Don’t forget to vote for your favorite performance in a horror movie! Despite the horror genre’s mixed reputation, the right role can bring out the best in an actor. I went with Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, for his great performance even at such a young age. Everyone picked something different this round, so there are plenty of good options to choose from.
Horror is a genre that often gets over looked when it comes to award season but it is easy to see just how good certain stars get plenty of chances to return to the genre in the future. Except for Silence of the Lambs who did clean up the Oscars we have had some brilliant performance in recent years.
If you want to take part in the next round of Opinion Battles we will be picking Which Animated Film We Would Never Like to see Turn Into a Live Action Movie, to enter send you choices to email@example.com 10th June 2017.
Darren – Movie Reviews 101
Essie Davis – The Babadook
Essie Davis is the star of this horror where she must deal with a potential monster lurking in the shadows of her home as she raises her…
“The brain was not born
To be wasted and worn,”
Said the student with scorn,
“In service of humbler bodily parts.
Instead, it should yearn
For the prospect to learn,
For there can be no higher cause than the arts.”
The worker meanwhile
Said, “Art has its style,
But brains are worthwhile
When used in more practical, down-to-earth ways.
The comfort of chums
Can raise even the slums
To far greater value than poets can phrase.”
Between the two sides,
Each content in their prides,
A woman decides
If worth is found in what one does or one knows.
Whatever her choice,
‘Tis a cause to rejoice,
For not all possess such dilemmas to pose.
MPAA rating: PG (definitely PG-13 these days, for language)
I’m currently working through college and have had a quality education throughout my life; in fact, it’s been such a constant presence that I know I’ve taken the textbooks and tests for granted, in sharp contrast to so many who haven’t had the opportunity of an education. Does the quality of one’s life depend on the quality of one’s schooling or how many 18th-century poets one can quote? Such is the kind of question asked in Educating Rita, an outstanding based-on-a-play character piece for Michael Caine and Julie Walters, both of whom were worthily nominated for Oscars.
Walters plays Susan, or Rita as she prefers, a plain-spoken, rather coarse hairdresser whose main dream is to expand her limited working-class knowledge through an Open University program and regular appointments with her alcoholic literature professor Frank Bryant (Caine). Disillusioned as he is with the pretensions of his academic habitat, Bryant is charmed by Rita’s enthusiasm and candidness. While Rita’s husband (Malcolm Douglas) sees little value in his wife’s scholarly pursuits and even actively opposes them when they interfere with his plans, Rita is determined to widen her narrow experience, even if her husband and Bryant himself don’t approve of how it may change her.
I loved how Educating Rita depicted different views of academia, specifically between Rita, who sees learning as a holy grail to lift her from her pedestrian life, and Bryant, who’s been so overexposed to the snobbish airs of the college system that his only escape is the bottle. Frank certainly understands the value of education and poetry, but he has no passion for it anymore, in contrast to his fresh-faced ingénue who gets excited over Macbeth and can answer essay questions with disarming simplicity.
At the same time, it’s an essential point that Rita sees firsthand the intellectual emptiness which isn’t limited to just Bryant, the result of placing artistic culture on such a pedestal that everyday life no longer seems to compare. It’s a stark reminder that artists and art lovers alike can revel in the heights of creativity and success and still find little reason for living (such as Sylvia Plath, Robin Williams, and many others). Interestingly, religion and faith never come up as a significant topic or supplement to scholarship, which I consider a sad reflection on the limitations of humanism.
While I very much enjoyed the often humorous interactions between Caine and Walters and the debate about the prominence of erudition in one’s life (and, of course, any film with poetry as a major element has my interest), I found the ending a bit wanting, content to affirm Rita’s choices with a satisfying but not quite happy conclusion. I’ve come to appreciate it more with thought, though, since its slight ambiguity upholds the real reason why Rita sought out her studies: not necessarily to change who she was but to educate her enough to allow her a greater choice in life, whether as a hairdresser or a scholar. In the midst of stressful research papers and half-confident tests, it’s easy to forget that the true meaning of education is that very ability to choose, to lift one’s experience high enough to see all the available options and pursue what we will. Happiness isn’t limited to the highbrow elite or the practical proletarian, but it’s perhaps clearer to find for one like Rita who can appreciate both.
