Tag Archives: summer movies

Return of the bad-ass ladies of summer

It’s become an annual tradition on this blog to celebrate the bad-ass ladies of summer — those women blazing trails of awesomeness into the male dominated territory of Hollywood action movies.

The summer movie season is winding down and, looking back on it, it wasn’t exactly bad-ass, what with flops like “Warcraft,” “The BFG” and “The Legend of Tarzan” casting a depressing shadow over the box office, which was dominated by uninspired remakes.

Despite this, there were female-centric performances to admire as many actors followed in the pioneering footsteps of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and Daisy Ridley’s Rey to give us the strong, nuanced, wildly entertaining, butt-kicking performances we should be seeing more of. We do, after all, live in the 21st century.

Without further ado, here are the bad-ass ladies who led the way this summer. They deserve a 21 proton gun salute.

this-fan-made-trailer-for-the-new-ghostbusters-movie-is-way-better-than-the-original

The Cast of ‘Ghostbusters’

Who knew rebooting the beloved 1984 action-comedy classic with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon taking on roles loosely based on those originally played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson would be such a subversive act?

When director Paul Feig announced his plan, he broke the Internet as wounded, mostly male fans took to Twitter to decry a “Ghostbusters” populated by women and declare it was ruining their childhood. This despite the approval of producer and original director Ivan Reitman.

Things only got weirder and uglier after the film’s release as online tirades directed at the cast continued and Jones became the target of a nasty trolling campaign that smacked of racism and misogyny. The incident prompted Jones to briefly shut down her account and Twitter to tighten up its regulations, but all ended well with Jones returning to Tweet another day and living happily ever after as a sidesplitting Olympic commentator.

Whatever your opinion of “Ghostbusters” — and it definitely has its flaws — the significance of its arrival on the cinematic horizon cannot be overstated. This is an action-comedy headlined not by one women, but by four, and none of them are sexualized or condescended to by the filmmakers or their male co-stars.

Whatever the movie’s failures, whether weak story or a lack of originality, the cast has nothing to do with them. “Ghostbusters” is a lovingly crafted showcase for a quartet of consummate comedians who are squarely on their game, hilarious, and in total control. (Kudos to Chris Hemsworth for good-naturedly going along with the film’s funniest gender reversal.)

This is empowerment of a kind that is extremely rare in Hollywood and done with a tone so light and playful, it’s easy to dismiss how important the film is. Because of “Ghostbusters,” women took to social media to ponder what their childhoods might have been like if this film had existed when they were growing up. And little girls donned the team’s trademark beige jumpsuits and proton packs with gusto.

We can only hope more filmmakers will join in the spirit of “Ghostbusters” and its delightful feminist subversion. Is it too soon for a female James Bond?

maxresdefault

Sofia Boutella as Jaylah in “Star Trek: Beyond”

The rebooted “Star Trek” franchise has always featured a strong heroine in the form of Zoe Saldana’s intelligent, fiercely loyal Lt. Uhura.

At the same time, it’s hard to shake the feeling that J.J. Abrams and company never know quite what to do with the miniskirt-wearing communications officer. Uhura tends to linger on the sidelines while Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and even Simon Pegg’s Scotty get all the action. That’s why the introduction of Jaylah in “Beyond” is so refreshing.

Boutella previously made an impression as Samuel L. Jackson’s blade-legged righthand henchwoman in “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” As Jaylah, the strikingly marked alien who becomes an unlikely ally to the crew of the Enterprise, she more than holds her own beside Pine and Pegg.

Jaylah is a loner, survivor, formidable fighter and technical genius who savvily makes her home inside a crashed Federation starship and protects it with a dazzling array of sophisticated booby traps. She also has excellent taste in vintage rap.

“I like the beats and shouting,” she declares.

Boutella graces this tenacious extraterrestrial heroine with stubbornness, humor and heart and, in the process, elevates “Beyond.”

suicide-squad-margot-robbie-harley-quinn.jpg

Comic Book Movie Heroes

Although Hollywood’s comic book franchises have lagged in embracing compelling, three-dimensional female characters to match their heroic male counterparts, this summer saw some encouraging strides in the right direction.

