Tag Archives: Margot Robbie

Goodbye Christopher Robin

I wonder in what ways the world would have been different if Alan Milne had not married a perfectly horrid wife. Daphne is an excellent socialite but not terribly prone to marital bliss. She waited for her husband to come back from war and is not impressed with the man who comes back. Her advice to just “not think” about the war is not exactly practical, and then she has a son she doesn’t want or know how to love to cheer him up, and that doesn’t work either!

But of course it’s their son, C.R., aka Christopher Robin, aka Billy, whose stuffed animals and wild imagination inspire the very thing he’ll become known for. And it’s his wife’s abandonment of the family that allows father and son to spend meaningful time together, time enough to write the stories that will enchant the world and change their family forever.


Domhnall Gleeson plays the famous author A.A. Milne, a man ravaged by war, confused by his wife, haunted by the characters he created. Winnnie the Pooh is a beloved story for children, but the people behind it are much darker than I’d imagined. This is not really a happy story. Margot Robbie plays his flitty wife, a woman easy to scorn but Robbie humanizes her, has compassion for her. Kelly Macdonald plays the woman who actually cares for young C.R., a nanny her charge calls Nou but the world will know as Alice, from the books. She’s the one who bears the burden placed upon a little boy upon whom the whole world has expectations. The cast is quite wonderful; even the little kiddo (Will Tilston) playing Christopher Robin is good, as he must be.

But as you can imagine, it’s difficult to flick back and forth between the horrors of war and the child-like wonder that inspired a favourite picture book. It adds little pops of whimsy to lighten the mood, but make no mistake: it is a dark mood in need of lightening. At times the movie really hits the right note, but it’s a tone that’s hard to keep – especially since the point is not really Winnie the Pooh OR war, but the nasty consequences of celebrity. Goodbye Christopher Robin surprised me and moved me, but it’s not a water-coloured, feel-good picture, just the sad truth behind a story you thought you knew all too well.


I, Tonya

Margot Robbie is convinced this film will change your mind about Tonya Harding. Is she a villain or a victim? Abused or abuser? The truth is, your opinion doesn’t really matter and truth doesn’t really exist. What does exist: a wholly funny film that never fails to entertain.

{In the unlikely event you’re in need of a refresher: Tonya Harding was an American figure skater in the 1990s, and competed twice in the Olympics. She was known for two things: for being the first American female to land a triple axel in competition, and for bashing in her Nancy Kerrigan’s knee.}

Margot Robbie is well-cast as Tonya Harding. She’s still just a little too pretty to play elm120117intelmovies-007-1512400299white trash, even with the poofy 90s bangs, but she comes down low and it’s pretty glorious. Sebastian Stan plays Harding’s good for nothing husband, Jeff Gillooly, and he disappears into the role of dumb fuck. Jeff’s dumb ass best friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) pretends to be an international spy even though he’s a grownup who lives with his parents. Not exactly criminal masterminds, but this is the trio that brought us the most delicious scandal of 1994 (until OJ Simpson that is – if you thought Lillehammer was competitive, try being a celebrity fuck up). But for my money, I’d have to say that the real cast stand-out was Ms. Allison Janney, who plays Tonya’s mother LaVonam who, by sheer comparison, makes bathtub scum look appealing. She’s the dirtiest of dirts with not a kind word or intention in the world. If being a crummy mother was an Olympic sport, she wouldn’t have to resort to breaking any kneecaps.

The first thing that may surprise you about this film is that it’s funny. Actually funny, though pretty dark – the kind of laughs you feel slightly guilty about succumbing to, but you’ll need to just embrace the absurdity. It is farcical, in the way only a true story can be when it’s populated with idiots.

The second thing that surprised me anyway, was that it actually does dredge up sympathy for our poor Tonya. Her guilt (or innocence) is not really the point. This is Tonya’s story, hers alone from beginning to end. No one’s trying to excuse what happened, but putting “the incident” within context is actually very interesting.

