Midweek Break: Trailers Galore!!

  • THE CAPTAIN MARVEL TRAILER IS HERE. Much excitement around these parts. I love the set-up, but I will admit I was hoping for a bit more in terms of Carol Danvers as a character. I’m sure that’ll be in the next trailer. Our first real look still makes me cry every time. Why isn’t it March yet??
  • Another big trailer dropped this week! I am also pretty excited for Mary Poppins Returns and will definitely be making a trip to the theater with my daughter in December. As much as the original is a treasured piece of everyone’s childhood, the cast here is spectacular, I think Emily Blunt is perfect, and yes, even Lin-Manuel Miranda’s apparent accent shenanigans can’t really be viewed as anything but a meta-nod to Dick Van Dyke’s much-reviled Cockney take.
  • This news just broke: Cary Fukunaga will take over directing the 25th Bond movie, replacing Danny Boyle. He’s apparently the first American director to do Bond, and I think he’s a terrific choice.
  • Finally, I’m having a conversation online right now about dream-casting James Bond as a woman. The initial proposal (not by me) was Lupita Nyong’o but I’m trying to think of some other great fits. Cate Blanchett sprang immediately to mind, followed by Emily Blunt. Mostly, though, I’ve decided that they should just slide Naomie Harris (who has appeared in recent movies as Moneypenny) into the role. She’d be perfect. Who would you pick?

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Midweek Break, Belated

This has ended up being more of an “end-of-week” update. I had a few notes, but decided it wasn’t enough to really warrant posting about, so I skipped it but then there were some late-breaking things of interest, so here we are! Movies were not watched last weekend, but maybe this weekend? I’ve got a hankering after a few things so stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are some things I thought were worth discussing.

  • The Personal History of David Copperfield is slated for release in 2019. I’m a huge Dickens fan, in case you didn’t know, but this particular adaptation is noteworthy even if you don’t love Victorian literature: the cast is remarkable, and quite diverse. It will star Dev Patel as the titular character, and will also feature Tilda Swinton, Gwendoline Christie, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw, Peter Capaldi, and Benedict Wong. Phew! I’d heard about it a while back and just sort of assumed it would be some sort of updated, re-set version of Copperfield, but based on set pictures, it’s a period piece. Something about just including (and featuring!) actors of color in a period piece sounds absolutely fascinating to me, and I hope it’s well-received.
  • With a win for the televised production of Jesus Christ, Superstar at the Creative Emmys last weekend, John Legend becomes the youngest person – and the first black man – to enter the ranks of EGOT winners. EGOT stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony and it’s a pretty distinguished (and somewhat random) list of recipients. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice join Legend in the win and EGOT status.
  • I just saw this news story on Twitter, and it is weird and disturbing: Apparently Fan Bingbing is missing? Her safety notwithstanding, I’m particularly anxious about the status of the international spy movie in which she was set to co-star with Marion Cotillard, Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, and Penelope Cruz. LET ME HAVE THIS, UNIVERSE.
  • There’s been much noise this week about shake-ups in the DC film world, including the possible end of Henry Cavill’s run as the Man of Steel. Now, I have only seen Justice League (meh) so I don’t have much to say about Cavill as Supes, but! I do want to say that he seems perfect for the role, and that I think he is a talented and entertaining actor who (as it appears) has not been served well by the films themselves thus far. If DC would lighten up some, I think he’d be a delight. ALSO, I have extremely strong feelings about who should play Batman, since Ben Affleck is now out, and that is Armie Hammer. I’m dead serious. I think he’s perfect. So listen, Hollywood (some of you knew this was where I was headed), if you’re not going to give us a Man from U.N.C.L.E. sequel, at least give us a Cavill/Hammer reunion. And make it fun. [Side note: I loved Man from U.N.C.L.E. I might have to write about it at some point. It’s so great.] Following the speculation about Cavill were reports that Michael B. Jordan is being considered to replace him. While I find this an interesting/entertaining idea, I am not convinced that DC is that gutsy: a certain subset of the fanbase would lose its everloving MIND if Superman (of all characters) was made a person of color. Again, interesting idea, but I’m skeptical.
  • I have plugged the Thirst Aid Kit podcast before, but I’m plugging it again because this week’s episode is all about Lee Pace and it is just … it’s the best thing. It makes me so happy. If you want to sit down and spend 45 minutes just basking in the existence of Lee Pace, do yourself a favor and listen. It’d be a great start to the weekend!

