Actress Jane Baxter spent most of her career in British films and on-stage. Born Feodora Forde in Bremen, Germany, she was raised in London, England, from a young age. At age 15, Baxter launched a suc...
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There are only a few days left until the 2014 Academy Awards, so most of our predictions are solidified by now. But even though Cate Blanchett appears to be a lock for Best Actress and Alfonso Cuaron has the highest odds of winning Best Director, there's still one race that's impossible to guess: Best Supporting Actress. The two candidates who could snag the trophy are Lupita Nyong'o for her work in 12 Years a Slave and Jennifer Lawrence for her performance in American Hustle.
Normally, we could just rely on the previous awards shows to help influence our predictions. Blanchett and Cuaron have both swept their categories, as have Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (who we think will take Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively). But Lawrence and Nyong'o have split the opinions of the various awards organizations, which means the Oscar is still anyone's game. In an attempt to solve this problem once and for all and help you solidify your Oscar pool, we've taken a look back at all of the women who have won Best Supporting Actress in order to see if we could use the winners of yesteryear to determine who will walk home with the trophy on Oscar night.
Major Precursor Awards Won: 2 (for each)Lawrence won both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for her role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld, while Nyong'o picked up the Critic's Choice Award and the Screen Actor's Guild Award for playing the slave girl Patsey.
Actresses 25 and Under Who Won Best Supporting Actress: 8If Lawrence, who at 23 is the youngest actress to earn 3 Oscar nominations, were to take home the award on Sunday, she would join a list of young winners that includes Tatum O’Neal, Patty Duke, Goldie Hawn, Anna Paquin, Jennifer Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Teresa Wright, and Anne Baxter.
Actresses Between 25 and 30 Who Won Best Supporting Actress: 13At 30, Nyong'o would be in good company as a Best Supporting Actress winner, as Shirley Jones, Mary Steenburgen, Marisa Tomei, Mira Sorvino, Miyoshi Umecki, Gloria Grahame, Kim Hunter, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno, Eva Marie Saint, Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Celeste Holm also took home an Oscar around the same age.
Best Supporting Actress Winners Who Won for Their First Performance: 9It's hard to believe that 12 Years a Slave is Nyong'o's first feature film, but she's not the only actress to impress the Academy with her debut perfomance: Katina Paxinou, Mercedes McCambridge, Eva Marie Saint, Jo Van Fleet, Tatum O’Neal, Goldie Hawn, Miyoshi Umecki, Anna Paquin, and Jennifer Hudson all stunned on their first try.
Actresses Who Won Best Supporting Actress After Winning Best Actress: 3 After winning for Silver Lining's Playbook at last year's awards, Lawrence would join an elite club of women who topped their Best Actress win with a Best Supporting Actress trophy. : Helen Hayes, who won Best Actress for her work in The Sin of Madelon Claudet in 1931 and Best Supporting Actress for Airport in 1970, Ingrid Bergman, who took home Best Actress for Gaslight in 1944 and Anastasia in 1956 then won Best Supporting Actress in 1974 for Murder on the Orient Express, and Maggie Smith, who was awarded Best Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 1969 and followed it up with Best Supporting Actress for California Suite 1978.
Best Supporting Actress Winners Who Won on Their First Nomination: 51The Best Supporting Actress category has been particularly kind to newcomers, with 51 actresses who have taken home gold on their first nomination (a fact that bodes well for Nyong'o). If she wins, she would be added to the long list that includes Gale Sondergaard, Hattie McDaniel, Jane Darwell, Mary Astor, Katina Paxinou, Ethel Barrymore, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Mercedes McCambridge, Josephine Hull, Kim Hunter, Donna Reed, Eva Marie Saint, Jo Van Fleet, Dorothy Malone, Miyoshi Umecki, Shirley Jones, Rita Moreno, Patty Duke, Margaret Rutherford, Lila Kedrova, Sandy Dennis, Estelle Parsons, Goldie Hawn, Cloris Leachmann, Tatum O’Neal, Beatrice Straight, Mary Steenburgen, Jessica Lange, Linda Hunt, Peggy Ashcroft, Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest, Olympia Dukakis, Geena Davis, Brenda Fricker, Mercedes Ruehl, Marisa Tomei, Anna Paquin, Mira Sorvino, Juliette Binoche, Kim Basinger, Angelina Jolie, Marcia Gay Harden, Jennifer Connolly, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rachel Weisz, Jennifer Hudson, Tilda Swinton, Mo’Nique, and Octavia Spencer.
Actresses Who Have Won Best Supporting Actress for a Comedic Role: 7Although the Academy tends to favor dramatic performances, the Supporting Actor and Actress categories often reward more comedic roles, like Lawrence's. If she wins, she would join the seven other women who laughed their way to an Oscar: Josephine Hull for Harvey, Goldie Hawn for Cactus Flower, Maggie Smith for California Suite, Olympia Dukakis for Moonstruck, Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny, Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite, and Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Actresses Who Have Won Best Supporting Actress Winners For Playing Servants: 3Although Nyong'o would be the first Best Supporting Actress winner to win for portraying a slave, three women have previously won for playing servants: Gale Sondergaard, Hattie McDaniel, and Octavia Spencer.
Actresses Who Have Won Best Supporting Actress for Playing the Wife of the Lead: 7Before Rosalyn Rosenfeld came along to "inspire" her husband Iriving, there were countless other wives who played a key role in their husband's stories, and seven actresses won an Oscar for playing them: Mary Astor, Kim Hunter, Gloria Grahame, Jennifer Connolly, Rachel Weisz, Meryl Streep, and Mary Steenburgen.
