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Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

It had me at Pierce Brosnan and ABBA. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is – a campy slice of goofy escapism that pays tribute to a worldwide phenomenon that the U.S. has been remarkably slow to embrace. Long before “American Idol” or “[whatever country’s] Got Talent” or “The Voice,” there was the Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s biggest song competition. It’s been around since 1956, spans more than 40 countries (not just European), and launched the careers of ABBA in 1974 and Celine Dion in 1988. How did I not know this? Anyway, I do now, thanks to Will Ferrell, who got hooked watching Eurovision during summer trips to his wife’s home country of Sweden. Who better than Ferrell (Elf, Talladega Nights, Anchorman) to craft a starring role for himself in a film that celebrates and mocks a global event that features an eclectic mix of talent?

Quickie Reviews: Annihilation; Game Night; The Party

Annihilation is interesting and weird, slow and methodical, and dare I say, bordering on boring. Hyper-sensitive fans of the film may ream me for not fully grasping or appreciating the deeper meaning, the metaphors, the beauty in the bizarre, yadda yadda yadda. But that’s okay. I didn’t love Arrival either. Annihilation is a cerebral sci-fi horror flick from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) based on the “Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer. If you’ve read the books, you’re probably ahead of the game and more likely than most to love this movie. Here’s the gist: Natalie Portman plays Lena, an Army veteran and cellular biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) was believed killed in action during a secret military mission. He reappears a year later, extremely ill, with no memory of what happened. Government agents nab the newly-reunited couple and take them to “Area X”, an unspecified locale that borders a mysterious “Shimmer” that’s been expanding along the U.S. coastline.

Doctor Strange

Fanboys and Fangirls will certainly make an appointment to see Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and they won’t be disappointed. The superhero movie du jour features a character I was completely unfamiliar with, but it turns out he’s a rather engaging bloke, in an ‘Avengers meets the mystical world’ sort of way. I still love my Avengers more (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor…), but Doctor Strange is a solid, entertaining action-adventure sci-fi fantasy, especially for fans of the Marvel universe, where bad stuff happens and the heroes win out, without all the intense violence, darkness, and brooding that has come to characterize the DC Comics’ caped crusaders (Superman, Batman, etc.).

Spotlight

This one has Oscar written all over it. It features a fabulous ensemble cast in a compelling docudrama based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation that still reverberates. Spotlight is the name of an investigative reporting unit at the Boston Globe that exposed the Boston Archdiocese pedophilia cover-up in 2001. The film begins as the team is sniffing around for their next story, which can frequently take them some time. But when the paper brings in a new editor-in-chief (Liev Schreiber), rather than letting them choose their own, he hands them an assignment that would become a bomb-shell in a city with deep Catholic roots. What begins as a cursory look at an old story of a single pedophile priest grows larger and reaches higher, and the team does what the best of journalism does, they follow their leads no matter what. And it is devastating.

A Most Wanted Man

There is really just one reason to go see A Most Wanted Man — Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film, while good on its own terms, mainly serves as a reminder of what an immense talent we lost. Hoffman plays a German spy in this John le Carré adaptation from director Anton Corbijn who brought us the equally thoughtful The American. And like his previous film, this one depends on the audience getting inside the protagonist’s skin. I’m not sure it would have worked without Hoffman.

The Vow

I wouldn’t completely disavow The Vow, but I wouldn’t commit to a recommendation either. It’s mediocre melancholy that topped the box office in its opening weekend for one main reason: it’s the only romantic drama out there. So hapless romantics like me flocked to the theater, hankies in hand, hoping for the best. I may have dabbed my eyes a few times near the end, but I wasn’t swept away.

The Vow stars Channing Tatum (Dear John, Step Up 2) and Rachel McAdams (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Morning Glory) as Leo and Paige, a couple of newlyweds whose vows are put to the test when Paige emerges from a coma with severe memory loss. She does not remember her husband – at all. As Leo struggles to woo Paige all over again, Paige struggles to reconcile a past that she remembers, with a present that’s a total blank.

Morning Glory

Fluffy is the word Harrison Ford’s character refuses to say in Morning Glory, and it is the word I would use to describe the movie. It’s fluffy fun – kind of like the second hour of a network morning show – and there’s nothing wrong with that. And just like the second hour of a network morning show, you’re not missing anything if you don’t go see it.