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    Lee Pace as Thranduil in The Hobbit

 

 

Midweek Break: CAPTAIN MARVEL!!! edition

 

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Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Entertainment Weekly cover

Hi gang!  We’ve been watching S1 of Stranger Things (yes, I know, we’re so behind) so I didn’t watch a movie last weekend, which means you get this random amalgamation of film-related thoughts today. We’re almost done so maybe there will be actual movie-viewing this weekend.

  • It’s Idris Elba’s birthday! Just thought you’d like to know. Here’s a list of all his movies, ranked. He’s made some stinkers, hasn’t he? I take offense at the low placement of Rocknrolla, but whatever, man. Happy birthday, Idris!
  • Just a few days ago, I went on a mini-rant about how I had ZERO interest in First Man (Damien Chazelle’s biopic about Neil Armstrong, starring Ryan Gosling) or A Star is Born (although my feelings here are more complicated) because honestly, I just don’t care about handing out Oscars to more white guys. But the universe delights in reminding us of our hypocrisies, and so please enjoy this trailer for At Eternity’s Gatea screamingly Oscar-bait movie about Vincent Van Gogh starring Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaac (yeah, yeah), and Mads Mikkelsen. The cinematography is what got me – it looks like Van Gogh painted. Stunning.
  • CAPTAIN MARVEL!! At my house, we are still anxiously awaiting the first trailer for the MCU’s next blockbuster, but we were quite excited about this week’s EW release of our first real look at Brie Larson and the cast. WHY ISN’T IT MARCH YET??
  • Have you seen To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? It’s a Netflix movie, based on a teen novel. My corner of the Internet is obsessed with it. I bring it up because it makes me think about a YA series I’d love to see adapted into a series or something: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan. The books are urban fantasy/romance, and the main protagonist is a British teen who is half Japanese (the main character in TAtBILB is half-Korean, apparently).  They’re fun, silly books and I feel like they’d fit right in with a lot of what pop culture is into these days.

 

That’s it for me! What are you all watching/paying attention to right now in the world of entertainment?

 

Review: Sorry to Bother You (2018)

What do you get when you cross magical realism (-ish) with sweeping commentary on the ills of modern society, including but not limited to: race, corporate America, slavery, art, entertainment, and social media? For the sake of argument, I’m going to tell you that you get Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley’s funny, smart, mind-boggling feature film debut. I watched this movie a week ago and I’ve been trying to let it percolate since in the hopes that I will magically happen upon divine insight that will amaze and convince my readers. That seems unlikely, but here we go.

We meet Cassius Green (say it out loud) at a job interview. On paper, he seems to be a stellar individual – he’s even brought along trophies and plaques to prove it. Turns out they’re fake, but Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield) finds himself hired by Regalview Telemarketing anyway.  His dreams of making bank seem dashed until an old hand (Danny Glover) suggests to him that he use his “white voice” to make calls – he should sound like he’s “without a care in the world … [a] guy who doesn’t even need this job at all.” He should sound, according to Glover, like the person his potential customers want to sound like themselves.

This theme turns up a lot throughout the movie –  Cassius finds himself in a constant struggle with his identity. Early on a friend suggests that he’s only “sort of” black, and indeed, he finds great success in pretending to be white – his “white voice” (which sounds like David Cross) quickly promotes him to the upper echelons of telemarking. While his friends are attempting to unionize, Cassius becomes a “power caller” and is suddenly rolling in style with a new car, new clothes, and an entree to fancy parties. This identity doesn’t fit quite right either, though. His new-found success alienates him from his friends, including artist/activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), and he finds his product (WorryFree: a human workforce that looks suspiciously like slavery) a bit off-putting even as he’s making million-dollar deals.

All of this comes to a head when Cassius meets the CEO and Founder of WorryFree, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer). It becomes clear that WorryFree’s agenda is not altruistic and might, in fact, be downright evil. This final of act of Cassius’ struggle to find his identity finds him attempting to make a u-turn and do what is right, even if it might cost him wealth and independence. It’s also where the movie goes from “entertainingly odd” to “entertainingly batshit crazy,” but I’m not going to give anything away here.

