Film Review: Tomb Raider (dir by Roar Uthaug)


It seems somewhat appropriate that the new Lara Croft is played by an actress best known for starring in a (very good) movie about artificial intelligence because the latest Tomb Raider film is so generic that it feels as if it could have been written by a robot.

Now, before I get too critical,I should acknowledge that the first 30 minutes of the film is actually a lot of fun.  When we first meet Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), she’s making her living a bike courier in London.  She delivers food to the hungry, except for when she’s boxing or engaging in bicycle races.  Despite the fact that she comes from a fabulously wealthy family, Lara refuses to accept her inheritance because accepting it would mean acknowledging that her missing father, explorer Richard Croft (Dominic West), is dead.  For those 30 minutes, the film has a fun, kinetic feel to it. As I watched those scenes, I realized that I’d actually be more than happy to watch a full-length film just about people racing around London on bicycles.

(Of course, there’d have to be some dancing, too.  There always has to be dancing.)

But then Kristin Scott-Thomas shows up and informs Lara that, unless she claims her inheritance, Andrew’s estate will be sold off.  At this point, the whole film starts to go downhill.  Naturally, before signing the papers that would declare Andrew to be deceased, Lara stumbles across one final message from her father.  In the message, he asks her to destroy all of his research.  Instead, Lara decides to go to Hong Kong so that she can investigate her father’s disappearance.

(Before she can leave, she has to get money from a pawnbroker who is played, in a rather lengthy cameo, by Nick Frost.  Frost mostly seems to be there so that the audience can go, “Hey, it’s Nick Frost!”)

You can probably already guess everything that happens once Lara arrives in Hong Kong.  It’s hardly a spoiler to inform you that Richard’s not dead and that he’s spent the last few years on an isolated island, trying to prevent the bad guys from tracking down an ancient tomb, one that Richard believes will destroy the world if it’s discovered.  It’s also not a spoiler to tell you that Lara spends a lot of time running through the jungle and trying to escape from collapsing caves.  That’s pretty much what you would expect from a movie called Tomb Raider but, even though the film is presumably giving the audience what they want, it just falls flat.

The problem is that, with the exception of those opening scenes in London, this version of Tomb Raider just isn’t much fun.  As good an actress as she is, Alicia Vikander never really seems comfortable in the role of being an action girl.  Vikander’s great when she’s racing around London and refusing her inheritance but, once she finds herself in the jungle, she just seems lost.  In fact, the only person who seems to be more lost than Alicia Vikander is Walton Goggins, who goes through the motion’s as the film’s villain but who never seems to be that invested in the character one way or the other.  Among the main cast, only Dominic West appears to be enjoying himself.  There’s nothing subtle about West’s performance but that’s exactly what a film like this needs.  Director Roar Uthaug is obviously comfortable with directing action scenes but there’s little of the wit or attention to detail necessary for this film to truly make an impression.

It’s not a terrible movie, don’t get me wrong.  Though it seems like it takes forever for Lara to actually reach it, the tomb is nicely realized and the film features a great score from Junkie XL.  But, ultimately, the most memorable thing about this new Tomb Raider is how forgettable it is.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Four Weddings and a Funeral (dir by Mike Newell)


(With the Oscars scheduled to be awarded on March 4th, I have decided to review at least one Oscar-nominated film a day.  These films could be nominees or they could be winners.  They could be from this year’s Oscars or they could be a previous year’s nominee!  We’ll see how things play out.  Today, I take a look at the 1994 best picture nominee, Four Weddings and a Funeral!)

(SPOILERS)

Four Weddings and a Funeral is truly an oddity.  It’s a romantic comedy that works wonderfully well, despite the fact that there’s next to no chemistry between the two leads.

Hugh Grant plays Charles, a neurotic bachelor who lives in London and who, despite having been in several relationships, has yet to marry.  As he’s explains it, he’s spent his life expecting love to hit him like a thunderbolt and it hasn’t happened yet.  Andie MacDowell plays Carrie, an American who has one of those vaguely defined magazine jobs that are so popular in romantic comedies.  Carrie and Charles meet over the course of … well, four weddings and a funeral.  From the minute they first meet, they are attracted to one another but the path of true love is never an easy one.  After spending the night with him, Carrie leaves for America.  When Charles meet her for a second time, she’s now engaged to Sir Hamish Banks (Corin Redgrave), a rather boring politician.

Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as Charles.  It can be easy to make fun of an actor like Grant, what with all the stammering and the carefully calculated charm.  But it works perfectly in Four Weddings and a Funeral, in which Grant manages to believable as both a hopeless romantic and a committed cynic.  Within moments of his first scene (in which Charles wakes up and realizes he’s late for a friend’s wedding), you forget that you’re watching Hugh Grant.  He is Charles.

On the other hand, Andie MacDowell never convinces us that she’s Carrie.  That’s not totally MacDowell’s fault, of course.  Carrie is an underwritten character, one who serves more as a plot device than anything else.  We’re never quite sure how she feels about Charles.  For that matter, we never understand why she’s marrying Hamish.  When she shows up at the film’s funeral, we’re left wondering if she’s really mourning or if she’s just showing up to be polite.  Carrie never comes to life and MacDowell never feels comfortable in the role.  When she gives a warmly received speech at her own wedding reception, the scene feels false because you never feel as if the words are coming from Carrie.

The film ends with Charles and Carrie finally getting together.  Charles both swears his love for her and asks if she’ll agree to never marry him.  We later see them in a snapshot, with a child.  But, despite all of that, you never believe that Charles and Carrie are going to stay together.  There’s just not enough chemistry between Grant and MacDowell to convince you that Carrie isn’t going to get bored and run off with whoever it is she meets at the next wedding she attends.

So, why does this film work so well?  It works because it’s a love story.  However, it’s not about the love between Charles and Carrie.  Not really.  Instead, it’s about the love between Charles and his friends.  Because of the way the film is structured, we only get to see how these people behave at weddings and a funeral.  We never really get to see what these people do for a living or what they’re like during the week.  In fact, we don’t even find out how they all became friends in the first place.

But it doesn’t matter.  The friendships feels real.  The friendships feels authentic.  You might not know how they all became friends but that doesn’t matter.  By the end of the movie, you feel as if you could go to London and possibly run into any of these people going about their daily lives.  They become real in a way that Carrie never does.

There’s Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman), who is Charles’s roommate and who gets flirty when she has too much to drink.

And then there’s David (David Bower), who is Charles’s younger brother.  Both the actor and the character are deaf.  One of the sweetest scenes in the film is when a woman who has been crushing on David attempts to show off her sign language skills.  Everything she signs is wrong but David’s sweet smile tells us all we need to know about how he feels towards her.

Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Tom (James Fleet) are siblings.  Fiona, who dresses in black, presents a hard exterior but, in one of the film’s more poignant scenes, she admits that the reason she’s never gotten married is because she’s been in love with Charles for ten years.  Tom is a goofy optimist, the type who never doubts that he’s going to find happiness no matter what.

Gareth (Simon Callow) and Matthew (John Hannah) are as close to being married as anyone within Charles’s clique of friends.  (Four Weddings and a Funeral was released twenty years before the legalization of same-sex marriage in the UK.  If someone views the film 50 years from now, they’ll probably wonder why, exactly, Matthew is always described, by those outside of his central group of friends, as merely being a “close friend” of Garth’s.)  Sadly, the funeral of the title is for the fun-loving Gareth.

It’s during the funeral, when Matthew reads a poem from Auden, that it becomes apparent that the heart of this film belongs not to Charles and Carrie but to their friends.  Ultimately, Four Weddings and a Funeral is a celebration of the bonds of friendship.  At the end of the movie, you’re happy, not because Charles and Carrie are finally together but because this unique and wonderful group of friends have all found each other.  Everyone should be so lucky.

Four Weddings and a Funeral was nominated for best picture but lost to Forrest Gump.

And, finally, here are the nominations of the St. Louis Film Critics Association!


As soon as I post this, I will be caught up on sharing all of the precursor awards here on the Shattered Lens (or, at the very least, all of the precursor awards that have been announced so far.  There’s several more to come).  It’s not a minute to soon either!  Tomorrow, the SAG Nominations will be announced.  That’s one of the biggest of the precursors.