Best line: (Denny, Rita’s husband) “In my family, a man has only to look at a woman, and she’s pregnant.” (Rita) “That’s because you’re all so cockeyed.”
I wrote to the storks with a simple request,
A baby, just one, and I wanted the best.
I wanted him perfect, no colic or crying
Or being a pest by not always complying.
And potty-trained too, with no changing a diaper,
And energy neither too boring or hyper.
And give him a lovable heart of pure gold,
To love me, respect me, and care when I’m old.
So when there’s a well-behaved angel on earth
In stock, send at once. (So much simpler than birth!)
And what did those long-necking lummoxes send
But a baby like so many others to tend?!
Since he first arrived, he’s incessantly cried
And stunk before I even brought him inside.
And all the bird left me was this little note:
“We’ve tried to match most of the wishes you wrote.
But you should just know that the son you desired
Has years of hard work of assembly required.”
MPAA rating: PG
Storks didn’t look all that impressive when it came out last year, just another maverick animated film struggling to reach even DreamWorks quality. When I actually gave it a chance, though, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise, more humorous and heartwarming than I would have guessed, and a solid if hyperactive cartoon that the Warner Animation Group (who also produced The Lego Movie) can be proud of.
There’s no denying that the premise of Storks is a bit gonzo, making an entire, half-baked plot out of the myth of storks delivering babies, which I can only assume was invented so parents could appease their kids’ curiosity without broaching the birds-and-bees speech. In this world, storks have switched from baby delivery to package delivery (after all, someone says, “there are other ways of making babies”), after an incident left them unable to deliver young Tulip to her family. Tulip (Katie Crown) grows up as a ward of the storks’ Amazon-like company called Cornerstore.com, and, after she impetuously activates the abandoned baby factory and creates a little girl, she and the corporate ladder-climbing Junior (Andy Samberg) try to deliver the baby to her family without alerting their authoritarian boss Hunter (Kelsey Grammer).
The storyline is loose and frenetic, with enough rapid-fire jokes that the plot often seems like just an excuse to string together random gags. The upside is that many of these gags are actually funny, particularly a baby-loving pack of wolves who somehow manage to morph themselves into vehicles to give chase. While the action draws inspiration from the likes of Monsters, Inc. and Shark Tale, the constant jokes keep it fresh, and things move along at a pleasant clip. Most of the voice actors do good work as well, especially Katie Crown, whose exuberance makes Tulip a lovably upbeat character. The animation is also quite good, easier on the eyes than the hyper-detail of The Lego Movie and occasionally stunning with the bigger set pieces.
That being said, there’s bound to be a joke or two along the way that falls flat, and some do. The worst, though, is the character of an attention-seeking pigeon (Stephen Kramer Glickman) who tries desperately to be integral to the plot, such that the writers obviously thought he was hilarious. Yet his awkwardness is so aggressively unfunny that it drags the film down every time he appears onscreen. If ever there was a side character that needed to be rewritten or cut altogether, it’s the pigeon.
Overall, though, Storks was a fun watch with some surprising heart. Despite the innate weirdness of the whole storks-making-babies thing, there are some touching moments and themes, like the value of spending time as a family and achieving a sense of belonging, with some familiar overtones of Meet the Robinsons thrown in. In addition, I liked that there was a subtle, though probably unintentional, pro-life sentiment in how Hunter and Junior refer to the infant as “it” to avoid a connection while Tulip insists on calling it a baby. Storks may be too hyper and scattershot to win any awards or popularity contests, but it’s an amusing jaunt of absurdity.
Best line: (Hunter) “Look at that sunrise. How can you not look at it?” (Junior, trying to humor his boss) “If I go blind, it’s worth it!”
Don’t forget to vote for which movie you think should never have gotten a sequel, in Round 11 of Opinion Battles! I picked Grease, which was brought to a cheesy low by Grease 2. From good movies ruined by lesser brethren to bad movies made even worse, there are some strong contenders to choose from.
We as an audience can find ourselves sitting through endless sequels, prequels and remakes, some we enjoyed others we find ourselves wondering why they made another film in the first place at all. We are going to be looking at the films that should have remained stand-alone movies because the sequels have only ever eaten into the reputation of what was a great film.
If you want to join the next round of Opinion Battles we will be take on our Favourite Performance in a Horror Film, to enter email your choice to firstname.lastname@example.org 11th June 2017.
