by default anyway since there were no laughs at all in BvS, but Civil War is legitimately funny in between the dead family member melodrama.

But as with BvS, don’t expect anything new, don’t expect a good villain, and don’t expect the story to make any goddamned sense. Really, the only differences between the two movies are that (a) we’re glad to see/meet Marvel’s supporting heroes while DC’s just felt like filler; and (b) most of Marvel’s heroes are eager to make us laugh even while fighting, which is a welcome change from DC’s rainy night fights between surly mumbling demigods. Spider-Man is the perfect example of Marvel’s success in both categories, and that’s enough to make this movie worth watching.

Mostly, that’s because Spidey is the best superhero ever and I’m pumped he’s back in the MCU, where he belongs. Though I am suffering from chronic end-credit-scene-fatigue, as a Spider-Man fan I’m glad I stuck around ’til the very end. Hint, hint.

Captain America: Civil War gets a score of eight webslinging vigilantes out of ten.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is great! Not Oscar-great but blockbuster-great. No need to think or feel creeped out about A.I. like in Ex Machina, just enjoy the ride with moody Ultron as he carries out his plan to kill all humans. But fear not!  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are on the case.

One of the things Age of Ultron does best is give us lots of new characters. That fits well with the revolving door that is the Avengers comic book roster. So we are introduced/reintroduced to many characters we know are, or will become, Avengers, like War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and in unfortunate licencing loophole, Quicksilver. Jay found that super confusing having already seen a different Quicksilver, without an accent, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and I agree. It shouldn’t have happened and it takes away from the movie. Still better to have him here, I think, because Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are great together (this movie captured their relationship well) but it’s time for a deal with Fox. At least Marvel got Spider-Man back from Sony, but let’s get the rest of these movies working together too.

Seeing Vision pop up was an unexpected surprise for me. I liked that he made an appearance and thought he was used well, both as a source of conflict between the Avengers and then as a contrast to Ultron, though they share the same view on humanity’s likely future (i.e., not promising). Really, all the new characters were handled well and I feel like we are well on our way to the Infinity Gauntlet saga.

The disappointing thing is there are now four or five other Marvel movies on the way between now and Avengers 3. I’m excited for Captain America 3, especially with Spidey on board, but beyond that, it’s way too much. Especially when I use Vision’s introduction as a comparison; Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Dr. Strange could all be brought in as part of an Avengers movie, and I wish that’s what was being done. But since there’s money on the table we get separate movies for each. Let’s be honest, I will probably see all those, so you can expect to hear this same complaint every few months between now and the next Avengers movie.

I can’t hold that against this movie though. Avengers: Age of Ultron itself does things exactly right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wouldn’t have changed a thing so it gets ten Infinity Gems out of ten.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I liked but didn’t love Guardians of the Galaxy. Having complained in the review that I posted yesterday that I found it sometimes hard to follow, I starteed to worry that I was becoming a bit of a wet blanket. In hopes of repairing my image of being no fun at all, I am prepared to go all in in my support of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Captain America

I didn’t even like the first Captain American all that much. In fairness, I suspect I might have nodded off at one point. As far as I can remember, a scrawny Chris Evans gets an injection of something to become supersoldier Chris Evans so he can go overseas and fight with the Allies in World War II. In the sequel, Captain America isn’t just super strong but has been cryogenically frozen so he can fight for SHIELD in Marvel’s version of the present.

It’s this fish out of water story that makes Winter Soldier such an improvement. And it’s not just played for laughs. Sure, there’s the usual confusion over the internet and modern music. But what does the iconic war hero Captain America think of how America fights its wars now? I won’t go so far as to call Winter Soldier The Thinking Man’s Superhero Movie or anything like that but like, Iron Man, it takes just enough from real life to make the world that Cap is trying to save more relatable than usual. In fact, this is probably the best Iron Manless Avengers movie so far.

