Tag Archives: Megan Fox

New Shows + Movies by Women — August 28, 2020

Movies are starting to make it back to theaters, but here in the U.S. going back right now is irresponsible. So long as coronavirus continues to be a threat, and the Trump administration refuses to treat it seriously, I will not be covering theatrical debuts. More than 180,000 people have already died in the U.S. from COVID-19 – over a fifth of the world’s deaths from this – and our number is likely drastically under-counted.

It’s irresponsible to encourage people to go to the theater when doing so will only mean they risk their own health, the health of their families, and the health and safety of those they meet on a day to day basis. Among others, this puts low-wage workers across the service industry at considerable risk. They’re not our martyrs so we can enjoy a popcorn.

I’ll continue to cover movies that debut theatrically only when they make it to home viewing options. I wish I could see a point when this would change, but it seems a long way off right now.

SERIES

Masaba Masaba (Netflix)
showrunner Sonam Nair

Masaba Gupta is an Indian fashion designer. Her mother is prolific Indian actress Neena Gupta. “Masaba Masaba” stars the two of them in a comedy where they portray…themselves. It’s entirely scripted and framed as a narrative comedy, so there’s no reality TV element here. The characters the two portray are simply fictionalized versions of themselves.

Showrunner Sonam Nair has written and directed on a few different Indian TV series.

You can watch “Masaba Masaba” on Netflix.

Love in the Time of Corona (Freeform)
directed by Joanna Johnson

This miniseries is composed of 4 half-hour(ish) episodes about love and relationships during COVID-19.

Joanna Johnson wrote and directed several episodes of “The Fosters”, and created TV series “Hope & Faith” and “Good Trouble”.

You can watch “Love in the Time of Corona” on Freeform.

MOVIES

Lingua Franca (Netflix)
directed by Isabel Sandoval

An undocumented Filipina is working as a caregiver for an elderly woman. She’s paying a man to marry her so she can get her green card, but he backs out of the agreement. She becomes involved with the grandson of the woman she cares for, but the man doesn’t know that she’s transgender.

Star Isabel Sandoval also wrote and directed the film. This is her third feature. Sandoval is trans, which feels important to highlight only because of the subject matter of the film.

You can watch “Lingua Franca” on Netflix.

The One and Only Ivan (Disney+)
directed by Thea Sharrock

A gorilla has been raised by humans. He performs in a circus, yet dreams of being free in the wilderness where he grew up. When a baby elephant arrives freshly captured from the wild, he begins to question why he’s there and plan their escape.

Thea Sharrock is the director of “Me Before You”. Prior to that, she directed episodes of “Call the Midwife” and “The Hollow Crown”. The film is based on a book by Katherine Applegate. This release got moved up a week, so it’s something I missed in last week’s feature.

You can watch “The One and Only Ivan” on Disney+.

Given (Crunchyroll)
directed by Hikaru Yamaguchi

Four men started a rock band together. Soon, they formed two romantic pairs as well. “Given” follows their trials and triumphs in romance and as bandmates. It was adapted from the manga as a series last year. The film premiering now is a sequel to that series which adapts the manga’s second arc.

Director Hikaru Yamaguchi oversaw the series and returns for the film.

You can watch both the series and the new film for “Given” on Crunchyroll.

The Roads Not Taken (Hulu)
directed by Sally Potter

Javier Bardem stars as a man suffering dementia. His daughter, played by Elle Fanning, helps him through his day, as he lives fragmented parallel versions of his life that don’t match up.

You may know writer-director Sally Potter best for her 1992 adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”, starring Tilda Swinton. Most directors of classic and stunningly unique films from this era would be remembered, their name immediately recognized like a Terry Gilliam, Jim Jarmusch, or Richard Linklater. Not so for Potter and a number of women who came to directing in the 1980s and 90s. The indie fringes and the places where avant garde and meta could burrow into the mainstream were reserved for men.

In the 90s, a man who had directed a film as visionary as “Orlando” would’ve been embraced, championed as a counter-culture auteur, perhaps by someone like Harvey Weinstein. When a woman like Sally Potter did it, there was no follow-through by powerful producers, no corresponding interest in what she did next, no financiers or studio heads chasing her down with dreams of Oscar-season ad campaigns. I wonder at the career Sally Potter might have had after “Orlando”. How would film be different if doors had been thrown open for her and other women directors the way they were being thrown open for men?

I featured this previously when it came to rental. This is the first time it’s hit a subscription service.

You can watch “The Roads Not Taken” on Hulu, or see where to rent it right here.

