Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

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.

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Captain America: Civil War

captain-america-civil-war-teamSpider-Man. Ant-Man. Falcon. Black Panther. These are the top four characters, in order, in Captain America: Civil War. You might think it’s a bad sign that neither Captain America nor Iron Man is on that list, but you’d be wrong!  Although you would be right in thinking I wish this had been a Spider-Man movie with a Captain America/Iron Man cameo, rather than the other way around.

The downside to all of this is we’ve seen it all before. Not only in the sense that it’s roughly the six hundredth comic book movie that came out this year, but also because DC’s eulogy to the millions of fictional civilians killed every year by superheroes came out just six weeks ago.

One big difference between the two movies: Marvel’s is far better. Though like Batman v. Superman, Civil War is too long.  With that said, I’m willing to forgive Marvel since that extra run time was used to shoehorn in Spider-Man. Who, as mentioned at the start, was AWESOME.

Another big difference: Marvel’s movie is way funnier. Civil War would have won by default anyway since there were no laughs at all in BvS, but Civil War is legitimately funny in between the dead family member melodrama.

But as with BvS, don’t expect anything new, don’t expect a good villain, and don’t expect the story to make any goddamned sense. Really, the only differences between the two movies are that (a) we’re glad to see/meet Marvel’s supporting heroes while DC’s just felt like filler; and (b) most of Marvel’s heroes are eager to make us laugh even while fighting, which is a welcome change from DC’s rainy night fights between surly mumbling demigods. Spider-Man is the perfect example of Marvel’s success in both categories, and that’s enough to make this movie worth watching.

Mostly, that’s because Spidey is the best superhero ever and I’m pumped he’s back in the MCU, where he belongs. Though I am suffering from chronic end-credit-scene-fatigue, as a Spider-Man fan I’m glad I stuck around ’til the very end. Hint, hint.

Captain America: Civil War gets a score of eight webslinging vigilantes out of ten.

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.

 

Movies Based on Graphic Novels\Comics (No Superheroes, Sean!)

TMPWe’re always glad when another Thursday rolls around because our dear friend Wanderer over at Wondering Through The Shelves has provided us with yet another opportunity to rip each other’s heads off. Agreeing or disagreeing never seems to matter because we do both so vehemently you can hardly tell the difference! This week we’re talking about movies based on graphic novels or comics – but they CAN’T be about superheroes, which is a caveat that is no doubt making Sean break out into cold sweats. “No superheroes?”, he’s probably thinking, “Then what’s the point?”

Jay

Wrinkles (Arrugas) – This is originally a Spanish movie, an animated one actually, but there’s a dubbed English version featuring the voice work of Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine. It’s based on the comic book Arrugas by Paco Roca. I hadn’t heard of this movie until someone from this very blogging community reviewed it on her site and it sent my little radar to wrinkles_2885994bsniffing. Imagine a comic book about old people, if you will, some of them shuffling around with the whiff of Alzheimer’s infusing their comings and goings in a retirement residence where not everyone is pleased to be confined. It’s at times very sad, but never sentimental. It’s very smartly done and the dedication that comes at the end – to all the old people of today, and of tomorrow – is a subtle elbow to the ribs.

Snowpiercer – This one’s based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige by Jacques snowpiercerLob. I came across mention of this movie in a magazine and got Sean all hopped up about this crazy movie that’s about a perpetually-moving train filled with feuding classes of people. Raw, brutal, stabby: just the kind of movie that gives him a chubby. But then the movie never opened. We searched high and low, and the movie just never came because Evil Lord Weinstein decided that suppressing a movie with vision and ambition would be a nifty way to wield his power and remind people that dumb Americans need his help to watch and interpret movies.

