Collateral Beauty

Collateral Beauty (2016) by David Frankel

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This is an unusual pick for me. I’m not what you would call a Will Smith fan, neither do I like to watch sad movies about grief, but I’ve been in love with Kate Winslet for almost 20 years, so… I guess it actually is not that unusual after all.

A short synopsis:

collateralbeauty5Howard (Will Smith) lost his little girl 2 years ago and he can’t get over her death. His friends and colleagues Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) are worried and hire a private investigator (Ann Dowd) to find out what he’s up to. She finds out that Howard writes letters to Death, Time, and Love.

Whit has the idea to hire actors to play Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore), and Love (Keira Knightley) to confront Howard. But Howard has already begun his way toward healing by joining a support group for grieving parents (Naomie Harris among others).

Considering the subject matter, one already knows that this is not a light-hearted film. Even the title seems to point to that fact. We have a man suffering severe depression and his friends can’t help him because he shuts them out and also off. And I, for one, felt shut off from him as well. I don’t get to know Howard, not in the beginning anyway. And that’s really strange for one to not get to know the protagonist of the film. Instead, I get to know Howard’s friends and their problems.

And this is, I feel, one of the problems of the film. While it seems to center around Howard CB09078.dngand his grief, this storyline is pushed to the sidelines in the beginning. While we know that Howard is hurting, we don’t really get to feel with him. We get to know Whit and the problems the advertising company he owns together with Howard has. We get to know Claire and Simon who have, of course, problems of their own. Then we meet the actors who’re supposed to stand in as these conceptual things Howard once cherished and now despises.

There’s a lot going on. Given, it is all very well acted, because… look at that cast! I got a total kick out of that scene at the theater with Kate and Helen and Keira and the three dudes (sorry, but that’s how I experienced it, having three great actresses I admire talk to each other in one scene… heaven!). But it’s still part of the reason the movie could barely reach me: too many cooks, too many stories, too little time.

Howard’s story almost completely plays out between him and Naomie Harris’ character Madeleine. And those are beautiful, well-acted scenes as well, but it’s hard to focus on their grief. It seems like the film’s makers run circles around their subject matter to not make the film about grief, while one of their characters is dying, while one’s afraid of losing love and another might never find it. I think they mean to make it a generational piece, something profound about life and how it goes on, how death is part of it as much as time and love… but the movie wants too much and becomes an indecipherable adding of brilliantly acted scenes that fall short of actually telling a story.

collateralbeauty7Don’t get me wrong, there are scenes which touch you, which amuse you, which tell you something about life, but then you’re taken from it into another scene that doesn’t add up. The big reveals of the film are none because you see them coming a mile away. Nothing suprised me because the film only flirts with big life issues, but doesn’t deliver. Instead, we get old Hollywood clichés.

The film wasn’t abysmal, not with that kind of cast. But I found watching it a very unsatisfactory experience. Whether it was the writing, the directing, or maybe even the editing (all three?) – the film just doesn’t add up to an emotional challenging story. Disappointing.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016) by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

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Well, here we are again and you may wonder why. Why, after hating Snow White and the Huntsman so much, would I watch it’s prequelly sequel? It just shows that I really want to like this franchise. I have failed once more, or maybe the movie makers have once again failed me.

Here’s what happens:

thehuntsmanandtheicequeen1The Evil Queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), has a sister: Freya (Emily Blunt). Freya resists her magical powers and falls for a young man who is already betrothed to another woman, but he still gets Freya pregnant and later kills the child, seemingly because it interferes with his marriage plans. Freya, of course, kills him, freezing him to death with a single scream over her dead daughter.

In order to not live under her sister’s thumb, she goes north, builds an ice fortress and an army from the young people of the countries surrounding her own – she kidnaps them, kills their parents. She explains to them that love is non-existent and that they’re far better off with her. She’s freed them from the illusion of love and they’re trained to be her army of huntsmen.

