A stylish, brutal action spy thriller starring Charlize Theron built around her beating up a bunch of incompetent men? SOLD!
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.
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.
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.
Last year, The Force Awakens burst onto the screen at the end of the year and kickstarted a love of Star Wars for a whole new generation, while (sort of) making up for the dreadful prequel films that still feel all too recent to longtime fans of the series. The film was, in a word, fun; it had everything that made the original trilogy so enjoyable, while not being so wrapped in nostalgia that it felt old and recycled.
We still have another year before we get a look at the next chapter in the adventures of Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron but damn it we need something to hold us over until then! Enter Rogue One, a stand-alone film that sets back the clock a bit to before the events of A New Hope and some time after Revenge of the Sith. The Empire looms large over the galaxy, the Jedi are gone and Luke Skywalker has not yet had his fateful encounter with Obi-Wan Kenobi, nor has Princess Leia been captured.
For months I’ve been hearing nonstop talk about Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea, which seemed to be the only film out of Sundance that could, at the time, find any coverage outside of Nate Parker’s Birth Of A Nation. As the year has gone on, Manchester has chugged along and slowly been building steam as one of the three Oscar heavyweights. It was named Best Picture by the National Board of Review, with lead actor Casey Affleck winning Best Actor honors from both the Gotham Independent Awards and New York Film Critic’s circle.
It’s been hard to muster any kind of enthusiasm, or any kind of feeling besides grief, hopelessness and rage since Tuesday night. No matter what song I put on, what channel I flipped to or what episode of Portlandia I streamed on Netflix, I just wanted to melt into a puddle. I could not stop thinking about the next four years, and they mean for black, latinx and LGBTQ Americans. So when I sat down for my screening of Arrival last night, I was looking to just escape my mind for a minute; I wanted to turn off the thoughts so that I could come back fully reenergized to figure out how I was going to tackle fighting the racism, bigotry and intolerance that is now America’s President-elect.
Arrival is the escapist entertainment I was seeking. Even if it was for two hours, director Denis Villeneuve’s excellent sci-fi character study manages to transport and astound in every frame.
There’s a scene in Jackie which sees the titular First Lady (played by Natalie Portman) preparing to walk out of the private jet carrying her, husband John and their entourage in Dallas, Texas. She’s rehearsing her speech while applying her makeup. Wearing the now iconic pink Chanel suit, she adds the finishing touch: the matching pillbox hat. She stares ahead never meeting his gaze, with a blank expression on her face.
“Ready?” John asks her.
“Of course,” she says with the slightest grin.
Ever since The Girl On the Train was released last year, it was hailed as “the next Gone Girl.” Such a comparison was probably a little unfair, despite both novels’ reliance on the untrustworthy narrator device, the switching between POV’s throughout the story and the fact they were shocking thrillers.
And so when it was announced that the film adaption of The Girl On the Train would be announced in October, just days shy of Gone Girl’s (the film) two year anniversary, the comparisons grew. Many wondered if Emily Blunt, starring as the main character Rachel, would secure the first Oscar nomination that has (unfairly) eluded her throughout her career like Rosamund Pike did for Gone Girl. The film would no doubt be a smashing success (it’s already being projected to be the #1 film this weekend with close to $30 million. Not Gone Girl level numbers, but pretty respectable nonetheless). It just needed to be good enough for Oscar consideration, right?
Unfortunately, critics have not been kind to The Girl On the Train. Metacritic has it at a middling 48, with many mentioning or flat out comparing it to Gone Girl.
And while the film does have its issues, one of them shouldn’t be that it’s not the next Gone Girl. Continue reading
Inspirational, “feel good” movies oftentimes break a sweat trying to earn the audience’s emotions. Through the use of saccharine music, stereotypical character troupes and cliché dialogue, not to mention formulaic plot points. Queen of Katwe, a film that very easily could have fallen into those trap holes manages to avoid all of them while holding onto its uplifting message, hitting you like a shot in the heart.