The first half or so of The Winter Soldier almost feels like a thriller, with the action getting bigger and bigger until it becomes unmistakably Marvel. The action scenes are a step above most of the other movies in the Avengers series, although I did wish that the directors wouldn’t cut away so fast sometimes so we could see what’s going on. Chris Evans, who I thought was so boring in both the first Captain America and in The Avengers, has a lot more to work with this timepulls it Winter Soldieroff. Or maybe I have just started thinking of Evans differently after having seen and loved last year’s Snowpiercer. Anthony Mackie is a great addition as somebody named Falcon. And Samuel L. Jackson, in his sixth appearance as Nick Fury, finally has something to do. Early scenes where he clashes with Captain America over modern warfare are a big part of what makes it feel like something important is happening and it was refreshing to finally start to get an idea of who Fury is.

If you don’t think you’ll like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I didn’t think I would either. Check it out. You might be pleasantly surprised.

The Hurt Locker

Like everyone else, I watched The Hurt Locker the year it came out. It was dutiful, really. The subject matter didn’t interest me but its female direction was like a monkey with a typewriter. That sounds awful, I know, but honestly, it was a bit of a sideshow. Just 10 years ago, you rarely if ever heard about a female director, period, let alone one who was taking on a project so classically masculine. A war movie, for christsakes. But Kathryn Bigelow didn’t just ‘take it on’, she was so fucking good at it, even boys had to admit it was great. “A near perfect movie,” one had to admit. “A full tilt action picture” said another. Gosh. It was so undeniably good that the biggest consortium of white men ever, the Acamedy, could do nothing but award in 6 Oscars (of 9 nominations), including Best Picture AND Best Director for Ms. Bigelow. Fuck yeah!

But I didn’t like it.

MV5BNzkzZDFhZTUtMWQwYi00MzNhLThiODItNmRlMDhlODZjZDMzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTIzOTk5ODM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Rewatching it, I get why. Jeremy Renner plays hot shit Staff Sergeant William James, a…bomb guy. Pretty sure that’s the technical term. He gets all dressed up in a quasi-astronaut outfit and defuses bombs (ideally). His unit has only about 30 days left in their Iraq rotation when he’s assigned to them (their last guy got blown up) and they immediately want to throw him right back. He rushes into combat like he’s got a death wish, and worse, he puts his fellow soldiers at risk too. Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), his subordinate, is particularly disturbed to be working so closely with what appears to be a straight-up crazy, reckless person.

This movie is rife with unapologetic toxic masculinity, and it was fucking hard as hell for me to make it through. In the army you don’t get to choose not to follow a whackerdoodledoo into combat, but from the comfort of my bed (it’s on Netflix atm), you betcha I was yelling obscenities at my TV.

Grudgingly, I can appreciate some of the craft in this movie that I was probably willfully blind to a decade ago. Bigelow uses hand-held cameras and an incredible 100:1 shooting ratio to make this film feel real – almost like a documentary. It’s also relentless. One scene barely ends before the next bout of trouble is upon us, usually already in motion.

I like the ending, what it reveals of James’ character – namely, that he’s happiest when he’s staring a ticking bomb in the face. But that’s essentially also my problem with the film. That his disregard for his own life is going to get everyone else in his company killed along with him. That their only move toward self-preservation is to kill him. Imagine being in Baghdad and contemplating that. That his risk taking and complete indifference to the rules somehow make him this bomb cowboy action hero when in fact, in real life, it makes him a moron and a liability. Personally I rooted against this guy, this “hero” because as much as I don’t really love watching people get turned into jam, at least it would give the rest of this unit a fighting chance. War is tough enough as it is. We don’t need to “up the ante” on a bomb squad in an active war zone. That should have been enough. Crazed war junkies intent on obliterating themselves likely would have been weeded out back in basic. The Hurt Locker is just punishing, and I get that the Academy didn’t want to give Best Picture to Avatar (I haven’t seen that one at all), but, ahem, I do believe Up was also in the running that year.