I, Tonya is funny, dramatic, pumped full of energy, and even the sports angle is well-done. Certainly Margot Robbie can be commended for all the hard work she put in getting skate-ready, but she gets a lot of help from choreographers, stunt people, and CGI – effects that are pulled off almost seemlessly. But it’s the camera work that makes the figure skating extra exciting – you really get a sense of the speed and athleticism, two hallmarks of Harding’s style in particular. No matter your experience of “the incident” at the time, I, Tonya turns tragedy into triumph.

Suicide Squad [spoilers included]

A hot mess. That’s what it is.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is just about the only reason to watch this thing, and honestly, I’d like to break up with the rest of the movie and do the post-break-up thing where I cut the rest of the cast out of all the pictures and just make a glorious 18 minute movie out of just the Robbie footage. I’d be happier with that. Not super happy. I still thought the Quinn character was too loosely drawn and scantly introduced. Like, I totally buy that a patient could brainwash her into being evil. But there is no amount of SUICIDE SQUADbrainwashing on the planet that could induce me to speak with a Jersey accent randomly. Or to replace my PhD-level vocabulary with baby talk. That shit is bananas.

I don’t know much about this Suicide Squad outside of what the movie told me, and what the movie told me was downright confusing. Supposedly they’re super-villains, mostly sprung from tremendous prison sentences. Yet assembled they’re pretty…meek. And reserved. And obedient. I thought we’d get to see them just going apeshit in Gotham, unleashing all kinds of gleeful hell, but instead they thoughtfully fight a super bland villain that I felt mislead about in the marketing campaign.

The only thing I really connected to in the movie was the music. I assume that the money they saved on Tom Hardy backing out was funneled directly to the music budget. We don’t know for sure why Hardy left – some say for reshoots for The Revenant, some say he just didn’t like the script (although I expect most of the big stars signed on without seeing a script). I think he was supposed to be the most vanilla cracker out there, Rick Flag, and I can’t imagine him being happy with that crummy role. While I appreciated the music (great big pop anthems that helped perk me back up – my patience and attention floundered considerably, and often), I can also see how it was a cop out. First off: you aren’t Guardians of the Galaxy. Music had a purpose and is part of the universe. In Suicide Squad it just felt they were using music to distract us from the fact that they didn’t know how else to finish a scene. Or begin the next one.

Being part of the Suicide Squad must be a lot like being part of Taylor Swift’s squad. I mean, can you name anyone in it besides Taylor Swift? Harley Quinn is obviously the Taylor Swift here, and Will Smith is The Duff (designated ugly fat friend) – he’s nice to b936730e4fcc67ae733b48c1a797dc91fff102d1have around mostly just to prop her up. Smith didn’t annoy me as much as I feared (this movie has so many bigger problems), but Robbie is the true star. She plays Quinn not with a truly villainous heart, but with a completely troubled one – with loads of vulnerability. When the witch tempts her with a vision, her true heart’s desire is revealed to be…a banal suburban existence, completely with a husband and an infant. Clearly the good Doctor is still buried within her, and is peaking through. Or maybe it’s the baby in her belly poking mama in utero. Because she must be pregnant, right? Why else would the Joker so doggedly rescue her? He’s not exactly the kind of guy who’s all about love, honour, and commitment. But what if she’s his baby mama? Why else would he be seen lying in a womb made out of knives, skirted with baby clothes? It must have been some bad-guy baby shower!

Speaking of the Joker…what the fuck? I’m not in love with Jared Leto’s portrayal, and I’m not certain about David Ayer’s intention. Who is this Joker? Chris Nolan’s Joker was so demented there’s no way he could be in a relationship. You cannot picture Heath Ledger’s Joker having a Netflix and chill night with his girlfriend. So this Joker’s…I’m not sure. Down to earth just seems wrong. But he’s not as twisted. He’s more human, in a hipster’s SUICIDE SQUADironic conception of a Latino gangster-cum-circus clown hybrid kind of way. We didn’t see much of him so it’s hard to tell, but he also didn’t seem as evilly inventive as I’ve come to expect in a Joker. So he’s possessive and he’s got some hacker friends. Big deal. I’m sorry that so many of Leto’s scenes ended up on the cutting room floor because I found him to be the second most compelling character in the bunch, and he’s not even on the squad! He’s the Calvin Harris of the bunch. Or the Tom Hiddleston, I suppose, just trying to steal Taylor Swift away all for himself. Fuck the squad.