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has long been the woman of substance in Marvel’s often feeble female lineup. While she’s enjoyed her fair share of butt-kicking action, “Captain America: Civil War” gives her an unprecedented opportunity to flex her fighting muscles, throwing punches as aggressively as The Cap, thanks to directors Anthony and Joe Russo.

The “X-Men” franchise has treated its superheroines admirably, providing them with meaty emotional arcs and equal opportunity action moments. This summer’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” is no exception. The crux of the plot turns on the evolution of Sophie Turner’s young Jean Grey, whose climactic wielding of power is something to behold.

The season’s most entertaining comic book movie performance, however, belongs to Margot Robbie as one of the few rays of light in DC’s messy “Suicide Squad,” starring as infamous villain and the Joker’s wannabe girlfriend, Harley Quinn.

With her inordinate, self-destructive love for the Joker, Harley Quinn has always been a problematic character. She’s insanely likable, but also a bit of a feminist nightmare.

Although I wish director David Ayer didn’t spend so much time allowing the camera to leer at Harley’s short shorts, Robbie succeeds effortlessly in creating one of the film’s only fully realized characters.

Her Harley practically leaps off the comic book page — completely unhinged, an unabashed romantic, scary but sweetly vulnerable, and 100% capable of taking care of herself. It’s kind of a miracle, actually, that Robbie is able to pull off this crazy balancing act. Give her a spin-off already, DC.

It’s been a long time coming, but it appears the makers of comic book movies are finally at least attempting to give female caped crusaders their day in the sun.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the most tantalizing element of “Batman v Superman,” however brief her appearance. Her stand-alone film, due next year, looks amazing from what we’ve seen so far. And Marvel has a “Captain Marvel” movie in the works, starring the astonishingly talented Brie Larson.

In short, things are looking up for bad-ass ladies everywhere. Here’s hoping next summer is even more epic for them.

maxresdefault (1)

Photos: http://www.youtube.com, ghostbusters.com, yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Summer of Bad-Ass Ladies: The Sequel!

Last year, around this time, we saluted the women who breathed fresh air into a moviegoing season that typically reeks of testosterone.

Many of 2014’s summer blockbusters were headlined by women, including Angelina Jolie, Emily Blunt, and Scarlett Johansson — cause for celebration. There was so much awesomeness going on that we declared it the “Summer of Bad-Ass Ladies.”

Now it appears summer 2014 wasn’t a blip on Hollywood’s radar, but the beginning of a promising trend. The films of summer 2015 were packed with substantial roles for women, who effortlessly stole scenes –and, in some cases, entire movies — from their male co-stars.

(That said, annoying female stereotypes persist. Did “Jurassic World” really need to punish Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire for loving her job too much and not being into kids?)

As we close the books on the year’s most explosive moviegoing season, it is with great delight that we dub it “Summer of Bad-Ass Ladies: The Sequel.”

Below, we revisit the baddest of these pioneering bad-asses. We hope we’ll be seeing them next summer, too.

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-final-trailer

Charlize Theron in “Mad Max: Fury Road”: For the sake of its promotional campaign, Warner Bros. pretended that Tom Hardy’s Max is the star of “Fury Road.” But if you’ve seen the film, you know it is Theron who owns virtually every frame of this magnificently bleak and beautiful post-apocalyptic action flick. With a shaved head, oily face paint and one arm, tough-as-nails truck driver Furiosa is the heart and sinew of director George Miller’s female-centric road movie, with Hardy’s Max mostly along for the ride. When it comes to sci-fi heroines, she’s right up there with Ripley and Sarah Connor.

What’s even more impressive? There isn’t a single damsel in distress to be found in “Fury Road.” The cast’s menagerie of bizarre supporting characters includes strong, resourceful women of all ages and personalities. Why should this be such a rare thing? Hollywood execs should use Miller’s forward-thinking epic as a template for all summer blockbusters to come.

ex_machina_2015_movie-wide

Alicia Vikander in “Ex Machina”: There are so many wonderful, eerie and astonishing things to discover in writer-director Alex Garland’s artificial intelligence thriller. Chief among them is Swedish performer Vikander, also delightful in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” who brings to life the strikingly beautiful, eerily lifelike humanoid at the center of the film. With her cherubic face and curvaceous CGI body, Vikander’s Ava is alluring and dismaying, uncannily perfect, and completely believable. Is Ava the perfect object of male fantasies or a master manipulator? Is she a girl waiting to be rescued or a skilled self preservationist? In a film where nothing is quite what you expect it to be, Vikander is the biggest surprise of them all.

