The Films of 2020: Artemis Fowl (dir by Kenneth Branagh)


What exactly is Artemis Fowl about?

Basically, it opens with news reports about the home of millionaire businessman Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell) being raided by the police and the discovery that Fowl has apparently been stealing ancient artifacts from across the world.  A bearded man named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) is arrested at the house and is interrogated by …. someone.  I guess he’s being interrogated by an intelligence agency, I don’t know.  Mulch explains that he’s a dwarf and that he’s about to tell a story that will prove that magic exists which …. okay, I guess.

The story is about Artemis Fowl’s 12 year-old son, who is also named Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw).  The younger Artemis Foul is a criminal mastermind, just like his father, and he wears a suit and dark glasses and basically, he looks like a 12 year-old who dressed up like one of the Men In Black for Halloween.  Artemis Fowl the younger is investigating the disappearance of Artemis Fowl the older which leads to a search for a missing magical object.  Somehow, it all involves faeries and other magical figures. Judi Dench pops up a few times, looking stern.  There’s a lot of chase scenes and a few fight scenes, none of which really make much of an impression.

The plot of Artemis Fowl is pretty much impossible to follow, especially if you haven’t read (or, in my case, recently reread) the books on which the film is based.  A huge part of the problem is that the film itself doesn’t really develop any sort of individual personality.  For a film about a 12 year-old wearing a suit and concocting criminal schemes, Artemis Fowl is surprisingly bland.  It feels like a collection of scenes from other YA adaptations.  We get the slow motion fight scenes.  We get the magical scenes that feel as if they were lifted from a lesser entry from the Harry Potter series.  Indeed, a huge chunk of the film seems to be made up of discarded scenes from director Kenneth Branagh’s previous excursion into the world of fantasy and vaguely defined magic, Thor.  The film moves quickly but since nothing interesting or unusual is happening, you find yourself wishing that maybe the film would slow down for a just a minute or two and spend a bit of time exploring the world in which the two Artemis Fowls live.  It’s a remarkably undetailed fantasy world that Artemis Fowl presents us with.  I spent the majority of the movie wondering whether Judi Dench was supposed to be an elf or a faerie.  One of the great actress, Dench spends the entire film wearing pointed ears and looking rather annoyed.

Much like Dolittle, Artemis Fowl ends with the promise of more cinematic adventures, though it’s doubtful that promise will actually be fulfilled.  Also — and again like Dolittle — it’s hard not to feel that Artemis Fowl would have worked much better as an animated film than as a live action spectacular.  Unfortunately, Artemis Fowl is just too bland and borderline incoherent to really make much of a lasting impression.

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Honor Nomadland


The Alliance of Women Film Journalists have announced that their pick for the best of 2020 is Nomadland.  Just as the AWFJ did with their nominations, they announced the winners in an exclusive for Variety.  Fear not, though — my picks for the best of 2020 will be released exclusively to this site.  Two can play at this game.

(I joke, of course.  Ever since Clayton Davis took over, Variety’s Oscar coverage has been wonderful and the AWFJ deserves a lot of credit for having categories that are a bit more interesting than the usual stuff.)

Anyway, here’s the winners!

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS

(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film

  • “Minari” (A24)
  • “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER

Best Actor

  • Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
  • Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress 

  • Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role 

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
  • Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
  • Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24) – WINNER

Best Screenplay, Original 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted

  • “First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film

  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix)
  • “Soul” (Pixar) – WINNER
  • “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing 

  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary 

  • “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Athlete A” (Netflix)
  • “Crip Camp” (Netflix)
  • “The Painter and the Thief” (Neon) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film

  • “Another Round” – Denmark – WINNER
  • “Beanpole” – Russia
  • “The Mole Agent” – Chile
  • “The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

  • “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin – WINNER (tie)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler – WINNER (tie)

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS

(These awards honor WOMEN only, excluding women who’ve won the category in the Best Of Awards.

Best Woman Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female 

  • “22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey – WINNER
  • “Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
  • “Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
  • Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry 

  • All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
  • All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” The Glorias” and others. – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
  • Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.

  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
  • Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award 

  • “The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
  • “Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
  • “Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
  • “Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years) – WINNER

She Deserves A New Agent Award 

  • Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
  • Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios) – WINNER

Most Daring Performance Award 

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ (Amazon Studios) – WINNER
  • Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award 

  • “The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
  • “Doolittle” (Universal Pictures) – WINNER
  • “Rebecca” (Netflix)

Here Are The 2020 Nominations of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists!