Black Women Who Have Won Best Supporting Actress: 4If Nyong'o takes home the Oscar on Sunday, she will become only the fifth black woman to win Best Supporting Actress, and just the sixth black woman to win an acting Oscar overall. The previous Best Supporting Actress winners are Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, Mo’Nique, and Octavia Spencer, while Halle Berry is the lone black Best Actress winner.
Actresses Who Have Won Best Supporting Actress for Playing a Character with a New York Accent: 2Whether you love Lawrence's accent in American Hustle or it makes you want to stab yourself in the ears, there's no denying that the New York accent is a tricky one to pull off. Only two women have done it well enough to earn an Oscar: Marisa Tomei as the wise-cracking fianceè of the title character in My Cousin Vinny and Olympia Dukakis as Cher's mother in Moonstruck.
Our Prediction: Lupita Nyong'o Despite being evenly matched, we think that the combination of 12 Years a Slave being Nyong'o's film debut, as well as her first nomination will help swing the votes in her favor, as the Academy has proven that there's nothing it loves more than an impressive breakthrough performance. Plus, she deserves it, and we have to believe that there is some semblance of justice left in this world.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
December 14, 2011 12:53pm EST
Let’s put the cards on the table: I have not read Steig Larsson’s best-selling “Millennium Trilogy” and therefore cannot comment on whether or not Columbia Pictures’ big-budget (American) adaptation of its first novel is a spot-on transfer of the shocking story or if Rooney Mara has lived up to the punk-goth-genius of an anti-heroine he created. This review is about director David Fincher’s craft and the dream cast he has assembled to make The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo one of the most brutal and engrossing films of 2011.
Right from lustrous sexy title sequence evoking torturous S&M imagery to the ultra-cool Karen O/Trent Reznor rendition of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” the Oscar-nominated filmmaker plunges his audience into a very specific experience. This is not to say that the story itself is notably inventive; Dragon Tattoo is more or less a standard serial killer thriller wherein a pair of investigators attempts to solve a decades-old murder that has ties to other gruesome mysteries and a wealthy Swedish family. It’s the sinister atmosphere and tone he cultivates using color music and lighting that makes this tale so unique and highly watchable in spite of the terrible events that occur throughout.
Perhaps most compelling though is its mixed bag of characters from different walks of life including Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) a recently disgraced financial journalist in need of an assignment Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgard) a yuppie-ish corporate tycoon charged with running the family business started by his uncle Henrik (Christopher Plummer) and Lisbeth Salander (Mara) the alpha-outsider and titular character of this eerie epic. All are emotionally scarred and the actors charged with portraying them go the darkest corners of their own souls to make them their own. Mara in particular must be praised for her ghoulish and extreme embodiment of Salander who suffers physical and emotional torment unlike anything we’ve seen in cinema this year. This more than her scene-stealing presence in Fincher’s The Social Network is no doubt her star-making turn; expect to see her name on a marquee soon. Though she and Craig at times struggle with the Swedish diction (the latter’s native British accent slips through more times than I can count) they more than make up for it with their physical personifications facial expressions etc. Yet it’s Skarsgard who is most impressive as the younger Vanger (he’s of Swedish descent) and delivers a stunning and chilling performance that will rival Mara’s in defining this film in years to come.
Still this is a Fincher film through and through and I cannot think of source material better suited for the maker of Se7en and Zodiac than this disturbing chronicle. Visually he’s given the opportunity to create damp decaying interiors familiar to fans of his work but contrasts them with beautifully filmed exteriors including some terrifying whiteout conditions that are sure to lower your body temperature. In terms of form he and editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall effectively lay out dual character arcs (that of Salander and Blomkvist) that run parallel but connect in uncanny ways until their eventual convergence resulting in a highly literary feel. Both Baxter and Wall won Oscars for cutting The Social Network and I’m afraid that their penchant for quick transitions between shots has a decreasing effect on the terror; for a film that so closely treads the line between horror-thriller I felt that letting certain shots play out a bit longer could’ve had more dreadful results.
Still in no way I am saying that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t come with its share of nail-biting suspense. Fincher takes tense situations to the next level using unconventional camera angles and Reznor’s unnerving score making many sequences in the movie hard to watch. It’s a tiring but entertaining task; one that is a pleasure and pain to endure but the auteur’s masterful methods are quite magical even when being used to tell a story as menacing as this one.
There’s nothing else playing at the multiplex this season that’s quite like it and should you choose to view it you’ll carry its shocks with you for days after.
Douglas McGrath’s new movie I Don’t Know How She Does It is based off of Allison Pearson’s wildly successful novel of the same name that was on The New York Times’ hardcover bestseller list for 23 weeks. Both mediums focus on the complicated life of Kate Reddy (played by an I'll admit it enjoyably perky Sarah Jessica Parker in the movie) who is the woman all working mothers want to be: smart determined and fiercely passionate about doing everything she can to balance her family with her high profile job at an investment banking firm. She’s the mom who’s thoughtful enough to try and distort a store-bought cherry pie with a rolling pin so it looks more homemade for her daughter’s bake sale and the one who finds joy in searching for a clean blouse that doesn’t have the marshmallows from her son’s Rice Krispies Treats soaked into it. Of course Kate dreads leaving her children each day but she loves her job very much and allows herself to part ways with them by concentrating on the belief that one day they’ll understand how much she genuinely wanted to go to work. And while it’s clear the movie’s goal is to humorously depict the lives of women who work and have families it shockingly shies away from ending the still-popular belief that women are best "pregnant barefoot and in the kitchen."