mission-impossible-rebecca-ferguson

Rebecca Ferguson in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”: Last summer, Tom Cruise starred in “Edge of Tomorrow” but willingly took a back seat to the incredibly bad-ass Emily Blunt, who dominated the clever sci-fi thriller. Weird rumors about Katie Holmes aside, maybe this guy deserves some feminist cred. This summer, he did it again, basically ceding his role as headliner of “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” to intriguing newcomer Rebecca Ferguson.

As enigmatic triple agent Ilsa Faust, Ferguson matches Cruise step for step and blow for blow in executing her own stunts and when it comes to intrigue, she’s a lot more interesting than the one-dimensionally heroic Ethan Hunt. The film’s most electrifying sequence, an attempted assassination in a Vienna opera house, is almost entirely Ferguson’s show. Coolly shimmying up the rigging in the sleekest, and most practical, of silk gowns, she’s practically auditioning to take over the franchise.

feacffd963965ea49ce124f52299da89a17b6331

Melissa McCarthy in “Spy”: McCarthy has always been brilliant at satirizing social convention, but she’s so likable and so good at what she does, we hardly notice the sly statements she makes. In “Spy,” she reunites with “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig and tackles the male-dominated genre made famous by James Bond and Jason Bourne, playing a timid CIA analyst lured out from behind her desk and into the dangerous field.

McCarthy may be may be sending up the exotic, over-the-top world of Hollywood espionage, but she also has a lot of fun and gets to do everything 007 does — a moped chase in Budapest, a killer knife fight — only she’s way more hilarious.

background

Elizabeth Olsen in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”: When it comes to creating memorable on-screen superheroines, Marvel has been a bit slow to evolve. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is a formidable force but is seriously outnumbered by her male colleagues, who don’t have to stuff themselves into a slinky, black catsuit before saving the world. So it was a welcome moment when Olsen’s otherworldly Scarlet Witch made the scene in “Age of Ultron,” wielding some very cool telekinetic abilities. You can see just see the neighborhood kids mimicking her witchy powers of mind control while playing superhero. That’s something long overdue.

maxresdefault

Kate Mara in “Fantastic Four”: Comic book movie reboot “Fantastic Four” took a critical and fiscal bruising when it debuted earlier this month. The film is widely considered a disaster but it contains at least one overlooked element: Mara’s thoughtful portrayal of invisible woman Sue Storm. Watching the actor at work, it’s hard to believe that only 10 years ago, Jessica Alba’s Sue was largely celebrated for the way she filled out her skintight suit. In sharp contrast, Mara’s performance emphasizes Sue’s brains over her body. She is arguably the first female superhero whose intellect is more important than her sex appeal.

Photos: http://www.techinsider.io; http://www.youtube.com; marvel.com; tribecafilm.com, http://www.zimbio.com.

All Hail the Bad-Ass Ladies of Summer

We all know the drill when it comes to the summer movie season.

Summer is popcorn time. Time to switch off the brain and have some fun. Time for explosions. Time for action. Time for Michael Bay to assault us with giant fireballs, urban destruction and noise. Time for action heroes, like Hugh Jackman and Tom Cruise, to run around, look worried, flash massive biceps and DO THEIR OWN STUNTS.

Yes, summer is an exciting time with a potential blockbuster we will all love, so help us, lurking around the corner EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND.

This year, the season is winding to a close after fulfilling all the traditional requirements described above. But something unusual happened, too, something worth noting and celebrating.

In those months that typically overflow with testosterone, more than a few of the BIG MOVIES were headlined by women. And these women delivered amazing performances, proving themselves every bit as — in some cases even more — entertaining than the dudes who usually dominate the summer movie landscape.

So I’m calling it: Summer 2014 was The Summer of Bad-Ass Ladies. Below, we pay tribute to the baddest of them all. Nobody deserves it more.

