Being single is illegal. Those unfortunate enough to remain unspoken for are forced into unbecoming ponchos to hide out in perpetually drizzly U.K. forests, dodging trigger happy hunters locked, stocked and loaded with tranquiler guns, motivated to track them down and capture them. The remaining option for singletons comes in the form of a one-way ticket to a matchmaker hotel where they’ll endure 45 days of punishing “romance” seminars in hopes of finding a mate. Those who “don’t make it” are turned into an animal of their choosing. David’s (Colin Ferrell) desired animal is a lobster. And such is Yorgos Lanthimos’ demented lifecycle in his fifth feature film The Lobster. Read More
Telling the rousing story of Lili Elbe, a landscape artist who was the first to undergo gender correction surgery, Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper enlists a talented crew lead by last year’s Oscar-winner Eddie Redmaye and illustrious hot ticket item Alicia Vikander. Both show off their acting chops like wolves gnashing at lambs but there’s an uncomfortable air of assumed prestige to Redmayne’s whisper-heavy performance and Tom Hooper’s mawkish tendencies on full display. Redmayne’s clearly a phenomenal talent but, in a role that requires so much externalization of ticking internal clockwork, his turn as Lili risks being too showy, much like the film itself. On the surface, The Danish Girl is among the most “progressive” movies of the year and yet it can never stay the feeling of being tame, almost safe. Read More
Chris Hemsworth was a rare find for Thor because he seems like a man beamed out of another dimension. The lacy lexicon of Marvel’s quasi-Shakespearean tragedy boasts Hemsworth’s Australian-cum-Nobleman accent, one with an ethereally hard-to-place, far, far away quality to it. When Hemsworth is smashed down to Earth and asked to perform New England for Ron Howard’s not-quite-Moby-Dick Moby Dick story he musters a punishing take on a Nantucket accent that turns the r’s in ah’s (that is when he remembers he’s supposed to be mussing up his voice at all.) Read More
We have an inherent tendency to want to give the benefit of the doubt to a piece of art with “good intentions”. In the case of Suffragette, Sarah Gavron’s English women rights docudrama, the well-meaning intention is there in spades but the product itself is bungled and bandaged, thick with platitudes and disastrously short on emotion. For a feature documenting a major historical event that saw children torn from the arms of their mothers, clumps of activists jailed and tortured for sticking to their egalitarian beliefs and women brutalized for expressing their desire to be able to vote alongside the men, Suffragette is almost appallingly, unforgivably devoid of organic impact. Read More
Before 2006, it might have seemed unreasonable to list a slew of gripes and grievances over the convenient scripting and utter ridiculousness of a Bond movie. This is a character who’s faced invisible cars, bagpipe flamethrowers, underwater jet-packs, cigarette rocket darts, deadly hats, and nigh unkillable nemeses. He once even fought a giant on the moon. Historically, Bond is an over-the-top super agent less grounded in reality than the WWE (emphasis on the word ‘historically’). But upon taking up the mantle in 2006, Daniel Craig has ushered in a new era of Bond; a super-serious, no-BS generation of the beloved super spy, 007. Craig’s a Bond more comfortable with a kill than a quip; an alcoholic outsider with rage issues, and yet someone who legitimately grapples with his license to kill. His Bond has been called gritty and callous, and for good reason. He’s been equal parts savior and butcher, still reeling years after the death of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and regularly drinking himself into moody reticence. This modern Bond is more character than caricature; a believable emblem of super-spy badass whose cloth more closely resembles Bourne than Batman. It should come as a major disappointment then that Spectre, the 24th onscreen iteration of the infamous British agent, is a monumental slip backwards into a 00-Stone-Age of yesteryear’s lackluster Bond. Read More
Paul King tells the story of the Peruvian hat-wearing bear Paddington with painless charm and a cool wit, crafting a family-friendly outing that’ll leave baby, momma and poppa bear equally satisfied. Though never quite reaching the heights promised in its subversively droll opening sequence (travel piano FTW), Paddington plays its “home is where the heart is” message safe but effectively, wearing its heart on its sleeve in a decidedly not saccharine manner. Skirting the fine line of overt mushing, King has his cake and eats it too, serving up a delightfully cheery rendition of everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic duffle-coated bear with just a spoon full of sugar to help it all go down smoothly.
So named for a London train station, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is an unassuming, though habitually catastrophic, little bundle of CGI fur prone to incidents of the wrong-place-wrong-time variety. Ejected from his homelands of Darkest Peru after an earthquake levels his Ewokian tree fort abode and his uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon), Paddington heads to London armed only with a suitcase full of marmalade and a baggage claim necktie that reads “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Confident that he can seek out the explorer who discovered his super-intelligent species so many years back (and was thoughtful enough not to “bag a specimen”), Paddington soon realizes that London isn’t the chipper, uber-polite metropolis he had envisioned.
Stranded in a subway station, the Brown family happens upon the dejected bipedal bear, now plum out of marmalade. Hugh Boneville‘s Mr. Brown shrugs him off as a pesky louse while Sally Hawkins‘ Mrs. Brown discovers a quick soft spot in her heart for the definitely not-stuffed little caniform, convincing her portly hubby and incalculably-not-escatic children to house him. At least until they can find wee Paddington a proper guardian. Bathtub shenanigans follow.
More hijinks ensue when Nicole Kidman‘s villainous Millicent enters the picture with nefarious plans to capture and perform a case of emergency taxidermy on the fuzzy critter from Darkest Peru. For the dollar dollar bills y’all. Performing midair acrobatics (and unmistakably riffing on Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible wire work) Kidman throws himself completely into the campy role, providing a Looney Toon of a villain as a necessary pivot point to get the emotional ball rolling for the ever-stubborn Mr. Brown.
Though the third act fails to get off the ground – literally and figuratively – in much of the same ways that the first two do, the accordant motif of high heights remains – Mr. Brown on a balcony risking life and limb being the linchpin finale we all knew was in store. It all adds up to emotionally rich though highly retread territory; its promises of originality reduced to the likes of a safari in our own humble backyard. But that innit all bad, issit? Though not necessarily high-minded, Paddington is a compilation of pleasantries set out to win the hearts of its observers, if not necessarily their minds.