‘Emma.’ is Stylish, Bighearted, and Eager to Get Love Right

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CREDIT: Box Hill Films/Focus Features

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, Tanya Reynolds, Connor Swindells

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Butt

Release Date: February 21, 2020 (Limited)/Expands March 6, 2020

In the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s meddling matchmaker, there are two moments that happen back to back in a pair of private quarters which really represent the power of this version. First we see Emma Woodhouse’s longtime companion and confidant George Knightley (Johnny Flynn) being dressed by his servant. The sequence begins with him stripped down to his birthday suit, giving us a quick peek at his bare behind. Once he is all set to o, it cuts to Ms. Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) receiving the final touches from her help, and while we do not get a full au naturel view of her, she does take a moment to hike up her dress and pose while placing her hands at her side. Taken together, it is marvelously striking how rarely we get to see bare legs like these in a literary English period piece, especially in one that is so otherwise bright and bold in its costume decisions, what with its feathers in caps and a mustard-yellow trench coat.

It makes sense that we get such a peek into private spaces, considering how much first-time director Autumn de Wilde has chosen to emphasize the vulnerability at the core of this story. It is no big surprise to see Flynn as Knightley cut to the emotional core of any conflict, but you might be taken aback by just how much we get to see his beloved open up as well. Emma presents herself as a know-it-all, but when she realizes that she may have screwed up, her worry about catastrophe is devastating (so much so that her nose starts bleeding at one point). Taylor-Joy and her big, expressive eyes are quite the casting coup here. There’s no way for her to fully hide what she’s feeling. When she discovers how badly she insults Miss Bates (Miranda Hart), and how wrong she’s steered her friend Harriet (Mia Goth), and how much she’s offended Knightley, the tears come flowing as she confronts the fear that she may have made herself the biggest pariah around.

One of the biggest themes of any version of Emma is the power in allowing people to fix their mistakes. In this Emma., when those re-dos occur, the characters have big smiles on their faces, and I bet you will, too. It’s a lovely adaptation, and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a story I was already intimately familiar with, and yet it has somehow awoken previously undiscovered sections of my heart and subconscious.

Emma. is Recommended If You Like: Wit mixed with tears

Grade: 4 out of 5 Love Matches

Movie Review: ‘Detective Pikachu’ the Movie Demonstrates Its Potential Worth as a TV Show

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CREDIT: Warner Bros./Legendary

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy, Chris Geere, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Rita Ora

Director: Rob Letterman

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Rating: PG for Explosions, Lightning Bolts, and Suspicious Gas

Release Date: May 10, 2019

The promise of a significant chunk of ’90s has been crystallized in the form of Detective Pikachu. Pokémon is a franchise that has endured for decades, but unlike say, Star Wars or the Muppets, it is not the sort of property that its fans continue to love, or love in the same way, as they grow older. Instead, it is tinged with nostalgia at the same time that it enthralls subsequent generations with new chapters. With its mix of live-action humans and CGI monsters and its expansive approach to Pokémon mythology, Detective Pikachu takes a rather meta stance towards a significant piece of culture. I enjoyed watching it, but I also had the sense that it was not as perfectly constructed as it could have been. It soon dawned on me that there was so much potential Pokémon goodness missing from this world that could be fleshed out in a TV version.

What I’m saying here is that I would love it if it turns out that Detective Pikachu is just the first chapter and that we get a new mystery for the adorable electric mouse to solve every week, with a few more big-screen adventures as well if anything gargantuan turns up. Surely Pika’s deerstalker hat of choice points to his sartorial inspiration as a possible model to follow for ongoing detective work. There is just so much untapped potential here in Ryme City, a land in which humans and Pokémon live alongside each other on equal terms. It’s not unlike Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but a lot more adorable. With hundreds of Pokémon available to play around with, necessarily only a small percentage are spotlighted. But more could have had their moment to shine, and hopefully more will.

But the Pokémon who do get their chance to shine give us some delightful, occasionally anarchic deployments of their unique powers, especially a frustrating charades-based interrogation with a Mr. Mime. What makes Detective Pikachu work as well as it does is its total lack of winking within its meta framework. As the voice of the title crimesolver, Ryan Reynolds is basically doing a PG version of Deadpool, which turns out to be just subdued enough to be plenty palatable. Among the rest of the cast, Kathryn Newton stands out as an underpaid digital news intern who is basically a doing an impression of a mix between a noir femme fatale and a His Girl Friday-type. Occasionally the film gets bogged down in heavy mythology that may be too much for even some Pokémon devotees, but when it maintains its full sense of playfulness, it is a commendably unique cinematic achievement.

Detective Pikachu is Recommended If You Like: Pokémon with a spritz of Minions and a soupçon of Deadpool

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Deerstalker Caps

This Is a Movie Review: Their Finest

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This review was originally published on News Cult in April 2017.

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston

Director: Lone Scherfig

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: R Because the Ratings Board is Prudish About a Little B(r)it of Sex

Release Date: April 7, 2017 (Limited)

A primary national trait of Great Britain is a solidly backwards chronological orientation. I do not mean that as a criticism, at least not completely. Sure, an obsession with the glory of the past can be problematic, but the comfort that Britons have with bygone eras has its uses. For example, the roster of reliable British actors populating the cast of the World War II-era film Their Finest makes for a cinematic effort rousingly (instead of hopelessly) old-fashioned. Gemma Arterton has deserved a breakthrough role, and while Their Finest does not break any molds (by design), it does confirm that she is a star.

Arterton is Catrin Cole, hired by the British ministry as a scriptwriter to lend that essential feminine voice to their propaganda films. This could be a formula for taking down sexism, and there are some efforts in that direction, but Their Finest’s ultimate attitude is that women will always suffer indignities, so they might as well hope that they at least like the people end up working with. Because if that works out, we can get a nice love story out of it. And indeed, there is a heartwarming one here: Catrin’s husband (Jack Huston) is classically disapproving, while her partner and lead scriptwriter (Sam Claflin) is such an obvious match. The only conflict between them is just being a little too blunt with their feelings.

As Catrin sorts out her feelings, she works alongside a bunch of irrepressible characters as they put together a masterpiece about the Dunkirk rescue. They all have a spot of fun, and a spot of tea (metaphorically). There is Bill Nighy as the former big star whose ego is still huge, but not so huge that he cannot also be a fine mentor. Jeremy Irons is the Secretary of War, because the governmental figure is meant to convey confidence and gravitas. And Jake Lacy is the token awkward goofball, because only the American is allowed to make old-fashioned look silly. Their Finest is not the greatest of most of its creators, but it might just be their finest.

Their Finest is Recommended If You LikeAlliedCasablancaValkyrie

Grade: 3 out of 5 Old-Timey Typewriters