Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers infinity warAssholes Assemble!

Matt, Jay and I all took in Avengers: Infinity War last night and I expect you can guess how that went.  I loved it, Jay hated it, and Matt liked it but would have preferred to be at a DC movie instead.  Of course, it is clear that Matt backed the wrong horse in the DC/Marvel race, as Marvel continues its streak of good movies.  Marvel’s so hot they even managed to resurrect the Spider-Man franchise for Sony along the way and might soon get the rights to use the X-Men and other characters currently being held hostage by Fox.

Whether adding more characters to this already bloated roster is a good thing is something we can (and will) argue about, but for a Marvel fan like me, the best thing about an Avengers movie is seeing all my favourite characters team up to save the world just like they’ve done in the comics a hundred times previously.  It’s particularly sweet now that Spider-Man is helping Iron Man and Co. on a regular basis (and fantastic that Spidey gets about as much screen time as anyone in Infinity War).

Even better, in Thanos, Marvel has found a threat big enough to require these countless heroes to team up to fight.  Finally, we have an Avengers movie that doesn’t have to use internal conflict as a plot point.  Past grudges are quickly put aside as we jump right into the fight, where literally half the lives in the universe are at stake.  Though the film is two and a half hours long, it didn’t feel like there was ever a lull in the action, not even for a second.

But.

But.

But.

I don’t ever expect Jay to like the superhero movies I drag her to, but she hated this movie much more strongly than I had anticipated.  In hindsight I should have seen this coming and prepared her for it.  Anyone who has read the Infinity Gauntlet crossover event will not be surprised by how the movie plays out, and anyone who has read comics in general knows that rule #1 is no one ever stays dead.  But when anyone can (and almost everyone does) come back to life in the comics, and in this movie, it makes death feel cheap.  Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, let’s just say there is at least one on-screen death that feels like it is going to be undone in the next Avengers movie (and when I say at least one, I really mean every single one).  That resurrection expectation takes away from this movie significantly because it doesn’t mean anything if everything gets reset.

The writers should have found a better way for this film to play out, one that didn’t feel like any hero’s death was just a temporary setback, particularly because the MCU can afford to lose several dozen characters – if it did then we might actually have enough screen time for heroes like Ant-Man and Hawkeye!

I could overlook the inevitable resurrection issue because that’s my expectation of comic books, but it is not going to be so easy for most to deal with.  And really, whether you can get past it is almost secondary, because it would undeniably have been so much better for the MCU to have risen above that trite comic book convention and given our heroes a loss that felt irreversible, instead of one that we feel certain is going to be undone within a year.   Avengers: Infinity War is still an enjoyable, fan-pleasing blockbuster even with this problem, but due to the perceived lack of permanent consequences, Infinity War is missing the dramatic heft that should have followed naturally from a battle over the fate of the universe.

 

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SXSW: Isle of Dogs

Read the title out loud and kind of quick, and it’s hardly distinguishable from “I love dogs” but the conflict in the film actually comes from not loving them enough. A city in Japan has a dog-hating mayor who selfishly spreads lies and rhetoric about the dog flu, and gets and\or manufactures enough support that he succeeds in banishing all dogs to Trash Island.

As most of you know (because my bursting heart can’t shut up about it), I’m lucky enough to share my life and home with four of the sweetest doggies in the world. I Isle of Dogs 1 via Fox Searchlight Headersometimes wonder if I prefer dogs to people, and I certainly do prefer my dogs to most people. I think dogs are so much better than we deserve. They are 100% heart. So it’s hard for me to imagine a bunch of dog owners so willing to sentence their dogs to a terrible, lonely, miserable life and death. Of the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of dogs sent to live and die on Trash Island, only one is lucky enough to have an owner come looking for him – a 12 year old boy named Atari. When Atari becomes stranded on the island, a scruffy pack of dogs generously decides to help him find his beloved Spots. Duke (Jeff Goldblum), King (Bob Balaban), Rex (Ed Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), and even the reluctant Chief (Bryan Cranston) band together to reunite boy and dog on a journey that you  might just say belongs in a Wes Anderson movie.

And it is a Wes Anderson movie, horray! So of course it’s got some truly absorbing attention to detail, a sweet soundtrack, and a poignancy verging on nostalgia. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is beautifully rendered in stop-motion animation. Each dog puppet is a thing of beauty, with fur (made of alpaca hair, apparently) so pettable and little noses that you’re sure are moist to the touch. Their expressive eyes bore into you, and as Bob Balaban so eloquently put it during the Q&A following the film, it could have been a silent film and still been just as affecting.

As saturated as they are aesthetically, some may argue that Wes Anderson movies are ultimately style over substance. Isle of Dogs has some pretty obvious themes about mass hysteria and maybe even fake news, but for me the takeaway is simply to love better – dare I say, more like a dog, fully, and with devotion.

