A Review of Emily Blunt (1983)

Emily Blunt is just about my favourite actor currently active. I find her as enjoyable as any of her contemporaries, possessed of an easy charisma and capable of a great acting range. She’s smart, funny and I would marry the shit out of her.

549a6ce3bd67c_-_hbz-emily-blunt-promo
*Swoon.*

I haven’t seen nearly enough of her films, but there are three that stand out and that happily are all linked in unusual ways. They are all about Fate or Destiny, they all feature poorly-understood manipulation of space/time, and they all put Ms. Blunt opposite veteran male actors who are arguably at the tops of their respective games.

And she pretty much owns all three of them.


 

‘Looper’ (2012)

‘Looper’ is a tidy little time-travel film, starring Joseph Gordon Brandon Lee-Cooper-Smurfit and Bruce Willis. For some reason, they elected to add prosthetics to Jim Goon-Brown’s face to make him look more like Bruce. Probably wasn’t necessary, he kind of looks like a Bajoran now, and really not like Bruce Willis at all.

bruce-gordon-levitt
One of these men is a young Bruce Willis. HINT: It’s the one that looks like Bruce fucking Willis and not Joshua Lee-Enfield having an allergic reaction.

Weird Star Trek references aside, George Henry-Lee is on top form. He’s a great young actor. Bruce Willis is there too, and he’s fine and all, but this is no ‘Hudson Hawk’. Thank fuck.

Bruce and Joint Strike-Fighter play the old and young versions respectively of a low-level hitman/enforcer: someone who kills thugs from the future who get sent back in time for execution to avoid the murders being discovered in their original timeline. OR SOMETHING.

Look, the details of the plot aren’t important. Brucey even explains as much in a great diner-based scene between the two of them. What is important is Emily Blunt, in a relatively subdued role as a tough but struggling single mother who looks after her son on an isolated farm.

Just Add-Water’s quest to stop… Himself takes him to Blunt’s farm, resulting in what I found to be a relatively emotionally satisfying conclusion to the film. And Blunt’s performance is top-notch. She nails the role of an independent but vulnerable woman; she’s protective of her son, but manages to avoid defining herself simply by the other characters around her.

There’s a great, very intimate scene where she calls Justin… erm, Bieber-Wetwipe into her room, and straight up initiates the shagging. It’s great to see a female character acting in a sexually proactive way without it being a defining trait of her personality; she’s just a confident person who decides to pursue what she wants at that point in time, and the film doesn’t even make much of a point of it. We need more female interactions like this.

‘Looper’ is a good, solid film, made by people who knew what they were doing. It tries probably a little too hard to be the ‘Blade Runner’ of its age and falls short, but it never really takes a wrong step. And it’s certainly buoyed by some gritty, believable performances, not least by Emily Blunt.


 

‘Adjustment Bureau’ (2011)

One of my favourite films of all time, and definitely my favourite romantic movie, there’s simply too much for me to like about ‘Adjustment Bureau’. It’s clever, it’s well-written, it uses restrained, carefully-applied special effects to provide a visually striking journey, it’s just great. It makes ‘City of Angels’ look like… like a Fleshlight. Plus, it features Terence Stamp, which is always a plus.

Film Title: The Adjustment Bureau
Look at that motherfucker – you ever seen that much sex appeal from someone wearing a scarf and a Fedora before?

It opens with Matt Damon as a politician who’s just lost an election. He stops by the mens’ room to get his shit together and practice his “I’m a loser” speech, only to discover a half-drunk Emily Blunt spying on him from one of the stalls.

The interaction that follows between them sets the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s a casual familiarity between them, and it’s great to see two actors achieving so much chemistry in a fairly mundane setting. Blunt’s loose, impetuous characterisation is immediately appealing, and there’s never a point at which the attraction between them is anything but obvious and relatable. This is no “Kili/Tauriel”. Thank fuck.

The main story of the film is viewed from Damon’s perspective. Not long after he meets Blunt we find out that there are Sinister Agents working to prevent him from meeting her ever again. They use neat little tricks and subtle powers to carefully manipulate Damon’s fate, all the while keeping their ultimate motivations mysterious and slightly otherworldly.