One of them is Eric (Chris Hemsworth) whom we have met in the first film, another is Sara (Jessica Chastain). They fall in love and are then seperated by the ice queen, Eric thinking Sara dead while she thinks he abandoned her. Seven years later, after the Snow White-thing happened, they meet again to secure Ravenna’s mirror.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, the trailer looked great that’s why I watched this one. Another great trailer, another disappointing movie. Another failed attempt at feminism, too, though it’s not the main focus of this movie.

My problems with it stem less from the story and once again more from the underlying thehuntsmanandtheicequeen5messages. While the makers of The Huntsman seem to have taken advice from the makers of the show Once Upon a Time and screwed continuity, it’s not the worst they did. But let me tell you in detail.

For me, it all started with the question: so, Freya is Ravenna’s sister, where did she come from? It could be explained away, of course. She’s younger, she wasn’t kidnapped with Ravenna and her creepy brother, they reunited later, whatever. But then, they never even mentioned the creepy brother in this one, even though he could have been part of the narrative in the past. But they just dropped him. Okay.

But what about the fact that we last saw Eric eye-shagging Snow White across the throne room, and suddenly he finds out his wife isn’t dead? Shouldn’t that be awkward? Obviously not, because Snow White and the Huntsman were, it seems, never an item. He works for her, as a good huntsman would, and later swears to his wife that he was always true to her. Yeah, well… okaaay. So, continuity was thrown out the castle window, that’s mildly annoying, but whatever.

thehuntsmanandtheicequeen4This franchise boasts with its feminism. Look, it says, all the strong women we have, and women in power positions, too. And strong fighters. Seeing Jessica Chastain whup some serious Hemsworth-ass you would agree, but then, am I the only one thinking it kinda weird that the male population of the conquered countries outweighs the female population by about 6 to 1? Which means, far more male Huntsmen than female. And there goes your feminism. They try to present it in front of the camera, but then fail to employ just as many female extras as male. Why? Probably so that the male audience doesn’t feel uncomfortable by all those feisty women fighters. FAIL!

You probably think: oh, stop whining. Both evil queens are female! Yes, they are. They’re also evil and must be overcome by the good male. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate the effort they made of having three male heroes (Eric and his two dwarf companions) match with three female heroes (Sara and two randomly encountered female dwarfs). I do, but then, matching them is what they do, because every female becomes an instant love interest for the males. And here’s a theme that really rubbed me the wrong way: heteronormativity.

Having Freya fall for this young princely guy in the beginning is to be expected, it’s part of the plot. Having her become pregnant, that already seems problematic. It’s a Fairy Tale, girls who just give it away won’t be available for Happy Endings; her daughter dies, it was all a plot by her evil sister who feared the beauty her niece would become (they could have come up with a different reason here, but I guess why fix what’s not broken).

Ravenna still doesn’t seem overly interested in the kings she marries and keeps killing them. I appreciate that the movie makers are consistent here and pretty much still portray Ravenna as a lesbian. An evil lesbian, of course. Freya is less easily categorized, though. Of course, having had sex with a man before marriage does make her a sexual deviant of sorts, but the way they stage Sara’s ‘betrayal’ of Eric, it looks a little like Freya took advantage of Sara in more ways than one. It’s free for interpretation, but the looks that pass, the timing of Eric asking if Sara has been truthful… it lends heavily to the idea that Freya and Sara hooked up at some point. But since the whole situation, the Huntsman being Freya’s slaves (whipping scars included), is emphasized, it’s not Sara’s fault.thehuntsmanandtheicequeen2

And here we have another problematic topic: slavery. If we place The Huntsman in its original time and place, we could argue for indented servantry, I guess. But the movie makers push the story here, including black children in the kidnapped mix. Going back to the Brothers Grimm, this would have been fairly unlikely, but American Fairy Tale telling has always taken liberties, so let’s say it’s a liberty they took here. They made one of the kidnapped black kids a recognizable character, Tull (Sope Dirisu), marking him with an ice burn to the face, so he might be recognizable to the white audience (that’s not racist at all!).