Within the first minute of the movie the fourth wall is broken -- and continues to break throughout the movie -- and several of Kate’s colleagues and friends verify that Kate is an outstanding mother and a supremely productive member of the work force (which was pretty unnecessary considering how we were just going to see all of Kate's talents anyway). Her friend Allison (played by Christina Hendricks) opens up a bit more than the others and unveils that even though Kate's totally great she really wasn't doing very well with her responsibilities last winter. Then we flash back three months and watch as Kate goes from being an unnoticed employee at her Boston firm to writing a proposal and catching the interest of Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan) at the branch’s New York office. Jack is enthusiastic about Kate’s ideas and decides he wants to take the proposal and present it to a major client which excites Kate because it would be great for her career. However the problem is the proposal needs a lot of work before it can be shown to anybody and Jack is careful to ask if Kate is comfortable traveling between Boston and New York and working day and night for two months until the whole thing is finished. In the back of her mind she knows she should be spending heaps more time with her family instead of agreeing to take on more responsibilities at work but she decides to do it anyway because as the saying goes “if it ain’t hard it ain’t worth it.”
So Kate and her assistant Momo (played by a finally enjoyable Olivia Munn) begin working overtime. She spends three days a week in New York and the other four days glued to her computer in Boston. When she does make plans with her kids to do something like build a snowman she ends up flaking out because something happens at the last minute regarding the proposal and she needs to drop everything to go work on it with Jack in New York. As angry as the kids are with their mom Kate’s husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) is even angrier because since his wife is away and working all the time he becomes the caregiver by default.
Now here’s where things get a little dicey: Richard is an unemployed architect and so I was surprised to watch him give his wife so much grief for working to keep their cute children fed. However the audience is supposed to understand where he’s coming from: we’re supposed to applaud Richard’s courage to make Kate feel guilty for being with Abelhammer instead of with her kids and we’re supposed to take his side as he repeatedly tries to convince her that she should be ashamed of putting her work ahead of her family. We're supposed to figure out that Richard feels bad for not working and understand that when he's screaming at Kate for having a job he's really just venting about how frustrated he is that he's unemployed. And here’s where the movie has the opportunity to open up and blossom and be symbolic of how a woman should never have to apologize for having a career. Exactly here is where the movie should have stretched out its wings and showed Kate yelling from the top of her lungs about how unfair it is that women are frowned upon for having a job and a family whereas it’s completely fine for men to have both. But instead of defending herself like that Kate responded to her husband’s grievances by bowing her head down and acknowledging that she’s wrong for working so hard for being away from her children for making bad choices and for making her husband’s life harder. But the thing is that she hasn’t made bad choices! She’s made all the right ones because her husband doesn’t work! The point is McGrath had the opportunity to really emphasize how men with families and women with families are treated differently in the workplace -- but he ended up depicting how dangerous it is to be a woman with a job because it means that one day her husband might resent her and make her apologize for it. And so instead of significantly expanding upon Pearson's efforts to level the ground for women with children in the workplace McGrath (rather confusingly) stopped just short of following her lead.
In a blanketed statement Luke Greenfield’s Something Borrowed attempts to explore lifelong friendships and the circumstances responsible for their ends. It’s billed as a romantic comedy which would be true if one choreographed dance to Salt N Pepa’s “Push It” and one instance where someone breaks their nose during a game of backgammon were the genre’s qualifiers. But deeper than that lies a message along the lines of “never defer to others ” or even one that’s more like “never give other people the opportunity to take what’s yours because they will.” However those morals get so completely muddled along the way that ultimately the film is downgraded to a chronicle of two best friends in love with the same man.
The film is told from the point of view of Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) who’s described as a successful lawyer at a top law firm (so “top ” in fact it’s never named). She is single mostly keeps to herself and is preoccupied with other people’s happiness but is lucky enough to have a very good friend in Darcy (Kate Hudson) who never misses a chance to talk about herself or steal the attention of an entire party by showing up in a pink boa. We learn Rachel and Darcy's friendship spans decades through a slide show that Darcy puts together for Rachel’s “surprise” 30th birthday party and during Darcy's toast to her best friend she talks about how excited she is to marry Dex (Colin Egglesfield) and how thankful she is to Rachel for introducing the two of them. However the truth is Rachel didn’t introduce them – what really happened was Darcy crashed Rachel and Dex’s date that was in honor of all the hard work they did together to prepare for a law school test. Rachel is saddened by the combination of turning 30 and listening to Darcy's excitement over her upcoming marriage to a man she doesn't deserve and after seeing the birthday girl's pout Dex suggests the fellow lawyers go get another drink together. Rachel casually admits to Dex that she’s had a crush on him since law school (which he claims to have never known) and during a shared cab ride to their separate apartments Dex kisses Rachel because it turns out he has had feelings for her all this time too. Thus begins the affair between Dex and Rachel even though Dex’s wedding to Darcy is only weeks away. Eventually Dex and Rachel both realize they love each other and Dex has to make a decision as to which woman is right for him.
