Fifty Shades Darker isn’t exactly what you might call a good movie. The plot is laughable, the dialogue awkward, and the romance slightly disturbing. However, it’s not a bad movie either. What it is is fun. Yes, it’s so full of plot holes, you’ll have no idea whether or not it takes place over the course of four days or six months. But, what’s more surprising is that it doesn’t matter. Why wonder how long Ana and Christian have been trying their new, “vanilla” relationship before he asks her to move in with him when Christian’s helicopter falls out of the sky? Who cares if Ana isn’t remotely qualified for her job when she declares so passionately that she “loves working”? Intricacies of plot don’t matter in Fifty Shades Darker, what matters is the sex. Fifty Shades Darker is pure, magical fun from start to finish, especially for heterosexual female audiences who can forgive some emotional abusive tendencies. (I repeat: if you’re watching Fifty Shades Darker for the plot, you’re doing it wrong.) Continue reading “‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Movie Review: If You’re Watching It For The Plot, You’re Doing It Wrong”
Fresh off his Golden Globes win, Leonardo DiCaprio is poised to win the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his work in The Revenant. Then again, we’ve been here before. In 1994, DiCaprio got his very first Oscar nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that he earned his second, for The Aviator. DiCaprio came close to winning a few years later, in 2007 when he was nominated for his most Oscar-bait role yet in Blood Diamond. Now, here we are, two Oscar nominations later, and it looks like fifth time’s the charm for DiCaprio. Seriously: Leonardo DiCaprio is winning an Oscar come Feb. 28th.
DiCaprio winning an Oscar this year is a sure thing — or, at least, as sure as a thing can be. The Revenant, a movie that is 75% DiCaprio grunting while battling the elements, picked up 12 Academy Award nominations, more than any other film this year. The film’s award buzz has only grown since its release, and with Golden Globe wins for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, DiCaprio and one for Best Picture, it seems inevitable that the movie will dominate come Oscar night. Putting The Revenant‘s incredible momentum aside, it’s also true that DiCaprio is just the obvious winner among his fellow nominees (sorry fellas). Let’s go through the list, shall we?
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
There is absolutely no way Bryan Cranston will win the Oscar unless the Academy somehow thinks he didn’t win enough accolades for his work on Breaking Bad. Trumbo might have been nominated for a lot of awards this season, but the movie isn’t all that great (as evidenced by its complete lack of Oscar and Golden Globes love outside of Cranston’s nominations), and it just doesn’t make sense for him to win this one.
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Matt Damon might have a slightly better chance at pulling off an upset than his fellow nominees, but it still seems incredibly doubtful. For one thing, Damon already has an Oscar. Yes, it’s for Best Original Screenplay, but, hey, an Oscar is an Oscar. Second: he’s only been nominated as an actor twice before this. And, while he’s a good actor, Damon hasn’t had the same number of Oscar-worthy performances in his career as DiCaprio, so there isn’t the same general sense that he’s owed an Oscar at this point. Furthermore, The Martian was a fall blockbuster that was filmed in a studio. The Revenant was filmed in the wilderness in freezing temperatures and ungodly conditions. If there’s anything the Academy loves to recognize, it’s films that were impossible to make. Sorry, Matt Damon, we’ve run out of time.
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
I have to admit, I have not yet seen The Danish Girl, but I stand by my assumption that even the greatest performance from Redmayne could beat DiCaprio this year. He may be the only nominee to have already won an Oscar for acting, but that’s really more of a strike against him this year. Redmayne won last year for his performance in The Theory of Everything, and, if Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar track record is anything to go on, the Academy doesn’t like to give out awards to young actors two years in a row. Also, at 34, Redmayne just seems too young to win two Oscars, especially when DiCaprio still has zero. Giving two Oscars to such a fresh faced newcomer while DiCaprio sits on the sidelines is just cruel.