And let’s be honest: this movie couldn’t handle the squad. It didn’t know what to do with them. The introductions were wildly variable, and, spoiler alert: the character who noticeably didn’t get one DIES. Yeah, that’s right, Ayer. Your shit is weak. You clearly couldn’t cook up a fun and deliciously depraved story for these fuckers so you gave us this watered down jumble instead. You should have saved it for someone who had the cojones. I think a satisfactory Joker-Quinn story could have been told here instead. DC jumped the gun with Suicide Squad – too many unknown characters, too little for them to do, too little story to make us care. But watching ‘Mister J’ change diapers for little Joker Junior in Arkham? Now that I’d be down for.



Check out more Suicide Squad discussion on our podcast:

Suicide Squad

Anything I say about Suicide Squad needs to be weighed against the possibly discreditingbatman v superman fact that I liked Batman v. Superman. It was a mess, I’ll give you that. And a whole lot of it didn’t make a bit of sense, even by superhero standards. While there were at least a couple dozen things that I wish had been done completely differently, I walked out feeling exhilarated, as if I had just witnessed the start of something huge. And, for all that Marvel has done right, it’s never really produced a film (with the possible exception of Civil War, which hadn’t come out yet) that felt like such an event.

With Batman v. Superman, I was prepared for the worst. Even the trailers couldn’t hide some of the movie’s bigger problems. With Suicide Squad, which many had dared to hope would save the DC Extended Universe and put it back on the right track, the trailers were filled with bizarre and exciting images and I couldn’t wait to see how they fit into the larger story.

suicide squad 2By now you’ve probably read that a lot of people have felt let down by Suicide Squad. I was too. Its missteps aren’t as embarrassing as BvS’s were but its best moments weren’t as impressive either. Actually, while BvS ended with me feeling like I’d seen the biggest movie of the year, Suicide Squad ended with me wondering “Was that it?”.

Like in BvS, Suicide Squad has a lot to get done and a lot of characters to introduce and ten minutes in it becomes pretty clear that they have no idea what order to do it all in and just decided to throw scenes at you at random. This disorganization continues the whole way through.

As Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie steals every scene she’s in. Clearly insane and easy to suicide squad 1love, Quinn is the only character in the whole ensemble whose actions always make sense and Robbie is the only actor of the bunch who never makes a false move.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about the rest of the team. They include the ruthless hitman and unspoken group leader Deadshot (well, sort of a hybrid between Deadshot and Will Smith, played of course by Will Smith), Australian boomerang nut and notorious asshole Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), human flamethrower and recent pacifist El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and rope specialist Slipknot (Adam Beach, who as the trailer suggests is barely in the movie). They don’t always come to life like they should but are at their best by far when they interact with each other. That’s the whole fun of the Suicide suicide squad 3Squad. Unfortunately, they don’t get nearly enough chance to just be themselves and play off one another. Like BvS, it’s far too interested in its needlessly complicated plot than it is in its characters.

Jared Leto’s Joker is the biggest disappointment. Not that it’s a bad performance. The Joker is every bit as menacing and captivating as he should be and Leto makes some very interesting choices but he’s barely in the movie and, when he is, his scenes are rarely relevant to the larger story. Leto’s take on the character never really gets a chance to resonate and deserved a film that used him better.

Suicide Squad has some terrific scenes and gets a lot of things right but overall it’s a missed opportunity to get the Extended Universe back on track. What’s worse, it doesn’t give much reason to hope it’ll get any better in future films.

The Legend of Tarzan

Say what?

I’ve seen dozens of Tarzan iterations over the years, but I was still confused trying to follow this one. What I think happens is that we start out meeting Tarzan as a gentleman in England, living as Lord Greystoke, the jungle far behind him. But then his government asks him to go back to the Congo to act as some sort of diplomat, and his beloved wife Jane follows him. Then we start with the flashbacks – to his infancy when his parents are lost and he becomes an adopted beast of the jungle, and also to his first wild meetings with Jane.

