The Rhythm Section

Posted on January 30, 2020 at 5:39 pm

C
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, sexual content, language throughout, and some drug use
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Extended very graphic and intense peril and violence, characters injured and killed, terrorism, suicide bomber, guns, knives, chases, explosions, disturbing images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 31, 2020
Date Released to DVD: April 27, 2020
Copyright 2020 Paramount

What is this weird fascination with stories of men taking lost, pathetic, but lissome young women and turning them into spies and assassins? A century ago, we had Henry Higgins teaching a flower girl to speak like a duchess. Now, we have “La Femme Nikita” and its American remake “Point of No Return,” its Hong Kong version, “Black Cat,” its Italian version, “Sexy Killer,” its two television series, the Jennifer Lawrence film “Red Sparrow,” the Jennifer Garner series “Alias,” Luc Besson’s 2019 flop “Anna,” and the father/daughter version — movie and television series — “Hanna.” When that training includes masquerading as a prostitute so we can see her in her skivvies, it becomes clear how outdated this set-up has become.

And now we have The Rhythm Section, with Stephanie Patrick, played by Blake Lively in a series of bad wigs, as the brilliant Oxford student turned narcotic drug abuser and prostitute after the death of her family in a plane crash three years before this movie begins. I should say played by a series of bad wigs with Blake Lively in a supporting role, because this very talented actress is given little to do but look sullen, sullen and a little afraid, and sullen and a little determined. Please add “A Simple Favor” to your Netflix queue if you have not seen it yet to get a look at how good she can be.

The people behind this film are the producers of the Bond films, and they are clearly trying to create a distaff franchise, based on the books by Mark Burnell, who also wrote the screenplay. Unfortunately, it is weak on character and plot and fails to have any of the ingredients that make the Bond movies work. While there are stops in many cities, identified on screen but otherwise mostly interchangeable, it does not have the glamor, the urgency, or the fun of seeing all the gizmos and how they get deployed. Revenge is so reliable and relatable a motive that it is almost impossible to get wrong in a movie, but even that cannot bring this story to life. It’s supposed to be all you go girl! with a badass female lead. But, sigh, it’s more male gaze again, with one of her disguises being high-end call girl in skimpy skivvies and somehow a shocking tragedy inexplicably inspires her to jump into bed with someone she barely knows.

A journalist named Proctor (Raza Jaffrey) finds Stephanie, a drugged-out prostitute constantly replaying images of the last time she saw her parents and brother and sister, and the voicemail message her mother left her before getting on the doomed plane. He says he has information showing that it was not an accident; it was a terrorist bomb, and he knows how to find the man who built the bomb. She initially refuses to have anything to do with him, but then goes to his apartment, where he has one of those movie-friendly rooms with walls covered with clippings and photos. He unwisely leaves her there, giving her money and keys, and she unwisely tips off the bomber, and soon Proctor is dead, on the floor in a pool of blood.

Stephanie follows a clue she got from the photos on the wall to track down the Proctor’s source, a former spy turned rogue played by Jude Law. No cold turkey montage (“I’m a user, not an addict,” she explains), so straight into the training montage, turning Stephanie into a lean, mean, fighting machine in a matter of months, while we flashback to Jude Law doing the same thing for Captain Marvel, only better.

The action and characters would have to be so much better to persuade us to miss the howling plot holes and tinge of misogyny — really, she has to be a prostitute? Luckily for the movie, we never invest enough in it to care.

Parents should know that this movie includes extended and very graphic peril and violence, murders, chases, explosions, terrorism, knives, guns, bombs, poison, characters injured and killed, disturbing images, very strong language, prostitution, and drugs.

Family discussion: What were Stephanie’s most significant assets in accomplishing her goals? Why did the reporter want to contact her? What will she do next?

If you like this, try: “La Femme Nikita” and “Hanna” (movie and television series)

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- format Spies

The Age of Adaline

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Be careful what you wish for.  You think it would be great to stay 29 forever?  Adaline (Blake Lively) finds out that it is not great to become unstuck from time, to watch everyone you love grow old and die, to hurt those you care about because you cannot be honest about who you are.  It is as though the whole world is on a conveyer belt moving everyone inexorably forward, and just one person has stepped off, rooted in one spot and left all alone. Life becomes a series of goodbyes.

