Tag Archives: Jude Law

Vox Lux

There are two acts to Vox Lux, and they’re both not great, but the first is at least sort of watchable.

13 year old Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) barely survives a school shooting in 1999. Unable to translate her feelings into words for the memorial, she, accompanied by her sister El (Stacy Martin), instead perform a song, which launches a pop career. Somehow. Guided by The Manager (Jude Law), the girls grow up way too fast, but Celeste manages to translate the song into a video and the video into an album, which comes out more or less around 9/11 and manages to tap into a country’s, and in fact the world’s, collective grief. Celeste is a star, mostly because she was the one shot in the throat that fateful day, and her sister, the more talented of the two, had stayed home sick.

Fast forward to present day. Celeste is now 31 (and played by Natalie Portman), mother to a teenage daughter, Albertine (unfortunately played by Cassidy, again, in a performance not at all distinguished from the above). Celeste is as global a superstar as you can be, complete with a recent meltdown and nearly career-ending swerve. But she’s counting on this new album to get things on the right path again. She’s still drunk, though, and still perved on by the same greasy manager. And as luck would have it, just as she’s about to kick off her world tour, there’s another mass shooting wherein the terrorists wear masks from her first music video. And just like that she’s relevant again. But it’s a tragedy, right? Not a cancel the tour tragedy of course, because it happens overseas.

Anyway, the first bit reminded me a bit of Denis Villeneuve’s Polytechnique – by which I mean, it’s gritty and eerie and atmospheric. But it’s a copy, and not a great one. And that’s the absolute highlight of the film. It’s steeply downhill with rollerskates and a highly motivated dog from there.

Natalie Portman’s grown-up Celeste has no redeeming features whatsoever. She’s shrill and vacuous and we don’t see any of what happened to her in the interim to possibly explain away this complete and horrid transformation.

Clearly writer-director Brady Corbet means to say something about celebrity culture at the very least. But what is it? It’s tempting to say that the second half loses the MV5BMTkzNzAwOTYyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDY5MjQ4NjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_thread, but the truth is, the first half is boring enough that I don’t care about a lost thread because the whole damn sweater is garbage and a waste of good yarn. You know? Like, Sia worked hard on these songs. And the movie is slick looking, with cinematography just dripping its luridness all over the screen. But damn is it pretentious in a deflated, empty kind of way. And then the last 20 minutes or so are just concert footage, just full on Natalie Portman in a spandex body suit not quite nailing her choreography all over a stage full of unconvincing dancers. Was my jaw completely unhinged watching this or did it just feel that way? I can’t be sure. Sean tried to watch this with me, but it wouldn’t play when we rented it initially and he was gone off to work by the time I went back to it, and bully for him. I’m the one who watched it, aghast. This is Natalie Portman’s follow-up to what probably should have been an Oscar-winning performance in Jackie?

[I mean, to be fair, it’s not. She was also in Annihilation, and quite good in that, and Song to Song, which is not worth mentioning.]

Vox Lux is a derivative piece of junk. So, not unlike a pop song I suppose.

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Captain Marvel

Mar-Vell! Shazam! Mar-Vell! Shazam! There is a long and interesting legal saga surrounding the Captain Marvel name (though if you are not a law geek it’s probably much more long than interesting). Basically, the red and white Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Shazam) came first as a blatant Superman rip-off. DC sued, put the creators out of business, bought Shazam for cheap and quickly forgot they owned him. Meanwhile, Marvel captain-marvel-mar-vell-shazam-differences-header-1108262-1280x0Comics decided that if any comic publisher should have a Captain Marvel, it should be them, so Marvel threw together a half-baked story about an alien named Mar-Vell to secure a trademark for the Captain Marvel name, won a lawsuit against DC and others, then gave Mar-Vell cancer and made him the only comic character in history to stay dead.

Given that history, I don’t think it is a coincidence that DC’s Shazam will follow within a month of Captain Marvel’s debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  If there’s a lesson here, and there may not be, it’s that “legal reasons” give birth to a lot of strange things (and don’t even get me started on the 90s Captain America and Fantastic Four films).