Things go badly for Lord Greystoke during his comeback tour. Evil Christoph Waltz is embroiled in slavery and blood diamonds, determined to make his 01-tarzan_w529_h352monarch extremely wealthy. To get to Tarzan, he of course kidnaps Jane. Christoph Waltz has played versions of the same character over and over since he won the Oscar for it in Inglorious Basterds. It doesn’t work here and hasn’t worked in a while, but he’ll keep getting typecast, and we’ll keep suffering. But there’s a trade-off: Samuel L. Jackson is our comic relief, and he’s almost too good at it, stealing scenes from Tarzan himself.

It seems like this Tarzan movie wants to modernize somewhat, with a social conscience, which is good, or at least would have been had Tarzan not been inevitably cast as the great white saviour, swinging from the trees.

It also wants to be a superhero movie with proper villains and ultimate fight sequences – but with Tarzan’s superpower and only weapon being his amazing 8-pack abs. People love to talk about those abs. Poor Alexander Skarsgard worked out 6-7 days a week for months while consuming 7000 calories a day, and then UPPED the workouts to  fourteen times a week while drastically cutting his caloric intake. Sounds brutal. I would be having veritable taco tarzan_1.jpghallucinations. But that’s 6 months or more perfecting his physique (and what was wrong with it to begin with, I wonder? He wasn’t exactly known for being a slouch), and maybe 10 days of memorizing his lines, and that’s “acting.” To be fair, Skarsgard isn’t really the problem here, but he’s also not much of a help. He’s surrounded by 2 Oscar winners and 2 more nominees. If Tarzan is the weak link in your Tarzan movie, your Tarzan movie’s got a problem. And as pretty as he looks, I did wonder how it was that Lord Greystoke, so long removed from the jungle, still had that amazing King of the Jungle body. Jane’s cooking must really suck. Were there even gyms in 1880s England?

I never stopped being frustrated by the hazy flashbacks – why does this feel like a sequel to a movie that was never made? And Skarsgard never found his footing. And Robbie remains a damsel, even though script writers covered their asses by pretending she was a little more feminist, the reality is that she spends most of the movie tied up. It’s too bad it’s not a better movie, but there’s never been a really good Tarzan movie, so why start now?




A Birthday Salute to the Bikini

The bikini turned 70 this week. It was apparently born when a a WW2-era fabric shortage led designers to reimagine styles with a little less substance to them. The French took over, and inspired by seeing women on beaches rolling up their swimwear for better tans, Louis Réard called his lingerie-inspired concoction “the bikini” and unveiled it on July 5, 1946, just five days after he first testing of a nuclear device was held in Bikini Atoll, and likening it to an ‘explosive commercial and cultural reaction’. It was.

To celebrate, I’m putting together a little list of even littler swimsuits from our favourite movie scenes. This isn’t going to be exhaustive by a long shot so if I’ve missed your favourite bikini scene, please let us know.


Blake Lively is swimming bikini-clad in a theatre near you in a thriller called The Shallows. She worked out extra hard so she’d look good clinging to this buoy but apparently also remained appetizing to the shark. Jessica Alba put her bikini body on the map in a movie called Into The Blue. A stunt double filmed images.jpgscenes for her behind her back, forcing Alba to keep the bikini thing going for far longer than she was comfortable with. The gimmick worked though, and her bikini isuntitled.png what people remember most about the movie. Kate Bosworth made her bikini mark in Blue Crush, a movie about “girl surfers” with an impressive amount of wardrobe changes. Bosworth wasn’t the only one turning heads – her whole crew, including Michelle Rodriguez and Sanoe Lake, looked equally fabulous wearing not very much.