Rogue (VOD)
directed by M.J. Bassett

Mercenaries have to rescue a woman in Africa, facing off against the rebels who kidnapped her and a group of man-hunting lions.

I’ve always thought Megan Fox got maligned for doing what she could to haul a number of disasters across the finish line: “Jonah Hex”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Transformers” movies included.

I named her role in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” one of the Most Thankless Roles of 2014 since she was the only human being involved in that mess who actually seemed to be putting forth any effort, yet she was uniquely blamed for failures that she had nothing to do with. So if she wants to go fistfight lions, it’s not like I ever judged Liam Neeson for fistfighting wolves.

Director M.J. Bassett has a long history helming clever genre fare, having directed multiple episodes of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, “Power”, and “Altered Carbon”.

You can see where to rent “Rogue” right here.

DieRy (VOD)
directed by Jennifer Gelfer

Marie is an Instagram model. An obsessed fan steals her diary, and decides to target anyone they perceive as a threat to her. Marie needs the help of those around her, who may also be her prime suspects.

This is director Jennifer Gelfer’s second feature, after 2018’s “The Second Sun”.

You can rent “DieRy” on Amazon.

DOCUMENTARIES

The Vow (HBO docu-series)
co-showrunner Jehane Noujaim

NXIVM was a cult whose leader was convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering. It posed itself as a self-improvement movement, but the organization behind it served as a way to recruit women into a form of sexual slavery to leader Keith Raniere and his inner circle.

That inner circle was successfully prosecuted on various charges – the most famous member being former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack.

“The Vow” describes the investigation and downfall of NXIVM through the recollections of various members, and some of those who attempted to rescue family from the cult.

Episodes will release weekly, with the first having premiered on August 23.

Jehane Noujaim showruns and directs with Karim Amer. Noujaim is an Egyptian director. I’d highly recommend her 2004 documentary “Control Room”, which examines how the United States waged a propaganda war to legitimize its invasion of Iraq, with a special focus on U.S. efforts aimed at de-legitimizing the Al Jazeera news network. She’s directed a number of documentaries, as well as producing and directing on Hulu’s “Ramy”.

You can watch “The Vow” on HBO.

Driven to Abstraction (virtual theatrical)
directed by Daria Price

Knoedler was an art dealership and gallery in New York City. The business sold more than 60 faked paintings, often for millions of dollars each. The dealership and gallery closed in 2011 under FBI investigation.

This is director Daria Price’s second feature documentary.

“Driven to Abstraction” examines both these events and the state of the high-priced art world that allowed them to happen in the first place.

You can watch “Driven to Abstraction” through its virtual theatrical release. This means you can stream it at home, but you purchase a ticket as if you’d gone to the theater. This allows you to support independent, arthouse, and local theaters as if you’d purchased a physical ticket.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

The Most Thankless Role of 2014

by Gabriel Valdez

Since we’ve got most of a month before the Oscars, we’ll be giving several of our own awards. Some won’t be as conventional as others.

What kind of award is Most Thankless Role? Movies are filled with actors who do great work in B-projects, or who anchor a terrible film well enough to make it watchable. Sometimes, they’re unfairly blamed for a film’s larger failings, or the movie is actually good but the work they do is lost because a genre isn’t taken seriously. These actors deserve some recognition, too.

THE NOMINEES

tmnt lead 1

MEGAN FOX – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Say what you want about the film itself (like: it’s a horrific rip-off of The Amazing Spider-Man), there’s one thing about this mess that’s watchable, and it’s Megan Fox. That’s not a comment on her looks, it’s a comment on her ability to hold the screen. I’m not saying she’s a great actress or that she does anything particularly special in TMNT, but for some reason all the blame for this movie came to rest on her, and that’s unwarranted. She’s even blamed for battle sequences in which she doesn’t appear.

She was given an asinine screenplay, worse direction, and asked to banter back and forth with a green screen. And you know what? For all that disaster, she manages to hold it. Not all actors could pull that off (Will Arnett and William Fichtner, in the same movie, do not). Fox is not a dynamic actor, but she is one who knows how to drag a movie forward despite itself. That effort’s worth recognizing, even if the movie it’s a part of isn’t.

(Read the review)

Expendables Mel Gibson

MEL GIBSON – The Expendables 3

You would think Mel Gibson’s crazy-intense routine would wear thin after revelations about his personal history and, to a great extent, it does. And once it wears thin, you realize Gibson’s still making a hell of a lot of immaculate choices as an actor. The Expendables 3 is a bad movie. About the only other things it does right are Ronda Rousey kicking butt and Antonio Banderas virtually chewing on the camera with his live-action Puss-in-Boots routine.