Earlier on Wednesday, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists announced their nominations for the best and the worst of 2020.  The nominations were announced in the pages of Variety and you can read more about them by clicking here.

Nomadland led with the most nominations which seems to be the way that the awards season is going to go.  Personally, when it comes to the AWFJ, I’m always more interested in the snarky nominations than in the serious ones.  For instance, the nominees for the She Deserves A New Agent award always leave me thinking.

The nominations are below.  The winners will be announced on January 4th.

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS
(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film
“Minari” (A24)
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)

Best Screenplay, Original
“Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted
“First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film
“Over the Moon” (Netflix)
“Soul” (Pixar)
“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography
“Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary
“All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios)
“Athlete A” (Netflix)
“Crip Camp” (Netflix)
“The Painter and the Thief” (Neon)
“Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film
“Another Round” – Denmark
“Beanpole” – Russia
“The Mole Agent” – Chile
“The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director
“Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS
(These awards honor WOMEN only)

Best Woman Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female
“22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey
“Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
“Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry
All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” “The Glorias” and others.
Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award
“The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
“The Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
“Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
“Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years)

She Deserves A New Agent Award
Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios)

Most Daring Performance Award
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award
“The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
“Dolittle” (Universal Pictures)
“Rebecca” (Netflix)

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award
Shia LeBoeuf for his ongoing abusive behavior
Christopher Nolan for insisting that “Tenet” be screened exclusively in theaters during a pandemic.
Dallas Sonnier and Adam Donaghey at Cinestate for sexual harassment, abuse and cover-up.

Here’s The Trailer For Death On The Nile!


Kenneth Branagh is back with another Agatha Christie adaptation and, again, he’s brought along an all-star cast.  I will definitely see Death on the Nile because seriously, how can you go wrong with a murder mystery featuring Gal Gabot, Armie Hammer, and Russell Brand?  It should be fun if nothing else.

The movie comes out on October 23rd and here’s the trailer:

Horror Film Review: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (dir by Kenneth Branagh)


Oh my God, this is an exhausting movie.

Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, the 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein sticks pretty closely to the plot (if not the tone) of Mary Shelley’s original novel.  What that means is that this movie includes a lot of the good stuff that often seems to get left out of other Frankenstein adaptations.  For instance, we learn more about the life of Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) before he created his monster.  We find out about his family and his troubled romance with Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter).  Victor’s good friend Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce) is included and so is Professor Waldman (John Cleese) and Captain Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn).

It also means that we get to watch as the Monster (Robert De Niro) flees into the wilderness and later befriends a kindly blind man (Richard Briers).  The Monster, as always, is happy until mankind interferes and treats him unfairly.  The Monster learns to speak and, after it learns to read, it discovers who created it and it sets out for revenge.  We watch as everyone that Victor Frankenstein cares about dies, all as a result of his desire to play God.

And yet, while you have to respect the fact that Branagh tried to stay (more or less) true to the plot of the original novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a bit of a chore to sit through.  A huge part of the problem is that Kenneth Branagh cast himself to play Victor Frankenstein.  In the book, Victor is a rather sickly character and his desire to create life is probably as much inspired by his own poor health and the death of the people close to him.  In the film, Branagh plays Victor as being almost a Byronic figure, with the camera emphasizing his flowing hair and his muscular physique.  Even when Victor does push himself to the point of death in his research, you never really believe it because Branagh the director isn’t willing to let Branagh the actor look weak or malnourished.  However, turning Victor into an alpha male also turns him into a jerk.  Unlike say Colin Clive or Peter Cushing in The Curse of Dracula, you never find yourself sympathizing with Kenneth Branagh’s Victor.

And then you have Robert De Niro as the Monster.  Now, really, I imagine that — in 1994 — the idea of De Niro playing the Monster seemed like an obvious one.  I mean, the Monster is a great role and De Niro’s one of the greatest actors who ever lived so if anyone could find a new and interesting way to play Frankenstein’s Creation, it would have to be De Niro, right?

But no.  First off, De Niro may be a great actor but it’s hard to accept the idea that a monster created in Germany would speak with a New York accent.  Even under tons of makeup, De Niro does an okay job of projecting the Monster’s rage but, unlike Karloff or Christopher Lee, De Niro never seems to really connect with the character.  You never forget that you’re watching a heavily made-up Robert De Niro.  De Niro often seems to be rather detached from what’s happening on screen.