A bikini often signals The Temptress and I’m not sure if there’s recently beenthe-other-woman-kate-upton.jpg a better example than Kate Upton bouncing around in The Other Woman. Who else are you going to get M0000733.jpgo make Cameron Diaz, an honest-to-god-Charlie’s-Angel, to feel vulnerable? (Sidebar: who among us could forget when a 40&fab Demi Moore strutted around in her bikini, putting those Angels to shame?) Meanwhile, Brooklyn Decker was on hand to heat things up in Just Go With Itarticle-1355072-0D122FC5000005DC-386_634x394 and did a mighty fine job of it until her co-star Jennifer Aniston took off her own clothes revealing that “sneaky hot Jennifer-Aniston-Just-Gobody” (and then had a coconut-bikini-off with Nicole Kidman, just to keep things classy). And I can hardly write a bikini post without mention of Bunny Lebowski (Tara62 Reid) in her lime green bikini (and matching scrunchie!) asking for her toes to be blown on. The 90s were a fabulous time. Just two years later, another bikini was making an impression on me: Virginie The-BeachLedoyen was looking fine in Danny Boyle’s The Beach. Oh to be the sand upon which she lays. The bikini, by the way, has a great built-in sand disposal unit. It has nowhere to hide! And how can we forget Salma Hayek revealing herself to 489973English-speaking audiences in a daring little bikini (boldly accessorized) in From Dusk Till Dawn. She owned that thing like she owned us. Also 389b5cae16b185ee11268ffa8a31d494sealing sex symbol status in bikinis: Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. Not that her usual Lara Croft attire left much to the imagination, but fan boys like skin and she was prepared to flash it, as long as she could still strap onuntitled.png her weaponry. Margot Robbie, however, didn’t need knives, because she’s got killer curves and puts them to devious use in Focus.

Of course, bikinis weren’t always so itsy-bitsy. When Annette Funicello first hopped her way on to beach blankets, her bikini was anything but skimpy. It still infuriated Disney (she was a annette-funicello_l.jpgMousketeer, the epitome of wholesomeness) so you could say that it was her rather dowdy swimsuit that helped pave the way for newer generations of Disney stars gone sexy, like Selena Gomez in Spring Breakers.

Also on the bikini shit list: Raquel Welch, who inspired a untitled.pngpin-up-worthy movie poster for One Million Years B.C. in which she wore a bikini made of animal skin, infuriating PETA. Sorry PETA, but I think it’s clear that Raquel wins.

062510-Pam-400Another dubious choice for bikini material: Pam Grier’s crocheted bikini. I don’t want to think about what it looks like if you get it wet, but here’s the thing about Pam Grier: she makes everything look cool. And speaking of bikinis you wouldn’t want to get wet, how about that m6etal slave bikini that Leia wears in Star Wars at the insistence of creepo Jabba the Hutt? Metal rusts when it gets wet, and would also probably weigh you down if there was enough of it (which there isn’t). Carrie Fisher actually had two bikinis – a real metal one she wore while lying around and a lighter-fabric replica when she needed to move around. Either way the bikini was Jabba’s undoing – didn’t she choke him out with her own chains?

u4ggTHBThis list wouldn’t exist without Bo Derek. She has proven over and over to be a perfect ’10’ and has more bikini looks than I can count. I might be slightly partial to this one. Brigitte Bardot has also earned herself multiple entries onto this list and actually starred in a movie called The Girl in the Bikini, although she’d popularized maxresdefaultthe look as far back as 1956 in …And God Created Woman. No matter when or where, she’s always doing it justice.

And finally: Every Bond Girl Ever.

Y7_rAER3svlqH58kuaB7Ima-1sEOko2WnZcwZIJGa2cGloria Hendry is to be applauded not just for sporting a bikini while kicking ass in Live or Let Die, but for successfully accessorizing it with a machine gun. She’s tough and fit but proves she’s also sassy and feminine in her swimwear. James Bond never stood a chance.

Halle Berry turned his head in this orange number from Die Another Day, now an iconic Bond Girl look, with a knife strapped to her thigh. This particular bikini was of course a Halle-Berry-bikini-Bond-Girlsend-up to an earlier Bond Girl: Ursula Andress 40 years prior in Dr. No. She too appeared from the sea in bikinis_01.jpgnothing but a bikini and a blade. The copycats don’t end there: you may remember that Heather Graham sported a similar look in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. 6657c5216cf680dee58ba019435713a1

And just so as not to end this post on Heather Graham:



Claudine Auger from 1965’s Thunderball in a black and white bikini and an even nicer acce2DAA8CD500000578-3284481-image-a-77_1445591635869ssory: Sean Connery.

Mie Hama from 1967’s You Only Live Twice in a familiar-looking white bikini.