Because the story is told from Rachel The Downtrodden's POV the filmmakers attempted to make Darcy the villain as she’s the opposite of Rachel and is someone who gets everything she wants without having to put forth any effort. In actuality Darcy is pretty easy to despise because she always talks about how she’s good-looking and the only obligations she has are towards partying and making incessant demands to Rachel about her wedding to a man she only halfheartedly loves. I suspect Greenfield decided to highlight the tremendous differences between Darcy and Rachel so as to emphasize the fervor and resilience of their bond (which would in turn make the affair between Rachel and Dex a bigger and more dangerous conflict). But it ends up being a disservice to the overall project because the characters themselves are so fundamentally flawed. The notion that one woman would WILLINGLY endure such bullying from someone who’s supposed to be her best friend is terribly unrealistic and so because the movie virtually revolves around this dysfunctional friendship between these two women means everything is painful to watch. There’s even a point where Rachel’s character becomes as unlikeable as Darcy in the way her utter obedience to Darcy makes her weak-minded a terrible heroine and essentially not worthy of our respect either. And what kind of a romantic comedy has us trying to figure out which woman we hate the most? (Exactly.)
John Krasinski saves the movie from being intolerable. He plays Ethan Rachel’s other best friend and (unlike Darcy) he genuinely cares about Rachel’s well-being. Rachel confides in him and he offers her advice and encouragement and Ethan does not like Darcy at all because he sees the way she treats Rachel and the way Rachel’s life halts every time Darcy has a demand. But his character is way more important than it appears to be because he’s the one who points out that both Rachel AND Darcy are flawed characters and he validates the audience’s disgust with both women. He does this by openly criticizing Darcy’s narcissism (which the audience notices within the first few minutes of the film) and also makes Rachel aware of how pathetic it is that she’s been at Darcy’s beck and call for 30 years. Ethan is arguably the only sane character in this movie and strategically he functions as its voice of reason. Even though Krasinski does not play a main character he’s so responsible for the humor that he is a true delight. Ginnifer Goodwin also does an excellent job playing the character who thinks she’s too ugly to ever get a handsome husband and Kate Hudson also deserves some recognition for embodying someone so self-righteous.
It's hard to criticize producers or a studio about what's wrong with a movie that was originally a book because neither the producers nor the studio are responsible for the story's fundamentals -- the author is. At the same time it’s impossible to hold an author responsible for how well his or her book was adapted into a film. That means both the filmmaker and the author must share credit for Something Borrowed but I have a feeling that in a few years neither party will want any.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
7:30 (SM) - Best accessories seen so far: Amy Adams giant flower, Justin Bieber's purple glasses, and January Jones's cleavage.
7:32 (SM) - I've never seen someone try to get away from Robert Pattinson like that.
7:34 (HL) - WHY ARE THESE BITCHES SO SKINNY. And Sam, did you hear that Mila Kunis prepared for this ceremony by getting a diamond facial that was worth $7,000?
7:35 (SM) - No, I didn't. Sofia Vergara was on television explaining her boyfriend's proposed policy changes. Or something.
7:39 (SM) - And the Jets win! They won by several home runs apparently.
7:40 (HL) - SAM. WHO THE FUCK CARES ABOUT THE JETS. THIS IS THE GOLDEN GLOBES. Football players always have their penises out nowadays. Nobody cares. Have you been watching Ryan Seacrest's coverage of this? It's stellar.
7:43 (SM) - I was just taking care of the other half of the demographic! Russ wouldn't let me change it to Seacrest's coverage. He started barking. Jennifer Love Hewitt's dress looks like its made to collect water on her chest.
7:45 (HL) - Yeah, but have you seen Scarlett Johansson? She always does that thing with her hair that makes her look like she came out of a wind tunnel and it's so unnecessary, because it's not like she's fucking Ryan Reynolds in limos anymore.
7:48 (SM) - Of course I have seen Scarlett JoHansson. And you think she's not going crazy after getting divorced? She's like the ultimate cougar in training. Ooh, old guy getting in the way of Anne Hathaway's interview. Classic.
7:52 (HL) - Yeah, I saw that. I also saw how it led to Carson Daly and I was disappointed. I'm supposed to ask you what you think of Michelle Williams' boycut.
7:54 (SM) - It's fine. I mean, of course I'd rather have her back in The Baxter haircut, but whatever. Though I do prefer Emma Watson's, but that's obvious. I'm just enjoying how this British lady does NOT handle live TV well AT ALL.
7:56 (HL) - Have you figured out yet that we'll be doing this for three hours?
7:57 (SM) - I'll come to grips with it at the bottom of this bottle.
7:58 (HL) - SAM. WE ARE SO SIMILAR. That's how I got through the Emmys, and IT'S STARTING. NOW! IN 4 SECONDS!
8:00 (SM) - RICKY GERVAAAAAAAAAAAIS!
8:01 (HL) - I do a really great Ricky Gervais impression, I learned this weekend. I just woke up one morning and I just became him. DID YOU HEAR THAT TOURIST DIG??!?!? HE'S SO MONEY HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW IT.
8:02 (SM) - I want to play checkers on his jacket. So you woke up this morning looking like a pug? Congrats.
8:03 (HL) - I must be too drunk to see how you could play checkers on his jacket. Did you hear that scientology joke? Is that capitalized? Great, more about LOST. You know Danny's squealing all the way out in Queens.
8:06 (SM) - I heard Danny. Or that was him playing with his cat. Russ just said he had a chance with Scarlett Johansson. I didn't have the heart to have the talk with him. And Christian Bale wins for looking like Kermit.
