Bombshell

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Bombshell.  (B)  I had time to squeeze one last movie in before the end of 2019, so of course I opted for the one starring the flawless Nicole Kidman (Aquaman).  It’s based on the sexual-harassment scandal that engulfed the Fox News organization in 2016 and ultimately took down CEO Roger Ailes (played here by John Lithgow, Confessions of a Shopaholic).  I’ve never watched Fox News and paid no attention to the scandal, so it was all rather new to me.  The incomparable Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, a Fox personality who first got demoted, then got fired, and then sued Ailes individually for sexual harassment.  Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde) plays Megyn Kelly, an even higher-profile Fox newswoman who has to decide whether to protect her very successful career or come forward to corroborate Carlson’s story with her own account of Ailes’s misconduct some ten years earlier.  And then there’s Margot Robbie (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), who plays a wide-eyed up-and-comer who’s currently being victimized by Ailes.  Although the movie was interesting, I think it suffers from the fact that Robbie’s character is fictional (a composite of several women, I’ve read).  The main suspense of the action is whether any women who work at Fox will come forward to substantiate Carlson’s claims, and the movie sort of sets you up to expect that Robbie’s character will be the one to come forward because, unlike Kelly, she’s suffering from Ailes’s misconduct right now.  But then she doesn’t, presumably because she’s not a real person and the movie wanted to stick closer to the facts.  Anyway, I thought it was worth seeing, and I note that Theron and Robbie have picked up Golden Globe nominations for their performances (though not Kidman, criminally).

Also, I was again impressed by the Alamo Drafthouse’s pre-show entertainment, which included clips from Kidman’s first film, BMX Bandits, and a comic bit from Funnyordie.com in which Theron pretends to be practicing an Academy Award acceptance speech in her bathroom mirror.

That Thing You Do!

The Movie Snob goes back in time.

That Thing You Do!  (A-).  Today was way too cold to venture out and do anything, so I decided to revisit this old favorite.  I could hardly believe it was released in 1996!  Anyway, if you like feel-good movies, you should keep this one within arm’s reach at all times.  Tom Hanks (A Hologram for the King) wrote, directed, and starred in this rags-to-riches story about an Erie, PA garage band that hits it big circa 1964, with the help of a mostly benevolent manager (Hanks).  Tom Everett Scott (Hallmark TV’s Christmas Connection) plays the band’s drummer, a good-natured jazz-lover; Steve Zahn (Sahara) is the goofy guitarist; and cute little Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) plays the girlfriend of the band’s moody leader Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech, Flight 7500).  The film also features Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde) in a very early role as the drummer’s girlfriend.  Bryan Cranston (Argo) also pops up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him role (as astronaut Gus Grissom!).  The DVD also contains a short making-of featurette, two trailers, several commercials, and two music videos of songs from the movie.  This movie is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, so get yourself a copy!

Atomic Blonde

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Atomic Blonde  (D).  So I was shooting the breeze with a couple of guys at work, and we were talking about movies.  Expecting no contradiction, I offered the opinion that Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot is probably the most beautiful movie star working today.  To my amazement, one of my colleagues demurred.  “Have you seen Atomic Blonde?” he asked.  Recalling that this was a poorly performing spy movie starring the admittedly gorgeous Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), I resolved to check it out.

Theron is gorgeous, but the movie is a mess.  During the last few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a British super-spy-assassin (Theron) is sent to Berlin to find and recover a list of a bunch of spies from a KGB guy gone rogue.  Her connection there, the local British spy chief, is a squirrelly guy played by James McAvoy (Atonement).  A cute French spy played by Sophia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) engages in some inappropriate spygames with Theron.  Oh, and the whole thing is told by Theron’s character in flashback, so we’re constantly getting yanked back into a boring room in London where she swaps supposedly hard-boiled dialogue with John Goodman (Kong: Skull Island) and Toby Jones (Morgan).  The highlights are the exquisitely choreographed fight scenes, and I must admit they are better filmed and more entertaining than the incomprehensibly cut gibberish you see in most action movies these days.  But I had problems even with the fight scenes.  I could suspend disbelief long enough to accept that Charlize Theron is such a supernaturally fast and agile fighter that she can defeat thugs two or three times her size simply because they can’t land a punch on her.  But I can’t accept that she can actually absorb full-on body-blows from the same thugs and still keep up the fight.  She may be a ninja, but come on, a supermodel-skinny woman is not going to get up after some of the punches she takes in this movie, no matter how much of a ninja she is.