Rough Night

Rought Night is a rough watch. It’s aiming for somewhere between Bridesmaids and The Hangover, but winds up just a shade north of unwatchable. The cast is nimble enough (though I have no love to spare for Scarlett Johansson), but the script treats them abominably.

The premise, as you might have deduced from a trailer that’s not doing it any favours: ScarJo is getting married, and her friends treat her to a bachelorette party in Miami. But MV5BMjI4ODU0MTM3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjgzMzA2MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1404,1000_AL_the fun gets spoiled when the stripper gets accidentally murdered, and the hen party suddenly has to hide the dead rooster. The situation is wildly implausible and uncomfortably phony. Some have complained that the script focuses more on comedy than on story, and while I agree that story was largely absent, so were the jokes. I don’t think I laughed once, and I love me some Kate McKinnon.

The thing is, the film tries to do this interesting gender swap, where the ladies are at some wild, drunken weekend of debauchery and the bachelor party is having a sweet and sensitive wine tasting, chaste and polite. And the poor groom is left behind, wondering if his honey is cheating on him, stressing about unreturned phone calls and unrequited love. But in actuality, all it really means is that both the plot and the subplot are disturbingly trite, pathetic, and thoughtless. Basically, it’s twice the suck. Suck squared. And my life just doesn’t need that much disappointment, ya know?

It’s not much of a feminist comedy if only 2 of the 5 main characters matter. It’s not much of a comedy period if the 2 characters who do matter are one-dimensional at best, and there aren’t enough laughs to make these cardboard cutouts any thicker. I didn’t have the time of day for this movie. I mean, it literally stole 101 minutes from me, and left a big empty hole where some belly laughs belonged.

Ghost in the Shell

ghost-in-the-shell-scarlett-johansson.jpgFor a movie whose very title references souls and finding meaning within glossy shells, Ghost in the Shell is unbearably hollow.  The packaging is nice but there is nothing underneath. At all.  It will leave you with a number of questions but none of them will be existential.

The first question is how uncomfortable should you be that in what I’m guessing is future Japan (judging from the robot geishas and the right-hand drive cars), basically everyone is white and speaks English. The answer, as always with Hollywood, is VERY.

The next question is how much are you allowed to take inspiration from classic sci-fi (and also shitty sci-fi) before you’re ripping people off. The answer is NOT THIS MUCH OBVIOUSLY YOU LAZY BASTARDS. Ghost in the Shell drops us into a grimy, dark, rainy future full of 3D billboards. To describe it as drawing from Blade Runner is too generous. There are elements of other fictional futures as well, like the Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic, and even Tron (lightcycles!). While this movie looks great at every turn, the total lack of originality left me cold.

Next question: does it count as good acting when Scarlett Johansson convincingly plays a Ghost_in_the_Shell_Scarlett_Johansson_2_aeac805303d6c795b51ea920f763a012.pngbeautiful but emotionless robot? As always, the answer is DEFINITELY YES AS LONG AS SHE RSVPS from the Hollywood Foreign Press and PROBABLY SINCE WE NOMINATED ENOUGH BLACK PEOPLE LAST YEAR WE HAVE A 5TH SLOT FOR A WHITE IN 2018 from the Academy.

Bonus question: does it count as nudity when a nipple-less female robot fights while basically naked? That’s a tough one but after much thought, the answer is SHOWING NIPPLES MAY AT LEAST HAVE DISTRACTED THE AUDIENCE SO THEY DIDN’T WONDER WHY THE ROBOT THAT CAN TURN INVISIBLE DOESN’T JUST STAY INVISIBLE ALL THE TIME DURING FIGHTS.

Obviously, lots of questions were raised by Ghost in the Shell, but none of them engage in anything interesting. Instead of the mundane, the film could have delved into questions like what are the attributes that make us human, whether memory is vital to identity, or why are we as a society unable to ascribe value to function in the same way we do to beauty.  Elements of those interesting questions are present in Ghost in the Shell but the film seems incapable of dealing with them. That is Ghost in the Shell’s biggest failing and the reason it gets a score of four glitches in the Matrix out of ten.

 

TIFF: Sing

What do Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, and Matthew McConaughey all have in common? They’ve all got pipes. And  boy do they use them in the new animated movie, Sing.

Picture this: a cute and cuddly koala, fuzzy in all the right places, adorably attired in a bowtie and sounding an awful lot like Matthew McConaughey. His name is Buster and his theatre is his passion. It is not, however, much of a sing-animation-movie-wallpaper-02living. The theatre’s bankrupt. He hasn’t had a successful show in – well, maybe ever. The bank’s about to swoop in and take it from him, so in a last ditch effort to save it, he plans a singing competition.

Because his secretary is a bit of a dunce, the $1000 prize is advertised as much more, so people desperate for money as well as those desperate for fame all show up to auditions. From a talented pool he selects a chosen few: Ash, a punk porcupine with a penchant for writing her own tunes (Johansson); Johnny, a gentle gorilla trying to escape his dad’s gang (Taron Egerton); 300773_m1455639411Gunther, a flamboyant dancing pig (Nick Kroll) partnered with Rosita, a shy momma pig with a big voice (Reese Witherspoon); an arrogant crooner of a mouse (Seth McFarlane); and a timid teenaged elephant with stage fright (Tori Kelly).