Gibson has limited screen-time in this, and he’s really just playing another crazy villain, but there are scenes here where you can’t help but marvel at his abilities. That’s not to say he isn’t a horrible person, and it’s incredibly awkward when the climax comes down to Gibson and Sylvester Stallone – two actors who abused their significant others – throwing down in a fist fight. It also doesn’t make the total product much better. This is a C-movie, and saying the role is thankless isn’t the same as saying it ought to be otherwise. He’s just really good in a junk movie, to the point where he elevates the material, even if only for a few minutes.

(Read the review)

Sin City Joseph Gordon Levitt

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

There are bad movies and then there are bad movies that promote the worst misogyny and violence to be found in the men’s rights movement. Where the first Sin City painted misogyny on thick and really rode the line on whether it was a trait of the world or the film itself, the second barrels over that line and pretty much blames women for corrupting the otherwise noble souls of men. Make no mistake: this movie belongs in a trash heap.

That said, it’s a movie told through vignettes, and the B-plots often have little at all to do with the awful and insulting A-plot. Joseph Gordon-Levitt leads one of these side-vignettes, a story much more in line with the original Sin City. He is good to the point of making you forget about the rest of the film for a few minutes here and there, which is a pretty considerable feat if you’ve seen it. In a film where Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, and Mickey Rourke can’t hack the noir material or overcome the fetishistic direction, Gordon-Levitt excels. He’s had experience with much better versions of this kind of dialogue before, sure (chiefly in the excellent Brick), but he really makes it seem like this is his wheelhouse and everyone else is just playing in it. He raises his sequences up from the utter dreck that surrounds them and reminds us why he’s one of the most energizing actors working today.

(Read the review)

Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit Keira Knightley

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

What the hell is a “Shadow Recruit” anyway? They should’ve recruited Knightley instead of Chris Pine. Pine is all right in the film, actually, far better than the upright narcolepsy Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Costner commit (which is strange considering Branagh directed it). Yet there’s a sequence involving Pine as hero and Branagh as villain, with Knightley essentially along for the ride, and she flat out steals it out from under them.

In fact, she’s continuously stealing the movie out from under whoever else is on-screen with breathless enthusiasm toward a script no one else seems excited to be filming. She’s the only actor who gives the proceedings any consequence whatsoever, which makes her the most important one in a film where she’s an afterthought. There’s one shot that became a brief meme, involving Knightley sweeping into a room as if she owns it, but a film about world-class agents and high-class villains could have used a lot more of this from its other actors. This would have been a far better film with Knightley in the lead.

(Read the review)

Perdita Weeks As Above So Below

PERDITA WEEKS – As Above, So Below

It’s not all terrible films on this list. As Above, So Below is actually pretty good, especially for POV (found footage) horror, a genre that produces a lot of misfires. It has solid art direction and involves some complex choreography on the part of the actors carrying the cameras. That choreography allows for scares to emerge organically rather than through predictable jump cuts (much credit to director John Erick Dowdle). That alone is rare for the genre, but what really hits it home is the performance of Perdita Weeks as a sort of Indiana Jones/Lara Croft-style archaeologist named Scarlett Marlowe.

She has the charm we usually associate with male leads as ladykillers, but she also has the bravado and decisiveness to back it up. It helps that she doesn’t shy away from the things that go bump in the catacombs the way other POV actors do. She insists to a nervous cameraman that crawling through a tunnel of skeletons is “really not too bad” and when she hears something shuffling in the dark, she declares, “F*ck that, I’m going,” and starts off toward the thing. Weeks sells these lines as if her irrepressible curiosity makes her invulnerable, and that’s an exhilarating character for a viewer to watch in a horror movie. It also creates something rare in the genre – a pro-active leader who doesn’t have to undergo trauma or some egregious personality flip in order to be ready for the task of facing off against demons.

(Read the review)

WINNER:

PERDITA WEEKS
As Above, So Below

This is by far the best film of the bunch, but more importantly, Weeks does the most to give her film shape and quality. She’s on-screen every second, and the tone of horror that As Above, So Below takes is a direct response to her character. We’re not brave in the theater because we’re sitting there trying to be brave. We’re brave because she asks us to be. By giving us a leader like her, we’re incorporated into the film not just as a viewer, but as a participant. That distinction’s more important in found footage horror than in any other genre.