Sorry to Bother You is really hard to pigeonhole. The performances are all great, with Lakeith Stanfield leading the way. Cassius is very much a sympathetic, Everyman character. He just wants to get by and basically be a good human being. He wants to be valued and respected and we see how that directs his decisions and causes him confusion when things don’t quite work out the way he expected. The movie is also visually fascinating – there’s a lot of play with lightness and darkness that I don’t even want to try and interpret. The fantastical aspects are used sparingly but to great effect: in addition to  Cassius’ “white voice,” he also finds himself physically dropped into close contact with the people he’s speaking to on the phone, regardless of whether or not they’re on the toilet or in the middle of having sex. At some points it leads the viewer to question whether or not Cassius is an entirely reliable narrator – the “white voice” is real, but the crashing into someone’s living room is imagined? What else, then, is real or imagined? The lines are quite effectively blurred.

There are a lot of ideas to focus on. Initially I wished that Mr. Riley had chosen just one of two to focus on: all of the statements he’s making are good ones that are worthy of more thought, but I found it difficult to keep track of. There’s Cassius’ identity, with what it means to be black (or white, for that matter) front and center. The few white people in the movie are varying levels of awful, and it’s very clear that their understanding of the black experience is based on what entertainment and “the media” would have us believe. A scene in which Lift and a crowd of white party-goers are disappointed when Cassius doesn’t have tales of gang violence and can’t rap is by turns hilarious and cringe-worthy. There’s corporate America, with its new spin on slavery, vs. art and independence. Cassius and his friends want to be self-reliant and to care about their fellow humans, but they’re also on the hook for rent. The issue of unionization figures prominently into that as well – can one’s own self-promotion function alongside a fight for the common good? The role of media and entertainment in the film is particularly interesting. The most popular show on television is apparently something called “I Got the Shit Kicked Out Of Me,” which is literally watching people get beaten up (in addition to other, apparently non-life-threatening? pleasantries). Cassius’ experience crossing a picket line (resulting in physical injury) immediately goes viral, resulting in memes and Halloween costumes, both of which he uses to his advantage later in the film. Its a somewhat damning but not really unfair look at today’s culture.

Ultimately, what I realize is that all of these themes can be tied to the bigger idea of what it means to be a person in today’s world. We are told different things by corporate culture, by entertainment and the media, by social media, by our own hearts. Which lead do we follow? We need to work to live, but we also need validation: we want to be special, to be good at something. Entertainment culture these days would have us all believe we’re just one viral video away from fame and fortune. But of course, what price fame? If we sell our souls for that fancy car, can we also concern ourselves with the good of others? Can we be famous without making other sacrifices? And where does it end? Is there one breaking point or do we all draw our own lines in the sand? While it may not be for everyone, Sorry to Bother You will definitely leave you with more questions than you walked in with, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for the answers.

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Lakeith Stanfield and Armie Hammer in Sorry to Bother You

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Gene Kelly

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Some of my most popular posts come from August 2012, when I celebrated Gene Kelly’s 100th birthday. So, since today happens to be the day, I thought I would compile those posts here and share them out again for everyone’s enjoyment! Basically I spent several weeks reading a biography and watching a TON of his movies and just generally immersing myself. It was a fun project and I love that people are still searching for fun information about Mr. Kelly and are led to my blog, of all things. So, whether you’re a fan or not, I hope you’ll enjoy!

On Thirst

One of the best things about the internet is that whatever you might have an interest in or a passion for, you can probably find other people who feel the same. It brings me endless joy to realize that the folks over at Pajiba take the objectification of movie stars as seriously as I do, and their annual Pajiba Ten list is one of my favorite things that happens during the year (even though I never agree with half of it). Recently, the podcast Thirst Aid Kit has further validated my enjoyment of keeping lists of famous people I will never meet, much less get to make out with. I am not alone in my thirst, you guys.