Anyway, the St. Louis Film Critics Association announce their nominations yesterday.  The winners will be announced on December 17th.

Here are the nominees!

BEST PICTURE

  • “Get Out”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “The Post”
  • “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
  • Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
  • Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”
  • Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
  • Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Kristen Stewart, “Personal Shopper”
  • Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
  • Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
  • Meryl Streep, “The Post”
  • Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR

  • Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
  • Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
  • James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
  • Tom Hanks,”The Post”
  • Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Kristin Scott Thomas, “Darkest Hour”
  • Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
  • Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
  • Hong Chau, “Downsizing”
  • Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Michael Shannon, “The Shape of Water”
  • Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
  • William Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
  • Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • “The Big Sick”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “Get Out”
  • “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • “The Shape of Water”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

BEST SOUNDTRACK

BEST EDITING

  • “Darkest Hour”
  • “The Post”
  • “Baby Driver”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Dunkirk”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

BEST SCORE

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “Jane”
  • “Last Man in Aleppo”
  • “Never Say Goodbye: The Kshe Documentary”
  • “Whose Streets?”
  • “City of Ghosts”

BEST ANIMATED MOVIE

  • “Despicable Me 3”
  • “Loving Vincent”
  • The LEGO Batman Movie”
  • “Coco”
  • “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie”

BEST FOREIGN FILM

  • “Frantz”
  • “The Square”
  • “Graduation”
  • “Land of Mine”
  • “First They Killed My Father”

BEST SCENE

  • Harlem Shuffle Opening, “Baby Driver”
  • Elio’s Dad’s Monologue, “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Stairway Fight, “Atomic Blonde”
  • Coach Directing The Tempest, “Lady Bird”
  • ‘Oh, hi, Mark,’ “The Disaster Artist

WORST FILM

Belatedly, Here Are The Nominations of the North Texas Film Critics!


Two days ago, the North Texas Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the best of 2017!

On twitter, there’s been a lot of speculation as to why the NTFCA totally snubbed Call Me By Your Name in their nominations.  Hilariously, some people — all from out-of-state, of course — are assuming that the NTFCA must be made up of evangelical, right-wingers because it’s a Texas organization.  Seriously, those people have no idea how left-wing most members of the Texas media are.  Texas may be a Republican state but most of our native film critics are somewhere to the left of Bernie Sanders.

Anyway, here are the nominees:

BEST PICTURE
“Baby Driver”
“The Big Sick”
“Dunkirk”
“Get Out”
“The Florida Project”
“Lady Bird”
“Logan”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Stronger”
Tom Hanks, “The Post”
Hugh Jackman, “Logan”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
James McAvoy, “Split”
Kumail Nanijiani, “The Big Sick”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”
Jeremy Renner, “Wind River”
Andy Serkis, “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”
Judi Dench, “Victoria & Abdul”
Gal Gadot, “Wonder Woman”
Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Nicole Kidman, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Tatiana Maslany, “Stronger”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Tilda Swinton, “Okja”
Kristin Scott Thomas, “Darkest Hour”
Bria Vinaite, “The Florida Project”
Allison Williams, “Get Out”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Steve Carell, “Battle of the Sexes”
Daniel Craig, “Logan Lucky”
Bryan Cranston, “Last Flag Flying”
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Idris Elba, “Molly’s Game”
Will Poulter, “Detroit”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Ray Romano, “The Big Sick”
Mark Rylance, “Dunkirk”
Patrick Stewart, “Logan”

BEST DIRECTOR
Sean Baker, “The Florida Project”
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Patty Jenkins, “Wonder Woman”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Steven Spielberg, “The Post”
Aaron Sorkin, “Molly’s Game”
Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”
Joe Wright, “Darkest Hour”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Thimios Bakatakis, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”
Hoyte Van Hoytema, “Dunkirk”
Matthew Jensen, “Wonder Woman”
Dan Laustsen, “The Shape of Water”
Janusz Kaminski, “The Post”
Michael Seresin, “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“First They Killed My Father”
“In the Fade”
“Menashe”
“Raw”
“The Square”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”
“Chasing Coral”
“City of Ghosts”
“Cries from Syria”
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
“Jane”
“Step”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“The Breadwinner”
“Cars 3”
“Coco”
“Despicable Me 3:
“The LEGO Batman Movie”
“Loving Vincent”

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for October!