Mad Max: Fury Road

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Mad Max: Fury Road  (B).  Does anybody else find it remarkable (or strange) that Mad Max director George Miller also wrote Babe and directed Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2?  Anyhoo, I haven’t seen any of the other Mad Max films, but I was all geared up for a two-hour-long car chase through the Australian desert.  The movie did not disappoint.  It is visually stunning (even in the 2D incarnation I saw), and stuffed to the gills with insane flourishes that I found very entertaining.  There’s not much plot.  In a post-apocalyptic desert, a hideous tyrant named Immortan Joe keeps a largish population in thrall by controlling the water, the food, and an army of albino-mutant “war boys.”  Max (Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises) is a lost soul who gets captured by Joe’s goons, but he gets a chance to escape when one of Joe’s top lieutenants, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, Prometheus) makes a break for freedom with Joe’s five beautiful and lightly clothed “breeders” in tow.  The rest of the movie is a car chase involving the most ridiculously tricked-out, armed, and armored cars and trucks you can imagine.  My special favorite was the giant truck that seemed to carry nothing but giant bongo drums (and drummers) and a heavy metal guitarist whose double-necked guitar doubled as a flamethrower.  For a delirious, demented ride, Fury Road is this year’s movie to beat.  (But be advised, it is rated R for “intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.  It’s not for the kiddies!)

Snow White and the Huntsman

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Snow White and the Huntsman  (D).  I never in a million years dreamed I would see this movie and look back fondly on Mirror, Mirror, but there it is.  In this version of the fairy tale, a beautiful witch named Ravenna (Charlize Theron, Prometheus) grabs a kingdom by killing its king and locking his daughter, Snow White (Kristen Stewart, Zathura), away in a dungeon.  I’m not sure why she doesn’t just have Snow White killed right then, but some years later Ravenna finds out she can use Snow White and become immortal somehow.  Then Snow White escapes into the Dark Forest, and Ravenna persuades a drunken brute known only as the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, The Cabin in the Woods) to track her and bring her back.  After that, it’s a long, boring slog through all sorts of hooey to get to the long, boring climactic battle.  The dialogue is terrible, the romantic angle is virtually nonexistent (even though a superfluous second suitor for Snow is eventually thrown into the mix), and nothing makes much sense.  I was also sad to see some real actors wasted playing the dwarfs, like Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) and Toby Jones (City of Ember).  Stewart continues to be a not very good actress, and she’s really not the fairest of them all.  Skip both this movie and Mirror, Mirror, and go see a decent fantasy movie like Brave or the recent live-action Alice in Wonderland.

P.S.  Yikes!  IMDB.com reports that Snow White and the Huntsman II may be in the works!

Prometheus

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Prometheus  (B+).  I barely managed to see this new sci-fi/horror flick before it leaves the theaters, and I’m glad I made the effort.  Director Ridley Scott returns to the universe of his 1979 classic Alien for the tale of a space expedition to a remote world that may hold the secret to the origins of life on Earth.  Once the astronauts arrive, they discover huge alien structures full of dead humanoid aliens, not to mention weirder and slimier artifacts of disturbing import.  I found plenty to like about the movie–the acting was good, and Scott had no trouble ratcheting up the suspense and dread.  There is plenty of gruesome stuff, which will surprise no one who saw Alien or its sequel Aliens.  On the down side, it seemed like an awful lot of stuff was left unexplained, and some of the characters did some things that made very little sense, or that seemed physically impossible.  And I thought Charlize Theron (Young Adult) was sadly underused as the icy corporate representative on the mission.  But in the end, I enjoyed the movie and left the theater hoping there will be a sequel.  If you’re one of the few folks who hasn’t seen the original Alien, I do think you will enjoy Prometheus more if you take the trouble to screen a DVD of Alien first.