Old Boy – I’m watching the Spike Lee 2013 version starring Josh Brolin because I’d seen the Korean one a million years ago but never this one (I was still recovering) – in any case, they’re both obviously based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Nobuaki Minegishi and oldboyGaron Tsuchiya. So this guy gets kidnapped and imprisoned for twenty years in some hotel room. He has no idea why, or who, but one day he’s suddenly released and given 82 hours to figure out who’s been behind the whole thing. It’s a bloody movie. Like, if you think Drive is a little much, well, it’s actually a sunny stroll in the park compared to this. It’s fucking twisted. The American remake is a little soulless, comparatively, but it gets the job done and will make you want to seek out the source material, in which case, well – good luck with that.

Sean

Blade – sometimes vampires are also supervilllains, or very rarely, superheroes.  But in the interest of including this movie in my picks this week, let’s just agree that Blade is pretty much a regular guy with no superpowers except being the near-invincible Daywalker hybrid.  Kind of like how Superman is just a regular guy on Krypton so when you get right down to it, he has no special powers, he’s just not human.  Which obviously doesn’t help out my argument at all.  Anyway, Blade is a very good movie that more or less inspired Marvel to make lots and lots of superhero movies.  Which again does not help out my argument but it’s still a great movie.

Men in Black – sometimes regular people get put in situations that call for a superhero.  And either they get eaten by a giant bug or they get creative.  Or both.  Men in Black is a ton of fun and so tongue-in-cheek it hurts (in a good way).  This is your chance to see Will Smith, in his prime, in his best role (with sincere apologies to Mike Lowry), and the pairing of Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones is as good as it gets.  The two of them make it up as they go along and somehow make it work, saving the world along the way.  The best part is K’s attitude about it all: the world is always in danger, so keep doing your job but make sure to keep it down so we can go about our business.  Thanks, Men in Black, for keeping Earth safe.

Ghost World – sometimes I enjoy movies that don’t have a hint of superhero and have no explosions or car chases.  It’s rare but it happens, and Ghost World is one such movie.  It’s a strange movie, no doubt about it, but it’s strange in the right ways.  It reminds me a little of Mad Max: Fury Road in that regard. Both take us to worlds that are different than ours that have their own logic, and that we come to understand as we meander through them with our leads.  Both draw us in right from the start, make us want to keep watching and see this through to the end, and while the endings serve up good payoffs, in both movies the journey is its own reward.

Jay: Sean, wow. Just fucking wow. Mad Max? Really? You’re either really brilliant, or…you know, you’re really brilliant. Well done sir.

Matt

I love comics. It may have started with Batman for me but, as much as I love badass costumes and bone-crunching violence, I’;m always so proud of them when they aim higher. This week we pay tribute to graphic novel adaptations that helped show the world what the medium can really accomplish without relying on comic book logic.

Regardless of its subject, the key to any good comic book is to create a world of its own that is both distinctive and relatable. I thought of this in the shower this mroning and was surprised to Ghost Worldread that Sean had a similar thought about Ghost World (2001), a movie that I’ve been dying to mention for months now. There’s nothing remotely supernatural about Ghost World but it seems to exist in its own universe. Strange, given how many characters I can recognize from my own life. Both a little surreal and painfully real, this movie is filled with uncomfortable moments that my friend and I used to cringe over and then immediately rewind and watch again.

Comics can address politics in the real world too. In Persepolis (2007) , a young girl grows up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran anPersepolisd, like Enid in Ghost World, finds solace in punk music as everything around her seems to be changing. Apart from the black and white animation and the fact that I was completely blown away by it, that’s about all I cacn remember. I so wanted to rewatch it this week but wasn’t able to track it down in time for Thursday.

blue is the warmest colorBlue is the Warmest Color (2013), on the other hand, is fresh in my mind and will likely remain so for some time. I finally got around to watching it last night and was delighted- and surprised- to learn that it was based on a graphic novel so that I would have an excuse to check it out. I can’t picture this story as a comic at all and honestly have no idea what the source material could have looked like. I will probably have to check it out. All I know is that the story is simple, even if the feelings aren’t. What I found most impressive about this film was that, even though it is prepared to address homophoibia and how scary it can be to come out, this is really a story about how exciting it is to find love and how painful it is to watch it fade away and eventually burn out. The fact that they’re gay is almost incidental.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is great! Not Oscar-great but blockbuster-great. No need to think or feel creeped out about A.I. like in Ex Machina, just enjoy the ride with moody Ultron as he carries out his plan to kill all humans. But fear not!  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are on the case.