8:07 (HL) - Was he better than Renner though? Little Renner? I'm not sure. Bale just enjoys the benefits of forgoing food.
8:08 (SM) - I really wish Bale would do an acceptance speech as Batman. Glad to see LL Cool J is still relevant.
8:10 (HL) - Who is Katie Sagal? At least she said her husband's name. Bale didn't even say his wife's name! It's so important. And first commercial break. What are you going to do?
8:14 (SM) - THAT WAS PEGGY BUNDY! I'm trying to develop an algorithm to figure out how they organize these awards. Supporting drama actor to supporting drama actress on tv? Well, I guess that makes kind of sense. What're you doing?
8:17 (HL) Oh. Well. I was going to spend some time thinking about how most of Natalie Portman's movies that are about to be out were made, like, a while ago. Also, I took a moment to learn who Ms. Golden Globe was. You KNOW they consciously made it "Ms. Golden Globe" and not "Ms. Golden Globes."
8:21 (SM) - Cause Sofia Vergara woulda won that one! Heyo joke from 3 years ago! What song would you rather them play over long going speeches? I'm gonna go for some Ludacris.
8:22 (HL) - Nah man. I'd play this.
8:25 (SM) - DAMMIT WHY DID KURT WIN????? SCOTT CAAN WAS ROBBED!!!!!
8:25 (HL) - Wow, you are wrong. Caan is shorter than Guliana Rancic, which means he doesn't even deserve the peanut shells that elephants step on to get the peanuts out.
8: 29 (SM) - Oh whatever. You're could use a peanut shell as a lofted apartment if you wanted to. SELF PROMO TIME - even more hilarious commentary on twitter @samroebuck. Hannah doesn't have one. If she says otherwise, she is lying.
8:30 (HL) - You are a whore. I do have a twitter, and it's @hjoneslawrence. Everyone, follow Sam if you're interested in learning how to carbonate water and use poisonous mushrooms as parachutes.
8:33 (SM) - Follow Hannah for all your Doctor Who news lovers out there. Wow, the HFPA president sounds like a guy about to get one of those throat cancer robot voicer things. Wow, I really need google.
8:34 (HL) - Steve Buscemi for Boardwalk Empire. I guess Hamm will always get to wake up Hamm, so they're always going to keep snubbing him.
8:37 (SM) - I was told to say that was Horseshit with Buscemi winning for another beer, so there we go.
8:39 (HL) - Commercial! Are we going to get another glimpse of Portman's belly, do you think?
8:42 (SM) - I'd imagine so. Fingers crossed for an Alien bursting out during her acceptance speech!
8:43 (HL) - How can that not happen? I really hope The Social Network wins. Like, I really hope so. Even though nobody talks like that and Jesse Eisenberg is currently growing a goatee.
8:47 (SM) - Nope. Burlesque is going to win.
8:47 (HL) - NICE CALL, SAM? Did you see Bill Hader's impression of Cher last night on SNL?
8:49 (SM) - And in my Nikki Finke impression - "TOLDJA!" Wow, Trent Reznor is just up there with Three Six Mafia.
8:50 (HL) - What do you think it's like to be married to Robert Downey Jr.? Like, do you dream about being married to someone else?
8:52 (SM) - I think it would be like being married to ScarJo. You just wake up and giggle. But RDJ's wife is a big time producer. I'd imagine they're on the same level of badassness.
8:55 (HL) - Yeah, I suppose. All I know is he threw his drugs into the ocean after she told him to. I really hope Toy Story 3 wins so the three days I spent in the hospital for dehydration weren't a waste.
8:57 (SM) - I'm just going to go ahead and say it - I enjoyed Dragons and little more than Toys 3. And you know they sell drinks at the movies right? You can buy drinks there. You don't have to starve yourself. Oh, I see, from crying. Wuss. I didn't cray. At all. I mean, maybe. Whatever. Oooh RDJ you handsome man.
9:01 (HL) - Oh man. I got so scared. RDJ said "An" and I thought it meant Angelina Jolie won for The Tourist. But she didn't! Annette Benning did! Praise Hanukkah gelt. And what's with her hair though? Why does she look like Tim Burton?
9:06 (SM) - I just want to know how RDJ can make asking 5 different people to have sex with him charming and I can only make it look desperate. HOW DOES HE DO IT?
9:07 (HL) - He doesn't reward them with slave money.
9:09 (SM) - HEARSAY!
9:09 (HL) - Yeah, Sylvester Stallone saying The Fighter is an extraordinary movie is QUITE the endorsement.
9:12 (SM) - TILDA SWINTON!!! AHHHHHH! MAKE IT STOP! Sylvester Stallone endorsing The Fighter is like Jodi Sweetin endorsing meth.
9:14 (HL) - You know, Al Pacino is great. I'm glad he won for You Don't Know Jack. He's very talented but I get the feeling no matter how many times you tell him, he'll never learn or remember how to make oatmeal. WAIT. J LOVE HEWITT WAS NOMINATED FOR A LIFETIME MOVIE? THE ONE WHERE SHE PLAYED A "MASSEUSE" AND SNORTED COKE OFF OF OLD MAN BALLS?
9:18 (SM) - You actually watched that? Good for you, your tolerance for pain is incredible. And the Full Retard effect is in full swing with Claire Danes' win. Ben Stiller is a prophet.
