Tag Archives: Charlize Theron

Movie Review: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

kubo-two-strings-poster

Rating: B/  I knew next to nothing about Kubo and the Two Strings going in, and I probably wouldn’t have even watched it at all had my dad not bought a copy for my sister on her 13th birthday. I had seen a few ads and knew it had a monkey in it, but overall my interest was minimal. While Kubo and the Two Strings’ plot structure is not the most original (it features a pretty standard heroes’ journey arc where Kubo picks up a couple of unlikely companions and moves from place to place trying to find items with magical properties that will help him fight an ancient evil,) it is visually astonishing and peppered with some entertaining characters and funny dialogue. Continue reading Movie Review: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Movie Review: Dark Places (2015)

DarkPlaces

Rating: B-/ Flaws aside, I don’t think this movie is as bad as the critics say. Sure, the characters are fairly unlikable and the plot twist doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, but I was invested throughout the entire film in what was going to happen next (which is strange, since the lead character actually kind of annoyed me.) Plus, I love Charlize Theron, no matter what kind of fucked-up head case she’s playing (take the Oscar-winning crime drama Monster, for example. ) Continue reading Movie Review: Dark Places (2015)

Monster (2003)

monster-movie-poster-2003-1020189471

Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) always knew she’d be famous for something. Who knew that her claim to fame would be as America’s first female serial killer? Life pisses all over Aileen, she’s a sexual abuse victim from a crappy home and a crappy family who turns tricks as a cheap roadside whore for a living. About as white trash as it is possible to get, Wuornos is played by Theron with prosthetic teeth and excess flab in a Academy Award-winning performance born of pure grit.

Monster is a rather eerie and disturbing movie that forces you to sympathize to some extent with a beastly human being with little to no compassion for her victims. Monsters are made, not born. I really believe that 99.9% percent of the time, that’s the case. A woman of limited resources, low intelligence, and poor self-control, Aileen’s first murder is self-defense; shooting a sexually abusive john who tries to rape her. When she gets a taste of that power, though, she embraces the life of a killer.

Aileen has a girlfriend named Selby (Christina Ricci,) a pixyish young lesbian with a crooked smile and an easy way about her. Maybe Aileen is gay. Or maybe she’s just sick of men treating her like shit. Aileen’s only friend is Thomas (Bruce Dern,) a homeless war vet who offers her half a sandwich and doesn’t ask anything in return. This is Aileen’s life. It’s not pretty, but that doesn’t mean it’s a side of America that doesn’t exist. Selby wants to be treated like a princess, and Aileen offers that in the form of murdered johns’ money. Selby doesn’t know, or pretends not to know, about Aileen’s murderous nighttime habits. Aileen wants to quit the life, but every opportunity seems to lead to a dead end for this dim, volatile nut bag of a woman.

monster_blu-ray5

The first thirty minutes or so are oddly touching, a mix of hopeful and even unexpectedly sweet emotions that make the film’s plunge into the abyss of murder and misery all the more jarring. We get to see the halting baby steps in a love affair, one that is skewed but still real and heartwrenching.Theron looks like shit but this lends her some credibility as an ‘ordinary,’ ‘blue-collar’ person. She looks like one of those dodgy types lurking outside of Wal-Mart with a cigarette and a tattoo, and she sells it, too. Christina Ricci also impresses with a deft mix of vulnerability and manipulation. In the end, we don’t know which one is a more fucked-up or unlikable person; and yet we can’t dismiss them entirely. We go on a trip into utter desolation and horror with them, and we cannot hate them as much as we want to; and probably should, their descent into hell seems all too plausible.

As Aileen wreaks destruction on those around her, I admired the film’s refusal to justify or condemn, Aileen’s such a sad little creature that her descent into psychopathy doesn’t shock us as much as it probably should. This is the kind of woman we ignore. This is the kind of woman we avert her eyes from. This is the kind of woman we don’t notice until she turns up on headlines all over the country and we shake our heads in disgust and say, there are some crazy people in this world. We can’t understand Aileen unless we’ve been in her situation, but at the same time, we can’t justify her actions, especially her murder of the particularly unfortunate final victim (Scott Wilson.) This is the kind of movie you view as an outsider, and then you thank God you’re just that.