So, for those of you who’ve always rolled your eyes at my posts about ye olde Top Five list, you might wanna move along. I won’t judge. But for everyone else: The last time I talked about The List on this blog was in 2012. What?! I posted that I’d added Michael Fassbender. I can’t even remember who else would’ve been ON that list. (That’s a lie: it was Crowe, RDJ, Gerard Butler, and Javier Bardem.) But that is a long time ago, and the list has changed a whole bunch since then.

To be honest, I’ve been saying for the last year or so that my list is in shambles. I finally let go of Russell Crowe and Robert Downey, Jr (even though I still love them both) just because it seemed the list should be a more current and fluid thing. While I have a few people who definitely bring the swoon, I feel that I haven’t done my research as carefully as in the past, and I really currently have two or three TRUE thirst objects with a whole handful of other people who just haven’t quite broken through yet. So who’s on the list? I’m so glad you asked!

The Definites:

 

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Dan Stevens

I never watched Downton Abbey, and frankly any time I saw pictures of “Cousin Matthew” I couldn’t see the appeal. But that was before Dan Stevens lost some weight,  gained a beard (some of the time), stopped dying his hair, and started playing the magnificently effed up David Haller on FX’s Legion. I love that guy. His performance(s? If you watch the show you get it) are phenomenal and his accent is great. I seriously loved him in Beauty and the Beast, too. He’s very intelligent and funny (and amazingly sane, compared to David) in interviews. Yep. He’s here to stay for a while.

 

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Oscar Isaac

I truly love any time I am afforded the opportunity to explain to people who Oscar Isaac is. Have you seen the new Star Wars movies? Inside Llewyn DavisEx Machina? I am always delighted to point out when someone can be unrecognizable and wholly different from film to film. Oscar Isaac is super-duper talented and has the best hair in the biz. And have you heard him sing? (PS He wrote that song.) Swoon.

 

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Chadwick Boseman

My love for Tony Stark is true, but King T’Challa of Wakanda is now a close second in the MCU. I really, really need to jump on seeing some of Boseman’s other work but his portrayal of Black Panther had me hooked from the beginning. The man himself seems very intelligent, humble, and sensitive as well and his fashion onslaught throughout the press run for Black Panther was the stuff of legend.

The Maybes:

So many, you guys. Lee Pace was on the list for a good long while, got dropped for Oscar Isaac, and is maybe back on again. I need to jump on Halt and Catch Fire one of these days. Paul Bettany has been “#6” for a zillion years and that really hasn’t changed. Love him as Vision, love his razor-sharp, self-deprecating wit in interviews, just love him. I have a fun spiel about how we were all introduced to James McAvoy in that embarrassing moment where we thought to ourselves “Oh f**k, Mr. Tumnus is … hot?!” I love that he’s making a career out of brawn and menace (loved him in Atomic Blonde) and am 100% here for his casting as Lord Asriel in the upcoming BBC “His Dark Materials” series. Not even sure what needs to be said about Idris Elba: did you SEE Thor: Ragnarok? Post-Infinity War I have given in to the realization that I totally adore Tom Hiddleston’s Loki; not sure that love extends to the man himself, but I probably ought to watch The Night Manager, you know, for research purposes. JOHN CHO, people. Armie Hammer (that voice!  Man from UNCLE!)? Sebastian Stan is so pretty, you guys. I fell madly in love with Bertie Carvel in BBC’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, but he sticks primarily to theater across the pond so I don’t know about him. Dominic Cooper is a button. Mahershala Ali burst onto the scene in 2016 but has been kind of quiet since. There is much to love about Chris Hemsworth.  And I’ve probably forgotten somebody else.

See the problem? Help me, readers! Anyone you want to advocate for? Is there anything I should watch that will help me make up my mind? Suggestions welcome! (Not for more pretty people; I’ve got plenty of those.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

 

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Kate McKinnon & Mila Kunis in The Spy Who Dumped Me

For the second installment of my “Ladies’ Night at the Movies” outing, I got together a group of friends to go see The Spy Who Dumped Me. This was an excellent choice for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s hard to get adults together! We’re busy. Second of all, it’s a little bit of a feminist agenda: Women spending money to watch movies made by women. Beyond that, it was great to see friends and a fun movie at the same time, and The Spy Who Dumped Me is a very fun – and entertaining – movie.

