Welcome to near future Detroit, just a few days before a new mind-control signal will be broadcast across the U.S.A. to end crime. In the lead-up to turning on the mind-control switch, anyone trying to cross the border to Canada is shot on sight by the fine, upstanding members of the U.S. Border Patrol. Also, all police officers are being laid off, which puts an awful lot of faith in this new system to be in good working order as it comes online. Oh, and for some reason you have to trade in your old money for new money as part of this switchover.
Anyway, a few idiots decide to stage the last great heist in American history (hence the title) by hacking the mind-control system, stealing a billion dollars’ worth of the old money, driving to Canada, and living free for the rest of their lives. That is literally their plan, word for word.
Why do they want to steal money that the U.S. government has marked for destruction? Well, that’s why I called them idiots in the previous paragraph. Their plan doesn’t make sense. And that’s just the heist. Don’t even try to reconcile the implementation of the mind-control system with little things like the U.S. Constitution or self-defence, or make sense of why people are lining up to kill themselves before this system comes into effect, or figure out why there are numerous large protests IN FAVOUR OF the mind-control system.
This movie is absolutely intolerable for many reasons but is absolutely unforgivable right now since police officers and FBI agents abuse incapacitated subjects ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS. All the stupidity in the script pales in comparison to Netflix’s decision to release this in the same week as George Floyd was laid to rest.
As a young fairy, Maleficent is like any other girl, wings and horns notwithstanding. She likes adventure and good stories, and a little mischievious boy named Stefan with whom she shares a first kiss. But as they grow older, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) must protect her land from an evil king and Stefan (Sharto Copley) has taken off in pursuit of ambition and power. On his deathbed, the king calls on his trusted inner circle, including Stefan, to kill Maleficent to earn his crown. Stefan seeks her out to warn her,ostensibly, but it plays out a lot more like betrayal. Woe her broken heart.
King Stefan is crowned and soon there is a child: a girl. Maleficent is furious, and her fury is a glorious sight: green light, crumbling walls, the world bends to rage and damn I wish my anger could manifest itself like that. Meanwhile, the kingdom is celebrating the birth of little Aurora but Maleficent crashes the party, putting a curse on the little sleeping babe. Unfortunately, she learns too late that this child, this sleeping beauty if you will, is perhaps the one person who could have united the land that Maleficent holds so dear.
Disney has learned to pay heed to their villains lately, as well they should. They are often more interesting than the so-called heroes, and in Aurora’s case, this is 137000% true. Sleeping Beauty is as passive a princess as they come since she’s doomed to spend her own movie either in hiding, or deep in sleep. Maleficient, on the other hand, is dripping with vengeance, steeped in power. It’s magnificent.
The Disney World parks, however, still default to the princesses. On our upcoming visit to Disney World, we’ll visit Aurora at Queen Elsa’s castle. Last time we met her in Cinderella’s. Lucky for us, we caught her between naps.
Halloween, however, is the one time of the year Disney embraces its dark side. Only around Halloween can villains be spotted at meet and greets in the park. They even get their own merch and treats – check out this Maleficient look-alike ice cream cone, available at StoryBook Treats. Her dragon breathes fire at parade goers. Halloween seems like an exceptional time to visit Disney World for some value-added extra fun and fright, but alas, Disney rips down its Halloween decorations on the night of November 1st and by the 2nd, the park is transformed for Christmas, which means we’ll get an awfully early start on the holiday.
Anyway, the Maleficent film tells the villain’s unknown side of the story, and it shows that she is perhaps not as evil as we’ve been led to believe. Disney is an unreliable narrator, y’all.
Keep your eyes peeled: two of Jolie’s children, Pax and Zahara Jolie-Pitt, have cameos in the film. Daughter Vivienne played the baby Aurora, and was the only child on set who was frightened of her while in costume. Her Maleficent cackle was developed at home, with her children as barometers, voting on which was just right. Jolie confesses she kept a pair of horns for herself, though presumably not the ones so heavy she’d get neck pains even after very short scenes. She had a hand in developing Maleficent’s look – Disney wanted to capitalize on her beauty of course, but Jolie insisted on Maleficent’s more devious look, drawing inspiration from Lady Gaga. Even so, it was Lana Del Rey she hand-picked to sing Once Upon a Dream for the end credits. The movie has the biggest budget for a first-time director, but Robert Stromberg had an excellent pedigree, with two Oscars under his belt for production design on Alice in Wonderland, and Avatar, which understandable earned him substantial credit with the Disney team.
Angelina is wonderful in the film and this first one performed so well that a sequel is expected in theatres October 18th.
Richard and Elaine are co-presidents of a pharmaceutical company that’s doing shady dealings. Harold is the guy they figure won’t ask any questions, so they routinely send him down to Mexico to unknowingly do their dirty work. But Mexico’s a dangerous place to navigate and when the worst happens and Harold places a panicked call from his kidnapper’s lair to his bosses, Richard and Elaine are forced to admit that they’ve let the kidnapping insurance lapse.
Uh oh. “Luckily” Richard (Joel Edgerton) “knows a guy”, so they’re not going to pay the kidnappers so much as send in an “extractor” named Mitch (Sharlto Copley) who claims he’s out of the business, straight as an arrow. Right. But while Harold (David Oyelowo) is awaiting ransom or extraction or escape in Mexico, he gets into even more trouble in the form of drug cartels (notice the plural).