Copyright 2015 Lakeshore Entertainment
Copyright 2015 Lakeshore Entertainment

Adaline made headlines as the first baby born in 1908 San Francisco.  She lived a normal life, with an engineer husband and a baby girl.  But her husband was killed in an accident when he was working on the Golden Gate Bridge.  And then, when a very rare snowfall came to San Francisco, her car went off the road and into a pond.  She was at the same time frozen and shocked by lightning.  And, we are told by the narrator, as scientists will discover in 2015, the effect of these two forces on her DNA somehow stops the aging process.  At first, she is able to get away with explaining that she eats right and uses a very good face cream.  But as more than a decade goes by and she does not change, she begins to unsettle people and attract the attention of government investigators.  So, she has to say goodbye to her now-teenage daughter and come up with a plan where she changes identities and locations every ten years, and never gets close to anyone.

Adaline is living in San Francisco as Jenny and working at a library, but is about to switch identities again and move to Oregon. She has just bought a new fake passport and drivers license and arranged for her new identity to have access to her bank account (one thing perpetual youth is very good for is accumulating capital) when she meets Ellis (Dutch “Game of Thrones” dreamboat Michiel Huisman). He is handsome, wealthy, philanthropic, nuts about her, and knows how to give swooningly romantic gifts and cook charming and delicious dinners in his aw-shucks-I’m-just-living-in-a-zillion-dollar-fixer-upper. Doesn’t Adaline have the right to take a chance on love?

She agrees to spend the weekend with Ellis’ parents for their 40th anniversary party. But as soon as they arrive, Ellis’ father, William (Harrison Ford) says “Adaline!” They were “very close” in the 1960’s. “Jenny” explains that Adaline was her mother. But William remembers Adaline too well to be fooled for long.

The script and story were both co-written by first-time screenwriter Salvador Paskowitz, whose own unconventional life was documented in Surfwise.

It has a conceptual delicacy that translates unevenly on screen, with an overly ponderous omniscient narrator and underwritten romantic scenes. But Lively gives a thoughtful, complex performance, with undertones of melancholy and a yearning for connection that struggles with her determination to stay isolated. And she looks sensational in the costumes from Angus Strathie, which show a consistency of style throughout the century that shows us how strong and determined Adaline’s well-defined persona is, despite the various aliases and disguises and changes in fashion.

The romanticism of the storyline was thrown off course for me by the idea that Adaline was involved with both father and son, even decades apart. But if that does not create too much of an ick factor, the bittersweet fantasy of eternal youth and the just-sweet fantasy of the perfect boyfriend make it work.

Parents should know that this film includes sexual references and non-explicit situations, some mature themes of loss and disappointment, and drinking.

Family discussion: What did the comet signify? If you could stay the same age forever, what age would you pick? Is there a “just-miss” in your life?

If you like this, try: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Passion of Mind,” and “Tuck Everlasting”

Related Tags:

 

Drama Fantasy Romance

Savages

Posted on July 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Oliver Stone’s new movie about drug dealers and drug users seems to assume that its audiences may be watching in an altered state of consciousness as well.  Stone has never been known for subtlety, but just to make absolutely sure that everyone watching the film knows what is what, he makes a very clear distinction between our heroes and our villains.  The good drug dealers are two guys and a girl who live together in an almost Edenic state of polyamorous bliss on Laguna Beach and donate money to African villages.  The villains are the bad drug dealers, who chain-saw off the heads of seven people before the opening credits are over and are led by viciously evil Selma Hayek with a hairstyle that makes her look like a demented Veronica from the Archie Comics.

Our narrator cautions us that just because she is telling the story does not mean she is alive at the end of it.  O (for Ophelia) is a California girl from a wealthy but dysfunctional family whose primary occupations are shopping and having sex with her two boyfriends.  Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is the muscle, a cynical former military guy.  Ben (Aaron Johnson of “Kick-Ass”) is the idealistic botany/business guy.  Together, O tells us, they make the perfect boyfriend, and they love each other, too, so it’s just one happy cuddle puddle.