Co-written and directed by Susanna Fogel, The Spy Who Dumped Me opens in true spy-thriller fashion, with a fight and chase sequence through an Eastern European marketplace. We watch a handsome man fight his way through a crowd of enemies, run through bustling streets, leap out of windows, and ultimately blow up a building before coolly walking away. Standard stuff that cuts to a very Bond-ian opening credits sequence. But then we’re introduced to Audrey (Mila Kunis), who is having a lousy birthday. Turns out her boyfriend, Drew (Justin Theroux), just dumped her via text. What do these two things have in common? The ex-boyfriend, is, of course, the handsome spy, and when he learns that Audrey is burning his left-behind belongings, he is forced to return in order to retrieve an item which is, naturally, something every intelligence force in the world is after. In short order, Audrey and Morgan find themselves on the run through Europe with a horde of operatives on their tails. These operatives include another handsome individual named Sebastian (Sam Heughan) who may or may not be on their side. Will they blunder their way to safety and save the world in the process? The movie is a comedy, so I’ll just let you figure that one out.

This is a funny movie. I laughed a lot. I’m unable to remember any specific jokes, but I tend to think that’s a good thing; they were neither so clever as to alienate the audience, nor did they resort to easy, gross-out humor for the most part. In structure, Spy… is a true representative of the spy genre, which made it even funnier. There were aborted drop-offs, vehicle commandeerings, disguises, escapes, and double-crosses all right where you’d expect them. There was even torture and, as many reviewers have pointed out, a surprisingly high body count. I found myself wondering a bit about that: What, exactly, made the body count surprising? Was it that the movie was a comedy? Was it that the main characters were women? Having literally just watched Atomic Blonde, I didn’t find the violence surprising or egregious. It may have been a bit more bloody than your average Bond vehicle,  but not shockingly so.

That the main characters were occupying the role of victims rather than people who make a living from killing may have added to the shock value, but that is also what made the movie interesting. We’ve all wondered what we might do if we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of international intrigue, and these two women let us imagine it. They’re just average people, but by virtue of their life experiences, they find a way. Audrey plays a lot of shooter video games, and Morgan is a struggling actress; both traits that come to their aid at crucial moments. Some of their ideas don’t work so well, but ultimately the fact that they are viewed as “stupid Americans” works in their favor, and they are consistently underestimated by their enemies. It’s a clever way to advance the story and again, put the viewer into the adventure in an engaging way.

It helps that both Kunis and McKinnon (maybe less so, in her case) have an air of “everywoman” about them to begin with. A Charlize Theron or an Angelina Jolie could not pull off Audrey, but Mila’s down-to-earth delivery makes her seem like someone we might be friends with. And let me tell you: you want to be friends with these women. Their friendship,  particularly as evidenced by Kate McKinnon’s Morgan, is the best thing about The Spy Who Dumped Me. There’s nothing specifically marking the film’s point in time, but the characterizations of the women definitely suggest the present, post-2016 election, #MeToo movement day. Morgan is all about affirming the women around her, most particularly Audrey. She frequently pauses in the middle of running for their lives to tell Audrey how proud she is of her. Early on, she hilariously attempts to “indoctrinate” a Ukrainian boor in the ways of feminism. She even has praise for the creepy gymnast/assassin Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno) in the midst of being tortured for information. While McKinnon can frequently be over-the-top, here that persona is written into her character and the result is a charmingly zany but real woman who is tough but open to life’s experiences. That openness makes the movie’s few heartfelt moments between Audrey and Morgan something special that we don’t often get to see in cinematic female friendships.

I was initially very skeptical about seeing The Spy Who Dumped Me. While the idea of a female-led action spoof is great on paper, the execution can often be trickier. I’m pleased to say that in this case, the film succeeds. The performances are all excellent, the script is tight, the laughs are genuine, and the story can be forgiven for being a little predictable, simply because that’s what you’re supposed to do when sending up a genre. As with most of Hollywood, there could have been more diversity (a small handful of speaking roles for people of color) but given the film focuses on a loving and supportive friendship between two women, let’s take it one step at a time. If you’ve been on the fence, definitely go see The Spy Who Dumped Me, and bring some women with you.