2D35473F00000578-3284481-Named_after_her_birthplace_luxury_jewellers_Tiffany_Co_Tiffany_C-m-14_1445597551114Diamond-smuggling bad girl in a hot bikini: Tiffany Case (Jill St John) from 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.


Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight in a very 1970s print bikini in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974).


2D3C037400000578-3284481-image-a-21_1445598307023Caroline Munro throws a kimono over her bikini in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

And here’s Caterina Murino riding a horse in a bikini (no mention of chafing) in Casino Royale – a sequined La Perla bikini. You know, La Perla, the lingerie store. In case you had any illusions. They no longer have this for sale, but they do have it, along with Daniel Craig’s tiny trunks, on display in their Beverly Hills location.fhd006VLR_Caterina_Murino_001

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Based on a memoir, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the “true story” of Kim Baker, an American journalist sent to Afghanistan to be a war reporter despite having absolutely no experience (being unmarried and childless was short straw enough). In Afghanistan she is immediately confronted with the concept ftf-11806r_2_wide-54dfd259b4cfc0e148859666f964e90321c3fd1b-s900-c85of “Kabul cute” – women who were a 4 back home in New York are suddenly 10s. Tina Fey plays the 4. Margot Robbie plays a 15.

Afghanistan is windy and gritty, basically a forgotten war now that Iraq is a better news story, but the more she sticks with it, the more Kim elicits candid remarks from her subjects. Billy Bob Thornton plays the guy who finds her nothing but a nuisance, admonishing her not to sleep with his marines.

It’s actually not a bad movie, considering it bombed at the box office. What went wrong? Possibly people didn’t like to see one of their favourite comediennes amid such a serious backdrop – it’s hard to laugh at limbs being blown off. And the very same war fatigue mentioned in the movie may contribute not wanting to hear about it in theatres, either. Bill Murray’s Rock the Kasbah suffered the same fate. And maybe Tina Fey’s just not ready to cross over genres, or to headline her own movie alone. Martin Freeman was great support in the movie but didn’t get any screen time in the trailers. And Whiskey_Tango_Foxtrot_reviewthe trailer, for that matter, played up the movie’s comic aspect even though the movie’s a dramedy at best, lobbing one-liners like hand grenades into a pretty grim war zone.

But Fey actually does well, if you give her the chance. I thought she and Freeman were great together. The movie just doesn’t have a lot to say. It’s not a commentary on the war so much as one woman’s less glamorous version of Eat, Pray, Love. The real Kim Barker never broke any major news stories so there’s not a lot of insight and not much authenticity. I think the script had some great pieces but suffered from abrupt lurches in tone. Overall though, I’m glad I gave it my time, even if I didn’t Lima Mike Foxtrot Alpha Oscar.


Z For Zachariah

In a way, this is exactly the kind of end-of-the-world movie I’ve been keening for. No disaster porn here, it’s quiet, contemplative; a meditation on faith and hope. Margot Robbie plays a farmer’s daughter who’s beginning to think she might just be the last woman on earth when she comes 1280x720-36Vacross an exhausted scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who can’t believe he’s just found the last lungful of fresh air. The two start building a life together when a third person (Chris Pine) arrives, disrupting their equilibrium.

The movie tells very little and shows even less of whatever it was that brought upon the world’s end. All we know are these few survivors and the shadows behind their eyes. You already know that Ejiofor is a fine actor, but both Robbie and Pine bring their A game as well, and this becomes a character study in the garden of Eden.

If you need action in your apocalypse, this one’s not for you. But if you like a movie that raises more questions than it answers, then you’ve probably met your match. What becomes of people when their past is wiped out and their future uncertain? And what happens to morality when no one is screen_shot_2015-06-05_at_10.36.19looking? There’s just a touch of creepiness to all that quietness, all that wide-open space that you can’t quite trust. A concept like safety gets redefined when humanity has just been all but wiped out.