Darren – Movie Reviews 101
Independence Day is one of the best movies from the 90s and when a sequel was first announced I was thinking ‘No Way How What ERM’ then I saw the trailer and…
Sense is essential for keeping one grounded,
But too much can leave one a bit too well-rounded.
Sensibility’s fancies are quick to believe,
But too much can leave one a bit too naïve.
A good balanced blending of both can perchance
Improve one’s approach to both life and romance.
MPAA rating: PG
This is another review that could be considered a VC pick, since my VC has been expecting a review of Sense and Sensibility for a while, but this is also a personal resolve for me to finally review this movie before I forget about it. Yes, I’ve seen Sense and Sensibility twice before and could have reviewed it sooner if the details of its plot weren’t so quick to vacate my brain. It’s a shame really that I find it so forgettable because it truly is an excellent adaptation of Jane Austen’s first novel, thanks to the elegant but accessible Oscar-winning screenplay by Emma Thompson, who also stars as Elinor Dashwood.
Elinor and her sister Marianne (fresh-faced Kate Winslet), along with their mother and younger sister, are brought low from wealth to relative poverty when their father’s inheritance all goes to their unsympathetic half-brother. While they make a home in the cottage of some annoyingly garrulous distant relatives, the Dashwood sisters face the hopes and crushing disappointments of 18th-century romance while employing their contrasting approaches to love, namely Elinor’s sense (realism) or Marianne’s sensibility (romanticism).
The entire production has the authenticity of a classic, from the sophisticated costumes to the rolling English countrysides to Ang Lee’s spare but graceful direction (his first English-language feature). Likewise, all the players fill their roles gracefully, especially Thompson and Winslet, who were both nominated for acting Oscars. Alan Rickman also outdoes himself as the thoroughly sympathetic Colonel Brandon, shedding his Hans Gruber-ness with the ease of a seasoned actor. Even Hugh Laurie makes a nice if brief impression as a grumpy husband whose irritability is a humorous contrast to the exuberance of his wife (Imelda Staunton). The only one who seems out of his element is Hugh Grant as Elinor’s semi-beloved Edward Ferrars. While the character is meant to be a bit wooden and “sedate,” Grant captures that stiffness so well that he seems a little too awkward at times.
Despite this and even with a potentially ungainly number of characters to keep up with, Sense and Sensibility’s characters are what I most remembered, whereas what actually happens to them, while alternately sad, sweet, or surprisingly funny at the time, just doesn’t make much of an impression once the credits are done. I’m not sure why either, since I easily recognize it as a well-acted incarnation of Jane Austen sensibilities. True, Austen’s stories have never been among my favorites in style or substance, but a good movie is a good movie. Even if it doesn’t live long in the memory for me personally, Sense and Sensibility is still an admirable rendition of this Austen classic.
Best line: (Colonel Brandon, of Marianne) “She is wholly unspoilt.”
(Elinor) “Rather too unspoilt, in my view. The sooner she becomes acquainted with the ways of the world, the better.”
(Colonel Brandon) “I knew a lady very like your sister, the same impulsive sweetness of temper, who was forced into, as you put it, a better acquaintance with the world. The result was only ruination and despair. Do not desire it, Miss Dashwood.”
Death follows life follows death once again,
In a cycle we all must confront now and then.
The drama of death, though it separates souls,
Can bond those remaining, for closeness consoles.
And close are the mourning, their lives put on pause
To sing the dead’s praise and forget all his flaws.
To gather in grief, though a hard gift to give,
Reminds us that death can impel us to live.
MPAA rating: R
This review has been a long time coming, yet another of my VC’s favorites that I’ve been in no rush to revisit simply because my enthusiasm for it doesn’t come close to hers. According to her, The Big Chill ranks among her top 50 movies, and while it never approaches that kind of preference for me, I understand why she and many others consider it one of the best ensemble films ever made.