You know, at this point, it’s not difficult to see why this movie made me so mad. I was surprised by my reaction, but I do feel it’s justified. The movie tries so hard to make things right, but in execution fails miserably. The main evil character is a lesbian obsessed with her beauty, her sister has sex before marriage and loses her daughter as a price for her indiscretion, the ‘dwarfs’ are being played by tall people, and the black character gets a mark so that we may not confuse him with the two black extras. Oh, and of course, everybody good is also inherently straight, even though one of the male dwarfs shows his affection through verbal abuse – never mind, he’s still a better choice than the supporting female friend!

I mean, seriously? And you thought this was representative, feminist Fairy Tale-ing? Actually, it’s abusive, is the nicest thing I can say about it. And again, the acting of the main players is SO good, the movie LOOKS good. Jessica Chastain can actually pull off a fighter that’s a worthy opponent of Hemsworth… but it’s all wasted on a movie that both demonizes or redicules diversity.

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Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) by Elizabeth Banks

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Waiting for this movie has been torture. Watching trailers and clips has been torture. Two and a half years of torture. And then it came out and I’m not in Berlin anymore and can’t get my hands on an original copy and have to watch it in German – worst TORTURE!

pitchperfect2.5I’m over this now. So let’s look at what it’s about:

The Barden Bellas (among them Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean and Alexis Knapp are banned from competing on a collegiate level because of a mishap involving the president of the U.S. and Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) vagina. But since they’re reigning national champions (for the third time in a row), they are invited to the World Championship. If they win it, future generations of Bellas can compete again. But the competition is great and the reigning World Champions, an intimidating German team, are not going to give up their title without a fight. Gay things happen and the Bellas win.

Sorry for the spoiler, but you didn’t actually think they wouldn’t, right?

Is this movie as good as the first one? No. Is it bad? No, far from it, actually. It’s a lot of fun; it is pitchperfect2.7 pitchperfect2.4entertaining and well-timed. Love the music. But there are a couple of things that are off. Namely, why are the Trebles still in the big picture? Why is Beca still with Jesse (well, I think they’re together despite the fact that their relationship feels like an awkward brother and sister-thing)? Why did they have to make every other Bella a one-line joke (honestly, most fanfictions have better character development)? And why does Chloe behave like Aubrey at times (minus the throw-up)?

I’ll be writing about these things on my other blog. I’ll probably write about PP quite a bit again. But here and now, let me tell you: just seeing the Bellas together again, is heart-warming. I missed these girls; most of all Beca Mitchell who is still a lovely, sometimes awkward character who can be a dick sometimes. The music numbers are great, even those who are over the top. You can see that the actresses worked their butts off and it still looks effortlessly in the end. The chemistry is still there. Not just between Beca and Chloe – which is, of course, the heart piece of the Bellas as a group – but between Amy and Aubrey, between Stacie and Cynthia Rose and Jessica and Ashley. They brought most beloved characters back for the sequel, and I honestly only missed Donald, because the Trebles lost all their cool without him.

So, yeah, I enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2 – not so much the German version, and let me also add how pitchperfect2.2embarrassing it is for every German to have a group called DAS Sound Machine, when it is grammatically incorrect and you could hear it repeated and whispered throughout the theater whenever someone says it on screen. It could have been better, yes, but, oh boy, it could have been so much worse!

Mad Max: Fury Road (3D)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) by George Miller

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I had no intention of watching this movie. It interested me about as much as watching snails mate before someone dropped the f-word. And by f-word I mean feminist, a feminist Mad Max-movie.

madmax2But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s what it’s about:

Mad Max (Tom Hardy) lives in a post-apocalyptic world and every day’s a struggle. He’s captured and used as blood donor for the cancer-ridden Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a warrior for the great Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). When Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) escapes with his whole harem of breeders (among them Zoe Kravitz), Immortan Joe and his posse take to the Fury Road to get back his property. A mad battle over freedom and hope begins.

