I read the book and didn’t really like it, and in true adaptation fashion, the movie sucks the book’s balls.
What you need to know: Russia is selecting beautiful women and turning them into spies who fuck. Like, they literally get secrets by giving blow jobs. And there might be something to that. Jennifer Lawrence plays a ballerina who can’t dance anymore, so her uncle sells her into this program, and she becomes a Red Sparrow, the spy who shags everyone. In this particular case, she’s going to shag Joel Edgerton because he’s an American spy who’s hiding a Russian mole but maybe he’ll turn into a source himself or maybe he’ll turn her into a double agent, or better yet, a triple agent, or a quadruple agent, or just a woman who’s about to be assassinated by her own government, but not without blowing her way across the country first.
Does it sound sloppy? It is.
And the casting is confusing. I mean, first of all, Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t sell me a bottle of wine if I’d just found out Sean was my half-brother. Girl cannot carry a Russian accent. And in a movie where sex is everything, the sex was nothing. I mean, there was an abundance of sex scenes, and J-Law got straight down to bare hooch, but she and Joel have about as much chemistry as a couple of bologna sandwiches about to get in my grandpa’s belly. And then: the Russian characters are played by American, British, Belgian, Dutch, German, Ukrainian and Polish actors. The American guy is played by an Australian. This flaccid casting doesn’t exactly prop up a convoluted plot.
Like any good spy movie, the end is supposed to come as a surprise, but with such weak characterization, it’s hard to invest, and Red Sparrow attempts to write cheques it can’t cash. But for me the worst crime, you know, aside from the treason and murder and such, is the fake female empowerment. Just because she’s not getting paid doesn’t mean she’s not a prostitute.
George and Amal Clooney welcomed their twins Ella and Alexander in June (at the same hospital where Kate and William’s royal children were born), so people were ecstatic to see them looking terribly in love at the Venice Film Festival in early September. George was there promoting his directorial effort, Suburbicon, starring pal Matt Damon. Clooney has a home on Lake Como (in Italy) where he retreats from the world every summer. It’s where he brought his newborn twins home this summer, and where a paparazzo snuck in to take surreptitious pictures of the babies at their most vulnerable. He started coming to Lake Como 16 years ago, when he and his friend Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s husband) stumbled on the Villa Oleandra while crisscrossing Italy on their motorbikes. After one of the bikes broke down outside its gates, the owners ushered them in and proceeded to sell Clooney their house for $7.5 million. And it was in Italy where George first met Amal and it was in beautiful Venice itself where they later wed. After the Venice Film Festival, Clooney and family flew to his hometown of Kentucky to show off the twins to his father, who’d been too ill to travel to meet them overseas. Then, sadly, George had to put down his beloved dog Einstein (who co-starred with him in an ad campaign for Omega watches in 2015) in L.A., before dashing back up to Toronto for TIFF, without wife Amal or darling babies.
Another new mum TIFF goers were eager to spot was Carey Mulligan. She made her first public appearance since having her second child in August. Her husband, Marcus Mumford (frontman for Mumford & Sons), stayed home with the kids while she graced TIFF with her presence; she was there for her new film, Mudbound.
Annette Bening, who was the jury president in Venice, was at TIFF to promote her new film, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool in which she plays a Hollywood leading lady who catches the interest of a much younger actor, played by Jamie Bell. Both stars brought their famous counterparts: Warren Beatty and Bening have been married since 1992, whilst Jamie Bell and wife Kate Mara have been married all of 2 months. Incidentally, Bell walked the red carpet in kind at the premiere of Mara’s TIFF offering, Chappaquiddick.
Amelia Warner walked the TIFF red carpet. She’s the composer for the new Mary Shelley reincarnation starring Elle Fanning. Her famous date: husband Jamie Dornan. Married for 4 years, they have 2 kids together, who were evidently being babysat elsewhere while Mom and Dad enjoy a glamourous night out.
The Mother! premiere was full of famous dates: star Jennifer Lawrence is currently dating her director, Darren Aronofsky (they are usually careful to sneak one or more costars between themselves when taking group photos). Her co-star Javier Bardem is married to the lovely Penelope Cruz (7 years and counting). Bardem and Cruz star together in a film on offer at the Venice Film Festival, Loving Pablo. And let’s not forget Michelle Pfeiffer and her longtime partner, David E. Kelley, who accompanied his wife to her photo call in Venice and then she in turn went to the Emmys with him, where the show he was writing for, Big Little Lies, scored some major gold.
