Tag Archives: Nicole Kidman

How To Talk To Girls At Parties

Boy is this title misleading! It sounds like it belongs to the self-help genre, but if you’ve been standing awkwardly around the dip, wondering how to break the ice, calculating to the minute when it’s no longer rude to leave, well, I hate to tell you this, but this movie isn’t going to change your life.

It’s based on a short story by Neil Gaiman, which means I went in curious as hell. And director John Cameron Mitchell is an interesting guy, with some visually stunning work tucked into his artist fanny pack. But here’s the deal: Enn (Alex Sharp) is a young punk. That’s not my inner grumpy old man coming out, he’s a teenager in 1977 who thinks punk rock music is going to save his soul. He and his punk friends go out one night in the London suburb of Croydon and stumble upon a party that seems too good to be true: a sex den of beautiful exchange students.

MV5BNTA3ZGY0ZjctZGVjOC00MDdmLTg0NjctOGE4MGE1YTViYjE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Enn is immediately taken with Zan (Elle Fanning) and his immediate concern is about how to successfully extract her from what appears to be a sexy suicide cult. But that notion is further complicated as it becomes obvious she’s from much further away than America. Zan is an alien. Zan is an alien? It seems that Zan is an alien, an alien who is  disenchanted with her fellow travelers and would really like to hang out with her new teenage friends, experiencing their fascinating culture.

DJ James Murphy developed a new kind of EDM for this movie, one he’s described as “extraterrestrial dance music,” that still feels like a cousin to the Sex Pistols.  So you can imagine that John Cameron Mitchell has created a really cool vibe for this movie, and when it works, it’s a lot of fun. But it may have been a little ambitious to stage a punk rebellion musical. Okay, a lot ambitious. But that’s one of the move lovable things about it. Sure it’s unhinged, it’s messy, it’s campy, it’s weird. It’s a punk rock Romeo & Juliet. It mixes metaphors. It mixes genres. It’s not always successful but it takes big risks and paints with wild abandon. Plus, there’s Nicole Kidman looking like David Bowie in Labyrinth, which nearly stopped my heart. Maybe this movie is not for you. But I hope it finds its audience of weirdos. Weirdos gonna weird.

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The Beguiled

During the civil war, a girls’ boarding school full of southern genteel ladies is eking out an existence. Out of the goodness of their hearts, they take in an injured enemy soldier, John (Colin Farrell) and nurse him back to health. They’ve hardly got enough fabric to rip into bandages yet somehow the lot of them, including house mistress Martha (Nicole Kidman), teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), and haughty student Carol (Elle Fanning), flounce around in beautiful, gauzy dresses. Suspicious.

I hated this movie in a pretty major way. Every female in the movie is a bitch, even the film_rec-02cute little ones. And every female throws herself at the soldier in their midst, despite the fact that he’s their sworn enemy and currently AWOL. And of course Johnny boy plays each and every one of them, and they faint into his greedy clutches like they don’t have a brain between them to see through his rather obvious machinations.

The entire plot of this movie relies on the crazed horniness of every single woman and girl. And when lusty John finally makes one his lucky mistress, oh man, we’re all going to wish they had stuck to just heavy petting and weird old-timey flirting.

Of course, this being a Sofia Coppola flick, it looks great. Very atmospheric. I sort of want to take a feminist read of it, and wonder where we’d be if it wasn’t for men fucking things up all the time. That’s worthy of a pause, but hard to dwell there since the movie is so entrenched in its sexual tension. The women give some fantastic performances, but the characters are so exploitative it’s hard to really appreciate any nuance.

The Beguiled is a slow-burning thriller seething with toxic masculinity. The pace is uneven, defaulting to meandering. Long, artful silences can’t mask the mixed message: Colin Farrell might be the sex object, but every female is just a flower waiting, hoping, to be plucked by him. It looks dreamy but feels grim. Coppola might be doing interesting things here but I’ll never know it because I was too enraged and insulted to care.