And suddenly Mad Max is not the most insane character on this odd-yssey. But I liked it. I know that I have at least watched one of the original Mad Max-movies (the third), I’m not sure about the others. I don’t remember it being so… wild, but then I only remember Tina Turner being in it, so.

I thought this was going to be just another one of those dick flicks, male heroism-laden, totally FURY ROADboring and interchangeable movies that we all have watched a million times. It was not, at least not on all these counts. But we should be real here, it’s not anything great or surprisingly innovative. It’s very good entertainment, you’ll not be bored. You’ll see stuff explode, and car chases, and disgustingly violent things happening, all the things you would expect from a movie like this. There’s some humor randomly added, a little love story that doesn’t take up too much time or space.

Is it a feminist film, though? I would agree with Charlize Theron that it is not, but for different reasons. Post-apocalyptic worlds usually mean that there’s need for offspring. Thus women are being held captive, forced to breed. Oftentimes they’re being raped, or make that all the time since their autonomy over their bodies is taken, period. And this is where Miller starts his tale and tries to right this wrong. This is surprising. The story follows a couple of women who try to escape their circumstances and get unexpected help from a stranger who is on his path to redemption.

madmax3While the focus on the women is surprising, there is no way Miller could make them equal to Max. He needed a female hero as well, and this is Imperator Furiosa. A woman who has gone through the same hardship as the girls she’s trying to save. And she is presented as an equal to Max. While his (mental) disability isn’t visible, hers is: she’s missing part of her left arm. But she’s a fighter and a no-nonsense hero. She does what is necessary to get the women to where she came from, to where she was taken from. As this is post-apocalyptic, this home away from male domination isn’t all it was supposed to be.

Furiosa is equal to Max, in this you could say it’s actually feminist. If you look at any other characters, though, you see that it does not extend beyond the heroes. The matriarchal clan Furiosa came from is down to a handful of women who resort to killing men because they can’t trust them. The women at the citadel are used as breeders or as providers of milk and care takers. And if you look at mere numbers, well, men everywhere, fighting, dying, rocking FURY ROADout to the sound of their own deaths. Male dominance is very much alive.

Still, some men complain over the female-centric plot, over the fact that Max is not the single hero. Check you priviledge, guys. If you don’t like it, watch one of the gazillion films that’s been made about your entitlement and shut the fuck up.

Back to TV: The Mysteries of Laura

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Well, once again it’s been awhile. I didn’t watch that many movies and the ones I watched, weill, most of them weren’t any good. I’m still waiting for Pitch Perfect 2 to come out in Germany, and while I’m waiting I’m watching a lot of TV.

Let me introduce to you The Mysteries of Laura. It’s a crime comedy and I think it is worth watching. Why? themysteriesoflaura6Well, for one thing: Debra Messing. You know her from Will & Grace, of course, and so do I. I LOVED Grace Adler and now I’m loving Laura Diamond, because with some actors you love every character they play. I do think, though, that Laura is worth all the love. She’s a wonderfully quirky, and honest, and normal person. She messes up, she wears sneakers on the job, she’s a slob, but a lovely one.

We all know those cop shows of late where the cases are not as important as the personal life of the detective (think Rizzoli & Isles and Castle). This is one of those. While the cases are interesting enough, Laura’s personal life and her relationships to her colleagues are at the center of the show. She has twin boys (Charlie and Vincent Reina) who like to stir up their own messes, her father (Robert Klein) still tries to get Laura back with her ex (Josh Lucas) who happens to be her boss, and her partner (Laz Alonso) is looking on with a themysteriesoflaura7bemused smile.

