Tag Archives: Eva Green

Space Stationary

Proxima

by George Wolf

I don’t know how many jobs are more challenging than astronaut, but there can’t be many. And it is via that intense work experience that French writer/director Alice Winocour’s Proxima ruminates on the career struggles faced by women in every profession.

Eva Green carries this weight gracefully as Sarah, the only female member of a team of astronauts training for a year-long stint at an international space station. This means a year away from her young daughter Stella (Zelie Boulant), who will stay with her father/Sarah’s ex-husband Thomas (Lars Eidinger).

From the moment Sarah is introduced as a crew member by team leader Mike (Matt Dillon), her gender is fodder for subtle (and not so subtle) condescension. Resisting a heavy hand, Winocour (Mustang, Disorder) revels in the details of the job, showcasing the added strain carried only by Sarah.

The setting may center on spaceflight, but this is not a film about going into space. It is about preparing to go into space, preparing to leave your child, and preparing to be separated from your mother. And all of that preparing is work.

Green has never been better, and Winocour continues to display understated insight as a filmmaker. Like that walk among the stars that Sarah has long dreamed about, Proxima is quiet, but often emotionally dazzling.

Ain’t That Peculiar?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

by Hope Madden

The biggest problem facing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is that the film is not nearly peculiar enough.

Tim Burton takes on director duties for Ransom Riggs’s popular young adult novel about how special it is to be special. Jake (Asa Butterfield) lost his beloved grandfather (Terence Stamp) mysteriously and visits the orphanage of his childhood looking for closure.

What he finds involves loops in the time space continuum, Burton-esque hotties, creepy twins dressed as scarecrows, and eyeball eating.

It’s impossible to watch this film without comparing it to both the X-Men and Harry Potter series, which means Peregrine has to be Goth enough to set itself apart. You would think, if anybody can Goth up a story, that body is Tim Burton.

Working again with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnell, Burton gives the film a lovely look that creates a nostalgic quality. He’s also made a couple of casting choices that elevate the effort.

Eva Green excels as the titular headmistress, giving the character just enough falcon-like characteristics to make her fascinating.

Samuel L. Jackson – working with some pretty weak dialog – still brims with more swagger than necessary to keep his villainous Baaron interesting.

Butterfield – so tender and wonderful in Scorsese’s 2011 Hugo – falls flat here. So, so flat. His awkward outsider, so weary with the ordinariness of his suburban Florida adolescence, is perhaps too convincingly flattened out by life.

There is a fun Ray Harryhausen-inspired fight sequence in the third act, but by that time you realize that the film has offered so little in the way of interesting visuals or action of any sort that it’s almost jarring.

Not as jarring as all that eyeball eating, though.

On first blush, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children felt like the perfect match of content and director. And Burton could use material that makes him work for it (Big Eyes), rather than just “Tim Buttoning” it (Alice in Wonderland). Maybe the most peculiar thing about the film is that he does neither.

Verdict-2-5-Stars





Girl Gone

 

White Bird in a Blizzard

by George Wolf

Ready for a pulpy mess of lust and mystery? Gregg Araki’s White Bird in Blizzard serves it up with mixed results, buoyed by another terrific performance from Shailene Woodley.

Woodley is Kat, a 17 year-old high schooler in LA. It is 1988, and just as Kat is blossoming into womanhood, her mother Eve (Eva Green) is withdrawing into a bitter, vindictive drunk. When Eve suddenly vanishes, Kat appears unconcerned, even while her father Brook (Christopher Meloni) is reporting the disappearance to police and hanging “missing” flyers all over town.

Kat’s boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez), her two best friends (Gabourey Sidibe, Mark Indelicato) and her therapist (Angela Bassett) all try to comfort her during the stressful time, but Kat insists she is fine. Frequent, vivid dreams about her mother suggest otherwise.

Director Araki, who also wrote the screenplay, adapts Laura Kasische’s novel with wildly shifting tones, anchoring the film with the solid portrayal of a sensitive young woman while surrounding her with surreal dreamscapes and over-hyped dramatics.

We hear a marriage described as “a lone drink of water from a frozen fountain,” and watch a character walk slowly away before turning on heel to proclaim, “I will tell you one thing’!” amid set-pieces bursting with kitsch.

And there’s Green, in manic Mommie Dearest mode, vamping it up in skimpy attire for her daughter’s boyfriend, then leaning back to release a condescending guffaw in her husband’s face. Green’s performance is can’t-look-away hypnotic, even as it crashes headlong into her young co-star’s authenticity.

Woodley continues to show the chops of a future Oscar winner, and she makes Kat’s complex emotions ring true, no matter what noir trash is going on around her. As Kat screams “What is wrong with you? Are you insane?” at her mother’s antics, the outburst cuts deeper than it has a right to.

The erratic flashbacks and anticlimactic ending add to a temptation to the label the entire project as simply amateurish, but Araki’s resume (Mysterious Skin/Kaboom) suggests otherwise. He’s got a vision for White Bird in a Blizzard and he sees it through in so many ways, some of them can’t help but feel right.

 

Verdict-3-0-Stars

 

 





A New Grecian Formula

 

3oo: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

by Hope Madden

Back in 2006, director Zach Snyder paired a Frank Miller graphic novel with a mostly naked, very beefy Gerard Butler, and ancient Greek history was born. The visually arresting 300 was a stylistic breakthrough, if nothing else. Eight years later, though, it’s tough to understand the point of a sequel.

And yet, 300: Rise of an Empire picks up where 300 left off. It’s less a sequel or a prequel and more of a …meanwhile. That is to say that, while Leonidas (Butler) and his 300 Spartans battle Persian god-king Xerxes on the ground (the previous film’s climax), Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and the rest of Greece takes on Xerxes’s navy, led by the angry Grecian ex-pat Artemisia (Eva Green).

Gone is the painterly quality of the original, an artistic choice that often pays off as it gives the sea battles a little more life. Don’t look for authenticity or gritty realism here, though; the sequel is very definitely cut from the same CGI-laden cloth as Snyder’s epic, but director Noam Murro (Smart People) makes some stylistic alterations here and there.

The sequel is bloodier and rape-ier than its original, all the lurid detail captured in vivid splatter-cam glory. There’s far less exposition and nearly no character development this time around. Murro’s plan of attack seemed to be action sequence followed by rousing speech followed by action sequence overdubbed with rousing speech, and so on.

Given the sheer volume of action (and speechifying), it’s surprising the film becomes so tedious so quickly. To enjoy the full 102 minutes, you might need to have a real itch to see beefcake in battle. (No to shirts, yes to capes in the military uniform? Really?).  That is, except for the ferocious presence of Eva Green.

Playing the bloodthirsty naval commander with a grudge against Greece, Green steals every scene and commands rapt attention. She delivers more badass per square inch than the entire Greek and Persian navy combined in a performance that entertains, but also exposes the blandness of the balance of the cast. Even without their shirts.

It’s not the worst waste of time onscreen right now, thanks to Green, but it’s nothing you’ll remember tomorrow, either.

Verdict-2-5-Stars