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Michael Fassbender is the only actor in the category that I could truly root for to win over DiCaprio, but I’m not sure I’d classify Fassbender as a real threat. Yes, his reputation has been rising in the Academy since he was snubbed for a Best Actor nod in 2012 for Shame. And, yes, he gave an incredible performance in Steve Jobs, but, let’s face it, Steve Jobs came out a while ago. The fact that it failed to get a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for screenwriter Aaron Sorkin seems to indicate that the Academy is just not that enamored with the movie. Fassbender is an excellent actor, and I can’t honestly say that I’d be mad if he won over DiCaprio; however, like Matt Damon, he simply isn’t owed by the Academy, at least not yet.
Don’t worry, DiCaprio. It looks like your time has finally come.
Images: 20th Century Fox (2); Bleecker Street; Focus Features; Universal Pictures
In his newest post-Breaking Bad move, Bryan Cranston took on the role of Dalton Trumbo, a classic Hollywood screenwriter who famously wrote Roman Holiday while on the Blacklist. Based on that one-sentence plot summary, you’d think Trumbo would have no trouble creating a compelling narrative. I mean, we’re talking about the Hollywood Blacklist, the persecution of (suspected) Communists, the censorship of art. And yet, Trumbo is hardly moving at all. In fact, it lacks any emotional power whatsoever.
Trumbo was put on the Blacklist in 1947 after his participation in the Communist Party led to an investigation by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Trumbo refused to cooperate with any questioning, resulting in a year-long stint in prison for contempt, all of which is covered in the film. But, Trumbo was not alone in his rebellion against the government’s actions.
Trumbo was part of a group known as the Hollywood 10, and the film depicts him as a kind of ringleader who inspired the others not to cooperate. That’s all well and good, the movie is called Trumbo Continue reading “‘Trumbo’ Movie Review: A Surprisingly Dull Drama Tries And Fails To Take On The Blacklist”
Quantico is winding up a web of story lines in an attempt to hide the true identity of the terrorist framing Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) for the bombing of Grand Central Station, which kicked off ABC’s new series. I’ve been hooked since the pilot — sure, Quantico has the believability of Scandal and the annoying time-jumps of How To Get Away With Murder, but it also has one thing neither of those shows have: Chopra, a refreshing new female lead. As my love for Chopra continues to grow with each episode, so does my desire to solve the mystery and catch the real traitor among Quantico‘s cast of new recruits. Here’s my rundown of the top suspects, ranked from least likely to threat level: high.
9. Simon Asher (Tate Ellington)
In the last two episodes, all evidence seems to point to Simon as a potential terrorist Continue reading “Who Is The Terrorist On ‘Quantico’? Let’s Break Down The Top Suspects”
After Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland made a fortune at the box office, it was only a matter of time before Disney brought another of their classic animated films back to the big screen in live-action form. The only question was how different from the original animated films would the next one be? The answer: not much. And that’s a good thing.
Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella doesn’t exactly revolutionize the Disney fairytale, but it also refuses to pander to the under-10 audience live-action Disney films have catered to in the past. Instead, it fleshes out the characters from the original tale, modernizing the story by giving the characters depth, while still existing within the parameters of the traditional fairy tale we all know so well.
Cinderella, played by the surprisingly delightful Lily James, had an idyllic childhood – during which she was only know as ‘Ella’ – until her mother died and her father remarried. After her cold Stepmother moved in with two bratty daughters, Ella’s father died, and her stepmother effectively turned her into a maid, teasingly calling her Cinderella. In the newest adaptation, this all plays out exactly as one might expect. Ella’s childhood isn’t just happy; it’s perfect. Beginning the film with a sequence filled with rays of sunshine and butterflies (literally) may not have been wildly interesting, but it does set the whimsical tone for the rest of the film, and it establishes Ella’s connection with animals which, as we all know, plays out later in the film. The movie doesn’t really begin until Cate Blanchett makes her first deliciously wicked appearance as Ella’s stepmother, and, thankfully, that happens pretty quickly.