Secret In Their Eyes

Thirteen years ago, Detective Jessica Cobb’s daughter was found murdered in a dumpster on a case she was working on. Her close friend and colleague Ray was the one to find her. There’s no good way to break that news to a mother, and there was no way to stop Jess from climbing into that dirty dumpster to cradle her daughter’s dead body. The case was mishandled and the killer never found, mostly because her body was discovered outside a mosque in the months following 9\11 and counter-terrorism took precedence over murder investigations. This group of detectives, once close-knit, is ripped apart at the seams from the grief and the guilt.

Cut to: thirteen years later, Jess (Julia Roberts) and Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) meet up again, in the office of a new supervisor, Claire (Nicole Kidman). Ray has some news: he thinks SITE_030515_182.CR2he’s found the culprit. 696 000 caucasian male inmates in American prisons every year; if you look at 1906 faces every night, you can cycle through the entire population in a year. Ray has done this for 13 years and finally has a bite. That’s just to let you know that it may be Jess’s kid who died, but it’s haunted Ray too. They haven’t kept in touch but Ray has never stopped looking. Jess isn’t sure she has the strength to follow the legal channels, but Ray convinces her that under Claire’s direction, things will be different.

This movie is about ghosts, and sacrifice, and justice. It’s a 2015 remake of a 2010 Argentinian movie that probably doesn’t need to exist since the original is so compelling. This one is not quite so complex and yet it’s harder to follow, the jumping back and forth between time lines not quite so clean. But Julia Roberts as a shadow of a woman, contorted with grief, is worth watching (her mother died during production; she returned to work after just 5 days), and so is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who brings a lot of grit and empathy to the role. Nicole Kidman even has a scene in which she’ll suck the air right out of the room. They’re great, and at times they elevate the material, but this movie lacks the thrill part of a thriller. There’s no real suspense generated, it just sort of feels like we’re waiting, and it’s the gloomiest waiting room you’ve ever spent 111 minutes in. Is the ending worth it? Well, I’ll tell you this: there is no happy ending when a mother’s only child is raped and murdered.

 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

I barely know where to start with this one. If you’ve seen any of Yorgos Lanthimos’ work, or better yet, if you heard the mad rantings of anyone who did, then you know he’s a bit crazy bananas. Watching his movies is like taking a bone saw to his cranium, lifting off the top flap, and peering inside at all the nuttiest ideas that the rest of us tamp down in the interest of social order but for some reason, Lanthimos gives them a confident voice. It’s scary but completely enthralling.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is about a man who will be forced to make a really tough lead_960choice. Steven (Colin Ferrell) is a surgeon with a devoted wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), two talented children, and the devotion of a teenager of an ex-patient (Barry Keoghan). But you know that everything’s about to unravel. Maybe Steven isn’t such a great surgeon. And maybe his family are all a little more self-interested than we thought. And maybe Martin, the teenager, is hiding something sinister.

Colin Ferrell embraces the stylized (read: stilted and simple) dialogue, and at times Keoghan does as well, but the rest are not as committed. Not that I’m complaining. Robot-like delivery can get tiresome. It’s crazy how much Lanthimos can divorce human emotion from our worst, darkest impulses.

But that’s the thing, this is why his movies are fun and exciting to watch: they’re twisted and dark and make us think terrible, terrible things. But they’re really just hypotheticals. Steven never feels like a real person. He’s stiff and icy and even though you can’t wait to see how he plays this thing out, his choice ultimately feels without consequence. He doesn’t feel so we don’t feel. The Killing of a Sacred Deer just doesn’t exist in our world. So while I will always watch these movies for the sheer mental exercise, I can never quite love them.

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.

 

 

Just Go With It

While I don’t always admire Adam Sandler movies, I do admire his work ethic. Every movie is just an opportunity for him to take another glamourous vacation with his family and friends, and call it a tax write-off. He seems to have a soft spot for Hawaii, and who can blame him?

maxresdefaultJust Go With It was worth another trip to the islands – Maui, to be specific. Well, the movie is deliberately vague, because sometimes they’ll start out on the island of Maui and then magically end up in Kauai: the magic of Hollywood, folks!

