Tag Archives: Kidman

Destroyer

12 Jan

‘Destroyer’: Limping through the grit of L.A., Kidman’s cop intends to see an ugly job done

 

Image result for destroyer kidman

“Destroyer” may be the bleakest cop drama to come around since Don Johnson puked up his guts as a booze-addled cop chasing after white supremacists in John Frankenheimer’s “Dead Bang” (1989). The boilerplate’s fairly similar, as we catch up with Nicole Kidman’s Erin Bell, a detective passed out in a dust-streaked car under an L.A. freeway. Gaunt and chalky, with hair matted and frayed, she looks like she’s been left in the desert to die. The radio squawks and Kidman’s trademark translucent blue eyes – encircled by bloodshot rims – open slowly. Erin can barely extricate herself from the vehicle, let alone stagger down a desolate throughway to a murder scene where she’s poorly received by the cops already on site.

Erin’s jarring wobble is so disjointed and pronounced you wonder if she’s wickedly hungover or maybe had the shit kicked out of her. The truth is a good bit of both, and it’s a regular way of life for Erin, who’s hard to like and hard to avert your eyes from. How did we get here, how can such a shambling wreck remain on the force? The answers come in carefully meted strokes, mostly in flashbacks. Seventeen years earlier, as a rookie, Erin partnered with an FBI agent (Sebastian Stan, the Winter Soldier in the “Captain America” films) to go undercover to take down a criminal cult leader named Silas (Toby Kebbell, who’s weak tea compared with Charles Manson). She also has a teenage daughter (Jade Pettyjohn), and the two don’t get along whatsoever. Needless to say, back in the present Silas has resurfaced and Erin will do whatever it takes to bring him down, including giving a happy ending to an informant and hitting every dive watering hole the way other cops frequent doughnut shops. 

Director Karyn Kusama (“Girlfight” and “Aeon Flux”) seems to be aiming for “gritty” in every frame. It feels heavy-handed from the get-go, but Kidman’s complex and nuanced performance and Theodore Shapiro’s edgy, haunting score score help sell it beyond its derivative trappings. It’s  amazing to drink in the tall, glamorous Kidman with such a dour, beaten-down countenance. Massive gobs of makeup must have been in play, because nowhere before has such natural comeliness been so sabotaged, aside from Charlize Theron playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” (2003). That turn earned Theron an Oscar, and Kidman’s nearly as on target here as jumps into the middle of a shootout with semiautomatics cocked, akin to Patty Hearst in her now infamous SLA pose, or pistol whips a Beverly Hills ne’er-do-well with ties to Silas. The film’s not so much a drama about a rogue cop as a showcase for Kidman’s range. It barely fires on that first chamber, but hits the mark on the latter.

Aquaman

21 Dec

‘Aquaman’: Once we’re in the swim of things, there’s too much for newly hip hero to handle

Image result for aquaman

 

On film, DC Comics heroes seem to have heavier backstories than those from the Marvel Universe. You know: Most comes from another planet or an isolated island or underworld and could crush a human with a super burst of flatulence, yet somehow they love us, and there’s deep lore and rules we must be spoon-fed for at least 45 minutes before they ingratiate themselves into our society and ultimately take on the noble task of saving us from certain annihilation.

“Aquaman” is no different. Even before the buff surfer dude – Jason Momoa, who looks like The Rock draped in long tresses and with an extra battery of tribal tats – dips his toe in the water, we get a lighthouse caretaker named Tom (Temuera Morrison) toiling away in the chilly northern coast of Maine and one stormy day finding a beauty washed up on the rocks, glistening trident still in her clutch. This fantastic vision, something of a blend of Daryl Hannah in “Splash” and Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman” is, in fact, Nicole Kidman with a touch of CGI to make her look more in her 20s than her current vintage – not that she needs it. Kidman is Atlanna, the escaped sea warrior daughter of one of the kings of Atlantis. After eating much of Tom’s goldfish Daryl Hannah style, the two become lovers and bear a son: Arthur, who on a class trip to the New England Aquarium is able to summon the biggest shark in the tank to scare the bejesus out of the class bullies.

The film, directed by James Wan – who cut his teeth on the “Saw” and “Fast and Furious” franchises – is a busy, busy affair. Think of it as swimming through an endless school of silvery fish. Atlanna is kidnapped from the rocky coast of Maine, a pirate by the name of Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is out to kill the now mature Arthur/Aquaman in a poorly justified blood feud and there’s the seven kingdoms of Atlantis that Arthur’s half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) wants to unite to destroy us land dwellers because of all the plastic and shit we dump in the sea. I can’t say I disagree, and in a neat payback trick he sends wave after wave of plastic bags, bottles and beer rings awash onto our beaches. Willem Dafoe has a role as Aquaman’s avuncular counsel and Amber Heard, toting a shock of Christmas-red hair, gets wedged between the bros as love interest. Dolph Lundgren even lends his square-jawed mug for a few nanoseconds as one of the seven kings.

Since this is an “aqua”-tale, much of it takes place below the ocean’s surface, except those early scenes in Maine and and one later in Sicily where the senseless destruction of ancient relics and structures will make archeologists in the audience reach for a vomit bag. The big undersea finale turns into the kind of wham-bam animated affair we’ve become accustomed to with films such as “Ready Player One” and “Avatar.” The wow factor is gone – it’s a bubbly undersea yawn.