Young Adult

A new review from The Movie Snob

Young Adult (B).  The writer-director team behind Juno (Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman) reteam for this dramedy starring the lovely Charlize Theron (Hancock) as Mavis Gary, a 37-year-old divorcee who lives in Minneapolis and has been making a living ghost-writing a series of novels for young adults.  She drinks way too much, her books have stopped selling, and she is generally dissatisfied with her life.  Then she gets an email announcing that her high-school boyfriend, Buddy Slade, and his wife Beth have had their first child.  Although she apparently hasn’t seen Buddy much if at all since high school, Mavis decides that getting Buddy back would be just the cure for her blues, so she packs her Mini Cooper and returns to her small hometown of Mercury, Minnesota, with the avowed goal of wrecking his marriage.  Mavis is both monstrous and pathetic, but Theron invests her with enough humanity to keep me feeling a shred of sympathy for her.  The reliable Patrick Wilson (Little Children) turns in a nice performance as the thoroughly unremarkable object of Mavis’s attention.  Patton Oswalt (The Informant!) plays Mavis’s unlikely confidante, a classmate who was left crippled by a horrific hate crime–because some jocks mistakenly thought he was gay.  Not many laughs, but the movie definitely held my attention and didn’t always go where I thought it was going.  I liked it.

Arrested Development (Season 3)

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Arrested Development (Season 3) (B). Although the abbreviated final season of Arrested Development doesn’t quite hit the delirious highs of the earlier ones, it still packs quite a few laughs into just 13 episodes. The first half of the season is probably the funnier half, featuring a story arc in which Michael (Jason Bateman, Juno) investigates George, Sr.’s claim that some sinister Brits set him up to take the fall for the Iraqi building project. Charlize Theron (Prometheus) has a recurring guest role, and other notable guest stars include Scott Baio (who replaces Henry Winkler as the family’s new lawyer Bob Loblaw), Judge Reinhold, and Justine Bateman in a memorable turn as someone who just might be Michael’s long-lost sister. I hear that there is a movie in the works, and I will definitely turn out for it. Well, if the reviews are good.

Hancock

New movie review from The Movie Snob

Hancock (B). This is a different sort of superhero movie. Hancock (Will Smith, Hitch) is pretty much the equivalent of Superman, except he’s a boozy bum whose heroics tend to cause catastrophic levels of collateral damage while he’s catching the bad guys or saving the imperiled good citizen. (And there are apparently enough bad guys in L.A. to make Gotham City look like Mayberry.) After Hancock gives a helping hand to p.r. man Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman, Juno), Ray wants to repay the favor by giving Hancock some free public-relations advice. The movie takes some unpredictable zigs and zags after that, which puts it a notch above your average summer popcorn movie, but I’m not sure that all the zags make sense, so that takes it back down a notch. “B” seems like a fair grade.  Charlize Theron (Young Adult) also stars.

Potpourri from The Movie Snob

New reviews from The Movie Snob:

Roving Mars (C+). This new IMAX production is a tribute to the NASA Mars mission that successfully put two robotic rovers on the surface of the Red Planet. Once there, Spirit and Opportunity met and exceeded their builder’s hopes and expectations, successfully carrying out their experiments and lasting much longer than they had been designed to. This movie successfully conveys the monumental feat NASA’s engineers accomplished by safely landing these amazingly complicated machines on Mars after a seven-month journey traveling 60,000 miles per hour. Unfortunately, though, the visuals just aren’t that striking, and I couldn’t help being conscious most of the time that the views of the rovers on Mars and the Martian surface were digital creations and not actually movie footage. (It didn’t help that the kid next to me kept asking his dad, “Is this real? Is this trick photography?”)

Aeon Flux (C-). No, “Aeon Flux” is not some sort of digestive ailment that afflicts time-travelers. It is the name of the character played by Charlize Theron (Snow White and the Huntsman) in this post-apocalypse sci-fi shoot-em-up. Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has reverted to uninhabitable wilderness except for humanity’s last enclave, the city of Regna. Most of the Regnites seem reasonably content despite their fairly repressive government, but a band of rebels (led by an embarrassed-looking Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)) is out to topple the regime. Theron is a top rebel assassin, and she is assigned the mission of killing the Chairman himself. Naturally, nothing goes as planned. Despite the acrobatic fight scenes and thousands of rounds of ammo expended in the big finale, this is basically a yawner. Theron won’t be taking any Oscars home for this exercise in banality, although her futuristic pajamas definitely deserve some sort of special achievement award.