Anthony Mackie does a great job as a sympathetic antagonist, but Terence Stamp is where the money’s at – the man drips brutal menace and intellectual domination. He’s like the orphan child of Darth Vader and ‘Farscape’s Scorpius, raised by an erudite shark. He’s Darth Sharkius. And that’s terrifying.

The thing that really I really love about this film is that I find myself actually rooting for the leading couple. Normally the happiness of others causes me physical discomfort, so I usually back the villains in most movies. But here I’m left hoping that Damon and Blunt get to stay together. That’s a testament to a great performance by both of them and to a film that has been very well put together.


 

‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (2014)

I like Tom Cruise. I mean, I’m not saying that I know him very well, and certainly there are aspects of his personal life that I find… troubling. But he ends up in some great movies, and he invariably gives a solid performance. I’ll concede that he suffers a little from mostly just playing himself, and if you’ve read my ‘Gravity’ review then you’ll know that makes me a hypocrite. Blow me.

edge-of_tomorrow_cruise-800x433
True Story: Most of the film’s budget went into cloning Tom Cruise 168 times, as he did all of his own death stunts.

‘Edge of Tomorrow’ was, for me, THE movie of 2014, and it went up against some stiff competition, especially from ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Nightcrawler’. Hell, even ‘Kingsman’ came out in the same year. It was a great year for movies, but it’s the Blunt/Cruise that wins out for me. It’s just so enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t got the same emotional punch as Nolan’s sci-fi masterpiece, nor is it as bold as the intensely disturbing Gyllenhaal vehicle, but it does feature a smart script, memorable characters, fantastic action, and Emily Blunt in power armour. That last one really does it for me. She’s great. Did I mention that I want to be her husband?

Aliens have invaded Earth. Specifically, Europe, and very successfully at that. With supplies of decent cheese and overpriced wine quickly dwindling, and with no back-up reserves of olives, humanity stages a final, last-ditch, all-out assault to bring down the extraterrestrial menace.

Cruise finds himself, though every fault of his own, on the front lines of this attack, but luckily for him it doesn’t last long when he gets roundly annihilated after only a few moments. To his surprise, he sleeps off this nasty case of Death and awakens a day earlier, just before the doomed attack is about to start.

Naturally, he gets killed again pretty quickly, only to reawaken before the attack all over again. This loop continues for a little while, until he meets Emily Blunt, the harsh, brutal “Angel of Verdun”. She’s a legend in this war already, and she lives up her reputation. She’s just as convincing portraying the “Full Metal Bitch” as she is  a captivating ballet dancer, and although the action takes place from Cruise’s perspective, for me at least Blunt is the real hero of the story.

Credit should also go to the supporting cast, especially Bill Paxton, who turns in a shining comic performance as a bible-thumping drill sergeant, and to all of Cruise’s ‘Kelly’s Heroes’-inspired military unit, who offer a fun and amicable squad of sidekicks. Throw in some flawless special effects and a fun take on the ‘Groundhog Day’ premise, and this becomes an outstanding action-adventure flick that deserved a lot more success.

Emily-Blunt-In-Edge-of-Tomorrow-Movie-Stills-Wallpaper-1024x640
Not pictured; her enormous sword made out of a helicopter rotor. I’m not even kidding, it’s THAT Freudian.

There are lots of very talented contemporary female actors, of course. Emily Blunt is my particular favourite but my real motivation for highlighting her in this post is twofold: all three of these films are great, fun pieces of science fiction, and in all three Ms. Blunt plays characters not defined by their gender.

Whilst in ‘Looper’ her role is as the mother of a plot-relevant child, and in ‘Adjustment Bureau’ she’s essentially the Love Interest, in both cases she has a personality and character arc and interests that go beyond her relevance to the men in the story; her characters are portrayed as having a relatively complete existence outside of their appearances in the films, and this is wholly realised in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, as the story progresses and more is revealed about her character.

This is a growing trend in lots of major releases these days, and I very much hope it continues. And it’s generally the mark of a superior story; Emily Browning’s role in ‘Pompeii’ exists purely to be the object of her male co-stars desires, her life beyond this context never explored or made relevant. But even great pieces of work, such as Netflix’s beautifully dark ‘Daredevil’ series, fall foul of underdeveloped female characters, with Rosario Dawson and Ayelet Zurer both playing satellite characters of their respective male partners.