Aquaman traditionalists, yearning for the stiff and square-jawed incarnation from Saturday mornings, are unlikely to be roped in. Momoa, who played the beefy barbarian incarnation Drogo in “Game of Thrones” as well as Conan in an ill-advised “Conan the Barbarian” reboot (2011), plays the part with a hip, feral flair. The character’s never given much of an opportunity to speak before his hands are busied. In shards, we know he has a sense of humor, making a “Fight Club” crack to break the ice with Heard’s undersea princess. The film’s funniest moment comes when our wet superhero walks into a New England biker bar. He can drink like a fish and the scene’s wrap-up is a smart departure, but after that it’s all down the drink.

Killing of a Scared Deer

29 Oct
Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan in "The Killing of a Sacred Deer." (Courtesy Atsushi Nishijima/A24)closemore

Director Yorgos Lanthimos, who rendered a dry, dystopian vision of the near-future with “The Lobster” in 2015, brews up a waking suburban nightmare that’s equally perverse and haunting. There’s rising tension, but the murky dive into the abyss of a guilty soul, desperate for redemption but unwilling to make sacrifices, becomes “The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s” burning core.

We catch up with the Murphys, a well-off family judged by their grand suburban home. The father, Steven (Colin Farrell), is a respected heart surgeon, while his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), is an equally successful eye doctor. Their children Kim (Raffey Cassidy), a precocious teen, and her younger brother, Bob (Sunny Suljic), round out the nuclear perfection. Everything’s hunky-dory despite an eerie — if not disturbing — sedateness that pervades.

Colin Farrell plays Steven in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film. (Courtesy Atsushi Nishijima/A24)
Colin Farrell plays Steven in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film. (Courtesy Atsushi Nishijima/A24)

Weirder yet, Steven has obligatory lunches with a boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan), who’s around Kim’s age. They’re uneasy, mandatory meet-ups. Whether Martin is Steven’s illegitimate son or something more salacious, he’s clearly got his hooks into Steven, who is at a loss as to how to free himself. Steven lazily hides Martin’s existence from Anna until one night, Kim comes home from chorus practice on Martin’s motorcycle. Continue reading

The Beguiled

20 Jun

Nicole Kidman turns in a commanding performance as the matron of a Southern estate undone by the arrival of a wounded soldier

Focus Features

Nicole Kidman turns in a commanding performance as the matron of a Southern estate undone by the arrival of a wounded soldier.

 

Given Sofia Coppola’s penchant for strong female characters and repressed sexuality, be it the pairing of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation (2003) or the alluringly perverse texture of The Virgin Suicides (1999), it somewhat makes sense that she set her sights on remaking Civil War Gothic The Beguiled, which starred Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. That 1971 film, based on Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel The Painted Devil was directed by Don Siegel — who would later that year pair with Eastwood for the maverick cop avenger fantasy Dirty Harry — who mined Eastwood for all his macho virility as a Yank soldier, wounded behind enemy lines and brought to an all-woman seminary to recuperate. Given the prim nature of the house, the sheer presence of male pheromones wreaks havoc on the females’ sensibilities as Eastwood’s Corporal John McBurney proves to be a feral manipulator, having his way with several of the women and even pitting them against one another. Coppola’s version throws a dash of saltpeter on the role here undertaken by Colin Farrell who turns the good corporal into a more humane, less lurid incarnation.

You’d think a softer touch might educe a deeper plumbing of the complex emotions that get brought to the surface by war, strictly imposed Christian values, and a member of the enemy — and the opposite sex — lying in the very next room, but that doesn’t necessarily prove to be the case. Coppola chases authenticity in small, subtle strokes. Siegel took a far different approach, creating something of a psychological thriller, inserting gauzy fantasy sequences and quick intercuts of the lean Eastwood in bed with one of the lasses as horror etches across the faces of the estate’s matrons attuned to the meaning of the giggles and bumps echoing from the far reaches of the house. The film, a box office disappointment that was to prove Eastwood’s range beyond revenge westerns, bordered on near spectacle, but it possessed an edgy energy that never flagged.  Continue reading

The Railway Man

18 Apr

‘The Railway Man’: Incredible true story, even if director isn’t the best conductor

whitespace

“The Railway Man” is one long therapy session revolving around one veteran’s struggle with PTSD that has plagued him for years following his incarceration in a World War II Japanese prison camp. It casts shades of “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” and “The Deer Hunter.” It’s also a true story based on Eric Lomax’s memoir of coming to terms with the demons of war that tormented him for much of his adult life.

041814i The Railway ManThe film begins tranquilly enough in a sleepy little English shore town in the 1980s, where at a men’s club meeting over beers, the somewhat reluctant Eric (Colin Firth) wistfully recounts his affection for Patti (Nicole Kidman), a women he met recently on a train. Trains and railways happen to be an obsessive hobby for Eric (thus the title). He’s also a kind and engaging soul, and soon enough he and Patti are moving toward marriage in all the most maudlin and pat ways possible. It’s here the film begins to feel dangerously like a large, sugary gobstopper, all fluff and no fire, but then the closet door opens and the skeletons start to pour out. Eric erupts in night terrors, he’s fiscally a disaster and sometimes he mutters to people who aren’t there.

It turns out that men’s club is what’s left of a battery of British soldiers taken prisoner by the Japanese during the fall of Singapore.  Continue reading