Tag Archives: Charlize Theron

Long Shot

On my more cynical days, I sometimes feel the only reason we have cinema is so that unattractive men can kiss beautiful women who would otherwise be unattainable to them. No shade against Seth Rogen, but let’s face it: the man is a schlub. An endearing, lovable schlub, sure. But Rose Byrne? Michelle Williams? Elizabeth Banks? Let’s call it a stretch of the imagination, one that Hollywood asks us to take a little too often. In this particular movie, it’s Charlize Theron, while Seth’s character, in a ubiquitous teal windbreaker, is actually mistaken for a homeless man.

Charlotte Field (Theron) is not just a beautiful, out-of-his-league woman, she’s the goddamn Secretary of State. Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is not exactly a slouch: he’s a journalist MV5BZWVhODA5ZmItOWYwOC00OTU3LWJiNTEtODcwMDIyMTBjZWY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1291,1000_AL_who goes the extra mile to get a juicy story, BUT he just got fired. Well, okay, he quit on principle, but the net effect is, he’s unemployed. Which kinda works out perfectly because the Secretary of State is about to announce her run for President, and she just needs someone with a comedic touch to punch up her scripts a bit. Enter Fred, who in fact has crossed paths with her before. She was the babysitter he had prepubescent chub for, and maybe he’s been carrying just the tiniest lit torch ever since.

Anyway, Fred is the last man on earth Charlotte should be falling for just as she’s about bet her life on the polls. And yet, hormones. Theron and Rogen have some major oddball chemistry going. It turns out Theron can hold her own in pretty much any movie. But this one is more interested in pointing fingers at the ridiculousness of their pairing than exploring who either of them are as people, or explaining how exactly Fred is worthy of Charlotte (or indeed the other way around – their romance is largely inexplicable).

It works adequately as a superficial, no questions asked rom-com, and moderately better as a political comedy. There’s a familiar cynicism there, but it’s nowhere near as biting or incisive as Veep. Still, I laughed. And Sean snorted. That counts for something in an era where the comedy genre should probably be renamed “attempt at comedy.” It’s kind of a crap shoot, but Long Shot turns out to be a pretty good bet.

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Gringo

Richard and Elaine are co-presidents of a pharmaceutical company that’s doing shady dealings. Harold is the guy they figure won’t ask any questions, so they routinely send him down to Mexico to unknowingly do their dirty work. But Mexico’s a dangerous place to navigate and when the worst happens and Harold places a panicked call from his kidnapper’s lair to his bosses, Richard and Elaine are forced to admit that they’ve let the kidnapping insurance lapse.

MV5BMjg0OWVkNDktOTg4NC00ZThmLWJmZDktZWVmOTEzMmE2YWJhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_Uh oh. “Luckily” Richard (Joel Edgerton) “knows a guy”, so they’re not going to pay the kidnappers so much as send in an “extractor” named Mitch (Sharlto Copley) who claims he’s out of the business, straight as an arrow. Right. But while Harold (David Oyelowo) is awaiting ransom or extraction or escape in Mexico, he gets into even more trouble in the form of drug cartels (notice the plural).

Between buzzing bullets and dark comedy, Gringo goes off-roading in Mexico in the worst way possible. It’s kind of a mess, and an egregious misuse of a serious talented cast, and director Nash Edgerton should know better – he’s Joel’s brother. And I’m not sure this depiction of Mexico wasn’t slightly racist, and politically incorrect. But it is fun to watch Theron and Edgerton play such contemptible baddies, and this is the most fun I’ve seen Oyelowo have on screen. The man has serious range, but to be honest, I think the cost of the rental was justified the moment I saw him rapping along to Will Smith. And while I’m naming the very few things that weren’t wrong with the movie, shout out to makeup artist Francesa Tolot for Charlize’s flawless red pout. Francesca, if you’re reading this, I NEED to know what product you used.

As for the rest of you, I can’t really recommend this hot mess, but as far as dumpster fires go, this one was kind of worth standing around to watch.