Branagh’s directs in a manner that can only be called operatic, which turns out to be a mistake.  The story is already dramatic enough without Branagh spinning the camera around every few moments.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in the film but unfortunately, Frankenstein is a story that needs just a little bit of subtlety.  It all gets to be a bit overwhelming and, by the time the Monster is literally ripping a heart out of a body, you’re just like, “Enough already!”

It’s just a really tiring movie.

Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” – Full Trailer


The full trailer for Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk, was recently released.

Focusing on the events surrounding the battle of Dunkirk, the movie looks to be pretty epic from at least a cinematography standpoint. Hoyt Van Hoytema (Spectre, Interstellar, Her) is back for this, which could be fantastic for the 70mm and IMAX Presentations.

Dunkirk – Starring Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Kenneth Branaugh, is due to open in theatres next July.

6 Reviews To Help Lisa Get Caught Up: Ant-Man, Cinderella, Jurassic World, Magic Mike XXL, The Man From UNCLE, Terminator: Genisys


So, it’s that time of year!  2015 is nearly over and soon, it will be time for me to make out my best-of and worst-of lists.  That means that now is the time that I look over all the films that I have watched up to this point, I realize how many of those films I have yet to review ,and I think, “Oh my God, how did I get this far behind?”

So, here are 6 capsule reviews, designed to help me get caught up!

Marvel's Ant-Man

Ant-Man (dir by Peyton Reed)

Ant-Man has already been reviewed twice on this site, once by Leonard Wilson and once by Ryan The Trashfilm Guru.  Leonard liked it.  Ryan did not.  As for me, my reaction was somewhere in between.  I enjoyed Ant-Man, though not as much as I’ve enjoyed some of the previous Marvel films.  Ant-Man was better than the second Thor film but nowhere close to being as good as Captain America: Winter Soldier.

What I did like about Ant-Man were the performances of Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena.  I even enjoyed Michael Douglas’s performance, which is saying something when you consider the fact that, as of late, Michael Douglas has really been making my skin crawl.  I also thought that the film did a good job creating Ant-Man’s microscopic world, even if I’m still not totally sold on the character as a dynamic hero.  I do wish that the film had a stronger villain.  Corey Stoll is such a good actor and capable of doing so much and it was hard not to regret that he was stuck playing such a generic bad guy.

Cinderella (dir by Kenneth Branagh)

Oh, how I loved Cinderella!  The film, a live-action retelling of the Cinderella story, was a gorgeous fairy tale and a wonderful reminder that a film doesn’t have to be dark and depressing to be good.  (In many ways, Cinderella serves as an antidote to not only Into The Woodsbut countless Tim Burton films as well.)  Lily James is beautiful in the title role, Richard Madden is wonderfully charming as the prince, and Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter are perfectly cast as the stepmother and the fairy godmother.

Jurassic World (dir by Colin Trevorrow)

Jurassic World was previously reviewed by Ryan the Trashfilm Guru.  I hate to admit it but I was, initially, one of those people who watched Jurassic World and got annoyed because the film was predictable and the script was a bit clunky.  Traditionally (and, if you doubt me, just read my review of Avatar), it bothers me when a film devotes so much time special effects that it can’t seem to be bothered with character development and clever dialogue.

But then I thought about it somewhat and I thought to myself, you know what?  This movie had Chris Pratt and it had some very convincing dinosaurs!  And, especially when it comes to a summer blockbuster, that is sometimes all you need.

(Why I enjoyed Jurassic World while disliking Avatar largely comes down to the difference between Chris Pratt and Sam Worthington.)

Magic Mike XXL (dir by Gregory Jacobs)

Oddly enough, I had the roughly the same reaction to Magic Mike XXL that I had to Jurassic World.  Yes, there are certain things — mostly concerning the film’s script — about which I could nitpick but what’s truly important is that Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, and most of the original cast of Magic Mike is back and they’re stripping again.  Magic Mike XXL is a huge (heh heh) crowd pleaser, a film that delivers exactly what it promises.

Though Steven Soderbergh served as cinematographer for Magic Mike XXL, he did not return to serve as director and perhaps that’s why Magic Mike XXL feels like a far less pretentious film than the first Magic Mike.  Out of the original cast, both Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer both declined to appear in the sequel.  McConaughey is missed, Pettyfer less so.