The title pleads for you to “just go with it” and you’ll have to in order to enjoy this thing even a modicum. It’s a sad little premise, in that Adam Sandler is a player who wears a fake wedding ring in order to pick up empathetic dates who he never has to commit to.  Until he meets his dream girl, played by bikini  model Brooklyn Decker, and now he has to orchestrate a fake divorce in order to be available to her. He blackmails  his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) into posing as his soon to be ex-wife, and her son cleverly milks it for a trip to Hawaii.

After some allusions to Pretty Woman, the movie is pretty much just a tropical setting and some classic Sandler shenanigans. Jennifer Aniston is a stand-out:nicole_kidman_just_go_with_it_pto5zmo_sized she really makes you remember what fine comedic timing she has. So while this in no way is a good movie, it’s kind of enjoyable if you squint hard enough. Actually, my favourite part is when Aniston and her college arch-nemesis played by Nicole Kidman do a hula-off. You could watch that scene, have a laugh, and not feel too bad about yourself.

Jennifer and Adam were friends for more than 20 years before they got around to making a movie together. They met before either was famous, and she’d go watch him do his stand-up before sharing a cheap meal. Now they’ve each had their mega-success, so why not take their respective crews to the most beautiful place on earth? Nicole Kidman maintains that she loved the experience of making this film no matter what the critics said. Her kids and even her parents were with her. Adam’s wife and kids appear in the movie, and so does Brooklyn’s hubby. Who wouldn’t want to work from Hawaii? This week, though, I’m not working. In fact, right about now I should be hiking up a volcano on Maui. Aloha!

TIFF: Lion

I was a little caught off guard by audience reaction to this movie at TIFF. I’d read the book and liked it well enough but the movie didn’t strike me as particularly must-see. Boots on the ground at TIFF though had me hearing something different. In fact, had me hearing that it was giving La La Land a run for its money as People’s Choice. People’s Choice! So I did what any sane woman would do: I gave up my tickets to I Am Not Your Negro and secured tickets to a last-minute additional screening of Lion.

mv5bndjimtnhmgmtntewzs00zdazlthhmdutngm4nzfhnjzhy2rjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtexndq2mti__v1_Lion tells the true story of a 5 year old Indian boy named Saroo. Separated from his brother one night, he falls asleep on a train and wakes up miles away from his home, his family, from people who speak his language. He survives on his own for weeks before being thrown into an orphanage and then shipped down to an Australian family who adopt him.

Once grown, Saroo finds himself thinking about the mother he disappeared from, who might very well still be looking for him. So he uses the only tool he has available to him: Google Earth. With little information to go on, he scans the internet every night for signs of his childhood home. It’s an impossible mv5bmdu4zgi4yjgtywzlns00nte2ltg1mmutytk2njflnzhjotrjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtexndq2mti__v1_task but Saroo is miraculously lucky. Off he goes to India, to see if he can locate any family near the place he once called home.

Sunny Pawar will quickly win your heart as 5 year old Saroo. His big, adorable eyes immediately indicate his innocence and vulnerability. His half of the movie is gripping and heart-wrenching because Pawar easily elicits our sympathy. While a lost child living on the streets would surely be attended to here, in India it is unfortunately all too common a sight. His pleading is ineffectual. I felt ready to shout at the movie screen myself. And such a tiny thing navigating the streets of Calcutta – it’s an indelible image that speaks directly to your heart.

When Saroo is sent to his new Mummy (Nicole Kidman) in Australia, it becomes a new movie: a fish out of water experience for a little boy who probably didn’t even know that such a country existed. But for all intents and purposes, Saroo grows up Australian. His brown skin gives him away, but he feels a fraud among other immigrants, his culture and background a mystery to him. Dev Patel plays grown-up Saroo, a man searching the Internet not just for his hometown but really also for himself. He doesn’t want to hurt his adoptive mother though, so he pulls away to protect her.