Tully

Director  Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, the team who brought you Juno and Young Adult, have at it again, taking aim at motherhood.

Marlo (Charlize Theron) is struggling to keep up with her two young kids – sweet Sarah, who’s 8, has birthday parties and soccer practice to get to, and Jonah, who’s 4, has special needs and quirks that are inadequately addressed but in constant demand of attention. Marlo hasn’t quite pulled her hair out yet, not all of it, but baby #3 arrives quite quickly into the movie, and that’s when things fall apart. Sleep deprived and overwhelmed, she’s either moving through life like a zombie, or she’s dashing around like a crazy person. She feels like she’s failing her kids and her husband and her own personhood, and it’s only in her lowest low that she finally consents to allow a night nurse hired by her wealthy brother to help out. And as soon as Tully arrives, life is transformed. I have several things to say about this movie:

  1. I sat and watched it in the middle of the day, in a theatre with maybe 8 other people in it. There was a pair of old ladies behind me who of course could not shut their mouths for the life of them. One lady was always about 20 seconds MV5BYmEzYmUzMTAtYTMwYy00MDZiLWJhODgtNDc2Zjc3MmIyZGQxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjgxMTA1MzQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_behind, as if she was watching the movie on her very own special mental delay. The movie’s not exactly laugh out loud funny, but about 20 seconds after the rest of us had given a low chuckle, she would proclaim “Ha ha, that’s funny.” Except. Except this one joke that was heavily featured in the film’s promotion, in which the young night nurse Tully says that “You can’t fix the parts without treating the whole.” To which Marlo replies “No one’s treated my hole in a really long time.” And then the old lady behind me chimes in “Or mine!” – and you know what, Olga? (I bet her name was Olga) No one needs to hear about your hole, and I’m frankly finding it hard to imagine right about now that you’re capable of keeping any of them closed.
  2. Everyone’s talking about this “raw” and “honest” take on motherhood, and I think a lot of moms identified with the exhausted character they saw in the trailer. Motherhood is not always rosy. Asking for help might be sanity saving (though, hello, night nurses are for the privileged, and help isn’t always easy to come by, or easy to ask for). But mother-martyrdom has been done to death, so to me, the more interesting thing in this movie is how fatherhood is portrayed. Marlo’s husband hardly contributes to the parenting and she doesn’t even seem to resent him for it. He has a life outside the house, and he travels extensively, but even when he’s home he’s hardly helping. This is not my experience of 2018 dads, and I realize that breastfeeding will always keep things unequal, but Marlo’s husband is such a passive, uninvolved father the portrayal seemed dated. And if he really is this worthless, then Marlo needs to find her voice and demand better for herself and her family. But in fact, he gets away with it. The film never condemns him. That felt off to me.
  3. SPOILERS ahead, darlings. The truth is, for all the film’s “honesty”  we find out that the magical night nurse really is too good to be true. Tully is an imaginary friend, perhaps even a younger Marlo. So while postpartum depression is hinted at if not named, this hallucination is in fact indicative of a psychotic break. Postpartum psychosis is rare but very serious, and people have mixed feelings about her lack of diagnosis and lack of treatment seen on screen. All new mothers struggle. All of them. Being responsible for the survival of a completely helpless newborn is all-consuming. And postnatal episodes of depression can hit 10-15% of new mothers, though many are still reluctant to admit to it. Does the film do a disservice in not naming this mental illness? Does the viewer learn anything? In the movie, Tully is eventually dismissed, like Mary Poppins, but that’s not how psychosis works, and we can’t help but be afraid for Marlo as she returns home to a life unchanged, an illness untreated, and a husband who’s still very much in the dark about everything.
  4. EVEN MORE SPOILERS. The movie lost its grip on me when it started making some weird choices on Marlo’s behalf. But once it’s revealed that night nurse Tully is actually a younger Marlo swooping in to save her flailing middle-aged self, those scenes start to make more sense. You kind of wish you could revisit them with your new knowledge in order to understand them for their truth and not their illusion. So this film will absolutely require a second viewing (though not in theatres, for fear of more old lady TMI). In a way, Marlo’s  younger self is sort of her super hero, but they have things to learn from each other. Marlo envies Tully’s carefree life, her sexual escapades, her world of possibilities. But looking back, I’m struck by a line that didn’t mean as much at the time. Tully says “You’re convinced you’re this failure, but you actually made your biggest dream come true.” And if Tully really is a younger Marlo, then this isn’t empty reassurance but a reminder that motherhood was once her ambition.