One of the things Age of Ultron does best is give us lots of new characters. That fits well with the revolving door that is the Avengers comic book roster. So we are introduced/reintroduced to many characters we know are, or will become, Avengers, like War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and in unfortunate licencing loophole, Quicksilver. Jay found that super confusing having already seen a different Quicksilver, without an accent, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and I agree. It shouldn’t have happened and it takes away from the movie. Still better to have him here, I think, because Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are great together (this movie captured their relationship well) but it’s time for a deal with Fox. At least Marvel got Spider-Man back from Sony, but let’s get the rest of these movies working together too.

Seeing Vision pop up was an unexpected surprise for me. I liked that he made an appearance and thought he was used well, both as a source of conflict between the Avengers and then as a contrast to Ultron, though they share the same view on humanity’s likely future (i.e., not promising). Really, all the new characters were handled well and I feel like we are well on our way to the Infinity Gauntlet saga.

The disappointing thing is there are now four or five other Marvel movies on the way between now and Avengers 3. I’m excited for Captain America 3, especially with Spidey on board, but beyond that, it’s way too much. Especially when I use Vision’s introduction as a comparison; Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Dr. Strange could all be brought in as part of an Avengers movie, and I wish that’s what was being done. But since there’s money on the table we get separate movies for each. Let’s be honest, I will probably see all those, so you can expect to hear this same complaint every few months between now and the next Avengers movie.

I can’t hold that against this movie though. Avengers: Age of Ultron itself does things exactly right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wouldn’t have changed a thing so it gets ten Infinity Gems out of ten.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-HD-Wallpaper1Maybe my expectations were too high.  Which is a bit weird to say because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a comic book movie, so basically I should have known what I was going to get.  And as a comic book movie, it does its job.  It gives us lots of really fast and strong heroes who jump out of planes and off buildings, endless bad guys with unlimited bullets who shoot at those heroes for half the movie, and a head bad guy with a mask and metal arm who may not even be the mastermind behind all this mayhem.  What it does not give us, and why I was ultimately let down, is any real change to the formula that we have seen from Marvel in its ten (ten!) movies and counting.  It’s all the same and it’s getting a little tired.

The problem is, I’m a comic book guy and an action movie guy.  I should have enjoyed this movie a lot more than I did.  I’m still excited to see Avengers 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  But now I’m a lot less excited.  I wonder, am I just going to get a rehash of what I’ve seen before like I did in Captain America 2, a story that really begins at the same place it started without advancing the greater plot I thought was underlying these movies in the Marvel Universe?  Before watching this movie I had felt that maybe I should go back and watch the Captain America movies as well as the two Thor movies, but now I feel confident I don’t need to and certainly don’t have any desire to since this movie was so forgettable and so self-contained.

shield punch

Is this just a middling installment in the Marvel movie juggernaut?  Or is it a sign that we’ve used up all the good ideas for now and it’s time to wait for the inevitable reboots of all these characters, since their origins are the only stories from which Hollywood can consistently make decent movies?  I guess we’ll have a better idea in just a few months because Avengers: Age of Ultron opens May 1 and Ant-Man follows shortly after.  My gut says making a movie about Ant-Man is overkill at this point, and then I look and see that there are 16 more Marvel-related movies (including Fox and Sony ones) scheduled to come out between now and 2019.  That’s way too many.  One a year might be too many.  The worst part is, I know there are better movies to be made that have been passed over in favour of these big-budget, low-risk, no-art movies.  I would like to have seen those and 18 more Marvel movies, plus whatever DC is doing, is a poor trade and a loss for all of us.

Big picture aside, I’m still not satisfied with what I was given here.  This movie is a tolerable distraction but leaves you with nothing memorable.  It gets five indestructible shields out of ten.

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.