Tagged: MovieStars

re:View – How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (even without wearing Prada)

So, I mainly watched this one because it’s got Gillian Anderson and she gets to be a gorgeous, glamorous, total bitch. But by the time her character popped up on screen, I was already so thoroughly entertained by the UK’s answer to The Devil Wears Prada that I had nearly forgotten I was waiting for her appearance.

The story is, uhm, let’s say, charmingly predictable. Sidney, a young, talented British journo with a whole bunch of ideals and an even bigger ego, who specialises in pissing everybody off (hence the title), somehow gets himself hired by American’s most famous celebrity magazine. Roll on the cheesy, painfully over-used establishing shots of N-Y-C. The glitzy world of celebrity journalism, of course, isn’t at all what Sidney expected and he duly falls flat on his face. Multiply. His collection of Shoulda Known Betta experiences include pissing off all his superiors, pissing off his only well-meaning colleague (and true love-to-be), pissing off the city’s most powerful publicist, and pissing off all the celebrities. Oh, and making a complete fool of himself believing Megan Fox would actually let him get anywhere near her pants. However, in due course, he sells his soul for a trip all the way to the top (and a little closer to Ms Fox’s pants.) But just as he’s about to have it all, of course, he becomes disgusted with himself and turns his back on the corrupt world of glamour magazines in favour of his great ideals and (yawn!) true love.

So, the story certainly doesn’t win a prize (at least I hope it didn’t, or I’m gonna look really dumb), and you totally keep waiting for Miranda Priestly to come marching into the office and start ripping up throats any second. Sidney is pretty much a male version of The Devil Wears Prada‘s wide-eyed Andy, but while Anne Hathaway’s Nice Journalist Girl faded a little next to Meryl Streep’s all-eclipsing evilness, Simon Pegg’s underdog charm and hilarious comic timing allow his character to take absolute command of the the somewhat lame plot.

From the remaining repertoire of adorably stereotypical characters, Megan Fox stands out with an altogether fabulous parody of herself, and Gillian Anderson almost fills Meryl Streep’s Prada heels as the ‘Queen of New York’ – the über-dominating publicist who decides which of her clients the magazines will ‘want’ to put on their next cover.

Gillian Anderson in How to Lose Friends And Alienate People
BTW: Gillian Anderson with a red pen, editing copy. Cue major obsession.

So, yeah, it’s another of those Virtuous Journalist vs The Rotten Magazine Industry films, and it’s another one based on a journalist’s memoir (Toby Young’s, in this case). But this one’s fun, fun, fun from the first minute until the credits roll, and it doesn’t make you hate yourself for still wanting to be part of that infamous magazines world by the end of it.

Verdict: It’s got all you need for 110 minutes of marvellous, lighthearted entertainment. And it’s got Gillian Anderson. And she does the Scully Eyebrow™. What more could you want?

Totally Worthless Comment: If you google Scully Eyebrow, the image search turns up two pictures from my The X Files: I Want to Believe re:View. Win!

re:View – Lions to Lambs, or: Meryl Streep saves yet another film

Okay, so maybe I was biased from the second the DVD started spinning. For one, because it’s a film by and with Robert Redford, whom I don’t particularly like as an actor or director. And then, because it’s another of those films holding up the scolding finger of morality against America going to war in Afghanistan/Irak/anywhere. Like we haven’t had enough of those already (and they generally tend to be more coherent and to the point than Mr Redford’s two cents). And while seeing the same sort of cinematic criticism flicker across the screen over and over again certainly doesn’t make it less true, or justified, at also doesn’t necessarily automatically make it a good film. Good as in entertaining. Or, maybe more appropriately for a film about war, good as in moving. Both of which Lions to Lambs isn’t.

So we watch, for one hour in the film’s timeline, as some sleek-as-hell senator (Tom Cruise, of course) tries to spoon-feed a journalist with a bit of a faith crisis (a fabulous Meryl Streep) the government’s latest military strategy to speed up things/end the war in Afghanistan. At the same time, some aging college professor looking the teeniest bit bitter about his life (yep, that would be Redford, then), waffles for an hour to get his point across to a not too bothered but, as we are repeatedly assured, gifted student. The point being that said student should do something with his life. Like, change the world. Also within the same hour, two young soldiers – who were once talked into doing something with their lives by guess which professor – are injured behind enemy lines in Afghanistan and lie in the snow for an hour before getting themselves totally pointlessly shot to pieces.

And before you know it the end credits roll, with none of the plot strands actually resolved. Maybe we’re supposed to draw our own conclusions. Like, that America will never change its views on war, however much their tactics may fail. Or that, as long as America doesn’t change its views, those gifted kids don’t stand a chance, however much they try to make something of their lives. But maybe, at this point, we can’t even be bothered to draw our own conclusions any more.

The only reason why I still consider these 92 minutes well spent is, as you may have guessed, Meryl Streep’s performance. Shining brighter even than in Prada glitter, she flawlessly portrays Janine, the wary journalist trying to save her instincts from being crushed under the commercial regime of her news organisation. At once unyielding and fragile while bombarded with publicity catchphrases by a politician she helped up the ladder, Janine’s self-righteous surface finally cracks as her superior tries to pressure her into publishing unverified government propaganda against her better judgement – and her ethincs. And, just like that, a 2-minute nervous breakdown saves a 92-minute film from fading (like those artsy icons of American life in the end credits) into a half-hearted WTF? the minute you zap off your TV screen.

Verdict: Meryl Streep is a fucking genius.

re:View – Vicky Cristina Barcelona, or: Two outta three ain’t bad

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a film about three women who end up in the bed of (or otherwise under/on top of) a hairy, full-of-himself macho named Juan Antonio:

1.) A boobs-parading superficial? dumb? …uhm, artsy blonde searching for meaning in her boredom-plagued (love) life, aptly portrayed in a dumb, one-dimensional manner by Scarlett Johansson.

2.) Her complete opposite and totally-settled-in-life BFF (Rebecca Hall) who has some remotely comic moments but talks so much you get distracted trying to figure out the cruellest way to kill her circa seven minutes into the film and at any moment thereafter.

3.) The beau’s suicidal/homicidal genius painter (read: maniac) ex-wife, in the stunning form of a completely out-of-control Penelope Cruz. (Who, in all her screaming/sulky gorgeousness, is also pretty much the only thing that makes you want to sit this film out to the end.)

The latter, after much shouting and vicous eyeing of the competition, not so spectacularly snogs the blonde. And then they all randomly, and in varying line-ups, sleep with the macho (who is, frankly speaking, not that irresistible).

As you may have guessed from the title, all this happens in and around a sickeningly postcard-picturesque Barcelona.

The only thing that kind of saves the film is its narrator. His comments, intentionally ill-timed and superfluous, are so painfully clichéd they very nearly gain a poetic beauty (that will grow on you once you’ve moved on from the cringeing stage, promise.)

The ending, I vaguely remember, was a bit of a WTF-experience. Although I have to admit that I don’t remember what exactly the end was. And that’s only 10 days after seeing the film.

Verdict: Two outta three ain’t bad, eh?