Tag Archives: Michelle Pfeiffer

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

I never thought that Maleficent cried out for a sequel. The first one seemed to wrap up the story rather neatly: Maleficient, thought largely to be a villain, was actually just a fairy with a dark past, a magnificent wardrobe, a broken heart, and a slight hairpin temper. Inside, she was rather like a pussy cat. More or less. But all-knowing Disney thought there was more money to be made more story to be told, so it milked an old fairy tale for more malevolence.

When we left Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), it was generally understood that she wasn’t so terrible after all. Really kind of sweet, and fiercely protective of the little girl she’d raised as her own. Years later, it seems that message never penetrated the minds of the villagers down below who still fear her. Aurora (formerly Sleeping Beauty) (played in this series by Elle Fanning) has been prancing about barefoot in the forest as Queen of the Moors, home to all kinds of fairies and mythical creatures. Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) has continued to sniff about and likes the flower crown in her hair and her whole boho-chic vibe. He proposes and she accepts, and they’re pretty much the only two who are happy about it. Maleficent is mostly just concerned because she knows she won’t exactly be welcomed by “his kind.” And maybe she’s also a little sad to lose her precious goddaughter. His mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), makes it clear they’re on shaky ground with her as well. You can imagine how awkward the engagement dinner’s going to be. Or, no you can’t, because it’s next-level awkward. I won’t say it’s the reason that humans and fairies go to war with each other but it’s not not the reason, if you know what I mean. So if you thought planning your wedding with your in-laws was fraught, imagine the tension when both mothers are intent on destroying each other. I mean, the seating chart alone is going be bizarrely complicated when you need opposing armies at the same table.

Anyway, Sean thought Mistress of Evil was “not great” and overlong. And at 20 minutes longer than its predecessor, it’s hard to argue that point. It does take way too long to establish certain facts. But I thought the movie was “not that bad” (is she quoting herself there? Indeed she is). I enjoyed meeting all of the little woodland creatures, especially more of Maleficent’s ilk, including the lovely Chiwetel Ejiofor. But mostly I was there for Maleficent. Poor, dark, misunderstood Maleficent. Yes her black eyeliner is intimidating and her horns are slightly reminiscent of a Beelzebub type. That does’t mean she has a heart of darkness! Don’t judge a book by its brooding black cover. Not even when that book falls from a top shelf and caves in your skull. Err. Well maybe then. Anyway, I love Maleficent because I love Jolie in the role. She’s menacing and conflicted and vulnerable and powerful and it’s terrific to see her don the wings and the cheekbones again.

Does Maleficent: Mistress of Evil justify its existence? Not remotely. Jolie and Pfeiffer make an electric pair and it’s sort of wonderful to see two such formidable women square off so maybe that’s enough. And if it’s not enough, the incredible costumes by Ellen Mirojnick will more than make up the difference.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp

ant man and the waspThe very definition of superhero fatigue is seeing the latest Marvel instalment and having nothing to say. Not a speck of inspiration. Is that Ant-Man’s fault? Only partially. It’s very by-the-numbers, it doesn’t add anything to the ongoing MCU saga, and it’s hard to go back in time prior to Avengers: Infinity War, when we know half of these people will soon be dust (and also, soon after that, not dust anymore so the MCU can keep churning out sequels).

But also, when we’ve had a run of Marvel movies with spectacular visuals and fresh takes on flagship heroes (Thor: Ragnarok), timely and thoughtful takes on nationalism with a fully realized villain (Black Panther), and massive, galaxy spanning tales crammed with practically every hero there is (Infinity War), Ant-Man feels so small. While that’s entirely fitting for Ant-Man, it is a drastic change of pace from those three prior MCU films in particular, and the one-upping arms race that has been the MCU since the start.

Jay said some time ago (maybe on the site, maybe just to me) that the coming-of-age moment for superhero movies was when subgenres started popping up – superhero satire (Deadpool), superhero western (Logan), even superhero rom-com (this movie!). So maybe it’s time to get past this shared universe thing and evaluate Ant-Man as an actual movie. And on its own, it’s a team effort featuring a lot of memorable characters, a nice will-they, won’t-they featuring charismatic leads (and equals), and an entertaining way to spend two hours at the movies.

Overall, though, it’s a good thing we have a break in the MCU schedule until next spring, because I badly need one. Of course, you can be sure that I’ll be in line when the next superhero movie comes out, dragging Jay along like always.  What can I say? I’m addicted, always have been, but it’s to the point where I need something stronger to feel as good about these films as I did in the early days.

