Tag Archives: Julia Stiles

She’s No Annie

Orphan: First Kill

by Hope Madden

There’s something wrong with Esther.

That was the excellent tag line for Jaume Collet-Serra’s fun 2009 surprise Orphan. Then 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman delivered an inspired performance buoyed by the nuanced work of two veteran talents (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard), but it was the climactic shocker that guaranteed the film’s place in horror history.

The bigger surprise might be to make a prequel 13 years later with the same lead. Furhman, now in her twenties, reprises her role as the orphan you do not want to adopt.

In director William Brent Bell’s episode, we go back in time to meet up with our wee villain in an Estonian facility. It’s a fun, bloody start to Esther’s adventure and an early reminder (it has been 13 years) that if you wonder whether Esther’s evil, F around and find out.

That, of course, is one of the obstacles writer David Coggeshall needs to overcome. We already know Esther’s big secret and we already know what she’s capable of. What surprises are left?


Orphan: First Kill goes in unexpected places, many of them an absolute hoot. Bell’s film walks an impressive line between tension, horror and laughs. It works because of a tight script, but mostly because of rock-solid performances from Fuhrman and Julia Stiles.

Stiles is Esther’s new mommy, a wealthy helicopter parent with an artist husband and a teenage son. She’s magnificent.

Able support work surrounds the pair, and Coggeshall’s screenplay meshes the expected with the unexpected.

I had no idea Bell—whose previous work includes the unintentionally funny The Boy and Brahms: The Boy II­—had this in him. Yes, Orphan: First Kill may have benefitted from low expectations: a heretofore weak director, a 25-year-old trying to convince the audience she’s 12, a franchise none of us thought needed a sequel. Still, there’s no denying it entertains.

The film is no masterpiece and Fuhrman’s age does take you out of the fantasy now and again. But it is sly fun.

She-Wolves of Wall Street


by George Wolf

“You don’t have to believe me. I’m used to people not believing me.”

“Destiny” (Constance Wu) is telling her tale to Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), a writer in the midst of a story on a gang of high-end strippers who were busted for drugging clients and fleecing them for thousands.

The disclaimer is a clear yet-not-overbearing sign that our window into the world of Hustlers may not necessarily be the most clear and reliable. It’s one of many wise choices made by writer/director Lorene Scafaria in her adaptation of Jessica Pressler’s article on “The Hustlers at Scores.”

Wu is terrific as the naive newbie, overshadowed only by a completely magnetic Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, the stripping legend who teaches Destiny (and by extension, us) the ropes of spotting the highest-rolling Wall St. d-bags to milk for all they can.

But when the crash hits in ’08, times get tough for everybody, and it isn’t hard to justify hatching a plan to swindle the swindlers.

Scafaria ((Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Meddler) is not shy about the Scorsese influences, and seeing Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as executive producers makes The Big Short-syled humor all the more understandable.

No matter. This is still a supremely assured vision from Scafaria, cleverly constructed with visual flair, solid laughs, a sizzling pace and some truly memorable sequences.

One of the many great soundtrack choices comes right out of the gate, as Scafaria sets the stakes with Janet Jackson’s spoken-word opening to “Control.”

Who’s got it? Who doesn’t? And who’s badass enough to go get it?

It’s a wild, intoxicating high of girl power. And when it all comes crashing down, the moral ambiguities are scattered like dollar bills under the pole. As Ramona is quick to remind us, if there’s money being thrown, there will always be people ready to dance.