It’s not my intention to jump upon a soap box on this matter, so I’ll simply advise that if you haven’t seen the three movies covered above, watch them as soon as you can. And, if you do have Emily Blunt’s phone number, if you could leave it in the comments section I’d be grateful.

A Review of the movie ‘The Martian’ (2015)

‘The Martian’ is lovely. It’s warm and comforting and funny. It’s Ridley Scott doing Space again, but instead of messing it up with rampant philosophy and the Monster Mash, he strays away from the pitfalls of ‘Prometheus’ and keeps everything focused around the humanity of the characters involved.

The book upon which the film is based, by Andy Weir, is sublime. It covers the intricacies of spaceflight in sumptuous detail, all the things that can go wrong in a tiny pressure vessel millions of miles from home. Of course, the film can’t afford the same level of scientific insight in a manageable run-time, but it more than makes up for it in in other ways.

Okay, this is starting to look like an actual review rather than my usual inane ramblings, so let’s get back to our regular transmission.

‘The Martian’ makes ‘Gravity’ look like a dildo. Where ‘Gravity’ drains four D-cells in an attempt to vibrate you to satisfaction as reliably as possible, ‘The Martian’ offers the benefits of a sensitive and considerate lover that tends to your needs and actually maintains eye contact for most of it.

Indeed, ‘The Martian’ only ramps up the tension and the drama right at the point of climax. It moves at different speeds to satisfy its audience, rather than the “On/Off, all-or-nothing” approach of ‘Gravity’. ‘The Martian’ understands that you need laughter as well as stimulation; it understands that pounding the G-Spot like a Rousey Cannonade is just a part of the overall process.

Matt-Damon-Jessica-Chastain-Sebastian-Stan-Aksel-Hennie-in-The-Martian
Just a few of the awesome cast of ‘The Martian’. Notice how it’s only the guy on the right who even resembles a marital aide. And even HE gets a better character arc than anyone in ‘Prometheus’.

This even applies to the cast; Bullock and Clooney are there just to stimulate the right areas, appendages extending the film’s main oscillatory function. But Damon and Chastain, Daniels and Wiig, Ejiofor and Bean all bring their own charm to the affair, their own interest; they’re the wandering lips and searching hands that remind you that this is the real thing. Even Donald Glover’s minor role is perfectly realised by the young actor; he’s sadly outclassed by more experienced colleagues, but even though it’s not exactly what gets you going you still appreciate the film’s openness to experimentation.

Oh yes, ‘The Martian’ will try Butt Stuff.

And, whereas ‘Gravity’ finishes on the oh-so-subtle imagery of its protagonist swimming upwards into the light (METHAPHORICAL), ‘The Martian’ offers you a quick but fulfilling epilogue to each of its characters. In essence, ‘The Martian’ helps you clean up afterwards, where ‘Gravity’ just gets a quick wipe before going back in the drawer.

Comparing these two films is arguably unfair; you ought to know with ‘Gravity’ that you’re just going in for a session of instant gratification; it’s a simulation of the best bits of the real thing, but it’s never going to be as satisfying. No, ‘The Martian’ has much more in common with the genre-defining ‘Apollo 13’.

Indeed, you could well view ‘The Martian’ as the modern-day successor to Ron Howard’s 1995 tour de force. It takes full advantage of contemporary special effects and uses them to tell an amazing story that actually leaves you feeling inspired and hopeful, and it has so much scientific authenticity that if feels like it’s based on a historical event.

‘The Martian’ is invested in the story it tells, and its authenticity extends to its characters, the stories that they each will tell once it’s all over. In a short space of time it presents a different perspective for each of them, but flawlessly ties them all together about the fate of the eponymous hero. Each person there has a different reason for caring about the same thing, and with some deliciously clever acting and a few light directorial touches, it explores each character exactly as much as it needs to. By the end I felt like I knew even minor characters, like the low-ranking satellite operator, better than I did the main protagonists of much more extravagant movies. Like fucking ‘Gravity’.

I just hope Scott takes his successes here and applies them to his inevitable ‘Prometheus’ sequels. If there’s one fucking thing those movies will need, it’s some sensible characterisation.