No one’s past is crystal clear. It is full of potholes, bad memories, and mistakes that still linger in our minds. When facing our past, we can either run from it or face it.
The new Marvel movie, Black Widow, premiered two weeks ago. It takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. The film opens on an average American suburban family in Ohio sitting down to dinner. But dinner is cut short when their true identity as Russian spies is revealed and they must hightail it out of the US. It then cuts to the present. Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has discovered a conspiracy that is tied to her previous life as an assassin and spy. When she becomes a target, she must turn to the family that was assigned to her by the spy agency. Her younger sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), father Alexei (David Harbour), and mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) have all gone their separate ways. Revealing the source of the conspiracy and ending it requires more than a physical coming together as a group, it means facing the unhealed emotional wounds that still linger.
This movie is amazing. The action and stunts are well balanced with the humor and the emotion. As an audience member, I saw the main character as more than a superhero who is able to save the day. I saw a woman who is conflicted about both her present and her past. She makes the difficult decision to look at what she has done square in the eye instead of running from it. It a lesson that goes well beyond the genre and movies in general.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Black Widow is now in theaters.
P.S. Stay for the mid credit scene. The wait is long, but it is worth it.
For the last ten years, movie fans have come to expect a new Avengers film every year or so. All of the major male heroes (with the exception of Hawkeye) have had at least one stand-alone film over the course of those ten years.
For most of the franchise, Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) was the only woman on the team. Up until very recently, she was also without a stand-alone film of her own. The trailer was released earlier this week for Black Widow.
The movie looks fantastic. The supporting cast (Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour) looks equally fantastic. But I have to question why it took so long for Marvel to greenlight a Black Widow film?
It feels like an afterthought. Its as if Marvel is trying to stretch the franchise as far as it can go instead of following the natural narrative. This film feels like it is akin to a child giving in to the pressure from their parents to eat their vegetables. I wish it was not this way, but this is the reality that we live. Women still have to fight for the opportunities that come naturally to men.
This movie is on my must-see list for 2020. But being that it will not be released for another 6 months, we can only speculate about this film. My hope is that it does well and finally breaks the glass ceiling on female superhero films once and for all.
Politics can sometimes be construed as a game of one upmanship.
The new movie, The Favourite takes place in England in the early 18th century. Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) is on the throne, but she is not the one who is running the country. Emotionally unstable and in bad health, she relies heavily on her friend, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), who unofficially rules in the Queen’s stead. Enter Abigail (Emma Stone), a cousin of Sarah’s whose family has fallen from their aristocratic roots. Abigail is looking for a job and soon climbs up the ladder as Sarah’s maid. As Sarah becomes more involved with the war with France, Abigail takes her place as the Queen’s emotional support system. Seeing that power is within her grasp, Abigail takes it and challenges anyone who would dare threaten her new-found power.
This movie is very interesting. The dirty game of politics is usually confined to men. But in this film, the women play dirty, pull no punches and do what they have to do to gain or stay in power. Couched in the language and imagery of a BPD (British Period Drama), but adding layers of politics, feminism and history, this film is a must see.
Disobedience is defined as failure or refusal to obey rules or someone in authority.
It is also the title of the novel by Naomi Alderman and the movie of the same time. Ronit (Rachel Weisz), Esti (Rachel McAdams) and Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) all grew up together in the same Orthodox Jewish community in North London. But Ronit left the community some years ago and has since found a new life in New York as a photographer. Then her father, who was a respected Rabbi dies and Ronit is forced to return home.
When they were teenagers, Ronit and Esti were together, but their relationship was not exactly welcomed by their friends and neighbors. While Ronit was living in New York, Dovid and Esti married. Their marriage appears to be solid, but when Ronit walks back into their lives, all three main characters must grapple with questions of not just sexuality, but also faith.
Disobedience is one of the best films of 2018, at least for the first half of 2018. The acting is solid and the narrative is perfect. In other films, with other screenwriters, Dovid would be the mustache twirling villain keeping the lovers apart. Ronit would be the hero who saves the day and the Esti would be “damsel in distress” caught between her marriage vows to Dovid and her love for Ronit. But in this film, all three characters are so real that I felt sympathy for all of them as they went on this journey.
Hollywood has a dirty little secret. When one movie is successful or one genre becomes the genre of the moment, the good people in Hollywood will continue until that movie or that genre has hopefully run it’s course.
In 1999, Hollywood brought back the monster/action genre with The Mummy. Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) is an English librarian who has become interested in the ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra. Rick O’ Connell (Brendan Fraser) is saved by Evelyn from death. Rick joins Evelyn and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah) at an archeological dig, but they are not alone in following the results of the dig. Another group is interesting in the results and resurrecting the mummy of a high priest who has the power to unleash a powerful curse.
This movie harkens back to the 1930’s and the era of the black and white monster movies of the era. While it is escapist entertainment at it’s best, I can’t help but think that Evelyn is just a little too much of the damsel in distress for my taste.
Three years later, after a sequel to the Mummy was released, a sort of prequel entered movie theaters. The Scorpion King, an off shoot of a character that was seen briefly in The Mummy Returns was presented to audiences. Mathayus (Dwayne “The Rock Johnson) is a desert warrior hired to assassinate Cassandra (Kelly Hu) the sorceress who evil King Memnon (Steven Brand) is using to predict the outcomes of battle. What seems like an easy capture will become much more than the hero can imagine.
Again, this movie, at best, is escapist entertainment. While it’s not completely intellectually stimulating, it’s fun ride and an enjoyable film.