While I mostly like the chemistry between the characters (including the slightly envious detective Meredith Bose [Janina Gavankar] and the gay assistent Max Carnegie [Max Jenkins]), I really could do without Captain Manchild, as Laura coined him. Josh Lucas is certainly a fine actor and he plays Laura’s ex certainly annoying enough – or maybe too annoying. While he still ranges within the parameters of love interest for Laura, as do most male guest stars on the show, he comes across as a little too chauvinist, a little too jealous of prospective boyfriends for Laura. If this show wasn’t a comedy, I would attest him stalker tendencies. It’s really not cute.

Apart from him, I would say the show is a good watch. It’s funny, Laura is delightful and messy and just vintage Debra Messing. And then there has already been the guest appearance of someone you might recognize:

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Insurgent (3D)

Insurgent (2015) by Robert Schwentke

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I must confess that I gave up on the books 200 pages into the second volume. It all turned too much into some sort of Twilight with Four becoming more important than Tris. I hate when that happens and I’m still in awe of Suzanne Collins and the way she developed Katniss Everdeen into a real person instead of just arm candy for Peeta.

insurgent1Given, Insurgent doesn’t quite give me the same feeling, but it disappointed on another level – a level it shares with the book, no doubt. The plot is… still no more convincing. It actually got a little weirder and wilder and not in a good way.

Okay, let’s get back to what happens for a second:

Tris (Shailene Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Four (Theo James) hide out with the Amity but are out of luck as the Dauntless are still hot on their heels. They are being found out and are just barely able to escape – back into the city. Tris’ only thought is that of revenge on Jeanine (Kate Winslet), Four is tumbling into a Family reunion with his abandoning mother (Naomi Watts), and Caleb leaves the two to follow his own beliefs. They bring him back to Erudite where he and Tris meet again when Jeanine insurgent3threatens to kill people if Tris does not surrender. She does and is forced to use her divergent powers to open a secret box that promises to either make things even worse or bring salvation to those hunted.

It’s a fast-paced movie with a lot of action and little time to ponder what is actually happening. Which is probably a good thing because not all of it is making sense. I find the big reveal quite questionable, probably because I never understood the faction-system to begin with. Or rather, I didn’t be lieve in its functionality, neither as  political system or as plausible post-apocalyptic basis for a plot. Well, I shouldn’t have worried, it’s just a smoke Screen. But what is revealed instead doesn’t make it any better, unfortunately.

insurgent2The movie is not all bad. But most of its story just doesn’t work for me. What still does and will always work, of course, is Kate Winslet. I love her portrait of evil Jeanine and am only sad that it’s come to an end now. I’ll miss her – or maybe I won’t depending on whether I’ll watch Allegiant.

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Rented: Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing (2012) by Joss Whedon

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I’m not sure if I told you how I came to love Shakespeare. I had tried to read Macbeth at some point and labored through three pages of it before throwing it into the corner not to pick it or him up again for years. And then I watched Much Ado About Nothing – Branagh’s version – and fell in love.

muchado2It’s still my favorite movie version, it’s still one of my favorite plays, it’ll always have a special place in my heart. And I would probably not have endeavored to watch a different version if it hadn’t been for this addition to the title: A film by Joss Whedon.

And then, of course, there was the casting of Amy Acker as Beatrice. One of my favorite actresses playing one of my favorite Shakespearean characters? Count me in.

And now I’ve watched it. In fact, I’m at this moment watching it a second time in one day. Oh, my goodness, what a ball, a blast, a festival of wit and comedy and noir elements that make this movie not better than Branagh’s, but different and wonderful.

I must confess that I couldn’t imagine anyone playing Much Ado differently, in each and every scene I had a flashback to the ’92-version. But slowly the actors of the Whedon-verse acted themselves into my conscious and I couldn’t resist their charm. I’m fascinated, I’m stumped, I can’t stop watching. And how do you even begin to resist Amy Acker?