 

I Could Never Be Your Woman

This was such a weird movie I’ve waited two weeks to write the review and still haven’t found the angle. Not that it’s urgent: it’s from 2007, so you’re not exactly waiting on the edge of your seat to hear my proclamation. You’ve maybe even already seen it, but then again, probably not. It didn’t exactly make a big splash in the land of movies.

Here’s an interesting thing: it’s a film by Amy Heckerling, the woman who wrote and directed Clueless. This movie is about a woman, Rosie (Michelle Pfeiffer), who writes a MV5BMTk3NDc3ODk2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDc3NDI3._V1_TV show that looks and sounds a lot like Clueless. It’s about the very coolest of high school students, and stars adults who don’t quite pull off their roles. Among them – Stacey Dash, a crazy lady who was 28 when she played Dionne in Clueless and 40 when she reprised the role of too cool for school adolescent in this film. Paul Rudd, only a couple of years younger, turns up in this one too, playing a teenager on set and the role of younger suitor to Rosie, who is mortified. And, of course, flattered, and maybe interested.

Not that Rosie has a lot of spare time to consider younger lovers. She’s trying hard to save her show, and to co-parent with her youth-obsessed ex-husband (Jon Lovitz), and to parent her wise-beyond-her-years actual teenage daughter Izzie (Saoirse Ronan in her film debut – yeah, this kid was always going to be a star).

Anyway, there’s three paragraphs to distract from the fact that I still can’t quite make a pronouncement. The truth is, there’s some juicy satire here. It has lots to say about a woman’s insecurities, and generational differences in falling love, and the impossible standards of show business. But for every great little quirk (many provided by Ronan – her character parodies songs sort of a la Weird Al, but with a feminist twist, likely years beyond her grasp) there’s a lot of rom-com cliches to wade through. But there’s the added bonus of Tracey Ullman as a personified Mother Nature, guiding us through the dark forest of female self-esteem. Heckerling clearly has a lot to say and I bet this film was quite personal to her, but she spirals out of control a few times. In the end, if you’re a sucker for Paul Rudd (and let’s be honest: who isn’t?) or if you’re curious how a little girl with a strong Irish lilt fares blasting out the angry lyrics of a certain Canadian songstress, go ahead and look this one up.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is one of those movies that has half a hundred characters and fourteen dozen plot lines and they all “intersect”, the story like a patchwork quilt, but a really ugly quilt where the squares don’t match and some of them aren’t even square.

A random sampling:

Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) has just quit her job, and hires bike messenger Paul (Zac Efron) to help her check off as many of her old resolutions as possible before the clock strikes midnight.

Laura (Katherine Heigl) is catering a huge New Year’s Eve party and is under a lot of stress when her ex, a rock star named Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), who disappeared on New Year’s last year, shows up wanting a commitment.

Claire (Hilary Swank) is producing the Times Square ball drop.

Randy (Ashton Kutcher) and Elise (Lea Michele) are trapped in an elevator together.

MV5BMTc3MzgyMzg3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTM1MzAxNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_Hailey (Abigail Breslin) desperately wants to go downtown with a boy, but her mother Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) insists that she stay home with her.

Tess (Jessica Biel) is really hoping to induce labour so she can give birth to the first new year’s baby and claim the 25K in prize money – but Grace (Sarah Paulson) is also in the running.

Stan (Robert De Niro) is dying, though he’d like to delay until midnight if possible, and his nurse  Aimee (Halle Berry) is prepared to stick it out with him.

Sam (Josh Duhamel) is trying desperately to get back into the city after pulling best man duty at a wedding. He’s hitching a ride with with a family in an RV, hoping to meet up with the mysterious women he met and fell for last year.

In a movie so overstuffed, of course some of the segments are undercooked. Nay, they’re all undercooked. Some of them are downright raw. But lots of them are not even interesting enough that I wished I knew more.

The best, and saddest part, is when Penny Marshall briefly plays herself. But 3 seconds out of 113 long minutes is an agonizing success rate. New Year’s Eve is overly sentimental and oh so shallow. If you don’t have any auld acquaintances to forget this New Year’s Eve, I know where you can make over 100 new acquaintances, and they’re all perfectly forgettable – guaranteed. Random acquaitances may include New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre, voice of Lisa Simpson Yeardley Smith, Cary Elwes,  Common, Hector Elizando, Russell Peters, Sofia Vergara, Matthew Broderick, and more flash-in-the-pan stunt casting than you can shake shake one of those New Year’s Eve noisemakers that you blow in and the little ribbon inflates and unrolls at.

Having just returned from Mexico, Sean and I might be housebound (and by housebound I inevitably mean hot-tub-bound) tonight, and I’m not a bit sad about it. What are your plans? Do they include this movie and its exhausting cast of characters?