Nicole Kidman always has some heavy weight arm candy. Her husband, Keith Urban, was on hand for the TIFF premiere of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and was also by her side at said Emmys (she was nominated and won for her work on the very same Big Little Lies – it’s very good, you should watch).
Alicia Vikander attended the TIFF premiere of Euphoria solo (she was also there with Submergence), but last year she and her boyfriend Michael Fassbender were all over TIFF red carpets since they starred together in The Light Between Oceans.
Also flying solo this year: Jason Sudeikis, who stars in Kodachrome with Elizabeth Olsen and Ed Harris, and appears in Downsizing alongside Matt Damon as well. His better (and prettier) half, Olivia Wilde, stayed home with the kids.
No word on where Daniel Craig was hiding this year but he wasn’t on the arm of his lovely wife Rachel Weisz, who was there for Disobedience, her new film costarring next to Rachel McAdams, even though Craig himself appeared in another TIFF selection, Kings.
I did get to spot Sam Rockwell on the TIFF red carpet for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and of course in Venice, where he posed with his wife Leslie Bibb, even though I didn’t know until I saw them together that they were together. I know her from all the way back on Popular (and on The League, where she plays Mark Duplass’s nasty ex-wife), but you may have seen her more recently in To The Bone. In this photo, Rockwell’s Three Billboards costar Woody Harrelson poses with his wife, Laura Louie.
I spied Dave Franco on the red carpet for The Disaster Artist, a real family affair. His brother James directs and co-stars, and their other brother Tom Franco also appears (briefly!). So does Dave’s very new wife, Alison Brie – she plays his sometime girlfriend.
Greta Gerwig debuted her first solo directorial effort at TIFF this year and her partner let her lap up all the attention on her own, but in other years she and beau Noah Baumbach have attended together – particularly when they’ve done a movie together, like Mistress America. This year, Greta posed alongside some of her Lady Bird leading ladies: Lois Smith, Odeya Rush, and Beanie Feldstein (left) who has a famous sibling rather than a famous date – Jonah Hill is her big brother.
We’ve had a very crazy month, having attended 3 festivals in as many weeks, and we’re about to do it again in October, so stay tuned. For now, here are a few snaps from Sean and Jay’s big adventure in Venice.
Some stories do not need to be told. Mother! falls squarely within that category. I walked out of the theatre at the end of the movie asking, what was the point? Why did I suffer through two hours of claustrophobic misery to get back where I started? And actually, further behind than where I started because at least then I was curious about Darren Aronofsky’s latest project. Afterward, I was just tired and dreading this review.
Mother! is not an awful film, I don’t think. It has a stellar cast and is visually captivating (though it’s too harsh and dour to ever be beautiful). Maybe some will even appreciate the crazy downward spiral that is this film, as it goes to soul-devouring depths that most wouldn’t dare to approach. Me? Not one bit. Not even a little. It made me uncomfortable right from the start, and not in a challenging way, and not in a way that offered me anything.
This film is the same as Javier Bardem’s nameless poet: selfish, desiring my affection, and oblivious to anything else. It is art that takes from the audience rather than giving, which also echoes the plot of the movie itself. Is that intentional? If so, that would make Aronofsky our version of the poet, and I would suggest that you not give him your energy in service of his creation. I already gave enough for both of us.
Sean and I watched Neal Brennan’s stand-up special 3 Mics on Netflix earlier this week. Neal Brennan was the co-creator and co-writer and co-everything else on Chappelle’s Show, which meant a whole lot of success all at once, and then even more abruptly, nothing at all. He has since reinvented himself as a stand-up comedian, but what you get from watching 3 Mics isn’t your typical routine. It’s got plenty of laughs, particularly from the “one-liners” mic, but he’s most riveting when he’s at another mic, a less funny mic, the one where he talks about “emotional stuff.”
He talks candidly about his depression, his childhood, his career, his father’s alcoholism and emotional abuse. He talks about the void where self esteem usually goes, and how he spent many years all too happy to hide behind his more gregarious partner, Dave Chappelle. Still fighting his demons, he is nonetheless up on the stage, and he’s getting very honest about how hard it is for him to be there, and why it’s so important that he stay.
Which set me to thinking a couple of days ago when I was at a USS concert. Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker is the best band you’ve never heard of, an electronic-based alt-rock duo (comprising a singer-guitar player named Ash and a hype man called Jason) who describe themselves as “camp fire after-party” and sound kind of like if kurt cobain and kanye had ever met and made an album – only not, it’s way more unique than that, and so, so listenable. Singable. Danceable. Turn-uppable. Bliss outable. And it just so happens that the singer-guitar player dude, Ashley Buchholtz is a notoriously shy “hyper-introvert” who’s battled his own demons, struggled with self worth, and even now, to a crowd of adoring fans, admits that singing the songs we paid to hear is hard for him – his greatest fear, actually.
So that made me think about how we view performers as people who are outgoing, and who seek the spotlight, even though that’s not always the case. And as I read up on actors I’d heard were particularly shy, I heard over and over that performing was a way to overcome shyness, but for a lot of people, it’s never completely overcome. Carol Burnett felt she could only perform “in character” and would clam up if she was just being herself. Barbara Streisand rarely performs live because even after decades of super-stardom, she’s still a pack of nerves before every show (so, reportedly, is Adele).
Adam Sandler is so shy he rarely does press and when he does, it’s almost always in character. You’ll notice that when he sings, it’s almost always in another voice; funny accents help him overcome his nervousness.
Kim Basinger struggles so much that when she won her Oscar in 1997 (best supporting actress – L.A. Confidential), she was hardly able to speak. She has agoraphobia, panic attacks, and social anxiety: some days, leaving the house is more than she can bear.
Kristen Stewart has a reputation for being cold and distant, but the true source of her reserve is crippling shyness. She worries so much about what others think of her, she can barely stand to talk about herself, and comes off guarded and sullen in interviews.
Nicole Kidman has overcome the stutter that made her so shy as a child, but even now there are days she can’t stand to walk into a restaurant or a party alone. Richard Gere was so shy as a child that his parents wondered if he could even speak. Evan Rachel Wood was too shy to even order a pizza.
Courtney Cox has said that her shyness has limited her career. Being too nervous to audition, to risk rejection, she hasn’t pursued a movie career like other Friends.
Mark Ruffalo describes himself as an introvert and a bit of a “depressed person” who negotiates happiness for himself on a day to day basis. Director Tom Ford thinks of himself as a loner, and “Very introverted. I’m very shy. I’m very emotional.”
Of her anxiety, Jennifer Lawrence says “I have a prescription.” She doesn’t think it’s likely to get any easier, either: “No, I’m always just very nervous. I never feel like, ‘I’ve got this.’ I’m always very nervous and aware of how quickly people can hate you and that scares me.”
Sarah Silverman adds “People use “panic attack” very casually out here in Los Angeles, but I don’t think most of them really know what it is. Every breath is labored. You are dying. You are going to die. It’s terrifying. And then when the attack is over, the depression is still there.”
Emma Stone’s panic attacks were so intense when she was little, it led to agoraphobia. She manages them better today, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get them, it just means she’s learned some ways to cope. The red carpet life must be extra-stressful for anyone who suffers with social anxiety. I think it’s really cool to pursue your passion even when it butts heads with your fears. I applaud anyone who has to work hard just be among people, and I’m even more impressed with those who find a voice with which to speak out, and to remind us that we’re never alone. Someone else is feeling it too.
Words of wisdom from USS: Chill out. Be easy on yourself.
Imagine being stranded on a deserted island. Would you wish for company, even though you knew that that person would then be stranded too? What if you discovered that you had the power to make that dream come true?
Jim (Chris Pratt) faces a futuristic version of this very dilemma in Passengers, director Morten Tyldum’s follow-up to The Imitation Game. Jim, along with 5,000 others, has chosen to leave his life on Earth to start fresh by colonizing a distant planet. When his hibernation pod malfunctions, Jim finds that he has somehow woken up 90 years before the ship is scheduled to reach its destination. Meaning that he will almost certainly die of old age long before he’ll get the chance to even speak to another person.
The loneliness is palpable but becomes downright excruciating once he discovers that he’s figured out how to wake another passenger. One sleeping beauty in particular has caught his eye. Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), as Jim discovers through extensive research of the ship’s files, is smart, pretty, and funny and seems like the perfect companion for this 90 year voyage.
It’s quite an interesting predicament. What if Tom Hanks had gotten so lonely in Cast Away that he was able to magically sentence Helen Hunt to life on the island with him? Or if James Franco had been able to trap his buddy Seth Rogen under that rock so that he would have some company? Obviously, it’s a pretty shitty thing to do to someone and Jim knows it. He doesn’t take the decision lightly and it’s a tribute to Pratt’s talent that we can feel his struggle enough to forgive him.
Passengers begins to unravel though once Aurora wakes up. A brief meditation on what isolation can do to a person quickly becomes a typical romantic comedy with an atypical setting. Boy meets girl based on a lie. Everything seems to be going great until girl discovers lie. Girl makes up with boy. If you think the fact that Jim’s deception is somewhat more serious than a How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days article (“He murdered me,” as Aurora puts it) would alter this formula in any way, unfortunately you’d be disappointed.
It’s also worth commenting that Jim chooses Aurora for her looks and charm. Yes, she’s actually quite bright but she’s a journalist. Out of 5,000 passengers, you’d think he could have found someone more qualified to help maintain a spaceship for 90 years and maybe even help him figure out how to get back to sleep. She’s clever and tough but still pretty useless once the ship starts to fall apart and Jim the mechanic needs to figure out how to save her and everyone else on board, thus winning back her heart. The cop-out is downright insulting. Besides, as cinema, watching someone fix a broken spaceship is neither as suspenseful or exciting as you might think.
What many critics panning Passengers won’t tell you is that the first 20-30 minutes are actually quite gripping. From there on it’s pretty much as bad as they say.
When I first saw X-Men: First Class in the theater, I was frustrated by Hugh Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine. “That’s so stupid,” I told my friends. “How can he show up in the 60s and look the same as he does in the present?”.
Okay, so clearly I don’t know much about the X-Men universe. But I have since seen all the movies and tend to enjoy them. After Days of Future Past, which I thought was the strongest entry in the series by far, I had pretty high hopes for Apocalypse.
Nine films in a series can start to blend into one so I can’t always remember what happened in which but I am pretty sure that Apocalypse is my submission for the worst- certainly most boring- X-Men movie so far. What could have gone wrong since Bryan Singer’s triumphant return to the franchise two summers ago?
I can’t help feeling that Wolverine is the most important element of Future Past that is missing from Apocalypse. Sure, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is one of the best performances that I can think of in any comic book character ever but that’s not even what I’m missing. Future Past was told mostly from the perspective of Wolverine so we were introduced (or, in many cases, reintroduced) to most characters as they became relevant to Wolverine’s mission.
Like Days of Future Past, Apocalypse has A LOT of characters. Even by superhero movie standards. But without picking a single character’s perspective to focus on, it jumps around a lot. In fact, it probably spends a good half hour on each character’s separate introduction. Like Batman v. Superman, Apocalypse has a habit of cutting away to an unrelated scene just when it’s feeling like it’s starting to get good.
X-Men: Apocalypse is disappointing but does manage to benefit from both the past and future films in the series. Professor X and Magneto, both in their respective story arcs and in their relationship with each other, coast on their strong starts in their last two films and continue to captivate thanks to strong performances by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Everyone else is fine- even good- but these two are clear standouts in a crowded cast where you need to be great to even be noticed.
Having so many new characters necessitate a lot of scenes that feel more like obligatory preamble than part of the story. But just as the returning characters benefit from the smart choices made in previous installments, the new characters (Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Jean Gray) benefit from the promise of better movies in the future. They’re well-cast and likeable, giving hope that they’ll be better utilized next time.
Joy is joyless. There is nothing entertaining about watching Joy and her family of unsympathetic characters make bad decisions. And even when Joy eventually triumphs, it’s not fulfilling in the least because by then you are tired of her.
Apparently this is all based on a real person, Joy Mangano. According to Wikipedia, the real Joy is a big deal on the Home Shopping Network and invented the mop in this movie along with a bunch of other stuff. The real Joy is now a multimillionaire and an executive producer of Joy the movie. I didn’t know of her beforehand and in hindsight I would rather have kept it that way. I did not find Joy’s story interesting and it’s certainly not entertaining. The only way I can rationalize this movie’s existence is as an ego trip for the real Joy.
So naturally, I am surprised this is nominated for a Golden Globe in the Musical or Comedy category for two reasons. First, it’s not a good movie. Second, it’s not funny at all. I didn’t laugh once.