9:21 (HL) - I watch all Lifetime movies so I know the proper window treatments to buy so men with telescopes can't peer into my apartment.
9:23 (SM) - Russ just sighed in defeat. Ugh, everything I hate about the movies - Zac Efron and The Kids Are Alright. Thanks Ricky Gervais for clearing it up and really bringing up the elephant in the room about Steve Carell leaving. I hope he walks out of the office for the last time with a huge TWSS.
9:26 (HL) - Aaron Sorkin for the win! I think this was pretty obvious. But why is he standing up there and talking about being elite? AS IF WE DIDN'T KNOW THAT HE'S ELITE ALREADY. HE WROTE A MOVIE ABOUT HARVARD STUDENTS BEING SO SMART THEIR BRAINS ARE TOO BUSY COMPUTING ALGORITHMS TO PROCESS THE PAIN OF WEARING ADDIDAS SANDALS IN SNOW.
9:29 (SM) - I was going to say something about the marvel universe imploding but then Sofia Vergara's massive cleavage came onscreen. Ooh Jane Lynch! Thanks ADD!
9:35 (HL) - I love Olivia Munn's dress. Do you like the way Robert Pattinson looks?
9:37 (SM) - I'll be honest, RPatz looks pretty good in the slim suit and oh snap! You mean Olivia Wilde. BOOM - roasted. And again you should be following me on twitter at @samroebuck. I like to imagine Helen Mirren as she is walking out, looks at all these younger women in the audience and goes "man, I really have to fart."
9:47 (HL) OH man I did get the wrong Olivia! But who cares. Not me! I don't care. Jane Fonda? Jane Fonda's back? I was actually in someone's apartment this weekend and they had a huge picture of her mugshot in their living room. Do you think she really supports Cher? I don't.
9:48 (SM) - I have no idea who these presenters are and OH MY FUCKING GOD ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? BIG BANG THEORY AGAIN??! FUCK THIS SHIT! YOU DON'T GIVE IT STEVE CARELL IN HIS LAST YEAR???
9:49 (HL) - Yeah, this is ridiculous. I have no words. I ALSO HAVE NO WORDS FOR MELISSA LEO WINNING FOR THE FIGHTER. I walked out of that movie and hated her so much that I wished I don't even know what but I just hate her because she's like really religious, right?
9:52 (SM) - She must not be that religious to spend a few hours in a hotel room for a part, if you know what I mean bada bing! Ooooh, new .gif! Helena Bonham Carter's look of "What the fuck is this lady talking about?"
9:54 (HL) - Also, Amy Adams made a face that was like, "I really wouldn't have worked so hard to nail the ugliest accent in the universe if I thought I would lose to you."
9:56 (SM) - I guess this is the time to admit that I still haven't seen The Fighter. Whoops. God, I'm still upset about Jim Parsons winning. Well, not so much him winning. But Eric's gloats Tuesday in the office. "Ohhh, Big Bang Theory, blah blah blah Golden Globes." And the only response I have for him is to show him better shows.
9:58 (HL) - While Robert De Niro is winning the lifetime achievement award, let's plan out how we're going to finally get Eric to shut up about The Big Bang Theory. How should we proceed?
10:01 (SM) - We make him an offer he can't refuse. Or duct tape. Or we let him grow up and realize, ITS NOT A GOOD SHOW. Like a baby losing interest in the shiny new toy he got. Where is De Niro's role in Little Fockers? What Just Happened? They missed so many!
10:04 (HL) - YES! I agree! Shark Tale, Stone, Hide and Seek -- all snubbed! ALSO, WHAT IS HE DOING UP THERE TALKING ABOUT HOMELAND SECURITY AND MEGAN FOX? Is he doing stand-up? Is he really doing stand-up? Why? He just won an award! Why is he suddenly all chatty! If I close my eyes it's like Jay Leno's up there!
10:07 (SM) - Just let him talk. He came all the way out there for this and lets just humor him. Wow, Harry's Law? Really? Oh wait, Parks and Rec returns. That's all I care about. YOU HEAR THAT ERIC? GOOD COMEDY RETURNS THIS WEEK.
10:11 (HL) - Megan Fox introducing The Tourist was the greatest thing. OKAY BITCH HERE WE GO: BEST DIRECTOR is....DAVID FINCHER.
10:16 (SM) - I mean, did we really think it would be anyone else? I'm still upset that Edgar Wright wasn't even nominated. That was some serious directing right there. And holy hell January Jones is back! TV Comedy? Ok, this better be good!
10:18 (SM) - ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME GLEE?!?!?!?!
10:19 (HL) - GLEE! AWESOME! Not really. Their success is setting us back almost as much as Palin would if she were elected president.
10:21 (SM) - Aaaaand here come the angry comments! Thanks Hannah! I'm just saying that ham sandwich is funnier than Glee. How does Community get snubbed? HOW????
10:22 (HL) - I'm going to go ahead and say I wasn't obsessed with Black Swan. It wasn't incredible. It was actually really fucked up...kind of like a student film, actually.
10:25 (SM) - If beavers could talk I think they would sound like Paul Giamatti.
10:27 (HL) - Did you hear him go off on how great the chocolates on the table were? What a fatty! Also, where's Ricky Gervais? Do you think his comments about the HFPA's head honcho got him escorted out of the building? And also, do you think that since he's British, he's wearing those things under his pants that hold up socks?