Incidentally. Marvel’s Captain Marvel is not a resurrection of the alien who died from cancer. Marvel revamped the character through a whole other convoluted saga, and she’s primed to be the first female hero to get her own MCU movie.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is a space-faring Kree soldier with memory problems, a self-described noble warrior hero fighting a war against the shape-shifting Skrulls. After captain-marvel-international-poster-top-1200x675a Skrull ambush, she crash-lands on mid-90s Earth (smashing through the roof of a Blockbuster Video, as probability would dictate) and realizes that she’s been on this planet before. Teaming up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Marvel chases after the Skrulls who came to Earth along with her (led by Ben Mendelsohn) while also trying to uncover her forgotten past.

In many ways, Captain Marvel is a standard solo origin story, which at this point they can crank out with no effort at all. But this film still feels like a necessary addition to the MCU. Captain Marvel is a worthy star and the galactic stakes are high enough here to make this film stand on its own. A great deal of those positive feelings are due to Larsen, who does a great job of keeping us invested in the character even before we (and she) know who she really is: the cosmic-powered superstar who is going to undo all the bad stuff that Thanos got away with last time (as you probably can guess, I’m still mad that he turned Spidey into dust). And the icing on the cake is the 90s nostalgia reminding us that no matter how bad your internet is during a snowstorm, things used to be much worse.

Aside from Shazam (which is almost certain to be terrible), Captain Marvel is bound to be compared to Wonder Woman, and for the only time ever, DC’s entry is the better one. Captain Marvel does not have the same crossover appeal as Wonder Woman does, but Captain Marvel is a really fun superhero movie on its own merits, as well as a great lead-in for the new Avengers film next month.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The film was pitched to the studio as Lord of the Rings meets Snatch. Charlie Hunnam, who won the role of King Arthur only after promising Guy Ritchie that he’d bulk up for it, and offered to fight (and win) the other two in consideration (Henry Cavill and Jai Courtney), said that the description sold him on the movie: “That’s a film I wanted to see.” Unfortunately, we can now say that Hunnam was the only one who did. King Arthur bombed big time at the box office this weekend, earning just $17M against its $175M production budget. Sean and I were part of that tiny 17 million dollar sliver, but only because it was opening night at our local drive-in theatre and we just couldn’t stay away.

Full disclosure, the moment the movie began, I turned to Sean and said “I really don’t like 1200x675movies that mix fantasy and historical.” Sean let out a breath. “You’re going to hate this.” He was right. I kind of knew it too. But as soon as I’d said those words, I realized they were too general. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I’m certain there are plenty of movies who get it right. I know I was thinking of The Great Wall when I said it, as King Arthur’s opening scene immediately put that to my mind, which was a rough way to start. It would later remind me of the egregious Ben Hur remake, an even worse comparison.

The premise is, of course, familiar: King Uther (Eric Bana) has a rocking sword named Excalibur and a shitty younger brother named Vortigern (Jude Law, who only plays bad guys since he lost his hair) who doesn’t love anyone as much as he loves himself, and loves power most of all. He’ll stop at nothing to win and keep the crown, and he slays his way through his own immediate family, spilling their blood to make himself king. His kingdom suffers from his megalomania for years, but just when things go really REALLY bad, Excalibur reveals itself, the sword in the stone that no one can liberate. Vortigern ka-17714r_-_h_2017knows that only his nephew will be able to handle it, so he rounds up all the age-appropriate young men in the kingdom and eventually Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is revealed. And then it’s game ON. Arthur isn’t really motivated to do battle with his ruthless uncle, but a beautiful mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) persuades him that it must be so.

Guy Ritchie’s Arthur was raised in a brothel and is a bit of a thug. His gang is fast-talking, full of the saucy wit we’ve come to expect from a Ritchie movie, only now it’s mixed with magic and sorcery and feels wildly out of place. It’s clear Ritchie is aiming for a stylish, genre-bending effort, with anachronisms he doesn’t quite pull off as well as say, Baz Lurhrmann did in Moulin Rouge or even Brian Helgeland with A Knight’s Tale (although the heavy-breathing score is kind of inspired).  This King Arthur is a muscular and masculine movie that’s devoid of plot or character development. There’s no risk of actual tension so instead Ritchie has made sure that “stuff” is always “happening.” The movie just plops you down in the middle of the action, stuff that Ritchie apparently just made up in his head, and expects you to know what he was thinking. If you feel quite confident about your ability to read Guy Ritchie’s mind vis-a-vis magic and ginormous, fantastical pachyderms, you’re set. Otherwise, you’re in for a world of confusion, and the fact that Ritchie is apparently allergic to linear story-telling doesn’t help. One scene is constantly inter-cut with another because Guy Ritchie JUST CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO THE POINT! But will still make you sit through the dreary stuff as well, edited so its dreary-ACTION!-dreary-ACTION!-dreary-ACTION! and you forget which time line you’re actually in, even though they’re probably only separated by about 6 minutes or so, making it all feeling DREARY-DREARY!-DREARIER-DREARIEST!