But the very thing that makes them so successful — the exceptional quality of their weed — has made them a threat to the big, bad drug dealers from Mexico.  When they make an offer Ben and Chon can’t refuse, Ben and Chon refuse anyway.  They are willing to turn over the business but they are not willing to work for Elena (Hayek) and her group.  So O gets taken hostage, and if Ben and Chon do not start cooperating, they will chop off her fingers.

When O and Elena have an elegant dinner and O starts prattling on about her failed effort at community college as though she is talking to her parents’ friends at the country club, we get a sense of the grand guignol possibilities of this story, based on novel by Don Winslow, who co-scripted.  Hayek’s relish in the role is entertaining and John Travolta has a good turn as a paunchy FBI agent with no illusions.  But Benicio de Toro’s portrayal of Elena’s sociopathic henchman is just icky.  Stone’s re-re-re-treading of the same issues that have pre-occupied him since he was fighting in Vietnam — drugs, corruption, military, power — is tired.  The butchery and dissolution of the bad guys is over the top and the heroes give us no reason to root for them.  A final fake-out is an insult to any remaining goodwill left from the audience and the overall preposterousness finally feels like an insult.

 

Parents should know that this film has extremely graphic and disturbing violence including torture and rape, explicit sexual situations, nudity, drinking, smoking, extended drug use (marijuana and cocaine) and drug dealing, very strong language

Family discussion:  Why do the different characters refer to each other as savages?  Do you agree with  the definition used at the end?  What kept O, John, and Ben together?

If you like this, try: “American Gangster” and “Blow”

 

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Crime Drama

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Posted on November 18, 2008 at 8:00 am

When the first five minutes of a film show us a wedding, a graduation, a pregnancy, some kisses, and two grave sites, followed by a reunion scene involving shrieking and hugging, we know we are in for an irresistible saga of friendship through love, loss, risk, and clothes. What older sisters get in Sex and the City and their moms find in Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood and Steel Magnolias, middle and high schoolers find in the “Traveling Pants” movies.
In the first “Traveling Pants” summer, the four BFFs used a magical pair of blue jeans that somehow fit them all perfectly as a sort of proto-Facebook for staying in touch. They sent the pants back and forth, embroidering status updates with mementos from their adventures.
Three years have gone by and now cynical Tibby (“Joan of Arcadia’s” Amber Tamblyn), athlete Bridget (“Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively), shy Lena (“Gilmore Girls'” Alexis Bledel), and writer Carmen (“Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrara) are all in college, meaning they now have the kind of problems that raise the rating from the PG for the 2005 original to a PG-13.
The pants are about to get some serious mileage. Tibby is in New York, working at a DVD store and trying to finish a screenplay assignment. “Romantic comedy is an oxymoron,” she complains. Lena is in Rhode Island, blushing through a figure drawing class and trying to forget her first love, Costas. That nude male model she is drawing has a great…smile. Bridget has gone on an archeological dig in Turkey where a sympathetic scholar (Shohreh Aghdashloo) reminds her that it is not only the bones and artifacts we study but the people and their stories. And Carmen finds herself unexpectedly cast in a Shakespeare production in Vermont while at home her recently re-married mother is about to have a baby. As they face a pregnancy scare, repair an estranged family relationship and struggle with romance, the girls must find new resolve and confidence in themselves and in their connection to each other.
The real love story that is the heart of the movie is the friendship of the girls. They wonder at times if they are still able to communicate but they are always there for each other when needed. Like the first film, the sequel is refreshingly honest about complicated and messy problems and it avoids tidy resolutions. The girls learn that sometimes even with the best of intentions, people — and life — let us down but that courage, sincere kindness, and friends can help even when they cannot fix what is wrong. Even more appealing is the girls’ endearingly tender support for each other’s differences of personality and interests and the matter-of-fact mix of racial and ethnic pairings. The movie makes it clear that, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, no one can make you feel inadequate without your permission and it is one movie that does not imply that a girl has to have a boyfriend to be successful, happy, or complete.
A character in “Steel Magnolias” summarizes the female friendship genre: “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” The talented young actresses and a quartet of appealing swain make this story’s travels between laughter and tears a journey worth taking.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Comedy Drama Romance Series/Sequel Teenagers
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik