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Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Stone’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published August 19th 2004:

And so the fight-back starts here. With movies based on Marvel Comics’ stable of characters having grossed over two billion dollars over the last five years, their old rivals at DC have decided to launch their retaliation with Jean-Christophe ‘Pitof’ Comar’s Catwoman, in which Halle Berry spends a lot of time bending over. That she does this in a movie supposedly about feminine empowerment gives you some idea of the magnitude of the intellects we’re dealing with.

Berry plays Patience Philips, a dowdy commercial artist employed by nasty cosmetics tycoon George Hedare (Lambert Wilson doing his snotty Frenchman schtick again). When she discovers that her boss’ new line of face cream is toxic, Hedare’s wife (Sharon Stone, battling heroically with a chronically one-dimensional part) has her flushed into the harbour.

However, luckily for Patience she is given mouth-to-mouth by a passing magic Egyptian cat, and she is resurrected with various feline powers (for some reason these include telescopic vision and the ability to stick to walls) with which to… well, do whatever she feels like. You go girl! None of that ‘with power comes responsibility’ stuff here! Having been apprised of her situation by daffy lunatic Ophelia (daffy lunatic specialist Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under, slumming it), Patience sets out to bring the Hedares to justice as Catwoman, a figure both mysterious and intimidating. Well, about as mysterious and intimidating as one can be whilst wearing a leather bra and trousers through which one’s bum-cheeks are plainly visible…

Now, the better-read amongst you will already have twigged that Berry is not playing the Catwoman, an iconic figure created by Bob Kane in 1940 as a sparring partner for Batman, but rather a catwoman. You will also have noticed that this movie steals Catwoman’s origin as re-imagined in Tim Burton’s 1992 movie Batman Returns: a movie noted mainly for its grandiose and overwrought incoherence, but also for its grotesque new spin on several classic characters. With this new interpretation at least twice removed from the source material, it would be nice to be able to treat the film as a completely new only-the-name’s-the-same version, but scribes John Brancato and Michael Ferris’s ham-fisted attempts to pay homage to the original character (there’s no reason why Berry’s character should start cracking a whip and stealing jewellery, other than because it’s what the classic Selina Kyle Catwoman does) and forge links between the two (Berry gets shown pictures of catwomen from earlier ages, one of which is a publicity shot of Michelle Pfeiffer from the Burton movie), make unfavourable comparisons inevitable.

I hate to say it, but it seems Halle Berry just can’t do superheroes. She’s extremely average as Storm in the X-Men franchise and she’s a crap Catwoman too. I’ve always thought Julie Newmar was the definitive screen Catwoman but even Pfeiffer did a better job than Berry does here. Supposedly an empowered, ambiguous, edgy figure, Berry comes across as about as dangerous and alluring as an Avon lady moonlighting as a low-rent dominatrix. The script’s idea of ambiguity is for Catwoman to steal a load of jewellery, and then have pangs of guilt and take it all back the next day.

Apart from this, Catwoman is a very much by-the-numbers superhero film in the modern style, somewhere between Steel and Daredevil in terms of quality. Pitof’s direction is strong on pretty pictures and bright colours, but rotten when it comes to characters and dialogue. Most of the plot gets squeezed into a very busy last half-hour. It isn’t even camp enough to be enjoyable as a piece of kitsch. Stone is quite good, as I mentioned up the page, and Benjy Bratt does a very reasonable job as Berry’s love-interest, but the rest of the performances are very forgettable (if you’re lucky).

And, yes, there’s that feminine empowerment thing… Quite apart from her (woeful) costume, there’s the very nature of the criminal scheme Catwoman gets mixed up in. You may recall that in their last screen outings, the X-Men saved the world from psionic genocide, and Spider-Man saved New York City from a nuclear apocalypse. Catwoman, in comparison, has to stop some dodgy make-up from going on sale. Not quite in the same league, is it, really, but it gives a good idea of what the film-makers think women are a) interested in and b) capable of dealing with.

This is clearly just meant to be a piece of fluffy Saturday evening fun, but even so, for a movie about Catwoman to be so vapid and sexist and patronising is just deeply offensive and depressing (and I’m not even that big a fan of the character – don’t get me started on the planned Jack Black Green Lantern movie!). It’s mildly enjoyable as a piece of junk, but by the standards of today’s superhero flicks, it really belongs in the kitty litter: Catwoman, the movie, is a dog.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published 30th November 2006:

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the film review column you can safely ignore. When I came out to Japan, I was assured that the time difference was only eight or nine hours — and this is mostly true. However, cinematically speaking it’s a different matter. Compared to the United Kingdom, Japan is usually a little bit behind — although this can stretch to anything up to a year. On the other hand, sometimes we’re ahead.

Reaching the Pacific several months after its UK release is Michael Caton-Jones’ Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction (Japanese title: Smile of Ice 2), an ‘honestly, you shouldn’t have bothered’ sequel to the notorious 1992 original. As Sharon Stone apparently negotiated herself a very juicy deal where she got paid a huge wodge of cash whether the movie got made or not, one can perhaps view the finished product as an exercise in amortising expenses rather than a proper movie. As a proper movie, it isn’t very good.

Rumpy-obsessed author and maybe-psycho serial killer Catherine Tramell (Stone) pitches up in London and finds herself banged up (not a new experience for her) on suspicion of killing a famous soccer player (Stan Collymore — no, really). Shabbily relentless cop Roy Washburn (David Thewlis) retains brilliant psychoanalyst Michael Glass (David Morrissey) to assess her mental state with a view to stopping her bail, which he does. For various reasons her bail comes through anyway, and before long Glass finds himself the unwilling subject of Trammell’s attentions…

Well, I haven’t really seen the original movie and this sequel doesn’t really make me want to. When the list of great spectator pastimes is written, watching people getting up to it will be somewhere near the bottom, just above watching people talk about getting up to it, and Basic Instinct 2 contains lengthy sequences of both. These are dull or embarrassing rather than actually erotic.