This was meant to be merely the first installment of a planned six films series; safe to say the other 5 will soon be scrapped. Ritchie might be good at gritty crime dramas, but audiences just aren’t receiving his douchebag approach (hello, David Beckham cameo!) to King Arthur very well. I’ll tell you one redeeming thing though: Charlie Hunnam is indeed fit to be king. Very, very fit. I thought the wardrobe choice for him was interesting but cannot, for the life of me, understand why he wasn’t just shirtless the whole time. His physicality seemed to be of utmost importance to Ritchie, so why not capitalize on his one good idea and call it a day?

Genius

A crazy man insisting he’s a genius wanders into Max’s office. He’s ranting, he’s raving, he doesn’t know that Max (Colin Firth) is already under his spell, has already been reading his manuscript, enthralled. And when Tom (Jude Law) learns that Max is on board, he can’t quite believe it – no other publisher has found his work worthwhile. Max is the first to take him seriously.

It turns out that Tom is Tom Wolfe and Max is editor to the greatest literary minds of the genius-leadtime, counting F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) among his authors. They’re all jealous of each other, of course, all big egos with weighty demands on Max’s time, and skill.  This movie will make you feel as though editors do not get paid nearly enough. It might also question just who is the Genius referred to in the title – is it the brilliant writer, or is the man editing his writing so that it may appear brilliant to others? Certainly Max is good at spotting talent, but also at shaping it.

Not everyone is grateful, however. Max’s wife Louise (Laura Linney) feels neglected. Tom’s wife Aline feels even worse: she feels replaced. Aline (Nicole Kidman) isn’t even properly his wife – she left her husband and her children just as they were grown to be with Tom and feel needed by him. She supported him for years as he wrote feverishly, as the rejection letters piled up around them. But now that his work has found a home, and an audience, he doesn’t need her as much, and she knows it. She is obsolete, and she warns Max that he may soon be the same.

The real meat of the story is the relationship between writer and editor, the ugly push and genius-official-trailer-14960-largepull necessary to hone a manuscript into a masterpiece. Max Perkins has an excellent track record but still prefers to hide behind an editor’s anonymity, still grapples with the fear of having “deformed” someone’s work.

 

Colin Firth never sets a foot wrong, so it’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why this movie isn’t great. I suppose if I had just the one word it would be: superficial. I suppose it must be a great headache to make writing and editing, two very quiet, solitary activities, seem cinematic, and I can tell you that director Michael Grandage has not found the way to make them seem otherwise. Firth is fatherly, Law is petulant, Linney saintly though ill-serviced by the script, Kidman downright unhinged. It just never really gels. After more than 100 minutes, I was left thinking: is that it? The story is sufficiently interesting that I will look up the book upon which it is based, not because the movie left me wanting more, but because it left me needing more, which is never a good sign.

 

 

Side Effects

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is trying very hard to be happy. Her husband (Channing Tatum) is newly released from prison and they can resume their lives together. But happiness isn’t coming easy: Emily is depressed, and suicidal. She begins seeing a new doctor side-effects-A032_C011_0101LT_rgb1(Jude Law) who prescribes an anti-depressant called Ablixa. Ablixa’s causing some strange side effects though. Worrisome side effects. Violent side effects.

Side Effects is a smart, well-crafted thriller by Steven Soderbergh. He’s heavily influenced by Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction and hits all the right marks for a taut, twisty little thing. He’s not big on making a statement about pharmaceuticals or psychiatry or mental illness, any of which might have been appropriate.

I forgot how much I liked this movie. It was supposedly Soderbergh’s last, 37B68FB400000578-3766104-image-a-41_1472601500752and it seemed one he could be proud to go out on. TV stuff notwithstanding. But now, at the ripe old age of 53, he’s “come out of retirement” to do Logan Lucky, the new Daniel Craig\Sebastian Stan\Channing Tatum\Katherine Heigl\Adam Driver\Hilary Swank Nascar-heist movie.

