As #WTTnation already knows, I have been writing less here not merely because of laziness and ennui but because of my exciting role as a film reviewer for the Sonoma Index-Tribune. Or, as I like to call it, THE paper of record for Sonoma county.
There is much to love about Sonoma, which possesses those beautiful, mustard-colored hills and an editor who is willing to publish my writing. But only two or three movies open there every week, which has resulted in a cinema-going transition from seeing mostly films that appear at Landmark Theatres to almost exclusively films that appear at AMC Theatres. This has been harder than I thought it would be.
While I'm quite pleased by how often I've been able to write about men not wearing their shirts, the treatment of women in most of these films is troubling. Had I not been to see them, I would have thought that these blockbusters were entertainments I might have enjoyed in the right mood. But to actually sit through these grating, two-hour-plus moneymakers is to see how repellant gender roles are across Hollywood.
While Mad Max: Fury Road and Spy are duly credited for Charlize Theron and Melissa McCarthy's badassery, the rest of the summer is a string of gendered insults, from the breasts-first roles for Alexandra Daddario and Sofia Vergara in San Andreas and Hot Pursuit to the grim celebration of co-dependent relationships in Insurgent to the head-smacking backstory of Black Widow's sterilization in Avengers: Age of Ultron....And, at the very bottom, beyond repellant and to the point of doing actual harm to viewers, is Jurassic World, which ought to be boycotted by sentient beings for the disgusting, demeaning, entirely unacceptable depiction of the Bryce Dallas Howard character (and her high heels). And I didn't even see Entourage.
At any rate, here are all the reviews I've written since early March. After you've read them (they're so short—each one is just like reading 15 tweets in a row!), check out my ranking of the the first 21 reviewed films from best to worst (or, perhaps, least to most alarming portrayals of women). The titles are listed with the corresponding zinger I had the hardest cutting because of word limit restrictions for the column.
1. Far from the Madding Crowd
Matthias Schoenaerts is the finest shepherd in cinema history—he can mend my fence or cover my haystacks any day ifyouknowwhatImean. And his neckwear, my god in heaven!
1a. Magic Mike XXL
Though Jada Pinkett Smith’s MC is no McConaughey replacement, she does get the line, “We’re gonna see if there’s still some magic in that Mike.” And C-Tates responds as would any great, with a lil headstand bump and grind.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
In case you’ve wondered what Rose Huntington-Whiteley has been doing since starring in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the answer is nothing.
4. Inside Out
Riley: Broccoli on pizza is delicious—what is WRONG with you?
Director of Photography Robert Yeoman is alternating between lensing Paul Feig and Wes Anderson pictures, how rad is that job?
Didn't Make Me Want to Die
6. Wild Tales
Pedro Almodóvar produced this but it's more schematic and neatly ironic than he would allow in his best films…despite the manic presence of the Argentine Bradley Cooper channeling bad weddings past.
7. Furious 7
In their series of standoffs, Statham and Diesel develop a very Hamilton-Burr relationship, if the two Alexanders had the good sense to always keep each other alive for potential sequels.
Did Make Me Want to Die a Little
Fair criticism is leveled at Cinderella for accepting her fate as an altruistic servant but that role does include an expansive attic space—its monthly rent in the Bay Area would be incalculable, regardless of whether or not you’re locked into it.
9. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Richard Gere is so wooden should have played a memoirist writing about his past adventures as a totem pole. [Fuck, how could I not have included that one? #regrets]
10. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
The only truly inspired moment in the film is casting Tom Hollander (the boob politico from the fantastic In the Loop) as the prime minister of England, though I give the filmmakers no credit for this coincidence.
11. Monkey Kingdom
Ah, what might have been if we were allowed to see the macaque polyamory or learn more about their rampant herpes infestations.
Despite the screeching melodrama, there are funny moments. A fellow ward of the state looks at the broken man and asks Billy's daughter, “Is that your dad?” and she replies, “I don’t know anymore.” LOLZ!
Oh God Why
[No extra zinger here, all the words I had about this incoherence went into the review...and there eight films below Minions on this list!]
14. San Andreas
Director Brad Peyton (who cut his teeth in the disaster genre with Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) chooses all cheesy vertical shots of toppling buildings and heaving chests.
15. Ted 2
The level of discourse for this film is “Eff Scott Fitzgerald” jokes though, as with his Oscar hosting fiasco, MacFarlane would probably defend himself by saying, “This is all I ever do, it’s not my fault if people think it’s funny.”
16. Hot Pursuit
It’s the kind of film that makes one reflect, in amazement, “maybe Identity Thief wasn’t THAT bad.”
Director Robert Schwentke, who most recently helmed R.I.P.D., has thrown down a gauntlet of worst two consecutive films (well, there is screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who has chased Winter’s Tale with this dreck).
18. Avengers: Age of Ultron
It’s the latest from schlock auteur Joss Whedon, who alternates Marvel films with Shakespeare adaptations shot in his backyard like a rich, Middle Aged sinner buying indulgences from the church.
The only remotely entertaining part of the film is Michael Peña’s monologues in which his voice inhabits other characters. The one of four screenwriters who came up with that idea gets to feel the least embarrassed about appearing in the credits.
20. Jurassic World
Five screenwriters labored over the script, apparently being paid per insertion of the word “asset” as it relates to dinosaurs or human beings. “Asset out of containment!” shouted ad infinitum.
21. The Longest Ride
Black Mountain College is shown as a place for rich people to look at artists like animals in cages and perhaps buy an abstraction by one of the elephants. As Nicholas Sparks, the Thomas Kinkade of screenwriters, has our plucky protagonist explain, “I love art, the culture it brings...”
So, I'm looking forward to the fall season I guess?