Grammy90_18_03 (1)

Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent”: As one of the most famous people in the world, Jolie is celebrated for her benevolent activism, charity work and super-sized family with husband Brad Pitt, but there’s always been something slightly unnerving about her, too. Maybe that’s why she’s perfectly cast in Disney’s reboot of 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty.” With those celebrated cheekbones sharpened to a knife’s point and all that slinky black leather, Jolie isn’t just striking to look at, she succeeds in transforming one of Disney’s scariest villains into a complicated, funny, tragic figure worth rooting for. Creepy yet playful, right down to that silky purr and killer sneer, her Maleficent is sinister and sexy, outshining every visual effect in a movie that’s built almost exclusively on optical bedazzlement.

photo_1

Shailene Woodley in “The Fault in Our Stars”: Hollywood’s latest go-to girl for movies targeted at the coveted teen demographic proved herself a capable action heroine in March’s “Divergent.” Two months later, she took on the risky role of Hazel Grace Lancaster, the beloved protagonist of John Green’s best-selling YA novel. What’s remarkable about Woodley’s performance is her unsentimental naturalism, portraying a 16-year-old girl who isn’t in love with a vampire or fighting for survival in a dystopian death arena. Aside from the harsh fact she’s dying of terminal cancer, Hazel is an ordinary young woman. Woodley embodies her sharp wit and candor with charm and a refreshing absence of glamor. In the film’s opening weekend, a largely female audience showed their appreciation to the tune of $48 million.

Edge of Tomorrow - Emily Blunt Free Download Wallpaper

Emily Blunt in “Edge of Tomorrow”: If we were to crown a queen of the Bad-Ass Ladies of Summer, that honor would belong, without question, to Emily Blunt. What’s that you say? You didn’t bother seeing “Edge of Tomorrow”? You’re not the only one. Director Doug Liman’s twisty sci-fi thriller under-performed at the box office, probably because of its resemblance to Tom Cruise’s previous twisty sci-fi thriller, “Oblivion.” The irony is that Cruise isn’t the true star of “Edge.” He may enjoy more screen time, but he plays second fiddle to Blunt, who brings a marvelous mix of toughness and vulnerability to the role of the alien-slaughtering, mech-suit-rocking Rita Vrtaski, aka the Full Metal Bitch. Blunt’s character is the last hope for humanity against slithery outerspace invaders who can control time, resulting in Cruise reliving the same day over and over. I know. It sounds like “Groundhog Day,” but the movie is far more clever than you’d ever guess and Blunt is its most winning asset.

Lucy

Scarlett Johansson in “Lucy”: We all knew ScarJo could kick some butt. As the only female member of “The Avengers,” she’s presided over some impressive stunt sequences, proving she’s more than just a hot chick in a catsuit. But Johansson takes it to another level in Luc Besson’s goofy, wannabe-existential actioner, playing a naive college girl who gains instant access to 100% of her cerebral powers when exposed to an experimental drug. At first, Lucy’s evolution manifests itself in lethal martial arts skills but by the end of the film, she simply has to flick her wrist to immobilize an entire gang of stereotypical Asian baddies. I liked the old Scarlett, so sweetly befuddled in “Lost in Translation,” but I love this new Scarlett — so cool, calm and controlled she’s barely human. Of course, Johansson has evolved enough as an actress to make sure her character’s humanity still comes through.

guardians_of_the_galaxy_zoe_saldana_as_gamora-t2

Zoe Saldana in “Guardians of the Galaxy”: Here is another intriguing actress who has never let her beauty stand in the way of a versatile career. The characters she plays may be wildly different — whether in indie dramas or comic book adaptations — but they’re always satisfyingly strong-willed. As green-skinned warrior Gamora in “Guardians,” Saldana displays strength and humor, holding her own against the formidably funny Chris Pratt. Pratt, of course, plays Star-Lord Peter Quill, leader of Marvel’s unlikely band of galactic superheroes. Refreshingly, director James Gunn grants Saldana equal screen time to her male co-stars. Gamora shows her stuff in several epic fight scenes and she’s by far the most intelligent member of the Guardians. She may flirt with Quill but she never succumbs to his pelvic sorcery. She’s no damsel in distress.