Unfortunately, Google Earth isn’t all that interesting or cinematic. Garth Davis chose to stick with Saroo’s real-life methods but it’s not thrilling or sexy on mv5bndu0mgqxndmtndc5zc00otm4lwe0zmqtndjmzdiwmju1zjezxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtexndq2mti__v1_the screen. It literally is just a guy staring a screen night after night for weeks, months, years. He’s moody and emotional in between, throwing his relationship (with Rooney Mara, in an underwritten role) onto the rocks. Nicole Kidman gives an admittedly strong and stirring performance as his mother and helps bridge the gap, but there’s a marked lag until Patel goes back to India.

The Indian scenes are triumphant, but they also raise a lot of questions. Where was Saroo better off? What happens to kids adopted outside their culture? Which one is his real home, his real mother?

I worried that Lion was garnering attention at TIFF because the audience, who skews older, might have felt good about watching something multi-cultural while still safely ensconced in a white lady’s movie. The film, however, won me over. Maybe it tries a little hard to be upbeat, but a feel-good ending is hardly a negative. Davis acquits himself well in his first directorial feature. The chapters are perhaps a bit uneven but the victory is not.

 

 

On a TIFF sidebar: While La La Land did end up receiving the People’s Choice award (Lion was the runner-up), the tickets I gave up, I Am Not Your Negro, would have had me watching the People’s Choice documentary winner. Ah well. You win some, you lose some. I can’t regret much since I was watching a great movie either way.

 

Made For TV?

MCDGROF EC011Grace of Monaco was supposed to be a brilliant piece of Oscar bait for Nicole Kidman but ended up getting so screwed up along the way that it went to small screen rather than the big one. I watched it recently (it’s available on Netflix) and I didn’t think it was awful, at least not god-awful, but it’s clear that something went wrong. That something seems to have been tension between director Olivier Dahan and distributor Harvey Weinstein. The film had two distinct cuts and the two men could never reconcile them. The screenwriter, caught in the middle, refused to attend the opening at Cannes because of the controversy. This isn’t the first time Weinstein has tried to intervene between a movie and its director; he tried to kill Snowpiercer and luckily didn’t succeed.

Both the script and the direction feel wooden. There’s no blood running through the grace-of-monaco-vogue-3-13may14-pr_bveins of this movie. Physically, Kidman embodies the role of Grace Kelly, especially as a newish princess still trying to make the transition between royalty and Hollywood. The actual royal family, children of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, have gone on record that this is a patently inaccurate recounting, fictionalized, fabricated, pointed not a biopic. Either way, Nicole doesn’t do Grace justice. She seems blank a lot of the time, and the performance is uneven. Tim Roth as Rainier isn’t any more inspiring.

So this movie went from getting booed at Cannes to being released on Lifetime, and then straight to video on demand where presumably it can hang out with other ill-conceived disappointments like the Jennifer Lawrence-Bradley Cooper piece of crap everyone wants to forget about, Serena.

Meanwhile, Lifetime is ramping up its cred by making fun of its own reputation. At least, I tumblr_nq7rlkyifi1tb8iyko2_500thought the Lifetime movie A Deadly Adoption was supposed to be a parody. I mean, you cast Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell and I just assumed. The movie, though, doesn’t really feel that way until the last 15 minutes or so. Up until then, Wiig and Ferrell are a little too earnest, their parts and the story a little too straight. It’s actually pretty straight up Lifetime sexual thriller, with requisite DAUGHTER WITH A DISEASE!, REVENGE PLOT WITH A TWIST!, and my favourite, SLOW MOTION FOR MAXIMUM DRAMATIC IMPACT!