Hi, everyone!

It’s time for me to post my monthly Oscar predictions!  With Oscar season finally getting started, things are starting to become a lot more clearer.  At the same time, especially when compared to the previous few years, it’s hard not to feel as if there’s a lot more uncertainty than usual.

For months, people were convinced that The Post was going to be the big Oscar contender but rumor has it that the film’s a bit of a mess.  I can’t say that I’m surprised.  Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and Steven Spielberg teaming up for a celebration of the press?  That sounds like exactly the type of project that will bring out everyone’s worst, most mawkish instincts.

With the downfall of Hollywood power players and monsters like Harvey Weinstein, the Oscar outlook becomes even more hazy.  If ever there’s been a year for the Academy to make a statement, this would be it.  But will they have the courage?  On the one hand, the Academy has made an attempt to broaden their membership and to bring in new voices and perspectives.  On the other hand, Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel has already said he won’t be mentioning anything about Weinstein (or, I assume, James Toback or Kevin Spacey) during next year’s ceremony.  Is the Academy going to make a statement or are they just going to try to pretend like nothing’s happened?

Could next year be the year that the Oscars embrace genre films?  Some of the biggest disappointments of the year have been the movies that would typically contend for Oscars.  Meanwhile, some of the most acclaimed films of the year — Get Out, It, Wonder Woman, Logan, — are all so-called genre films.

For my predictions below, I’ve decided to live in a world where the Academy embraces genre films.  These predictions may be totally off but screw it.  It’s the night before Halloween and I’m going to have fun.  Besides, I can make a case for every single prediction found below.

Check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September!

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

Get Out

It

Logan

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Wonder Woman

Best Director

Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water

Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

Best Actor

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Andrew Garfield in Breathe

Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky

Best Actress

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Forida Project

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adam Sander in The Meyerowitz Stories

Patrick Stewart in Logan

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige in Mudbound

Allison Janney in I, Tonya

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for June


Hi there!

Well, it’s time for me to make my monthly Oscar predictions!  Though my predictions are no longer “too early,” they are still definitely early.  Most of these predictions are based on a combination of wild speculation and wishful thinking.

For instance, do I really think that Wonder Woman will be an Oscar contender?

Well, I think it could be.  I’d like it if it was.  If really pressed, I’ll say that I think it has a better chance of being nominated than Logan does.  And, as you’ll remember, I had Logan listed as a best picture nominee back in March.

I guess what I’m saying is that these predictions should always be taken with a grain of salt.  To be honest, right now, the only precursor that we have is Cannes and Cannes is notoriously unreliable when it comes to being used as a tool to predict what will actually be nominated.

Anyway, these predictions will probably be good for a laugh or two next February.  Be sure to check out my previous predictions for January, February, March, April, and May!

Best Picture

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2049

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Detroit

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

Goodbye, Christopher Robin

Mudbound

Wonder Woman

Best Director

Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled

Simon Curtis for Goodbye, Christopher Robin

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Dee Rees for Mudbound

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Robert Pattinson in Good Time

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Michelle Pfieffer in Where Is Kyra?

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Woody Harrelson in The Glass Castle

Jason Mitchell in Mudbound

Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories

Best Supporting Actress

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck

Margot Robbie in Goodbye, Christopher Robin

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Naomi Watts in The Glass Castle

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions for May


Be sure to check out my predictions for April, March, February, and January!

Best Picture

Battles of the Sexes

Blade Runner 2049

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

The Disaster Artist

Downsizing

Dunkirk

The Glass Castle

Mudbound

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Dee Rees for Mudbound

Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Tom Cruise in American Made

Matt Damon in Downsizing

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Miles Teller in Thank You For Your Service

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Brie Larson in The Glass Castle

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

 

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in The Glass Castle

Jason Mitchell in Mudbound

 

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Naomi Watts in The Glass Castle