Blanchett’s Stepmother is delightfully cruel, but not overly so, making her a joy to watch. Screenwriter Chris Weitz even gave her a sad backstory, hinting at the sad reality of times when a woman could only be kept out of poverty by marriage, but the film isn’t called ‘Lady Tremaine,’ and her backstory is little more than forced exposition. Thankfully, in the hands of Blanchett, the exposition doesn’t feel so contrived that it detracts from the film.
Where Weitz’s script went wrong was in the introduction of a new villain: the Grand Duke, played by Stellan Skarsgard. The Grand Duke, one of the King’s most trusted advisors, is desperate for the Prince to marry advantageously, meaning to marry a princess. At the ball, it is revealed that he has already promised the Prince to Princess Chelina of Zaragosa, despite no orders from the King or the Prince to do so. While his existence serves to aid in making the Stepmother’s plight as a widow more understandable, the Grand Duke’s motivation for promising the Prince to the Princess of Zaragosa is never really explained. Yes, it would expand the Kingdom, but what does he care? No matter whom the Prince marries, the Grand Duke will never be more than a Grand Duke. It’s true, the Grand Duke allows for the film to add depth to the Prince, played by Game of Thrones hottie Richard Madden, who frankly deserves all the screen time he can get, by putting him in the position to take a stand for true love. His lack of motivation coupled with Skarsgard’s oddly wooden performance makes the Grand Duke a completely boring and unnecessary villain, and a constant reminder of the film’s flaws.
The filmmakers of Cinderella clearly wanted to rework the fairy tale in a more feminist light, as evidenced by the Stepmother’s larger role. In terms of Cinderella’s character, who is, let’s face it, incredibly boring in the animated film, the trick to making her character more modern lay in re-imagining her introduction to the Prince. Instead of only gaining the Prince’s attention and affection at the ball, Cinderella first meets the Prince while riding a horse in the woods. Not only does this create a fuller character for the Prince, little more than a prop in the animated film, but it also sends the message that women don’t need to be made over by a fairy godmother to catch the eye of a man. The moral of Cinderella becomes, “Be brave and be kind,” as opposed to, “Put on makeup and a pretty dress and you might just marry rich!” Moreover, it gives Ella a personality outside of her sad circumstances. She’s not just some poor girl looking for her Prince, she has a kinship with animals and isn’t afraid to break convention or stand up to a man. As she tells the Prince, “Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done.”
Furthermore, when the Prince finally finds his Cinderella at the end, she takes a stand before she even tries on the glass slipper by asking him to accept her as she really is, instead of the perfect Princess he thought she was at the ball. Of course, as she is, Cinderella is still a classically beautiful, skinny blonde with perky boobs and a tiny waist, but regardless, she’s not painted with glitter or perfectly coiffed, and that’s something. But, here’s where things get a bit tricky. He asks her for her name and she answers “Cinderella.” Why? She’s finally given the choice to define herself, to set herself free from her Stepmother’s clutches, and yet she still chooses to be known as Cinderella, the name given to her out of spite by her stepsisters.
Now, I understand that the name ‘Cinderella’ holds too much weight in the fairytale world, and in the original story of Cinderella, but I can’t help but think it almost diminishes her. It also doesn’t make too much sense within the time frame presented by the film. The way the narrative is set up, it feels like her stepsisters had just begun to call her Cinderella when she meets the Prince, which makes it much more of a bully’s insult than something a self-respecting woman would adopt as her moniker. That said, I understand why she had to identify herself as Cinderella. It is the title of the film, after all, and I suppose one could take her adopted name as proof of a woman embracing her past, no matter how hard or painful. (Though, I must admit, it’s a stretch.)
Finally, if Cinderella is to be commended for anything, it’s the fact that both Weitz and Branaugh resisted the temptation to cater to the under-10 audience. There was no equivalent of the disastrous Mad Hatter breakdance from Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and what child-aimed humor Cinderella indulged in (mostly during the fairy godmother’s one scene) was whimsical and natural. By not focusing on a younger audience, Cinderella is able to remind older viewers of the beauty of fairy tales and the hope that dreams can come true.