The Big Chill has two undeniable strengths that any movie would be proud to get right: a brilliant cast and a fantastic soundtrack. The story of seven former high school friends reuniting over the suicide of one of their own seems like a heavy setup, but there’s an abundance of humor and charm to accompany the mortality worries and mid-life crises. Everyone’s bound to have a favorite character, most likely the always appealing Kevin Kline or mustached Tom Berenger or even Jeff Goldblum as the kind of neurotic bloviator he plays so well. Glenn Close, JoBeth Williams, and William Hurt all have their endearing moments as well, some more low-key than others, as does Mary Kay Place, whose character sees the occasion as a chance to beat her biological clock and get pregnant by one of her old buddies. A younger Meg Tilly joins them too as the girlfriend of their dead friend Alex, played by Kevin Costner, even though any scenes with Costner recognizable were cut.
While I had trouble keeping up with everyone’s names (like the fact that there was a character named Meg but not played by Meg Tilly), the chemistry shared by everyone on screen was distinctly felt. Staying in the same house over the weekend and sharing each other’s grief only served to reawaken the natural connections they shared back in the good old days, and it’s no small feat that the actors themselves seemed to exemplify the same kind of relationships. Whether they’re goofing around in front of a video camera or engaging in surprisingly bitter arguments, they’re friends to the end, with an easy-going rapport that never feels contrived, buoyed by writer-director Lawrence Kasdan’s perceptive script and adlibbed moments from the talented cast. I especially liked a time lapse scene of the various characters waking up at different times and drifting into the kitchen throughout the early morning quiet, punctuated by a great punchline.
And then there’s the soundtrack, again ranking among the best out there. Serving as reminiscences of their glory days and sometimes oddly fitting complements to particular scenes, the likes of Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Three Dog Night, and The Temptations periodically liven the mood. The early funeral procession is especially memorable, accompanied by the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” as is the classic kitchen scene with everyone dancing to “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”With all that in its favor, I can honestly say that I enjoyed most of The Big Chill, but the film’s resolutions started to lose me. By the end, the characters start pairing off in ways that try to skirt the issue of marital fidelity, and the solution to Mary Kay Place’s sperm hunt is both affectionately sweet and downright uncomfortable. It’s the kind of cinematic choice that easily engenders differing opinions on whether it’s right or wrong, but I can’t condone it personally. This conclusion and the intermittent profanity may cause The Big Chill to lose some of my esteem, but its talented ensemble of stars that were still rising at the time still make it worthwhile. Ensembles of this caliber are rare these days, and despite a few moral qualms with the plot, I see why my VC is so fond of this character-focused blend of nostalgic fun and drama.
Best line: (Michael, at Alex’s wake) “Amazing tradition. They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can’t come.”
Be sure to vote for your favorite Asian-Language film in Round 10 of Opinion Battles. From anime to martial arts, there’s a great selection, but I had to pick Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for its superbly artistic approach to kung fu. Pick your favorite as well!
Asia has given us plenty of brilliant films many have given the Western world some of the most popular films in film history. We have Studio Ghibli which can battle Disney for stunning animated movies, we have also had horror films which have redefined the genre. There is also Bollywood which is easily just as profitable as Hollywood.
If you want to join the next round of Opinion Battles we will be take on Which Film Should Never Have Had a Sequel, to enter email your choice to email@example.com Saturday 27th May 2017.
Darren – Movie Reviews 101
Train to Busan
Train to Busan from South Korea is my pick for this because I was simply blown away by the non-stop action horror going on throughout the film. We get a zombie horror that could be put in the same…
In the spirit of my list of movie corn (one of my favorites to compile), I’ve decided now to turn my sights on another vegetable that has found its way onto movie screens: the humble potato. That’s right, we’re going full spud here, and all manner of cinematic uses for this tuber qualify. Cue the Bubba voice— you got potato chips, potato salad, potato casserole, French fries, hash browns, latkes, knishes, potatoes au gratin, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, baked potatoes, tater tots, potato bread, potato soup, potato pancakes, twice-baked potatoes, and…that’s about it.
In truth, most of these picks actually feature whole potatoes rather than anything made from them, but there are notable exceptions. I have tried to compile this list with all diligence, even leaving off a few tenuous choices. For instance, I found that the root that Scarlett O’Hara digs up in the “I’ll never be hungry again” scene of Gone with the Wind is actually a radish, not a potato. Likewise, I’ve never seen many films that actually have potato in the name, such as Mashed Potatoes; Hot Potato (several movies by that name); One Potato, Two Potato; Who Made the Potatoe Salad?; and Sex Lives of the Potato Men, some of which apparently don’t even have anything to do with actual potatoes.