Let me tell you something about Acker – she’s genius. In every part I’ve ever seen her, she not only amyacker2convinced me, she awed me with her talent. I loved her as Doctor Saunders/Whiskey in Dollhouse, and I’m madly in love with Root in Person of Interest. She’s just so special in every role, she’s amazing.

But she’s not the only one in this brilliantly cast Whedon-family adaptation of Shakespeare. I never liked Alexis Denisof better than when he played Benedick, he’s earnest and smart and comical when he’s told that Beatrice loves him. Such an honest performance. I loved Fran Kranz in Dollhouse and I love him as Claudio. And then there’re Nathan Fillion as Dogberry and Tom Lenk as Verges and, hell, they’re the funniest thing – yes, funnier than Michael Keaton and Ben Elton even.

muchado4I guess, I have one thing to criticize, though. While I first thought it refreshing to see Riki Lindhome cast as Conrade, I feel that casting Conrade with a male actor in this version would have been even better. Making Don John (Sean Maher) a gay villain – not a caricatured man who is evil because he’s limited to his gayness, but just a villain who happens to be gay… That would have been even more interesting than having a Shakespeare character emasculated.

Apart from this, I simply love Whedon doing Shakespeare. But then, has there ever been a thing Joss Whedon has done that I didn’t love?

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 by Francis Lawrence (2014)

mockingjay1.1The beginning of the end – but we’re already very familiar with this kind of thing, aren’t we? I mean the splitting of the last volume of a book series into two films. Potter had it, Twilight had it, and I don’t even want to know if Fifty Shades of Bad Entertainment will have it as well. But for Mockingjay, I feel it was the right decision, because part 1 is already amazing.

What happens?

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been rescued from the arena of her second hunger mockingjay1.2games and brought to District 13 where the rebels have gathered to wage war against the capitol. Katniss’ home District 12 has been destroyed but Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) has saved some people, including Katniss’ mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister Prim (Willow Shields).

District 13 is a military district that works from underground since it had almost been completely destroyed during the war. People there live on essentials. Katniss agrees to be the symbol of the rebellion – the Mockingjay – if the captured tributes, including Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), are rescued at the earliest opportunity and given immunity.

After a sucessful rescue, Peeta tries to kill Katniss – he’s been brainwashed.

mockingjay1.3What fascinated me most with this part of the series is the barren look. While I would have wished for a more plush trainee center in the first film, the sparse set in this film fits District 13 perfectly. And it’s not just the set, the clothes and make-up of the characters reflect the military status of the district. To see Jennifer Lawrence basically without make-up… it makes her acting that much more intense. And not just hers. Once again, Julianne Moore just takes my breath away with her acting. She’s perfect as Alma Coin, the leader of District 13. Her posture shows miliatry stiffness and strength but she’s also sympathetic.

I think my favorite scene – probably everybody’s favorite scene – is the one with the group of young people (among them Natalie Dormer as Cressida) at the lake. It’s a stark difference to the scenes in the underground facility, it’s more relaxed and peaceful than the setting of the forest in the hunger games, and then there’s the song that Katniss sings – and it’s perfect. Jennifer Lawrence has a throaty, raw voice and it fits the situation and the song perfectly.

If there was something in this movie I didn’t like, I don’t remember it anymore because there were so many good things to remember, most of all the great acting by everyone involved. Effie Trinket mockingjay1.4(Elizabeth Banks) without her make-up, stripped bare of her capitol attitude and desperate and vulnarable is such a beautiful thing. Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last role as Plutarch Heavensbee… The casting is just amazing in this series and it makes this movie in particular sparkle more from within, because the setting doesn’t.

This movie series is getting better with each movie, while with the books, I will always think that the first one is the best. It makes for a nice contrast – and I’m so gonna own these wonderful movies on dvd.

