A stylish, brutal action spy thriller starring Charlize Theron built around her beating up a bunch of incompetent men? SOLD!
It’s been several years since Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a film that deserved more critical praise than it received upon arrival. Marketed as an attempt to lay the groundwork for what would ultimately become the prequel series to the wildly successful Alien and Aliens, Scott’s return to the series he created and then abandoned delivered a story that was not as concerned with its predecessors as some would have liked; rather than jump right into telling the story of how the xenomorphs came to be, he began laying the groundwork for something else entirely. Pivoting away from the horror and action themes that made the original films so popular, Prometheus instead delved into mythology and the origins of humanity, asking and raising many more questions than it answered by the time the credits began rolling. Some were swept away by the tense music, haunting visuals and attempt to breathe back life into an otherwise dead series. Others found themselves disappointed and angered by the gaps left unfilled and questions left unanswered.
Enter Alien: Covenant, a film that manages to find a happy medium between the grand themes of Prometheus and the outright horror of Alien. Where its predecessor made constant strides to distinguish itself from its source material, Covenant attempts to build a bridge to connect the two, laying the groundwork for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley to go head to head with the Queen Alien many years later.
Kirsten Dunst is one of the most criminally underrated actresses working in Hollywood today.
Whenever I say that to anyone, their first reaction is to mention Spiderman. As the most high-profile and financially successful project of the actress’ career it’s easy to see why people would start there. But take one look at Dunst’s resumé and you’ll see a career full of eclectic projects; from her incendiary debut in Interview With the Vampire, to the little seen gem The Cat’s Meow all the way to season two of FX’s Fargo (for which the actress was Emmy nominated), she’s always brought her A-game. Her latest film, Woodshock, looks like her most batshit crazy effort yet, and I mean that in the best way possible.
If you’re anything like me, you might have been wondering “Where in the world has Anne Hathaway been?” for the last couple of years.
After the one two punch of her Oscar-winning work in Les Miserables and The Dark Knight Rises, Hathaway took a step into the background. That may have had something to do with the unfair, sexist press coverage she received during the 2012-2013 awards season. It may have also had something to do with her personal life; she got married shortly before she began the press junket for Les Miserables and had a baby a few years later. She was still acting of course; she had a cameo in Don Jon, reprised her voice-over role in Rio 2, starred alongside Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar, headlined The Intern alongside Robert DeNiro and even popped up in the ill-fated Alice Through The Looking Glass. But there was a stark contrast between Hathaway before she won an Oscar, and after.
Where Hathaway’s post-Oscar roles weren’t exactly the worst roles the actress could have taken, they did little to showcase the full range of her capabilities. But in director/writer Nacho Vigalondo’s black comedy Colossal, Hathaway has found a role that superbly showcases the best of her abilities as a performer.
I hope Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart plan on making a dozen more films together; I would easily watch 100 more if I could. Stewart, who has been extremely selective with her roles since leaving the world of sparkling vampires behind, has found a match made in heaven with the French auteur. He directed her to a César award in Clouds of Sils Maria, making Stewart the first American actress to ever win one, and has once again captured a truly exceptional performance in Personal Shopper, which finally expanded into my town’s independent theater this past weekend.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the film since I had the pleasure of watching it on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I walked in knowing close to nothing about the film besides the fact that much of my Twitter timeline has been filled with raves about it since its continued to open in theaters around the country, which is probably the best way to experience it. In a genre that is filled with clichés and story beats that have beaten to death, Personal Shopper is a chilling and thought-provoking piece of work.
I’m still reeling from the anointment of our current Best Actress winner, Emma Stone of La La Land, which is all but a month old but that doesn’t mean I can’t get hopeful about the next crop of potential nominees. And after watching the trailer for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which stars the always incredible Frances McDormand, what a way to start things off.
The last time McDormand was Oscar-nominated was for 2006’s just alright North Country for a performance she probably could have done in her sleep. Since then, she’s done some work with Wes Anderson and scooped up a million and a half prizes (including an Emmy!) for the excellent Olive Kitteridge. But it’s been awhile since the actress has had a proper, leading, film role. This film looks to be the one that not only changes that, but could potentially earn her yet another Oscar nomination.
It feels like Disney’s live-action remakes of their animated classics have all been leading to this moment. Though everyone is sure to have a different favorite, Beauty and the Beast is the most iconic of their catalog, next to The Little Mermaid (which is next to receive the remake treatment). The original was the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, and even managed nominations in Sound Mixing and three for Original Song. Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and The Jungle Book have all been remade with varying degrees of critical success and huge, record breaking returns at the box office. Beauty and the Beast is bound to be their biggest endeavor yet.
And yet, for all of the hype, star power and magic, Beauty and the Beast winds up being just a straight and very soft pitch down the middle, never slipping into train wreck territory but never achieving the moments of grandeur and greatness that it so clearly desires.
After last night’s La La Land dominance at the Golden Globes, it would be easy to say that all is said and done and that its march towards the Oscars is complete. All seven awards, including Picture (Comedy or Musical), Director, Actor and Actress (Comedy or Musical) and Screenplay went to Damien Chazelle’s musical which has been tearing it up at the Box Office. La La Land also boasts top honors from the Broadcast Film Critics and the Toronto International Film Festival, two prizes that certainly don’t hurt when trying to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
La La Land‘s biggest competition was thought to be Moonlight (which won the Drama Globe for Best Picture) and Manchester By The Sea (which won Actor in a Drama). Both films landed Screen Actor’s Guild Ensemble nominations where La La Land did not, indicating weakness from La La Land amongst the biggest voting block in the Academy: the actors. Even films like Beasts of No Nation which only had three credited actors (and only one of them being well known) was able to land a nomination last year. But one film that is absolutely tearing up the box office right now, and won nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild that I believe many are underestimating in the long game is Hidden Figures.
La La Land was one of my most anticipated films of the year. From the moment that excellent first trailer arrived, I was hooked. First of all, I’m a huge sucker for musicals. And while I wasn’t a huge fan of director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, he seemed to be aiming towards evoking the nostalgia of the great Hollywood musicals of the past, with a modern spin which I was totally down with. I’ve also been a huge fan of Emma Stone’s since her brilliant star making performance in Easy A, and this seemed like the perfect project for her talents. And she had such great chemistry with Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid Love so what could go wrong, right?
Since then, La La Land has gone on to become the Best Picture frontrunner. It’s racked up wins from the New York Film Critic’s Circle, the coveted People’s Choice Award from TIFF, a bunch of Critic’s Choice wins and a bunch of Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild nominations. It’s been written to death about how La La Land is the perfect antidote for our flaming garbage pile of a year, because after 2016, what we need is a breezy, delightful musical.
But La La Land simply doesn’t live up to the premise or hype bestowed upon it. And while it has some charming moments, they can’t hide the flawed and flimsy plot beneath all of the glitz and nostalgia.