Found footage horror too often relies on visuals alone. Weeks lends her film a real sense of space and texture, moreso than any other actor I can remember in the genre. She seems to interact with what’s happening around her, not just react in the ways we’re used to from genre actors. If found footage is a relatively new way to explore horror, it’s nice to finally see an explorer stuck in and making complex choices as an actor.

Weeks is the difference between a well-done haunted house ride that makes you jump a few times and an involving thriller that makes you actively want to be scared. It’s the first POV horror I’ve really wanted a sequel to. Yes, that’s in part for more ridiculous archaeological adventures, but it’s chiefly because – when you find a leader who proves herself – you want to be a part of what she does next.

Floating Belly Up — “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

tmnt fox

I’m not convinced Megan Fox is a bad actress. I’m not convinced she’s a good one either. She’s never been given much to do aside from scream and run in slow motion. I can’t think of another actor, outside motion capture, who’s spent as much time opposite green screens and cars and so little time opposite other actors.

For that tough job alone, she’s got my respect. Unfortunately, as reporter April O’Neil, she’s the only part of the rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that does. If you’re sitting down to see a story about four 6-foot tall, walking, talking, sewer-dwelling turtles who use their ninja skills to combat a crime wave in New York City, you’re probably there for cartoon action and zingy one liners. TMNT will get to these, but not before bending over backwards to create a murky origin story about how O’Neil and the Turtles are connected since childhood by a mystery surrounding her researcher father.

Coming out the week after Guardians of the Galaxy, which gets its origin story out of the way in a few minutes so it can jump into the action when everyone’s already blasting away at each other, TMNT feels especially old-fashioned in its tedious obsession with origins. We’re told the Turtles’ origins in an opening animation, again by the Turtles themselves, a third time by O’Neil herself, once more by their ninja master (a mutant rat named Splinter), and finally by the villain’s billionaire accomplice. Perhaps they think if they repeat it often enough, we’ll forget their laboratory-based origin story is lifted wholesale from The Amazing Spider-Man.

Turtles 5

The action itself is a mixed bag. Early fights are filmed in so many shadow and strobe effects, and cut so quickly, you can’t tell what’s happening. An all-out battle in the sewer waffles between tracking shots where you can’t distinguish what’s happening to whom, and slow-motion shots that are actually very well orchestrated. It’s annoying to switch back and forth between seeing things clearly and being in the dark every other second. Later action, including a clever mountainside chase and a rooftop fight scene, fix these problems with brighter lighting and more slow-motion.

The big bad in TMNT is a ninja named Shredder, whose evil plan is the lousiest I’ve seen in two years, three months, and three weeks. How can I be so exact? I looked up when The Amazing Spider-Man was released, because the climax of TMNT steals it beat for beat, detail for detail. Are you noticing a pattern?

It’s one thing to deliver an underwhelming film, it’s another to steal large chunks of someone else’s movie and pass it off as somehow original. I’m sure enough details are changed to avoid a lawsuit, but this is as egregious a job of legal plagiarism as I’ve ever seen. More importantly for the viewer, the laziness shows in the final product.

tmnt mid 2

The visual effects are passable. The Turtles look pretty good and Shredder, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-Transformer. There’s energy to the action when you can tell what’s happening. Splinter is a complete disaster, however, looking like someone left a giant, rubber Halloween mask out in the sun so long it’s half-melted and doesn’t fit right. I don’t know what they were thinking.

Fox herself is wasted. Her strength has always been as the comedic “straight man.” She can look a babbling Shia LaBeouf or a raving John Turturro or a giant, mechanical alien in the eye and deliver a measured reaction. She doesn’t create the comic beats so much as she makes sure the foundation under them is stable. Giving her world-renowned comedians, like Whoopi Goldberg (The View) as her editor and Will Arnett (Arrested Development) as her cameraman, is actually a very good idea. They’ve been baptized by the fire of live crowds and sitcom production schedules…so it’s not just a bad idea to make them the unfunny straight men to Fox’s comedic stylings, it’s downright disastrous. At least the Turtles themselves, particularly Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) are pretty funny.

tmnt lead 1

Like I said, I don’t blame Fox (or any of the other actors) for how bad this film turned out. I blame the writers and filmmakers, especially for how blatantly (and badly) they ripped off a two year-old Spiderman movie. To make matters worse, the whole effort is drowning in some of the worst hidden product placement I’ve seen. You’ll be yearning for subliminal advertising by the end of this.

Trust me, go see Guardians of the Galaxy instead. If you’ve already seen Guardians of the Galaxy, then you’re probably planning to see it again anyway. Stick with that choice.