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Maleficent

Maleficent (2014) by Robert Stromberg

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Let’s talk about Angelina Jolie for a moment. I have my problems with reviewing any of her movies, to be honest, even though I’ve watched most of them at the movies. It’s just incredibly difficult for me to look beyond her iconic status and see her work outside of it. I’ve been a fan since February 2001 when I first saw the Tomb Raider-trailer and that’s probably also around the time she became this iconic figure so I’ve rarely seen her without it. But we all know that she is a talented, incredibly able and dedicated actress. And I want to stress this point because Maleficent is probably her most iconic role to date – and it could have been a disaster if anyone but Jolie had played it.maleficent1

What happens:

An old tale with a new twist – Maleficent is a fairy living in a kingdom with other fairies and magical creatures just next to a kingdom where envious men dream of conquering that neigboring world they don’t understand. When a king (Kenneth Cranham) finally tries, he and his army are defeated and it is Maleficent as protector of her kingdom who is responsible for the defeat and the humiliation the king suffers. As he lies dying, he promises the kingdom to the man that kills Maleficent.

Stefan (Michael Higgins, Sharlto Copley)  who has been Maleficent’s childhood friend and first love reconnects with her but then betrays her. But since he is unable to kill her he cuts off her wings and takes them to the king – and becomes king in return. Maleficent swears revenge and makes herself queen of the beforehand leaderless fairy kingdom – a dark queen. She curses Stefan’s first (and only) child, Aurora (Elle Fanning), to fall into a deep sleep on her sixteenth birthday from which she shall not awake unless it’s by true love’s kiss (since Maleficent does not believe in true love anymore because it’s what Stefan had vowed to her it’s a mute point that Aurora will never wake).

maleficent4Aurora is send away by her father to live with three fairies (Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville) who show such negligent care of the child that Maleficent feels the need to intervene just so that Aurora will live to see her sixteenth birthday. She unwillingly befriends the girl who thinks that Maleficent is her fairy godmother and as she grows attached to the girl she tries to take back the curse. She fails and has to watch as Aurora falls victim to it. She brings Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) to the castle – a young man who has met Aurora once and was enchanted by her – but his kiss does not wake Aurora. Only when Maleficent kisses the unconscious girl – grief-stricken over the fact that she couldn’t save her – Aurora wakes.

There’s loads of battle and awesomeness and Maleficent finally gets her wings back. In the end, Maleficent and Aurora unite the kingdom in what can best be described as a gay marriage ceremony (that’s open for interpretation and discussion). The Happy Ending.

Now, there have been a number of fairy tales lately who tried and failed at maleficent-poster2giving the old tales a feminist spin – Maleficent is not one of those. It’s also not a lighthearted, musical color-explosion that’s been ejaculated onto the screen. It’s not flashy, it’s not distastefully pointing fingers at mythical creatures in a ‘look how different they are’-kind of metaphorical way. It is what it is:

A tale about people. People who are flawed, who are cruel, who are obsessed, who are kind, who are trying so hard at being better. There is a wide range of human frailties at work here and most of them are displayed in Maleficent – the ‘villain’ of the tale – but they’re all displayed on the remarkable body of Angelina Jolie’s talent. She’s a playful fairy, a scary avenger, a violated woman, an action-hero, and a tender lover.

I don’t even have words for how magnificent Angelina Jolie is in this role. It’s the kind of role meets actor that you would wish for all of your favorite movies, the kind of combination of talents that comes along far too rarely. This is an epic movie, a movie that sets standards, a movie you will want to watch again and again because its pieces fit perfectly into a well-told story, a powerful drama, an exciting action movie, a love story that is rarely told in such a way (and yes, I’m talking about the love between Maleficent and Aurora and I’m not going to put a label on it). This is the movie you should watch if you were only going to watch one movie this year – you won’t regret it.