Tully is a complex movie that needs and wants digesting. I believe it respects motherhood if not mental illness, and I have complicated feelings about that. But Charlize Theron is fearless as Marlo, a woman who has lost herself but thanks to Charlize always feels present nonetheless. Theron and Mackenzie Davis (Tully) have kinetic, intense chemistry and their scenes together add dimensionality to Hollywood’s concept not just of motherhood but of womanhood, femininity, and identity. Theron is self-assured; she uses her physicality in a way we haven’t seen from her before. She is daring and strong and I felt protective of her.

This movie was so quiet I didn’t even feel comfortable eating my snack, despite my stomach eating itself in desperation – it sort of mimicked the lethargy, the sleepwalking feel that Marlo stumbles around in. But whatever hell Marlo is experiencing, she’s taking care of her kids. Motherhood isn’t sacred in this movie, it’s not revered, but it’s honoured and esteemed and it’s clear they want to get it right.

SXSW: Atomic Blonde

I was sitting on the floor of the Austin Convention Center, waiting to get into the SXSW conversation between Nick Offerman and Nick Kroll when I got the news: Stella was gone. Out for a walk in the mountains near her Zurich home with her husband and her beloved Boxer, Odin, she slipped in some snow and fell 40m to her death. Just like that, one of the most vibrant women I’ve ever known, gone forever. Unfortunately I’ve had some experience with losing people unexpectedly, but that doesn’t make it easier. It’s unreal, incomprehensible. Sean held me tight as I fell apart in the middle of hundreds or thousands of happy festival-goers. I think Sean’s first thought was to get my soppy self back to the hotel room where I could grieve less publicly, but instead I found myself being filtered into the Nick Offerman thing, and then following my rigorous SXSW schedule, one thing after another: Bob Odenkirk and Fred Armisen, followed by Lemon, followed by Atomic Blonde. But it just so happens that the screening for Atomic Blonde ran late, and as I sat in an increasingly crowded theatre listening to a DJ spin some danceable 80s music, I had too much time to think, and my thoughts were filled with Stella, my own Atomic Blonde. This review is inadequately dedicated to her memory.

Atomic Blonde is a cross between James Bond and John Wick, except its protagonist, Lorraine (Charlize Theron), could kick both their asses without smudging her lipstick. Charlize made a splash as a kick-ass hero in Mad Max: Fury Road but this movie is pure Id, all sex and violence, with some 80s fashion and music thrown in for your hedonistic pleasure. Lorraine is an undercover MI6 agent sent to Berlin in the days before the Wall comes down to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a important list containing the names of double agents.

James McAvoy plays David, a fellow agent who’s been in Berlin a little too long. Berlin is, of course, in a state of chaos. Everything is changing, everything is moving fast. Lorraine has basically been sent into an impossible situation, and she’s going to have to fight like hell just to survive, let alone fulfill her mission.

The fight choreography on this film is amazing. Full stop incredible. Director David Leitch co-directed the first John Wick (uncredited) and will direct the second Deadpool, but he got his start in stunt work in films like Blade, Fight Club, Daredevil, and The Matrix films. His action sequences, which are perhaps 80% of Atomic Blonde, are faultless but relentless. The actors are BRUTALIZED.  Charlize Theron had 8 trainers to prepare her for the role, and she trained alongside Keanu Reeves as he got ready for John Wick 2. Theron is fearless and dauntless. The violence is graphic and unending. The story, however, isn’t quite equal to it.