Plus, I’m ignoring certain vulgar potato scenes I know of, as in Soul Plane and Sausage Party. In addition, I haven’t forgotten significant potatoes in other media, such as the potato girl from Attack on Titan, the A.I. GLaDOS as a potato battery in Portal 2 (see top picture), and that ridiculously epic potato chip scene from the anime Death Note. (I wonder if they’ll keep that scene in the live-action movie this year.)
So without further ado, here are my top twelve instances of potatoes in movies. I hope you like potatoes.
A Fish Called Wanda
There’s something I deeply despise about this scene. Oh, yeah, it’s Kevin Kline as the most charmingly despicable jerk imaginable. I honestly can’t stand this movie, but it’s certainly a memorable scene. And yes, thank you, England, for the culinary contribution that is the chip.
While Ralphie’s little brother Randy complains about meatloaf, he apparently loves mashed potatoes, as long as he can eat like a piggy. I’m glad I was never a finicky eater.
Ah, the famous zit scene in the cafeteria, featuring a grown-up version of Ralphie’s brother. This is one I debated for a while, mainly because I still can’t verify that it’s actually mashed potatoes that John Belushi blows out of his mouth. It’s some scoop of white food, but is it potatoes, cottage cheese, a hard-boiled egg, or something else entirely? It looks like mashed potatoes to me, though, and until I learn otherwise, it counts.
Ladies in Lavender
In this lesser-known drama about two elderly English sisters (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith) who care for a young Pole (Daniel Bruhl) who washes up on the beach, peeling potatoes transcends the language barrier.
Everything Is Illuminated
This quirky but deceptively serious tale is about a Jewish-American (Elijah Wood) traveling to Ukraine to investigate his family history from the Holocaust, and a lonely potato serves to illustrate both his compulsive collecting habits and the cultural divide between himself and his guides.
How the mighty have fallen when once-affluent Englishmen crave a mere potato! Young Christian Bale’s Jim experiences this fall to desperation firsthand after the Japanese occupy Shanghai. “People will do anything for a potato.”
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
I’m not enamored of this Spielberg sci-fi staple, but you’ve got to love Richard Dreyfuss’s obsessive molding of his mashed potatoes into a tiny model of Devil’s Tower.
I am enamored of this beautifully charming anime film about a single mother raising her half-wolf kids. When she moves out to the country, her inexperience at farming shows, but a gruff neighbor provides her a crash course in growing plenty of potatoes.
Most of you probably saw this one coming, since it’s a more recent movie. After being stranded on Mars, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) uses his incredible botany powers to grow potatoes in his own dung and stretch his food supply. I’m sure they taste much better with ketchup than with Vicodin.
Faith Like Potatoes
At least I have one movie that actually has potatoes in the name. This Christian film about a real-life South African farmer and speaker makes a stirring comparison between faith and potatoes, both of which remain hidden beneath the surface until harvest time, with inspiring results. Some may find it preachy, but it’s one of the better faith-based films out there.
And the number one spot goes to none other than Mr. Potato Head, plus his Missus. Don Rickles and Pixar made a lovably irritable character out of the old Hasbro toy, which originated as an actual potato with removable body parts. Thanks to Toy Story, Mr. Potato Head is still popular and even has his own Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. Now that’s a famous spud.
And here are a few runners-up, albeit not many, since there weren’t nearly as many movie potatoes to choose from as there were corn scenes.
The Benchwarmers – Explains that hot potatoes are actually hot.
Barefoot Gen – Two brothers fight over a sweet potato in this disturbing anime film a la Grave of the Fireflies.
Frenzy – This Hitchcock thriller has a killer rummaging through sacks of potatoes for something his latest victim took from him.
Men at Work – Don’t ever mess with a man’s fries.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding – There are no small gatherings when the potato peeling starts.
Napoleon Dynamite – “Give me some of your tots.”
Sling Blade – “I like them French fried potaters.”
Steamboat Willie – The first cartoon with synchronized sound ends with Mickey Mouse peeling potatoes for his musical antics.
The Terminal – A bag of potato chips serves as a messy metaphor for a foreign coup.
Maybe I’ll continue this food theme for future lists, but my top twelve cauliflower in movies may take some time. Thanks to everyone who reads this list, and perhaps now you’ll keep in mind the star power of that tater the next time you peel or eat one. Remember, the spuds have eyes.