I’m surprised as well that Jennifer Lawrence is nominated for best actress. I don’t think she gives a bad performance but there’s nothing here worthy of recognition. Joy needed to be a sympathetic character in order for this movie to work, but she’s not. There’s nothing Lawrence could have done to change that, it’s an inherent flaw of the underlying character. You don’t feel sorry for Joy because she’s letting her family (and ex-family) take advantage of her, so of course her life is shitty. She keeps letting that happen over and over, and I quickly stopped caring whether she would have a happy ending. All I wanted after about 20 minutes was for the movie to end.
But because of those Golden Globe nominations, I stuck with it. I felt obligated and I figured Joy must turn around sometime. Well, it doesn’t. Joy is a chore all the way through, which is ironic considering Joy is a movie based around a cleaning product. I give Joy a score of four Miracle Mops out of ten.
I watched this movie with Jay on our way to Paris and it was awesome. Guardians of the Galaxy is still my favourite superhero movie of 2014 but Days of Future Past was almost as good, and I was not expecting that at all.
I read X-Men as a kid and loved it (it was probably my 2nd favourite comic behind Spider-Man). Then in my early 20s, the first X-Men came out, and I loved that! And the 2nd movie was possibly better than the first. And then the third movie came along, and it was so awful it ruined everything that had come before. It was very similar to the Matrix trilogy in that way. But unlike the Matrix, this franchise has done the impossible and resurrected itself.
This movie works in a lot of ways. It is a bridge between the entertaining prequel (X-Men: First Class) and the original trilogy. It is a standalone timetravelling adventure starring a bunch of familiar faces (it was very cool to see so many people from the previous movies make appearances, and all of them felt natural rather than squeezed in). And it is probably the most satisfying reboot I have ever seen. Too many superhero franchises have been rebooted lately, for no real reason other than a lack of imagination. I don’t need to see Peter Parker get bitten by a spider again. I didn’t ask for a new take on the Fantastic Four whose only purpose seems to be retaining the movie rights. But I was satisfied, and even excited, to see the slate wiped clean here and feel that the future for this franchise is brighter than ever. I am looking forward to see where they go from here (and apparently it involves Apocalypse!!!).
By the way, please stop putting extra scenes in the credits. It was alright once or twice but it’s played out at this point, and for the last several movies I have had to look it up onYoutube after the fact.
Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable movie, though probably too dense and convoluted for someone who isn’t a fan. But better that than another origin rehash! It gets 9 angst-filled outcasts out of 10.
Ree is not your average high school student. With her mother semi-catatonic and her father in prison, she’s the one who cares for her mom and her younger siblings. But resources are scarce and times are hard – Ree (a young Jennifer Lawrence) is used to making do, but there’s very little you can make with nothing, and the doing’s getting thin. So things aren’t great and that’s BEFORE the law comes knocking on her door. Her father’s been released but is MIA and of course he’s put up their house and the little they own as bond. If he doesn’t show up to court, they’re out on the streets. And I don’t even begin to know what that means in the middle of rural, frigid, hostile Ozark Mountain.
So Ree takes it upon herself to go looking for him. The neighbours are vaguely threatening, heck the landscape is vaguely threatening, but her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) is outwardly threatening, and let’s take a moment to remember that it’s his SEVENTEEN year old niece we’re talking about. Everyone’s a little nervous about the specter of her father and nobody’s above slitting the throat of a teenage girl if it means upholding the code of silence that seems to permeate local culture.
Jennifer Lawrence was originally turned down for the role for being “too pretty.” She showed up unbidden to the next audition looking decidedly less so and won the part for her chutzpah. Most of her costars, however, were real locals with no prior acting experience. The costume designer exchanged new clothes for the locals’ own old pieces, and that’s what was worn during production. Shooting on location in Missouri, Lawrence got her hands dirty for the part, learning to skin squirrels and chop wood and shoot a gun. She received an Oscar nomination for her trouble (age 20 at the time, she was then the 2nd youngest to receive one). So did John Hawkes.
Ree seems to have sprung up out of nowhere, espousing values in a moral void. She is not your typical hero. She’s quiet and unassuming an wishes she could afford to disappear. Joining the army is the dream she abandons. It’s a pretty humble way to be a hero, but needs must, and director Debra Granik keeps the movie grounded among its people, never above.