Tag Archives: Martin Freeman

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

In Canada we have only two seasons: winter, and construction. We are right in the middle of steaming, stinking construction season here in Ottawa, and we’re facing a weekend where the 417, a major highway and our main east-west artery, will shut down entirely. This after a flood season has left our infrastructure crippled and our commutes doubled. Which sort of makes the opening scene of Hitchhiker’s seem a little more likely. In order to make way for an intergalactic superhighway, a little lowly planet called Earth has to be demolished. We meet our hero Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) just minutes before the Earth’s destruction. He learns that his good pal and towel enthusiast Ford Prefect (Yasiin Bey, then billed as Mos Def) is in fact an alien who can call in a favour to save his friend, but erm, nothing else of human history (don’t worry, the dolphins have already defected – so long, and thanks for all the fish).

They meet up with a clinically depressed robot, Marvin (Alan Rickman), an egomaniacal president, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), and most improbably, Arthur’s Earthling crush, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). Together they’re going to zing around the universe, searching for the Ultimate Question, the meaning of life, a single solitary spot of tea, new chapters for an ambitious encyclopedia, and any remaining shreds of life as they knew it.

Director Garth Jennings bit off more than he could chew trying to adapt Douglas Adams’ influential and beloved work, but you can hardly blame him for trying. Is the movie always coherent? Of course not. If you aren’t familiar with the book, you might find it hard to keep up. If you are familiar with it, there are no doubt bits and bobs that you’ll miss. It is not so much a faithful adaptation as an ode to it, with Adams’ blessing, and mostly by his own invention (such as the sneeze religion helmed by John Malkovich – achoo!). But if it’s a little sloppy, well, what else can you expect from a movie with an improbability drive?

Ivan Reitman and friends actually optioned the film as far back as 1982, thinking it might make an interesting vehicle for Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray (this is no doubt true). But then Ghostbusters came calling and they were off on a tagent, and Hitchhiker’s languished in development hell, at one point with Hugh Laurie and Jim Carrey slated to appear (I’m less thrilled with that pairing, personally). Douglas Adams wanted Hugh Grant for Dent but I’m so, so glad it went to Freeman instead, who plays the everyman so perfectly he is often overlooked.

In 2005’s finished product, Sam Rockwell steals the show as Zaphod Beeblebrox, basing the character on likely unequal dashes of Bill Clinton, Elvis, and Vince Vaughn. Personally, watching it in 2019, I saw all kinds of his George W. Bush in the role and it gave me a whole new appreciation for a performance I already loved.

Anyway, it’s inevitable that a film adapted from such a great book would fail to live up to it, but I actually give it a lot of credit and find it highly watchable and highly entertaining. So many of the little jokes really do work on the screen, and everyone involved is clearly relishing the opportunity to be involved. It’s hard not to find joy where so much exists.

 

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The Avengers Have Day Jobs

When The Avengers aren’t fighting crime on screen, they’re often teaming up to do other movies. Here, a totally non-exhaustive list, so feel free to contribute your own in the comments.

Zodiac: Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark (RDJ) hunt a serial killer, with future Spider-man villain Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Tsk tsk.

Wind River: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Oslen) risk frostbite in this thriller.

I Saw The Light: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) get their
cowboy boots on in this country-western send-up to Hank Williams.

Infinitely Polar Bear: I totally recommend this film about how a bipolar diagnosis affects a family, starring The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana).giphy

Men In Black 4: This one is not technically out yet, but could we be more excited to see a movie starring Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)???

Her: This is a super cerebral movie about a man falling in love with the voice of an operating system (Scarlett Johansson) – look carefully and you’ll also see Star-Lord himself (Chris Pratt).

Sunshine: Danny Boyle assembles a team of astronauts to save the dying sun, among them Captain America (Chris Evans), Guardians Vol. 2’s Aleta Ogord (Michelle Yeoh), Endgame’s Akihiko (Hiroyuki Sanada), and Doctor’s Strange’s right hand man, Wong (Benedict Wong).

American Hustle: David O. Russell recruits the voice of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man’s best pal Luis (Michael Pena).

Traffic: This is a really interesting and complicated movie about the war on drugs, by Steven Soderbergh, and just wait til you hear how it criss-crosses the MCU: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) star, with War Machine
(Don Cheadle) making an appearance also. Bonus level: Miguel Ferrer, Iron Man 3’s Vice President Rodriguez.

Chef: Beloved Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) plays the eponymous Chef, and is joined onscreen by pals Ironman (Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Antman’s daughter’s stepdad, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale).

Creed: Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) met his fate in Black Panther, but Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) gets to snuggle up in Creed.

sourceSherlock Holmes (TV): Although they never teamed up in the MCU, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) teams up with Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) is this addictive detective series.

Sherlock Holmes (movie): On film, Sherlock is played by none other than Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), and his faithful Watson by evil Kree Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). What an odd pairing!

Unicorn Store: Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are reunited and it feels so good. And this time they’re getting a unicorn! Yes, a real one. Jackson’s wardrobe is cotton candy for the soul, complete with tinsel-weaved wigs. Must see, currently streaming on Netflix.

Marshall: Black Panther himself (Chadwick Boseman) plays Thurgood Marshall alongside N’jobu, Killmonger’s slain father from the same film (Sterling K. Brown).