But back to Side Effects. The first half is about guilt and mental health: how they interact in a doctor’s office, and in a court of law. The second half is a little more Alfred Hitchcock than Adrian Lyne. Things come unglued. The second half is less successful than the first but a fun, b4b4cec15c78289caf1c4442df99b616engrossing watch. The anxiety is ratcheted up expertly, with Soderbergh always in control. Rooney Mara is a terrific actress and she coasts ably over any rough terrain. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jude Law keep up. Soderbergh stays at the top of his game as well – true, he circumnavigates truth and exploration in favour of entertainment, but it’s forgivable. It’s always forgivable when it’s this fun to watch.

Movies for Kids That Adults Would Enjoy (Non-Animated)

TMP

Wandering Through the Shelves’ caveat at the end made this a tricky one. There are so many G-rated animated films taht I adore. I really had to dig deep for liv action family movies for me to endorse, especially since I already used up Babe in Live Action Fairy Tale Adaptations.

Home Alone

Home Alone (1990)- It makes it easier when the movie for kids came out when I was a kid. All I needed to do when rewatching it for the first time in twenty years was remember what it was like to be a ten year-old ewatching this for the first time. When I was a kid, I watched it for the sadistic finale. As an adult, I love Catherine O’Hara’s quest to get home to her son and got a kick out of how resourceful Kevin becomes. The casting is perfect from Pesci and Stern to Hope Davis as a French ticket agent.

unfortunate events

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)– If my calculations are correct, this may be the last time that the once great Jim Carrey was actually fun to watch. His homicidal master of disguise dominated the previews but the three kids- an inventor, a reader, and a biter- are the real stars. When all the adults are either despicable or clueless, these three take care of each other without ever having to set traps. Although not nearly as dark and unfortunate as Jude Law’s narrator keeps warning us (the parents die in every movie, bud. This isn’t that unusual), SOUE has a wicked sense of humour and genuinely touching moments.

hugo

Hugo (2011)- Does this really count as a kids movie? One of Scorsese’s better post-Goodfellas films, Hugo is pure magic for any age. The scenes in the train station- where people get on and off trains and work in various shops-were especially spectacular in IMAX 3D and scorsese’s love of movies has never been more apparent. Not sure I can picture Hugo as the next Spiderman though.

The Grand Budapest Hotel 2

Lots of directors are said to have their signature styles but Wes Anderson may be the only director in Hollywood that no one seems to even dare try to copy. The colours, the music, the low–key performances, and the sense of timing in his movies are uniquely his.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has everything we’ve come to expect from a Wes Anderson movie. I’ve seen it four times and the more I see it the higher I rank it in relation to his other films. Despite some of its more poetic moments, TGBH isn’t quite as bittersweet as The Royal Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom (my two favourites) but it makes up for that with some of the most outrageous comedy we’ve ever seen from him. It also boasts his biggest cast yet of both new faces and at least ten familiar ones from other Anderson films.

There were so many great cameos and there wasn’t nearly enough time to give everyone the attention that they deserved. Before the movie even really gets going, we are introduced to the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968 where it’s already past its prime through the point of view of a young writer played by Jude Law.

grand budapest hotel 2

“What few guests we were had quickly come to recognize each other by sight as the only living souls residing in the vast establishment. Although I do not believe any acquaintance among our number had proceeded beyond the brief nods we exchanged as we passed in the palm court, in the Arabian baths, and onboard the colonnade funicular. We were a very reserved group it seemed and, without exception, solitary”.

Before long, we are introduced to Zero as an old man played by F. Murray Abraham and he tells the story of how he came to own the hotel, bringing us to the 1930s where the rest of the film is set. As much as I loved the rest of the movie, part of me wished that we got to hang around longer in the run-down 1968 version of the Grand Budapest Hotel, which I think would have made a great setting for a movie of its own. Maybe a murder mystery? Or a love story?

I’m just putting it out there to the universe that we get to see the first ever Wes Anderson sequel starring Law, Abraham, and Jason Schwartzman as the lazy mustached concierge. Maybe even past Wes Anderson characters like Steve Zissou from Life Aquatic or the family from Moonrise Kingdom can come stay at the hotel.

It probably won’t happen but I can dream. If you’re out there, Wes Anderson, please make Return to the Grand Budapest Hotel.