The Man From UNCLE (dir by Guy Ritchie)

The Man From Uncle is one of the many stylish spy films to be released this year.  Henry Cavill is an American spy, Armie Hammer is a Russian spy, and Hugh Grant is the Englishman who tells them both what to do.  The Man From Uncle was entertaining.  It took place in the 60s, so there was a lot of wonderful retro fashion and the whole movie moved at a nice, breezy pace.  Ultimately — and I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t exactly fair — The Man From UNCLE suffered because it was released in the same year as Kingsman and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  Man From UNCLE was entertaining but rather generic.  At no point did it reach the lunatic high of Kingsman’s Free Bird sequence.

Terminator: Genisys (dir by Alan Taylor)

You can read Ryan’s review of Terminator: Genisys here.  I have to admit that Terminator: Genisys confused the Hell out of me.  Not being a huge fan of the entire Terminator franchise (though, yes, I do know what Skynet is and I have seen the first two films), I do have to admit that I sometimes felt lost while watching Genisys.

But you know what?  If you just sit back and relax and try not to think about the film too much — if you just accept it as an action film and watch for the stunts and the explosions — Terminator: Genisys is not the disaster that many critics made it out to be.  I mean, let’s just be honest here.  Most critics would die before they gave a good review to any film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  (Just check out all the negativity that greeted the brilliant zombie film, Maggie.)  After all, Schwarzenegger is an outspoken, confident, cheerfully arrogant Republican and most film critics can only relate to the arrogant part.  (And even then, they don’t ever seem to be very cheerful about it…)  Terminator: Genisys is a well-made and perfectly adequate action film, one that works as long as you don’t spend too much time dwelling on it.  It’s cinematic junk food and there’s nothing wrong with that.

terminator-genisys-super-bowl-ad-debuts

Lisa Marie Is Kinda Mad At The Screen Actors Guild


The Screen Actors Guild nominations were announced on Wednesday morning and I’m just going to be honest.  I am not happy.  The SAG nominations have a pretty good track record as an Oscar precursor, largely because the Actors’ Branch is the largest branch of the Academy.  The Actors Branch, of course, is totally made up of members of the SAG though not every member of SAG is in the Actors’ Branch.  As such, there’s usually one or two SAG nominations who don’t get an Oscar nomination but, on the whole, SAG is a pretty good precursor of who is ultimately going to receive an Oscar nomination next January.

So, why am I upset?

Well, the SAG nominated some very good and deserving performers this year but somehow, they did not nominate Michael Shannon for Take Shelter.  They did not nominate Carey Mulligan for Shame.  They did not nominate Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  They did not nominate The Guard’s Brendan Gleeson. And, worst of all, they did not nominate Michael Fassbender for Shame.

My personal theory is that Fassbender’s brave performance left the other members of the SAG feeling small, in more ways than one.

Here’s what did get nominated:

Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture
Bridesmaids
The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight in Paris

Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Leading Role
George Clooney, The Descendants
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Leading Role
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Supporting Role
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Supporting Role
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

On the plus side, the SAG showed absolutely no love for David Fincher’s rip-off of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Also, it’s nice to see Jonah Hill’s performance in Moneyball hasn’t been totally overshadowed by Brad Pitt’s more showy performance.  Also, it’s looking more and more like Bridesmaids is going to be a factor in this year’s Oscar race and the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of that.

 

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: My Week With Marilyn (dir. by Simon Curtis)


My Week With Marilyn is apparently based on a true story. 

We know this because the film not only uses the opening title card to tell us that the story is true but the movie itself is narrated by Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne) and Colin tells us pretty much the same thing, over and over again. (Seriously, this film reminded me of why I usually don’t care much for first person narration.)  Anyway, the film takes place in the late 1957.  Colin is the 3rd Assistant Director, working with Laurence Olivier (a haughty and pompous yet oddly touching performance from Kenneth Branagh) on a film called The Prince and the Showgirl.  The film stars Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) who quickly starts to annoy Olivier when it becomes obvious that she’s painfully insecure, self-destructive, and dominated by her agent, acting coach, and cold husband.  Colin, however, is smitten with Marilyn and, despite the ominous warnings delivered by everyone else in the film, he soon finds himself falling in love with her and giving this film a title by spending a week with Marilyn.

My Week With Marilyn has been getting a lot of attention lately because many Oscar watchers are expecting to see Michelle Williams receive a Best Actress nomination for her performance as Marilyn Monroe.  Lately, Kenneth Branagh has become something of a dark horse for a best supporting actor nomination and personally, I would say that Julia Ormond (as a paranoid Vivien Leigh) and Judi Dench (as a supportive actress) both deserve some consideration as well. 