If you’re open to it, there’s a lot of religious symbolism hidden like Easter eggs in the narrative of this movie. I wrote narrative rather than plot because to be honest, not a lot happens in this movie. And as much as I loved the absence of mutated monsters, and actually appreciated the stillness, and the lush cinematography that made downloadit feel almost impossible that any ugliness could find their little corner of land, there was also a…dullness, something lackluster about it all, despite the finely tuned performances. I think it was a lack of commitment, as if the movie really didn’t want to make any choices at all, wasn’t confident enough to actually choose a position. I’m not usually unconformable with ambiguity, but this one tested me a bit, and it was only because the movie was quite good that I wanted for it to be great, and this weakness held it back.


After being one of the world’s most reliable hit makers and bankable movie stars, Will Smith focusmovietook a hiatus from making good movies. He felt he’d contributed his share of watchable movies to the world and it was time to make some crap ones for a change. He’s excelled at the crapfest for a while now, but I guess his paycheques must have started to reflect the loss of box office, so Focus is meant to be his comeback.

But is it?

Only three of us saw Selma together, and only two made it out to Birdman, but somehow all imagesfour of us, every last Asshole, made time in his or her busy schedule to take in Will Smith’s latest. Our low expectations turned out to be a gift for the film, which very slightly exceeded them.  It wasn’t a bad movie, per se, and the trouble at any rate wasn’t attributable to the Fresh Prince.

Matt was wary of the movie before it even started. Focus is a heist movie and Smith plays a con man. And savvy little movie goers that we are, we know that the con man isn’t just trying to con the bad guy, he’s also trying to con the audience. So you have to be on guard. Sean felt that because he couldn’t trust anything, he never felt invested in the characters, and just couldn’t enjoy it that much. The formula is tired. The first time a movie like this tricks you, it’s great. But when they all line up to trick you, it’s just annoying. You don’t buy the tricks anymore, but you don’t buy into anything else, either. When M. Night Shyamalan brought us The Sixth Sense, we were dazzled, but by the time The Happening Lady in the Water The Village rolled around, we were over it. We’re over it!

margotrobbieBut do you know what we’re not over? Margot Robbie! In fact, most of us agreed that we’d like to be under her. She’s a delight and a half and I can’t wait to stare to her lips watch her in whatever else she’s working on – a Tarzan movie with Alexander Skarsgård (she plays Jane, of course), and Suicide Squad where she’ll reteam with Smith (he plays Deadshot) as Harley Quinn, supervillain and girlfriend ofmargot-robbie The Joker (Jared Leto). After stealing scenes from Leonardo Di Caprio in The Wolf of Wall Street and charming the pants off us (and the watches off most of her costars) in Focus, it’s fair to say that whether this movie flops or not, Margot Robbie is a rising star.


As much as I always enjoy the chance to see a SilverCity pre-screening, it’s hard for me to get enthusiastic about a movie about a couple of grifters. Especially the master and apprentice kind, where a seemingly hopeless but but enthusiastic novice tells a seasoned veteran “Show me how to do what you do”. I couldn’t help entering the theater thinking that I had already seen every possible twist, every possible combination of who’s playing who and who’s been in on it the focus 1whole time. Having been tricked before, I vowed to go in with my eyes open.

Focus didn’t throw anything at us that I haven’t already seen. I can’t say I was able to predict every single twist. I couldn’t possibly. The movie shifted gears so many times that I couldn’t always tell which trick was coming next but, once it came, it was usually familiar.

Which isn’t to say that there’s nothing to like. Focus is more than a heist film, it’s a comeback film for Will Smith after a nearly two-year absence after 2013’s unsuccessful After Earth. His career has had more surprises and twists than Focus does and I’ve enjoyed watching him continue to improve as an actor ever since his sitcom days. Now well into his forties, he plays Nicky as confident instead of coky, with none of that goofy hamminess he brought to most of focus 2his earlier movies. His banter with up and coming co-star Margot Robbie is much more fun to watch than the execution of the scams are, which are rarely clever and often just plain sillly.

Smith and Robbie look great and so does the movie. Directors Glenn Ficcara and John Requa find the coolest bars and know how to shoot them and, just like in their last movie Crazy Stupid Love, the bar seduction scenes are the best in the movie. The clothes, the lighting, the slick editing, and confidence of the two leads can make the dialogue sound smarter than it really is.