I actually felt pretty deflated about this movie. I was expecting something a little more…good? tumblr_nq7rmebtxx1tb8iyko2_500Entertaining? Funny? Worthwhile? Subversive? I don’t really get what was in it for Wiig and Ferrell. Is this a James Franco on that soap opera thing? Like, I’m so square I’m cool? I’m so big I can do anything? If so, it was largely lost on me. I’m voting missed opportunity.

Have you seen either of these? Or anything else on TV that rose above or crashed and burned?

Moulin Rouge!

Happy love day, everyone! Whether single or otherwise engaged, Valentine’s day is a great day to curl up under a fuzzy, warm blanket and have a cozy day (or night) watching movies that make you believe in love. Today I’m writing about Moulin Rouge!, not just because it’s a great love story, but because Sean and I are in Paris and to celebrate our own VD, we’re taking in a show at the actual Moulin Rouge! Located in the Pigalle section of Montmartre, it was the birth place of the can-can, a seductive dance done by courtesans with split knickers. It was a place where the rich could “slum it” in a safe and fashionable district. And yes, they really had a huge elephant statue right in the middle of the garden, just like in the movie. This past October it celebrated its 125th anniversary. Even the movie is aging – can you believe it’s already 14 years old?

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Filming was halted for two weeks in November 1999 after Nicole Kidman fractured two ribs and hurt her knee while rehearsing a dance routine for the movie. If she’s being filmed from the chest up, it’s probably because she’s sitting in a wheelchair.

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The necklace worn by Satine was made of real diamonds and platinum and was the most expensive piece of jewelery ever specifically made for a film – wowza! The Stefano Canturi necklace was made with 1,308 diamonds (!), weighing a total of 134 carats and was worth an estimated cool million.

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Originally, the green fairy was going to be a long-haired muscly guy , which Ozzy Osbourne was tapped to voice. Obviously it was changed along the way to the current “Tinker Bell” incarnation, played by the fabulous Kylie Minogue, but Osbourne still gives voice to the fairy’s guttural scream when it turns evil. How cool is that?

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The movie was shot largely at Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia, with no location filming at all, which means the Paris landscape was digitally produced and the two longest visual effects shots (as of 2001) appear in this film. So while famously Parisian, it’s also famously fake.

However you’re celebrating today, and even if you’re not celebrating at all, I wish you love, happiness, popcorn, and movies. I’m off to the Moulin Rouge with my sweetie, and I’ll let you know if they still wear the split knickers 😉

1280px-Moulin_Rouge,_Paris_April_2011

Railway Man

Meet Colin Firth. Actually, for the next 108 minutes, you can call him Eric Lomax. He likes trains. colinfirthonatrainHe uses his vast train knowledge to woo women. On trains. He’s a man after Matt’s own heart. Matt likes trains. But wait! Just when you think you know where this movie is going, it turns from a movie about a guy who loves trains “a train enthusiast” he calls himself, into Unbroken, with slightly more trains.

the-railway-man08Like Unbroken, Railway Man is based on a true story. Unlike it, this guy turns out to be pretty broken (although if we’re being honest, so did the guy in Unbroken…yes, they’re very brave during the war, but they go home really sick and deal with their crap for the rest of their lives). During the rest of Lomax’s life, he failed to really deal with the flashbacks and the PTSD symptoms so when he meets Nicole Kidman (call her Patti) and marries her in quick succession, she’s pretty surprised by his violent dreams and his sobs and his emotional distance. He won’t talk about what’s happened to him, but whatever it is, it’s killing him. Patti goes to his friend and fellow vet to hear the story – how they were captured and lived in a Japanese camp as slaves, building their railway under horrid conditions. Lomax was singled out for all kinds of abuse, and it turns out that all these years later, his captor and abuser is still alive.

The abuse we witness through flashbacks is disturbing and disgusting, but it’s also presented to railwaymanus in a rather understated fashion. Because the movie is halved by into two time periods, “during the war” and “after”, we don’t get much (or enough) of either. It turns out be so similar to Unbroken (which I saw first, though this one preceded it in theatres) that it’s basically just the British version – with trains (sorry, couldn’t resist).