The Newsroom series finale “What Kind Of Day Has It Been?” wrapped up the sometimes controversial and consistently preachy Aaron Sorkin series, giving viewers somewhat of a mental break after last week’s, some might say rage-inducing, episode.
It opened with Charlie’s funeral – and the revelation that Mac (Emily Mortimer) is pregnant! Mac has, for some reason, decided to call her doctor in the middle of the funeral, and immediately tells Will the news when she returns inside the church.
We flashback to three years earlier, Continue reading “‘The Newsroom’ Series Finale Recap: Happy Endings (And Job Promotions) For Everyone!”
In The Newsroom’s most recent episode, “Oh Shenandoah,” Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) struggled with an assignment to report on campus rape.
A Princeton student, Mary, claims she was gang raped at a party after passing out from drinking and drug use. She called the police, alerted campus authorities and completed a rape kit, all of which led nowhere. Charges were never filed, the boys walked away, and Mary decided to create a website where she, and others, could publicly detail their rape and name any alleged rapists anonymously. Pruit (BJ Novak) wants Don to go to Princeton, and convince Mary to appear on ACN and face one of her alleged rapists, Jeff, in a live, on-air debate. A public trial created in the hopes of manufacturing higher ratings. Don is against this idea from the start, but he tracks Mary down after Charlie threatens his job. When he gets to Mary’s dorm room, he listens to her horrifying account, and then begs her not to do the story. Continue reading “Rape, The Internet, And How ‘The Newsroom’ Failed”
The Newsroom’s penultimate episode, “Oh Shenandoah” was full of fan wish-fulfillment, with Will being released from jail after 52 days in solitary and Maggie and Jim finally coming to their senses and getting together.
It’s been 52 days and Will (Jeff Daniels) is still in his cell after being found in contempt of court for refusing to reveal the source that leaked classified government documents to ACN’s Neal Sampat. At first, Will was alone in his cell, but has recently found himself with a roommate serving time for domestic battery – his third offense. Continue reading “‘The Newsroom’ Recap: Will Is Released From Jail, Maggie And Jim Finally Kiss”
“Contempt,” The Newsroom‘s third to last episode, featured one wedding, two breakups and an arrest, but it still remains unclear whether or not creator Aaron Sorkin is leading the series to a satisfying finish.
After Rebecca (Marcia Gay Harden) stuffed Will’s subpoena in her dress, she informed the team that Will (Jeff Daniels) would be dragged out in front of a grand jury on Monday, refuse to testify and find himself in court again on Tuesday after the prosecutor gets a court order compelling him to reveal his source. She’s gearing them up for a fight when everyone receives a tip on their cell phones: the story of Will being served has hit the internet via Carnivore – Hallie’s new place of work. Jim (John Gallagher Jr.), of course, is less than pleased and he and Hallie (Grace Gummer) are forced to have it out. She admits she may have led her colleagues in the right direction for the story, meaning she most definitely used information she learned from her relationship with Jim to give her new employer a story. (Remind me, why are they still together?)
The Newsroom picked up where it left of last week in “Main Justice,” with the FBI raiding the ACN office hard drives. In an effort to get the FBI out of their offices, Charlie (Sam Waterston) pretended to call the LA office and air a fake live report of the FBI in their newsroom. Sloane (Olivia Munn) heads to the desk while Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) and Don (Thomas Sadoski) run over to the control room to try to figure out how to fake broadcasting a report, but they are hopeless until Maggie (Alison Pill) arrives. The team is able to fake a breaking news report using the monitors in their offices, at least well enough to convince the FBI to stop seizing their hard drives for a quick minute.
Best moment of the night: after Maggie schools the boys on how to actually set up a broadcast, she promptly tells Jim his fly is undone and leaves, inspiring this wonderful exchange:
Jim: “I’m not sure how I feel about confident Maggie.”
Don: “She’s looking good.”