I wonder what wonders the world has beheld:
More than seven, no doubt,
More than those learned about,
But must they be spectacles unparalleled,
Gloried feats unsurpassed,
Or more simply contrast?
A light among shadows, a gem among stones,
An unshakable stand
Against failure’s demand,
A rare certainty in a world of unknowns,
An encouraging word
That despair hasn’t heard,
A dream among cynics, a float in rough water,
Shooting stars overhead
When all hope was thought dead,
A lamb among wolves with no worry of slaughter—
The world’s wonders don’t last,
But the weak and steadfast
Can find hope in contrast.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I honestly never thought I’d see a DC movie on its opening weekend, but a half-planned trip to the theater left Wonder Woman as the most convenient show time available, and the positive reviews I’d heard convinced my VC and me to give it a try. I had come to the conclusion that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is a lost cause, with Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad being either unwieldy, joyless, or overblown. Yet here at last is Wonder Woman, helmed by Patty Jenkins, the first female director of a major superhero film, and DC finally gets a movie that can hold its own against Marvel.
I’ll admit I don’t know much about Wonder Woman from the comics and only ever saw her as a member of the animated Justice League on TV, as well as her animated origin film from 2009. The latest live-action movie begins much like its cartoon counterpart, with the Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) of the Amazons residing on the hidden island of Themyscira, training to be a great warrior, until the crash-landing of American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) awakens her sense of duty and interest in the outside world. Unlike the animated version set in the modern day, 2017’s Wonder Woman has the key difference of taking place during World War I, making its retro setting more than a little reminiscent of Captain America: The First Avenger. (Her origin apparently took place during World War II in the comics, so I guess the change was intended to avoid being too similar to Cap’s first outing.) There are plenty of parallels, from an evil German antagonist (Danny Huston) with a diabolical scientist (Elena Anaya) under him to a climactic sacrifice involving a death-carrying plane, but there’s enough originality here that the similarities never detract from the story.
The best thing Wonder Woman has in its favor is Gal Gadot. Neither an overly familiar face nor a struggling newbie, she’s an effortlessly perfect fit for the role, her slight Israeli accent giving her an exotic touch while she nails the assertive and noble appeal of the character. She’s also attractive no matter what she does, whether in secretarial incognito or in the heat of battle. And speaking of battle, her first moment of truth fighting against the German army is spectacular, taking ownership of “No Man’s Land” with feats that Lynda Carter could only dream of. Alongside her, Chris Pine is his usual likable self, and while he can’t compare with Diana’s abilities, I liked that he was still an active and valiant match for her rather than a weakling to make her look better. Plus, in contrast to Batman and Superman of late, there’s actually some humor, perhaps not at Marvel’s levels, but it’s refreshing that DC seems to have learned something from the competition. (Suicide Squad may have had more jokes, but it’s a barely connected oddity as far as I’m concerned.)
As much as I enjoyed what is clearly DC’s best film to date, it’s not above a few nitpicks, such as stereotypical villains and one scene with some cynically feminist jabs as Steve and Diana awkwardly discuss sex and marriage. Most of the climactic battle has the same excessive bombast as the end of Batman v. Superman, which I guess is only a negative if you disliked it then. The strongest criticism for me is the muddy mythology that comes to a head toward the end. Wonder Woman has always drawn freely from Greek mythology, which works for the loose backstory at the beginning, and Diana understands Zeus to be man’s creator and Ares to be the corrupting god of war, roles that here distinctly echo the Christian God and devil. She’s convinced with apparent naiveté that Ares is controlling mankind to wage this Great War, and while her understanding is challenged and widened, it’s left in doubt by the end just how right she was and what that implies for history and religion in general.
