Tag Archives: Sigourney Weaver

The Tale of Despereaux

In which Sigourney Weaver proclaims herself anti-ratist, and is wrong about rat facts. You might think a mouse named Despereaux is the hero of this film but Sigourney the narrator first introduces us to Roscuro the rat (Dustin Hoffman) who is quite pleased walk fresh off the boat into a village that’s in the middle of worshiping soup, as they do annually. The royal soup smells amazing and Roscuro cannot wait to partake, but his eagerness unfortunately plops him right into the royal cauldron, and when the queen finds them there, she dies on the spot. The king, in his grief, outlaws soup. And rats. The kingdom goes gray. You might not have guessed that soup could have such a vital influence on a town’s happiness and success but there you have it. Roscuro flees into the sewers.

Which is where he eventually meets Despereaux (Matthew Broderick), a mouse unlike any other. Despereaux is bold and curious but he can’t or won’t follow the strict rules of Mouseworld where learned fear is the most important thing.

Fun Fact: Sean and I are pretty into soup. Which is admittedly a weird thing to be into. We love to cook together – I am an excellent cook and Sean is a decent helper (as long as he does grunt work like cleanup and grating cheese – he’ll chop veggies too but it takes him at least 20 minutes to fell a bell pepper). I’m on the front lines, being impressive, he’s in the background, looking for a stubborn cap to unscrew. One of our favourite things to make together is roasted red pepper soup, a recipe we’ve come to think of as our signature dish. We made it in our first apartment, accidentally splashing the walls red and murdery when the blender’s top wasn’t properly secured. We repeated the process out at the cottage one winter’s eve (minus the murder scene), with a fire roaring and big fat flakes of snow coming down outside. We loved making it so much that when we got married we insisted the chef replicate it for our wedding menu.

Fun Fact #2: Sean is also not anti-rat. He grew up with not one but two rats as pets. Pets! They let them in their house ON PURPOSE. And named them BamBam and Rocky.

So it would seem that Sean is the prime target for a movie about soup-loving rats. If not him, who? The Tale of Despereaux is like the dark side of Ratatouille (which, incidentally, is one of Sean’s favourite Pixars): what if it turns out people DON’T like rats in the kitchen? Crazy, I know, but hear me out. It’s mixed with shades of Dumbo and a touch of the Gladiator with maybe a wee bit of cursed princess, a smattering of Downton Abbey, and a sprinkle of The Three Musketeers for good measure. Which ultimately means that while the voice cast is excellent and the the film looks great, the story is familiar no matter which way you look.

Advertisements

WALL-E

I never appreciated just how dark the opening to Wall-E is. The landscape is littered not just with trash, but with the busted skeletons of old Wall-E models that have met their doom while relentlessly cubing trash. In fact, Wall-E sizes up one robot corpse and swaps his worn out tracks for the newer ones on the dead body of his comrade – very reminiscent of war movies where soldiers are always on the lookout for newer boots, and the soul-crushing way they’ll pry them off a bloated corpse if necessary.

Wall-E, by the way, is the last functioning trash-compacting robot (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class) on Earth. All the humans fled 700 years ago when the Earth was overwhelmed with garbage. The whole living in space thing was thought to be temporary (5 years), but no amount of Wall-Es could get the job done, and eventually all but our Wall-E became trash themselves. Wall-E is a bit of a hoarder; he collects MV5BMjZkODJmYzktMDYzNi00NWQ3LTllZTMtMWVhOTgxY2U4ODA3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzA4NzQyMjk@._V1_human treasures much the way Ariel does in The Little Mermaid. He’s got a Rubik’s cube and an Atari and he loves to watch Hello, Dolly!, which keeps his romantic streak alive despite living a pretty solitary life. But then one day a lovely robot named Eve (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) gets sent to Earth to search for signs of life. Having found a seedling, she jets back to the Axiom where humans have been living for more than 250 000 days, despite some “slight” bone loss. Enamoured, Wall-E follows her there, where her positive probe engages a return-to-Earth protocol. Unfortunately, the ship’s autopilot computer has other ideas.

The first 20 minutes or so of Wall-E are dialogue-free. This put many people off the film, but I didn’t even notice, so enraptured was I by stunning visuals. Cinematographer Roger Deakins was consulted to see how he might light and shoot the scenes, and he was happy to oblige. Those opening scenes therefore look like some of his atmospheric, sepia-hued stuff, and it’s no accident.

Wall-E has a magic that cannot quite be explained. It’s a sci-fi epic that manages to give us a glimpse into the future through the telescope of a current issue, while maintaining a nostalgic reverence. It’s Back To The Future, but with robots, and gelatinous blobs that used to be human (which begs the question: when a blobby human falls out of their chair, and literally cannot right himself without robot assistance, how in the heck are they still fucking?). Minor qualms aside, Wall-E is exhilarating and beautiful. You may know that I’m reviewing Disney movies this week because I’m at Disney World with my two sweetheart nephews, who are sure to make the experience a memorable one. It puts a literal pinch in my heart to say this, but they’re both born after Wall-E came out. Gulp. So they may not be searching for signs of Wall-E in the Magic Kingdom, but I will be – or I would be, if Wall-E had any presence at all. Sadly, he does not. Which is weird, because Wall-E was a huge movie in 2008, and it went on to score 6 Oscar nominations, a feat that had only been equaled by Beauty and the Beast, and you can be sure that both Belle and the Beast are featured heavily in these parks. In fact we’ll be dining on “the grey stuff” in the Beast’s castle, whether or not the boys get the reference because their mother and I grew up on 90s Disney, and the last time I checked, it was our Visas doing the heavy lifting.

Speaking of which, I have in fact visited Disney World once before, when the older of my two nephews was but a babe of 18 months. I had heard about this magical place all my life, and it didn’t matter that my first visit was as an adult, I went at that bitch with childhood wonder, delighting in Mickey-shaped ice cream bars, waving at the mascots on parade. I was obsessed with finding the perfect set of Mickey ears, but only knew about them from my elementary school classmates who brought them back without fail, embroidered with their names, from their own Disney vacations. I didn’t realize that today there are hundreds of dozens of possibilities: ears for every occasion, for every character, for every film, for every ride in every park. It was so overwhelming I spent my whole vacation embarrassingly ear-less. This time I’m anticipating being crippled with indecision and I’ve done two brilliant things:

  1. I’ve warned Sean to bring ALL the money.
  2. I’ve given myself permission to buy new ears each day.
5af93749710b3500011e1222-image_92bb94f3
I’ve already pre-scouted these Wall-E ears that will be very hard to resist. But I think we can all agree that they only work if I can convince Sean to wear the other pair. And though the man is smart enough to never say no to me, he also doesn’t have a whimsical bone in his body and i’m just not sure I can do it to him. But probably I can! After all, this is the place where dreams really do come true.
5af93757710b3500011e1299-image_4e7a95d5.jpeg

Avatar

So my sisters and I are brilliant. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that before, but let me illustrate for you a little slice of our genius. Picture it, Christmas 2009: my sisters and I are assembled at my mom’s house, with our various boyfriends. We got rid of them by sending them off to see Avatar together, which meant that we had time together to bitch about them, but more importantly, it meant we wouldn’t have to see it ourselves. See? Genius!

And that is the story of how I got out of watching a super nerdy movie about blue people called Avatar. I guess it was a pretty big deal that year or something, but it’s amazing how much I didn’t care.

Anyway: cut to February 2019. Whoa, we just fast-forwarded through a whole decade, during which the four sisters from above actually went on to marry all four of those dweeby boyfriends from above. One such couple has had two adorable sons and Sean and I are lucky enough to be joining them for a family holiday in Disney World. Disney World, y’all, where you can now explore the world of Pandora, which turns out to be the world in Avatar. You get to ride a banshee, whatever that means, and take a journey up the river Na’vi, if that means anything to you. There are floating islands and a really big tree and I have no idea what any of that means. Do I need to watch this damn movie in order to properly enjoy my vacation? I asked the Internet for their opinion, and Jeffy responded with a “Nah, you’re fine” which I immediately decided to follow because it’s what I wanted to hear. But then Chris, the little bitch, chimed in with a valid point: I’d also managed to avoid Burlesque for a long time, but succumbed in the name of vacation. Point Chris. So I folded.

And at first I’m like: wow this script is astonishingly heavy-handed. And then I was like: oh, of course it is, it’s plagiarized. THAT’s why Pandora is in Disney World. It’s a 100% direct rip-off of Disney’s Pocahontas, which I’ve also recently reviewed in the name of mv5bmtyxmdg1nzk1mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmdk0mtuzna@@._v1_sx1500_cr0,0,1500,999_al_this vacation. Sam Worthington’s John Sully is John Smith. Same initials even. He’s part of the white people invasion party. They’re going to plunder the land looking for resources, natives be damned. Sound familiar? And then Sam Worthington/John Smith actually gets to know the natives, who are very wise despite having more primitive weapons. He falls in love with the Chief’s daughter, Pocahontas/Zoe Saldana and basically joins the natives, fighting against his own side. There’s even an ancestor tree and an egomaniac in charge. James Cameron admits that he got the idea for this film while watching Pocahontas but I think what he means is, this movie IS Pocahontas, only with tails.

Did I like this movie? No I did not. But am I psyched to ride a banshee? Well, psyched might be overselling it a bit. But I’ve got a FastPass, and if you’re reading this, I might be doing exactly that right now. Maybe check out Twitter and see.

Alien: Covenant

MV5BMTUxMjU4NTM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzczMDY5MTI@._V1_CR0,60,640,360_AL_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_

You always know better than the idiots in horror movies. Don’t go to an uncharted planet streaming John Denver songs to the universe. Hell, don’t go into space period! When you get to the planet, don’t trust its lone inhabitant who lives in a graveyard and conducts science experiments in a drippy cave. Especially when the results of those science experiments look suspiciously like the creepy little things that just blew up your only ride off the planet. But if not for those dumb decisions, there wouldn’t be much of a movie here, and certainly not one about Aliens with a capital A.

As the SXSW Sneak Peek hinted, the idiots in Alien: Covenant are more tolerable than most, because every bad decision leads us to a place we want to go. Ridley Scott’s playful approach here elevates Alien: Covenant above every entry in this franchise since Aliens. The bad decisions aren’t infuriating, they’re chess moves, most of which lead to another piece getting ripped apart into gooey chunks by space monsters.

Everything in this movie services the Aliens, including the speedy pace at which they burst out of people (taking only as long as needed to cause maximum carnage). Alien: Covenant felt like a Star Wars prequel in that respect, as the technology (in this case, the creatures produced by those previously mentioned science experiments) behind the Aliens seems better in the “past” than in the “future”. I suppose that’s inevitable when prequels are made 30 years later, and I was a lot more forgiving of it here that I was with Star Wars. I think that’s because in Alien: Covenant, the changes from the original rules make the movie more entertaining, while the changes in Star Wars made the movies into a CGI tutorial mixed with a boring political drama.

Above all else, Alien: Covenant is fun, and that’s because Ridley Scott and his cast (led by stellar performances by Michael Fassbender (x2) and Katherine Waterston channeling Ripley and kicking Alien ass just like Sigourney Weaver did) deliver everything this franchise’s fans could possibly have asked for. No unnecessary exposition, no extraneous plot points, just Aliens mowing down idiot after idiot.

For that, Alien: Covenant gets a score of eight chest-bursting xenomorphs out of ten.

Ode To Ripley

Ridley Scott intended to kill off beloved butt-kicking hero Ellen Ripley in the very first of the Alien franchise. His script saw her harpooning the alien in her escape pod but it making no bloody difference, so the thing tears through her mask and rips her face off. Then the alien takes over the controls and sets his course – well, you can imagine the rest. The studio wouldn’t hear of it. “The first executive from Fox arrived on set within 14 hours, threatening to fire me on the spot,” Scott has said. “So we didn’t do that [ending].”

tumblr_nbwng6xMfu1rp0vkjo1_500.gifAnd this might be the first ever case of me agreeing with studio interference, purely because the world needs more Ripleys. We admire her because she was tough and she was smart. I admire her, and Scott, because Ripley cried at work and it didn’t weaken her, didn’t sap her power.

As recently as last year, the New York Post ran an article literally entitled ‘Cry At Work If You Never Want To Succeed.’ It contains helpful nuggets such as “Sure, ladies, it’s OK to cry at work. If you want every male (and female) boss to think you’re a useless little Nancy who can’t and shouldn’t be trusted with a challenging assignment again.” And evidence that writer Kyle Smith has confused women with toddlers: “Crying is an absolutely spiffing way to get what you want — in the short term. But once you’ve hosted a one-person snivel party, people tend to remember it.” Crying at work is not the same as throwing a temper tantrum. Sometimes tears are a natural (and unavoidable) reaction to anger or frustration. Some men (and frankly, some women) might take those same feelings to a bathroom stall where they’ve made an indent in the plaster punching the wall. Others might take those feelings out an on unsuspecting trash can which gets kicked and spilled all over the office floor. Doors and drawers and phones slam. Assistants get verbally abused. Half a dozen donuts get guilty devoured. Most of those are much worse than crying, but only crying gets a bad rep. “Women will be set back 100 years if they start believing it’s OK to cry on the job” Smith tells us. “But hey, OK, fine, if you just want to remain on the Girl Track for the rest of your life, by all means interrupt the weekly departmental meeting to fill your empty venti cup with your hot, salty tears.” Um, Girl Track? Fuck you, buddy.

When Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg wrote her best-seller Lean In, she wrote that it was okay to cry at work. Crying just happens, it’s part of our biology, part of our survival tumblr_nx8ebcJVP91uk3oooo1_500.gifmechanisms. For many women, and many men, it’s just part of being human, part of having emotions, and most of us do not shut those emotions off at the start of our shift.  41% of women and 9% of men said they’d cried at work during the previous year and that it had made no difference in terms of their success (note: women have six times more prolactin – a hormone related to crying – than men).

All that to say: Ellen Ripley was a force to be reckoned with. She cried at work, not to manipulate her coworkers, not because she was helpless and sad, but because she was in a tough situation and it just damn well called for it. All her male colleagues perished while she survived. She kicked alien ass so hard they brought her back for a sequel.

TIFF: The Rest

carrie-pilby

Carrie Pilby

Awkward, isolated and disapproving of most of the people around her, a precocious 19 year-old genius is challenged to put her convictions to the test by venturing out on to the NYC dating scene, in this adaptation of Caren Lissner’s best-selling 2003  novel.

-tiff.net

I was especially excited about the world premiere of director Susan Johnson’s debut feature because I knew I would get to share the experience with my parents. I also liked the sound of Carrie as described by the TIFF website. I’ve always enjoyed unlikeable characters who become easier to empathize with once we get to know them.

As it turns out, Carrie Pilby isn’t nearly as misanthropic or as unsympathetic as the website would have you believe. In fact, when played by Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Bel Powley, she’s actually quite charming. She may be a little too sarcastic for her own good but she’s never mean and her posture suggests such obvious vulnerability that you may just want to give her a hug.

You may find Carrie’s exasperation with those around her easy to relate to considering the unforgivably forgettable supporting cast. Nathan Lane and Gabriel Byrne phone in their performances as her therapist and father and potential love interest Jason Ritter finds a way to make sleazy seem boring. Only Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer, who I was pleasantly surprised to see at the premiere, holds her own against Powley as Carrie’s co-worker and new friend.

In the end, the script is nowhere near as smart as Carrie is. Though it offers a number of big laughs and some seriously sweet moments, the dialogue is way too obvious most of the time. I found I was able to anticipate line after line almost as if I was dreaming the film into existence myself.

 

headshot

Headshot

The indomitable Iko Uwais (The Raid) stars in this fast and furious actioner as an amnesiac whose mysterious past as a killing machine comes to the fore when he takes on the henchmen of a vengeful drug lord.

-tiff.net

I ended my first night at TIFF 2016 the best way I know how- with my annual Midnight Madness screening. You never know what you’re in for with the Midnight Madness program but this year I felt like I was in good hands. Back in 2011, I caught a midnight screening of The Raid at the festival and I was so exhilarated by the experienced that I’ve made sure to catch at least one midnight film each year. No matter how many bad movies I have to sit through.

The Raid isn’t just a bloody good time. It’s actually an impressive film. There isn’t a wasted moment in the whole movie and every shot serves to build suspense. This combined with outstanding fight choreography and a less-is-more approach to dialogue make The Raid one of the best action films so far this century.

The Raid works in large part because of director Gareth Evans who I really wish was directing Headshot. The latest vehicle for Indonesian martial arts superstar Iko Uwais is nowhere near as tense or as tightly edited. Not that directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto do badly. They do an admirable job of capturing every chase and fight so that we always know who’s kicking who. But there’s something missing. Maybe it’s that The Raid managed to avoid the kind of silliness that Headshot has so much of (amnesia, for example, not to mention a sometimes corny love story).

That being said, Uwais’ hands, feet, elbows, and whatever else he can find always connect like they’re supposed to and Headshot manages to outgore The Raid. Friday’s Midnight Madness crowd seemed to have a good time and if you don’t mind a few heads being split open I’m sure you will too.

 

a-monster-calls

A Monster Calls

Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones star in this adaptation of the award-winning children’s book by Patrick Ness, about a lonely young boy struggling with the imminent death of his terminally ill mother who is befriended by a friendly, shambling monster that arrives in his room nightly to tell him stories.

-tiff.net

I read on Wikipedia that Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall holds over 2,300 people. I am quite sure that on Saturday afternoon I heard 2,000 cry. I could hardly stop myself from crying through the final moments of the latest film from director J. A. Bayona (The Impossible) and didn’t do much better through the closing credits or walking down King Street after.

I was surprised by my emotional reaction given that I was finding most of the film disappointingly uninspired. As much as I loved the design of the monster and the outstanding voice work of the great Liam Neeson, I expected more wisdom from his stories (which are brought to life in lovely animation).

Only in the end do the monster’s lessons really become clear. As frustrated as the young boy is by the seemingly pointless stories at first, it becomes clear that he is being taught lessons unusually mature for a children’s story. I can think of several family films where a child has to learn to cope with the loss of a parent but I can hardly think of any that are less condescending and more painfully honest.

 

hello-destroyer

Hello Destroyer

Jared Abrahamson (Fear the Walking Dead) plays a painfully shy but ruggedly capable enforcer on a minor-league hockey team who discovers the cutthroat nature of his locker-room “family” in the forceful first feature from Canadian director Kevan Funk.

-tiff.net

Tyson Burr (Abrahamson) may not be the star player of the Prince George Warriors but he’s an enforcer – the guy you can count on when the game gets rough. In one particularly rough game, Tyson puts someone in the hospital and soon sees how quickly his team, his coach, and the community at large can distance themselves in hopes of avoiding responsibility for the culture of violence that they helped to create.

When introducing the film on Saturday, Funk was quick to insist that Hello Destroyer is not intended as a commentary on Canada’s infamously violent national sport. He’s more concerned with violence in general and the social context around aggressive behavior. There’s very little hockey played onscreen and some fans of the sport may be disappointed by the slow pace of the film. I’ll admit to being frustrated as it slows down even more in the second half. (It was my third film of the day and I was starving). It’s only after the fantastic Q and A with Funk and the cast that I let it all sink in.

This is one tragic, hard-hitting, and beautifully acted film. It’s the kind of movie that gets better and better the more you think about it.

 

Chappie

A revolutionary new robot named Chappie, programmed with the ability to think and feel, winds up in the hands of three thugs on the rough streets of the Johanessburg of the future. The eager-to-please bot descends from sweet and innocent to hard-core gangster when the gang lifestyle becomes all he knows.

In the Johannesburg of the future where crime is kept under control by an elite army of police robots, a revolutionary new robot named Chappie, programmed with the ability to think and Chappiefeel by a well-meaning engineer, is hunted by a ruthless and ambitious ex-marine looking to use the the technology for his own greedy ends.

A revolutionary new robot named Chappie, programmed with the ability to think and feel, learns that his battery, which only lasts five days, is irreplacable. Angry with his maker who seems to have created him just so he could “die”, Chappie must race against time to uncover the secrets of human consciousness and figure out how to transfer his own consciousness into a new body before his battery runs out.

By my count, there are at least three ideas for a movie here. One or two of them may even be good. Neill Blomkamp didn’t seem to know which of these three movies he wanted to make though so tried to cram them all into one that he called- you guessed it- Chappie.

Chappie 2It’s hard to argue that this blend of Short Circuit and RoboCop is anything but a complete mess. The plot is so needlessly complicated that Blomkamp barely has any time to develop any of his ideas or explore any of the themes that he seems to promise at the beginning. All the different subplots make dramatic shifts in tone unavoiadable as Chappie takes us from sappy to gritty and back again, ending with a final shootout that is hilariously and shamelessly over-the-top. Some of my favourite movies mix styles and juggle multiple storylines but this mix is more noisy than eclectic.

It doesn’t help that South African hip hop artists Ninja and Yolandi Visser are cast as Chappie’s gangster Mommy and Daddy. They’re entrusted with much of the emoitonal impact of the Chappie 3movie (so badly acted that they reminded me of the Jackie Chan movies that I used to watch dubbed into English when I was in high school) while Oscar-nominated actors Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver are given almost nothing to do.

Chappie is tough to swallow and leaves an even worse aftertaste but I give it credit for trying. Nothing that Blomkamp attempts here really works but, as we approach yet another summer of uninspired blockbusters, it’s easy to feel almost thankful for an action movie that dares to aim so high. I don’t think we’ll see another quite like it this year.