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Captain America tumblr_nb04u6MGrq1te1cwfo2_500(Chris Evans) use their powers for evil instead of good – Larson playing rock star Envy Adams, Scott’s ex-girlfriend, and Evans playing action star Lucas Lee, one of Ramona’s seven evil exes. This is a fun one to re-visit, as it is written and directed by Edgar Wright, who also wrote the screenplay to Ant-Man.

Wonder Boys: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Ironman (Downey Jr.) make an uneasy alliance in this Michael Chabon adaptation.

13 Going On 30: The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was surprised to learn that Captain Marvel (Larson) makes an appearance in this film as a mean girl in high school!

In the Heart of the Sea: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes Spidey (Tom Holland) under his wing in this Moby Dick retelling.

Isle of Dogs: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) gets her voice on in this Wes Anderson animated film, alongside GrandMaster Flash (Jeff Goldblum) and The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).

The MCU is super incestuous. I bet you can think of many more!

Cargo

If (when) the zombie apocalypse happens, please feel free to refer back to this post, which will justify your bullet in my brain. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. The truth is, I am not a survivalist. I don’t want to live without hot baths, good wine, soft cheese, manicures, memory foam, air conditioning, smooth legs, clean fingernails, diamond earrings. I never want to run because I have to. I don’t even like to camp. Fight for my life? I avoid sales so I don’t have to fight for the last pair of 7.5 patent leather Mary Janes. So if shit hits the fan, I’m checking out. Even if it turns out the zombie outbreak was really just a particularly gross strain of the flu, I promise not to mind. This is a risk I’m willing to take in order to ensure that I never spend a day hungry, or cold, or scared out of my mind, or wearing yesterday’s underwear, or having unminty breath – and yes these things are all EQUALLY repugnant to me.

Cargo is about a man who is not as smart as I am (I could start every single review save The Theory of Everything with that sentence, and I just may). Andy (Martin Freeman) and his wife and baby daughter are surviving by avoiding land altogether and sticking to their house boat. But when his wife gets injured, it’s either probably die from zombies or MV5BMjUwNzYzNzg1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjM1MDcyNTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_definitely die from blood loss. And again they choose wrong and head inland, where poor Andy has the unenviable task of keeping his family alive when every single other thing wants them dead.

Cargo is newly arrived on Netflix, where we are promised both a “thrilling” and “emotional” ride and ohmygod yes. I hid under the blanket so much, both to convince my rapidly beating heart to vacate my throat and get back into the cavity from whence it came, and to sob unobserved (the dogs get overly concerned).

This movie wins because it’s not about the zombies. In fact, the zombies aren’t really the villains (and why would they be, any more than lions are villains; they’re simply acting the way they must). Instead we focus on just a handful of people fleeing them. It’s character-driven, and casts some very capable people to show that off, not least of all Martin Freeman who broke my fucking heart. And the film is further improved by the baked Australian landscape, which is all that and a bag of Tim Tams.

I don’t normally have the heart, or the stomach, for a zombie movie, but exceptions must be made for one this good.

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.

 

Love Actually

I’ve actually started packing away my copy of Love Actually with my Christmas decorations every year, which limits my viewing of it to just once, annually. This is a necessary precaution because it’s way too easy for me to get swept away in this movie.Love_Actually_movie

It feels like the ultimate romantic movie, possibly because in this movie Hugh Grant AND Colin Firth both get the girl. But for every frenzied makeout session, there’s also a cold, awkward peck on the cheek. Your heart breaks as much as it soars. There’s grand gestures, and well thought-out lingerie, slow dancing cheek to cheek, and enough first kisses to charm even the more cynical hearts.

But for me, this movie excels not in its romantic tropes, but in the darker corners. You don’t need this movie to tell you that Emma Thompson is superb, but it does confirm it. The scene when she’s in the bedroom, having just unwrapped Joni Mitchell instead of jewelry, is moving and real. Only a few moments (and even fewer tears) are devoted to her broken heart and we watch her pull herself back together to give her children a smiling, overbright Christmas. Only an extended hug for brother David belies just how much she’s hurting. This movie happens to take place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and while the magic of the season seems to heighten the romantic aspects, and give courage to those who need it, it also highlights the loneliness, the forced joviality, the false cheer.

There’s probably some sort of personality test about which couple your root for in this movie, but I must confess, I also adore the non-romantic-couple bits: the sweet and silly bromance between Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and his fat manager, the sacrifice of Sarah (Laura Linney) for her institutionalized brother, the shared grief and renewed bond between Daniel (Liam Neeson) and his young stepson.

I’ve been watching this movie for a decade and I still squeal at all my favourite parts: the papier-mache lobster head, the Rowan Atkinson gift wrapping, the Beatles sendoff, Hugh Grant dancing unselfconsciously, the falling in love by subtitles between Jamie and Aurelia, Martin Freeman warming up his hands for “the nipples,” Rick Grimes taking a break from zombies. This movie has it all, and I’ve certainly heard it criticized for being over-stuffed, but personally I wouldn’t know which subplot to cut. Sure it’s self-indulgent, but watching this movie every year is a gift I give myself.

 

 

The assholes will be reviewing their favourite holiday movies all December long, so stay tuned!