If you don’t think about that too hard, though, Wonder Woman absolutely fulfills its potential as the first superheroine blockbuster, and my VC quite enjoyed it as well, even without having seen the previous DC entries. (Coincidentally, the very day I saw it, I came home to find the old 1970s TV show with Lynda Carter on, and compared with that cheese, the film is a masterpiece.) Aside from Gadot herself, I most appreciated the fact that this is a genuinely heroic tale of a warrior discerning why she defends mankind. Not many superhero movies tackle that topic so directly, and especially considering how DC has loused up even the most iconic of heroes, Superman, Wonder Woman’s experiences of both the evil and the noble that man is capable of provide her with a persuasive reason for her defense of the world, beyond the idealistic zeal that she and Captain America had from the start. Her gallantry and girl-power status as a role model are a far cry from the broody skepticism of Batman v. Superman or the psychopathic half-villainy of Suicide Squad, and this “light among shadows” seems to indicate that there might actually be hope for the DCEU yet, though I undoubtedly still prefer Marvel. Wonder Woman may not quite be an unqualified success, but it’s a welcome success nonetheless.
Best line: (Hippolyta, as Diana leaves the island, echoing many parents, I’m sure) “You are my greatest love. Today, you are my greatest sorrow.”
From way up here, my view is clear,
And all the world extends below.
They wait to see if this wannabe
Deserves this chance and vertigo.
Yet no one thought this soaring spot
Could be achieved by such as me.
They patronized and minimized
My every try and cut me free.
But not this time, this chance sublime,
Unmarred by how they’ve criticized;
I’m flying higher than critics desire
And won’t the scolders be surprised!
I don’t compare in skill or flair
With medalists, but I aspire.
That goal sincere has brought me here.
Now just to land, and I’ll retire.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (could almost be PG)
One of the most pleasant surprises from last year was how the story of an apparent goofball from the 1988 Winter Olympics exceeded its by-the-numbers genre to become one of the most uplifting films of the year. Inspirational sports dramas are a dime-a-dozen, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call Eddie the Eagle the best underdog story since the 1993 classic Rudy.
That comparison extends to the plucky protagonist whose dogged refusal to give up overshadows his relative lack of athletic ability. Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) has dreamed since childhood of going to the Olympics, despite the repeated failures of his clumsy practice runs. All the familiar ingredients are here: a father (Keith Allen) who thinks Eddie’s dreams are a waste of time, an authority figure (Tim McInnerny) who disparages Eddie and does all he can to block the irrepressible upstart, an embittered coach (Hugh Jackman) who grudgingly agrees to mentor the young dreamer. It’s all so potentially cliché, and yet it’s all done so well, thanks in large part to the unironic exuberance of Egerton as Eddie himself.
Eddie’s journey is a constant struggle that never seems to faze him, or at least doesn’t keep him down for long. In many ways, he glides along on unrealistic goals and loopholes, choosing to compete as an Olympic ski jumper when he discovers that Great Britain hasn’t had one since the 1920s. If it gets him to the Olympics, it doesn’t matter if he’s completely inexperienced. Yet it’s his unabashed spirit that earns some much-needed sympathy along his way and convinces disgraced former competitor Bronson Peary to coach and support him. Ordinarily, the coach would be the one encouraging his protégé, but Eddie needs no outside encouragement and instead lightens the drunken cynicism of his trainer.
It’s an important development toward the end that Eddie recognizes that his jubilation in the face of apparent failure can be seen as the antics of a fool and addresses those concerns head-on. Ultimately, as the film and a quote from the founder of the Olympics state, it doesn’t matter that Eddie’s best efforts still come up short, just as it didn’t matter that Rudy’s moment of truth was only a single touchdown: the very act of participating and doing one’s best is admirable, and it’s no wonder that Eddie’s tenacious joy and determination captured the hearts of spectators.
It helps too that the film is designed to be as crowd-pleasing as possible, with a good deal of humor and a deliciously ‘80s soundtrack with well-placed song staples from the time, like Van Halen’s “Jump.” Egerton and Jackman imbue their familiar character types with likable personalities, Egerton lovably nerdy and Jackman ruggedly cool, and are easy to root for. By the film’s breath-holding climax (which surely looks ridiculous to those not in the moment), I was cheering alongside the characters with the biggest smile a movie has given me in some time. Plus, except for some brief sexual dialogue, the film is refreshingly family-friendly and free of profanity.
It’s true that the core story of Eddie the Eagle is far from original and ends on Eddie’s most positive moment with no mention of the fact that his next three attempts to reach the Olympics failed due to eligibility changes. Thus, its inspirational bias may seem contrived to some, but when a film is this uplifting and joyous, who cares? Eddie the Eagle takes its genre and flies high with it.
Best line: (quoting Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympics) “The most important thing is not the victory but the struggle.”