I was drawn to comics as a young kid. They were one of the first things I enjoyed reading on my own, and I enjoyed the larger than life characters, the colorful artwork, and the idea that anyone could save the world if they one day woke up with magical gifts. There were morals to a lot of the stories, Spider-Man was built on the motto of “with great power, comes great responsibility.” But they weren’t heavy-handed or forced, and the characters weren’t always painted with such specific sides of black and white. I also enjoyed my child’s picture book of the bible. Back then.
For a superhero that’s been around for over seventy-five years, the origins of Wonder Woman are anything but conventional. So posits Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, an intriguing, but rough biopic that follows the relationships of her creator, William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), his wife Elizabeth (the exquisite Rebecca Hall) and their girlfriend, Olive (Bella Heathcote). With Wonder Woman having something of a moment right now, with a summer box office smash and the upcoming Justice League, the most famous female superhero of all time is merely background fodder here, with the focus being on the relationship dynamics of the three main characters amidst the framing device of deposition on the decency of the early Wonder Woman comics, with their reliance on bondage themes, nods to lesbianism, and hints at sadomasochism. Continue reading
In 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner had an expectation of LA in 2019 that we will likely fall short of: flying cars and android slaves passing as human (called replicants). It painted a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) of dark moodiness and a staggering loss of basic humanity. On that front, we’re a little closer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original. It had amazing visuals and production design, and thoughtful writing, but I was subjected to the original cut, which had that awful voice-over that managed to ruin an otherwise thoughtful and quiet piece. Blade Runner 2049 capitalizes on the world of the original, and creates a more engaging, more thoughtful, if less stylized film.
In some ways, the titular tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King featured in Battle of the Sexes, operates as a microcosm of the 2016 election: boorish letch challenges more qualified woman in a contest that is bigger than what it is on the surface. The denouement can be a bit cathartic in that way. I’m not as familiar with the actual match, other than a vague awareness of a TV movie called “When Billie Beat Bobby” so I had some idea which way this was going to go.
I go back and forth on Tom Cruise. I get why he’s a movie star. He’s definitely an evolution of the 50s icons like Jimmy Stewart, William Holden and Joan Crawford; actors who may not have had a deep reservoir of talent but could use their charisma and presence to command the big screen. Cruise isn’t a great actor, but he is much better served in roles like Barry Seal in American Made, where he can capitalize on his inherent charm to give life to a character that could come off as just another asshole in the wrong hands. Cruise’s wheelhouse is in being an endearing asshole (Magnolia, Jerry Maguire).
Given the spate of bad movies I’ve seen lately, I can’t help but wonder if Stronger felt so refreshingly awesome in comparison or if it really is just a great movie. Following the true story of Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) who lost both legs in the Boston marathon bombing, and his recovery with his boisterous family (led by Miranda Richardson), and ex-girlfriend (Tatiana Maslany), Stronger feels decidedly honest. Nothing feels forced or exploitive, in direct contrast to last year’s Boston marathon bombing flick Patriots Day.
The first Kingsman was dumb, but a lot of fun. It told the story of a British secret agency that fought bad guys in secret, through the eyes of their newest recruit Eggsy (Taran Egerton). The sequel tries hard to recapture that magic but falls short in nearly every way. The story is thin and ridiculous, and just lacks the energy that made the first one an exciting ride. The action sequences here are so cartoonish that they don’t seem to connect to the overall movie and don’t carry the same thrill that action movies are supposed to demonstrate. All sense of “how did they do that cool thing” falls away when it just appears like someone made it in a computer and the actors weren’t even present.
I’m not remotely familiar with whatever Lego Ninjago is. I’m still not quite sure. The movie itself comes off as an extended commercial for a series of playsets, in a more egregious way than the previous Lego movies, which actually felt like they had a story to tell first and toys to sell second. Ninjago flips that script. They quickly push through any necessary information and background on the characters in order to show more cool dragon heads. The main character is Lloyd (Dave Franco) who has daddy issues because his absentee father is Garmadon (Justin Theroux) who regular terrorizes his town (which is called Ninjago, I think).
I have to admit, I’m a huge fan of “Catcher in the Rye.” It hit me at the right time, as a disaffected youth, like it also does to a lot of young wannabe serial killers, so I usually admit this reluctantly. I haven’t read it in nearly ten years but I always wonder if “adult” me will grow weary of the novel in the same way looking back at the stage show RENT when you’re 40 sometimes makes you grumble “just get a job already.” Rebel in the Rye follows a young JD Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) around the time he wrote “Catcher in the Rye.”
A film can undermine itself any number of ways, poorly scripted scenes, inauthentic performances, lackluster direction. Ostensibly the tale of a man (Ben Stiller) taking his son (Austin Abrams) on college tours, the father stuck in a psychological self-war as he compares his life to that of his college friends and even his son as well. Brad’s Status is an otherwise good film that is undermined in two ways. First, it sidelines the more interesting character and story in the son, and it saddles the insufferable main character with an interminable voice-over that is just exhausting.