Somewhat more interesting is the thriller plotline, wherein Glass finds himself in the frame (this may even be a deliberate pun on the part of the screenwriters, which suggests they should reassess their priorities) for various murders of people from his past. This is actually quite engaging, although the script doesn’t offer an alternative suspect to Trammell until rather late in the day. This plotline thankfully features a lot less of Stone, who gives an atrocious performance throughout, and rather more of Morrissey and Thewlis, both of whom battle heroically with the rather thin material they’re given.

The London setting and British cast give this movie a certain novelty value, mostly based on the ‘ooh, it’s whatsisface off thingummy’ factor?But it’s not nearly as clever or interesting as it thinks it is and at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, the film’s morality is deeply unsound. Are we supposed to empathise with or root for a character who is straightforwardly presented as a manipulative, amoral psychotic? That seems to be the intention, but a dodgy script and Stone’s performance make that almost as unlikely as most of the rest of the events in the movie. It’s just about watchable when Stone’s not on screen, but never quite tops the unintentionally hilarious opening sequence.

Arriving from the UK late-summer timezone is Jared Hess’ Nacho Libre, another star vehicle, this time for Jack Black. Really loosely based on fact, this is the tale of a Mexican friar who moonlights as a masked wrestling star.

Regular readers will know I like to include a mini-synopsis for every movie; well, that was it. Okay there’s a bit more to it, involving Black acquiring a very thin tag partner, having rather unmonastic feelings about a nun (Ana de la Reguera, appropriately hot yet pure-looking) and… oh, you get the idea. But not a lot more.

It bowls along fairly amicably, powered by Jack Black doing all his usual schtick: silly voices, singing, falling over for comic effect, and there are quite a few laughs. But not as many as you might think, and for a rather peculiar reason — this movie is not formulaic enough.

You can’t fault Jared Hess for wanting to avoid the clichés which usually beset this kind of tale (underdogs rise to sporting greatness), but without them the story seems disjointed and episodic. This is a very mainstream, knockabout comedy, or it should be, but Hess strives for an atmospheric quirkiness that seems rather out of place.

Jack Black is good value and I did enjoy the movie, but it’s not a comedy classic. It seemed to deeply confuse all the Japanese people at the showing I went to, but that’s probably not a good thing.

From early autumn UK time arrives Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (Japanese title: Tomorrow World 2027). This movie is supposedly based on PD James’ rather literary SF novel of the same name — but friends, I’ve read that book, and other than a couple of events and a few characters, the movie has only the loosest resemblance to the original story.

Clive Owen plays Theo, a London office worker in the near future. Life in 2027 is rather grim, partly due to draconian laws intended to keep the illegal immigrant situation under control and the activities of terrorists intent on overturning these laws, but mainly because everyone in the world has been entirely infertile since about 2009. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Theo’s ex Julian (Julianne Moore) turns up, needing his help: Theo has high-up contacts which he can use to get transit papers for a refugee girl (Claire-Hope Ashitey), who Julian and her (ahem) activist pals desperately need to get out of the country. Or so it initially appears…

The James book was written at least 15 years ago and is, as I said, rather literary. Cuaron’s version is relentlessly gloomy, frequently kinetic and concludes with an enormous gun battle featuring a couple of tanks. To say that there is a bit of political commentary in this movie is understating things — there are explicit parallels with Iraq and Abu Ghraib, not to mention some domestic British issues.

If you don’t mind that kind of thing you may well enjoy the movie. Cuaron creates a convincingly dismal and dismally plausible dystopia, with just enough of today in it, although Owen’s London Olympics sweatshirt may be a gag too far. His direction favours lots of flashy very long takes, but this doesn’t get in the way of the story, which is thoroughly well-acted by people like Pam Ferris, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, and Sir Michael Caine. If the ending is a bit inconclusive, well, so’s the one in the book. This is a good and thought-provoking movie, even if it is a bit crashingly unsubtle in places.

Arriving from the near future (late December, to be precise) comes the war movie Flags Of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood (so it’s a thoughtful sort of war movie). When I say this movie is concerned with the battle of Iwo Jima, a bloody clash near the end of the Pacific War, you will understand why I suspect it hasn’t done very well over here, well-made though it undoubtedly is. The Japanese are not actually demonised as such, but it remains unavoidably the case that a major plot point concerns them horribly killing a likeable character played by Jamie Bell. I was uncomfortably aware I was the only European in the theatre when I saw this movie — I nearly shouted ‘now you know how it feels when we watch Mel Gibson movies in England!’ but I thought better of it.

Anyway, the movie goes back and forth between the battle (lavishly recreated) — specifically the famous raising of the American flag atop the island — and the fates of the flag raisers when they are flown home to participate in a drive to raise money for the war effort.

This is a rather slow and worthy movie, but hey — it could have been another drum-beating embarassment like Pearl Harbor, so let’s not complain. The cast features a mixture of established young stars like Ryan Phillipe and Paul Hunter and relative unknowns like Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach (who’s particularly good), together with older performers like Robert Patrick and Neal McDonough. Without being too specific, the movie makes various wise points about the difference between the myths and realities of war and the effect this can have on the participants when they return home. I suspect you actually have to be American to fully get this film, in the same way you have to be Catholic to really get The Exorcist, but I found it to be thoroughly engrossing and as well-made as one would expect from a Clint Eastwood project. I predict nominations and maybe even the odd actual Oscar.

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