The film is ultimately dominated by Michelle Williams and it works whenever she’s on-screen. (And, unfortunately, it pretty much falls apart whenever she’s not.)  Williams has the daunting job of playing an icon here and she manages to be both believable as an icon and as a very fragile and poignant human being.  The script, to be honest, doesn’t give her much help.  As written, Marilyn is alternatively presented as being a helpless damsel in need of a white knight, a calculating seductress who threatens to lead Colin off of the straight and narrow path (represented here by Emma Watson as the girl that Colin treats quite badly)  and a convenient symbol of a lost age.  The brilliance of Michelle Williams is in how she manages to use these three conflicting characterizations to create one very believable Marilyn Monroe.

The main problem with this film is that it’s not called Marilyn.  Instead, it’s My Week With Marilyn and, as a result, the film is actually about the male gaze of the “My” of the title.  As good a performance as Williams gives, it’s hard to avoid the fact that, as far as this film is concerned, Marilyn ultimately exists just to teach Colin a few life lessons.  Unfortunately, as a character, Colin Clark is so thinly written that he’s never all that compelling and, as the film progresses, it’s hard not to feel that he’s ultimately using Marilyn just as surely as everyone else is. 

(In all honestly, however, I have to admit that one of my issues with Colin is that he’s played by Eddie Redmayne.  Don’t get me wrong, Redmayne is a good actor and he manages to make Colin almost likable but I simply cannot look at him without flashing back to Redmayne’s performance in Savage Grace.  That’s the movie where he plays a schizophrenic who has an incestuous relationship with his mother (Julianne Moore) before murdering her.  Redmayne was so effectively creepy in that film that, as unprofessional as it may be for a film critic, I had a hard time accepting him in the role of white knight.)  

I’ve read a lot of reviews that have complained that this film is basically just a big budget Lifetime Movie and, in many ways, it is.  Director Simon Curtis is a veteran of television and the film has the crisp but flat look of a tv show.  But even more than just the cinematography, My Week With Marilyn feels like a TV movie because its script hesitates to raise any issues that can’t be resolved in two hours.  That said, it’s really not sordid or silly enough to be a great Lifetime movie and it’s far too well acted to be a waste-of-time.  Ultimately, this is a flawed film that deserves to be seen for its performances.  If only the entire film was as compelling and interesting as the performances of Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, and especially Michelle Williams.

The WAFCA Has Spoken


I don’t know much about the Washington Area Film Critics Association but, just judging from the films that they chose to nominate for being the best of 2011, they would appear to have better taste than most film critics. 

(Seriously, film critics are the worst.)

They announced their picks for the best of 2011 earlier today and here’s a complete list of their nominees and winners.  If nothing else, this year’s Oscar race is certainly shaping up to be a bit more interesting than last years. 

Best Film:
*The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Hugo
Win Win

Best Director:
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
*Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Best Actor:
*George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

Best Actress:
Viola Davis (The Help)
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
*Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
*Albert Brooks (Drive)
John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Best Supporting Actress:
Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Carey Mulligan (Shame)
*Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Best Acting Ensemble:
*Bridesmaids
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Help
Hugo
Margin Call

Best Adapted Screenplay:
*Alexander Payne and Nate Faxon & Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
John Logan (Hugo)
Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball)
Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)

Best Original Screenplay:

Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Tom McCarthy (Win Win)
Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
*Will Reiser (50/50)

Best Animated Feature:
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Puss in Boots
*Rango
Winnie the Pooh

Best Documentary:
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Buck
*Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life
Project Nim

Best Foreign Language Film:
13 Assassins
Certified Copy
I Saw the Devil
Pina
*The Skin I Live In

Best Art Direction:
Lawrence Bennett, Production Designer, and Gregory S. Hooper, Art Director (The Artist)
Stuart Craig, Production Designer, and Stephenie McMillan, Set Decorator (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)
*Dante Ferretti, Production Designer, and Francesca Lo Schiavo, Set Decorator (Hugo)
Jack Fisk, Production Designer, and Jeanette Scott, Set Decorator (The Tree of Life)
Rick Carter, Production Designer, and Lee Sandales, Set Decorator (War Horse)

Best Cinematography:
Guillaume Schiffman (The Artist)
Robert Richardson (Hugo)
Manuel Alberto Claro (Melancholia)
*Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)
Janusz Kaminski (War Horse)

Best Score:
*Ludovic Bource (The Artist)
Cliff Martinez (Drive)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Howard Shore (Hugo)
John Williams (War Horse)