Tag Archives: Emilia Clarke

Invasion of the Body Hatchers

The Pod Generation

by George Wolf

There are some scary implications to be found, but The Pod Generation is no horror show. In this near future world, couples – and women, specifically – willingly line up for the chance to get pregnant outside the womb.

Writer/director Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls, Madame Bovary) cooks up a smart, darkly funny and satirical look at the many faces of “progress” that still gets stuck on repeat in the third act.

Rachel (Emilia Clarke) has a well-paid gig monitoring influencers (that’s a full-time job!) at a tech firm. Her husband Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a botanist and teacher. And from cognitive assistants to breathing bars and nature “sessions,” Rachel’s fine with all the comforts provided by technology, while Alvy is much more comfortable keeping things actually natural.

So there’s a conflict when Rachel gets an unexpected message from tech giant Pegazus. After years on the waitlist – there’s an opening at The Womb Center! Do Rachel and Alvy want to be next to grow their baby in a pod?

Alvy is plenty wary, but Linda, the Womb Center director (Rosalie Craig, terrific) is mighty persuasive. In a speech that feels like the cynical sister to America Ferrera’s truth bomb from Barbie, she wins the couple over with the reasons why women are no longer “victims of biology.”

We’ve seen films about the hidden dangers of technology for years now, but Barthes brings a slyly vital approach to the discussion, and gets a big assist from production designer Clement Price-Thomas. Everything in this world is sleek, futuristic and creepily intrusive, but just close enough to our own surroundings that we have no problem accepting it as possible (even probable).

Pair that with the excellent work from Clarke and Ejiofor, and Barthes has fertile ground to dig in. She peppers the outside with some dry, funny barbs about relationships and work life, while the meat in the middle takes on gaslighting and the slippery slope of trading control for convenience.

And yet, as big and worthy as these ideas are, you expect the pregnancy arc to end with a little more bite. There’s more than enough to keep us engaged while a desperate couple is weighing their options, but once it’s decision time, The Pod Generation doesn’t offer much beyond what we’ve known since we were amazed by the click wheel.

The Spirit of Giving

Last Christmas

by Cat McAlpine

Last Christmas, Kate (Emilia Clarke) had a lifesaving operation. Instead of gaining a new lease on life, she seems to have stumbled onward with a bad attitude and very little hope.

This Christmas, she works days at a Christmas shop in Covent Garden run by “Santa” (Michelle Yeoh, wonderful).  She spends her nights lurking at bars and begging friends to let her crash on their couches. In between, Kate rushes to West End auditions with little to no preparation.

She’s a grumpy, miserable elf.

Last Christmas is, first a foremost, a Christmas romcom. There’s baggage that comes with that specific niche, and in a desperate effort to buck the norm, a truly awful and predictable plot emerges.

When Last Christmas isn’t trying to be a Christmas romcom, it shines. The script penned by Oscar-winning writer Emma Thompson (who also plays Kate’s mother) and Bryony Kimmings (story by Thompson and Greg Wise) has witty and heartfelt dialogue, developed characters, and b-plots that flesh out the main story rather than distract from it.

The film’s best moments come when it explores the relationships between women, the power of embracing your heritage, and the scariest parts about being a family.

Even some of the most melodramatic moments are made gut-wrenching by Clarke’s honest and genuine performance. “They took a part of me and they threw it away.” She cries, and you feel it.

If this film had been written as a family drama or a late-in-life coming of age, it would be a strong seasonal flick. Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) has shown time and time again that he can do female comedy, and do it well, but the expectations and trappings of this specific and outdated genre hold him back.

In the end, if you enjoy a good romcom, Last Christmas soars far above any of its recent direct-to-Netflix counterparts. If you already roll your eyes when men work hard to convince messy women that they are, in fact, worthy of love – this one’s not for you.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Me Before You

by Hope Madden

A textbook tear jerker/romance that somehow manages to miss both of those targets, Me Before You is a pretty, brightly lit, well-meaning effort that lacks courage.

Adapting her own best-selling novel, Jojo Moyes offers director Thea Sherrock’s feature debut a warm story lacking chemistry and hard edges. Lou (Emilia Clarke) – a working girl from a small British town – takes a job as companion to recent quadriplegic Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Once a wealthy, live-life-on-the-edge playboy, Will now haunts a wing of his parents’ castle. For real. They live in the castle that looms in the background of Lou’s small town.

Not that unemployed waitress Lou is intimidated! Not with all that pluck and salt-of-the-earthiness! And it turns out, all it takes to melt Will Traynor’s cold, cold heart is a wildly mismatched yet huggably bold outfit and some dimples.

Once Lou realizes that Will intends to end his life in a Swiss “death with dignity” clinic in six months, she determines to make his last hours on earth amazing and, thereby, change his mind.

Good for Moyes and Sherrock for addressing a difficult issue. Too bad they treat the end of life question the same way they treat Will’s suffering, his medical needs, and every other messy element in the film – which is to say, they keep it offscreen.

Clarke is an effortless charmer, so it’s unfortunate she keeps her beguiling wackiness dialed up to 11. Attractive and easy to watch as they are, she and Claflin have next to no onscreen chemistry. That particular problem is symptomatic of a film that feels inauthentic – though likeable – throughout.

Blandly inoffensive and colorful are not the kind of adjectives you use to describe a tear jerking romance that stays with you. Me Before You warms an icy heart before succumbing to terminal adorableness.



Back, Just Like He Said

Terminator Genisys

by George Wolf

It would be nice if Terminator Genisys put the final ribbon on the iconic franchise. Not because this fifth installment is that bad, but rather because it’s just good enough to leave you with more satisfaction than disappointment.

Much of that comes from the blast it generates rehashing the pasts of parts 1 and 2 – hugely popular films that have earned a permanent place in pop culture – and conveniently dismissing 3 and 4. Smart move.

To get there, though, we have to wade through a script overloaded with time-hopping threads requiring repeated explanations that still can’t quite keep the head scratching at bay.

In 2029, Resistance forces led by John Connor (Jason Clarke) have won a critical victory against Skynet, but John knows there is still work to be done.

His goal is the destruction of their time machine. He finds it, but too late to prevent Skynet from sending a terminator back to 1984 to kill John’s mother Sarah (GoT‘s Emilia Clarke). John’s right hand man, a certain Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers to go back and protect her. Sound familiar?

So Kyle basically drops in on the first film, but things have changed. Sarah knows what’s up, the original terminator is met by an “aged” model (Arnold) already serving as Guardian, and then the “liquid metal” version from T2:  Judgement Day wants to play, too!

Screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier set a nice hook (young Arnold fights old Arnold!) but when the altered timelines and memory fragments keep coming, you may need to choose between keeping up and giving up.

The saving graces are the moments of fun that do cut through, usually via Arnold and his “old, but not obsolete” machine on a mission. Director Alan Taylor (Thor: the Dark World) gives him some impressive, if not entirely original set pieces, but others don’t seem worthy of the blockbuster budget. It’s a hot then cold scorecard the film can never shake.

It wants to do so much, but is never able to sustain any solid momentum. Snappy dialogue sours, action is derailed by more exposition, and sci-fi complexities mount. In short, the polar opposite of what made the first two films such a hoot.

But that steel, hard-to-kill heart still beats in Terminator Genisys, just enough to use every ounce of good will it earns.

So is this really hasta la vista? Check box office totals for the final answer, but stay past the credits for a pretty big clue.