This movie doesn’t paint a pretty picture of men, women, or society in general, it attempts less to draw a social or moral conclusion and more just to paint a character portrait of some very screwed up people; a woman ugly inside and out, and her manipulative enabler/lover. When Aileen tries to get a job, we see a woman of low morality and intelligence getting by the best way she can. You can’t spin crap into gold, but at the same time, you see a little of the girl who couldn’t do anything right in this broken woman. She wanted to be a star. She got her name out to the press in the end, but not in the way she expected. As Aileen herself says, Life’s funny. Basically, if you like dark psychological character studies starring characters with severe mental illnesses/ personality disorders, this is the movie for you. If you don’t like the idea of a disturbing movie about a sexually abused hooker waxing her johns, you’ve been warned. There’s plenty of crazy to go around here though, for fans of intense character-driven storytelling and abnormal psychology.

Monster-2003-film-images-5ab7e075-2256-4b7a-a262-7f6492957cf

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

furyroad

There’s hardly a moment that’s not brimming with action and excitement in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a modern continuation of the “Mad Max” series substituting Mel Gibson for Tom Hardy as the lead. I’ve liked Tom Hardy since his role in the weirdo biopic “Bronson,” and although I haven’t seen this film’s precursors (!), I was intrigued by it’s rave reviews and no small amount of unwarranted controversy from feminist critics.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is not a particularly deep movie; not particularly wise to the intricacies of human nature other than the well-worn assertion that when the apocalypse rolls around, shit will go down. You know what? That’s okay.  Because what this latest installment does have is cool car chases, crazy set pieces, and kick-ass female characters (remind me why this was branded misogynist again?)

You know that a movie with a rock n’ roll gimp playing a flame-throwing guitar on the front of a fortified tank as the baddies ride into battle has got to have some redeeming social value, or at least be cool as hell. In the not-so-distant future, oil and water have become precious commodities and society has broken into factions, each more brutal than the last. Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is mad about stuff, namely the state of civilization and the death of his wife and daughter which have festered in his mind and culminated in crazy hallucinations.

He gets kidnapped by an insane cult led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne,) who promises his ‘wild boys’ eternal paradise in Valhalla if the live- and die- by his will. Max then gets made into a ‘blood-bag,’ a commodity whose blood is to be used to renew Immortan Joe’s wild boy’s when the time comes. But Max escapes, and with much trepidation joins Joe’s renegade warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and a group of the maniacal leader’s sexual slaves in route, the the ‘green place,’ a Utopian locale based on Furiosa’s distant memory.

madmax

I was pleased and relieved to see that Furiosa and Max’s relationship was not (as I feared it would be) ‘let me get past your hard-as-nails facade and awaken the woman within’ bullcrap. It’s based on mutual respect, certainly more than sex or romance, and I love how he forgoes shooting the gun at a crucial moment to hand it over because she’s just, y’know, a better shot. For someone who was expecting a filmy post-apocalyptic sex scene, maybe with incense and gauze curtains or some such shit, I was pleasantly surprised.

I am not the audience for this movie, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it. I am the less-than-1% who actually prefers European art films and understated independent films to big-budget multi-million dollar smashes, but the nice thing about “Mad Max: Fury Road” is it doesn’t try to be deep or profound (like Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy) but just has fun being itself, a big fun goofy action movie of larger-than-life proportions, like playing a particularly epic video game. There’s scarcely a dull moment.

It’s interesting to see how classical mythology (namely Norse) has collided with modern sensibilities, selfishness, and consumerism with Immortan Joe’s boys (one of his warriors, a wet-behind-the-ears kid named Nux (Nicholas Hoult,) describes ‘going to Valhalla to eat a Mcfeast’- a little post-McDonald’s product placement there) 😉 The wild-boy’s ideology reminds me of ISIS and any other cult or hate group worth it’s salt- you get to be an asshole, and you’re rewarded for it tenfold in the afterlife.

Watch it for the guitar gimp. And if not for the guitar gimp, watch it for Tom Hardy. And if not for Tom Hardy, watch it for Charlize Theron as an indomitable heroine and her group of newly liberated wards who must find their own deeply-buried strength. Never to we get the feeling that Theron’s identity as a woman makes her softer or weaker than any of the guys. And we don’t get that gag-worthy prerequisite scene where the warrioress takes off her helmet and tosses her hair around, making the stoic hero’s jaw drop.

This might actually be worth watching in 3-D. So pop your popcorn, put on your 3-D glasses, and put your innate need for deep meaning and intellectual stimulation away, because you’re in for a wild ride. I bet considering this movie’s wild success, Mel Gibson’s kicking himself for turning down the amount of money offered to play in this film. If you discard your initial skepticism (I’m talking to you, art film addicts and hipsters) at seeing a film that actually made loads of money- a remake, no less- I’m sure you will find a lot to love about this film.

maxresdefault