Tag Archives: Oscar

Eternals

5 Nov

Marvel squeezes into a mythology suit

By Tom Meek Wednesday, November 3, 2021

And so the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands in a way it hasn’t since 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” when joyous, self-deprecating humor propelled a merry band of misfits across the stars on their mission to save a star system. That goal has been a thing in any MCU chapter. It’s how it gets dressed up that’s key to the film’s success. In “Eternals,” directed by recent Academy Award-winner Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) we get a whole new slate of superheroes, notably diverse (it’s a multiracial lot, with one gay hero, one who is deaf and another battling metal illness) but suited up in unis that have to be some of the most generic, least-inspired Lycra designs in decades. The depth of character too is slight, and the CGI effects don’t really break any ground – and occasionally look “Sharknado” cheesy.

The Eternals of the title are a race of immortal superhumans created eons ago by the Celestials to protect planets such as Earth against ravenous entities known as Deviants. What the what? Yeah, there’s a lot in those big bland tags, barely a notch above Decepticons and Autobots, but Celestials are universe-forming gargantuans akin to the Titans in Greek mythology (Thanos and Ego from earlier MCU chapters are similar in powers and scope), while Deviants are hellish beasties that look a lot like the Taotie from the 2016 Zhang Yimou miscue “The Great Wall,” a hybrid of wolf and dinosaur stripped down to sinew and bone and equipped with flowing tentacles that allow them to sap the energy of their target. Eternals wiped out all the Deviants in the early days of civilization and now hang among us, awaiting their next call to duty. 

Keeping with that lazy borrowing of classic mythos, we catch up with the Eternal Sersi (Gemma Chan) posing as a London museum curator and involved with a mortal named Dane (Kit Harington). She used to be married to Eternal alpha stud Ikaris (Richard Madden), but they drifted apart and haven’t seen each other in centuries – until one day, or one date night with Dane, a deviant crawls out of the Thames and Ikaris drops in out of the blue to help Sersi thwart the malevolent with his laser-beam eyes and square-jawed bravado. One might imagine there’d be some kind of intimate pause here, a “Dane, meet my ex” and perhaps some edgy love triangle dynamics (“Is he super good in bed too?”), but no, bigger MCU matters abound: Why are these things back, and what is Sersi to do? 

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The Father

14 Mar

‘The Father’: Unforgettable visit with a patriarch who increasingly can’t remember his own family

By Tom Meek Friday, March 12, 2021

In “I Care a Lot,” the recently released Netflix film, Rosamund Pike plays an opportunistic caregiver who imprisons the elderly afflicted with dementia (getting their power of attorney and dumping them in prison-like convalescent homes) and bilks them of their life savings. It’s a slickly made film with a repugnant underbelly – I mean, how can heroes legitimately prey on the weak and infirm? “The Father” stars Anthony Hopkins in a masterclass performance as a memory-challenged senior who may have made a perfect mark for Pike, except for the fact Pike’s deceit took place in our fair Hub and “The Father” unfurls across the pond in England.

What “The Father” also has going for it is Olivia Colman as Anne, the daughter of Hopkins’ aging elder – named Anthony, of all things. Later we see Anne played by Olivia Williams, and Anne’s husband, Paul, is played by Mark Gatiss and then Rufus Sewell. So may Annes, Olivias, Pauls and Anthonys. Is this a Charlie Kaufman film, you might ask. Sure, it’s a bit of a head spin on paper, but it’s masterfully orchestrated by first-time filmmaker Florian Zeller, adapting his stage play. The rooted point of view is that of Anthony’s, so when we first glimmer Paul (Gatiss) in a room in Anthony’s flat it’s as if he’s stumbled upon a burglar – “Who are you?” he barks like a once-feared alpha dog grown long in the tooth. The whole movie proceeds this way, through the eyes of an unreliable narrator; Hopkins’ immersive portrayal helps show what it’s like to see your mental faculties dim in real time. Coleman, so fiery a Queen Anne (that name again) in “The Favourite” (2018), is somber, soulful and deeply compassionate here. It’s a perfectly subdued performance, as Anne’s life with her own growing family has been put on hold, in a sense. Her frustration is clear despite being tucked way down as she remains dutiful and supportive, first and always. Sewell’s Paul is not so restrained, allowing frustration and pain to erupt into anger.

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Bird Box

22 Dec

‘Bird Box’: Talent stumbles down blind path with thriller that leaves bit too much unseen

 

Image result for bird box movie

Much will be made about the similarities between “Bird Box” and a “A Quiet Place,” which at once is understandable and also a complete crime. Sure, both take place in the wake of a near-future apocalyptic event – in “A Quiet Place,” sightless aliens who look like “Venom” extras are snapping up the last of humankind; in “Bird Box” it’s … well, you never really know what it is, and that’s the bulk of why the film never really takes hold, feeling ultimately like a cheap parlor trick. How can you have something wiping out humanity and not know what it is? An airborne virus, radioactive fallout or the sudden lack of oxygen – things we’re aware of, operating outside the purview of the eye, sure, but something that rattles forest shrubbery like a Bengal tiger, causing leaves to whip up, but is never seen? That’s not going to fly.

It’s actually floating that proves to be the final desperate measure as a mother and two children drift haplessly down a river, hoping for a new beginning yet never able to see around the bend. The other big surprise to “Bird Box” is the impressive throng of talent involved – and their inability to lift the project. The unexceptional script written by Eric Heisserer, a scribe who not too long ago adapted another slack sci-fi story (“Arrival”) into a sharp, thinking person’s flick, adheres hard to the flat source material by rocker-turned-novelist Josh Malerman. There’s plenty of gold in the mix too: Lead actress Sandra Bullock has an Academy Award to her credit, and director Susanne Bier also has Oscar pedigree from her 2010 Danish film “In a Better World.” What gives? For one, the producers probably held Heisserer to the best-selling book for fear they might disenfranchise their ready-made target audience. It doesn’t help that Bier shoots this in a way that feels more like a TV miniseries than a big-budget, two-hour, end-of-the-world burn. Continue reading