We saw an “unfinished” version at TIFF, as a sneak peak, but to my eye Garth Jennings’s oeuvre looked pretty near polished. The truth is this film is generic and formulaic. The animation is nothing to write home about. But the songs are catchy as hell, and the talent backs it up. It’s fun. It’s fluff but it’s fun. Your kids will like it. And you may resist, but your toes will be tapping too. It’s that kind of infectious.

Alien Invasions of Earth!

TMP

One of the most iconic Hollywood images of the ’90s was, well…

independence day

I was 15 at the time and loved every minute of Independence Day. It was, if not the first, the most impressive alien invasion of earth that I’d ever seen. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the aliens lose. There are smarter aliens out there (and smarter writers than Dean Devlin) who know that if you attack us from the sky with lasers, it’s just going to piss us off. Hiding in plain sight and attacking us from within? That’s just crazy enough to work and it’s a theme in all three of my picks this week.

invasion of the body snatchers

Invasion of the body Snatchers (1956)– Some of the scariest movie aliens I’ve ever seen are plants from space that take control of a human hosts body. The catch is that, once they’ve got a hold of you, you need to fall asleep for the snatching to take effect. When I first saw this when I was in high school, I couldn’t imagine anything more scary or more relatable than having to fight off sleep to stay alive. This has always been one of my favourite sci-fi movies and, rewatching it this week, I couldn’t believe that I had visited one of the filming locations when I was in LA last month without even knowing it!

the faculty

The Faculty (1998)– The modern-day king of B-movies Robert Rodriguez teams up with Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson in this nearly perfect union between witty and silly. A Breakfast Clubish mix of students from different walks of student life must fight for their lives and their community when they start to realize that their teachers are being controlled by body snatching aliens. Usher is the star quarterback. Jon Stewart is a nerdy science teacher. Salma Hayek is the nurse. This is the perfect movie to treat yourself to after sitting through…

under the skin

Under the Skin (2014)– The alien doesn’t exactly hide in plain sight here. After all, there’s nothing plain about Scarlett Johansson. She cleverly uses her appeal though to lure men into her clutches though, with graphically aroused men continuing to walk towards her even as they are already starting to sink into her black pool of doom. Under the Skin is creepy as hell (check out Jay’s excellent review of the score) and not much fun. Alien invasion here is more a metaphor for… what exactly? I’m only about halfway there in figuring that out.

 

Chef

I liked this movie. I can forgive the saccharine subtext of the father-son roadtrip to reconnection because this movie is visceral and delicious and real. chef-movie

Brace yourself, Sean, because I’m about to pay Jon Favreau a compliment: he’s perfect as this chef. Really perfect. He’s fast-paced in the kitchen, ambling in the market, bumbling with his son.

This movie’s already available to rent or stream. It was passed to me by a friend who thought I’d like it, and I aimed to pass the recommendation along to another friend, only he beat me to it, which hasn’t happened since Snow Piercer (watch it). We watch A LOT of movies. About a metric tonne in the course of a normal week, and we talk about nearly all of them, but recommend very few.

Why did so many of us connect with this movie? The passion, maybe. You really believe in the love of food, the drive in your marrow to just cook food that will taste awesome. And you get a real sense of the struggle between the guy with the money, and the guy with the talent. Of course they clash. And there’s another struggle, between the chef, a man who dedicates his life to his kitchen but doesn’t know too much about life outside it, and the social media-enabled foodie culture that can prop him up or tear him down.

This movie definitely pays tribute to a certain amount of food porn, some of which already feels a bit dated (and I admit, I flinched, flinched, over the lava cake bit, having just served it to guests myself about a month ago). Scarlett Johansson is unnecessary in the movie and I can only imagine that Favreau was just looking for any excuse to kiss her (and who can blame him).

I loved the energy and pacing once we took to road in the food truck (another very on-point moment in food), even if it occasionally felt like a commercial for Twitter. John Leguizamo turns out to be a fun side kick. Robert Downey Junior appears out of nowhere. Or, you know, out of Favreau’s back pocket. But the whole mess just starts to feel fresh and real and relatable, no matter what you do for a living. You can’t help but feel his humiliation and then root for his redemption, and be tempted by his sandwiches.

The villain, a food blogger played by Oliver Platt, is kind of a great counterpoint to our protagonist chef. He becomes our scape goat for all the internet bullies, and there’s a not-so-subtle plea for a return to humanity, or civility, or fucking politesse. Even a big tattooed chef has feelings, and you can’t eat all of them away no matter how good the food.

So yes. The ending’s trite, but the passion’s back in his life, he’s rejuvenated, we’re rejuvenated just watching him spark. It’s great. It’s fun. It’s making me bloody hungry.