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The Other Woman

The Other Woman (2014) by Nick Cassavetes

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When Carly Whitten tries to surprise her boyfriend Mark in a sexy plumber’s outfit, she finds out that he’s married as his wife, Kate, greets her at the door. Carly resolves this very awkward and heart-breaky scene somewhat but the next day, Kate shows up at Carly’s work and blackmails her into having drinks with her. They bond somewhat turbulantly over their broken lives and vodka and become sort-of-friends when they find out that Mark had another mistress.

They follow Mark and make the acquaintance of Amber, a young vuluptuous woman twenty years younger than they are. But Amber feels just as betrayed by Mark as them and they plan his downfall, discovering not only that the man has the busiest libido ever but also that he’s theotherwoman3embezzling money left and right – in Kate’s name. Game on, cheater.

When I watched the trailer – and I’m not even going to reason why I watched it, let’s call it an accident – I thought ‘if Kate and Carly hook up in the end, I’m gonna watch it.’ I guess, I already knew that they wouldn’t and yet the trailer did look a little promising. There is actually a fair amount of homoerotic female physicalness going on in this movie but the movie makers made sure to put the ‘girl crush’-label on it.

And that is one of the reasons I once again left the movie theater desolate and disturbed. Lately, I find myself especially annoyed with Hollywood as an industry that caters to white, straight, cis-gendered, and male. Given, as this is a movie that clearly falls under the chick-flick-label, it doesn’t cater so much to the male but the other markers are securely in place, believe me. You may say, what did you expect, it’s a movie about three straight women who destroy the guy who wronged them, but who exactly says they theotherwoman4have to be straight just because they like guys? Nobody. What I’m getting at is the straight-by-default attitude Hollywood is so fond of while still going around and queer-baiting us into buying tickets – and it works and it’s frustrating because we have no platform at all.

About the movie, what can I say? It’s not an entirely new concept. I mean, the 80s have seen Roseanne Barr going she-devil on her cheating husband, ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ sorta did the same with Jack Nicholson, and seeing Nikolaj Coster-Waldau run headfirst into a glass-wall is not as satisfying as it may sound – only a little satisfying, really.

Cameron Diaz likes to be in movies that support strong bonding between women and that is one of the things the story is hailed for, while on the other hand, it’s being criticized for failing the Bechdel-test. Me, I thought the plot flat, the conversations too male-centric and, really, one of the few reasons to watch this is the chemistry between these three women and a show of beautiful female bodies that are not all the same and not all 20-something years old. Some have criticized that the movie just once again shows hot bodies, but as I said earlier, this is a movie that mostly women would watch – so why parade half-naked women in front of other women? Positive body-image. And this is actually something that the theotherwoman1movie does right as it shows three very different women with beautiful bodies that are actually apprecitated by the other women in the movie. And do you know how rare that is? (Outside the lesbian occupation, of course.) It is very rare. And having Cameron Diaz – who has meanwhile crossed the 40 – show other women that you can have a super-hot body that can no-doubt compete with Kate Upton’s – kudos!

Beside the hot-bod parade, though, there’s really not much to laud. As said, the story is not that good or innovative, the conventions of Hollywood’s favorite status quos are firmly in place, and, thank goodness, nobody turned out gay or bi or otherwise sexually challenged – though, let me tell you, it wouldn’t have been much of a leap to have Kate and Amber end up happily lesbionizing, instead Amber is canoodling with Carly’s father (Don Johnson), just to have the few men watching able to keep dreaming that there is a twenty-year-old in their future whom they’re not related to. Can I have a ‘you can’t be serious!’ But we all know that this is serious – it’s serious bullshit.

And I’m now angrier than I was when I left the movie theater yesterday, which makes me almost forget about another redeeming aspect of the movie – Leslie Mann. I don’t know where she came from, I haven’t seen much of her but… oh my God, she’s funny and whitty and… athletic. Her character, Kate, feeds to all the neurotic stereotypes you can come up with but seeing Mann play her lends another layer to this suburban housewife. She’s quite brilliant and I want to see more of her.

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