The story is retold during an investigation conducted by an MI6 officer (Toby Jones) and a CIA executive (John Goodman). They’re an odd couple good for a couple well-needed laughs, but it drags you out of the action and out of Lorraine’s flashy world where her slick 80s ensembles (big props to Cindy Evans for creating so many memorable looks) are an interesting juxtaposition to Berlin’s crumbling dumpster fire of a city. And the thing is, with a premise that’s almost silly in its duplicity, the action is really the justification for this movie’s existence. With long cuts and mind-numbing body counts, the fight design won’t disappoint action purists. But anyone requiring a satisfying story should maybe look elsewhere.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

So my mother gave me a film recommendation last weekend. She couldn’t remember the title, naturally, but she said it was an 1800’s western where they “say modern jokes.” Had my brother-in-law not come to the rescue I may never have guessed Seth McFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. A critical and commercial flop, I would never thought that its only thought was my mother of all people: the woman who taught us that “shut up” and “vagina” were bad words, and who to this day can barely utter “Frig” when the absolute worst has happened.

a-million-ways-to-die-in-the-westYet just ten seconds in, someone’s shouting “Pussy!” – a term I’m sure was used very sparingly in the western novels by Louis L’amour her father always read. Then there’s the death by flatulence, and Oscar winner Charlize Theron’s fat ass, and Sarah Silverman’s sore asshole. And MY MOTHER WATCHED THIS.

The premise of the movie is “the west fucking sucks and I bet I can get a lot of mileage out of that.” In truth, you can get a little mileage out of it.  Seth McFarlane, managing to only half sound like Peter Griffin, somehow attracts not just Theron but Amanda Seyfried as well, even though he’s a terrible sheep herder and looks stupid in a bolo tie. There are a few laughs along the way but the plot is useless-to-nonexistent, yet it still takes entirely too long for nothing to ever happen.

So, Mom, what was your favourite part? The daisy up the butt? The 15 year old spinsters?maxresdefault The sheep penis? No, wait. It was the pooping in hats, wasn’t it? I bet it was the diarrhea-filled cowboy hats that really got you giggling. A Million Ways to Die in the West will cost you 116 minutes of your life, but finding out your mother has a dirty, disgusting sense of humour? That’s priceless.

 

Kubo And The Two Strings

A little dark, and a little melancholy for kids, but for me, near perfection.

Kubo is a little boy with a magical, ancient Japanese banjo. Well, technically the banjo wasn’t ancient at the time – he lives in ancient Japan. And the banjo isn’t actually a banjo, it’s a shamisen. When he plays his magical shamisen, his origami comes to life and helps him tell awesome stories about warriors and samurai. He’s busking, essentially, and the captivated crowd rewards him with a few coins – a good thing because he provides for his sick mother, who lives outside the village in a cave.  When she’s not in a trance, she’s adamant that Kubo always return before sundown. It was surprisingly sound advice from the mentally ill because THE ONE TIME he doesn’t, hell breaks loose. Ancient Japanese hell.

kubo-and-the-two-strings-530x298Turns out, Kubo’s grandfather is some sort of Moon God. Grandfather has already “stolen” one of Kubo’s eyes and wants to get his hands on the other – in blindness, his grandson can join him in immortality, ruling the sky. He sends his 2 creepy daughters to do the dirty work while his 3rd daughter, Kubo’s mom, struggles to protect him with what little magic she has left.

The movie is a grand adventure with more beauty in any random 30 seconds than The Secret Life of Pets has in its entire running time. As usual with Laika productions (they brought you Coraline), there are darker feelings at play, a sometimes ominous and foreboding tone unusual in a children’s movie, and yet the kids in the audience seemed to tolerate it better than they did Pete’s Dragon. It’s a glorious act of story-telling that feels like something genuinely passed down for generations. Every time Kubo picks up his shamisen, be prepared for some of the loveliest music you’ll hear at the movies. It sweeps you up into the magic of his origami, and the whole thing feels alive and vibrant, steeped in a culture filled with divine tradition.