Bloodrayne (D). If you’re like me, you’ve been asking yourself one question ever since Terminator 3 came out: When is that babe who played the evil female Terminator going to make another movie? The wait is now over; Kristanna Loken is back! And this time she’s out for blood, as the damfir (that means half-human, half-vampire) character Rayne. She obviously chose this project with some care. First, it’s based on a video game, so she can take as much license with characterization as she likes (she goes with a flat, expressionless approach). Second, she has surrounded herself with talent: the Michael Madsen-Ben Kingsley team you loved in Species, Geraldine Chaplin (Doctor Zhivago) for the older crowd, Michelle Rodriguez for Lost fans, Meat Loaf for I don’t know who. There’s even a “special appearance” by Billy Zane, the fiancee you loved to hate in Titanic! Third, she found costumers who understand that midriff tops have been popular throughout history, even in the Middle Ages. Throw in a sex scene that’s as embarrassing as it is gratuitous, plus buckets—no, geysers—of fake blood, and you’ve got yourself a movie. Okay, this turkey has virtually nothing to recommend it. But it was kind of funny when pretty-boy vampire-hunter Sebastian introduces Rayne to the art of human love-making and has to explain that we generally start by kissing on the mouth, not by going straight for the jugular.

Monster

A review from Nick at Nite:

Monster

I know, I know, I am only just now getting around to seeing this Oscar nominated film and Oscar winning performance from Charlize Theron. I know, I know, who wouldn’t want to rush out and see a film about a trailer park prostitute who picks up and then kills her prospective Johns while engaging in a tortured, juvenile relationship with a sixteen year-old girl. Apparently, I didn’t. I only watched this movie because it is on cable now and I couldn’t sleep. I guess they showed it late at night because of the graphic violence and extremely adult subject matter. Frankly, I am not sure what all the buzz was about. Basically, a really attractive actress gained some weight, fried her hair, and wore a prosthetic mouth piece and bad clothes. For this, the Oscar pool bestowed her with a golden statute? I am not sure I understand this logic. If an actress who looked like a normal person had played this role, I don’t think it would have been such a big deal. It is a depressing story. A scary story, but not necessarily one that needed to be told. And any effort to make this true to life serial killer seem sympathetic just seems completely misguided. THIS WOMAN KILLED A BUNCH OF PEOPLE. Sure they were doing bad things, picking up prostitutes . . . but does that make killing them okay? Should we glorify this woman’s behavior? I say no. I give the make-up artist on the film an “A.” I give everyone else, including the person who thought this was a story worth telling, an “F.”

The Italian Job; Whale Rider

Two new movie reviews by Movie Man Mike:

The Italian Job: (B) Beware, the chase scenes in this movie will leave you wanting to go out and buy a Mini Cooper. This is a totally fun film with some creative plot twists and uses of technology. For the realists, some of the events may be a little fantastic, but if you can suspend your disbelief for a short time, you will enjoy this one all the more. This is a remake of a 1969 Michael Caine film by the same name. I didn’t see the original, so I can’t compare it to the original. The cast in the 2003 film is promising and includes Donald Sutherland, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron (from That Thing You Do!), Edward Norton, Seth Green, Jason Statham, and Mos Def. The actors did not completely live up to my expectations and hopes, and the script is a little weak in places, but this film was still worth the price of admission.

Whale Rider: (B) For those who enjoy seeing independent films, this one is worth seeing. This is a coming-of-age story that takes place on an island off the coast of New Zealand. The star of the movie, newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes, is perfect for the role of Pai. Pai was borne into a community laden with cultural traditions and into a family dynasty, for which the leadership is passed down to the first-born male. As the leader of Pai’s community, Pai’s grandfather must find a way to preserve the traditions and culture of the community at a time when modern ways of life are threatening the lifeblood of the culture. While Pai’s grandfather struggles to preserve the culture and its traditions, Pai must find a way to prove her worth to her grandfather, and overcome her grandfather’s disappointment that she is a female. This was a thoroughly refreshing and enjoyable tale to watch, although it was a little on the predictable side.