10:29 (SM) - I know you don't care about stuff like this, but watching Rex Ryan run is hilarious. Funnier than Glee anyway. Gervais is probably saving his best stuff for later. And if you watched Doctor Who you would know what those things are called! Learn your British stuff! And what the hell? This Green Hornet trailer is awesome. Why did they not show this earlier?
10:32 (HL) - I do not watch Doctor Who because I am proud to be an American, and, unlike you, I do not live in America to give secrets to the British because that is treason and unacceptable and punishable by anything and everything. I have no clue why you enjoy betraying your own country so much with a show where alien creatures have their brains outside their heads.
10:35 (SM) - Blah, blah, blah, I don't like culture. And why didn't people MOVE OUT OF THE WAY FOR THE PREGNANT WINNER?!?!
10:36 (HL) - UGH, DOES THIS MEAN SHE'S NOT GOING AWAY NOW? SO WHAT, seriously. She stopped eating and danced a lot. The entire upper east side does that.
10:38 (SM) - And the other is Tim Allen. Now for the biggest joke award! Way to go Golden Globes for making a comedy award a joke.
10:39 (SM) - Apparently lesbian struggles are comedic! Thanks HFPA!
10:41 (HL) - No sir, that movie was great. But I see what you mean. Just so I know you're on the same page as me, do you realize how much more you're going to have to write about Portman now?
10:44 (SM) - Eh, I'd rather write about her than New Year's Eve or Zookeeper or anything involving someone 'optioning' something.
10:46 (HL) - Please Colin Firth! Please Colin Firth! COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLIN FIRRRRTH!
10:49 (SM) - The only way he would be more charming is if he delivered this speech in broken Portuguese.
10:50 (HL) - You are so right. NOW. We agree The Social Network should win best picture, yes?
10:51 (SM) - Oh, without a doubt. It was either that or Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World for me. Also, I saw Tiny Furniture last night. It was weird. Its such an NYC movie that these douches behind me kept laughing like it was THE FUNNIEST THING IN THE WORLD. It was funny, don't get me wrong, but these idiots were like "we're so hip we understand all these references!"
10:54 (HL) - That's a nice standing ovation for Michael Douglas. And TSN wins! Thank God. I would not have been happy with anyone else. Why is Scott Rudin thanking Zuckerberg? It's not like he created Facebook for him.
10:57 (SM) - I mean, who is he going to thank? Tom from Myspace? Oh Ricky Gervais, nice little atheist gag right at the end. How I love that little man.
10:59 (HL) - Well that's the show! I hope you've enjoyed these three hours as much as I've enjoyed pointing a telescope at Portman's belly. Thanks to Sam for joining me this evening and for only once referencing Doctor Who because he knows I don't give a shit about that show.
11:01 (SM) - Oh whatever, I'm gonna go watch it now. Don't listen to Hannah. She watches cat videos.
11:02 (HL) - Yeah.
You may have heard critics and advertisers tout The Social Network David Fincher’s finger-pointing film about how Facebook was harvested from the halls of Harvard and turned into a billion dollar business as “the movie of the decade” or “a generation-defining film.” This kind of praise has led the entertainment journalism collective to liken it to true staples of cinema like Citizen Kane and The Graduate. In terms of relevance to its audience those are fair if overreaching statements. The film depicts its teenage characters with unflinching pragmatism as it weaves the nasty web of deception and betrayal that is the story of the social media juggernaut. In terms of its protagonist’s journey however I couldn’t help but compare it to another landmark film: 1974’s Death Wish.
Like Michael Winner’s divisive and controversial revenge flick the action in The Social Network as with so many stories kicks off when anti-hero Mark Zuckerberg loses the leading lady in his life. Luckily she’s not slaughtered by a pack of petty thugs but instead liberates herself from her pretentious and pessimistic beau in the crushing opening scene of the film which sets into motion a chain of events that will change his life – and the world.
Zuckerberg played with sardonic wit by rising star Jesse Eisenberg retreats to his Kirkland Hall haven seeking retribution (see where I’m going with this?). He gets drunk blogs unfavorably about his ex and creates a program that places female students’ headshots side by side so that inebriated undergrads can anonymously rate them. The site called Facemash accumulates so many hits that it crashes the University’s servers which gets the attention of the school’s cyber-security squad as well as a group of aspiring entrepreneurs. Twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) well-to-do all-American future Olympians approach Zuckerberg with an opportunity to design a website that they’ve been quietly developing: a social network exclusive to Harvard students. Mark likes the idea but doesn’t want to be a part of it: he wants the whole thing. If greed is good then Zuckerberg (though not exactly financially motivated) is great.
The connections between Charles Bronson’s career defining film and Fincher’s soon-to-be-classic movie are of course hypothetical. My point is that like Paul Kersey Zuckerberg paints a target on his head with his vengeful actions as he breaks the rules of business ethics and leaves his mark on the world. Only after the storm has begun brewing does he realize that he’s in way over his head.
The Social Network is more a meditation on right vs. wrong than a chronicle of the birth of Facebook and it is a more affecting film because of that. The courtroom drama that ensues through Fincher’s two-hour masterpiece pulls no punches and asks the questions that we the audience are most curious about: Who really started Facebook? How much is the company worth? Fincher explores the historic and meteoric rise of this digital domain delicately building the tension organically as each chapter gives way to a new series of inquiries during the legal proceedings. Rather than provide a definitive answer he leaves the audience responsible for drawing its own conclusions.
