Tag Archives: Sam Riley

Elemental, My Dear


by George Wolf

Honestly, I’m not digging this title, yet it somehow fits.

For the story of an intellectual giant, Radioactive seems too easy, too cheesy, and a bit dismissive. Similarly, the film itself becomes a sum of often conflicting parts, flirting with greatness while chasing too many bad pitches.

Rosamund Pike stars as Marie Sklodowska Curie, the Warsaw-born scientist who became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, the first person to win it again and the only person to win it in two different scientific fields. Her groundbreaking work in France with husband Pierre Curie identified two new elements (polonium and radium) and the theory of radioactivity itself, leading to world-changing advancements in medicine and, of course, warfare.

Director Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, The Voices) seems intent on honoring Curie’s spirit via the most experimental film treatment she can get away with. Animated graphics attempt to illustrate Curie’s theories on atomic movement, while tones are jarringly shifted with futuristic vignettes that glimpse the more devastating consequences of radioactivity.

Too often, Satrapi is hamstrung by screenwriter Jack Thorne’s overly broad and simplified adaptation of Lauren Redniss’s source book, which is itself a work of original art, photographs, graphics and text. Bringing such hybrid energy to the screen demands a unified vision from writer and director, but Satrapi and Thorne seem at odds whenever they try to expand their scope.

Pike is the unifier here, with an instantly engaging and fully formed portrait of a genius understandably ferocious about defending her work from being usurped or dismissed by male colleagues. Pike humanizes Curie with a mix of defiance and insecurity, frank sexuality and a fierce commitment to husband Pierre (Sam Riley, in a thoughtfully understated and effective turn).

The third act addition of Anya-Taylor Joy as the Curie’s eldest daughter Irene (who would also win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry) only cements the film as being most resonant when it is the most personal.

And it can’t go unnoticed that in these science-denying times, Curie’s story is a needed reminder of the importance of pursuing knowledge, of research and researchers.

Curie was one for ages. Radioactive does suffer from scattered elements, but ultimately turns in watchable, satisfying results.

War and Peace and Poltergeists

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

by Hope Madden

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – there’s not a lot of grey area there. If this is your bag – if you’ve always wanted to see Lizzie Bennet (Lily James) prove her inner badassedness with a katana to an undead skull – you can’t go entirely wrong here.

You will find all the old familiars: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, their many marriageable daughters, the scoundrel Wickham (Jack Huston), the dashing Bingley (Douglas Booth), the haughty but lovestruck Darcy (Sam Riley). The main difference is England, which has been overrun by “unmentionables” for some years, making that foul weather trip from the Bennets’ to the Bingleys’ dangerous for more reasons than a simple flu bug.

In 2009, writer Seth Grahame-Smith found himself with a surprise success in his novel, co-written by Jane Austen (whose original text is firmly in the public domain). Given that someone adapts her novel for the screen about every 25 minutes, it is no surprise that Grahame-Smith’s version has made its way to the cinema. And just in time for Valentine’s Day!

I don’t say that ironically. Like Shaun of the Dead, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would make a fine date movie for a very specific crowd.

Director Burr Steers keeps the violence mostly off screen and the blood to a relative minimum, preferring to focus on the heaving post-fight-scene bosom. Which, let’s be honest, gets tiresome. He’s probably more intrigued by the image of gorgeously appointed young unmarrieds who hide daggers in their garters than he should be – these are the Bennet girls, for God’s sake – and herein lies the problem.

Burr seems unclear on the film’s audience. He’s unsure just how much action to pack into an Austen narrative, fuzzy on the amount of blood that’s appropriate to the tale, blurry on the balance of levity versus seriousness versus gore.

Lucky for him, this is a very proven story of delayed gratification and all the longing that accompanies it. Plus, zombies. It’s hard to go wrong here, and for the most part, PPZ doesn’t go too wrong. It’s an entertaining if uninspired retelling of a retelling of a tale you’ve heard, read, and seen a dozen times. But this time, Lizzy Bennet’s packing heat, which just seems right.