Murder on the Orient Express

Hercule Poirot is a world-renowned detective, known almost as much for his venerable mustaches as for his excellent deductive skills. On the way home from solving yet another case successfully, his train gets stuck in the middle of nowhere thanks to an avalanche, and that’s not the worst thing that’s happened aboard the Orient Express. Overnight, there has been a murder most foul. One of the dozen or so passengers is dead, and another must be his murderer. With Hercule Poirot unluckily aboard, can his or her identity remain secret? It seems unlikely.

MV5BMTU4NjU5NDYxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgyODg0MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_Kenneth Branagh directs himself as Agatha Christie’s famed Poirot, and he’s equally right in both roles. He leads an all-star cast including Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and more. The only thing you can complain about with such an ensemble is that we spend precious little time with any one of them – Dench is particularly underused.

Branagh shoots on 65mm film and the result is luxurious and beautiful; I could barely take my eyes off the scenery, and indeed, the script gave me little reason to. I’m still not sure what genre of movie Murder on the Orient Express was trying to be. There might be a mystery at its core, but the audience feels no particular sense of urgency in solving it. There’s almost zero tension, which seems like a failure when a murderer is trapped among a gaggle of vulnerable potential victims, each with a neck ripe for slicing. And though I commend Branagh’s attempt at making Poirot sag a little under the pressure of his special skill set, the character seems largely untouched by the story unraveling before him. Leached of the emotional heft probably its due, the story never delivers any punch. There’s no real suspense. So while every shot is perfectly composed and the film is a stylistic triumph, it just doesn’t do justice to Christie’s plot.

Mother!

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 tmp_oLHXPW_d785c743c5338b61_Momwas 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.

 

 

 

Trash We Watched on the Weekend

It’s fairy-tale week here at Assholes Watching Movies. Tomorrow night we’re taking our grumpy butts over to the Coliseum to watch Cinderella, live-action in all her glory.

Our friend Wanderer challenged us this week to name our favourite live-action fairy tale adaptations. As usual, we Assholes like to do our homework, so this weekend Matt, Sean, and myself made several pitchers of martinis and settled in for some “classics.” For those of you with strong stomachs, we live-tweeted the experience @assholemovies . For the rest, here were our thoughts:

The NeverEnding Story (1984): Turns out, Matt and I have not seen this one; we were thinking of the sequel the whole time. We had to pause the movie 4 minutes in to have a lengthy discussionuntitled about Jonathan Brandis. Anyway, the first one is about a little boy who hides from the world (and his bullies!) and reads the day away, becoming involved in this magical book. The story follows Atreyu, another little boy, but also the brave warrior who must save The Childlike Empress of fictional Fantasia and gets to ride a dragon who looks like a dog named Falkor while doing (fair trade though, he did lose his horse, who Matt felt was a better actor than the kid). Sean, who is much, much older than Matt and I,  still considers this a beloved film from his childhood (he probably watched it on a projector while eating the lead paint chips from his crib) and can still sing the theme song (rather badly, no many how many martinis he’s had, or we’ve had). There were big stone boobs in it though, so you can’t really blame the guy: it’s probably where his little fixation started.

LadyHawke (1985): I still have no idea why it’s called Ladyhawke and not Manwolf, because this tale is about both. Michelle Pfeiffer stars as the eponymous lady who turns into a hawk, cursed by an angry bishop to be forever separated from her lover, who happens to turn into a wolf just ladyhawkeas she takes human form. But don’t worry, bumbling, baby-faced Matthew Broderick doing a terrible Middle Ages accent to the rescue! In this movie, Matt was more critical of the animals’ performances. He really felt that the birds all seemed downtrodden and perhaps just too starstruck to turn in good work – and it turns out, he was right! An animal handler said they actually had to replace one hawk because he was so chuffed about sitting on Blade Runner’s arm, he ruffled his feathers and looked more like a chicken. So: score one, Matt.

Freeway (1996): The movie Reese Witherspoon is trying to get expunged from IMDB. It’s supposedly a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, where Red belongs in juvy, her mama’s a 16grandma17whore, her grandma lives in a trailer park, and “Mr. Wolverton” (Keifer Sutherland) is a serial killer with a preference for spilling white trash blood. It’s so crude and crass it carried an NC-17 rating – and really fouled up our Twitter feed! Still debating who had the better line. Reese: “My ex-husband’s parole officer hasn’t even been born yet” or Keifer: “Don’t be offended by my next question, but did your stepfather ever molest you?” You can’t make this stuff up!