Though it’s quite different from many of the grim stories Fincher’s told before The Social Network still conforms to the technical style that defines his work. The dank college dorms and dingy frat houses bring to mind the dreary environments of Panic Room and Fight Club especially in terms of lighting and color. Quick cuts convey the lightening fast pace in which we consume information in the digital age. The ominous music composed by Trent Reznor aids the auteur in expressing the enormity of the situation. Most noteworthy however is Aaron Sorkin’s stinging script which uses tech-speak legal lingo and slang to tell the tale of sex lies and limitless fortunes. He brilliantly combines multiple points of view (that of Zuckerberg his partner Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevosses) of the same events to bring his audience a well-rounded and unbiased account of the events that turned best friends into bitter enemies and bookworms into billionaires.
I believe that while it will certainly garner numerous award nominations come January The Social Network’s full impact will not be felt until the generation that it portrays can look back at it in retrospect. It is a very contemporary piece of thought provoking entertainment but we can’t assume that it defines who we are as a collective community because like Zuckerberg says of his digital society we don’t really know what it is yet.
The first thing you notice about Jonah Hex is the fact that you can make a drinking game out of people saying the words "Jonah Hex." It happens so often I began to believe that this was simply how people used to greet one another in the Old West. You walk into a room: “Jonah Hex!” “Well Jonah Hex to you too buddy!” Take a bottle of whiskey with you into the movie* and take a shot every time someone says his name and you will have an incredible 74 minutes. You might also be dead at the end.
Why does it feel like I’m dedicating half the review to the use of the words "Jonah Hex?" Because half the movie is dedicated to uttering the words "Jonah Hex." Learn to love the sound of it. Josh Brolin sure did.
When our ‘hero’ (and I use that word in the loosest of possible terms) isn’t busy having people remind him of his name he is riding around killing people or being made fun of for his horribly scarred face. But when a villain from his past – and when I say "past " I mean from 10 minutes earlier in the film – turns out not to be as dead as we were led to believe in the opening monologue Hex sets out to get the revenge he really wish he could have gotten 15 minutes earlier. And that’s when the movie beings its plunge into logical implausibility. If you can find a single reason to give a rat's *** about anyone in this movie grip onto it with both hands brother and hold on tight – it’s the only way you’re going to care at all about this film.
It’s not the horse with side-mounted Gatling guns that got me or the silliness of dynamite crossbows; it was just how unlikable everyone was and how it leaned heavily upon cliché to tell a story without understanding how a story like this is supposed to be told. Revenge films are like romantic comedies: They rely entirely on a weak coincidence and delivering a series of emotional money shots that pay off for the audience in a big way. More importantly these money shots must be delivered in a very specific structure that allows people to forgive any thin or contrived story elements. Where a romantic comedy is "Boy Meets Girl Boy Loses Girl Boy gets Girl Back " revenge films are mostly comprised of "Guy Finds Simple Bliss Bad Guy Ruins Simple Bliss in a Cruel Manner Guy Left for Dead Guy Gets Revenge for All He’s Lost." Very simple stuff. Whether it’s Maximus in Gladitor or Eric Draven in The Crow or Charles Rane in Rolling Thunder the structure is the same. The key to a good revenge movie is a likable good guy a reason to care about his life truly despicable bad guys and a perfectly crafted ending for our hero in particular – often involving his death.
Right from the start Jonah Hex drops the ball. We open with him tied up and getting wailed on watching his family get murdered just out of frame and then get left for dead. But we haven’t found anything to care for yet and more importantly he immediately admits to having done everything he’s been accused of. This is revenge to begin with. Sure the movie eventually gets around to trying to explain why he didn’t really deserve it but only after 45 minutes of us pretty much disliking the guy. He’s mean unlikable murderous and his only friend in the world is a prostitute who tells us that she “Don’t play house ” just before begging Jonah to settle down with her. He’s got a great horse and a dog but doesn’t like them enough to have ever given them a name and every time someone finally gets around to killing him magical Native Americans show up to save his bacon AGAIN for no apparent reason other than his wife was Native American.
The only reason to root for Jonah at all is because he’s the protagonist and his antagonist (played comically by John Malkovich) is on a mission to I kid you not destroy America with a semi-magical nation-destroying weapon. Oh yes and we’re told the Mexicans call him “Terrorista.” A Terrorist hellbent on destroying America? In the Old West? You’d be hard pressed to find anyone you wouldn’t root for fighting that guy. This had all the hallmarks of being a WWE movie without the cool logo. If you’re 13 years old and you still believe wrestling is real this might be the movie for you. Otherwise it is an exercise in silliness designed to rob you of $10.
*Hollywood.com accepts no responsibility to cirrhosis of the liver or any sudden death caused by ingestion of alcohol occurring during the course of this game.
Actress Jane Baxter spent most of her career in British films and on-stage. Born Feodora Forde in Bremen, Germany, she was raised in London, England, from a young age. At age 15, Baxter launched a successful theatrical career in the musical Love's Prisoner. She made her premiere film appearance in Bed and Breakfast (1930). After finding similar success in cinema, Baxter headed for Hollywood in the mid-'30s. She made two films there, We Live Again (1934) and Enchanted April (1935). Though she was romantically entangled with Ronald Colman, Baxter hated American life and so went back to London to resume her film career. From the '50s onward, Baxter would make periodic forays into television. During the 1970s, Baxter was a semi-regular on the acclaimed Upstairs/Downstairs.