Between buzzing bullets and dark comedy, Gringo goes off-roading in Mexico in the worst way possible. It’s kind of a mess, and an egregious misuse of a serious talented cast, and director Nash Edgerton should know better – he’s Joel’s brother. And I’m not sure this depiction of Mexico wasn’t slightly racist, and politically incorrect. But it is fun to watch Theron and Edgerton play such contemptible baddies, and this is the most fun I’ve seen Oyelowo have on screen. The man has serious range, but to be honest, I think the cost of the rental was justified the moment I saw him rapping along to Will Smith. And while I’m naming the very few things that weren’t wrong with the movie, shout out to makeup artist Francesa Tolot for Charlize’s flawless red pout. Francesca, if you’re reading this, I NEED to know what product you used.
As for the rest of you, I can’t really recommend this hot mess, but as far as dumpster fires go, this one was kind of worth standing around to watch.
I’m really struggling to write this review. I’m even struggling to tell you why I’m struggling with the writing. The thing is, I quite liked the movie, liked it a lot for a movie that is perhaps not meant to be ‘liked.’
It’s about a family that comes together awkwardly when things go bad. Matriarch Sally (Margo Martingale) falls ill – a tumor in her brain requires surgery. Her husband Don (Richard Jenkins) thought symptoms including numb extremities and partial blindness were due to her weight, and sent her to Jenny Craig. Their son Ron (Sharlto Copley) has just been fired from the family business where his dad was his boss, and is living in his parents’ basement. John (John Krasinski) leaves his job and pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) to be by his mother’s side but it’s immediately obvious why this family doesn’t come together more often. The dynamic is a little…sticky. And perhaps in the days before a serious surgery, The Hollars could use a little less hollering and a lot more making amends.
You’ll already have noticed that this movie has a super stellar cast, and everyone’s acting like their jobs depend on it (haha – movie joke). But this could easily have just felt a little light-handed and a little familiar, but between writer Jim Strouse and director Krasinski, they manage to keep it light but not superficial.
What I adored about the film is its characters – every single one flawed. And yet even Don is sympathetic, perhaps not caring for his wife as he should but absolutely terrified of life without her. These people feel real. I feel like I’ve sat in waiting rooms with them. Crises do not bring out the best in them. They still do the wrong thing and say the wrong thing and they don’t have picture-perfect moments around the old hospital bed. Real life doesn’t work like that, and neither does this movie.
So that’s what I liked about The Hollars: the connection. Somehow it opened a creaky door to my dusty heart and beamed a bittersweet chunk of real life straight in. Dysfunction doesn’t magically iron itself out just because someone has a brush with death, but in hospitals round the globe you’ll see families trying their best to muddle through, putting on brave faces, eating vending machine junk food instead of dinner, navigating the complicated familial fault lines of in-laws and exes, making good decisions and bad decisions, wiping away secret tears, hassling doctors, re-reading the same page of a magazine twice, three times. It’s what we do. It’s not particularly dignified or graceful or entertaining, and it’s not usually the stuff movies are made of. But once in a while they sneak one through, and it’s how we know we are not alone, that other people look just as bad in bathrobes, that other families have embarrassing conflicts, that other sons have survived seeing their mothers vulnerable and scared, and lived to tell the tale.
Free Fire is basically a movie about an HR issue. Justine and Ord are two “point guys” in an arms deal. She’s bringing Chris (Cillian Murphy), an IRA guy who needs some M-16s to the table, along with his rag-tag crew, and he’s bringing Vernon (Sharlto Copley), the money-obsessed guy with a van full of guns (although, notably, NOT M-16s) and his own motley crew. From the minute these two rival gangs meet, the two sides are twitchy. All they have to do is exchange the briefcase full of cash for the crates full of guns, and the deal is done. But they just rub each other the wrong way. Everyone’s got an unchecked ego, everyone wants to be the boss, and nobody’s going to make this easy. If arms dealers had HR ladies stashed away in some ficus-strewn office, all of this could have been resolved with a stress ball and some trust exercises. But arms dealers tend to offer very few benefits as employers, so instead it goes to hell.
It goes gloriously to hell. It turns out that the driver of the first gang had an issue with the driver of the other gang the night before, and seeing each other turns a bad situation worse. Suddenly everyone’s whipping out their little pistols and bullets are flying. How many bullets? About 7000 rounds, said director Ben Wheatley. That’s a LOT of bullets. So the whole of the movie takes place in this abandoned warehouse where this arms deal has been all but forgotten, everyone shooting at each other, everyone forgetting which side they’re supposed to be on, the sides in fact disintegrating as it quickly becomes every man for himself.
I knew going in that Free Fire is a 70s shoot-em-up genre film, but I had failed to fathom how funny it is. Sharlto Copley is an absolute scene-stealer, his over-the-top character really embodies the pure fun and wackiness of this film. It’s madcap madness and I totally loved every minute of it. I didn’t know I could have so much fun at a Ben Wheatley film. A terrific script by Wheatley and Amy Jump is quotable, the cheeky dialogue rolling off the tongues of a delightful ensemble cast. The frenetic, non-stop energy sometimes makes it difficult to keep track of who is shooting who, and where, but once you realize that even the principal players are confused, it really takes the pressure off. The anarchy is entertaining and you can tell it was as gleefully acted and directed as it is consumed. No true hero ever distinguishes him or herself , which doesn’t mean you won’t find your own favourite to root for, only that’ it’s an even playing field where anything is possible.
Free Fire was meticulously choreographed by Wheatley but still required logistic heroics of cinematographer Laurie Rose and precision editing by Wheatley and Jump. The movie charmed me with its audacious humour but it also pulls off an hour-long assault that sounds one-note on paper but honestly, I could have had more. I love the recklessness, the wickedness, the irreverence; I was greedy for it the whole way through and Ben Wheatley served it up as only he could.
Check out the comments section for a Q&A with Wheatley and some of the cast!