Kubo And The Two Strings is surprisingly well-balanced tonally, able to incorporate gags meant Kubo-and-the-Two-Strings-just for kids between bouts of horror, humour, and yes, tragedy. It’s quite brave, when you think of it. Suicide Squad pulled back on the Joker’s villainy, and Ben-Hur rewrote some of its savagery. This, a meticulously animated piece of art, has the backbone to trust children with some rather heavy themes. And it does it while also being the most visually arresting thing I’ve seen at the movies this year. It’s a spectacle, and a technical triumph. Having no wordly idea how they pulled some scenes off just adds to the magic. Laika is no stranger to Oscar nominations for animation, and is sure to earn another, but this movie demolishes even their own high bar. Laika doesn’t have the cachet of Pixar so politically, beating Finding Dory will be difficult. But the proof is on the big screen: it is undoubtedly the better film.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is the sister we know: kinda evil, not above killing kings in order to usurp their kingdoms. Ravenna is the one who the-huntsmantormented Snow White in the last movie, the wicked step mother, if you will. Her younger and less-known sister Freya (Emily Blunt) has powers that resemble Elsa’s, from Frozen, and they’re awakened when she undergoes a personal tragedy. She flees in grief, and tortured by sad and angry thoughts, she establishes her own land, her own army, all ruled with the vengeance in her heart. The best of her army turn out to be Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) and they attract Freya’s unwelcome attention. They also attract each other and there’s a little bow-chicka-bow-wow. But Freya, scorned by love, can’t bear to seem them together, and slays Sara.

Meanwhile, back at home with Ravenna are the events of the previous movie. Ravenna recruits Eric, aka, The Hunstman, to capture Snow White after her escape, and promises to bring his wife back to life as a reward. a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740031-1461183847_640x0cHowever, he quickly switches allegiance and together they defeat and kill the Evil Queen, and Snow White is crowned in her place.

In this movie, an unseen Snow White (Kristen Stewart does not reprise her role) asks The Hunstman to do one final thing: to get rid of Ravenna’s magic mirror, still a source of evil.

You’ve probably already heard that this movie is not super good, and I’m not able to tell you any different. I’m also pretty grumbly about the fact that a movie with 3 strong female leads is still named after the man.

I’m going to focus on the thing that this movie does right, and that’s noticeably its costuming. It should be a surprise to none of you that Colleen Atwood is behind the genius designs.

a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740028-1461183847_640x0cOn Freya’s costumes, Atwood says: I sourced a lot of fabric in Italy for the dresses that she wears. She has a lot of Italian velvets and silk in her dress and croquets from different vendors in Italy. Some of her fabric is vintage fabric I had in my stock. We wanted Freya to have something that wasn’t a crown. I have a 3-D printer in my crafts department, and this guy is a genius at operating it. I said, “Let’s do little tiny feathers and glue themmaxresdefault together.” So we grew that mask as separate elements in a 3-D printer and applied them to a facemask.

On Ravenna’s look: We built a different kind of cloak with feathers that I had all hand-foiled and made into the cape. It was quite an a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740032-1461183847_640x0cordeal for the people who had to feather it. I had a feather room, where it was just feathers stuck into Styrofoam. It was really beautiful, you walked in and there were all these shelves with gold feathers stuck in foam before we applied them to the cape.

On working in the fantasy\period genre: The big challenge is that you’re working with modern bodies, you’re working with people that are three times the size what people were in the actual periods. When you look at all the costumes from historical figures, you realize how small they were. You have to adapt that period or that fantasy silhouette to a modern body so that it doesn’t look charlizereally goofy. You back away from it to get the proportions right, so that you feel it’s historical, even though it’s on somebody eight inches taller than the average man was in that period, and it’s a woman.